Colorado’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan: 2019-2023

Colorado Parks & Wildlife, in conjunction with the Colorado Outdoor Partnership, have finalized a 5-year plan which has the goal of continuing to develop Colorado’s outdoor recreational industry, introducing more Coloradans to the outdoors, and also maintaining environmental and cultural conservation.

The 5-year plan lays out four priorities which will help it achieve it’s goal.

  • Maintain and enhance sustainable access and opportunity for all Coloradans to enjoy the outdoors
  • Create a stewardship of care amongst Coloradans and visitors for our outdoors
  • Conservation of land, water, and wildlife for future generations
  • Create sustainable funding for Colorado’s outdoor future

This 5-year plan is fantastic news on all fronts. From a financial perspective, Colorado’s outdoor industry is responsible for 511,000 jobs in the state, $37 billion in consumer spending, and $21 billion in wages paid to Coloradans. So it’s absolutely imperative that we maintain our outdoor industry.

The plan also lays out environmental conservational steps which will help sustain the state’s natural beauty in the face of population growth and other environmental threats.

As departing Gov. John Hickenlooper recently stated, “Outdoor recreation opportunities contribute to increased quality of life, economic prosperity, and the health of Colorado communities and residents.” Regardless of where you fall on Hickenlooper’s other policies, he’s spot-on on this one. Colorado’s future is tied hand-in-hand to its outdoor/environmental policies.

As Coloradans, regardless of our political affiliation, we should support this measure. Protecting our outdoors, while planning for our future financial stability is the type of move that unites all of us together.

Give Your Input Into Colorado’s Big Game Hunting

Colorado Parks & Wildlife is asking the public’s input for developing their next 5-Year Big Game Season Structure for bear, pronghorn, deer, moose, and elk for the 2020-2024 hunting seasons.

Every five years, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) initiates a 5-Year Big Game Season Structure, which lays the foundation for the state’s big game hunting regulations.

The purpose of CPW’s five year plan is to lay the regulations for the allowable methods of hunting, the length of each season, which species are allowed, the amount of tags per species/per season, and other issues along those lines. The current five year plan expires at the end of 2019, which is why CPW is asking the the public’s input for the next five year plan.

Adam Wells, Pro-Staff Guide with The FlyFisher Guide Service, with the archery black bear take down.

If you’re a big game hunter in Colorado this is your opportunity to add input and make the changes you’d like to see. Grab the pronghorn by the horns and make your voice heard! Click here to take CPW’s survey for the 2020-2024, 5-Year Big Game Season Structure.

Ice Jam Flooding on The Roaring Fork River

I’ve been fly fishing here in Colorado for years and I’ve got to be honest– I’ve never given ice jam flooding a second thought. That’s on me. After watching the speed and intensity of the ice flooding on the Roaring Fork over the weekend, it’s something that should be on all of our radar’s moving forward.

Ice Flow on Roaring Fork River on January 4, 2019. Video by Ben de Sugny

2:01pm MST – As we predicted, the ice flow roared through Basalt this afternoon. While we unfortunately arrived 12 minutes after the flow, our friend Ben de Sugny captured this exceptional video from the 7-11 Bridge in Basalt, Colorado.

Posted by Roaring Fork Conservancy on Friday, January 4, 2019
courtesy of Roaring Fork Conservancy

Ice jams happen when warm temperatures cause a frozen river’s snow and ice to melt too rapidly, which then results in flash flooding down river.

If you’re going out fly fishing on any of Colorado’s rivers this winter, know your settings and be mindful of the environmental conditions around you. And I’m not saying that to be a fear-monger– admittedly, I’ve never put any thought into any type of winter flash flooding. But as we see here, fluctuating temperatures can cause weird things to happen.

The Colorado River Basin’s Great Crisis

The Colorado River Basin– which supplies water across 7 states and roughly 40 million residents– is in serious drought and in danger of running dry.

Red signifies extreme drought while dark red signifies exceptional drought.

From Colorado, and westward to California, the amount of water taken from the Colorado River is far outpacing the supply that Mother Nature is giving us. Many of us that ski during the winter, fish during run-off, or farm on the Western Slope have known that moisture levels haven’t been up to par recently. But a recent study by The Colorado River Research Group stated that the current and prolonged drought that the entire river basin is in shouldn’t even be considered a drought, because the word drought implies that the condition is temporary. Rather, their data shows that those of us that live in the multi-state Colorado River Basin are in a period of aridification. Which basically means that hotter and dryer conditions are here to stay. If you look at the most recent drought map published in late December 2018, by the US Drought Monitor, it doesn’t take a scientific eye to see that much of our state is hurting for more moisture.

