Monday, June 28, 2010

Night Fishing Largemouth Bass

The biggest hurdles to overcome with any night fishing are the casting and line management. All your casts will have to be done by feel. There is no turning your head to watch how your back cast is doing. The best practice is to stand out in an open yard blindfolded and flail about. The upside to this challenge is that it will make you a much stronger caster. You will be forced to cast correctly; by feeling the rod load and knowing when to bring the back cast forward and when to release the line to shoot it ahead on your final forward stroke.
Night fishing for bass is best after a warm summer day with no wind and few clouds…a bluebird day. The high amount of sunlight will keep the bass deep, or buried in the weeds. Once the sun has set they will come out (sometimes in very close to shore) and gorge themselves. Bass take about an hour to fully adjust to night vision. Their eyes function differently at night than during the day—it has to do with the rod and cone cells in the eye swapping dominance. They may be actively searching out food in the evening, but once the sun sets they will hunker down and wait for their vision to adjust before resuming the hunt. Although, if they had good hunting in the evening they may not be hungry enough to resume aggressive feeding after dark.
Bass will use their lateral line in conjunction with sight to help locate potential food at night. There is much confusion (among fishermen, not biologists) about how fish use their lateral line. The lateral line does not detect sound and certainly does not work like a bats’ radar…it is a complex and ultra sensitive area along the flank of a fish that picks up even the slightest water movement. A bass can feel when a bluegill moves its tail, or when a crayfish darts out from under a rock. Bass have good hearing, but prefer to use their sight to detect food…even at night. They need only a 100th of the light that we humans do to detect motion. This allows bass to see quite well, especially when there is abundant mood light.
Fishing from a boat or float tube is ideal, because they allow for easier mobility and they get you away from shoreline obstacles to snag. If you are shore bound, the best night-time bass spots are along rock and rip rap dams that you are very familiar with during daylight hours. Knowing where the deep (and shallow) water is and where the obstacles are (both in and out of the water) is essential. Always bring a small head lamp, don’t keep it on all the time, only when you are navigating your way from one spot to the next, tying on your fly or checking your fly for snagged weeds. Do the weed check religiously after every other cast even if you haven’t felt the fly hang up on the bottom…many long dry spells in the fishing have had this to blame. Bring a small pack with only the essentials in it: head lamp, half dozen bass flies, one spare leader, heavy tippet spool and nippers. The less you have the less you can loose and the easier it will be to locate the stuff you need in the dark. And slow, steady retrieves are paramount. A bass can track and hit a fast moving fly during the day quite easily, because it can see it. On a dark night a bass has to rely more on its lateral line.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Big Thompson Fishing Report

The Big Thompson River below the dam at Estes Park is flowing at 130 cfs and, more importantly, it has been flowing at that steady rate for almost two weeks now. I have always contended that the Big T fishes best between the flows of 80 and 180 cubic feet per second. But, like any river, I believe consistency in the flow is the most important. I would take a slightly less than desirable flow over a perfect flow any day…as long as it has been holding steady for at least four or five days. The only major
obstacle on the Big T the last few days has been the intense sun. Not a cloud in the sky. Being a river system rich in mayflies (mainly BWO’s) and midges, you will find it will always fish better on overcast days. So, two bits of advice if you are planning to head up… 1: If it looks like crappy weather, don’t be scared! GO! 2: If it is a bright, sunny day…still go. Just be prepared to work harder for your fish. On days like that I like to concentrate on the out-of-the-way, hard to reach pockets on the “other” side of the river. Two days ago a friend and I fished the Big T and every fish we took was after we waded into the thick of the current and high-sticked the opposite bank. Most fishermen are afraid of water (shocking, I know!) so the trout in these areas are basically untouched. We had most luck on Kolandas’ Pandemic mayfly nymph and Cravens’ new Two-Bit Hooker mayfly nymph. Very few fish taking food off the top. Wait for the overcast days for good top water action.
Click link below to get an up-to-date stream flow for the Thompson. Trust me! It could change dramatically without warning!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't Huff Bass

