Tag Archives: Fly fishing

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

 

Welcome Home

For the last six years, early spring has meant a journey to the North Platte River in central Wyoming.  The river is packed with large, aggressive and hungry trout.  The land that surrounds the water has the characteristics of the old west; a limited amount of people, plenty of indigenous creatures, and predictably unpredictable weather.  It’s a unique place that allows visitors to escape life for a brief period of time.

2014 represented an atypical adventure for me.  My fly fishing mentors, Chad and Joe Butler, completed their annual visit just one week prior to my trip.  Additionally, the group that I had invited all canceled just days before departure.  While I absolutely enjoy fishing with friends, this trip is about personal mental relief.  For a few of days, the mobile phone is off, and emails go unchecked.  I become all consumed with pursuing fish.  

Day One

After the five hour drive from Parker, the contents of my truck were quickly unloaded into the cabin.  I slipped into my waders, strapped on my chest pack and rigged my fly rod.  The river is only minutes away, and the anticipation makes it hard to focus on the task at hand.  I had planned to patiently scout my favorite spots along the river, and drop in only when big fish exposed themselves to me.  When I started my truck, the strategy went the way of the dodo bird.  I hit the gas and darted to one of my favorite holes.  While there was not a vehicle present, I witnessed a lone fisherman making casts against the river bank.  A three minute wade put me at the top of an elegant riffle.  My two fly rig consisted of a chartreuse egg on top, and a Slade Fedore designed leech as the trailer.  The initial drift hugged the near seam, allowing the flies to move slowly over the shelf into deeper water.  Stunningly, my indicator pulsed, so I quickly jerked the rod over my left shoulder.  The trout raced across the fast water then headed downstream.  I followed the fish until he moved into an eddy and could be easily netted.  Over the next five hours, I hooked over two dozen fish but I landed only half of them.  There was size to most every trout with the largest equaling 21”.

Day Two

About a month before my vacation, I planned my second trip with guide extraordinaire, Slade Fedore.   Slade is a Casper native, expert fly fisherman, and a great person.  He gives advice without being demeaning, and provides timely compliments, but he is never patronizing.  Slade and I like to get after it early, so we were the first boat to unload on the Reef.  Our initial float produced three great fish.  Heading downriver, we kept picking fish up on both the egg and the leech.  The weather got a bit windy and snowy, but the bite continued to be hot.  The day was highlighted when a gigantic golden eagle plucked a pheasant from the river bank.  Minutes later, a bald eagle flew twenty feet above us, and landed on a fence post paralleling the waterway.  Almost simultaneous to the eagle perching itself, a big trout exposed himself in the middle of the river.  Slade and I both noticed the fish, and I made an immediate cast to a spot ten feet in front of him.  While the first cast was junk, my second cast hit the mark.  Seconds after my upstream mend, the bow slammed my fly, and burned 40 feet up and across the river.  He was big and my heart was racing.  The fish pulled a 180 and screamed downriver stripping fly line off the Bozeman RS Reel.  I applied gentle pressure with the hope he would behave.  Instead of acquiescing, he started to perform violent headshakes and even took to the air a few times.  We managed to get him to the side of the boat, but just out of the reach of Slade’s net.  When he was sufficiently recovered from the initial battle, he cut across the river then back behind the boat.  Only eight feet from me, I saw the hook perilously hanging in his right cheek.  A final thrash dislodged the fly, and the fish disappeared into the depths of the river.  Disappointed, I hung my head, realizing that I had just lost a 23” slab.  We ended an awesome day drinking a few beers while listening to my cabin neighbors perform a bit of authentic blue grass music. 

Day Three

Recognizing that the weekend was approaching, and the crowds would start to appear, I was up early in order to get to a favorite spot.  It did not take long for the river to begin fill up with fellow fishermen.  By early afternoon, I counted twelve rods executing similar nymphing techniques.  In order to experience much needed solitude, I walked to a more remote, but historically less productive area.  While there is no distinctive structure, I found water that supported a steady drift.  Not dissimilar from the rest of the river, I started to frequently hook and land good size rainbows.  As the late afternoon approached, we made a decision to head to a reservoir and fish the ice out.  Reports were that there were huge trout hitting crawfish imitations stripped slowly along the bottom. We talked to some bait fisherman who had picked up a few nice fish during the afternoon, but they told us that fishing was slower than in past years.  Nevertheless, we spent hours casting big streamers around ferocious winds.  As my mind wandered, an enormous leviathan appeared from the depths of the lake and took a slow pass at my bait.  Unfortunately, she did not commit to the meal, and headed back where she came from.  The day ended with only one of us landing a trout.  The lack of action did not take away from the immense splendor of the early evening in the western United States.

