Monday, August 30, 2010

South Boulder Sallies

  South Boulder Creek is running low and clear these days. And the bugs are pouring off it like an assembly line. Fast fluttering bugs in the sunlight over the water and slashing surface strikes from the resident brown trout. Caddis mainly? Right? Or, I should say it looks like nothing but caddis flies from a distance. But, get closer…get ankle deep in the creek and take a better look. They will land on you. Crawl up your wader and dart into your open fly box like they’re shopping in a red light district. They have no fear. Little yellow sally stoneflies. About the size of your average caddis adult, but lower profile. And I swear they taste better than caddis…or should I have been leaving the culinary reviews to the trout? Either way, the brown trout seem to prefer them as well.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

State of the Union

  Union reservoir. I remember the glory days. Wasn’t all that long ago, really. A few of us could wade out off Dog Beach and almost expect to hook up a few good wiper. We would have to wait for the rumors to surface about them moving in close to corral shad…and the right weather, but it was reliable. And the carp fishing was about as good (i.e. easy) as you could find in the state. The carp fishing was so easy it was annoying. Myself and other hardnose carpers would be working tirelessly on flies and strategy, only to run into a Longmont carper…compare notes….and realize that while we are having to resort to sneaking around in camouflage and tying sparse, light weight carp flies, these chodes were drinking beer and catching good numbers of fish on big, chartreuse streamers. Like I said, friggin’ annoying. But the state of the Union has changed. I can’t remember the last wiper I’ve caught out there. There is an absolute TON of baitfish. Shad everywhere. But where are the wiper? I suspect we all know…every fly fisherman who has spent any time at Union can tell stories about the buckets of fish being removed by the “mussel” drowning, forked-stick crowd. Yeah, it’s depressing. But, on the bright side, the carp fishing out there has finally begun to be comparable to other local mud flats. The fish have become educated. Fly fishing for carp has gone mainstream. Most days you can see at least one or two carp crews out at Union. Some in fancy flats-style boats, others just pushing around an old johnboat with a makeshift pole. Kinda cool to see! And “real” carp flies like the Backstabber and Clouser Swimming Nymph are what you need to have in your fly box.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Reservoir

(I dug out this story from deep within my hard drive the other day. I had written it back when I lived in rural Ohio and was regularly bass fishing with one of my best friends from high school. I have paired the story with some recent photos from Russell Miller…from a very similar fishing trip a decade later.)

The reservoir is near perfect. It’s close to home, well hidden and few people know exactly where it is. It’s not tiny, but easily small enough to fish entirely in an afternoon by two driven individuals with fly rods and float tubes.
There are lots of fish. Most of them aren’t big, but there’s plenty of healthy one-to-three-pound largemouth bass. The bass there have this spunky, naive cockiness that makes you laugh and want to refer to them as friends, not combatants. It’s something about the way they strike a large fly and then jump over and over again—like a roped mustang that knows he’ll never be ridden. Something about the unbeaten, feisty look they give you when you’re holding them firmly by the bottom lip. Then the indignant splash in the face with the caudal fin when they’re released. And the water is always clear, so their black lateral markings are always dark, distinct and beautiful.
But, like most things perfect, pure or beautiful and within reach of man, the reservoir is slated for a few rounds of raping and defacing. I’m sure there will always be fish there, so it won’t be utter ruin, but their wonderful innocence will fade when the bulldozers come.
The township has owned the reservoir and the land around it for long enough to round up and say forever. But it has now been sold. The rumors, from those with both knowledge of the reservoir and of township politics, are that three local men went in on the venture together. Some are saying the three plan to divvy it up into a half-dozen smaller lots and make a killing in real estate.
With that in mind, Jason and I rationalized that trespassing would be, by comparison, almost innocent. And, after further thought, we figured sneaking back past the No Trespassing signs was our duty. We couldn’t justify not doing it – to ourselves, anyway. We had to do our part to preserve the reservoir, even if it was just saving the once fantastic fishing in our memory.
* * *
I had set the alarm clock to go off before light, but, although there is plenty of motivation to get up at the crack of dawn, it is Saturday morning, so it just doesn’t happen. The sun is already up by the time I load my rod, fishing vest and float tube into the truck and leave the apartment.
Two young whitetail deer bound across the road in front of me and stop in someone’s front lawn to look back at me. I slow down and the deer and I stare at each other as I glide by. Their red spring coats make them stand out vividly against the lush new greens around them. I notice one of them has velvet knobs on its head, the beginnings of his first set of antlers. They flip their tails as I pass and I watch in the rear view mirror and see them stripping leaves from a young ornamental tree. The homeowners are still in bed. The curtains are drawn.
Seeing the deer renews my enthusiasm to fish the reservoir. They make me feel fleet and a bit brazen…like a righteous outlaw. Like a whitetail on a front lawn. I drive on, only faster because I know Jason has probably been ready to go for better than an hour. I regret sleeping in.

