16Jul

Dreaming of High Mountain Lakes-Ice off above timberline

Fewer tornadoes and flash floods means that Colorado’s temperamental weather has potentially found its summer groove. Inclement weather just means waiting longer for ice-off in the high country. More often than not, when we are getting rain, above timber line is usually getting sleet, snow or both. If you live in CO you know what I’m talking about. June was filled with tough weather for the outdoorsy type, but this July’s heat spell has catalyzed the ice-off in the high country that we have been waiting for. Although, a few north facing cirque lakes shadowed from the south may remain ice covered.

This past weekend I finally made it into the high country for a weekend long backpacking/fishing trip. the Holy Cross Wilderness area near Vail and Leadville is a popular backcountry destination for the ambitious adventurer and one of the original spots where my high country fly fishing virginity was taken.
Holy Cross Wilderness You can see why I have been going back to this area pretty much every year.

Although originally, years ago, after trekking up this steep bushwack I was most often greeted with the presence of a little back country gem. Colorado’s native Colorado River cutthroat trout. Picture 21

But as always in Colorado’s high country, the invasive imports from the east coast, brook trout, are more than likely to show up on the end of your line.
Holy Cross Brook Trout But with a little research and a lot of work hiking up a steep bushwack…Lenny the Japanese Tourist

you may be rewarded with one of Colorado’s native treasures…
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If you love fly fishing rivers and lakes but are yearning for something a bit more adventurous take a hike into the back country…
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see some scenery….
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and get a line in the WATER!
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and hopefully catch some fish.
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Finally, if you actually read this and are seriously considering a trip into the back country, I’d like to leave you with one of the best resources I’ve found on the subject. A publication on Colorado Fishing that has detailed information on every drainage in the state. Including information on what lakes in the high country have what species and how good the fishing is at each location. Are you kidding me? A book that rates back country fishing locations? But there are so damn many in this state? Yes, this book covers A LOT of them. Originally this book was published by Tim Kelley in 1954. How would you like to have had his job? Fish the state and write a book about it. Sounds pretty sweet.

In 2001, Kip Carey updated Tim Kelley’s book. In 2003 Carey released the most recent edition. It is titled “Kip Carey’s Official Colorado Fishing Guide”

Don’t forget… all regulations in the book were updated 6 years ago. Always make sure to look at the Colorado Fishing Regulations Brochure (I heard the dude on the front likes to party) Check the regs before fishing any new waters, especially if you’re a bait fisherman or want to keep any fish. Last summer I saw a kid walking down a trail from the high alpine lake where I was hoping to find some big cuts. This young kid, who looked about 20 years old, was wearing an oversized 49’er football jersey and was carrying a big (20’+) fish in a sock. He bragged that he caught it with his hands. I told him that not only catching fish with your hands is an illegal method of fishing, it is also illegal to kill fish at this location. Not to mention, it’s unethical and it pisses a lot of people off (like me). I’m pretty sure he didn’t check the regs.

Now that I have a copy of the Official Colorado Fishing Guide, I’ve spent hours looking at maps and comparing them with Kip’s recommendations. I just keep wondering, what if I had learned about this book years ago?! I would of saved numerous days hiking to random lakes on the map casting to nothing but winter kill, or lakes that aren’t suited well for a trout’s survival in through winter. Kip kindly points out these temperamental lakes for us in his book. Thanks Kip, you are the man. Where do I sign up to update the next edition????


When I first caught the fly fishing bug about 6 years ago I found myself obsessed with all the different species you can catch on a fly rod. Trout were fun and still are, of course, but when you think about it, the possibilities of going after various species of fish in fresh and saltwater all around the globe are almost endless.

It was winter ’05 when my fishing buddy Billy asked me if I wanted to go to Costa Rica with him during our break from school and workouts in May. The first thing that came to my mind was “I wonder what kind of fish we can catch there?” Thinking back on it, I didn’t have a clue what fly fishing in saltwater is all about. So, I did a lot of research and found “The Rich Coast” offers good variety of waters to fish. You can either go deep sea or off shore fishing on the west coast for Marlin, Rooster-fish, Dorado etc. while the Caribbean ocean on the east coast offers more of a tropical flats style of fishing, maybe some bonefish or permit and this a fish called a tarpon. At the time, I didn’t really know what a tarpon was, and was completely clueless as to the incredible fighting abilities it possessed. However, Billy and I soon found out.

We flew into the capital, San Jose, and hopped on a bus headed for a small town in the most southern tip of the eastern coast. Just north of Panama, the town of Manzanilla sits in the midst of a jungle lush with various species of primates, birds, and insects that never stop chirping, humming, and singing to you.

