A Ton of Fish

I used to own and operate a small masonry company
in another life. The size of the job was often measured in tons. The
work was very hard and heavy, so to break monotony we would often
participate in some classic debates. A good one that stands out was”
what class in school could you not live without?” Obviously Idid’t say English. PFC Kelly, a newly discharged Marine oddly enough said History, I think EZ E said football practice. That led to a few days of spirited arguments. In the end the answer was obvious and agreed upon…..math, we worked with tape measures and transits after all. Even a dumb bunch of stoneslingers understood, we just can’t live without some basic knowledge of numbers.

Fly fishing uses numbers a lot. In the guiding game though I find nothing good comes from the use of numbers. This fact doesn’t come right away to new guides. Numbers are the easiest way to impress our boss, clients and other guides when we are new at this. I have developed a level of patience with new guides when it comes to numbers, much the like men I respected in my new days of this game did for me. Let me be clear here, without numbers, we as fisherman would have no logical way to define fly size, rod weight, cfs or water temperature, so we obviously need some math to survive.Fish can’t add, they don’t understand how long they are or how much they weigh; Math is as useful to a fish as 12x is to a Tarpon fisherman.

Nothing good can come from using inches, pounds or number of fish
caught when it comes to guiding. Getting a client excited about the
possibility of a 30” trout or a 53 fish day before you’ve even seen him
or her fish is a bad move for a guide. It’s usually just an ego thing
that most clients see through anyways, but the ones that don’t, start
expecting things you can’t deliver. I had to pass a couple of classes
before I was hired as a guide and the teaching didn ’t end after I was
hired. I was lucky enough to spend my early years in this business
around some of the best guides in the business and friends or not, they
taught me a ton. I never heard guides like Kevin, Dano, BP , Hate or
Worries ever use numbers and I noticed. Fly fishing requires you pay
very good attention to learn some of the less obvious things that help
you fail or succeed. Guiding is no different. “We had a great day” or
“it was tough out there” says it all, especially in or around the shop.

Lets just say some ass munch of a big headed, mediocre guide comes
strolling into the shop one day and explains at the top of his pot stained lungs
that his boat landed 53 fish that day. Let’s just say that the shop is
full of guides and clients just finishing days they seemed to think
were very successful 12 fish days. Lets just say ol “Fudge” behind the
counter uses that 53 number as a sales pitch on the phone the next few
days. What’s the score here? Who won? No one, just sayin.

I’ll be honest, I listen to a lot of numbers being used on rivers and in fly
shops, but what I hear is more like this; “we landed 4 fish over 17
inches today” means you landed a couple of 14inchers, “we landed 20 fish today” sounds like 10 to me. I’ve seen a few fish in the net over my time fishing, but honestly I still can’t say what 10 pounds of trout look like. I can only hope that doesn’t count against me as a guide.

Sorry, I could not resist slamming a picure of a hog up for this one. The disclamer is it was stocked, pellet fed and in VERY private water. A classic example of what not to brag about to a client your taking to public water.

Definition of the month: SHAY DOG : a white fish/ mr. whitey/ mountain bonefish/ Smittys favorite game fish/ not to be mistaken for Ms. Whitey

