Beneath the steep, red walls of this mountainous valley, Norman Maktima drifts his dry-dropper rig through a deep riffle in an undisclosed section of the Eagle River.
(I would tell you where it is, but then I would have to hide you.)
This slice of public water has been hit hard in recent days – “Hammered,” Maktima says – and the five anglers from the U.S. national fly-fishing team are prepared for a challenging afternoon. Team USA (yes, that’s a thing) is in an intense, all-hands-on-deck practice session (yes, also a thing) for the biggest event on the competitive fly-fishing calendar.
This week in Eagle County is their Olympics. The 36th FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championships welcomes the best of the best in competitive fly-fishing: More than 200 anglers from 25 nations, spread out over beats on the Eagle, Colorado and Blue rivers and nearby stillwaters. They hold team meetings over fly-tying vises. They compare notes (“If one guy moved fish on streamers, he’ll tell us between sessions,” says Josh Graffam, a Lafayette resident and member of Team USA). They seek rainbows (the trout) and gold (the medal).
Once an also-ran, Team USA now is an international force on the circuit. The U.S. finished second last year in the World Championships. In 2015, to prepare for Bosnia’s spring creeks, U.S. team members fished the spring creeks of Pennsylvania. Now the competition is on their home waters – only the second time the Worlds have been hosted in the U.S., and big thanks to organizers John and Jodi Knight for bringing it home – and the Americans are among the favorites. The competition runs through Friday with the medal ceremony Saturday.
“What was that (fish) on, Norman?” Graffam asks his practice partner, Maktima, from across the clear, low flows of the Eagle.
“The dropper. Nothing on top yet,” Maktima says as he releases a healthy rainbow.
Until Tuesday evening, I considered myself an educated angler, someone who believes a day on the water to be a necessary ingredient in life and more than a hobby.
Truth is, I knew nothing – not about competitive fly-fishing, anyway. Theirs is an entire subculture of the sport, complete with a unique set of rules, fierce national pride and world-class anglers who could catch fish in a bathtub that isn’t stocked.
Watching these guys work a stretch of river was both humbling and enlightening.
Whipping a 10-foot, 3-weight Sage rod through a breeze – stiff enough the river’s current appeared to be moving upstream – Graffam spots a rainbow in skinny water. One cast later, the 14-inch trout is in his net and quickly released, without the angler handling the fish. Competitive anglers are penalized for killing a trout.
Take a seasoned guide from a nearby shop, or a local angler who knows the water, and he or she probably would find similar results. But it’s the rulebook associated with FIPS-Mouche events that separates competitive fly-fishers from folks such as me.
Their version of the sport is unlike any I’ve seen. Participants are prohibited from using split shot, relying instead on weighted flies, and strike indicators are a no-no. The points system is based on numbers of fish caught and released, as well as size.
Competitive fly-fishing is akin to a scratch golfer who plays Augusta National with only a 7-iron; a pool shark who plays blindfolded; a tennis star who employs only his or her backhand.
“For me, competitive fly-fishing took fly-fishing to another level,” says Graffam, the only Colorado resident on the U.S. national team. “It’s a different type of challenge. It makes you appreciate detail, to see things you wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Later (in a competition week), the fishing can be really tough. The water has been hit hard by some of the best in the world. That’s when the challenge really sets in.”
Spain is the reigning world champion. France and England are usually challengers, and Italy often is in the mix. It wasn’t until the past decade that the U.S. graduated to international contender, though the Americans still are searching for their first gold. Last year’s silver was the top finish for the U.S. at the World Championships.
OK, somebody had to ask: Is there trash talk in competitive fly-fishing?
“There are certain teams that you want to beat more than others,” Graffam says with a laugh.
That’s where the Czechs come in. In the fascinating world of competitive fly-fishing, the Czech Republic is the New England Patriots, New York Yankees and Detroit Red Wings all rolled into a Simms chest pack. Who knew? The Czechs have won six of the past 10 World Championships and, over that same period, failed to medal only twice.
“Competitive fly-fishing is ingrained in their fly-fishing culture,” Graffam says.
