1) A temporary madness
2) A violent mental or emotional agitation
3) Intense usually wild and often disorderly compulsive or agitated activity
4) A gathering of outdoor bloggers trying to squeeze seven different bodies of water into two and a half days
The calm before the storm passed quietly over the foothills of the front range, before being blown out into the dusty plains of eastern Colorado early Friday morning. And in that quiet, the “Rocky Mountain Frenzy” began before anyone of us truly had a chance to think about the itinerary. Twelve women and men, six rivers, one lake, one weekend, and two great motivators; fish and friends.
Friday: 1:04 pm. “Ted’s Place”. Cache La Poudre River. Laporte, Colorado.
As the cars started to roll in, excited smiles could be seen through each windshield. It was time to put real live faces with some of the names we have gotten to know through different URLs. And after a few hearty handshakes and laughs, it wasn’t hard to notice the bond that brings a motley crew like this together.
The drive up into the canyon is one that I’ve done a hundred times before. And like the previous times, I take notice of the spots I have yet to fish, but someday will. The canyon stretches long, and with only a half day of fishing, we doubled down and drove anxiously to a spot on the map simply marked “big fish”. This wasn’t my map of course, as I wouldn’t be so reckless as to imply that I actually catch big fish from said location. But being marked in such a way, this spot garnered enough votes to justify the drive. I agreed.
The pullout found us staring down into a large pool of water that became dubbed as “the nursery”, a fitting name to a spot that had more than a few “big fish” feeding frantically on an unseen protein. And as the water boiled, our rods were rigged with an anticipation I haven’t felt in a long time. People had come to fish my home water, and I was proud.
Looking into a fly box, my fly line hung lazily in some slack water with the bug still floating high. “Gulp”. I had hooked another fish in spite of myself, we laughed.
*The Poudre has been fishing great as of late, so I’ve been told by the fine folks at my local fly shop. On this day, we were only able to land a few fish between all of us. Even though the fishing may have been slower than I had hoped, we got to see a great river. And like the frenzy itself, fishing the Poudre was a good reminder that “we” are not always the ones in control.
Saturday: 8:58am. Rocky Mountain Anglers. Boulder, Colorado.
I fidget. My hands are always moving, my wife gets mad because I’m constantly tapping my feet, don’t give me a staple or a paper clip because I like to see how many twists it takes to break, and I still play with my food. So playing with the sleeve from my coffee cup, I wasn’t surprised to be called out by such behavior. Smiling to myself, I was reassured that I was in the right place.
Boulder Creek is a narrow, boulder filled, pocket water, plunge pool fisherman’s dream. And like most small streams, the measure of the fish is not defined in inches, but rather in the fun of witnessing the innocence of the trout that inhabit this type of water. And on this day, the trout were feeding heavily on anything with rubber legs. We were in luck.
*A special thanks to Jay Zimmerman at Rocky Mountain Angler’s for taking the time to snap a few pictures of the group, as well as, making all of us feel at home before and after our Boulder Creek adventure. I would also like to thank the many trout in the creek that could obviously tell I was in desperate need of a confidence boost. And to the brook trout that was no longer than the length of my left pinkie, may you grow healthy and give some other long-rodder a smile one day.
Saturday: 2:36pm. Below the dam on the Big Thompson River. Estes Park, Colorado.
Three elk wading in the water greeted us as we pulled into the parking lot. They reminded us that just because we carried fly rods, we weren’t the only ones entitled to these waters. The sun was high in the sky, and the hot weather was an excuse for creatures of both the two legged and four legged variety to cool down by spending a few hours wading in a river.
Twenty minutes down the canyon, we found our spot and pulled off to the side of the road. Walking the bank, a peaceful river stared back at us, as if knowing what we were asking of it. Positioning my feet both quietly and carefully, I stripped some line to place my first cast. A small pocket along the near bank invited the “Clown Shoe Caddis”, and the quick strike was missed before I knew what had happened. The fish and river awakened me, and I was fortunate to be fishing in such a surrounding.
*We lost track of the number of fish we caught that afternoon. Patterns and casting ability didn’t matter, and I was thankful for that. The Big Thompson is an interesting place to fish. It’s constantly pressured, but for some reason the fish are willing more often than not. Dave and I had a great time walking the banks and casting to the fish we had come to see. On the drive home, Dave reminded me of my fidgeting by making the comment, “Did you just turn the hat on your head all the way around?” Yes I did.
Sunday: 8:47am. The banks of Glacier Creek. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Upon entering the park, the seasonal metamorphosis of life danced in celebration. We watched the bull elk heard his harem of cows, we saw the hillsides shine in brilliant yellows and golds, we felt the cool wind of change usher in a new season, we were experiencing something great. And upon stepping into the waters of Glacier Creek, we saw brightly colored fish, getting ready to bring new life to a park that was already filled with it.
