On the trail: No luck at Weller Lake | AspenTimes.com
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On the trail: No luck at Weller Lake

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Andre Salvail/The Aspen Times

It’s true I don’t like hiking uphill. But if the trail’s not too long and there’s a payoff at the end in the form of a fishing spot, I might be inclined to try it.

And so I did, a few days ago, on a partly sunny afternoon with my spin-cast gear and a small cooler full of cold beer. The trailhead off Highway 82 is such a close trip from Aspen — six miles southeast of the city toward Independence Pass — I was a bit ashamed that I had never been to Weller Lake.

The truth is, Weller Lake doesn’t enjoy a good reputation among local fishermen. The areas next to the banks are extremely rocky and a bit steep, providing a tough spot to lay your gear and other essentials. There are some small beaches that are accessible, one on the other side of the lake and the other a few hundred yards to the right of the main trail’s end. There doesn’t appear to be a decent trail to either beach ­— everything is rough-and-tumble.

The hike wasn’t bad, maybe 30 or 45 minutes. It’s steep at times, with a lot of switchbacks and some pretty bridge crossings. Some leftover snow on the trail caused me to slip a little, but I never wiped out. By the time I reached the top, I had had enough.

Not wanting to do more hiking to the opposite side of the lake, which surely would have meant an unintentional leap into some boulders, I found an OK spot on the north shoreline, cracked open a cold one and cast a yellow roostertail into the water. The breeze was moderate and not much of a factor. I cast for about an hour with no luck — at least the scenery was impressive.

My gear soon failed me. I loosened the drag on the reel, and on the next cast, somehow most of the mechanism shot away from the rod and fell into the frigid water. Using the line, I tried to pull the reel piece back in, but the whole process was awkward. By the time I had pulled in most of the line, the line broke away from the half-reel piece. Thus, the reel was unattainable, sitting at the bottom of the lake in a rocky area about 8 feet deep or so.

The environmentalists are going to be mad when they read this, but there was no retrieving the reel, and so it is still there. The water was too cold for me to even consider it. Across the way, I watched some high school boys dipping their toes in the water. Occasionally, they would jump in or pick up and throw their timid girlfriends. No one was in the water for more than two or three seconds. Even their dogs didn’t like it.

It was a fun sideshow, watching the bikini-clad girls scream as their pale bodies hit the icy water. But without extra gear with which to fish, I made my way back down the trail.

When the lake warms up, I might go back and get the reel. Or maybe not: Weller is an easy climb with beautiful views, but the fishing sucks. During the two hours I was there, I never saw any sign of life jump above the surface or swim near the banks.

Lesson learned: I think I will stick to Ruedi.


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