TASK 15: What did you do on the Labor Day weekend?
Since I just started my blogging here and wanted to catch up on the tasks that were already out there, this will be a past Labor Day weekend blog since its March. LOLHartenstein Lake Hike....Well it started out like any day when I head into the mountains... go into work a little early, cut out a little early stop by the gas station get some breakfast. (donuts and milk) Then drive to the trailhead. This time I dont know what was different, maybe the milk was a little sour but it tasted fine and expired on the 12th... but after eating I kind of got a stomach ache. It kind of went away and I reached the Denny Creek trailhead it was still dark out and kind of a hard to find... but I found it and headed up it. Since the lake was only 2.5 miles and it didnt look to terrible on the map I packed in my waders and boots putting my pack right around 65lbs. About a 1/2 mile in I started to not feel so hot, the trail is alot steeper then I thought it was going to be... so I blamed it on that and cursed myself for packing the waders. About a 1/4 mile farther I decided maybe it was the lack of sleep and the bad breakfast so I pulled off the trail pulled out the sleeping back and took a cat nap. I woke up at 9:30 packed up the bag and hit the trail again, feeling a little better. Did I mention this trail is alot steeper then I thought? I got my butt smoked it I didnt reach the lake until 11:45, found a nice spot for camp and set up camp and ate.
After eating it was time to hit the lake and see what I could catch. Even after complaining to myself about bringing the waders the whole hike there I was extremely glad I did. The whole lake is a giant beaver pond... the beavers have it dammed off at the inlets and outlets making a series of ponds on both sides, which also has Hartenstein Lake flooded so its surrounded by marsh and has a silt/mud bottom a few places I stepped I never reached the bottom of the mud. It went past my knees so I pulled my leg back out of it. Even in some of the rocky areas where you think there would be solid bottom there isnt. So be careful if you go up there, and hike in the waders.
The first thing I did was head to the inlet, I found a beaver pond there that looked devoid of fish life but I made a few casts anyways. Didnt get a bite so I decided to cross at the little waterfall into the pond and managed to spook out a 12" or so brookie from under it when I stepped on it. He appeared to be the only fish in the pond, probably ate everyone else. There are deep cuts in the inlet area that look like beaver canals they travel in. Right away I see a big cutthroat sitting in it just below the beaver dam. I cast to him and he immediately takes the flying ant, I set the hook and break off. I rigged up with a 6x SA tippet, I tie another fly on and snag a tree on back cast and break off... I then bust the knot I was tying on like 3 times in a row. Finally rerigged I cast to another cuttie sitting not to far away, it was a bad cast about 2 ft from where I wanted it but he saw it right away and took off for it. He hit it hard and I broke off on the hookset again. I start rerigging again and the knot breaks again... finally I just assume the leader was bad/old and put on a 5x SA tippet. I had seen some brookies sitting in the same canal a little farther up from that cutthroat so I tied on a double dry with a turks tarantula on top and a flying ant behind it. As I was sneaking back up into casting distance of the canal I saw something I had never seen before... Brook trout and cutthroat trout fighting. The brookies look like they were staging for spawn, in tight pods in the canal looking towards the inlet... a cutthroat (probably about 12 inches) was swimming towards the lake. 2 of the brookies about his size and larger attacked him. One of the fish came out of the water couldnt tell which one big ole boil. When the water settled the brookies were still there and the cuttie had taken off. I casted to the brookies knowing the larger one had to be bigger then my brook trout record of 15", but they werent interested. Went and got the spinning rod and casted it to them and one of them attacked the spinner but it was a short lived battle as he came off pretty fast and the pod moved out after that.I continued around the lake and found probably 10-12 cutthroats cruising the shallows looking for food. Every single one I casted to hit one of my flies mostly the ant (especially if it sank). I however only managed to get 4 in all between 14-16 inches (either set to soon or they came unbuttoned), I didnt see many fish in that lake smaller then the ones I was catching either.
I had made it around to the outlet side of the lake and found the Hover dam of beaver dams and below it a series of small and large beaver ponds.
I fished the first couple ponds but not the large one in the back, I definitely think these are worth another look when I go back. The first two ponds were full of brook trout. I probably caught 12 in the little while I spent there... all but one on the turk's tarantula. These were alot smaller then the brookies I saw in the main lake, but that big pond at the end has potential. These guys didnt seem to be in spawning mode like the ones in the lake.
You can see the beaver canals in the inlet in this picture... also how shallow the whole lake is except for the little bit in the back. I want to go again and try to spend more time working the drop off, not whole lot of places it can be reached even in waders.
I went to sleep around 8pm when it started raining it rained most of the night... I didnt sleep well I was burning up and my stomach wasnt feeling good. Got some rest and got out of bed a little after 8, tried eating breakfast and started feeling worse so I decided to call the trip and head home. I start my 2nd job on Tuesday so I figured it would be better to get over this at home then up there. I will be back. Also this lake maybe a little dangerous in early spring, the hill I climbed up to take the pictures of the lake had an avalanche take out most of the trees there.More photos and details can be found at the forum on my website.
Rick SchroederOwner Colorado Mountain Fishing.comRick.Schroeder@ColoradoMountainFishing.com