Tag Archives: colorado

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Catch & Release

L1150291Every 4 or 5 years the tropical moisture of El Nino creates monsoons in the Rocky Mountains from late July through August and possibly September during enhanced cycles. This is a good thing. Typically August is the hottest month in the northern hemisphere and daily rain cools the air temperate, increases river flows and consequently also lowers water temperate. Cold water fish species endure less stress. The downside is the rivers tend to be more turbid from muddy runoff upstream. In times of plenty, anglers should continue using good techniques for catch and release. Fish mortality increases with stress and injury.

P1090376Stress factors that will kill fish are lack of oxygen in warm water, fighting a fish to exhaustion, poor landing and keeping them too long out of water. In addition, bringing fish, such as, grayling or lake trout from deep water too quickly to the surface can be fatal. Anglers need a balance of experience and good sense. Don’t fish in low water on hot days. A fish shouldn’t be out of the water longer than anglers can hold their breath. Higher test-strength line shortens the battle. Keeping the fish in the net and in the water helps insure a long life. Wet your hands before handling fish. A dry hand can wipe the mucus or slime from the skin and increase the possibility of infection.

P1060925Injury is reduced with artificial flies and lures. A fish will suck bait in deeply. By chance if your fly is hooked deep, simply cut the line close to the hook. It will typically deteriorate. Don’t worry about losing fish with barbless hooks, just keep the line tight. They are easier to remove from the lips, mouths and cheeks. Avoid handling your catch over hard surfaces such as boats and rocks. Fish wiggle a lot and are slippery. So, keep them in the net and if possible release them from the net. Neoprene nets are better than twine and bigger baskets hold the all of the fish. With wet hands, gently place your catch in slower water, facing upstream in a river, pushing them forward and pulling back until they swim from your hands. Practice good conservation in your piscaphilia purses. All anglers want to photograph their trophy, so just hold your breath and smile.

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I Turned My Wife On……to Fly Fishing

I previously lived 15 minutes away from a trout paradise known as the Platte river in Wyoming.  Then I found myself married and moving back to Iowa where my wife and I both grew up.  It only made sense since both of our families are here.  Obviously the trout fishing is not as lucrative, but the hawkeye state has some great areas to fish.

DSC02035My wife knew nothing of fly fishing until we got married.  After a few outings with our fishing crew and a couple of backpacking trips out west, we finally convinced her to give it a shot.  It didn’t take long and she was asking tons of questions.  She was hooked like a driftless brown taking a juicy hopper in September.

We started her off with the basics, putting a rod and reel together, stringing a rod, the difference between fly line, leader and tippet.  She found it interesting how much their is to know before a fly even hits the water. DSC_0610

We even spent time on the tailgate at home practicing knots with string just to make it easier to learn.  Through the spring and summer she has fished in Wyoming, Colorado and Iowa.  She is now proficient at reading water and has an understanding where the fish tend to hang out. She is quickly learning and  the different ways to cast and mend her line to get that fly where she wants it.  After our last trip to northeast Iowa, her favorite two fly combo is now the hopper dropper.  It is fun to watch her progress in her knowledge and skills.  I find it as exciting as she does when she hooks up, and share in her frustration and laughter when she misses. DSC_0616

After a great day on the stream we find ourselves back on the tailgate talking about the day and enjoying our favorite craft beer.  She always has one last question, “when do we get to go again?”

Ice off at Colorado High Country Lakes

An angler stands on his favorite river, swelled bank to bank with cold, turbid, fast moving, dangerous mid June runoff, and mutters, “When is there going to be some fishable water? Curses foiled again.”

Have no fear high country lakes are here! The fish are looking up, hungry and cruise the shallows.  Dead insects, formerly encrusted in ice, drift in the melted film and those alive are responding to the spring warmth. Grab your rod and get up there.

We picked three lakes above 9000’ elevation in northwest Colorado near the town of Steamboat Springs with roads close by, Steamboat, Pearl and Dumont. A short walk around drifted snow banks and we were fishing. The aspens were sucking up the snow melt and sprouting soft, tender, green leaves. Glacier lilies burst from the edge of snow banks with yellow flowers.  The mountains were alive again and soothed the soul.P1030171

At Steamboat Lake the rainbows and cutthroats hit size 8 black woolly buggers with hints of purple mixed in. A float tube was helpful to fish towards the shallow shore but cold. The possibility of hypothermia crossed our minds. Dress in layers because the skies can change from sunny to snowy quickly. While we fished, the Pleistocene era sand hill cranes soared above us uttering their strange, haunting prehistoric cries. The ancestors of this 2 million year old species, with a six foot wingspan, began migrating through North America at the end of the last Ice Age and make the lake marshes here their summer home.

