Thursday, December 16, 2010

TU Trip - Update to Jan. 1st Arkansas Trip

Update December 31st:  Well.... we haven't had any significant weather events this entire fall or early winter.  Sure enough, I plan an event, and we get dumped on with snow, cold weather and bitter wind chill.  I've checked the weather and it seems that Canon City is going to face some pretty brutal conditions tomorrow, making fishing and traveling pretty uncomfortable, not to mention unsafe.  I  also talked to the boys at the Shack and it seems the room I was hoping to use for a fly tying session has been reserved for another party.  Long story short.... Our January trip is turning out to be a bust! 

I should have a scouting report available as soon as the weather breaks for our February trip.  I'm really excited about this stretch of water as I've not fished it before and I feel reasonably confident it will be a beautiful stretch of tail water access with limited pressure.  Check back here or on the TU calendar for an update shortly.  I'm sorry we weren't able to put January in the books.

What better way to ring in the new year than to spend its first day fishing the Arkansas River in Colorado's own banana belt?

I spent some time this week planning and scouting the Arkansas in preparation for the upcoming Cutthroat Chapter Trout Unlimited Fishapalooza.  It was quite cloudy but pleasantly warm with temperatures that reached 62 degrees.  The flow was a little over 400 cfs and the water conditions were quite clear.  Water temperatures ranged from 38-43 degrees.  I only had a couple of hours to fish during the middle of the day but managed to catch a good sampling of garden variety Arkansas river brown trout.  So.... they're in there.  I took a few photographs and generally just enjoyed being outside and spending a little time with the idiot.

Most of my fish were caught on either a #10 tungsten hotwire prince or a #16 green caddis larva.  That pattern combination is pretty reliable during the winter months on the Arkansas, but feel free to bring your own concoction when we go together.  Generally speaking, something big and heavy as a lead fly and something of the caddis persuasion or small midge behind will keep you in fish most of the day.  I did swing up a fish on a olive and wire tungsten soft hackle during the heat of the day, which is always a thrill. 

Our monthly fishing excursions are typically held the first Saturday after the monthly membership meeting.  This month, that would make it on Christmas day - probably a little tough to get participation.  New Year's day though, now that's got some spice!  Plus it will keep you from overindulging New Year's Eve.

Weather permitting here's what I have in mind:

Plan A.  We'll be fishing the lower stretches of the Arkansas, starting at Texas Creek and moving down river toward Canon City.

Plan B.  If there's ice flowing in the river, we'll head down to the SWA just below Pueblo Reservoir. These are stocked fish, but it's a tailwater so flow should be pretty reliable.

Cold winter fishing has never kept me off the water.  Assuming we have normal seasonal winter conditions, I'll be bundled up and ready to wet a line.  If the weather is unsafe however, or the winds are expected to really blow,  Plan C will be to meet at The Shack later in the morning for a fly tying round table and some football.  Check back here, on this post, the evening before or morning of Fishapalooza for any game time Plan C changes in venue brought on by unsafe weather.

Rally Point:    TU Chapter parking lot at 7899 S Lincoln Ct. Littleton CO   Car Pool arrangements will be made in the parking lot.

Call to Action:     Saturday, January 1, 2011

Departure Time:     8:00 a.m.

Destination:     Allow just a little over two hours drive time

Clothing:     Dress appropriately for winter conditions.  Bring a change of dry clothes (in case you float your hat).  Don't forget pocket hand warmers.  You'll thank me!  Stocking hat, and of course gloves.

Other Gear:     Streamside lunch, Thermos with warm drinks, folding chair, wading staffs are a great idea when winter fishing, WADER MAT (lot of cactus around the changing area).  I like a 10' four weight rod for nymphing but I always bring a stiff five weight as a backup to the Arkansas for WHEN the canyon gets windy.  Leaders should be 9' tapered to 5x.  We'll be nymphing most of the day so bring lots of sizes of split shot, your favorite kind of indicator, a good selection of Copper John's, Caddis pupa and larva, Pheasant Tails in a variety of sizes 10-22, some Buckskins, and or course Flashback RS2's in size18-22 (I like olive for the Arkansas).

I hope you're as excited as I am!  Please contact me ahead of time if you're planning on attending or sign up at the TU Christmas party December 21st.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Flat gray, a reflection of the day, raw, chilly, and wonderful

Vast country is an impressive pull in my life.  In no uncertain terms it's the reason I moved to Colorado.  Every time I stand before it ready for another adventure, unintended, I follow the same routine.  I run through a mental checklist of what's needed to carry with me in the event I bump into troubles, organize my belongings, make sure I'm carrying plenty of water, and check to make sure my truck keys are secured a minimum of three to five times.  Then, I stand before nature and all of it's awesome size, smile at my own insignificance, breath in deeply, and then take a step forward.

Space.  An openness with liberty to stretch my legs and not be burdened with having to engage in conversation.  Time.  A passing in which I allow myself an opportunity to evaluate my life and determine what's next, or remorse over the mistakes I've made.   Connection.  The inspiration I take in from the world around me and the reparation I receive from watching my dog go about his duty without knowing or even caring why.  Solitude.  It's good to spend time alone every so often.

