Friday, September 15, 2017

Eagle River, Colorado

Last week we spent a few days in Colorado in the shadows of high mountains laced with ski lifts.  Our friends had lots of stuff planned in the afternoons and evenings, but the mornings were open for fishing and we took advantage of that.  As luck would have it, the Eagle River flowed through the narrow valley at the base of the mountains below the village.  The first day we went to Vail Valley Anglers and got the lay of the land, licenses, some new stuff, and a bunch of the local favorite flies.   The three of us got to the river around mid morning under blue skies and a bright sun.  The water temperature was 48 degrees F, and the air was in the 60's.  We were wet wading, and the water was cold at first, but once you got used to it and the air warmed into the 70's, it was perfect.


All three days of fishing went the same.  Early on we had bright sun and no rising fish, so we fished dry/dropper rigs.  I use a hopper with a size #20 zebra midge off that and that worked well.  By mid morning, the air warmed and the breezes started, which in turn pushed the haze from nearby forest fires into the valley.  The haze was fairly thick and had the same effect on the insects cloud cover does; shortly after the haze moved in, blue-winged olives started hatching and with that the trout would begin to feed on top.   


Once the fish started rising, I switched to a #20 blue-winged olive sparkle dun and began taking fish on top. This lasted for a few hours into early afternoon, and a good cast with a drag-free drift over a working fish often drew a good take.  We took dozens of chunky rainbows and browns along with an occasional cutthroat trout.  Each day we fished a different section of river, each with its own character, and did well.  I used one fly for almost all of the fish I took on top - I had to switch to another once in a while as the fly would get totally water logged.  Once it dried though, it went back on the end of my 6X tippet.  It took a beating all three days, but it stood the test as you can see here.  It's now retired.


I know it sounds like it was easy fishing, and for the most part it was, but it wasn't like every cast got a strike.  We got plenty of refusals, and even more drifts that were not even getting a look.  These fish wanted a perfect drift!  The other thing is that the wading was not easy.  The bottom is strewn with round, slippery rocks of all sizes that make it much more difficult than it looks in the photos.  Also, the water is very clear and as you can see below it looks fairly shallow, it is not.  Right in front of where I took that photo the water was a good 2 feet deep, and across the way on the other side of that big rock, it's 4 feet or so - we know, we tried to cross there. 


We had a blast and I hope to get back there sometime soon.  I do want to thank the guys at Vail Valley Anglers as they were very generous with information and all around nice guys.  If you are ever in Vail or Beaver Creek Colorado, be sure to go see them. 

LINK: Vail Valley Anglers

I'm off to Montana tomorrow morning - I'll report back when I return.

Sharpen your hooks!      

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

An August Afternoon on the River

After getting a few things done around the house Sunday morning, I had some lunch before the call of the river had me heading to the South Branch to wet a line.  The last few nights had been very cool, and that day we had high thin clouds filtering the high sun and perfect temperatures for October in August.  After getting set up, I took the water temperature and it was a comfy 65 degrees F.  This is one of my favorite times of the year to fish - water and air temperatures are such that you can literally immerse yourself in the river by wet wading.     

      
I started well above the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the river intending to work my way down into the gorge and then back up.  I really had no goals in mind except to take a long walk/wade in the river on a beautiful day and take in the sights and sounds of the woods; and if a trout should take my fly that would be icing on the cake.  Initially, I had an iris caddis on the end of my tippet, which I fished wet.  I took a couple of rainbows in the first few runs and as I was moving down to fish the next run, a fish rose on the far bank under a clump of multiflora rose bushes overhanging a soft spot in the current.

I quickly cut off the iris caddis, changed tippets to a long 6x, and tied on a #20 Matt's Gnat.  This is my go-to fly when I don't see anything on the water and conditions are such that subtlety is required - slow, clear water flowing like it is thicker than it really is.  I cast the fly well up above where I saw the rise to get a read on how it looked and floated on the water, before lifting and making a couple of quick false casts and then dropping the fly above the fish.  The fly floated along unmolested, so I picked it up and in one motion dropped it a little further above the first spot.  It drifted less than a foot before it was grabbed by a wild brown that after a brief battle measured about 8 inches long.

From that point on decided I would only fish the dry for the rest of the outing.  Over the next 4 hours I waded and walked (around other anglers) my way to the bottom of the gorge before turning and heading back up river.  I fished only the shallower riffles, runs and pockets that most anglers pass on and took quite a few rainbows and wild browns, nothing over 10 inches. As I moved along, I dropped the fly in every foam line that flowed below rocks over the darker river bottom made up of small cobble and stone.  I rarely saw the trout, as they blended in well with the bottom.  It was all about making a solid first cast along with the knowledge/confidence that many of these runs held at least one fish.  I fished this one fly the whole time, retying it on to the tippet after every few fish, and I don't think I made a cast over 20 feet.         

It was one of those days that is very satisfying, not only because of the weather, but especially because my low expectations were met with good results.

