Archive for the ‘South Platte’ Tag

Like the First Day of School…..   2 comments

“Alright, let’s get started”, someone with authority barks, but I’m already seated up toward the front.  “How did I get here?”, I muse as I realize I am front and center.  I quickly scoot myself back toward a wall during the confusion of folks jockeying for chairs and finding their comfy places.  Our manager welcomes everyone and decides we should do introductions as there’s new faces in the crowd.  There’s always new faces, where do these folks come from?

Oldest guy in the room.

The guy with a beard to my right starts, “I’m so and so and this is my second year”, then it’s the other guy with a beard, “I’m so and so, and this is my first year, then it’s the fresh faced young woman, “I’m so and so, this is my first year.  Uh-oh, my turn, “I’m Duane, ah this is my first year.”  That gets a laughing response from the masses, because they all know I’m the old guy.  The roll-call continues and the bearded guys keep rolling out low numbers of years with guiding experience.  I’m amazed.  Yea, there’s a few with eight or nine years in the room (one that says he shadowed me 8 or 9 years ago), but for the most part these folks are young enough to be my kids.  Hell, some of them might be.

It’s like going to a professional baseball game and realizing that the damn umpires are younger than you. I’m the oldest in the room again, and after some health issues last winter, I’m beginning to feel it.  Don’t get me wrong, I can hang with these kids all day everyday, it’s just that when I grow a beard, it’s gray.  That just doesn’t look cool in a fly shop or magazine cover anymore.  I’m a relic, and my fly choices and approach to the sport show it.  I still throw tons of soft-hackles and my idea of lunch is sandwiches on the way to the river so we have optimal time to fish.  Although I still throw softies, I have had to learn that guide trip lunch is something you do sitting down next to the river after you have thoroughly washed your hands with that new antibacterial liquid soap.  Isn’t all soap antibacterial?

I digress.  As the paper stack grows at my feet, I wonder how many old permits are in my pack.  Not too long ago, I was stopped by a game warden and checked for a license.  I found one in there from 2007, I really need to get in there and clean my pack out.  Might be a sandwich in there.  The manager explains how to carry these in a water-proof bag in your waist pack (no vest wearers in this room, not since I switched 5 years ago.), and I watch as some folks jot down this information, and the most of the rest are nodding their heads in agreement.  I think, “You gotta be told how to carry this stuff?”. Then, I kick myself for being “that old guy”, and find myself nodding with the rest.

I’m asked to get up and describe the areas we can legally guide on the South Platte River near Deckers.  I get up and in a nice way tell them it is their responsibility to learn where they can and can’t fish.  I go into how one winter, I walked the entire blue line from the confluence up to the fly shop, and drew a map showing every feature I thought important.  I realize at this time that I wasn’t asked to tell them to learn it themselves, so I explain that we can meet down there and do a drive-a-long.  Old guy relinquishes again, but it’s worth it.

I also throw in that there are a million first year guides out there, but not nearly as many second year guides.  In other words, don’t be a jerk, keep your head down, and bust your ass.  As the meeting comes to a close, I think about how these guide meetings are just like the first day of school.  A good chance to meet new people, rekindle old friendships, discern a pecking order, and fill out a pile of paperwork.  Just before the meeting was adjourned I got “it”.  I got that old feeling that I used to get before a guide trip, or when geese were set and coming in to my decoys. or before a big baseball game.  I got a butterfly.  Only one, but it was a good one.  I’m excited for another year on the river. I look for the challenges, and am stoked about working with all of the guides, management, and ownership.  Here we go.

Fear No Water

p.s. Buy a copy of The Fly Fishers Playbook for the old guy in your life for Father’s Day

Fashionably late…..   Leave a comment

Alright, let’s get on with 2016. Little late to the party, but I’ve been busy guiding pheasant hunters. The fly fishing juices are flowing strong as I embark on another year of trout tales. This time of year represents, in my mind anyway, time for learning and experimentation.

My speaking schedule is in full bloom, and between now and June I will hit six states yapping on about this great endeavor. I shake a lot of hands and I learn. Wish I had a twenty spot every time a stranger says to me, “You ever tried this?” More often than not the idea doesn’t fit my program, or appeal to me, but it always makes me think. However, there are a few ideas that come my way, and I think, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” Long story even longer, I always listen.

