Thursday, July 15, 2021

Colorado Vacation: Day 1

 The family went to Colorado again this year. We stayed a few more days in Denver checking out some of the sites near town. The following week was spent in the Rockies. 

We had heard about Mt Evans and the draw for me was the opportunity to see mountain goats. Even though they are not native and were brought to this country years ago it's still neat to see them in person. The views driving to the top were spectacular and Summit Lake is a site to behold.

The drive to the top of the mountain had some breath taking views.


The picture above is from Echo Lake. This is the first lake you pass near the gift shop. 


There are postcard views all the way up the mountain. 


If you're lucky you'll run across these guys playing in the rocks near the road.


We talked to a ranger and they said because of the pandemic some of the babies had not associated people with danger. They actually started a program of intentionally hazing the animals to create that relationship. It makes sense but seems like a strange practice. The goats were definitely used to the crowds. They seemed to almost pose on purpose at times.




Near the top is Summit Lake Park. This place is amazing and worth stopping to hike around the lake and check out the views.


Depending on the trail conditions you can almost hike around the whole lake. There was still a lot of snow blocking parts of the trail which I found surprising since it was late June. 



We hiked to the right along the lake and could see down into a valley where I believe Chicago Lakes is.


The view was incredible and the cliffs were so cool looking.


This is the first time the altitude was really effecting me. I had a really bad headache since we landed in Denver the day before. The drive up to the to of Evans made it worse. The sensation was like having a really bad sinus infection. I made sure I was hydrated but nothing seemed to make me feel better.


At the summit I was about at the limit of what I could bare. My wife wanted to hike even further to a marker at the top of a hill. I felt worse with every step I took gaining elevation I decided to just go back to the car and take it easy. My wife got some great views at the top of the trail.




At the very top near the parking lot is a old restaurant that was destroyed in a explosion.



There is also a observatory that has events open to the public at certain times of the year. I bet that is an incredible experience. Probably a once in a life time chance to get certain views of deep space objects.


The experience overall was amazing and I feel like it's a must visit if you're in the Denver area. The drive is around 1.5hrs to the summit from Denver.




















Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Putting to Work the Allen 6wt

 Allen Fly Fishing has a BOGO deal going on right now. I took the opportunity to get a 6wt Compass and 5wt Heritage Rod. The compass has a very pretty Carolina blue color. 


The 6wt feels stout and it can get away with working as a 7wt if needed. It's perfect for that gap where you want something for fish larger than trout but smaller than carp. 

I tried it out at a local pond and hooked a decent bass that gave me an idea of what the rod can handle. 


I was impressed at how easy it was to keep pressure on the fish. The rod definitely wasn't horsing or overpowering the fish but it kept me in constant control. I like rods where if you lose a fish you can only blame yourself and this is definitely one of those. It will give me confidence in many of the waters I fish where a hit may hook a panfish, bass, or carp. I'm excited to see what else this rod can do it casts like a dream due to the large guides. 

I'll let you know the Heritage 5wt is after I try it. I'm going to the Rockies again this summer and I plan on bringing this rod. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Spring Ritual

 If you follow my blog at all you know I'm a fan of white bass. Spring always brings the white bass run and I look forward to it every year. The weather has not cooperated the last few years making a window to fish the run very narrow. My first few attempts resulted in only a couple fish. The river was always stained and flowing higher than I'd like. The banks are steep and muddy making navigating to a fishing spot challenging.


I was able to time one day just right and the day couldn't have been better.


Everything was so green from all the rain we've had. All the animals were enjoying the warm weather even this guy.


A rat snake sunning itself across a log. It didn't budge when I got closer to take a picture. These snakes can be startling because of their size but they are harmless. 


I met with a friend from the fly fishing club and we had a great time catching up and fishing the usual haunts. The river changes every year with the rains and the fish move constantly. A spot with white perch one day can have all white bass or nothing the next. I haven't exactly figured out what makes the fish move or why there's more of one kind over another. The main thing is they are fun to catch and give a nice tug on a 6-7wt. 


The amount of fish over the years has dropped off and regulations have been put in place to help bring back the populations. Honestly I think the weather patterns have helped the fishing pressure more than anything. The river is tough to fish and only the diehards really put in the work to fight the briars, steep cliffs, and awkward footing. Many times the white bass are a fish you have to earn and the reward is well worth it. 




Monday, April 12, 2021

Big Flies, Big Fish

I visited a pond I rarely fish to see how it faired after the storms we've had recently. The water was very clear with a tea stain to it. While walking the banks I spooked two nice bass in the shallows. I worked the area with a small popper and caught a small 4inch bass. A few casts later a good size fish rose under the popper and sucked it in. I set the hook and after a few seconds the leader snapped. I didn't have much time to keep fishing and decided to come back later and target the larger bass. 

