Friday, September 1, 2017

South Platte River, CO Trip Openings

South Platte River September 25-30

One spot is filled. Only one spot left!

How would you like to be able to spend 5 nights with 4 days fishing on one of the country’s premier trout rivers? And you can do it for around $500 total cost including lodging, breakfast and evening meals. Sound too good to be true? Well in this case it isn’t. Due to the recent hurricane that ravaged the Texas coast two anglers have had to drop out of this 4 angler trip to Colorado Springs to fish 3 locations on the South Platte River and an alpine lake loaded with some of the most beautiful cutthroat trout you have ever seen!

The dates are set for the last week in September. We will depart north Texas early on Monday September 25 and return Saturday September 30. If you are from a different region of the country you can get to Woodland Park and meet us there. The lodging is a fully appointed 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in beautiful Woodland Park, CO which is 20 miles northwest of Colorado Springs. At an elevation of over 8,400 feet and surrounded by alpine mountains, Woodland Park is one of the most picturesque cities in the country. Breakfast and evening meals will be prepared hot, daily from a set menu or we can eat out at the many local establishments. That aspect can be determined beforehand. Lunches can be prepared for you or you can bring your own.  

We will be fishing what are arguably three of the most famous and sought after stretches trophy trout water in the country! These are pristine stretches of river that are full of wild, stream bred rainbow, brown, cutthroat and cutbow trout.

The tentative itinerary looks like this:
Tuesday, day 1-Fishing will be on the Dream Stream stretch of the South Platte river approximately a one hour drive from our lodging. This strectch of river gets it’s nickname by making angler’s dreams come true. Every fall brown trout of up to 34” are taken as they migrate to the tailwater of Spinney Reservoir. There aren’t many of these behemoths, some anglers fish for years without ever hooking one and even fewer anglers land them but that’s why they are the fish of a lifetime. But fear not! The river hosts a healthy resident population of rainbow, brown, cutthroat and cutbow trout that average 18” with large specimens over 24” fairly common. If that’s not enough then add in the chance to catch kokanee salmon as they migrate up out of Elevenmile Reservoir and stage alongside the staging brown trout. PLEASE TAKE NOTE!!!!!! We will NOT be fishing for actively spawning fish. If the brown trout are on redds, which is highly unlikely, we will NOT target them. Historically they do not move on to active beds until weeks after our scheduled trip.

Wednesday, day 2- We will be fishing in Elevenmile Canyon, which is a little closer to Woodland Park at just a 40 minute drive. Elevenmile Canyon is no secret to the angling fraternity and with good reason. This beautiful stretch of river lies within a granite walled canyon and flows from the dam at Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir. This stretch of river is a sight to see and visually a complete contrast to the Dream Stream section of the river. With everything from plunge pools to long quiet runs this stretch of river offers something for any and every style of fly fishing. The majority of the trout landed here are browns that range in size up to 20” though I have heard tales of larger browns being taken. The real treat here is the dry fly fishing for cutthroats which I have personally taken up to 24”! These are picky trout with an appetite for tiny flies drifted perfectly. In total contrast the deep seams, plunge pools and rapids scream for a dead-drifted nymph, the smaller the better. September is an excellent time to fish Elevenmile due to the prolific hatches and minimal crowds. You can expect to find BOW, PMD, Trico and caddis hatches along with a still healthy populating of terrestrials to keep the trout looking up. The wading and climbing in and out of the river are more demanding than the Dream Stream-which is a piece of cake by the way- so being physically fit is important, especially since Thursday will be even more demanding.

Thursday, day 3- We will be making a trek into the famous Cheesman Canyon stretch of the South Platte River. Cheesman Canyon is a 45-minute drive from Woodland Park many miles downstream from Tuesday and Wednesday’s fishing locations. Of all the waters in Colorado, Cheesman Canyon is considered the most picturesque by almost all who enter and make the trek we are scheduled to make! It is also unique in that it requires a 2-mile hike at approximately 8,000 feet elevation to get to the sections we will be fishing but the hike is well worth every step! Once in the canyon with boots planted firmly in the river you will have the opportunity to fish over some the most selective trout in the country. These trout live in pristine clear water that is loaded with tiny insects. The trout here don’t see as much pressure as other stretches of the South Platte yet somehow they are inherently selective and that’s the challenge. This stretch of river is a nympher’s dream. You will be able to sight fish to some very large rainbow, cutthroat, brown and cutbow trout. You will also have the opportunity to fish deep slots, seams and pools where you will be relying on nothing but your nymphing skills to detect subtle strikes from trout that you may not be able to land once hooked! There are brutes in this section of the river. The bonus here is the dry fly fishing, the catch is that it doesn’t always occur. Conditions have to be right but when they are trout up to 20” will sip tiny flies from the surface in challenging lies, a situation that may well test your patience and casting skills to the limit.

