Tight Lines

Springtime in the Rockies is a great time - the weather patterns are as varied as my ex's personality, and the warmer days are outpacing the colder ones. Which translates into only one thing: more time to fish.

So with the weather slated to be in the 60s, Eva and I, once again, made a trek west to the fabled waters of the 'Canyon'. It was a great ride full of mule deer and a pair of elk, one of which was an impressive bull that was sporting a rack about as big as Larry King's ego.

Prior to this trip, I was going to tie up some RS2 patterns in various shades - but being the slothful, absent-minded knuckle-head that I am, I instead wasted a few nights killing Nazis on the Xbox and eating ice cream. Before you criticize, take a moment to think about what the world would look like if I had not been there to help the allies win WWII. Yeah, that's what I thought.

So, needless to say, we didn't have any RS2s. On top of that, having arrived at the river, we found that the flows were up, in anticipation of the spring runoff - which always takes a little while to readjust for. For five months we've been fishing low-and-slow water, and the fish have been fairly predictable. Now, the familiar runs are gone, the fish are moving about more freely, and the water temps are down. But, it's not something that we can't overcome - after all, we're talking about a guy that helped win the second world war only a few nights prior.

Plus, there were fish all over the place, and that always puts a smile on my cherubic-like countenance (provided cherubs look like Hell-spawn). Initially, the fishing was slow - they were feeding, but it was tough to peg what they were feeding on - I know, I know, seine the river, blah, blah blah. I prefer the Hatchet Jack method, in which I bang my head against a wall as I tear through every fly in my box trying to find something that would appeal to them.

And so it was, that in a tiny corner of my fly-box, I found a single RS2 pattern from years past - one that I had tied back in 2006 and that had gone unnoticed for all of these years. I put it on and the fun began.

Within fifteen minutes, I had back-to-back catches - and then a third, which subsequently took my fly in a very Madoff-like fashion (ie GREEDY) and ran. No problem. I simply rigged up with a red WD 40 pattern and had myself a good ol' time (see more pics here), turning the water in front of me into a veritable 'killing zone'. Most of the fish were average in size, falling anywhere from 14 to 18 inches, a far cry from the hogs we hooked into the last time. But catching them is fun, regardless of their size, and it was a good time.

And then I hit a wall. Not sure what it was, but it stifled my fun faster than Nancy Grace showing up at your bachelor party. Within the space of half-an-hour, I began to ache all over, and I started to feel a bit queasy. And that was pretty much the end of it for me, since I spent the rest of the day sitting along the shore, for the most part, watching Eva work the water.

Ah, speaking of Eva, it was a slow day for her. Plus, I kept throwing her rythym off by making her wade back through the river to take pictures of me, which was a little selfish. She did lose a few flies to some fish, but she never managed to close the deal this day, but not for lack of trying - especially with a nice, large fish that was exhibiting less-than-stellar brain capacity.

The 'Canyon' is tough water to fish, but with the increased flows the day before, it made fishing that much more challenging. But, Eva is making her bones on the South Platte and can now claim one more day of learning out on the water. There's always the next time. And the time after that, and the time after that....

All in all, it wasn't a bad day on the river - sure I shut down midway through, and Eva did not manage to net any, it was still a great time. But we'll be back....oh yes, rest assured that we'll be back. After all, the spawn is just a few weeks out and that marks the beginning of some fantastic fishing.


Hooking the Hogs

Well, it had actually been a while since my last chance to get some fishing in - work schedules, bad weather and day-to-day responsibilities had kept me city-bound. However, I did manage to sneak away the first week of March, and went straight for Cheeseman Canyon like a dog on a scent - and wound up getting completely humiliated.

And it's not like the fish weren't there, either. I saw plenty of nice targets, but they were having nothing to do with me on this day. Now I know how Lyle Lovette must feel at a single's mixer.

BUT, less than a week later, Eva and I caught a break with the weather and our schedules, and so it was that I found myself heading back up to the Canyon, looking to redeem myself for the second time this year (I'm making it a habit of losing my Man Badge in '09).

For Eva, it had been a while since she has had the chance to work some water, so she was ready for a great day on the river. Also, she wanted to break in her brand new (magical, as it turns out) wading jacket.

We hit the Family Pool, as usual, and immediately spotted quite a few fish in the runs - which have been suspiciously absent in this stretch my last two trips. To take that as anything but a good Omen would fly in the face of rational thought, so, with blessings to Troutius, the God of Fish, we tossed our lines in the water.

Ten minutes in I managed to hook a nice fish - or so I thought. Turns out I foul-hooked the poor thing - so we got him in the net, removed the hook, gave him a band-aid and sucker and sent him on his way. A little while after freeing my captive and changing out my hook, out of the corner of my eye I caught a quick 'flash' along a seam, against the side of the moss on the river bottom. And just like that I had found my next target.

Using a tried-and-true olive #18 Zebra Midge variation, I cast to him several times, and in the process, I got a good idea of his size, and let me tell you, it was bigger than I had originally thought - a nice fish to be gunning for. After several tries, I nailed him, and off he went, like a bullet, downstream, my reel screaming as he pulled out my line. Yeah, nice fish, indeed!

While Eva dug the video camera out of my pack, I was struggling to reel this guy in - not only did I have a lot of line out, but he was big and heavy and fighting me for every inch. Slowly but surely, I managed to get him closer, and about the time that Eva got the camera going, I was slipping a fat, heavy fish into my net. Yeah, buddy!

Uber-cold water, numb fingers and a large, feisty fish all combined to result in no picture, since he slipped out of my grasp as soon as I had him out of the net. Watching the video, you would think that I had never handled a fish before - amateur hour anyone? Ok, in my defense, I had to grip him a little tighter than expected to get him out of the net - which caused him to buck a little. Anyone buying that?

Meanwhile, Eva had been working the lower section of the Family Pool, where the water flattens out and the fish stack up like airplanes. She had set her sights on a nice, large fish and worked the water around it like a pro. Now, before I go on, let me say this: fishing water like that is not for the feint of heart. It's tough going for numerous reasons, the least of which is getting your line out there without scattering them like so many teenagers at a busted rave.

But, she worked it, using a black #18 Zebra Midge variation, and about fifteen minutes after my colossal catch, she yelled out to me that she had hooked a big one.

Looking over, I saw her pole dipping and weaving, and I immediately reeled my line in and grabbed the camera. There's really not a lot that I can add here - the video and pictures speak for themselves.

I'm not an overly-smart man, but I can confidently say: that is a nice fish. And, according to my unofficial guidelines, it's a sub. It's also longer than my catch, so technically, the first round is on me.

Most people can go years without ever landing a prize like that - Eva has managed it in less than six months on the water with a fly pole. And she did it nymphing. She saw her target, she nailed her presentation, and she had an incredible set. I think it's safe to say that she is no longer a novice in this sport, and she has earned all of the gloating AND bragging rights that come with a catch like that.

Lesson for today? Name-brand gear and designer labels don't catch fish - it's the presentation that counts (I love saying that).

The rest of the day played out rather slow - I managed to hook another nice fish, but he popped off my line shortly after my set. Moving further up the river, we hit the Ice Box where there were plenty of fish, but no action. Although Eva, once again in slow, tough water, managed to hook a nice little brownie on a red #22 Brassie.

All in all, it was not a bad day on the river in March - plenty of sun and blue skies makes for a great escape from the day-to-day grind. Of course, hooking some nice fish doesn't hurt, either.