What: Backpacking and Flyfishing Trip
Stretch: Indian Peaks Wilderness
Where: Ward, Colorado
Length: 12 miles
Crew: Rob and Zach
FishSki Highlight: Red Chile Mac, Red Alpine Glow, and Red Greenback Cutthroat Trout at at 12,000 feet
I love backpacking to high mountain lakes. We are very fortunate to have three local wilderness areas (Indian Peaks, James Peak, and Rocky Mountain National Park) with trail heads just a half hour from FishSki HQ. I favor the Indian and James Peak wilderness areas as they are closer to us and see a little less traffic than the National Park. This trip was special, I traveled to the last two lakes I had yet to visit on the eastern side of the continental divide in the Indian and James Peak areas.
It is always fun to explore new places and the scenery on this trip did not disappoint. The mountains remained snow capped from late spring snows, while the wild flowers were in full bloom in the valley. The initial hike followed a popular route making for easy travel.
Zach and I made it to the first lake in short time. At the lake we ate a quick lunch, rigged up our fly rods and went searching for greenback cutthroat trout. As soon as we spotted a couple fish a massive hail and rain storm came blowing in. We hunkered down next to a few larger rocks and tried to wait out the storm. As the storm's intensity decreased we made a few more casts and decided that we should get going to the next lake as soon as possible in case the weather got worse again.
However, we had one last thing to do at the first lake. The Boulder Flycasters are the local Trout Unlimited Chapter. They and CU Boulder just launched a new citizen science program where backpackers and anglers take measurements of local high alpine lakes. The data being collected is used by CU scientists to assess possible changes in lakes as the alpine environment transforms from global warming. Zach and I took visibility, PH, and temperature measurements at the lake recording our results for the scientists.
FishSki gives at least one percent of every sale to local conservation and/or recreational access. The Boulder Flycasters are the first group were giving to. We are excited to be able to support the Flycasters and the great work they do including programs like this new citizen science initiative.
The next lake required overland off trail hiking. The hike included multiple small stream, snow, and scree field crossings. This hike was a bit more difficult than our relatively easy on trial hike to the first lake. Adding to the difficulty a new band of hail fell on us.
We reached the second lake just as the storm passed. It was late July but the lake was still nearly 50% frozen and the surrounding area was still covered in deep snows. Reaching the lake shore, the sun almost immediately came out. As soon as we dropped our packs, we began seeing a few fish cruising the lake's crystal clear waters. Of course we went right to fishing. The first fish I spotted fell easily for a small leech. It was a magnificent large male greenback cutthroat trout. The fish was sporting beautiful red colored sides.
This was the largest and the most colorful greenback cutthroat I have ever caught. We fished for a couple more hours catching a few smaller but also brilliant fish, completed our scientific measurements for CU, and made camp.
The theme of our afternoon and evening was red. The lakes cutthroat trout sported a brilliant red, we were treated to a beautiful red sunset, and we ate a delicious dinner of FishSki Red Chile Mac and Cheese. This was also the first trip to test our new packaging out. The bag remained water resistant even as the rest of my packs contents were soaked and the new water measurement line on the bag made it incredibly easy to make.
We woke early on Sunday, made a few final casts into the lake and began our descent back to the trail head- another great weekend backpacking trip! For more information on the Boulder Flycasters and the backcountry limnology science program see the respective websites here: http://www.boulderflycasters.org/ and http://cires.colorado.edu/outreach/projects/backcountry-limnology-bcl