When The Thunder Roars, Go Inside!

Colorado anglers are no strangers to fishing in adverse weather and don’t get me wrong, it can be extremely fun and productive to fish through a rain storm, but we urge you to use sound judgement when fishing with thunder and lightning on the horizon. A good rule to follow is the “flash and bang” rule– if you see lightning and then hear thunder within 30 seconds of that then it’s within 6 miles of you and it’s time to get off of the river!

This article by the staff at The Denver Post illustrates our point well. Have fun out there but more importantly, be safe!

Colorado’s the third deadliest state for lightning strikes — here’s how to protect yourself

 

How The Kiwi’s Turned Angling into Hunting

By Robby Cribbs

Three years ago, I took a bucket list trip down to New Zealand’s South Island. I was really excited after watching countless videos on YouTube of people landing monstrous brown trout in gin clear water. And, from the looks of it, it seemed quite easy given the water clarity.
I booked a trip with a well-known guide out of Queenstown. On the day of our trip, we drove up to a large meadow below towering mountain peaks. The valley held a crystal clear river that flowed over a bed of beautiful green and maroon rocks. To top it off, there was no sign of civilization. The ground wasn’t scattered with garbage or tangled balls of monofilament. There wasn’t a defined trail to the fishing holes matted down by countless anglers. And, our vehicle was the ONLY one in the parking area. 
Upon seeing this, my confidence level was very high. You mean no human pressure! I was expecting a very easy and productive outing.
Little did I know, my chance of catching a trophy brown ended when I created that expectation. That day, my sole accomplishment was placing a perfect cast in a crystal clear pool that once harbored a large fish.
Like all of us anglers do after a humbling day on the river, I went to the bar and contemplated the countless reasons why the day was such a failure. It wasn’t for quite some time after this trip that I realized the true, simple reason of why I failed. I was overconfident and didn’t give the outing the respect it deserved.
To say New Zealand is a “technical” fishery is an over simplification of the word. Fly fishing in New Zealand is true trout angling at its purest form. It needs to be approached with humility, respect and patience. In fact, the first trout I hooked in New Zealand didn’t feel like trout fishing at all. I got the same feeling as shooting my first bull elk in the Gunnison high country. I didn’t kill an elk until my 6th elk hunting season for the SAME reasons I failed to catch a trout that day in New Zealand.
To the Kiwis, “sight fishing” is not just spotting big fish in clear water. If you simply walk up to a river and spot a fish, the fish saw you well before you noticed him. And, since it’s a truly wild fish, it’s not going to sit there looking at you like the fish do on a crowded tail water in Colorado. That fish will dart out of its holding water with blazing speed, headed straight for a place he knows you won’t find him. To top it off, you might not see another one for an hour.

To remedy this, one needs to be extremely patient. A trait we Americans tend to forget on occasion. Challenge yourself to slowly move up river, avoiding abrupt movement.

One technique I used to avoid spooking fish was to keep my profile hidden. For example, ducking below the horizon line or using trees and other foliage along the bank to hide my profile. This lets me get closer to fish while they’re still unaware of my presence.

Second, just because you’ve successfully spotted a fish, doesn’t mean it’s time to throw a hundred casts at it. I learned to step back and make a plan. Sit back and analyze the situation. Learn what it’s eating, where in the water column it’s feeding and how your cast will act in the current.

For example, let’s say he’s in the middle of the water column but not eating off the surface. At this point, I’ll tie on a dry dropper rig. I want a dry that floats well enough to support the nymph I’m using but not so big and gaudy that it will spook the fish. As for the dropper, I’m just as concerned about the fly being the appropriate weight as I am the correct pattern.

Here comes the hard part… The most likely time to spook that fish is while casting. . You want to stand in his blind spot, which is not directly behind the trout! Pick a spot you can stand and cast where you’re behind and to the side of the fish. That cast might be your only chance. Just like hunting an elk, make the first shot count.

The beautiful reward of the hunt!

If your cast doesn’t go as plan, stop and analyze again. If the fish stops feeding, I wait him out until he relaxes and feeds again. If I still can’t get him to eat, I might still get him to attack. As a last resort I’ll swing my flies by him or switch to a streamer to see if he’ll chase.

When this style of fishing pays off, the hook up is as exhilarating as you can imagine. And, it works just as well in Colorado as it does in the Southern Alps. I challenge everyone who reads this to treat your next fishing trip like a hunting trip and see what happens. You might just find the fish of a lifetime gently sipping mayflies off the surface. Slow down and treat that fish like a trophy elk. It might change your entire outlook on the sport.

Robby is a professional fly tier and fishing guide for Colorado Trout Fisher and The Flyfisher Guide Service. When not on the water you can find Robby and his family… wait a minute, you probably won’t. They’ll be somewhere off in the high-country enjoying everything Colorado has to offer!

