Colorado Trip with the Johnson's
Good friends of ours from Oklahoma treated us to a trip to their vacation home on Spring Creek, a tributary of the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers, north of Gunnison, Colorado.
John and Valery Johnson owned a log cabin in a tight-knit community on the Spring River for quite a few years. They recently upgraded with other extended family to a larger cabin to accommodate their growing family, adding three grandsons in the last few years. They spend as much time as work allows, although the 11-hour drive makes it a challenge to get away.
We arrived Saturday night and started the day Sunday morning, trailering John's 4-wheelers to an access and running up to the upper section on Brush Creek. It was about a 30-minute ride. Most of the creek was not fishable -- too brushy and steep. But we tried a flat meadow where the creek was perfect and found quite a few cuts and browns, catching most of them on a parachute adams.
The trail up to the high country was tough even for our all-terrain vehicles, I thought, but as we were fishing, a white truck came down the same trail! Not really an off-road truck, but just a nice looking Chevy like you'd see on the highway.
I wondered how in the world the driver would makes those turns, dips and maneuvers over those big rocks he had to get around?! I guess he made it because we didn't see him high-centered or stuck on the way back down.
Monday morning, we headed out early to the catch-and-release area below Taylor Reservoir. I fished this water years ago during the summer. I remember throwing everything I had at the fish with little results. This time we garnered almost the same results. There were lots of nice trout milling around, taking real small insects coming off the water. I caught a couple of browns stripping a soft hackle.
Did I say it was cold? The low 30's temperature and a breeze kept our hands numb.
John had a real treat planned for us in the afternoon. John and Valerie, Randy and Linda (John's friends from home and neighbors there on Spring Creek) and Marsha and I took four-wheelers up to a peak called American Flag. From their place on Spring Creek, it took us about three hours to make the run. That's a long time on rough four-wheeler trails. We took two Razers and two Polaris vehicles.
We traveled through mountain sagebrush meadows in fall colors and woods of tall fir and pine trees, along side small creeks -- and ventured near deep cuts that cascaded down hundreds of feet, sometimes dropping off only inches from the side of our vehicle. Most aspen trees had lost their bright yellow leaves -- but the ones left glowed against the dark green firs. Even the softwood trees that were bare had a translucent glow about them as they dotted in clumps against the vast mountain sides.
Spring Creek Reservoir.
As we reached the higher elevations where the snow had fallen, it was as as if God had taken His paint and highlighted the rocky slopes, making the dark areas darker. It was a masterpiece no man could have brushed.
The last climb was interesting -- a 30-degree, half-mile run over snow drifts and loose rock. Our Razer had a hard time in the snow drifts, even in four-wheel drive, but we made it.
We have never done anything like that before, and we came away wanting to do it again! The view was awesome -- and I don't use that word very often.
We did see quite a few elk hunters but no animals. They said it had been too warm to group them up.
Tuesday, John and I hit some of his favorite spots. First, it was up the road on the Taylor River at Cold Springs access. John said this spot gets hit hard during the season because of its easy access off the road, but we still found the trout agreeable.
I had been doing well on soft hackles, copper johns and parachute adams, so that's what I tied on. They fish didn't like the dry very well, but the Green Butt soft hackle they did! I caught six brown trout right off, then caught the trout of the trip -- 15-inch brookie. John didn't believe me when I told him, so he came over to verify. Even then, he wasn't sure. . . I was. I knew brooks' looks could vary, and the black with yellow spots of this one was more rare. But John had never heard of a brook caught on the Taylor.
Next we hit the mouth of the Taylor River above the lake -- and didn't see a fish. There was an angler fishing more out towards the lake using bait, and we did see him catch one. But nothing up in the river, so we didn't spend much time there with other places to go.
We drove up to another one of John's favorite spots, Italian Creek. I barely had enough rooms to walk and cast my 3-weight since this creek was small with tight water and not much of it. I could see the small trout dart up and into their holes along the bank before I had a chance to even cast. I finally found one stretch where I could get my adams over non spooked trout and caught one rainbow. That was my afternoon.
Wednesday we fished some private water on the Taylor. John assured me that the trout would be big and plentiful. And, yes, we could see there were both, but fooling them was another thing. None of the normal patterns worked. I guess their browns were starting to drop eggs, so John fished a bead. I found they liked to chase a soft hackle (again) and as long as I fished fairly flat water, it worked!
John let me fish an extra hour while he returned to start winterizing the cabin. I found a good stretch and caught six browns and then my biggest trout of the trip -- about a 20-inch, beautiful rainbow on my last catch.
Wildlife on the trip - antelope and buffalo on the way out, mule deer and big horn sheep.
All the rivers and creeks were very low, and this was the latest in the fall John had ever fished. That's what we blamed not seeing any fish in places where John had always done well.
Just to experience this beautiful area in the autumn and fish these waters was a real treat. Catching a few fish was a bonus.
Yes, I'm smiling...