* * *
Melissa comes to the door in pajamas when I knock.
“Jason up?” I ask.
“Come on in,” she says, still partially asleep. “He never came to bed last night. He was up messing with his flies.”
I see Jason sprawled out on the couch in shorts
and no shirt and his mouth is open and his eyes are closed. A stool is pulled up with a fly vise attached to it. Bags of hooks and feathers are everywhere. Some deer hair dragonflies are embedded in an arm of the couch.
Melissa leans over and shakes him awake.
“Is Jay here yet?” Jason mumbles.
“Yes, he’s standing right here,” she says.
He stands up quickly, staggers, and then starts picking out assorted fishing gear from the mess he has made on the living room floor.
“How long ya been here?” he asks.
“Just walked in. Just woke up myself.” I rub my eyes and yawn. “We can do this later in the day if you want.”
“Hell no,” he says.
We discuss strategy once Jason has all his gear in my truck. Not fishing strategy, evasion strategy. The plan we cook goes something like this: drive out to Jason’s parents’ farm and drop him off so he can get his 4-wheeler. From there I’ll drive the mile or two out to the reservoir and stash our float tubes and flippers. There’s a house right at the entrance of the gravel lane going back to the reservoir. The lady who lives there is the self-appointed guardian. She’ll call the sheriff if anything seems fishy… Once I have the tubes dropped off, I’ll quick drive back out past the house and meet Jason back at the farm. We’ll wait there for a while, until we feel everything has settled down. The lady might see my truck come and go and think it doesn’t warrant a call for the law. If she calls anyway, there won’t be anything to find. The coast will be clear. That’s when we make our move. Jason and I will come in the back way, along edges of fields and down deer trails on the 4-wheeler – brandishing fly rods. If we need to make a getaway, we’ll hide the float tubes again and take off on the 4-wheeler. We’re untouchable. Sneaky like a coon on a chicken farm.
* * *
“No sign of anybody back there, huh?” Jason asks.
“Nope.” I fiddle with a piece of straw from the floor of the barn. “No people. No tracks. I bet it ain’t been fished all summer.”
The first part of the plan worked. I got the tubes and flippers stashed behind a brush pile with leaves and branches draped over top of them. Now there’s nothing to do but wait. So far, so good.
Jason looks out the open barn door and flicks a wadded up piece of straw in the general direction of his dads’ cows. “How was the water?” he asks.
“Good. Really clear.”
We stand and look out the barn door some more.
“My dad can’t plant anything straight,” Jason says.
I follow his gaze out past the cattle, out
to the wheat field. The crop is thick and vibrant. It ripples slightly with the light morning breeze, like nervous water on the surface of a calm pond.
“Looks like a drunk man planted it. It’s bad. Look at it!” He flicks another piece of straw out the barn door. “With wheat you can really tell, too. You can still see it’s crooked. You can see where the planter went. It looks like he just let go of the wheel…looked back and let the tractor go wherever. Oh, man. Big gaps. He missed three…four foot wide gaps.”
I nod my head and wonder how the fishing will be.
“Looks like dog shit,” Jason says.
“whatta ya think?” I glance at Jason. He’s still peering out at the wheat field. “Think it’s safe to go back yet?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “It’s your call.”
* * *
We drive in slow, in first gear. The four-wheeler is still too loud, so we stop occasionally in the tall, wet grasses and listen for voices or engine noises. Once we’re close enough and can see
reflection from the water through the trees I dismount the four-wheeler and recon up ahead. I used to do this sort of thing back when I was in the service. It was the fun part of the Army…the part I was good at. A young sheriff’s deputy doesn’t stand a chance at getting the jump on me today.
I approach the reservoir from one of the wooded sides, so I can’t get a great view of the entire bank. But I’m concealed by a grove of poplar, sumac and maple, with a good view of the other side—the side where our gear is stashed and where the gravel lane connects us and the reservoir to the road, civilization and the law. There is nobody here. Everything is just as serene as it was an hour or so ago. There is very little evidence of people back here…even old sign. No trash, no tracks, no fire pits. But at the far corner, near the one good stand of cattails, is an old, dilapidated outbuilding. It’s a prefabricated steel hut and the door is left open. On its’ floor lies a dirty yellow life preserver covered with bits and pieces fallen from the rotted shelving and drop ceiling. At the edge of the water near this building is a concrete drain. From a distance it looks like the remains of an old dock. There is a single metal picket post sticking out of the water at an angle with a sunken fiberglass dinghy lashed to it. The water is so clear that if viewed from above, you might not realize the boat is on the bottom.

