Friday, December 28, 2012

Paying the piper...

I like to think of any bad fishing experience as "paying the piper." In return for the great days of huge fish and good times and hearty dinners, we pay the price of snagged lures, broken rods, and occasional skunking. Well, you oughta tag along with me on my next piscine adventure, because I put a pretty hefty deposit into the Bank of Fishing Karma today. I wanted to use my Ute license since they expire on New Years Day. I went down to Basin creek where the only tracks before me down the little access road were those of a Coyote. I doubled up on everything under my waders and even threw a couple hand warmers in my big pocket, nothing was going to chase me off the water today. The first thing I noticed driving down that way was the brown color of the water. The second thing I noticed was the abundance of slushy ice chunks floating down across the entire river. Ok, I'll use a lot of weight, try to cast between the chunks of ice, and use big flamboyant flies like eggs and cased caddis (despite the fact that there were midges hatching like crazy.) My spirits were not damp and I set forth across the river to my favorite spot. Ledge? What ledge? I missed that one, and then recovering in about 4 feet of water, stumbled clumsily into another boulder which sent me ass over teakettle right into the water. Granted no one stays in water that cold for long, but it was long enough to get a healthy amount into my waders and soak both hands and every article of clothing up to my neck. That was cold! Since the sun was shining, I decided what the hell I'll take a few casts until I get too cold. Every cast put my flies on a piece of slushy ice with other pieces of slushy ice pushing on my line every which way sending my indicator into frenzied movements across the water. False alarm after false alarm had me setting the hook on ghosts while my guides steadily froze up. I dropped my reel in the water while un icing my guides once and then that too began to freeze up. My leader had ice balls on it, my guides had ice balls on them and I had a pair of iceballs in my waders. Time to go.

On the bright side, I was greeted when I arrived by two large Bald Eagles making some fascinating sounds. I saw a Heron flying low over the water with his neck extended.. I've NEVER seen a Heron flying without its neck in the standard "Heron Flying" position, with the tray table folded and secured. The Heron was making neat noises too. I saw Killdeer who also made neat noises. Last but not least Kingfishers zoomed by and ducks quacked around. It was a beautiful time to be out by the river. It was, on the other hand, a terrible time to be IN the river. As 2012 draws to a close I look back on a year of learning and trial and error. I've caught the biggest freshwater fish of my life this year, and I've had a hell of a great time doing it. I hope I'll get out one more day to round it out to an even 150 days on the water, but if not, no regrets... it was a fantastic year. Here's to a fantastic 2013!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Animas

I've heard so many people talk about how the Animas isn't fishable this time of year, and I hope they keep thinking that. Great times today, we only had a very short time to fish before husbandly shopping/dinner duties kicked in. I caught 2 beautiful Browns in short order, nothing massive, just beautiful, wild fish. One took an egg, the other a cased caddis. I did some fishing with a small bugger too, but no action. Maybe 37 degree water temp is just a little low to be chasing anything. Beautiful day!

Happy Holidays from the San Juan

I took a spin down to the San Juan with Travis from Fly Fish The San Juans on Saturday. You've likely heard me say things about the San Juan that send mixed signals. I don't know how I feel about strict catch and release fishing, because once you start seeing the fish with jaw infections, skin infections and everything else wrong with them, fighting like a wet rag, you start to ponder the wisdom of such a fishing practice. I'm not saying one should keep every fish they catch, but just that years of catch and release fishing on the same water can produce some results that would make Sally Struthers cry on a commercial. I really hate a crowd when I'm fishing, I kind of think it is the precise opposite of the thing I seek when I'm fishing. All these points aside, what keeps drawing me back to the San Juan? Is it the beautiful scenery? The big fish? The safe confidence of someone looking for a date at a brothel... No matter how ugly and boring you are, you're sure to find a nice girl who finds you very interesting. I don't know, but I keep going.. standing around with a buncha fat guys who are all self proclaimed experts and quick to tell you about it.

Saturday was as dead as I've seen it. We figured we'd go try the braids with some eggs as there is a lot of spawning, or attempted spawning going on. Never fish for fish on redds, but the deep water below the redds is typically filled with staging fish more than happy to take an egg pattern. We caught most of our fish on size 26 and 28 midges, and some really nice ones. There were fewer people than I've ever seen in that area, maybe because of the old Yogi Berra phrase "nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded..." or maybe because of the scary weather report forecasting a high of 32. Like every time I fish the Juan, my irritating "first world problems" of crowds and wounded fish go away leaving clear, cold water flowing around my legs full of food that keeps these fish fat. There are plenty of places to beat the crowds and plenty of places to find fish who don't respond to "Here boy! jump in the net!" Catching these elusive monsters requires all of those things we hear about fly fishing... a good presentation, the right fly, stealth. Sure, absolutely anyone can slap a little midge on and pull fish out of the kiddie pool, but they're gonna make you sad inside, I promise. Try walking the path less traveled. I am lucky to sneak along with Travis as often as I do, I've learned more from him than I would in a lifetime of slapping the water on my own. His understanding of entomology and fish feeding habits is almost scary. His ability to land the largest fish in 60 seconds on a 2 weight is also super-human but I'm sure the fish really appreciate it.

I like to eat fish, that's one of the main reasons I fish. I don't necessarily see anything noble about catching the same fish over and over for amusement, it can't be pleasant for the fish. The San Juan is a bag of mixed signals from me, but in the end, I keep going back. Try it for yourself and see. You'll want a good guide. You won't have to look any further than the Fly Fish The San Juans website.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Steamed Goodness

This kind of recipe is floating around online. Find one and make it your own with twists and turns. Ginger/mushroom/garlic/egg/bread paste on the fillet, roll it up, wrap in lettuce, steam for 8-10 mins. Goodness.

No Ice on Vallecito... yet

One more day? Two more? It's not frozen yet! Today was fun, not the hottest fishing but not bad either! Little wooly buggers because I haven't had the need to try anything else. Mmmmm dinner. I love fishing on days like this. It really isn't that bad and the rewards far outweigh the slight inconveniences.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Ideas Part 1

Shopping for that special fishing freak in your family? If my better half were out shopping right now there are a few things I'd put on the list... Note.. I link to the products where I could find them online to show you. It would be much better to buy these products locally so please check Gardenschwartz, Duranglers, and The San Juan Angler (upstairs joint over by the Summit) before you go nuts.

