Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Year of the Hopper

Clark W. Griswold would be proud of me.  It's rapidly turning into a Christmas made for National Lampoon.  I managed to scatter lights across the front of the house and throughout the branches of the crabapple trees in the front yard with nary a single bulb left un-illuminated.  The little lights aren't twinkling, but they're lit.  Packages have been purchased, wrapped, and placed under the tree for two parents, two siblings, two siblings-in-law, two grandparents, and three nephews.  I think everything's ready to go.  

I'll take a moment to be honest.

At this particular moment, I don't care if I see thread, foam, bobbins, hackle, beads, or a whip-finish tool for a considerable period of time.  Just five short hours before the whole famn damily descends upon Flywriter HQ for our annual Christmas bacchanalia, I've finally set aside the scissors and and vise as I survey the damage in the area around my tying table.  The chaos is remarkable, even for someone with my penchant for disorganization.  The clean-up will be a buzz-kill that I'll just have to postpone until the joy and revelry of an old-fashioned family Christmas fades into history.

For Doc's holiday fly-box this year, I went heavy on the hopper.  I didn't fish nearly enough over the summer or fall, but during those days of bliss I did spend on the water, I developed a fascination with the hopper.  It became my bug of choice after an action packed afternoon on the lower Poudre in early September.  Over the last year I've supplied Doc with enough BWOs, PMDs, and caddis flies to last him well into next season, but our flyboxes have always been a little short on anything bigger than a size 16 stonefly.  No more!  Thanks to my end-of-year tying frenzy, he'll now have plenty of big bugs to pitch during those summer afternoons when the trout love to inhale them.  I'll have to concede that they look a bit rough around the edges, but I'm getting better.


Needless to say, I'm a bit tired of foam, rubber legs, and super-glue.

As the year rapidly draws to a close, I hope you all have a most joyful Christmas with your loved ones.  May the Almighty grant you every blessing.  Here's hoping that visions of hopper-consuming trout dance in your heads tonight.

Joy to the world...
The Flywriter

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three strikes, One Fish...

...still far, far better than work.

Ridiculously low water levels and bright sunshine made the trout stalking pretty difficult yesterday.  The fish were feeding selectively, and it seems that every time I tried to cast to the rises, they would move to other locales.  It was, I'm afraid, a classic case of the angler spooking the fish.  The rainbow pictured above was a real beauty, and the result of sheer patience.  I finally enticed him with a large hopper, which matched absolutely none of the bugs on the surface of the water.

Doc fared a little better, managing a couple of nice fish - a rainbow and a cutbow. 

The day on the water didn't do wonders for the cold I've been trying to fight off for a few days.  I woke up this morning with my head about to explode.  I guess there's a price to pay sometimes; tough work, but somebody has to do it.

From the medicine cabinet...
The Flywriter

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ad-libbing, Algae, and the Best Peach Ever.

The build-up was almost too much for us.

For months, my friend Jae and I have been talking the talk, comparing notes and fly boxes, and spinning yarns about our previous angling conquests.  Between work schedules and family obligations, we found it difficult to walk the walk.  On a cool day in early September, just on the cusp of fall, we finally found a day to put up or shut up, and wandered up the canyon to see if we could cash the checks our mouths had been writing.

Jae strikes me as the classic outdoorsman.  Despite my years of fishing the canyon, I have an appalling lack of useful knowledge about the miles upon miles of public access on the Poudre, a river literally in my backyard.  My method of planning for a day on the Poudre typically consists of driving the winding road until I see a stretch of river that looks interesting.  Jae, on the other hand, knows the canyon.  He's actually capable of formulating a plan for the day, and brings along neat things - like maps - to aid in getting to a predetermined location.  With Jae along, I felt strangely prepared.

It was almost over before it began.

As we slipped - or in my case, struggled - into waders and boots, I noticed a quizzical look on Jae's face, followed by an increasingly blank expression that was rapidly turning into that "oh, crap" look.

