Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day Trip to the Big City

I left my quiet home of less than 400 people today for a trip to the big city. I was debating the fight with stop lights, fast food chains, and the dense population before I had visions of big trout and hit the road. After the hour long drive out of the San Juan Mountains and toward the West Elk Mountains I arrived in Gunnison. After a short stop at taco bell I made it through the three stoplights safely and another half-hour to the hog trough in Taylor Canyon. There were not any cars or fisherman on the river, a rare and encouraging sight. I stepped out of my truck and the world suddenly made sense. The icy wind hit my face I was instantly numb as I scrambled to find my gloves and an extra jacket. Tying on flies was a 20 minute challenge and once rigged I considered turning on the engine and heater for a few minutes. Luckily I am not reasonable and decided to suffer. They call this place the hog trough for a reason. I have caught some monsters in there and lost a few more. Today however, it was just cold.

I walked down to the river, pulled some line off the reel and began making some great presentations. As always, there was the occasional rise tempting me to put on a dry fly but experience told me to save my fingers for a more demanding fly change. After making a couple dozen perfect drifts through the avalanche hole with a double midge rig, I became tired of clearing the ice from my guides. I changed to a midge and my favorite mysis shrimp pattern, made on cast and immediately hooked a small brown. After the release and a wet glove my casting hand began to gather ice and a nasty blizzard had begun. My reel was frozen and my guides were icing constantly but I battled the elements for another half hour. Eventually I began dreaming of warm places and left the Taylor River.

Taylor Pictures with the broken camera

The problem with leaving the hog trough is that there is just enough time to melt the ice, feel the sting of feeling returning to my hands and feet and drive along two more rivers. I stopped after Almont to try a deep run on the Gunnison river. The run looked great and I made some great drifts but came up empty. I decided to switch to a sink tip and chuck some streamers. After a while without a grab a big brown swam right in front of my feet. The fish looked ragged and was covered in sores. After that I reeled up and drove up the east river. I did the same routine on a deep hole below the Roaring Judy fish hatchery and came up empty again. I decided the rivers were too slow and tried some ponds near the hatchery. I saw several fish sipping midges but had heard rumors of the occasional huge brown being caught. I left the sink tip on and tried for a trophy. Again, I was skunked. Eventually I called it day, made my way through the same three stoplights and drove home. Although the fishing was very slow, my presentations were great and I left feeling good about the day. Hopefully this Sunday will be a little more productive.

More Pictures with the broken camera

Bad Picture of the Pond

Nice Hole on the East River

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Return of the Lost Photos

I found the memory card that was buried in my truck and recovered some pictures from the last trip to the Frying Pan. No commentary here. Just some nice trout porn. I will be doing some fishing this weekend so plan on a report sometime next week. Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back on Track

My posts have been seriously lacking lately but it is not because I have not been fishing. I have been working on a new website based on Colorado adventures, working, fishing, hunting, and taking a few classes online. This is a catch-up post so it may be a bit lengthy and my camera lens cracked so the pictures a little off.

After some great fall fishing I picked up a third season leftover cow elk tag in unit 65. I hadn't spent any time in this unit so it was new territory. Although it is just over an hour from my home and is located in the same wilderness I had never been in the backcountry here. I arrived a day early for some scouting and realized that the only chance at finding elk was by hiking in the wilderness. The first day of the season I hiked about 12 miles and found several trophy mule deer bucks but not any sign of elk. The country was beautiful though.

And the accommodations were cozy.
Day 2 I hit a different trail at higher elevation. The terrain was perfect for elk and again I saw no sign. There was a group of backpackers camping that may have moved the elk but there was not even old sign. 13 miles later I was feeling discouraged and returned to the truck bed for a cold night. Day 3 I tried another trail system that actually connects to Lake City. I could have walked home with the mileage that I had put in at this point but the map showed some nice parks. I hit the trail in the dark and arrived at the first network of parks early at first light.

There was a small draw that made a blindspot so I sat tight for a few minutes and glassed the landscape. Before long a group of 30 cows popped out of the draw at about 300 yards. I couldn't get a clear shot so I had to make a move. After sneaking through the treeline I was in position and the cows were moving through the treeline. I could not get a clear shot and that was it. I was encouraged however and moved through the parks without finding anymore elk but there was tons of sign. I hiked out and made plans for day four. Day four I hiked in and there were not any elk in the park. I moved to the next park and found a large group of slightly drunk men facing each other in a half circle. They said their friends were trying to push elk out with horses so I decided to hike in to the Uncomphagre wilderness a ways farther. After pushing my legs a bit to far I walked into the timber and found a hidden meadow. I sat down for a break and watched a 6x6 bull walk by at 40 yards a few minutes later. ALONE. No cows with this one and all I could do was watch and admire. I drove to a new camp spot and listened to the election results on satellite radio that night over chili and a few beers. I was ready for bed when it started to sprinkle snow. I figured it would not be much and went to bed.

Day 5 I opened my eyes to 18" of fresh snow. My first thought said that I should have no problem finding elk. My second and third thoughts were about my four wheel drive not engaging and being stuck in camp. After some digging and slow moving some guys in a big dodge pulled in. Turns out they were from Nevada also and we had some common ties. They pulled me out, I got the 4wd working and drove out to the highway. My first Colorado elk hunted had ended.

After the hunting trip I did some local fishing on the Lake Fork and the Rio Grande. The Rio fished well and the Lake Fork was cold but eventful. Here are a few pics:

Rio Grande Brown

Pair of Moose on the drive home

Lake Fork Brown

The local fishing was great but I was itching for and adventure and some new water. I had four days off of work so I hit the road early last Thursday and found myself on the Frying Pan early in the afternoon. I had heard of the famous toilet bowl and was prepared with my tailwater strategies and favorite mysis shrimp pattern. I had no trouble hooking into a few fish immediately but it took about an hour before I tied into the 27" rainbow that broke me off. It was heartbreaking but the surroundings were great and I kept at it. I caught several over 20" before leaving the crowd for dinner. A quick subway sandwich and some truck camping at the boat ramp for Ruedi Reservoir and I was ready to get after some fish.

