Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Colorado: Continued

So when Robert and I pulled off the Gunnison we where trying to figure out where to go fish. We decided to head south of Montrose to the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk tailwaters. We had a few hours left in the evening to try our luck. Needless to say this place wasn't what we were looking for. Its pretty much Beaversbend State Park in Colorado. Lots of people and a very artificial fishery. Robert and I knew we didn't come to Colorado to fish this type of water. That evening we had dinner at an Applebees, tried to figure up a plan and headed back east towards Gunnison to spend the night. That morning we got up and headed to one of the local flyshops asked around and tried to come up with some fishing spots. We weren't really feeling any of the options. Robert knows the Conejos River pretty well and we figured that was our best bet. It was about a 3 hour drive but we got there pretty quick and were able to get on the water and into a few fish by evening. The next morning we got up and hiked into some high mountain ponds that were loaded up with cuttthroats. We fished to early afternoon, loaded up and headed back home.

I don't want to call it a bad trip but a lot of things just didn't seem to want to fall into place on this trip. High water, close calls, oil light in the truck coming on and worrying about car trouble 900 miles from home. Broken rods; ya somehow on the last day my BVK just snapped in the middle of a cast, Getting a new star on the windshield from a rock getting kicked up by the truck in front of me. Not seeing a large piece of tire tread laying in the road at night; luckily the only damage was to the step up on the truck. I'm sure there is other smaller annoyance that I have forgotten about by now.

Nice little brown from the Conejos. 

"Fly Fishing Only"
You'll never see that in Texas. 

These guys pretty.

How they got their name.

 Robert had the only working rod, we switched 
off every few fish. 

They sure are pretty.

Biggest of the bunch.

Trout meal. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gunnison Gorge: Day 2

Not sure where to begin the story about day 2. The night was mild, not nearly as cool as I thought it was going to be. I guess that was a good thing since my sleeping bag and all my clothes were wet from a leaking waterproof bag. Note to self, double check your bags for any holes or tears that may have happened during the pre-trip packing phase. We only had to go a few miles to reach camp for the second night which was camp # 22 Boulder Garden. Needless to say it didn't take long for us to realize that the high water was limiting our fishing time and pushing us down river much faster than we anticipated. Within just a few hours we where passing by the designated camp. Robert and I decided to go ahead and push through the Gorge and take out a day early. The rapids were getting gnarly many strong class III and IV and frankly they were pretty intimidating. All the research I had done about the Gorge everyone kept saying the only rapid we really needed to worry about was the one called Cable. On the map Cable is rated as a class IV, needless to say the anxiety was building as we approached this rapid. We skirted, lined and even at one point unpacked the raft and carried it over a set of boulders to avoid some rapids like Boulder Garden, S-Turn and The Drops. When we approached Cable we scouted it on the right hand side, there was no way around it and we knew we couldn't safely run it but had no other choice. Not sure how Cable got its name, maybe because its like there is an imaginary cable running across the river just waiting to clothes line you. Before we even had a chance Cable through us like a rag doll. I don't remember much after that, I remember coming up from under water and watching my glasses flutter away. I was on the upstream side of the raft trying to hang onto the side handle, Robert was hanging onto the front handle on the raft. The raft was upside down and at one point I tried to climb on top of the raft. With a paddle in one hand and heavy wading boots I didn't make it to far. The current was still strong and pushed us through 3 more sets of Class III rapids which I don't even really remember. I know Robert and I were in shock and panicking, with several times I had to tell my self to consciously breath. It was tough because we couldn't abandon the raft and head to shore since it was our only way out and we still had several miles to go before reaching the take out. We were pretty much in the heart of the Gorge and the banks were very steep, the water was deep, cold and the current was swift. I don't really know how long it took us, probably not nearly as long as it felt but we finally got the raft and our selves to the bank and out of the water. The sun was beating down on some black granite boulders that were retaining some heat for us to rest and warm back up on. We had all the gear tied down good so the only things we lost was a paddle, sunglasses and hats. The rods were stored in some PVC rod tubes that I had made. The good news was that was the last of the rapids and we were pretty much home free. I don't know if this was a nearly lost my life moment or not. It wasn't like we got sucked into an undertow or anything. I will say I have been in a lot of pucker situations over the years in the outdoors but always felt I still had control of the situation. This situation was completely different, it was the most helpless I had ever felt in the outdoors. Absolutely no control and at the mercy of God and it could have been a lot worse than it ended up being. We exited the Gorge and had a few files to the take out. Those last few miles were some of the best water we had seen on the entire trip. Unfortunately we had passed a lot of it up. We were done and wanted out at that point. We did stop and fish some of it. and within just a few minutes we landed some nice browns. We got back to the take out, pulled the truck down to the river and haphazardly just started throwing stuff into the bed. I do know there wasn't anything we could have done differently and I don't know anyone else I would have rather had paddling with me than Robert.

