Sunday, August 28, 2011


Today I ventured into the cool, dark morning with the anticipation of finding fish. It reminded me of the many mornings spent fishing in Pennsylvania with my good friend Larry. Mike and I were on the road well before first light and arrived at the river in time to watch the sun rise. It was a glorious morning with the cool air of early fall. We quickly geared up and headed for water. I was anxious and patient all at the same time.
Mike and I tied on our favorite flies and watched the water, waiting for something to happen. We worked our way through our favorite runs and riffles, but struggled early to find fish. I was enjoying the morning breeze and my time with a good friend. I was also in the midst of one of those days. You know, the days where no matter how hard you try not to, you keep screwing up.
I spent more time this morning digging flies off of snags and out of trees than I have all summer. I would snag something on the bottom of the stream only to have it come lose and end up in the trees. I have always believed that if you do not spend some time in the trees then you aren't fishing hard enough, but today was a bit ridiculous on my part.
After making a move, Mike and I were fishing below a parking lot when we heard a vehicle pull in. The door slammed and soon I saw a shadow on the water. Within a few minutes a younger man was headed over the bank to check out the river. What he wasn't anticipating was the lose gravel that took him for a ride while he lost his balance and slid and rolled frantically toward the river. The look on his face was that of a slightly scared man along with a load of embarrassment. I acted like I didn't see it while he dusted himself off and collected what was left of his dignity and headed back up the bank.
Mike thought I was being attacked when he first heard the noise and the two of us held our laughter until the man was out of sight. When he returned to the river ready to fish it was time for us to move. We laughed the whole way to our next spot. I would soon pay for that laughter.
We arrived at Macochee Creek to see if we could get some footage of rising fish. We found two or three really nice trout in their feeding lanes, but not rising. Mike decided to stay on the bridge with the camera while I crawled into position for a cast. I was almost to where I wanted and had placed my left hand on a spot where I thought there was ground. There was plenty of grass between me and the stream, but there was no ground. My left hand continued to pushed downward and soon I was rolling off of the bank and right into the water. Thankfully, Mike did not catch that on camera, but he did get me dragging my soaked body back to shore. To make matters worse, I spooked every fish in that run.
In two hours, Mike had enough footage of me to create an hour long blooper video. All I could do was wring out and laugh.I did manage to hook a really good fish as it turned on my fly and headed right for me. It was a short fight and the fish was soon gone.
Macochee creek looks amazing! The work that the DNR did here is outstanding. It has regained its classic spring creek look and I believe that it will only continue to get better. The only thing that struck me as a concern was the lack of trout found throughout the creek. They seemed to be concentrated in a few places, rather that throughout the entire stream. There was plenty of depth and cover, but very few fish outside of those few holes.
We moved again to fish some familiar water and I picked up a small trout and several chubs. The place that I hoped to fish had a couple of kids wading through it and we soon turned our attention on another section of the river. Again, we came up empty. It was getting to be time to leave and we needed to hit our go to spot for one last chance at redemption. Mike would film while I fished. He ordered me to catch something and that is exactly what I did. Moving my way slowly up a seam, I watched my fly disappear with the decisiveness of a good fish. I knew I had struck gold. The fish turned and allowed me to see his golden buttered sides shinning in the sun. It was a great fish for this section of the river. After a few quick pictures and some more video, we were satisfied and full for fishing. It was time to head home.
As always, I enjoyed my time on the water with a good friend. Mike and I never fail to have fun. It was a good day and one that every weekend should have. I look forward to more time on the river and a little bit of butter to make it even better.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fishing with Friends.

I am very fortunate to have friends that fish. Some enjoy fly fishing while others just enjoy fishing. Today, Morgan and I had the pleasure of doing a little fishing/wading in the lower end of Clear Creek with a couple of those friends. The water and shade were a welcome respite from the heat of the day. The fishing was slow, but the fellowship that we shared was  fantastic.
My friend Trevor Ross called earlier in the week and asked if we could get the girls together for a little quality time on the creek. Morgan was happy to go, but warned that she was more interested in fishing than she was in playing. Trevor met us at the house and we headed for the creek. Today was a local charity bike ride that caused many traffic issues. It would even play a role on where we fished. We were forced to fish the lower end of the creek because the ride had half the park shut down to traffic.
I am not as familiar with this portion of the creek, but I hoped to find a few small mouth hiding in its shaded pools. There were very few fish, but the water was cool, the stream was shaded, and the girls seemed to enjoy themselves. The day ended with a good pizza and many good stories. Morgan and I are both looking forward to spending more time on the creek with Trevor and Taylor.
Don't worry Mike, I practically caught that fish for Trevor too!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August on the Mad