Within minutes we found a fishing guide, Delroy, who greeted us on his rusty bicycle outside what appeared to be the only bar/restaurant/hotel this tiny town had to offer. He said, “You FLY FISH?” in his broken english and we set up a trip for the next day. The next morning we boarded his ponga and motored down the coast until we reached a large river mouth spewing its muddy water into the clear blue ocean at the edge of a dense green jungle. He pointed to the water and said “cast.” We didn’t have a clue what we were doing so he showed us. He flopped the fly in the water and let out some line and let the fly sink. He demonstrated stripping the fly in against the current letting his fly line fall and collect on the floor of the boat. All of a sudden his line went taut and his fly line started flying around everywhere, he hooked a TARPON! It was like he hooked a train. Out in the distance we saw a large silver fish flying out of the water completing a full back flip. Delroy struggled to let the line through his fingers as it wrapped around his thumb. “Oh shit” Billy yelled as I tried to help Delroy unwrap the line tight around his finger. Suddenly, the line went loose, the fish broke off. I asked Delroy “Man, what would you have done if it didn’t break off?” He responded, by lifting his opposite hand and showing us his other thumb that was severed at the knuckle. He said “Thats how this happened” pointing to his injured thumb. Apparently fishing the same technique cost him half of his thumb.
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Delroy needed a nap after the tarpon almost took his other thumb.

You’d think he would learn a new technique. Like the technique Captain Clifford Ramos taught us at the Barra del Colorado (Barra is spanish for “place where river current meets sea tide.”)

After a day of fishing off Manzanilla we traveled north for a few days ending up in the Barra del Colorado, a small fishing village nestled where hundreds of miles of river maze ends and flows into the Caribbean Ocean. The Barra del Colorado is only reachable by boat or plane. When we arrived by a small passenger boat, little did we know that we were in one of the best places to fish for tarpon in the world. The large river mouth provides a low salinity breeding ground which tarpon prefer for spawning activity. We spent the next two days with Clifford who taught us a technique that would NOT result in a severed thumb by simply not stripping line, rather jigging it, letting your line stay taut with the pull of the boat against the current and holding the same spot in the line and retrieving it back and forth against the current. This way, when a tarpon takes the fly, you don’t have to worry about all of your slack shooting up and potentially wrapping around something, like your thumb.

We finished the two day trip jumping about 20 fish between the two of us. The tarpon, completely annihilating our gear.
670888105205 This one I hooked right next to the boat while I was reeling in my line. He immediately jumped right over the back of the boat 6 ft in the air nearly knocking out Clifford, He successfully ducked, dodging the fish. He then smiled while telling us it wasn’t the first time that has happened to him. He estimated it weighed about 180 lbs. The beast snapped my fly line in two.

While Billy surrendered and moved to conventional tackle the silver kings still managed to strip the drag on his spin reel. It was making loud cracking sounds as he reeled in. 843234305205 Despite the equipment problems he still managed to land this nice 60 lb tarpon.

Honestly I was disappointed I didn’t land a tarpon on that trip, but after talking to other tarpon anglers and reading up on the subject, I realized that jumping a handful of giant tarpon like that was a pretty good accomplishment. Anglers typically don’t “land” tarpon that often, its usually a game of “I jumped a couple tarpon today” rather than “I landed a bunch.” To land a big boy is quite the feat. So I was now officially obsessed with Megalops atlanticus.

After landing a couple Puerto Rican baby tarpon on my Angling the Globe trip I still think about those 180 pounders I hooked in Costa Rica.

This spring I got a chance to head south to Boca Grande, Florida to chase after some big tarpon on the flats and beaches. Tarpon migrate north in the late spring early summer in search of spawning grounds. They daisy chain and swim in circles surrounding the spawning female and follow each other along sand bars up the coast. This time of the year (late spring early summer) is best for sight fishing to a 100+ lb fish. With a good guide and a decent cast you can put a fly right in front of their face, its just a matter of getting one to take your fly…

So if you haven’t yet, go after some tarpon. So far, I haven’t found a more exhilarating fish to catch. Just watch out for your thumb.


04May

Dreaming of High Mountain Lakes-Colorado's Cuts

The State of Colorado has three sub-species of native cutthroat trout. The Colorado River cutthroat trout, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, and Colorado’s state fish: The Greenback cutthroat trout. The Continental Divide separates the Colorado River cuts from the Greenbacks, with Colorado River cuts to the west, and Greenbacks to the east. The Rio Grande cuts are distributed throughout the Rio Grande river basin in South Central Colorado.

