Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blown Away - Fishing in South Park Colorado

Blown Away fishing South Park, Colorado

We scheduled a late April date with Reid Baker, Freestone Outfitters, assuming balmy pre-run off, blue bird sky, spring in Colorado conditions. Reid, suggested we postpone due to an early and extraordinary run off, a winter that was hanging on, and blown out private water that he'd planned to fish.
     But we already had it on the calendar and having fished with Reid a number of times, we knew he'd figure it out. I believe that Fred and I were the only fools in the entire state to believe a 20 degree day with gusting 40 mph winds was a fishable day.
Don't they look cozy and toasty. This is April 29th!!

     Reid decided not to setup the folding chairs, carpet, and hot coffee for us to use while putting on our waders because they'd be blown to New Mexico before our butts hit the canvas. As Reid opened the back door of the SUV, the wind tunnel effect, nearly pushed Fred and me out of the car.
     I rigged up my rod but Fred decided to wait. I think he wanted to confirm that this water was indeed fishable. After a long, long, trek downwind thankfully, to our starting position, Reid tied on a pegged egg with a juju baetis dropper, pointed out the redds we must avoid, and put me on the far bank in the above photo. He then started to set up Fred's rod. Fred and Reid both had brought wool fold over mittens to keep their finger tips warm. I had assumed we were past that and only had my cotton half finger gloves. I knew my finger tips where still there, I just could not tell exactly where they were. I bunched them inside my gloves and gripped my rod between my thumb and palm and attempted to control my free line for a cast with the claw left on my left hand. I managed to get a roll cast into the wind and let it drift. Not bad. 
     WHAM, the indicator disappear and DAMN, I'm hung up already. But wait, the hang up is moving. A huge rainbow rolled on the surface and started a run pulling line from my reel. Luckily, I didn't have much line out and I'd adjusted the drag so I could keep tension on the fish without fancy finger work. I brought him in quickly and even though I hate doing it, we got a quick "grip and grin" photo before releasing the 19 in fat, healthy, lake run, already spawned rainbow hen.  

This never happens. Best fish of the day on the first cast of the day.
     While I attempted to get circulation back into my fingers and cower out of the wind, I passed my rod to Fred while he was waiting to have his rod rigged by Reid.  He made about a half dozen casts to the same run. When Reid was finished, Fred handed my rod back to me in mid-drift. I fished out the rest of the drift and WHAM, another nice fish. I'd only cast once and already had landed two fish. If it wasn't a 45 minute hike against the 40 mph gusts of 20F wind, I would've loved to just call it a day and drink coffee, have lunch, stop for some bourbon, and mosey home. But honor among obsessed fly anglers, and dedication among guides dictated that we had to consider that Fred had not yet had a hook-up.
     It was another couple hours of leap frogging upstream under Reid's guidance before Fred starting pulling out two fish per hole on eggs and nymphs. His beloved streamers were not getting any love at all.

Reid came through:
  •  putting us on public water new to us, (we have 60 years of cumulative experience in Colorado waters), 
  • keeping us safe, 
  • lugging our lunch, 
  • untangling Fred's wind knots, 
  • scouting ahead of us for the best water, 
  • choosing the right flies, 
  • and getting us into some GREAT fishing.  
     There were moments when the wind gusts nearly toppled us into the water, when a little roll cast down wind would carry my line 80 feet perfectly into a stream seam, where all the guides on the rod were frozen shut but the guide on the ground miraculously was still tying blood knots in our 4x, and where the wind was so strong that the stream appeared to be moving in the opposite direction. And we were still catching fish. We caught, released, and hooked up to at least 20 fish between us.
     Mark Twain said that it's not really an adventure unless half way there you wish you were home. Well Mark, this blown away adventure will certainly qualify in my top 10.