Sunday, April 29, 2012

Let's get ready for Montana!

The annual Bighorn river trip is now less than a month away, so it is time to begin pumping those excitement juices into your bloodstream. Some friends and I have been doing this trip every summer since 2008 and have never ever had a single bad day on the river. We've fished it at 2500cfs (low) and at 15000cfs (record high) and always caught plenty of fish. We've also fished it at an ideal 3000-5000cfs and caught more than plenty of fish. And fish like this one have even been caught!

For those of you who haven't been there before, let me tell you just a little about it. It's one of those rivers you hear about because fishing there can be, and usually is, epic. With anywhere from 5000-13000 fish per mile (estimates vary wildly) at an average length of 16-18 inches, it's obvious how good the fishing is. Add in the fact that they are all wild fish in a tailwater than runs crystal clear no matter what, and you begin to understand why a lot of people schedule trips up there.

I still remember the first time we went there. It was just two of us that first trip and we were both still somewhat new to fly fishing. For us a big fish was 14 inches, and a good day on the river was catching 5 or more fish of any size. It's not surprising that we got hooked (pardon the lame pun) on this river immediately. The worst part was that we weren't used to catching big fish and ended up losing at least 70% of the fish we hooked!

Last year we changed things up and made the trip in March rather than late May.  The result was colder and wetter, but the fishing was as good or actually quite a bit better than the summer trips. You can read all about it here and here. And a fun video exists here.

From what I hear so far, the roster this year will be Eric, Frank, Dave, Brady and myself for the first few days. Then the first three of them have to leave and Brady and I will be met by Dan, John, Jack, Jonathan, Jim, Lew, and a few maybes:  Chad, Aaron, Corey, and Tyler. We're very very sorry to be missing Clif, Mike, Jerry, the Denzer duo, and Jon this year.  I expect you guys to clear your calendars next time!  And to not move to China and Canadia. We also welcome the newbies Isaac and Bobby. I promise you will have fun and you will catch fish.

And now you should meet all the participants in this years festivities (except I don't have action pics of Isaac, Jim, Corey, Aaron, Tyler, Dave, and Bobby, but I will after the trip--for next year!):

Me and my dad Dan

Brady and his dad Lew

Frank killing it

Jack studies a fish

Eric with the accidental quick release

Hipster John


Chad working it

Missing this year:




We're sorry you won't be there.  : (  
But the fish aren't!  : )

Friday, April 27, 2012

Preparation continues

After wasting using all my RS2's in Colorado two weeks ago, I have spent some time at the vise and am back in business.  Bring it on Bighorn river!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You're Welcome

I have recently made a significant investment in my capacity to better serve all my faithful readers.  A couple packages arrived today containing:

In case you can't see clearly, they're two spare camera batteries and three 8GB memory cards so I can take tons of video and infinite stills.  You can anxiously await all kinds of sweet videos in the future.

The way I see it, I'm investing money in my business (even though this "business" doesn't bring in any money).  So you should all call me a job creator now.  It doesn't matter that I didn't create any jobs, that's not what being a job creator is all about!

And you're right, "significant investment" is relative, and this was probably only significant for a child or to a homeless person.  Nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's all about the whiskey: Yampa day 2

To continue where I left off, I need to tell you about the second day of fishing. I know you're wondering how amazing or disapointing or frustrating it was. Hold your horses, we'll get there, but I need to start at the beginning. We woke up to a cold and windy morning and one by one crawled out of the tents with sore backs, tired eyes, and cold feet. There were a few hints of the clouds clearing, but it didn't look that good.  Then again as I said previously, bad weather is to some extent good here. After some breakfast and coffee we headed to the river and saw that, yes, it did look like the weather was keeping people away.

We didn't get to the river early but we were one of the only cars there. There should be a lot of river to work with! Jonathan and I got ready first and decided to go lunker hunting up by the damn. Things started slowly but we managed a few catches. One of mine was a little frightening looking and may be a case of whirling disease. It seemed to be capable of swimming and surviving at least for now though. And I hope this isn't something new here.

But after spending an hour or more and only getting a couple bites I lost my patience and began to wander.  Aside:  I find that I have less patience than most of the people I fish with and end up moving around a lot. I slowly started heading downstream, hitting the seams that looked good. Jonathan headed down as well and we took turns throwing flies into some good looking spots with the video running (and sipping the whiskey).  No bumps and thus no good footage. Sorry.