All three sub-species are essentially identical in appearance
green back cutthroat tail
All three sub-species can have different shades of yellow red and green throughout their bodies with a red mark on their throat (hence the name “cutthroat”) but the defining characteristic that makes it easy separate the cutthroats from other trout is their black spots. Pure cutthroats have a high concentration of black spots on their tail while the spots lessen towards their head where they have very few or none at all.
green back cutthroat

Due to the introduction of nonnative salmonoids like rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout over the last century cutthroats have been displaced from their historical ranges. They typically won’t be found in some of the popular rivers and lakes around the state. This means cutthroats are widespread throughout smaller high elevation creeks and lakes (Thanks to Cutthroat Trout Conservation Programs) Which makes going to these places that much more special.
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Ice off at high mountain lakes typically comes in late May/early June and not till late June in some places. So get geared up with a lightweight backpack, sleeping bag and tent, grab your rod and get excited for a high mountain lake trip into Colorado’s high country.


24Apr

Dreaming of High Mountain Lakes

In anticipation of ice off in the high country I will be posting pictures over the next couple weeks to get people excited for the back country fishing season. Colorado’s native cutthroat trout are the main reason to make a long strenuous trek into high alpine areas. artistic-cut But more often than not, these indigenous gems are just an excuse to travel off the beaten path and into some of the most astoundingly beautiful places known to man. willow-lake


23Apr

Water Wolf

Warming temperatures mean more opportunities for catching a wider variety of species while fly fishing. Recently, I got a chance to check out a local pike fishery here in Denver. It was a good morning catching some Northern Pike (Esox lucius which literally translates to “Water Wolf”) imgp0216-rotated Its always a good thing when you walk right up and nail a fish on the second cast… like this hungry water wolf weighing in at about 5 lbs

imgp02231 These ambush predators spawn in the spring time. They build spawning beds in the shallow weedy waters which makes fishing from shore or the shallow areas much more effective throughout the spring and early summer.

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For pike, I’ve always had good luck with big black flies with a little red flash and red eyes. Fishing a large double bunny or leech while using an extra slow strip usually entices a take.

imgp0219 This one followed my fly all the way up to the shore line locked in on my fly. He just wouldn’t take it though. Once my leader hit my top guide and the pike was directly below the tip of my rod I started to jig my fly when his carnivorous instincts finally kicked in and he inhaled my fly. I thought… damn water wolfs are sweet. I can’t wait to get after some big ones this year. Good places around the Colorado to fish for Pike include Eleven Mile Reservoir, Williams fork Reservoir, and Stagecoach Reservoir.


31Mar

Spring Spawning Runs

Springtime, a blossoming time for not only forage but also for a certain salmonoid, one that is known for his high leaping fighting abilities. If you’ve ever seriously fished in Colorado you should know who I’m talking about. Native to the Pacific northwest and introduced to Colorado in the 1880’s, rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) typically make spawning runs during springtime. However, many purists discourage fishing for spawning trout. Due to the innate behavior during spawning, trout become much more aggressive and therefore are easier to catch. Well sorry, rainbow trout spawn in the spring, a time when there might be a chance that my feet aren’t completely numb after wading in the river all day. Not to mention it is one of the best times of the year to get a shot at a true monster, and trust me, these fish are not easy to catch.


05Mar

The Frying Pan

No, not a pan to fry eggs in… a river… an infamous river. One of the most sought after trout fisheries in the west. The red sandstone rock walls surround this trout rich tailwater that flows out of Ruedi Reservoir, just minutes from Basalt and the roaring fork valley. Its almost as if god decided there wasn’t enough good rivers in the area (the Crystal, the Roaring Fork and the Colorado to name a few, are all neary by) and bestowed another beautiful little gift for us fisherman to utilize. One among many we are so fortunate to be blessed with here in the State of Colorado.

The first day we fished the weather was amazing, the sun was shinning and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Despite the non stop sunshine we were still forced to break ice off our guides every 5-10 casts… but that was the least of our worries because we were catching fish!
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A nice brown caught while dredging an RS2

Midday bugs started to come off and fish were rising everywhere. In the hole we were fishing huge rainbows and browns were coming out of no where and slamming bugs near the surface. Grey RS2’s size 20-22 were the most productive. There were multiple times when me and my buddy Tradd were both hooked up at the same time.
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Two nice browns we had to land in the same net

The non stop action continued until about 3pm when we decided to head down stream… where the action continued
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I caught this little buddy just before dark.

