Monday, May 30, 2011

Gonna Miss You, Brother

Thank you for all those hours of conversation. Thank you for your stories. Thank you for the big-ass bails of dubbing you used to give Rob and me. No one will ever make black leech dubbing as good as you. I have two small packs left. Gonna tie some PIMP leeches with it for this summer. Gonna use every last clump. Gonna use nothin' lighter than 1x and gonna catch a hundred friggen' trout. Shane Stalcup...gonna miss ya, brother.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Boulder Creek Fishing Report

Big water season is here. Runoff has started. Blaaah. The Big Thompson has breeched 300cfs two days ago, the Poudre is raging, South Boulder is over 250cfs and Clear Creek…well, a bit of an oxymoron. But good ol’ Boulder Creek is still holding her own! The only game in town, actually. The flows lower in the canyon and in town Boulder have been fairly steady the last few days at about 65 cubic feet per second. This means you will have to be a confident wader to fish the creek properly and need to be willing to remove your strike indicator and high-stick a pair of heavy nymphs.

Cody Burgdorff and I spent a few hours on Boulder Creek yesterday afternoon. The current was swift and a tad off-color…just the right concoction to scare away the feeble-kneed and fair-water types. We fished for almost four hours and never saw another fisherman. Excellent. Just the way we prefer it!

I fished a set of big Banksia Bugs on a 4x leader…and took plenty of fish. Cody used a variety of big nymphs, to include Girdle Bugs, Czech Nymphs and big Hair’s Ears. They all took trout—almost at will. There were size 18 Blue-Winged Olives hatching periodically all day, but it was the larger crane fly larvae and stonefly nymphs that the local browns were pouncing on. With the escalated flows and slightly dirty water, these juicy morsels get swept out from under their rocks. They are bigger and fatter than little BWO nymphs…easier to see.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rainy Day Carp

Rainy day carp don't eat, they just watch ‘till they've seen all the flies you've got. (No...wait, that’s not how the Gordon Lightfoot lyrics go.) Sometimes carp will take a fly even in the least likely conditions. You just never know. If fishing in the rain is your only option, then ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
Yes—this spring has been one of the more torturous for me in a long, long time. (Well…as far as my days off corresponding with decent weather, that is—everything else has been almost oddly spectacular.) The weather, however…complete shit. I have been spending five days a week in the fly shop talking to other fishermen, offering opinions on rods and wading boots, selling flies hand over fist and occasionally glancing out the big windows overlooking Boulder and the foothills. Beautiful, sunny days…every one of the five days. Then I have two off—and the bowels of windy, cold and drizzling fly-fishing hell open up and engulf my weekend. It has made for some great Blue-Winged Olive hatches on the local streams, but I am a carp head at heart. I day dream of big tails flopping out of the mirror-smooth water like the dead man’s hand at the end of Deliverance. I fantasize at night about hot sun on endless mudflats. If I was a rich man I suppose I would roll in a nicer truck and spend my winters in places like Belize and the Bahamas. But I ain’t. Forget the champagne. Crack the seal of a Miller High Life…and tie carp flies on a rainy spring day.
And then, I could not take it anymore. My last day off was another miserable mess. Cold, muddy and raining—like March in the Mid-West. I had to do what I could to find feeding carp. I joined up with my friend, Cody (who just graduated from high school!) and we went on the hunt. The conditions were the worst…cool water with nearly zero viability… But we had one thing going for us: the public park we went to was vacant of people—too rotten for the fair-weather types. So, the carp that were normally skittish during the day (because of the kids and dogs and joggers bouncing about on shore) were in close and shallow. They were not overly active…but we were able to get flies in front of a few.

                                                 And, wadda ya know…

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What WON'T eat a crayfish?

I can not think of a single freshwater game fish that won't eat a crayfish. The biggest brown trout in Boulder Creek, both large and small mouth bass, northern pike, wiper and carp. Often an injured, or startled crayfish is the biggest and easiest meal a fish can get. Two great fly patterns are Dave Whitlock's "Near Nuff" and Patrick Knackendoffel's "Mud Slider".

Both of these flies are tied heavy and with weight properly adjusted to keep the hook point riding up. This allows the fly to be fished slow and on the bottom without snagging easily.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Northern pike...get out of bed early!

