Trophy Trout
by Paul Prentiss

So, what constitutes a trophy trout? Is it 20 inches or better? Big freestone rivers, spring creeks and giant tail waters produce an inordinate number of outsized trout in the Western US. But for every famous location there are hundreds or even thousands of small unheralded streams that have healthy populations of fish. Pick up any back country map and you'll find numerous possibilities. In most cases they hold fish.

That 20" trout from a well known tail water fishery may put up a great fight but it probably won't be any better than a beautiful 12-inch brook trout in a small mountain creek on a 2-weight outfit. This type of fishing is beautiful and challenging. Best of all, it is readily available to anyone. You don't have to drive for hours or brave the traffic jams on I-70 to enjoy such fishing.

Sound good doesn't it? Getting started is pretty easy -- all you need is a few topo maps that can be found at numerous locations and doing a little detective work. Use these maps to locate tributaries that feed major river systems or fill lakes. Put on your hiking gear, take along some basic fishing equipment and begin to explore. A lot of discoveries can be made by driving around country roads and checking out various possibilities.

Some years ago while driving in Routt National Forest I encountered a bridge crossing with a very small creek running through a culvert. Curious, I decided to hike along the Creek. After bushwhacking for a mile or so I encountered a valley with a series of beaver ponds filled with 12 to 14-inch Brook Trout. There was absolutely no evidence of others fishing the area! I found a spot within 20 miles of Boulder that offered great small stream fishing for brown trout which was ultimately lost to development 10 years ago.

For the most part, you'll find these spots on your own. You might get some help from others but this is the kind of information most fishermen just don't share and with good reason.

What kind of an outfit works best for this type of fishing? I'll tell you what I like to use. Small packable rods from 7 to 8-feet that handle 2 or 3-weight lines, short leaders of no more than 7.5-feet and a couple of spools of 6X to 5X tippet material. I carry my flies, rain gear, and lunch in one of those Camel Back hydration packs along with a pair of wading sandals. I'll take an extra high pair of neoprene socks made from old waders to wear with the sandals. I prefer zip-off cargo pants and long sleeved fishing shirts with plenty of pockets. Aside from personal items, that's about it.

I do most of this kind of fishing in the summer months when the big named locations on the Western Slope are elbow-to-elbow. I'm still fishing and enjoying my day while other anglers are trying to get through the Eisenhower Tunnel.