The Ramblings of a Fly Fisherman

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.