Monday, February 1, 2016

Christmas Island Bonefish, Part 2

Now that we have covered the bonefishing at Christmas Island, let’s get into all the other species you will have shots at.  For many repeat visitors to the island, bonefish begin to take a back seat to the exhilarating giant trevally, barracuda, milkfish, sharks and triggerfish lurking nearly everywhere.  Black tips are the prevalent species of shark found on the flats, with other species preferring to hang out near the deeper reefs.  Like any saltwater destination, some guides don’t want anything to do with casting at sharks.   Others say, “I can handle.”  It goes without saying that these creatures can totally mess you up if you give them a chance.  There is no hospital to speak of here, so exercise your best judgement and err on the side of caution.  In my experience, Go Like Hell flat has sharks cruising it nearly every day.   
The same flies you throw at giant trevally are generally fine for sharks.  Ten to twelve weights and 100 pound tippet are the norm, and you can certainly throw a steel leader into the mix for these toothy brawlers.  When casting at sharks, match your retrieve to the speed of the fish.  Keep the fly on their nose, speeding up when they do, slowing down when they do as well.  Most of the time black tips will follow the fly the whole retrieve and then sulk away, but other times, it’s game on!  Let your guide handle the shark, but if you’re by yourself, use a hook release and stay behind the shark, moving quickly.  Just cut the tippet if things get too hairy.

 My personal favorite fish of the Christmas Island flats is the trigger.  Triggerfish can get as big as all get out, they fight hard, love to jam you up by burrowing under coral heads, and no two look alike.  For starters, triggers are coral munchers, so finding taller coral is the first thing you have to do.  Taller coral presents a few issues, of course.  Leaders, tippet and flies will be abused when casting at triggers, no way around it.  A perfect shot gets hung in the coral more often than not.  From personal experience, you’d better be sure your hooks are strong and your knots are bombproof.  Blood knots simply won’t hold up to the tremendous pressure these fish will exert.  Cheap hooks will be flattened instantaneously. The triggers shown below are on the small side, but even these are quite powerful.  We hooked a few that were much bigger, but read on to find out why they're so hard to get to the hand.

 If you are out chasing bonefish and a trigger presents itself, rebuild the whole leader, tippet and fly before casting at it.  Crab patterns are what they like best, and the presentation is a bit different than casting at a bonefish.  When taking your shot at a trigger, first determine if the fish is happy and browsing the coral for food.  Most guides won’t recommend even casting at it unless it is in the right mood.  Secondly, you need to cast close to, but past the trigger.  You want to strip your fly right under it’s nose and encourage it to follow.  Most triggers will inhale that crab once they notice it, but others want to follow it a ways first.  My best trigger eats have happened when I stopped moving the fly after they initially notice it.  Once you hook up to the trigger, your real problems start to become evident.  First and foremost, they always run for the shelter of deep water or the closest coral head.  If your knots and fly hold up, you need to steer them away from danger immediately.  If it can go wrong, it will, and usually in the first few seconds after you set the hook.  Setting the hook is a whole other issue, as these fish have long teeth and small mouths.  The best hook sets seem to be in the corner of the mouth or right between the two front buck teeth. 

 The best triggerfish guide on Christmas Island is Kau Kau, also known as Tim, who usually works for Ikari House.  Tim is young and enthusiastic.  Sighting, hooking and landing triggers is his true pleasure in life.  While trigger fishing with him this year, I screwed up after the hook set trying to get the fly line unwrapped from my legs, and the fish (of course) retreated under another giant coral head.  Tim valiantly handed me his glasses, pack and hat and swam under the coral to attempt getting the fish out.  We didn’t end up with the trigger to the hand, but Tim won a client for life with his effort.  Guides in Christmas Island are a notch above the rest, and Tim’s notch goes all the way to eleven.  Trigger flies are primarily crabs in tan colors, and I can’t stress enough that they be tied on the best, strongest salt hooks you can find.  The body shape of the trigger is perfect for fighting you, and they will use it against you. 

