Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Fishmas To All...


It's been several days now and I still can't get to sleep at night. I feel like a kid going to bed on Christmas Eve — tossing, turning, anxiously waiting for the morning light. I haven't felt like this since I was a much younger man, in my teens and early 20s.

Back then I was still going through my progressions as a fly fisher and at that time, all I wanted to do was travel around the Rocky Mountain West and chase big trout. More often than not, that meant fishing tailwater streams like the Green, San Juan, Bighorn, North Platte, South Platte, Blue and Taylor rivers. Somehow or another, though, my journeys always brought me back to the Fryingpan River in Basalt.

Throughout the ‘80s and up until the mid-90s, the Fryingpan produced fish of epic sizes and proportions, including a massive rainbow trout estimated at around 26 pounds that adorns the wall at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt. Fish of more than 10 pounds were somewhat common, with very few specimens reaching that magic 20-pound mark. To most anglers, a 5-pound trout is exceedingly large, a 10-pound trout is huge, a 15-pound fish is the fish of a lifetime and any trout of more than 20 pounds is seemingly unthinkable without having to travel to Alaska, Russia or Tiera del Fuego.

As a youth corrupted with big-fish-on-the-fly syndrome, I was fortunate to catch many big trout, of 10 pounds or more, including a very select few fish that tipped the scales at 15 to 25 pounds. Now, as an older and wiser angler, I prefer to fish for the visuals and generally dry fly, streamer or sight-nymph fish. On mysis shrimp tailwaters like the Fryingpan, Blue and Taylor rivers, rainbow trout account for the vast majority of big fish that are caught every year. Large brown trout are uncommon on these rivers and why that is, I don't really know.
On Monday, with temperatures in the single digits, I decided to take a drive up the Fryingpan and go fishing for a few hours. Mile after mile, pool after pool, the entire river was devoid of anglers. I'm no longer the guy that fishes the “Toilet Bowl” pool immediately below the dam, but when the opportunity presented itself with an empty river, I thought what the hell and gave it a go. Twenty minutes into my adventure and several fish later, I hooked the king of the river — a 20-pound-plus brown trout.
I've played this big fish scenario in my dreams several times; how to do everything right and nothing wrong. Never before has my focus been so intense. I thought about every move, every action and reaction, and was lucky enough to not only hook this beast but land it by myself on an empty Fryingpan River. The fly that fooled the beast was a classic, Tim Heng's mysis shrimp in a size 16. The size of the fish will go down in Fryingpan and Colorado lore as one of the largest brown trout ever landed with an estimated weight of between 21 and 23 pounds. What makes this fish special is the girth at 24-plus inches plus, and a length of 29-plus inches.
With some incredibly large fish to my name at an early age, I thought for sure that I had already caught the biggest brown trout of my career, only to once again experience and hold in my frigid and shaking hands the fish and experience of a lifetime. In the time since, I've still been laying in bed sleep deprived, restless, reliving my fish and answering the now frequent emails, phone calls and social media “friend requests.” The now-viral pictures of the fish spread like wildfire over the web this past week and I am ultimately just thankful to admire briefly and release this wonderful fish back into the Fryingpan River so another angler can have the same opportunity that I had.
Merry Fishmas.
Written by Kirk Webb, Taylor Creek Fly Shops
Photos courtesy of Kirk Webb

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cutthroat Tails and Happy Trails

Each day more leaves turn yellow and red: deciduous gullies which curve up through timber, rocky fields of scree, whole mountainsides. The high country brush turns ten different shades of red, yellow, and brown, dusted by early season snow storms. I’ve been striking out for places found on maps or not found at all. More than once stuck on the long trail home at dusk.

All this putting one foot in front of the other is due to creating a list of mountain lakes and streams each spring I really want to explore, others I want to return to. And for various reasons (usually work) summer never fails to thwart sincere efforts to go to most of these places. So that by mid-September, I always end up with three or four high country lakes sitting on the back burner like beetle kill: they begin to consume me. Ten miles in? Forty mile loops? Late night drives and early morning ascents. Cutting out of work early? Showing up to work in the morning ragged and smelling like fish grime? Typical. Count me in.

I like to think that all this high country fishing isn’t without its deeper merits. For example take the brook trout vs. the cutthroat trout. Almost every high country lake and stream in Colorado holds one or the other (in very few instances both, and in very, very few instances something else entirely). The Eastern Brook Trout is a tasty, over populating, stunted, bully of a fish. Sure, there is an occasional back beaver pond which holds a 13”-15” good as gold and almost as valuable lunker, but it is easy to say this fish needs to go. Into the frying pan. As often as possible.

The cutthroat trout on the other hand, there is something about the cutthroat. There is something about their slow rise, their bright red underbellies, and their ability to grow large in small tight corridors of stream that captures my imagination. Not to mention in most cases they are native to the streams and lakes where they are found.

“Where are you going?” I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, sweat dripping off my nose, breath rising into the cold morning air. Where I am always going: to meet the fall head on.


Blessed Be

Poach the brook trout
in milk and pepper,
grains of salt on sunrise skin,

that the cutthroat
might have some chance
at redemption.

Cameron Scott, guide, author, poet, and former counter-boy, Taylor Creek Fly Shop
Photo's courtesy of Kirk Webb

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Once Upon A Time In Mexico...

