Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shmackity Shmackity Wa Wa introduces…The Shiniest Lure Ever!

Shmackity Shmackity Wa Wa lure company is at it again and has come up with The Shiniest Lure Ever! After studying fish and more importantly anglers that buy flashy stuff we think we have come up with a lure that is completely obnoxious yet irresistible to anglers.

This is no mere sparkly spoon or glittery go-to bait, folks. The Shiniest Lure Ever has been infused with what looks like the power of the sun (patent pending)! Something this bright can’t possibly be passed by in aisle 171 at your local Supermegaconglomo tackle store.

Even at the deepest depths this lure is brighter than the front end of 7 hummers put together. What fish in his right mind would pass up the opportunity to bite down on a tiny floating little disco ball? Even if you don’t catch any fish at all it still looks really cool in the water. That alone is worth the current retail price of 49.99, right?

Wait there’s more! Now with more hooks! Not one, not two but three sets of trebles!!! This triples the catch ratio.

Disclaimer: Snagging not legal in some states. Check your local regulations.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here is what some of our friends say…

“The Shiniest lure ever absolutely blinds the fish into striking!” Says Ronald “I’ll sell anything” Marvin, Wishwater FL. “I like it so much I just might put my face on it.”

“I have never caught a fish with this thing.” Jimmy Benzwisnky, Pudmuddle WI. (Volunteer product tester) “But it does make a good bike reflector.”

“Sir, you have to purchase one of those fishing magazines or leave the store.” Stan “the man” Johnson, Shady Cove CO. (Store Clerk)

Monday, February 22, 2010

No Fishing In Juniata Reservoir Due To Mercury


A reservoir that provides drinking water for Grand Junction is closed for fishing because smallmouth bass there have tested positive for mercury contamination.

Steve Gunderson, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's water quality division, says the mercury levels in Juniata Reservoir are extremely low, but mercury accumulates in fish.

He says state health officials are meeting with city officials about keeping the reservoir off a list of bodies of water that don't meet water quality standards, if they can get rid of all contaminated fish or isolate the reservoir.

Link to full article below:


Matt’s Rant: This is a preliminary post. I have some calls and e-mails into various officials and looking for more info than just the regular news dribble. Some of the phone lines were busy as well. If you have some insight on this…shoot me an e-mail.

This is something that most anglers are not concerned with until it affects them directly. By then it is too late and you face legislative quagmires. Mercury poisoning is something I have tried to be more vocal about along with a myriad of other issues. It does not get any more serious than this….NO FISHING!

Edit 1 Added Feb-22-10:05 PM (I am going to attach the official public release sent out last year by The Department of Public Health-be sure to read the 3rd paragraph down stating other lakes and the levels that they are measuring too. They could be shutting more fisheries down as a result.)

State Officials Announce Fish Consumption Advisories

(Mercury Emission Reduction Efforts Outlined)

DENVER - The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado Division of Wildlife are announcing fish consumption advisories for Rifle Gap Reservoir, Elkhead Reservoir, Juniata Reservoir, Catamount Lake and Lake Granby due to elevated mercury levels detected in fish tissue samples collected at the reservoirs.

The fish tissue testing is part of an ongoing five-year sampling plan of approximately 120 water bodies in the state. These postings follow state laboratory results on fish tissue samples completed on 33 additional water bodies in 2008. More than 112 water bodies now have had laboratory testing completed as part of the study. Of those, 23 (approximately one in five) have required fish consumption advisories for mercury. These are listed on the state's Web site at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/wq/FishCon/analyses/. Also listed are two other water bodies that are not part of the mercury study, but were posted for other parameters: Sweitzer Lake for selenium, and Willow Springs Ponds for perchloroethylene.

According to state officials, routine sampling indicated at least one fish of the species sampled at Elkhead, Rifle Gap and Juniata reservoirs and at Granby and Catamount lakes met or exceeded the mercury action level of 0.5 parts per million set by the state health department. All species and sizes of fish with mercury levels in their tissue greater than 0.3 parts per million are considered in these advisories.

Mercury poisoning can affect humans of all ages. However, pregnant women and children under age 6 are especially susceptible, because mercury can harm developing nervous systems in fetuses and young children. Adults exposed to high mercury levels also can suffer from central nervous system and cardiovascular problems.

