I recently returned from a truly epic adventure with some very good friends. Some of us hardly knew the other at the beginning but as life goes, by the end we were close friends. My friend Dave Fason (who takes most of my photos) wrote up a fantastic account on the Fiberglass Fly Rodders Forum that I cannot improve on so I am going to share it here…
“The past few weeks have been a insane. From new fishing adventures, work, life, etc it has been an whirlwind of a ride. Rewind to earlier this summer to a conversation I had with a person I never met, Aaron. He had an idea to start in Austin, TX and travel to Colorado, Arizona then New Mexico. Fish for Rio Grande Cutthroat, Gila and Apache Trout all in their native waters. Toss in some native Guadalupe bass, Rio cichlids and other random warm water species and you have a party! The trip was part of a assignment for him and he let me photograph the entire trip. To make it even better Chris Barclay and a good friend of Aaron's joined. Four dudes, a Jeep and 2,500 miles.
The Crew :
We flew into Austin to meet Aaron and Jess. Mind you I have only talked to Aaron and Jess over the phone and will be stuck in a car with them for seven days. Add backpacking, camping, driving and everything else! We ended up getting along and will cherish the memories I made with them. Aaron was extremely kind and purchased custom nets for the trip from Dustin at Heart Wood Trade. After a couple beers and food we were off to Brushy Creek for an hour to fish for native Guadeloupe Bass.
After a few to hand and a couple sunfish we were off to the house to pack. It was extremely interesting learning the difference between a Guad and large mouth. I really want to go back to chase the larger guys!
We arranged, packed and took off into the sunset. We decided to drive through the night which almost killed me. The trip was almost derailed after a MASSIVE elk almost drilled out car in the middle of the night. After a wild ride up a rocky road we landed to our spot. The moment we got out of the car we spotted Rios. The scenery was inspiring, the fishing was lights out and the company was even better.
Funny photo : I stalked a Rio and was able to get a fish pictures RIGHT behind it.
We packed, loaded and were on our way to Apache area in Arizona. To say I was impressed with Arizona is an understatement. The landscape was gnarly, wild and raw. We were after the Apache trout and while we landed a couple they were NOT in the mood to play. The next day we hit larger water and hooked up to some nice hybrids and browns. I saw more wildlife here than anywhere else. Elk, goats, lizards, snakes, owls, etc. INCREDIBLE!
Next stop was Gila wilderness. From what we read we expected a mild hike but not hard. It ended up being a GRINDER of a hike in and really put a hurting on us. Regardless of the hike we made the best of fishing. The Gila were like the Rios and very active. I really wish we would have had two-three days here. The granite rock scape, amazing forest and perfect waters. This leg of the trip really brought us together as it pushed the boundaries of what we could do.
After the grueling hike back we slugged beers, ate food and then ventured back to Austin. We made a pit stop on the Llano river for more Guads and Ciclid. This is were I landed my first RIO!
Randoms, funnies, food :
To say the trip was less then legendary would be disgraceful. 2500 miles driven, 40+ hiked and 100000000 funny stories. I was able to see parts of the country I never knew existed, met new friends, new food, new fish and new memories. I can't thank Aaron enough for bringing me along.
Like I said, a trip of a lifetime with some of the best guys around. The diversity of fish caught and landscapes traversed is hard to describe but hopefully Dave’s pictures give a good idea of what we enjoyed.
Be sure to look out for Aaron’s series of articles in the coming months.
Thanks for looking! - Chris