 Friday, day 4 and our last day on the water- We will be driving up to an alpine lake managed by the city of Colorado Springs. This will be our longest driving day but also the shortest fishing day. We will want to arrive at the gate before 7:00 a.m. ready to go, because we have to be out the gate before 2:30 p.m. when the gate is locked for the evening. I can’t say enough about this lake and the awesome cutthroat that live there. Lake fishing for trout is completely different from river fishing and will require different flies and techniques but these trout are worth it. This is not a numbers lake it is a size and beauty lake. These are definitely some of the most beautifully colored trout in the world! If you are a tyer I can supply photos and recipes for the go-to flies and if you are not a tyer I can supply them or they can be purchased locally.

Having a short day on Friday will give us the opportunity to get back to the lodge by mid-afternoon and get all our gear squared away. We will be leaving pre-dawn on Saturday morning for the drive back to north Texas.

Another thing to note is that I am NOT a guide and will NOT be actively guiding. This is a DIY fishing trip. I know the waters we will be fishing very well and have had great success over the years on all the stretches of river mentioned. I have only been on this alpine lake once and my personal success was…..well there wasn’t any due to extreme hard headed stubbornness on my part in refusing to fish the way my guides told me to. That said everyone else in the party caught trout. I won’t make the mistake of squandering the opportunity to land one of those beauties again!

If you are a reader of Southwest Fly Fishing magazine you may have seen articles covering the Dream Stream (May/June 2017) and Cheesman Canyon (July/Aug 2017) in recent issues. I haven't written about Elevenmile Canyon.....yet.

Because it's always a question here's how the expenses break down. The only hard expense is the lodging at $350. Beyond the lodging expenses are an estimate to cover gas to get to and from Colorado, food, fishing license and incidentals. You may want to bring a few dollars along for a stop at Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs.

Please note that Thursday's hike into Chessman Canyon is a demanding hike. On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is sitting in a lawn chair beside a river and 10 is scaling a cliff with a rod in your teeth the hike itself is a 6 if you can handle the altitude. If you have never been at altitude or have trouble with it it will be 8 on that same scale.

If you want more details I can be reached at 719-640-2198. Please note that I don’t usually answer calls from numbers I don’t already know. Leave a message and I will call you back promptly.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Maiden Voyage

There are some days you write home about and then there are days you just write about. I'm not sure which one this morning turned out to be-probably the latter-but either way it was a ton of fun.

As of April 15 Sharon and I are no longer traveling the country in our travel trailer. Of all places we settled down, for a couple years anyway, in Denton, TX. The reasons for Denton are numerous but but few are of any consequence. Since this is the part of Texas where I was born and raised we're close to family and that's inducement enough at this point in our lives.

From before the time we landed here I have been telling myself and Sharon that I was going to get a kayak so I can can get out on the local lakes, fish with friends across the state and just generally get on the water. Last week I finally pulled the trigger. I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek because it's not like I spent a ton of money and got a top of the line model or brand for that matter. The thing is I'm not one to spend big bucks, as a general rule, on any item when a regular model will do. Not that wouldn't like to have a Diablo, Jackson, Hobie or one of those other super cool brands but the truth is I think my $300 Lifetime Tamarack Angler will do just fine.

Before you tune out I should tell you I chose this one because I was fortunate enough to use a predecessor to this hull in Florida this past winter. I was extremely impressed with the stability and the amount of room for the size. As for the stability it is far more stable than any of the other kayaks I've been in; not exactly a ringing endorsement since that number now totals 4 different hulls designs but it is stable enough that I feel completely safe hitting open water after just one outing.

