Tuesday, July 21, 2015

High Country Cutty's

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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Late Runoff Cutty's

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.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Tying for Summer - Craven's Easy Humpies

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. 

Even though still a challenge, if you have time, try a few of these fun flies.  Hopefully, you have a high country trout stream you can plan to use them on as well.

Now, I just need to get these flies out on the water and in front of some trout.