14'NERS AND ALPINE LAKES. It is what we are known for here in Colorado. And, rightfully so, we have a lot of them. There are 58 14'ners here in Colorado and too many alpine lakes to count, some not even found on a map. If you are growing tired of going to the same trailhead or the same stretch of river, now - and through the next few months - is the best time to explore some new waters.
If you are new to exploring the High Country here in Colorado, this post will get you primed and ready to explore all that Colorado has to offer.
Deciding where to go among the numerous mountain lakes and streams can feel like a daunting task. However, it is best to narrow your search by the distance you want to travel from home.
For a majority of Front Range residents, the drive time one can expect would be anywhere from an hour and a half to two and a half hours from door to the trailhead. This being the case, it might be best to do what is known in the backcountry world as an Alpine Start. That way, you will have made sure you arrive at the trailhead well before sunrise and ensure ample time on your new favorite High Country lake, creek, or stream. If you have the time and ability, I highly recommend camping overnight for a minimum of one night to really maximize your opportunity for success on the water.
For those that live in and along the Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park is a wonderful place to start your high country exploration. Rocky Mountain National Park can be broken up into 8 regional zones. Although there is a multitude of lakes and creeks within the park, a good majority of them can be found in and around zones 5, 6, and 7, located in the South East, South West, and Western portions of the park. A majority of the high country fishing in these zones can be accessed through the Wild Basin Entrance adjacent to Allenspark. Remember that when exploring Rocky Mountain National Park the obtainment of a backcountry permit may be required.
If National Parks and permits are not your jam, have no fear there are still plenty of places to enjoy the high country and a large majority of them can be found on public land. If you find yourself in and around our Frisco shop location there are a number of high country lakes and creeks within an hour's drive and are located within public land. These lakes also offer unbelievable views of the neighboring 14'ners. Remember, there may be a small fee required when parking at certain trailheads so, remember to bring a little bit of cash with you on your trip.
It is important to note that certain sections of Rocky Mountain National Park are closed due to both the East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire which occurred in 2020. For the most up-to-date information on Rocky Mountain National Park closers head over to Rocky Mountain National Parks website. As always, it is the angler's responsibility to know the rules and regulations of the areas they will be within.
Once you have established where you will be going it is of the utmost importance that you are prepared for anything weather-related. During the summer months, anglers can expect the temperatures to be anywhere from the low 40s to the mid to high 70s on any given day. Although this year has been unseasonably warm, anglers can still expect temperatures will be cooler at higher elevations. In the summertime at high elevations, weather conditions can be extremely variable and unforgiving. Anglers should expect daily rain showers and lightning storms anywhere between 10 am and 3 pm on any given day out in the high country.
Since the weather in the high country can be extremely unpredictable there are a number of staple items we at the shop believe you should always have in your pack. These items are weight conscious and can handle even some of the worst that mother nature can throw at you.
If you are someone who does not want to sacrifice weight for functionality The Flyweight Shell Jacket from SIMMS is the jacket for you. This jacket is the lightest in the Simms arsenal and boasts GORE-TEX PACLITE® PLUS, a 2 layer unconstructed membrane that is both windproof and waterproof. Two necessities for your trip to the High Country. The jacket is also extremely breathable giving anglers the peace of mind that even when hiking in the most grueling terrain some of these high country destinations demand they will be cool and dry all day long.
When hiking in the high country you may come across the occasional thorny brush or high grass. This means ticks. The best way to avoid these annoying little bugs is to wear long pants. As with rain jackets, breathability and weight are key here. No one wants to be hiking around in jeans all day long. Thankfully, SIMMS has you covered. Personally, I find that the SIMMS Guide Pant is a fantastic option and offers their robust "Guide Caliber" fabric that can handle even the toughest of brushes, shrubs, and trees you may encounter on your high county experience.
If you have spent any length of time in the high country you know that there are more annoying bugs than Ticks. Instead of jumping off tall grass they buzz around your head constantly and have you slapping at your arms and legs when you should be casting your fly rod. The bug? Mosquitos. Protect yourself from these annoying bloodsuckers who didn't get their fill in 2020 with the new SIMMS Bug Stoppers.
Fly rod set ups and fly choice is as personal as it gets. However, when you are in the high country you are a long walk back to the trial head, that is why quality rod and reel is a must. Wondering where to look? Look no further than G. Loomis's latest release the G. Loomis IMX-PRO Creek Fly Rod. A rod that boast big rewards for those looking to explore the path less traveled. Best of all The IMX-PRO Creek comes in both 3-4W options all while staying compact at 7'9" in length, more versatility for those dedicated to wild fish in wild places. Our own Tanner Smith invited our good friend from G Loomis - Brent Hermanussen to talk more about the IMX-PRO Creek Fly Rod. Interested? Click here to check it out and find out why, the IMX-PRO Creek is a great option for picking those small pockets.
When it comes to what reel you should attach, Ross Reels has got you covered. No matter if you are fishing tiny high country creeks or dumping line out to the middle of a high country lake to rising cutties, The Evolution LTX Fly Reel or The Colorado Fly Reel will keep your line tight all day long.
Now that we are done talking about rods and reels, it's time to get down to brass tacks. Flies. As, I said before fly choice can be as personal as it gets, however, there is a best option when you are in the high country. That is why our shop staff has put together the perfect selection of flies for your high country adventures from Lakes to streams we have you covered. The best part? You can decide what you want. Dedicated to the nymph life even at 10,000 feet? We will hand-select the perfect ones for your adventure. A dry fly purist through and through? We will load you up, just don't forget your floatant back at the trailhead. Check out our Staff Picked High Country Fly Selections.
The number one item in your setup that should not be overlooked when in the high country is your fly line. When you are out there you need a fly line that won't fail on you and that will give you the confidence you need to cast all day long. Although there are plenty of options in the fly line department I personally, love RIO. Particularly their Elite RIO Perception Fly Line, simply for how well it casts and more importantly for the versatility the fly line offers. The short head allows those small casts to be easier and faster, all the while still allowing you to cast nymphs, dries, and streamers with ease and peace of mind. Oh, did I mention it comes in 3-4W options?
There are a lot of reasons to get out and explore the high country, solitude and wild fish are just a few. So, load up the truck, load up the fly box and fire up google maps. Head out there before it is too late. If you are interested in learning more, our own Will Rice wrote an in-depth piece on specifics when going into the backcountry. Check it out HERE!