Season Opener

Originally posted @ FishExplorer

The problem with fishing high altitude lakes is the variable weather. The weather here in Colorado? Well let’s just say you never know what you are going to get. There is a saying here in Denver, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” On any given day, on any given month, if you are hiking the high country, there is always the possibility of snow and sleet and wind and just plain bad weather. Another problem with fishing high altitude lakes is wondering if they are still frozen or not, depending on spring conditions.

This year Colorado had a very mild winter, so when Mike Garcia, Daniel Kelly, and I decided to hit a lake at 12,000 feet, we were fairly certain there would be no ice to contend with. All week the sun was out and there wasn’t a drop of rain. But the forecast showed that the nice weather would not make it through the weekend and that we would be facing some cold/windy/snowy weather on our first hike of the year.

For Mike and myself, preparing for inclement weather was not an issue. We have done enough hikes to know that even if the forecast is calling for clear skies, you still pack prepared. Daniel, on the other hand needed a little help with his packing choices. Daniel just moved out here from North Carolina and this was going to be his debut hike to the high country.

We arrived at the trailhead around 7:30, put the packs on and headed out. The first part of the hike was 800 vertical feet of switchbacks down to a creek. Although this was usually not a problem, on this day it was a slight issue. The forest service must not have had the time or energy to clean up this part of the trail because there were downed trees everywhere and at times we had to climb over and on top of the trees and even lost the trail a couple of times. But only being a short distance from the creek, we were soon past the blow down and on to the trail that heads up the valley to our destination.

The rest of the hike was uneventful and we made it to our destination in just under two hours. When we arrived it was partly cloudy and for a moment we thought that the sun would come out, we weren’t that lucky. As we were rigging up, the clouds and wind moved in and the snow started to fall. But no matter, we came prepared and we came to catch fish. And that’s what we did, well most of us.

For the next four hours we fished. It was windy, it was cold, it was snowing, but it was a great day! We fished around the lake and didn’t see much action. There seemed to be a lot of fish hanging out in the small outlet stream so I spent most of my time fishing it and did well there.

At the end of the day, Mike and I both caught a handful of fish and Daniel unfortunately came home with the skunk. But in his own words “Even though I didn’t catch a fish, and got snowed on the whole time, it was probably the most epic trip of my life!” So it seems Daniel had a good day, but he hasn’t seen anything yet!

Jon

I Fish.

Originally posted @ FishExplorer

 

For the past two years I have been a snob. I have turned my nose up at the prospect of spin fishing. I haven’t looked down on others that were spin fishing, just myself. This snobbery is self-induced, but thankfully it is now over.

The lack of time I’ve spent spin fishing for the past two years has only to do with one thing knowledge. I wanted to get better at fly fishing and I thought the only way to do that was to put away the spinning gear. I fish high altitude lakes a lot and on a windy day it is too easy to push the long stick aside, pick up a Kastmaster or a tube jig, and toss it into the wind.

I didn’t want that to become a crutch so I vowed to fly fish exclusively,become more skilled at lake fishing and to become better at nymph fishing as well. It’s been a good two years and I feel that I have learned a lot and have probably moved up the ladder a bit maybe one step above being mediocre.

My reason for pulling the spinning rod out of storage was a good one my three-year-old son. He, of course, sees daddy going out to fish for the day and of course wants to come with me. He has played around with the butt section of an old fly rod with some line on it, but has never fished or done any casting.

So I went ahead and invested in a kid’s Zebco rod, picked him up from daycare and headed out to a lake across the street from where I live. We have visited this lake and park numerous times, but I had never fished it. I know from searching on here that the lake used to have huge bass in it but has since been fished out and probably has slim pickings at this point. I also read that just a couple of weeks prior to that day, they had stocked the lake with rainbow trout. Armed with this info, we headed to the pier to give it a shot.

I rigged up my son’s pole with a hook and bobber and threw some powerbait on the hook. I wasn’t expecting him to catch anything, and figured he would just want to cast and reel, cast and reel, and that’s just what he did. But, to my surprise, he was a natural! Talk about a proud father, I couldn’t believe that almost immediately, he was pressing and releasing the little button and casting the line out pretty far from the dock. I was impressed, to say the least.

