Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label Sunset. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sunset. Show all posts

Monday, April 12, 2021

Just Had a Camera Along

Lately, I have gotten away from carrying a camera everywhere I go. Oh, sure, I have my cellphone. I also snap way too many cellphone pictures, but they often leave something to be desired compared to what a dedicated camera can accomplish. Thus, when it so happened that I had my camera in tow this evening, I was prepared for the sunset picture I stumbled across. 

The last time I saw an amazing sunset at this same spot was not too long ago. I went whizzing by and had a brief realization of the beautiful reflection there. Still, I was in a hurry for some reason or another. Furthermore, my camera was safe at home and I knew the cellphone just could not do the scene justice. Tonight, I was again racing past when I saw it. A perfect calm reflection of the sky in this little pond. And tonight I had my camera.

I'll have to go back to this spot again. The opportunities are just too perfect. This initial batch of pictures came out okay for a quick 30 seconds of shooting. None of this would have happened except that I just had a camera along. I need to do this more often. Anyway, here are my favorites. 






Sunday, February 28, 2021

Glacier Day Seven: Late Day Bonus

After completing a 14.5 mile hike, you might assume we would be tired and done for the day. Part of that assumption is correct: we were tired. However, we were not so tired that the day was over. The big hike to Gunsight Lake and Florence Falls had been a lot of fun, but we finished early enough in the afternoon that we still had many hours of daylight left. Before any further adventuring though, we wanted to eat some more. Lunch had been completed on the return hike from Gunsight Lake, and we were starting to get hungry again. 

Relaxing in Camp and Eating Yet Again

The drive back to camp was completed as quickly as one can under the conditions, and we were soon devouring another delicious meal featuring burritos. This had become a big favorite for us on this trip. We eat a lot of them anyway, but they had turned into a quick and easy but delicious meal with good nutrition after the big hikes we had been doing. An ample amount of black beans, lettuce, tomato, a little shredded cheese, avocado, and either salsa or Taco Bell sauce provided plenty of calories.

While we were relaxing in camp, I decided to try and get some pictures of the wildlife around camp. I was particularly interested in a little oven bird that had been hanging around. While I got a picture or two, they didn't turn out nearly as well as that of a robin that was hanging around. Here is what that one looked like.

American robin at Glacier Campground
American Robin ©2020 David Knapp

Late Day Drive to Polebridge

After lunch and a little time to sit and enjoy the birds, we started thinking about an evening adventure. With nothing better to do, we headed back up to Polebridge. We drove up there far more than was probably necessary, but we enjoyed the late day drives and the scenery was beautiful. The first trip had produced some good fishing, but in subsequent trips I simply enjoyed the drive.

On this evening, we again struck out on wildlife. This trip produced less wildlife encounters than we had hoped, but the scenery more than made up for that. Being there in the middle of the heat of summer probably didn't help. Without any wildlife to keep us occupied, the highlight of the evening ended up being the sunset. 

Sunset at Polebridge

The evening was beautiful even before the sunset. We drove south along Inside North Fork road, hoping for some critters. The one bit of excitement happened when the road passed Winona Lake. We thought for sure a moose had to be feeding there, but it wasn't our day apparently. The waterfowl there were interesting, though, and kept us occupied for a bit. With darkness approaching, we didn't really want to drive all the way back in the dark. After turning around at the Quartz Creek Campground, we were soon back to the bridge over the North Fork of the Flathead. Looking upstream and downstream, we saw one of the best sunsets we enjoyed on this trip. The camera didn't come close to capturing the beauty of the moment, but we and some others on the bridge tried anyway. Distant thunderstorms up over Canada were on the horizon to the north, while the moon was coming up over the river to the south.

Sunset on North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge looking north
North Fork Flathead River at Sunset ©2020 David Knapp

Looking south at moonrise over North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge
Moonrise and Sunset on North Fork Flathead River ©2020 David Knapp

After enjoying this beautiful scenery, we turned towards camp. We had one full day left and wanted to get well-rested so we could make the most of it. The next day would be tied for my favorite hike in Glacier National Park with the Sperry Glacier day we had already completed. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

First Night in Glacier National Park

While I have visited Yellowstone National Park many times, I had never made the trek further north to Glacier National Park, until this summer that is. This last summer was a strange time to travel to say the least, but my wife and I were not going to be deterred. Our trip was modified significantly, of course, due to COVID-19. Neither of us had ever been to Glacier, so in some ways we don't really know for sure what we were missing out on. However, we were able to experience many amazing elements of one of the most beautiful national parks I have ever visited. 