Occasionally, as in the case of Juniata, a water body that serves as a drinking water source will require a fish consumption advisory. Drinking water that might contain small, trace amounts of inorganic mercury does not pose a health concern. The concern is when inorganic mercury is converted to organic mercury through the food chain. Insect or plants may absorb some of the inorganic mercury, turning it into organic mercury that then can be consumed by fish. As larger predator fish eat other small fish, the mercury amounts in fish tissue accumulate. The health concern occurs when these larger fish are consumed by humans. When humans ingest inorganic mercury in small trace amounts in water, it is not significantly absorbed in the body.

Each fish consumption advisory includes consumption recommendations in three categories: for the general population; children aged 6 and younger; and women who are pregnant, nursing or who may become pregnant. The following fish consumption advisories provide advice on limiting certain species and sizes of fish to a certain number of meals per month. A meal is considered to be 8 ounces for adults and 4 ounces for children. [Detailed advisories are found at the end of this release - and provided as attachments.]

The main source of mercury in Colorado water bodies is air deposition - mercury in the air being deposited in lakes, streams and reservoirs.

State Efforts to Reduce Mercury Emissions

Colorado is addressing mercury in the environment aggressively. In 2007 and 2008, the department's Air Pollution Control Division completed work on two rules with the electric utility industry, environmental groups and local governments to dramatically reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants - 80 percent reductions for existing facilities starting in 2012 and increasing to 90 percent in 2018, and 90 percent reductions for new or modified facilities effective immediately. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved these requirements. This consortium also developed a consensus agreement approved by the commission to install air monitors for mercury emissions from power plants. These measures will serve to substantially benefit lakes, streams, aquatic species and human health by reducing the amount of mercury that ends up in our natural riparian ecosystems.

The department also supports implementation of a regulation to reduce mercury emissions from electric arc furnaces, such as those used at facilities such as Rocky Mountain Steel Mills in Pueblo. The department has worked with the steel mill to secure installation of a first-of-its-kind mercury air emissions monitor to provide specific data about mercury emissions.

Mercury is a broadly transported air pollutant, and the department is encouraging western states to consider implementing aggressive mercury reduction programs for existing and new coal-fired electric power plants similar to the measures approved by Colorado.

Colorado also is encouraging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve strong mercury reduction regulations similar to those approved by Colorado in 2007 and 2008 to benefit the nation's water bodies, including those in the southwest and in Colorado. Aggressive mercury reduction measures by EPA on, for example, the existing Four Corners and proposed (and recently-permitted) Desert Rock power plants located on Navajo Nation lands in northern New Mexico would serve to reduce mercury emissions in the region.

Five Fish Consumption Advisories Announced

Rifle Gap Reservoir [ En Español ]: The fish consumption advisory for Rifle Gap Reservoir recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any smallmouth bass larger than 15 inches or walleye larger than 18 inches and limit consumption of northern pike larger than 20 inches to only one meal per month. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the advisory recommends not consuming walleye larger than 18 inches and consuming only one meal per month of smallmouth bass larger than 15 inches and northern pike larger than 20 inches. For the general population, the recommendation is a limit of two meals per month of smallmouth bass larger than 15 inches and northern pike larger than 20 inches. The advisory also recommends the general public consume only one meal per month of walleye larger than 18 inches.

Elkhead Reservoir [ En Español ]: The fish consumption advisory for Elkhead Reservoir recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any largemouth bass larger than 15 inches or smallmouth bass, northern pike or black crappie of any size. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the advisory recommends not consuming largemouth bass larger than 15 inches or smallmouth bass of any size and limiting consumption of northern pike and black crappie to one meal per month. For the general population, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of largemouth bass larger than 15 inches or smallmouth bass and black crappie of any size and a limit of two meals per month for northern pike.

Lake Granby (Granby Reservoir) [ En Español ]: The fish consumption advisory for Lake Granby (Granby Reservoir) recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any lake trout larger than 30 inches. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of lake trout larger than 30 inches. The same is recommended for the general public.

Catamount Lake [ En Español ]: The fish consumption advisory for Catamount Lake recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any northern pike larger than 36 inches and consume only one meal per month of northern pike smaller than 36 inches. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of northern pike of any size. For the general population, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of northern pike larger than 36 inches and two meals per month for northern pike smaller than 36 inches.

Juniata Reservoir [ En Español ]: The fish consumption advisory for Juniata Reservoir recommends that children aged 6 or younger do not consume any smallmouth bass larger than 12 inches. For pregnant women, nursing women and women who plan on being pregnant, the recommendation is a limit of one meal per month of smallmouth bass larger than 12 inches. The same is recommended for the general public.

