The three boys laughed and raced along pushing their bikes up the steep little mountain road of western Colorado early the morning of that perfect, hot summer day in August. Fishing poles over their shoulders, Gordon, Mike and Steve headed up the mountain toward the old coal mine.
The played out coal mine marked the upper end of the road known as the “Coal Road” by the local folks of this small town of Paonia, Colorado. In these boys book though, it represented the kick off point for adventure and another of the better fishing trips that any kid could ever hope for. The boys left their bikes behind near the mine, and set out cross country, following game and cow trails through the stands of oak and sage brush and cedar trees. Cutting across the larger meadows near the top of the ridge they finally hit an overgrown old logging road that led up over the ridge to the east of the mine and headed down into the next canyon.
That next canyon held a genuine Colorado jewel, claiming the title Terror Creek. Truly a wonder to those three boys that had slogged for hours up over the hot dusty mountain ridge. Terror Creek offered some of the finest fishing I’ve ever known, the stuff that fishing legends were made of. Letting out a whoop at the first sight of the creek far below in the bottom of the canyon, the boys broke into a run. Parting from the overgrown road they chased each other down the steep incline, again following game trails that led them through the canyon’s pine forests and thick brush. Finally breaking out of the brush they found themselves on the narrow rocky banks of the raging mountain stream as it cascaded from one boulder to the next. Behind and around each of those boulders – a deep pool of cold Colorado mountain spring water was teeming with wild trout.
Those were unbelievable days fishing that wild, raging Terror Creek, so near to Paonia, Colorado, yet so far away and remote that it required hours of trudging over that dry dusty mountain ridge. To their delight the entire day was spent baiting and re-baiting the hook, adding yet another sizeable catch to the fishing bags. On a nearly legendary scale, virtually every cast into a deep, swirling pool yielded another strike by a trout bent on seizing a tasty morsel for it’s dining pleasure. There are few pleasures like hitting a backcountry mountain creek where the trout are not wary of constant fishermen.
Of course there was then the long trudge back home from that backcountry fishing adventure. Fortunately, once the mountain ridge was topped for the return journey the route back was a downhill run, and the boys had their bikes to hasten their return. And oh, the wondrous fish feast that followed in the days after each journey over to Terror Creek.
Treasures like Terror Creek were discovered in all directions as we rattled around on our bikes in that little mountain valley of Paonia in western Colorado, exploring every canyon, creek and pond. Of course, the fishing has changed in the years since those childhood memories took form, as the local population and the visitors to the area have grown. Ah, the area though, in the shadow of Mount Lamborn, with a backdrop of Mount Gunnison up Minnesota Creek – we could have sworn we lived in a little corner of Shangri-la.
There are still so many directions to explore back into the canyons and forests around the Paonia, Colorado area to find some solitude, good fishing, and a deep drink of the most spectacular mountain back country in the lower 48 states. If you ever get a chance to slip back into that quiet little neighborhood, don’t pass it up. Head off up the North Fork of the Gunnison, explore the shops and gentle neighborhoods of Paonia, and then head on up the canyon to Paonia Dam, Kebler Pass, Muddy Creek, the Ragged Mountains – bring your fishing pole and savor all the wonders found there. As you make your Colorado plans, check out the Colorado trail and National Forest information we’ve set up to help Colorado explorers. We can sure set you up in some perfect “base camp” accommodations in style nearby in Delta, over in Montrose or down in Grand Junction.