"You didn't see my reel, did ya John?"  Uh-oh.  "No, Jae, I sure didn't."  I started sifting through gear in the trunk while the wheels in Jae's head started turning, a clear indication that he was already thinking of ways to turn his nine-foot into a makeshift Tenkara rod.  In a rare moment of either clarity or good fortune, I'd tossed in an extra reel that would save Jae the indignity of turning his rod into the world's longest cane pole.  I'm sure the line weight didn't precisely match the rod, but we were adapting.

Having solved the reel "issue," I unzipped my tubular fly rod case and turned it upside down.  The bottom half of a fly rod fell out, and then...nothing.  "Uh, you didn't see the other half of my rod, did ya Jae?"  Double uh-oh.  "No, John, I sure didn't."  I knew darn well that I hadn't thrown in another fly rod.  So much for clarity and good fortune.  With a sinking feeling in my gut, I turned the case over again and shook it violently.  To my utter relief, the top half of the fly rod fell on the ground.  So, no nine-foot Tenkara rod/cane pole for Jae and no four-foot Tenkara rod/cane pole for me. A hearty round of laughs and a hodgepodge of rods and reels later, we were off to see if we could muster up anything beyond a continued comedy of errors.

The good news is that things fell into place and we enjoyed a good day of fishing.  We hit a stretch of the Poudre that I'd never fished before, probably because it flows away from the main road and out of my normal field of vision driving up the canyon.  After a short, easy walk, we were on some great water that was marred only by some sort of invasive, prolific, bright green algae that had grown on the riverbed.  The algae did very little, in my view, to hinder the fishing, although I did have to periodically clean off the nymphs I was drifting for much of the day.  It also made wading a little more precarious than usual, although the riverbed up the canyon is somewhat difficult to wade to begin with, being full of big rocks as opposed to the sand and gravel I'm used to in the stretches of the lower Poudre.

After a period of adjustment, trial, and error, we started tying into some small but healthy trout.  Despite being handicapped with an unfamiliar reel of lesser quality, Jae proved himself to be a skilled fisherman with a keen eye for reading a stream. 

After hooking up with a couple of trout and struggling with nymphs and algae-covered rocks for the remainder of the morning, I found a little bit of a groove in the afternoon session and managed to save a little bit of face.  My recent obsession with hoppers and big stimulators paid off with several pretty little rainbows.  Some decent afternoon surface action went a long way toward helping me to forget about my less-than-graceful tumble into a whopping five inches of water earlier in the day.


One final but not insignificant highlight of the day:  In addition to being a skilled angler, a calm and serene presence, and an adaptable fishing companion, Jae has the additional gift of picking high-quality, choice produce.  At lunchtime, he offered me a gigantic peach that was just about the best thing I've ever eaten!  No bruises or blemishes, perfectly ripe but not mushy.  A nugget of heaven in every bite.  As I frantically wiped away the juice that was streaming down into my goatee, I took a mental note that I was just where God wanted me to be on that day.  No ruminating over the past.  No fear of the future.  Just living in the moment right there in front of me.  Good place to be. 

Shampooing the nectar out of my beard.... 
The Flywriter

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Big Bug Bonanza

Sometimes, size does matter. 

I should clarify that I'm referring, of course, to fishing, so there's no need to avert your eyes.  As the summer closes, I've developed a fascination with big bugs; specifically, grasshoppers and any artificial variation thereof.

Ever since I can remember, grasshoppers have been a scourge to those of us in northern Colorado, particularly those of us who've made any earnest efforts to grow corn, tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables.  They don't seem to make much of a dent in zucchini or cucumber plants, but I'm convinced that grasshoppers bear sole responsibility for several failed corn crops in the last few years.  As a child, I used to get a kick out of frying them under the concentrated light beams of a magnifying glass, and to this day I like to hone  my fine motor skills by running them over as I pedal my bike to work along the bike path that follows the river to town.  It likely comes as no surprise, therefore, that I would find delight in the revelation that big trout will seemingly rise to the surface from a deep slumber to suck the big, juicy bugs in a mid-day feeding frenzy.

Last weekend, Doc and I discovered first hand what many before us already knew.  Our day trip to the lower Poudre started off no different than most.    After quickly scanning the water for rising fish and seeing nothing, I hastily secured a Pheasant Tail nymph to some 5X and unceremoniously descended the bank to the river, bidding Doc good luck with an equally hasty "I'll catch up with you downstream."

