Saturday, December 22, 2012

For your Christmas Kindle

Spoiler Warning - This is a blatant promotion !!!
I just finished the second volume of "Bug the Bug", an eBook of 12 cries for help about Fly Fishing posed to some aquatic insects. Here's the thing. These insects have been around for 350,000,000 years. They know what's going on below the water. On the other hand, our species has only been flailing the water for a couple thousand. They know more than we do.

If you are getting or giving an iPad, a Kindle, or some eBooks consider this from Amazon. You don't have to do any shopping.  

Here's a sample:


A fragile midge helps a humiliated angler, out-fished by his buddies.

From Rafael in Pueblo   - So I'm fishing below the Pueblo Reservoir in the fly fishing only section and the guys I'm with are hooking and landing really nice fish. They've lent me flies; they've tied them on. They've changed my tippet. They've had me stand right where they've each landed fish but for me ? nada. Should I try snow boarding ? 

Dear No se puedo in Pueblo -  No, no Rafael. Special regulation areas do not permit clubbing trout with a snow board. Special reg areas also don't mean it's especially easy to catch fish. In fact, along with Gold Medal waters like the Dream Stream, the fish are actually harder to catch for at least two reasons. One, they see a lot of fly fishers and a lot of flies, and they learn from each hookup. Two, these streams are quite fertile with aquatic invertebrates allowing the fish to be more selective on what and how they eat. So don't give up. Perfect your techniques on unregulated areas and nightmare streams, where few people fish and the fish are small, under fed and dumb. Try behind the sewage treatment plants in Salida and Vail or under the I-70 and 119 bridges on Clear Creek. Nobody fishes there. Clear Creek has 2,000 fish per mile (that's one every three feet for those math challenged), while below Deckers thanks to the Hayman fire it's only 900. Check out the Division of Wildlife's fish survey here.
Fishing only the iconic streams with buddies who fish them all the time is a recipe for humble pie. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Grizwold Family Tree Reenacted

It was far too cold. Snow blanketed the target area. I lost two of my helpers to head colds. But I had a permit to reenact the selection and harvest of a live tree in Colorado hopefully without the log truck incident.
The forest you love is just on fire away from this.

Mark this down.  On Oct 31st of each year put in a calendar event to google "Tree Cutting Permit Pike National Forest" On November the 1st they go on sale by mail. I got one permit this year for $10 for a specific range of dates. "The cutting is not destructive but gives room for neighboring trees to grow faster and better," according to the U.S. Forest Service which always does the right thing.

The Pike National Forest was hit by the Buffalo Creek Fire in 1996. It's mildly depressing driving through this area on the way to cut down some of the survivors. What was I thinking? I don't remember anything about this in Clark's trip to get his tree.
The U.S. Forest Service set up a check point outside the forest and directed me to the cutting area. 

Griswolds to the left, to the right, straight ahead. 
Wow. This is crowded. I actually saw a guy carrying a little dog that I just know he was going to tie to the bumper of the car while the family went into the forest to find their family tree. ISTG. I had to warn him NOT to tie the dog to the bumper. He said he'd seen "Vacation."

Finally, I parked in a lonely spot, got out my bow saw, and trekked out into the forest.

After mindless wandering, my hands are getting numb, my feet starting to freeze, and my body is getting powdered with snow as I shake it off spindly little trees trying to find something that doesn't look like a Charlie Brown reject, when Behold !! a miracle happens right in front of me.

This must be IT. The Davenport Family Christmas Tree.

The perfect size, the perfect shape, cut just 6 inches from the ground as ordered.

This is what it must be like with elk. 
North Fork Volunteer Fire Department serves chili, santa photos, and pie to the "Cutters."

And this bit of wisdom.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Duncan knots, Wire Ties, and Carbon Arrows

Duncan Knots and Wire Ties to the Rescue

November 19,2012

The brilliant Duncan knot secures the foot for wrapping things up.

     No matter how many times you count your fly rods the answer is always the same. You need one more. Using a 9 ft 5 weight above 10,000 feet for Greenback Cutthroats probably violates a dozen law of natures like, Newton's Second Law, "A body, like a parachute Adams, when acted upon by a force, like a loaded 5 weight fly rod, will travel in a straight line." In the tiny creeks where the greenbacks live, your fly will travel in which ever direction will result in an irretrievable hang up. The answer is obvious. You need a 7 foot 4 weight.
     Building your own rods is actually a lot simpler than Orvis or the Scott pro would have you believe.
You need just a couple objects normally found around the home.

