Tag Archives: Rainbow Trout

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.

 

A Look at the Glass: The Orvis Superfine Glass

I’ve been fishing a less-expensive glass rod pretty heavily for the past six months (a Redington Butter Stick, 7’6” 4wt) and I wanted to get my hands on some top-of-the-line glass to see if I’d enjoy the best glass the industry has to offer. A pretty big gap exists between low-end and high-end fly rods, and I was curious whether or not that parity exists with fiberglass.

orvis_logoOrvis was kind enough to send me the 7’ 3wt and 7’6” 4wt versions of their Superfine Glass rods. I’d heard nothing but good things about the Superfine Glass line of rods, and with Orvis being a leader in the fly fishing world, it made sense to see what they had to offer.

I played with the rods for a solid weekend, fishing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, putting the rods through as many situations as I could find out here in Utah.

I fished the rods with the help of a few friends on the Provo River, Huntington Creek, and Thistle Creek. The Provo is a large, wide river with big, picky fish. Huntington is a medium-sized tailwater fishery, and Thistle is a tiny spring creek buried in mountains of willows. I tried to find three different types of water to really put the Superfine Glass through its paces.

I’ve also decided to break this review up into two sections – one for each rod I was able to fish. But before we delve into how each rod performed and my thoughts, I’ll just give a quick few suggestions here:

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  • I fish mainly a dry-dropper rig on 11-12-foot long leaders. I didn’t nymph with these rods, because nymphing with anything under 9 feet long isn’t practical.
  • The weekend I fished the rods was very windy, which played into my final thoughts on the rods.
  • One buddy of mine, a superb fly fisherman whose skill outpaces my own, had never fished glass before he tossed the 7’6” 4wt Superfine Glass. His thoughts are included.
  • The action on these rods was amazing. The rods flexed deep into the bottom third section of the rod, and when a fish was hooked, bent nearly to the cork in some instances. Some folks don’t like that much play in a rod, but I adore it. You could easily feel every head shake and roll of the hooked trout. Surprisingly, for being so bendy, these rods also threw exceptionally tight loops at distances up to about 40 feet. For those of you who revel in casting, and enjoy feeling every bit of your line load, the Superfine Glass is a great rod.
  • If I were Orvis, I’d think of going with a different color for the blank. Olive-green looks great for the Army, but fiberglass lends itself to being A deep red, blue, or green would look fabulous. Just a suggestion.

Now, let’s get started.

7’ 3wt.

superfine_1Any 7-foot rod is, in my opinion, a dry-fly instrument. And that’s exactly what the 7’ 3wt Superfine Glass rod is. On Thistle Creek, a small spring creek with mostly smaller brown trout, it threw very tight loops, powered line out well, turned over my longer leaders, and played fish the way a rod should. I was impressed with how the 7’ rod was able to punch line – just a slight flick of the wrist and the line would shoot out straight and flat.

However, if any breeze showed up at all, the 7’ 3wt buckled under the pressure. Wind seems to be fiberglass’s biggest enemy,  as the 7’6” 4wt rod didn’t do well in wind either.

I wouldn’t take the 7’ 3wt Superfine Glass out on streams wider than say, 10-15 feet. It just doesn’t have the backbone to throw an accurate, 40 foot cast. On the Provo River, this rod really struggled to throw flies to rising fish that were beyond 40-50 feet.

I did really enjoy this rod. Small, short, light rods have their place in most anglers’ quiver, and if you enjoy the classic slow action that glass provides, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better performing rod than the Superfine Glass in the 7’ 3wt model.

7’6” 4wt

When it’s all said and done, I prefer this rod to the 7’ one. The 7’6” 4wt had the spine to turn over leaders well at longer distances, and to push the line through breezy conditions. The loops were tight, the rod was responsive, and it was just a pleasure to fish. The extra 6” on this model as opposed to the 3wt makes a huge difference in the rod’s capabilities.

