“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

"Everybody dies. Not everybody really lives."

The saddest sound in the world is a man saying, "I wish I'd have done that."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Flyfishing the Big Thompson River, Colorado

It just doesn’t get much prettier than this: A clear mountain river coursing through the heart of an alpine meadow, the warm morning sun sparkling on the current’s riffles. This is the Big Thompson River, a flyfishing mecca. Brown, rainbow and brook trout lurk in its eddies and deep pools and bear, moose, elk and mule deer haunt its edges.

The Big Thompson originates in the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, flowing through the mountain wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park before tumbling down through the town of Estes Park Colorado in the valley below. Snow melt and the frigid temps of the high Rockies mean cold water in the Big Thompson, and the steep mountain flanks mean rushing, oxygen-aerated water. Just what trout like. And if trout like it, so do trout anglers, which is how we found ourselves thigh-deep in the rushing waters of the river, flipping delicate flies over the jangling water.

Before we hit the high alpine meadows, we took a couple of hours to literally get our feet wet, checking out the hatch and throwing flies at likely trout-lurking spots. Our guide, Marsh Thompson from Kirk’s Fly Shop in downtown Estes Park, took us to a section of the river accessible from a bridge just outside of town. We walked across a meadow of waist-high goldenrod and through an alder thicket to this hidden-within-view spot less than twenty minutes from downtown. We could hear the occasional car rumble by on the road but the spot still felt wildernessy and we quickly tied on nymphs and started working the water. The Big Thompson here is a little tamer than what we would encounter over the next two days—by the time it reaches this spot near Estes Park, the broad level valley has slowed the current down and it’s a gently flowing waterway.

But no less productive. We had barely gotten our waders wet and we were already into a hungry school of brown trout. The hits came rapidly and continuously for the next couple of hours and we lost count of the number of fish we hooked. It was fast and fun, an addicting introduction to Big Thompson River flyfishing. As the morning rolled on the fishing slowed and we pulled out for greener pastures. We headed further into the backcountry, hiking into an isolated stretch of the river dominated by huge boulders and fast water. The fishing here was even better and the browns and rainbows even hungrier. We easily caught thirty fish each.

Next day: Rocky Mountain National Park where the Big Thompson meandered through a broad meadow next to our campsite. Spectacular fishing, just as productive as the valley and add a backdrop of snow capped peaks. Our best two days of flyfishing ever and Kodak moments to complete the experience.

Details: You can wander about trying to find a prime fishing spot or you can hire a guide to save time searching and have more time fishing. I highly recommend Kirk’s Fly Shop in Estes Park, www.kirksflyshop.com 877-669-1859. Kirk’s does one-day and overnight trips and will rent gear plus they have a fully equipped shop for any last minute flies you may need.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your blog. I have fished out of Kirk's numerous times and have found him to very helpful in giving up to date information and hooking you up with just the right guide (pun intended). Marsh is the best instructional guide I have ever fished with. I hope his new business venture doesn't prevent future bookings totally.