Category Archives: Fishing

Living Life

In just about 10 months, I will turn 50 years old.  While my personal demise does not preoccupy my daily thoughts, it is hard to avoid the reality of the situation.  If I am lucky, I have 25 to 30 years left on the planet.  That being the case, I have a lot that I want to accomplish in a short period of time.  In no specific order, here are some of the things that I will do before the lights go out.  If possible, I would like to experience many of these quests with my wife and 2 sons.

  • Learn to Play a Guitar – As a lifelong metalhead, I have and continue to admire the musical abilities of Tony Iommi, Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen and Darrell Abbott. On July 29th, I will take a guitar lesson from Kyle Shutt.  Kyle is a founding member of the band, The Sword.  He is a talented and accomplished artist who kindly agreed to mentor me.  I am not sure if I can learn to play the guitar, but I am going to try. 

 

 

 

  • Own and Operate a Company – I have been an employee for almost 30 years. I appreciate the majority of my employers, and the opportunities they have provided me. That said, I want to own my own company.  It does not matter what type of company.  My years of business experience, coupled with a desire to collaborate with focused and committed people, will ensure the success of this company.  It is only a matter of time before I discover the right opportunity.
  • Hunt a Bull Elk – When I think of hunting the Western half of the United States, the first animal that I think of is an elk. I want to put my evolving predator skills to the test, and challenge myself both mentally and physically.  The good news is that I live in a Colorado where elk run wild.  Admittedly, this hunt intimidates me given my inexperience, and the intense planning & preparation involved.  It would be ideal if I could recruit a veteran big game hunter like Randy Newberg, Nate Simmons or Steven Rinella to provide me their professional insight.  If I am unable to convince a seasoned veteran to assist me, I will figure it out on my own.  Ty (12) is ready to complete his hunter safety course, and Jesse (10) is less than 2 years away.  They will make fine hunting partners sometime soon.
  • Fly Fish New Zealand – I want to catch big, native trout in a majestic environment. Videos I watch validate that those who fly fish New Zealand have opportunities to engage monster fish.  I am told that these fish don’t receive consistent pressure, and they are not shy when it comes to attacking a fly.  In addition to working on my casting proficiency, I will begin to train Ty and Jesse on fly fishing basics.  They already have the angling bug, it is now time to evolve our skills.
  • Hunt Pheasants in South Dakota – My favorite activity in life is bird hunting. If there is a mecca for upland hunters, it is the state of South Dakota.  Friends have told me that the birds are so thick, it can be difficult to pick a rooster out to shoot. Echo, my gundog, is 18 months old.  She and I enjoyed many adventures during her first year in the field.  Echo and I are ready for the 8-hour ride to rooster paradise.
  • Golf Ireland (again) – Back in 2000, some friends and I golfed the east coast of Ireland. We had the time of our lives.  The landscape is incredible, the people are kind and the courses are historic.  It is time to go back, and do it again with a true appreciation for the experience.  To do the trip with my sons and wife would make it ideal.
  • Write a Book – I need to figure out the general subject matter, then go for it. It would be great if the book was commercially successful, but that is not my motivation.  I want it to be good, and I cannot continue to procrastinate.  Tim Ferriss says to write “two crappy pages a day”.  That does not seem insurmountable.
  • Offer Help – I try to lead a selfless, generous and empathetic life. That said, when I do the occasional candid self-evaluation, I realize that I don’t do enough for others.  Of course, I try to extend myself for family and friends.  That is generally easy because I love the person that I am helping.  What I am talking about is being proactively available to strangers.  Actually, assisting people I don’t know.  I am passionate about upland hunting.  Despite my relative newness to the sport, I am 100% engaged.  There are many people that dream about walking a grassy field, alongside a bird dog, with a chance to mount a shotgun at a cackling rooster.  Many of those people might never get that opportunity. Perhaps I can be the person that will introduce them to an unforgettable moment.

As time progresses, I will hopefully minimize this list.  When inspired, I will add ambitious life objectives to it. When I accomplish a feat, I will opine on it in writing.  Completing this article commits me to the journey.  Let’s go!

