Driving Across the Country for Wild Brown Trout

Driving 23 hours across the United States is about as fun as you think it’s going to be. Hours 1-3 are full of optimism. Hours 4-22 last an eternity. But hour 23 is pure bliss: all the hard work has finally paid off.

It was for me, anyways. Two months ago, I set out from Athens, Georgia, to drive straight through to Denver, Colorado. It was a task that required gallons of coffee, half a month’s rent-worth of gas, way too many gas station snacks, and a moderate level of insanity. By pairing all of that with hours of talk radio and hard rap music, I eventually found my zone.

Side Note: Driving through Kansas at 4 AM on a night with no moon can be a little spooky.


I pulled into my girlfriend’s apartment, my new living quarters just south of Denver, around 7 AM. We had breakfast, coffee, etc. until she had to leave for class at the University of Denver around 9 AM. So now, I’m faced with a difficult decision…

Get some much needed sleep, OR go through the process of unpacking all my fishing gear, purchasing my Colorado license, and finding a new place to fish somewhere in the area. Because there was no way in hell I was spending more time in the car than I had to at this point. After pulling an-all nighter and spending it all behind the wheel of a car, it was actually an easy decision.

I decided to go fishing.

The popular, heavily pressured Bear Creek.

The destination: the popular, heavily pressured Bear Creek.

This front range stream receives a lot of foot traffic from the metro Denver area. Which makes sense, considering you can be on the water in under an hour. Bear Creek starts high in the Mt. Evans Wilderness and grows into a respectable flow before feeding into the South Platte River. With HWY 74 following the stream for much of its length, anglers are afforded access at a number of public parks along the way.

I made it to the town of Morrison around mid-morning and immediately began fishing. Prior to this trip, I had been fishing in Colorado twice - both times on the South Platte. Both times, I got skunked. Needless to say, I did not have high expectations or a ton of confidence when getting out on the water. But after a banner day on a wild trout stream in the southern Appalachians a few days prior, I had just enough in the tank to give it a go.

Chubby Chernobyl’s, basically strike indicators with legs and a hook.

Chubby Chernobyl’s, basically strike indicators with legs and a hook.

The artillery: a 7’6” Moonshine 3wt with a Lamson Liquid reel and a long 5X leader attached to a dry/dropper rig comprised of a tan Chubby Chernobyl and a BWO Barr’s emerger connected by 18'“ of 6X tippet.

There wasn’t a ton of bug activity going on, but a few mayflies were fluttering around. Their numbers seemed to increase as the day gradually transitioned from clear and sunny to overcast.

Usually, my days on the water start slow. A few fly and location changes is usually the cost of entry to finding trout. This was not one of those days.


The first fish came after about 15 minutes, just as I began to contemplate changing flies. My first impression of the wild brown on the other end on the line was his fight. The fish couldn’t have been more than 8”-9”, but he fought like a fish much longer than a foot. Perhaps his strength came from being born and raised in the creek. Or maybe he was just pissed off that my dropper was not real food.


For the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, it was more of the same: wild brown trout in the 6”-12” range that specialize in acrobatics. After every hook set, the fish would take off upstream. Once they felt increased tension on the line, they would rocket towards the surface and flip violently. Bites would come frequently, but real eats happened every 15-20 minutes, making for an entertaining day.


While, technically, I didn’t drive across the country just for the wild brown trout. But after watching the sun rise over the front range as I drove towards my new home, I knew I had to get out on the water that day.

So if you’re on the fence about taking a trip, just do it. Whether it’s across the country or right down the road, go. You’ll never regret the adventures that you do take, only the ones you don’t.