What Makes Your Soul Burn?

Every soul needs to burn a little bit. In this year of wildfire I have seen people come together, offer help to their neighbor, and be kind to one another like no other. Wildfires are a burning reminder that nothing is permanent. Those stands of douglas fir and aspen that I hunt grouse in are just but a memory now. A good one at that. There isn’t much to hold onto for normality this year. No real winter to speak of. I moved from two jobs and graduate school to a refined one job work week. My wife and I were evacuated due to wildfire for 10 days, taking honeybees and pigeons with us. None of this could I say is normal. There is something about wildfire though that makes us gawk. We ooh and ahh at the miracle of nature, the power of God so fierce and beautiful to see it makes us feel so small. Every soul needs to burn a little bit, the mountain’s, mine, your’s.

I woke up yesterday and let the dogs outside. It hit me like a wave; autumn is coming. The first normal thing about this year…. Autumn is coming. This happens every year. Some transformation of inner feelings that turns me from a puddle of goo trying to crawl across a bunch of gravel without picking up too much dirt, back into a human being again. The mountains start to look different, taking my breath away with the same sights as before, only with more to offer on some unseen level. It is as if a fuse is burning at my heels and I can feel it, I can see it, I can smell it; pretty soon and I will enter the soul of the mountain once again.

Now, in autumn, I look at those mountains and I melt into them. I realize the beauty of them on a level that is remarkably inhuman. Hunting season is coming. I have a new pup and an old pup. One that doesn’t know if this will be his last season and one that doesn’t know what a season is. I know their blood flows about the same as mine, with that fiery burn, every time we hit the woods in pursuit of birds. The mountain gives me this opportunity. It opens up to bear all. It has surplus to share like a beehive’s honey. Much like a bee, she stings too. The sharp painful breath it takes to explore her most private places, the sharp painful smoke she makes as she burns years away of what makes room for regrowth. She stings when we miss and she stings when we hit. When you take something away from a mountain you better believe it takes something away from you. I’m not talking sweat and tears or blood. I am talking about the part of your soul that has overgrown, it has turned into congestion. Old shit that can’t do what it needs to, it has to die. Regrowth ensues. Fresh soul building, new beginnings, resilience.

There is no future without at least some burning. So the question is; what makes your soul burn?

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The Weight of Mitral Valve Insufficiency

It may be hard to watch, but it is worthwhile. A heartfelt story of a man and his gun dog

Humour can’t make it’s way into this one, I tried. A few opening lines with a pun so ill fit for the topic I am about to discuss it made me take a step back. This. Sucks.

Before I got my dog Fiddle I was pretty damn impenetrable to life’s sucker punches. My biggest concerns were my current love and fly fishing. I had just graduated college and the world owed me for that. Fast forward seven years of moving to Colorado, working multiple jobs, going through heartache, quitting smoking, marriage, loss of friends, loss of family, my first archery elk harvest, my dog Fiddle’s first grouse point, my first truck, my first pigeon loft, fishing the San Juan, hunting with my uncle, my first dirt bike, pair of skis, backcountry skis, mountain bike, back to grad school, remote job, milestones, wood stove, health anxiety; ends up I being giardiasis… chronically…. for two years. Yep, the world doesn’t owe you donkey shit. Good.

Every turn I have taken since I was twenty three was made with my best friend by my side. A friend that wasn’t going to move away, cheat on me (except actually he does, he is quite the lover) or stab me in the back. My best friend who now had an eye infection after some long hunts through the woods for early grouse season here in Colorado. So I did what any decent friend would do and I took him to the vet. What was supposed to be, what life owed me and my young dog, was a small bottle of eye drops and a see ya later. And really, that is what I got. Only the eye drops didn’t work. So I went back to the vet. In an effort to kill two birds with one stone the vet and I opted for looking for a foreign body in the eye while under anesthesia for a teeth cleaning. I could get really long winded here, but basically in the end the vet discovered a heart murmur, which turns out to be Mitral Valve Insufficiency.

