Friday, May 30, 2008

Singin' River Ranch

Boy did I hit the jackpot over memorial day weekend! A co-worker of Henderson's had mentioned that her family possesses 150 acres in Evergreen, CO. Oh, and by the way, upper bear creek runs directly through it and cycles water through 4 ponds. It's called The Singin' River Ranch. It's All. Private. Water.


Henderson, Claudio (Henderson's roomate), Steph, Caitlin (her Ranch), Nate (Caitlin's BF), Mark (Henderson/Caitlin's co-worker), Michael's daughter, Rufus (150lb. great dane) and I head to the property on Sunday with the intentions of grilling and riding Claudio's 2 brand new Yahama quads (one of which is a YFZ-450 *drool*) all day.

As a deduction sheerly from the name of this blog one should be confident that I also brought along a not-so-secret agenda of fishing the hell out of those ponds.

I roll up about 11:00 right as they are unloading the quads, do a crude recon of the drainage basin section of the property on said quads, and then get down to business and wet a line.

There were spaced out, lazy risers. I recall chuckling to myself under the belief that the fishing was going to be a cake walk. After casting some dries 'just to see' I quickly broke down and strayed to the dark side of fishing streamers.

I tie on a purple woolly bugger that I've been eager to bust out. It's a variation I've recently started tying.
Fun fact:
This same pattern put Nick into his personal best trout back in October at Gross Reservoir on its inaugural appearance. The video of that can be seen here.

There are three ponds in a row on Eastern side of the ranch. The water comes out of bear creek, into the first pond, which drains into the second, which drains into the third, which in turn drains back into bear creek. This keeps the ponds cool and allows the cold water fish to survive.

I immediately spot a healthy brown down on the bed of pond 2. I creep up, cast ahead of him, and wait as the fly and line begin to sink. Just a moment after the fly descends out of sight into the deeper murk I feel a tap on the line. I tighten the line; it's heavy and rapidly pulsating.

This guy just sulked in the depths of the pond in an outright objection to his current situation. Then he took a few deep runs just spooling my line off. After weathering those initial surges, I'm able to work him into the still and clear water up closer to the surface.

He would open his mouth and display rigorous fits of head-shakes in which I could see the bright white of the inner mouth and throat. I was starting to get nervous because his technique looked very efficient and I mash all my barbs on my hooks.

I finally get him close and scoop him up in the net. He was still full of fight!

(click photo to enlarge)

This guy is a wild brown through and through. I later talked to a fellow who was a friend of the ranch's care-taker who said that the ponds went about 10 years with no one fishing them.

The rest of the day I got no action at all except for a cliche "big one that got away". It's true though! He was double the size of the other one I caught, TRIPPLE I tell you! He scooped up my fly from the deepest hole there, bolted to the surface, rolled, and snapped my line all before my jaw had enough time to drop at the sight of the big gold flash underwater. That brown lifted my spirits and then crushed my soul all within the blink of an eye. I just kind of bent over and made a pathetic groaning noise for a while.

The worst thing about it wasn't that I didn't have the reaction time to roll with the punch; I was actually proud that such a nice fish took an experimental crayfish design that I had tied. The worst thing was that it made the brown that I landed earlier all of a sudden feel small.

I took a few breaks from fishing to ride the quads up the sheer mountain trails. That 450 YFZ is sick! I have a whole new respect for quads now. I'll post pictures of us blowing through streams and hitting jumps once I get them from Henderson.

After the long day and a camp fire we all decided we wanted to stay overnight. Caitlin had offered for everyone to stay at her Grandparent's house just up the road. They were out of town and there were beds for everyone. She's one cool and gracious chick. She even hooked Henderson, Claudio and me up with "Singin' River Ranch" tee shirts for the next day!

Unfortunately, it rained on memorial day. The bright side was that the drizzle made riding the quads much better. There were no more dust clouds streaming off the rear wheels, and they got much better balance and traction in the softer ground.

On the fishing front for Monday - I lipped and lost one brown.

