The Ramblings of a Fly Fisherman

Casting a Streamer

Since I posted these last few articles about woolly buggers, I have had a few of my fly fishing buddies ask me about the details involved with casting streamers. It really isn’t very hard at all. In fact, you can pretty much get away with all kinds of casts and retrieves when it comes to fishing these types of patterns.

Streams – I like to cast short and toward the opposite bank allowing the flow to swing the streamer into the center of the creek hopefully through an eddy or pool. Often this approach will yield a strike as the fly straightens out the line down-stream of your position. Go ahead and slightly jig the fly as the water is carrying it to its final position as this will simulate a wounded bait fish.

Ponds – You will really need to experiment with depth here. I have had strikes just below the surface while other trips only seemed to yield activity at the very bottom of the pond. In these situations, I like to carry two different types of line, a floating line and an intermediate sinking line. In both cases, be sure to extend your leaders past 9 feet, I sometimes use 12 and I always use fluorocarbon in these situations. Once you have reached the depth that you wish to fish, play around with various retrieves (slow and fast) and see which one entices the fish to bite.

In either one of these instances, the streamer selection will also be very important. If you happen to notice lots of minnows in the water, a streamer with flash and a faster retrieve may be just what the doctor ordered. However, if you happen to see crayfish bouncing through the silt, selecting an orange or brown pattern and jigging it right off the bottom may prove to be best.

Fly Tying Injuries

Well, I have my first tying injury! I was attempting to create my own version of the egg-sucking leech and managed to pierce my thumb while pulling back the hackle in order to tie in the orange dubbing that I selected for the head. That’s right, my hand slipped and I sank the barb into my thumb nearly to the bend of the hook. The only thing that stopped it was the vise itself. OUCH!

I hope you guys like this one! I spilled some blood during its creation.

Fun with Buggers

I have already gotten a few calls from various fly fishing friends and family members requesting that I send a few of these guys their way before spring.  No problem guys, some are on their way.  Another great gift idea and so close to the holidays!  Thanks for the excellent instruction Charlie!
A few small variations...

The Woolly Bugger

There will not be many fly fishermen around that have not tried or at least heard of the Woolly Bugger. There are limitless variations of this pattern. The one pictured here is just my first attempt at its tying introduction featured in Charlie Craven’s book; I started tying them this weekend. As far as my experience with this pattern, the only thing that I can really say is that I have probably not fished it enough. There have been many occasions in which I was striking out with both dry flies and nymphs, but when I switched to a bugger, everything changed. It is certainly an effective weapon. Don’t let yourself be caught out on the rivers here in Colorado without at least a few of these in your fly box! In fact, I would carry them everywhere.

The Woolly Bugger

Summing Up Knots

I have been offering links to instructional videos regarding different knots that can be used in fly fishing. However, I have stumbled across a site that does an excellent job at summing up these knots in a very simple way making them easy to learn and properly apply to the sport. It features 10 knots, all of which I have used myself for various applications. Check it out!

The Royal Wulff

This is all about visibility! The Royal Wulff doesn’t really imitate anything; it’s just an attractor pattern. In fact, if you are fishing on a day that the trout are being very selective or in the middle of a hatch, this pattern will probably frustrate you as many fish will seem to go out of their way to avoid it. I find this pattern works best in rougher water and on days when the trout are actively feeding. It’s really easy to spot, which is a very good thing in the foam! You want to keep it moving quickly so avoid attempting this one in slow moving pools.

As far as tying this pattern, it takes a lot of patience for someone new to the hobby. There are several technical aspects to the fly all happening in a very small space.

Why is fly tying so important?

It makes a birthday gift very easy when you have other fly fishermen in the family!

Sharpen Your Hooks!

It’s such a simple idea, but one that many fly fishermen miss. When we create these flies, we are often starting with laser sharpened hooks. However, after the fly is taken in and out of the fly box a few times; gets stuck in our vest, snags on rocks, branches, the net, and certainly after we catch a few trout… Well, the hook has seen better moments. Fishing with a dull hook, especially those of us out there that use barbless, can usually mean the difference between an up-close release and a long distance one!

Sharpening hooks is easy. I use a hook sharpener that you can pick up at nearly any fly fishing shop. I also know some that use something as simple as an emery board. Make a point to check your hooks while on the river and before each trip.

Lefty Kreh recommends a very simple test to determine the sharpness. Simply drag the point of the hook slowly across your thumb nail… If it catches, you are good to go. If it doesn’t, sharpen it!

More Stimulators!

Okay…  So I have gone a little stimmy crazy.  What can I say?  This is a great pattern, its fun to tie, and there are TONS of variations.  The one pictured here is similar to the original, but I switched out the orange dubbing for peacock herl and I added some rubber legs.  This fly will work great for trout as well as panfish and possibly bass.  I can’t wait to try this one out!

