Monday, December 26, 2011

Denver's South Platte River rehabilitation plan designed to restore fisheries

South-metro leaders and a growing number of fishermen are pushing to let the South Platte be more of a natural river as it flows down from the mountains through the Denver area.

They're planning to rechannel the river, revegetate and bring in boulders to rehabilitate the wide, shallow waterway into a deeper, meandering river that could sustain significantly more fish. Not just wily big-mouth bottom-feeders — but trout.

Enhancing the South Platte, proponents contend, will lead to a healthier metro economy.

"We are the custodians of the river. It is incumbent upon us to keep that river a viable, healthy source for the ecology of the area, the wildlife, migratory birds and for the community," Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman said. "We're not doing this for economic reasons. There may be an economic benefit."

The Littleton City Council this month voted unanimously to move ahead with an ambitious revitalization project that will let the heavily dammed South Platte behave more like a natural river but still be controllable because of its urban setting.

The $4 million project run by South Suburban Parks and Recreation, with support from Arapahoe County and Littleton, would scoop a deeper channel into a 2.4-mile stretch of the river south of central Denver.

A "riparian terrace," planted with native willows, dogwoods, berries, wild plums and buffalo grasses, would fall away toward the river. In the waterway, a dozen or so riffles and pools where fish can escape heat would be created, and eroding banks would be stabilized with buried rip-rap rocks.

The conservation group Trout Unlimited has embraced the cause of revitalizing the South Platte throughout the metro area. The anglers are mobilizing to create an early-warning network to alert authorities about pollution and ensure swift responses.

A recent carp fly-fishing competition netted $40,000 to launch efforts to put more fish in the river.

"If there was enough of a will within the city of Denver, the city could create a trout fishery through Denver," said John Woodling, a retired state fish biologist who for years ran sampling stations that proved trout exist in the warm waters of the South Platte.

About three years ago, Woodling, 65, went along with a state water-quality-control commission reclassification of the South Platte that resulted in relaxed standards for discharges by water-treatment plants — a decision Woodling said he regrets.

"Here's a resource that could be protected, a resource that could be far more important to our society than it is now," he said. "We've been sold — and I helped sell — a bill of goods for a long time which said that there is nothing there to protect."

A recent Sunday walk across a bridge over the South Platte to check out Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos' game against the Detroit Lions proved his point.

As Woodling crossed the river to enter Sports Authority Field at Mile High, he saw two men fly-fishing. When he left at halftime, in disgust as Denver went down, he noticed the two men still fishing happily, evidence that fish likely were biting.

The numbers and variety of fish in the South Platte dwindled with urbanization and flood controls installed after the 1965 flood that killed 21 people and caused $540 million in damage. Completion of the Chatfield Dam in 1975 tamed the river. Peak flows were reduced from 4,000 cubic feet per second before the dam to 650 cfs.

Today, the South Platte "no longer functions as a natural river system" that can support a riparian corridor, according to a report commissioned by Littleton planners.

The state's reclassification of the South Platte shifted its status from "cold water" to "warm water class 1" — which is defined as capable of sustaining a wide variety of sensitive species "but for correctable water-quality conditions."

Point-source polluters — such as the Littleton/Englewood Water Treatment Plant, just east of the river between Yale and Hampden — now have greater flexibility in the discharges they are allowed to release into the river.

The problem with cleaning up discharges is that plant upgrades will require more money than Littleton and Englewood can afford, Brinkman said.

Meanwhile, Trout Unlimited leaders are designing laminated cards to pass out to fishermen who volunteer to watch out for and report pollution while they fish.

Inspired by fisherman Trevor Tanner's recent effort to alert authorities to the spill by the Suncor oil refinery north of downtown, the idea is to distribute phone numbers useful for mobilizing swifter responses to future spills.

"The frustration is that it took a little long to really get the response moving" after black goo from Suncor was found to be seeping into Sand Creek and the South Platte, said David Nickum, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. "In cases like that, the sooner you can respond, the better."

The cards will be mailed to Trout Unlimited's 10,000 members and distributed through Colorado Parks and Wildlife, at fishing events and at fly- and-bait shops.

