Monday, October 31, 2011
The sun had yet to make an appearance, leaving the foothills in the west a mysterious silhouette still recovering from a long weekend. The smell of the freshly ground French Roast teased life into me, as I waited impatiently for the coffee maker to go through the slow process of brewing the first pot of the week. And as the two groggy bulldogs jumped off the bed, there was no retreating back to the warm comfort that I had foolishly left without so much as one hit of the snooze button. The week had begun.
Pouring the last of the pot of coffee into the aging travel mug, I gave the dogs one last scratch behind the ears. Reminding them to be good. A small request that often goes unheard, like a parent reminding their kids to wash their hands after recess. And locking the door behind me, I failed to come up with a decent excuse to get out of work for the day, my car started without incident.
I found my desk just how I left it, comfortably scattered. But being familiar with the mess, I found the list of people I needed to contact for the week, and relaxed for the first time since waking up. Like most mondays, I spend the better part of the morning trying to remember the events of the last two days. Wishing I had done some things differently, but happy to be off from work, and spending time in the outdoors, chasing trout up and down the canyon.
This past weekend however, was filled with grass skirts, a halloween party, and football. A fun, atypical weekend, that was more recognizable to a college sophomore, than a working stiff, nursing the last of his coffee in a cubicle. So not having fished in nine days, the thoughts of the last trip up the Poudre seemed like the appropriate place to start my week. Replacing the memories of craft beers, Magnum PI, and a poorly played football game, by a hideous football team that will go unnamed.
I had written a post a while back entitled “Up the Poudre”, a tribute to the first time that I fished the Poudre River. My wife and I had moved to Colorado the month before. Her for work, and me hoping to find a job in a down economy. So I wasn’t surprised when the more reasonable member of our household requested that I not fish until solid employment was gained. How could I argue?
Since that first trip up the canyon, a lot of things have happened. I have been able to fish a river that up until a year or two ago was more of a wish than a reality. I have learned to fish differently from the familiar waters I had known in Minnesota, adjusting to conditions and water that was completely foreign to me, and often times still is. I have started a blog, sharing some of my experiences with people that graciously take the time to read with one small click of their mouse. But more important than that, I have met new people, either on the river, or through this median.
A few short weeks after the frenzy, I caught wind of a friend making his way to the front range, traveling from his home at the top of the mitten in Michigan. Jason Tucker was to fly into Denver, meet up with fellow fly fishing opportunist Jen Kugler, and meet me up in Fort Collins for a couple days of fishing the Poudre and beyond. A friend I had yet to meet, fishing together for the first time, wading in water I wanted to show off. Needless to say, I was excited.
By the time we arrived at the pullout of what would ultimately be the last spot we fished together, the three of us had slid into a comfortable rhythm. A rhythm more telling of friends that had been at it for years, let alone two days. And as we put distance between us and the truck, we walked in silence. Comfortable just to be in each other’s company, not worried about an awkward silence than can sometimes plague new meetings. We had a river to meet, and that was conversation enough.
And as our boots found the water, I hung back, letting Jen and Jason take the first run.
*As Jason found out, fishing the Poudre is an experience. We caught fish, but more importantly, we got to know each other differently from the characters we play on our blogs. For those of you that don’t know Jason, he is not only a fantastic fisherman and blogger, but he is one of the friendliest most genuine guys you would ever want to spend time with. I had a great couple days of fishing, and am looking forward to the next time we are able to get together. Hopefully, chasing some big browns with mouse patterns in Michigan....but it doesn’t matter where, as I know we’d have some fun. If you haven’t had a chance to read his blog and musings, please do so at Fontinalis Rising, you will not be disappointed. He has written about this trip, and it shouldn't be missed.
*This wasn’t the first opportunity I have had to fish with Jen, and am impressed by her willingness to do whatever it takes to catch a fish. She is a great friend to have on the river, and I am looking forward to fishing again soon. Besides fly fishing, Jen also writes a great blog. Check it out here Fly Fishilicious. It’s been fun reading her adventures as she begins this life long pursuit.
