Author: - David Downie
Location: - Colorado Springs USA
I was lucky enough to visit Colorado Springs in May 2002, my first visit to the USA. A work visit but with some careful planning I managed to secure three days fishing in this wonderful State deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. With some help from three friends of mine who worked for HP Colorado Springs, Jack Hunter, Jim Jones and Ira Simons. We set up three days fishing starting on a beautiful stream called "Eleven-Mile Canyon". The stream system (Gold Stream's) which is made up of three different section's within the stream, there was the bottom section where you could fish any methods you wanted and kill 4 fish, then you had the middle section which was fly-only but you could catch and kill 4 fish and there was the most prolific part, the top section which was nearest the eleven mile reservoir called the Gold Section where all fish must be returned alive and we finished on my last day on Antero Reservoir further up State.
Jack Hunter playing a wild Rainbow
Jack in Action
Beautiful Scenery on Eleven Mile Canyon
Day 1 on the Eleven Mile Canyon
We had so much fishing to choose from and how much does it cost, $27 per year for any water in the state of Colorado and that's a lot of waters to fish. We decide to fish the stream for 2 days in a row as it was so good after the first day for some people and not for others as I was having a very hard time holding onto these fish but I eventually got the method right and all was good. On the first day Jack, Jim and myself went to the stream, I did not know what to expect. To say I was surprised was an understatement this place was not only stunning to look at but the stream was crystal clear with loads of fish in each of the pools, would I catch or not was all that was going through my mind. Jack and Jim tackle up their small 3 and 4 weight rods with some well all I could call it was cobweb nylon and flies (Size 22's and 24's)that were even hard for me to see. Next went on the bung, float whatever you want to call it but it was there and a very bright orange to boot. Lastly on went the split shot to get the flies down quickly to the fish as this little stream was pretty fast in places.
I decided to try the small nymphs I had tied for the trip, well I thought they were small until I had set my eyes on the ones these guys were using. Tackled up my newly acquired 9ft 3in 5wt Missionary rod from my good friend Ian from Hardy/Greys. Attached to this I had my Hardy fly-reel and my WF5 Cabela's fly-line that had been sitting at my hotel waiting on me along with my new waders as well. So all kitted out ready for some serious amounts of fish, well I was in for a surprise not only were the fish not interested in my size 16 nymphs I could not even get an offer, unlike some people. Jack was having a whale of a time catching fish every 20 minutes or so. So off I went in true anglers fashion to find out what I was doing wrong. As I said before his set-up was a wee bit different to mine so I managed to get some of his Killing Flies from him and a float, split shot and off I went to a nice bend in the stream where the water was fast then slowed down on the bend as the water deepened. I had spotted loads of fish in the pool earlier and was hoping for the best.
Well the rest of the morning past quickly with fish after fish being missed, hooked or lost I had managed to land only one fish as seen in the picture below. I was not disappointed, who could be with a fish as fin perfect as that one and so much sport it was unbelievable but the day was not over yet.
My first Rainbow in Colorado, Oh what that was about to start
The River beginner, but I was on it
Back to the 4x4 for a quick lunch then it was back to catching some fish. After some sandwiches and some excellent BBQ pork from Jacks own recipe we were ready to do battle with these amazing fish once again. But something had changed they were now more fish rising so I decided to try a small olive dry I had tied on a size 16 Drennan buzzer hook. Jim and Jack said it was too big and that I needed to fish smaller to catch these fish rising in the pool right in front of the 4x4. Well we all went into the pool and I caught 2 fish and got broke on a third fish and Jim and Jack caught none of these rising fish so my not so wee flies did the trick. As the rise began to fade I started making my way back down the pools to my favorite part of stream the BEND. I tackled up once more with the size 22 bug rig and made my way hastily back to the edge of the pool, but I was stopped in my tracks when I spotted a large brown trout sitting in front of a rock just before my favorite bend on the stream. A couple of casts later and I had him, he did not run like the rainbows but decided to just use his weight to pull me about the pool slowly, my heart pounded as I thought I would never get this fish in across the power of the water. After a spirited fight I managed to land this fish on a size 22 bug. He was a cracking brown of roughly two and a half pounds and full of muscle.
