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Thread: Old Time Colorado

  1. #1
    smallstreams.com supporter and plankowner
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    Old Time Colorado

    In John Gierach’s latest book he opens with a chapter about pursuing cutthroats in southern Colorado. You don’t have to read many of his books to realize that this man has a thing for Cutts. I do too but I’m not sure why. Could be that they are native. Could be that in the summer they are eager to take a dry fly, making bumblers like me look like they know what they are doing. I guess at least partly the reason is that catching Cutts connects me to old time Colorado. My uncle came out here after WWII and through him I got to meet a number of old-time (turn of the centrury) ranchers, cowboys and outfitters. What always got me going were the stories about how the fishing was in the wilderness streams for big cutthroats. These stories were tough to swallow. Stories about 14 inch fish being small in little bitty streams. Catching fish by hand or finding fish stacked up on riffles. Don’t think I ever bought into them--until now.

    On Wednesday, I went prospecting for new water.







    Had to head out over the high country to get to the watershed I would be searching.









    If water is reported to have cutthroats it automatically goes to the top of my list. I picked such a stream to try out. Only a short hike in, I really wasn’t expecting much.







    Starts out as a meadow stream.





    For the first mile or two, there is mostly smallish brown trout. Skittish, but catchable.








    While concentrating on one particular fish, I suddenly heard some brush crack behind me--which of course made me a bit skittish. I turned to see a guy looking around in the grass. He explained that he had eaten his lunch there while fishing the day before and was looking for a lost pocket knife. We talked a bit. He described the browns as skittish and indicated that he had found the Cutts upstream but they were disappointingly small and very few--kind of a typical easy access stream report. Hmm, at that point I decided to head on up and catch a couple and call it a day.


    I entered the stream in ankle deep water just above where the Cutts were supposed to be. Brushy with logs in the stream I wasn’t too encouraged.






    That is until I looked down and realized I was about to step on a Cutt that was about 14 inches long and the tail of a pool. This fish hadn’t even spooked yet. Visions of old time Colorado. I shouldn’t call it a pool—the water was a run about 16 inches deep. At any rate I dropped a Royal Wulff in front of the fish and of course he took it and then all hell broke loose in about a bath tub of water. I eventually lost this fish and was immediately bummed since based on the other fisherman’s report, I figured this was probably the last bigger cutt I would see.


    I shortened my leader and went on to the next run. In this turbulent water I couldn’t see the fish but figured there would be at least one. Again the Wulff attracted another good sized Cutt. Again we had the bath tub battle but this time I was experienced and brought in a very camera shy, brightly colored cutt that was again more like 14 inches instead of 6 to 8 that I had expected.







    For the next mile, this unbelievable fishing continued. Every run, pool, rock seemed to have at least one large Cutt; more often several. It wasn’t challenging fishing, except for handling the brush. The fish were more than cooperative, and not easily spooked. In some of the riffles I spooked fish that I hadn’t seen but not until I almost stepped on them. One spooked fish got tangled in a root wad and I had to remove him—so yes I even “caught” one by hand.

    Large Cutts are really hard to hold onto with one hand so I had some difficulty getting photos but here are some of the smaller ones I could hold.









    It was truly a day to remember. I now had a new connection with the old timer's and their stories. They weren't pulling an naive kid's leg. They were sharing a part of themselves. Something they longed for and the reason why they packed Cutt's on horseback all over the wilderness in places where they weren't found. I wish I had been able to share the experience with someone else; one of the perils of fishing alone. Not sure I ever want to go back since there is little possibility that the fishing could be that good again.

    There really is no skill to catching fish like these Cutts in their native habitat. The real beauty is knowing that such fish, in such streams still exist in today's world. I finished the day watching a nice 16 inch fish in a pool feed on nymphs, holding in a feeding lane, moving from side to side, doing what Rio Grande Cutts have been doing for the last 12,000 years. Serenity.

