Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One of Those Days

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill

The size eighteen renegade landed harder than I had hoped, spooking the cruising greenback. Reloading, I laid the line out thirty feet or so in front of me.  A blind cast, hoping to entice one of these brightly colored natives. And as the fly drifted languidly back towards its controller, the brilliant red side of a different cutthroat turned upward in pursuit of my unsuspecting bug. When the fish turned on the fly, the white of his mouth could be seen, showing both innocence and desperation. A trait that these high mountain fish are both known and loved for (I believe a guy named Gierach wrote about this once). And in anticipation of my prize, I lifted my rod with confidence, only to watch a scared fish retreat to the depths unharmed. So turning behind me, I was not surprised to see my fly line and leader resting comfortably in a misplaced pine. Shit.

It was an early start. So early in fact, that McDonalds was still sleeping. It came as relief to know that even the largest of our beloved corporations will at least shut down between the hours of 2am and 5:30am. Probably just need to give the deep fryers a few hours rest. But without my Egg McMuffin, fried potato oval, and orange juice, I was still in search for something to eat. So it came as no surprise that the twenty four hour gas station was well equipped. And once again, I settled for the usual provisions of Gatorade, beef jerky, donuts (Crullers), and Life Savers of the gummy variety.  

As we climbed steadily into cutthroat country, the rising sun was a welcome backlight for our rocky trail. “The Loch” is a high mountain lake, situated comfortably in Rocky Mountain National Park. Nestled 10,160 feet above sea level, Loch Vale is one of the many lakes and streams in the park that breathes life into a native fish found nowhere else in the world, the greenback cutthroat trout. Breaking west from Albert Falls, we were pushed hard by the desire to see one of these fish rise to a dry fly, good motivation for any hike you happen to be carrying a fly rod.

The restoration efforts of the greenback cutthroat have been well documented. Once thought to be extinct, these native fish had been nearly wiped out of both the Arkansas and South Platte River drainages. A result of mining and the introduction of exotic trout species not normally found in these watersheds. But the effort to restore these fish to their native habitat has not been easy, and could currently be described as a work in progress.  But seeing these cutthroat for the first time, you realize that life is fragile. And anything worth fishing for, is certainly worth fighting for.

I strung up my 4wt, working the outlet side of the lake first. Cast. Rise. Set. Miss? A rhythm that became only seventy five percent enjoyable. But the day was young, and the fish seemed willing. It was only a matter of time before I connected. And after a quick lunch, we decided to head to the other side of the lake, fishing both the inlet and the small feeder creek. It was a welcome change, as I had yet to bring a greenback to hand. It had been a frustratingly beautiful morning.

Upon arriving at the feeder creek, I was met with both pressure and anticipation as I was still the only member of this party that had yet to catch a fish. So a quick retie, led to an errant cast. A cast so poor that it found its way into not one, but two trees. Now, I have never claimed to be a good fly fisherman or caster, but this was an embarrassing experience none-the-less. Retying, I moved down stream about twenty yards, away from the villainous trees that had just gave the three of us a good laugh. Two casts later, an eager trout showed pity, and my first greenback was securely in the net.

We fished the creek and west side of the lake for the rest of the afternoon. Both John and Dave were able to hook and land a handful of eager cutthroats. I on the other hand, was left working hard to keep my flies in the water and out of the pine trees that seemed to have an appetite for size 18 flies. And as the sky started to grumble, the clouds rolled over the mountain. It was time to leave. This day, won’t be remembered for the many fish I missed, but rather the one fish caught. A truly "native" experience, something authentic in every respect. It was quite simply, just one of those days. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Bar

8/19/2011: A Familiar Bar. Fort Collins, Colorado. Sometime between clarity and enhanced clarity.

A bar stool does not make a good substitute for time on the water. A theory I have been testing over the last week or so. The truth of the matter is that I have been laid up, suffering from an injury that occurred trying to lift an unruly dog off of the couch. But as pathetic as that may sound, it is no more pathetic then the time I injured my hand playing a casual game of Golden Tee. A younger man's attempt to show off for his girlfriend.  And for the record, that girlfriend is now my wife. She's the best.

