Tag Archives: Greenback Cutthroat Trout

White Hot Love After a Blistering Cold Day

As I hiked down the trail back to the car I sang. Not a soul felt like hiking in that cold snow. I sang louder knowing that John and I were the only two people left on the trail. The karaoke disc in my head played silent Christmas songs and I sang them out loud to an empty hall. I’m sure John and the trees enjoyed it. After all, I feel like I’m a great singer and I’m sure the trees would agree.

The thoughts in my head were bouncing as well. The day was exceedingly hypnotic, fresh, crisp. I watched the snow collect on the pine needles and pull the dying grasses to the Earth. The clouds were low in the sky and the images of being there were perfect. The catching was on and my goal of the “Big Trio” was accomplished. There was a bounce in my step in the few miles of trail to the car.

Just before we made it to the car, I thought one last thought. Hot Chocolate. Not just any put-it-in-the-microwave cocoa. Cocoa from scratch. White Hot Cocoa. My mouth began to water and my body went into relaxation mode. After the hot cocoa, it becomes hibernation. Yes, this potent stuff has coma inducing side-effects. Here is how it is done:

Warm up 1 cup of cream in a big pot:

Add 1 cup of white chocolate morsels and allow them to melt, don’t get things too hot, good things take time:

Add 4 cups of half & half slowly. I usually do it 1 cup at a time every minute or so. If you go too fast the chocolate will recombine and leave strings of chocolate on top of your mug:

Right before you serve, add 1/4 teaspoon of the best vanilla you can find:

Serve. Enjoy. Hibernate.

Also, in an 8oz glass you are looking at like 1200 calories. Just saying. Note the beer mug I served myself, I need insulation this year.

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Hurry Up and Wait

Anticipation is a powerful thing. It has the ability to make you forget, no matter how prepared you are. This was a day that anticipation would lead to a forgotten camera, but even after that moment, it became the word of the day. 

Erin of Mysteries Internal decided to finally break down and go fishing with me. She is one incredible writer, and I’m sure that every reader of mine has also read her blog. If not, I would suggest that you do so. She is quite talented and the read will not let you down. We decided on a place in the Rocky Mountain National Park after debating a few more lengthy hikes. This was not so long of a hike and I really wanted to do some fishing in new water and do it fast. Prior to meeting Erin, I was kind of nervous. One particular reason was due to the fact that I would more than likely be out fished by a girl. Sometimes girls can be malicious about it. Upon meeting her, all of the thoughts I had, dissolved. I knew I would get along with her just fine. …but there were no crullers. Luckily I had scored a cheese danish and pumpkin spice coffee at the gas station on the way up. 

Our arrival to the lake was swift and efficient. After I almost died from all of the fluid in my lungs from being sick the previous week. Looking upon the lake was nearly startling. Everything about it just looked fishy and everyday at a new place it always starts with a layer of ice. That ice is only broken by catching the first fish. Erin quickly laid out 50′ of line on the water flawlessly as I fumbled around in my box thinking, “I hope my casting looks that good”. I’m still not sure that it did. At times, we spotted big cruisers and putting our flies on the nose of these fish only startled an already spooked fish. I blame the clarity of the water and the underestimated fish brain. Two hours went by. Not a nibble or tug. Just eerie silence and wind. We moved to the outlet side of the lake… Life…

We hooked into a few fish, but not long enough to bring them to shore and the previous fishing had been disappointing to say the least. There was only anticipation. It was Erin that broke the ice. Erin would catch that first fish. The rest of the day, it was on. A fish every handful of casts and bigger and better fish to be had.

The fish we were catching were supposed to be Greenbacks, but they are obviously tainted Colorado River Cutthroats.

The cold blew in and the rain began and we decided to leave, and in the end I had more than just a great fishing trip, I made a new friend. …again.

Thanks for the amazing trip and the wonderful photos Erin!


Up To The Knees In Cutts

Ah yes… Back up in the hills, back up in altitude, back to fresh air and fresh water, back up to snow and alpine peaks, and most importantly, back up to the Cutthroat that reside in that pristine world. All is right and perfect until that moment you realize it is a couple more miles to your destination. Those miles more filled than the previous miles with steeper climbs and other obstacles that tax the already burning muscles. Some might say a trip for the more rugged man, but it is a trip for the focused. One would never make it hiking alongside a river loaded to the brim with fish. Not that anyone in the party knew at the time, but you could tell the pools held fish and scores of them had never been caught. Keep moving past the perfect glacier water, past the porcupine munching on leafy greens, past the rock that curved around into the valley that held the lake.

