A trip of Firsts (final chapter)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by rbaileydav, Sep 23, 2007.

  1. rbaileydav

    rbaileydav Active Member

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    I stood at the top of the mountain and tried to let my breath and legs catch up to the rest of my body. I had barley managed the climb out of my little “greenback” stream and was still trying to get my huffing, puffing and the trembling in my 45 year old legs under control … … getting older is a pain in the butt … … but as long as I can still make it down to the water and back up the car I guess I shouldn’t complain. The wonderful memories of the last few days fishing and camping eased the pain of my legs but it also eased the sinking feeling you get when you start the drive down the mountain. Fortunately for me this wasn’t my last stop on this journey. Matt my travel planner for this adventure had told me of a river near Fort Collins that he wanted me to fish and camp at for the last two days of my trip. So it was with far less pain and suffering than normal that I bid farewell to cool colorful mountains and dropped down to the arid, parched red rock plateau. I had never been to Fort Collins or to the stream that I was heading to so I had a few more firsts in store for me on this trip. I had a few supplies to pick up so I drove into Fort Collins for Bourbon, Steak and some other minor supplies. Unfortunately for me, Fort Collins was way closer to civilization than I hoped to be for the duration of this trip, as my cell phone picked up service and the phone started going nuts with messages and phone calls. I tried my best to ignore them but a strange perverse sense of duty made answer them and at least listen to the numerous “urgent” messages. I quickly triaged them trying to identify only the most critical of which there were several and dialed the phone numbers required and dove back into civilization and into the turmoil of my work life. Before I knew it an hour had passed and my blood pressure had shot up 40 points and the relaxation “zen” that had been my “greenback” stream had evaporated and disappeared like the rising tendrils of mist rising off a cold trout stream on a summer morning. I was trying to solve problems that shouldn’t have arisen from a 2000 mile distance and that kept getting me more and more pissed off before I finally got hold of my emotions and decided “all right that is enough, I have solved all of the problems I am going to today” and turned my cell phone off. As I was driving out of town I drove by a local hamburger stand and the smell coming through my open window was so strong and good that I couldn’t help myself so I stopped for what to a true southern boy is the ultimate “soul food” a big greasy burger and fries. I got to admit after eating my own backpack cooking for nearly a week that burger was pretty close to heaven and got me right back into a good mood as I left the town behind and headed up the highway toward my last fishing destination of the trip. Matt had told me this part of the country was very different than what I was used to and that it was a dramatic change from the high country stream I had been camping in. “Dramatic difference” turned out to be a major understatement as a I found myself driving over a washboard rough dirt road through the high desert foothills. I found the spot where he had told me to turn off and park easily enough but other than the sign which confirmed that I was in the right place I would have bet big bucks that I was definitely in the wrong place as this high desert scenery belonged in Arizona more than my mental picture of Colorado and there wasn’t sight nor sound of water anywhere near and my imagination was having a hard time picturing any in this vicinity. But Matt had been right in steering me to all of the spots this trip which had far, far exceeded my expectations so who was I to start questioning him now. There was a short road that was supposed to lead down to the river but it was closed for the season although Matt had assured me it would be an easy stroll down to the river following the road bed and that it would be well worth the hike. So in the spirit of blind faith I once more grabbed the backpack out of the car, which was still sweat wet from the long hike out of the valley this morning and strapped it to my back and started out up the road in the direction that I had been told.
    The view was unlike any trout fishing hiking I had ever done but it was pretty country … … made even prettier by the contrast with the scenery that I had been seeing for the preceding part of the week. After peering around tall pines at the enclosed view of mountain valleys ... ... the wide open vistas and treeless surrounding were almost alien looking to me.

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    I could see for what seemed to be miles and miles, a beautiful open view that was soothing and calming to the soul as I plodded up the road not really thinking much just trying to make time. Look at that I can see forever, almost to the lake way off in the distance, man that looks like 7 or 8 miles over there how pretty. Hey wait a minute, didn’t Matt say that I should hike to the lake edge and then follow the river up stream … … that lake can’t be what he was talking about he said it was a short hike up the road………….

