Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rockinz’ De Splake!

So things turned out all right for the first run on the Hot Tip. A few pieces of the puzzle were gathered and a couple of fish helped me develop one or two patterns on that day. But there were still more questions than answers in regards to the splake and I was itching for another run. Work and other pre-planned destinations pushed the second attack further and further down the schedule. Eventually the clouds parted and the Hot Tip was on deck.

Running late, I reach the trailhead at about 8AM under overcast skies. Grabbed the gear and started making my way up the trail heading straight for the sweet section. Now I had a visual layout of the area with casting experience for most of the stretch. An adequate game plan was formed to maximize the quality sections first and then work my way back down.

(Above: Gratuitous river\creek shot. Overcast skies do little for my creek shots. )

Early into the trek I run into a couple and two pack goats. More on these ornery pack goats hopefully in a subsequent post. For now suffice to say these critters made me abandon my game plan for a minute and look for a spot to cast. Reaching the cliff edge I look down at the water and see an angler already working things. The grizzled beard and round specs looked very familiar. A few shouts confirmed it was indeed the legend…Mountain Goat Keith. Somehow by pure luck I managed to trade two ornery pack goats for the one and only MKG (I know the initials don’t exactly match…kind of a long story). But make no mistake that this guy eats 14’er mountain hikes for breakfast in search of high mountain cutts that he handles gently and releases for another day. Darn near killed Don and me on one run a few years back…yet another story. Salutations were exchanged and we decided to work the water in tandem.

(Above: Not too shabby shot of the slinger in action. The guy could land a fly on a dime if it was still in your pocket. I am deeply honored that he even tolerates my presence.)

Step into the first spot and MKG is hooked up with a small brown. A few steps more and he hooks up with another. Then a decent bow around the next bend. Me? I’m getting a few flashes, bumps and mostly the no-go. The minnow pattern was getting bumped, almost cradled by fish but nothing would commit. The ant got even less. Flip, flip, roll cast, roll cast, cast…nothing.

“This was money just a few weeks ago…I swear.” My case was pleaded to the water and more importantly to Mountain Goat Keith. His looks of skepticism suggested that he was not all that convinced.

“…Dropper setup.” He suggested after a few more riffles and bends in the stream. “I’ve got extra if you need anything.” Then moves across the rocks over to the next small pool and goes to work once again. By now he was way up in the fish count and I hadn’t even gotten my hands wet.

Luckily we reach a sweet spot midway up the stretch and a small rainbow takes pity on the minnow setup. Funny how one fish can build confidence and remove a lot of pressure. For me this fish was like breaking through a barrier of confusion and reaching clarity on the other side.

My eyes instantly refocused and I could see the fish in the water dancing around my lure. It was clear my minnow presentation’s cover was blown. They were merely toying with it for fun and no intention of striking. Something else was needed. Through the clarity it came to me like a vision out of nowhere. The answer to all of my hopes and dreams…or at least a possible tactic which if it worked would be nearly as good. Reaching into the bag and tying on the item of vision I give a faithful cast into the riffle headwater.

A good healthy cast follows landing the lure on top of the riffle and flutters effortlessly to the bottom. A lift, a bump and a miss. Another lift, a bump and a miss. Suddenly, just as before an idea pops into my brain scattering the two tiny marbles inside in all directions. It gives me the second part to the equation. Found the trick and wham! Splake on!

Once again I have to battle these extremely antisocial fish in an attempt to photograph them. The first one was extremely difficult and seemed to have a shortened outer gill plates for some reason. A quick photo and release. Re-set and then cast for more.
(Above: Splake is part brookie part mackinaw and all spastic. Not my best shots by any means but I am $%%^ happy to get these.)

At the end of the stretch MKG owns the fish count with a mix of bows and browns, a few of which are very respectable. The only thing saving my pride and shameless bragging at this point are the splake. I’m more than happy with that and even Keith gave a resounding “Hmmm” when I showed him the fourth and largest specimen. He may have lifted half an eyebrow slightly as well but his sturdy grimace remained cold like steel.

On the way back we hit this and that pool along with many more bends in the stream. I started falling into a groove and managed to pick up a small but beauty brown along with a few others to close out a hat trick of sorts.

Climbing out of the last long cliff section I leave MKG at the water still slinging. A crowd of passersby halt their passing and ask me how the water fairs for the day. I mumble a few odd tidbits of gray warbles and the really large pinecone that got away. They seemed greatly confused not so much by my riddling but more so at the fact I would be carrying a spin rod along with the fly setup in such a small slip of water.

“Oh this? I use it to battle off ornery goats. Did you see the two big ones on the trail earlier today? ”

Special thanks to Keith for putting up with me for a few hours on the stretch.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.


Bigerrfish said...

Did you try a flure? Ya know a fly lure.

Nice catch!

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Those are some really pretty looking fish.
And none of your creek shots, or any other "photos from the field" type shots are gratuitous. Maybe to your pure fishing folowers, but for the rest of us, those shots let us live vicariously the life you are lucky enough to be able to.

Fishin Fool said...

Great post and great pictures of the fish! You have a great blog!

Anonymous said...

Matt, sure enjoy reviewing your fishing posts. Appreciate you taking me along on the trips. Those Splake are some nice fish. We have a few in the lake near home, but, I have not been fortunate to land one. Do they like the lure?

Aileen said...

Your photos make me miss Colorado so much!

Cofisher said...

Good post Matt. I can't believe I've never caught a splake. Thanks.