Day Four

I decided to cut my trip short by a day. The weekend crowds were amassing, and competing for fish was not a part of the game plan.  There is a great hole downstream that can produce a lot of action, but can also fill up quickly.  To that point, I got up early and made certain that I was the first person at the spot.  While the weather was perfect, the fish were semi-responsive.  Uncharacteristically, I had to work hard to invoke an initial strike.  Four fish later, I began to witness other anglers making their way into the river.  In addition to my fellow waders, there were many boats filling up the most fertile area in this section of river.  I realized that the trip was over, and it was time to depart.

The ride home is long, but full of pleasant memories.  I was able to think about the fish I had caught as well as the many that evaded my net.  After six years fishing the Platte, I have earned veteran status.  I know the water, and understand how to catch fish.  Year seven awaits!

The Video

 

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Wyoming on the Fly

There are very few opportunities to completely disengage from the day to day grind of life. Living in a wireless world allows for convenient connecting from almost anywhere at any time. Hyper-multitasking is now a requirement if you want to survive in an ultracompetitive business climate. Unfortunately, there are times when emails, voice mails and text messages become unwelcome distractions. When this feeling arises, it is time for me to fish.

Over the last five years, the end of March seems to signal my personal breaking point. The desire to escape in to a river has become a necessity if sanity is to remain a life objective. Since moving west in 2009, I make an annual journey to the North Platte River in Wyoming in order to maintain my equilibrium. The weather is always unpredictable, but the fish are big and aggressive.

Weeks before departing, I begin a ritual of unnecessary acquisitions in order to effectively prepare for the adventure. I make triplicate tackle purchases because there is a profound fear of being without the key equipment at the wrong time. While I consciously realize that most of the money I spend is unnecessary, I cannot seem to stop clicking “PayPal” after nightly “fly fishing” web searches.

The five hour drive to the river feels as though we have been teleported to Wyoming from Colorado. All available fishing reports exclaimed how prolific the action had been. We arrived just after lunch on March 26th, and quickly scrambled to get our equipment prepared for an afternoon of stalking native rainbows. After some preliminary scouting, we positioned ourselves in the tailwaters closest to the dam. Our research indicated that the fish were feeding on ample food churned up by the nightly flushes. To that point, my nymphing rig contained a purple San Juan worm as the lead fly, and a red rock worm as the trailing bait. The water was 40 degrees cold, but the air temperature was in the high 50s. A warm spring sun became visible as soon as we entered the water. This allowed us to more easily locate fish in the three to four feet of quickly moving water. Chad was the first to hook up, then Bud followed by me. The action was consistent, with 17” to 19” fish caught every fifth or sixth drift. The bows are stout in the Platte, and their strength is really felt with every inch of growth. As the sun disappeared over the horizon, a chilly 15 mph wind became more noticeable, so we ended a successful first day.

Unlike prior years, both AT&T and Verizon wireless signals were non-existent in our area, so our ability to communicate was severely marginalized. This was a unique “issue” that I actually embraced. Instead of checking voice messages, and executing web searches, we spent time talking about the events of the day over dinner. Sleeping is not an issue after a day spent on the river. A pleasant exhaustion sets in quickly after a big meal and a scotch or two.

However infrequent, when fishing becomes my sole focus, my brain becomes enveloped in the task at hand. Every movement has a purpose, and is executed with an underlying strategy in mind. While I maintain a heightened intensity, there is not the accompanied stress. I begin to appreciate the moment rather than constantly reliving the past. Mistakes are made, but do not define the gratification associated with my quest. Happiness is not derived from a monetary gain or retail purchase. Instead, my satisfaction arises from hooking and then landing a fish that I deceived.

On the third day, my friend Paul and I were fortunate to team with a great guide on a float trip down the Platte. Slade Fedore is a Wyoming native, and a master of the waters where he grew up fishing. He comes across confident, but not cocky. It does not take long to realize that he derives his satisfaction in his client’s success. To that point, he worked hard to put us on a lot of fish. Paul and I must have had twenty five double hook ups throughout the day. We were also able to witness a heard of antelope scurry from river’s edge, a bald eagle evade an angry seagull and sand hill cranes battling geese for their spot on an isolated island. We even passed two late season hunters working their GSPs on an evasive pheasant. One hundred and fifty fish later, our right arms told us to pack up and head back to town. It was a perfect Wyoming weather day so we grabbed a few Budweiser’s and a cigar. Sitting outside our cabin, we reminisced about what unfolded just hours before. Make no mistake; I will fish with Slade Fedore again.

