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Started by hcrum87hc, January 26, 2021, 10:02:01 AM
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I started this yesterday and got about 1/4 of the way through when I accidentally closed the window when I got in a hurry closing another window while organizing the photos in this post. I said screw it, I'll do it tomorrow, so here we go. Bear with me. It's a long one. At least hang around until the second post. That's the good stuff.
The wife and I just got back from our trip to Vail this past Saturday, and man what a trip we had. First things first, I'm a planner, and the wife is not. She trusted me to make all the plans and do all the research for this trip, and I did a hell of a job, IMHO. Unfortunately, these plans revolved around the weather forecasts, which ended up causing some issues I'll mention as I go.
We flew into Denver via GSP and ATL around 1ish on Monday without issue (thank God we flew Delta and not Southwest). After a trek to baggage claim and getting lost due to the poor signage, we made it to the car rental shuttle pick up.
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Again, without any issues, we got our rental car and hit the road about 2:30 for or 2hr drive to Vail. Never having left the southeast except for our honeymoon in Mexico, I gotta say the terrain was wonderful. Who needs foothills? Just go from flat to mountains without any transition. It definitely made the drive a bit precarious trying to watch the road and the mountains at the same time.
After a short grocery store run, we arrived at the Grand Hyatt around 5pm, checked in, and got ready for dinner. If you ever go to Vail, I'd highly recommend the Grand Hyatt. Everyone was great and accommodating. It's close enough to Vail to hop on the short shuttle ride or walk but far enough away that it's easy to get in and out of with the rental car. Speaking of, the valets were great. It's also right on Gore Creek-more on that later.
Yeah, that's acceptable .
After settling in, we hopped on the shuttle to head to Vail for dinner at Bully Ranch in the Sonnenalp hotel. The service was great, and the truffle tots and bourbon burger I had were delicious. After dinner, we took the shuttle back to the hotel. It was very obvious, as we walked through Vail, that we were there during the shoulder season. While there were others there, the streets were fairly empty, and a lot of shops and restaurants were closed.
While we were at dinner, I'd received a call and text from my Vail Valley Anglers guide regarding my trip the following day. I had a full day trip planned, but he was concerned that it would turn into a half day or less due to the forecasted weather, which had a high in the mid 30s with a 60% chance of rain/snow for most of the day and strong winds in the afternoon.
Ironically, I had originally planned my guide trip for Wednesday, but had rescheduled it to Tuesday due to the Wednesday forecast being similar to the new Tuesday forecast. By Monday night, Tuesday was the worse of the two days, so we decided to move the trip to Wednesday, which had similar temps but a much lower chance for precipitation/snow and less chance for clouds.
Due to this switch, I had to rearrange all of our days to accommodate the change and the weather forecasts, which now included a high chance for snow and lower temps on Thursday, which is the day I was going to go fish solo. To fit in the rest of the things we wanted to do, I ended up having to scrap that plan.
On Tuesday, we had breakfast at Westside Cafe, which I'd recommend. It sounds weird to say, but they had the best over well eggs I've ever had. We decided to go explore a little Tuesday morning before the forecasted snow moved in then spend the rest of the day close to the hotel. After breakfast we went to check out a hike recommended to us by the nice lady that checked us in at the hotel.
The hike was at Maloit Park in Minturn. It was a short, 2 mile hike without a lot of elevation change, which was perfect for us low landers to adjust to the elevation. Plus, my wife isn't much of a hiker anyways. I honestly wasn't expecting much as we got out at the trailhead, but it was an incredibly beautiful hike with phenomenal views. It ended up being one of our favorite parts of the trip. Pictures don't do it justice. My wife kept telling me how much she enjoyed it. I reminded her we have hikes at home. She responded with, "Yeah, but that's not the same." She's right.
Something about this lone tree thriving on top of this rock spoke to me. It's like a lone sentinel up there watching over the beaver pond in the foreground. We saw a lot of trees throughout the trip that made me wonder, "How in the world are you growing there?!"
Speaking of beavers...
After the hike, we still had some time to burn before lunch, so we rode up the road to Red Cliff per RiverbumCO's recommendation. Unfortunately, Mango's isn't open on Tuesdays, so we didn't get to partake in their fish tacos.
Quote from: hcrum87hc on October 22, 2021, 10:35:34 AM
I started this yesterday and got about 1/4 of the way through when I accidentally closed the window when I got in a hurry closing another window while organizing the photos in this post. I said screw it, I'll do it tomorrow, so here we go. Bear with me. It's a long one.
great trip so far, looking forward to the rest...
Pro tip; use a word processor to write your report... save early, save often...
I would have liked to continue to Leadville, but we didn't want to stray too far in case the weather took a turn. We returned to Minturn and decided to stop and walk the street. We checked out a few neat shops and then walked into Rocky Mountain Taco for lunch. I could tell the weather was really cooling off, and the snow began falling lightly as we walked in.
