Friday, April 29, 2011

Some good news for the Colorado River, but more needs to be done.

Colorado Trout Unlimited

Want to support Colorado Trout Unlimited's efforts to protect the Colorado River? Please consider making a donation today. 

Learn more about the story of the Colorado through a photo exhibition cosponsored by CTU at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. 

waterman book
The exhibition, The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict, shows us the river that has defined the landscape and the water issues of the West. Jonathan Waterman, at times joined by photographer Peter McBride, spent nearly 100 days paddling the river's 1,450 miles, beginning from its source on the Continental Divide and completing the final leg of his journey with a 10-day walk across dry riverbed that once reached the Sea of Cortez.  Access to this powerful exhibition is included with your admission to the museum.
Dear bob,

By now, you likely have heard about the historic agreement between Denver Water and a number of Western Slope water and governmental entities.  I wanted to share with you some perspective on what this deal means for the Upper Colorado River watershed. 

For decades, large water diversions to the Front Range have depleted the Upper Colorado and Fraser rivers, damaging fish populations and critical wildlife habitat.  TU has sounded the alarm that the Upper Colorado River is on the verge of ecological collapse.  The new agreement is a great step forward and offers promise for the future - but it addresses only a part of the problems facing the Colorado and its tributaries, and we still have much work ahead of us if we hope to defend our state's namesake river and its gold medal fisheries.

Today, we can celebrate good news for the Colorado River.  Denver Water and a broad group of west slope local governments and water districts have entered into a major agreement that will provide resources to benefit the struggling Colorado River headwaters and set a more collaborative approach for future water management and development. 

The agreement includes a number of important provisions in terms of river conservation:
  • Future water projects using Denver's facilities (notably the Moffat and Roberts tunnels) will require approval from the west slope - they will need to address concerns on both sides of the Continental Divide.  
  • Safeguards are included for the Shoshone water right, which helps keep year-round flows in the Upper Colorado. 
  • Denver agrees to provide 1,000 acre-feet per year of water to help address low flow concerns in both the Fraser and Williams Fork systems. 
  • Denver will provide $2 million to assist with river habitat restoration. 
  • Water and funds (including an additional $2 million) will be managed through a partnership effort designed to adapt to changing conditions, called "Learning by Doing."  Notably, TU is the sole conservation organization that has been included in the management committee for Learning by Doing. 

These are significant new tools to help protect the Colorado River's future and to address some of the past impacts that have put it at risk, and Denver Water and key west slope players including Grand County and the Colorado River Water Conservation District deserve great credit for crafting this agreement.

But our work is far from over.

There are also vital issues that are not addressed by the agreement.  The deal does not include mitigation to offset the future impacts of Denver's currently-proposed Moffat Firming project, which will draw another 15,000 acre-feet yearly from the Colorado headwaters.  The Wildlife Commission is currently reviewing the mitigation plan for this project - and TU will continue to work for the necessary river protections in the mitigation plan.

Perhaps even more notably, the agreement addresses only Denver Water's facilities.  It does not include the single largest user of Upper Colorado River water, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which draws Colorado River water through the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects, and is proposing to take another 30,000 acre-feet per year through its new Windy Gap Firming Project.

As you can see, our work in defending the Colorado River has just begun.  TU will continue to fight for mitigation from both the Moffat and Windy Gap Firming projects, and we will work to get the Northern District to step up to the plate in addressing its impacts to the Colorado.  And of course, we will work constructively with Denver and the West Slope to maximize the benefits of the new "Learning by Doing" effort.  Your membership and support helps make these efforts possible.

To get a feel for the challenges facing the Colorado headwaters, I encourage you to take a look at this video, "Tapped Out," developed by Trout Unlimited and our Colorado River Headwaters Chapter.

watch tapped out 

Thank you for helping us continue the fight to defend our state's "Home Waters" and ensuring that the mighty Colorado will be part of our outdoor heritage for generations to come.


David Nickum
Executive Director, Colorado Trout Unlimited 
You can help!  Visit the Defend the Colorado website to learn more and take the pledge to be a defender of this legendary river.  And share the word with your friends and contacts by email, Twitter and Facebook!

