Our Playground – 2015 Vol. 2

Featured @ Orvis

Rambling around the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Photos of the Day: Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks Cutts

Originally posted @ Orvis

At least once a year, I get away for a long backpacking trip, and this year Tom, Shawn, and I took five days off and headed into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. The hike was a total of 30 miles with over 5,700 feet in elevation gain. Add to that roughly 15 miles of fishing around lakes and creeks, and it was an amazing week of fly fishing.

I brought along my 6-weight Recon and my 3-weight Superfine Glass and was glad I had both. The lakes we fished were above 12,000 feet, and it was extremely windy every day. Using the Recon was perfect for those conditions, throwing streamers and dry flies and everything else out of the fly box: the cutthroat trout were hungry and eager to take anything we threw at them.

When we headed down into the valley to fish the different sections of the creek, the 3-weight Superfine was so much fun to throw dry flies to eager brook and cutthroat trout. Even though they were small in the creek, it’s always a blast to be wet-wading up a creek and catching trout with every cast!

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Timing is Everything

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

People say location is everything, but in the world of hiking and fly fishing location is only part of the process, and timing is everything. When it comes to spring fly fishing in the Colorado Rockies, traveling to a lake that sits at 10,000 feet or higher is quite a challenge. For some lakes, the best fishing is just after the ice melts but before the lake turns over. Trying to time this event is a different gamble every year. Some years the snow pack in the Rocky Mountains is lean and you get an early start to fishing open water. Other years mother nature will continue to drop snow well into June. This was one of those years.

As is typical of my day trips, the Mountainsmith Scream pack was the perfect choice, allowing me to carry in my fly fishing gear along with extra layers, rain gear and some lunch.

The first week I tried to hike to a pair of lakes that sat at 12,000 feet above sea level. One lake was 95% frozen and the other lake about 80%. I only saw one fish and got nothing to the net. This information was valuable, however, because based on the temperatures we were going to have the next week, the lakes would soon be very fishable. So the week after that first ascent I went back up with my friend Shawn and the timing couldn’t have been better.

Ice was off of one of the lakes, with the other lake still having a small amount of ice, and we saw a lot of cutthroat trout cruising around the shoreline. By mid morning it had warmed up enough and the fish started hitting dry flies off the surface of the water. With all this action you would think we would have had a stellar day, but the fish were extremely picky. Shawn and I threw everything we had in our arsenal at them and only managed seven fish between the two of us. Which is a better way of saying that I only caught one fish that day and Shawn did pretty good.

With only one fish to the net, I still had an amazing day rambling around in the mountains. The timing was perfect this year, even if it did take me two tries to get it almost right.

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Curiosity and Research

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

It’s a catch 22, I am itching to get into the Rocky Mountains to start hiking and fly fishing my favorite lakes and streams but I also realize that all the water is a welcome problem (and that the fishing in the state will be all that much better once the levels get back to normal). Of course you can still go out and fish these swollen bodies of water, the fish are still there and are eating to stay alive, but it takes a different approach to fish faster moving water. It is more difficult and sometimes dangerous to be out in those conditions.

Not to be outdone by the local rain, the high mountain lakes I frequently hike to stayed frozen much longer into the year than normal, so hiking to 12,000 feet to fish was out of the question. Still in need of an adventure,  I turned to the internets and started researching, trying to find some fishable water. My interest was piqued by a short video that really gave no hint as to where it was shot –  river or state. I had a feeling I could find the place,  it had the look of Colorado and was vaguely familiar. With this video and a hunch, I reached out to some friends and we began to do our research and soon discovered it was an area that I had driven by many times but never knew was fishable. I checked the Colorado surface water information for all the rivers in the state. I looked at this particular river and noticed it was one of the few rivers that was flowing at normal levels. Yahtzee!

Meandering through a picturesque valley, the river had the perfect amount of undercut banks, deep pools, and shallow riffles. We walked downstream from the parking lot, which only had one other car in its lot, and Tom jumped down into the water to start fishing, while I started just downstream from him. Within a half a dozen casts I had my first fish on, a big, beautiful brown trout. I was astounded at the size of the fish that came out of the small river and was more amazed as the day went on. Tom and I caught multiple fish, both brown and rainbow trout and all ranging in size from 10 to 18 inches. As I stepped back and looked around the area, it dawned on me how lucky we were to be fishing this spot! It made me realize how a little bit of curiosity coupled with research can come together to create an unprecedented day of fishing.

