Thursday, August 8, 2019

Sierra Weekender

July 27-29, 2019
Took off with Kelly again for another weekender in the Sierra this time for three days.  Friday was a road day as we got out of the South Bay later than planned and so we had no time to wet a line.

The next morning we set off to the Upper.  I began assembling my four weight rod and debated whether to fish dries exclusively or try for some fish subsurface throughout the day.  This decision would dictate which reel I'd use.  Ultimately I chose to fish exclusively with dries.  Starting with a hopper fly it didn't take long before I managed my first fish.  I'd catch more sporadically throughout the morning.  Eventually I caught up with Kelly where he gave me a BWO wally wing fly after landing a respectable 12 incher.  With the BWO I caught several more before I got bored with catching smallish fish.  None of my fish were bigger than 8 inches.  So I headed back to the truck for lunch while Kelly continued to fish.
After lunch we set off to Hot Creek and it was much of the same.  Small fish on dries and nothing much to speak of.  We had an appointment to meet Kelly's friend at a distillery in Mammoth at 4pm so we left.

Came back to the upper and finished the day catching more smallish fish on dries. 

July 28. 2019
Took to some private land with permission of the landowner to fish a small creek that used to produce some very nice wild fish up to 16 inches in the past.  Spoke with the landowner who has stocked it with some very large triploids.  He will be stocking it with tiger trout stock soon. 
Skipping the stocked section, we ended up getting the skunk though as no fish were willing to come up.  I left my nymphs behind as I've never fished subsurface here.   Friday lightening storms and flash flooding may have had their effect on these fish as the water was glacial and milky.
Gave up after a couple hours and headed toward the East Walker after a stream side lunch.  Slow here as well.  I started with nymphs at my favorite hole but it failed to produce. Fished several hours without so much as a bite.   After Kelly gave up I asked for his rod as it was rigged with a hopper and I was too lazy to re-rig my setup.  I took a few casts along the bank and managed a 12 incher to end the skunk.  Quit fishing after that.  Took to a local lake where Kelly's buddy's ashes were placed so he could have a beer with him.  Back to the apartment for dinner.
July 29, 2019
Kelly made a suggestion earlier in the trip about a small creek that is fed by a high altitude lake so on Monday we decided to check it out as it was on the way home.  We checked out the lake once we arrived in the morning.  Fish were rising to mosquitoes.  We went back to the truck to rig up.  I decided to fish my 6 foot two weight as the weekend was filled with small fish and this stream for the most part held small brookies. 
I started at the lake and tied on a mosquito fly and despite a less than ideal rod for the lake I managed one take on one of the few first casts.  It was about 30 feet from the shore and it ran directly down the lake outlet that tunneled below the road.  I had to pull him back out of there.  The nine inch fish popped off while I was about to land him. 
Went to the creek after that and began fishing just below the lake.  It was literally fish after fish.  Mostly brookies but a few rainbows here and there, not any of notable size though with the largest in the 8 inch range.  So we hiked downstream about a quarter mile and began fishing upstream toward the lake.  Fish were easily caught throughout until I came across a start of large slow moving section and noticed several fish in the 12-14 range.  I spent the next 40 minutes trying everything to get one to take.  I even added a two nymph dropper.  Normally I would never do such a thing but my first dropper was two short and rather than cutting it off I just added another.   It proved fruitless though and gave up and fished my way up toward the hole we began the day.  This time Kelly took the side I fished earlier and I took the other side.

I did notice a pod of large fish in a feeding lane.  I casted upstream of them hoping my dry fly would entice them only to have a small brook trout take above the pod.  I tried to line him in without disturbing the bigger fish.  I released the fish and casted upstream but failed to place it where I wanted.  So I recasted rather uglily as the cast collapsed but fell directly where I wanted it so I let ride.  The  fly submerged which I wanted and as it drifted through the feeding lane I lost sight of it but I noticed a fish act as if he took.  Not sure if he took my fly or not I lifted the rod rather unconfidently and a fish was on.  I knew it was a nice fish but had no clue until I managed to get her closer.  She made several great runs and I couldn't do much to her with such a soft light rod but eventually wrangled her in.  She was holdover fish from the lake, fat like a football.  With that it was noon and I quit gave the hole to Kelly and he gave it a shot.  I told him to retie with a nymph.  All he had were wet flies and I told him to go with that.  After a few drifts I told him to add the smallest split shot he had.  It wasn't long until he had a fatty on as well.  Unfortunately his broke off and we decided that was enough as it was just past noon and time to head home for the long drive.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Post Independence Day Bass and Beyond