The Dean of the Roaring Fork Valley: Tim Heng

Stats Box:

Started fly fishing: 1964.

Reason: Reading Outdoor Life.

First Rod: Cane rod from Sears & Roebuck.

First Fish on the Fly: Bluegill.

Official Age of Addiction: 17.

John Gierach in “Even Brook Trout Get the Blues,” describes his experience floating the Roaring Fork as a “Montana-style, fast paced, big-water assault where you get one cast per spot, and then your line is in the air as you look downstream for the next place that ought to hold a fish…. It was one of those rare times when something just short of telepathy was going on between the guide and the sport…. There were moments when we were functioning as a single unit with two oars, two fly rods and three heads.” This was 1992, the guide, Tim Heng.

Once, affectionately known as “Curly,” more has changed since Tim arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley than the deepening smile lines etched at the corners of his eyes. In 1981, Tim started Roaring Fork Anglers, a fly shop and guide service out of Glenwood Springs. In 1985 Tim sold Roaring Fork Anglers and continued working there until 1990 when he was approached to manage Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt by Bill Fitzsimmons.

Tim describes the early eighties as a relatively quiet time in the valley—there were only two guide services floating the Roaring Fork and Colorado. Talking with Tim I began wondering about how good the fishing must have been with so few boats on the river, but Tim adamantly shook his head saying that it has only gotten better over the years with increasing trout populations.

As some of you might have heard, Tim has been semi-retired for the past few years now. That is, he and his wife Cheryl pack up the house and travel from October through May to Mexico. I asked Tim if this is a retirement and he said “It’s a semi-retirement. The chance for me to fish my &^%! off for the next five months.” If there was ever any doubt about how passionate Tim is about fly fishing, even after a lifetime of it, let it come to rest.

Tim and Cheryl are planning to work their way down the Pacific Mainland, cruising through places like Mazatlan, Kino Bay, and San Carlos with kayak and fly rods in tow. “Not a lot of fly fishing has been done along that coast,” says Tim with a knowing grin. He’s planning on catching his fair share of Sierra Mackerel and hopefully some Rooster Fish before heading states-side in the spring to continue his fly fishing exodus before joining us at Taylor Creek in June.

Reflecting so far on his life-time of fly fishing, Tim says it is “the constantly changing environment” of fly fishing he appreciates most. “Whether it is your favorite river you’ve fished hundreds of times and you suddenly see it in a different light, or you find yourself in a new location, there is no question,” says Tim, “Roderick Haig-Brown might have said it as well as anyone: fish live in beautiful places. And I’m not entirely sure if it is the fish that brings you to the place, or the place that brings you to the fish.”

Back in late December 2008, as Kirk and I were helping Tim move some of the books from his fly fishing study in his house to the shop, I was admiring pictures, cards, and old awards and began thinking about how much of an effect Tim has had on fly fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley. “Oh, I don’t know,” Tim replied when I asked him. “I mean you don’t want to be a wallflower, you want to get out there and make things happen.”

Written by Cameron Scott, fly fishing guide/poet, Taylor Creek Fly Shop
Reprinted from TC's annual publication, Fly On the Wall, 2008

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

90 Degrees and Heating Up

After many guide trips anglers often ask how the guide(s) were rigging their indicator systems, often mentioning that they were using a “Ninety degree rig”. More often than not, many anglers actually utilize this configuration on there own without realizing it. The 90 degree set up is one of the most effective nymph configurations available to anglers. In this article we are going to explain the benefits of a 90 degree rig and why we fish it, how to set it up and finally how to adjust it.

When we say that anglers actually use this system on their own without realizing it, we are referring to anglers that utilize Dry-Dropper or Hopper-Dropper-Dropper setups. The 90 degree term is derived from the leader extending out to the fly\indicator and then the nymphs being situated directly beneath the fly\indicator, thus forming a 90 degree angle.

At some point, the effectiveness and merits of the dry-dropper or hopper- dropper were desired for use in attaining greater depths, which required much more weight! When tried with a Hopper, the system simply could not support the amount of weight required for deeper depths. Some common on the water sense suggested that the guide\angler simply replace the Hopper with a highly buoyant strike indicator in order to support the increased amount of weight in order to get down deeper. The Ninety degree setup pictured here shows how the nymphs truly sit directly under the indicator.

There are three primary reasons many prefer the 90 degree setup. The first one is when your indicator is in the seam, you know your flies are right where you want them! The second aspect is that since a tapered leader is omitted, your flies get down much faster! Lastly, this configuration has the overall setup in more direct contact with the indicator which makes each bite trigger the indicator more quickly resulting in faster and surer hook set.

Getting down fast counts! The thin diameter of several sections of tippet provides less resistance and sinks more readily than a tapered leader. A tapered leader’s diameter and stiffness in the butt section provides much more resistance as the weight is trying to pull it down. Also, the stiffness of the butt prevents your flies from getting directly beneath your indicator.

The traditional nymph rig configured with a tapered leader (pictured above) depicts how the flies will layout past the indicator instead of directly beneath it. Now, each of these configurations have their places and there is no right or wrong. Understanding the benefits and limitations of each can allow an angler a more well rounded bag of tricks to adjust under angling conditions. The ninety degree setup is best used in heavy water, pocket water, really deep pools, from rafts or drift boat where getting your flies down and or down quickly makes all the difference.

