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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Against this backdrop of Taylor casting in the rising Alaska sun, we want to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We are truly fortunate to have you all as friends and subscribers. This has been a tough year for many families in our country and next year is still going to be somewhat ragged, so remember......when you are having a bad day or your life gets turned upside down a little, don't write your congressman, they could care less. Go to the river and take stock of the good things we all share. The mountains, the rivers, the fish, the wildlife and the smell of the fresh air. Remember your family and God. Lou Holtz once said that the only people who truly love you are the ones you have dinner with each night. That said, I guess all the love I have comes from Jamie, my old Golden Retreiver, and actually that's plenty for me and I'm lucky to have it. After a day of fly fishing, all seems to be a little better for most of us. Then go home and call your congessman and give them crap about something and you'll do it more eloquently after fishing all day. Take good care and join us at the Fly Fishing Show in Denver at the Trade Mart on January 8,9,10. Come by the booth and introduce yourself. In the meantime, have a great Holiday season filled with joy and a few fly fishing goodies.

Capire et Relinquere,

Bill, Jan and Taylor

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fly Tackle Dealer Show Teaches a Valuable Lesson

It has been another beautiful early fall week in Southern Colorado. The high country is bristling in gold and the lower elevation cottonwoods along the river are starting to join the in the dance as well. As soon as the oakbrush turns red, we'll have the whole shebang. Brown Trout are putting on the feedbag in a big way preparing for the spawning season which should start very soon on the South Platte and on the Arkansas around the middle of October. Actually, fish may be a little ahead of schedule on the Arkansas right now because the males we are landing are showing a bit of bottom lip and their colors are vibrant. They are also beginning to get into "chase mode" as well. I took a couple of nice males on a small streamer two nights ago in the rain by stripping it back up the shoreline towards me. None the less, now is a great time to get out and enjoy the Rocky Mountains. This is the time of year when they truly strut their stuff.

We went to the Fly Tackle Dealer Show in Denver last weekend. For those of you who don't follow the fly fishing industry, that is the show where dealers see all the new eye candy fishing stuff for the next year. There are generally more new gadgets, widgets, shiny reels and overpriced flyrods there to knock your socks off. Back over 20 years ago when we went to our first show, we truly enjoyed it. You really got to spend time with the folks that made the gear and fondle everything, have a few drinks and make some new friends. Now, in order to really hear about the stuff, you have to make an appointment with a rep or just stumble into a conversation. For about the past 10 years, I have been in the "stumble in" strategy. Actually fly fishing has turned into a pretty big industry, but I would bet that Haliburton makes more in one day than the entire fly fishing industry does in one year. However you would never guess that by the seriousness protrayed at these shows. This show used to take up an entire large hall at the Denver Convention Center. This year it was in one of the small ones and they only used half of that. Now, some of that is probably due to the economy, but last year wasn't any better and neither was the year before that. It may just be that the business model of having a big show each year has lost it's luster. Either way, it looked pretty much like a funeral procession had just passed through.

Manufacturers with great gear at blue collar prices did well this year and the hoity-toitys of the business, seemed to be all talking to each other during the time I was there. Some folks just don't seem to grasp the idea that the day of the $800 graphite rod may be over, and rightly so. We haven't had a lot of trouble selling high end cane rods and $300 graphite rods, but the plastic on the top shelf is going begging in most places. In my opinion, these manufacturers have been missing the boat for several years now and their arrogance of pushing the price ceiling is coming home to roost. For one, I am glad to see it, but not everyone would agree. There is absolutely no justification for a $700 pair of waders, an $800 graphite fly rod, a $1500 pair of skis or a $5000 set of golf clubs for that matter. This stuff does not make the fun meter go any higher than a Zebco 202 in the hands of a 8 year old boy when he sticks his first trout on a worm. We all seem to forget that as we get older, and I think we may be better for getting slapped around a little. I think, (and this is not a scientific study by any means) we have seen more folks in the store this year who are really happy about going fishing and forgetting all the politics and crap going on in their daily lives. I have enjoyed that very much and it makes me remember why I went into this business in the first place. To help people have a good time on their day or week off. Fly fishing is not a competition between you and the fish and the fish don't really care if they are caught on a $100 rod or a $1000 rod. They get stuck in the mouth both ways. I took out a little $50 Eagle Claw fly rod the other night and was amazed at how nicely it fished. As I sat on a rock around 7PM in a light rain, sipping a little of the malt, and watching fish rise, I remembered how much fun this sport really is. I'll go back to my cane rods, no question, because I have them and I love them. But they are mostly old like me and beg to go fishing. We just all need to act like a kid every now and then and remember what is important in life........a good family, a few good friends, and old fly rod, and old dog, and a good single malt. New shiny rods and reels pale in comparison.