The Stimulator

This is probably one of the most popular patterns to fish, especially for those out there that are new to fly fishing. Stimulator patterns offer a wide variety of advantages. They are easy to spot and follow after the cast. They mimic a wide variety of insects including hoppers, large caddis, and adult stone flies. They also have enough bulk and floating capability to enable the fisherman to attach nearly any small to medium size dropper nymph. While I have gotten a fair number of hits on the pattern itself, I have found that it actually serves a better purpose… as a stimulator (hence the name). By fishing this fly , you have the ability to alter a trout’s fishing lane bring him closer to the subsurface nymph or midge that is a better match to the natural food that he may be feeding on.

For those reading this that feel this pattern is too complicated to tie for a novice. The one pictured is actually only my second attempt. It is reasonably simple, especially if you have been reading Charlie Craven’s book!

The Stimulator

The Big Thompson

Alyssa, Matt and I visited the Big Thompson in order to take advantage of a great flow rate and excellent fishing report.  This area proved to be a solid producer and yielded 16 nice trout ranging from 8 to 13 inches.  I started using a wide range of midge and nymph patterns, but finally settled on a pheasant tail and zebra midge as these seemed to provide the best results.  I also caught a few on a Charlie Boy Hopper, but given the time of year and high temperatures near Estes Park, this wasn’t really too big of a surprise.  Much of the fishing was strictly pocket water, but there were some deeper runs that provided access to a number of hungry browns.  I recommend starting around 9:30am and fishing until 2:00pm as this time frame seemed to be the most active of the day.
Nice Brown, Nice Corner Mouth Hook-Set!

The Caddis Fly

This has to be one of my favorite patterns to fish.  I have used it in nearly all of the rivers here in Colorado as well as locations in Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, and Idaho.  I would consider this a staple for any fly fisherman because it's an extremely effective pattern that can mimic both adult caddis and stone flies.  In general, I like to vary the color on this pattern in a consistent way.  In early spring, colors should stay in the light yellow and orange range in order to mimic emerging stone flies in the area, but as late summer begins to approach, I move toward darker colors like auburn, brown, and even black.  I like to tie this one with a slightly thicker wing than you traditionally see as this will allow the fly to float on the surface effectively even when in rougher water. 
The Caddis Fly

Another 11 Mile Canyon Trip

We visited 11 Mile Canyon this weekend with the hopes of catching some large trout and enjoying a nice day in the great outdoors. As always, the area did not disappoint us. There wasn’t one cloud in the sky, the fishing was moderate, but fun, and the canyon was somewhat vacant due to the fact that most campers started to head home Monday morning. I did find it strange that I managed to hook a white sucker fish in the river, as this is the first time that I have done that in all my trips to 11 Mile. What makes it even stranger is that I did it twice and with a caddis larva pattern fishing rougher water… Overall, we caught about 12 fish. Nymphing typically is the best method to fish this river, but with the later season and the increased vegetation, I actually recommend running a dry-dropper configuration. This will allow you to run a sub-surface pattern, but without the constant need to clean your flies as you will certainly experience if attempting to nymph in most parts of the river. I ran a Charlie Boy Hopper and a pheasant tail most of the day and found it to be very successful.

An Overview of 11 Mile Canyon

White Sucker Fish

Heading to 11 Mile Canyon

Alyssa and I are heading off to 11 Mile Canyon Monday morning. Conditions are ideal for various terrestrial patterns and the latest fishing reports are quite promising. If anyone is intending on fishing that area over the next few weeks, I recommend hoppers of any sort, pheasant tails, and a wide assortment of emergers. If you are there early enough, don’t forget about rusty spinners…

This Weekend's 11 Mile Line-Up

Knot of the Month - The Trilene Knot

The Trilene knot is something that I do not use too often in fly fishing, but it can certainly add a bit of safety when fishing larger patterns in areas that are known for supporting trout above 20 inches. Basically, it is a clinch knot with two rolls of line through the hook eye instead of just one. It adds strength to a setup and could be the determining factor when fighting that big fish to your net. Link to Video

Boulder Creek 8/29/2010

Alyssa and I visited Boulder Creek today. It is my first trip to this river and honestly, I wish I had taken the time to fish there much sooner than today. While the trout are not very large (8 to 13 inches), they are plentiful and willing to attack larger patterns with a vengeance. I was fishing a Charlie Boy Hopper and a Flashback Pheasant Tail, both of which I spun up just a few days ago. I would say that the fish split their attention equally among those flies today making the strikes both fun and unexpected. In general, this area is all about pocket water fishing. The casting can be a bit technical, but if you are willing to risk the heavier cover, you will find some hungry trout hanging around the pools just next to downfall and larger boulders. While I did fish with my 5WT 9FT, I would actually recommend a 3WT 8FT or shorter as this will lower your risk of entanglement with the various cover that lines the river bank.