So, I invariably head home from these events and run either straight to the vise or straight to the river. It’s funny, folks on the river fly fishing are a tight-lipped group, but folks at shows spill their guts. Maybe they feel safe sharing in that environment knowing they won’t have to deal with it til spring, or maybe they wish to get involved in the circle of learning somehow. I don’t know, but I’ve picked up a few gems over the years, by simply stopping and listening.

I’ve happily shared most everything I’ve picked up at the shows over the years, I’ve a few new ideas this year that I won’t comment on until I put them to the test. One’s a simple in-line nymph rig adjustment, and the others deal with spinning bugs. Both are in the testing process, and to be frank, I haven’t noticed any appreciable difference in performance, but I need to try these ideas for at least winter, spring and run-off.   Will let you know. I’ve a feeling some of the ideas I hear aren’t as novel as we think.

Speaking of novel, I am considering another book. Really have the itch to spit one out, but having a difficult time refining my ideas. Seems like fly fishing books are all cut out of the same template. One hundred forty seven ways to put more fish in the net, or the twenty three essentials to catch fish, I don’t necessarily want to go there. I like to draw analogies, feed off experiences and data, and try to teach a little along the way. If you have an idea for books you’d like to see, please let me know. Insert the listening part here……

In January I’m in Ohio at the North Ohio Fly Fishing Expo. February is the Winter Fly Fishing Social in Taos, New Mexico.   March is Lewiston Idaho at the North Idaho Fly Fishing Expo. April is the Washington Fly Fishing Fair, and May is a 3 day extravaganza of presentations all over Arizona.

I’ll keep my ears open, and will share everything I learn!

Fear No Water,

Duane

Winter experimentation on the South Platte.

Winter experimentation on the South Platte.

“Old time rock and roll”   Leave a comment

orangepartridge
 I can remember it like it was yesterday.  Ten years old, cut-off jeans, Chuck Taylor Hi-tops, and a red t-shirt with one of those little pockets.  I was standing knee deep in the Yellowstone river, fiberglass rod, Martin “electric reel”, hand-tied leaders, and I was swinging wet flies to big Cutthroats.  Rock and Roll.

 

Nowadays, most folks have forgotten wet flies in favor of their favorite pattern nymphs or articulated streamers.  I’ve no problem with those patterns, but I sure do like throwing the old stuff.  They still work.

 

Got back into soft-hackles more than a couple years ago, and most days you will find a soft-hackled pheasant tail in my rig somewhere.  Lately, since I’ve been guiding on the Eagle River, I’ve gotten back into the “partridge series” because of the crazy amounts of caddis in that river.

I really like tying into fish with the Partridge and Orange, Partridge and Green,  Partridge and Peacock, and Crackleback patterns I fished as a kid.  They really mimic caddis pupa and can be dead drifted and swung very effectively.  Because of the nature of caddis pupa emergence, these bugs are perfectly suited for the job.  My clients love it when a fish eats hard at the end of the drift in the swing phase.  The fish pictured ate the Partridge and Orange hard on the swing.

Typically, the bugs are the last or point fly in my 3 bug nymph rig.  I do this to accentuate the movement (like roller derby whip for us old folks), and the farther the bug is away from the weight the higher in the column she’ll travel.  There are times when I place the bug in the middle position of the rig, and I’ll tie it eye-to-eye to flatten the profile.  (a search thru the archives will show eye-to-eye connections, rigs, etc.)

One other trick you can employ is to get upstream of fish feeding on caddis pupa or adults, and strip out enough line to set you up for a swing directly in front of those fish.  Employ a classic nymph drift by casting roughly 45 degrees upstream, let the bugs drift drag free for three quarters of the drift, stop your fly rod movement at the three quarter mark, and allow your flies to swing up through the columns and across in front of the fish.  Deadly.

Sometimes newer isn’t better, only newer.  Give those old patterns a try sometimes, just like that old time rock and roll.

See if you can identify the bugs below……….One is different, but the same idea.  Used it hundreds of times.

