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Easy Access Mountain Lakes by AC Guide Phil Tereyla

Phil Tereyla is one of the fly fishing guides here at Angler’s Covey. In addition to building a fly fishing guide career that has spanned fourteen years, Phil has been a contributor to American Angler Magazine (read his “Simple Stillwater Solutions”). He sat down to talk about his second book, coming out later this spring, about Colorado’s easy access mountain lakes. Read more about Phil on his blog, Phil Tereyla Fly Fishing, or on our webpage.

Where do you hail from originally and where did you catch the fly fishing bug?

I was born in San Antonio, Texas.  Both my mother and stepfather were in the Air Force and they transferred to Peterson AF Base when I was in 4th grade.  Been here every since.

I started fishing when I was maybe 10, heading into 5th grade.  I watched fly fishermen at Deckers and 11 mile canyon and see them get all hooked up.  That really caught my interest.

Then I started to learn as much as I could.  This was, of course, pre-YouTube, so I did a lot of reading, doing as much on my own, with a lot of trial and error.  After I got my driver’s license at 16, I was up in the Canyon or on the Dream as much as I could. Getting tangled, figuring stuff out.

I consider the South Platte as my homewater.  Love being on the Dream Stream, and a ton of my guide trips there.

How long have you been guiding?

I’m 34 years old and starting my 14th year as a guide. I took two years off to play junior hockey after high school, then got a degree in History and a minor in Geography from the University of Northern Colorado.  I started guiding somewhere in there.

Phil and one of his rewards from one of Colorado's easily accessible mountain lakes.
Phil with one of the rewards of fishing Colorado’s stillwater destinations.

Tell us about your forthcoming book.

The book is called Flyfisher’s Guide to Easy Access Mountain Lakes by Wilderness Adventures Press in Belgrade, Montana. It’ll be out tentatively in mid- to late-May.  It’s in the final stages of production now. It’ll be out in time to start planning for lake fishing in Colorado.

I cover nearly 70 lakes in Colorado. Just as the title says, these really are easy access mountain lakes! Some, you can drive right up to, others you might make a 6-mile round-trip hike. So, anywhere from get out of the car and fish to hike in 3-miles and fish.

I was adamant about not being the guy who did the “15-mile” hikes.  There are guys who do Google map searches and then hike in 15 miles and discover there aren’t many, or any, fish in the lake.  So they do the same thing the next day to a different lake. I didn’t want to name drop those or hot-spot those lakes.  Those guys earned that kind of knowledge and experience.

My focus is accessing Colorado’s mountain lakes for an enjoyable fly fishing trip.

With that said, who is the audience for the book? 

I have a little bit of everything in it. I have some more advanced hikes for the avid hike-in angler. For example, there’s a trio of lakes on Independence Pass: Lincoln, independence, and Lost Man’s Lake. That’s more of an advanced hike.  Big rock hops, basically through a boulder garden, and above tree line.

It’s also a very family-friendly resource for people wanting less of a hike and very accessible fishing. Some destinations are basically drive right to the lake.

This cutty calls his home a mountain lake.
Big mountain-lake cutty!

The fly fishing window for some of the higher lakes is a short one. Tell us about some of the destinations and more about your decision to include them.

The season is so short on some of the high altitude lakes. So you are looking at end of June through, maybe, end of September for some areas. It depends on when the cold weather really sets in.

I was selective in the lakes I focused on. I didn’t want to talk about any of the big reservoirs.  I was more focused on those cool, high-mountain lake type of feel, where the fish aren’t necessarily big although there are certainly some easy access lakes with some incredible fish in them.

For example, at the Grand Mesa there are a ton of lakes that you can hike into and some with such easy access but I left them out because there are so many. I think we included 15 or 16 lakes in the Grand Mesa that you can drive right pretty much right up to. 

The Grand Mesa, for me, was super cool. I have fished there before but it was great to spend time there, take photos, and fish.  Tiger trout, grayling, rainbow, brown … a lot of species are all on the Grand Mesa. 

You’ve worked on the book for around two years. What were some other surprises, the cool discoveries?

The coolest part of it was being constantly immersed in the different settings. I was in the Flat Tops Wilderness near Rifle and Meeker, in the Grand Mesa, and in the Southwest. It was just super cool driving the back roads and dirt roads, barely even roads in some places, and just seeing all of this awesome stuff.  It was super cool to really immerse myself. Some of the lakes that are not a tough hike, maybe a little altitude gain and just a mile or two walk, but were the most pristine, beautiful lakes. 

This beautiful brook trout is one of the reasons to take that hike!

How did you find the time with full-time guiding to complete this book?

To be honest, the little Covid shut-down last year when nobody was really guiding was a bit of a blessing in disguise as far as the book goes.  We had a lot of lakes ice-off early, too, because of the milder winter and warmer spring, especially in the Southwest and out west. Unfortunately for the southwest it was a low snow-pack year but allowed me to get to some lakes in the late spring. I was able to get a lot of work done in late April / early May of 2020.

It sounds like you covered a lot of Colorado. Tell us about the geographic area (to tie back into your college degree!).

The book is structured into sections: Southwestern Colorado, the Western Slope, northern Colorado, the Front Range, the central mountains (Collegiate Peaks area) and then what I call the I-70 Ski Country (just because there wasn’t another geographical region).

I fished all of the lakes that are in the book.

Another one of the cool discoveries as I think about the geographic areas covered were the lakes around the Ridgway / Ouray area:  Trout Lake, the Alta Lakes south of Telluride, and Silver Jack Reservoir. Oh, and Priest Lake was one of my favorites and didn’t even make the cut!  Brook trout everywhere. That was a cool discovery.

Because some of these are high altitude lakes with a bit of a hike, are there safety concerns the angler should be aware of?

I talk about safety a bit in the book, for sure.  You have to be sure to let people know where you are going. Always make sure you are taking your time and watching your step. No rush, right? A lot of injuries that happens to hikers are when they are in a rush and miss a step, or the rock rolls a little, and they twist an ankle. 

Anglers also have to be aware of the weather.  In July, you can pretty much count on storms rolling through in early afternoon.  You don’t want to be caught above tree-line, primarily because of the threat and danger of lightning.  Those storms may extend through August and into September.   

Of course, I can’t ever overstate about staying hydrated. The air is so dry in Colorado that your sweat evaporates before you even know you are perspiring.  Carry and drink a lot of water.  [Editor’s note:  Read this article on altitude sickness and hydration from the Institute for Altitude Sickness at Telluride, Colorado. And this one from ER Specialists in Colorado Springs. Or this one from Livestrong.)


Flyfisher’s Guide to Easy Access Mountain Lakes by Phil Tereyla, published by Wilderness Adventures, Belgrade, Montana. Watch for the release date on this blog or in our newsletter!

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