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Hidden in plain sight

Old gravel pits now filled with trout

For the past several years, when driving northeast on Highway 145 from Dolores, I have noticed several lakes on the east side of the road; the lakes are located at mile marker 17. I never gave them much thought, until recently when curiosity got the best of me.

I now wish it had gotten the best of me sooner.

The lakes are called Twin Spruce Ponds Fishing Lease. The lakes were originally gravel pits. When the gravel played out, the pits were turned into lakes and filled with water from the Dolores River. According to Steve McClung with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the lakes are leased from the Tibbits Family. The lease was negotiated in 2015 and although it originally was set to last four years, it has since been extended. Hopefully this extension will allow the lakes to remain under CPW management for many years to come. When the lease was made with CPW they were initially stocked with 6,000 trout. The initial stocking is a drop in a bucket compared with the number of trout stocked over the ensuing years. I also noticed the areas around the lakes were void of trash. According to Steve, this is from the the efforts of the CPW and volunteers from the Dolores River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

After talking with my fly fishing partner, Kim, about the lakes, we decided a day of float tubing was needed. As we pulled into the parking area, it became obvious there were more than just the three lakes you can see from the highway. In fact, there are eight lakes. Lakes one through three are at the southern end of the eight lakes. Here is where public parking and a portable potty are located. The three lakes are easy to access and launch a float tube. The lakes may be fished from the shore or any non-motorized watercraft. We fished lake two from our tubes in the morning and found it had lots of trout in. At least Kim did.

For the afternoon, we decided to fish lake number eight. Even though there is a really nice gravel road that parallels the lakes, there is a locked gate preventing vehicle traffic. Steve informed me that it was the CPW policy that the road would remain closed year-round to all vehicles. I can see the reasoning to close the road. I think it will prevent the road from becoming a major thoroughfare and would help protect the area.

The walk from lake three to eight took about 20 minutes and was beautiful; remember it’s fall. The walk, to and fro, convinced this old curmudgeon that for fly fishermen with artificial knees and hips, fishing ponds one through three is the best idea. However, since we survived the walk to lake eight, we were going to fly fish it. Accessing this lake from the shore proved to be challenging. There are lots of trees and bushes all around the shore, and since these were gravel pits there’s not much bank to stand on. And, they get deep quickly, so there’s very little shallow water to stand in. That said, Kim and I found various places to cast our flies from. And, similar to our experience at lake two, Kim proceeded to catch untold numbers of trout.

While the lakes on this Saturday were virtually vacant, I would imagine that during the summer they can get crowded. So if you have the ability to choose the day you want to fly fish on Twin Spruce, and don’t want crowds, try Tuesday through Thursday. However, if you enjoy watching a parent help a youngster learn to fish, maybe even fly fish, go on the weekend. I like sitting in a chair and sipping ice tea; I might go on the weekend.

Reach Don Oliver at durango.fishing@gmail.com.