Story and Photos by Neill Pieper
Although Crested Butte is known for its wall-to-wall wildflowers, there are other reasons to visit the remote alpine paradise. When the mornings become brisk and the trees start to turn, that’s when the central Rockies are at their best.
The trees in the wildflower capital turn gold right around the time that you might need an autumn escape. With aspens transforming adjacent to trout-laden streams, there couldn’t be a better location to get away.
For April Archer, fishing enthusiast and owner of the women-focused fly rod company, SaraBella Fishing, Crested Butte offers it all. Archer’s been an angler since she was a toddler fishing with the “boys” (her grandfather, father and brother). Now, fishing is a family affair, from date nights with her husband to reeling in trout with her three children.
And Crested Butte often provides the perfect spot for a weekend of family angling. Local rivers include the East, Taylor and Gunnison, which share the area with multiple high-country streams within a short drive of the town. Streamside, wading or from a boat, every angler will find a challenge. “I enjoy paddling on Lake Irwin. The Slate River is absolutely stunning, the East River (and the Roaring Judy hatchery) are fun for my whole family, and the Gunnison River is an awesomely challenging river. I love the incredible fisheries, the views, the wildflowers, the small businesses and the enduring spirit of this valley,” Archer explained.
And don’t be surprised if some of the trout give you a thrill. The state record rainbow and cutthroat have both come from the Taylor River, while the Gunnison River holds the record for brook and cutbow.
The water around Crested Butte features all shapes and sizes of trout, which is fun for Archer’s friend Sadie Olson. The customer-turned-friend is an accomplished angler when she’s not serving as a specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Armed with Archer’s Colorado-made fly rods, Olson likes to explore the high-country streams above Crested Butte.
But as Olson found out on her latest fishing adventure, it’s not always about size. Fishing the awe-striking Poverty Gulch, Olson found her way into a high-mountain stream teaming with brookies. Small, yet exceedingly beautiful, brook trout gobbled up her Parawulff dry fly.
When Olson hits the backcountry, she likes to be prepared for anything. She often packs a SaraBella rod, Ross reels and an Otterbox cooler. Read on to learn more about her favorites.
SaraBella Fly Rods
SaraBella Fishing was launched in 2014 because the founders were frustrated with a lack of women-specific fly rods. It is a product born from river research, dreaming, campfires and whiskey. Co-founder April Archer is a mother of three girls. “I believe that females deserve gear that performs well and is made with artistic excellence. We are the only fly rod maker that focuses its efforts on supporting female anglers, and we love to support women within the sport of fly fishing,” Archer said. Part of the beauty of the rods is the repurposed Colorado hard woods that are used in the reel seat. The rods are unique because they come in various weights (3 weights through 12 weights), and they can be customized with colors, grips and messaging. Archer wants to clarify that SaraBella isn’t your stereotypical women’s sporting goods manufacturer. “We do not believe in just making things smaller and lighter for women! Female anglers vary by shape, size, experience level and fishing destination,” she said. “We offer options.”
Ross Reels, which has produced fishing gear since 1973, is based on Colorado’s Western Slope in Montrose. Reels, such as the Evolution LT series, are created to work with the lightest tippets for any level of fishing. Ross aims to make your fishing experience less about setup and more about keeping your fly in the water. The Ross Reels’ motto is “to create the finest fly fishing tools available.”
OtterBox Venture Cooler
The worst part of any trip, whether it’s fishing, camping or anything in between, is the moment when you open your cooler and pull out your now sopping wet dinner. Designed in Fort Collins, OtterBox’s new line of coolers is the rugged cooler you need to keep everything cold … for weeks. Customizable to the max, you can add a beer opener, dry box, food tray, cutting board and more to make your trip on the river easy breezy. Strap it on your raft for a day of fishing or bring it with you on your next car camping trip to bear country (yep, it’s bear proof, too). It’s sure to keep your trout cool and beer cooler.
Neill Pieper uses his considerable thirst for the craft beer scene to provide editorial, marketing and online production at Thirst Colorado.