On the Trail: Biting fish, biting flies
Weekend camping at Chapman Campground on the upper Fryingpan was definitely the right call, judging from the sweltering heat that greeted me upon my return to the midvalley Sunday afternoon.
And a hike to Sawyer Lake in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness on Saturday was also the right call. So was a gray adams. So was the insect repellent.
Intent on a leisurely (as opposed to lung-busting) hike, a friend and I struck out for Sawyer Lake Saturday morning, our pack rods packed, along with lunch and assortment of flies.
We quickly encountered flies of another sort ” the voracious kind ” but repellent combined with a steady gate kept them mostly at bay.
A couple of backpackers at the lake claimed the hike in was 4.5 miles, but I have my doubts. We reached our destination in an hour and 45 minutes, and I don’t think we covered 4.5 miles in less than two hours. I’m guessing the hike is more like 4 miles tops.
The trail meanders mostly through a deep, coniferous forest with plenty of shade to keep things comfortably cool. Where ever sunshine broke through the canopy, lupines and other wildflowers bloomed. Numerous, small stream crossings are no problem and the upward climbs are punctuated by flat sections of trail. In other words, it’s an easy hike.
Fish were striking the surface of the glassy lake when we arrived, and we ate quickly, anxious to assemble our rods and try our luck.
Backcountry lakes can be a hit-or-miss proposition, in my experience. I’ve caught and released more brook trout than I’d care to count from some lakes, and run through every fly in my box without a strike from feeding fish in others.
Sawyer struck a perfect medium. What appeared to be native cutthroats in the 8-inch range wouldn’t hit at everything, all the time, but over the course of close to three hours, we landed more than than a couple of dozen trout altogether and missed plenty of other strikes. Both a gray adams and a small elk-hair caddis did the trick.
The only wrong call of the weekend came back at the truck, where we sat down for a beer, sans hiking boots and socks. (Who’d a thought beer could be a bad idea?) The flies attacked my repellent-free ankles and feet en masse and two days later, I’m still scratching the ugly welts furiously.
Drive up Frying Pan Road beyond Ruedi Reservoir. Take a right at Norrie and follow the gravel road about 3.5 miles to the trailhead, veering right at the fork on the way. A sign at the fork points the direction to the Sawyer Lake Trailhead, situated at the end of the road, next to a lake formed by an old quarry.
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While it may come as a surprise to exactly no one who lives in the Roaring Fork Valley, Pitkin County and Garfield County have diametrically opposite views of the state’s new red-flag gun law.