Saturday, April 12, 2014

Islamorado Florida for Redfish - April 2, 2014

Finally took the family on vacation to Jupiter/West Palm Beach, Florida.  I have family down there and the lure of warm weather and the beach was just too much.  We spent a couple of days in WPB, then headed down to the Keys for a couple of days and enjoy the island life.  I hooked up a guide for myself and my uncle on Wednesday to do some flats fishing.  After a long previous night of heavy drinking at the beachside restaurant and then the hotel, then not sleeping in anticipation of fishing the next day, I was a little sluggish to get up and get going.  We drove from Islamorada to Tavernier and met our guide at the marina about 7:30am. 

I had originally wanted to go bonefishing, but the night before our trip the guide told me it might be a little cold for the bones and that if we wanted to get/see some fish we needed to do redfish.  I reluctantly agreed.  We boated his tiny 17 foot boat and were soon after we were skimming through the creek headed for the ocean.  I had no idea, but we'd be going an hour north west into Everglades National Park, where it is a 900 sq mile protected flats area of ocean that all sorts of fish occupy.  After an hour, passing hundreds of small/medium sized islands and over 24 miles later we cut the engines and drifted over some middy shallows. 

There is not a whole lot to tell of the area - you basically hunker down behind islands when it is windy or you fish in the middle of the flats and fight the wind.  The water is pretty shallow, I think the deepest spot is 10 ft and the rest is mostly 3 or less feet deep.  It is patches of brown mud and mostly green grass.  The islands are bird habitats with mangrove trees and lots of skinny mud flats at low tide.

Our guide started me out on the deck first with a fly rod.  Since I wasn't used to throwing a huge rod, he gave me some pointers and I stood at the front of the boat with butterflies in my stomach trying to remember everything he said and hoping I wouldn't do the 500 things he said would spook the fish (don't hit your back cast on the water, don't rock the boat with your cast, no false casting, no talking, no big splash, don't cast on top of the fish.....).  We poled around for an hour and didn't even see a fish - I stood there with a fly that looked like a carpet bug carp fly squeezed between my fingers at attention and ready to cast, and didn't even throw a cast.  The water was too high, the light was wrong, there was a ray mudding, too much wind, etc.  By 10:30am I hadn't even thrown a cast at a fish.  We did see a couple of fish blow up near the boat - some in the 8-10 lb range, which was pretty impressive.

We moved spots and I decided to let my Uncle Danny fish - he was a spin rod guy and a lefty.  Not much changed.  I think he stood there for 45 minutes with nothing in site.  There was a couple of chances of fish way too far away - but we didn't have much luck.

The guide asked us if we wanted to go into the Flamingo Welcome Center in Everglades National Park that was close by and get some lunch and maybe see a crocodile.  We agreed and soon we were docked and walking through a ghost town of a place to a food truck (Buttonwood CafĂ©) located in the first floor of an abandoned building.  We had grouper sandwiches, some cold drinks and then walked over to see the croc - along the way we saw some impressive osprey nests and a few huge ospreys.  We did manage to see a 10 ft croc, but he didn't want to be bothered and hit the bottom when we poled close.  We headed back out to the flats to fish.

We wanted to make sure we caught fish, so we fish a 10 ft channel nearby and managed to catch some very small fish - Danny caught some catfish, a couple of jacks and a bay grouper - all were less than 12 inches long and honestly didn't give much of a fight.  I stuck to the fly rod and threw on a deceiver and manager one small catfish of maybe 12 inches.  We then had about an hour left before heading back and we decided to hit the flats again.  I decided to switch to a spin rod just to get a better chance.  We started seeing fish and had opportunities, but I suck with a spin rod and couldn't get the fly/bait in range. 

One time we did see a school of about 25 redfish I got one cast to it, one fish peeled away from the group - but I never hooked up.  I probably screwed up 5 or 6 opportunities and finally let Danny fish.  He had multiple chances at fish as well.  Finally about 2:00 he had a fish nosing about 20 feet away, he cast way past it and reeled in to just in front of the fish - now we were 5 feet from going over the fish, but the fish was nose down and didn't notice us - then we thought the fish blew up, but the line started tearing off as well - and he had a fish on.  The fish fought ok, but nothing crazy.  The guide landed him, boga-gripped him, shoved the fish in front of Danny while I took a pic and then nearly ripped it out of his hands and released it. 


