Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions head guide Charlie Parr just exited a 5-day backcountry in Rocky Mountain National Park. His group of 10 teenage anglers hiked dozens of miles mostly off the trail to reach some of the most secluded areas of the park. As Charlie describes it the reward was some of the most epic fishing he has seen.
From the Lillard Fly Fishing Blog:
The last 5 days have been nothing short of amazing. After exiting the north inlet backcountry we completed a day of service working with the trails crew in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our service project consisted of repairing a section of trail near a scenic Lake. We were tearing up old trail to significantly improve drainage through the trail section in order to prevent unwanted erosion. I am proud to report that the guys put in a solid day of hard work without complaints. Upon finishing the service project, we drove back to the west side of RMNP to prep for our second backcountry heading out the next day.
Wednesday morning greeted us with a perfect sunny Colorado day to start our hike into the woods. The hike saw us meander through a lush river valley before beginning a steep climb up into a glacier-carved valley harboring five fishable lakes which were our prime objective. We reached our campsite on an island in the middle of the creek by the early afternoon and quickly set about fishing after setting up camp. Most of the crew took the short walk to the nearest lake while a few others fished the creek around camp. The fishing was pretty good, and by pretty good I mean we were catching fish from our hammocks at camp! We wrapped up the evening with a hearty meal and an early bedtime because the wake-up time for the morning was 5:30 AM.
5:30 always comes too early, but the knowledge of what the day held in store is an excellent motivator. After a quick breakfast, we hit the trail to head up to the top of the valley to fish the fifth lake in the system of lakes strung out through the long valley. It took 1.5-2 hours to reach our destination in a spectacular cirque surrounded by permanent snowfields and soaring cliff faces. We quickly spotted nervous trout darting out from the icebergs dotting the lake, no doubt hiding from ospreys looking for an easy meal. The fishing in this top lake was tough, with only one beautiful native Colorado River cutthroat landed. But the amazing scenery more than made up for the fishing. We ate lunch on the shores of this spectacular lake, then hiked downhill to start fishing the other lakes on our way back to camp. From here on out the fishing was simply ridiculous. As we worked our way through each successive lake the fishing just got better and better. Our fish numbers quickly surpassed 100, and just kept climbing. The fish were eating everything, the bite was on, and it was glorious. This is why we venture to where we do to go fishing. We headed back to camp to eat a much-deserved dinner and hit the hay.
The next morning we slept in a bit before our adventure for the day. Our journey for the day would see us venture completely off trail and climb over a 12,000-foot ridge line to explore one of the most remote corners of RMNP rarely visited by people. The hike was arduous, to say the least, with thick virgin forest giving way to the steep alpine terrain. But upon reaching the top we were greeted with an absolutely stunning view. After taking it all in, we dropped down to the small lakes which were our destination for the day. The fishing started out slow, but we managed to snag a few small, but fat, cutthroats. Then the real fun began. We found a small creek that was absolutely jam-packed with large, colorful trout. The trout were so confined that we ditched our fly rods and began trying to poach the trout, catch them by hand for the layperson. After I demonstrated the proper way to do this, the guys set about it quite successfully. Most of the crew managed to land one, if not more, of these amazing fish using nothing but their bare hands! The stoke was high, and it was very hard to pry ourselves away from this paradise of a fishery, but the daunting descent ahead of us meant we had to leave in order to make it back to camp before darkness fell. Upon reaching camp, we capped off this amazing day with a celebratory backcountry thanksgiving meal and slept out under the brilliant stars unspoiled by any nearby city lights.
We hiked out of the backcountry with high spirits and hit the showers and did our laundry still buzzing with excitement. We are now in the home stretch of the trip and will be moving to lower elevations and bigger water. We will be camping on the banks of the mighty Colorado River getting a feel for the much bigger water in preparation for our capstone full day of float fishing. Look for the next update at the end of our trip, and until then…
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Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions is an adventure education company, specializing in wilderness fly fishing trips for adolescents. We are dedicated to leading memorable, exciting, educational, and most importantly, fun wilderness fly fishing adventures for middle and high school students. Our flagship programs are our 10-20 day adventure academies for teenagers. We also offer custom wilderness adventures for families, schools, or small groups.