Colorado Parks and Wildlife video production crew recently teamed up with fly-fishing guides Alex Zipp and Cody Hale from the Drift Fly Shop in Pueblo. They went searching for a Lake Pueblo grand slam which includes a smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass as well as a wiper and a carp.
A couple years back a friend hired a fly fishing guide out of Long Island named Robin Calitri with CSIC Again Charters. Robin not only put him on his first striper on a fly, my friend had a field day on the water, catching stripers left and right. After seeing pictures of him holding good size STRIPPED BASS and BLUEFISH I knew I had to try it out for myself.
My wife is from North Jersey and when we decided to get married on the east coast the first thing that came to mind (besides all those important wedding details) was Striped Bass. The drive from my in-laws in Bergen County, NJ to the North side of Long Island was surprising short. An hour and a half of hectic NY highways, paying tolls and the towering city scape above was a bit different than driving below the high peaks of the Continental Divide that I’m used to in Colorado. Additionally, instead of targeting delicate trout we’re going after a resilient saltwater predator. For that matter, I’ll trade a mountain view and a 4 weight rod for a metropolis view and a 10 weight any day!
We had a couple amazing days on the water. Catching stripers and bluefish over and over. We lost count after about twenty fish the first day while the first fish of the trip was a 32 inch monster. I wish I had caught it later in the trip to really appreciate its hugeness. After catching plenty of fish under 10 pounds that 14 pound 32 inch beast was a great fish to pop my striper cherry.
We caught a number of big fish while one of the 30+ inch fish was tagged by the AMERICAN LITTORAL SOCIETY
Check it out:
An interesting side note, Robin sent the information from the tagged fish into the American Littoral Society. In addition to receiving a patch he found out that two months prior the same fish was caught 60 miles northeast of where he caught it. At that time the fish was 28 inches. That means in two months the fish grew three and a half inches. I wish our docile trout grew that fast!
I was freshly engaged a year ago when my best men asked me what I wanted to do for a bachelor party. Well, besides the obvious (That I wanted to party) I wanted to fish. I suggested a destination or two that I knew would yield good fishing. At first, I thought an exotic destination like Cabo, Central America or Cuba would be a great place to party and fish. Bonefish, permit and my favorite: Tarpon, would make for a sweet trip with my best buddies. I then quickly figured out that if you actually want your buddies to show up at your bachelor party AND your destination wedding then having a local and cheap party might be the way to go. Who am I to decide where my own party is anyway? Considering there are a handful of rivers in our neighboring states that I have not been to this local and cheap option sounded good to me.
The Green river below Flaming Gorge dam was the first river my best men suggested. I had never been but had heard good things. We spent months preparing the trip, from reserving a campsite to making sure all attendees had a spot on a boat. The plans were coming together nicely and the flows looked good until a couple weeks before our trip. With record snow pack they began releasing more and more water from the dam the weeks prior to our trip. We remained optimistic until the flows all of the sudden jumped to 8,000 CFS. I’m not really into white water rafting so we immediately established a back up plan: The Bighorn River in Montana.
Less than 8 hours from Denver …
… with 10,000 fish per mile, the Bighorn river offers great fishing
With stream access laws that heavily favor public use, Montana is a great place to visit. The Bighorn has plenty of public use areas to access the river and camp. We camped at a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks property: Bighorn fishing Access site which also served as our take out.
Bighorn’s fish are educated, you must be quick on your hook sets or they’ll spit your fly faster than you think. While everyone in our group caught plenty of fish, even the beginners. One may assume that with 10,000 fish per mile the odds would be in your favor. Although, the fish in the Bighorn seem to fight like larger fish than they actually are. The fish in the Bighorn are wild and will give you and your rod a work-out …
… nothing is better than a hearty post work-out meal after a day spent flexing your guns and your rods
Although the Green River is still high on my must fish list, the high flows before our trip were a blessing in disguise. Fort Smith, MT is not the best place to throw a beer party. It’s a dry Indian reservation so buy your beer before you get there.
When I asked my fiance if she would go ice fishing with me I was pleasantly surprised to hear her response, “Sure! That sounds fun” she said. With a big grin on my face I replied “Really? Wow!” Going fishing, AND spending time with the better half without the guilt of leaving her. Talk about a win-win for a guy about to enter the married world.
We’re not big ice fisherman, so we borrowed an extra rod, an auger, some snow shoes and a hut then set off to a Routt Country reservoir.
