Monday, December 20, 2010

On the River: Dream Stream, South Platte, Hartsel, CO

August 7 and 8, 2010

High water can be epic ... I have mentioned it a few times in my past blogs. It is not a guarantee that you will figure out where the fish are, what they are feeding on or that the flows will work in your favor. But, the times that it works out can be fantastic!

Such was two days of fishing with friends of the family. My Dad's good friends, the Askins, were on their way out to Colorado for a long weekend and wanted to hit the river up for a few days. I don't think they'll mind me saying that they are not the most experienced anglers, but we always have a great time on the river.

I thought it would be fun to take them to 11 Mile Canyon to start things off. The beauty alone of that area is wonderful, and the experience of seeing the fish in such clear water is always enjoyable. It didn't take long on the water for me to realize that the flows were high and the fishing a little too difficult to consistently hook up, not to mention those fish fight hard and have a knack for spitting the hook.

So, on Saturday around 1 PM I took them to the Dream Stream for the afternoon. Our first impression of the river was "milk chocolate". I had checked the flows and they had peaked earlier, so I knew the water was coming down slowly and should get slightly more clear as the day went on. I decided we should give it a go, and we went straight to some deeper "holes" that I knew would provide fish with a chance to get out of the blazing current.

We rigged up with a large indicator set at the depth I knew (one thing about fishing off color water is it really helps to know the river you're fishing, otherwise you have to guess at depth) and tied on a #10 Tungsten Prince Nymph followed with a Blacktail Baetis. It wasn't long before the indicator dropped and much to my surprise it was a healthy, 14" rainbow. Our day ended with a lot of hook-ups and a few landed fish in the type of water that sends most fisherman home.

Then Sunday came ... the flows were down about 50 CFS, which made for about 18" of visibility and a lovely greenish-brown color. We started fishing the same rig, but it was clear after 30 minutes that there was no need for the trailing baetis. Fish were crushing the Prince Nymph! You couldn't ask for better conditions for intermediate fisherman. The drifts were pretty easy, and the fish took the fly like it was their last meal. Hook sets were not a problem since the fish wasn't letting go of the fly.

We had a fantastic time, and in the afternoon, as the water clarity improved, I even got to put them on a 24" Cutt that took the fly on the first drift! It was insane!!!! Though, that monster fish proved to have too much power and left us thinking of the "one that got away".


Friday, December 17, 2010

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

July 25, 2010

Some good friends of ours started a church in Denver ( and for a brief period in the summer we had the bright idea to drive 1 hour and 20 minutes to church every Sunday ... that didn't last too long, as we decided being part of a church in a community far away from our own wasn't really the point. I digress ...

It so happens that one week, after church, we decided to hit up Cheeseman Canyon for a little afternoon fishing. We travelled the dirt back-roads to come out in Decker, CO and head to the river. It was fun to see some different scenery, but I was pretty amazed at the "grid-lock" like traffic that a dirt road could see. Seems that particular stretch is a popular destination for the Denver crowds. Probably a drive I won't be duplicating anytime soon.

Our adventure was pretty short lived. We were only on the water for a few hours, but it was enough to to tighten-up some tippet with our underwater friends. There were a fair share of PMD's hatching, but not too many takers on the surface. Jay and I had tied up some soft hackle PMD's with no weight a few months back, for fishing in the film, so I decided to tie one on and fish it quite shallow. I had seen a few fish swing up high in the water column.
Side Note: Michelle got me a new Evolution (Ross) reel for my birthday. This was the first fish to go head-to-head with it. It's a FREAKIN' sweet reel!

My bet had paid off and we took a few fish this way. Michelle never landed one, but I had the fortune of brining a few to the net. The cool thing about fishing a "film" rig is that when fish take it, it's pretty obvious. Most of the time you see the fish move to the upper water column, and if you don't, your indicator is so short that anything taking your fly is registered very quickly. You also don't have to worry about the classic excuse of "maybe it was the bottom".

Good times!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

On the River: 11 Mile Canyon, South Platte, Lake George, CO

July 31, 2010
August 7 and 14, 2010

It had been years since I fished 11 Mile Canyon (aka 11MC). Really, I had only fished it once, when I first moved to Colorado for college at Western State in Gunnison. It was more of a stop in really, and my memory of it was not that impressive. We caught fish, but I don't remember anything too massive. I certainly don't remember anything about a catch-and-release stretch. So, when I blogged about moving to Colorado Springs and one of my blog readers, Jim, mentioned he fished it all the time and would show me what he know, I was excited to say the least.

And so it was, on July 31st that Jim, his son Kevin and I hit the water and they introduced me to a river that I was amazed me. First off, we met at the river at about 6:30 AM to catch the tricos. While we didn't hit an "epic" day, we certainly weren't short of rising fish taking the falling spinners. When the spinner fall ended, most of the fish just kept rising to midges. We spent the morning making delicate cast after delicate cast, and enough rejections to make you crazy, but in the end a rods were bent and smiles were not lacking.

In fact, one of my favorite things about the day was the realization that there were a lot of fish in that river, and they were educated. They act as proper trout should - snubbing a fly if the drift was off, but greedily taking it if the presentation and imitation were accurate. I feel like most Colorado rivers have the X-factor of fish that will take anything that resembles a nymph, or slurp down your indicator leaving one baffled as to "why that happened". Not so with 11MC.

