A Day Off

blackmon 3

“I don’t want to lose your love tonight…” lyrics from The Outfield’s hit blast throughout Coors Field as Charlie Blackmon steps to the plate. The beer guy drops off another round. He thanks us for keeping him busy and tells us he will see us next inning. As Blackmon rips a line drive off the wall to knock in a pair of runs my friends and I cheer a little louder than usual. My buddy Derek blasts more of The Outfield’s one hit wonder from his original Droid. We cheer louder for Blackmon for two reasons, he fly fishes and we all know it’s Derek’s time to shine as if having a ringtone in 2016 is still acceptable. While enjoying a game is as habitual for us as fishing, for Blackmon it’s more of a job so when he gets a day off fishing is what he wants to do.

With the Rockies having a day off on a home stand Charlie hit me up wanting to get out. I already had plans to fish with my buddy Ivan and there was plenty of room left for one more in the Tacoma. We set up to meet at Angler’s Covey fly shop early the next morning. I called Ivan to let him know I probably wasn’t going to bring Gus and he said the same about Bosley. If you know Gus and Bosley than you understand why introducing them to new things can be interesting to say the least. The following morning Ivan hit me with the “Here” text at about 7:15 am. I tried to leave my apartment without Gus but, as any angler with a dog knows, leaving them home is nearly an impossible task. Gus sat next to my bag at the door and I gave in. As I walked outside I wasn’t surprised to see Bosley sitting in the car. On the ride to the fly shop we joked about our dogs being the reason for the next fluke injury to a pro athlete. When we pulled into the Covey, Charlie was waiting in a 04 Grand Cherokee, the same ride he has had since high school. My immediate thought was, “Respect!” As we got out of the car to say our hellos, instead of a hand shake Ivan handed Charlie a cheese stick. The cheese stick was the key to setting the foundation of a good relationship between Charlie and the dogs. Charlie threw his stuff in; we all piled in the truck and headed out.

The week before Ivan and I had fished a stretch of river, I fished so poorly that a video of my misses was made and set to the music of Sarah Mclachlan. I had redemption on my mind so we headed back that way. On the drive we talked up the water we were going to fish and how easy it would be. Having fished this river my whole life and knowing the state shocked something like 4 million fish a mile I never really worry about catching fish on that river. As we crossed the bridge we saw the water running a little stained caused by some low elevation snow melt the previous few days. I cussed in my head but, knew we should still find plenty of tugs. We all rigged up nymph rods; I ran a stonefly, psycho prince and caddis larve rig. I had a grudge to settle with Ivan from the previous week so I made sure I was within shouting distance of him the entire time at the first stop. Charlie settled into a run and hooked a few while I kept my eye on Ivan. I managed to land a handful of fish while much to my enjoyment Ivan hung a goose egg at the first pull off. With fishing being pretty slow we decided to shoot up the canyon to another stretch that always produces. Ivan finally got rolling finding a few fish. Charlie and I took a break to enjoy the show while I heckled the big fella. As we watched I asked Charlie a few questions about being a ball player. Being a Colorado native getting firsthand accounts from a guy who has been an All-Star on your favorite team made for a pretty cool experience, besides the fact that I now know Todd Helton drinks wine not Bud Light.

blackmon 2

As the day wound down we had time for one more stop. We all spread out across a few runs when fish finally began to rise to a mix of BWO and Caddis that were hatching. The next hour fishing was lights out until suddenly the hatch was over. Ivan and I made our way back to Blackmon who was working a run off a big boulder. Ivan and I sat above him as he worked the run. We heckled him like we would anyone else and he answered throwing money drifts that were rewarded. As the day came to an end The Owl began to sound more and more appealing. After getting our gear off we headed back to town to grab a few Double-Doubles. If you have ever been to The Owl then you know the only guarantee about the place is that the food will be worth whatever else happens. As we sat at the bar I made sure to grab the middle chair amongst us. It wasn’t long before a local kid was sitting right next to Ivan at the bar. For the next ten minutes the kid told Ivan about how a burger should be free, concussions, blue whales and God knows what else. The waitress finally asked the kid to leave and apologized. There really was no need for an apology; I will still stop every time I’m in town partially hoping to see that weird little kid again.

The car ride home was relatively painless. We joked around and discussed future trips. As we said our goodbye Charlie extended the invite to come watch Batting Practice and catch a game on him as pay back for getting him out. While my mom and her friends may have crushes on Charlie because he has a great beard, he truly is first class. Besides fishing with Charlie has taught me a few things, being a pro athlete really is a job and that although I averaged twelve points a game my senior year in high school I was never cut out to be a big leaguer. Thankfully fly fishing doesn’t have many requirements.