In 2008, fish from these 33 water bodies were tested: Adobe Creek Reservoir, Arkansas River, Barker Reservoir, Boulder Reservoir, Catamount Lake, Colorado River, Crawford Reservoir, DeWeese Reservoir, Elkhead Reservoir, Lake Granby (Granby Reservoir), Gross Reservoir, Harvey Gap Reservoir, Ice Lake, Johnstown Reservoir, Juniata Reservoir, Kettle Lakes, Lagerman Reservoir, Lake Loveland, McCalls Pond, McIntosh Reservoir, Meredith Reservoir, Poudre River, Prewitt Reservoir, Rifle Gap Reservoir, Rio Blanco Reservoir, Rio Grande Reservoir, Stagecoach Reservoir, Townsend Reservoir, Trappers Lake, Trinidad Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir, Womack Reservoir and the Yampa River. Of these 33 waterbodies, 28 do not require a fish consumption advisory under the current Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment policy. Although Trinidad Reservoir had mercury levels greater than the action level, it has an existing fish consumption advisory and a new one is not needed.

For a map of the state's sampling of water bodies - and which water bodies have fish consumption advisories - please see this link:


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Product Review: Rod Carrier by Lakeside Collection

It is rare that I get all yackity shmackity about gear or highlight certain products. But I am always looking for new fishing stuff and even invent some of my own now and then. Even though I do not receive any official endorsements from these products, I still may give out a product review on these items from time. In this post I am reviewing a rod carrier from Lakeside Collection.

The fishing rod holder is a great idea and can make the multiple rod carrying action a breeze. The Lakeside Collection model is kind of like a golf bag for your fishing poles and a crazy cool variation on the flexible carrying case for multiple rods made by Cotswold and others. I will go over some of the details from a few of my field tests and try to cover some of the highlights for you.

(Above: Field test of the rod carrier on Clear Creek. I like the fact I can fish hands free while carrying many rods of various types on my back.)

This rod carrier carries 6 rods on one side 32x6x2 pouch on the other side. The Lakeside version allows for more cargo space with a large hollow opening in the center. It is lightweight and easy to use. As far as rod carriers go this model has a lot of advantages in mobility versus models that are mainly designed for boat or vehicle transport. The product is easy to use and reliable. None of my rods spilled out during the field tests and exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways.

(Above: Top of the unit with the rod holder attachments. Velcro straps and the padded fabric keep rods safe and secure without scratching.)

The drawbacks are the nylon fabric at the top of the unit along with some of the stitching. In order to bring this product into the 29.99 price range you can tell they skimped on some of the durability. This product won’t handle a lot of bushwhacking nor is it 100% waterproof. The bottom portion is canvas and about 50% waterproof. The Velcro attachments are not as sturdy as I would like but functional. With some gentle care this product could last a long time.

(Above: The whole unit measures 4’ x 1’, This picture gives a good view of the bottom rod holders more suitable to spin or bait cast rods. Lure covers are recommended for treble hooks. The first few field tests encountered some snag ups without the use of lure covers.)

Overall this product offers a lot of multi-rod mobility with some extra cargo space to boot. This model is not perfect for all situations but I can see a lot of applications where this unit will come in handy.

Now for the bad news. The product is currently discontinued after selling out the first inventory run in a few months. It is my hope and belief that this product will be back on the website once they step up production or get inventories back up to par.


Lakeside is a website\warehouse that features all kinds of stuff and not known for their outdoor gear. I stumbled across this site while looking for something completely different and was fortunate to get one shipped to me.

A similar product is listed below:


Hard Water curse continues…may have to resort to Voodoo

Even though I do not believe in astrology, ghosts or bad luck from broken mirrors, I am a bit superstitious when it comes to fishing. Most of the time I can control my “fishing paranoia” and play through whatever comes my way while remaining mentally solid and unshaken. However there are times that make me convinced that there are unseen forces that impact my fishing success. My current ice-fishing season is merely one example.

(Above: Not a bad day for ice fishing or is it? If it weren’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all on the hard water scene. This is hole number 5 and salvaged from the memory card..)

I tested the ice in my usual manner. From shore I place one foot on the ice and then slowly apply all of my weight. There was no give or creaking so my feet moved further away from shore. At about 10 or 15 yards out I drill a hole. The ice is a solid 5, almost 6 inches thick.

“That is a good sign.” I drop bait and wait…then move on.

