Tag Archives: Woolly Bugger

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 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.

Let The Games Begin

As you may already know, last weekends trip brought me back to the Jemez mountains. My brother is a fan of lake fishing and so am I to a degree. A fan of Fenton lake, not so much. Talk about over fished and over harvested, this place is the first thing that comes to mind. Regardless, the lake is well stocked and happens to be on the cusp of Seven Springs Hatchery, one of the few pure strain Rio Grande Cutthroat providers in the state. Needless to say, Fenton is also stocked with them on occasion. Since the lake is on a river system that has cutthroat, it is stocked with triploid rainbows to block further dilution of the strain. I for one, am a fan of triploidy. Why? Well, they grow larger faster, there is no cross breeding, they are way more gullible (some studies show that the optic lobe and cerebellum are nearly 20% smaller than that of a stream born fish), and they fight a bit harder (assuming all of their fins are intact). Fun to catch, but better to eat. I say keep stocking the place and promoting the park. The rangers there this weekend were very strict, checked all licenses, and issued fines to cars that did not pay. I say go them.

"My God, it's full of cars"

New Mexico is plagued with bad fisherman and I don’t think the state was hard enough on some policies in the past. This was the first time I had been asked to produce my license outside of Tingley in at least 10 years.

I hope these people don't mind their picture...

We arrived shortly after 7:00am and already people were lining the shore, getting the best spots before the crowd wiggles its way between you and your fishing buddies. We parked in the free parking zone and were on our way to the lake. We figured that we would start by the dock/dam and work our way up to the inlet. I figured, this time of year, the holdovers and fish born in the lake would pile up in the inlet for the spawn. On the dam, the stocker pods would still be lingering around the place they were dumped in the lake. There would be enough fish here to break the ice with that first fish. Nate was the first to get one and he got it on the second cast, and the third cast, and the fourth cast. Leaving me with no fish. My 8wt. was rigged with a leech and that goose biot from last time and a short cast (rather than the 70′ of line I was putting on the water hoping for the big one) gave me my first. As Nate switched flies to one of the woolly buggers that I tied the night before, I was up to 12. Then the brotherly competition was on and it wasn’t long before he caught up to me. This called for drastic measures. Two fly rods, one dead drifting the leech combo, and one twitching a woolly bugger.

Good bug!

These fish weren’t even remotely shy and would pull at least 6′ before letting go, then they would give you a second chance, if the first 4 seconds wasn’t enough. This came in handy for me because my drifting rod was laying on the ground next to me. This was the first time that I have seen a 10″ fish pull an 8wt. rod into the water. The fish were hitting really hard and were very active. Around noon, the fishing slowed way down. Nates next fish would prove why.

Nate releases his cutthroat.

Usually around midday the cutthroats begin to scan the shoreline in search of the minnows, and that was the ticket for the woolly bugger. Nate was confused as he fought the fish, wondering what it was and why it acted so curiously. Afterward, he decided that it was best if he added a spinning rod with powerbait. He tipped the scales in his favor. At noon, we were tied at around 30 fish each. From then on I got about 20 more fish to his 40. Bringing the total number to 70 for Nate with 2 cutthroat, and 50 for me with 1 brown toward the late part of the day. I contend that powerbait fish didn’t count and he was throwing my bugs around, thus all the fish he caught counted as my own. Giving me the “W” (plus it’s my blog, Nate). Can you feel the brotherly love? Seriously though, Nate always out fishes me, he has a knack for finding spots that are loaded with fish, and it is usually me that nabs the big fish of the day. He’s the only fishing buddy in the world that I can trust his gut over hard scientific fact.

It's heavy for the size...

A word on the brown trout: I have seen pictures of monster browns that are pulled from this lake once every year. These fish are usually 28″+ and very fat and healthy. I tried to dig up these pictures, but they were never posted on the internet. I knew the pictures were fact, but a fish this size makes a lot of eggs. Over the past few years, I had NEVER caught a brown in this lake and it was very hard for me to believe in this “Loch Ness” type story. Now, my story has changed and I can quit blaming Game and Fish for the typo (although, there are still many waters on the “Fishing Map” where fish are omitted or are said to be there and do not exist Ex: browns in Bluewater creek and the lack of mention of brook trout in Canjilon among MANY others).

The day became windy and we decided not to camp, I missed my chance for some big cutthroat in other water, but I’m going to save the secret spot for the weekend of the 15th. Until then, I think I’m headed back to the enchanted circle for some High Mountain fish thanks to the inspiration from AZ Wanderings. Speaking in that regard, I know I have a few loyal readers by now and I have to thank them for visiting the other blogs that I have linked under the blogroll and thank them again for reading my blog in general.