Photos: One Last Trip into the Colorado High Country

Originally posted @ Orvis

Written by: Jon Hill

Tom shows off a gorgeous late-season cutthroat–the reward for a long hike through snowy terrain.
Photos courtesy Jon Hill

It is a well-known fact that you never know what to expect from the weather in Colorado. So when a snow storm rolled through the state the day after Labor Day, it was no surprise. Tom and I had planned to do one last backpacking trip for the year, but because of that storm, we had to change our plans from a four-day/three-night trip to a two-day/one-night trip. We really didn’t know how much snow would still be up in the high country, nor did we know what to expect from the fishing because of the drastic weather shift. But it didn’t deter us from trying.

If you’re hiking in the Rockies in September, you have to be ready for anything.

We hiked in roughly five miles, the first half on completely dry trails, the second half in the snow. Once we found a decent campsite, the rest of the weekend was filled with blue skies and fly casting. Late season at that elevation, it’s usually best to fish in the afternoons because the water has time to warm up throughout the day. Only having one afternoon and the next morning to fish, we both were still able to get a few cutthroats to bite, although the fishing was definitely slower than we would have liked.

Your legs suddenly feel less tired when you see a glorious trout

Excited to get one last trip to 11,000 feet and catch some beautiful cutthroat trout, we now look to next year and start to plan where our adventures will take us.

Jon Hill lives in Littleton, Colorado and works in the digital-graphics field. But he spends almost all his spare time chasing trout in the high country, and his photos have been featured many times on the Orvis News. (See hereherehere, and here for just a taste, or visit his blog, Ramblings.) He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week.

Fishing during warmer afternoons paid off for Jon.

Photos: Taking a Chance in the Colorado High Country

Originally posted @ Orvis

The first fish caught out of the lake, by Tom, gave the rest of us hope.
All Photos by Jon Hill

Before you embark on a backpacking trip into an area that does not have a maintained trail and goes through acres and acres of downed trees, you need to be mentally prepared for what you are asking your body to accomplish. Tom, Shawn, Dan, and I thought we were ready, but nothing could prepare us for this particular trip.

Miles and miles of dead and downed trees made for an arduous hike in.

We hiked in on a Thursday and planned to hike out on Sunday. That would give us two and a half days to fish the lake and inlet stream–usually plenty of time to catch the cutthroat trout we were after. As with all trips to lakes above 10,000 feet of elevation, you never know how the fishing will be. Sometimes the trout are eager to take anything thrown at them, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what you throw: they aren’t interested. After hiking hours and hours over hundreds of dead, fallen trees, we fished hard for those two and a half days.

The fish from the creek were lovely, but they weren’t the trophies we were looking for.

The weather was on and off cloudy, with rain and wind that made it difficult to pinpoint where the fish were. We all caught a few small cutthroat trout, which were beautiful, out of the inlet stream, but we were also frustrated that we were unable to catch anything from the lake. Tom finally landed a lake cutthroat on Friday afternoon, which gave hope to the rest of us. But after hours of walking and casting around the lake, no one was catching anything.

Tom found a casting perch, as he looked for cruising cutthroats.

When Saturday evening came, everyone else was done with fishing and mentally preparing for the trip out the next day, but I decided to go out one last time. I’m glad I did, as I finally netted a cutthroat from the lake–and it was a monster. The work we put into the trip was physically and mentally draining, but the rush I felt from catching the largest cutthroat trout of my life made all that work worthwhile.

The biggest cutthroat trout of my life suddenly made it all worthwhile. (Being alone made photos tough.)

I love that we are able to camp and fish and enjoy the Rocky Mountains as much as we do, but that lake is marked off our list of places to go. We won’t ever do that hike again!

Jon Hill lives in Littleton, Colorado and works in the digital-graphics field. But he spends almost all his spare time chasing trout in the high country, and his photos have been featured many times on the Orvis News. (See herehere, here, and here for just a taste, or visit his blog, Ramblings.) He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week.

Just look at the belly on this beast!

Fiberglass Talk

Originally post @ Ascent Fly Fishing

Why a Fiberglass Rod
Should be your Next Fly Rod!

By Guest Writer: Jon Hill

If you are looking for ferocious fights, soft precise fly presentations, and the chance to get your knuckles rapped every time you hook up, look no further than a fiberglass fly rod!