Urban anglers often go to areas that high-speed drivers don't see, and recruiting them as sensors "could have a huge impact, and it could save the person who made the discharge large amounts of money," said Todd Fehr, president of Trout Unlimited's Denver chapter.

"What I want to do is make the river fishable for people. Not necessarily so that people can eat the fish but so that children could go angling after school," Fehr said.

Rivers that sustain fish "are the kinds of assets that in other communities around the state — Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Aspen — are part of what makes those places special," Fehr said.

Anglers report healthy rainbow and brown troughs all along the river. And fly-fishing for carp continues to draw people who are following the advice of Chris Santella's new book "50 More Places to Fly Fish Before You Die" to the South Platte.

Fishing guides in Denver say they earn as much as $300 leading outsiders to the good spots.

The South Platte "already has gained a reputation as a carp fishery," said Will Rice, who submitted the recommendation to Santella. "But if the small-mouth species (such as trout) could be introduced, this definitely could be an economic draw for Denver."

Bruce Finley: 303-954-1700 or

Link to Denver Post article:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Photos from the field

Through my adventures photos are taken that never seem to make it into specific fish posts. So much of my fishing goes unseen or heard. Even though these pictures may not be ready for prime time fishing posts, I have found a way to fit them in an excerpt called “Photos from the field.”

One dove will have to do

(Above: I know the song asks for two turtle doves but the best I could do for this excerpt of PFTF is one single dove and a few Christmas lights. Best wishes to all that follow my blog in 2012.)

Not one of my better mornings

(Above: This is #3 on my top 5 worst morning dig outs and the season has really just started. I prefer to deploy an ugly coffee cup on a morning like this and one that holds more than the one shown above.)

Snow Creek

(Above: A few flakes on the creek during a sneak a cast snow day. Threw a few casts and bailed. Nothing but ducks.)

Just Passin’ Through

(Above: When the heavy snow hits it may take a while to get a plow down the side roads. Getting to the fishing spot or even the main road takes a little trailblazing. That really is my truck under all of that snow!)

Thank you so much for your views, comments and rates. This blog is fueled by your support. 

Good luck and good fishing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lucky Sunday

One or two days can make a lot of difference in regards to Colorado fishing conditions and so does a few thousand feet of altitude. After a grueling Saturday with ho-hum results and near frostbite, I had to pull the Sunday fish card. Rather than brave the high country I chose to beat up a scrap of open water in the lowland. Before leaving the house I packed the tackle bag with luck and determination.

(Above: Beauty cutbow and I usually seem to get into the best ones this time of year.)

Battling a few of the areas near the parking and come up empty. Air temps already in the mid 40’s this early in the day made it easy to keep moving. Eventually I was tossing in 50-degree weather with not so much as a kiss of wind. Unfortunately the penetrating bright light also tends to make the fish wary especially in these low water conditions. After an hour of slop-walking the shoreline I get to the one deep pool on the stretch. Tiny noseeum bugs hovered over the water. It felt like one of those moments where everything could come together and a big fish just might take a swipe at what I was throwing.

Toss the spinnerbug a few times and come up empty. Not so much as a fin-slapping follow or gill-faced nudge. I run the minnow and get nothing on the first pass. My expectations start to crumble and the anticipation of blissful fish glory had faded to a pale realization of failure.

“At least the weather is good.” Words fall off my lips in shameless hopes to reassure myself. “Dang near tropical out here today.”

Throw a few more casts and backup plans start rolling through my brain. Once this spot was beat up there very little water would be left to try. Throw one more cast and the minnow lands on top of the boulder that creates most of the slack water on the far side of the pool. Lift the rod slightly and the lure drops straight down. A large silver roll occurred at the top of the water and the line goes straight.

At first I can’t see the whole of the fish but my heart races at the large silvery glow flashing back and forth in the deep section of water. The fish runs up to the riffle and then turns towards me. At first I brace for a dead run straight for me. This is the best trick in the book at times to spit a lure. Instead the fish runs into shallow water. I reel in the slack and wet my hands. Check and mate.