After he had gotten the hang of things, it was my turn to put some line in the water. I tied on my lure and zinged it out as far as I could. Twitched the rod once and Yahtzee – fish on! A largemouth jumped out of the water and the lure came out with it. Oh well, first cast and getting some action was a good sign.

A few minutes later, the same thing happened. Then, another few minutes later, I got a bite and this time he didn’t come off. But he wasn’t jumping at all as I reeled him in with my rod almost bent in half. I was wondering what kind of fish he could be when I finally got him close enough to realize that it was a rainbow trout,  and definitely not one of the stocker rainbows, this one was almost 24” and was the circumference of a football! I was in shock and couldn’t believe it. I wondered why I hadn’t tried to fish this lake sooner.

After all that happened during the hour and fifteen minutes we spent there, I realized that I don’t care what type of fishing I’m doing, I just enjoy being outdoors and catching. But sharing this experience with my three-year-old was an even greater thrill.

So the next time you spin fishermen see a fly fishermen, don’t automatically assume he is a snob. And you fly fishermen – don’t turn up your nose at the idea of spin fishing, because in the end we are the same. We are outside doing what we love to do and enjoying every minute of it, whether it’s using the long or short stick, WE fish.

A short video of my son’s first day casting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZOAyn4oHxs

A couple days of fishing:

Superstitious

Originally posted @ FishExplorer.com

I am not one for superstitions. I don’t mind walking under a ladder or having a black cat cross my path and don’t believe that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. But I am pretty sure I jinxed myself. The previous two blogs that I wrote have come back to haunt me. I should never have mentioned how slow it is at my day job and I definitely should not have written anything on the LDR issue.

It all started this past weekend when some friends and I hiked in to a canyon to get some exercise and do some fishing. The canyon is an amazing place. If you are looking for solitude and some decent fishing, that is the place to find it. On this day however, the fishing was off for most of us and most of the day I didn’t even have a bite. Then I happened upon a nice pool and saw a decent rainbow swim out from shore. So I sat there and fished him for a good thirty minutes. After multiple reties and depth changes, I hooked in to him. He was a big rainbow, at least 20”!But, as you may have already assumed, he got off after a minute of having a bit of fun. LDR.

Then Monday roles around and it’s off to work again. Work was just as slow as I had mentioned previously. I sometimes bring my fishing gear with me to work just in case I can leave early and try my luck at the local fishing hole, but it seems that every time I have it with me we get busy at work and I get bummed that I’m not leaving early to go fishing. So this day I did not bring my setup and wouldn’t you know, I got off early. I rushed home, grabbed my gear and headed to the creek.

It was on fire! I have never seen so much action since I started fishing it last year. Sitting and watching, I was pretty sure that the chub in the river were spawning so the browns were coming out to play. So I tied up and started casting. I fished for three hours, I caught three little creek chub and that was it. With all the action I was seeing in the water, I couldn’t get a single trout out of the water. I did however get blessed with yet another LDR by a nice brown that was pushing 10” or so.

Tuesday morning arrives and I am feeling pretty superstitious at this point. I kept telling myself I should not have written a word about LDRs. I should not have mentioned getting off work early. I should have kept these things to myself and I may have been able to land a few more fish because of it. But then again, what a difference a day makes.

There was no difference in my work load at my day job. Same old same old – go in at 6 a.m., get a handful of jobs completed, bitch and moan about how there is no work coming in, and then leave at 1. But this time I had my fly rod in the car.

I was on the water at 2 and had a few hours to fish until I had to pick up my son from daycare. So I went over to the same spot I had visited the day before. I sat watching same action underwater as I had seen previously. I wondered what flies to tie on, looked in my fly box and grabbed a couple then put them back. Grabbed another and put it back and then finally settled on a couple of flies I had tied up last year but never used.  The rest of the day was insane!

By the end of my session I had landed two in the 8” range, two in the 16” range, and my final fish of the day was probably my biggest brown trout to date. In my head he was close to 24”, but I’m aware that the imagination can round up numbers when one is holding one of the larger trout one has ever caught.

