Tag Archives: NM Spring wind

Mud, Guts and Glory

mudhdr

Fly fishing is for the sophisticated, the rich, the people who define class. As Johnny Cash would say, “They’re probably drinking coffee (whiskey) and smokin’ big cigars”. For most of us, this could not be further from the truth. Well, maybe coffee and cigars… People tend to view fly fisherman as a fine sort, a lot are, but most fly fisherman get down and dirty. Even further down the line, a select few get downright muddy. No matter how you try to glorify it and put it on the pedestal for those who only fish dry flies, the attempt can only be futile. Those who are “trout only” turn their noses and think of you as living in a sod house as they say, “Oh, I’ve heard that can be fun”. Please, allow me to get my straw hat, flannel shirt (or no shirt), and overalls. It is time you finally went a carpin’.

elkcarcass

The trip started out as a normal seven mile exploratory search around the lake shore. I was looking for trout who have remained unpressured for years along a section far too dangerous for boats. Fishing went very well, almost good enough to write about. I’m sure that you are reading this because you are not interested in 20″ trout. Right? On my way back, I found shallow water and saw fins drifting amongst the waves. I have read about this before. They call it the “freshwater bonefish” because you can see their fins moving about the surface, doing whatever it is that carp do. At times they would hurl their bulky bodies into the air so far that I would wonder how. Super-carp, that is the only reasonable answer. I stood in the mud awestruck, thinking how I could catch a beast like this. Digging through my fly boxes, I remembered tying a fly that I deemed curious looking. The Backstabber. Why? I have no idea. What does it look like? Well, like a classic poem, it is up for interpretation. In fact, you are wasting precious carp fishing time trying to figure it out. Buy one (or a dozen) and fish it.

Please take some time to read this letter that I am sending to the creator of the Backstabber.

Dear Jay Zimmerman,
You are the man!
Thanks,
David

backstabber

Where was I… Oh yeah! The brilliance of the fly is unparralelled. The secret is in the physics. Eyes on top of the hook shank put added torque on the fly to make it ride hook point up, but if you affix dumbbell eyes without any dressing, it will lay on its side. The marabou is what aligns the hook vertically, no matter how it lands in the water, it will right itself on the bottom. If you play with this fly in the sink, or take it with you to play with in the bathtub, you will clearly see what this fly is all about. It is a delivery mechanism for a hook to ride point up cleverly disguised as a… ummm… Well, whatever it looks like, a carp is about to be bamboozled. Think about it. Carp, mouth down. Backstabber, hook up.

I tied on the fly and in seconds I was into fish. Time began running away and I was still a mile away from my car. A mile through the mud. It was dark and I had caught more carp than I could fit into a couple hours of fishing. I was bursting with joy and excitement. I had to tell my friends. I received the typical blow off from some and others gave me a heck yeah, but one remained keenly interested. Sure enough, he’s English. A man who goes by the name Adrian, who happens to be a fellow guide. We had loosely planned a trip to chase these fish around the flats, but never really got around to it. In the mean time, I continued fishing after work until sunset, giving carp their daily workout. Also catching those pesky trout and pike.spotless rainbowpiked

The day finally came where Adrian and I both had some free time. We hiked down to the ol’ carp hole to give it a whirl. I told him that he would and showed him how to fish the fly. In no time, I saw a bent rod out of the corner of my eye. I smiled, knowing his feeling. “Absolutely incredible”, Those were his first words upon landing it. I needed no other words. I knew. I had spread the disease of the grungy fisherman.

adriancarp

The moral of the story is (if you are still reading), if your friends make fun of you for carp fishing, you need new friends. It takes guts and a strong forearm, the payoff is glory even if it is just in your own head. This post is out of the norm for me, but the only life changing thing about carp fishing is catching carp. I’ll take the easy way out and post a big carp picture.

