Monday, October 11, 2010

Scouting the “Hot Tip”

During the Foothills Project a few weeks back one of the members asked if I had fished “So-N-So” spot, a section of small river\creek. My confession espoused that this was on my scout list but closer to the bottom rather than the top. After a few words of encouragement the spot moved up a few notches. My earlier research had sifted a few flakes of gold but nothing very excitable. Small water, a few fish here and there if you were willing to hike a little. The recent conversation uncovered the stocking of splake, a hybrid trout (brook and lake trout). This sealed the deal for me. The scout trip was slated for the next available opportunity.

Gear loaded and I’m back up in the hills. Finding this spot is not easy as the web site will say the name of the road as one thing but Google Earth and every other source defines it as another. It’s all part of the magic and mystery of water hounding and scouting out fishing spots. After some driving I finally find the magical hidden turn off and heading up the dirt mountain road. Twist, turn, drive around another bend and see water. This is lower section of the stream and not part of the prime water that I am searching for but my casting elbow starts to twitch and the truck is pulled over. Must fish.

“Oh man. I‘m never going to reach the top if I stop at every sweet looking spot along the way. Just a few casts at this one little hole here and then we gotta get moving.” I said this six times before reaching the trailhead parking area.

The water was a lot lower than I expected and nearly a foot lower than just weeks if not days ago. This all but completely shuts down the spin game. I can work a few options but not many. When things drizzle down to a trickle I am hard pressed and 90% of my trout game goes to the fly rod. The water was so low in fact that I nearly stopped, turned and chose another venue as I drove up. But after staring into the small, flat pool of crystal clear water and seeing fish, my hands went for the gear.

“Oh you guys are going to get it!”

(Above: First cast, bow on the fly. This was practically a fish in the barrel scenario and they were willing to take #18 all day long.)

(Above: Chubby little cutbow with great color. I was amazed to pull a handful of fish out of a hole not much bigger than your average living room rug.)

Plink a few fish and move on. Stop and plink one or two more and move on. There seemed to be at least one or two bug munchers in every fishy looking spot. These weren’t the largest fish but there was just enough room to work and pull out a bow or brownie in the 8-10 inch class.

(Above: Button up brownie in a “slipping out of the hand” shot. Male brown trout pump up the volume in regards to their color pattern in fall. This one had some spectacular red dots.)

Finally quit goofing around and make it up to the trailhead and officially get things going. Most of the time I can stay focused on the agenda but for some reason I couldn’t help grabbing a bite or two from the tasty spots on the way up. Now things were going to get serious. Over an hour was already burnt. I was hiking in and less than confident about how far up and what to expect. My references said 2-miles one way on a service road that followed the stream. Once you reached the outlet it was no trespassing. Did the gear load, key check-lock down thing and headed out. Hopefully this would be more than just a hike with some fishing poles.

(Above: Slip of water-Kiss of Fall. Visions of water and deep descents before winter.)

The area has quite a bit of vertical rock and heavily wooded pine forest. Deciduous trees are found in sparse pockets along the stream or in small mountain valleys. The grasses and a few of the bushes are turning into fall mode but the aspen trees are still a week or two off here when I took this picture. The raspberry bushes have been picked clean by birds and beast as the wind brings in the crisp air. This all makes the moment perfect as I approach a pool slight larger than most that I have seen today.

(Above: Same area as above but a closer perspective. There weren’t many fishing holes this size offering a spin cast.)

And then it happens. First cast with the spin setup and WHAM! Heavy hit clobbers the baby-rap and acts like its not going to give it back.

“Whoa…what have we here?” I say as the flash hits the surface silver body and black on top. “Beauty bow perhaps?” It gets closer and my heart really starts to race. “Splake!…and he’s going nuts!?”

Now I don’t claim to have vast knowledge about trout and especially hybrid species like splake. But let me say that this is by far the most antisocial fish that Mattsabasser has come across. It’s true that fish fight so much because being caught is a humiliating experience for them. They have to admit that they made a mistake and may possibly be eaten as a result. However, the splake take this way too far. As soon as they get within reaching distance, these fish go ape-#$% and are nearly impossible to photograph or at least photograph well without serious damage to the fish. In this case I did a quick “pic-N-Go” to get the shot and then the fish back in the water.

(Above: Splake sporting a baby-rap. Every once in a while I like to post a picture with a fish holding some spin gear to see how many people will give me crap about it.)

From here the service road rises and the stream gets further and further away. Every tasty section requires a bit of a cliff dive and you have to rock hop from there. Moving to the top of the fishing section the fish numbers seem to drop off but offer more in the way of size. I started seeing less and less of the 8’s and 10’s with more of the 12’s, and 13’s. The occasional 14’er would pop out from behind a rock or rise up from the trough to look at whatever was passing by. A rise, a bump, a nip and even sometimes an actual hit would follow.

(Above: Quite a few of the tastier looking sections have seen a bit of pressure from other anglers and the trail up and down to the water is somewhat worn. Still worth a cast.)

Missed a few good fish. I never seem to have a trip where every bump, flash or hit ends up in my hand. The torment comes when the really big flashes, hits or bumps end in a miss. I could catch a hundred fish and still worry about the one that got away if I think it had a chance of being that one spectacular fish of the trip.

Another spot, another cast and pulled out another fish. This time it’s a dark colored brown trout in a very small pool. I think the fish has nowhere to go until he manages to go into a submerged rock crevice and stay there.

“Don’t make me bust you off, buddy.” Losing a bite is one thing but busting a fish off would devastate me at this point.

The line was relaxed and the fish was expected to stay locked up or come off the hook. Instead the fish managed to swim out of the crevice and into my hand after only a few short moments of play. Tough terrain for photo ops so this fish got a one-hand shot, then release.

(Above: Brown trout with heavy tan. Nearly broke this guy off in the underwater rock structure. One pic and back you go.)

One good fish makes those earlier misses fade into the background. It even helps the fatigue in the legs go away for a brief moment. Another cast or two in the same spot and then climb back up the rocky incline to the road. Not the worst inclines mind you with wannabe-cliffs in the 15-20 foot class but taxing in quantity. You seem to glide down the first few but after two miles or more I found myself almost crawling up and down the last hundred yards or so. There were very few trails following the river so you pretty much had to battle the incline all day.

It was all worth it. Scouting out the new section and doing well exceeded my expectations. With a foot or two of additional water?…who knows. Adding splake to the species hit list is pretty @#$% cool too. Not a common species in Colorado and not even on my radar. Now it’s just a matter of the long walk on the service road out.

(Above: Shot of the service road. I have had far worse trails to travel but like them much closer to the water. I don’t make the roads or the water…just fish what you got.)

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

* Note: This post took a while to put together and fell out of the time\date rotation. Actual date of trip 9-24-2010.


tags: Colorado, fishing, brown trout, splake, just found the tags feature, Mattsabasser, fishaholic.


Wolfy said...

Hot Tip trips are always fun, and usually interesting. I've come up with absolute gems (rarely), decent places (most of thE time), and flat-out skunk holes (again - rarely)

But its always fun! Looks like you got a good one!

The Average Joe Fisherman said...

Now that is a report! Very nice write up and beautiful pics. I am new to your blog and after reading this post I am clicking the follow button right now!

The Average Joe Fisherman

Anonymous said...

Great post, Matt, enjoyed all the pictures to go with some great looking fish. Those smaller stream trout are a thing of beauty. Double that with the scenery and you have a great experience. Only Splake I have seen are in some lakes in my area, so, am surprised to read of them in small streams.

Dan Spix said...

beautifully photographed scenery.. nice for a small picnic?