High Country Angler | Fall 2022

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NOTHING BUT NET

by Landon Mayer

Slough Creek by Brian LaRue

PROTECTING HOME WATERS

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FALL 2022 VOLUME 19 • ISSUE 4

MAGAZINE CONTENTS 08

NOTHING BUT NET

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SLOUGH CREEK

24 32 36 38 44 46 48 52 58 64

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BY LANDON MAYER BY BRIAN LA RUE

BACKCOUNTRY GEAR REVIEW BY BRIAN LA RUE

RAREWATERS INTERVIEW BY HCA STAFF

COLORADO TU RENDESVOUS 2022 BY COLORADO TU STAFF

PROTECTING HOME WATERS BY DUNCAN ROSE

VERSA PACK REVIEW BY MARK SHULMAN

BIRD ON A WIRE

BY HAYDEN MELSOP

SOUTH FORK OF THE SNAKE RIVER BY PETER STITCHER

INTERVIEW WITH BRET BISHOP BY COLORADO TU STAFF

TROUTFEST PHOTO ESSAY BY COLORADO TU STAFF

THE LAST CAST

BY JOHN NICKUM

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HCA Staff P U B LISHER S

J ac k Tallo n & Frank M ar tin

C O NTENT C ONSU LTANT L ando n M ayer

EDITO R IAL

Frank M ar t i n, M anagi ng Editor f rank@ hc am agaz ine.co m Landon Mayer, Editorial Consultant Ruthie Mar tin, Editor

ADV ER TISING

B r i an L a R ue, S ales & M a r keting b r ian@ hc am agaz i ne.co m D i rec t : ( 303) 502- 4019 M ar k Shulm an, Ad S ales Cell: ( 303) 668- 2591 m ar k@ hc am agaz i ne.co m

DESIG N

David M ar tin, Creative Direc tor & Graphic D esigner aisthetadesign.com

P HOTO G RAP HY

Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond

STAF F WRITER S

Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Joel Evans, David Nickum, John Nickum, Peter Stitcher Copyright 2017, High Country Angler, a division of High Country Publications, LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinting of any content or photos without expressed written consent of publisher is prohibited. Published four (4) times per year. To add your shop or business to our distribution list, contact Frank Martin at frank@hcamagazine.com. D i str i buted by H i gh Countr y Publi cati ons, L LC 730 Popes Valley D r i ve Colorad o Spr i ngs, Colorad o 809 1 9 FA X 719-593-0040 Published in cooperation with Colorado Trout Unlimited 1536 Wynkoop Street, Suite 320 Denver, CO 80202 www.coloradotu.org

ON THE COVER: RIVER MAYER AND DAVID TREADWELL

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NOTHING BUT NET

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by Landon Mayer


M

y first few trips as a guide were some of the most nerve-wracking yet exciting experiences I’ve ever had as an angler. Knowing that my client has a fish on and that it’s up to me to help guide them through the fiber and land the fish successfully, always kept me on my toes. Sharing that experience with my son River and his first guy trips at age 12 brought me back to those beginning days myself. And it inspired me to share some of the tips that I—and now my son—teach others….helping the final results be “nothing but net.” The traditional method for fighting fish has been to use the flexing of the fly rod to absorb the brunt of the pressure. The angler held a nearly vertical rod, forcing a severe arc into the rod. While this method works fine with average-sized trout, it is ineffective for fighting larger, more powerful fish. Trout over 5 pounds are simply too strong to fight this way, and the excessive, constant pressure on the line will probably dislodge the fly, and break the tippet or knots. The techniques described in this chapter use the mechanical advantages and the added control gained by using your arm as an extension of the rod to

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more accurately adjust the pressure put on the equipment and fish. Perhaps the toughest challenge in fly fishing is landing a trout over 10 pounds on a small fly and a light tippet. Because the weight of the fish alone usually exceeds the breaking strength of the tippet material, the trick is to use fish-fighting strategies that allow you to bring the fish to the net without applying so much pressure that the line breaks or the hook is dislodged. It doesn’t help that the excitement of catching what may be the largest trout you’ve ever hooked sends adrenaline coursing through your body. Large fish are most often lost right at the beginning or the end of the fight—during the first ten seconds or so after being hooked, or as they are brought in close to the net. When such a fish is first hooked, it usually makes a series of strong headshakes followed by a long run. You need to be prepared and react.

The Hook Set The hook set is a very important step in successfully fighting large trout. The end result of landing or

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losing the fish can oftentimes be determined by how effectively you can set the hook. It has become very common amongst anglers to set the hook in a straight up horizontal position when the trout eats. This standard technique can be used effectively on averagesized trout, but it often results in losing a true trophy. The first approach to get a proper hook set is to perfect the timing and the power of the set. Regarding timing, you want to wait until you know the trout has taken your fly before setting, and allow the fish time to open and close its large jaws on the fly. Due to the size of these giants, the time from when the trout opens its mouth and closes it is increased compared to smaller fish. And by setting the hook too soon, you can pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth without even penetrating the trout’s jaw. Along with timing, the application of power is an important step. By applying too much power, you will reach the breaking strength of your leader or tippet resulting in losing the fish. Or by not applying enough www.HCAezine.com

power on the set, you can lose the fish later in the fight when your fly dislodges from the fish’s mouth. To effectively set the hook, you need to apply a smooth acceleration of power at the right time. This is accomplished by lifting the rod until you feel an ample amount of tension on your rod. To perform a proper lift, you want to raise your arm and rod at the same time, keeping the rod in a slightly horizontal and vertical position. This allows you to let the butt section of the rod apply the power and tension on the set. From this position you will also have the advantage to react quickly to the fish’s movements after you set the hook, allowing you to slightly drop your rod, cushioning the line when the fish attempts to get away. When you reach the point in the set when you feel tension and have a proper bend in your rod, keep your rod in that same position. This will allow you to maintain enough pressure on the fish. To ensure the proper placement of your fly, you want to apply your set at a downstream angle. This Fall 2022 • High Country Angler

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will place the fly at the corner of the fish’s jaw, around the maxillary bone. This keeps the fly and the tippet away from the hardest part of the jaw which is often times lined with small sharp teeth. When setting at a downstream angle, your rod should be at a 45- degree angle. This angle allows you to maintain constant tension on the fish.

What to Expect after the Set is Made When the set is first made, the fish will normally react by make large head shakes (beneath the water surface or at the surface of the water), followed by an aggressive run. Whenever you feel the thumping head shakes from the fish, it is attempting to dislodge the fly. Oftentimes the trout’s best defense is to attempt to shake the fly free after being hooked, and then attempt a bolting run to escape from the area where it was hooked. When faced with the challenge of reacting to these aggressive movements of the fish, you want to make sure you keep your hand away from the line and reel when you first hook up. This will prevent any chances of the line or reel being stopped, when the fish is pulling line out.

Rod Positioning/Adjustments One advantage you can have in fighting large trout is the ability to make an adjustment with the placement of your rod. What this will do for you is allow you to compensate for each powerful move the fish makes in the fight. Oftentimes the size, weight, and strength of the fish is enough to break your tippet, but being able to adjust when too much tension is applied will keep you from breaking off your trophy. The best way to keep a consistent amount of tension on the fish is to slightly raise and lower your arm and the rod tip in time with the headshakes, so that the rod tip flexes for each shake. Lower the rod tip only about one foot with each shake, and then return it to the original position as soon as possible. The rod should appear to be an extension of your arm. This takes pressure off of the knots in the line, lessens the pressure on the fly so it doesn’t dislodge, and continues to wear down the fish by forcing it to pull against the pressure of the rod and line. www.HCAezine.com

When the fish makes a strong run away from you, immediately drop your arm and rod to a nearly horizontal position, with the rod tip pointing at a spot just above the fish. Although many anglers have been taught to raise the rod tip—and that you never point the rod at the fish—my experience has shown that the drag system of a decent reel is better than you are at maintaining even line tension during a strong run. Let the reel do its job, and the flexing of the slightly raised rod tip will act as a cushion. As soon as the fish slows or stops its run, move your rod to a more vertical position to take up the slack in the line. This will allow the rod tip to act as a shock absorber to counteract any sharp tugs on the line during the fight. This dampening effect will decrease the chances of breaking your tippet, but be ready to lower the rod again if the fish begins another run. During the fight there will be periods of time when the fish holds in certain areas or moves toward you in the water. When this occurs, slowly and gradually lower your rod tip, quickly gain as much line as you can, then return your rod to the original position. But always maintain pressure on the fish as you retrieve line. This allows you to keep the distance of line from you to the fish as short as possible. By being able to adjust and react to the large trout’s movements during the fight, you will be able to apply maximum pressure on the fish at the right time. This helps you to tire the fish out faster, and keeps you in control of the fight.

