Colorado Day .1

| August 11, 2010


The drive from North Texas to Southwestern Colorado never ceases to enchant me. Boredom, desolation, giant seventy-two ounce steaks, internationally recognized roadside art, wind turbines … finally giving way to a gradual ascendence to Cline’s Corners kitsch. And Cline’s Corners is really where the corner is turned, off the east – west corridor, off the U-Hauls searching for jobs (there’s some real Grapes of Wrath out there), off the Route 66 Harley Davidson bi-coastals, and onto the northbound narrow asphalt gauge into the gut of the North American Rocky Mountains.

It does a soul well to pass through Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s something to see a community whose outward appearances are so tightly controlled for the sake of the tourist market – above all else. Santa Fe is also a place that boasts a huge new age cosmic presence almost as if there were Area 54 survivors pulling all the spiritual strings. Agent Mulder and Scully probably retired there. Like I said, it does s soul well to pass through Santa Fe.

Once Santa Fe has been negotiated, the road leads to Chama, New Mexico. I spent a week one day in Chama, and there’s an old post about Chama, New Mexico to prove it. All roads lead to Chama, and since there are very few straight roads when it comes to mountain ranges, don’t be surprised to sit down for a cup of coffee in Chama and listen to South Americans discuss road conditions as they make their way through on BMW motorcycles – full color leathers of course.

North from Chama the climb begins in earnest, and this one lead to driving rain and a hailstorm right outside Chromo. Now that’s a name – Chromo. The Subaru sounded like it was going to be permanently reformed into a golf ball, and the rain drops were so large and hitting the ground so hard they bounced, leaving oncoming cars looking like they were suspended in a foot of water – no joke. In the end, all the Subaru suffered was a good cleaning and final removal of any bug remnants from this and the Oklahoma trip – good riddance.

Timing is everything if you are going to high mountain trout, and want to get there in a day. I left about 5am, and knew with the gain in time, I was looking at 5pm arrival in Pagosa Springs, Colorado (mileage from Denton to Pagosa 770). That was tight, but the days are still long, and I just needed to find somewhere to get my license, get up into the wilderness, and pitch a tent before dark. The license was no problem at Ski & Bow Rack in Pagosa, and they told me how the campgrounds work up Piedra road, and that is you basically get your camp spot (first come first served), and put your money in the envelope and in the pipe. Simple enough. I purchased a one year Colorado license (very optimistic I am), and headed up Piedra. (There really is nothing special about the Ski & Bow Rack, other than you will probably see it first, and if time is tightening – get there and get it done.)

The first thing I noticed is it had been raining in and all around Pagosa, the San Juan was running latte-frappe’-whatever, and there looked to be rain up Piedra Road as well. The monsoons had arrived first. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what the US Southwest’s monsoons are, they are a daily occurrence of cloud building in the mountain ranges, and typically, a violent outburst with mild rains starting about 4 in the afternoon – every afternoon, and possibly intermittent every night. When the monsoons are on, don’t bet against them.

It was a long (good dirt) road up to Bridge Campground, a site I chose as base for some of the adventures laid out by small stream master Joel Hays. He laid out five days, but I knew I would only have two because that’s just how the chips fell this time around. The site at the Bridge Campground backed up to Williams Creek, and the sounds of water running over rocks drowned the driving drone right out of my middle brain.

It wasn’t long, and the park attendant (I want that job), was making the final rounds in his truck. I guess he liked (or didn’t like) the looks of my Texas license plate, hopped out of his Ford diesel, and checked me out. “Heck, I like the rain. It keeps the dust down. Sure, you can just give me the envelope. It beats digging ’em out of that pipe. There’s fish. They just stocked yesterday. They’re catchin’ kokanee at the reservoir,” he said. Then the six-foot-four three hundred plus pound curly blond headed old-er guy from Temple, Texas, did something I will never forget; he reached down and grabbed his rather large stomach and shook it, “got em’ right here,” and smiled. It was the closest thing I have ever seen to Santa’s bowl full of jelly, but I managed, for my own sake, and possibly safety, to keep a straight face anyway.

Tent pitched, and still light enough to tie a “special fly” on … nine feet of fresh 5X, my 7’3″ TFO two weight, all assembled, all legal and in the water at mountain darkened 7:30. I picked a small bend just down from my site where the water had to slow on a corner, and a long log gave off an even slower swirl. Did I mention it took me forever to tie a fly on a 5X leader? That’s what we get when we are bassing all the time with leaders the size of pigging strings I guess. The second cast, a strike, and a trout goes completely ballistic – on a single jump, launching two feet in the air and five feet in length. It was epic, and my strange reaction was to bow to him and point the rod at him … too many tarpon DVD’s I guess. I couldn’t believe a trout on the first portion of a day in Colorado. It was either going to be a good sign or a bad sign, and I almost didn’t want to know which it would be – not so soon anyway.

I landed the first fish of the Colorado trip, and let it scurry back to safety.

There wasn’t a single campground nearby that was occupied, so as darkness came, I kept with the typical no campfire routine, threw in some extra covers, the Walther, and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Fly Fishing Links for Pagosa Springs Colorado
Wolf Creek Anglers
Ski & Bow Rack
Farrago Market Cafe
Kips Grill
Visit Pagosa Springs
US Forest Service San Juan
Bridge Campground

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Category: Colorado Report, Fishing Reports, On The Road

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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