The Ramblings of a Fly Fisherman

The Frying Pan River – August 2013

This river is one of my favorites in the state.  It offers countless opportunities to fish some challenging terrain while at the same time whispering a promise to provide you with the prospect of hooking into a trophy that you can brag to your friends about.

The river was in full swing this past weekend.  The fishing was excellent from Basalt all the way to the Ruedi Dam.  There weren’t many places to fish up next to the dam as many of your weekender fishermen were there, elbow to elbow, combat fishing for the entire day.  However, the remaining areas below the dam were often open. If you dared to cross the river and hike up into more secluded areas, you would then find yourself faced with some interesting runs teaming with trout that had not seen a fly in the last few weeks.   This is where I concentrated my time.

It was evident that the green drake situation was really not the way to go even though I had read several reports the day before indicating that the drakes were on.  No adults and very few nymphs were present despite my many attempts to locate them. Instead, I found an abundance of midge larva and stone flies as I seined the water and flipped through the rocks along the shoreline.  Based on that, I tied on a Pat’s Rubber Legs and a zebra midge.  This proved right away to be effective as I targeted the seams between the white water and the pools created near the banks of the river.  Adding some weight to the line and using the small waterfalls to plunge the flies deeper into the run was a great tactic to reach some of those larger trout hiding right below the swift water at the head of the run.

After only two days of fishing this area, the count was up to 36 trout to the net.  It is a clear reminder of why I keep returning to this river year after year.


The Stagecoach Tailwater - July 2013

The Stagecoach tailwater was so much fun the first time, Alyssa and I decided to do it again.  After this trip, I took some time to compile the video that was collected.  I’ll let the footage speak for itself.

As far as patterns, the RS2 was a big hit again, but I also had a lot of strikes on the Jujubee Midge and on an Adams in some of the areas that I decided to fish only dries. 

The Blue River - 6/9/2013

The last month has been challenging.  Everywhere I have attempted to fish has either been high and fast with this season’s runoff, or low and stagnate due to the drought that was experienced throughout the year.  It has made finding a nice place to cast a line difficult to say the least.  However, with enough perseverance and a good understanding of the flows that are occurring right now, a fly angler can still find a stretch of river just right for some trout action.

This weekend, Connor and I took a look at the Blue River.  Now this has never been one of my favorite places to fish as I have always found most of the area crowded or worse, devoid of feeding trout large enough to inspire me to hang around.  This feeling was compounded once we took a good look at the conditions on Sunday.  Most of the river between the Dillon Res and Green Mountain was dark and experiencing a pretty quick runoff.  After seeing this, we headed toward Kremmling, but found the water there low and only sluggishly moving as it entered the Colorado.  Green Mountain Reservoir being so low, those in charge would clearly only be allowing the bare minimum of water to be released down river.   The only saving grace this day was the tail water of Green Mountain Reservoir.  While conditions there were questionable at its 73cfs flow, the water was clear and we could see the beginning of a BWO hatch starting to form.

It didn’t take long, once we found our first pool, to hook into some larger rainbows and browns.   Staying hidden on the opposite side of a faster run, we were able to trick a few hefty trout to our lines with the RS2 and a Pheasant Tail Nymph.  While the bottom was pretty much covered in sludge, if you managed to adjust your dropper about 2 to 4 inches from the bottom, it was easy to keep a nice drift and reduce the amount of casts that would end with you needing to clean your flies.



Steamboat Springs - 5/26/2013

Upon arriving in Steamboat, I could see that the Yampa was in full runoff making most of the river very challenging to fish.  We investigated several areas including Sarvis Creek and the Elk River and found much of the area running with high, dark water creating a situation where using runoff tactics like dark streamers in eddies or shorelines was nearly impossible.  When this occurs, most fly fisherman would just pack up their gear and head for the nearest bar for a plate of fish and chips and a nice mug of some local brew.  However, all is not lost here!  Just outside of town, Stagecoach Reservoir offers some reprieve this time of year for those out there in search of some nice water and big trout.

At the tail waters of Stagecoach, you will find that flows are managed despite the snow melt. Fish congregate here in large numbers and are often fooled by a number of patterns like the Pat’s Rubber Legs, the RS2, and the Pheasant Tail Nymph.  The key here really is the approach and getting a nice drag-free drift.  Failure to do those two things will land you nothing but a short walk through some of the best looking country in Colorado….  Well, maybe that’s not so bad.

As expected, after all this was Memorial Day weekend, the crowds were a bit large for the area.  Coupled by the fact that much of the available river here wasn’t fishable, anyone needing to get their fly fishing fix had little other choice than this tail water.   The good news is that despite the crowds, it is really hard to find an area on this section of water that doesn’t house a trout worth snapping a few pictures of and bragging to your friends.  With nearly two full days of fishing, Alyssa and I were able to land nearly 40 trout, 5 of which exceeded the 20 inch range.