Walking the Dog (Staying Close to the Action) To fight big trout on light tippets, you must have a solid understanding of your equipment and its capabilities, and how all the various pieces of equipment are used to overcome and land a big fish. You want to be able to apply as much leverage and tension as possible on the fish without breaking it off. Leverage is the pressure you apply to the fish to try to control its direction, and tension is the amount of stress that you place on the leader, line, and rod. Whenever possible, hold your rod directly above the fish and remain as close to the fish as you can. This usually results in you traveling up stream and down with the fish, taking in line whenever possible in an Fall 2022 • High Country Angler

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attempt to keep your rod tip virtually above the fish. To throw the fish off balance, change rod position Maintaining a short line—preferably one to three rod frequently between having the tip up and applying lengths between you and the fish—will decrease the side pressure on the fish. These changes in direction of chances of the trout taking control of the fight. leverage will help disorient the fish, which oftentimes When a big fish runs some distance away from causes it to come to the surface and shake its head, you, it decreases your ability to put upward or side- which tends to tire it out faster. If you do everything ways leverage on it. Plus, by staying close, you avoid right, your big trout will start to show signs of fatigue the additional tension created by the drag of the line and may even start to roll in the water as a last attempt through the water, and you can use your rod to steer to break free. the line or the fish out of danger should your line wrap around an object in the river. Large trout will often run toward a structure in the water in an attempt to dislodge the fly. By staying close you can use your rod tip to help steer the Getting a large trout in the net can be the hardest fish around or away from the structure that the fish is part of the process. At the end of the fight, when the near. This will allow you to determine when to apply fish detects you or the net in the water, it will give a downstream pressure and move the fish away from final burst. Don’t get overly anxious and try to drag the structure. If the fish is reluctant to move at the ap- the fish back towards you or apply undue pressure on plication of pressure, it is not enough to move the fish. the line to keep the fish from running. Impatience at Pull some line off your reel and throw a roll cast over this stage can be disastrous. the object in the river. What this will do is apply tenYou want to be in control of the fight until the fish sion from the opposite side of the river and often dis- is safely into the net, so don’t be hurried and never try orient the fish to believing the leverage has been re- to net a fish in fast current. Watch how the fish acts to versed to another direction. This will cause the fish to determine if it is ready; if you attempt to net a fish too move away from the pressure and become free from soon, you stand a good chance of breaking your tippet the object in the water. Once the fish moves again, reel with the net itself. If a fish rolls on the surface or can that extra line back and continue the fight. Your goal no longer hold its position in the current and starts to is to wear down the fish and prevent it from getting swim downstream, you’re in business. its head down and using its full strength to fight you. Always net the fish head-first. This ensures that To generate leverage on a fish, you need to use any last burst of energy will propel the fish into the good rod placement, which helps you to direct the net, not away from it. It is important that you not get fish to a good spot where you can net it. Of course, overly anxious and try to net the fish too early, or tail the trout will try to get to fast, turbulent water where first. Stay calm, and continue to use and practice these it can use its strength to the maximum. Here are some techniques, and you’ll be landing more and larger tricks that will help you stay in control, and maintain trout. leverage on a big fish. As soon as possible, steer the fish into shallower and slower moving, water, by applying sideways— About Landon and slightly downstream—leverage with the rod. Some anglers like to Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado guide and author of lay the rod parallel to the water to several books. His newest book, Guide Flies: Easy-to-Tie exert side pressure, but I prefer to hold the rod at a 45-degree angle, Patterns for Tough Trout, can be purchased on his website which keeps the trout’s head up. By at www.landonmayerflyfishing.com. You can follow Landon forcing the trout downstream, you on Instagram at @landonmayerflyfishing. can fight the fish, not the current it’s swimming in.

The Landing

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SLOUGH CREEK’S THIRD MEADOW 16

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by Brian La Rue

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just got back from an amazing trip to Slough Creek’s Third Meadow in Yellowstone. I cheated, and joined a good friend, backcountry guide and Sunrise Pack Station owner Shane, along with my dad and son, and a new couple friend of ours, who also are fly fishing enthusiasts-- and we saddled horses and rode into the backcountry in style. It was epic! We started the trip in Thermopolis at Two Rivers Inn for a night, and enjoyed a round of golf before turning in. Rising early, we drove through Cody to Canyon Campground for one night. We chose to do it this way as the North and Northeast entrances to Yellowstone were still closed, and since we needed to meet our guide at the trailhead at 11 AM for a full horseback ride of about 9 miles, we figured we’d like to camp close the night before, grab a nice breakfast, and take our time getting to the rendezvous point in the morning. Trouble is, when you originally planned for two nights in Thermopolis at the Inn and three nights with an outfitter who takes care of everything—tent camping on our own was an afterthought, so you might forget a thing or two, but would you believe I FORGOT

SLEEPING BAGS! That meant a pretty cold night in the canyon campground, but we did have air mats in our Kelty tents. Sorry, Pops! It was chilly, but a warm breakfast at the Canyon Cafeteria hit the spot the next morning. Soon we were on our way to the Tower/Slough Creek turnoff, where at the time, only folks with backcountry reservations were allowed to proceed. We showed Shane’s permit proving we were booked on a pack trip along Slough Creek, and the friendly rangers waved us through. I admit, we thought the trip would be cancelled, but with this exclusive access, we felt like VIPS! The road was still gated/closed beyond Slough, but you could turn into the Slough Campground dirt road and that’s where Slough’s lower meadow came into focus. The rain-on-snow event/runoff flood waters had left numerous, large trees strewn along its banks, high above the flows that we could see. Trees, logs, debris— you name it—it was piled along the high, freshly cut banks. The raw power it took to push those massive trees must have been a sight to see. We didn’t fish here, but there were a few guys out. There was no evidence of a fish die-off, but I imagine a few trout got left high

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and dry in the sagebrush. We met Shane, his daughter Abbey, who would be our camp cook, and Catherine, who would handle wrangler duties. Soon we met a couple we would be enjoying the trip with, Jaime and Allison from San Antonio. Shane methodically went over all the basics, cautions, covering all the bases as we were assigned horses. The girls got our flyfishing gear, camera gear and clothing loaded into packs, and then onto the mules. We were introduced to our horses—my son Barrett was on Dandy, I was on Yeller, and my dad Dan had Curly. Soon we were blazing the trail behind Shane as he led our packtrain, pulling four mules himself, followed by us five riders, and Abbey and Catherine with the other mule team with the rest of the food and gear. Slough Creek’s first meadow showed signs of a few trees moved around and a few freshly cut high walls, but otherwise, not much different than when I fished it August 2021. We continued up the trail with glimpses of the river, before the trail rises into the forest, and you lose sight of the river. After a short time, we started a bit of

a descent and came into sight of the second meadow. Feeder creeks along the way all showed signs of high water with debris lining their banks as they made their way to the valley floor. Sand hill cranes, a couple deer, a bald eagle, and tons of bison greeted us as we made our way to the ford spot—a new spot as the old river crossing had been deteriorating over the years and the flood event probably didn’t help. After crossing the creek, we rode the horses along a sloping foothill as we continued towards our goal, a camp above the Third Meadow. We rode into a small, forested valley and dismounted as Shane and his team unsaddled the horses, setup the kitchen, pitched our tents and began making us feel at home in the backcountry. A steak dinner appeared out of thin air, and we decided to get to the fishing in the morning. Day 1 Fishing started with a bang. I’ve been wanting to test some new Umpqua beetles like the Hi Vis Foam Beetle in basic black and orange, the Point Guard Beetle, but I couldn’t pass up using a few of the last remaining Chaos Hoppers I still had from previous Slough outings. I set my dad up with a purple Chubby and aimed