Early evening there was a consistent 10mph wind that would not go away. It put some disturbance on the surface and made visibility difficult. I figured the fish would have a hard time seeing me as well. I worked the same area I fished in the morning this time with a large popper. I usually don't fish poppers larger than a size 2 because of how horrible they are to cast. This one in particular had terrible wind resistance. I was fiddling with my reel with my fly about 30ft from me off shore. Out of the corner of my eye I saw this gray monster rise up and suck in my fly. It was so fast and unbelievable I didn't have time to set the hook properly. The fish was on but it wasn't hooked right and before I could really put leverage on the fish it came unbuttoned. 

I think the whole situation surprised us both because about five seconds after my fly came back the fish jumped like it was still hooked. The fish was massive and I thought maybe I missed my chance. Around ten casts another nice bass came up and sipped my fly off the surface like a large trout. What I've noticed about big bass is they don't jump crazy out of the water then hitting flies. They are so smooth with their takes it makes me wonder how many I've missed in my life. They are so efficient with their energy it's like just the tips of their jaws break the surface when they suck the fly down and the rest of their body stays submerged. 

I put as much pressure as I could and really didn't give the bass a chance I was making sure the only way I'd lose this fish was if the line were to break or my rod snapped. The bass summersaulted under water and I could tell it was massive.  The fish jumped a few feet away and I couldn't see my fly and knew it had to be lodged pretty good. I grabbed the leader and pulled the fish to the shallows so I could lip it. My whole body was shaking, when I looked in the fish's mouth it made the sz1 popper look like a 14. 

Even with the fish in hand I was still shaking and in disbelief. This is probably the biggest bass I've ever caught on any kind of gear. It's strange to go from catching bass that are around two pounds max to this. 

I didn't have a measuring tape so I laid the bass next to my rod to measure it later. The fish was give or take 24 inches and I'm guessing some where around 6lbs.

The fish swam away barely phased by the whole experience. I tried to compose myself and fish the area more and seriously a few casts later I hooked another big bass. This one was close to the same size and hit a few feet of shore. Part of me wondered if it was the same bass I just released. It stayed on for about ten seconds before jumping and spitting the hook. 

After that I didn't get a hit and there was not much else going on but the occasional rise of sunfish. Bass have always been a little mysterious for me they are either impossible to catch or easy. I can never figure them out. All I can say is big flies do seem to catch big fish. 


Thursday, January 14, 2021

2020 Wasn't All Bad

 I'd like to say I want to forget last year but there were a lot of wonderful things that happened. My family visited Disneyworld for the first time.


 Even with Covid we were able to have an amazing vacation in the Rockies.


 We made the best of things and found time to kayak and mountain bike the VA Creeper Trail.


 I think the pandemic brought my family closer together and brought out the best and worst of us. 2020 was tougher on my kids than my wife and I. It has never been more evident that kids need the interaction of others. This generation is so spoiled and we take so many things for granted. It's easy to social distance and do what you're supposed to on paper. In reality situations make you drop your guard and not take proper precautions. The lapse in judgement can lead to a terrifying tornado of chaos and anxiety. Last year we had dinner with someone who later called to tell us they tested Covid positive a few days later. The time we spent trying to find a place to get tested until we got the final results were horrible. My family all tested negative but the guilt we experienced and the anxiety of not knowing were bad enough. 

I  hardly fished at all in 2020. I didn't tie much and fly fishing just became something I thought about but never practiced. I made so many planned trips in my mind only to have them be replaced by other priorities or be forgotten entirely. I did manage to get out a few times and my experiences were great fishing wise but the catching not so much. I don't think those experiences deterred me from further trips but I will say they hurt my fishing ego. A small pond 20min from where I live was recently stocked with trout. It's very strange because this pond will become way too warm for trout by late spring. I tried my luck there but didn't even get a bite. I was happy that I still have a somewhat decent cast but my confidence in what I'm actually doing is not the same. I've never had great confidence fishing still water and I always question my fly selection. I usually end up tying on a streamer and fishing with that the majority of the time. Even if it's not productive it keeps me engaged and my hands are always busy. 

I have more hope for this new year but there's still a lot of unknowns. I guess all we can do is our best and try to cope with what's happening. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Family Vacation - Part 2 The Fishing

I'm not sure if it was the time of year, conditions, or all combination of both but 

the Rocky Mountain National Park is the best place I have ever fished.


