Author Archives: Matty Valdez

About Matty Valdez

I'm one bug-slinging son of a gun! I love fly fishing the beautiful waters of Colorado and cannot wait to share my stories with you.

Colorado’s Greenback Cutthroat

Colorado’s last remaining pure genetic Greenback Cutthroat population lives in Bear Creek, which is about 20 minutes Southwest of Colorado Springs, has become a top priority for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A native trout that was once thought extinct is making a comeback due to the hard work of Cheyenne Mountain’s Trout Unlimited branch as well as our very own CPW. This is a great story that deserves the attention of all local and non-local anglers!

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/06/13/greenback-cutthroats-extinction-colorado-fish/

As anglers who love to fly fish we fully support all conservation efforts to help keep our native trout alive. To everybody involved– keep up the strong work!

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.

Fly Fishing The Arkansas River’s Gold Medal Water

Arkansas River Blog pic 1

To the Colorado angler, finding your own slice of elbow room on Gold Medal water can be as good as it gets. This on it’s own can be a little tricky as there are definitely no shortage of pros and beginners alike searching for Gold Medal trout. Your best bet for catching large, and a multitude, of Gold Medal trout in Colorado is on The Arkansas River. The Arkansas River of Colorado has 102 miles of designated Gold Medal water stretching from Parkdale, just west of Canon City, all the way to the confluence of The Lake Fork and Arkansas near Leadville. If you value your privacy and solitude while fly fishing then there is no better option in Colorado for fly fishing Gold Medal water than the Arkansas River.

Arkansas River Blog pic 2This freestone stretch of Gold Medal water is 102 miles long, and with that long of a stretch of water brings great diversity of stream gradient, insect activity, and water conditions. What happens in Buena Vista is almost certainly not going to be the case in Cotopaxi. This river is rich in diversity, and with that comes challenge to the angler, but also the rewards of understanding your environment.

To really master this Gold Medal water, it’s first important to understand that this is a freestone river. Freestone rivers are those created naturally from precipitation in the high-country and are fed by smaller streams and tributaries that all feed into and form the larger river, in this case The Arkansas. There is no master dam controlling water flows and temperatures. With this comes a certain volatility to flows and temperatures in the water— you’ll rarely be fishing a stable 250 cfs over a prolonged period of time on these types of water. Rather, you’ll see flows rise and drop on a weekly, to even daily basis, based on what kind of moisture the feeder streams are pumping in. So in a freestone river like The Arkansas, the type of water you’re fishing is often more important than your fly selection.

Arkansas River Blog pic 3Because flows can get very high and very fast here on The Arkansas River, focus your fishing efforts on the shallow banks and soft pockets of the river. This is a brown trout fishery, and brownies are not typically found in the faster currents that comprise the middle lanes of the river. Brown trout are ambush style predators that lie in soft pocket water and around structure, and will then move into feeding lanes to ambush their prey, i.e; insects and small bait fish. As mentioned above, the water can move very fast and because of this it will carry and deposit gravel and pebbles down river which form sandbars along the riverbed— along either side of the sandbar is typically found channels and troughs that will hold significant numbers of brownies.

Insect selection is important, but it’s not the end all be all to your success on The Arkansas. Throughout a given day trout here can be found eating stonefly nymphs, caddis larva, blue wing olive emergers, and midge larva! Good observation is a crucial tool to use when selecting patterns, but more importantly getting a good drift in fishy water will lead to your success fly fishing The Arkansas River.

Colorado’s Extreme Destinations

whitw water raftingWhite Water Rafting: Mountains Water Rafting Located in Durango Colorado is home to the Animas River known for some of the most turbulent waters in Colorado. One of the best reputations for guide service with 30+ years under their belt, you can rest assured your in good hands.

