In This Article
Written by Joseph Drasler
A shady dell alongside a cold mountain stream, where boulders are grouped conveniently for our noonday break, will be our rendezvous while fishing numerous beaver dams up and down the valley. In two of the larger dams located just above this spot, we observed in passing, fish are disturbing the surface of the water, feeding on a new hatch of mayflies. We will try our luck there first after we deposit our beer in the cold water, cache our lunch in a tree limb, away from bugs and ants, and hang up our jackets and knapsacks.
Peaceful valley, as we affectionately call it, is located about six miles from our cabin. We drive about two miles in its direction to the foot of Santa Fe mountain where we begin the long descent into the valley – a leisurely downhill jaunt, but oh what a buckbear of a climb back out, after a day of fishing!
An old, abandoned logging road we follow is rough, rock-strewn, and gullied by the frequent cloudbursts that occur here. Along its sandier sections wild strawberries take over and grow in profusion. Naturally, the tasty, lush berries tempt us at every bend of the road, but we continue hiking in the direction of our fishing hole, following the road as it hugs the stream throughout the valley.
Though we appreciate this hike in any season, we cannot help reflect on its magnificence in the fall of the year when aspen trees brighten the hillsides with colors of gold and red.
Deer and elk inhabit the valley, along with small animals such as fox, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks. Sometimes we are favored with the opportunity of observing them browsing along the trail. Access to drinking water attracts game animals to the valley, especially in early spring and summer when their young are about and growing.
The road we traveled on today was fashioned from an old game trail formed by deer and elk herds long before the advent of man in the valley. Beaver colonies, once so abundant here, have long since fallen victim to the trappers; but their ingeniously-constructed dams have withstood the ravages of time and afford the good fishing we come to enjoy.
Commencing on both sides of the stream and reaching up the mountainside, as far as aspen trees formerly grew, the landscape is littered with chewed-off stumps, protruding from the ground, along with decaying trees felled by sharp-toothed beaver - mute evidence of the hectic dam-building activity among beaver colonies that thrived here.
Nature has now healed the devastation with new spruce and pine forest, while the open areas have been taken over by a tumult of wild flowers that include the Columbine, Blue Lupine, Indian Paint Brush, Black-Eyed Susans, Vetches, Lady Slippers, Wild Asters and Geraniums, Shooting Stars, Queen Anne's lace and the Blue Bells of Scotland.
Most of our fishing today will be confined to the two larger dams. My fishing companion prefers this comparatively open area for the snag-free casting it affords. There is a world of difference between fishing here or in the down-stream dams where all too many of our artificial flies remain snared and unsalvageable, in tall willow trees protecting the waters.
A small grey hackle fly, or any reasonable facsimile, will usually entice the fish to strike. More conducive to success, however, is the long, skillfully executed cast that places the fly on the water as naturally as possible, particularly in this clear water where reverberation of our footsteps along the shore quickly transmits to the ever-wary trout. An errant cast will end in disaster should it snag any of the dead tree branches protruding from the surface, or should a hooked fish become entangled with underwater logs.
Today we are fortunate to be on the stream at one of those rare moments when trout are rising to every bug and fly that lands on the water. By simply attaching two flies—a lead and a trail fly—to our lines, we often hook and land two fish on a single cast. Average size of the fish we keep is about twelve inches, each one as beautiful as the rainbow for which it is named.
After completing a few successful casts, we find it prudent to quit the area for a short time to allow fish time to settle down again. Meanwhile, we meander up or down the stream trying our luck in other choice spots. Gradually the creel becomes heavier as we reach our allowable limit. It is time to select a suitable spot along the stream to pause and clean our catch. Each fish will then be wrapped in green grass to preserve its freshness.
Pangs of hunger remind us the midday hour has long since passed us up and it is time to hasten our footsteps in the direction of the rendezvous and lunch.
How utterly delightful a simple repast consisting of sandwiches and beer can taste to weary fishermen at moments like this!
We linger over our food and drink as long as possible, savoring every golden moment in this peaceful Eden, where scarcely a man-made sound intrudes upon Mother Nature's peace and tranquility.
Our hike out of the valley will be punctuated with numerous rest periods, during which we will absorb the beauty of the surroundings, for, as Dickens aptly stated, “Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress."
Beaver dam fishing, observing the wild life, picking wild raspberries, strawberries and mushrooms are diversions that tempt us into the long hike into the valley. It is a very intriguing jaunt if one can overlook the long, tiring climb back out.