Next week, I am leaving for Alaska for two weeks, I will be in with my son after a 36" Rainbow. I probably won't catch one and will definately freeze my ass off since winter is rapidly approaching in SW Alaska. Anyway, we'll have a great time and I'll help him close the lodge for the year and then we're going down down to the Homer area to fish the early October steelhead run on the Anchor River and Deep Creek before coming home. Hopefully when I return, I'll have a photo of a pig Rainbow to show you. If I don't, I just make something up, and tell you about it. That's what's expected of a fly fisherman anyway.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Fall IS HERE!!!!!

Did this year fly by or what. Better get your Christmas lists together because it won't be long before the sleigh bells ring and all that stuff. In preparation for that time of year, we will again do our equipment reviews of all the new stuff that we'll see next week at the Fly Tackle Dealer Show in Denver. This is the toy show for dealers. Some of them take this show very seriously and even offer workshops for dealers so they can ostensibly make more money during the next season. The reason I go is to see old friends and suck down a brew or two. During that process, I will look at all the new gear and such and see what jumps out at me. In the meantime, lets talk about fishing and the beautiful fall conditions. In the last newsletter I related how clear the water was but now lets add "very low" to that mix. The Arkansas is running just below 300cfs and is tremendously easy to wade fish. If you want to run a boat, you certainly still can, but it's pretty bony and the fish will spook off the bow depending on the time of day. The biggest problem we're having is shadows being cast by you, your rod, your oars, and your tippet. Again, let me stress the use of long fluorocarbon systems. Hopper/Copper/Dropper systems are still working with a #12 Stimulator dragging a #16 Red Copper John or Copperhead on 5X with a #20 Skinny Minnie or RS2 hanging about 10 inches off that on 6X. These are easy to fish and pretty deadly. During cloudy afternoons or the evening, stay with single dries such as a #16 Caddis, Royal Wulff, Royal Humpy or baby Stimulator. Larry now ties the Ape in a #16 which has been aptly named the Baby Ape to go along with the Papa and Mama Apes. This foam body creature may actually be the best Stimulator I've ever fished. For a photo see the July 15 newsletter.

Antero Reservoir is still fishing well on scuds, but Spinney has been a little slow as has been the South Platte above Elevenmile. These two pieces of water are a head scratcher this year. Fish are constantly moving around on Spinney and I believe its because it has been full and cold all summer long. Sure, you can go there and catch a half dozen on a Callibaetis, but that's not the Spinney we all know and love. The river below has had good flows but fish just don't seem to be present. I know they are there, but they are hard to find. The Trico hatch has gone begging this year. The wolf packs of fish on Trico spinners has just not happened. We'll see what the Brown Trout spawning run looks like in a month or so. In the meantime, just stay with the Ark or Elevenmile Canyon. We should have a tremendous September with BWOs and Red Quills on the Arkansas. Just brush up on your presentation. This is the time to become a better fly fisher.

Just for your information I found this to be somewhat amusing this week. It seems that the DEA discovered some 800 marijuana plants growing in the National Forest this past week just east of Glenwood Springs. The DEA agent in charge said that the plants seemed to "have been there for a while." Duh, you think maybe since about May when the ground thawed. During this process of catching the greatest villians since Sadam Hussein, the National Forest Service stated that if you see tortilla wrappers, Tecate cans, Spam cans or hear Hispanic music you should leave immediately because you may be about to walk up on some drug cartel members from south of the border. So now, the most feared thing in the woods is no longer a Black Bear or Mountain Lion, it is a tortilla wrapper. Run for your lives!!!!!! I'm sorry, but this has to be one of the most racist statements I've ever heard come out of a government agency in addition to being about the dumbest. Heck, it could easily have been me and Larry Kingrey on that trail. I've been making Spam burritos and eating them with Tecate beer since college and I have been known to listen to a little Mariachi every now and then. The longer I live in this world, the stranger so called smart people get. Hasta la vista baby.........

