fly fishing

One of the big challenges associated with finding fly-fishing in Asia is the lack of information available on the web. I am very lucky to have fished with series of fly-fishermen linked from one to the next throughout Asia, starting with my good friend Captain Keiichiro, in Yokohama, Japan. While fishing with Capt. K he informed me of his friend in Hong Kong: Lefty Hama. After having an awesome morning catching Giant Trevally in Hong Kong, Hama informed me that he had a fly-fishing friend in Singapore named Kelvin. It was as if the fly-fishing gods aligned to connect me with fly-fishermen from port to port while traveling on Semester at Sea‘s Spring 2014 Voyage. After a few email exchanges with Kelvin, we set up an afternoon to go fly-fishing for Peacock bass.

Some time ago, Peacock Bass, native to South America, were introduced into Singapore reservoirs by bucket biologists. Peacock bass are considered an invasive species because they compete with native species like snakehead, catfish, and Tiger barb . To anglers, they are a superb game-fish. Akin to Hong Kong, it is quite a commodity to have a quality fishing opportunity involving wild fish so close to a major metropolis.

After we arrived, my wonderful wife and I checked out a little of what Singapore has to offer


Hawker Center Singapore

Hawker Centers are popular among Singaporeans as common place to grab a bite to eat.


She handed me the coveted kitchen pass and I set off to meet up with Kelvin. We drove on the left side of the road (thanks to Singapore’s British Colonial roots) about 20 minutes into the jungle north of the city. After meandering up a winding road draped with high green canopy, we parked and hiked about 30 minutes through the jungle to a reservoir. Kelvin handed me one of his custom tied orange eyed tan clousers striped with green, orange and black markings, similar to the markings on a Peacock bass. He instructed me to cast my 6 wt near a man made structure, let the fly sink for 10 seconds and make medium paced long strips pausing between each strip. On about the 10th cast I felt a large bump, at first I thought I had caught the bottom, but then I felt a stout pull. Adrenaline rush through me as I yelled “FISH ON.” It was a good fish. In-between thinking about grabbing my camera and stripping line to keep this nice fish tight when I missed a strip and the fish came unbuttoned. I couldn’t believe I blew my opportunity to land my first Peacock. I looked at Kelvin in disappointment saying “lets get another.”

We continued fishing the same spot with no more action when Kelvin made the call to venture further into the jungle …


We bushwhacked through dense brush, large trees and downed timber careful not to break our rods



After about 30 minutes, Kelvin showed me a spot where he has had success before. About 15 minutes into casting Kelvin yelled “FISH ON.” I ran over to see a nice bend in his rod.


singapore peacock bass fishing Kelvin-Bent-Rod


It was a nice fish that put up a good fight


Once it turned dark we hiked back experiencing the tropical jungle at night, walking through spider webs, loud exotic birds chirping and flying over head, while keeping an eye out for what is in front of you. It can get creepy in the jungle at night, especially when you see a large black snake quickly slither across the trail in front of you. When the local you are with is obviously concerned about this big ass snake I almost stepped on its probably a good sign that you should get the hell out of there. Bushwhacking through the dark and treacherous jungle did not stop us from trying another spot on the way out at dark. It wasn’t more than 5 casts before I hooked up and landed my first peacock.


It is not everyday you get a chance to catch a Peacock bass at night, so once again I felt blessed by the stars that aligned to make this uniqued experience happen.


Of Colorado’s 22 million acres of public land, the San Juan area (San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests) make up about 3 million acres. Hiking, fishing, camping and biking opportunities are immense. One could spend a lifetime exploring this area and still not see it all.

Colorado san juan mountains scenery

A scenic view of the San Juan Mountains near Dolores Colorado


The following are places I have visited in the area:


Piedra River:

This hike is easily accessible. From Pagosa Springs head north on highway US-160 north to Piedra Rd. Turn Right onto Piedra Rd go about 16 miles and park here. The further you hike in the better the fishing gets. For more information contact Let it Fly.


