Tag Archives: Trout Fishing

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.

 

An Inside Look: Rio’s Perception Line

When it comes to accurate cast and landing trout a good line can make all the difference in the world. The ConnectCore Technology that Rio  integrated into the Perception is an ultra-low stretch core system that allows unbeatable sensitivity for better cast timing, easier line lift, and a more precise mend, making Rio’s Perception Fly Line the perfect example of how a great line can enhance the angler’s ability to catch more fish.

Fishwest 5wt ”Showdown” – Part Duex: The Scott Radian

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Next up in our “showdown” testing is the Radian by the fine folks over at Scott Fly Rods in Montrose Colorado. This rod was introduced to the public in summer of 2013 and hasn’t stopped receiving hype since. The Radian is the newest member of the Scott fly rod lineup. It is the replacement for the S4 series of rods which are also considered fast action.

Radian

Unlike the S4 the Scott Radian has much more feel without losing that crisp fast action performance. Like a majority of fast action rods on the market today you will initially notice that this rod is extremely lightweight.  The workmanship on this rod is the icing on the cake. The components like the reel seat and small touches like hand written inscriptions make this rod easy on the eye.

Just like the first rod in our test we paired the Radian with the Orvis Encounter Series fly reel and a 5 weight Rio Gold fly line.

JC: Scott markets this rod under the slogan “Fast Meets Feel”, with that being said I think that slogan is a perfect description of this rod in the range of 10 to 30 feet. Casting light tippets with the smallest of dries to those wary fish can be done at ease with the Radian. The rod loaded up nice and easy and allowed for quiet soft delivery and presentation. The rod was also extremely accurate within 30 feet but with plenty of power in reserve for longer casts.

Casting this rod at 50 feet was also quite nice and enjoyable. This rod unlike the Sage Method we tested earlier had a much deeper loading point translated into much better feel and accuracy in my opinion. The crisp fast action was still apparent when laying out longer casts especially when the wind picked up a little bit.IMG_1905

At 70 feet this rod still performed quite well even though my casting stroke had to be opened up to allow the rod to carry that much line.  This rod struggled when trying to pick up a lot of line to lay it back down with one back cast in my opinion. I could see this rod struggling at this distance with heavily weighted flies. With that being said I don’t think this rod is designed to toss heavy flies at great distances like some fast action rods out on the market. Delivering dry flies would not be a problem at all.

Overall if I had to describe the Radian in a few words I would say well balanced. With the quicker fast action and the soft tip the rod has a lot of feel without sacrificing power. This rod has a lot of potential as a western trout rod especially in the state of Utah since our waters are on the smaller side on the grand scheme of things. This rod is serviceable in quite a variety of situations from heavier nymph rigs to tossing dries the Radian is definitely worth a look as a “do it all” 5wt trout rod. Backed up by a lifetime warranty from Scott this rod is sure to be staple in the quiver for a long time to come.

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Radian 3Morgan: Going into this rod review, I knew I liked the Radian already. I fished this rod on the Green River during some very windy conditions and it performed well. I knew I like this rod on its own but how did it stack up against a few other high-end rods?

It stacked up well. This rod can do it all and it feels right at home in any scenario.

You want to fish size 18 Blue Wings to slurping browns? It will do it with presentations so delicate you’ll be hooking up with Hog Johnson in no time. You’re a streamer junkie? It will double haul meat easily. You like fishing nymphs? This rod can handle those Czech rigs and strike indicators the size of tennis balls (please don’t attempt this! Scott has a great warranty but leave the tennis balls for Federer). If I had one gripe with the rod, it would be the reel seat. The dark grey rod with a few orange accents keeps this rod looking classy and modern but I don’t think the red burled box elder fits well with the rod, just my opinion.

On to the casting:


So much fly fishing is done within 30ft and the rod can make those close casts cleanly and smoothly. Feeling this rod load up at short distances was a welcomed feeling and the recovery of the rod is just as smooth. The presentations at 30ft were delicate and soft and this rod has great tippet control in the form of feedback from the softer tip.

At 50 feet, the rod could make accurate casts with little effort. The Radian has enough backbone to pick up 40ft of line and lay your fly back out with minimal false casting. The rod loads up deeper into the mid sections when casting larger flies but and can still make the longer presentations delicately.

Radian 470ft casts were doable but your fly options are going to be limited to lighter flies at this distance. I could cast this rod 70ft but it required a lot of double-hauling and false casts to get them there. The performance of the Radian at 70ft is about what I expected from a rod that’s not claiming to be a long haul machine.

This rod will outperform your expectations from a 9ft 5ft trout rod. Many of us have a hard time justifying the high costs of high-end rods but I think this rod is so versatile and the performance is so high, that the price tag is in line with the quality of the rod. It’s safe to say I like this rod a lot.