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 World Youth Fly Fishing Championship Results

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Doug Freemann and the rest of the US Youth Fly Fishing Team, competed in Slovenia last week against 12 other International Teams.  Despite tough conditions on new waters, they finished with the bronze medal.  France took gold, and Poland took silver.  Congratulations team USA! 


As I write this, Douglas is beginning a new chapter in his life.  He just texted me that he is moving in to his dorm for his freshman year at Colorado State University.  Good luck, Doug, and make sure you study as hard as you fish!

Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A One Fly Morning

When I rolled out of bed this morning, the room was very cool with wide-open windows letting in the 58 degree F outside air.  I went into the kitchen and made a cup of coffee and then walked out onto the deck and everything about the weather told me it was the rare, perfect August morning for fishing.   The air was calm, and high, thin clouds muted the early sun.  The cool night would have lowered the water temperatures to trout-comfortable levels, which meant I only had to travel a mere ten minutes to be on the water. (Typically, this time of the year in New Jersey, one has to travel 2 hours or more to find suitable water temperatures and levels for trout fishing.)   


I parked my car at Hoffman's Crossing bridge and walked the half mile down to the top of the Ken Lockwood Gorge, where I took the water temperature just to be sure it was good to fish.  The thermometer read 65 degrees F, and the water level was very good for this time of the year.  As I walked down the rutted dirt road that skirts the east side of the river, I looked for bugs and rises without much luck, so I tied on a size #17 Iris Caddis and then added a small split-shot about 8 inches above it, intending to fish the fly as a nymph.   I stepped down to the river and began casting the fly into a short, deep pocket.  It only took a couple of casts before I was into a 12 inch rainbow.

I took one more rainbow in that hole and then started to work my way downstream hitting every pocket and run that had some depth and a "fishy" look to it.  Over the next few hours of working my way downstream, I took several more rainbows and even a couple of small wild brown trout.  All of them on the same Iris Caddis I started out with.  


I did see a few other anglers as I made my way down river, but everyone was spread out and only a few times did I have to get out of the river to go around someone to leave them a wide berth.  The air temperature stayed comfortable and it was a pleasure to wade in shorts without waders.  The gorge is very rocky, and even when the water levels are low, you do need to wear wading boots with felt or studs to be safe.

I covered about two-thirds of the gorge before turning around and heading back towards the top, stopping at various holes and runs, and fishing them.  It was a hatchless morning, and during the entire time I saw only one rise. So I fished the same fly the whole time and did well, including catching a beautiful 6-7 inch wild rainbow just before calling it a day around 2:00 PM.      


A size #17 Iris Caddis tied on a TMC 102Y hook.


Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The 2017 Youth World Fly Fishing Team Is Ready for Slovenia

Just a few short years ago I spent many weekends over a couple of years fishing with Doug Freemann, who at the time was fairly new to the sport. He was fascinated with fly fishing and wanted to learn as much as he could about it.  At the time, he was focused mainly on nymphing with competition style leaders and nymphs. We often fished the same pools near enough to each other that we could talk about the water we were fishing with respect to flows, holding water, and how best to cover it.  Fly tying also became a big part of his world, too (how could it not with my obsession). After a few months he started competing in the fly fishing competitions that determine the team members for the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team.   


As time went by he expanded his techniques to dry flies and streamers and  became proficient in all aspects of the sport.  He not only made the US Youth Team after a couple of years, he traveled to Spain last year with the team for the world competition, and the team took silver, and Doug was the top angler for team USA.  This year Doug will be going to Slovenia for the world youth fly fishing championship in about a week as the team captain. Not only is Doug a very good angler, we couldn't have a better young ambassador for our country.  I know I'm biased, but if you met him you'd certainly agree.  In the fall he is headed to Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO.  I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity in this life to have fallen into Doug's orbit. 

I would be remiss if I didn't include the rest of the team here, as although each angler fishes independently, its the team that they each truly fish for in the end.   All of these young men have worked hard over the last year to earn their place on the team.  In addition to being very good anglers, they also represent our country very well.

The 2017 USA Youth World Team:

Douglas Freemann, Captain
Grant Hawse, Co-Captain
Holden Price 
Seth Drake
Evan Vanek
Mike Komara

Kalvin Kaloz, Coach


The US Youth Fly Fishing Team (Team USA) is a carefully selected group of youth anglers from across the United States that has been associated with leaders in the sport. It was incorporated in 2008.

FIPS-Mouche, the world sanctioning body for competitive fly fishing has well defined rules of competition. All fishing is “catch and release.” Anglers fish five different sessions of three hours each, all on different rivers and “beats” of water. Scoring is based on the number and size of fish caught. Placement points are awarded for each session with the goal of scoring as few points as possible. A person catching no fish in a session receives the greatest number of penalty points and considerably jeopardizes their chances of medalling.

Just as important as the fishing, is the camaraderie and the cross-cultural connections that are made through the events. Team members are also involved in a number of other areas of fly fishing such as guiding, offering fly fishing tying clinics, participating in watershed preservation projects, and promoting environmental stewardship.

Please join me in wishing the 2017 USA Youth Fly Fishing Team the best of luck in Slovenia this August. 

Go get 'em, boys!