Snapshots and vignettes from western Colorado of trout fishing, hiking and sightseeing – Chicago Sun-Times

GRAND MESA NATIONAL FOREST, Colorado — Patchy graying snow lingered under the evergreens when Tom Yoder drove us to the top. I was glad to make it there.

As a flatlander, the switchbacks of a mountain road, with no guardrails and a broad view of the Plateau Valley thousands of feet below, tested my mettle.

For years, Yoder, a college friend, suggested I visit western Colorado. In late June, I spent six days with him as he led us to fishing, hiking and sightseeing.

Grand Mesa NF was our first, where I acclimated by fishing one of many high-elevation lakes. Those lakes are family-friendly and easily accessible from shore or water. After unloading his Old Town Saranac 146, I found myself catching my breath while he parked. At 10,000 feet, even that effort had me sucking air.

Within a few casts, I put a rainbow trout in the canoe. Yoder is a master with Panther Martin spinners and soon had enough for dinner. Later, I realized that was my first fish caught at 10,000 feet. No luck on spotting a moose, which were reintroduced.

Tom Yoder boated good trout on Island Lake, one of many fishing lakes in the Grand Mesa National Forest in western Colorado.

GUNNISON NF:That night at their camp, I cleaned the trout. Yoder dusted and fried them in butter, plating them with baby Portobello mushrooms and his homegrown, home-canned green beans. We paired it with Malbec.

Yoder told tales of black bears from when they first found the spot. I kept hoping the fish would draw a bear in, but no luck. In the silence of spruces, I picked up calls of a Cordilleran flycatcher and a western tanager, new ones for me. The next morning, we had multiple big-eared mule deer.

A proper plating of wild-caught trout with sauteed baby Portobelloo mushrooms and homegrown, home-canned green beans and pairing with Malbec.

UNCOMPAHGRE NF:We blanked on fish at Silver Jack Reservoir. But while sightseeing afterward en route to Owl Creek Pass, I made Yoder stop by the Cimarron River when the flowing water, the kind I learned on, beckoned. Within minutes, I lost a trout, then caught …….


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