But the Americans won’t go quietly into the streambed. Graffam won the national championship held in Basalt. Lance Egan, a Utah resident, owns national titles from Oregon to New York. Devin Olsen won bronze at the 2015 World Championships.
Maktima, who guides out of High Desert Anglers in Santa Fe, N.M., is a former world junior champion. As a typical Colorado thunderstorm rolls over the red canyon walls and into the valley, threatening to blow the anglers off the water, Maktima persuades another rainbow trout to take a tiny midge pattern tied below a dry fly.
Dove hunting in Colorado opened Thursday, the traditional opener serving as a tuneup of sorts for the duck, goose, pheasant and quail seasons to come.
Opening day found our group of seven tuning up in the Arkansas Valley near my hometown of La Junta. This beautiful southeast part of our colorful state is a diverse area containing vast open plains dotted with farmlands. In the western sector it breaks into historic canyons carved from the creeks and rivers over centuries of erosion. Portions of southeast Colorado would be a semi-arid, desert area would it not be for the Arkansas River flowing directly east from Pueblo and providing an oasis of croplands.
It was near Rocky Ford where we pursued doves.
Southeast Colorado commonly holds temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above the northern Front Range, and when it comes to doves, a bird that packs bags early once temperatures cools, it’s an area that holds more doves for a longer time than the northeast part of our state.
Opening day found an uncommon cool morning with moderate humidity and fog. The birds initially were slow to fly and bunched-up in area cottonwood trees, deadfall and along utility lines. As the temperature climbed and the fog lifted, doves started flying. Several of our group had their 15 bird limit by midmorning along with additional Eurasian, or collared doves, which has no limit and does not count against a hunter’s bag limit. The total count was 87 mourning doves by midmorning and 62 Eurasians.
For dove hunting in southeast Colorado, I’d recommend several of the state wildlife areas especially those near Rocky Ford, Las Animas and Lamar. Access to private lands can be found with prior coordination and permission. I’d also recommend that hunters headed to the southeast part of the state bring plenty of mosquito repellent, as counties in that area have the highest reported incidents of West Nile in our state. For hunters bringing dogs, be cautious of rattlesnakes as they can be quite prevalent.
There was good hunting to be found elsewhere, too, during the opening weekend. Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Mason Allen, from the Sterling area, checked numerous hunters who had good numbers of bagged birds with several having reached their limit. Allen recommended any areas which contain the big three for doves: water, canopy (i.e. trees) and sunflowers.
“The majority of successful hunters I checked on our state walk-in and wildlife management areas found the best shooting from sunrise to midmorning and those who stayed in the field through the morning came out with good bag numbers, even some limits,” he said. “This year’s bird numbers are about par compared with past seasons, and I’d recommend hunters try walk-in areas south of Yuma and Wray to just south of Brush.”
The Colorado Wildlife & Parks website at http://cpw.state.co.us/ containing a plethora of good information dedicated to dove hunting. It’s well worth checking out in advance of your hunt.
Conditions for the week of Aug. 30. Information is provided by Colorado Parks & Wildlife employees and local fishing enthusiasts. Keep in mind that fishing conditions change on a constant basis. Much can change in a week from the time this fishing conditions report is produced.
Metro Denver Area
Trout fishing from shore is slow to fair. Some reports of trout being caught using PowerBait from a slip rig from the west and east end of the dam. The trout are deep, so try casting out 40 to 50 yards. Boaters are reporting slow to fair success on trout trolling slowly with lures and crawlers in deep water. The walleye action from boats is rated at fair to good using bottom bouncers and jigs in 20 to 30 feet of water. Perch action is good using jigs and worms throughout the reservoir. A few reports of largemouth bass being caught using plastics. Park hours for September are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Boaters be aware boating times of operation are being reduced daily due to loss of daylight.
Bass fishing overall is rated as fair, but we have received a few good reports from anglers. Most of the bass are being caught in the early mornings and evenings using soft plastics, drop shots, and chatter baits in 15 feet of water just outside of the weed line. Trout action is slow at this time. Perch fishing is fair to good using jigs. Boating hours for September are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Boaters be aware boating times of operation are being reduced daily due to loss of daylight.