The area I want to fish is near some wood structure that pokes out of the ice from submerged island structure. 10 to 15 yards from the structure I drill another hole. Once again it is nearly 6 inches thick and solid. Drill, drop and wait. After trying a few different baits and presentations I drill another hole and repeat and repeat and repeat. By about 10:30AM I have drilled 6 holes in a triangulating pattern with not so much as a nibble.

Sunshine would occasionally break through the clouds. I could feel its intense warmth expanding the ice slightly but only for a moment. There were a few loud pops and cracks now and then but nothing out of the ordinary. The ice seemed solid enough and held a steady 5 or 6 inches everywhere I drilled. A light layer of crusted snow lined the top as well and showed no sign of melting. Now if I could just get the fish to bite.

“Drill one more and then we are going to move to another section of the lake or possibly a different lake altogether.” I think out loudly to myself sometimes. “Lucky number seven should pull out a fish. Let me check the ice over there.”

I merely walked 10 feet from where I had just drilled towards the log structure and Fooosh! My foot goes straight through the ice and into the water. To my horror I could see the ice below me was a mere one-inch thick. My body weight was falling forward and I quickly shifted back to my other foot while trying to move my body away from the weaker ice. WOOOOSH! The ice underneath me gave way and I fell straight down into the water up to my chest. The coldness of the water doesn’t really sink in until the water goes through the clothes and your body heat is erased. For a few seconds the body only feels wet. At this point “panic” is the real enemy. I need to keep it together and get out of this mess before things turn south.

My hands reached for the side of the ice and thankfully it was solid enough to hold my weight. Then I attempt to “beach” as much of my upper body on the ice. This may take several tries until you get solid ice. Then I simply rolled my body onto the ice. I find this works a lot better than trying to lift my entire body up using my arms. The rolling motion transfers the weight over a larger mass making things easier all the way around. Not sure where I picked this up. Maybe all that Discovery Channel is starting pay off.

(Above: The plan was to hit this area for a few hours and then move on. Unfortunately things don’t always go as planned. When things go from bad to worse and then turn into WTF? My paranoia starts to kick in.)

Can you believe this is not my first time falling through? It was absolutely ridiculous. I have flirted with “bad” ice and paid the price on a few occasions. For this I only have myself to blame. But on this day I had solid ice on 98% of the lake. I just so happen to find the one weak spot on the lake that was super thin (possibly due to a gas bubble deteriorating ice). The structure itself could have collected heat making the ice thinner than the rest or possibly a combination of all factors. Nevertheless it was a scary moment where once again I was thankful to just simply come out alive. None of my gear was lost in the incident other than the camera I complained about all through 2009. The ice bucket shot was saved along with the memory card from camera #9 and the best shot that POS ever gave me. Maybe it’s #10 by now. Who is counting? The camera itself turns on but pretty much shot. Good riddance. Camera #11 is good to go and will hopefully provide some great shots for 2010.

Needless to say my current ice-fishing season may be cursed and it is really cutting into my shameless fish bragging. I am starting to think that I just may have to resort to voodoo.

(Above: This may be tougher than I thought as there seems to be very few curse removal spells for ice fishing if any exist at all.)

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

CDOW looks to rename Dream Stream after Charlie Meyers

Matt’s Rant: As a fellow outdoors writer and enthusiast I respect Charlie Meyers work immensely. His articles for the Denver Post were a weekly stopping point on my internet fishing research. Charlie’s shoes will be hard to fill for the Denver Post and the entire state has lost a true champion for sportsman as well as great storyteller of outdoor adventures.

The Division Of Wildlife is looking at one way to remember Charlie Meyers by renaming one of Colorado’s most prestigious Gold Medal trout fishing streams. The famed “Dream Stream” section of the South Platte between Spinney Mountain Reservoir and 11-Mile may become “Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area”.

(Above: An aerial shot of the section being discussed. This may in fact be one of the top trout fishing destinations in the state and acclaimed in such magazines as Field and Stream.)

Article from Denver Post with link below:
The so-called Dream Stream on the South Platte River could be renamed "Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area," according to a recommendation announced by the Division of Wildlife this week.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will take up the proposal at its monthly meeting Thursday in Denver. The area runs between Spinney Mountain and Elevenmile reservoirs.