Pearl Lake is only a few miles away. We aimed our casts to evening rises as the sun reflected the mountains in the cool, blue water. It was frustrating because I kept missing strikes at my Griffiths gnat dry fly. In desperation, I downsized twice and finally, with a size 18, I got a hook up. The fish darted deep, pulling my line from side to side and eventually tiring ended up in my net. It was an arctic grayling which have smaller mouths and they apparently couldn’t get their jaws around my larger flies. One of my fishing buddies said, “I never thought grayling would take a dry fly.” Typically they live deep in the lake, but in the spring move to the shallows to spawn and then disappear again.

Dumont Lake lays near the continent divide on Rabbit Ears Pass by U. S. Highway 40. We left a paved road, busy with traffic, to the serenity of a mountain lake. During the summer the lake and campground generally crawls with anglers and campers. During our spring trip we had it all to ourselves. A couple years ago the lake was drained, the brook trout removed, the dam repaired, re-filled with melted snow creeks and stocked with Hofer-Colorado River strain, whirling disease resistant, rainbow trout. The rich organic material encouraged quick growth and we encountered fat, feisty, fish. Aquatic worms were abundant. Small size 14 hooks wrapped with red floss and ribbed with copper wire worked well. Occasionally, the trout would take a larger San Juan worm or green Copper John midges too.

As always, it took a little experimentation to figure out what the fish wanted and each lake provided forage that was different, but the fish were hungry after a long winter beneath the ice. A local fly shop can offer tips to solve the riddle.

A high mountain lake awakes and waits for you. Don’t despair, get up there.

The Return of a Classic: The Ross Reels Heritage Series

I have to say I was quite intrigued when I heard that Ross Reels decided to bring back the Gunnison as part of the new Heritage Series of reels. I remember learning to fly fish with  these reels as a kid on all my dads gear. Some of my greatest early fishing memories are associated with those reels. He continues to use those same reels to this day. He swears that those are the “best reels ever made” and trust me he was very quick to tell me Ross “knows what good is” when they decided to bring them back.

That’s enough reminiscing from me about the Ross Gunnison for the time being. For all those who didn’t know that these reels were coming back check out the info below! These will be available mid June 14′

rossusa_logoREINTRODUCING THE GUNNISON:

RRF25GUNRBK1_lg_250x250The Ross Reels Gunnison is one of the most famous fly reels ever produced and 28 years after its debut, many still see daily service in the hands of guides, lodges, and individual fly-fishers everywhere. The Gunnison offered form, fit, function and durability combined into a package that still comes to mind whenever anyone thinks of “Ross Reels.” Having tamed both freshwater and the salt, the Gunnison is back and available once again as this year’s featured Heritage Series product.

The Ross Reels Heritage Series is about getting back to our Colorado roots – specifically those products that made us the premier fly reel manufacturer in the world. The Ross commitment to manufacturing USA made quality fly fishing products has not wavered since we began crafting fly reels over four decades ago. To honor this legacy we are reintroducing the Heritage Series, showcasing our famous products that have been and still are the favorite on-water tools of fly fishers across the country and around the world.

RRF25GUNRBK_lg_250x250First in that line is the timeless Gunnison; a true workhorse reel made available to an always adventurous public, it gained its reputation for indestructibility and reliability on water ranging from the salt flats of Christmas Island to the remote wilderness rivers of Alaska. One of the first reels available with an advanced composite drag system, in 2014 Ross has taken the design one step further and re-engineered the bearing housing to improve performance; all while allowing post-1998 frames to fit on the 2014 edition. The Gunnison has once again set the standard for what a fly reel should be – smooth, powerful, lightweight and durable.

ross-reels-heritage-series-blackThe Heritage Series Gunnison will be available in sizes G1 , G2, and G3, individually numbered from 1 to 500, 1 to 1000, and 1 to 500 respectively, and laser engraved with the Colorado state flag. Not just a collector’s piece, these are fly fishing tools, designed for years of productive service out on the water. Place your order today, and own a piece of fly fishing history.

Check them Out by clicking HERE

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Mothers Day and the Caddis Hatch on the Arkansas River

The Mothers Day caddis hatch on Arkansas River in Colorado is famous. Slowly the hatch creeps up steam in late April and early May dictated by the magical water temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. A little extra snow melt cools the water and postpones the movement of cocooned caddis pupa squirming to the surface to shed their shucks and lifting airborne. But don’t worry; with 2 decades of water quality and structure improvement, the 102 miles of the Gold Medal freestone river from the Pueblo Reservoir to Leadville has a plethora of spring hatching bugs. Blue-wing-olives, caddis, golden stones, smaller dark stoneflies and midges now populate the waterway plus Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently introduced salmonflies which seem to like the Ark.

