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


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fly Fishing Film Tour - 2015; Aspen, CO

When it comes to high-quality fly fishing videos and films, we are living in the glory days.  Fishing films have come a long, long way in recent years, due in part to the relative inexpensiveness of high-quality waterproof HD cameras and the sheer numbers of fishing bums out there documenting their exploits.  Producing a compelling fishing video is not an easy undertaking.  Poor quality fishing video abounds on the internet, as anyone can find upon close inspection. 

Coming soon to Aspen is the answer to every bad fishing video you’ve ever endured: The Fly Fishing Film Tour.  F3T brings only the cream of the crop of this year’s fly fishing film offerings in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.  The Wheeler Opera House is hosting this event for the fifth year in a row, and we are pleased to invite you again for a night of laughs, beers and good fishing friends.

Headlining the event is a film entitled “Co2ld Waters,” a movie that could easily appeal to non-angling audiences, let alone fellow fish-heads like ourselves.  The film stars Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Steve Hemkens of Orvis, Tim Romano of Angling Trade, and Todd Tanner of Conservation Hawks.  The film looks at the single biggest threat to the future of angling: Climate Change.  “Breaking Through: The Story of Larry Fivecoats” is a heart wrenching film about Larry Fivecoats, a Vietnam Veteran suffering through PTSD, depression and battling suicidal thoughts.  Then Larry became introduced to Project Healing Waters where flyfishing became an outlet and an escape for him.  In the wake of President Obama’s new foreign policy with Cuba, the film “90 Miles” is about the correlation of fish between the Florida Keys and Cuba; a distance of only 90 miles. Along the way, Will Benson, examines the possibility of working together to protect and shepherd our fisheries.

This tour is the perfect way to get a taste of many different films, all of which will be available soon on DVD at your favorite local fly shop.

F3T is also a terrific venue for viewing fish gallery art, meeting new and old fishing buddies, sampling local brews and experiencing the traveling road show atmosphere of the tour.  This tour is not just for dudes, by the way.  Women made up for nearly a third of last year’s attendees, and female attendance has been rising every year since the inception of F3T.  Tickets are available at the door and discounted tickets can be picked up at Taylor Creek Fly Shops for $13/each.  We hope to see all of you at the Wheeler on the 26th!

What:  Fly Fishing Film Tour
Where:  Wheeler Opera House, 320 East Hyman
When:  Tuesday, March 26, 2015 7pm, Doors open at 6:00pm

Preview some of the film trailers here: F3T Movie Trailers

Plus, there's always some free swag (F3T lids, Buffs, The Stonefly, and more!) thanks to Doug and his crew!  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ski Bummin' and Winter Fly Fishing in Aspen, Colorado

My name is Will Cardamone, and I live to ski and I love to fly fish!
The most ideal day in my mind is one where both of these artistic extensions of myself can be molded together within one amazing day. My life for the past eight years has been filled with intense skiing adventures.
This, however, is why I fly fish. Fly fishing has become a balance for me; in many ways, a meditation that counters my sometimes reckless winter mindset. This balance is quite necessary in this life of mine.
I consider myself to be lucky to have grown up in the mountains and rivers of the Roaring Fork Valley. I now reside in the Skier’s Chalet, an Aspen motel hidden in time from the golden days of ski bumming in these parts. I find myself somewhat lost within a town drastically changed by wealth while trying to find my own true roots in the place where I was born; a place where I might not be able to afford to live if not for the Skier’s Chalet anomaly.
When I think hard about this predicament, I am always grateful for my passions of skiing and fishing. These passions have allowed me to travel the world. I now realize that this amazing valley where I am lucky enough to call home is well worth it.
Here’s an example of why.
It’s a beautiful bluebird day at the end of February and I, along with a few friends — well trusted ski partners — are standing on top of a 4,000-foot vertical line off of West Hayden; a line that has serious consequences if it slides.
We have been skiing together all winter long at this point and trust each other’s instincts well. The line turns out to be absolutely epic, with buttery spring powder all the way down on top of a well-settled spring snowpack.
When we finally reach the bottom, the feeling is exhilarating. High-fives are handed out liberally, and the understanding that the mountains have let us all pass through unscathed is both deep and mutual. We make our way through the lower part of the Conundrum Valley, skating with long strides on the still-frozen, lower-elevation snow, with the effervescent buzz still pumping through our veins. We finally reach the cars, but its only 1:30 p.m.

