Friday, December 18, 2009

Jackson Wyoming 2009: Part 3 of 7

October 5, 2009
Part 3

Day 2 is when the snow hit.

We went to sleep the night before and knew we were in for a bit of snow, nothing much really ... until we awoke at about 1 AM with the tent roof resting about 1 foot above our faces! It was quite hilarious really, Jay was the first to notice this abnormality so he woke up and proceeded to remove the snow from the roof of the tent by pushing up. Josh, who was sleeping the closest to the wall that the snow fell to woke up convinced that a large animal was attacking him (which is a pretty normal response to a very weird noise just outside the tent)!

All in all, we woke up twice more that night to relieve the tent of snow strain. When morning hit we were most concerned about getting our cars out of camp (a solid 2 miles from a paved road).

After a lengthy morning of shuffling gear, getting breakfast and tying some flies we decided to fish Blacktail ponds for the morning, and then spend a bit of time on the Snake. The weather was pretty miserable, which had our hopes up for baetis.

Unfortunately, we arrived at Blacktail Ponds only to find the Cutthroat population was pretty decimated. What was the true cause we don't know, though later in the week we heard rumor from some others that the spring creek had been heavily poached (very sad day). All I know is that a 1/4 mile spring creek that usually holds 200 fish, was at best holding 25. We made the best of what we could, but the saddest factor of all was that the baetis were rolling off like some sort of odd "reverse rain" (see the video, just before the camera ducks underwater and you'll see the blanket of baetis). Had the fish numbers been there, we would have no doubt been in baetis heaven!

We had a couple of fish on, landed a few, then we decided to head downstream to the main current of the Snake River. The Snake turned out to be a good time, mostly catching smaller fish in the 12" range on dries.

All in all, I wouldn't consider the day a loss. With the morning's events it took us until about noon to get on the river, so we mostly decided to make a day of fishing and testing out the camera equipment to see what it could do. While the fishing may have been pretty poor, we did get to see Greg's Canon 5D Mark II camera do some pretty excellent performing with the underwater camera bag.

We also took advantage of the nasty weather, and Greg got some great arial shots of Jay casting at the end of the day.
© 2009 Greg M. Cooper

Gotta make lemonade out of lemons right?


Friday, November 13, 2009

On the River: Taylor River C and R, Gunnison, Colorado

October 24 and 31, 2009

And again, I will say that I love Fall fishing! Michelle was itching to hook up with some big fish, and I was itching to get onto the river with some decent weather overhead. There's nothing quite like fishing for 6 days in some of the worst weather (Wyoming trip) that will leave you wanting a calm, sunny blue day.

Two weekends in a row Michelle and I found such days ... and we capitalized! I think for this blog, I'll just let the photos do the talking. If you've read my previous posts on the Taylor C & R there's not much more I can say. Tough, big fish, small tippet and a lot of loss. But every once-in-a-while you strike it rich and the winds are calm(er)(they never really stop), the sun is overhead, the fish are in spotting lies and moving pretty well for nymphs.

Day one produced a solid 10 fish, one of which was a 24" brown that Michelle lipped, had on for 3 seconds, and then pulled right out. She later redeemed herself with this rainbow that had some pretty serious "chunk" to it.

I caught a good number of fish, and near the end of the day spotted a "long as your leg" rainbow. I fished to him for a solid 45 minutes, changing out patterns constantly, and I think I hooked him one time, but it was so short I can't even be sure.

The next weekend brought the same fortune, but with even BETTER weather! We ended up getting out a little late in the day, but things were so good that even Michelle wanted to stay past sundown, so we fished until the light was so low that we could barely see the indicator.

It was near the end of the day when I hooked THE PLANET. Yes, that's right, THE PLANET. I've never dubbed a fish such a term before, but then again, I've never hooked a fish that size.

The light was fairly low, but we were up in some flats where the water was only 18" deep. I had a slight section of water that there was no glare on, and that's when I saw him turn a little bit. It was all I needed to see to know that I would need to spend some time fishing to that fish. It was such a large fish and in such a perfect lie. I was able to fish to him with my favorite rig (baetis, micro split shot and a micro indicator).

After 20 or so well placed drifts my indicator slowed ... my heart stopped ... and he took off. His first action was to surface (?#@? I'm not sure how to describe it, but he was too large to jump, so it was more like a submarine surfacing where the bow of the ship comes out of the water, but the tail of the craft is too weighty to allow it to come completely out of the water). It was at that moment that we realized he was not only 32" but as round as they come. I'm confident he was at least 20 lbs+

After surviving two quick runs he was just hanging out, no doubt regaining his strength, when ... nothing. No fast run, no jump, nothing. My line just went slack. I thought for sure the flies had pulled out because there was no reason for me to not have the fish on anymore, but he was gone and so were my flies. Must have had a knick in the line that finally gave way. It wasn't even that a knot had pulled out.
This is it folks ... The only evidence I have that the "planet" even exists.

