Friday, September 30, 2011

Stop Dreamin'...The Browns Are In!

Randy Hicks and Brian Harris of Rocky Mountain Anglers (Boulder, Colorado) left the house early yesterday morning and headed south...on the hunt for big browns! And they found them. There were a few other fishermen down on the Platte...shufflin' around in the gravel looking for redds. But the big fish had just gotten there, so they were only in the deep pools. The redd raiders were coming up empty. Randy and Brian, however, were keepin' it real. Nothing real big, but eight or so fish over 20 inches. Also of note: #22 tricos between 9:00 and noon some smaller browns and cutts were on them heavy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yup…That’s The Plan

“Well…let me know how it turns out.” Tom said.

I had run into a friend of mine at Alfalfa’s grocery store. “So, whatcha got planned?” He asked. Now, I don’t know if my walking around facial expression reads: I Am Up To Something. But my friend Tom knew… He spotted me on the prowl for portabella mushrooms and approached with the same caution many guys I know as patrons of the fly shop do…as though I were some sort of semi-dangerous escapee—having gnawed off a foot, bent the bars and now loose in public.

So, I gave him the run down. (Insert a mental snapshot of a Wild-Eyed Expression!) I had this plan to explore a stretch of canyon trout stream I thought few had ever seen. Sure, it was a well-known stream that is also known to hold only smallish trout…those from 8 to 10 inches as an average, but I knew there were only two popular access points and they were a days hike apart…but with some very hairy and quite possibly impassable narrows between them. I told him about how we were going to do a vehicle drop in this little town up in the mountains, then drive my truck back down to this big reservoir that I know the stream empties into. We would hike all the way back to the inlet (this alone may take some time and navigating…it is a large reservoir way up in the mountains) and then commence fishing upstream until we run into a set of old railroad tracks…then hoof it into the little town where we had the other car parked. Simple. And my hunch was that somewhere in the middle we would run into the Glory Stretch…the part of the stream that is rarely ever seen, let alone fished—somewhere downstream of the one known “pinch point” of the canyon that had, in past years, kept me from wandering farther down from the upper access…and upstream farther than the practical “turn-around” point for those moving up from the reservoir inlet and hoping to be back to the car before dark. In this No Man’s Land must reside some good trout. One would think.

So, Tom wanted to know how it all turned out. “Well…if you ever see me again, it turned out fine,” I said. And I guess that about sums it up. I am still here. So is Erin, my fishing partner. We survived. But there was a good hour or two that I honestly thought we may not. But I dug deep and did my best to stay convincingly positive about the overall outlook of survival…for Erin’s sake. There ended up being an entire series of pinch points in the middle of the canyon. Most were passable only with just the right combination of rock climbing (at one point I actually had to wedge my wrist into a miniature crevasse in order to pull myself up!) swift-water wading and calloused nerves. There were at least two Cliffhanger moments featuring me doing my best Sly Stallone impression. You’re not gonna die! Later, Erin would mention—with a slight waver in her voice—that if her mother witnessed what we had just done she would not like me so much anymore.
Oh…about the Glory Stretch? The rarely seen No Man’s Land? Yup…

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Skinny Water Carp (i.e. Late Season)

As a fly fisherman I look forward to Autumn. Not because the aspens are changing up the canyon, or the Kokanee or the big browns running up the Dream Stream...but because the carp fishing is always at its best. There are several reason the local carp fishing will improve later in the season. The nights are getting cooler, thus the water temperature is steadily dropping. These cooler water temps mean less bug and critter activity...the bitty creatures are beginning to go dormant for longer periods of time every day. Less of this means carp are needing to hunt for food longer--so it is much more probable you will find hungry and vulnerable fish. Approach the mud flats cautiously and try to get as close to the wallowing carp as you can. (Proper colored clothing helps!) They will often be very easy to spot...because they will be up in water so shallow their backs will all be out of the water. But, cautious! You need to get in close and make a short, but accurate cast past them and twitch the fly past their nose. Keep your rod tip high so the leader doesn't touch their back!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

America Cup (Local Boys Represent!)


The America Cup is a 5-person 16-team, catch and release, fly fishing tournament with teams from around the world, to include teams from Poland, Ireland, Hungary, Japan and Australia. It is the 3rd largest Fips-Mouche style fly fishing tournament in the world with 80 Anglers competing for 3 days. The America Cup was held in the Colorado mountain town of Vail, CO. this September. The individual 1st Place winner was Rob Kolanda from Longmont. (Most of you likely have met Rob here at Rocky Mountain Anglers, where Rob worked for years!). And the individual 2nd Place was taken by Riley Cotter from Louisville! Riley works for Umpqua Feather Merchants. Both guys are local and good friends of mine, as well as recognizable faces here! So, I am proud as hell. You my boy, Blue!