Just don't do it. It may be more addictive than Meth. Bass from a nice clean farm pond smell so frigging awesome. You huff a fresh caught largemouth and then let it go. You tell yourself you're only gonna do it once...just one time! No one will know, right? What can it hurt? Then you keep fishing...your casts become frantic...GOTTA GET ANOTHER! You just have to get your hands on another gotta huff one more! Bluegill won't do! Has to be a bass...small bass...doesn't matter...keep casting....OH! There's one! Aaaaaah....deep, long inhale....feel the fishy goodness flushing through your let him go....keep casting....keep casting....

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Euro Fishing by Wallace Westfeldt

If I said I was tying up a nymph named "Bottom Roller," needed some kneepads, a day-glo French thingie, and I had to keep a low-profile, most folks would assume I was going to Vegas. But I am just going fishing. The style of fishing I am talking about is generally called "Czech Nymphing." It is actually a combination of rigs and presentations popular in Europe. These rigs have been developed in part because of the numerous European competitions and in part because of waters available to certain countries.

There are at least three reasons why you might want to learn about Czech Nymphing:

1. You may already be using some aspects of this style such as high sticking, short-lining.

2. It will improve your own presentation of sub-surface flies, no matter what style you use.

3. You have watched Rob Kolanda vacuum fish from the water using this technique.

This month's article explains the fundamentals of Czech Nymphing and then we will ask the Hoover himself some embarrassing questions.

For full article:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Swim...

How many times can you remember standing along the bank of a river or shore of a lake looking longingly to a run, eddy or far shore wishing you could get a cast that far, or be standing there instead of where you happened to be at the moment? You have just the spot picked out that you believe would be the best place to cast from, too. But, for whatever reason, you can’t get there…its private property, the river is un-wade able or…it is an island. You really begin to create a “grass is greener” image of how awesome the fishing could be over there. The un-obtainable. And this mutates over time, especially if it is a place you frequently fish. You gaze over after every cast…fantasizing about the state record fish that JUST HAS TO live there. This goes on for awhile, then one day you snap…”ta hell with it!” you say…and you end up wading in naked…clothes in one hand, fly rod in the other…headed for certain glory!
That’s about how it all went down the other evening after work. Patrick and I have been fishing this particular bass lake together for a couple seasons. Every time we are there—without fail—we both peer long and hard at the island out in the middle. It is the perfect island…a small loaf of ground with just less than a dozen trees on it. Maybe 160 yards from the shore we usually fish from. Regardless of how the fishing is for us that particular evening, one of us will inevitably audibly recognize the total sweetness of being able to fish from the island. “You know, bring some food and drinks…and, like, camp out over there all day!” And the only acceptable reply is, “Yeah…totally…”
So, it really should not have come as a surprise when Patrick called me at the fly shop the other day and informed me that tonight was the night. We were gonna do it. To the island.
“I really have a ton of domestic shit to get done tonight,” I told him.
“No…don’t be gay,” he said.
So, that sealed it. I had no choice now. I was in. The plan was to drive over to our other friends house (who happened to be out of town at some bluegrass fest up in Telluride) and convince his roommate that we were there to pick up and do some maintenance (or something) on our friends canoe. It was going to be a long drag back to the lake, but was a better option than attempting last minute patch jobs on a couple of beat down old float tubes. But the plan fell apart before it had a chance to start rolling. An older gentleman came into the fly shop 3 minutes before closing with wife in tow…looking to have her try on waders and boots. Fuck! Forty five minutes later we were able to find a pair of wading boots to color match the one (and only) set of Simms waders that didn’t make her ass look “a bit weird”.
Now it was on to the contingency plan. Dreaded plan B. But daylight was burning fast and we were already far too emotionally committed to the end objective to turn back now. We were gonna stop over-thinking it and, damn it, just swim! So there I was…standing lake-side, clothes in one hand, fly rod in the other…pale white ass looking like a glowing bar sign to every mosquito in Boulder County. But it was a quick swim. Patrick had a big dry bag for most of our gear and we found that it did indeed float. And the island was just as awesome as we had hoped. Maybe even more so. There was a nice, little clearing in the middle for us to lay out our gear, and the edges were perfect for wading all the way around. We would make a slow lap around the island catching a bass on every few casts, then climb back up to the clearing and regroup. Every fly worked. Even the crazy prototypes we had tied last winter, but up until now were too embarrassed to show anyone. Even those ones worked. It was glorious. But it all only lasted a couple of hours. The sun set and we had to swim back. Leave our island. Oh, so worth all the itching in places rarely appropriate to scratch while helping customers. Oh, so worth it!
Many hours later, while I was driving home in the dark, I received a final text message from Patrick. No chest pounding or self congratulating on our success…just “Shit. Check for Leeches.”

