I squeezed in my 51st river between a lot of windy, cold weather and the holidays. On the day I made the 2-hour drive from Denver to Estes Park the skies were a rich Colorado blue, but the blue sky was deceptive.
As I drove north on Route 34 from Lyons, I was astonished by the damage from the September floods. Some 25 years ago on a hiking vacation I stayed on Route 34 at a river-side cabin known as “Shelly’s Cabins”. The photo here shows what was left of the property. This was the case from Lyons to Estes Park. Mother Nature rules.
When I first called Kirk’s Fly Shop, I inquired as to whether this river was still fishable considering the extent of the damage from the floods in September. I don’t know what I expected – perhaps that the fish had all been washed downstream? In fact, Jerry Lehtinen, my guide from Kirk’s, said that within two weeks after the flood, they had some of the best fishing ever due to the number of fish that had washed over the dam. In the three months since then, the fishing has died down considerably, but was still good.
Jerry drove us to a spot below the reservoir that looked inviting enough until we opened the Jeep’s doors and I had my hat blown off. The wind continued all day with gusts up to 30 MPH nearly blowing me over while standing in the middle of the river. The fish didn’t seem to care what was going on above the surface as we were able to land quite a few brilliantly colored rainbows and browns.
I don’t think I’ve ever been willing to call a day short, but the wind made me do it. I actually decided to quit an hour early. I thought back to all the long days throughout the year in hotter or colder weather operating on little sleep and I was never willing to quit early. I wondered if the reality of the end of my year made me cave a little to the discomfort.
A few years back I spent New Year’s Day on the Big T. I think a repeat performance is in the cards.