Monday, August 30, 2010


Forgive me for digressing from the topic of fly fishing for just a moment.  I know, it's unnatural for me too, but given my experience on the river yesterday, it seems to be an appropriate jumping off point to wax just a little poetic, or philosophical...or something.

I make it a point to stay relatively uninformed about the happenings in places like New York City or Washington, DC these days.  There's only so much room left in my brain, and for better or worse, I prefer to reserve that slowly declining vacant gray matter for things that bring me happiness and warm fuzziness.  I'll pick up the local paper and occasionally check out the Washington Post online, but it's usually only to check in and see how my former home team is doing (apparently not too well at the moment).  My smarter, more liberal friends would undoubtedly shudder to know that I occasionally tune into the O'Reilly Factor on - gasp - Fox News.  If nothing else, I enjoy the froth-at-the-mouth banter between the host and his guests.  It entertains me.  That's about the extent of my news consumption.

With that in mind, I had to take a crash course in civic awareness when I started reading tidbits about a proposed mosque that, depending upon whom you ask, might or might not be built on a site that might or might not be at Ground Zero in New York.  In typical fashion, I tried to fathom what all the hullabaloo was about.

I quickly learned that the construction of a place of worship in a free country is suddenly cause for an apparent long-term news-a-thon.  I started to hear all kinds of ugly things again.  People who support the mosque are "insensitive," never mind the fact that what happened at Ground Zero killed Muslims.  People who oppose the mosque are "bigots," never mind the fact that at least some Muslims oppose it as well.  Marginal, retrograde churches hold "Quran burnings" while marginal and even more retrograde terrorists are likely still trying to kill us.  Virtually as soon as I had lifted it, my self-imposed moratorium on news, particularly of the politico-religious variety, fell rapidly back in place.

While mosques and churches figure out whether they should be built, I'll savor my own sanctuary here at the edge of the foothills in northern Colorado.

The sun usually shines.  Deer, ducks, foxes, racoons, snakes, skunks, rabbits, and an occasional tomcat all feel welcome here.  There are a lot of bugs - mosquitos, caddis flies, grasshoppers, and slimy larvae - and they all worship here too.

Some of my favorite congregants showed up for services yesterday morning:

No bigotry or insensitivity here.  Just a tip for all visitors:  bring your Bible or Quran if you must, but don't leave home without a box full of size 18 elk hair caddis flies.  The trout are going crazy on them right now.

The Flywriter

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cutts on a Caddis

Wow.  I certainly wasn't expecting the last two hours of sunlight yesterday to go the way they did.

I stood knee deep in comfortably cool water yesterday evening.  Dried house primer and paint splatters blended with spare tire soot had seemingly seeped into my skin, leaving me looking like some sort of alien.  Prior to 6 p.m., my day had consisted of a flat tire, hours of waiting for it to be fixed, priming some siding on my sister's house, waiting for it to dry, painting over the primer, and helping Mom get ready for a BBQ.  It doesn't sound like much, but it had eaten up most of the day.

Which brings me back to 6 p.m. on the Poudre.  Finally able to take a breath, I settled into a familiar, comfortable routine.  The first five minutes were frustrating as I tried to keep track of the size 16 caddis on the surface of the water.  The sun was in just the right spot to cast a severe glare on the water.  I could see upstream, and I could see downstream, but there was a window of about 20 yards of river where the fly would disappear. 

Mercifully, the sun dropped below the horizon and the water became completely visible.  Seemingly at that very moment, I heard a small splash and quickly looked upstream, making note of a ring of rippling water in a calm slick, a clear indication of a rising fish.

As if on cue, fish started popping up all over the river, feverishly devouring the fruits of what was by now a significant caddis hatch underway.  Much to my surprise, they started going after my artificial imitation as though it were the prime morsel on the water.

By 8 p.m., I'd taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 trout, a great many of them cutthroats between 10-15 inches.  I'm not sure where they came from; cutthroats aren't uncommon on the Poudre, but the majority of the fish I take out of the river are rainbows accompanied by an occasional brown. It was certainly unlike anything I'd ever seen on this stretch of water.  My eyes strained to watch the caddis on the end of the line - the 3rd one I'd tied on by this point.  The fish just wouldn't stop feeding.  Finally, unable to see the fly any longer, I turned and started making my way out of the river, the fly dragging downstream behind me as I waded out.  As I started to step onto dry land, I felt the rod tighten and heard  a splash in the water.  I turned to see another fish on the line.  It had taken the fly and run with it.

Unbelievable finish.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chillin' in Boiling Water (or Stoneflies Safe for now)

The heat is back on, and it didn't help the fishing today.

I got back on the water this afternoon with high hopes.  The Poudre looked great on arrival - low flows and fairly clear.  Lots of bugs flying around.  Hot, though, with bright sun and no cloud cover.  I got a little excited when I spotted this huge stone fly casing on a rock near the water.

Thinking back to the last time I pondered the validity of "signs," I decided that maybe this time it would work out.  With casings on the rocks, surely I'd be best suited by tying on a stone fly.  So, an elk-hair caddis took its place as the lead fly with a gold stone fly trailer.  Off into the water I stomped with a purpose.