See Results

Monday, September 26, 2011

How (And Why) to Tie a Furled Dubbing Loop

Furling fly tying materials is not necessarily a new or innovative technique . I have even seen fly tying books devoted entirely to the practice. I have even seen tiers making small leeches using twisted dubbing loops. But, the concept of creating a true worm using an extra long furled dubbing loop has never been fully explored. Until now! The biggest trick when doing one of these long worms is to have enough confidence in your tier's dexterity to set aside any dubbing spinners or other useless gadgets you were talked into buying. Most of us were born with ten of the best fly tying tools ever...sticking straight out of the ends of our arms. Yes, fingers. Learn to use them.

Use any strong thread. I prefer two strands of Danville's 3/0 waxed monocord. I double up the thread because I feel having two strands aids in the loop's ability to grip the dubbing material more than a single strand of thread twice as thick. Apply a liberal amount of dubbing wax onto the entire thread loop. The stickiness of the wax makes loading up a ton of dubbing into the loop much easier. Also, the wax greatly helps with retaining the dubbing in the worm once it is finished--reducing "shedding". Run the double-strand thread loop over just one finger (Preferably the index finger) of you non-dominate hand. Use the middle finger of that same hand to "close the gap" of the loop...this will hold the clumps of dubbing in place while you are stacking.

Once the entire loop is stacked with dubbing (long-fibered, natural dubbing is always best!) lick your fingers and begin twisting. Put as much twist in the thread as you possibly can without breaking the thread at the hook shank. If your dubbing loop is stacked thick, you may have to rake out some of the loose or wild dubbing every so often as you are twisting. You need as much twist as you can possibly get, because this is what allows it all to furl back over itself. If you have added a bit of yarn into the middle of the loop (to act as the "tip" of the worm once finished) then grab that and pull it back as though it were a bow string. Once the two sides are laying next to each other, give it a slight twist to encourage the furling to begin. You will have to help it along, but that is gives you the opportunity and control to give the worm an even color segmentation. If you are tying a fly such as a Cinder or Palolo, that do not have the need for a special "tip" then use the crook of your whip-finish tool to hook the twisted dubbing loop at the half-way point and pull it to the side.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lightning's Story

Written and contributed by Gus Tillinghast

Once there was a fish named Lightning. He was swimming with his friends when he passed a fly. " Oh yeah. Lunch time!" Then he bit it. Then it pulled him close to shore. " Oh darn! Fishermen!" But he was stronger. He pulled the other way. The fisherman fell into the water. Then Lightning slapped him in the face with his tail. Then he swam back to his friends. The next day he got ready for the Fish Olympics. It was the best thing of the year. Everyone went. Even the lazy dogfish went. Then it was time. The first activity was who could swim and jump the fastest and farthest. Lightning won first place for this event. The next one was the cutest baby contest. Lightning's mom and baby River were in this. They won too. The next was how many fishermen you could pull in. It was a tie between Lightning and Finn. The rest Lightning wasn't in. The next day he was messing with fishermen. The sixth time a guy was really strong. Then he got him! He was put into a huge cooler filled with water and other fish and his friends. Then he was taken to an aquarium. He was put into a tank with his friends and family. An hour later the aquarium opened. Then people put their ugly faces up to the glass. That night Lightning showed a trick to his family to swim and jump. Then he told them to jump from tank to tank until they got to the cooler at the exit. But first he made a baby carrier out of seaweed for River. Then they did it! The next morning they were taken back to their pond. They jumped out and swam back to their rock house.

Read More Stories From Gus!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Harelip Trout

Like children born to cracked out mothers or places in the hills back home where moonshine helps get ya knocked up as well as deal with the following seven to nine months…trout who live in streams frequented by careless or thoughtless fishermen bear the scars and deformations. So, put the shine down, big momma…and crimp your barbs jerks!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tombstone Shadow

Sure, it's sort of a no careful of your shadow. I mention this only because this is the time of year that a lack of shadow awareness can quickly ruin the day. The best fishing is often in the afternoon on a sunny day (the water has a chance to warm up a tad) but the water is low and the sun will be casting extra long shadows. Wear tan or khaki clothing-to blend in with the canyon rocks-and always pay attention to your shadow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Autumn on Boulder Creek

Autumn on Boulder Creek is such a great time...maybe the best! The trout are hungry and the water levels are low. Perfect fishing conditions. One suggestion, though...plan your fishing for later in the day. The nights are getting colder (dropping water temps) so the fish may not be very active in the mornings. Between 1pm and about 4:30 is the best time to be on Boulder Creek in the Fall. Trout will be looking up, so bring dries!