Colorado Trout Unlimited 
1320 Pearl Street | Suite 320 | Boulder, CO | 80302


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Winter’s a long time goin

The Dream Stream In January
Jeremiah Johnson: “Would you happen to know what month it is?”
Bear Claw: “No, I truly wouldn’t . I’m sorry Pilgrim. March, maybe April.
Jeremiah Johnson: “March maybe. I don’t believe April.”
Bear Claw: “Winter’s a long time goin. Stays long this high.”

Having endured frozen guides and fingers and gale force winds throughout the winter months, it’s now the season where anxiety over warmer weather begins to mess with the mind and turn the normally patient brain into a raving, shack nasty induced blob of quivering goo.
The first signs of this seasonal malady manifested itself this year shortly after returning from an amazing trip to the San Juan River last March. The weather at Navajo Dam was upper 50’s to mid 60’s everyday with bearable winds. We got home from the Juan on March 22 and the cold wind has been blowing nearly every day since.
Now I know that this weather pattern is normal for this time of year and that historically, April is one of the snowiest months of the year, but that logic doesn’t deter the brain from going into withdrawal convulsions every time a 55 degree day is followed by another snow storm and freezing temps. These dilemmas are compounded by the emergence of BWO, March Browns, caddis and to a lesser extent PMD hatches that get the trout poking their noses up and slurping bugs off the surface. Visions of 50 fish on dry fly days start to haunt the psyche. It’s maddening.
Today is going to be one of those rare 60 degree and light winds days around here and I’m going to make the most out of it. I'm goin fishin. There will be plenty time this weekend to go into convulsive withdrawals and delirium tremors of anxiety this Saturday when the high temp is expected to be 35 degrees and 4 inches of snow are forecast.
Don’t let those Blue Birds and Robins fool you. Winter’s a long time goin. Stays long this high.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some days are meant to play the blues

I'm sure some of you out there are as much into music as you are fly fishing. My personal favorite kind of music is the blues. I got a good deal on that Telecaster over there, and have been messin around with polishing my chops most of the winter, when I wasn't fishing.
Thanks to the unlimited knowledge and accessibility of the internet, I've found innumerable sources for lessons, song tutorials, jam tracks and just about anything blues guitar playing related.
If you've been looking for a place to find fun stuff to spur your creative juices, just Google away and discover what lies ahead for you and your playing. Whether you're into blues, rock, hillbilly, jazz, whatever, there is a ton of free YouTube vids and other sites that will help you increase your playing prowess or just goof around with the tunes.
Here are a couple of my favorite links:
 This one has songs without the lead parts, so you can jam along.

The next two are guys that do a good job teaching even the slowest of students.
Keith Wyatt is excellent

Marty is a character and a hell of a picker. He too does a great job instructing

Sunday, April 24, 2011

2nd Annual CMF Spring Fly Swap & BBQ

Yesterday the Colorado Mountain Fishing  Forum held the Second Annual Spring Fly Swap in 11 Mile Canyon. The weather started out cold and then the snow squalls started. It was a blast and there were mass quantities of food and libations consumed.

A tiny sampling of the food.
 It was a pot luck affair and culinary delights included Buffalo burgers, a variety of Polish sausages, side dishes and fruit. You had to be quick to get your lettuce and tomato on your burger before they became frozen lettuce and tomato.

Snow? What snow?
Between warming breaks and constant back and forth to the feed bag, there was some fishing.

Fish were caught, flies were swapped, and a roaring good time was had. Can't wait for next year's swap, but maybe we can do it in May next year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Great Misunderstandings in History

Got Caddis?