For awhile, it seemed like the right choice.  The PT nymph with a gold bead head (and usually a rib of red wire) has become my go-to fly for the Poudre when no obvious alternative reveals itself.  On this particular morning, it was enough to fool two browns within the first half hour, one of which was as healthy looking as I've seen on this stretch of river.  The PT also produced a really nice cut-bow that fought like a demon and  measured about 16".

After an hour or so, feeding on the PT came to a halt, and I took a moment to gather my thoughts just in time to see Doc pitching something big into a fast riffle that emptied into a nice run of heavy, deep water.  Curious, I made my way dowstream.  In the time it took me to wade the hundred or so yards between us, I watched as he consistently casted, drifted, and yanked back the rod in several attempts to set the hook.  Just as I arrived, he brought one to net and remarked that I'd missed the first few he landed.  He was throwing a fly I'd tied for him that's basically a large caddis with legs.  The trout, he said, were inhaling it in the fast water.  I reasoned that if the large stimulator-esque creation was drawing attention, it might be fun to see if any of my amateurish hoppers would produce similar results.

I think two things happened in the next couple of hours.  One, I think we happened upon a genuine "honey hole" that happened to be full of stout, actively feeding trout; and two, the trout weren't the least bit interested in carefully examining or scrutinizing the bugs we threw at them in the fast water.  They weren't necessarily hooking themselves - a bunch of missed hook sets prove that we still had to actually try - but the fish were hitting the hopper in a pretty convincing manner.

On a humorous note, I also spent the better part of 10 minutes earlier in the day sight fishing to a mysterious fish that rose every couple of minutes and created a huge splash each time.  When I would cast upstream, I would hear the splash downstream.  At the downstream end of a drift, the splash could be heard upstream.  Finally, and too close for my comfort as I drifted the PT fairly close in front of me, I got a visual on the source of the splash and realized that I'd been fishing to a mink who was out for a frolicking swim.  He popped out of the water no more than 10 yards from where I stood, stopping my heart momentarily before rolling over, darting underwater, and resurfacing on the far bank, content to burrow into what I'm sure is an elaborate underground network of secret tunnels.  Needless to say, he startled me enough that I saw imaginary mink flashing about for the next half hour.

This weekend, I'll be changing scenery a bit and venturing up the canyon to fish some of the upper stretches with a good friend of mine.  I have the feeling I'll be trading green drakes in for hoppers, but I'm hoping for some more of the same action.  The Poudre seems to be fishing great these days, and the trout I'm landing appear to have benefited from the long runoff period, with increased size and far fewer battle scars.

With love to the Hopper....
The Flywriter

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Right Where I Belong

I suppose it's easy for most people to determine that my fishing preferences and skills are far short of being multifaceted. I gave bass fishing an honest-to-goodness try, and we all know how that went.  I tried to hit some stillwaters for trout, had some success, but could never manage to pour my heart into it.  Not surprisingly, when my homewater rivers blow out, I'm one of those fair weather fishermen that more or less goes into hiding.  You all know my type - complaining about the "runoff" while leaving it to the most highly skilled, ambitious, and committed anglers to carry the torch through July.  No surprise, I guess, that my placeholder on the worldwide web at remained unchanged since late June.

My return to the Poudre yesterday was a triumphant one, at least by my standards.  It's been a summer long on heat and high water, and short on days pursuing the primary source of joy in my life.  Joy came roaring back in spades yesterday.  Unless you happen to be an unfortunate young badger.  Huh?  Keep reading.  I'll come back to that in a minute.

Like most good things that happen in my life, my quest for river dominance began with modest humility.  The initial drifts were marked by rust as I struggled to mend the line correctly and drive the bright, shiny bead head nymph through an obvious holding lie.  The complexion of the river has changed, too.  The sheer volume of water that's made its way down from the mountains over the past two months has added structure where there was previously none, forming new eddies, holes, and fast riffles that all seemed unfamiliar on a very familiar stretch of water.

