Sunday, July 31, 2011

A view from Gin Clear's better half...

-- A family adventure --
For years, we have vacationed in a quiet, Maine, mountain town. The agenda was always the same--a canoe trip on the Androscoggin, climbing a White Mountain 4,000 footer, fishing mountain lakes and streams and an evening of laser tag, provided the family with a sense of security and relaxation.  Our son, Matt, was about to enter his senior year of high school, and we wanted one spectacular family vacation, choosing Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  Colorado offered some of the country's finest fly-fishing opportunities.

-- Bait Chucker --
I grew up a bait chucker, fishing for perch in a 16 foot Lyman on Lake Erie.  For four years, I lived on a trout stream in Meshoppen, PA and would take my spinning rod to the water, catching trout and suckers. I put the rod away after an unexpected encounter with a copperhead.

On one of our early vacations in Maine, I decided to bring my spinning rod and show my rambunctious son the joy of fishing.  After the first bluegill, my son was hooked.  Fishing replaced dinosaurs as his universe.
-- One of his first fish --

When Matt was in grade school, we had a deal -- get the homework done and we'll go fishing after dinner.  The little pond down the street was full of bass and it became routine. Over the years, Matt has become an accomplished bass fisherman.  Sometimes, I would join him. Dog leash in one hand and fishing rod in the other.
-- Another 3 Bass Night --

-- First Brownie on the Fly --

I don't know how Matt became aware of the sport of fly fishing, but one day he asked me to take him to Wal-Mart to buy a $60 fly fishing rod and reel combo.  He practiced casting in the front yard and soon started catching bass on the fly.  For Christmas, he was bound and determined to buy the same fly rod/reel combo for his dad and walked over fifty dogs to earn the money.  Soon, father and son were taking float trips and weekend excursions throughout New England, fishing for rainbow, brooks and browns.
-- Brookie in the White Mountains, NH --

When you enjoy something, you have to share it with the ones you love and that is how I learned to fly fish.  Matt was my instructor. He had such skill and made the sport look effortless and elegant.  Matt could easily have been the casting double for the movie, "A River Runs Through It." As a child, he didn't always have the patience to stay with me and correct my flaws, but would go off to fish on his own.  As soon as I got a wind knot or tangled in a tree, he was gone. I accompanied my guys on several trips and never landed a fish.  Matt was frustrated with me, but never stopped asking me to go.

By the time we traveled to Colorado, Matt was a young man. Late one afternoon, fishing Arapaho Creek, Matt set his rod down and came over to sit near me.  He had caught his fish for the day and wanted to give me a few words of encouragement.  As usual, I hadn't caught anything.  He suggested a Goddard caddis and roll casting into the side of a pool.
-- Look at the smile on Matt's Face --

"Fish on!," I screamed.  Matt ran for the net and waded into the water to make sure the fish didn't get away.  It was nice sized rainbow.  My first trout on a fly.  I don't know who had the bigger smile, me or Matt.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hookers, Sanders and Beer

-- Sanders is my neighbor? --
In the continuation of our Rocky Mountain travel log, we will take a little diversion from fishing and talk about other parts of our trip -- lodging, Grand Lake and beer.

Because of the 4th of July holiday, our stay in Grand Lake was split at two different places.  The first was a condo on the North Inlet Creek right in the town of Grand Lake.  The second was a cabin just off Rt. 34 about 10 min south of Grand Lake overlooking Shadow Mountain Lake. We will talk about the lead pic later in this post.

-- I-70 Heading west out of Denver --
We left Denver International with one stop for food and a visit at Charlie's Fly Box.  Knowing the rivers were high, we picked up some 3X leader and tippet and some cone head streamers to help us get stuff deep in the heavy flows.  It was a pleasure to meet and chat with Charlie Craven at his shop.  As he looked up some of the river flows for where we were heading, we were both rolling our eyes.

-- All the snow runoff is heading to the Pacific --
The weather was clear and traffic not that bad for the start of a long holiday weekend.  The drive over the Continental Divide at Berthoud Pass was breathtaking.  On our way home we went over this pass in dark and rain, which was a bit more nail bitting nerve racking.