Eggs over hard made easy

There was a time, in the history of me, that I took a few grenades for giving out to much info. I worked in and around a fly shop for gods sake....I thought that was my job. Just because I give some dude a college education doesn't mean he gets the diploma. I just figured a little good info would bring people back. Luckily that's not the way things work around the current shop I work for. I'm not saying this hair brained idea is going to change fishing or that I'm the first to think of it,but I've got my flack jacket on anyways.
Anyho, I was chatting a few weeks ago about Great Lakes Steelheading regs, specifically the one hook rule. Don't miss read me here, I'm not looking for a return of the treble hook, I just feel a little cheated with just one fly. We began to wonder how many people peg eggs above a nymph. Seemed like a good way to double up legally to me. My boy Doc has been pegging eggs every summer here in Colorado since I met him, it's deadly, but then again so is his "jig fly". So since I'm on the shelf with a hammer right now I got to thinking......Why not paint your split shot.
This time of year we live and die by the egg midge combo. While the fish eat the egg pretty consistently all winter long (all year for that matter) they really key on the midge. I've found when you take the egg off, the midge take actually can decrease. Are the fish just seeing the combo better with that bright offering included in the mix? Probably. So i dug around my pile of junk and found all the round shot I could find. I didn't want to use tin dinsmore because they were oblong, you have to match the hatch even with lead after all. I used a few different colors including oregon cheese, peach, pink and orange. It took a few coats and could probably use a clear coat of sally hansens, maybe next round.
So I used my little science experiment a little bit this weekend on an excursion with J Knight and low and behold I hooked a few trout on the outside of the mouth. I ran my everyday normal 2 fly rig, a knot at the end of my leader to hold my shot, 10-12 inches of 5x to my first fly and 18 inches to my last fly. Obviously there is more data to collect but it seemed that my rig was flossing fish just like pegging eggs. I've always thought yarn eggs didnt sink far enough and lets face it, they are a pain in the ass to tie. My normal 2 fly rig just turned into a 3 fly rig with just 2 hooks. The Moffit System with a Colorado twist. I just hope the fish don't mind thier eggs over hard.

Fishing Report

I could use a couple of paid fishing trips about now, just sayin. Instead of prepping sticks, I'm finding time to post a little more, I guess it's that time of year.
How does your favorite fly shop do posting fishing reports? Do you find the reports are not updated very often during the busiest times of year? I get it. Some shops are small, lets call them mom and pop shops where even the owner is on the river for long hours each day. Things can get tough, no excuse though. The big "department store" shops, not to be mistaken for "big box" shops, have no excuse. If a shop has 3 shop dogs, a part timer and a general manager and they don't post up to date fishing reports you should make a note. Same fishing report just a different date? Take a note. RS2's on every report? Well that could work but I would still take a note.
Things get slow here in the Eagle valley this time of year and the web sites come alive with reports. That's just a hatch of bored shop dogs with owners screaming for action. Makes sense, but that should go on all year. I look at all the shops fishing reports, not just the one I work for. A few of them are doing an awesome job. I always think we can do better (sorry, just the way I was brought up). Bottom line is we are well beyond the days of having to drive over to the shop to look at the board to see whats up. It's just way to easy to sit down with a cup of Joe and get 4 opinions on the fishing and if you read the same crap every day it quickly becomes 2.
With that I figured I would post a fishing report, believe me if you want. This one always sounds about the same this time of year. No peeps in town and the fishing is great. Most shops call it an 8 out of 10. Water condition perfect, water temp perfect, hungry fish chowing on eggs and midges.....perfect. Don't even bother looking over your shoulder when you pull your boat from an eddy, no one's behind you. Fish are still eating streamers, and the endless Blue Wing hatch is still on. Believe me if you want, if not check all the other reports, they say the same thing.
The most truthful guide report I could give sounds more like this. I dragged an Elk off some mountain for a buddy this week. I'm participating in the hunt without a weapon this year, that's another story. My dog is pissed and fat, again related to that other story. My 68 year old hard of hearing father has been sleeping on my couch for 45 days now and if I watch him watch one more baseball game I'm going to loose it. I havent seen my remote in months. Sam met "Mr Whitey", "Ms Whitey" is still giving me a hard time, my Midge box has filled up on the cheap and I start a construction job on Monday. JMac taught me how to wash windows and I've learned I'm not that good.
It's that time of year. The fishing is great though.

