Snowshoeing at Brainard Lake

Jessica and I recently went snowshoeing at Brainard Lake Recreation Area in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. She often snowshoes at Eldora Mountain while I snowboard, but she’s been-a-hankering to go snowshoeing somewhere more picturesque and backwoods-y. It’s been a few years since we snowshoed at Brainard Lake, so we loaded up the gear and headed up one Saturday afternoon.

Brainard Lake is about an hour and fifteen minute drive from our house, and when we arrived around 1pm the parking lot was probably 90% full. Also, the wind was howling at a steady 25 mph with gusts of 50-60 mph. In fact, Eldora ski lifts were shut down that same afternoon due to the wind. The wind was so bad it was rocking our SUV, and we sat there debating whether we actually wanted to venture forth into the gale. In the end, we decided it probably wasn’t so bad in the trees, and we were already there, so we might as well make the best of it. It actually wasn’t that cold, maybe 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but that wind though…

Brainard Lake has many miles of trails, but not all of them are open to snowshoers, only to cross-country skiers. On this day, we took the main snowshoe trail, and didn’t make it to Brainard Lake, but we still had a good time. The trail was pretty crowded, and the wind was noticeable but not too bad in the trees, just as we suspected. But any time in the mountains is time well-spent.

Fishing and Hiking at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Jessica, Scooter and I spent the day at Golden Gate Canyon State Park in early June for some fishing, birding and hiking. The park is about 15 miles west of Golden and about 45 minutes from our house.

As a State Park, you need to pay a fee to enter, so we stopped at the Visitor’s Center, paid our fee and got some tips on where to hike and fish. There are two main ponds, Slough Pond and Kriley Pond, not far past the park entrance that see heavy fishing pressure. We skipped Slough Pond as there were no parking spaces and lots of people already fishing the small pond. A bit past that is Kriley Pond, which is also fairly small and was pretty crowded on the Sunday we visited.

Dudes Hole, Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Dudes Hole, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

We found a parking space up the hill from the pond though, and Jessica took off on a birding hike up Blue Grouse trail, while I walked down to Kriley Pond to fish a little. As mentioned, there were a lot of people already there, about half of them sitting in lawn chairs fishing with Power Bait, and the other half in waders trying a little fly fishing. The power baiters on the East end of the lake weren’t having any luck, while the fly fishers on the West end of the lake were reeling them almost every cast. I stuck with my tried and true Kastmaster Spoon, walking around the entire pond, with zero luck. You could see dozens of little trout near the shore all around the lake, but they were having none of it. I guess the East end is where Ralston Creek flows into the pond, and the catchable fish were hanging out there.

Jessica said Blue Grouse trail was pretty uncrowded, had more bikers than hikers, slightly uphill, and not anything remarkable.

You can drive around the perimeter of the park, which on a map looks like a long way, but is only 20 or 30 minutes. So we drove over to Aspen Meadows Campground, with a short stop at Panaroma Point, with a goal of hiking down to Dude’s Hole and beyond.

Dude’s Hole is small, picturesque pond a short hike down the trail from campground, so while I stopped and fished, Jessica and Scooter hiked further down the trail while I fished Dude’s Hole. Again using my trusty Kastmaster Spoon, I caught two little Brown Trout on the first two casts, and caught three or four more in about 30 minutes. The family down the bank, fishing with worms, were counting out their fish as they hauled them in … nineteen, twenty, plus. All the fish were tiny, but it’s better than being skunked and I’d call it a successful day.

Rainbow Trout Fishing Report at Waneka Lake

Rainbow Trout from Waneka Lake, May 2017
Rainbow Trout from Waneka Lake, May 2017
Waneka Lake is a heavy-use urban reservoir of about 55 acres in Lafayette, Colorado. The official website says the lake is stocked with bluegill, carp, crappie, large and smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch, but a co-worker of mine recently mentioned that trout are occasionally stocked. He pointed me to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Stocking Report which details where in Colorado “catchable” trout were recently stocked, a great resource I didn’t know existed.

The stocking report indicated Waneka Lake had been stocked on May 2nd of this year, so with my new found trout information I visited Waneka after work one day in mid-May. My co-worker said he had no luck with Power Bait, but good luck with a little Rooster Tail. I decided to try a little gold Kastmaster spoon and within a couple minutes I landed a nice Rainbow Trout. Within 15 minutes I had a couple more Rainbow. After that the action slowed down and I only caught one more in the next 30 minutes, but that was enough to call the evening a success. I went a week later and caught a couple more nice Rainbow Trout.

It looks like Waneka only gets stocked every couple of years so if you’re looking for Rainbow it might be best to get over there sooner rather than later. I’ve done some bass fishing at Waneka without any luck, but I see lots of fisherman at Waneka Lake throughout the year. With a running trail, a park, a boathouse and disc golf course, the lake sees a lot of traffic, but at least for now, the fishing seems pretty good.

Weightless Texas-Rig Plastic Worms at Sawhill Ponds and Coot Lake

How is that for a blog entry title?

A few weeks ago our realtor mentioned that he caught several nice two-pound bass at Sawhill Ponds on weightless, Texas-rig plastic worms. Pictures and everything, but I was incredulous … first because I couldn’t believe there were bass that big in Sawhill Ponds, and second because I couldn’t believe weightless plastic worms would actually catch anything. I’ve never had much confidence in, or success with, plastic worms, but my friend Aron swears by them down in Austin.

A few days later I’m hiking at Sawhill with Jessica (no fishing allowed) when I see a guy lose a bass in the first pond. We talk a bit and of course he is using, yep, a weightless, Texas-rig plastic worm. He was just casting directly into the weeds that have infested many of the ponds and the worm slithered right through. My preferred crank baits can’t go anywhere near those weeds.

So last week my brother and his family are in town visiting and I take them to Sawhill since it’s only three minutes from our house. I rig up the plastic worms, we go to work and … we catch nothing. Maybe a couple bites, but my nephews are losing interest. I take a rod from one of them and head to pond #2. My brother says, “we’ve worn out that spot.” A few casts later, though, I land the biggest bass I’ve yet to catch in Boulder (which, admittedly, is not saying much). But for Sawhill, it’s a very nice fish. There are ten-year old reports on the internet of people catching five-pounders left and right out of Sawhill, but these days, I think this may be about as big as it gets.

Sawhill Ponds Bass Caught on Weightless, Texas-Rig Plastic Worm
Sawhill Ponds Bass Caught on Weightless, Texas-Rig Plastic Worm

Oh yeah, Coot Lake? The next night I take my brother and nephew to Coot and my brother catches a nice bass on the Texas-rig set-up, while Elijah caught a couple of nice ones on a tiny crank bait. My nephew still hasn’t caught anything in two days, so as we’re walking to the car I stop and tell him, “cast here, I can feel it.” Boom, he pulls in a bass. As we say in Family Vance … noice.