Shedding Some Light on Fly Fishing Conservation

By Sara Golden–

There are quite a few topics that are covered consistently on fly fishing blogs. Everybody likes to read the newest gear reviews and fishing reports from exclusive locations. That’s what people generally enjoy reading and don’t get me wrong, I totally see why, in fact I myself spend a big part of my free time on fly fishing blogs absorbing those articles.
That being said, there are certain topics that -in my opinion- need a little bit more attention. As with most other sports, that heavily rely on nature, conservation should play a much bigger role in the scene than it does.

Why do we need it
A big part of why I enjoy fly fishing more than any other form of angling is how close it brings you to nature. While this might sound a little cheesy, just compare spin casting from shore to the process of stalking up on a beautiful fish you spotted, wading to the perfect position and present that carefully chosen fly just in the right way. IMG_1196A basic knowledge of entomology and observing present insects might have played a role and if the right conditions are given, you might just land that fish you were after. However, those conditions are more sensitive than most people think and especially trout as a species rely heavily on cold and perfectly clean water. Only minor changes to an environment lead up to dying fish and a collapsing ecosystem.
While you might think about big factories unloading their waste right now, the average trout river usually faces different challenges. In today’s age we have one big problem, more and more people want to enjoy the outdoors and everything that comes with it. While the revenue of fishing license sales went down in Colorado (http://www.krdo.com/news/money/fishing-hunting-license-revenue-down-in-colorado/33627880), there is no doubt that rivers get more and more crowded. Hatcheries struggle keeping up and face higher costs than they once did. People working for wildlife management lose their jobs and Colorado considers doubling costs for hunting and fishing licenses (http://www.denverpost.com/2016/08/27/colorado-parks-wildlife-hunting-fishing-licenses-cost/).
Those sensitive environments we talked about earlier face more and more challenges, overfishing, pollution and the lack of practiced catch and release, just to name a few.

A Few Basic Guidelines
It should be obvious by now, that it’s crucial to this sport to have some basic guidelines that every fly fisher should follow, although they aren’t defined by law. After all, you probably want to be able to catch trout in your favorite river, even a few decades from now, don’t you?

Practice Catch & Release
While frowned upon in most parts of Europe it’s still pretty common in the US to take that nice trout you caught home. Don’t get me wrong here, I love eating freshly caught fish myself. In terms of taste it beats everything you can buy and every once in awhile, I catch dinner myself. However, the huge majority of fish you catch should go straight back into the river. Sure you could hit your daily limits easily on some days, but do you really have to? Released trout have a survival rate of over 90% (http://www.westernsportsman.com/2014/01/fish-mortality-catch-and-release/) which assures, that others or even you are able to enjoy reeling that fish in on another day.

Handle Fish With Respectfullsizeoutput_1a
9 out of 10 released fish survive. Sounds pretty good right? Well, there is a catch. Achieving those results is only possible if you handle fish the correct way. A few basic rules that have a big impact on said rate:
-Reel that fish in as fast as possible
-Reduce air time to a bare minimum
-Wet your hands before handling
-Use your landing net only if needed
It all comes down to reducing the stress for fish you are catching. Keep those basics in mind, follow them and you might land the trout another time.

Never Pull Trout Out Of Redds
This should be self evident but going after trout during spawn is highly questionable. Especially if you see big fish swimming over bright and clean gravel, leave them alone! These are their spawning beds, referred to as redds, and disturbing them at this point is an absolute no-go!

Wade Only If Necessary
Since those complex environments we talked about earlier are pretty fragile, walking over all those aquatic organisms eaten by trout doesn’t really help. Wading is a big part of this sport and generally it’s impact is negligible, IF you limit it down to only what’s necessary. If you feel like reading a bit more about that topic check this article about The Impact Of Wading Fly Fishers. (http://www.wadinglab.com/impact-of-wading-fly-fishers/)

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints
You probably heard that one before and I really like the philosophy behind it. Leave nothing behind. No trash, no flies and especially no line. Take it to the next level. See something that doesn’t belong next to a river? Take it with you when you leave.

My Final Words
I hope my point came across and hope even more, that people reading this realize how easy it is to make a difference. Try to limit the negative impact you have on those eco-systems we all enjoy fishing in. After all it benefits everyone and sticking to a few basic rules isn’t that big of a hassle, if you get a healthy river full of beautiful trout in return.
Tight lines!

A little bit about Sara: Based in Oregon, I picked up fly fishing pretty early in my life. Since then I am pretty much hooked, always looking for the next pool to fish. I am currently travelling Europe and when time allows, I enjoy writing about topics like conservation or fly fishing gear. Occasionally I get some work published on different fly fishing blogs and might start my own one in the future.