I’m not sure what can be learned while bellied up to the bar. Tonight, I have had some interesting conversations.  Most notably, a passionate Fat Tire induced rant about Casey Anthony directed at me by the other person in the bar with a "sore back". A subject in which I am not too familiar. Neither was she. I heard new jokes, tried my best to tell some of my own, but courtesy laughs politely put an end to my new career as the bar’s entertainment. In consolation, I was allowed to remain, listening and laughing to the others more talented in such arenas. “Sanders, another frothy brew?”

The “bar”, is an interesting place. It wears many different hats; it’s a home away from home, an escape, a meeting place for friends, a hiding spot from authorities (or authority figures), or simply a place to grab a drink. And if you are going to a bar for only one of the above mentioned reasons, it’s probably time to find a new watering hole.

{insert bar/river metaphor here}

I experience the river in much the same way as I do my local establishment.  I have escaped to its banks to get away. I have used it as refuge from John Gierach’s henchmen.  I have returned to its flowing water as a way to connect with a home that I am just now understanding. And I have simply just gone to the river to chase trout.  But unlike a bar, the longer you stay, the more magical a river becomes.

The doctor said, “take some Advil...you’ll be fine.” I am sure that I will. But with a few days on the rack, I am anxious to see my friend. A friend not tattooed by neon. A friend who willingly gives instead of expects. A friend that runs wild in a different way. This friend, my river, has no closing time. It has no bouncer checking IDs, it has no happy hour, and has no basic dress code. The only thing required, is that I pay my dues over time. So as I close my tab, the bartender places the last drink of the evening in front of me. Water. I need water.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The New Logo Edition

About two weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that it was time for "Up the Poudre" to get its logo. I was tired of looking at the header picture of me fishing an unnamed creek in Montana, casting to a fictitious fish that was nothing more than my active imagination at work. So with a few basic ideas, the process began.

Understanding that I neither had the talent or the patience to design a suitable logo, I sought out some help. That in mind, I contacted one of my more "Unaccomplished" friends Kirk. But if you know Kirk, you know that he is anything but unaccomplished. He is good at this stuff, he is really good.

Kirk asked a few questions about what I envisioned for the logo, and if there was anything specific that I wanted to make sure to incorporate into the design. My only requirement was quite simple, "Just make sure that we can get one of the bulldogs in it, preferably Rex, I like him better..."

So after a few design options (all of which were great), we narrowed it down, made a few tweaks, and the new logo was born. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do. I think the new logo is exactly what "Up the Poudre" was missing.


If you are thinking about creating a logo or have any other graphic design needs for your blog, business, or other, please check Kirk out. Not only is he incredibly talented, he's great to work with. I look forward to working with him as "Up the Poudre" continues to do its thing.

Where to find Kirk:
Itchy Dog Productions
Unaccomplished Angler

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A New Friend

"The Poudre River is now right at 400cfs and is fishing outstanding. With this flow you can now access most all the river and cross in lower water areas. The water clarity and temperatures are perfect and there are lots of different hatches taking place. More importantly fish are out to feed and surface activity has been good. Hoppers are out in full force and fish have been looking up for a protein packed meal. Fish are still hanging on the edges of the fast water and along the edges making a hopper dropper rig very effective throughout the whole canyon. Other hatches consist of; PMD’s, Caddis, Yellow Sallies, Red Quills, and Green Drakes. There have still been good numbers of Drakes coming off in the Upper Poudre Canyon, so make sure you have a good supply of large Mayflies."-Cache La Poudre River Report. St Peter's Fly Shop. Fort Collins, dated 8/14/2011

8/14/2011: Cache La Poudre River

As my right foot unintentionally crossed over my left, the last thought that went through my head was, "Just keep the camera dry...Bridget is going to kill me".  I should have known, the water looked thick, but there were fish on the other side. Our hands were tied. And as the thought of losing another piece of technology played itself over in my mind, my foot gained a footing and I was able to right myself. It was 7:30 in the morning, I had water in my waders, and our day had just begun.

