Cheeseman Canyon Trip Jan 09

Oh yeah, baby! That nice little 70 is no joke. As a matter of fact, there was a 64 on Monday, and a 68 on Tuesday leading up to that 70 you see above. And that can mean only one thing when you post temps like that in January - that's right, global warming.

I'm kidding, of course, but this is not the time or place to discuss climate change and/or politics. No, this is about fishing, and since my last outing ended in a complete wash, I've been dying to get back out on the river to curb my urges (that just sounds wrong no matter how you look at it).

So this time around, I was not hindered by time constraints - I was free to get up early, head on out and stay as long as I needed to to earn my Man Badge back. Which means I was heading to the Canyon. That's right, the fabled Cheeseman Canyon. And that, my sticky little friends, warrants a loud WOOHOO.

With gear in tow, my bag packed, and a brand new can of my favorite tobacco product (a must for fishing and road trips....and when dealing with the ex) I was off and running by 5:30 in the morning. A quick stop through a local fast-food joint for some greasy grub and a large Coke (also essential) and I was on my way, full of hopes and dreams, and optimistic of what the future would hold. And the whole time, as I visualized myself pulling in large trout, one after another, I found myself shouting at the top of my lungs "YES I CAN!" Not really. I made that last part up. A little joke at the expense of my liberal friends.

Now, the popular belief is that during the winter months, it really doesn't pay to get on the river before 10 am - however, I am going to go out on a limb here and say, yes it does. Winter or summer, fish (especially Browns) like to eat in the dark away from prying eyes (like Kirstie Alley) and you can often get lucky before the sun comes up if you play your cards right (that one is too easy). Is it slower than in warmer months? Sure. But fish are opportunistic feeders (like Kirstie Alley) and they still have to eat in the winter. Just my two-cents on that topic.

So, having my pick of the river, I went first to the Family Pool, one of my favorite spots and one that is always teeming with fish. Except for today. Yes, there were a few fish in there - but they were smaller and very skittish. But, it's better than seeing no fish, so I put my line in the water with a smile on my frozen face.

Yeah, let me touch on this a bit - it was cold. Really cold. My line froze. My guides iced over. My finger tips went numb. It's January - what else was I expecting? Maybe that's why folks don't hit the river until after 10 am in the winter? In any case, I started to get mixed feelings - on one hand I wanted to catch a fish (that's the whole point of fishing, right?) but on the other hand, if I did catch one, I would have to get my hands wet, which really didn't sound like a lot of fun at that point.

As luck would have it, I did catch a fish on a #16 Renegade, albeit a small one around 14 inches or so. And once I got him in the net, I gently lifted him with the line and used my forceps to remove the hook. At which point I dumped him back into the river from the net without ever having to actually get my hands wet or to touch the fish directly. I can only imagine that this is what Tony Randall would look like if he ever went fishing, and now I suddenly feel ashamed and dirty.

My next target was a rather large, feisty fish and after several attempts I did manage to hook him, but my line broke immediately after that and I lost him (which wasn't a bad thing!) and my fly (which is a bad thing).

I moved downstream into some sunlight to retie my line (and to warm up) and after that, I proceded to work the river with the movement of the sunlight. And as it slowly rose (and I mean slowly!) and more of the river was revealed, I really didn't see a lot of fish as I worked my way upriver.

Tangent: It was about this time that an older gentleman, with a walking stick and backpack, came to the area directly behind me and began to gear up. Now, his arrival was the beginning of a surreal day that I won't get into here - but suffice it to say that he and I would play 'Dueling Rods' (that sounds bad) into the afternoon hours and that he is the reason I seriously want to write a Flyfishing Etiquette manual specifically marketed to people like him.

So, as the sun rose higher, and I slowly wormed my way upriver, battling a lack of fish and some old man with a serious vendetta against me, I found myself at the Ice Box, which is a wide, deep area that usually harbors a lot of super-sized fish. Except for today, of course. Sure, there were a few trout here at the lower end of the Ice Box, but they were gone faster than a clean shirt at a Gwar concert.

Except for one. Moving upstream, I found one parked low and slow in a sandy run and I could see that he was feeding, which is a great sign. So I immediately started fishing to him, while my nemesis took his place on the other side of the river about ten yards upstream from me. Initially I was tossing a #20 Black Beauty, but I switched out to a #18 San Juan after a few casts. On my second attempt I snagged him, much to the chagrin of my 'angry shadow' just upriver.

I need to say that I miss Eva's company on the river - but being that it was the first day of class for her, she was unable to make the trip with me this time around. On top of that, it's nice to have someone close by to take pictures - but being that she was not able to be there, pictures like these will have to suffice.

