Saturday, June 30, 2012

You Don't Have To Be Afraid...

 I have been receiving hourly phone calls at the fly shop from traveling fly fishers asking if they should be canceling their flights to Colorado. The news says the whole state is burning down! Is it safe to come? Grow up people. Parts of this state burn every year. We lose lots of our homes and even a few of our people. It sucks and yes, this is an exceptionally bad year. We had record snowpack and rain last year which allowed the underbrush to flourish. And this winter was very meager. This coupled with almost no Spring rains and high heat has created inevitable fire storms. Between the High Park fire and the Waldo Canyon (both still raging) we have lost over 500 homes on the Colorado Front Range. But the fishing is great out here and these fires should not scuttle your vacation plans. Many industries, to include the fly fishing industry, rely heavily on tourism dollars. If you chicken hurt the state economy unnecessarily.  If you cancel your plans because you are trying to save money, that's one thing. If you cancel them because you afraid of fire, well...that would be lame.

My parents just flew into Denver the other day, through the smoke clouds of the Flagstaff fire threatening the southern limits of Boulder. Then they drove into the mountains to stay with me... merely five miles from the little 300-acer burn with zero containment. We can all just stand on the roof, drink beer and pee on the roof, I told them.

So kick your shoes off, do not fear...and bring that bottle over here...

Tip of the Week

If you hike up past 11,000 feet with a flask of whiskey and you are super excited that you remembered it...don't be tempted to start drinking from it at 10 am. You will fall asleep on a rock in the sun and temporarily lose your fly rod.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Catfish on the Fly (Another Perk of the Carp Revolution)

There was a time when ignorance pravailed. The Atlantic Ocean is spilling off the side of the world. The moon is most likely made of limberger and our destruction will come from the big-headed people on Mars. It has been true in some sectors of the fly fishing world, too. Alaskans used to claim reds (sockeye salmon) would not eat a fly. They don't eat. Ya gotta snag 'em. But now we know better. And people used to claim corn, dough balls and fiberglass arrows were the only ways to take carp. They're bottom feeders! And look at us now. Fly fishing for carp is the fastest growing and most accessible faction of the sport! (I take only a tiny, shared amount of credit for this, btw...) Now, a fair number of years into the wide-spread acceptance of carp fly fishing we are seeing great leaps forword in technique and in flies. Remember when the only good carp fly was a Clouser Swimming Nymph? Remember when Barry Reynolds book Carp on the Fly was just an oddity fly shops stocked as a joke or novalty to trigger weird conversation? Now the hardcore carp bloggers have picked up that loose ball and spiked it in the endzone. The amount of good, informative writing available online is now immense and the willingness of these fly anglers/writers to share not only their knowledge, but their favorite mud flats have finally opened this highly challanging and addictive form of fishing to the masses. And every new convert will inevitably create his or her new and better carp-specific fly pattern. It has been fun to watch and be a part of...
There have also been some unforseen perks of this carp/warm water revolution. Once the negative "trash fish" stigma fell to the wayside amongst the more advanced and enegetic fly fishers, other doors and frontiers have flung open and been explored. Gar, freshwater drum (sheephead), catfish, and bowfin are all fish to be hunted, coveted and the photos of their capture are circulated around the most devote tables. This is a fine example of a new generation taking what they have been handed, not complaining about the old or broken parts, and making it better.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Short Term Memory

I hear football announcers claim short term memory is an asset in pro quarterbacks. Your left tackle falls asleep for two seconds and you find yourself face down eating fake green grass with a 240-pound linebacker dry humping you in your own end zone...yeah, must be hard to forget. But a safety is only two points. The game is far from over...if, of course, you have short term memory and have the confidence to stand in the pocket the next go round and pick apart the corners. Maybe even win the game, despite the one embarrassing moment that will get replayed 28 times on ESPN Monday morning.

Thus it is with carp fishing. There are so many things stacked between the fly angler and reward. Granted, there are no linebackers looking to break your back...but carp are smart and carp are spooky. There are far more things to go wrong than set to go right. First there is the water temperature and weather. You want the water warm and the day hot. You want no clouds and very little wind...but just a touch. And you want the water levels to be low, but not too low. Now if you have all these cards in the right order, you still have to make the best cast and most tantalizing retrieve of your life. Then...maybe. Maybe.

