Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Exaggeration Factor: One story = 10 feet

Fishing stories generally come with some level of exaggeration. No one likes to stretch a good fish yarn more than yours truly but I feel that a percentage of legitimacy is lost when you stretch things too much along the way. The art of telling a good story can only be made believable if it is met with honesty, the more honesty the better. Tweaking a few details here and there for various reasons may be acceptable or even prudent depending on the detail itself. Push the story too far and an angler could lose their “water-cred” which actually means quite a bit to even a shameless fish bragger like me. So how far can one push a single fish story before it can be considered complete hogwash. According to my research the answer is ten feet.

At first this may seem like too simple of answer but in most cases one story equals ten feet. What matters most is the quality of layers and overall construction of the story itself. If you tell only one story it is not as crucial I guess but if you tell many stories it is best to keep things as tried and true as possible. Keeping the entire story within a ten-foot margin helps establish just where we draw the line as a teller of the story. I will be the first to say that I have embellished a fish tale now and then. Hopefully I have stayed within the ten-foot range even after a few beers.

In par with my level of research on the subject, I will toss out some of my rules on exaggeration.

  1. Be as accurate as possible in regards to size and weight of fish. Downplay the stats if there is any doubt.
  2. Don’t highly exaggerate facts about wind, weather, water temps, etc unless people can obviously deduce the level of fiction being used.
  3. Don’t try to pass of “false-facts” that can be easily verified. Not sure why people still do this but I still see it from time to time.
  4. Humility is easier to swallow from a reader’s point of view. So it helps if you don’t come across sounding like some self-serving butt wad. Hopefully my shameless bragging is closer to a spoonful of self-humility than some of the rubbish on the Internet.
  5. Doctoring photos leads to doubt. I am guilty of doing this myself in attempt to cover certain landmarks or features in the background. But I fully accept some viewers will notice and water-cred may be lost.
Maybe a bad example of a post will explain this a little better.

“Caught a huge rainbow trout on the tenkara rod the other day. This fish is eighteen inches and well over a pound or maybe even two. Thing fought like a brick @#$& house until I swam half a mile upstream to net the fish. Guess that makes me the best angler ever!”

(Above: In reality this is may be a twelve-inch fish at best and you guys know I don’t have a tenkara rod. Lying about swimming upstream half a mile definitely violates the 10-foot rule and Colorado has a lot of great anglers. Most of them are way better than me. True story.)

Good luck and good fishing

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A little casting work on the Mayhem section

There I was scrambling for a Saturday cast and grab situation when one of those crazy insurance commercials pops up on the tube and cable box combo. The premise of the commercial is this character they call “Mayhem” and he somehow finds ways to make your life a living hell. Sorting through the tackle the man’s voice is a blur of background noise until he says, “...and protect yourself from mayhem like me.” 

And there it was, inspiration for a fishing spot. “Yes. That is it!” I blurt out in jubilation tossing aside the bass bag and grabbing the trout gear. “I’ll try the Mayhem section again.”

The evening rains have added a bit of drought relief on some of the smaller waters making this a better choice than the usual bass haunts. So I made my way up the old highway to work a few morning casts. Hopefully it would be worth the quick get in and out leaving enough time for afternoon chores. Traveling the winding road my eyes spot favorable water conditions and a few cars already on some of the better-looking areas.

My guess on the color\pattern was the same as it has been for the last month or so for this water. I pondered tying on a few other things but decided to go with what has been working lately. First cast and a brown trout swipes at the lure resulting in a miss hookset. Cast back and this time the small spin-bug gets a solid taker. Land the fish close to shore and do the quick picture and release. Cast out and land another one almost an exact copy of the first.

“Didn’t I just see you?” I laugh reaching down with the pliers for some no-pic\no touch release action.

The action cools in the pool so I move on. Careful footing is required as I make my way over the tough rock section downstream to a series of rollover dams that result from highway construction taking place way back in the day. There is no dirt or sandy shoreline here. It is all rock and the travel can be treacherous at times. Some of the nooks and crannies can be decent fishing if left alone. A few casts were made with the spin and then a few casts made on the fly. The water was very swift so I tied on a brass head nymph, #16 because it was heavy. Bringing the third or fourth cast back toward me I let the nymph run along the edge of the rocks with about two feet of water (a lot for this place).