As the spring wears on the local pike fishing will remain good...but it becomes more and more important that you get up early. The best fishing will almost always be in the first couple hours of daylight. The pike will be in very close to shore, in shallow water in coves and along thick walls of cattails. I will carefully push through the thick cattails until I have just enough access to the water to make a short cast, then flip the fly out right in front of me and give it a couple quick jerks. Often there is a pike right there and there is a good chance of a strike that would have been spoiled if I had rushed out into the open. Only once I have tested the water right in front of me will I move out of the cattails. The next two casts will be longer ones down each bank. Then I will begin fan casting in all directions. In the lower elevation pike lakes the water temps can start to raise quickly after the sun is up for a few hours...this will often push the larger pike out to deeper water. Also, with a lake that receives a lot of fishing pressure the pike will begin retreating to the depths after a few clumsy fishermen slosh by. So, again, get there early!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

John Gierach Book Signing (May 28th)

No Shortage of Good Days at Rocky Mountain Anglers!
I discovered John Gierach when I was a teenager. I found a beat-up copy of Trout Bum in a cardboard box of fishing books stacked at one end of a sagging yellow couch in a cabin somewhere in Western Pennsylvania. I had been invited out to the cabin for a week of trout fishing with friends from school. I was full of young enthusiasm about the trip, as well as the still fairly new discovery of fly fishing. I had no friends that fly fished, and no local shops to help me acclimate. The friends who invited me to PA were bait fishermen—so I was hungry to enter any fly shop we passed, or peer at other fly fishermen I saw in the river. What were they doing? What kind of flies were they using? But the guy in the fly shop did his best to ignore me. (Didn’t help matters any that I was a kid…and those with me were asking if he sold meal worms.) And the guys on the river had no time for a scruffy kid in soggy gym shoes, even if he did have a fly rod. But, Mr. Gierach had the time. And he spoke the language I wanted to hear. He told wry stories of this place called Colorado and adventure stories on his home stream…the St. Vrain. It all seemed so foreign, mystical and far away. Because of these stories I fell forever in love with this sport. Not the way a conniving businessman “loves” his hot mistress on the other side of town—but a permanent, life-altering love. A passion. I left my hometown because of his stories. I quit lucrative jobs because of his stories. I ended a marriage because of his stories. I moved from state to state in search of something because of his stories. I became a writer because of his stories. I let everything not related to fly fishing in my life wither away on the vine…because of the stories of this grey-bearded man from Colorado.

Fast forward many, many years and miles and heartaches later…I was a working guide, instructor, fly designer and had even published my own book of fly fishing essays. I was having a few cold beers at a bar in Longmont, Colorado (on the bank of the St. Vrain, mind you!). There was an NFL playoff game on the big-screen TV above the bar. I was havin’ a good time…had just got off work at a local fly shop. I spin around on my stool to head for the latrine. And I run smack into John Gierach. I recognized him right off from dozens of inside dust cover photos.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m a big fan.”
“Thanks,” he said.
Then I took a piss. Can’t remember who won the football game.

I am lucky enough to know John better now. He hangs out at our shop from time to time. We talk flies and writing…women and life. But I have never told him how bad he has wrecked my life—because I think he already knows. If you have never had the chance to meet John Gierach, he will be here at Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder (303-447-2400) selling, signing and talking about his newest book No Shortage of Good Days. Sat. May 28th. From 11:00am 'till 1:00pm...and yes, there will be food grilling in the back!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blossoms, Bass & Bellyaches

Mid May…it has not been a long winter here in Colorado, but it sure has been a drawn-out and suppressed spring. Driving to work in the mornings you can look along the road and almost feel summer trying to burst out of the flora like highly compressed acetylene. It is a cool and overcast Sunday…and everything is ready to pop!

The water temperature in most of the old gravel pits is hovering right about 57 degrees. It is cool and the sun is covered in a light grey frosting. The clarity is vodka in an ill-light bar. Baby bluegill scurry at any movement. The bass are lurking…and feeding!

A Bellyache Minnow swims by—wide eyed and scared! Darting, trying so hard to get back to the sanctuary of the newly formed beds of algae. TOO LATE! Ambushed by the hungry bass! Swallowed whole. Devoured. POW! But it was a trick! Straining hard on 3x tippet and limber fly rod…GOTCHA!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two Bit Hookers (Hard To Hide From Family?)

This is the letter written to Fly Fisherman full.

