Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold
Showing posts with label Colorado. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colorado. Show all posts

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Colorado Presentation Tonight in Knoxville



Tonight I will be giving a presentation on fly fishing in Colorado for the Great Smoky Mountains TU chapter. Ever visited Colorado or maybe you have been thinking of a trip but do not know where to start? I will be covering a few favorite fisheries including the best season to hit them and some other information that will have you ready for a road trip. For more information on the meeting time and location, check out this post on the Little River Outfitters message board from the chapter president. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Silver Ribbons and Red Stripes

As my last day in Colorado rapidly approaches, I was wondering if I could squeeze one last day of fishing in.  A short hike combined with fishing seemed ideal.  South Boulder Creek (SBC) just below Gross Reservoir is the perfect place for this type of trip so off we headed for another adventure.  The stream was still running ice free thanks to the recent warmer weather.  The winds that brought the warmer temperatures had me concerned but were forecast to die down in the afternoon.

Reaching the parking lot and seeing only two other cars, I quickly rigged up with a small caddis pupa and a Zebra Midge.  A small pinch-on indicator above seemed appropriate and then we hit the trail down.  As the stream came into view, I was amazed out how much ice had melted since my trip last Wednesday.  Of course, the first section you see gets a lot of sun exposure so that explained the lack of ice.

Staying high above the creek, we turned downstream. I was heading for a section of nice pools that should hold plenty of fish in the winter.  Looking back upstream, I paused to take in the beauty.  The stream looked like silver ribbons running down over the rocks as the afternoon sun through light across the bottom of the canyon.


Eager to fish, I quickly continued downstream.  The pool where I had caught several fish last week already had another angler in it, but the pool just below didn't.  After several drifts with only one small rainbow striking and missing the hook, I decided to continue downstream.

The next pool was another favorite.  Last fall I spotted a 16 inch brown spawning in the back of it so I suspected that there were good fish somewhere nearby.  The fish were holding tight to structure and under the fastest water in the deep holes so my luck was not the best...yet.  As I fished, my girlfriend had fun with her camera.  I'm fishing somewhere here...

Photo by Catherine McGrath

I really like how this stream shot came out that she took. Notice that in this more shaded section the ice was still holding on along the edges.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

As I fished up around the bend, a nice slow pool looked like the perfect hiding spot for a trout in the winter.  I tossed the flies and indicator in and then crouched behind a boulder to keep from spooking the fish.  The indicator swirled around a couple of times before being pulled under.  I set the hook and was happy to discover that I had finally hooked a fish!  The rainbows here are incredibly beautiful.  They all have these magnificent red stripes down their sides, even the little guys.  It can be hard to believe that some of the stocked specimens I have caught in my life are even in the same family as these wild rainbows.


With that first fish out of the way, I now wanted to catch one or two more before calling it a day.  The next pool upstream seemed like just the place to do that.  As I fished, I had lost track of where my girlfriend had gone with her camera.  It turns out she was getting some more cool shots that I can't get on my own.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

Right after this shot, on the next cast, I tossed my fly over next to the boulder against the far bank.  There just had to be a trout under that rock.  Sure enough, the indicator dove and I quickly realized that the fish I was now fighting was in a different class from the first trout.  As the fish ran around the small pool, I just let it run and tire itself against the spring of the rod.  I didn't have a net and was taking no last second chances on losing this beautiful trout.

After a couple of pictures, I released my new personal best rainbow from SBC.  Even on a day when the flows are low, a few fish can be caught and a good time had.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

This fish was the perfect way to end my last fishing excursion here in Colorado for this trip.  I was thankful for the two fish that had graced the end of my line.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

High Country Cutthroat

A couple of weeks ago I decided that it was past time that I headed for a high country stillwater.  The sheer volume of great places to fish means that some get overlooked.  Having fished rivers and streams all summer, I wanted to try something different.  Deciding where to fish was difficult since I have numerous lakes to choose from within about an hour of where I live.  Just in Rocky Mountain NP alone there are enough options to keep me busy for several years.

