Friday, May 18, 2012

Fun Facts

I found these two links which I think are very interesting. "Fly Fishing History" and "Fly Fishing Museum". Both come from the UK - but are well done and interesting.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Environmental Concerns

Oil leaks in the san Francisco bay area might impact trout. Check it out as reported by NBC.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Trout Food

      Trout love to eat little bugs. They eat just about anything that falls into – or flies near the water. They eat ants, and beetles, and grasshoppers. They eat mayflies, and caddis and midges. I break my fly boxes into five basic groups: Stoneflies – mayflies – caddis – terrestrials – and nymphs.
     In my terrestrial box I have things like ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. But I also put in things like San Juan worms and crayfish.


    My mayfly box is obviously for mayflies. The caddis box is for caddis flies. My nymph box has nymphs – but also midges as well as small flies that work better for lakes than for streams.
   Stoneflies are a staple. I do so well with stoneflies that I keep them in their own box. I have stone fly dries as well as nymphs. I even have a few “madam x” because they can look like a big stonefly or salmon fly.

     When I get to a river I start looking around and observing. What is in the air? What is in the water? What is on a rock or a tree branch? If I can grab a bug out of the air, I do.
     Mayflies are usually slow and easy to catch. I check them for size and color in order to find the best match. Mayflies are small and fragile. Their bodies often curve up like a sideways “j”. Their wings are folded neatly, straight up.
   Caddis can be a little trickier to catch. They usually fly a lot faster. But they have a distinct look in the air. They tend to be larger and “meatier” than the dainty mayfly. And their wings are a larger “blur” than the mayfly. Caddis can often be, or look like a moth. If you catch one, or see one on a tree branch, their wings are folder straight back – kind of making a tent over their long, straight bodies.

   Stoneflies are easy for me to recognize. You can usually find their “shells” all over the rocks from when they have molted out. But that tells me adults are in the air and nymphs are in the water. Stonefly adults look a lot like some caddis adults. I’m no expert, but they may even come from the same family. Don’t hold me to that. But they sure look similar.
    I recently discovered Check it out and you can see good pictures of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies.

Nymphs are just ‘infant’ stages of caddis and mayflies. Caddis nymphs often look more like a caterpillar or worm. So, if there are NOT a lot of bugs flying in the air (a hatch) – then chances are, a nymph will work. In fact, they say trout feed under the surface of the water 90 percent of the time. Most of the time they are eating nymphs. So if you play the percentages, nymphing is a highly productive way to fish.


    When nothing else seems to work – try a terrestrial. Try an ant – just to mix things up. Trout might see it as a rare opportunity, and go for it. If you see crayfish along the river bottom – toss one of those out. Worms, beetles, and grasshoppers all make nice alternatives that trout just might hit. So don’t forget to go to your ‘terrestrial box’ from time to time too.  

Stonefly shells

The bottom line is – look around. Notice what is happening. Is there a hatch? Should you nymph? What alternatives do you have? What size and color are the bugs? Observe what is going on – and adjust accordingly. Make a good presentation, and chances are you’ll have some luck.