What are the best flies for Boulder Creek?

When are the best times to fish Boulder Creek?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fishing Anyone’s St. Vrain

There is a term used by fly fishermen from time to time—locals in town, mainly. “Like Boulder Creek...only wider and with larger trout.”  It is a standard point of reference. Like a standard, but vague unit of measure. A scosh. A few. A slog.  Sometimes it is South Boulder Creek or even the Big Thompson River that is the unit of measure. It depends on who the participants of the conversation are…and what exactly is being referenced or compared.
I have many favorite John Gierach stories. But the one I have re-read over the years far more than the rest is the one he wrote about his own yard stick, the St. Vrain—the home water that he and his fishing buddy A.K. Best had made famous during their heyday as trout bums. I’d Fish Anyone’s St. Vrain.
“A couple of years ago, just before leaving on what was shaping up, via long-distance telephone, to be a wild, rambling trip through Idaho and Montana, I told A.K. about a little stream a man had said he’d take me to—that is, if I could “spare a day amidst all the razzle-dazzle I had planned.” Without mentioning its name, the guy had described it as a fair-to-middling creek that didn’t hold any really big trout, but he said it was close to his home, real pretty, not too well known, and that he fished it a lot.”

“It won’t knock your socks off,” he’d said, “but I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“Sounds like the St. Vrain,” I said, and he [A.K.] replied, “I’d do it if I were you. I’d fish anyone’s St. Vrain.”
This story was my first real taste of what this part of Colorado was like. I fell in love with it from afar. I was a boy, then…staring out a endless acres of field-corn tassel and dreaming about these places out west with mountains, wild trout and trout streams so commonplace that some were simply driven over and forgotten about. Gierach writes this story about his home water, his own forgotten/ignored stream not as a fly fishing writer, but as a naturalist who also happens to carry a bamboo fly rod along with his binoculars, pen and pad of paper. He describes how, on this stream, he is more apt to get distracted from the trout fishing and end up wandering aimlessly into the woods—consumed by things found alongside a stream, not in them. Berries and owl pellets…wildflowers and mushrooms…and once, a mountain lion.
So, it is a bit odd, I suppose…that I have two St. Vrains in my life now. Not two branches of the same creek (the St. Vrain has three forks, actually) but My St. Vrain which is Middle Boulder Creek…and the Actual St. Vrain. I have my own very intimate relationship with Boulder Creek, and I, too, usually find myself picking up rocks and taking bites out of apples caught in the eddies rather than casting. I know where every fish lives…and I have met them all more than once. And I even have my own “mountain lion” story. Well…it was a black bear, actually (I fear the parallels to the stories and streams are beginning to get confusingly intertwined)…and I chased him up a tree with nothing more than a 3 weight rod.
But it is sometimes nice to venture up to the real St. Vrain—the other nondescript little creek that John had made so famous so long ago. It is not too far away and it has not changed at all. Or, I should say, it seems to be just the same stream…with just the same pools and runs…and with just the same amazing (but not gigantic) trout willing, more often than not, to rise to a dry fly.
And…coupled oddly with these beautiful traits of the stream is the lack of people. Even on weekends it can be wonderfully vacant. You are always happy to have a place like this to yourself—just you and maybe two of your closest friends—but you can’t help but smell the pan of eerie on the stove. Why are we the only ones here? You know it is not private land. Has everyone in Colorado mysteriously died from the time it took us to get from Boulder to here? The last time I felt this was years ago when a new lieutenant accidentally navigated our platoon into the heart of a 100 acre howitzer impact area. Quiet. Not a sign of life anywhere. Lots of big holes and misshapen pine trees, though.
Just when I come to believe we are truly the last fly fisherman left on the earth…I glance downstream and catch sight of an old man and what appears to be his grandson standing on the small wooden bridge I had passed under earlier. They are dressed simply and I see a glint of reflected light from a metal ferrule. Must be a bamboo fly rod… I wave and the old man nods and they vanish from sight.
Later, my buddy Greg pops his head out from the thick brush along the creek and says, “Hey! You’re never gonna believe who I just ran into!”