The current water temperature is around 73 degrees with water clarity up to four feet. The water level is slowly dropping. In the upcoming weeks look for the fish to begin spreading out and feeding more aggressively with lower water levels and cooler water temperatures. Dragging bait with bottom bouncers and lindy rigs are still producing fish, but in the next month look for the walleye to start hanging out in the deeper basins chasing shad. When the walleye move deeper, try casting lipless crank baits into schools of bait fish. The pan fish are shallow and being caught from shore. Try a worm on the bottom or under a bobber if fishing from shore. In a boat, dragging small jigs or pulling worms on lindy rigs are catching fish.
The current water temperature is around 74 degrees. Fishing is rated as fair to good for anglers fishing from boat and shore. Anglers are catching plenty of trout and the walleye are also biting well. Boaters trolling as slow speeds in ten feet of water are having the most success using PowerBait and gulp worms. Be cautious of recreational boaters.
The river is currently flowing at 157 c.f.s. with a water temperature around 55 degrees. Fishing during the early parts of the morning is the best time. The fish are mainly holding in the riffles and the seams of fast and slow moving water throughout the earlier parts of the day. During the afternoon, the fish are spreading back out into the rocks and the shallow heads of riffles. Focus on these areas with hopper dropper rigs.
Eleven Mile Reservoir
The current water temperature is around 63 degrees. Trout fishing is rated as good to very good for anglers fishing from boat and shore. Anglers are catching big trout. Try using tube jigs, Kastmasters, and multi color PowerBait. The kokanee salmon fishing is slow with anglers catching some fish in 30 feet of water using sling blades and dodgers. The northern pike fishing is rated as fair to good for anglers using spinner baits and husky jerks.
The current surface water temperature is approximately 73 degrees. The lake level is currently full. Fishing has picked up recently. Fishing is rated as fair to good for wipers, walleye, drum, channel catfish and trout.
The lake is currently around 84 degrees. A 14 pound, 32 inch wiper was caught up the Darby Arm this week and anglers are also catching fish on the Inlet Grove Campground shoreline. The catfish continue biting well near the Cunningham arm and the West Trailhead using worms, cut bait, and shrimp. A few walleye have come out at Balance Rock and Darby point off jigs.
The Milk Run, Browns Canyon, and the Big Bend area are all in excellent condition and fishing well. The annual late summer decrease in releases from Twin Lakes has now transpired and the river is moving slower, allowing fish to again make full use of the available habitat and permitting wade anglers to get off the shoreline and out into the main body of the channel. The decrease in flows has corresponded nicely with a decrease in air temperature. Red quills, blue winged olives, midges, caddis, and some late golden stoneflies make up the majority of the hatch activity, but hoppers, beetles and ants continue to proliferate along the shoreline. With recreational boating traffic now negligible in the Browns Canyon/Big Bend area, we enter a period of late summer fishing when solitude returns to the river. This is a great time of year to get on the water.
The water levels at Blue Lake are dropping. Anglers have reported catching a few saugeye and channel catfish recently. The high water boat ramp is usable.
Clear Creek Reservoir
Trout fishing at Clear Creek Reservoir has been extremely poor for boat anglers and fair from the shoreline. The best shore fishing for trout has been during the morning. Successful shore anglers caught a few trout on yellow PowerBait and worms off the bottom. A few shore anglers even caught 18 to 22 inch rainbow trout at the boat ramp parking lot area. Most boat anglers reported not landing a single fish. Only one angler was able to land trout from a boat on Sunday. The boat angler that caught a few trout on Sunday used yellow spoons near the inlet of the reservoir. Boat anglers targeting trout experienced some success on Tasmanian Devil lures too. The kokanee salmon fishing remains very slow. Kokanee salmon usually go for squid tipped with corn near the dam of the reservoir. The reservoir is closed to trailer motorized watercrafts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The current boating hours are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and beginning September 8, boating hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fishing has been rated as poor to fair. Anglers have reported catching a few smaller wiper in the 12 to 14 inch range. Fishing for all other species is slow.
