Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fall Floats Volume II

This is a natural shot you don't see very often in the magazines. Starkey is bending over the gunwale all set for the standard grip and grin shot, and Mr. Wiggly jumps out his hands. Imagine a brightly colored Brown Trout. If the conversation is twisted with three All Pro trash talkers, then it goes to reason it is more warped with four. If the wind didn't come up we were online for an epic day of catching. The term "fly flinging" was spot-on for a good bit of our float. I'm talking about fly and fly line getting blown straight backwards. Chuck and duck.
Here's a picture of the boys getting their pirate on in the beaches before the canyon. Luke is holding a bazooka, and Fisher is holding a kayak paddle that turned into a spear. I had been telling the boys about the pair of Cottonwoods behind them for a week or so. They were the last trees to drop their leaves. Ray Charles can see they're in love. They remind me of the picture of the old truck and car on the cover of John Prine's "In Spite of Ourselves".

No doubt this isn't the biggest fish in the river, but it is one of my Fall favorites. He was cozied up in about two feet of water downstream of a big rock in the shade of a 200 ft. red wall a couple of hours below State Bridge. I drive past this wall all the time on my way South. I had went to the vise the night before, and tied up some ginger buggers with brown rubber legs for the occasion of an all day float with the good folks from Fly Fishing Outfitters in Avon. Ginger hit the water, and about the time I got the handle on my line he blew up like a flourescent light bulb being thrown in a dempstey dumpster.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fall Floats

The picture at the left is of an American original. We call him "Deep River Jim". He is the youngest 75 year old you will ever meet. Jim served with the special forces the first year they were created. He regularly plays guitar, yodels, collects rocks, dances with the young ladies at the monthly Dance in Oak Creek , fishes, hunts, takes care of numerable people much younger than him, skis, took up kayaking this year, shoots wooden dollars out of the air with his red rider bb gun, and has a hound named Tusker. Here Jim is old school lipping a Brown he caught on a soft hackle dropper below his hand tied hopper pattern whose body he made with a goose biot. Jim has the natural touch of a life long fisherman meaning he picked this fish up right off the bat with little fanfare. The water was very clear, and we could see the take. Jim calmly lifted his rod, and there was a nice Brown on the end. This is on the Colorado River below Pumphouse in Early October.

The picture at the right shows Jack Bomabardier up above so named Jack Flats on the Colorado river below Burns. Jack helped us with the pin at Pinball. I went back down to do a float with him on his stretch of the river. It's too nice of a stretch of river not to, and Jack is to be sure a great American. It is real nice piece of the World between Burns and his house. He lives on the river, and knows her well. This is a remote stretch due to its location, and the absence of access. It's twenty miles of dirt road both directions to the black top. There is lots of great fishing water. There looked to be a special serving of great dry fly water when the bugs were up. As we were floating down the river throwing double streamers I said, "Man, that tree looks like something out of a Dr. Suess story". Jack says "Yeah I said the same thing last Friday". What a funny Cottonwood. Little poof clusters of bright leaves. Just upstream of there Jack showed me a slab that had dino footprints. I'd like to say around the next corner we saw some Star Bellied Sneetches, but then I would be telling a story.
Here's Steve McQueen, aka Bob Sanford, driving his custom Hog down the Colorado on the last sunny and warm Saturday of the Fall with his fishing buddy "Rocket Bob" up front. Bob has turned our humble boat into something that should be on the cover of a magazine. He did the custom work on his own, because he wanted to. I love him for that. He's unafraid. This is one time I can say that up close his boat looks even better than it does in pictures. He has marble finishes in the transom, the fish on the front are 3-d cool, and the inside of his boat is trick. He also steady catches fish in a low key manner. He's a man on a fishing mission. Bob epitomizes the saying "you are only limited by your imagination". We are very lucky to know him, and are indebted to the late Bud Phillips for making the connection.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Pin at Pinball

The picture at the left shows the rail road trestle bridge at Pinball Rapid on the Colorado River just below Burns. The river is running around 1600 cfs down there right now. This is high for this time of year. Usually the flow is south of a 1000 now. If you've ever had the misfortune to slam a bridge in a boat, then you know how solid they always feel. They don't budge. The rower, Kerry Hix, was humble and direct in a good way retelling the events that led to this. It was their first time on this stretch, and they were a little lost. They had missed the take out about a mile upstream. At this point he related they were going for the river right channel of the abuttment, and unfortunately got caught up in rock garden upstream while making his move. This wrecked his line, and sent his boat sideways into the concrete. Within a second he said she rolled, and they were swimming. I feel everyone was extremely lucky not to have been hurt. Hollywood could not have stuck her to the bridge any better. The current direction and volume, and the flat surface of the boat bottom, and the conspiring flat surface of this abuttment came together for a class in physics. She stuck there for 5 days without budging.