Truckee River Crawfish

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Estes Park, Colorado

   I have really come to love fishing near Estes Park, Colorado. The town is great with lots of fun shops and great places to eat and stay. And there is so much great fly fishing within minutes. You can fish rivers, meadows, ponds and lakes. You will likely see plenty of wild life including bears, big horn sheep and elk which often can be seen in town. Rocky Mountain National Park is nearby and there are so many rivers and streams and little mountain lakes to try it might take me a lifetime to get to them all.
     I have already written about fishing the Big Thompson downstream of town. This time I took an early September trip above town into the park. I first stopped at Kirk's Fly Shop. They have everything you need including guided trips, supplies, maps, and suggestions on where to go. Check 'em out at Kirk set me up with some of the most recent flies and showed me a couple of rivers within RMNP.
       My first stop was at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. I intended to try the Roaring River. I had estimated a fairly steep climb and about a half hour hike to where the terrain flattens out. Kirk says the river is very small and you wouldn't think there is good fishing, but he says there are plenty of brookies and "greens". When I arrived, I double checked with a park ranger who told me I should plan at least an hour to reach that part of the river. I simply didn't have that much time so I opted for the nearby "Alluvial Fan" near the "Endovalley" picnic area.
      The Fall River flows through. It is a very slow, meandering river and is very, very clear. There are not a lot of boulders or logs so the fish settle in low spots in the center of the stream and can clearly be seen from the grassy banks. (in one photo you can see the trout in a pool). But these brookies are very wary and if they spot you they scoot to shelter under the banks. So, stealth is essential. I quickly learned to approach from behind (downstream) and crawl through the grass to the river bank. I also cast from my knees.
         You do not need waders here. In fact stay out of the water and you'll have much better luck. I only fished a couple of hours. I started with a BWO dry with an orange parachute, and a size 22 red copper john nymph dropper. I netted a nice brook along the far bank, but I noticed he hit the dry. 
        In the picture you can make out the orange parachute on the fly. So, I decided to just fish with a dry fly the rest of the day and cut the dropper. I didn't get much more action on that dry so I switched to the deer hair caddis dry. I caught two more real nice, colorful fish with that. And it was so fun to spot the fish cast to them and watch them attack my fly.
       The scenery is beautiful as well. But my time was up and I had to meet family in town for lunch. By the way I had a big juicy bacon cheese burger and fries! Yum.
      After lunch I simply went to one of the rivers that flow right through town. I tried the Glacier Creek just above where it merges with the Fall River. I did not feel like putting on waders so I just flipped my line from the sidewalk!
     There was a nice hatch of caddis and I saw nice trout actually leaping out of the water. I had two hits, but missed 'em and then the trout no longer seemed interested in my caddis dry.
     So, I walked upstream via the sidewalk a few yards and tried another good looking spot. I added a bead head nymph dropper that Kirk had suggested earlier in the day. From my vantage point I could see the trout chase my set-up and hit the nymph. It was really fun. But since I was on an elevated sidewalk with a railing - I could not net any of the trout I caught. They flipped off as I tried to lift 'em up. But I had several on and had a great time, right there in town. I got to play them a bit but the bad part was not seeing exactly what I caught. The trout had dark spots and a golden yellow color. I believe they may have been browns? Maybe a version of brookies?
       There are so many places left to fish in the area. Next time I hope to try the Moraine Meadows area or maybe one of the high country lakes. And I am still looking to see my first big horn sheep!

Yuba River, California

South Fork
      The South Fork flows along Interstate 80 outside Truckee, California. There is a place called the Rainow Lodge and fishing along there is supposed to be decent at certain times of the year, but I have never tried.
   I usally pick it up along California Highway 49 outside Grass Valley and Nevada City, California. The road comes to a state park and over a picturesque bridge. There are many hiking trails, and I have seen trout in some of the large pools in the river below.
  On my most recent stop, I saw fishing rising in a pool downstream. It was about 7:00 in the morning and nobody was around. So, I decided to hike down an try. The hike down was a bit rough. In fact I went through a thicket of bushes and ended up getting poison ivy.
     I used a deer hair caddis dry with a brown soft hackle nymph below. I cast to the rising fish. They were along a large boulder in the shade. I caught two, but they were not trout. I believe they were a white fish and I put them back. I decided to return to the first-aid kit in my car and tend to my poison oak.
     This section of the river is a favorite swimming hole. Temperatures can get quite hot in this area and people come to swim and cool off here so unless you come early the fishing is almost impossible. And due to the number of white fish this may not be the best fly water to try.