North Gateway Park
Fishing remains slow for most species. Anglers are catching small bluegill and catfish throughout the lake.
The current surface temperature is around 74 degrees. Juvenile smallmouth bass and perch are being caught from areas of cover using night crawlers. We are also seeing a few trout being caught on PowerBait from shore. Early mornings and later evenings continue to be the most productive time to fish. The catfish are still hit or miss throughout the lake for anglers fishing at night using worms and liver. Fishing from shore has slowed down recently. Boat anglers are still catching trout, walleye, and perch using jigs tipped with a night crawler or artificial minnow. Some boaters are catching fish trolling worm harnesses.
The current water temperature is around 63 degrees. Fishing has been the best in the morning for trout and kokanee. Anglers are catching plenty of fish on the Northeast side of the lake near the shoreline. Anglers are reporting that the kokanee are starting to congregate near the Colorado River inlet. Look for the fish to be staging in 10 feet of water near the inlet.
This summer has been fairly tough for quantities of trout granted to anglers. To catch fish, anglers are moving often, switching lures, seeking different depths throughout the lake. It seems the reason for the decline in numbers of fish being landed is because of the ease the trout have of acquiring the food source available to them. The numbers of minnows in Lake John has exploded, and the fish have it too easy. They do not appear to want anything else when this abundant cuisine is so readily available. This is quite obvious when about every fish you catch is so full of minnows that they regurgitate a handful while you are trying to land them. You cannot use minnows here in North Park, so that leaves the anglers testing imitations and look-alikes, which are having mediocre success at best.
The fishing has been rated from poor to fair recently. No reports of grayling being caught. The trout are biting well for anglers fishing near the dam. Fishing has been slow mid afternoon, so anglers should try early mornings and later evenings for the best success.
Early morning and later evening have been the most productive time to fish. Fishing has been slow around mid afternoon. Smaller fish are being caught throughout the reservoir. Rainbow Ridge and Meadow Point have been fishing well over the weekend with many anglers doing well with PowerBait in that area. Meadow Point and Rainbow Ridge have moss in them, so anglers have been headed to the Sage Flats and the dam area to stay away from the moss and algae.
The reservoir has a current water temperature at 65 degrees. Both shore anglers and boaters are reporting good fishing for stocker-sized rainbows in the 8 to 14 inch range with a few larger fish in the 18 to 22 inch range being caught. The catch is mostly rainbow trout, but there have been some brown trout caught as well. The kokanee bite is picking up in the Dallas Creek area and fish are at 40 feet in the main channel. Downriggers with spoons and dodgers are the way to go. Look for fishing to get a lot better in the weeks to come. Snagging season starts September 1, and the limit is 10 fish. Bass fishing continues to be slow. Try the west side and free access gate south of Dutch Charlie with jigs and spinner baits. Shore fisherman should try gold Kastmasters and green PowerBait, or worms off the bobber for trout. Boat anglers are having luck with countdown Rapalas and spoons near the dam and around the opening to Mears Bay.
The river flows are currently around 356 c.f.s. and fishing is great. Big bug activity is now happening with the lower water levels. Adjust your weight and get it down in the strike zone. San Juan worms, rs-2, zebra midges, and caddis are the go-to flies. Dry flies are working great. There are a lot of grasshoppers out and a great hatch of pink Cahill’s in the afternoon. Green drakes are hatching in the mornings. Hopper-dropper rigs are the best setup.
Rivers and Creeks
Water conditions and insect hatches will now remain consistent until autumn. Fishing reports for specific rivers and creeks throughout the summer have a tendency to provide an influx of repetitive information. Use the following information as a general guide for fishing Colorado’s rivers and creeks in the month of August.
The month of August in Colorado means lower water flows and crystal clear water. The calm and clear water will cause the fish to become spookier, so being stealthy and presenting delicate casts becomes more important this time of year. Anglers will need to start focusing on using lighter leaders and tippet to ensure the fish do not see their fishing line. This is when using fluorocarbon fishing line becomes more important than monofilament.
