Double Decker Weekend with Freestone Outfitters
After nine months of hit and miss (mostly miss) fly fishing in the Colorado Rockies, I decided to bite the bullet and hire a guide. A co-worker recommended Freestone Outfitters saying that they were the best in the Denver Area which was enough for me. I called owner Dave Lovell and, at around 10:45 that night I got the call back. He had just gotten home from guiding a guy from noon until dark that had flown in from Orlando just to fish and Dave was hoping to just get my voicemail. We discussed dates and times and eventually settled in on a Saturday a week and a half away when I would have my Louisiana buddy, Kyle Marks, in town to fish. Even with four full time guides and a pool of almost twenty part-timers, we lucked out to secure a guide on short notice in July. Dave and his full time guides stay booked almost seven days a week during the summer months and have to pull from the part time crew to keep the customers satisfied. He lamented that he already had a trip booked that day but, promised that one of his other guides was very experienced and happened to have an opening. The next day I got a call from Chris Barry, one of the full time guides, who encouraged an early start to take advantage of the daily hatch of Tricos. Not really knowing what Tricos were but, eager to get in on any “hatch” I quickly agreed.
Saturday morning, we met up with Chris after a nice breakfast of biscuits and gravy and headed down to the South Platte River. The area we were fishing known as “Deckers” is a stretch of the South Platte River between Cheeseman Lake and Strontia Springs Reservoir that is well known as a fly fishing destination. Along with the popular “Dream Stream”, Deckers is stretch in a series that connects a number of reservoirs and lakes before dumping out of the Mountains and into Denver. Being so near Denver, the fish on these stretches see a ton of fishermen and are more educated beyond your typical Rocky Mountain trout. I learned that the hard way and, was glad to have Chris at my disposal for a day.
After gearing up, we were the first anglers on the river as far as we could tell. He placed the two of us on either side of a deep run of the River. Equipped with a setup of Pink San Juan worm and Trico nymph, we dredged the deep hole just below some riffles. After a dozen or so casts without any action, Chris directed us upstream to more shallow water. At that point, we came in contact with the Trico swarm. Trico, I learned, are tiny black winged insects that emerge from the water by the thousands to engage in a mating dance that could easily be overlooked by the non-observant fisherman. Even in those numbers, it would have been easy to look out over that stretch of water without giving much thought to the multitude of sex-crazed mosquito sized bugs (if insect mating can be classified as sex.) When these amphibious insects are swarming, you can bet that the trout are taking full advantage of the opportunity.
On Kyle’s first drift we broke the ice. He hooked up with a vigorous little 12” rainbow. Chris quickly scooped the trout up in his net and after a picture or two Kyle was back fishing. Before I knew it Kyle had another hookup. Feeling a little outdone, I focused my attention on presenting the perfect drift. The next cast produced a strike and it was on. After that, we really started getting our money’s worth out of Chris. He waded back and forth netting one trout only to head downstream and splash back across the river to net the next trout. This went on for an hour. Fish after fish, our rods arced downward indicating to Chris the direction he needed to move. On more than one occasion we were both fighting trout in the swift water sometimes catching Chris in mid-stream forcing him to decide which angler to abandon. It was a hoot. At one point, Chris in a rush to get over to Kyle who was fighting a larger fish, slipped on a slick rock on the river bottom and fell in. I watched as he picked himself up and netted Kyle’s fish without missing a beat.
When Chris wasn’t netting fish he was answering our questions about insects and hatches, trout and gear, even giving advice to a couple that watched the feeding frenzy from the road above us. He was eager to answer our questions and never indicated to me that he was tiring of the onslaught although he undoubtedly was.
Although, I do have plans to fish again soon with Freestone Outfitters I didn’t hide the fact that I was a DIY kind of guy. The day of fishing with Chris was well worth the money but, what I was really paying for was information and Chris seemed to understand that. He told us how to catch fish not only in the current season and time of day but, gave advice for all seasons and also on other rivers and lakes. He truly wanted to help us become better fishermen and for that I am extremely grateful.
By 10:30, the carnage of the morning Trico hatch eased as the last of the insects fell to their watery death but, the fun was not over. Moving further upstream we bent our rods again and again against the weight of hungry trout. Most of the fish we hooked were Rainbows in the 11-14 inch range with the occasional Brown and Cutbow trout and, two in the 15 to 16 inch range.
As the day wore on and, the sun climbed higher heating the water and our bodies, Chris recommended a bottle of water and a location change. We loaded back into his SUV and drove downstream to a spot overshadowed by a sheer cliff rising out of the river. After a hearty lunch, we hit the water for the remainder of the day managing to coax a fish from its hiding spot in the shadows every now and then. A little after four o’clock, tired and happy we thanked our guide and parted ways.
On the way home Kyle and I decided there was no other option but, to come back the next morning for the Trico action. And that we did. Replicating what we had learned from Chris with similar results. I can say that I now have the confidence to get back out there and pretend to be a fly fisherman again.
I definitely recommend Freestone Outfitters for anyone that wants to shorten the learning curve or just doesn’t have the time it takes to catch fish on their own. Get in touch with Dave Lovell and book a trip. You will not be disappointed. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: flyfishfreestone.com Call: 720.448.5621