9/21/2009

Back in the Canyon...

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...meaning, Cheeseman Canyon - an old familiar friend that can be a real tough nut at times. And this was one of those times. Stoopid tough nuts....

At least the weather reports were all pointing to a fantastic late summer day, with temps in the mid-70s and blue skies - and they were right. It wound up being a great day to be out and about tossing a fly (unless one forgets to put on their 'sun-scream'....Eva? Are you paying attention?).

I got up to the river early, with my much, much better-half planning on meeting up with me later in the day - but even at this hour, there were already quite a few folks there gearing up. I guess I'm not the only one that watches the weather.

So, I geared up as fast as possible, and walked the rolling mile to the water's edge, and lo and behold! there were a lot of fish in the river - and they all seemed to be actively feeding. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!

I already had an RS2 tied up from my last outing, so I tossed that their way - and shortly there-after, wound up hooking a little fella - about 8 inches or so. Didn't even see the guy...and I must have got him at the end of my drift - apparently I set the hook as I went to retrieve my line.

After that, I focused on the tubs that were parked in a deep seam in the middle of the river, and wound up striking out with the RS2. So I switched over to BDSP and the first cast through them, I bagged myself a nice 20 inch Bow.

Turning on my camera, I saw that I had about 10 minutes of juice left for filming, so I quickly got some footage and switched over to the GoPro for an underwater shot - only to find out that the batteries were missing from the camera. Ah yes, the pitfalls of having a 6 year old in the house with a need for batteries to run all of his goodies. No underwater shots this time around.

After the release, I went back to the well for another shot (actually, quite a few shots) but the fish left in there had no interest in the scud - and not wanting to change out yet, I walked a little way down-stream and saw a beauty of a fish parked beside a rock.

After a few casts to get the drift down, I wound up rolling this one as well - not as fat as the first one, but longer, and he looked real nice in the net (you know what I'm talking about).

Before the sun lit the water like David Hasselhoff in the middle of a weekend bender, the scud was once again the go-to fly. I bit into one more sub that wound up breaking my line...and then everything stopped.

Seriously, once the sun came out, it was if a switch had been thrown and the fish shut down.

One fish, in particular, was in a nice seam, maybe a foot below the surface. The drift was so perfect that even Stephen Hawking could have made it with little effort. I threw everything I had at this guy and....nothing. Same with the next one...and the one after that.

Fortunately, it wasn't just me - throughout the rest of the day Eva and I spoke with a lot of folks, and they all said that it had been brutally slow - even a guide that I was talking to (out of earshot of his client) said that it had not been the best day to be on the river.

I only managed one more smaller rainbow (12 inches) on a Hare's Ear the rest of the day, and that one I pulled from a deep seam while blind-fishing.

Overall, it was a good day - I netted two awesome trout, and two wee little fish, and lost one sub - and given how slow the river was fishing to begin with, I think that's pretty darn good. Plus, I know that it will be picking up as autumn moves forward - so there's more to be had down the road.

Unfortunately for me, though, I am going to miss the entire month of October due to a brutal travel schedule and workload. Hopefully, Eva will be able to make it out to the river once or twice and, between her and all of the blogs that I follow, I hope to be able to 'fish' vicariously through all of you.

Here's to hoping that I can handle a full month and some change without throwing a line.

9/07/2009

Hog-Wrangling

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Geez, where did the time go? It seems like forever since I was last able to post. With a massive project approaching it's deadline, the start of a new school year for my son, Tiger Scouts, fundraisers, a water heater that needed replacing (with several ice-cold showers to boot), and the in's and out's of the day-to-day routine...I haven't been able to post for quite some time. I suck.

As it was, this past Labor Day weekend was supposed to be a relaxing way to end the summer - a few days in the back country spent fishing and hanging out with Eva was the original plan. Also, I was going to hook a pig - if I only nailed one fish the entire weekend, so be it, as long as it was a BBF (big beautiful fish).

That was my sole intent - to hook a freakishly-large fish for 2009, so I made sure to pack some extra OCD before I left the house.

"Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!"

So reads a verse in Herman Melville's epic masterpiece, Moby Dick. A fine metaphor and one that resonates with me, being that I'm mental.