Nuclear Summer

It's not a hole that I fish all that often, usually just this time of year due to water levels. Like most of the Eagle, this is a tough place to sight fish. Clients are trusting me when I say there are fish there but that all changed about 2 weeks ago.
For 2 peeps it makes the most sense to put someone on the other side of the river. After getting one person set on the close side I walked another to the other side, considerably down stream of the best water. As I approached where I wanted my boy to stand my eye caught something very bright. At first I swore it was a belly up Brown, probably hooked to someones 50 lb mono. When I got closer I saw it move. It was a real sunny day (as they all have been this fall) and this fish almost glowed. Have the Browns begun to swim upside down? Is this some new spawning trick to stand out? I was obviously VERY interested in touching this fish. It never descended more than 2 feet or so from the surface even though the depth of this particular pool is 4 times that. My white whale was clearly feeding, dancing confidently between my 2 fishermen for the next 3 hours. We hooked other fish, good fish, but not my little neon trout. This went on for 3 client trips. I was now offically offering sight fishing trips. We could never hook her, but she was always there.
After yesterdays guide trip to the mythical fishes lair I made a promise to one of my fishermen, I would come back myself and figure it out. I don't fish by myself very often, the camaraderie is a huge part of it for me but this morning I was on a mission. It was not hard to spot her in the massive pool and I'm sorry for everyone who tried with me but it wasnt hard to hook her either. It's all about the drift after all. It ends up she is a Golden Trout, how she got there I couldn't tell you. Bottom line is she shouldn't be taking up space in this water. Odds are she was put there and the way she glows it's only a matter of time before she is Raptor chow. I've heard many a story of Pike being in the Eagle. That makes sense as there is a pond near Dotsero just teeming with them, they get out or thrown over the bank to plenty of fine food in the Eagle. I've caught Brookies where i should not have, Mackinaws and Cuttys too. A golden trout is another story. It's life won't be long where she is, especially when she likes to hover in the film the way she does so i put her back. Maybe a few more peeps can have a bit of fun with her yet this year.
Sure, there is a slim chance this fish made some epic journey from her fluorescent home but I doubt it. Stocking exotic species in a trout stream the caliber of the Eagle pisses me off. I'm sure she is 10 miles from where some ass thought she would stay and become his own back yard legend. Sure it provided me with a few days of fun, but species that don't belong bring disease and problems that can affect a watershed in very negative ways. Should I have killed her like i would have if she was a pike? Probably, but for now she is free. Cutthroat have reputations for being very good eaters, stockers for being dumb. It took 3 casts to catch this little wonder so I guess I could always go back tomorrow and take care of business if my peers are bummed with my actions. It wont be hard to spot her.

Hows your hole?

