Collecting chips at Cheesman

We can haz packsI heed the call. A Yampa River trip has gone bust, and a young-ling is headed home distraught, dismayed…downright dejected. “I had a really bad day, and I need a good one,” he says. Ego is at play. And ego can cost you chips.

I can spin a simple fishing story into uncommon philosophical diatribe

I’m sitting at my desk, thinking of anything and everything but fly fishing. Numbers are in the midst of tumbling, plans are being made in writing, and the rain is pouring down, if momentarily, in Denver (as is always the case). It seems there is a lesson to be taught, one in dealing with adversity. Fly fishing, like every other fancy, is no more than a series of bets made, subsequent wins and losses, and a tally. Like chips in a bucket – some days you take some out and some days you put some in. The key to success is not kicking over your pail when things get rough – you’re out of chips immediately and the game ends. If you’re really good, the chips overflow early and often, yet you’ve also become wise enough along the way to double up when the going’s good and cut your losses early. You’ll never run out of chips that way.

Second cast of the dayThere is an unexplainable beauty to the idea of working hard to take trout, other than getting lots of chips. They are not easy to catch to begin with, which to me means they are simply not meant to be hooked. They are wild, and humans in general are not. Easy access means crowds. Crowds of humans are not only competition, but some are indiscriminately disrespectful. Trout deserve more, and the best way for them to get it is to remain out of easy reach. A hike is what my friend needs. And I need one too. The more the pain in the ass the better. Cheesman Canyon it is.

I do this hike several times a season, but alas I’ve been lax – it’s the first time in this year. Youngster Nate Taylor accumulates 150+ miles a week on his road bike; I walk a 10 year old collie dog around six blocks, twice a day, and generally crash my mountain bike every time I get on it. Sorry buster…you’re not going to catch me complaining about the fact I’m old enough to be Mr. Taylor’s great-grandfather. That would be a total cop-out. I’m just a twinge hungover.

Nate Taylor's private islandIt isn’t too much of a struggle getting in (getting out is another matter altogether), and we find completely sediment free water at the end of the trail. I’m hooked up on the second cast of the day, and then our battles with the pickiest fish in the land begin to feel a lot like the hike: up and down. There are fish everywhere and they know we are there. And so they taunt us. The aggressive move towards the fly, followed by rejection. Rinse, repeat. Change flies. Go straight to spin cycle. And don’t forget to cough up those chips.

Flashing a little redAs the day progressed I grew weary, standing for hours on solid granite, occasionally scrambling downstream when the fish called, and knowing we still had an arduous climb out ahead of us. The young one decided to do a little rock hopping, and after a few near misses (i.e. almost plummeting face first into the river) found himself perched on an island all his own. He picked pockets for brown trout while I drank the remaining stores of water, took a few photogs, and netted his catches.

Call it exploration of my lazier side.

Identify this bug for me

What kind of beetle is thisCheesman Canyon is a gorgeous place. Maybe one of the most beautiful trout habitats in Colorado. But the place suffered from the Hayman fire, and I’d hate to see it feel any more pain. While tromping around (read: being lazy) I came across plenty of these blue beetles. I’m not sure if they are the pine tree munching variety, but I’d sure like to know. Please identify if you can (click the pic for a bigger view), and I’ll give you a few of my chips.

The bucket is full

The hike out was no better than it’s ever been, which is to put it mildly…suck. By the time we reached the peak, Mr. Taylor was spending more time taking in the scenery than making forward progress, while I played catch up. If you climb 14ers for shits and giggles you are laughing. I do not climb 14ers for shits and giggles. Maybe I should – it would probably be good training for my next visit to Cheesman. My legs were trembling by the time we reached the car, a reminder that vodka tonics are bad bad bad I need to hit the treadmill harder. And although Nate also admitted that he’d be spending some time on his couch when we got back to Denver, we agreed we’d collected plenty of chips this day.

Smile.  You're on Cheesman Camera.

MG signing off (to wipe the smile off my face before someone mugs me for my chips)


Well said. Unfortunately, I have the IQ of a box of rocks and, more often than not, end up chasing my losses. Yeah, I’m an addict…and I have a problem.

The Canyon is still one of my favorite places – an old friend that welcomes you as the sun rises. But when it’s time to leave,
can be as harsh and unforgiving as the ex.

Nice fish, Mr. Gracie – this was a great primer for this weekend.

I wake up at 4 am says:

I will admit, you did get the largest of the day my friend.

@ CA – Thanks! And best wishes on the trip. Bring water…lots of water.

@Sleepless – All I know is…I’m sore from the hike. Really sore.

All this talk of chips is making me hungry.

corey says:

nice post. good to see you made it out alive. was pretty sure i was going to have to carry all 300+ lbs of you out of the canyon when we went last time.

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