Spey Daze: Great Lakes Steelhead

This video popped up in my news feed this morning and thought it went well with a previous post about preparing for a Steelhead Trip. This video teaser hits hits home with me as it is filmed on many locations where I caught the Steelhead bug. Keep an eye out for the release of the 4 hour DVD series coming out in March.

From the Film Maker- This is the trailer for the upcoming film Spey Daze. It was shot over the course of two and a half years in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and various parts of Ontario. Though largely a film about the pursuit of Steelhead on the swung fly, the film also focuses on the past, present and current issues the Great Lakes are experiencing, how these issues effect the fishery and how they might affect the Steelhead populations that call the Great Lakes home.

SPEY DAZE Trailer from RT on Vimeo.

 

Remove Barbed Hook

If you fish enough you know that getting a hook stuck in your skin is bound to happen. I have had my share of streamers hit me in the ear, saltwater flies stuck in my leg and spey flies jammed into my back. Nine times out of ten these flies just sting you and leave a little red mark. But there are those times when those flies stick and need to come out with assistance. If you are a guide I am sure you have seen or used this trick to remove a barbed hook out of your or a clients skin.


This simple technique really helps you remove hooks of multiple sizes from all body parts. The best one that I have ever done was from a fellas nose. Simply find some heavy tippet wrap around the bend of the hook, press down on the eye and pull straight back. If done correctly that hook will come flying right out with minimal blood loss. Be sure to remember this technique. Streamer season is around the corner and you might need it.

Steelhead Gear: Must Have

Winter Steelhead Season is in full swing and while it has been beautiful in Colorado I certainly miss visiting the Pacific Northwest this time of year. Scouring multiple rivers in hopes of finding a Wild Pacific Steelhead is not for the faint of heart. You have to be a hearty angler to pursue these magnificent fish and if you pay your dues, chances are you will be rewarded with a handful of chrome.

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For those of you who are thinking about making a journey to Steelhead Country, be sure to bring the following items.

A Good Rain Jacket–  This is a must. The chances of precipitation in the rain forest is about 100%simms g3 jacket and when it rains it rains hard. Have and outer shell that is waterproof and durable. This is not an area to skimp. It can be difficult to bite the bullet and purchase solid rain gear. It is expensive and if you live in Colorado you do not need it that often. But if you plan on angling for steelhead year after year, treat yourself to a good rain jacket.

Dry Bag – Key item for storing dry clothes, cameras, snacks and anything else that you want to keep dry. The backpack variety are a good choice. being able to strap a dry bag on your back allows you to trek along the river keeping your hands free. Simms and Patagonia both make excellent dry packs.

pataguuch dry bag

Base Layers – Puffy Pants, Fleece pants, Fleece jackets, Merino wool shirts and long underware ….bring it all. It gets chilly standing in the river especially when it is raining. Having multiple wicking base layers will help you stay warm in the coldest fishing conditions. Smartwool, ice breaker, hot chilis and a many other companies make great base layers. Find base layers that you like and bring several pairs. The merino wool is nice because you can wear it for a couple days with minimal odor.Sheep

 

Waders – Obviously this is a no brainer but it your waders leak consider buying a new pair or be sure to patch them very well. No matter how well you insulate under your waders getting wet is going to make you cold. Nothing is fun when you are cold so be sure to stay dry. Boot foot waders are also nice for cold weather wading conditions. The boot foot tends to not be as tight on your foot allowing you to wiggle your toes.

 

Early Spring Fly Fishing: Colorado

The warm weather has been a breath of fresh air for us here in Colorado. With temps in the mid 40s in the high country and highs near 70 in Denver, it certainly feels like Spring is starting a little early. A lot of our valley snow has melted and some rivers are turing slightly off color during the peak of the day. So what does this mean for our fishing? While it is nice to strip off the heavy layers and soak in the sun we have to take into consideration water temperature. Early Spring runoff cools the water down significantly and can slow fishing down. So do not be surprised if you find difficult fishing conditions during a bluebird Colorado Spring day. If you do find the fishing to be slow take a look at the water temp and insect activity. Adjusting fly size as wells the depth at which you are fishing can make a big difference. Trout tend to be less active in cooler water so putting your flies right on their nose can often be the only way to make them eat. We have notice that we are not seeing as many rising trout as we were a 3 weeks ago and midge hatches are far less consistent. Once our water temps stabilize this will change and fishing will get easy again. Until then take your time, find the right depth and you will find the fish. 16587023_10155051332258140_7918900563516442840_o

Take a look at our previous midge post for excellent midge patterns to be presenting this time of year. We also had a viewer mention his favorite midge pattern that he doesn’t leave home without. The D- Midge. Best of luck on the water. Screen shot 2017-02-14 at 7.33.23 AM

The Mighty Midge: Fly Fishing Video

This time of year my clients are always amazed at the size of of the fly patterns we are using. I like to explain to them that the Midge is the Rocky Balboa of aquatic insects. A midge can hatch in extremely cold water while other insects cannot. A winter midge hatch can be significant enough to bring many trout to the surface. During these hatches anglers have the opportunity to cast dry flies in the dead of winter.  While a midge hatch is not as predictable as other insect hatches it can provide some of the best early and late season dry fly fishing. Here is a short Fly Fishing Video from Lateral Line Media displaying some trout recently sipping midges in Colorado. If you cannot find the fish on the surface be take a look at our recent post about 3 essential midge larvae fly patterns.

