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The Places They Take You / High Country

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

― Edward Abbey


The High Country, for those willing to put themselves through the additional efforts, are rewarded with a landscape that can be simply described as magic. The High Country is where it all starts, the headwaters of our major rivers, the most pristine environments, where we are lucky to stand on the edge of an infinity pool and take it all in. Here in Colorado we are a headwater state, with four major drainages pouring out in different directions, The Colorado, The Rio, The Arkansas, and The Platte. That means we have the opportunity to climb up to high elevations in the peak of summer in pursuit of the native fish that call these remote locations home.

Escaping the heat of the Front Range and exploring trailheads in search of that wild experience is a defining element of summer for me. Hiking long miles in hopes that the lake you arrive at holds the trout you have been dreaming of has me coming back for more each summer. While in pursuit of these fish there are moments along the way that can scare you, deflate you, inspire you, uplift you, and leave you feeling full and satisfied for the remainder of your week.


Inspired yet? You should be! No more convincing needed as the time is now and these beautiful fish and your next adventure awaits!

So, once you have your destination mapped out on paper and its image in your mind, what do you do once you get there? What do you pack for success in the high country? Below I am going to run though my backcountry setup in hopes that it brings you success on your next trip out.


These are at the center of my packing. If you don’t have the right fly to make it happen all that work goes into observation instead of chasing fish. I work from the surface down when I build my box. I keep my flies in just a single box for these high country adventures so that I have all my options in front of me and I don’t bring extra gear that I don’t need.



Some lakes are all about dry flies and watching cutties cruise the bank. Imagine fishing a saltwater flats, where you lead your target, present your fly, and watch the fish react. BUT instead of a sinking shrimp, these fish look up and eat a dry fly. There are two types of dry flies to consider when fishing a high alpine environment – water born dries and dries that get blown onto the surface of the water.

Must Have Dries:

Hippie StomperHot Spot Ant

Glitter Ant

Baby Boy Hopper

Para Hopper

Corn Fed Caddis

X2 Caddis

ST Midge


StimulatorOrange Asher

Iwan E Dun


I really like to fish a dry dropper many times as it is a great way to cover different water columns in a static presentation. In stillwaters insects hatch vertically for the most part and hanging a nymph under a dry is a great way to cover your bases. Change the depth of your nymph based on the depth you are seeing structure or cruising fish.

Must Have Nymphs:

Two Bit Hooker

Titan Tube Midge

Electric Caddis

Buckskin Caddis

Frostbite Chironomid

Prince Nymph

Zebra Midge Red

Hunchback Scud


This is the lower half of my box where I go when I start to scratch my head as to why I am not getting fish on the dry or nymph rigs. Sometimes you have to search, lakes go through cycles of feeding times and stripping buggers sometimes can be the ticket to scratch out fish during those slow periods. For these I do bring along some sinking lines – a Midge Tip, an Intermediate, and a type 3. It allows me to get fish when I might not have a chance sometimes.

Must have Buggers:

Balanced Swim Leech

Goat Leech

Junior Mint Tung

Mini Leech Jig Radiant

Zug Bug

Shock Collar Leech

Pops Bugger

Sextons Booby



For my other gear I try and keep it light and efficient for those long days where your pack just feels heavy when you sling it over your shoulders.


Umpqua Perform X Nylon 5X Leader

Umpqua Phantom X Ultra Fluoro Tippet 3X, 4X, 5X, 6X

Umpqua Shimazaki Dry Shake Spray

Umpqua Rivergrip Toolsincluding Hook Sharpener

Umpqua Wader/Chest Pack

Umpqua Weekender Fly Box

Rod & Reel

Sage Trout LL 9ft 4wt

Sage Click Reel w/RIO Gold Line

Sage Spectrum LT Reel w/XL Midge Tip

Sage Spectrum LT Spool w/ Clear Intermediate

Sage Spectrum LT Spool w/ Type 3 Full Sink Line


Ultralight Raincoat

Sunscreen/Bug Spray


Endless Snacks and Water


So do some research, gather your gear, pack your bag, lace up your boots, and get to hiking. There is nothing quite as rewarding as getting to spend time above or at treeline. Please make sure to tune into our Live Places They Take You / High Country with Umpqua Feather Merchants Thursday July 30th at 5pm MST on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Bring you follow up questions and prepare to get after it.

Happy Trails!

Russell Miller

Director of Marketing

Umpqua Feather Merchants