Another day ...


On the River: Gunnison River, Gunnison, CO

October 17, 2009

Michelle and I got out Saturday afternoon for a little memorable Fall fishing. If you are one of those people who start winding down your fishing season after high summer I cannot express to you how much good fishing can be had in the fall and late fall (not to mention winter).

It is such a great time to be on the river. Typically, the crowds are almost completely gone and the weather is superb. It's the only season where you can be cool, wearing a sweater, but still feel like a sunny, warm, summer day (if that makes any sense).

It was a typical fall day for us too. The sky was a crisp blue, the water was low and clear, and the fish were in slow, shallow water. In Colorado, where baetis can pop off any day of the year, I personally think the fish respond better to the surface in the fall because of the low, clear, slower moving water.

And so, we found ourselves fishing blacktail baetis with a micro split-shot and micro indicator; and fishing poly-wing baetis to slow sippers (a lot of times we like to rig two rods, but we still just share one, then if you're fishing the nymph rod and see a riser ... switch out rods and you're ready to roll).

The day was quite pleasant but it wasn't until the later half that we came up on a long pool with about 10 fish steadily rising as baetis passed over them. The photo of the nice brown was the first fish we took on dries and Michelle hooked him in water that was about 6" in depth. It was a beautiful thing! We ended up landing a solid 8 fish on the poly-wing baetis anywhere from 6" to 14".

These are the days I live for!


Sincerest Apologies

November 13, 2009

Ah, the craziness of life. Posting has been slow as of late, not due to a lack of fishing, but mostly due to a lack of time. Currently, I am behind posting multiple days of the Wyoming trip, a Gunnison River day, a Taylor River day, and a South Platte "Dream Stream" day. I apologize.

But ... I take this opportunity to justify myself and let you all know that part of the craziness is a huge Allen Brothers push in marketing. If you are out there, across the country, and you go to fly fishing shows, you should try and meet up with us at one.

We've been working like crazy to get into shows this year, and a few magazines. We're planning on running ads in Fly Fisherman and Fly Rod and Reel in their January through April issues and if you can make it to one of the shows you should stop in and check us out (hopefully Jay and I will both be at all the shows)!

We are planning on stops at Denver, CO, Pleasanton, CA and Detroit, MI. If things go well enough, we may even add a few shows!

Hope to see you out there! Until then, I'll keep posting when I get a free moment.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jackson Wyoming 2009: Part 2 of 7

October 4, 2009
Part 2

***Warning: This day ends with me scooching away with my tail tucked between my legs, so please, read on if you like stories of humility.***

We had arrived late Saturday night, headed up to camp and slept like babies in the tent Kevin had set up for us earlier that day. Already, the weather forecast for the week was not looking spectacular, but we were as prepared as you could be and the 30 degree weather was no match for our down sleeping bags.

So far the trip consisted of Jay, me, Jay's buddy from Ohio Josh Streib, and our Jackson local Kevin Mock. It wasn't until Sunday night that our cameraman Greg Cooper would arrive. So, we woke up on a brisk Sunday morning at about 6 AM got our gear together and headed down to the town of Jackson to meet up with another one of Jay's friends, and guide in the valley, Jason Budd and his friend Mark.

After a stellar breakfast (quite possibly my favorite part of any given day) at Pearl Street Bagels, and a sad update that the pass was closed due to snow, meaning we would have to drive the long way around, we were off to the South Fork River in Idaho.

We stopped in Idaho for gas and license, and it was at this time we got out of the vehicles to be blasted by a wall of 35 mph winds that were a constant force. Add that to the low 40's temps and you sir, have got a down right wretched day for fishing. Luckily as we descended into the South Fork valley things did slow down a bit and as we were launching the boats, there was actually a 5 minute window of beautiful sun, zero wind, and what felt like 55 degrees. Though, in truth, that window left and we never really saw it again.

Most of the float was pretty average. We picked up fish on blacktail baetis, scuds, and tungsten pheasant tails, keying in on all the usual slow water seems. We had actually started out parking on a slow moving, thigh deep run that had a fair amount of fish parked over gravel that we could sight nymph to. Jay picked up a 15" cutt, and I was casting to a 17" cutt as well, but we decided it was early on and we should get floating.

Retrospectively, I wish we would have stayed for a while longer, since it was the last sight nymphing we would find all day. So, we floated on and the weather grew worse. The temperature stayed in the 40's which was a blessing, but the overcast skies grew darker and eventually settled on spitting rain throughout the day.

Now, as you know, that weather was not enjoyable, but it makes for some CRAZY baetis hatching, and before long those little sailboats dotted the water like spots on a cutthroat. We rigged up a rod with 6x and a poly-wing baetis and before long Jay was into his first 18" brown. After hooking a few other small fish we decided it was time to find a good side braid of the river with some slow water and depth, park the boat, and start looking for big heads.