River people are the best. There's a great guy down there named Jack Bombardier who lives and guides about two miles downstream. He provided awesome information during the week. The owner of the Hog, Bill Nickerson, got very involved, and made several laps of the County, State, and Federal agencies involved in the management of the river. The word from the Green Mountain dam was probably two more weeks of releases. Nobody really wanted to wait two weeks for lower water. We were lucky the Gypsum Search and Rescue crew volunteered. Bill gave them his consent and understanding that they may not be able to remove his boat without damaging her. The picture at the left shows part of the crew rigging a modified "Z" line. The Gypsum crew put on a clinic on how to pull a dory off a bridge. Their first rope configuration worked lifting the Hog by the motor mount, and pivoting her on the nose in the downstream current around the abuttment.

We did an inspection of the boat, and the only real damge was the side wall at the oar lock tore about 4 inches on either side, and another 7" tear on the sidewall below the gunwale. The inside of the boat looked like she had been scrubbed pretty good. The back mat was gone, as well as the spare oar blade and both pedestal seats. The casting braces, spare oar shafts, fly deck, hatches, rower's seat, and spare rod tube were still there. Jack volunteered his yard as the take-out, and Bill and I took off for his house with a streamer rod. What a day. We have a tough hull that floats! Just the same, it would be just fine with me if I go the rest of my life without seeing a pinned Hog.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Road Trip

It's not all floating and fishing and double hauling bunnies to the bank in the Fall at Hog Island. One of our recent customers from the Smokie Mountains had a mutual friend, Josh Stephens, head our way for the America's Cup Fly Fishing Tournament. The plan called for Josh to take our boat back to Etowah, NC after defending the USA from Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, and others on Colorado rivers. The rendezvous would be in Durango at Brian Capsay's house. I must of called Josh in his words "30,000 times" in the days leading up to the rendezvous. I was working him to see if he would meet me in Montrose after his Elk hunt, so I would not be on the hook for the trip up and over the San Juans. I was telling myself "this is a six hour round trip odyssey from Montrose to Durango, and I have a demo boat in the Roaring Fork Valley, and I don't have time to be lollygagging ten miles an hour up and over Red Mountain Pass." I made one last futile call from Grand Junction, and pointed the Exploder South. Maybe because I was fighting the drive a good bit, but somewhere before Ouray my attitude did a fast 180. Fourteen thousand foot mountains are different than 10,000 foot mountains. If I could write a blues song about it I would. The short answer is this is 'be real careful not to drive off the road pretty'. With big 14ers you get several thousand feet of exposed rock above treeline. The contrast with the soft changing Aspens and scrub Oak below, and an endless blue sky above is humbling and incredibly inspiring. Before I knew it I am pulling over taking pictures like I just got off the Grey Hound bus from Yazoo City. The picture above is on the downhill slope from atop 11,018 foot Red Mountain Pass. It makes me daydream of being horseback on Thunder towing a pack mule named Bessy out looking for gold and silver.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Prime time on the Upper C

Not every day fishing is the same. No doubt about that. Slow days, rainy days, snowy days, windy days, Everyone once in awhile you need a real, real, good day to balance out the days when you good naturedly say"just because the fish aren't biting isn't it nice being outside on the river". We nailed a really, really, good day last week on the Upper Colorado when the conditons kicked butt. No crowds, clear water, innocent cumulus clouds, and barely a breeze. We planned to leave the shop after lunch, and float Pumphouse to Radium. Legend has it there is a lake below the warm springs where the river slows down, and if the evening is calm the fish are up eating caddis this time of year. We stopped in Kremmling for some last minute stuff, and launched about 2:30. Pk and Trevor set the tone from the get go tying on hopper-hopper, and chernoybil-chernoybil. No droppers at all. From the put-in to the beaches before the canyon we had fish after fish come up for our junk up top. It fished like section "B" of the Green. I was incredulous. I love this stretch of river. It is an easy place for me to get my float on. It is only an hour from Steamboat. It also only an hour from Beaver/ Avon/ Vail/ Breck/ Silverthorne/ and Winter Park. It is only two hours from the I-25/I-70 "mouse trap". This stretch gets worked by alot of outfitters, and the general public. When I head down there I have limited expectations about the fishing. It fished better better with dries than I've ever seen it in that stretch. No droppers at all. We made it to the warms springs area ound 6:30, and set up shop there till 8 or so. You can't believe how quick that hour and a half went. The fish were coming up everywhere: in the scum line in the center, against the walls, and out in open. The top picture shows Trevor with a handful of Brown trout that chomped his wolf. I was fishing a small patriot behind a small stimmy about an inch off a sheer red rock wall, and a fish hit it so hard he instantly slammed into the wall in mid-air. I could feel him hit the wall on the end of my line. People at happy hour in Wolcott could hear it. Our float was 4 days after the August full moon, so we caught some moonlight on the way out, and the fish were steady coming up. Taking out at dark-thirty in August after working the evening hatch is so good that if the government knew how much fun it was they would tax it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

