Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Stop. Relax.

While life as I know it is almost over, I'm sure that whatever is waiting around the corner will be great and perhaps even better than what I'm enjoying now.  For those that are already lost, read this prior post to get brought up to speed.

While the current job situation is still murky at best, I've discovered that good things can come from murky waters and large trout too.  Instead of sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get out and sample what Colorado has to offer in the fishing department.  It appears increasingly likely that I won't have that privilege soon so I have to enjoy the experience while it lasts.  In fact, I've sampled a fair amount lately and can report the following: El Dorado Canyon is awesome to fish in the snow, Clear Creek is getting getting icy, South Boulder Creek is fishing great just below Gross Reservoir, the Big Thompson does still have fish in the upper canyon at least, and the dry fly fishing on the Arkansas tailwater in Pueblo is phenomenal right now.

Yep, when life gets tough you just have to stop, leave all the stress behind, and relax.  I'm not very good at the relaxing part, and I suspect there's a strong connection between fishing and my stress levels.  Why else would I keep going back when things look bleak?  At the very least, I can report that fishing does successfully keep my mind off of the lack of a job come January 1.

So, things are looking up, if only because I've been blessed to spend a lot of time out on the water.  I'm excited to see where the next chapter in life takes me.  I'm confident that God has a plan even if I am still searching for it.  Until I discover it, I'll just have to stop and relax.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Not My Plans

We can plan, but the ability to change direction is crucial.  Yesterday, I found out that my school will be downsizing due to budget cuts.  Along with two friends, I was on the list of cuts to be made.  Right now I have no idea where I will end up.  Teaching is a lot of fun and very rewarding, but at this point I may end up heading in a different direction.  I may end up back in Tennessee and if I do I'll probably do some part-time guiding at least to help make ends meet for a while.  So, basically, while this is not my plans, I'm ready for a new adventure and new challenge.  Something in the fly fishing industry would be pretty cool but right now the best I'm hoping for is perhaps that bit of guiding I already mentioned.  However, if anyone has any information on job openings I'm all ears.  As things are now pretty uncertain and hectic, I will not be posting as much.  Please know I'm doing great and once I have a chance to get out on the water I'll still be providing the fishing reports and information that you are used to seeing here.  This too shall pass but in the meantime your thoughts and prayers would be much appreciated.  Thank you!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not Much Color

I'm looking out my window and noticing that it looks suspiciously like winter outside.  The leaves are pretty much gone and the grass is dead.  There's just not much color left other than the crisp blue sky.  Yesterday, in an hour or so on Boulder Creek, I noticed that the fish have moved into winter mode for the most part.  That doesn't mean that aren't eating, just that the water is super clear and low and the fish are accordingly spooky.  Oh, and the water is cold...

Looking back over pictures from the last couple of months reminds me of the great fall season I enjoyed.  Perhaps the most epic trip I did this fall was a 2 day grand tour of Colorado with my parents when they visited in early October.  The huge loop took in Independence and Kebbler passes, Aspen, Gunnison, and many other towns in between.  Of course there really wasn't any fishing on a trip like this but the scenery more than made up for the lack of fishing.  Naturally, family time meant a lot also so that in the end I didn't even miss the fishing.

I'll share some more pictures over the next few days but here are a couple to get things started.



Monday, November 04, 2013

Evening on the River

My favorite time of day to be on the water is evening.  That may have more than a little to do with the fact that I don't like getting up early.  When fishing is on the schedule, I have been known to get up early to find the big ones, but I would much rather stay out late instead if given the option.  Evening on the river is a magical time.  The crowds have usually left although in terms of quality fishing that's always a mystery to me.  In fact, I've noticed that most fishermen seem to leave the river around supper time.  Perhaps there is a correlation there.  Regardless, it is those magical moments in the last light of the day that keep me coming back.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quiet

Perhaps the best part of my recent camping trips has been escaping from suburban life if even for 36 hours or so.  Spending the night away from civilization where there are no neighbors for a few miles is as good as it gets.  The only sounds are the wind in the trees, little creatures scurrying about in the night, and the creek flowing by, murmuring quietly in the flat sections and being more rowdy as the gradient increases.

