Monday, January 31, 2011

January Freestoning

You have got to love winter in Colorado.  Even in January there are breaks in the weather that allows things to warm up making for some great mid winter days.  This last weekend happened to be just one of those breaks from winter, although as I write this it is cold, icy and snowing with expected highs below zero in the next day.  Just two days ago some mountain areas enjoyed sunny mid 50's weather with little to no wind.  People were not the only ones to take advantage of the short window of greatness.  The fish seemed to be enjoying it as well.

It is not every January we get the chance to fish freestone rivers without the battle of ice if not frozen conditions.  The morning hours did provide reminders that it is mid winter with a good sludge hatch lasting for the first few hours on the river.  In between the floating slush-bergs you could see good numbers of fish piling up in the crystal clear slower water.  Even better a decent number of them were suspended in the water column meaning only one thing.  They are feeding.  Now for the next challenge, how to present a fly through the slush and not spook the fish?  I was able to sneak up within casting distance of the fish I had been stocking, so now it was a matter of getting my flies down.  With patience it was possible to get a cast between the slush and present the flies at the proper depth.  Even with carefully placed casts about 30% of them still ended up stuck in or on the slush.  Regardless it only took a short while before hooking up.  Here is the first fish of the day taking from under the sludge hatch.

After releasing this fish I stepped back into the river where I was previously standing to find the entire pod gone.  Fighting the fish spooked the pod.  No surprise there.  I worked the pool and surrounding structure hooking one other fish, which was a fat healthy 17" rainbow.  By then the morning solitude on the water diminished and I took off to another spot on the river to once again have the place to myself.

By now the sludge hatch has ended and things started to look like a warm spring day, but with the constant reminders that it is still winter.  The fish continued to hold in the classic winter style.  The trick was to find the deepest, slow moving water and work it over hard, then adjust depths and try again until fish were found.  Where there was one fish, there were always more to be found often with the same drift as the previous successful one.  This also means the hook ups were hot one after another or not at all.  Here are a few more fish caught throughout the day.

I have to say there was a distinct difference between the browns and the rainbows caught.  The browns were skinny and sluggish typical of winter where the rainbows were much fatter and more energetic.  One rainbow I caught seemed to be full of eggs or just abnormally fat compared to the other rainbows caught.  It is too early on this water shed for the rainbows to be getting ramped up to spawn.  Maybe the one hen had just eaten way more than the rest or just a fluke that she was getting ready this early.  I wish I had some better pics to get additional input.  Oh well.  I would rather not have the best pics of fish, but also not have to handle the fish or ever remove them from the water.  I only had to touch one or maybe two fish all day.  That's a trade off I'm happy with.

Flies:  #10 Golden Stone, #12 Czech Caddis
Flow:  ~380 - 400
Weather:  Mid 50's, Sunny, No wind

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Out with the old, In with the new.

After a great day on the water Saturday I sat down at the vice with Sunday morning coffee to continue my deer hair education.  Everything was going great until I started to spin hair on my first fly of the day.  The #2 hook I was working with was moving in the vice every time I pulled on the thread, so naturally I tightened the jaw lever for a better grip.  Just seconds later as I started wrapping thread again the entire jaws seemingly exploded sending a broken screw, the spring and my fly sailing.  It was not that big of a deal as the jaws can always be rebuilt, but now I was stuck starring at the tube and rereading chapters from books I've read several times already.

 My Renzetti Traveler vise was starting to show serious signs of wear and needed some replacement parts or a complete overhaul from the manufacturer after several years of good service.  I attempted to get a rebuild kit for the jaws the next day, but the kits I found were missing parts and I could not find some of the pieces that went flying during its' moment of death.  So there would be no tying for me until new kits arrive from the manufacturer.  The funny thing is I was already shopping for a replacement vice even though the Traveler could be fixed, I think.  It only took two days of coming home from work and sitting in front of the tube for my lady to start pressing me to just step up and buy a new vise.  She knew I was going to do it anyways figuring everyone would be better off instead of waiting until I got bored sitting on the couch and started to drive the family nuts.  Or maybe it is just that I drive them nuts anyways so I'm better off tying flies by myself.....hmmmm. 

