Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Foolish Culmination of Thoughts

It was a tax weekend for me, and because I had meetings in Albuquerque, my fishing opportunities were very limited. It was my original plan to get these taxes complete on Friday and fish the San Juan Saturday and Sunday. As usual, I had to postpone my trip. The tax process was a little slower than anticipated and I was rescheduled for Sunday. One day trips weren’t what the doctor ordered. I needed a quick, big fish fix.

 

Taken around January or so...

I could’ve gone and chased stockers on the Jemez, but there isn’t anything “big” in that area until the fall. Although, the Guadalupe fishes well this time of year, I couldn’t justify waking up early for lazy Brown trout. Chasing stockers is not exactly what I look for, but if I was going to do it, why not just go big? That left me with only one choice, Tingley Beach. Hold your hisses and boo’s please. It’s all I had, and it isn’t very beach-like unless you consider the combination of water and coarse New Mexico sand. Quite frankly, I enjoy fishing there during the winter when there is 5′ of snow on the ground in my favorite places. Now, back to the story at hand. It was the perfect day to be outside, ask my sunburn, and I was quite chipper. A certain bounce in my step, birds were chirping, a guy on his bike was riding back and forth screaming the words of “In-A-Godda-Da-vida” as he passed. The place reminds me of a game of poker, you can bend the rules a bit, but the big payoff is when you play an honest game. This includes A: barbless hooks B: not using a “fly” that looks anything remotely resembling a food pellet C: Not slapping the water with your line making it sound like they are about to be fed and D: Not throwing food into the water directly followed by your fly. Yes, lots of people do ALL of these. Usually the place is quite busy, seeing around 20-30 people at any given moment, but today was slow. There were 4 of us. The water was cloudy and the fish were slow to bite at first. I changed flies a bunch, but to no avail. I decided to tie on the Beadhead Goose Biot, #18 originally tied for the deeper sections of the San Juan. Afterward, every fish that saw it, ate it.

The New Killer(nameless)

I was having a blast catching fish, then 2 dogs came around and started sniffing around and barking at the back of my head. No fun. These two wandering beasts were followed (after about 20 minutes, doesn’t Albuquerque have a leash law?) by a girl. She was around my age and when she walked up, she started spewing to me her life story. Why? I have no idea. It has always been a dream of mine to find a girl while fly fishing, you know the old saying “catch of a lifetime”. I didn’t understand at the time, but she might have been hitting on me. Even worse, stalking me. I was so concentrated on fishing that I couldn’t reply much and the fact that she was vegan really didn’t help her case. After she awkwardly drifted away from the conversation I noticed that she was standing behind me, 20 feet removed, in the bushes. When I saw her there, she mysteriously, as was her approach, disappeared. Was it as creepy as it sounds? Yes. The rest of the pre-noon fishing went very well and above average. No 30 inchers today though. Maybe in December…

A late update: Looks like the San Juan is postponed until July or so. 50,000 6″ fish are mingling around in there.

 

Next thought:

The yearling offspring

I’ve been waiting for the weekend of the 1st of April since October 31st of last year. A trip to my favorite place in the world. It isn’t the size of fish that brings me here. It’s the type of fish. This foolish weekend is a tradition of sorts. My brother and I have a camping spot there that we accidentally left a couple of knives at in April of ’10. The spot is seemingly well used and upon our return in October, we found them. This year we will probably spend a little time trying to find other things we have left, and maybe leave something to find again in October. Traditionally, we camp and dine upon Cheddarwurst on skewers of local sticks snuggly wrapped in a flour tortilla. For us, the word “tortilla” is Spanish for “edible plate”. This trip is a major anticipation because of the secret snake that lives in the lake. Maybe it is surprising to some that this lake does not have brown trout in it. It does have a breed of Cutthroat that is really not supposed to be here. There isn’t even a hatchery in NM that creates these guys. If there ever was a stocking program for these fish, it would have to precede Rio Grande Cutthroat restorations in an attempt to have a more sturdy, high mountain fish population. Even if it were that, they only stocked the high mountains once every 2 years and most of the water in the area is private. I called NM Game and Fish on this one and they

New Mexico Snake

seemed as baffled as I was. The NM fishing map doesn’t even list these cutthroat as being in this water. They figured it was a diluted and mutated Rio Grande strain. It is obviously not. Supposedly, Game and Fish has NEVER stocked cutthroat of any kind in this water and the remainder of last year was spent stocking Triploid Rainbows. Because of these fish, a great deal of my year will be dedicated to finding the other places in New Mexico that are holding them. Sometimes, I wish there were more of me. I try to pack in 10 years of fishing into 1 and it never works out. Maybe I should just cancel that San Juan trip in lieu of more vertical waters above the 8,000′ elevation mark. There is nothing like a rising Cutthroat… Did I mention that these fish are ultra aggressive? I wouldn’t be surprised if they ate a fish half their size.

