Monday, July 30, 2012

Persistence (Sometimes it's all you have left)

Persistence can win you fish. But it is just one of the many ingredients. And sometimes it isn't enough. Sometimes you need the right fly, or you need to be there at the right time of day, or the other side of the lake...or you need to cast farther, or get your fly deeper. And sometimes you just need some good luck. But, if all else fails...if none of your best flies are working, you have walked around the lake three times already, tried top water, deep water, slow retrieve, spastic action, lighter leaders, longer leaders...then persistence (otherwise known as stubbornness) is all you have left. Just keep fishing. Keep putting your fly on the water and sooner or later something good might happen.

Today I fished with Erin, my buddy Brian and my sister Eva. We were looking for some big bass, but were finding nothing but little bluegill and crappie. Brian was giving some new Umpqua prototypes a thorough test drive, but had to leave early. And my sister and I kept getting distracted by the occasional small carp cruising by, so we spent too much time switching back and forth between Backstabbers and bass flies...  Some of the carp were willing eaters, but we were having no luck with any of the bass. Not even any swipes at our streamers or swirls at our top water frogs.

In the end, it was Erin who finally hooked into the bass we were looking for. There were damsels and dragon flies flitting about over the water for most of the day and every now and again one would get tagged by a bass...but usually way out past our casting range. Erin kept working in close near some thick weed beds. And eventually her persistence payed off.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tip of the Week

When you are fly fishing in remote areas, be sure to sample some of the wild flora...and don't let all the so-called experts try to tell you that the pretty berries and mushrooms are bad for you. The brighter the color, the sweeter you see all those spiders? OH MY GOD! THEY'RE ALL OVER MY BODY! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

About That Northern Pike Photo...

Apparently there is a photo of two northern pike attacking a third, smaller pike going viral out there in the internet/Facebook world. Several months ago a kid in Estonia (of all places) posted the photo on his Facebook wall, claiming it was a photo he took that weekend while fishing...and it got passed around online in that country quite a bit. Now it has captured the attention of a bunch of German pike fisherman and is making its marry way around that country as well. There are no photo credits attached to the photo, or even accurate mention of when and where this vicious pike attack took place. Well, here is the deal...It is my photo. I took it on 10 May 2009 while fly fishing Lake Ladora in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver, Colorado. Since posting it online I have had many people contact me asking to use the photo in a number of different applications. Always I have agreed. For free. I am not a professional photographer...just stumbled onto the opportunity and snapped the shot. Perks of spending so much time on the water. I posted it online to share the image with other die-hard pike fishermen...and others who may enjoy or be amazed by the photo. It would be nice if I got some photo credits, though...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Spend My Sunday Mornings on the Mud Flats...

It ain't no church, these mudflats. I don't shave and press my pants, and hope to hear the word of god or anybody else. And there ain't no fish or lords gettin' petitioned with prayer...or cussin' either, for that matter. These big common carp are wild and wiley and are at least a hundred and one generations of don't give a damn. If you come to the flats unprepared, or with anything but your will not be forgiven. Walk too fast or wade too loudly...or cast to short. Or too close. Or too hard. Or too far. Or too late. Or too soon....and it is over. No crackers, no wine, no choir...just the fat lady barfing and groaning in the cattails. Nope, not even she will sing for ya. You suck. You failed. Nothin' left for you to do but reel in and hunt for another.

But, there is a certain bonding and camaraderie amongst those of us who elect to pass on the weekly attempts at soul saving…and submerse ourselves in the filth of the mud flats. Like chain smokers gathering out the back office exit – puffing, hacking and breathing in horrid dumpster death smells. We all rise early and there is no tolerance for those who arrive late. We all have minimal gear, but it is gear that will do the job. There is no tolerance for boots that are able to be sucked off in the mud. Nor are there excuses given for forgetting polarized glasses or extra water. You gotta have the stuff or you don’t play. We may try to lend a helping hand to our fellows, but it is all really just a shallow gesture…there is no one to rely on out on the mud flats but yourself. Your comrades may have some spare 2x or a new fly, but that is about it. No one is going to find and hook a carp for you. You are on your own and you have to do it on your own.