Here is what I got.  I'm hoping it will be more sturdy and last longer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cheesman 1/15/2011

I finally made it out for the first fishing trip of the year. Coincidentally, it was also the first warm weekend day in a couple of weeks.  Not that cold weather keeps me off the water, but I'm not going to argue when a warm day and a fishing day happen to fall on the same date.

I was headed towards the mountains on 6th Avenue around 6:45 when traffic slowed to a crawl a mile or so before the I-70 exit.  By the time I got to the on ramp for C-470 traffic on the interstate was at a dead stop with ski traffic.  I love skiing, but I haven't put forth the effort in 6 or 7 years now because of the obvious.  With no traffic the closest ski area is an hour away.  I would be surprised if anybody made it to the lifts before noon.  Enough about skiing and traffic, I was headed south to tailwaters and fins.

I arrived at the parking lot around 8:00 and had the place virtually to myself, so I headed into the canyon.  In previous weeks the water releases from Cheesman Dam had been fluctuating, so I had high hopes of insects being flushed into the current and less wary trout.  The canyon had also been closed for a period this winter due to road construction staging in the parking areas.  I first hiked a ways into the canyon to some of my favorite water knowing I would be the first person that day to present a fly to these fish.  This was great, but it is still winter and the sun was an hour away from getting close to the water.  I spotted some fish and worked hard to no avail for the first couple of hours on the river, but I was greeted by this local when I sat in the snow to re-rig.

Finally around 11:00 when other anglers started to make their way upstream to where I was the fish started to move, staging for the days feeding.  It is usually not that obvious to witness the change of behavior in fish preparing to feed, but there was no question about what was happening. With the change of temperature, sunlight location and the movement of fish, everything started to come together.  It was now time to figure out what they were eating and start catching some fish.  It took a couple of patterns and switching out to 7x tippet before any fish were caught.  My first fish of the day was a healthy golden orange brown 17" long.  Previous to hooking the fish and after a couple weeks off the water the initial tug of the fish made me feel like a heroin addict that finally got it's fix.  Unfortunately, my fish pics did not turn out as I still had the camera set in macro mode and I wasn't about to change camera settings with a fish in the net.  Oh well, next time.

For the next couple of hours I hooked into a few more fish, but no others to the net.  This was no surprise as I was hooking fish in faster than expected water or water directly next to fast water with a size 26 midge on 7x tippet.  Bent hooks, broken tippet and spit flies was the story of the day.  With only one good fish to hand I felt like I had a great day for the middle of January in Cheesman Canyon.  The fish I hooked up with on average were larger than the average fish caught on the past couple of trips on the South Platte.

Just another great day of winter fishing in Colorado.

Flies:   #26 red midge pupae (OK, It was tied proportionally small on a #24 2x short hook), #10 Golden Stone
Flow:  About 140 cfs
Weather:  Cloudy in the low 50's

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Wile Water Wolf

Last night I was sitting at the tying bench as I do everyday trying to avoid the shack nasties now that I haven't wet a line in over 2 weeks. This is the longest dry spell I've had in the past year. This time I was looking for something new to play with. All my nymph boxes are packed full and there are 10 dozen flies lying on the bench without a home, so warm water species was the ticket.

After seeing all the great deer hair work from tyers on the Fly Tying Forum I figured I should step away from the foam divers and poppers to continue my education in working with deer hair. Here is my first attempt at separating hair colors, forming a collar and my first deer hair diver.

The thought of fishing warm water quickly turned more focused with thoughts of chasing the wile water wolf and my flies changed direction once again.  Unfortunately, while I was gathering materials for some pike flies I found I don't have the materials I was looking for.  This seams to be typical for me whenever I set down to tie.  It doesn't seam to matter how many materials I have, there is always some thing missing.  But I couldn't let this slow me down as tying only one warm water fly and walking away would make me feel lazy, unaccomplished or just straight guilty for the half assed effort.  I'm sure we can all agree that a half assed effort in fly fishing leads to a fishless day sitting on the bank with a big knot in our hands to unravel.  So I worked with what I did have available changing proportions and materials to create another half dozen basic pike flies in anticipation of spring, which I'm trying to convince myself is just around the corner.  Here is what I came up with.

They might not impress the fly tier, but I bet the wile water wolf won't slow down a charge long enough to notice.  A trip to the shop is clearly past due...... again.

Is it spring yet?