Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Trout Roe Gunkan-Maki

This is the easiest sushi dish you could ever make. I'd trust a half drunk hillbilly to make this as well as me in a heartbeat. You're gonna use cured Trout Roe... you already have some, right? Make sushi rice according to its directions and make a simple solution of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. I generally use about a quarter cup of rice vinegar, tablespoon of sugar, big pinch of salt and a splash of water for this mixture, experiment till you find a mix you like, you can find many wild variations of this online, so google your heart out. Mix a bowl full of water, rice vinegar and pinch of salt. Maybe a cup of water and 3 tablespoons of vinegar, teaspoon of salt. This is for your hands while you handle the sushi rice. Cut 1 inch wide by 5 inch long strips of Nori. Make a small ball of rice and roll it into the piece of nori. Mine end up round, but an oval shape is idea, in fact "Gunkan" means "battleship" in Japanese, so think of that shape.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Smoked Trout, Baby Potato Bites Appetizer

This is a quick, easy appetizer that will have your guests drooling. It brings out the bacony flavor of the smoked Trout and the prep work can be done in advance to make serving it simple and quick.

Makes 24 bites

  • 12 Baby potatoes (picture half of it being 1 serving)
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped smoked Trout
  • 1 T Cold Butter
  • 2 T Cream Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper

Boil the potatoes whole for about 20 minutes. You want them soft but not mush, we need to work with them. Cut the pointy ends off each potato, and then slice in half. On the big side, scoop out a tiny bowl into the potato half. Cut the butter into pads, and then subdivide pads to make small blocks of butter. Place a block of butter in each potato bowl. You don't want too much butter, but you want it to boil over the edges when in the broiler. Broil on high and watch it, once the butter has boiled over and the top of the potato begins to brown, take them out. Mix minced green onion with the chopped smoked trout and add this mixture to each potato half. Top with a bit of cream cheese and return to broiler until the cream cheese starts to brown.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cold Smoked Rainbow Trout

As I try recipes from far off lands and constantly look for new ways of eating a Trout, I sometimes have to fall back on old, and I mean OLD classics. Evidence of fish smoking dates back thousands of years and was used by various groups of people to preserve their catch. With cold smoking in the Norse method, you basically do several things to preserve and flavor the fish, which is, in essence, raw. I've just made a Lox like product from some large Rainbow Trout, and I can say with certainty that is one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Let's go over the process, it's easier than you think!

For me, using a freshwater fish for a raw product just sounds scary. Although the high waters where we catch these fish are relatively clean on the global scale, there are still parasites and bacteria present that could pose a health risk, which is why we have to be meticulous about our preparation and not cut any corners. Done correctly, this fish is as safe as anything you can buy. The FDA states that freezing at a temperature of -4F for a period of 7 days will kill unwanted parasites such as tapeworms. A physical inspection is also handy for tapeworms, and they're often large enough to see with the naked eye. You can also freeze at -31F for 15 hours, but you better have a beefy freezer for that. Check your freezer's temperature, many home models do not go below 0, and this temperature will not kill parasites. I got lucky with a freezer that holds around -10F and I stored my fish in it for 8 days just to be safe.

While the freezing takes care of parasites, we do have bacteria to worry about. Cleanliness and promptness are required when filleting the fish for the smoker. Be very careful with the kidney, along the spine of the fish. We don't want any of that nastiness getting on our fillets. Once the fillets are removed, they need to be cleaned, dried, and frozen immediately. Again, watch that freezer temperature. If you don't have a freezer that can reach these temperatures, reach out to your friends in the food service industry. Many restaurants have a deep freezer.

Once the fish have been adequately frozen and have thawed, we want to coat them, and I mean COAT them with a mixture of salt and brown sugar. I do about 2/3 salt and 1/3 brown sugar. We want the fish to be entirely caked, get the nooks and crannies. This is no time to be stingy with your salt, go big or go home. Once salted, wrap the individual fillets in clingwrap and place in dishes that can catch spillover, in the refrigerator. Some people say 6 hours, but I found that leaving them over night gave the fish time it needs to shed water. You'll notice that your fish has dramatically reduced in size, and should be surrounded by liquid. Rinse off excess salt and sugar and place the fish on racks to dry. They'll feel more firm and they'll be smaller and lighter. This curing process removes water from the meat and adds salt, creating a hostile environment for bacteria. The bacteria need the water in the meat to reproduce and flourish, and we've just taken the water away. Your fish is now cured, and could be eaten, but why leave out the best part?!? These fish are cured and ready to smoke.

Hot smoking cooks the fish, while cold smoking really just adds flavor. You can build your own cold smoker, I used an old BBQ with a fire in it connected with some duct to a platform. I placed my fish on racks on the platform and covered with a giant tupperware. It looked like something from Sanford and Sons' yardsale, but it did the trick just perfectly. I used hickory to get the fire going and then apple wood once the fish was actually in there. You'll want to keep the temperature under 80F, remember we're not trying to cook the fish. Smoke from 6 to 12 hours, depending on how smoky you like it. Don't be afraid to try a bit as it goes, it's the best way to monitor the flavor.

What I ended up with was an insanely delicious product served on crackers with cream cheese, or just eaten as slices right off the fillet. I can't believe it's taken me this long to produce a product like this. Sure, there's an element of risk, like there is in anything worth doing, but the payoff makes it all worth it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Take a kid fishing!

