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Fishing with the Elk….Who was here first?

Another fun activity that we like while staying in the Rocky Mountains is fishing. Our favorite places to fish are the Big Thompson River in Moraine Park, Sprague Lake and Mary’s Lake. The only problem I have is that I haven’t been able to figure out how to get the trout to bite my hook. No matter what bait that I put in front of the trout’s face, it isn’t the one that they like. On the other hand, my grandsons seem to be able to intice the trout to bite their hooks. Last year my wife thought that she had the solution for me. She went out and bought me a shirt that said “Here fishy fishy“. Her plan was for me to wear that shirt every time that I went fishing. So far it hasn’t worked!

A few days ago we planned a trip to Moraine Park where the Big Thompson River flows. It is a beautiful place, just inside the Rocky Mountain National Park, with magnificent views of the mountains. The area is a large meadow where the river runs from the high mountains to the west to the lower mountains to the east. It is not only a favorite place for fishermen but is also a favorite place for elk to graze.

Early in the afternoon, my grandson and I gathered our fishing gear and headed out to Moraine Park. When we arrived, we noticed a crowd of people just beyond the area where we would park. Anytime there is a crowd of people on the road in the park, you know that there is a sighting of wildlife. Sure enough there was a large bull elk grazing on the edge of the river. We stopped there and managed to get some close up pictures of Mr. Elk. After we were satisfied with our pictures, we turned around and went to our favorite parking place, put on our wading boots and headed for the river.

As we headed for a place that we knew would have some fish, we could see some other elk in the distance. The closer we got to our fishing spot, the closer the elk got to us. There were about 25 elk in this herd with one very large bull elk who was definitely in charge. Not an elk that you would want to aggravate. Anyway, we proceeded to go about our business and fish. We hadn’t been there but a few minutes when the elk seem to be interested in what we were doing. They started to edge closer to us and we started to edge a little farther down the river. Their curiosity brought them ever closer to our position. You have to know that the Big Thompson river isn’t but about 20 feet wide in most areas in the park. When the elk are just on the other bank, they aren’t but about 20 feet from you. One of the elk cows (female) stepped down into the river about 15 feet from me so I decided to exit the river. The elk were not threatening us, they just felt that they owned the area and we were intruding. When Mr. Elk came close, my grandson said “Papa, we need to get out of here”. I had to agree, so we reeled in our lines and moved away in the other direction from the elk and let them have the river. After all, that is their home, not ours!

It was truly and thrilling experience to have that many elk that close at one time. I think that if we had not moved, they would have come right up to us. Fortunately, the mating season hasn’t started so the elk weren’t aggressive. Once the rut starts, you don’t dare get as close as we were to them.

Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park has one of the largest concentrations of elk in the country. It is a beautiful thing to see large groups of elk in downton Estes Park. It reminds me of all the white tail deer in the Hill Country of Texas. The biggest difference is the size of the animals and the fact that the elk roam Estes Park like they own the place. They have the right of way on the road and many times traffic has to stop until they decide to clear the road.

What a handsome guy!
Bull Elk

Where is our leader?
Herd of Elk

I think he went this way.
Herd of Elk

I think I see a trout! Where’s the fisherman?
More Elk

I think the fishing is over for now.
Brad in front of Elk

Now where did those girls go?
Bull Elk


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