CONEJOS DAY 3 – When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

| August 11, 2008

fly fishing conejos river #conejosriver

Sitting in the Skyline Lodge lobby as the staff winds down and finds their way out the door. Over and done with another day. The dogs are wandering through, sitting on the couches, hopping down and being let out. Dogs are kept closer here this night, since there’s a bear in the neighborhood.

The day started out with a simple plan – go to Pagosa Springs. That’s how it started anyway. It seemed like the perfect plan – early to Pagosa, see how the water is there, hit the fly shops and back to the Conejos in time for the evening rise. (It’s about two hours from Platoro to Pagosa Springs via Chama.) That was the plan. However, along the way I am looking at the water and spot a nice Brown cruising a channel close to the road (about 40 feet down). Whoa.

conejos river brown trout

This was playing into my new theory that all this extra water in the Conejos must wash fish down, stir up the food chain sources and allow fish access to new places they wouldn’t normally be able to get into under average flow conditions. So, I stopped and dropped in and started working this small (about 10 feet wide) channel that is one of many in this area that slows down the Conejos somewhat and is a bit more level than the main river at this point. I am moving along the bank, working up, and I freeze when I see a nice Brown cruising down. I have to minimize movement, so I just sidearm my leader out to him (with a #12 Blue Dunn). He changes direction and speed and comes up for it, plain as day, and we’re on. He takes line and heads upstream, brown flashes and thrashes, left for the sticks , and then straight back and under the bank where I am standing. The borrowed 3 weight is now almost a perfect U as I get the sense he’s gone under the boat. We hit a moment where I can feel his tail moving against the line, and he feels me putting the tension on him. Finally, he comes back out and with one more run, I whip out the net and fall to my knees on the bank to get it under him. In what must have looked like comedy, he wouldn’t fit in the net in any direction but perfectly parallel to the handle, so I fliplifted (a new word) out and over to the bank. This, by my standards, was a nice fish. I took a few quick pictures and released him. I gave thanks for my first river run Brown Trout, and of course like any addict, immediately started looking for more. The whole morning and into the early afternoon were spent working a series of slower water channels and areas that have beaver dams creating nice pools for fish, and yielded two nice Rainbows and some more baby Browns as well.

Finally, it was decision time. “Civilization” was calling. I meandered out along FR250, checking to see what else I may have missed, and onto 17 to Chama. After days of rambling along at a top speed of 30, hitting a highway seemed almost … scary. Finally, I hit scan on the radio and actually get some stations. You know you are off the grid when you didn’t even get any AM stations.

On my way into Pagosa Springs, I could see the San Juan River was completely blown out. I stopped at Wolf Creek Anglers and tried to gather that valuable commodity – information. Yes, the San Juan was pointless due to lots of rain the previous evening. And then comes the valuable information. Number one is there is a fly shop / outfitter located a couple of miles past the FR250 turnoff to Platoro, and they are dialed in to everything about the Conejos – full guiding service, private water and a fly shop where up to the minute information is available. If I have this correct, it’s The Conejos River Anglers, and if you visit the site, take a look at their fish porn. Right now, the theory of fish “washing down” can be put to rest. They are still there, holding and eating. He recommended a couple of flies, and we proceeded to look at a map. There are so many places he showed me, but a couple that stood out were Second Meadows trail and The Pinnacles. Overall, after what I have experienced, talking to him and running into other fishermen, here’s the deal – If you want to get to fish, you need to go to fish. The hike for The Pinnacles fishing is apparently four miles in. It appears the Second Meadows hike is nearly twice that. Look at it this way, you will get to see some beautiful wilderness, get some serious exercise, and possibly catch some fish that have never been caught. The further you go, the more your fishing prospects improve. It’s like the Gierach 80 /20 rule, “Go 20 percent further than everyone else, and get away from 80 percent of the people”. I may be in deep, but tomorrow it’s The Pinnacles.

I also managed to get a good meal right next door to the fly shop at the Farago Cafe, and a good beer as well. Go for the fish tacos and try the Goofy Foot or very hoppy Hop Top with your meal in a wonderful atmosphere. While there, I finally posted my “Conejos Day 1”, but did not delve any further into internet civilization to see what I may have missed. To quote the Police, “When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.” If possible, always avoid driving into Platoro at night because it is a lot more stressful trying to keep out of potholes and craters when you can’t see them in time.

Jill lets the dogs back inside, and scolds one for wanting back out. A couple of Texas fly fishermen walk in to the Lodge lobby, and we strike up a conversation. Amazingly, there are still more locations to try as new information pours forth. There’s the Conejos River before it goes into the Platoro Reservoir – loaded with average Rainbows. And there is a spot described by them that I want to find before I try to give it away … maybe I will just keep that one to myself. He also has much more knowledge about Browns and their habitat – they’ve been catching them in the heavy riffs and fast water.

If I only knew how much I didn’t know about fly fishing, that wold be very helpful … and at least I would have that going for me. Jill asks me to turn off the lights when I go upstairs and I do since I am the last one standing in the lobby of the Skyline Lodge on a Wednesday night in early August.

Road to Platoro Colorado

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Category: Colorado Report, Eating and Drinking, Fishing Reports, Fly Fishing for Trout, Life Observed

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.

Comments (4)

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  1. Cindy says:

    Like I could call anyone long-winded haha. No complaints here :-).

  2. LeslieK says:

    Love the shot of the muddy pot holes, a little bit of that rain would be nice now! LK

  3. shannon says:

    Are you saying I am long winded? Or, do you really want a book? Complaints are coming in – from Leslie, but if anyone is going this way, I see no need for them to start from scratch.

  4. Cindy says:

    So when’s the book coming out?

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