Research – A Key to Finding the Best Outdoor Experiences

Research, Research, Research – A Key to Finding the Best Outdoor Experiences

It is relatively easy to drive to the local lake or river on mostly paved roads to fish for stocked fish.  The problem is, that’s what everyone else does. So you are going to have a crowd with you. If the body of water has been stocked recently, you may catch a lot of fish.  Many states stock bodies of water constantly knowing that the majority of the public will keep the fish, so the state is basically providing food for people for the cost of a fishing license.  

Finding these places is easy and little research is needed.  Perhaps just a list of state parks and a map is all that is necessary.  If you want to find truly remarkable places to escape the crowds and experience the outdoors in its natural state, in-depth research is essential.

Source 1 – Other People

The easiest form of research is talking to people.  Every semester, I jokingly tell the students in my university classes that I will offer extra credit if they tell me about their “secret” fishing and hunting places.  Since I teach at a university in Colorado, there is a good chance that there is a student in class who has this information. One student told me about Gross Lake above Boulder that takes some effort to find and we have now been fishing there for years, catching several types of trout, kokanee salmon, and having a chance to catch tiger muskie.

On one of our latest trips to latest trips to Kodiak Island, Alaska, our charter boat captain told us of a way to access a road-system river to catch silver salmon.  This information resulted in having some of the more epic salmon fishing we have experienced.

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Kodiak, AK

There are some obstacles when seeking information from others, however.  Many people enjoy their secret places and do not want to tell anyone about them.  Some may even tell you wrong directions to keep you far away from their places. I recently saw a posting on Facebook stating, “I don’t always tell people where I hunt, but when I do, I lie.”  In a Facebook forum on hunting in Colorado, people are constantly making the suggestion to “do your research.” And if anyone asks about locations to hunt, they are kindly (and sometimes, not so kindly) reminded to do their own research.

Source 2 – The Internet

When I was growing up in the previous century, there was no internet.  I have truly come to appreciate this resource now and use it constantly.  The Colorado Parks and Wildlife website has information on many fishing and hunting places and can be very useful.  However, to find the true outdoor gems, internet research needs to go beyond that. There are numerous fishing and hunting forums discussing productive places.  The problem I have found with many of these forums, however, is that not many people post to them and much of the information is years old.

I often use Google Maps to find likely-looking bodies of water in an area in which I might be interested.  For example, if I know I am going hunting or scouting in an area, I may want to throw in a fishing pole if I can find anything on Google Maps that looks promising.  

We have experiences a few great spots in Colorado because of this internet research.  One place is Gibson Lake. It is a strenuous three-mile hike to a gorgeous lake above timberline.  We have always caught brookies and cutthroat trout there. We also found Ptarmigan Lake that is also a three-mile hike and sits right at timberline.  It has produced a lot of cutthroats for us. One other lake we found through internet research is a little lake called Lost Lake that is only a 1.5 mile hike and is full of nice brookies.

We have also found some fantastic experiences in Alaska through the internet.  We pay close attention to Trip Advisor and other rating services to try to find the best.  Through the internet, we have discovered AlpenView Wilderness Lodge on Kodiak Island, Blue Fly Bed & Breakfast (and guide service) in King Salmon, Reel Extreme Alaska on Kodiak Island, Seward Charters in Seward, and Captain Dave’s Fish & Chips Charters on Kodiak Island.  These places had good reviews and our experiences matched those reviews.

Source 3 – Magazines

According to my university students, no one subscribes to magazines nowadays.  However, we do and they are a great source of information about locations. We subscribe to Southwest Fly Fishing, Alaska, and Fish Alaska.

Southwest Fly Fishing, in particular, has provided information on locations we have tried and found very productive.  We found a tributary to the Rio Grande River in New Mexico, called Rio Pueblo de Taos. It is in a picturesque side canyon that is steep and not easily negotiated, but we caught brown trout there.  One article led us on a huge circle around the Laramie Mountains in Wyoming fishing in several streams and catching rainbows and brookies everywhere. A place we go backpacking nearly every year is Elk Creek in Southern Colorado, between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico.  This stream if filled with large browns, rainbows, brookies, and a few cutthroats. The magazine also led us to Fairplay Beach Reservoir where we caught hundreds of rainbows, cutbows, browns, and brookies.

Source 4 – TV

Some people say that watching TV is a waste of time.  I think we have said that to our son from time to time.  But it doesn’t have to be a waste of time. Through our cable TV service, we get two outdoor channels.  They are often my go to channels for watching TV. I often sit with an open computer and as the TV programs progress, I am constantly doing internet research on the locations and outfitters mentioned there.  We have compiled a list of hunting outfitters we will be using in the near future.

One program features public land hunting in the west.  On one episode, the host of the show was in an area in Wyoming where he was able to get a left-over tag for a late season whitetail deer hunt.  Everyone in his party were able to fill their tags with nice bucks. As a result, we are going to hunt there ourselves this November. An earlier scouting trip there got us very excited because we saw hundreds of deer and a good number of large bucks.

Please share your experiences with outdoor research with us and our readers.

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