Hiking through the spring slush can yield a good work out, even with snow shoes and especially when towing a hefty sled. But the hike soon paid off.
With the right habitat and bug life stocked rainbow trout can grow to impressive sizes. They can be caught on a variety of tackle. I’ve seen most success on jig-heads, spoons and kast masters in small to medium sizes.
This rainbow was caught on a large spoon while targeting pike.
Typically midday (10am-2pm) are the best times for catching trout through the ice, but some swear by the early morning or late evening bite.
USE CAUTION – Early and late season ice conditions can change quickly, always use caution and check the latest ice conditions.
Snake River Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii ssp are a sub-species of the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri. They are native to the Snake River in Wyoming and Idaho. Even though these colorful fish are not native to Colorado, there’s a good chance of catching one.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife’s fish hatchery system produces a significant amount of Snake River Cutthroat trout each year
These fish do really well in hatcheries. They have a high survival rate and once stocked they have the potential to grow to trophy size
Snake River Cutthroats are defined by their fine spots and reddish orange coloring
The “Dream Stream” stretch of the South Platte River below Spinney Mountain Reservoir and Eleven Mile Reservoir holds a healthy population of Snake River Cutthroats
With winter in full effect and ski season well underway the cold has settled into the Rocky Mountain high country. When you’re out there making turns remember that somewhere below all that high alpine snow there are flowing waters that hold endemic fish that have lived there for a million years. In Colorado we have three subspecies of native cutthroat trout: Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis, Greenback Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii stomias and the Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii pleuriticus. Highlighting pleuriticus, here is the 9th episode of am Colorado:
To see more episodes of am Colorado visit the CDOW VIDEO PAGE
Fly-fishers dreaming of the days ahead on Colorado lakes and streams can amplify their visions by immersing themselves in “Fly Fishing Colorado,” a feature-length DVD from the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
More than two years in the making, “Fly Fishing Colorado” takes viewers on a year-round tour of fly-fishing adventures spanning the entire state, from the loftiest reaches of alpine lakes to warm-water reservoirs and all points between. Anglers will get a firsthand look at the best fly-fishing that Colorado has to offer, as seen through the lenses of DOW’s revamped video production unit.
Fly-fishers can scroll through the pages of a weathered journal to find finicky trout rising to dry flies or high-speed wipers ripping line from screaming reels. Experience the thrill of catching all three native trout species against a backdrop of high-mountain scenery. Share the underwater haunts of northern pike, and take a ride on a jet boat for a lazy drift down a gentle river.
The journal also reveals when and where to find a multitude of the famous and not-so-well-known insect hatches that occur on major rivers and backcountry streams. Be in the right place at the right time to find trout rising to green drake, blue-winged olive, red quill and pale morning dun mayflies.
What to expect
Explore the stages of the Mother’s Day caddis hatch from start to finish, and discover the importance of widespread and prolific summer caddis hatches. Travel to mountain park reservoirs for famous still-water hatches and trophy-sized trout. Be there for the action when kokanee salmon, brown trout and native mountain whitefish make spawning runs up golden corridors of rivers cloaked in the dazzling colors of autumn in the Rocky Mountains.
The journal also is packed with fly-fishing instruction for anglers of all skill levels. There are techniques for fishing nymphs, dry flies and streamers. Proven fly patterns are listed for all events.
“Fly Fishing Colorado” is a useful tool for anglers making plans and scheduling trips to coincide with fly-fishing events.
The DVD also is designed to recruit anglers. Anglers spend nearly $1.5 billion dollars a year in Colorado, which is considered to be one of the premier fly-fishing destinations in the world. Showing anglers what the state has to offer will help add to Colorado’s prestigious fly- fishing reputation. Additional anglers in Colorado will mean more dollars for local economies, more license dollars for wildlife management and the continuation of the conservation ethic.
“Fly Fishing Colorado” is available for $20 HERE and at DOW service centers and at fly shops and sporting-goods retailers.