One nice thing about fly fishing is that after you do it for awhile, habits form.  When your line stops and takes a nosedive, you kind of know how to respond.  A small brown provided a preview of what would come later in the day.

In perfect progression, the remainder of the day proved to be one of the most diverse fly fishing experiences I've ever had, with nothing resembling pattern or predictability.  I caught fish on the surface, and I caught fish dragging nymphs along the bottom.  I caught browns, rainbows, and cuttbows on pheasant tails, princes, yellow sallies, royal humpies, caddis, and two hopper patterns.

After fighting and losing what looked like the fish of the day, Doc had a slow morning followed by a stellar afternoon.  It never takes him too long to get into the act, and yesterday was no exception.

As if the fish weren't excitement enough, my heart took quite a jolt just after landing and releasing my final trout of the day.  I took a few steps through the water, so enamored with my surroundings as to be oblivious to them.  Some inner voice told me to look down before I waded any further.  Along with a glance at the rock just beneath my descending right foot came the realization that it wasn't a rock at all, just a petrified mass of teeth, fur, and paws adorned with a dressing of flies:


Not what I was hoping to see, to say the least.  As I pondered whether it was a badger, tasmanian devil, or simply a yet-to-be-discovered mystery creature from the depths of the Poudre, I of course had to snap a photo.  Doc watched with a look of either amusement or curiosity - I'm not sure which - and shook his head.  I could almost hear him silently quoting the wise words of Hank Hill, one of animated television's great minds.  The boy ain't right!

Grotesque carnage aside, we said goodbye to the river for the day, but not before receiving a send-off from a handsome couple, the most gracious of hosts.  They watch us closely, but never intrude.

We climbed in the truck having satisfied some primal need that I can't explain.  I realized how long a month can be in the mind of an angling-obsessed trout freak.  Yesterday fulfilled a need that couldn't be satisfied by slinging hoppers to bluegill and crappie, or even ambling along in a float tube on a lake filled to the brim with trout.  I belong in the stream, as one-dimensional as that may sound, and it's good to be back where I belong.

Here's to self-awareness...
The Flywriter 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Joy In a Thousand Cutts

I suppose "a thousand" is a bit of an overstatement. OK, so it's a huge overstatement.  But during a few brief hours two weeks ago I felt, for the first time, like I could do no wrong with a fishing rod.

The Poudre's been a raging torrent for the better part of a month now, and - as per the norm - I've been in a bit of a funk while I resolve myself to waiting out the worst of it.  While the predicted gloom and doom of swelling banks and flash floods have yet to materialize, the ginormous snowpack that remains unmelted high in the Rockies may keep me out of commission for awhile yet.  A month ago, the tree in this picture wasn't present on this stretch of water.  I'm sure the stunning force of the current snapped it like a twig somewhere up the canyon, and it lodged itself smack in the middle of one of my favorite runs.

Consequently, I've grudgingly accepted my fate for the next month: stillwaters.

Not such a catastrophe, as I found out two weeks ago.  When you take a 95 year-old retired choir director, a 70 year-old retired Economist, a 40 year-old crazy trout freak, and a 30-something golden boy, and then throw in a lake full of cutthroats, something indescribably joyful takes place.  The four men described above met for what is becoming something of an annual Father's Day tradition, and this private little family affair didn't disappoint this year.  Being the only "non-father" in the group, I took the liberty of playing the role of the token kid on the trip, which gave me license to catch as many fish as possible.  Here's how it all went down.

7:00 a.m.:  Golden Boy arrives punctually, as instructed by the Economist the day before.  Trout Freak, having been twitching in anticipation since 2 a.m., is mainlining coffee and obsessing over a box of nymphs.  Choir Director screams up the drive moments later, driving faster than any 95 year-old should.

8:20 a.m.:  Choir Director's favorite breakfast Diner in Laramie, Wyoming is closed...for good.  It's been retooled into an Indian restaurant, and they don't serve hash browns or french toast.  Economist and Choir Director decide on McDonald's.  Golden Boy cringes.  Trout Freak wonders why everyone is concerned with something as trivial as breakfast.