Being of the mind that once it's mine it needs to be branded the first thing I did was wash the warehouse dust off the hull and start applying decals. In honor of my time this spring in Rockport I deflowered the hull with a decal courtesy of my good friend Jeff Johnson owner, guide, head cook and chief bottle washer at Fly Fish Rockport then a bunch of others I happened to have around including a few from Cam at The Fiberglass Manifesto. You can bet there will be more as I can collect them, along with a mane for the vessel I'm calling "My-Yak" for now because that's just the kind of guy that I am.

This morning I took My-Yak on it's maiden voyage to Lake Ray Roberts north of Denton. One of the benefits of being close to family is that they are all is finatical (it's a pun) about fishing as I am and my brother Mark is in the know about Ray Bob as the locals call it. With the aid of an AID map (yes another pun, it's that kind of day, you'll see why soon) he directed me to a starting point which as it turns out would be fine in a bass boat but not so much for a kayak. Launching into the wind on a maiden voyage just doesn't seem like peaches to me, luckily I have the map, which by the way wasn't as easy to locate in stores as one would think but maybe that's a story in itself examining why local sporting goods stores only carry maps for locations other than the ones closest to them. Like I said, a story for another day.

So off I went with the aid of my AID map to another boat launch. Not knowing the lake I felt it best to stick with known workable locations rather than try and find some of the hidden gems Mark rattled off in a fast paced phone conversation. I could visualize him visualizing every detail as if I knew what the F&@k he was seeing in his head after spending years roaming the lake. I think we may need to sit down with the map or do some physical recon together so future conversations like that will mean something to both of us.

Wanting to keep things as simple as possible, and up my odds of landing a bass on the maiden voyage, I reverted to casting gear for the day. Yes gasp, gasp I used casting gear, freely admit it and I am writing about it on a blog devoted to fly fishing. Life is hard now let's move on because this is where things get a bit interesting. Feel free to let me know about it if you are so inclined.

Picking up casting gear after basically NOT for several years presents just as many challenges as a gear angler picking up a fly rod after a long hiatus. First item of note is that bass lure have far more hooks than a single hook fly. When you grab the rod watch out for the pair of extra sharp treble hooks they will stick to your thumb, or should I say into your thumb and subsequently into the index finger of your other hand while trying to extract them from the original stuck thumb!!! And that's what it's like to have battle scars before you even get started!

But wait there's more. Having not used my casting gear for several years it has been packed away without line, drags completely loosened and stored in a cool dry location. Last night while spooling new line, which by the way has increased substantially in price over the last few years.
Who knew? I tightened the drags on my reels enough to get the line in place. Now here's a little tip for all my fly fishing friends who may want to pick up a casting rod and reel. When you spool the line on the reel go ahead and tighten the drag to the proper tension. More about that later.

I was on the water just after daylight, prime time to try some topwater because  just like trout fishing I will eagerly forego catching numerous fish subsurface in order to catch one on top. That was a no go situation this morning. The sunfish were eager enough to oblige my desire to catch fish on top but try as hard as they did they could not get that 4" spook in their mouths and the two bass that showed themselves were quite half-hearted about it. I wasn't too broken up about it though because I was on the maiden voyage of my new kayak, which I absolutely love by the way. I can feel the addiction genes multiplying as I write.

Knowing what I do about bass fishing from a former incarnation of my angling career, after over an hour, with the sun peeking through the clouds it was time to go deep, Carolina rigged ringworm to the rescue which I rigged last night. Now as much as I absolutely prefer catching fish on top it may seem quite peculiar that my #2 for bass fishing is a Carolina rigged worm. For my fly angling friends it's the equivalent of Booby fishing but instead of using a full sinking line a 3/8-1 oz. weight is attached to the line above a large swivel and a section of leader is attached to the other end and tipped with a floating rubber worm on a light wire hook. I have long suspected that some bass fisherman somewhere, sometime got the idea from the English practice of Booby fishing but try as I might I have yet been able to find a definitive answer on the origins of the Carolina rig. Stories abound.

