I will always be a fan of the purple haze fly after a day fishing for cutthroat trout at a favorite high country lake in the Colorado mountains. On this particular day, the slowly cruising cutthroat were more interested in the purple bodied fly than anything else in my fly box. A friend had given me the single purple fly the weekend before and I am glad he did as it was the fly of the day and many days after.
As the warm summer days start giving way to cooler autumn afternoons and evenings, I decided to tie up a few of these favorites flies to remind me of a few of those Colorado summer mountain memories centered around blue skies, wildflowers and colorful cutthroat trout. It will be nice to have these in the fly box for the next high country lake trip.
For me, fall days and a nice, darker beer seem to go together perfectly. So, to help wrap up this set of size 16 dry flies, I decided to pair my tying with a Graham Cracker Porter from the Denver Beer Co. The porter was true to its advertised chocolate-vanilla flavoring with a biscuit/cracker aftertaste. While certainly not a session beer, it was a nice change of pace, just like the change of seasons, and a perfect beer for a nice mellow break from life and responsibility finishing up another set of flies for the fly box.
Purple Haze Fly Recipe
Hook: Standard dry fly of your choice (I usedSize 16 TMC100's)
Tail: Moose Body Hair
Body: Purple Thread
Post: Calf Body Hair
Wing: Grizzly and Brown Hackle
The morning started ominously with a stalled out subaru in the driveway. Restarting with fingers crossed and a newly illuminated check engine light, I was on my way with a feeling that the day's plans were hanging by the tenuous string of an older, well-loved vehicle that is starting to show its age.
The car didn't end up having any other problems and performed admirably on the rougher-than-remembered dirt roads to the trailhead of my favorite Colorado Rocky Mountain hike. A hike leading to a high country lake full of pretty cutthroat trout at just over 12,000 feet in elevation.
All packed up and ready to give the "recently-reconfirmed-as-reliable" outback a rest, I was ready to hit the trail.
The wildflowers are just starting to bloom along the trail and the next few weeks up here should be beautiful.
A little over 3 miles, 2,000 vertical feet and 2 and a half hours later, I reached the lake. The trail starts steeply before climbing steadily though a lush alpine valley and steepening again at the end. The hike is fairly strenuous as it is uphill the entire way to the lake. The beauty of the mountains and the potential for some pretty, high country cutthroat kept me motivated.
Fishing success depends so much on the weather and, although it was a very nice day for hiking, it wasn't the best conditions for fishing. The lake, above treeline, can be subjected to some high winds and, this day, my 5-weight was having trouble punching through the heavier gusts. I was able to take advantage of the calmer periods to get a few flies in the right place at the right time to fool a few hungry cutthroat.
The fly of the day was one of my home-tied purple bodied x-caddis in size 18, fooling the majority of my catches. A small elk hair caddis in size 20 also worked. The fish were definitely cruising and feeding on the surface, but it was hard to tell what they were targeting.
The wind and clouds increased through mid-day until it looked like it would rain. The wind was the real limiting factor. The gear starting going back in the pack as soon as white caps started on the lake.
There was just enough time to refuel with a celebratory donut at the lake.
The hike down was quicker than expected at a little over an hour. It only sprinkled for about fifteen minutes so the rain jacket didn't even come out of the pack. It looked like the clouds remained over the higher peaks so the winds probably continued as well.
This hike is one of the highlights of my fishing season, even when it is only a quick trip, and it has become somewhat of a tradition, so it was time to celebrate what I considered to be a successful visit.
If you know a place you love that you would be disappointed to miss, get out there and pay that place a visit. I was glad to visit this favorite place and will be looking forward to my next opportunity to get there. Have fun.
Conditions don't always coincide with opportunity. My destination this past Sunday probably should have reflected this, but I ignored USGS stream flows and took advantage of the opportunity to spend a day chasing cutthroat trout on a favorite stretch of Front Range Colorado stream.
Although it doesn't look high, the creek was running about double what is typically considered fishable and the conditions made wading difficult while also limiting fishing opportunities.
A stimulator was the fly of the day (I didn't even break out any of the home-ties). A few fish were brought to hand on bead head pheasant tails and bead head hares ears with a small split shot, but most were caught on top on the big bushy dry fly, which was quite satisfying given the high flow. Fish were mostly holding in softer water next to deeper, faster troughs and, for the most part, actively feeding subsurface.
Happy enough with the fishing for a celebratory streamside lunch, I relaxed with an egg, cheese, spinach, roasted pepper, croissant sandwich. Food always seems to taste better when you're tired and resting next to a cold rushing mountain stream.
The columbines (our state flower) were in full bloom, which made for a nice backdrop.
After a rough day fishing that past too quickly, it was unfortunately time to head home. The season is just starting on this small creek so there is plenty to look forward to. Flows are dropping quickly and soon wading will be a much easier task. I was glad to be able to hook into a few healthy trout with the difficult conditions.
There was some kind of biking event going on which made the walk out a bit interesting. One participant broke their collarbone in the parking lot. That probably made for a less than fun afternoon for that participant. Everyone else seemed to be having a good time.
I was too busy thinking about the chance to get on the water to even consider the potential summer Sunday afternoon traffic. I was able to avoid most of it by taking the frontage roads. Although slower, the frontage roads provide a more relaxing escape from the mountains.
I might not get many days to fish this year, so when the opportunity arises, I will be getting out and enjoying my time on the water. Regardless of how many chances you get to get out, enjoy it and appreciate every chance you get.
With Summer in full swing and a few vacation days ear-marked for days on the water, images of pocket water, opportunistically feeding cutthroat trout and bushy, dry flies dance in my head. A humpy is the bushy, dry fly I typically see in those images. Floating high through turbulent water, imitating nothing specific, but doing a really good job of imitating something.
