Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Colorado Buddy Goes On African Safari

My buddy Scott in Colorado married wisely. At a big outdoor show last winter his wife won an all expenses paid African safari - guides included. Since she needed an escort, Scott had a great excuse to plan a "trip of a lifetime" to bag some game and put some mounts on the wall.

Here's Scott with a massive kudu!

Scott With a 53" Kudu
According to Scott these guys can get up to 65", but that is rare. He rated this guy an 8 outta 10. All I know is that's a fine twist on those horns.  Here's some more:



Blue Wildebeest
Here's one that Scott's wife took down. Who says a Lady with pink finger nail polish can't go on an African Safari and take down a wild beast - with a bow no less? Congrats!

Nettie With A ??
 And what would a trip to Africa be without the obligatory Zebra?

That is an amazingly articulated hide - I like how it goes right up through the mane.

I've yet to discuss details of the trip with Scott. But that can wait until next summer at the campground and on the hikes. Hopefully he won't have forgotten all the stories by then! ;)

Back at home, the Lost Solar fire picked up again in late summer:

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Colorado Trip 2016 - One Heck of A Trout Grand Slam

My annual trip to Colorado can best be described as a bit "early" but very productive. The spawn at Trappers Lake appeared to be peaking while I was there. As a result, the excellent dry-fly fishing on Trappers which I have come to expect (and prefer) was pretty much a non-event. So I switched over to nymphs and had some success with the crystal flash, zebra midge, but primarily the Fitz Special which continues to produce well not only on Trappers but also the high lakes in the Flat Tops Wilderness. However, the one single fish I caught on a dry-fly on Trappers was a record low for me. But while the sheer number of fish I caught in the Flat Tops region may have been down this year, the average size was bigger. I attribute this to bigger fish staying closer to the bottom and more susceptible to nymphs. Here's a nice cutthroat in full spawning regalia from a high mountain lake in the Flat Tops. It fell victim to the Fitz Special:

Is there a more spectacular looking trout than a cutthroat in full spawning colors?

Like last summer, I set my personal best for brook trout this year. Actually, three times on three consecutive fish! Here's one I took the time to self-pic:

Here's another brook I caught on the hike in with Scott - this one took the Fitz Special as well:

 These were real healthy brookies - they fought like hell. Great fun!

I didn't see any Moose in the Flat Tops Wilderness this year, but I did see some nice tracks - so they're still around for sure. Hope they make it through another Fall hunting season and through the winter too!

Scott brought a great care package up from Meeker: Pizza from La Familia along with sixers of Stella and Colorado Home Brew in an ice chest packed with ice. Pizza, beer - and badly needed ice - what else could I have asked for? Thanks Scott! Duane also turned me on to another bottle of his "Backyard Wine". This year it was a Strawberry Rhubard which I drank with a couple on the Fryingpan River to celebrate July 4th. Thanks Duane!

Anyhow, the Flat Tops was fun but not as fun as when I'm getting up every morning looking forward to fishing dry-flies. Next year! So I hauled ass down to the Fryingpan River to get a campsite before the July 4th crowd got there. When I arrived at the primitive campground, I was like why did I get up at 5am and drive so hard as the place was near empty. But by the time I had the Teardrop disconnected and set-up, the place was full. Whew. Anyhow, lots of people this year (more out-of-staters coming to Colorado for summer vacations and to buy their hooch), but I got down to the river the first evening before the crowd and busted the shit out of some trout on the Pan. Here's a handsome brown trout that took my #20 zebra midge dropper (thanks for the photo Jenny!):

And here's the very first fish I caught on the Pan this year - a classic Fryingpan football (rainbow) that fought like hell. The fish was pissed off! Fooled him with a black leach pattern with two strips of flash. It was floated with no weight and drifted for ~20 feet, then stripped - he hit after the very first strip:

