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Conservation


Colorado Conservation Issues

     Conservation should always be a priority on a fisherman’s mind.  Our planet has a finite amount of pristine watersheds left and it is up to us to protect them.  In many cases politics will fail us.  Stream access can easily be reduced and the everlasting corporation can always prevail.  At times it can feel like we are not even in control.  It is because of this, I believe that whenever there is an issue where we as anglers have the power to control our so-called fate, we should feel morally obligated to do so.
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Alaska Rainbow Lodge

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Conservation, Fish Porn, Homepage Slider, steelhead, Trout, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Alaska Rainbow Lodge

It was somewhere on my second of four flights for the day when it truly set in that I was going to Alaska.  Looking out the window from my middle seat, I was not shy in my wanting of the guy in the window seat to lean back so that I could have a better view of the terrain outside.  The steep mountains dropped directly into the dark waters below.  Last minute trips like this usually lead to being stuck in a middle seat but none of that mattered.  Our plane was descending into the Anchorage airport and for the first time in my life, I was about to set foot in Alaska.  I have been very fortunate to do some traveling with a fly rod in hand but somehow had yet to visit “The Last Frontier” and one of fly fishing’s most iconic destinations.  Next up on my itinerary was an hour flight into the appropriately named town of “King Salmon.”  Upon walking off the plane into this Alaskan Metropolis, we were met by representatives of the Alaska Rainbow Lodge. Alaska Rainbow Lodge, ARL for short, is located in the beautiful Bristol Bay on the banks of the world renowned Kvichak River.  I was traveling on assignment for Tailwaters Travel with my good friend and celebrated photographer, Matt Jones.  From King Salmon we boarded a small float plane, “Beaver,” and were just a quick 30 minute flight from our home for the week.  A soft touchdown into the waters outside the lodge was the first of the many water plane landings I would experience in the next few days.  Idling up to the dock, I am shocked to see that the lodge has three of these Beavers, ready to serve as our mode of transportation for the week.  The thought of having our own personal fishing taxis that fly through the sky really help to set in the uniqueness of the trip I was about to experience. ARL was built in 1982 by Alaskan Legend Ron Hayes.  Ron was known as one of the top big game hunting guides in the world and became (in)famous for his unconventional techniques using his airplane to aid in the hunting of grizzly bears.  After being convicted of illegally hunting grizzlies, he began to assist the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game in their anti-poaching efforts before building the lodge. After 32 years of running the lodge, Ron sold ARL to a former lodge guide and pilot, Chip Ferguson.  Chip and his wife Amanda, continue to run one of the finest lodges in all of Alaska that offers an all inclusive experience to go along with a top notch fishing program. It was September so the majority of our fishing was focused on rainbow trout.  These trout behave like a completely different species when compared to classic western trout. They are following the salmon migrations, fattening up on eggs and decaying flesh.  It confuses me how these fish are not considered steelhead as I caught multiple with sea lice on their fins. But that debate in nomenclature is not one I care to get into.  Regardless, Alaskan Rainbows are the most powerful freshwater fish I have ever encountered.  They also average over 20 inches in most rivers with some consistently boasting fish in the 26-30″...

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BelizeDat

Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 in Conservation, Homepage Slider, Saltwater, warm water | 1 comment

BelizeDat

A Permit will test everything from your sanity to your bank account.  When I got the invitation to Belize this winter, my first thought was unfinished business. A previous trip to Mexico during hurricane season saw rough conditions and few shots but all it took was one look at the black tail of a Permit feeding on the flats to plant a seed that I needed to pick.  Thankfully my opportunity to scratch this itch came sooner rather than later.  My good friend Mike Roche has been fishing Southern Belize for the last decade and when an invitation to tag along on one of his annual trips was extended my way, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Last week Mike and I left the rising rivers of Colorado and traveled three flights to Southern Belize, one of the best places in the world to target Permit, Tarpon, and the elusive Saltwater Grand Slam.      When saltwater fly fishing, there are many outside factors influencing your success.  Tides, wind (both speed and direction), sunlight, bait numbers, and time of day are all elements that can make or break a trip.  Regardless of the variable, our guide Eworth Garbutt knew what adjustments to make in order to put a bend in the rod.  My favorite example of this was our time spent fishing the lagoons just off the flats.  Tarpon would roll in a way that was surprisingly graceful knowing their reputation.  An occasional gulp from a bucket of a mouth would break the surface as the silver king inhaled small baitfish.  As this went on Pelicans were attacking the dense schools of bait by diving straight into the water, injuring many missed fish in the process.  The event was a free meal the tarpon could not pass up.  Eworth could tell which Pelicans had a hungry fish sitting below them, and would instruct us where to cast. This is actually how I caught my first Pelican.  I have hooked birds before and seen them try and fly off but this time was different.  The bird knew we were just trying to help him and I am convinced it could understand Eworth’s calming words.  We simply pulled him in and popped the hook out. Without a doubt the highlight of my trip was Eworth Garbutt.  He is one of the best fishing guides and human beings I have ever met.  If you have been as fortunate as I was and had the opportunity to fish with Eworth, I know you would agree with me in saying that he has a special connection with his homewater.  He and his family were essential in achieving the catch and release regulations of all Permit, Tarpon, and Bonefish of Belize.  His eye site and knowledge would always have you in the best position to catch your target species.  He walked this world with a sense of gratitude — knowing how lucky he was to be able to “wake up everyday just three casts away from a grandslam.”  He possessed an attitude that could keep even the Debbyest of Downers optimistic while also always teaching, informing you what the fish was going to do and how we were going to fool it.  What was most impressive to me was his passion towards the fish.  This...

