Friday, May 20, 2011

First Time at Deckers - Trip Report 5/15/11

I was finally able to get away from the vise this weekend, and got to go fishing for the day. I decided to call up a friend, and see if he might be able to show me some of the water down in his neck of the woods.  Turns out that he lives not too far from the world renowned Cheeseman Canyon/Deckers section of the South Platte. I was instantly intrigued; the only problem was finding a ride.  After harsh negotiations (including my allowance being given away towards gas money), I was finally able to convince my uncle to make the drive down there.  The plan was set, and I was jumping with joy.

 For those of you who haven't heard of this section of the South Platte, these fish have a masters degree in identifying artificial flies.  They could probably tell you what materials you used to tie the fly for that matter.  However, these guys can get big. Stories of 20 inch fish weighing in at nearly 5 pounds were what attracted me so much to this fishery. They feed primarily on midges from what I hear, which made me wonder if camping out up there for a week or so might be a possibility, seeing as I love to catch big fish on small patterns and tippet as thin as a strand of hair.  As I began to doze off to sleep the night before, I was dreaming of catching one of these beasts, and before I knew it, early the next morning we were on our way to pick up my friend, and then to the river.

After the painstakingly long drive, we finally got to our destination, and made a quick stop at "Flies and Lies" fly shop for some tips and tricks to catching these technical trout.  I needed as much advice as possible because this was an entirely new thing for me.  I could tell from the instant we saw the river that this was going to be much different then the Poudre.  The guys working were very kind, and after a couple of tips, they wished us luck and told us to stop back in at the end of the day to tell them how things went. We went to the car, suited up, and hit the river as my uncle went off to study.

After an hour or two with only a few hits, I was cursing at myself for letting my allowance slip out of my hands for this. Then, just like most fish stories go, my friend hollers from down river "try that seam right there!"  As you probably know, I love to sight fish, so as second nature, my eyes began to scan the water. Suddenly, a movement.  It was a brown that was feeding aggressively on mayfly nymphs (as later determined by stomach samples). He took on the first drift, but after one head-shake, my poor little top secret midge was bent to oblivion.  I replaced the fly, and resumed looking for fish in the seam. One of the easiest ways to find a feeding trout is by the white glint of its mouth, so I began searching the water, and as clear as day came a white flash right in front of me.  I knew that this was my one chance at success.  I put the fly in front of him with confidence a few times, and I watched with joy as he opened his giant jaw to inhale my nymph on the fourth drift.  After a long, crazy fight (including him going straight through my legs), the beautiful male rainbow came to net, and we quickly pumped his stomach, and released him with pride.
Not a bad fish...I love Sight Fishing

A piece of advice that I can offer is to go out and buy yourself a buff. A buff is breathable for summer days on the water, but insulative for cold days on the water. I love mine, and it most definitely helped on this day as you can tell by the picture. Get a darker color seeing as they absorb available light better, reducing glare on the surface of the water. This makes sight fishing even easier.
With the pressure off, it was now about seeing if I could trick another fish.  We fished for about another hour until I connected again, this time with a decent little brown that took a big juicy stonefly imitation.  After a quick set of pictures and a release, we checked the time.  We had agreed to be picked up at one o'clock to be taken to another spot, so we packed up, and moved on.
This Fish Slammed a Golden Stone Imitation
We later arrived at a spot that had clearly been hit hard already, as most of the fish were down.  The water was gin clear in this section (adding an entire new level of trickiness to the equation), whereas it was muddier in the first spot we had fished.  After several hours and no fish, we called it quits and walked over to the fly shop, and hung out there for a bit. I always like to examine other people's fly boxes as best I can to see what flies I should add to my own box.  When given the opportunity to look inside a trout fishing guide's fly box for this section of river, I do not say no.  So after swapping a few flies, and telling a few lies, it was time for us to go, and we began the long drive home again.

As you can see, this water was insanely clear
Overall, it was a great day on the water.  Even though I only landed two fish, I feel a sense of accomplishment seeing as I had never fished this rather technical section of the Platte, or even the Platte for that matter.  Flies for the day were a big golden stonefly (doesn't really matter which one you choose), a tungsten soft hackle, and a variety of midges. This is definitely a recommended section of river if you are O.K with crowds, and I also recommend stopping into "Flies and Lies" no matter what your skill level. I apologize for not posting this earlier, but we had some technical issues with getting the pictures to me. Enjoy, and look forward to a tying tutorial soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Panfish on the Fly-Fun or Not?

