Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day of the Brookie 2013 / What I'm Thankful For

Turkey Day is tomorrow.  It's a time when you remember what you are thankful for.  I am thankful for a lot of things including family and good health.  But I am also thankful for a small group of fishing friends that have gotten together each summer for the last four years to spend a weekend together in the Colorado mountains.  The weekend is basically a competition, but the winner is really the person that has the most fun, not who catches the most fish. 
Each year, I put together a video to relive the weekend and I have a lot of fun doing so.  I hope you can appreciate the good times with good friends.  Enjoy your turkey and pumpkin pie tomorrow and everything you are thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gotta Have Faith

The last few weeks have been good to me.  After a few bad calls by the umps and great pitching performances by the Cardinals, the Red Sox prevailed and won their third championship in under ten years. I had faith.  As mentioned, I thought the fishing season was just about over after my last cold, raining day outing, but it continues.  I didn't have faith, but was glad to be proven wrong.

The weather has been a lot nicer than expected over the past few weeks and I have even had some really nice late season dry fly action on one of my favorite, small front range creeks due to the sun and higher temperatures.  Nymphing has done well earlier in the days, with a bead head hare's ear reliably producing numerous small brown trout.  

Other than the nice weather over the last few weekends, the only other surprise has been the couple of rainbows I have caught.  The State does stock rainbows in this creek, but it is my understanding that they do not naturally reproduce.  The brown trout are a sustaining population and typically significantly out-populate the rainbows.  Cutbows have also been stocked in this creek, but I have only seen them caught by other anglers.

A simple adams dry fly produced several fish which was a nice change from nymphing.  I love watching a dry fly float along the surface waiting for the boil of a strike and setting the hook to feel the weight and pull of a fish that has just taken the fly.

I found my fall afternoons on the river in the sunshine to be totally relaxing and made a point to take a few moments to enjoy my surroundings.  I know that the inevitable cold snap is right around the corner which will all but end our season.  But until that time, we all have to have some faith.  Throw your gear in your car, drive to your favorite water and give it another go.  Yes, one day will be the day you get skunked and hang up your gear for a few months.   Until then.....get after it while you can. 

Enjoy it and I'll see you soon.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Classics

The Red Sox are in the World Series, the air is crisp and cool, I have already had to scrape ice off the windows of the cars in the morning, the leaves are almost all off the trees and the fishing is starting to slow down.  Having your team in the Fall Classic definitely makes the end of the season a bit more palatable.  I was here in Denver in the stands of Coors Field for Game 4 of the series when they swept the Rockies for the championship, hopefully they can do it again.

I have gotten out the last few weekends, and like I had predicted, my target species has switched from high country cutthroats to brown trout in the lower elevation front range creeks.  Flows are still high, but manageable.  The difficult part has been the spookiness of the fish in relatively high water, so it is tough to see them and when you do it's typically as they blast out of their holding position for cover.

I know streamers would be a good choice for this time of year, but I have never had a lot of success with them on smaller streams.  I have seen reports that they are working for others.  Beadhead hares ears on a dead drift have been working for me with enough weight to get them down in the higher than average flows.  I like to use a split shot with a soft weight on top to provide some depth flexibility.

This past weekend, I barely avoided the skunk, with too reaches that had been good to me this summer yielding nothing in the context of fish in the hand.  Air and water temperatures were both much lower than previously.  I thought the grey skies would result in a nice afternoon hatch, but I did not see any bug activity and not much feeding activity.

With rain moving in and starting to fall, I hopped out of the car at one last location to see what I could see and spooked one more fish.  Things were not looking good.  It's been a while since I have been skunked, so I was not prepared for it and was feeling a little down.  Almost accepting the impending end of the season.  As I peeked over a diversion dam, I spied a handful of fish holding in the pool just below.  I didn't have a lot of faith, but went back to the car to grab my rod nonetheless.

As I got into position, I realized these fish were not spooked and were actually feeding, taking something just under the surface.  Fish came on every few casts on the same beadhead hares ear from the previous week that I head been casting all day.  I had started to doubt my fly choice after throwing multiple casts to the few fish I had seen earlier in the day with no hook ups.  

