Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Allure of Virginal Creeks

I have had many, memorable love affairs with small creeks. Larger rivers are intoxicating creatures, I’ll grant you and they live much louder, vivacious existences…but we have all seen their tasteless centerfolds in Fly Fisherman magazine—laid out in the buff, wearing nothing but a weak, forced smile for every sloppy, hack fisherman to ogle at and pin up over his dirty work bench. Have a wonderful, get-away weekend on a well-known trout river here in Colorado and dare to tell your romantic antic dotes to your fishing buddies and they will immediately launch into a story about the last time they had their way with that very river. But when they were there the water was much clearer…and the rainbows were willing to come up for big dries. She didn’t do that for you, did she? But those tiny, out-of-the-way creeks that no one has ever heard of (let alone fished) are always out there, going about their business without any fanfare. They are as sexy and intriguing as the single woman from down the street. You don’t know her name yet, but you did get a smile and a “hi” out of her the last time the two of you passed on the sidewalk. The trout in these little-known creeks are not large like in the famous rivers…but they are wild and amazing. And, yes, they are always real!
The other day a friend and I were heading back down from fishing a high alpine lake and we crossed over an old wooden bridge. It was a well worn trail and I have crossed over this particular bridge many, many times. I have always at least slowed down long enough to peer over the railing to get a look at the miniature stream flowing below—but never taken the obvious opportunity to cast a fly. This time was different, though. We dropped our packs and took time to admire the tiny body of water more thoroughly. Although the gradient was steep, there was plenty of great holding water. The pockets were small, but deep and dark and inviting. We were not originally planning to stay long enough to fish (we had already had a great day up on the lake) just long enough to speculate on what species of trout lived there. The sure money was on brook trout, but I went with cutthroats just to take the long odds. Then we noticed the freshly hatched drake mayflies clinging to the lush green moss beside the water. We absolutely had no choice but to fish. And there was a brookie or two in every pocket willing to take a dry fly. Darkly colored, wild fish…spunky and probably never before been caught. And I wouldn’t stop fishing until I finally caught a cutthroat…

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Locusts are Coming!

Aaaaahhh! Cut the last of the hay and round up the cows! No…wait. Not dust bowl part two, just grasshopper season. Got ahead of myself again. If you go up any of the canyon roads here on the Front Range (Clear Creek, Boulder Creek) you can’t help but notice the coveys of hoppers (yes…I just called them a covey) flushing out of every stand of road-side grass. You hesitate momentarily, mentally stalled between the need to get back onto the creek and whack some more wild browns on big dry flies…and the almost overwhelming urge to catch the nearest hopper and throw it into the best pocket water within easy tossing distance—as though watching a trout slam a real grasshopper struggling back to dry land would somehow be way more cool than watching that same fish unload on your big foam and hair Charlie Boy on 4x. For the record, it is pretty cool. Empowering, certainly. Like a sadistic prince in one of those Russell Crow gladiator movies. Shall he live? Noooo! Thumbs down! Feed him to the Browns! Final word of warning, though. You may think you will, but you will NOT catch the first hopper you set your sights on. Maybe not even the first dozen. But dare to set your fly rod down and make the original effort and you are fully committed. No matter what it takes. Frantic pouncing. Desperate flailing of arms. Passing motorists fumble for cell phones. No reception…half a bar…no matter. They think they have seen one of those escaped Ward militia children…fed nothing but raw chicken and C4 behind a dilapidated shed…finally gnawed through his makeshift bailing twine leash and now is half way back to Boulder….

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mitchell Lake (An Escape from Brainard)

  Mitchell Lake is one of those high mountain lakes (10,720ft) that you can drive to, but not right up to—you still have to walk a mile. This allows you the luxury of getting in and out quick, some decent alpine Brookies and Cutthroat and (thanks to the short walk) an amazing lack of jackasses. Most of them stay back at Brainard Lake…within arms reach of their lawn chairs which are parked neatly, immediately behind their forked stick and baited Scooby Doo fish pole. “Ya’ll catchin’ any trouts? No? Is it alright if my derelict children take off their shirts, scream insanely at each other and throw rocks into the water next to you?” Sweetness….