hairy knucks

Advertisements

The Tragedy

I love the solitude that mountains bring. The fresh cool air flowing through the trees from the alpine areas, the solitude, the quiet. There is only so much lonely fishing a guy can take though. So when the time comes to teach a newcomer to the sport, I will raise my hand and be the first to volunteer. Last year in Denver, I thought it would be a good idea to impart my love for fishing upon my long time friend, John. It didn’t take long for John to get casting down and took only minutes to get his first fish. I remember the moment well. I had taught him to cast and never really covered my bases for him to land a fish on his own. He eventually got the fish in and landed it, but his fear of killing fish by squeezing the life out of them still haunts him to this day. Not that he does, he just feels that they are quite fragile. I assume that he loves the sport by now, having his own rig, asking me to teach him to tie his own flies, randomly texting me while I’m on my own fishing trip, asking me what flies to use, etc. Recently he taught his brother Joe to fish as well. When I caught wind of this newcomer, I had to give him a call and plan a fun trip to some easy water. On the weekend of our planned trip, John decided he would fly into New Mexico for some “better than Colorado” fishing (John did not say this, I am adding this statement because for some reason it was, that is, when we were not in Co.). This was Joe’s first real trip out into moving water and John’s first real taste of what New Mexico really has to offer. Leaving me as the only guy with experience enough to help them out. Dave (me) plays guide but still fishes. Joe also brought his son Jace, who was so excited to go fishing that he waited in the truck for hours while we gathered ourselves and our equipment. I didn’t even know where he was, although I did know that he was going. Even when Joe got in the truck to leave, I asked if he had forgotten his son. This day, it was decided that Cabresto Creek would be our hunting ground. When we arrived and the area was closed, the Red River was a good second choice. A solid 0 fish on the first day was a great way to start. The only way to go was up. I did catch 2 mini fish on the first day, but I’m not really counting those because… Well, you know. We had arrived late and the chances of catching fish in the way over pressured section of water were slim. I figured that I could get into fish late in the day because in the past it has rewarded me greatly. Not this time though. Setting up Joe’s house tent was pretty simple and suited the four of us well and comfortably, for the rest of the evening we were sawing logs in the tent. I was contently dreaming of the day to come.

For me, day 2 started at 6am. I was off to the river to find the bugs that would work before waking the rest of the crew and heading to quality water. I was in such a hurry, that I forgot my camera. A nice brown and a couple other trout went home without a mug shot. After we gathered again, we packed the campsite and headed up river into the less choked water. It didn’t take long for me to start the catching and keep catching, when finally, John reminded me that this trip was more for Joe and Jace than either of us. This was the part when I was disallowed from fishing. While trying to assist joe, I lent him my 8wt. that I was currently using. If you are curious about why I’m fishing an 8wt in a 100cfs stream, the answer is that John didn’t bring his rig and I loaned out the 5wt to him. Why would I use my 5wt for this? Well, it’s my only other rod. I’m not a rich man. Joe slung the 8wt with as much grace as one can have while trying to pinch off 6′ of line with a rod not meant to do it, and boom! Fish on! Not just any fish either. A very healthy rainbow. Needless to say, some ties were donated to Joe, John, and Jace.

From there on out, it was like fish in a barrel, or fish in a crowded stream.

Stream born AND picky

Jace even got some action, with the biggest brook trout of the day!

Fly fishing's future

When the day was over, it was time to move on. Eagle Nest, too windy; Cimmaron, too crowded and pressured; Sugarite Canyon, just right. We arrived late enough in the day to be too late for campsites, but we still managed to find some in other places across the border. Hello Colorado! We decided it wasn’t late enough in the day to miss out on the fishing and back to Lake Maloya we went! The fishing was amazing if you include perch in your fly fishing diet. As fun as they were to catch, they slowly became irritating. Then, John received a couple twitches on his indicator and set the hook. “I think it’s small” he said as he worked in the biggest brown I have seen in a long time.

This fish came hunting perch.

Day 3 was by far the most incredible fishing I have had this year. Lake Dorothy. Go ahead and cringe at the release of this location. There is a reason I decided to let this info out later. Dorothy is a very under fished and over populated lake. Texans usually stay on the New Mexico side and it is a very short hike to the very well hidden lake in Colorado. These fish were the strongest fish I have EVER fought in my life. We’re talking putting a healthy bend in an 8wt rod, breaking your line from tension alone, and jumping 5′ out of the water. Once the pattern was worked out, my fighting arm was tired before midday. John and Joe both caught their fair share of fish as well and I commend them for the task of getting even one of these fish landed. There was even a point in the day where Joe caught fish on every cast for a short time. I’m really proud of these guys for catching so many fish.

The over-sized tail made this fish that much harder to fight.

Lake dwelling acrobats!

