I showed up to Kirk’s fly shop in Estes Park at 7am with my dad, ready to fish. We were fitted for waders and boots and went over what we’d be doing.The only place to catch all of the fish is in the Rocky Mountain National Park which is fine with me because I wanted to go into the mountains and catch fish while admiring the views.
We drove up to the Fern Lake trail head and got ready by putting on bug spray and sunblock lotion. From there we started up the trail that ran parallel with the Big Thompson. Here’s a video of our guide catching a brook trout easily:
The whole time we were walking, the guide was looking at the river for entry points. The water was flowing fast and down the mountain. We worked our way up and the guide showed how fish point upstream so working our way up we were able to sneak up on them. The guide also pointed out where fish like to hide in the river which would help me in the following days while I fished without the guide.
The first couple of hours I didn’t catch anything. In the Rocky Mountain National Park there isn’t much room for back casting so I was working on roll casting and sidearm fly casting. Once I got that down the next challenge was setting the hook! We were using dry flies as strike indicators with nymph droppers and keeping an eye on the float while watching for strikes was tough. These trout are fast! In a silver streak the fish would attack the fly, then you’d have to set the hoop moving the rod downstream quickly. It takes some practice and finesse. I was starting to get frustrated and then I finally figured it out and started catching fish.
We worked our way up the mountain for the eight hour trip, catching browns, brookies and one cutthroat by my dad. At the end of the day we landed at least fifteen fish. The largest was a brown over 13 inches which I was told was a large fish for higher elevations.
Still no Colorado Grand Slam.
The next day I got up and rigged my fly rod the same way the guide had his rods. I had about a 7 ft tapered leader to a dry fly strike indicator then about 18 inch dropper line to an elk fly dry dropper. Awesome combo on my Wright & McGill 5 weight 9 ft fly rod and Orvis Clearwater Reel.I went to a stream running off of Bear Lake Rd and used the same tactics I learned the day before. I worked my way up the river hitting each pool along the way. It turned out that each pool definitely had at least one fish in it and I only got one chance to set the hook. If I didn’t get a bite in five or six floats I’d move to the next area. If I missed the fish I’d move or if I caught one I’d move. I ended up spending around six hours fishing the stream and catching fish left and right. Still no cutthroat even though I did land a rainbow which I was told are also rare in the park. I decided to leave the stream and head over to Sprague lake where I worked my way around the lake looking for trout. I ended up catching a nice size brook trout and saw a herd of elk cross the middle of the lake.
The next morning I got up and went to Scot’s sporting goods to find out where to catch the Greenback Cutthroat. They immediately said Dream Lake. Which is a one mile hike. Not bad. I headed there to fish.
After the 1 mile hike I arrived at Dream Lake and immediately spotted Colorado Cutthroat Trout! The fish would swim around surfacing to inhale top water bugs. Either they weren’t interested in my flies or they could see my six pound tippet, either way they would swim close to my flies and then turn the other direction. I tried almost every fly that I had including nymphs but no luck. I decided to call it a day. On my way out I noticed a creek that Dream Lake was feeding into.This was the exact type of water the guide had showed me how to fish so I decided to give it a shot. Working my way up the creek toward the lake I came into some fish. The only one I was able to land was a little trout with a red cut marking under his mouth. This was a Greenback Cutthroat! I needed to verify with the fly shop but it looked like I had done it.
I headed back to Kirk’s fly shop in Estes Park with my fish pictures for them to verify. The fellow I spoke to identified all including the cutthroat as a juvenile Greenback Cutthroat. I did it! I thanked the guy at Kirk’s for the guided tour, the guide’s name was Ryan and he was very helpful. See below for pictures and also links to purchase the exact equipment I used to catch these beautiful fish!
Here are the pictures:
Support our site by purchasing the same equipment I used to catch this Colorado Grand Slam!
- Orvis Clearwater Reel
- Wright & McGill 5 weight 9 ft fly rod
- Fat Albert Dry Flies 6 Piece Assortment Kit (10)
- dry fly strike indicator
- elk fly dry dropper
- tapered leader