PART 1: The Dream Stream
Location: Middle of Nowhere Colorado
We rolled into the airport on July 17th, grabbed Brooks and hit the road. First Stop: the Dream Stream section of the South Platte River. This 3 mile stretch of sexy, mysterious water is nestled between Elevenmile and Spinney Reservoirs, creating a haven for stupidly huge trout. We rolled into camp, set up our rods and immediately hit the water. The first 3 hours were tough, and the Dream Stream was not living “up to the hype”. We headed 2 miles upstream to a deep narrow pool. Knox quickly picked up a solid Brown around 17 inches, and I followed with a pig around 18-19”. Later, Brooks connected with a monster Brown. 21-22” of South Platte butter.
A long night of empty stomachs, punctuated by screaming coyotes lead to little sleep. In no time we were up with the sun and ready to get after it again. Today, the Dream Stream would once again challenge us. As the morning began, I moved downstream and to my joy, found a large pod of rising fish. I was pumped. I landed some nice browns and rainbows, but sadly broke off a brown that was pushing 20”. Knox and Brooks soon moved down to where I was and it was game on. We didn’t know exactly what these fish were sipping, but connected with quite a few fish on dries. Knox capped off the morning with a tank of a rainbow around 22” that sucked in a caddis.
It was time to hit the road again—next stop: Gunnison, Colorado and the Taylor River
PART 2: The Taylor River – Gunnison, Colorado
We began climbing Cottonwood Pass looking for Elk and Moose, heading for the Taylor River. We summited around 12:30 and began the descent to Taylor Reservoir. I described our destination as “an aquarium”, meaning that you could see monster fish three feet away from you. We arrived around 1:30 and I hopped out of the car to see how many people were fishing my honey hole. There were far less than I had anticipated as this place gets fished hard every day. So we ‘skeeted’ a hard right and parked the ‘burb on a dirt road alongside the river. Like wild prisoners in a compact cell, Jake and Knox ripped at their seat belts and reached for the doors to start fishing as soon as possible. I gave them each “the fly” that would be the key to a fish of a lifetime. Naturally, they had their own plans but took the fly for good measure. I strolled down to the river, hopped in the spot I told these goofballs to start in (which they didn’t) and I quickly hooked into two beautiful browns. Knox and Jake came rushing over saying “What the hell?!? What are you using?!?” I just sat and laughed a little and told them to use “the fly.” From that point on, we landed a few small fish just over 20 inches and went back to camp down river where we topped off the day with some wild, hungry butter balls on seemingly invisible dries. We woke up early the next morning and hit the same spot we hit the evening before. Fishing was tougher that day, fish just weren’t too hungry for some slayin’ so we said screw it, packed up the gear and went to Crested Butte.
PART 3: The Frying Pan – Aspen, Colorado
As the sun peeked through the crack in the tent and shined in our eyes we awoke and began to cook breakfast. As we scarfed down our less than ideal breakfast of eggs and beans, we made a plan for the day about where we were going to fish. After a quick discussion, we decided that our best option was going to be a very famous stretch of water where we knew some monster fish lived. In order to catch fish in this section, we were going to have to do something that everyone else in the river wasn’t doing. Last year, Jake and I had fished the same stretch with a more classic method with some success, but we decided we needed to change things up. So we decided to put on some meat (big streamers). After a few casts into the very crowded waters, we decided that we needed to brave the cold water and cross the river where there were fewer fishermen. As soon as we attempted to dry off and warm up we wet our lines again. Almost immediately, Brooks had a monster brown chase his fly all the way back to his rod tip but did not commit. Once I watched this fish chase Brooks’ fly I decided to tie a big piece of meat on my rod as well. After about 40 casts I finally put a really nice brown in the net. Everyone around us was shocked because they had never seen someone actually catch a fish on a streamer where we were fishing on the Frying Pan River.
PART 4: The Eagle River – Vail Valley, Colorado
July 23rd brought us to Edwards, Colorado, in the Vail Valley. We had been on the road for a week now and a little disappointed with our numbers thus far. Though some big fish had made up for our lack of numbers, we wanted to get after it. The Eagle River runs through the heart of the Vail Valley and boasts some stupidly good caddis hatches. Once we rolled into town, checked in with my favorite shop, Vail Valley Anglers to reload and get some intel on stripping mice. After getting hyped up to try for some fish on mice, we took a break from fishing, flashed back to our childhood, and saw the new Ice Age movie (a great film, for those wondering) That night, we hit the Eagle at 10:30, anxious to get a giant brown to suck in a mouse pattern. 3 hours later…nothing. It’s now 1:30, so we just said screw it, headed to the local park, tied on some streamers, and ripped nasty, stocker rainbows until 3 AM… Naturally, we crashed as soon as we got to bed. We woke up at noon, slightly rested, but ready to fish. The early afternoon was slow. We fished the Colorado High Country with a few small fish but quickly decided otherwise. We headed down valley to the Eagle River, poised to throw at some fish looking up. The first 2 hours had little show, one fish here one fish there. I finally decided to cross the river in chest deep water so I could take shots at new fish. What a decision that was -game on. I landed a stud rainbow, then 3 smaller fish in a row, which finally lured Knox and Brooks across. We fished ’til dark and totaled up 31 fish on dries. Can’t ask for much more.
That’s what it’s all about. Fishing unexplored water, catching undisclosed fish in undisclosed locations, getting leeches, figuring out technical fish in one of the most famous rivers in the state, getting lost, and 3 great friends learning how to survive on their own for 2 weeks in Colorado. We saw things and caught fish people only dream of. 198 trout and 2047 road miles later, we have stories to tell and memories to last a lifetime. Back in reality, the 3 of us are heading off the opposite areas of the country for college (Boulder, CO; Austin, TX; and Miami, FL) but fishing and trips like this will keep us close for the rest of lives.
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-Jake Wood, Knox Kronenberg, and Brooks Benkendorfer