As an added bonus, there was a small pond near our campsite that appeared to be attracting more attention than a pond of this size should.  After a little investigation and a few casts of the rod, I was able to land a 30 inch pike, a first for me here in Colorado.

Clear Creek Runoff!

Clear Creek conditions have quickly deteriorated into runoff.  I knew that things would probably not be too good when I spotted a kayaker as I was passing through tunnel two.  The water is dark, cold and moving quickly.  There were a few spots available along the edges where I was able to catch four unsuspecting trout attempting to weather the storm, but nymphing was really the only effective technique.  I also  recommend dusting off the streamer box, use your darkest colors, and hug the cut-banks and plunge pools tightly for your best opportunities.

Tenkara Tournament 5/18/2013

Well, the Tenkara tournament was a bit of a bust seeing as how the organizer of the event was not present.  However; a few guys still showed up making the event fun and providing a great opportunity to meet some other Tenkara nuts out there.  Overall, the fishing was very good as nearly 75 fish were caught between the five people that attended the event.  I personally enjoyed meeting Dan as he has become a bigger advocate for the kebari fly than I am currently and it was interesting to see his technique in action.  For me and the rest of my group, we used poppers for the majority of the day with great success.  We all caught bass and sunfish with one outlier being a speckled perch.
This was Matt's biggest bass of the day...  caught on the Iwana 12'

This was Alyssa's Speck

Walden Ponds and the Big Thompson - 5/11-12/2013

I had another fun weekend of fly fishing.  In order to prepare for the Tenkara tournament next week at Walden Ponds, I decided to try that area out this weekend to investigate  what flies and tactics would work best for the fish in that area.  What you will see here mostly are bass and sunfish.  As expected, they all responded well to various poppers and foam spiders.  The more action you could simulate, the more likely a larger fish would take interest and inspect your presentation.  Brighter colors seemed to produce better results than darker and a longer cast often resulted in a larger hookup avoiding some of the smaller guys near the shore’s edge.

Matt, Connor and I also drove up to the Big Thompson to fish the same area that produced so well just a week earlier.  This trip was not nearly as productive.  It was clear that the water was higher, cloudier; and most importantly, was nearly 10 degrees cooler.  Runoff is starting.  I feel that this, in combination with the rain that we witnessed, really did a lot to put the fish off.  There were a few caught, but a lot of work was required to get those fish to respond at all.

 Here are a few of the fish caught at Walden Ponds.


The Big Thompson – 5/6/2013

Fishing on the Big Thompson this weekend was superb.  In nearly every run, riffle or pool, there was a hungry trout waiting for the opportunity to attack your fly.  Most were caught on pheasant tail nymphs (size 16), but around 12:30pm, a nice hatch of BWOs started to appear on the surface. For about 1 hour, trout were surfacing everywhere.  The fly of choice at this time was the Adams (size 16).  Both standard and parachute versions worked equally well as long as you could maintain a perfect drag-free drift in areas where bugs were accumulating.
This was another trip where I only used the Tenkara rod.  Again, it allowed me to accurately place my dry-dropper setup in areas up to 30 feet away while still achieving a great drift.  This trip was also my first “Meetup” where I was the organizer.  I had a great time with Randy and Susan as we worked through some of my favorite water on this river.  I look forward to more trips with this group and fishing with these guys again!
If you would like to join this Meetup group - Colorado Front Range Fly Fishing

Clear Creek and Tenkara

I took the Tenkara rods out this past weekend and tried my luck on Clear Creek.  I also decided to play around with the new GoPro camera that I picked up off Amazon just to see how much fun it might be to start documenting my fly fishing trips via video.  Needless to say, it was fun. 

Maybe you don’t want to necessarily record your trips in HD, however; it will always be a good idea to keep a running log of your experience.  Keeping track of the day you were there, weather conditions, water temperature, flow rate, what flies you used, your line configuration, etc…  will really pave the way to becoming an expert on that water.  Imagine fishing this year, but having a resource at your fingertips that recounts what was attempted on that river during the same conditions last year.  What worked well?  What didn’t work at all?  While your buddies are digging through their fly boxes guessing, you would already be a step ahead and midway through your fifth cast.

Fly Fishing Clear Creek – 4/21/2013

Clear Creek is running beautifully right now.  The water is a bit low, but that fact is giving the average angler access to many areas not typically available.  This area is becoming my testing ground for my new Tenkara rods as the terrain and shallow runs appear to be custom tailored for this method of fishing.  So far, I have been very happy with the results.  Today, Alyssa and I caught about 12 fish on beaded pheasant tails in sizes ranging from 8 to 13 inches.  I can already tell that Alyssa is going to prefer Tenkara over western fly fishing as the ease of casting really allowed her to focus her efforts on landing fish rather than fiddling with her gear.  I did spend some time using some of the more traditional kebari flies, but due to my lack of confidence in them at this point, I found myself gravitating to my go to dry-dropper configuration (small caddis/pheasant tail) which was really easy to cast with the Ayu II and produced great results throughout the day.