After the hatch was well over, I moved to midge pupa and baetis patterns. One of the first sights I was greeted with was 14" fish sitting in shin-deep gravel just waiting to be stalked, and then picked off by my favorite style of fishing - micro-nymphing.

I spent a large chunk of time walking the river, getting a feel for it and spotting fish. Probably even spent less time actually fishing then I usually would. By the end of the day I had caught my fill of fish and was convinced that this was my new home.

On the 7th, I returned with my wife and some friends of the family. The trico spinner fall was present, but not as strong and the fishing was a little tougher (mostly, I spent the morning trying to help our friends put one on the line).

On the 14th, Ben Robb (his good buddies Matt and Chris) and I headed up to give it a go. The tricos were still a force to be reckoned with and Ben landed this spectacular Brown that had decided to gorge on tricos just 25 feet upstream of him. I spent a lot of the day getting acquainted with some deeper nymphs and did very well in the seems and pocket water using a tungsten hare's ear trailed by a grey midge pupa.

I also discovered that there were Snake River Cutt's in the river and as is my habit to prove that there is something mentally wrong with them, I tied on a large Power Ant and had a nice 15" fish take it on the first cast. (Side note: Jay lived in Jackson for a number of years and we learned if a Chernobyl Ant won't get a SRC to rise, then just tie on a Power Ant. None of those food source made much sense so I concluded that these fish had brain issues. In my years since then I've never cast to a SRC, in any river system, that wouldn't rise to one of those two patterns! It works without fail from about May until Sept. I guess they are just opportunistic fish at heart.)

In the end, my Shan-gri-la view of 11MC was jaded a bit by realizing that the river is a zoo of fishermen, tubers and campers. Though that won't stop me from going back!

Thanks to Jim and Kevin for showing me the ropes. Now I've got to just get back out there with them in the winter!

Tight Lines,

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some catching up to do

If you follow this blog, you've not doubt noticed a serious lack of entries this summer.

Moving has been painful ... you don't realize how much time it takes to pack your life up into neat little boxes, only to unpack all those boxes 3 days later (or 3 months later in my case).

Beyond that, depression has set in ... I have now fully realized what it means to be a "weekend warrior" and the pain of knowing I have to drive a minimum of 1.5 hours in order to put a trout on the end of the line.

It is a sad day my friends.

On the bright side, I'm starting to get caught up on summer blogging and hope to keep things short as I post about 15 new blogs over the next few weeks. I've got the folks coming out for Thanksgiving and we hope to get up to the Frying Pan for two days. I hope to make that my goal: All blogs caught up by then, so I can post a fresh report of some Frying Pan fish in the late fall!

Stay tuned ...
Tight lines,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the Lake: Lake, Ontario, Canada

July 1 - 8, 2010

Some men find fortune in this life ... Such is the case with my Grandfather, who in 1972 was divinely "led" to a Lake in Canada where he purchased two cabins on a couple of acres of land for just over $6000. Ever since then, the cabins have been in the family (along with the BEST location on the Lake one could ever ask for) and to say we've enjoyed Grandpa's investment would be the understatement of a lifetime.

Really, this is where it all began for Jay and I. Dad raised us on rock-bass at the young age of "as soon as we could stand and hold a 3 foot spinning rod". His motto if you want to get someone hooked on fishing - give them a good experience (which worked well on my wife too!). He always took us fishing for rockies because they were so easy to catch at a young age, and as we grew we graduated to smallmouth bass, pike and that path led us to fly fishing for trout, for which I will ever be grateful to my father.

Now, when I go to Canada it's the only time I ever touch a spin rod. The complications of going out in a boat full of people and fly fishing makes it tough. Though, I do find myself heading out in the boat alone some days to twitch damsel flies under the surface, or use deer-hair divers on the surface. Catching smallmouth bass on a popper is a pretty epic experience!

Our lake has pike in it too, though I've yet to land one on the fly. Jay caught a 5 lb. pike on the fly last year, but my few outings this year with a large streamer didn't produce. Next year I hope to correct that.

The fishing was great, the water was crystal clear and the weather was beautiful! Couldn't have asked for a better trip. I even got out one afternoon with Michelle and found a rock bar that you could barely get your popper on the water without a 1 lb. smallmouth crushing it!

Good memories! Old and new.


On the River: Spring Creek, Bellefonte, Central PA

June 28, 2010

Spring Creek in central PA - twice in less than one year, I feel fortunate. This really is one of my favorite places to fish in the world. There's just something about the early mornings, getting up before dawn to fish in the grey fog at the start of a new day. The air is dewy and cool and the midday heats up enough that it actually becomes a good excuse to come off the river for a decent lunch (as opposed to my normal "must not leave the river until dark" attitude). Compared to the West, there is no such thing as wind. Even a menacing wind in the East just has so much less force to it. Also, I find the more gentle river flows, due to less streambed gradient, is a welcome change from fishing the constant pocket-water of the West.

All-in-all, this Midwest-kid that moved to the Colorado Rockies swearing he'd never return, finds himself dreaming of fishing Central PA, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee more often than is healthy.

