Tag Archives: Rainbow Trout

Guess Who’s BACK!!!!!!!!

CHI-KOW!!!! For those in the know, that’s a karate chop. After all of this time i finally found the app to upload a blog post… From my phone! How amazing is this world we live in? This thing we call technology. Just wow. I’m a pretty happy camper right now and i feel the need to recap this entire year. Granted, I’ve probably lost all of my readers, but it’s like a new beginning for me into an era of technology. My “konnetic” rod has been giving me advice on the future and says that i should really get with the times. Heck, even Sanders has begun the “neofly” slang without me.

It all began on a cold night, the kind of night fishing dreams are made of. I remember it perfectly. March something, 2012 was the date originally a pristine white on the calendar now carried the burden of a big black “X”. The gravestone of a buried day. The screams of drunken teenage skiers pierced the quiet dead cold night. I tied on the desk lit by a tiny lamp in the ancient hotel room. “The Usual” seemed to be the bug of bugs this winter season. The more I tied, the more i grew tired. My winter gear was in the laundry below the party. No sleep, the gear will find new legs.

The morning began and i was off to a late start so I figured, “why not do some fact finding at a local shop?” After shopping for a few, I saw it. My new fishing buddy. The one that would be with me for the rest of my life, the one to talk to me when I’m feeling lonely, the one to pick me up when I’m down. “The One” Who says you can’t buy love? Some may call me a sellout, Nate, John T. In my defence, I’ve had my old rod for the past 15 or so years. Time for a new one, and Nate, you have broken more 100 dollar rods in your life than this one cost.

When I finally made it up the Taylor, it was -8 degrees. Some may say that is too cold for fishing, but they were rising. The One was at home fishing with me, it new it’s fate. Since then, The One and I have…

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Caught Blue River brutes,

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11 Mile maniacs,

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Crystal River crazies,

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Frying Pan-handlers,

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And participated in the g-town beat-down.

Also, not pictured was a natural tiger trout and some other assorted very large fish. The One was also with me when… I slid down the side of a mountain, was sucked into a river, almost broke my leg and hand and arm (all different occasions), nearly froze to death, attacked by bees and ants, and nearly struck by lightning.

This is what you have been missing and I apologize for the stories that I couldn’t tell, but today begins a new beginning. A very exciting and fun beginning. I’m ready? Are you?

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Oh, The Night (The First 50 Yards)

The night creeps in slowly, hauntingly. The air, much like the river, drains down the canyon walls bringing winter with it. Along the mountainside, diesel engines from groomers pave new paths for skiers, and like the inner workings of a clock, countdown the time before this river and others slow to an ice-choked crawl. There is tension along this river, yet a sweet peaceful light is cast by the moon emerging from the canyon walls. The moon ushered in the night as the wind ushered in winter. Work quickly. Work patiently. An inhale with the back cast. An exhale to lay the fly in the seam on the forward cast. The exhale previously invisible, was now visible. More peace. Each nervous heartbeat ticked away the seconds left in the day. In my head was the rush of the river , the breathing, the casting, the machinery, all a symphonic crescendo to the coming end. 

I watched my nymph swiftly sink into the seam, a flash, set, tension, an explosion, release. Twice. Then, I hooked into my first 10″ freight train on this river. 

I looked at the moon. It shined a brighter light upriver. Begging me to test the waters further upstream. The leviathon awaits.


The Best Bad Good Day Ever

Recently Sanders and I made a trip to one of the most fishy looking rivers on the planet Earth. The South Platte. To me, fishy is technical, confusing, and incredibly hard to fish. Just my style. Fishing isn’t really fun unless you work at it. This day was that very definition of the word fun. It was the best bad good day a person could have. Good: Watching healthy fish feed in every seam. Bad: Well, I guess that deserves a story.

The day started early with a phone call that I thought was my alarm. It was Sanders, I answered.

Me: Hello?

Sanders: You ready?

Me: (thinking Sanders was lost in my part of town trying to get directions) Where are you?

Sanders: In front of your house.

Me: What time is it?

Sanders: 6:00 am

Me: Shit! I’ll be out there in a minute.

As I scurried out the door trailing my boots, bag, and fly rod behind me I thought that even the best good bad days ever begin with a hitch, right? My hair was matted down from the pillow and there were creases in my face from sleep. It’s ok when you are fishing. I guess that applies when I’m not at work. It was cold in the morning. In the rush, it went unnoticed. Before I knew it we were off. Then again, maybe I didn’t know. I hadn’t yet fully awakened. To the gas station for crullers and coffee! Closed. Ok, to the river!

If I remember correctly it was in the teens. That’s too cold for fishing. Not because it is hard to endure, but because of line freeze. Being from New Mexico, I know cold. It is a place where fishing in the morning is a pipe dream with days that start from 0 and go up from there into the 50’s. Here, it’s just cold. All day. That canyon never saw 35 that day.

When we peeled ourselves from the warm car to greet the river I was chilled to the bone. Must have been 33 degrees. I’m not cold when the temps drop below 33 or when they are above 35 or so, but when it is in the 30’s woah nellie. We gawked at the river and the fish that were crowded therein. I walked along the ice that had collected on the waters edge. I had forgotten to bring the studded soles and was slipping around in the snow and ice. I felt like a child. I knew at some point it would give way, and it did. I’m glad I was wearing waders. I was ecstatic that the water was only knee deep. Hiking over snow covered boulders where the river was impassible was impossible. This is what I needed. Punishment. Punishment for a prior skunking. After wetting the lines in a few pools and coming up with nothing, I was only left with hope. Then, when we least expected it, success!

All of the time driving was worth it. Enduring the cold, worth it. Falling through the ice, worth it. Scrambling out of the house, worth it. Sanders stealing my glasses and holding them hostage, worth… Wait, that wasn’t really worth it. A day with a good friend and a few fish in the cold is the best bad good day I can think of.

Lesson 17: Test ice before walking on it. You never know how deep the water really is.


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.