The town of Grand Lake is small and seasonal, but it was packed in preparation for their famous 4th of July fireworks. The condo we stayed in for a couple of days was right on North Inlet Creek. This was an ideal location for fishing in the "backyard", except for that damn runoff thing...
Shot from the condo deck

And a bit further downstream

-- Steamers Galore! --
We also were greeted with the stench of dead fish that someone staying in the condo about a week ago did not fully grind down the disposal.  With my son suffering a touch of altitude sickness, the smell put him over the edge and had him part with his pizza lunch. What a great way to start our vacation.

After a couple of days at the condo, the fish smell was gone and so were we.  We moved to the next cabin and to my surprise, blog follower Sanders was my neighbor!  From the sign post on the cabin road it looked like he was bringing the Hookers as well -- PARTY!  I knew we were in the right place when the toilet seat told me to fish streamers.

And of course the beer.  I did not touch a Coors while in the Rocky Mountains, but the local brews from Boulder Beer Company, Grand Lake Brewing Company, Odell Brewing Company and Breckenridge Brewery were excellent.  
 -- Colorado's Finest Microbrews --

I'm a bit partial to hoppy beers and found the "Hoppy's One Ton Pale Ale" and "Stumpjumper IPA" from Grand Lake Brewing to be my favorites.  The "Wooly Booger Nut Brown" and "Avalanche Amber" ales were also delicious.  They all were good and I'm thankful that the micro brewing revolution of the last 20 years is going strong.

-- Happy Crew after great fishing week --

Food in the local restaurants was ok to good.  We ate out a couple of times and fortunately no one got sick (this has happened to us on previous vacations).

I'll keep putting more pics and stories from the trip.  Hope this non-fishing stuff doesn't bore you.

Thanks for following!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Come Hell or High Water...

-- Meadows of Onahu Creek in RMNP --
... we will catch fish! At least half of this is true. We planned this trip back in March before the Rockies received record spring snowfall. We landed at Denver International with spring runoff on the rivers at record highs, but we are making lemonade out of lemons.

Our first full day hike and fish was up to Onahu Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). With all the rivers and streams totally blown out at lower elevations, we took the advice of Steve Schweitzer (author of "A Fly Fishing Guide to RMNP") to hike as high as possible and fish the streams and lakes.

In addition to exploring RMNP, we planned to fish the Colorado, the Williams Fork, the Cache La Poudre, the Fraser and area tribs near Grand Lake so the high water kept our options limited actually allowed us to focus on a couple of fishing destinations from an overwhelming number of quality opportunities in the area.

-- Onahu Creek Trailhead --
The hike to the first meadows of Onahu Creek was about 3 miles  from 8,700 to 9,500 feet above sea level. While the creek was following fast, the water was gin clear and there were pockets & pools which held some brookies.

-- High, but fishable flows at 9,500 ft --

We have some beautiful mountain streams in New Hampshire and Maine, but nothing like vast open meadows close to two miles above sea level like what we discovered in RMNP.

We all started throwing Parachute Adams, BWOs and PMDs. We had some takes, but the fishing was slow.

-- Moose mom with calf --

As I was switching to an olive slumpbuster, picked up at Charlie's Fly Box on our drive from the airport to the mountains, a moose mom with calf startled me, but they keep feeding while mostly ignoring me.

It was really easy to swing the streamer in the fast flows, but finding just the right current and area which would hold fish was a challenge.

-- A patient, stealth approach to a small pool --

-- Fat, little brookie fooled by Parachute Adams --
My son's friend landed the first brookie of the day by patiently flipping a dry into a large still pool off the main flow of the stream. He worked the pool for about 30 minutes waiting between casts for the small brookies to start rising after each cast.

-- Tiny brookie landed with swung Olive Slumpbuster --
I was working the top of the meadow swinging the slumpbuster through varying flows and depths.  I landed a smaller brookie in a shallow slow flow and had a another take in a another riffle a few minutes later.

While not a stellar fishing day, we were blessed with the beauty of the Rockies and perfect weather.

This is the first post from our Colorado experience during the first week of July.  We had good days on the water with lots of adventure and stories to tell.

I'll do my best to capture these experiences, in no particular order, over the next couple of weeks.