Ever wonder how a spot or a hole on a river gets named? Popularity or use have always been the most common way. Having a way to tell someone where you were when you landed Bubba forced fishermen to start naming spots on the map eons ago. "The Honey hole" probably came first.
Legend has alot to do with the naming of a hole also. Bergman, Gordon and Betters have several, Joe Brooks and Lee Wulff too. Deservedly so, these are some of the most historic names in American flyfishing lore. As large as these personalities were I'm positive they did not name these magical places after themselves. They were just prime lies that they knew and loved. Prime lies that other fishermen would leave for these legends out of respect like a small trout does for bubba. In some cases it was not named for them until long after they had moved upstream and most certainly by someone else.
The modern age of fly fishing particularly here in the west seems to be driven by ego's as large as the Rockies themselves. Fishermen and guides alike have been naming new holes here for only a few years compared to the fabled waters of the East. In some cases, like "Killer's", naming them after himself. Killer has a couple of holes, a riffle and an Island which is a joke to all the rest of us. Naming a hole after your self is just wrong. Someone else naming the hole after you is acceptable but usually not a forever thing. "Hate" has a few holes still but he does not guide much anymore so the legend is fading. "Kevin" has a hole on about every stretch we float but they are named after him because of his seniority on the water and the fact that his presence there is respected. "Perry" has a riffle, "Ol Joe" has a hole, "Yount" has a rock and "Zim" has a run. They just did not name them after themselves.
For the most part holes get a name after some time for an environmental reason. Theres a "Slant Rock", "Cemetery", "frustration" and "The Junction" on almost every river. "Stinky Beaver" came about because of the dead beaver that sat there for 3 months on the Eagle. It's since moved to the upper Colorado for a similar reason. Certain holes are called one thing by a certain set of guides and something else by others. I learned last year that what I called "The Coryall Ranch Hole" is actually the "Circle Jerk", I like that better. The "Piggy Pool" is really the "Turkey Hole", I like the piggy pool better. "The Pink Horse " pool is called "Nealons" or "Where the grass meets the water". "Killers Island" is actually called "The Whitey Hole" which explains alot. On the Eagle theres the "Barn Hole", "Steffi's Hole", "I-70", "Paddys", "Brush Creek", "The Dumpster", "Poachers", "LDS" and "Maydays Rock" just to name a few.
I dont have a spot on the river named after me at least that i know of, but i do have a hole named after me. Trust me when i tell you though, no big trout are ever going to come out of it. It's 1800 miles from here, 150 yards from the Canisteo river in the bottom of an old stolen port o john. One drunkin day shooting trap at our old hunting camp, a bet was made. Since the pooper was stolen (another story), the sludge pumper was not making regular trips to clean it out. The loosing team of a buddy shoot would blow a hole in our already used shitter with a 12 gauge shot gun. My team lost. To the amusement of my "friends", I wore a small piece of poop on my hat for hours without knowing where the stink was coming from. My partner Jimmy was smart enough to cover himself head to toe in plastic bags and a rain jacket, I wasnt that smart. So just like a spot or hole on a river my name comes up once in a while when they say "remember when Bub......"

The one that got away

I have managed to gain understanding, even clarity, in my share of the challenges life has thrown at me, women are not one of them. I have fished with lots of women I did not sleep with and a few I wished I could have. I have fished with lady guides, ladies who you could bum a chew off of and a few that could out fish me. Like the sport I love so much I learn something new about women everyday also. Don’t read too far into this, I know alot more about fish, bugs, water and boats than I will ever know about ladies. I have been in love 4 times in my short life and they all fished with me. For some reason I feel just stupid enough to write a little about how they have shaped me as a fishing bum. While I do want another one in my life, I have learned enough to be scared of WANT and to be careful for what I ask for

Ask any guide, and they will surely tell you that they prefer to guide women, they listen and learn better. I can agree, but fishing with a Sheila you are in love with is a tricky game. Sleep with one and then take her fly fishing and things change real fast! Once you have seen your fishing partner naked they start thinking with another part of their brain. “Move that rod tip in a straight line” starts to sound like "I wish you had bigger tits” in the mind of some women. It’s an emotional battle smart men can’t win. A simple fishing bum has no chance at all if his mind has wandered off to his favorite fishing hole when she wants to cuddle.

Ladies do indeed make great fishing companions, I have had my share, they just did not last. The first was a sexy little Greek Italian who did not try real hard once she realized her high heels would not fit in waders. It was the beginning of my adventure in this sport and real women. I had no chance at either in my 20’s. Both endeavors (fly fishing and a woman out of my league) were extremely fun even if I didn’t understand a lick of either. No pun intended. She was that giant fish in an impossible spot that I just could not leave alone. Once I landed her she was nothing like I imagined. Letting her swim away was easy.

I always had a tough time concentrating around my second love, Kitty. It was probably a combination of my over active mind in my young 30’s and the fact she was built better than any woman I’ve ever seen naked. She was the perfect mix of hippie and biker chick and smart to boot. I don’t remember her ever catching a fish with me because she was always in her favorite American flag colored bikini top. Her brother was one of the best fishermen I have ever been around. He had a homemade wooden drifty, a deep hate for fishing guides and a place on the West Branch of the Delaware. Three tricky places I haven’t been in a while. I ended up breaking her off. Not sure if I put to much pressure on her or I just didn’t have enough rod for the battle.