I turn to motion the All Clear to Jason, but see he is already off the four-wheeler and headed toward me with our fly rods. The four-wheeler is parked for a fast departure—facing the way we came. I give a thumbs up. And a grin. The reservoir is ours.
“Where’d you leave our shit?”
I nod in the direction of the other side.
* * *
Putting flippers on your feet while on dry land, then waddling over to an inflated doughnut of a float tube, climbing in, strapping yourself down and then trying to get into the water has got to be one of the most uncoordinated, clumsy things I’ve ever attempted. Barring a certain drunken late-night episode on a trampoline that I’m still struggling to erase from my memory. And I’m sure she is too.
I can’t help but feel silly, even though the only person who can see me is a good friend who is struggling into the same sort of contraption. But everything changes once we’re free floating and in water deep enough not to touch bottom and risk getting feet and flippers lost in the mud. Now I feel as graceful and commanding as a big goose on a duck pond. I can move in any direction with the slightest kick, I can spin all the way around without falling down. And my face is close enough to the surface of the water to give my mind the illusion of swimming.
Jason kicks out next to me and then we drift slowly apart—intent on getting rigged to fish. We’ll be tying on the same thing: a Krystowski Minnow. We tie them in various sizes and colors, but the one I fish the most is about two or three inches of black, chartreuse and white Icelandic sheep hair from the Erie Outfitters fly shop. I tie them on size 1 stinger hooks with small, painted lead eyes—tied so the hook bend rides up and makes it less prone to snagging weeds. I tie all the sheep hair in right behind the lead eyes and use the butt ends of the black hair (which I put on last) to wrap a few times around the eyes to give it sort of a bulky head. The sheep hair undulates through the water and makes it look alive. The white eyes with round black pupils make it look scared shitless…which makes bass a bit nuts.
I hook my first fish before I’m ready. I’m stripping line off the reel and kicking out away from the bank. The bass takes my fly, but there’s too much slack line out on the water for me to set the hook, so I promptly lose him. I look over to see if Jason has seen what has just happened. He has.
“I wasn’t ready yet.”
He nods. Then his fly line jerks and he raises his rod tip, setting the hook firmly. “Whoa!” he says.
I quick get my line under control and make a short cast back to the edge where we entered the water. Jason’s bass jumps twice, barely reentering the water before coming back up. I hear him laugh. I strip my own line back toward me as fast as I can, making the Krystowski Minnow dart through the clear reservoir like a panicked bluegill. And a bass strikes it hard enough to make a swirl on the surface of the water and yank line out of my hand. “Whoa! Shit!” I say and set the hook proper into this one.
The bass keep hitting at a feverish pitch. Hitting hard, too, and jumping. We have one on every third or fourth cast. Most times we’re fighting fish at the same time. We quick release them and position ourselves for another cast. I’m so cranked up I’m close to hyperventilating, but neither one of us dares slow down. We know this action can’t last. It’s crazy.
But it never lets up. After two hours we have each caught and released over three dozen largemouth bass, most over twelve inches and some around sixteen inches. We’re working our way around the edge of the reservoir, leapfrogging each other down the bank in our float tubes. The action doesn’t slow down, but we do. Our arms are tired from casting and then frantically stripping in line. I decide to slow down my retrieve, but then get even lazier and just leave my line out and troll. I’m giving my legs a workout, but resting my arms. My fly sinks deeper because I’m kicking along slower than I was retrieving, but there’s obviously plenty of bass down deep as well. I’m still getting hook ups.
I see Jason has taken a different approach. It looks like he has gone with something top water. That way he can cast and rest. I cruise past him to see what sort of fly he’s using. I get close enough to see for myself, without asking. It’s a grasshopper pattern with a clipped deer hair head. A good-sized bass swirls and takes the fly as I’m watching. Jason lifts his rod fast and snaps his four-pound tippet.
“Damn,” he says. “Got too excited!”
By this time we have both caught enough fish. Losing one, even if it is a good one, is hardly a disappointment.
Then we hear gravel crunching. Gravel under tires. We freeze. Jason lets a back cast fall to the water behind him and I stop kicking with my flippers. Deer in headlights.
A black SUV rounds the final bend in the gravel lane and comes to a halt at the edge of the reservoir. We can’t see inside, but the tinted drivers-side window glares at us. Jason and I stare back. We’re prepared for this…but we do nothing. Suddenly the vehicle is put in reverse and turned around and then it is gone in a cloud of gravel dust.
“That was her,” Jason says.
My arms are numb and my heart is racing.
“Yup,” I say. Then I finish my retrieve. And a bass hits. I hold my rod high and the fish leaps, spraying water back at me. I cackle loudly. Jason hoots. No sense in being sneaky now. We’ve been compromised. The law is in route, no doubt.
I let the bass go and look over at Jason. “So…whatta we do?”
“Well,” he says as he winds in his fly line. “I hate to leave.” He looks at me and arches his eyebrows to express the importance of what he is about to say. “But we sorta have to!”
* * *
We kick to shore and climb out of our float tubes with a strange sense of calm urgency. We know we don’t have much time, but we know we have enough. I drag all of our bulky gear back behind the brush pile were I had hidden it all before and cover it with dead leaves and branches. By now Jason has located the four-wheeler and gotten it started. I take only my fly rod and fishing vest with me.
I climb onto the back of the four-wheeler with Jason and we beat feet, move out, di di mau…vacate the area at a high rate of speed.
Somewhere near the middle of a large, overgrown field we cut the engine and hunker down. The grasses and weeds are tall enough to completely conceal the four-wheeler, and once we are down beside it we have all but vanished without an easily noticeable trace.
“Damn. Was that some hot fishin’ or what?” I say as more of a testament than a question.
“Yeah,” Jason says. “Too bad ya can’t write about it.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