Rio de los Pinos:

This place is very special. The population of native Rio Grande Cutthroats is isolated from other fish as a waterfall acts as a natural barrier. To get there navigate to Truijillo Meadows Reservoir.

Take the forest road at the end of the reservoir northwest up stream. The road is a bit rough and requires 4 wheel drive. The road dead ends where there is some good primitive car camping spots. Hike the trail up stream, for a few miles. When you see the waterfall the cutthroat population lives above.

The following lakes are rated good or great lakes to catch fish and are most likely to yield fantastic hiking and camping:

Crater Lake

Quartz Lake

Turkey Creek Lake

Upper Four Mile Lake

Fish Lake

Williams Creek Reservoir State Wildlife Area

Emerald Lake

Dollar Lake

Flint Lakes

Divide Granite and Elk Lakes

Needle Mountains Lakes

Verde Lakes

Highland Mary Lakes

Lost Lake

Garfield Lakes


For more information visit the Colorado Fishing Atlas or call Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Customer Service: 303-297-1192

Or contact local fly shops:

The San Juan Angler: 970-382-9978

Rio Grand Angler: 719-658-2955

Conejos River Anglers: 719-376-5660


An interesting phenomenon throughout Asia is that the term “sport-fishing” is completely incomprehensible to most. A common response one would receive when asking about sport-fishing is “Why would you fish just for sport? You don’t like to eat fish?” No actually, I love eating fish however, I love catching them even more. When I visited Vietnam as a student in 2006, I found this phenomenon to be true. While we still managed to get a line wet and catch a few fish, conservation and sport fishing were two things that just simply aren’t a part of the culture in Vietnam. One thing Vietnam does have is some beautiful beaches. We took the opportunity to visit a Vietnamese island that is situated off the southwest coast of Vietnam just south of Cambodia. Phú Quốc (pronounced FU-QUAW) is a quaint Island with a laid back tropical vibe.

We left Ho Chi Minh city early in the morning, after a 45 minute flight we arrived in Phú Quốc with a full beach day ahead of us. After getting a feel for the island, the beach, and our simple beach hotel we hit up the Dinh Cau Night Market. A bustling street filled with restaurants boasting the daily catch in large bins filled with ice. It was a miniature Tsujiki Fish Market in regards to the fact that it seemed to have everything imaginable that lives the ocean. Crustaceans, snakes, lobsters, prawns, and multiple species of fish.

Dinh Cau Night Fish Market

A hot chick I picked up off the street next to everything imaginable out of the ocean. I told the owner of this stand that he shouldn’t buy such small fish (while pointing at the baby Red snapper in the middle). He responded saying “Its okay, not a problem.” And I told him, “if they continue to kill little fish like that it is going to be a BIG problem. There are not going to any fish left.” Hopefully he understood me.


The aroma of fresh fish on the grill constantly flirted with our nostrils as we walked through the busy street lined with fresh seafood. It was quite the sensation. One particular stand caught my attention:

Giant Trevally at Fish Market

Fresh Fish at Phu Quac Night Fish Market

I pointed at the Giant Trevally on the left asking the lady at the stand “Was this caught around here?” She replied, “Yes.” While pointing at the ocean behind her. My excitement immediately rose as I just caught a GT about half that size in Hong Kong which gave me a good fight, a small burst of adrenaline rushed through me as I imaged the fight this fish would yield.

One of my most vivid memories from being in Vietnam in 2006, was eating the fattest most juicy prawns you could imagine. I convinced our group they shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity. So we ordered a kilo of grilled prawns:

vietnam grilled prawns, seafood, delicious food from the ocean

Fresh grilled prawns served  with simply salt, pepper and lime.

