Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Fly-Fisherman's Blues

The lower Conejos river (downstream of the Hwy 17 bridge) is noted for great fly-fishing...and it is also famous for lousy fly-fishing. Sometimes you'd swear ther are no trout in the river at all. I caught my first trout here nearly 15 years ago. It was a very plump 16" rainbow full of eggs. I greatly regret eating that fish now that I understand rainbows are having a hard time reproducing and competing with the browns. Anyhow, I stopped at the Mogote CG to fish my favorite spots for a couple days. Bad idea....

July 13, 2009

My morning attempt was to fish above Sanders bridge (the Coleman cabin property) where it was quickly apparent the 4th of July crowd had thoroughly fished the run. There were footprints everywhere, and few fish (only caught 3). For the evening session I decided to fish right there at the Mogote CG, which is famous for large browns. First the wind came up. Then the angle of the sun made it impossible to see my fly. Then a storm brewed up and I had to sit on the bank for 30 minutes waiting for the threat of lightening to subside. Then no strikes. Thinking they are feeding down low, I put on a dropper (prince nymph) and almost fell asleep waiting for some action. When my dry-fly indicator finally did go down, I was in somewhat of a daze and raised my rod to find a *big* brown on my line. I didn't get a good hook set, he turned sideways in the current, opened his mouth, glared at me, and the next thing I knew I not only lost the fish, but my dry fly/dropper combination was now 20 feet up in the pine tree behind me. I lost both flies. Even more painful were the 3 guys sitting under a shade tree drinking beer watching this display. One was taking pictures of me. They were laughing alot, no doubt some of the time (all of the time?) because of me. But I persisted in hopes a hatch would come off near sunset. It never did. The sun was now down, I could barely see, and just about the time I was going to call it quits I heard the old "toilet plunger" sound I last heard on the Fryingpan River last year while fishing blind after dark. It was a nice plump rainbow and I landed it. Of course, the guys taking pictures weren't around when I finally caught a trout.

July 14

My morning session was characterized by NO fish and by being run off the river by mosquitos. The mosquitos were so heavy you had to breath through your nose and even then the buggers would go up your nostrils. When I got back to the truck, they were swarming all over me. I broke down my rod into two pieces, through all the gear into the truck, and jumped in (waders and wading boots still on) and drove down the road at 60 mph with all the windows down. Whew! Found a turn off and pulled over to gear down put my fly-rod away properly. I no sooner got my boots off when the mosquitos found me again. I mean I had two coats of deet on and they still were eating me! I swear one got a needle in right through my 3mm neoprene waders. A guy back at the campground (where the bugs were just as bad) joked that Mogote was Spanish for mosquitos. It is not, a mogote is a geologic structure found in the area. The evening session was even worse. I again fished at the CG waiting for the infamous stonefly hatch to come off, thinking since it didn't last night, it must tonite. That part was correct - the stoneflys not only came off, they were friggin huge. When their wings were beating, they were about the same area as a golfball, with body centers the size of crickets. These flies were *big*. Not only that, there was also a caddis hatch and a mayfly hatch. The river was covered in bugs. But no rises. None. I finally caught a small brown, but turned in. The only thing good about this day was the 43 degree nightime temps and reading myself to sleep: "Heisenburg Probably Slept Here", a book profiling 10 of he world's greatest physicist, given to me by billm. Excellent book. You gotta love Feyman. After having an argument with some students that urination was a strictly gravitational driven event, he proved them wrong by standing on his head and taking a leak.

July 15

Screw it - left Mogote for Salida and the Arkansas river. Stopped at Milagros for coffee and to view the babeage.

July 16

I sucked. Wind was up. No risers. Will I ever catch another trout??

July 17

Good day. Caught over 20 trout, but missed the 5 big ones. Here's how:

1) lost the biggest one (brown) because I was on the bank and got my fly-line wrapped around my boot. The headed downstream in the fast current, and when I figured out what was going on, my rod tip went down into the water and I looked on with trepidation as the leader popped and my fly was gone (and so too the fish).

2) Lost another nice fish because I was watching my fly and it simply dissappeared. No swirl, no movement, no nothing - just vanished. By the time it took me to think "what the fuck Alice?" I set the hook but it was too late. I saw a big silver streak (rainbow) headed toward the fast water and I just knew the hook wasn't set well - and this guy was large. After a very brief fight, ping! He was gone. At least I got the fly back.