On the first cast I felt the familiar tap and pressure of a bass picking up the worm. I reeled down and set hard........kind of.  What you're expecting did not happen. I did NOT go over backwards. I've seen far too many blooper reels to let that happen. Remember the drag? You guessed it, I forgot to finish tightening the drag and the spool freely spun backwards. I frantically reeled and tried to set again but by that time a rather hefty largemouth had catapulted from the surface and threw the hook.

Slightly frustrated I calmed myself down and cranked the drag on the reel. Three casts later I felt the familiar tap and run again. This time I reel down and set to the feeling of the fish swimming toward me, the one down-side of Carolina rig fishing. The weight is so heavy that you can't tell if the fish is swimming at you or towards the other end of the lake. Oh and lest I forget, the drag still slipped, not free-spooling slipped but just enough. Repeat previous hook throwing sequence. The fish wasn't quite as big but it would still have made a fine model for the first photo shoot in my new kayak.

It was quite some time before I got another hit but the drag was tight enough to pull down a tree, instead I pulled up a dull gray Gaspergoo of about 2 pounds. Do we measure Gaspergoo? I'm not sure. Just so you are aware, no Gaspergoo were seriously harmed, it revived quickly and swam away with more gusto than I thought those fish had. Reeling one in is a bit of a let down but at least I didn't get skunked. I got Gaspergooed and that's just fine. As the old adage goes "A bad day fishing beats a good day at work" In my case, as a fishing writer, I think the two are the same right?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Wind, Rain and Cedar Key Yakkin'

Looking out the window this morning I can only imagine what it was like on Thursday afternoon when Nick Althauser and I went out to chase redfish around the oyster flats near Cedar Key, FL. It rained all night overnight as a front blew in a took the warm temperatures with it, where ever that is. It's still raining on and off, cold, with gusts of wind that shudder the awning on Prime Mover (our travel trailer) every few minutes. So all there is to do this morning is sit inside, write, simmer a pot of chili on the stove and dream of warmer, calmer days.

Nick Rigging his Rod at the Launch

As surprising as it may seem, to me especially, Thursday was the first time I ever sat in a kayak on the water. I really liked the experience, that is after the perfunctory dunk I took trying to sit in it the first time. It wasn't a full dunk but I did have a wet left arm up to the pit and a damp ass before I got the knack of staying upright. Then there was that initial wobbly feeling as I started out across the flat where Daniel from Cedar Key Paddling had steered us. The wobbles didn't last too long. Once I stopped thinking about wobbling and started thinking about fishing it was all too easy.

With the incoming tide and a short 3 hour window before pick-up time Daniel launched us on a beach near an expanse of oyster beds. His advice was to fish the edges of the oyster beds where the reds come in and feed on the tide. The conditions couldn't have been better with low winds, incoming tide and sunny skies.
Nick Landing The Fish of the Day

I would like to report that Nick and I caught a boat load of fish that kept us busy the entire time. But........ what really happened was us trying to figure out how this redfishing works. We're trout guys with minimal saltwater experience, although I wouldn't mind changing the latter. Damn that was FUN!

The water here isn't as clear as it is in most other locations across Florida. Probably due to the extremely shallow conditions. The night before as Nick, I and our wives sat in Steamers Restaurant waiting on our waitress Nick pointed out a power plant on the horizon where he had done an engineering study many moons ago. The study was for a cooling water intake location. The intake required a depth of 30 feet. Using charts and sounding equipment it was determined that the nearest 30 foot depth was over 7 miles offshore. Like I said, shallow.

Given the slightly off-colored water and our low positions in the kayaks sight-fishing was out. The best we could hope for was blind casting to likely spots or looking for active fish in shallow water. Finding active fish wasn't that hard but the population of mullet in the flats is off the charts. It took some time to determine the difference between the mullet and the redfish. Then all we had to do was get the kayaks into position without running over an oyster bed, guess which direction the redfish was moving and place the fly in a position close enough to get their attention without spooking them. Piece of cake right? Not always.

We both had several follows, I had one touch by a fish that didn't hook up but mostly I skidded over lots of oysters, blew lots of casts and generally just flailed around and had a good time. Near the end of our allotted time I had what was most certainly a redfish in my sights working the back of a small cut. Cruising in at a good speed with line stripped and stored in the floor of the kayak I pulled into position and stopped with what felt like deft yak handling skills. Insert image of me patting my own back here...........