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him at a deeper rifle that looked fishy. He hadn’t fly fished in 20+ years but could still throw a decent bug. Nothing! The rifle looked amazing but after he fished it, a bit later I tried and even walked through it—didn’t even spook a fish later in the day. My son and I went about 50 yards downriver, crossed, and we targeted a root ball in the middle of the river at the head of the start of a pool. I made one cast—nothing—then another up high in front of the root ball…. nope. Then a fish came up slashing at a natural bug behind the sunken tree root, and I said, “Okay buddy… try to pass up this hopper!” I cast to his spot about 10 feet upriver from where he fed. My Chaos Hopper drifted about six feet, and that nice Yellowstone cutty made another quick slash at my bug this time, pulling it under, and I set the hook. He was a solid 18 to 19 inches, a very thick trout, that put up a fight, taking line off my reel. I was fishing 3X and he had me thinking at one point, “Dang, I better loosen my drag, or this guy might just break off.” Two good runs and he finally came to the net. I admired him for a second and quickly unhooked him and sent him on his way. Next, I walked back upriver to check on my dad. That’s when my son, who had slid into my spot, hooked another nice cutty on the Hi Vis Beetle. His fish was equally as nice, but managed to get off in the shallows before I could run back down Slough in hopes of netting it for him. I don’t envy you guides out there. The rest of the day was filled with hopper grabs mostly in deeper, slow bends. The fish were very skittish, so a stealthy approach was a necessity—very little wading. Later, I talked to Shane back at the campfire; he said he noticed www.HCAezine.com

that a few of the deeper pools in the Third Meadow— maybe three or four of them—had noticeably been cut off, as higher flows re-established a straight path in a few spots. We didn’t notice a reduction in fish numbers, just a few deep pools not being fed by the creek anymore. Anyone who has ever studied the lifecycle a stream or river knows that this is just part of the process of a river creating oxbows, etc. Later we enjoyed another stellar dinner prepared by Abbey-- chicken this evening with all the fixings.

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The wind had blown us off the river in the early after- was one of those evenings where the rain finally subnoon, but knowing we would be pampered with an- sided, and it was time for dinner. Fishing would’ve other great meal, we were looking forward to relaxing been good to match the hatch that evening, but we and dining in the outdoors with friends. were ready for dinner and Shane’s signature desserts. Day 2 Fishing found us in a bit of a drizzle and Our tents, air mats and sleeping bags were callwindstorm. It was raining off and on, and it really put ing us for another good night’s sleep. The view from the kibosh on my hopper. I rigged up with a smaller the front of my Kelty two-man tent was amazing. dry and even tried a little dropper off the hopper in We were at least 3/4-mile from the creek, on a bluff, the beginning. The flows in the Third Meadow pools and surrounded by peaks that offered sightings of elk are so slow (early August), I could see fish come off herds and mountain goats. The weather was a little off the bottom, take my small emerger, and the hopper for the trip, but it was a great time with old friends, wouldn’t even flinch, bump, nada. A few takers got my new friends, my dad and my son. I’m glad to report blood pumping as hooksets turned into quick rolls to Slough’s Meadows are still alive and kickin’. set them free. We had to work for every bite in About The Author the heavy drizzle. We worked up the creek back towards where we came High Country Angler contributor Brian La Rue enjoys down to try our luck on some new giving fly fishers ideas of where to go for an adventure. water we hadn’t tried yet. While walking I was blindly casting a hopFeel free to reach out to Brian at Brian@hcamagazine.com if per in a shallow run—one of those you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming Slough Creek spots that appear to be promotional marketing plan. barren until you see movement, and that’s exactly what happened. A large cutty turned sideways in the current, chasing my go-to hopper as the rain had stopped. This guy had to be about 21 inches or more. He sipped my hopper and I struck out. I told myself, “Even if I hooked him, I was on a vertical, drop-off cutbank that was 12 to 15 feet high, nowhere to get down to fight this guy. It was 50 yards in either direction before I would have been able to access a manageable hike down. He would just be known as the one that I fanned on. We met up with Jaime and Allison, and Shane at this time. Shane said, “Parachute Adams time, with this overcast and drizzle.” Sure enough, the smaller dry was best from then on. The couple reported a handful of fish on the dry when we met up later at camp. We fished until about 3 PM, though it www.HCAezine.com

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BACKCOUNTRY GEAR REVIEW by Brian La Rue

Recon Mission On Slough Creek One of my goals on the Slough trip was to put Orvis’ Recon Outfit to the test. My go-to H2 had company on this trip as I took along a 9-foot, 5-weight Recon outfit complete with a Hydros III Reel and Hydros Trout 5-weight fly line. Day 1 in the morning on Slough was beautiful, and cutthroat came quick to the hopper and beetle patterns delivered effortlessly with the 9-footer. Targeting the rising trout upriver from our position, the Recon loaded smoothly and allowed for easy, softlanding placements of big bugs to target these unsuspecting trout. After three hours of perfect conditions, the warm wind began to blow, eliminating our easy casts and advantage of polarized glasses. We thought, okay a little wind chop might give these fish a little more confidence to blindly rise to hoppers more often and they did. Throwing 24

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a #4 hopper into the wind was easy as the Recon allowed me to force-feed, forward casts into 30 mph gusts. There’s nothing like a rod that isn’t afraid to take a little muscle to make a powerful forward cast. The wind was kept at bay with powerful casts. I had some fun throwing low loops, sidearm casts as well and a few roll casts just to test the Recon and see how it would perform. It passed all my tests and I managed to catch some nice fish while casting it. The Hyrdos III Reel included in this outfit performed flawlessly too. Operation was smooth as the Hydros was up to the task at hand. You don’t think of cutthroat as hard fighters, but a couple in the 16- to 18-inch range ran a few times given this is Slough Creek in August. Flows were a bit low and when you hook a fish here, they like to stay in the deep pools and freak out when they find themselves close to the net in shallow spots at your feet. We were fishing with 3X and 4X leaders and a handful of fish took line out of the advanced Hydros’ drag system that comes complete with a fully sealed drag clutch bearing. The refined, lightweight large arbor reel is ideal for all 5 wt. to 7 wt. applications. It holds more than enough backing and its large arbor always means it picks up line in a hurry while reducing line coiling. See this outfit at your local Orvis dealer or click https://www.orvis. com/recon-fly-rod/2TMN5364.html. Overall, the Recon itself is an amazing rod at a mid-level price. I would highly recommend it for someone who needs a rod and doesn’t want to feel that they have upgrade as they get more into the sport. It’s not an “entry level rod” and it won’t break the bank, but it is a rod/outfit that could be your first and last forever. If you won’t to avoid a basic rod, one that you will soon wish you bought something better, the Recon checks all the boxes. Yes, the Recon will find a home in your arsenal for years to come.

