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

Brrrrrrrrrrrr!

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!