24 Rod Fishing Rod Rack From Cabela's - On Sale for $69.95... This thing is sweet, holds 24 rods and spins!

Zippo Hand Warmers $20-$40... I don't care how tough you are, your hands get cold when you're fishing in cold weather. Disposable hand warmers are unreliable and fill up landfills. These are sweet.

A custom fishing rod... You might be leaping in a little late here, but check out this great local company who makes high end rods!

A Fly Tying Kit... If your special fisherman or woman isn't tying their own flies they're not matching the hatch, and they're not accompanying their winter beers... Don't bother with materials, they'll select the proper materials for the flies they use most.

Beer... You can't tie flies without beer.. At least, you shouldn't.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ice Reports

As you know we have a Facebook Page where you can post and you can also post right here with your Google account. It's that time of year, send in your ice reports, could save folks the drive, or cause them to drive! It's a bit nicer today, but I used the continued dry weather to get some more firewood... Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy this video of Catfish eating Pigeons.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I was pretty excited to see the weather turn. That's usually a sign of great fishing. We fished at Vallecito for a bit this morning, but it was very very cold and very windy. I caught a Rainbow on a small wooly bugger and we decided to cut our losses and come home to make soup. We did see a few fish jump, and one was damn close to the size of my big mamma. You could just hear how fat the fish was. Kerrrrplunk! Anyway... Soup. That's the ticket. Sometimes you gotta just go in and make soup. French Onion soup with no trout, just.. well... Onions. We're curious to see if there is any water still showing at Groundhog with -10 degree temperatures over night. We might have a look tomorrow, weather permitting. It's the intermission between fishing reservoirs and ice fishing reservoirs. I guess that means it is time to fish the river. Check out the Animas, San Juan or Piedra, plenty of water still flowing through. I am curious about Trout downstream of hot springs on the Piedra, or the San Juan right in Pagosa. Anyone out there ever fish these pockets of warm water? I wonder if they'll let me bring my fly rod in Pagosa Hot Springs...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

And I did it myyyyyyyyy waaaaaaaaaay!

I don't think I actually have a way, but if there's one thing I can't stand, it is when someone sees a fish picture and says something stupid like "nice, did you catch it on the fly?" as if bobber fishing is some great and noble cause. Sure, maybe if you're fishing size 24 dries in difficult water using 7x trying to land 2 footers there's something special about it, but if you ask me, properly fishing a jig on light spinning gear is every bit as challenging as fly fishing. Fly fishing, they say, is more than just catching fish (stuuuuupid) it's about knowing the food chain, and reading the water. These are both necessary when fishing with spinning gear as well. If one looked a little deeper they'd find that one of the most abundant food sources in the Animas is the Sculpin. My black and olive jigs sure look a lot like sculpin. Why would anyone would want to give themselves an achey shoulder throwing something like that with a flyrod? I would suspect some gross inadequacy in their life makes them need to brag about catching fish "on the fly."

I caught a bunch of fish today on the Animas and it was a wonderful time while waiting for my brakes to be done at Big O. (Big O has moved, by the way, they're down by Walmart, where I think the fishing is a bit better too) I actually did catch more fish using flies (egg patter, midges, and cased caddis) but the real fish I caught using a tiny 1/32oz black jig on ultra light spinning gear. What a truly fun and exciting way to catch fish, and my single hook is just as barbless as yours. I took Lisa's new flyrod for a spin and landed some beautiful fish on it, I am a fan. Cabela's replaced her old rod with a RLS Combo which has a swanky large arbor reel and a nice 4wt rod that did a great job protecting tippet today. All in all it was a wonderful day. I pondered what a great time that I had jig fishing, I pondered how empty the river was. I welcomed the overcast skies that always seem to send the fish to the net. I thought about the dirty looks I get from snooty fly fishermen when I go down to the river with my spinning rod. I wonder how many of them have landed an 11 pounder on 5x? Fishing is so much more than just fly fishing or just spinner fishing, it is an all encompassing science of observation, it is sometimes luck, and it is a joyful way of life. Fish on, no matter how you fish! (Unless you use powerbait, then you're just worthless....)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Brookie Vindaloo!

I'm going to start this by saying that I've never been to India, the people FROM India that I know are more likely to eat a cheeseburger than a curry, and that my only experience with curries is from a lifetime of watching Red Dwarf. I have absolutely no authority to call this dish a proper curry, and even my use of the term Vindaloo (from a Portuguese word, by the way) is dodgy. Disclaimer aside, this tasted like the Vindaloo I get from our local Indian place, although it was fresh and vibrant.

It begins, as do many recipes, with a pot. Oil, garlic, onion, get it all going, brown the alliums and then throw in some minced ginger. Add diced tomatoes. As far as measurements, just use your heart. At this stage what you've got is the beginning of a Marinara with some ginger in it. This is the interesting bit and honestly I was not measuring at all. I can say that ground Chillis and Cumin were the two largest parts, that's about it. I put Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander Seed, Cumin and Ground Chilli into a dry pan and toasted it all a bit to bring out the flavors (and make the house smell very interesting) and then tripled the amount of Chilli. I was left with at least 2 tablespoons of spices that I added to the tomatoes. I also threw in salt, pepper, and a few Bay Leaves. I let this sauce simmer and simmer while I cooked the fish, about 15-18 minutes at 400F in the oven. I let the fish cool so I could work with them easily. The sauce at this stage of the game should be reduced, and now it's time to emulsify it. Don't forget to remove the Bay Leaves! Your sauce should now be simmering on low and completely emulsified. You've been tasting it all along so you know how the flavor is developing. Take the meat off the bones of the fish and put it all in a bowl (so you add it all to the sauce at once.) Once you're done, add the meat to the sauce with a bit more grated ginger and let it stand for about 10 or 15 minutes. Serve over rice. This was hands down the best thing I ever did to a Brookie.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Williams Creek Report - Brookies!