Now, I'm a huge catch and release guy, I know we need to protect all these fish and that being out of the water for any period of time is not good.  But this guide was ridiculous.  He didn't use a net - which was fine I guess, but wouldn't let Danny touch it, land it, or release it (except for his hand under it's belly for the pic).  I didn't get great pics because I was using video - but did manage a couple.
The fish was beautiful, I loved the black spot on its tail and the big pucker lips - I'd guess it was 4-5 lbs.  Danny was pumped and we were pumped the day wasn't a skunking. 
I jumped back on the casting platform and proceeded to blow up fish after fish with the guide getting pissy at me telling me to "get the next one".  I didn't get the next one and soon it was 3pm and we needed to make the hour long trip back to the marina.
We saw lots of cool things - which I assume are common out there, but new to me.  We saw a small shark (I forget the name) that was maybe 14 inches long, 2 snook (which Danny had a couple shots at), lots of rays mudding (including one that was 4 feet wide and waving his wings out of the water), lots of bottle nose dolphins (who feed like crazy at low tides chasing bait), a croc, a bunch of ospreys, and tons of birds too many to name.  I learned a lot about the Everglades, how to cast a big fly rod and how to remember to put sunscreen on the back of my calves.
I'm glad I got the chance to fish Florida, especially with my Uncle who is a classy guy and always manages to have fun.  Unfortunately, I also learned a bunch of lessons during the trip after it was too late.  If you get a bad feeling about a guide before the trip - don't wait, find another (like when a guide says he is willing to refer you to another guide if he was busy but for $25 - red flag!).  If you really want to fish for something specific, don't be talked out of it (tough one to determine - do you take a guide's advise or stick with your gut?)  Find out exactly where you are going before you agree to something - going an hour out to the Everglades that was 24 miles away and essentially parallel to the mainland of Florida would have been a hell of a lot shorter trip if I got a guide on the mainland - but I was 20+ miles down the Keys island chain in Islamorada - plenty of places to fish closer.  Don't wait for the guide to help you out, if something isn't working for you - tell him you want to change it.
I'm not saying our guide was a bad guide, I'm sure he has had major success with lots of clients and I'm sure I suck at casting, fishing, being guided, being nice, etc - but he just didn't work for me.  And I kind of had that feeling from the start, and should have looked elsewhere.  I would have liked to have gone bonefishing and should have stuck to my guns.  I've had success in the past bonefishing and I would have been more comfortable.
It amazed me to see the flies he was using - the carpet fly, which is barbell eyes, a marabou tail, and three pieces of carpet yarn tied in sideways up the body and then teased out with some dubbing around the carpet yarn was exactly the fly I have tied for carp here in Colorado.  We used a deceiver that was an easy tie.  So all those funky flies you want to tie for Florida?  Don't.
Just a note, we went to dinner that night and there is a feeding area for tarpon - and we saw tarpon in there for up to 160 lbs and 6 feet long - amazing.  I have no clue how anyone could wrestle one of those things in on a fly rod.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

FOTW - The Royal Gorgeous Caddis by Juan Ramirez

Great caddis pattern tied by Juan "HopperJuan" Ramirez over at his blog.  I like this pattern because it is an easy tie, you can mix it up with different colors very easily and you can make your own dubbing to fit your needs - all in one fly.  This fly kills it on freestone rivers even in off color waters - which is what we will be experiencing over the next few months.
You can easily tie this fly in a minute - which makes this an easy pattern to tie a bunch up while watching sports center or the NCAA tournament.
I might tie some up this weekend!

Colorado River - March 22, 2014

After a late night of watching the Boston Bruins kick some Avalanche ass at the Pepsi Center, I was up at 5am and in front of Darren's garage at 5:30 am.

I was not very happy to be awake, and had to push myself (for the first time in a long while) to not just text Darren and bag on the trip. I got my ass out of bed and got in the truck and started driving - like so many trips before. I always need to remind myself that no matter how tired I am, or how hung over I am, or how cold it is, of how rainy/snowy it is, that not more than 5 minutes after one of my buddies gets in the truck and starts shooting the shit with me, I will be glad I stuck with the current trip.

Today was no different, 2 minutes into the drive I was wide awake, catching up on what's going on in D's life and what we were going to do today. No matter how good/bad the weather is, you will always be optimistic about the day, even if there is no merit or reason to your optimism. We were excited for today, with breaks in the weather, super high flows and some good reports about the fishing.

The trip was uneventful, as most are, we managed to make good time - swinging through Silverthorne in about 6:45. Only Eisenhower Pass was a little sketchy, with some soft snow coming down, but decent roads headed up towards Kremmling. Then Darren mentioned that this road is scary for deer - that they are deadly on this road, and of course I said "we won't hit a deer". I may have jinxed us. After I uttered those words, we saw approximately 300 deer along the side and in the middle of the road. Most were smart enough to turn and run, but we did have one close call as I was watching some on the right cross and didn't see the last one come up and over from the left and then at the last minute turn and run back off the road. Close call.