Mitral Valve Insufficiency is heart disease, yes, heart disease. A seven year old dog, probably top 1% in the country’s wide and ranging dog population as far as activity level, perfectly ideal weight, doesn’t smoke or drink, has fucking heart disease. No way of knowing why, could be genetics, could very well be a past bacterial infection (may be due to poor dental condition, clean those teeth folks!), who knows.

A note to self; Live your fucking life, you will die.

So what is Mitral Valve Insufficiency? Think of it this way, you have a floor pump to add air to your bike tire. There is a valve in there that lets air in when you pull up and then closes, allowing you to push the air into the tire. Now take that valve that closes and poke a hole in it. Every time you depress the rod of the pump, say 40% of the air that was supposed to go into the tire, now just leaks back into the inlet. This is Fiddle’s heart.

Directions and suggestion for longevity and best prognosis: Limit exercise and altitude

Ok, so this is the point where I pretty much phase out, eye’s blurred with what must be the strongest of salty tears and ears pretty much numb. No more hunting? He is so young – here I spent the past seven years worrying about dog thieves, cars, coyotes in heat, mountain lions, deadfall impaling him while jumping through the woods, car accidents, getting lost, snake bites.

Another note to self; You worry about the wrong things.

Prognisis; 1-2 years before exercise intolerance, 3 more of life. Now this is a guess, the specialist even said he doesn’t see this disease in a dog so young, normally they are 10-12 years of age, so maybe Fiddle’s outlook is a little better. Given this is with the recommended exercise and altitude ban (above 7k’ and mind you live right at 7k’ and hunt usually around 9k but did go for ptarmigan at around 12,000’ this year).

Now to me, one of the great, if not the greatest benefits of NOT being human is a lack of timely awareness. Fiddle does not know he has been given a prognosis at all, he knows that the echo he had to undergo was pretty much doggy waterboarding but he doesn’t know why that was done. In my opinion, and for my dog, I can think of nothing more selfish than to ask him to hang around, pent up with the energy of a prime hunting dog just so I can have extra time with him. I was told by the specialist’s assistant that these recommendations are just for longevity and that he is my dog and if hunting is what being a dog is to him and that is what makes him happiest, it is my decision at the end of the day, just be ready, she said “he may drop dead in the field.” A fate so lucky, I believe. Here again reflection on human life, let us make our loved ones suffer so that we may visit them next Christmas!

This disease may progress to the point where just driving up the local mountain passes will make his lips turn blue and may cause him to die. I don’t want that, God I don’t want that!

Let us be honest, the prognosis isn’t the end of the world, in fact, for a dog it really is great as far as bad news can go. He is my first dog though and your first love is the deepest, she was right about that you know.

Fiddle doesn’t know this yet, but we have a fun quail hunt planned for Thanksgiving week. We have only ever hunted grouse aside from one or two pheasant outings so this is exciting! The temperatures should be mild and the altitude closer to 5-6k, both things that will help.

It feels good to be alive. It feels good to know that my dog is and was able to hunt grouse during good times, when birds are bountiful. Before spruce beetle kills hit my backyard (like next year) and affect populations as well as the climate change that drives it. It feels good to know that we die. I shoot an elk with a stick and it succumbs in 5-10 seconds to the other side, a 500+lb animal, this makes me realize how mortal we are in that moment (much more fragile mind you than an elk). Fiddle and I are hunters, we see death. Though I see it from a higher perspective, we all experience it. He just doesn’t see it coming like humans do. Good for him. May he drop dead with a fresh bird in his mouth. Life does owe him that much.

I have never carried a dead dog off of the road before.

On the way home from the vet (my vet is closer to me than the nearest grocery or gas station; 3 minutes) a dog on the back of someone’s flat bed fell off, their horse trailer proceeding to run it over. Gruesome but quick, the owners did not notice and continued driving. I just missed the visual on this by about ten seconds but consoled the woman who did. I called the number on the collar and carried the warm dog off on to the side of the road like a sack of potatoes, every bone crushed, an eye no longer in its place.

Life doesn’t owe you shit. But you know, that is OK. Life is pretty damn good, one thing that I can no longer imagine however, is life without a hunting dog.