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Well there you have it. As always I hope you have enjoyed the insight into the Scott Radian that Morgan and I have provided. Stay tuned for our thoughts on a gem from Montana the Boron IIIx by RL Winston. You can check out all the rods we have reviewed and much more by visiting us at Fishwest.com   

 

Fishwest 5wt “Showdown” – Part 1: The Sage Method


We have been getting a few requests to give our opinions towards some of the more talked about rods. Last Saturday turned out to be quite the nice day at the shop so we decided to string up a few 9ft 5 weights and put them to the “test”. Morgan and I decided to test the following rods:  The Scott Radian, The Sage One & Method as well as the Winston Boron IIIx.
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In order to maintain all fairness and accuracy within the test itself we utilized the same reel and line setups on each one of the rods. All the rods in question were outfitted with the Orvis Encounter series fly reel and the Rio Gold fly line.

To gain a complete feel for each of the rods targets were placed at intervals of 30, 50, and 70 feet respectively to simulate a variety of fishing situations out on the hunt for trout in the Rocky Mtn west. Please know that Morgan and I are basing this article solely on our opinions of the rod performance. No consideration was taken on objective factors such as looks, warranty, or price ect.

The Sage Method kicked things off for us:


This rod is newest member of the Sage family of fly rods.  This rod falls into the “Super Fast” category of Sage Rods. This category started off with the introduction of the TCR series which was later replaced by the TCX line of rods.

IMG_1899_FotorAt first glance you will notice two things about this rod.  It is extremely lightweight and quite stiff. The stiff feel is to be expected with the “super fast” action profile of this rod.

JC At 30 feet I feel that this rod struggled mightily.  Paired with this line, this rod had zero feel at thirty feet and made the rod hard to cast because it would not load properly. Also presentation was compromised at 30 feet due to the stiffness of the rod, the casts tended to lie down a little bit on the harsher side.

Within the 50 foot range this rod began to excel and casting was a breeze. The overall presentation of the fly landed quite softly which was nice.  The accuracy on this rod was also exceptional at this distance and beyond.

This rod could easily touch the 70+ foot mark with accuracy and distance with no questions asked. The rod still had plenty of power to spare. Paired with the right line, possibly a 6wt GPX or Rio Grand this rod could easily cast 100 feet and more

Overall this rod despite its shortcomings has some practical advantages in my opinion.  If this rod was overloaded with a 6wt fly line it would perform much better. This rod would excel being used in a variety of situations (big nymph rigs, articulated streamers, large dries). The stiff action of this rod would stand up extremely well to the windiest of conditions.

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Morgan: Although I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of this rod, it still seems like this is a rod for more experienced casters or those with a specific purpose in mind for this rod (salt, streamers, or heavy nymph rigs).

I personally don’t enjoy faster action fly rods for throwing dry flies, in most cases they are lacking in presentation. Even though this rod lacks in presentation it thrives throwing long casts, streamers, and big nymph rigs.

IMG_1897At 30 ft, this rod is a broomstick, plain and simple. There was almost no chance of feeling the rod load at such a short distance. With that being said, it still made the cast.  Albeit, not the lightest presentation out of the bunch but definitely still fishable. Like JC had mentioned, I too would have liked this rod even more with an over-weighted line such as the Rio GrandScientific Anglers GPX or Airflo’s Super Dri Exceed. I have even heard of guys over-lining this rod by two line weights.

Casting this rod at 50ft was a breeze. This is where this rod really started to shine. We start to get a feel for when/where this rod loads up in the forward and back casts at 50ft. My casts were cleaner and had a much lighter presentation at this distance. It easily picks up 40 or 50ft of line and set’s you up to lay it right back down without more than a couple false casts to clean up your cast or change directions.

My casting abilities became very apparent when I started making 70ft attempts but this rod, compared to others, did help make up for my inexperience at longer distances. These long distance casts seemed, to me, to be what this rod was made for. Being able to pick up 40 or 50ft of line, make a couple false casts and shoot the line out to 70ft distances was a breeze. Although the line we’re using is a typical trout taper, the line shot very well and could have only shot better with a line with a heavier head.

This rod is not an all around Rocky Mountain trout rod in my opinion. This is a great rod for heavy flies and long casts, but can still make due throwing dries in a one rod situation. The Method would be great on our larger western rivers or on the salt.IMG_1895_Fotor

We hope that you have enjoyed the first installment in our four part series where Morgan and I review various 5 weight rods. Next up is the highly anticipated Radian from Scott Fly RodsStay tuned, for in depth information on the Sage Method and more, visit the place for All Things Fly Fishing Fishwest.com

One For The Library: The Curtis Creek Manifesto

The Curtis Creek ManifestoMy copy of The Curtis Creek Manifesto is starting to look a little worn and tattered. Every time one of my friends or family is seriously interested in getting into fly fly fishing or need a bit of help after a rough day on the creek, I let them borrow my “well-loved” copy.

The Curtis Creek Manifesto, written by Sheridan Anderson, is arguably one of the greatest tools for the beginner fly fisher who is overwhelmed by the world of fly fishing. This fully illustrated guide takes a light-hearted and humorous approach to the main tenants of fly fishing. Don’t get me wrong. Even though funny and cartoonish, this book is packed with rock solid information, from tackle and fly selection to Sheridan’s famous “eleven commandments of fly fishing.”

One of the things that I like most about the Curtis Creek Manifesto is that it focuses more on what you as an angler should be doing, rather than gear that you should be buying. Anderson spends a good deal of time talking about stealth, casting, and other tactics that go a long way in improving the success of the angler.