Whether you want to change things up and replace your carbon fiber/graphite rod with a fiberglass one, or you’re interested in adding something unique to your collection, here’s the information you need to help determine the most accurate weight and length of your new custom rod.

A fairly standard option is the 3 wt. Ranging in sizes from 6′ to 7′ 6″ in length, this rod is perfect if you’re new to fiberglass, or are looking for something sturdy that can be used in a variety of conditions. 

I enjoy using my 3 wt in smaller creeks and streams when casting short distances or roll casting – dropping the fly exactly where you want it. With the full flex design of the fiberglass, slowing your cast down is a must – letting the rod help load the line – instead of doing all the work yourself. Once you hook, fight, and net your first brookie with your 3 wt., you’ll understand exactly why these rods are becoming so popular.

Next up is the 4 and 5 wt. fiberglass. These range in size from 7′ to 8′ in length, and are better suited for rivers and lakes. A 5 wt. will cast streamers and heavier nymphs exactly where you want them to go. The flex and taper of the fiberglass, which becomes obvious when you’re hooking into a large rainbow trout or smallmouth bass, makes this type of fly fishing so much more enjoyable. With the smooth casting and gentle yet strong hookset, landing all sizes of fish with fiberglass is a blast.

Stepping up into the 7 wt. range of fiberglass fly rods, the ideal fish to target would be carp, largemouth bass, small tarpon, and the like. Meant to be used in larger rivers while throwing big streamers, the accuracy you can achieve when casting one of these is exactly what is needed for these types of fish. If you find yourself scouting for spooky carp or throwing buggers all day for pike and muskie out of a boat, the 7 wt. fiberglass is right up your alley.

When you think of saltwater fly fishing, you probably don’t think of fiberglass, but an 8′, 8 wt. fiberglass rod was designed for just that scenario. Casting heavy, articulated streamers or your favorite salt flies for bonefish, salmon, redfish, steelhead, and even golden dorado, you’ll discover the taper and casting ability of an 8 wt. fiberglass in salt is just what was missing from your rod collection. 

Whether you are wanting a custom made fly rod created just for you, or are interested in building one yourself, Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods has you covered. 

About Jon Hill & Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods

Whether you are wanting a custom made fly rod created just for you, or are interested in building one yourself, Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods has you covered.  


 Haldin fiberglass blanks starting at $155.
– Custom-built Haldin fiberglass rods starting at $445
– Custom-built fiberglass fly rods for $235.
– Custom-built carbon fiber/graphite fly rods starting at $225.


Jon is a full-time husband/father/9-5’er with a passion for fly fishing and rod building. When not working or coaching his son’s soccer team he builds custom fly rods for his company Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods, www.yellowfinrods.com. He also writes for Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine where he gets to share his adventures of backpacking and fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains, www.jonathanfhill.com.

Photos: A Fish Every Month for 5 Years

Originally posted @ Orvis

This brown marks five years that the author has caught a trout every month in his home state of Colorado.

You know you have a fishing problem when you schedule a knee surgery around your fishing schedule! I’ve been trying to see how long I can go catching at least one fish a month. When I tore my meniscus earlier this year I postponed the surgery to take a backpacking trip and to keep my streak alive. When it came down to setting a date for the surgery, I chose the second week of October. That would give me the first weekend in October to get on the water and hopefully catch a fish; then fingers crossed I would be healed enough to fish sometime in November. 

A little snow on the ground is no deterrent when there’s a streak to keep alive.

So here we are, three weeks after surgery, and I was able to hit the creek for a couple of hours and get a few browns into the net (thanks to the Purple Haze) and keep the streak alive. That’s 60 months in a row of catching fish, and here’s to hoping I can keep it going and hit 120!

Jon Hill looks pretty good for a guy who had knee surgery less than a month ago.

Jon Hill lives in Littleton, Colorado and works in the digital-graphics field. But he spends almost all his spare time chasing trout in the high country, and his photos have been featured many times on the Orvis News. (See hereherehere, and here for just a taste, or visit his blog, Ramblings.) He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week.

Fiberglass Fly Rods: The New, Old Standard

Original posted @ Ascent Fly Fishing

Article & Photo Credit to Jon Hill of Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods

It’s no secret that fiberglass fly rods have made a big comeback in the last 5-10 years. All of the major fly fishing companies have started bringing back fiberglass into their lineup of rods and there are a dozen of new companies that deal exclusively in fiberglass blanks and kits and full builds.