Eventually we made it down to where Brady and John were fishing and claimed to be having some luck on dries, which was fairly exciting. Exciting enough for me to take my nymphs off and put on a dry/emerger. I moved a bit upstream and after looking around and spotting some fish began casting to them. They rejected me just like a cute girl in a bar would if I had the guts to approach her. I tried switching up both flies but nothing helped. After only seeing a couple rises in the first 30 minutes in my area, I gave up on dries and tied my nymphs back on.

It didn't take long from there that I started getting lucky again. The first fish I hooked into seemed like a beast. He ran across the stream, then up stream, then downstream, then back up to me. All the while I'm doing my best to control him, but he absolutely refuses to come up to the surface. I begin to think I may have snagged him, but eventually I do get him to the surface near Jonathan, who's just downstream of me to net the fish. He wasn't snagged and he wasn't huge. Just a very very strong fighting fish. But pretty big at 19 inches.

All four of us fished this short 30 yard section of stream for the next couple hours, and as the weather came and went, the fishing stayed very constant with quite a lot of success. Everyone caught very regularly with a number of very nice sized fish each. And of course Brady fell in the water again. This time trying to net a fish for me, and having just five seconds earlier told me "I'm going to take it easy because I'm not falling in the river again." Classic. And not a great time to fall in the river since it was pretty cold and windy. But he had a flask so it was ok.

We kept fishing even as the weather began turning for the worse and in all I think everyone caught at least 5-10 fish out of this section in a few hours. Apparently I did a poor job of documenting it, though, because I only have a few pictures. Here they are of: someone's nice rainbow (I'm sure it was mine), Brady fighting a fish, and Jonathan half hiding one from the camera.

We were having a good time, but the weather continued to turn from bad to worse. It had been snowing a bit for a while, but then the wind kicked up. It was the sort of wind from downstream where to cast all you have to do is pick up your line and it will cast itself. And this kind of wind can be a little annoying when you're trying to fish out across river like I was at the time. After painfully fighting the wind with little success for 15 minutes I decided to take a break. Surely it would pass. I stood on the bank for a few minutes before John decided to join me. Then Jonathan decided to join us for a break too. Finally Brady gave in as well.  We stood there with our backs to the wind, passing around the flask, and watching the snow fall sideways for a little while.

Eventually we agreed that it wasn't going to let up any time soon and we had all caught enough fish that it would be fun to get on the road and grab a bite to eat somewhere on the way home. So we started the short hike out and although the picture doesn't quite do it justice, it looked like this:

Back at the car we got another angler who had been scared away by the weather to get a good pic to remember the trip by.

It was a good trip. We are now 2 for 2 at this river. Sort of. The weather has been slightly painful both times, but the fishing was excellent so I'm more than happy. It was also excellent company. Sometimes our fishing trips end up being 10 people or more, which is fun, but a smaller more intimate group is a lot more enjoyable in a number of ways.

And the whiskey goes farther that way.  Or is it further?  Whatever.

Now I start looking toward the big trip of the year, which will be even bigger, better, and more epic this year. The annual Bighorn river trip. A full 8 days of fishing for large and plentiful fish this year! It's gonna be great, but I need to spend some time at the vise over the next month because this trip to the Yampa consumed quite a few of my flies. I'm officially out of RS2's. That's how it goes when you're catching big fish and are supplying the rest of the slackers you're fishing with with flies. You're welcome guys.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Isn't he beautiful?

You know the answer is yes.

Sometimes you get lucky: Yampa day 1

To finish off the story of my fishing in Colorado last weekend I need to tell you about my experience at one of Colorado's best rivers.  The last time I was there was on a cold and rainy October weekend a year and a half ago.  And when you plan a trip in late October in the mountains you more or less plan on poor weather.  You can get lucky and have sunshine and warmth, but don't count on it.  April can be similar, but the budding spring brings with it an incessant and undeniable optimism that forcefully injects hope into you and makes you expect nice weather.