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fall is Here

With August winding down, we not are entering into my favorite fishing season. September, October and November is sanctuary time. Except for hunters, summer tourist season is all but over. We now see the folks that live for the fall. The fly fishers that pray for a little light snow or mist and the hope for a BWO hatch on their favorite stream. Water is clear this time of year and it truly will make you a better fly fisher. It feels and looks like fall today and it's the middle of August. Even Lance Armstrong had to win the Leadville 100 last weekend in a snow storm at the pinnacle of the race. My arm has a twitch in it from just looking outside. Why isn't everyone out fishing? The river virtually has no one on it and this is the absolute perfect day. It seems once that school starts there is a little lull in fishing traffic until after Labor Day. I'd take advantage of that if I were you. And, I'm not talking about business here, I'm simply talking about a couple of hours on the river to sneak away and get your head right. With all the crap that is being bantered about right now by the aliens who seem to be in charge of everything in this country, I want to spend more and more time on the river for sanity. By the way, I'm not talking about illegal aliens here, I'm talking about politicians of all flavors who seem to be from another planet right now. The illegal aliens are mostly good folks trying to earn a living......I would not want to lower their stock by putting them in the same category as a politician. As you can tell, I need a day on the river...... By the way, thanks to all of you who have sent well wishes to Jan after her knee surgery. She is doing well and will be back in the shop soon to help you with a smile.
The Arkansas has reduced in flow down to 450 cfs and still has a little to go. That means fish are going to take sanctuary in deeper riffles and cut bank shorelines around boulder seams. We are starting to see fish move to wet flies with multiple Caddis hatches occurring and we had a sporadic BWO hatch the other day in the rain with lots of fish working emergers about 2 inches deep. This should line up to be an incredible fall season, but you will be required to break out the fluorocarbon tippet even on the Arkansas. Wild Browns will get a little spooky as they prepare to spawn. Right now they are beefing up to do just that. It may be me, but it seems that fall fish and river behavior may be rolling around just a little on the early side. This may be one of those years when we get a late September snow storm. I kinda hate to say that since I haven't had enough summer yet. This has been a pretty cool, wet summer season. We have just not had many really warm, dry days to be proud of. That just hurts my feelings, not the fishing. It has been absolutely outstanding and continues to be. Every river from the Dream Stream to the Frying Pan has been fishing very well, some better than others of course, but I believe we are set up with enough water to enjoy a truly spectacular fall season of dry fly fishing. Don't forget that the spawning run of Browns on the South Platte is only about 5 or 6 weeks away. We had a great one last year and I expect the same this year. So, if you are waiting for your big fishing trip after the heavy tourist traffic is over, then just pick you favorite river and get after it. Stock up on good red wine and some 2" New York strips and go for a fall camping trip. The next few weeks in front of us is when God does some of his best work. The colors are vibrant, the sky is that beautiful shade of fall blue and the fish are happy. And as my mother used to say, "Just go already."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why is the High Water Still Around?????

No, regardless of some reports from family, friends and subscribers, I have not yet fled the country. The thought has crossed my mind, but there are still many streams even in Colorado that I have not yet fished, so you're stuck with me for a while. The truth is, I have been fishing a little where I could and just haven't had the urge to communicate with much of anyone for a while. I guess its just an old man thing. Back in the 60s, we turned on, dropped out and went to find ourselves and the meaning of life. Not me, I turned on, left town and went fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains even then. I have yet to find the meaning of life other than to live it the best you can, and finding myself sounded awful scary to me. I know I'd hate to round a corner on a mountain trail and run into me, that would mean I had been walking in circles and I was actually quicker than me. Actually, in those days, I was always hoping to find a nice looking young woman that was lost and needed assistance. Heck, I'm still hoping for that, but I digress.

