2014 Year in Review

As 2014 draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the best beer, runs, and trout of my year.

Happy New Year to all you Flyathletes out there. I hope to see you on a trail, in a river, or at a bar in 2015. Look for an announcement soon about the 2015 Rocky Mountain Flyathlon…

Cheers.

Andrew (a.k.a. The Stout Runner)
Founder and Flyathlete
www.flyathlon.com

Top Five Beers

  1. 40th Birthday Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor 40 oz: Yes, that Mickey’s. The Mickey’s of my youth (wait, that sounds bad…). Yes, to celebrate my 40th birthday, I drank a Mickey’s 40 out of a paper bag (actually an insulated “paper bag” themed coozy) while playing poker with some of my closest friends. Also smoked a cigar that night. Pushed all-in at 1:30 am on a marginal to poor hand, to ensure that I would be somewhat coherent to parent the next day. That plan didn’t work out all that well…
  1. Crooked Stave Raspberry Origins: In 2014, I was a member of Crooked Stave’s Cellar Reserve Club, which provided members a series of exclusive sour beers unavailable to the general public (and at a significant price). Many of these beers were outstanding, but for me, the Raspberry Origins was a standout. I still have one in the cellar, so if you are nice to me in 2015, you just might experience the sourtasticness of this beer. Note: Fortunately, for the stability of my marriage and personal finances, the Cellar Reserve program was terminated. Fortunately for you, this means that Crooked Stave will be releasing more unique beers to the public. If you like sour beer, seek them out…
  1. Three Barrel Thurday Special: I have been drinking Three Barrel beers ever since I discovered this brewery being operated out of the back of an insurance office in the bustling metropolis of Del Norte, CO. Well, times have changed, and Three Barrel just opened their official legit tap-room in Del Norte within the last couple of months. As an official sponsor of the 2014 Rocky Mountain Flyathlon, the good folks at Three Barrel donated 5.5 gallons of Thurday Special, a unique coconut brown ale, for the post-race party. Polling confirmed my feelings about this beer, as it was selected as one of the best that we served at the event. If you happen to find yourself in Del Norte, please stop in to Three Barrel and fill a growler.
  1. Elevation Beer Company Arete: Coming in 2015, the Flyathlon will be supercharged, in the form of the Troutman Team Challenge. In short, the challenge is to run a full trail marathon (with more than 4000 feet gained), catch all four trout resident in Colorado (brook, brown, rainbow, and cutthroat), and slam a 12+% ABV beer, all in under 12 hours. Ah, but what beer to drink after running 26.2 miles? Everyone knows that I love our Trophy Sponsor’s beers, but until very recently, Elevation did not have a beer over 12% ABV. All that changed with the release of Arete, a deliciously strong barleywine. I just hope that there enough time on the clock to savor this bad boy come September…
  1. Oxbow Brewing Company Cletus: What, you may ask, is a backwoods Maine beer doing at the top of this year’s beer list? Well, as you may or may not know, my best friend lives in Maine, and he and his beautiful wife made the journey all the way to Denver to celebrate my 40th birthday. But they did not come alone… No, they brought with them an assortment of this America’s most wanted beers, including a Three Floyds Dark Lord, a Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, a Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, and the limited release Oxbow Cletus. Needless to say, each of these beers is likely to show up near the top of future year-in-review beer lists, but for 2014, we threw down the Cletus. Which was delicious. And special, because it came from one of the most selfless, genuine (and yes, surly) people I know. Thanks SOG. You really made my 40th.

Top Five Runs:

  1. Sand Ramp Trail: Let me begin by stating that this run was not planned. In fact, it came about as the result of poor work planning on my part (shocker, I know). The initial plan was to backpack with heavy packs over several days from the headwaters of Sand Creek to its mouth, and then to hike back over the Sand Ramp Trail to retrieve the car where it was stashed in the woods near Great Sand Dunes National Park… What I didn’t anticipate was the shit-storm of bloodthirsty mosquitoes that we would encounter over the bottom 7 miles of the hike, complicated by the half-dozen tricky river crossings. Once we staggered out the bottom of the watershed, it was painfully clear that my team had no patience for an additional 8 mile hike through hot, powder-fine sand. So it fell to me to recover the car. Let’s just say that the Sand Ramp Trail is aptly named. That was the longest 8 mile run of my life. Honestly felt like I was hallucinating at one point. Emptied my shoes 5 different times. Epic planning failure. Epic run.
  1. Bluebird Lake Run: Another work-related run, this run came after several days of work in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin. On the last day, I decided to run past our field site on Ouzel Creek, all the way up to Bluebird Lake. Getting to Bluebird Lake is no easy task, particularly running it, as the last mile or so is aggressively steep. To complicate things, I clipped my knee on a boulder on the ascent, which turned into a spectacular bleeder. The journey was worth it though, as Bluebird is a spectacle. Since Bluebird is fishless, on the descent, I stopped to fish Ouzel Lake and soak my battered knee in its ice-cold waters…
  1. Colorado Monument Run: Ah, yet another work-related run (seriously, I do work). At the end of a long week of electrofishing near Grand Junction, two co-workers and I decided to bang out a 10k up onto the Colorado Monument. I have never run the Monument before, but there are two words I would use to describe it. Steep and Stone. Not rocky, like the loose , razor sharp rock of the Leadville Heavy Half. No, the majority of this trail was running on exposed bedrock, like running on really poorly poured concrete. Every step on the descent was a potential train wreck. Didn’t trip, and washed it all down with a Ska Mexican Logger. Or maybe three. Excellent.
  1. Imogene Pass Run: If you are interested in the details of this bad-ass Colorado run, please visit my race report
  1. 40th bday 40k: To celebrate my 40th birthday, I decided that I was going to run 40 miles around Cheesman Park. Yes, laps around Cheesman Park. But since I was nearly 40, and because of the long-term wear and tear that comes with being nearly 40, I decided to revise this birthday run to 40k. A metaphor for life, I asked friends and family to join me for a lap, two laps, or however much they wanted to run with me. The result was incredible. The 1st lap I ran solo. Then, over the next 17 laps, I picked up my father, my siblings, my children, my cousin, my childhood best friend (who HATES to run), my wife’s best friend, my neighbor, my mortgage broker, my lawyer, my former lawyer, my competition for a recent job (he got it), my EPA boss’s boss, etc… After the run mercifully came to an end (at 40.000k), we all gathered back at my house for sandwiches and Left Hand Fade to Black stouts. Such a great way to celebrate (lash out at) getting old. NOTE: Not one to take failure lightly, I still plan to attempt a 40 miler sometime in this, my 40th year. Stay tuned.FullSizeRender-6