In the week or so prior to this trip we were all watching the weather forecast closely, and it did not look particularly good.  But by another metric it actually looked the opposite.  We were going to be camping and fishing, so cold and wet weather is an obvious drag.  The other metric at work was the fact that this was the Yampa.  I have only been here one other time and it was also cold and wet that time, but what I hear is that this placed gets absolutely mobbed on nice days.  So the poor weather helps keep the crowds down, which in my book is a massive plus.  I do not enjoy fishing shoulder to shoulder with people.  Despite the common adage it is not better than a good day at work to me.

To be specific the weather was calling for and did end up being something like a high of 35-40, overcast, and some precipitation.  And it did keep the crowds down. Day one was fairly nice but also slightly crowded.  Day two was pretty bad, but we had free reign on the river.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

We took off from Denver Friday later than expected, at around 4.  Or was it 5?  I don't recall, but it was later than the planned 3:30.  Then we had to fight I70 traffic and didn't get up to the campsite until well after dark which is always mildly annoying.  Eventually though we made it to camp, had some food, a fire, beers, whiskey, and finally some poor quality sleep (I can never sleep the first night camping).  

The next morning after a leisurely breakfast and two pots of coffee we were off to the river.  We weren't the first ones there, but there were only a couple other cars in the lot so it was looking good.  As it pretty much always goes, I was the first to get ready.  I don't know why it always works out that way, but it does.  

Gearing up

I headed down to the river and decided to walk downstream although most of the best fishing is conventionally assumed to be upriver.  I saw a couple fish on my way down and gave them a few casts but quickly decided they were rainbows preparing for a spawn and not eating anyways so I moved on.  The next nice looking seam was a fairly shallow bit just above a small wood dam and looked like a good next target.  And it became the first successful one.

First fish of the trip

After pulling a couple nice fish out of that spot and successfully not getting hung up in the wood dam just below, I decided to head upstream to see how everyone else was doing.  I was surprised to hear that everyone had already caught at least one!  I had only been fishing for maybe 20-30 minutes, and everyone else less.  Someone catching a fish in the first couple casts always results in nervous looks and a foreboding sense of a painfully slow day, but when everyone catches fish immediately it's quite the opposite. It was going to be a good trip and everyone was all smiles.

For the rest of the day we moved around some but caught fish everywhere.  Brady and I had to go up close to the dam at one point because we had caught some nice 20" toads up there last trip.  It worked pretty much the same this time around.  Drop an RS2 off some other nymph with a little weight, toss it into the 10-20 foot long seams up close to the dam, and in at most five casts have a nice fish on.  The tough part up there is landing the fish though because there are a lot of big boulders, logs, and waterfalls.  But land some fish we did.  And lose some fish we did, but that's less interesting.

I apparently didn't get pictures of the big ones, but one of mine is the decent sized brookie on the right.  And after catching that I had a thought.  I had already caught a number of cutts and rainbows so had managed a trifecta.  But what about the elusive quadupta, which I just made up?  Is it possible to catch a cutt, rainbow, brookie, and brown out of the same river in one day?  Well, the answer is yes and here it is for day one:

I don't think I was the only one to manage it either.  In fact Brady may have actually managed a quintupta by randomly catching a whitefish too, but he paid for it by falling in the river immediately afterward.  Don't worry about him though; it's a daily occurrence and we're all now used to it.

In all it was an excellent start to a two day fishing expedition.  I remain amazed enthralled by this river.  As much as it gets fished, the fish are pretty damn stupid easy to catch.  I usually get killed on extremely technical rivers like cheeseman canyon and the dream stream:  rivers that see significant angling pressure nearly every day of the year and are full of well educated fish, so I can assure you it's not my fishing prowess.  The fish of the Yampa are just dumb despite being very large and plentiful.

Of course the downside is what I already mentioned:  too many people on nice days.  I have yet to experience one of those "nice" days so this river is still one of my favorites.  Everyone and their mother should go visit it and experience fishing heaven for themselves.