(Above: The fish was laid gently in the water with the nose facing upstream. If the fish tries to turn sideways I will support them long enough to get their equilibrium back again. This fish didn’t want any help and quickly swam from my hands into a small riffle where I was able to grab a quick shot before it took off.)

This was another one-bite\one-fish day and this time the fish made it look easy. All I had to do was walk all the way back there and throw a few more times than usual. Some folks brag about tremendous fish prowess and ninja-like angling skills. Most of my fish are caught on luck and determination. It just so happens that as I finish up this post the foothills are getting over a foot of snow.

“Sure glad I pulled the Sunday fish card.” I mumbled doing the whole photo adjust\save dealio. “This fish was pure luck!”

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

A holiday message from ColoradoCasters

(Above: This “Mattsaclaus” illustration is probably the worst my graphics team has submitted. I am pretty sure they are trying to make fun of me with this one. Guess I could smile more.)

Sitting by the fireplace screensaver and sipping a cup of coffee I look out the window and see a bounty of falling snow flurries. My artificial fichus tree is decorated with a few lights and a handful of presents are wrapped below. To me it is more important to spend the holidays how you wish as opposed to bending to the will of political correctness. I want to take a moment to wish all of my followers, viewers and even the occasional negative Nelly out there a Merry Christmas, blessed holiday and Winter Solstice. Congratulations for making it through 2011. May 2012 find you and yours with happiness as well as good health. Thank you so much for putting up with me.

I would also urge folks that purchase real trees for the yuletide seek out drop off areas that recycle those trees into wildlife habitat. Check with your local community or wildlife agency for details and locations. This year the CDOW is collecting used but cleaned trees (you have to take the tinsel and lights off of course) for quail habitat. Other creatures will use the small dry trees for shelter as well. Details are listed below from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife “Insider” press release. 


PUEBLO, Colo. - Colorado Parks and Wildlife is setting up a Christmas tree drop off point in the Pueblo area to recycle Christmas trees into quail habitat.  The trees will be used to create artificial brush piles to improve the small game habitat on local state wildlife areas. 

Collection dates are Jan. 2 through 15 at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Pueblo Service Center archery range parking lot located at 600 Reservoir Road.

Wildlife officials ask that people remove all ornaments and tinsel prior to bringing the trees to the collection site.

For more information, call the Pueblo Service Center at 719-561-5300.

Directions to the collection site:  From the intersection of Thatcher Blvd. (Highway 96) and Pueblo Boulevard, go west on Highway 96 for approximately 2.75 miles to Reservoir Road; turn right and travel 0.10 miles to the archery range parking lot and place the trees in the area marked by signs.

End press release

ColoradoCasters supports this effort so much that I am offering 1,000 Mattsabasser points for anyone who turns their tree in to be recycled as opposed to simply dumping it off on the curb for the trash guys. 5,000 Mattsabasser points will be awarded to anyone who donates their tree to a specific wildlife program like the one mentioned above. A whopping 25,000 Mattsabasser points will be awarded to any individual that organizes a group tree collection in their neighborhood, workplace, etc and manages to turn five trees or more into any recycling program.

Legal disclaimer: Mattsabasser points cannot be legally redeemed anywhere for cash, prizes or even fishing tips. They are pretty much worthless but people tend to be more motivated if they win something.

Good luck and good fishing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cold Casting Saturday

Doing some early morning casting on Saturday with any open water I can find. The plan was to tackle a slice of tailwater before the reality of the warm weather report had a chance to materialize and play itself out. Weather like this in December can draw a heavy crowd. We could get in early and deal with some cold or have to deal with a bit of angling traffic. What Don and I didn’t expect was single digit temps for the start up.

For some reason the 40-degree high with very little wind forecast lulled me into a false sense of security and a mere two-layer setup. My eyes briefly glanced at the low temps predicted for this area but didn’t take notice. The bright yellow\orange icon on the Internet weather report suckered me in. It wasn’t until the morning gear up and ride up the mountain when reality set in.

“This is going to be a cold @#$%!”

