Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Road to Brainard

The road to Brainard Lake is now open, allowing access to Red Rocks Lake (which winter kills every year...and this year has apparently been stocked with a handful of 6 to 8 inch rainbows). But, if you are looking for a close, but fun area to take the family (maybe camp?) over this 4th of July weekend, this might be your spot. The entrance fee for the area is $9 and the pass is good for a week. There are seven different lakes to fish. The two lakes that you can drive right up to are Red Rocks Lake and Brainard. Long Lake and Mitchell Lake are excellent, as well. Fishing them involves only a short walk along a maintained trail...and can be worth it. The fishing is often better and there are fewer other people. The recreation area is just west of Ward (30 min west of Boulder) You will see the signs on highway 7.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lucky Man

I have never been a man of means. Unless you consider stubbornness and persistence to be means. (Maybe they are, but you sure as hell can't fold them up and put them in your wallet.) I was not born with a silver spoon in my was more of a clunky, metal Coleman camp spoon. And I did not fare well in the classroom scene, so there were no grants or scholarships rewarding my graduation. I didn't even attend my high school graduation. About the time my fellow classmates were being handed their diplomas and flipping their orange and blue tassels from one side of their silly hat to the other...I was being handed an Entrenching Tool and attempting to disassemble (and reassemble) an M16 in the the dark. And then, for most of the years of my civilian life that followed, my blue-collar work ethic and Army-induced sense of loyalty were generally taken advantage of by selfish girlfriends and crooked employers. But I kept on keepin' on. Put in 80 instead of 40. Never settled. Never satisfied. And as they say, within 12 hours the stopped clock is right...the dumb hog gets his nut...and sooner or later the studio apartment full of circus chimps bangs out a best seller on an old typewriter. Things begin to fall into place. I start getting published. My flies begin turning up in more and more fishing reports and fly boxes. And a real fisher-woman falls in love with me. Finally met my Eddy. Yup...things start to happen. But, I have kind of lost track of all the things going on in my life this past year. Too many things. Too many hours. Too busy.

But...three days ago things all slowed down long enough for me to actually focus on what was in front of me. My sister was back around to this side of the globe. Her annual migration. And she got to meet Erin. My Eddy. These sort of meetings can go a multitude of ways...sisters and new girlfriends. Rottweilers showin' teeth and sniffin' ass. We have high standards for the mates of our siblings. New members of the tribe. So there was only one way to do it, I figured...take them to a bass pond and see what transpired. Forrest said, peas and carrots! They hit it off. And caught a lot of fish, too. I made a few casts, but mainly just hung around to take photos.

That is about the time it hit me. Standing in warm, waist-deep bass water...swatting mosquitoes, fiddling with the camera...and grinning. Damn I am a lucky man!

Carpin' With Cooper

Hey Jay, Here is a picture and a brief story about our trip. Netted 12 of these bad boys ranging from 9-13 lb. and there were just as many hookups and break offs. These fish were hungry and aggressive. If you missed them on the first cast and they saw the fly, they were looking all over for it, doing whatever they could to find that tasty morsel. We used a variety of crawfish patterns. One of the them was all white and they went crazy over it. One of the really cool things about carp fishing with Chris Cooper this trip was fishing from a skiff push pole in the back and fisherman in the front. You felt like you were salt water fishing for Bone Fish or Tarpon.
(Send me your fishing story!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fly Shop Coffee

John Gierach once wrote an essay entitled Camp Coffee in which he described in detail the enjoyment of taking a break while on the river--a stop to look around...smell the roses...don't be in such a hurry to get to where you are going. To die. I guess. Valid point, loved the story. But most of my coffee is consumed in a fly shop. Not along the South Platte. Sure...I work there, and we keep a peg board above the coffee maker with at least two dozen mugs hanging. Some of the mugs have been claimed (by a long-time customer, guide or shop employee) but most, for all intents and purposes, are considered communal. For use by any of our friends and customers who are in need of a hot drink or a little mid-morning kick. And there in lies the problem...most of the mugs are communal. Those of us with our own mugs hanging have tried, in vain, to mark and/or distinguish our mugs as ours...private mugs. Nothing seems to work. Not Sharpie pens, Babcocks! Don't Use! ...nothing.