Long Drives, New Places, The Rising Crew and Raccoons…

rising 11

If you fly fish it is inevitable that you have heard someone say something along the lines of, “Fishing isn’t always about catching.” I tend to turn my ear away from all the poetic romance anglers continually try to associate with the sport. It baffles me when I hear people tell me they got skunked but, still had a good day. Don’t get me wrong I have been skunked many times; however I don’t recall any of those trips being worth talking about. Yes, I do enjoy everything that goes with a fishing trip. Fly fishing has allowed me to see some of the prettiest places in the world and experience the best days of my life. While the cold beer, good company and dive restaurants along the way are great, I can tell you one thing, I tend to go back to places where I catch fish a lot more than the places I don’t. After all my hobby is not hiking. This brings back a memory of a trip to new water that started off a little slow.

It started last spring when the boys from Rising paid me a visit to fish some of my local waters. I’ll sum their visit up as quickly as possible. We caught some fish. I showed them Thunder and Buttons on the Westside. We watched Jake make out with a 45 year old cougar. Dalton made me pull over on the way fishing the next morning at least a dozen times to release the demons from the night before. We caught some more fish and made plans for them to return the favor later in the year. It was September when we all had time to make a quick trip happen. Dalton told me a spot about seven hours away was fishing pretty well. I told him my buddy Ivan and I were down to make it happen.

We left Denver that Tuesday morning at about two. Ivan opted to drive. This was something I was totally ok with as long as the weird noises his ’01 Accord makes didn’t actually become a problem. As the miles passed without any car trouble we began to anticipate how good fishing was going to be the next few days. Just like any angler when heading to a new spot that has been producing great reports, we fell victim to setting very high expectations of size and numbers of fish we would catch. We pulled up to the set location, looked across the meadow and saw a classic Western River meandering through the valley. Ivan and I were about 2-3 hours ahead of schedule so we decided to rig up and fish. We left a 30 rack of Extra Gold on the trunk so the Rising boys would know it was us.

Ivan and I headed down the river to some runs we saw from the pull off. The water looked perfect, riffle run after riffle run. We ran streamers and nymphs through about four or five of these runs over the next two hours. A few white fish and small bows were landed. We decided to head back to the car assuming they were getting close. The mood wasn’t ideal walking back to the car, we fished all of our go to stuff in water that should have produced. The expectations of the trip changed. We both thought it was time to grind and hope for the best. As we got over the ridge we saw, Dalton, Jake and Pat rigging up enjoying a warm Extra Gold.

When we got back to the cars Dalton asked us, “What the Hell were you doing down there? You need to hike up.”

I replied sarcastically, “This place sucks, can’t believe we drove 7 hours for this shit. Give me a beer”

I responded that way mainly because I didn’t want to admit I had been doing something wrong. All of us enjoyed saying what’s up and bullshitting for a bit while they gave us a breakdown of the water we would be fishing. Ivan and I followed their lead to a shelf that sits about 15-20 feet above the river. From there fish started to appear everywhere, big bows were actively feeding just about everywhere we looked. Dalton won the honors to fish the run first. He had a nymph rig set up with a white streamer as his trail fly. The first cast he let his drift swing out and we all watched a 24 inch bow crush the streamer on the swing. Ivan and I laughed and thought “you got to be kidding me.” Jake and Pat each followed suit putting fish to hand. At this point things started rolling. The best part about the big rivers out West is if fishing is good there is plenty of room for five guys to work a run. For the remainder of the day we heckled each other, drank a bunch of beer, got sunburnt as hell and caught a bunch of nice fish.

As the sun began to fade we figured it was probably time to find a camp spot so the Boss man Dylan could find us when he got there that night. We sat around the fire and let the Rising crew take care of dinner. The steak and vegetables was top notch. This made me think about how earlier in the day they said the raccoons around the area were viscous. I figured all the trash would have been taken care of. As the bourbon was passed around and the beer flowed the remains of dinner got left about ten feet from where I set up my tarp. It was a nice night and I was a little under the influence so I figured I wouldn’t waste my time setting up my tent rather just sleep on the ground. It didn’t take me long to pass out that night but, that was only the beginning. It was about 3 am when I woke up to a hissing sound. At first I didn’t think much of it but, as I woke up I grabbed my phone to shine my flash light to the noise. As I did so three big ass raccoons looked over at me and continued fighting each other for dinners left overs. I was wide awake at that point and decided I would knock on Ivan’s window. He woke up and let me in the car. He didn’t give me many ideas on what I should do besides “damn that sucks” and fell back asleep. I went back outside and fought the raccoons off the food. I like to think I resembled something from a Highlander episode as I did so. However, it was probably equivalent to 14 year old girl trying to fight off three wild beasts. I finally got to the box and threw it on the fire. The animals lingered around camp for about an hour after that before calmness returned and I was able to get back to sleep.