A bit closer, the Indian Peaks Wilderness also offers many choices and that is where I decided to go.  The particular area actually had a few lakes somewhat close to each other allowing me to hit more than one if the fishing turned out to be poor in my first choice.

At the lake, caddis where periodically landing on the surface and then skittering around for anywhere from a couple of seconds to maybe half a minute before disappearing in large boils.  Some of the takes were downright violent and with building excitement I rigged up with a #14 Elk Hair Caddis in black.

Maneuvering carefully around the lake while avoiding the low wet spots, I was finally in position.  On the second cast, a small cutthroat of perhaps 11 inches torpedoed out of the stained water to hammer the fly.  I promptly ripped it out of its mouth.  Bummer.

The next several minutes quickly showed me that the fish were spooky.  The rises soon ended, and I wondered if I had just blown my only shot at a fish.  The scenery was great though, so nice in fact that I  started looking around to take it all in.


I'm sure you all can guess what happens next.  I have a theory that fish have sentinels designated to spy on fishermen and whenever our attention is distracted the fish will spread the word that it is time to feed.  I heard the take rather than saw it.  After getting too excited on the first fish that was probably a good thing.  I reared back on the fly rod.  The full-flex 4 weight (say that 10 times fast) bent to a heavy cutthroat and the battle was on.

Catherine McGrath Photograph

Using every trick it knew, the fish took more and more line until I was seriously contemplating whether I would be able to land it.  Thankfully, the fly rod's soft tip protected the 5x tippet just fine, and slowly I regained control.  The fish made several powerful runs, something I'm not really used to seeing from cutthroat.  More often they just roll over and give up.  Finally, I got it close enough to see it clearly the next time it rolled, and I got excited.  It was really colorful, looking almost like a giant goldfish swimming around out in the lake.

Catherine McGrath Photograph

Not wanting to beach such a magnificent fish on a dry bank, I jumped in (I was wearing sandals) to land the trout.  A quick picture was captured before it gave a mighty thrash.  The look on my face in the second picture says it all.  It snapped the line on its way down and was gone.  I hated leaving a fly in the fishes mouth.  Next time I'm carrying my big net, even if it is a long hike.

 Catherine McGrath Photograph

Catherine McGrath Photograph

I'm developing a collection of awesome fish "escape" photos.  One of these days I'll share a post of "Escapes Over the Years."  Until then, rest assured, this fish fell straight into the water (which was really cold by the way) and other than some new jewelry escaped unscathed.  If you happen to catch a nice cutthroat in a high country lake that has a Black EHC, let me know!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Frying Pan


After the spectacle that was the Taylor River, the rest of the trip somehow seemed anticlimactic. Yet, with each new place we found something to match or even surpass the quality fishing we had found on the Taylor. Between the Pan and the Taylor, there were some small streams visited but those are better left for another time. I'm a small stream addict and telling about them could become a lengthy endeavor which I don't feel up to right now.

The Pan, ah the Frying Pan...where do I begin? This was my first trip to the river and I really didn't have any idea what to expect. A quick stop at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt, CO fixed that problem and I came away poorer by several dollars but much richer in my knowledge of the river, not to mention being armed with the best local flies.

The drive up the river had me drooling but also frustrated. All the best water, or nearly all was clearly marked as private. This is the biggest complaint I have against Colorado. The state has a ton of incredible water which could easily rival anything else in the country. However, they don't have the angler-friendly stream access laws found in places such as Montana. Fortunately, despite the large amount of closed water, there was still plenty available and we were after some hogs which meant heading to just below the dam.

The Toilet Bowl is THE place to be on the Frying Pan and after finding it crowded several times, we finally managed to get a spot to cast over the monsters that live there. Despite all we had heard about how technical it was, it actually seemed easier than the Taylor and the fish were every bit as large. Once again the way to catch the fish was by sight fishing. The takes were so soft and quick that by the time an indicator moved it was too late.


Within minutes of fishing the Toilet Bowl, I hooked my first Frying Pan brown and it was a nice fish. Not as nice as the monsters that occasionally drifted out of the depths but still a good fish.