10:00 a.m.:  Economist - through walking - takes his spot along the north bank of the lake.  Choir Director proceeds, purposefully if slowly, to the west bank.  Trout Freak grabs Golden Boy and the two descend upon the northwest corner of the lake, where the trout are known to strike at anything with a bead head.  Pheasant tails, in this case, preferably with a red wire ribbing.

With all the actors in place, the fishing commences, followed shortly thereafter by the catching.  Bent rods and happy smiles all around.  The cutthroats are abundant.  Trout Freak is in heaven.

For three short hours, three generations of my family experienced the joy of a thousand cutts.  The fish came in streaks of dozens.  Golden Boy ultimately won the prize, landing a stout cutthroat and garnering the sole photo-op of the day.   


The Economist mentioned something about a similar fish, but the veracity of his claim remains in doubt.  Still, every time I looked in his direction, his rod was bent and shaking.

The Poudre remains unfishable, at least by my standards, and I keep twitching with anticipation for the days of late summer when the caddis hatches are heavy and a day at work simply kills the time in between daily trips to the river.  Until then, I'll take a day or two like this one and be a happy man.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Threat Level Orange: Terrorist Hits Flywriter HQ...Again (or, the mangy mutt ate my hackle)

In a precise, highly coordinated attack earlier today, a suspected terrorist lashed out at Flywriter HQ.  Early indications suggest that the attack was carried out by Brooke the Cairn terrier (aka Ch. Cairncroft Brazen Brooke):

This callous, heinous, vicious attack wiped out the remaining brown hackle supply at Flywriter HQ.  Fortunately, our security officials were able to mitigate any damage to the remaining inventory of hooks, thread, chenille, bead heads, pheasant tails, and a large collection of additional hackle.

The attack appears to have been timed to roughly coincide with the anniversary of the events of May 7, 2010, during which Brooke and her long time mentor and companion, Kyra, launched an equally brutal attack targeting stockpiles of white and grizzly hackle housed in the same secured facility.

Brooke has been placed on a watch list in response to credible intelligence suggesting a planned future attack on the vegetable garden.  Despite recent security enhancements to the garden, it remains vulnerable to assault, given the inadequate perimeter fencing.

All anglers are urged to practice heightened vigilance and be on the lookout for possible copycat attacks, particularly from small terriers.

Godspeed, from the Command Post...
The Flywriter

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Confession

It wasn't supposed to go down the way it did today.

As always, I came home from church today in a good mood, making note of the sunny skies and an afternoon completely divorced from any pressing obligations.  It's the way life is meant to be lived, and if I had my druthers, every day would be a Sunday afternoon in late May.  I rounded up Doc, interrupting his meticulous landscaping, and with some gentle persuasion, suggested that the afternoon was meant for ignoring yard work.  Without so much as a threat of waterboarding or other "enhanced coercion," I soon found myself in the passenger seat of his big Dodge, on my way to my own personal paradise.

We arrived to find the Poudre running both swiftly and murky.  [INSERT SOUND OF WIND BEING TAKEN OUT OF MY SAILS HERE].  The realization that runoff season is beginning hit me like a ton of bricks.  With grudging acceptance and a healthy dose of futility, we nonetheless hunted for a stretch of water that was both fishable and promising.  In retrospect, the search was over, almost before it began.  Fighting my own instincts to come up with a plausible and persuasive argument to convince Doc to give it a whirl, I conceded that the water really didn't look too promising.  I decided that no immediate harm could come from putting off an experiment with high water fishing for another day.

Sensing my troubled soul [INSERT MELODRAMA HERE], Doc did what any good father would and came up with a counter offer.  "We could hit one of the bass ponds."  Doc is fortunate enough to have access to a bass pond or two, although he rarely fishes them.  Quite honestly, neither of us know the first thing about bass fishing.  

Here's where the confession comes into play.  I felt a strange sort of deja-vu, although it took me a few minutes to remember why.  I'd been in this very situation before.  The small boat, the smaller motor, the strange sensation of having a rod in my hand, yet not being entirely certain what to do with it - I'd been here before!  Suddenly it hit me.  I vaguely remembered an encounter with bait salesman just about this time last year, complete with promises of "bass crack" yielding undeniable success.  A vision of a rubber worm came rushing into my mind like the Poudre during runoff.  With almost no time to prepare myself either mentally or emotionally, I was fixin' to go bass fishing!