Once in awhile a man is ready to listen to what ever a chick wants to talk him into, you all know why. Little J, all 4-10 of her was never scared of adventure and at that time in my life she helped to push me out of my comfort zone. Roscoe, Lake Placid, Spruce Creek, The Gunpowder, Yellowstone and every puddle in between became our play ground. Little J was the first woman to have the power to talk me out of working and into a fishing trip. She also taught me not to keep score. I often wonder about her and if she has ever put a rod back in her tiny hand. One day as we crossed some drainage ditch in "back woods southern NY", She caught me looking at the tiny trickle and asked “do you think about trout every time you cross water?” Was it a shot at my responsibility gene? Was I ever going to grow up and think about the important things in life? I don't remember answering, but I can admit now that I do. Little J is the one that got away. I was young and dumb and convinced myself there was another great catch in the next riffle I would float over. I was wrong about that.

There is one more. As significant as she has been for my passion (fly fishing) and my anxiety (women) she is not worth mentioning. It (she) did however give me my only lifelong client (Sam), thank god he is a boy. If you take the big bright bugs off your rig and get your junk off the bottom, you will realize how much a good trout stream or life has to offer. She was my Whitefish.

In the end it seems I understand dogs and fish better than women without ever hearing a word from either. Mixing a passion with a women is a temporary thing unless your passion is Ballroom dancing. Having to ask permission to partake in an activity you love is tiresome and it's inevitable she will feel like it's more important than her. Chasing strippers behind their back seems alot easier now that I'm old.

Dirty Laundry

Why do fish pound it one day and ignore everything the next? In the spring, there are 3 major factors to consider when streamer fishing.
#1: Spawning Rainbows:
Simply put, if you are getting your groove on for the first and only time of the year, you are not going to roll out to chase a double cheese burger down the hall. Leave the Bows alone during this critical period and chase the Browns sitting downstream. We sometimes go weeks with only Browns chasing meat and then one day your net realizes that the Bows are done doing their deed and they are hungry. Browns are the top predator anyways, consider the Rainbow's a bonus.
#2: Mother Nature; Water Flow, Weather, Water temp:
Low cold water after winter can be tough. High mud at the peak of run off can be dangerous. What’s in between is pure candy for the sock fisherman. Watch USGS Stream Flow Data daily, find out where the daily peaks and valleys occur and start to keep a mental journal. Good flows to float pre-run off can last 2 days or a month, you never know. Low flows can sometimes mean fish are not on the banks where we love to aim. That usually means the boat is over the fish, which makes things tough. Medium high flows push fish to holding lies along the banks and boulders, but now the boat is moving faster. Cold spring weather can slow flows, make water colder, and turn the switch off. Warm spring weather can make water colder also, so just because it's 70 doesnt mean the water is getting warmer also. A flow of 500 cfs with the water temp of 50 fishes a lot better than a flow of 500 cfs with a water temp of 40 degrees. Any big drops in water or air temp can stall streamer fishing for a day or two. Dark, gloomy days always are best for streamer fishing but spring seems different. Unlike the fall, fish will chase streamers on sunny days in the spring.
#3: Menu:
I have ignored rising fish and blanket hatches to jig rabbit in the spring and it has ruined my day. A perfect flow of clear water and fish eating BWO’s can make for a long day. That same flow, stained water and no bugs can lead to fruit. After a long winter of eating tiny little stuff, a big boy bait can be just the ticket, but so can those first hatches of spring. If the hatch is prolific like Caddis and BWO’s, it’s just like the first sighting of the ice cream truck. The kids arent gonna eat dinner.
Why is streamer fishing every guides favorite way to fish?
Because we have time to play and it’s usually a major leaguer on the rod. No peep means you can pick and choose who might get to raid your laundry basket of socks. It’s probably not going to be a rookie. It’s not an easy day throwing a 6 or 7 weight with tandem streamers and sinking leaders, so if somebody is asking for it, they probably have skills. The progression towards streamer fishing usually delivers me a peep with enough skill to mold into a junkie. They have nymphed and thrown drys, been in a boat and with a guide before. The chase of a big fish has become important for the resume and they realize that a degree in Tandem streamer fishing will help. Bottom line? Streamer fishing with a skilled angler brings big fish, loads of energy and laughs to the boat.
Want to try?
Get excited, it’s the best time of year to fish. Mid March- Peak Run Off is one of the quietest times of the year as far as angling pressure goes. It’s a great time to get deals on guides, lodging and food. As the resort closes here in “The Beverly Hills of the Rockies”, the first of a bi annual phenomenon, we call "The Dead Beat / Trust Fund er Behavioral drift" happens. Half of everything is closed, three quarters of everybody is on a beach somewhere and the fishing is sicko. It’s almost like the fish know and they like to reward the die hards by eating shit that looks like dirty laundry.
My official fishing report for the Eagle river the next ten days is: Book a boat immediately!
Awesome pics by the genius that is JMac.
The bug has been officailly named for the last time. Sam's Sock. Available in #4 and #8, Fox Variant, Olive Variant and Black.


