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Thread: Colorado July 2016-Bug Slingin-Cigar Smokin' Fun

  1. #1
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    Default Colorado July 2016-Bug Slingin-Cigar Smokin' Fun

    We just completed the annual run to Colorado and like the title says above, it might have been the best one yet! We pushed back the trip to mid-July this year from the last of June to avoid the snowmelt. It is always a roll of the dice to pick a time in January and try to outguess Mother Nature. This year Mike B. and I got lucky as it basically ended the deluge of snowmelt the first of July.

    I have been going to the Vail Valley area for almost 10 years for skiing each year with only the last couple of years in the summer to fly fish. Not only was our timing right but so were the temps, 80 degree days, 45-50 degree nights and water temps that averaged 58-60 degrees. Coming home to the Smokies and 95 degrees, busted and struggling AC's and going back to work can make even Bigsur want to run away and join the circus!

    We had a simple plan, fish new water each day, hit some old favorites, and end each day with a big Colorado meal and tasty western brewed craft beers. Mission accomplished! If you draw a 100 plus mile circle around the Vail Valley that is about the size area we roamed over the course of 8 days, 7 nights in the Rockies. We started each morning at the condo with a morning joe on the balcony plotting the day's run, big breakfast in the skillet, packing the PB&J's, trail mix, snacks, essential water, my cigars and adult beverages and cramming the SUV full of gear.

    If you have ever spent time in the Rockies you know it takes a day or two to acclimate to the air even if you are from here. Mt. LeConte, here in the Smokies one of our highest is 6,000 plus feet at the top, the town of Vail is at 7,500. That means the average native 80 year old Colorado native can outrun you the first day or two! We started day 1 with a favorite stream at 9,200 feet near Minturn with low gradient, gravel bars and bends, I could fish the rest of my life on water like that, this stream runs for 20 plus miles with bends and turns like this

    This is a little 8-12 inch brown factory.




    The next day I talked Mike B. into some truly gentlemanly fly fishing on Gore Creek, a Gold Medal designated stretch of water right thru the town of Vail. You have not lived until you have clomped down the center of Vail proper in all your gear on the pedestrian walkways past high end shops, restaurants, as you dodge bicycles, baby strollers and the walking crowds. It is hard to believe in all of this Gore Creek stretches right down the middle and cutthroats are just feet away.

    Mike B. casting in front of million dollar and up condos.


    yes, that is the ski lift passing under the bridge taking people up to hike and bike


    The first thing you hear in the fly shops about the midges is true, fishing size 22, 24, 26 and more variety of midges is the order of the day in a lot of places. If you are over 21 they will ask you if you are comfortable seeing that size to tie on. Of course all fly fisherman have huge egos and say "No problem, man", pack your cheaters, ya gonna need em!

    As we worked downstream I headed straight for a pool I have watched and studied for the last six months on a live webcam. I knew which tree which rock I wanted to cast to, I only did not count on another older guy racing me across a bridge to the spot I wanted. I was not going to give it all up after traveling thousands of miles as the pool was large and I knew held plenty of cuts! After a few casts and watching the other guy on the other side land a couple, being a contrarian, I said screw the dry and threw a big, black stonefly, weighted heavy that shot to the bottom of a 10 plus foot hole. Bam! Fish on and now running downstream I was determined not to lose it as anything not on a zinger, carabiner, or zip tie flew off. I was horrified as I brought the 15 incher to the net as at first I thought I had snagged his eye, till I realized he had the hook all the way back in the corner of his mouth. I could have stopped fishing right then and there as I had been dreaming of that pool for months.



    The next day we headed for the world famous Frying Pan river, it is hard to put the size of the Rockies in perspective after a few days unless there is something in a shot you can compare to. Check out the tractor trailer in next shot in relation to the mountains.


    We stopped by Frying Pan Anglers in Basalt where we stocked up on midges they suggested for the evening hatch. We were already stocked with tiny Mysis shrimp (Google it) for the infamous Toilet Bowl but Jordan, one of the guides asked me if I had any Mysis larvae. after responding no, he handed me a few of what I can only describe as size 24/26 hooks with a tight white thread wrap and a flash of red. It turns out the pigs in the Toilet Bowl love these as much as the tiny shrimp, they resemble the Mysis after they have been mangled going thru the dam. The most asked questions we were asked in the shop after they found out where we were from was not about the Smokies, but "What was the SoHo like?".

