When I was growing up, I was always told, “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” That’s great for children. However, as I have aged and matured, when life hands me a lemon, I now put it in a gin and tonic. Maturity and age can be wonderful things.
Recently, when the San Juan National Forest was closed because the forest fire, I was left with the lemon choice. One, I could sit around, pout and drink gin and tonics with lemons in them. Or, I could find an alternative to quench my fly fishing habit. I chose the latter. That choice led me to Echo Reservoir, located just south of Pagosa Springs on Highway 84. Even though I had fished Echo Reservoir last year, I had pretty much forgotten about it when Lake Nighthorse opened. However, when Lake Nighthorse closed, for good reason, Echo Reservoir came to the forefront of my aging mind.
Echo Reservoir is 212 acres at an elevation of 7,230 feet and is managed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Judging from the two times I have fished Echo Reservoir, it was obvious Parks and Wildlife was doing a good job. The lake is 50-feet deep at its deepest point. There are also lots of shallow areas well-covered in plants and reeds. This diversity allows for lots of rainbow trout, bass, pan fish and channel catfish.
The trout, pan fish and bass were catchable on dry flies and poppers. I didn’t try to catch the catfish, but I imagine a Woolly Bugger fished deep and slowly stripped would produce catfish. I’ll have to try that next time I fly fish Echo Reservoir.
While power boats are allowed on Echo Reservoir, being as small as it is, there is a no wake rule. That gives you lots of practice for the no wake days at Lake Nighthorse. There is a boat ramp and a small unpaved parking area. So, after launching a boat, make sure you park leaving room for other trucks with boat trailers. When you enter the launching area, you will discover there are no fees or boat inspections. This is good and bad. Having no inspection station makes for a quick launch. However, it can also make the lake seem over-crowded. The lake is for the enjoyment of anybody that shows up. It is meant to be used.
I saw several other power boats, stand up paddle boards, canoes, kayaks and various types of inflatables. I also saw dads helping their children to fish, young families walking the shoreline enjoying the lake and folks sitting under a tree watching their bobbers. At the west end of the lake, where the dam is, there are shallow flats that people can wade out and fish from. At different locations there are also bathroom facilities. Further, the lake is day use only. Camping and camp fires are not allowed.
As for things to look for when at the lake, I saw so many different types of birds I lost count. I saw a bear walking across an open field watching everyone enjoying their day at the lake. I got the feeling the bear really wanted to go for a swim, but thought better of that idea. While I didn’t see any deer or elk, I know they are there.
There is not much in the way of buffers to protect you from the afternoon winds. So, as the winds picked up and blew straight down the lake, I found myself having to tie on something that sank. After a short period of that, I just anchored the boat and enjoyed a nice picnic lunch and watched everyone having a good day.
Even if your favorite lake is open, Echo Reservoir is a great change of pace. Drive over and give it a try.
Reach Don Oliver at email@example.com.