The following morning everyone asked how I slept. I explained what happened, they all said they thought they heard something but, didn’t bother to see what and enjoyed laughing at my bad luck. Dylan cooked up a fine breakfast for all of us and heckled Pat all morning about how he could only use dry flies that day while they floated the river. The rest of us took off back up the valley for a repeat of the previous day. We got to the same shelf and saw the boat floating bye. We heard Dylan still heckling Pat about anything he could. A few of us chirped in with some of our own and we laughed pretty damn hard in the process. Fishing continued to be productive that day. As the day was coming to an end Jake and I threw dries to risers in the flats knowing it was about time to hit the road. With a long ass drive ahead of us Ivan and I got off the water at 5 pm and said our good byes yelling down at the rest of them still fishing.

We stopped at the Gas station to grab some snacks for the road. We laughed about how the trip started and were glad it didn’t stay that way the entire time. The drive back was surprisingly painless. Being able to look at pictures and talk about the fish we caught played a big role in easing the pain.

The Greatest Compliment

the greatest compliment 8Throughout my life the words of many have influenced me. From family, coaches, friends and peers my support group has never failed to be honest with encouragement or criticism. However, it was one October day when I received the greatest compliment of my life. I stumbled into work the usual thirty minutes to an hour late following a day off. As I walked into the office to greet my team one of my employees was waiting at my desk. I wasn’t welcomed with a typical “Welcome back” or “Hey Boss.” Instead the words of choice were, “Tanner you look like shit!” I looked up and smiled, there wasn’t anything to say because it wasn’t a lie. Coming back to work looking worse than when you leave can only mean one of two things; you’re sick or you made the day off worth it. Thankfully, I wasn’t sick.

It all started that Friday when I talked to my little brother Zeb. He gave me a fishing report on a special piece of water we refer to as “The Ranch.” It usually doesn’t take much to get me on the water, but being six hours West of Colorado Springs the trek for a day trip needs to be worth it. Let’s just say the pictures did the talking. I gave my buddy Derek a shout and told him Grandma would have Roast Beef sandwiches and a cooler full of Bud Light on ice waiting for us when we got there. With Derek sold on the idea the plan was set, we would be there by 7 AM Sunday morning at the latest. Work on Saturday dragged on, but when the clock finally hit 10 PM excitement for the following day began to take over. Derek was waiting at my apartment with a Tall Boy and a Colorado cigarette. We got the truck packed and decided to try to get an hour or two of sleep before hitting the road. If you are passionate about Fly Fishing then you understand how pointless it was trying to sleep.

The alarm clock sounded at 12:30 AM I woke Derek up with the typical, “You up?”

He replied laughing, “I was just dozing off.”

We stopped by 7/11 and stocked up on energy drinks and smokes for Derek. If you have ever road tripped with Derek then you know the guy is a machine. I swear he runs on Amp and Turkish Royals. The miles flew by during the next five hours on the road. Considering I was asleep the majority of the time that might be easier for me to say than Derek.  We pulled into the driveway about 6:30 AM and that’s when we ran into our first and only obstacle of the day.

The ranchers had turned up the release into the river overnight so the river was running high and muddy. I cussed for a bit while we contemplated our best option. We decided to go hit a few secret ponds up the road to chase some big bows while it warmed up and go from there. We pulled up and saw a few rises from the road. I set up my classic still water rig, a hares ear trailed by an olive scud. I’m sure the sexier rig would have been a streamer the size of a small trout or trying to match the size 24 midges they were rising to. We walked the bank and saw fish cruising the edge of the overgrown moss. I tossed a cast 10-15 feet in front of a cruiser and as my flies sunk gave them a little twitch. A battle with a football rainbow ensued. Quickly the anger of the muddy river was starting to fade. We stuck a good number of fish over the next two hours. With so many other options of water to fish nearby and the Sun beginning to warm everything up Zeb proposed the next idea. His idea was to basically just drive until we saw a stretch of water worth fishing. Lucky for him the idea turned out to be a brilliant one.

We began to reach the upper stretch of the big river. I looked across a meadow full of fallen timber from a fire that once devastated the land. We knew over the ridge a creek ran, of all the years spent fishing this area this was one stretch we never made time to fish. It was going to be a bitch hiking down into that canyon. We also knew not many flies have touched that water over the years and that Sunday was as good a time as any to give it a shot. After about an hour of hiking down and over fallen timber we finally hit the creek. We assumed the creek was going to be packed with fish, we didn’t know exactly what. Zeb crossed to the other side so we could work it the old fashioned way, tossing big Stimis fishing up the creek not missing a single pocket. As Zeb crossed I threw a cast about a leader in length over a rock, an eager Brookie shot out after my fly like he hadn’t eaten anything the past year. My immediate thought was “Yes Brookies.”