Historically speaking, August on the Mad River has not always been my favorite time to fish. The water is normally warmer and low, the trout are a bit sluggish and even more skittish, and I am normally changing gears and thinking about work and antlered animals. I have always found fish during August, but the consistency varies from year to year. Today would be no different.
Mike and I made an evening escape and ventured west for a trip of trout. We made it to the river late in the afternoon and found ourselves alone on a familiar beat. The water was very clear and it became evident quickly that we would have to go slow and steady to find fish. Some were found with nymphs while others rose to the surface to sip small terrestrials. It was a good evening.
Mike brought along his little camera and soon the fishing became secondary. The older I get, the more I want to document the little things that I see along the way. It is just as enjoyable and rewarding to show the family the footage as it is to catch fish. With Mike, it is always an adventure. Here is a little footage that documented our time on the river.

Trout on the Mad #2 from Mike McNeese on Vimeo.

By the way, I practically caught that fish for him. I built the rod, I tied the fly, I…

Friday, August 12, 2011

Matthew and Me.

Since my return from Colorado, I have been looking forward to getting out and doing some more fishing. With the start of school right around the corner, time is a very precious thing. Matthew has begun to show a real interest in flinging the fly, so he and I ventured out for a little pond fishing and some casting practice.
I was very proud of him. He was patient and listened well. We threw some grasshoppers and eventually a few buggers. He did great landing a handful of bass and several blue gills. Both my children are wonderful little fisherman. Matthew’s will to learn and succeed will help him get better.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A good time, but not a good outing.

Last night, Morgan and I decided to fish a local small mouth stream. Actually, she asked if we could go fishing. She had to beg really. It was a long and tedious argument, but I finally gave in.
It had rained at the house last night, but I did not think that it had done any significant damage to the local streams. It seemed harmless enough. However, upon arriving we found the river to be a up a little and still quite stained. I am not a big stained water fan. It is just a personal preference. I like to see fish.
We were there and it was quite a drive to just turn around and go home, so we geared up and headed for the river. I put my rod together and grabbed my box of flies. I rigged up Morgans spinning rod and we set forth to find some smallies. I quickly hooked up and lost a fish while Morgan took pictures of the scenery. We moved upstream and crossed the river. The water was swift and I decided to give Morgan a ride on my back. Unbeknown  to me, I lost my fly box in the swift water while navagating my way accross the river casrrying two rods and a thirteen year old. I did not even realize it until I lost a fly later and reached for the box of flies-oops!
We managaed to have fun. I love her company. She seemed more upset than I was. I can tie more. We lost two fish and made a quick release of the third. Sorry, no pictures. Our evening ended early, but the ride home with her was fun and silly. I plan to fish today without losing anything.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rocky Mountain National Park: Final Day

Day 4

With confused emotions I have both dreaded and longed for this day. The last day. I would hike out today and immediately miss the mountains. I would also have the chance to speak to my beloved family that I had missed so much. I thought of them every step of the way. I missed them more with each moment. I longed to hear their sweet voices and feel their warm embrace. However, I had fallen in love with the mountains: their beauty, their deafening silence and majesty, their solitude and their gift of trout. I would miss them too, but I will return.
                              Wes making pancakes.
The trip out was pretty uneventful. We had a quick and easy hike back down the valley. We fished very little and stopped once again at  Big Pool. My fishing would end where it had started. Two more cutthroat trout and I packed my fishing gear away, ready to complete the rest of my journey. The conversation turned from mountains and fish to family and cheeseburgers! It was a quiet hike out for all of us.

