Category Archives: Stories

Moving to Carpizona

The black canvas of my shoes so hot that it hurts my toes and I’m wondering how hot it needs to be for the glue that holds these waffled soles together to start melting into a chemical swirl of sticky syrup. The temperature is around 106 degrees right now and it should get a little hotter as the day goes on, but right now it’s close to 11:00 AM and I am trying not to get skunked before I have to go to work.

image1On a day like today it’s clear to me that I would rather freeze to death than burn to death. In the past I had waded out into the deep cool waters of half frozen lakes for this fishing addiction and felt that soothing numbness as my limbs disappear into the oblivion of icy cool water, but on my new home waters there’s no such relief. Still, on a day like today it’s tempting to wade into this murky mess of grass clippings and unidentifiable scum to try and get some relief from the sweltering sun, but my better judgement is telling me it’s a sure way to blow any chance I have left at slipping a hook into the gaping mouth of one of these saurian scaled creatures.

When I lived in Utah, I’d been a big fan of the Provo and Weber rivers and caught my fair share of handsome trout in them, but my favorite thing was dry fly fishing the small creek systems that run through the canyons of the Salt Lake City area. Now in Arizona, I was spending my days in a cubicle solving Identity and Access Management mysteries. I was haunted in day dreams by mountain streams filled with brightly speckled “Brookies” and Rainbow Trout with bands of pink glinting on their flanks in the summer sunshine.

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What I’m chasing now, well, I thought these were the kind of fish that you hit with oars at Lake Powell. They were the kind of aquatic game you should take up bowfishing for. I thought these garbage sucker fish should be killed on sight because they were ruining quality fisheries around the nation. Now that I am here I’m seeing them with different eyes, their ancient mailed backs glowing gold in the sunshine as they feed in the shallows of a small pond. Seeing them like this has made me think I’d formed some hasty opinions.

It was sometime in late April that I first cast a fly at a carp with any real intent. I approached the water’s edge to see tailfins swishing lazily back and forth above the water line, their visages rooting deeply in the sediment scored banks, making small sepia clouds that drifted out into the deeper water. I cast a tiny crimson bugger on a tailing fish’s dinner plate and gave it a couple slight strips. When the fish darted toward, it my heart started to race. When its mouth hovered over the fly, my nerves caused me to rip up a “trout set” that sent the fly up to tightly wrap an overhanging branch of a bank-lining tree. I was baffled. When I looked back toward the spot where the carp had been there was a welt rippling on the surface of the water and a foul brown mud cloud sweeping through the area. I untangled my line from the branch and made a few more casts to other carp I found feeding along the bank. I had another take…this time I tried to set the hook even harder and faster and I felt a little something snag the hook. I saw the fish erupt in horror and swim away snapping my 4x tippet with ease. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t hooking these fish. These fish were playing a joke on me. I went home thinking about buying a bait caster and some corn feed to chum the water with so I could catch one and be done with them forever.
11330784_680451085431910_1768738429_nA week later I was back in Utah for a quick visit with friends and family. I set myself up for some serious time on the water since Arizona aquatic life was not yielding to my fly fishing prowess and I needed to catch a fish. I landed some handsome bows on one of my beloved small streams… but I found my mind drifting back to the challenge of the elusive “golden ghost” that I had yet to catch. I’d been out sight fishing them at least 6 times now and had only really hooked into 2. I hadn’t even fought one yet, let alone land one. I wanted to catch a carp so badly but my repeated failure had left me feeling like I couldn’t do it.

When I got home from Utah I went back to the carp pond. I could see carp feeding in a shoulder section of the pond. A floating green fascia separating their world from mine lent me the stealth I needed to approach them.  I crept up a few feet from the bank and took cover behind a tree. I slowly stripped out some line trying to limit the reel’s squeal and took a cast that plopped my fly down into the path of the feeding carp. When they were right on top of my fly I felt nothing, not even a twitch, so against every ounce of intuition I made a light strip set. The water exploded! It was like someone had heaved a bowling ball into it. The fish ripped line off of my reel as it bolted for the depths of the pond. It was powerful, but nimble too as it darted back and forth trying to free itself. The fight was a flurry of pure terror. I thought at any moment I might lose this fish. I managed to retrieve a small trout net that was strapped to my back and got the front half of the fish into the net. I put myself between the fish and the water and snapped a quick pic, then put the fish back in the water and watched it speed off into the green murk. When I looked at the picture, I was shocked. With all the excitement and adrenaline I hadn’t taken a moment to appreciate the fish or examine the quality of my photo. Just like the battle, my picture was a blur, it was dark with a poor angle. I couldn’t even tell it was me holding the fish! I was disappointed that I didn’t prepare for a better shot. I also didn’t expect the subsequent rush of adrenaline that accompanied my first carp on the fly and now I had ruined the evidence of my catch.

image4Since then I have been chasing those spooky creatures in every body of water I can find, from canals and local ponds to large bass fisheries around the state. I have been reading articles, watching videos, tying flies, and observing the behavior of the fish, trying to understand them with that same pedantic fervor of any novice angler. So maybe now it’s clear why I’m standing in this blazing summer sun watching the fish feed and waiting for them to sip down a fly. I didn’t expect that moving to the desert would make me a better angler. It’s only now that I realize I didn’t pick up my first fly rod because I thought it was the best way to catch a trout. In fact, I wasn’t even really thinking of trout. It was the art of the sport and the creativity it required that appealed to me.  It was the mystery of the water and the forms that live therein and not their definite species that first intrigued me. It was the belief that what lurks below in an alien world could be understood if one put in the time to understand. So I’m putting in the time, on the water and off the water, to understand an under-appreciated gamefish that is worth picking up a fly rod for.