Because it's an easy way to measure your fish... After all, you know how long the kid is right? Boy we pulled in some hogs on Sunday at Vallecito. There were quite a few people out and it looked like everyone was having a great time and doing well. Our friend across the lake brought a little fella he is mentoring in the big brothers big sisters program. When you take a kid fishing you create tomorrow's fishermen. They won't leave shit all over the banks, they'll be great stewards of the lakes, and they'll NEVER use powerbait. Most of all, they'll help sway public opinion in a way that positively portrays fishermen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Animas River Fall Fishing Report

In what has become a birthday tradition, Lisa decided that I needed yet another fishing lesson and took me to school. To be fair, I got first, and I got most... but those paltry little slimers are hardly fish compared to this gorgeous male cutbow she hauled in on a home made sculpin jig. I had fish taking very small mayfly nymphs, midges and yellow eggs. It's been a while since I've fished the Animas. Honestly, it's just not the same without my ol' buddy Travis, who picked up and moved back to Maryland where he continues to guide lucky fly fishers. I miss walking up and saying "what are they eating?" and having him pull a jar of bugs out of his pocket. He even left me some seine material, I guess it is up to me now. I'd forgot how gorgeous the fish on the Animas are, and also how fickle. If I had one day of my life left and was given the option.. Animas or San Juan? I would take the Animas without even thinking a second. I noticed a very very small leak in the heel of my waders, I'd like to nip it in the bud before it gets any worse.. Any ideas? Comment below!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pistachio Crusted Trout Fillets

This is a fast, simple version of a fairly popular recipe. You'll just need a few items. I chose Spaghetti Squash because we've got a bunch of them, but you could serve this on top of just about anything. I left out a sauce here, as I've been eating quite a few rich foods lately, I thought I'd take a break, but just about any butter sauce or Beurre Blanc will do nicely. For the Trout, you'll need:

  • Trout Fillets, Boneless, Skinless
  • About 2/3 cup Pistachios, pulsed in food processor to the size of breadcrumbs
  • Egg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil
  • Butter
  • Flour

Bring the fillets to room temperature and salt them liberally. Dust with flour. Dip the floured fillets in the whipped egg, and then into the Pistachios. Coat them well, stir the Pistachios again, and repeat with other fillet. Heat oil in a pan with a dab of butter, and drop in the fillets. Boom! 2 and a half minutes a side on medium-high will get you there! You're done, enjoy a cold one! As you can see, this is a very simple version of the recipe. You could excite the Pistachio mixture with herbs, bits of garlic, ground hard cheese.. the sky is the limit, however, there's something nice about doing it as simply as possible, and the flavor is amazing, especially with a nice, fat, wild Trout.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Ice Fishing Page!

I wrote a simple beginner's guide to ice fishing that I've made as a page instead of a blog post. If you or a friend are interested in ice fishing, the skinny is right here in this document!

Beginner's Guide To Ice Fishing.

Pastorius, Vallecito, San Juan

From now until February is my favorite time to be on the San Juan. The cold keeps the the crowds down (and it IS very cold) and the fishing is generally excellent. A nice morning stroll up the San Juan would do me right about now, except for one nagging thought... I am sort of a shameless catch-and-eat fisherman. I think bag limits have done great for the populations of grouse, elk, turkey, deer. We don't catch and release any of those animals, yet their populations flourish. I find that setting out to fish when you have 0 intention of eating anything is sort of a sadistic thing. "I'm going to go stress an animal out and put it through a crappy ordeal to prove that I can" is the thing that rings in my head when I set out to catch and release. That being said, I may or may not know someone who has slipped the occasional fish from the upper San Juan into their vest to bring home for dinner. "Mushy midgy mud" was the description of the fish's flavor he or she told me. So we have aggressive, hungry fish that taste horrible. Sure, there's a lot more to fishing than just catching dinner, or else we'd just use bait, right? The positive mental state one is in after a day fishing the Juan probably does more good for that person's family than a stinky ol' Trout. And it IS fun, terribly fun. So why do I feel a little dirty whenever I go down there?

I feel dirty because I witness the effects of people just not following the rules. For a catch and release area to work, the barbless hook rule HAS to be enforced. We've all seen the train wrecks on the Juan: big fish with pussy sores all over their jaws, hand prints on their sides, slow, sluggish movement. Improper handling and barbed hooks account for almost all of these disasters and they're easily avoided. Also, the guy at the fly shop says you need 7x, but you've got a stiff 6 weight rod. Don't do it, for flip's sake, you're just going to break off fish and leave them with your fly hanging out of their butt. Yes, we all break off fish, but setting out to lose is a bad idea. My wife describes the San Juan as "dirty old diseased fish that make me depressed," and I can really see where she's coming from. So please, pinch your barbs, use your net and hemostats, don't man handle the fish too long for your picture. With all of us making it our goal to keep these fish healthy, we will all have a better experience.

In local news... I've heard that Pastorious is fishing well, and Vallecito is still producing hogs. Look for the weather to change in the coming week and we might just see some excellent fishing returning. It's been a year to the day that I caught that monster Rainbow. That day was cold and snowy. I had no such luck on the anniversary, but I'm excited about upcoming changes in the weather. We're planning on going to Puett when time allows to see if we can talk a fall Walleye into biting.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What to do with one Trout.

Well, I say one Trout, but there were certainly potatoes and other vegetables involved. I caught a lovely 20" Rainbow Trout yesterday and I want to show you how it's possible to make a mouth watering meal that will make even your foodiest of friends whine and pine. Come in, sit down, and have some Trout skin chicharrones. Yep, those are pork rinds, but made from fish skin instead of football. I got the idea for the chicharrones from the illustrious Hank Shaw at his wonderful blog. His cooking makes me look like a backwoods country bumpkin with a chicken fetish, make sure you check him out.

The appetizers are simple, tiny boiled potatoes from the garden, selectively shaved down to be perfect little serving bowls for the cured Trout roe (processed like Ikura, see video.) I put some butter in the potatoes and throw them under the broiler for a minute before I cool them and add the roe.

The Salad, well we need our veggies, so make yourself a nice salad. I'm sure I could have work a Trout into the salad but something about that sets off alarms to my inner New Jersey. I'd settle for some baby arugula with some kinda citrus vinaigrette and pumpkin seeds.

For the main course, we'll steam boneless, skinless trout fillets in soy sauce, sherry, ginger, carrots and green onions. Serve with spaghetti squash with a rice vinaigrette. I put my sides in separate dishes to make the fish float in the broth in which it was steamed. Desert is not of fish, but it is Wild Serviceberry syrup over buttered home made sourdough. This is coming at a time when my poor old dog has just had an expensive surgery and funds for gourmet meals are not available. With a lunker Trout and some simple ingredients, anyone can afford to eat like a king.