Out of nowhere a dark streak takes the fly with some aggressive mouth bite. Thank goodness too because I would have missed the hookset on this fish for sure. Instead my hand lifted the rod as my face tried to keep that expression that says, “I was expecting that to happen”. The fish turned out to be a splake. Didn’t know they were even in here. The fish was absolutely spastic by the way and did not want its photo taken in the slightest. Really I was happy to get any shots at all.

The rest of the spot turned up nothing. Moved down to a few other areas that are known for beautiful casting and the occasional fish. In some of these areas an angler can wade in a foot of wet to reach a lot of shimmering surface water. This water is so gorgeous that you want to fish it whether you catch anything or not.

Two guys were just walking out but I just couldn’t help myself. Cast, cast…nothing. Change up and make a few more throws. As gorgeous as this place was, the action was gone. I took a few moments to soak in the beauty while taking a few pictures and then moving on.

The sound of traffic grew louder and louder on the old highway with the passing of time. By noon and especially on the weekends the number of folks in the canyon increases greatly. There may even be a few folks who like to do things other than fish. You know stuff like hiking, sightseeing and even gambling somewhere along this “two-wagons wide” asphalt trail. The sound of the cars going by every other second tells me that time is running out. Take the truck down a few hundred feet and look to pick another pocket of creek water. This time I get the first fish that hits instead of missing the strike. Probably just got lucky. Took a few more swipes at a few other spots and then went home to tackle the to-do list.

In closing I have to say this was a decent numbers situation on a half-day fish. The splake was a surprise and by noon the crowds were set on most of the water. Gold spin bug did most of the catching and got no love on the minnow pattern. Had to mix it up a little on the fly situation but it paid off in “splake”. Early in the year I fished this section and did terrible. Maybe the monsoon rains helped action pick up a bit. It is also likely that the infamous slump of 2012 kept me nabbing a single bite on this stretch in March.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Colorado Parks and Wildlife to breed muskellunge in Longmont's Burch Lake

By Scott Rochat Longmont
LONGMONT -- Burch Lake is about to become muskie territory. But don't reach for that rod.
These fish aren't for catching.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife plans to use the Longmont lake to start its first breeding population of the large, ugly fish known as muskellunge. The lake itself is off-limits to public fishing, but the fish in it will be used to breed tiger muskies, which will then be stocked in lakes and reservoirs across Colorado.

Tiger muskies are a popular sporting fish in the state, a hybrid of muskellunge and northern pike. But they're a sterile hybrid, which means Colorado has to import the fish from other states -- when it can.

"Our main source is Pennsylvania and their brood stock has a disease,"

said Ben Swigle, an aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "We haven't been able to import their tiger muskies for five years now. So we want to breed our own fish, so we don't have to rely on that situation."

It can take four or five years for a muskellunge female to mature, Swigle said, so it'll be a while before the state knows whether this has paid off.
"There's no guarantee this is going to work," he said, "but we'll give it a shot."
Several shots, actually. One muskellunge female can produce around 20,000 eggs for every two pounds of body weight. So when the time comes, the wildlife division will only have to catch one or two in a season to satisfy the statewide demand. The fish will be taken from the lake to an offsite hatchery, along with northern pike from another site, so that the eggs can be fertilized and incubated.
Burch lake is owned by the Oligarchy Irrigation. The city holds a majority share of the company.
State wildlife authorities plan to start with 1,500 muskellunge. Because of the drought, stocking will wait until after irrigation season, likely not beginning until late fall.
There's also going to be a little work needed to get ready for Burch's newest residents -- namely, some screening of the reservoir's outlet to make sure the fish can't leave on their own.
"The last thing we want is for the fish to get into our waterways," said Dan Wolford, Longmont's parks, open space and greenways manager.
Muskellunge would be considered a primary predator in almost any Colorado waters, Swigle said. However, he said, the risk of escape is already low and the fish don't have good spawning areas east of Longmont -- the region is too warm and doesn't have enough vegetation.
Swigle emphasized that leaving the muskellunge in Burch Lake alone now will mean much better fishing everywhere later. On top of that, he said, would-be poachers might find themselves with a tougher task than they realize, even if they do evade the lake's "neighborhood watch."
"They are known as a fish of five thousand casts," Swigle chuckled.
Scott Rochat can be reached at 303-684-5220  FREE 303-684-5220 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or