Monday morning I watched from above (back up on the bank...I ain't dead yet, or that way bound) as Erin, my carpin' partner stalked a very large common carp in close on the mud flats. The fish was alone and feeding and she could not get too close...but made the first cast count and the carp turned and charged the fly. I watched the whole thing unfold in slow motion. Erin set into him and the fish exploded toward deep water. The reel shrieked and then the line came to an abrupt halt. I thought the jig was up, but her rod was still doubled over. The line's tangled on the reel! Erin shouted. And indeed it was. She yanked at the tangle with everything she had...but the big fish ran again and the 2x snapped. Game over. Her shoulders slumped and her rod tip hung motionless. I quietly prepared a pep talk as I made my way out onto the flat to join her. But, by the time I waded next to her she had shaken off the defeat and smiled. Let's find another! Short term memory. And she won the game that day. Within minutes she had an almost exact repeat...but an even larger fish. And everything went the way you would hope it would.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Heartbreak Ridge (Or: Thank God for Rodgers Pass)

Joe Novosad, Erin Block and I met at the mouth of Moffat Tunnel at 6:30 in the morning with full rucks and good intentions. It was threatening to be another scorcher down below, so we planned to spend the day above 11,000 feet and maybe harass the cutthroat trout in Heart Lake. But the two hour walk up the side of the continental divide does not make for a guarantee of success, as it should. Heart Lake holds some big fish, some of the cutthroat up in the 18 to 20-inch range. But Heart don't give it up easy. The three of us (oh, and Banjo, too) gave it the old college try, the idiot's attempt, the optimist's whirl and even the fisherman's go. But nope. Just Chuck Testa. Shut down like a clown. Between the three of us we could fool only two fish all day long. Crushing. But there was always that smaller lake right on the other side of this misery and the now-'till-forever Heartbreak Ridge. Rodgers Pass Lake. A small lake that gets bypassed on the way up to glory and the promise of big trout. That lake has a bunch of tiny guys, people say. Heart Lake is where it's at! But we had no choice...if we were to salvage the day and our pride. If we were going to somehow justify the four hours of volunteer labor of carting a ruck and rod up and down a mountain...we we going to have to make it up in small fish. But quantity. What we found, however were hundreds of 12 to 15-inch cutthroat slashing at big midges on the surface of the water. The three of us stayed well past the hour we intended to ruck-up and leave.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bona Fide (The Carp Fishing is Good!)

Made in good faith without fraud or deceit...made with earnest intent...neither specious nor counterfeit... The carp fishing is really good right now. Seriously. We Colorado fly fishers may be having a ton of things stacking against us this snow pack, no water, too warm of water (the Yampa River just closed to fishing!) and a solid third of the state is apparently on fire. I won't lie, these conditions are not fun. My home is at 7,750 feet in elevation up a sparely populated canyon and I live day-to-day with an eye for smoke on the horizon. But, like living in the inner city, a war zone or grizzly bear country, it adds a certain sense of seriousness to an otherwise bland existence. A charge in the air. A steady stream of adrenaline into the veins of a once comatose patient. It's fun to live on the edge...until--of course--you get mugged, shot, mauled or burned alive in your cabin. But it does not spell doom and gloom across the board. The local carp flats are low and wide...and the water is warm and the carp are hungry. It takes a lot of bugs and leeches to keep a ten pound carp fat, ya know. So, stock up on some of your favorite carp flies (by that I mean Backstabbers in black or grey minnow) and see ya out there on the mud flat!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Longest Day

This sounds familiar to you because your grandpa made you watch the edited for TV version when you were growing up. It was a 1962 war movie featuring John Wayne, who played the Lt. Col. leading the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment--arguably the most bad-ass battalion to drop out of the night sky...both then and now. The story centered around the D-Day invasion of the Normandy beaches and was a precursor to, and undoubtedly an influence on the making of the much later Saving Private Ryan. This blog post has nothing to do with that long day in American military history. I thought up the heading of the story because it seemed fitting for a story about taking advantage of the Summer solstice. Yesterday. The longest day of the year. 14 hours, 59 minutes and 19 seconds of daylight. If there was any day to go fishing after would have been yesterday. Given, of course, the assumption that the more time you have the higher the odds are you--as a fisherman--can make something really good happen. No matter who you are or how high-end or crappy your fishing equipment...given enough time you can catch state records and make millions off of tackle endorsements and finally quite that 9 to 5 that kept you locked up in a monkey suit until 6. But on the first day of summer you had almost a full 15 hours of sunshine to cook the local bass ponds to perfection and leave you just enough time to shed the monkey shuck and go fish. Give me my nineteen seconds! I am no different. Sure, I work in a fly shop and I love my job...which sucks, because I can't complain about work to anyone. No one listens. But I spend 53 to 57 hours a week at my dream job. Talking about fishing. Not actually fishing. So, given an opportunity to bail early and fish until it is too dark to tie a knot...I will take it. Which Erin and I did on this fine June solstice. And we fished until we could not see...just to make a point of squeezing out the last drop of summer before it really had a chance to start.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wild Basin (A St. Vrain Report)

