Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday - June 23, 2006 - Cheesman Canyon

Friday, June 23, 2006 - South Platte River, Cheesman
Beautiful weather - clear, water clear, flows 235 cfs

If you are looking for a good fish story you will be disappointed. But, this was still the best fishing day of my life. Obviously not because of the fish - but because of something else.

Chad and I were out in the Gill Trail parking lot around 5:15 pm - ready to do some night fishing. After a hot hike in, we dropped down to the Family Pool and decided to work our way up the canyon about 1/4 mile and then meet back at the Family Pool at about 8 - 8:30 pm for some streamer fishing. I headed straight to my favorite strecth - with this much flows, the rainbows would be all over the large rock and that stretch. I tried the normal small thread midges, jujubees, black beauties, a pt, a chartuese midge, nothign was working. Chad of course whizzed by catching some nice pigs on a streamer dropper rig.

About 6 pm or so I heard some little peeping noises coming from the bank. I was trying to hook a fish that was right next to the bank and these two little duckings were coming down river hugging the bank and swam right over my fish. They noticed me and made a beeline back up river. I pointed them out to Chad. As I moved out to the middle of the river, the ducklings (not more than a week or two old I would guess) got a little braver and headed back down river past me, peeping all the way. I knew that was odd, since ducklings aren't usually left alone by their mothers. As always, I felt a bit sad to see them float by, thinking they wouldn't last long - especially since night fall was only a couple hours away.

The fishing continued to suck - and Chad kept catching fish ahead of me. I tried everything, even switching to a dry caddis because I saw one fish hit one as it floated by. It was getting closer to 8 pm and almost time to head down to the Family Pool, I started to cross over and decided to hit the long riffle one last time. There is a huge rock at the end of the riffle run that the water was high enough to flow around - well barely. I was starting to head back to the Family Pool and was walking behind the rock when I saw the two ducklings again, this time headed up river against the flow. We surprised each other behind the rock and they jetted around the front of it through the tougher current. I thought it was odd they were still searching for their mother, and now I felt even more like sh!t. I fished the back end of the pool for about 5 minutes and then guilt came over me. Somehow I had to help those ducklings, but how? They were probably 50 yards up by now.

I decided to give chase, I put my rod down and started stepping out into the current to see if I could see them. I couldn't, but I started sloshing ahead as I knew they'd be 3 inches from the bank. I moved up about 40 feet and there they were - tucked into the side of the bank swimming, they hopped up on a rock and went up and over. I jumped out of the water and headed on land after them. Not realizing how fast they could swim, I hopped back in the water and they were still up ahead of me. I started thiking to myself - I haven't seen a bird all day, where the hell would a mother duck be? Just then I looked at the island directly across some of the swiftest parts of the river and there was the mother duck, no kidding, with 4 other ducklings. She had heard the ducklings cries, and was standing alert, but wasn't making a sound. I think she was afraid that I would hear her and then come after her.

The ducklings didn't see or hear their mother and kept swimming ahead. I decided I'd try and scare them across - maybe when they got to the other side they'd see mom. So I jumped out of the water again and ran ahead, this time I was ahead of them and crashed down into the water - they saw me and made a break for the middle, got about 3 feet out and turned back to the bank and started down river. I jumped out of the water again, and ran down river to get behind them. I got behind them and tried again, again they made a break for the middle, but again, the current was too swift and they came back to the edge - this time heading back up stream again. This time I was close to them - maybe 20 feet, so I started charging them. The edge of the river was tough, as it narrowed the water got faster close to the edges and there were a few waterfalls of a few inches that made their swimming tricky. I got right behind them, they made a break to get up a 6 inch slick waterfall but fell back into the pool 5 or 6 times, I grabbed my net (which is the new measurenet that has smaller holes) and scooped one of them up. The other dove into the grassy edge to get away - he played dead as he hung low in the grass. I wanted to make sure I didn't lose one to catch the other, so I hell the net slightly off the ground, but it didn't matter - the duckling in the net was exhausted and was just as happy to sit there still.

