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Chicago Lakes Trip, Colorado


On Friday the 20th we got up around 7:00 AM and gathered our gear. We put on our packs and went down to car to begin the trip. After a greasy fastfood breakfast we were on the road to the trailhead at 9:00 AM. We arrived at the trailhead and got geared up. Step off was at about 10:03 AM in perfect weather.

Chicago Lakes

Distance: 5 miles (10 miles round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate
Month Hiked: July
Garmin GPS File: Chicago_Lakes.GPX


The trailhead is located where the 103 and the 5 meet next to Echo Lake. There is a small parking lot on your left just after you turn onto the 5 where we parked (before the toll gate for the park).

Our Trip:

The trail was exceptionally beautiful with wildflowers, old trees, and lush vegetation. The first part of the trail starts with a downhill section (uphill on the way back!). The hike wasn't too bad until the end of the trail when you ascend to the upper lake, but that part is at least short.

The landscape made camp sites scarce at the upper lake and even more so at the lower lake, but we were able to find a nice spot to pitch the tent (at the upper lake). The tent was put somewhere with higher points around us incase of lightning. Sporadic raindrops started to fall when we arrived and got more pronounced after we had the tent setup. Because of the rain I didn't rig up and fish the first day and I didn't see any evidence of fish anyway. I was concerned that the fishing might not be as good as I had hoped.

After locating a safe spot for food storage and all that stuff we made dinner (with veggies we dehydrated). It turned out well, but more soup variety would have been nice and potatoes do not rehydrate fast enough to be useful - they take way to long to soak and way too much fuel to cook. Carrots, peas, green beans, and corn will be what I'll add from now on. After dinner we got into the tent and went to sleep. The next morning we made breakfast (oatmeal with dehydrated strawberries, apples, and bananas). It was great except for the bananas. I just don't like the taste of dehydrated bananas I guess. Then it was time to fish. I went down to the water to see if I could find any fish and sure enough there were some HUGE trout cruising back and forth about 10-20 ft out from shore.

I rigged up with an olive wooly bugger and went to throw in some casts at around 9:00 AM. They seemed to take and interest in the fly so when I saw a group of large trout I made a cast. The fly hit the water and sank about 6 inches below the water and I started to slowly retrieve it. I saw a huge fish coming in to investigate. As it got closer the anticipation rose and my heart raced as I watched his mouth open and then close around my fly like it was in slow motion. I pulled back to set the hook and SNAP! Ahh! I don't think I've ever set on a fish that big so I'm not used to the fish being so heavy and strong. I saw him flailing around trying to get the hook out of its mouth and I cursed myself for setting too hard.

I switched up to a small parachute with a tail zebra midge and continued fishing. I had a take, but now I was so paranoid of snapping my line that I didn't set hard or fast enough and the fish was gone. A couple times I saw a fish flailing around in the water by the shore and I wondered if it was the fish I hooked trying to get the fly out of its mouth. I switched up my flies regularly, but didn't get action and then one of the other members of our group arrived around 11:00 AM. We set up his tent and ate some lunch before heading back down to fish.

We fished for a couple more hours that morning/afternoon. My buddy ended up catching a nice trout closer to the far end of the lake. When he went the release the fish though, it swam a foot or two and then started to go belly up at the bottom. The fight had taken a toll on the fish. Neither of us wants to be responsible for killing a fish for no reason. It had sunk down under a large rock and was kind of trapped. There was no way to get to it without getting wet. I got down to my underwear and went in. In case you we were wondering, it was very very cold. After a lot of finagling and getting waist deep in the lake I was able to use my fishing rod to pull/push the fish to a place where I could net him. When I brought the net down to get him he took off and dove down deep into the lake. I guess he just needed to get out of his trap.

I didn't get any more action and was a little disappointed in myself for missing that big fish, but it started to rain so we headed back to camp. It rained heavily and the lightning was raging. There were almost constant lightning strikes hitting the rim of the bowl all around us. By far the most intense electrical event that I have ever seen. It was very loud and exciting in a scary kind of way. After an hour or so it calmed down and we were able to get out of the tents and walk around without too much anxiety.

Shortly after the storm had passed another member of our party arrived. We did the meet and greet, but then it was time to fish some more. I still got nothing and gave up before the other angler in our group. Later that night I was prepping dinner when I saw this fish close to the surface. It looked like it was taking bugs off the surface from where I was. I couldn't resist and headed down with my rod.

When I got closer I realized that the fish was struggling. It was belly up and only occasionally would give a lethargic couple flops and then stop would moving again. I pulled it over with my rod and scooped up the massive fish in the net (planning on eating it rather than letting it die and go to waste). When I got it to a rock I could stand on I examined the fish. I opened its mouth and there it was. My fly... I don't like to lose fish, so I always try to use proper release procedures and I try to return the fish as soon as possible. That being said, after the disappointment all day, I kind of lost it. I couldn't believe it and while I would've have released him if I had been able to bring him in originally, I was still ecstatic to have re-claimed the one that got away... He made an excellent dinner for all of us.

One thing to note about the fishing here is that the fish seem to be very susceptible to the stress of being caught compared to any other place I've fished.

The views were incredible and the trip was a blast. We ate dinner, put our food away, and got into our bags. The next morning we broke camp and enjoyed the morning sun before heading back down the mountain. All in all it was a great trip.

Take care,

July 24th, 2012

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Please contribute, share your story or comments with us!
It was a great time. Definitely a place to visit again.
name: bigwhitefish.com July 31st, 2012 @ 07:01:05 PM Flag
Sounds like a good time and good eating.
name: anonymous July 27th, 2012 @ 09:14:09 PM Flag

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