Fly Fishing Boulder Creek

The Charlie Boy Hopper

Tonight, I attempted the Charlie Boy Hopper… This is another great terrestrial pattern that works very well this time of year. Created by Charlie Craven, this hopper pattern is foam-based and is fairly easy to tie. In fact, this image that I am providing is only my second attempt at the pattern… I have been using this particular pattern since I started fly fishing and I have seen success in nearly every river that I have visited.

The Charlie Boy Hopper

The Prince Nymph

I am still working my way through Charlie Craven’s book and have finally made it to the Prince Nymph. I have not used this fly a lot myself, but I hear from other fly fisherman that this pattern is just as much of a “go to” as the Pheasant Tail. Created by Doug Prince, this fly is known for being highly effective in both lakes and rivers, especially those areas that have reasonable stone fly populations. After reading about this pattern, I intend to start utilizing it in areas like 11 Mile Canyon.

The Prince Nymph

The Flashback Macaw Tail Nymph

Well, I have been working on my tying skills for the last month or so, and honestly, I think I am starting to really get the hang of it! Tying flies is somewhere between art and fishing. Alyssa says that it is actually crafting for guys… I can’t really say that she is wrong here. For the last week, I have been perfecting the pheasant tail nymph. This particular fly is a powerhouse and works on most rivers year round and can be fished below the surface or in the foam. It is one of my “go to” flies when the trout aren’t feeding as vigorously as I would like.

Today, I decided to take things a step further and create my own spin on this great pattern. I present the Flashback Macaw Tail Nymph. Same basic pattern as the classic, but utilizing a bit of bling and the tail feathers from a friend’s pet. I will try this fly out soon and report on its effectiveness.

The Flashback Macaw Tail Nymph
Classic Pheasant Tail Nymph

Fly Fishing the Blue - 8/7/2010

Not a whole lot to tell on this trip. I have fished the Blue River a number of times, and while I have heard plenty of stories about pulling out some nice fish, I have still been unable confirm those accounts. Many of my trips there have been riddled with high water conditions or just a plain lack of luck regardless of the flies, areas, or techniques attempted. It certainly is a challenging area to master! We did catch a few, mostly smaller browns running nymphing rigs, however; all was not lost. Matt and I managed to catch a few absentee fishing Green Mountain Reservoir and on the last day of the trip, we stopped by a pond just outside of Silverthorne and managed to snag some larger rainbows on spinners. Either way, we had a great time!

Visiting Chinn's Lake

I had the opportunity to visit a new area near Idaho Springs recently. Chinn’s Lake is tucked away just north of Idaho Springs and is a picturesque spot for great fly fishing and camping. Trust me here; you WILL need a 4X4 to frequent the area as nearly half of the trail that you will follow after exiting Fall River Road is riddled with large rocks and tight turns. Despite the difficulty traversing the mountains, the lake houses a lot of great trout fishing opportunities. Connor, Matt and I arrived near 6:30pm and fished until dark noting only limited surface activity. However, with a little patience and the right fly selection, this area can be a great producer. We were exclusively using a flying wood ant pattern, but due to the insect activity here, a mosquito pattern will work as well. Camping is free, but can prove to be a bit limited on the weekends.

Chinn's Lake

My Flying Wood Ant Pattern

Knot of the Month - The Duncan Loop

Part of the success of fly fishing deals directly with the action that an angler can give to the fly that is being presented. While many of us use various knots to attach our flies, often we migrate toward a favorite and use that one for nearly everything. I have discovered that there are considerations to be made as you attempt to fish particular patterns. This month’s knot addresses streamers. Streamers need to flow naturally and appear unrestricted as they swim through a pool. A great knot to use to further that action is a Duncan Loop.  Link to Video

The Chernobyl Ant

As we all know, terrestrial patterns are moving in full swing this time of year. Today, I am featuring a fly that I have recently started to tie. I know you will all enjoy this fly due to the results that you will see on the rivers. Introducing the Chernobyl Ant. This is a foam pattern that floats well and can mimic a number of large terrestrial insects. There are many variations to this pattern, but the one that I tie really does a good job of outlining the segmented body that trout will often respond to. Feel free to experiment with color variations, but be mindful to create a lot of contrast so that the buggy outline can be easily seen from underneath the water’s surface.

The Chernobyl Ant

Gross Reservoir – 7/25/2010

Well, we had another successful trip to the Gross Reservoir inlet today. Fishing was slow for most, but I discovered that fishing a hopper pattern followed by a pheasant tail or hare’s ear nymph was exactly what the doctor ordered. Like before, adding the dropper at about 24 inches and fishing the faster water seemed to produce the best. Fish were smaller this time, ranging from 10 to 12 inches, but with a lighter rig and tippet, this was still a great way to spend the day.

Fly Fishing in Idaho

Fly fishing in Idaho was fantastic! We spent much of our time on the Cour d’Alene and St. Joe Rivers targeting bull and cutthroat trout… We were not disappointed. This time of year, the streams were running very clear making the approach challenging at first, however; we decided to focus our efforts on the riffles and faster water making larger patterns more effective. This also aided in hiding our presence in the water. In both locations, there was a  TON of casting room giving me the opportunity to work on more complex styles such as feathering and the double haul. Flies that seemed to produce well were hoppers and orange stimulators. I also occasionally trailed a pheasant tail which really did the trick during the warmer hours of the day.