Later on we fished further down river where PMDs were pouring off and the fish were looking up. The hatch didn't last too long but it was great while it lasted. That evening it was back to the Toilet Bowl in search of hogs. I soon had my buddy fishing the best spot and was acting as spotter. He was casting over a nice brown which he couldn't see too well since the light was getting dim. It was still light enough for me to see from my better vantage point though and I saw the fish turn and the white mouth show for a brief second. I made a loud whoop and my buddy set the hook to find a 23 inch brown pulling back. I've never seen anyone so focused on landing a fish. At first I didn't know why but then asked about the tippet. The response was some muttering about 7X and I knew that he was in for quite a ride. Amazingly, the tippet held through several scorching runs and he was able to keep the fish from getting in the heaviest current, a minor miracle in itself. Finally, the fish began to tire and I waited expectantly with the net. An opportunity presented itself and I lunged at the fish, just corralling it before it went crazy again. After a quick picture, we watched the fish swim back out into the current to be caught yet again someday.


Not to be outdone, I caught another fish but not as large as the beast my buddy landed. "Another day," I told myself. The next day was dedicated to the Roaring Fork, another great river I had never got to fish. We met up with a local named Tony that had offered to show us around. He turned out to be a great fisherman and put us on some great fish. The theme of our stay in the Basalt area turned out being the One That Got Away and it started on the Fork.


We were fishing up the river through some of the most beautiful pocket water I've ever fished. I was wading slowly upstream watching for fish when I saw a large brown finning behind a boulder. The fish was actively feeding and I figured I could catch him from where I was at. I carefully lobbed my nymphs upstream from his position and watched as he turned on my fly, pulling it away before he actually ate. "That will spook him for sure," I muttered to myself. Strangely, the fish turned around and returned to his feeding lie and I got another shot. After several more drifts, I saw the fishes mouth open when my flies were in the area and soon found that it was one of my nymphs he had taken. The fish absolutely took off. I mean, he motored upstream through a short rapids and was gone with my fly recoiling with the line back in my face as he shook it free. This was just the beginning.

The next morning was our last one before we took off for Rocky Mountain National Park. We were determined to get another shot at the Toilet Bowl and accordingly got there well before sunrise. Thankfully, we didn't get up early in vane and found the spot unoccupied. We began fishing and I hooked a decent brown right off and figured it was going to be crazy. Strangely though, the fishing wasn't that good and we were starting to think about leaving. Then the Monster showed up. It appeared to be the big brown we had been watching the past few days that would silently appear out of the depths and then slide back like a ghost as quickly as he had appeared. Today however, the fish seemed to be in full feeding mode and stayed out where we could see it for awhile before disappearing, only to reappear again shortly after. After probably an hour of this nonsense, the fish came up within about 8 feet of me and and I shakily made a careful cast....behind him. I was almost to pull it out when the fish slowly turned and then darted back towards my flies. I saw his mouth open and then his head turn as my line came tight and it was off to the races.

The day before over on the Fork, Tony had asked if any fish had taken us to the cleaners. I had replied in the negative but found out quickly what he meant. This fish looked to be somewhere in the 25-30 inch range and perhaps larger. I do know it was much larger than the 23 inch fish caught previously. As soon as I set the hook, the fish took me to the cleaners. It roared straight out through the current heading towards the large eddy in the backside of the Toilet Bowl. I was nervously watching my line approach the backing and then the fish tore through the eddy heading for the farthest corner of the pool. My reel was screaming and I was shaking like a leaf. I'm sure you know what happened next... The line suddenly went limp and I was pretty sure the fish was gone. Reeling line in, I was positive I would find my flies gone but to my shock, they were still intact. I didn't know what to think, could I have done something different? Of course, I had probably done everything I could do and on 6X, this fish would have been extremely difficult to land in the first place. Then I realized, I HAD tricked this monster. The only thing I didn't do was land it and I knew that next time, the fish would probably not be quite as lucky.

I left after that. I just didn't want to fish any more. I had reached the pinnacle and was ready to let the rest of the fish be. Of course, I would be back someday. The experience was something I wanted to have again, and next time, that fish will be caught...