Fly Fisherman Are Great Story Tellers: Calling All Writers & Photographers

Fly fisherman are great story tellers. Not a day goes by in the shop when we aren’t witness to a fly fishing related tale.  As you all know, fly fishing takes us to some of the most beautiful places in the world and a lot of fly fishers are also great photographers.  Here’s your opportunity to get your thoughts and photos out there – and to a lot of people!

IG Photo1We’re delighted to offer the opportunity to post your thoughts and images.  We’re looking for interesting articles that cover anything and everything fly fishing related.  Write about some of your travels, show how to tie that hot new fly pattern or discuss a technique.  If it is interesting to you, it will be interesting to others, probably lots of others.

Are you interested in sharing your stories, experiences, or product reviews? If so please send your submissions to webteam@fishwest.com . If your article or photos are picked for our blog you will earn valuable Fishwest store credit to use towards new gear. What fly fisherman doesn’t love new gear?

Submitting an Article

  • We look for articles written about anything fly fishing and we don’t want to stifle your creativity.  This can include, but is certainly not limited to, trip reports, fly tying tutorials, product reviews, fishing techniques, illustrations, etc….ANYTHING FLY FISHING.
  • Articles for submission must be previously unpublished and in English.
  • Articles should be in Word, Word Perfect or Text format.
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  • If this is your first article, be prepared to provide a biography if your article is selected for publication.
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  • We love great fly fishing photography.  Just like an article, we are looking for anything fly fishing related.
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IMG_0045If your article is chosen for publication on Pisciphilia, we pay as follows:

  • Complete article with supporting images: $50 gift certificate valid at www.fishwest.com
  • Article with no supporting images: $30 gift certificate valid at www.fishwest.com
  • One or two images published with an article or as a photo post: $20 gift certificate valid at www.fishwest.com
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Fly Fishing the Chesapeake Region Part I: Spring Creeks

When anglers talk about planning their next fly fishing trip in the U.S. many of the first regions that comes to mind are usually Alaska and the North West for trout and salmon, the Gulf for Redfish and Spotted Sea Trout, and possibly the North East for Atlantic Salmon and Striped Bass. Many overlook the Mid-Atlantic region and I can’t understand why.

I recently took a trip back to Maryland to see family and friends, and while there I took advantage of the great fishing opportunities available in the Chesapeake Bay region. My first stop was to the small creeks around the town I grew up in. Small spring creeks surrounded by lush forest and a variety of wildlife, exposing granite boulders in the stream bed and filled with a variety of fish species. Most of these creeks have been continuously stock with brown and rainbow trout for decades, and although the region is too warm for the rainbows to survive, the brown trout make it through the hot summers and are able to reproduce to a small extent.

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The trout fishing is good but the real reason I brought my gear back this time of year was for the bass fishing opportunities. The smallmouth fishing in the Baltimore/Washington area is world class, with the Susquehanna and the Potomac plus many of the local reservoirs having healthy, reproducing fish populations that produce trophies every year.

I didn’t pull out any trophies nor did I expect to. This trip was just to relax, to go back to the pools and runs where I taught myself to fly fish and look at the water with a new perspective. I headed to a little spring creek in Carrol County called Morgan Run, it starts up around Westminster, Maryland off route 97 and runs into Liberty Reservoir in Finksburg. I took my trusty Ross Essence FC 8’6” 5 weight and when I first got there I tied on a couple of nymphs and threw into a pool with a few trout in it. These fish were stocked about two months back so they weren’t all that difficult to fool. I quickly pulled out a few trout and then headed up stream. I was on a mission to what we call “the honey hole”.

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I approached the hole and I instantly saw a smallmouth sitting behind a pile of sticks, maneuvering left and right, eating anything that floats its way. I was looking for large aggressive fish so I switched over to a white articulated minnow pattern. I threw it about 10 feet above it and started to strip it in. It didn’t budge, so I tossed it again, and again with the same result. I knew there were larger fish in here so I decided to try up around the large bolder laying in the creek. With the first retrieve I saw both trout and bass following it, none of them committed though so I tossed it in again and slowed down the retrieve, “BAM” something came up and slammed it. By the way it was fighting I could tell it was a bass, it was way too aggressive to be any of the trout that I would expect to be in this spot and as I worked it in my assumptions was correct. It was a bass, a decent one for the size of the creek; I reeled it in, took a few shots and quickly released it.

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After being rewarded with that nice bass I decided to start my way back and run that streamer through some of the runs and pools I nymphed earlier. I managed to get a few more follows with some trout in the pools but as I was approaching the trailhead I saw a deep run with two small boulders leaning into it. I threw between the two boulders and as soon as it had become fully submerged “WHAM”, a bass had ran from one boulder to the other and sliced it! Knowing I might have one more chance at it, I waited a minute before I attempted it again, took a breath and tossed it at the back of the run in-between the two boulders. Gave it a few twitches and “BAM” he took it! I noticed that was a good spot for the little guy as I saw two dead minnows, a little larger than my streamer, float out from under the boulder he ran under after eating my fly. I was a little impressed it was still so aggressive even after having a full stomach. I released him back into the run and started my way back down the trail.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better day, an easy hike through a thick forest and got into a variety of fish that were a blast on the old 5 weight. I got back to the car and headed home. This trip out was exactly what I was looking for, back on one of the old creeks where I taught myself how to fly fish, taking what I have learned in the years I have been gone and seeing what I could come up with.