Top Five Trout:

  1. Stupid little brookie at the head of the only pool on Canyon Creek during the Imogene Pass Run: As noted above, I have already summarized this experience. There have been many memorable brook trout in my life (the most memorable of which, to date, is the brookie that Kate hooked on her own in Telluride), but this one saved my bacon. Thanks, you crazy little brookie.
  1. Pig Rio Grande cutthroat trout that I caught in the exact same spot last year in Medano Lake, except one year larger: Compare the trout from this video to the one pictured below. Same fish, right? I love my annual pilgrimage to Medano Lake to catch these clueless Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Each year, they are a year bigger, yet, due to their isolation, not an ounce wiser…photo-11
  1. The 1000th 1.5 lb cutthroat trout hybrid that I caught in Lower Sand Creek Lake: If I tried to describe the awesomeness that is the Sand Creek watershed, I would fail. This place is so spectacular, and absolutely teeming with trout. Look at these pictures, and let me know when you want to join me on an expedition back there sometime this summer…
  1. The trout that made the difference: In the 2014 Rocky Mountain Flyathlon, the difference between 1st and 2nd place was a brilliant orange slash. From my race report:“Our fastest finisher was screamin’ fast.  To run 3.5 miles up a significant rock-strewn hill, navigate a flooded aspen grove twice, string up a fly rod and catch an 8-inch brown trout, and run 3.5 miles back in just over an hour and 23 minutes is flat-out awesome.  Ah, but running the same run six minutes slower, but with a shit-eating grin plastered on your face, producing a photo of an 8-inch native Rio Grande cutthroat trout at the finish line…  That is just slightly more awesome.”
  1. The one that got away: I am privileged to be able to (infrequently) fish a secret stretch of the Blue River, somewhere between Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoirs. It is an even greater privilege to be able to fish it with my dad and the 88 year-old landowner, Sam (who regularly out-fishes folks less than half his age). So this October, when I got the opportunity to fish the Blue again, I strung up my 5-weight Sage, picked up my dad and Sam, and drove to Summit County. After the customary breakfast burrito / huevos rancheros, we hit the water. My primary job during these trips is to remain downstream of the pair of them (in case one becomes entrained in the streamflow as a “drifter”). In working my way back upstream towards them, I hooked a gigantic rainbow trout while drinking a delicious Stone milk stout. As I horsed this pig out of the pool he was in, I saw a flash of something much, much larger deep in the deep, dark depths of that hole… I landed the milk stout trout, and reluctantly rejoined the team upstream.
    Stone Coffee Milk Stout / Blue River Rainbow Trout

    Stone Coffee Milk Stout / Blue River Rainbow Trout

    But that shadow haunted me… With less than 30 minutes remaining on our fishing expedition clock, I again broke away from the pack and made a b-line for that magical stretch of the Blue. Creeping through the riverside willows, I dropped a perfect cast at the top of that run, watched the parachute hopper indicator drift slowly across the stillwater surface defining his lair, and then WHAM! It was on.

    Within seconds, it was clear that I was totally screwed. My decision to retain 4x tippet was fundamentally flawed, and I knew it. And he knew it. As he languidly rolled downstream, it was just a matter of time. Yet when the line went taut, and then snapped, I was somehow surprised… Fortunately, the roar of the surrounding rapids drowned out the multitude of f-bombs that I hurled downstream at that beast. I reeled in my fly line, hung my head, and returned to civilization.

    Hopefully, I will get another shot at this monster. Perhaps in 2015. If’n I do, I will bring 1X tippet and the 8-weight TFO…

    Happy New Year!!

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One Comment

  1. wouldn’t have missed it for the world, bud. will start stocking up on nice stouts for the next bday milestone now.

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