As the local rivers begin to enter runoff, our fishing options become much narrower.  Should we go fish lakes for the chance at a monster trout? Should we hit the ponds in search of hungry, pre-spawn bass?  While these are both viable options, I enjoy going to fish the little neighborhood ponds for bluegill and crappie.  Though many fly fishermen shun this idea, it is actually a great way to practice casting, and work on tricking a few fish.

Panfish are about as dumb as they come, making it rather easy to have an hour consisting of nonstop hookups. My personal favorite method to use while fishing for these guys is a dry dropper rig consisting of a size 14 rubber leg stimulator, and my own bluegill pattern "The Blue Magic" off the bend of the stimi.
My "Blue Magic" Pattern Fooled This Decent Panfish

The best times to target these guys is in the evenings or early morning, seeing as they feel comfortable under lower light conditions, and rise to just about anything that lands on the surface of the water.  This is when they begin to slam the stimulator (or dry fly of choice), making for an exceptionally fun night of fishing.
This little guy took a size 12 stimulator
Of course, there is the occasional chance at a nice sized bass that happens to swim by.  For those of you who don't know, these pre-spawn bass give your reel a run for its money as soon as they realize that they are hooked.  With heart stopping runs, breathtaking leaps, and last minute bolts from the net, these fish truly  do offer an exhilarating fight, right down to last few seconds.

Big Pink Streamers can sometimes be the Key to these Fish
Overall, fly fishing for panfish is a great way to not only practice your casting, but also to enjoy the great outdoors.  When you have nothing to do this saturday, head out to the local pond with your 1 weight fly rod, it could end up being a great saturday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sight Fishing, A Way to Catch Larger Fish.

Over the past year or so, I have discovered the magic of a term known in the fly fishing industry as "sight fishing".  I first gave this method a shot the day after Landon Mayer gave a presentation at our local TU Chapter.  he talked about seeing the fish open their mouths to take the fly, and seeing huge trout in water that everyone else passes by.  I thought to myself "this can't be true".  I had to give it a try.  So, I set out on a mission; become good at seeing fish in the water.  After a series of "practice runs", I finally started to see results.

My first fish caught while sight fishing was a small cuttbow trout out of the Poudre River, about 10 inches long to be exact.  I was discouraged, but we all have to start somewhere, right?  So I continued to hone my skills, waiting for the moment of my encounter with the trout of a lifetime.

About a month later, I was fishing on the Poudre River with my dad, and good friend Steve Thrapp.  Steve is a master at fly fishing for large trout, so I wanted to prove to him that I could catch big fish as well.  My dad and I fished long and hard throughout the day, with only a few smaller fish in the 14" range brought to net, while Steve was pulling in 18"+ fish just about every 15 casts.  Frustrated, I began to walk back toward the car.  On my way, I stopped to look at a section of the river where I had just seen a commotion on the surface.  When I arrived at the water's edge, I began putting my sight fishing knowledge to work. I knew that it wasn't my fly choice that would matter so much seeing as large trout eat just about anything, but more the drift that had to be perfect. As I scanned the water, I noticed a white flash along the bank; a feeding trout.  I could tell by the size of the mouth that this was a good fish, so without hesitation, I worked a few yards of line out the tip of my rod.  After a few drifts, I finally put the fly right in front of him, and watched as he took the imitation with confidence.  I lifted to rod, and the battle began.  Approximately 15 minutes later, this bad boy came to net.

He measured at about 19" long, and had to be a solid 2 pounds.  As you can see, he was a brilliantly colored male, all ready for spawn.

Ever since that day on the water, I have come a believer in sight fishing, and hope that all of you will give it a try sometime.  A good exercise to try when on the river in order to train your eyes is this:

  • Start at the end of a run, and find a large rock, piece of vegetation or something else on the bottom, and pretend that it is a fish
  • Stare at the item for a minute or so, allowing your eyes to "acclimate"
  • Now, look at your feet, and scan your eyes across the bottom until you reach the designated object, and focus on that object again.
This exercise is training your eyes to adjust, and can be the savior on challenging days.  Doing something as simple as this can make spotting, and catching fish (trout especially) much easier than if you were to walk up to the river, and just stare into the water, hoping for a fish to show up.

Overall, sight fishing, in my opinion, is the easiest way to consistently catch more bigger fish, and I guarantee that you will have fun while doing it. So next time you are on the water, give it a try.  You never know what you might find.
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