I know I may be a little biased in my love for fishing this area but there are many overlooked fisheries and a variety of species from small to large mouth bass, pickerel and musky, multiple trout species fresh and saltwater variety, the opportunities are almost endless. If you haven’t already, next time you get some free time do a little research on some of the local fisheries around the Chesapeake Region and stay tuned for Part Two where I will write about my first Striped Bass trip on the Susquehanna Flats!

A History of Wild Fisheries

“With reference to the qualities of trout, tastes differ greatly. In my judgment, the finest for the table are the black-spotted trout (Native Cutthroat), and they are undoubtedly the true angler’s favorite, being active and gamey. Brook trout rank next, they being of excellent flavor.”

Mr.  E. M. Robinson 11/13/1889

 

Wild, naturally reproducing fish; feisty rainbows, solitary browns and colorful brook trout are a treat to catch, but they are not native Salmonid fish to the Rocky Mountains. The regional sub species of cutthroat trout and the mountain whitefish are the natives and were isolated by the repeated glacial periods in the late Plicone or early Pleistone epochs. The rest were stocked or their ancestors were stocked, they then reproduced and created wild fisheries. Why and how did this occur?

P1110618Neosho, the oldest operating Federal Fish Hatchery resides in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri. Established in 1888, it still raises rainbow trout and endangered species such as, Ozark Cavefish, Pallid Sturgeon and freshwater Drumfish to disperse native Fat Bucket Mussel eggs. This is an unfair description of this hatchery’s superior mitigation and restoration work, but since I grew up in Colorado…

The same year, the US Fish Commissioner Colonel MacDonald was looking for a Rocky Mountain location to replenish the dwindling cold water fisheries used as a food source for the people evolved in the Colorado mining boom.  A year later, in 1889, by the executive order of US President Benjamin Harrison and $15,000 appropriated by Congress, 30 stone masons built the Leadville, Colorado, Federal Fish Hatchery with native red sandstone. Newspaper articles of the early days reported it as “the most magnificent building in western Colorado.”

October 12, 1889, Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 1. What Spangler Saw. The Editor of the Philadelphia Star Pays a Visit to Leadville and Evergreen Lakes “A very general impression prevails that the streams of Colorado literally teem with game fish. Some of them do, and all of them once did; but the immense extent of mining operations in nearly every part of the state, the consequent pollution of many of the streams, the erection of saw mills, and the fact that there are not only great numbers of keen and expert native anglers out there, but that thousands of anglers from other states…. have all served to very materially lessen the number of fish. Colonel MacDonald, fully appreciating the situation, wisely concluded to establish a hatchery at this point, steps for the immediate erection of which have been taken.” The eastern editor continued later in his article, “It will perhaps be news to some readers to learn that Colorado has but one kind of valuable edible game fish-the trout. The mountain streams of the state, and practically there are no other, are admirably adapted to that fish, but no other American variety. The native trout can grow to a very large size, not unfrequently (sic) reaching six or seven pounds, but it has been found advisable to introduce our eastern mountain variety (Brook Trout). This has been done with great success. The newcomers thrive splendidly, seemingly better than in their native waters. A visit to Dr. Law’s fine fish ponds, which adjoin Evergreen lakes, completed our visit. The doctor is not only an enthusiastic and successful fish culturist, but enjoys the distinction of being the pioneer in the business in Colorado. His ponds were in perfect order and swarming with trout, evidence of which was given me, when a primitive rod and line was put in my hand, and in twenty minutes I had succeeded in landing sixteen very nice ones…”

L1150335_RainbowDr. John Law of Leadville was instrumental in convincing the Federal Government to establish a hatchery and donated eggs.  He established his hatchery three years earlier. The raising of brook trout at the new hatchery began even before the completion of the main building. Eggs collected from trout from several of Dr Law’s high Colorado ponds were incubated in a temporary building.

November 13, 1889, Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 1. The Spawning Season. “We have already secured 64,000 eggs,” remarked Mr. E. M. Robinson, of the government fish hatchery, yesterday afternoon, to this reporter.

“What species of trout are you securing the spawn from?”

“The pure eastern brook trout. When Commissioner McDonald made the agreement with Dr. Law, we selected a great many trout from the doctor’s different lakes and put them in a pond near his hatching house. It is those fish we are working upon now.”

“How many spawn do you expect to get this season?”

“Fully a million.”

“How many can you accommodate at the hatchery at present?”

“One million six hundred thousand, and if we were to use Dr. Law’s place, we could accommodate two million.”

“How will this station compare with others?”

“Our prospects are brighter for doing better work than any station on this continent, and at present we are doing more than any other. We have got a lovely place at Evergreen and everyone of us are in love with it. It may seem strange, but the temperature of the water has not varied since I have been there half a degree.”

“How long have you been in the fish culture business?”


“Since 1870 and I have been with the government since 1885, and visited a large number of stations. We all expected to suffer from cold here, but none of us so far have experienced any disadvantages from the weather. The New England coast is the place to suffer from cold.”

P1020627_Colo River CuttHe also added, “With reference to the qualities of trout, tastes differ greatly. In my judgment, the finest for the table are the black-spotted trout (Native Cutthroat), and they are undoubtedly the true angler’s favorite, being active and gamey. Brook trout rank next, they being of excellent flavor.”