The trip was in the works since 2019 and we had at least been talking about it longer than that. As we started to enter the window to make reservations for camping, I stressed and put forth a lot of time and effort. You see, camping reservations for Glacier National Park are difficult to obtain. For example, the reservations were released on a rolling basis 6 months in advance. Sites would literally book within seconds. If you were not online and ready to hit reserve at the exact moment the reservations were released, you could forget about it. 

In the first round of reservation availability, I snagged a campsite at Fish Creek for our first two nights, but failed to reserve anything beyond that. I tried day after day to get a campsite at Many Glacier, but it was not to be. Three months later, the second half of the campsites were released. By some miracle, I actually snagged a site for four nights at Many Glacier. The trip was starting to come together. Then COVID hit.

One of the first changes to our itinerary was when Glacier National Park announced that Many Glacier would stay closed for the duration of the 2020 season. In fact, there would be no access to the east side of the Park at all. While this seemed a bit absurd, there wasn't anything to be said or done. We debated cancelling our trip and trying again in 2021, but I knew this would be a great year to travel in terms of costs with gas prices so low. Finally, we did a bit of Google searching and found an alternative. Glacier Campground is a private campground just outside the west entrance to Glacier, and lo and behold, they still had some availability for the time we would be there!

We went ahead and booked a full week at Glacier Campground. Our trip plan involved a little over a week total at Glacier, then a jump over into northern Idaho for some more camping and fishing. My wife is super gracious and readily agrees to me getting some fishing in on these trips. A bull trout was on my bucket list and northern Idaho seemed like a good place to check it off without leaving the country. First, however, we had to get to Glacier National Park and enjoy some time there. 

Fast forward a few months, and our departure finally arrived. We took a northern route through Minnesota and North Dakota because I wanted to check another state off of the list. There's only a small handful I haven't visited. Time for an Alaska trip! 

Overlook of badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

While traveling through ND, we had to stop in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. One of my all time favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt spent quite a bit of time in the badlands of North Dakota and was inspired to start the conservation movement based largely on his time there. We were fortunate to spot some bison and enjoyed a great sunset. No trip out west would be complete without seeing some bison!

Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Sunset in Theodore Roosevelt National Park


The next day, all that separated us from Glacier National Park was the state of Montana. We headed off on Montana 200S which features two lanes and a 70 mph speed limit. One of my favorite things about the wide open spaces out west is the ability to make some serious time. With 80 mph speed limits on the interstates and 70 mph speed limits elsewhere, Montana is a great place to make haste. The only downside is that it is a massive state. We soon learned why the speed limits are so high. People have to hurry if they want to get anywhere!

We finally made it to Great Falls where we stopped for lunch. One strange thing about this trip was the lack of eating out. Because of COVID, we were being cautious. We didn't want to ruin our trip with a mysterious illness or anything. However, pizza was sounding really good and we reasoned that since it was cooked at 500 degrees or something similar, it was probably safe. We called and ordered takeout which worked out fine. We were still healthy and enjoyed some excellent pizza from Fire Artisan Pizza. A stop for groceries and gas and we were back on the road with Glacier in our sights. 

We took highway 200 to highway 83 which then made a beeline for the West Glacier area. Highway 83 ended up being a beautiful drive through gorgeous forests. We had to watch out for deer as several ran across the road including some impressive bucks. Thankfully we avoided any collisions and made it to Glacier around sunset. It had been a long day, but we were finally there!

Setting up camp quickly in the waning light, we had supper and then headed out to look for a spot to do some nighttime sky photography. Comet NEOWISE was fading fast, and I hoped to catch it over Lake McDonald. As it turned out, the comet was too dim to show up in large scale pictures of the lake, but I did manage some nice night sky pictures of the lake and stars along with a few closeups of the comet. Finally, we decided it was best to head back to camp and get some rest. The next day would be our first full day in Glacier and we didn't want to waste time sleeping!

Night sky over Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park


Saturday, October 01, 2016

A Perfect Day in Solitude

This summer has been a bit of an anomaly for me for several reasons. You may have noticed that I've been light on the blogging for several months now. The problem is one of inspiration or the lack thereof. As a fly fishing guide, I help a lot of people catch fish but have not been fishing as much for myself. When I started guiding, the one thing I wanted to avoid was to turn this into strictly a fishing report for my guide trips. Yes, a few trips have been featured on here, and to be quite honest, I've been excited about so many of them that a lot could make their way on here, but I'm not blogging to drum up business (as easy as that might be as well as the Caney Fork has been fishing). If you want to see my exploits on the guide front, check out my Trout Zone Anglers Instagram or Facebook accounts and you will find lots of pictures of happy anglers holding big trout.

All of this guiding has been good, but I've not spent as much time on the water for myself, and on the occasions that I do find myself out fishing, I just haven't taken many fish pictures save for a few occasional beasts that just begged for a photo. When I get to the bottom of the problem, it really just comes down to pure laziness on my part along with the shortage of suitable blog post stories and material. So, when I headed for the river this past Thursday afternoon for 2-3 hours of fishing, I was excited to be getting away on my own.