Lemon Butter Trout Fillet with Nasturtium "Capers"

It's hog season. We've been keeping the occasional 18-22" Rainbow from Vallecito during this flurry of large fish activity. We find that fish in this size group have lived in the lake long enough to eat natural food and get that rich, pink color. Freshly stocked fish taste ok, but why not let them go to grow up a few years? This is another reason I'm generally against fishing with bait, if everything that takes your live bait swallows it, you don't really have the ability to release the little guys to let them grow up. Learn to tie some jigs, it's self sufficient and a great way to spend a beery evening.

What you'll need

Trout fillets. I'm thinking either half of a large Trout or both fillets from a smaller Trout. We want to fill a frying pan and have plenty for 2 people. If you have more people, well, start multiplying. You'll need some olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, a lemon, and green onions. You can use real capers, but for this recipe I used pickled Nasturtium seed pods. I used this lovely lady's recipe. Nasturtium pods are zesty and delicious and you can grow TONS of them yourself without relying on trans continental trade to caper your dish. I prefer my Trout fillets with the pin bones either pulled or cut out, because I'm a freak about fish bones, but some people just leave them in and eat around them. In my photo, you'll see this recipe served with a garbanzo bean and tomato salad and spaghetti squash. I am leaving the sides purposely vague, you can really couple Trout like this with anything. You could even serve just the Trout on a small plate as an appetizer, that'd look pretty swanky.

You need to remove the fish from the refrigerator or cooler at least 20 minutes in advance of making this. Cold fish will cook unevenly and you'll end up burning some bits while others are barely cooked. Like all meat, fish wants to be brought to room temperature before being cooked. Salt your fillets, and pepperCut the fillet into strips about 1 inch wide. Heat oil and once it is hot, add just a little butter to it until you have a rapidly bubbling mess. You can use an oil more neutral that olive oil if you prefer, but my inner Italian just uses a mellow olive oil for just about everything. Fillets in, skin side down and listen to the sizzle. You will see the cooked parts of the fillet grow and when they've reached about halfway, flip and cook meat side down for just a minute or two. Return back to skin side to finish. This entire process should take no longer than 8 minutes. As with cooking any fish, you just have to remember one thing.. DON'T #$)*ING OVERCOOK IT! Remove the fish from the pan and then, you see all that bubbly, brown joy in the pan? Add a tablespoon of butter and the juice of 1 lemon. Add about 1tsp additional salt. Just get it all boiling nicely while you're plating the Trout. At the very last second add your capers to the pan and then immediately spoon the mixture onto your trout fillets. Top with green onions and serve!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Vallecito Report

I have been taking home a net full of cans and other trash from the rip-rap at Vallecito, and I'd like to applaud you alkies out there, because I find a lot more pop cans and cans of various soft drinks, and energy drinks than I do beer cans. I find an appalling number of Powerbait jars and worm containers. It seems that fishermen who are lazy enough to use this crap are also lazy enough to leave their trash behind... Makes sense. Please, when you're out there, do your part to clean up after these slobs so fishermen don't get a bad rap. I'm not trying to point some holier-than-thou finger at people using bait, hell, during ice fishing season I will happily slap on a nightcrawler, as my lure is limited to a 10" column of water. I'm just saying... fishermen who leave their trash behind need to have their coconuts cracked.

Fishing at Vallecito was stellar... until it wasn't. Friday showed us one of those days that gives you a sore arm, Rainbow after Rainbow, some stockers, some large 20" + fish. Sunday was slow, just a few stockers. Great times!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vallecito, recipes!

Too much of a good thing

It's been rough for a little while. We had so much moisture that the lake came up very drastically, so places where we stood in early September are now 20 feet below the surface. For whatever reason, temperature, clarity, just change in pressure, the fish have been sporadic at best. During the transition we had several very slow days. I think I can safely say it is over for now, and it's hog season! We've had several very large fish on the hook in the the last 3 or 4 days. Male Kokanee, with their bizzare jaws jutting out in a toothy grin, are hitting wooly buggers and generally going nuts. It's just been really really fun. I've been using red-lead eyed mini clouser-buggers in a maroon color with a gold wire. I haven't read the temperature but whatever it is, the Smallmouth don't seem to be biting anymore.. Maybe I've gotta fish lower, and slower. I didn't manage to bag an Elk, so it's time to start bringing home some fish goodies. One of the hens we brought home for dinner was full of eggs, so I made Ikura. It is absolutely delicious. I sadly have not fished the Animas in some time but I bet Sculpins are getting smacked right now. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my favorite time of year to fish. Put on some long johns, get some good gloves, bundle up and get out there!

Male Kokanee on wooly bugger.

Brown Trout on Silver Kastmaster.

Brown Trout Filets

Trout Cake, Cocktail Sauce, Poached Egg, Cured Trout Roe

Fat Rainbow

The Video

General Tso's Trout!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Can't fish for Elk!

I hope you guys have been enjoying the little bursts of fall color and the lower temperatures. The fishing has been a bit weird lately, and I think that is due to the rapid change in water level and temperature with those big storms. Vallecito is up up up, amazing. I guess I'll never get that crankbait back :( The fishing today was pretty hot, but it was 100% stockers. I must say, the last batch of large catchables they put in there look great, they have all their fins, vibrant color. Nice job, hatchery guys. The problem is, we haven't been catching many real fish. The Smallies have all but stopped, and the occasional hammer handle Pike will hit. No browns, no big bows... and Walleye? They don't exist. This is my favorite time of year to fish, and I'm sure sooner or later the water will settle and it will be on fire! I've gone and ruined a perfectly good week of fishing by picking up a cow elk tag. I'll be hunting units 75 and 751 if anyone out there spots a big mamma and wants to blab about it. Check out our facebook page and drop a report if you've been slayin'em!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lake up, slow fishing.