While I'm normally focused on the fishing, I still like to take time to merge into the quiet landscape.  Being still with nature brings the realization that there are a lot more sounds out there than you realized.  The Robins are still around despite the cold mornings, holding off on migrating south until the last possible minute.  I even heard what sounded suspiciously like a Red-winged Blackbird in the morning.  Squirrels chatter and scold and then go about their business again, collecting food for the cold months ahead.

As the landscape comes alive, I realize that it isn't necessarily quiet I'm after, rather removal from the hustle and bustle of city living.  Nature is peaceful, but definitely not quiet.  As I begin to appreciate everything around me, I begin to see things in a new light.

As the new quiet descends, my appreciation for my surroundings increases and the trip is no longer just about the fishing.  My camera comes out as I try to capture the moments of peace and beauty.  When I start missing the woods, I'll look back at my pictures and remember the good times I've had.









Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Persistence

Have you ever gone fishing when you just weren't really feeling it?  After spotting and successfully stalking the nice brown trout,  I began to think that my day had reached its climax early.  My plan had been to head to a nearby river where I have hooked large fish before.  In fact, the fish in this particular spot have taken me to school.  The largest rainbow I've ever hooked was on this river.  The fish threw the fly after peeling line in one continuous blistering run downstream until I was well into the backing.  Those moments happen but rarely, at least when I'm trout fishing.

This was supposed to be one of those redemption trips where you find and hook a nice fish and then don't lose it in the process of fighting it.  I just wasn't feeling it though.  Rigging up with a deep nymph system complete with midges and my favorite sow bug pattern brought a little confidence, but then the long times between even the most subtle of takes had me thinking increasingly about heading home.  Knowing that the fish were there was kind of nice but not hooking them was not helping with the feeling that the day was winding down.

Finally it was decision time.  I'll just head on out.  Then I noticed that the water had dropped a few inches and decided to try another few casts.  You know, just one more.  Of course, one became three, then four, and on cast four the indicator shot under.  Forget those gentle takes, this was undoubtedly a fish.  Pulling back, I realized that it was not just any fish but a decent trout, hopefully a brown.  The golden flash moments later verified that last bit.  The fish had succumbed to the sow bug pattern.


Yes, I was happy now.  My persistence had paid off.  Again I contemplated leaving, but again I decided on a few more casts.  Catching fish has a way of getting your mind back in the game.  The next time the indicator shot under, the ponderous head shakes that followed suggested a larger specimen.  The steady bulldogging convinced me that it was a brown.  Up and down the river I followed as the fish pretty much went wherever it wanted.  Slowly I gained line until finally I slipped the net under a beautiful male brown colored up like fall.


Likely the prettiest fish I'll catch this year, I took a moment to appreciate the reward I gained for my persistence.  Gently holding the fish in calm water, I gave the big brown the opportunity to rest from its exertions.  Only a moment was required before it shot back out into the current, but not without leaving behind a memory of the reward gained for persistence.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Runner Browns

As I discovered in the waning evening light below camp, some pools were full of both salmon and brown trout following the bounty of eggs.  Assumedly the trout would soon do their own spawning activities.  That camping trip will live on in my memory as one of the all-time great trips.  The next morning after the catching extravaganza, my goal was to scout a bit more of the stream to see if there were more runner browns in the system.  Starting early in the morning at the same pool as the evening before, I managed a few more brown trout as well as a surprise lake trout thrown in for good measure.  Some days you just never know what to expect on the other end of the line.