So, while I'm netting and taking a picture, my 'friend' upriver starts to fish downstream and closer to where I just caught this fish - not sure what kind of pleasure he was deriving from this twisted game, but it's fine - I'll just move upriver and fish where he was. Which I did. And let me say this, I found out where all the fish went.

It was like hitting the Powerball - the upper portions of the Ice Box were teeming with fish. Nice fish. Lots of fish. Fish everywhere! WOW! Tucked away in nice little pockets, between boulders, there were a lot of fish feeding off the seams that were swirling through the crevices. My only complaint is that I didn't move up here sooner - it was now around 2 in the afternoon and it would soon be time to make the grueling hike back out of the canyon. But first, it was time to dive into this gold-mine of actively feeding fish!

Within a few casts, I hooked a feisty one, which took me on a ride and put up quite a fight. I eventually got him netted and photographed (akin to a booking minus the fingerprinting) and lo and behold, Mr. Cranky pants had moved back up and was now fishing where I was. Surprise!
Oh well....he was on the other side of the river, with his path blocked by a large boulder. On my side, I had another 20 yards or so of clear path - but I opted to fish right where he was. And in between his casts I caught another. And another. And another. He, on the other hand, got seriously owned. And to that, all I can say is this...

I also hooked one that snapped my line, but the hour and half that I was there at the Ice Box made up for a busy, hectic December and a less than stellar outing the time before. Plus, it rubbed Mr. Belvedere the wrong way, which felt good. I've said it once, and I'll say it again - name-brand gear doesn't catch fish - it's your presentation that gets results. In life and in fishing. And you, Mr. Magoo, failed in both areas.

Deckers Trip Jan 09

Have I mentioned that I'm not a huge fan of winter? Sure, I grew up in Utah and even used to ski quite a bit. But anymore, cold weather just seems to get in the way of being outdoors. More specifically, fishing. Apparently I'm getting old, and black socks with bermuda shorts aren't far behind, I guess. "Stay off my grass!"

Throw in the holidays, and a few days of arctic temperatures, and it can make for a long, slow time indoors. However, out here in Colorado, it is not unusual to see winter temps in the 50s, 60s, and sometimes even in the 70s. Yeah. 70 degree weather in January. Somewhere, Al Gore is nodding his head and saying "See? I told you so!"

Cyclic climate patterns aside (do your homework Mr. Gore) the winter has actually been rather mild (compared to previous years) and the first week of January saw a stretch of days in the low 60s, which only meant one thing: fishing. So I loaded up the truck, and made a beeline to the hills.

Being that I was pressed for time on this day, I decided to hit the waters around Deckers. Now, normally, this area is productive, even in the winter months, with some mighty fine fish being pulled out of the waters. As a matter of fact, the last time I went fishing with Eva, I hooked a massive beast that would have given an older Marlon Brando a run for his money on the scales. So I was pretty optimistic on the ride up, cranking the tunes and waving at the wildlife as I passed by, being that I'm friendly like that.

Plus, with mild temps and overcast skies, how could it NOT be a great day, right?

Wrong. Crowds aside (and there were a LOT of people out) there were no fish. Literally. It was if they all got together and decided to go somewhere else for the day. Now, I know, you're saying "they were there, you just didn't see them." And to that I would say "don't you have work you need to get done?"

I've been fishing a time or two, and I'm pretty good at identifying places where the fish like to get together and do fish activities. I'm also not too bad at spotting them in the water, whether under the sun, or on overcast days. And I can confidently say that there were no fish. Even in the deep runs.

Ok, maybe there was ONE fish. Or what I thought was a fish. Once I got my line in the water and started drifting past 'it' I started to have my doubts. And just like that, I could no longer see 'it'. There one minute and gone the next. Not unlike my thoughts.

So, needless to say, much of this day was spent hoofing it up and down the river - searching high and low for something. Anything. Another sign that proves my point: the multitude of other anglers 'migrating' as well. When the fishing is good, you don't see us milling about and wandering aimlessly - we're in the water tossing our lines and having as much fun as Paul Reubens in an empty movie theater.

This day, there were a lot of us wandering back and forth, and on one such occasion, a guy asked me "any luck?" to which I replied "there has to be some fish to have any luck." And he responded "true enough."

So there it is. First fishing day of the new year, and it was spent walking. Which isn't a bad thing, considering the fact that I was not in the office, the weather was great, and I was outside enjoying the scenery.

But, I also don't like getting 'owned' on the water, and the last time that happened was on the Provo River in Utah, during a major snowstorm in November of 2004 (Remember that morning, Mr. H?). So this day left me with a burning (sometimes itching) desire to redeem myself and exact some serious vengeance the next chance I got. And I wouldn't have to wait long.