But, I think I have finally solved the problem. Since I switched to this nice blue mug, I have not once had to wrestle it away from a friend or stranger. I get some odd looks and questions from time to time...people think I am a bit macabre...but, then again, I think they already knew...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Big Bugs, Big Bugs...Big Bugs

This is June on the Front Range of Colorado—the rivers are looking more and more like a giant Yoo-Hoo tanker truck jackknifed somewhere up in the canyon. The water is high and brown…like chocolate milk. Get it? But don’t despair. This is the season for heavy leaders and big bugs. And I do not necessarily mean 4x and stoneflies…I am talking about 1x, 4 inch streamers and warmwater! The bass fishing has gotten silly good and the local carp flats are beginning to put out double-digit fish counts for those with the right drive and flies! Come by Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder and check out some of our new fly bins. Business has been smoking good this year (thank you, all!) so we took some of the profits and had a guy build us some new fancy fly bins out of beetle-kill lumber. Plus we absolutely stacked the new bins with flies. We, unarguably, have the best and deepest fly selection in town! And, boy, do we ever have a ton of big ones…streamers and bass bugs coming out our ears!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Carp on top...with cottonwood seeds!

This is the time of year for the cottonwood drop. The white, fluffy seed pods have been floating around for a couple of weeks now. They can clump together on your leader and be a serious hassle to remove. In fact, they are the main reason I stopped building my own leaders...the more knots, the more aggravating white balls of cotton!The one bright side to all this as been the great opportunity to match the hatch and take carp on dry flies! Yes. You just read that. Matching the hatch. Carp on dries. Take some time to adjust...

Read a story about the best material for cottonwood seeds...ever!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fat Stacks of Greenbacks

I have fished Lily Lake for many years. Done well, most of the time…but regardless of the quality of fishing that particular day, I invariably lusted after the middle of the lake. There just had to be more and larger trout out deep. Just had to be. So, I have always promised myself to one day get out there in the middle. Belly boat. Canoe. Hell…one day just tie a streamer onto my ankle with 3x and swim out there! But, I did not have to strip down and swim. Not today. Erin Block and I lashed a canoe to the roof of her Toyota and made haste to the lake. Was a beautiful day, not too much wind and, unlike our last trip to Lily Lake, there was not eight inches of ice covering the entire surface. Lily is slightly less than 9000 feet, so it will usually be one of the first high cutthroat lakes to ice off. It is also relatively shallow, so the water tends to get warm fast. It is already up to 64 degrees, making the fish a tad sluggish after even a short fight—the main reason to fish this lake early and then leave it alone for the rest of the summer.

Lily Lake also happens to be the most accessible lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park (along Highway 7 several miles south of Estes Park) so we were expecting not to be alone. And were right…there were maybe a dozen other anglers. About half spin fishermen (having no luck) one hapless, ill-advised old man with a Tenkara pole—it’s from Japan, he told us—and the other half wielding fly rods. All were shore-bound. Erin and I shared the middle of the lake only with a small inflatable raft being paddled around by four or five underdressed college girls. Row row row your boat… They would all try to sing in unison, then smack the water with their paddles and continue a high-pitched blather about dating some boy. Poor boy…hope it was worth it.
We saw no fish rising, but did see some midges around and two larger (when compared to the midges!) callibaetis mayfly adults on the surface. So, we rigged black leeches with skinny tan callibaetis nymphs behind them. When the wind was pushing us around we would set the rods down and troll, only picking them up to cast during the moments of calm. And we caught greenbacks. Not many, though. Ironically, it took us beaching the canoe and casting from shore before we really got into the fat stacks! Blind casting was delivering nothing, either. We found the most productive approach was stalking the bank and sight cast to cruising fish with one of Erin’s micro-streamers. Lily Buggers, we took to calling them…

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sharpie (The Tier’s Companion)

Unconventional tricks. Cheap tricks. I love ‘em all. Peek into any avid fly tier’s kit bag and you will learn some cool new stuff to add to your own arsenal. The best ones are usually the simple ones. One of my favorites is having a black Sharpie marking pen handy on my fly tying desk. Here are some of the ways I like to use it.