Had a nice float down the Roaring Fork with Agent Newell yesterday. We managed to scare up our share on a tough fishing day with some cutting edge new baetis patterns. This time of year is a great time to get a look at what new tricks have been spit from your buddies vise. The winter is not as long in the central Rockies as some people may think, but it's long enough to restock the boxes. You don't have to be a thread spinner to fill spaces in that box though.

I found over $80 of flies on hats i will never wear again. I have no idea how much i saved by cutting apart spent bugs for the hook and bead, but it was significant. Bugs migrate to the lid of old fishing hats for many different reasons but research has shown they are rarely put back in the game. Maybe that old Lime Wulff has great sentimental value because Bill Perry tied it back in the 80's. Maybe it was a Lawson imitation that rocked on the Henrys Fork, an old Bergman salmon fly or a K Streamer Zim gave you on a once in a life time float. I once trudged around the country with 3 real ugly Caddis stuck in my hat just because Fran Betters tied them in the Adirondack Mountains. I was never going to use them, I was just in hope his legend would leak through into my forehead. Either way most of these retired veterans become treasures to be talked about, not used again.

Honest to goodness I filled over 40 slots in a CF box with good bugs that thought they were lost forever. Now they are free to work again and maybe retire with dignity.............in a tree

Letter to the Editor

This whole letter and the urge to write my first letter to the editor is because Ken Neubecker scared me into it at a recent TU meeting.