Leeches, baby!

Hot August evenings…the urge to just leave the bulky chest waders at home and wet wade is almost too much to bear. You can get away with it easily in any of the local trout streams, in fact I recommend it. You can move around easier without waders. Get in position to get just the right drift. Most fly shops sell a wet-wading sock that allows you to use the same, good Simms wading boots you normally wear with your full waders. They are thick neoprene just like the feet of most stockingfoot waders. And they are only about $30. But thing hard about the consequences before you step into any bass ponds with exposed flesh! They will find you…and get you!
(A trick I have found is to buy a big box of cheep women’s knee-high stockings…your buddies will call you a cross dresser, but they are inexpensive enough to be disposable and make it harder for leeches to adhere to your ankles.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dog Day Bass

Bass feed quite heavily in August when the water is the warmest of the year. Bass consume the majority of their food during this time, this is when they grow the most and have to keep up with their heightened metabolism (remember, fish are cold blooded). But they will concentrate feeding to very select times of day. The best times to fish will be at dawn, dusk or at night. During these periods of hot weather, bass will hang in loose schools along deep weed lines or other structure. They will move into shallow water to feed in mornings, evenings or other low light conditions. But this time of year also brings very low water levels in most of the lakes here in Colorado, coupled with heavy weed and algae growth. This can seriously hinder fishing. Because of the bright conditions bass will hold tight to cover, staying well entwined in the underwater maze of vegetation. It is often impossible to get your fly in front of a bass, and if you do it is usually completely wrapped in slimy, green gunk.