The stream flows in the St. Vrain through the Wild Basin area are not high, but there is enough water coming down to make wading challenging. If you intend to fish it this week you will most likely land a few brown trout, but be prepared to work hard for each fish. The trout are not being ultra-selective, but the water is still cold enough to keep them from being glutinous. There are lots of bugs coming off, however...caddis, blue-winged olive mayflies as well as large crainflies. Good luck and have fun if you go!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Left Hand Turns (Or: Thoughts on Dad, Daniel Boone, The Army, Organized Religion, Politics, Finding One's Way and Brook Trout in Left Hand Reservoir)

I learned from my father how to find my way in the woods. Said another way; my dad showed me how to be lost comfortably. We would spend weeks deep in untraveled National Forests every deer season with bows in hand like a small family band of Merry Men...and mom. "How can you ever be lost," my father would say, "When you want to be right where you are?" I have taken his reasoning and adapted it into a life's mantra of sorts. The lesson being something along the lines of home is were you hang your hat...or better yet, your back yard is the bottom of your boots. Because of these influences of my father I have been able to pick up and move or completely dismantle my existing life and take great gambles on something new. Or somewhere. Or someone. But, in hindsight (as my father has firm roots and has always been there for his family) I believe he may have just been misquoting Daniel Boone. I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.

It wasn't until I was older and in the Army that I learned to navigate the land properly. An infantry soldier walking point has a platoon or even a company spread out behind him relying on his skills and compass function. (This was before any reliable GPS units found their way into the military.) And he has to know on a map where he is...sometimes just to avoid lying to a battalion commander over the radio, but other times to act as the forward observer for an A-10 pilot with an itchy trigger finger.

The most difficult part of always knowing where you are is the ability to walk in a straight line. You may plot a straight route and you may never look away from the fine needle hovering over that moment's magic number. 144 degrees...for 400 meters. But you still have to walk that straight line. Just as it is easy to be moral and riotous standing behind a lectern with a clean robe and full belly before a flock happily marinating in ideals and air conditioning, it is easy to have an unwavering stride on a sidewalk. Add rocks and trees and mountains and your straight line becomes crooked. Blend reality into the recipe and watch the fairytale curdle. Choose one from the flock and follow them out past the big wooden doors...back out into the heat and the real world. Throw that honey badger into the happy nest of bees. Like hunger in The Heart of Darkness which fear can not stand up to...and which turns principles into 
 breeze. Introduce adversity and obstacle and watch things get interesting--because every protagonist must have the conflict or the story falls flat. And remember...that honey badger just doesn't give a shit!

So, it was somewhere in Georgia or North Carolina on an Army land navigation coarse that I learned to maintain direction despite rocks and trees and unexploded ordnance. It came down to left hand turns. It is instinctual for a right-handed soldier to always veer right to avoid an obstacle, be it a tree or large hunk of metal with fins protruding ominously from the red mud and poison oak. Choosing a path around something and then immediately maintaining the course is how we get though our lives as well our enlistments. The problem is we rarely return fully. Every argument alters a marriage. Every heavy-weight punch to the temple makes you more likely to think a face tattoo is a good idea. Just as every right button hook around a Georgia pine puts you another degree or two off asthmus and away from the way point. And these way points, like truth or salvation or happiness or even just cash money, are very thin metal pickets placed in really thick parts of the forest. So, go right a few times the camouflaged instructors instructed...and then go the other way a few times around. It will most likely even out in the end.