We pulled over and found ourselves looking at steady rising fish 20 feet downstream and 50 feet upstream. They would stay in clumps of risers so that it looked like a pod of tailing bonefish, no joke, and I'm not sure that I've ever seen risers like that in my life. Most of them were in the 15"+ range. At the beginning, I'm sure they weren't too spooked and it was only 15 minutes before Jay and I had both landed a nice cutt, and then ... the rest of my day was like a million dollar bill, dangling above my head, just out of reach and no way to get it.

Don't get me wrong, once the lot of the fish figured out we were there, they kept rising but my skill with the rod was not enough. Jay continued to land fish, though none of us was hooking up with much frequency. There was a combination of factors really. For starters, the low light conditions, wind, length of your cast and size of the baetis (I was fishing #20's) meant actually seeing your fly was near to impossible, so that left you guessing where it landed and then guessing at which fish took your fly, if any of them did. On top of that, there was 300 natural baetis surrounding your imitation, which is just bad odds.

Jay, who has the best vision of any human I know, seemed to be pulling it off. He attributes a lot of it to the fact that he had a few #22 baetis in his box and felt that the smaller size was really helping quite a lot. Though, I feel like I was getting some risers to take my #20 and just not seeing them. I'm not a fan of using a larger dry fly as a point fly to see where your fly is at (it usually creates too much drag), but if I had to do it again, I would have probably given that a try.

When the tally was all said and done, that first fish I landed right off the bat was the only one I landed on a dry. I had a few others on, briefly, but it was a sad day for Jeff Allen. However, I stand firm by my conviction that I will take a schooling like that anytime! What a beautiful display of nature we saw that day.

Tight lines,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Long time coming, Jackson Wyoming 2009: Part 1 of 7

October 4, 2009
Part 1

We had been planning this trip to the Jackson area for some time. The idea was to get some pretty serious fishing done in one of the best seasons in the Jackson area. In the fall you have the usual low water sight nymphing, great baetis hatches, and a brown trout pre-spawn run out of Lewis and Jackson Lakes that brings some seriously large feeding browns to the rivers. To top it off, the main goal was to do some filming and get some Allen Brothers videos up and running on the internet. Our good friend, Greg Cooper, was going to bring along his Canon 5D Mark II still camera that apparently has some buzz in the video world because of it's amazingly high quality (that I will show you in the next couple of months!).

A typical western fall is pretty awesome. The skies are usually clear, the temperatures are cool, but not so cold that fishing is difficult, and a lot of the time the cooler nights bring pretty active fish because the heat of the day and low water flows of late summer are gone. And, my favorite reason, tourist season has ended and most of the time the rivers are pretty empty (of people that is).

But alas, the sea was angry that week my friends, like an old man trying to send soup back at a deli (Seinfeld). The plan was to camp out that whole week at a site our friend Kevin had set up just before our arrival. Day 2, we woke up with 8" of snow and the tent collapsed on top of us ... That is a pretty good analogy for what the whole week was like for us. Raging wind, cold temps, snow, freezing rain, fluctuating water levels and brown trout that apparently didn't get the memo about the pre-spawn in the fall.

But, part of being a man is to make do with what you've got. So, that's what we did and in the end, we had some pretty lousy fishing, even worse filming, but a great time; and when I look back at the video and photo review of the week, I have to say, some awesome fish!

Stay tuned in to the website and the blog. My plan is to bring this Wyoming trip to you in a 7 part series. Also, we hope to get the video footage into the cutting room (my living room) and come up with some pretty sweet film "shorts". Hopefully, it will keep us all sane through the winter.


Monday, September 28, 2009

On the River: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

September 7th and 12th, 2009

Yes, in fact, I did head down to the Black Canyon the day after I got back from Wyoming! My apologies that I am just now getting to blogging, schedules get crazy sometimes ... and technically, fishing is more important than blogging.

Ben had never been to the Black since he's become a true fly-fisherman, so after a few of my blogs and much salivating, he decided it was time to carve out some time for the 5 hour drive it would take to get from C. Springs to the Black.

We headed down on Labor Day and much to our surprise it was a ghost town! We were the only people on the north side of the river that day (East Portal, of course, any other location requires a very early start and some serious pain), and there really weren't many people on the south side either. So, we began the day like so many other days and tied on scuds and baetis.

Actually, the fishing was considerably slowed down from 2 weekends ago. Sure, there were still plenty of fish to be spotted and they were feeding just fine, but the flows and their feeding patterns had officially transitioned to "Fall season spookiness". Personally, I am a fan because it makes it more rewarding when you do finally get that finicky salmonoid to take your fly, but I think Ben was hoping for a little more of that "Summer season, fish slamming your fly" action.

All in all, we did great. The morning was filled with more small fish, and Ben even got into a nice pool of risers, by the afternoon we had started spotting some of the old regulars feeding high in the water column behind Volkswagen sized boulders.