Well the "catchable" Rainbows are biting at Vallecito. I sort of don't understand why they keep it up with these fish. Let the Smallies, Pike, Walleye do their thing. Let the Browns do their thing, and let's make lakes like Groundhog the awesome Rainbow lakes. Or.. Better yet, let's deal with native Cutthroats and send the Rainbows packing back to California where they belong. I hear about the expense it takes to stock Rainbows in Vallecito because they have to be grown so large to not be eaten by the Pike. Hey, let's cut that expense, it's a Pike lake. Pike have been there since they were stocked in the 60s, why continue paddling upstream? We were amazed to catch a Colorado River Cutthroat in Vallecito the other day, that was awesome. I guess he came down from Vallecito Creek. Neat! CPW just spent over $100,000 to fix the Smallmouth problem at Miramonte. The reason they did this is because Miramonte is a "put and grow" lake. This means that fingerlings are stocked and grow to catchable size in the lake, making them wild, delicious, and fun to catch. Smallmouth decimate these fingerlings. While I enjoy Smallmouth Bass, it was a shitty thing to put them in Miramonte. Put and grow lakes also often have natural reproduction happening, which is fabulous. There are plenty of lakes for Smallmouth, they don't have to be in EVERY lake. There are my rants for the day... Leave the Smallies where they are, get rid of the Rainbows and let's have a picnic! By the way we got skunked trying to fill our cooler with Kokanee the other day. Weeeeeeird.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The one that got away...

"Get the camera!" I yelled to Lisa, who was happily dealing with her own fish. My reel had stopped screaming for a second and I won back some line, cursing the 5x leader I somehow thought was a smart thing to use for Smallmouth. These aren't Rainbows... and the fish on the end of my line was showing no signs of tiring. Another scream of the reel, some thunderous head shakes and then a brief pause during which I tried again to get as much line back as I could. Reel reel reel reel pop. Not even a loud pop.. Almost as if the fish decided that it had had enough of these high jinks and just let go. My fly, a small wooly bugger, came back to me unharmed and I could suddenly hear my hair growing.

I bet I'll make it down there tomorrow. Heck, I might be down there all week. It just goes to show that it's losing the big ones that will keep you coming back with a passion. After a mediocre fishing summer during which I hardly experienced anything noteworthy that made me want to write, I've had a grand end of August and beginning of September. I mostly fished Vallecito, but I did get a chance to fish Beaver Lake in Marble. Holy crowded! I finally managed to haggle a canoe and get out on the water where I caught what you'd expect.. freshly stocked slimers. I did catch a nice Cutthroat that was the only hefty fish of the day. But... that's an entirely different story. Back to these Smallies.. They're biting at Vallecito. I'm becoming a big fan of these fish, they fight incredibly hard, they are extremely resilient and, at least in that lake, they taste delicious.

The limit on Smallmouth is 5 a day, and fish in the 8-12" range have nice fillets on them. Throw back the big mamas so they can lay their eggs. Smallies were illegally introduced into this body of water in 1970. Because they're inactive when the gill netting is done, there really isn't accurate data on how many there are. They like jigs, fished low and slow, and they like various crank baits as well. If I remember correctly from last year, they really stop biting around the first of October, so get on out there! Try Smallmouth in a fish n chips application, it's delicious!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Vallecito report...

My buddy just hooked me up with a big ol' swimbait from Dynamic Lures so I plan to see how the Pike in the North end of the lake like it. I've done little Pike fishing in Vallecito, mainly just because I often fish for dinner there (Kokes, Browns, SMB), but it's time. The fishing has been so so. I don't like summer fishing generally as you've heard me say over and over, but the Kokanee are bigger, fatter, and just as tasty as ever. It's getting to be big Trout season, so get your black jigs ready.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Oh boy!

Well that was a horrifically long time to go without wetting a line. Car trouble, boat trouble, job trouble and then the fact that we decided to start growing chickens (the process of building a predator-proof coop has been fun) have conspired together to keep us off the water. And you know what? That's ok. I figure that my absence has given the poor fish a much needed break from the constant rigorous demands of being caught all the time. I tied some quick elk hair caddis and ran out to my favorite mountain stream yesterday. The water is low already, but that didn't stop me from catching a mess of little Brookies. I brought home 4 of the largest and made an interesting dish. Similar to that cerviche, but a little different, this time I boiled the fish, pulled the meat from the bones and mixed it with crushed garlic, ginger, jalapeño and sesame oil. Dash of vinegar and some chopped baby kale and it was ready to be dumped over rice. It was interesting, refreshing and yummy. I didn't like the way the plate looked, it needed something red to offset all the green, so I didn't take a picture, but here's lil Mr. Brookie. While these voracious fish are considered rare, delicate and endangered in their native range, they're considered obnoxious fast-talking east coasters here in Colorado. Our bag limit for Brookies under 8" is 10. Go catch a mess, you'll be doing the native fish a favor if the two are coexisting.

I'm no biologist but I think that Brookies and Cutthroat can coexist. I don't just think this because I want to, but rather because I've seen it. In creeks like that I keep Brookies and I let cutthroat swim away. If we all put a little pressure on the Brookies we can perhaps avoid these disastrous rotenone poisonings that these lunatics keep proposing. I'm all for a diverse and sound natural world, but at some point, they've lost sight of the fact that we are also part of nature. We didn't land here from space. This planet is also our home. Just as plants have spread around the world with their seeds carried on the fur of animals or in the droppings of birds, the Brook trout have clung to the sides of humans and come west. They are DELICIOUS, and they reproduce quickly. If the government were not there to manage them, they would do fine. The Brook trout merely outcompetes native fish for available resources and in some cases eats their young, (and their OWN young) but the darling poster child of fisheries management, the foul Rainbow Trout, does something much worse, it BREEDS with the natives, all but abolishing the pure bloodlines. With one hand they're poisoning Brook trout from streams while they stock Rainbows with the other hand. If the idea is to restore native fish, let's start with the real culprit and leave the noble Brookie out of it!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spring & Cars

Our jeep has been acting up and we've been fixing the issues as they arise, however, it's put a real damper on our fishing life. That being said last week we had a gorgeous 1-2 combo of Williams Creek and Groundhog. Boy those Brookies at Williams Creek sure have lovely color. Forgive the lack of entires in the last month, I just haven't been on the water the way I should. The San Juan is currently between 3 and 4 hundred CFS with the Animas doing its thing. A great time to head down and fish. Don't forget to stop by and see our buddies at Wines of The San Juan when you do, just 8 miles below the dam. I made a variety of dishes with the Trout. I have been filleting all my Trout lately. The last dish I made, I chopped fillets into bite sized pieces and fried hot. Served with Soy sauce & Wasabi.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Slow, but it paid off.

