August 9, 2016
West elk update pine creek
There are many reasons why this past backcountry is usually one of my favorites every summer. And this year proved to be no different. We started this trip into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Sunday morning with the stated goal of netting 1000 trout as a group. That equaled out to everyone on the trip catching roughly 72 fish each. More on that later. Our first day was roughly a 6.5 mile hike uphill. The guys aquitted themselves well. We crushed the first 4 miles of difficult uphill by lunchtime where we are at an intersection with the famous Colorado Trail. After lunch we finished our hike for the day by reaching the juncture where some horses had dropped off most of our group gear. Some of the guys set about fishing the adjacent creek while others napped or played cards. We got hit with an afternoon rainstorm, but it did not dampen our spirits, as the fishing was great, and the the views were spectacular.
After a quick breakfast and breaking down camp, we moved up the valley on a short, but steep, 3 mile hike to a stunning alpine meadow at about 11,000 feet. We got camp set up and then hit the creek again. The fishing was insane. Nearly every cast brought an eager cutthroat trout up to the fly, and everybody caught well into the double digits of trout. The fishing was so good in fact that by the end of the day we had already hit our goal of landing 1000 trout. Take a second to ponder that… After only two days in the backcountry we had caught over 1000 fish! After ripping lips all day we ate an early dinner of chicken pesto tortellini in order to carbo-load for our huge day on Tuesday.
Tuesday morning came early, 3:30 am to be exact. We got up that early in order to hike a 13,904 ft peak and hit 3 different alpine lakes above tree line. Needless to say, we had an epic agenda for the day. We quickly downed a hot breakfast of oatmeal and were hiking by 4:00 am. We quickly got up to and passed the timber line and stopped to enjoy sunrise from 12,500 ft. After which we made our push to the summit, with everyone reaching the top by 8:00 am. We descended the mountain and crossed the continental divide to the pacific side to fish the first of three lakes above 12,00 ft. Unfortunately the fishing was not great. Recent fish kill events left the resident trout population to small in size to be physically capable of eating our flies. So we climbed out of the basin and over an unnamed 13,000 ft pass to our next objective. We reached the next lake, nestled among high peaks to eat lunch and encountered the same problem as the first lake. Fortunately, our third lake always produces, and it did not disappoint. Our first cast brought a beautiful 16 inch greenback cutthroat to the net, and this continued for the rest of the day. After catching dozens, if not hundreds of these special trout, we retreated back to camp to enjoy a well deserved meal of bbq chicken pizzas.
Wednesday saw some guys sleep in and others get up early to return to the third lake from yesterday. The fishing picked up right where it left off, with many 15 + inch fish being netted. We even took out the newest edition to the LFFE fleet, our little orange pack-raft, for a spin around the lake and to catch the trout hanging out in the middle. After being joined by the rest of the crew around 11, we ate lunch, fished more, then made our way down to pack up camp and start the long trek out of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. After setting up camp in a lower meadow we enjoyed a lazy afternoon and evening of fishing, frisbee, cards, and reminiscing the epic adventures we just had. Our dinner of bbq chicken quesadillas was a perfect cap to another awesome day.
Today we woke up to rain, so we hastily broke camp and hiked out of the wilderness. We got to our front country camp, took care of business, and headed to town for laundry and showers. Tonight we will enjoy burgers in Buena Vista CO, and then float fish the Arkansas River Friday morning. It’s hard to believe the trip is coming to a close. By the end of the weekend we will be headed home, but the memories of this trip will last a lifetime. The next update will be up Sunday, so until then…