Since we’ve discussed the positives of the 90 degree rig, let’s discuss some of the commonly interpreted drawbacks. The two most common hindrances of the ninety degree configuration are the extra steps it takes to lengthen or shorten the setup. The second is casting this setup. This system does not use a tapered leader and because the indicator remains in a fixed position, a few extra knots are required to shorten or lengthen the rig. For many the thought of an extra knot or two can be a deal sealer, however for those willing to try it the rewards of this system greatly outweighs the time the extra knot or two takes. The casting hindrances revolve around the fact that since a tapered leader is omitted this rig can be more tangle prone. The stiff butt of tapered leader assists in minimizing tangles to a slight degree. Casting is what truly creates or minimizes tangles! The simple solution of sticking with the roll cast will minimize the risk of tangling with ANY nymph setup. Anyone trying to cast an indicator with split shot followed by two flies with a traditional overhead cast is asking to tangle! Simply roll cast any nymph set up and you’ll discover that you’ll spend more time fishing than untangling you nymph rig!

The set up of this system is not difficult. You will need several spools of tippet (preferably Flourocarbon), an indicator with an “O” Ring or Grommet. Our favorite indicator has become the Thing-a-ma-bobber because it is ultra sensitive, its’ zero maintenance (no additional floatant needed), it doesn’t freeze in the winter and the grommet is a great attachment point. Split shot and flies! You will attach your indicator to a stout butt section about three feet from your fly line with an improved clinch knot. We have discovered that if you use a standard clinch it can slip and pull free. It can be quite comical to witness your indicator swimming randomly around your favorite pool after the butt section knot slipped and the fish has swam off with your entire setup, indicator and all. It reminds me of the scene from Jaws while they track the shark by the “Barrels” harpooned to the beast! They go under then pop back up! After you have attached the indicator to Butt section you will connect (again with an Improved Clinch) a section (generally) of 0X or 1X tippet to the indicator. The length of section “A” is determined by how long you need the setup to be. Section “B” is simply a tapering transition, usually about a foot to eighteen inches. This enables you to connect section “B” to “C” (section “C” will also be a foot to eighteen inches) which is connected to your fly. Hence you can follow the following formula; start with 0X connect to 2X to 4X to your lead fly. The tippet between your lead fly and your dropper should then be 4X or smaller. You can also go 1X to 3X to 5X to your lead fly and out to your dropper. So if you begin with three feet of 0X a foot or so of 2X and a foot or so of 4X to your fly, your set up is roughly 4 feet from your split shot and 5 feet from you lead fly. To shorten simply cut the 0X at the indicator cut down and re-tie with an improved clinch. To lengthen simply cut the 0X at the indicator, splice the additional length of 0X to the existing tippet and retie to the indicator with an improved clinch.

Those who really enjoy or fish nymphs a lot will certainly benefit from trying this configuration. It does without question require a little more time to set up and a few extra knots to lengthen and shorten. However in tight confines where getting your flies down quickly or when casting from a drifting boat when you need to get your shots in quickly this setup really shines. Give it try to see if it works for you.

Text and photos by Will Sands, Manager Taylor Creek Fly Shop

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Serratella's - The Toughest Hatch

Picture this. It's August, you're wading knee deep in the Frying Pan near Mile Marker 6 during a hot afternoon. You're anxious to catch some fish. You hurriedly throw on your waders and boots and grab your fanny pack and rod. You've already made the commitment to yourself that there's not going to be any bait fishing (nymphing) done today. You sit down on the bank observing Mother Nature at her finest. Fish are rising in good numbers on the shady side of the far bank. Being that it's August you feel confident while tying on a #12 Green Drake Sparkledun trailed by a #16 CDC Thorax PMD on 6X fluorocarbon tippet. You know the drill here. These fish are tough, but seem to be rising with reckless abandon as they occasionally even launch themselves completely out of the water. This shouldn't be too hard.

You make your approach from upstream and get to within 40 feet of the pod of rising fish being careful not to spook them. You Dry-Shake your flies and begin getting some line out. You cast 10 feet ahead of the lead rising fish, which seems to be the largest in this street gang. Your drift was about a foot and a half off of where you intended it to be, but your flies are close enough. As your flies sail beyond the fish without so much as even a look, you cast again. This time your flies land exactly where you wanted them to. Your drift is drag free yet again, but no result. Not even so much as a half-hearted look. This time you step your tippet down to 7X. Still, not even a look. Okay, you've been through this chess match many times before. You try a Drake Cripple trailed by a PMD No Hackle. Still nothing. You go through your bag of tricks and try surface emergers, sunken spinners, floating nymphs, ants, 8X tippet, reach casts, downstream drifts and nothing produces. The fish continue to rise. But to what?

You pull out your seine and look at the water with scrutinizing detail. You finally notice some tiny #22 Blue Wing Olive's going down the river mixed in with the significantly larger Drakes and PMD's. Finally, the clue to the riddle. Luckily you have some BWO patterns stashed in your pack and knot on a #22 BWO No Hackle followed by a #22 CDC Winged Baetis. Your next few drifts are spot-on. You finally end up getting a few looks, which is encouraging, but nonetheless you are still skunked and mythed by what is happening. One more cast. You half-heartedly make a cast, your fly swings, and at the end of your drift, BAM, fish on! What the heck just happened, and why?