By no means is The Curtis Creek Manifesto a definitive guide to every facet of fly fishing, but it is truly amazing that a 48 page book written in 1978 can so succinctly cover all of the basics of fly fishing. In my first year of fly fishing, I read and reread it’s pages over and over again, and each time I found some new bit of information that I could work on the next time I was fishing.
Whether new to the sport or a veteran fly fisherman, The Curtis Creek Manifesto deserves a spot in your fly fishing library.

A Green Winter: Utah Winter Fly Fishing

I landed in Salt Lake City in late March. Although skiing was on my agenda, I pointed the rental car toward something even more enticing – the Green River downstream of Flaming Gorge dam. 12,000 trout per mile, with a reputation of feeding hard year ‘round, were calling my name.

It was dark when I got to my room at Trout Creek Flies in Dutch John.   Motel rooms – no matter how spartan – are so much more welcoming with a fly shop attached and a river nearby.  Before retiring, I did some visiting with the group beside me; they convinced me to book a guided drift boat trip for one of my two days on the river. At about 9 AM the next morning, I wandered over to the fly shop for the requisite fly recommendations.  I also booked my guide for the next day. Therein lies the beauty of winter fly fishing:  leisurely, late morning starts and no need for reservations.

By 10 AM I was on the river.  It was cloudy and about 38 degrees.  But with a fly rod in my hand and moving water beside me, it felt absolutely tropical. My 5 mm neoprene waders weren’t hurting, either.  The river looked completely gorgeous – perfectly clear water slicing through red rocks dusted by white snow.  I hiked along a well-trodden path and fished as I went. However, the 12,000 trout per mile remained remarkably well hidden.  Eventually, in a side eddy alongside a faster chute, I spotted some trout finning.  They had a penchant for zebra midges and orange scuds under an indicator – not a desperate hunger, mind you – but a definite penchant that kept me busy for a couple hours.

Near the end of those couple hours, the temperature dropped below freezing and the snow started.  Although the flakes were big and friendly, my hands felt like blocks of ice.  Fingerless neoprene gloves, it seems, have a threshold of effectiveness that I was trying to cross.  I started the hike back to the car. About 5 minutes from the car, I stumbled onto the weirdest, most beautiful winter scene imaginable.  (For me, anyway.)  Trout were poking their noses into the snowstorm.  Nothing de-ices fingers, or at least enables the mind to work with icy fingers, like rising trout.  Out came the 6 X tippet and a Griffith’s Gnat.  And then a tiny emerger.  And then another tiny emerger.  And then another…  After several numb-fingered fly changes, I gave up and headed back to the car.  I should have been frustrated but mostly I was stoked with just the idea of casting to rising fish in a snowstorm.

I slept well that night, looking forward to the guide’s drift boat the next day…

During the next morning’s leisurely start, as I shuffled off to the fly shop to meet the guide, the air had a biting cold.  Being from the Canadian prairies, it was not unfamiliar. The strong wind pushing fresh snow along the ground was something else my prairie brain immediately recognized.  Back home, it’s the kind of wind that makes you sprint from your house to your car and from your car to your final destination, minimizing time outdoors at all costs.  I was thinking that this is not fishing weather, my neoprenes won’t even keep me warm, and my trip is going to get cancelled.

Nevertheless, the guide was in the shop, ready to go and perfectly optimistic, even confident.  I bought a pair of Simms fishing mitts and officially relegated the fingerless neoprene gloves to back-up duty.  I made a quick stop to throw on all the clothes I brought, including ski pants underneath my waders.  Then we set off for the river.Once on the river, I quickly forgot about the cold.  The 12,000 trout per mile were definitely showing themselves.  Through the clear water, as we slid down runs, I spotted schools that were quite content to let the boat drift right over their heads.

The guide had me throwing a heavily weighted, green Woolly Bugger with an 8 weight floating line and a 10 foot leader.  The drill was to let it sink as deep as possible.  In the deeper, slower water it sometimes pulled the last few feet of line under.  The fish certainly liked it.The action wasn’t non-stop but it was certainly steady.  Every five minutes or so I dipped my rod in the water to melt the ice in the guides.  After every third or fourth dip, I seemed to have a fish on.

They didn’t seem to prefer any particular location.  Some were in deep eddies, some were along steep banks amongst boulders, some were at the base of riffles and rapids, and some were right in the riffles and rapids.As the day wore on, around 2:30 PM, the sun came out and the air lost its bite.  (Notice I didn’t say it got warm.) A long, shallow run in full sunlight had some regular risers.  We were almost at the take-out point but the guide rigged up a BWO dry on my 5 weight. It was time to exact some revenge on the picky risers from the day before…

On my third or fourth cast, a 12” brown slurped down the fly.  It was not a huge fish, but definitely special, considering I had woke that morning to the remnants of a winter storm.  I unhooked it with great care – maybe even reverence – just as the guide beached the boat. Later that evening, as I drove away from the river and toward the ski hill, I was already planning my next winter trip and thinking about replacing the skis with an extra fly rod…

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