Friday, August 30, 2013

Don't Know Unless You Go

As any good fly fisher, kayaker, tuber or other river user knows, you check the stream gages before you head out for a day on the water.  Some days you look at those gages and you stay home, some days you look at those gages, grumble something to those around you who marginally understand and go anyway.  
I had last Friday off.  I was excited to escape my desk for the day and instead be out on a river.  But, Thursday night a peek at the gages made my heart sink, storms had rolled through, and flows were up in the last few hours.  By the time I got up in the morning, flows were about 50 percent higher than the morning before.  I grumbled.  Those close to me didn't grasp my disappointment. 
I still went and was glad I did.

The stream was just as it should have been.  The flows on my chosen stretch were not up, the sun was shining and the fish were eating.  Cutty's again, but this time around they were happier to eat a beadhead pheasant tail dead drifted past them than come to the surface.  I did hook a few on an adams and then an elk hair caddis, but more often than not they wanted a nymph.  It is getting a bit cooler at the higher elevations, so maybe there aren't as many bugs on the water, although there seemed to be plenty around.  Caddis, flying ants, small and big stoneflies, and, of course mosquitos.

A quiet day on the creek was just what I needed.  I didn't see anyone else out there, probably because of the stream gage information and the rain that was forecast for the afternoon.  And it did rain.  Just a bit lower in the drainage.  The creek downstream was chocolate milk as I drove home in the afternoon and for the next few days.  If I hadn't gotten out, I would have never known that up high the cutty's and the river were unaware of the turbulence below them.  Which is how I felt being in the woods, not worrying about anything else.

I love fishing for cutty's and cutbows and this small creek represents the full range of the interminglings of rainbow and cutthroat trout.  Although you don't see rainbows this high in the drainage, their genetic material has definitely made its way upstream against the flow.  Even if the fish are not pure cutthroats, they are still beautiful and still typically take flies with the same innocence of a full cutthroat.  Being just picky enough to make it interesting and make you think you know it all when you find the fly that results in some consistent strikes.
After a good day on the water, a nice cold beer hit the spot as the rain started to pick up.  And as I said, I'm a sucker for a donut which was enjoyed on the water as well.  I know I should be eating better, but too bad.

Of course this weekend will be a little more crowded wherever I end up, I plan to hit a trail somewhere and try my luck with another high country lake full of cutty's.  I am planning on getting up early and exploring somewhere I have never been before.

Have a Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone and be safe out there.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting Away to the Mountains

I'm not sure how, but it feels like summer is already coming to a close.  A week-long spell of cool weather and a few golden leaves on the tree out back hasn't helped.  Nor has the preseason football games and talk of fantasy football drafts.  It's times like these, when the windows for the best things in life are closing, that you remember how quickly time goes and that you need to appreciate all the fine things right in front of you.
A Red Sox pitcher hitting Alex Rodriguez on a 3-0 pitch, sleeping in on a Saturday morning, enjoying a nice cold beer on the back deck as the sun sets and the sky turns a rosy peachy shade just before dark, or, and more importantly, the fleeting opportunities to head to the mountains to spend a day in nature chasing high country cutthroat trout.
Following a stream to a high altitude lake full of cutthroats.
Getting high in the drainage and closer to the lake.
On this particular day, the three miles and 2,000+ vertical feet are daunting as the summer BBQ's, trips and lawn mowing have done nothing to prepare me.  January and February evenings on the treadmill mean nothing now as I breath heavily and deeply and stop to think how much farther there is to hike.  I am greeted with the rolling green splendor of the Colorado mountain high country.  No cars or trucks passing by, no dogs barking, no one yelling into a cell phone.  Only the wind blowing through the air and the muted gurgle of the nearby creek.
Cresting the last ridge to the lake.
I have been to this lake before and know that I am close.  That knowledge fuels my churning legs through the last steep pitch to the hidden jewel.  Within a few moments of reaching my goal, the pack is off and the cool mountain breeze cuts into the sweat on my back reminding me of the effort.  Shortly after, the rod is strung and the line is wet, standing on the shoreline waiting for that familiar splash and tug.

Finally on the water.

The fish were not overly aggressive or large today, but interested enough in dry flies to provide for some fun.  The timing of a high country cutty trip takes planning, but mostly luck. Last year, I was here too early.  Ice still covered a majority of the lake and a storm blew in over the towering ridge to the west.  Thunder echoed and my rod gave me tiny electrical shocks prompting an early retreat in a drenching downpour.  Two years ago, I hit this lake just right and had a glorious day.  This year, it was a fine day in the mountains, allowing me to leisurely enjoy my time.....dry and not scared of being electrocuted.
Typical cutty from my day on the water.
I am not a huge foodie.
So this crispy cream did the trick as an afternoon snack.
These next few weeks will be a somewhat frantic chase for me of the fine late summer weather and gorging high altitude trout before the cooler weather of fall blows in to begin the slow march toward winter.  Fall will find me fishing at lower altitudes, but for now, it's into the hills and after those cutty's.  Tomorrow, I plan on a trip to a small stream full of cutthroats, some still looking up for flies on the surface, where I will explore, investigate, bushwack, hopefully catch some fish and relax streamside with a beer or two and, perhaps, another donut.  While I can.
Enjoy your time on the water.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spring Grand Mesa Trip - Colorado

I'm playing a bit of catch-up from a spring trip to one of my favorite spots in Colorado as we all know how busy summer can be with trips, fishing and mowing the yard.  In late June, I had the chance to make it back to the Grand Mesa in Colorado with friends, the wife and our dog.  The fly fishing wasn't the best as it was a bit early up there and it is always hard to fit in your fishing on a trip with non-fishers.   I did get some time on the water and got into some brookies and stocked rainbows.  I also had time to enjoy some canoeing, camping, exploring and relaxing around the fire.  Hope you enjoy my edit from a spring trip out to the Grand Mesa of Colorado, one of my favorite locations in the state.

We hadn't been out to this area since 2010 and had only made one trip before that, but I loved it and had been planning our return ever since.  Below is an edit from our 2010 fall canoeing and fishing trip which had me hooked.
Enjoy everyone!  There is plenty of summer fishing yet to be had.  I'm getting out tomorrow for some high country cutty's.