In July 1889, Professor David Starr Jordan and G. R. Fisher visited Twin Lakes, (Leadville) and published their discoveries in the 1891 Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission. They found both the greenback cutthroat and what they proclaimed to be a new species the “yellowfin cutthroat”. In his report Jordan took credit for the name and described the fish as follows: Color, silvery olive; a broad lemon yellow shade along the sides, lower fins bright golden yellow in life, no red anywhere except the deep red dash on each side of the throat.

P1020657_Snake River CuttThe subspecies was scientifically named macdonaldi after the US Fish Commissioner, Marshall MacDonald. In 1903, rainbow trout were stocked in Twin Lakes.  They interbred with the greenbacks creating “cutbows” and the yellow fin cutthroat became extinct.

Colonel R. E. Goodell of the U.S. Fish Commission was quoted saying on May 2, 1894, in the Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 4, “It might be possible and has occurred, that an early male mountain trout (native cutthroat) fertilized the eggs of a late California (rainbow) trout, but the fish are apt to be barren. It is to this fact that the perpetuation of the various species of fish is undoubtedly due…”

In 1891 the Leadville hatchery began the first distribution of fingerling fish to lakes and streams in Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  The journey was at times perilous. Trout were delivered in milk cans on wagons drawn by horse or mule teams. During the early 20th century, many fish traveled 1st class. Railroad cars especially designed for the health and well-being of the fish and their human handlers were travelling all over the United States. Today tanker trucks and even helicopters stock the fish.

P1130729_BrownThe first von Behr brown trout were imported from Germany to the U.S. in 1883. The earliest documented brown trout in Colorado came via England in 1885, shipped as eggs to a Denver hatchery. In 1890, U.S. Senator Henry M. Teller received a gift of brown trout eggs from Loch Leven, Scotland and donated them to the state. During this same time, von Behr brown trout were being raised at the Leadville hatcheries. More than a century later, the reclusive brown trout trying to take an angler deep are a mixture of those strains from Germany, Scotland, and England. Fortunately, the brown trout carried the European immunity to whirling disease through generations and were the mainstay for Rocky Mountain wild fisheries at the turn of the 21st Century when the rainbow fishery populations crashed.

Early visitors to the Leadville hatchery were encouraged to learn about “fish farming,” have a picnic and hike the many trails at the new Federal facility. The same is true today. Sitting on over 3000 acres of sub alpine forest at 10,000 foot elevation, it juts into the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, with impressive views of the highest peaks in Colorado. The beautiful red, native sandstone building is still in operation.  Ed Stege of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Leadville said, “Our current program consists of maintaining the captive greenback cutthroat broodstock, maintaining a Colorado River cutthroat broodstock (lineage green), and production rainbow trout (for stocking).” His co-worker Chris Kennedy reports during the past 126 years the hatchery has raised Snake River cutthroat, greenback cutthroat trout, yellowfin cutthroat trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, steelhead, golden trout, chinook salmon, grayling and lake trout.

P1020548_cutbowInitially trout were raised for food and recreation because mining, agriculture, roads and human activity degraded the habitat to the point native trout were unable to reproduce. Introduced brook trout did too well and now overpopulate every nook and cranny of the Rocky Mountains and are stopped only by water fall natural barriers. Rainbows interbred with the cutthroats, diluted the genetics of some and caused the extinction of others. Brown trout saved fly fishing for more than a decade.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife, volunteers from local Trout Unlimited Chapters and concerned citizens are attempting to improve habitat and introduce pure sub species of native cutthroats to their historic ranges. Currently they inhabit a fraction of their original territory. In 2007 researchers discovered 750 pure strain native greenback cutthroats, the Colorado State Fish, in Bear Creek near Colorado Springs and are believed to be only ones left in the world. The captive broodstock reside in Leadville. Please volunteer locally to help this mitigation of all cutthroats succeed and be a gift to future generations of anglers.

P1080176_BrookRemember the overpopulated brook trout was introduced as a food source and directly competes with native cutthroats for habitat. So I suggest, catch and release the cutthroats and catch and eat the delicious brookies. And of course, enjoy our wild fisheries. Fishing is fun.

 

Blue Wings

It was about a quarter to 10 on Friday evening, and just ahead in the darkness I could see the large Welcome to Oregon sign looming.

“Let’s stop and grab a quick picture,” I said to my friend Mike Kingsbury, who was driving.

Mike nodded, we pulled over to the side of the road, and straddled the state line between Idaho and Oregon, posing for a few quick pictures.

We were on our way to a lonely tailwater in Oregon, where we were going to meet our good friend Ryan McCullough and his son Josh for a quick day of fishing on Saturday. There was a rumor that the stonefly hatch was hot and that was at least part of why we were making the 1,000 mile round trip drive on a weekend.

But the real reason for the trip went deeper than fishing. Ryan McCullough is a dear friend of mine, whom I first fished with on the Fryingpan River in February of this year. He’s got an obsession with Winston rods that’s rubbed off on me, and he’s the best dry fly fisherman I know.

buddiesRyan (Angler in Blue Jacket) also happens to be a missionary for the Assemblies of God church, and is set to leave for Germany sometime this summer. This trip to Oregon was the last time we’d be able to fish together until he returns three years from now. The trip was more of a farewell to arms, if you will.

Mike and I had left Mike’s place in Roy, Utah around 4:30 that afternoon, and we pulled up to the river in Oregon right around 11 that night. Ryan had told me he’d be driving a blue Buick, and as we drove along the river to the spot where we said we’d meet, I kept looking for the Buick with Washington plates.