As promised to my wife, Sara (the wonderful wife that she is), we spent the following couple of days relaxing on the beach. It was great to sit back, enjoy the ocean, and the 80 degree weather with a luke-warm breeze flowing through the palm trees that sat high above the khaki sand beach. Although, while we were relaxing, contemplating how far that GT at the fish market would take me into my backing was constantly trifling me. How was I going to make keep my promise to my wife of a relaxed beach vacation, yet, somehow get a shot at hooking one of these impressive fish? Luckily, our group agreed to rent a boat for a day of snorkeling and “fishing.” The Vietnamese tour companies say, “Enjoy a day of snorkeling, fishing and relaxing on a boat tour.” Of course, by fishing they mean baiting a hook, attached to a line that is woven around a plastic spool. In fishing terms, the complete opposite of fly-fishing.

So we set out early, boarding our “boat” for the day. The “boat,” constructed of heavy timber was more like a small barge with a crude inboard engine, some picnic tables, benches and a ladder leading to the roof top for sunbathing. In simple terms, it would suffice for not only spending quality time with Sara, but also getting a line in the water. I rigged my 9 and 12 wt rods with a gummy minnow and a large chartreuse clouser. When fishing in a completely foreign place that has seen very few flies, if any, the gummy minnows are alway a great choice, as well as anything chartreuse, as I once learned from a seasoned guide in Ascension Bay, Mexico; “If it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use.”

Boats Phú Quốc, Vietnam

Boats align the harbor in Phú Quốc, Vietnam

We set off, our young Vietnamese captain that spoke little to no english navigated through the many small ships, boats and  small barges just like ours in the harbor. I dropped my full sinking 12 wt line rigged with a barrel swivel tied in the middle of my tippet a couple feet above the clouser. When trolling flies, barrel swivels are very useful so the fly line doesn’t get twisted. Trolling a large fly all day can really twist up fly-line, which takes a lot of work to untwist.

Luckily, our small barge didn’t go faster than the ideal trolling speed (2 to 3 knots). Honestly, I didn’t except to catch anything. I was just happy to be out with my wife and friends, drink a couple of beers, and enjoy the Vietnamese scenery while trolling a fly. We were no more than 100 yards outside of the last boat in the harbor when I was jigging the fly line giving it some action and I felt a large tug. At first, I thought I had hooked one of the many pieces of trash floating by. However, the tug was pulling hard. When I looked up to see a big boil where my fly was I yelled “FISH ON!” Followed by an immediate, “STOP THE BOAT!” It wasn’t until one of my friends raised his hand like a traffic cop yelling “STOP” for the captain to actually cut the engine. By this time the fish was well into my backing. While my adrenaline was pumping, I tightened my drag as the fish was running hard. I yelled “THOW IT IN REVERSE” to the captain, later realizing how stupid that was of me, not only because he most likely had no clue what I was saying, but more so because there is no way this barge of a boat had a reverse gear. Within moments the fish was well over 100 yards into my backing. I saw big boils in the distance while I tried to keep the pressure on the fish. The fish didn’t let up continuing to run while the sound of “ZZZZZZZZ” was music to my ears, not to mention the extremely large smile on my face. As the fish was now about 200yards into my backing all I could think was at this rate, the fish would spool me in no time, so I gave it some more pressure. Then the absolute worst feeling a fisherman can have, came next. It felt like my feet were swept out from under me as my fly came unbuttoned. It was as if the wind was completely knocked out of me.


Despite the lost fish it was a productive day on the barge, drinking, eating, snorkeling and catching some vietnam D

I’ll never know the size or species of that fish, I can only imagine that it was probably a Giant Trevally just as, if not bigger, than the one I was saw at the Dinh Cau Night Market. Hopefully it continues to swim around the Island of Phú Quốc and never ends up on a tourist’s dinner plate but rather on the end of another sport fisherman’s line who, uncommon to Asian tradition, releases it unharmed.