Both the inlet and outlet to the lake seemed perfect. I’m sure every fisherman that continued this way knew the same. The Cutthroat knew and denied scores of flies. Partially because they were aware and partially because the meals were readily available. This combo always results in poor fishing. Not for John, the one in the group newest to fly fishing. This was truly his day. For Sanders and I, it was punishing. The fish were so quick to attack and quick to let go that it seemed as though we were doing everything wrong. Bumps on the indicator resulted in a fly with no fish attached and the dries seemed to just drift through the mouths of the fish.

Sanders, John, and I dined on bagel sandwiches for lunch and decided that it would be better for us to fish the inlet. Another walk past fishy water. The inlet showed us mercy and it wasn’t long before we were all into fish. The water was skinny and loaded with hungry cruising and rising fish. It seemed like the fish were still strangely attracted to John, who threw everything from giant hoppers to san juan worms. While Sanders and I were stuck with tiny midges and dries.

I was happy that Sanders made his way into the Greenback club. The first one is always the hardest, but on the way down he scored a few more. Even after his back injury, I’m glad he was able to join us on our mission of Cutthroats and maybe he will find himself on a few more back country adventures before the year is through. 


The Suggestion Box

There are some new ideas bubbling around these parts, strictly in the world of this blog. The debate is on, wondering if I should be posting Sunday evenings. Not actually moving the posting day, but have an additional short posting. About what? Well, I’m not exactly sure yet. I was checking over my stats and found that Survival 101: Water was a complete flop. On the flip side of that, This is a Tasty Burger and It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane were the top 2. Burgers are read about twice as much as fishing. I do not want to turn this into a food blog. What about some fish science? Light refraction and dissipation in water, guanine crystals on fish skin, schreckstoff, UV qualities of different tying materials, fish perception of polarization? Any interest there? I’m not looking to gain extra readers (that is a great side effect though), I just don’t want to lose them. You guys are my virtual fishing buddies and I enjoy that. July marks month number 5 of writing and so far it’s going good. I would like to thank the people that read the blog, you guys keep me going. If you have any suggestions or likes and dislikes, feel free to sound off in a comment below.

Onward! To the fish! In the previous post, John and I did some hiking in the RMNP to fish some clean water. This time, I wanted to continue that and explore more of the area. If you were up there, you know that there are some trails that are buried beneath 10′ of snow. My destination was beyond that. Bridges were out and flooded, and with the amount of snow, we were forced back into the same water. After catching a couple fish, we decided that the drainage would have to suffice. The wind was awful and the pressure on the lake was growing. Because of the wind and the right time of year, the pollen from the local pine trees did the work of dusting for fingerprints at a crime scene.

Fishing on the creeks was amazing. So many people have walked along these places that the fish are not spooky and don’t react when you accidentally slap the water. Mostly small, yet feisty browns. Are there bigger fish in here? Sure! Check it out! The only fish we were into were 6″-9″ and too miswired to have their mugshots taken. We had to make one more stop for the day at the Big Thompson. The river was very high and as far as I could tell, it has been that way for a while. Undaunted, we fished. Nothing, not a twitch. We had stopped here on our way up and John caught this…

The more I think about it, the more I realize that there are tons of fisherman in Colorado. Even more than them are the hikers, bikers, and tourists. My search in the coming weeks will be for the unpopular areas of this state. The rougher turf, and maybe the nearly impossible. The rivers will begin coming down in the Platte watershed soon, and that means some water will be opening up to spread us fly fisherman out of one another’s turf. I’m sure it will be bringing some out of the woodworks as well. After yesterday’s heat, I’m sure that this weekend will be busy. After all, it is the weekend of the 4th.

Also, if you glance over to the left, you’ll see a list of writers that you will find enjoyable. Go have a read!


Battle of the Buggers

Saturday night was the plan. Camp, then fish the morning session in some of Colorado’s most pristine water. Shrouded in darkness, the trip up canyon was tugging at dream strings that conjured giant fish in a slightly swelling river. Leviathans hiding in plain sight, seeking shelter from the increased volume of water, choosing pools to sip insects from the foam and catch monster insects zooming by in the current. The night was spent sleeping on uncomfortable stones, dreaming of the day to come.

Leave it to light to shed light upon what is really happening. The sun dashed all hopes of catching fish. Has anyone ever tickled you or pretended to punch you in the gut while you attempt your morning stretch? This was the reaction upon my sun greeting stretch. Dreams destroyed, dashed by photons and radiant heat from the sun. I cursed the sun for both ruining the fishing and my stretch. Without a second thought, the tent was packed into the back of the car as the car and I traveled out of the twisting canyon with determination. Sure, the river was fishable and fish concentrated in the eddies, more than likely aggressively eating washed down cranefly larva and huge uprooted stoneflies. In order to get to these fish, one would have to cast over 30′ across 2800 cfs of wild river and time casts between the hordes of rafters. Not my cup of tea. Heck, I don’t even drink tea. Time to go home, tie some flies, and come up with a new plan.