I had my first bad encounter with a campground host in 25 years of camping this year. The guy pulls up at 9:30 pm and wakes me up (remember, I woke up at 5am, set-up a new camp, and fished til near dark). I crawl out of my trailer and there is a spotlight on me and the host jumps on me for not reading his note. What note? I ask and he says the note on the door of my trailer. But of course he left the note on the door I wasn't using. Then I find out he has a problem with my check because I crossed out my address. I said yes, I recently moved and crossed out the address on the check and put my new - correct - address on the envelop that I filled out and put the check in. Well this doesn't sit well with him at all and he starts badgering me like I am a criminal or something! I guess I would have been much better off just leaving the incorrect address on the check. And I am like seriously man, if I was going to try to pass a hot check I think I would have written it for a bit more than $42 bucks (two nights of camping fees). At this point he tells me I am free to leave! Seriously. I have been camping at this campground for nearly 20 years and I have never had anyone doubt my checks and no one ever treated me this way. But he demands to see my drivers license (!) or he wants me to leave. I couldn't believe it. Not to mention everyone else is watching this like wow, what did this guy do. I am getting pissed off just writing about it. And this is the same campground that a few years back  I spent two afternoons clearing downed aspen trees off the road so people could come into the primitive campground! The campground host at that time (a very nice lady) was so thankful she let me camp free for those two days. But this guy was on some kind of a serious power trip. And he wakes me up at 9:30 pm to lay it on me? Unbelievable. I think I am going to write the Colorado DOW about this experience and let them know there are other states that want my fly-fishing expenditures if CO is going to accept more campground hosts like this guy. Maybe it was the old man beard I was sporting combined with the retro Teardrop trailer...perhaps he thought I was homeless! Heh heh. But the fishing on the Pan was excellent and I even caught a few trout on dries on the lower stretches - but not all that many and no green drakes hatches like in previous years :(

I did experience something quite odd: a hail storm that lasted almost 2 hours. No exaggeration. I came back from a fishing outing to make a ham sandwich and guzzle a Stella and there was a big-ass bolt of lightning followed by a rumble of thunder that made my ga-noobles vibrate, and then a big black storm blew over the top of the mountain and all hell broke lose in the campground. This picture was taken after only the first 45 minutes or so when I was stranded in my truck. It was mostly pea sized hail, but everyone once in awhile it would get even noisier and there was some marble sized hail:

After I took this photo I thought the hail was over, finished my Stella, and got into the Teardrop. Then it started back up, harder than before and it pretty much kept hailing/raining for the next hour-n-a-half. It was so loud inside I thought surely my Teardrop's aluminum shell was ruined. After it was all over there was almost 3 inches of hail stones on top of the Teardrop and Toyota. Yes, I should have got photos of that but after sitting in the trailer listening to the hail beat hell out of it all I could think of when I got out was to see what the damage was. Amazingly, no damage to the trailer or truck. You gotta love a Toyota clear coat finish! Anyhow, I had never been in anything like that before. I found out later down in Basalt all they got was rain - no hail at all. Basalt is about 14 miles down the river road and ~1,800 feet lower in elevation than the campground.

After the Pan I passed straight through Salida as the Ark was still quite high and I was anxious to fish the Conejos since I didn't make it there last year. While stocking up in Alamosa, the check engine light went on in the Toyota - the first time that has happened in the 14 years I have owned it. I figured it was the O2 sensor but stopped in at the local AutoZone to get the code read out. A guy there read it out (for free) and the code was P1135 - sure enough, the O2 sensor. But now that I am home and have consulted my repair manuals, I see there are two sensors and the code message and repair manual aren't clear about which one is the culprit. So I will have to disconnect the sensors' connectors and measure the resistance across two terminals to see which one is faulty. I haven't done it yet because the engine light has gone off and not reappeared. But I suppose I should check my gas mileage to see if it's having a negative affect on that, but I'll get around to replacing the sensor(s) one of these days. Regardless, one engine light malfunction after 14 years and 170,000 miles ain't too bad. The Toyota continues to perform great - drove it pretty much 75-80 mph the whole way to/from CO with the trailer and AC on and it barely used a drop of oil. It's been a great truck!

So I made it down to the Conejos River and was anxious to get into some serious dry-fly fishing on the upper meadow. It was not to be. On my first outing the wind picked up and was blowing an estimated 30+ mph plus. Man, how frustrating it was to be on such premier fly-fishing water and deal with wind like that! I went to bed thinking surely it must be better the next day. Nope, same thing. The last day I got up at dawn and hit the river just after the sun came over the mountain. I had about an hour of really good fishing (usually I don't even start until 9:30 am or so) and then the gale force winds started up again. C'est la vie. Next year.