The rivers started to fill up with anglers on Friday. The Reef attracts people from around the world, and the spring represents a great time of the year to fish. Even with a bit more pressure, plenty of big trout regularly hammered pegged eggs and rock worms. The morning produced larger fish, while the afternoon seemed to yield an infinite number of strikes.

Saturday morning was a bit somber as it meant the last morning of the trip. Inclement weather has started to move into the area, and it became cold quickly. Even so, I got up early in order to attempt to tie into a cagy North Platte monster. While I absolutely caught my share of 19” fish, the 25” bow evaded my concerted efforts.

Every spring I will travel to Wyoming in order to conduct personal therapy in the North Platte. It is cheaper than a psychiatrist, and the pictures are better. This trip is not about fishing; it is revitalization of my soul. I value every second on the water, and begin to dream about coming back as I depart.

Equipment Utilized

Comments

William Joseph Confluence Pack

Awesome pack. All critical equipment is easily accessible.

William Joseph Conduit Bag

Fantastic bag that you can pack all of your tackle in (even reels).

William Joseph Odyssey Travel Bag

Plenty of room for weeks of travel.

William Joseph Drynamic Waders

Very comfortable, accessible pockets and at a great price.

William Joseph Runoff Jacket

Perfect on a perfect day….not warm enough when the sun is not out.

Under Armour Cold Gear Compression (top & bottom)

Would not fish in the fall, winter or spring without them.

Under Armour Hitch Heavy Boot Socks

Toes were chilly in the 40 degree water, but I never had to exit the river.

Orvis River Guard Easy-On Brogue Wader Boots

Perfect wader boot. Easy on and off. Grips tightly to slippery rocks.

Simms Windstopper Hat

Windstopper technology helps, but I need a warmer lid next year.

Elkhorn T2 Reel

Have not had an issue in four years.

Brodin Ghost Series Frying Pan Net

Expensive but really nice – secure it well as you don’t want to lose it.

Orvis Mirage Fluorocarbon Tippet (3x)

Stayed strong throughout the entire trip – not one break off.

Maui Jim Seawall Sunglasses

Polarized with spring hinges for my big head – perfect.

Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service

HIGHLY recommend Slade Fedore ([email protected])

GoPro Hero2 – Click on the links

http://youtu.be/pCUfmC8tH3k http://youtu.be/C3F_q2pgucI

 

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25 to the Net

My friend Mike gave me a call early in the week, and asked me to fish with him on Sunday. The President’s Day holiday meant that my son’s sports would end on Saturday, so Sunday was wide open. Given both of our evening commitments, the options were limited to ninety minutes from home base. That means The South Platte River near Deckers, and The Arkansas, are the closest bodies of water that can be accessed. I had not fished since early fall, so I was excited at the opportunity to unwind in a river. Winter fly fishing in Colorado tail waters is special. The opportunity to hook up in February is such a unique experience for a native New Englander. A twelve month season allows anglers to escape at their convenience. If you can withstand the variable weather conditions, there are big fish to be had.

I don’t need an alarm when hunting or fishing is the activity of the upcoming day. To that point, I jumped out of bed at 5 am to prepare to pursue native rainbows. Mike, Luke, Tim and I arrived at the river at about 7:45 am. There were a few other vehicles in the parking lot, but those fishermen had taken a route away from our favorite holes. All of our rods were already rigged, so once the waders and jackets were on, we hurried to the prime spots. During my ten minute dash, I spotted a bald eagle at the very top of a tree; we were both searching for the same quarry.

I picked a section of the river where I have had past success. The fish gather at the end of a thirty foot long shallow riffle that drops quickly into four feet of water moving at 55 CFS (Cubic Feet Per Second). Sporadic cloud cover prohibited me from seeing fish, but I knew the rainbows would be moving into the area as the day warmed. My flies of choice were a #18 flashback pheasant tail on top with a Mike Duerr #20 Yong’s Special as the trailing bait. I tie the flies together with Orvis Mirage Fluorocarbon 5x tippet and use a single Dinsmores BB to get to the required depth.

Trees line the shoreline, so lengthy roll casts are the only safe way to reach my intended targets. Ten drifts did not result in a strike, so I changed positions as well as increased the space between my Thingamabobber and the pheasant tail. As the rig reached the end of its drift, the line stopped and I set the hook. The fished moved quickly up the water column, and spit the hook. Disappointed, I restarted the process to see if I could entice another hit. My friends moved into the spot, and positioned themselves around the large pool. As the first bug hatch of the morning unfolded, everyone began to hook up. Disappointedly, I struggled to keep the larger fish on once the fight began. One big bow actually broke me off at the leader. Once I composed myself, I changed patterns. My Yong’s Special was still my trailer fly, but I put a tangerine soft milk egg on top. Eventually, I started to get in a groove, and my confidence improved as fish were brought to the net.