Welcome to the wonderful world of the infamous Frying Pan Serratella. Serratella's are more commonly well known as a small western dark Hendrickson. They occur in fishable numbers in very select waters including the Frying Pan, Yellowstone and the Henry's Fork of the Snake Rivers. Many entomologists and expert anglers have noted though, that our Serratellas differ from those in other waters. The Serratellas of the Frying Pan are an adaptation that are unique to only the Frying Pan. Upon inspection they appear to be a Blue Wing Olive or Baetis specie of sorts. They are small in size and generally range in hook sizes from #20's through #26's. Much like a Baetis, they have an olive body and short dun colored wings. What makes them unique on the Frying Pan is that they are flightless and hermaphroditic. They hold their egg sack between their wings and scurry along the rivers surface trying to dislodge the egg sack.

As legend has it, upon construction of Ruedi Reservoir and Dam, these insects had to either adapt or become extinct. With the cold river temperatures created by the bottom release reservoir, these insects found numerous ways to survive and adapt to the new conditions. One was to become asexual, another flightless, and yet another being how they deposit their egg sack. Why these insects adapted in such differing ways is beyond any of us. Numerous anglers have stumbled across these unique insects and thought to have discovered a new insect species. Rumors are told of these anglers trying to name this "new" insect after themselves. For example, serratella kirkwebbis, or at that time, ephemerella kirkwebbis. Only in recent years has this insect been classified as a serratella, as it used to be classified as an ephemerella, which is the same family as a Pale Morning Dun. It's common for most amateurs to recognize this insect as a PMD or Red Quill. The defining characteristic as a nymph is the pale dorsal stripe that extends the length its back. Perhaps the easiest way to decipher the serratella from an ephemerella (pmd) is that serratellas lack the lateral fringe of fine hairs along their tails. As an adult insect, the Frying Pan serratella ranges in color from brownish olive to a mahogany brown. The insects that we find on the Frying Pan will range in hook size from #20's to #28's. More often than not, my experience tells me from seine samples that the nymphs are often larger than the duns. An average size nymph is typically about a #20-22, while the duns range in size from #22-24. Though durations and times of this hatch vary from year to year, we typically see them hatch from July though September, during the afternoon hours of noon to three pm. The dog days of August are often the best time to encounter these insects.

According to Frying Pan legend, Roy Palm, the Frying Pan serratella is a hybridized insect. What that hybridization may be or consist of is unknown but probably happened 10 million years ago. Roy notes that these insects are limited to the Frying Pan due to the fact that they can't fly and deposit eggs elsewhere. He also mentions that the serratellas are found throughout the river and not limited to just the middle river, though the middle river certainly has the heaviest hatches and draws the most attention from anglers. I've personally seined decent numbers of serratella nymphs literally right behind the shop. Entomologist, Dr. George Edmunds of the University of Utah was working diligently on classifying this insect years ago, though has since passed away. Dr. Edmunds was so enamored with this insect that he continued to study them well into his 80's. Having studied mayflies from Madagascar, New Guinea and all over the Rocky Mountain West, he suspected that the Serratellas might mate when in their nymphal form. Though many species of serratellas exist, no one has been able to pinpoint this exact specie. Some anglers continue to believe that it's not an entirely new insect but rather just an adaptation. I've never been able to really get a straight answer about these insects from anyone. If you know something we don't, by all means let us know.

Fishing through a serratella hatch baffles many anglers including those who are "well versed" in the ways of the trout. These insects carry somewhat of a cult-like following. Those who chase this hatch are widely regarded as outcasts in the fly fishing community, much like how the salmonfly hatch and its roadies used to be. This small following of Frying Pan serratella anglers has developed techniques and flies that are crucial if not mandatory for success. First and foremost, the biggest key is to fish the beginning and tail end of the hatch when the numbers of insects are less and fish can become more focused and feed in more defined lanes, in addition to your flies not becoming lost amongst the masses. When fishing duns or adults, keep in mind that these critters literally scurry along on the waters surface, thus skating your patterns are needed to induce takes. Think along the same lines as skating caddis adults during spring hatches. I personally prefer casting up and across from the fish, throwing in downstream mend, then continuously shaking my rod tip laterally in short bursts. Some of my favorite commercially available dry flies include the Perfect Baetis, Sprout Baetis and the CDC Wing Baetis. Taylor Creek manager, Will Sands, often recounts a story of how his girlfriend, Nicole, and he were fishing through a serratella hatch a few years ago on the Pan. Nicole just started fly fishing at the time, and was drifting some small bwo's dries over pods of rising fish. She started slamming fish, when no one else on the river could. It took Will a little while to figure it out. After all, he himself was somewhat struggling that day. Finally he was able to put two and two together and noticed that Nicole was not achieving a dead drift as she had been taught, but rather was "accidently" swinging her flies to the fish. This is exactly the behavior that the fish were obviously keying in on. I cannot reiterate the importance of this method enough.