    The road up, cliffs on the left, the river on the right, the Pan is famous for PMD's also and some have a pinkish tint. some claim it is the red rocks you see below that gives the bugs the pink hue.


    There is a lot of private water on the Pan's 13 plus mile stretch, check out the gate!


    "The world famous Toilet Bowl"


    You read the stories about the "Bowl" and tales of giant rainbows and browns and side by side combat fishing, all true, but on this Tuesday, we owned it. We were shocked when we arrived to find only two people who left after a few minutes and Mike B. found ourselves the sole proprietors. The second surprise is how small it actually is, barely 30-50 feet across, the giant bows stack like fighter pilots waiting for the chow to slice thru the machinery. I put on a Mysis and started slinging, as we fished a young female guide from Taylor Creek Fly shop brought a couple of clients in and set up on the other side. We had talked to her earlier and realized very quickly she knew her stuff.

    As they started releasing water I remembered the Mysis larvae hooks I had just bought and slapped one on thinking logically a mangled fly fit the bill. On the second cast and drift across the "Bowl" the line shot straight down, the Thingabobber disappeared and the pig shot downstream. I was determined not to lose it and let it run. As it slowed down at the tailout I slowly cranked as the rod bent double and it was right then everything snapped and left me with about 3 ft of 4x leader dangling. all I could do was laugh as the young female guide watched across the pool, : I yelled out "I bet you see that a lot!", she replied, "All the time!", and I said "Don't worry he'll be back!", she responded with "They always do!". I missed my pig but I had three 4 witnesses counting Mike B.!

    Note the horns hanging at the Capn K Ranch


    On the way out Frying Pan Road. This may be how you get horns on the barn!


    MORE TO COME
    Last edited by bigsur; 07-28-2016 at 09:26 AM.
    "It starts with a raindrop, don't let it end with a teardrop!"

    "Nothing straightens out my mind like a twisting mountain stream!"

    Follow the Great Smoky Mountain Trout Unlimited website:

    http://greatsmokymountain.tu.org/

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    "A true conservationist is someone who knows that the world is not given by their fathers, but borrowed from their children."

  2. #2
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    Part Deux:

    We decided to hit the Eagle River on day 4, the river runs from the high headwaters at 10,000 ft. plus in the Rockies for miles until it hits the Colorado river. It runs right thru the center of town just 2 blocks from the condo. After hitting Fly Fishing Outfitters for some supplies we got a tip in the shop to head downstream to Wolcott. We stumbled upon a BLM campground right next to the river and rented a spot right on the water for $5 a day to use as a base day camp. It was tucked in to a grove of trees, a rarity in most campgrounds out there and gave us a place to back in the SUV next to a picnic table, just feet from the river, change rigs all day and eat lunch. We fished here for six hours and watched a steady parade of guide rafts float down the middle as we waded the 10ft wide edges. That afternoon as many of you know you can see a storm miles away never hit you but dump water that arrives later and that is what happened. We fished until the water started rising and staining and got out pronto, like the Smokies you have to be mindful of the weather and your place in the river. The speed of the rise can be faster than you can imagine dropping from these mountains. On a side note the Eagle is known for being slick and wading sticks advised, the rocks are like half bowling bowls stuck in the river, I changed to my Chota boots with cleats, as when you walk the surface area on the tops of rocks are not very large and ankle side twist is the order of the day in the rocky areas.



    Mike had a good day here.


    Another nice one for him.


    "OK, he was on a roll!"


    The next day we did a bucket list trip for me, I had never fished the Rocky Mountain National park and was determined this trip was the one to do it. We drove the roughly 2-1/2 hour trip up Hwy 40 to go in the western most gate. I had skied Winter Park area a few years back so was familiar with the road. It takes you past there up thru Fraser, Granby and past Colorado ranches and land that still looks unchanged. These parts remind you that this is the real Colorado, not the I-70 corridor of exits that looks like everywhere else in America except for the constant background of the Rockies.

    We knew this day was gonna be a good one as we had just passed the entrance not even thru the main gate when we spotted a moose and her baby just at the edge of the road in a stand of trees. Our pics did not come out well of that, hard to believe something over 6ft tall and 1,500 pounds can hide behind trees so well.