I met Dave an hour earlier in the parking lot of Ted's Place, a common spot to gather when heading up the Poudre. Some might even say that Ted's is a landmark, however, I am in the camp that Ted's is simply just a gas station with a larger than normal parking lot. But either way you look at it, Ted's Place sits at the canyon mouth, and is the last place to get cheap gas before venturing west.

It was the first time Dave and I had met. In fact, the only interaction we have had, was through our blogs, emails, and texts. But as a wise man once wrote, "I wasn't concerned. You see, I had been reading his blog...hopefully he had been reading mine".

Dave, like me, is a non-native Coloradoan. He is a transplant from New Mexico, who has claimed Colorado his home since March of this year. A move made for reasons I didn't need to ask, the reason made clear as he watched the water tumble down the steep canyon walls. Trout. A perfectly good reason to move anywhere.

Gaining my balance, I checked the case to make sure no water had gotten through to the camera. Two steps later, I rechecked. Bridget would never need to find out about this, and I have no intention of telling her. It had been a quick three weeks since my last camera sank to its untimely demise, and I wasn't quite ready to part ways with the new camera so soon. However, if push came to shove, a camera would be a small price to pay for one of these trout.

We made our way to the top of the hill, quietly watching the hungry trout porpoise as they fed greedily on a bug we’ve yet to see. Finding our way down to the water, I re-rigged, tying on a size 14 Twenty Incher as my lead fly, trailed half-heartedly with a size 20 nondescript midge emerger. A standard searching pattern, one that has gotten me off the skunk more than a few times. Wading into position, I laid out my first cast. Then my second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on. Nothing. The fish were feeding, but not on anything we were offering. Trying a different approach, I switched gears, tying on a size 18 PMD emerger, with a size 20 zebra midge trailing behind. Working my way back upstream, I saw a fish rise confidently from behind a rock. Again the fish rose, unaware that I was ready for him. The cast hit its mark, and I was on the board. It was the only fish we took from this spot.

Dave found his fish higher up the canyon, a fish that I could tell took the pressure off. Neither one of us wanted to go home empty handed. First impressions are a funny thing. The weight had been lifted off our shoulders, both as guide and fisherman. We were content. It wasn’t a banner day by any stretch of the imagination, but a day that humbles you into respecting something that is both easy, and hard all at the same time.

When it was all said and done, we had caught only a handful of fish. Based on the river report, we had failed. The hopper action was not fast and furious, the drake hatch didn’t pan out, and I didn’t see any red quills, yellow sallies, or much of anything else. But like most things in life, you trade something to get something in return. And today, I was happy to trade a few fish for a new friend.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Youth Camp

Less than 36 hours after returning from Montana, I was slated to volunteer at the summer youth camp put on by our local chapter of Trout Unlimited.  It was an excuse to get my boots dirty, and an opportunity to help kids, who, by all accounts were interested in trout, coldwater fisheries, and conservation.  The camp itself is a perfect blend of Huck Finn and education. A far cry from the summer hockey camp I used to attend in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. A camp where the only thing Huck Finn, was when one of the campers would wander off during "dry land" practice in search of boy crazy teenage girls. 

This was the second annual Rocky Mountain Flycasters Youth Camp, a six day fly fishing education that any aspiring fly fisher would appreciate. And having only moved to the area the year before, this would be my first opportunity to volunteer. Something I have been looking forward to for a long time. The activities of the camp included; exploring underwater habitat by snorkeling down the river, fish sampling by electro-shocking, matching the hatch, flytying, more information about river formation and ecology, and fly fishing some private ponds as well as on the Poudre River. The campers received a healthy diet of fish, fishing, fish habitat, and well, more fishing. Not a bad way to spend six days in the summer, as a volunteer or camper.

