Tag Archives: Sub alpine fly fishing

Writers Block

I think every writer in the world writes about the block to get rid of it. It reminds me of that song in your head. You sing it out loud hoping that it goes away, or that skunk that rides along on your back. The blog here is giving me the smell of a good skunking and the rivers are yielding fish. The “Frenzy” really reminded me that I am an unpopular writer in the blogging world. Heck, even in the fishing world I’m not really known for anything. By no means is this a pity party, but you can feel free to bring some beer. I’m not a guide, I don’t work at a fly shop, I didn’t write a picture book of flies I have tied, my work isn’t published in a magazine, but I do spend well over a 3rd of my life on the water. Because of that, My writings and my trips sound the same to me. Walking away from this for a couple weeks was to get in order what I wanted this for. I want to make it more exciting for you guys. Here is a quick summary of the past two weeks:

Chased Brook Trout in the high country!

Climbed a tree for my last yellow sally.

Fished in the snow!

Ran through rambling rainbows .

Fished a great new river with John T. 

Caught a handful of Brown Trout this size.

Finally, although no pictures were taken, I fished with the boss again. In the same place as last time and it was even more fun this time. That was the past two weeks in a nutshell! I’ll Get you some fresh new posts next week!

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A Prolonged Goodbye

Lately, I have been fishing almost too much. Every second spent not working has been spent fishing. There are a few times that I have been out that I still have yet to write about. One of my favorites was a day on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. In that same area and the headwaters of Boulder Creek are the places I have been exploring lately. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the high mountains, in the still water butted against high alpine peaks and the most recent place was teeming with feeding fish.

The weekend started when Joe came to visit from New Mexico. After settling into Denver, we decided that a high country camping trip was in order. As far as my knowledge of Joe’s fishing adventures go, I can not remember a time that he has been to the high country to fish. At least not this high. We hovered around 11,000′ in one of the most spectacular mountain valleys I have seen to date. It was almost otherworldly. The flow out of the lake spilled down a cliff and the story was the same for the inlets to the lake. Like strings held by mountain peaks to hold up the lake.

The trek began the day previous, with Joe, Jace, Jacob, and I fishing some beaver ponds about 1,000′ below the lake. We fished while we waited for John to head up the mountain from work. It didn’t take long for “Dave’s roller” to start pulling fish from the river. Still small, but very feisty critters. The roller seemed to be the ticket for the whole trip. When John arrived we mentally prepared for the “2 mile” hike to come with sandwiches and other assorted tortilla holding material. Not to mention the unbelievable Cool Ranch Doritos and bean dip. If you have yet to try it, do it.

I woke up early to tie some extra Rollers and a quick breakdown of camp and we were off. Wait…

Ok, we’re off!

After hiking the 4.25 mile trail we couldn’t wait to get catching fish. Even at the entrance, they rose to the surface in numbers I barely fathomed. Early on in the day the fish were ultimately aggressive, but as the heat of the day wore on, the bite slowed to deeper water. We saw that water from a distance and there “Chewie” and the soon to be famous (not really) “R2D2” shined in glory. 2 deepwater bugs found fish hovering around the bottom. Looking into 20′ of absolutely clear water is a sight to behold and watching a fish cruise through what looks like the air is even more spectacular. One of those things that you long for when your eyes close. Joe, John, and I had no trouble getting into the fish, but the kids seemed pretty intent on taking in the world around them. More than anything, the snow.

As each second of the day ticked by, it was one more cast, then we will go, one more fish and we are gone. So far from the truth. After quitting with the excuses of staying, we descended. Then ascended. Then descended again. Strange trail. The four of us were exhausted when we made it back to the truck. About a minute into the drive to John’s car, the kids were out like wet noodles in the bed of the truck while we relived the amazing day that we had.


Lesson #12: Don’t Die!

Lately the lessons for the posts have been slacking. Today the post will be dedicated to the lesson. This could be the most important lesson to consider during your trips to the mountains. In fact, you might use this lesson on a day to day basis in normal life (ie: non fishing days). You may even feel that you should share this bootlegged secret in the dark corners of a speakeasy. Share this information at your own discretion. In fact, you may be wondering at this very moment where I, myself came across this highly confidential and curious lesson. This is that story.

The sun was still lofted high in the sky, like some great creature pierced the veil of our big blue atmosphere. Peering in through the peep hole into our world the giant could see the melting snow and fresh new grass trammeled over by a few sets of wandering feet. The world was happy, not the grass so much, but in general. Birds sang new tunes with little musical notes spewing from their beaks, lullabyes to the bears to sleep the day off. The trees could have been dancing and somewhere in the forest, bigfoot could have been baking an apple pie. All was right in the world as two wayward fisherman made their way up the mountain.

Ascending to well over 11,000 feet in elevation was easy when it is fueled by the anticipation of catching wild trout (at least as wild as brook trout come). The trail was more of  a creek ready to wade through, rather than solid ground that is easy on the feet. The quality of the trail made a difficult ascent. Scratch that, a better phrase would be falling up. The happy world pointed the direction with a few precariously placed and super swinging signs. Two fisherman stumbled, as happily as one can stumble, onto a lake that dreams are made of. Accented by the contrast of blue sky, green trees, gray alpine mountaintops, and soft snow, each thing added to the next. The giant artist’s brush strokes were filled with intent.

Then, with all the help of positive and negative charges, the sky blackened. Fury could not remotely describe what was about to happen. The trees went back to being trees. Bigfoot decided to give the apple pie a rest until another sunny day. The bears of the sky were awakened. The two fisherman were in the line of fire. 60 vertical feet marked the alpine. 60 feet of error. 60 feet away from lightning. Finding a place to wait it out in the trees could have been a good idea, if it didn’t start to hail. A hurried resting place still made for wet and slightly painful spot to reside. The lightning struck everywhere, some futuristic weapon firing upon its enemies from the sky, fighting a war against electrical conduits to ground. It turned sand into crystal and humans to potential ash. Beneath the canopy of trees being beaten down by hail and the potential fear of a lightning strike, the two fisherman waited.

The storm had passed and the two fisherman emerged from the sanctuary feeling as though they had cheated death, cheated the wrath of the clouds. Then, it was time to fish.

It is always good to have an indian guide for when you lose the trail. Sometimes better than GPS.

At first the take was slow, but quickly picked up. The fish were small but aggressive and would only eat “chewy” the aptly named woolly bugger.

On the way down, they only fell on the slippery surfaces a few times and spoke of the day that they just had, the adventure. It is always pure adventure when your life is at risk, makes you think about the ordinary things in a different light. This was one of those ordinary days where we learned, “Don’t Die”.

 

 

 


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.


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.