Sunday, August 12, 2012

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.”

Still Fire Season

(Above: Even with the seasonal rain we are still having fires pop up here and there. Most of these small burns have been started from “dry lightning” and quickly put out by an awesome fire fighting force. This force is constantly improving and doesn’t stop looking for better ways to fight fires as well as prevent them from happening in the first place. Even though the fire bans have lifted for the most part, we still need to stay vigilant year round it seems.)

Dickey Moe

(Above: This is a fish I have chased unsuccessfully for years and it still haunts one of my old bass ponds. The ghost-like image is unmistakable and easy to spot. Somewhere along the line I have dubbed this fish “Dickey Moe” from the old Tom and Jerry cartoon that more or less parodies the classic tale if Moby Dick.)

Colorado Surfin’

(Above: Colorado is an innovator of outdoor sports and every time you turn around there is something new. Colorado may not have an ocean but we do offer some types of surfing for the long, flat board crowd. Or maybe this kayaker is extremely confused.)

Rescued Cicadas

(Above: While fishing a metro lake near a large patch of open space, I see a large bug on the water’s surface. Watching the bug struggling for several moments without getting eaten compassion gets the better of me and I rescue it. Within a few minutes its wings were dry and flew into a nearby tree. It still would have been cool to see this bug get smacked off the top of the water by a fish.)

Tigers with a Swallow Tail

(Above: Doing some Sunday morning chores and I spot a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly taking a leisurely sun-soak right in the middle of the road. The moisture of the drying puddle and residual minerals drew it to the area. I tried several times to move it over to the grass but each attempt was for naught. The winged marvel returned to the evaporating pool in the middle of the road.)

This summer has been nothing short of amazing. Amazingly tough at times and there have been a few moments where I have been amazingly fortunate. It also should be noted that the blogger community and folks that have visited my blog have been nothing short of amazing as well. Thank you so much for your views, comments and rates. This blog is fueled by your support. 

Good luck and good blogging.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Care for the Creek

The summer season comes with abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. For fishaholics this time of year also comes with heavy traffic on the water. Unfortunately this additional traffic comes with some collateral damage.

The scene above is regularly found on the kayak section of Clear Creek in downtown Golden during the peak activity periods of summer. As you can see the “pack your trash” policy has been replaced with “just leave it anywhere”. You have no idea how much this angers and saddens me. It also trumpets the shortsightedness of some people in regards to the outdoors. All things considered maybe those folks should have just stayed home. By August I am looking forward to a lot of this traffic going to back to school.

The full situation here is not all bad and it helps to realize that the good folks of this world vastly outnumber the bad. Wind and not humans may be the larger contributor of trash overall on my fishing spots. The other bright spot of this story is that many people help minimize the blight left by those unscrupulous others. In fact, the entire parks and recreation staff of Golden comes out Saturday and Sunday during the peak recreational days to mitigate the damage shown above. Emptying overflowing trashcans, collecting discarded refuse and even removing graffiti in some cases. Countless hours are spent on this effort along a two-mile area. When it is all said and done they will fill at least one dump truck and partially fill another. Hats off to you folks! And for shame on those that do not pack out their own crap.

As a friendly reminder to help folks care for the creek and other natural areas I will add a few ideas that go a long ways in regards to removing\eliminating trash. These are things most of us regard as common sense but a refresher never hurts. Unfortunately the people that leave trash don’t read my blog.

