Tuesday, December 15, 2009
We hit Deckers early in the morning; we didn't see a single car once we left Sedalia. When we parked along the river to put on our gear a bald Eagle flew off the river to a nearby tree. The sky was blue and the river was serene. Things are slower and quieter this time of year, especially after the cold snap we just had. I think of winter fishing the same way as car camping - if you are uncomfortable you didn't bring enough gear. My son and I layered up and headed down to the river. There were no footprints in the snow as we approached the river and we pushed a trout out from under the clear shore ice. We stood and just checked it all out - it was great, quiet. I was hanging with my son on a perfect Colorado winter morning looking for trout.
It had been a while since my son and I fly fished together. He grew up fishing - from worms to flies to most recently spawn for Michigan chrome (we did use flies, but we went to the dark side and threw the Steelies pork chops until they ate...). However, with sports schedules, work travel and whatever other lame excuse I can think of, we just haven't been on the water much together. As much as I love fly fishing - I didn't force my kids to learn to cast to a rhythm set by a metronome as shown in "The Movie". I just gave them access to the gear and told them they can come along anytime. When they were younger I fished from the bank with them in the backpack, as they grew legs they started casting short rods with 10' of old fly line. Or they just cast their Snoopy rods. The key was hanging with Dad, doughnuts on the way to the river and a killer shore lunch of sardines, crackers and cheese.
I think teaching any skill is easier to do when the pupil is not related to you. This applies to skiing, canoeing, driving and fly fishing to mention a few. Every time I have taken someone fishing, I have learned something. Maybe it was a better way to explain a technique or understanding how to demonstrate it clearer. This day with my son was no different - I learned a lot. He had asked for a refresher since he hadn't cast in a while. I set him up with a double nymph rig and began the tutorial. Even without false casting there is a lot going on - mending, stripping, line control etc.... My tutorial only lasted about 5 minutes, I could tell by his tone of voice he was done listening to me and ready to just fish. So I let him. I told him to work his way upstream to me and I headed out to try the new rod. As I watched him from upstream, I learned that he actually listened to everything I had said and was figuring it out on his own. I think I would have ruined his day if I had fished next to him - adjusting things here and there. He did great and he did it on his own.
Standing back and watching is hard for any parent to do, but it works. Sometimes my passion for fly fishing is so strong I want to make sure that my kids love it as much as I do, that they have the best day, catch tons of fish and enjoy the sport instantly. On this perfect winter day, we just fished, ate a great burrito at the Deckers coffee shop and headed home.
Normally in winter I fish slow and methodical, that day I bet I only made a few decent drifts. I wanted to try out that new S4 so bad I kept my flies in the air more than in the water. I spent the morning casting everything to see how it performed - streamers, double nymph rigs, long leaders, short leaders - you name it, I threw it. I spent more time casting and changing rigs than I did drifting a fly, but it was fun. I am no rod critic, but I love that S4 - it put the fly where I wanted it to go, handled the short soft casts fine, and the bigger stuff as well. Good times....
Driving out of Deckers, we ran into Jeremy and his dog Magnum walking down the road. I stopped the truck and exchanged war stories for a few minutes - no cars came whizzing by, just a nice quiet day on the river. Hard to believe on one of the busiest waters near Denver. The cold weeds 'em out so layer up and head out!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Colorado Skies Outfitters
By Search Parker Magazine
Colorado Skies Outfitters (CSO), Parker’s first and only fly shop and guide service located in Old Town Parker reports that the summer of 2009 was a great season of fishing. "We guided a lot of trips this summer, and we are very grateful for the high level of water and fishing activity. The Fall season was a bit difficult due to the early arrival of Winter weather," said Owner Theo Anest.
CSO conducted several float trips on the Colorado and Eagle Rivers this year as well as various trips on private water. However, the bulk of guided trips occurred on the Douglas County portion of the South Platte River in the Deckers/Cheesman Canyon area. "Living in Parker, we are very fortunate to have the Gold Medal South Platte a scenic 40 minutes from the shop," said Anest
CSO reports outstanding fishing this year despite the unusually wet Summer that made for bigger flows and less than clear water. According to Anest, high flows allowed for bigger food sources to be washed away and made available to South Platte trout on a more regular basis. As a result of the dirtier water, trout were forced to key in on these larger offerings and take advantage of them as they came. "Since the water has once again cleared and we can once again see fish, it’s obvious the Browns and Rainbows packed on some serious size over the summer. In the Deckers area, we are consistently seeing fish in the 18-20" range, with several fish exceeding the trophy 24" mark," said Anest.
