Sunday, January 31, 2010

Redemption found up north

Every angler experiences highs and lows. I recently hit a dry spell that was so severe that I thought the name of my blog was going to be changed to “Matt takes his fishing poles for a walk.” January is always tough for me for some reason but this year was downright brutal.

Plan A was to hike in and fish the reservoir. The sign on the booth stated the reservoir had been recently drained and no stocking had occurred due to more draining required for yet more repairs. Part of me wanted to fish it anyway to see if this was indeed the case but chose to go with Plan B. My backup plan was to fish the river. Luckily the water was open 90% of the way.

(Above: Shot of the trib looking downstream. I don’t get up this way often and that is a shame. By sheer luck and good timing this slip of water became a viable Plan B.)

The area is sparsely wooded for the most part with some vertical rock features that are unique as well as interesting. The maintenance road leading to up from the parking area was downright easy compared to the last few runs that I have made. Not wasting any time on the lower section I walked the mile and a half straight to the main tailwater. Second cast and I feel the bite and then the tug of a fish. I was running a gold PM into the large pool below the dam and was working it back steady and the thing just got clobbered. The action on the rod raised my spirits immensely.

(Above: Grainy picture from early in the AM. After a serious dry spell this fish was sweet redemption.)

A few more casts, a few changes and no strikes I decided to move down to the rest of the water. Going through the patterns one or two colors would get follows but only the gold would get strikes. Fish size can range anywhere from 8 to 16-inches on the better stretch of this water that spans only a mile or two from the bridge to the dam. Brown trout are the staple in the population but occasionally an angler will run into a rainbow or cutbow trout.

(Above: A decent shot of some upstream water with a little bit of everything; flats, pools, rocks, current. Not the biggest water a person can find in Colorado but can still be a slice of heaven in January.)

I found the most success when working the less obvious water compared to fishing the larger holes that looked more ideal. This is becoming a rule of thumb for me in regards to trout action these days. Of course you still have to run the gear through the popular spots but working the less than perfect water with intent is what boosts up my fish counts.

Case in point…I cast through a beauty spot and only come up empty. Working the flat water behind it I get a heavy thump. A hefty fish (at least for this water) grabs onto the spinner and puts up a sturdy fight. The shallow water and lesser current does not bode well for a fish this size and quickly the fish is subdued.

(Above: Fish of the day. A nice near 16’er male brown trout caught in a shallow flat. Notice the damaged tail? That is a mark of a scrapper fish.)

When walking back to the truck there is a huge difference between having fished and actually catching fish, at least for me. Catching fish is not the most important aspect to angling, learning is. But we validate what we learn via the catch. January was nearly a complete skunkfest for me, which was downright unacceptable by fishaholic standards. Being able to catch and release some quality fish at the tail end of the month is huge. It may sound silly to most but for me this trip can only be described as Pure Redemption!

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Photos from the Field

Sluggin’ it out! Mudder ducker! Winter is the season that tests me the most as it does most things. For me this winter has been “Too many ice-holes and not enough fish.” I truly believe that an angler is only as good as their next fish so if I don’t hook into something soon…I may have to start releasing articles like; “How to take your fishing poles for a walk” or “Back when I could actually catch fish.”

But I am still out there putting in the T.O.W. That is something fused to the core of my soul. MUST FISH! So in lieu of actual fish catching posts hopefully my latest submittal of PFF will keep folks mildly entertained.

(Above: This is what 12-foot snowdrifts would look like if we were 72 feet tall. It is just a matter of perspective and scale.)

(Found: One rubber duckie…slightly damaged. Maybe I don’t want to know where this came from.)

They hold duck races on some of your local streams and creeks in Colorado which may lead to some strange findings. Unfortunately they look pretty rough by the time I stumble across them.

(Caution! Fog crossing. This is a slip of fog crossing a road on my way to work. Just the one little section here. Pulled over, got the shot then it faded away. I have never seen a westbound fog in such in a hurry.)

(Above: This is a gratuitous nature shot of geese over Bear Creek Reservoir. I consider myself very blessed to be living where I am on this amazing planet.)

Speaking of Geese…there were more geese that flew over and almost formed a perfect letter M (see below). M stands for Mattsabasser!

Ok so maybe I am having far too much fun with this PFF segment but going to throw another photo in for good measure.

”Two Eagles in rough weather”

Usually eagles will take flight if you get too close so I didn’t push for a closer shot. This looks to be the Colorado version of the two vultures that you see in the cartoon.

“So, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

An angler is only as good as their next fish. At least that is the way I feel about it. Some folks will milk the same photos over and over saying, “Beat this!” or something to that affect. Other bloggers and forum posters that I respect highly post up only the day’s catch…on a continuous basis.