If you are a fly tier the world is your oyster for this hatch as no pattern I've tried or seen has been able to consistently fool fish during this hatch. The body needs to be short and stocky (like a Trico). I like using a brown thread underbody with an olive turkey biot overbody. This color combo seems to match the insects best. If you are dubbing the body try a mix of mahogany and light olive superfine dubbing (1 part mahogany to 4 parts light olive). As far as tailing materials go, both microfibbets and spade hackle fibers are useful materials as well as trailing shucks made of Z-lon or Antron. I'm still partial to opt for a trailing shuck versus a true tail, as many of these insects become stillborn or crippled. The wings on the adults are often held near horizontal instead of vertical. Think along the lines of "jet wings" versus spent "airplane wings" that are cocked upwards but not paired or matching. Remember, an egg sack is held between their wings, thus the reason why their wings are not paired together like other mayflies. These wings are most often light dun colored and are two to three times the length of the body. The well defined egg sack is an obnoxious chartreuse or lime-green in color. As a fly tier I feel that though the fish likely do not see this egg sack, I still like to incorporate into my fly designs for a touch of realism as well as a visual reference for me to visually see my fly on the waters surface. Your flies should be low-riding imitations that float well to enable you to skitter them when being fished. Emerger patterns are generally not of large importance, but when fish key in on this stage general blue wing olive imitations fish well. When imitating the serratella nymph, be sure that your patterns include the pale cream colored dorsal stipe. The Poxyback Baetis tied in black or brown is a proven winner, as are most Pheasant Tail type patterns.

This article is a direct result of numerous customers and clients that have been asking for information on this unique little insect. Many are enamored by the infamous serratella, and many more have been beaten down and downright dumbfounded by this hatch and want to improve their odds out on the river. Gary, Herb, Mike and Mike, Walter, and the rest of the cast of characters, this one is for you. We hope that this article sheds some insight to the complexities of what myself and most others consider the toughest hatch. This hatch is truly a spectacle to behold and fish through. It's damn hard, but extremely rewarding.

Written by Kirk Webb
Taylor Creek Fly Shops

Photos courtesy of Kirk Webb, George Edmunds and Roy Palm

Friday, June 22, 2012

Row vs Wade - A Wade Guide's Perspective

Row vs. Wade – A wade guides perspective

Getting in the water to cast to fish has always been special to me. I simply enjoy being in the river, feeling a part of it, letting the current, the surrounding terrains, and the fish challenge my day.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, all of our rivers can be fished on foot. Parts of the valley do hold some private land sections, but there are more public access points than can be covered in an entire year of fishing. With four rivers and high country streams to discover, fishing the Roaring Fork Valley on foot is my only way to go.

By wade fishing, an angler can experience a lot more water in a single day. The occasional bout of bad weather, a section of the river that is fishing slow; all of this can be avoided or remedied by simply moving up or down valley, whether on foot or by car. I like being mobile.

The obstacles to the wade fisherman are also what make the experience incredibly fun. A wade angler’s presentation to the fish is always being attacked by currents. Fish may be feeding under tree limbs or behind hard to reach rocks and obstructions. Trees and bushes may defend against your back cast. Fishing with these obstacles and spending a little time figuring them out is incredibly rewarding. Finally, getting that fish you worked under the tree limb for twenty minutes is not only exhilarating but it teaches you how to become a better angler at the same time.

Fishing improves with the luxury of time. Every inch of a pool can be systematically searched and every rock can be explored in the effort to locate the most or the biggest fish. This style of fishing can only be done on foot, and it can also be timed to the best time of the day and location of fish. Stalking up behind a group of rising fish is exciting! Making the right decisions to fool as many as possible ... unbeatable!

For me wading is simply the best. Beautiful scenery and the ability to access multiple rivers is something special that this valley offers. The Colorado and Roaring Fork hold trout that are violent and sometimes difficult to land. The Frying Pan has its educated, hard to fool fish that we have to face with light tippets. Our valley has everything for the wade angler on any given day of the year. Dry fly fishing as the snow falls around you or a Roaring Fork rainbow jumping in the summer setting sun can be found here. If you love wade fishing, this valley will exhaust you in what it offers.

Thomas Clennon – Head Wade Guide, Taylor Creek Fly Shops
Photos courtesy of Collin Szewczyk and Moldy Chum.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Row vs. Wade - A float guides perspective

The Roaring Fork Valley is famous for its skiing, hiking, biking and amazing mountain vistas. It is also a place where avid fly fishers gather to ply our famous waters in search of wild trout. Our valley contains varying types of water. The Fryingpan is our most famous river; a quaint tailwater that runs through one of the most picturesque valleys in the world. There are a variety of access points in the public reaches with high concentrations of fish being found throughout the river. The Fryingpan is only accessible by wade fishing as the river is too small to float. Other sections of water that can only be accessed by wading are the Crystal River near Carbondale, and the upper stretch of the Roaring Fork from Aspen to the upper Woody Creek Bridge. Both of these offer the chance of prolific fishing in spectacular settings. We also have many high country creeks and lakes available for the angler who would like to add a hike to their day of fishing. These waters too, are only available to the wading angler.

The Roaring Fork Valley is also famous for its “big rivers”. The Roaring Fork River flows from high on Independence Pass to its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. We break this river down into four sections, the high country, which is from Independence Pass to Aspen, the upper, which is from the town of Aspen to Basalt, the middle from Basalt to Carbondale and the lower from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs. Our other big river is the mighty Colorado. The stretch we fish is from Glenwood Springs twenty five miles downstream to the town of Rifle. Although these areas of the river do contain a lot of private land, there are many public accesses allowing for the angler on foot ample opportunity for some gold medal class fishing. Even with ample water for the masses on foot, fishing these stretches while floating in a drift boat or raft is unparalleled.