It was pretty cool to see my neighbor, Luke, take his first fish on a fly. He was a natural nympher, hooking up many times throughout the day. Fly fishing is not an easy sport; technique is almost as important as experience. Luke has neither, yet his production was that of a wily veteran. His success was lauded by the group.

As 2 pm approached, Mike and Tim suggested that we make our way home. I gave the final “last cast” call and flipped my flies upstream. After an initial mend, I achieved the appropriate float. As my indicator neared the end of the run, it went under with force. I raised my right wrist to set the hook, and the fish screamed down river. A ten minute fight ensued, and concluded when a kind stranger netted the brightly colored male trout. He congratulated me for catching “the largest fish” he had seen taken from the river, and we released the rainbow back to the pool.

On our way back to Parker, we stopped to have a couple of beers and reminisce about our success. A warm February day on the water is time well spent.

 

Equipment Employed

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When it all Comes Together

Some key descriptors of the perfect fishing vacation on the North Platte River would include:

  • Temperate weather
  • Manageable flows
  • A plethora of bug hatches
  • Plenty of big, hungry trout
  • And of course, great friends

Recently, we drove from Colorado to Wyoming with the intent of enjoying four days of intense fly fishing.  What we experienced characterizes the essence of an ideal fishing trip.  We enjoyed amazing conditions, accessible bodies of public water, millions of flying insects and an incredible number of large, actively feeding trout.   Our mornings were defined by hot woolly bugger action, while the afternoons had rising fish vigorously taking presented emergers.  Landed trout ranged in size (15” to 27”) and in species (giant rainbows and even a big few browns).  Every fisherman on the journey enjoyed over seventy five hook ups a day while landing their share of pigs.

I brought with me a variety of newly purchased equipment that I acquired based on a impulse decision not a defined need.  One of the new items procured was a William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack.  I own a variety of packs/vests and did not need to add another to the collection.  That said, I made the purchase because the product description met a variety of personal requirements.   Here is my review of the William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack.

 

Getting it Done in Wyoming - 2012
Getting it Done in Wyoming – 2012

Date Purchased

January 15, 2012

Price Paid

$129.99

Aesthetics

Attractive sage and blue; you won’t be embarrassed on the water.

Manufacturer Product Description

William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack will ensure that you get the most from your time on the water. The William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack has the new Willy J AIRTRACK™ suspension, and you will forget you are wearing anything – no matter how much gear you have managed to stuff into it. From its William Joseph tippet dispenser to its voluminous pockets, it is the most organized pack on the water.

Features as Described by the Manufacturer

  • Low profile, super strong grab handle and net loop
  • Rear pack; large enough to hold all your gear. Small enough to keep you quick and agile
  • Daisy chain lash straps for those weird loads
  • Two additional organization pockets
  • Hydration portion of the pack holds a 35 oz. bladder (not included)
  • Perforated, seamless alpine style shoulder straps.
  • Nearly perfect weight distribution and center of gravity
  • Perforated/breathable AIRTRACK Suspension for maximum airflow
  • Excess webbing slot. No more flapping straps.
  • Wide and comfortable side straps for great weight transfer
  • Dual Built in Spectra Retractors
  • Multiple accessory attachment points

Functionality

  • Comfort: I have donned vests and other packs in the past.  The Confluence is the most comfortable pack I have ever worn.  It is easy to maneuver which I value when layers have to be removed/added.  The AIRTRACK Suspension allows me to totally relax during fishing.
  • Fit: The Confluence has many adjustments that allows the user to easily modify so they can enjoy a custom fit.  The buckles are effortless to tune with the pack on or off.
  • Storage:  The Confluence has a assortment of useful pockets.  I easily store gloves, a hat, a multi-tool and all necessary terminal tackle.  I can venture far from the car without the fear I forgot anything critical to execution.
  • Access: I love the magnets and the workstation!  Getting at my flies, tippet, split shots and tools represent an easy process.  I can work quickly and effortlessly when rigging and re-rigging.  My nippers and forceps are maintained on the pack’s integrated retractors.   My net is effortlessly acquired and reconnected via a magnet cord (not included).
  • Usability: The pack works for me in every way.  It is light and completely stabilized across my shoulders.  My neck and back are never stressed.  When fighting a fish, the platform is unobtrusive, allowing me to shift my hands and rod easily.  If I want to access the rear pockets, I just unbuckle one strap and turn the unit 180 degrees.

What Would Make the Product Perfect

  • Include the bladder as it has been tough for me to purchase at the local fishing store.

Would I Buy the Product Again

  • Absolutely: I own 5 packs/vests. The Willy J Confluence is now my primary pack.

 

 

 

 

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