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Love Lightweight, Sticky Boots? Try Simms Flyweight Access I challenge you to try the award-winning Simms Flyweight Access, and I bet you will never go back to any other pair of wading boots again! These boots capitalized on the comfort and support from the previous Flyweight model and somehow, Simms cranked out an even better boot! Winning Best-Of-Show at the 2022 International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, the Flyweight Access features a new sole exclusive to Simms that provides more slip resistance on wet surfaces than any other wading boot before! The sole is called Vibram IDROGRIP FLEX. Specially, it’s a blown rubber compound that adds to the Access’ cushion and is engi-

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neered to add grip when you need it most. I’m a big believer in adding studs for extra peace of mind on slippery rocks, but these boots are sticky without them. I’ve got the Flyweight with studs, but these guys felt even more sticky without any hardware. I might just have to make these guys my driftboat boots or for waters like Slough that don’t feature larger cobble stones or boulders? For the tech guys, the Flyweight Access features lightweight, nonabsorbent mesh uppers, welded TPU overlays in high-abrasion areas for added durability, supportive, but lightweight and comfortable webbing lacing hardware across the foot, full closed-cell neoprene foam lining, and pull-on loops for easy on and off. Put it all together and you got the best trail-to-river machine. Simms says this is the best traction option out of the box with support and durability, but those who prioritize extreme sole durability, should consider the Simms G3 or G4 wading boot models. So, do you want a super lightweight, sticky boot that will do everything you ask, or do you spend most of your time in the boat, or just below the pullout, maybe guiding, charging it over jagged rocks daily-- cold conditions? Ask yourself these questions—I for one value lightweight, comfort and value for long hike ins and long days of rock hopping and will be completely satisfied with this new boot! The Flyweight Access currently has 53 reviews on Simms’ website with a 4.8 rating out of 5 stars. Seems the only complaint is the laces need to be longer! I think we’ve all had boots that featured laces that were too long or too short… not a deal breaker by any means. Click https://bit.ly/3elny2m for the full rundown on the Flyweight Access.

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Kelty’s Late Start 2 Backcountry Tent The name Kelty says it all! The longtime trusty name in outdoor gear, Kelty comes through again with the Late Start 2. This tent is ideal for someone who wants to hike into the backcountry and set up a tent up in a matter of seconds—in the dark—thus the Late Start!

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I took this tent on the Slough Creek pack trip with Sunrise Pack Station even though Shane provides tents etc, just to give it a whirl and put it to the test. A little rain each night did not allow me to leave the rainfly off and gaze at the stars, but it’s a perfect tent for two people, two people like a couple or dad and son. The Late Start 2’s size is perfect for one 6-foot, 180-pound man with maybe your lighting gear and all your clothing. But at 4-pound, 8-ounces all packaged up—you and your fishing buddy can get one each and have your own bed for the night. It’s the ideal tent at $159.99, not your first born, but that price point that tells you, you’re getting quality and it will last—a Kelty! I mentioned we had rain! Yes, the Late Start 2 passed the waterproof test with flying colors. That’s huge cause nobody is going to get much sleep when your sleeping bag and tent are wet. Click https://www.kelty.com/late-start-2/ to see all the dimension and specs, and if you truly want a bigger tent, the Late Start 2 has a bigger cousin, the Late Start 4. Having tent camped for decades if a company says “4”—count on space for three! Finally, when I look for a tent, I look for three things. It’s got to be waterproof, lightweight, and easy setup/takedown! This tent checks all the boxes. No cramming to make things fit into the tent sack when you’re ready to head home. Check them out and see what size works for you and get out and explore the backcountry whether its here in Colorado or in Yellowstone and remember, no food in the tent! www.HCAezine.com

Fall 2022 • High Country Angler

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Under Armour Fish Advanced Iso-Chill Hoodies Imagine a long sleeve shirt/hoodie option that keeps you cool on a hot day, warmer on a cool day and the sun at bay every day— well, you don’t have to imagine it anymore. Meet my new go-to fishing shirt, the Under Armour Fish Iso-Chill Hoodie. What did I enjoy best about the Iso-Chill Hoodie? It was silkysmooth, comfortable, hood and all—you felt as if you had no shirt on, let alone a hood, though it covered me with UPF 50+ sun protection. Long sleeves didn’t get catch my rod butt either and the hood loosely protected my ears, neck, and face sides from the sun. As for performance, the light-weight material wicked sweat away from my body on Day 1 when it was in the 80s along Slough Creek, drying fast as well from splashes and elbow dips on the creek. Day 2 was cool and breezy, and the hoodie not only keep me dry and protected from the overcast sunrays, but warmer when a cold wind shut down the terrestrial bite. Overall, great clothing to add to your fly fishing, or simply your total outdoors arsenal in general. Another thing I can tell you about the amazing folks behind Under Armour Fish, when I told them I was interested in trying out a hoodie, they asked about my trip. I told them about this Slough Creek trip with my dad and son, three generations, and instead of sending me a hoodie or two— they sent enough hoodies and long sleeve performance fishing shirts to outfit all three of us for every day on the trip. Now that’s generous! That’s a company and clothing I can stand behind for many trips to come! Click https://undrarmr.co/3TDH1vb to see the lineup at UA Fish!

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AN INTERVIEW WITH BRENDEN STUCKY AND RJ HOSKING OF

by HCA Staff

H

igh Country Angler recently had the chance to interview Brenden Stucky, Founder & CFO, and RJ Hosking, CEO, of an emerging new player in the fly fishing industry, RareWaters, to learn about how they are working to advance angling and conservation. HCA: We’ve heard the concept behind RareWaters described as an “AirBnb for anglers. Can you talk a little more about your business and what you offer to your clients? Our mission is to "Spread the power of the outdoors and inspiration to conserve it." We get out of bed every morning to share fly fishing with more 32

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people. As a fellow angler, we’re sure you can appreciate that fly fishing is a powerful and therapeutic sport, hobby, or whatever you'd like to label it. We believe a day on the water can dramatically change people (positively), so ensuring our rivers are around for future generations to enjoy is extremely important to us. With all of this in mind, we work every day to open up more water to more people. RareWaters was born with the goal of democratizing private fly fishing access for all anglers. By leveraging modern technology and unlocking premium private property access, our goal is to provide all anglers fly fishing experiences of a lifetime. We also wholeheartedly believe that we're making public access better. As more folks use our platform, www.HCAezine.com


public watersheds should theoretically become less self? Shoot, when's the last time you were able to enjoy crowded. All of this is great for the trout habitat and a few hundred yards of the river in Deckers, to youroverall angling experience. self? You can't find a parking spot in Deckers or Cheeseman Canyon at 7am on a weekday! And you may be HCA: For an angler whose fishing experiences waiting hours to get your boat in the water at places may have only been on public water, what would you like Pumphouse and State Bridge. It's out of control. It's tell them they could expect in fishing on private wa- not much better in Wyoming or Montana, either. ter? The overcrowding ruins the fly fishing experience for us, and we believe there's a big difference between This is a loaded question, and a politically sensitive privately-managed water and publicly-managed water. one. We were recently mentioned in a New York Times Many of our landowners invest hundreds of thousands article on this topic. There's plenty of great public water to millions of dollars into their watersheds. It's kind of out there. We fly fish public water just as much as the like Jack Nicklaus designing a stretch of water instead next angler! However, we've noticed a huge drop in the of a golf course. You won't see more than 1-2 other anquality of the fly fishing experience at public fly fish- glers on a full mile of water when booking with Rareing locations. To us, fly fishing is about more than Waters. catching fish. It's a timeless tradition providing anWe also offer customized river reports for your trip, glers with a sense of adventure, solitude, and a deep and the fishing on each property is spectacular! For connection with the outdoors. Catching fish is just ic- the price of a greens fee or ski lift ticket, you can enjoy ing on the cake. your own private stretch of river. Our goal is for you to When's the last time you were able to enjoy over a spend more time on the water. Let us take care of the mile of the South Platte River near Deckers, to your- rest.