  1. Don’t pack it in if you can’t pack it out. View public trashcans as a last option as opposed to your primary dumping point. Animals, wind and hobos may simply redistribute this refuse from these receptacles resulting in a futile effort along with a worse situation.
  2. Pick up what you can when you can. This is so important and if enough momentum was gathered on this one concept, we would see so much less trash. If you see discarded refuse on the ground and simply complain…you are part of the problem. Having a few small grocery bags on hand makes the quick trash grab an easy option.
  3. If you think parks and outdoor spaces are your personal property to trash, maybe you should just stay home.   

In closing I might suggest that these “Get Outside” campaigns come with a little bit of education, conservation and common sense. If I catch another little vandal desecrating an outdoor facility I may just spank the parent.

Good luck fishing and please care for the creek

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Forgot the bass bag-caught fish on the rebound

Air temp: Low-56, High 94 degrees
Water temp: 75 degrees (guestimated)
Water Clarity: medium algae stain\visibility fair\poor
Wind: Calm most of the day, gusts averaged 10-15mph

This has not been my best year to be sure. The fact I have shown up a few times at the water with less than everything intended doesn’t help. One time I forgot my tooner frame, one time I forgot the wagon and on this trip I show up without the friggen tackle bag. Definitely something this Mattsabasser will never live down. Tell Don what happened and he just laughs then opens up his tackle bag.

Sort through the assortment and realize there is nothing quite like having your favorites. Nothing he has seems to match what I like to throw. Thankfully in the very corner of the bag my eyes spot the grubs. The same ones used on a lot of my combos and also fished plain Jane weighted or even weightless. A skirted jig was still tied on from the last trip so the knot was doubled up and I threw for all it was worth. This would be a great story if that were how things actually happened. That is the story I want to tell you. Unfortunately I didn’t find the grubs until asking about them a few hours later. I spent the first few hours struggling with colors completely foreign to me. Once I got my hands on the grubs it was all over. It was like a whole new game and I started slamming fish on a rebound situation.

The first fish was a brute and came from a patch of wood structure. The same wood structure that Don “killed it” on early in the AM. At least he saved me one sturdy bucket mouth bass. The trick was swimming the jig over the top of the structure to avoid a snag. Definitely risky business running a heavy bait through a clump of fallen trees. The tackle bag has three of these and with a backup or two I would have been able to do more of a bump and run retrieve. Having only one jig my game was going to be a little more finesse and a lot more fear.

Weed through a couple of dinks and then hook into another sturdy bucket. This time I was casting at a flat clump of moss anchored between the middle of the lake and the shoreline. Heavy baits can attract a lot of attention from filamentous algae and I consider this to be the Achilles Heal of this lure type. Not having to deal with wood or rocks in this section means things could be a lot worse. Practically every cast required a cleaning of the lure by the time it came back.

The last sturdy bucket came off of the cattails. One cast to the edge and wham! A large boil hits the water surface and the dance is on. My hand cups the drag as I literally bully the fish away from the cattails and into open water. Let the fish run a few seconds and then guide it to the hand. The colors were extremely dark green and sported a slight mark from a previous catch. Twice in one week means that a few folks are willing to toss a big fish back in hopes of keeping the sport of bass fishing alive.  That is all a Mattsabasser can ask for.

Some key points of the day were: Determination, structure fishing and confidence. When all three of these elements are on fire…I could fish a mud puddle with a cheese sandwich and catch fish. Don also gets a huge amount of appreciation for saving my bacon with some gear. I didn’t need much but it was all the difference in the world.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thousands of fish die as Midwest streams heat up

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Thousands of fish are dying in the Midwest as the hot, dry summer dries up rivers and causes water temperatures to climb in some spots to nearly 100 degrees.

About 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon were killed in Iowa last week as water temperatures reached 97 degrees. Nebraska fishery officials said they've seen thousands of dead sturgeon, catfish, carp, and other species in the Lower Platte River, including the endangered pallid sturgeon. And biologists in Illinois said the hot weather has killed tens of thousands of large- and smallmouth bass and channel catfish and is threatening the population of the greater redhorse fish, a state-endangered species.