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Stop, Taylor River

The morning sun lights up Taylor Canyon

If someone were asked to design the perfect trophy trout river, it probably would be the Taylor we were fortunate enough to fish. When Colorado was added to the trip itinerary, I got quite excited. Having spent my whole summer in the Gunnison/Montrose vicinity last year, I was already very familiar with the wide range of quality fishing options that existed in that area. The Taylor was one of those streams that I left knowing that I would return, probably as often as possible. There just aren't that many rivers where you can walk up and see 40 brown trout laying on the bottom of one small part of one hole, all of which are in the 4-6 pound and larger range. Of course, catching these fish is another story.

We got into the Gunnison area fairly late Friday evening due to the previous troubles with the coyote. Thankfully, at this point the car seemed to be doing fine and gave little indication of the troubles we would encounter much further down the road. Considering that late hour, I was visibly nervous about our prospects of finding a camp site. As we travelled up Taylor Canyon, my fears seemed well warranted. Every campground was either full or the extra sites had "Reserved" cards on them. Finally, we found what had to have been the last available site in the entire canyon and after a very quick setup, we were soon in our tents sleeping soundly.

The next morning, I awoke refreshed and excited to be embarking on the first leg of this grand adventure I now fondly recall as West Trip 2007. The canyon was cool and surprisingly humid with condensation showing up on my rain fly. This did little to dampen my spirits however as I saw my first view in the daylight of the magnificent Taylor Canyon since last summer. The early morning sun was lighting up the canyon walls with an explosion of colors and the bright blue sky providing the perfect backdrop with the white clouds floating through it

After a nice easy breakfast, we eventually headed up the canyon towards the short public stretch known as the Trophy section. Upon arrival we were greeted with a ton of other fisherman. I always know I can expect this on the Taylor but it is always a bit of a surprise each time I go there. Despite the crowds, we were soon rigged up and began our quest for some trophy fish.

After a short while, a good spot opened up and we quickly moved over and began sight casting over some very nice fish. About this time, a few bugs started popping off the water and I was pleased to see what appeared to be PMDs. I quickly reached for the nearest match I had at the moment which was a sulphur sparkle dun left over from some of my South Holston trips. The fly was lighter than the naturals but I didn't care. After a few casts, I noticed a fish rising steadily just upstream and carefully cast my fly in its direction. First cast, just a bit short and off its right shoulder, strip, strip, pick up line, cast again, perfect. The fish rose confidently as I tensed then gently lifted my rod tip and the battle was joined. The fish quickly ran downstream into the big pool just below and started the bulldogging that we became so familiar with. I hadn't seen a fish that could rip line for quite awhile so this moment was one to be savored. Of course, the 6X I had on slowed down the process but eventually, a nice brown came to the net. After a quick pose with my first fish of the trip, he darted back off into the river in search of more trouble.

First fish of the trip

It was somewhat ironic that I caught my first fish on a dry. Don't get me wrong, I love fishing dries and fish them whenever opportunity beckons, its just that between me and my buddy fishing with me, I was the nymph guy and he was the dry fly guy. It got crazier soon after my first fish when he hooked a very nice fish and after another solid fight, I netted it for him. When he began to remove the hook, I asked what he caught it on. "A nymph" was his reply. So both of us got our first fish doing the exact opposite of what we usually do.

The Release

After this revelation, I quickly changed to a nymph rig. My buddy Trevor had brought to my attention the fact that there were some fairly large stonefly shucks hanging around on the banks. This brought out my favorite Tennessee fly (most of you should be able to figure this one out easily) which was soon employed in hauling in large Taylor river fish. I was in heaven. Sight casting to large trout with a double nymph rig was just about as good as watching a fish rise to the dry and I soon was catching enough to let me know that the nymph was no fluke. Shortly after, the Green Drakes started hatching but I stuck with what was working and the fish rewarded me. I caught fish on several different flies that first day on the Taylor and none of them was smaller than a #14. Sometimes, the fish just want to see something different. Almost everyone else there was fishing small stuff except for those that had figured out the hatch that was in progress.