On Thistle Creek, this rod performed just as well throwing small dries to fish in close. On Huntington Creek, where we battled some wind on Saturday, it was a lot of work to throw line, but the job got done. On the Provo River, it handled dry-dropper combos well and threw casts accurately out to 50-ish feet.

superfine_2My friend Chris fish glass for the first time with this rod. He said it reminded him a lot of his Orvis Battenkill bamboo rod, and that he loved the way it set the line on the water. The longer length and stiffer blank of this rod made picking up larger amounts of line to re-cast much easier than with the 7’ model.

If I had to choose, I’d definitely go with the 7’6” 4wt. It’s just a more versatile, complete rod.

When all is said and done, Fishing fiberglass fly rods reminds me of when I try to fix my truck on my own – it ends up being a lot more work than it should be.

With that being said, it’s also a lot more satisfying to fix your truck on your own instead of taking it to a shop, and the same can be said about fishing fiberglass fly rods. Although I’m not great at fixing trucks and I’m just an average flinger of flies, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

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.

Thoughts on 2015 From The Fishwest Staff

With 2015 only hours away we here at Fishwest have had a chance to reflect on a great fishing year but also look forward to the new year and new adventures. Below you will find our thoughts on the year and goals for 2015. Enjoy!

Morgan – Fishwest Shop Manager

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2014 was a great year for my fly fishing career. I was able to travel to new places, pursue new species and I was even able to catch the largest fish I’ve ever caught on a fly rod. For 2015 I would like that trend to continue. This year, my focus will be on getting to a saltwater destination for the first time. I love streamer fishing and the thought of a hard fighting, large, predatory fish has got me excited. It was 15 degrees on my drive to work this morning and the idea of shorts and going barefoot in the sand doesn’t sound so bad right now. I would also like to make to Montana to see for myself what everyone’s raving about. Steelhead are on the list again as well. I’ve got high hopes for 2015.

Richard  (AKA Maui Jim) – Web Team / Shop Staff

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2014 turned out to be a great year of fishing for me. The goals I set for myself last year were for the most part accomplished, with the exception of landing a striper on the fly. With 2015 knocking on the door it is time to set some new goals for the upcoming year. The biggest goal I have for 2015 will be to get out steelheading for the first time, after hearing stories and seeing photos from co-workers and customers alike steelheading has been creeping its way into my mind.

It’s not just the chance of catching a large sea run salmonids that intrigues me but the difficulty of bringing these creatures to hand and the destinations you have to travel to that really inspires me to target these fish.

Along with that goal would be to continue to target toothy critters on the fly, 2014 was the first year I tried to target Tiger Muskie and Pike at all, and being fortunate enough to have success catching both species on a fly this past year, lets just say I have been hit with the Esox bug, so larger and meaner pike and muskies are definitely on the menu for 2015.

JC – Web Team Manager / Shop Staff

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I had a ton of fun fishing in 2014. Another trip to hang out in the Bahamas and landing my first Tiger Musky amid the countless trout brought to hand had to top the list of personal accomplishments for the year. The thing I enjoyed the most was spending alot of time on the water with the two other jokers who contributed to this article.  Any time on the water with “Maui Jim” (aka Richard) and Morgan is bound to be a fun time and full of a lot of laughs.  We all collectively spent a ton of money in gas on all these adventures but it was well worth it. Having the chance to be part of the adventure and to see Morgan and Richard both land their first Muskies was pretty dang cool.

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As for 2015 a personal goal for me has got to be to learn how to use a two handed rod. I cannot emphasize enough how much I would love to swing flies for anadromous fish. I now finally have all tools at my disposal I now just have to put tools together and just get out and do it.

Lastly I would honestly like to just keep my goals very simple. Spending a lot of time fishing and sharing the water with new and old friends alike seems like a great way to spend my time.

Once again I would like to thank everyone from our faithful readers to our wonderful contributors for making 2014 a success for us here at Fishwest and the Pisciphilia Blog.  As long as you guys keep reading we would love to share our stories and insight. From all of us here at Fishwest I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2015!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays From Fishwest

Well it’s here, the time of the year when you dust off the ugliest sweater you own, spend more than you would like to admit on gifts, and to take long trips to see the family. Although it is the time of year for family, that shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and hooking into some fish.