I will enjoy every second I have with Fiddle from now until the day he dies with that bird in his mouth (perhaps even 7 years from now), and much more with this news. Every sip of time I have with him is full of gratitude and appreciation, and for that, I am very grateful.
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Marriage and Someone to Hunt For

My next post was going to be a how to DIY on euro mounting. Unfortunately my GoPro cut out on my video, so I’ll have to wait until next time I score some nice antlers. Really this might be a bad introduction into a post on “why I decided to get married” but it isn’t my forte to discuss these things publicly, and besides, this is a hunting blog. If I get flack, that will be my excuse. Anyhow, Maslow would back me up on the whole hierarchy of needs thing. I’m pretty sure I saw him yesterday by the way, even had a great conversation. I was at a bar though… who knows.

I hunt and fish, hike, ski, train dogs, etc. for a lot of reasons. Spirituality is among the higher of those. I don’t have much desire to dissect something so sacred as engagement, but I feel it is important to those out there that might be going through the motions unwary or perhaps, like me, not thinking they believed in marriage until one day when they did. Maybe it causes an identity crisis, but probably not, after all decisions are made post-realization… hopefully.

Who do you hunt for? Who do you fish for? Oh, let me address this in modern terminology; Who do you make a living for? Unfortunately, as selfish as we would like to think we are, it is for our family as much as it is for ourselves. Taking that week off of work to hunt instead of taking it off to go to Hawaii with your wife and children makes sense, period. No, unfortunately we are not being selfish. We are simply being human. What is more important? Sure we can buy a half a cow and call it good, and maybe you find satisfaction in that. I however, believe that it is necessary for us to play our natural roles in order to get fulfillment out of life. That includes having a reason to hunt: family.

When it comes down to it. We are a product of convenience and modernization. We have the privilege of finding the strongest person we can to live out our natural live’s. American’s (speaking from only what I know) concern themselves with a lot of extra filler material, packaging peanuts if you will. Does one peanut make a difference? I hate packaging peanuts. What I want is the human, I want that human to be strong, I want it to be packed without those god forsaken peanuts, void of superficial padding. I also want someone who is worth hunting for. That is why, on May 24th, 2014; I will be marrying the love of my life, Emma.

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Why We Hunt

I could just as easily ask why we have sex, why we eat and why we drink. Can you explain the sensation of lust, hunger or thirst? Why bother trying when we all know such feelings from our own experiences. Some of us still hold onto our arguably more distant instincts and cravings, those for hunting and those for gardening. This essay is much less about why we hunt and much more about why we love it.

Hunting brings out the human in the modern being. It, much like fishing, absolves stress and turmoil by putting our feet back on the ground. My seasonal job at the fish hatchery has come to its end just two days before archery elk season opened. My summer has been filled with more of life’s sticks and stones than general, I have been rolling around in the bottom of a metaphoric valley, time to climb some mountains! This morning I ventured out for a quick warm-up, and that it was. With temperatures soaring into the mid 80’s in town, the elk woods were warm enough to make you feel like you were hunting out of season. Regardless of the fact that the elk were probably already pushed out of close proximity to roads, I still had a taste of rejuvenation. I’v got my life back. The best part is that grouse and fall turkey open tomorrow, and I only have six days of work this month. Don’t worry, I worked my American butt off for it.

So why do we love hunting? Well I’m not sure about the rest of us hunters, but for me it’s about being thrown out of all the good, bad and ugly of the working class and back into the purity of my spirit. I can bathe in my thoughts at camp and I can forget them while working the woods. Most importantly, I get to through myself into loneliness. While it might seem, at the time, like a boring proposition; loneliness lies at the core of “No pain, No gain.” The mechanics of solitude’s healing properties must be experienced individually, because I honestly cannot explain how it works in my own words.

If and when success swings my way during the season, meaning and backbone are applied to efforts of otherwise foolishness. It is the hunt I enjoy, but when I can give it a purpose other than the solitude, it gives me a job to preform which balances out those lonely thoughts and maintains sanity. When I get to enjoy a wild meal, it makes me human.

In a glimpse, this is why I love hunting, why other hunters might love hunting, and why it has given me enough energy to start writing in this blog again!

