Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's an ugly world. Go fishing.

Yesterday was an historic day in my little world.
It was the best day of trout fishing yet for 2010.

I know what you're thinking.  "Did John not follow the news yesterday?  A health care victory for all Americans!"  Yeah, right.  I think I may have seen something about that as I tied the laces on my waders and re-spooled the flyline on my reel.  For the record, I guess I'm benignly ambivalent about the fact that millions of Americans who always wanted decent insurance but couldn't afford it will now be forced to either afford it or face the tax man yet again.

I used to be a news junkie in a previous, long-past life.  I kicked that habit and pretty much quit watching it, reading it, or caring too much about it.  Just out of curiosity, I decided to see what might be happening in the real world.    

10% unemployment. Health care legislation to force that 10% to somehow afford insurance. Schoolyard name-calling in the hallowed halls of Congress. Baseball players signing contracts to "earn" $184 million over eight years (according to my math, that's a paltry $23 million per year, or just shy of $142,000 per game.  Not bad for a night's playtime). Lines at food banks.

It's all out of whack. I quickly became exhausted by it, so I've chosen to once again simply not participate in any of it.  The moratorium on news is back in effect.

Instead, I breathe, walk, cast, watch, catch, and memorialize in photos. Life's simpler that way.  No drama, no arguments, no nastiness.  Just me, Dad, and the trout yesterday.  It's as it should be.  Or at least the way it should be for me.   


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crazy surface action

The Poudre is treating me right this year!

I actually hadn't planned on fishing today. It was supposed to be cold, and I had dozens of other things I've been neglecting. By 1 p.m., it wasn't all that cold anymore and the sun was shining. I could hear the trout calling my name.

Did I mention that I never claimed to be sane? I thought so.

I got to the river just as a trio of fly fisherman were finishing up at my favorite spot. I asked if they had any success. "No - they're rising all over the place, but not hitting our flies." When I got to the water I saw a heavy hatch underway with trout coming to the surface in spades. If I hadn't known better I'd have thought it was raining. I promptly hooked up with a beauty of a trout - such a beauty that it snapped the tip of my rod (which had admittedly been snapped previously and was repaired by yours truly with super glue and fly tying material).

So my nine-foot rod is now more like eight-five.

Still, the hatch continued unabated. I made a quick call to Dad, who joined me a few minutes later, just in time to watch me pull in yet another outstanding Poudre rainbow:

The BWO on the line was pretty beaten up after this fish, so I tied on a fresh cream-colored pale dun, which is nice and easy to see on the surface. Turns out the fish like this one too, as I swiftly landed another nice rainbow:

Shortly thereafter, the rises ceased, save for an occasional flash. Made it home just in time to see the Jayhawks fall to Northern Iowa.

The unexpected all around today!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Old Faithful

Some things are pretty constant. 

It's March in Colorado, which pretty much guarantees that at some point you'll experience a 30 degree drop in temperature  from one day to the next.  I was singing a happy tune yesterday after catching my first really nice trout of 2010, being the beneficiary of a glorious 60+ day of sunshine. 

Something happened overnight as I was sleeping soundly, dreaming of rainbows rising to small dry flies.

Ouch! I was kind of hoping the days of freezing eyelets on my fly rod were over for the year. Still, trout fever has ahold of me. I never claimed to be sane.

Much like the predictable fluctuation in March weather here in Colorado, I'm finding that my flybox contains something equally consistent: The Adams dry fly. I will never, ever be without an Adams dry fly. When all other patterns fail, I can usually rely on an Adams to draw a rise, and today was no exception. The cold kept the fish from rising as frequently as yesterday, but after tying on the Adams I had four hits in a row, with the last one resulting in a hookup with a really nice fish that I subsequently lost.

The Adams is the "old faithful" of dry flies. Just to make certain my enthusiasm for the fly wasn't misplaced, I did a little research and found this great article, which is filled with information about the fly and gives an expert tutorial on how to tie one.

My only complaint with the fly today was that I had a hard time keeping track of it on the water due to the angle of the sun and its reflections off the riffle on the river. The high sitting wings, however, allowed me to sight it pretty regularly.

Stock your flybox with a few of these. They come through when the BWOs won't.

Prince Nymph

In honor of my Fantasy basketball bracket (The Prince Nymphs), and in an effort to save some dough, I'm trying to tie more of my own flies.  For some reason, the goose biots for the wings and tails give me fits, but it shouldn't be all that difficult a fly.

Bead head or no bead head?  Thoughts?

No laughing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rainbow Days...

Every now and then, things just click.  It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes, in the midst of darkness, God seems to heed your cries of "enough already."  One of the ministers at my church refers to these times as "rainbow days," days when we experience "God sightings."  I'm not certain, but I think today qualified. 

For awhile, I've been forcing the issue with God.  Personal challenges have taken their toll on me, and I finally came to grips with the notion of ceasing to try and will everything to happen on my own.  It's not a matter of giving up, per se, but definitely one of relinquishing control of outcomes.