As I lifted the rod out of the holder I heard the faint cry of my name........and again. I turned to see Nick's rod bent as the redfish on the end of his line slowly turned his kayak. Have you ever had one of those moments when you're right there, the efforts of the day feel like they're about to pay off and suddenly you're faced with a choice. Mine was to try for this fish and ignore Nick who most certainly was destined to land a redfish presenting a photo opportunity and our chance to record the event.

With a heavy sigh, not too heavy, I spooled the line, turned and made it to Nick's kayak just as the redfish was spent enough to be landed.  We took advantage of the photo op with huge grins and congratulatory expressions. It's no surprise that Nick scored while I didn't. He's far more patient and methodical in his approach to practically everything than I am. He's a confident angler, smooth and accurate caster, experienced paddler and jut generally a pleasure to be around in any situation.

With little time left I headed back to the back of the cut I had been in to find the redfish I was after had vacated the area, most likely having something to do with my noisy exit. Just a few minutes later I saw Daniel's truck and trailer pulling onto the parking area. It was time to go.

It seems that I will have to add redfish to the list of fish tried for and not captured. It's not quite as high on the nemesis fish list as a large striper but it's moving up fast along with a good-size walleye. I may be able to break the redfish jinx this March however when I spend a few days in Rockport, TX with Jeff at Fly Fish Rockport.

Until then I'll just sit and listen to the rain outside our little house on wheels, rock with the wind and think about the one that got away...........for now.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Feeling Lucky- Hello Again

Wow! It has been a long time since I posted anything here but not for a lack of adventure or happenings. It has been more a lack of time and probably just as much, if not more a lack of motivation.
A Fine Ending to a Week on the South Platte

September was a stellar month for fishing. Sharon and I pulled into Woodland Park, CO on September 15. A few days later Besnik “Nick” Haxhijaj (hi-gee-eye) flew into Denver and met me on the Dream Stream. The next day we hiked into Cheesman Canyon with Jon Easdon and Justin Brenner from Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs. Cheesman is one of the places I've had on my radar for a couple decades but for one reason or another never made it in there. It was well worth the wait and I'm thrilled that I got to share it with a great friend and two new friends that I hope to spend much more time on the water with in the future. I can't really give a play by play at the moment. Look for that to happen next spring in Southwest Fly Fishing magazine.

The next couple days Nick and I hit the Deckers section of the South Platte just downstream of Cheesman. Wednesday evening Nick was able to land his first Colorado dry fly trout. Appropriately enough it was a cutthroat! The next day we got an early start and hit it hard but the fishing was tough due to the brutal winds. It was still a great day shared by great friends.

We finished out the week back at the Dream Stream with a really rough start to the day but a stellar end to the week......another story that you can read about in Southwest Fly Fishing this spring.

Since Colorado things have been hit and miss as far as fishing. Sharon and I met my brother Mark at Lake Texoma for one of the warmest Octobers in decades. The plan was to try for stripers on the fly but a long hot spell just prior to our arrival had the stripers clinging to the deep water edges out of reasonable reach for fly fishing. Instead Mark worked me like a minimum wage laborer running noodle lines for catfish. It wasn't what I had in mind for fun but we did catch a few brutes and hauled in a few dozen in 5 hard days of running lines. On the last day we hauled in one we estimated at easily 40+ pounds and another around 20. Not a bad day especially considering between runs we got into some schooling sandbass -whitebass- and I was able to take a few on the fly. They weren't exactly the 20+ pound striper I was hoping for but it was a great way to end the week.

From there we went through D/FW on our way to meet friends from the Austin area at Lake Catherine State Park in Arkansas. There was no fishing but there may have been a few beers consumed among the group. ALWAYS a great time with these folks!!

The next week we found ourselves in a campground outside of Mountain Home Arkansas.........way outside of Mountain Home Arkansas. We were there to meet new friends that we met at our favorite campground in southwest Colorado. Between the looooooong drive back into town, recuperating from Colorado and Texoma, trying to work and the relentless midge hatches I didn't get much fishing time in there. We were camped next to the White River and believe or not except for the day I went out with Nick (Arkansas Nick not Houston Nick) I found I had little motivation to fish.