Fly Fishing Hong Kong – Lucky Fish for Me

Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every […]

Fly fishing China is an oxymoron. In 2006, I found this to be true after diligently trying to find a river with wild fish. I quickly realized every river in China is dammed. The rivers I found were either a trickle or dammed and made into a fish farm every 100 yards or so.  Don’t get me wrong, with proper due diligence finding a river with wild fish is very plausible in some of the more remote areas of China. Maybe some of the border areas of Mongolia or areas in Tibet or any of the Eastern border areas in the Himalayas.  After leaving China disappointed in 2006, I received some emails replies from members of a sport-fishing club based in Hong Kong that I had found through the IGFA. While Hong Kong isn’t technically China, it seemed that one of the biggest cities in the world does have a small population of sport-fishermen. On our recent stop in Hong Kong, I found this to be true. Thanks to my fly-fishing friend in Japan, Captain Keiichiro of Seakuro, I was linked up with one of the few fly-fisherman in Hong Kong, a nice Japanese fellow by the name of Koichi Hamaguchi aka: Lefty Hama. I met Hama early in the pre-dawn hours on our last day in Hong Kong. We rigged our 6, 8 and 9 wt rods as we waited for what Hama referred to as “the only sport fishing boat for hire in Hong Kong.” I felt very lucky to be fishing with one the few local fly-fishermen and the only sporting fishing charter among millions of people.

The original purpose of the trip was to target the specific sea-bass species native to the area known as “Lo Yu” or Chinese Spotted Sea-bass (Lateolabrax Maculatus). Hama, being from Japan, explained to me how the Sea-bass in Hong Kong receive a lot of catch and take fishing pressure, because of this, the fish rarely look up unlike the Suzuki or Japanese Seabass that can often be caught on the surface. Therefore, the main technique used to catch Chinese Spotted Sea-bass on a fly is using a sinking line. He explained that in the last couple years he has fished hundreds of times from the pier while only catching Sea-bass twice. After hearing this, I didn’t expect to catch anything this morning, I was really just stoked to be out fishing in a unique setting with someone from across the globe that shared the same passion as me.

We fished for a couple hours in the shimmering glow created by Hong Kong harbour’s industrial ships and marine lights. We moved from spot to spot as we cast our sinking lines towards structures created by the commercial tankers, ports and jetties. As the sun rose, the glow from the city lights dwindled and we continued to laboriously cast in hopes of something to bite. We were fishing near a Chinese navy base when our guide let the boat drift naturally by the current. All morning we had been stripping fast with hopes that the quick strips would instigate a strike. While I felt the boat naturally drift I thought it might be wise to change it up. I held the same point on my depth charger line and jigged it using the boat’s drift to create the action on the fly. For whatever reason, this was the ticket for success. I immediately felt a hard tug, as a rush of adrenaline ran through my body, I stripped set the line, raised my rod and yelled “FISH ON!”  You would have thought Hama won the lottery because he immediately started jumping up and down like he just won the Super Bowl. His excitement was contagious. I immediately got another charge of exhilaration just from witnessing his reaction. It was simply awesome. The fish made a good run against my tightly set drag before we finally saw a glimpse of the fish. At first glance, I thought “permit? no freaking way,” until I realized it was a Giant Trevally. Not a huge one, maybe 2 kilos or 4 pounds tops. We took a bunch of pictures and videos before releasing the fish unharmed.

Hama explained that in late 2012 the Hong Kong government put a ban on bottom trawling. He attributes this to our success. He explained how before 2012 it was hard to find some Giant Trevally up to a 1/2 kilo or about 1 pound but thanks to the ban on bottom trolling the bait fish populations have recovered significantly in just the course of a couple years. This was music to my ears, hearing about an Asian government doing things to conserve and improve the natural resources. Absolutely encouraging and inspiring after just coming from Japan where it seems as if conservation is not a word in their dialect. Hama clarified that he not only has only caught only 2 Sea-bass while fishing from the shore in over 100 outings, he has only caught 2 Giant Trevally in the course of two years. This made what was about to happen next completely special. In the same spot, using the same technique and the same fly, I hooked up with another fish! I couldn’t believe it and neither could Hama. It was as if he had just won another lottery AND won ANOTHER Super Bowl. He was completely ecstatic. Jumping up and down, throwing his fists in the air, yelling and screaming. This fish fought harder and was a bigger, weighing about 3 kilos, about 6 or 7 pounds. I couldn’t help but sharing Hama’s excitement. I have some great fishing buddies back home in Colorado that get super excited when I catch big fish but no one has ever shown this kind of elation for a fish I’ve caught before. It was truly a remarkable experience.