Lost Phone - Found Phone

On the way home I reached over to call a friend to help the miles roll by faster only to find my phone was not there. Panic! I pulled over and looked in the typical places - under the seat, beside the console - it was gone. Oh hell. There were only two places I stopped since using it last - the Carl's Junior in Walsenburg for my annual Western Bacon Cheeseburger (love these guys but they are ~30% smaller then when they first came out in San Diego back in the early 1980's and are now more than 2x the price back then) and the Chevron station in Raton, NM. Then I remembered ... I had been eating pistachio nuts and throwing the shells on the floor board thinking I would clean them up at the next gas-up. Which I did. But, I remembered while bending over to pick up the shells I heard a "click" and - thinking it was a handle on a gas pump - paid no attention. Wrong...that click was my phone getting knocked out of its holster and falling onto the pavement. So I went to call the Chevron station but that's tough without a phone so I continued driving down the road - away from Raton - to the next establishment which luckily had a very friendly lady that let me use her phone. Yes! The Chevron attendant said a phone had been found and turned in! So, I retraced the 37 miles back to the CVX station and sure enough, it was my phone and was in perfect working condition although the protective case was cracked. Who-hoooo! Happy boy and this experience re-established my faith in humanity - at least three good people in a row: the girl that let me use her phone, the person who found the phone and turned it in, and the gas station attendant who held it for me. This more than made up for the campground host experience! When I think of not only the cost of a new iPhone, but the time and effort to restore the contact list and general configuration (none of which I have backed up on the iCloud), man, was I relieved to get it back!


Anyhow, to sum up this year's trip: I arrived too early and the dry fly-fishing wasn't good. But I did catch some nice trout on nymphs and the Pan fished great! In fact, on a "grand slam of trout" basis the combination of my biggest cutthroat, brook (personal best), brown, and rainbow this year certainly exceeded my biggest four of any other year. By far. But the fact they were all caught on nymphs was odd (at least for me). The hail storm and campground host at the Pan were also a bit odd and I sure missed catching 15-20 trout a day during a green drake hatch on dry-flies! This is what I dream about but it was not to be this year. But hopefully I can time it right and make it back soon. In addition, July 4th came on a Monday this year and it's always much worse when it falls on a weekend versus in the middle of the week. In 2017 July 4th falls on a Tuesday and that may make the campground traffic somewhat better, but probably not too much.

Tight lines my friends and may your dreams of landing big trout be fulfilled this Summer and Fall!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pigs in Georgia

No, I won't tell you what waters these trout came from other than from the state of Georgia:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

In Search of Trout: Summer 2015

Starting off in the Flat Tops Wilderness' Trappers Lake, it was good to be back casting small dry flies for the native Colorado Cutthroat trout that inhabit the lake. Not sure I know of a more beautiful trout than a native Colorado CT in its full spawning regalia.
Colorado Cutthroat Trout From Trappers Lake
The brook trout in high country lakes of the Flat Tops are also quite beautiful:

A Flat Tops Brook Trout - a personal best.

On the hike back from this lake, I was struggling to open an energy bar and in a bout of frustration finally just ripped it open. The noise startled an animal in the brambles next to me. All I could see was that the animal was quite large and black. I took a few steps forward to get a better view and peaked over the brambles to see a moose staring right at me. At that moment, the moose began to urinate profusely. I wanted to get a picture but my camera was in my fishing vest which was in the lower compartment of my backpack. That fact, combined with the rather threatening and intimidating attitude of the moose, along with a steep trail with dead trees on both sides (from the fire years ago), and I decided the prudent move would be to break eye contact and head down the trail slowly and carefully. I was asked later if it was a cow or bull, and I said cow based on the fact that there were no paddles visible. However, after some thought, and realizing the urine came out like a firehose as opposed to a squirt, it was most likely a male yearling.