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Opening Weekend

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

Picked up and re-posted @ Elevation Outdoors

Here in Colorado we are extremely lucky, we get to fish every day of the year. Although some of the water is frozen in the winter, and some roads that lead to amazing fisheries are closed for the winter, but you can fish open water whenever you feel the urge. Pikes Peak Highway is one of the roads that is closed during the winter months. Last weekend it opened for the season so myself, Tom, Shawn and Tim headed out to one of the reservoirs.

Shawn and Tim hiked their float tubes in, while Tom and I were planned on wading around the lake. We hiked a mile or so up the reservoir and then went down to the lake and started fishing. With my fly fishing and camera gear packed into my Mountainsmith Mayhem 35, it was easy to hike around the edge of the lake with everything I needed for the day packed into the Mayhem.

The reservoir is very deep, 130 feet at its deepest. The shoreline that Tom and I were wading was shallow enough to walk around, with about a foot and a half before it dropped off into the abyss. With snow on the steep banks, and not a lot of room to walk, we had to be careful when hiking around. We stopped at one point and decided to fish an area that had a nice 5 foot shelf coming off the bank before it headed down deep into the lake. With the bank right behind me, roll casting was the only way to get my streamer out into the lake. Before long I had my first fish of the day on the line and I didn’t realize it was a lake trout until it was in my net. This just happened to be the first lake trout that I have ever caught. After releasing the fish, I roll casted back out into the water, waited for my line to sink deep and bam, fish on again. And again it was a nice lake trout on the line.

As Tom and I were skirting the edge of the lake, Shawn and Tim were kicking and fishing their way up to the inlet. After a couple of hours all four of us met up and hung out near a cove and fished that and a nice peninsula that jutted out into the lake – all of us catching a nice amount of fish for the rest of the afternoon.

The Pikes Peak Highway was opened from 9-4 that day, so around 3:30 we started our hike back to the car. With a little bit of hiking, and a lot of fish caught by everyone, it was a great opening weekend for all of us.

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Our Playground – 2015 Vol. 1

Wyoming was a blast!

Photo Essay: Wyoming Wonderland, Day 3

Originally posted @ Orvis

For my final day of rambling around Wyoming, it was back to Fremont Canyon. The plan originally was to try the Miracle Mile, but because of how well Fremont had fished on Day One—and the fact that the rest of the guys wanted to fish there—Fremont it was going to be.

Chris and Juan were going to sit this one out and head back to Denver early, so that left the rest of us to hit the water. Daniel, Dennis, and I decided to get everything packed up and ready to leave, and then be on the water at sunup to fish until noon or so and then get back to Denver at a reasonable hour. We arrived at the canyon just as the sun was coming up, cold enough at that hour to put some ice on the side pools of water.

All three of us tied on some form of what had worked well before, but it was tough fishing for the first few hours. As on the previous two days, with even a bit of wind, I really enjoyed swinging the Recon. Casting into the wind and mending line is extremely easy, and quick the rod was quick to react.

Finally, around 11 o’clock, the water warmed up enough and the trout started feeding. Just in time for Jim and Paul to meet up with us and start catching fish. On this day, red midges were the key until around 1:30, when a hatch started and the fish were popping the surface all over the place. Paul threw on a small dry fly and shortly he was reeling in a really nice rainbow. After catching up with Tom, Mike and Matt for a couple of hours, it was time to pack it in and start the journey home.

I am ashamed that I have lived in Denver for twelve years and have never been to Wyoming until now. It was an amazing trip, full of great fishing with great friends and a ton of laughs. I’ll definitely be heading back up there on an annual basis now!