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    With that some of my good spirits evaporated as I started that all too familiar internal debate that all of us have when we are exploring country we have only been told about or seen on a map. “this can’t be right” … … “I must have made a wrong turn” … … “what the hell these directions are nuts” … … “ I should turn around and start over this won’t work out” … … and finally “my legs are killing me and I gotta stop”. Fortunately for me I still had a Naglene bottle full of cold water filtered from the stream just that very morning so I stopped and took a cold soothing drink and got hold of my raging emotions and told myself to shut the hell up and start walking … … and fortunately I listened to myself and started moving again. Hiking along a road bed has its advantages as the grade is always somewhat minimized and the traction is usually easy and it is virtually impossible to lose the trail, but roads tend to twist and turn to meet the land owners boundaries and shift directions to go around hills, gullies and bare rock outcroppings which means that every time I calculated distance traveled versus distance to go, the road would bend in a new wrong direction taking me away from the lake that I now had decided did indeed mark my destination. The other problem was that the open visibility of this country showed clearly how little mileage progress had been made as the lake managed to stay on the horizon for what seemed like hours without letting me gain any ground toward finally reaching it. I must admit I mentally called Matt a few choice words and probably would have thrown a rod tube and wading sandals at him had he been anywhere within range … … but he wasn’t so I just kept trudging onward. My legs already tired from the mornings “stroll” were really pissed off about this evening’s extended stroll and I was once again getting grumpy when I finally rounded a hill and saw the back edge of the lake finally drawing close. My spirits soared at the sight and I almost instantly cheered right back up. Light was starting to fade from the sky as I hit the end of the road. I soon enough found the fire circle where Matt and his young daughter had camped in the past, right where he had said it would be. But he had told me to go upriver a ways before I camped so I plunged into the heavy willow thicket looking for the upriver trail that I knew must be there. Well for some reason since I had envisioned this as a quick hike up a dirt road I had worn shorts for the trek, a decision that proved to be a poor one as I found myself busting through dense almost impenetrable mass of brambles, vines and sticks trying to reach waters edge. After what seemed to be 30 minutes of busting brush and tearing the flesh from my legs and feeling my anger once more rising, I finally broke through to waters edge. Down below me ran a slow lazy current of clear water that was just barley moving and actually resembled and extended arm of the lake but at least it wasn’t covered in brambles and bushes just a soft green of grass almost like a lawn. I almost bounded into the open expanse expecting to make quick time upriver … … only to find that the ground had recently been lake bottom and was really a two foot thick bog of mud that practically sucked my sandals right off my feet. I fought cursing and fuming into the water expecting that pebbled rocky bottom to be my salvation. Only to find myself sinking into a foot or so of deep pebbles and rocks that filled my sandals and threatened to trip me, throwing my fat ass self, my backpack and rod case into the water. I fought step by step and yard by yard upstream for what felt like miles but was probably only a few hundred yards… … when I finally saw a small plateau over the dense bushes next to the water. So I once more busted through the brambles and brush ripping what little flesh was still unscathed on my legs before finally stumbling onto dry ground. And by dry ground I meant dry ground as it was densely covered in cactus and sparsely covered in dry grass. At least the walking got easier but now I was out of sight of the water and couldn’t tell if I was still on the arm of the lake or not. So in my anxiety I just plowed ahead stumbling and bumbling forward.

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    How long I walked I don’t really know but you can imagine I wasn’t in a good mood as I was hot tired and worn out. Suddenly I heard that singular noise that lets all of us know that life is going to be all right … … the rushing, gurgling and surging of fast moving water. I immediately turned and headed toward the sound, thinking maybe I was all right after all. As I got close to the sound of the water, but was still in the middle of a large treeless open plateau,

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    I tripped over what must have been the only significant stick of wood in surrounding acres of land. Hey there is a whole pile of these sticks what the hell……… then it hit me that pile of stones in a semi circle…… a pile of cut sticks …… 50 feet walking distance to the fresh running water of what I had been told was a trout stream … … do you think I might have found the spot I should be camping?????? I had the backpack off and the tent set up before that thought could even fully register on my brain. Sans the extra 40 pounds I had been carrying for the last few hours I did a little scouting around and found a perfectly delightful trout stream nearby with all of the features one would expect, riffles and runs, rocks eddies and seams and even big deep pools at the base of towering red rock cliffs all flowing through what my southern dumb ass self would have called a high desert, pretty spectacular really.

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    I stumbled back to my camp pad folded into a chair, my waiting bottle of bourbon, stream water, cigars and campfire ready to light.