The truck was parked in predawn light and left to talk to alien space ships (yes, I drove again on this trip). Our breath formed billowing clouds as we cursed Father Winter and wished for the sun to make an early appearance. Working the gear felt like reaching into a bag of pins and needles. Movement was limited and every cast came with some element of pain. Half the morning was spent with gloves on warming the fingers and the other half was spent fishing while wishing I had the gloves back on.

(Above: Sorry for the grimace. I would be happier if my hands weren’t dipped in the water before grabbing this fish. Not a trophy fin-slapper but it will have to do.)

The open water congregates ducks and there seemed to be a few hundred. These mallard and hen combos were churning up the bottom with their beaks in a complete fervor. At times the activity would brown up the water and foul up the rig. This would force me to pry off the gunk off with my fingers. At times the gunk would freeze up on the knot so hard that I would have to dig the pliers from my pocket.

(Above: Small cluster of web-footed waddlers. For the first part of the morning ducks were the only things active. Ten feet in either direction offered another group.)

In between duck clusters and cold weather curses I did manage to get a few nibbles and even a fish or two in the common slot. With more effort I could have tempted and most likely missed the big fish, which typically happens to me on this stretch for no good reason. Unfortunately hooking up with a fish also requires the release of said fish. In an effort to minimize handling damage my hands are wetted before touching the fin-slapper. This helps prevent the removal of the slimy layer on a fish’s body that acts a bit like an immune system. This small act of altruism may help the fish but this time of year it tends to make my fingers turn bright red with pain.
(Above: Quite a few shots on this trip turned out grainy from poor light and others unacceptable. Hopefully my one or two avid readers will forgive the shameless double posting pics of the same fish.)

By the time I reached the 18th hole on this stretch my fingers felt like they had been smashed routinely with a meat tenderizer. Don and I had to take longer and longer breaks from casting. One of my rods was iced up like an icicle where as the other one was not picking up any bites. This is where I decide to switch up and put the hot creature pattern on the one working stick left. As soon as I trim the lure Don says something I have never heard him say before.

“Let’s go grab a cup of coffee. My fingers stopped working an hour ago.”

I didn’t even finish tying up. We rounded up our gear and the shards of our sanity before finding the trail that lead over the bridge and back to the truck. Turn the key, engine turns over and we head out to find a coffee shop. Stumbling across the Egg & I we roll in for breakfast. Wrapping our hands around a steaming cup of coffee helped bring our fingers back to life.

(Above: Here is a shot leaving with the sun looking like it’s all nice and perfect. This is how a lot of spots look as I am leaving and everyone else is going in. Sometimes my planning works and sometimes it doesn’t.)

In closing I have to admit that some trips are not planned to hit the water at the prime time but more towards avoiding a stampede. By noon this area is typically full and you have to wait to fish in some sections. Rather than taking a number and waiting we chose to brave the early conditions and froze our @#%’s off. An angler with better planning and more patience might have done better. The things I need most are not sold in tackle stores.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best brown of 2011…almost didn’t post this

(Above: A magnificent brown trout and one of my best. No tape, no weight and it went back after this shot. Possibly one of my best brown trout ever and my vote for best fish of the year. Caught this fish back in October and almost didn’t post it up at all.)

It was one of those moments when the fish came up from the deep to chase the lure and I could see the fish before he made the strike. My fingers were on the reel handle keeping just enough tension to keep the lure dancing in the strike zone while holding my breath in the October air.

Bump, bump. The fish is curious more than hungry and willing to play rather than commit. I lift the rod tip giving the lure a faster motion in the water. Just like some dogs chase cars, most big fish chase anything that runs. A slight tease on the lure makes the fish more interested and the next thump puts a heavy tug on the line. The fight seemed to last forever. Land the fish and Don is right there covering the photo op. Without a doubt this is one of my better shameless bragging fish photos…Don, you are the best!

This fish hit the bleeding gold spinner bug. One of the few that have even bothered giving this color a second look this year. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to hunt through the box looking for the hot pattern. All it takes sometimes is to throw that one pattern that one big fish is willing to hit.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ST. Vrain…soon to be fracked up!