Royal Gorge, Royal Rush SkyCoater: Standing 100ft in the air and reaching speeds of 50 mph. This Skycoaster will have you soaring through the air 1,200ft above the Arkansas River. This free fall sensation will have your adrenaline pumping. royal rush

Zip Adventures: Located in Wilcott, Colorado this zip line adventure tour will take you souring between valleys at speeds of up to 30 mph. This tour lasting for 2.5 hours has you dangling above 200-foot canyons giving you the feeling of flying through the mountains.

Estes Park ATV Rentals: Picture an ATV adventure on an unguided tour through the backcountry of Estes. There are people to help plan your trip so unguided doesn’t sound to intimidating. After the short safety announcement you can set of for a full day with family, friends or even solo. alpine coaster

Alpine Coaster: This gravity-propelled roller coaster weaves and winds down the mountains of Breckenridge. Ride alone or as a couple, and control the speeds of your cart. 2,500 feet of track cuts and turns above the ski fields and through the forest, getting that adrenaline pumping.

 

Project Healing Waters 2016 Fly Fishing Film Tour

 

Come join the party at The Wildlife Experience on Lincoln and Peoria this Saturday April, 9th at 7:00 pm for a great time and a great cause!FFFT 04:09

Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities, so when an event like this comes along where all proceeds go towards their benefit, yeah it’s a no-brainer to go!

The movie will be shown on The Wildlife Experience’s awesome IMAX screen. There will be micro and domestic beer courtesy of Coors, free gear giveaways, and tons of great raffle prizes as well. This should be one heckuva time– hope to see you all there!

Click here to purchase tickets: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1114267?_ga=1.59205869.1100079048.1456894327

Review: Patagonia Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders

Patagonia’s Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders are one of the top waders on the market in the fly fishing industry right now, so let’s take a quick review of the product.

The front-down zipper feature is awesome! This system allows you to switch from a chest wader to pants by simply unzipping the front end which will 100% help on those hot summer days. This is especially important as the actual wader itself is somewhat heavy, which it was purposely designed this way to be extremely durable and also keep you insulated during the cold winter months.

patagonie rio gallegosAnother great feature to the Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders is that Patagonia improved the pocket system in this edition– two large side pockets that are able to fit anything from your wallet and chapstick to gloves and a seine. They also include an easily accessible waterproof pocket on the inside of the wader that is perfect for your cellphone.

This is not to be overlooked, especially for all of you Colorado winter fly fishing enthusiasts, but the booties are very warm and they are especially comfortable for those with wide feet.

There are not a lot of drawbacks to review to these well designed fly fishing waders but what was immediately noticed is the gravel guards do not stretch. This was an issue that caught our eye when we were guiding opposed to fishing ourselves. There is a restriction when trying to kneel which is not a problem when you take a knee or two during the day, but from a guiding standpoint, it was uncomfortable kneeling in these waders repeatedly throughout the day. Also, there was an almost immediate leak on the inseam of the crotch. It’s understandable that this happens and Patagonia is known for their excellent warranty program, but after dropping six franklins on waders you expect them to be ready to fish. Luckily it was easy to find and a shot of AquaSeal on the seam tape solved the problem.

All-in-all, these are excellent waders, but that $600 price tag is definitely nothing to balk at. With the quality and durability of these waders they will offer great value over the course of their lifetime though.

Get out there and enjoy the water. Tight lines my friends!

 

 

Best Ski Mountains in Colorado

tex blog 5Vail Ski Resort: Vail has 5,200 acres of well-groomed ski and snowboard trails. Options to explore the open Back Mountain, and being open for 50 years. This mountain has become a haven for global travelers and avid skiers alike. Only a couple hours or less drive from Denver makes it easy to access.

Buttermilk, Aspen CO: For those more extreme Skiers, who maybe is seeking a more air time. This mountain provides the jumps seen in the 2016 winter X-Games.Tex blog 1 From down town aspen you can easily catch the shuttle to buttermilk so you don’t have to deal with the parking and traffic.