Finally, I saw something that looked blue and Buick-like, so I told Mike to pull over and I got out of the car. As I walked towards the blue Buick, I could see it had Washington plates, and there was a small tent pitched next to it.

“Hey Mike, I think it’s them!” I shouted. “It’s a blue Buick with Washington plates.”

From inside the tent came Ryan’s voice in reply, “Ya think?”

Ryan and Josh got out of the tent, greeted us, helped Mike and I get situated, and then we all fell fast asleep, ready for what we assumed would be a glorious Saturday of stonefly fishing.

I woke up before anyone else on Saturday, so I took a stroll to the river for a moment. Ryan and Josh had driven 11 hours from their place in Olympia, while Mike and I had driven 7 hours from Utah just to come together to fish for about 10 hours on an overcast Saturday in Oregon.

But it was worth it.

As I walked along the river, I could see fish holding in the shallow runs, long brown trout hunkered down in the very slight morning chill. A few of them saw me, and slowly swam off to deeper water.


I waltzed back to camp, only to find Ryan, Mike, and Josh awake, cooking bacon and eggs on a small stove. We all took our time eating, waiting for the morning to warm up to what we thought was appropriate stonefly hatching levels. Eventually, after we broke down camp and rigged up our rods, we went back down to the river and started fishing.

The stoneflies weren’t out, and neither was much else. We saw a few risers, but nothing to get excited about. I switched from dries to a couple of my custom midge emerger patterns, and found a few willing mouths quickly. After that, the action kind of died.

Then the rain started.

It was a drizzle at first, but then it turned into a steady onslaught. It wasn’t debilitating, but annoying enough that my flies seemed to be getting wet more quickly than normal. The fishing was slow, I was wet, and I needed to step away for a moment and rethink the fishing situation.

Ryan chose that moment to stop and think as well.

“You think we wanna head upstream and fish by the oak tree?” I asked him.

snakeHe nodded. “Give it a half hour, then yeah.”

I went back to tell Mike and Josh the plans, and settled back into roll casting some midges. For the next few minutes, the river was dead. Then suddenly, I heard a holler from upstream. I turned to see Ryan with a fish on, and he yelled, “Took a blue wing emerger!”

mikeMike, Josh, and I all hurriedly switched flies, and within minutes we’d all hooked into some nice fish.

For the next three hours, the blue winged olives came off, hatching like crazy, turning the fish that are normally pickier than those on the Green into voraciously careless feeding machines. It was without a doubt the greatest blue wing hatch of my life.

The hatch winded down, as all great hatches do, and eventually we realized it was over and the fish were full. So we left the river, not wanting to overextend a good thing, and proceeded to pack up the wet waders and fly rods for the journey home.

brownThe cars got packed up, and we all stood around shooting the bull, not really ready for the trip to end but knowing we all better hit the road soon. Ryan and Josh had to head back into Idaho to pick up Ryan’s wife, and Mike and I had to head back home that way anyways, so we all decided we’d say “goodbye” then.

The drive to Idaho passed without incident, except for Mike running a stop sign. We ended up meeting Ryan’s wife in a Starbucks parking lot in Nampa, the evening going from calm in Oregon to blustery in Idaho.

Finally, the time came for real goodbyes. I gave Ryan and Josh both a hug, they climbed in their car, and just like that, they were gone.

As Mike and I drove east on I84, I shook my head and laughed as I recalled the blue wing hatch that morning.

IMG_4804I can’t think of a better way to send off a group of friends than by fishing an incredible hatch together.

After Tax Day and the Green River

Previously in this spot, I’ve written about where I have fished. This time, it’s where I’m going. Every year, the weekend after the deadline for filing with the IRS, April 15th, I go to Little Hole on the Green River with the usual suspects, whom are mostly members of the Yampa Valley Fishers, our local Trout Unlimited Club. Good or bad (tax return or weather) we make the annual pilgrimage and camp at Dripping Springs. I’ll report that after 10 years in a row, if the weather is miserable, the fishing is typically terrific. If it is sunny and beautiful the highlight of the day may be your lunch, but the scenery is consistently awesome.

In eastern Utah, the Green River tail water below Flaming Gorge Reservoir flows gin clear and the Blue Winged Olive baetis hatch has been and will be again of Biblical proportions.P1050014_cropped
In the slower water, just below riffles, armadas of duns emerge and float as their wings dry in the cool air. Trout noses gently break the surface and sip the unfortunate. The hatch occurs during “gentlemen’s hours” generally between 10 to 2 o’clock. Depending on the weather, if on the first morning of angling the emergence starts at 10:30, you can plan on it starting at exactly the same time the rest of your stay. It can be frustrating with so many naturals on the surface and consequently so much competition with your fly in the drift.

P1040984_8xWith size 20 or smaller BWO imitations, it is also difficult tell if the trout sips your fly or the real one right next to it. Patience is a virtue and is rewarded. I like to increase my odds having a larger visible dry fly, like a parachute Adams or even a Royal Wulff and an emerger tied as 2 or 3 inch dropper. Trout feel safer in the sub surface and there appears to be a great deal of action there. The first time I saw a dandelion midge, I thought it was just a fly tiers gimmick. It’s really two flies on one hook; an emerger with a long post and a light blue dun colored parachute hackle on the very top. It creates visibility on the surface and a tempting morsel in the subsurface.

With nicer weather and fewer risers, try a size 20 or smaller parachute black gnat. The river’s clarity makes sight fishing with polarized sunglasses effortless. Pick a fish, cast directly up river several feet above it and then gently dead drift your dry fly over the trout’s head. It will work or it won’t. In either case, after a perfect drift pick another fish.