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HCA: How have you incorporated conservation HCA: What does RareWaters offer to the private into your business model – both with the landownlandowners who work with you in managing fish- ers with whom you work, and with your members ing on their waters? looking to book a fishing trip? We teach and educate our landowner partners on how to utilize and manage their water and bookings without overpressuring fish. Although we want to share premium fly fishing experiences with everyone, we're very mindful about keeping our trout friends happy and healthy. Too many anglers result in unhappy and unhealthy fish. With this in mind, we don't allow more than 20-25 rods per week on a mile of water. 34

High Country Angler • Fall 2022

As mentioned previously, our mission is to, "Spread the power of the outdoors and inspiration to conserve it." Conservation is central to our business model and one of our organizational values. In addition to educating landowners on fishery management best practices, we donate in cash and in kind to conservation organizations like Trout Unlimited and other fly fishing non-profits like Casting for Recovery, Project Healing Waters, and Fishing the www.HCAezine.com


Good Fight. We're really proud of these partnerships Conservation isn't cheap, and as mentioned previousand trust these organizations to put donated resourc- ly, many of our landowner partners invest hundreds es to great causes. of thousands to millions of dollars into the restoration and management of their watersheds. There are sigHCA: How do you see conservation on private nificant upstream and downstream benefits to these lands like those where you operate advancing the privately managed conservation projects. overall health of rivers, fisheries and watersheds? HCA: What does the future hold for RareWaGreat question. Organizations like Western Land- ters? What is your vision for where you hope to be owners Alliance and The Property and Environment over the next 5 to 10 years? Research Center have dozens of examples and studies detailing the powerful impact of privately managed We just hired several new team members with deland conservation. It's really interesting stuff and we'd cades of experience in the fly fish industry, and are beencourage your readers to check them out. yond excited about the passion and capabilities they There have been several examples over the years bring to achieving RareWaters' mission. of private landowners and donors leading the charge We're on track to have 500 properties on our webto conserve, protect, and restore large portions of site by 2025. Again, our goal is to open up more water land, including rivers. Consider the Railroad Ranch for more people and any angler can book these propin Harriman State Park, Idaho, for example. The rail- erties for fishing, camping, and lodging. The next few road baron helped shape modern day conservation as years are going to be a lot of fun. Stay tuned! a result of his foresight and vision. Similarly, many landowners today are passionTo Learn More. ate and dedicated conservation stewards, and have the financial resources to advance conservation efforts. To learn more, visit rarewaters.com.

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YOU'RE INVITED!

October 21st-23rd, 2022

Hotel Colorado, Glenwood Springs

To find more information and register now, please visit our website, or scan the QR Code below: http://coloradotu.org/rendezvous

Workshop Sessions on Topics Including: Native Trout Restoration Colorado River Compact Youth Education Partnerships with Schools

Online Communications Best Practices Chapter Leadership Training

36

A Weekend for Current and New Members to Network, Socialize, and High Country Angler • Fall 2022 Engage.

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Letter From The President Dear existing and prospective Trout Unlimited members, I would like to personally invite you to join Colorado Trout Unlimited chapters, staff, and the Executive Committee to our Fall Rendezvous at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs October 21st – 23rd. Our event will concentrate on restoration, education, collaboration, and legislation, and will provide plenty of time for recreation. Senior Staff from TU National will be presenting new and exciting programs that TU will be initiating across the country. The CTU program will have a broad group of topics ranging from leadership training, Priority Waters, native fish, finding your local cause, expanding your community role, fundraising, media 101, and much more. There will also be plenty of time to meet the new CTU Staff that specialize in communication, fundraising, youth education, and conservation projects. The CTU Staff can definitely elevate your personal knowledge and assist you in attaining your Chapter’s goals. In summary, this is going to be a great opportunity to have fun, learn, and spend the weekend with other TU members. Additionally, if you have never been to Glenwood Springs, there is plenty to keep the entire family happy- so pack your entire crew for a weekend of activities. Sincerely,

Greg Hardy Greg Hardy President, Colorado Trout Unlimited

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coloradotu.org/rendezvous

Fall 2022 • High Country Angler

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PROTECTING HOME WATERS

by Duncan Rose

FIGURE 1: The East o F rk of the Dolores, now designated as an Outstanding Water

One Chapter’s Journey Through the OW Designation Process

O

n June 14, 2022 the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission designated 25 streams in southwestern Colorado as Outstanding Waters. Outstanding Waters (OW) is a designation under the Federal Clean Water Act (administered by the State of Colorado) which, if the strict criteria are met and designation is awarded, precludes any permitted activities on or about those waters that degrade the designated stream reach below the very high quality of the reach at the time of designation. It is a substantial tool in the stream protection tool bag. 38

High Country Angler • Fall 2022

The water quality of each of these 25 streams is now protected from water quality degradation for future generations. Eight of those streams lie in the Upper Dolores watershed, the “home” waters of the Dolores River Anglers (DRA). An OW designation is awarded through the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Designation occurs through a three-year rulemaking hearing process that includes three public, quasi-judicial hearings. www.HCAezine.com


Context

Designation is a rigorous resource- and timeconsuming process. By way of context, for the Dolores River Anglers, the journey that culminated in the OW designations began just over 7 years ago, in the fall of 2013. The upper Dolores watershed is located at the intersection of the high desert with the Southern Rockies. To our west, for hundreds of miles, lies the rugged Colorado Plateau high desert. At the eastern end (our end) of the Colorado Plateau, that high desert hits the Rocky Mountains, where elevations rise dramatically from 7000 feet at the edge of the desert to over 14,000 feet in just 75 miles. Lying as it does where hot desert meets cool mountains means that the upper Dolores is a proverbial canary-in-the-mine for a changing climate. And our watershed is indeed rapidly changing. At a strategic retreat in 2013, DRA, as a Board, agreed that we had to better understand how our trout environment was changing and what it was likely to become. Only then

could we effectively participate in and assist with the management of our trout resources. Conservation became the major focus of our chapter. In late 2013 we undertook, with the assistance of Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) and Trout Unlimited (TU), the Mountain Studies Institute, and two professional consultants, what became a three-year study of climate change and the upper Dolores. Our two core questions: 1) which of our trout streams are likely to survive to the end of the century, and 2) what does this mean for managing those resources? Our highest priority was – and is – native trout. In 2016 our chapter identified 42 perennial streams, comprising 295 miles, with viable trout populations. Twenty four of those streams harbor native cutthroat. We consider the upper watershed a hidden jewel of the Southern Rockies.

The Upper Dolores Stream Protection Working Group Based on these findings, we (DRA, CTU and TU)

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FIGURE 2: The Upper Dolores Stream Protection Working Group Decisions rF amework

began, in November of 2018, an in-depth collaboration with our local watershed water managers, namely executive and senior staff from the San Juan National Forest, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Dolores Water Conservancy District—the latter being the managers of McPhee Reservoir. McPhee is the second largest reservoir in the State and is key to the local agricultural/irrigation community. This “leaderless” collaboration is called the Upper Dolores Stream Protection Working Group (Working Group). As a Working Group, we met, and continue to meet, to build a long-term, overarching framework to coordinate both limited resources and work efforts with respect to an increasingly changing environment. Key to this effort is a list of stream protection tools that form our tool kit. As a Working Group, DRA’s target is to match the right tool to each stream, based 40

High Country Angler • Fall 2022

on that stream’s emerging challenges. Clearly, OW designation is a significant player in our tool kit (see Figure 1).

The Upper Dolores Coldwater-fisheries Adaptive Management Framework Framing the Working Group effort is a three-year study, published in 2017, that assessed the likely impact of climate change on the upper Dolores through the end of the century. The study was conducted by DRA with additional financial support from CTU, TU and the Colorado Water Conservation Board; technical assistance was provided by Mountain Studies Institute and two environmental consultants. One output of the study was an assessment of vulnerability to stream dewatering and temperature increases at the (trout) stream level across the upper Dolores. www.HCAezine.com


Additional supporting data available to the Working Group included four years of extensive stream temperature analysis and seven years of DNA analysis in close association with San Juan National Forest and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Based on a careful review of the DRA climate change study findings, associated field data, and extensive discussion among the Working Group, the nine streams proposed by DRA for OW designation comprised the best projection of stronghold streams for native cutthroat populations in the Upper Dolores through the end of the century.

acteristics as long-term native trout strongholds sufficient to reasonably survive to the end of the century; that is, those streams with 1) high headwater elevation, 2) significant watershed size at high elevation, and 3) sufficient length to assure DNA diversity. The nine streams proposed for designation represent our best assessment as to those streams with the best long-term survival potential for cutthroat trout in the Upper Dolores. Each proposed reach is essentially pristine, wild water with healthy, functioning ecological processes as reflected in their abundant cutthroat populations. SJNF-maintained hiking/biking trails lie along four of the proposed stream reaches. All proStronghold Streams vide backcountry trout fishing and associated hunting Twenty-four streams were identified in the DRA and camping opportunities. All have headwaters that climate change report as having cutthroat popula- reach into high elevations, capturing pristine water tions in 2016. Four were lost to exceptional drought in critical to downstream users, especially to McPhee 2018. Three more have been lost or have been severely Reservoir and its many community-wide uses. The challenged since. Our trout populations are increas- Working Group deemed that timely, long-term, and ingly challenged. wide-ranging protection of these streams is, and will As noted, the Working Group effort identified nine continue to be, critical. stream reaches in the upper Dolores as having char-

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The Southwest Colorado OW Coalition In the spring of 2019 Dolores River Anglers was contacted by David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, to ask if DRA would be interested in joining a coalition of organizations that was pursuing OW designation for a number of streams in the San Juan, Gunnison, San Miguel, and Animas River basins. We jumped at the opportunity. The coalition was made up of senior/executive staff from American Rivers, American Whitewater, Conservation Colorado, High Country Conservation Advocates, Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Citizens Alliance, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Trout Unlimited/Colorado Trout Unlimited, and Western Resource Advocates.

