The North Park Fall Fling almost didn't even happen. With bad weather imminent, we had to make a decision to tow a camper (with no brakes) over the two passes, find a hotel or cancel. Basically with the weather deteriorating quickly, dragging the camper up there was out (which in hindsight turned out to be the best decision of the trip). I started calling around to the Walden hotels on Wednesday night, only to find NP Inn to have only one room with a single bed, another hotel out of business, another to be completely booked and finally Antlers Inn to have a luxury room for Thur, but only a tiny room for Fri and Sat - we took it.
As the weather report got worse we started losing attendees - Scott decided he wasn't hunting in freezing weather, so the dog was out. Then Scotty (a teenager with a texting problem and a girlfriend) was talked into staying home (second smartest move of the weekend). Then Cory decided Friday night was going to be too messy to drag the camper over the pass, and Kyner bailed due to the uncertainty of the weather as well. Steffan wasn't coming anyways, because he's @#$@#&^%@#%*& and has his priorities messed up (work and wife). So basically it was Werms, Scotty and I and hopefully we'd see Mark.
Werms was headed up early on Thursday, fishing with Darren on the Colorado River during the day, and then he'd head up to Walden in the afternoon and get the hotel and meet us at the lake. Scott was working a full day, but he was going to leave on time. I on the other hand found out at 2pm that I was expected to be on a conference call from 3 to 5pm - no leaving early for me. The call ended up lasting until 5:20 and Scott graciously waited for me in Evergreen so we could ride up together. We met at El Rancho PnR at 6:15 and loaded up my gear in his pickup and were on our way.
The ride was pretty uneventful (except the Check Engine light coming on 5 miles outside of Evergreen), and we actually hit Walden at 9pm, meeting John at the road in Walden that heads to the lake. We were geared up by 9:45 and had the boat in the water. Problem was, we forgot the plug and before even leaving the dock we had to pull the boat out again, drain it and start all over. The one thing Scott always told me not to do was "don't sink it" and that is the first thing he does. To be fair, it was late, we were tired, but we knew we had to fish. The almost full moon was out and the Lake was calm. All three of us in the boat is crowded, so we needed to take it easy. We hit the inlets and fished streamers for a while. Scott managed one big brown in the first 3 hours, and that was it. The fish hit hard, but was hooked on the side of his head.
I'm gonna be honest with you, I have no clue if this is the first fish Scott caught or not, all the brown's look the same.
We decided to head over to the dam area and along the way we would troll streamers along the west bank. The night was very bright, but we used head lamps to see indicators or tie flies and land fish. We got about 3/4's of the way there and Scott almost got yanked out of the boat. The rainbow was long, like 24"+ long and he wasn't in any hurry to be landed. It was however the only fish to actually get a fly in it's mouth of the night. The fish was huge and it got us pumped up.
We kept trolling towards the dam and anchored up just west of the dam in the inlet. We were bombing the banks and occasionally a fish would skyrocket straight out of the water and splash back in. These fish were fairly good sized and they'd jump right next to the boat (think flying carp - but not as many). We could see that they were everywhere. We hooked a bunch, I think I got 2 and Scott hooked 3 more. Fun fish - all browns - all about 19-20 inches and all hooked on various parts of their body - mine hooked on the top of the dorsal fin (I would have never believed that you could land a fish hooked there).
We were pretty pumped, but when I looked at my watch I realized it was 3am. It was not cold, but we were over dressed, and we were surprised at how bright it was even though the moon had cloud cover now. Werms had literally fallen asleep twice sitting up and only awoke to net a fish (not kidding). So we decided that since we had this fancy hotel room we might as well use it. Honestly, Scott and I could have fished for another couple of hours and crashed in the truck for a snooze in the AM. And we probably should have - we would have gotten more sleep. We hit the boat ramp, loaded the boat, headed to Walden. Once there we parked on the street, locked everything down, threw a tarp over the load in the back of the truck, grabbed our stuff and headed upstairs to the hotel. The room was amazing. We literally dropped our crap and hit the hay.
Unfortunately Walden is a one road town and a redneck town and everyone owns a diesel or a 1980's shithole pickup truck and they like to ride up and down, up and down, up and down, the main street until all hours. Well, Scott and I didn't sleep a wink. Next thing we knew it was 8am and we wanted to get on it. I received an email from Mark (Zackdog) saying he was on his way (at 7am), so I emailed him back saying we would be up there - but not for an hour or so. We hit the restaurant for breakfast on Werms. The food was damn good too. We were back on the lake by 10am.
The boys fished in the boat and I blew up the yak. They were nice enough to give me a tow across the lake to the inlets again.
As you can see the day was cloud covered, but it wasn't too windy (yet) but we could see it was only going to get worse (and it did). The north inlets were completely full of wading fishermen by 10am and you could learn all of the good spots by where they were standing! We didn't really see anyone hooking up, but we split up and tried our luck. The only person catching was Werms. He landed a good half dozen fish and Scott and I pulled out the skunks. Werms first fish of the day was his best - a hog of a cuttbow that stretched 23+" and was fat as hell.
Werms got another brown as well that was a fun fish.
We stopped for a bit and met with Mark (Zackdog) and chatted and had a beer - it was great seeing him and the inlet he was fishing had some beautiful browns pushing up into the creek that was trickling in. We decided to fish the area around the inlet. The weather started turning and it was windy and sprinkling - but we kept to it and Werms was into more fish and I finally stuck a little brown - that fish was beautifully colored - but no larger than 16 inches. This fish just after Mark left and told me to use a green egg - I had just switched and on my second cast landed this fish. Nothing fancy, but skunk off!!