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The Human Obsession with Guns

A Browning Buck Mark Pistol with Rosewood Grips, Sight Rail and Red Dot

The Browning Buck Mark .22LR Pistol. This is maybe one of the most fun, accurate and relatively cheap guns to feed. I enjoy shooting tin cans and clays from 75-100 yards with this. Unfortunately, .22LR ammo is in quiet ridiculous demand right now; sky rocketing prices and general unavailability have kept it in it’s case.

Obsession with guns; A debate on gun control, this is not. To state a point that both sides should consider; maybe.

An obsession with guns; an appropriate topic for the current political scene with gun control; Why are men (or women for that matter) obsessed with guns? The focus so far has been on other aspects of gun ownership, but sometimes we need to look at the heart of it all. What drives men to lust over guns, why do we have more than one (it isn’t an uncommon question), and why do we feel so strongly about our rights as gun owners?

As for guns and why people like them so much, I believe the answer lies in the human curiosity. A gun works with no electricity and can work with no petroleum products, it is a marvel of human ingenuity and a tool that is obviously unrivaled even in today’s technological world. A gun will survive an EMP and doesn’t require batteries that might die. A gun is reliable and works on only a few, perfectly machined parts. With a gun, you can reach out and touch something or catch something that is as far away as the eye can see or as fast as a cheetah. A gun enables the human to escape our natural capacities. A gun also incorporates fire, an obvious and innate obsession in most young men. Guns, like fire, touch our instinct. Furthermore, a gun can provide game and protection from those wanting to steal the life essence that game provides.

As men have been the stereotypical machine enthusiasts, guns suffer no separation. Those of us men and women that are blessed with a passion for mechanics might be able to apply an ethical background to their tastes, but this contains limits. We can often rationalize our actions, but sometimes we need to confront ourselves with personal questions in honesty. I personally own no assault weapons, but as my friend Bob says; “There’s no disputing in matters of taste” I also don’t care for monster trucks or jeeps that look like a highway nightmare, but that gives me no right to tell them it is against the law. True, as an environmentalist, I feel as though gas hogging tanks are taking up more than their share of a footprint, but who is the real criminal? For the answer we would have to look at the source of our environmental issues, and those are far and wide in complexity.

The same goes for us gun-crazed enthusiasts, deemed by holier than thou as “fanatic believers in a fantasy nazi takeover.” Don’t you see? All of this debate, ongoing since the birth of democracy, breeds judgement, belief (not to be confused with fact), defense, teams, sides, and separation. The point that is being missed, is the fact that all Americans are suffering from injustices that are shadowed by the media hype and the rhetoric of the debate. Gun control will do as much to piss people off as banning ATV’s and have an equally unsatisfying result at curbing gun violence in america that banning those quads will do for the environment. Let us not forget, that the ATV is an example, your shopping bags full of petrochemical products, organic foods, video games, Apple products, and your dream homestead on the mountain side are all subject to the same demonization as any other interest. Hindsight is 20-20, I hope you leave yourself room to be wrong, because most of us are.

In conclusion, I ask all of you readers, to seriously ask yourselves what makes you happiest in life. What activities make you feel fulfilled. Try to make the connection with instinct and the human animal background. Most of us reach fulfillment at a very basic level. When someone’s lifestyle conflicts with yours; search for a commonality. We are all human, and we all share the same level of desire and feelings of fulfillment, only reaching that ends by a different means. You know what else? In general, people love each other, it is a superficial separation in interests that brings out the artificial killer within. Killing, is the last thing on just about anyone’s agenda. Unfortunately, those who have killed the most, were the strongest manipulators and polarizers of society in the history of human existence. Remember to have tolerance for others and hope that they have tolerance for you. If you really want to fight evil, the best way to do it is with love and compassion, not debate and separation. At a certain point, there is no more gasoline you can through on a burning home, the only influence that can change the matter is putting out the fire and rebuilding what was damaged.

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Poor Riches – Pigeons, Taxes and Spring Fever

Dogs at Falls Creek, Durango, Colorado

The dogs posing at Falls Creek in Durango Colorado

Ok so this post is a day late, but the weekend has been blessed with powder on the slopes and taxes, both of which had to be addressed as a priority. Cabin fever and tax season, when combined with the ammo shortage and inability to find .22LR to plink around with, might make you wonder if the world really is coming to an end. If it were going to happen today, the whiteout snow conditions outside my window would surely contribute to the ambiance of the event.

