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.

On the River: Gunnison Gorge, Delta, CO

July 22, 2009

Last week my Uncle Al gave me a call and persuaded me to skip work and come fishing for the day with him, my Aunt Pat, and my new friend Joe. They were staying in Telluride so we figured hitting the Gunnison Gorge would be sweet since it's about half way between the two of us.

So, Wednesday morning my wife and I packed up and headed out that way. We arrived at the river around 9:30 and headed upstream from Pleasure Park.

I must admit, I don't get to Pleasure Park much in the summer (I usually save it for winter fishing since the temps are a lot nicer than Gunnison) and I was pretty shocked at the green riverbed. It made the river look like it was a giant spring creek, and if you've read any of my other posts you know that always makes me happy, but upon further inspection, I'm pretty sure it was just a huge algae bloom. If you know anything about it, feel free to clue me in in the comments section, because I am quite curious.

Nevertheless, the fish acted a lot like spring creek fish, feeding in the pockets and wells the algae created so it was a really fun day.

We started out with a nymph rig, but switched to a dark tan caddis within 15 minutes and never really looked back. I wouldn't say the top action was epic, but solid enough to not need nymphs. Most of the fish were in the 10" class, but we raised the heads of at least 4 fish that were much larger, including this sweet brown Michelle hooked feeding tight to the bank.

A little later in the day I spotted some big fish in the 18" class that were feeding on nymphs pretty heavily. I switched back to a single gammarus scud and proceeded to botch two really solid takes. I hang my head in shame.

About the only drawback to this wonderfully sunny, fish filled day, was the temperature was about 97 degrees.

Tight lines,


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the River: Slate River, Crested Butte, CO

July 19, 2009

I was working at one of our jobsites last week and my friend Justin had mentioned he owned property on the Slate River and had access to more than 1/2 mile of private water ... HE HAD ACCESS TO MORE THAN 1/2 MILE OF PRIVATE WATER ... HE HAD ... ok, you get the point.

He said we should hit the river on Sunday afternoon because the caddis were going off. I said yes. We ended up meeting Justing and his girlfriend Sara around 6 PM.

The beauty of private water is that often times you get to see what a river could be like, without the pressure of the general public, and more importantly, without the general public eating half of the trout population.

Mind you, I'm not at all opposed to keeping an occasional fish, but growing up around spin fisherman and fly-fishermen my whole life, I also know how it goes 97% of the time. Frank catches his limit (maybe even more if he thinks he can get away with it) and says to himself, "I'm going to eat all these fish, and what I don't eat I'll give to my friends". As it turns out Frank puts half the fish in his freezer ... and they go bad and get thrown out in a month. The other half he gives to his friends who, in turn, put half in their freezer ... and they go bad and get thrown out in a month. Now, I know, you're saying, "Jeff, that's not how it goes", but the problem is that me, and my Father before me have seen this countless times. It is how it goes. So, the moral of the story is "don't keep fish".

Oh my, I've diverted for too long ... back to the subject. I did get to see what a river could be like, and it was sweet!

Michelle hooked into at least 3 fish that were in the "large" class and as evening descended the caddis started showing up in numbers. Justin hooked this monster brown of the night on a caddis stimulator (see above). For a river that pushes about 20 CFS it was pretty mind blowing to see how many big browns were in there.

Nymphs were doing well, but why bother when they were coming up to the surface. Most of the time Michelle and I shared a rod and had one hooked up with a caddis and the other with an AB hare's ear. After we took out all the risers in a pool, we would play cleanup with the nymphs.

It was a sweet time. Justin said I could come back. I think I will.

On the River: Cheeseman Canyon, South Platte River, Decker, CO

July 18, 2009

Well, it's always a good thing when you've been fishing too much to blog about it. I write this quite frantically too since I need to catch up on 4 epic adventures since I last blogged and I'm doing it all so I won't be so back-logged when I get back from 4 days of fishing Spring Creek near State College, PA. It's been a long time since I've got back to my roots of spring creek fishing in the east ... a love affair I've long had.