North Fork

    If you continue up the highway another 45 minutes or so, you reach the north fork of the Yuba river - a few miles below the town of Downieville, California.
    I usually stop at a pull-out at the Canyon Creek trail-head. I fish upstream of the bridge.
   On the far side of the river there is shade most of the day and lots of green vegetation. Not only is it pretty, but it makes great trout water. The water is usually about shin to knee deep with plenty of pockets and boulders for trout to hide.
    During the early summer I like to use a stonefly dry with a stonefly nymph dropper. The fish go wild! This time I was there in late August. There were still a few stones on the water but I saw a few fall caddis larva - a big juicy caterpillar - (see terrestrials under "trout food") and lots of teeny tiny nat-like bugs.
   In fact there was a massive hatch of these and I could see many trout rising and feeding. I saw a few pale morning dun mayflies so I put a small dry on top with a size 22 zebra midge below. Right off the bat I got a really nice rainbow. But then things slowed and I could not get a hit so I switched to a size 22 red copper john and netted another 'bow. In about two hours of fishing I had three hits and netted two.
  By now it was really getting hot. The car said 103 outside! So, I drove upstream, through the quaint town of Downieville, where I got a bite to eat and stopped in the local hardware store next to the US Post Office. They have all the fishing gear you'll need.
       More small streams feed the Yuba above town and the slope is a little more steep so the water flows faster - doesn't get too stagnant - and thus is cooler. Since the day was hot, I needed the coolest water possible in order to catch any sluggish trout.
   This time I used a deer hair caddis dry with a size 22 gray midge. I tossed into water that was flowing over a boulder dam and into a pool. Bang - got one - and he was a fighter. I had a chance to capture this one with my camera while he was fighting. By the way the rod is my 3 piece, 3 weight replacement rod from Loomis. Check out details under "getting started - rods".
    After that - no action - so I switched to a black royal coachman dry with a red tail and a size 22 zebra midge and netted another one a few yards downstream. Look how clear this water is! Stealth and good presentation is key. Despite the hot temps I saw a few fish still rising in the cool shade and along the banks. But believe me - on a hot day like this I really wanted to just jump in the pool myself and cool off. If it didn't involve waders and boots and vests being put on and off I would have.

       While checking out the conditions, I observed dozens of fall caddis larva. These are the little bugs that live in a cocoon made of tiny pebbles. They are all along the bottom of the river - on boulders and logs etc. I plucked one out and set it on a log for you to see. (see caddis under "trout food").
I often hear people call these "helgremites" but they are really fall caddis larva. There are several nymphs you can use to imitate this stage. Trout eat 'em up. later - you'll see the black or gray colored adults during a hatch. The deer hair caddis dry works well then.
   Anyway the Yuba is a good old standby. Even when it is fairly late in the season the water is a bit down and it is very hot. I still caught fish and saw plenty of action.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Golden Trout Wilderness, California

      It has been a couple of years since I fished for the legendary California Golden trout. Terrific fly fishing can be done in the Golden Trout Wilderness near the Sequoia National Forest, outside of a little town called Springville, California.
      Many locations are remote and require a camping trip. You can hike in, or ride a horse. I even suggest a pack horse excursion by contacting Golden Trout Pack Trains. 
         I had my own unique way of getting into the area. I know a rancher, Bill Shannon, who has grazing rights in the area, and has his own packs, supplies, horses, and even a very - with emphasis on very - rustic cabin not far from the Kern River. In fact - Bill cut all the wood to build it, using only a chain saw!
 We met in front of the Golden Trout Pack station and loaded our gear. We began the hot and dusty summer ride, about two to three hours to his high Sierra camp. We arrived in early afternoon - and settled in.
    At the time, I did not have a fly rod that was very portable by horse, so I took my spinning rod (which could be broken down) and a few lures. After we got a bite to eat, my brother-in-law Jeff and I walked a few hundred yards to one of the many small brooks that feed the Kern River. The trout are very small, but also very aggressive. We caught a fish on just about every cast. We released them all. I had hoped to catch my first California Golden trout, and I was not disappointed. 