The warmer water temperatures will cause additional stress on the fish, so catch and release anglers should reel in and release their fish as quickly as possible to avoid over exhaustion. Although your fishing line should be small, your flies and lures can still be big. The primary hatches throughout the month will consist of large caddis, attractors, and terrestrials. If the fish are not biting grasshopper patterns, be sure to try other terrestrial patterns such as ants, crickets, spiders, and beetles. The best times to fish in August are from sunrise to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to sunset. When the day becomes hot and the bites slow down, try nymph fishing the deep holes and fast eddies.
The most productive nymphs this time of year consist of prince nymphs, hare’s ear, pheasant tails, and copper johns. Dry flies and nymphs from a size 8 to 18 will produce the most strikes in August. If you are fishing a freestone river or creek, larger flies can be used. If you are fishing the tailwater below a dam, smaller flies should be used. Common techniques include a single or double dry fly rig, as well as a single or double nymph rig. Special techniques include a dry dropper rig or a triple nymph rig. If the nymph fishing is slow, try adding another split shot to your line. Often, the difference between an angler and a good angler is one split shot.
More than 950,000 people hunt and fish in Colorado every year. That’s second only to the ski industry.
Fact is, 70 percent of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s annual budget comes from hunting and fishing license revenue.
“That includes everything. Both game and nongame species. Includes our wildlife re-introductions, threatened and endangered species,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Jerry Neal said.
According to CPW, the cost of doing business has shot up like a pheasant on opening morning.
“Everything from maintaining our fish hatcheries to vehicle maintenance to just the cost of our wildlife management programs,” Neal said.
The current cashless climate has prompted the CPW to contemplate raising hunting and fishing tags up to 100 percent. For example, you want to hunt a buck? Now it would cost you $45 but could eventually cost you $90. That’s a lot of bucks for a buck.
“A hundred percent is a, makes me sick to my stomach,” a customer at Cabela’s said Wednesday.
“I’ll probably still pay it. I mean what are you going to do? They gotcha, they gotcha,” said another.
Whatever the increase, from 0 to 100 percent, the voters of Colorado will be the ones who decide.
People hunt and fish for a variety of reasons, often multiple reasons, and the priority can change from time to time. In addition to providing job security to surveyors, monitoring those trends also provides insight into our society and which way it’s trending. For example, the latest studies and surveys show a significant shift toward a preference for wild game and fish among both hunters and non-hunters. And there are some pretty good reasons.
First, there are health benefits. Wild game and fish are an all-natural organic protein, free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and other drugs and chemicals. And for those concerned about such things, there is no genetic modification other than what Mother Nature already does through natural selection. Fish and game are lower in fat, cholesterol and the fatty acids associated with health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. In short, it’s better for you.
Granted, you can’t escape the mortality factor. If you eat meat, fish or poultry, something must die to feed you. But wouldn’t you rather have more knowledge about how that occurred? I enjoy a big fat juicy restaurant burger as much as the next guy, but I admittedly would just as soon not know how it came from pasture to plate. The plethora of bacterial outbreaks and processed food recalls are testament enough to how our food could potentially be mishandled. There’s no worry if you do it yourself.
If you don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, an anti-hunting stance might seem easier to defend, but you’ve got other issues to address, particularly being environmentally responsible.
From 100 acres of undeveloped forest, I could sustainably harvest deer, birds, squirrels, rabbits and countless other game species indefinitely, without harm to the present or future potential of their populations or habitat. In so doing, the greenhouse gases generated would amount to little more than what I exhale and perhaps a tiny bit from the combustion of my firearm, assuming I wasn’t using a bow.
Or I could hire a professional logger to come in with chain saws, bunchers, skidders, chippers and dozers to remove all the trees and stumps, and grade the soil. Then I could pay someone to till the soil, treat it with minerals and fertilizer, and plant soybeans. No other creatures would live there. Some on neighboring properties might gain slight benefit by feeding on the plants while they stood. And I would have to retill, replant and reharvest annually, at least until the soil could no longer provide the necessary nutrients.
