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!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Deschutes Part 1- Preparations

All good things, as the saying goes must come to an end. As sad as that may be it is something that can’t be avoided.

This morning we pulled into Bend Oregon. Like most of the rest of this year has been my timing is slightly off. When I stopped into one of the many fly shops here in town to pick their brains the first response I got was “You’re a couple weeks too early”. It seems like I’ve been a couple weeks too early or too late to catch anything exactly as it appears in the magazines and story books all year. Such is the life of a traveling angler that you rarely read about in the glossy pages found on newsstand shelves. But somehow I do seem to snoop out something suitable to keep my interests up and my boots wet. What I snooped out here at Fly & Field Outfitters is a 3 hour drive first thing in the morning to get to a spot that may or may not be loaded up with other anglers. What it will have for sure is a catchable amount of early season steelhead.

The best part about this scenario is that the locals have been catching quite a few fish on small flies and floating lines. This excites me because the time I recently spent on the Rogue had me throwing a 30 foot high-density shooting head. Although I really enjoy fishing that way it is quite a bit of work that can wear a casting arm out in short order. The other exciting aspect is that, albeit with a one-hand rod I will be able to try out some spey casting techniques. Then maybe I can get Michael to build me that spey rod we talked about last winter.

As soon as I found out that I am in range of a good number of catchable fish I headed back to our camp to get set up. I use the word camp loosely in this sense because this place, Crown Villa RV Resort is more like a resort than any other we have stayed at in 15 months of traveling. It’s more like “glamping”.  Most places we pull into that are called resorts end up to be something completely different. Sharon and I have found ourselves wondering if maybe the word “resort” has a secret meaning we are unaware of.

During preparations I decided it was time to finally retire the Orvis WF8F line I have been using since 1996. I just hope that the new line lasts half as long but on that front only time will tell. From what I hear new flylines are like too many other things; they just don’t make them like they used to. Then again I do take care of my flylines like they are made of gold for all I know they may be for what they cost. I’ve been asked many times how I get that much time out of a flyline. The answer is not exactly a secret it’s regular cleaning and maintenance. Keep it simple. Mild soap like Dawn in lukewarm water, rinse, wipe it down, rinse again and apply a light coat of fly line dressing.

I stripped all the old line off and went to attach the new one to the backing on my reel. I carefully wound the nail knot into place and snugged it up. Just as I do as part of every cleaning I gave a solid pull and it snapped. Yikes! The 20 pound Dacron is not supposed to do that with 10 pounds of pressure!!! It seems the time I have spent in the saltwater over the last year has not been kind to the backing. I’m pretty sure I may have to start going all the way to the spool with the cleaning.

Knowing it wouldn’t do any good I retied the backing onto the new flyline anyway and gave it a pull. The same thing happened. That’s when the sinking feeling set in. It was a sinking feeling of knowing we are only going to be here for a few short days and I was not going to go out in the morning well before the crack of dawn and the operating hours of any of the local fly shops. With only 3 days on the ground here I have allotted 2 days of fishing leaving our last day here, as always devoted to battening down the hatches so to speak.

I had already learned on the Rogue that having one’s equipment in tiptop shape is of the utmost importance when going after these big boys. I briefly contemplated going out with the inferior backing and letting luck take its course but the thought of having a good size steelhead run downriver with an expensive new flyline just doesn’t appeal to me these days. I suppose if all I wanted was a hookup that might be as good a way as any to all but guarantee an encounter with a trophy fish but I’m just not as stupid as I used to be when it comes to these things. Murphy’s Law has reared its ugly head too many times to tempt fate once more.

So here I sit typing out this post instead of lying in bed sleeping before heading out in the middle of the night to fish at the crack of dawn. Tomorrow I’ll go back to one of the other local fly shops and maybe pick their brains a little, buy a couple more flies and ask “Can you guys put some backing on this old reel?” Hopefully in the process I can acquire a bit more useful information. I’m going to need it since I just lost half my time on the water.