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

High Water Carp

Here on the Colorado Front Range we have not been experiencing drought-like conditions. This is not a bad thing. You will never hear a kayaker, rice farmer or fly fisherman complain about too much water. Well, you might hear them grumble as they watch their kids swing set get swept toward the Gulf of Mexico. My point is…we need the rain and snow run-off, but too much can create an obstacle. High, off-color water in most of our favorite carp lakes may provide the carp with an unlimited buffet at the International House of Cattail and a totally sweet bachelor pad to spawn their asses off, but it can make for some difficult fishing.
I prefer to use a dark brown or black carp fly (such as the Clouser Swimming nymph or black leech Backstabber Carp Fly) so as I can see my fly in the muddy water. And, because many of the lakes are high and brown and most of carp fishing is sight fishing, it leaves us fly fishermen only the random fish that is riding high (near the surface). Be prepared to make your cast quickly and accurately, you will only have a second or two before the carp sounds deeper and out of sight. Often I will position myself in an area were I am seeing a good number of cruising fish, pull off plenty of fly line fro my reel and prepare for a fast game of aquatic Whack-A-Mole!
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fishing the Big Water Thompson

We all got spoiled with the excellent and dependable fishing on the Big Thompson River. The flows were just about flat-lined at 120 cfs for well over a month. And the Blue Winged Olive mayflies were pouring off in droves. I heard about and saw more great fishing days and large trout than any year to date. Yes, it has been that good! But, for awile there it was blown out and the easy fishing wass temporarily on hold. Notice I said “easy” fishing…there was still some good fishing to be had for those brave enough. When the water gets this high on your favorite river, use streamers tight to the banks or a meaty (i.e. fat and high floating) caddis dry and dropper with short casts into the remaining calmer pocket water. Or a San Juan worm and PT…like Thomas Blackham did the other day on the Big Thompson while it was steadily rising to 900 cfs…
“I got on the water at daybreak and started off with a double rig; a San Juan worm and a bead head pheasant tail. Both flies produced fish, but the bead head seemed to be the fly of choice. By late morning the air temperature reached 48o F and the water level had risen from about 520 cfs to 890 cfs. Fishing was still fairly consistent, but the high water levels made holding water hard to find and even harder to get to. Overall, I ended the day with 19 fish most between 12 and 14 inches with one brown trout and the rest bows.” –Thomas Blackham
Note: As I write this, the Big T is back down to 125 cfs…so get back and fish…NOW!
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Team Carp Slam