The weather got progressively worse. Cold, wind, rain, snow, mist, rain, cold. We trolled a bit, then decided it was time to set up a camp on the west bank and have lunch (at about 3pm). We set up the canopy, started a fire, ate some lunch, drank some beer, shot the shit and dried off a little. But it was raining sideways, was getting colder and didn't look to be letting up. We fished a little - the boys trolling in the boat and I was on shore. It was also getting darker quicker and before we knew it, we needed get camp packed up, and get the boat of the water. By now it was full rain and snow mix and everything was soaked through our layers. We headed for the boat ramp, loaded the boat in the dark, threw our shit in the pickup and headed to Walden. The trip took a little longer than normal, since it was a full on blizzard. Hitting Walden and trying to parallel park the boat was fun. We locked everything up on the boat, tried our best to "cover" the crap in the truck, grabbed our gear and headed for the hotel.
We had a new room, but the hotel hadn't moved our stuff from our old room - so we had to do that too. It was only about 8pm, but we were flat exhausted, soaked and weighing about 400 lbs with wet clothes and gear. The room was still amazing, but smaller this time. We unloaded all of our wet gear into a back hallway and put a fan on blowing into the hallway to dry our stuff (it worked believe it or not). All unchanged and exhausted we soon lost DirecTV to the snow storm and Werms talked us into going drinking. We decided to hit the Stockman Bar across the street. Clue #1 you are in a locals bar and don't fit in? They had a dog laying in the middle of the bar. Clue #2 was the place had a fog of smoke in it. Clue #3 was the bartender hadn't heard of Killian's or Molson (both Coors products I might add). Clue #4, they didn't take credit cards. A shot of Tequila, Makers Mark and a pitcher of Bud Light and we were out of there.
We hit the Antlers Inn bar for some Newcastle's and Onion Rings and shot the shit in a more tourist "friendly" site. We were back upstairs at 10pm and Werms decided to give us an egg and juju tying show. I learned how to tie an egg that came out perfectly, but I made it half way through the juju and had to pass out. I woke up an hour later to the boys going through my closet screaming about something - while they had tshirts with the words "HAVE YOU EVER FISHED THE FRASER?" on the back. Wiseasses the who bunch. Thanks Darren for making an appearance - I hate you too. Honestly though? I was barely conscious.
I was in no hurry to wake up. Finally at 8:30 or so I got out of bed. Werms and Scott followed - moaning about something, pissy we had to get up. We got up, showered, shit, packed our gear and headed down for another killer breakfast. Scott and I had the Chicken Fried Steak and it was awesome - you know it was featured in National Geographic (surprised you didn't know that).
We geared up, got waders, boots, vests on and back out to the truck for our trip to South D's this time. It was cold, about 2 inches of snow on the ground, cold and windy too. The boat had a nice 3 inches of slush in the bottom. Here is a nice pic of the morning as we gassed up.
We were at the lake around 10am again. We were just going to make this a fast day, fish until 2 or 3 and then head home - we cancelled our last night at the hotel - not looking forward to a wet cold day and huddling at the hotel. We all started right at the parking lot by the bluffs, and not 5 minutes in Werms had a fish. It again was a beauty a 20+" cuttbow to start the day off right. Werms and Scott traded fish and I was skunked. So I headed over to the willow trees. This is one of our favorite spots and we know it holds fish. Werms soonm joined me and immediately I was hooked up. I landed the beautiful pink sided rainbow that had a hook jaw and was close to 20"s. The fish fought hard and was caught on an apricot egg that I had tied the night before with Werms tutelage.
I continued to slay them, catching a few more hogs, some decent rainbows and cuttbows. One was super fat, but not very long - maybe 18"s.
After a half dozen fish I decided to give my spot up to Werm's. He immediately had a hit and hook set his rig into the tree behind him. He reset and was soon into a fish. He hooked and landed a couple of fish while we set there and chatted. I was helping him land a fish when my bobber, no more than a couple of feet from us went down and started heading to deeper water. It was fun getting my skunk off on a bunch of fish, some of which were good size. I missed a bunch too, but by about 3pm I was just content. Werms with a nice action shot.
Werms decided to hit the road, but not before we both sat on the bluff, drank a beer and threw rocks at Scott while he caught a couple of dinks.
As you can see the wind completely stopped for about 30 minutes, the weather was almost tolerable, and it was a pretty scene. Werms hit the road, I broke down my rods and packed the truck as best I could. Scott walked over to the willows to see if he could get a fish of some size, but about 30 minutes later he was done. He stripped out of his gear, we packed the rest of it in the truck and were on the road by about 5pm.
The ride home was wet and slushy over Willow Creek Pass, dry through Fraser/Tabernash/WP, and wet, slick and foggy over Berthoud. The ride from Empire home was uneventful and I got my truck in Evergreen and was home before 8pm to see the kiddos go to bed. It was a great trip with the boys, and thanks Scott for driving!
The best fly of the trip? The bottom one. No kidding, you could throw a cigarette butt on there and slay them - but it had to be on the bottom. We killed them on pigstickers, eggs and jumbo juju's - all colors - didn't matter.
Thanks boys for the fun trip.