I was back at the Tipi property again in the late summer. Late summer in southern Colorado is wonderful, I must say. For one, its about 10 degrees colder than the last month, still short-sleeve weather, but the subtle difference is the afternoon breeze. If I can describe it as a music note, it would come across your face boldly as just wind and volume, but as it left you, you’d notice a taper with a much cooler finishing note... almost a whisper. This time of year, there isn’t a spec of clouds to detour from the cobalt blue sky and sometimes there is a hint of color from the river willows and the cottonwoods. Of course, the lighting is starting to change and there may be a slight dryness to the tall grass.
After saying hello to the property owners and there 3 dogs of random Rez breeds, I set off for the Tee-Pee about a mile's walk up the river. This time, I found an easier route from what looked like an abandoned two track road. Walking along its intermittent definitions, I was humored by the last of the hoppers holding out and giving it their all to bounce off the legs of my waders. If only they were this thick like this alongside the river... a man can only wish and a man with the fish brain could only fantasize about.
The hoppers and the late summer breeze were a good distraction from the random glam rock song that kept trying to creep back into my head. It must have been playing when I shut off the truck... such a random local radio station we have here in DGO but whatever. As those topics faded away while my stride picked up to a steady rhythm, I focused on the now - the present which only truly matters.
I over shot the Tee Pee by about 50 yards and decided to cut through the glade of cottonwoods and back track my way to the infamous Tee-Pee. It was quite lush down in there with tall green grass and huge trees, nice and protected from the elements. I had to bushwhack through the grass that was shoulder to head high and try not to break my ass on the fallen limbs that were hidden along the way sometimes having to redirect and go around, all the while looking for a game trail to follow.
At last, I found some sort of path, or more like laid down grass that made some sort of trail like deer often do. It zigzagged in random directions but as I followed, I could make out the far side of this glade and the end was near, all except coming across obvious deer bones. I actually found a nice deer skull with spikes and paused to debate keeping it. Having it in hand and certain this was a treasure of my enthusiasm, I paused and then started finding more bones and an old deer carcass farther away. My first thoughts as I tried to make sense of what was being revealed to me was, is there a heavily traveled road near? This could be a spot that deer frequent and some have been hit and then retreated down here to die. I walked on with the skull in hand and was met with a fresh carcass and began to doubt my first theory by the sight of dismemberment to it. It took strength to tear this apart and that’s when my gut sank and in came the feeling of being watched. Not out of paranoia or the hee-bee-gee-bees of a horror film, but out of the realization that I had stumbled into a nice peaceful place that was very secluded and thick with vegetation. The perfect place for a cat to eat their pray in safety. Being south of town I knew the deer population was huge down here and who follows the deer? Mountain Lions.
I know the feeling of being watched. I’ve experienced it before and usually if you feel it, you more than likely are. I abandoned the deer skull and headed for the daylight towards the river, not panicked, but I was on a mission to get out of there. Let’s just say I quit following the paths and made my own way to the river.
The Animas was down and the holding spots were more visible than the last time I was here. With the experience I had earlier in the glade, I wasn’t planning to stay till dark so I moved to the top of the pool and observed. There was top water activity so I tied on a size 16 elk hair caddis with a size 18 black midge to trail. First drift through the zone was nothing. Second and third trying another part of the top of the pool was a straight up refusal. Okay, I thought, my offering was not on the menu so digging through my box, I found a tan size 14 hopper and re-rigged the midge back on. Trusty midges are always a must on this river no matter what time of the year and the flow.
I took a pause before making my next presentation. I felt noticeably rushed, so as I tied speed knots to re-rig, I re-examined my knots, took intentional breaths and felt the surge of canyon wind on my face followed by a cooler finish as the gust left me. The sun was starting its descent behind Smelter Mountain and the light changed. Another gust brushed me this time just a bit cooler than last. Yep, I’m losing light and I still have to figure out how to get out of here without backtracking through the glade. I casted downstream to let line out and estimate my line length. A few strips and it felt right. So, after a tug on the line to single haul it upstream, my hopper splashed down just in time to float through an Eddie off the far bank. Instant smash on the hopper and the take went through the Eddie and up to the bottom of the run.
The fight of a wild Brown on the Animas is amazing that’s all I can say. Even though this river runs through town and many people partake on it in many different ways, this is still very much a wild river along with all of its wildlife.