 The SOAR packed and ready for day 2.

A nice brown on a streamer above Boulder Garden.

Can't remember was set of rapids this is.
Pictures don't do any justice.

 Robert with a nice Brown on the lower stretch.

One of the fish I caught. 

Robert fighting another Brown.

That concludes the Gunnison Gorge.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gunnison Gorge: Day 1

Day 1 started at Gunnison River Pleasure Park. They where running the shuttle for us to the trail head of Chukar Trail. Its roughly an hour drive to the trail head from their location. Their location will also be the take out. After getting signed in we started the 1 mile hike to the river. It required several breaks to let our legs rest and recovery but I think we made it down to the river in 35-40 minutes. We decided to rig up some rods and do a little fishing before getting the raft and other gear ready. No fish were landed but we each had a couple of bumps. We started our journey down river, taking our time, fishing and scouting the upcoming rapids. We only had 4-5 mile run to where camp was located for night one. The water was running at 2,000 CFS which is about double what it normally runs this time of year, late snow fall in May still had the water up. The scenery, experience and pleasure of being there was great but the fishing was a little on the slow side. I hooked into a large brown that was easily 20+ inches on a streamer. He jumped once and then went deep into a run and settled towards the bottom. I think I put to much pressure on him as the hook pulled loose after a quick 30-40 second fight. I would say that is my biggest fault in fishing for trout. I am use to putting a lot of heat on fish like striper, bass and carp. A trouts mouth is just to soft to put that kind of pressure on them and I have lost several big fish over the years by putting to much pressure on them early in the fight. Some of the rapids were pretty gnarly, strong class III's. We were able to skirt around most the bad stuff but the raft handled great. This was the first run for both Robert and I in the SOAR so we were both getting adjusted to how the raft handled. We made it to camp for the first night. Ute II is camp #17 and has a great view over looking the river on what would be a beautiful run at normal flows. At current flows the water was pretty high and flowing fast. I got a couple bumps swinging a streamer across the current but no hook ups. We had a mule deer doe and her fawns play across the river most the evening. Overall Robert and I were a little discouraged because the flows were high and it made fishing pretty difficult. Our drifts were quick and it seemed the fish were spread out do to the flows. We each caught a few fish but they were making us earn it.

Hike down into the Gorge from Chukar Trail.

Looking upstream from Chukar Trail.

Robert working the first pool.

Great scenery.

 Robert landing the first decent fish. 

 More Scenery.

Pictures do no justice.

 My first decent fish.

Ute II, Camp #17 for night one. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gunison Gorge: Pre-Trip

Many refer to the Gunnison Gorge as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I suppose Black Canyon catches one's attention a little better than Gunnison Gorge. None the less the two parks are right next to each other. The Gunnison Gorge is one of Colorado's premier fly fishing destinations. This 14 miles section of gold medal waters has always caught my attention. With a legendary stonefly hatch, an abundance of large trout, a rugged double canyon of black granite and red sandstone walls, class III and IV white water and experiencing a billion year old canyon. The trip isn't necessarily remote or hard to get to it just takes a little bit of work and light packing. You have two options, pay an outfitter the bucks and have them put the trip together for you or as we did plan to do it yourself. The largest obstacle of the trip is getting all your gear down Chukar Trail. This 1 mile trail is thankfully all down hill but with a hundred pound pack on your back you better be in some decent shape. The bulk of the weight will be your white water raft. I have been researching raft for sometime as I want to start putting together remote wilderness float trips. I knew I wanted a frame-less raft, something that could handle class IV white water, could be packed and transported on a plane and most importantly stand up to any abuse it will be put through on demanding trips. I came across SOAR Canoes, after talking to several owners and the manufacturer I decided on the 14' Canyon model. Just so happens SOAR was running some great specials on some demo boats they had this spring. Weighing in at 62 lbs the rest of the packing had to be light and efficient. This isn't a trip that your going to have many amenities. You pack the essentials and do without the rest for the next 3 days. A few things the BLM does require each boat to carry is a patch/repair kit, first aid kit, extra life vest, extra paddle and wag bags to pack out your waste. I'll break up the other essentials I packed into categories.

