Deckers/South Platte/Winter Fly Fishing

On Thursday night, I went to a session at Trout’s Fly Fishing about winter fly fishing. Their marketing manager, Kyle Wilkinson, presented a bunch of great info in a very informal session (with free PBR!) to a group of interested folks. He talked about what sort of rig and flies he’s using in the winter, where he’s going, and what sort of areas he’s looking for fish in. He also talked about 40 degrees being a good rule of thumb — if the water isn’t getting over that then it’s going to be tough to catch anything.

Inspired, wanting to finally try out my new waders and boots, and with Erika out of town for Thanksgiving, I headed towards Deckers for the day to see if I could catch anything. To cut right to the chase, I didn’t catch a thing. Not even a bite. I did see some fish, but they were spooked really easily, and mostly scattered as soon as they spotted me. I’d see a fish or 2, get near them and cast a few times if I was lucky, and they’d be gone. It didn’t really feel like a productive session at all — it didn’t feel like I had my hook in the water that much at all (especially given the 1.5 hour drive each way).

Apart from not catching anything (as usual), this was my first try at anything resembling winter fly fishing. Funny that I combined that with the first time I’ve been able to stand around in the water as well. Ironically, it wasn’t at all my feet/legs that were cold — it was purely my hands (and I guess my face a bit as well). My hands were the worst. By the time I was packing up, I couldn’t even grip my nippers enough to clip off my flies and put everything away.

During the session at Trouts, Kyle talked about using a 3-fly rig, but I didn’t really get enough details on how it was all set up, other than having 3 flies on there, and a bunch of weight to get it down to the bottom. 3 flies feels a bit like cheating, so I stuck with 2, but I did add some weight to get them both down underwater. I should go and pick up some of the other flies that he talked about: San Juan Worms, Eggs and Blue Wing Olives, which apparently work well.

As a bit of fun (and since we all need to eat anyway), I also took along a package of Patagonia’s Tsampa Soup mix (recently acquired, hadn’t tried yet) and my Jetboil. The soup was pretty good, although my Jetboil doesn’t have a fully-sealing lid (the lid has a pouring hole and straining holes), so the 9 minute wait for it to cook in its own liquid didn’t really turn out that great. It was a bit undercooked, but still pretty darned tasty. I think next time I’ll try cooking it a bit longer upfront, and also having the oil/parmesan/salmon in it that they mention on the pack. Having some hot food in me really helped deal with getting skunked, yet again, only this time in around 40 degree temps.

This section of the South Platte is pretty nice, although the drive out there is about the limit of what I’d want to do for a day-trip, and the roads aren’t great. There’s a crazy 15 degree slope on the gravel W. Pine Creek Road (the way I took in), which was so steep that I didn’t want to attempt it with the tires currently on our car. Instead, I took “Highway” 67 back, which is also gravel, although quite well-maintained. There are a bunch of campgrounds in the area though (including some weird ones along the side of the road), so maybe an overnighter there could be a way to get in some more fishing, without having to have 3 hours of driving in a single day.

Pardon the horrible mustache in my pic below, I blame Movember for that 🙂

Waterton Canyon/South Platte River

This weekend I headed down to Waterton Canyon to fish a section of the South Platte River (technically, just further upstream from when I fish Carson Nature Center). I picked this spot based on the book I picked up a few weeks ago, “Colorado’s Best Fishing Waters“. I’m not a huge fan of the book to be honest — it doesn’t seem to give a huge amount of information other than “there’s pretty good fishing in almost all running water in Colorado”, except for a few places that it mentions as being “barren”.

Anyway, I picked Waterton Canyon because it seemed accessible and they describe it as having “very good fishing” (although they mention needing to go further upstream than where I was to get to the best stuff). I didn’t get a single bite the whole time I was there.

I only actually saw 2 fish; one just below and one just above a small waterfall/dam constructed within the stream. The one I saw above the dam was mottled and looked like it was crossed with a goldfish or something, although it was hard to tell while it was underwater. I lost a nymph trying to cast towards it, because it was hiding near the banks, under some overhanging branches.

This trip was spent mostly fishing with an elk hair caddis dry-fly, and some of the time (until I lost it in a branch!) I had a zebra nymph dropping off that.

