Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three for three - batting 1.000!!

As I'm sure many of you already know, I met up with Kari Murray last week. I got late notice that I had to drive from Chicago to St. Paul to hand carry a sample for a meeting. I didn't feel like staying in the Twin Cities metro area on Thursday nite, so I got out my maps (Actually, I pulled up Map Quest). I realized that Kari lived about an hour outside the cities, so I emailed her.

Many of you know, or have surmised, that I travel extensively for work. That's how I get to fit a day in here, and a day in there, all across the country. It's part of the reason that the blog-sphere family has meant so much to me - I know I'll actually get to meet some of these people who share like interests. Granted, I'm usually tied up in the evenings with customers and/or reps, but every once in a while, a day or two free up, and I know I can find a fellow blogger somewhere to share a drink or a bite with. Or, ideally, wet a line.

Since I follow Kari's blog, I knew about her Bucket List. In the e-mail, I asked her if she was available to knock off 2 Bucket List items - the Leinie tour, and meet a blogger. She was available, and we met at the brewery.

It's funny how you have a pre-determined idea about someone before you meet face-to-face. Kari is exactly as I thought she would be, which means she represents herself on her blog very well. She's smart, witty, and brutally honest. I really enjoyed our time spent talking about life, hunting , fishing, families, blogging, ... I did get soaked walking between buildings on the Leinie tour. My fault - didn't bring an umbrella. Unlike Kari, I like at least one of the Leinie beers - the Creamy Dark. By pure coincidence, it is the beer that Casey at Fungal Threads (see My Blog List at the side of the post) did a review on!

Kari at the Leinie Brewery. One stricken from the Bucket List!

The Leinie brewery tour was pretty cool. I don't think I've ever been on a brewery tour before - I have been to the Jack Daniels distillery, but not to a brewery. Our tour guide was great, and it was Kari, me, and one other guy, so you didn't miss anything. And, even though they were "small sipping glasses", the 3 free samples were nice.

Like I mentioned above, dinner with Kari was really just a continuation of talking about everything! It was one of those times when you lose track of time and the conversation just keeps going on and on. I can promise you that, if I don't see Kari again for 4 years, we would pick up just where we left off, and wouldn't miss a beat.

Like the rest of the blog world, I'll continue to follow Kari's adventures (and occasional mis-adventures) on "I Don't Wear Pink Camo". She has - rightfully so - developed a huge following on her blog and will undoubtedly continue to do so. And, if you're one of the lucky few who get to meet her - you'll be better off for having done so.

Number 2 off the List!

So, what is the title of this blog referring to? I've always said that I wanted to meet some of the people I've come to "know" via their blogs. In 2010, I've met with 3 of them, and all the meetings have been better than could be expected. I've met with Kari, mike from Troutrageous, and met (and fished) with Rebecca - the Outdooress. So - I'm 3 for 3, batting 1.000! I look forward to continuing this trend - it makes the time on the road a lot more bearable when you're talking to new friends about fishing!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A quick walk around my ponds

On Saturday, we finished up the list of things to do around 3 pm. the day was markedly cooler than any other recent days - high was only 61. Heavy overcast clouds, and a persistent slight drizzle. A perfect day to stay inside. But...

I had not been on the ponds across the street since I fished during the high water period of August 8th. In fact, I haven't even picked up anything but a fly rod since then. So I figured I'd walk across the street and see what I could find.

My lure selection consisted of: 2 - 1/4 oz. swim jigs, a bag of trailers, 1 buzzbait, 2 small (3/16 oz.) spinnerbaits, 1 2/0 worm hook, and a bag of Strike King Ochos. I started out in the pond I fished during the high water . Nothing. I expected to get some action on the swim jig, or the worm, but struck out on both. I decided to try to lower pond.

Now, this may seem absurd, since I fish all over the country, but in the 7 years I have lived in this house, I have never fished this pond further than 1/4 of the way down the north bank, and not at all on the south side. I don't really know why, but I haven't. I worked this pond down along the north bank, still getting no response to my worm. tried the buzzbait - nada. Finally put on the spinnerbait. Got a short hit casting tight to the bank and parallel to shore. there was not much of a drop off, and the weeds were scattered, so the spinnerbait seemed like a logical search bait. Over the next 45 minutes, I got 6 hits and landed 4 more small largemouth. Nothing over 12". I guess you can't always catch big fish. It seemed like it should be a good day, with the lack of clouds and the drizzle, but it was sporadic at best. i saw what appeared to be a few swirls from (possibly) big bass chasing something, but they showed no interest in anything I had.