The OW Process

As noted, an OW designation in Colorado requires at least a three-year effort. By the end of that threeyear period, each of three tests much be shown to be met by each stream reach: • The existing quality for each of the following parameters is equal to or better than that specified. • 12 water quality parameters must be rigorously measured against defined maximum threshold levels. Sampling is done across four seasons. Historic records are also considered. • The waters must constitute an outstanding natural resource, based on the following: • (A) The waters are a significant attribute of a State Gold Medal Trout Fishery, a National Park, National Monument, National Wildlife Refuge, or a designated Wilderness Area, or are part of a designated wild river under the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; or • (B) The Commission determines that the waters have exceptional recreational or ecological significance, and have not 42

High Country Angler • Fall 2022

been modified by human activities in a manner that substantially detracts from their value as a natural resource. • The water must require protection in addition to that provided by the combination of water quality classifications and standards and the protection afforded reviewable water under section 31.8(3). Two public hearings are held with the Commission to carefully “ripen” the proposals to the point of readiness for final (third) hearing consideration by the Commission for actual OW designation. Parties with interests in the proceedings are invited to participate and express support of, opposition to, and/or raise issues with the proposed reaches. Staff from the Department of Public Health and Environment carefully monitor and guide the process. Each proposed reach is then individually voted up or down at the final hearing. In-depth technical support was critical to the success of the effort. From water quality sampling, to macroinverterbrate assessment, to public communication expertise, the coalition provided it all; indeed,

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FIGURE 3:

Sampling Water Quality

it is unlikely that DRA’s piece of the project would have been successful without the remarkable support of the coalition members. Likewise, the full and enthusiastic support DRA received from Colorado Trout Unlimited and national Trout Unlimited was equally critical to success. And it certainly helps to have a chapter member with a PhD in water chemistry to lead the sampling effort.

time, meet the level of having a substantial conservation quality cutthroat population due to the excessive presence of invasive non-native trout. Should that be corrected, the Commission felt the reach should have no problem qualifying in the future. The bottom line is very reassuring: after three years of extensive field effort and considerable financial investment on the part of the Coalition, the water quality in 25 pristine mountain streams, eight of those Conclusion in the Upper Dolores, are forever protected from huOf the nine streams proposed by DRA for OW man induced degradation. Such designation serves as designation (nine of the 25 total proposed), eight were a significant “heads up” for all future water managers approved by the Commission. These eight streams that management decisions about the use of the wajoin three other OW streams already in place in the ters must very carefully consider the maintenance of upper Dolores; those designations were coordinated that very high quality for all future generations. by DRA/CTU/TU in 2012. (Five streams in the Lizard Head Wilderness Area also known to have cutthroat trout populations have OW designations for those To Learn More. portions within the wilderness area). To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout Only one proposed reach failed to get over the bar Unlimited, visit coloradotu.org. (one of the nine in the Upper Dolores),. There the Commission felt that the given reach did not, at this www.HCAezine.com

Fall 2022 • High Country Angler

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VERSA PACK REVIEW by Mark Shulman Fly fishing can be made technical and complicated. Or not. The Versa Pack from Pescador on the Fly proves that simple can be highly effective. This small pack is light, carries on the waist or hip, and has an intelligent design made by people who obviously like to fly fish. The drop-down fly shelf holds enough flies for a full day on the water. The inner pouch is roomy enough for extra essentials, and multiple D-rings provide easy access for nippers, hemostat and tippet spools. For a limited time, the Versa Pack is sold with a wading belt with a built-in net holster, and strategically placed D -rings. (I use one for clipping on my wade stick). The wade belt is lightweight, adjusts to a snug fit, and is slightly wider in the back for lumbar comfort--like the Versa Pack, designed by someone who actually fly fishes. Versa Pack and Wade Belt sell for only $50 bucks. And free shipping. A great pack system at a great price! pescadoronthefly.com 44

High Country Angler • Fall 2022

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A GUIDE’S LIFE

BY HAYDEN MELLSOP

Bird On A Wire

T

he tarp draped off the back of my pickup is sagging under the weight of still-falling snow. I stand and prod it in several places, and the snow makes a scraping sound as it slides to the ground. Nearby, several bluebirds huddle together on fence wire, twitching and shaking regularly to de-ice their wings. In the far-off stands a small cabin. Smoke rises from its chimney and quickly blends with the grey overcast, and I feel a twinge of envy. My only fire comes in the form of a bottle of Scotch, and I take another sip and resume my writing. The pen moves sluggishly across the paper. Last night before the storm settled in, a couple of coyotes passed through camp. One sounded close, just beyond the confines of the tarp. It called in a series of low, guttural grunts, as if working up towards a sneeze that never eventuated. Further off, its mate responded with a high-pitched, mournful yip-yip-howl, as if urging the first to forget the stringy gringo and continue on up the valley toward home. I wonder where they are now, and hope they are warm in their den. I contemplate crawling back into mine - two sleeping bags and an air mattress in the truck bed - but decide against. Instead, I stand, don an extra jacket, then step from beneath the shelter of the tarp. At my appearance the bluebirds take to the wing and vanish from sight across the meadow. By the position of the sun - a pale disc in the grey overhead, I guess the time at early afternoon. To stretch cramped muscles, I walk from camp a short distance to where the stream flows beneath a bridge. The water runs ink-dark and sluggish, and I imagine more than hear the soft hiss of the snowflakes as they dissolve into the water.

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High Country Angler • Fall 2022

I think about breaking camp, but am unsure of the road conditions beyond - twenty miles of dirt to the nearest blacktop - and decide to stay put and ride it out. Suddenly, the cloud layer to the west lifts to reveal the facade of a long, angled buttress shrouded in tendrils of mist that gather about its flanks, its appearance like a giant locomotive sitting at a platform, shedding steam. A few minutes later the snow peters out and a watery sun breaks through. A gathering breeze pushes diminishing clouds to the east, and within a half hour pale blue dominates the sky. Back beneath the tarp, I pull on waders and squeeze into icy boots, then climb over the fence recently occupied by the bluebirds. By now the wind has increased in intensity, pinching at any exposed skin. Briefly I wonder what I am doing here at all, then banish such thoughts and walk down the small bluff and across a patch of marshy ground, covered in quickly-melting snow, to the stream. I hang back from the bank a respectable distance to avoid spooking any fish that may have ventured out to warm their backs in the sunlight. I stand, breathe, and look around. I am alone in the mountains on a cold fall day, next to a meandering stream. The water flows low and clear in the sunlight. Patches of weed undulate in the slower, shallower reaches. It is difficult to tell who is less impressed with my first cast—myself, or the two brook trout that scatter as, over-compensating for the wind, I bury the fly and a few feet of line into the shallows below the first pool with an undignified splat. The interplay between light and wind is such that when one is in my favor, the other seems to work against me. I decide to cover ground,