Our guide, Adam, made a few great recommendations that could easily be applied to any stream or river.

1. When you are unsure of your pattern and the fish are showing obvious signs of feeding behavior, fish it in choppy or faster water as the trout will often strike without being too selective.

2. When casting, try to mend your line before it reaches the water’s surface. This will aid in a longer more consistent fly presentation.

3. Practice the double haul and get good at it! It will increase your range, accuracy and your spot availability. This could mean the difference between catching or just fishing.

Nice Cutthroat on the St. Joe River

My First Cutthroat

Starting to Tie!

Recently, I have been attempting to tie my own flies in an effort to improve my entomology skills and my experience within the sport of fly fishing. I have started with Charlie Craven’s book entitled Basic Fly Tying, Modern Techniques for Flies that Catch Fish. I feel that this particular book has a very good teaching process and the images that outline the walkthroughs are incredible. Charlie’s shop is located in Old Town Arvada and he is a great guy always willing to show you a few pointers.

So far, the experience has been a good one, and I look forward to improving this skill.

Here are a few of the patterns that I have been tying.

Deep Blue Poison Tung

Deep Blue Poison Emerger
Bead San Juan

Switch the Setup and NOT the Fly

There have been many occasions were I was fishing an area, seeing the trout, yet failing to hook up on anything significant. The first reaction by most of us is to change out flies and try again. We attempt to focus on matching the hatch or experimenting with various subsurface patterns, but we still ultimately come up short. In reality, the method of presentation is usually the problem, not the fly selection. Try the following few tactics before rifling through your fly box…

1. Add or remove weight to better match the flow rate of the stream. Remember, when nymphing, you will often want to get those patterns as close to the bottom as possible. The faster they reach that area, the more real-estate you will be able to cover per cast.

2. If running a dry-dropper, experiment with various dropper lengths. Sometimes switching a 14 inch dropper for a 18 inch can prove to be the ticket to falling perfectly within a feeding lane

3. Switch from mono line to fluorocarbon. I have found that areas that consist of clear, slow moving water will often produce better using fluorocarbon tippets due the fact that they are harder to see once submerged. It’s a pretty significant difference! Try looking at each type once placed in a glass of water… Which one disappears?

The Big Thompson – 7/5/2010

There were lots of activities going on at Estes Park this weekend. The fireworks were great, the weather was outstanding, and the fly fishing was on fire! I experimented with a few new locations starting at Sleepy Hollow and moving up stream from there about 2 miles, an area a bit farther away from Estes than I normally frequent. While the flow was a bit fast, the smaller pools and cutbanks were producing quite well. I was using brown stonefly patterns size 12 and a deep blue poison tung size 18. Add a little extra weight due to the flow level and don’t forget to start your drift in the faster water as the heaviest strikes will often occur just as the drift enters the slower areas.

Knot of the Month - The Nail Knot

This is the best knot to use when attaching a leader to the fly line, but as a deviation, I actually create a connector with a nail knot to a perfection loop and then use a loop to loop connection for RIO brand leaders.  They come with a loop connection already tied at the end.  Link To Video

Fly Fishing the Yampa

The Yampa River flows through Steamboat Springs. This area is known for housing some really large trout and providing reasonable access to the river at multiple locations. If you happen to be in this area and stop into the local fly fishing shop, you will be quickly handed some flies and directed away to one of the many street access points to the river downtown. While these areas can produce some nice fish, the traffic noise and the constant bombardment of drunken tubers make the experience frustrating at best. I talked to a few locals and was able to find several other access points farther south.  These alternate locations were quiet, remote, and the fishing was outstanding. The tailwaters of the Yampa near Stagecoach Reservoir and Sarvis Creek are perfect examples. The fish here are large and wary so be sure to lighten your tippets and drag. I met Spence there, a pseudo local very familiar with this section of the river, that made some fly and technique recommendations that certainly did the job. By the end of the day, I had caught 7 trout, the smallest of which was 15 inches. The patterns used here were yellow stonefly nymphs and white wing black emergers. Be sure to work the areas near overhanging brush and cutbanks as these were the most productive locations that I found.

Nice Rainbow caught at Sarvis Creek

Gross Reservoir This Weekend

I spent some time today canoeing and fishing Gross Reservoir located just outside Boulder, Colorado. This is a great location for trout, especially right now due to the high flows that we are seeing in many of the “main stream” fly fishing destinations around Denver. Right now, the fish are biting well, and appear to be feeding primarily around the bottom on various patterns including the flash-back pheasant tail and the prince nymph. I did get a few vigorous strikes on the surface, but this was seldom and not what I would have considered to be a real producer. The inlet is fishing the best and while it will be tempting to exclusively nymph in this area, the subsurface boulders and logs will make that technique frustrating as you will spend most of your time hung up on snags. I recommend tying a dry-dropper with a larger stimulator at the surface and running your nymph about 24 inches below that. This is not my typical configuration, but between the three of us that fished today, we caught 12 in just a few hours.