I launched the “Walter Mitty Fly Fishing Contest” to test anglers fish species knowledge and provide an opportunity to get out and have fun during Spring run-off. Although the idea of the contest was very well received, it has apparently been a bit more difficult to complete successfully. To date, I have only had one winner…Cody Burgdorff, a hard core 16-year-old local fly fisherman. ( To learn more about the contest:
Cody finished the 6-species “Mitty” contest on his first try and then began bugging me for something more challenging. So, I told him about the Carp Slam…a thing some of the other fly fishing guides and I would attempt for fun and a good challenge. The rules were always simple, take at least one common carp (on a fly) in three separate public lakes in the course of a single day. It would force us to stay sharp, because once we figured out what the carp were doing at one lake, we would immediately have to leave and head for the next body of water. It is hard…especially if you are trying to pull it off with more than one person. It is best planned ahead what lakes to hit and in what order. It really tests your knowledge of each carp lake. And all good local carp fly fishermen know how different each lake can act on any given day!
Cody was game, even though he had just learned how to fly fish for carp the day before! He was chomping at the bit to give it a try, so I decided to join him and try for a Team Carp Slam. We met in the Front Range Anglers parking lot at 8:00 am on a Wednesday morning and headed out to the First Lake on our list.
8:30 Our rods were strung up and we were on the water …the water at this lake had recently come way up, which was awesome, because all the carp were finally able to move up into the shallows to feed in the now submerged shoreline weeds. The problem, we soon found, was that they were in full on spawn mode! Thrashing and chasing each other and not really showing any interest in eating.
9:10 Cody finally figures out that he has to stand in place, ignoring all the commotion going on around him (if you have never witnessed a massive carp spawn, you can’t really appreciate the concentration it takes to ignore it!). He stays still and watches for one of the carp to separate from the fray and feed. And, bang, first one that does eats his fly!
9:26 Sixteen minutes later I learn my lessons and do the same! My fish is a bit smaller, but that doesn’t matter…it is all about getting a carp to hand! Once mine is released, we immediately head for the truck at a fast trot. Gotta get on the road and on to the second lake!
9:30 As we are speeding down the road in the direction of our second planned lake, which was going to be a bit of a long shot, I had the thought that what we needed right now was a very tiny hole-in-the-wall were we could be almost guaranteed at least one small carp…and I suddenly remembered just such a place! I had not been there in a while, a tiny pond nestled behind a housing complex out of sight from any roads. It only had small fish, so I rarely fished it…but it would be perfect! We flipped a U-turn and headed to the new Second Lake.
9:40 We arrive at Second Lake and find the water very off color, but some “nervous water” lets us know there are some active carp around.
9:52 Cody hooks up on a fish, I drop my rod and rush over (camera at the ready) but he comes unbuttoned! Fish off! We both have a groan and continue fishing.
10:04 Bang! Both Cody and I hook up at the same time. I land mine quick, release the fish and jump over to get a good shot of Cody’s second carp of the day.
10:16 I am disappointed that I was not able to get a photo of my fish, so I quick whack another and Cody gets the shot…sweet! We debate for a minute if we should stay and fish pond we are at for a while longer…just ‘cause it is fishing so well. But, in the end, we decide that would be getting cocky and that we should get going to the last lake and try to wrap this Carp Slam up before the wind picks up or something else ruins the fishing and our chances. Good idea because it is a 25 minute drive to the Third Lake and the morning is pissing away fast.
11:01 Cody spots a good carp in close, feeding along some shore-line rocks within ten minutes of arriving at Third Lake. He puts his fly out…strips it in front of the carp and hooks up! Another nice fish! Cody has his part of the Carp Slam complete! Now it is my turn to wrap it up…
11:30 I am beginning to get nervous… This lake had been fishing very well the day before, but now we have not seen another carp in half an hour.
11:34 I hook up on a big fish…I fight him hard and beech him and we are ready to start celebrating…but I look down and notice the fish has been foul hooked. Big bummer…hooked on the side of the face. Doesn’t count!
12:03 I finally spot a lone carp in close feeding and make the right cast. Fish on! It is a smaller carp, so I get him in fast…but it is a wrap! We did it! TEAM CARP SLAM! Wrapped up in four hours!
12:08 Cody and I relies we were both using the exact same fly all morning! A wine colored Backstabber Carp Fly! Too cool!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cody Catches His First Carp