"Yesterday, I was reading the Feb.-March issue, and on page 54 saw some good-looking flies. The name Two Bit Hooker bugged me, but it really hit home when my 10-year-old daughter asked me “Daddy, what’s a hooker?” I wasn’t ready to have this conversation, but I told her. She said, “That’s scary. Why did they name a fly after a hooker?”  I had no answer, except to say that someone thought it was funny. This is poor taste; and reflects something very ugly. It is not funny. I ask the editors, and the fly’s creator Charlie Craven, to do a bit of reflection. Are you married? Do you have daughters? Students? I do. Do you go around telling dirty jokes? I don’t. I entered adulthood years ago. Please clean up your thoughts, deeds, and actions, from the inside. Jokes like this make us look like boorish idiots." ~ Todd Harper, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The Dirty Little Whore: See Nude Photos! Click Here!

Windknots asks: "My question to readers is this. Was this a breach of good taste?  Should a fly tier or fly fishing magazine be held to someone's standards to make up for a parent's lack of common sense and responsibility?" Follow the discussion.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Boat Fly Boxes

Spinney and Antero reservoirs have been open and fishing very well in the past couple weeks. Many of you have been out to one or the other and done well...or are planning a trip to your favorite lake soon. If you make a habit of lake fishing from a boat I highly recommend putting together a lake specific trout box to carry in your boat. Some time ago I observed Rob Kolanda organizing his boat box in preparation for another fly fishing competition...and I had to snap a couple photos. Impressive fly box! Here at the shop (Rocky Mountain Anglers) we have a good assortment of large boat fly boxes as well as a ton of good lake flies, to include many of Robs own patterns such as the Pandemic and BTS series.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pegged Beads (And My Turmoil About Them)

This is a sensitive subject—the fly-fishing version of bringing up politics at a mixed family barbecue, or religion at the pub. The pegged egg. If you have no idea what I am talking about (congratulations!) you need not read any farther. Go about your day…and the rest of your enjoyable fishing life. But, if you know exactly what I am talking about, well…you most likely have an opinion on the subject. Probably a fairly strong, well-entrenched opinion. For those not in the know and not following my advise to look away…here is the low down. “Pegging an egg” is taking a plastic bead the size and color of a trout or salmon egg, threading it onto your leader and pegging it into place with a sliver of wooden toothpick—then tying on a bare hook. The idea is that the fish eats the “egg” and the act of setting the hook dislodges the pegged bead and slides the bare hook into the mouth of the fish…or at least the vicinity of the mouth. Spawning trout and salmon have a wicked desire to eat eggs, so this method is unbelievably effective. Although, it could be argued (and is by many) that this is just a creative way to “floss” spawning fish…or is just a thinly veiled form of snagging—often in the face and eye of the fish. Is it not snagging? Let me ask this: if you are drifting a two-fly dry/dropper rig and a trout rises to the dry, but misses it…and you hook the trout in the belly with the dropper nymph (this happens all the time)…is this not an accidentally snagged fish? Is this not the same thing? Or is the bare hook hanging menacingly behind the bead a very deliberate attempt to snag a fish? If so, should it be legal?

A close friend of mine claims there is no difference between a plastic bead threaded onto fishing line and a more conventional “fly” tied with some synthetic materials. I badly want to disagree with him…but I honestly don’t know the answer. I once won an argument in a fly shop with none other than legendary fly tier AK Best about a similar topic. He put forth the notion that something tied using anything other than natural fur and feather was not a true “fly”. My reply was simple—you tie on nothing but bone hooks, then…right? Nope? Metal hooks? OK, then… So, what is the definition of a fly? Does it have to be tied by hand? Does it have to have thread? When does it cross realms into the world of “lures”? Again…I honestly do not have the answer. There is a sea of grey and many animated opinions on the subject. But, one thing I do know for sure…if a classically-tied Jock Scott is on one end of the argument, the pegged egg is certainly on the exact opposite. And, if you peg beads on the river and feel you are still fly fishing…you have made a very clear personal statement declaring that the act of fly fishing has absolutely nothing to do with what you have tied to the end of your leader. The only remaining question is; if you skewer a night crawler onto a treble hook and heave it into a trout stream…with a fly rod…is that still considered fly fishing? Or is it actually bait fishing? Is it the rod in your hand or the object at the end of your line that defines you as a fly fisherman? Is a man fly fishing if he is using a spinning rod with a clear casting bubble and a fly? No, right? Again…is it the rod in your hand or the object at the end of your line that defines you as a fly fisherman? Or is it both?