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Photo Essay: Wyoming Wonderland, Day 2

Originally posted @ Orvis

For my second day in the vastness of Wyoming, the plan was to float the North Platte River from Gray Reef to Lusby. It’s the standard floating option, making it a busy stretch of water, so we wanted to get an early start to avoid the crowds. Jim, Matt and Paul had driven up after work on Friday to meet us at the ranch and join us for the float. Chris and Juan decided to skip the float and try the Miracle Mile instead, since the weather was reporting 25 to 35 mph winds for the day. This would be my first trip on a river in a drift boat, and I had heard that it can get windy up in Wyoming, but I wasn’t prepared for the experience that actually transpired.

Getting eight guys up and breakfast made and ready to go took a little longer than we had anticipated, but we were at the boat launch around 9:30. We rented three boats from Wyoming Anglers, three guys each in two boats, with Tom and Jim in the third boat. The first hour and a half the wind was tolerable, and we floated and stopped at the public access areas in that first stretch of water. I was a little worried about the wind, but casting with the Recon was a lot easier and more accurate than I thought it would be. Natural and rust colored leech patterns, Slumpbusters and San Juan Worms worked really well all day. All of us got into some fish for the first stretch, and it was turning out to be a great day, until the winds picked up.

For the next several hours, we fought off 50 mph winds. At times it was at our backs, at other times it was coming at us from the side, and at the worst of it it was coming straight at us pushing us back up the river. It was brutal! Dennis, Daniel, and I were in one boat, and at one point Daniel got out and pushed the boat downstream into the wind, which was easier than trying to row through it. Even with the high winds, I still managed to cast as decent as can be imagined in that kind of weather and still managed to catch a few fish.

The last hour of the float, the winds calmed down to a manageable 25 mph and more fish were caught before we reached Lusby and our take-out point. After nine hours in the boats and fighting the wind, it was a great day of hanging out with friends. I usually hate being on a crowded river, but when the crowd is a bunch of your friends, that’s a good day regardless of how windy or how many fish you catch.

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Photo Essay: Wyoming Wonderland, Day 1

Originally posted @ Orvis

What happens when ten friends go up to Wyoming for three days? A lot of fishing, floating, and fun, that’s what happens. I had never been up to Wyoming, so when my friend Tom asked if I wanted to take a three-day trip up to the Casper area and stay at a ranch, I couldn’t say no. We stayed just outside of Casper at the Red Butte Ranch which is on the North Platte River.

My new 6-weight Recon fly rod would be with me on this trip, and I was interested to see how it worked on some bigger water, since I had only previously used it on my little creek. For our first full day in Wyoming, Tom, Daniel, and I headed to Fremont Canyon, while Chris, Mike, Dennis, and Juan were going to float the North Platte River. I had done some research on this stretch of water, so I put on my Higa’s S.O.S., which I tie in red, and then a Zebra Midge below that. Within an hour, I had my first Wyoming rainbow in the net. With a bit of wind to contend with, larger fish, and fast-moving water, the Recon handled amazingly well. Around lunch, we headed to another hole only to find it occupied by our friend Juan. He decided not to float the river with the other guys, so he came out to the canyon to catch up with us.

Throughout the day, I changed to using Pheasant Tails and red midges and a Hare’s Ear Nymph. We all pulled in some beautiful fish, and Tom hit the triple by netting some rainbows, a brown, and a cutthroat to close out the day.

We arrived back at the lodge around dusk. With waders still on, we fished the private stretch of water at the ranch for a half an hour or so and then called it a day and headed inside to get dinner ready. After the guys got back from floating, we shared our stories from the day and hit the sack.

Day two would prove to be quite a different experience than I was prepared for.

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Photos: Taking the New Rod for a Test-Drive in Colorado

Originally posted @ Orvis

I had a couple of hours to spare one day last month, so I took my new Recon up to the local creek. The first of two browns that I caught was small and the typical size for the tiny creek, but it was a great first fish for the new rod. The second brown, on the other hand, was a giant for that small stream. I have caught a few of them in the last handful of years and it’s always a heart-pounding experience when it happens.

For the close quarters fishing that you have to do at the creek, the Recon responded amazingly. From flipping to mending to the always fun sling shot, the Recon handled it easily and luckily no flies were lost to the numerous trees and branches that cover the creek. It was a great way to start off my year with the Recon!

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