*The fishing from this weekend was good. We didn't catch a ton of fish by any stretch of the imagination, but we were happy. And like every fishing trip, we thanked the fish we caught.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Walking back to the car, the sagebrush whistled as a stronger than normal wind blew steadily from the north. We were in the high country in search of some late season browns willing to chase ugly looking streamers. But on this day, it wasn’t meant to be. And as we broke down our gear in dejection, we found solace in retreating to the comforts of the modest SUV. Not having caught a fish, the “Crullers”, jerky, and Gatorade seemed victory enough as we formulated a new plan.
The pavement of Highway 14 softened the front two tires, offering relief from the last thirty miles of Colorado “Grade 6” gravel that had rattled us back to the Poudre. Who would have guessed that my backup plan would involve this river…Besides me?
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Finding my way down to Denver last week for the premier of the soon to be cult classic fly fishing movie “Connect”, I was presented with the rare opportunity to field test a fly rod from Larry Snyder of Flyfishing Crazy. Now, I normally shy away from doing reviews and testing products for people, but this opportunity was different. This rod and series of rods were built exclusively for Project Healing Waters, with the intent of giving 20% (plus, an additional $20/rod) of the proceeds from the sale of each rod back to the organization. Project Healing Waters provides fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes, along with clinics for wounded and injured military personnel. Needless to say, the decision to take this rod fishing was easy.
The rod that I was going to test, was the 8’6" 4wt. A perfect match for most any fishing I do on the Poudre. Pulling the rod out of the case while stringing up, the first thing I noticed was how aesthetically pleasing the rod was to look at. This rod was wrapped in Army colors, but can be customized for whatever branch of the military you desire. I was anxious to hit the water, not only for the fishing, but also to put this rod through the ringer.
The rod itself performed wonderfully. It cast with the same ease and accuracy I would expect from some of the more expensive rods I have owned and tried. The tip was flexible enough to protect my 6x tippet. While the rod itself, had plenty of backbone to play even the largest of fish in the river (not saying that I caught one of those). Stripping some line, I wanted to see how the rod would handle throwing some longer distance casts. And as I expected, it didn’t disappoint. The rod was a rocket launcher. And that’s saying something if I can lay down a cast of 60 feet or more (if you follow along, you have learned that I don’t pride myself on casting).
Besides the fact that this rod is built and sold with the intent of giving back to a great organization, I would recommend this piece of equipment to anyone looking for a high quality rod to add to the quiver. The price point alone justifies some serious consideration, as these rods sell between $335-$345 apiece, and can be customized from the 8’6” 4wt to a 9’0” 8wt. I was really pleased that the quality of the rods matched the quality of the organization that they support.
*These rods are sold exclusively through Flyfishing Crazy, so please check them out. And with the holidays just around the corner, I couldn’t imagine a better gift.
*Thanks Larry for presenting me with this opportunity, and for all the hard work you do for PHW.
*To learn more about Project Healing Waters and how you can get involved, please check out there website at Project Healing Waters.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Driving home from Montana this summer, I was anxious to return to the front range of Colorado. It was the beginning of hopper season, and I was excited to throw some big bugs to some carefree trout. The high water was receding from a record snow pack in the mountains, in turn, returning a raging Poudre to near normal flows. Flows more suited for a fly fisherman than the blue rubber rafts that make their living pumping adrenaline into miscellaneous adventure seekers.
Over the next several weeks upon my return from the Centennial Valley, my time on the water was spent throwing large attractor patterns sans dropper. Why complicate things? And as far as I could tell, the fish didn’t miss the dropped flies anyway. Finding this rhythm felt good. It felt simple.
Like any fisherman that spends much time on the water, my mind tends to wander. It wanders to such important questions like: What’s for dinner? Did I remember to feed the dogs? Will Tim Tebow be the starting quarterback for my new favorite team? How long can I reasonably fish tonight without Bridget killing me? You know, the important stuff. But in the ensuing weeks after the Montana experience, I spent a lot of time thinking about something Chris Hunt (of both Trout Unlimited and Eat More Brook Trout fame) asked me, what he asked all of us, “If you are a lover of the outdoors, and you use these cold water fisheries and backcountry areas, and you are not a TU member…why?”
You see, the trip to Montana had not only been an excuse to fish, but it was also an opportunity provided by Trout Unlimited to learn more about their mission, current projects, and some of the challenges that cold water fisheries face today (read more of my initial thoughts here. Montana: A Discussion).