Starting in the late 1940’s, fiberglass rods started replacing bamboo because of the ease and cost of creating them. Once the new graphite rods came into style, being a lighter material and with a stiffer action, fiberglass was pushed to the side because everybody assumed the new technology was better. If you have ever fished with fiberglass, you know this isn’t always the case.

In my experience with building and fishing fiberglass fly rods in the 2-4 weight range, these are some advantages I have found:

• Slow down!
The deeper flex of fiberglass allows the rod itself to load and shoot the line with less stress and effort on your casting arm.

• Tippet
Coinciding with the deeper flex, less stress is forced upon your knots and your tippet when setting the hook and playing the fish into your net.

• Accuracy
The slower action allows for less line to be loaded in order to get an accurate cast. This is perfect when in tight spots casting 25 feet and less.

• Mending
The taper/action of the glass rod allows for a smoother, easier mending presentation of
the fly.

• Tough
Any rod will break under certain situations, but fiberglass is known to not be as brittle as some of its graphite counterparts. I’ve heard stories of people accidentally bending the tip of their fiberglass rod, instead of breaking they actually just bent it back into being straight and kept on fishing!

• Heavy
One complaint is that fiberglass is too heavy compared to graphite. In my experience, this is partly true but honestly not a noticeable difference. Here is a breakdown of the weight of graphite blanks compared to their fiberglass counterpart.
Graphite 9’ 5 wt. – 1.8 oz. / Fiberglass 8’ 5 wt. – 2.6 oz.
Graphite 9’ 4 wt. – 1.6 oz. / Fiberglass 7 ‘ 6” 4 wt. – 2.0 oz.
Graphite 7’ 6” 3 wt. – 1.0 oz. / Fiberglass 7’ 6” 3 wt. – 1.9 oz.

Finally, the number one reason to give fiberglass a try is that they are fun to cast and catch fish with. The play and action of a fiberglass rod make it a joy to hookset, fight and reel a fish into the net. So the next time you are hitting the creek, pick up a 3 wt fiberglass and you won’t be disappointed!

About Jon Hill & Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods

Jon is a full-time husband/father/9-5’er with a passion for fly fishing and rod building. When not working or coaching his son’s soccer teams he builds custom fly rods for his company Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods, www.yellowfinrods.com. He also writes for Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine where he gets to share his adventures of backpacking and fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains, www.jonathanfhill.com.

If you are interested in a hand-built, custom fiberglass, graphite, or euro nymphing rod for as little as $225 check out Jon’s website at:https://yellowfinrods.com/ or email him at:jfred17@gmail.com

Custom Built Fly Rods

By Peter Stitcher @ Ascent Fly Fishing

Over a lifetime on the water, you are going to own a number of fly rods, but as your arsenal of rods grows, your first fly rod will always hold a special place in your heart!  While decades have elapsed since I purchased my first fly rod, I remember keenly the anticipation and vast investment that went into that purchase.  Having hoarded my allowance, checks from birthdays, and my every penny from my first job, I decided to go big and order a custom 9-foot 6-weight rod from a Wyoming rod builder.  The $300 spent felt like a fortune, and the months of waiting seemed like an eternity, but once I received my rod and held it for the first time, the rod felt like an extension of my arm like only a custom-built rod can feel.  After fishing this rod on three continents and using it to net numerous cold and warm water fish species, I decided to look into purchasing another custom rod and was pleasantly surprised to find how easy and affordable the process has become!

Jon Hill of Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods was introduced to me a couple of months back and it was evident within 5 minutes of conversation that he was passionate about building fly rods!  Proficient at building in both fiberglass and graphite, and able to knowledgeably speak to the specific considerations that go into small creek rods vs. light-weight and far-reaching euro nymphing rods, I wanted to address the elephant in the room and ask him how much a custom rod would cost before getting my hopes up.  I was blown away when Jon told me that getting a custom rod built wasn’t just quick and easy (taking just 3 weeks from design to holding a finished rod), but relatively inexpensive costing just $225 for standard-length  (7′ 6″ – 9′) fiberglass or graphite rod!  While the price was tempting, I had to put these rods to the test and see how they stacked up to go-to Sage, Scott, and Thomas & Thomas rods.  With the action proving incredible and the price tantalizingly low, I commissioned Jon to build me an 8 weight for Bonefish and Tiger Muskie. 