We caught some nice Brookies at Williams Creek today. We were using light (1/16 - 1/32oz) Maribou jigs, and they worked like a charm. The light jig was a great way to keep a lure moving slow but staying out of the weeds and rocks. Larger Brookies (the one pictured measured 16 inches) put up a heck of a fight and it was fun not getting skunked at Williams Creek again (it is, after all, a pretty long drive.) We found shrimp in the mouths of these fish, pictured below. Edit: I thought these were Mysis shrimp but I've learned that they are in fact of the Genus Gammarus and are an Amphipod. Their effect on fish meat is the same as shrimp it seems, these were pink meat fish.

Brook Trout have a distinctly different flavor and texture than Rainbows. The texture reminds me of crab meat a bit. It is delicious and delicate, but firm. I tried my stuffed Trout with the biggest, who was easy to butterfly. This time I stuffed the fish with Chorizo, Garlic and Parsley. It was tasty! I cut one of the smaller fish into steaks and steamed them briefly over a spicy beef broth before flash frying in some butter. They were served over rice noodles and we really, really, really tasty. Note to self.. next time, fewer noodles, whew. It is really fun trying to come up with a different way to cook fish every time. It is a healthy way to have some culinary fun, and get some Colorado sun.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quick Trip to Lemon

We had not been to Lemon since the spring so we thought we'd go have a look. I saw a few decent fish rising to something in the rip-rap, I'm not sure to what. I caught 1 little Rainbow with a hare's ear nymph. The fish had all of its fins and rich color. The suspended woolybugger was doing nothing, and I'm thinking that is because of a lack of minnows in the water. It is tough to say, but I really never do well at Lemon. I know there are some big Browns in there but I've yet to hook into one. Forecast is calling for some weather moving in tomorrow evening, tomorrow could be dynamite!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Daiwa reel & Trash Cleanup

We had a couple of Daiwa Sweepfire reels, they've very inexpensive and not a great reel, but when you're taking the family fishing or you've got friends in town, it's nice to have a few extra setups that work. Both reels had broken bail springs but were otherwise in good shape. I dropped an email to Daiwa informing them of this and asking where I could purchase replacement springs. They sent me a couple free of charge. When buying a new reel, there are a lot of things to consider, its casting, its reeling, its durability, but the company who makes it is also a factor, and Daiwa is ok in my book.

The reservoirs are as low as they're going to get (we hope) and now is a great time to recover bits of garbage from popular fishing areas. At Groundhog the other day we saw a Grebe with a piece of mono coming out of the area between its wings, we can only assume there's a hook holding there. This kind of thing, while it is probably purely accidental, makes my stomach turn. It also gives the anti-fishing nuts at Peta ammunition to sway public opinion away from fishermen. Going fishing this weekend? Please bring a trash bag and fill it. There is a lot of line out there, and that's what gives critters the most trouble. There are powerbait jars everywhere (dare I say that the kind of person who relies on chemical bait made in a giant factory is also the kind of person who leaves trash everywhere?) and there are also cans and bottles. This year to date I've found several really nice lure bodies that need nothing more than some new hooks, so this kind of work can be rewarding. I'm not asking anyone to go and make a day of picking up trash, just go fishing, the trash will be there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bacon & Jalapeño Stuffed Trout

This recipe requires a butterflied Trout, and many people are afraid of butterflying a Trout. I can say from experience that it requires practice and the first few times may look like the work of Salvador Dali or Stevie Wonder, but you'll get it! See our soon-to-exist "how to butterfly a Trout" page or watch one of the great vids on youtube.

You'll need:
2 Trout, butterflied (or 1 if you catch'em big!)
3 Strips of bacon
2 green onions
1 Jalapeño Pepper
Parsley for garnish (you don't have to go nuts, I just had too much Parsley laying around)

Salt the inside of your butterflied trout and let it sit at room temperature while you do the other processes. Cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet until finished and leave the excess fat in the pan (unless you've been cooking with realllly fat bacon, you don't want the fish to swim in bacon grease, just a nice coating for the pan) and reduce heat to low. Chop the bacon, Jalapeño and green onion finely and combine. Mix well and stuff the mixture inside the Trout. Close the trout using toothpicks (or if you've got too much time you can stitch it closed with kitchen twine.) Increase heat to the skillet to med-high and place the trout in. After about 2 minutes, flip the Trout (you should have nice, crispy skin) and do the same for the other side. Remove the skillet from the burner and place in a hot oven (400F) for 12-15 mins. Let the fish stand a minute after removing from the oven, then sprinkle Parsley on top. or drizzle with parsley oil. Serve immediately. If you've done your job deboning the fish, the end result should be completely boneless and delicious.

A note on butterflying: The dorsal fin and the bones attached should be left in after butterflying. Once the Trout is cooked it will come out easily, bones attached.

Need for crappy weather...

This high pressure, beautiful sunny day thing is old already. For one, we need to start piling up snow in the high country to fill our reservoirs in 2013.

We fished groundhog on Saturday, I caught 3 nice rainbows and everyone else got a whole lotta skunk. We took the boat to Puett on Sunday to run the motor one last time before winter. We got skunked utterly and completely. This happens at Puett often. The water was muddy and 39 degrees. I'm ready for snow and ice fishing, dunno about you guys, but this lovely weather is for the birds.

I always wanted a "Shoulda been here yesterday" shirt, so we've made one on You can order one by clicking on the shirt.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Burp. Excuse my glazed-over, food induced giddiness in the following paragraphs. I think my fingers are the only part of me that can move at the moment. My father is in town for the Holiday and I figured I'd take him for some fun at Vallecito and Groundhog. Both days were sunny and still. We caught few fish, but what we did catch was nice. Lisa caught a nice Rainbow at groundhog which gave me more practice butterflying and I'm getting a lot more proficient in that area. This time I stuffed the fish with bacon, onion and reduced tomatos an it was flippin delicious. I've expanded on the Trout Caviar method, this time I boiled some baby red potatoes sliced a bit off the bottom so they'd sit flat, sliced off the top and then hollowed out the potato, filling it with chive creme fraîche and topping with the caviar. It was runnin. I'm such a fan of this trout roe, that I'm considering releasing males I catch in our local reservoirs.