I haven't gotten into any big fish these past few weekends, although a few felt bigger than they were with the flows up.  It has been nice to get out and a good surprise to pick up a few fish to extend the season.  I can usually catch fish at least into November here and on a neighboring stream fairly reliably, so I wasn't ready for the fishing to be over.  With the rain picking up and the temperature dropping, I called it a day after reaching double digits from my skunk salvation hole.

With my success, I figured a snack from the wing place across the street was a good reward.  It made the cold, wet, grey drive home all the better.

Fall classics for me are cool weather, football, raking leaves, peace and quiet on the streams, brown trout, good beer and baseball which is made all the better when the Red Sox are in contention for the championship.  If you can't tell, I am a Red Sox fan, so Go America and Go Red Sox!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My First Bonefish

We went to the Turks and Caicos Islands during the summer of 2012 for our honeymoon.  I wanted to go bonefishing, so we included a guided day out on the water.  After 6 hours of casting and watching shark and barracuda swimming in the waters around the boat, the guide turned to me and simply said, "No Catch Man".  And he was right, no bonefish for me.  So, when we had the chance to return this year for our 1-year anniversary, I  took another shot at getting my first bonefish.  Apparently, the end of July is one of the worst times to fish for bonefish in these waters.  But I got one.  I put together this short video of our day out on the water.  Hope you enjoy.

The rest of the trip consisted of some good beach and swimming time. 

And plenty of Turks Head.

Oh, I wish I could be back there now instead of here in Colorado staring winter's approach in the face.  Alas, that is what makes it so special.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Days

I was finally able to catch a small brown trout out of the eddy behind Powderbuzz this past Sunday morning and I thought it was a sign of a great fall day of fishing to follow.  The breakfast crowd must have found it a bit odd for me to place an order, go to my car, grab the fly rod and walk around to the side of the building for a few minutes.  I don't care.  I'm a fisherman.  And I am guessing you are too, that you do odd things at odd times and get odd looks for it as well.  Good.  That's why you are here.

I made a point of getting a least one more day on one of my favorite stretches of water before the end of the season.  Rain from Friday night had increased stream flow to a bit of an unmanageable level for this time of year, more reminiscent of the end of runoff in late June or mid July than the middle of Fall.  Somehow, the fish were both hard to see and extremely spooky at the same time while also being pretty picky about what fly they would take and what flies they would ignore.

Fishing wasn't as hot as it has been over the last month.  The day started with nymphing using a small bead head pheasant tail.  When I was able to see fish holding, my casts had to be very accurate as a cast a foot to one side or the other would not result in a strike.  Dry flies were totally ignored as they sailed past.  Based on some minimal early day success, only few fish were enough to justify a mid-day celebration / relaxation beer enjoyed while resting on the bank.

Later in the afternoon, the fishing got a little better and I even found a run where fish were rising to take emergers and / or small flies on the surface.  I was able to catch a few of those fish on an adams dry and a couple other nice, healthy cutty's that made me feel like it was a day well spent on the river.

Fall is definitely here.  Although the fishing is starting to slow down higher up, that just means we will all have to take advantage of lower elevation opportunities.  Maybe this weekend will be the beginning of targeting some brown trout with streamers.  We will have to see.  If this does end up being the last cutty of the year from this stream for me, I will be happy as it was one more nice, colorful, healthy fish added to the list of others caught there this year.  I love this creek and will be dreaming of it until next year.  Enjoy the season everyone.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cutthroats and Caddis

Last Saturday morning started with a quick trip to one of the local fly shops.  Yes, I'm lucky enough to have a few fly shops near the house to choose from.  As I pulled up to the stop light to turn onto Highway 285 to get out of suburbia, I ran into this guy also heading out of town for the day.  

On the way up to the creek, I made a quick stop at one of my favorite breakfast spots for some caffeine, a breakfast sandwich and to talk about some fishing and the recent flooding.  The rain that had devastated so much of northeastern Colorado had not really affected this area too much.

By mid-morning, I was on a very small, high country creek.  Flow was probably on the order of a half cfs or less.  Which was perfect.  Crystal clear water forced the resident cutthroats into the slightly deeper runs and choppy water to find refuge.

