Salmon fishing… in Colorado?

Ever since I visited Alaska two years ago on a solo backpacking expedition in the Brooks range (see Arctic Alaska Adventure), I have been achingly longing to return to the land of the midnight sun. But finding myself less mobile in my wanderings due to the tiny kiddos, I have had to learn to transform local projects into large adventures- even if only in my head. Take for example, salmon fishing in Colorado.

That’s right. Salmon fishing. In Colorado.

I had no idea that Colorado even had a freshwater salmon population until I moved to the Roaring Fork Valley early this year. I learned that a population of Kokanee salmon (the freshwater version of the Chum salmon found in Alaska), reside in the Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison, and make an annual spawn run up the East River.

It took only a few photos of the bright red salmon to convince me to take the 1-1/2 hour trip past Crested Butte one Saturday with my father-in-law.

After some advice from a local fly guide, we headed to a section of the river and began to walk the banks scanning for pods of bright fish. In no time, we located them, and began casting San Juan worms in front of their noses, hoping they would make territorial strikes (since spawning salmon do not actually feed, apparently). In no time, we hooked a number of fish, though managed to land only a few!

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The fish fought hard on our small 6wt. rods, and its pull was much firmer than that of a trout. Picking them up out of the water, with their grotesque hooked jaws snapping in the air was surreal- especially in the context of the small river in sage brush countryside. For a moment, I was teleported to a different world. For so long, I had obsessed over thoughts of returning to Alaska, but here I was, in Colorado, holding a little bit of Alaska in my hands. The day of fishing made for an incredible adventure. As a bonus, we also caught brown trout lingering behind the pods, hoping to scavenge for a loose salmon egg.

 

 

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