Arriving early Friday morning, I was greeted by three excited campers, six additional volunteers, and the ring leader of this motley crew, Dennis. The activities for the day included electro-shocking, planting willows and cottonwoods, and an afternoon trip to a private Bass pond. The Colorado Division of Wildlife supervised both the electro-shocking and the tree plantings, only to wish us luck before the campers left to throw streamers and poppers to anxious largemouth. The bass ponds sounded fun, but ended up being an activity that I wouldn't attend. An unfortunate amount of work was piling up, and a happy boss I wanted to keep. But arriving Saturday morning, I was informed that, "I had missed the best day of fishing, that anyone has ever had".  After hearing news like that, I had to remind myself that this camp was not about me.

Saturday was the final day of camp. The morning was filled with fly tying and river ecology, followed by an afternoon of chasing fish on the Poudre. Each camper had fun tying flies, putting their own personal stamp on each fly. Stimulators, caddis, prince nymphs, and midges were tied. All standard fare, but flies that provoked the types of questions you would expect from anyone excited to catch a trout. Some questions I remember asking, and some I've never heard before. The perfect mix. After a lesson on river ecology and a quick bag lunch, we packed our gear and headed up the canyon. A trip I never get tired of making.

The water was still running high on the main stem of the Poudre, making wading all but impossible. Changing course, we decided to try our luck on the north fork, fishing the small tailwater below Seaman Reservoir. A healthy fishery, that I often overlook. A fishery that consistently produces both good numbers of fish, as well as the occasional "pig".

Bram and I headed out after stringing up our rods. Tying on a freshly tied stimulator dropped with a z-wing caddis, Bram was excited to fish some water he has never seen. And as his guide, his excitement only fed my concern that I wouldn't be able to put him on any fish. Like most things though, you go with the flow and do your best. Words I would make sure to use a few hours later at the graduation ceremony.

Bram in his element.

Working our way up a particular run, Bram looked at me and said, "I'm thirsty, let's head back." A sure sign that the sun and afternoon skunking had gotten to him. Disappointed, we tucked our tails between our legs and headed back to camp. And to Bram's credit, he didn't mention any disappointment in his guide's failing. A testament to the kind of kid he is.

The day may not have ended in the way Bram or I had envisioned, but that was okay. Sometimes the experience of taking the time to learn or teach is enough to bring happiness. The youth camp may be a perfect example of this. The camper learning new things that they are hoping to use over the course of their lifetime. While the volunteer happily hands down knowledge they have earned through years of study. Both gaining from a subject that never stops giving. So after a quick awards ceremony, the camp came to a close. Six days passed in the blink of an eye, leaving both camper and volunteer wanting more.

A Bull Snake escorting me to my car...after the skunking of course.

Monday, August 8, 2011

In the Market...for Carpet.

"Don't let that toothy grin fool you, it just hides an extra row of teeth," words I wouldn't come to understand until I walked into the house today. In an act of defiance, it seems CiCi has channeled her inner Jackson Pollock to turn our carpet into her own abstract expression.

Being a bulldog owner for the last six years, I have come to expect some unexpected chewings. Like the artistic watermelon slice Rex decided to carve out of drywall. Or the shredding of numerous pillows, hats, dog beds, underwear, chairs, shoes, cabinet doors, quarter round, door stops, table legs, door mats, rugs, laundry baskets, wicker furniture, and boxes. A long list, some replaceable and some not.

So as Rex has retired to the couch, he has passed the torch to his nine month old sister. An old man made proud, by the innocence of youth.

A quick clean before Bridget gets home...shh! Does anybody have some newspaper?

Friday, August 5, 2011


I have never been good at asking for help, taking a compliment, or tying my shoes. Three things I continually try to work on, but looking at my feet, I am zero for three on the day. On the other hand, I have always been good at having fun, being a good friend, and saying please and thank you.  So today, after checking my email and checking in on “Up the Poudre”, it became clear that a thank you was in order. A thank you to all of the people that follow, read, and make "Up the Poudre" a small part of their day.