July 5, 2019
On the day after the celebrations of the country's Independence I was invited by Luc to fish with him at Canyon Lake.  The lake was still recovering from the hangover from the previous day's drinking.
We began at 4:30am and fished until 8:30  I've been wanting to get a bass on CJ's Freaky Frog Fly that I discovered last year.  I manged to fish it briefly towards the end of last season only to miss the only rise I ever got before the end of the popper season.  I was determined to get one with this fly this season.  It took several hours but I finally got one towards the end of the day.  Later Luc got a bass of similar size with one of his poppers.  Tough day of fishing.
July 14th
Returned to Canyon only to get skunked.  Luc managed a one small one.  Fished the main lake and it was very difficult.  Knowing we were fishing the main lake I started with my 10 weight as long casts were necessary especially since I was still fishing the Freaky Frog.  I later switched rods as I still wanted to get my first fish on my Orvis Frequent Flyer 8 weight.  Normally I wouldn't fish this rod,other than a travel rod, but I wanted to feel a fish on it so I fished it.

July 21
I received a text from Luc that the fishing Saturday was fantastic.  Cloud cover stayed throughout the morning.  He didn't think the cloud cover would stick around but asked if I wanted to join him on Sunday.  I responded in the affirmative.  Started the day fishing the Orvis but couldn't get even a rise for the longest time.  Luc ended the day three out of six with a 5.5 lber that ran and almost acted as if it were a catfish. I finally got one 4 pounder after Luc gave me the helm and his Sage Smallmouth rod.  Still no fish on the Frequent Flyer.  Starting to think it maybe cursed.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Day Eight: Lee's Ferry

June 29, 2019
We made camp just outside the National Park on Indian land.  The campsite was a dusty dirt patch of red sand.  All for the bargain price of $25.  We arrived at camp somewhat late and we were exhausted.  The wind was howling and blowing dust everywhere.  We decided to share my three man tent for the night and we positioned the truck to try and block the wind.  Skipping dinner we went straight to sleep once we finished making camp.  I had to shut most of the vents to prevent dust blowing into the tent and with the heat of the night and our bodies it was somewhat unpleasant but eventually I fell asleep.

We woke early to enter the park before the sunrise hit the monuments.  It was quite a sight.  Kelly asked if I wanted to go deeper into the park to check out all the geology.  I declined and said lets go fishing.  I've seen enough.  The crowds would have put us behind too much.  This wasn't a sightseeing trip after all.
It took us several hours to make it to Lee's Ferry.  The fly shop was 20 minutes out of the way and we decided to skip going there for info.  It would have put us back an hour if we did so.  We'd just have to figure it out on our own with the limited intel I gathered from friends the day prior.
We'd fish the walk-in section and after paying the $30 entrance fee we set off to check out the water.  It's big water but only thigh deep at it's deepest.  Wading was slow but not terribly difficult.  I do not recall what the flows were but they were in fishable range.  There were already four or five anglers on the water.  I started below them and after a few drifts I decided to fish above them,  The river is wide enough to accommodate more anglers here as you could basically wade most if not all the width of the river.  Though I didn't try this, I did make it about three quarters the way to the other side. 
Took me a while to read the water properly.  It wasn't as obvious to me.  Of course some areas were easy but others not so much.  The typical fishy water wasn't producing.  Some of the changes on the water were so subtle that it was not easy to tell what was likely holding water.  So I actually waded out there just to see what each ripple and slack water  represented beneath the water.  I would stand in a slightly deeper hole (holding area for the fish) and would see what it looked like on the surface and then proceeded to fish similar looking water.  This proved helpful and I would finally get my first fish in one of those slightly deeper holes.  We gave up at around noon as our original destination of Sedona was still on the agenda.