So, be persistent...and vigilante with cleaning off your fly (sometimes after every cast) and concentrate your efforts at the best times of day and you my catch some of your best bass of the year!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Colorado Carp Girls

More and more women take up fly fishing every year. Companies like Patagonia and Fishpond have noticed this trend years ago...hence the ever widening selection of female specific waders, boots and vests. No longer do women get asked "Are you shopping for a gift?" when they walk into a fly shop. No longer can you assume the young gal on the creek is just there to keep an eye on her husband. She is very likely there on her own...and there is a possibility she knows the creek better than you. There is an ever growing number of women who have mastered fly fishing to such a degree that they are now working summers as fishing guides,chasing more challenging or exotic fish species (like carp) or just devoting the bulk of their best years toward the never ending pursuit of the next big grip & grin!

Is there anything better than that?

Grassies on Demand (Fly Fishing for Grass Carp!)

I made the comment last fall that I would love to get some big grass carp on film. Don Bousquet said, “I got the spot.”
Oh yeah? Big grassies on demand? They ain’t easy ya know…
“Yeah, whatever,” Don assured me. “I’ll call you in the spring.”
So I got the call and met Don and Gregg Friedman at 7:00 in the morning along some random back road. They were stringing up rods and fussing with a drift boat when I arrived and there was a rising sense of urgency as the wind was beginning to pick up.
A quick plan was formed…Don and Gregg would launch the boat and I would sneak around the bank of the lake with my video equipment. I would do my best not to spook any carp and wait to see what transpired.
Well…the wind got worse, something that would normally dissuade a serious carp fisher, but not these guys. One would stand up on the casting platform taking long shots with a #6 Backstabber at carp in the wind as the other stood crotch deep in the water holding the stern of the drift boat and slowly positioning it for the other to get a better shot at the next carp. It was fun to watch. And they hooked up often…and the reel screaming, dripping grip and grins and high fives made awesome footage.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Krystowski Minnow

The Krystowski Minnow is one of my early original fly designs. I began tying this fly long before I was part of the fly fishing industry and a contract fly designer. It was at a point in my life when I had very limited time to spend behind a vise and, more influentially, when I had very little money to spend on tying material. I needed an all-purpose baitfish streamer that I could use for every occasion. I could not afford to have multiple fly boxes for every species of fish, but I was fishing everywhere and often. I needed a fly for river smallmouth, farm pond largemouth, Spring steelhead, Fall browns, wiper, walleye and northern pike. If I had a handful of Krystowski Minnows in my box I was all set. The fly needed to be cheap to tie, fast to tie and never fall apart...even after being chewed on by northern pike. I have old fishing buddies back in my home town who fish this fly over everything else. The fly is named after a family in northern Ohio who owned a small bass pond and would let me fish and invite me in for dinner. The earliest prototypes of this fly were fished in their pond.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In Neck Deep: Stories from a fisherman.

"Here is an unusual coming-of-age memoir of a young man passionate about fishing. From a northern Ohio boyhood, through four years in the military, to a season on Kodiak Island, Jay Zimmerman's growing through life's awkwardnesses are revealing, and realistic. Most startling are his stories of his time in the service. The best passages call to mind a blue collar, Midwest Norman MacLean,"--Ken Waldman, author of Nome Poems and To Live on this Earth

"There are moments of Zen clarity in these stories of Jay Zimmerman's fishing journey toward selfhood, and thank goodness, for they counterbalance moments of great uncertainty and intemperateness, nearly always refocused by the presence of creeks, rivers, oceans, and lakes. From Panama to Alaska and back to the Heartlands, the author finds in fishing and fish and the art of fly-tying a way to find his path into love and life. Think of Melville's Ishmael, reborn as a culture-shocked ex-paratrooper, struggling for meaning and accommodation in these contemporary chronicles of water, wildness, and meditation. This is a fine first book by a writer who has emerged."--Richard Hague, author of Alive in Hard Country