Charlie Meyers was the outdoors writer at The Denver Post and worked at The Post for more than 40 years. Meyers died Jan. 5 after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

"You would not believe the number of people who inquired about if we were going to do something to honor Charlie," said DOW director Tom Remington, who added that the proposal could be ready for final adoption by the end of March.
A date for a formal dedication will be announced if it clears the commission.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/huntfish/ci_14350529#ixzz0f3ApyMlh

A Taste of Tailwater in February

No matter how cold Colorado gets there are sections of water that never freeze. The term “tailwater” refers to water flowing beneath a dam, spillway, etc. This section of water has enough volume and commotion that it will stay open most of the year. This time of year angling is less than comfortable and fishing pressure has been turned down to a mere trickle. These are the times that I enjoy trout fishing in Colorado the most.

(Above: Across the river shot with coyote tracks leading the way.)

The air was crisp at about 13 degrees during the early dawn gear up. This may be cold by some standards but still fishable in my book. Heck, as far as I was concerned this was downright pleasant for this time of year. Crossed the river with some mist rolling up and blue skies overhead. Wind was nil allowing the smell of winter grass to mingle with that of the river algae. A set of coyote tracks was followed in and then even those tracks faded off the snow-covered trail after a hundred yards.

The first few casts came up empty. The next casts after that were met with ice-up, a common problem this time of year. The fish were sluggish and not as territorial as they are in the fall. I could manage a few follows, a few bumps but no committed strikes. One fish chased the lure through a shallow section of water. I could see the ripple on the water surface rushing towards me. Fins emerged as the fish struggled through the rocks and then vanished.

Working my way up to a large pool I cast at the front boil and work my back with a steady retrieve. Thump, thump, the line twitches from what could the bottom of the river or a nipping trout. THUMP! My arm feels the bite and sets the hook instinctively on what felt like a solid fish. Being behind the current flow the finned brute was unable to use the river against me. The fish had no choice but to come towards me and submit to a shameless photo op.

(Above: Crazy two finger hold with the right hand on a glorious male brown trout. Tailwater browns in February like this help me forget my January woes and struggles.)

The day’s action was not as explosive as it could be but I was glad to get some quality fish catches on the blog for 2010. The fish seemed to be less in number but better in size. The bite was very timid as well. I made several adjustments but olive colors seemed to bring more love to the door.

As the fishing continued the cloud cover accumulated overhead. Blue sky changed to cloud cover and then was met with falling snowflakes. Not enough to stop the fishing at first but the flurries grew into a downpour of larger flakes. A few more casts and then back across the river to head out. Better to get out while the road is still good.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Anguish on the Cheese-a trip of pain and near peril

(Above: Aerial shot of the entire route from parking to the dam. There is a 1000 foot boundary from the base of the dam so technically the bridge is as far as you can go. The run is about 4 miles one way.)


Looking to break my January skunkfest I decided to hit the Cheeseman Canyon despite all warnings of tough hiking and slow fishing conditions. The flows were reported as average and the water was ice-free…at this point open water was what I craved. Ice fishing had been so dismal and as weeks past I became more desperate for fish. I have always wanted to fish the Cheeseman Canyon section of the South Platte River but other waters seem to push this place down a notch on my “must fish” list. There was a small file of info accumulated from websites and info from a few fly guys that tolerate my questions to some degree I consider this an extreme honor and privilege by the way).

In hindsight it was clear that I was not prepared for such educated fish and such a difficult journey. Occasionally people enter the Colorado wilderness ill prepared and pay for that ignorance with their lives…admittedly this was one of those moments where I wasn’t positive that I was going to ‘rabbit out with a whole skin’.

The Day Starts

With the early wake up and head out I reach the parking area an hour after sunrise. My only hope was to haul up to the dam and fish the least-pressured water of what is arguably the most pressured trout water in Colorado. That was the plan. As soon as I saw the crystal clear water that plan went right out the window. The water is so captivating and beautiful. Every flat spot, eddy, rock swirl and rollover dam looks like an equally amazing fish will come out on every single cast. That is the siren song of Chesseman Canyon. Each pocket of water looks so inviting that you have to fish every inch. Catching fish…that is another story.

(Above: This is a shot upstream of the South Platte in Cheeseman Canyon as you hike in. This is the only large flat section on this stretch. The river gets narrow and a bit choppy from here.)