The cold was still of the bone-chilling variety so I kept fishing instead of stopping to eat breakfast.  A few chips and a cold bagel provided enough energy to stay focused.  Moving upstream from camp, I came across a deep pool with a nice rock ledge on the far bank near the tail out.  Wonder of wonders, a sizable brown was lying right on the rock ledge just like the browns always do back home in the Smoky Mountains.  While I was watching a much larger brown darted out from some unseen hiding place and blended into the depths until I wasn't sure if I had really seen it in the first place or if it was an early morning vision generated by my hopes of finding a big trout.

Looking up higher in the pool, I noticed a classic sandy bottom.  Fish do not often sit on these spots because they are so easy to see but when they do you can usually catch them.  Suddenly my eyes must have bugged out just a bit, because there wasn't just one or two, but a whole row of fish finning at the bottom of that deep hole.  A second examination confirmed that they were definitely not salmon moving up and were probably, in fact, brown trout.

The big streamer was soon flashing back and forth with me ducking a little on each cast for safety.  I plopped it into the water and started swimming it around and....nothing.  Maybe they are resident fish.  The runner fish seemed much more aggressive towards streamers while resident fish are much more wary, having spent their whole life avoiding predators in the stream.  Lake fish tend to have less fear, having dwelt at great depths where they are generally safe from most predators.

I quickly changed my rig to a big stonefly with an egg pattern trailed behind.  Maybe they are watching for eggs from the salmon spawning upstream.  An indicator completed my rig, and then I was back casting to the fish who were now onto me.  One trout in particular was still sitting out though. Just a little behind and across from a large boulder, I suspected that it would eat given the proper drift.

The current was tricky and definitely not conducive to an easy presentation.  However, with enough trial and error, the correct line was soon discovered.  Hitting that line was also tricky, but finally everything came together.  The big brown moved four feet to inhale one of my offerings, the indicator twitched, and I set the hook.  Immediately the fish went ballistic, running all over the pool before heading towards the faster water downstream.  Resigned to losing the fish, I gave chase but without hope.  Any minute the fly should pop free.  Then I started to gain some line.  Okay so there's a chance. The moment I slipped the net under that trout was almost a miracle.  I rarely have such pessimism about losing a trout as I did with that fish, but everything came together for one of those moments I'll always remember.


Definitely not the largest trout I've ever caught, not even close, this fish was memorable because I had worked hard, going through flies, changing tactics, until I found the one that would work on that fish.  The colors were amazing.  The flash in the picture above dull the colors but the net shot below shows the richness of the golden brown hues along the trout's sides.


Amazingly, my weekend trip was not over and would get, if possible, even better.  Stay tuned for the rest of the trip coming up soon!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dialed In

When I planned to go fishing this past weekend, there were a few question marks surrounding the potential trip.  The biggest was the cold I had been battling for several days.  Cold weather camping is just plain miserable when you have a cold.  Instead of taking off as early as possible on Friday, I decided that I would relax and get a good night's rest Friday night.  The new plan was to leave Saturday morning for two relaxing days and one night out in the deep wilderness as far from civilization as possible.

The excitement was building to the point that, while it was nice to sleep in my own bed, the sleep part never was particularly great.  I kept waking up wondering if it was time to go.  By around 6:00 the next morning, I was ready to get up.  On the road around sunrise, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were very few people out at this time of day.  Instead of getting stuck in the usual slow weekend traffic, I made good time and a few hours later was cruising through one of my favorite mountain towns in America.

Pushing on to a remote tributary, I found a campsite and put in my claim by setting up the tent and leaving my camp chair up and ready.  On the way down to the campsite I was all over the road, mostly because I was staring at the beautiful stream instead of the narrow dirt road.  Someone following my car's tracks probably thought that a drunk guy had been driving and expected to find a crash around every bend.

On the drive in I had located two good pools full of Kokanee salmon with most fish podded up but a few were doing their thing on the redds.  A handful of browns were around also gobble up any stray eggs.  Never having encountered Kokanee before, I rigged up with a pair of bright nymphs and started working the pod.  My indicator dove 3 or 4 times before the line came tight.  The fish had eaten one of the nymphs!

