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In the Rocky Mountain West, prime time for trout also tends to be prime time for fires. Or perhaps more accurately, prime time coverage by our sensationalistic media. Yes, some parts of the region haven’t fully recovered from protracted drought, but most fisheries are in good to excellent shape. Yes, there are fire-related inconveniences in some places, but for guys waving graphite sticks, lightning is a much greater danger.

It’s a shame when our insatiable media fan the flames, and good fisheries go untouched because of perceptions that the whole area is risky. Case in point: Colorado during the 138,000-acre Hayman Fire in 2002. Yes, this made the South Platte unfishable for a while in places, but fishermen stopped coming to Colorado altogether, and the flyfishing infrastructure was seriously (in some cases permanently) hurt.

I say all this because even as we speak (according to television), all of Utah is burning from a fire now twice as big as Hayman, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Utah’s finest gem, the Provo River, would be affected. Not at all, that fire’s a hundred miles south in the desert! says an exasperated David Larson, owner of Provo River Outfitters. OLN just filmed the Fly Fishing Masters Tournament here last weekend, the first time all six sessions were filmed at one venue, with completely wild fish browns, rainbows and cutthroats. When you see the show (scheduled for August 8), you’ll see for yourself how lush and green it is here now no fires and no vulnerability to fire. Larson’s operation is the classiest on the Provo, with 20 years of experience and access to the choicest private waters in the area, including unknown local streams.

New Mexico was all set for a fabulous new flyfishing lodge to open this season at Val Kilmer’s huge ranch on the Pecos River, portions of which were up for sale last year. You’ll remember the report on this place by subscriber Alan Pinto, who fished the Kilmer Ranch through the Angling Report’s FREE Fishing Program in 2005 (see Article ID 1758). Arrangements to open the new lodge were all made and the fancy brochures printed up, Kilmer’s fishing consultants say, but in the end Kilmer changed his mind, apparently out of concern for intrusions on his privacy. Too bad, because his ranch is the cornerstone of this choice but limited stretch of prime cold water in the lower canyon of a very dry place (the upper canyon has public access but smaller fish). Day trips only a half-hour from Santa Fe are still possible even though the lodge concept is defunct for now. Contact guide Doc Thompson if you plan to be in the area. Recommended seasons are fall and spring, with summer conditions in this rugged juniper-pinyon canyon too hot, bright and unpredictable.

Turning to my sources in Colorado, the folks at Duranglers tell me that spring snows were very good to northern New Mexico and prime conditions should exist right on through the fall.

The same is true of the upper Rio Grande in Colorado, which looked frightfully dry in late winter but rebounded with spring storms. According to my buddy Ed Dentry, outdoor writer for The Rocky Mountain News, float-fishing through the Creede area over the 4th was extraordinary (you can check out his story at. The Arkansas and South Platte are in good shape, as are most all Front Range waters. Antero Reservoir on the upper South Platte, the state’s top trophy trout flat-water venue until drained and rebuilt five years ago, reopened this July; give it a year or two and five-pounders will again be routine.

In northwest Colorado, one of my all-time favorite places, Trappers Lake Lodge, adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area near Meeker, has reopened under new management. The old 1918 lodge burned down in 2002, but has since been rebuilt with modern amenities (and much better food than recent years) by two high-powered ladies from Los Angeles. My local TU chapter just went there and everybody averaged dozens of native Colorado River cutthroats in the 16- to 18-inch class in the pristine lake, second-largest natural impoundment in the state. It’s off the beaten path, but hard to top if you are looking for a rustic small-group or family experience.

The Trappers Lake area has another great virtue, that being the headwaters of the White River, a major tributary of the Green/Colorado. The White, in my estimation, is the finest river in Colorado that nobody’s ever heard of or visited. This is cowboy oil and gas country and the fly fishing infrastructure is spare (more on this in a later issue), but the fish are big and seldom see a waving fly rod. For an impressive taste, check out Karen Christopherson’s recent story about fishing the White at her web site. Locally we call Karen “the First Lady of Colorado Flyfishing.” In fact, her web site, covering by now just about every fishable stream in the state, is an invaluable resource in planning a self-guided trip.

One more note about Colorado before moving on. I have a new answer to the perennial question I get about the best stopover stream fishing near Denver not counting the Cheesman Canyon/Deckers area of the South Platte, still recovering from fire damage but as crowded as ever. That would be Clear Creek, a major tributary running more or less along the I-70 corridor from historic Georgetown down to Golden. Or more particularly, the four to five miles between Georgetown Reservoir and the Dumont exit, an hour west of downtown on the shoulders of the Divide. This stretch is perfect habitat and full of fish, including browns to four pounds (as I can personally attest). It’s mostly private, but Rocky Mountain Trout Hunters guides Bruce Ippel and Scott White have access to all of it.

If you’re thinking of Wyoming this summer, be aware that water conditions east of the Divide are generally good, but generally poor to the west. Once again, Karen Christopherson has done us all a great service with her other, an ideal resource for trip planning statewide with constantly updated information. If a visit to the Yellowstone area is a possibility, consider coming in from the east, through Cody, and plan to spend some time on the North Fork of the Shoshone, one of the West’s lesser-known great rivers. This area was the first of our national forests, and Teddy Roosevelt himself called the route along the river the most scenic 52 miles in the country. The fish here are big, averaging 15 to 16 inches, and include all four main species an ideal opportunity for a fly-fishing grand slam. Check out North Fork Anglers for opportunities on this and other lesser-known waters in the area, including the South Fork, the Greybull and the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone.

In Montana, the water situation statewide has taken a worrisome turn from hot July weather, with the state calling for voluntary restraint from 12 to 6 pm on several waters. On the western side, much of the Big Hole has been closed, the Firehole recently experienced a major fish kill and the Bitterroot is in trouble. The Big Blackfoot and Clark Fork are holding their own, but fishing can be tough on hot bright afternoons. Contact the Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop in Missoula for update details. Things are also tough in the Yellowstone basin, with voluntary closures on the lower Madison and popular smaller rivers like the Lamar and Slough Creek. The Gallatin and the Yellowstone proper are holding on well, but the situation could turn dire without some rain in the coming weeks. Don’t plan a major trip to these areas without checking first with Greater Yellowstone Flyfishers in Bozeman.

I was pleased to see Barbara Crown’s July report in these pages on fly fishing Chamberlain Creek in the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness Area of central Idaho, and at the same time, Timothy Egan’s The Last Wilderness in the July 1 travel section of the New York Times. Subscribers who have upgraded to Online Extra can search The Angling Report’s archives on Idaho free of charge and find three similar reports I wrote on this area quite a few years ago. Simply input my name in the Author search box. You’ll find three articles about fly-packing by small aircraft into the Big Creek, Loon Creek and Selway River drainages of this vast and untamed region. This area deserves to be on the life list of every serious fly fisher in shape enough to handle it. If you ever wanted to do the River of No Return, the weeks before and after Labor Day are the perfect time. Enjoy!

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