Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dawn at Eleven Mile Camp Colorado

10 X 8 Oil on Canvas board $125
Includes shipping and insurance in US

One of the best places to camp and fish in Colorado has to be Eleven Mile Campground on Eleven Mile Lake on the South Platte River. We were there last week and I have just now found a "hot spot" where I can use my lap-top and post this painting.

Up-river from Eleven Mile Lake is Spinney Lake – a brilliant trophy fish lake full of several species of trout, salmon and Northern Pike. Between the two lakes is a section of the Platte River that you can only fish “catch and release”. They call this area the “Dream Stream” where anglers can hook and hopefully catch the largest rainbow trout of their life. And then turn it lose.

I am late at learning to fly fish and it was in the “Dream Stream” three summers ago that I caught a “monster” rainbow. At least it was to me. Mike and I had been “practice catching” little brookies and rainbows in the Rio Grande and stocked, ranch-raised rainbows in assorted small lakes, streams and rivers around southern Colorado. We had heard of this section of the Platte and decided to journey there and give it a try. Had I known it would end up a journey to the end of the world, we might have not undertaken the trip, but ignorance really is bliss and off we went…with Georgia in tow – always ready for a new adventure and opportunities to chase fresh chipmunks.

The trip to Spinney Lake encompassed following a slowly degenerating dirt road across a flat, high mountain meadow that ended at a Ranger hut where a fresh faced Colorado Ranger checked the date our state park admission sticker and welcomed us. The “park” consisted of a 5000 acre, high mountain lake with a rock and boulder shoreline, no trees and an off-limits to fishing dam topped by a single lane dirt road that we had to cross to get to the road that led down to the South Platte River below.

While crossing the 300 foot high structure, I looked left to the winding Platte River below and saw a number of vehicles in a designated parking area about 500 yards down river from the dam. I also spied anglers who had strategically positioned themselves along the curves in the river for at least a mile, both wading and on shore, flipping their rods and trying to convince the finny monsters that lurked in the crystal cold water that THEIR fly was the one they wanted.

We were new at this, you remember – with all shiny new equipment – waders, vests, catch nets, assorted flies and of course the rods and reels. The sales clerk at Cabellas made a payment on his new car the day after we left the store.

Mike volunteered to stay with the dog and allowed me to join the all male fishing throng and make a fool of myself alone in front of all those experienced anglers. Not wanting to call attention to myself, I first assessed the depth and speed of the water and decided that the swift flow was a bit intimidating and determined to stay close to shore. I assembled my fly rod, tied on a fly that looked tasty (hey, I’m part Cajun – we know these things instinctively), and looked for a place nearby where few people would see me. Picking the closest unoccupied bend in the river, I waded about 2 feet into the water, pulled some line from the reel and flicked the fly upriver, watching it drift quickly back toward me. OK – I didn’t hook my ear or a weed. Good start. Lifting the line and remembering to pause on the back hand and stop at 11:00 on the forehand, I again neatly placed the fly upriver. On the third cast I was feeling pretty good – I had not fallen down in the water or tangled the line or looked stupid – when BANG – a fish hit the fly and took off across the stream, feeling like a whale on the end of that teeny tiny thin fishing line. “WHOOHOO”, I shouted like a girl. “I GOT one!!!”

I stripped the line in, instead of using the reel, and quickly found out how difficult it is to land a large fish on a fly rod. Mike came running with the camera (and my catch net, which in my hasty enthusiasm, I had forgotten to bring along).

Evidently the trout was not aware that he would be released as soon as I could extricate the hook, because every time I got him within netting distance, he turned and took off across the river. Mike stood by with my net, and after what seemed like an eternity, managed to sweep up the exhausted rainbow. The net has marked measurements along its center seam and we determined “my” fish to be at least 18 inches long, which we now know is NOT particularly large. But he was my first BIG trout and he fought like a warrior.

After removing the hook and quickly photographing him, I gently returned him to the river and saw him swim off slowly. I fished another hour and did not get another bite, nor did I see any other angler catch a fish (did I mention they were all male?). Call it beginner’s luck, if you want, but it hooked me on fly fishing, and I continue to practice and learn the technique and look for a chance to feel that thrill again when a “monster fish” rises to the fly and takes off for the depths. And the places we get to go looking for that experience aren’t half bad either!

This painting is a scene behind the campground at Eleven Mile Camp. One morning Georgia took off after a squirrel and I remembered to grab my camera before I took off after her. I got some of the best early morning images of the trip…thanks, Georgia!

If you want this painting, please e-mail me or purchase it through Pay-Pal at and I will get back to you as soon as possible. I am on the road with limited computer service but I will be home in less than 2 weeks. Please be patient!

Ezekiel 1:28
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

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1 comment:

wwrcreations said...

Love your work...just discovered you. I am a fellow artist. Lovely light and dark values!
I am a horse nut too. Often find myself "painting another horse". They say; paint what you love and what interests you!
You are a great inspiration!