Steamboat Springs If there is one thing I've learned after 23 years in Steamboat Springs, it's that summers are short and sweet, and meant to be savored.
Too many times I've looked up at the calendar on Aug. 1, noticed the school year and exhibition football closing in, and realized I hadn't taken on half the outdoor expeditions I'd intended.
Accordingly, we came up with an action plan on Sunday. A buddy and I threw our mountain bikes, large day packs and fly rod tubes in the back of the pickup, invited the Wilson Hound to come along, and headed for the hills about midday.
The end goal was to catch cutthroat trout from a lake with no name. But first, we would ride the bikes for two miles, then hike another 1.5 miles and thus pack three outdoor adventures into one afternoon.
Once we arrived at the dirt parking area the next task was to get out the trusty roll of duct tape and lash our aluminum rod tubes to the frames of our bikes.
The short mountain bike ride was all uphill, but went reasonably well for a couple of geezers pedaling non-suspension bikes that would cause any self-respecting 11-year-old to turn up his or her nose.
Not only was our intended destination nameless, but there is no trail to the lake. That is not a bad thing.
That is a very good thing.
Over the years, we have committed the landmarks to memory. So when we reached the patch of shade by the big spruce tree, we knew we were on our way home in the same way that coho salmon know they have found the stream that leads to the big dance.
We happily ditched the bikes out of sight behind a tree (as if someone might steal them) and set out on the shortest steepest hike you will ever do. Along the way we had spectacular smoke-free views in all directions and even were able to glimpse a 12,000 foot peak in another state. And no, I'm not going to tell you what state the peak is in because it might help you zero in on the lake with no name. I'd rather keep you in a state of confusion.
Getting to the lake is always a bit of a crap shoot.
We know perfectly well what direction it lies. But once you get in the timber with all of the deadfalls to climb over, it gets a little disorienting.
As long as you keep the moose pond to your left, and manage to hit that patch of really tall bluebells at the edge of the bog, you should be OK.
Immediately upon reaching the lake we knew there were damsels in distress, and that was a happy thing for us.
You've all seen damsel flies even if you weren't aware of it. Damsel flies are those really little, sky blue dragonflies. If you've ever been to Steamboat Lake in June, you've probably noticed them.
Trout love to eat damselflies in their nymphal form when they wriggle enticingly through the water. But they go mad when they are trying to nail the pretty little bugs as they hover an inch above the water. At a lake in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, I have seen cutthroat trout and I swear I'm not making this up swim over the tops of lilly pads to take adult damselflies.
At No Name Lake on Sunday, a few wildly porpoising trout let us know the fish were keying on damsel flies, but most of the action would be beneath the surface.
I typically don't count fish when the number gets beyond 10, and I want to hasten to add that we don't often reach double figures. So, I can't tell you with certainty how many trout we caught.
But I think I'm being conservative when I estimate that each of us hooked between 25 and 30 fish. A number of them wriggled off our barbless hooks before we brought them to hand.
I caught all of the fish on a single fly, and never moved from my original casting position.
All of the fish were hooked perfectly in the tip of their jaw I never had to risk harming them by handling them but simply reached down with the hemostat, flipped the fly free and watched them swim off.
By the time I was getting ready to quit fishing, all that was left of the fly was its bronze colored bead head, a single strand of copper wire hanging off the bare hook and a shred of green feather. Yet, it was still catching trout as if it held some magic.
I was beginning to wonder if I had somehow slipped the shackles of earth and was now fishing at "Heaven Lake" in the literal sense.
At one point my companion hooked a trout and seconds later so did I.
Suddenly, the tug at the end of my line was gone.
No worries before my friend could land his fish, I had another on. Is that a "double double?"
Was I fishing on Woody Guthrie's Big Rock Candy Mountain?
I was casting under a bright sun, but there was just enough breeze to keep things cool. I was with a good buddy who is a little bit better angler than I.
We were in the company of a dog who sincerely believes that the only reason God put him on earth is to retrieve large sticks from mountain lakes.
If that doesn't add up to a perfect summer afternoon, then this ain't Colorado.
O.K., my buddy wants me to write that the day could have been better if we had been catching the trout on dry flies.
But he's really picky.
I don't know how you spent your weekend, but if I was you, I'd get out the map and start looking for lakes with no name.