Fear No Water,

Duane

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Head for the Hills!   2 comments

I feel sorry for them, I really do.  Just finished guiding the South Platte near Denver over the Memorial Day weekend.  It was cold and rainy, but that didn’t stop the multitudes of anglers and “recreationalists” from enjoying time on the water.  I don’t have any ill feelings to folks getting out and using Mama Nature, I just feel a bit sorry for the fish.

Right now, the South Platte near Deckers, Colorado is one of the few games in town.  Because of our epic snow pack, and a very wet spring on top of that, the rivers are pissed and dangerous.  More water than I’ve seen in a long time.  The South Platte is a tailwater tucked close to Denver.  Certainly, she is going to feel the brunt of traffic, because amazingly, she is still below normal flows.  Oh, the water will come, but for now, she’s “it”.

I watched the fishing success dwindle in the last 3 days leading up to Memorial Day.  Oh, we were still catching fish, but it became more and more technical.  Drifts had to be more precise, mends more complete, and sets were on anything that looked suspect.  You just had to work much harder than usual.  I got to thinking, “How many times has this fish been hooked this week?” “Today?”

Where the fish would usually hold in a particular seam in a particular run in days prior, they just weren’t there.  You may think, well they just went deeper in the column and you can’t see them.  Nope, not in this case.  The flow is only a little over 100cfs, meaning, you could see a quarter underwater in most of the runs we fished.

No, these fish headed for the hills.  By noon on Monday, we were catching fish on skinny rigs (check the archives for more info), along the edges.  One big brown comes to mind.  He ate my Brachy Pupa, on the far bank, in about a half foot of water, on the first drift.  We didn’t know he was there, but assumed the fish had moved because they weren’t in the usual haunts. I know this fish, where he usually holds, and how he likes to eat.  He broke the rules, and he lunged out of my net before photos.  Salty bastard.

Have a few other thoughts as well.  One thought  centered around how grateful I am that fly fishers are so diligent when it comes to releasing fish unharmed.  The fish in this area are for the most part, clean, fat, healthy, and pound for pound will fight with any in the state.  My other thought is how grateful I am to be able to work on a resource such as this so close to home.  Shouldn’t feel sorry for them I guess, they’re doing fine.  When the fishing gets technical, the technical go fishing………….

Fear No Water!

Duane

Don’t forget FATHERS DAY is coming up.  Pick up a copy of the Fly Fishers Playbook for your favorite father, or son, or brother, or son-in-law or…….!

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Basically.   Leave a comment

 

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

I’ve posted a new video http://youtu.be/dcrVPh0qbG8

It deals with the building blocks of a good roll cast, nymph drift, and set.  Please feel free to share it with those that are interested.  Really enjoy filming on the river.

More films and other stuff is on it’s way.  Til then Fear No Water!

Duane

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Love it when a plan comes together.   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!’

My dad used to say, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”.  That was usually in reference to me being right and he being wrong.  Don’t remember that happening very often.  The reason this comes to mind is because of some events that have taken place in the last week.

By all accounts, the Eagle River by Minturn, has very solid caddis hatches.  I love caddis.  They force the trout to get aggressive  because of their “moth-like” tendencies.  When caddis pupate and rise through the water columns, they typically use an air bubble to assist in the ascent.  They usually rise fairly fast and depending on the water in which they hatch, they usually hit the surface and flutter off almost immediately.  This forces trout to chase them, and try to eat them before they escape, and splashy eats usually result.

You can fish caddis poorly.  In other words, the more movement or “skate” you put on the adult imitations, and the amount of “swing” you put on the pupa, the more the fish will attack them.  Sure, you can dead drift the larva and pupa and pick up fish, but the real fun comes when you purposely swing the pupa through the columns across the current.  I outline several ways to do this In The Fly Fishers Playbook, but one of my favorite techniques is to stop following my indicator with the rod tip about three quarters the way thru the drift.  At this point, drag will take over and swing your bugs just like they are pupating.  Do the same with the adults on the surface too.

Back to the “broken clock” thought.  Sat down the other day, did a bit of research, and came up with a neat caddis pupa designed to match the bugs on the Eagle.  Haven’t been to the Eagle yet this week (on it in a couple days), but I couldn’t wait to test the pattern, so I hit Clear Creek during nasty run-off just to check performance.  It worked.  Love it when a plan comes together.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut or two…….