 God saw that there was great wickedness on Earth and overcrowded fishing on all parts of the South Platte, so God took favor on the righteous fly chucker Noah and took pity on him. 
And God said to Noah, “Go fish the Ark.” But Noah, being hard of hearing, and having left his ram’s horn hearing aid on his tying desk, thought God said, “Go finish an Ark.”
Seeing Noah building the Ark God just shook his head and sighed. And God, having a great sense of humor, saw that he could get a great laugh, the likes of which he hadn’t had since Lot's wife said, “Hold my beer and watch this,” just let Noah go ahead and continue building the Ark.
And God said (in a whisper), “Tie up two kinds of caddis for they are food for the trouts.” But again Noah thought he said, “Take up two kinds of creature and food for them.”
Just as Noah finished the Ark a great runoff came off the snow packed mountains and high off color water filled the Ark, and forced the fishes to the seams along the banks.
But luckily Noah had his Ark, albeit crowded to the gunnels with critters, and he was ready for the high water. Noah, knowing a good thing when he saw it, got out his 5wt and fished the length of the Ark, navigated the Royal Gorge rapids, and landed hundreds of fish on San Juan worms, Wooley Buggers and Stoneflies he had tied.
After a year of floating down the Ark, the Ark came to rest in what we now know as Canon City. (note: back in those days, a year went by in the swish of a rainbows tail).
And God, having had a great laugh at Noah’s expense, decided that for ever more, before the runoff begins each spring, there would be an epic hatch of caddis for future anglers to enjoy on The Ark.
And that my friends is how the spring caddis hatch and river running came to be on the Arkansas River.
 Tight lines my friends and "Go fish the Ark."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Missed Photo Ops Are For the Birds

Fished down river on the Platte today. Fishing was decent with several nice fish to net. The birding, however, was epic and me out there without my Nikon and long lens.
I saw a Red Tail Hawk cup his wings and hover perfectly still  in the wind, talons outstretched, head down, looking for prey. A flock of Mountain Bluebirds were chirping up a storm and taking turns drinking riverside while the rest of the flock kept a sharp eye out for danger. A mated pair of Mergansers kept swimming around me hoping I'd catch a small fish that they might steal. And finally, a White Faced Ibis was wading along the bank in the shallows doing the San Juan shuffle and scooping up the bugs as fast as he could.
How do you balance the extra weight of being prepared for all contingencies that you feel passionate about and being fleet of foot and able to leap small bushes in a single bound?

Jumpin Black Flash it's a gas, gas, gas

The Jumpin Black Flash is a simple tie I came up with last Fall. While a friend was visiting from Kansas we tested it on pre-spawn browns in Eleven Mile Canyon. I dropped the JBF off of a gray & black JuJu Beatis in a tandem rig. I was getting hits on the JBF before I even had a chance to mend. I tie this pattern in sizes 20-24.

Hook: TMC 2488 size 20-24
Body: One strand of black Krystal Flash coated with Sally Hansens Hard as Nails
Thorax: Peacock herl
Bead Head: Mercury clear glass

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dream Stream Rainbow...Trout

Got up to the river in the middle of a hail squall so I hung out in the car and waited for it to pass.  

Once the squall passed the wind became manageable so I rigged up and headed for a favorite hole. Tied on an Olive RSII and dropped a brown KF Emerger off of the bend, both #20. The third drift found a nice rainbow and I set the hook. A few minutes later it was time for a photo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Secret Hole #47

Had some time to hit the river this morning before the big winds came back so I thought I'd visit a close secret spot. The morning was fairly cloudy and warm, so I brought a second rod for dries, expecting a good BWO hatch. There were a few Blue Wings coming off but no noses were popping the surface, so I never rigged up the dry rod.
Rigged up my nymph rod with a #22 Gray RSII and dropped a Black #22 RSII off the gray.
Fish were all over the Black RSII so I stayed with what was working

I know you all would like to know where this spot is, but....

The small black dot in this fishes lower lip is my fly.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Short Training Hike

Went on a short training hike today in search of the seasons first Crocus. Found it!
Mule Creek is a nice fairly level trail just a few miles from my front door.
Years ago I used to mt bike this trail a lot. Then someone bought a parcel of private property that includes about a half mile section of the trail and the trail was closed at that point. Well, I thought I'd hike to the fence and back just to get some exercise. Got to the fence and found out there must have been an easement agreement struck with the land owner. There was a gate on the fence, so I hiked another mile or so up the trail, which BTW follows a nice little creek.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Does Plein Air Colorado Mean?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the meaning of the title of my Blog, “Plein Air Colorado.”

