If you’ve ever any time in Colorado you can attest that it despite it’s ever growing population, there are nooks and crannies in this state that can take you back 100 years if you’re just persistent enough to seek them out. Recently i was fortunate enough to spend 3 1/2 weeks in the purple mountain majesty state with my wife, a small pop up camper and a selection of rods, reels, and flies doing exactly that.
The main focus of the trip was simple enough; relax, fish, and spend quality times with loved ones. It was my second goal however, to only fish waters that i’d never explored, that turned my annual Colorado trip into something truly memorable, and amazing. But as with everything, there was an asterisk lingering at the end of that goal, because before i complete my goal i had to return to the diminutive Beaver Creek outside of Canon City (or Cañon City depending on which sign you’re reading) to reacquaint with it’s tiny waters. I’d been tipped off to it many years ago, and found it to be one of the most memorable spots i’d ever fished, though by now it has been years (three? four?) since i’d plodded along it’s waters.
It’s not a Colorado water with enough chutzpah to draw the masses from Eleven Mile or Cheesman, but looking more like an aquatic sidewalk in size it definitely possesses something much more spiritual and insular. Approaching the creek across pastures dotted with wildflowers and grazing cattle, it’s hard to imagine that you’re yards from a tight canyon that feels like the womb of creation, yet as you progress along the sometimes hard to find trail, you can feel the steep canyon walls practically draw you in, as if there were a tractor beam tugging at your soul.
While there are various bends in the creek that provide a little elbow room, for the most part the creek bounces back and forth between walls so narrow you can cast with 30 feet of line from one wall to another. Aware of my slight claustrophobia i once again entered the void again with nothing but a 2WT, water and flies shaking only slightly as the walls seemed to progressively fall in further with every step.
If you’ve ever seen “The Empire Strikes Back” you surely remember the scene where Luke enters the cave on Dagobah only to face Darth Vader with the light saber he’s brought in. Suffice to say that entering Beaver creek feels oddly similar, the closed walls and primitive vibes surely set the scene, but it’s the bear scat you occasionally have to leap over that provide the extra oomph to the butterflies you’ll find leaping up in your stomach due to the fact that there are only two directions to go if one is encountered, forward or back, and likely the frazzled fur is blocking one of those.
This spot really must be fished alone not specifically for spiritual reasons, but also practical ones. The water is so narrow and shallow that two folks leap frogging each other will spook all fish in the vicinity resulting in extremely low amounts of fish, if any at all. However, if you can stomach the heebie-jeebies that the spot inflicts on lone wanderers, you’ll be rewarded with fish after gullible fish sucking down dry flies like Parrotheads slamming margaritas at a Jimmy Buffet show.
As with most small streams in the area, the fish will be wild rainbows and browns in the 9-12″ range, which can be a blast if you downsize to a 2WT rod or lighter. Other than water and food to stay hydrated and comfortable during your hours of solitary fun, you’ll really only need a handful of dry flies and the usual tools such as hemostats, and some 3X tippet. If you are smooth enough, you should be able to spend a few hours in there landing double digit trout, assuming of course that you don’t encounter anyone else working the same spooky waters.
After hiking hours and landing twenty or so myself that day, i staggered out tired and thirsty, but happy as hell to finally make it back to this special spot after years of reflecting on it. Passing the torri (a traditional Japanese symbol marking the transition from the profane to the sacred, see title photo) between the parking lot and the trail it occurred to me that such a special place deserved a special sacrament. Embedding the fly that had caught a majority of the fish that day, i saw flashes of me leaving similar flies over the year and eventually my son and his son leaving small but gentle reminders in the weathered wood that formed the gate to the Netherworld. I know it sounds all hocus pocus, but before you roll your eyes, check it out and see if you don’t agree, small waters might seem small, but they can leave huge imprints on you, whether they’re simple fish, shaky fear, or the giant reward of intense solitude.