This past weekend I welcomed back Pete and Terry, who booked a couple days on private ranches. The first day was on a beautiful stretch of Tarryall Creek in South Park, Colorado, which did not disappoint! Pete spent most of the day with a dry-dropper set up while Terry fished tandem nymphs. The majority of the fish were in what Terry calls the “fun size”, but a few stretched the tape like this one.
Day two saw us driving over Berthoud Pass to fish a stretch of the Upper Colorado River. We fished a working ranch with goats, sheep, chickens, and cows on the property. It looks pretty unassuming when you pull up, with the trees marking the river’s path off in the distance. We crossed a grazing meadow and started working the bottom of the one-mile-long stretch.
The fish were not cooperative at the start, but I surmised the temperature was a little low to get the brown trout to feed. Yep, a quick thermometer reading showed 48°. We picked up a few dinks and continued fishing upstream. As some of you’ve probably heard me say on trips… I’ve found that the smaller fish in a system seem to feed first.
With just a few degrees of warming, the fish turned on around 11am. The guys landed seven fish in that first twenty minutes. The bite continued to be strong, so we decided to take a late lunch. I left Pete and Terry fishing a run and went back to fetch lunch and drinks from the cooler in my truck. When I returned, they had each caught a couple more, and Terry’s line was snarled in a nest.
I was able to cut his line back and remove the flies, which usually the fastest way to deal with a tangle. I left the rod laying on a conveniently-placed picnic table. The table sat in the direct sun so we decided to enjoy the shade under a streamside tree. Pete eventually joined us on the bank, and we started eating. Slowly, a few cows approached, perhaps thinking we had some food for them. Those first cows caused the other cows nearby to get interested and suddenly we had most of the herd surrounding us curiously.
Between bites, I noticed another angler walking by and started to small talk with him. Turning back around, I was startled to hear the familiar “zzzZZZzzzz, zzzZZZZZZ, ZZZZZZ” of a fly reel. The cows started freaking out and dust was flying in the commotion. The lone angler calls out, “Hey, I think you’ve hooked a COW!” I sprung up to survey the situation, and sure enough, my Redington rod was connected to the mouth of a young calf about fifty feet away! I reeled up to try to figure out what was happening. There were no hooks on the line, but somehow it looked as if the cow was hooked in the mouth. Taking up slack, I approached the calf, but it kept its distance. Then I noticed some of the line and leader were around the feet of the cow. Without many choices, I pointed the rod at the animal, pulled tight, and hoped for the best.
The line sprang free and the calf ran off. I’m guessing the fly line was hanging down from the picnic table, and the hungry calf decided the fly line was some of the food his buddies came over to eat. Here’s how it looked after it was yanked free!
There’s a lesson here… This is why I’ve been telling new guides to be ready for ANYTHING! It’s always smart to have backups of just about every key piece of fly gear and other tackle while you’re in the field.
Fortunately, I was able to cut off the mangled line and reattach the leader. The bite stayed consistent until about 4pm when it suddenly stopped. Brown trout seem to turn on and off together. But as everyone was getting tired, we called it a day.