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Industry Overhaul

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in Conservation, Fish Porn, Homepage Slider, Quite Frankly, Trout | 3 comments

Industry Overhaul

Metro Denver has a population of 2.7 million people with a growth rate that is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent reaching 3.9 million in year 2030.  With more people calling the Mile High City their hometown, certain issues need to be addressed so that the rapid growth does not have a negative effect on the city or its residents.  Besides an increase in traffic while driving west on I-70, the issue I am (selfishly) most concerned about is making it so the fly fishing community in the Colorado Front Range can support the population growth and increase in a sustainable manner.  If things do not change, I am scared we will not all be able to successfully enjoy this remarkable sport in the way it deserves.   The three areas that I have identified as needing a makeover are the following, updating the water laws, improving conservation practices, and controlling social media.  Colorado unfortunately has archaic water laws that, in almost all cases, favor the landowner.  The river bottom is considered the landowner’s property. This labels any wading angler as “trespassing”.  The only thing working in the blue collar folk’s favor is that the landowner does not own the water nor the fish in it.  The result of this is that floating through private property is completely legal as long as the river bottom isn’t touched.  As anyone who has recently fished within 3 hours of Denver on a weekend will tell you, parking lots are frustratingly crowded and some well know, accessible spots are approaching their carrying capacity. The number of rivers we have is not increasing but the amount of publicly accessible rivers could… Montana for example is a fisher friendly state.  As long as you access the water at a public point, there is no such thing as a private stream. The fisherman must stay below the high water mark but can explore anywhere adhering to that rule.  If that is asking too much, a compromise could be made to make any “navigable” river open to public fishing below the high water mark.  That would allow larger, navigable, rivers to be public while smaller rivers flowing through a landowner’s property would remain private.  This is the case for states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Either choice would open up water and distribute angling pressure, options desperately needed in a state where fishermen are increasing exponentially.  Conservation and fish handling practices are other areas where improvement is needed to allow our waterbodies to accommodate more fisherman.  My feelings towards this subject recently have gone from a grumpy Shrek to a pissed off Hulk as I watch some people turn my passion into a dick swinging contest.  My example is the area below Spinney Mountain Reservoir (AKA the Dream Stream). Individuals shove spawning fishing into a friends iPhone simply to receive social media approval?  Rivers may be designated “Catch and Release” but that is not be enough. We need to respect the fish.  I think a petition should be passed to close the Dream Stream (among other rivers) during spawning runs.  Sure, you can go there and catch very large fish while doing it in a way that will not affect upcoming reproduction rates but so few people follow those moral guidelines that I do not think...

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The Catch is in the Release

Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in Conservation | 0 comments

The Catch is in the Release

In Colorado we are fortunate to have many protected rivers with catch and release regulations helping to encourage sustainable fisheries.  These regulations however can only be successful if anglers know how to properly practice catch and release, allowing the trout to continue to survive and grow after being caught.  This is especially important during the summer months as both water temperatures and angling pressure increase. Some of the most important steps in ensuring the health of the trout happen before the fish is ever landed.  First off, fish barbless flies.  Many hooks now come barbless and the ones that don’t can be easily pinched down with a pair of forceps.  Barbless hooks will give you a better hook set and be easier on the fish (or yourself if you find a size 18 Parachute Adams in your neck). Another step you can take in protecting the fish while rigging up is using heavier tippet.  Granted there are times when you have to fish 6X, I will always use the largest tippet I can get away with to minimize the time spent fighting the fish. Once you get the fish close, a good rubber landing will help get it in quickly and reduce the time you have to spend handling the fish.  When you do have to, it is crucial to wet your hands before touching it.  Dry hands can remove a layer of slime on the fish that helps protect it from parasites and bacteria.  Avoid at all costs setting the fish on the shore as you removing that protective layer and also likely leaving it out of the water for too long. This is not saying you can’t take a photo of the fish, you just need to be properly prepared.  Leave the fish in the water up until the time you are ready to have the picture taken.  When you do hold the fish out of the water, be delicate and mindful of the fish’s health.  An old rule of thumb guides use with beginner clients is to have them hold their breath while the fish is out of the water.  That seems to help get the point across and put into perspective the amount of time a fish is able spend out of the water. The final step in ensuring a successful catch and release is reviving the fish before it swims away.  Hold the fish in clean water and facing upstream into the current, allowing the gills to obtain oxygen.  Once you feel the fish starting to kick, it is telling you that it is strong enough to swim away. Following these steps correctly will help ensure the health of the fish and allow our fisheries to handle the increase in fishing pressure.  Always remember, the catch truly is in the...