If you're reading this on a computer, there's a lot for which you should be thankful, you're in a more comfortable position than quiet a few people worldwide. Not only is this a great time to be thankful for friends, family, health and wealth, it is a great time to fish! The time right before the ice goes on seems to be the season of the magical bite. Wait for the weather to turn sour, and let'em rip. Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


I got into a bit of Maker's Mark on Friday night which may account for me missing quite a few strikes saturday morning, but I did catch a crazy fighting Rainbow. He was only 18" but I should have tested him for PEDs because I've never seen a fish fight quite so hard. It made the wet rags on the Juan look like.. well.. wet rags. I tried my hand at butteryflying a trout, something I've wanted to try for a while. I've always had a bit of a fish bone issue from a childhood of filleting flounder ("DON'T MISS THE BONES OR YOU'LL CHOKE ON ONE AND DIE!" said my grandmother.) Over the years I got around this issue with the help of hundreds of Trout and I think I'm all better now. That being said, the idea of an entire Trout 100% deboned and then stuffed with good stuff was pretty enticing. Butterflying isn't easy, but with a sharp knife and a relatively steady hand you can make a job of it. I didn't take pictures this time around because I was afraid of making the fish look like Dali's worst on my first attempt. It actually came out really nice. I also filleted a smaller Bow and made a pretty swanky fish dish with it. I hesitate to call it "Asian" merely because it uses Soy Sauce and Ginger, but for lack of a better word, I guess that's what it'll be.

1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 tsp sugar
Pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer gently until reduced by 1/2. Strain out ginger.

For the fish you'll need a 12-14" Trout, filleted. Some Green Onion, Cilantro and Diced Serrano Peppers and Rice Vinegar. Chop all these ingredients. Salt the fillets liberally. Heat a skillet with oil (you can melt some butter in the oil too, I won't tell) once the oil is just about to start smoking, throw in the fish, skin side down. Time varies based on the thickness of the Trout, but usually it's about 2 and a half minutes on the skin side. Flip the fish and finish the other side. One more flip back to the skin side and then top each fillet on the meat side with the Cilantro, Onion, Pepper and Rice Vinegar mixture. On more brief flip to bind these ingredients to the fish, scoop out and place on rice or potatoes, skin side up. Drizzle sauce and serve. I like to do this kind of thing for a first course.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Groundhog is my favorite place to catch trout, hands down. We returned for a day of trout gathering and I thought I was getting my normal birthday skunking from Ms. Lisa, however, when she stopped for lunch I caught my limit. Fishing wasn't on fire, but it wasn't slow and we caught 8 nice bows. That lake is normally no good if the weather is nice but this day was an exception, the weather was lovely and the fishing was pretty damn good. The silence was deafening, with not a bit of wind. Young grebes were swimming around the glassy surface, occasionally diving below to feast on minnows. The road to get in there is pretty soupy once the afternoon sun gets to it, so if you're heading that way, I'd recommend 4wd and good tires or you're gonna be enjoying a long day of digging your vehicle out of the mud/snow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Back for more...

I think I might have broken my fish scale. Today I was hoping for another monster and caught a bunch of smaller fish. I lost my lucky woolybugger, and the weather was again nice and sunny. The hangover of catching the biggest fish of my life is setting in, and I wonder what kind of monster I'm going to have to catch to feel good again. Now I know how serial killers feel. Oh well. I made Trout Caviar with the eggs in the big mamma. I found out how to do it online on that awesome hunter-angler-gardener-cook blog. It is very simple and tastes pretty awesome. I like to serve it on toasted croutons with a lil creme fraîche.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Well heck...

If I keep trash talking Rainbows.. will they keep looking like this? Lights out fishing at Vallecito today. Cold, windy, snowy, ice on the guides. That's the spirit. This guy was just a smidge under 30" and weight 11pounds 4oz. Caught on a very small streamer with 5x tippet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pastorius Reservoir Report

I'd kind of written Pastorius off as unfishable a while ago. The weeds grow so fast and thick in there that shore fishing is impossible except in a few select spots. I thought the lake would be much lower, or I would have brought the boat. We did a lap around the lake to look for deep water and found a few holes and pulled out a few smaller stockers, but they seemed to be in good shape, fins and all. Nothing really exciting, just a nice afternoon jaunt. If you have a way to float, I'd say the fishing is probably stellar right now out in the lake. Keep your eyes out for duck and goose hunters who will be out there until January. In the picture below you can see the Vallecito fire in the background.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Good day!

You know those days when you can do no wrong? I tried a technique today at Groundhog that I've never tried. I'm reluctant to even say what it was because so many people were not having the same kind of day. The fishing was still what I'd call slow, but not for me. My theory is that I spend so much time getting skunked that sometimes the cards just turn. Ok here's the technique. When a bait, let's say a black jig, isn't working.. try suspending it! Between Lis and I we caught our limit and were home before dark. 7 bows and 1 Cutthroat.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fun with Sculpin

The Animas is packed with Sculpin. I've always heard that the Animas, because of its high concentration of heavy metals, is a bad place for natural fish reproduction. I thought at first "ok, sounds reasonable," but then started to think about the large suckers I've pulled off the bottom. They're certainly not stocked. The little rainbows in Lightner Creek? They're not stocked. The Brookies up above Rockwood. They're not stocked. Oh yeah, and the veritable riot of Sculpins... they seem to be reproducing nicely.

Travis ( took me for a Sculpin lesson this morning on the Animas. I learned some techniques that I'd never thought would work that produced big hits for me. I learned some patterns that would normally scare me away. I also learned that I'm a little slow on the strike trying to strip, manage the line and pay attention all at the same time. I had a fish slap my Sculpin in just about every pocket into which it was thrown, but I have nothing to show for it, apart from a burning desire to go back and show those big mommas who is boss. Sculpins are pretty neat, read about them here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good weather strikes again....

