Sunday, January 29, 2012

A River We Call “The Zoo”

                Warm weather and not a whisper of wind has the ability to awaken fisherman’s urges.  While we all understand that the fishing would be best with heavy cloud cover and a nip in the air, the human in us can’t resist a warm sunny day in January.  So joining the hundred or so other fisherman on the water Thursday made for an interesting trip to say the least.  I watched as hopeful anglers pulled into the parking lot only to find six other hopeful anglers pulling on their gear with a speed that was actually comical.  Those already geared walked with a quick step and their collective thought could almost be heard in the air “No one would ever walk all the way to my favorite run.”  Unfortunately, yes others would have walked that far and they did it an hour ago.  There are many ways to respond to these days. You could be the “doom and gloom”, the “frustrated and angered”, or you could be like me. I use zoo days as school days.  In my book being a GREAT fly fisherman is a constant quest for knowledge and you can never learn more then on zoo days.  How many opportunities does a person get to see techniques used by fifty different anglers? While I do not suggest spying or asking to see everyone’s rigs, I do suggest watching.  Perhaps an angler has approached the run from a different angle or is letting their fly drift just a little further down into the slack water then you do. Watching, however means not fishing and there are those zoo days when I just can’t stand by and watch.  I must touch fly to water.  On those days I am forced fish water I would have usually walked right by, or only half heartedly casted into.  Thursday I worked hard over a riffle I typically only cast into sporadically and was rewarded in a way that will be remembered.  It is for this reason that I say thank you zoo days.  They say the measure of a good fisherman is not the ability to catch fish when it is easy, but to catch fish when it is impossible.  The zoo days will teach you to overcome the impossible and make you good, so don’t give up J  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Do They Count?

      If you are lucky enough to live near a tailwater that fishes year around, you most likely know the joys, and the curses of “winter fishing”. The Arkansas below Pueblo reservoir has become one of the most popular winter fisheries in Colorado and from the first week of December till the end of January it seems to be “bring your own rock”. The fish get pounded by the crowds daily ,the water temps never seem to get  warm enough for “blanket” hatches, and the fish metabolisms slow way down. The talkers in the fly shop go from “I landed 30-40” to “I had several on”.
   Thursday was an exceptional day in P-town, 69 degrees and only a few light breezes. Cat and I were landing fish on and off all day, with the biggest landed at 21 inches. If you ever get the privilege to fish with Cat, you hear the most wonderful sounds, many times in a day, a loud squeak followed by giggles and laughing and you know she just hooked another. I heard the usual giggle followed by her reel screaming and the giggle quickly turned to a very serious “this is a big fish”. I backed out of the water and watched her rod shake and the indicator dive into the depths and was wondering if it would be larger than mine (the good husband that I am). I pulled out the camera and started filming when Cat’s voice changed and said “I think it is either foul hooked or a giant sucker”. The fight took another 3 minutes with each winning  small battles at a time. Cat was eventually the victor and netted a 21inch fatty Female. Watching the video back I was able to hear the sadness in Cat’s voice when the Rainbow came to the top belly up. As we were counting up the fish at the end of the day, the question was, Do they count?
     It seems that about a third of the fish I land this time of year are foul hooked and don’t know rather to count them or not. I golfed a great deal growing up and from mid October till mid March we had something called “winter Rules”, which basically means if you hit over the green and into a cactus, if you don’t like your lie, or even if a tree is in your way, just move it and say winter rules, and it does not cost you a stroke. I never felt quite right about the winter rules in golf.
     Foul hooks on the other hand? I have had clients land foul fish and not even know the difference, who am I, to tell the client that I wasn’t worth the tip. The battle when foul usually feels like twice the fish.  Cat has even noted how well I have learned to net foul hooked fish, keeping them in the water, so onlookers cannot see how they were hooked. I like to say that the fish hardly eat this time of the year and spend most of their time dodging size 16 Copper Johns. I also say only an awesome angler can sense that a fish is near and set the hook.

        To count or not to count, I can’t tell you what to do. Maybe the answer can be stolen from golf.  Land the fish, snap a great pic, put away your camera, gently release the fish and whisper “Winter Rules”.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Red-Eyed Demon

The illness of Flyfishing comes with many symptoms.   One of the most predominate of these is the soothing obsession with “home-water.”  Determining if you have fallen victim to this symptom is as easy as closing your eyes.  Where once existed the black backside of your eyelids now lives a vividly colored picture of your home-water and its aquatic inhabitants.  Despite its name a home-water has very little to do with proximity.  You may watch it every morning out your backdoor, savoring the sounds and smells of its sweet waters as you enjoy the morning coffee, or perhaps it is a plane ride and time zone away.   The only qualifying factor is that over protective feeling that swells when someone else is, has, or is thinking about fishing it.  It is said that jealousy is a green eyed monster, and if that is the case, than the emotions of the “home-water” subsist as a red-eyed demon.   
                 I am among the many which have let the red eyed demon get the best of me.  My home-water is the Arkansas River as it leaves the dam at Pueblo Reservoir.  It is about a six mile stretch which I know with better intimacy than any other place on the planet.  Having also worked and been associated with the local fly shop for many years most of the local fisherman have also become intimates.  My water sees most of its traffic in the winter months and in recent years this traffic has increased tenfold.  This increase in traffic is as we say “good for business and bad for fishing.”  It is with a heavy heart that I have rounded many a corner as of late and seen a “stranger” standing in one of “my” holes.  In these moments the words in my head are shameful.  As I pass by these “invaders” I stare at the ground and do my very best to not make eye contact.  The cold shoulder feels the most adequate response to their presence.   In the worst case scenarios one of these “invaders” will come up and tell me all about the fish they have caught today……and offer suggestions.  Once these suggestions and comments have been made it takes all my strength not lash out like at child and yell, “I know this is MY water and these are MY fish.”   
                However, after a bad afternoon battling my red eyed demon and a few days of reflection I remembered something important.  I am often an “invader” on other people’s home-waters, I often give advice, and more importantly I despise rude fishermen.  So, in an effort to keep my cool I will be focusing on these facts as I face the busy season.   However, I do recommend everyone else find a new hobby….. Just kidding….. Just most of you J