Milkfish are probably more abundant than any other species on the flats of Christmas Island.  For the first few days of your trip to Christmas, learning the difference between milks and bones will present its own set of challenges.  If you boil it down, milkfish suspend, bonefish hug the bottom.  If there is a shadow under the fish, it’s usually a milkfish.  Many anglers come to Christmas solely for the milkfish, and catching one is no small feat.  Milks eat algae, which presents the first challenge.  The second challenge is finding a leader and fly that suspend, like the milkfish do.  Flies comprised of foam and sponge fit the bill, and bringing along some monofilament tippet and floatant will aid this endeavor.  Huge milkfish can be found outside of the flats behind commercial fishing boats, which kick up large amounts of algae and plankton. 
Pound for pound, milkfish will fight you like there’s no tomorrow.  Few fish can bend an eight weight like these fast fish can.  If you are targeting bones on the flats, don’t overlook the massive schools of milkfish.  Bones and milkfish focus on different food groups, but they can easily work together since they work different levels of the water column.  More often than not, a few nice bonefish can be picked out of a pod of milks.  Milkfish are the hardest thing to catch on Christmas Island, with the only exception being the venerable giant trevally.  GTs eat the fly just fine, but getting one in front of these fast thugs is a whole different deal.

Giant trevally make fly fishers salivate the world over.  They are ridiculously fast.  They come up on a flat like a drive by shooting, and most of the time it’s too late for you to react because they’re already gone.  Christmas Island boasts excellent numbers of giant, black, bluefin and golden trevally, but the giants are the true prize fish and prize fight.  Bluefin are practically everywhere, and provide a good fight, but rarely exceed a pound or two.  More than once a rascally bluefin has snatched a well presented fly to a bigger golden or giant in my experience.  Golden trevally are beautifully banded across their backs, and can get pretty big at Christmas.  Goldens seem to tail more often than their cousins, I have hustled across flats a few times after seeing one tailing at a good distance away.  Giant trevally, or GT, can push 100 pounds at Christmas Island.  You will see them up to twenty pounds every day, and when the true bruisers come in to play, your heart rate will give you a run for your money.

The usual program on Christmas is for your guide to carry the trevally rod while you bonefish with your seven or eight.  The true guide test presents itself when the GTs come by, and their ability to see them, ready the heavy rod and pull line off in time for you to make a shot.  This rarely goes the way it’s supposed to.  When you combine their speed and your case of the yips, a general shit show usually prevails.  Chumming these big fish is becoming more and more popular, and to each their own, but we generally refrain from doing this.  Chumming doesn’t do these magical fish any favors, but for many anglers this is the way to do it.  Milkfish are usually netted and roasted for chum, but bonefish are often an unfortunate by-catch when netting the milks.  As mentioned, to each their own, but you won’t see me out there chumming fish in.

Christmas Island has thousands of volcanic shelves along the flats, and every one of these has small yellow snapper using them for shelter.  Seeing trevally rooting around underneath them is commonplace.  Trevally will eat practically anything they can catch, be it bonefish, milkfish, grouper, whatever.  Again, fly selection isn’t nearly as important as just getting the fly in front of the fish in time.  Tim Heng employs a good trick for these quick presentations by simply hooking a baitfish GT fly onto the hook of his bonefish fly and recasting.  This can present a problem if the fish is huge and you’ve got 10 pound tippet on, but at least you gave it a college try!  There’s one general rule on how to strip the fly for GTs.  Fast as you can.  You simply can’t strip it fast enough.  Once in a great while, true giants want the fly slowed down a bit, but this is pretty rare.  

 One of the best advisors around for GTs in Christmas Island is Sean at Nervous Waters in Honolulu.  His tiny shop is the only one in the whole state of Hawaii, and he really, really knows his stuff.  He is a strong proponent of 100 pound tippets and has a terrific assortment of bonefish and GT flies to choose from (ask about his special triggerfish flies too).  Sean’s fly shop is not far from Waikiki Beach, and you can reach him at 808-734-7359.  He’d rather catch bonefish in Hawaii (and I recommend joining him for a bonefish trip), but he’s been to Christmas Island many times to chase giant trevally.  Sean’s shop is funky, tiny, and chock full of everything you need to fly fish around Hawaii. 

 I love Christmas Island.  The people, the surreal scenery, raw nature and remoteness make this one of the most unique places on earth.  The best guides I’ve encountered are Otea, Nareau, Kau Kau, Kabuta, Eckus, and the famous Mowanua.  Some guides are “better” than others, which is relative.  Just like trout guides, some excel at certain species or methods.  What these guys have over other guides is a complete absence of ego.  Treat your guide with respect, have a sense of humor, and tip appropriately.  When he keeps you out late when the fishing has been slow or takes you to a little-known area, make it worth his while.  They bend over backwards to get you on the fish at Christmas, so treat them just as well on the slower days as you do the ridiculous ones.  Buy them a beer back at the lodge, ask about their families, and send them a care package once in a while.  Wading boots, rain gear and fly tying materials are always scarce for these islanders.  I consider some of these guys very good friends.  I care about what happens to them, and like to think that they feel the same.

