Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Earth Mover

Frozen boots.  Mmm, fun stuff!
About the middle of January, I begin to consider the inevitable tilt of the earth as it begins to align its axis toward warmer days.  It's Earth Mover Day.  On this day, I start dealing with the reality that I'll have to at least contemplate the approaching end of the bird hunting season.  It's a foul day for sure and one I lament every year.  I have a few more days in the uplands that will occupy my time before the 31st, but since my dog is still on the IR for a couple of days, I thought I'd take in a winter fishing trip to Elevenmile Canyon to see how the river was doing and how the fish were getting along.

Winter fishing is among one of my favorite things to do.  I particularly like to visit the major rivers systems that are so heavily pressured during the warmer months as the angler traffic is almost certain to be low.  These are the sacrificial lambs that are served up by fly shops, big box sporting goods stores and the DOW as quintessential fishing experiences for an angling public largely unwilling to move more than a few yards from a road in order to catch trout.  It's a fine tradition and one I hope continues in order to keep demands off the secondary tributaries.  These major angling destinations are indeed beautiful places to fish and are teeming with an awesome variety of trout.

Cathy bringing in a nice rainbow
Yesterday, I paid a visit to Elevenmile Canyon along with Cathy Houser, a friend from my Trout Unlimited Chapter.  A past chapter President, she's definitely a women steeped in trout lore, and her fierce enthusiasm for fly fishing is infectious, rivaling that of the best anglers I know.

Our day was pretty character defining.  It was damn cold and breezy, but the flow of the river was perfect.  So we strapped on our moxie, strung up our lines with microscopic sized flies, faced the wind, and stepped in.

snow shower in sunshine
We spent our day fishing during the "heat" of the day from 10:00 -2:30.  One good thing about trout fishing in winter is that you don't have to get out at the crack of dawn to enjoy success.  Our efforts were concentrated on sight-fishing at the head of the canyon, in the tailwater below Elevenmile Reservoir.  Fish will pour into this stretch as they migrate upstream in search of warmer water to survive winter's harsh grip.

We spent the morning hours alternating our patterns and colors using a combination of size 18 and 20 Copper Johns in red and copper trailed by a size 24 Grey Loopwing RS2 and size 18 Barr's Emerger.  The most productive pattern of the day was the RS2.

As the water temperature warmed, Cathy and I both witnessed a midge hatch and even a few noses looking up in the crystal clear water.  A little later in the morning, I saw a few rainbows attempting to spawn, no doubt brought on by the high unusually springlike flow.  That prompted me to tie on a couple of egg patterns that proved productive as an attractor for both Cathy and I.

With numb toes and a few fish in the net, it was time for us to take a break and enjoy some hot soup, cheese and a sandwich.  We spent most of the day talking about some of the water challenges facing some of our rivers in Colorado, admiring the health of the river and fish in the Canyon, and generally enjoying each others company.  Cathy has spent a number of years learning how to fish the Henry's Fork of the Snake River in Idaho and shared with me a few pearls of wisdom and secrets to figuring out this famous piece of tough water.  I'm anxious to put her advice to the test!

After a nice lunch warm up we fished for a little while longer.  But with the day getting cloudy, the temperatures beginning to fall, and the hook ups beginning to slow, we opted to break down and begin the journey back to Denver.  We enjoyed a terrific day on the river, and with only two exceptions had the entire canyon to ourselves.

Bluffs by Spillway Campground

Come to Poppa

Is there any other better nymph in CO than the RS2

Go eat some more!

Rainbow release

This guy and one other were our only companions

Time to pack it in

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southernblueridge said...

I enjoyed this entry very, very much. Winter is a great time to fish. All you mentioned, plus the mosquitoes are no where to be found.

Gary Thompson said...

Thanks Owl! Not too many mosquitoes in Colorado, even in the summer.

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