If nothing else, this trip convinced me to get some waders (and wading boots) so that I can get access to more waters — it’s been frustrating at times to only be able to cast from whatever spots I happen to be able to get at from the shore of a stream. More on the waders front in another post.

It’s a nice little stream, which I’d like to come back and try fishing again, preferably further upstream next time (so either a longer hike, or maybe take my bike and ride further up before giving it a shot).

Upstate New York’s Batten Kill River

In October, I managed to combine 2 trips into one, and spend almost a week in Upstate New York for 2 conferences, with a day of fun in between. The two conferences were LevelUp Con (great, new conference!) and WordCamp Saratoga, which I spoke at. On the Friday in between the 2 (Oct 10), I had the day off to check out what Saratoga Springs had to offer.

Luckily for me, I have a few colleagues in the area, and 2 of them were willing to be my guides that day. First up, Sheri took me out for some kayaking in Fish Creek. She has a few boats, so I paddled in a smaller whitewater kayak, and she was paddling in an amazing, really impressive, Hornbeck boat. That thing is crazy — it’s so light and sleek. I’d love one, but don’t think I could justify it unless I lived really close to somewhere that I could use it all the time.

After that, Ben met us at the dock and then we headed off to the Batten Kill river for some fly fishing. Ben’s an avid angler, so he’d done some research to find a spot for us to check out, and luckily he had enough equipment for all three of us to fish at the same time.

The Batten Kill is an absolutely beautiful river (these photos don’t do it justice), surrounded by amazingly picturesque countryside. It really was gorgeous there, especially at this time of year (peak fall!). Apparently it’s notoriously difficult to fish, and I guess we demonstrated that by not seeing a single fish (in perfectly crystal-clear water!) the whole time we were there, let along getting a bite.

I also managed to lose one of Ben’s hand-tied flies by back-casting in a tree (that’s what I get for not having waders and being able to create some space). Regardless of the downsides, it was an awesome (albeit short!) fishing trip, and I’d love to go back in that area at some point.

Clear Creek, Idaho Springs, CO

After my last trip to South Platte, where I finally hooked something, I was feeling a bit better about maybe actually landing a fish at some point. My buddy (and brilliant co-worker) Michael mentioned fishing Clear Creek, so I thought I’d go and check it out and see if I could 1. find somewhere new to fish, and 2. actually catch something.

I basically just had a look on Google Maps, then plunked a pin down and got directions to head out there (not too hard — straight out 6th, onto 70 and keep going). When I got off at Central City Parkway however, I missed my turn/stop, and ended up on Central City Parkway itself. I figured I’d just turn around as soon as I found a good spot… which turned out to be Central City, another 9 miles down the road. That place was a bit creepy, so I checked my directions, flipped it around and headed back to where I was supposed to be.

Once I got back to the turn off, I stopped in and grabbed some jerky, and also asked the guy there if he knew of any good fishing in the area. He suggested I could go right behind the shop, or else under the highway and back towards Denver a little on the other side. I went down to the river behind the shop (which looked nice) but it was pretty windy and it seemed like casting would be a nightmare. Heading under the highway and down to the end of the frontage road turned out nicely, and lead me down to the river as it followed along the highway. There was one other angler there who looked a lot better equipped than me (waders, chest-bag etc), so I said hi, wished him luck, then headed off with my pack + rod.

Since I don’t have waders, I was relatively limited as far as where I could get into the creek. There were a few spots though, and when I walked down far enough I found a section where there was a little side-stream, separated from the main current by a long “island”. I managed to get across to it without getting wet, and trawled back and forth a bit working the smaller stream, trying to pick out a couple smaller fish I could see in there. They proved too sneaky for me though (and it was really hard to get a rod in there without getting tangled in the low trees).

Eventually I gave up there and went for a bit of a walk. I spotted a few fish in different places, but couldn’t for the life of me get a bite. Not a single nibble. I tried a dry-dropper rig and a straight dry fly, but couldn’t get anything to happen. I even spent a really frustrating period (mid afternoon) trawling through a group of rising, heavy-feeding fish, and couldn’t tempt a single one to take a fly. When I was packing up, out of interest, I even put my rod in the water and touched one of them — that’s how intent they were on feeding. I’m not sure what I was doing wrong there, but I guess I either didn’t have the right fly, or just wasn’t presenting it in a way that interested those fish. Frustrating.