The fish was strong and full of fight.  By the time I had netted the fish it had worked me back to the tail of the pool.  Another few feet and it would have gained the faster current below.  I was lucky on that one.  A couple of quick pictures were taken to document my first ever salmon.  The Kokanee were fun, but I think I'm ready for Alaska now.  Bring on the real salmon!


In another hour or so of fishing, I accidentally snagged a couple of salmon and fair caught one more.  Apparently snagging salmon is a big sport, but as I wasn't fishing for table fare, I tried to stick to the high road.  The sun was beginning to lower by the time I made it back down to camp.  The only other people around had left by this time, and I had the whole stream to myself.  


Walking downstream, I found several nice pools.  One in particular seemed to hold some salmon.  A streamer had been dug out of the bottom of my fishing pack and tied on so I was looking for something other than the Kokanee.  Swinging the fly, swimming the fly, stripping the fly, any method I used seemed to produce about the same...absolutely nothing.  Perhaps it was the full moon...or maybe I had the wrong color on...or maybe there were no fish.  You know how it goes.  Lots of great reasons for my lack of success were occurring to me by this time.  

Distracted by the scenery and lack of fish, I started to take a few pictures of my surroundings.  The colors in the landscape seemed more beautiful in the late evening light.  




Then I returned to the pool with the Kokanee.  Finally, like a flash of brilliance (more likely just dumb luck) I thought maybe I should fish the far side.  

One of the best things I did all day was to throw the streamer to the far side of the current.  By the second strip, I saw a huge flash as a brown rolled on the streamer.  For the next 45 minutes, nearly every cast produced at least a follow, and I was catching enough beautiful lake run browns to mostly forget that I had a camera hanging around my neck.  I was dialed in although I think it was more along the lines of stumbling into luck.  The salmon were podded up near me while the browns were almost all in the soft water on the far bank.  

The next morning I returned to the same spot and again caught some nice fish including a small lake trout.  Some fishing holes are definitely better than others, or at least that seems to be the main lesson I learned.  Later on Sunday, I would again stumble upon a great fishing hole, but more about that later.  


Monday, October 21, 2013

First Salmon

Yes, you read that correctly.  I found my first salmon right here in Colorado.  For those that don't know, we have Kokanee here in Colorado (landlocked and smaller version of Sockeye apparently).  I found those along with a lot of very nice trout in my journeys this past weekend.  I'll have many more details coming soon once I get some time.  Here is a closeup of the salmon until then.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Passing the Peak

Fall colors have mostly passed their peak, at least in the areas I've been venturing.  However, the beginning of this month was the perfect time to catch them in the act.  Finding trees in the process of passing the peak proved to be a bit difficult as heavy late season precipitation changed the way the trees would progress through their fall best.  However, with a bit of research and a LOT of driving, more than enough amazing colors were found to satisfy the inner photographer.

My parents came out to visit me during my fall break in early October.  We ended up taking several epic drives to see not only the colors but a bit of wildlife as well.  No thanks to the government here as we originally wanted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park but had to adjust at the last minute.  The adjustments were nice however, and I got to explore some new territory as well as covering some of my old stomping grounds down towards Gunnison.

The first part of the trip featured a drive up the Poudre Canyon (what beautiful water!!!) and over Cameron Pass to North Park.  We did this as a day trip.  I would like to point out that while it is definitely a feasible day trip, it is much better as an overnighter.  We took the next day to relax and hike close to home before embarking on another long drive.

Here are a few pictures from State Forest State Park and also along highway 14 between Fort Collins and Walden. As you can see below, a storm was moving in by the end of the day and provided some dramatic skies as the clouds began to lower.  Next up, hiking the Flatirons during the first snow of the year!!!







Oh yeah, to keep the fishing theme going here, I will mention that I stopped at a small stream in the State Park and found some willing fish.  Here is the nicest fish that I caught in about 20 minutes of fishing...