Spring Time Brown
Spring Time on the Arkansas

Dark (purple, brown or black) BWO nymphs size 20 to 26 and bright (chartreuse, orange or red) midge larva, also size 20-26, are always in the water column, moving up or down and deciding if the time is right to surface and hatch. The improvement of water quality on the river that endured a century and a half of mineral mining byproducts has changed the trout from smaller, short lived browns to a mixture of healthy rainbows and browns enjoying a longer life and growing to sixteen inches or more.

Until you see rising fish, Czech or high stick nymphing are the best techniques. Fishing with a long line and an indicator has limitations and works only in certain areas. Use a heavy attractor pattern like a golden stone, smaller dark stone or San Juan worm as the lead fly and a BWO nymph or midge larva pattern 12 to 18 inches lower. Methodically fish and try to reach all the parts of deep tail-outs below riffles, seams and deeper holding water. During the middle of a May day the trout will key into the specific hatch, either caddis, midges or BWOs. A dry fly as an indicator with the emerger of the same insect as the dropper is a good method. The sub-surface tends to be where the action occurs with so much competition with naturals on the surface. Dead drift with long leaders, good knots and fine (6x or 7x) tippets to weary trout.

Nymphing a Run
Nymphing a Run

The tailwater below Pueblo Reservoir is open to angling year round. The spring runoff captured from Arkansas River flows out of the dam at a fairly consistent temperature and generally close to gin clear. When high, discolored water surges through the freestone river section; this is the place to be. Public fishing is available for nearly all the water that meanders through the City of Pueblo. Anglers must pay a small fee in some areas. Colorado Parks and Wildlife have built structures for a decade, studied fish populations and created a first class fishery. The same techniques and fly patterns apply here as the mountainous head waters. The big difference is the city resides at a 5000 foot elevation and frequently has 50 degree air temperatures in January and February. Fly fishers feeling the effect of winter cabin fever, but hesitant to angle in cold weather will find they don’t have to wait for Mothers Day to catch big trout.

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Fly fishing the Colorado River at the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Park

It was 45 degrees with blue skies, white puffy clouds and a 25 mph wind blowing up the Colorado River near Parshall.  At noon it looked lovely out the windshield, but I immediately added a coat once outside. With no cars in the parking lot on the mid March day, I was ready to endure a little misery for the sake of fun. Moments later another car pulled up and the driver gave a “Hello” wave. We chatted briefly while booting up and rigging up our fly rods. Then I left the other fellow and headed to my favorite spot by the ranch bridge which has four deep holes divided on both sides of the bridge and river.  The south facing bank had a ribbon of exposed grass in the melting snow while the opposite side had ice and snow to the river’s edge.  Both provided an easy step into the water for wading.

I started below the bridge on the sunny side and used the wind to cast upstream. Comfortably numb, the first hour passed without a strike. Honking geese flew passed and a bald eagle sat on a tree limb just watching. I had rotated through the four holes and was standing on the icy edge in the shade when I saw the first subtle rise, another rise and then a more violent splash. An armada of adult midges quickly appeared floating and swirling on the surface. My brother-in-law a week earlier mentioned he liked to put the weighted nymph on the bottom of the leader and the upper fly on a loop. I figured why not and proceed to tie a bead head black zebra midge on the end of my 6x tippet and make a loop for the RS2. Gloves off, my cold fingers slowly completed the task while trout began to boil the surface. With the first cast a brown was hooked, leaped wildly in the air and disappeared with my nymph as a trophy. Damn, a bad knot.

Numb fingers picked out a replacement midge and fumbled through a new knot while watching the fish pummel the sub-surface. My frustration was followed by fear that I was going to miss this fishing opportunity. Finally I was ready to cast, landed a 14 inch rainbow immediately and promptly hooked my glove with the fly while releasing the fish. Does this happen to all anglers or just me? With gloves tucked neatly in the top of my chest waders, I caught and released a dozen fish in the next 45 minutes with wet fingers in the chilling wind. No longer comfortably numb, my feet and hands were just plain frozen.

P1010257Looking down river I noticed the other fellow had appeared and was catching a fish just below the bridge. With one more cast producing one more trout; I was done and walked across the bridge. Although fighting another fish, he shouted up, “You were really hammering them. Anything big?”

