When we started scheming the first Troutman attempt of 2023 back in late 2022, June 17th seemed like a reasonably safe bet. According to most SNOTEL sites, mid-June corresponded with absent or severely diminished snowpack, which is important for a timed challenge like the Troutman.
Our original plan was a well-coordinated assault on Colorado's Grand Mesa, a sport fishing Mecca with countless opportunities to pick up 4 species of salmonids. Trouble was, in early May 2023, following an epic snow season on Colorado's Western Slope, sensors on Grand Mesa were reporting more than 100 inches of snow remaining. So we decided to pivot.
One thought was to return to the Huerfano River basin, a favorite of mine that was very successful in 2022 and produced many a Troutman. However, in looking at satellite imagery from about a week before go time, it became apparent that a pivotal lake may or may not have still been frozen and there was certain deep snow stacked up on the ascent to said lake. So no go there... But fortunately, (long time Flyathlete and seeker of a Troutwoman title) Katie Mazzia suggested that we hit Sylvan Lake State Park near Eagle, CO, a snow free course in her own backyard. So we loaded up our gear on the 16th and headed to Vail.
Following an incredible Friday night team meal at Katie's house, we woke up bright and early on Saturday and began the short drive to Sylvan. The weather forecast was inauspicious at best, with rain and cold temperatures forecast until at least mid-afternoon. But we are Flyathletes, dammit, and nothing was going to stop us from completing our Troutman mission...
Which only turned out to be true for a couple of us.
My day began with rain and a rainbow trout. And then another rainbow trout. And more rain. Rainbow trout. Rain. Over and over again.
The pre-run fishing / scouting report had indicated that the cutthroat trout was set to be the toughest fish to catch with only 500 stocked in the rather large lake several just under a month prior. So when news around the lake emerged that both Katie and Ridgway, CO resident Kevin Browning had both caught cutthroat trout and were headed out on the roughly 9 mile loop to gain the required mileage (26.2 miles) and elevation gain (at least 3000 feet), spirits were high!
And then the temperature dropped. And the rain intensified. Big time. And the rest of us retreated to our vehicles to warm up and dream of the cutthroat that never was.
After a few minutes (and beers) in the car, I began to get concerned about Katie and Kevin, as it was clear that just a couple hundred feet of vertical higher, the rain was snow. At that point, my wingman (and two-time Troutman) Cole and I decided to drive down to the intersection between the road and the trail that they were on, thinking that we could potentially be a warm place to land after what was undoubtedly a lonely and frigid 9 miles.
We only waited for about 45 minutes before Katie emerged down the trail, looking tough and moving well. So well, in fact, that we had to force her to stop to give us reassurance that she was good to go, which she quickly did. "Going to get my brown, and then all I need is the brookie!" So bad ass!
Now we were just short Kevin, who we quickly spotted on our drive back up the road. He had all four species and was banging out mileage at a furious clip.
With our newly found confidence that all peeps were alive, Cole and returned to the lake to await the return of Katie and Kevin.
More beers were had, new friends were made (see photo below), and (long story short) my $500 prescription polarized sunglasses ended up at the bottom of Sylvan Lake. Good times!
In short order, Kevin returned triumphant to the lake, setting a new Fastest Known Troutman record in the process! Beast!
Katie was shortly behind him, but still needed a brook trout, 8 miles, and about 500 feet of elevation gain to get'r done. The brookie came fairly quickly and then Katie was joined by long time friend and the only other Troutwoman on the planet, Kristine Hoffman, to bang out the remaining mileage.
At the lake, more questionable choices were made (mostly by me) awaiting their return, which happened in just under 10 hours, cementing Katie Mazzia as a Troutwoman in her own backyard!!!
An awesome day for everyone. Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am to have found such an incredible group of people who are willing to do incredibly challenging and slightly idiotic things with me!
All hail two-time Troutman Kevin Browning and the second-ever Troutwoman, Katie Mazzia!!!
Dr. Andrew Todd is the Founder of Running Rivers and the Flyathlon. Dr. Todd is a slow but stubborn trail runner, a decidedly average fly fisherman, an enthusiast of dark and mysterious barrel aged beers, and a guardian of three fierce adventure terriers