Starting at the edge of WigWam I worked my way upstream. In some of the larger holes I could see the fish setting in the current. One fish was a glorious cutbow trout about 18-inches and stocky. It was so close that I could see the multitude of spots on the top, almost reach out and grab it. After a few casts I knew the fish was on to me and moved on. Sometimes I would see fish. Sometimes I wouldn’t. Very few times they even came close to my presentation. It was exciting just to see them but damn…these fish have PHD’s they are so educated. Usually I can spin to win on just about any slip of water with success. Not here. Not this day. Absolute lock down shut down no go city!!!

Some of my research had indicated crossing the river to get better vantage and cast direction helped greatly by some accounts so the waders were bought along. This was a blessing at times and a curse at others. In hindsight, waders were merely an option. I could have done just as miserable without them. In truth the waders slowed me down overall and the further I walked the heavier they seemed to get. It was very cold in the morning but warmer temps were expected by midday. For most of the day I was comfortable and the waders helped that. The terrain wasn’t all that bad starting out. My research pointed out that the last two miles would be the most difficult. Some reports stated that it was “difficult but do-able” others said they were in and out-half day, no problem. Some close-ups on Google Earth and I was like…”Eh. Piece of cake. Half day trip. Maybe hit Waterton on the way back.”

Futility and Time Wasted

Hours past and I had made my way past a lot of water. Sometimes I could walk high above the water on large rocks and spot fish down below. Then move down to the back or front of the hole and work the water without spooking fish with my presence. Cast, cast, cast, cast, nothing. Time and time again the lure came back with not so much as a thump or tug. So I decided to start picking apart the lesser likely sections. This is a great tactic on every other slip of water…why not here. More casts, precision casts too not just some sloppy floppy water slapping either.

“No time to get frustrated.” I told myself. “Gotta keep moving.”

The canyon seemed to grow the further you move upstream. The rocky terrain gets very tricky around the shoreline for the last few miles. Some areas you practically need mountaineering gear to reach. This is where the trail by the river fades and I had no choice but to look for a better road.

Rough Terrain

My research had concluded that the last two miles were the most treacherous and the trail would become noticeably more difficult. When I got to a large rock formation that swallowed the trail following the river one could easily claim this was indeed the halfway point. The entire trail had been mired with rocks, trees and somewhat challenging terrain but here the road just flat out disappears on you.

“Now what do I do?” I mutter in mild sweat and even more desperation.

From here I proceeded to climb over the rock outcropping in an attempt to get back down to the river. The stone was immense and too difficult for me to risk a fall so I wound up backtracking and taking another route. Eventually I ran into a trail higher up. A smooth road compared to the rocky shoreline of the river trail that had faded into nonexistence. Soon I ran into signs marked “Gill Trail”.

By now I had covered a lot of ground and expected to the see the dam around the next bend. Or the next bend…or the bend after that maybe. My legs were starting to ache. I decided to forego any more fishing until I reached the dam. But the siren song was too alluring. I found myself poking at this hole and that all along the way burning precious minutes and daylight. Finally I had to literally pry myself off the water and focus my energy on the trail and only the trail.

“No fishing til I reach the dam.” I said with sheer determination.

(Above: Some turns in life are more treacherous than others. No matter where you are it always pays to keep your eyes and feet working together. You don’t want to know how far down the fall is from this shot.)

My heavy feet clomped along the trail fueled by the desire to make something out of this trip. If nothing else maybe some worthiness could be salvaged from the adventure by simply seeing the dam with my own eyes. As I climbed a steep vertical section and past the next bend the dam was finally in sight. It was a sight of muffled triumph however as the dam itself was still a long distance from the rock point where I stood.

“Oh man…” That was about all the air my breath and frustration could afford.

There were still a few thousand steps that would have to be made before my stupid pride would allow me to turn back. Looking at the blue sky from the slim narrow of canyon opening above me it was difficult to gauge even roughly what time it was. But I knew it was past midday. Well past midday from the way the shadows seem to grow across the base of the canyon where sunlight had greatly illuminated things earlier in the day. The sparkle on the water was fading and time was no longer my friend. I had begun scolding myself for wasting so much time on the heavy pressured fish in the low section.

Bridge Of Glory

At the bottom of the trail is a small head gate with a metal bridge and even a picnic table. At this very moment I took a picture and a small breather before rushing to the water and casting like a delirious madman. That may be a bit of an exaggeration but to be quite honest my desire to catch a big fish was being eroded by the need to get out of there. After 30-minutes of fishing the prime section and not so much as a snag it was way past the time to call things off. There was no lamenting in defeat or wallowing in my absolute dejection. Now was the time to focus on getting the heck out of here.