We finished the uneventful ride to the Colorado, popped into the parking lot and geared up. The river is in mint condition - super high flows for this time of year, at around 1000 cfs. The water was perfect height and only slightly off color. The bug activity was tough to determine - we did see some stones, midges and some BWOs.

The water was beautiful, but the fishing was tough. We easily fished an hour before Darren decided to tie on a white bead head chironomid (seriously) and caught two fish on two casts and then nothing. I managed a couple of fish on some small black zebra midges. The weather was cold, about 30, with fluffy snow falling on our hats/hoods and jackets. It wet our shoulders, gloves and liners - but it was never "cold". We stayed pretty warm and comfortable.

We moved down river, picking up a fish here and there - but nothing consistent or fancy. D did manage a large fat sucker - probably the fish of the day! We kept moving down river, but before we knew it, it was noontime and we actually had some spincaster fishermen approaching, so we bailed.

We decided to move further down river, and had better luck. There seems to be a lot more snags in the river. Lost a couple rigs there. We didn't light it up right away. Darren landed 3 nice browns. I landed a feisty one as well, then headed back to a big pool below the bridge. Darren returned and we picked off a couple fish and then I broke off or tangled and had to re-rig. Darren headed down river. For some reason I tied on a huge black Kaufman stone, a pink wire worm and a double pink small pegged egg and something clicked. In three casts I hooked and landed a large 16 inch brown on the eggs, then a huge whitie on the stone fly and finally a small rainbow on the wire worm. Following those fish I had another few fish slam my rig. The whities were feisty and I actually had one jump out of the water after being hooked (a first).

Darren disappeared, but had some pretty decent luck - hooking a bunch of decent fish down at the next deep bend pool. It was about 3pm, and if we were going to beat the ski traffic, we needed to get our asses out of there. We high tailed it back to Silverthorne, up and over Eisenhower, no traffic at all, and then back down into Idaho Springs. The weather actually got a bit sketchy between IS and Denver.

Great first trip of the year - decent weather, good water, decent fish, great company.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FOTW - Zebra Scud

Saw this in Fly Fusion magazine this weekend, looks like a great tie by Wayne Samson of

Wish I had a better picture - but you get the point.  I've been looking for this fly online, but can't find it anywhere.  Thought I'd share.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Drones Among Us

Ever wonder how they get those amazing, low level, slowly moving away from the action, video shots that seem just out of arms length in all those fly fishing videos we watch online?

Well, I saw this drone copter on Gizmodo and this looks pretty cool.

I think we need to get one!

Sunday, December 01, 2013


Right around Halloween I saw this steer head at the farm where we bought our pumpkins - pretty cool looking woodworking project.

I think it had a price tag of about $60 on it.  It was made of old fence boars that were made to look "weathered".  As cheap as I am I thought I could make something similar for less.

So last week bought some 1/2" X 1 1/2" X 8' pine boards for $6, cut them in half, placed them on a flat surface and free handed the steer head onto them.  Then I cut them out with a jig saw.

Doing these cuts on individual boards was tougher than I thought - I had to make sure they lined up after making the cuts.  Then once all the cuts were roughly made, I had to make the horns.  Finally I bought a piece of thin plywood to secure the whole this together and add some stability.  I traced the steer head on the plywood and rough cut out the shape.  I then flipped it over and tacked the plywood to the pine boards to secure the whole thing.

With that done, I had to sand the edges, paint the skull portion with white paint and let dry.  The next day I sanded out the white to make it look aged, then took my torch out and blackened the horns and edges, and aged the white sections as well.  I added a hook to the back and hung it in the garage for a day or so.

I added some Christmas lights to make it a bit more festive.

Final resting spot is in the basement behind the fly tying bench. 

Not bad for $15!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

South Park Stillwater - Oct 19, 2013

Fished with Darren and Luke
Left at about 5:15, landed at 7am
15 degrees in the parking lot
Full moon shining
Long walk in
Wind was minor - just a good ripple on the water

Both fish looked exactly the same
20 inches, and fat
I'd love to tell you the rest of the day was amazing, but it wasn't
No fish for another 3 hours or so when I caught this one. He was maybe 15 inches but had these huge gashes in his tail. Eagle? Pike? Propeller?

About an hour later I managed this fish - nothing fancy, but fat.

