Colorado’s Rocky Mountains could keep a trout angler occupied for a lifetime.

MikeMcDade_RoaringForkValley3.jpg

That’s what I thought to myself while westbound on Colorado’s Route 24 with my dad and a friend—the sound of rubber turning on the road and the vastness of the Rockies in the distance. I felt restless.

MikeMcDade_HighElevation1

After all, we didn’t have a lifetime to explore Colorado’s Rockies. But we did have enough time. Enough time to cover several hundred miles of exceptional trout country.

MikeMcDade_DreamStream1

Our first stop was at a well-known section of the South Platte River called the Dream Stream. Named for the size of the fish it produces, mostly in the spring and fall months when trout migrate up the river from the reservoir below, this tailwater meanders through a 1,300-acre high desert prairie at 9,000 feet.

BrianFay_DreamStream3 (1)

As our road trip continued west, the mountains we first saw in the distance got bigger and bigger, and the prairies that surrounded us turned to rock. We eventually arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley, home to 42 miles of Gold Medal water. Designated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the state’s Gold Medal waters provide better-than-average fishing opportunities for large trout.

MikeMcDade_RoaringForkValley2.jpg

Ready to experience something new, we set out to fish high-elevation lakes and creeks scattered across the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The cold, thin air took our breath away. And so did the scenery. With water as flat as glass and 14,000-foot peaks surrounding us, the only thing nearly as beautiful were the cutthroat and brookies we caught.

BrianFay_HighElevation4 (1)

No one wanted to admit it, but with our flight home scheduled for that evening, we all knew it was time to pack it in.

After all, we didn’t have a lifetime. But we did have the time of our lives.

Photos and story from Mike McDade, check him out on Instagram at @mikemc290.

Of Sticks and Stones: A Story of Stream-side Innovation

Top Five National Parks for Fly Fishing

Chaos at the Conejos