The Adams

This fly doesn’t really need any kind of introduction.  The Adams Fly was created by Leonard Halladay in 1922.  The history behind how the fly was created is very interesting as many variations of the story exists accounting for both the name and the conception of the fly itself.  Some believe that the fly was actually designed by a man named Charles F. Adams stating that he described the fly to Leonard based on his observations at a local Mayfield pond.  Others state that Leonard himself designed the pattern and it was named the “Adams” due to the fact that Charles Adams was the first to catch a fish on it.    Tom Deschaine actually does a great job recounting the history behind the fly in his article “The Adams: History Revisited by Tom Deschaine” – Here is a link to the article - The Adams: History Revisited

I first learned how to tie this pattern in a fly tying class that I took with Charlie Craven over at Charlie’s Flybox.  It is an easy tie and it catches fish.  What more can you really ask for in a pattern?  I have fished this pattern in 10 different states now and in many different situations….  Keep a few of these in your fly box!
Hook – TMC 100 Size 16
Thread – Black 8/0
Tail – Mix of Brown and Grizzly Hackle
Wings – Grizzly Hen Tips
Body – Super Fine in Gray
Hackle - Brown and Grizzly Hackle (1 each)

CDC and Elk

Originally created by Hans Weilenmann, the CDC and Elk has become a bit of a staple for me. I like the fly because it is simple to tie (the name is practically the materials list), it floats really well with only limited additives, and it catches fish.  I think that the CDC on this pattern creates a lot or surface disturbance and movement as CDC tends to do with lots of other patterns that we all like.  Staying true to form, many have chosen, as I have, not to utilize elk for this pattern in favor of deer making the head on this fly a little easier to create.  In general, this makes a great caddis imitation and is a go to fly for many small streams.

Annual Fly Tying Clinic - Trout Unlimited

I attended the Annual Fly Tying Clinic put on by Trout Unlimited this past weekend.  I was a little under the weather, but I still managed to participate in the silent auction and various raffles offered at the event.  While there, I got the opportunity to watch Greg Garcia tie on a few of his favorite inventions.  I have really enjoyed working with Greg over the years and I owe him immensely for the great advice that he has willingly offered me over that time that has ultimately improved my technique on the river.  However, this was the first time that I have been at a venue where Greg was actually tying.  One of my favorite patterns of his is the Mini Hot Attractor.  It is a simple attractor, very easy to tie, and in my opinion, a dead-ringer for the yellow sally stone fly.  Below is an example of one that I tied shortly after the clinic.
Hook – TMC 200R 14-18
Thread – Yellow 70
Body – Yellow thread wrapped with micro tubing
Hot Spot – Red Flash
Underwing – SLF dubbing in sand
Overwing – Bleached yearling elk
Thorax – Yellow SLF Dubbing with yellow hackle

At Charlie’s Flybox with Steve Schweitzer

I attended a tying presentation at Charlie’s Flybox this past Saturday featuring Steve Schweitzer. This is the same guy that I had written about earlier when discussing fly fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park. The presentation was very informative and focused not just on tying patterns, but also on tips and tricks when fishing high altitude areas. The rule that Steve pushed the hardest was “as you go higher, fish smaller and darker patterns”. He also provided some useful tips on some fly patterns that he likes based on various elevations in the park.

Below are the patterns that he reviewed during his presentation along with their elevation recommendations:

7,000 to 8,500 feet – Chewy Scud, Tabou Caddis, and the Spun-Bunny Mudder

8,500 to 10,000 feet – ParaCupboard Ant, The Usual, and the Better Midge

I really liked the ParaCupborad Ant as I typically gravitate toward any pattern that uses common materials or maybe a material that most would never think to use.

This pattern uses a cabinet liner that you can pick up at any Walmart.

Cut a small strip of the material as you see below.

Don’t cut the material at each segment, but rather pinch between every other segment and gently pull apart.  This will create somewhat realistic antennae or pinchers depending on your point of view.  Now you have a foam ant body to tie with. 

Use a size 18 hook, I like the TMC 100 or 101 for this as it is really well suited for the ant body that you just created.

International Sportsman’s Expo

I attended the International Sportsman’s Expo this weekend. As usual, there were lots guide services and local fly shops selling products and services at discount prices. I picked up a few fly boxes as well as enough leaders to last through spring and summer this year. However, the portions of this show that I find the most valuable are the presentations. This year, I attended three great presentations.