P1060646My buddy and fellow TU club member, Larry Freet fishes primarily with the Czech or European nymphing style. With a 10’ rod, two tiny midge emergers, usually one dark, the other light colored and the weight to get them down deep quickly, he typically lands the most and largest trout.

P1010429Using little line with short flips upstream, a long reach and a Zen like lift of the rod at the end of the drift, he is quite successful, especially near large rocks and cliffs. Many fly fishers angle deep with size 10 to 14 light colored stonefly nymphs and an indicator. The countless possibilities are yours to discover. I suggest joining a club. Then go fishing and camping with them. The tales around the campfire, the camaraderie and the brilliant stars in the sky will bring you back year after year.

F3T Preview: Breaking Through: The Story of Larry Fivecoats

With each passing day, the 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour is drawing closer. For those who haven’t heard, the Salt Lake City stop of the tour is on February 19th @ The Depot . Tickets are still available at Fishwest for $13 but are going quickly. I will guarantee that the show will sell out so if you are wanting to go please don’t wait to get your tickets.  Today we are bringing you another sneak peek of the films presented at this years show.

I have to say this story was very touching for me. My introduction to fly fishing was based on a little bit of hardship so I completely understand the therapeutic nature of this wonderful life long endeavor. Fly fishing does have the power to heal both physically and emotionally.  It is amazing to know that there are organizations like Project Healing Waters are out there to give back to those who serve by providing rehab through the sport of fly fishing.  For those who haven’t heard of this wonderful organization I would urge you to check them out and get involved.

Artist on the Fly Andrea Larko Interview: Part 2

Simms Artist Series is now featuring the work of Andrea Larko. We recently caught up with Andrea talked about art and fishing. When she isn’t working she can often be found on the river, or tying flies. For those who missed Part 1 of our interview check it out here.

What type of flies do you like to fish out in your area?

Come the spring I like to fish a lot of dries, and I fish some wets and do some Nymphing. But I’m not the best at Nymphing. I don’t know if I just haven’t figured it out or what, because I’m mainly self taught so (laughs).

hat fish

Check out Simms Women’s Series Trucker here.

I gotcha, I just started in the last year or so.

Really, I think the first year and a half I only caught one or two fish. I just didn’t quite have it figured out. But once it clicks and you get the flow of it, you figure it out really quickly. But I’m not the best caster in the world by any stretch of the mean. I think I get a pretty good dead drift going on. I’ve figured out how to present the fly to the fish so they want to eat it. I fish a lot of the same streams all the time throughout the spring, summer and fall. Mainly through the fall and the winter I go brown trout fishing and King salmon fishing in New York. This is the first year I’m trying to go Steelhead fishing so I tied up a bunch of Decoteau’s and Senyo’s flies that I saw on Steelhead Alley Outfitters, but I haven’t had a chance to fish those yet. I can’t wait to put them in the water.

trout

Check out Simms Larko Trout Tee.

Where are you going to fish for Steelhead?

I went a few days ago up to the Cattaraugus to go with my dad and sister but we couldn’t find any stream gages before we went up there, and when we got there it was totally blown out. There were four people in the water and they weren’t fishing they were getting their gear and getting ready to leave. So we drove three hours for nothing, but we ended up going antiquing and it was fun anyway.  I want to try and go to Lake Erie this winter and see how that goes. I also want to go to Steelhead Alley, 18 Mile, and 20 Mile and see what all the big fuss is about. I see pictures all the time online of all the beautiful fish they pull out of there and I would love to catch one. I think that would be a lot of fun.

What are your favorite spots to fish that you don’t mind talking about?

There are probably three or four streams that are within five miles of my house that I like to fish. A lot of them have wild trout in them. So I fish there when the weather’s nice four or five days a week even if I can only get out for a half an hour.  But other than that I like to go to the yellow creek trout club. I mean they stock fish,  but the trout there are huge and they have such a variety and there are never the crowds that are often at the other places close to where I live. I go fishing there a lot and it’s a lot of fun. I caught my first tiger trout there this year so that was cool.

salmon

 

What is your most memorable catch?

I went Salmon fishing three or four years ago and everyone was fishing on the side of the stream, no bank fishing everyone was just standing in two lanes down the middle and fishing the banks right around the edges where the deep water was. I turned around to walk to the other side and I look in front of me and there are three absolutely huge brown trout sitting in probably 8 inches of water. I was saying to myself “oh my gosh I hope nobody sees this”… I put a couple of casts out, and on the third cast I got it out to the one in the front in his mouth and I caught him. That was definitely the biggest brown trout I’ve ever caught. It was just beautiful. I was so excited. I would have to say that was my best catch. I was elated and couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t until my first or second year fly fishing that I actually had a drift that went where I wanted it to go. I figured out the flow of the water, how much weight I needed. I mean, that took me a long time to figure out. I was really excited. It was definitely my best catch.

brown trout

What would be your favorite fly fishing destination to visit?

I really want to visit Alaska.

The fishing there is supposed to be like nowhere else in the world.