  1. A rotisserie motor from your Weber grill, with a hunk of 3/8 square bar stock stuffed into a pierced rubber card table caster. See Photo.
  2. Newspaper to catch the spills of epoxy.
  3. Toenail clippers and a 5 pound barbell.
Make it youself wrapping station and tools.

     Everything else either comes in the rod building kit or you can order a la carte on line at places like Hook and Hackle. Hand built fly rods make great gifts, especially for people who otherwise would not have sufficient guilt or motivation to come fishing with you.

     As far as skills go, you don't need any. What you need are these two tricks that I'm about to give you. One I invented myself, thank you very much, and the other came from the storehouse of cheap, quick, and dirty tricks for parsimonious people, The Rod Building Forum. 

     Figuring out where to place the guides on the blank piece of graphite can take hours and over 5 shots of single malt. Screw this up and you might as well use a hand line. Formulae based on Newtons Third Law, F1 = F2 but opposite, don't exist and the cookbook tables that come with the kits have no idea how you are going to fish the rod.
     Wire ties to the rescue. After you have found the spline of the rod, epoxied it to the cork grip and rod seat, masking tape it to a coffee table with the reel installed. Then guess at the number of rod guides you're going to use, make small loops, and slip them on the rod. Thread the rod with your fly line through these faux guides, and stretch the line out to about the spot where you normally break off big fish and tie the line to the barbell. Then go back and slide the ties to a places where the line runs as close to parallel as possible to the bend of the rod. Then just mark the rod with a lead pencil at each wire tie, undo the whole thing and write down the measurement to each rod guide location.

Anchor the loaded rod vertically.

Wire ties simulate rod guides for perfect placement on your loaded rod.

    The next biggest challenge is attaching the rod guides to the rod while you wrap them. Thanks go to Perchjerker in the above mentioned rod building forum. He/she suggested using 15-25# monofilament and a Duncan Knot. Brilliant. They are moveable for alignment and when you are ready to take them off, the toenail clippers snap them off faster than a Skylark bartender on ladies night.

The final challenge is marking the rod. You need to do this because after your 6th or 7th rod you'll lose track of their provenance. Further more, when it inevitably falls off the top of your car as you drive away from the creek, or gets lost with your luggage, you may get it back if you've put contact info on the rod. Should you find your lost or stolen rod in the hands of an unauthorized user, it will give you cause to use your carry permit. I'm trying an ink jet printed label stuck fast to a clear piece of USPS package tape smoothly wrapped around the rod, then wrapped with guide thread at both ends and covered in epoxy finish. I'll post a photo if it works.

Weber motor, 3/8 sq bar, card table footie and masking tape.
UPDATE  6/18/2014 - Mending a rod with an graphite arrow sleeve.
UPDATE 7/14/2014  - Labeling the rod is still a royal pain for me.

    The use of the clear packing tape is marginally OK. You have to measure the circumference of the rod where the label will go, set the width of the label to that size (I use Apple Preview, Tools, Adjust Size). Using a background color close to the rod color seems to work better than printing on a photo background. 

    In making a 10ft 4Wt for granddaughter Eloise, I couldn't find the wire ties, so I just used more Duncan knotted 25lb monofilament. It actually worked ok and I skipped one step by not having to mark the rod where the guides went. The rod turned out to be 10ft 4 inches because I used the first section, rod seat, and cork handle of another rod that I made but broke a few years ago. I built up the first section of the rod with masking tape,  just as I would have for slipping the reel seat over a fly rod blank, but instead I epoxied it inside a new 9 ft wt blank making the rod now 10 ft 4 inches long.

   To retrieve my favorite 7 piece 5 weight travel rod, sadly snapped in an upper section, I stumbled across a suggestion to use a chunk of carbon arrow made of the same material, the same way and what appears to be the same wall thickness as our graphite fly rods except on a constant diameter rather than a tapered mandrel.
   The broken pieces are made to snugly fit inside the piece of arrow using thread draped over the ends rather than masking tape and then epoxied. This will work for breaks only on certain upper sections of rods, but this is where I always break mine.  The guys at RMSGear Archery Supply in Denver are also fly caster and were more than happy to cut me a couple pieces from their scrap box at no charge.  Don't try cutting it yourself because it shatters and the dust is probably carcinogenic.
    Here is  a photo of my light weight emergency fly rod mending kit. The glue is to melt on a rod tip when it breaks off in the first section. The mended section is shown below the samples. So far so good. It seems to cast just the same. Now I'll try it on an 18 inch brown (I'm wishing.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Blue below the Green for a Brown