3-5) All large fish, all got off due to slack in the line because of the howling wind ripping through the canyon. There is a reason fly-fisherman say "tight lines bud!" instead of goodbye.

July 18

OK, the Fitzman is in a slump. Just like last year, the very windy conditions here on the Arkansas have given me the fly-fishing blues. Losing *all* the big fish yesterday has taken some of my spunk away. Today merely confirmed I am not having fun fighting the wind and the non-cooperating trout. To make matters worse, I hiked down into a gorge for the morning session only to find I had left my anti-glare glasses and my net back in the truck. Then I ran out of 3lb tippet. My left thumb has lost the top 4 layers of epidermis due to all the line stripping and fish de-hooking. It bleeds a little while I am fishing, but I never feel it while I am on the water. Later, it bothers me. As always, click to enlarge the picture and see a miserable looking thumb. Isn't this exciting reading?.

This is a replay of so many years: fly-fishing burnout on the Arkansas river. Hot, windy, hard to cast, water-lined fly-lines after so many days of continuous fishing. Why aren't I enjoying the British Open on TV? What happened in the Tour de France today and boy would I love to watch the Lance and Contador battle once they are in the Alps. And boy, do I miss a refrigerator... Last year after a day like today, I reached up to grab a rock to help me up out of the river and I had a premonition NOT to grab the rock. I subsconciously puled my hand back, looked down, and saw a rattlesnake coiled to strike just below the exact rock I was going to grab. I took a picture of the rattlesnake which you can see here:

That was my signal to leave and I headed back to TN the next day. Today, things were a bit different. I still suffered the mid-summer fly-fishing blues like last year, but in a more serene and accepting way. Today while releasing a small rainbow, I again had a premonition someone or something was watching me. I turned around to find a big-horn sheep staring at me from the opposite bank. He was a majestic beast and I waded over to the shore to get the camera out of the ziploc bag in my fly-fishing vest. I quickly took a picture in case he bolted, but decided I needed a closer shot, so I waded across the water toward him. He had alot of attitude. Hard to describe, but walking toward him took a few minutes, and he was like, yeah doode, I am a big-horn sheep and you are a human. But it isn't hunting season, and you are a fly-fishing nut, so you're not a threat. Then he'd eat a bit, or take a sip of water. Then he'd look at me as though, by-the-way, at the look of things, I can probably fly-fish better than you too. He was truly magnificent. Anyhow, I got pretty close before the water got too high and I was scared of going downstream with a wet camera.

Big-horn Sheep (Click to enlarge)

It's Called Dry-fly Fishing

As I said earlier, my biggest problem now is water logged and old fly-lines. After non-stop fishing for a month now, my lines are worn out and I am too thrifty (stupid? cheap??) to buy new ones. Water logged lines lead to heavy landings, which the trout "feel" and very quickly evacuate the vacinity. You can see big dart streaks taking off to the deeper fast current. Especially when the water is low like it is here now and was on the Conejos. Even if you are lucky enough to make a good cast, the fly itself usually lands with a "thud" and scares the hell out of any fish within the same zip-code. Plus, the flies themselves then retain more water because they are not floating as they should. All this is of course why they call the sport dry fly fishing. The objective is always to land the fly like a feather, have it float on the surface of the water like a real fly does, and keep as natural a drift on the current as possible. Old worn out fly lines prevent this. A bamboo rod is great, but if your line suck, so will your fishing. So, I string up the lines, dry them out, and dress them with Cortland XL cleaner. But old lines are old lines, and after 10 or 20 cast in fast water they are once again water-logged. So, my strategy then is to increase my leader length to 9 or 10 feet, adding much more 3 lb tippet at the end. This works pretty good...until it gets windy (like it is here now) in which case your problems are magnified by such a long leader.

Like I said, I have the mid-summer fly-fishing blues.

But, like 59 year old Tom Watson at the British Open, who faced adversity and Irish Sea wind on the front 9 at Turnberry and lost his lead, only to make two birdie puts (one 45 feet and one 60 feet!) on the back 9, the Fitzman is going to fight through this adversity. So, one more day here to do laundry (and perhaps try fishing once more) and it is on to the Fryingpan River, which is probably the hardest of all rivers to fly-fish from a technical perspective due to the amount of fishing pressure and the age and wisdom of the trout in the river (all catch and release for rainbows). However, I will enter the arena. I will participate and I will try to match wits with the trout on the Pan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am trying to find a picture or tying instructions for a Fitzsimmons Midge> I hope it is one of your designes
Rob Stroupe