Cutthroats of Colorado

A few months ago I flew out to Colorado on business and was able to tack on a day of fishing. I talked Tucker (Fishing Manger at the Orvis Park Meadows store) into sharing his ‘spots’ and chauffeuring my co-worker and I on his day off. We opted for starting the day at the South Platte on the ‘Dream Stream’ section. After a few hours on the road (and a quick stop to photograph pronghorns), we arrived at the parking area where two vehicles’ worth of anglers were already gearing up. We pulled on our waders, strung up our rods, and made sure to give the other anglers a wide berth. We dodged gopher holes and navigated our way over to the water. Tucker put me into a stretch he knew to be fairly successful and suggested a two-nymph rig on 7x tippet ending in a black size 22 midge.

After spending a few moments to admire the scenery –blue skies framed by mountains, golden plains with grasses bending in the breeze, and old run-down buildings dotting the landscape – I finally cast my line out over the water. I was a little rusty (okay very rusty) and it took a number of casts to position my indicator so the flies weren’t pulled downstream. With some ungraceful mending, I managed to get a somewhat drag-free drift and watched as the presentation I had struggled for went unrewarded. After a number of other drifts through the pool, I moved on.

christine with cutt

A nice Colorado cutthroat

Tucker pointed out another hole below a steep bank where three currents met before a drop-off. The breeze kicked up a notch, and under the watchful eye of my fishing partners, I managed to nearly hook myself in the back of the head with my flies causing my indicator to land 5 ft. downstream of where I had intended. I sent the guys away because they were making me nervous (had to blame somebody) and eventually managed to place my flies and indicator between the two main currents so that they drifted perfectly towards the waiting trout. My indicator was sucked down into the water – fish on!!! But I failed to set the hook and he shook off.

I moved on again, fishing my way up to Tucker, and found a nice run just below him. After only a few casts, my indicator dipped down again and this time I managed to set the hook. The fish took a few short runs and I soon managed to bring him in to the net. I’d caught my first cutthroat and he was absolutely gorgeous! He was a beautiful gold color with rosy pink cheeks, red-orange fins, and a violent red slash beneath his jaw. I snapped a couple of close-up shots and Tucker took the camera from me so I could pose for a few grip-and-grin photos.

Eager to catch another, I moved back downstream to a section with a collapsed bridge in the middle of the run. Tucker suggested I try casting up against the far bank and let the indicator drift downstream between the bank and a crumbling concrete pillar. My casts got progressively closer to the overhanging bank and as I watched my indicator swing through, a fish sucked in the small midge, yanking the indicator down, and took off downstream. I set the hook quickly before his run ate up the slack and he began peeling line off the reel. Luckily, he changed directions and swam upstream before I had to launch myself into the water to keep him from shredding my line on the pillar. I frantically reeled in, hollering to Tucker and John to come quick. As they approached, I turned to flash them a grin and beg for the net. The fish flipped around and took off downstream again, freeing himself with a pop and sending what remained of my leader flying over my head. That fish was huge compared to the last one and I lost him because I got cocky and took my eye off the ball. I had a blast though fighting him on light tippet and watching him rocket through the water!

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