The conditions were unusual compared to what was normal over the summer. Cool and cloudy weather made spotting fish a little tough, but I was happy to not be roasting on the stream for a change. The clouds were even threatening a little rain but more on that later.

I was intent on fishing with a dry fly but considered that hanging a midge underneath would probably be a good idea. The 9' 4 weight Sage Accel seemed appropriate for the task, and I was soon rigged and ready. Days on the water are as much time for research and development as they are times for pure fishing fun. Such is the life of a guide and one I wouldn't want to trade with anyone. For this particular day, the midge of choice was a new color combination on an old classic, the Zebra Midge. The previous day had seen a 20" holdover rainbow fall to this new color scheme on a guided float trip, so I was looking to see if that had been a fluke or if I was on to something good.

Once I got in the water, I had to rub my eyes to see if I was dreaming: there were no other anglers and no boats passing by. In other words, I had the river to myself. That wouldn't last long, but the four boats that went by hardly constituted a crowd, and three were rowed by friends of mine. Seeing friends on the river is about as pleasant an interaction as one will find anywhere and thus these encounters enhanced an already good day. In between getting distracted, I was catching trout. Lots and lots of trout. There are times when I think that cloudy days are very difficult on the Caney Fork, but this was definitely not one of them. Fish after fish fell for my midge pattern. The true monsters eluded me on this trip, but every fish I caught was healthy and sporting some of the best colors you will find on a trout anywhere.

Brown trout caught on a midge on the Caney Fork River

I put a couple of the fish in the net so I could get some pictures without risking harm to the trout. The colors were so vivid that, with each successive fish, I thought that perhaps I had just caught the prettiest trout of the year. Eventually I realized the utter futility of comparing one fish with another. Each trout is a blessing to be treasured and enjoyed for a brief moment of connection before releasing them back to grow some more.

Closeup of a Caney Fork River rainbow trout

A couple of times I turned around and eventually noticed the clouds lowering and growing darker. Shortly after taking this picture, I thought that perhaps it might be a good idea to head back to the car and prepare for rain.

Rainstorm approaching on the Caney Fork River

On my way up, I looked around again and realized that I wasn't alone after all. I had a great blue heron for company on this day.

Caney Fork River blue heron

Back near the car, I raced the last few yards as the rain began in earnest. Thankfully my raincoat was easy to grab out of the trunk as I debated whether to continue my day or just call it now. The thought of fired up brown trout won out, and I grabbed a 5 weight and quickly rigged up for streamer fishing.

Heading back down to the river, I wondered whether I was crazy but never stopped moving long enough to get serious about it. On literally my first cast, a fish blew up on the streamer, so I knew the possibilities were there.

Working slowly downstream, I covered water carefully. Eventually I had gone about as far as I wanted to go and was ready to reel in and move back up when I had the thought to take one more cast. Sure enough, a fired up brown pounded the fly. Somehow this good day really was able to get better. Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy fishing streamers and this really was the perfect end to a perfect day. By this point I had some renewed enthusiasm, so I carefully fished the streamer back upstream and caught one or two more fish before reaching my path out.

Some days just happen to work out perfectly, but those are rare indeed. My definition involves more solitude and fewer trout than most anglers, but then I've come to realize that catching is only a small part of the equation for me at this point. Finding solitude on such a popular and amazing river is rare indeed. Most likely the next time I find solitude will be in the dead of winter when I'm the only idiot crazy enough to be out fishing. And out fishing you will find me, looking for yet another perfect day in solitude.

The drive home included an unexpected surprise as the sun peaked through the only hole in the clouds. I swung to the side of the road just east of Center Hill Dam for one last picture to remember my day by...

Caney Fork River sunset


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Driving

Living on the Cumberland Plateau and guiding both to the east and west of home can get tiring. Driving the 1.5+ hours to the Smokies and back every day gets old, but the scenery never does. I'm often traveling both early and late in the day (think sunrise and sunset) so I am blessed to enjoy some amazing scenes. Here are some pictures from the last few weeks.






Monday, April 13, 2015

Active at Sunset

Yesterday, after helping at Little River Outfitters with day two of their beginner fly fishing school, I headed back into the Park for a couple of quick adventures. I'll tell about the other one later. For now, I'm still remembering the evening hatch with satisfaction.

With the sun sinking below the ridge line, the river was left in the shade of a warm spring evening. The bugs were becoming more active. Working up through first one pool and then some pocket water,  I managed a small wild rainbow that just happened to be one of the coolest takes I've seen in a while. My outfit of choice was again the Sage Accel 904-4 that I've been enjoying lately. A #12 Parachute Adams with a bead head nymph of my own devising as the dropper completed the rig.