I soon found, however, that the key variable in the whole equation - the fish - weren't about to cooperate today.  I don't take a terribly scientific approach to my fly fishing so I don't carry a thermometer, but I'd venture to guess that the water temperature was higher than normal.  I was quite comfortable wading in my shorts, and didn't feel even the slightest initial shock of cold that normally hits me for the first few seconds in.  For freshwater trout, I imagine the water felt like a hot tub today.  Save for an infrequent rise, I saw almost no evidence that fish were anywhere in the river.

After exhausting both the caddis and the gold stone, I tried everything else I could think of - BWO, double nymph rig, hoppers - with no results on anything.

Guess the trout were just chillin' in the warm water today.  It happens.  The stone flies are safe for today.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Caddis Time!

Had a blast this morning on the Poudre, just a stone's throw from home.

I can only describe this morning's conditions as perfect.  In addition to a bright blue sky that one can only find in Colorado, the Poudre has dropped to an ideal level and the water is running crystal clear.  To top it all off, we've finally gotten a break from the searing heat in the past couple of days, and it was cool enough this morning for a light sweatshirt (the green and gold of the Rams, of course).

A virtual swarm of grasshoppers have been mechanically gnawing away at my vegetable garden for the past week, and as I reached to retrieve my fishing net from it's hook in the garage, I noticed a grasshopper lounging carefree on the handle.  I'm not generally one for "signs," but the proverbial light bulb flashed in my small brain, a clear signal to try a hopper/dropper set up for the morning.

In retrospect, I think it was the right idea, poorly executed.  I don't fish a whole lot with hoppers, and as a result I have very few to choose from in my fly box.  Negligence on my part, for certain, but I just don't fish them very often.  I located a generic-looking hopper pattern - basically some foam and rubber legs - and tied it on with a size 18 pheasant tail nymph as the dropper.  

The action started quickly, with two rainbows taking the pheasant tail on the first three drifts.  I wasn't terribly surprised, as the PT has been a hot fly for me lately.

After an hour or so, I noticed that fish were starting to rise and hit bugs on the surface, none of which were hoppers/terrestrials. Then, out of nowhere, a fish went after the hopper.  Too slow on the uptake.  I drifted it again, and through the clear water was able to see a small trout giving chase to the hopper.  He darted toward the bug, and then turned away at the last split second.  For the next 20 minutes, the scene replayed itself with several fish rising to the hopper only to turn their noses at it at the last second.

Time for a change in strategy.  Fish were still surfacing, and I considered that maybe the idea was right, but the choice of the hopper as the lead fly was wrong.  I decided to replace the hopper with an elk-hair caddis.  It was a better match for the surface flies, and quite a bit smaller.  I shortly found that the caddis was going dominate for the rest of the day.  Time and again, trout in the 10-12 inch range nailed the caddis, some quite dramatically.  I landed one 12-inch rainbow that had a serious chip on his shoulder about something, because he fought as though he were a 30-inch lunker.  He completely consumed the caddis, and went aerial a good three times in addition to stripping line like a champion.

After about a dozen fish, I pretty much forgot about the nymph, which was problematic because I became so focused on the caddis on the surface that I'm pretty sure I missed a couple of strikes on the nymph.  
The remainder of the morning was all dry fly action.  I've gotta say that I've had my fill of nymphing this summer, and it was really fun to get into some steady dry fly work.  With the water running significantly lower, my feeling is that the fish are now starting to congregate a lot more in certain areas, which makes for a lot of fun and a little less stalking.

At about 1:00, the tubers started rolling through, and I called it a morning after losing the PT on a back-cast into the trees behind.  All in all, I think the caddis/PT combination might be pretty productive on this part of the river.

I'm also embarassed to say I haven't ventured up the canyon yet this season, other than a quick overnighter on the South Fork.  Never seem to have the time to venture up there, and don't enjoy the "combat fishing" on weekends.  From what I've been reading, however, it's probably high time I got in the old Ford and made that trip.  Some folks have been reporting staggering numbers up there. 

Overall, a great morning.  The river is fishing great, and the water is ideal.  Hope to find a big one here or there sometime soon.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Little Fun

I thought something didn't feel quite right.  I'm surprised I didn't break out in hives.

I've been going through the motions for the past couple of weeks, and suddenly realized I hadn't actually been on the water for over a week.  Between increased hours at work, a weekend soccer tournament, and other distractions, I simply didn't get around to it.  Doc and I had a frustrating day on the Poudre just over a week ago on a stretch of water that is normally killer.  I notched one really nice brown out of the day, but otherwise it was small stockers. 

Snuck out today after work and it was more of the same.  The numbers were a little better, at least on a per hour basis.  Generally small fish, but I did land a couple of nice, fat little browns.

On an encouraging note, despite catching all of today's trout on variations of pheasant tail nymphs, I did notice - for the first time in a long time - some significant surface action, particularly as the sun started to go down.  Looking forward some good dry fly action in the near future.

In the meantime, the pheasant tails are still doing the trick, and I feel like I'm improving on the ties.  The top is simply a classic pheasant tail, and the bottom, and I added a bead head and a flashback to the other.