It was a beautiful day spent enjoying the weather, then I decided to facebook about it, elicited a response from some old friends from back east, Greg and Scott. Turns out they commented on my day and said "hey, we're going to be in Durango next week!" Naturally, I replied back that if they were up for the drive, I'd be psyched to meet them at the Black and paddle them across the river in my sketchy raft.

So, the date was set for another day on the Black.

We met that Saturday morning and before long I found myself in the familiar surroundings of shear black walls, rocky walking, poison ivy and some large, gorgeous fish! Surprisingly, I'd say the fish were even a little more spooky than just 5 days ago, but when you are in that environment and seeing those fish, sometimes it doesn't matter too much if you aren't catching them.

Greg hooked a monster early in the morning that we got a few looks at, but that fish was determined to keep his head down and keep running rapids, so we never got to behold him. Scott found a great pocket of fish by wading out a little deep and making some crazy reaches over a raging riffle to the slow water on the backside and Michelle and I just kept making our way up the river picking off good spots when we saw them.

We had to play slot jockey with another group of 4 that joined us on the north shore, so that made the day a little tough, but just after noon, we all got set up in a slow pool that had a lot of fish just sitting over gravel, taking flies quite readily. It really turned out to be a fun time! It had been a while since I had really done some "true" sight nymphing where you forget the indicator and just watch for the fish to take the fly. Most of the big fish were skittish enough to bolt when your cast was within 6 feet of them, but there were plenty of 10" to 14" browns to be had.

If I've said it once, I'll say it a thousand times more ... If you've never been to the Black Canyon you need to go.

And feel free to drop me a line. I'm always game to skip out of work if I can make it.

Tight lines,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend: Jackson Hole, Wy

September 3-6, 2009

How did I find myself in Jackson, Wy on September 3, 2009? Well it's a funny story.

Sometimes, life can serendipitously throw some pretty awesome stuff at you. If you'll remember my post from August 22nd on the Arkansas River, a large part of being there was to watch my good friend Duncan Callahan run the Leadville 100. He had a good finish (3rd place), but it had left a bitter taste in his mouth that he was once in 1st with a 20 minute lead and stomach issues, being unable to keep any amount of food down since mile 87, would ultimately slow him to a crawl and thus, watch the victory slip away.

So, three nights after Leadville 100, we were hanging out at our house over coffee discussing that the only way to fix the stomach problem was to run more races and figure it out. Duncan got a gleam in his eye and told me about a 50 mile race in Wyoming the following weekend, but that to do it he would need someone to crew the race and his wife wouldn't be able to make it. I said, "I'm in".

Duncan Callahan around mile 37 with a solid 5 minute lead over second place

That night Duncan e-mailed his sponsor Vasque and the next day I got the call to pack my bags, we were heading to Jackson, Wy for a long weekend. Naturally, that included my fly-rod to fish some familiar stomping grounds and the birthplace of the Blacktail Baetis.

It turned out that most of Friday Duncan was going to be busy at a speaking engagement and then on a light run to get prepped for Saturday's event, so I would need to kill a bit of time until 3 PM. Flat Creek, being just up the road from where we stayed in Jackson on Thursday night, seemed like a sweet idea and a friend and guide from Jackson, Kevin Mock, was going to be meeting me on the river at around 10 AM. I decided there was no reason to wait, so I got a ride to Flat Creek at about 8 AM and was feeling the sun on my face, breathing the fresh air, and happy to be alive (especially after a great breakfast at Jedediah's Sourdough pancake restaurant).

I got pretty schooled on Flat Creek. Mostly, I walked about 1 mile of the river and only saw 3 fish, all of which were bolting as fast as they could by the time I even spotted them. I've only fished flat creek once before, but from the rumors I had heard, it seemed like a pretty normal day. By around 10 AM there were starting to be some heavy clouds of spinners over some of the riffles and I finally spotted a regular feeder on the surface. I tied on a rusty spinner and he took the first drift that was perfectly placed in his 4" feeding zone (it only took me about 30 casts to get the fly in the right spot!). Not a bad fish, but nothing to right home about. Kevin showed up on the river right as I hooked the fish, so he got some video footage (I hope to post at a later date). Then we walked the river for another 30 minutes and decided it was time to head up to Blacktail Ponds where we might find some more fortune.

Surprisingly, we arrived at Blacktail to find the situation not much different. If you know anything about Blacktail, you know that there are lots of large fish in a crystal clear, small creek. This time there were not ...

An underwater shot of the plant life of Blacktail Ponds. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can actually see midges and black-fly larvae in abundance on the plant leaves. You can even see a few floating in the water that have broken free from the plant. That place is a BIO-factory!

We walked a good chunk of the river and I would say we only spotted 25 total fish in a river where you would normally spot 80+ fish. Also, much to our sadness, 15 of those fish were located in two spots that already had fisherman on the lockdown. So, we set up camp in a lower riffle that I had spotted 3 good fish in, and they were feeding hard.

That's when my second schooling of the day began ...