While t wisting feathers around a hook, thoughts of tailwaters crossed my mind. Great idea! Controlled water, low sediment, big fish… Wait, why am I tying buggers? I need to be tying UFO’s, RS2’s, WD40’s, C3P0’s, R2D2’s and other assorted minuscule patterns. Admittedly, the last 2 are Star Wars droids.

There is some back story involved that didn’t make it into the last post completely. When John flew down to NM for the fishing trip, his transportation back to Denver was my car. Long story short, I moved to Denver with John inviting me into his home as a roomie. Am I too old to be or have a roomie? Yes. I needed a new start on life. You could consider it running away from the fires of hell. I mean, all 4 good places to fish in NM are on fire, or at least they will be at one point. Now, I’m a White Sucker in a pond full of Tiger Muskies. In a place where everyone is a guide and I’m just a guy fishing someone else’s secret turf. I apologize in advance to anyone that comes across some NM license plates in their favorite place. I’ll try not to make much of an impact. Because of this, I will not mention where I go anymore out of respect for other bloggers and guides. Unless it is an obviously busy stretch of river.

Back to the story at hand. After finishing tying, John had arrived, expecting to fish. For trips into unknown water, the shotgun approach works very well. Just pick an area with a lot of water and explore. Easier said than done here in Colorado. There is fishable water EVERYWHERE! Digging through my wallet, I found a card for the RMNP. Still good until September and the ultimate shotgun approach. John asked where we were going. I replied by pointing to a map. “Somewhere here. There has to be camping somewhere.” Off we went to find fish. Directly after setting up camp, the downpour began. Lightening touched down closely and abruptly boomed and the tent showed it’s weakness. The leaks. We needed pots and pans. After securing the 2 driest places in the tent, the rain and thunder did it’s job of lulling me to sleep. Again, I had dreams of fishing. This time, nightmares of raging waters.

I naturally sprang to attention at 5am and put on my shoe. Yes, 1 shoe. The other of my recently purchased shoes acted as a catch pool to a leak. 36° outside. 1 wet shoe, 1 wading boot. Why not both wading boots? Have you ever worn wading boots without waders before? It is like those shoes they give you when you break your ankle.

We stopped early and close, and lingered too long at a lake full of actively spawning fish after a rainstorm during a moon that said no way. Sure, we had plenty of strikes, but subtlety ruled the day and the wind did a great job of masking the subtlety. Not a fish to hand. Maybe after the spawn. During my slow approach to a skunking, it dawned on me. If the run off is bad here, it isn’t bad where there is still snow. The back country. You would assume that I would naturally gravitate toward it, but it wan’t really an idea until that moment. Then, after slipping into the lake with my other dry shoe, we left.

Glacier water is clear right?

A 20 minute drive turned into an hour due to amateur photographers parking dead-center in the road taking 400 photos of each individual elk for which there were thousands. I’ve never seen an elk in full velvet before, but wasn’t about to clog traffic to get a better look at an elk that was standing 5 feet from the road. It really loses its magic when they don’t want to run away. There was fishing to be done, and not much day left to do so.

We lost the trail in the snow and tourists experts without fishing gear along the way commented, “There aren’t any fish up there.” There was still a lot of snow. The temps had plummeted overnight and stayed that way. The mountains unleashed wind and rain to further increase the cold, but we pressed on.  Both John and I driven by the feeling of setting a hook. Over the last hill, there it was. Crystal clear and perfect, begging to be fished. John was the first to entice a fish with the bugger that he left tied on. I thought I could get the one-up by running a midge. I was denied.

My hands, John's fish

After John brought 3 fish to hand, I was forced to change to what was working. A Woolly Bugger. The cutthroat killer. The water was so clear that we couldn’t tell how deep it was. We could see the bottom and the contours and sometimes the fish when the sun was out. No natural thing attracted attention and I was stumped at the buggers yet again. The water couldn’t have been over 40°F, absolutely clear, and perfect for midges of any kind. Big dumb buggers though? For lethargic fish. Ok… I’m going with that. After taking a spill that almost landed me in the freezing lake, I was finally onto the fish.

Persistance pays.

We only fished for 2 hours and the day was winding to an end. The sun, although mostly unseen, was finding a resting place behind the mountain peak, prompting us to put an end to the trip. Freezing weather was coming. John, the student, became the master that day.

On the way down, I was thinking about the fish I’ve caught this year. So far, 7 species of trout. I guess my next trip will have to be somewhere along the Colorado river to become more familiar with the cutthroats around these parts. Fish shown are supposed to be Greenbacks, but there was a mix up in the late 70’s where Colorado River Cutts were restored into Greenback territory. Therefore, I have no idea. Two very similar fish.

Lesson #11: Even in the middle of June, Snow is still slippery.