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.

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.


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.


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!
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.
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
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.
Tradd hooked a couple fish while I filmed, then I nailed one after my video camera’s hard drive was full.
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:


Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

This fall we spent many days driving up and down I-70 looking for big horn sheep near Georgetown and Empire. If you ever want to go watch them yourself they are pretty easy to find. You can usually find them on the north side of I-70 across the highway from Georgetown. There is a viewing station right next to Georgetown lake on the south side of the highway or after exiting at Georgetown while heading west, you can take a hard right onto a dirt road if you’d like to get closer. Other spots we found good concentrations of sheep were on the north side of the road near Empire, behind the small town of Downieville, and in Clear Creek Canyon.
Two nice rams (males) taking a break from chasing ewes (females) all morning, this shot was actually worthy of the cover for the Sheep and Goat Regulations Brochure

You can catch them in the rut (mating season) starting in November and sometimes extending into January… and if you’re really lucky you may find a couple big rams head-butting to display their dominance. We got lucky and saw a couple… what a sight that is. It reminds me of Oklahoma drills during football practice.

After countless days searching and capturing these interesting mammals we put together the latest episode of a.m. Colorado:

Due to I-70’s obnoxiousness, I had to replace every piece of audio you hear in this video.


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.
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:
I was pretty stoked to have actually caught a red on the fly during potentially the worst day to fish of the year….

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.”

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.
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
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
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.
Here’s a nice one I caught on a borski deer hair slider, a killer bonefish pattern also Ron Volk’s favorite fly
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!


The Cycle of Success

The Sport fish and Wildlife restoration programs partially fund state wildlife agencies like the CDOW. The program is funded by fishing, hunting and boating manufacturers that pay an excise tax on this equipment. These funds are directed back into state fish and wildlife programs and projects. The result: better fishing, boating, hunting and other wildlife-oriented recreation.



New Employee Orientation Video-Basically a pump up video to get people excited about working for the DOW


Fall Spawning Runs

Changing colors and cooler temperatures means spawning fish. Check out the latest a.m. Colorado episode. The video includes Colorado’s native mountain whitefish, brown trout, and kokanee salmon.


Colorado's Habitat Stamp Program

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hunt or fish in Colorado, (and did it legally, by buying a license) you’ve probably asked yourself. What the heck is a habitat stamp? And why do I have to pay 5 bucks on top of the license fee I’m already paying? Well, the money has been put forth to good use, and here is a video that highlights a few of the properties the Colorado Division of Wildlife has recently acquired through the Habitat Stamp Program.



Shira's Moose

My girlfriend got a little scared when we ran into some moose this summer, (they are known to charge when they feel threatened) but the latest in our “a.m. Colorado” series will hopefully help calm her nerves for the next time we encounter one of these magnificent creatures in the wild. They are really quite extraordinary, and huge! Just make sure not to approach one, even if you’re trying to get a good picture.