Back at Trappers I hooked up with my buddy Scott for our long awaited canoe trip for a great day of dry-fly fishing. However, the day was not to be auspicious for us as we found all canoes were already spoken for and we ended up in a row boat - something we'll never do again. On top of that, the weather changed, high pressure moved in, the wind was exactly opposite of normal. Long story short: the dry-fly hatches never came off, there were no fish rising, and the larger fished we had hoped to bag were elusive. So we nymphed our way around the lake. I caught a dozen or so and Scott caught ~15. Scott had considerable success with a black chironomid while I was getting many strikes on my zug-bug and 'Fitz special' dropper, yet failed to hook many of the hits. Later I inspected the 'Fitz special' fly I was using and realized I had wound too many turns of orange thread leaving less of the rather small (#18) hook exposed. I look forward to fishing with Scott again next summer (from a canoe!) and perhaps gaining an advantage with a slimmed down 'Fitz Special'!
Scott with one of the many trout he took on Trappers despite tough conditions.

The author with a native CT taken on the 'Fitz Special'. Although a small fish, you get an idea of the spectacular coloring of these trout during the spawn.
After a few days of lake fishing I was anxious to do what I love best: river fishing with dry flies. I spent three days doing so and had considerable success. Although the numbers were down in comparison with the recent past, I don't think I landed one fish under 14" and most were in the 16-18" range. So the quality was definitely there. Some examples:
The Fitzman in heaven. Look at that beautiful trout water.

An average Flat Tops Cut-bow - 6-8 of these in a day make for an exciting time.
Another beautiful cut-bow - this guy went completely airborne three times. A very strong fish.

On my last day in the Flat Tops I was having a terrible time - I could not get my fly to drift naturally (largely due to my fly-line being waterlogged after all the nymphing in Trappers), was constantly getting hung up, and just couldn't seem to do a damn thing right. I found myself faced with a deep hole in the river and crossed to the other side in hopes of continuing upstream but got hung up in some briers. As I pondered my situation I looked up and saw my second moose of the trip - he was staring right at me. There was no doubt this was a young bull as he had some nice paddles already out. It could well be the same moose Al and Tina saw last year as a yearling. I quickly dropped down to me knees to get the camera out of my FF vest, and snapped this picture:

Yes, he is hard to see but at least I got him on film even it if was with my crappy old camera. After taking this picture, the moose moved quickly and walked directly toward me to the opposite bank. I was quite surprised with his aggressiveness. I figured it was because I had made myself small by getting down on my knees to get out the camera. So, I stood up and made myself "big" by spreading my arms and legs apart and holding up my fly rod and moving it slowly back-n-forth. This worked as the moose stopped moving toward me. He then simply stared curiously at me for a few seconds before moving downstream at a leisurely pace. I got another picture of him as he crossed a small tributary:

This was a good sized animal and I was very glad he was on the opposite side of the river. Packman once said that he was more concerned about meeting up with a moose as opposed to a bear. I understand now where he was coming from. When I told old man Jones, Al's father, about how curious the moose was about me and how he walked directly toward me, Duane said "Heck, he probably thought he was gonna get him a lil' bit before lunch". That man cracks me up! Duane and Nancy also make fine wines and gave me a bottle of their Strawberry Margarita "Twisted Mist", which I treasure and am saving for a special occasion. Speaking of Al, a man who prefers to catch (and eat) whitefish, here he is with a nice rainbow caught on his multiple nymph rig:
At this point I had been in the bush for 9 days and needed to restock the cooler and hit a hotel for a much needed hot shower. So I headed down the dirt road from Buford to New Castle ... ~30 miles of dirt road through beautiful country. I typically drive about 20 mph because of the bumps and towing the Teardrop trailer, so every summer it seems this drive is time for much contemplation about life in general. This year, out of nowhere and while driving down this old dirt road, I had a rather cathartic experience related to the passing of my father this past Halloween. Looking back, I simply never had the time to really come to grips with his death. Well, I dealt with it on this day, and I needed to.

The Fryingpan River

After a hot shower at the hotel it was on to the "Pan" where I planned to camp over the July 4th weekend (ya gotta stay somewhere!). As usual, it was quite crowed but luckily, at least for me, the weather worked in my favor as every late afternoon there were thunderstorms with lightening that chased anglers off the river. Since I was camping nearby at the Reservoir, I would simply wait out the storms and go down to the river around 5-6pm and have it more-or-less all to myself. And the fishing was fantastic! What was strange though was that I was catching nothing but brown trout in the Pan this year, when usually I catch mostly rainbows. Perhaps it was how I was fishing - with a streamer and zebra midge dropper. Here is a brown typical of what I was catching:

On one trip to the river, it was quite crowded and I was hoping for a storm and sure enough it came and ran everyone off. I found shelter in the truck (pea sized hail was falling along with the rain) and drank a Stella Artois beer while I waited for the lightening to stop. I figured the fishing would be pretty good and decided if I caught a decent fish I would name it "Stella". The fishing was great and I fished til dark. I did catch a couple fat and quite beautiful Fryingpan brown trout:

"Stella" hit a zebra midge tied by yours truly.