Now for the incredibly sad part of the story. I smelled smoke toward midday and wondered if it was a fire or just the wind carrying Wallow Fire smoke up into the canyon. Later in the day, Joe looked back and saw a plume of smoke. After a few hours, we went to break down the campsite and the smoke was high in the sky and black. At first it seemed to be in the canyon. When we got to the tent, it was folded up from the wind and falling apart. The rods holding the tent upright had kinked over and failed. Struggling with unpacking and hoping that the fire wasn’t in the canyon, we rushed to get things put away. As we finished packing, a man came down from the road and panicked about how there was a fire in the canyon. On his way back up, he informed us that he couldn’t see the road down by Lake Maloya. As wrong as he was, we still think that he was a rancher from not too far away. If this was the case, I wish him the best and hope his home was not taken in the fire. As we passed through Sugarite for the last time anyone will ever see the true beauty of the canyon, we realized that the canyon had been evacuated. Everyone but us, at the lake around the corner that was quite possibly the best high country lake I have ever fished. The giant ponderosa pines of Lake Dorothy stood once as old men, rising from the banks to heights that seemed to feed upon the clouds. The grass was once a lush and green carpet as their only purpose in life seemed to be hanging prismatic dew from their droopy tips. There are no words to describe the uniqueness of the area. Just a handful of memories and maybe a few unbelievable stories in the future. Not only was it a time for change in the forest, it was a time for change in my world as well.

The fire had started just north of Raton and closed I-25. In fact, I-25 is still closed as I write this. Since our day in the mountains, Sugarite has burned, but many memories were made. We were there when it was amazing. This may not be the case in the future. Our hearts go out to all of those that have lost their homes in the Track Fire as well as the Wallow Fire that has claimed almost 500,000 acres now. I hope that you visited one of the largest ponderosa forests in the world before it caught fire. Both fires were caused by very irresponsible people. Sometimes a 6 month prison sentence isn’t enough.


The Unknown Soldier

With all the news, bickering, and controversy surrounding war, it’s hard for anyone to write about the people that serve. Side-steeping the topic and relating it to fishing is my goal here. Being memorial day and all I thought it would be a good idea to relate the two subjects. I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you to the people that have served in any war. To the people who go out and fight and die for ideals that some may not even fully understand, we wish you and your families all the best.

The “front range” of New Mexico is littered with tons of private land. When you hear “not the side that you get shot at”, when being directed to a fishing spot, the “front range” is that side. Well, it just so happens that all of the best fishing in the state is hidden over there. Guarded by fences, these property owners do not allow forest road easements to the national forest behind their land. This makes a national forest one giant back yard. It also allows fish to massively over-populate streams and lakes in the area. Not just any fish either. You may think that Brown, Rainbow, Brook, Gila, Lake, and Rio Grande Cutthroat are the only trout available to fishermen here. That is not the case. The Canadian river is not known for it’s trout. In fact, it takes the long way out of NM across Texas and Oklahoma to find it’s way to the Mississippi river and drains out to the gulf of mexico. If you can imagine 5 million years ago, this system did in fact exist, but how did cutthroat trout get there? You guessed it, we put them there. There could’ve been a long lost fish, but I’m sure it’s long gone. At either rate, we still have a cutthroat on that side of the mountains. A cutthroat of the Snake River variety (if it was my choice, I would’ve gone with Lahontan, but who am I). If NM Game and Fish read that, do it, there are no trout at risk here. This weekend I was out hunting for the unknown soldier.

Snake river cutthroat can dominate a river system, they grow very quickly and quite large. State records are anywhere from 17 to 23 lbs. Ours is unknown. We do not differentiate sub-species. My personal best was about 3-4 lbs not huge, but big for a “wild” fish in NM. (see “A Foolish culmination of thoughts”) I was supposed to go to a lake in the back country, but the wind held me down. I ended up at a more local lake. A lake that is way overstocked for it’s size seeing at least 7,000 new fish this year alone. However, even though it is overstocked the fish still get very large very quickly. The morning of day 2 into the trip brought me an average of about 15″ from the fish put there directly after ice-out. The rainbows here are grayscale and boring looking, but what they lack in color, they make up in fight. I’m very sure these fish were raised on steroids and cocaine, or maybe they take after the local inhabitants of the lake. Due to the violent outbursts, I didn’t get many photos. This one really covers them all though… just plain silver.

Feisty, and a pain to photograph.

As for the cutthroat, it wasn’t a monster, but it was the only one I caught out of around 30 other fish that day. Hopefully people keep pulling stockers out with powerbait so when I return in the fall, I’ll have a better chance at them.

Always a cool fish somewhere...