Speaking of snow, the guys at RMT prefer you to leave it outside.
I had the carne asada burrito, and the wife had their fish tacos, which was the daily special. It was probably the tastiest of our meals in CO, and the cheapest. Highly recommended.
After lunch we went back to the hotel for some R&R and to watch it snow. I tried my hand in Gore Creek for an hour or so without any luck. That creek is FULL of big fish. They're easy to spot and proved very hard to catch. Several were feeding on top, but I never saw what they were eating. I tried a dry/dropper rig using a size 18 BWO and a size 20 zebra midge. One swiped at the BWO, but no action besides that.
We went to Edwards for dinner that night, and tried a restaurant called the Drunken Goat. This was the one restaurant my wife specifically picked the night before when we had to rearrange our plans. They specialize in charcuterie boards, salads, and fondue. It was definitely a "girls' night" type of place. We had a salad and charcuterie board. While good, it was overpriced and my least favorite dinner of the trip. My wife agreed.
When we got back to the room, my guide for Wednesday (a different guide) texted me to confirm our trip. He reminded me it would be cold and to dress warm. Wednesday morning I had a wholesome breakfast consisting of a banana, Cliff bar, and a can of Starbucks doubleshot energy white chocolate coffee-surprisingly good.
I met him at the shop at 8, and we loaded into his truck, headed to the Eagle River towards the Glenwood Canyon. I'm a self taught angler, so I told him to please correct any issues I had. He assured me he wasn't there to be my buddy, but to instruct and do his best to get me on fish. I appreciated that.
We started out with some casting, mending, and hookset lessons, which I desperately needed. One consistent issue I had was rushing my casts and trying to muscle them instead of letting the rod to the work. Also, I typically high stick fish blue lines, so my mending was in desperate need of help.
We were indicator nymphing the whole day, which started out really cold and really slow. It never really warmed up and actually snowed for a large part of the morning, which wasn't forecasted. I didn't wear enough clothes, but Freddy offered up a spare jacket when I started shivering, which got me squared away.
Around 11ish, the fish started turning on, and I hooked many, lost many, and missed many. I had to learn how to hook and fight larger fish on tiny midges, which was new to me. I kept trying to horse them in instead of letting them tire, which was pulling the tiny midge hooks out. Eventually the lessons took, and I got this nice cuttbow to the net.
At one point, while Freddy untangled a poor casting effort on my part, I took a second to just look around and appreciate that place and moment, which I'd been too focused on learning to do up to that point. I got a few smaller rainbows to hand, and then we called it a day and headed back to the shop. Freddy kept his promise and taught me a lot and put me on some good fish. It was worlds better than my only other guide trip, which was with a place in Cherokee. I had won the half day trip on Facebook, and the guide there took us to the DH section of the Nantahala and sat on one hole throwing mop flies for half the day.
After the fishing trip, I headed back to the room to get ready for the evening. We had originally planned to head to Glenwood Springs Thursday night, but the forecasted snow for Thursday persuaded us to switch to Wednesday.
The snow leftover from Tuesday and Wednesday morning before our drive to Glenwood Springs:
The drive to GS was an unforgettable experience. It started out with terrain similar to what we'd seen so far, but then we got to Glenwood Canyon.
I've never seen anything like that in my life-sheer cliffs on both sides with the Colorado River paralleling I-70. There were signs of serious mud slides from heavy rains just a few weeks earlier. It was a bit nerve wracking seeing the leftover debris stuck in the guard rails and the boulders and soil down in the river. It didn't calm my nerves at all when traffic stopped to wait for the tunnel to clear, knowing we were just a sitting target for any slides.
We walked around downtown GS while waiting for a table at Colorado Ranch House, where I enjoyed their elk and trout dinner. The wife got lobster ravioli. That was probably the best all around meal we had on the trip.
After dinner we went back across the Colorado River to Iron Mountain Hot Springs for a soak. They had multiple pools at differing temps to soak in, along with one large pool. We tried out the 104 and 107 degree pools, which felt way different than a mere 3*. The 107 spring had our heart rates up and sweating. The 104 spring was very comfortable, however. We cut our 2.5 hour allotted time short to make the drive back to the hotel before it got too late.
On Thursday, the forecast was a high in the low 30s and a high chance of snow all day. We decided to take the shuttle into Lions Head Thursday morning and spend the whole day exploring Lions Head and Vail. We had breakfast at the Little Diner, which was disappointing based on what we had heard. The food wasn't bad, but we'd already had better, and to make matters worse, we had to sit outside in the heated front patio. They didn't have enough employees to open up the dining room.
After breakfast we checked out a few shops and enjoyed walking in the snow in Vail. It felt very quintessential Vail.