But back to the subject, because this story is about the Cheeseman Canyon, one of the closest resemblances to an east coast spring creek that you'll find out west (at least in the public water sector).

It had been far too long since I last visited (it's a solid 3.5 hour drive from Gunnison) and even longer since I'd fished it in good weather. Yes, my last bout with Cheeseman, that was under blue skies, was my bachelor party, August 25 2005.

I met my buddy Ben at 8 AM at the Donut Mill. [Yes, biscuits and gravy is an excellent way to start a fishing day.] When we rolled up to the river around 10 AM we were met with blue skies and clear water. I was pretty excited about the day. At minimum, you know you won't walk away from Cheeseman on a sunny day without at least seeing lots of fish.

I had my first 15" fish in the sights and tied on a #24 olive midge. Alas, after 8 good casts it was clear he wasn't moving for the midge so I tied on a gammarus scud and the first drift I put past him resulted in a gentle take and a solid fish.

It wasn't long before I was into my 4th or 5th fish. All day long they were divided pretty evenly, the browns either took a gammarus scud, midge, or dry (we picked up a few sporadic risers on caddis, and poly-wing baetis), and the rainbows almost exclusively took the AB hare's ear.

It was around lunch time that I spotted a nice looking fish at the head of a riffle, and since Ben was a little lower on the numbers I gave him first crack at the fish. First drift produced a pretty obvious take and Ben lifted up on this monster rainbow (see left). A couple of hours later, further up the stream, Ben hooked another rainbow of similar caliber (see left) ... I'm not going to give Ben the first crack at a fish anymore.

All in all the day was pretty awesome! We were never lacking for feeding fish and I even got my fair shot at a rainbow that I'm guessing was pushing the 10 lb. + mark. Yes, I came to Cheeseman and got exactly what I was looking for ... intelligent fish that you could sight cast to with small flies, light tippet and a micro indicator (or none at all).

That, my friends, is the definition of a good day.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Allen Brothers strike indicator

I just posted a sweet article on the primary indicator Jay and I use. You can check out the full text (along with a simple version too) here at:

The Allen Brothers

Or, here is the you tube video I loaded up:

It is a great indicator because it can be made as small or as large as you want. The super micro versions are awesome for sight nymphing to delicate fish, or you can make them large enough to float just about any amount of weight.

Hope it helps,


On the River: East River, Gunnison, Colorado

July 6, 2009

For my birthday we decided to work a half day and hit the East River. Turned out it was the first real day this year that I felt like I was fishing in the "summer". Ah yes ... the cottonwoods were in the air so thick it looked like it was snowing, though for some reason my allergies were non existent. There's a feather in your cap!

The water is still running high around here, but things are finally in that blue/green clear stage where you can see 4 feet deep, it's just not crystal clear. I actually think this is where the west gets it's famous reputation. When the water is still moving fast like this and the fish have great visibility, but not too great that they get spooked easily, it seems like they hit hard and fast.

And so, with a clear blue sky overhead and very little wind, my wife and I proceeded to hammer fish. Any decent pocket, eddy line or back of pool produced at least 5-6 fish. We were really only out for 2-3 hours, but landed at least 15+ fish (and that's sharing a rod). Most were East River classics in the 8" to 12" range, but I did manage to land this sweet brown that fought like a linebacker. I also hooked his brother, but didn't land him.


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

July 4th, 2009

Good times on the Taylor! Our great friends Ben and Bre were up for the 4th weekend and Ben never misses a chance to hit the water for a few. Since it was mostly a social weekend we knew our fishing time would be relegated to the hours when no one else is alive yet (i.e. we couldn't cut into "hang-out time" with the girls). So, we got up at 6 AM and headed up to the C and R for 3 hours.

Unfortunately, we beat the sun and it was pretty cold with no visibility for the first 45 minutes, to top it off there was fog and some pretty strong winds at 8:30 AM. Much to our happiness, the sun hit the river, the fog burnt off and the wind died completely.

