Prospecting for Gold....
Guest Blog by: Rick Schroeder 8/11/2011
First off let me apologize to everyone for lack of blog posts lately. I have been insanely busy with family stuff and work and trying to squeeze in fishing when I can which hasnít been a lot. So letís start the gap off with a big bang!
As some of you know I have had Golden Trout on my bucket list for several years now. I started researching where to catch them here in Colorado back in 2007. Things looked pretty grim as they hadnít been stocked in most lakes since the early 80's or late 70's. But I had heard rumors from Colorado Division of Wildlife Biologists that there were small reproducing populations in some of the Wilderness Areas here in Colorado. Armed with that knowledge I narrowed down the most likely place that still held them, then while checking Google earth the lake appeared to be dried up. With what looked to be a strenuous bushwhack up a pretty steep mountain 10 miles or more into the Wilderness Area it fell to a someday hike.
As you've seen on this forum and others the topic of Goldens in Colorado pops up every so often... most of them relating to Palomino Trout or Golden Rainbow Trout not Golden Trout as there is a difference. After our Arrowhead Lake trip last year the guys wanted something to top it and hopefully get another Article in American Angler Magazine by Jon Hill. So I threw out the suggestion of catching a Golden Trout in Colorado. Warning it was either boom or bust as they may no longer be any in Colorado. We started more research caught more rumors and things looked pretty slim, but we planned the trip anyways. The trip would turn out to be 27 miles in the Wilderness Area, 6,000 ft elevation gain, 6 miles of bush whacking over thick deadfall, 3 barren lakes of 4 fished, in 5 days.
I caught 1 Golden Trout and each of the 3 guys accompanying me on the journey managed 1 or more Golden Trout. We did not really find them where our research had pointed but we did find them. Like most prospectors I was crossing a small creek, one not even on my map, looked down and saw color. Stopping immediately I took a couple steps backwards and tried to present the fish hugged up against the bank my flies. Landing one on shore and the other right in front of him, he hit it... the hook set was stopped by the fly that landed on shore and I had lost my shot at the first wild golden trout I had ever seen. I then continued to the next hole in a creek that at its widest was 3ft and averaged a foot wide or below with deep undercuts for the fish to hide. Casting into the next run, another golden came to my flies and took them in what seemed like slow motion... except for my hook set which was probably so adrenalin filled that even if I was using steel cable tippet I would of still snapped my flies off. The 2nd wild golden trout I had seen had disappeared to the undercut depths of the creek this time with my flies. Running back to base camp to get my fly boxes I had inconveniently dropped off earlier so I didnít have to carry everything as I explored, I found the rest of my group taking a lunch break. Exclaiming ""I FOUND THEM!" to a shocked "WHAT?!" I tried breathlessly to explain where they were before heading back to the creek. I tied on a fly faster than I ever tied on before and put it on the seam of a quick run. Once again a Golden Trout came from the depths to take my fly, this time my hook set did not fail and the fish began its fight. One run took me down a narrow shoot and under a bank I had to drop my rod tip into the water and coax the fish back out and into a pool big enough for me to land him. Net in my hand I made the attempt and had landed the first golden trout of the trip a 16.5" trophy. There was nothing left to do but let out a WOOOOHOOOOO!!! To which one of the guys already in route came running down the hillside to the creek I was fishing. He snapped some quick photos and we released the fish. The pictures do not do it justice but it was beautiful.
Soon we had the group fishing the creek and exploring every bend and as much of the creek as we could. Slowly but surely everyone caught a golden trout or three.
Unfortunately for me besides a few more missed strikes from some of the little guys in the pools I did not catch another one. Shortly after everyone had caught theirs the fish seemed to just vanish. We fished a little longer and decided to try again the next day. After searching for them the following day and only spotting a few small cruisers who also spotted us and hit the undercuts we decided to pack up and head for another lake. Satisfied!
There is gold in them hills and adventure waiting.
Rick Schroeder is the creator and founder of Colorado Mountain Fishing.com a website designed for those who share his passion for high country fishing, four wheeling, hiking, camping, and photography.