The term “En Plein Air” is French for, “In the open air.” Plein air painting was a movement started by French impressionist painters in the mid 19th century who enjoyed painting in the out of  doors. The movement was largely made possible by the invention of paint in tubes, as opposed to having to grind pigments from minerals and other ingredients. Plein air painters take their easel, canvas and palette into the field and create finished paintings, usually in one sitting. Imagine dealing with changing light and weather conditions, not the least of which is wind, to create great paintings of our natural world. What a challenge it must be to keep blowing dust and debris, and errant rain drops from spoiling your painting.

Today, outdoor photographers must deal with the same types of environmental conditions that the Plein Air artist has to deal with. Wind, rain, snow, and other weather conditions all contribute to the challenges and in many cases the dramatic images that are captured through the photographic process. My tripod is my easel, my cameras and lenses are my brushes and  my digital files are my canvases.

I feel very much at home in the mountains, whether it’s mountain climbing, mt, biking, hiking to high lakes to fish or just getting out to wet a line and chase some trout around a stream or river with a fly rod. All of these pursuits are best shared with friends either physically while doing them or through writings and photographs taken while out alone exploring.

This is the reason for this Blog, to share my experiences exploring and recreating in the mountains. It is my hope that you will be inspired to get out and take advantage of the natural world around you no matter where you live.

Tight lines my friends and happy and safe adventures to you.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Breaking In A New 3wt.

First Fish On The New 3wt

Bought a new Okuma 7', 3wt a week ago and got a chance to take it out today and toss small dry flies at willing wild brown trout on a secret small stream. The trout ranged in size from 8-12" and put up a nice fight on the small light weight rod.

Weather was cool and cloudy which spurred a small BWO hatch and  got the little brownies into a feeding frenzy. I tied on size 20 BWO's and Matt's Midges and took fish. I even put on a size 16 stimulator and had one hit that.
Spring continues it's race to fill the mountains with her seasonal residents. Saw several hawks, indicating the migration is under way,
a Great Blue Heron, a Golden Eagle, several Mule Deer and the first Blue Bird of Spring. I love spring time in the Rockies.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Time On The Arkansas

Follow the foam lines pilgrim

 With flows on the Arkansas at native levels and temperatures in the high 60's, I couldn't resist taking a drive to the River to chase wild browns.
All reports are that fish are keying on Caddis Larva and midges in  the early morning hours until around 11 am and then switching to Caddis Pupa and beatis nymphs. There have also been reports of a sporadic afternoon Blue Wing Olive hatch, even on sunny days. This day was completely clear and sunny until about 4:30 when a few high clouds began to appear in the western skies. I did see a few BWO's but nothing strong enough to spur active surface feeding, except for one nice sized brownie who appeared to be swirling on emergers.
Chartreuse Caddis Larva Was The Main Course On The Menu

 I managed to net four and lost at least as many today. Nothing of any great size but these little natives put up an epic effort, which is evident by how many slipped the hook on me today. All the fish I landed took a chartreuse micro tube caddis larva with a peacock herl thorax and a black bead head.
Small But Feisty
The snowpack in the Ark is 94% of normal as of April 8th. Soon the snow melt will begin and runoff will rise river levels making wading more difficult, but a boon for boaters and rafters.

Hyway 50 is a major east/west corridor for railroad and heavy truck traffic as well as normal auto and RV traffic. The river runs down the middle of Big Horn Sheep Canyon with Hyway 50 on the south and the Rio Grande Railroad on the north bank.
There are numerous pull outs along the hyway that allow for relatively easy access to the river. Sometimes access is down a steep bank littered with boulders. Use extreme caution when navigating these slopes as many of the rocks are loose and could easily cause serious injury or worse.

Tight Lines My Friends

Sunday, April 10, 2011


And thank you for visiting my new blog.
Some of you already know me, and have experienced some fine adventures exploring and enjoying the great gifts of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. To those I have yet to meet, you are most welcome to share in the adventures and explorations yet to come by virtue of this blog.
I hope this blog will encourage all who visit to get out and enjoy the natural world around us. Please be safe in your adventures and remember to treat our great outdoors with respect so your grand children may someday experience their adventures with the same enjoyment that you did.