Fishing on Vallecito has been relatively slow. It's cold, windy, and just not bitey. This big Brown took a Kastmaster, and we managed a few stockers on jigs, but it was slow. Lemon was also slow and don't bring your boat yet. The boat ramp ends 150 yards from the water.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mid-day at Puett

I fish at the wrong time of day all the time. It's currently 6:18am and I should be hitting the lake, but 20 minutes longer won't hurt will it? Some days, events just take you further from the shore of your favorite water, and by the time you get there, the sun is shining directly down from the noon sky. These conditions make all but the most voracious of fish duck for cover. Does that mean you shouldn't even bother? Hell no. Sporadic clouds, an insect hatch, the position of the moon, or a change in barometric pressure can set fish off. Some fish, like the noble but stupid Kokanee, will bite all day. When Trout are suspended in deep water the time of day doesn't seem to influence them as much as other fish. All that cuteness aside, when you're hunting Walleye, being out at noon is just plain silly, but what the hell, that's the time we had so that's when we fished. There's time to organize your tackle, work on your casting, and to contemplate how you can make your fishing setup better. There's always wildlife around, and seeing that isn't a bad thing either. All things aside, like many wise men have said in the past, "A bad day of fishing beats a good day of work." Hell, you might even get lucky and catch a pike!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ice is 100% gone at Vallecito

We caught mostly large (15") stockers today with a few wild (er) fish thrown in the mix. The ice is all the way gone. Grey 1/8oz jigs were doing it, as was my new "Vallecito Red Eye" which I'm sure is not actually anything new, but rather a pretty common dumbell red eyed wooly bugger in a size 12. Tiny, heavy, wikid! It was a lovely day to go 10%ing.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ice is mostly gone

Sorry I'm posting this a bit late, it turned into a busy couple of days. We went to check out the water at Vallecito on Thursday, finding some open water around the dam. Up toward the North end we found more open with some nice areas to fish. A guy at the Schank House showed us a picture of a big Pike he'd caught earlier. We were landing stocker trout around the dam, many with Pike teeth imprinted on their side. These are the plus size stockers they put in last fall, they really fight hard. Both days we managed a few "real" fish, big 20" male rainbows with their spawning colors ablaze, but most of the catch was stocker fish. I noticed last year this same thing this time of year. We didn't catch too many stockers through the ice (well... they're all stockers, but how long they've been in there gives me the term) but it seems there are heaps of them now. Odd. Either way, I was fishing small wooly buggers near the ice, Lisa was using a variety of shiny metal spoons. She outfished me. What else is new?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ice, Wind, Ugh

Be careful if you're venturing out onto the ice. Myself, I'm done ice fishing for the year based on my father-in-law's sage advice of "don't go out there, the wind really messes things up." I'm sure there's plenty of thick, safe ice around but use caution near the edges. The rise of the lake as well as subsurface rocks make this ice go first. It's a really good idea to have a life jacket on and carry a throw rope. A little preparation and forethought can probably save your life. I've heard that the oxygen levels in Pastorius are extremely low, hopefully we won't see too much winter kill. We took a trip out west today to check how the fishing was in House Creek canyon. Road closed. Checked some other places but low temps and high winds chased us out. We stopped at Summit reservoir on the way back and fished the 10 feet of water between shore and ice. No go. Puett is still 100% frozen. Note to future self from next year: when you decide to go out fishin this week, stay home and tie flies!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Futile attempts...

Like Holly, the shipboard computer of Red Dwarf once said... "It's better to have loved.. and to have lost, than to listen to an album by Olivia Newton John... ANYTHING is better than listening to an album by Olivia Newton John." If you don't try, you'll never know. As many of you know, I enjoy fishing many of the high creeks and rivers around here. I even dished out a heap of cash for an ultra light 5' flyrod that makes the tiniest Brookie feel like a hog. With this cute flyrod in hand (I need to bring this thing to the Juan on day for the funny looks,) I plunged through feet of snow down to the La Plata river. I drug some heavily weighted nymphs through the deepest pools I could find but had no luck. The river is running at about 5cfs. I did see bugs, so maybe I'll try again earlier or in a different spot. It seems like every year I get into that canyon earlier, and earlier when I know damn well that there won't be active fish. After a particular frustrating snag in a tree, I decided to just pack it in and head home. That's when I stopped for a second to look at this stunning river as it trickled through the snowdrifts. It made the only sound to be heard and the sight was just utterly stunning. Yep. This beats listening to an album by Olivia Newton John.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Summer Salmon Dish

You've all heard me crying about being ready for spring and summer. We caught 9 Kokanee through the ice in a couple hours yesterday and I made this distinctly summerey dish from them. I got the idea from a post my cousin made on Facebook from a restaurant in southern Florida. Salmon in Florida? Where there are so many fresh fish available? Odd. But I like the dish that resulted. Kokanee are readily available in Vallecito, Lemon and Williams Creek. They like shiny things and they love the smell of Anise. I soak kernels of white shoepeg corn in Anise oil (not the baking stuff, that's got alcohol in it, get real Anise oil) and then put a kernel on one hook of a 1/8oz Kastmaster. Don't be afraid to change depth, we found the Kokes from 2 feet to 15 feet from the bottom. Drill lots of holes fairly close together, when you catch a fish in a hole, change to a different hole to let the first hole "rest."