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Chironomid Solution

Rarely will you hear midges or chironomids brought up in a conversation about carp fishing. It is well known among carp fishermen that these fish are willing to eat just about anything. This is why they can survive almost anywhere and be hard to take advantage of. I prefer to use carp flies that mimic larger prey, such as crayfish and leeches. This choice in fly selection has to do a lot with my approach to carp fishing. I like to cover as much water as possible, hunting the more active and hungry fish. I love sight casting to a carp that is more likely to turn and pounce on a fly. But, as Mick Jagger says at least twice a day on the classic vinyl station, you can’t always get what ya want. So, the situation we ran into out at one of my local carp lakes called for some innovative strategy. We were seeing tons of fish near the surface and getting our fair share of shots at cruising carp, but most of them were congregating in large packs just in the outer limits of our casting range. I could get a fly out to them, but it would usually spook them all. As a last resort, we rigged a dry and dropper set-up with a Yankee Buzzer chironomid pupa as the bottom fly. It worked within seconds. The fight, however, lasted much longer. Should have used heavier tippet…

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Trick/Old Trick

There was a time not that long ago when there were only two flies to choose from…and they were not a Humpy and a Copper John. Most fly boxes (or wallets, I think) were full of wet flies—some beautifully ordained with hard-to-find furs and feathers from now endangered birds—and maybe one row of “greased” dry flies. That was it…wet or dry. Then we fly fishermen entered the self-imposed era of over-thinking everything. We now have nymphs, pupa, larva, stillborns, cripples, duns, spinners…and every single momentary stage of life of every single insect to ever fly or crawl less than 40 miles from a body of water that once was known to hold trout. Yeah, I’m poking fun at all of you…and myself. Hell, mainly myself. I’m the one who spends every night hovering cross-eyed over a sweat-tarnished Renzetti thinking I can revolutionize the fly fishing industry. Whatever…the point I’m trying to build to is that we may have gotten too carried away with detailed perfection in the flies we use. We have fallen into a wax-museum mentality. These flies look sweet on the cover of Fly Tier magazine, but look stiff and robotic while drifting down a trout stream. Trout, I have found, are more impressed with a bug that looks alive than with one that has a painted-on sphincter and exactly six elbows.
So, it is an old trick that I propose trying the next time you are on the water. It is deep into caddis season and there are few flies that can mimic the shape and movement of an emerging natural than the ironically named New Trick soft hackled wet fly.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fall River Triple Threat

Richard Vann (a friend from Lafayette, CO) stopped into the shop and said he was headed up to fish the Fall River in the Rocky Mountain Natianal Park.

I asked him to send me a, guess the fishing was good! Caught plenty of fish. Got cuts, browns and brookies and never saw another fisherman!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tip of the Week

Never over commit to netting a fish!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Best Eight Weeks to Fish Boulder Creek

As a result of many years of fishing Boulder Creek and extensive record keeping (See Findings) I have come up with what I believe to be three "windows of opportunity". These are the best times to be fishing.


(Last week of March thru first week of April)
Wait for the water temperature to get above 46 degrees and the flow around 20 cubic feet per second—this usually happens in the last week of March. This period is over after the first week of April when the water temperature reaches 50 degrees, but the flows have jumped up past 50 cubic feet per second.
PRIME TIME—4 weeks
(Mid-August thru mid-September)
The stream flow peeks around mid-July (anywhere from 300cfs to 600cfs) but begins dropping very fast. Wait until the flow stabilizes in the 20-35cfs range (usually mid-August). At this point in time the water temperature has peeked at about 65 degrees, but will begin steadily dropping—this triggers small, green apples to drop from the trees into the creek, and heightened trout feeding activity. This cuts off sharply as soon as the water temperature drops below 50 degrees (usually by mid-September).
The “prime time” fishing can be extended by following the 50 degree mark down the canyon, much like one would follow an insect hatch. The farther down stream you go the warmer the water.
(Last two weeks of October)
By mid-October the Brown Trout are just finishing their spawning and have already become well adjusted to the colder water temperature (40-48 degrees). They are ready for one last massive feeding binge before winter. The stream flow remains stable (preferably in the 25-35cfs range) and on sunny days the water temperature will increase by 5 degrees from morning to afternoon. This makes the afternoons () the best time to fish.
Once the water temperature drops and stays below 40 degrees the trout slow down into their winter mode. This usually happens at the very end of October or beginning of November.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fall River Revisited