Williams Creek Reservoir is an interesting place. With the days getting shorter it's impossible to do the things we wanted to do and still get on the road before DEER:30 between Pagosa and Bayfield. One time there we hit a frenzy, low pressure an eye in a storm, miserable weather and we caught a nice trout on every cast. Cuts, Brookies, Bows, Browns, just a frenzy. Since then we've caught Kokanee with some regularity but not Trout. We know they're there. We see them break the surface and we've held them in our hands. All that being said, we were dealt another semi-skunking today even with the boat!

Surface water temp was 47-50F and it was cloudy. We had the occasional bump on a jig but not much else. Again, we tried the whole collection of every Trout trusty lure out there. We didn't stoop so low as to use Powerbait, because that stuff is for kids, and not even the bright kids. I say semi-skunked because we did manage a Kokanee who provided a dinner, albeit not the most filling of dinners. In the afternoon the wind picked up and chased us off the lake. 2 foot waves are just a bit much for 2 horsepower in a 14' boat.

A good use for this blog, if any, is to look back at different times of the year and see where and when the fishing was happening. I'll do my best to note weather conditions too. I've noticed that in the last 2 weeks of skunky conditions, the weather has been gorgeous. A beautiful day AND a bundle of fish may be too much to ask for. The river seems to be another story, Travis from Fly Fish The San Juans has been tearing it up out there in the mornings. We've been reposting his shots on our Facebook Page.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


This damn high pressure (at least that's what I've been calling it.) Fall has always been one of my most favorite times to fish, but it has been slow even at my favorite lakes and rivers. The farmer's almanac was right! My increasingly correct father in law says that when the weather is good at Groundhog, the fishing is no good, and I believe him! Jigs, Kastmasters, HD Trout, nothing was producing. Trying to get lightning to strike in the same place twice, I tried a big hare's ear fly under an indicator. Boom! Well it worked once, I missed more and then the fishing just shut off. I guess that's typical, the fishing shutting down at around 10:30 or 11 and not picking back up till 3 or 4. It isn't usually typical of this spot, but I guess today it was. Oh well, 2 nice bows and a beautiful day out. There are hunters everywhere, so make sure if you're stompin around the woods throw on some orange, or at least leave your antler hat at home!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Animas south of town

Today was a remarkably gorgeous day on the Animas. On the way to the Ute waters, I crossed over Ridges Basin and took a look at Lake Nighthorse. Lickin my chops looking at the blue waters full of growing fish who have never seen a lure. The schools of Kokanee in there must be getting large, I can't wait to see the size of them. The dreamer in me is picturing 20" Salmon with big juicy fillets.

Oh yeah, speaking of dreaming, I got off topic. There were people fishing in most of the spots I passed, since I got a late start. That's ok.. It's Saturday. Instead of interrupt someone's blissful uncrowded day, I just headed south until I found a Ute access with no one fishing. The section I fished is shallow with small pockets. I caught a few tiny stockers and then a few 12-14" fish, who were fatter not bad fighters for little guys. I didn't catch any monsters worthy of mention here, but all in all had a great day. I tried many different flies but it was a little brown mayfly that worked. The Osprey were flying, the Cottonwoods glowing a divine gold, and the ripples made their way slowly down to New Mexico. A bad day fishing, ya know?

There's a lot of silt built up along the edges. 1 year without high water and it fills in pretty quick. Oh well, it'll be raging again soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vallecito Report, Trash

Vallecito seemed like it was going to be really slow, with virtually no action on Jigs or Spoons. I noticed a bunch of surface activity but it was pretty wavy due to the wind, so I put a size 16 gold rib hare's ear below a little indicator and whipped it out there with the fly rod, letting the waves do the work. It didn't take long to catch a nice rainbow, fins and all. I caught a couple more Rainbows and Lis caught a little Brown. It was a good time. It's always fun to use a technique that you wouldn't normally and have it pay off.

Pick up your trash!

I brought home about 200 yards of trashed mono from the beach today. I also brought some candy wrappers, bottles, cans, and other odd bits of garbage. When I took Hunter Education, I remember the instructor saying that about 10% of the population hunted, while an additional 10% were actively anti-hunting. The other 80% are waiting to be swayed. It gotta be similar numbers for fishermen. Don't give us all a bad name. It's trash all over the shorelines of lakes and rivers that will get fishermen a bad rep. Sure we all lose lures, sometimes with some line attached, but it's our responsibility to clean up after ourselves and other slobs at lakes and rivers. There are cool groups that organize lake cleanups, but if we all do a little bit, every time, we won't even need them.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Paying the Piper at Williams Creek Reservoir

We had a rough but gorgeous day at Williams Creek Reservoir. While we both had fish on from time to time and several tugs and bumps and bites... we brought no fish in. We've fished this lake when it has been a nice fish on every cast, and we've fished it when it's been tough as nails. Either way, a gorgeous place to spend a day.

The weather was classic bad fishing weather. A storm had been in early this morning and as we arrived it blew out to sunny, clear skies and higher pressure. Water temperature was 54 degrees F. While there were plenty of fish there, they were not biting aggressively. We spoke to other fishermen who all reported "Not a bite" today. Sometimes you've just gotta pay the piper, to atone for the days of a fish on every cast. If you look at it as a chance to stand by a lake and watch the sun float across the sky, then it's a good day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Snuck out to Narraguinnep

We popped out of work a bit early to go throw a few casts at Narraguinnep. It is very very low, but still a decent body of water. We figured the fish would be stacked up like firewood in there, but not a bite. We then ran over to Puett on the way home. Not a bite! Puett is pretty normal as far as its level, it must be last to drain, because Joe Moore is all but empty.

We figured with no Walleye the next best thing would be Perch so we ran over to Jackson (Mancos State Park) where there was lots of actions but it was all 10" to 12" Rainbows. Heaps of them! I had fun catching a few on dry flies but then the magic wore off and we went home.