Summer Citrus Salmon

Serves 2
4 Fresh Kokanee Salmon Filleted (The Kokes I used here were about 13")
1 small orange
1/4 thumb fresh ginger, minced
Small Jalapeño, seeds removed, diced
Fresh Cilantro
6 or 8 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
6 or 8 Fingerling Potatoes
Rice Vinegar
Olive Oil
Green Onion or Chives
Salt and Pepper

Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until slightly soft, and then cut into even size slices, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut about half of the orange into small 1/2 inch pieces and mix with diced Ginger, Jalapeño, Tomatoes and Cilantro. This is your Salsa, sprinkle it with salt and lemon juice and set aside and let it come to room temperature. Juice the remaining orange, and mix with olive oil, some lemon juice and a bit of rice vinegar and salt. Stir well and taste. Let this come up to room temperature as well. At this point, I melt some butter in a small pan and throw in the potatoes to crisp the outsides, salt and pepper to taste. Time for the Kokanee... Get some oil in the pan and get it nice and hot. Salt the Kokanee fillets and add them quickly to the pan, skin down. Let'em sizzle! Flip briefly to make sure the tops are cooked and then right back to skin side. The object here is CRISPY skin, it's the best part of the Salmon if you ask me. Plate the potatoes in the center of the plate, flat sides up, and then top with the Salmon fillets, skin side up. Top THAT with the fruit salsa, and drizzle liberally with the vinaigrette. Let the vinaigrette pool up on the plate, it's nice to dip the crispy Salmon bits in it. Garnish with chopped chives and serve. I was slamming Mexican beers with this, however, for you culinary studs out there trying to make clothes fall off, I'd recommend a chilled Pinot Grigio, or, when it is warmer, a Vinho Verde.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ice, Ice, go away...

We took a little trip over to Mancos State Park to lend a hand with the Perch again. We caught some bigger fish this time, no monsters, but more in the 7-9" range than the 4-6" range. The new auger is so dreamy. The ice may not be here for long, if you click back a year on this very blog you'll see it disappearing from Pastorious any day now. Remember the ice is often weakest right at shore. Be careful and keep your ears open. For this angler, the melt couldn't come fast enough. Don't get me wrong, ice fishing is a great pursuit when you want to nibble on some fresh fish in mid winter. It's a great way to spend a day, and sure beats sitting in the office. All that being said, I'm ready for warm days, long casts, and high mountain fly fishing. Ice off is a great time to fish. April and May are two of the best months on the water, look for hungry fish close to shore when the ice starts to melt. Good luck!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Slushy ice and deeeeeep holes.

We got out three times in the last 5 days but they've been quick jaunts at best. We ordered a new auger, Lisa's dad's needed sharpening and I sharpened it and it was actually doing ok, but not good enough. Then I tried to resharpen it and made the mistake of touching the bottom of the blade, and then it wouldn't bite. We wondered if years of use may have bent the auger itself and when we saw that an entire new auger was only about $25 more than a new set of blades we figured what the hell. The new auger is identical to the old, a Strikemaster hand auger. The big difference is the new auger breaks down into two pieces making it easier to transport in packs if we ski in somewhere. We took it to Vallecito to test it and it took about 42 seconds to drill through 20 inches of ice. Oh baby. We only caught stockers, but what do you expect on a bright sunny day. I had dreams of catching some big sunnies at Pastorious so I ventured out there yesterday. The ice is slushy but thick. I bet it won't be thick for long. My first hole landed me right in weeds and mud about 2 inches below the hole. Nowhere seemed deeper than 8 feet or so and I didn't have a bite. Today we did what we said would be fun all season: skied into Little Molas Lake. The ice/slush combination was so thick we were laying on the ground trying to get the auger through. We did finally and found we had 5 feet of ice and about 3 feet of water under it. Sigh. The skiing was fun and on the way home we shot out to Lemon where we caught some little browns, little rainbows, and a lot of sun. Lisa caught biggest, I caught first. I think we both caught most.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Animas River

The Animas, at 38 degrees, was a bit fickle today. I was having one of "those days" where I could tangle or snag for just about any reason possible. Amazing, physics-defying snarls consumed a lot of my day. It was even slow for Travis, who caught 1 really fat and beautiful Rainbow. She must have been full of eggs because she was kickin some serious flab. Oh Animas, you tricky lady, you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

San Juan Chill

It was pretty good fishing up around Cable Hole today. The fish were eating moss, and lots of it. There must be scuds, midges and other goodies in the moss, but any fish we pumped had quite a bit of moss in it. The weather stayed cold all day, with our guides freezing all day long. We worked a lot of sections methodically and for a little while we had lots of rising fish. A size 26 midge pupa in black was doing the trick, fished with barely any weight about 2 feet below a micro indicator. It was a good time, but chilly!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Small redemption...

We went back out to Vallecito to fish the same holes as yesterday without the large group. I caught a nice fat rainbow on a size 12 hare's ear jigging through the ice, and then lost another fish when my line snapped. I guess the line got nicked landing the first fish. C'est la vie using light flouro. The bite is on, the bite is off. The full moon is coming, lock the doors!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Woah, Skunked!

We got skunked at Vallecito, BUT, we had a great big crowd of folks, including 3 kids and we were all making quite a bit of noise, drilling holes, some of us hacking holes, and building snowmen, sledding and yes, even trying to fish. It was a great day on the ice. Lisa didn't even catch any. Eerie!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Nice day, slow fishin. I spent half the day staggering around the lake on my skis. Lisa lost something that had the tip of the pole touching the reel and the reel screaming like Tonya Harding. Whatever it was, it was big. She caught some more fish, one around 16" while I was goofing off watching the dog sniff coyote turds. A guy down the ice from us a bit pulled out the biggest Brown I've ever seen with my own two eyes. Gorgeous fish. It was definitely 6 pounds, and tubby as well at over 24" long. I've got this thing for browns.. They're an apex predator who just take shit from no one. Almost.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Perch Perch Perch Auger.