The fish were moving pretty hard, and I'm not afraid to admit when I'm getting schooled. It was schooled in a good way though. It's one thing to fish the C and R with high winds, no sun and not catch any fish. In those situations I just feel cheated because without a few variables going your way the only way to catch fish is lots of weight in the deep holes (not my favorite sport). In this case, I feel like I was bested by a worthy opponent when I can see the fish feeding but am just not getting the right pattern in front of them. It's like a meeting of the minds, but I'll be back again to win the next round.

I may be misleading though, we still did really good for 2 hours of prime fishing. I landed my big fish (bad photo, I had some camera issues) on a grey midge, size #24, and another nice rainbow on a mysis. Ben landed this gorgeous brown on the grey midge also. We both landed a couple of other small fish.

All in all, I think the fish that were schooling me were taking something like a size #32 cream midge. I did some subsurface watching and surface watching and a micro cream midge was really all that was in the water/air that morning. I even tried a #28 cream midge and got one of my targets to strike at it, but missed him.


Friday, July 10, 2009

On the River: Gunnison Gorge, Ute Park

June 27, 2009
Foiled again ... sort of. I was all geared up to really hit the Salmonfly hatch this time, patiently watching the flows, checking the reports, all so I could hit the perfect section of the river where the Salmonflies were coming off the strongest. Turns out it never really happened. My theories are that the weather and water flows were just weird enough this year that there were not many great Salmonfly days. I think most of the time the egg-laden females never made the mass exodus to the river, like they are supposed to, but instead meandered back to the river one by one and silently laid their eggs. I'm sure someone hit a decent day or two, but from the reports I read most people ended up foiled like me.

On top of it, I was double foiled on the day that I chose. It turns out that the reservoirs above the Canyon were overflowing and so Friday night they decided to pump the flows from 2800 cfs to 3400 cfs which is the best reason I can think of for fish not rising. Let me back up ... I rolled onto the river to a circus freakshow of bugs, thinking to myself, "this is gonna be awesome". There were massive quantities of Salmonflies, Giant Stones, Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies everywhere, not to mention the clouds of PMD spinners and caddis. Bugs were literally crawling all over my skin and up my shirt. At one point I had to tuck my shirt in to keep them from driving me mad and even then the occasional stonefly would crawl down the neck of my shirt.

However, even near the end of the day when there were 10-15, half dead, twitching stoneflies that had just laid their eggs in each eddy-line I never saw a decent rising fish all day long. It was really quite maddening. The reason I blame it on the flows is from past experience. When the water levels fluctuate, the fish don't necessarily stop feeding, but I do think that they "hunker" down and stop thinking about surface feeding. It may even be that with the increased flows the vast majority of food is getting washed down in the nymph form so fish are gorging on nymphs even if there is a lot of flies on the surface. Above all you have to remember that fish are machines programmed to go for what feeds them the most.

So, I started the day with my "drown stone" and hare's ear combination. Surprisingly, I didn't hook many fish. The water available to fish was very limited with the flows so high and pushing hard. I was mainly relegated to very small seams tight against the bank. My first hook up was a rainbow that screamed downstream and put me into my backing before I lost him. But still, with out much fast success I started thinking and remembered all the PMD's popping off just the week before. I decided to switch up to a Pheasant tail, trailed with the Blacktail PMD and thing LIT UP!

Fish started slamming the Blacktail PMD like it was going out of style. Most of them were in the solid 12" to 14" range, but it seemed like every 5th fish was pushing the 16"+ range. Most of the big guys did a good job of spitting the hook.

Then I rolled up onto the "Super Seam". It was a seam like any other, no discernible difference, but I proceeded to hook and land 3 fish in 5 casts that were 17", 18" and 17", all on the Blacktail PMD!

It was a great time! I ended up landing numerous other small fish, and then finished the day with the rainbow pictured here.

It was a good reminder that you don't ever want to get static in your thinking on the river. I could have fished a dry fly all day long and never hooked any of those monsters, but with a bit of observation and thought it turned out to be a great day.

Tight lines,