So many fish died in one Illinois lake that the carcasses clogged an intake screen near a power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the station had to shut down one of its generators.

"It's something I've never seen in my career, and I've been here for more than 17 years," said Mark Flammang, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "I think what we're mainly dealing with here are the extremely low flows and this unparalleled heat."

The fish are victims of one of the driest and warmest summers in history. The federal U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states are experiencing some form of drought, and the Department of Agriculture has declared more than half of the nation's counties — nearly 1,600 in 32 states — as natural disaster areas. More than 3,000 heat records were broken over the last month.

Best Bucket of 2012…almost didn’t post this

Running the jig along the bottom with small hops that go thump, thump, thump under the water and feel something on the end of the line. Set the hook on what seemed to be a sizeable rock or maybe a heavy log. Before my brain starts to lament the snagging of my hook the line runs off to the north and the rod tip folds over.

“What…Fish?” is sort of what I recall saying as my hand does a quick double check on the drag and then loosens it up a little more whole holding my breath.

Many times the big fish doesn’t bite or I lose the fish when it finally does hit from out of nowhere. So many mistakes. So many haunting nightmares. But just like that old rule about sun shining on a dog’s butt once in a while, this Mattsabasser might put the landing on a big fish. As this brute bucket fin slapper spun the boat around I sat patiently on the drag playing the energy straining resistance game. As soon as it made a run for the top I made my move. The reel handle was spun as fast as I could pulling the fish right to me. Kneeling down on the wooden deck of my tooner it wasn’t long before the white-green flash could be seen moving towards the boat. Before the fish could break the surface my hand was under the water to great it. Never saw it coming.

This particular fish may round out the bottom of my all time Colorado bassin’ top ten list. No weight, no tape and that is just how I like it. Length would have been ok I guess but that eats up “time out of water” for the fish. Weight? That would have just disappointed me as this fish would have registered around four pounds and an utter disappointment. For shameless bragging purposes it might be better to say “I dunno” and let a few folks think it may go as high as five or six pounds. If tourney money was involved or the fish was closer to the top of my all time list then maybe those stats might be important. I just want to fish and the fish isn’t any better off by knowing how long it is or hearing how much it weighs. Best way to make this fish bigger is to get ‘er back quick. 

The shot was taken by Don who should get way more credit for a large number of my fish photos over the years. Minus one point for the extra forward hold on my part but really I can’t help myself most of the time. I am also borrowing the title from a previous brown trout post that tops my Most Popular Post section. Honestly I never know which post will become more popular than the next to viewers of this crazy ol fishing blog.

Oh and before ending this post I might suggest that running fishing lures in the bathtub with your head under the water is a clear sign of fishaholicism. However this has greatly improved my jig game.

My name is Matt and I finally catch a no Ho Hum fish!


DENVER - Colorado Parks and Wildlife has selected 11 projects to improve fishing around the state that will share in nearly a million dollars in matching funds as part of the 2012 "Fishing is Fun" grant cycle. Projects receiving funding this year include a partnership with the City of Pueblo to improve seven miles of aquatic habitat on the Arkansas River through Pueblo.

The Pueblo project is a continuation and enhancement of the Arkansas River Legacy Habitat Improvement Project that was completed in 2005. That earlier project resulted in the development of a high-quality trout fishery in the Pueblo metropolitan area. The new project will provide for in-stream habitat improvements from Pueblo Reservoir downstream to Dutch Clark Stadium.

"This is an important project for a section of river that has been recognized as one of the Top 10 trout fisheries in the United States," said Doug Krieger, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Senior Aquatic Biologist for the Southeast Region. "We're pleased to team up with the City of Pueblo, the Southern Greenback Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Xcel Energy and the Packard Foundation to get this work done.

Other projects receiving funding include habitat work on the South Platte River in Denver, expansion of a community fishing pond in Kiowa County, aeration of Waneka Lake in Lafayette, an effort to build an ADA-accessible fishing platform on the Arkansas River at Canon City and projects to improve angler access to Clear Creek, the Swan River, Upper South Boulder Creek, Idaho Creek, the inlet to Lake San Cristobal in Lake City and three ponds in Loveland.

