Posted By shefisher

Arkansas River Brown trout Colorado's springtime weather is always an adventure. You shovel snow, chip ice off the windshield, bask in sunny 60 degrees, and tie the dog down so he doesn't blow away in the gale force winds. And that's all in a single day!

We don't celebrate spring with the appearance of tulips and daffodils at Easter up here in the mountains. It will be several weeks before the crabapple and cherry trees break out in blossoms. Those of us who flyfish look instead for the "blooming" of Blue-Winged Olive mayflies. Those aren't our first dry flies of early season (that honor goes to midges - little black ones, most often), but they do signal the official beginning of the dry fly months on the Arkansas River.

Mayfly by Don P Today was one of those typical windy Colorado spring days. Not the best prospect for the delicate BWOs. But you go when you can go. Good thing. It was the best fishing day so far this year. Even though fish were rising, I kept with the midge emerger I'd tied before going out this morning because the fish wouldn't leave it alone. Even when the fish switched to BWOs after their round of midges, they kept taking the midge. Who am I to argue with that? I retired the first midge after about 18 fish. The replacement took another 6-7 fish before I called it a day. Fish were still rising when I left.

Now to Denver, first for CWFishers, some errands and personal time, then to present a flyfishing program to the West Denver TU chapter on Wednesday. If I can't always fish, at least I can go talk about it.


Posted By shefisher

Trail in Salida Today's warming sunshine is welcome. It has been an unusually cold winter here in the Upper Arkansas River valley of central Colorado. Bone-chilling nights have usually alternated with windy, or at least breezy, days that sustain the night's shivering chill even when the sun shines. By contrast, today's 30-something degrees fools one's body into feeling comfy in just a light jacket.

That is not to say that it has been especially snowy this winter. In fact, as of last week our snow pack measured 89% of average annual levels. The last 36 hours has boosted that percentage a little. Every couple inches helps in high mountain desert such as this. Visual beauty of the fresh white blanket is only part of the impact. Today's snow is spring and summer's life-sustaining river flow.

Fat Spring Robin Today also marks the end of a 2-week stint of house- and pet-sitting in Salida. Nothing like a dog who needs to walk a few times a day to make you get outside no matter the weather elements. A walking and biking trail bisects Salida, its western end  paralleling this subdivision. Every day, the old yellow lab and I walk out and back. On her good days, we make it to the end, celebrating her effort with a symbolic circling at the terminal snowdrift.  Along the way we variously encounter Canadian Geese, juncos, deer, foxes. Just before yesterday's snowstorm, a flock of robins had arrived, huddled in the barren trees wondering why they'd started their northern migration quite so soon.

Salida's most prominent symbol is "S" Mountain, a conical hill across the river to the north. We see it on our eastbound return. Even set in a mantle of snow, the large letter "S" is visible both day and night. White lights in the S shape alternate with red lights in the shape of a heart. You can't miss it. The S, of course, stand for Salida. Right now, I like to think of it as promising Spring. Robins are the heralds. In the river, stonefly nymphs are stirring, BWO mayflies will follow, caddis won't be far behind. The fish know this.

Spring. It's coming.

Snow on S Mountain


Posted By shefisher

Fall Road Cool mornings, warm mid-days, low and clear water, emerging mayflies and caddis, wind-borne 'hoppers and other terrestrials on the water, fish feeding to bulk up for the coming winter. It all adds up to opportunities that tempt the wading flyfisher. Today, one more element adds another angler advantage: this afternoon's exiting Labor Day crowds. Now the rivers, streams and lakes will settle in to a quieter, less invaded state than that of summer. Valley residents, while appreciating the vital dollars infused by summer visitors, relish getting "our" river back.

Ark River Cutbow Amid fall yardwork and other chores, a couple days were devoted to fishing and exploring. The river's low, clear water demands a stealthy approach. Fish are feeding, but they are easily spooked and not easily fooled by imitation food. The strategic demands are finding properly oxygenated water, longer casts, finer tippets, and knowing when to twitch the fly or let it dead drift. The good news is that fish now prefer coming to the surface for a dry fly. The bad news is that, instead of actually taking the fly, they often slap at it, bump it, or simply follow it a ways before drifting back down to the depths without biting. This results in a tally of not hooking all that rise, nor landing all that get hooked. But that said, we are catching fish.