If you find yourself in this area, be sure to know your fish. Check the throats of these fish for the red slashes and do us all a favor and release them, if you catch one you will know why I mention this. The area is under moderate pressure and are not caught often, but it would be fun to have an area in New Mexico with big Cutbows like the Taylor. These fish are native to the united states and exotic to New Mexico and the river system that contains them is far from the Rio Grande Cutthroat and does not drain into the same river systems or threaten the Gila population. I say leave them be, they are thriving here and this is the perfect place for cutbows that do not threaten any other native or protected population.

Lesson #5: Just because you are standing next to or in the water doesn’t mean you won’t get thirsty.


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s supermoon!

Call me superstitious, but I feel things like the solunar calendar ring true for the prediction of animal activity. It also helps to carry around a vest full of rabbit’s feet, horseshoes, feathers, an abyssinian wish box, etc. What else are you supposed to put into all of those tiny pockets?  It is very hard for me to turn down a fishing trip on a full moon, but a super moon? Well, that would be like missing the birth of your child. Needless to say, my weekend was taken. Early in the week, I had been planning a trip to the southeast facing side of the Jemez caldera hoping for some migrating cutthroats and a bit of fact finding. Plans were moved around a bit when I received a call from Elliot, an old work buddy turned fishing buddy. He wasn’t up for chasing stockers behind dams or risking life and limb for 5-6″ fish in a possibly dry creek bed. Needless to say, a change of plans was in the works. There is always a “Plan B”.

Not knowing what is coming is very risky this time of year in New Mexico. From impassible roads to runoff that easily ruins a good time. Choosing a new location to fish was difficult and I really didn’t want to fish the Jemez river or the San Antonio, or any of the major waterways that people would more than likely be fishing on this spectacular weekend. I knew that I wanted to fish somewhere around the caldera and with around 30 fish filled rivers to choose from, only one came to mind. The Rio De Las Vacas. It stretches from San Gregorio lake, to about 8 miles north of San Ysidro where it meets with the Jemez river. You may know the last few miles of the Vacas well for it’s name when it meets the Cebolla, the Guadalupe.

The trip started out relatively on time at 4:00 5:00am after I stayed up way too late tying flies. The anticipated ride up brought an extended adrenaline rush, so that was a bonus. I guess the energy drink helped too. The nearly 2 hour drive seemed a little shorter than what it was due to the giddy adult children exchanging fish stories and before I knew it we had arrived in the mountains. Hardly any snow was left on the ground and to my surprise, one of the feeder streams was only running high and stained. Not the mudslide that I had anticipated. After a short break, it was onward to the water we were after. The water was big, wide, deep(for New Mexico), and flowed snake-like through a wide valley. Perfect water. As we were driving deeper into the canyon, I think I heard “Come Sail Away” by Styx softly playing in the background and I might have shed some tears of joy. Very manly tears of acid and nails, could’ve been allergies though.

Joe lead us to a place I had not been before and we parked the truck near a bridge and geared up. I had never been fly fishing with more than one person in my life, and because I go alone so much, I’m very quick to the water. The other 2 in the party were not so quick. As I waited, I decided to eyeball some aquatic life.

I was unaware that I tied a bug closely resembling what was hiding under that rock. The previous night I tied a few different bugs. The big-headed black nymph is good for dark and deep or murky water casting a hard silhouette that is easy for fish to find (left). I don’t have a name for the one pictured on the right, but that was the magic for the day. Maybe you can suggest a name for it… The third is a tan goose biot midge (bottom) that I didn’t try due to the success of my main fly. In fact, I didn’t change it up all day. Elliot chose a zebra midge and Joe tied on a prince nymph. Then we were off.

Elliot hooked up with the first fish of the day that threw the hook very quickly. I say it was fouled, because a day couldn’t be complete without Elliot fouling at least one fish. The world just wouldn’t be right. Shortly afterward, Joe landed his first two Browns of the day. Leaving me wondering what I was doing wrong. Then I reminded myself that it takes me a bit to find where exactly the fish are hiding. I stayed back in a pool and our group spread out a bit. Still fishless around the bend, I caught up with Joe and dropped my nymph behind a log that the water flowed over to make a little hole. A twitch from the indicator revealed a Rainbow trout. My ego was boosted and I was ready to get serious. Dropped the line again and out came a second rainbow. Thank goodness I had all of that confidence mustered up because when I chose a safe log to cross that section of river, I slipped on a patch of ice and landed face first. Miraculously, I didn’t get wet.