Winter Midge Patterns: Colorado Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing in Colorado during the winter months can be excellent but it can also be very challenging.    Constantly de-icing your guides with freezing fingers certainly takes hearty a angler, but it allows us get outside away from the daily grind. A couple benefits of winter fly fishing is that there is less pressure and fish tend to be easy to locate.  Deeper slow moving runs hold the majority of fish during the winter months allowing anglers to spend time focusing fly selection and presentation. Midges are the dominant fare in a trout’s diet this time of year but due to the multiple sizes and colors of midges it is important to have a variety of these fly patters. Some of my favorite color midge fly patterns are Black, Olive, Red and Cream. It is amazing that changing the color of a fly so small that it can have an impact of your fishing success but it does. Doing a little research on the water will help determine what color midges are floating around under the surface. Picking up submerged sticks or rocks is a good way to find midge larvae and while it can be painful to stick your hands in 30 degree water it may make the difference in your angling success. Also try and focus on the depth of your nymph rig. A lot of times we try to go directly to the bottom with our midges and while this does work, there are times when you can be too deep. If you are starting to see midges hatch sporadically or find them on the river bank try lightening your nymph rig and see what happens. As these insect get active in the water trout will start to suspend to eat midges as the emerge. Here are a few of excellent midge patterns for winter fly fishing in Colorado.

The Flash Bang Midge is a great fly pattern that should be in every anglers fly box. The glass beadflash bang midge
on these midge patterns adds a little extra weight and also looks like a small air bubble. The Flash Bang Midge works well in the early winter as fish transition from eating Baetis to Midges. It also works well deeper into winter as a lead fly in a two fly set-up. The glass bead allows this fly pattern to be fished higher in the water column with out adding much weight making the Flash Bang an excellent pattern to present to suspended fish.

 

JujubeeMidgeFlash_CC_Brn

The Jujubee Midge is a common pattern that you will find in early every fly shop in Colorado. Developed by Charlie Craven, this fly has been taken out of many a trout’s lips and is a proven fish catcher. The Jujubee midge pattern is great for tailwaters and freestone rivers alike. The added flash gives this fly a little more flare grabbing the attention of underwater lurkers. This is another fly pattern that works well early in the fall throughout the winter.

The RS2 is a fly pattern that more times than not is my go to fly. I am not exactly sure if this is rs2 flyclassified as a midge pattern but who cares, It works in so many scenarios throughout the year and catches a ton of trout. I prefer this fly with a flash wing and in multiple sizes. The basic design of this fly pattern is nothing fancy to look at but neither are midges. RS2’s are great for Trico’s hatches in the Summer and Midge hatches in the winter. If there are any flies out of these three that you must have it is the RS2.

Fishermen & Hunters Unite

We are experiencing a wild time in our lives. Between the news, blog posts and social channels there is so much negativity on media outlets that it is driving me nuts. The finger pointing game has gotten out of hand and I feel like I am listening to a room full of children fighting over a crayon. I recently read an article that pointed out the separation between sportsman. If you care to read it you can do so HERE, but the point it got across is that we need to come together as sportsman and not as individuals.

royal coachmen

I am sure that some of you have felt superior to other sportsman regarding the technique you use to hunt game or target fish. Conventional fishermen vs fly fishermen is a good example. Fly fishermen are looked upon as yuppie elitist that wear fancy clothes and look down on those who do not embrace a fly rod. On the other hand it is thought that fly fishermen look a conventional anglers as neanderthals who kill every fish in the river. The same thing applies in the hunting world between archery hunters and those who prefer a rifle.

rapala

If we can look past our methods of hunting fishing and glance at the larger picture I think we can all agree that no matter how your choose to pursue you quarry we are there because we enjoy being outdoors. It is time to put the finger pointing and name calling away for good. Be respectful of each other, respect the land we are able to use and stop being quick to judge. All outdoorsmen have the right to pursue game in a manner that is lawful. So if you see an angler throwing Rapalas for trout in your favorite nymphing run, ask them how their day is going and wish them luck. Life is too short to be bitter, especially when you are enjoying the outdoors. We need to come together as sportsman to fight for the land, rivers and mountains we love so future generations have the same opportunity we have. United we stand divided we fall.