What really matters to me is the feeling of having something that size take a fly that I created myself, catching him on a 3 wt. rod and getting to hold him in my hands. I did also have half a dozen LDRs, but honestly those didn’t matter to me at all. All that mattered was that on this day, my luck had changed.

 

LDRs

Originally posted @ FishExplorer.com

So I realize that a tug is a tug. I should be happy that a fish was fooled by a fly I tied, took the bait, and that I got to have a little fun with him for a bit. But I want to know who came up with the ‘Long Distance Release’ saying,

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great phrase. It helps ease the pain of not getting the fish into the net. It helps to justify the fact that you must have done something wrong — had too much or too little line tension, didn’t have the rod high enough in the air, or just that the fish was smart enough to know how to jump at just the right angle to get that fly unhooked.

These things happen to everyone at some point or another, but hopefully for me, they’ll happen less frequently the better I become at fly fishing. But every time I have a fish on for more than a few seconds, I am already picturing it in my net. When that doesn’t happen it can be a bit frustrating. Recently I was fishing the rainbow spawn and had the biggest fish of the day on the line. It must have been at least a couple of minutes, which feels like an eternity, and then the fly popped out. Frustrating to say the least, but then my friend said to me “Hey, nice LDR, at least you didn’t have to mess with the net and the fly stuck in its mouth.”

Although true, this statement didn’t make me feel any better. I was looking forward to holding the 28” rainbow (well probably closer to 20”, but in my head I’m sticking with 28”). It’s frustrating to know that I may have done something wrong, — that I should have been more aware of exactly where the fish was going.

But at the end of the day I got over my mishap and was excited to have had a fish on the line. So until I become a master angler, I will have to live with my love/hate relationship with the term “Long Distance Release.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9rdj-FRN8o

And as long as we are discussing LDRs, might as throw up some video proof of it in action.

1st Quarter Numbers — The Good and The Bad

Originally posted @ FishExplorer.com

My day job is working in an industry that is slowly going the way of the eight track — printing. I thought I was starting a good career 12 years ago by teaching myself digital graphics, but as it turns out, even the Encyclopedia Britannica is going the digital route so my industry is not doing well. It seems like I may have to start rethinking this whole career thing and find something else to earn a living by. Good thing my hobby, my passion, will never be in decline as far as I’m concerned. So at least I have that going for me.

Last year, as my company had three separate layoffs, I was lucky enough to have been told a secret. A secret about big brown trout and big rainbow trout right here in Denver. I didn’t really believe it at first, but as they say – the proof is in the video. So I went searching the YouTubes and came across a handful of videos of some decent fish being caught here in town. It was my mission last year to catch some of those fish and I succeeded way beyond my expectations. I had more success with one species, the brown trout, but the rainbow trout had alluded me. So I made it my goal this year to get in to some bows.

My first couple of outings didn’t yield much, but I kept searching. I knew that the rainbow spawn would hit early this year because of unseasonably warm weather across the state. I would go fishing after work, because when there isn’t much work to be done I get off early – which is a double-edged sword. I would also go for a few hours on the weekend when I wasn’t hitting some tailwater elsewhere. I was determined and persistent and it finally paid off.

 

One Sunday morning when my mother-in-law took my three-year old son to swimming lessons and my wife was busy, I shot up the road to try yet again, and wouldn’t you know, I found the bows! When the timing is right, it is quite easy. The hard part is actually finding the time. Last year I fished the same spot on three different occasions and came up skunked.

This year, this first quarter, I got lucky and the timing was perfect. Within the first 20 minutes I had my first rainbow on and in the net. I had another five in the net by the end of the hour. The next hour was slow and I was about to try another part of the river when I got a phone call from Alan, a fellow FxR member. He was in the area picking up some equipment to try his hand at fly fishing, it was good to meet up and wet a line with him.

 

I showed him my spot and told him to have a go and within five minutes…fish on! The next couple of hours were slow, with me only netting one more rainbow, but she was a beauty of a rainbow, if I do say so myself. Glad Alan was there to play photographer and also glad he was there to do a little dredging and do his part for the river clean up.

The next week I hit the same spot two more times and did fairly well but not as good as the first, which is to be expected. Can’t really complain though, because my first quarter numbers kept me in the black.

Jon