My name is Matt…must fish, must fish…MUST FISH!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Don makes the Mepps Catalog for 2010

One guy that has taken the Mepps lure further than anyone else in regards to presentation in a wide range of water and seasons is Don. Most of the time that is what he is throwing for bass and when he finds a groove it is hard to keep up with him in the fish count.

Don has been fishing with the Mepps for years and sends them pictures with endless “Thank You’s” for making such an awesome fish-catching product. For the record Mepps is not a sponsor of my blog or affiliated with The MAD Fishing Show in any way.

(Above: Other than the green sunfish shot, this may in fact be the smallest bass sent to them from Don. Editors…whatcanyoudo?)

I would have chose a different picture but it may have been a simple color\print issue for them. The product shown here is new and not the same type Don uses. But it is still pretty cool to see him finally get some acknowledgement. This guy could literally write the book on the Aglia styled lures from the fine people at Mepps.

Can’t Catch Fish

Not for lack of trying, my fishing results lately have been worse than dismal. I am talking downright skunksville. Drill, drop, wait. Drill, drop, wait. Last year I could do no wrong. This year I can’t seem to get anything right out on the ice. Choking down the frustration on those defeated walks back to the truck is starting to wear my patience thin. It is almost like my ice fishing is cursed and I can’t catch fish.

Which brings me to the video below. Here is a great music video that is put together very well and just as funny. Stuff like this keeps me from going completely unhinged during the winter months.

This is a video\lip sync of Shad-Rapp’s “Can’t catch fish”. These guys should have this other guy doing all of their videos. If you want to browse through their entire collection of music melodies, they can be found here.

The fish gods love humility. So maybe a little honesty and confessions of my terrible fishing results as of late will help turn my luck around. I am starting to feel like some guy from Illinois.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let’s get to know…”The Cutbow”

Let’s get to know…”The Cutbow”

How cool are fish? Each species is different and has biological differences that control so much about where they live and why. Knowing these facts will help dial in the location and patterns of the fish you seek to catch. Fish identification is just the start. Learning the biological aspects helps us catch and preserve this amazing natural creature. Please bear with me and my poindexter excerpts of “Let’s get to know…”.

Let’s get to know the “Cutbow”

The cutbow trout is a hybrid created from cutthroat and rainbow trout. In the 1880’s rainbow trout were stocked in various waters containing cutthroat trout and shortly after cutbows became prevalent in Colorado waters. The natural version of the cutbow is a hybrid species commonly created when the female cutthroat trout’s eggs are fertilized by the larger male rainbow trout. Hatcheries will most likely create the opposite version as they have more female rainbow trout on hand. One of the primary reasons for covering the hybrid cutbow before discussing the rainbow trout is the fact that a lot of anglers get this hybrid species confused with rainbow trout (and even cutthroat trout in some cases). More details on the biological\ecological instances below but first we will cover the identification.

How to identify the cutbow

The easiest way to identify a cutbow is to look for the most distinguishing marks of both the rainbow and cutthroat trout species; red or orange slash marks under the jaw with silver body. The dotted pattern in some cutbows may be more defined but this characteristic can vary quite a bit. In fact, the physical characteristics can change quite a bit which complicates identification of all three species further.

More about the Cutbow

Spawning: Spawning occurs in springtime when both the rainbow trout and cutthroat trout reproduce. Rainbow trout prefer spawning temps of 40 to 50 degrees. The cutthroat prefers a slightly tighter range of 42 to 48 according to the sources that I have researched. The cutbow is capable of reproducing as well in both natural and hatchery environments. Most anglers think of hybrids as being sterile such as the tiger muskie but natural hybridization occurs in a few fish species within Colorado waters (some trout species as well as bluegill and panfish are a few that come to mind.)

This hybrid species is fairly resistant to whirling disease, an illness that greatly hampers rainbow trout viability in Colorado. Supplemental stockings of the hybrid species have improved the sport fishing in some regions where introduction makes sense. The Colorado Division of Wildlife’s management philosophy has changed in recent decades to try and repair some of the damage done to native cutthroat trout purity. Most biologists agree that the pure DNA and genetic makeup of the native cutthroat trout is at risk as long as rainbow trout (and cutbow trout) exist in native cutthroat trout habitat. Over time the pure strains will degrade and the genetics blurring the lines completely.

The cutbow has a love\hate relationship with most sport anglers in Colorado as it can exhibit amazing hues of greenish yellow with brilliant dot patterns. Size and fight of this hybrid can offer great sport as well. But this bounty of sport comes with a heavy price if we lose the pure species and distinct subspecies of the cutthroat trout. Thankfully we have learned from the past mistakes and keeping the best of both worlds; protection around native cutthroat trout waters and supplementing stocking of other species where appropriate. It is still not a perfect system and a lot of damage has already been done.

