Sunday, August 24, 2014

Improving a natural 3,000 trout/mi stream to a hatchery put & take fishery.

I'm only guessing. You be the judge.

Is it a good idea to do "aquatic habitat" improvements on a stream that supports 3,000 fish per mile and has some of the most iconic feeding lies in the Rocky Mountains ?

     Tarryall Creek flows through the Pike National Forest close to the Lost Creek Wilderness area. Most of the stream flows through private property that has been preserved for fly fishing. This very fertile stream holds cutthroats, cutbows, rainbows, and brown trout self sustaining populations. South Park Fly Fishers, Rocky Mountain Angling Club, and a few private clubs hold leases on the creek. The elevation is about 9,500 to 10,500 feet and traffic along 2 lane Route 77 is limited, giving the fly caster a nice quiet experience. I actually saw a cougar chasing prey on 8/20/201. (Luckily it wasn't me.) 
     Then along comes a deep pocket resort that creates a fishing-camp and "improves" the stream. Most of the landowners have done some modest bank stabilization, or rock placement to improve stream habitat, but IMHO, the Broadmoor Fishing-Camp has improved the character right out of this stream in their 1.3 mile section. It no longer looks like Tarryall Creek. It now looks like the exclusive Wigwam Club. Not everyone needs botox and plastic surgery, even if we can afford it, and sometimes it makes you uglier. Here are some examples:

Beaver dam before from TripAdvisor user STLCarib 2011.

"Improved" finely crafter rock drop.
   Downstream around the bend as the Tarryall comes out of a canyon where the tracked excavators could not work, the glides and riffles have been replaced by log over pour dams like most private clubs seem to favor and deep, deep, hatchery like pools.

This stretch is followed just down stream by: 

This. On each side of the over pour log a deep hole has been excavated.
J-Hooks and resting nooks built with imported stone, all perfectly placed complete the 3/4 mile of improvements. 

     All these types of "aquatic habitat improvements" are permitted and encouraged under the Federal Clean Water Protection Act and the Corps of Engineers permitting process. These type of aquatic habitat improvements are what we are hoping for to restore the Denver South Platte river from it's current state of a trapezoidal shaped flood control conduit to a natural river setting.  But here the creek already was perfect. 
     These "improvements" will definitely enable the Broadmoor Fishing Camp to:
1. Make a happy place for hatchery raised trout.
2. Put a 150 neophyte anglers in a safe place where the mowed lawn will not hang up their back cast.
3. Feed the fish a healthy diet of fish chow and use nymphs that look like pellets to assure fishing success. 
      Here is the first fish caught just after the tractors left the scene. A pale stocked rainbow probably from the spring stocking of a neighboring ranch. Many more stockers are sure to follow.

     Whether the existing bugs and wild trout will like these new and quite different digs is another matter. You be the judge. Here are some photos areas left natural. Except for this one fish above, I could not catch or even glimpse any wild trout in the new improved areas. Admittedly this was a limited study.

This is Ralph. An 18 inch rainbow on a neighboring natural area. Note the dark color of his spots.

Released back home.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Teach Kids to Fly Fish or just Get Out of the Way.

Get Kids into Fly Fishing

    What is the purpose of grandparents if not for getting their grandkids, bonus grandkids, and god grandkids into fly fishing? 
     But how? Tradition says hook them up with worms, bamboo pole and a lake shore full of sunfish. Yuk! Starting them out by killing worms won't point them in right conservation direction and letting them thrash about with a $5,000 bamboo fly rod seems a little bit risky. 
Gary helps Patrick with his first bass of the season on a spinner.

    Then there's the question of starting them out with a spinning rod or a fly rod. As an obsessed fly angler I just couldn't bring myself to do the spinning rod, although Patrick above seems to have mastered it quickly on the lake. Last year he told me, "Grand PerĂ©, I'll probably only use the fly rod you made me when I'm fishing with you."
     Given the competition from electronic gizmos with immediate feedback, convincing a 4 to 8 year old that fishing is fun seems to require some nearly immediate hook-ups. The excitement and fascination of connecting to a wild creature is a phenomenal experience for all involved.

   But fly casting could be a hang-up. Adults believe that fly fishing is actually fly casting and spend an enormous amount of effort when they are getting started reading, studying, practicing, and getting instruction in putting the fly in the air. I decided that kids are smarter than this and actually don't have the patience for it since casting in the parking lot is only esoterically linked to fishing on a stream.
   Four year old Eloise convinced me of this while watching her cast without an prior instruction on a lake near Chicago. Here's what her cast looks like a month later in Colorado :

Grammy points out the feeding lies to Francesca.
     I had a chance to take Max out on the iconic Gold Medal Roaring Fork River in Colorado. 
At over  a dozen trout 14 inches or over per acre, fishing here, like most famous rivers is not all that easy. These fish get large due to the fertile water and by surviving the heavy pressure of fly anglers.  I was nervous that he'd not get any action. 
The last time I fished with him we pretty much just watched the river. 

     I rigged him up with a peeking caddis that looked like what we had found under a rock. He was fascinated.
   I told him where he should try to get his indicator to drift and he figured out  how to flick or roll cast it there by himself. I helped him put in a couple mends but that seemed to be too much detail. We only spent about 10 casts in each pool as we walked up stream. I was astounded that after 45 minutes he was still at it and still interested. And then this happened.

And the release.

   I think he's hooked. The secret? Rig'em up and get out of the way. 

If you are an adult getting into fly fishing is much, much, harder. Luckily I wrote a book just for you since you are cheap, don't have the time, and are easily distracted. Check out 
"Getting into Fly Fishing for under $100." It's actually gotten some good reviews.