Fall Fishing As anyone who flyfishes can tell you, this is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. That is to say, the actual process of flyfishing, being outdoors, the scenery, the river, sharing the day with someone else who enjoys this, is as important and enjoyable as actually holding the fish in your hand or in the net. After all, we put all the fish back, so each catch only lasts a minute or two; savoring the total experience of the day lasts much longer. So if we fool some fish at least part of the time, we can take our turn at getting fooled by them.


Posted By shefisher One of the fringe benefits of fishing for trout is the surrounding beauty - scenic vistas, wildlife and wild flowers, the soothing sound of cool flowing water. Hence, the oft-quoted saying that "trout don't live in ugly places."

Forget it. Not true. Take, for instance, this lake in south-central Idaho. For all the state's famous rivers, striking mountain ranges, and rich farmland, southern Idaho is dry, dusty and nearly treeless. The only green is the alfalfa, irrigated by water held in small reservoirs tucked back in the arid hills. One such reservoir held the unlikely promise of large trout. We pulled off the Interstate in the 90 degree heat. All that was there was a vacant lot and a gas station with prices 70 cents higher than the nearest towns nearly an hour away in any direction. The huge dust devil enveloping the corner of the building verified the highway warning signs: "Do Not Stop on Highway. High Wind Area. Dangerous Dust Storms Possible." Ten miles of dirt road to the reservoir held no better promise. Old trailers for farmhouses, tired and tattered outbuildings and gray-aged wood fences bespoke a hard-scrabble life. Only the ripened barley crops and green alfalfa showed any vibrance. At last, the trickle of a stream offered hope. Up the incline of the earthen dam, and there was the watery gem set in a bowl amid the hills. This late in summer, though, enough water had been drawn down for irrigation that the banks were coated with the rotting algae and water grasses. It stunk!

CN Whether foolishly or bravely, we set up camp in the skimpy shade of streamside willows. By faith the next morning, we launched the belly boats. From first sunlight until the late morning's heat set on, emerging callibaetis flies called fish to feed. And what fish they were! Huge, hulking browns, slashing cutthroats, and somewhat shyer rainbows rose in sipping or splashing rings. The place was not of brochure beauty, but the fish were of legends and dreams.

Posted By shefisher Down goes north and up goes down. It has taken me awhile to get my internal compass oriented in Idaho and Montana. Most of the rivers flow north, so downstream is north. That means on a map, north is "down" in river reference. My brain thinks map north is up, south is down, so I don't know my right from my left. Since most flyfishing is facing upstream, that means west is right and east is left.

Other than the North and South Platte Rivers, all of this is completely opposite from my native Colorado reference. But I am fairly certain that we did fish both the West Fork and the East Fork of the Bitterroot River up south. We had to drive past the entire river up to the forks, as the day was hot (102 degrees in Hamilton), the water was low, and the "rubber hatch" was in full force on the water. (For those of you not familiar with that term, rubber hatch refers to inner tubes, rubber rafts, and other splash-and-giggle floating devices. It is, ahem, not conducive to fishing.) The West Fork was great fun catching lots of fish on dry flies. An added treat was just below a bridge. I looked up and saw something floating. It looked like a small log, but then it dove down! A couple seconds later, a head popped up in front of me. It was a young river otter. He repeatedly dove and surfaced, checking us out with each surfacing until he moved on down the river. We also got to see wild turkeys again. The plan was to drive from there on over to Idaho. That is until we drove past the prettiest campground I've ever seen and the East Fork of the Bitterroot, which was a beautiful little stream and completely bereft of fishers. We just had to stop over. I fished a bit that evening, thus catching fish in both the Bitterroot forks the same day. We both fished the next day before driving on into Idaho. I'm reminded of  what my friend R.W. back home says, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

P.S. For you flyfishers, it was Yellow Stoneflies and PMDs on the West Fork; Yellow Sallies, PMDs and small tan caddis on the East Fork. As you can see, the rocks were covered with casings left by just-emerged stoneflies.



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