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only pausing at places where I think I have a reasonable chance of an accurate cast. I come upon a corner pool where I see a fish tailing in the fan. The wind is such that I aim my cast five yards upstream of where I want the fly to land, yet still it gets blown across the pool and into the grass About The Author overhanging the far bank. I break off the fly while atHayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander living in the tempting to retrieve it, tie mountain town of Salida, Colorado, on the banks of the on another with pinched fingers, and try again. This Arkansas River. As well as being a semi-retired fly fishing time there is a brief lull in guide, he juggles helping his wife raise two teenage the wind, and the fly lands daughters, along with a career in real estate. where intended. A fish rises to the fly, I time my hook set nicely, and quickly land and release a chubby brook Hayden Mellsop trout. The day feels comFly fishing guide. Real Estate guide. plete. I continue upstream for another half hour, picking and choosing likely spots, see and spook a few fish, but catch no more. The wind continues to make each cast a lottery. I decide to retreat to camp, strip off my waders and add a couple of insulating layers, and sit outside in the last of the sunlight sipping a cocktail. Recreation, residential, retirement, investment. Clear skies promise a cold 5IF EJõFSFODF CFUXFFO MPPLJOH GPS ZPVS TQFDJBM QMBDF BOE mOEJOH JU night ahead, perhaps a frozen stream in the morn1JOPO 3FBM &TUBUF (SPVQ 4BMJEB ing, but if out here is good 0öDF ] $FMM XXX )PNF 8BUFST DPN enough for coyotes, it is INFMMTPQ!QJOPOSFBMFTUBUF DPN good enough for me.

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Fall 2022 • High Country Angler

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Idaho’s South Fork of the Snake River Add it to Your Bucket List!

Photo Credited: Bureau of Land Management

I

t was the rumors of a mythical tailwater where mysis shrimp mixed with salmon flies the size of your thumb, and the waters boiling with the heads of feeding cutthroat trout that first put the South Fork of the Snake River on my bucket list. After a spring of pulling oars down drought-shrunken Colorado Riv48

High Country Angler • Fall 2022

by Peter Stitcher ers, my friends didn’t have to ask me twice when they invited me to join them for 4 days of dawn to dusk fishing on the Snake below Palisade Dam in Idaho, so I packed my fly boxes, hitched up the www.HCAezine.com


raft, and headed West. Believe me, it was difficult to drive past some of my favorite rivers (including the Poudre, Green, Wind River, and North Platte) on my way to the Snake, but now that I’ve fished it, I would do it again without hesitation! Here are 6 reasons the South Fork of the Snake needs to be on your fly fishing bucket list as well!

Dam, stoneflies are able to inhabit the entire reach of the river, creating a high-calorie surf and turf menu for trout all the way up to the dam!

Unparalleled Beauty

A Tailwater Like None Other

Flowing between 9000 – 14000 CFS from below the Palisade Dam, the South Fork of the Snake benefits from a steady inflow of high protein Mysis Shrimp that in turn grows massive tailwater trout! The size of the trout is where its similarities with other Mysis tailwaters end, however. In most low-flow tailwaters, fine sediment pulled from the bottom of the upstream reservoir clogs the bottom of the riverbed for several miles downstream, excluding freestone-loving invertebrate such as stoneflies and green drake mayflies. Due to the high, clean flows pouring from Palisade

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Photo Credited: Bureau of Land Management

Fall 2022 • High Country Angler

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As the channels meandered through the wide river valley, Golden Eagles, Osprey, and Bald Eagles regularly glide overhead while Sand Hill Cranes and Moose emerge unannounced to wade along the graveled river banks. Massive cottonwoods and walls of willow shade the margins of the river, providing cover for lurking trout, while tall fir trees loom above the slope as a majestic reminder of how small I am in the shadow of the Teton Mountains. I have fished many rivers across the US, and few can match the grandeur and wild beauty of the Snake!

witnessed on the Snake and its surrounding rivers! I am not exaggerating when I say 200 yellow sally stoneflies would fall off a willow branch when I shook it. Salmon flies were splashing down on the water throughout our 30-mile daily floats, and the clouds of black caddis were enough to choke you after dusk! The Snake is one of the most abundant and rich fisheries I have ever been to!

Hatches of Biblical Proportions

Your Chance to Break Out the BIG

Big Fish & Plenty of Them

Home to the Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, Rainbow, Brown, and Cutbow Hybrids, every time your Choose Your Own Adventure line fly disappears in a violent splash and your drag Your options for how you fish the Snake are almost starts to sink, you might not know which species you limitless, and with public fishing access up to the have on the end of your line, but you can be assured high-water mark, hundreds of braids and islands, and that it will be a healthy, vigorous fish! The fish in the boat launches every 8 – 12 miles, you could fish and Snake are abundant and Big! 16” is pretty standard easily float the same 30- mile section of river every across the board, and you have a very real chance to day for a month, and never fish the same water twice! boat a 22” or larger fish multiple times a day! I have made a career sampling aquatic insects on BUGS waters across the United States, and have rarely—if Leave your Platte River and San Juan tailwater ever—seen such diverse and abundant hatches as I midge boxes at home, because the trout on the Snake

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management

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without a doubt one of the best rivers to gain confidence and experience on the oars. So, whether you are coming from Colorado, California, Wyoming, or Montana, I encourage you to continue to look straight ahead as you head to the Snake. Yes, you will pass other storied and named fly fishing waters on your way, but the South Fork of the Snake is a truly special water and one worthy of every angler’s bucket list! Photo Credit Idaho Fish & Game

are feeding on the insect equivalent of Prime Rib! Throughout the summer months, plan on going BIG with your dry flies, casting size 2-6 Salmon flies, 6-8 Chubby Chernobyls, and size 10-14 Green Drakes and Caddisflies. Tungsten beadhead droppers and nymphing rigs are the norm on this river, and will help you get down deep, so make sure you’re loaded up with a good selection of Duracells and other tungsten or Euro patterns before you launch. Finally, if you are going after the true kings of the river (trout over 24”) you’ll have plenty of opportunity to fish your big articulated Gonga, Sex Dungeon, and Sculpzilla patterns!

Easy Miles to Improve your Oar Skills

High flows, gradual slopes, lazy meandering channels, and the distinctive lack of mid channel boulders and obstacles make the South Fork of the Snake a great river to improve your skills on the oars. If you have never rowed a raft or drift boat, you might just fish on your first day on the river, but after that the perennial rule of “If you don’t row you don’t go” comes into effect. The Snake below Palisade Dam is www.HCAezine.com

About The Author Peter Stitcher is an Aquatic Biologist and owner of Ascent Fly Fishing. Originator of the Biologist Crafted Fly Selection, Peter and his team build their clients’ fly selections specific to the bugs in the waters they fish, when they fish them. You can contact Peter or restock your fly box at: www.ascentflyfishing.com.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH BRET BISHOP

by Colorado Trout Unlimited Staff

Double Gold Medalist at World Masters Fly Fishing Championships

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ret Bishop is the captain of Team USA Fly Fishing, helping lead top anglers nationwide in the world of competitive fly fishing. Recently, Bret participated as a competitor in the World Masters Fly Fishing Championships, featuring anglers aged 50 52

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and older, which was held this year in Italy. He brought home the gold—winning both the individual gold medal, and helping lead Team USA to the team gold as well. High Country Angler had the chance to speak with Bret in the days following the championships. www.HCAezine.com


Congratulations on your double-gold-medal performance at the World Masters Fly Fishing Championships in Italy! Can you share some of the story of your fishing experience at the Masters, and how it felt to reach the top of the podium both individually and with Team USA? It was such a great experience, it is hard not to go on and on. Italy is an incredible country! The mountains, the food, the people, the rivers, and the fish are really fantastic. However, the most cherished part of the experience for me was sharing it with a great group of guys: Jerry Arnold, Jeff Currier, Loren Williams, Mike

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Sexton, Pete Erickson, and our guide Stefano Sabbatelli are the best. Of course, when competing in this type of event, the team is the most important thing! You really need to rely on each other through the highs and lows of the competition. This is a great group of guys who worked really well together. The chemistry comes from the fact that we have a lot of history together. Much of this group have been competing together since 2006 at national events and Worlds. Stephano was the guide for the Senior team in Italy in 2018 and is very kind, patient, and knowledgeable. We owe a lot of our success to him. And, of course, Jerry has been the backbone of the team since 2008; we could never have done this without him.