Picking Your Rod Blank & Components

With more than 12 colors of rod blanks, dozens of different reel seat and cork options, and an infinite array of thread colors with which to wrap and accent the rod, it is easy to create a one-of-a-kind rod to match your personality and tastes.  Staying true to our no-frills brand of fly fishing and pulling colors from our logo, I chose a matte black rod blank with gunmetal guides and reel seat, grey and tan cork, and burnt orange, white, and black thread for the wraps.  Jon sent me a photo with the different components that matched my criteria and in just a couple of minutes, I finalized my order.

Feedback Driven Production

When I placed the order, I had selected white thread as the primary color wrap for the guides on the line.  Apart from choosing fly tying materials, I don’t get to choose many colors in our home (if my wife asks me my opinion on a paint color, I trust her to give me one)!   In my mind, I thought that white would look cool, but when wrapped to the rod Jon went the extra mile and shared some sample photos and provided some artistic suggestions.  He allowed me to backtrack, going with a black wrap as my primary, with white and orange as accents, and the results were killer! 

A Made-to-Order Fly Rod in 3 Weeks

I was on a call when I saw the notification from Yellowfin beep through with photo attachments and quickly made my excuses to cut the call short.  The rod looked better than I could have imagined, and when I received it later that day, I found that it cast like a dream as well.  Standing in the street and double hauling an articulated streamer down the road with ease, I could not have been more pleased with my new rod. 
Final ThoughtsIn a sport crowded with big brands and expensive gear, working with Yellowfin Custom Rods to create a custom rod for an honest price was a breath of fresh air.  Like Ascent Fly Fishing in the fly space, there are a number of startup rod, reel, fly line, and tool companies that are pushing back the veneer of fly fishing being a sport of the wealthy and elite and providing exceptional products at prices the everyday fly fisher can afford. More than 30 years into fly fishing I have more fly rods than most, but I look forward to using this new 8-weight and anticipate that it will find a special place in my heart in the years to come.

Camp Chow Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Meals

I have been camping and backpacking in and around the Colorado Rockies for over 16 years. It has become a passion of mine and for me there is nothing better than packing up and heading out into the wilderness for some camping and fly fishing with family and friends. For the sake of ease and weight in the backpack, I have always brought freeze dried meals for breakfast and dinners. Just add hot water and you have a good enough meal to satisfy your intake requirements for the days adventures. All that was fine and good enough, until this year.

 

Every year I stumble upon new products to try out and this year was no exception. Tents get lighter and use different materials for waterproofing and durability. Backpacks get updated and camping stoves get lighter and faster at cooking when trying to boil water in the wind when camping at 11,500 feet above sea level. But this year I found the best addition to my backpacking arsenal, Camp Chow!
Camp Chow is located in northern Minnesota surrounded by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, off of the Gunflint Trail at Trail Center Lodge. In the past I have visited that area a handful of times and it is amazing! What sets Camp Chow apart from all other dehydrated/freeze dried foods is the quality of their ingredients and it’s combination of dehydrated and freeze dried foods. With other meals, the taste is ok and mostly you have the feeling you are eating straight sodium. But with Camp Chow it’s like eating a home cooked meal.
One of the meals we ate was their beef stroganoff. Labeled as a meal for 4 people, it was true to its suggestion and we actually all had enough for seconds. The ingredients set these meals apart from all others! I’m fairly certain that there were at least 3 different varieties of mushrooms in the stroganoff and some of them were the size of our spoons. The thing you noticed after taking your first bite is it honestly tastes like something you had made at home in your own kitchen. No overpowering taste of salt, no half cooked noodles and chunky bits of something you aren’t quite sure what it is, the Camp Chow Beef Stroganoff was one of the best dehydrated/freeze dried meals we have even eaten!
Another meal we had was their turkey dinner. Again, amazing taste and texture and with the hint of cranberry you could almost picture yourself sitting down and eating it for Thanksgiving dinner. Cooking up two single portioned meals, Tom and myself easily had enough to fill our stomachs. One morning Tom, Shawn and myself had the roast beef hash. Again having great portion sizes, labeled for 4 people, we all had plenty with some even left over. On the other side of the portion spectrum, previously using a different companies meal that stated it was for 2 people, it barely fed myself and my 10 year old son who doesn’t eat large portions at all!
Camp Chow has figured out how to use the best ingredients and package everything together with the most honest portion sizing I have ever used. Unless you are hiking in your own steaks to sear up for a dinner, Camp Chow will be the best meals you have ever had while out in the backcountry. And if you are in a pinch to find something to cook for breakfast, lunch or dinner in your home, they’re as good in your home as they are in the woods.