As it turned out, Eva was unable to make the trip, the weather was less than favorable, and the water was fishing slow. How slow? "It's like casting to a painting..." replied one older gentleman as he was coming off the river.

Ouch. That didn't bode well, especially if it was a Warhol. Too cliche' and over-rated for my taste. I'm not a fan of 'pop art'...which is not to be confused with 'pop tart', which is far more palatable than the former, if you ask me.

Um....yeah...

...so I geared up and walked my way down to the water's edge which, upon inspection, seemed to be chock-full of fishy goodness. And most of them were huge. The middle seam of the river had more jumbo's lined up in a holding pattern than O'Hare on a Friday afternoon. Granted, they were hugging the bottom tighter than a pair of Daisy Duke's, but at least there were fish. And when there's fish, there's always a chance of hooking one.

While I casually changed out my tippet and fly, I was studying the water and coming up with a battle-plan - the depth that they were at would require an Oprah-sized serving of lead, (which is not fun trying to cast on my Finesse 5 wt) unless I could get my fly upstream, into an eddy, which would then pull my line down for me.

Hopefully, the current would then straighten my line, and drift my fly directly between 5 of the bigger fish in that section. Of course, an indicator would be moot at this point, being that my entire line would be submerged - so precise execution would be key. Or, to paraphrase a line from the movie, Big Trouble in Little China - "This is gonna take Cracker Jack timing, Wang."

The cast itself was absolutely ridiculous, and I was thinking to myself that this was starting to look like a twisted fly-fishing version of a Rube Goldberg Machine - I was dropping my fly about 15-20 feet upstream, and about 2-3 feet to the left of the middle of the river, followed by a hard mend to the left. As my line came down with the current, it was then pulled under, and driven to the right (with a subsequent mend in the same direction), at which time, I had to tight-line the hell out of it. Whew.

Fortunately, my theory worked and I wound up pitching strikes over home plate. Now if I could just get a fish to swing...

As my fly approached, there must have been a subtle twitch on the 3rd fish in line - something that my sub-conscience registered, because instinctively I set the hook and was rewarded with the sound of my reel un-spooling line as the fish took off to the far side of the river.

And it was a nice fish - and as such, it took some patience on my part to avoid snapping my line before I could net him - which I eventually did, to the excited yells of some small kids that were spectating (with their mother) from the over-pass. They got a serious kick out of seeing me haul this whale out of the water - which made this catch a little more special.

On the bank, were a couple of folks watching as well, and in my haste I asked if they could run the video camera for me - had I had my wits about me, I would have taken some shots of this fish before handing the camera off - it was big, fat, healthy and had some brilliant colors.

So, as I tried to pull this slab out for the money shot, he bucked and wiggled his way to freedom. Ah well. It was the big one that I was looking for - 25 inches (?) and a good 6 or 7 pounds. I've got no complaints.

After that, I managed one more (which popped the hook) before I made my way back to Buena Vista for some grub from the Pizza Works (awesome pies, by the way) and some college football. As a side note, when in Buena Vista, check out the Great Western Sumac Lodge. It's reasonably priced, locally owned and operated, very clean and the folks there are as friendly as they get. Especially the resident dog. Although I would recommend avoiding the big white cat.

Tangent: the pic below is of Taylor Res. It's about 5 in the morning and the view is from the west side of Cottonwood Pass. The fog bank had formed directly over the reservoir and as the morning progressed (and the wind picked up) it blew the mist directly down the canyon, along the river - which made the first hour of fishing a little more interesting.

As I said, it was slow - the rest of the weekend I managed one small brown (on a leech pattern) and an average rainbow that I foul-hooked (which doesn't count) near the eye - I hate that. Even more-so, being that the hook was so close to his orb - that freaked me out a bit and left me feeling dirty and guilty inside. Not a pencil in sight, he wasn't running (initially) and yet he STILL almost lost an eye.

But, I can rest easy - I got my White Whale for '09, and all is good.

9/01/2009

These Boots Were Made for Fishing...

This seems to be the year of 'new gear' for me - and my boots were next on the list of replacements. The past six months I've been coming off the river with toes that feel like they've been hit with a hammer, and ankles that feel like I've been fishing in 6-inch heels (not that I know what that feels like). They've been good boots, though. We've covered a lot of water together, seen a lot of fish, and have taken our share of spills. Three felt changes later, however, and it's time to move on.