Forgive me father, for I have sinned [INSERT SOLEMN GREGORIAN CHANT HERE]OK, not really, but sort of.  I mean to cause no offense here, and I have nothing against bass fishing.  From my limited experience, it's fun. I don't even have anything against worms, rubber or otherwise.  I'm just a trout fisherman, that's all, and a stream fisherman even more so.  Even fishing for trout in stillwater just doesn't give me the same buzz. 

In the end, I put on a brave face and toyed very briefly with a rubber worm.  Still not "bass crack" by the way.  Being ill-equipped for a bass outing, Doc and I racked our brains for a minute, wondering aloud what we might have on hand that could serve as a tempting offering.  I did the best I could, pulling out two hoppers I tied a couple of months ago.

Lo and behold, the hoppers turned out to do the trick...sort of.  With all the talk of bass in this post, I should point out that I think only one bass was harmed during the making of this makeshift, comical affair.  A whopper it was most certainly not!  Doc even refused to pose for a picture with the little guy.  Instead, we caught what we believe to be a handful of crappies on my homemade hoppers,  which was highly encouraging and ego-boosting by the way.  Encouraging because they floated nicely on the surface, and ego-boosting because they actually drew the attention of a number of fish.  I have high hopes for late summer, when we'll undoubtedly have a rash of terrestrials on the Poudre.

In the end, Doc and I decided that we might just make a concerted effort to have another go at these "other fish" from time to time.  Maybe it's not so sinful after all.

I said a few "hail Mary's" just in case.

From the confession booth...
The Flywriter   


Monday, May 16, 2011

Doc and the Furious Rainbow

Boy.  This rainbow got all NASTY with Doc.

There's a story behind this, I'm sure.  Trouble is, I've forgotten what it is.

I found this short video clip hidden in a bunch of pictures I'd long since forgotten about.  I vaguely remember the day as being one where I basically struck out and just started filming Doc, since he was catching all the fish anyway.  I can't say I remember the fish very well, but from the looks of it, it was a halfway decent catch.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back Into Focus...

It took a gentle reminder today to jolt my memory and get me back on the stream, where I belong.  

For lack of a better way to put it, life's been full of a lot of garbage over the past month.  In retrospect, it's really a shame, because I allowed the garbage to get in the way of one of the few things that keeps my armor securely in place in my daily effort to keep the wolves of life at bay.   I've been doing my best for the past month to clean house (figuratively) and keep my head above water, exerting all the willpower I can muster to make smart decisions in confronting monsters that keep rearing their heads, and I'm happy to report that many of them have either been beaten into submission or quarantined into manageable quantities.  Still, I have to confess to an inexplicable loss of enthusiasm for the stream and the tying bench over the past several weeks.

Sometime during this morning's church service, an old friend left a voice mail for me.   He's one of the very few loyal followers of this blog, and probably the only follower who isn't as obsessed and crazy as I am about fly fishing.  Someday I'll convert him, but that's another story.  In any event, he mentioned that he stopped by the Flywriter home page and found that nothing had changed for over a month.  As funny as it may sound, those who know me best quite rightly wonder if something's out of whack when I don't report anything new from the fly fishing front more often than every thirty days.

So this one's for you, JDH.  Thanks for the motivation!

There was nothing spectacular about today's quick outing.  I got to the river late this afternoon, relieved to find the water in decent condition and grateful that all the other anglers who have been crowding this particular stretch of river as of late seemingly had something better to do on a cool, gloomy Sunday evening.  While the water is no longer crystal clear, and likely won't be for a few months now, it's still very fishable.  The insect life was pretty thin, and nothing was showing on the surface at all, so I turned to some big, heavy stone flies to start.  After an hour in slow deep runs with no response from the trout, I scouted out a nice shallow riffle and started slinging pheasant tail nymphs.  I had to work pretty hard for awhile, but I finally did coax a couple of nice little browns to the net.  The second one was actually pretty stout, working his way into some fast water and making an exciting downstream run before I steered him to the shallows.