November 8, 2012

 It's always a good sign when you encounter a elk herd on the way to a fly fishing adventure. This herd was hiding in plain sight across from the Dino RTD park & ride lot off I-70 near C-470 in Denver.
 Mike Hobbs set the destination to below the dam of the Green River Reservoir in Hainey,CO on the Blue River. Balancing precariously on a thin ledge outside the maintenance building security fence and then squeezing behind the stair railing, you come on the privilege of taking 65 stairs down to the Blue River. Don't try this in the winter.

Mike caught a rainbow on this stretch with an egg pattern. So I immediately switched out my lower miracle midge for a  pegged egg-like setup suggested by Clint. (see Ignore ... blog). About 9:45AM the water temperature was a nice 42 degrees and I had a number of hits, runs, and errors, no rainbows left on from fishy water in a deep cut just below a rapid. Mike claimed we couldn't go down stream because of an impasse and had to hike back up the canyon wall to the parking lot and then come down again. This was not disclosed when we first set out down the stairs. I knew what the slip, I mean trip, back down to the river was like from the parking lot. When you do make it to the 8 floors to the bottom you wonder how in hell can you possibly make it back up at the end of the day. Do not try this in winter.

Once down on the Blue, there is plenty of pocket water to fish both up and down stream.

 I caught the nicest brown of the day below, using the fly below, under the rock below, with a gentle drift from the edge of the current into the rock. You can just see my white yarn indicator.

 There is no other way in, no other way out. Although some how drifters can put in here and float the Jones Property to the Colorado, don't touch the banks or bottom or the sheriff'll getcha.

My favorite bird on Colorado Rivers is the Water Ouzel or American Dipper. When it sits on a rock it bobs, dips, rapidly up and down but the most incredible thing about this bird, not a duck, is that it swims under water. Just when I believe I've heard a monster feeding trout, this ouzel will pop onto a rock.
Whoops. Sorry about the quality of that iPhone video. I'll do better next time.

November 8, 2012

Return to Pinecliffe

November 7, 2012

I need a photo to go along with a piece I'm targeting to The Drake entitled, "The Tunnel. World Class photographer Randall Paeztold of Carp Slam and Skylark Lounge fame who has a similar goal of getting something published in The Drake, and of fishing in interesting places came along with his gear. (UPDATE !!. It was accepted and published in The Drake Winter 2012-13, pg 58. Get a copy at your flyshop.) 

I had carefully carefully calculated the time to the second that the California Zephr would be  passing through the S. Boulder Creek Canyon above Gross Reservoir using the related rate algebra necessary on college board exams. (You remember, "If Ohmar left Casablaca at 6:00 AM on a camel traveling east at 4.25 mph, and Eloise left Mumbai at the same time, traveling west on the Concorde at mach 1.2, where could they have lunch?" ) The East Bound California Zephr leaves Glennwood Springs around noon and the West Bound California Zephr leaves Denver at 8:06AM. 

Randall carefully set up the shot with the sun exploding behind the mountain, the bridge where the train would appear slashed across the frame, and me stealthily casting into the stream in the lower third of the frame. Of course the California Zephr did not appear on schedule. This isn't Austria you know. Amtrack passenger schedules should be considered suggestions. America is a vast country with unknown dangers and events destine to destroy a departure time. 

I fished that hole another 20 minutes, very much against my practice of 4 good drifts and move on, and eventually hooked a nice rainbow that struck my miracle midge out of desperation. 

No sooner did we move on than, by the law of event photography, the Zephr appeared. 

Back to fishing. Randall used his best stealthy techniques and a hook cast to present a red copper john.

Always prepared he's sitting on a railroad tie he brought along in case he'd have to fight off a cougar to claim his catch. Before his release of course.

 On the way back to the car we encountered what I believe is a reddish brown caddis. Next time I'll bring a couple of these tied in matching elk hair.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You can't get there from here. Impasse on South Boulder Creek.

I can see it on Google Earth. I've been within 100 feet 10 times. I know there are great trout just on the other side of the impasse and maybe even Kokonee, but there just does not seem to be a way to get to the upstream canyon above Gross Reservoir on South Boulder Creek.