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Respect the Redds

Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in Conservation | 0 comments

Respect the Redds

Fall has always been my favorite season, football returns and even more importantly, brown trout prepare to spawn.  Large migratory fish will move out of their reservoirs and into rivers while resident browns will also become more aggressive and begin to display their vibrant colors.  Fall is the best time of the year for a shot at a true trophy brown but it is also the time where future generations of fish can be destroyed because of angling negligence.  Knowing when and how to appropriately target these fish is crucial to maintaining a fishery. As fish begin to enter their happy season, they will increase their feeding in anticipation of the weight they will lose during the spawn.  These prespawn fish are my favorite to target because they are usually aggressive as they try and fatten up before the spawn.  Anglers targeting these fish during this time can typically get away with fishing heavier tippets and larger flies.   These fish will usually be found in deeper runs of water and can be especially aggressive at night. When the fish start to move into the shallow riffles, they are entering the beginning stages of the spawn and should be left alone.  After the fish move into these riffles, a male will attempt to find a female to pair up with.   The female will use her fins to clean off a circular section of gravel where they will eventually lay their eggs.  This area is called a “redd” and can be easily identified by an oval section of gravel in a shallow yet swift current that appears lighter in color than the surrounding riverbed.  As the female prepares the redd, the male will protect the area from intruders. These areas should not be disturbed as they control the future of our fisheries.  Fish sitting on redds can be easily seen but should not be casted at.  They are relatively easy to hook because they will try and protect their redd by instinctively swiping at intruders.  Once hooked they will have an unsuccessful spawn as they likely will release their eggs or sperm during the fight and consequently, the eggs will not get fertilized.  Casting at fish paired up on redds is unethical and unsportsmanlike.  I have personally witnessed both guides and beginner anglers alike cast at these fish in the “Willows” section of the Dream Stream and it breaks my heart seeing people willing to degrade a fishery for their chance at a photo with a large fish.  Please show these spawning fish the respect they deserve and let them be. After the spawn is over, the fish will leave their redds and can once again be targeted by anglers.  These postspawn fish need to feed to put back on the weight they lost during the spawn.  When targeting these fish, do your best to avoid any of their old redds as walking through them can crush the eggs.  Walking above the redd should also be avoided as the eggs required clean, oxygenated water running over them. There is no time in a trout’s life more stressful than the spawn.  Knowing how to properly target and identify these fish can lead to some of the best fishing of the year without harming the fishery.  As tempting as it is...

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Protecting the Colorado

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Conservation, Fish Porn, Trout | 0 comments

Protecting the Colorado

     We are fortunate to have the headwaters of one of the most majestic rivers in the country right here in our own back yard.  The river starts as simply a trickle in Rocky Mountain National Park before flowing throughout the Southwest.  Traditionally the river gains momentum and velocity as it flows through the Grand Canyon and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.  Unfortunately this is no longer the case.  The Colorado River is the most dammed and diverted river in the country.  Most of the water from this river is already claimed before it falls from the sky, causing it to run dry most years before it ever even makes it to the Gulf.   The scary part about this problem is it looks as if it is only going to get worse. Denver water plans to divert 80% of the Fraser River, the main tributary to the upper Colorado, in order to supply Front Range communities and consumers.  With all the commotion regarding oil prices and supplies, people are over looking the most valuable and essential resource our planet has.  On a more local scale, robbing a river of the water it should naturally have can start a domino effect of serious ecological problems.  Less water causes the remaining water to reach higher temperatures than would occur naturally.  This is followed by less dissolved oxygen available for the creatures that inhabit the river.  Trout, along with certain macro inverts (aquatic insects), are great indicators of water quality because of the fact that they can only survive in cold, oxygen rich rivers.  Removing water from the river will quickly make it inhabitable to many of our favorite flagship species. Locally, the issue of water conservation is more important now than ever because of the rapidly growing Front Range population.  We need to treat the Colorado River as a microcosm of the world’s water supply.  Lessons can be learned from past failures.  We need to refine and adopt policies to show people worldwide that protecting our planet’s most essential natural resource is achievable.  The only way this is possible is with collaboration.  Sportsmen, conservationist, and farmers working together—maximizing water efficiency and eliminating waste.   There are many programs that are more than aware of the problem and doing their best to help out.  Just the other night, Denver’s own Trout’s Fly Shop, raised $1,200 that was donated to the Defend the Upper Colorado Coalition.  It is important to remember that even the individual can make a difference.  Please check out the Defending the Upper Colorado Coalition to see how you can get involved.  If you need any more motivation to help keep our fish wet, watch the video...