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another One Succumbs

I have always enjoyed talking to people about the excitement of carp fishing. I used to tell stories about carp with great enthusiasm more as a defense mechanism against the common skepticism I encountered. That isn’t the case anymore. Fly fishing for carp has officially caught on…and I no longer have to defend it, or myself. Over the last few years I have coached and encouraged countless new or aspiring carp fishermen at the fly shop. I explain how all it takes is that one hot fish…that first good cast. All the right things to line up and actually go according to plan. Then your first carp is hooked and you’re hooked forever.

Reed Bunker and Patrick Knackendoffel went out on the mud flats on Mr. Reed’s birthday. And Patrick guided him into his very first carp. He found the right fish, made the right cast…with the right fly (a Backstabber carp fly, of course) and scored on his birthday! A few days later I got an email from Bunker, said he found a nice pond next to his workplace. He had been seeing some carp…and on his first day back from his trip with Patrick he landed a 12 pounder! Yup, another clean, honest trout fisherman succumbs to the lure of the mud flat!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Caddis in the Canyon

Most creeks and rivers in Colorado have seen the peak of our annual runoff pass. Now we are on the home slide into what is arguably the peek fishing season. The stream flows across the state are still dropping steadily, making one week better than the last. With these lowering water levels, diminishing snow pack and brutally hot days, bring rising water temps, which both accelerate trout metabolism and trigger the hatching of the mid-summer mass of bugs. I am seeing PMD (Pale Morning Dun) mayflies hatching, Golden Stones crawling around on the bottom, the occasional big Green Drake appearing seemingly out of nowhere and hoards of grasshoppers flushing out of the tall grass as I pass by. But it is the caddis that get me riled up! You may not always see them dancing around over the surface of the water, but they are there…in force. Naturally camouflaged to mimic the colors and patterns of the lichen. Brush up against a bridge piling or rock outcropping and you will disturb the apparent rigidity of the large, inanimate objects. The surface comes to life in a hurry…moth-like adult caddis flies scatter frantically about, tangling in your hair and nearby spider webs. And every trout knows they are there. The water may still be a tad high, but dare to drift a bushy, little dry fly through any open pocket water and it will get eaten!

Friday, July 16, 2010

If Kobe's Wife were a Cased Caddis...

(Really, this the home of a Glossosoma Caddis Larvae. They are known for building a very distinctive pebble case. This particular one I found on Boulder apparently had a taste for the bling. Or had a spouse with a guilty concious...)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Damsel in Distress

If I didn’t have a job there may not be the same level of anxiety and trepidation in planning the fishing for an upcoming day off. Two days a week off the clock is often just enough time to track down some really shitty fishing. Sunburned, dehydrated and fishless…and don’t dare utter the phrase “It’s just good to get out.” We won’t be friends.
The last time I ventured out to one of our local bass ponds I knew that I was probably setting myself up for failure, as I was getting to the pond at noon (mid-day being maybe the worst time of day for Largemouth Bass). As I cleared the final stand of tall grass blocking my path to the bass pond I was greeted by the sight of possibly the most actively feeding body of water I have ever seen. There were dragonflies and damsels zipping around everywhere…and every bass in the pond was going berserker! They were jumping out of the water at every chance. Never, at any given time were there any less than three fish out of the water. I was stoked beyond belief! But, after a dozen casts into the fray and three fly changes with not even a bump…I knew weirdness was afoot. I had cast a baitfish streamer in first just ‘cause I already had it on and figured it wouldn’t matter. Bass this crazy would eat whatever. Wrong. So I quick tied on a big, blue top water dragonfly. Twitch. Twitch. Nothing. Wrong again. Fish still catapulting out of the water all around me. So, I switch to a damsel dry fly. A small bass zips up to it in shallow water…eyeballs my fly for a second…then darts away. What the fuck? Fourth fly I tie on is a tiny (by bass fishing standards) light olive damsel nymph. I make a long cast out onto the pond and see three separate wakes making a b-line for the end of my fly line. But no strike. Screw it. I strip the fly once, fast…BANG! Fish on!
I repeat this for over an hour. Every cast. I go through a half-dozen of the only damsel nymphs I have on me. Either loosing them to fish, or getting them shredded off the hook shank.
Lesson learned. Sometimes you have to fish to the fish, not to the hatch. The damsel flies were not hatching, so there were none of the nymphs in the area…and the bass were attempting to eat them either off the surface, or out of the air. But a super realistic damsel dry fly on the surface did not appear panicked enough to draw the strike. Interesting…