Before you guys write in and criticize me for these fish laying on the ground for pix, it was night time, quite chilly, and since I was alone I had to remove the fish from my net, with the dropper or attractor usually getting snagged in the net, so it was quite difficult to manage while trying to calm down a flopping trout. But let me assure you, all of these fish were released unharmed and very healthy. Despite some good success at catching browns, I realized that I had not yet caught a rainbow and I only had one day to go. So just to round out the trip, sure enough the very last fish I caught before leaving for home was a nice rainbow that just clobbered my streamer and put up quite a nice fight. Here he is:

Thanks to Ethan for this last picture.
What a trip! But I did have some challenges...5 minutes after seeing moose #1, the Vibram sole on the heel of my left 10-year old Lowa hiking boot decided to come off. So I had to hike the last ~2 miles back to the truck with a hitch in my giddy-up to keep the sole from coming off the toe and completely falling off. I managed to do so, but suffered a helluva blister on my left big-toe and my moleskin was woefully old (from the Grand Canyon hike way back in my Phoenix days!). Also for two years in a row I forgot my beer coozies and this year, a major blow-it when I left my bottle of Jamesons Irish Whiskey behind. This caused particular suffering on those cold and wet night when my feet were frozen and didn't have a couple shots of Jamey's to warm the soul. But the biggest foobar was my 5-day cooler...somehow the plug had come undone and the backseat of my truck was wet for some days before I figured this out. I kept thinking - this shirt or these socks should not be wet....likewise, the odors emanating from the backseat were a lil stronger than normal...I kept washing off my net ... but it was only part of the problem ;)

The Bear

On my next to the last day on the Pan, I was alone on the river and kept hearing a loud crunches and crashes seemingly coming from the area where my truck was parked, which was hidden behind the willows. The noise kept happening until finally I got concerned and started to leave the river and walk to my truck to check it out. But then I saw what it was - on the side of the very steep mountain behind my truck was a bear knocking over dead trees and tearing through the stumps - for grubs or something. This was a large and very powerful bear that was negotiating the steep and rocky incline as though it was nothing at all. You would never know this was a black bear as it was a beautifully blonde color and I am wondering if it is the same bear that I saw last fall on the bank of the river with two cubs (Paul, an artist painting on the bank of the river saw 3 cubs). It was a beautiful cinnamon color at that time. Sure wish I had had my Canon so as to have taken a video of this bear but alas, it was back at the trailer. I guess I'll have to start bringing the Canon (with a 50x zoom) with me regardless of its size and weight and the risk of it falling in the water (with me...) and getting it wet. After all, what good is a nice camera if you never have it with you when you need it? Would have loved to have gotten a video of that moose as well. Next year!

Elk Story

Late edition - I forgot to relay the elk story told to me by Rich who is working at the Trappers Lake Lodge this summer. Last fall he said he heard two elk buggling back-n-forth and he and a buddy set out for the hunt. They pretty quickly came upon a 4x that presented himself nicely and Rich put an arrow through him just above the heart. He said the elk was stunned and had a look on his face like "what the hell is happening" and eventually dropped to down to his front knees while he tried to figure out what to do. The next thing Rich says the other bull comes running over and rams the half-fallen bull in the ass and puts him down for good. He then started to urinate on the downed bull and spent the next few minutes marking the entire territory around the downed animal.

I have met women that I would do just about anything for ... and I suppose for an entire heard of cows the motivation may be even stronger ... but man, talking about hitting a man while he's down! Then again, as the old saying goes, to the victor belongs the spoils.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Young Bucks, Old Bucks

Look at the awesome rack on this 8-point my nephew John took on his first hunt of the season last Fall down in Louisiana. This buck was taken with a bow and John said he didn't even have to track him. "I walked right up to him." I told Johnny-man that all the hunters in his circle of buddies would be freezing their toes off every day until the end of the season in an attempt to better that bad-boy.