Brilliantly colored Taylor Brown

As time moved on, I was enjoying myself but realized that I hadn't caught any rainbows. This is not that surprising as the browns are dominant in the Taylor but I still wanted my 'bow. After spending a bit of time sight casting over a few smallish rainbows, I found a better one feeding just behind the lip where a nice run fed into a large pool. It was feeding in 4-5 feet of water and was quite active so I knew I had a very good shot at hooking this fish. A quick check of all my knots reassured me that everything was in good shape and I began casting and trying to ascertain the proper drift to get my flies into the strike zone. After a few drifts that were off, I finally found the proper line for my flies and was soon drifting them reasonably close to the fish every cast. I knew that eventually my flies would either interest the fish or chase it off. Fortunately, the former happened and I soon had several pounds of rainbow ripping line off my reel. "This is one fish you don't want to lose," I breathed softly to myself. After several hard runs and what seemed like an eternity, the fish began tiring slightly. However, every time I got it anywhere near shallow water, it made another hard bulldogging run back into the current. Finally the fish seemed ready and I guided it in to Trevor who was waiting with the net. Once again, a quick shot of the fish and it swam strongly away leaving me with a memory of thick shoulders and brilliant sides.

Nice Taylor Rainbow

Finally, we began to get a bit tired and hungry and decided to leave the fish in peace for the rest of the day. We made our way up above Taylor Reservoir to find some smaller fish in the upper Taylor. It just wasn't the same though, we had been spoiled on our first day of the trip. This would ultimately bring us to spend some extra time at the Taylor when we discovered that the Gunnison in the Black Canyon was blown out (read excessively muddy) due to the recent rain.

Collegiate Peaks as viewed from Taylor Park

Our return to the Taylor proved just as much fun although the fish were slightly more picky the second time around. I actually had to use the small stuff I had so carefully avoided our first time through and caught fish on various midges in addition to the dries that imitated the currently hatching PMDs and Green Drakes.

Taylor Brown on a dry

Once again, I left the Taylor with a desire to return. Some rivers just have a gravitational pull, or perhaps its as simple as good fishing. Regardless, the Taylor is one river I will be back to again over the upcoming years.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tour de Rockies

No it isn't a bike race... Originally supposed to be a Yellowstone trip (to go fishing of course), my trip west is starting to gain momentum and destinations. Colorado is most likely being added and hopefully this means I will once again fish the Gold Medal waters of the Gunnison for big hard-fighting rainbows and browns that will bulldog deep in the strong current. My last experience with this special place left me yearning for more and it looks like it might happen.

Remember this fish? A nice rainbow from the Gunnison...

This year will bring a new experience for me on this stream. Supposedly the terrestrial fishing is excellent in August and the way things are looking, the flows shouldn't be too bad this year as compared to last year where I was chucking heavy nymphs along the banks. Even with last years high water I still caught around 20 fish in probably 3 hours with lots in the 14-16 inch range and one big brown pushing 18 or 19 inches.

Hopefully I'll be able to hit some small streams for Cutthroat in Colorado also. If I'm really lucky I'll get my first shot at the Greenback Cutts in Rocky Mountain National Park. The chance to add another strain of Cutthroat to the list is one that will be hard to pass up. Of course, when one covers as much ground as I will be, interesting ideas start to develop. For instance, how many different types of Cutthroat could one catch on such a trip? I can think of several and maybe it will happen. Time will only tell...

I could go on and on about how tough life is when you have to fish as much as I do, and I could mention a few more of the streams I hope to fish where the average trout is around 5 pounds, but probably it isn't my place to make everyone jealous. Did I mention I'll be on the South Holston in a week or two? This should be a fun fishing trip since I've never fished it in the summer... In the meantime, I absolutely must start cranking out some flies.

Current Fishing Report:
Not all fishing is in the distant future. Today I hit the Caney Fork for an hour or two and did okay catching several fish. Once again I saw some bruisers but as usual they were excessively spooky. I even dropped down to 7x for awhile and it didn't seem to make a difference. However, persistence is key and one of these times I'll catch one. Today I got chased off the river by lightning so maybe I just need to put in more hours. Back to the river on Sunday so check back for a more enthralling report...