Most of us moved here hot to spend more time pursuing a passion; for the most part it was skiing. World class, Epic and Biblical are just a few adjectives I’ve heard describing our winter wonderland. So how strange would it be, to have to book a trip back to say Killington for a ski vacation? If you were only promised 25% of the snow you are used to it would not be so comical. My passion is not skiing or boarding, its fishing. I moved here for that reason, I’ve stayed for a few different ones but the water continues to run in my veins. But now on the eve of some very significant decisions, I am realizing, in the very near future, I may have to tote my fishing junk right back to the water rich northeast for a fishing vacation.
Its ski season and everyone has snow on their minds. Without mother natures help a great resort like ours is nothing more than a trendy village with fancy people in their fabulous fur coats. Global warming debates aside; we will always have some snow to mess around on, we live above 7000’ after all. We as locals make a living on recreation. Skiing and boarding are roughly 7 months worth of our pay checks, but we can’t cash our summer checks without snow either. All that could be changing.
Fishing and boating becomes an outlet and even lively hoods for many of us come summer. We are within an hour of some of the most incredible fishing in the entire Great American West. Unfortunately, if the Front Range gets its way and its water from the proposed Moffat Expansion Project, all of us who love the rivers will be booking fishing trips back in the great lakes region.
So how many of you understand that there is a 100% chance of doom actually knocking on the door of our summer fun? I have seen that infamous graph showing the water levels of our last drought year of 2002 several times in the last month. This year’s line is right on top of that one. Not much we can do Momma Nature and her cousin El Whatever seem to be in charge.
If we don’t get snow, the rivers and reservoirs will suffer, the fish will suffer, the boaters will suffer, and recreation in general will suffer. If indeed this summer ends up looking like 2002, I think it’s important to treat it as practice, because that’s how things may be all the time if the Front Range gets its way.
The Moffat Expansion Project would give the Front Range 30% more water from the headwaters of the Colorado. That basically means the Colorado will flow at 25% of its historical native flow. Trade in your Drift boat for a raft now. By right, it’s theirs to take. It’s not their right to ignore some of the significant statistics that are before them. A middle ground that would improve efficiency and minimize harmful impacts needs to be found for our children’s sake. Choosing to review partial data regarding a very fragile ecosystem is kind of like trying a murder case OJ Simpson style. There is really only one thing we can do at this point and that’s write letters, lots of them. We as outdoor enthusiasts need to write letters to the Army Corp of Engineers and letters to our state legislature. This is not something to leave for our children to do, it will be too late. E-mails and petitions are great but this situation calls for good old ink on recycled paper with a stamp. Make these people open something; make them review the data in a fair way. Saying that there will be no huge change to our historical flows is just crap, there is just nothing more to give.
This is not a maybe like Global warming, it is going to happen. A middle ground seems to be all we can hope and fight for. Simply put, diverting more water from the headwaters of Colorado is going to finish destroying an incredible watershed and its inhabitants. The Front Range has the right to the water they are proposing to take, there is no changing that. It is imperative that we fight to prove that it’s just not logical to take it from the Colorado, our “Mother River”. The facts are, we are dealing with very old legislation controlled by a Water Board for a very big city that was frankly built in the wrong place. I guess growing Azaleas and Kentucky Bluegrass in the desert is more important than Trout, birds, kayaks, and oh by the way one of the states biggest industries, Recreation.
We should all be honored to have lived and played in such a place, good economics or not, this is a true mountain paradise. This area is to rich in outdoor beauty to utter the words “remember when”, get off your butt and write. The written public comment period ends on March 17th, please don’t wait. You can learn more by visiting our local Trout Unlimited chapter’s website, eaglevalleytu.org. You will find all the facts, addresses and even a sample letter. Summer fun is right around the corner and I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces and fins for many more to come.

The slush hatch

It's always struck visitors and locals alike as unusual that you can fish in the winter, especially above 6000 feet. Coming from a Great Lakes trib fishing back ground, winter fishing has been a way of life for me, not abnormal. Most of my winter guiding experience has been on wade trips of the half day variety, but there has always been a few hardy souls willing to try a float December-February.

Winter float fishing has its challenges. Just getting there is the first. There is just no reason to rush to the river, the best fishing is going to happen in the afternoon. Arrive to early and witness the early morning slush hatch and you'll know what I'm talking about. After floating the Roaring Fork 4 times since New Years day, I've found the best fishing is basically Noon- Dusk with a "magic" hour in the middle of the afternoon. Fishing on the fly is usually not worth it as our rigs are long, deep and heavy. Once in a while on those real warm days, you can hurl your favorite streamer pattern on the fly but that is better left for March. Boat ramps can also influence how and when you get to the river. In early January I had a client who was, lets say very anxious to get to the river and get going. Sometimes it's just not worth arguing with your peep about timing, you just have to get there and let him see for himself. I stopped and looked at the take out (which i recommend highly if you haven't seen it in 3 months), and it looked like there wouldn't be an issue. I then called my shuttle driver who is a local and her husband guides on the Fork. She thought i was a bit loony but with our economic issues she didn't try and talk me out of it, besides her husband was in the background teasing me into it. When we arrived at the put in, the water was covered in slush, and a wade trip on the upper Fork crept into my plan. Long story short, after being called out by my 76 year old buddy's, "no guts no glory" speech, i backed my truck and trailer down the ramp still wondering how to slow down my departure. That ended up working it's self out as my truck and trailer was buried in the snow for the next 45 minutes. By the time i finished with that circus act the slush was gone and we went on to a great day of fishing.