    I hesitated to even write up a report, but I thought others might like to know that there is still some old time Colorado out there, if you look hard enough.
    Last edited by ksbioteacher; 08-16-2011 at 12:36 PM.

  2. #2
    Very nice and congrats on the find.

  3. #3
    Awesome pictorial & narrative !

  4. #4
    Sweet post. I like that there are no telltale pics, names of descriptions. May I make it front page?

  5. #5
    smallstreams.com supporter and plankowner
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    Thanks for asking Gus....I'm been struggling with this ever since I posted it. I've edited a phrase and removed one photo which makes me feel a bit better about the posting and I think it is probably ok for the front page---but why don't you ask Jeepster to get his thoughts first. While I don't know him except through this list--this stream is in some of his fishing territory and he may have reasonable concerns about a front page exposure. It's not like the place is not known. I had some folks ask me about it later in the day. To me it is important that folks know that such places still exist (or can be restored) so that such a place can be cherished and protected---of course it is the protection issue that is the problem with a report.

  6. #6
    Exactly. It's one of the lifelong quandaries of smallstreams.com

    I've honestly seen what internet publicity, even quite unintentional, can do to a spot, at the very least from a crowd perspective... personally, if not even because of me and my pals posting pics and chatting about our steelhead endeavors online ~10 years ago or so...

    When in doubt, we leave it out... or write vaguely enough that it could be, well, just about anywhere.

  7. #7
    I visited Southern Colorado once this year and caught many BIG trout and a lot of wild, native Rio Grand Cutthroats.

    S.Brooks took a lot of pictures of me, I got a few of him but we did photograph our trip, in a nut shell, it was AMAZING.

    I went once this year, my plan is to go twice next year.

    When I get home, I will post a few pictures. I use a release box to capture my images and a tenkara rod to capture my adventures.

    It is fly fishing and it is the only way I have fished for the last two years now.

    ...and I have caught more fish using my Japanese rods than I have using the bamboo fly rod that I split from a culm and it is a damn nice rod.

    I am on Cutthroats and I personally do not read fishing novels instead choosing to make my own adventures without reading famous authors.

    You guys, I read your stories, I enjoy them.

    I practice the same thing you guys do and I promote it.

    I would rather invest my time into a community, share my time, enjoy your work, forget money attached to what I enjoy so much.

    The best things in life ARE free.
    Japan: Tsuttenkai, Jolly Fishers, member since 2010

  8. #8
    ksbioteacher

    I understand when you say "Not sure I ever want to go back since there is little possibility that the fishing could be that good again", because I often feel in the same way when fishing was exceptionally good.
    Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

    Satoshi

  9. #9
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    Colorado is a great destination for fishing adventures.

    I love hunting the Rio Grande Cutthroats.

    I really enjoyed your perspective and even if the fishing was so good, the view tops it, much like icing on the cake.

    But what Satoshi and you said, I totally understand...

    Take care and thank you again.
    Japan: Tsuttenkai, Jolly Fishers, member since 2010

  10. #10
    smallstreams.com supporter and plankowner
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    Thanks for sharing more experiences/photos from the area.

    I like the box....I've considered making one myself---especially for this type of photography: http://www.meetyourneighbours.org/project.html

    What is the size of the Tenkara rod in photo 2---it looks a lot longer than mine? That brown must have been a tussle on the Tenkara rod.

    I'll keep searching out more cutthroat streams--and I've already returned to the stream featured here. Fished more of and Learned quite a bit more about the stream which provided a number of insights into why I had such an outstanding experience. One of the advantages (if you could call it that) about living so far away is that I only have a limited time window for "discovering" these streams each summer. Because of that I am truly driven when I'm there to get out and explore. When I do find such a place I really cherish it---maybe more than I would if I lived there permanently. If I had moved there when I was young I would have fished all of the streams in that area by now. This way I have enough "new" streams to last the rest of my life in that one little area....

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