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Along with being a member of the Masters team, specifically with competitive fly fishing? you are the captain of Team USA and will be guiding the team at their World Championships coming I have been fly fishing since I was 9. My parents up in Spain. What goes into preparing as a team for loved it and passed that passion on to me. They were an event like this? crazy about spring creeks and the Swisher Richards approach to catching selective trout. We spent a lot We have a great team for the Senior Champion- of time on the creeks of Montana and Idaho campship. It is composed of veteran anglers including ing and fishing when I was young. I got involved in Devin Olsen, Lance Egan, Michael Bradley, and Pat competitive fly fishing in 2003 when my friend Pete Weiss. And we have some young anglers who have Erickson invited me to be his rod caddy at the ESPN come out of the Youth program and are really strong: Great Outdoor Games in Reno. After that, Fly Fishing Cody Burgdorff and Jack Arnot. I am excited to see Team USA had just started the regional and National what this team can do. Of course, with Covid, we have competitions to select team members. I was fortunate not been to a Championship since 2019, so this group enough to win the first ever Nationals in Boulder in has had to be patient. But we have been getting to- 2006 and I have been involved as a competitor or in gether to continue to build relationships and work on leadership ever since. techniques. We know Spain is not going to be easy; the fario brown trout are very spooky and the water is Some fly anglers are uncertain about just what going to be extremely low and crystal clear. This team competitive fly fishing entails. What are the biggest has the skills and mental toughness to compete at the differences in how you approach fishing for a competihighest level. tion compared to how an every-day angler approaches the water, or how you work with a guiding client on How did you get started in fly fishing, and then their angling?

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Certainly, competitive fly fishing is not for everyone. No one fishes for 3 hours straight like it is an athletic event. It is much more normal to stop and enjoy the scenery or the beautiful trout you just fooled. For me, what draws me to competition is the constant learning. Competitive angling intensifies every aspect of the game, and you can get hyper-focused on efficiency and effectiveness from knot tying to strike detection to which specific tippet or hook is best. And with clients, I love sharing the techniques that I have learned. I think they really enjoy learning and adding more arrows to their quiver. In the end, we are all better anglers and have a good time outdoors. Tell us a little bit about your role, and the Team’s, as not only representatives of the US in competition but as ambassadors of the sport at home and abroad. Our goal as ambassadors to the sport is to represent the US with integrity while abroad. And then, when we return, pass on what we learn to all those who are interested.

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Beyond your medals, what has been the biggest thing you’ve gained from your experiences as an international fly fishing competitor? I cherish the relationships that I have been able to make. I am thankful that I have been able to make connections with the fly fishing community around the world.

known as the English teacher who talks way too much about fly fishing. Joking aside, my students and the Boise School District are very supportive of what I do.

To Learn More. To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout Unlimited, visit coloradotu.org.

What do you see as one or two of the biggest challenges facing the future of fly fishing, and how do you think Team USA and your counterparts around the world can help in addressing those? Protecting public access and protecting the wild places where trout live. Hopefully, in whatever way we can, the team and all the anglers we influence will fight to ensure the future of angling around the world. In addition to being one of the top anglers in the world, you are also teaching literature to high school students as your ‘day job’ – what do your students think about having the captain of Team USA as a teacher? And are they going to want to see your medals? They will see my medals whether they want to or not! I am

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TROUTFEST

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All PhoHigh tos yb aEv nCountry Cresap Angler •

Fall 2022

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AT COORS FIELD

With over 400 people in attendance, Troutfest at Coors Field in Denver on July 18th was a success! CTU would like to thank the volunteers, vendors, and attendees that made the initial event more than we could have hoped for. Stay tuned for updates on the planning for the next Colorado Trout Unlimited Troutfest. www.HCAezine.com

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To Learn More. 62

For more info on this and other projects, visit coloradotu.org.

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THE LAST CAST

JOHN G. NICKUM

Index of Alien Impact If a fish is not indigenous in a lake, river, or stream, is it never acceptable to introduce that species into that water? What about reservoirs, which are manmade entities that lack species adapted to life in a lake-like environment? Should all nonindigenous species be classified as “aliens?” This question is stimulated by the proposed action of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to “poison out” Saratoga Lake/Reservoir, because yellow perch, a non-indigenous species, has been introduced into the reservoir and has established a self-sustaining population. The yellow perch are thought to compete with cutthroat trout that are native to the waters of the Saratoga watershed.

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ry the “emotional baggage” associated with “alien” and “impacts.” Yellow perch were not known to exist in Wyoming before 2006. Resource managers believe they were introduced into a private pond and subsequently escaped into Wagonhound Creek and on into the North Platte system. It is not surprising that a private pond owner would stock yellow perch in his/her pond. The New York Cooperative Extension Service has recommended yellow perch as an appropriate addition to private farm ponds for more than 50 years; however, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has worked aggressively to keep them out of lakes with native brook trout populations. Adult yellow perch are considered to be omnivores that will feed on trout eggs and fry, so it is quite possible those established in Saratoga Reservoir can have negative effects on the native cutthroat trout populations. Whether or not there is scientifically valid evidence for the conclusion that yellow perch are having detrimental effects on cutthroat populations has not been reported. My assumption, based on decades of experience, is resource managers and environmental activists have simply made the claim “yellow perch do not belong in Wyoming aquatic ecosystems.”

This is a difficult question for me; perhaps the most difficult one ever presented over the years that I have been writing these “Old Professor” opinion pieces. As a scientist, I like to base my thoughts and statements on hard, replicable evidence; however, many widely accepted concepts in resource management and conservation biology lack this level of evidence. Variability in time and space, plus bout The Author the role of chance in determining the present-day composition John Nickum, is a retired PhD. fishery biologist whose of “natural’ ecosystems make it nearly impossible to develop career has included positions as professor at research objective conclusions definuniversities including Iowa State and Cornell University, ing which species “belong” and director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s fisheries which ones are invaders. I sugresearch facility in Bozeman, MT, and science officer for gest the terms “alien” and “imthe Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. pacts” are pejorative and should He was inducted into the National Fish Culture Hall of be replaced by “non-native” and Fame in 2008. “effects” –words that do not car-

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Similar claims have been made elsewhere based on the reasoning that Mother Nature evolved perfectly balanced ecosystems over eons of time and only those species that evolved in each ecosystem should be allowed to remain there. I suggest this is an extreme bias that does not take the functional role of each species into consideration. We must also understand many species arrived in specific locations by chance produced by climatic and/or geologic factors over eons of time. Yellow perch might have done quite well if they had existed in the area we call Wyoming at the end of the last Ice Age. The predecessors of cutthroat trout and the other coldwater species now found in Wyoming waters became established in the area when conditions changed following the disappearance of the continental ice sheets. A system for determining an Index of Alien Impact (IA) was developed by four plant biologists several years ago (2010) for the purpose of “estimating the collective ecological impacts of in situ alien species.” An Invasiveness Impact Score can be calculated for all non-native species present in a particular location or biological community type. Since that time, the IA has become used widely by government agencies, environmental advocacy organizations, and resource managers at Federal, State, and local levels to estimate the invasiveness potential and other ecological effects of individual, non-native species. I do not know whether or not the Wyoming Game and Fish Department developed any of these scores for the yellow perch in Saratoga Reservoir, but it seems

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likely they did. Unfortunately, much of the publicity put out for the public has emphasized the “alien” status of yellow perch and their potential to invade and become an established competitor for cutthroats. Readers can probably identify the fact that I do not agree with those “alarmists” who believe ecological catastrophe is occurring whenever a non-native species is found in a location where they have not occurred historically. On the other hand, I suggest, very strongly, that no non-native species should be introduced into an ecosystem unless systematic studies and calculations have determined, with a high degree of certainty, that the introduction will not cause serious harm. If doubt remains after completing the studies, DON’T DO IT!

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