Saturday, November 30, 2013

Big Thompson Canyon

I traveled up the Big Thompson Canyon for the first time after the recent, and devastating flood.  The road crews have done an amazing job, and opened the Highway 34 route last week, rebuilding a large section of the destroyed road.   Although it is called a "temporary" road, it seems to be in very good shape, and is paved for the entire route.
The devastation in the canyon was difficult to see, and the loss to homes and property owners was immense, as you can see from some of these photos.  The river bed has changed forever, as the river simply changed it's route where ever it pleased.  We saw several bridges sitting alone in the canyon, with no water beneath them, as the river flowed several hundred feet away.   Boulders and rocks are spread throughout the canyon, completed changing how it used to look.   Smith Park, where our family has had picnics for many years is completely gone.

Mountain Goats in the Canyon
There are signs of hope.   As mentioned, the roadway is mostly rebuilt, allowing access to the canyon so people can start the rebuilding process.   The town of Estes Park was thriving, with businesses reopening, and some of the damage repaired.  Reports from the DWR is that the trout count on the upper Big Thompson has soared since the flood, and I saw many fly anglers working the snowy river on the drive up.  It will be like learning a new river when I fish it again, as many of the familar spots that I have fished in the past are only recognizable due to the mile marker on the road.    I visited Kirk's Flyshop in Estes, met with the friendly staff, and purchased a few needed items.  Although the purpose of this trip was not to fish, I will look forward to returning to these waters in the future.

Big Thompson River in Downtown Estes Park
I've reported on the recovery of the Poudre River since the same flood.  While the Poudre suffered damage, the Big Thompson destruction was significantly worse.   Although nature will take care of it's recovery, as evidenced by the fish count, my thoughts are with the people that will have to rebuild their homes.

Kirk's Fly Shop

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The last cast of the day...

Yesterday I spent a couple hours on a local stream.   I hooked a few trout, but it was one of those days when the trout got away before they got to the net, which in the long run really not a bad thing since the less you handle the trout, the better off they are.   But, I still like to take in the beauty of the trout in my net, and it was not happening.    I did hook several aspen leaves, and I managed to land each of them!

I really enjoyed myself since the weather was very nice for late fall, but the time came to head back into town.   As I walked back to the car, I decided to hit a favorite hole for a couple "last casts" of the day.   I walked down the bank, adjusted the indicator, and made a few casts into the deep pocket.   It took a couple casts to get the perfect drift in the tricky currents, but it paid off.   The indicator disappeared, and a rainbow flew out of the water after taking the zebra midge.   He was full of fight, and I had to work my way down stream as he jumped, headed behind rocks, and zigzagged through heavy currents in an effort to defeat me.   I won this particular battle, and brought him to my net.   I snapped a couple of photos, and released him back into the cold fall water.   I'm glad that I decided to make a last cast of the day in that deep pocket.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish

The cold and crisp days of late fall are upon us in Northern Colorado, and there is nothing better than a great book to read by the fire.  Stonefly Press just released a new book written by Terry and Wendy Gunn called 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish.   Some of the best days of fly fishing that I have ever had have taken place on storied tailwaters across the county.  The Gunn's have written a book that focuses on many of these rivers.  It looks like a great read, and I will give you a detailed review in the future.  I can't wait to read about some of my favorite waters on a late fall day when the wind is howling and I just don't feel like heading out.

Tom Rosenbauer, Marketing Director at the Orvis, and author of The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide, said, "Not many people realize that today most of the best trout fisheries in the lower 48 states are tailwaters, or influenced by dam release.  They all have some common elements, but just knowing how to fish one doesn't guarantee success on another.   Wendy and Terry Gunn have identified the best tailwaters in North America and distilled each fishery into a succinct and helpful guide with no fluff-just good solid info.  The maps of each river are alone worth the price of admission.  If you don't know much about tailwaters and you like to catch trout you must have this book.  If you think you're an experienced tailwater angler you'll be sorry if you don't get a copy."

Check it out at



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall on the Poudre River

Fall and early winter are my favorite times of the year.   The cool days, bright leaves, and best dry fly fishing of the year combine for great times in the Colorado mountains.   A couple weeks ago I took the time to head up the Poudre Canyon for a couple of hours of flyfishing.   This was my first trip up the canyon since the devastating flood in September.   The Poudre River, which usually runs around 150 CFS, was well over 10,000 CFS.   The Poudre Canyon is more rustic, and less built up then the Big Thompson Canyon to our south, and thus received less damage to the roadway, and residences.   After a few repairs, the road up the canyon was opened, and I was anxious to see what the status of my favorite river was.   This river has taken a lot from Mother Nature in the past couple of years...a major fire which left soot and debris in the river, and now the flood.  
I was amazed at what I found when I made the drive up the familar road.   The river level was down, and appeared close to normal for this time of year.  The water was crystal clear, and it seemed as though the massive flood water had scrubbed the riverbed clean.   The piles of soot which formerly lined the banks was gone, and the river seemed like it had been reborn. 
The fall color seemed to be in it's peak, and I greatly enjoyed the drive.   I decided to stop at a new spot in the river that I had not fished before, geared up, and entered the cold, clear water.   I caught a couple of bright fall browns, and marveled at their survival from the recent tempest.   Although the floods caused a terrible loss of property and life, at the end of the day, nature rebuilds itself.   We had prepared ourselves for several years of poor fishing in the lower canyon due to the constant wash of soot and ash...but now it seems even more pristine then before the fire. 
Make sure you get out and experience fall where you live...and take a moment to enjoy the splendor.