When you catch a big bone or manage to wrestle in a triggerfish or trevally, getting a bit emotional comes with the territory.  My guide Kau Kau gave me a little ribbing for the tears in my eyes after we released a gorgeous seven pound bonefish in October.   “Like a virgin,” he said.  We laughed about it all week, and he promised not to tell anyone except his wife.  Well, I’m not too embarrassed to admit beautiful fish in beautiful places make me a little weepy.  So be it.  Preparing for a trip to Christmas can be stressful (and a big part of the fun), and when the whole plan finally comes together and you’re holding that mirrored bonefish in your hand on a fly you tied yourself, I challenge you to not become a little overwhelmed and 20 shades of thankful.  That will never change for me, and I hope Christmas Island changes very little in the years to come. 

Words by Scott Spooner

Photographs courtesy of Scott Spooner, Rocky and Janet Mangini, John Marlow, Randy Hughes

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Fishpond Delta Sling Pack Review

When I picked up my new Delta Sling Pack from Fishpond, it was like Christmas morning.  Fishpond put a lot of love into this innovative new sling.  The bag is symmetrically designed, so a lefty or a righty can both use this bag all day long, or you can switch shoulders from time to time to combat fatigue.  Looking for gear attachments?  Try over forty different straps, tabs, loops and attachment points!  With a well thought out “work station” on the shoulder pad, there are a myriad of places to attach your nippers, hemostats and all the other stuff we all carry on the water.  Most of these items are easily reached without having to turn the bag around.

The Delta Sling has a slim profile, but can be loaded to the gills if you choose to do so.  Fishpond’s tippet cords and Headgate tippet rollers attach perfectly to the bag in a few different configurations.  Four main compartments are set up to hold all of your fly boxes with room to spare for lunch and a rain jacket.  A Velcro attachment found in the main compartment can be set up for a pistol holster, and the small zippered pouches found below the shoulder strap attachments are perfect for dry shake, fishing license, and the like.

Many sling packs don’t offer a net slide or attachment, and this is where this bag really shines.  A generously wide net slide keeps your net right where you need it, and is perfect for the “big boy” nets anglers tend to haul around these days.  When the net is in the slide and you need to access the bag, simply lifting the net a few inches and rotating it 90 degrees makes getting into the zippered compartments a snap.  Long handled nets as well as short ones stay safely secured and out of the way while actively fishing. 

 A simplified belt strap keeps the sling pack situated in the middle of your back, and can be switched from left to right shoulder configurations for comfort.  Fishpond gains credibility yet again with their “Cyclepond” materials, which are 40% to 100% recycled fishing nets.  The Cylclepond material is great looking and long lasting.  The main compartment allows light through the material, which makes finding what you’re looking for super easy, especially if it’s rolling around in the bottom of the bag. 

The comfort of the Delta Sling is undeniable.  The wide and soft shoulder strap distributes weight evenly, and the bag stays out of the way of casting motions.  The straps offer maximum adjustability for different body types, and ventilation is much better than traditional hip packs, as the bag sits on your hip instead of the middle of your back.  The meshy back panel and foam padding are very comfortable for day-long use.  If you are in the market for a new fishing pack, swing by your local Fishpond dealer and check this bag out.  You’ll like what you see, enjoy the variety of setup options, and look good on the water, too. 

Price:  $149.95

Words and photographs by Scott Spooner

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hunting Fish

Fish get into rhythms, so do humans.  If you grew up hunting, you were probably taught how to stalk, how to sneak.  This translates to our fishing, or at least it should.  I remember my Dad teaching me to walk softly through the woods, with plenty of pauses.  Nothing alerts deer to the presence of humans better than our rhythmic footfalls in the crunchy leaves.  This can apply to our fishing as well.

We all get excited when we find a big fish that is feeding, whether you’ve been casting at rising trout for a lifetime or only a few weeks.  After repeated casts at that fish of the season, we often notice that we “put them off their tea,” so to speak.  The usual reason for this is that we have been casting every six seconds for half an hour, and we have successfully alerted that fish to our presence. In other words, the fish noticed your rhythm.  