2 years ago I fished Lake El Salto, near Mazatlan Mexico. This desolate desert lake is a renowned bass fishery. Of course catching bass all day was a ton of fun, but what I was really interested in was the off shore opportunities Mazatlan had to offer. Saltwater fishing always intrigued me, maybe because I live no where near saltwater… although the closest sea to Colorado is home to some of the most bio-diverse waters in the world. The Sea of Cortez is a critical feeding, breeding, and nursery ground for some of the
world’s rarest marine animals, including 32 species of marine mammals, 170
species of sea birds, 3,000 species of invertebrates, and 875 species of fish. (Alles)
I have always heard about dorado, Coryphaena hippurus, and how they are voracious predators (we’re talking saltwater dorado, not fresh water dorado from South America). Their elongated bright blue, green and gold body is surrounded by a long dorsal fin spanning from head to tail.
This unique body design creates a powerful force thrashing and displacing water as they feed on baitfish at speeds up to 50 mph. Dorado, one of the fastest growing fish in the world, also called Dolphin or Mahi Mahi, fight like an Ultimate Fighting Championship heavy weight. Once hooked they make hard runs towards the surface resulting in an acrobatic aerial display pulling drag and fighting hard until the bitter end… just like a seasoned mixed martial arts fighter would.
We hired a guide for a half day and first set out to net live bait. Soon after, we found buoys identifying schools of dorado marked by commercial fisherman. The technique is to chum with live bait and throw spin rods rigged hook-less with bait while trolling. Once you see that rod tip starting to bump and the heads of dorado surfacing clobbering bait fish, its on. Simply throw your fly towards the action and watch as the dorado’s predatory instincts kick in as they inhale your fly.
Once hooked these feisty fighters immediately take you for a ride….
jumping and flipping all over
Here’s a nice female dorado, also referred to as a hen…
while hens heads are round bull dorado have a protruding head (below)
when hooked dorado sparkle like light reflecting off a diamond bursting with a gold shine splattered with neon green and blue markings
After an epic morning catching one after another I was officially obsessed. The non-stop action was insatiable. I immediately told myself I’ve got to get back down here to do this again. I found myself dreaming about dorado feeding ferociously and how insanely hard they fight. Well, it wasn’t until this summer when I considered catching dorado again.
A good friend from my Semester at Sea Spring 2006 voyage has been fishing the Sea of Cortez around the Midriff Islands for over 20 years. Every year a group of 20-30 guys live on an ultimate fishing vessel for a week nomadically fishing the area. When he asked me to join I immediately thought I’d have another shot at some dorado and eagerly agreed to join.
The trip started the last week of July. We boarded a bus in Orange County headed for San Felipe Mexico. After driving from Hot Creek through the night to Orange, CA we spent the majority of the 5 hour drive down the Baja sleeping. I was awoken by a bumpy Mexican road under construction (What roads in Mexico aren’t under construction?). As I squinted and yawned myself awake, I took sight of a sterile desert with wind blown sand drifts and cacti. We were deep in Baja’s far-flung desert.
Upon arrival in San Felipe we got our first look at our new home for the week. The Tony Reyes:
This 86′ ship once housed crews of commercial shrimpers.
The destination was the Midriff area which lies about 250 miles south of San Felipe. The plan was to set sail loaded with 10 pongas headed toward the southern end of the Midriff area and fish our way back north.
Most of the target species were all new to me: yellowtail, cabrilla, spotted sea bass, grouper, but what I was particularly excited about was again hooking up with a dorado. This trip was primarily a conventional tackle-stock the cooler kind of trip, but I knew if there were dorado around I could have some fun with my fly rod.
The first day we set out on a boat loaded with heavy jigs and conventional rods with lines up to 120 lb test. We were after yellowtail, more specifically California yellowtail, Seriola lalandi dorsalis, a subspecies of Yellowtail amberjack which are found nearly all over the globe.
The technique required to catch yellowtail was really not suitable to fly fishing. We were dropping heavy jigs 200-300 feet deep and after a morning filling the boat with nice size yellowtail it was quite apparent that we weren’t going to target these fish on a fly.
An average 10-15 lb yellowtail
The majority of our catch was yellowtail, although we were pulling in all sorts of species including:
and multiple Species of bass, or cabrilla, which in Spanish refers to any species of bass-like fish
Although we weren’t necessarily targeting spotted sea bass we couldn’t keep these big and healthy fish off our lines.
Some boats were lucky enough to hook into some bigger species like Sailfish:
While we were having a ton of fun catching all these nice fish on conventional tackle we never gave up on catching fish on our fly rods.
