Tag Archives: Rainbow Trout

A Weekend With The Boss. Pt: 1 No shortage of Bad Days

The morning smelled of fish. Maybe it was from the rain the night before. Maybe it was the prophetic fishy senses that kick in upon the morning of fishing. It was too early to tell. 4:00am isn’t exactly the time for epiphanies, or prophecies for that matter. Heck, the sun wasn’t even ready to kick off the day yet. Thoughts of the day to come circled through my head and it wasn’t long before I began to think about the situation that I had gotten myself into. Fishing with the boss. Not technically my boss, but the boss above my boss. I packed to prepare for the day thinking that one fishes to get away from the stresses of work and everyday life. The reset button if you will. Many nights at work have been spent talking to “The Boss” (John) until well after my 10:00pm bedtime. I was worried that the conversation around riverside would revolve around work.

Destination: South Platte 

With John’s 13 year old son Steven in tow, the 3 of us traveled to more “Dreamy” locations of Colorado’s renowned South Platte River. The 2.5 hour drive felt much shorter than it was while sharing stories of the past. John is one of those people that has a bottomless pit of stories. He has been fishing for around 20 years and it isn’t difficult to gather those stories over that amount of time. A die hard fly fisherman to the core, and that same intensity rubbed off on his son. 

We arrived at some of John’s more well known water, where he knew all three of us could pick up some fish. Maybe it was also to feel me out as a fisherman or just a boatload of B.S. I assure you that I’m not a liar, but when it comes to the size of a fish, I might add an inch or two. Never 3. It took a little time to get on the water after setting up a lunch site complete with a table and chairs, and unheard of luxury in my world. We even had plastic utensils! When we did make it to the water, John was the first to quickly pick up a fish while I struggled with a hole that I knew held a monster. I missed a lot of strikes due to excitement. When I peered around the bend, Steven had caught his first one of the day as well. I still struggled. John picked off more fish from water that didn’t look like it even held fish and I was curious to know what I was doing so wrong. In my defense, I’m not used to fishing these medowy type rivers. I’m used to dense cascading water that races down the mountain. The fish that I brought to hand was a surprise and it didn’t take long for me to find a groove.

Lunch at riverside was amazing. John and I split a bottle of wine and munched on sandwiches and fresh fruit. Lunch couldn’t have been more complete unless we had cigars. Well, I guess we did that too. We relaxed for a while there and people began to peel off of the river, leaving only the three of us at 2:00pm. For the rest of the day we had the river to ourselves. Until the storm came uninvited.

John sent Steven to the car while we weathered the rain for a short time. This is where the story comes to a crashing halt. Hiking in the rain is not a problem, the cold isn’t even an issue when you have a dry destination before you. A dry destination we had indeed. While waiting for the storm to pass, we had a beer or two and laughed about times past while music gently played in the background. The music plays a significant role in the events to come, shortly. The storm wasn’t passing and the enjoyment that came from watching it was relaxing. After a couple hours, it was getting darker and time to go. The key went into the ignition and the starter turned the engine over. Once. Dead battery. It was getting dark and cold and no one was there to lend a helping hand. On top of that, we were in the middle of nothing on a nameless stretch of the South Platte. We were cold and wet, but we did have enough cell phone service to call AAA. It only took them an hour to get there, in any other condition I may have died, but they made it and jumped us. The hotel ahead was a luxury I have never experienced. As John cooked a pasta dinner I was already in and out of sleep. Shortly after eating, I was sawing logs and “Dreaming” of the day to come…

To Be Continued…


The All Night Buffet

Maya mythology has a name for the inky darkness that  water takes on at night, Xibalba. Translated, it means the place of fear, the underworld. The Maya would make sacrifices into caves filled with water. Sacrifices not just to the dead, but also the lords of the underworld. They would make these sacrifices, sometimes human, with the theoretical thought that the barrier between water and air, or light and dark was the magical entrance to another world. Water at night has a different feel, different unknown factors. A fear of what lies beneath the water is in every person to some degree. Night multiplies the fear. Your eyes play tricks on you suggesting an alligator, or even Nessie (sans apple pie), are casting shadows beneath the water. Waiting for you to get too close.

Casting a fly rod into the darkness is a humbling experience gauged by feel rather than sight. You don’t realize how much your cast is based upon vision until your line pierces into the veil of darkness. It requires a certain mastery of your rig, or at the very least, luck. Once the line hits the water, instantly your eyes widen to accept incoming light, trying to see some sign of where your fly is. The stars that reflect off of the water are your only guide. A short strip and water pushed away from your indicator glistens with reflected starlight. There it is, waiting for nocturnal leviathans stalking prey in the shallows, for the denizens of Xilbalba to give it a tug.