Post Publish Analysis

As I predicted, this story has generated a lot of discussion. Perfect. I wanted all of us (as fishermen) to think about this topic and have an intelligent conversation about it. It is important and very topical. There are several states intending to ban the practice very soon. The argument has gone on here in blog form as well as Facebook, and in the fly shop and at home... I have spoken to many hard-core bead peggers, as well as some of the more respected fly designers in the world...and some of the Old Guard fly fishermen. The conversations seemed to gravitate to three different topics, the first two being: What constitutes a fly? And, what constitutes a fly rod? It became apparent early that most fishermen considered fly fishing something that must be done with a fly rod at one end and a fly at the other—but then, semantics entered the ring! The argument about what a fly rod is, well, that one was fairly easy. Most fishermen are willing to agree on a fairly broad description of what a fly rod is. The difference between a fly and a lure? Now that generated some debate. The general consensus was that if it is tied, it is a fly…molded or formed (i.e. glue gun egg) then it was considered a lure. Half of each? Generally accepted as a fly—benefit of the doubt, I guess? But, the ONLY fishermen who thought a plastic bead was a fly was…well, no one. The retort I got from the Bead Fishermen was sort of defensive. Some attempted to put a plastic bead into the same category as a fly that incorporates a touch of foam or synthetic flash—a logic I have a hard time following, even in my open-minded state. This logic kind of insinuates that an eight-inch jointed Rapala could be called a fly—WTF? So, the conclusion (for now) is that bead pegging is not fly fishing! OK. Not that big of deal. Most of us have spent a portion of our fishing life as a “conventional gear” fisherman already anyway. Most state fishing regulations are exactly the same for both styles. No Bait—Flies & Artificial Lures Only. Artificial lures…I guess that’s you guys, Beaders. Again, no big deal!

Then the conversation got heated. The third question everyone migrated to was: Is it snagging? This one sort of makes the fist two questions a bit moot, don’t ya think? The self-proclaimed Beaders in the room did some very odd, but creative mental gymnastics to separate what they were doing from the illegal act of “snagging”—frantic semantic scrambling is a better way to put it. The argument degenerated/evolved into one party offering up hypothetical scenarios and the other party attempting to categorize it as Snagging, Foul Hooking (apparently the accidental form of the deliberate act of Snagging) and Fair Practice. If you are fishing a two-fly dry/dropper rig and a trout rises to the dry, but misses it…and you hook the trout in the belly with the dropper nymph? Unanimously…Foul Hooked. Now, let us say you are fishing Gunnison Canyon during the big stonefly hatch. Your rig is a big #6 Soffa Pillow dry…with the hook clipped off! Presumably to make it look more natural on the surface of the water. And you have somehow rigged a bare treble hook a foot or so behind it. When a 20 inch brown trout takes the dry fly the fisherman yanks back…. OK, ya getting the point?

My own conclusion is logical and unarguably simple. If you fool a fish into willingly taking your disguised hook into its mouth…you are “angling”. If you force a hook into a fish…you are “snagging”. If you purposely distance the hook away from the “lure” object in which you are fishing (be it two feet or two inches)…and then pull the hook into the fish once it has taken the “lure’…then you are still snagging fish. I guess most laws have just not caught up with our conniving technology…

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Quality of Life...(Yes, Mine)

Not enough can be said for the importance of ones own "Quality of Life". I can not articulate a discription of the past six months in my own life...without it sounding gloating. They may be the most enjoyable and rewarding months of my life. I recently left a less-than-desirable job. Sure, we have all had to bare this unpleasantness a few times in our lives... greedy, inconsiderate employers and a generally toxic work environment. It can make you ornery, snarky and just suck all your energy and passion. But things have been going my way, as of late. I am now six months into my (hopefully long-term!) tenure at Rocky Mountain Anglers. The fly shop itself is only a year into new ownership...and the vibe here is very enthusiastic and optimistic! I am now a respected part of a very close-knit and talented crew. I can not express how fun it is to work for a company that appreciates what you bring to the table...and side-by-side with other guys who I can learn something from. I have been part of the local fly fishing industry for many years, but am now one of the lucky few who actually loves coming into work every morning! (There may, also be some truth to the other rumor about the source of my recent cheery attitude...!) 

