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. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Not always as you plan

I had planned to brave the holiday weekend crowds and make my way to another high altitude lake in search of some more cutty's.  The plan for an early morning departure did not seem as appealing after a late night of poker and drinks on Friday night.  By the time we were headed back down from the hills in the dark, I resigned myself to a day around the house.  We were caught in the Friday night exodus from Denver and I wanted no part of any additional up close views of car bumpers.  It is enough to drive you crazy.  That, coupled with the thought of a bleary eyed morning drive to find a crowded parking lot, trail and lake, then more traffic in the afternoon sealed the deal and I stayed close to home, chasing small brown trout.

Although not the high altitude target and with cars roaring past on the nearby road, a brief respite was found on the edge of fine river.  Flows were a little higher than I had expected and the water was a bit off color.

Between the banks and the stronger main current, I found pillows of softer water with jagged rocky bottoms that provided the perfect hiding places for some small, somewhat selective brown trout.

Although things don't always go as planned, time on the water is time on the water and is always appreciated.  No donuts were had this weekend, but I did get to enjoy a nice relaxing beer as I listened to the river rumble past, just loud enough to drown out the passing traffic.  I hope everyone enjoyed their long weekend. Cheers.