The Fall River is more of a creek, really. You can get there easily from the North entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park and the
Old Fall River Road
follows it almost entirely. You all have seen it (probably when you were looking for a place to park on the way to fish the Roaring River) and there is a good chance you have accidentally even fished it. As streams in the Park go it may be the Rodney Dangerfield—it gets no respect and gets no attention. I know that it is quirky enough to withstand me “hot spotting” it in this blog. The water is as clear and the gradient is much lower than most of the other streams in the area. And, although the meadow stretch is long, awesome and beautiful the headwaters are where I have always spent most of my time. It twists and turns, has old beaver dams and is thick with rod-high trees and brush. Every time I fish the upper stretches I am reminded of an old Richard Brautigan story were he describes the act of fishing one of these tight small streams as fishing in a row of 12,845 telephone booths.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Careful Whatcha Wipe With

I know you don’t think of yourself as a cheechako. Hell, ya probably think it’s some sorta new Latino gang terminology. It ain’t. You moved out here to Colorado from San Diego or some suburb in the Midwest and now you tell all your old friends back home that you like to “rough it” now that you live “out west” or “in the mountains”. Reality check, Hickok, you are neither a cowboy nor a mountain man. You now live in a larger suburb than you came from originally…and you like the night life in college towns like Boulder and Ft. Collins and you still smuggle your own grass and granola into no-name jam band concerts at Red Rocks. Just because you have somehow managed to survive a handful of overnight fly fishing ventures into the Rocky Mountain National Park does not mean you are a hardcore outdoorsman and ready to start running a trap line in the Yukon. In reality, you are about one hiking trip away from wiping your ass with the wrong leaves.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Carp Gear

I talk constantly about the strategies and tactics surrounding carp fishing. I do this because there is so much to talk about, yet so much poor advice and misinformation blowing around. I get so carried away with water levels and fish behavior that I tend to ignore the basics…the gear you need to increase your odds of success. So, here we go…I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the best equipment for fly fishing for carp. Keep in mind; I focus primarily on lakes and reservoirs here on the Front Range of Colorado.

Rod: I like a lightweight, yet powerful 9 foot 6 weight fly rod with a soft tip. I want a good mix of accuracy and muscle. On any given carp flat you will be expected to make multiple precise casts from pointblank range to 80 foot bombs off the top of a dam. Although I will often drop down to a 5 weight when the light is bad or the water is too off color to see into the water far enough to make long casts necessary. I will, however, never take out a rod heavier than a 6 weight. In fact, some modern 6 weights are too stiff so make practical carp rods. You are much more likely to be faced with nothing but very short shots that need to be very quick and super accurate. You just can’t do that with a heavy rod. (Favorite Rod: Sage Z-Axis)
Reel: I want a lightweight fly reel with a big arbor and smooth drag. Duh. Who doesn’t want that in a reel? (Favorite Reel: Bauer Rogue)
Fly Line: I use only one type of fly line…a weight forward floating line. But there are a ton of makes and models of fly line fitting this description hanging from pegs at your local fly shop. I have cast almost all of them. The biggest problem with most of them is over-weighting. It might read “6 weight” on the bottom corner of the cardboard box, but in many cases it is really more like a 6 ½ weight. I think too many fly line companies are making aggressively weighted fly lines because too many rookie fly fishermen are buying high end rods that are too fast for their level of casting skills. Overly weighted lines will help load a stiff rod, or dampen it, so that a bad caster can still get a fly out from under their boot. The problem is these overweighed lines land sloppy and hard on still water. Carp aren’t as dumb as trout…this will spook them! (Favorite Line: Scientific Angler’s Expert Distance) If you can’t cast stay on your nearest tailwater and leave my carp alone.
Leader: I use what amounts to a 9 ½ foot 3x leader. I start with a 9 foot 2x tapered leader, trim off a foot of the tippet and then add a foot and a half of 3x fluorocarbon tippet. I need the fluorocarbon is so much more abrasion resistant than nylon or mono. Even the tiniest nick or abrasion will spell doom with a heavy carp and a hard strip hook set.
Flies: I take a couple hundred carp every year and I use only one fly—the Backstabber carp fly from Umpqua Feather Merchants. I prefer the darker colors. Look for the new dark olive Backstabber in the 2011 Umpqua catalog!