Read Another Story!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why I Love Greenies

No, I do not mean touring Colorado fly fishermen. I mean Green Sunfish. They are the only sunfish native to our state (or so I have read, tell me if I have that wrong). There are many reasons to chase warm water species with a fly rod. Throughout the majority of the country warm water fishing is the only available venue for fly fishermen as well as conventional fishermen. But, here on the Front Range of Colorado, we as fishermen are often spoiled by the quality of our trout fishing and rarely take advantage of the other white meat…so to speak. Even amongst the hard-core warm water junkies I know (and I know a ton) many of the smaller brim and sunfish are largely ignored. And it’s a shame. I have always held these little scrappers in high regard. Maybe because I refuse to forget how much they taught me about fishing and basic biology when I was a bare-foot kid. I have always been a big fan of crappie, pumpkinseeds and of course bluegill…but, maybe my favorite is the Greenie. They have the innocent curiosity of a bluegill, aggressive attitude of a smallmouth bass…and the chompers of a largemouth bass! They will eat small trout flies if that is all you have, as well as big topwater bass poppers. And they have this hint of deep jungle tropics in their appearance. Or maybe I’m just getting carried away…

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Boulder Creek Bugs

I have always seen a good diversity of bug life on both Middle and South Boulder Creeks, but this year I am seeing way more. And I don't know what it is...maybe just an accumulation of more than a few great water years in a row. Whatever it is, I'll take it!

Last time I was fishing South Boulder Creek I got distracted by the masses of cases caddis on every rock in the water! I would lift up one of the nearest and easiest rocks and marvel at the delicacy and detail involved. While I held the rock up in the sunlight to get a good look I could hear the caddis larva scrinching around in their homes...sometimes poking their little, black heads out far enough for me to see their bright green bodies. Too cool! And then the palm-fulls of Green Drake nymphs! It only took me lifting up two or three rocks to get enough Drakes to make a good photo. I can't remember finding bugs in these numbers...not even on the Frying Pan!

Gonna be a great Summer and Fall for fishing!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Rory Takes His First Golden Bonefish!

Rory Seiter lives across the street from the fly shop, so he and I get to talking flies and fishing a couple times a week. Recently, Rory has been dead set on taking his first carp on the fly. I suspected he was stubborn enough to get into carp fishing…and I was right! Here is his story. A damn good story, too!

I found myself with a few hours free and despite actually catching trout in a recently non blown out local creek yesterday, I decided to teach myself patience at a lake stalking carp. I have been carp fishing a half a dozen times, usually by myself flinging flies and wondering why these fish are so much smarter than myself. I have repeatedly gone into Front Range Anglers to listen to the wisdom of the people that I see in the blog with many golden monsters in their hands. I thought that I was doing what they told me, but it had never produced fish. The closest I ever got was when I found out the hard way that my tippet was way too light, an experience many trout fishermen never endure.”
“Today with thunderstorms threatening and not much hope remaining, I still found myself creeping along the banks of my favorite lake, stalking the Colorado Bonefish. The first fish I saw was huge and feeding hungrily. His tail was making ripples on the surface and he was neck deep in mud. I still found a way to spook him. He cruised away slowly seemingly annoyed that I was dropping "food" all around him. I continued walking to my favorite spot and found a couple more carp eating close to shore. What I thought was a stealthy approach was too quick for one of the fish and he disappeared beyond casting range. His buddy didn't notice me and I got a cast a bit further than I wanted. I thought of all the tips that I had gotten from the guys at the fly shop and tried to slow my heart rate. I stripped my fly hoping to drop the wine colored Backstabber close to the fish’s face. I pulled it a bit too far, but let it sit for a moment. The carp noticed, turned 90 degrees and sucked up my fly. My heart stopped. When I set the hook (with a big strip set like Jay said) I expected to see my fly skittering across the bottom. Instead, there was a tightness in my line that meant I had hooked the fish…or another rock, stick, weed, bottom of the lake. Then he ran. Fish on! Hot damn! I had finally hooked a carp. Then I got nervous. Would my knots hold? Is my drag too loose? Can I actually land it? How do I land a carp? I had to stop thinking and start reeling. Luckily, my friend was watching and I was able to tell him this was my first carp and I was very excited. I noted the bend in my rod. Man that looks good! The fish tried to run into the reeds, but I was able to keep him out. This was nothing like dragging a log to the surface that so many people expect. This fish took off. I would get him close and he would run again. Eventually I was able to land him (I dropped my rod in the water and scooped him up) and pose for a quick picture.”
--Rory Seiter