LIttle Swallow Canyon

The picture at the left shows the take-out for Little Swallow Canyon on the Green River. This is out in Brown's Park bordering Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. An awesome place harboring a wild horse herd, deer elk, antelope, otters, eagles, ducks, geese, swallows, moose, rabbits galore, scorpions, snakes, pretty brown trout, rainbows, cutthroat, carp, squawfish, catfish, and a rich pioneer history featuring Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. John Wesley Powell named Little Swallow Canyon in 1867 on his exploration of the Upper Green River. It was on this trip that he floated into the confluence with the Colorado River and discovered the Grand Canyon. This is a great place to bring the kids, because it is flat water, except for a little riffle or two in the beginning, and the float is about four-five hours with a couple of stops for a picnic, swimming, and treasure hunting. It is also a great place because the trout will eat a panther martin thrown by a little guy or gal, or a stimulator up tight to the overhangs. If you don't mind getting a little wet I think one of the keys to getting the little guys through a happy day on a float is to bring the water guns. As for middle age entertainment I never get tired of floating through a walled out canyon named by none of my heroes. When heading out to Brown's Park, take it from me, make sure your spare tire has air.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The beauty of multidays

The picture at the left shows the put-in for the Yampa River through Dinosaur National Monument. The river is wide and big... 10,000 cfs when this picture is taken. We are rigging our Hogs for five days of big Western whitewater. The first night we camp at Tepee Rapid. The hole at the top is loud and literally the size of a bus, but relatively easy to skirt river right. Excitement the first night is real. Later the next day we stick our finger in the light socket before lunch in "Little Joe" with a non- scouted run over a horizon line drop and down through 12 foot high haystacks that hide a monster hole at the bottom. I watch Fat Eddy drop in in his 16 foot Cat, and disappear. I get two strokes in a trough before clipping the left quarter, and turn around to signal Double O Don to go right. He misses her, but behind him Jiggy goes into the meat, and fills the infamous Eat Me up to the gunwales. His better half, Maria, does an awesome job high siding her through the rest of the wave train, and we bail her out full of adrenaline about a half mile downstream. Beautiful sandy beaches, petroglygphs, pictographs and scouted rapids dominate the next couple of days, and then like clock work the weather turns ugly as we head into the big rapid named Warm Springs. I've been down there twice now, and each time it is blowing rain sidways when we scout Warm Springs. I believe it is like that always. It is an ominous place on a remote stretch of the Yampa that has flipped many many boats. The noise is unreal. and the features make her a solid class 4. There is a boat flipping hole up top, and a series of ledges below that at different levels require different approaches. Our plan is to pull river right, and miss the big hole, and then punch the two bottom holes that are formed by the ledges. The penalty for being in the middle of the river is the big hole, and a sure flip, and then a massive pour- over down below in the center that would surely flip you if you were not already upside down. Without sounding too dramatic, the pour over is Mr. Ugly. It is 20 yards wide, and the back side is six feet high, and the water is flying over the top, and creating a massive upstream current that looks like it would recirculate you while it worked you over like a trash compactor. I want no part of the pour over and hole, and make the pull to river right, as well as the rest of our group except for the lead boat that gets caught in the wave train above the top hole, and sent into the hole. He flips, swims, recovers his boat, and becomes legend. His rigging holds, and all we lose are several random cold drinks. There is a special excitement in camp that night after the flip. The oarsman handles the situation like a pro as we retell our stories of our runs dozens of times. There is nothing in the World like a multi day trip down a wilderness river. It is bliss when the group is tight. It brings out the best in everyone. Permits anyone?