Saturday, July 4, 2009

Native Colorado Cutthroat Trout

Small stream fishing with a bamboo fly-rod.

(June 23-27, 2009). I stayed on some BLM land the first night in Colorado to save some campground fees. As I primed the pump on my now 25 year old Coleman Stove for the first time this season it squeaked as usual. It dawned on me that its squeak sounded like a small elk or perhaps an animal in distress. The thought no sooner flew through my mind than coyotes all around me started howling away. Colorado blows my mind sometimes. The next morning when I exited the Teardrop, I was greeted by a cow elk and her young calf. I took a picture, but you have to click on it and blow it up to see them.

Elk cow and calf (click on the picture to enlarge).

There is no better way to start a summer fly-fising excursion than to head up to Trappers Lake to catch some native Colorado Cutthroat Trout. Due to all rain this year and cooler than normal temperatures (it snowed 3 inches just the week before my arrival), fising in the big lake was a bit slow this year. I caught a few, but didn't catch any of the really red spawning trout that I was after (after failing to catch a brilliant red the year before). So, I headed inland a bit and found a system of beaver ponds whose outlet was a small creek that flowed down into the main lake. It was far enough away from the lake to keep from breaking the regulations, so I tried my luck and lo-n-behold finally caught one of the bright red spawning trout that are, in my opinion anyhow, one of the most beautiful fish in existence. You would think the trout would be easily spooked in such a small stream. However, I could have caught as many 10-14 inch trout as I wanted. Since the fish were spawning, when you catch one and it goes haywire, I got the feeling the other fish just looked at the victim and think to themselves - wow, look how that guy 'does it', and you cast your fly back out (a #14 Adams in this case) and readily catch another one. I quickly felt guilty catching them 'in the act' and spent the rest of the day just watching and trying to take pictures of em in action (a voyeur as it were). The pictures did not come out too good this year, but there are a few here to document the trip anyhow.

Is there a more beautiful fish than a Colorado Cutthroat in full spawning colours?

The Trappers Lake area is slowly recovering from the massive fire of a few years ago. I would guess it will be a good 50-60 years before tree growth is anywhere near the way it was before the fire. There is abundant greenery now under the burned out trees and all the rain is a good thing in the long run. After going through the drought years, we can complain about the rain but it is never a bad thing to get rain in the west these days. Still pretty dangerous hiking when the wind is blowing strong, as you hear cracks and trees falling, hopefully not too close to you! Each tree has hundreds of knives (branches) that are a grave threat indeed. I think you can still see some burned trees in a few of the pictures.

I was dissapointed not to see the two bald eagles I spotted last summer, however there were many deer, a few very friendly snoe-show hares, and the couple camping next to me were fortunate enough to take a hike and spot the cow moose and her calf everyone was talking bout round the campfires at night.

One day I was completely rained in by a torrential downfall and spend the day in the Teardrop starting and finishing "River of Doubt", a book my sister gave me a few years ago about Teddy Roosevelt's exploration of an unmapped tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil. I can highly recommend this book as it was fascinating! Among the interesting facts was the origin of the name "Amazon" itself which comes from the Greek 'a-mazon' meaning "no breast". This name came from the original Portuguese explorer of the river who ran into a group of fierce Indians. He noticed that these warriors were actually women who had cut off their right breast in order to be better archers and more deadly with their poison tipped arrows. So, all those times of my youth when we were in clubs and a buddy would say, wow, look at that "Amazon" (pointing to a tall and very well built woman), it was an obviously erroneous comparison as the woman had two fully developed breasts. Another interesting discussion in the book was how plants and animals had evolved over millions of years to thrive in the rain forest. One fish, for instance, is called "four-eyes". Over time it has developed two sets of cornea and retina. It then floats on the river so that one set of eyes can view low hanging tree limbs for potential victims (or predators) and the other set searches below the waterline for food. What a panic! Great book, thanks sis! By the way, the Brazilian government renamed the river "Theodore".
Here are a few pictures of some typical cutthroat from Trapper's Lake.

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