1. Urban Fly Fishing (Kerry Caraghar). Kerry did a wonderful job of reviewing many of the local waters around or near the metro area. He covered in great detail areas of Clear Creek and Bear Creek that fished particularly well and even hinted at a few areas that we might be able to catch a cutthroat only 40 minutes from down town. Kerry works at the Orvis in Cherry Creek and welcomes anyone interested in talking about fly fishing locally to please come by the shop.

2. Fly Fishing Western Tailwaters (Pat Dorsey). Another great presentation by someone we have all become familiar with in the area of fly fishing. Pat has written a book on this subject and really did a good job sharing some of the intricacies of fishing Colorado tailwaters. He encouraged all to fish the Cheesman area as he feels that this location is so challenging that those that are successful there, can fish anywhere in the world. For anyone serious about tailwaters in Colorado, his book is a must read. Click the following link for more information - Tying & Fishing Tailwater Flies

3. Czech Nymphing (Steve Parrot). This is the guy that really brought this style of fly fishing to Colorado. For those that were not familiar with the style, the time spent at this presentation was a great way to learn some of the basics. I look forward to a Czech Nymphing guided trip with Steve in the future so I can really develop this skill. Steve can be reached at for more information.

Tying Some Poppers

I have been asked by a few of my bass fishing friends and family to tie up a few popper patterns so they can hit the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers back near my home town of Tallahassee. I haven’t really tied a lot of poppers as I spend most of my time fishing the rivers and streams here in Colorado. However; I found it to be a nice deviation from the techniques, tools and materials that I normally utilize when sitting down at my tying bench. Tying foam poppers gives you the opportunity to work with various paints, epoxy, and stencils in order to make, well really anything that you can think up at the time. What I have created here, while not flashy or amazing, was still a lot of fun.

One bit of advice that I learned through trial and error was when working with epoxy. Getting a nearly perfect 50/50 ratio when mixing the two parts is really important. Failure to do this will lead to a coating on your popper that seems to never dry completely, it just feels tacky to the touch. There were really two tricks that seemed to work well for me. One, you can purchase epoxy mixing cups from your local hobby store. These cups allow you to measure the two parts before beginning the mixing process keeping the ratio nice and even. Two, on a piece of paper, use a stencil to create two circles of the same size. Fill one circle with the resin and the other with the hardener. Once each side fully fills your circles, you have equal parts and can begin mixing.

Oh, another good practice you should observe deals with the mixing itself. Whatever tool that you are using to mix your epoxy, be sure to never lift it out of the mixture as you are stirring. Doing so will trap air bubbles in the epoxy making it really difficult to get a nice glassy finish.

As far as painting supplies, you can really paint your poppers with any of the acrylic paints found at any hobby store. However, I did run across an interesting airbrushing tool that I think works great for this type of application. It’s called a Copic Airbrush. Instead of mixing paints and having parts to clean after every use, all you have to do with this system is load the next marker. It does use specific markers for the system, but the ease of use really caught my interest and after experimenting with the system, I am already thinking about all the other possibilities that I could use this for in my fly tying. Go to for more information.

Here are a few of my creations from this weekend

BFC Meeting - Fly Fishing RMNP

Recently, I attended the Boulder Fly Caster’s meetup group at the Boulder REI to listen to a presentation given by Steven Schweitzer on fly fishing Rocky Mountain National Park. I think that Steve’s presentation was excellent as he covered some of the caveats of hiking this area, equipment needed, and some of the lesser known nuances of park fly fishing. I was so impressed with the presentation, I decided to go ahead and pick up his book for my own review. So far, I think that it is highly detailed and certainly a MUST read for anyone seriously interested in exploring the park with the intent on casting a fly rod. Interestingly enough, he even includes a small section on tenkara fishing stating that RMNP has become the “epicenter” for this style. That is good to know as I am exploring this style myself now and it is nice to know that we have such a great area for it so near to home.

For more information on Steven Schweitzer and his book “A Fly Fishing Guide to Rocky Mountain Park”, please visit


While searching for some unique Christmas gift ideas this season, I ran across information on a method of fly fishing that I was unfamiliar with until now. It is called Tenkara. It is a method of fly fishing hundreds of years old and utilized in the high mountain streams of Japan. This method uses only a fly rod, a leader, some tippet and a fly - notice that I didn’t list either a reel or any fly line. It is marketed here in the US as a simpler style of fly fishing and at this point seems to be targeting back-country hikers and campers. The rods collapse into a small space and the gear requirements are minimal. Traditionally, this type of fly fishing focuses more on the quality of the presentation rather than the fly making it possible to carry only a few patterns or maybe even just one. The flies themselves I also found interesting as they are a clear deviation from the patterns that I have become accustomed to tying.

For more information, please visit and

Here are a few of the flies that I have put together so far. Tenkara patterns are not required to be complex and were often constructed from any available materials that the fisherman had at his disposal. For me, I just couldn’t help but add a little flair to make my time at the bench more interesting.