I would have stayed there all day despite the rain but most everyone was cold, muddy, and soaked from riding so it was time to go. I had such a good time and can't wait to go back. I'll bring my waders and fish the creek section up to the 4th pond at the west edge of the property next time. I'll be camping on the property and night fishing next time as well.

I'll post all the pics as soon as I get them. Tight lines.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

South Platte / Spinney add-ons

The intense and exhausting day at Spinney was a day to remember. The fabulous fishing overshadowed the mention of all the small details that I enjoy so much while being outdoors. I barely mustered the patience to post the pictures of antelope and the bluebird.

Lets get right to it. While Saturday was a poor day for angling, I got to see TWO new species of bird.

Darting every which way over the water flashing their iridescent black backs and contrastingly white bellies were Tree Swallows. It was hard to get a very close look at them because they were changing direction and zipping by so rapidly. These little guys kept drawing my eye off the water just to see them flip and dance through the sky.

Next to make an appearance was a White-Faced Ibis. It was a really cool wading bird that didn't let us get very close to it without taking off. Grey body with a burgundy belly and a long curved down, thin bill.

At Spinney on Monday there were White Pelicans flying around with smaller trout hanging out of their mouths. Pelicans in Colorado? Sure, why not.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Meat Market @ Spinney

So as I stated in my previous entry I had a three day weekend. I was considering a 2 day camping trip by myself except that I just didn't want to risk arriving at my destination stream only to find it to be blown out with Spring runoff. I settled on fishing the South Platte tail water on Saturday and then another day trip for Monday (today).

Henderson, Matt and I went to the South Platte on Saturday only to find it filled with silt! I was upset and confused because tail waters aren't effected by runoff. I spoke with a ranger out there who said they were generating the Cheesman dam to do studies on the high water flow. So that was a bust that left a sour taste in my mouth.

In order to make up for it I decided I would go to the gold metal waters of Spinney Mountain Reservoir today. I traded cars with Nick (to save gas $) and set out for the 2.5 hour drive into the mountains. Spinney opened for the summer April 30th and I have never been.

After hours of mountainous driving and elevation gain, a huge expanse of meadow appears. This is where Spinney resides. Pronghorn antelope roam the prairies on the way in.

Spinney is a special place here in Colorado. It's one piece of a three part knockout combo that makes for some of the most coveted fishing in the state. The other two pieces are the stream that flows out of Spinney (a.k.a The Dream Stream), and the reservoir that that stream flows into (Eleven Mile Reservoir). All three bodies of water are gold metal.

I arrive to the Lake around 11:30. It's windy and big. Big lakes have always intimidated me in the past because of their vastness, so I avoided fishing them. Time to crack that. I drive to the North bank where the wind is blowing into. Usually food gets stockpiled in the end of a lake where the wind and current are pushing it. I attach a 12ft. section of RIO sinking line to the end of my floating line along with a new 4x leader and tippet. I tie on a brown furry sculpin imitation which doubles as a crawdad.

The brutal headwind required me to do double haul casts with my little 5 weight. It reminded me of fishing for smallies on the New River in VA. I let the sinking tip sink all the way down and begin a slow, methodical retrieve bouncing along the bottom of the lake bed.

The take was not soft or subtle. I'd liken it to a freight train. When the beast launched out of the water I instantly recalled what got me addicted to this sport.

I got a nearby fisherman to come over and snap this photo for me. (Notice the snow-capped Collegiate Mountain Range in the background. Outstanding photo!)
I had the technique dialed in. The onslaught of trophy 'bows ensued. I landed about 10 and snapped off, or unhooked, easily twice as many. Since I was by myself I had to get creative with taking photos (especially since I couldn't hold these beasts very well with one hand). Here are a few that came out best.

This male sent me running down the bank with my reel (and forearm) screaming for mercy.

This pig female may have been the biggest of the day. She weighed significantly more than the others. The picture just doesn't do her justice.
I finally called it a day after my arm was dead from fighting. Plus, they were calling for snow in the mountains in the evening. I landed one last bow with deep magenta cheeks and went home.