We are now living in the perfect storm of water flows in Colorado. In the last week, I have often fielded the question "Where is all this water coming from?" About 7 or 8 days ago, we were fishing the Arkansas and believed that the worst of the runoff was over. Fishing was excellent on Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, and Caddis. Then all hell broke loose. First of all let's talk about how Mother Nature added to the big water. Last year, we had a banner snowpack and that resulted in Reservoirs being full going into winter. Some water was moved on most rivers, but evidently not enough. On the Arkansas, we needed to hold to minimum flows during the spring for the Brown trout fry emergence. Flows exceeded minimum recommendations during April and May and still evidently not enough water was moved downstream. Then last week, we had warmer than normal high temperatures on the snowpack that was remaining and afternoon thunderstorms generated heavy rain on what snow was left, scouring the granite crevasses and bringing small creeks such as Lake Creek well over 1000 cfs again. Now, that alone might not present such a large problem, but it seems that on the other side of the Continental Divide, the Frying Pan river was experiencing the same kind of thing....remaining snow and heavy rain. So much, in fact that it was spilling over at Ruidi Reservoir. In order to keep from losing water, the Fry Ark Project began pumping water over the Divide through the system into Twin Lakes which was already full. That 800cfs of extra water was sent on through the dam into the Arkansas and down to Pueblo reservoir. So added altogether with water spilling out of Turquoise Lake and Clear Creek Reservoir, we have the perfect storm of water if you will. The same thing is occurring on the South Platte system, just without the water imports being added to the mix. Lots of folks don't understand just what impact the Fry Ark Project has on the Arkansas. It is one of the early trans basin diversions to move water into the Front Range and be able to save it for development as well as agriculture.
The state of Colorado has always been subject to periods of natural drought as well as intense flooding. After the historic flood of 1921 that devastated towns along the Arkansas, including Pueblo, the need to have some control over natural water flows became quite apparent. In 1962 Congress approved the Frying Pan Arkansas Project, a trans-mountain diversion, collection and storage system which would create a reliable water source for southeastern Colorado. The Fry-Ark Project is meant to act as a supplemental source of water during periods of naturally low water levels for municipal as well as agricultural purposes. In addition, it also provides flood control and recreational benefits.
The system begins in White River National forest along the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Water is diverted from the Frying Pan River and other smaller streams through the Continental Divide via a series of conduits, pump stations, and reservoirs to the Arkansas River. The Fry-Ark Project services 9 counties in the state which compose the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, including Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, El Paso, Fremont, Kiowa, Otero, Prowers, and Pueblo counties. The water diverted provides, "…an average annual water supply of 163,100 acre-feet for supplemental irrigation of 280,600 acres in the Arkansas Valley." It also provides municipal water supplies to several cities along the eastern slope including, 20,100 acre-feet to Colorado Springs, 8,040 acre-feet to Pueblo, and the rest to various towns which have a need for supplemental supplies. Although the tenants of the Project allocate 51% of the water to cities, and only 49% towards agriculture, there is a clause that states if cities do not claim all of the water allocated to them, then it can be used for agricultural purposes.
Now that you understand the intricacies of water movement on the Arkansas, don't you feel better about knowing why you can't fish this week? There is an upshot to all of this however. It seems that all the snow is basically gone, with freestone creeks dropping in flows over the last 48 hours. Project water has now been cut in half as well. The river should now start dropping like a rock if it stops raining hard each day. We could honestly see half this flow by next week if my projections are correct. However, each day I live, I realize I am not very smart and should have worked for the National Weather Service or the Bureau of Reclamation. Two places where being wrong all the time can still allow you to keep your job and even get a promotion. Instead, I have chosen to work in a fly shop and always try to see the bright side of things. That's more fun anyway even though the pay is bad.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Most all rivers in Colorado have peaked in flow now and are leveling off, or dropping. The South Platte below Spinney has now dropped below 300 cfs and should now start to fish well. It has been somewhat inconsistant with high water flows, however, scuds and red or brown San Juan Worms with Barr's Emerger droppers have been working at times. The other sections of the Platte are just as inconsistant with Eleven Mile Canyon running 325 cfs and crowded to the Deckers area being somewhat higher at 700 cfs. All these stretches should start to drop some over the next week, providing excellent opportunities. Antero and Spinney continue to fish off the chart with the cooler weather prevailing and keeping fish happy. Wind has been a problem on some days such as last Sunday when afternoon winds in South Park sent everyone scurrying for the bar in Hartsel. A Hartsel Cafe cheeseburger is worth the price of having to leave the lake to say the least. Thirty and forty fish days have not been unusual on Antero, with Spinney lagging a little behind that. Lots of different flies are working, from green Copper Johns in a #14, #14 bead head Pheasant Tails, Callibaetis nymphs, Halfback nymphs, Damsel nymphs and Woolly Buggers. Fish are holding on top of weed beds in water from 5 feet deep to 12 feet deep. This may be the best couple of weeks I've ever seen at Antero. If you're willing to put up with the morons getting into fist fights at the boat ramp on the south shoreline, then get up there, because this outrageous stuff won't last much longer. The fish will wise up from the pressure and then it will take a little skill to catch them. That should pretty much do in the bait fishermen.