We had lunch at the Big Bear Bistro and went back to the hotel afterwards. The wife relaxed while I dozed off for a short period. I decided to get up and to try Gore Creek again, using what I had learned the day before.
Money well spent! I hooked these two browns on the first two casts in the first hole on a size 20 cream midge.
I walked down the path a ways and decided to fish back up through the section I'd tried on Tuesday to see if I could fool any of those big, wary trout. Again, I spotted a few sipping something off the surface, but decided to stick with the nymphing, as it'd already paid off. The first few runs were unproductive, but I spotted a good trout hiding behind a rock feeding subsurface. I tried a few casts, but couldn't quite get the flies where I wanted due to not having waders and some rocks blocking my casts.
I ended up moving slightly upstream to change my angle, but was afraid I'd silhouette myself to the fish. The first cast from this spot was dead on, and boom, fish on. I had only brought my 7.5' 3wt set up with me, thinking I was going to fish some smaller streams when I went out solo. This big girl didn't make it easy for me, but using what I'd learned the day before, I managed to get her in the net.
Unbeknownst to me, some older gentleman had been watching from his balcony and let out a cheer when he saw me net her. That was a first .
Thursday night we went back into the village for dinner at El Segundo. This was our second favorite meal of the trip. The decor and atmosphere were...formal-casual? It had nice decor, but the attitude of the workers was very casual. I liked it. We ordered tacos, which were all great, but the star of the show were the churro donuts and Nutella gelato for dessert.
Almost done. Thanks for hanging in there so far.
Friday morning was our second exploration day. The plan was to have breakfast in Frisco, then do a short hike near Silverthorne, then head to Breckenridge for the afternoon. The snow on Thursday made the driving very iffy for us southerners. There was definitely some white knuckling involved. I-70 still had some very sketchy sections through Vail Pass, but we made it safely to the Butterhorn Bakery in Frisco, where we had another great breakfast.
Speaking of breakfasts, I learned during this trip that I'm getting old. I just can't do a big breakfast anymore like I used to. It's a shame really.
After breakfast we decided to head up to check out a small alpine lake at the top of Loveland Pass/Hwy 6. Thankfully, this road had been well treated and plowed, so the going wasn't as bad as expected. The scenery at the top of the pass was something else though. The temps had dropped to 10 degrees, and the lake was frozen over. We didn't stay long, as the lot had not been treated or paved, and I didn't want to get stuck up there, as it was still snowing there.
We continued down the other side of the pass, went through Keystone and stopped at Sapphire Point for a short hike in the snow with views of the Dillon Reservoir.
From there we continued south on Hwy 9 to Breckenridge, which was much more touristy than I expected. We walked down main street, checking out a ton of shops, including the fly shop, which was pretty nice. Their guides were also catching on 20 and 22 sized midges of various colors all week. If you ever go to Breckenridge in the fall, be wary if it snows. The shaded sections of sidewalk were VERY slick. We saw several falls and numerous close calls.
We had planned to grab some pizza for lunch at Giampietro or Tin Plate, which were highly recommended, but both were closed. We went next door to Tin Plate and had pizza at Fatty's. It was good, but nothing I couldn't get at home. The view out the front door, however was far from something I'd see at home.
On the way back to the car we stopped for some cookies at Mountain Top Cookie shop, which was sublime. We drove back to the hotel afterwards (the roads and snow were completely cleared by then except the higher elevations). We made it back for a couples massage at the hotel. They were running a 20% off special at the spa, so we figured we'd take advantage. We relaxed for a bit before going to dinner at the Gashouse in Edwards. They specialize in steaks, wild game, and seafood. We shared some buffalo shrimp, and I got the elk combo, which included an elk steak, buffalo sausage (delicious), and a quail.
We returned to the room, watched this sorry Clemson team barely scrape by NC State, and packed up for the flights home. Again, Saturday was uneventful, but did see the best weather of the trip, so the drive back to Denver was without issue, as was the rest of the travel day. We pulled in at the house around 10:15.
Thanks for hanging in there. Sorry for the novel, but it was therapeutic to relive the trip now that I've been back at work for a week. We definitely plan to get back out west and know we need to take more trips in general without the kiddos now that they're both capable of staying with my parents for at least a week.
Next time, go back in June if possible. Snow melt should be done, temps are great, fishing is hot. It is tricky. Waters around Fort Collins were blown out in mid June this year, while Steamboat was was already drying up.
I'm wearing my Melanzana vest that I bought in Leadville 10? years ago as I type this.
We are probably going to Durango area in 2022. Barely touched it 10 years ago, also.
Food, fish and fun... spells Fantastic.
Good to hear you hooked up with a good guide.
Nicely done as I sit in a Universal Studios bathroom toilet. Much better weekend get away with wife then mine!