Gross Reservoir Website

Williams Creek and the San Juan River

I just returned from a camping trip in Pagosa Springs, CO. Honestly, I couldn’t say enough good things about this place. Most of our local fishing was done at Williams Creek and while the browns in this area were quite challenging to fool, they were a lot of fun and willing to take larger patterns such as salmon flies and hoppers this time of year. We fished from the Williams Creek Reservoir to about 6 miles downstream noting the best success around the pastures located near where the road starts heading up into the higher hills. The water here is a little fast for a small stream and very clear so watch your approach and don’t overlook the smaller pools as I found a few nice trout in those locations. Patterns to have with you include salmon flies, ants, and a variety of stone flies.

We also headed south to the San Juan River. If you are anywhere near this area, I highly recommend taking a float trip down the San Juan south of the Navajo Dam. We met up with Scott from High Country Charters and booked a full day trip down this section of river. The trout here are big, strong and plentiful. Scott and Steve were able to show us a few good nymphing techniques and get us on top of some impressive fish. Weekends can be crowded so be sure to arrive there on a week day to avoid the crowds and maximize the fun.

Fishing Williams Creek

Alyssa's Monster Brown on the San Juan River

My Big Rainbow on the San Juan River

Flooding and Fishing

Due to the flooding that I am sure we have all been hearing about, fishing in many of our favorite streams around middle Colorado has been very limited or even nonexistent. Some have retreated to stillwater fishing, including myself, but my luck has been a bit limited. In light of the situation, it appears that opportunities do exist further south. I will be fishing the San Juan in a few days and according to my contacts near Pagosa Springs, I should be looking at good conditions on the San Juan and Williams Creek. For those that are not taking a vacation, there are still areas that should yield good fishing provided you do the research and are open to checking out a few areas that you may not have considered in the past.

Division of Wildlife Fishing Conditions

High Water Everywhere!

I am sure that a lot of us are patiently waiting for the runoff conditions to subside so that the rivers will clear and the water levels will return to their normal conditions. I feel your pain. We have a lot of runoff currently due to the fact that many snow areas have receded a little faster than originally predicted. I visited the Blue around Silverthorn last weekend thinking that I was going to be challenged by a few nice browns in that water. Unfortunately, I was surprised by how fast the water was moving. In fact, it was moving so quickly, that rafting companies were actually launching guided trips right near the outlets in the middle of town… I had not seen them that far up before. Due to some of the seasonal limitations, I cannot stress to you enough about the importance of checking the flow reports. If I had done that, I would have saved myself a trip and fished the Thompson instead as its flow was pretty fish-worthy.

I will be in Ft. Collins this weekend possibly fishing the Cache La Poudre. Flow reports indicate that waters are a little high in areas, but this river has a few nice streams that should be very fishable. I’ll keep you posted.

USGS Flow Reports for Colorado

Knot of the Month – The Perfection Loop

This is a great knot for creating loop-to-loop connections. Most fly fisherman use this to connect leaders to fly line along with the ever so popular nail knot. I like this connection because it allows you to change leaders with ease and without the need to tie additional knots while on the river. After all, the river is for fishing, not for arts and crafts!  Link to Video

Here is a guide showing how to make the loop-to-loop connection.

Turning Your Back to the River

This is a casting tactic that I had not considered before when attempting to complete longer cast where cover was an issue. It’s an interesting idea and a sound one. I am going to give it a shot next time I am on the river.  Link to Video

Casting the Fly - Dry Fly Fishing

We have all been on the river and seen trout strike and roll at the surface during a hatch. Excitement ensues and we frantically search through our fly collections to find a good match to what these fish are hitting on. However, there is a problem. They seem to be hitting on everything but what you are casting! What could the problem really be?

Presentation is just as important as the fly being cast, but that will be part of a later post as its description will be pretty involved. Today, I want to cover “where” the fly should be placed. I have seen many anglers cast AT the fish without any real regard to where the trout is actually monitoring for food. While we want a natural presentation, it is just as important to be presenting to an audience. What would be the point of performing if no one is paying attention? When dry fly fishing, trout are often searching the surface for insects approximately 2 to 4 feet ahead of their current position. This is a critical window as this is where you, the fisherman, are expected to perform. I typically cast 5 to 10 feet ahead if possible as this will allow me to make any necessary presentation adjustments before the fly is within view of the perspective trout. Casting directly at the trout will often result in spooking the fish and failing to take full advantage of the hatch.