Instead of coming up to hit the suspended nymph like I would have expected, the rainbow shot all the way from the bottom to the surface to inhale the dry fly without any hesitation. I was peering over the top of a rock and watched as the trout came all the way from the bottom in 4 feet or so of water. After releasing that beautiful little fish of maybe 6 inches, I headed on up to the next pool while noting how slippery the rocks were for so early in the season.

Soon the stream would be shrouded in darkness, but at this magical moment as the sun was setting, bugs were hatching and the trout were happy. Some small fish, mostly warpaint shiners, were hitting the surface, but I was interested in larger quarry. Finally positioning myself at the bottom of the next pool, I took a moment to look all around.


There was a flicker of movement under the fast current near the tailout, and I noticed what appeared to be a quality fish moving back and forth as it fed on whatever was coming by in the drift. Without hesitating, I dropped the flies about 3 feet above the trout and watched in satisfaction as it came off the bottom to inhale the dry fly.

The fish was much larger than most rainbows in the Smokies, so I played it carefully out of the heavier current. Somehow I kept it from plunging into the rapids below and soon had it close enough for a quick picture. Slipping out the hook, I cradled it for a moment before it swam strongly away, hopefully to be caught another day.


Saturday, February 07, 2015

Country Evenings

There is nothing like watching the sun slowly sink out of sight while surrounded by the sights and sounds of the country. The past two evenings have been a tremendous blessing to me.

Last evening, at the end of jogging four miles, I got back home just as the sky exploded with color. As I had been running, I noticed the high clouds streaming in and thought that we had the perfect setup for a good sunset. Thankfully, the best was saved until I was home and could grab my camera.





This evening I enjoyed a short one mile walk instead of more vigorous exercise. Instead of the aerial display in the sky, the rich evening light was a treat to watch as it lit up the barns, fences, and even cows, especially since I had brought my camera on this walk.






I'm so glad that I live out in the country. It just doesn't get much better!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greedy Smallmouth

On Tuesday, I had the good fortune of getting out to chase musky and smallmouth bass and to just enjoy the warm weather we had for a few days. Dan Munger made it over to fish since it was his day off from Little River Outfitters. As always it was great having him in the boat. I also had my buddy Tyler who had not been on the boat yet. The goal was to chase some musky. Dan did well on his first musky float a few weeks ago and got that first musky out of the way so we were hoping for a repeat performance. Unfortunately the fish had other ideas and we just didn't see very many over the course of the day but then that's musky fishing for you. Of course, Tyler is not convinced that there aren't really such thing as musky in the rivers we fish so we'll have to take him again to show him some fish. he highlight of the day was when Dan had just cast to a nice rocky ledge. He barely started his retrieve before the heavy fly rod was bent under the weight of a nice fish. I thought for sure it was a nice musky, but he quickly announced it was a smallmouth. After a solid fight, we got the fish in the net and took some pictures. First, notice the size of the fly it hit! The fly was at least 6-7 inches long and perhaps more!



The best part though was that the fish had a large crawdad stuck in its throat. Talk about a greedy fish! It had a big meal and still wanted more.



The rest of the float was uneventful except for the one musky that taunted us by rolling 10 feet off of the takeout ramp as we were approaching it. I guess we'll just have to get back out there sometime soon and try to even the score a little. As we took out the boat, the sunset alone made the whole trip worthwhile.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Early Winter Sunsets


As far as I can tell, one of the chief disadvantages of winter is the early sunsets. Cold weather is great as far as I'm concerned, and I enjoy ice and snow. The weather tends to be gray and even drizzly more often which provides great fishing. Really, I cannot find too many things wrong with winter.

I know that a lot of you will probably want to get on my case for my appreciation of winter and especially the cold weather and that's fine. I'm just glad that so many people dislike the cold months. The fewer people who get outside the more I can feel like I have it to myself. 

Selfishly, this is probably the main reason I like winter. The colder and nastier it is out the fewer people I have to compete with for fishing, and less people also means I am more likely to get uncluttered pictures. In the summer, especially in high traffic tourist areas like the Smokies, I have to often wait and wait and then wait some more for people to get out of my pictures. Winter brings a pleasant change of pace where I can pretty much show up, take my pictures, and then leave for the next spot.

The one silver lining to the short days is that the sun is in the sweet spot for more time both in the morning and the afternoon. I'm talking about that time when the sun has sunk to just above the horizon or perhaps has just made its first appearance for the day. The golden hour of light is a photographers dream.

In winter, that warm light lasts longer and seems even richer than normal. My obvious appreciation of winter may bias me here, but I think that the trajectory of the sun this time of year keeps it close to the horizon longer without actually sinking behind and out of sight.