Snow in Durango Colorado Town

Durango and our ski resort – Durango Mountain Resort – have been blessed by 3 consecutive days of snow. I hit sections of powder today that came well above my knees.

If my pigeons share even the remote skill-set that a groundhog has at predictions, the world is not ending, yet, and spring is just around the corner, believe it or not. I found two clutches of eggs the other morning when cleaning the loft. Last year, if I remember correctly, mid February was the timing of first lay, these birdies like to talk bees! Unfortunately I was not prepared and with no nesting bowls provided, the eggs were not worth the birds effort so I took them away and outfitted my pigeons with nesting bowls.

When you are raising pigeons, having an idea of who is a female and who is a male can be of importance. While many breeds display visual phenotypic differences between male and female, behavior is the best determining factor for most pigeons. Now that I have a nifty GoPro, I can really get a good look at what goes on in the loft so that I can make better management decisions.

I won’t lie, after filing three Schedule C’s, an 8829, a 1040, a Schedule SE, and a 6198, I am a little brain fried. So I am going to make this a shorter post, enjoy the video and give pigeons a chance, they are pretty funny to watch.

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San Juan River Report and Some Other News

Rainbow trout san juan river  nymphing

A nice Rainbow caught close to Navajo Dam

The San Juan was fishing excellent as usual on Saturday. I Continue to notice more people dry fly fishing, which used to be my diversion from the crowds on the Juan. On the other side, I myself have been trying my hand out at nymphing for a change. People will tell you all kinds of things about nymphing and technique, but my experience has been that it doesn’t matter what setup you use if you don’t have the right pattern. Finding the right pattern doesn’t mean picking up a few small fish here and there; it means consistently hooking large, intelligent fish. I’m starting to feel like I am getting my feet back on the ground with this one. Every river is different though and tomorrow will be a frustrating day on the Animas river. The agenda for monday is xc-ski/skijorn with my dog, long distance .22 LR handgun target shooting, finish making mozzarella, and nymph fish the Animas River Golden Water Section. Just thinking about it makes me want to go to sleep, so I’ll make this entry short and end it with a photo and some news.

Tight lines on the San Juan
Tight Lines

Tight Lines!

Rainbow in action
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We all live and die, coming into those states of being at some random point along a ridge of happiness or a trough of turmoil. I welcome those down times; bring it on. We should all welcome the inevitable, it makes it more easy to bare. Unfortunately, I all too often treat the up times with shyness, do not take the pleasant points in life lightly, enjoy every miracle of happiness.

Redeeming yourself is the best example of the miracle of happiness. It highlights the fact that just prior to the achievement, was a setback. We have all heard, “if at first you don’t succeed, try again.” My generation would be best to follow, “If you never succeed, keep trying”. I just got a new job, two interviews and a promising lead at a fish hatchery. It only took twenty months and thirty plus job applications. I have to admit though, fixing clocks is the best job I have ever had. I will continue to work on clocks for the rest of my life, hopefully in combination with doing something in my field of ecology and field biology.

With more consistency and predictability, fish are available for catching, even if a job isn’t. If you aren’t catching them and someone else is, it is your fault. If you don’t get a job and someone else does, screw it. To be honest, fish are much, much more important. So much so that fishermen existed before it was a job. That means fishing, for some of us, is our ultimate connection with reality, even if we let some fish go. Perverse? Maybe, but I would argue that the drive to obtain a well paying, full time job is more so.

As a “jack of all trades” I find fly fishing and hunting keep my interest and enthusiasm for two reasons. One, they have unmet challenges, always. Two, it is an instinctually spiritual desire, fulfilled by no amount of beer, entertainment, or superficial achievement. Since I moved out West, I have adopted more of a purist fly fishing mentality, nymphing only when there is no other option. I have never encountered much need, if fish are not rising, a streamer can often get the job done.