If that fish hasn’t sulked away in utter disappointment after busting you, take a break and watch the fish.  Have a snack, add a new fly or fresh tippet.  Stay low, stay relatively still.  When the fish gets back into its feeding rhythm, stay low and make one cast count.  I’ll bet that fish will eat!  Just watching fish is more fun than the actual fishing sometimes. 

As our rivers begin to drop and clear, hunting fish becomes easier but can be challenging.  Sight fishing is very similar to hunting.  You need to stalk, creep, and tiptoe around.  If you can see them clearly, they can usually see you too. You've all heard Kirk Webb preach the gospel of "Getting Your Stork On," and he is right.  Watch that Heron or Crane fishing next time you come upon one.  Slow movements and watching the water with an intense gaze will clue you in on the rhythms of your quarry.  Sooner or later the trout will betray their hiding spot, all you have to do is be still and notice.

Words by Scott Spooner
Photographs courtesy of Danny Frank, Glenn Smith and Scott Spooner
Reprinted from The Aspen TImes

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fishing Progressions

Every angler goes through progressions.  There’s a saying in fishing that at first all you want to do is simply catch a fish.  This is often much harder than it sounds.  When I was growing up, neither of my parents were fishers.  I learned how to fish by reading books from the masters of the sport.  Names like Dave Whitlock, Vince Marinaro, Randall Kaufmann, Lefty Kreh and Ernest Schweibert filled my nightstand.  Wednesdays in Denver meant that I’d run outside to the curb before school to pick up The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News newspapers and read poignant articles on Colorado fishing from Charlie Meyers and Ed Dentry.   Magazines like In-Fisherman, Outdoor Life and Field & Stream were read cover to cover and digested quickly within an hour or two.  Saturday mornings were spent soaking in the visuals and knowledge handed down from televised fishing shows featuring icons like Walkers Cay Chronicles with Flip Pallot and The Hunt for Big Fish with Larry Dahlberg.

There’s something to be said by figuring things out by yourself.  It taught me patience and persistence more than anything; virtues that I feel are in great decline in this day and age of instant gratification. 
Eventually things begin to click a little bit and you start catching a fish or two.  Naturally, part of your progression in fly-fishing is that you’ll next want to catch a lot of fish, and then a big fish.  Not long after that you’ll want to catch lots of big fish.  Finally, you’ll come to the point where you just want to catch fish by how you want to catch the fish.  The last stage, I’m told, is that you want to catch the impossible fish.  Some even go so far as to regress to the point that you just want to watch the fish and are satisfied just sharing space with them. 

For many years, I was “that” guy that had fishing stickers, rod vaults and logos plastered all over my car, house, and seemingly everything that I owned.  I wanted everyone to know that I’m a fly-fisherman.  As my own progressions continue to shift, I have now gone back to “flying under the radar”.  My truck is no longer tattooed with fishing stickers and rod vaults.  In fact, I have even regressed to the point where I suspended my Facebook page a few years ago after being inundated with “look at me” fishing pictures from people I didn’t really know.        


I’m no longer that kid that wants to catch every fish in the river.  I’m slowing down, aging and progressing.  I’d like to think that I’m becoming a wiser angler, and I’m okay with that.  I still fish with those younger twenty and thirty somethings, but know I see my younger self in them, in their own fishing progressions.  As Henry David Thoreau would say, “Many men go fishing all their lives without realizing that it is not fish they are after.”  I wonder where my fishing progressions will take me in 2016?   

Words by Kirk Webb
Photos courtesy of Flip Pallot (G.Loomis), Matt Ippoliti and Hamilton Wallace
Reprinted from The Aspen Times 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Christmas Island Bonefish, Part 1

Taylor Creek has considered Christmas Island our second home since the early 1980's, a place near and dear to many hearts here in the Roaring Fork Valley.  Christmas Island is located 1,300 miles south of Hawaii, part of the Phoenix and Line Islands.  There is only one flight per week that runs between Fiji and Honolulu for travelers originating from the US.  Christmas is the world’s largest coral atoll and the Pacific’s largest bird sanctuary, offering a place to relax to frigate birds, phoenix petrels, boobies, shearwaters, terns, and many other species of far-ranging birds.  Seemingly there is life everywhere you look on Christmas Island, whether it be land and hermit crabs, birds, geckos, and of course, millions of fish!   Located only 150 miles from the equator, the weather is the same in January as it is in July.  Fishing tourism is strongest November through February but possible year-round.  