Now that temperatures are cooling, the trout who call the South Platte River home are feeding vigorously in preparation for Winter months. For anglers, this means fishing can be excellent throughout the day. Late Fall is not only a good time on the South Platte, but on many other Colorado rivers as well. As Brown Trout prepare for the spawning months, they become very territorial and highly aggressive. For those interested in float fishing with CSO on either the Colorado or Roaring Fork River, even a late Fall/early December outing means throwing big flies that produce smashing strikes from Brown Trout. This time of the year is truly one of the greatest times to fish. "The weather is often still pleasant, the fishing is great, and there is nothing prettier than standing in a Western river when all the others are at home staying warm," said CSO guide James Spicer.
Beyond trout fishing, CSO is also offering guided fly fishing trips for Carp. No, that is not a typo, Carp! "Leave all preconceived notions of what a Carp is at the door. Carp are highly intelligent, very wary fish that require a high level of stealth and finesse in order to catch on a fly. After successfully hooking and landing a carp on the fly rod, no fish requiring some level of stealth will ever feel as challenging again," said Spicer.
With the colder days ahead of us, CSO has in place several fly tying classes which are suited for those new to fly tying as well as more advanced tiers. For more information about tying classes, guided fly fishing trips, special Christmas gift giving or anything pertaining to fly fishing in Colorado, give Colorado Skies Outfitters a call at 720-851-HOOK (4665) and located at 11020 S. Pikes Peak Drive in Parker at the Victorian Peaks building in Old Town Parker. ◊
Colorado Skies Outfitters is located at 11020 S. Pikes Peak Drive in Parker at the Victorian Peaks building in Old Town Parker.
NEW FLY SHOP & GUIDE SERVICE IN PARKER
By Search Parker Magazine
With summer just around the corner, Search Parker Magazine is pleased to announce the opening of Colorado Skies Outfitters (CSO), located in Old Town Parker’s Victorian Peaks Business Center at 11020 Pikes Peak Drive. CSO will be Parker’s first and only full service fly shop and guide service. CSO has a grand opening planned for June 12-15th, during the Parker Country Festival. Guided trips are already going out, catching fish and having fun!
Owner Theo Anest, a Parker native, CSU and Ponderosa High School Graduate, learned to fly fish at a young age at Bingham Reservoir in the Pinery Subdivision. To this day, he can still be found making long casts to the biggest wiper bass in Colorado off the same banks he stood as a 10 year old. "I am very excited about the chance to provide the community I love a local place to learn about this incredible sport, to talk about the one that got away and a place where time does not exist."
Theo offers this caution to those new to the sport. "What may have been a quick trip to the local fly shop for half dozen flies usually turns into 30 minutes of talking about your latest fishing trip, sharing a cup of coffee, all before deciding to sit down and tie "a few" flies. A five minute trip can easily become a three hour trip. That’s what is so great about fly fishing; it’s an escape from every day life and a step into a never ending world of adventure, memories, new places, and friendships."
Colorado Skies will surely offer this distraction from everyday business. Their fly shop will be part of a 7,000 square foot retail offering at Victorian Peaks. The shop will feature a fly tying corner where people can come and learn to tie flies, as well as monthly seminars and fly fishing conventions. Joining CSO will be the Back 9 Golf shop. "In creating this mixed retail destination, we hope we can provide people with the products to play 18, catch an 18 inch trout, all while the wife gazes through the wide selection of home accessories and antiques in the lower level at Victorian Peaks." It really is a win-win!
CSO will also be providing guided fly fishing on some of Colorado’s most world renowned trout streams. Within a short 45 minute drive from the CSO fly shop, anglers can be standing in the shadows of the illustrious Cheesman Canyon stalking trophy rainbow and brown trout that are known to grow over 24 inches. CSO also provides the opportunity for float fishing from Mackenzie style drift boats on a variety of prized waters such as the Eagle, Colorado, and Roaring Fork. If solitude is the end all, CSO has access to over 40 pristine private stretches of river throughout the state. A guided fly fishing trip is a great option for those wanting to learn more about the sport, family outings, and corporate team building retreats.
Deciding to go on a fishing trip with Colorado Skies Outfitters is a sure bet for a day of fun and for many, a lifetime of adventure, a lens through which those who are hooked view the world. Before you know it, you will be tying your own flies, making your own fly rods, and soaking up every bit of information you can about the latest tricks of the trade, new gear and places to visit. No matter how hard it rains on Wall Street, the sun still shines on Colorado’s rivers over 300 days a year!
Colorado Skies also has a strong desire to reach out to others through fly fishing. CSO has founded a non profit 501(c)(3) extension of their business called Fly Fish for Life (FFL). FFL will be providing no cost fly fishing retreats for those recovering from brain and spinal injuries at Craig Hospital this summer.