“Up the Poudre” was a selfish creation, intended to satisfy my need to tell the stories of each and every time I went fishing. It was also intended as a buffer from regaling my wife with every 10” brown and rainbow trout I was catching on the Poudre River. It was a different way to connect with a sport I have come to love, fly fishing.

The first post on “Up the Poudre”, was titled, “Is anybodyout there?” More of a rhetorical question, but over the course of the last five months, the question has been answered over, and over, and over again. Answered by fellow bloggers, family and friends. I am continually surprised at the response “Up the Poudre” has received, and am humbled that people continue to take time out of their day to read the stories that I have so much fun writing.

“Up the Poudre” has done two important things for me. The first thing it has done, it has allowed me to write and share these stories, an outlet that I am very thankful for. The second thing it has done, and more importantly, it has introduced me to all of you.

So as I continue this ongoing creative writing project, I thank you for your taking the time to read what I have written, comment on what you like or dislike, but more importantly, thanks for the support.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just a Few Friends...

"I have been drunk now for over two weeks,
I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks,
But I've got to stop wishin',
Got to go fishin', I'm down to rock bottom again.
Just a few friends, just a few friends."   -Jimmy Buffett, "A Pirate Looks at Forty"

The entrance back to reality was the uneven line where the gravel meets pavement, located somewhere between Island Park and West Yellowstone. So as the rented car’s tires felt the transition, we were thrown back into a world filled with stop signs and sub shops. And yes, even in West Yellowstone, you can find a Conoco station with a Subway restaurant attached to it. I guess this hardly qualifies as news, but a fact that is hard to overlook after spending five days with no such convenience. But in all honesty, we did have a bar, internet connection, electricity, showers, and a grill-in-a-box. So to tell you that we were roughing it would be less than truthful.

The grill-in-a-box also served as a makeshift meeting place when the fishing was in recess, or we had finished up for the day. I’m still not sure if it had to do with food, or the fact that the grill was strategically placed within an arm’s reach of the well-appointed cooler. Regardless, the meeting place was set, and for one reason or another, the spot seemed to make sense to us all. Even the camp dog Red got into the action, arriving shortly after hearing the start of our conversations, jokes, and laughter filling the quiet Montana air. Although, Red was less interested in what was in the cooler, and more interested in the smell of sausage, burgers, chicken, and pork chops.

A camp’s dynamic is something never to be overlooked. In most cases when traveling, you are surrounded by people that you have met before, most likely family or friends. So learning everyone’s unique individuality isn’t something you are processing for the first time. On this trip however, most of us were meeting for the first time. And as we all tried to figure out who each player in this cast of characters was, interesting conversations took place. It was a fun game, played over a few cocktails and burgers.  And as our own styles and eccentricities were discovered, a friendly camp was made in short order.

As the week went on, we became more comfortable with each other. The jokes got better. The nights went longer. The laughing got louder. And the stories became more believable. So this is my tribute to them, my new friends.

I wasn’t supposed to pick Mike up until eight in the morning. He had flown into Denver the night before from North Carolina, and had spent the night at his friend’s house. Time he spent catching up with people I suspect he doesn’t get to see often enough. Our meeting was a leap of faith on his part, as I’m sure there is a closer airport to our final destination than DIA. But with a hearty handshake and a smile that rarely leaves his face, we met for the first time.  And half way to Fort Collins, we sent our wives a quick message to put their suspicions at ease. We were both okay.

The plan was to leave Friday morning from Denver, fish that afternoon with a friend in Wyoming, and find our way to Elk Lake Resort by 4pm on Saturday.  We made quick work out of the drive from Denver to Lander, where we met up with Russ (schnitzerPhoto), who had made arrangements to show us some of his local water. While the only request Russ would make, was that we not disclose the name of the creek we were to be fishing. It was a very small price to pay, and something I will happily keep close to the chest.