* Possible factoid: While researching this subject I came across a possible factoid of a “cutbow vs bowcut” naming convention in regards to the gender order. Most biologists do not differentiate between the two possibilities but one hatchery\biologist stated that there was a difference. This factoid could not be verified through two or more sources so I cannot say this is “bonafide”.


Monday, January 11, 2010

It's official: catch ties a world record

DANIA BEACH — After nearly six months of waiting, Japan's Manabu Kurita is taking his place alongside Georgia angler George Perry in the International Game Fish Association's World Record Games Fishes book as a co-holder of the All-Tackle record for largemouth bass. Each fish weighed in at 22 pounds, 4 ounces.

The catches came 77 years apart. The IGFA approved Kurita's application for the fish caught from Japan's largest lake on July 2, 2009.

Kurita, 32, of Aichi, Japan, was fishing Lake Biwa using a Deps Sidewinder rod and a Shimano Antares DC7LV reel loaded with 25-pound Toray line when he pitched his bait -- a live bluegill -- next to a bridge piling. It was Kurita's first cast to the piling where he had seen a big bass swimming. He only twitched the bait a couple of times before he got a bite.

Matt’s Rant: When this catch first hit the AP wire it made the rounds on a lot of forums and was the scuttlebutt of a lot of angler water cooler conversations. Now that there has been more legitimacy brought to the catch, I feel better about posting this up.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Had to milk the “Gimme”

So my recent ice fishing outings have come up empty. Chatfield Res., Chatfield Ponds, Evergreen, Bear Creek Lake, even Golden Gate Ponds have been educational rather than spectacular. That is a shame as these places have treated me very well in the past for the hard water scene. So what is a fishaholic to do? In an act of pure desperation I had to milk the “gimme” for a few respectable fish.

The term gimme comes from the game of golf where the shot is so automatic that most players don’t even consider the approach, the lie or wind…just walk up and shoot. That is what this place is like a lot of the time. A few waterhounds might recognize the area as this is fishing hole that I post from periodically throughout the year.

Once again the gold pattern was the ticket along with dodging a few cold spurts. First cast was absolutely hammered by a stocky brown trout. There are times when I wonder if I were to tag fish in spots like this…how many times could I catch them in one lifetime?

(Above: Love the dark colors on this fish and I typically see or catch two brown trout approx. this size at this location. One is a bit thinner in shape, slightly smaller and light in color. The other fish tends to be dark, slightly larger and much fatter than the other.)

The second spot was met with one rainbow trout and then another and then another. Getting into three quality bows on this stretch is amazing! One of my casts was virtually perfect grazing the edge of the tree line and plopping right in the slot. The line stretched as soon as the lure hit. This fish put up a quality fight or as much as it could in the shallow water and then was downright polite during the whole photo op. thank you Mr. Trout.

(Above: This was the larger of the three cutbows on the day and was nice enough to pose for a quick picture. Catch and release.)

My guess is that these rainbows might have moved down from a large hole somewhere upstream. As the upstream clogs with ice bigger fish get pushed down into the few open/tailwater sections. These areas look a bit “ghetto” which seems to keep most if not all of the pressure away.

People have actually laughed when they see me…”There’s actually fish there?” They might yell while biking or walking their four legged friends.

“Nope!” I yell sluffing a cast or start looking in my tackle bag. “Just getting in a little practice.”

Before I get too far off on the tangent here let me just say that I recant all of my trash talk towards ice fishing. I don’t hate ice fishing. I LOVE ice fishing. Hear me fishing gods? Please do not smote me any further on the hard water scene.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Charlie Myers, Denver Post Outdoor Writer…he will be greatly missed.

Charlie Meyers, who climbed from the lowlands of Louisiana to the peak of Colorado journalism through his insightful coverage of hunting, fishing and skiing for The Denver Post, died Tuesday evening from complications due to lung cancer.

Meyers, 72, covered his beats the past four decades with a graceful, engaging style and a thoughtful perspective. His last column for The Post, about an imperiled fishery in Park County, was published Dec. 6.
"He was a wonderful man, a wonderful journalist and a wonderful outdoorsman," said William Dean Singleton, publisher of The Denver Post. "I can't imagine The Denver Post without him."

There will be a memorial service for Charlie Meyers, with details pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that anyone wishing to make a donation in Charlie's name send it to Colorado Trout Unlimited, 1320 Pearl St., Suite 320, Boulder, CO 80302; or the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216.