Fear No Water,

Duane

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data, data, data-boy   1 comment

Hidy Ho Fine Neighbors,

Hope all has been going swimmingly for all of you folks.  I’ve been staying busy, writing, speaking, picture taking, film-making, tying, and running my pheasant dogs.  Things are good.

As I mentioned, I’ve been doing a fair amount of speaking, and at this time I’ve about a dozen gigs scheduled this year.  I expect a few more to trickle in.  My main presentation deals with mastering technical water.  The talk revolves around catching big, selective tailwater trout.  Trout that are highly pressured and more than a little “experienced”.

A small part of the presentation deals with how to attack technical water you’ve rarely or never fished.  Without going into technique at this time, and assuming that the technique used is fundamentally sound, I talk about 3 aspects that go into selecting the proper flies to throw.  The 3 aspects are historical data, seasonal data, and conditional data.  Let’s break’em down.

Historical data is data that can be gathered accurately from several sources.  This data is about which bugs are typically active or hatching historically, or the same time every year.  Notice I said “active or hatching”  That’s critical, and we’ll hit on that in more detail a bit later.  How do you acquire historical data?  There are several good sources.  One good place to visit is your state’s wildlife organization.  With a bit of digging you can find some good info there.  Also, join an organization, like TU, or send them a question if you’re out of state.  Calling a river specific fly shop is always a good idea to find out which bugs are prevalent at certain times.  There are also river specific blogs, river reports, and fly fishing forums you can join in on.  Historical data is fairly simple to find.

Seasonal data is basically taking historical data to the next level.  I look at seasonal data as “What’s going on with the bugs at this time?”  You may have a good handle on which bugs, hatch when historically, but seasonal data further refines the information.  For example, on the South Platte this winter we have been seeing about a size 22 midge.  Historically, we will begin to see a larger midge come into the picture soon.  It’s a crap shoot when it will start to pop in earnest, but I know seasonally, it will come off.  The “season” or seasonal factors will determine the hatch.  Factors such as unusual cold snaps, non-historical flows and water temps, and even previous factors can put things off or ramp them up seasonally.  Maybe that low water we had last summer killed off certain nymphs.  That’s seasonal data.

To take advantage of seasonal data, again ask your local shop what’s going on, and look to several sources that I mentioned earlier.  Back to the South Platte.  I can observe the small midge coming off during the day, and I know historically the larger midge will soon start to hatch, so I will set-up my rig to capture seasonal data by incorporating a larger midge along with the small midge to prepare for the “active” large midge nymphs.  Look at seasonal data as the transitions between the main hatches.  Prepare for the caddis as you fish Blue Wings.  Prepare for PMD’s as you fish  with Blue Wings.  You get the idea.  It’s another way to stay ahead of the hatch, seasonally.

The last bit of data is gathered on the river the day you put your boots in the drink.  Conditional data is just that, what’s it like today and what bugs are hatching?

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This fish pictured fell prey to a Chocolate Thunder, a Blue Wing emerger.  This was a “conditional catch” in that, the day was overcast, and the Blue Wings really came off more than a sunny cloudless day.  The hatch was prolific, and lasted longer than normal, allowing the fish to get really dialed in to feeding on emergers.  Conditionally, it was a no-brainer.

So, look at weather conditions to give you valuable clues to bug activity.  Is it cold, hot, windy?  Is a front coming in, moving away?  How about water conditions?  Murky or off-color?  Low or high?  How about angling pressure?  These are all  observable factors that come into play.  In The Fly Fishers Playbook, I have gone to great lengths to try to explain how to fly fish conditionally.  It’s that important!

When you combine historical data, seasonal data, and current conditions toward fly selections you are more than ahead of the game.  It’s fairly simple and goes a long way toward fly fishing success.  So, the next time you get ready to fly fish a river, go armed with proper data, and combine that with the days’ conditions so you don’t have to stand knee deep in the river scratching your head over your flybox.

Thank you for following, and FEAR NO WATER!     Duane

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