Keystone: Consisting of three different mountains, and over 120 different runs. You can be assured the whole family will enjoy this resort. During the season they will keep the lifts open until 8pm. Allowing you take your time on the slopes.

Telluride: For some of the more adventurous skiers telluride will spark your interest. Providing a set of stairs to the peak of the mountain. Not only allowing you an amazing view.You’ll feel like you are backcountry skiing with the comfort of avalanche control and rescue.Gold Hill Stairs

Winter Park: The longest continually operated ski resort.  Winter park has 7 territories with over 3,000 acres on award winning trails. One of Colorado’s most diverse ski resorts, with so many options it would be hard to cover in just one trip. Be sure to give yourself enough time to fully experience the whole park.

Trout, Fly Fishing, & Barometric Pressure

storm over a river

As anglers, we all know weather patterns can affect our day on the river in many different ways. Whether you’re tracking moon phases, the wind conditions, or cloud coverage for any given day, the elements will always play a role in your fly fishing success. Does one weather pattern affect trout more than another? Depending on who you’re speaking to you’ll get a different answer to this question, but I’m here to tell you, yes it does! Let’s take a quick look at the effects of a change in barometric pressure on trout behavior.

By definition, barometric pressure is the pressure exerted by the weight of the atmosphere on its surface. It will be easier to understand what barometric pressure is if we first look at the difference between high barometric pressure and low pressure.

High barometric pressure is usually associated with fair weather and heavier air. It means there is more air pressure being pushed downward on the water surface. Low barometric pressure is typically associated with the coming of a storm, or the actual storm itself, and a light amount of air pressure being exerted on the river. The reason air pressure drops as a storm moves in is because as the front moves closer to the river the heavy air pressure that is currently being exerted on the river rises through the air column (this means pressure is dropping) and eventually moves into the clouds to help form rain and snow, hence the low pressure on the river.

So how does either high pressure or low barometric pressure affect your fishing day? Well, on their own neither is inherently bad. We’ve all had great days on the river when it’s a blue-bird day with not a cloud in sight when a nymph rig with plenty of weight is your best option—this is characteristic of a high barometric pressure day. But we’ve also certainly had exceptional fly fishing days in overcast weather as a storm is moving in– this would be a low barometric pressure day. As a matter of fact, I’ve had my best fly fishing in low barometric pressure days because this typically means there is a lot of cloud coverage which moves trout into shallower water, there is also a higher concentration of insect activity, and more aggressive trout feeding behavior.  Trout are especially aggressive in cloud coverage with low pressure so think about skating an adult caddis across the surface or throwing on a streamer to be stripped through the water for that overly aggressive take.

IMG_0036

The one weather situation you do not want to find yourself on the river is directly after the storm passes. This can be characterized as rain and clouds, which then move on to sun and clear skies. It’s also when the barometric pressure rises, meaning from light air pressure to heavy air pressure. The direct change from light air pressure to high and heavy pressure will push fish to the depths of the river and make them lethargic and very tough to catch. To relate it to humans it’s like when we’re flying on an airplane and cannot pop our ears—that’s the same pressure trout feel in the river when a change from light to heavy air pressure occurs. Do you find yourself hungry when you’re uncomfortable and can’t pop your ears? Absolutely not. You’ll find a noticeable change in a trout’s feeding behavior after the storm passes for two reasons: 1) its already gorged itself on food during the low pressure period, and 2) the new high pressure from the atmosphere is making the trout uncomfortable and lethargic so they will avoid your presentation. But like I mentioned earlier, this does not mean trout will not feed when there is a high barometric pressure reading, just simply that the temporary change from low pressure to high atmospheric pressure will turn the trout’s feeding behavior off. The lethargic behavior typically does not last more than 24 hours after the storm passes and thereafter it can be another heavy feeding period.

This brief article is not meant to discourage you from fishing inclement weather, but rather, add another tool to your knowledge bin for your next trip out on the river. Tight lines, my friends.