Zeb began to work a run on his half of the creek it didn’t take very long before another eager trout thought the Stimi was something it couldn’t resist. As if finding a Brookie creek wasn’t good enough, Zeb held up a perfect native small creek cutbow. We fished the shit out of that creek for the next five to six hours of the day. We caught some of the prettiest brookies, cutthroats and cutbows I have ever seen in my life. As we worked ourselves to a fork in the creek we began to consider finding a way out of this canyon and making our way back to that cooler full of Bud Light. All I will say about the hike out of that canyon is that it wasn’t enjoyable.

We finally made it back to the truck all of our legs were bleeding from tearing them across boulders or fallen timber. We got back to the cabin and enjoyed one of the best lunches I have ever had. It was simple lunch; those previously mention Roast beef sandwiches and Bud Light. I’m not usually high on Bud Light, but I could have sat on that patio and drank them until the cooler was empty that afternoon. With a solid buzz and only a few hours of day light remaining. We had two options, hit the road and get back at a decent hour or go toss streamers in muddy water until it was dark. Since Derek was driving it was his call. He tossed me another beer and said we better rig up. We followed Zeb’s lead across the meadow to hit all his money runs. As if the day couldn’t have gotten any better the streamer bite was on. Zeb tagged a tank of a Brown almost immediately. I followed suit with a nice Brown myself. I hate to admit it, but the afternoon belonged to Zeb. He put a hurting on some really nice fish and enjoyed letting me hear about it as he did so. It was about 7:30 PM when we finally got back to the trucks to derig. We all laughed and discussed how special of the day we just had was. Derek and I said our goodbyes. I promised him I’d stay awake for the entire ride back home. The next thing I knew I woke up on I25 in Castle Rock. The clock read 3:45 AM Monday morning as we finally pulled up to my apartment.

It’s easy to see how, “Tanner you look like shit.” Was the first thing anyone said to me the following morning at work. Since that day, my team at work makes sure there are a Red Bull and a bottled water waiting at my desk anytime I come in following a day off. I appreciate it more than they will ever know, because although I may not have the resources or funds to fish all the exotic places you read about in magazines I will continue to make it a point to live a life worth living at the expense of getting a little sleep.

The Drive

Brownie

                           Brownie

It has been awhile since I have sat down and blogged. I’m not exactly sure why that is. I’d like to tell you it’s because I have been fishing so much I haven’t had the time. Maybe it’s my girlfriend. I’d like to think that the things I do with her are more fun than writing. Another reason could be that everyone I know is getting married this summer. Again I’m not complaining but, I’m not the type of guy to be in any shape to write a blog the morning after a wedding. I think the real reason is probably because I just now hooked up the Century Link in my new apartment. By new apartment I mean the one I have lived at for a year now and been paying the internet bill for the twelve months while the equipment has been sitting in the closet. So I’d like to apologize to the small number dedicated readers and hope you enjoy this new piece.

This piece is dedicated to a trip equivalent to what John Elway did to the Cleveland Browns on a January night in 1987. Like any real fly fisherman the phrase “Last Cast” to me generally means keep fishing. Thankfully on this day it had the ultimate payoff. My work schedule had previously given me weekends off. To most people those are ideal days off; however being a fly fisherman in Colorado that’s not the case. It’s needless to say that when the opportunity arose to change those days to Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, I gladly accepted. The following week a trip was planned to a hike into a meadow section of river that is surrounded by 14ers just about every direction you look. I was accompanied by my old man; we were planning to meet two buddies Ivan and Denis at 7 am. If you asked Ivan the reason they were late was because I gave them terrible directions. I would have to disagree because I had no trouble finding the spot. We bullshitted while we put our gear on debating on what to use. It was a unanimous decision that we would fish dry flies until they stopped producing. Besides it was August and the idea of potentially hooking up with a 20 inch Brown on a size 12 stimulator makes leaving the nymph box in the truck a no brainer.