With numerous put in and take outs on both the Roaring Fork and the Colorado, you could float for a week and never see the same stretch of water. We (guides) pick the piece of water that we are going to float by taking into consideration time of year, water flows, insect activity and the weather. Good communication with your guide and fly shop can help you understand why we choose one spot over another. Some people have their favorite stretch in mind and that is okay too. There is something very peaceful about wading your favorite section of river or working a pod of risers in a given pool. But, floating opens up opportunities that cannot be had while fishing on foot.

One of the main advantages is that we can access miles of private water. While we cannot anchor or get out of the boat in many of these spots, we do get to fish through this water and on some occasions, when the water is very low, use our oars to circle and recycle an area giving us numerous shots at otherwise very unpressured fishing holes. Another benefit of float fishing is the ever changing scenery and water as you float different sections of our rivers. A trip down the Roaring Fork from Basalt to Carbondale is a completely different experience than Carbondale to Glenwood for example. The next day, a trip on the lower Colorado can make you feel like you went to a whole other world. One other positive of being in a boat is that you do not have to wade. Wading on slippery, unstable rocks can be a big challenge for many, and can make some anglers uncomfortable. The big rivers are especially tough to wade. While float fishing is an excellent way to access incredible fishing, it also includes the adventure of being in a whitewater situation. Rapids up to class 3+ can put a little more excitement into a great day of fly fishing. Rowing these boats is a skill that all of the guides at Taylor Creek take to heart. All of our guides have extensive training and a great day of fishing and the safety of all are taken into consideration every time out. Guiding in a drift boat is the ultimate in multi tasking for a fishing guide.

All types of fly fishing from dry flies, streamers and traditional nymphing techniques can be done from a boat. The one most outstanding advantage of floating is the amount of water you can cover on a given day. Floats range from seven to fourteen miles in length. Just think about all the spots you get to throw a fly in that much river! We change our methods and techniques throughout the season to conform to water levels, biology in the river and weather conditions. If you have always been a “wade fisher”, try a float sometime. It very well may just show you fly fishing in a whole new light. There have been many occasions when I have seen an angler improve their fishing techniques dramatically due to some of the new challenges float fishing offers. From beginners to experts, a day in a boat on one of our rivers will not soon be forgotten.

Regardless of whether you wade or float fish, having as much fun as humanly possible while on the water is the most important thing. Here is to more great fishing in 2012!

Kyle Holt – Head Guide, Taylor Creek Fly Shops
Photo's courtesy of Brian Bailey, Kyle Holt and Kirk Webb

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cursing Mountain Whitefish

Pay attention trout snobs! Throughout the seasons there are many a seasoned angler that slander the Mountain Whitefish. In the eyes of these prejudice anglers who elevate themselves above one of mother natures creatures, we have borne witness to the whitefish’ seemingly amusing retaliation. The local angler and western trout guide accustomed to sharing a day catching trout and mixing in a few whities enjoys the bend in the rod and realizes that cursing this creature will only yield greater nuances.

Although the whitefish does lack the coloration that seems for most anglers one of several justifications to believe trout are superior. Other justifications include the fact that they are not as acrobatic in their battles when hooked and are discriminated for their smaller mouths. Held below the trout for feeding off the bottom, the whitefish does indeed eat dries throughout much of the west. It just seems that the Colorado cousins prefer to feed along the bottom. Overall, the whitie seems to shake off these slanderous remarks. However, it should not go unmentioned that the whitefish does not completely ignore these remarks, especially when it seems to be carried on to an unnecessary degree.

There are many local anglers and guides that can bear witness to some of the whitefish’s fantastic displays of evening the score. To sourly curse the whitie to extent can oftentimes invite their wrath that in most instances could have been easily avoided by keeping quiet. It seems as if the Whitefish, by no small coincidence grows tired of the verbal non-sense strewn by the prejudice angler and mischievously indulges in a variety of angler insults. Quite commonly witnessed and very predictable when among an angler or anglers bashing the whitie, we all know how that day will end up for those individuals. How the whities senses and singles out the individual within the group is hard to determine. Quite possibly the negativity irritates their lateral line or maybe they simply grow tired of hearing their species being slandered.

Without hesitation the whitie spreads the word downstream and unselfishly they eat, foul themselves and intercept the prejudice angler’s flies. Wrapping rigs around bottom hazards, cutting in front of trout to intercept this angler’s flies and often foul hooking themselves. Only relinquishing a scale to keep such an angler wondering what was on the end of their line before the hook pulled free. With the world class whitefish that reach 3-5lbs, our local rivers leave the angler guessing whether that was one huge trout! Interestingly, it needs to be mentioned that the anglers that do not slander the whitie will catch vast numbers of trout and the largest ones of the day. Since the whities are pre-occupied with the foul mouthed angler’s flies, their cohorts reel in trout all day. The whitefish separates and distinctively distinguishes the non prejudice angler’s flies from the prejudice angler’s flies. At the end of the day with few trout landed this superior angler, frustrated from hooking so many whitefish has the worst to come. Now one must endure the heckling and joking that follows off river over cocktails. This incidence will re-surface many times over when fish stories arise, promising not to escape this angler! Comments like the whitie catcher king and Joe can’t catch a trout will resonate in this angler’s mind for awhile. If only one was quiet and humble.