One Big Fish

For the last seven years I make it a point to spend a few days chasing native rainbow trout in the North Platte River outside of Casper, Wyoming.  The fishery is special and cherished by the anglers that have made the area their second home.  During my first three years it was not uncommon to hook a dozen fish over twenty inches long.  In fact, the river always offered me an opportunity to do battle with at least one monster trout during my trip.  Over the last three years, the number of fish hooked remains astounding.  A seventy-five trout day is achievable and, at some level, expected.  The one thing missing, however, are the giant bows.

Family commitments required Chad and me to push our trip out three weeks as well as shorten it by two days. Our first morning proved to be successful as we experienced plenty of consistent action.  We figured out the feeding pattern, and employed a #14 red juju baetis along with a trailing #20 red zebra midge to secure many of the strikes.  As the afternoon evolved we made our way to a popular stretch that produced for us in the past.  The flow was down, limiting areas to fish.  Additionally, this section of the Platte has been discovered as the number of fisherman in the water has quadrupled.  As we waded into the current, we observed at least fifteen people manning desirable spots up river.  To that point, we were forced to fish a sub-optimal but available hole.  Maintaining the same flies on my nymphing rig, I made my initial cast into a darker, deeper seam.  Almost immediately my indicator plunged and I set the hook.  My line remained firm, so I stepped into deeper water to remove the apparent snag.  Suddenly, my line made an abrupt shift and rocketed away from me.  I could feel the weight of the fish and it was noticeably different.  Realizing I had hooked a big trout on a small midge, I positioned myself for what I anticipated would be a lengthy battle.  The bow remained low in the water column, and moved with purpose when I attempted to cut the distance between us.  There is an eddy on the far bank, and my initial thought was to try to coax the fish into the slower water.  My objective was to ensure the trout never got below me as I knew the small fly would not remain embedded in the fish’s jaw.  Fortunately, he continued to move up river which allowed me to slowly take back a portion of my fly line.  I removed my net from the magnetic clip and prepared to land the trout.  He was still energized and darted upstream evading my attempt to capture him.  I walked behind the fish and continued to reel.  Once my indicator neared my rod tip, I gently raised the fly rod.  The buck swam to the top and I netted him.  The twenty-two-inch fish was the largest I had landed in recent years.  Chad snapped some pictures then I returned him to the river.

I feel fortunate to have hooked and landed a North Platte leviathan.  The big fish are still around; you just have to get a bit lucky.

Visit Mark and his team at the Platte River Fly Shop.  They sell me the flies that are actually working.

Ross 2016 22 Bow

Here We Go Again

I don’t get to fish often.  As with my contemporaries, work and family take priority at this time in life.  To that point, when I do fish, I like to venture to spots that put the odds of success in my favor.  Colorado fly fishing in the summer means Spinney Mountain Reservoir, callibaetis nymphs and a Gold Medal fishery. Timing the trip is critical, as you need to be certain that the hatch is actually coming off. If Poxybacks and Flashback Hare’s ears are being purchased in mass at local fly shops, I go ahead and schedule a day off from the job.  In late June of 2015, I was told by some reliable friends who fish the lake regularly that they spotted trout rolling close to shore.