As we have traveled throughout Asia, a common term you’ll hear when people are asking for a tip is “lucky money for me?” I always wonder, how the hell it is lucky if you are asking for it? A tip will be given if a tip is deserved. Well, Hama and I insisted on tipping our captain this day, even though he said a couple times over, “this too much,” but we insisted because he deserved it. Later that night as we pulled out of the brilliant Hong Kong skyline towering over us, I couldn’t help from thinking to myself that this day was a “lucky fish for me,” and I attribute the luck to a nice fellow who goes by the name of Lefty Hama, because if anybody deserves it, he does.


Japan is an interesting country filled with sharp contrasts. The island is physically smaller than the state of Montana, but holds a population more than twice the size of the US.  Toilets literally warm and clean your butt in one place while in another there is simply just a hole in the ground. Japan’s best attribute is the people. Its common to have people say “welcome” when they see a westerner or foreigner on the street. They are required to study English for 6 years in school. Anyone will go out of their way to make sure you know where you are going. It is truly a great place to visit for so many different reasons, especially the fly-fishing. On my original Semester at Sea Voyage in Spring 2006 to Japan I experienced the tug of a Suzuki (Japanese Seabass) on the end of my fly line. So I was determined to do the same this time around. Our gracious host in 2006, Takashi Nakajima recommended I fish with the best fly-fishing guide in Tokyo: Keiichiro Okamoto (Captain K <- another example of how kind Japanese people are. They come up with alternate names that make it easier for westerners to pronounce) of SEAKURO Fly-Fishing. Captain K, lived up to his reputation. On average, Captain K guides 5 days a week. Aside from catering to clients like Tommy Lee Jones,  he also fishes on his own every chance he gets. If you get a chance check out his website: SEAKURO. Click on reports and you’ll find sea-bass after sea-bass. Here is his report from our night of fishing:

best fly fishing guide in Tokyo Japan: Seakuro

Capt K of Seakuro – Fishing Report


His report literally translates to this:

Setting sail in the sea bass fly fishing

I was going to guide you through the American guest.

Near the enthusiastic fly fisherman, I can enjoy the highest never better night sea bass.

Boyle spree! Rolled exploded to the top! Spree hit!

In many exciting scene, it was night “awesome!”.

OK just floating line.

[Capt. Okamoto]


Cruising Across Yokohama Bay



Captain K’s report is accurate. There was “never better night” for sea-bass fishing. Captain K picked me up from the ship at 9pm and we were fishing by 9:30. We navigated through the darkness amongst freight ship lights, big highway bridges and industrial ship yards.

Captain K with a nice Sea Bass

Captain K with a nice Sea Bass




Capt K's Custom Tied Flies

Captain K’s Custom Tied Flies




With my 9wt we threw his special top-water fly into the shadows, stripping it out into well lit areas. With no wind and a calm harbor we had non-stop surface action all night long. Cast after cast sea-bass would come out of no-where and slam the fly. Most of the fish we caught were in the 1 kilo range, while we managed to catch a few in the 2-3 kilo range.


Reel Escape Films

Kick His Ass Sea-Bass

Like Captain K explained in his report, it was literally a “Boil Spree.” Fish slamming flies cast after cast. If the activity died out in one location Captain K had another we’d motor to in minutes. We probably fished 20 different locations throughout the night catching multiple fish at each. For a more detailed report and pics see CAPTAIN K’S BLOG post from our incredible evening on the water.