It is known that even hard core trout snobs have been seen smiling with a whitie on the end of their line on slow days. This smile will quickly vanish and be denied upon approach or when questioned by a fellow angler. Just remember that the whitefish is a worthy adversary and can bring great joy to kids, beginning anglers and to anyone having a tough day. They live amongst many trout and can be encountered throughout the west, so be careful of how and where you comment upon this fine species. Thankfully they can’t perceive your thoughts.

Written by Will Sands - Taylor Creek Fly Shops
Photo courtesy of Kirk Webb - Taylor Creek Fly Shops

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Live the Dream

Top Ten Survival Tips for a Broke Fly Fishing Guide Living in an Expensive Place.

Aspen. The mere whispering of the word congers up images of Paris Hilton, Man-Furs,
Range Rovers and million dollar homes. And for the most part, that would be 100 %
accurate. But Aspen, like any mountain resort town, is also filled with mountains and rivers that
provide great outdoor activities. Many wealthy people enjoy that - as a matter of fact, most
people enjoy that. Unfortunately, that “access” to the great outdoors, indirectly costs

You have to find a creative way to live in one of the most expensive places in the U.S..
Common sense told me that since I loved the outdoors and mastering legendary
trout waters like the Frying Pan, Roaring Fork and the Colorado, becoming a professional fly
fishing guide for a living was an obvious choice. But we guides are dealt a difficult set of

First card: Getting on the shop roster is not always an easy task, even if you do happen to be
one of the best anglers in the valley. I have been a guide with Taylor Creek Fly Shop in
Basalt for the last 18+ years and I only landed it because a) I got a good referral from a
buddy that was a guide there, b) I spent so much money there on new rods, flies
and every other thing I needed to "fish properly" (besides, I felt it gave me a bit of credibility) and
c) I was able to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk”.

Second card: You need money both for a place to live and so you can eat. This lifestyle can
be especially difficult if you are on the bottom of the guide ladder. It’s only when the
senior guides are not available when you get the trip. Being the low man on
the totem pole, you have to hope for a last minute booked trip or wait by the
phone all day hoping you’re next on the list to call. The lack of consistent last minute
trips or senior guides calling in sick or being on vacation, can lead to financial stress and
inconsistent diet. The only known consistency for a guide is understanding that
the last minute bookers are not typically the seasoned fishermen you hope for. And chances
are, these people will have recently watched "The Movie" and now they want their
spoiled 5 year old daughter and disinterested 14 year old son to experience what
catching a 20 inch rainbow is like - "just like the one Brad Pitt caught in A River Runs
Through It" while yelling across the river, “You haven’t caught one yet?” only ten minutes after
hitting the water.

But I digress. What I am trying to say is that guides need money. So I’d
like to share with you my ten survival tips on how to live, eat and breathe fly fishing as a
professional guide when you are broke and have to make it in an expensive area.

Tip # 1: Be nice, polite and humble. Nothing will keep you from getting trips or moving
up the ranks more than arrogance. Chances are, you are not the greatest fisherman
alive and you didn't really "land a hundred" or “get the biggest cut-bow in the Pan”. The fact
is, the guides in "real" fly shops are ALL great fisherman. The best thing you can do is
go fishing with the senior guides and prove you know how to fish. But most
importantly, be cool about it! This will pay off in spades. You are more likely to be the
first one asked to accompany the senior guide on group trips. That equals no bottom of
the totem pole which means more money.
Tip #2: Top Ramen is not all that bad. Really. Throw in some fresh vegetables and soy sauce
and you’re golden.

Tip #3: Having a truck is helpful. It provides a comfortable ride for your clients as well as
a great place to sleep. The forest service provides camp areas for up to 10 days or
more. Not only is it a practical mode of transportation and lodging, but that it just makes
for a good story when you decide to give up guiding in order to finally use your Political
Science degree.

Tip # 4: Beer is not food. Once you get a couple of trips and you make your first tip
above and beyond your guide fee, try not to turn that extra money into a series of
cocktails for the boys. You need that money. It won't be there in a few months. (Note to
the veteran guides: hang around the new guides, they’re rookie enough to always be
buying! By doing so, you can keep your tips.)

Tip #5: Network and always carry business cards. This is a must. Anybody on the river
that isn't already a fishing guide, wants to be. That instantly makes you the most envied
and the coolest person they know. Use that to your advantage. Your perceived
coolness, especially if you make the client think they caught that brown all on their own,
equated to referrals, shop status and money. Don't be a slacker trout bum, it’s still a
business. Always be selling (yourself)!

Tip #6: Remember, the rich are different. Embrace it. It is likely that a fleet of Range
Rovers show up and they all step out with enough gear to stock a new shop. That
doesn't mean a thing. The fish don't care and nor should you. They're people - just like
you (but with a lot more money). There’s no need to suck up. Treat them like you want to be
treated and, trust me, you will be rewarded by either a great tip or a new regular repeat client.

Tip# 7: Practice the three “T's” - Teach, Therapy, and Tolerance. Being a great guide is
not how good of a fisherman you are (although it helps), it's more about how well you
understand your client. I did a trip one year with a client that I had guided a few times
before. This trip she wanted to fish a little bit, but what she really wanted to do was to
learn how to drive a stick shift. So our day was planned out where we fished for an hour,
teach her how to drive my stick shifted-car for three hours, then fish again for an hour.
She was a client for years. She booked consistently and always tipped well but what I
found the most rewarding was never knowing exactly what we were going to do the day
I was fishing with her.