Cody Burgdorff is one of the more accomplished 16 year old fly fishermen in Colorado (fishing in adult and youth fly fishing competitions around the country) but until today…had never chased carp on the fly! With Jay Zimmerman behind the camera, Cody wades into the fray and is stalking carp within minutes. He is casting a Sage Vantage 9ft 4wt fly rod and using a black Backstabber Carp Fly from Umpqua Feather Merchants. He uses a Lippa4Life from Rising to help land the first carp.
Watch the video:

Walter Mitty Fly Fishing Contest (First Winner: Cody Burgdorff)

It only took a couple of days for us to have our first winner of the first annual "Walter Mitty Fly Fishing Contest". Cody Burgdorff of Lafayette, Colorado went out for a day of warm water fly fishing on June 1st...he landed a nice Smallmouth Bass (1) on the first cast...with a #6 black Backstabber, and it was only just legal! Almost too big... Then Cody landed five good sized carp on the same fly, but they were way too big to count (well over ten inches). But then he got serious about completing the contest and whacked a Green Sunfish (2) a very tiny Bluegill (3) a Yellow Perch (4) a Shinner (5) a Largemouth Bass (6) and as a bonus species a Crappie! (7).

Good job, Cody!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Carp Addiction

What is it about carp that turns respectable trout fishermen into brownliners. Is it the demand for precise casting and the detection of subtle takes telegraphed by body language? Is it the opportunity of hooking a fish well over 15 pounds that will get into the backing? Is it sight casting to difficult fish? Maybe it’s the proximity and availability of the species. Whatever the reason, the addiction will cause you spend a considerable time locating, strategizing, tying flies, and fishing for the most widely distributed fish in North America.

We are not going to spend any time on tackle because you probably have 5 to 7-weight 9-foot trout rod, single action reels and floating line. This article is about how to catch these fish under a variety of circumstances. As your carp addiction grows (it will significantly accelerate after the first hookup) the equipment used will become more specialized.
Fish to Target
Carp in the shallows are there for either sex or food and if the spawn is over its chow time. Your presentation and position will depend on the depth, sun, and wind. Unless he is taking cotton wood seeds or occasional bugs his head is pointed down rooting on the bottom for eatables. You may see his tail or back breaking the surface. Such fish are the number one target.
Cruising carp can be occasional eaters, especially when food can be consumed with minimal effort. While fishing conditions dictate, flies presented reasonably close may illicit interest—24 inches from the head is a good starting point. If one fish in the group breaks away towards shallow water, he maybe looking for a snack, and offers a worthwhile target. A motionless carp is not feeding. It would be a miracle for him swim over and take a fly. Moreover, you’re wasting energy fishing to spooked fish, jumpers, and spawners. We think the biggest single mistake of beginning carp fishermen is fishing to the wrong fish.