After working around the bend, we became more focused on the proper holes and hideouts for fish. The payoff was great. No monster fish around, but most of the fish were in the range of 8-11″ with a couple 14″ and the occasional 3-4″.

All in all it was a great day. Maybe it was the moon, maybe it wasn’t, but I guess there is no way to figure that one out. Too many variables. It may still be held in the world of superstition, but to me there might be some truth to it. I’m glad everyone involved had as good a time as I did and many thanks go out to Elliot and Joe for the new place and the good company. This was new water to all of us and I’m glad it produced fish for them. To the Vacas: until we meet again.

Lesson #3: If it is cold outside and a log looks wet, chances are that it is ice. Don’t walk on it.


Oh, The Anticipation…

This weekend is calling. My fishy senses are burning. It feels like I’m a child waiting to unwrap his presents on Christmas morning. There is a full moon coming on the 16th and a low pressure front on its way the same day. The water is hovering around 42cfs which is high, but not too high, just right. Temperatures are on the rise and the bugs should be rolling in. The problem, me. I am the one variable to make or break this coming trip. The confusion between “matching the hatch” and fishing those big, easy to find bugs is killing me. Do I tie up big black nymphs? Do I tie griffith’s gnats and midges? Do I tie something big and flashy? Small and flashy?

My mind is far from at ease. Worrying that this sudden outburst of high heat into the 70’s is going to turn the river into a mudslide (more resembling the drink). There is a point during the great anticipation where a person can become over prepared for his or her trip. I find myself catching more fish when I have a limited or short supply of bugs probably because I don’t change flies as often. Being over prepared also leads me to believe that you forget the bare essentials, opting for things that you might need rather than the things you really need like tippet or your rod. Being organized is a big task for me. The easiest way to be prepared would be to simply make a list. Then I say to myself, “Self, you’ve been doing this for over 15 years, you know exactly what you need and don’t need to make sissy noob lists”. After I agree with that little devil on my shoulder, I sprint off into the darkness not knowing what is in the back of the car and realizing 30 minutes into the trip that I am missing something that is easily purchased at the next stop. Because of this, I have at least 20 sets of cheap hemostats. Meanwhile, I hear, “I told you so” from the other devil on the opposite shoulder.

I guess the moral of this story is that there is a chance that you forget something that gets lost in the excitement. Sometimes you have to do something that’s not very cool like making a list and a backup to that list and maybe 4 or 5 rough drafts of this list. Maybe even take cues from Santa Claus and check your list twice. Time consuming you say? Yes it is, but at least you are wearing pants.

After this weekend, there will be fishy pictures and a good story of an adventure. I promised myself a post on Thursday, and therefore must do so in order to appease the “I told you so” devil.

Lesson #2: When making a list it is important that you remember where you put that list, or make a list of places that you keep the list you have made. Reread.


A Dying Breed

Some people say that fly fishing is a dying sport. The ones who don’t, are fishing on the San Juan. Most of my fishing experiences have been higher in the mountains, but sometimes I get the bug to go catch a bunch of big fish. What a better place than one of the world’s best stretches of river? Here is the issue. When you park your car and get ready to saddle up with all of your gear (or in my case pockets), you get subtle glances and the occasional glare or sneer. For the beginner fly fisherman, this is quite intimidating. My first visit to the San Juan was when I was 16 years old. I remember it vividly. My cheap, neoprene waders, my hiking boots that I converted to wading boots, a vest from wal-mart, and a $40 rod and reel combo made up my arsenal. I got stares and looks from a lot of people (still do), one guy even told me, “you are going to go fish like that?”. Oh, I did, and it was very unpleasant. When I finally made it to the river, people stared at my “old school” ways of doing things and mocked my repeated lame attempts at a 30′ cast. I think one of them was a guide on the river too. Please allow me to meander to present day. Throughout the years, I have learned one very important thing about this river. When you start catching fish, be prepared to be crowded by a few people. The “kiddie hole” is notorious for this. I still get the looks when I fish this river today. I think that scares a lot of novice types away. For those thinking about going there for the first time, just remember that all of these people are from Texas and you won’t ever see them again in your life. I’m totally kidding here, the Texans are the friendly ones, usually. In fact in the summer, I like to refer to Red River as “Little Texas”. Don’t think about the glares or what might be said of you on the river, just fish. Enjoy your time there even if you come out fishless at the end of the day. We are all in this for the same reason. (Disclaimer: I hate to stereotype, but lots of fly fisherman on this river are jerks who spent loads of money to fish there and become angry when they don’t catch, most fly fishing people are super friendly but there are some bad eggs in the bunch) To the local guys, let us try to keep our attitudes subtle and helpful. Most of these people are visitors to the state and in these tough economic times, the tax dollars and other state revenue will help our other fisheries and restoration projects. If there is a struggling person, ask if they might need help and be nice about it. Who knows, you might make a friend.