What else is there to do but go fishing?
By the end of February, the rainbow trout in the Roaring Fork River are getting pumped-up for spawning. The water in the river is warming up more and more every day as the sun rises higher. By now, my buddy Mark and I have thrown on our waders and fishing boots, grabbed our rods and are headed to one of our many favorite spots just downstream from Aspen. After a short walk to the river and a quick re-rig, our lines grace the water and we have doubles on.
Mark lands a beautiful rainbow and myself, a spunky brown. We give each other the bro nod, release our fish and move on.
At this point in the day, it is hard to believe that we were both standing at 13,000 feet in elevation that morning on top off a dream ski line — a line that only came about with lots of planning and hard work — only to be relaxing on the river fishing for trout a few hours later. These are the days that I truly strive for. They only come once in a while, but when everything lines up, it’s like a dream for us. A dream of two amazing days mashed into one.
This is why I live here.
Written by Taylor Creek guide, Will Cardamone
Pictures by Will Cardamone
Will Cardamone is the real deal; an authentic outdoorsman who teaches wilderness survival classes, is an accomplished primitive hunter, a well known sponsored ski bum, and of course, a fly fishing guide.  He is also one of the most humble and caring persons you'll ever run across on the slopes, river or woods.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Full Circle: When The Client Becomes The Guide

Fourteen years ago I made the acquaintance with the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers; guided by the then much younger, slimmer and all-around handsomer, Matt Ippoliti. Only nine years-old and a Tennessee native, I had never seen anything like those Rocky Mountain rivers.  I was not even aware that something so amazing and beautiful even existed. The water was fresh and fast-flowing, not stagnant and dirty, and most importantly, there were trout; wild trout. Unbeknownst to me at the time, those days on the Pan and Fork would mark the beginning of a long and winding pilgrimage back to Colorado, and back to the doors of Taylor Creek Fly Shop.   
To me, a fish-obsessed youngster, Ippoliti was the man. His word was law when we were on the river, and obeying that law meant catching fish. His abilities seemed supernatural to me at the time. He could see a fish from a mile away, always knew when to set the hook, and could answer any fish-related question that I threw at him. What struck me as his most admirable trait though was his unquestionable confidence, even in the face of adversity. If the water was too deep for me to wade, he would drag me by the back of my waders, or throw me on his back if necessary to cross the river. One misstep would mean certain death, but it only added to the thrill for me. For several years thereafter and even to this very day, I can hear Ippoliti’s words echoing out to me when I’m on the river. Even when he’s not within yelling range of me on the river anymore, there are still those little reminders that he gave to me that I remember based solely on our vivid memories together back then; “Mend. Bigger. Bigger! Too big. Again. Same spot”, Matt would say. Truthfully, when I can’t hear his advice in the back of my head, I know I’m doing something right.

Over a decade after first stepping foot in the Roaring Fork Valley, things had finally come full circle. This past May (2014) marked the start of my rookie season as a Taylor Creek guide, and the whole process just seemed surreal to me. My first guide trip came and it very well might’ve been my favorite trip of the summer. Jack was a Floridian and about the same age as me when I first stepped out on the Pan, and he just got it. He was a natural and stood on top of the world from mile one to mile fourteen and back; you could just tell that this kid was meant to be on the river. One fish in particular comes to mind when I think about that day, and no, it wasn't the fishes beastly size or the heart-pounding fight or the spectacular markings displayed on the trout. It was everything leading up to and including that moment when that little rainbow on the lower Pan moved what seemed like twenty-five feet to crush (devour, inhale, obliterate, etc.) that cat-poop stonefly pattern. I don’t even remember what I said at that moment. I think I just uttered some inhuman noise which slightly resembled set-it.   