Come in sometime, or give me a call!
Rocky Mountain Anglers
1904 Arapahoe Ave.

Upcoming Events:
Introduction to Fly Fishing Class: May 15th 9am—1pm ($80)
Customer Gear “Swap Day” May 21st (Click Here for More Info!)
John Gierach Book Signing! May 28th
Introduction to Fly Fishing Class: May 29th 9am—1pm ($80)

Also...check out or new Shop T-Shirts! New "Colorado Trout Flag" designed by our own guide and artist, Garrison Doctor!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Swap Day at Boulder Fly Shop!

BRING CASH! What you can get for Under $40 will blow yer MIND!

Rocky Mountain Anglers is holding a Gear Swap Day on Saturday May 21st from 10am to 3pm.  Customers can register their gear at RMA from now until Thursday May 19th. Gear that sells can be redeemed in the form of a gift certificate, or a check from RMA.  This is a good forum to place gently used gear in the hands of beginners and kids.  Items that are priced to move sell fast.  Take a look around your house, garage, or gear shed and see if you don't have a rod or reel that hasn't seen use over the past season.  Good items to sell would be: rods, reels, new lines, flies, books, fishing clothing in good condition, vests, packs, nets, tying tools and vices, books, float tubes, and boats.

Click here to see the swap rules!  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Flies for Cannibals

Once the water begins to warm up on your favorite pike lake the aggressive tendencies of northern pike will become intense! Pike feed on a lot of different things, but most of us fly fishermen use large streamer flies to emulate the resident forage fish. Often this is bluegill, suckers, young bass and perch...but in a lake that has a thick population of these toothy carnivores they will greatly decimate the forage fish populations. Sometimes this will get so bad that the local pike will eagerly turn to cannibalism! Some areas I have fished in the past there were no other species in the lake besides pike...they were eating their young just as fast as they were procreating! Guess it saves a ton of money on diapers...and groceries!

I have a fly in my pike box I call the Hammer Handle (the popular term for a young pike).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Big Thompson River, Colorado

The Big Thompson River is one of the more popular small rivers on the northern Colorado Front Range...and it is a very healthy fishery thanks to the catch and release regulations and decent flows for the last half decade!
The Big T (as it is commonly called) is a 40 minute drive north of Boulder. The river begins in the Forest Canyon area in the Rocky Mountain National Park, flows down through Moraine Park and the town of Estes Park, then into Lake Estes. The headwaters have greenback cutthroat and the Moraine meadows have everything...cutthroat, brookies, browns and rainbow trout. And the lake in town is full of dumb stocker rainbows.

Below the dam on Lake Estes is the "tailwater" section of the river, although it fishes more like a very bug rich, freestone than your stereotypical tailwater. This has more to do with the river structure than anything else. It can be swift at times, but can be some of the most enjoyable pocket water fly fishing in the area! The river follows Route 34 down through the town of Drake, then on to the mouth of the canyon and into the town of Loveland. Well, actually, the road follows the river....sorry.

My favorite section of the canyon has always been the 10 mile stretch between the Estes dam and the small town of Drake. There are rainbows and browns in this area...averaging 10 to 14 inches. There are plenty of 16 to 20 inch fish around, though! In the canyon stretch there are mainly rainbow trout (70%) with just enough browns to keep it interesting (30%).

The stream flows through the canyon can vary dramatically...and this can obviously affect the fishing. In the spring (during runoff) it is very important to check the canyon flows before taking the time to drive up for the day. You can use the stream reports on our Rocky Mountain Anglers website or go directly to the USGS site.
I have always found that the Big Thompson canyon fishes best when the flows are between 80 cfs and 180 cfs. This time of year you want to have blue-winged olive mayfly patterns with you...both dry and subsurface.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sometimes Shiners Will Have To Do…

Sometimes the wind is blowing the still leave-less trees sideways
and the tumbleweeds barely touch the road as they pass.
Sometimes (as you learned from the day before) the canoe is best left behind…
not on top of the car.
Sometimes the early spring lakes are too cold for bass
and frogs and pollywogs and two-inch brim
and even the geese look uncomfortable
(they’re not, just perturbed that you’re near their nest)
Sometimes it is Saturday and the trout stream is full…
of yahoos and kids and dogs and thrown sticks and balls
Sometimes it is all of these things
but she still wants to put on her coat and her warm hat…
and her new fishing vest
So…sometimes shiners will have to do!