This was such a day:

The first of the day's quarry
The idiot in between romping
Bristlegrass seeds, preferred food of scaled quail
All old wood tells a story, I wish they were all recorded
Blood on the tailgate

He has a few moments of elegance, not many, but a few
A miscalculation in my wanderings.  That white spec is my truck.  Can't see it?  Neither could I.   Scamp, I thought immediately of you when I stepped onto this road and truly felt the gravity of Eight More Miles.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Field

Northeast of where I live, anonymously situated on the prairie near a small town I use as a base of operations for many of my upland pursuits, there is an impressive old barn that stands as a centerpiece among a collection of discarded buildings from a homestead that is decaying into a windblown western landscape.  Sprinkled in its shadows are a variety of old farm implements that decorate the countryside, reminders of a time when life had a clearer sense of priority.  Near the edge of the homestead yard, next to a corner stretcher and a ball of rusted barbed wire is a large dead cottonwood tree currently being reclaimed by its mother.  Buried under the tree are the remains of my two pointers, Phoebe and Chili, who I lost to cancer at the end of last season.

Dan's hard working Lab Gracie
South of the barn, under its watchful gaze and positioned at a lower elevation, lies an oasis of grass, a rectangular section perfectly aged by years of neglect and overgrowth.  It's ideal pheasant holding cover.  The field is surrounded by a number of commercial farming interests, each rotating their crops on neighboring agricultural circles every year.  The field cannot be accessed by a road on any of its sides.  Instead, it is isolated by barren sections of ground and other agricultural edges offering a buffering zone that's just sufficient to discourage poachers from wandering into the field "accidentally," as so often happens this day in age. 

Friend Dan walking through a particularly tall piece of cover

The field is under the protective care of a lonely elderly gentleman I'll call Hank, who I have gotten to know quite well over the past decade.  He lives in a modest brick home that was built many years ago next to the old homestead that overlooks my bird paradise.  Hank is a funny and entertaining fellow.  A religious man, he's always quick to offer me a bit a scripture every time I stop by to pay him a visit.  He has an ominous looking German Shepard named Blue that suns himself on the South facing doorstep every afternoon.  Blue has an unapproachable demeanor and ferociously threatening bark that does a terrific job of keeping other hunters from bothering Hank for permission to hunt his property.  Fortunately,  I discovered early on that Blue has an affinity for fresh ground meat which I bring him each week during the hunting season.  My gift renders him an utter pussycat.

Scott and Elsie after a successful visit to the field

Hank has been generous with his property.  We seem to share the same loathing of pheasants, albeit from different perspectives.  While I am tormented by the long tailed jackal for the number of times it has made a fool of me, Hank is annoyed by how early they wake him up in the morning.  I have been permitted to take many friends to the field each season, which I do often.  The only cost is a pleasant conversation with Hank that I look forward to four or five times a season, a few pounds of ground elk, a roast or two, some steaks, and the toll I'm required to pay Blue with each visit.   I have walked this stretch of ground countless times in a variety of different conditions, driving snow, hot dry temperatures, a rainstorm or two, and once, in a perfect fog that left a succulent bouquet of bird scent on the ground for my dogs.  The birds held that day.  Each trip is special and unique in its own way.  I have yet to pay a visit to field and be disappointed.  Sometimes the field ends my day in only a few minutes with three quick shots and a full vest.  More often than not, it takes a little more searching before a quarry is earned, but never has it failed to produce.

Evening at a cornfield next to the field

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Tangle

Barbed wire in black and white. This photo was...Image via Wikipedia

Monday, November 22nd: my dog has been cooped up in the house for almost two weeks, recovering from an injury he sustained while in South Dakota, the result of a tangle he got into with some barbed wire while chasing after a wounded pheasant.  He injured his back leg and the puncture was quite deep, having reached a joint.  I was instructed by my vet that he really needed to sit back and enjoy some butt kickin' pain killers as well as a heavy dose of antibiotics to ward off the possibility of a serious infection that could diminish his performance permanently.  With those words ringing in my head, I wasn't taking any chances!

Now.... I'm here to tell you... dogs, particularly gundogs, DO NOT know they are injured five minutes after the injury occurred, especially when they are nine months old.  I'm not sure if any of you have ever attempted to keep a nine month old GSP quiet and inactive for an extended period of time, but I can assure you it's an exercise in hopelessness.  Fuel that fire a bit with a two year old toddler that just got the flu, the anxiety that comes with planning a huge family Thanksgiving dinner, and you've got yourself a recipe for some household tension.  If I could just make it to Friday, I would find relief in the form of grass, a dog off the IR, solitude, and birds. 

November 23rd: my son develops the Flu and I still need to get to the grocery store.  Fifty percent of the household is now sick.  The dog is losing patience, taking his frustrations out by chewing up one of the two remaining binky's my daughter has left in the house.  Without those, all hell breaks loose. Friday is just around the corner.  I tell myself I can make it.

November 24th, 2:00 a.m: my wife develops the flu, throwing up everything but her toenails the majority of the night.  Both kids are still very ill.  I ask myself, what am I going to do tomorrow?

November 24th: tomorrow's here and I'm in deep poo.  The kids are showing signs of improvement but are still feeling crappy.  My wife is completely incapacitated.  I glimpse a devious look in my dog's eye and now realize that he's formulating a plan to pilfer the last remaining binky the minute I let my guard down.  I still have to go to the grocery store... the day before Thanksgiving.  I'm in over my head.  Friday is just around the corner though so I press on.

November 24th, 5:00 p.m: I catch my first break.   The family calls and tells me they don't want to come over due to the toxic contaminated air that's bound to be hanging around by Thursday.  No cooking!  I think to myself, I could be making the turn as I throw the bird back in freezer and cancel plans to do battle with the supermarket.  It never occurs to me the risk of contamination is a distinct possibility.  Friday is almost here and visions of sunrise, pheasants, golden grass, and my young puppy frolicking through the field begin to creep into my head.

November 25th, 3:00 a.m. disaster strikes.  I'm down and out through the weekend.  Next year... flu shots all the way around I suspect.  The dog still looks pissed as I put the gun back in the safe Sunday evening.

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