We had planned to fish Oak Creek but in hindsight we should have just fish Lee's Ferry a bit longer.  When we finally made the drive to Sedona it was a zoo.  Every parking lot ever parking space has filled to the brim.  It was almost as bad as out local mountains on a weekend.  After looking over the situation and water conditions it wasn't difficult to call that off and simply make our way home.  After some debate on where to stay, we decided to just head to Phoenix and get a room there to rest up for the journey home.   The following day we set off for South Bay to KB's home.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Day Seven: Uncompahgre River

June 28, 2019
We hit the coffee shop first thing in the morning before taking to the road.  The Million Dollar Highway did not disappoint with the alpine views.  Our destination was Ouray.  The main reason for this trip.  Kelly had seen some photos years ago of this town and thought it might be a good place to buy some property.  For the next five years he'd have to wait to see it until now. 

We reached the town around 8am and checked it out before having a hearty breakfast of Country Eggs Benedict which is smothered in country gravy rather than Hollandaise.  Stuffed and having seen enough of the town we set out to the Uncompahgre.
Someone at the Casting Club suggested Kelly check this river our when we were planning our trip.  Curtis and Durangler's also suggested we check it out.  So it was definitely on the agenda.  This freestone tailwater was developed with the help of Trout Unlimited to improve habitat for trout and trout fishing.  It then stocked with rainbows, browns and Snake River Cutthroat.  Though not native to the area I did want to catch a SR cutt to add to my species list. That though wouldn't happen on this trip but that wasn't too big of a deal as it wasn't a primary objective for me.   A primary objective though was to catch any fish in Colorado and having failed the day before it was time to get on some fish.  Any fish.
We arrived at the parking lot where two other anglers were gearing up.  After speaking with them for a while we learned that one of them was from the South Bay (where Kelly lives) and got along great before he took off to the water.  I prepared 5 weight for drop shot nymphing and set off to the river.  I started with a size 18 nymph (I can't recall which one now), a Pat's rubber legs and a 3/0 slit shot.  After failing to connect on multiple casts,  I recalled what Kelly Galloup once said "the difference between a good day and an exceptional day usually is one more split shot."  So I add another 3/0 and with the next cast I was on my first ever Colorado fish.  A brown.  Nothing special but at least I was on the board and had sucessfully caught another fish in another state.
I moved downstream and fished a seam where I was perched above on a peninsula.  Within a few casts I was on again.  This time a much more significant fish and almost instantly she took me downstream.  I recalled another lesson from Galloup.  Fish will always run opposite of pressure so if yo crank on him while running downstream she'll continue that way.  I eased up on the pressure and the moved toward the bank.  She now was directly under branches of a tree.  I put only enough pressure on her to keep the line taut.  I slowly eased her in as she started to move back to her original feeding lane.  Once cleared of the obstacles I rose my rod and put on some pressure eventually getting her in the net.  The angler from South Bay now at the bank and watched me net my fish.  He took a few photos for me and I gave him and his buddy who later showed up a Rubber Leg and told them how to set up their rigs.
I caught up with Kelly who had now got a few himself and started to fish together.  By 1pm we started to make our way out.  We'd have a long drive ahead of us as we needed to start to make our way home.

We would forgo lunch at the river and decided to get something along the way only to find out options were limited.  We eventually stopped in Pico for a late lunch in a saloon.  It was the only option at this point.  It was actually a very nice burger.  For the entire six hours drive we were treated to views of Colorado mountains and then into it's desert.   Along the way we'd run into a summer monsoonal shower that helped wash the truck and gave us a nice rainbow towards the border of New Mexico.
Eventually we'd reached Arizona, the goal was to make as much time as possible.  Our destination was Sedona but decided to make a few stops along the way.  Since it wasn't possible to reach the destination this night we decided to hit Lee's Ferry along the way.  Since this wasn't originally on the agenda, I was ill prepared on how to fish it.  I began texting all my friends for information.  Lee's Ferry hasn't been on mind for over 15 years, I've long since forgotten what was necessary to fish it.  I got some info from various sources and figured we'd hit the fly shop before starting.
Since it was along the way we stopped at Four Corners to check it out.  This is intersection of Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico on Indian land.  If I recall it was $5 or $6 per person to enter.  After some pictures we were in truck ready to go.  As we drove off from the monument and since we won't reach Lee's Ferry this night anyhow Kelly asked if I'd ever seen Monument's Valley National Park.  I responded no.  He asked if I wanted to see it and I answered in the affirmative.  That would be the destination for the night and we'd find a place to camp once we got there.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Day Six: San Juan River