After a long night of catching fish after fish, Captain K motored us back to the MV Explorer. He instructed me to throw a few more casts into the corner no more than 75 yards from the back of our ship. On the third cast my fly was nailed, and I was hooked up with yet another hard fighting Japanese Sea-bass. Landing that final Suzuki was a great way to end an incredible night. After, Captain K let me pick his brain on camera while we drifted in his boat with our ship in the background. In his good English (he claims it is Kindergarten level but I told him that most Kindergarteners can’t speak half as good as he can in the US) he talked about Sea-bass fishing in Yokohama and Tokyo bay and how Japanese culture has no regard for conservation, although the growing popularity of fly-fishing is helping create awareness for the importance of catch and release sport fishing.

After the interview, I explained to Captain K that I had such a awe-inspiring experience fly-fishing with him I felt like I was “Turning Japanese.” I even sang the song to him. It was obvious he had never heard of the song and probably thought I was just pulling it out of my ass.


In the days to follow my wife Sara, our friend Andrew and I had the opportunity to travel around Japan. We spent a night in Tokyo giving us a chance to see the city and visit arguably the biggest fish market in the world: the Tsukiji Fish Market. It was an interesting experience. Imagine the best seafood market you have visited multiplied by 1,000.
Tsukiji clamsTsukiji Fish Market tuna-head







There was everything from big fish like Blue Fin Tuna and Yellowtail, to mollusks and crustaceans that I never knew existed. It was such a unique experience to see the variety of seafood but a bit sad at the same time. The market was an indicator of what little regard Japan’s culture has for conservation. If you are concerned about eating sustainable seafood its a great idea to abide by THIS GUIDE TO EATING SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD.


After experiencing Japan’s largest city we caught a bullet train to Kyoto. Thanks to some help from Daniel at TENKARA USA, I was linked up with a couple Japanese Tenkara fisherman.

Izakaya-Japanese Style Pub

Unfortunately due to the winter season we were not able to go fishing in one of the many mountain streams Japan has to offer. Our gracious hosts were very kind. They took my wife Sara, our friend Andrew and I to an Izakaya, a Japanese style pub. Eddie (right) and Kiyoshi (left) were awesome. They taught a lot about Tenkara fly-fishing, its origins and culture in Japan. Kiyoshi even gave us a few of his Tenkara flies. We had a tasty dinner including, sushi and cod roe in a hot pot. It was an unforgettable night.

The next day we had a chance to explore Kyoto. Japan’s cultural capital.


The cemetery at the Kiyomizudera Temple offered a spectacular view of the city



On the way back to Kobe we stopped in Osaka for some sights and lunch. It is said that Osaka is as if lady Gaga was a city. A friend responded to this with: “so the city is just covered in a meat dress?” I’m not so sure Osaka resembled Lady Gaga but we definitely ran into some weird characters.

The last night we were in Japan Kiyoshi and Eddie the Tenkara fishermen set me and a fly-fishing friend from the ship, Chris, up with another night of sea-bass fishing. This time it was with Yusaku Tsutsui, the owner of Drag Free Fly-Fishing in Osaka. Tsutsui had explained that it may be hard to actually catch a Japanese Sea-bass around Kobe because there is a lot of catch and take fishing. Kiyoshi our Tenkara friend showed us the way to meet Tsutsui. Upon arrival, we rigged our rods as Kiyoshi broke out some pre-game treats, beers and sushi.Flies and Sushi w Kiyoshi


As we fished multiple spots that night he talked about how lure fishermen would take 50-60 fish out of each spot. It wasn’t nearly as action packed as the first night of fishing but still a great time.  We all had blast but more so Kiyoshi as it was his first taste of saltwater fly-fishing. While we  were only allotted about 4 hours to fish because we had to catch the train before it closed, we fished hard throwing flies into the shadows of big ships and industrial ports stripping them out into the lit areas. Tsutsui explained that the constant pressure in the area pushes the fish down, so we threw heavy flies with floating line and sink tips as well as full sinking lines. With no action most of the night Tsutsui recommended to change the fly to one that he had tied, a small white clouser, the ticket for success. While stripping my fly out of the corner created by a concrete sidewalk next to the Kobe Airport I felt a big tug. I strip set, then immediately saw a large fish surface and jump completely out of the water. Yells of excitement came from Kiyoshi, Tsutsui, Chris and I. FISH ON!