    We stopped at the visitors center where we talked to a ranger and gave us some options, with a storm coming in we did not want to get to far back, lightning is a big issue at these heights. We found a stream near the road and because of the size I finally broke out my 2wt. with 6X tippet. I had been carrying this for the last two years out West and finally hit water that was perfect for it. Oxbow bends and gravel, my favorite water!



    I watched flashes shoot up from the logs and undercut and started working it with an elk hair caddis and after about 15 minutes on this stretch nabbed a good size brookie on the 2wt., scratch that part of the list. You have to remember a brookie out there is not appreciated like they are here, but for on 6x and a 2wt, that is a victory lap!



    The rain came in again shortly after the pic above, again we had to scramble off the gravel bend to get across as the water turned pea green like glacier runoff. The water rises fast so we jumped in the SUV and started up and over the highest peaks to reach the east gate and fish that side, if you ever get a chance make this drive do it, but take the Dramamine! No guardrails in most of the area including the top alpine tundra part.



    "Shaving elk ain't easy, but got enough for 10,000 flies!"
    Last edited by bigsur; 07-28-2016 at 09:38 AM.
    "It starts with a raindrop, don't let it end with a teardrop!"

    "Nothing straightens out my mind like a twisting mountain stream!"

    Follow the Great Smoky Mountain Trout Unlimited website:

    http://greatsmokymountain.tu.org/

    FACEBOOK: http://m.facebook.com/GreatSmokyMountainTU/

    "A true conservationist is someone who knows that the world is not given by their fathers, but borrowed from their children."

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    John, sounds like a fantastic trip. You are spoiled now and will find the fishing around here to be so so.
    See you on Thursday.

    God Bless,
    Dances with Trout

  4. #4
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    I love that stretch of water in RMNP that you fished. I had many good days fishing there. The browns in the undercuts are larger than you might expect on a stream that size... Looking forward to the next part of your trip!
    "Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19

    Guided Fly Fishing with David Knapp
    The Trout Zone Blog
    contact: TroutZoneAnglers at gmail dot com

  5. #5
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    Colorado Part Trois:

    As we wound down our time in Colorado we used the last day to visit old favorites close to town. This first pic is a stream we always hit just 15 minutes from the condo, but miles away from a crowd. It drops down from the Holy Cross Wilderness area of 11,000 to 12,500 ft mountains to where we are in this shot at about 8500 ft. Mike is pick pocketing to fish in a pool just above a small spillway above an even larger pool. I am above losing fish in a rocky run being schooled by trout who know how to hit an undercut and wrap your tippet around logs!


    We ended the day on my favorite and most assuming stream in the valley, filled with cuts and browns it is like fishing in a Texas drainage ditch. This stream runs for miles and is the headwaters of the big Eagle river as it collects downstream water from every possible source as it makes it's run to the eventual Colorado river. If you think you have to sneak up on fish in the Smokies, try this one. They feel car doors slamming, people talking and when you are in the water a shadow of a bird's wing flying overhead up high will send them under rocks, undercuts and everywhere else they can find. The water depth at this time of year can average about 8-12 inches up to about 3ft in a bend or pool. The elevation here is 9,200 ft. and flat as a board as you can see.



    I was down on a gravel bend drifting line downstream and stripping back when I got tangled on a undercut and ruined that section by stepping in the water. I then headed up stream and about 40 yards up I could see a small ledge maybe 18 inches tall with a deeper pool underneath, how deep I could not tell. As I got nearer, the ever present willows closed in and surrounded the pool shading it and like a scene from Disney; fish were jumping clear of the pool snagging something mid-air. I counted at least four and started shaking I knew I would blow this before I got anywhere close. I spent five minutes sweating bullets trying to take off the indicator, knowing yarn much less a tiny thingabobber would shut this down in a skinny minute. Finally after getting it off I snuck up on the pool taking longer than any time ever in the Smokies on a brook stream. I knew it was one and done as I made my cast with a tiny caddis size 20, as it landed I could not believe it as they ignored my fly and I could see they were still leaping for a tiny dark hatch maybe size 26 or smaller. I slowly pulled the line back and again stroked out as I quietly removed my fly and tied on a tiny RS2 olive (Google It) size 24.