The result is some of the best sunsets you will find anywhere. If you want to see a great sunset, winter is one of the best times to do so. The air is usually clearer and cleaner so the colors are brighter. Landscapes bask in the glow of the late afternoon winter sun.

Almost daily I promise myself that I'll start getting up early and heading back out in the afternoons to catch that light, but usually I'm doing good to just get the late afternoon version. Still, the sun blesses me with some nice opportunities to photograph the sunset. Maybe I'll get up for the sunrise tomorrow...



Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Golden Ribbon

Walking around a small lake on a farm just to try and discover something that will give me an edge as a fisherman is standard practice.  Thus it was not unusual when I met my friend Tyler at the lake that I asked if he wanted to head down the shoreline "at least a ways."  The sun was high, the sky clear, and the fish seemed to have headed out to deeper water.  Still, you never know when you might find a bass right up on the bank, and based on the boils and wakes we saw every once in a while, there were some decent ones.  If only they were less spooky...

By the time we had nearly circled the lake, stared down a few menacing bulls, and incidentally chased some cows off, the sun was getting low in the western sky and panfish were beginning to rise to the midge hatch that really gets cranking near sunset each day.  Here and there, the dimple of a rise form would break the surface.  I had caught two fish up to this point, one small bass and one crappie, but was hoping for that evening magic to set in.  Little did I know.

Just as the sun was sitting on top of the horizon, I noticed a swirl or two.  The gentle breeze had ended with the setting sun and the water looked like glass.  Sky and cow pasture met the water in one continuous scene as the reflections were now almost perfect.  Then I saw it, nervous water.

To a bass fisherman, there may be nothing as exciting as schooling baitfish.  The boils appeared slowly here and there, until I had probably six or seven good balls of baitfish in front of me with at least three within casting range.  Then it happened.  The nearest ball had an eruption as something attacked from below.  By the size of the splash it was a large bass.  Before long, bass were attacking each of the bait schools.  The incredible part is that these baitfish were bluegill and crappie.  Those were some big bass.  Of course, this is the same pond where I saw a bass come nail a 9 inch crappie off of a bed so there are some nice fish around.

Without knowing what else to do, I just tossed the same Clouser out that I had been using the whole afternoon.  My plan of attack was to cast either into or just beyond the bait balls and let the fly sink below it before beginning the retrieve.  In theory, any bass cruising a little deeper would notice my fly first.  And it worked.

Two quick bass in a row suggested I had picked a good technique.  I started feeling just a little selfish because my buddy was still fishing a little cove that has great potential, but I knew that the action in front of me was the best we would see that evening.  I whistled until I had his attention and waved him over.  Back to fishing, now with a clear conscience, I caught some more.

By the time he had arrived, the bait had moved off towards deeper water, probably following the hatch.  Huge midges were coming off and the bluegill were responding like it was their last meal.  For some it was.  By now the largest bass in the pond had moved in.  Some of the explosions were so big I wondered if my 5 weight would even have a chance. Promising myself to bring the 7 weight next time, I did what I could which was to keep fishing.

As darkness approached, we finally each took that last cast and headed out.  Walking through a pasture full of snakes and fresh cow pies in the dark sounds like the makings of a horror movie and we wanted enough light to make the short walk up the highway without getting hit.

That night, I lay awake going over the scenario again and again.  What else could I do to hook those big bass?  The next day I tied up a couple of different flies.  One was a Diamond Hair Minnow that I had done well on for bass recently on another lake.  The other was my PB&J but with lighter hourglass eyes.  I didn't want it sinking too deep.

By the time the next evening rolled around, I was armed and ready.  Bring on the big fish!  I got to the small lake and everything seemed ready for a repeat performance.  The only difference being that the wind didn't completely lay down this evening, but the baitfish were there chasing the midges.  Larger bluegill and crappie were cruising leaving their dimpled rises around the lake.  Occasionally, a boil would suggest some bass were out hunting, but where were the big ones?  

Like most big fish, it appeared that this was a one shot deal.  The first day was the day to catch a monster, and I had blown it.  Of course, it was early and the trip could still go either way.  I walked down the shoreline and spooked some nice bass.  One of them was big, but it wasn't out cruising, just laying up waiting to see what developed.  The slight chop made it a bit more tricky to decide where the nervous water was, but enough larger bluegill and crappie were mixed in that I could usually locate the schools by their rises.

Walking along the shore to the magic spot from the previous day, I decided if there was not a repeat performance, I could at least enjoy the evening.  Everything was exactly the same as the day before except for that chop on the surface.  Since the fishing wasn't as hot, I took time to look around.  Right in front of me was a golden ribbon thrown down by the sun, stretching out across the lake.  Absentmindedly I wondered where it might lead.