We headed down across the valley until we hit the River. It was decided that we would fish better with two guys on a side alternating sections of water. I stayed with my pops while the other two crossed. It was still a little cold so I wasn’t expecting fishing to be good that early. I decided what the hell I’ll take my chances at this first run. I stripped out some line and threw a cast into the first run while I chugged a cold drink. It is no surprise that a fish came and slammed my Stimi within a second of it touching the water. It goes without question whether I landed that fish or not. Being on the water for over twenty years now I can say there is really only one sure thing about fly fishing. Whenever you are the least prepared for a strike, you will get a strike. While the first fish was a miss it was an overall good sign that it was going to be a productive day on the water. For the next 30 minutes we worked up some good runs all getting a few to hand. We got to the next good run; the far side looked best so I began to heckle Denis. It was the first time I had actually fish fished with him so I wanted to make it clear. If you fish good water you better produce or you’ll hear about it from somebody. As he slid past the willow getting in position to throw a cast I casually yelled across “Hey Denis!! That shit looks good…. Don’t F*** it up Newt!” He threw a solid cast and let his fly drift about a foot before a Big Bow rolled on his dry. Denis put him in the net; it was a solid 17in. Bow that gave the three weight a good bend. It goes without saying that my doubts about the guy were answered. Fishing continued to be consistent throughout the day. However as each good run came and went the hope of running into a big fish slowly faded. It wasn’t a bad day at this point by any means but, it wasn’t a dinner table talk kind of day either.

Bows

Bows

Frank's Brown

 Frank’s Brown

The day was beginning to wind down. We were now about two miles upriver from the trucks and takes were becoming fewer and farther between. Earlier in the day my dad was talking about these big old Sportsman’s Warehouse hoppers his buddy Bruce had given him. I decided what the hell and threw one of those big bastards on. It was a size eight and bright ass yellow. I slapped that sucker down and watched a few little guys try and eat it during the drift. As the fly swung down and began skipping across the ripple a fish absolutely hammered it. Fishing immediately turned right back on. The change produced and we all got a good laugh at fish hitting that big hopper but, we still hadn’t rolled any fish that turn a day from good to great. My dad worked the next run and casually landed four solid trout. He turned to me and said, “Well have at um.” There was only about 100 yard stretch of river left before we had no other choice but, to turn around. I looked across the river to see Ivan doing something between sitting and dying on the other bank and knew it was a sign he would be ok with the decision to get a head start on the trail back to the cooler full of Denis’s homemade brisket sandwiches. I called over to them, said something foul and made it clear I was going to fish the last run before we head out. Why wouldn’t we? After all it was crunch time and the blog is titled “The Drive” for a reason. Everyone was cool with the decision so I slapped my hopper down along a nice undercut bank to an almost immediate strike. To that point it was the biggest Brown I held all day. I walked up a little further and was joined by Denis on the other side. The last pool has a sweet current running down the middle that leaves hip deep soft edges on both sides of river for about 40 yards. We both worked up the run when I threw a cast. I saw a decent grab on the hopper and set the hook. Denis simultaneously hooked up on the other side so I let out the classic “DOUBLE” yell. Meanwhile my rod had a pretty good bend going so I held on and began to crank on him. I figured I may have set a little late a foul hooked a decent fish that tugs like Big Moe when he is hooked in the side. About two seconds later a big brown came flying out of the water. It’s safe to say shit got a little more serious at that point. He put on another acrobat performance before I could get him to the net. Thank god for long handled nets. Resting in the net was the fish that made my day. We took some snaps I told my pops to fish out the run. I derigged my rod and sat on the bank to finally relax and gloat a little.

Ivan's Brown

Ivan’s Brown

Mark Jackson

Mark Jackson

Ivan found some new energy. It was that motivated energy that you get when your buddy catches a nice fish. He decided he was going to run his go to streamer “smashed peas” through the run before we headed back. On the next cast I saw what looked like a massive dry take happen. I looked over at Ivan and realized his streamer just got hammered. Ivan worked it out and got the big fella to the net. It was camera time once again. Ivan let out a few celebratory yells then took a seat by me as we watched Denis finish the run out. We laughed about how lucky we both just were and how the day played out.

It was now about 7 pm. As day light was fading we knew it was time to head back. For three bigger guys and one old man we made great time back to the trucks. We sat at the trucks enjoyed the Brisket and began talking about doing it again. Ivan and Denis took off, again pulling out of the parking lot the wrong way. My dad and I laughed at their expense to begin our ride back home. Days like these are the reason why it takes true bums forever to get off the water. That all it takes is one mentality is what keeps me coming back. The brown from that day will forever be known as Mark Jackson…..

The Perfect Fly Fishing Blog…

Browns

                       Browns

After my last blog I thought I had written the perfect Fly Fishing blog. I got some feedback from David Allen Coe that made me think otherwise. He said I didn’t write about mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting drunk. Well I’m going to sit down and write another verse to this song. Maybe after you read this you will realize I have written the perfect Fly Fishing blog.