Christmas Island was first visited by Polynesian explorers as early as 400 A.D., the Spanish in 1537, and was visited by Captain Cook on Christmas Eve, 1777.  Captain Bligh of The Mutiny on Board the HMS Bounty fame was Captain Cook’s first mate on that expedition.  Nuclear tests were done near the island in the 1950s by Great Britain, and again in the 1960s by the United States.  The Captain Cook Hotel, the oldest lodge on the island, is located where a British military base stood.  The Allies occupied Christmas Island during World War II to prevent a Japanese stronghold. The island was never evacuated during these tests, which resulted in sickness and death for soldiers and island residents and their progeny, which is a shameful thing.  Radioactivity on the island now barely registers, higher levels are found in any metropolitan city here in the US.  The environment has truly rebounded, but at one point in time the coral on Christmas Island would turn to dust when touched. 


The population hovers around 8,000 people.  Most are employed harvesting coconuts, in commercial fishing operations, and rotating government jobs available from time to time.  The best occupation is being a fishing guide, of which there around 50.  There are four lodges here, The Captain Cook, Ikari House, The Villages, and Crystal Beach.  The people of Christmas have few needs, happy children, and socializing is the preferred pastime.  There are three major villages on the island; London, Banana, and Poland.  People live simply here, many are Catholic and Protestant converts.   Technology has come a long way in recent years, many now access the web in Internet Cafes, some are even on Facebook!  Vehicles are rare, but there are noticeably more every visit.  Most locals get around on motorcycles and scooters.  Many church-sponsored elementary and high schools are found in the villages, and for higher education, most travel to the capital city of Tarawa, found 2,000 miles to the west. There is much pride here in keeping up traditions and the old ways, despite the world becoming more accessible and smaller every day.


Taylor Creek has always enjoyed staying at the Captain Cook Hotel, a government-run lodge with cinder block hotel rooms and cabanas, far from the bustle of the villages.  Nareau is head guide, and his staff are keen and a pleasure to fish with. Christmas Island is not a fancy destination, which is the allure for most repeat visitors.  There isn’t much to do outside of fishing and bird watching, and there are no fly shops or malls, which is a good thing!  The flora and fauna on the island is quite unique, exploring after a long day of fishing (or taking a day off) will bring many sights and delights.  If you learn a few local Kiribas phrases, big smiles of appreciation will come from the locals.  The Captain Cook has always done a terrific job introducing local customs and culture to visitors, with “luau” nights of roasted pig, fresh lobster, and traditional costumes, songs and dance that are first-rate.  The death-defying knife dance is always a hit. The breakfast and lunch food isn’t anything to get excited about usually, but dinners are generally quite good. The staff at CCH are warm and eager to please, just keep in mind they don't have much to work with.  Relax while in Christmas Island.  Nothing is super organized and there is always a language barrier.  Go with the flow and everything always seems to come together after some initial confusion. 

Most fly fishers visiting the island opt for a mix of truck fishing and skiff fishing, usually three days of each.  Many areas on the island are much easier to reach by truck, such as the Korean Wreck and Lone Palm flat.  Other areas are conveniently reached by skiff or panga, where roads don’t exist or when the tide is high and covering roads.  Most of the famous flats on Christmas Island are reached by boat, such as Go Like Hell, Paris, 9 Mile, Poland Channel, Orvis Flat, and so on.  The amount of flats to choose from is staggering, and the surreal colors and beauty that await you are like nothing else on earth.  Other anglers are specks on the horizon, with the norm being total solitude and no other anglers in sight. You will encounter flats of fine sugary sand, pancake flats surrounded by blue water, areas of taller coral growth, reefs teeming with every kind of fish imaginable, and “blue water” fishing for tuna, wahoo or even billfish.  A nice yellowfin caught on your first day can feed your group (and more) for your whole trip.  You’ll rarely encounter sashimi as fresh as this!  Mantis shrimp are a local delicacy, be sure to let your guide know if you want to try these huge shrimp for dinner one night.  Foster looks pretty stoked to tuck into that tuna!