Maybe it led to fish.  Not having any other theories to work off of I started casting.  Once or twice I snagged some cow patties behind me, but other than that everything was going well.  I made sure my casts were laying out perfectly in that golden ribbon, just in case.  Then it happened.  After several casts, I felt the hit and set the hook.  A nice little bass with most of the emphasis on the little had eaten the PB&J.  Little bass are better than no bass.



Getting back to my fishing, I noticed with dismay that my golden ribbon was almost gone.  Did that mean the end of the catching?


As the sun disappeared and I prepared to navigate the cow pies in the waning light, the wind suddenly died down.  Sure enough, there was very little nervous water left.  Occasionally a bass would explode on something, but nothing was happening within casting range.  I didn't have long to ponder that, because the sky was going through the beauty of a spring sunset.  Maybe I didn't really come to catch fish after all.  Glad that I had a good camera, I paused to soak it all in.



The colors faded quickly, so I had to hustle to get out before dark.  The big bass are all still out there, and of course I still think about how to catch them.  We probably have a few more weeks at best before the pond becomes too nasty to fish as the summer heats things up and algae blooms.  I'll go back again of course.  One of these days I'll probably hook a big one, finally I might add, but if not I'll be happy with finding another golden ribbon.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Finding the Rhythm

One of the highlights of fall fishing, at least for me, is finding reliable emergences of Blue-winged Olives.  Back in Tennessee, the small mayflies would show up on occasion, but here in Colorado it is not an if or a when but rather a given.  The little BWOs are so reliable on some waters that you can tell when the hatch is about to start based on when all the fishermen show up.  In other places, the hatch is a guarantee, but the timing might be a bit more unpredictable.

My first memory of hitting this hatch in Colorado is from Clear Creek last September.  The little browns were rising with abandon in the shaded pool where the stream hugged the cliff on the south bank.  Every now and again, a larger specimen would rise, leaving a subtle rise that was clearly the work of a more experienced trout than most of the splashy efforts I was seeing.  I fished a little Sparkle Dun, a #18 if my memory is correct, and the trout would eat if I showed them a clean drift.

Last spring, one particularly drizzly day found me torn between the BWOs and throwing streamers.  Most people who know me can guess that streamers won.  I'm still not sure whether or not that was the right choice.  Every single pool had numerous fish rising to bugs struggling to get off the water into the chilly mountain air.  The meadow stream eventually yielded a fine brown to my streamer, but I still wonder how the day would have been if I had fished a BWO the whole time.

Most recently, on a trip to the Arkansas River tailwater in Pueblo, I stumbled into one of the more epic hatches I've been blessed to fish.  Deciding to put my Colorado State Parks sticker to good use, I parked at the Valco parking lot.  An early morning departure had me rigging up in air temperatures that had just edged above the freezing point.  A fleece kept me warm while I started working my way down the river to explore new water.  The number of fishermen out was impressive, but finally I started to find water I could call my own.

Deep water nymphing was turning up very few fish, and I began to wonder if the decision to get up ridiculously early and drive all the way to Pueblo was a sound one.  The occasional tug on the line from small to average stockers was not really helping my mindset.  Once it warmed up, my mood gradually improved however.  I stumbled upon a family of deer in the brush along the river and was reminded to look for the little things that make a trip great.  It wasn't before I had finally wandered down close to the bridge that I noticed a few fish rising in the slack water along the far bank.


Refusing to acknowledge the possibility that it was time to change tactics, I stumbled on down the river.  Crossing at a point of shallow riffles to search for that deep run that I just knew had to exist and would be loaded with big trout, I saw a few BWO duns floating along.  That's what they were eating back there.  Still stubborn, I found a pool perfectly suited to my nymph rig.  Running the flies through time after time, I saw a few rise rings just downstream, then another a bit closer.  Not wishing to ignore the obvious for too long, I walked a few yards down to a nice long flat with several rising trout.

Digging through my fly boxes, I chose a #20 Parachute BWO with a hi-vis post that I tied a few months ago.  Extending my leader to end in 6x tippet, I was now ready to go head-to-head with these annoying trout.  Since when does any self-respecting trout ignore my delicious sub-surface offering of midges and BWO nymphs anyway?  After a few casts that did not produce a hit, I paused to observe.  Suddenly it was obvious:  the fish were rising in a consistent rhythm.  Somehow I was drifting my fly past in between each rise.

I waited for a trout to rise, then waited for the next rise.  Finding the rhythm, I waited until just before  the next rise and then made the cast.  The little fly floated for all of 3 feet before a chunky rainbow nailed it.  The next couple of hours proceeded about the same until I started to get hungry.