The question I still find myself asking was proposed by Dietmar Grimm, VP of Marketing and Strategy (nice title), “How do we get the next generation of cold water enthusiasts to engage in an organization like Trout Unlimited?” Not an easy question, considering the current demographic of TU members is mostly made up of people receiving more issues of AARP than Trout. But none-the-less, a question that needs to be answered, and is paramount to the future success of the organization.
Being a member of Trout Unlimited for a few years now, I have some working knowledge of how the local chapters work. These local chapters are a great place to get our feet wet, doing a myriad of projects that include but are not limited to; river clean ups, youth camps, Trout in the Classroom, river restoration projects, etc. Despite doing loads of good for their local watersheds, the old way of doing business needs to adapt to a younger generation. No longer will raffles for gear, talks from local guides, and ownership through proxy votes for the next chapter president, be enough to grow, let alone sustain membership. And sadly, neither will the outstanding projects that these chapters promote. So let’s face reality, TU’s future isn’t now, it’s somewhere in the distance waiting for someone to come along and implement something new.
Up until last week, I thought that all chapters were created equal. But it took a trip to Denver, to a different chapter, to witness first hand I was wrong. The event I was to be attending was the premier of the movie “Connect”, sponsored by the Greenbacks out of Denver. And walking through the doors of the Oriental Theatre I was refreshed by the energy and passion that this chapter prides itself on. Beer to the left (sponsored by Upslope Brewery, who donates a portion of all sales to Colorado Trout Unlimited), raffles to the right (something I appreciate, and hope never goes away at the chapter level), and movie, straight ahead. I’m in.
The thing that stood out to me the most was the age of the folks who wore name tags. It was a relatable mix of men and women, whom looked more like me than my father. A far cry from any other chapter I have had a chance to be a part of. But more surprising than that, was the membership base and people attending the film, they looked both young and old. Balance.
What makes the Greenbacks different? I would have to believe that it is more than social media, their ability connect with a younger generation through Facebook at breakneck speeds. I would also think that it doesn’t have anything to do with the “non-traditional” style of events they host, appealing more to the conservation minded fish porn enthusiast, attracting new membership, while still engaging their current base. It probably doesn’t have anything to do with both local and state level projects, engaging a larger base of participants. And while we’re at it, I don’t think it has anything to do with a membership base that is young and passionate, who spread the word outside of chapter meetings and newsletters. And it probably has nothing to do with good people. But what do I know?
Trout Unlimited walks a fine line of past, present, and future. How do they recruit a younger audience, while not alienating the bulk of their current member base? It is a hard question to answer. Especially since the largest portion of TU’s monetary donations come from its “older” members. While the youngsters (myself included) are for the most part, just boots on the ground. The easy answer is simple. Follow the Greenbacks. Promote the fisheries, build relationships through a solid community, and make sure, anyone can participate. Oh yeah, hosting a really good movie doesn’t hurt either. Did I mention beer for a good cause?
As the show ended, the movie goers applauded in appreciation. There had been fishing from all around the world; Japan, Alaska, Cuba, Yellowstone, Africa and Maine. The buzz in the theatre was palpable. Talk of the movie and the places people would one day fish escorted us up the aisle. Smiling faces washed through the lobby doors, and all was right with the world.
*It should be noted that the Greenbacks are a group within Colorado Trout Unlimited, not a traditional chapter of Trout Unlimited. This post was written with that in mind, understanding that the principles applied by the Greenbacks can be applied to any and all local chapters.
*I would also like to thank and credit Tim Romano for the fantastic photos used in this post. Thanks for letting me pirate such great images. And another special thanks to Kyle Perkins (Compleat Thought), for helping the helpless...me.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Watching CiCi destroy the last of the tennis balls we had gotten for her, the first year of her life played unapologetically in my mind as I walked the latest victim of her wrath to the waste basket. Now, it could be said that we knew what we were getting into. I mean, how couldn’t we have learned from our older, yet equally destructive, menace. Rex had shown the same unbridled enthusiasm for anything wood, denim, wicker, metal, dry wall, and rubber. Apparently, he wasn’t a special case. I had blinders on, like any parent must. “Isn’t he cute, god, he really made a dent in our windowsill, was that my sandal, oh Rex, you’re the best…”
CiCi was supposed to be easy. We had just been through the same thing a short five years ago. And in five years, with the advancement in breeding technique, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to expect that the chewing gene would be successfully replaced by the “I just want to lay here and do what I’m told” gene. Would it?
