Photos and Story: Taking a Chance in the Colorado High Country

Written by: Jon Hill

The first fish caught out of the lake, by Tom, gave the rest of us hope.
All Photos by Jon Hill

Before you embark on a backpacking trip into an area that does not have a maintained trail and goes through acres and acres of downed trees, you need to be mentally prepared for what you are asking your body to accomplish. Tom, Shawn, Dan, and I thought we were ready, but nothing could prepare us for this particular trip.

Miles and miles of dead and downed trees made for an arduous hike in.

We hiked in on a Thursday and planned to hike out on Sunday. That would give us two and a half days to fish the lake and inlet stream–usually plenty of time to catch the cutthroat trout we were after. As with all trips to lakes above 10,000 feet of elevation, you never know how the fishing will be. Sometimes the trout are eager to take anything thrown at them, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what you throw: they aren’t interested. After hiking hours and hours over hundreds of dead, fallen trees, we fished hard for those two and a half days.

The fish from the creek were lovely, but they weren’t the trophies we were looking for.

The weather was on and off cloudy, with rain and wind that made it difficult to pinpoint where the fish were. We all caught a few small cutthroat trout, which were beautiful, out of the inlet stream, but we were also frustrated that we were unable to catch anything from the lake. Tom finally landed a lake cutthroat on Friday afternoon, which gave hope to the rest of us. But after hours of walking and casting around the lake, no one was catching anything.

Tom found a casting perch, as he looked for cruising cutthroats.

When Saturday evening came, everyone else was done with fishing and mentally preparing for the trip out the next day, but I decided to go out one last time. I’m glad I did, as I finally netted a cutthroat from the lake–and it was a monster. The work we put into the trip was physically and mentally draining, but the rush I felt from catching the largest cutthroat trout of my life made all that work worthwhile.

The biggest cutthroat trout of my life suddenly made it all worthwhile. (Being alone made photos tough.)

I love that we are able to camp and fish and enjoy the Rocky Mountains as much as we do, but that lake is marked off our list of places to go. We won’t ever do that hike again!

Jon Hill lives in Littleton, Colorado and works in the digital-graphics field. But he spends almost all his spare time chasing trout in the high country, and his photos have been featured many times on the Orvis News. (See herehere, here, and here for just a taste, or visit his blog, Ramblings.) He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week.

Just look at the belly on this beast!

6 thoughts on “Photos and Story: Taking a Chance in the Colorado High Country”

    1. It was a fly my friend Mike has been tying up for years, a cutthroat streamer. Olive marabou, olive chenille, red hackle spiraled up the body, tungsten conehead. Super easy to tie and I guess I should have tried that to begin with!

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