The Canyon walls to the north and south are nearly vertical. The railroad has been cut into the south side and loose filler stones, railroad tie scraps, and chunks of granite cascade down the slope to the stream bed. 

Walking along the railroad right of way you eventually come to one of the many tunnels between Denver and Winter Park. Below is the view from the tracks of the gorge opposite the tunnel. 

South Boulder creek at this point is at 7812 ft, the tunnel is at 7931, the south canyon wall rises to 8115, and the north canyon wall rises to 8300 ft. The walls of the canyon at creek level appear to be vertical rock. It is tempting to think that just going through the tunnel for 250 yards would put you beyond the impasse, but besides being illegal and frowned on mightily by the Union Pacific, there are some BIG trains that do the same thing. I stepped 20 feet into the tunnel once and discovered that not only is there no light at the other end because it goes around a curve, and the total darkness is overpowering. For some reason being in a cave with NO LIGHT gave me a primordial fear that froze me on the tracks. There is also a chance that a freight train or the California Zephr may meet you in the middle. I pictured myself calmly laying down next to the tracks, covering my ears and simply waiting for the train to pass. But then I remembered the thunderous sound of 4 diesel locomotives at full power, belching exhaust into the closed confines of the cave, moving at a snails pace and pulling 300 cars of coal on screeching metal on metal wheels straining against the curve of the rails. It could be my lungs and ears would simply burst and I wouldn't get to that nice water on the other side of the impasse.

 So I eliminated the tunnel route even though I'd packed my flashlight. I clambered down to creek level and found that some enterprising climbers had installed a safety rope for me to get through the impasse in the canyon. But wait. They don't have on waders and studded wadding shoes. Can I hang fast to the toe holds in my loose wader boots. Not likely. But at 27.3 cfs, for the first time ever, it looked like I could actually wade through the "Tiger Leaping Gorge" between the rock faces. Not only that, but there have got to be some great trout under those massive rocks.
It worked. In and out, although it was certainly exhausting. I met two young guys with spinning rods and their 5 pups who came in another way. I may disclose this in a future post. Or maybe not. 

Once water temperature got to 42 degrees, just as Clint Packo has suggested, the rainbows decided to partake of the miracle midge I'd tied this morning. This section is truly spectacular Colorado mountain stream. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ignore the advice... Pay the Price - Browns on the Arkansas

Clint Packo, Freestone Outfitters, gave a presentation at Denver Trout Unlimited on Tuesday night about cold weather tactics fly fishing for trout in Colorado. I took careful notes.

I'm going to try this out at Stone Bridge on the Arkansas just upstream of Salida.
  • Ok. Stream temperature 42F. Check.
  • Pheasant tail - size 18 just above my egg pattern with dangling size 20 black hook. Check.
  • White yarn indicator 5 feet above my bb shot. Check.
  • Fishy looking water with a depression, that is holding big fish I just know it, just below the middle arch support of this 1908 bridge over the Arkansas. Check.

Getting the drifts the way Clint had shown in the diagrams of his slide show, uhhh, not as easy as it looks. I adjust my weights, walk upstream a ways, spook a nice fish in shallow water. Clint said there'd be fish like this. I fish some more, walk some more. The wind is blowing up stream making casting quite easy but it is blowing at about 30 mph. I change the top fly to a prince nymph and after losing the egg rig some how change to an RS2 on the bottom, about a size 18. Clint said he NEVER uses an RS2. Oh well. I've been fishing about an hour and a half now and have covered a lot of water without a strike of any kind, without any indication of a hatch and it's just past noon, and without seeing any more fish. So much for sight fishing.  I get to this place above the stream and move out from the shore through some quick-sandy looking mud that actually acts like quick sand. I've now invested 2 hours in Clint's can't fail techniques on a river that's know to have 3,000 fish per mile with the sunny conditions and water temperature just as Clint said was perfect for winter fishing.

Nothing is working so I change the bottom fly to a size 20 black beauty that I just picked up at the fly shop in Pine Junction. I seem to remember something about going small as well as going slow and going deep from Clint.

I put it over the rock and let it drift toward the back of the rock that seems to be washed out into a deep cut although I can't see it. 
WHAM, the white yard indicator is sucked under. Oh no, not another snag. But no, it actually is a fish and nice fat 18 inch brown at that. On the very first drift of the correct fly, at the correct depth, with correct drift, in the correct place, at the correct water temperature. And NOT over a redd. 
Thanks Clint. I'll try to not ignore the go small advice next time.