Swimming Tigers in a Sage Brush Bowl

I remember the first time we went over Cerro Summit on US 50. We were frazzled first-time winter Colorado drivers on our way to climb ice in Ouray. We had made it over Monarch and Blue Mesa Passes and thought we were home free to drop into Montrose and then turn toward Ouray. To our surprise, Cerro Summit was the worst of the passes, snow-packed and challenging for rookies without snow tires. We never forgot Cerro after that. But I never imagined there was a reservoir just over the sage-covered hills at the apex. Then, again, I never imagined we would live in Montrose.

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Late last month Cerro Summit Reservoir opened to the public for fishing after a couple of years of cooperative efforts between the City of Montrose, Bostwick Park Water Users, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Being married to one of the ring leaders of the effort within the city, I grinned with extra pride as we stood there under an autumn-bronzed sun ready to cut the ribbon and drop in flies. Stephen got the initial cast into the first-class trout pond, but not the first trout on the hook. That went to the local leader of Trout Unlimited. After a brief ceremony those of us with rods dispersed to test the water. It did not disappoint.

As an emergency water source for the city a significant first hurdle to creating this new gem for trout fishing was to assure leaders that the resource could be protected. Like myself, most had never heard of the reservoir prior to this, but the hope was many would make the discovery and come to fish it. Key to conserving the site is the requirement for walk-in, artificial lures only fishing. Leave your bait and coolers at home. This is a place to keep clean and guard.

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When the idea to open the reservoir for fishing first sprouted, the biologists could only find one trout dwelling therein. Walter was a gigantic brown trout, hopefully still is, but now he has ample company to warrant the half mile walk across the rolling sagebrush hills. The reservoir has been stocked with tiger trout, the feisty blend of brook and brown trout. Not only are they a strikingly good-looking fish, tigers are a frenzy on the hook. These tigers chase a fly and do not take kindly to being tricked. While most of the stocked fish are sub-twenty inches right now, there are a few that were beastly at the time they were dropped in the water. A few lucky souls have had the fortune to dance with the giant tigers, but even the kittens are pure joy on the line.

Opening Cerro Summit for fishing is one of those feel good stories where governments and agencies accomplish something great together that truly benefits the public. We now have one more prime fly fishing destination within a short drive of home. You will find me up there hunting tigers and enjoying the unique views of the Cimmaron Range.

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