Headwaters & Homewaters: A new place comes calling, and it will be worth the risk of exploring
April 27, 2017
Another summer and fall of fishing is just around the corner, promising opportunities to re-visit favorite lakes and streams while also prowling around some new territory. I always fish the high alpine lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park, a few places in North Park west of Walden, and a certain stretch of the North Platte River in southern Wyoming. I'll never tire of any of those locales, and I'm happy to accept whatever conditions they deliver at any time of year.
But even as a creature of habit, in a pretty deep but enjoyable rut, the lure of something new is enticing. When I buy my new fishing license in early April, I always read the annual fishing brochure put out by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It's good to confirm current regulations as they may vary from year to year.
There are always some potential gems, some previously unknown-to-me waters to discover.
For instance, my brother and I often fish a stretch of the Colorado River in Grand County by the tiny town of Radium, on the Trough Road (CR 1) west of Kremmling. He'll fish a channel of big water on the Colorado River while I prowl up Sheephorn Creek, usually sighting and catching brown trout in the bottom several hundred yards of Sheephorn before it flows into the Colorado.
Through the years I'd never really thought about Sheephorn Creek's headwaters until I read the 2017 brochure and found, on page 15, a map with two tiny red lines shown emptying into upper Sheephorn: Three Licks Creek and Big Hole Creek. Those red lines signify a couple regulations, including one: All cutthroat trout must be released.
Those little creeks (in Eagle County just south of the Grand County line) descend from Piney Peak's 11,563-foot summit to about 9,000 feet where they flow into Sheephorn Creek meandering down to Radium/the Colorado River at 7,500 feet.
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The regulatory phrase "All cutthroat must be released" infers there are definitely cutthroat present and perhaps other trout to be found. Three Licks and Big Hole, you have enchanted me.
It could be a bust or the find of a lifetime. Exploring a new destination can be wonderful or a fool's errand thanks to bad access, over-use or contentious private-public land disputes.
It is a risk fully worth taking. Colorado offers a hundred lifetimes of tantalizing choices.
This summer, one of my choices will be the trifecta of Big Hole, Three Licks and Sheephorn.
Tom Adams is a retired educator living in Greeley and working as a fly-fishing guide in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park.