We arrived on the water around five, expecting a nice evening hatch of PMDs and Drakes. The water was running clear and seemed to be holding working fish in its pocket water and runs. We worked the first section of water diligently, hoping to exploit one of its rising browns. It didn’t take long before Mike was tight to a fish. Looking up from what I was doing, I could see his face while he played the confused trout. And it was in that moment that I realized why Mike had wanted to make the drive with me. He wanted to see something he hadn’t seen before, he wanted to go fishing…again.

When Owl first found out about his opportunity to travel to Montana, I think he set a record for most emails sent in a three minute span. Not to mention that he made and changed travel arrangements more times in two weeks than any travel agent makes in a fiscal year. His camera was packed, his computer was ready, his truck was packed and repacked a few times, and the trip was still three weeks away. He was ready, and in mid-July, Owl set out from Georgia on his cross country adventure. An adventure, only rivaled by Lewis and Clark themselves.

I didn’t know what to expect when meeting Owl for the first time. Up until this point my only interaction with Owl had been a few emails, and trying to keep up with the blog postings he puts out at a feverish pace. But upon shaking hands with him for the first time, I was happy to meet a genuine, nice, thoughtful guy. So it was with great pleasure, that I accepted the opportunity to fish in the same boat as him on the second day.

“Do you want me to row?” I asked.
“No buddy, I got this. I would actually prefer to row.” He replied. Smiling through the bug net he seldom went without.
“You sure?”
“Yep, I like watching other people catch fish. It makes me happy. Sometimes my wife tells me that I am more content to see others have success than myself. Sanders,  you know, I thought you’d be a lot older than you are? I don’t know why, I just did.”

So with Owl on the sticks, we made our way to the far side of the lake. Owl was the guide, and I was the fisherman. The black and olive bugger struck quickly, as the first of many rainbows came to the net. Owl patiently waited for me to unhook the fish, hold her up for a picture, and release her unharmed back into the crystalline water. I couldn’t tell you who was more excited at that moment, the guide or the fisherman.

Two more fish came to net, and I finally got the guide off the oars. It was Owl’s turn.

We walked down to the creek through the sagebrush, hoping for the same thing, cutthroat. This particular river was full of the native trout, slicing its way through a valley that can only be described as unburdened.  It was a far cry from the rivers I have fished in Colorado, and the steelhead waters Travis prefers. But on this day, we were fishing this creek together, throwing attractors to willing fish.

Being spritzer season in the valley, Travis and I had a chance to get to know each other over a few beverages. His laid back personality and attitude are something I miss from days I remember upon often. There is something comforting about knowing someone who reminds you of yourself, and in some weird way, it makes you feel like you have somehow passed the proverbial torch.

We spent the afternoon leapfrogging each other up and down the river. Finding holes and pockets of these native cutthroat trout, fish willing to put a bend in our rods. And on the flies we exchanged with each other, the trout obliged in a show of solidarity and innocence.

As the day came to a close, we hiked back out of the same sagebrush we had entered. A day of fishing that I'll not soon forget. I had fished with a new friend, who like me, was more impressed by the experience than the result.

We all have different memories from this trip, and what we take away from this experience is unique in our own way. The individuality that is expressed in each of our blogs is just that, individual. It isn't often that I get to fish with others, but when I do, it always seems a little better.

Russ tight to a fiery brown in "unknown" waters. Thanks Russ!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Little Bit of Blog Business

Last week I decided to make some small changes to Up the Poudre. For fear of possibly being in competition for the the web address www.upthepoudre.com, I decided to go ahead and purchase the aforementioned domain name. So no longer will this site be registered as www.upthepoudre.blogspot.com, it has changed to www.upthepoudre.com. A minor change that hopefully hasn't stopped anyone from being able to view the site.

The second change you may have noticed is that Up the Poudre has entered the world of Facebook. So if you use Facebook, and want to follow along, we can be found there as well. It has been a long time coming, and hopefully this makes it easier for some people to follow along. Who knows, some might even click the "like" button.

Please let me know if you are experiencing any issues with Up the Poudre (besides bad writing and poor photo quality). Your feedback is appreciated.