It seems like my Fall bass fishing goes like that most of the time. I've had some stellar big fish days, but a lot of skunks, too. Do you find any consistency in Fall bass fishing, particularly in ponds??

Saturday, September 25, 2010

videos from RMNP

I'll give it another try with the videos. I had to break down and open up a YouTube Channel. You know what that means - now I'll have to take more video. And that will take more time - time that I don't have. UGH - sometimes I thik I'm my own worst enemy!

Feel free to throw out some constructive criticism, but remember - these are my first attempts at videos!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why I love Rocky Mountain National Park

Well - what's NOT to love? I know this post may seem odd coming from a flatlander, but it's my blog, so here it is ..

As I mentioned in the previous post, RMNP is visited by nearly 3 million people annually. the obvious beauty of the place is apparent to everyone who enters the Park, or drives through the area. The mountains here are steep and rugged, and offer great photo ops. There is an abundance of wildlife in the protected park, so most people will see some of the critters that are present. the signature species for the park is certainly the elk, but on the west side, moose are headliners as well.

With all these people enjoying the Park, it can seem crowded at times, especially on weekends and during the elk bugling season (mid- September to mid-October). Bu, with a little research and effort, you can find unlimited opportunities to enjoy this world class park in solitude, and enjoy it on whatever level you prefer.

upper Colorado River

There are 359 miles of hiking trails in the park, ranging from extreme mountaineering ascents on rugged peaks, to wheelchair accessible trails. Whatever your personal cup of tea, it is offered in RMNP. The 3 million visitors is a documented number. My estimate is that every person entering the park takes an average of 20 photos. (Don't ask me how I came up with that - its just a guess) That means there are 60 million photos taken every year of the park's beauty! The point is, my representations are simply one person's point-and-shoot synopsis of a beautiful area. In order to take full advantage of the park's beauty (and to avoid the bulk of the crowds), concentrate your efforts in the low light times. I really like to be in the Park before daybreak, giving me the chance to witness some spectacular light settings and sunrises i the mountains. (Real photographers understand the nuances of the soft lighting - I just think its neat!) It is also the best time to observe the park's wildlife. I've seen coyotes, bear, lots of elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep in the low light periods.

Much like in the fishing circles, people gravitate to the Big Game animals (just like they do to the Big Fish) But the plentiful smaller creatures offer a lot on their own. Abundant squirrels and Stellar's Jays are common in the picnic areas. Yellow bellied marmots are found throughout the Park, while the little pica's inhabit the sub-alpine ecosystem at the highest elevations. Don't overlook the little guys when you are in the park. Some of the Park's premier residents.

You will need to click on thephotos to see the animals better. The elk were in low light, and the moose were a LONG way away!

2 young bull moose on the west side

A couple of bull elk sparring by Sheep Lakes. Low light makes it hard to photograph with a simple camera, but it is the best time to see the animals.

Merriam turkey and young ones. I had never seen turkeys in RMNP before.

Some of the smaller residents

Stellar Jay


You will notice that a bunch of the pine treees appear dead. They are dead. The reason - Mountain Pine Beetles. These grain-of-rice sized insects destroy pine trees throughout the Rockies. They have been decimating the pines in the Park in recent years. Since they are a naturally occuring species, the Park is letting them do what they do naturally. The only thing the park does is make sure the visitors are safe by cutting down roadside dead trees, and dead trees in the campgrounds, to eliminate the possibility of a dead tree falling on a camper or visitor. I asked about the possibility of a massive forest fire. The answer was that there was certainly a greater probability of such an event due to the amount of dead timber. But, after about 3 years, the pitch in the pines is gone, so the burn would be just the brittle timber, and not the flammable pitch, which only makes things worse. One factor that reduces the infestation is a sustained sub-freezing temperature period in September. Whether it is global warming, or just a recent trend, those extended sub-freezing temps have been non-existant, so the beetles have longer to maul the trees.

Since my travels always revolve around some type of fishing, I'll touch on that for a bit as well. There is surprisingly little information about the fishing in the Federal Documents online regarding the park. The most popular waters include the Fall River, upper Big Thompson River in Moraine Park, and the upper reaches of the Colorado River. But there are many, many other creeks (and a lot of lakes)that have fishable populations in them. But, as mentioned in the previous post, the fish are, on average, small. But they are beautiful! If you love small stream trout fishing, this park can be close to paradise.

