Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Resolution

I am not typically a "New Year's Resolution" kind of guy. Part of me doesn't see the point, the other part of me really doesn't see the point when you watch a lot of people make a resolution that is quickly forgotten by February. However, while I woke up to -3 degrees today and have found myself constantly drifting to thoughts of standing near a river with the warm rays of the sun on my skin, I felt compelled to make a small mental resolution.

You see, for the last few years I have had this dark shadow creep over my mind. I love fly-fishing so much, but I've gotten to a point where I get frustrated by things out of my control: Overcast skies (on a day you were hoping for sun), strong winds, fluctuating water flows (on tailwater fisheries), too many fisherman on the river ... the list goes on. I think it has been compounded by the fact that I'm not in my 20's anymore, and I'm not single anymore. No more "fishing whenever I want, wherever I want and for as long as I want." And of course Allen Brothers has made things interesting. I love what Jay and I do as a company. We take our knowledge of fishing and try to create something great for the sport. But, the flip-side is spending a lot of time turning your love-affair/hobby into dollars and cents.

Somewhere in all of it I think I got off track and it became about catching large numbers of big fish in the perfect conditions. Anything less and I felt robbed, cheated and generally went home with a feeling of disappointment. Now, mind you, I have had a lot of great days on the water, but it hasn't "refreshed" my soul as it has in the past.

So, to get to the point, here is my resolution ... I promise to spend more time sitting on a rock on the bank. I promise to not worry about getting to the river later than expected, or leaving earlier than wanted. I promise to get to the river earlier and stay later than I should! I promise to seine more frequently rather than just tying on flies I know will "get the job done". I promise to breathe deeply and smell the air more frequently. I promise to take more photos of the world around me, and not just fish. I promise to live life.

The best news ... I can't fail by February, because it's barely just begun!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On the River: Arkansas, Bighorn Sheep Canyon, Canyon City, CO

October 15, 2010

If I had a stand-out day this fall, it was on the Arkansas river. It really was the quintessential fall fly fishing day. The sky was a brilliant blue, the air was crisp, the leaves were crunchy underfoot, the wind was non-existant and there was the smell of the fading summer (i.e. decaying plant matter).

There was not much to be said for the size of the fish we were catching. In fact, I have yet to see a day on the Arkansas where the average fish was much over 12". If you know of some spots where the "big fish" live, feel free to contact me and we'll hit the river together (that is if you're willing to divulge those secrets). Until that time, my assumption is that the Ark is a great river for quantities, but not so great for size. I am confident that in all those miles of river with deep pools there lies some pretty monster fish, but they are probably content staying far away from where the angler can threaten them.

As for the fishing, it was fantastic! We splatted a few ant patterns here and there and were rewarded with the occasional fish. We fished the heads of shallow riffles with a blacktail baetis pattern with much success. By the middle of the day, there were enough caddis dancing around to bring up some of the better fish. And nearing the end of the day, it was the poly-wing baetis that caused the biggest fish of the day to scrutinize my fly and take it with a gentle sip (didn't get a picture of that one, he pulled out after 30 seconds or so).

So much of the joy in a day like this one, for me, has to do with the style in which I'm fishing. I love it when things are calm, gentle, delicate. I love seeing the fish. I love seeing the take. I love being refused, then spending some time pondering why and solving the riddle. I think it is why I am so reminiscent of fishing back east all the time. After I've spent a good amount of time fishing all over this country, I've decided that the style that suits me best is found where the water flows a little slower and the fish think a little longer.

In the west, I usually find those days in the fall, and it makes me happy.

And so, at the end of the day, when I was making a 60 foot cast with a #22 poly-wing baetis to a pod of rising fish ... I was a pretty happy man.

Tight lines indeed,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

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

October 2, 2010

Theories, all just theories ...

In my quest to understand the Dream Stream section of the South Platte I have yet to reach the end. My experience tells me that it is primarily a Salmon/Steelhead river. Sure, you wouldn't call the rainbows steelhead, but essentially, they don't live in the river, they live in the lake. Same with the browns. My hunch is that the cutthroats do live in the river. I think that at best you can have rainbows and browns coming up river at anytime during the year if the food source is there, but they are most likely migrating up the river for a short period of time to feed.

Having said that, I really do believe you can hit the river just about anytime of the year and get rewarded by a ton of large fish, or stymied by the lack of any fish. While you can hedge your bets by hitting the two spawning seasons (fall for the browns, spring for the rainbows/cutts). Ben and I were met by the reality that in this river, it's anything but a safe bet.