Five of the programs receiving funding are supported by non-profit fishing organizations. Major partners on the projects include six municipal and county governments, Denver Water, U.S. Forest Service, Union Pacific Railroad, Colorado Open Lands, Trout Unlimited and the Idaho Creek Homeowners Association.

"These funds are one of the ways Colorado Parks and Wildlife works with local governments and local groups to make it possible for more people to enjoy Colorado's incredible fishing opportunities," said Rick Cables, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "Outdoor recreation is a powerful driver for local economies and jointly building these projects is a win for everyone."

A 2008 study by BBC Research and Consulting found that fishing recreation contributes $1.2 billion annually to the state's economy and fishing supports more than 14,000 jobs in Colorado that provide direct and indirect services to anglers. 

The complete list of projects funded in 2012 (with sponsors and amounts) is as follows:
Arkansas River habitat improvements, City of Pueblo, $206,000

Swan River angler access and habitat improvement project, Trout Unlimited, $135,000

Lake San Cristobal Inlet access easement, Colorado Open Lands, $133,000

HP-Agilent access to three new ponds, City of Loveland, $90,000

Construction of up to 15 access points on Clear Creek, Clear Creek County, $80,000

Improve angler access on Upper South Boulder Creek, Boulder Flycasters, $80,000

Improve habitat and access at Grant Frontier Park on S. Platte River, City of Denver, $76,000

Idaho Creek habitat and access improvements, Idaho Creek HOA, $45,000

Arkansas River ADA fishing platform, Canon City, $23,000

Shalberg Pond #2 expansion, Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation, $20,000

Waneka Lake aerator installation, City of Lafayette, $12,000

The Fishing is Fun grant program provides matching funds for projects to improve angler access, fish habitat and angling conditions. During the past 24 years, Fishing Is Fun has provided assistance with more than 270 projects statewide, including projects to open new ponds and lakes, improve fish habitat in streams and rivers and add trails, shade shelters and parking areas. Municipalities, counties, angler groups, and park and recreation departments are among those eligible to apply for community-based projects that will benefit anglers. Complete details on the Fishing Is Fun grant program are available on-line at

Fishing Is Fun funding comes from the sale of fishing licenses and from the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. Projects selected to receive funding are subject to federal reporting, compliance and accounting requirements.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife was created by the merger of Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, two nationally recognized leaders in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management. Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, all of Colorado's wildlife, more than 300 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs. To learn more about Colorado's state parks, please see: To learn more about Colorado's wildlife programs, please see:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mattsabasser Driving to Fish-Tips: Don’t get that stupid song from the radio stuck in your head

Reaching some of the best fishing areas often requires a bit of driving. The journey to and from the fishing hole can be quite perilous. There may be a lot of fishing tips out there but few that offer advice intended to minimize trouble while traveling from Point A to Point B. I shall make an attempt to fill this void with “Driving to Fish-Tips”.

Early morning gear up with a two-cup of coffee slam-down, I grab one for the road at 3AM. Two hours on the road and it is all I can do just to stay awake. Eyes on the road my right hand sets down the coffee mug and fumbles for the radio. Flip threw a few stations before throwing in the mix CD. (I could bring the I-pod but that is just asking for a broken window if I forget to hide the adapter really good). The mix CD burns through about ¾ of the way there. With half an hour left on the road I throw on the radio and scramble to get any station that I can find. Eventually the dial settles on the one station coming in and it happens to be playing top 40. No big deal, right?

Then that one song comes on that haunts me from time to time. Not a bad song, just a song that I am not crazy about after hearing it a few hundred times. Some songs are just like that and if they get stuck in my head it more or less starts creeping into my Chi. the melody and chorus can bleed throughout the mind’s eye clouding focus crucially needed at times. Instead of letting the song play through the first few minutes I should have rammed the truck into the ditch right there and then. Turn the radio off but it is too late. I can hear the song already running through my brain like rampant children in Wal-Mart. Putting the CD back in for play number two didn’t wash the tune out of my head.