I like to spend my Sunday mornings like that. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Underrated Fly of the Month: Iron Lotus

The Underrated Fly of the Month is something new I am adding in order to draw attention to select fly patterns that have performed exceptionally well for me on the water, but have (for whatever reasons) not recieved as much hype or print as their counterparts.

First up is the Iron Lotus. This is a bead-head mayfly nymph pattern created by the same dude (Lance Egan) who gave us the much more popular Rainbow Warrior. Ya heard of that fly, right? This lesser-known fly is properly proportioned and weighted to be deadly effective as a dropper under a buoyant dry fly, or set up in any deep nymph rig you may care to fish.

Learn More About This Fly!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stock Replies for Fly Fishermen

"What are they bitin' on?"
         The end of my line.

"What are they rising to?"
         The occasion.

"What are they hittin' on?"
         Yo momma.

"What do ya have on?"
         Black satin g-string.

"What are ya usin'?"
         'Bout three grams a day.

*These were decided last night over several bottles of wine...the evening went progressively down hill, as you can see. However, if you (dear reader) have any to all means.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Weekend (Bonus Round: Brookies, Bugs and Banjo)

Awwww snap! I got Monday off, too! Total bonus round. But...on any third straight day of fishing, you begin to focus on the things that were overlooked in the excitement of the first two days. On day three I spent more time watching my companions cast, eating snacks and picking up creek rocks (to look at bugs) than fishing myself. Sure, I caught dozens of amazing little book trout, too...but it is my favorite brookie stream after all. That is why we went.
But the other reason we went was because we could bring the dog along this time. Banjo had been cooped up at home for the last two dogs are not allowed into the Rocky Mountain National Park. And the carp flats we hit on Saturday were not especially suited for the canine-kind. Today, though...Banjo was king. He got to run back and forth checking in on his people, sniff trout and rocks (there's a nymph on there, boy!) and partake in the cheese and salami...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Weekend (Part 2: Trout)

If there is a polar opposite to carp would be fishing for wild cutthroat trout on an untouched, pristine stream somewhere up in the high country. Carping is contagious, as is some of the muck you will often run into and wade through when chasing carp. The best mud flats are in urban areas and, at best, smell like a farmers ditch. At worst, an open sewer. Sometimes the best antidote to--or more properly phrased--best chaser to a hard day of carp fishing is to cleanse ones soul and wet-wading shoes in the pure waters of a trout stream...
So, that was the obvious choice in destination for day two of our fishing weekend. The flavor of today would be trout. More specifically...Greenback Cutthroat Trout. The state fish. The only native of Colorado. 
Erin, Eva and myself met up with our friend, Tom Ziegler at one of the trailheads in the Rocky Mountain National Park at 8:00 in the morning. Gear was gathered, salami and sandwiches packed and rods accounted for...
Then, into the remoteness we all bounded. The water was clear enough to allow you to see to the bottom of the stream even without the aid of polarized fishing lenses. But having the glasses on made you feel as though you could read a book sunk to the bottom.
You could not always see the trout that were living in the ripples or at the bottom of the pools, though...not always. Sometimes they would spring out of nowhere to take your dry fly. But usually you knew it was coming. The run or pocket was just too good not to hold a hungry cutthroat or brookie...
The farther we went upstream the tighter it got and the more difficult it became to get a fly onto the water, but if we got in and did the work and took the chances...we were rewarded every time. Amazing gems of trout life that, each time where so amazing you had to hold them for a moment longer just to marvel...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer Weekend (Part 1: Carp)

Hot summer days in mid July and I have the whole weekend off! I was so excited on Friday night I almost forgot to drink myself to sleep. The anticipation...oh, the lovely anticipation. But there is so much to do on the Front Range of Colorado if you have an open mind and a fly rod. Saturday's weather called for no wind, few clouds and temps into the 90' it was a no brainer. We would hit the mud flats for carp first thing. 
I rounded up the E-Team (Erin and Eva) at 6:00 in the morning. (OK, maybe it was the other way around. Erin rousted me at about 6:45. So, yeah...almost forgot to drink myself to sleep.) And we drove down out of the cool, shaded sanctuary of our canyon and into the already sweltering heat of the flat land.
The three of us got rods rigged on the tailgate...stout leaders, 2x and #6 Backstabbers. Everyone got ammo? Grenades? Who has the Bangalore? We double checked our sunscreen and water supply, then we hit the flats like they were the Normandy beach...
The action was fast. We all had something to add to the body count within 45 minutes...after that it was all about who could spot the next active fish, or who could capture the best photo...
Good times...good times. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Small Stream Assault (Family Version)