Next to the deer stand he hunted from, John said there is a tree a few feet away with a hole it in. The hole is home to a snake, likely a rat snake, that has been there for two years running and evidently is content sitting there and watching the hunt from the safety of his hole. Reminds me of a few years back at the Sugarbush campground in Colorado when a few of us were sitting around BS'ing and this 4-5' long snake falls out of a tree with feathers out of his mouth and a big lump behind his head. I looked up and saw the limb that he fell out of still wigglin'. I mean this was a fairly good sized snake and he was way out there on this skinny limb. Perhaps he had coiled and pounced on that bird from a distance. Regardless, I had never witnessed a snake hunting birds in a tree before. But I digress...back to the deer story.

A short while after I was sent news of nephew's successful hunt, I am visiting my nieces (his sisters) over Thanksgiving and I commented on John's nice buck. His sister said yeah, that was a big one, but "look at what my Dad got a little while later" and she showed me this photo:

Ohhh doctor! A-nother impressive buck. This guy was also taken with a bow, which I believe is all either one of 'em hunts with these days - at least for deer. You can tell from this ol boy's tines that he likely had a successful rut.

Back at the house, my brother-in-law poses with his mount:

Pat said the mount is currently sitting on the couch waiting to be hung and their dog, Charlie, just lays there staring at it. She thinks Charlie is protecting her and "saving" her from the animal.

Young bucks and old(er) bucks. As they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Translation: Like Father - Like Son. Congrats men!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Deer Me

So yesterday I went for a walk around the neighborhood and I come around the corner by my house and a doe goes bounding in front of me - giving me a odd glance or two as she crossed the road. I soon found out why the odd look - there were two little fawns hunkered down in the ditch. They perked up as I walked by and one of them gets out and starts to venture out onto the road just as I see a 4 wheeler coming toward us and hear a car coming from around the curve behind us. I'm like doode, be careful, and I try to herd the little guy out of the road.

Two Little Guys Scared Shitless
 Then his sibling comes out and I realize the Mama is on one side of the road and the little guys are on the other side. I felt the need to intervene considering the time of day and the chance of cars coming around the corner. I finally get them to cross the road into my yard and where Mama is (although hiding out of sight).
I Finally Get Them To Cross The Road To Mama's Side
 Patting myself on the back and thinking I did my good deed for the day, I go to check my mailbox as is my habit after completing my walk, run, or bike ride. As I am walking up my driveway checking out the front page of the newspaper, low and behold the two little polka-dotted fawns are walking right behind me. I'm like guys, no-no-no, go back to the woods, hunker down, and wait for Mama. I'm actually talking to them at this point. So they follow me back over to the woods where Mama ducked in, I get them to hunker down, then say "Stay!" (as if they have a clue), and this time run around my front yard and up my driveway. Thinking I had solved the problem once and for all, I continue reading the paper and walked all the way up to the house and, jeez, there are the two little guys again, right behind me sniffing my legs.

At this point I am thinking of the old adage "if you touch a bird in the nest the Mama will have nothing to do with it", which I assume hold for deer as well. Trying my best not to touch them, or I should say for them to touch me (I did feel a wet nose on my leg at one point), I tried my best to get them back into the woods. I could tell the episode was tiring them as their tongues were hanging out and I am sure they were still on the tit and starving. But I knew their pleading bleats for Mama would go unanswered as long as I was on the scene. So I just went inside the house hoping they would go back into to the woods.

No such luck...they hung around in my backyard (in the bright sun) and I was starting to worry about them even more. Finally I went back outside and took them over to the woods on the side yard and just sat and stared at them, hoping they would realize I did not have a tit for them and get bored with me. They finally did. Into the woods they went and they did not come back out. Good action!

I have not seen them since, and surely hope when I do they will be grazing next to Mama!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Monster New York State Brown Trout

Look at this gargantuan brown trout from the waters of NY state. The smiling angler that landed the brute is Jason Hettenbaugh. Pete, his proud pop and an expert bass fisherman in his own right, told me this trout was 33 inches long and weighed in at around 16 lbs. Rumor has it Jason is doing some guide work now. I have a feeling business is booming. All I can say when I see a fish like this is .... Good Action!!