Sometimes I will ask my readers what they want me to write about, and tonight I had a good friend ask me to write about a time that I went on a fishing trip alone. I enjoy writing, and this request was fun for me to fulfill, as it immediately brought to mind a trip I took last fall. Here is that story.
Living so close to some of the best hunting and fishing in the United States, it is always on my mind to get into the mountains and pursue wild animals or fish. But it’s not always so easy to do with all that I have going on in my life, especially with a 17 year old boy who plays lacrosse year round. So I am always looking for places that I can get away to for a weekend, yet still find some solitude and some unpressured fish or game. I am constantly looking at maps to find just such a place, and this past fall I found a real gem.
I fish the South Platte River drainage a lot, most of the time in the areas that most people go to when they can only get away for a day, an afternoon, or an overnight trip. I’m always happy to be on Gold Medal water in less than an hour, but there are times when I want to get away from people and experience some true wilderness. After studying my maps extensively, I found a stretch of the South Platte that is on public land, but is very difficult to get to. I am not going to tell you where it is, but it is an area that is secluded by canyons and four-wheel drive roads. My destination was a place about 800 feet above the river, and about a mile from it.
I packed up my Jeep with all of my camping and fishing gear and headed out to this remote spot one Friday afternoon. It is not far from my house, but because of the terrain and condition of the forest road, it took me about two hours to get to this spot that I had visualized in my mind from the images of my map.
It was an older map, so I can understand why the Forest Service considered my route as a “road” at some point in time, but it was not a road at all. There were fallen trees that I had to maneuver around, some I had to cut through. There were washouts that were steep on both sides, with sandy ground that made them difficult to get through. On one stream bed I thought I was stuck, with water pouring into my Jeep over the door panels while I navigated large, slippery boulders in the water.
But I finally made it to my destination, and found what I hoped I would find; no people and I could see the South Platte River below. I set up my camp, with a small, one-man tent, a tarp tied onto my roof rack on the Jeep for cover, a cooking table next to the Jeep, and then I built a fireplace of rocks and cut some firewood. That night I cooked a steak on a grate over the open fire, roasted a potato in the coals, and had a nice dinner in the shadows of the dancing flames of the camp fire.
The next morning, after breakfast, I hiked down to the South Platte River. It was a little less than a mile, but all straight down. Once I got to the river, I put a Copper John and a Pheasant Tail fly tandem on my rod, and in no time I was catching one Rainbow Trout after another, all good sized, strong fish. The river was fast through the canyon, but the areas behind boulders and in the eddies held trout. There were a few open places that meandered through the canyon, and I did well in those areas with an elk hair caddis dry fly in the late morning. I only fished about a half a mile of stream that day, and I caught all the fish I wanted to catch. It was a beautiful place, full of fish, and truly wild, I didn’t see another person all day.
In the afternoon a storm rolled in, so I decided to head back to camp. As I made my way up the canyon, suddenly the storm became very violent, with pouring rain and lightning striking repeatedly within a hundred yards of me. I found a place on the mountain side under a huge rock the size of a house, and I waited out the storm. It was truly amazing watching the lightning strikes all along the valley, and some a lot closer than I wanted them to be. A lightning bolt hit a tree about 40 yards from me and it just blew up in a fireball, tumbled over, and was quickly extinguished by the rain. It was an incredible flash of light, and the sound was as loud as anything I have ever heard, I could feel the ground below me tremor from the bolt. That was a pretty tense hour I spent hunkered down under that rock, but the storm eventually passed and I made my way back to camp.
That night was clear; the moon was so bright it made shadows in the darkness, and the stars glowed like lanterns in the night. Not a sound of civilization to be heard, I was completely alone in the wilderness, except for the animals around me. I made a fire, cooked dinner, and slept like a log that night. I’ll be going back to that place many times.