A great end to an incredible trip

A great end to an incredible trip


Abel Reels – From the Factory to the Field

A promotional piece for Abel Reels



Snake River Cutthroat Trout

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.

Above photo by Mark Hudson

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


In the Land of the Cutthroats-2010 Fly Fishing Film Tour

Fishing for me has always been about getting away; away from the busy city life of course, but even getting away from crowded tail waters and frequented man made bodies of water. Fortunately, a certain native trout thrives in places that are a far from these.

There is something special about the allure of a high mountain ridge casting a shadow over an alpine lake as the sun shining through the clouds paints the sky with colors. Could there be a better place to fish? Not only a place with breathtaking scenery but also one where you have a chance to catch a trout species that has lived there for more than a million years. To think about that is simply mind blowing. Imagine the Rocky Mountains untouched 1 million years ago, wild creatures all across the land living amongst each other in a land untouched by man except for a few Anasazi native americans. Untapped lakes and streams ran clean and clear while native cutthroat trout flourished in the mint condition waters. Today, back country wilderness areas are about as close as you can come to how it was long ago. The pristine wild, which is exactly why I treasure spending time in these places.

I’ve always wanted to portray this concept in a film. So I started documenting my high mountain excursions a few years back. This year, with the help of a friend who is a seasoned outdoor writer, we produced “In the Land of the Cutthroats.” The film tells the story of three native trout species that evolved along the Continental Divide in Colorado. From ancient beginnings in tepid coastal waters, the wayfaring cutthroats found their way to the loftiest slopes of the Rocky Mountains and into the hearts of modern fly fishers. After a medley of mountain scenery, cutthroat trout, mayflies, and cutting-edge time-lapse photography, the film takes viewers to a high-mountain lake for action-packed angling for greenback cutthroat trout.

Here is a trailer for the film:

This trailer features the music of Drew Goldstone from Reel to Reel Records Also featured in the film is music from the talented Johnny Martin out of Buffalo NY, and Andy Mass with Mass Destruction Entertainment

Check out another trailer for the film HERE This trailer and the film features fly tying from Brian Yamauchi

We were fortunate enough to have the film accepted into the 2010 Fly Fishing Film Tour. If you get a chance come check out “In the Land of the Cutthroats” along side an incredible line up of films.

The tour officially starts next week, Thursday January 26th at the Patagonia store in Ventura, CA and then comes to Fort Collins, CO Thursday January 28th and then to Denver Saturday January 30th. Also, there is an independent show put on by The Angler’s Covey Saturday January 23rd at 7pm in Colorado Springs.

The tour will make stops all across the country over the next couple of months. Check out the tour schedule HERE

One last thing … the film featured in the film tour is a modified short (8 min) version of the full (14 min)”In the Land of the Cutthroats” film. Stay tuned for information about a screening in Denver of the full length version of the film.

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)
Photo by Nasa

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.
Colorful dorado in water
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….
Mazatlan Dorado
jumping and flipping all over

Here’s a nice female dorado, also referred to as a hen…
Hen Dorado
while hens heads are round bull dorado have a protruding head (below)
Colorful Bull
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:

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.
yellow tail An average 10-15 lb yellowtail

The majority of our catch was yellowtail, although we were pulling in all sorts of species including:

Trigger Fish trigger fish

and multiple Species of bass, or cabrilla, which in Spanish refers to any species of bass-like fish

cabrilla sabrosa

spotted bass 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: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.

Lenny's Bass 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 w mackrel
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…comida sabrosaMexican 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.Picture 32

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.
Giant SquidHumboldt Squid

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

Works Cited:
Alles, David (2007) The Sea of Cortez
retrieved on sept 30th from: HERE


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…
Picture 18

Picture 15

Picture 19

If you love fly fishing rivers and lakes but are yearning for something a bit more adventurous take a hike into the back country…

see some scenery….


and get a line in the WATER!
Picture 20

and hopefully catch some fish.
Picture 16

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????