Hoka One One – Kaha

26 Miles out of the Box

I promise I tried, I tried very hard to find the time to break in my new Hoka Kaha hikers before going on a backpacking trip. I got the Kahas two months ago and after the unboxing I was excited to try them out after all of the positive reviews I’ve heard about Hoka One One and their lineup of products. But then came the fateful soccer game that put everything on hold.

 

The author shows off a beautiful cutthroat trout caught at 12,300 feet above sea level.

 

I truly enjoy assistant coaching my son’s soccer team! Helping nine and 10 year olds develop their skills and knowledge of the game and then watching their improvement each week is a lot of fun for me. At the end of each season, we play a half hour scrimmage where it’s the kids vs. the parents and the kids always enjoy beating us. Last scrimmage,  I was taking the ball downfield and went to pivot and pass to the middle and POP, I went down. My left knee just gave out, popping in and out and I knew I was done for. The next day I could barely put any weight on it and it swelled up to three times the size it was supposed to be.

Three Doctor visits and a MRI later, it was determined that I had a 3 mm tear in my meniscus and needed surgery. I told my Dr. that in a month and a half I had a backpacking/fly fishing trip planned and was it possible to push out the surgery and if it was even possible for me to hike. He gave me a shot of cortisone and told me to do some light stretching and working the leg out and to have fun and let him know if I made it.

 

Views like these make it all worth it.

 

While my Kahas sat in a box in the corner of the room, I was icing my knee and working on the elliptical trying to strengthen my leg enough to make the trip. My friends Tom and Shawn were going with me and I really didn’t want to cancel on them so I was doing everything I could to make it. When the time came to leave, I was definitely not 100% but figured I had to give it a go and see how well I was going to do.

Day 1 started early in the morning with the plan being to hike to a lake four miles from the trailhead with the last half mile or so being off trail bushwhacking since there’s no trail to the lake. Lacing up my Kaha hikers for the first time, strapping my knee brace on and putting my 50 lb. pack on my back, I was as ready as I was going to be for this five-day trip into the Colorado backcountry.

 

Tom caught the cutthroat of a lifetime!

 

Tom was leading the charge up the trail and I was going to take it slower than I would normally hike and stay behind him. Shawn unfortunately wasn’t able to make the whole trip and would be coming in on his own the following day. The first mile was a gradual climb up the valley meandering through tall pines that followed the stream and even though I was a bit slower, everything was going better than I had expected. I did start to have a hot spot at the ball of my left foot, started to worry a bit that my feet wouldn’t hold up with brand new boots and that I would have to deal with blisters the whole trip. Fortunately and miraculously, after about 10 minutes the hot spot disappeared and the hike was business as usual, putting one foot in front of the other without issue.

 

Basecamp

After a little more than a mile and a half, the trail turned and headed up another valley that is a bit more of an incline with a more rocky terrain. Slow and steady wins the race and after an hour we made it to the area where we would have to leave the trail and head off-trail for a half mile bushwhack to the lake we were going to base camp at.

Making it to our camping destination was a huge relief! Before the trip started, my goal was to at least make it to our camp. If I could just make it there, I would have two options. Either my knee would be killing me and I would stay there and hope it got better. Or my knee would hold up and I would be able to do the rest of the hiking we had planned for the trip. Thankfully it was the latter and that I would be able to do everything that was on our list for the five days we were going to be there!

 

Hard work getting to catch Golden Trout.

 

In total we hiked 26 miles, roughly five of those were off-trail bushwhacking. We fished three lakes that are in the area and caught some amazing cutthroat trout and even a couple of golden trout thrown into the mix. That whole time, five days, 26 miles over boulders and rocks and through streams…my Kahas handled everything perfectly! Not a single blister, not a single time when I had to re-tie or adjust them. I’m amazed and thankful that I was able to take them straight out of the box and have them handle every challenge flawlessly for five days.

 

The Kaha’s taking a break next to the glass surface.

 

The author carefully bushwhacking through the off-trail portion of the trip.