Flattop Wilderness Area (Colorado)

Flattop Mountain above lake near Meeker, Colorado (Source: BYU, L. Tom Perry Collections, MSS 8710 Box 93 Folder 2 Image 3792)

In 1917, Zane Grey, his brother R.C. Grey and a large entourage enjoyed a horse trip to the Flattop Mountain wilderness near Meeker, Colorado.  In addition to hunting, the Grey's enjoyed time fly fishing together.  The fish weren't huge and the fishing wasn't great, but the brothers clearly enjoyed being together.  Grey wrote about this trip in his article “Colorado Trails” Outdoor Life, March 1918.  Fishermen who have been on similar adventures with their buddies or family will enjoy the friendly competition between the brothers:

Trappers Lake, Flat Top Mountain Wilderness, near Meeker, Colorado (Source: BYU, L. Tom Perry Collections, MSS P85 Box 1 Folder 2)

After breakfast R.C. and I got out our tackles and rigged up fly rods, and sallied forth to the lake with the same eagerness we had felt when we were boys going after chubs and sunfish. The lake glistened green in the sunlight and it lay like a gem at the foot of the magnificent black slopes.

The water was full of little floating particles that Teague called wild rice. I thought the lake had begun to work, like eastern lakes during dog days. It did not look propitious for fishing, but Teague reassured us. The outlet of this lake was the head of White River. We tried the outlet first, but trout were not rising there. Then we began wading and casting along a shallow bar of the lake. Teague had instructed us to cast, then drag the flies slowly across the surface of the water, in imitation of a swimming fly or bug. I tried this, and several times, when the leader was close to me and my rod far back, I had strikes. With my rod in that position I could not hook the trout. Then I cast my own way, letting the flies sink a little. To my surprise and dismay I had only a few strikes and could not hook the fish.

R.C., however, had better luck, and that too in wading right over the ground I had covered. To beat me at anything always gave him the most unaccountable fiendish pleasure.

"These are educated trout," he said. "It takes a skillful fisherman to make them rise. Now anybody can catch the big game of the sea, which is your forte. But here you are N.G.... Watch me cast!"

I watched him make a most atrocious cast. But the water boiled, and he hooked two good-sized trout at once. Quite speechless with envy and admiration I watched him play them and eventually beach them. They were cutthroat trout, silvery-sided and marked with the red slash along their gills that gave them their name. I did not catch any while wading, but from the bank I spied one, and dropping a fly in front of his nose, I got him. R.C. caught four more, all about a pound in weight, and then he had a strike that broke his leader. He did not have another leader, so we walked back to camp.

In the afternoon R.C. and I went out again to try for trout. The lake appeared to be getting thicker with that floating muck and we could not raise a fish. Then we tried the outlet again. Here the current was swift. I found a place between two willow banks where trout were breaking on the surface. It took a long cast for me, but about every tenth attempt I would get a fly over the right place and raise a fish. They were small, but that did not detract from my gratification. The light on the water was just right for me to see the trout rise, and that was a beautiful sight as well as a distinct advantage. I had caught four when a shout from R.C. called me quickly down stream. I found him standing in the middle of a swift chute with his rod bent double and a long line out.

"Got a whale!" he yelled. "See him—down there—in that white water. See him flash red!... Go down there and land him for me. Hurry! He's got all the line!"

I ran below to an open place in the willows. Here the stream was shallow and very swift. In the white water I caught a flashing gleam of red. Then I saw the shine of the leader. But I could not reach it without wading in. When I did this the trout lunged out. He looked crimson and silver. I could have put my fist in his mouth.

"Grab the leader! Yank him out!" yelled R.C. in desperation. "There! He's got all the line."

"But it'd be better to wade down," I yelled back.

He shouted that the water was too deep and for me to save his fish. This was an awful predicament for me. I knew the instant I grasped the leader that the big trout would break it or pull free. The same situation, with different kinds of fish, had presented itself many times on my numberless fishing jaunts with R.C. and they all crowded to my mind. Nevertheless I had no choice. Plunging in to my knees I frantically reached for the leader. The red trout made a surge. I missed him. R.C. yelled that something would break. That was no news to me. Another plunge brought me in touch with the leader. Then I essayed to lead the huge cutthroat ashore. He was heavy. But he was tired and that gave birth to hopes. Near the shore as I was about to lift him he woke up, swam round me twice, then ran between my legs.

When, a little later, R.C. came panting down stream I was sitting on the bank, all wet, with one knee skinned and I was holding his broken leader in my hands. Strange to say, he went into a rage! Blamed me for the loss of that big trout! Under such circumstances it was always best to maintain silence and I did so as long as I could. After his paroxysm had spent itself and he had become somewhat near a rational being once more he asked me:

"Was he big?"

"Oh—a whale of a trout!" I replied.

"Humph! Well, how big?"

Thereupon I enlarged upon the exceeding size and beauty of that trout. I made him out very much bigger than he actually looked to me and I minutely described his beauty and wonderful gaping mouth. R.C. groaned and that was my revenge.

The following day we went up to Twin Lakes and found them to be beautiful little green gems surrounded by spruce. The lake was smooth and quiet. All at once, as if by concert, the trout began to rise everywhere. In a little bay we began to get strikes. I could see the fish rise to the fly. The small ones were too swift and the large ones too slow, it seemed. We caught one, and then had bad luck. We snarled our lines, drifted wrong, broke leaders, snapped off flies, hooked too quick and too slow, and did everything that was clumsy. I lost two big fish because they followed the fly as I drew it toward me across the water to imitate a swimming fly. Of course this made a large slack line which I could not get up. Finally I caught one big fish, and altogether we got seven. All in that little bay, where the water was shallow! In other places we could not catch a fish. I had one vicious strike. The fish appeared to be feeding on a tiny black gnat, which we could not imitate. This was the most trying experience of all. We ought to have caught a basketful.