Finally get to the trailhead park and gear grab. This is where I load up like a mule for a few miles before reaching the water. Already my mind turns against me and I catch myself humming the song of insanity.

“Hmmm, mmm, da da…oh no.”

Reach the water and only a few casts in my feet start tapping and that stupid song rolls off the tip of my tongue. Immediately I break into meditation mantras and breathing techniques.

“This will not beat me. Not today. Oooooohm. Breathe. Ooooooohm. Breath.”

Tying knots and laying out the casts in a small stretch with modest wind, I had to concentrate explicitly on what I was doing. After moments of stern focus the song seemed pushed out of my mind for good. However when I think that the mental beast is conquered it somehow grows new life. Instead of soaking in the birds chirping and moving water my ears go numb to the melody creeping back into my psyche. Flub a few casts and then close my eyes in attempt to mentally strangle the nerves between my spine and cerebral cortex.

Some anglers have that mind of steel and it practically takes an earthquake or meteor strike to unsettle them once on the water. My uncle Kurt was like that when we lived in Montana. One time he looked at me calm as the flattest water you ever saw, “We should move off of this spot. Looks like that bear wants to move down.”

Man I wish that my brain were so steady under pressure and can be my greatest ally or worst enemy depending on the day (hence my lack of consistency). But this article isn’t about me. This is about how I help you. Before you jam a screwdriver through your radio deck in whatever gets you to the fishing hole…remember to grab a backup mix CD for longer trips.

A good fishing trip will always benefit from fewer problems. Hopefully these Drive to Fish Tips help anglers reach the water and return home to fish once again. Good luck and good fishing.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A hike and fish til you drop post

Dodging forest fires and the occasional monsoon deluge this Mattsabasser decided to grab some trout via a hike til you drop situation. This stretch of canyon offers decent fishing at times and stacks up against anything you can find below the 7,000-foot altitude mark. Still in recovery mode from a recent project, the fishing is “ok” depending on the day or even hour. But isn’t all fishing like that most of the time?

Park the truck at the trailhead and do a time-check. The entire gear up was spent cussing myself for not leaving earlier. It was 8:30AM and already the heat was setting in. A smoky haze leftover from the Waldo Canyon fire hovered over the mountains with a faint smell of ash lingering in the air. Packed light with two bottles of water, one spin and one fly setup, my feet hit the trail.

My plan was to walk up to the dam and fish my way back. Four miles into the hike I couldn’t help myself. First cast is the spin and then I do a few roll casts with the fly rod. The width of this water varies from 15 to 20 feet wide and even my sloppy flip casts are adequate. No takers so I move on. Walking the next two miles my eyes scan the water but do not spot a single fish. This allows a small veil of pessimism to wash over my fishing outlook for the day and expectations. Undaunted however I continue forward. 

“Stick to the plan.” A voice in my head reminds me and my feet get back on the trail.

Hoof past the bait and take area and then the no fish section. Sweat is beating down into my eyes and I am doing my best to ventilate. After a while I simply put my head down and beat feet up the trail.

Eventually I get to a small section that is often passed by. It sits in front of a few rollovers and large pools making it less obvious. A cast gets a look and a follow. Cast back to the spot and miss a hit and run bite on the fly. For no good reason I usually miss the first bite on the fly rod. A few moments pass, cast, flip. Move up slightly and cast again. Just when I am ready to leave the spot a small but sturdy brown hits.

Each casting spot is typically guarded by a small cliff dive in this canyon. Caution and sure footedness is required going to the water in most areas. One slip of the foot will coast some lost skin, scratched gear or worse. I usually have a few close calls and the occasional digger no matter what I do out here. Rattlesnakes are probably my biggest concern. My best rattler photo comes from this canyon stretch by the way.

Probably could have done a better job with the quick pic and go on the shot above. This year I am minimizing the photo time drastically and most of the fish on this trip were not photographed at all. Even when you let the fish go quickly, trout still have to deal with the affects of handling. When water temperatures warm in summer it magnifies the problem.