The next day woke up to the sun shining and already 45-50 degree temperatures. After loading my car and sweating profusely I thought, damn its hot, it feels like spring! I was forced to take off a couple layers…. and never put them back on. The mid 60 temperatures were amazing… and surprisingly enough, there was hardly anyone else on the water. It was like we had this whole river to ourselves. We fished all day in the same hole catching a handful of fish. I managed to get some great video of the action. When the action died down we headed down stream.
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Tradd hooked a couple fish while I filmed, then I nailed one after my video camera’s hard drive was full.
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Surprisingly this fat little rainbow gave me the best fight of the weekend, immediately after I hooked him in the current he leaped up out of the water like a true wild rainbow should… I stripped line and watched him jump again and again. After a good 7 or 8 leaps all over the place he thrashed downstream into the current and pulled line out of my drag. I couldn’t believe this little fish (maybe 12″-14″) was fighting this hard. After battling him for a couple minutes I brought him in and was able to get a couple pictures.

I’ve done a fair amount of winter fishing, and I’d have to say this was the best winter fly fishing trip I’ve ever been on… great weather and no asses and elbows (large crowds where your ass almost touches the elbow of an angler next to you) you can’t ask for much more on the pan… in fact I was so stoked about the weekend that I threw together a short video teaser:


03Feb

Marathon Redfish

I always wondered why anyone would ever want to run a marathon. Legend has it that Pheidippides, a Greek soldier relaying a message to Athens: “the persians have been defeated in Battle of Marathon,” delivered the message, then collapsed and died. This is where the word Marathon comes from, people running really far and hopefully not dropping dead. Don’t ask me why, but my girlfriend Sara, a dedicated runner decided to run a marathon about a year ago. When she decided New Orleans was a good place to run the 26 miles and 385 yards the first thing that came to my mind was Red Drum, or more commonly referred to as Red Fish. I did some research and if you’re willing to sell a couple rod/reel outfits on craigslist you might be able to afford a guide. A fly fishing addict friend of mine suggested looking into renting a kayak. This was the best idea yet, but finding a place that rents kayaks in New Orleans is impossible. No such thing. I did find a good ole’ boy named Ken Linn on Grand Isle that rents Kayaks and will even come out on the water “Hosting” you to fish.

I got in late friday night, rented a car and drove south towards Grand Isle. I Passed a variety of signs saying swamp airboat tours, crawfish for sale and what looked like shrimping boats and other large commercial fishing boats that lined the canal at night. Navigating through the labyrinth of back roads finally lead me to Hwy 1 which winds through the bayou and swamp that butts up to the “low shoulder” on either side of the road. Beached and broken down boats, turned over cars, wrecked and abandoned houses lined the shore line as evidence of hurricanes such as Katrina and Ike were scattered through the area.

Outside my motel, the sunrise over the Gulf Coast shimmered over the countless silhouettes of oil rigs far off the shore. As I filmed the sunrise a dolphin cruised across the breaking waves in front of me. Appearing to be feeding its fin slashed back and forth through the water moving swiftly across the gleaming break. As I sat at the Star Fish Restaurant enjoying an omelette with grits and a homemade biscuit Ken Linn, my host for the morning explained the dolphin was most likely scratching itself on the sandy beach bottom. We talked fishing and he showed me a calender chart of the tides for January, he pointed out that not only the did I choose the last day of the month, I also chose the worst day to try to catch a fish. This was due to the small fluctuation in the tide that day. On the plane ride out there I read a tidbit in one of the best fly fishing mags out there, if not THE best: The Drake In the midst of amazing big bull red fish pictures it elegantly explained how winter was pretty much the toughest time of year for red fish. So here I was on the worst day of the worst time of year to go out and catch one of these.

I had been red-fishing once before while visiting New Orleans for my brother’s bachelor party. In the midst of the debauchery we managed to get in a day of red-fishing on conventional tackle. Which, by the way was totally sweet.
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My brother Tony’s red-apparently he doesn’t remember catching it, even though it was the biggest fish of the trip. Bachelor parties are great.