Hamilton (Hambone) Wallace
Taylor Creek guide
Reprinted from our annual publication, Fly On The Wall 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Knowledge Webb Diaries: Carp Part 2, The Beginning

When I was a young boy, I frequently used to beg and plead my mother to drop me off at a popular local reservoir so that I could go fishing. My amazing mother has always supported my passion for the outdoors and fishing but naturally would worry about me the entire time after she dropped me off, as only parents can do. It wasn't exactly in a bad neighborhood or anything but there were certainly some characters around. Fishing was always the excuse I used to initially get me out of the house but what I really went on to love was all of the exploration that would inevitably ensue.  I was in sixth grade, twelve years old, and I can still vividly remember my most memorable and first carp fishing experience to date.    

The area surrounding the lake was just large enough and just wild enough to hold some pockets of land that were overlooked by seemingly everyone but me.  Access was a little rough-and-tough due to the overgrown shrubbery, and because of that, many of the ponds surrounding the reservoir were, and still are, well hidden.  (I visited one of them again a few years ago to find it just as I’d last seen it, much to my pleasure)  The reservoir has a popular swim beach surrounded by heavy vegetation along its outer edge.  In periods of high water, a small depression deep in the heavily shrouded fortress of vines and brush would flood, thus creating during draw-down periods a small pond.  The small piece of water was maybe only fifteen yards in width and twenty yards in length; a puddle really. It was here in this jungle pond that I saw my first glimpses of truly big and tangible fish, laid-up in shallow water, surrounded in mystery and impossible for me to catch.

I tried everything that a studious, fishing-obsessed twelve year old could think of to catch these coffin sized fish. At the suggestion of a local bait shop, I tried a berry flavored doughbait, plus the usual worms, spinners, jigs, crankbaits, and even some flies. Nothing worked. It wasn't until I intuitively learned to hunt and stalk these fish that I finally began to catch them. Nowadays, this is what my friends and I call storking. That is, waiting patiently and moving silently with the cunning and speed of a stork waiting for its next meal to swim by, slip up and make a mistake. It’s a game that’s 99% mental and 1% physical, where the more you know about your adversary, the better your outcome and the more frequently that the odds will tip in your favor. And to be perfectly honest, there’s never, ever, a substitute for time spent in the field with your quarry.   

All of this was long before the internet, where access to knowledge of fly fishing for carp was seemingly impossible to find in print, and what you did find was often a very short blurb saying something along the lines of, little is known of fly fishing for carp but their diets include crayfish, minnows, insects and algae among others, where anglers occasionally land them as a bi-catch. You get the idea; virgin territory.  John Gierach has said of this before too, but it’s true. There were some random Dave Whitlock writings here and there (which are phenomenal by the way), but that was really it. This is before Brad Befus, Barry Reynolds and John Berryman (also famed Colorado carp chasers) came out with their popular book, Carp on the Fly in 1997. Fly fishing for carp I imagine to be like tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys back in the 50's, 60's and 70's when guys were still figuring it all out and creating a path for the rest of us to follow. It pleases me greatly to know that there are still opportunities like this to be had in fly fishing.  

Anyways, where was I? Right. There were about half a dozen of these large carp swimming around in a pond that could barely contain them all. It was like watching enormous arapaima in remote Amazon jungle ponds; very Jeremy Wade type shit for a kid of that age. With persistence, a little luck, and my new-found storking skills, I finally managed to hook into one of these large, ghostly fish.

While eating a hot and sweating peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I noticed the fish sipping small piles of milkweed seeds that would occasionally blow off from the surrounding canopy. Being the observant little angler that I was, I jeri-rigged a pod of the seeds to a small baitholder hook using monofilament fishing line as string to fashion them onto my hook. Keep in mind that I was already tying flies at this point, so it wasn't really too out of line for me. I would watch the fish swim in predictable laps to where all I had to do was to time them right and then dangle my “fly” carefully in front of them. I remember the take being slow and deliberate, much like the tarpon that eat fish scraps at Bud n Mary’s marina in Islamorada, Florida. The fish was nearly three feet long and threw massive sprays of water everywhere, making the pond look like a raging ocean of angered waves.

