I was quite excited to have the opportunity to catch a Greenback Cutthroat Trout! Greenbacks were thought to be extinct but several years ago, a small surviving population was found in a tiny third stage tributary in northern Colorado mountains. Colorado fisheries managed to recover several, breed them and replant them in several rivers and lakes in their native drainages. After catching Rio Grande cutthroats, we had to swing around to the other side of the rockies and head north through Denver and on to Loveland. At that point we headed to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
The drive was quite uneventful and fortunately we had reservations at a campground. It became quickly apparent that we were going to have to do some hiking, again at close to 10 000 feet in order to fly fish for Greenbacks! We also realized that the RMNP was busy, real busy so we planned on hiking at 6 am to the lake we had targeted. We got there early enough to actually get a parking spot and not have to go back down the valley and take a shuttle bus to the trail head. The hike was not long and the elevation gain was reasonable although any activity at 10 000 feet makes you work hard!
I tied up several rigs for fishing the lake and we took a good look at google earth to get the lay of the land. Once up to the lake, we located an incoming creek at one end lake. Once we arrived there, we could see several greenbacks in the creek. We tied on size 22 red copper johns. By the time Leon was ready to fish, Karen and I had caught our greenbacks. They are beautifully coloured cutthroat, maybe the prettiest we have ever seen. Leon followed suit and caught a nice greenback. We could all relax and just fly fish the rest of the day knowing we had accomplished our goal of catching all three subspecies of cutthroats in Colorado!
In the lake, we could easily see the greenbacks cruising. The lake was gin clear! They we eating tiny bugs, perhaps as small as size 26 at or just below the surface. We also saw BWOs so we continued with our size 22 red copper johns. Yes, we got refusals but we also got many takes. The neat thing was we could see all the takes (and refusals). We caught greenbacks from 5 inches all the way to 13 maybe 14 inches. The hike down was leisurely knowing we had indeed achieved the Colorado Cutthroat Slam.
I texted Jim Kilpatrick in Loveland. He and his wife brought barbecue for supper as well as certificates and t-shirts to celebrate our success! It was the perfect way to end our adventure in Colorado.
The next day started off early, it was a long drive to Butte, Montana and then on to Thompson Falls where Leon's summer cabin was on the Clarke Fork River the next day. Yes, there was a lot of driving but it was a small price to pay to catch these beautiful cutthroat!
Leon has now caught 9 different subspecies of cutthroat trout while Karen and I have now caught 8. We still have 3 to go!
...and that will be saved for next spring!