The locavore movement has become popular and harvesting your own protein locally goes along nicely with that philosophy. Studies have show that most fish or game is taken within 100 miles of the hunter or angler’s home. That further reduces the amount of fossil fuels used and greenhouse gases produced in transporting your food – animal or vegetable.
In addition to the selfish motivation of putting more food on the table, there are also unselfish benefits that result from at least trying to gather your own local organic protein. Through the simple act of purchasing a hunting or fishing license, the hunter or fisherman does more, far more than anyone else to protect and preserve wildlife habitat for an array of game and nongame species. In the process, they provide land and access for nonhunters to enjoy.
Hunting and fishing aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits. In many cases, biologists have done such an effective job of management that hunters and anglers can harvest a surplus without detriment to the species or their environment. And if you get in their good graces, they just might be willing to share some of the bounty with you. You’ll both be far better off for it.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:
Danny Davis, of Ringgold, loves to grab an armful of his fishing rods, load them onto one of his boats and head for Dan River — or any other body of water, near or far — for a day of fishing.
But about 20 years ago, Davis decided that one of the annoying things about fishing was the inflexibility of the bases made for rod holders.
There were — and still are — a lot of different rod holders on the market, but the bases that held them attached to boats could only hold them horizontally, were permanently placed and had to be mounted to a flat surface.
So Davis started thinking about the perfect base — one that could be easily moved along the track system inside most boats, could hold rods at any angle and, at the end of the day, be folded out of the way.
“Boats come with a track system, but nobody built a base system would fit in the track,” Davis said. To top that off, Davis said, in those days he had a small boat and the tips of his rods were always be in the water with the bases that were available.
“I started working on this to stop that,” Davis said.
So Davis spend years “fooling” with different ideas and in 2012 got serious about it, getting friends and family to help him create the perfect base, one that would hold any rod holder and could easily be moved along the track to where he wanted it and would lock into position for fishing but be easy to fold out of the way.
Finally, he was happy with the design and outfitted his boats with his own fishing rod holder bases.
Friends noticed and wanted some; strangers out fishing would notice his rods were all well positioned and ask him how he did it. Soon, he was making more and more of them.
Laid Back Fishing Innovations LLC was born.
As it became apparent that his invention was gaining in popularity and stores ranging from Hughes Marine in Danville and several tackle shops in North Carolina to SeaArk Boats, which stocked them in its more than 100 locations in the U.S. and Canada, were selling them. They can also be ordered online, at eBay, Amazon and Davis’s website, laidbackfishing.com.
Davis said his daughter — Tina “Sissy” Dixon — “talked him into” finding out what it would take to patent the invention. That began an almost three-year process of finding a patent lawyer to walk him through the process.
“We found one in Charlotte, North Carolina; there wasn’t a patent lawyer near here,” Davis said.
Countless trips to Charlotte later — and repeated re-submittals of his application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to answer questions they had — Davis was awarded his patent on Dec. 29, 2015.
“We had to rewrite it so many times,” Davis said. “They’re so hard to get.”
His wife, Linda, laughed.
“Danny’s really worked hard on this — he didn’t think getting a patent would be a big deal,” Linda said. Her job with the young company is bookkeeping.
Other family and friends have helped along the way. Linda’s son, Hunter Thompson, handles merchandising, advertising and deals with the website, while Davis’s daughter, Amanda Harris is always willing to run errands and his son, Danny Jr., helped make the prototypes.
Davis’s best friend, Jerry Murray, goes to boat shows with him and helped make the bases, which are now manufactured at Speedwell Machine Works in Gastonia, North Carolina.
So far, Davis said, there has been no negative feedback from anyone who has tried them — they’ll stand up to the biggest catfish without failing and a friend recently won first and third place in a fishing tournament with Laid Back Fishing Innovation fishing rod holder bases on board.
The lightweight, aluminum fishing rod holder bases that are simple to adjust are selling well, Davis said.
“It’s done better than I thought it would do,” Davis said, with a smile and shrug. “But it’s not going to make me a millionaire.”
Linda laughed and added, “But it might pay the light bill some day.”
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Canada will work with its international partners in order to try and ensure sustainable fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, to promote economic growth and benefits for those living in coastal communities.