The arrival of our second came in December, right before we were to head back to North Dakota for the holidays. I had just returned home from a weekend of pheasant hunting, and as I walked through the front door, I caught a glimpse of something new, a visiting pet. Scanning the small living room for its owner, I realized what had happened. This one, was not going home. Our family had grown by one. Surprise! Remind me to freeze all of our accounts next time I skip town for a few days.
Between going to the vet and CiCi’s lack of self-control, it has been a fun first year. Her ability to shred a hat is impressive, but more impressive than that, is her ability to garner forgiveness. She is truly the devil in disguise. And for that I love her.
A short list of CiCi’s destruction:
1) Macbook power cord (you gotta love proprietary prices on something so basic)
2) Cubs hat 1
3) Cubs hat 2
4) Patagonia Hat (Thanks Russ for the replacement)
5) 2 pairs of sandals
6) 3 pairs of dress shoes
8) A few neck ties
9) 1 dress shirt
10) Wicker basket
11) 2 sets of knitting needles
12) 1 dog bed
13) 1 Comforter
14) A table leg
15) 2 Cabinet drawers
17) 2 windowsills
18) Bottom of a golf bag
Pretty sure that covers most of it. It has been a good year.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Driving north on interstate 25 between Denver and Fort Collins, it is hard to miss the suburban sprawl that has exploded in the last 10 years. Strip malls, housing developments, fast food restaurants, and Starbucks’s hug the highway in a perverted exploitation of water and land. But in a time where more and bigger is better, we simply call this type of development “progress”. Maybe it is, but I’m not one that has ever been motivated by such things.
There was a time in our country’s history when we pushed west in discovery of the unknown. Leaving our homes east of the Mississippi for this “Manifest Destiny”, to claim what was rightfully ours. Taking from some, propelling the fate of others into the unknown as we nailed stakes into the ground to build an empire like no other. This was all done in the name of progress, never wavering in scope, we pushed hard.
It is this push for progress that has defined us as a people. We became connected through railways, roads, and commerce. We fought to make our mark, and successful we were. The ideals of the “American Dream” drove this explosion, the world was at our fingertips, we just had to reach out and grab it.
There was also a time in our country’s history where we chose to protect certain lands from being exploited. National Parks were created and deemed too beautiful to “develop”. We understood the value of shared ownership, and that the people whom pay their taxes deserved to share in the spoils of such beauty. I am reminded of that every time I string a fly rod in search of healthy trout in Rocky Mountain National Park. These are my fish.
As the proposed Pebble Mine and the fate of Bristol Bay hang in the balance, so too does the very existence of a species, a livelihood for many, and a culture. The salmon of Bristol Bay interconnect the region as they have for generations. They provide a livelihood for many, sport for some, and life to a pristine part of the world. They are under attack (as a friend wrote), and need someone to stand up and fight for them.
The potential mine waste from this operation is not worth the consequences. The devastation of such action, would not only be reckless, it would be regrettable. There is no need to cut our nose to spite our face. Asking a species, community, and industry for forgiveness later is not an option, as we still have the opportunity to do what’s right. Foreign investment or domestic, it doesn’t matter. The end result is the same; No Salmon, Loss of Jobs, and the fleecing of a culture.
Do what’s right…Don’t sell out…Please help save Bristol Bay.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I made my way to the lake around noon. The air was cool, as the snow from the previous night hung quietly on the needles of the resting pines. There was peace in the air, and I was the only one there to feel its presence. This might be the last opportunity I get to fish this lake for the year, and I was happy I wasn’t too late.
Noticing an icy film hugging small sections of the shoreline, I took a drink of water, and quickly started to rig my rod in anticipation of casting to some cruising greenbacks. My hands were cold from not having worn gloves, so tying knots with the 6x tippet proved challenging. In an act of defiance, my fingers proved futile, and took the likeness of frozen sausage, rather than sure footed tools of the trade. But after some struggle I was ready to go, and I made a mental note to put gloves in the pack for next time.