“The guy on the bridge…that was A.K. Best!”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ain't enough paper for the names I gotta mention...

And as long as I got lungs I'm a say this
Long as we got love, we got some that will hate us
We'll never change, it's done for the faithless
And I don't care for favourites on somebody's playlist
Ain't enough paper for the names I gotta mention
Without 'em, no way I would've made it a profession
I wouldn't trade it for a day of my obsession
We're staying dedicated to perfection

--Hill Top Hoods, Still Standing

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tip of the week

When you are fly fishing along a canyon attention!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fly Fishing the Seasons in Colorado

"The single most important factor that determines a fly angler’s approach to a stretch of water isn’t the time of day, nor is it a hatch of insects or even the character of the water itself. It’s the season. From spring and summer through fall and winter, changes in weather dictate changes in strategy. This can be intimidating. If fish were biting here a month ago, why are things so different now? Where to go where they might be better? The seasonal variation of fishing strategy is necessary knowledge for any fly angler, and Fly Fishing the Seasons: Colorado is the first-ever guidebook to address this subject."

Focusing on the world-class waters of the Centennial State, and with full-color photos throughout, this book comprises four equal sections—summer, fall, winter, and spring—each with a general locator map and each covering five to ten primary locations. The best waters to fish in this particular month or span of months? What flies and techniques to use? Look no further than Fly Fishing the Seasons: Colorado.

Pre-Order a Copy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Always Carry Some Clousers

The day was set. We both had the plan. Erin awoke early, ground coffee and began packing ice and snacks in the soft cooler. I rounded up some 6 weights and appropriate fly boxes. Today would be a carp day. Gonna hit the mudflats in the red canoe again. Some new flats this time…some that we had not been on yet this year. This reservoir is one we save for September—the Fall Flats, always a treat at the end of the season.
And we got there early enough to be the only ones on the water, yet not too early…the sun had plenty of time to start warming up the shallow flats and back bays. The critters had begun stirring and there were carp sleuthing about looking for food. Here we come…gliding silently into position, aiming and delivering a fly with smart bomb accuracy. Like an A-10 hunting tanks. OK…maybe we were just trying to be that good. Usually we were getting too close and spooking the carp, or banging the paddle on the side of the canoe (thus sending every fish within 40-yards scurrying for deep water) or simply dumping god-awful, sloppy casts in heaps on top of the unsuspecting carp…scaring the crap out of them. But, every now and again we would manage to do everything right. It always looks so dang good when everything works out. Fish…at one o’clock! Bam. Perfect cast. Strip. Strip. Right there! He’s on it! POW!

But that is carp fishing. Things are stacked against success. And when things are finally beginning to happen…the fish are active and the casts are improving…then the weather changes. Sometimes it isn’t something drastic, like a storm moving in, but something subtle. The wind picks up slightly, or more clouds block the sun…some small things to hinder your ability to see fish. Again, the nature of this type of fly fishing is stacked against success.

I looked at the sky and could tell the light was only going to get weirder. The wind was getting worse, the clouds thicker (and darker) and we were spooking fish long before we had a chance to spot them. I new our carp day was going to be prematurely over. So? What to do?
“Hey, Erin. Got any of those chartreuse Clouser Minnows you tied?”

She did. And we trolled around for two hours…me paddling and Erin holding two six-weights like Yosemite Sam. And we chased a young school of wiper around the lake—giggling with every hook-up. Yup…always carry some Clousers with ya! Never know when they will salvage the day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bait Dunkers Found Your Spot

The first thing you notice is the trash… 22oz Busch Light cans scattered everywhere. And, of course the worm container abandoned on the bank. The nightcrawlers lucky enough to be spared the day before are now being baked to death in the sun.
 Then you start tripping on loose mono fishing line strewn from place to place like some poorly constructed spider web. You grumble and cuss as you do your best to police up the mess. Bloody bait fishermen!
 Then you spy the fish heads. Laying on rocks. Guts tossed back into the clear water. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

A voice for small trout and home waters

I love small creeks and small trout. I have no shame. And I spend more time on Boulder Creek than any other trout stream.
I grew up reading dusty, old fishing literature where the author inevitably wrote the best and truest essays and anecdotes about their Home Water. As a child reader I always wished to have a worthy home water...some cozy creek or nondescript lake that no one else ever fished. But, the best I ever had was a cow pasture creek with little chubs or a farm pond with more cattails than water.
But, now I have Boulder Creek! I know it like I know the cracks in my trucks windshield! So, let me propose this: GET TO KNOW YOUR HOME WATER BETTER! You should know the pond or creek near your home better than anywhere. Take advantage of living in a place like this! Just could be living in Oklahoma!