I was really stoked today to meet a guy out on the ice who is on our facebook page. We arrived at Mancos State Park pretty early and the first thing I did was take a lap around the lake on my skis just to try to sweat the booze out of me from last night. That was great fun, cross country skiing and ice fishing are obvious matches. When I came back I started chipping away at a hole with our sturdy spade because our auger just hasn't been cutting it lately. This fella shows up with the same auger as us, but with brand new blades, shimmering in the early spring sun. After about .0005 seconds of persuasion he talks into trying his auger instead of hacking through the ice like a caveman. 40 seconds was all it took. What the fuck is wrong with our auger blades? I thought I sharpened them, but obviously I didn't. Now that I know how a hand held auger can perform, I think I don't even want a motorized version.

We caught lots of Perch. Based on suggestions received on our facebook page, I tried a bigger bait, hoping to keep the small perch away. I caught an 11.5" Perch on the first drop, and thought this advice was working. 4 hours later I had only 5 more that were certainly not 11" but were not too small. Yes, the bigger bait works, keep the little guys away. Yes, it also makes fishing a lot slower. I did manage to catch my first brown at Jackson, and it was gorgeous, one of the most beautiful fish I'd ever seen. Since the browns are also helping thin the Perch herd and make the Perch bigger and tastier, I released this fish. I tried to take a picture but he released himself before I could finish releasing him. Or something. We came home and based on our new friend's suggestion just fried the little guys after head/ tail /gutting them. They were tasty but tough eating with all the spines, bones, and fins. The bigger fish, breaded and fried, were about the best thing I've ever eaten.

Trout Nori Rolls

Sushi scares some people. Images of eating some raw fish (bait, as my father in law says...) or some other vile unspeakable thing have kept many otherwise adventurous people from enjoying something utterly delicious. "Sushi" means "Seasoned Rice" and therefore does not require any raw ingredients (but I catch you cooking Yellowfin to put in a sushi roll and I'm gonna whack you with a telephone book.) Nori is the seaweed wrapper that contains many sushi rolls, it's basically paper made from seaweed in a similar manner to how normal tree pulp paper is made. Nori is extremely good for you being high in many B vitamins. So now we've got some sticky, seasoned rice (we'll get on to that in a minute...) and some seaweed paper. All we need is a tasty filling and maybe something to give it a little crunch. Catch a lot of Trout? Salmon? This is your ticket.

I started with a 16" Rainbow Trout. I prefer this recipe with Kokanee but they simply weren't biting at Vallecito yesterday. I cook my fish for about 15 minutes at 400 and remove from the oven. Before it is too cool, remove the skin and gently pull the meat from the bones and place it in a large bowl. I spend a somewhat ridiculous amount of time picking through the fish to make sure all the little pin bones have been removed. Sure, they're pliant and edible but what wants bones in their sushi? Of course while this is happening you're cooking your sushi rice. The rice is the most important thing, get it right. If that means trying to make it a few times before you serve this to someone whose pants you're trying to remove, do it, nothing says "chump" like bad sushi rice! For the filling I mix the deboned trout with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of Japanese mayonnaise (regular ol mayo works just fine too) and a healthy squirt of Siracha pepper sauce. Stir it all well and you've got spicy trout filling that is deboned, cooked and glows with a bright red/orange hue. I like to cut sheets of nori in half, lightly cover one side with rice then flip onto a sushi roller covered in saran wrap. Oh yeah, you've got a sushi roller right? It's a mat of bamboo dowels that allows you to easily shape your rolls. They'll cost you a couple bucks and for this purpose, they can be easily covered with saran wrap, which is taped on both to keep the rice off the bamboo. Flip the rice covered nori onto the bamboo mat (easy to do if you make it on a little cutting board) and place your filling in a line down the middle. I like to add a strip of cucumber here too for crunch and color. You want to achieve a balance of flavor and texture. Try your first roll. Do you feel like it's hard to swallow and you just ate a ball of dough? Too much rice. Experimentation is the key to getting it right with this and all foods. A recipe just points you onto the right road, how you drive is up to you. There are plenty of sushi how-tos online, I'd check out of few of them, I am, after all, about as Japanese as Bratwurst. Good luck!

1 cup sushi rice
1.75 cup water
2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Mix the Vinegar, Sugar and Salt with a little heat and pour over the rice when it is done cooking, mix well but don't mangle your rice grains, keep them intact!

1 Nice Trout (or a few Kokanee)
1 heaping spoon of mayo
1 heaping spoon Siracha
Salt to taste

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Animas

What a gorgeous day to go throw some Valentine's casts with yo' baby. Lisa and I headed for conglomerate rock for a quick jaunt, her packing a 7 foot spinning rod with jigs, me stealing her nice flyrod with cased caddis. No action in the hour we were there but we were having fun! The ducks didn't even fly away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vallecito Ice Report and Corn.

Fishing was slow, and that's to be expected with the clear sunny sky and cold high pressure. There were some folks in our normal spot where we wanted to go for Kokanee, so we headed down the rip rap where it was pretty slow but I pulled out this nice male Rainbow with a little pink jig tipped with a piece of anise soaked corn. Which brings me to my next point...

People say things. It's amazing the odd things they say. On my way out I stopped over by where we normally fish to ask these guys if they'd caught Kokanee. One of the local fellas asked me what I used to catch my fish and I said "A little pink jig tipped with a piece of corn." "Don't let the game warden catch you... corn is illegal to use, you'll get 5 years in prison!" I resisted the urge to laugh and tell the guy he was batshit crazy, so I just said "corn is legal to use as bait in Colorado" and ended with that. I was told about a local who was arrested for using corn as bait. Funny, because during my research on how to catch Kokanee last year, I looked up the regs to make sure corn is legal to use, because the Kokes love it. So, before you say anything to someone about what is legal, please READ THE REGS.