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Support your local fly fishing guides!

Support your local trout bums. Yes, they are a degenerate tribe...but, in some important ways, necessary. While you are diligently advancing your career and raising a model American family, the trout bum is on the river...NOT calling his mother and certainly not spending the appropriate "quality" time with loved ones (who happen to have real jobs). But, as I have said, these bums are necessary. Who is gonna give you a brush-up casting lesson the day before your annual fly fishing trip to Montana? Who is gonna teach your spouse to nymph fish? (You know they won't take orders from you anymore!) And who is gonna invent the next great trout fly?

So, support your local fly fishing guides. Have one of them take you up onto your favorite creek before the prime season is over...they are bound to teach you something! And, I'm sure they are running out of beer money.

Big Walleye on the Fly

Eric LaChapelle came into the fly shop the other day to pick up some streamers for Walleye. He said he and a friend were headed out in their float tubes that evening. A few days later I got the full story! Enjoy!

“A friend of mine found a hot walleye bite (a lake with some agressivally feeding fish) and invited me out to his honeyhole. I had never fished for walleye with a flyrod, but growing up in the Midwest I have taken my fair share on spinning gear. We got our tubes on the water around and I rigged up my newly acquired $20 St.Croix 7wt that I purchased from a guy on Craigslist (I broke my 6wt on the North Platte over Memorial Day). I hooked up a Clouser Minnow and a smaller #4 Bellyache Minnow in tandem on my full sink line and let her rip in 12-15ft of water along some submerged brush piles. I never really felt the strike, but suddenly I felt weight and set the hook into what I figured was a big stick. A solid headshake and a doubled over rod got my heart beating and at that point I knew I had a good fish. I grabbed my small trout net thinking I had a 20-24" fish. Then I got the fish to the surface and saw the head. I put my net away knowing there was no way in hell the fish was going to fit! I grabbed her behind the head and got a good grip on her tail while my friend brought over the Boga grip. We took a quick measurement with tape and the Walleye measured at 29.5"! She had eaten the Bellyache Minnow! Not bad for a first walleye on the fly with a $20 secondhand rod, right?”
— Eric LaChapelle

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Carp Fishin' is Gettin' Hot!

The ideal conditions for fly fishing the Colorado carp flats are hot, bluebird days with little to no breeze. The hot weather gets the water nice and warm, which gets the fish more active and feeding. And the bright, direct sun makes sight fishing easy. A tiny bit of breeze can be nice, just to put a little movement on the surface of the water. This distorts the carp-eye view of you, the fisherman more that the other way around. With wary fish that have great eye sight, this can be an advantage.
The last couple weeks here on the Front Range it has been perfect weather for the carp cause…mid-eighties, no clouds and little wind almost every day. Things have been getting better and better. The only obstacle recently has been the exceptionally high water in most of the local lakes and reservoirs. This has made the target fish very difficult to spot. (And you can’t sight cast to a fish you can’t see!) But, in the last few days the stream flows have begun to drop slightly, or at least level out and most of the seasonal draw of water into these reservoirs is over. Now you will notice the water levels of many of your favorite carp spots dropping. This drastically improves the situation! The fish will be easier to see and the lower water will pull many of the carp out of their sanctuary deep in the submerged cattails.
The last few days have been some of my first Superb carp fishing days of the season!