Before the freeze: A late fall fishing trip with master angler, Bernie Keefe |

Before the freeze: A late fall fishing trip with master angler, Bernie Keefe

Bernie Keefe (left) helps Casimir McFarlin get his fishing line ready to cast on a cold October morning on Lake Granby as the first rays of sunlight begin peeking over the continental divide.
Lance Maggart / Sky-Hi News |

There is something ethereal about a high country morning, especially in the late fall, and on a recent fishing trip with master angler Bernie Keefe I was reminded of just how majestic life is when lived in the shadow of the continental divide.

It was a brisk mountain morning, cold in fact, when my son and I drove to Stillwater boat ramp to meet up with Grand County’s preeminent fishing guide, and Sky-Hi News’ fishing report writer, Bernie Keefe. Bernie is a gregarious character – quick with a wry smile or a tongue in cheek story – and one of the lucky few in this world who managed to find a paying gig doing the exact same thing he does in his free time.

Bernie noted the severe cold that Friday, five degrees Fahrenheit, as the three of us shimmied onto his boat before the sun even started peeking over the high peaks to the east. With a heavy morning mist rising off Lake Granby we took off across the placid dark blue waters, wrapped tightly in multiple layers of long handled underwear and bib overalls, it was almost like ice fishing, but before the freeze.

As the sun began peeking over the divide we noticed we were the only boat on the lake. The smart money was all at home. Seasoned anglers know late fall is not exactly the best time of year to cast a line but just because it is not prime time does not mean there are no fish to be caught.

Here is a spot for a disclaimer. I grew up hunting and fishing and while I have taken plenty of large and small game I have never been a competent angler. Over hundreds of outings, from early childhood through today, I have only caught fish on three separate days, including my recent morning outing with Bernie.

As our guide settled in on top of one of his reliable honey holes he offered a little instruction to us rookies about the proper cast and reel motion we would need to snag a bite. Our conversation quickly turned to the sort of bologna you typically expect on a fishing trip, complete with friendly exaggerations, half-true complaints, and more than a few fish stories.

It was not long before we started getting our first bites and began reeling up lake trout in the 12 inch range. In less than three hours my son and I had both caught our limit. As we cruised back to shore Bernie again noted how the lake was essentially empty.

“We’re the only suckers”, he joked.

And so we were, but suckers or not, it was a day to remember.

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