Kevin was pretty content hanging out, watching and chatting since these were his home waters, so I commenced fishing to a tank that was swinging left and right like it was his last meal. Of course, I started with the Blacktail Baetis assuming I'd be hooked up in a matter of minutes. About an hour later, after trying 8 different patterns, I don't think that fish looked at my fly once.

I decided it was time to stop being a neanderthal and spend some time looking at the water. I had not seen this fish rise, but had seen a few other sporadic risers here an there, leading me to believe that there wasn't a strong enough hatch for dries. But, after examining the water I noticed there were quite a lot of PMD's starting to roll off. I tried the Blacktail PMD ... nothing, then I looked a the water again and actually saw a PMD wiggle free from his shuck, dry out his little soggy clump of wings and fly off. So, I switched it up to the Polywing PMD (the big brother of the Blacktail PMD). Second cast and that fish took it like it was his long lost cheeseburger that he had been searching for all day! If that's not sweet market research I don't know what it!

After a 5 minute fight, and a sweet release with an underwater shot that made me happy, I dried off my fly, noticed a second cutt was in position just upstream and he was actually feeding on the surface quite heavily. Four casts later I was in for another 5 minute fight (for slow water, those boys don't give up easily!) and another long deep breath of thorough satisfaction.

Another great shot of how clear the water is at Blacktail Ponds.

And then, that was it. I searched the river for more willing suspects, made a few casts to some other nice fish, but didn't hook up again. At around 2 PM Kevin had finally decided to rig up his rod and we headed out to the main channel of the Snake River. We were short on time, but had a great time hooking numerous smaller cutt's and an occasional take from a big guy, all on the Allen Brother Power Ant.

One short fishing day ... couple of nice fish ... scenery that will leave your jaw wide open ... not a bad time at all!

As for Duncan, I guess he had an alright time too. He ended up finishing first in the Grand Targhee Resort 50 mile race, and beat the previous course record by 40+ minutes.

Life is seriously great sometimes!

Here's a great parting shot! Blacktail Ponds has some serious undercut banks. So, I decided to stick my hand under one as far as I could and snap a few photos and ... look what I found! The cool thing was, the "burm" on the right of the photo was where the edge of the river was, so this was a solid 3 feet of undercut, with a fish tucked under there far enough that you would have no idea he was there!

Monday, August 31, 2009

On the River: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

August 29, 2009

Oh, the Black Canyon ... If I've said it once people, I'll say it again, "this is a must fish destination sometime in your life."

Yes, that is a seriously fat, 20" rainbow.

I have never been to the Black Canyon and walked away empty handed, even if there are some days that you may not do as well, you always are seeing large fish, actively feeding in some way. It really is like fishing a natural version of the Taylor River C and R. I say natural, because let's face it - the C and R is a freak of nature.

With the Black Canyon, you've got a lot of amazing fish, that grow large, tucked into an amazing canyon that has very little easy access. Even at East Portal, if you don't cross the river in some sort of floatable device, you can only fish a couple of hundred yards that gets pretty pounded by the RV fisherman.

But ... if thou shalt pass through the waters to the other side, thine shall be a reward of big rainbows and browns, feeding eagerly ... thus saith Jeff.

Michelle and I had a great day! The gammarus scud reigned supreme. Early in the day there was a large fish that wasn't having it (or more likely, I stung him with it and he just wouldn't take again) so I switched up to a midge and then a blacktail baetis for a bit. I got some looks and even a small fish or two, but before long I switched back to the gammarus scud and never looked back. All day long fish were going out of their way to hammer it.

Our mission was to really hook Michelle up. It had been a while since she had a real quality day on any river - the kind of day where the weather, water and fish all cooperated - so the deal was she would pass the rod off to me after every 3 fish she caught ... Neither of us lacked for the day.

We estimate that Michelle landed close to 20 fish, leaving me with a meager 7 fish, but when I had the chance I didn't waste it on small fries. The whole day was fishing the scud 16" below a micro-indicator sighting big rainbows and browns.

The best part of the day definitely came last. Michelle was sworn to end her day on a good fish, so she persevered and at around 6:30 PM she hooked into what was her biggest fish of the day, about an 18" Brown.

Take my advice, go to the Black Canyon, and call me when you're on your way ... I'll try and meet you there if I can!


Michelle's final fish of the day! and the victory shot afterward.

Friday, August 28, 2009


We just got a package in from our tiers in Kenya! I loaded it all up onto the website. We now have Tungsten Hare's ears and Pheasant tails in size #18, Micro Beetles (great for late season) that are tied PERFECTLY in size #22, a bunch more sizes of bead-headed coppers, a brand new cut-wing caddis dryfly in multiple sizes and colors, midge pupa, tungsten midge pupa, and midge emergers!

I wasn't joking, a lot of great new SOLID patterns!!!

You all are the first to know! In the next couple of days I'll be putting out a 10% discount on all the new flies so keep your eyes peeled for that and this months newsletter as well.