Boat placement is also very different in the winter. On most float trips the oarsman finds a comfortable line for his anglers to throw to the bank. In the winter those areas can look more like a hockey rink and I am yet to see anyone throw a tuck cast under ice. Most trout will hold off of these traditional summer areas out on what we call the second seam over some deeper water. In this case you are still holding a line in or around the middle of the river, it's just further away from the bank than most rowers are used to. The other line that is used commonly in the winter is bank hugging. When there is no ledge ice on the bank you can slow your boat and give anglers more shots by staying in the rocks and shallows along the bank, throwing back towards the middle of the river to the seam that is holding the fish. This takes some practice and a proficient crab stroke so you don't make a bunch of noise with the boat.

Knowing your float and whats coming up around the corner is the number one way to keep your peep interested. I usually explain our fishing for the day as "hole to hole". When the water is low and slow it's very easy to hover a boat in prime areas without using an anchor. Knowing what holes to spend time in and how much time to linger only comes with experience. Don't bank on your favorite summer hole to look the same in the dead of winter. Winter holes can be places you pass in prime time because they are to fast or deep to play with when you are wearing your tee shirt.

Summer crowds on float rivers can be every boaters additional headache. In the winter a crowd can be one other boat. Because you both know you can only fish effectively hole to hole, it sometimes becomes a race. When you are with a guide you don't have to worry about that but believe me the guide is. The good ones know to play some cards out there and realize that you don't necessarily win by finishing first. If I'm following someone more experienced than my 2 bit program and i recognize it, i have a couple more things to think about for the day . Do i want to get ahead of him and piss him off by being parked in every good hole when he comes around the corner? Playing nice and sharing doesn't just apply to children unless your looking to make your life hard every time that other dude is on the river with you. Another thing to think about when sharing is if the other boat doesn't have the experience your team does. If I'm following a bunch of guys with less game I tend to let them get ahead of me. That can backfire all day long on ya if you let it though. Winter is when i have found every secret spot i know because someone else was parked there. In the summer the amount of boats on the river can give you data but it's often to diluted, fishing on the fly is still an option and there are many different rigs you can use. When you are going hole to hole in the winter, someone more experienced than you is bound to tip his hat to something really special. If you pass a hole with two bent rods, remember it for next time. The trick is to remember what the boat and the guide looked like also. Lot's of people forget that part. Try and be careful or sneaky enough to not park in that spot he gave you when he comes around the corner next time. Play nice and you will be trusted out there.

Often our pre trip data can be limited in the winter also. Checking a USGS site to analyze water flows is a great way to start planning, unfortunately the winter gauges often just read ice so you have no idea what to expect. That should also sound like "be careful". Winter is just one case for why i love rubber boats so much, who cares if it's low. Rubber opens up runs and holes the drifty in front of you has no right trying for. It also gives you options at the take out or put ins. That early January day with ol Warren stuck on the boat ramp spooked me at the take out, so i just took my boat apart and walked it up the hill ( thank you Pack and Agent Newell) I've since been sliding it down the snow covered put in, and dragging it up all together, cooler and all, at the take out. Point being is you never really know until you try, same should be said for this winter float stuff.

Learn your river well. Dress right, float at the right time, think out side of the summer box, have some balls and you don't have to put your boat away for the winter. Skiing sucks anyways, I can live with snow shoes. Most everybody you are going to pass on the river in the winter are the true diehards of this sport. They feel the same way and can help hold the key to great fishing in the summer if you pay attention.