A quick evening session before eating and calling it a day, that was the plan. The water was on the extreme side of murky and the fishing was slow. No fish to hand after about an hour, but the cool rain moved in and changed that. Offering a few fish before the sun finally made it’s way behind the steep canyon. As night began to set in, we headed back to the car and with unspoken words, Xilbalba called us. “Stop. Fish here for just a moment in the fading light. The car is right there. Cast.”

Passing motorists thinking, “What fools.” And fools we were. Hopped up on caffeine and fishing.

It was an all night buffet. A fish on every few casts.

We doubled up on fish more than a handful of times.

They began to grow in size.

Before we knew it, the clock rolled over to 1am. Both of us starving, in need of a break. Time to go home… Relish in one of the greatest, once in a lifetime fishing day nights. Keep remembering it, don’t fall asleep while driving to dream about it.


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.


You Forgot the Machete (Wild and Scenic Pt:2)

Day 2: My internal alarm went off at 6am. My car hates me. Some of the most uncomfortable nights sleeping are ones spent in my car. As my eyes peeled open I could see the temperature gauge in my car that read 29°F. Frigid cold after a week of temperatures in the mid 70’s.  I looked out of my window to the Rio Grande as I ate my pop tarts and saw a peculiar rise from the corner of my eye. A carp rising halfway out of the water, a formidable foe for the 8wt rod seated snuggly in the passenger seat. The “just in case I find some pike” rod. This just didn’t seem the time to go for a good carp. Maybe it was the cold or the time it would take to rig the rod for carp. I still had to put on the winter clothes. With it decided to skip over these guys for the time being, I encased myself in layers of thermal clothing and headed upriver. I didn’t think the fishing would be that great today and it was true with only one fish to hand.

The fish were thinner higher up the river

The distance that I had to walk for a single fish was a bit too much for me. Over the eroded basalt that was as slippery as glass and the sharp incline of the canyon I couldn’t justify one fish per mile. The sun was bearing down on the walls of the canyon and it was best for me to just move along. One of New Mexico’s issues is the sun. One second you are freezing and the next you are burning alive. Partly cloudy days in the springtime can be confusing when you are trying to decide on what to wear.

On my way down the canyon to my car there was a guy in a kayak paddling UPRIVER! This river is a quick mover and has many sections of class IV rapids. How he came to the point where I was baffled me. When I made it to the car, I decided to move to the Red River again. Further down, I was sure to find migrating fish coming up the river to spawn. Migrating Cutthroats to be exact.

All of the pictures I took of this fly came out red...

Quite the comfy tying station

I sat in the parking area for a few minutes trying to decide what to tie on. The day before, upon my inspection of the river, I had found a ton of caddis larva peeking out of their created homes and was inspiration to tie a somewhat caddis-like larva. Impromptu, in the car, I mounted my vise to the steering wheel and went to work. A dozen or so would do the trick. As a test, I found a small hole to fish the fly. The instant it hit the water, a few fish came out of nowhere racing to get it and the larger fish won. As I was about to take it’s mug shot, it bounced back into the river and went into hiding. The fly had worked and I had to press on.

There is a trail along the river there and you’d better prepare yourself for that hike. It isn’t very long at 1.7 miles but how it is laid out will astonish you. It meanders along the river going up and down the canyon over rocks that will make you lose the trail and back down to the river again. Passing through swamps made by springs and creeping along underneath the low trees and brush. I spent most of the hike leaned forward almost on my hands and knees. Mind you, I am 6’2″ and with the wading boots probably closer to 6’4″. You would have to be about 3′ tall to comfortably hike this trail.

Note that I am seated

When the trail ended, I continued on down the river, and I thought the hike was bad when there was a trail to follow. This river is fast. There isn’t much water here, but it gets pretty rough in places. The deep sections reach about 10′ and the river is very technical. Not a place for the novice fisherman. I was getting very tired and had to stop and fish my way back up. Hole after hole, every first cast was a hook-up.

Crystal clear

I came to a realization on the first fish I caught down there. As quickly as I had set the hook, the fish drilled it’s way down to the deepest and fastest section of the run. A trait held only by a cutthroat. Sure, other trout do this, but they are easily pulled from the current. This fish went down and stayed there like I was hooked into a rock. When I finally pulled the trout from the current, it quickly darted downstream around a rock. It wasn’t as big as I thought, but it’s about quality, right? I had to land this fish. In nearly a full sprint, I followed. Stripping the line in as I ran over the rock that made the riverbend. Then, I tripped and landed on my back on top of a rotting stump. My rod still in the air, I felt defeat as the pain finally settled in. There was still tension on my line. The fish was still there. Not a cutthroat, but half cutthroat. What a fight indeed. Was it worth it? Yes.

