We decided to leave the lakes and begin our trip down the second afternoon of our trip. Initially we had thought of staying at the lake for two nights but the thought of all 12 miles downhill in one push was too much! So as with all best laid plans we changed our mind and headed down to another camp a little bit early.
We decided to break up the hike down by fishing any likely looking runs along the trail. This sounded like a nice break from walking, but it turned into some pretty serious blundering through thick ground cover, raspberries (good and bad) and willows .
This Colorado side creek was beginning to feel an awful lot like some Arizona small stream fishing. Luckily this is some fishing we understand exactly how to do! I tied on an AZWanderings mini hopper and it was off to the races. Casting into any likely looking hole, and some less than likely looking runs, all were yielding fish after fish! These small and darkly colored rainbows were a blast on the short 3-weight rod and were able to pull some pretty tricky maneuvers under rocks, around logs and under branches.
The dark colors on these rainbows were unique to what I had ever seen. From what little information I’d been able to glean off the internet on the subject it sounded as though the creek and lake had not been stocked in 20+ years, but I am not 100% sure on that info. Regardless, with multiple barrier falls at the bottom of the system and nothing else above the system these rainbows have had time to adapt to their small stream home. I wonder if their colors have changed to match the dark almost black rock that makes up their creek home? Either way its only speculation on my part because I don’t know nearly enough on the subject to do anything more than speculate!
After stopping a few more spots to fish along the trail we made it to the river that the smaller creek fed. This river had incredible pocket water and was packed with fishy looking corners. We were so tired from the first stretch down we didn’t rig up the rods up for a few minutes, but eventually the excitement overcame the tiredness. We both ran a dry/dropper rig of a hopper to a hares ear and began checking all the likely looking spots. Before long Tanner had one on the end of his line after the fish mistook his hopper for the real deal.
Shortly after his first fish on my hopper very slowly sank under the surface, caught on another rock.. But the rock started to wiggle and flash and the “rock” turned out to be a pretty little brown trout! After a short battle I had the fish out of the current and to hand.
As we moved upstream the fish hit often on both the dry and the dropper! While most missed the hook (both their fault and mine), it was a great way to spend the last hour of the day! The river was full of hungry little brown trout and someday I’d like to return to spend a few days fishing it.
This little flashy hares ear/stonefly hybrid seemed to be the ticket. We headed back to camp and somehow came to the decision to walk out at that moment. With 6 miles left to walk and 30 minutes of daylight left we shouldered our packs and began walking.
Hiking at night takes on an almost treadmill like quality. It feels like you are going nowhere, but the miles blur into one and the hike seemed quick in hindsight. With thoughts of chicken fried steak in our minds we pushed the last 3 miles past the wilderness boundary and fell asleep in the trailhead parking lot.
The chicken fried steaks the next morning made it all worth it! I would definitely recommend Oscars’s in Durango for any breakfast needs you have.