When it comes to fly fishing options and target species at Christmas Island, the sky is the limit.  Obviously, bonefish are the major attraction, but you have shots at bluefin, golden, black and GIANT trevally, black tip sharks, queenfish, barracuda, triggerfish, milkfish, and the list goes on.  What makes Christmas Island the world’s top bonefish spot is the variety of flats and raw numbers of fish.  In many other bonefish destinations, the fish come and go according to the tides, escaping to deep water when tides are low.  At Christmas, there really is no reason for the bonefish to leave.  Between the myriad flats are thousands of deeper cuts and channels for these fish to take refuge in, so there isn’t much reason for them to roll the dice out in the deeps among the sharks and other predators waiting to make a meal out of them.  The upper picture below has nearly a hundred bonefish in it, can you see them?

For pursuing bones, seven to nine weight rods are the norm.  I enjoy the fight on lighter rods, but there is typically a stiff trade wind on the flats, which can leave you under-gunned when the breeze is blowing the “wrong way” for you.  You typically bring a few extra rods on your fishing days that are left behind on the truck or boat, so experiment when you can and find the right rod weight for you. The Cross Current from G. Loomis, TCR and One rod from Sage, and Scott's formidable S4S get the job done quite nicely.  Ten to twelve weights are a must for throwing at GTs, and be sure they have huge reels with miles of backing on them. Leaving the drag loose is a good tip for the big rod, it eases getting line off quickly and you just tighten down before casting. Tippets up to 100 pounds are not uncommon, especially if you are serious about landing a GT.  Floating lines are all you need for Christmas Island, simply use heavier flies over sinking lines, which are super grabby on the coral bottoms.  You can employ sinking lines off deep drops for blind fishing, but you'll lose a lot of flies that way.  Religiously stretching and dressing your fly lines after fishing is a real difference maker, and a good habit to get in to.  Monofilament bonefish leaders in 10 to 12 pounds are perfect, and fluorocarbon tippets from 12 to 20 pounds are the norm.  I usually put on a fresh leader every day, especially if the leader has that “curl” kinked into it from transport or sitting all night. 

You already know your bonefish flies must be tied sparse if you’ve done your homework on Christmas Island.  If you look at commercially tied Christmas Island Specials, Gotchas and the like, tie yours with about 20% of the material you see on the ones in the bins.  Colors are key here, bring a full range of pearl, pink, rootbeer, green, yellow, and most importantly orange in sizes 4, 6 and 8, tied light, (no weight) medium heavy, (bead chain) and heavy. (brass or lead eyes)  Some guides fire a particular fly after only one refusal!  Otea, one of the best guides at the Captain Cook, likes the fly to be heavy enough to see the plop of the fly entering the water, thusly knowing where it lies on the flat in relation to the fish. Conversely, they can't be so heavy they send shock waves out either.  Some beautifully presented casts send bonefish running, and sloppy ones are sometimes pounced upon... You never know what will happen!  Learning to spot bonefish is always challenging, especially your first few days, but by the end of the trip you will be calling out fish before the guide here and there. Watch your first few fish to the hand closely as they swim away and disappear, it will pay dividends.  Even if your guide can see the bonefish 100 feet away (and they will), wait until the fish is in your casting wheelhouse and you can see it. Many times, if you are patient, the bonefish come to you.

It's all about the strip for bonefish at Christmas Island.  Guides are usually very clear (especially if you are new to bonefishing) about how they want you to retrieve the fly, mimicking the strip they want to see with their free hand.  Some days the fish want it long and slow, other days short and fast, and yet other times sitting still after they initially notice it moving.  Just like streamer fishing for trout, vary the retrieve until the fish react positively.  Tuning in to your guide's body language will pay off for you.  When they walk slow or stop suddenly, you do the same.  When they speed up or start crouching low, follow their lead.  After a few observant hours, you will start to notice when your guide starts getting excited or sees something.  Listen to your guide.  If you follow directions and stay relaxed, they make it seem pretty easy.  It's not.  When they are off with your fishing partner, you feel a lot less fishy.  Until you get the hang of it!  You'll be pretty proud of your sighting and stalking skills by the end of the week.