This also happened to be the first time Michelle had every truly fished the Midwest or a TRUE spring creek. As you'll notice by the first fish she picked up, within 30 minutes of the first day, she was pretty happy about the whole ordeal. Also, might I mention, that if you've never fished a true spring creek - 7x is a must. You may pick up a few fish on that "cable" they call 6x, but what you need is flawless drifts in slow moving water that the fish has some time to drift downstream with your fly as it examines its prey. All that to say - my wife is pretty awesome hooking, fighting and landing that fish on 7x!

Our days were pretty typical of fishing Spring Creek, by the time things were heating up, the fishing was slowing down. We picked up our best fish before 9 AM, and then had to work pretty hard throught the lunch hours, looking for areas that were deeper, or had a cool spring. Most of the fare was #24 midges (cream, grey) and we did some scud and sow bug fishing as well, but for the most part, fish would shy away from the large size of the scuds and sows.

Most mornings were spent in a stretch that has a large spring on it. There are a few gravel riffles that would hold 20+ fish, all sitting in 8" to 14" of water. They spent their mornings idly snacking on selective morsels that would pass by. If you placed a cast just perfect, mended precisely and changed out your fly every now and then you would certainly get a few takes, just the slightest of flash from the mouth or a feint left or right. Hooking, fighting and landing were the next three obstacles to overcome.

Most fish were in the solid 14" range with a few pushing the 20" size mark, and I briefly spotted a 24" monster, but it wasn't long before he bugged out and headed for a more protected spot. It is truly an amazing river! Every time you add an inch to a fish, you find him sitting in a tougher drift. The ones in the 18" range were generally found sitting in impossible locations with about a 6" drift window, making a realistic drift very tough. But that's the beauty of it, though we weren't there for a hatch, Spring Creek has some epic hatches, and those are the times when the "big boys" become much more available.

Without making this post a small novel, what can I say? We spent 3 days enjoying the weather and the water, with plenty of fish to throw in. That's not bad considering I would have enjoyed myself with no fish.

Tight Lines,

(Side note: we did spend one morning at Big Fishing Creek. Which was a boyhood favorite. However, I'm not sure if we just timed something wrong, but we hardly spotted a fish all morning. Maybe we picked the wrong stretch to be on, maybe the river has fallen on some tough times. Sadly, it was a disappointing morning, mostly from not living up to memories.)

On the River: Norfork River, Arkansas

June 3, 2010

Ahhhh Arkansas! Land of my fly fishing birth! One of two really. I started fly fishing somewhere around the age of 12. Jay (big brother) is 5 years older than me and he started somewhere around that age too. A friend of our fathers had a fiberglass rod in the rafters of his basement and he gave it to Jay. After about 5 years of Jay being self-taught, on mostly bluegill and bass, he started to pass it off to his little bro (me).

I don't remember which came first, Arkansas or Pennsylvania, but I do know that the very first places I ever fly fished was the Norfork and White rivers of Arkansas, and Penn's creek in Pennsylvania.

Ever since then, we try and make a pilgrimage to Arkansas every year two and they are almost always worth it! The times it's not is when you show up for 5 days and the water is high the entire time.

That wasn't the case for this trip (or at least not exactly). We had been watching the Norfork flows pretty closely and the rhythm was the generators shut down at 9 PM and turn back on at 12 noon the following day. The White was out of the question since it was mostly running at full generators.

If you've never fished these rivers they are tailwaters, but they water flows are dictated by power demand. On low flows, I think the Norfork runs around 70 cfs, but when they turn the generators on the river becomes a raging torrent at about 6000 cfs. Kind of a dramatic change ...

Nevertheless, fate was kind of on our side and we adjusted accordingly to make our fishing day from 5 AM (on the water, in our spot fishing) to 12 noon.

This trip was prompted from an article that told of the "rebirth" of the river due to massive flooding two years prior (I think it was two years ago). Jay and I can attest that the rivers were getting a bit stagnet, with algae blooms replacing the beautiful cress grass and vegitation. Fish were looking sickly and bigger fish seemed to be more scarce. The rumor was that the flood gutted the river, blew out the algae, and washed a bunch of dead baitfish into the river below. I don't know about all those factors, but I can say that the slime of the river was gone, the underwater vegitation was looking better than I've seen it in many years, and the scuds were ... abundant (to put it lightly).

We had a great trip! Most of the grey mornings were spent blind fishing gentle riffles, and once the sun was up it was a sight nymphers dream! There were also risers to be had on midge and baetis, but the vast majority of fish were active sub-surface.

It's always hard to say what was my favorite, because I love the subtle strikes of blind fishing, but how can you go wrong with sight nymphing? If you've never fished the area before, you're probably asking how I can compare blind fishing with sight nymphing, but this place is different. There are so many fish that will be tucked up into 8" deep, broken water that it really means blind fishing is unique and nothing short of awesome! So, you end up blind fishing these shallow, broken riffles that a two-year old could walk across without much trouble, but if you pay attention to these lightning micro-strikes, you lift up on a 14" rainbow that you never even saw there! It's pretty sweet.