We met our friend on the fisherman's trail
We were headed to where he had been
He was coming from where we where headed
He had the stories and we had the dreams
Our faces where bright and his very nearly blue
Any luck up high? Brookies abound? 
Nope...just iced up guides
Then with peppered chips, cheese and elk exchanged
Our forces bound and like when the major asked the last Mohican
There is a war on. How is it you are heading west?
We and our fishing friend faced north and, real sudden-like
Turned left.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Welcome To The Dark Side (Another "First Carp" Story!)

Written and Contributed by Brian Shepherd

My brother and I met one of my fly fishing buddies at a lake in the Broomfield/Westminster area. My buddy had recently sent a photo of a massive carp that he landed so I knew we were in for some fun.

I woke up early that morning and quickly tied up some Backstabbers and other crawdad patterns. We suited up and were on the water by 7am. In addition to the water being somewhat murky, it was an exceptionally windy day; which made it initially difficult to see carp (and to cast with any measure of precision and grace). We eventually spotted some carp jumping out of the water so we approached and threw some crawdad patterns. No action and the carp seemed to have moved on.

I switched to a black Bouface streamer (Barr's version) and started working the edge of a weed line. After a few strips, I felt that unmistakable tug on the line and set the hook. Instead of a carp on the other end, there was a nice largemouth bass.

We moved on to a part of the lake that was somewhat sheltered from the wind and spotted a few carp tailing in the flats. We chased a few into the thick weeds where they likely stayed the rest of the day. I began working the edge of some cat tails with some long casts with the same Bouface streamer. I was about to move on when I saw bubbles come to the surface and an almost undetectable shape that was only slightly darker than the murky water. Without blinking an eye, I cast the fly to the right of the shadowy figure (this happened to be the side where his mouth was) and in a split second it was fish on.

I had my Sage 5 weight trout rod so I let him run as often as he wanted to. After 8 minutes of incredible battle and multiple runs after getting him close, the carp finally relented and let me get a photo of him before sending him back to the flats.

Looking forward to my next redneck bonefishing adventure!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lyons, tigers, and bears

Contributed by Matt Powell

It was a slow day on Pinewood Reservoir above Loveland. We had seen a grand total of around 12 fish, none of which wanted anything to do with our streamers and 20 lb mono. Normally, over our numerous trips to this tiger musky haven over the past month, a few fish had at least humored us with a follow but nothing even close to what had occurred today. On our walk back from patrolling the banks in search of one of the elusive predators, my friend Joe spotted a large tail protruding from a shadow cast by the spillway. I made a dumbfounded sub-par cast to where I imagined the fishes nose to be and started stripping, stripping....nothing. As my streamer approached the bank, I saw a massive olive torpedo speeding towards my fly in my peripheral vision. It hit the fly and I prematurely set the hook. My heart was beating like a snare drum and gazing at the situation, a voice in my head told me to keep stripping. He smacked it once more and I was careful not to make the same mistake twice...FISH ON! The brawl lasted around 10 minutes and resulted in yelps from Joe and I that could be heard all across Larimer County.

The toothy behemoth measured a hair over 40 inches with k-9s that were easily a half inch long. I never understood watching the musky fishing videos and hearing from musky connoisseurs how one fish days were considered "epic", but now I know. A new pursuit and a new style of fishing always gives me a diffrent perspective on the game and for that, I thank you mr. tiger musky.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Brainard Lake (Brookies & Moose)

Brainard lake has finally become a fun lake to fish again. Today we discovered that the road in past the pay gates is still closed until sometime about mid-June, so there are just hikers maybe and a token other fly fisherman around...even on a Sunday. (And one poor tenkara dude who stood on the bank dangling with his stick and watched us casting and catching trout.) A dark cloud would roll over every ten minutes and drizzle all over the lake, but then the sun would immediately pop around a soft corner and the lake would come alive with midges, caddis and rise forms. Once every hour or so the lighting and rain would chase us back up onto the bank amongst the shelter of trees. We would wait it out and be right back at it.

The state has apparently not stocked the usual doses of pale-sided cuts in Brainard for a couple of years in a row, so the wild brook trout have no more competition...and they have begun to take advantage of the situation. The average fish we caught was a very solid 12 to 13 inches and fat.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rep Your Waters

Whether you cast a fly in the waters of Colorado or Montana, our simply awesome graphic apparel will allow you to represent your home water. Please don’t feel like you need to give away your favorite secret spots, but you were not going to do that anyway...

Check them out at where you can also find  Colorado and Montana retailers!