An elk hair caddis was chosen to start the day without putting too much thought into it.  That's when I started to find a few small, tan to grey caddis on my shirt and waders.  And even saw a few caddis hopping along the surface of the stream.
A few fish were rising to something smaller near or on the surface.  I couldn't see what they were taking, but it could have been a midge or an emerger.  The elk hair caddis worked well though and I went through several.  Switching them out as they lost enough hair that they would not stay floating on top any longer.  Sight fishing was the order for the day.  I spooked a few fish, but mostly, it was a slow walk up steam scanning the water for shadows holding in the flow in the likely spots.  Easy casts laid down with the 2 weight fiberglass with the right drift typically brought a rise and a take, if not on the first cast, within the first few casts.  Although not the biggest fish, they were bigger than I remember from past trips (it's usually the other way around) and they were all beautiful.

My river snack was the breakfast sandwich I picked up at Powderbuzz in the morning.  Hey, there's spinach and red peppers on there, so it has to be healthier than a donut......right?

It turned out to be a gorgeous day in the high country on a small, front range creek that was not affected by the recent rains, on the day before the fall equinox.  The leaves on the aspens were starting to change higher in the drainage and the bushes were started to turn gold as well.  The hike out reminded my how lucky I am to experience quiet solitude someplace so perfect.  It is definitely fall.  Football is in full swing and temperatures are on their way down.  I am going to try to make the most of my fall fishing opportunities before the snow starts to fly.  I hope everyone else does as well.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Low Hanging Fruit

So, I made it.  Another high country lake in search of cutty's.  Although temperatures in Denver were still hitting close to 90 degrees, leaves on the above treeline vegetation were starting to show tinges of gold at their edges foreshadowing the impending fall weather.  My expectations for the fishing were high as I spent the previous evening dreaming of the possibility of big and numerous fish.  It seems to make sense that when we put in a good effort, we should be rewarded.  Incredibly, nature doesn't always seem to understand that rule.  

The trail and skyline were beautiful this early morning.  Only 1.5 miles and around 1000 vertical feet brought me to the edge of the first of two lakes and only a little more hiking found me cresting a ridge to access the second, higher lake.  My excitement faltered when I saw something floating near the outlet of the first lake and then in the second lake as well.  Bloated dead fish are a bad omen when it comes to fishing for me.  Perhaps a casualty of the previous weekend when the lakes were probably teeming with excited fisherman.  Maybe caught one too many times, fought for too long or held out of water for one too many pictures.

The lakes were gorgeous and although sporadic rises kept my head on a swivel to find the spreading rings of the most recent surface take, only one fish was brought to hand.  Only one small fish.  Two others took and spit my fly after feeble head shakes.  I guess the big and numerous fish of my dreams the night before were not to be.  But that's just how it is sometimes.  The potential is what keeps us coming back and has us putting in the effort to find out.  And I guess that's the whole fun of it too.

Redemption was needed after my apparent lake failure.   I choose to investigate the low hanging fruit of the beaver ponds and creek I passed on the road to the trail head hours earlier.  The thought that I could have parked on the way up and spent the entire day here instead smoldered in the back of my head.  But it's hard for something like that to bother you when you are on a pretty little creek catching pretty little trout in the high country.

This is the stretch of creek I learned to fly fish on, so it holds a special place in my heart.  We all have places like this.   It's likely an overlooked piece of water that's known to only hold small trout, maybe brookies or rainbows even, but we feel at home and don't expect too much from it.  The exact opposite of the high lake that I felt owed me something for my effort.

The beauty of having no assumptions or expectations is that you are able to appreciate anything and everything you are provided because you don't believe you deserve it.  You just let it come to you and are thankful.  And that's what I did.

I even got to break in my new rod, a sweet little 2 weight fiberglass.  It was perfect for these little trout and small water.

So I celebrated success.  Success of catching some fish, christening a new rod and letting the good things come to me with no expectations.  Yes, I celebrated with a donut.  
Get out there while you can.  Cooler fall weather is right around the corner, but there is plenty of fishing to enjoy.  Don't over look the low hanging fruit or those places you love, they may be exactly what you are looking for and need.