Tip#8: Don't sleep with any of your clients (see fishing above). Nothing good can come
from this. Worst of all, you have turned a paying client into a non-paying client with
“benefits”. And if it turns bad, like it always will, and their husband or wife finds out, there
goes all of their referred client friends and any potential for new referrals from them.

Tip# 9: Have another skill. It can be anything from tuning skis to bartending to instructing
snowboarders to practicing law. Also, being a trust funder, salt-water fly guide, or a chef,
will work. It is not only important to have a plan, but as a fly guide in a touristic,
seasonal, resort destination, with unpredictable run-off and conditions, you must also have a
Plan B, and C all the way up to Z. Sure, some people can and do make it as a full time guide,
but only if you are willing to budget. Unfortunately, most guides are fiscally inept and easily led
astray by being surrounded by pro-deals and new gear in the shop - there is always that new
reel or new 9-weight rod you might need for that Christmas Island trip you’ve been saving up for. This one I know from experience.

Tip # 10: If you really love fly-fishing, you love the river and everything it offers. Remember that
you weren't born an expert fly fisherman and your clients want to learn from you. You’re on the
right path. It’s not hard to survive if you’re smart about it.

So if your ambition is to become a wealthy, full-time fly fishing guide, traveling around
the globe and living the lifestyle, go for it. The fact is, I live that life style. I may not wear
a Man-Fur or have enough money to date Paris Hilton, but I am rich in
experience and I have made a bank load of friends. The only cash I have is a CD in
my truck of Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison Blues. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Glenn Smith

Fly Fishing Guide – Taylor Creek Fly Shop

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Fringes of the Roaring Fork Valley

The Roaring Fork. The Frying Pan. The Colorado. The Crystal. In the world famous Roaring Fork Valley, there are so many places to fish, and ways to fish, that it is an embarrassment of riches wherever you turn.

Long days floating the Fork throwing Drakes down into ‘Bonedale, or stalking the wily fish of the ‘Pan, squinting to try and ascertain what invisible bug, that I never heard of, they are sipping.

A foggy early morning on the Colorado, and the mist coming off the hot seeps in downtown Glenwood as you head downstream throwing streamers.

With all of the great fishing in the Valley, why would you ever look for more? Well, though you don’t have to, its there. Because having the good fortune to travel to the valley often and because many of my favorite fishermen guide in the valley, over the years I have learned that some of the best of the valley is a bit off the beaten trail.

Just downstream of Glenwood Springs and right along some of the best trout floats are many calm and serene backwaters. Looking at most of these, a trained eye would right away notice the lack of current and typical trout structure. Keep looking beyond the seam and into the bay, and you might see a carp tailing. And there’s more. Those calmer backwaters can be really fun to fish, and though you usually see a few carp, you can also catch bass, both large and smallmouth, the occasional big trout, chubs and as you go farther downstream, even the occasional pike and walleye.

These multi-species floats are fun, different, and offer another view of the river that you often don’t see when solely targeting trout. The more savvy guides prefer a well placed Clouser Swimming Nymph for these sight fishing opportunities, and outspoken oracle of all things, guide Gifford Maytham argues forcefully the virtues of a skillfully thrown #8 Halfback for these finned alternatives.

Another really overshadowed fishing opportunity in the valley is the small stream fishing. From streams closer to Aspen such as Castle Creek and the uppermost Roaring Fork, to Snowmass Creek and the upper Frying Pan. All of these fisheries can offer one thing that can be difficult to find on some of the other, more celebrated stretches…….solitude.

A very long time ago, during a summer soccer tournament, I wandered down and into Castle Creek only to find the biggest Mayflies I had ever seen hatching and fair to good size fish of four different species going berserk for them. Later that weekend, I went again to the high country and caught a nineteen inch brown on a dry fly in uppermost Snowmass Creek! Throughout the higher creeks of the Roaring Fork Valley, a topo map, a two or a three weight and a box or two of flies is all one needs to find lots of willing fish and sometimes a big surprise.

The last offbeat fishing pursuit that the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer is actually not quite in the Valley. Downstream from Glenwood Springs and then up into the western rim of the Colorado River Canyon are two reservoirs that offer up a cornucopia of different species and profound challenges. Rifle and Harvey Gap reservoirs are both full of bass, perch, crappie, trout and walleye. But if you ask some of the guides in the Valley what they are doing on their days off, they will tell you that it is the pike in these two reservoirs that they are pursuing. Long thought of as unsophisticated savages that will clobber anything around them, the pike in these two lakes will test even the most advanced fly anglers trying to convince a following fish to eat in the clear water. Talk to five guides in the Valley, and you will get some real disparity as to what it takes to make these up to four foot fish bite. You hear that a red and yellow streamer is all you need. Others say it is a windy and rainy spring day, and yet others still say that it is a perfect cast and presentation with a clear tip and black bunny in the warming mornings of April and May. I have caught great fish with all of these techniques, but never very many. These are some of the toughest and biggest fish that this state has to offer, and they will never come easy, and that is why we keep going back.

Written by Frank Smethurst, Flyfishing Sales Rep and Movie Star
Photos courtesy of Kirk Webb