Friday, September 9, 2011

3 Reasons to Catch & Release

The joy one gets from hooking, playing and landing a fine trout on a fly is enough to last a lifetime. The challenge, the spectacle…the achievement—even for seasoned and experienced anglers—that one good fish can make the day. So why kill the trout from your favorite stream or lake? Let it go. Let that same fish make someone else’s day. Let it make another life-long memory. To illustrate…I was looking through photos of trout caught by friends and family this year and made a starting discovery. I recognized one of the brown trout! No kidding! Three different times!

First time caught. June, 27th 2011 by Erin Block. Fell for a leech pattern! 

Second time caught. August 11th 2011 by Eva Zimmerman. Fell for a callibaetis emerger!

Third time caught. September 5th 2011 by me! Fell for a dark olive Curmudgeon Crumpler dry fly!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Last Minute Wader Repair

This is a gear review for the Loon UV wader repair. It was going to be another story about leaky waders and their never-ending inevitability…but ended up sounding like a late-night infomercial. So, I scraped the story and just went ahead and wrote the damn gear review. The product has been around for awhile, I just have never used it for its intended purposes. I always keep a collection of Loon UV activated paint and glues on my fly tying desk. I use the Knot Sense to coat midge pupa and scud backs…and create frog eyes and streamer heads. Even used it to repair a mailbox once—never a set of waders, though. Oh…I forgot! My fishing partner said…standing over a pile of her gear spread out on the kitchen floor. My waders have a big hole! So I sprung, all MacGyver-like into action…with high-speed blue UV light and everything. Patched the waders and my fishing partner stayed dry. I think she was fairly impressed, too. So, you know…thanks Loon Outdoors. I owe ya one!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Become A Professional Pick Pocket

The Colorado Front Range has a plethora of small to medium-sized rivers most of which are considered high gradient. What this all translates to is miles upon miles of pocket water. The faster you become proficient on this pocket water the better your fishing experience will become.
Limit yourself to short casts (sometimes no longer than your 9ft leader) don't linger too long at one pocket (a "pocket" is any small eddy or micro-run between rocks or fast water) but, most importantly, always plot a route upstream. You should be thinking three or four moves a chess game. Lay a couple good casts to the pockets immediately to your front and side, then wade into one of those pockets that you just fished. This gives you perfect positioning on a fresh set of untouched pockets. I can not stress enough how important proper positioning is for this type of fishing...far more than line mending or even fly selection! Mending fly line is usually a futile effort on skinny, high gradient water. Get in position, make your cast to the head of the pocket and keep your rod tip high! The more line and leader you can keep off the water the less chance of getting drag.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Free Wheelin’ (Last Days of Summer)

I slept in on purpose—a rarity anymore. Then I took my coffee and breakfast on top of a topo map spread out on the kitchen table. I had no plans. No obligations. No company. A full day to burn. The only plans I had at all, on this last day of August, was not to leave the mountains. There would be no cell reception or flat-land heat today. No people, traffic or bustle. Just canyon time. Me time.
 I have not lived here—in this cabin up in the mountains—for very long. Maybe a month. Give or take. But it is only a half-hour drive down the canyon road to Boulder…where I moved from. So my new surroundings are not completely foreign to me. I have driven up these roads and fished these streams countless times. Always had a place I was headed, though. Always a destination. Never just opened a map and took a stab. Or went where the coffee rings suggested. Until today…I live up here, now. I have the luxury of such deliberate indecision. Gonna go free wheelin’.
 Packed light. One tin of loose flies…dries, mainly. And my favorite 3 weight. Strung the rod, chose the fly and tossed the rig into the bed of my truck. Quick stop in for gas at the canyon “catch all” down the street. The vet clinic, liquor store and Post Office are all there, too. (I just needed a fill up…and some jerky.) Then back on the road. To a random, gravel pull off near the sound of rushing water. A new stretch of trout stream I have never seen before…one stretch among hundreds of stretches. And this one looks good. Mayflies are landing on me before I can make my first cast. Gonna be a good day…
 Gonna be a really good day. The water is still higher than it usually is this late in the season—even up at this altitude. So the wading is not simple. I risk serious mishap from time to time…and bash my shins. Gonna have welts and a limp in the morning. Oh well…’cause the trout are rising.