Check out these quick picks!

On the River: Taylor River C and R, Gunnison, Colorado

August 23, 2009

After a long day of fishing the Arkansas and a late night watching the Leadville 100, we headed home and Ben came to stay for the night so he could fish the Taylor C and R on Sunday. I had a meeting around 1 PM, so my wife left me for my friend (yeah, I know it sounds bad) and they went fishing without me : (

By the time I rolled up around 3 PM, Ben had already thoroughly broken in his new rod with this 26" Brown! on an Allen Brothers Olive Midge Pupa that he tied using the instructions off the website.

Ben had to leave before too long, and I helped Michelle hook a few fish and land a 15" Brown, but soon an afternoon storm rolled in and put us out of commission. We weathered the storm and went back out to fish, but by that time it was getting late and the visibility was gone.

I will say, seeing Ben's fish really got me salivating to make a day of really trying to land a tank up there. I always seem to half-ass it and get up there for just a few hours here and there. Not really the way to do it if you want to land one of those monsters.

I'll be back there soon, and you'll hear about it. I guarantee it.

Tight Lines,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the River: Upper Arkansas River, Leadville, CO

August 22nd, 2009

You'll notice there are no pictures this round. Yes, folks, I won't be heading back to the Arkansas River anytime soon.

These stories always seem to start with, "I heard a rumor that there were monster fish up there".

Anyway, I heard a rumor that there were monster fish in the upper Arkansas, and every time I have driven by it always looked so "meadowy" and spring creek-like so I decided we had to try it out sometime.

Two of my good friends, Duncan Callahan and Timmy Parr, were running the Leadville 100 so we figured it would be a good chance to fish most of the day, and then watch the finish of the race. Turned out Timmy won, and Duncan (last years winner) got third place this year. It was a pretty good day for Gunnison Ultra Runners. But, back to my story ...

Ben Robb also met us for the day. He had just been given a CRAZY gracious gift from a friend (a brand new 4 wt. Winston rod with a Galvin large arbor reel and sharkskin line), so he was itching to test it out.

The day started out alright, we were hooking fish immediately, and Michelle even hooked into a 19" brown that gave her a fight and left her very, very sad when the fly pulled out. Really, we thought we were in for a great day, but the wind picked up and to be quite honest we just didn't run into any other big fish. I even did a fair amount of looking into deep holes and never saw anything of real size. I think all day long I spooked two other fish that could have pushed the 16"+ range.

In the end, we all caught fish-a-plenty, they just weren't very big. Which has been my experience just about every time I've gone to the Arkansas.

In defense of the river, it is a great fishery with a lot of fish in it, but I don't have much of a reason to be driving 1 1/2 hours to a river that doesn't fish any better than the Gunnison. If I'm making that kind of drive, I can head west to the Black Canyon and be in fishing HEAVEN with the chance at sight nymphing for 22" fish!

So ... if you know of any spots with consistent monsters on the Ark, let me know. Otherwise, I'll just be one less guy crowding the river.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On the River: Taylor River C and R, Gunnison, Colorado

August 8, 2009

After many failed attempts to meet up with Ron from we finally succeeded! Sure, Ron may have jumped the gun a bit and showed up at the river at 4 AM, but who wouldn't be excited about a trip to the Taylor C and R?

I, however, casually rolled onto the river at about 10:30 (mostly because my brother-in-law called around 9 AM and you can't neglect family). That's the beauty of living only 40 minutes from world class water, you get spoiled and don't quite feel the pressure of being on the water at first light.

Anyway, we had a great day on the water! Ron is nothing short of a "focused laser beam of trout catching energy". Apparently, getting snubbed by a fish only strengthens his resolve to fish even harder for it. Ironically, the Taylor is REALLY GOOD at strengthening Ron's resolve.

The day was almost as good as it gets. We had feeding fish parked along the banks, and perfect sun for watching their every move. If I had two complaints it would be:
1. The water was pushing hard (about 350 cfs) and in that stretch of the river it means your fly is almost always downstream of your indicator (unless your fishing a TON of weight) which is tough for strike detection.
2. The wind was in Springtime Force, which is just weird for August.

Nevertheless, the conditions were great and we had our fair shot at a lot of monster fish. We also got snubbed by a lot of monster fish.

I got to a point where I would tie on a fly, make 5 drifts, each targeting a different fish. On each drift the fish would look at the fly, reject it, then never look at it again. It was pretty amazing to see the fish in full "professor" mode. But, there were enough fish moving that you could turn a fish off and just fish to his buddy next to him. Eventually, you got a good take, then it was a matter of perfect hook set timing, after that the fish had to actually stay hooked, and finally, you had to not break him off or get wrapped around a rock.

The flies were the usual fare ... #24 midge pupa (coming to the website soon!), Blacktail PMD took a few hook ups, but the surprising winner of the day was the Gammarus Scud. It was by far the fly that fish would move 2 feet to look at and/or take.

