Hello friends and thanks for checking in at the O’Grady Fly Fishing Adventures. Before I go into our latest adventure, I need to explain why we were so excited about this particular trip. Eight or nine years ago, Cat was asked to be part of a wedding in Nucla, Colorado. I did not get to go with her, and when she got back all she could talk about was the beauty of the river she passed on her drive. As Cat went on and on about the scenery, the bug life, and all the awesome people she had met, I began to wonder if she had accidently driven through the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz. What she described sounded too good to be true, but she assured me that someday we would make it back and fish the river so I could see it for myself. Now a few years ago, by chance, I began following a guide out of Ridgeway and once a month or so he would post a pic of fish that were just enormous. Needless to say, I would drool and dream of one day fishing the area. With our Arkansas Tailwater having an off summer, Cat and I started thinking of places we could go and when we realized that our two fantasy rivers were so close to each other, there was no other option.
We headed out Sunday morning and made it into the Ridgeway area early in the afternoon. There was a storm building out to the west, but we got a chance to look at the San Juans. I had seen them once before many years ago and had forgotten how breath taking they were. Now I’m a SOCO guy and I love the Sangre de Christos, and it may be blasphemy, but the San Juans absolutely blow the Christos away when it comes to scenic beauty.
As we pulled into Paco-Chu-Pak state park, the rain began to come down. We got ready and started fishing. The stretch felt a little manufactured but still had a fishy feeling. The first hour or so was a struggle with Cat catching a couple of dinks. We eventually found a hole and while working it, we began to see little fish eating. Now these little fish initially looked to be of the variety where you can throw anything and they eat it, but very quickly we learned that these fish were smarter than they appeared. We changed weight, depth, flies, drifts and finally, whatever I did, worked and I got a 12 incher to the net. We figured that we now had it all figured out and we were wrong. We went back to changing up and finally I caught the fish of the trip. Not a Paco trophy, but a stout 18inch brown. We started working our way back up and that’s when the excitement of the trip came. Cat spotted the only real monster we saw the whole trip(a thirty plus inch brown), and just as her second drift went passed the fish, a little rainbow grabbed her fly. Before she could scream noooooo, the big brown turned and ate her rainbow whole. Cat stood stunned and said what the heck and started to lift, the flies popped back at her, and the brown leisurely swam off, never to be seen again. We fished until dark but only caught a few dinks and a 17inch cutty. On our way to the hotel, we began to plot the next day’s tactics but quickly got lost in the beauty of our surroundings.
Monday morning, we got back to Paco at around 9:30 and covered a lot of ground. We tried taking our time and looking for fish but all we could do was hook a few dinks. Lighting rolled in at around three so we took a break until around four. We started working our way up river and only hooked a few fish. As evening rolled in, Cat found a 18inch or so brown and after trying many different things, I hooked him but, after a fairly quick battle, he beat me like a drum.
We were feeling a little dejected, so Tuesday we decided to go explore Cat’s “Emerald City” river. As we were driving toward the San Miguel, I was hoping it was as magical as she remembered. We got just a few miles from Ridgeway and looking to the south found it to be as picturesque as any place on the face of the earth. The river was just a quick thirty-minute drive and seeing Cat’s smile, it was indeed as pretty as she remembered. We jumped in and after the first ten minutes, I began to wonder if I had forgotten how to fish. Cat had landed three and started feeling sorry for me and then the groove hit. We started hooking fish on every other cast and the “ciggle”, could be heard through the whole valley. The lighting rolled in at around 2:00 and we decided to take a drive into Telluride. As we were just getting into town, I looked around and was thinking if I were a little younger this place would be awesome. We walked through town and found Telluride Anglers and were blown away by the friendliness of the shop. We try to go into every shop we ever go by, so that we can steer our customers into the best situations, and this shop gets the A++++++++++++ designation. So, if you are ever in the Southwest area, make sure you stop by Telluride Anglers. We headed back toward Ridgeway and decided to give Paco another try. Tuesday was the toughest, we saw a few fish in the same places they were the night before but we could not get them to eat anything. We got back to the hotel and while sitting in the pool we discussed why Paco was such a difficult place to fish. We have some theories but then the conversation shifted to our hope that our home river never changes. I know this has been a difficult summer for our Ark but after fishing so many other tail waters over the years, I am always reminded how great we have it. We were trying to decide what to do on Wednesday and we just missed our river too much.
We got up this morning and after packing the car, Cat and I stood, hand in hand and admired the beauty of Cat’s Emerald City, but were also thinking about how much we missed home. We closed our eyes, clicked our heels three times and said, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” but when we opened our eyes, we looked at each other and said, “crap, we still have a long drive home.” So, what’s next for the O’Gradys, the fall looks pretty busy for guide trips and then we are heading to the Bahamas in search of the next Emerald City, or maybe the Fountain of Youth. As always, Connell, Cat, Winston, Dorothy & Toto, and the Drift Fly Shop want to thank you for reading……