Tag Archives: Utah

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.

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.

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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Thoughts on 2014 from the Fishwest Staff

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions and here at Fishwest we have been thinking about how that relates to fly fishing. The staff here at the shop has compiled our respective fly fishing resolutions and would like to share them with you.

Jake WellsJake W. – Shop Manager

“One of the great things about the sport of fly fishing is that there’s always something new to learn.
But with that being said, there is so much to learn that anglers may find it necessary to solely focus on only one or two things over the course of a year in order to full perfect his or her skills and knowledge in that specific area of the sport. For 2014, I have decided to focus every magazine article that I read, every internet video that I watch, and much of my time on the water to the art of spey casting with a two handed fly rod and the world of steelhead.”

Scott “Scoot” – Web Team Manager / Shop Staff

“I just want to keep it simple and have my fishing year focus around friends, camping, and spending time with my dog. I think it will be a good year and hopefully I will get to be a part of the other goals on this list”

Morgan G. – Shop Staff

“My goals are simple for this year. I would like to buy some kind of boat. Do more pike fishing and finally I would like to learn to use a Spey rod and do some steelheading.”

Scott N – Web Team / Shop Staff

“Last year was a very good fishing year for me. Every time I went I was met with great success. The biggest problem was that I didn’t get out as often as I should have. In all I don’t think I was on the water even 20 times for the whole year. This must change, and so my resolution for the year is to get out a minimum of twice a month every month, once the days are longer(and warmer) increase to 4X with after work jaunts to the local spring creeks. Finally I am also resolved to fish on at least three new waters this year and expand my species list to include carp, pike, ect”

Will M – Customer Service Rep

“This year I resolve to help bring respect to the grossly underrated  and underappreciated whitefish.  From their blistering runs to their  willingness to readily eat a sow bug, these majestic native fish
have it all.  I resolve to not only fish for them and fish for them  hard, but tell anyone willing to listen about why these craft river dwellers are the bees knees.”

Richard L – Web Team / Shop Staff –

(A recent Maryland Transplant who just discovered how awesome Utah is) “Looking forward to 2014 I’ve only got a few goals, catch larger trout on dries, explore more of Utah and the west’s watersheds, and land new species on the fly, specifically pike, stripers, and carp.

Last but not least I would like to share my thoughts and “goals” for the upcoming year.  I would like to spend more time fishing with friends and having a good time no matter what water I find myself on that day. Hopefully I also can be a part of all of these other resolutions as well.  All I know is that the ole Subaru is going to be spending a lot of time on the road this upcoming year in search of new water and new adventures with old and new friends alike.

On an unrelated note I just wanted to express my gratitude to all of you who take time to read our blog here at Fishwest as well as those of you who read my articles as well. As long as you guys & girls keep reading we will keep writing and sharing our experiences. But on that note we would always love to hear your stories as well. So from all of us here at Fishwest I would like to wish you a happy 2014! Tight Lines!

Thanks,

JC

Web Team / Shop Staff

GreenDrakeOutdoors: Flats Of The High Desert

 

Local fly fishing industry professional and great friend of Fishwest Greg Pearson was kind enough to send us this awesome little video which has us all excited for spring and summer carp fishing. Here are Greg’s thoughts on the video itself. Simply put:  While carp are an invasive species and not for everyone, they are wary, large game fish that offer a challenge away from the crowded trout streams…..Enjoy!