Central Colorado on Crutches

This June was another annual trip to central Colorado to get together with old friends, spend time in the mountains, and fish.

This time around, a few things were off. Firstly, after an amazing winter of deep snow and cold weather, runoff was late and heavy. Where rivers would normally be well on their way down by mid-June, every stream we fished was chocolate milk and gushing. Many of these rivers also fed ponds, leaving them in about the same state.

A man kneeling on shore casts a fly into a lake

Second, I was stuck on crutches the whole time, thanks to a recent surgery. Having fished my local park for bluegills the week prior, I was pretty determined to make mountain fishing work as well. What I hadn’t taken into account as much as I should have was that taking a sidewalk to a park pond is a lot different than navigating through waist-high willows and marshland.

Our crew split up the first evening, one team heading to hit a river, and my smaller group on a more easily accessed lake. The boot I’ve been stuck wearing for almost a month now I put over my waders as a wading boot. Despite this, I did my best to keep it dry at the start, which worked well at the first lake. After a thunder and hail storm moved through, midges were coming off in hordes, and trout were eager to eat on the surface. I was probably able to land eight fish or so, which I counted as a smashing success considering the circumstances.

A woman in a medical boot kneels on shore holding a rainbow trout

The following day, I put actual wading to the test. While everyone else made their way across a field to beaver ponds, I set up camp at the first spot I came across: a small feeder stream with a network of dozens of meandering channels. It took twice as long for me to walk half as far as everyone else, but once I made it to water, my travel time picked up, as I found that the openness of the channels and traction from the crutches’ rubber bottoms made wading through water easier than bushwhacking through willows. I managed to land one tiny brook trout in front of one of the more scenic backdrops I’ve seen.

A network of river channels in a field in front of mountains

We spent most of the next few hours fishing blown out rivers and afternoon-dormant lakes in search of trout that rarely appeared, and responded by taking a nap on shore halfway through. I landed a handful of rainbows over the course of the afternoon, and one large brook trout that was definitely my fish of the trip.

A large brook trout in a person's hand

On the last day I was in search of a brown, having not caught one yet. We started at a known beaver pond, and my medical-boot-turned-wading-boot finally made contact with water as I crutched across a marshy shore to get close enough to cast. It wasn’t until I noticed my dry fly floating a little too well that I realized there was a thin layer of nearly-invisible ice over my entire half the pond.

Not that it mattered. After moving into open water, still no one caught anything.

After giving up on fly ice fishing, we moved onto different beaver ponds, where fishing was slow near the car (the only place I could access). Quite a bit of time was spent sitting on a hill watching stubborn fish cruise below in water just barely clear enough to see through.

A man and woman sit together on a hill while the woman points to something off camera.

My last fish of the trip, and my only brown, came from a blown-out stream surrounded by my new nemesis, willows. What looked like an unlikely spot at first turned out to be completely fishable, and although I only caught a single one and it was nothing to write home about, it was a great way to cap off a great trip.


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This is a list I made and use for my own trips, and I think any backcountry angler will find it handy.