By: Suzana Haertzen
A golden mid-October morning found me hiking with my husband, Matt, along Saguache Creek near Saguache, Colorado. The air was cool, the sun was warm, and we could smell fall in the crisp air. We could also see it in the yellow and orange colors along the stream and through the valley. Our Brittany Spaniel, Rudy, explored every willow along the way, preferring his meandering off-trail route to the established trail, as usual. Matt had read that Saguache Creek promised 100 fish days, so we figured we would test that theory. Also, for a true fisherman, any guarantee of good fishing is irresistible.
Matt and I have shared a passion for fly fishing throughout our 25+ year marriage. He learned to fly fish when he grew up in Alamosa, Colorado, and even dabbled in some fly-tying. He introduced me to fly fishing, and I took fly-tying and rod-building classes. I fly-fished with him for a few years, and then we settled into a routine of Matt fishing with the flies I tie while I sit on the stream bank taking pictures, reading my book, or simply enjoying the outdoors.
Matt placed his “order” for flies with me a couple of weeks in advance of our Saguache Creek excursion. He requested some #16 Hare’s Ear Specials he had seen in an AvidMax email among a few other flies he thought would be successful. As we hiked along the trail, grasshoppers crackled through the air which convinced him to use an Orange Stimulator with the Hare’s Ear as a dropper.
After a couple of miles of hiking, we started scouting for good deep fishy holes and undercut banks for him to cast his fly. Some stretches of the creek were too overgrown, some were too flat, but others were perfect. At the first hopeful spot, Matt made his first cast. Despite how good the spot looked, the first cast came and went without a strike. The next several casts delivered the same result. As is often the case, the problem was not the location and certainly not the fly, but rather his errant cast. When he was able to set the flies at the edge of the current seam in just the right spot, he caught his first brown trout of the day. The first fish of the day is always exciting, and I try to snap a photo before he releases it – then he has proof he wasn’t skunked. After that, he continued wet-wading upstream, catching fish here and there as he went.
At one point, Matt took a break, and we were sitting on the trail with a good view of the creek. Suddenly, about a hundred yards away, a bull moose appeared through the willows, foraging as he wandered along. I scrambled to locate Rudy and put him on a leash while Matt scrambled to take some pictures. The moose sauntered toward us for a bit, then turned and crossed the stream with his beard waggling when he turned his head. And, almost as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone.
A few hours later as we hiked back to the car, Matt continued to fish promising stretches. Was it a 100-fish day? Not exactly – at day’s end, he had caught about a dozen brown trout. By our standards, that was plenty of fish caught and, more importantly, the numbers were not the most important measure of success on that memorable fall day. Indeed, the weather was perfect, the scenery picturesque, and the company (moose included) sublime. I think the best indicator of a successful fishing trip is whether you start planning the next opportunity to visit on the hike home. We can’t wait for next summer.
Suzana Haertzen: Suzana lives in southwest Colorado with her husband and dog. She retired from teaching full-time in 2022 but continues to teach online classes and do accounting work remotely. In her spare time, Suzana likes to mountain bike, hike, camp, read, and tie flies.