Living in Colorado provides a plethora of outdoor opportunities, and fly fishing is no exception. Colorado Skies has as its central goal to provide you with the information, skills and equipment to enjoy this sport.◊
For More Information on Colorado Skies:
Colorado Skies is located at 11020 Pikes Peak Dr. #105 in Parker.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Here is a sneak peak of the upcoming article I wrote to be release in the Next issue of High Country Angler.
Going Big and Dirty in Deckers
By Theo Anest
In Late July I was on a half day wade and had heard reports the night before of heavy rain in the Deckers area. I expected off colored water but nothing could have prepared me for what I would see when I came down the dirt road from Sprucewood. The water on the South Platte literally had texture. Late the night before and into the early morning, a torrential down poor had washed out nearly every bank along the river, with numerous slides along Horse Creek between Woodland Park and Deckers. The North Fork was our saving grace that day which miraculously remained clear.
When I returned to the shop in Parker, I was unsure of what would happen to a river recovering nicely from the scars of the Haymen Fire. The phone starting ringing at the shop with questions as soon as word spread that Deckers had severely blown out. “How long would it take to clear, Is there any fish kill, when will the road be open again to get to Cheesman?” Answers to people’s questions at that time were as good as mine.
The river above Deckers bridge slowly began to clear but anything below Horse Creek was messy. This was due to a section of Horse Creek about two Miles above Deckers coined “The Swamp” by Danny Brennan of Flies and Lies. The Swamp filled with debree piles causing the creek to reroute outside of it’s normal stream bed picking up debree and other sediment. Today the swamp is still a problem and work needs to be done before water entering the South Platte from Horse Creek will resemble anything other than chocolate milk.
A week after the heavy rain storm, we were once again guiding the South Platte around Deckers when most everybody else avoided it like the plague. When we drove clients by the river upstream to Deckers, our guides and I could feel tension mounting in client’s questions. Are we really going to fish this river? Can these fish see an inch in front of their face? Thanks to a little experimentation, experience fishing other dirty rivers, and a few innovations at the vice to combat the river’s new color, we could confidently answer these questions with a “yes.”
As a guide on the Colorado, Eagle and Roaring Fork, I never shied away from high and dirty water. In fact, I loved it. So long as your fly selection does its part to help trout find your offering, high/dirty water makes fish very forgiving of tippet size, less than drag free drifts, and other imperfections.
Even prior to the heavy rain, I began taking a different approach to the South Platte when flows crept above 200 CFS. Since Hayman, the biomass has turned from tailwater to something of a freestone caddis and stonefly farm. The number of caddis, the size of the stoneflies, and the overall diversity of bug life drastically increased. In the weeks before the river went brown and flows were above 200 CFS, we were sight fishing with a #14 golden stone pattern called a Little Yellow Sloan. This realistic little stonefly had fish moving three feet to eat on 4x. Fishing the standard South Platte offering of a mercury this, or mercury that in #22 on 6x meant hitting a fish in the face to get an eat. This held true in Cheesman as well.
Once the water went dirty, I started digging into my Colorado River boxes and found myself tying on some rather large gaudy bugs. Pat’s Rubberleg Stoneflies in # 2-6, three inch long Trusty Rusty Sanjuans, #2-6 Black Buggers, #2 Olive Boo-Faces, #14 crystal Pheasant Tails, #12 Fly Formerly Known as Prince, and a crane fly I created for the dirty South Platte called the Banana Split became the go-to selection. Essentially flies our guides and I never thought we would find ourselves tying onto 2x when fishing the South Platte. A three fly rig of any of the above mentioned flies under an indicator had fish swinging for the fences and rods bent on a regular basis.
Now that the water has once again cleared, flows have dropped to normal winter levels, and we can see fish again, it’s quite apparent that there was no fish kill of any significance. It’s also obvious that the high flows and dirty water did wonders for the fish that call the Deckers/Cheesman area home. Big flows meant more large food sources being washed away and available to trout. Furthermore, since the water was dirty, fish had to key in on these bigger offerings that they could actually see. Finally, the serious reduction in fishing pressure also gave fish a break through the summer. Through the fall and thus far in the winter, we have seen an encouraging amount of pre-Haymen type fish in the 18-20+ inch range from Deckers to to the Confluence with the North Fork
For the remainder of the Winter, your standard south Platte offerings of #22 pheasant tails, RS2’s,and thread midges will serve you well from Decker’s Bridge up. However, don’t be afraid to go big on days when snow melt puts a tint in the water. Below the bridge, water will remain off color as a result of the “swamp” on Horse Creek. Serving up a Bannana Split, pink worms, and larger than normal winter offerings will produce fish in the off color water through the winter.
As a result of Hayman, the South Platte and it’s surrounding loose sediment banks are still very vulnerable to heavy rain. Spend some times at the vice this winter preparing some dirty water flies that will keep you fishing after heavy rain next summer.