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!