Don't worry, Day 2 post will be soon to follow.  I know you're now salivating to hear how much better it got!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Skunk Killer

Until this past weekend, I was 0-fer for the year in my fishing expeditions.  Yes, that's right. 0-fer.  That would be zero fish caught in five or six outings.  But I have an excuse! No, I'm not a terrible angler, at least I hope not.  I have been steelhead fishing and I know next to nothing about steelhead other than they are hard to locate and catch.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

And after a number of painful skunks early in the year I was more than ready to go somewhere I know I can catch fish.  So I scheduled a trip back to Colorado to fish two places where I know I will catch quite a few fish.  My two places?  South Boulder Creek (if you read me regularly you had already guessed) and a quick two day trip up to the Yampa River outside Steamboat Springs.

South Boulder Creek, at least where I fish it, is the sort of place where you can catch something like 5-10 fish per hour.  At least that's my experience, probably because I've fished this quarter mile section of river something like 50 times.  It used to be my go to place in the summer most weekends when I didn't have another trip planned. The fish aren't huge, but there's a healthy mix of a million 6-10 inchers and a handful of 10-16 inchers if you know where to look.  Like this one.

The other bonus is it's an enjoyable hike in, the scenery is nice with some sheer cliffs, and it's usually fairly secluded, although on a weekend day you might run into another angler or two but it's otherwise rare.

I have to admit, though, I might be a bit of a simpleton.  It's more fun to me to go up here and catch 50 fish less than 10 inches in an afternoon, than to go up to Cheeseman canyon and hunt for lunkers and maybe get lucky enough to catch one or two 18-22 inchers.  Are you with me or are you totally against me?

Unfortunately, I didn't get away as early as I had hoped Friday morning, and I had to be back to Denver by 2 to gather people to head to the Yampa so my fishing outing here was a mere 2-3 hours.  I still had fun and caught fish.  Anyway, I will leave you with some more pics from my outing and longing for a future post on the Yampa trip.  But a quick tease:  last time I went there I claimed it was the best day of fishing I had ever experienced.  And this time I managed the elusive quadrupta two days in a row!  I might have made up that word, but after the post you will know what it means.

First fish of the day

 Yes, I rocked the autoreel for a little while.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Buster wants to fish

This is a shout out to all my fans in Colorado.  I'm coming in this weekend for a fishing trip, and have a morning open for some pre-fishing fishing.  Assuming flows remain reasonable I'm thinking of hitting up my old home waters on the South Boulder Creek.  Friday morning till noonish.

Anyone care to join me?

Here's what a typical morning looks like:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pond or Puddle

My parents are planning to move back to their original hometown in central Missouri for retirement.  With that goal in mind they recently acquired some land and are planning to build a house.  Pretty much all the land in the area is farmland or is surrounded by farmland.  This land is no different.  It's a little more rolling and wooded than some of the other land but it's generally similar.

When I was little, pretty much all our holidays (and a number of additional weekends) were spent down here with the extended family.  And every trip in which I could manage, there was some fishing involved.  When I was very little, the target was panfish and the medium was bobbers and worms.  As I aged I discovered that the more active pursuit of bass fishing was more enjoyable. Beyond that, there are also catfish and snapping turtles and certainly other creatures of the deep to chase.

With all this in mind, can you guess what my first question was when my dad told me they had picked out a plot of land?  Of course, it was "does it have any ponds?"  The answer was "yes, two."  My retort:  "Woohoo!"  The existence of small farm ponds everywhere in the area is very nearly a given.  These things are little tear drops of the gods and are sprinkled everywhere.  Then I visited in person and saw the ponds and felt slightly disappointed.  They are quite small.  Not so small as to not hold fish, but small enough that at best they hold a bunch of palm sized (max) panfish and couple 8-14" mini bass.

What was worse was that the best place to put the house was too close to the smaller of the two ponds, so it had to go. But perhaps that was a blessing in disguise.  This small pond was probably at most 30 feet across; a glorified mud puddle.  My dad was doubtful there were any fish in there, I figured a few small panfish.  We were both wrong.  I don't know all the details, but a few pictures arrived in my email inbox this week.  That pond had been drained and the fish were collected.  Here are the two pics I received.  I hope my cousin doesn't mind making his debut on my blog.

A pretty small bass, but a bass.  Very positive.  But even more positive was the ridiculous sized carp for a pond this small.

No I'm looking forward fishing the slightly larger pond that's still there.  Who knows what lies within!

I'm also looking forward to convincing my parents to either make that pond bigger or to put in another bigger one with all kinds of great bass and carp habitat.