Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On the Lake: Henry Lake, Taylor, CO

July 24, 25, and 26, 2009

This entry is going to look more like a photo journal than a blog.

Henry Lake is definitely very near to my heart. I've lived in this valley 13 years now and it is one of my favorite places to visit. The remoteness, the beauty, the fresh air, the stars at night and of course the fish all make it truly an amazing place. And, as much as I love this lake, there are so many high mountain lakes just like it. So if you're looking for an amazing spot of your own and don't feel like coming all the way out to Gunnison County, just start hiking to lakes that are nestled at 10,000 ft and you'll soon find one.

A sweet photo of one of the most amazing cutthroat we picked up on our 2 days at Henry Lake

I can confidently say that because these lakes tend to be pretty cookie cutter. They all are nestled just below a large peak. They always have 1/4 of the lake that is bordered by a scree field. They always have a small inlet and a small outlet, and the outlet will always be at the end of a moderately sized "bay" that is uniformly 3 feet deep. They all have an abundance of shrimp that, when swimming, stretch out perfectly straight and paddle with their little legs (the AB swimming shrimp was developed specifically for high mountain lakes). They all have fish, and these fish spend their entire existence swimming circles around the lakes feeding on shrimp, terrestrials, and whatever insects may hatch (lots of midge!).

So, with those thoughts in mind, Michelle and I found ourselves, 3 weeks ago, planning a camping trip to Henry Lake.

It's a pretty brutal hike. Michelle had never gone 7 miles and probably 2000 vertical feet with a pack before. Plus, it doesn't help that the last 1/4 mile is the worst of the worst (did I mention that all high mountain lakes have the worst steep part at the very last too?). But, we found ourselves making camp Friday night around 8:30.

I'm an early riser, so when I was thoroughly tired of tossing and turning, I woke up around 7 AM and started organizing camp and rigging up rods. I figured Michelle wouldn't stir for another hour so I headed to the lake to check it out.

All my memories flooded back to me when I saw the first cruiser slide past me sipping midges without a care in the world. So, I tied on a midge emerger ... the first fish took it without hesitating. So did the second and the third. It was at this point I realized the trouble I would be in if I woke my wife up to the sounds of my drag, or fish splashing so I decided to head back to camp and make breakfast.

My first fish of the day!

After breakfast, I broke it to her that I was already 3 fish deep and she had some catch-up to do. She started with the midge and hooked a few fish, but was having trouble seeing it, so I tied the black poly-wing ant (another pattern developed for high mountain lakes and finicky yellowstone cutthroat trout) on our other rod and again ... the first fish took without hesitating.

Michelle's first fish of the day!

We spent two heavenly days fishing dries to fish that, for the most part, never hesitated to take the fly. Occasionally we ran across a fish that wasn't having the ant, but a well placed midge never missed. Near the end of the trip I tied on some swimming shrimp for "experimentation" sake and they ... took without hesitating.

Mind you, Henry does not always fish like this. You will always see cruisers, but I've been there when they were much more spooky and snooty about what they were feeding on. I don't know if this trip had a lot to do with the fish being a couple of weeks off the spawn so they were just hungry or what, but it was magical.

Oh, and did I mention the colors of these cutthroat are amazing!!!! I'm guessing they are colorado native cutthroat, but it's pretty tough to get it right seeing as how Biologists don't even seem to get it right. Anyway you shake it down, these fish are out of control!

If you ever find the time, make it up to a high mountain lake, or even Henry itself and it's pretty tough to be disappointed, even if the fishing is poor.

Don't forget to check out all the pics and captions below!

Tight lines,

Henry Lake: the view from above

Another view of Henry with some evening sun on the mountainside.

One of the biggest fish we took all weekend! We saw a few cruisers that may have been bigger, but for the most part this is about the max size you'll find on Henry. Not too bad though considering they are all on dries!!!

Another photo we had to take just because of the coloration and spots of the fish!

Click on this image and should blow up to full size ... it is at that level that you can see I got fortunate enough to capture the exact second the fish was inhaling Michelle's Poly-wing Ant.

This was the typical sight all day long. Cruisers eagerly looking for terrestrials or midge.

This was the most well fed fish of the day! His gut was so full of insects it was like a fat man at a BBQ cook off!

Oh, and did I mention that the wildflowers were amazing! Check out these pictures below.


  1. Great entry, Jeff. The high country is a great place to be, especially when you're next to a productive alpine lake. That pic you shot of the take is money.

  2. Unreal, bro. Some of the prettiest fish pics I've seen there -- gorgeous.

  3. Jeff & Michelle... not even a fisher... but loved the story & the pics!! It's been awhile since I've been to Henry Lake! Actually, I think it was with you guys! :-) Annie

  4. Jeff - not sure if you're around or not this weekend - we'll be up on the Taylor (the 8th). Head on up if you can swing it.

  5. These pictures are rad. This whole site is awesome. Keep posting. I'll be back.

  6. Thanks Steve, I've been going to Henry Lake for 12 years now on and off. It is a pretty special place. So many fish and they are all amazing looking!!!

    Plus, the scenery around is hard to match anywhere in Colorado.