I've heard that mothers forget the pain of childbirth, which enables them to happily have another child. I don't know if that is true or just some old nonsense, but it kind of describes my relationship with Puett. I get skunked there a lot. I've caught some really big Pike in there too. We've had delicious Walleye from Puett's waters but 9 out of 10 visits end in not a single bite. Do I need to learn how to fish better? Probably. Does the lake need additional stocking? I don't know. I do know that the next time I go fishing, I'm heading any direction but west.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blown away at McPhee

Not the way you'd think. We spent what were 3 very pleasant days camping around the North side of McPhee. The wind picked up each day to semi ridiculous levels, which is par for the course out there. Around Dry Canyon we caught smallmouth bass from shore but fishing was slow at best. Water temperature was 56 degrees and I lost more lures than I've ever lost in a 72 hour period. The lake is literally 50 feet lower than when we visited the same area in the spring, so the snags were readily available. When you were fishing at the right depth for the fish, you were in danger of losing your lure. Fortunately most of the lures I lost were home made jigs, but I did lose my jointed crayfish rapala, my other secret weapon. I keep talking about getting some scuba gear and putting my certification to good use, collecting lost lures in popular fishing areas. I could even open a second hand tackle shop! Anyone want in? I need a dive buddy!

We also caught a few stocker rainbows, exciting stuff. We tried to find the route from the top of the Dry Canyon switchbacks down to the upper dolores river. We missed the correct path by about 100 yards and ended up on a long loop around the rim of the canyon. No time is wasted when you explore a new spot, but we were a little bummed that it got dark and we had to retreat before wetting a fly on the D.

We're entering my favorite time of year to fish. The colors, the aggressive fish, everything. Narrigunniep is about as low as it can get, a real puddle. I wonder if we'd do the fish a favor by removing some Walleye before the winter and reducing the pressure on the habitat. Drop us a line and tell us your stories over on our facebook page. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Groundhog Report.. That's more like it...

Large, aggressive, reproducing fish. There were minnows all over the place and every fish we caught was puking minnows out. They were gorging to say the least. While I tried some Kastmasters, an HD Trout, the odd Rapala... nothing produced except for... you guessed it.. Black & olive Maribou jigs. I've been tying a two tone kind of 1/8oz jig olive on bottom, black on top. When i'd pull it through the minnow schools, it looked more like a minnow than any of the precise minnow imitations I have in my quiver. The thing about baby Rainbows, is that they don't look like adult rainbows, they're remarkably unremarkable. We sadly didn't catch any cuts, but check out this Rainbow (I'm not complaining about these Rainbows, heheh.) She measured just over 24" and I have no idea how much she weighed, I do know she was housing the baby trout, probably eating dozens a day.

This coming from a guy, who, a mere 24 hours ago wrote.. "Honestly, if I never caught another Rainbow in my life, I don't think I'd mind."

Monday, October 1, 2012


A second return to the east side of Vallecito reveals stockers and lots of them. Since CPW has been stocking larger rainbows in Vallecito to reduce pike predation, they're fun to catch and often pretty jumpy. There are also some lunkers running around. You'll recognize a stocker by its frequent lack of pectoral fins as well as unremarkable, dull color. One of my least favorite things about hatchery trout is their inability to be successfully released. They're often fatally damaged when caught, unless caught on very small barbless hooks. Their mouths are very delicate, so catching them really puts their survival chances in jeopardy. Ever see how fat the Osprey are around lakes with lots of stockers? It isn't like releasing a smallmouth bass or a pike, who will splash you in the face on their way out, full of life and tenacity.

My solution to stockers, so that nothing goes to waste, is to make fishcakes. My buddy Alex gave me the general recipe a couple years ago and I've been tinkering ever since. Cook your fish (I bake mine at 400 for about 15 mins) and then take the meat off the bones. Mix in garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, minced mushrooms, and egg. Make little cakes, bread them and fry'em up. One of the most delicious ways to eat fish that might not be the most remarkable tasting. I don't mean to belittle the great work CPW does with fish stocking programs, really... I love my Kokanee, we all know that. I am just not a fan of the Rainbow Trout. It doesn't taste as good as a Brookie, it doesn't fight as well as a Bass, and it doesn't have the voracious nature of a Brown. This is a fish that can not and will not survive in the area without constant help from government agencies. Wouldn't it be more sustainable and cheaper to stock fish that can reproduce naturally? If the concern is its impact on native fish, then just stock cutthroats and be done with it. The Rainbow Trout is one Californian that I wouldn't mind seeing pack its bags and head back to the west side of the Sierras. Honestly, if I never caught another Rainbow in my life, I don't think I'd mind.

Editor's Note: In the time since this post, the author has caught a 24" and a 30" Rainbow Trout. He has consequently kept his big mouth shut, and now enjoys fishing for Rainbow Trout

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vallecito Part II

Stockers, stockers everywhere. Fishing is great if you like catching stockers, slow on other species.

Vallecito Report

What happened to all the bass? Just 2 short weeks ago the rip rap at Vallecito was alive with smallmouth. There must have been some stocking because now it is alive with stocker rainbows. We caught a couple bigger rainbows as well as the standard sized finless wonders. No walleye. The mythical Vallecito Walleye continues to elude us, but I keep hearing that we need to be out at night on the full moon. We'll head up there again today and poke around for what can be found.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Salt, Cedars and Pickerel

My silence has been due to a trip to the east coast for work, play and of course, some fishing. I fished some salt water, caught a little shark as well as a few weakfish that were too small to keep. Different world out there. The bass fishing was great, and had some fun catching Crappie as well. Can't wait to get out on the water back home in Colorado, I've heard great things from Fly Fish The San Juans about the Animas in Durango (see their facebook page) and also have heard lavish reports coming from local reservoirs. The water chills out and the fish start going bonkers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Farmer's Almanac, Solunar tables.

I've heard about this stuff for years, however, I've never really experienced it first hand. Seemed like I'd catch fish when I wasn't supposed to and get skunked when it was supposed to be hot. The last few days of Smallie fishing at Vallecito have sort of gone according to the Farmer's Almanac. Yesterday was very slow, with just 3 smallies and 2 stray Rainbow trout. Tell us about your experience with Solunar Calendars and fishing. Drop a line, you can also post on our Facebook Page. Other than that... The lake is pretty low. It is a great time to go mark the islands, stumps, trees with your gps for next year. Ahh look at that nice empty parking lot!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Old Stand-by

Everyone has their lure, their old standby. Sometimes you get seduced away from your trusty companion by expensive crankbaits, high maintenance trolling rigs and glamorous spinners. While my best lure growing up in cedar water was a size 2 Meps in neon green, nothing has produced more fish for me in Colorado than a simple 1/4oz Black Marabou Jig. You can buy them for less than 50 cents a piece and you can make them even cheaper. While I've had fun and luck with various colors and additional accessories, my most consistent has been with plain old black.