As far as flies and tactics go, it's pretty straightforward nymphing. You can fish standard runs all day long, or you can fish tight (as described above), or you can get crazy and fish flat water for bigger fish, feeding lazily on midges. Our staple flies ended up being the Gammarus Scud and a #24 Cream Midge with a thread head (which we don't currently sell, but we hope to correct that sometime soon!). Sow bugs were working well too, just not as well as the G-scud.

Really, if you wanted a bigger, picky fish, you needed the cream midge with 7x and a micro indicator. That's where the money was at.

All in all, we landed a ton of 12" to 14" fish, a good amount of 15" and I think five 18"+ fish. Never really spotted any Monsters in the 6 lb.+ class, which was a bit of a shame cause that is our favorite target.

A good time was had by all, and the days were filled with friends and family. Ben joined us for the trip and I think he will chime in and verify that our tales of Arkansas were not too highly exaggerated.

Until next time,


On the River: East River, Gunnison, Colorado

May 15, 2010

A short jaunt to the East River during one of my favorite seasons to fish it! Sadly, living in Colorado Springs now, that is a statement you won't get to hear much from me. In the Gunnison days, we really could head out to the river for an evening hatch after work. Living a minimum of an hour from trout water makes that a little tougher to do.

I love fishing the East River in the pre-runoff season because you can hit days where the water is just starting to come up (i.e. greenish murky) but is easy to wade, and the fish are stuffing themselves with any and everything being washed down the river by the slightly increased flows.

If you are just beginning your love affair with this sport and are in need of some encouragement here is my best suggestion: Buy some flies with a tungsten bead (AB hare's Ear, AB Pheasant Tail, AB Prince Nymph) and fish them below an indicator in slightly off-colored water. It's the best time to catch fish when they aren't too spooky, are feeding like crazy, and lots of nymphs that the hare's ear/pheasant tail genre are in the water. The strikes will be solid!

Having said all that, that is pretty much how our few hours went. Numerous fish, slamming a single Hare's Ear set about 3 feet below an indicator.

If it's not pre-runoff season, just look for summer days when there has been a light rainstorm recently and you may get a taste of what it's like!


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

May 9, 2010

Well sir, I'm back in the saddle again ... After a ton of packing, uprooting our lives, and then replanting in Colorado Springs (not to mention squeezing in a fair amount of fishing in the mix), Michelle and I (and Allen Brothers) are officially residing in Colorado Springs, CO.

Oddly, this post is from when we were still living in Gunnison, and made a trip out to Cheeseman Canyon in the spring to escape the "frequent snow storms" in Gunnison (yeah ... we had weekly snow storms until the end of May, it pretty much stunk!).

It was a beautiful day on the river. The wind was pretty brutal, but what else can you expect in the spring? Really, it was the only draw-back to the day, because it forced us to fish a heavier weighted system than I wanted to (yeah ... it was windy enough that you couldn't mend without sending your whole rig flying into the air!)

Fishing was the usual Cheeseman Canyon fare of Blacktail Baetis, Gammarus Scud, and Grey midges. Nothing really happening on the surface of the water. The flows were about the lowest I've ever seen them on that river, so it was quite fun from the perspective of sighting fish (when the water wasn't broken from the wind). I hooked into a few nice fish early on that weaved me through a few boulders, and one fish even took the "bat cave" and left me snagged deep in the bowels of the earth DIRECTLY UNDER a bus sized boulder!

The first "traditional run" we started fishing had a few tanks lined up and it wasn't too long before the right drift turned them. In all fairness (and I'm sure Colorado Angler can confirm), I think they were fish that had been recently stocked in the Wigwam section and had migrated up. They looked like a special strain of rainbow that only rich people normally get to fish to (plus, the silver coloration indicates they hadn't been eating the nutrient rich food source from Cheeseman Canyon for very long).

Regardless, Michelle and I were both happy to land one of them. In fact, as you can see in the picture below, Michelle was quite ecstatic! They had some serious power, and it's probably the biggest fish she's ever landed on that light of tippet (7x). Never underestimate the power of a 2 weight! (yes, for all you naysayers, she landed it in under 4 minutes)

A few other nice fish were hooked, some other large "tanks" were turned, but all in all we didn't land too many fish that day.

I'm really looking forward to making Cheeseman some of my home waters ... once we get all unpacked and I hit the river some more, that is.

Tight Lines,


Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10, 2010

Hmmmmm ... It's about time for some new posts here.

For those of you that don't know, Michelle and I are moving to Colorado Springs, so we've been quite busy lately.

We have managed to get a fair amount of fishing in, just not enough extra time to blog about it!
I hope to get online and put up a few tales soon.

Hang in there!

-Jeff Allen

Friday, April 30, 2010

On the River: Taylor River, Gunnison, Colorado

April 17, 2010

With the dicey spring weather always changing every 15 minutes, Michelle and I headed out on Saturday for a quick trip to the river. Just the week before, with my Sister and Brother-in-law in town, we did some sight seeing and checked out the Taylor (without our rods) and had spotted a few large rainbows holding in a favorite run of mine.

They were no doubt stockers from the upstream private property, but that was no reason to stop Michelle and I from seeing if we could locate them again. Our first attempt was thwarted by a thunderstorm cloud that produced hail and lightning. So, like any Colorado natives we decided to drive upstream until the weather improved. The weather did improve, but we were so close to the C and R by the time it did that we decided to check it out.