I pinned the little guy into the grass, but had to get him out and into the net. I dropped the net down to the grass and tilted it in his direction. I started trying to move and I think he saw his little brother/sister and I nudged him in - not touching him for fear he'd have my scent on him. I had them both in the net, but now I had to get across the fast water. I was thinking the whole time, great you saved the ducks only to drownd trying to get across the river - nice! The second duckling kept trying to get out - he was stepping on his brother's head and trying to climb up the net. I held my hand over the net and shook him back down - he was exhausted too - and wasn't trying too hard. They were all poofy and their feathers were all puffed out - they were a black and light yellow color, mixed with brown and they had feet about one third the size of their bodies (which is huge).

I got into the faster water and it was deep - right up to my waist waders - and I was sure it was going to get deeper - but it didn't. I crossed over to the island and headed down to the lower part to where I had seen the mother. I sloshed down to the end and just as I came around there was the mother about 20 ft away and she was pissed!! I started getting a bit nervous and got about 10 ft closer to a rock that blocked me from her, leaned over it and dropped the two ducklings gently into the water in front of her. They booked it right for her, but made a slight detour to the right and went up on the island and jumped in with the other ducklings ahead of her. The whole time mom was yacking at them - I'm sure she was giving them an ear full for straying too far out into the current.

I crossed back over, hit the shoreline and got up on the hill side and looked for them. Mother and 6 ducklings were swimming together in the slow water and headed for the far shore (which was shallow and very slow). I found my rod and headed back to the Family Pool. Man, did I feel good. I hadn't caught a fish, but it didn't seem to matter.

I sat at the Family Pool for about 10 minutes, Chad came up from lower down the river and met me - I told him the story. We tied on streamers and started chucking. I managed two fish, a large rainbow and a good sized brown. We left at 10:15 or so and I was home by 11:45. I know this story seems a little sappy, but honestly it was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

brandon722 Fryingpan River - Basalt, CO June 9-11

Friday - Sunday, June 9-11, 2006 - Fryingpan River, Basalt
Beautiful weather all days - partly cloudy, water clear, flows 189 cfs

First off, let me say that the Fryingpan experience is only what you make of it. There are three different sections of river that have loads of fish in it, and it is up to you to choose your best experience. If you are chasing fat rainbows and browns and only want to catch a few fish and be amongst 25 other anglers with the same attitude, the first mile or so below the dam is your stretch. If you enjoy faster water with lots of plunge pools and rapids, with fewer people but still anglers within site, the stretch between mile markers 12 and 6 are your best bet. Finally if you like faster water, with fewer long stretchs, harder wading, slightly smaller fish, but easier fish to catch, and no other anglers within site you want miles 6 through 1 of the canyon.

The canyon is a 13+ mile stretch of road with sparse public and private land throughout. Of course some of the prettiest stretches are private, but there is plenty of public acces including the last 2.5 miles or so to the dam. The canyon is beautifully lined with red rocks and shear cliffs with green tree lined deep mountain sides. The only thing prettier than the scenery are the fish. The browns are magically beautiful this time of year, and the rainbows are equally vibrant. The browns are by far more colorful. Of the many that were caught, each wore their personality on their outsides. The browns were all different, but their vibrant red spots, deep golden bellies and red tail fins made them unique. They fought the hardest and offered the greatest rewards.

Chad and I arrived around 9 am on Friday, after driving by the Roraring Fork we made a subconscoius decision to stay away from that water way. We hit the canyon and immediately started fishing about 1 mile into the canyon. The water was fast and the walking was treacherously slippery, but the rewards were awesome. The canyon comes right down to the water, which makes wading along the edges impossible around trees, bushes and huge boulders covered in moss and red dirt/muck. But the deep holes and edge slicks makes for the perfect hiding places for larger than average fish. Chad of course caught his share, hooking some impressive fish with a streamer rig. He quickly found that a size 10 caddis pupa nymph trailing a bugger picked up huge strikes. I managed to land a few also, much smaller than Chad's. I did hook and land a nice rainbow that took me by surprise. We only fish the stretch for about a two hours or so and decided to go set up camp at the campground just on the other side of the dam.