Marabou is the name for particularly soft and fluffy under-feathers, most commonly from turkey. It is dyed a variety of colors and has a very lifelike appearance when it hits the water. Like my father-in-law always says "nothing moves like marabou." I usually tie the feather around the shank a little above the bend of the hook, tie it in well, then wind the rest of the feather up to the lead head. A few wraps and you're done. It's tempting to tie in other materials, and double reenforce your body, you can even use thick chenille, but really, there's a very good chance you're going to be leaving this lure at the bottom of a lake. If you're fishing correctly with this kind of jig, you'll probably lose a few. I have fun tying in hackle sometimes, it gives the jigs one more step of liveliness. You can also tie in a bit of Krystal Flash when you're fishing murkier water. These are cheap to buy, easy to tie, and one of the most productive lures for just about any species Colorado has to offer.

I ran out to Vallecito to follow my own advice and hit up the rip rap for some Smallies. There were ominous clouds all around so I didn't take the boat out, just decided to fish the rip rap, which has dirt at the bottom of it. I tried some crankbaits, some little pointer minnow types, spinners, kastmasters, nothing. I switched to old standby and quickly caught 6 nice smallmouth. They were bursting at the gut, they're really feeding down there! Old standby worked again and it was a great time. I also found lots of nice lure parts on the bottom there. Give it a shot this weekend, you won't be upset. If you're up there on Saturday, I'll be playin' my guitar at the Schenk House from 6-10ish!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Facebook Page

Hey folks, I made a Facebook page called "Durango Fishing" so you all can post your fishin' pics from the Durango area and beyond. is the address, so post your best shots, give some reports, chime in.

Vallecito Report, First fish in a strange land...

It's always magical catching a fish in a place where you have never caught one. I've floated many muddy western rivers over the years and never really dreamed of catching anything. Mainly on a river trip you just end up busy, rowing all day, setting up camp and of course... drinking beer. This year, floating from Dewey Bridge to Moab on the Colorado, I made it a point to bring along a rod, reel and just a few random hooks and sinkers. I didn't see the point of trying any lures in such muddy water, but that might have been short sighted. The Colorado Pikeminnow, also known as the Squawfish, is an agressive predator and is often seen breaching the surface of the river quite loudly. While looking at the top 6 inches of the river, I noticed quite a few minnows swimming around and can only assume that is what they're chomping. I wished I had a little kastmaster, but that'll be next time.

What I did do was rig up a drop shot rig with a 1/2oz sinker and throw some bits of fried chicken out. I caught about a dozen catfish, none were that big but it was really fun catching fish in a new place using a method that I never really use. Good times. Cool fish.

I fished Vallecito on Thursday before heading to Utah. The reports at the boatramp were of smallmouth, smallmouth everywhere. One guy said he'd caught 30 that morning using crayfish patters on his fly rod with a sinking line. He was fishing the riprap. He also caught a few on the surface. My job was to round up dinner for everyone so I ended up dragging my old Kokanee rig and just putting a mess of silver slimers on the smoker. Tasty! If you're in need of some good fight and potentially tasty smallmouth, hit up the riprap at Vallecito. Let me know how you do!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Twisted line and cloudy nights

We just got in from a lovely night on Puett. The water is low and extremely cloudy. Deepest part of the lake at this point is about 18 feet. There is a lot of algae, in fact if my depth finder is working right it looks like algae from the bottom to about 9 feet above the bottom. Tonight, the water temp was 68F, so it might be a little warm for them to be terribly active, but sheesh, it was very slow apart from one single bite that yielded nothing. I tried the advice of a friend who said "just drag a crawler harness behind a bottom bouncer, they can't refuse that!" You guys who read this semi-regularly have heard me crack on worm dunkers. I'm not much on live bait outside of catching food you really need, or salt water fishing where you just have too much water to not use some scent, however, the continuous Walleye skunking I've had made me try it. Nothing... trolled the rig slowly around the entire lake. I even tried a crawler on a drop shot rig, nada. Crank baits, spoons, spinners, jerk baits, even my trusty HD Trout. They just weren't biting tonight. We fished from 7 til Midnight. The bats were really awesome and the eerie feeling of being on an empty lake at night was a pleasant change from getting cooked in the sun all day. If you haven't gone night fishing lately, make yourself a thermos of coffee and get out there. Even with a solid skunking, it was a great time and I'll be back for more.

In the past few days I've done a few grocery trips to Vallectio for Kokes. When I troll for them I find that my line gets twisted. So I put more swivels in the rig, but still had some twist. I'm finding out that spinning reels can do this if you happen to reel while your drag is going out. I'm also finding that most swivels you buy are not very swivelley. Some of the cheapo swivels I bought hardy turn. With the help of my buddies on the Western Slope Anglers forum, I found Sampo swivels, which are the Rolls Royce of swivels, but they'll cost ya. About 6 bucks for 2 of them in the smallest size available. Yikes.

I'm looking forward for that downward spiral of water temperature. Ready to see some active fish! I heard a report from the Zebra Mussel inspection guys at Vallecito of an 11 pound Walleye coming out. The guy apparently was out there all night. Crazytalk.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Slow at Puett

Nice day out at Puett, pretty slow fishing, Chad caught a nice lil Pike and a nice Smallie, Lisa caught a little Pike and I caught some rays. We had nibbles on white rubber grub jigs but didn't seal any deals. Fished for about 4 hours. Water temp on surface was 68-70 degrees.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Moby Dick

Think the video says it all.. Going back first thing in the morning. Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig Pike. Of course my picture below says a thing or two.. too.

Finally!!! No more stupid summer!