There comes a point when you have to ask the question, “Are you managing parks or mineral exploration?”

I thought when we merged the Colorado Division of Wildlife with Colorado State Parks that the selling out to the mineral crowd would stop. Instead the proposals and projects are popping up all over the place.

Link and article from the Reporter Herald which is a local paper out of Loveland Colorado.

FORT COLLINS -- Colorado State Parks is considering getting into the mineral business with two possible oil wells at St. Vrain State Park near Longmont.
Officials are looking at the best -- and least harmful to the environment -- way to tap mineral resources under the state park before a private company beats them to the well.
"The resources are going to be drilled anyway," said Theo Stein, spokesman for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

"Resources can be reached from outside the state park."
Instead, wildlife commissioners hope to permit two wells on the boundaries of the park with drilling only in the fall -- the least intrusive time to nesting birds and visitors.
"I think it is important folks understand we are looking at a unique situation here," said Bob Streeter, commission member from Fort Collins. "We're not making a broad recommendation about mineral development in state parks. We're moving forward to make sure we maintain control of the process."

St. Vrain State Park is located just off Interstate 25 at Colorado 119 on the site of former gravel mines. The 604 acres boast ponds, fishing, wildlife and camping.
And underneath the land is oil. Unlike other state parks, the state actually owns 439 acres of mineral rights below the park, giving it the opportunity to tap that resource and make an estimated $400,000 per year. The money, according to project staff, would help an already strapped state parks and wildlife system.

But, according to the wildlife commission at a meeting in Fort Collins this week, the proposal is about more than the money. It is also about drilling in the least harmful way to the environment because officials say if the state doesn't drill, a private company will.
The resources could be accessed from neighboring land, and if that happened, the state would have no say on when or how much or how to mitigate environmental issues.
The process itself, however, could cause some environmental concern. The horizontal drilling procedure the state is looking at entails fracking -- a practice the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday may have caused groundwater pollution.

Wildlife commissioners expressed concern about fracking, which experts assured them was safe, as well as harm to wildlife, water and the land. However, they authorized parks staff to keep looking at the possibility and how to mitigate any issues.
The state hopes to apply for a drilling permit within the next few months from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission with hopes of drilling by next winter.
This would be the second state park to have wells drilled but the only one in which the state owns the mineral rights.

"It's unlikely this will set a precedent because (state parks) do not own a lot of mineral rights," Stein added.

Pamela Dickman can be reached at 669-5050, ext. 526, or

 St. Vrain is one of the state’s top 5 visited destinations in the cadre of Colorado State Parks properties that just so happens to have a sizeable oil deposit. Rather than have a private firm go through the permitting\public approval process, State Parks would prefer to run the show by contracting out to a 3rd party for control and maximum profit. The contracting agency will be labeled the bad guy if anything goes wrong and when fracking happens near water it is never the same again. If State Parks can do this here, they can do it just about anywhere.

Over the last few years I have seen State Parks sell out and do more harm in regards to the land they manage. I thought the merging of the parks would end this lunacy…now it seems to only have given them more power, more ambiguity and the public still is in the dark as to what this State Parks agency’s goal really is.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The power of Triangulation

Triangulation is a method of defining the unknown by measuring parts of a triangle. Once upon a time I worked with a great engineer by the name of Eduardo that used what he calls ‘the power of triangulation’ as a philosophy for his engineering.

“Mattd, ju need to berdify eberything by as leasd thhdree pointds before ju can zay id iz tdrue.”

His accent was heavy and irresistible to a number of women. At times Eduardo resembled a younger, Spanish version of Sean Connery. He more or less elaborated on the basic premise of triangulation but I have since adopted this theory to my fishing.

Take a common fishing question such as “what do I target and where?” In Colorado there are many species of fish and a lot of different factors can control fishing success. Through the power of triangulation you can whittle down numerous opportunities to help identify the best species and location increasing your chances to catch fish.

