Renewing old friendships

Don Oliver

Drought, fire, snow, heavy runoffs, pestilence, and helping to pay for orthopedic surgeons’ children to go to college, forced me to ignore two good friends. Those friends are Lime Creek and Cunningham Creek. I really missed not being able to enjoy everything they have to offer. But, now the weather is great, and I am running out of parts to be replaced. Old friends, I am back.

Lime Creek and Cunningham Creek, similar to people, are alike and different in many ways. It takes about the same driving time to get to the valley floor of Lime Creek as it does to reach Cunningham Creek, north of Silverton. Both are drop dead beautiful small streams. The rock polishers that keep the rocks slippery in the San Juan and Animas Rivers, have not found these two streams. This makes them easier to wade for us old fly fishers. And, my favorite part, the trout in these two creeks love dry flies. Further, on my visits last week, I didn’t see anyone else fly fishing.

Their differences are many. Lime Creek begins north of Highway 550, and eventually meets up with the Animas River. This gives a fly fisherman several options to fish it. Park at the big turn, just past the north entrance of the Old Lime Creek Road, and hike upstream. Or, take a bone-jarring, beautiful drive, on Old Lime Creek Road, and pick your favorite spot once you arrive along the banks of the creek. This is my favorite way to fish Lime Creek.

Lime Creek is one of the places I like to take people who are just getting into fly fishing, and whose number one goal is to catch fish. The wading is easy, there are plenty of places to stand and have an easy cast, and there are lots of trout. For the most part the fish are brook trout. They are small, hungry, beautiful, and not real smart. They are also not particular about what dry fly you are casting. What’s not to like? This is also a great place to go and just fly fish by yourself. I find when I get stressed out it has a calming effect on me. I can get stressed out a lot.

Cunningham Creek is where I like to go when I feel the need to be challenged. Distance wise, it’s farther than Lime Creek. However, the road is much better than the Old Lime Creek Road, so it takes about the same amount of time. To get to the creek follow highway 110/586 northeast from Silverton. When you get to highway 589, at Howardsville, follow it east along the creek. If you’ve never been up there take the time to drive all the way up to the big waterfall. Along this drive you’ll also see several waterfalls that cascade down the sides of the wide valley. Once you’ve gawked at the beauty of the valley, it’s time to get serious about the fly fishing. Similar to Lime Creek, the wading is fairly easy. Here is where the similarities stop.

Cunningham is primarily a cutthroat fishery. While a cutthroat is beautiful, it is not nearly as aggressive as a brook trout. They seem to be more selective in what they want to eat, and you won’t find large pods of them. In fact, if you find more than two in any one spot, you’ve hit the mother lode. This requires a fly fisherman to move after catching a couple of cutthroats. Thankfully, Cunningham Creek is easy to wade. As you wade up the creek, don’t hesitate to cast into shallow looking spots. You’ll be amazed how the fly du jour will bring the cutthroat to the dinner table.

If you find yourself with a couple of days to fly fish, spend a day on Lime Creek. Then drive to Silverton, spend the night, and then an entire day on Cunningham Creek. You’ll thank yourself on the way home.

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