We set up the camper and then decided to hit the river again. We jumped back on the water around noon at just above the 11 mile marker. There is a really deep stretch that rolls into two long straight aways with huge trees laying across the entire river - then it runs into private water. Chad and I split up relatively quickly. I was having problems getting into the fish - I knew they were in there from last year, but the little browns were a lot trickier than expected. I managed to hook and land a few. We only stayed for about an hour and then moved again up to mile marker 12 area. We fished the area quite well and saw tons of fish. I managed to hook and land 4 fish in one particular hole on dry flies - including a nice 19 inch rainbow, a 16 inch rainbow, a small brown and a silvery small rainbow. We found some huge fish that we toyed with for a while with streamers, but with no luck. At around 4:45 we decided to head back to town and get cell service and call Jason who was meeting us there that day. We ate dinner, made contact with Jason and made plans to meet up with him at the dam area around 8 or 8:30. We were back on the water by 7 pm.

We fished the usual areas - the hog pen, the straight away just before the water fall and slightly below there. The fishing was slow and I found myself fishing the hog pen. A sudden down pour came on as I was throwing a mysis at a bunch of feeding fish and one huge hog which had no interest in feeding. The down pour lasted only a few minutes, but right in the middle of it I hooked and landed the hog - he was a huge brown trout - with deep coloration - he was about 25 inches and weighed about 10 or 11 lbs - he was huge. Unfortunately the fish only made a few head thrashs but didn't make any runs - thank God. I had help landing him and getting my picture taking. By the time it was all over, the rain had stopped and the fish stopped feeding. It was an amazing fish - I had the adrenaline pumping for quite a while afterwards. I headed down to show Chad the picture and hang out down there.

I saw some smaller fish taking dries off the top just below the waterfall at the gauging station. I hooked a few, but only landed one - a nice 13 inch brown - I was surprised as I thought they were all dinks. Chad was hooking larger fish on streamers just above the waterfall. Jason showed up at 8:30 and we decided to try some night fishing. Not much to tell here, we were ready to leave.

Next morning we were up at 8 am and on the river soon after. We started out below the dam on the stretches just above the bridge. There weren't as many people as I thought there. The area had tons of fish feeding on the surface and subsurface on emergers (I guess). I only hooked one, and we decided to move on - down to before the 12 mile marker where we worked our way up stream almost a mile. What a great stretch. We spent 7 hours fishing this stretch - the stretch was hopping - all the fish were hitting green nymphs (size 16 ish). I hooked at least 75 fish and landed about 50 of them - only a few of larger than 13 inches. One in particular was a beautiful brown that was in some fatser water that shook its head furiously. I was so nice to just be out on the water relaxing. The water felt cool and even refreshing the one time I did fall in!

We headed back into Basalt for dinner - this time finding a nice bar to sit on the porch next to the river and have dinner and a couple of beers. We headed back to the river around 7:30 - stopping at the 4 mile mark to try our hand. There were tons of fish, but even more mosquitos. Chad and I got eaten alive, Jason managed to not get eaten. We moved back up to the dam section and started fishing again. It got dark quick and we were off the river by 9:30 or so.

The next morning we were on the river at 8 am or so, fishing the 12 mile marker and down on the stretch we had some good luck on the previous day. The fish were still hungry - we all hooked several fish - Chad hooked some pigs for that stretch. At about 11 am we made our way home. The ride home was uneventful. The Eagle and Colorado were blown out beyond fishable. The Blue seemed crazy high (900+ cfs after looking it up), so basically everything was blown out for the entire week. I think we made a good decision by heading out of town to the Pan. Another great trip.