Powerful Brown in Colorado
Fin Perfect Rainbows
The day was rounded off with a few more fish landed and many lost for all three of us. What a great days fishing and what great company. On the way home I later learned about a thing the guys over in the USA called LDR, when I ask Jack and Jim about LDR they laughed and told me its short for LONG DISTANCE RELEASE, what does this mean I hear you ask well in the USA if you are playing a fish for longer than 30 seconds even if it comes off then they count it, cant see that catching on over here in the UK.
Day 2 on the Eleven Mile Canyon
Well day 2 we were up bright and early due to the fact that I had booked out my hotel and went to stay with Jack at his home on the out-skirts of town. What a place the views were amazing, the house was amazing and his home made beer was awesome. We had BBQ T-Bones and potatoes, home made beer straight from the pumps in the garage and was sitting on the decking outside next to the hot-tub and the Jacuzzi. What a life these guys have I wish I could have stayed there longer. Just check the views from his balcony, its called the "Garden of the Gods" and it certainly was from where I was standing.
Views from Jack Pad, Stunning
Well after a short trip to the local tackle shop Anglers Covey for some more essential equipment, floats, shot and nylon and of course a new Sage Hat I was ready for anything. I also got some advice from the guys in there about what to fish at Antero Reservoir where I was heading the next day, but I had my own ideas for that water as you will find out later. We arrived at about 7.30 am at the stream and all was quiet and very cold, remember this was May but as we were about 8000 ft above sea level it was freezing cold in the shade, but once the sun got high enough around mid-day I was all warm and toasty again. The fishing was much better this day, sadly Jim could not join us as he had family commitments that day. I eventually managed to land around 15 fish and all were in perfect condition I caught them at my feet in deeper water in shallow runs everywhere and none were bigger than one and a half pounds. Some pictures below of my day.
Day 3 Antero Reservoir
I was so looking forward to going here, I had done all my homework read up about it and all the other great waters surrounding it and Antero was the place to be for me with its Browns, Rainbows and the one I was after the Cutthroat. My fishing partner for the day was Ira Simons a Quality Engineer from HP Colorado Springs. To fish Lake Antero from a boat you have to own your own boat but the water is still under the State Permit and you are allowed 4 fish per day per angler. As the Ice fishing had not long finished and the fact that Ira's son had caught a Cutthroat of 6 lbs I was in very good company. Ira is a spin-bait fisherman and has fished in the walleye semi pro leagues so we were in for a good day, the boat in question was Ira's sons boat as Ira's boat was not yet ready for the new season. What a boat I will tell you, it had an in-built fish finder, electric motors front and rear with foot controls and a 180 hp motor strapped to back of this rocket boat, what a machine. These guys really know how to live. Check out this boat
Ira tackle up with his favorite spinner baits and I brought out the big guns, I set-up my 10ft AFTM 7 Sage XP rod, large for American standard but I was going to need it because I would be fishing the "Shuggie" or Humungus as most people know it on a DI-6 fly line. One Shuggie on the point we set the boat up in 10 ft of water within 3 casts I had my first rainbow and after 2 drifts, not trolling I had 10 fish to my rod and many plucks pulls and misses with Ira only catching one fish on his spinner baits. I think I have persuaded Ira to get the old fly rod back out of retirement. There were many people fishing, some from the bank and some from anchored boats, some trolling and some float tubers but none were having the success I was getting with the "Shuggie". I then managed a fish of around 4lbs in perfect condition and that one went home with Ira for dinner in the live-well I might add. We finished the day after only 3 hrs fishing with 16 fish for the boat and to think that all this cost just $27 per year amazing.
On the way back to Jack's home we saw buffalo and also passed through the town of South Park where I believe the inspiration for the TV show came from and as a fan it was great to be able to say I've been there where it started. I have to thank Jim, Jack and Ira for making me most welcome in their homes and country and for providing me with some of the best fishing I have ever sampled and I do hope to return one day to fish more of the magical waters in the State of Colorado. Thanks Guys.