 
I didn't have much time to properly fish many locations because of family obligations or my wife's patience. She knows one more cast for me could turn into an hour or more. She stayed tolerant and let me fish when I could. There were many times I'd only get 10 casts or so in. Where ever I fished I either hooked or landed fish.


 I've never fished a location that was so prolific with trout. They weren't stupid you had to properly drift your fly but if you even had the slight resemblance of a good drift it usually resulted in a strike. Any buggy high floating pattern is all you needed. I fished mainly with caddis and a royal wulff.


 One of the biggest fish I had the pleasure of seeing and the heartbreak of losing was to a Chernobyl Ant. The only one I had with me. I had the fish deny several other flies and then finally come up and take the Chernobyl Ant. As soon as I set the hook I felt resistance then that sickening slack from your knot popping. It was my fault not tying the knot properly and it was cool to just see a fish eat like that but I can't help but wonder what if. 


The clarity of the water was amazing and you have postcard scenery in every direction. Even in the summer the water is cold. It was to me at least I couldn't take being in the water without my wool socks and wading boots.


The lakes weren't as bad as the creeks but they were still chilly. The pic above is from Sprague Lake. I was the only one wading in the water. 


Other people were fishing with spinning rods from shore I didn't see anyone catch anything but there was a big fish jumping right out of casting distance. I'm pretty sure it was a cutthroat. That is my one regret is not trying to target some of the different trout species that live in the Rockies. When I first read a book about the area I thought the locations were too far to really target. I checked the book again later and realized many of the places I would have liked to target I was either right next to or easily with in driving distance. 



There's a bus system that takes you to various locations in the park, one option I didn't try but think would be a good idea is to park at one of the low altitude bus stops. The idea is to have the bus take you to all the stops going up towards Bear Lake. You could fish for as long as you wanted at each stop and take the bus when you wanted to go to the next area. That would be a great way to spend the day.


I wish I had taken more pictures of both sides of the park. Most of my photos are from the West side but the East is a lot different. The east side of the range has more scrub brush and less forest. It seems dryer and has more of a high desert feel.


Both sides have their own beauty and should be explored. 


Monday, August 3, 2020

Family Vacation - Rocky Mountain National Park Pt. 1

My family has been trying to hit a National Park every year. This year the goal was to check out Rocky Mountain National Park. With the current pandemic we kept going back and forth and with the overwhelming concerns we considered canceling the trip. The current state of things have made everyone long for a distraction to get a feeling of normality. What better way to get distracted than to visit the Rockies. We were spending 4 days in the park and our first day there was tame. We were staying in Granby on the west side of the park and we took our time just exploring the area. We did a hike at Monarch Lake which is just south of Grand Lake. 
It was rumored to be a good moose viewing area but we didn't see any. The scenery was great and it was a good hike to help us get acclimated to the altitude.

The next day we actually went into the park and with the timed entry system we didn't have any wait at all. The plan was to explore some of the things on the west side and find a moose. Coyote Valley was our first destination and the a place I couldn't resist trying my luck for some trout.
The stream wasn't that deep but it had great access and plenty of places for trout to hold. 
It only took a few casts with a small caddis to get some action. I was able to hook the fish but it came off after a couple seconds. Every few casts yielded the same experience a small fish would get hooked but come off shortly after. I was a little frustrated but also relieved. I knew a fish would come eventually but I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong. I tried switching to a smaller fly but the same scenarios would keep happening a fish would get hooked only to come off. We kept searching for moose along the valley but were unable find any. The scenery kept us entertained.
The next stop was the Alpine Visitor center and on the way up we saw an elk close to the road.
It ignored the cars passing by. It was so close to the road it was easy to miss behind the trees and brush. Going higher into the park is where you see the best views in my opinion. 
Once you reach the upper altitude of the Rockies you really get breathtaking views. 
Each direction you look is a postcard. 
If you visit this park I recommend checking out the Tundra Communities Trail. It's not far past the Alpine Visitor's center and it explained the habitat and animals that live in the Tundra.
If you have kids they will love the pikas and marmots that scurry around the area. The pikas were my kids favorite.
The marmots are not afraid of humans and I wouldn't be surprised if some people tried to take them home. They look like friendly mountain beavers just waiting to be pet.
We saw plenty of people try to pet them and feed them even there there are signs all over the park saying you should not do that. 

At the top of the communities trail there are interesting rock formations. 
The park did a great job of planning the path around the boulders so you can enjoy them while still seeing amazing views of the surrounding mountains. 
I feel like this trail is a must see.
I didn't take any pictures of the Alpine visitor center but it's worth visiting. It's the highest visitor center in North America. It also has a neat gift shop that has views of the canyon. 

There's too much for one post. I'll add more this week.