Colorado Fishing

"Salmon Enchanted Evening"

Colorful Colorado! Colorado fishing for Kokanee, Rainbows, and Browns and the drive from Denver to Gunnison revealed the colors of a kaleidoscope and reminded me of the motto emblazoned on the souvenirs I brought home each summer as a Texan child vacationing in this glorious state. The brick-red salmon, the pink streaks of Rainbow Trout, the black and white spots on a yellow, 'Brown Trout' canvas, and the sparkling gold of the turning aspen – colorful indeed.

This year is noteworthy for me due to my pursuit of new fish species on the fly rod. 2009; the year of my first Carp on a fly. My first Bass on a 5 WT., and now I can add to my growing list – Kokanee Salmon!

If you’re like me you might wonder how Kokanee salmon end up in the East River between Crested Butte and Almont Colorado - It’s a fascinating phenomenon unique to Colorado fishing. Sexually mature salmon run up the river from Blue Mesa Reservoir and enter the Gunnison, then they swim upstream to the hatchery on the East River to spawn - and then they die. They do this because that’s where their eggs were released at their conception and they return to complete their life cycle and to give select anglers an awesome experience. The opportunity is play and release only – they don’t allow anyone to take the fish out of the river so that the chain of life isn’t interrupted. Which I get but that didn’t stop me from craving smoked salmon on a bagel with a smear of cream cheese, heaped with capers and sweet onion.

Some call it “combat fishing”, but I had the pleasure of meeting some new angling buddies from and they had the routine down to a dance so I would call the effort semi-choreographed Colorado fishing. You stand three to six feet apart and cast simultaneously upstream to let your weighted fly float through a deep pool of holding fish and when your neighbor lands a fish you take those moments to greedily cast into their piece of the beat. The take is very soft – which completely threw me. To look at the jaws of a testosterone filled male one would think the hit would slam like a riptide but looks can be deceiving. Now once they’re on, you often times get a runner /jumper and the crowd goes wild.

I was greeted by new friend, Allen, before I even hit the water’s edge and Brian and Doug lined me up and had me going with the flow in minutes. Scott arrived and was content to just take it all in bank-side and snap a few pictures. As is typical to my initial efforts at taking a new fish, I had a slow start. My friends were offering helpful tips but I just couldn’t get one on the line – while those around me were pulling in schools. The man on my left, Richard, had a large cross on his baseball hat and was obviously a man of faith – I could just tell by his calm demeanor and uplifting speech. He also stood about 6’ 8” and had a birds-eye view of the river and I think it was that combination of “perspectives” that kept him lighting up fish like a chain smoker. My inside voice wondered if it was okay to pray for a catch and I wondered if Richard included this request in his own prayers. Then my inside voice got snippy as I began to experience one of the seven deadly sins; lust. I wanted a fish on!

After about 30 minutes of this internal battle and external practice, Richard spoke up and said, “may I offer some advice?”. Well yes, Richard, and you can pray for me too! “I think if you’ll just cast about 4 feet further a little more to your left you’ll hit this seam of fish I see holding on the bottom.” I thanked him for the instruction, lengthened my cast by 4 feet and SUCCESS! I landed my first big hen, laughed out-loud, snapped her close-up, and released her back to the love-shack. Bless you, Richard. I quickly caught several more and noticed that some were foul-hooked in the fin which made for a gnarly fight and my goal went from just catching a fish to catching a big male - in the lip. Rocked it! Colorado fishing – new species, check!


If the day couldn’t get any better the gang offered an invitation to enjoy dinner at their group cabin that evening. I thought I knew exactly where this cabin was but I went to the wrong resort and my search for Cabin #13 was futile.

Back story: I had stayed at the Almont Inn a couple of months prior and noticed that the patch of water behind the bar was surrounded with trees, covered in moss, and had a couple of Rainbows swimming around! I stood on the foot-bridge with my polarized glasses and there they were, hovering under the low branches, incognito in the fading light. I couldn’t resist.

I set a new record assembling my hot-pink ElkHorn 4 Wt fly rod and tying on a rubber ant. I initially tried to fish across from my target using the sling-shot method to sneak the offering in without the “kite eating tree” gobbling up my tippet but I just couldn’t get a good lay-down and the water was so still I was spooking the fish. By now, I couldn’t even see the fish any longer, just nervous water when I agitated them. I moved to the bridge and realized that an authoritative cast and some yoga moves could get the job done and, bam!

Rainbow Trout

I expected a small Brookie but managed to reel in this beautiful Rainbow which had me laughing like no one was watching. Considering location and difficulty, this Colorado fishing day was diary-worthy.

Now back to the search for Cabin #13… I enlisted the help of one of my buddies, reaching him on his cell phone and he instructed me to look for, “a little brown cabin”. I had to laugh. After circling about a hundred little brown cabins I finally found the right resort, the right cabin, and my new friend, Lance. Once the troops were assembled we began preparation of a phenomenal supper of flash-fried Wall-eye and Crappie donated by a fellow member.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune; five new friends, a new species added to my catch list, taking a Rainbow in the most unlikely of places, and finally getting to eat some fresh fish. “Da boys” know how to have fun, know how to laugh, know how to cook, know how to give thanks to God, and don’t take themselves too seriously.

As I left the cabin to ready myself for the morrows event, acting as a River Helper for Casting For Recovery – Colorado fishing at PowderHorn Lodge, I found myself waltzing to my car singing a nostalgic tune…

“Salmon Enchanted Evening… someone may be laughing you may hear her laughing across a crowded room, an' night after night as strange as it seems the sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams!”

Fly Fishing the Rio Grande

Meeker Colorado Fishing

Take me to home page