And so it was, for the past twenty months I fished, using nymphs only when I had to. It is worth noting that these nymph fly patterns were shunned away to the most crude fly box and difficult location to reach within my fishing vest. It goes without saying that when presented with a new area, my nymphs from back East are not the creme de le creme of patterns for out West. Sure, I’d pick up a fish here and there. Unfortunately, to really get into them and feel like you matched the underwater hatch was not a priority, and therefore never happened. That is, until I put some effort into it.

For the first time in years, since I was on the Davidson River out of Brevard, NC in the Pisgah National forest; I enjoyed nymph fishing. For the first time ever; I was catching big, wild fish, on a big nymph. The San Juan river has some interesting insect life, its silty banks and backwaters hold species adapted to low oxygen and still water environments such as blood midges, annelids, and leeches.

Friday, January 26th, 2013 was an interesting day. Where I was, in the high desert of New Mexico, and an hours drive away from Durango, it was raining like seattle. Where my girlfriend was, in the high alpine of Colorado, a half hours drive away from Durango, it was dumping snow. Navajo Lake was turning over, resulting in more turbid water in the river below the dam. My goal was to hit the river and get some redemption from the previous weekend, where I lost most of my big fish. I was also hoping that the rainy weather would scare off the usual crowd, and the snow would excite all the die hard skiers, which I have come to realize, I am not. While there weren’t nearly as many people that normally show on a Saturday, there were still more than expected. My day was filled with some amazing fishing, and at Baetis Bend I had the river to myself. Though fish were rising to midges and the odd baetis, I mostly fished nymphs, though I gave in to a few nice sized rising trout with some success; the relentless rain really made it difficult to fish with size #22 and smaller dry flies. Which is good, because I was there to learn how to nymph this river.

I have noticed more fisherman in pursuit of the rising trout on the San Juan, I hope that my boasting about dry fly fishing there hasn’t caused that, I’ll write that idea off as a crazy and vain statement. Regardless, I caught some nice fish on leeches and midge larva. A couple, well worth redemption.

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Roosters for a Pigeon

Cleaned and plucked rooster

A Finished Rooster!

Even birds agree; they are for eating. It must be a simple life, born into a world where your purpose is determined before you are an egg. I’m not talking about religion or faith here, I am talking about chickens (and other birds).

With the temperatures dipping well below zero (-15F) for a while, I haven’t gotten out to clean the loft in more than a week. When pigeon poop freezes to plywood, you can forget it! I have recently picked up an additional job, which has been eating into my DIY projects, but nonetheless I push forward with my outlandish backyard excursions. Anyways, the farmer I get raw milk from (yep… thats also legal in Colorado!) had some roosters that needed to be reborn as hens, to me, this means free meat.

Thursday morning, the quintet of singing roosters arrived with my milk delivery. I already had my work cut out for me when my shift at the clock shop was done. Humans are most efficient when we have multiple top priorities. I borrowed a few necessities from my boss, Bob, including a propane tank and a meat cleaver (which I was warned by Bob was too light to get the job done).

Time for the show! Rolling up into the driveway I unloaded the goods and began my work. I cleaned the pigeon loft, and as usual, let the birds fly around outside while I did the deed. There is something you should probably know about pigeons and hawks in my area.

In the summer time, most of the pigeon eating birds of prey live higher in elevation. That is why I can get away with training dogs using homing pigeons here in the warmer months. The grounds I use to train on close once winter starts showing its teeth. The parks and wildlife division do this for migrating animals, from deer and elk to falcons. Last winter, we had osprey and bald eagles make their winter home along the river here in town. I wasn’t letting my pigeons fly then because they weren’t trained yet and would likely fly away. We have red tailed hawks year round in town, but they don’t seem to bother with pigeons. I have even released pigeons around gliding red tails with no issues.

With the roosters outside of my garage and the pigeon loft clean, my attention turned towards the greater task of beheading, scalding, plucking and gutting the roosters. While preparing a few things inside, I heard buckawking and other general sounds of bird panic. When I got outside, fifteen feet away from me was a hawk – pigeon in grasp. I only got a look at its tail and have narrowed the species down to just a few: coopers, sharp shinned or goshawk. My money is on coopers or sharp shinned.