They have a very distinct golden color and ovals down their sides. You can see a couple in my pictures. Just getting pictures was a challenge. If you bring an expensive camera, make sure you protect it very well. The trail is quite dusty. Dirt gets into places you never thought possible, and can ruin your camera, as well as fly reels etc. Plus, there is no way to re-charge batteries, so all I had with me was a cell phone (for which there was no service). But at least it was easy to carry, and I could get a few pictures before the battery ran out. 
       Back at camp that night Bill told us about some of the high sierra lakes that are about another hour's ride from his cabin. He pointed out nearby peaks where the lakes are located. The fishing there is supposed to be even more spectacular than along the small brooks where we had been that day. The fish are bigger and the scenery even more breathtaking. But that would have to wait until another day.
   The next day Bill had an evening ride planned for us. We rode across a meadow where you can still find remnants of old Indian tribes and camps. There is evidence of things like sea shells and obsidian arrow heads - each indicating that tribes from the east and west had come to this location to trade goods.
   We finally arrived along a bigger stretch of the main fork of the Kern river. Bill keeps a fly rod at the cabin and let me use it. I wasn't even sure of the correct bugs to copy, nor did I have any of my collection of flies with me. Bill gave me a black one that looked like a good old fashioned Royal Coachman. He said he always had good luck with it, and pointed to a hole for me to cast into. I did, and had a fish immediately.
    I went on to catch half a dozen more. Soon it was about dark, and we needed to begin the ride back to camp. Bill had planned for a moonlight ride. Before I left the water I cast one more time - and hooked another golden trout. He got tangled in my net after I brought him in. The hook came out by itself, and I let it fall into the water while I untangled the fish. The next thing I knew, another trout had hit the dangling fly line, so I had one on the line, and another in the net! No kidding!
   We packed up and began our moon lit ride through the forest back to camp. Bill picked a perfect night. The sky was clear. There were a million stars. And there was a full moon. It was like having a street light on. You could actually see shadows cast by the pines. Nobody spoke much. We all just rode along to the sound of the horse's hooves plodding along. 
       We finally got near camp and could see light from a campfire up ahead. It was nice that somebody got the fire going for us, except there was nobody back at camp to get it going. So we rode in with a bit of caution. Pretty soon Bill hollered out, "Steve - Zat you?" And a voice returned, "Hey Bill. Where ya'll been."
   Turned out it was Steve Uecker, son of of baseball Hall of Fammer Bob Uecker. Steve is a real life cowboy. He often rides the area in his black duster and chaps. He has a side kick named Half Pint. They are a unique team. Steve is a big man - well over six feet tall, probably close to 6' 5", I'd guess. Half Pint must be 5' 6" at best, but Steve swears he's the toughest cowboy he knows.
    They sleep in bed rolls under the stars and ride the range like real cowboys. Once in camp they updated Bill on a few head of cattle they had seen the day before, and told us about a massive grizzly they had encountered - but avoided as best they could. Uecker is full of stories and jokes. He loves to tell jokes. 
     That night Bill cooked up Elk that he had shot up in Canada. I'm not sure what the ingredients included, but it was awesome. And then we all sat around the campfire and listened to Ueker tell his jokes and stories.
    The next day it was time to head back to civilization. Steve and Half Pint helped us saddle up the horses and load the packs.
    There is a lot of fishing to do, and many locations I have not yet ventured to in the Golden Trout Wilderness, but with any luck, Bill will have me back, and we'll try our luck again some time. I was certainly glad he invited me for this trip.