Feeling the cold water run past my legs, I realized that waders might have been a better option. But trusting the weatherman, I knew that it was only a matter of time before things heated up, and when they did, I’d appreciate the fact that I was wet wading. Spooking a nice brook trout upon entering the creek, I realized that a little more stealth would be needed if I actually wanted to catch one of these finicky fish.
I watched the slow rhythmic rise of a small brook trout, feeding under an overhanging willow. Tying on a size 22 blue winged olive emerger, I placed my first cast above his head on the far bank. The second cast hit its mark and floated peacefully past the hungry trout without even so much as a courtesy refusal. A few more casts, and a few more patterns proved to be more of a workout for me than a meal for him. Running out of ideas, I tied on a small beetle and made my cast. I missed my target, but the fish turned anyway. And as the brook trout opened his mouth to eat this wayward insect, I set the hook out of pure excitement. The fish never got to taste the bug, I was early, and he was out of luck.
*Finding fish wasn’t the problem, getting them to play along became the issue. The cool night had put a chill in the water, which will act as my excuse as to the lack of fish that were caught from a normally productive stream. But fishing with a Damsel more than made up for slow catching.
Sunday: 11:23am. Lawn Lake Trailhead. Near the banks of the Fall River. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
The sun was out, and the choice to wet wade was finally paying off. The water felt cool, and was a nice contrast to the heat that blanketed the meadow that surrounded the Fall River.
“Way to go Sanders, you spooked him”, I heard Dave say as I stepped into the water.
“He’ll be fine”, I replied confidently.
I had watched the small brown dart for cover under the cut bank in front of me. Placing my first cast of the afternoon, I watched the fly land upstream. Luckily, the attractor fly found the outside seam, and as if oblivious to the intruder behind him, a flash rose to the Madam X.
We stalked the banks of the river for the next couple of hours, trying our best not to spook the fish. Finding small pockets, undercut banks, and plunge pools proved to be most effective. The fish were both eager and wary to our offerings, making the fishing both frustrating and fun.
*The Fall River is a special place. It is a unique watershed that can offer a fisherman the “Grand Slam” (Rainbow, Brook, Brown, Cutthroat). On this day, we picked up both brown and cutthroat trout. And watching Jen land her first cutthroat, a contented smile said it all.
Sunday: 2:41pm. Big Thompson River. Estes Park Colorado. Round Two.
The elk had moved on from the day before, replaced by two doe mule deer surveying the five fly fisherman that had just entered their territory. The crowd from “Elk Fest” in Estes Park was finally thinning, and the water in front of us seemed more tranquil. Maybe it was a sign that the “frenzy” was coming to a close, or maybe, it was simply the quiet that surrounds the end of any weekend. Either way, slowing down felt right.
We watched a group of fish feed lazily in a deep pool on the near bank. Soft dimples made small rings in the quiet water. Trying to stay out of sight we cast our flies gently above the feeding fish. Ignoring our offerings, we made a simple change of flies. Fish on.
“We’re heading over to Lily Lake, we’re going to try and find a few Greenbacks”, Dustin informed me, as Emily and Stephanie were already waiting at the car.
“I think we’re going to stay here a little bit longer, the fish are biting and we’re in a groove”, I said. “We’ll meet up with you in a little bit.”
I never made it to Lily Lake. The fishing was good. The frenzy was over.
*Round two at the Big Thompson was more of the same from the day before. We caught fish from a river that wanted us there.
Monday: 5:16pm. My Couch. Fort Collins, Colorado.
As quickly as the weekend started, it came to a close. Travelers from Colorado, Utah, and Ohio went their separate ways, surely to reemerge from behind their web aliases and fly fishing handles with stories of glory from the front range of Colorado. And like most weekends, there just isn’t enough time. There is not enough time to fish with everyone, time to spend with family, time to catch that one last fish, or time to make one last cast.
But as short as the weekend seemed, we made time for new friends, shared some laughs, caught some fish, fished new waters, and stepped out from behind the computer screen long enough to appreciate it all.
*I would like to thank everyone involved for making the first annual “Rocky Mountain Frenzy” live up to its billing. Thank you to Emily for all of your hard work and preparation in organizing such a great few days. Thank you to Stephanie and Dustin for all of your efforts in planning, it was awesome.
And as you look for more tales from this weekend, please check out the following blog/sites:
David: Back Country Fish Nerd
Andy: AJSutts Blog
Erin: Mysteries Internal
Kyle: Compleat Thought
Howard: Wind Knots and Tangled Lines
Jen: Fly Fishilicious
Stephanie and Dustin: Antlers and Gills
Emily: The River Damsel
Larry: Fly Fishing Crazy