The morning view

I hit the river downstream from the crowd and found some phenomenal fishing. There was an early midge hatch and some midday BWO's. I caught about 20 fish on a dry fly before the hatch seized. I would have tried some nymphs but the slimy bottom was difficult. I decided to try a streamer and the black slumpbuster proved to be a great choice. Every other cast I was hooked up with a brown over 15" and several at 20". I was very impressed with the health and quality of this fishery. I must apologize though as I seem to have lost the memory chip with most of those pictures. Hopefully I find it in my truck soon.

After the Frying Pan I made my way over to Silverthorne in the dark. I found Dillion Reservoir and hopped in the back of the truck for another good night of sleep in my second winter home. Again, the view was great in the morning.

I was not too excited about the Blue River through Silverthorne. It runs through town and is right next to the outlet malls. Not exactly remote. I roamed around and found a pullout upstream from the town and decided it would be a good starting point. The guy at the local fly shop had recommended midges and said they were not focused on the mysis shrimp. I started with midges and caught a few high sticking through some nice runs. I moved upstream closer to the dam and put on a chironomid and my mysis pattern. After high sticking for a while I hooked into a big rainbow. Unlike the frying pan 'bow I landed this one quickly and taped it at 25". At this point I was pumped.

I continued fishing and caught several more on the mysis and one on the red chironomid. I could have left happy until I hooked another monster and was broke off. I had to keep at it and hooked and landed another big rainbow. This one was a 24" pig.

Another fisherman said I was the master as no one else was catching much. I felt pretty confident and caught a few more before heading to Breckenridge to meet one of my best friends Zac. Check him out at He was snowboarding and I was fishing close so we met up and drank some beers. He crashed in my truck and helped keep it warm until we were kicked out of the City Market parking lot for some illegal sleeping. We moved on and found a spot to crash for the remainder of the night. The next morning we parted ways and I drove to Denver to pick up a friend before making the drive home. I am looking forward to some fishing this winter. There is talk of a float trip through Lee's Ferry in Arizona and the obvious Taylor River tailwater. Hopefully I can fix the lens on my camera soon and keep you all updated. Until then, tight lines and enjoy the winter fishing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Fish

I spent a couples hours on the river this afternoon. The fishing was good. I was feeling a bit lazy with the camera so I only photographed a few fish. One large brown and another large cutbow. They both fought hard and didn't hesitate to slam oversized flies.

Here's the pics.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

October Snow

The mountain weather has been a bit finicky in Lake City this October. While hunting with a friend last weekend we were caught in a rain storm that turned into snow and sleet with the added bonus of thunder and lightening. The snow melted quickly but three days later it dumped snow again and made things really feel like winter.

Henson Creek after the storm

The aspen quickly shed their leaves and everything was looking like a winter wonderland. As nice as it was I could not be excited because it is October and I wouldn't mind having some more time for fall fishing. Luckily, the weather has improved and the snow melted in the valley. The fishing is fantastic and the post-spawn browns are eating aggressively. My camera battery died and I lost the charger so many of the recent fish have not been photographed. I did find the charger and spent the last two days catching fish and taking photographs. I decided to have some fun on the water and use some extra large hopper patterns with a variety of big rubber legged nymphs and a small BWO mayfly pattern on the bottom of the three fly rig. I was surprised that several fish exploded on the hopper in attempt to destroy the thing. Hopefully I can keep putting in time on the water before and after my elk hunt. This is my favorite time of year to get after some big fish. Enjoy the pictures.

The Aspen have shed their leaves

A few from the last two days

This buck made his bed by the swing set in the back yard

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Casting for Recovery

Much has happened since my last post. I have, as usual been fishing every spare moment and the fishing has been amazing. My clients have been getting into fish over 18" daily and I have been hunting down big fish in the evenings. The other evening I spent some time tracking down a big school of Kokanee salmon and spotted a few browns behind them. The browns had followed the salmon up from Blue Mesa Reservoir for a meal of roe before they go into the spawn. After accidentally hooking a salmon I managed to get on perfect drift into the browns territory and a big 23" female sucked down the egg pattern. After playing and landing the fish it sat in some clear water and I managed to snap a few photographs.

After catching the big fish and many other fish over 20" in the last few weeks I began dreaming of a small stream that runs through a remote canyon. The difficult part is access as there are several private properties and some serious off road driving to get past before coming close to the stream. A good friend who happens to be one of the few individuals who knows the route took me to the stream. We both hooked and landed many fish, several of which were pushing 19". Catching large browns on 3 weight rods in a small stream is a blast. I would rate this as the best small stream fishing I have ever experienced. Unfortunately my camera battery died after the first fish so the pictures are limited to one.

After all the excitement and great fishing I would say my life is perfect right now. However, a recent experience was really enlightening and gave new meaning to flyfishing. I had the opportunity to help with a retreat sponsored by an organization called Casting for Recovery. I spent one day at a private guest ranch helping instruct women recovering from breast cancer. The majority of the day was with Janet who is a fast learner and hooked into some nice trout. This organization is run by some wonderful people and the retreats are really beneficial to the women. This was one of the greatest moments in my guiding career and I hope to work with them in the future. In the meantime check out their website at, and enjoy some pictures of the fun we had at the Powderhorn Guest Ranch. They were incredible hosts the retreat was a success.

Janet and I

The Fall Colors are Amazing