Time: 3:00PM – 4:00PM
Location: Lake Fork Trailhead
During the last week of June in 2021, I spent three days drifting the Rio Grande River with a guide in the vicinity of Creede and South Fork, Colorado. On June 30, 2021 we launched in the town of South Fork and drifted to Hanna Lane. As we waited for the guide to unload the raft, I noticed a small train station and a line of rail bikes, so I wandered over to the gentlemen fine tuning the bikes and asked them about their operation. The name of the business was Revolution Rails, and the company was based in the northeast with rail biking operations in New York and New Jersey. As it turned out, June 30 was their grand opening of the South Fork Revolution Rails section of track, I was intrigued by the concept, so I picked up a brochure, and when I returned home, I shared it with Jane and described the operation and my interest. Fast forward to Christmas 2021, and I received a gift certificate for a Revolution Rails trip in 2022. Jane and I went online in April and booked a Revolution Rails excursion for the morning of June 20, 2022. It was this booking that generated the trip from Denver to Creede on Sunday, June 19, and we arrived at the South Fork Rev Rail station early on Monday morning.
The out and back ride of three plus miles was physically a breeze, and Jane and I both commented that we yearned for a longer trip. Nevertheless, there was something addictive about pedaling along in a light two person rail bike with no steering required. We agreed that another trip might be in our future.
Since we were bursting with excess energy, we stopped at the South Fork visitor center and asked the young man behind the counter for ideas for a five mile hike. He quickly unfolded a free map and highlighted a trail that was ten miles south of South Fork off the highway that ascends Wolf Creek Pass. Jane and I agreed to investigate the Lake Fork Trail, and rather than driving back to Creede, we stopped at a local grocery market and picked up some lunch snacks.
Jane drove south on CO 160, while I navigated, and eventually we found a wide paved pullout with a well marked crosswalk, and it was bordered on the west side by some large boulders. This fit the description provided at the visitor center, although we were unable to find a trail sign to confirm that it was the Lake Fork Trail. We trusted our directions and completed the out and back five miler and returned to the parking lot by 2:45PM. The hike was moderately challenging with several steep climbs, but the spectacular scenery spurred us on. We passed through a narrow valley, forested mountain sides, and open meadows sprinkled with wildflowers. Another section consisted of a toothpick forest with charred trees devoid of limbs. The trees were likely damaged in a past wildfire.
When we returned to the parking lot, I told Jane that I would like to cross the highway to inspect the South Fork of the Rio Grande. Jane agreed and accompanied me to a very attractive pool directly across from the trailhead. We stood on some huge boulders fifteen feet above the river, and Jane spotted two large trout finning in the shelf pool on our side of the river. This sighting elevated my heartrate, and Jane suggested that I retrieve my rod and reel. Who was I to reject that idea? I crossed the highway and quickly pulled on my front pack, backpack and net; and I assembled my Sage four piece and returned to the South Fork. Jane remained at her perch high above the river, and she reported that the fish closest to the bank remained within view, and it was feeding periodically on something small.
I cautiously moved below the target trout and knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. I knew drakes were present on the main stem of the Rio Grande and hoped that perhaps they also progressed up the South Fork. I made four casts, and the trout ignored each one, before it disappeared from view. I decided to downsize and attached a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my tippet in place of the green drake. By the time I was ready to resume, the trout returned, but once again my offering was not to its liking. As this scene unfolded, I managed to hook a tree limb to my left and right on four separate occasions. This only reinforced Jane’s aversion to fly fishing, as she observed.
I gazed across the pool and noticed three or four decent fish, as they held their position in the slow moving shelf pool across the way. I moved upstream to a large exposed rock and executed quite a few long casts across the main current. Drag became an immediate concern, but a few short drifts suggested that the comparadun was not a favored food source. I resorted to a black size 18 parachute ant, and I managed a very brief connection in the deep eddy behind a group of boulders at the top of the pool. I eventually admitted that the long casts across the strong main current were too challenging, and I redirected my attention to some sporadic risers on my side of the river.
Jane remained as my guide high above on some large rocks, and she informed me that a fish returned to the spot that I initially targeted. In addition, a few splashy rises occurred along the near seam of the main current. I concluded that these were not ant sippers, and I spotted a size 16 mayfly in the air, so I switched to a size 16 light gray comparadun. I positioned myself tight to a large rock along the bank to hide, and I began lobbing downstream casts to the trout that Jane sighted. On the second drift the comparadun slowly moved above the trout, and the fish suddenly darted upward and sipped my fly. Jane saw the entire development and shouted, just as I lifted the rod and hooked a deeply colored twelve inch brown trout.
I ended the day with a single fish, but it was very satisfying after being rejected earlier. I never expected to fish at all on Monday, so the South Fork brown was icing on the cake!
Fish Landed: 1