Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fly Fishing Goose Creek In Colorado's Lost Creek Wilderness

Does Size Matter???

Some of the anglers I've come across judge their angling abilities on the size and number of fish they have caught.  In the minds of few, fly fishing expertise is caught rather than learned.  Of course, all anglers seek to hook up with the "big one", but is that the only goal a fly fisherman should have?  Is a small trout less of a great catch than a big one?  From a fish perspective you were talented enough to fool both...

Goose Creek located in the Lost Creek Wilderness of Colorado is home to a plethera of small trout.  (Head hunters discontinue  reading now.) The Brook Trout that survive this habitat are as close to wild as it comes.  These trout have no time to analyze a tasty morsel floating their way and determine if its the real deal. For these fish it is eat or die!  It's this trait that provides an angler with a fun and memorable opportunity.

This summer my family and I backpacked three miles into Lost Creek along the slow and meandering Goose Creek.  I had a fly box full of flies and I was anxious to see what these fish were keying in on.  It was Memorial weekend, with temps in the 80's during the day, and a mere 40 at night.  As I did my initial observation along the shore line I was eager to see what the creek was hiding in its depths.  I was soon able to target several large schools of trout actively feeding along the bottom.  As is always the case, Colorado creeks are often full of wary trout.  This was going to be no exception.

The 3w was about to come to life.  The brush and overgrowth was dense and a meticulous drift was paramount, all the while without spooking the trout.  After finding a great number of baetis swimming around I tied on #16 BH pheasant tail and attempted to fool these fish ever so carefully.  It wasn't long before I had a colorful and feisty trout tugging on my line.  The effort had payed off and a wild trout had been enticed by what I was delivering.  For a moment nothing else mattered except landing this fish successfully.  The adrenaline that we as anglers find, when all that separates us from a catch is a 2lb tippet, was in full throttle.  The fish landed in my possession with ease, and I couldn't have been more pleased.  The stalk, the hunt, the angling, it had payed off. 

But for what?  Some may read this and see this fish as nothing more than a waste of time.  However, for those purists in the sport, you see something different.  You see a success, and depending upon your circumstances a meal.  "Teach a man to fish..." as the saying goes right?  Size doesn't matter when it comes to angling.   To be completely in tune with your surroundings, noticing the #24 aquatic insects floating past you, and at the same time diligently stalking trout on a creek that's no more than 15 feet wide; that's fly fishing at its best. 

My time at Goose Creek had come to an end.  As we walked back to the Jeep the last day I knew I was leaving behind a fishing trip for the books.  My skills had increased, my insight and understanding to these wild trout had gained ten-fold, and I was heading home with plenty of fish stories.  It wasn't the size of these fish nor the number I had caught that put a smile on my face.  The smile came from knowing that patience, observation, and research had paid off.  This was yet another step towards becoming the "...well-govern'd angler".


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Emerald Lake Weminuche Wilderness July 2012

"One more steep crevice to climb and we're home free..." I said to my wife as we neared the top of Lake Creek, the drainage from the Emerald Lakes high in the alpines of the Weminuche Wilderness.  The 10 mile trek from the Pine River campground was about to come to end, and our feet were never so happy.  We had made the trip in 8 hours, which was much better than the near 12 hours two years before.  It was to be a full 7 days of fishing, exploring, and R&R, I personally was most excited about the fishing.  Our first evening I drifted out onto the outlet of Little Emerald and was pleasantly surprised at the number of large Rainbows sipping on Calibaetis.  It was beginning to rain, and of course I wasn't about to call it a day until I had fooled one of these magnificent Colorado Rainbows.  My recent trips to some of Colorado's high waters had enlightened me to using a #14 BH Pheasant tail and strip it gently through the pool.  It wasn't long before this beauty in the picture above was giving my 5w a workout.  A few more fish were caught that evening, and we were off to bed eager to see what else the area waters might unfold in the days to come...

The next day as we woke, we were a little sore from the hike up.  But that wasn't enough to keep my wife the explorer, and me the fly fishing nut at camp.  My goal for the day was to fish the south side of Little Emerald, and to really pay close attention to the insects that the fish were keying on.  I soon found myself catching baetis of all colors and sizes, scuds, and several emergers along the shore line.  I rigged up a two fly rig, Calibaetis dry on top and a JuJu chronimid on the bottom.  The JuJu was downed by another nice Rainbow.  The day progressed and I was finally keying in on the cycle of feeding.  The cycle would begin with clouds that would roll in, these clouds would then prompt a vast array of mayflies, and caddis to land on the water from the nearby trees.  As the dries would then die, the winds would pick up and pull the flies back to shore.  As the flies would drift to shore the fish were effortlessly sipping on them.  Once the sundry of flies were gone, the fish would then begin to key on the sub-surface insects, that is until the next group of clouds rolled in and started the process all over again.  I finally found myself switching between spent mayflies and sub-surface rigs for the rest of the trip.  The fishing was absolutely amazing every day.  I found that the best way to fool these wary trout was to strip bead-heads, chronimids, and hare's ears.  For dries caddis, and calibaetis were the ticket, but only when the hatch was on.  Using spent mayflies was another great alternative.  In fact several fish wouldn't even touch my rig unless I had a spent mayfly on the end.

For any angler who is looking for a an absolute thrill of a fishing trip I highly recommend making the 10 mile hike to the magnificent Emerald lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness.  Do not be fooled, these fish our as wild as they come.  Stalking skills, and absolute finesse are a must, and the dividends on these skills will pay off ten-fold.
Happy trails, and tight lines!