I have a friend down in Matlache Florida that moved to Vail Colorado last year. Lane just wanted a change of scenery. He just packed his bags one day and decided to go. Being twenty seven years old, single and no ties you can do things like that. He moved there in November and started to teach ski and snow board lessons to tourist and now is working with the fish and wildlife services up there. Basically he hasn’t looked back.
When he came down this past May to do some fishing with me we spoke of me heading up to Vail Colorado to do some fishing. I wasn’t quite sure if I would have the time or energy this summer. Knowing Vail to be a very expensive area I wasn’t quite sure about the cost of flights, places to stay either.
Months past by and things started to come together. During the off season the hotels are empty and the flights were cheap. I got a ticket to Vail for $400.00. I was staying at Lane’s apartment so the hotel bill was out of the equation as well. All I would have to worry about was food and the cost of getting around. I like this kind of trip much better than a guided tour for the most part because you get to do things that is off the beaten path. Besides it would be much less touristy.
The flight to Vail was a quick one compared to Thailand that was for sure. I flew out of Tampa at 2:30pm and got there but 6pm.(time zone changes) I was playing solitaire watched movies on my IPAD the entire way. BTW: the IPAD is an awesome plane travel companion. The battery last like 7 hours and packs a bunch of entertainment.
Lane picked me up and the first thing we did was stopped by a near by stream to break out the fly rod to wet test it. Today I was using the on loan combo of the Mystic 5wt with a Nautilus NV 5wt reel. In hind sight I could have gotten away with the lighter, cheaper Nautilus FW series reel. The rod took a little getting use to as I was use to the action of saltwater fly rods. After about 15minutes however, I pretty much had it down.
We opted not to nymph this evening so we threw streamers to mimic a local minnow which the trout feed upon. We fished the area for a couple hours with fish all around us flipping happily. We got two eats but could never landed the fish. I was a little jet lagged and tired so we headed back to Lane’s apartment to unload all my gear for the two day trip.
I knew I was in Colorado when I felt out of breath climbing up some stairs when we went and grabbed a burger and wings for dinner. I really knew I was in a touristy area when I stopped by to get an ice cream cone and the guy guy behind the counter said “that will be $7.00 sir”. Heck that cost as much as my burger!
The next morning we were up at 5am to make the one and a half hour drive to the fishing hole. We pulled up to the parking to see a nice Porche 911 parked there. Now since we were to meet Lane’s buddy Luke, who also worked for the fish and game I knew this definite was not Luke’s ride. I mean, unless Luke has a trust fund or they are flying square groupers into Colorado these days.
Luke arrived a little later than us and proceeded to hook up on streamers immediately. A small brown then a couple of nice rainbows. Lane then proceeded to get a nice 20″ rainbow as well. I was camera trigger happy and neglected to fish much during all this of course and missed out on the morning bite as usual.
The scenery is just awe inspiring in Colorado. With lush plant life, streams filled fish pretty much every where. The mountains, wild birds, wild game and lots of open wilderness all around. The air is crisp and basically no humidity. I mean it can be 50 degrees and I’m wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt. When it was 80 degrees outside I wasn’t sweating a drop. If it was 80 degrees in Florida I don’t even want to be outside for very long. When it is 50 degrees in Florida I need a jacket. It’s weird how humidity affects your comfort level.
Anyways I digress. After the sun was nice and bright we decided to head over to another river. There we did mostly nymphing and the bite was on fire. For a while there it was one cast after another we would get a rainbow on. The flies of nymphing you can barely see. They are so small it was literally the size of a small “J” on your computer screen and some even smaller! At times I couldn’t even tell if I still had a fly on or not.
After a quick pizza in the local pizza parlor which by the way only cost $5.00 for 2 slice of cheese with drinks, we were off to do a float trip with another buddy’s of Lane. Alex who is part owner of the local flyshop slash guide service in town called The Mintun Anglers met us at the ramp with his float boat. It took a bit to set up the shuttle for the float trip but it was well worth it. We drift/float the Colorado and caught a bunch of brown trout. I have to admit Alex kicked my ass, out catching me like 8 to 1. What the hell I was happy just taking in the beauty of the entire place. The last time I did a float trip was in Alaska last year. The fish were bigger up there but the weather is better in Colorado so take your pick.