“Time to ditch these ##$%^& waders.” My voice said disgusted thinking how that pack would be coming in handy right about now. I took another moment to scold myself for not bringing extra water as well. “Dumbaxx! Oh its just 4 miles.” My voice chided on.

The choices made early in the day were turning into mistakes and that realization was sinking in. Adding to the list was the fact I had sweated my clothes on the last mile. It happens all the time and usually of no consequence for the half day trip. But now I was looking at a short time before sunset and the air temperature would start dropping severely. The damp clothing increases the chance of hypothermia and real danger zone stuff if you have to stay the night outdoors. I vented them as best I could, knowing full well that I would only sweat them again on the way out.

(Above: This is a shot of the dam as you reach the bridge. I took this shot before fishing thinking there was plenty of time to fish and haul out in time. I was wrong.)

Haul Out

After having spent way too much time fishing and then another moment venting clothes I took the last swig of water and hyped myself up for the hike out. It wasn’t so much a question of whether I could physically make the hike out but how much of that 4-mile hike would be in the dark would make a lot of difference.

“Just move fast and it won’t be so bad.” I said heading out on a brisk walk.

There was no time for taking pictures or fishing on the way out. The waders were tucked under one arm, fishing rods in the other and I made my way along the trail as fast as possible. The first two miles were the most strenuous but I made my way past them fairly quickly. It was important to make it past that section with as much daylight as possible. Not having proved the Gill Trail myself it was not clear to me how easy it was the entire way and if it did in fact match up with same trail I followed in from the parking lot. The trail by the river would be much more treacherous at night but it might be my last hope should this trail die out somehow.

Another issue was the large patches of snow packed down and even worn smooth by hikers. Sometimes the snow was crunchy and at others it was solid ice. It was difficult to tell which type of ice was which until you stepped on it and by then it was too late. Even with good hiking boots I was slipping, stumbling and fumbling my way through some portions of the trail.

The sun was setting and the shadows were now shrouding the landscape in darkness. My stride had lessened greatly after covering the worst section of terrain with the fading light. My legs had begun to throb again as my clothes became damp with sweat. The high trail was much easier to travel than the one by the river but I had not proven this new trail all the way to the end. It could in fact be the Gill Trail as the sign stated but I also left room that this trail could go back to the river or be a different hiking trail leading elsewhere. After an hour of walking it was difficult to gauge exactly where I was or how far I had gone. This added to my fear The only comforting thought was the fact the river was still in sight at the base of the canyon.

“Keep on this trek and you’ll hit WigWam or the road.” I tried to reassure myself in between scolding for getting into this position in the first place. Being out on the trail after dark is never a good idea.

Several more hours pass and I swear that WigWam or the road is going to pop up around the next corner. Or the next corner. Maybe the next. My legs are hurting and my body is beyond fatigued. This is the point where I have stopped scolding myself for fishing so much early in the day and began harping on the fact I came without a pack. Some of my basic gear would have helped so much at this point. Instead I had to be a complete “Goober” and leave it all in the truck.

Soon darkness falls and I stop for a moment to catch my breath. Stiffness, fatigue and cramps start working their way up my ankles and up my legs. My limbs literally wanted to lock up right there. This was bad news and something that rarely happens to me even when working out. My body was starting to fail and pushing things into deeper into the red.

“Not good. Get up and get the #$%^ out of here.” I bark as if my life could actually depend on it “No stop til WigWam.”

If I stopped again there would be no choice but to make a fire. My legs would simply cramp up or be too fatigued to move forward. At that point the odds of me making out would lessen greatly. Too many things could go wrong. As much as my legs wanted to stop my mind was forced back on the trail. Running on pure adrenaline, fear and anger at myself I pushed forward. Guiding myself along the trail by moonlight there was once or twice where I had to stop to make sure that I had not strayed from the path. After another mile or so I turn a corner and see two lights and an open spot of river in front of it. It was pure elation to at least be sure of where I was at on the trail. The trail soon reached the sign that I had passed on the way in. From here there was still a half-mile walk to the parking lot.

This was a mix of jubilation and anguish. My legs were screaming with pain after nearly 8 miles of trail and who knows how many yards spent going back and forth along the way. But at least now I knew where I was and that made all the difference in the world. I pushed my legs across the moonlit trail until I had finally reached the parking lot at the trailhead. Just the sight of my truck brought sheer jubilation.

(Above: Taking off my boots at the truck after the long walk out. Living to fish another day was the true reward of this fishing trip it seems.)