At that time, as an impressionable, young pre-teen, this fish seemed twice as big and was in fact nearly as large as I was. I really do remember it like it just happened yesterday. I can still picture myself holding that sea-monster in my visibly shaking hands, covered in carp slime, fueled with adrenaline, admiring its strength, beauty and aura that surrounded it. I could feel the fishes spirit, our lives forever connected and I never even had to think twice about letting it go (which was very rare for me at that time). We were mutual adversary’s who over time became mutual friends that studied, learned and respected much from each other. To this day, I still have those same feelings when I hold a carp in my still shaking and wet hands.

I wanted to starting writing The Knowledge Webb Diaries because of the lack of authenticity found in cyberspace surrounding fly fishing, and fly fishing for carp. There are those that "fish" for carp, those who don't, and then there are those that carp for fish(ing).

The Knowledge Webb Diaries is written and photographed by Kirk Webb
This is the second in a multi-part series about carp, carp fishing and whatever else I'm inspired by.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Knowledge Webb Diaries: Carp Part 1

It’s hard for me to explain to people exactly why I love pursuing carp on the fly.  It's hard enough just explaining to people why I fly fish period for Christ's sake, let alone for carp.  You're taking a hard fish to catch and then purposely making it even harder. Those split-second visuals of a large, well-earned fish taking your fly, followed by a deeply bent rod, singing reel and line-burnt fingers keep me up thinking, designing, planning and dreaming at night.  You either get it, or you don't.  Chances are, those who don’t get it, simply haven’t done it yet, or didn't have the patience to solve the many riddles that carp present.  And for the few that do do it and take it seriously, are often heavily infatuated with it.   I'm not trying to swing you over to the dark side of fly fishing and make you a carp convert or anything.  In fact, I secretly keep hope that all of this new carp hype in fly fishing will subside.   More water and more fish for me, right?  I'm just simply trying to say that I enjoy the challenge of the carp.

If you took the best sporting qualities of every game fish, and put them back together to create the ultimate fish, you'd probably end up with a carp.  Carp are currently being deemed as the next possible "saving grace" in the fly fishing media. Then again, they've said that too of the largemouth bass years ago, and of saltwater angling, but the facts are that fly fishing has always been driven by trout.  That’s unfortunate.  I enjoy the act of fishing no matter what I’m fishing for.

One of the coolest aspects of carp fishing in my opinion is that even though some chase them around from time to time, they're still not popular enough for people to spend money and travel to catch them like say, trout, Atlantic salmon, or bonefish.  I think it’s safe to say that I don’t foresee many of our clients wanting to go carp fishing in July or August when the green drakes, PMDs and caddis are hatching on our fabled, local trout streams (notice I said clients not guides).  This leaves carp fly anglers like myself with no shortage of solitude and a large array of “unspoiled” fishing locations.  Maybe I should've said untapped or underutilized, as many carp fisheries are not necessarily unspoiled if you know what I mean.  They get fished alright, just that it's usually by the odd rancher or local kid drowning some worms, looking to put a little meat on the table. Plus, I don't guide much anymore which leaves me and my non-fishing guide fishing partners (guides are busy working) free-range on our carp water.  I say our carp water like we own it, which is only natural when you've fished an area for so long that you  feel entitlement towards it.  On the very rare occasion that I do bump into another fly angler on our carp water, I usually end up knowing the angler, even when I'm over a hundred miles from home.  If you think that fly fishing is a subculture, then being a carp fly fisherman is like being involved in Freemasonry.

