The game warden was driving past me on a small dirt road, so I waved him down to verify some information I received from a fly shop in Salida, Colorado.
When he rolled his window down, I asked if this is the way to the SWA (State Wildlife Area) parking lot that sits adjacent to an easement granted by a local farmer. The easement permits fly fishers to access one bank of the stream that meanders through the broad valley that feeds the reservoir just north of Westcliffe.
He seemed surprised by my question but immediately said yes, then stopped. "Do you have your fishing license?"
"Absolutely" I said, handing him my guide lanyard with license attached. He inspected it, scribbled a few things in is memo pad, then gave me the scoop.
There are few things more certain than fishing info from a game warden. You'll know it's the truth and if it's illegal. On this day, it was particularly important because this stretch of river ran through private land. Riparian law in Colorado does not guarantee access to a river or its banks. Essentially, this spot is on private property. The owner has graciously granted fly-fishing access to his section of the stream and one of its banks.
When he finished, I asked him what he knew about any other remote streams with brook trout. He gave me two. You can check back for those in a future post!. After conducting a thorough inquisition and a detailed comparison of our respective maps, I thanked him, and continued to the parking lot.
As I was getting ready for a few hours on the water, a couple of locals walked up to say hi. I congratulated them on what looked like a good day. They told me they'd been fishing in a section downstream, in the direction of the reservoir. I was headed up stream, in the opposite direction.
As they were leaving they told me, "just don't go that way, it's private property." I don't remember what I said, but I know I didn't say "okay."
They left and I finished getting ready. The warden said I had to cross the river before heading up stream, so I did. The water was moving swiftly so I used a barbed wire fence to stabilize my footing over unfamiliar riverbed.
On the other side, I looked for evidence of foot traffic, which led me to a stile offering passage over a barbed wire fence and into the next pasture. From there, it was over another stile then a hundred more yards along a fence line to the water.
The stream was exactly as I'd hoped and I was the only one in sight. It was pristine, and I could understand why the locals were steering me in the other direction. I'd want this stretch to myself too.
It flows on a gentle grade with plenty of riffles, low banks, and minimal vegetation encroaching over the water to complicate casting. The occasional boulder provided a good variety of swift sections with deep runs.
It wasn't long before a curious herd of cattle, grazing in the surrounding pasture, made their way to the riverbank next to me. Soon after, an elderly couple riding in a side-by-side utility vehicle came cruising through the pasture. We waived at each other from a distance and once they rode out of site, I didn't see another soul on the water, in the pasture, or during my hike out.
This is a great stream for a relaxing day on the water. I fished three hours and landed three rainbows. I was told this stream held brook trout but I didn't see any on that day.
I fish this part of Colorado, but hadn't ever heard of this location. Upon returning to the parking lot, I was asked by a nearby resident if I'd gotten permission to go into the area where I was fishing. I said that I didn't need permission because an easement has been granted and that I had confirmed the easement with the game warden upon arriving. The point was conceded but the message was clear. Locals don't want you fishing here.
But, you can if you want to.
I try to respect the locals when I'm exploring new waters but I'm also not shy. I'll be back to this spot next time I'm in Colorado. That is certain. I will not, however, provide specific information about how to find this hidden gem (in an attempt to respect their wishes.)
That said, I could find this place with only the info found in this article. I owe you guys at least that much..