The most surprising water of all is the Arkansas right now. It is very, very easy to catch lots of fish along the edges using nothing but dry flies. We have again cleared with high water just like last year. #10 Yellow Stimulators and PMXs for the Golden Stones, #16 Yellow Sallies and Yellow Stimulators for the Yellow Sallies, and #16 Elk Hair Caddis for the Caddis that are continuing to hatch. Thrown in a Yellow Humpy, Renegade, and a variety of adult Caddis patterns and you can have a 40 fish day by simply working grass outcoppings and rocky shorelines. The water is down to 1600 cfs and continues to drop daily. We have clarity down to around four feet in most places which give you plenty of clear water along edges to fish. The water is still on the high side and wading should be limited to working upstream along shorelines, but the day is soon coming when the water will even be more manageable. I expect conditions to be superb this weekend. If you've got a few days off right now, fishing is the easiest of the year and I include the spring hatches in that statement.

A good way to attack this high, clear water is with a hopper/dropper rig. Choose a boyant big dry fly like a #10 Hi Vis PMX and drop a piece of 5X fluorocarbon off the hook bend with an attractor bead head nymph such as a Silver Ice or Gold Ice. Make the dropper tippet about twenty inches long and place a #6 split shot about 8 inches above the nymph to make it drop down in the water column a little deeper. If you make the dropper too long then you may begin to pick up submerged debris from runoff. The river will be back in it's main channel in a few days and then you can lengthen the dropper if you wish. Right now, you may still be fishing over submerged shoreline. When wading along watch out for roots and little Beaver bungees that will trip you if you're not careful. I went down twice in about 10 feet the other day. I'm glad I was by myself and no one saw it......just a typical old man stunt.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The long awaited Caddis hatch has begun in the Canon City area and should, because of low water, move up river fairly rapidly, proliferating the entire corridor over the next few days. Be prepared to pay close attention to fishing the pupa, because that's the stage of the lifecycle that produces the most fish and it does not have to be dead drifted. Be sure to stay on the river late and fish the egglayers and spent Caddis. Big fish don't get fat chasing live bugs.....they prefer the dead ones. Have fun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stone Fly Nymphs Begin Molt

The Arkansas has been fishing pretty darned well on these nice days, and the fish are starting to move to the outside seams from the deep runs and pools. That behavior is a little early, but I believe that Stonefly nymphs have started to molt and that along with a little increase in water temperature has changed things dramatically. The best time to fish is from about 10AM till 3PM and the best rigs are deep running Stone Fly nymphs trailing a #16 BH Prince, Chartruese Copper John, or a #20 Red Pure Midge. A few fish are coming to the surface to eat adult midges, but very few.

On rivers like the Arkansas, Stonefly nymphs offer up their protein load to fish coming out of the winter doldrums. There are obviously a lot of different stonefly species in our rivers, but the one that really kicks off the feeding frenzy are the Golden Stones, Hesperoperla pacifica and Claassenia sabulosa . These are fairly large bugs measuring from 24 to 38 mm or on the average a little over an inch long. When they are mature, they have a dark brown back with a yellow underbody. These insects live in the nymphal stage for two years during which time they undergoe several instar phases or molts. Like a snake, everytime the insect sheds is exoskeleton, it grows a little. It's hard to say exactly how many instars it goes through, but most folks think somewhere between 7 and 12. I personally don't really care. All I know is that sometime in mid to late February (this year the first of February) through early April, the little beggars molt and drive the fish crazy. The molt occurs around daybreak and anywhere from 6 to 8 hours later, the nymphs have hardened up again and turn darker. So, in the mornings, they have a buttery translucent appearance to the fish, making them a wonderful food source. I think they probably look a lot like Mom's mac and cheese or a wonderful dish of veal picatta. Perhaps not.... Anyway, you want to fish the golden stone imitations in the mornings until mid afternoon, then switch back to the darker ones. Remember, not every stonefly nymph in the river is exactly the same age, so this process continues for a few weeks. A golden stone nymph is always my lead nymph through the spring hatches. On cloudy days, I trail it with Larry's #20 Black Ice for a Baetis nymph and in early April I always tie in on with a Caddis Larva. In late February and early March I will fish it by itself with about three split shot on a 6 foot leader. I use the short line, bounce nymph method in heavy, choppy water. That's where the creatures live, so that where you need to be. Keep adding split shot until you get the nymph on the bottom quickly. Don't work into position just to have your bug float over the heads of the fish. Forget the strike indicator and high stick the fly through the rocky bottom. Takes will be unmistakable, so don't worry too much about that. Just keep the thing bouncing along through the drift.