People are always amazed to learn that I spend the majority of my year chasing these alarmingly beautiful and rewarding fish, especially since I live smack-dab in the middle of a trout fishing Mecca.  But it really is quite simple for me; they are big fish that demand -but are yet willing to eat- a well presented fly, and often feed in shallow water, making them visible and accessible to the willing freshwater angler. Add to this the fact that they are an incredibly shy and skittish fish; one whose entire body has been dubbed as "one big sensory organ" by my friend and veracious carp-hound, Thomas Clennon.  And they pull hard; damn hard.  It’s the inland working man’s redfish, complete with tarpon and bonefish like characteristics.  If you're anything like me and can't afford to go on expensive saltwater fishing trips often, carping helps fill the void (minus the palm trees, mangroves and bikinis of course).  Fly fishing for carp will not only make you a better trout fly angler, but a better angler period.  That in itself should be incentive enough to make you want to learn how to fly fish for this masculine fish.

The Knowledge Webb Diaries is written and photographed by Kirk Webb
This is the first in a multi-part series about carp, carp fishing and whatever else I'm inspired by.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Pandemonium in the Roaring Fork Valley

What is your favorite season here in the Roaring Fork Valley?  We always talk about “shoulder seasons,” but I suspect most of Taylor Creek’s staff enjoys fall the most.  It’s nice to take a deep breath after a very hectic guide season, enjoy rivers devoid of tourists, and still have the opportunity to fish summer insects with fall "crowds."  Streamer fishing consumes most of us through September and October, with healthy numbers of green drakes, pmds, bwos and caddis adding to the fly fisher’s menu too. 

One of best attributes of the Fryingpan is its cold, and I mean cold water.  The average water temperature coming from the deeps of Ruedi Reservoir is 37 degrees, which prolongs our mayfly hatches a month and even more than the rest of the state enjoys.  It isn’t uncommon to fish green drakes and pale morning duns well into October here in the Valley.  The dry fly fishing gets tougher as the year rolls along, so be sure to use light fluorocarbon tippets, cover a lot of water, and most importantly, present those dries downstream and in an erratic, motion-filled way.  Forget those perfect, drag-free drifts and bump that bug around.

This is also the time to explore everything the Colorado High Country has to offer.  There are more alpine lakes and small streams here than you could fish in five lifetimes, and fall really is the best time to fish them, in my opinion.  Most people in the High Country are focused on hunting, leaving most waters wide open for exploration.  Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, there are a myriad of “half tank trips” to check out, including the Grand Mesa, the Flat Tops, and so many more that it’s sometimes hard to choose.  I find it best to simply point the truck in a general direction and see where the weekend takes me.  Then again, I’m single and childless, which certainly helps. 

Most people I know would rather catch one fish on a streamer than a dozen on nymphs, and this time of year it is as good as it ever gets.  And it’s damn good.  Browns around here (and pretty much everywhere) get very aggressive in the fall, as spawning behaviors and instincts take over.  We are already seeing bigger browns up and down the Valley pairing up and preparing their beds, and when you compound those behaviors with shortening days and cooler temperatures, its game on!  Tim Heng’s venerable Autumn Splendor, a Taylor Creek original and favorite of fly fishers the world over, is really our go-to streamer here in the Valley.  But anyone who considers themselves a true “streamer fisherman” knows they need to carry a palate of colors in olive, black, rust, olive, yellow and natural, as well as a good mix of heavy and light flies.  A good mix of small, medium and large articulated streamers in these colors can save your day too, and give you endless hours of fun on your vise.  Spinning up streamers is a ton of fun, and keeps you out of trouble, too.

The colors are breathtaking, the crowds are relatively nonexistent, the sun keeps on shining, and the fishing just keeps getting better and better.  I don’t know what else you can ask for.  If you don’t live here in the Roaring Fork Valley, it’s time to come check out our scene.  If you’re a local yokel, I’m probably preaching to the choir.  Either way, be sure to get out there and enjoy our simply spectacular fall fishing.  You won’t regret it!

Words by Scott Spooner
Photographs courtesy of Scott Spooner and Christian Hill