After the float trip and already a 12 hour day we were 3 starving fisherman. Alex recommended a place called The Charcoal Burgerl which wasn’t too far away from where were put the boat back on the trailer. We placed order and had to wait about 15minutes for a burger. I believe they actually make the burgers from scratch and grill on the charcoal just like the sign said. The burger tasted like it was home made minus the spices. It was filling but I have to say wasn’t very tasty. Regardless we were for filled of our dinner obligations that night.
With the jet lag, thin air and being up running around fishing for 14 hours now, I fell asleep on the drive back to Lane’s house which was still another 1.5 hours away. Needless to say, after a shower I was out like a light! I have been in Colorado 1.5 days how and have yet to see Lane’s apartment in daylight. Yes it has been quite a long 1.5 days.
Day 2 we are up 5am again to go hunt for more fish. Today, honestly I really didn’t care to fish very much. I was more about absorbing the atmosphere and culture of the Vail. Being the hardcore fisherman that we are we still ended up fishing til about noon. The sun was out today, it was beautiful. We decided to take a short cut through the mountains via the forest roads.
When we got the entrance of the forest road there was a road closed sign on it. Lane looked at the map real quick and confident he could go around it. Or so it seemed. We made a quick stop at a local country store to get some beef jerky and drinks and off we go on the dirt roads. The 1 hour trip turned into 2 hours, then 3 hours. We were kinda sorta lost. All was not lost however, as the scenery got better and better as we climb the road not so often traveled. We got some really cool scenic shots, saw some wild deer about 30′ away, beavers, and tons of birds.
Not planning for such long tripped we even stopped and got some nice raspberries along the trail. The was pretty cool, I haven’t eaten wild berries since I was kid. The berries were everywhere really but at this point with hours of bouncing up and down on the rough roads we were getting hungry.
Hour number 3 we ran into and ATV/bow hunter that was cool enough to give us directions to cross the mountain so we could get home once again. After even a rougher ride we finally got onto some paved roads. I got a phone single and called in to order something interesting to eat. The place we have been talked about all day was to eat some game animals at a place called the GAS House. The place is like a nice cozy local pub/restaurant. Cold beer and some food was on the way.
I order the variety pack appetizer. This consist of quail, elk, deer, pheasant sausages. We got there and gobbled it up quickly and the bartender informed us the appetizer were 50% during happy hour which was even better! I ordered truffle fries, more quail, and a nice serving of rocky mountain oysters. I never had truffle fries or rocky mountain oysters(bull testicles) and I have to say it was pretty good. The RMO, tasted like fried chicken gizzards but more tender.
After a cold beer and some food we were off to Lane’s kick ball championship game. The won the semis and the won the finals so we didn’t get out of there until almost 9pm. Yes another 15 hour day for us and at this point I am wishing I was about 10 years younger! We were off to get a real dinner tonight at the Minton Country Club. Well it’s not really a country club, just a restaurant named so. Lane works there part time and tells me it’s the best steak in town.
We walked in and they place was empty! Normally this is scary because you figures the food must be bad or something. The tell me every place is dead in late August because it’s off season in Vail this time of year. Lane assure me so and we picking our steak in no time. I like my steak medium rare and at this place if it’s not it’s totally your fault. Yes because you get to cook your own steak of all things. Yep, you actually get up walk up to the grill and put your steak on the grill and cook them. They had basting sauce and all. They tell me during season the place is packed and all the grills they have are filled with people cooking steaks and talking with a drink in their hand. Lane even tells me Britney Spears goes there every so often, I can’t imagine.
The next day I was up at 6am and flying back to Tampa by 8am. Awesome trip and a ton of stuff packed in there for a 2 day trip. Things I need to remember when I go back there either to ski or in the spring for the flowers and fishing. Felt wading boots is a must along with breathable waders. Loose some dam weight and get in better shape. With the thin air I was huffing and puffing going up stairs, quite embarrassing! Bring less clothing. With the temperature the way it was you don’t sweat. Besides under clothing you can just almost wear the same thing everyday.