Fishing in Runoff

A lot of streams are going to be murky or “tea-colored” as a result of the rains that we have been getting lately in Colorado. For some, you may find this frustrating as the typical flies that you know work well this time of year will seem ineffective and there will be a serious lack of surface activity. All is not lost! When you find yourself fishing in runoff conditions, you will want to consider “color contrast”. While streams are clear, your best flies, regardless of pattern, will be within a range of natural colors. However; with darker streams, consider using brighter patterns that will stand out better against the runoff. Also, don’t forget that black patterns often work well in the soup. They may not be bright, but they are a great contrast to brown!

Basics to Fly Casting - Part 3

This is part 3 of the Tight Lines series. It covers roll casting and steeple casting, two great skills to have, especially in areas where traditional casting isn't possible due to obstructions.  Link to Video

Accessibility and the Fishing Experience

Something that I have started to notice when fly fishing here in Colorado is the correlation between site accessibility and the fishing experience. I typically have better luck in areas that are either farther away from Denver or more difficult to get to either due to hiking requirements or the need for a 4X4. Fly fishing, in general, has grown in popularity over the years. This popularity has degraded the experience somewhat in that being able to enjoy the solitude of the sport has become increasingly diminished. If this is what you prefer, you will need to find more remote locations or make an effort to visit your closer destinations during the week. You will also notice that in order to catch larger numbers of wild fish, this same rule applies as many easily accessible locations often require stocking due to the fishing pressure that is or was experienced there. We have a lot of “catch and release” locations available to us, and this has been a huge help, but again I sometimes find myself fighting for elbow room.

Knot of the Month - The Blood Knot

I have been working on learning a few new knots in order to up my game a little bit as it relates to fly rigging setups. This month, I am learning the blood knot. This is a very easy knot to master and is an excellent, low-profile method to connect your tippet to the leader. Check out this video!

“The Blood Knot”

Reels Are Just For Holding Line Right?

This is what I was told when I first started fly fishing. For the most part, it is correct… sort of… :) When fishing in your local streams and catching smaller trout ranging from 6 to 15 inches, I feel that the quality of the reel doesn’t play a huge factor in your enjoyment of the sport. These fish will not really test the strength of the reel or rod and can usually be stripped in rather easily. Where the reel and drag capabilities will be tested is once you start getting into some larger fish. Trout over 15 inches, carp, and bass will test your technique and your gear. Having a reel with a more reliable drag system will be the detail that keeps you hooked up on your catch.

There are all kinds of good reels out there. I use a Konic reel as these are very cost effective and offer many of the same features that other high-dollar reels provide. You will spend ~$100 to $150 for a Konic, but from my experience so far, they are a bargain compared to some of the Sage and Orvis reels out there with the same features and quality. The choice is yours. The key point here is to start using a reel with a quality, reliable drag system so that the trophy trout that you are after gets successfully landed and you enjoy your day on the river.

Basics to Fly Casting - Part 2

This is part 2 in the Tight Lines series.  It covers false casting and shooting line; two very important skills needed in order to effectively work a river and catch trout.

Link to video

Wyoming Supreme Court Hears North Platte River Appeal

This is an interesting case that I have been following. I have not fished any of the North Platte yet, but this area is considered a great location that I intend to visit in the near future. I am concerned about this case as it appears to be a situation where private landowners are attempting to cut off an area known for large trout even though the present agreement with Game and Fish allows it. I certainly want to keep this area open to the public. I would agree with stricter “catch and release” guidelines, but to prohibit public fishing all together... that just seems extreme. I know that I have been frustrated by the number of area closures associated with trout waters recently and will never support additional limits. This area in particular has been open for nearly 50 years.

Link to article

Gross Reservoir Opens May 28th

Great News! Gross Reservoir is about to open. This is one of my favorite locations as it offers a wide range of activities including fly fishing, spin casting, kayaking, and hiking. I tend to do a combination of these when I am there! The fishing is very good, especially near the inlet. While this can be a challenging hike or paddle while carrying fishing gear, it is usually well worth the effort. Take a nice lunch and prepare to stay for the day.

Info on Gross Reservoir

The Importance of Polarized Sunglasses

While fly fishing with Alyssa, I noticed that she was having a lot of trouble spotting fish that I was able to locate with little effort. At first, I wasn’t sure why she seemed to be missing those trout hovering in a pool not 10 feet from her location while I was at least 25 feet away… but it hit me. I wear polarized sunglasses every time I am on the river! I know that this may be obvious to most of you, but I have horrible vision and find wearing glasses so second nature that I often forget that I am even wearing them at all.

Polarized sunglasses will effectively remove surface glare on the river and provide an opportunity to see the underwater terrain well enough to easily spot trout. This is a huge advantage as it will permit you to more effectively position yourself within the river and within an area that you know fish are congregating. This will solve one of the most important variables that are required to have a good fishing day… Are fish even near where I am casting my fly?

Spotting the trout will certainly provide an advantage over just casting where you “feel” they should be located. Polarized sunglasses will be the best tool to help you out in this regard.

