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,