I had been scoping out boots for the past few months, reading reviews and brushing up on all of the new happenings in the world of wading boots - felt seems to be taking a bad rap as of late, but I'm still not convinced that it takes a back-seat to the new 'felt-less' soles that seem to be all the rage these days, but I'm willing to keep an open mind and give the other stuff a spin.

When I bought my last pair of boots, the water was fairly accessible, and I spent my time on the river....IN the river. Felt was ideal. However, in Colorado, I spend most of my time in Cheeseman Canyon, which requires a lengthy hike to reach the water, over some fairly rough terrain. And once at the water's edge, you spend most of your time on the sharp, rocky banks, with the occasional excursion into the river itself.

So what I needed were a pair of boots that could handle the amount of rough trail hiking and bank fishing that I do, as well as being flexible enough to handle some wet fishing conditions when needed.

Enter Korkers and their Omnitrax Sole System. Two pairs that I narrowed it down to were the Guide and Streamborn series of wading boots, with the Guide eventually losing out to the Streamborn simply because of the Boa Lacing System that the Guide employs. Call me old fashioned, but the laces just do a better job of cinching up the boot for better foot and ankle support.

When talking to the sales rep, I asked about the durability of the Boa Lacing System - and, as to be expected, he said that it should provide trouble-free operation for years to come with normal wear and tear. Not sure what 'normal wear and tear' would be, but after seeing the system first hand, I wasn't too impressed. My son's Bakugan toys feel more solidly-built than the Boa System.

The Korker's website for the Boa Lacing System (above) has a video posted outlining the steps required for 'lace' replacement - which for me, is a red flag. As durable as the company (and sales rep) say they are, it bothered me a little to see the video posted on the site. Not to mention the sales rep's recommendation that I buy an extra set of wires 'just in case'. To me, that doesn't instill confidence. What happens if you don't have an extra set on you, and you pop a wire on the river?

As a last jab at the Boa System - it's suggested that, after fishing, one should wash the system, to remove any dirt and debris that could potentially jack up the mechanics. Sorry, the last thing I want to do is perform preventive maintenance on my BOOTS. I can see my to-do list now:
  • Clean and change filter furnace
  • Change oil in truck
  • Check and clean boot's lacing system
  • Take out garbage
Yeah, that ain't going to happen.

Anyway, back to the Streamborn - from the reviews that I've read, it seems like there is a lot of animosity aimed at this Korkers boot - a lot of folks providing feedback bemoaning their decision to buy something other than Simms. Well, I've gone from Simms to Korkers now, and after four trips to the river (I'm slacking on my posts!), I can honestly say that I am impressed with the way the boots have handled themselves thus far.

The comfort has exceeded my expectations, but to be fair, I did buy some Dr. Scholl's gel inserts, which has really made standing all day in these boots a breeze. And the ease with which they handle tough terrain is impressive as well. I've had them on steep rocky inclines to slippery river rocks (and everything in between), and they've taken care of me in every situation thus far.

As for changing out the soles, I did it once just out of curiosity, to see how easy it would be, and I have to say that it was relatively pain-free. I doubt I'll be using the felt that much (if at all) - the Trail Lug insert works great for me and the conditions that I fish in (and I imagine it will handle snowy trails with ease as well).

They're also extremely easy to put on and take off - the tongue opens wide and there is little effort required to get your foot in (or out).

As for the construction, these are some well-made boots. The seams are tight, and over-laps have been reduced to a minimum, which is a good thing, in today's environment, to prevent unwanted hitch-hikers from getting a lift to another river or stream.

The only complaint that I have would be the actual size of the boot, as stated on the box (and on the boot itself) - I bought a size 12, but if I were a betting man, I'd say they were closer to an 11. And as these boots 'cure' and endure more time on the river, I can only assume that that they may shrink a bit, which could make for a tight fit. Only time will tell on this one - but if I end up having to soak these boots before heading to the water, rest assured someone will hear about it.

So from here, it's about durability and how much life I can pull from these boots. It's anybody's guess as to how well these will hold up in some fairly unfriendly conditions - the measuring stick is pretty high at this point, so these Korkers will have to perform above and beyond to gain rock-star-like status in my book.

But as of right now, I'm kinda digging these new boots and am optimistic about our future together.