My first order of business was to call the family. I was answered with the excited and squealing voice of my lovely Morgan. I talked to Matthew and Susan next and it had never felt so good to hear their voices. Our first stop would be a local eatery in Grand Lake. The town had that old Alaskan shanty town feel to it. It was quaint and screamed of the West from long ago. The cheeseburgers were great and the taste of fries and Pepsi made it even more satisfying. Soon our meal was finished and we hurried as the incoming rains were quickly racing accross the mountains. I imagined for a moment the the place way crying, saddened to see us go.

Our last look at the river.
The drive back through the park was slow and quiet. It was much busier than our early morning trip from the first day. I was just as impressed and even more appreciative than I was before. I was thankful that God had created such a place for us to enjoy. I was greatful for the expirience of having been there. It was truly an amazing journey and one that I will never forget.

We stopped in Estes Park to buy some things for our families and soon we were back at Steve's once again greatful for modern plumbing. I had rippened a bit in the mountains and it was time to finally clean up and become presentable to society. We viewed eachother's pictures and told stories. Soon it was time to sleep in a bed that made no noise and rest the rest that I had missed from the past three nights. It was welcomed sleep.
Steve and his wife Kerry were two of the most generous and gracious hosts  you could have ever asked for. They welcomed us into their lives and homes and I was grateful for their kindness.

The Mighty Colorado River in its infancy.
It was time to go. The plane ride home was quiet and reflective. I could not wait to see my lovely wife and beautiful children. I was greeted with a "Welcome Home" sign, a newly landscaped yard, freshly mowed grass, and newly painted shutters. Oh yeah, and an exhausted and cheerful wife.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rocky Mountain National Park: Day 3

Day 3

I struggled once more to find sleep. The excitement and exhaustion from the day before were of little help in my quest to find some rest. Once again, I was first from the tent and I made the short journey for the bear vaults. This morning, Steve would be making sausage and egg burritos for breakfast. After last night’s dinner, these would be a welcomed treat. The air was chilly at forty-six degrees and I longed for the other guys to wake. Soon enough they would both emerge from their tents to begin their own morning rituals.

Today’s fishing would consist of a much easier hike and for the first time this trip there would be no need for a back pack. This would be a welcome respite from the burden that has seemed to attach itself to my back. Free from the weight of my back pack, I felt as if I were dancing between the rock and along the stream.

After breakfast, we rigged up and headed for the river. We would hike upstream quite a ways before starting our fishing this day. In a promise to my friend Larry, I decided to tie on his favorite fly, an Elk Hair Caddis. He asked me to catch him one of those pretty cutthroats and that is exactly what I did. I am not sure how many I caught on his fly, but it was somewhere between one and thirty.
As the morning warmed, I noticed more and more bug activity around the stream. What wasn’t hatching would have been an easier question to answer on this day. After noticing several large stone flies, Steve suggested that we try hopper patterns. This would be a wise and exciting move. I was giddy with excitement as I watched my large foam hopper disappear at nearly every trouty looking pool. I was amazed at how confidently the fish would take this large piece of foam and hair. The trout in this stream would completely destroy three of my deer hair and foam hoppers. The poor flies looked like they had been used as a puppy’s chew toy.
We stopped for lunch and a quick recap of the morning. We also refilled the water bottles and rested our bodies for the remainder of our journey. As the trip began, I really enjoyed my cliff bar, but lunch would find me only slightly satisfied with my meal. It was soon time to move again.
We hopped from pool to riffle on our way to one of the most beautiful meadows I have ever seen. I felt content fishing that meadow. It was as if I were fishing a painting from some long ago artist. The place screamed western fly fishing to my eastern heart. I was there. I had arrived at the pinnacle of my fly fishing career. I was hiding in waist high grass flinging a grass hopper in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. And, I was rewarded for the effort.
We fished the meadow deep into the afternoon. Along the way, Steve showed us another small lake. Solitude Lake was a marshy, muddy edged  pool that seemed to be the perfect setting for moose sightings and smaller trout. I hooked into a half a dozen ten inch cutthroats as I waded through the monotonous mud. We were also blessed with the sighting of a cow moose and her calf. They were on the move and far too quick to get a picture, but they fit perfectly into the picture that I had created in my head many years before.
Our fishing would end here and soon we were on our way back to camp. The two mile hike would take us along the game trails that followed the river. Once again, I danced through the forest like I have so many times before. It was a fun and much less tedious hike than any from the previous days. After a quick clean up and some feet soaking in the river, we headed for camp and another less than memorable meal.
This night would find us in the tents early and no moose were seen. Instead, we watched the lightening brighten out tents as the thunder seemed to rip open the sky from one mountainside to the other, allowing the rain to spill out and onto the earth. It was another amazing experience that made me glad I was there. I would easily survive my first mountain storm.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rocky Mountain National Park: Day 2