Small mountain trout streams are perfect for the solitary fly fisherman on a week day off of work. The remoteness...the peace and solitude. Nothing but miles of mysterious pocket water and plunge pools to pick and work over until the sun sets or it gets late enough in the day to warrant thoughts of dinner and home. Rarely are creeks or small streams a family affair--lakes and ponds are far better suited for such things. Everyone can stay together along the banks and talk and laugh and share in each-others stumbles and hook-ups. Group photos can be taken and the dog never gets lost. Good times. Trout streams, on the other hand, can be difficult enough with two people. But it can be done long as the fishermen involved are familiar with each other and are not greedy. They can fish together, taking turns at each pool, or switching out after every fish. Or, the two anglers can continually leap-frog each other, being sure to stay within sight and give the other several untouched pools or good runs to fish. Add a third angler and all plans fall apart, like having your girl and your dumb roommate in the car at the drive-in movie.

All that advice is good and all, but what to do when the family comes? The whole fishing family. As it was this past week...for me. Erin and I had both our families in town at the same time for a day or two (to compare notes, I suppose) so we did the wise thing and took them all out to a favorite bass and carp lake where, as I outlined earlier, we could have a grand ol' time and not loose the dog. But, my own family was in town for a longer period of time and there was no avoiding the inevitable ventures to the favored and more remote trout streams. It was just gonna happen....and there was going to be more that two people fishing. Way more. My dad was chomping at the bit. My sister was mad keen. Banjo (the dog) was spinning in circles. And Erin and I have our own fish addictions needing constant tending to. Luckily my mother was content to leave the fly rod and carry only pencil and paper, being an artist first fisherman second. So it came to pass. Four rods and one crazy dog all on one tiny mountain stream

I had been eyeballing this particular stretch of creek for years without actually fishing it. One of those slim bands of water you catch glimpses of as you are hiking up to one of several high alpine lakes and always threaten to know, on the way back down. Just has to be some decent trout in there! Finally Erin fished it and brought back a glowing report. You thought it might be good? Well, it was! So the family fishing party assaulted it with gusto. And, believe it or not, the day worked out smashingly. Everyone did their best to spread out, but maintain a line of sight with at least someone up or down stream. And we took turns leap frogging as we ventured farther up. The last person in line would get out of the water and hike up past the other three letting the last in line know they were the "last man" an airborne jump command. And it worked. Sometimes I had to pass up the best looking pools and settle with an eight-inch brookie from a pocket the size of a dinner plate, other times I got the honey hole. But, regardless, I knew someone was going to find the prize 16-inch wild cutthroat and I would have to be content to drop my rig and rush down to get the photo.

At the end of the day Banjo, being part herding dog, was thoroughly exhausted. Mom was eventually found hunkering next to some wildflowers back where we had started. And the four of us excitedly compared the detailed notes of our success. It reminded me of one of the final happy scenes in A River Runs Though It when Paul and Norman are laughing and comparing creels with their father along the Big Blackfoot. Of course, it is only one of us who gets the parting shot..."It's just that He has been particularly good to me!" 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tip of the Week

If by chance you come upon a rusty Natural Lite beer can while fly fishing...and, let's say you picked it up and rubbed it as if it were a bronze lamp (I don't know, maybe you were double checking the calorie count. Sheesh!) And then, suddenly, a genie pops out and grants you a wish or two. (Yeah. it could happen.) But let us say the genie seemed a bit tired, or drunk, or whatever...and one of the things you asked for was the use of his magic flying carpet. (You happened to be sight fishing for carp that day. It would have helped.) But, instead what you got was a magic flying stump...don't complain, you ingrate, you still got a sweet magic flying stump!