Moving down to the next casting spot requires a three-point crawl. This would be a perfect place to find a snake by accident. The water is fairly wide and deep for this stretch. Throw a few spin casts and get another brown trout. Only one fish at this spot so after several more casts to make sure, the arduous hike back out begins. Lose a foothold on a dirt-covered rock and I end up doing a small tumble with the gear. That is what I get for trying too hard and not focusing enough on where I put my feet. This is often the doom of an angler on a canyon fish scene. Canyon crawls always have to be made with patience and sure-footedness. Dusting myself off and starting back up the hill a small reminder note on this topic is made. Knees and ankles get a quick quality check once back on the trail and I move on carrying a few new scratches.

Reaching on of the sweet spots I see a number of fresh footprints, pick up some spent line and make a few spin casts. Miss a decent strike. Work the fly rod and even make a few long casts in the wider stretch. Realizing the pool has been seriously worked already today I move on.

By now I am hours and miles into the day. The sun has all but vanished behind the smoky haze and tall mountain ridges. The bottom of my feet started to ache and my leg muscles were burning. Actually they had started burning several miles ago but my brain refused to listen.

“Got to get to the top of the stretch and fish back before it’s too late…oh wait. That is a good spot right there.”

After a few fish I face another climb out situation. Reach the trail and swear to myself that there will be no more fishing until I reach the end of the line. As soon as my mind is made my legs dig in for the hard push up the last mile. But I turn the bend and start making my way down the cliff to fish yet another spot of water. On the way down I notice a cormorant sunning itself on a large rock. It flies away as my foot kicks a small boulder down the cliff by accident with the rest of me nearly tumbling right behind. This is due to fatigue and my legs are not sure if they want to keep going at this point. Work a few casts and pull in another standard Canyon Brown but this one has a small bite taken out just above the tail. Looks like a near miss from that black fish eating bird.

Crawl out practically on my hands and knees. Daylight is fading and I start to curse myself for not sticking to the plan. With the orange sunset closing in I have no choice but to skip the next three spots in order to reach the top. Finally get there and do a time-check. It is far later than expected and now minutes become very precious. The cliff dives are long and the water is deep. I work the area with both presentations. I catch a few smaller fish with the ant and then lose a really decent fish on the spin. The fish was a rainbow trout that leaped nearly two feet out of the water when hooked. In the air the fish spit the hook, laughed at me and then dove back into the drink. Do another time-check and realize I am simply pushing my luck at this point.

“Didn’t stick to the plan. Now we have to leave water behind.” I mumble in exhausted frustration.

Starting the long downhill climb I estimate the trip to take a little over an hour. Hmmm, seven miles in one hour. Clearly I would need to jog or actually do some match to correct my poor estimation. Regardless I reach the bridge, do a time-check as fear sets in.

“You are not going to make it. Parking lot is closed before sunset.”

Envisioning the gatekeeper locking my truck in the parking lot and me arriving too late my pace quickens to more or less a “speed-walk”…for the next six miles.

Legs cramping, no water reserves, I pushed on through the sunset and reached the parking lot as darkness closed in. The gatekeeper arrives as I am loading my gear. Thankfully he sees me and waits as I pull out. Three vehicles get the lock down for the night.

The best success of the day was found at secondary locations that most overlook. In a long stretch of small pools it is hard to know which areas will produce and the ones that will not. However knowing the fact that a lot of anglers “cherry-pick” the best looking spots I make sure to hit the secondary ones with as much fervor as the rest, if not more so.

Disclaimer: This trip was taken early July. It takes me some time to put these longer posts together and it somehow kept getting pushed back further and further. If you recognize the location and have the energy, fish it for all you are worth. If you blab this spot up this year you will destroy it. Trout water is at a premium right now and regulated flows may be our only chance when it comes to a fall trout situation. Keep it secret, keep it safe…just fish!

My name is Matt and I am a fishaholic. If I am not fishing I am thinking about fishing.