Call me grumpy, call me antisocial, hell, you can call me Susan if it makes you feel better, but I'm happy that summer is sort of officially done. The warm water temps, the crowds, the jetskis, the jackasses, allllllll gone now. Fishing returns slowly to what it should be, solitude, peace and quiet, and pulling in tons of fish.

I've been a bit negligent latey when it comes to documenting every single cast, but I've had some fun on the rivers. I played a gig (if you've never checked out my music, tune in at at Wines of the San Juan in Turley, New Mexico last weekend. There's no sense in being a few hundred yards from a river like the Juan without doing some fishing. Since virtually all of the land this far down is private, (10 miles from the dam) I met up with Travis from Fly Fish The San Juans and we checked out Majestic Enchantment, a beautiful section of private land along about 1/2 mile of river. With modest rod fees and gorgeous access, we really enjoyed this place. The owner, Jake, showed us his favorite spots and we shared laughs, casts, and stories while Travis spent his time with seine in hand looking at bugs. The flow was 1100 cfs, very high all the sudden, so the bug life was a bit beaten down, but we found some neat worms, skinnier than your average "San Juan Worm." While the rest of us lollygagged and slapped the water like a herd of unstable hippos, Travis quietly matched what he saw in the water, got deep using weight and a damn long leader, and fished us all under the table. He caught at least 10 really nice Browns and Rainbows. The fish in this area are not caught dozens of times a day, so they fight. Oh not the slow, dishrag like fight of fish in the quality water section, but the unpredictable, reel screaming freakout of a fish who isn't used to being caught. A lot of people say Browns don't jump. I beg to sniffer. These pigs were making huge leaps and when they'd hit it sounded like a fat girl doing a belly flop. Great times. It was also the only time I've ever spent 6 hours on the San Juan without seeing another soul (apart from the people with whom I was fishing.) It was well worth it and I'd recommend the place to anyone. Call Jake at (505) 801-9163 or hit up his website at for a sweet day of uncrowded fishing on the San Juan catching wild and crazy fish. Once the flows drop a bit you can bet I'll be right back there.

Funky Lil Lightner Rainbow

The reason he catches more fish than us.. well.. one of the reasons...

Beautiful Majestic Enchantment

In other news, I tried a little Lightner Creek again during a bike ride. Great thing about Durango, go for a ride, pull over, tie on a dry and slap a few fish. Feisty little Rainbows but no signs of the big (well, 16 inches) Brown that I've heard inhabits the upper sections. We'll head out today to try our luck with some Crappie or Bass. I don't want to be sitting around in the winter wishing I'd done more warm water fishing while I see nothing but Trout for 6 months. Get out there while you can! Ice fishing is fun, but nothing beats a crisp September day on the water.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

No Walleye at Vallecito

I fished all around the islands with some awesome crankbaits, awesome jigs, and some neat crayfish patterns. Nada. I had a few small smallmouth slap my lures but that's about it. I ended up switching over to the Kokanee rig to put a few silver slimers in the cooler as to not come home empty handed.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Vallecito is low! I got there around 1pm so was in no rush at all today, just wanted a few Kokes for dinner and then the search for the elusive Walleye and maybe some smallmouth. I got my Kokes and decided to park off the islands but was immediately chased off by a storm. Some guys, on 2 different boats at the dock said they were fishing for Kokes and didn't get any, I wonder how. I used the standard flashers and hot pink Kokanee killer with some Anise soaked corn on the end. I had quite a bit of weight on there, without a downrigger you kinda need to get it down there.

Hermosa Creek

We had a wedding to attend on saturday near Purgatory so we camped on Hermosa Creek below Sig Creek at that sweet spot with the waterfall. If you've been there you know where I mean. There were Cuts and Brookies. They're all so small in there, it's very odd. I've fished many (remaining nameless) cutthroat streams and never seen such stunted fish. Usually I see fewer fish of larger size. Are the catch and release only regulations forcing larger populations of fish here, creating more competition for the food and keeping the size down? I am all for native fish, and I feel that they should protect the remaining untouched native streams ferociously, but I think this Hermosa Creek project is a Frankenstein-like perversion of nature. Something in my gut tells me that applying Rotenone to an entire creek system is sick and twisted and still won't get rid of 100% of the Brookies. I've seen Brookies scale a 6 foot waterfall with no problems whatsoever. I think the barrier on Hermosa creek is laughable and the Brookies are going to find their way back. On the bright side, at least Brookies can't ruin the genepool like the Rainbows that are stocked in every damn river in the state. Call me crazy but I just don't get it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Electric at Electra

I decided to see if the Fly Fish The San Juans magic would carry over to Electra, since I'd done fairly badly there the last few times. Ben at the gatehouse told us the fishing had been sort of dismal lately. We tried a few spots I like with deep run jigs. We tried trolling with a few flashy spinners, I even broke out my ultimate secret weapon the Dynamic Lures TroutHD, which is normally a fish slappin' goldmine. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

It was time, we headed for the shallows and broke out our fly rods. Travis brought some excellent blue damsel flies that looked so good that other damsel flies were trying to ask them on dates. The fish were also asking them on dates. We went from skunked to FISH ON! in no time flat. We pulled out some great fish, and the great lessons from Fly Fish the San Juans keep paying off. We saw hardly another soul on the lake. Sure, the entry fee can be a hassle, but if you take home relatively large fish your price per pound for the best trout you've ever tasted is still far lower than what you'd pay for hatchery trash at your local market.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dry Flies On Still Water

I'd told Travis from Fly Fish The San Juans that I had never used dry flies on still water before to catch trout, and he agreed to take me out and show me how it is done. Fascinating stuff here, however just before the critical moment when a rising fish would slurp my fly from the surface, I'd get distracted but a butterfly and completely miss the fish. Travis caught some rainbows at Andrews lake, I hooked several and caught my spinning rod which was leaning behind me, breaking the tip (shoulda bought an ugly stick)

We then headed over the Cascade Creek and fished just below the diversion for the cut. Great little stream there, mostly Brookies, 1 Rainbow. If you're looking for a nice semi-high stream to smack Brookies, look no further.