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Colorado: Gibson Lake, Pike National Forest

Tiny Gibson Lake will take you out of Denver in a hurry with its big-wilderness feel and smirking brook trout.

Little Known Fact: Did you know that smirking brookies will watch you as you circumnavigate Lake Gibson?

While Denver and Colorado’s eastern plains swelter in summer’s unmerciful heat, snow lingers on the 12,000-foot slopes of the Continental Divide. For those suffering in the city, cool relief is a short drive away.

This pleasant July weekend, we intended to check out rumors of 14-inch brook trout in Gibson Lake, within Pike National Forest. We hit the trail early under clear skies. The climb to Gibson Lake was a pleasant one at a grade of 12 percent. The path crossed Lake Fork Creek, a 2-foot-wide stream, several times along the way.

Conditions seemed perfect at the lake: A slight breeze rippled the surface, and occasional rises tangled the wave patterns. Within 15 minutes Steve had landed a fat 10-incher. “It’s going to be great!” he said. Of course, that was our only fish of the day.

As I fished my way around the tiny glacial lake, casting here and there to likely spots, squeaks and whistles echoed down from the talus slopes above. A glance up the hill revealed a marmot sitting nervously on his haunches to warn others nearby of real or imagined dangers.

We could see the mythic brookies smirking and hungerless in the depths. I eventually exchanged my rod for a camera and turned to the shoreline rainbowed in delicate alpine flowers.

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