The best thing about my fishing buddies is that if we have the same days off nothing is ruled out. However, this time of the year it’s tough to make a weekend trip because missing the Broncos on Sunday is not really an option. After getting off Saturday afternoon I met up with a buddy of mine to drink beers and grab a bite to eat. We had a couple and began talking about what the plan for the night was going to be. Denver played Buffalo the following afternoon so getting wasted, sleeping in and going to Mama’s for the game was a viable option. Then fishing became the topic of conversation, from there it was all downhill. There had been a certain trip on everyone’s mind for the past few weeks, but a four hour drive one way in good weather and conflicting schedules had delayed the journey. I checked the weather forecast it read sunny with a high in the 40’s. Road conditions over the pass were reading dry. At that point there was only one obstacle that remained, telling the waitress “no” the next time she asked if we were ready for another. If you’ve ever been drinking Flo IPAs at Trinity Brewery with any of us, especially Phillip and I, then you understand how hard a simple “no” can be. To avoid a poor decision, I made a run to the bathroom and let Derek make the call. I returned to see the tab on the table. We paid, said our good riddance and headed for the trucks.

By that time it was about 7:30 PM. I told Derek we probably need to hit the road by four in the morning. Not being a big fan of early mornings he suggested that we just leave now, sleep in the truck so we can be fishing by sun up. Given that I wasn’t driving I threw my gear in his ride, we swooped Gus and hit the highway. We were making good time, which generally is the case unless my Dad is driving. It also helps that when Derek is around there is usually a cloudy haze in the car that makes miles go by a little easier. As we approached the bottom of the pass I suggested stopping to grab some snacks and drinks. Considering all we had was a half a two liter of Diet 7Up, a bottle of Gin and four Cheladas this was a no brainer. As we pulled in to the gas station the lights were on but, the door was locked. Thankfully they were open; it just happened that the guy working was sitting in his car enjoying his own session with God’s grass. After listening to him ramble about God knows what, I finally escaped with the essentials, Gatorade, Mini Doughnuts and Beef Jerky. The rest of the drive was smooth. Atmosphere and 50 Cent played in the stereo, reminding us of High School days.

It was about midnight as we pulled up to the Dam. As we figured all the camp grounds were closed and under a few feet of snow. Renting a cabin wasn’t an option because we aren’t pussies so we drove up to the top of the damn. Derek got as far off the road as he could and called it good. We got our sleeping bags out, leaned the seats back and got as comfortable as possible. While the high Sunday was supposed to be in the 40s, Saturday night was a cold bitch. As expected the night’s sleep wasn’t much of a sleep. Although it wasn’t really needed, the alarm went off at 6 am. Knowing how long it takes the sun to get into the canyon, we weren’t really in a hurry rigging up. The typical put the waders on, warm up, tie on some flies, warm up, smoke, drink a beer, warm up, Winter rig up process ensued. With the mind right, Braving the cold is an easy decision when it means you get this piece of water all to yourself.

We finally made it out of the truck and like anyone who has ever fished here we strolled over to the bridge to scope things out. As usual some very good Rainbows were in their typical spots feeding in front of every boulder as browns littered the rest of the river. Derek spotted from the bridge as I made my way down to inevitably screwed it up. It took about three drifts to move all the fish I plowed through the snowdrifts for. I did land a few browns before I decided it was time to move on. We walked up the road searching for fish. If you have fished here it isn’t a question of seeing fish but, by searching I mean finding a fish you drive four hours to for. We spotted another bruiser, he spooked and to our surprise settle in a seam. I laid a few drifts past him and knew I wasn’t getting down to him. I added some additional weight, threw another cast, watched my indicator stop and it was on. He instantly made a run for the other side of the river and like they do here, he dove to wrap me around the nearest boulder. I got him around the boulder and he began to run right back up to repeat the process. Seeing the bastard get air was cool, however the following head shake that sent 40 feet of line flying past me and into the pine trees on the ridge behind me wasn’t. As I untangled we joked about how lucky I was that we were the only ones out because this would have been damn good show for my peers to witness. Within the next hour I lost a rig on the gage wire, something that happens to me here more often than it should. We worked up through the fishable water. With decent success our first trip up to the private line came to an end. We decided to go drink another beer, warm up and let the sun make its way to the water.

Butter

Butter

As the sun began to find the water we got out the car and went to work. We realized how many fish we walked right by earlier. From that point on if the fish wouldn’t spook, it only took a cast or two to hook up. My favorite way to fish here at this time of the year is to fish from the snowdrifts on the road. There aren’t many places that give you an opportunity to pick and choose between which 18-24 inch fish you want to cast too. Too say fish were stacked all over would be an understatement. As we worked it we landed some solid fish, got some good pictures and paved a trail through the snowdrifts to river bank. I don’t mean to make it sound like it was easy, tangling with these fish on light tippet left my hands frozen multiple times after losing everything more than once.