“No, all under 16 inches,” I replied.

“I don’t how much longer I can take this,” he said while releasing the rainbow.

I laughed and walked to my car. Misery loves company.

G2 Series Rod

One For The Quiver: Scott G2 884-4

Today I would like to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart. Winter fishing! My favorite time of the year as an angler is the upcoming winter months. These are the times when most Utahans trade the fly rods for ski’s or a board. This leaves the trout waters of Utah a little less crowded.

The name of the game totally changes in the wintertime however. This is the time of year where tiny flies and light tippets are the name of the game.  It is pretty much the norm to throw bugs ranging from size 22-28 with tippet in the 6 or 7x range here in Utah from now until springtime.

This is the time of year that I find myself fishing one of my favorite rods in my quiver. I am talking about the Scott G2 884-4.  This is one of my go to rods during this time of year because of its slower action.  In the winter I have found that most casts need to be highly accurate at shorter distances.  By my definition shorter casts are in the ballpark of 15 to 30 feet, definitely distance where a fast action rod just won’t cut it. The more moderate action of the G2 allows the angler to feel the rod load precisely in that area thus making that cast to those picky rising fish much easier.

The nice thing about the G2 is that power is not compromised on this rod whatsoever. Sure I feel that this particular rod excels when fishing smaller dries however the 884 G2 can do it all from big dries to light nymphing and swinging soft hackles.  The greatest thing about this rod is when you catch a fish you know it. I for one can tell each headshake and movement of the fish when playing them. The light and soft tip of the rod also leaves me to know that my tippet will be just fine in the heat of the moment when the fish is on.

What rounds this rod out to be one of my favorites in my quiver is what I would like to call the “Scott Touch”.  The first thing that I feel sets Scott Rods apart from most other manufacturers is the unsanded and unfinished blank. Some may not like this aspect of the rod because the status quo for rods these days has become wild colors like Lava Red for example, however I find the minimalist design and finish to be quite refreshing. One look can tell you that this rod was made by rod builders with a true passion for the sport that I feel is capped off by the hand signed rod description that you find on each G2 series rod.

Don’t take my word for it though. Come on down to the shop and give one of these rods a cast or two or you can check them out by clicking HERE.

Greenback Habitat

The Green Fish

I passionately enjoy catching genuine, pure-bred cutthroat trout.  Regarding the Greenback, there are places where this is possible, albeit catch & release–which suits me just fine.

Oh, wait—the Denver Post said a study of cutthroat genetics revealed that “pure greenbacks” only exist within a four mile section of Bear Creek, near Colorado Springs.  Which means…all other greenback populations are…lowly hybrids! Additionally, greenback cutts are native to the South Platte, but Bear Creek is a tributary of the Arkansas.  This fact alone calls into question whether or not they really are “pure greenbacks.”  The Center for Biological Diversity circulated a press release that says “some scientists believe [this population] to be a long-lost subspecies known as yellowfin cutthroat.”  Well, after more than two decades of recovery work and millions of dollars expended to save what turned out to be hybrids, we apparently know only one thing for certain—Greenbacks: the name fits!

 

So now, the Forest Service, Division of Wildlife, the City of Colorado Springs, Trout Unlimited, and a host of other interested parties are trying to figure out what to do next.  Motorcycles, mountainbikers, and trailriders can still use the trails, but fishing Bear Creek apparently is illegal.

Apparently, previous rescue efforts used cutthroat populations that were thought to be greenbacks, but were actually western slope hybrids.  My question is what happens now with these fish…we’ve already spent so much time, effort, and money on them.  Bill Edrington of Royal Gorge Anglers in Canon City, Colorado, says that the forest service now refers to these hybrid trout as “The Green Fish.”  This may be a wordplay referring not only to their color, but to cutthroat that were reared in the 1990’s in a tailwater creek of Fort Carson’s Townsend Reservoir.  When I served in the military, my unit camped near this reservoir during a training exercise.  I remember a senior officer told me that greenbacks had been stocked in the creek, but then a drought wiped out the population—all that greenback recovery time & money, erased.

As I recall, pretty much everyone was excited about the earlier greenback recovery efforts.  The general public seemed to think of this as a means to “give back” to the environment, to the cadence of the “go green” motto.  But Adrian Stanley relays in the Colorado Springs Independent that U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Leith Edgar “…says the findings go to show that the moment we think we have nature figured out, science proves otherwise.”  It’s true; we must be good stewards of our fish & game, but what do we do now with “The Green Fish” hybrids?  After all, they may be small fish that rarely exceed 12 inches, but at least they’re pretty!