A greenback cutthroat caught in RMNP on a previous trip

The story of the Greenback Cutthroat trout has been stated numerous times, but for anyone not familiar with it, I'll give it my brief synopsis. In the1930's, greenback cutthroat were declared extinct. In 1957, a population was discovered in the upper drainage of the big Thompson river. In 1965 and 1970, other populations were discovered, and under the 1873 Endangered Species Act, the greenback cutthroat trout was declared endangered. Restocking programs have helped expand the range back to 55 of their historical range. However, recent DNA findings have shown that a number of the fish stocked as supposedly pure strain greenbacks were actually the closely related Colorado River Cutthroat. So the reintroduction is not as widespread as it was once hoped. The restocking was done based on the best available information, and only recently could the DNA evidence show that the fish were not all Greenbacks. Still, RMNP offers anglers opportunities to catch and release both the Greenbacks and the Colorado River sub-species of cuts.

Bugling bull elk

Still some snow patches on the north sides of the peaks

I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit this magnificent park, even if only for a part of a day. As you can probably tell, I absolutely love it there!

The following pictures are some that I made by messing with the color saturations on the originals. The aspens below show the original and the doctored photo. I like the color contrast shown by the aspens and just exagerrated it. The bull elk silhouette is a similar process.

The original

Over saturated colors

Elk Silhouette

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flyfishing Colorado's RMNP

(PLEASE click on these photos - some of them are actually quite nice!)

RMNP and the Colorado River, looking up from Bowen Baker trailhead

For those of who who do not know what RMNP is, it stands for Rocky Mountain National Park. This magnificent park is heavily traveled, hosts millions of tourists each year, and offers lots of opportunities for fly fishermen, especially those willing to walk into areas a bit removed from the road.

Looking back on the east side of the Park, from Old Fall River Rd

Before I go any further, I want to bring up a sometimes sensitive subject, particularly, it seems, within the fly fishing world. Fly fishermen in general tend to be very closed-mouthed about the places they fish. Some of this is inherent to the sport itself - it tends to be a solo-oriented, introspective sport. Some of the hesitancy stems from experience - people have seen their favorite spots overrun with other fishermen, and the aura, and eventually the fishing quality, are gone. The usual term for identifying a spot in print is "Hotspotting". If I identify a piece of water by its name, it is because I don't consider it susceptible to Hotspotting. Many waters are on this list. If I write about going fly fishing on the Madison River in Montana, who cares? EVERYONE fly fishes on the Madison if they're in SW Montana! Most small streams, however, remain nameless. These streams, however, I will name, and there is a reason for it.

RMNP is visited by 3 million people annually. With all those people, it can pretty crowded in the peak times - summer, and mid-September to mid-October, when the elk are bugling. Wit only one road going from from the east to west side - Trail Ridge Rd - traffic jams are common (especially right now, when they are doing a major road resurfacing project on Trail Ridge.) Still, if you do some homework, and ask questions, you can escape the crowds and feel like you are the only person on earth in this stunningly beautiful place. The real reason I don't feel the park will ever be a destination is because, by and large, the fish are small. There are a few nice fish in these waters, but if you are looking for a trophy trout, this is not going to be on your radar. Unless, like me, you define a trophy as "any wild trout caught in a beautiful place". If that is your definition, I'll meet you there!

I had one day set aside to fly fish these waters. Due to the roadwork being done, I had to decide whether to fish the East side of the park or the west side - I didn't want to sit in traffic all day going back and forth. I decided on the west side. I love to fish the Colorado River in the park. The headwaters are full of trout, are just the right size, and there is just something about fishing a 15' wide stream for wild trout, and knowing that these very same waters are the ones that carved out the Grand Canyon. Pretty humbling. I always catch plenty of brook trout here, and usually a few browns. Colorado River cutthroat trout are native here, but not very common on the Colorado itself in this area. Some of the tributaries have been re-stocked with pure strain Col. River cuts, but I have never caught them.

The upper Colorado river

I parked at the Col. River trailhead, and walked upstream for about a mile along the trail. It is an easy walk, but for a middle aged guy in less than ideal shape (unless your ideal shape is a pear) who lives basically at sea level, the thin air at this elevation (9,040' at the parking area) makes you stop frequently to catch your breath. And drink LOTS of water. I started fishing below Shipler Park. I always plan to walk upstream further, but I just can't stand to be alongside a beautiful trout stream and not be wetting a line. I started with a #16 Royal Trude and soon had my first fish. While I was fighting it, it seemed to not be of the usual coloration. I brought it to hand, and saw that it was a Colorado River cutthroat! This made my whole day. Beautiful coloration on these fish. After a quick photo, back in the water. I proceeded to catch a bunch of brookies, and one more cut. The water was FRIGID on my feet while wet wading - had to be around 50 degrees. If you were in the water for more than about 30 seconds your feet went numb. But on a stream like this, you don't really wade - more like occasional stream crossing and rock hopping. So, I took a lot of pictures and had a great time.

