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

Ark River Collegiate Peaks The second decade of the 21st Century began in the deep freeze. Snow pulsed through on random days, then was swept by the arctic winds into hard-packed drifts. Nighttime temperatures plunged toward zero, wind chills double digits below that. Ice blades and heavy shovels were pounded into 2 feet of concrete-like mounds of snow that buried driveway and propane tank access. Hundreds of dollars went toward keeping that tank filled so house and pipes would not freeze.

Return Rainbow to water The balmy 40s and 50s of this week are, by comparison, a nearly tropic relief. Sunshine, blue sky and no wind invite one to risk a walk on the patchwork of snow and mud. The river's ice cover is melting in the upper valley. I was sure I heard fish calling my name down near Salida. After 2 months of missing my little finned friends, how could I not answer?

And they did come out to play. With the still snowy Collegiate Peaks as a backdrop, several rainbows and a brown trout came to my fly, then my hand, to welcome me back to the river. Happy New Year indeed!

 


 
Posted By shefisher

Railroad Bridge in snowThe temperature is finally inching up into the double digits. This has been a week in the deep freeze, with a foot or more of snow and single digit temperatures. Venturing out on snowshoes, I got a workout cutting trail through a couple miles of foot-deep powder. The view over Chalk Creek and the sight of frosted rails pointing to the river just beyond the horizon made the effort worthwhile.

Once the snowing stopped, icy, high-speed winds plunged wind chills below zero. Fluffy fresh expanses of white were sculpted into drifts, mounds, and waves.

Snow contours While fishing has not been an option this week, other wildlife has offered a lesson in surviving arctic conditions. Hawks and a falcon cling to high thin branches, watchful for unaware field mice. A coyote competes in the search as he trots across the same open plain. Once the storm cleared, a bald eagle perched on the dead snag over the river, perplexed as to how to pluck out its sushi between ice patches sliding along in the current.

The best visual treat has been the large herd of pronghorn just across the road. There must be close to 80, and they've hung out here for 4 days now, grazing, resting under the trees, running across the wind-crusted snow. They are camera shy, however. Photos had to be taken from quite a distance. The occasional driver stopping alongside the highway for the photo op sent them up into the trees or to the safety of the next ridge.

My fishing fix will come in Denver this weekend where I will join my Colorado Women Flyfisher friends for our annual Holiday Party. We'll swap stories and pictures of the just-passed year of fishing adventures, and share hopeful plans for the upcoming new year's destinations.

Merry Christmas to All!

Pronghorn herd

 


 
Posted By shefisher

River Fly Fish Mention Colorado and most people think of fishing a pristine mountain stream or trout-filled lake, hiking a quiet forest trail or high tundra on the way to a 14,000' summit, or whitewater rafting. This time of year, it may be skiing the powdery snow down rugged Rocky Mountain runs, or taking a more leisurely tour on snowshoes or cross-country skis.

Or maybe your recreation of choice involves a motor: ATV, dirt bike or Jeep. That's where some conflict commonly arises. There are no easy solutions to noise vs quiet, trails vs wilderness, but with more and more people living and "recreating" in Colorado, there are inevitable collisions of purpose.

The most recent re-igniting of controversy involves a proposal to reallocate up to 70% of the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) permit fees collected by our state park system. Sure, there are those OHVers who flagrantly drive off trail, damaging the forest, tundra and wetlands. Every group has its bad guys. But for the vast majority of responsible users, taking this money away from their trail maintenance and repair funds will cause even more long-term damage and erosion. The couple more officers this might provide will not begin to cover the thousands of trail miles in this state. Additionally, last year's passage of HB1069 authorized by nearly 4 times the current forest management officers who could issue citations for trail violations. This new reallocation is an expensive, ineffective and tardy afterthought.

ATVs in Aspens The worst part of all this is the principle of the thing. Now, I've always been more a "quiet use" type of user than a motorized one. So why am I not all for this proposed "solution?" A group called Responsible Trails America out of Arlington, Virginia, that is primarily anti-OHV has come in from out of state wielding their ever-increasing influence over the ultimate policy makers. They have even succeeded in securing TU's endorsement of their plan. Now here's the question - Why can one group determine the reallocation of another group's legally collected and assigned $3.1 million dollars just because they fundamentally disagree with what some fringe members of that group's participants are doing? Granted, the OHV scofflaws are destructively wrong. The responsible OHV community, especially ATV clubs, recognizes that. But all ATVs and other OHV users are being summarily punished by those who not only don't belong to that community, but don't even belong to our state. It's really hard to not be outraged.

Hundreds of ATV club members in this state voluntarily work a combined thousands of hours each year maintaining, restoring and repairing OHV trails. They have not been given equal voice in this debate. Is it too much to ask that they be given the option to work toward a solution before all their funds are stolen (in essence) by other public lands users who happen to disagree with their sport of choice?

Polarization and animosity never solved anything. Get the Virginians out of here, give the Colorado OHV community their rightful voice, and hammer this out intelligently. We can hope that starts with the Colorado State Parks Board's Friday meeting. Public comment must be emailed to parksinfo@state.co.us by noon on Wed., Nov. 18.


 


 
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