Wandering back upstream, I came across the same little flat where I initially spotted rising fish.  A huge wake from the back indicated that I had moved just a little too quickly for at least one large rainbow's liking.  Slowing things down, I decided to retie.  I had lost the Parachute pattern some time before.  Several other patterns had fooled trout, but I wanted something extra for the large risers I was now stalking.  A #20 Comparadun seemed appropriate.  Testing the knot and checking the drag was the last step before beginning to cast.

Several casts later, another wake quickly exited the exposed shallows.  Slow down, find the rhythm.  Refocused, I waited.  There, right against the bank.  The drift was particularly difficult since I was casting 35 feet across 2 different current seams and trying to drift the fly in the calm water outside the last current seam.  Again and again I expected to spook the trout, but somehow luck was on my side, and it just moved up a couple of feet before rising again.  Finally, the stars aligned.  The fly dropped just outside the main current, drifted a foot and a half, and was inhaled.  Six more inches and it would have started to drag.  Knowing my luck had turned gave me more confidence.  The beautiful 14 inch fish was not the owner of one of the large heads I had been watching another 20 feet upstream.

Releasing the fish, I again paused and observed.  Two large trout, the kind that are big enough to get your pulse racing, were rising a good 45 feet up and across.  To get a good drift, I took 2 steps forward...and saw yet another wake zigzagging frantically away.  One more chance.  Finding the rhythm, I waited for the trout to rise once more, paused, then made one solid backcast before sending the fly on its way.  The fish ate a natural 6 inches to the left of my fly.  After a short pause to avoid spooking the fish, I lifted the line off the water, bought time with two false casts, and presented the fly again.  This time the fish rose a foot below my fly.  This went on for probably 30 casts.  Every cast I expected to spook the fish, but apparently it was a day for fishing miracles.

Finally, the fly settled in 12 inches above the fish.  My adrenaline shot through the roof as that big head I had been watching slowly appeared below my fly.  As I lifted the rod, I knew that this trout was mine to lose.  The fish was smart, but it was also stuck on that shallow flat.  Once, it made a heart-stopping run towards the fast riffles below, but somehow I got its head turned.  When I finally slipped the net under the fish my day was complete.  I released the gorgeous rainbow trout after getting a good picture, cradling it gently until it slipped off to battle another day.


Continuing upstream, I discovered that fishermen had been fishing hard with nymph rigs the whole day.  The bugs only made it another 75 yards or so above that last hole.  Sometimes, a fishing day's success is measured strictly on whether you go upstream or downstream.  Thankfully, I went downstream...


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Weather

My trip last weekend was the fishing version of making hay while the sun shines or something like that.  I had tentatively planned, or perhaps considered is a better word, a couple of camping trips this fall.  Every time something came up though so when last weekend was looking like good weather, I figured it was high time I headed for the hills before the snow started to fly in earnest.  The long range forecast was already hinting at our current cold and snowy weather so I had extra motivation to get out and fish before things became too miserable.

The thought of sleeping in my own comfortable bed kept me home for one night to rest up for the next two days of bliss in nature.  When I finally headed out, it was after a leisurely breakfast and all around relaxing morning.  As a fisherman, I know how to get up early to get to the good water ahead of everyone else, but for this particular trip, I was not too worried about fighting any crowds.  Some waters are thankfully overlooked.

On the way, I was continuously in awe at the beauty of the mountains surrounding me.  When I finally arrived at my destination, I took the time to figure out where I would be pitching my tent for the night and then headed out with the fly rod to look for some fish.  The perfect fall weather allowed me to simply wear Chacos instead of messing with waders and boots.  I soon found myself patrolling a likely meadow stretch and probing the undercuts and log jams with a nice yellow streamer.

Less than stellar results soon led to a fly change and then I started locating fish consistently.  The fish would flash out from a deep cutbank or weedbed in a pool or a mass of logs that just screamed "brown trout castle!"  For some reason, I was still having a difficult time connecting though.  One particularly nice 18-19 incher surged out of a huge weedbed and when I threw back after missing him the first time, nailed the streamer but unexplainably still missed the hook.  Dejected, I continued exploring until I happened to look over my shoulder.  This would be the theme of the week.  Great scenery surrounded me but it seems I only noticed when I slowed down enough to glance around and actually enjoy it.


Realizing its never just about the fishing, I decided to try a new stretch of stream and began fresh with a new mindset.  Moving with stealth, I was soon spotting fish.  However, I didn't catch many and definitely nothing too large.  It was one of those days where I was just enjoying the experience and never bothered to pull out the camera until the last fish of the day.  It was a chunky brown and I was content to call it a day after landing the colored up beauty.  Glancing over my shoulder, I was again reminded that I needed to slow down.  Time away from nature tends to speed life up and complicate things.