I started on the east side of the lake, working my way north in a counter clockwise direction. Being too cold to wade, I worked hard to find areas to fish that had enough room for a modified backcast. But for the most part, I stuck with roll casting, as not to disturb the traps behind me. I worked the water hard for the next hour or so, rewarded with a few hungry cutthroat that rose to a size twenty Griffith’s Gnat. It was thirty five degrees, and the fish were looking up. The cold that had gripped my body upon arriving at the lake was gone, and was now just an afterthought as I continued to cast unapologetically to these colorful creatures.
Reading a few of my favorite blogs the night before, there seemed to be something in the air. Re-evaluation. Re-evaluation of the reason and reasons us bloggers choose to share this type of activity. For some, blogging is a way to share their adventures through written word, others share their photography through beautiful images captured in the moment, and some like to share their knowledge. Knowledge gained through years of both successes and failures.
Why me? Why do I choose to share these experiences that up until seven months ago, were nothing more than a routine? The easy answer would be that I like to write. Maybe it is that simple. Or, it could be that my wife had become bored with the stories that I brought home of every trip I took up the canyon. Another possibility is that I wanted to network with a group of people that share a similar passion. And through this forum, I would be able to not only share my tales of success and failure, I would have the opportunity to learn from others that have fly fished a lot longer than I have. But more importantly, maybe the outdoors is meant to be shared.
As these thoughts were processed, I continued to fish. The sun had now started to push through the clouds, making brief appearances that both teased and warmed. The feeding fish had slowed down, for what I imagined as heavy eyelids from a larger than normal lunch. But more probably, the fish were simply choosing to feed on the next round of insects that were making their way to the surface.
A few reties later, my efforts went unnoticed. The sun was hidden by some new clouds, and a freshening chill could be felt as the light snow was blown off the pines behind me. The lake lay still in front of me, as the wind shifted directions. There was solitude in this silence, and my thoughts went blank.
The quiet was broken by the sound of something large breaking branches and making its way not fifty yards behind me. Not wanting this to be my last shared experience, I started making noise, lots of noise.
As the sound faded off into the distance, I tried to steady my nerves. And looking out into the water, I saw a fish near the surface. I made a cast. And as the line landed softly, I noticed a large silhouette making its way along the west side of the lake…
This is why I do this. All of it.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
As the trail began to taper, I found myself focusing more on each step. The climb was getting harder, the path more rugged, and my breathing became more labored. It was a simple test from this high alpine lake’s gatekeeper, making sure that if I passed, I would find its reward. Access.
Like most trails, the most worn part of the path is at the beginning of the trailhead. But as you climb and gain some distance from your beginning, it begins to change. It narrows. Your focus narrows. The fly rod in your hand is no longer a reminder of the water you could have been fishing two hours ago, but simply the reason that guides you purposefully forward. And with each passing step, the fish that live in these places gain meaning, they earn respect.
The sun disappeared beneath the blanket of low lying clouds, just as the first drop of rain could be felt tapping the brim of my hat. And as I looked out into the lake, the comforting smell of autumn wafted in the air, brought to life by the seasonal shedding of the aspen trees that waved quietly on a stiffening breeze. The calm that had surrounded an ordinary morning was gone, I found myself alone, and a solitary smile creased my lips.
Monday, October 3, 2011
1) A temporary madness
2) A violent mental or emotional agitation
3) Intense usually wild and often disorderly compulsive or agitated activity
4) A gathering of outdoor bloggers trying to squeeze seven different bodies of water into two and a half days
The calm before the storm passed quietly over the foothills of the front range, before being blown out into the dusty plains of eastern Colorado early Friday morning. And in that quiet, the “Rocky Mountain Frenzy” began before anyone of us truly had a chance to think about the itinerary. Twelve women and men, six rivers, one lake, one weekend, and two great motivators; fish and friends.
Friday: 1:04 pm. “Ted’s Place”. Cache La Poudre River. Laporte, Colorado.
As the cars started to roll in, excited smiles could be seen through each windshield. It was time to put real live faces with some of the names we have gotten to know through different URLs. And after a few hearty handshakes and laughs, it wasn’t hard to notice the bond that brings a motley crew like this together.