Factoring in aspects such as time of year and varying species facts will help greatly in determining what type of fish to go after at any particular season. Cold-water species generally do better in water that is below sixty-five degrees and warm-water species generally thrive in water temperatures above that. Breeding cycles and feeding behaviors for each species will vary so the more knowledge you have about each species the more advantage you have year round.
(Above: My feeble illustration of this theory applied to fishing. If you wish to make the adventure more challenging, this triangulation method is reversed to provide the most difficult opportunities.)

The next unknown factor to be solved is “where do we fish?” A few basic location facts (the types of species that are in there for example) will go a long way in regards to making the best location choice. Comparing your location facts against items A and B will reduce a lot of the guesswork allowing you to focus on certain places, at particular times targeting a specific species. 

This may sound like I am overcomplicating a very simple process, which is true at first. However, as you add more factors the triangulation becomes more intense. Let’s take a look at one of my triangulation formulas solving for a few unknowns on a recent trip. I am showing most of my work on this one and the trip actually went ok.
The point of this post is to help folks plan better trips by looking at various angles during the fish trip planning process. The better you strategize the better the chances even if things don’t go as planned.

Good luck and good fishing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fishin' the blizzard

“Wind and snow blowing sideways I cast out and WHAM, big brown…big as a pirate’s peg leg and angry as all get out…” The yarn unfolds as my voice clamors on. For no good reason I love to exaggerate weather conditions even more than fish size. The weather wasn’t exactly a blizzard but after a few beers it just might be the worst storm I have ever seen.
(Above: Feet and hands shoved in freezing water for a big fish in blizzard conditions. Must fish.)

The moments are rare when I stick the landing on a large fish. More often than not my hands will make that crucial mistake at the worst possible time costing me the best catch of the day. However there are times when I get lucky and a decent fish comes to the hand. Thankfully there was just enough luck left in the bag to land this fish.

Normally I shorebang this stretch for small fish or nothing but on a sun shine only on a dog’s butt day I practically dive right in it seems. Both feet, both hands in the drink I somehow pull off a beauty solo photo op. Then cast at least four or five more times before reality and frostbite set in completely.

“…Didn’t need a net. I just picked the fish up with my hands after swimming around with it for a while.”

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic

Monday, December 5, 2011

Craziest story of 2011: My truck talks to outer space

Reach the trailhead with my trusty Pathfinder vehicle, grab the gear, shut the doors and lock up. A faint ringing noise comes from the engine compartment. Don quickly looks up at me.
“You hear that noise? What the $%^ is that?”
“Oh that is just my truck.”
The faint ringing suddenly gets a bit louder and starts going “Brrrrrrr….wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii….yooooop…brrrrrrr.” (That is the best I can explain it using human language). This isn’t a very loud noise like a car’s alarm mind you but more of a subtle humming electronic sound. Then the door locks pop up for no reason unlocking the doors. Don thought I had installed a remote switch and was just messing with him. Of course I reacted like this was simply business as usual. A few seconds later the truck locks the doors again while I am carrying; two fishing rods, a tackle bag and what is left of my sanity from a hard week at the office. Don once again looks at me with question and concern.
“Are you sure that is normal? Are we going to make it out of here?” Don stopped gearing up as the level of concern grew in his voice.  
“We’re good.” My head gave a steadfast yup-nod. "My truck just talks to outer space sometimes.” This is the only answer that my feeble skills and prodding have come up with. “The locking dealio is a short somewhere in the electronics. Replaced the door switch thinking that was it.”
Don gave me another concerned stare with his head cocked sideways and started moving down the trail. “If you say so. But you are carrying me home if not cuz I aint walking 70-miles.”
We fished the stretch and did “ok”, not great. Just ok. Get back to the vehicle and unlock the doors. The engine starts up with one turn of the key. Breathing a deep sigh of relief inside I give Don that nod of overwhelming confidence that was a complete façade.
“See? We’re good.” I said with a straight face. “One of these days though aliens are going to suck that truck up for no good reason and zip off to outer space.”
This was at one time a great 4wheel drive vehicle on many levels. Over the years I have more or less settled on finding as much value in the “already driven” section as opposed to brand spanking new in the 6cyl arena. This means scanning ads and sometimes subjecting myself to used car dealers. Then sadly over the years I beat the piss out of whatever I buy. Certain things I am strict on such as oil changes, new tires and fixing things before they become a problem. Nearly a hundred thousand miles have been put on this rig with roughly 6K and some change into it. The thing still runs great but getting too rough around the edges even for me. I am in the market for something else.
“This truck won’t run forever or maybe even another year.” I say with a bit of nostalgia in my throat. “Besides the fact aliens are probably going to snatch this thing up any minute.”
Good luck and good fishing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fishing the Wishbone and then some