June 27, 2019

In the middle of the night I felt tiny droplets water coming through the mesh walls of my tent.  Having left the rain fly off for the night I got up heard Kelly shuffling around in his tent and I asked him is it raining?  It was and having also left his fly off he was moving his tent under the canopy of the bench and cooking area.  Not wanting to move my tent I took my fly out of the sack and got out to put it on.
When I awoke again in the morning I realized it was unnecessary as it only sprinkled slightly and only briefly. It's always better to be safe than sorry.  I wasn't felling like making breakfast and we head into town for breakfast.  Feeling like something sweet I changed my mind and decided to try the carne adovada after the waitress told us it was a New Mexico pork dish marinated in red chilies.  It wasn't bad but I was slightly disappointed.  Again I was hoping to get a great New Mexican dish only to be let down.

We took off this time to fish some of the famed portions of the San Juan having forgotten where Curtis told us to fish.  I didn't want to bother him again so I decided to check out the Texas Hole.  I figured being our first time here we'd really need to experience the world famous sections of the river.
Once we reached the parking lot, it was evident how popular this section is with anglers.  It was already hot by 7:45am and I really wanted to wet wade but on the advise of both Curtis and the employees at Abe's I choose against it.  Despite the heat in the air the water was freezing.  I was ready before Kelly and I made my way to the water.  While crossing the river I caught up to a guide and his elderly client.  I wished the guide a good morning and since we were headed to the same direction asked him where he planned to fish so I could stay out of his way.  He looked at me with a bit of shock and then appreciated the gesture.  He then asked me if I ever fished here I told hi it was my first time ever.  He told me to go to a particular hole up ahead and fish there as it is loaded with fish and few people actually fishes it.  He then asked to see my rig.  He told me my split shot was too big (which I thought it might be) and looked at the fly I had on and said it it might work but it might be too big.  It was a larvae fly I bought at Abe's the day before.  We split ways and I headed to the hole he suggested.

After changing for a smaller split shot I started fishing.  Within a few handful of casts I managed my first San Juan trout.  The fish was in the 16-17 inch range.  I moved upstream and made a cast upstream stripping the line in and was on once again.  This time after a brief fight my tippet broke at the knot. Some cursing ensued as I rerigged my leaders system.  Not long after that I managed another fish and actually had him in the net for just a brief second before he escaped and headed downstream on me to break off again.  I'd break off on fish multiple times in the morning.  Not sure if it was bad knots or bad tippet.  May have been tippet as I actually broke off multiple times day before when fishing with Curtis.

I finally found Kelly and he was frustrated so I tried to help him out.  We changed out his flies for smaller ones.  For the nest hour or so we'd see multiple fish but couldn't get any to take.  These fish will hover downstream of you collect all the aquatics you dislodge.  Eventually I'd meet up with the guide I saw earlier.  After exchanging pleasantries we began talking again I told him we were headed toward Colorado.  This guide was actual guiding out or Durango, for Duranglers, and his client also from Colorado, they both told me that it would be better to stay in New Mexico.  All the rivers and creeks are blown out in Colorado.  "Unfishable" they said.  Well we had no choice but to carry on.  The entire trip was based around seeing Ouray.  We talked some more and found out the guide is a SoCal native from the San Bernardino mountains.  We wished each other luck before leaving.
Around lunchtime we set off to Colorado stopping in at Durangler's fly shop to get our CO licenses and some intel.  One of agendas was to get a Colorado River Cutthroat and after speaking with the pro staff our best bet was to try a lake.  Saying I was slightly disappointed is an understatement.  I really hate fishing for trout in lakes especially from shore.  But we had no choice and we set off to to Mola Lake to give it  a try.  After onlhy a few minutes I was already bored but I circled the lake looking for my cuttie.  It wouldn't happen though and headed back to the car in defeat.
Once on the road we stopped in the town of Silverton and decided to have dinner and stay the night here.  We were told that we'd want to make our drive to Ouray in the light of day.  You don't want to miss the views of the Million Dollar Highway the pro staffer told us.  At the motel while unpacking our neighbor told us that there was a moose sighted down the road toward the mines.  So we decided to take a look.  Never did find that moose but did have a nice view of the surrounding area.