My first Colorado river cutthroat from the upper Colorado! Beautiful colors.

Col. river brookie

It seems that every time I go fishing there is something non-fish related that happens to make the trip memorable. Earlier this year it was the butterflies on the deer carcass in PA. On this day, another butterfly event occurred. I was re-tying, and looked down to see a butterfly on the cork handle of my fly rod. I started snapping pictures, and the butterfly eventually crawled up the handle and onto my thumb! Never had that happen before, but it was pretty cool! You never know when a photo op will present itself.

And, as usual, there is always the story-within-the-story. This time, I stuck a fly hook in my thumb. Buried it completely up to the bend of the hook - way past the barb. "How?", you might ask. It's easy - just follow these instructions: 1) hang up your fly in a willow on the backcast, just below a beautiful pool. 2) Wade over to the willow, grab onto the branch. 3) Slip on a rock in the water and, as you are sliding/falling, feel the previously unmovable fly slide out of the branch and impale deeply into your thumb.

A dual purpose photo - showing the fly I was using - #18 Goddard Caddis - while proving that I stuck the fly in my thumb!

It was DEEP in my thumb, but didn't really hurt. I grabbed ahold of it with a set of pliers and tried to work it out, but to no avail. (THAT did hurt, btw) Decision time - I'm over a mile into the river, fishing alone, with a hook impaled in my casting thumb. My thumb doesn't hurt much at all. What to do??? Easy - cut the fly off the tippet, and keep fishing. Even though I usually use the thumb on my right hand as the primary "power stroke" part of the cast, with a light rod (I was fishing an 8' 3 wt. rod) I sometimes use my index finger instead. So - I retied (not easy to do w/o using your thumb) and kept fishing. I got about 6 more trout before I decided it would be best to go back to the car to rip the damn thing out. I found the trail and started back.

A small Col. River cut

On the walk back, I ran into a really nice couple from Missouri. We chatted the whole way back to the parking area, and they decided they would help me get the hook out. I had decided to try the method I had used before - wrap the bend of the hook with heavy line, press down on the hook shank, and have someone do a quick POP to pull the hook out. We went down to the river so I could numb the finger in the icy water first. On the way down, I lost the heavy mono loop to use in the hook pull. I numbed the finger in the water and was pushing / pulling on the hook when I noticed that the hook point was just under the skin on my thumb, but couldn't push through the callous. Just then, I remembered that I had done something right for a change!

On Wed., I realized that I had forgotten a folding knife. I always like to have one when I'm solo fishing, so I called up one of the reps working with me. They represent Cold Steel, so I got a new folder from him. I had a brand new, razor sharp Cold Steel knife in my pocket! I pushed the hook through as hard as I could and my new friend from MO gently slit the thumb right at the hook point. No pain at all! The hook poked through, I pushed it through a little more, cut off the shank of the hook, and pulled the whole thing through and out. Stuck the thumb back in the water, and I was good to go. A big THANKS to the folks from MO - you never know when you might need someone to slice open your thumb for you!

I still had a few hours left so I moved down to a tiny stream I knew was full of brookies - Onahu Creek. This is a tiny stream, but is absolutely loaded with beautiful little brookies. I fished this stream for about an hour and lost track of how many brook trout I got. I also did 2 things I've never done before - caught a brown trout on Onahu, and took a video of trout. I hope the video works on here. the tiny brown trout really surprised me - I was at least a mile from the junction of the Colorado River, and the stream is TINY. Oh well - I guess they can go anywhere in high water times!

Onahu Ck

Brook trout from Onahu

There are a few trout in this photo

Closeup from above

Spawn colored brookie from Onahu

Onahu brown trout Hope you enjoy the pictures and video (if it works)(IT DIDN'T). I plan to do another post in a couple of days about the Park and its wildlife. On this short trip - 1 day - I saw: a big black bear, 2 bull moose, a bunch of elk, 6 mule deer, a Merriam turkey with 2 young ones, squirrels, birds, ducks. I LOVE this park!