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    I sat there slicing a block of cheddar cheese and let the beauty of the world around me sink in. The red rock cliffs that surrounded me on all sides where bathed in the half light and deepening shadow of the last rays of the day. The small fire flickered and popped with the dry limbs casting a warmth that shielded me from the falling temperatures that crept in when the sun finally disappeared from the landscape all together. The smell of the woodsmoke mingled with the almost overpowering smell of wild sage that permeated the air. The edges of the cliffs still held a remnant of deep blue but the rest of the sky had long since turned to black. Stars had been popping out one by one for the last thirty minutes or so but the real spectacle of beauty didn’t fully appear until my cigar burned out at the same time the light of the fire finally faded to ashes and the darkness finally surrounded me. I was astounded as millions and millions of stars blazed forth. The Milky Way glowed in vivid relief against the night sky and more stars than I had thought possible dazzled my eyesight as the ever present sage dazzled my olfactory senses. I unfolded my sleeping pad and lay back with my eyes searching haven ward. Tracing the arc of constellations and reveling in the real life planetarium that shone above me. In my many travels around the country and world I have never seen such a clear exposed stretch of the heavens as lay before me that night. I fought the deep bone weary tiredness of my body to try and stay awake and continue my star gazing. Where exactly the blurring line of actual visions of the heavens faded into dream visions of stars dancing before my closed eyelids is unknown but the next thing I was aware of was the sun rising over the cliffs that surrounded me bringing daylight to my gentle camp.

    I woke with fishing on my mind and grabbed some cereal bars rigged my 7 ½ foot 5 wt Phillipson without even bothering to cook breakfast and headed out to explore the river and to catch me one of the big brown trout that are rumored to be in this river. I found very interesting water, different than what I was used to but beautiful none the less. Once again I was in beaver country and the entire river was a series of very large beaver dams broken by shallow riffle water between, punctuated by deep undercut pools at the base of the cliffs. I fished for a couple of hours in the morning with a hopper dropper combo and didn’t stir much interest, a few small fish and a half hearted rise from a fish I thought might be a little larger but nothing to get excited about. I was beginning to once again doubt Matt my noble travel coordinator when I cam across a beautiful hole of water that actually had sunshine already on the water. It framed an interesting rock outcropping that would serve as my location marker for the rest of the day.

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    The hole of water had a strong surge white water coursing between two rock cliffs and a deep blue pool below. I saw a strong rise ring form when I first got near the head of the pool and sure enough on the second cast into the back of the pool something attacked my hopper. I set the hook and applied pressure on the rod expecting the same fight and size as the little greenback cutts I had been catching all week, but I was surprised to feel the weight of a nice fish bend the Phillipson to near double. My old Hardy Sunbeam reel sung as the fish peeled off line and I made myself mentally relax as I settled into a tussle with a nice fish. The fish flashed golden in the clear green blue of the water letting me know I had a brown to add to the fish mix of this trip. He wasn’t the largest brown I had ever caught but I had a feeling that he was the harbinger of good things to come.

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    Once the ice was broken I caught fish consistently, every time I could find fast water dumping into a deep crease of water I caught two or three fish. Most of them in that 13 to 17 inch range.

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    The biggest fish I caught of the day was a gorgeously colored 18 inch or so camera shy rainbow that managed to free herself as I was trying to make last minute adjustments to her pose … … I guess she didn’t take direction very well. And my largest brown was about the same size but managed to do a self release while I was still fishing my camera out of my vest. So the fish pictures on this part of the agenda are a little limited but suffice to say that the fish weren’t it was a great afternoon of fishing and of catching. I covered ground searching for the right combination of water and every time I found it fish soon followed.

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    Soon enough I was getting tired and knew that I still had a long walk back to camp, so as I identified likely looking target water, I decided that this would be the last hole of water I would fish for today and that this would be the last hole of water for the entire trip. I managed to get a strong rise and a pretty little 13 inch brown on the second cast, the struggle was brief but memorable but soon enough I was watching him swim away and biting the fly from the line and reeling in for the last time on this adventure.

    I stumbled back to camp in late afternoon tired and content. I tried to record the beauty of the surroundings with a few more pictures.

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    I then settled in to cook dinner and watch the last rays of light fall from the sky. Knowing that with the fading of the light would fade the last of my trip. It was with a little melancholy that I watched the light on the hilltop spire fade to a last spotlight marking the end of this adventure but I knew the memories would be something that would stay with me forever

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    Thank you Matt for helping me plan this Trip of Firsts, two type fish I hadn’t caught before, 5 rivers I hadn’t fished before and a whole new love of a whole new part of the country …….

    Hope you enjoyed this long winded narrative but at least this way I will always have my memories stored in a way I can simply read the words and look at the pictures and transport myself back ……. To an adventure a “trip of firsts”.

    Rbaileydav
    Dick Davis
     
  2. Rob Zelk

    Rob Zelk I swing, therefore i am.

    Nice report, cool photos too.
     
  3. Gary Thompson

    Gary Thompson dirty dog

    good job
    Doesn't get much better than that.
     
  4. yuhina

    yuhina Tropical member

    What a nice trip! NICE photo...Jealous! : )