Lesson #9: Sometimes the ambiguous Woolly Bugger works for no apparent reason, but somehow trout seem to recognize them as a food source.


Post Apocalyptic High Country Fishing

It was the 21st. May 21st. Day one of the end of the world. My bags were already packed to go fishing, unaware that this could be the last day. What a day to spend fishing though, right? Onward to the high country, 10,000’+ to be exact (yes, New Mexico has those too). All year my flabby x-mas muscles have been yelling at me to do some more extreme hiking than walking 50′ (or more than a mile) from my car. My newly arrived spare tire was also a big reminder that I needed to get up and go, taunting me with future fat jokes.

Apocalypse bag. Complete with waders and boots attached.

The time was 4:00 am. Just enough time to make it and hike down by sunrise. That would happen in a perfect world, thank goodness that things are never perfect. After a 3 hour drive over a road that should never be driven over in a car, I arrived at the “pitchfork”. From what I have heard, the section of water below “probably hasn’t been fished in 50 years”. I used the trail and hiked 1.5 miles into the canyon with so much excitement, I might as well have been skipping, I was already singing whatever song popped into my head. If a man is singing in the forest and no one is around to see him, does he make a sound? The wind was howling through the trees and I couldn’t hear if I was approaching the river. On a side note, this hurricane force wind stuff is really starting to get on my nerves. As the wind rang through my head, I repeated, “one more turn, it’s just around the corner”. There it was. Beaming in all of it’s glory. Showing granite floors through crystalline water. I sat down on a rock to catch my breath and peel the camelback, which seemed to take up a permanent residence, from my back.

Told you the water was clear.

This place was a utopia for me as well as the fish and as I began to flip rocks, it seemed to say oppositely for the fish. Rock after rock, the river was devoid of a food source. After a couple of seconds of having my hands in the water I realized the river had taken a very cold turn. There is only one way to fish cold water… That’s right, tiny zebra midges. When I caught the first fish of the day on my first cast I felt like I was in the know. I fished up the river for 3 more miles. Three miles from where the trail ended. 3 miles of nearly virgin river. 3 miles of no sign that a human had been there since the migration barriers were set in place. Maybe that guy was right about this river.

The water below his nose is around 6' deep.

There is only one other place in the world that I have physically stepped on a fish, the San Juan. I didn’t do it on purpose, there are just so many fish there. Here was also the case. Too many fish. They were small, but very healthy for the most part and changed colors as did the river bottom. Usually, the color of a fish can tell you where it came from in NM. These fish had all sorts of oddities. Mostly they looked like they were wearing a black blindfold.

I felt like I was about to be robbed.

The black and white fin tips are notable and cool!

All of the fish had remarkable color differences

I was surprised with the amount of browns, not a Rainbow or cutthroat to be found. Then I saw a black back deep within a run. With a cast upstream the fly began drifting directly toward my hopeful goal. All of the sudden from nowhere fish began darting out to take my fly. It was hard not setting the hook, but I couldn’t afford to spook that fish lurking in the shadows. As the fly passed through the gauntlet of incoming fish taking and spitting the fly, the shadow took notice, turned left, and I set the hook. Sweet success. A rainbow trout. This fish was typical of the area. Deeply colored with an almost black underbelly and obviously washed down from the even higher sub-alpine....a rough life

At the apex of my hike, I remembered that today might be the end of the world. What if it happened and I was the only one left. I wouldn’t know. Alone in the mountains is not the place to be in the know about what is going on in society. The sound of the river was almost deafening and thoughts were allowed to seep in. Back to the car, back to a possibly empty city. When I made it back to the actual trail I remembered how steep the incline was to get down, now I had to travel back up. 1.5 miles, 1700 feet closer to the sun.

LIES!

The hike up isn't easy.

Going into the trip, I knew it was purely a scouting trip for early July. Just to fish the section of water I was going to miss on my way to my actual destination, 10 miles from where I hiked this day. A day to remember, the day the apocalypse never happened… again.

Until next time...

 Lesson #8: When people make signs on a trail, ignore them. They fill your head with false hopes.


Death From Below

Throughout history man has created monsters in fable. Some of those monsters are personified in literary context based upon legends and such, while some are real genetically altered beasts. The thing we never see scare us the most. Seriously, if bigfoot was your neighbor, you would probably be exchanging apple pies and talking about the weather rather than allowing him to haunt your dreams. Unless your greatest fear is having bigfoot invite you to his BBQ. Even known species such as bears and cougars, while not being seen can still strike fear into you and keep you on guard.

