Regan and I made our way south through Colorado after our adventure in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival as our next major destination. On the way, we stopped to appreciate Mesa Verde National Park, featuring some spectacular Native American ruins. The ingenuity of these people is evident in the centuries-old structures that remain to this day, molded into the cliff walls.
Eventually, we made it to Telluride, and set up camp along the banks of the South Fork of the San Miguel River, near where it joins with the main stem. I spent some time exploring both the South Fork and downstream along the main channel of the river, in-between music sessions at the festival.
The San Miguel bears the distinction of being one of the last free-flowing rivers in Colorado, and it certainly proved to be both picturesque and wild, especially with the glacial-tinted, high flows of run-off (fortunately, the river levels were still low enough to be fishable). I fished over several days along the river, and managed to land a number of trout, mainly Browns, with some Rainbows as well in the mainstem.
Here is a Brown trout from the South Fork that went a good 14". The larger fish were invariably Browns (except for one supercharged Rainbow around 16" that threw the hook at my feet), and in general seemed to max out around 14 or15", although I've heard reports of fish occasionally getting larger here.
This watershed, as with many in Colorado, is slowly recovering from the ravages of mining up in the headwaters, but the maximum lifespan and growth of trout is still limited by the legacy of the activity.
Nonetheless, I found some fine wild trout, including the 15" Brown shown above. These fish were strong and unyielding, and knew how to use the swollen currents to their advantage. I caught many of the fish on a #10 orange-bodied Neversink Caddis, in pocketwater and seams near shore. I suspect the better fish were seeking cover from the heavy flows here, and also searching for hatching stoneflies that matched the pattern I cast (they resembled miniature Salmonflies in color and appearance).
Here is another view of the river, with the bouncing rapids evident, and the stones along the bank creating a pocket that concealed a good Brown trout.
A pair of columbines bloom here in splendor, another sign of spring along with runoff, in this high elevation area.
The headwaters of the San Miguel flowed right through Telluride; note the white tents from the festival, between the sunlit stream in the foreground, and the mountain peak in the background. The festival proved a bit crowded and highbrow for my tastes, but many of the musicians were superb, and I'm certainly glad that Regan and I attended.
The upper waters in town seemed to be dominated by Brook trout, most of them small, although I did catch and briefly admire this fat, foot-long fish, that once again grabbed a #10 Neversink caddis, from a deeper pool.
I also fooled this male Brown trout, perhaps 17", on the last day of fishing the San Miguel, several miles downstream of Telluride, which turned out to be the best fish of the trip.
Here is another image of the brute, lifting his head from the streambank, just before I returned him to the frigid water.
The fish held in a small pocket framed by two partially submerged boulders, as seen in the photo below.
The Brown trout provided a good way to end the visit to the untamed San Miguel, and a wonderful addition to some great bluegrass music in Telluride. All in all, it was a fine visit to this corner of Colorado.