Yep, it was another day on the Taylor. I'd say the final score was:
50 looks
15 takes
8 hook ups
3 landed fish

I have always been curious to do some tests on the river to see if tippet size made much of a difference, so I went all out and fished 8x for half of the day. All in all, I'd say it didn't do much better than 6x, and not worth stressing over each fish you caught. I landed one fish that was 19" or so. So, I can officially say 8x has the power to move a big fish.

I also had one on that Ron claims was in the 30" class. It was definitely big! I feel as if I could have landed him on 8x, but after about 5 minutes of fighting he managed to wrap a rock and 8x just can't stand up to that. A lot of times with 6x I can buy enough time to throw a huge roll cast, unleash from the rock and not lose the fish, but I didn't even have a chance to throw the roll cast with this monster fish.

One thing I will say about the Taylor ... lately I feel like I've been seeing LOTS of MONSTER fish up in the shallows, more so than I've ever seen before. Ron was fishing to some rainbows that I'm sure were 15 lbs. + and apparently someone on the river had landed a 20 lb rainbow earlier that day! That's just crazy!

Tight lines,


Sunday, August 9, 2009

On the River: Spring Creek, Bellefonte, Central PA

July 31 - August 3, 2009

Ah, Central PA is the non-humanoid love of my life. If at any point up until now you were to ask me where I learned to fly fish the answer would have always come back - Central PA. I suppose I did a fair amount of learning on the White and Norfork rivers of Arkansas, but really, I've always considered Spring Creek, Penn's Creek and Big Fishing Creek my "school of hard knocks". These are the rivers that have taught Jay and I so many things about fly fishing along the journey.

So, after many years since I have made a dedicated trip back east to fish Central PA, I finally got to break away for a long weekend and remember the joy!

After fishing in the west for 13 years now, there was nothing I was looking forward to more than standing in Spring Creek, with absolutely no wind, the warm sun on my back, and sight nymphing to 18"+ browns that are holding alongside veronica americana in gentle riffles and flats. But, mother nature had some other ideas about our weekend, and so, midday Friday we found ourselves fishing to a hatchery outlet pipe (the only clear water for miles) in a steady downpour, praying that it would let up and the rivers might have a chance of being fishable the next day.

You see, all Thursday night the Central PA had gotten pounded with rain, so by the time we showed up on Friday the rivers were high a muddy. We knew that as soon as the rain stopped we'd only have to wait 6-8 hours for the clarity to come back a bit, but things were looking grim. Fortune, however, has a funny way of shinning upon us sometimes.

The rain did finally let up and the river, by the next morning, was a milky brown but definitely fishable. We didn't know what to expect, except for the fact that we knew we weren't "sight nymphing" to any fish. So, Jay and I did what we do best and began thinking about how to approach the situation and find fish.

It was about 15 casts, and 6 fish later, that we decided "off color" water wasn't so bad. All in all, we learned some really important things about Spring Creek that weekend. So often, when you can see the fish, you give up trying any blind nymphing. I mean, why would you blind nymph when you can spot tanks left and right. But the twist is that for every fish you spot, there is 4 that you don't.

I can honestly say that being limited by the murky water showed me the true colors of that river. In the past we had always assumed there were not massive numbers of fish in Spring Creek, but a good number of very large fish instead (and who would be sad about that). But with the water being high and off color, not to mention a lot of extra food getting washed down the river, the fish were not as spooky and OUT IN FORCE, slamming our flies on a well placed drift.

I learned some other things that weekend too. I had good confidence in the AB sow bug, but I now have the utmost confidence that it is a sweet pattern. By the end of the weekend there were really on two choices, the AB sow bug or the Gammarus Scud. Sure, you could catch fish on a midge or a hare's ear, but why? The fish were CRUSHING those two crustaceans and didn't leave much desire for changing up patterns.

One of the other amazing things was the holding locations of most of the fish. With the water being "greenish" you could get a feel for depth by looking for the darker green/brown patches (by midday Saturday we had about 8" of visibility). Making a drift over a seem with a little more depth would inevitably produce a fish. In fact, my biggest brown of the trip came out of what was little more than shin deep pocket-water.

We were on the river every morning at about 6 AM, looking desperately for the Trico spinner fall, but none of the days were a heavy enough fall to budge the trout off the bottom of the river. It didn't seem to matter though, the nymphing was good in the morning too. Really the only slow part of the day was the "heat", from about 2 PM to 5 PM, but even then, we were still picking up fish.

We primarily fished the Benner Spring stretch, but did break away for a half day to hit the Fisherman's Paradise. Not to impressed by that ... I know there are some big fish right near the hatchery, but headed upstream into the "Canyon" immediately and regretted it. This fish were plenty, but the size range was about 4" smaller, on average, than at Benner.