Darren managed two fish, within 5 minutes of each other and nothing before or after.
This fish was huge - 21.5 inches and fat - definitely the fish of the day.
The other fish was similarly fat, but not as long.

We maybe had 3 hits the rest of the time
Still great to get out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Silverthorne, Thursday Oct 17, 2013

Finally got a day off - budget season was a bear and it is now over - so huge opportunity to take a day off, head up to Silverthorne and fish at my own pace. 

I stayed in bed a little later than I wanted to, but that was ok - I was on VACATION! Left the house a little after 6am.

34 degrees when I left Highlands Ranch.
A skim of ice on Georgetown Lake
First sign of snow on the ground at Silver Plume
Loveland is making snow.
21 degrees in Silverthorne.
As I'm changing, Pat Dorsey pulls into the parking lot.
I jump in the river
Water is super high - which is a good thing
6X snaps twice while tying on flies
2nd cast I get a hit, full break off
Retie with 4X
I got a few fish
Nice fish - hefty, maybe 4 lbs or so. Nose is all beaten up - like the Colorado Headwater Fisheries guy mentioned in his blog. Story here.
I was trying not to touch the fish, so pics are from the net POV. The water felt numbing.

At about 10:30 I decide to go hit Cutthroat Anglers for some new laces and a magnet for my big net that hangs behind me and keeps catching my line.
I then hit a small stillwater
I've fished here with the kids, and I know there are fish in here - but never had any luck

These cutts - I assume Snake River Cutts?? were swimming in the shallows - beautiful fish about 15-16 inches long.

I did manage one dumb rainbow trout - fought well - small but was very healthy.

About 1:30pm I hit Wendy's and was back in the HR by almost 3pm.
Good day to fish with good results.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Monday, September 02, 2013

High Mountain Lake fishing (but no catching)

I had the rare chance to get up to a high mountain lake and Steffan and I were itching to get out. I planned to crash at Steffan's in Boulder on Friday night and head up super early on Saturday morning. Huge thanks to Steffan who hooked me up with a beautiful Orvis large arbor Hydros reel for my 40th birthday - an amazingly generous gift - thanks man!

The lake is located in the Poudre basin. The ride from Boulder is a good 2.5 hours - the hardest part is the slippery drive through the beautiful and burned out canyon for over 60+ miles. We left about 4:45am and after a couple stops (gas/piss/chase a pheasant/pay fee) we were at the trailhead about 7:15am.  We saw 7 or so moose (1 had a ginormous rack) at the top of one of the passes and plenty of hunters already parked along the side of the road.  

The Cragg views are amazing - straight up sheer crumbling rock. The view was sure to be amazing, but the uphill climb was killer, especially at 10,250 feet. The trail is only .8 miles, but it felt straight up with 400 ft elevation gain. At the top we got these views.

As you can see it is the typical high mtn lake, cliffs fall straight into the glacial green water. The lake is shallow around the edges, but drops to 10+ feet almost immediately. There was no sign of life in the lake for the first 30 minutes or so we were there. We were the only people on the lake and it was completely quiet - which is very eery. We made our way around to the side of the lake and started off with a streamer (me) and a dry (Steffan). As we made our way into the water and waded out a few feet it was easy to see that the water was going to win the numbness battle. At 40 degrees (I'm guessing) your legs and feet (and other nether regions) freeze quickly. Unfortunately with close quarters behind us and our shitty casting ability, we were needing to wade out over our nuts to get to the deepest spots. I switched to chiros after losing the streamer to the back cast gods. No luck.
We fished for another hour or so. During that time the lake started filling up. We decided to head around the bend into the cove - but there was someone there. We went around them and then came around a huge rock to see beautiful cutties swimming near the top looking for dries. We immediately switched back to dries. Steffan stuck with the dries, but I was back on the chiros. Still no luck. The fish just wouldn't eat.

We fished until 11:45 and gave up - hiked out, back in the truck around 12:15. We decided to hit the Poudre on the way back, and found a spot about half way back. The spot looked well fished, and I think in the bait fishing area - I left my chiros on and cast into the first pool right by the truck. First cast and I landed this beautiful 16 inch cutthroat - amazing fish, healthy, fought hard, amazing - and I caught him on the snowcone grey chiro - crazy!!
I caught another smaller rainbow and a dink brown out of the hole and gave it to Steffan. I moved down a couple hundred feet and caught another rainbow out of the rock garden area. Nothing fancy.
Steffan didn't have much luck and so we decided to leave - still having a long ride home - and me to HR.
Great day to get out, beautiful area, great scenery, good beers, and good to hang with Steffan. Thanks man!