A corner of my home-tie box has recently become occupied by a few different variations of this favorite summertime fly which is no small feat with a 10-month old baby in the house.
I started with a red body in size 16.
Before switching to an olive body also in size 16.
Then, I added some chartreuse bodied size 18's with rubber legs as rubber legs seem to draw strikes when conditions are right on the creeks I'm planning to fish.
Let's hope the conditions are right when I'm there.
Humpies usually require a certain combination of skill and luck to get the wings just right, but Charlie Craven developed a simplified humpy recipe that makes the tying process much easier. The link below will take you to the Charlie's Fly Box website page with his step-by-step instructions for the tie.
This article shares a few outdoor videography tips I have compiled after a few years filming fish and fly fishing in the Colorado mountains. These are just a few thoughts that may help make your outdoor filming adventure go a little more smoothly and provide you with better footage to edit into an epic YouTube video back home on your computer.
Polarizing Filter - A polarizing filter is extremely helpful for filming fly fishing (or any other activity) in the Colorado mountains. The filter reduces glare from high altitude sun and improves colors. Skies take on a much more vibrant blue and streams can appear completely transparent to reveal every fish in the creek depending on the angle of the filter. A polarizing filter can help collect clearer, more vibrant video and if your camera accepts a filter, you should consider experimenting with one.
Film Away from the Sun - For the most part, you don't want to be filming into the sun, unless you are going for the back-lit, sun flare on the lens look. To the extent you can, just keep your back to the sun while filming (watch out for your shadow). I find outdoor subjects like streams and animals usually dictate which direction the camera is pointing, so you don't always have a choice, but keep it in mind when you can.
Lightweight Tripod - I do a fair amount of "Les Stroud"-style filming and find both a full size, light weight tripod and a smaller, flexible-style tripod very helpful in capturing the shots I want. Consider your needs and the shots you want, but if do decide to get a tripod, try to get a lightweight model, as hiking and fishing with a large, heavy tripod is no fun. Tripods are fairly critical for time-lapse photography and any other long, single position shooting you plan to do.
Lens Cloth - The outdoors is full of dust, dirt, water and a whole bunch of other stuff that wants to land on your lens and ruin your shots. Nothing is more frustrating than reviewing your footage later only to realize that your otherwise perfect shot is marred by a piece of dust or drop of water. Get a nice cheap lens cloth, keep it with you and check your lens frequently. Clean as needed.
Large Memory Card - My cameras use SD cards and I plan on using a good portion of a 32GB memory card for a long day of recording on the water. I recommend getting at least a 32GB card, but you might be able to get away with a 16GB. It really just comes down to data management and if you are good about downloading your footage, you can get away with something smaller. There is little worse than tying to make room on a memory card streamside as the fish are rising perfectly to mayflies right in front of you.
Practice - Learn to use your camera equipment before you go out filming. Obviously, the more you use your equipment the more familiar you will be with it, but take the time to read through your manual in the comfort of your home and play around with the different settings and options. Just like the SD card, there is little worse than trying to figure your camera or how to unlock a setting streamside.
These tips are just a few lessons I have learned the hard way and I hope that I can help reduce your frustration as you begin to film what you love in the outdoors. I hope to follow up this article with more helpful tips in the future. Have a good one.
My previous winter tying efforts were focused on sunny summer days, but in preparing for the warmth of summer, the realization struck that more timely patterns could be prepared in anticipation of a surprise February or March day on the water.
Someone reminded me that little black stoneflies could soon be moving from their deep water homes to the edges of the stream to begin crawling up onto the snow covered banks.
So to help fight the cabin fever, I tied up a few different small black stonefly patterns at the tying desk over the past few weeks.
The first pattern to be tied was a black pheasant tail with a tungsten beadhead.
Then, the beadhead was switched out with a brass bead and copper wire was used to rib the thorax to give a little different look.
Then, to mix it up a bit, I tied up a few black copper johns, again with a tungsten bead.
These little black stoneflies are some of the first larger insects to start moving in the late winter and early spring months. So, if you plan to be out on the water over the next few weeks, it may be a good idea to have some patterns to imitate these little snow bugs. And to keep an eye out for them.
Now.....I just need to find some time to hit the water.
Every year, I try to hit up some of my favorite cutthroat waters. And, every year, I try pull together an edit of my time chasing cutthroats and cutbows. This year, my time on the water was abbreviated due to an addition to the family, but i still got a few days to hit up some of my favorite stretches of high country Colorado creeks. I hope you enjoy this years cutthroat edit.
I am a fan of caddisflies. They remind me of summer afternoons and evenings, green leaves, blue skies, hot days and cool water slowly leaking into my waders. I have spent many fly fishing summer nights racing against the setting sun and increasing darkness, trying to find one more pattern to fool one more hungry trout before it's too dark to see to tie on another fly.
In preparation for this coming summer, a new arsenal of caddisflies has begun to emerge from my fly tying table.
Even as it looks like this outside.
I am a fan of xcaddis patterns, so the first flies to come off the bench were a few different xcaddis combinations.
Then, I added some more more general emerging caddis patterns, while keeping with the shuck / hatching caddis concept. I really think the trout target these shuck pattern as caddisflies usually explode through the surface film. These "stuck" flies provide the trout a chance of catching up with these hearty, but fast snacks.
I even added a few Gary LaFontaine Sparkle Emergers.
So, for now, it's still winter here in Denver, Colorado and the trout are not rising to the surface of my favorite streams targeting tasty caddis treats. But, soon they will be and I hope to be there and ready. I will continue to fill my fly box with new patterns as well as old favorites. If you are a tier, you are probably doing the same thing, along with dreaming of your favorite stretch of stream and some of your favorite fishing memories.