The Big Thompson - Colorado

   Elk and bighorn sheep are frequently spotted in the Estes Park, Colorado area. As we headed into town - there in the middle of the road was an elk. It plunged into the brush - down the embankment and across the meadow. It was a cloudy gray start to the day, and I was optimistic. It had been unseasonably hot, and I thought the break in the weather would spark the trout into a feeding frenzy.
         My friend Jason had hired a guide from the Rocky Mountain Anglers a few miles away. The guide's name was Leigh Gardner - and we met up with him outside Estes Park. Leigh took us to the Big Thompson - which runs in the shadow of Longs Peak - through town - and downstream into Loveland, Colorado.
      We began just off the road - under the bridge below where the river exits Lake Estes and meanders along a short meadow.
   Leigh hooked me up with a small Blue Wing Olive mayfly (BWO) - with a green emerger nymph trailing about ten inches behind. He and Jason moved downstream, around the corner. I fished just under the bridge. It was not long before I hooked a small brown and netted him. A gentle rain began to fall, but not enough to stop us from fishing.
        After a while I moved down stream a bit and Leigh came to check on me. As I was talking to him, another fish hit. But I failed to hook him!
        Leigh decided to take us down stream a bit further. He sent me across the stream to a pool against the far bank. There was a downed tree underwater, but plenty of room for me to cast without snagging. I switched my upper fly to a Pale Morning Dun (PMD) - and then a green emerger below. Leigh instructed me to cast as close to the bank and old tree as possible. I made a few nice casts - and wham! I netted my second brown of the day.
   Meanwhile, Jason switched his rig to match mine, and eventually got one on his side of the river. I moved up steam a few yards - still fishing close to the bank. Bang! I caught another. Once again I moved, but only a few short yards upstream. And I netted my fourth trout of the morning.
       After a while, Leigh moved us down another mile or so. We came to a bend in the river where the water was moving more slowly. We could see trout rising close to the far bank. I tried several times to hook two trout, but could never get them to bite. I moved downstream and Jason moved to my slot and was able to hook 'em.
     Before we knew it, our time with Leigh had expired and it was time to go. But between us, Jason and I netted seven fish - had a great time - meet a great guide - and learned another fishing location.
      Leigh was great and I highly recommend him. Look him up at
     Before we left for the day, Leigh suggested we try the Sylvandale Dude Ranch. It is located along a private stretch of the Big Thompson, outside Loveland, Colorado. He said the fishing there is great. Turns out, I happened to be heading there two days later. More on that at a later time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sardine and Snag Lakes, California:

If you venture near  Downieville, California you’ll have plenty of places to choose from for great fly fishing.  I’ve mentioned the Yuba River, but there are dozens of lakes as well.

Gold lake is the biggest, but there is Salmon, Big Bear, Goose and Haven lakes, just to name a few.

I camped at lower Sardine lake. I had been there a few months earlier, in the late spring. It was still partially frozen. The snow covered Sierra Buttes behind the lake were stunning.

A fisherman was just coming off the lake. He had been out in a small row boat, and had a stringer of trout. I vowed I’d come back in the summer, and I did.

I will include a few photos, but a wildfire was burning nearby – so my pictures are not as clear as they could be. I recommend you search images for Sardine lake. It is a wonderful place.
As for the fishing – I didn’t do too well. But that’s because I was fly fishing from the bank. I was limited due to trees and bushes.  There is a small, rustic “resort”
( where you can rent row boats. Most have electric motors. I needed to rent one in order to get to the fish and to be able to cast better. I’ll try that next time.  But we had a great stay, and a great camp spot.

The next morning we took a short drive down Old Gold Lake road to Snag lake. The fishing was great. We got there around 7am. Since it was summer, the sun had been up – but the hatch was on. There were mayflies all over the lake – just sitting on the surface of the water. There was no wind. The water was like glass. The trout had good visibility, but with a little stealth you could get them to hit.

The lake is failry shallow and wadeable in many spots, plus there wasn't as much brush, so fishing from the bank was more feasable.  

Snag lake’s name speaks for itself. There are underwater trees and logs all over the lake bed. A few stick up around the lake. But they have very few branches, and since you are fishing dries on top – you're fine.

We saw an Osprey feeding on the rising trout. It was sensational to watch. He’d dive and splash – and come up with a trout in his talons. He’d fly off to a good spot to consume his meal.


I have since purchased a canoe and I think it would be perfect for Snag lake, so I hope to go back some day.