The Thrill Uphill

The great outdoor humorist, Patrick McManus, once wrote, “The best blackberries are on top of the mountain. Not because they are the biggest. Not because they are the sweetest. But because they are on the top of the mountain.”

To experience perhaps the most rewarding fishing trip, you may have to take a hike. And Colorado is a great place to do this. Distance to fishing is not measured just horizontally but vertically as well. I’ve fished mountain lakes at an altitude of 11,000 feet and encountered snowfall in July.

Will Beggs is a fly-fishing guide at Kirk’s Fly Shop in Estes Park, CO. I met him last year at the top of the amazingly beautiful Calypso Cascades in the Rocky Mountain National Park when he was guiding for a father and 10-year-old son. This “young and able” guide says the hour plus hike to this spot is “not extreme.” He frequently leads more challenging overnight fishing trips over six miles, up in the backcountry. (However, when was the last time you hiked an hour to go fishing?)

Their efforts were rewarded with gleaming greenback cutthroat trout (barbless hooks, catch and release only). What these little wild trout lacked in length, they more than made up for in spunk. “They love dry flies,” Will shared. “If they can see it, they will come to the surface and hit it.”

But the rewards from this fishing trip cannot simply be measured in size or quantity. The journey, the heightened anticipation, and yes, even the chafing from waders, all lead to an increased appreciation of this fishing experience. Nothing like the physical exertion of a trek up a mountain trail to help one savor every rise of a trout. Many seem to have forgotten that if given something without earning it, the gift loses value.

Go earn a fish.

(Then please tell me about it. I love to hear fish stories.)

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.