Some sanity always comes back to me when I make the time to do what I love.  Cleaning up life's messes has its own rewards, but I've had enough cleaning up for awhile.  Creating some new memories - that's the sweet stuff in life!  Today was a chance to get back on track.  No trophy fish, no frenzy of activity.  Just some much needed solitude and the chance to sweep some of the garbage aside for a couple of hours.  And everything felt right again.

Game on (again)...
The Flywriter

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guard Duty

There's more to the Poudre than just fly fishing (I know, I could hardly believe it either).  Every now and again you see something really spectacular if you simply stop to look:

This guy was perched atop a tree overlooking one of my favorite stretches of the river.  He's keeping an eye on things for me when I'm off the water.  I suppose - technically - he could be considered part of the "competition" for fishable trout water, but in this case I'm not going to complain. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Springtime Glory (or, Doc's Sweet Revenge)

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  The sight of a magnificent Blue Heron sticking out like a sentinel in mid-stream should have been a clue that I was in for a special day.

The stars must have aligned over northern Colorado last night, for when I awoke this morning, the temperature was perfect, the skies were just a bit overcast - hazy would be a better description - and most of all, there was no hint of a wind.  Mercifully, the gusts of the past week finally eased up.  All the elements were in place for the creation of another memorable day on the Poudre.  And boy, the old girl didn't disappoint today.

Some of the more knowledgeable angling folks in the area (check out Liarflies, by the way) have generated some promising recent fishing reports for all segments of the Poudre, from the upper canyon to the stretch near and through Fort Collins.  Based on today, I'd have to say they were right on target.  We arrived on the river to find a decent hatch with fish rising aggressively to the surface, not only in glassy slicks and holes, but also in shallow, fast water.  I don't know why I always insist on rigging up before I get to the river, but the surface action on the water today caused me to break down a double-nymph rig I'd prepared just minutes earlier and replace it with a single, homemade BWO.  Between BWOs and a couple of PMD mayfly patterns, I fished dry flies all day.  Kinda makes me wonder why I spent all those winter months experimenting with various patterns at the bench, but truth be told, I did it as much for simple enjoyment as as for expected success on the water.  In any event, a box full of BWOs sufficed for today.   

Doc, meanwhile, must have felt the stars aligning as well, because he came out of the gate with a vengeance fueled by a seven-month hiatus from fishing.  He initially struck first blood on, of all things, a San Juan worm.  I think that's primarily because it was what happened to be on the end of his tippet from last season.  He landed a nice, fat rainbow in the range of 13 inches, which would be about the size of my standard catches for the remainder of the day.  Having broken the ice, he then switched over to a BWO and proceeded to absolutely destroy it with two huge rainbows serving as bookends around several smaller fish.  It was a stunning start to his 2011 season, and I suspect a healthy helping of sweet revenge for last April, when he landed a nice 18 inch rainbow only to see me follow up later that day with an ugly trout that easily broke 20 inches.  There would be no out-dueling him today, and the pictures don't lie.


I found myself remarking that this last fish was the biggest one "we" had taken out of the Poudre to date.  Isn't it convenient when "he" becomes "we?"  After all, I tied the flies and took the pictures!  (Oh, just hush and let me live vicariously for a minute).

I didn't have a bad day myself, landing about a dozen fish and being slow on the hook-set on too many others to count.  I didn't hook into anything tremendous, but most of the fish were healthy and chunky, and all of them put up enough fight to leave me smiling from ear to ear.

Every time I think this hobby/obsession/passion/addiction can't get any better, a day like today comes along and blows me away.  There aren't all that many days where I lose track of the number of blessings I really do have in life, but I think today was one where I couldn't tally them up if I consciously tried.  Watching Doc clearly surge into the lead in the third iteration of our annual seasonal battle for angling supremacy was a special treat.  Seeing tangible results of my still basic but ever-improving tying skills was another.

A friend from the blogosphere once gently chided me after reading of one of my several skunkings, pointing out to me that the occasional troutless days on the river are a necessary reminder of how special the truly epic days on the river can be.  Wise words, and never more true than today.

Slingin' homemade BWOs in my dreams tonight,
The Flywriter