That’s what I hear because I have friends from all over the world on my Facebook page. Most of my Facebook feed isn’t even in English anymore. I see all these photographs of people from all over- in  Alaska, British Columbia, and down in Brazil. It just makes me think of all the places I want to go. It makes me want to work harder because I know I’ll get there; it will just take time. It gives me more reasons to work as much as I can every day. From when I wake up until the time I go to bed I’m doing something with my business. Either sending stuff out, marketing, posting  to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Etsy, taking photographs, doing research on new pieces, [and drafting] contracts. The drawing portion of what I do is really only 10% of what I do between taxes, buying inventory. I wish I could just draw and hire someone for everything else.
Check out more of her work on her Etsy at  andrealarko.etsy.com on instagram @andrealarko , her website andrealarko.com or on Facebook  facebook.com/artbyandrealarko

 

Artist on the Fly: The Fishwest Andrea Larko Interview: Part 1

AndreaLarkoAndrea Larko is an artist hailing from Pennsylvania where she creates vibrant works of art, rich in eye catching geometric patterns. After graduating with a B.F.A. in Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology she went on to work in advertising. She started her Etsy Store (The Art Of Angling) about two years ago and currently she is pursuing art full-time, and getting out onto the river whenever possible. Her work is featured in Simms Artist Series Line for Spring 2015. We had the chance to catch up with her recently to discuss her success.

You’ve been very successful. Did you ever imagine that you would be where you’re at now years ago when you were working in advertising?

Oh, definitely not. I actually just quit my job working in advertising in October. So it’s only been a few months now. I never thought that I would be quitting my job… But it just got to the point where I couldn’t keep up and I had to make a decision. I figured I may as well go and see how it all plays out. I started this really about two years ago. It all happened pretty quickly.

How did you get involved with Simms? Did they approach you about it?

il_570xN.625178793_ybuwActually, someone on Instagram(check out her artwork on instagram @andrealarko) found me and asked if they could pass my work along to Simms. I said ‘why not’. But I didn’t think I would hear anything back from them. Then a few days later, I did and they wanted to get started right away. I couldn’t believe it. It all just happened so fast. I was definitely in a bit of shock for a few days. Because Simms is top of the line, my boots and my waders are all Simms gear. So I was really excited. Especially after seeing what they do for artists, like [Derek] Deyoung. I’ve been following his career since I started fly fishing. I admired going into fly shops and seeing work like that, instead of just a logo on a shirt it was really great artwork.

Check out her work with The Simms Women’s Line Here

Now, Zentangle is the main style you do. I like how you’ve referred to it as doodling.

Well I call it doodling, I didn’t know that there actually was a name for it until someone told me and I looked it up on Google.  I just thought I was messing around. Apparently it’s a big style now a lot of people are doing it. Even when I just stop in art stores I’ll see little books on the art of Zentangle and they tell people how to do it. It’s more of meditation; a lot of people do it to relax. I think it’s really relaxing too. I couldn’t be happier to have a job that’s relaxing when you do it, you know.

brown troutAside from commissions do you start with an idea of what you want to create before you start a piece?

I definitely do. Most of my commissions for the holidays were postponed until after the holidays so I had some extra time to do a few pieces that I wanted to do. When someone tells me that they want a certain type of fish in particular I’ll start looking online for reference photos. Then I’ll put together a bunch of photos and do the style or the design outline of what they are looking for and what will look best for them. Or if I’m doing it for a tattoo then I’m going to have to take their measurements and see if it’s going to fit where they want it. I also make sure that it goes with the way the muscle goes so it doesn’t look completely ridiculous.

You do a lot of commissions for tattoos?

At least half to ¾ of my commissions are for tattoos.

It was interesting to look through your portfolio because there is such variety.

When I graduated from college I tried to be an artist for a while without having a full time job and I did gallery shows. I painted murals in kid’s rooms. I just had fun with it and I didn’t have a specific style.  But it got to the point where I was sitting alone in the studio a lot and it got a little monotonous after a while, which is why I never tried to quit my day job. This has taken me to so many shows and I’ve met so many different people that I don’t think I’ll get tired of it, so as long as the work keeps coming this is what I plan on doing.

Is there anything that you’re working on now that you are excited about?

LoopI’m actually looking to work with a few other fly fishing companies as well.  But nothing is set in stone yet so I’d rather surprise you.  I’m also doing a shirt design right now for Loop Tackle over in Sweden of an Atlantic salmon. I just started that one last night. I haven’t even taken pictures yet, but it’s turning out pretty cool. I sit down right before I go to bed and start looking at pictures. And I say “I’m just going to sketch out the outline”. And I find myself getting into the zone and then I’m up until 7 o’ clock in the morning again. I look at the clock and the sun’s coming up I should probably go to bed. It’s just that in the middle of the night no one contacts me, and I have time to focus and don’t have any distractions except maybe if the dog needs to go out,  it’s easy to put my head down and start working on it and next thing I know hours have passed.

Have you always been a night owl?

Always, I tried to change my sleep schedule for my day job and it was rough. So I’d get only two or three hours of sleep and I’d go to work and I’d come home and sleep for three to four hours. There’s something about doing art in the night. There are less distractions, it’s hard for me to do it during the day when I think of all the places that are open that I have to go to, all the errands that I have to run. There’s just too much on my mind during the day to work. At night it’s a lot more relaxing it’s easier for me to work on something from start to finish and get a flow going.  I really don’t like stopping in the middle of something once I’ve started on it.

What other artists have influenced your work?

I’m very inspired by the Art Nouveau period especially [Alphonse] Mucha. But I don’t see that come across in my work as much. I like a lot of street artists and graffiti artists and things that are a bit more freeform, organic and whimsical. I think some of it comes through, especially the bright colors but that might also be because I’m color blind. I can’t see pastels as well; they are all kind of grey to me. So I tend to use a lot of vibrant colors in my work.

That’s interesting. You’re color blind? To what degree is it?