I arrived at Brad’s house at 5 am, and we immediately hit the road.  It would be the first time Brad had fished this area in more than 25 years of living in Colorado.  The wet weather in the Rockies during the spring and early summer made the rivers uniquely high and fast.  The waters flowing into Spinney were so heavy that the entire landscape has changed.  Areas that had produced in prior years were no longer accessible for wading fisherman.  Weed lines that hold the hatching callibaetis nymphs weren’t visible.  I started to succumb to a bit of doubt as things were not as they once were.  Adapting to the situation, Brad and I worked our way along the eastern shoreline, scanning the relatively calm water for porpoising fish.  While there was no visible action, Brad located a deep drop just off a point.  There was milfoil present, so we decided to rig up and start fishing. It took a while, but a fish boiled about 30 yards to my left.  Once in range, I laid a cast in the general vicinity of where I witnessed the feeding fish.  I use an Amy’s Ant as my indicator, and hang a #10 Flashback Hare’s Ear about four feet beneath the dry.  My initial twitch caused a violent strike, as the trout attacked the nymph.  A weak hook-set while the fish darted at me, had me scrambling to recover line.  The trout worked his way to my left, then spit the hook after an impressive acrobatic leap.  Disappointed at my performance, I checked my flies then started to make casts in and around the closest weed line.  It did not take long for the next fish to slam my callibaetis imitation, and move hard to my right.  The fight lasted a bit longer than anticipated, as the trout was all of 23” and powerful.  Fired up and ready for more action, I waded into deeper water angling toward a visible clump of weeds.   Once my Ant landed I gave two slight twitches, and the Hydros HD line began screaming toward me.  I stripped vigorously and pumped my rod until I felt weight on my line.  She abruptly turned and sped to the north when her head grazed my Orvis River Guard Brogue boots.  Having witnessed the massive fish up close, I felt real pressure to land the trout.  It took another 5 minutes to successfully net the 6lb fish.  She was easily the largest bow I had ever landed at Spinney.

I hooked and landed 4 more impressive trout over the next few hours.  One of my last fish of the day slurped the Amy’s Ant just a few feet from my position in the water.  I watched a black head subtly surface, grab and make off with the floating fly.  It was the most thrilling take in my over 8 years of fly fishing.  The imagery of the experience will always be emblazoned in my mind.

Spinney 2015 Video

Equipment

Reel Fly Rod Waders Line Pack Camera
Mirage Helios 2 Silver Sonic Hydros HD Safe Passage Intova

 

Elegance No, Execution Yes

I am not a fly fisherman. I am a fisherman who elects to fish with a fly. If you watched me pursue my quarry you would quickly dismiss my abilities, as there is not natural rhythm to my motion. Not dissimilar to my golf game, there is little elegance associated with the required technique. I have as much in common with Tiger Woods as I do with Lefty Kreh. We share similar tools, but that’s where the comparisons end.

Despite my lack of expertise, I have worked hard to learn to catch fish on the fly. I watch television shows, instructional videos as well as leaning hard on friends who seemingly cast a perfect loop. In six years, I have become confident when I step into a body of water. I am able to formulate a basic strategy that provides me an opportunity to frequently hook up. Admittedly, I still forget the name of popular flies, and I rarely deliver the perfect presentation. That said, I have and continue to catch fish; the ultimate objective of the chase.

Over the last four years, I ensure that I take one day in the summer, and venture to Spinney Mountain Reservoir for the callibaetis hatch. Callibaetis mayflies in their nymph stage are easy prey for cruising trout. The hatch comes off when the air and water temperature are conducive for the nymphs to start moving to the surface of the water. At that time, trout begin to feed voraciously on the bugs. Their activity can be easily monitored as the fish begin to roll on the evading insects. The feeding frenzy can last for hours or be over as fast as it started.

In mid-July of 2014, my day provided seemingly perfect conditions; no wind, warming temperatures, and an actively growing weed line. We arrived at the Spinney inlet just before 8 am. A number of fishermen already had made their way into the water, and were positioning around the bay. I rigged up quickly and started my walk west. I had hoped that I could locate an area where the water dropped from three feet to something significantly deeper.   I assumed that the trout would start to feed in deeper water. Unable to locate a radical depth break, I decided to scan the water until I witnessed a fish roll. At about 9:15 a.m., the first fish appeared with a slight splash about thirty yards to my left. He remained on the surface foraging on helpless callibaetis.   I moved in the direction of the ripples, and started to make sloppy false casts. When I determined I had enough line out, I made a final and accurate cast. I offered an Amy’s Ant and a #12 hare’s ear as my trailer. My heart was pounding as I believed my flies were in the vicinity of the fish. Within seconds the trout engulfed the ant, and I reacted with a strong strip set. Unfortunately, I did not feel the weight of the fish, realizing in seconds that he was gone. Upon inspection, I noticed my 3x tippet had snapped below the knot.