Bad move ... it was like a sea of cars out there. No joke, if there was a pull-off, or even a space large enough for a car, it was filled. Nuts to that. So we headed back downstream and just as predicted, the location that was previously a wild storm, was now sunny blue.

It only took a few good drifts before Michelle hooked her first fish. My second fish was one of the big rainbows we had spotted last time we were there and he put up a decent fight, but ultimately pulled out just before I netted him. If I may digress for a moment, there was a good reason he pulled out ...

We were fishing a hare's ear as a point fly, trailed by a blacktail baetis. The fish took the hare's ear and as I pulled him close, he made a fast move, in which he caught the baetis in a pectoral fin. The result was he popped the hare's ear out and was now foul-hooked. My digression is this ... I'm not so sure about the two fly rig. I like the concept of not using lead, but I have had this very same scenario happen to me a few times in the last month or so. I'm about ready to denounce two fly fishing. I'll keep you posted and let you know how my mental battle goes.

After 20 more minutes of drifting and hooking a few other small fish, I hooked into another one of the large rainbows. Shortly after that we made our way downstream and got into a couple runs with browns in them. All in all I'd have to give the Taylor two thumbs up right now. The fish are definitely feeding hard and since it's a tailwater you can find some clarity that the rest of the valley is lacking.

It was a great time for getting out on the river for just a few hours!

-Jeff Allen

Friday, April 23, 2010

On the River: Gunnison Gorge (Chukar Access), CO

April 8, 2010

My sister and brother-in-law came out to Colorado for a little visit. Whitney (brother-in-law ... don't let the name fool you. He's from NY and will mess you up if you think his moniker is sissy!) had only been to Colorado for Michelle and I's wedding, and had never fished here before. I thought there would be no better way to give him an experience he would not forget than by taking him to the Gunnison Gorge to see the sights and hook some of those fish!

It turned out that we picked one of the best weather days I HAVE EVER HAD in Colorado. We got to the river by about 10:30, which is when the sun is just coming over the canyon walls this time of year, and the weather report for the day actually said "brilliant sun" ... no kidding! But to top it all off, I have never fished a day in Colorado that was as windless as this day. Not even a puff of wind! It was crazy!

Oddly enough, we fished most of the morning without success, and even saw very few fish. After spending most of the morning in slow, deep pools and side eddies, we decided to head down to some faster water and riffles. The action picked up, and we hooked a few fish on baetis, but certainly nothing to write home about. To be honest, after lunch (around 1 PM) the sun was already setting behind the cliffs and we had enjoyed the day so much we weren't opposed to wrapping up. Until everything changed, that is ...

We had been noticing baetis rolling off at an ever increasing rate since about 11 AM, but there were just no fish responding to them. By about 1 PM I was almost starting to think the fish migrated down stream to different water types for the winter (especially since Michelle and I did so well 3 weeks before 8 miles downstream at Pleasure Park). That's when Whitney said, "there are a few risers up here, one of them looks pretty decent". We were standing in the sun and the risers he saw were just on the edge of the canyon shadow. I rolled upstream and immediately recognized a pod of about 6 fish feeding heavily.

The risers were much too far of a cast, but we decided to look for more on our side of the river upstream. Once we crossed into the shadow and our eyes adjusted ... OH SNAP!!! We realized that there were PODS of risers as far as you could see upstream! And, due to the low light conditions, none of the fish were too reluctant to take a fly. In fact, for visibility we switched up from an emerger pattern to a quill body adams.

Like two kids in a candy store, Whitney and I proceeded to spend the next 2 hours in a giddy state of enthusiasm. When you haven't hit a "true" hatch in a while you start to forget what it's like.

It's like "good times"! That's what it's like!

We rounded out the day with about 8 fish each on dries (we opted for comradery over fish quantity and decided to share a rod), and none were too small! It was a day that will not be forgotten soon. And, as for my theories of migrating fish ... I've decided they were all hunkered down during the day since they knew the all you can eat buffet was coming that afternoon.

Tight lines,

On the River: East River, Gunnison, Colorado

April 2 and 11, 2010

It's that season again (and almost past since I'm blogging a little late and water is already running chocolate around these parts)! Time for the pre-runoff fishing where the winter chill has gone but the spring runoff hasn't hit yet. These are the times when it's pretty easy to find fish midging lazily all day long, and if you get enough warm days in a row, the rivers start to get off color, which is a deadly time to try and fool a fish with a fly (that is if you're into catching large numbers of fish).

The main reason it is so deadly is because the water just starting to come up gives you some pretty huge advantages as a fisherman.
  1. Flows starting to rise means food being washed down stream. Those little clingers make one mistake and, like a Hollywood action star losing his grip on that helicopter landing gear, they fall off the rocks and become someone's lunch.
  2. Slightly off-color water means fish that are feeding heavily while being a lot harder to spook.
  3. Fishing pressure is at an all time low since fish had a three month break from all but the craziest of fisherman.
So, Michelle and I headed during one of our favorite seasons (yes, if you're think "all of the seasons are this guys favorite", you are correct), for a couple of afternoons on the East River. I love fishing the East River because it's a classic freestone with various types of water. When the fish are still in winter holding lies, we focus mostly on deep, slow pools and riffles that are of uniform depth, but still pretty slow moving (i.e. 2' deep riffles).

