A Hike/Wade Guide’s Most Memorable Death March

Photo: Phil Tereyla

Photo: Phil Tereyla

High Mountain Strain and Success with Simms Pro, Landon Mayer.

Is hiking upwards of 10 miles in a single day to find willing fish necessary? Absolutely not. However, when you do find yourself that far from the trailhead, the promise of experiencing something truly special runs high.

That’s the mentality Simms Pro, Landon Mayer carries with him every day he spends on the trail/on the water. After 20 years as hike/wade guide in Colorado’s South Platte region, Landon has logged his fair share of death marches but out of all of them, there’s one that stands out.

Simms: Out of all the hikes you’ve done in search of trout, is there any one that stands out above the rest for any particular reason?
Mayer: For sure. It was do a high mountain lake and it stands out for a few different reasons. The fishing was unbelievable for one, but in all honesty what stands out the most was how ridiculous it was to get to it.

Simms: In terms of time, distance or how strenuous it was to get there?
Mayer: Yes, yes and yes. It was long, far and hard for sure.

Simms: How did you learn about the lake and did you know going in how difficult it was going to be to get to the top?
Mayer: I have a friend who is a fitness nut/triathlete. He told me it was a fairly intense 6 or 7 miles. What he “forgot” to mention was the pitch of the 6 or 7 miles.

Simms: For someone like you who hikes as much as you to say it was intense is saying a lot. Tell us more about the intensity.
Mayer: Man, it was crazy. I just remember getting up to the highest point you could visually see and think “oh great, it looks like there’s a lake nestled in on the other side and as soon as you’d crest over it, you’d realize oh my God, here’s another insane incline. It was a seemingly never ending death march to say the least.

Simms: How high is this “secret” lake?
Mayer: The trail head is at about 6,200 feet. I think where the lake is, we were at about 13,200 (don’t quote me on that). Like my friend said, it was every bit of 7 miles and I mean straight up.

Simms: How was the fishing once you made it to the top?
Mayer: First off, I don’t want to sugar coat it. Getting to the top was quite the feat. We really kind of underestimated the hike up so the fact that we reached the peak and the lake and still had a few hours to fish was beyond the reward. The fishing was really incredible. It was during the dog days of August and you know, we didn’t get up there and automatically find all these huge cutthroats cruising that were willing to eat anything. What I realized is that those fish living in a crater lake are so conditioned to being wary, we had to work for every fish we caught. We had to put the sneak on them, climbing over boulders, long leaders, perfect presentations and all that kind of stuff. That’s really the type of fishing I enjoy the most which is again why it was so rewarding.

Photo: Phil Tereyla

Photo: Phil Tereyla

Simms: I suppose after a hike like that, the pressure is on in a lot of ways to make it worth the effort, right?
Landon: I would say so. You know, you gotta get up there, do your thing, make it happen and make the right judgement call so you can get down before it gets too dark or worse, you get caught on the side of a mountain during a crazy lighting storm.

Simms: Any words of wisdom for anybody who has an epic hike/wade trip in their future?
Mayer: Absolutely. Bring gear for all types of weather, bring and drink lots of water and don’t do what I did and plan your trip when you have to guide the next day.

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