Rick has spent a significant portion of his life in the back country of the United States, starting at a young age in the Scouts, then in the Infantry with the 82nd Airborne, and after the military as a avid fisherman. In the summer months, Rick can often be found in the shadow of one of Coloradoís many fourteeners casting to some hungry cutthroat at one of the many alpine lakes in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. He also spends long hours on the summit of those peaks, capturing those unforgettable panoramas with his trusty Nikon. Rick has had photographs published on multiple websites, CMC books, and American Angler Magazine. During the colder weather, Rick frequently enjoys fly fishing one of the many tail waters in Colorado or using the short rod on the hard water with the South Park Junkies ice team. When heís not wetting a line, Rick works as an IT Professional for the US Army and spends his off time moderating multiple Colorado fishing websites.
Coyute, CO 8/11/2011 1:15:14 PM
Great pictures once again. Thanks for sharing.
Browns Hunter, CO 8/11/2011 1:35:25 PM
Very nice Rick! Sure is a big change from all that snow you ran up against last time!
Rick Schroeder (ePiC), CO 8/11/2011 1:37:15 PM
There was a little bit of snow up there but nothing that was a problem.
Tim Fishman Emery, CO 8/11/2011 2:10:11 PM
Great story Rick! That is what it is all about!
brookieflyfisher, CO 8/11/2011 8:54:05 PM
I am speechless. This is the Holy Grail of backcountry fishing in Colorado. You are the man.
Vanish, CO 8/12/2011 8:37:36 AM
That shot of my little golden with the golden reel is sweet! Nice article Rick!
coloradonative, CO 8/12/2011 10:36:23 AM
Epic trip! Sorry I cut off your head in the picture.
Mollo, CO 8/12/2011 11:50:42 AM
Incredible story! Congratulations on your persistence and determination paying off. You may have only caught one, but it was the largest, and incredibly beautiful. To think what that particular fish has endured to become that large in that particular environment is mind blowing. You should look back on this experience for the rest of your days and be proud. Knowing you are one of a very small group of fisherman ever to catch this species in Colorado must be very special. A very inspirational story. Thanks for sharing it.
jfred17, CO 8/13/2011 10:37:12 PM
This was definitely an awesome trip to be apart of! I can't wait to hear what the biologist has to say and also if this might help get more goldens to be stocked in Colorado.Excellent write up Rick!
castingdonkey, CO 8/14/2011 6:37:41 PM
Awesome trip and story. When I lived in California I used to run into those all the time. Some old guy had told us they were brooke trout. Which they seem to look like bows browns and brooks combined. I know they are way more abundant there than here but I am glad to see what the fish actually were. Thank you.
RMTrouter, CO 8/14/2011 6:50:05 PM
Nice write up Rick, and thanks for sharing.
fishyjoe, CO 8/15/2011 1:24:30 PM
Great story! you must be pumped to find some of the last specimens in the southern rocky mountains. i have fished these same streams and the lakes with no success (b4 i really knew how to cast a fly properly). the area is fantastic, interesting the 2 main lakes had no gold in them. way to go and thanks for the post!
fishyjoe, CO 8/15/2011 1:29:16 PM
oh ya bet the wildflowers where off the hook, with all the snow they got up there this year! awesome! I have not returned to those lakes and streams but always thought that the major creek basin below them lakes may hold the gold. still unsure if it is private or not up on the creek!
Rick Schroeder (ePiC), CO 8/16/2011 7:42:47 AM
fishyjoe, I have public/private lands marked on the Garmin GPS I use... with this software: http://www.huntinggpsmaps.com I think its only for Garmins but its very good 1:24K so pretty detailed.
If you have a Garmin and get that map, let them know I sent ya.
FlyPatch, CO 8/26/2011 5:55:34 PM
That's just awesome...congratulations...the hard work paid off!
pasto76, CO 8/26/2011 6:14:21 PM
awesome. adventure fishing. What I love the most.
alanlf5280, CO 9/1/2011 12:50:49 PM
Noticed one of your buddies got his write up and photos published on the Orvis site. Trouts Unlimited even posted a link to his write up. Congrats guys.