The straw that broke the camels back

One of the best trips I have had in a long time. Fighting a cutbow is one thing, but fighting them in a fast river is glorious. Made the twisted trip though underbrush, over rocks and logs, and through swampy mud worth every second of pain I endured. Maybe I didn’t get the big fish as another fly fishing friend did a couple of weeks ago here, but trips are really what you make of them and any trip fly fishing is better than any day spent watching tv (I enjoy my day job).

The fish that waves goodbye


Blistering Wind and a Lonely River (Wild and Scenic Pt:1)

Caddis pupa and cranefly larva ready to go

I can’t think of a better evening than one spent at home tying flies, drinking a beer, and ordering out for pizza. Well, I can, but let’s at least put this in the top 3. Earlier in the week, AZ Wandering’s latest post really got me in the mood for some stream born fish. Then, of Dry Flies & Fat Tires suggested that I check on the caddis hatch in the Rio Grande.  That kills 2 birds with one stone. Also, it kills a third bird that is the possibility of a big 20″ brute.

 

Day one alarm buzzed at 4am telling me that the early bird isn’t fast enough to get the worm that was eaten by the early fish. Poor, sad hungry bird. With a swoosh, I was off to the river. Two and one-half hours, a cold pizza breakfast, coffee, and an energy drink later, I had arrived. The trip seems a lot shorter than it actually is. The longest part of the drive is from Abq to Santa Fe on I-25. If you have a problem with road rage, find a detour.

A low and mighty Rio Grande

When I arrived at the river some of the fish were already splashing the surface and this fueled my fire as I tied my rig up. My first cast received a strike that pulled my 3/4″ indicator at least 10′ upstream before I even reacted. Whatever this fish was, it was going full steam ahead before and after it took my fly. Needless to say, I missed the fish and stood there confounded. Only twice did this happen and I missed both times. The mystery fish will have to wait (I have an idea of what it was). The word of the day was most definitely subtle. Small twitches from the indicator revealed the first fish of the day. Subtle strikes in this river are nearly impossible to detect due to the undercurrents and general rough nature of the river.

The first fish of the day

Further up the river

Living within this river, it isn’t hard to believe that the fish grow very strong. The fights were unmatched and I know I was only catching the mid-sized fish. There must have been 10lb+ trout somewhere, but where? I hiked for hours up the river, spot fishing likely places on the way. It is not an easy trip to hike and probably the most difficult I have had. The long deep pools weren’t producing for me, so I decided that I could cover more water by fishing the deep runs. In other words, more hiking than fishing. The area is very scary as far as danger goes, from rattlesnakes to deep holes in the water that may exceed 30′. One of the many reasons wading isn’t the best idea, but you may find that they are needed in some areas.

The wind began to pick up around 10am and I was content with the fish I had caught. Content enough to find a place outside of the 50mph+ winds. That place would be Red River. The canyon winds enough to create shelter in some areas, oh yeah, they have trees there as well. I first pulled off by the hatchery and the wind was still fairly rough but moving upstream. Leaving me to hang back and highstick 20-30′ in front of me without casting. There, I hooked into numerous little browns 3-6″ and knew why. A bit too close to the parking lot. Weather was moving in and it was getting late so hiking down the Red River would land me stuck in a canyon in the cold and rain, with the possibility of a swelling river.

Lately, I have heard reports that the upper Red River was “turning on” and with all of the pressure the lower section has had, it was worth a shot. I pulled up to the Fawn Lakes campground (which was still closed) and the snow began to fall. My car told me that it was 27°F, far cooler than the 65° I had been fishing about 20 minutes prior. This section of river always provided me with fish in the past and is usually the test water before I head to the quality water. Higher pressure means the fish are slightly more picky and finding your bug here guarantees fish in the quality section. I switched flies from the caddis pupa to a bug that I had tied for the Rio de las Vacas and it paid off quickly.

Skittish fish

You would think they grew more over the winter

The cool thing about the upper Red River this time of year are the holdover rainbow trout. Smarter stockers from last year grow a bit more and become more willing to take natural foods. The sun had set behind the canyon and was setting on the horizon and the light I had left was fading quickly. After catching a few fish, I decided to make my way back to the car and stop at one more hole on the way.

They mostly come out at night... mostly.

The day was complete indeed. A good day was used scouting the area for more possible adventures in the future. Because of the rain and snow, it was decided that the passenger seat of my car would be my place of rest for the evening. Who knows what the coming day would bring. I did know that my day would begin again on the Rio Grande, but maybe it would move elsewhere. To be continued…