From Arkansas we headed east through Tennessee to North Carolina where I had set up some days on the water to research articles for Eastern Fly Fishing magazine. It's a tough job but someone has to do it for your reading pleasure. I got to see a lot of new water, catch some smallmouth and trout including a couple of native Southern Appalachian brook tout and meet some great new friends. Thanks a million to Ken Hardwick of Headwaters Outfitters who guided me on the French Broad Rive and Matt Canter of Brookings Cashiers Anglers who introduced me to the tailwater on the Tuckasegee River.

We showed up in Panama City Beach, FL a little over 2 weeks ago. Though I have been chomping at the bit I still don't even have a fishing license yet but I did get to help 3 of the grandkids catch some bluegills. Between kids, grandkids, trying to catch up on writing and sifting through a few thousand photos it's no surprise. It's been what seems like forever since kids rushed over and called me grandpa. That's almost enough to make an old guy forget all about fishing..........almost. It's also a great reminder that there are far more important things in life than fishing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Good For the Soul

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after"          - Henry David Thoreau

All my adult life people have frequently asked why I fish so much. The short answer is it’s good for my soul but the complete answer goes much deeper. Over the years fishing has occupied different places in my life and has taken on many incarnations. As a boy fishing simply got my brothers and me outside and in touch with nature through the summer months. During the winter months carrying a fishing rod from farm ponds, to creeks to lakes was replaced by carrying a shotgun or.22 rifle about the countryside of North Texas. Our big outings in those days were out to the east side of Lake Lewisville with our dad after work and on the weekends. During those years I never envisioned that fishing would become such a part of my life nor did I think of it that way or as anything other than just fishing. I felt much the same way about hunting though that feeling has changed drastically over the years. These days I just find it hard to take the life of a wild mammal, bird or fish given their world is shrinking so fast.
Up until the time when our family moved into the city I wasn’t even aware that people lived so disconnected from nature as those who dwell in big cities. Everything we caught or killed during those years living out in the rural countryside went onto the table. After our move into the city we stopped harvesting from the land. Our fishing excursions became rare and I can only recall a handful of hunting excursions. I lost my connection to the land but never lost the yearning for it. For lack of a better description I became somewhat of a hoodlum without that connection. During that time I wasn’t even aware of the chasm that existed between me and the natural world. I just knew I wasn’t happy with the world.
After several years I went back to the countryside that shaped my original view of the world to find it transformed into another city. The tiny community was well on its way to becoming just another example of urban sprawl. The farm ponds and cattle pastures were covered with houses, shops and restaurants. The few gravel roads had been widened to four lane paved streets dissected by a typical pattern of cross streets and cul-de-sacs. Where we used to gather sustenance from the land people now gathered there food in pre-packaged form. There is little description for the kind of loss that comes from the destruction of nature in the name of progress. To lose something as precious as the very thing that shaped a boy’s soul is tantamount to taking his life. Though I didn’t fully know it at the time the loss was incalculable on a personal level. That was the day I found myself encircled by a concrete jungle. Only now do I realize that it was the first great loss I ever suffered.
When I went back to our home in the city and reported what I had seen to my dad he simply acknowledged that he already knew. His words were calm but I know now on the inside he was as unhappy about it as I was. It didn’t dawn on me until many years later that it was only a short time after that day we started fishing more frequently again. We still lived in the midst of the concrete jungle but got out of it or at least onto the fringes more and more often. Many of those outings were spent drifting across Lake Worth snacking on Vienna sausages and cheese on crackers while catfishing. During one of those outings he confided in me his deepest desire to return to a life far away from the city. It was only the need to make enough money to support a family of six that had driven him away from Wyoming where his early view of the world had come with a rod or gun in his hands. His long term plan was to retire early and return to Wyoming and live out his later years. When we were younger he tried to keep us as close as he could to the countryside but the needs of the family had to outweigh his personal desires. He had hoped that by keeping us in or near the countryside as long as possible my brothers and I would bond with the land as he had. I am happy to report his plan worked but at the same time saddened he didn’t get to see how deeply the impression took.
On December 26, 1980 I spent the day with my dad as we shopped like champions at an after Christmas/going-out-of-business sale at Olsen’s Sporting Goods in Hurst, TX. I had married a few months earlier and had not spent much time with him during those months. We had not fish together at all during that time. The one time he came to my house during those months he invited me to join him and my uncle to drift for catfish on Lake Proctor. I declined the offer and took a raincheck. During our shopping we loaded up three full shopping carts with fishing gear of every manner for every member of the family making sure we had what we needed for the raincheck day of catfishing. We went back to my parents’ house and divided up all that tackle into big piles for him, myself and my brothers. When we were done we noted that his pile seemed to be the smallest of the bunch. We laughed and decided to rearrange the piles when he and Mom returned from a visit to Grandma’s a few days later because they were already late getting away. I stood in the driveway and waved as they pulled away. A few hours later I received a phone call telling me of the accident that had ended their lives.