Tent with rain fly, pillow, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, head lamp, multi tool/knife (leatherman), chap stick, camera, extra batteries, paracord, small roll of gorilla tape, dry bags to keep your gear from getting wet, have one bag that is designated for trash to pack everything out with you. Water proof sports watch to keep track of time.

Its hot during the day and gets cool at night. I don't like sunscreen so I always wear sun protective clothes. Long pants, long sleeve shirts, sun gloves, buff and a hat. Since your gunna be in some white water and may take a swim leave the Costas at home and pick up a decent cheap pair of polarized sun glasses.

MRE's may not be for everyone but I think they are the easiest way to have a complete meal for the day without worrying about anything. Don't have to boil water to re hydrate the meal and they are sealed in a waterproof pack. They also come with matches, toilet paper and gum in each package. Canteen and filtration pump. I use a MSR filtration pump and make sure to bring some electrolyte mixes. The best is powdered pedialyte, most backpacking store like REI also sell electrolyte tablets in varying flavors. No fires allowed in the Gorge so  bring a jet boil if your going the dehydrated food route.  

10' 4wt and a 9' 5wt are the rods I packed, 3x, 4x, and 5x flouro tippet, 7.5 and 9' 3x leaders, net, split shot, hemostats, dry fly floatant, indicators, and flies. PMDs, Caddis, Yellow Sallys and Hoppers are the primary hatch in July. Best patterns include the classics:  Stimulators, Parachute Adams, Bloom's Paracaddis, Parachute Hoppers, and a variety of PMD patterns for dry flies.  Pat's Rubber Legs, Pheasant Tails, the Mayhem, Juju PMD, Hogan's Red Headed Stepchild, soft hackle Hare's Ear, S.H. Pheasant Tail and the deadly LaFontaine's Caddis Emerger for nymphs.

Repair kit, life vest, pump, tie down straps, paddles, and rod tubes

The most helpful folks that I would like to put a shout out to would be Royal Gorge Anglers, Toads Guide Shop, Gunnison River Pleasure Park, and Black Canyon Anglers. Everyone helped out with flies, fly selection, timing of the trip, shuttle service, sharing knowledge and tips of the Gorge, campsites and information that helped put this trip together.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tour of Texas; Comal River

At just 2.5 miles the Comal River is the shortest river in Texas. Located in New Braunfels Texas; the Comal begins at Comal Springs in Landa Park and flows 2.5 miles until its joins with the Guadalupe. The River is primarily surrounded by private land. With Landa Park offering the best access to the river. The Comal is gin clear and is like fishing in an aquarium. With that come some difficulties in fooling fish but non the less its a great experience. The river is full of bass, many of them approaching 4-5 lbs, red breasted sunfish, rio grande cichlids, blugill and exotics like tilipia and  big plecos. The river is also one of only two rivers to host the fountain darter, a fish now in danger of extinction. The only other river inhabited by the darter is the nearby San Marcos River.

I rigged up the 3 weight this morning with a hopper dropper and made my way down to the edge of the river. As the sun was coming up the water started coming to life with a variety of different fish swimming every which direction. With ultra clear water the fish weren't easy to fool with even the most perfect presentations being rejected. The fish just knew what was real and what wasn't but it is always educational watching how the fish react to different fly patterns and presentations. After a few changes I started getting some looks by adding a heavy enough dropper to sink the hopper pattern I was working. As the hopper was sinking in the water column I would twitch it just enough to draw a few hits from some redbreasted sunfish. The bass had absolutely no interest in it so I switched overto a weight crawfish pattern and fished it directly on the bottom. One thing about clear water bass is they are extremely finicky and not easily fooled. I have found though that they respond to a fly that is crawled and hopped along the bottom. Another benefit of fishing a fly in clear water along the bottom is you can get away with heavier tippet. I believe this is because the tippet does not get silhouetted like it does when you are fishing in the upper portion of the water column where the fish is looking up at the fly.

The best part of the day was watching this huge snapping turtle come swimming by with a bass right on it tail. Literally this  spunky 1.5-2 lb bass was taking swipes at this turtles tail. I've seen a lot of snapping turtles while out fishing but never seen a bass following and biting their tail.

For a great source of flies for the Texas Hill Country, check out Matt Bennett Flies.

Big pleco laying on a rock. 

Big snapper came swimming by.

A nice Comal River bass. 

Check out this gem, a red spotted sunfish.
Pretty cool little fish.

A nice red breasted sunfish.