Even though fishing takes up a third of my life I still have an irrational fear of the water. If the bottom can not be seen, Nessie could be lurking somewhere, without an apple pie. Maybe I saw Jaws when I was far too young. Toothy critters give me the heebie jeebies. Which lead my brother and I to a place which is known for it’s goldfish population until the arrival of the genetic mutant that is the E. masquinongy x lucius aka Tiger Muskie.

Even smaller tigers can tear you up.

These mutants are among the funnest creatures in the world to catch. Almost no fear of humans and don’t know when to stop, wildly flailing and thrashing while you try to bring them. Swinging their razor sharp teeth in all directions and rolling as you try to get your hands around it without winding up with your arteries sliced open. The first day, I hooked up with the dream fish and lost it just as quickly. I could’ve cried. It wasn’t long before “accidental master angler” Nate answered back with a few of his own fish to hand.

The smallest of Nate's fish, still a formidable foe.

I’m aware that these fish were small, but the monster fish didn’t seem as active or as plentiful as they used to be. I pressed on, searching for the monsters while Nate was catching fish 2-3′ from the shoreline. Nothing to hand for 2 days on my end. I know the tricks, but the grass hasn’t grown back yet. For me, I’ll just hold this fish and hope for the best next time.

I can pretend that I caught one.


Non-Serviceable Parts

The wind is so bad that it blew the tent flat.

This week has been really rough. Busy here at the shop restoring some vintage equipment, and then computer problems. The worst part is that this rough week has been amplified by a brutal skunking the previous weekend. What’s with the late posting you ask? Well this leads me to my first topic. Non-serviceable or proprietary parts have been the bane of my existence since I first read “made in China” on a box. I am really sick and tired of the mentality that if it breaks, you HAVE to buy a new one. The same goes with fishing gear. So, in order to curb all of this nonsense, from this day forward things will be created by me. Rods, reels, flies, packs, gloves, and any other thing that I can think up. This process was brought along by the computer that I am currently using…

Stage 1: Destroy, Stage 2: Recreate, Stage 3: Wrap with packing tape to make it look "NEW" again

In the spirit of doing it yourself, here is a fly that I would like to share. This little guy works great in clean, deep, or shaded water. More designed for ultra deep and steep canyons full of pocket water.

Step 1:  Start with a size 12-16 Tiemco 2457 or a similar favorite hook with some curve to it. I like using a black tungsten bead for clear dark water, if you are fishing tea colored or brown dirty water, a gold bead will work better. Throw on the bead and 5-6 wraps of .020 lead. Push it up under the bead.

Step 2: Build a Ramp of thread behind the lead wire and cover the wire.

Ramp to the point of the hook.

Step 3: Tie in 1/8″ olive scud back at the ramp you made and tie back. The trick here to get a smooth body contour is to allow the scud back to wrap around the hook. It will naturally wrap around in the opposite direction when you attempt to tie it in, wrap it a few times and pull tighter as you tie the thread back you want the scud back to come off of the fly at an angle. This trick is the key to tying this bug without a giant bulb on the rear end of the fly. Wrap the scud back to the thorax of the fly.  At this point you can leave the tag end to use as a wing case if you are trying to create a more “leggy” type of nymph.

Use thread underneath to segment the body.

Wrap scud back forward

Step 4: Tie in 2 pieces of flashabou and dub the body. I use peacock ice dub for this one, but you can use peacock hurl if you like a tighter fly. I like to tie them in a “V” shape. Brush the dubbing down and tie the flashabou forward.

Brush dubbing down

This is where everything gets magnified

Step 5: Whip finish and top this off with epoxy or bug bond.

Fin.

This bug is extremely versatile and mimics a slew of insects hiding beneath the rocks. Because of the black bead and scud back, it casts a hard silhouette in darker water. Fish it deep in cascades and under waterfalls and get ready for a surprise. The tungsten bead is very optional. I’m not a big fan of tungsten in my part of the world due to the amount of boulders you might cast against. Tungsten beads crack easily.

To fish stained water change it up to a tan scud back, brown dubbing, and a gold bead. You can also tie legs into this, but I find that it is best to just let the dubbing act as legs. If the bugs in your area (colorado, and every other state in the union) are fatter than NM bugs, you can taper the body and make it fatter by dubbing under the scud back.

Good luck out there!