It has taken a few decades to understand completely what fishing means to me or maybe it has just taken this long for me to be able to admit it. I like to think for the moment that fishing has come full circle in my life. The days of having something to prove have passed at least for the time being but I hope forever. These days I just want to fish because it is in my blood, it is in my heart, it soothes my soul. It’s where I find my dad.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Creek With No Name

For days I’ve been patiently sitting around our campsite at times when I would normally be on the Upper Dolores River fishing. Since we got to Dolores, CO last week it has been raining on and off putting a serious damper on my river time. Today I couldn’t be patient any longer. I may have reached a point in life where I feel good about foregoing fishing now and then just to sit but sitting makes an old guy fat…..well that and all the snacking that goes on while being patient.

We woke up this morning to cloudy skies and a light drizzle but there was that feeling in the air. It was that feeling anglers know as a good day to fish, we feel it in our bones. It got stronger as the morning wore on and the skies cleared. During our morning walk along the river through the campground it was obvious that there wouldn’t be any fishing the Dolores today. It has been raining upstream for days in the headwater canyon which turns the 50 miles of river upstream of McPhee Reservoir to a chocolatey-milky mess. In fishing you should always have a plan-B. Fortunately there is no shortage of plan-B options around here. Today’s plan-B is a creek with no name.

This creek is the perfect spot to air out a Winston Retro 3 weight I’ve had stuck in its tube for over a year. It is 6 ½ feet of pure fiberglass perfection with an action so slow you can almost take a nap between the backcast and presentation. A 14” trout can put a bend in it all the way to the cork but I can still lay out 40 feet of line if the situation calls for it but not today. I scarcely had more than 15 feet of line out of the guides. I strung it up with the smallest reel I have along the other day hoping I could get on some small water. When I first put the Lamson Liquid 1.5 on the reel seat it felt out of balance but when I put the rod together today it felt near perfect with the weight of the line in the guides. The other day I contemplated acquiring a smaller reel but after fishing it that idea has been put to rest. It turns out to be a near perfect combination. If Lamson would just make the Liquid in a size 1 it would make a perfect match.

Although I love fishing this creek and other creeks like it I haven’t hit it in several years even though we’ve made many stops here since I discovered it. For me creeks like this are best experienced on special occasions like fine gourmet dining because something like this can spoil you and eventually nothing seems to satisfy. It’s one of the first creeks I fished in this drainage back in 2003 which is still one of the highlights of my fishing life, today was another. I think the penchant for this type of fishing came from fishing a small creek in New Mexico just like this one. I hope to visit the nameless creek in New Mexico again next year. Until then I’ll just savor today.

I won't go into a blow by blow it's best to just let the pictures do the talking.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Sitting near the campfire near one of America’s 100 top trout streams I can hear the river bubbling in the quiet of dusk, at least when the fire isn’t crackling. It’s been days since I have been able to hit the water and oddly enough I’m quite content with that. There was a time when it would have driven me nuts to be so close to a wonderful trout stream day after day and not be standing in it fishing.

Admittedly the weather has been an issue with torrential rains a couple of days that turned the river to something resembling chocolate milk. But there have been more days when it’s been just enough to sit and watch and listen. Bird watching has never been much of an amusement for me but the Mountain Jays, Common Sparrows, Northern Flickers, occasional hawks and other assorted unnamed birds have kept me quite occupied lately.