When I get to the point where I don't know what else to do, I instinctively turn to fishing.  It throws me into at least a few hours of intense concentration, where I can focus on nothing other than the moment at hand.  Sometimes it results in fish, sometimes it just results in some fresh air and some mental rejuvination.  It's selfish, I suppose, but it works for me.

Today, the result was not only a change in perspective, but a couple of really gorgeous, wild rainbow trout.  I fished a stretch of water where I've frequently had some success, but normally catch very small fish.  Everything seemed to be aligned for me - mild temperatures, a nice mix of sun and cloud cover, and a dearth of other fisherman giving me the solitude I so often crave when I fish.

The fish weren't exactly jumping on everything I threw at them.  They were rising all over a calm stretch of water where the calm current allows them to be particular in their feeding - plenty of bugs on the surface give the fish in this area a target-rich environment.  During a trip to the same stretch a couple of days ago, another fisherman suggested I downsize on the flies I was using.  He thought the patterns were on target, but were too big.  So, I did my best to match the bugs on the surface with the smallest Adams pattern I could find.  Nothing.  I threw small BWOs at them.  Rises all around, just not to the bugs I was throwing.  Switching to a cream-colored pale dun pattern, I didn't fare any better.  Finally, convinced that my imitations were still simply too big, I ventured fifty yards upstream where fish were still rising to the surface, but doing so in much swifter current.

Suddenly, the "rainbow day" effect kicked in.  Literally and figuratively.  A small 'bow jumped at the fresh BWO I tied on, quickly easing my frustration and whetting my appetite for more.  A few short minutes later, the BWO was consumed  by a hit from an aggressive trout.  I set the hook and applied just enough pressure to firmly secure the trout to the fly.  A few minutes later, I landed the biggest trout I've ever pulled out of this particular section of the Poudre.  What a beauty!

I returned the beautiful trout to the current and watched him bolt away. Having destroyed the fly, the trout forced me to replace it with another fresh BWO of the same size. The trout continued to feed off the surface as the sun began its descent. I chuckled as one launched himself completely out of the water. I made note of the spot on the river and placed a cast just upstream. I drifted the BWO carefully over the remaining splash, and sure enough, a trout nailed it. Again, an aggressive hit that made the hookset fairly simple. Not quite as large, but quite possibly the prettiest fish I've ever caught. I love the coloring of rainbows at this time of year.

Just as quickly, the fish stopped coming to the surface, save for a random rise every two minutes or so. I smiled and marveled at how lucky I can be sometimes. Five minutes from home, yet light years away in my own mind.

It was just enough today. Enough to regain perspective, and enough to remind me to be grateful for what I have. And almost enough to make me forget how miserable my March Madness bracket looks after a mere day of action in the Big Dance. But that's just basketball.

A rainbow day indeed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NOW it's ON!

After a slow start on Friday, the weekend fishing on the Poudre picked up a few notches.

Saturday was bright, sunny, and warm, seemingly ending a winter that has been far too gloomy for me in almost every respect, weather included. The day started early with a full family run/walk to benefit a local non-profit organization doing some great things for youth.  For the record, and in the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit to being one of the walkers, leaving the heavy lifting to my younger, more fitness-conscious family members.  Plus, I had fishing on my mind from the get go!  No point in wasting precious energy on a run when I was certain to log some hours wading the Poudre.

Upon arriving at the river, I got excited to see fishing coming to the surface.  While there appeared to be many small fish sucking an undetermined hatch off the water, I noticed a few very aggressive strikes, including a couple nice fish that actually launched into the the air.  I tried to see what might be on the surface, and did my best to match the small bugs I saw.  The best I could come up with was a small BWO, which proved to do the trick.  I spent the day on a relatively small stretch of water, rediscovering the fun of setting the hook to the quick flashes over the fly.   A small Renegade also drew the attention of one really nice trout, which I hooked briefly before losing the fly, thanks to a knot that was poorly and hastily tied in my excitement.

Today was more of the same, although the temperature was considerably lower and the fish were rising to the surface with less regularity.  After a couple of small trout landed on another BWO, the surface action stopped and I switched over to a cream-colored stonefly nymph with a small split shot.  Several fish hit on the nymph, and I ended the weekend hooking up with a chunky rainbow that finally managed to manuever its way off the hook.

Looks like a fun season ahead.  Gotta remember the camera, though!

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 Season Opener...

...not exactly a roar.

For the first time in 2010, I put line to water today. Very, very little water.

H2O is in short supply on the Poudre right now. Frankly, I'm not sure what kind of difference it makes for the fishing. The stretch I hit today gets heavy pressure from junkies like me. Still, it's usually a little more productive. It's really dried up right now, but still pretty.

Buck fever may have had something to do with it as well. I lost two flies, one to a misplaced cast that landed in a tree on the opposite bank. For a brief second, I thought maybe I had hooked up with one fish, but it's entirely possible that it was simply a rock or a twig.

Not much of an opening day. Still better than life in the rat race, though.