The 2nd of April was still pretty cold so we were able to capitalize on super slow, clear water which meant risers were tucked up into the head of pools waiting for midges to cross their path. We really only took one fish on the surface (had a couple others on), but the fish were much more aggressive for our "micro-nymphing" technique, as they were feeding pretty high up in the water column.
The East River is a "Wild Fishery" meaning they don't stock it. All the browns are wild, but the hatchery nearby means a fair amount of "not so beautiful" rainbows make it to the river. Then again, I've caught some really good looking ones if they decide to stay in the river for a few years.

The 11th of April was a different story ... the water was much higher, and starting to get into that greenish color. We fished for about 30 minutes with a two fly rig, and after hooking 8 fish all on the point fly (tungsten hare's ear) we opted to get rid of the trailing fly since it was virtually useless. Why mess with a complex rig when you can go simple?

A sun beating down on our backs and Michelle landing about as many fish as she can handle is all a man can ask for in this world. It is also the reason we like this pre-runoff season so much ... if you hit the right conditions, the fishing can just be silly! The best part is, you can really run across some bruisers too since all the fish are usually bulking up during the spring runoff.

Tight lines,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On The River: Gunnison Gorge, Delta, CO

March 6, 2010

I know I start every blog with a nostalgic - longing for fishing - but what can I say, about an hour after I'm off the river, I am typically longing to be back on the water. And in the winter, when spectacular fishing days are sporadic at best, you better believe I'm nostalgic for warmth on my skin and a sipping trout just in front of me.

And so, Michelle and I found ourselves at 10:30 AM, on Saturday, faced with that very situation. The weather had looked good the night before, so we made the trek to Delta and parked at the well known "Pleasure Park" area. In an odd twist of fate, we drove through cloud cover and some pretty stiff winds, but then stepped out of the car and within minutes the clouds were breaking and the wind stopped ... not typical Colorado weather.

After a short jaunt upstream to one of my favorite spots that is constantly overlooked by other anglers, we were starring at 6 to 8 fish rising steadily to midges, the smallest seemed to be about 13" and the largest ... looked pretty big.

If I may interject a quick side note, observe the water you are walking past and remember that winter fish tend to stay in much shallower and slower water than they do in the summer. I couldn't believe how many guys were fishing deep runs and riffles that were summer lies. Typically, winter fish are looking for shallow to moderate depth water, with just enough movement to be slightly broken. This type of water allows the fish to feed heavily, on everything that passes by, without having to expend much energy. Winter is FANTASTIC for sight nymphing and gentle sippers. If you keep your eyes peeled in these areas, it is common to see snouts, barely breaking the surface, that most other anglers walk by.

We fished a few different patterns and found the fish weren't too picky on the pattern as much as the drift. I started with 8x (mostly just for fun) and landed a 14" brown on a poly-wing baetis. Then Michelle was up and lipped 3 different fish, but wasn't able to hook up (I attribute the missed fish to giddiness). After a while more of casting and changing up patterns a bit, most of the pod was put-down and the rises were sporadic enough that we switched to a micro nymph rig.

That's when the scud took over! We tried a few patterns to no avail, so I switched to a scud, single split-shot, and a micro indicator (a classic micro nymphing rig). My first cast was over a feeding fish and he took it like it was his job. We fished that rig the rest of the day and never took another fish on any fly besides the Gammarus Scud (later, we fished some deeper runs and switched to a Pheasant Tail trailed by a Gammarus Scud, but still all the fish were on the scud).

I switched my 8x out for 6x after two, totally botched, hooksets on 18" fish (even I was a little too giddy that day), and Michelle and I smiled at each other frequently as we worked our way upstream landing 14 to 18 inch fish all day!

At the end of the day, we wrapped things up in one last "nice-looking" riffle. As Michelle wielded the rod with the deftness of a seasoned angler, a well placed cast led to a nice drift, which was followed by a strike and a hook-set. The first time the fish flashed I noticed it's brilliant rainbow coloring, and thought it had some good size to it. The second time the fish flashed I knew Michelle was about to go berserk. She doesn't always perform well under pressure, and the second she knows she has a big fish, she kind of flips out and assumes she's going to lose it.

Not this time ... Michelle kept her cool and after a few powerful runs, and threats that I'd be sleeping on the couch if I botched the net job, she was about as ecstatic as 103 lbs. can possibly be. She even topped it off with a great hold for a photo (small hands don't grip large fish so well) and that is how we ended the day.

Get out there and make it happen!
-Jeff Allen

Thursday, February 18, 2010

jackson Wyoming 2009: Part 4 of 7

A sweet shot of releasing one of the big browns at Lewis River.

October 6, 2009
Part 4

Day 3 began much better than the previous two. Kevin luckily had a back up plan and we were able to stay indoors, with a dry floor, hot showers in the morning, and a small kitchen that allowed us to cook breakfast. After we were up and ready to hit the road at about 7:30 AM we walked out the front door to be hit with some classic Wyoming beauty. Fresh snow, clearing skies and sunrise makes for some amazing photography, so Greg capitalized on the moment and riffled off a few shots that will surely make him some money in the future.