    I cast as lightly as I could upstream and just knew the wind would catch it and send it in the willows on either side of the 3ft wide pool. Just as it landed it went straight down and I could now walk forward and see the pool was three feet deep max!. I was going to get this fish come h... or high water as I prayed the tippet held. Finally I got it in and spent just as much time getting it back in the water and swimming again. This downtown brown was the highlight of the week, I don't think I have ever worked so hard sneaking, casting and catching a fish. Nirvana magnified!!



    Later that night after catching a shower we headed up past the gates into the posh Beaver Creek Ski Resort to have the last meal of the week at a restaurant at the base of the Centennial ski run, when we saw this. Not a camera effect but a double rainbow after the thunderstorm wow those rich people can order anything!



    After eating and polishing off the last Colorado craft brew we walked back to the parking deck and saw how the other half lives in Colorado. How about outdoor ice skating in July!


    Reality is ultimately the final master and after getting up at 3AM to get on the road at 4AM, we arrived to find this at 6:30 AM at the Denver airport. God Bless anyone flying this summer, pack a lunch and a tranquilizer!



    This year's trip with Mike B. rocked, the water was perfect, the
    Colorado's brews were cold and standing in the water with a cigar catching fish is priceless. However, next year I am fishing with her, yes Lindsey Vonn not only is an Olympic skier but lives in Vail and fly fishes. Sorry Mike I am sure Lindsey and I can be very happy together with her money...!!

    Last edited by bigsur; 07-28-2016 at 09:41 AM.
    "It starts with a raindrop, don't let it end with a teardrop!"

    "Nothing straightens out my mind like a twisting mountain stream!"

    Follow the Great Smoky Mountain Trout Unlimited website:

    http://greatsmokymountain.tu.org/

    FACEBOOK: http://m.facebook.com/GreatSmokyMountainTU/

    "A true conservationist is someone who knows that the world is not given by their fathers, but borrowed from their children."

  6. #6
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    Wow thanks for the report BigSur I am heading out there to hike and fish with my wife in late August. Also going on Frontier and coming back on a 9:55 am flight so I will be walking in your shoes there. Great report and pics. I have never fished out there so was curious about the stealthy aspect. We are backpacking for 4 days in the Flat Tops wilderness then staying down near Ouray and Lake City for another 4 days but might get to wet a line down there too. Really looking forward to it. Staying our first night in Meeker CO then into the backcountry around Trappers Lake for a mix of stream and lake fishing of which I have no experience with either so not expecting much but will hopefully get to enjoy the beauty of the area most of all.

  7. #7
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    Crockett,
    Just saw your response post, glad you are going to get a trip to Colorado, as far as your question, yes!... stealthy is the order of the day. It's funny like the Toilet Bowl on the Frying Pan they are so used to anglers you can almost reach them with a net from the bank, yet to hook one most people use 6x or 7x fluro tippet. In areas with little or no trees, willows will be almost everywhere in some areas. At least with rhodo here at home you might can see the fly but when you become one with willows and if it is is a size # 22 or #24 midge, it's a needle in a haystack.

    I have not fished the Flat Top area but as far as hiking start early, finish early and especially be below the timberline in the afternoon. Lighting strikes and death is also the order of the day out there. Of course hydrate; along with proximity to the sun at those altitudes and elevations give yourself at least a day to acclimate before trying 10,000 feet plus.

    And by all means go to the fly shops, buy some maps for the area you are in, ask about flies to use, buy a dozen they recommend and they will usually not only help direct you to an area, they will mark the shop map for you!

    Below are a couple of links to things you may want to read, the first is a fly I see people use on lakes. The article is about the Ice Cream Cones chironomids, think kinda like a zebra midge with a white top and many different variations, recipe is in article below.

    LINK:http://flyrodreel.com/ice-cream-cone-chironomid-2/

    The link below is from an Orvis article from 2013 about the FLAT TOPS, good luck, have fun and "post em" when you get'em!

    LINk:http://www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishin...-areas-part-1/
    "It starts with a raindrop, don't let it end with a teardrop!"

    "Nothing straightens out my mind like a twisting mountain stream!"

    Follow the Great Smoky Mountain Trout Unlimited website:

    http://greatsmokymountain.tu.org/

    FACEBOOK: http://m.facebook.com/GreatSmokyMountainTU/

    "A true conservationist is someone who knows that the world is not given by their fathers, but borrowed from their children."

  8. #8
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    Nov 2007
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    Louisville, TN
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    Those chironimid blood worm flies can work pretty good here at home too...........

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