If targeting bigger bonefish at Christmas Island is your modus operandi, there are a few things to keep in mind.  In my experience, when you are surrounded by six inches of water in every direction, bigger fish are scarce.  Having a deep cut, open water, or a ledge to disappear into seems to comfort big bones, but this isn't a hard and fast rule.  Larger, sexually mature bonefish spawn each and every full moon, and timing your trip to coincide with the full moon (especially the next few days after) pays off bigtime.  Keep in mind the tide gets pretty squirrely during this moon phase, which can present its own set of challenges.  Big fish pair up and show up much more during this period, and despite being harder to feed, your shots are increased exponentially.  Relax if you stick a big bonefish.  The death grip after hook set will get you every time!  Let 'em run and get out of the way.  You can be choosy about which fish to cast to, opting not to thrash the water, and sometimes just watching these curious and furiously fast fish browse the flat can make you laugh out loud.  

Coming soon, Part 2.

Words by Scott Spooner
Photographs courtesy of Scott Spooner, Cameron Scott, Rocky Mangini and the US Navy

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Runoff and High Water Fishing Options

Early summer is an exciting time in the Roaring Fork Valley. The skis are finally hung up and the fly rod seems like the perfect way to get out in the sunshine. The weather is warm and rarely do we see the monsoonal thunderstorms often experienced in July, August and September. Summer has not quite sprung up yet, and our freestone rivers are just beginning to swell with snow melt. Cold, clean runoff pushes last year's river sediment on its journey to Utah and the float guides start betting on which day in June that the first commercial float trip will go out of Taylor Creek.  Everybody gets the itch to trout fish around here and sometimes, that itch to fish can clash with high water on the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers. Its traditionally rafting season and rubber boats are covering the water like some sort of mutant mayfly hatch of “Splash N' Giggles" (what fishing guides call tourist whitewater rafters). But don't be fooled, as our largest hatches of mayflies very well might be mixed in with the rafters.  It might well even be prime time depending on what happens weather-wise between March and May.        
As a kid, I fished Jaffe Park on the Roaring Fork near Aspen all spring long, right on through the high water. In the canyon below Aspen there is great wade fishing opportunities during runoff along the riverbanks and in any slow and soft water that you come across.  Wandering along the banks making short, high-stick drifts can yield fantastic fishing. The fish are all pushed into any slow water pockets of water and 2x tippet tied to a heavy stonefly can be about all you need for a good day of fishing.  In fact, I would venture to say that the most fish I have ever hooked in one day on that stretch was with a client during high water as we waved to rafters who all seemed amazed that we were even fishing.

The lower Roaring Fork has its days in May and June where trout fishing can be excellent, depending on our snowpack. Two summers ago, we had a low water year and June offered up the best month of float fishing that we had all summer long.  Our hatches of green drakes and PMDs decided to make an early appearance that year with the lower and warmer water.  I was in my drift boat every day after the 15th of June, whereas on an average water year, we generally can’t float till early July!  The float fishing at this time of year is completely dependent on snowpack and warm weather. If we have a warmer than usual spring, the water sheds off the mountains quicker and we might even be floating by early June. Similarly, if we have a shallow snow pack (around 80% of average) the peak flow might come in early June as well. In such cases, late June can be "go-go" time for the drake and caddis hatches. When these bugs are out, it tends to be a great time to sling a big, furry dry fly out of a drift boat.

The Fryingpan is a year-round tailwater river where water temperatures stay at a constant 40’f. We are incredibly lucky to have this clear water gem in our own backyard. It provides fishing guides with options for any occasion, under any conditions. Even when the Fryingpan flows at 1,000 cfs, there is still a place to fling mysis shrimp at each other on the Flats where a communal line of anglers fling bobbers at one another. As majestic as it sounds, there are still opportunities to catch a big fish or two. May and June can yield great fishing with large, size 18 midges as well as blue wing olives and a smattering of other bugs; certainly enough action to keep the fish and fisherman interested.  

A few websites to watch for predictions on how the summer might unfold include: The Snotel data site which comes from the Department of Agriculture and NRCS.  This site will tell you on average how much snow is in the mountains. Snow is measured by several different sensors placed all over the river drainages in Colorado.  It is my favorite site to predict what kind of spring we will have. The other site is: from the Roaring Fork Conservancy. This gives you stream gages and the ability to see historical year-to-year data on runoff; helpful info for planning a trip.
Remember, contact your guide about when he or she thinks the Colorado or Roaring Fork rivers will be fishable. Keeping in direct contact with your fishing guide in the Roaring Fork Valley will give you the best insight as to when high water will turn into fishable water.

Taylor Logsdon
Taylor Creek Guide

Photos courtesy of Taylor Logsdon, Kyle Holt and Kevin Sullivan