The plan for day 3 was to head up Yellowstone way to the outlet of Lewis Lake. In Jay's time guiding in the area he had discovered something amazing up there. Where most guys head up to the Lewis River for the Brown Trout spawning run, Jay discovered large quantities of fish, holding in certain pockets, moved into the river just before the spawn to bulk up on food. Interestingly enough, these fish are extremely difficult to spot, and only hold in select pools so Jay's knowledge of which pools held fish and which didn't came in very handy.

Life is sweet when your just fishing a single fly, below a micro indicator and picking up fish like this!

The nymph rig was simple, just a single tungsten pheasant tail (size 16), below an indicator set a the proper depth and you could be in 19" brown trout heaven. Unfortunately, as the seasons would have it, the fish had not moved into the river in the numbers we were hoping for yet. We seemed to be about a week early. That doesn't mean there were no fish, but just not as many as the same week in October in years past.

In one of the deeper pools we found that there were many more fish than we first thought. Jay and I spent some time peering into it with no avail, but as I moved below the pool and across the stream for a better look Jay saw the motherlode shift from me spooking it. We had brought a paint pole with us to attach the smaller waterproof camera so we could go down to some depths and we decided this would be a good opportunity to test it out. It wasn't until we got the footage home, and blew it up on a laptop that we realized we were indeed fishing to a larger pod of fish than first expected. By the end of the day we had pulled out 3 large fish, and a couple of smaller ones, but had no idea how many fish we were drifting through. Jay did note that sometimes in Lewis River he had encountered hooking a fish or two and then the rest of the pod getting lock-jawed, so we had to assume this was the case.

It's not always easy to see, but if you keep your eye on the video and watch it a few times you'll realize just how many fish were in that hole!!! Crazy!

At around 2PM we decided to cut our losses and move up valley to the Firehole River ... this was a mistake.

We showed up to the river to find the temps had dropped considerably for only driving 20 miles north. We were faced with stiff winds and about a 15 degree temp ... not normal for an October day. After an hour or so of attempting to film some nymphing techniques we decided the 8" rainbows weren't worth it. Our thought of warm weather had us hoping for a baetis hatch and some rising fish that would be a little bigger. That was not the case.

Yep, it was cold.

The day ended with me getting mocked profusely by my cohorts because I was the only one who ordered a double cheeseburger that cost me about $11. The bitterness wasn't from eating a burger that taste like cardboard, we were all doing that, but the fact that I ordered one that was twice as much cardboard as my comrades and I had paid much more for the unsatisfactory meal. I tried to hold onto my dignity by claiming the chicken noodle soup (that only I ordered) was really good, but I don't think they believed me.

A good day.
Check out below for addition photos and some cool footage that we got.

We called this shot "The Terminators". Kinda funny.
Below is a couple of other videos that turned out pretty sweet!

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

Jan. 23, 2010

Winter fishing is some finicky business. You spend a lot of time planning, preparing and gearing up for an event that may get kiboshed by a 4 degree temperature swing. That was not the case, however, on the morning of January 23rd. Everything lined up, and the temperature swing went in our favor.

Michelle and I had been watching the weather and things looked good, so we headed up to the only "ice free" water within 1.5 hours drive and arrived at around 10 AM to find only one other car (a rare feat indeed).

The fishing itself was your standard fare. To tell the truth, I don't think we caught fish on anything but egg patterns. The winter is an odd time. It's all just opinion and theory, but I'm not sure any of the fish on the Taylor C and R stretch ever successfully spawn. In the winter you get the highest concentration of rainbows or browns "going through the motions", but you never seem to see any of them in sync, and I think I've only caught one fish up there that actually spit eggs or sperm. I personally think that the invention of dams, and controlling water flows for recreational use, messes with the fish's biological clock so much, that you don't have any normal spawning activity until much further downstream, where other streams flowing into a river make the flows a little more normal.

I say all that not to justify fishing an egg pattern, per se, but to ... well ... justify fishing an egg pattern. In the winter, it works on that stretch of river. To be honest, it works at just about anytime of the year on the C and R, though the summer makes an egg pattern much more of a wild card with midge and baetis being much more reliable patterns.

Nevertheless, Michelle and I fished, spotted fish, and hooked fish pretty consistently all day long, including a few "destroyer" sized fish. One of the highlights of the day was a rainbow that crushed my fly, screamed upstream 20 feet, tore back downstream and jumped - 2 feet out of the water - right at my wife! It literally almost hit her! It was a solid 26" fish, that continued downstream. I pursued it, running and weaving around rock, until it finally bested me deep under a sharp rock.

The other highlight of the day was hooking a 20" cutthroat. To be honest, I didn't even know there were cutthroat in that stretch of water, but after a 5 minute fight I was holding a sexy looking Colorado Cutt.

We smiled, we laughed, we froze just a little bit, but there were a few moments where your blood pumped so hot you could almost think it was a balmy June afternoon.