Some waters fall into my fishing calendar only on a seasonal basis. The wishbone is one of those places that I like to hit when conditions make things pretty darn difficult to get in. I call this section of water the Wishbone for the fact that two rivers come together at one point and sort of looks like a wishbone when you stand at the shoreline giving things a first look. There are a lot of water wishbones in Colorado and I do my best to fish them with high expectations.
(Above: Here is a shot of Don crossing the river in two-rod mode. One slip here can put a damper on the rest of your day.)

Conditions were crisp but reasonable for November. Ice formed on the edges of the river in some spots waiting silently to shred a pair of waders of the folks that don’t step lightly. Crossing the river and following the trail in you can’t help admire the snow-covered landscape. Reaching the water I throw a few casts and immediately start battling ice up in the twenty-degree weather. No bites, no follows so I start moving upstream. Similar to the T, water is very low making this section very difficult to hold fish. After a few no-go casts I decide to move down leaving this area for the hooded, ninja-style angler making his way down from the upper trailhead. Honestly I detest fighting for water and enduring the hard stairs of other anglers especially when other sections are available.

In the lower stretch I am casting at rocks and through any deep water that is present. A thick shelf of ice clung to the far side of the river. I toss a brown and yellow spinner bug onto the ice about a foot away form the edge. The bug is then retrieved across the shelf and dropped off the edge to the bottom of the river. The rod tip is raised and the art of retrieval begins. The rocks offered nothing but the ice shelf produced a few hits.
(Above: Respectable fish number one. This is not a huge fish mind you but respectable for this stretch.)

After an hour and two fish (yes, action was a bit slow) other anglers moved into the stretch all around us. Don and I had worked most of the section by now so we decided to move on. The next spot of water fished is often dubbed “The Front” and as water levels drop this section becomes more viable. I am sticking with my usual patterns but I look over to see Don in high experimentation mode. He would cast the spin, then cast the fly and then re-tie up both. Thirty minutes later he was into the fish. First one, then another and then another.

“Man, you are on fire! What are you slinging?” I ask ready to switch up in a heartbeat.

“Sandbar. The fish are stacked on it.” He replies with what almost looked liked a satisfied grin on his otherwise grizzled face.

With that tidbit of knowledge I cast at the tip of the sandbar and immediately get bit by a “lemonade” brown trout. It is fascinating how much the color can vary on this species of fish. For an extra bonus the fish was very docile for the photo op.
(Above: Sweet hold on a lemonade fish. This is one of my solo shots that turned out fairly well. Better late than never I guess.)

The fish goes back into the drink and a few minutes later the bite in this stretch goes to zero. With a lot of daylight remaining Don and I start going over the remaining options. With great pondering we choose a section deemed “terrible” by most. This is a stretch we have never tried before and just so happens to be the back door to the Orc section.
(Above: This is a shot of Don walking into the Plan B. The cliff dive is not as treacherous compared to what I am used to.)

The water for this stretch is typically shallow but even more so now. Hopefully we would be able to find a few fish in the scattered pockets. Travel on shore was difficult and a complete bushwack scenario. Wading was more or less a slippery mess with no action whatsoever. We did our best to walk our way into the Orc section but our legs didn’t have enough juice.

“I could probably make it in but not sure about the getting out part.” Don and I both spoke in subtle realization before making the long arduous hike out.

Our legs tingled from exertion as we removed waders and sat down for what may have been the first time in hours. Even though we didn’t catch any fish on the Plan B, being able to explore more of the area was greatly satisfying. Anytime you remove curiosity and the unknown, the closer you are to future success.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.