The drive up into the canyon is one that I’ve done a hundred times before. And like the previous times, I take notice of the spots I have yet to fish, but someday will. The canyon stretches long, and with only a half day of fishing, we doubled down and drove anxiously to a spot on the map simply marked “big fish”. This wasn’t my map of course, as I wouldn’t be so reckless as to imply that I actually catch big fish from said location. But being marked in such a way, this spot garnered enough votes to justify the drive. I agreed.
The pullout found us staring down into a large pool of water that became dubbed as “the nursery”, a fitting name to a spot that had more than a few “big fish” feeding frantically on an unseen protein. And as the water boiled, our rods were rigged with an anticipation I haven’t felt in a long time. People had come to fish my home water, and I was proud.
Looking into a fly box, my fly line hung lazily in some slack water with the bug still floating high. “Gulp”. I had hooked another fish in spite of myself, we laughed.
*The Poudre has been fishing great as of late, so I’ve been told by the fine folks at my local fly shop. On this day, we were only able to land a few fish between all of us. Even though the fishing may have been slower than I had hoped, we got to see a great river. And like the frenzy itself, fishing the Poudre was a good reminder that “we” are not always the ones in control.
Saturday: 8:58am. Rocky Mountain Anglers. Boulder, Colorado.
I fidget. My hands are always moving, my wife gets mad because I’m constantly tapping my feet, don’t give me a staple or a paper clip because I like to see how many twists it takes to break, and I still play with my food. So playing with the sleeve from my coffee cup, I wasn’t surprised to be called out by such behavior. Smiling to myself, I was reassured that I was in the right place.
Boulder Creek is a narrow, boulder filled, pocket water, plunge pool fisherman’s dream. And like most small streams, the measure of the fish is not defined in inches, but rather in the fun of witnessing the innocence of the trout that inhabit this type of water. And on this day, the trout were feeding heavily on anything with rubber legs. We were in luck.
*A special thanks to Jay Zimmerman at Rocky Mountain Angler’s for taking the time to snap a few pictures of the group, as well as, making all of us feel at home before and after our Boulder Creek adventure. I would also like to thank the many trout in the creek that could obviously tell I was in desperate need of a confidence boost. And to the brook trout that was no longer than the length of my left pinkie, may you grow healthy and give some other long-rodder a smile one day.
Saturday: 2:36pm. Below the dam on the Big Thompson River. Estes Park, Colorado.
Three elk wading in the water greeted us as we pulled into the parking lot. They reminded us that just because we carried fly rods, we weren’t the only ones entitled to these waters. The sun was high in the sky, and the hot weather was an excuse for creatures of both the two legged and four legged variety to cool down by spending a few hours wading in a river.
Twenty minutes down the canyon, we found our spot and pulled off to the side of the road. Walking the bank, a peaceful river stared back at us, as if knowing what we were asking of it. Positioning my feet both quietly and carefully, I stripped some line to place my first cast. A small pocket along the near bank invited the “Clown Shoe Caddis”, and the quick strike was missed before I knew what had happened. The fish and river awakened me, and I was fortunate to be fishing in such a surrounding.
*We lost track of the number of fish we caught that afternoon. Patterns and casting ability didn’t matter, and I was thankful for that. The Big Thompson is an interesting place to fish. It’s constantly pressured, but for some reason the fish are willing more often than not. Dave and I had a great time walking the banks and casting to the fish we had come to see. On the drive home, Dave reminded me of my fidgeting by making the comment, “Did you just turn the hat on your head all the way around?” Yes I did.
Sunday: 8:47am. The banks of Glacier Creek. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Upon entering the park, the seasonal metamorphosis of life danced in celebration. We watched the bull elk heard his harem of cows, we saw the hillsides shine in brilliant yellows and golds, we felt the cool wind of change usher in a new season, we were experiencing something great. And upon stepping into the waters of Glacier Creek, we saw brightly colored fish, getting ready to bring new life to a park that was already filled with it.
Feeling the cold water run past my legs, I realized that waders might have been a better option. But trusting the weatherman, I knew that it was only a matter of time before things heated up, and when they did, I’d appreciate the fact that I was wet wading. Spooking a nice brook trout upon entering the creek, I realized that a little more stealth would be needed if I actually wanted to catch one of these finicky fish.