Here's to reprieve.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On the Rivers: Uncompahgre and Taylor

January 1 and 16, 2010

A quick catch up ... I actually didn't make it out during the month of December, which is quite rare, because Michelle and I typically love hitting the Taylor C & R during that time. In fact Michelle and I even ventured up to the Taylor once, but arrived to see 10 cars and the temp was about 8 degrees, so we decided to go for a quick walk up the banks and then headed home.

I did make it out to the Uncompahgre on the first of the year. I arrived at the river and promptly realized I left my camera at home ... bummer. The day was glorious, the fishing less so. I spent the majority of the time blind fishing, and walking the river looking for midging fish, or targets I could sight fish to, and was met with little success. After about two hours I rolled up on a nice gravel bar that held about 10 good sized fish and I was able to spend some quality time fishing to, and landing most of them. All in all, it's pretty good to start your year on the water with balmy 40 degree temps in the air.

The Taylor was ... not too special. Mostly cold, and windy. With snow glare enough to blind the hardest of mountaineers, Michelle and I resigned ourselves to blind nymphing some popular holes and only produced one 14" brown. He was a good looking fish, but not exactly what we were looking for that day. We eventually went home and had some hot chocolate!

Tight lines,
Dreams of summer,


Friday, January 22, 2010

On the River: Ashtabula River, Ashtabula, Ohio

November 23, 2009

Michelle and I flew home, to Ohio, for Thanksgiving and the natural thing to do is figure out how to get to a steelhead river. I mean, let's be honest folks, I'm a thankful guy, but I'm a lot more thankful for everything when I've got an 8 lb. steelhead on the end of my line!

So we headed up to the Ashtabula River the morning of the 23 of November. Pretty much every time I go home for the Holidays I try to hit up the steelhead run, and every time the conditions are kind of crap. Last year the Holiday was Christmas. We showed up just at the end of a rain cycle, which meant the rivers were blown out, but the day before we went fishing a cold snap moved in overnight. It was so cold that the water was actually below freezing and the friction was the only thing keeping the water from being frozen solid. How do I know this? Because after 20 drifts our flies were a solid nugget of ice (even the hook point was buried in ice) so we would have to suck on the flies until the melted then start casting again.

I say all that to give you an idea of my steelhead experiences, but I'll get back to my story now.

This year was quite the opposite, it was an unusually warm Thanksgiving and there hadn't been rain for about 3 weeks, so the rivers were low and gin clear. Unfortunately, for steelheading, that presents a new set of problems. To start, not many fish had run up the river yet as they usually wait for higher flows to come out of the lake en-masse. Then, the gin clear, low water, made for some very skittish fish when we did find them.

However, I still can't help but smile when I think of the whole day! The warm, overcast skies made this Colorado boy giddy with excitement. I fished the day in my down jacket, but could have easily been in just a hoodie. And then there was the wind ... or lack thereof. You don't realize that Colorado is windy ALL THE TIME until you go somewhere that is not. Most of the time as a Colorado resident you think, "wow, it's a really calm day" when all that really means is "the wind is light, as opposed to gale forces". Out East it is not that way. You can actually have days that are DEAD CALM. It's a beautiful thing, being able to cast at a target without having to calculate what the wind is going to do to you.

The Ashtabula is not a big river, and with the low flows most of the day we were fishing in less than 3 feet of water. Our plan was to foul hook AS FEW of the monsters as possible so most of the time we fished some very light line tactics. It really was like sight nymphing on a spring creek, except that every fish could eat your leg if they wanted to. Most of the day I fished a #16 tungsten pheasant tail, or a glow bug with one micro split-shot. To fish any sort of a tandem rig in that slow water would have been asking to get hung up on the bottom, or snag a 10 lb. steelhead in the dorsal fin on every drift ... not something you want to do.

We arrived at the river and within 15 minutes found a healthy, but skittish, pod of about 10 fish. I gave Michelle first crack at it and she hooked up with a solid 24" fish within 30 minutes. After about a 10 minute battle the solid rainbow made some fast movements and spit the hook. Michelle cried ... I laughed ... it was definitely the first time she had felt the sheer power of a 5 lb. steelhead.

Michelle, putting her back into it.

She handed the rod over to me and I started targeting some big dogs at the head of the pool. After 40 minutes of casting I finally hooked up with a fish that was sure to be 15 lbs.+ but had similar results as Michelle, a couple of powerful runs and the fly pulled out.

After that we ran dry for a while as the low numbers of fish in the rivers made finding pods few and far between. We traveled downstream for a bit and found a pod of 3 fish. After 20 minutes of persistence the alpha fish swung hard and CRUSHED my pheasant tail. After 15 minutes with a 5 wt and 6x tippet I was holding a hefty, good looking steelhead. Please, don't ever let them tell you that you can't put the pressure on a big fish with a light rod and tippet! Jay and I are huge fans of soft action light line rods and are confident that monster fish don't have to be played to death. In fact most of the time I feel a light rod will help protect your tippet better and allow you to fight a fish more effectively. I have a good deal of experience to prove my theories too.

Thanksgiving indeed!

The rest of the day was spent moving from pod to pod, making casts at each one for an hour or so. Michelle had a couple of great opportunities, and briefly had a few other fish on, but never did land one.

She'll be back another day ...