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PBD Fish Reports
Grand Mesa, Co
Fishing the many lakes of this unique fishery
Paul B Downing
Driving north from Delta, CO on Hwy 65, an imposing bluff rises before me. As I wind up the side of this monolith, scrub oak and juniper slowly give way to aspen. The views to the south seem to go on to infinity. The aspen transform into towering spires of classic Colorado blue spruce as I gain more elevation. Finally, the road flattens. Sapphire blue lakes dot the landscape. I have reached the top of Grand Mesa.
The good news for us fishers is that these lakes, and the many more that dot this table mesa, are full of trout. Nowhere else in Colorado will you find this many fishing opportunities crowded so close together. You can fish for Colorado River cutthroats, Snake River cutthroats, rainbows, browns and brook trout. You might even find a tiger trout, a golden trout, a splake or a grayling. Fishers are successful using conventional gear as well as fly fishing equipment. Some lakes are boat friendly but most do not allow motors(they are small, you won't need one). Truly, there is something for everyone here.
As I entered this cornucopia of opportunities, I was at a loss as to where to start. A US Forest Service Visitor Center nestled among the trees offered help. There I found helpful people and a US Forest Service map. You will need a map to figure out how to get around. This one clearly marks roads including a notation if they are for 4 wheel drive vehicles or ATVs. The dots of blue on this map were truly mind blowing. Lakes to the left, lakes to the right, lakes everywhere. Fortunately, I also found the Colorado Parks & Wildlife publication Fishing the Grand Mesa. This treasure lists every fishable body of water on the mesa (103 lakes and 26 streams), telling you how to get there, what kind of fish can be caught and what facilities (if any) are provided. Many of the lakes and streams are remote, often over 10,000 feet in elevation, requiring a slow ride on 4 wheel drive roads and/or a hike. Others are right next to Hwy 65 or the other paved roads that traverse the Mesa.
As I left the Visitor Center, I took a good look at the lake adjacent to the parking lot (Cobbett Lake). Trout were rising all across the surface. Just too tempting to pass up. I reparked the car and dug out my fly rod. A light drizzle and overcast made this an ideal situation for a dry fly. I tied on a #18 parachute Adams and put a beadhead pheasanttail dropper two feet below it. Standing on shore, I was within an easy cast of a number of rising fish. Casting to the middle of them, I hoped for a hit. It came instantly. The dry disappeared as a rainbow engulfed the dropper. I landed and released a nice 10 inch rainbow. This was followed by three hits I did not hook and a second rainbow, a bit larger than the first, who took my dry fly. Then the heavens opened and the fish were done.
Heading north on HWY 65, I passed several inviting lakes but the rain persisted so I continued to explore. I came upon the Mesa Lakes Area and Mesa Lakes Resort (http://www.mesalakeslodge.com). The Resort offers cabins and restaurant and free access to a number of lakes. The rain had stopped so I walked down to Beaver Lake and was greeted with a glassy surface dimpled with rises. Again the trout were quickly on my flies. Many nice rainbows came to net. This would be an ideal location for base camp for you as you follow the maps and guide to that hidden lake you know will prove to be a real gem.
Fishing Grand Mesa is a wonderful experience. Not only will you find outstanding fishing in a beautiful scenic area, but you can find bear, moose, elk and other wildlife along the way. It surely is a grand experience.
Location: Off Hwy 65 in western Colorado
Nearest Town: Mesa, CO
Season: There is no closed season but in winter the lakes are frozen over. Roads may be closed then.
Regulations: Standard State fishing regulations apply. Check the Regs.