Day 2

I am not sure if I was excited or overly exhausted, but I did not get as much sleep as I had hoped for. Tight quarters, sore muscles, and everything nylon kept me awake most of the night. I was the first one out of the tent. I needed to get up and stretch a bit before we climbed the mountain. Today we would have an arduous hike to a lake that was situated at 10,700 feet above seas level. After a Cliff Bar and some water for breakfast, my abbreviated back pack was ready for the journey up the mountain.

The trail was steep and slow as we navigated the dead fall and switch backs along the way. The scenery was once again spectacular as we climbed in and out of the trees. The sounds of long waterfalls echoed through the valleys and the smells of fresh wildflowers filled the air. It was a wonderful climb that rested at Lake Nakoni.
Lake Nokoni is barren. There are no fish in this lake and it befuddles Steve. It is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. It is nestled at the base of a sheer rock cliff and it is hard to tell where the cliff begins and the water ends. After a brief visit with the lake and with water bottles refreshed, we continued our climb to Lake Nanita. We had to trudge through melting snow as we crested the saddle and began our decent into the shallow valley that hid this gem. Once again, around every corner things were more spectacular.
The lake was calm and perfect. I grabbed a quick bite of peanut butter and water and was soon rigged up and ready to fish. There were trout rising all over this lake. I have never seen a lake so full of feeding fish. I was content to sit and watch as both Wes and Steve quickly caught fish. It was truly a place I will never forget.
Finally, I was ready to fish. A size 14 black ant would be the ticket for this lake. The trout were eager to sip the small fly from the surface film. I am not sure how many fish I caught in my two hours there, but it had to be close to thirty. I went one direction while Wes and Steve went the other way. After catching several fish, I returned for a snack and to see how those two were doing. On my way I found the lake’s outlet. There was a no fishing sign and I wondered why. After inspecting the outlet, I found out why. This is where the fish were spawning, thousands of fish. I have only seen things like this in a hatchery. There seemed to be over a thousand fish stacked in an area less than fifty yards long. It was truly an amazing thing to see in the wild.

Soon I was fishing the same bay as Wes and Steve and on several occasions we all had trout hooked up at the same time. Doubles and triples would be the norm for the day. After a short conversation, Steve implored us to make the hike back to Nakoni and then over the steep saddle to fish Pettingell Lake. Wes was having some knee issues and told us to go. We set a time to meet back at Nakoni and soon we were humping it back over the ridge.
The hike to Pettingell Lake was one of the toughest and most beautiful of the entire trip. We hiked from 10, 500 to 11,200 and it was steep enough to need my hands at times. However, the view from the top of that saddle is one that will remain with me until the day I die. I could have sworn that I heard Julie Andrews singing in the distance.

The hike down the other side was a little hairy. It was nothing more than a rock field in the woods. The idea of fishing for big, hungry, and dumb fish was enough to get me down there. After scrambling to make it to the lake, we quickly rigged up and immediately we were into fish. We had forty-five minutes to fish to make it back in time. In that time I caught twelve trout on a 16 parachute adams and lost a few more. It was amazing to think that I was one of only a few people to ever fish this lake. I was elated and humbled at the same time. It saddened me to think that I would probably never return.

The hike out was hard and fast. I could feel my heart beating in my ears. We made it back to meet Wes in plenty of time. We each told stories of the fish we caught and the hike we had. I soaked my feet in the gin clear waters of Lake Nokoni and smiled with the delight of knowing I had lived a true back country fly fishing adventure.
The hike down the mountain was both spectacular and tedious. I was whipped and I looked forward to food, a cold bath, and a warm sleeping bag. I found all three. Although the cardboard stew left a little to be desired. It was chicken, but it sure tasted like cardboard! Before I found sleep, the camp was once again invaded by another moose. This time it would be a very, very large bull. It was too dark for a good picture, but trust me it was impressive.