Flow Reports and Planning a Weekend Fly Fishing Trip

There is not a lot of information regarding river flows and their impact on fishing and what I have found seems to be inconsistent. Many fly fishers just know what the optimal cubic feet per second (cfs) for a given river is based on local guide recommendations and determine what to do or how to fish from that. In reality, understanding these conditions can determine where to fish, the how, the flies to use, etc… It is important to know this type of information in advance as it will often outline the success of your entire trip. As always, contacting local guides is a great option, but you can also do a little research in advance to help narrow your search for that great weekend location.

1. The most optimal wading cfs is between 200 and 400. Now obviously, flow rates lower than 200 are easy to wade in, but not as optimal for catching trout. In those cases, you will typically find yourself searching for pocket water thus minimizing your overall fishing real-estate.

2. There are lots of flow and fishing reports that you can review online. Be sure to check the dates of these reports as I have often found reports that were a few weeks old making them pretty much useless. The USGS is probably the best place to start.

3. Contact local guides in the area by phone. I think that this is a resource that is underutilized. Many anglers that I have seen in fly shops will just ask “what flies should I use?”, purchase those and then go on their way. These guides KNOW that river and for the most part, want you to be successful. Talk to them about flow rates, fishing conditions, technique, etc… I have found that most of these guys are very knowledgeable and are certainly willing to point you in the right direction, even if you aren’t booking a trip that day.

The USGS is a good place to start when attempting to determine current stream flow before planning your weekend fly fishing trip - USGS Real Time Streamflow

The Colorado Fishing Network hosts up-to-date fishing reports, many from the local guides in the area - Colorado Fishing Network Fishing Reports

Basics to Fly Casting - Part 1

I found this video that I thought I would share. It was one of the first videos that I reviewed when initially teaching myself to fly cast.

Making some changes on the blog

If any of you were attempting to read this blog tonight, you may have noticed some changes and the occasional database error.  I have been experimenting with a few different looks to see which one I like the best.  I think I have settled on this latest look.  Thanks for your patience.

The Nymphing Rig

It just occurred to me that I have mentioned “nymphing” twice on this blog and really haven’t taken the time to explain what that is for those out there that may not know. Nymphing is a style of fly fishing where you are attempting to mimic subsurface insects rather than flying ones. It is a great alternative when fishing on colder days or periods where there appears to be little to no surface feeding activity. It involves a few extra items that need to be attached to the line and a different casting technique.

First, there is the “strike indicator”. Most of us that fished in other ways before adopting fly fishing will want to call this device a “bobber”, but in the world of fly fishing, it’s a strike indicator. For fun, refer to this little guy as a bobber in one of your more snotty fly shops and watch the other anglers frown at you….

Second, you will want to weight the line with a sinker. The primary difference between fly sinkers and standard fishing sinkers is that fly sinkers can be purchased very small and they often lack the little wings that allow you to remove it easily from the line. This is important because winged sinkers will typically foul up on structures where the round ones will not. The size of the sinker will be determined by the flow rate of the stream.

Third, you will need some flies. I like using a larger beaded fly like a San Juan Worm in front while attaching a smaller midge or emerger in the back approximately 12 to 14 inches apart and on lighter tippet. This configuration has a similar effect as a dry-dropper in that the first fly acts as an attractor while the second fly is what the trout will likely hit on. In general, flies for this type of rig will all be subsurface and will need to mimic those creatures that you are likely to find hidden under rocks or tangled in weeds. Try looking around when you first arrive to find a good match.

Casting style. This is the most important point here. NO FALSE CASTS! False casting will do nothing but improve your knot untying skills. Unless you intend to stand in the middle of the river tangled in a web of hooks, line and bobbers, I mean strike indicators, I recommend roll casting downstream. This cast will straighten out the line for you, allow you to let out a little more line if needed, and set you up for the forward snap. After the line is behind you, get the line moving forward with a wide, overhead motion just enough to get the strike indicator off the surface of the water. Once that happens “snap” the rod in the direction that you wish to send your rig. This process usually does a good job of placing your flies where you want them while avoiding the tangles associated with the setup. Beginners should aim at a 45 degree angle toward the opposite bank as this will be easier to control at first.

The Take....  You will not see the fly taken in most cases while fishing like this.  The key is to watch the strike indicator.  If you see it slow to a stop or follow a path contrary to the flow of the stream, you likely have a fish on.  Unlike dry fly fishing, trout will typically "slurp" up these flies rather than aggressively strike.

The Typical Nymphing Rig
Angry face

What Water Temperature is Best for Fly Fishing?

To be honest, this is a loaded question. It really has a lot to do with the species of fish as well as the overall profile of the river. You will see a lot of charts out there that state activity ranges and align that information with the types of flies that you should be using. For the most part, I find these charts to be simple guidelines at best rather than fact.