This is a great opportunity to share your passion with others in your family, take a short trip to your local community pond or stream and toss around some flies. Show the youngsters how to catch fish with a rod and not a PlayStation controller. Show that in-law why you spend hours upon hours on the river every year, the tranquil state it puts much of us in while out exploring the water. Show them secret, or special spots, to allow them a little glimpse into “Your World”. They might then understand why you dedicate so much of your time to this sport.

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This isn’t just a great time to share your passion for fly fishing but can also be a good time to explore old or new fishing spots. If you are heading back to your hometown, take time to see how the river has changed and where the fish have moved to. For me this is a trip back down memory lane. I spend time reflecting on the reasons I picked up a fly rod in the first place, those feelings or experiences I had while learning the sport, and an opportunity to hook into those large ones that got away from me last time.

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This can also be a great opportunity to head out to water that you have never explored before, whether its in your hometown or in a relatives community, this time a year offers a great chance to have the water mostly to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a technical trip with tons of gear, just the rod, reel, few flies, and a cheap pair of waders (if necessary) from your local sporting goods retailer.

Whether you do make it out this week or not, we here at Fishwest wish you and yours a safe and joyful holiday season. Fill your bellies and get your yearly fix of The Christmas Story, we will be here getting ready for 2015 while you work your way out of that holiday fog.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015

The 2015 F3T is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest can’t be more excited. The trailers are out and by the looks of them it will be another great event, here’s the trailer for Those Moments; a film by Kokkaffe Media’s Peter Christensen, supported by Orvis and Deneki Outdoors. The tour will be swinging through Salt Lake City February 19, 2015 at the Depot, tickets will be sold here at Fishwest starting January 2, 2015. If you have never made it to F3T before I highly suggest you do your best to make it to this years. It will be an all ages show, so bring the family!

 

Catch Magazine Season 6 is Almost Here

Get ready for season 6! I am always blown away by the quality of videos Todd Moen and Catch Magazine are able to put together while dealing with varying weather conditions in remote places. It’s the combination of footage and complementary music that set great videos apart from the rest and  by the looks of this season’s trailer he has knocked it out of the park once again. This season they travel to Argentina, British Columbia, and Montana’s backcountry to name a few. Season 6 will be available for purchase after December 10th and the staff here at Fishwest are very excited to watch this video in it’s entirety. Hope you enjoy the trailer as much as we did!

Patagonia Presents a Stoecker Ecological and Felt Soul Media Production: DamNation

Some folks see dams as a source of energy, a creator of recreation, or even the protector from seasonal floods. This can be true but during the early twentieth century there was an obsession to put a dam on any river or stream they felt could be beneficial to human progress and not considering the environmental damages that could be caused during and after the build. Thanks to the partnership of Patagonia and Felt Soul Media, they have produced this amazing video depicting the negative effects caused by dams and the impact they have on native fish populations. This video was an eye opener for everyone here at Fishwest, each and everyone of us learned something new from it and we encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to view it.

Ross Reels: Made On The Water

I cannot say enough good things about Ross Reels. You have probably heard me talk about my early fly fishing memories with my dad using his Ross Reels. I landed my first trout on the fly using his old Sage 590 DS and a Ross Gunnison G2.

Not to mention I landed my first Tiger Musky and Bonefish using Ross Reel. These reels will always be held in reverence in my eyes and for good reason too.

This video gives us all a brief look on the inside of the Ross Reels. You can tell that everyone on the staff has a tremendous amount of passion and respect for what they do because that is passed on in their reels.  Look for the hidden Fishwest logo somewhere in the video as well!

You can check out all the offerings from Ross Reels by clicking HERE

Enjoy!

Inside Look: New Boron III Two-Handed Fly Rod

R.L. Winston have outdone themselves again with the new Boron III TH fly rod. They have improved the Boron Technology in the rods and is working to set a new standard when it comes to two-handed fly rods. Making them lighter and more accurate than your average two-handed rods. Check out this video highlighting the new and improved two-handed rods by R.L. Winston.