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Didymo

Posted by on Oct 14, 2011 in Conservation | 0 comments

Didymo

The top thing on my life’s to-do list is to make it back to New Zealand.  The combination of big trout in breathtaking scenery is something that has had me dreaming of a return trip ever since the day I left.  One issue that is threating this place I now refer to as paradise is the invasion of didymo.  Didymo, commonly known as rock snot, is a type of algae native to cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  In 2004, didymo was discovered for the first time in the New Zealand.  The algae spreads quickly and forms large matts on the bottom of lakes and rivers.  These mats can be 8 inches thick and can destroy just about any stream bottom.  Anything that has come in contact with didymo-infected water can spread the species and sadly, the species spreads mostly because of fishing equipment.  The only way to ensure you do not transport the disease with you on your next fishing adventure is to properly clean your gear.  Soak and scrub your wading boots with household bleach, 5% salt solution, or dishwashing soap.  The microscopic algae cells can attach and spread easily with felt-soled boots.  Because of this, felt boots are now banned in New Zealand along with several states.  Many of New Zealand’s top trout streams have already been affected and some high-risk regions are now closed to fishing to prevent the risk of spread.  It can still spread with rubber-soles, so when traveling please be smart and properly clean your gear to help preserve these rivers we all love.  Please report any local didymo sightings to Colorado Parks and...

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New Zealand Mudsnails

Posted by on Oct 14, 2011 in Conservation | 0 comments

New Zealand Mudsnails

I spent 6 months working for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in their Aquatic Biology Department.  The majority of my time is spent mapping the populations of different invasive species in Colorado’s rivers and reservoirs.  An invasive of focus for us has been the New Zealand mudsnail, a species that can reach phenomenal densities in our state’s water bodies.  The picture of the snail covered rock to the left was from Colorado’s Dream Stream. The issue with NZ mudsnails is that they are filter feeders and actively feed on the microscopic organisms that the native inverts (trout food) need to survive.  Something as small as a mudsnail can have a large impact on its ecosystem when they disrupt the bottom of the food chain.   The snails also reproduce asexually which allows them to quickly reach such high densities.  Most snails are introduced to new waters through fishing gear that was not properly cleaned.  Wading boots need to either be soaked in 409 Degreaser or frozen for 4 hours.  Soaking gear in bleach or letting it dry for a week is not enough to kill the snails DNA!  Responsible anglers and an increase in public awareness are the only ways to stop the spread of this invasive species. Here are the Positive Listed Waters in Colorado: South Platte below Elevenmile Reservoir, South Platte Below Spinney Reservoir, Boulder Creek, and the Delaney Buttes Extra care when cleaning gear should be taken after fishing any of these...

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Felt Up?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2011 in Conservation | 0 comments

Felt Up?

One issue that has been up for debate in the fly-fishing community recently deals with the banning of felt sole wading boots.  Felt sole boots have been proven to increase the spread of invasive species.  The woven fibers making up the bottom of the sole can trap species that can then be introduced and allowed to spread to new waters long after they are dried out.   This is why major fishing hot spots such as New Zealand and Southeast Alaska have banned the use of felt sole boots.  In 2010 Simms Fishing introduced a line of felt-free wading boots.  This was unheard of in the fly fishing community—a company saying no to the old wealthy man who cannot balance in a river without felt on his soles and is willing to pay extra to do so.  Sure wading is easier that way, but anglers can survive on rubber soled boots, boots shown not to transport invasive species the way felt do.  Simms did a great thing, especially considering they are one of the top wader producing companies.  Eliminating felt soles from their production results in far fewer felt sole boots traveling between watersheds.  This was a major win that occurred as a result of people stepping up, even when it might not have been the most profitable solution.  It is because of this that I am confused, no disappointed, that Simms has chosen to reintroduce felt sole boots in their 2012 line.  Did a company that prided itself on environmental stewardship successfully “green wash” us...

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Kokanee Salmon out of 11-Mile Canyon?

Posted by on Nov 24, 2010 in Conservation, Trout | 0 comments

Kokanee Salmon out of 11-Mile Canyon?

Believe it or not this fish was actually taken out of Elevenmile Canyon.  I have never heard of Kokes in there but on a recent trip saw a bright red rock move in the water and after fishing to him for a little bit got him to take.  Completely shocked, this fish must of either swam out of Lake George, over the waterfall and all the way up to the top of the canyon or got flushed out of Elevenmile Reservoir through the dam.  Either way this fish had been through a...

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