2018 was a bit of a rebirth for me. Beyond the significant life milestones of buying my first house that June and marrying my beautiful wife in early November, it was also the year I regained my passion for fly fishing. While I still chased reds in the Louisiana marsh with conventional tackle and occasionally dusted off my old 2-wt Orvis Silver Label on trips to the Smokys, the passion for fly fishing once nurtured by a childhood on the waters of upstate New York had largely dissipated.
That all changed when my soon-to-be wife invited me to join her for a work conference in Denver early that July. Intrigued by the prospect of exploring a new state, and knowing she’d be tied up at the conference from 8-5 each day, I decided to treat myself to a new rod (5-wt Orvis Frequent Flyer) and see what Colorado had to offer.
Marking off rivers within a 2-hour radius of Denver, and aided by a local Orvis employee with roots in the region (Thanks Chap!), I laid out plans for four days of fishing. Considering “rusty” to be an overly generous euphemism for the degradation of my skills, I told myself that I would be satisfied if I landed a single fish over the course of my adventures. Four days later…
I had landed a Rainbow too big for my net,
nymphed a Lake Trout(!?) 15+ miles up river from the nearest population,
hooked more Brook Trout than I could count,
and checked a Cutthroat Trout off my fishing life list!
All the while, I found myself surrounded by landscapes that simply couldn’t be matched in the southeastern United States. (Sorry Louisiana!)
Needless to say, something had been reignited in me over those four days. Back in the airport, awaiting our return to the sweltering Louisiana summer, I texted the above pictures to my cousin, Jake, with a simple message: “Colorado. I have to go back. You in?”
Given Jake and I probably hadn’t seen each other since our grandmother’s memorial service three years prior (nor fished together since 2012), my message may have been a bit presumptuous. However, growing up, Jake was the one person whose obsessive passion for fishing outweighed my own. Given his passion never faded the way mine had in adulthood, I had a feeling I knew what his answer would be.
Sure enough, the reply came through before we had boarded our flight: “Chris? Is that you? Awesome! I’m in!”
And with that, our plan was set in action.
With a year to plan, there was no rush. Still I began compiling a sizeable library before the end of summer and had laid out a tentative game plan before year’s end. By the time, Jake and I met for our grandfather’s memorial service the following May, our plans were fairly set in stone.
We would meet in Denver mid-August, head due south for Colorado Springs and make our way west towards Eleven Mile Canyon along the South Platte River for two days of “acclimation” at 8500 feet before heading north for five days of hiking and fishing the mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness (IPWA) and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Finishing our loop in Boulder before returning to Denver, our route would see us traverse roughly 500 miles of Colorado Highway and Forest Road over nine days, provide access to countless miles of stream and landscapes worthy of Ansel Adams.
First stop, Eleven Mile Canyon…