“Man…that was only four miles?” I say with utter fatigue and exhaustion. “A complete ass breaker!”

My body flopped to the ground the second after unlocking the doors and opening the back hatch to get the extra water out of my pack. Other than fatigue and some dehydration my body was none worse for wear. I was very fortunate to do enough things right to counter the blunders made early on. Determination blinded my game plan but was what got me through to the end with some hard lessons learned. That statement sums up this trip well: hard lessons learned.

Good luck and good fishing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ice Never Safe = No Ice Fishing

(Above: These signs or similar are posted on just about every metro lake I know of. These signs partly contribute to the confusion for those that misunderstand the intent of the phrase "Ice Never Safe". Translated the warning means "no ice activity allowed".)

A common mistake anglers can make in regards to local water is thinking that ice fishing is allowed when in fact the opposite is the case. Ordinances and penalties may result if anyone attempts to go onto the ice for any reason on lakes run by your local parks and recreation folks. The City of Wheatridge for example has listed in their winter activities-subsection-A, ordinance 17.54 stating “Any activity on ice is prohibited and can result in a 25 to 1000 dollar fine."

There a few basic guidelines that help lay out where to go and not to go ice fishing within the Denver Metro area and beyond.

1. Most metro agencies DO NOT allow ice fishing on local ponds for safety and liability reasons. Even though signs are posted stating “ice never safe” or “stay off ice” people have and still continue to get injured and even die on frozen ponds within the metro area. These ponds are unsafe most of the year so a blanket “no-go” policy is enforced even on days when you “know” the ice is safe.

2. State Parks and State Wildlife Areas check conditions and allow ice fishing at your own risk. These agencies may also close ice fishing when they feel conditions are not safe. Basically if the state runs the area with public access additional funds and management may be in place for safe and legal ice fishing. State agencies are also more deliberate in their signage and will clearly have at least one large green sign stating all of the regulations.

3. Altitude can make all the difference and most high altitude lakes allow ice fishing, as the ice is safe for much longer periods of time. 11-Mile, Green Mountain, Granby, Evergreen, Antero, the list goes on and on of consistently good ice fishing spots. That local watering hole is going to have to stay put until ice off…then hit it for all your worth!

4. Call before you go. Why don’t you call places before you fish them? In fact that is something I need to do a heck of a lot more of. Conditions change and those folks are there pretty much on a weekly basis with the rulebook right there on hand. One call could save you, me and anyone else a dose of frustration.

There are always exceptions to the rule such as a local agency that may hold ice fishing tournaments on occasion or a public water supply that does not allow ice fishing for water quality concerns. Standley Lake and a few others don’t allow ice fishing period, which really is a shame because at certain times that would be a great ice fishing venue. Until I get my own lake I guess I will have to follow their rules.

Yes I know it sucks and please know that I am not the one making these rules up but they do exist for a reason. It really sucks that folks get injured and even die out there when venturing out on metro ice nearly every year in Colorado. The obvious tragedy to the families involved is bad enough but this also causes problems for everyone who enjoys these places. One fatality can cause a lot of issues for the managing agency and some lakes are closed after such a tragic occurrence. Hence why the local authorities may get involved and criminal penalties may be applied to people who fail to read\adhere to the signs.

Please read the signs and comply for your sake and others.

Special thanks to the city of Wheatridge for helping out with the legal statute and clarification of the penalties.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Invasion of the Giant Squids

(Above: An amazing shot recently captured of a giant squid. Yes, monsters do exist in the water.)

Despite their intimidating heft and tendency to spew ink, the squids aren't scaring off local fishermen. As of today, around 400 of the giant squids have been nabbed by anglers. That number is likely to rise. An article from San Diego 6 explains that locals "started booking twilight fishing trips over the weekend to catch them."

Giant squids! Sorry to startle you, but we're just so excited. You see, they're giant squids! And they're invading California beaches by the hundreds! And in a heavily attended press conference this morning, they announced plans to star in their own reality show!

OK, so maybe that last one hasn't happened (yet), but the rest of it is the honest-to-god truth. An article from the AP explains that the squids weigh up to 60 pounds each, but most tip the scales somewhere between 20 and 40 pounds. And, yes, they squirt ink when irritated.

Link to full article below:


Matt's Rant: Monsters of the aquatic realm fascinate me. Stories like this add an extra element to fishing and my wonderous curiousity about nature. The giant squid is not on my "must catch" fish species but now would be as good a time as any target them.