What is most important to remember is that feeding activity is really triggered by the rise or fall of water temperatures. There will be days that you fish a stream at 63 degrees and are able to catch trout with ease. Other days, you will fish that same stretch of water at the same temperature and get skunked. You should really think about what the temperature is expected to be once you arrive. Morning fishing will often produce well as the rising sun will inevitably increase the water temperature. Likewise, evening fishing will produce due to the drop in temperature. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have been told for many years that the best fishing is either in the morning or in the evening and this was long before I started fly fishing. Maybe that old coot that taught me how to fish in the first place was on to something.

I recommend taking temperature readings as soon as you arrive and compare that result with the forecasted weather conditions of the area. This will be your best guide when attempting to determine if feeding activity will increase. If fishing is slow, switch to a nymphing rig as this will readily reach those trout at the bottom that may be willing to feed given the right opportunity.

Looking for New Places - 5/1/2010

Alyssa, Matt and I decided that it was time to explore some new fly fishing territories this weekend. While reading the book "Fly Fishing Colorado's Front Range" by Todd Hosman, we selected two locations, Middle Boulder Creek and St Vrain Creek.

Canyon Blvd follows Middle Boulder Creek relatively close making this destination very accessible. However, we ended up passing on this spot due to the low water conditions and the crowds surrounding the only viable fishing areas. We started at noon which is really what created this problem for us.

Second was Vrain Creek. This is a great spot. This is a very beautiful location and camping areas are closed currently adding to the seclusion of the stream. The only problem was that there were no fish. This is a higher elevation and casting is very challenging due to low hanging brush and trees. I searched the local bug life and discovered lots of midge and caddis under nearly every rock. I feel that the water temperatures and the recent flow in this area have not allowed sufficient enough time for fish populations to return after the winter.  We will revisit this location in another month.

Well, so much for new locations!  We realized that we were very close to Estes Park so made our way to a nice pool that I discovered last week.  Fishing was still a little slow due to the fact that water temperatures were very low, but after some trial and error, I discovered the right pattern combination and water level and started to pull in some nice trout.

The High Plains Drifters

I discovered this fly fishing club through the FFF yesterday. So far, I really like what the represent and they appear to be very focused on fellowship and education. I spoke with Bob Appenzeller who creates their newsletter and is in charge of memberships. For those out there that are interested in getting to know the local fly fishing scene, I recommend taking a look at what these guys have to offer.

High Plains Drifters Website

The Federation of Fly Fishers

I just joined the Federation of Fly Fishers .  This is a great resource for all types of fly fishing information ranging from guides, videos, reading materials, and local clubs.  As a member, you can even coordinate with other FFF clubs as you travel around the country looking for great fishing destinations.

The Art of Catch and Release

I have seen so many fisherman out there that believe that "catch and release" is nothing more than removing the hook from the mouth of the fish and tossing it back into the river. I believe that there are several other factors to consider in order to safeguard the health of the fish and ultimately the sport itself.

1. Consider using a rubber-based net.  I really like these as they allow great control of the fish while not removing the natural slime-coat which acts as a protective layer preventing disease and infection.  Standard mesh nets or gloves remove this protective layer and also create challenges when attempting to remove your flies from the material.

2. Return the fish back to the water quickly.  We all want to get pictures of our catch, but be quick about it.  Trout can be quite sensitive when taken out of the water for 3 minutes or more increasing the risk of harming the fish.

3. Don't "toss" the fish.  I know that it sounds simple, but many fail to follow through on this idea.  Place the fish in a calmer section of the river and slowly release it.  This will allow the catch to regain control and swim away at it's leisure.

4. Use barbless hooks.  This can be a more challenging method of fishing as it will test your line control skill, but barbless hooks are easier to remove causing less tissue damage to the fish.  It's something to consider if you want to take that extra step toward conservation.

Understanding Conditions

We are just beginning to warm up here in Colorado. Streams are starting to flow and the ice is beginning to disappear. Some would assume that trout fishing is slow due to the inactivity on the surface and the frigid temperatures of the water. However, understanding presentation and adapting to the conditions can prove to be successful.

First, dry fly fishing is limited to the later afternoon hours, but can show promise if you keep a watchful eye on the small hatches in your area. Nymph fishing would provide better results, but in some areas, streams are covered in algae deposits and fallen brush making this technique frustrating as it will force you to clean your flies every few casts. I find that using a dry-dropper configuration works best during this period. Match the hatch and use a sub-surface fly that mimics the juvenile of your dry. I was on the Big Thompson this weekend and fished areas from the Alluvial Fan to about 5 miles south of Lake Estes. This technique worked well.

Click Here for a drawing of the "dry-dropper" configuration

The Beginning

I have been fly fishing for a number of years in Colorado. That experience has really changed my perspective on fishing and is one of the primary reasons that I live here. At first, I found the sport a bit frustrating due to the mechanics of casting and the art associated with fly presentation. These challenges made fishing success a bit limited. Only through trial and error have I managed to become a successful fly fisherman. I have created this blog in order to share experiences, advice, tips, and any other information that may prove to be useful for those that wish to enjoy this sport.