Note: I sent an email off to our local CPW Biologist about the corn thing. Corn is legal. Celebrate!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Brrrrrr on the Animas

A little lunch hour jaunt to the river didn't produce much, but I did land this little Brown on a bare caddis nymph. Take a look at the wound on him. I had an email conversation with our local biologist and in the end agreed this was caused by a bigger brown. Awoooga! After my guides freezing up repeatedly I headed in to tie flies.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekend Vallecito and Puett

Would you believe we didn't catch a Walleye this weekend? Naaah. Today at Puett we felt the subtle taps but they never amounted to anything. Low pressure, a new moon, overcast skies, it all seemed so perfect. The road in wasn't plowed so that was a bit of an adventure but proved to be not so bad. We brought cross country skis just for grins and it turned out to be a nice way to get out to the hole. Yesterday we fished Vallecito in a blizzard and that was a good time, we came back with some Kokanee, who were biting like crazy but again, pretty tough to hook. I tried something different with them this time. I baked the fish and removed all the meat and make sure there were no bones in it. Then I mixed Siracha pepper sauce with some mayo and salt and mixed in the fish. I used this mixture to fill nori rolls and it was really good. Sushi rice is a bit tricky, but once you get the hang of it, it is a great way to serve cooked fish too! Walleye on the brain, but none on the plate.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Never get out of the boat...

Ok, my quote from Apocalypse Now is sort of off the mark here, but it is meant to say, don't change anything... EVER! We decided instead of our regular spot on the close side of the dam at Vallecito, we'd head across to a place where we hooked a lot of Kokes last spring. It was slow. Really slow. We brought a friend with us, so of course we gave him the "shoulda been here yesterday" speech. Lisa pulled out a 16" Rainbow and I caught a smaller stocker that I liberated. First time I ever had a DOW officer come down to the ice to check our licenses, so make sure you keep your license on ya. Hopefully with this weather rolling in we'll see the activity below the ice pick up.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Practice, Practice, Practice...

I got out of work (you didn't think I just fished all the time did you?) at around 4:30 and rushed down to the Animas. I was anxious to go back to a spot where I hooked but lost a couple nice ones the other day. I rigged up with the same gear, threw on my waders and got down there. I must have missed the fish, they were obviously in for the night (that's what I tell myself.) Instead of moving around or trying a million flies, I decided to just work the section where I was. I practiced getting a good drift on the opposite side of the river with 5 different currents between my indicator and I. I practiced casting, practiced watching ducks, and practiced enjoying a beautiful dusk. We're lucky to have such an enchanted river flowing through town. Hopefully next time I hook one in that spot I'll have a tighter line. As tiny midges came off of the top of the water and the light grew more dim, I realized I had some nasty wading to do before there was no more light. I headed back to the relative safety of my jeep and watched the blue heron make his last flight of the evening.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Puett... I knew it!

One day all this skunking at Puett will be but a happy memory. Ok, it isn't just being there. This lake has fish, I know this. I have trouble catching them, I also know this. I want Walleye. I want to catch my limit of Walleye and roll in them like a hungry dog. We fished 3 hours without a single nibble so we decided to head over to Joe Moore to check it out. It is low and the deepest water we could find was around 5 feet, so we skipped over to MSP and did our part to fix the Perch issue (20 less Perch in there today.) Our plan for Puett is to return bravely and face that lake. Solunar times, weather, time of day. All of these factors that we usually get by without will be used and oh yes, one day, we'll have Walleye. Sweet, delicious Walleye.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Too Slow on the Animas

I blame Snowdown. A weekend like that and you're bound to be slow by Sunday, right? I missed quite a few fish on the Animas yesterday. Travis caught a bunch of real pigs. After fishing the San Juan so much lately I forgot what real fish feel like. They're firm and they fight like a can of dynamite! A 16" Brown on the Animas fights like a 21" Rainbow on the San Juan, true dat. Travis was following me along catching the fish I'd miss time and time again. I was a tangled mess, my indicator wouldn't stay afloat and I was setting the hook like James Last on ether. I did manage to get a nice rainbow to the net behind the mall, and having done that was satisfied with not being skunked. I wasn't fishing well but the Animas sure was. If you'd like some info on what patterns were working for us, drop a line on our facebook page!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Vallecito Ice Fishing Report

We fished our normal spot near the dam at Vallecito and it was slow. Not a bit for the first couple hours and then we switched to jigs with some anise soaked shoepeg on the end, hoping for Kokanee. It didn't land us any Kokes but it did land us some nice Rainbows. It was pretty slow all in all, but it was beautiful. There must have been something going on over on the east side of the lake because we saw at least 100 cars cross the dam while we were there. The top slush layer has frozen, but there is still a little water layer about 3 inches in. All in all from the surface to fishable water it is about 14" thick.

Friday, February 1, 2013

2 Great Days On The San Juan

My buddy Rob is in town visiting. He fishes lots of bass tournaments on the east coast and we can't wait to see him in the Bassmaster Classic one of these days. What's better to hone the skills of a bass fisherman than a couple days on the San Juan setting the hook on finicky trout. Rob brought some hats and shirts from one of his sponsors, DedicatedTen, who is an apparel company "Dedicated to that 10% of fishermen who catch 90% of the fish." We sported those hats in a real D10 kinda way because Wednesday on the Juan was a real challenge. Temperatures below freezing with 15mph upriver wind. It was downright nasty. We were the only people at Cable Hole all morning. In the afternoon we had to get out of the cold so we headed down to the braids where we were one of four cars in the parking lot. Shoulda took a picture. We caught a variety of big fish and it was great. On Thursday we returned to warmer weather and still barely a crowd and walked from the braids up to cable hole and caught some nice fish again. While I pulled in a couple on dries, It was one of those days that it wasn't fun to change your rig often, so we mostly fished with nymphs size 24 and 26 in red, black and tan. We'd put an egg on top because there is a lot of spawning activity in the braids right now. Don't mess with the big hens digging the redds, but drag an egg pattern through the first deep pool below them and hang on! The staging males are very very aggressive and will take you for a ride. When the Juan is crowded it isn't uncommon to catch fish that fight like wet rags. Combine the low fishing pressure with the spawning activity and you've got fish who will show you your backing, and that's great! It was a beautiful couple of days. Photos by Rob Tipton.