Undeterred, I began to quickly re-rig as fish were obviously active. Incorporating the same set up, I started to make casts at not-so-subtle movements in the water. Once the flies had settled on the surface, I made slight line strips in order to make the artificials realistic.   Like a crocodile taking down a wildebeest, the hit was violent and unyielding. The rainbow ripped line at an extreme pace, only pausing to breach multiple times.   As soon as I felt that I had her under control, she surprised me with another long run. She finally succumbed to my efforts, and I eased her into my net.

Over the next few hours, I managed to hook six more fish and land five. The callibaetis hatch at Spinney is an extraordinary experience, and it will always be a part of my Colorado summers.

2014 Callibaetis Hatch Video

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One Pretty Hen

Whether you’re fishing or hunting, public land access is competitive and often challenging. The philosophy is usually first come, first served”. Additionally, the hottest spots are hotly contested. An abundance of fishermen means that the fish see many flies. By definition, they’re challenging to hook. To that point, when you have located a secluded spot that holds an abundance of big fish, it becomes a well-guarded secret.   

My friend, Chad, had told me that his dad recently discovered a barely touched fishery holding a plethora of world-class rainbow trout. Joe had fished the area in late April, and had landed a few bows over ten pounds. With that in mind, we blocked off an afternoon in mid-May to fish the spot. The drive was two hundred and twenty miles, and it had us traversing through some gnarly country. Upon arrival, we noticed a single fisherman making his way around the waterway. A powerful westerly wind forced him to demonstrate his casting prowess. It was not long before we witnessed him skillfully hook and land a few fish. As he made his way to the shore, we asked him a series of questions regarding his success that day. He told us that the morning bite was strong; landing over fifteen fish with sizes ranging from 18” to 22” inches. Double hare’s ears stripped aggressively were the flies of choice.   We thanked the man for sharing valuable intelligence. Then, Chad, Joe and I made our way into the water. It did not take but a few minutes before Chad noticed three enormous shadows cruising just in front of us. As fast as they appeared, they were gone. Chad and I tied on a custom designed crayfish pattern, and Joe decided to throw an olive damsel fly. Given the twenty mile an hour northwesterly wind, I worked hard to make mediocre casts on a forty five degree angle. On my tenth cast my fly was hit hard, but my hook set was late. The fish rolled high in the water column, then disappeared.

By mid-afternoon, the three of us had fished hard, but had no results. The wind proved a challenge, and the morning action had obviously shut off. As Joe was telling me that he was going to take a break, a fish slammed his damsel imitation. A long fight ensued.   Eventually, Joe brought the stout fish to the shore. She was not over ten pounds, but was still very impressive. There was another lull in the action, so all of us made repeated fly changes. Not surprisingly, Joe found a pattern that started to produce intense and repeated action. Utilizing a #12 bead head hare’s ear, and a custom designed nymph dropper, Joe methodically stripped his line. As the flies neared his standing position, he gently raised his rod tip. It was at that point, the trout ate the caddis imitation. Given Joe’s success, I tied on the same hare’s ear with a flashback pheasant tail trailer. I carefully observed Joe’s movements, and I began employing the technique. On my fourth cast I slowly raised my rod tip as the flies neared me, and I felt dead weight, so I set the hook. The fish, only a few yards from my position in the water, moved with purpose to my right. I was able to see her side as she passed me, so I knew she was big. The headshakes became increasingly violent, and I feared the fish would break off. My friend Slade told me to not mess around with big fish, and get them to the net quickly. With his sage advice in mind, I reeled hard, and walked back toward shore. When I saw the leader, I grabbed my net and leaned back, guiding the massive rainbow into my net. The fish was so big, she would not fit into my 26” Brodin. My largest trout on a fly measured twenty six and three quarter inches, and weighed nine pounds. We took a few pictures, and I carefully released her.

We fished for another few hours with limited success. I did manage to hook up with a beautiful twenty one inch Yellowstone cutthroat. A Monster Rehab Green Tea energy drink, along with frequent memories of my trout, made the two hundred and twenty mile drive back seem like teleportation. The secret spot produces, and my Garmin now has the coordinates.                                                                             

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