Staring at the sunset transforming the sky above, I was mesmerized into remembering why I actually bother to head out into the wilds.  The rest of weekend proceeded at a much slower pace as I began to actually enjoy the experience instead of just making the experience.  Things were now right, and I knew that the next day I would fish much more efficiently.  Mindset is important even in fishing.  My best days fishing have always come once I was relaxed and not trying too hard...I had reached that point and knew that the fish better watch out the next day.




After taking in the sunset and remembering that I did have a camera with me, I headed back to camp to fix some food and maybe even see some shooting stars.  Having accidentally left my fleece, I layered on the long sleeved shirts and topped it off with my raincoat as a windbreaker.  Camp chair set up in the now dark camping facing the mountains, I sank down to enjoy the stillness of the night.  Overhead, the stars were shining brightly and it was only a couple of minutes before the show started.  The Orionid meteor shower was supposed to be happening, and seeing one so quickly suggested it might be a good night to try and photograph some.  Digging out the camera along with gloves as the cold was starting to take a toll, I started taking pictures.  Sadly, other than two more shooting stars, the show was pretty much a bust.  The night sky was awesome though including the moon.  I enjoyed shooting until the cold was too piercing, and I headed for the warmth of my sleeping bag for the night.




The long night was made longer by the fact that the "forecast" low was reached probably by 9:30 p.m. and quickly passed as the mercury dipped lower.  My sleeping bag was still within its acceptable rating temperature wise but I definitely could have slept warmer.  Thus, when it became light the next morning I was excited for the sun to hit my tent and warm things up.  After going for an extended period without the light getting significantly brighter, I made myself squirm out of the sleeping bag and back into my long sleeve shirt layers.

A thick band of clouds was blocking the sun to the east although it had risen above the ridge at this point.  Deciding to try and get some good shots in, I drove down the valley searching for the perfect light and angle to photograph the mountains to my west.  Experimenting several times, I found several nice shots although not the one I had originally envisioned and hoped for.  What a perfect excuse to go back sometime!!!



Just about the time the sun burst from behind the clouds, I realized that since the stream was so close, I should probably fish a little before heading back to camp for breakfast.  I was soon into fish including a nice 15 incher that shot out from a dark undercut bank next to a back eddy.  Happy with the experience, I didn't even bother to take out the camera.  Not far upstream, I would decide the camera was a good idea.

I was walking slowly just looking when I spotted two browns laying out on the far side of a deep hole watching for a meal.  When I spotted the fish I was already too close but decided there was nothing to do but attempt a cast.  With the sun almost directly behind me, they may have been blinded and not able to see me.  Whatever the reason, when my fly splashed just upstream, the larger of the two nosed over and decided to see if it was good to eat.  After a brief fight on 2x tippet, I horsed the beautiful fish into the shallows for a couple quick photographs.



Releasing the fish, I made sure it was ready to go but kept the camera ready.  As it swam purposefully away, I shot three quick photos and the first one turned out great.


Looking up, the reflection of the forest called for a photo as well so I just kept on shooting.


After working upstream a bit further, my stomach reminded me that I still had not eaten breakfast (unless you call chocolate chip cookies breakfast), so I found myself headed back to the car and then camp to take down the tent and also eat something.  Along the way, I found more photo worthy scenery but was hungry enough that I was satisfied with just a shot or two.


Fueled up with some awesome pomegranate and dried cherry granola, it was back to the hunt for fish.  Lots of fish were out feeding by this time of the afternoon.  One nice trout in particular was in an almost impossible spot with heavy brush both above and around.  I finally managed to drop a fly in but only after spooking the fish so my efforts were futile.

Not far upstream, a different story emerged.  I found a nice female brown hanging out watching for food.  She followed my fly on the first cast but missed the hook.  The second cast was right on target and I watched as she turned and ate.  Carefully taking a picture, I had her back in the water in no time and she rocketed back to the sanctuary of deep water.


The rest of the afternoon became more and more focused on pictures.




Eventually, I realized that more fishing would probably be greedy and it was time to head towards home.  Starting the week exhausted was not in my plans and I didn't want to get home too late.  My sudden urge to travel coincided with the elk's late day trip back to the meadows to feed.  The zoom lens I had been lugging around all weekend suddenly seemed awfully necessary as I quickly changed it out with the lens I normally leave on the camera.

During my drive out of the area, I came across at least 5 separate herds of elk.  The males were still bugling at least occasionally which is always great entertainment for a Tennessee boy who only saw such things on National Geographic growing up.













After tearing myself away from the last photo opportunities, I headed home content.  The mountains fill my soul with such tranquility that it is always a little sad to leave, but I realize that the greatest impact I can have on society is probably where people actually live so it was not entirely reluctantly that I travelled back over the mountains.  I was rested and rejuvenated to teach for another week.