Looker of a Bow

Looker of a Bow

Showing off

Showing off

Knowing the Broncos kickoff was vastly approaching we debated to call it or walk it one more time. We decided to work it again and as we searched for “that” fish we both saw a bright red side in the same seam where that big asshole worked me earlier. After a few casts it was on again, as predicted he made the exact same move as earlier. I helplessly watched line scream from the reel until the inevitable happened once again. A laugh filled with a series of words I won’t repeat followed. I reeled in and cracked my last beer as we began the walk back to the pickup. We took our gear off, tuned the radio to 850 AM and let Dave Logan and Eddie Mac fill the airwaves. The Beef Jerky didn’t last long as we looked at pictures from the day. We reviewed the day, hopped in the ride and began the ride home. As the Broncos cruised to an easy W I dozed on and off a good majority of the ride home. Derek decided on McDonalds for dinner and I don’t think a McDouble has ever tasted as good. I threw my shit back in the Tacoma and headed home. As expected it didn’t take long for the friendly banter to begin. I checked the phone on the charger to see Derek had texted me. It read… “Go Broncos. Good Day homie… Too Bad you can’t Play a fish worth a shit.” Sometimes good days can be better, but I won’t complain. Oh and I apologize I couldn’t find a way to fit a train into the story.

The Blueprint

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Why do I fly fish? This question is something every angler tries to answer. The answer that follows is generally some poetic bullshit about some deep life lesson. When I think about what fly fishing means to me and why I do it, my answer is a little more Forrest Gump. Fly fishing means cold beer and good company. It also means I’ll be yelling at Gus for ruining a good run at least a few times a day. Fly fishing most importantly means an opportunity to feel free. In an ever closing world, fly fishing is an escape, where terrible songs on the radio aren’t as bad because you know searching for a better station isn’t an option. Plus, whatever is playing beats listening to Ivan’s music through a phone speaker. I do it because getting trout rise to Stimis is the coolest shit ever. I fish because open roads don’t talk back. Finally, I fish because I can’t tell you what I would do if I didn’t. This past week my brother and I loaded up the Tacoma, hit the road in search of any trout looking up.

My brother, Cody, pulled up bright and early Wednesday morning. Cody is newly engaged, I wouldn’t support this if I didn’t think it was a good thing. I am very happy for him and Brittany, plus their wedding is going to be a damn good party. As we packed the truck we discussed possible options to fish that morning that wouldn’t leave us too far from where we planned on meeting the Old Man and Bruce Thursday. I had been eager to hit a little tributary where getting a fly on the water is the only obstacle an angler faces. As we arrived at the pull off we were discouraged to see a car already pulled in. I have never seen another angler on this stretch of water, let alone on a Wednesday morning following a heavy thunderstorm. We decided to crack another beer and scan the meadow to look for rods above the willows. No signs of life were spotted so we assumed the pickup probably belonged to a rancher and began to rig up. When rigging up on small streams full of cooperative fish, there isn’t much contemplation of what fly I will be using. I am blessed to have a father who ties quite possibly the best looking Stimulators ever seen. If you don’t believe me that’s too bad but, know instead of gas money I barter them as currency amongst my fishing buddies. With a size 10 yellow Stimi ginked up we made our way down stream and decide on a good looking bend to start. Cody and I stood looking for risers only to see that the rain from Tuesday still had the creek a little high and off color.

The next hour was full of empty runs and growing impatience. Could we have put nymph rigs on and probably caught fish? Yes, but that would have defeated the whole purpose of coming to this spot. We stayed persistent and shortly after I found a willing brownie hiding against the bank under a willow. With the skunk off and the creek clearing fishing picked up. I enjoyed watching Cody lose a few flies and was quick to remind him, every time he snagged, that there was a willow behind him. If you have a brother you can understand the harmless shit talking banter that takes place when we are fishing together. For the next few hours we worked our way through willows and trout until we reached upper reaches of fishable water. Without anything else to fish it was easy to decide to head for the road and begin the trek back to the truck. Along the way we plotted our next move. Since our beer supply was running low heading into town for a late lunch seemed like the right thing to do.

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As we got back to the Highway and headed up the canyon we admired how high the big river still was. This is when I decided to challenge my brother with a proposition. Seeing how off color and high the water was flowing I decided to open my mouth. I told my brother I’d give him twenty casts, if he landed a fish I’d buy another case for camp but, if he didn’t touch a fish he’d buy another pitcher at dinner. Cody eagerly accepted the challenge and told me to pull over wherever I wanted. I thought I would give him a chance so I pulled over in one of our spring honey holes. As he rigged up I sat there watching, confident I would catch a buzz on my brother’s tab. He stepped out into the run and threw two casts without any luck. I felt pretty good about my odds given the chocolate tint of the water. As his third cast drifted I watched his dry fly shoot under the water. A hook set followed and of course a foot long brown trout came flying into the air. He didn’t stop at one but, landed a handful more before he had proved his point. I probably shouldn’t have doubted him considering he spent years living on this river. I still think I would have won the bet if I made it with any other person I fish with. There is nothing worse than losing to your brother but, at least this loss came with a benefit of having beer that evening. We stopped by the Boathouse Cantina for burgers then headed for camp.

