A flotilla is defined as, “a fleet of ships or boats” and is an accurate way to describe our 4th annual float trip down the Colorado River from the Pumphouse put-in all the way down to Catamount.  We descended 28 miles of stellar water, with great fishing, riverside camping and beautiful scenery and wildlife around every bend.  This summer tradition started as a 3 person, one boat overnight a few years back.  This year we set off with 11 friends and 5 boats, ready to fish, float, camp, and test some Mountainsmith gear…oh yeah…and enjoy frosty beverages.

four boats on the bank of the colorado river
Our fine Flotilla. p: P.Obando

In the weeks leading up to the trip, the daily check in on the river flows felt much like my winter time obsession with the ski reports and forecasts.  With two of our 5 boats being drift boats (one a homemade, wooden beauty), we were hoping to see flows around 800cfs, while 1,000 is more typical for this time of year.  With just a few days to go, the river was sitting around 750cfs and the call was made to go for it with the 2 raft rigs volunteering to take on some extra weight and reduce the draft of the hard sided boats.  A late night rendezvous at the Pumphouse put-in was the starting point for a memorable weekend.  We arrived to a light rain that subsided as the embers in our fire pit sputtered after midnight and our crew turned in for the night with thoughts of sunny skies and big fish ahead!  It would be the last rain we’d see over the next 72 hours.

sign by the pumphouse Colorado River put in reading 772 CFS
We said we would go if the flows were over 800 CFS. 772… good enough! p: G. Max

We spent the first few hours of Friday morning rigging and launching boats as the rest of us ran a shuttle down the river’s frontage road, leaving a car at the midpoint with a cache of food, beer and ice for days 2 and 3.  After a uneventful ride down to the takeout and back…we were off.  For those of you that have camped in this fashion before, you soon become familiar with river time.  This is the feeling that it really doesn’t matter what time it is and that your calendar, just days ago full of work meetings, family responsibilities and the ins and outs of everyday life is suddenly a seamless blend of casts, beers, smiles and stories, shared between friends old and new.

Fly sitting on the Colorado River by Patrick Obando
Hoping for a bite! p: P. Obando
Brown trout in a net on the Colorado River taken by Patrick Obando
A beautiful Brown Trout in some not so beautiful murky water thanks to some low flows. p: P. Obando
Mountainsmith's President Jay Getzel holding a Brown Trout on the Colorado River
Mountainsmith’s President Jay Getzel pulls out one of the more beautiful Brown Trouts of the trip.
Jeremy Dodge holding a brown trout on the colorado river
A first brown trout for very amateur angler and Sales & Marketing Coordinator, Jeremy. Not sure who is smiling more, the fish or the fisherman.

Highlights of the trip included campsite horse shoes, nature bocce, breakfast burritos (with a Mountainsmith team favorite Santiagos green chile packed in the coolers), some beautiful trout, bald eagle sightings, a mom and 2 cubs bears wandering up the riverside and essentially all the shenanigans you’d expect from a crew of 11 guys, with no worries other than where to land there next cast or from which cooler to grab their next beer.

Jonathan McFarland tosses a bocce ball
National Sales Manager Jonathan leads the crew in a game of adventure bocces, while employing a Mountainsmith coozie. p: J. Dodge
Mother black bear on the side of the Colorado river
A mother black bear had brought her cubs down to the river for a drink, and stared right at us as we floated by. p: P. Obando
Two Mountainsmith Conifer 5+ tents set up on the side of the Colorado River
Tent of choice, the Conifer 5+ looking good on the banks of the Colorado River.

We had 3 of our Mountainsmith Conifer 5+ tents, coolers and bags from our Travel Storage line as well as some camera bags and lumbar packs along for the ride.  3 days and tons of smiles (and calories) later, we floated into the takeout at Catamount, a no-name town on the frontage road that follows the Colorado along most of this stretch.  As we reminisced about the 3 days on the river while running the shuttle to our cars and cache at the midpoint and eventually up to the put-in, we noticed the sign indicating the current flow in the mid-500’s.  The flow dropped nearly 300cfs during our days on the river.  This is nearly half the average for this time of year.  On the drive home, I found myself lost in the appreciation of valuable resource we have in our rivers, our water, our mountains and our friendships…the drive back to the front range of Colorado whizzed by in a blur of trees, cars, mountains and memories…and dreams of next year’s trip to come!

Waxing Moon in Colorado
A nearly full moon lit up each night.



  1. Looks like a fantastic trip! If that is in fact a grizzly and not a lightly colored black bear (black bears aren’t always black) please report it to the Colorado Division of Wildlife ASAP.

  2. Sorry for the confusion all…a quick huddle this morning in the office revealed we mistakenly called our wildlife sighting a grizzly when in fact it was not…cheers!

  3. Correction made! Sorry for the confusion everyone. As the curator(not author) of this article and still fairly new to Colorado, I will be heading to The Wildlife Experience(www.thewildlifeexperience.org) at my earliest convenience to brush up on my wildlife identification!

    I also found this article from our friends at OhRanger.com to be quite helpful: (http://www.ohranger.com/blog/13/05/how-identify-black-and-grizzly-bears). Thanks everyone for calling this out, you learn something everyday!

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