For those of you looking for other places in New Mexico to fish with less people, here are a couple of suggestions of “must visit” water.

Coyote Creek: Not the premier place in NM for giant fish, but last time I visited, I caught right around 100 fish. Check the stocking report often because I can imagine it being fairly slow when they don’t. http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/recreation/fishing/index.htm Also know that the state park isn’t the only place to fish. There are lots of fishing easements to the north of the park and a couple ponds that are perfect for the beginner. There is the occasional holdover in there so be prepared for that 20″. Otherwise, the fish are very aggressive and become packed into the runs and pools. If you intend to keep, you can catch your limit in a 6’x6′ hole in less than an hour. Again, check the stocking report. Here’s a link to the map too http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/PRD/documents/Coyote_001.pdf This is one of New Mexico’s cleanest parks and it truly was a pleasure. The officials are good people too. Great place for the family.

Ramah Lake: Known in the past to hold monstrous fish, a couple years ago this lake turned over and killed all of the fish. Since then, NM has been restocking this lake with triploid rainbow trout and the results have been quite surprising to me. Last year, I visited this lake for the day after my brother caught a bunch of fish the previous week. This lake has an extremely healthy ecosystem and will produce a 15″ fish on average. Bring your float tube or kayak to get around because it is difficult to get around on the bank. Before you go, ask around to make sure that there are still fish out there. Lots of locals go out there often and have their fingers on the heartbeat of the lake. When I go out there again, be sure that I will mention it.

Good luck to all out there on the water! Hopefully, I’ll have some fishy pics and stories to share after my car gets out of the shop!


The First Day…

Something tells me that this blog should start with the sun rising into a canyon splashing hues of red and orange against a deep blue veil. With fog rising from the deep slow whirling pools of a sylvan stream, heated on it’s course to the sky by fledgling rays of the morning sun. The calm and quiet accented only by the morning dew clinging to blades of long meadow grasses before it seeps into the soil releasing its treasure of life. This utopian fantasy world happens everyday somewhere on this planet. When people find themselves in this situation they usually state, “words can’t describe” or in the case of some, it more than likely resembles some sort of gasping seizure.

Yes, like that and that is not me or my video. Being a fly fisherman that finds himself deep in the mountains at most times, these mornings come often, and even more often they go unnoticed. Truth be told, you couldn’t sleep the night before because some monstrous undocumented creature was feeding right behind your tent, or you put your tent on the most awkward rocks that stab you in the back, or some other reason (those being the most common for me). When you finally wake up, you can’t really see, or you woke up a bit late, or you forget about looking around and go directly to the fish, foregoing the main staples for morning functionality. Oh yes, I did forget to mention that it is almost impossible to motivate yourself to emerge from the cocoon that is the sleeping bag. I figure male humans comfortably “hatch” at temps ranging from 30°-60°F (in extreme cases as low as 15°F) with the female of the species slightly higher at 45°-70°F (there are exceptions to this and females show a wider extreme temperature variance from 20°-85°F). Heat sources and ares of spawning play a major role in the cycle of humanity as well and there are documented cases of a “hatched” male creating a heat source to assist in the “hatching” female and vice versa or other males or females etc..

My goal for this blog is to provide to the reader random facts that may or may not help you understand your prey when fishing and to further fuel the passion. Is prey too strong a word? Also, the reader will find cool recipes and survival tips and tricks for those days that you forget a necessity like water. In short, I’m the guinea pig that you can stand back and watch from a distance. Yes, I do make mistakes. No, I’m not the poster boy for how fly fishing looks like a fluid art. Yes, I sometimes catch trophy fish. No, I won’t boast about it (too much). I WILL NOT HESITATE to give you the what and where about New Mexico streams. I only keep 3 secret spots due to the endangered or threatened status of the fish and even I only visit those places once a year. This blog is also so that I can attempt to have a normal conversation that does not revolve around fishing by getting it all out here rather than a random unsuspecting victim. I hope future posts will entertain and assist in how random the field can be.

Lesson 1: Always be prepared to fall, even from a standing position.