Here is a shot on the way out.

P.S. I finally got a shot of a mountain bluebird. It's not a very good one, but I don't care. These guys have been accompanying my fishing trips more and more regularly.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Button Rock Reservoir Opener

This entry is a bit late. My brother, Nick, and I hiked in to the inlet of Button Rock Reservoir on Sunday. The hike is about 3 miles of downhill on the way in and uphill on the way out. I had done a section of this hike before so I knew what we were dealing with. The hike out is very taxing, especially after a day of fishing.

We only had a half a day to work with, but it was opening weekend to fish the lake so I had to go check it out. The inlet flow was super low so we just went right up to the spillway and fished that. Nick took this long and slender cuttbow on an Elk Hair Caddis. We didn't have time to wet a line in the lake, but I got a good idea of where I want to fish for next time.

Pretty cool outcome for only 30 min. of fishing. It will be interesting coming back to this place on future trips. I forgot to snap a photo of the lake, but it's huge.

I've gotten reports of the mountain snow runoff beginning to muddy the rivers today. Several streams are already blown out, including the Ark, which I was going to do a 2 day solo camping trip at this weekend.

I have Monday off this weekend so I may drive up to Wyoming to fish the Gray Reef Sunday/Monday if it isn't blown as well. If it is looking dicey then it will be lake fishing until July when the flows settle back down. Since we got record snow in Colorado this year people are saying that the runoff may last longer than usual, so we'll see.

Here is a photo of how I rig my pack when I do hike-in fishing. This is a ski pack that has a band designed for holding skis that functions perfectly for holding my net. I put my waders and wading boots in the pack during hiking, and then swap them out and pack up my hiking boots when it's time to fish. It holds lunch, rod tube, chest pack, camelback bladder, rain jacket, and a few survival tools; all the essentials. In addition, I use the leash that came with my snowboard bindings to attach my net to my pack while I fish. The quick disconnect and swiveling action are perfect for this application.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Moraine Park in RMNP

Played hooky yesterday and headed up to Moraine park in Rocky Mountain National Park with my brother, Nelson (visiting from VA), and Henderson. Moraine is the most peaceful place on Earth as far as I'm concerned. I absolutely love this place.

All photos taken by Nelson. Nice job man!

It's a magazine quality stream that meanders through a grassy meadow at roughly 8,000 ft. of elevation and is just chock-full of browns, brookies and 'bows. Oh, did I mention that if you know where to look this stream harbors absolute PIGS?

This photo was taken on a fork of the stream where the flow was super low. It was actually a little better than this.

Elk being elk.

Ground Squirrel
This was a casual fishing outing - we didn't spend very much time at the stream. Nick and Nelson weren't even fishing and it's not exactly a spectator sport.

One of the great things about this place is no waders are necessary (at this time of year). My waterproof boots and a little bit of long-jumping did the job. Unfortunately, the flow was very low. These trout were spotting me from 25 yards away, I kid you not.

The fishing was sparse at first. Every lie I approached a trout would spot me from way out and set off a chain-reaction spook. It was very frustrating. I'd have to be as sneaky as an Indian to fish those deep pools, so I exclusively started fishing riffles and blind cut-banks. None of my dry-drop-drop combinations were working.

I tie on the CZN rig right as my brother calls me on the two way radio to head over to a riffle that he has spotted a 10in. bow under. On the first drift I just draw it right into his mouth and he crushes the point fly. He gave us quite the aerial show.

Apparently Nelson caught the whole thing on video with his camera, and then accidentally deleted it.

I caught a brown after that on the CZN and then it was time to leave to go get our ink.

On the walk out we went past all the untouched water ahead of us because Nick and Nelson were picking us up at the other end (Nick and Nelson had gone and driven around the park for a while).

Henderson saw a trout that made him abruptly start rambling in mumbles with wide eyes about how big it was. It tucked into an undercut before I could catch a glimpse.