I watched the slow rhythmic rise of a small brook trout, feeding under an overhanging willow. Tying on a size 22 blue winged olive emerger, I placed my first cast above his head on the far bank. The second cast hit its mark and floated peacefully past the hungry trout without even so much as a courtesy refusal. A few more casts, and a few more patterns proved to be more of a workout for me than a meal for him. Running out of ideas, I tied on a small beetle and made my cast. I missed my target, but the fish turned anyway. And as the brook trout opened his mouth to eat this wayward insect, I set the hook out of pure excitement. The fish never got to taste the bug, I was early, and he was out of luck.
*Finding fish wasn’t the problem, getting them to play along became the issue. The cool night had put a chill in the water, which will act as my excuse as to the lack of fish that were caught from a normally productive stream. But fishing with a Damsel more than made up for slow catching.
Sunday: 11:23am. Lawn Lake Trailhead. Near the banks of the Fall River. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
The sun was out, and the choice to wet wade was finally paying off. The water felt cool, and was a nice contrast to the heat that blanketed the meadow that surrounded the Fall River.
“Way to go Sanders, you spooked him”, I heard Dave say as I stepped into the water.
“He’ll be fine”, I replied confidently.
I had watched the small brown dart for cover under the cut bank in front of me. Placing my first cast of the afternoon, I watched the fly land upstream. Luckily, the attractor fly found the outside seam, and as if oblivious to the intruder behind him, a flash rose to the Madam X.
We stalked the banks of the river for the next couple of hours, trying our best not to spook the fish. Finding small pockets, undercut banks, and plunge pools proved to be most effective. The fish were both eager and wary to our offerings, making the fishing both frustrating and fun.
*The Fall River is a special place. It is a unique watershed that can offer a fisherman the “Grand Slam” (Rainbow, Brook, Brown, Cutthroat). On this day, we picked up both brown and cutthroat trout. And watching Jen land her first cutthroat, a contented smile said it all.
Sunday: 2:41pm. Big Thompson River. Estes Park Colorado. Round Two.
The elk had moved on from the day before, replaced by two doe mule deer surveying the five fly fisherman that had just entered their territory. The crowd from “Elk Fest” in Estes Park was finally thinning, and the water in front of us seemed more tranquil. Maybe it was a sign that the “frenzy” was coming to a close, or maybe, it was simply the quiet that surrounds the end of any weekend. Either way, slowing down felt right.
We watched a group of fish feed lazily in a deep pool on the near bank. Soft dimples made small rings in the quiet water. Trying to stay out of sight we cast our flies gently above the feeding fish. Ignoring our offerings, we made a simple change of flies. Fish on.
“We’re heading over to Lily Lake, we’re going to try and find a few Greenbacks”, Dustin informed me, as Emily and Stephanie were already waiting at the car.
“I think we’re going to stay here a little bit longer, the fish are biting and we’re in a groove”, I said. “We’ll meet up with you in a little bit.”
I never made it to Lily Lake. The fishing was good. The frenzy was over.
*Round two at the Big Thompson was more of the same from the day before. We caught fish from a river that wanted us there.
Monday: 5:16pm. My Couch. Fort Collins, Colorado.
As quickly as the weekend started, it came to a close. Travelers from Colorado, Utah, and Ohio went their separate ways, surely to reemerge from behind their web aliases and fly fishing handles with stories of glory from the front range of Colorado. And like most weekends, there just isn’t enough time. There is not enough time to fish with everyone, time to spend with family, time to catch that one last fish, or time to make one last cast.
But as short as the weekend seemed, we made time for new friends, shared some laughs, caught some fish, fished new waters, and stepped out from behind the computer screen long enough to appreciate it all.
*I would like to thank everyone involved for making the first annual “Rocky Mountain Frenzy” live up to its billing. Thank you to Emily for all of your hard work and preparation in organizing such a great few days. Thank you to Stephanie and Dustin for all of your efforts in planning, it was awesome.
And as you look for more tales from this weekend, please check out the following blog/sites:
David: Back Country Fish Nerd
Andy: AJSutts Blog
Erin: Mysteries Internal
Kyle: Compleat Thought
Howard: Wind Knots and Tangled Lines
Jen: Fly Fishilicious
Stephanie and Dustin: Antlers and Gills
Emily: The River Damsel
Larry: Fly Fishing Crazy