Sex up a streamer. This is a cheap trick to add parr marks or other stripes and markings on otherwise bland streamers. Sometimes I will just darken the very top of a baitfish or sculpin, but every now and then I will completely change the appearance of the streamer by adding very aggressive markings. When I do this I will use one of my larger pens and be sure to have a folded napkin or old newspaper underneath. Be sure to press down hard enough on the first side so that it outlines the markings to follow—to maintain a sense of natural symmetry.
Touching up a midge. I never like spending too much time on any one midge pupa. Simple and slender is the key to tying them successfully…especially a larger chironomid. Keep the abdomen long and skinny and build the thorax up slightly fatter with thread. Use the Sharpie to darken up the top of the thread thorax before coating the fly with Softex or Loon UV Knot Sense.
Dot your own eyes. Cross your own tree frogs. Instead of finding sloppy ways to adhere stick-on eyes to your foam flies (that will inevitably fall off after the third or fourth cast) use the Loon UV Fly Paint to create your own. The yellow paint comes out an excellent glowing green when applied over a solid green foam. Once the paint is cured with a UV light it adheres fairly permanently to the foam. I do my frog eyes in four steps. 1: Apply yellow UV paint and cure. 2: Sharpie black pupals. 3: Cover with a coat of clear UV Knot Sence and cure (this prevents the pupals from smudging). 4: Apply a final coat of Hard-As-Hull or some other glossy head cement.
Ribbed for dry fly pleasure. Nothing looks as good on the slender body of an adult mayfly as quill or biot, but if you need some fast up the body with thread, then hit an inch or so of the thread with your Sharpie and wrap it forward. Pow! Ribbed.
So…those are four good ways to use a Sharpie in your fly tying. I am sure you have some of your own black magic. Please share. E-Mail me a clear photo and a paragraph and I will add it to this article! (

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nothin’ But Blue Skies

Oh, there were blue skies on Memorial day, too…but the wind was putting whitecaps on one of my favorite carp flats. There were a few families attempting barbecues in the nearby park. A sad parade of comedy, really. Small children and cooking utensils were being blown away. Lap dogs whipping around like flags on their tethers. I did manage to land one good carp, but it didn't seem to take the edge off the constant aggravation. BUT, the day after Memorial day...well! Nothin' but blue skies, a slight breeze...and hot out! And I had that day off, too. Who could believe my luck? I had seen plenty of fish activity the day before (just couldn't cast a fly against the wind) so I knew right were I was going. Back to the park! Avenge myself...and maybe rescue some of the little kids and dogs from atop trees. You know, be the hero.

Just as I was loading my "assault pack" into the truck I get a call from an old friend, Rob Chapin. He was just at that moment wadering up on Boulder Creek. So I convinced him to exchange the three weight for the six and join me for some fun in the mud and the sun. And the day was good. I got sunburt and borderline heat stroke...but the carp were willing to take a wine Backstabber so I saw my backing on several occasions! Rob's a medic, so I wasn't too worried (he had been covering the Boulder Bolder 10k the day before and had said this was one of the first years in a long time with no heart reply was something along the lines of, "well, that sort of takes the excitment away, huh?" He just shook his head at me. So, there ya go, Boulder. Be glad you have Rob looking out for ya and not me. But, come on! It is like the Daytona 500 with no trading of the paint! Somebody gots to go down. Just the way it is.