As it turns out, Ben and I had a pretty fun day, but we lacked the large quantities of fish that we've run into in the past. The sun was shining, the wind was relatively calm and we even started out the morning with a pretty heavy cloud of trico's (which seemed pretty late in the year to me, but whatever!) I picked up a few fish on trico's, but none would top the 4" mark so we quickly decided to switch to nymphs and move on upstream.

I had never fished all the way to the upper boundary, so it was my goal to cover some water and see what there was. The morning proved to be fairly uneventful. We spotted one monster, 23" cutthroat that we fished to for a while and I eventually hooked on a gammarus scud, only to pull out within 10 seconds of fighting the fish. In another location I hooked a 15" cutthroat that came to the net, but I fumbled before the photo could be taken. Ben landed a nice brown trout at the upper boundary (no photo again) and I spotted a 20"+ brown that scooted after about 10 casts to it.

All in all we were surprised by the "lack" of fish in the upper stretch.

And so, we found ourselves taking a late lunch and heading down to the lower stretch around 2 PM. With ominous clouds rolling in we didn't have much time in the afternoon. This proved to be sad, because it wasn't too long before we found our magic stride. Ben I and were both hooked up with steady fish on the blacktail baetis. We only ended up with this one photo from the day, mostly because all the fish were around this size and not too camera worthy.

The day ended with smiles, because most of the fish were coming out of shallower riffles, which is always a favorite haunt of mine.

We also had one curious event take place ... as the dark clouds rolled in the flashes of lightning in the distance let us know it was time to go. Ben made his way upstream to my location where I was making just "one or two last casts". As I reached for my line to begin stripping in the slack my finger came within an inch of my hook keeper. The combination of standing in the water on a dry plain composed mostly of metallic soil sent a beam of energy, arcing to my finger that lasted about 3 seconds, accompanied by sound. Needless to say, I immediately bit off my leader above my indicator and we broke down our rods and kept a low profile on our way back to the car.

I don't mind admitting ... it was pretty scary.

Nothing like a brush with death to make you appreciate life!


Monday, January 10, 2011

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

September 11, 2010

"The Curse of the Tailwater Fishery"

Yes, I have made some complaints lately about "Front range fishing". Mostly, I stand by those complaints. I do understand, however, that without these rivers having dams on them, most of them would not fish nearly as well for trout. They would probably be silt laden, warm water fisheries.

But, since the dams are in place, that is the reality I get to write about, and "The Curse of the Tailwater Fishery" is the ever fluctuating water levels that have no rhyme or reason with the current season (no, I did not mean for that to rhyme). And so it was, that Ben and I had a long full day of fishing in September planned. A day that should have had consistent flows was pushing at about 450 CFS and dropped throughout the day.

Basically, that was a 2 paragraph justification for "we had a crappy fish-day". We spent most of the day looking for fish that were hunkered down in deep holes. When you did find fish the water was pushing pretty hard and made for very drag-conducive drifts. Early in the day we did find this one good fish that was rising pretty steadily. After an excellent display of perseverance Ben landed him on a dry fly.

The rest of the day was enjoyable, the sun was brilliant, the wind was non-existent, but not many fish landed.


Friday, January 7, 2011

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

September 5, 2010

It was high time I got Michelle on the river all to myself! The summer had been crazy from moving, adjusting to new jobs, getting together with friends. I certainly got out to the river my fair share, but all too often Michelle couldn't come along for one reason or another.

So, on our first full day off in a while, we headed up to 11 MC. The day was great, water was running a little high, so it made for fishing hanging out in some difficult-to-drift locations, but we managed to find pockets here and there of fish hanging out on gravel bars, taking midges like it was their job.

We ended up at one spot that I have found to be a consistent gravel run where the fish can hide, almost invisibly, and a depression in the gravel. To paint the picture, we were looking at a 30 foot wide gravel run, with moderately fast water, and it appeared to be a uniform depth of 14". As we slowly advanced upstream we would see a 14" trout dart out from it's invisible location. After a few more steps we realized that there were micro-pockets where the gravel bottom went from 14" deep to 18" deep. This "break in the current" was enough to allow 2 - 3 fish to hold.

Why we couldn't see them ... I don't know, but sure enough we started spotting the depressions, fished to them, and started hooking up in numbers. It has been a while since I've encountered such an awesome fishing scenario. I was taken back to spring creek fishing in the east. It made me smile!

Sadly, with the increased flows our landing rates were about 1 in 5, but we had a great time.

I ended out the day by spotting a 17" brown, hooking and fighting for a solid 5 minutes until he pulled out. Another day, another day.

Tight Lines,