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Saguache County lies in one of the most unique areas of the great state of Colorado, the gateway to the San Luis Valley It occupies the northern portion of the valley and appears to be hydrologically isolated from the major waterways in the area. The Rio Grande is the largest river in the valley and is also one of the most important in the nation. Although some of the water from the Rio Grande is used for irrigation in the county, no fishable water occurs in the county on the river.
The majority of the fisheries in the area consist of small creeks and high lakes, although two major creeks, Saguache and Cochetopa provide some of the best small river fishing in the state. These waterways hold most of the species of trout found in the State including Cutthroat, Rainbow, Brown, and Brook. Other creeks that hold fishable populations include the forks of Carnero Creek, La Garita Creek, San Luis Creek, and Middle Creek. These are in the western and southern portions of the county. Numerous small creeks drain the Sangre de Cristo mountains on the east side of the county, and many hold fish, but in small size and numbers. Much of the lengths of these creeks occur on private property, some of which is leased to clubs. Therefore anglers need to obtain a regulation brochure from any store that sells fishing and hunting licenses or the Colorado Division of Wildlife office in Monte Vista 719.852.4783.
Those anglers seeking secluded experiences should note the numerous high elevation lakes in the Sangre de Cristo wilderness and the La Garita wilderness. These lakes are generally accessible on foot or horse back in the middle of summer (around July 4) but anglers should get local information before starting. The Saguache District Forest Service office at 719.655.2547 is a good place to start. Lakes of note include North and South Crestone Willow, Rito Alto, Cotton, and Cherry. These lakes are generally the headwaters for streams of the same name and hikes range from strenuous to mild. Species likely to be encountered include brook, Snake River Cutthroat, and some native Rio Grande cutthroats. Sizes range from pan (good eating) to 5 and 7 pound trophies. Machin Lake in the La Garita Wilderness holds recant Yellowstone and mixed cutthroat trout and trophies have been caught here in the past.
Visitors should realize that natural resources at high elevations, although rich and productive, are also very fragile and should be treated with care. Try to leave some fish in the water, pack out all refuse including entrails, and keep clean camps to avoid attracting bears.