Climate change, population growth, and mismanaged water supplies have led to this dire situation. From the year 2000 to 2014, the Colorado River experienced drought conditions that scientists say is unrivaled in the past 1,250 years. Couple that with population growth– which requires more drinking water to be drawn from the river for cities and more water used for agricultural production– and you’ll find a situation where the river and it’s reservoirs are disappearing. Lake Powell, located in southern Utah, is currently sitting at 48% capacity while Lake Mead, just outside of Las Vegas, NV, is at a dangerously low 38% of capacity. Here’s another scary number from a NASA led study, dating from 2004 to 2013, concluded that the river basin lost 17.3 trillion gallons of water! Compounding the issue even further, 75% of that lost water in the river basin is actually from ground water aquifers. That’s especially bad because ground water is irreplaceable– once it’s used it’s gone.

The new normal in Colorado River Basin reservoirs

The good news is that this problem is not going unrecognized. 6 of the 7 river basin states have agreed to sign drought contingency plans (DCPs), which would limit each state’s water consumption in the hopes of re-filling reservoirs before they reach critically low levels. Arizona is the only state which has yet to come to an agreement ratifying their DCP.

Regardless of if, or when, the 7 Colorado River Basin states implement a drought contingency plan, it’s not a long-term solution. It’s exactly what it says it is– a contingency plan. Contingencies are last case scenarios to avoid disaster.

We as Coloradans, and as a society, need to realize that this aridification that is strangling the American West is the new normal. Key studies show that the world is hotter and dryer which makes water storage and management more important than ever before. Our water planning and storage cannot be managed based on the assumption that precipitation is going to solve our problem.

We must conserve and reuse our water, carry out more efficient agricultural practices, and replace the hydroelectric energy created by Lakes Mead and Powell with other clean energies. Our quality of life and possible existence depend on immediate action.

Spread the word. Make personal changes. Call your local political leaders. This issue is too important to be ignored.

Colorado First Day Hikes

I have a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions I should tackle but one of them at the very top of the list is to not feel like complete death on New Year’s day. Cause nothing brings in the new year better than nursing a massive hangover, right?

Colorado Parks & Wildlife is here to help! Over 30 state parks will be offering free organized hikes on New Year’s day. Most of the parks will have raffles for various prizes as well.

The organized hikes are free but participants must have a park pass. Daily passes are $8.00 per vehicle while the annual pass is $80.00.

What sounds better: waking up on New Year’s day to a pounding headache, a lighter wallet, and possibly a few regrets from the night before or enjoying the beautiful panoramic view atop Carpenter Peak in Roxborough Park? Yeah, first day hike it is!

A complete list of participating parks can be found here.

Colorado’s Current Snow Pack Levels

Let’s start by saying this; snow is important! Nothing is better than shredding 80″ of fresh pow pow, but the snow we need is for far more important reasons than a good day on the mountain.

The snow that is accumulated over winter will in turn melt into our rivers and will irrigate our farms, become drinking water, and help keep our rivers healthy. It can’t be stated enough how important our winter snow pack is to all of us.

As of this writing, 5 of the state’s 8 river basins are above 100% of average. That is good. But not nearly good enough to help bump us out of the statewide drought we find ourselves in. The three river basin’s in the southwestern part of the state are hurting for more moisture.

Us mere mortals can’t change the forecast for more snow but we can stay up to date on the snow pack levels and conserve this precious resource as we wait for more snow to come.

Hiring Fly Fishing Guides for 2019 Season

Are you looking to get into the fly fishing industry for the first time? Are you a knowledgeable angler but lacking guide experience? Are you an experienced guide looking to join the Front Range’s best team? Do you have what it takes to deliver excellent fly fishing service and instruction?

We are hiring professional fly fishing guides, both new to the profession and seasoned veterans alike, to join our Denver based operation. For those new to guiding we offer top-notch training and for those that have been in the industry you’ll quickly realize what an opportunity this is.

Our philosophy aims to deliver the finest customer service, friendliest smile, and best fly fishing instruction that the Front Range has to offer. This is a fantastic opportunity to make great money, meet awesome clients, and guide on Colorado’s beautiful waters.

Please email me your resume and why you’d be a good fit. Make sure that you include a phone number and email address so I can contact you immediately. Tight lines!

Mike@theflyfisher.com

847-612-4961

West Coast Steelhead and Salmon

I was lucky enough to go spend the Thanksgiving holiday out in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. When you think of the Pacific North West you think of salmon and steelhead.  Weeks priors to my trip I spent hours online researching where I could go catch some salmon and steelhead.  What I discovered is that almost every river in the the Puget Sounds area is either closed to salmon and steelhead or has a short limited season. It is horrible to think that this fishery has taken a horrible decline because of over fishing.  I think every fishery around the country to should consider what has happened to the PNW fisheries. We need to take care of our fisheries and practice safe catch and release so our future generations can enjoy what we have. Here is a little video about what has happened on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

Musky on the Fly

Chasing muskies on the fly is something truly special. Many strive to catch the fish of 10,000 casts but not too many succeed. It is not for the faint of heart. As it involves casting huge flies all day with 10wt fly rods. Your fingers will be raw from stripping your line and your shoulders will be screaming from casting all day. But when that musky follows your fly up to the boat and eats it, thats what its all about. All the handwork and patients comes together and the lucky angler is rewarded with a fish of a lifetime. Check out the video below for some insight fishing for muskies.