Hooking Up
Carp takes by carp can be extremely subtle and many times its the bony language which telegraphs the strike. The most effective hook set is a slow slip strike with a gentle rise of the rod tip. Trout strikes are a recipe for lost fish. The slow strike keeps the fly in the kill zone for another chance.
Once hooked the fish will make a beeline for deeper water if your using reasonably stout tippet material you can put a fair amount of pressure on him to maneuver him back into the shallows where he will tire more quickly. Always keep the rod down and angled in the opposite direction the fish is headed. As the fish turns take in line and never let him rest. The probability of a lost fish increases the longer the fight goes on.
Shots at Feeding or Cruising Fish
The retreating shot. is the most difficult. A curve cast and either twitch the fly as soon as it sinks to the eye level of the carp, or let it sink and hope the fish notices it. The second option is to make a straight cast alongside the retreating fish and hope the fish turns towards the fly
Generally the broadside shot forces you to make a calculated lead to intercept the moving carp Either twitch the fly aggressively past the carp or let the fly the fly sink and give it subtle, suggestive movements -- the behavior of the fish will dictate When the fish are aggressive try to bouncing the fly off the nose during the retrieve!
With a facing shot you will cast the fly past the carp on the opposite side of your casting arm. This lets you to draw the fly alongside the fish and then just out in front of him.. If the carp are spooky, lay the fly on the same side as your casting arm and hope the fish turns that way naturally, or notices the fly. Always keep in mind that carp are more likely to speed up to take a fly than change their direction of travel.
Finding carp with their heads down, tails up, rooting around in the mud for food calls for the mudding shot. In deep water the only tell-tail sign may be air bubbles breaking on the surface (gasses on the bottom disturbed by the feeding activity). Cast well past the bubbles, let your fly sink to the bottom and slowly drag the fly into the area you believe the carp to be. In shallow water you must be more careful. You will likely see the underwater mud ball created by the feeding carp. Stop and observe long enough to decipher what direction the fish is facing. Look for the shape of the large, upturned caudal fin, or a gradual migration of the mud ball. Above all, you don’t want your leader to brush against the fish. If you are on a high bank or in a boat and directly above the mud ball, touching the carp with your fly will sometimes get its attention—the fish think it’s a spooked crayfish.
When carp are exceptionally hungry they will move into very shallow water giving the angler a bank shot. It is not rare to find a solitary, aggressively feeding fish along the banks of a reservoir in water so shallow its back is out of the water! This can be a very exciting situation, because you have found the hungriest, most vulnerable carp in the area and it will eat almost anything, so long as it isn’t spooked by a clumsy cast. The easy cast is to the deeper water immediately behind the carp and hope it either does an immediate about face or turns toward you, allowing you to draw the fly alongside the fish. The harder cast is to thread your leader between the carp and the shore, then swim your fly into the kill zone! The take can be spectacular!

By Jay Zimmerman & Paul Prentiss
(This article was first published in the Spring 2010 issue of High Country Angler magazine)

Best Flies For Carp!

30 More Carp Tips!

The Walter Mitty Fly Fishing Contest

1. Catch six fish species with a fly and fly rod.
2. All fish must be caught on same day.
3. Each fish must be UNDER 10 inches long!

This contest is to help get you through the runoff doldrums and to remind you all of the reasons you began fishing…and still love it. To enter, send me photos of your six fish (take photo of the fish in hand, so we all can see how small it really is!) and a short anecdote about your day on the water. Email them to me at
Every entry will receive six free flies (of my choice…dictated by the tone of your entry) and have their photos and story published on the Colorado Fly Fishing Reports blog. Send your mailing address, as well…if you want the free flies.
I’ll kick off the festivities with my own entry. Here goes…. I woke up late on my last day off and found I was in the middle of missing one of the sunniest, most awesome mornings so far this spring. This didn’t necessarily pose a problem of neglected responsibilities…as I am a single dude living in a studio apartment with a cat, but it did mean I was situationally obligated to go fishing immediately. So I began reluctantly gathering gear…rounding up rods and deciding if it was a wet wading type of trip…or not. And I found that I couldn’t get myself excited about what I was doing. It might have been that it was the twelve thousand five hundred and seventeenth day in a row that I had woken up and prepared to either fish, talk about fish or fantasize about fish (and only a couple of those had anything to do with a hot dinner date at Sushi Tora). I guess I was finally burned out. I had been guilty of taking myself—and my fishing—way too seriously. I was far too programmed to stay at home and feel sorry for myself, so I rolled the windows down on my truck, found a good station on the radio…and drove around Boulder looking for inspiration— which got me as far as the irrigation overflow ditch behind some inexpensive CU student housing. I strung up a 4 weight and caught one tiny ditch fish after another…pumpkinseed sunfish, four inch largemouth bass, shiner, baby crappie, skinny catfish and bluegill. I left the ditch sunburned, dehydrated and as giddy as hell! I had not had that much fun since I was a kid playing in the creek by my parent’s house swinging wet flies to little creek chubs and pretending I was a well known river keeper and they were Atlantic salmon. Thus the conception of the Walter Mitty Fly Fishing Contest.
For all you beauty school dropouts…Walter Mitty was a character who would have routine heroic daydreams while going about his rather mundane life in a famous 1939 James Thurber short story entitled “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” . Google it or something…