The beautiful high country
The Roaring Fork Valley’s high country is often overlooked by anglers due to the surrounding Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan and lower Roaring Fork rivers. Few areas in the country rival the well-known beauty and splendor of our wonderful valley, including the heavily photographed Maroon Bells at Maroon Lake near Snowmass, the Crystal Mill along the Crystal River near Marble and the Punchbowl/Grottos area on the headwaters of the upper Roaring Fork River near Independence Pass. In addition to their stunning beauty, all of these areas and waters contain trout.
If there’s one thing cool about fly-fishing, it’s that it takes you to many beautiful places.
Fly-fishing to me is all about the experience of being closer to nature, not about how many or how big of fish you might have caught. Sure, big fish deserve merit, as do the days when you do catch a bunch of fish, but the things that truly made those events were that you earned them. You might have had to sit down on the riverbank for a few minutes to figure out that the fish were actually eating the more sporadic blue-wing olive mayflies and not the more numerous and larger green drake mayflies. Maybe you hiked two miles, five miles, 10 miles or whatever just to avoid the crowds on the more famous rivers with their bigger fish just to catch 8-inch cutthroat trout. Or perhaps you made the hero-shot and made that perfect cast in a seemingly impossible situation and caught that lunker rainbow trout that you saw swirling on caddis. Whatever it was, it was ultimately the fact that you earned them.
I’ve generally found that most high-country trout are opportunistic feeders. That is, in layman’s terms, they’re relatively dumb and easy to catch. A small fly box and a bare minimum of the basic accessories are usually all that’s needed for a venture. Before I get too far ahead of myself, though, I’ve also found some high-country trout that skitter at a light footstep placed 50 feet away before I even had a chance to make a cast. That’s also one of the other cool things about fly-fishing: There are no certainties.
Using a small and light fly rod (my favorite is a 7-foot, 9-inch 3 weight) allows me to make casts easily into tight, brushy areas, though I truly enjoy it most because even a small fish will put a good bend in the rod. A big fish will bend it practically into the cork grip! I can literally feel the fish surge and throb when using such a light rod, again allowing me to deepen my connection to this Mother Earth.
I’m perfectly content with catching small fish in stunningly beautiful places. I enjoy the more popular rivers too, but the glamour of the high country beckons me away every summer.
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