All in all, irony played its final twist on us ... As Jay and I were heading back to the car Monday morning, we realized that the true clarity of the river was finally restored. Being that I was so nostalgic for sight nymphing out east, we decided to walk the river, instead of the trail, for the last 100 yards. I immediately spotted this Brown, but he spooked. I thought I saw where he went so I made three drifts and hooked him ... still not a true "sight nymph"

Then it was "batter up" for Jay, but we were 30 minutes behind schedule to get back for dinner with the ladies. Sadly, Jay got a few sweet takes, but never got to seal the deal and we were out of time.

I guess if you fulfilled all your fantasies you wouldn't have a reason to go back ... yeah right! Of course you would, to fulfill them a second time.

I love this sport!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On the Lake: Henry Lake, Taylor, CO

July 24, 25, and 26, 2009

This entry is going to look more like a photo journal than a blog.

Henry Lake is definitely very near to my heart. I've lived in this valley 13 years now and it is one of my favorite places to visit. The remoteness, the beauty, the fresh air, the stars at night and of course the fish all make it truly an amazing place. And, as much as I love this lake, there are so many high mountain lakes just like it. So if you're looking for an amazing spot of your own and don't feel like coming all the way out to Gunnison County, just start hiking to lakes that are nestled at 10,000 ft and you'll soon find one.

A sweet photo of one of the most amazing cutthroat we picked up on our 2 days at Henry Lake

I can confidently say that because these lakes tend to be pretty cookie cutter. They all are nestled just below a large peak. They always have 1/4 of the lake that is bordered by a scree field. They always have a small inlet and a small outlet, and the outlet will always be at the end of a moderately sized "bay" that is uniformly 3 feet deep. They all have an abundance of shrimp that, when swimming, stretch out perfectly straight and paddle with their little legs (the AB swimming shrimp was developed specifically for high mountain lakes). They all have fish, and these fish spend their entire existence swimming circles around the lakes feeding on shrimp, terrestrials, and whatever insects may hatch (lots of midge!).

So, with those thoughts in mind, Michelle and I found ourselves, 3 weeks ago, planning a camping trip to Henry Lake.

It's a pretty brutal hike. Michelle had never gone 7 miles and probably 2000 vertical feet with a pack before. Plus, it doesn't help that the last 1/4 mile is the worst of the worst (did I mention that all high mountain lakes have the worst steep part at the very last too?). But, we found ourselves making camp Friday night around 8:30.

I'm an early riser, so when I was thoroughly tired of tossing and turning, I woke up around 7 AM and started organizing camp and rigging up rods. I figured Michelle wouldn't stir for another hour so I headed to the lake to check it out.

All my memories flooded back to me when I saw the first cruiser slide past me sipping midges without a care in the world. So, I tied on a midge emerger ... the first fish took it without hesitating. So did the second and the third. It was at this point I realized the trouble I would be in if I woke my wife up to the sounds of my drag, or fish splashing so I decided to head back to camp and make breakfast.

My first fish of the day!

After breakfast, I broke it to her that I was already 3 fish deep and she had some catch-up to do. She started with the midge and hooked a few fish, but was having trouble seeing it, so I tied the black poly-wing ant (another pattern developed for high mountain lakes and finicky yellowstone cutthroat trout) on our other rod and again ... the first fish took without hesitating.

Michelle's first fish of the day!

We spent two heavenly days fishing dries to fish that, for the most part, never hesitated to take the fly. Occasionally we ran across a fish that wasn't having the ant, but a well placed midge never missed. Near the end of the trip I tied on some swimming shrimp for "experimentation" sake and they ... took without hesitating.

Mind you, Henry does not always fish like this. You will always see cruisers, but I've been there when they were much more spooky and snooty about what they were feeding on. I don't know if this trip had a lot to do with the fish being a couple of weeks off the spawn so they were just hungry or what, but it was magical.

Oh, and did I mention the colors of these cutthroat are amazing!!!! I'm guessing they are colorado native cutthroat, but it's pretty tough to get it right seeing as how Biologists don't even seem to get it right. Anyway you shake it down, these fish are out of control!

If you ever find the time, make it up to a high mountain lake, or even Henry itself and it's pretty tough to be disappointed, even if the fishing is poor.

Don't forget to check out all the pics and captions below!

Tight lines,

Henry Lake: the view from above

Another view of Henry with some evening sun on the mountainside.

One of the biggest fish we took all weekend! We saw a few cruisers that may have been bigger, but for the most part this is about the max size you'll find on Henry. Not too bad though considering they are all on dries!!!

Another photo we had to take just because of the coloration and spots of the fish!

Click on this image and should blow up to full size ... it is at that level that you can see I got fortunate enough to capture the exact second the fish was inhaling Michelle's Poly-wing Ant.

This was the typical sight all day long. Cruisers eagerly looking for terrestrials or midge.

This was the most well fed fish of the day! His gut was so full of insects it was like a fat man at a BBQ cook off!

Oh, and did I mention that the wildflowers were amazing! Check out these pictures below.