Actually I didn’t even know until college. I guess women can’t be red/green color blind it’s more pastel colors. One time I went shopping and I went to buy a shirt that I thought was grey. I didn’t realize at the time that the majority of the clothes I had that were “grey” were actually periwinkles. If it’s not next to another color when I’m mixing it or it doesn’t have a label on it I can’t tell. I have trouble doing anything in pastel colors especially if someone wants something really light.  Then it’s difficult for me. To be continued….

Editors Note: Stay tuned to see what Andrea has to say about fly fishing in part 2 of our Interview.

Check out Andrea Larko’s work with Simms Fishing Proudcts as part of the Simms Artist Series.

Hola, Señor Bass

I live in the Canadian province of Manitoba, a land blessed with hundreds of thousands of lakes.  However, in the whole province, there is only one lake with a reasonably catchable population of largemouth bass.  It’s certainly not a huge population and – judging by my catches – it’s a selective one.   I actually think the bass in that lake are not far removed from steelhead or musky – fish of a thousand casts each.   Being only forty minutes from my house, I paid the lake six visits last summer and caught a total of two bass.

Enter Lake El Salto, a bass factory (Dare I say a big bass factory?) just outside of Mazatlan, Mexico.  High numbers of bass and higher daily temperatures lured myself and my partner Deb there over the Christmas holidays.

Below is a brief look at the trip…

IMG_0091THE LAKE.  El Salto is a reservoir about 2 hours from Mazatlan in the Sierra Madre Mountains.  It was created in the 80’s and stocked with Florida strain largemouth.  Hordes of tilapia help keep the bass fat and happy.  With scattered mats of floating hyacinth against a backdrop of forested peaks, El Salto is also a gem to look at.  Adding to its visual appeal are an amazing number of herons, egrets, and coots.

THE LODGING. We stayed at the Angler’s Inn, right on the lakeshore.  A lodge van picked us up at the Mazatlan airport and dropped us off at a Mazatlan resort three days later.  The room was very comfortable and the food was outstanding. To make sure we made it through to supper, as soon as we got in from evening fishing, an appetizer and a drink were pressed into our hands.  All drinks and food were included.  Filet mignon and barbecued ribs are examples of items on the dinner menu.

IMG_0157
THE FISHING.  The fishing day was split.  The boat left shortly before sunrise at 6 AM and returned to the lodge for lunch around 11 AM.   A hearty meal and the accompanying margaritas induced a short siesta, then it was back on the water from 2 PM until dusk at 6 PM.

Dawn and dusk saw me working poppers around very bassy-looking cover.  When the sun was higher, I threw a Gummy Minnow to the same types of spots.  Weedguards were helpful in retrieving less than perfect casts.  Occasionally, I used a fast-sinking line to probe deeper water.

THE BOAT AND GUIDE.   The boat was a fast and stable Bass Tracker with fore and aft seats for fishing.  The lodge supplied a stripping tub; with the forward seat removed and the stripping tub in its place, the bow casting deck became very fly fisher friendly.  There were two comfortable seats amidships for high speed runs between spots.

IMG_0077Juan, our guide, had been working at the lake for twelve years.  El Salto has many arms, coves, and islands; he ranged all over the lake and showed us a lot of good-looking water.  Jaun was also an expert at using the electric trolling motor to keep the boat in perfect casting position.

Although Jaun generally guided folks with conventional gear, he was certainly comfortable with a long rod on board.  He was adept at recommending flies, lines, and leaders.  And he also understood the need for backcast room.

THE WEATHER.  Keep in mind this was the end of December…. At dawn, the temperature would be in the 50’s or 60’s, which made for some chilly boat rides even while wearing a fleece and a shell.  During the day, it would climb into the 70’s or 80’s and even a lightweight shirt felt downright hot.  Nevertheless, having just escaped a Canadian winter, it was a good kind of heat.   At dusk, as the fishing day ended, the temperature would get comfortably cool once more.  There was never even a hint of rain.

IMG_0139THE CATCH.   I fished three morning sessions and two afternoon sessions and caught about 15 bass.  They ranged in size from 1/2 pound to 2 pounds.  I used fly tackle exclusively and also caught a portly tilapia on a popper.  Deb fished only two afternoons and used spinning tackle; her numbers were about the same as mine but her fish were larger, boating a couple of three or four pounders.

Overall, the fishing was spotty at best but good enough to keep us anticipating the next cast.  Most other boats at the lodge had similar results, although a couple parties had sessions where they caught tons of fish, including a 6 and 7 pounder.  I think the weather was actually too good and the clear blue skies put the bass in a negative mood.  As well, high lake levels gave them more water to melt into.

IMG_0085MISCELLANEOUS. The rainy season is from July to October and Lake El Salto fills up.  During the remainder of the year, the lake is drawn down.  The boats can often be docked a half mile from the lodge when the lake is low.  Juan said that low lake levels concentrate the fish and improve fishing.  He considered May and June to be his favorite months and said the bass spawned in March.

Optimistically, I took a lot of BIG flies and brought along a 9 weight rod. Given the size of the fish caught and flies used, anything from a 6 to an 8 would not be out of place.  I used a Sage Largemouth for top water work and it excelled at this.

IMG_0135OTHER ACTIVITIES.  Although Lake El Salto is just about the fishing, nearby Mazatlan has great resorts, a picturesque old town, and all kinds of non-angling activities.

WOULD I GO BACK?   Yes!!!  I definitely think it deserves another shot.  Or perhaps Lake Picachos – a nearby lake that Angler’s Inn recently built a lodge on.