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As the sun came over the hills early Thursday morning Cody and I knew it wouldn’t be long before the old fellas arrived. When fishing with them being late is never an option. If Bruce or my dad says they will be there by 7:00 it actually means 6:30 so I’ve learned to adapt. It’s always better to be up and ready to go or else I’ll be rigging up under the pressure of constant heckling that we are burning day light. The four of us began to hike up the meadow a ways to leave plenty of space between ourselves and any other anglers who made the stop. We came to a flat and spotted a few early risers. Cody and Bruce crossed to the other side. From that point on the day was all about business. We fish this water with old school patience, alternating runs hitting every possible pocket with a set of bugs. I was rigged with double dries, ignoring the fact of how cold the water was on my legs. Waiting for the water to warm and fish to be more active up top was the biggest challenge of the day. Cody fished droppers and did what he does on that river from the first pool on.

A great variety of bugs were popping off all day and as the water warmed fish were more than willing to fight the high water to hit a puffy dry fly. As fishing picks up the chatter amongst us dies. While fishing a run or watching my old man toss line there are only three things that are said, “Gus Get Back,” “That should have been one” or “Got his ass.” The day flew by as good fishing days tend to do. The day wound down so I sat with my dad on our bank, cracked a warm beer and watched Bruce and Cody work the last run. With a healthy hike back to the trucks it was easy to relax eat a snack, review the day and put off the walk for just a little bit longer. Cody and Bruce crossed, I shared the last beer with my brother and we hit the trail out. The cooler full of ham sandwiches along with a cold Gatorade was the driving force on the trek back. From the tailgate we admired the day’s success recounting the memorable fish, the ones that got away and the beauty of the spot we fished. As the daylight faded we said our goodbyes and made a soft commitment to do it again next week. The drive home was the same as it always is, Cody sleeping like a baby, while I try to make record time. As we came over the hill and got back into town the thought of when could I fish again dominated my thoughts. Trips like these are the real answer to the question of why I go, there is simply nothing else that compares so come Wednesday morning I will wake early.

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That Time of the Year…

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There are two things in life that will keep me from fishing, pretty girls and Coors Field. Ok, maybe only one and as the Rockies ticket stubs begin to pile up in the Tacoma I find myself in a transition period. I refer to the month of May as my offseason. Don’t get me wrong, I still get out one or two times a week during this stretch but, I am more susceptible to doing something other than fishing. May usually means the end of Lake Run bruisers, a higher Arkansas and more crowds on other tail waters. It also remains too cold in the high country for the small stuff to produce the way it should. As the anticipation of wet wading nears I would like to reflect on one damn good spring while attempting to express my excitement for the upcoming summer.

                Spring means two things to me as an angler, lake runs and BWOs. The anticipation of the run drives us Colorado anglers crazy. For me this triggers the “You Never Know” attitude that makes getting up at the crack dawn, when it’s five degrees outside, a pretty easy thing to do. This year good flows moved some amazing fish; between my buddies and me, we managed to land a few. While I spend a good amount of time hunting these fish, the thought of fish rising to BWOs consumes my mind. There are many great BWO hatches along the Front Range. I personally prefer the freestone variety. If you have ever enjoyed a Bill or Taylor Edrington presentation then you’ve heard the BWO hatch may top the Famed Caddis Hatch. From personal experience this may or may not be true but, from late March through May, if you’re driving along HW-50 there’s a good chance you’ll see a black Tacoma pulled off.

Here’s a few Grippers-

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As the plastic cups stack in the cup holder, the scenery of America’s past time blurs. It’s debatable whether the blur comes from too much booze or the thought of wet wading the high country. I was raised with a 2 wt. in my hand, on water that if we saw another angler the result would have been me crying and using language I would have been grounded for back home. It’s here that I would beg my dad for a drink of his O’Doul’s and choke it down like I enjoyed it. Being raised in the solitude is where I became hooked. It is in these small creeks and lakes that dumb fish live, these dumb fish spoiled my brother, Andrew aka Pinchetruta and I growing up. It allowed us to enjoy success between the lessons of keeping our back casts up, that my pops provided. After months of working too hard to catch trout, I can’t wait to see fish rise to my hackle less stimulator by the bucket load. As I write this it is May 15th and it continues to snow. While the season may be temporarily postponed, it won’t be long until the days of Brookie Orange and Cutthroat Red are back in my life… Oh it won’t be long.

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