The winters in Colorado are replete with a picturesque wilderness of mountains blanketed with glistening snow, and featureless skyscapes. The air is a frozen lace on my skin, delicate and cold. The sky is washed with grey, watery illuminating light, broken by thin patches of brilliance. The winter is such crystalline joy, those brilliant rays reveal the uniqueness of every snowflake. Frozen rivers and creeks lie beneath the snow, and the existence of gorgeous days of deep blue skies in between storms.
Little did I realize at the time, Steamboat Resort had received 18 inches of snow, according to the ski area’s measurements. It was the biggest storm of the winter based on 24-hour accumulation measurements. Old Man Winter nestled in heavily and had made for some very happy powder pursuers, but also caused great anguish for travelers and snow plowers just days prior to my chase for the river. Roads were snowy and icy most of the drive towards Steamboat Springs.
Eager with excitement upon my arrival, it became bleak to me the entrance into the state park was blocked and no vehicles or foot traffic were allowed. There waited another enthusiastic fisherman, Paul, who came to ice fish. Paul and I were the first public into the park after a week long closure, and so much snow removal to still happen. The park ranger warned me in particular, to be very prepared for detrimental conditions and snowshoes a must.
The temperature was 10 degrees, blue skies, no winds, occassional clouds. The rugged snowshoe hike took me close to 2 hours to get down to the tailwater. The trek required me to cross the frozen reservoir which nearly sent me into a panic stricken state. The snow was so deep in areas that my snowshoes still sent me thigh deep into unknown snow pockets. My fish sled was loaded with all my fishing gear necessities, hot water, food, and additional warm gear.
Being the first person to reach the tailwater in a week, the snow banks were so tall, I was required me to stomp a platform with my snowshoes to reach the water. The cfs was a steady 60, water clarity was crystalline clear, and at least 10 degrees cooler in the deep canyon (0 degrees). Nymphing was intoxicating, mind-blowing with ravenous fish taking ever changing patterns: Black Beauty #18-22, RS2 black #18-22, Zebra #18-22, Barr's Emerger #18-20. Dry fly opportunity maybe one miniature BWO hatch. 5x tippet is a worthy set up to intrigue the trout. The Stagecoach tailwater holds numerous sizable rainbow, cutbow, brookie, and brown trout.
Winter fly fishing so frigid, it was a constant battle with frozen guides. Application of unscented chapstick is my trick. Fish with gloves and handwarmers inside, and bring ski gloves for breaks and for the travels. A microfiber hand towel is an absolute must for getting those hands dried and warmed as quickly as possible after handling fish. Love my fishy buffs from BUFF to protect my face and add warmth. A great pair of WORN technical backcountry frictionless neoprene wader socks 3.0 mm inside my waders to survive the necessary wading in the water for netting the big catches. I love my lucky fly fishing hats from the crafty shopmcfly.com.
I never thought winter would challenge me with such a teeth chattering rewarding wintry fishy experience. I had the river entirely to myself, frozen salami sandwiches for lunch, and multitudinous beautiful catches of rainbow, cutbow, and brook trout. Life is what you make it, and why not with experiences and reminscences to last a lifetime. See you on the river!
About Cat Toy:
Cat grew up in Mammoth Lakes, California, next to the wild trout creeks and streams in a quaint ski resort town nestled in the magnificent Southern Sierra Nevada mountain range. She learned to ski at an early age of 3 from her grandparents. Her grandfather would take her and her younger brother fishing to the high alpine lakes and mountain streams. They hiked the spectacular glacier carved mountains blanketed with vibrant wildflowers, tall majestic Jeffery and Bristlecone pines, and deep earthquake faults.
Her family moved to Reno, Nevada for new prospects to explore and college education opportunities. As a young adult, she enjoyed several seasons as a ski instructor at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Shortly thereafter, she took an interest and became a certified Emergency Medical Technician.
The gates dropped and the rumble of 20+ guys racing motocross dirt bikes exploded from the starting line, including Cat. Not just a recreational racer, Cat pursuit the points in the annual MX West State Championship motocross racing series in Northern Nevada. Cat knows racing motocross as the most adrenaline pumping perfect storm of both physical and mental concentration that is an absolute requirement for the most severe sport on earth. Her swift progression in the male dominant sport kept her competitive for 10 years with multiple trophies and numerous corporate racing sponsors.
As an emergency medical technician, the aspiration to go further in the healthcare field led her into the journey of further studies where she graduated with a minor in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2007. Racing motocross, she said, kept her sane in surviving nursing school.
Cat’s nursing career started in Colorado with experience in psychiatric nursing, post surgical rehabilitation, and as a nursing educator. In addition to channeling her medical expertise, she is also a ski patroller at the pinnacle summit of the Rocky Mountains gracing the slopes of Loveland Ski Area. Like racing motocross, ski patrolling is physically demanding, requires an aptitude of awareness, discipline, and superior public relation skills.
The opportunity to experience fly fishing occurred in recent when she was merely handed a rod and reel to discern on her own. Cat used her past experiences of life skills to perfect the techniques that are necessary to be a successful fly angler, and her progression rate soared. Experienced fishing buddies, professional guides, and friends were stunned at Cat's expeditious passion to own the skills. As a disciplined fly angler, she changed her approach by analyzing the intricate facets of fly fishing from spontaneous hatches to the most technical presentations required among the ever changing drifts of a trout stream.
Fly fishing can take Cat to some of the most ruggedly beautiful, breathtaking canyons found in Colorado. The near future will unfold as there will be more to come with fly fishing for Cat. There is so much to share, enjoy, and to treasure.