When the hawk saw me and flew away, I was worried my best pigeon had been falcon chicken. Fortunately for me, the feathers were either those of my best pigeon, or those of my worst. so I had a 50/50 chance. In nature, it is survival of the fittest, and the weakest of a pack is usually lost to predators. This helps maintain healthy animal herds, etc, etc, etc. I think it was not a coincidence then, that the pigeon I was planning on culling this spring, was the one that met its fate by falcon.

A coincidence indeed, however, is the chosen kill spot; right next to my chicken chop-block. It might seem off balance to find spirituality in killing things, but if you are taking it in context of the full circle, it makes the most since. With death we find life. The lessons? Chickens are definitely for eating… a simple life? Yes. A Simple death? Hopefully you have a heavier meat cleaver.

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Hermosa Creek Trail

Hermosa creek trail behind durango mountain resort and purgatory

Getting ready for the long day in Hermosa Creek

One of the reasons I was so amped about getting a mountain bike was the fishing opportunities it would open up. Last summer, my girlfriend and I joined a friend on a big day of mountain biking. Even though it was a tough twenty-three mile day, I took my fly rod anyway.

There is a trailhead at the northern terminus of The Hermosa Creek Trail outside of Durango, Colorado, where the river is not much more than a high meadow trickle filled with reintroduced greenback’s. At this point, the elevation is near 10,500 ft and the access is really good, so hitting the trail is a necessity to get away from other outdoorsmen and wannabe’s.

hermosa creek fly fishing trail head

The beginning of my journey into backcountry trout territory

The first eight or so miles of trail follow the river pretty closely, and anything after the first mile holds a decent amount of brook trout. After those first eight miles, the trail goes uphill and away from the river until it comes down after about six miles later, where you can take another side trail to access the water without going too far out of the way. From there, it is up hill to the southern terminus of the trail. There is a lot of up and down terrain, especially after the first six to eight miles from the northern trailhead. This trip ended up being mostly a biking trip, filled with your typical blood, sweat, dirt, and summertime heat. The best opportunity for fishing is really in the more mellow northern eight miles, so this summer I plan to bike in four or five and fish all day, then bike out to the same trailhead instead of doing a shuttle run and tackling twenty three miles of ass kicking rocky grades.

Hermosa creek trail north

Hermosa Creek Trail as it follows the creek just south of the northern trailhead, notice it looks like an ATV accessible trail, but it turns into singletrack pretty early on

The hardest sections of river to access intrigue me, I bet there are some amazing fish in there. Unfortunately for me, I like to draw the line somewhere between crazy and insane. The best way to access the river at the southbound thirteenth mile would be to hike along the streambank for five miles. You can bet on one mile an hour, and can’t count on a good campsite, so a bivy or hammock would be the best shelter, which you will need.

Once you get to the water, expect super spooky fish that will take any well presented stimulator or parachute adams. I have only caught brookies in the six to twelve inch range. Unless you are camping or planning a streamside lunch, don’t keep any. Also, if you are lucky enough to catch any greenbacks in this section, you cannot legally or morally keep these, in fact, you aren’t even supposed to take them out of the water for the quickest photo. For up to date regulations in this stream section (greenback restoration work is fairly continuous in the hermosa drainage) check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife fishing brochure for special stream regulations.

Hermosa creek broot trout mountain biking backcountry

Hermosa Creek Brook Trout

I got my line wet on three different occasions on this biking trip along the Hermosa Creek trail. Each time catching a fish or two in each pool on dry flies. When I lived in North Carolina I dreamed of places like this, they are common here in Colorado but the lesser known areas require an amount of time and effort to find. The Hermosa creek area is pretty well know, but when you get five miles in, you can have a hayday of fun without seeing many, if any, other fisherman. The best times to fish are going to be after the spring runoff and outside of monsoon season. Because of the variation in timing with these events, it is best to watch the weather and call the local fly shops in the Durango, Colorado area. Late autumn can be amazing, but wear hunters orange. Be prepared for anything, and have enough with you so that an unexpected overnighter is just an uncomfortable situation and not a killer one, don’t be fooled by daytime temperatures in the lower nineties, this is high alpine desert and it gets cold at night all year long.

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