We did have some success nailing some fish on the fly… but were still looking for dorado
Every night while docked the boats flood lights shined outward to the sea attracting plankton and baitfish. We rigged our rods to catch mackerel to use as bait to the following day. Blake, the experienced fly tyer in our group, saw what we were using to catch these mackerel and immediately decided to tie up some flies to match. So ironically enough we saw most action on fly rods catching bait. Not exactly what we had in mind for this trip but catching 3 mackerel at once on a soft 8 weight was a kick in the ass.
Blake was real excited to catch multiple fish on single casts
I can’t go without mentioning a subject that interests me almost as much as fishing…Mexican food is hard to beat, especially authentic mexican food. On the Tony Reyes we were served 3 meals a day and more often than not the meals were mexican and damn good. The one meal that I still drool over the thought of is the beach BBQ the crew put together for us. We devoured fresh grilled clams we dug up that morning and a yellowtail grilled whole over an open fire on the beach. Fastened to the grill with foil for an easy flip the yellowtail’s crispiness yielded some amazing fish tacos.
Speaking of good food, one night we got a chance to go after some squid. Calamari anyone? Using special glowing squid lures that looked like mini fancy chandeliers with spikes sticking out of them in every which way everyone was hooking up with these beasts left and right. I’d heard of people catching squid on a fly before so I had to give it a shot. Blake tied a special weighted bright green fly for my deep sinking fly line. Immediately after I hit bottom I felt a big tug, the squid immediately pulled drag and ran. It felt like a huge fish completely bending over my 14 wt two handed rod. All of the sudden I lost tension and the squid was off. Apparently, you really need those special lures to get them to stick.
My hopes for dorado slowly dwindled. By the the end of the trip only one person had caught one dorado. We just didn’t get into them. I spent one morning walking a remote beach line where I heard rooster fish prowl the banks but I struck out there too. Despite the lack of success on the species I hoped to find on my fly rod this trip was sensational. Simply the opportunity to explore this lush ecosystem was a privilege. I must admit, I wasn’t to excited seeing the amount of fish killed to stock the cooler, but the crew on the Tony Reyes do a good job of helping manage the resource by releasing small fish under a certain size.
Apparently dorado, being prolific breeders, would double in population if they weren’t commercially fished for at all over the course of one year. Who knows if thats true about some of these other species. All I know is that we are very privileged to have such a rich and unique resource in our back yard and hopefully we will be able to utilize and maintain this sustainability for many years to come. As long as crews like the Tony Reyes continue to respect the resource and the Mexican government enforces illegal fishing the future is bright.
With that said… I leave you with a time-lapse reel I shot of the Tony Reyes wandering through the Sea of Cortez
Alles, David (2007) The Sea of Cortez
retrieved on sept 30th from: HERE
Fishing is a great American tradition enjoyed by generations for many years. Some of my most fun filled and vivid memories from my childhood are from fishing trips to the midwest. I remember having the best time fishing for bass and bluegill with my Grandpa, Dad, uncles, cousins and brothers. My grandpa would rig up a worm on my hook and I’d fish it all day without a care in the world.
While catching a fish is one of the most exhilarating feelings a kid can experience, the lessons a day on the water can teach a youngster are unparalleled. It’s our duty as outdoorsmen to pass this great tradition on to our children. This past father’s day I got a chance to do just that with my brother Tony and my nephew Trace
After picking up fly fishing it was quite an experience going back to fishing with a worm and a hook. Typically, fly fishing is strictly catch and release. Most popular fly fishing destinations are delicate fisheries where harvesting fish can be detrimental to the fishery. Well, bait fishing is whole other can of worms. The Colorado Division of Wildlife stocks hundreds of thousands of catchable trout (10 inches or longer) every year. A lot of these stocked bodies of water allow bait fishing. For example, the lake we took my nephew to: South Catamount Lake on the Pikes Peak Highway near Colorado Springs was stocked the week before we went. My brother logged onto the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Statewide Stocking Report and searched for a lake close by that had been recently stocked. Sure enough we fished for no more than 2 hours and caught about 7 nice fish. As a fly fisherman, I’m usually against killing fish… especially trout in Colorado. Although, I think its perfectly fine to harvest stocked trout. Especially when the trout are raised in hatcheries for the purpose of stocking them in lakes that allow bait fishing.
If you have young kids and have yet to get them out on the water I would highly recommend it. For more suggestions on where to go check out the CDOW’s 101(+) Places to take a Kid Fishing
Also, For tips on where to go check the CDOW’s weekly fishing report by region
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.