On the worst day of the worst time of year, I thought to myself. I’ve already caught red fish before, its not going to be a big deal if I can’t hook into one today. I’m just happy to get a day on the water. Well that notion passed quickly. After loading the yaks and a quick interview with my gracious host, we hit the water. Ken paddled slowly in front while we navigated through the marsh. Akin to trout fishing, stealth was important. Apparently I was muscling through the paddling and Ken had to keep reminding me not to. We hit a couple holes where different channels converged and shores turned into shelves. When the tide is stagnant so is the food. So the best technique is to throw where fish might be holding and waiting for a convenient meal. Such as shelves and deep holes. The 4th or 5th place we stopped Ken told me to throw it across a spot where 3 or 4 channels merged into one. On about the 5th cast I felt a hard take and set the hook. After a diligent battle on the 9 wt I landed my first red on a fly. I handed the fish in the net and my rod to Ken so he could parade the fish for my cameras:
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I was pretty stoked to have actually caught a red on the fly during potentially the worst day to fish of the year….

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despite the unfavorable tide it was a gorgeous day, I’m sure there are worse times to fish than this. Fishing in a hurricane would not be very sweet.

A couple hundred yards down from an oil processing plant we drifted with the wind down a long channel lined with tall stakes sticking up. They were marking an oil pipe line below. A long bridge like structure constructed of wood stood at the end of the channel. Ken stopped, anchored, and threw his grub in at the edge of the barrier. Almost immediately he yelled “FISH ON.”
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I was glad Ken got a fish before he had to leave, but more importantly I was glad he showed me his money hole. I think the reason this hole was so money was because I was sitting in my kayak in no more than 8 inches to a foot of water, and the hole was probably 8-9 ft deep. This man made barrier made a great shelf for the fish to sit and wait for food at. I was able to fish a couple other spots to give the hole a break, but as soon as I got back I hooked into fish.
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I caught fish using a variety of patterns, this one I nailed on a crab pattern, most commonly used for permit. I used a variety of stripping techniques and found when the action slowed down the fish liked the slow long strip then abruptly stripping short and quick
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I once heard the reason red fish have the big black eye-like spots on their tails is to trick predators in thinking their tails are really their heads
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Fishing from a kayak is challenging but relaxing. Ken had a great anchor set up. It was a 5 ft piece of 1 1/2″ pvc pipe on a short rope. When you find a spot you want to set up at, you just shove that thing down into the mud and it holds you in place. Ken also showed me that sitting “side saddle” with your legs off side of the yak can be pretty comfortable and can help position you in the desired direction.
I spent all afternoon in that hole catching a handful of these 15-20 inch fish. All, including the 5 or 6 that spit my fly, were a kick in the ass on the 7 wt.
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Here’s a nice one I caught on a borski deer hair slider, a killer bonefish pattern also Ron Volk’s favorite fly
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The day ended with a great sunset while birds surrounded the nearby sky. One peculiar pelican didn’t mind flying right over my head back and forth numerous times as he crashed down into the water feeding on fish.

Now that the fishing was over, it was time to head to New Orleans. Sara and her 2 crazed marathon running friends got plenty of sleep while I got to party with their 8 wild friends on Bourbon Street. Which, lets just say… is a little different than partying with a group of 15 guys and a bachelor on Bourbon Street. I’m sure my girlfriend and her running partners loved my pre-game speech at 5:30 am. The moral of my speech: don’t collapse and die!


07Jul

4th of July Greenback Cuts

In lieu of debauchery and fireworks on our country’s birthday some friends and I decided to trek up to a remote high alpine lake located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area in search of greenback cuts.

The strenuous hike up was well rewarded with gorgeous scenery…

…while we immediately started catching fish…

…lots of fish…

…not bad for 11,500 ft.

While the sun sets over the lake…

does anyone want tequila shots? Sure why wouldn’t I?

The next day was a bit over cast in the morning…

…but cleared up a bit. This is Lenny,

he likes taking pictures….with no shirt on…just a fishing vest

Shirtless fisherman can still land fish

and pretend its still winter

This was the highlight of the trip….he was too big to get in the frame

…so this was the best I could do…I’m guessing at least 17 in. maybe bigger…..a great fight on the 2 wt. 

 

 

I failed to include pictures of our final day….lets just say rain, hail, lighting, taking cover, wet undergarments, and soaked boots were in effect, all day.


15Apr

Angling the Globe, The Trailer

The new trailer for Angling the Globe, featuring the extraordinary country: South Africa.

With apartied’s troublesome past, a plethora of natural beauty, and an array of cultures South Africa was one of the most intriguing countries I visited traveling the world on Semester at Sea. Not to mention the amazing fly-fishing opportunities. From yellowfish to tiger fish to trout Sudesh Pursad, a local fly fishing expert out of Johannesburg took me to Kosi Bay, just south of the Mozambique border. This bay surrounded by rocky hills was rich in natural splendor and inhabited by our target species: the Kingfish, Caranx Ignobilis, AKA The GIANT TREVALLY.