It’s the 4th of July, and we’re worried; worried that we won’t be able to find a campsite, especially this late in the day. My wife and I are taking highway 50, that Ur-motherroad spanning the continent east to west, paved prior to interstates, a thousand miles from our home to Crested Butte, Colorado. We’re already more than a little road weary from a several hours’ drive, and we find ourselves in a bit of a remote area. Consulting our guide, Colorado Campgrounds, the Hundred Best and All the Rest, we discover Coaldale, a small campground with only ten sites. Only ten sites; what are the chances on a holiday weekend that one will be available? Excellent, as it turns out.
A short drive on a rough dirt road brings us to a primitive campground: vault toilets, no water, but blessed with secluded campsites secreted in the dark evergreen, almost primeval, forest, all abutting a creek, Hayden creek.
Here one senses the possibility of bear and the promise of trout. Surprisingly, only one other campsite is occupied. The air is so cool, and the sun has already begun to retreat behind the western canyon wall. Camp is set up, and we eat our dinner as the first few stars become visible through an opening in the forest canopy, a gibbous moon beginning its ascent. Later clouds begin to build, and I hope they do not presage a rainy tomorrow. Soon we burrow into our sleeping bags as Hayden creek calls us to sleep, its soporific so potent that we do not awake until the sun has already summited the canyon. Thankfully, a clear morning.
I try to relax and enjoy breakfast, but that creek! That creek, its water impateint, insistent, rushing to rendevouz with the Arkansas, momentarily impeded here and there by boulders, polished by countless spates. Hayden creek, rushing, roiling, pockets of smooth water scattered in its flow. There, of course, I am going to put my fly, if the dense bankside vegetation doesn’t snatch it first. I know that here the cost of trout brought to hand will be lost flies. I’ve shortened my line and leader to compensate.
Hayden creek is perhaps fifteen feet wide. I’m familiar with this kind of stream. Trout here will be eager and small. Takes will be immediate, violent, when the fly meets the water. My first choice in flies is an Elk Hair Caddis #16, always effective on water like this. The first cast is a difficult one; no name exists for the path my line travels in the air, sort of a sidearm roll cast to coax the fly under a branch overhanging the small pool I wish to fish. But I’m rewarded with a strike, and soon I’ve brought a ten-inch brown to hand. My joy is complete. I continue to fish for another hour or so, then reluctantly it’s time to move on. A few more small browns, three or four flies lost to tree limbs, but as good a day as a small stream angler could hope for.