Until this morning we were setup in a campsite not 20 feet from the river but had to relocate due to booking our stay too late. From there I was able to sit at any time and watch the tiny brown trout parr feeding constantly. It makes me wonder how they ever collect enough calories to grow with the energy they expend jumping clear of the water to feed on the minute insects that inhabit this section of the river. However they do it seeing the number of parr in the river gives me hope for the future of the fishery here.

A couple of evenings I have donned my Vedavoo slingpack and walked a short section of the bank just downstream from the bridge that divides the campground. The rocks stacked along the banks to prevent erosion are pretty easy to walk even for a gimp like me. When the water is clear I can cast small dry flies along the current seams or around the larger rocks on the river bed and watch the trout rise to my fly. The trout here get fished over constantly and even the tiniest of them become very discerning- if you can say that about a trout –about what they take for food. Just as often as not they rise, follow and refuse my offerings. Other campers watch from the bridge or the walking path behind me and always politely inquire as to “how I’m doing”.

“Delightful” is my standard reply. How else could I be standing on the banks of a beautiful Rocky Mountain stream less than 100 yards from where our rolling house is parked? Some of the more serious inquirers, invariably men, request fish counts, and want to know what fly I’m using. I never give too many details and try to keep my answers simple, not because I enjoy being coy it’s just that at times like these it just really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of times when the size, fish count and size of the catch matters this however is not one of those times. In all the years we have been coming here I’ve never hooked anything over 10” in this little stretch of river. The times for specific flies, intense concentration and fish counts I save for the stretches of river that have been discovered over the years.

I did get out to one of those places last Friday. I won’t say where it is because some things are far better left unknown to the masses even on well-known rivers. I few years back I made the mistake of posting a photo that showed a location on a certain “Gold Medal” water. Along with the photo I told of the trout I had landed, the flies used and of a very large rainbow that took me for all I had. When I returned a few days later I couldn’t even find a place to park near that section of the river. My lesson has been learned. I did write an article on this river for SW Fly Fishing magazine but as anyone who does that sort of thing knows you tell the readers how to get here. What flies to bring and let them sniff out the secrets for themselves. It has to be that way or every good hole on every river ever featured would be over-fished. But I digress…..

The point is that in over a week of being next to this beautiful river I’ve been out for one afternoon in serious fishing mode, something that has seldom come natural in the past. That state does seem to come more often these days though. Sharon has even mentioned how calm I have been without having to be on the water every minute the weather is cooperating. I would like to think that it’s a state that comes with age, countless hours on the water and who knows how many fish landed or lost. I count the fish that have openly refused my offerings in that number also. They “refusers” used to be the one that haunted me the most. Now I think of them as the ones that have taught me the most. I have to admit that not being quite as steady on the rocks as I used to be may have something to do with it to some extent.

I guess the progress of my fishing life is no different than so many others, not surprisingly all of a certain age I have met or read about. Those first few times out with a fly rod we’re just happy to be outside with a rod in hand experiencing nature in a manner where just catching a fish is a bonus. Later on, once a few fish have been landed we just want to catch more than the time before. Then the search for big fish, then many big fish consumes our attention until eventually the urge to catch every big fish in a lake or river is something akin to insatiable. Somewhere in there we forget to look up at the Osprey soaring overhead or the deer walking the bank. The colors of the trees don’t even register and the bankside flowers go completely unnoticed. Damn the weather, damn the chores and at some point work be damned I’m going fishing. Jobs and families have been forfeited by some just to catch more fish. I once quit one and took another job 2,500+ miles away just so I could fish a famous lake. It’s not something I’m proud of now although I was at the time.

Eventually most of us fanatical anglers learn that it’s okay just to be an angler. I like to think that with age and experience I have acquired a sense of patience, something like coming full circle. An afternoon watching the parr feed with total abandon is satisfying in a different way but still completely satisfying. I don’t think there will ever come a time when I won’t long to be near the water yet for today it is more than enough.

I almost forgot to mention that last Friday went pretty well. I landed quite a few trout on a fly I’ve been tinkering with for a few years now just for this river. There was even a pair of fairly good sized cutthroats. Satisfaction!