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SPRING Spring 20 20


Getting Salty in Wyoming

Spring Fever by Landon Mayer

by Brian LaRue



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High Country Angler • Spring 2021



J ac k Tallo n & Frank M ar tin

C O NTENT C ONSU LTANT L ando n M ayer


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


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


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


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond


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: Photo by Landon Mayer

TOC PHOTO: Frank Martin


Spring 2021 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Spring 2021



Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


Spring Fever 8

High Country Angler • Spring 2021


by L and o n Maye r


ompared with other seasons, I’ve found spring to be the most difficult to predict when fish will be active and move into the areas I expect to see them. Their movements are greatly influenced by the unpredictable weather during these months. Warm temperatures can become cold in a matter of days. When you are trying to determine the correct temperatures for rainbow, cuttbows, cutthroat, and mackinaw trout, keep in mind that any warm weather can cause the water temperature to increase and can trigger the fish to move, even as early as late January to early February. The optimal water temperature for rainbows and cutthroats during this time of year is the mid 40s to 50s. For the stillwater game, the trick is to wait until the ice has started to melt around the shoreline. You’ll get the best results when temperatures reach 50-55 degrees, and fish become active hunting for food along the shore. Air temperature in the spring is especially vital when trying to locate pre-spawning trophy rainbow. Warming streaks with increasingly longer days often trigger fish to move into new water (for example, from a reservoir or lake to an adjoining river) or to move

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around in their resident water. Start early when hunting for giants in the spring, and keep detailed records of the weather and water temperature each time you go out. This will help you to determine patterns in the activity of big trout. Even though this time of year can be bone chilling cold, the adrenaline rush of landing your trophy can heat things up quickly. This time of year, some of the largest trout become accessible to anglers because they come from waterways that give them the best cover and protection from predators. These areas can be large bodies of water such as lakes, reservoirs, and oceans. For the resident river fish, these areas can be deep runs, under structure in the river, or areas where they can hide and feed without pressure from above. Spring can be an extremely productive season for anglers. The first fish to enter water and begin to move are the males. The females will come next, often a couple of weeks after the males. They both will remain in the water until they retreat back into deeper waters. The earlier the better if you’re looking for trophy fish. They will be the first to spawn and the smaller fish will not challenge these giants. They will wait until the

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High Country Angler • Spring 2021


larger fish are gone. The window of time for these fish to become accessible can vary from a few weeks to several months, so start early in your search and you will see good results. After the spawn, when water temperatures start to increase, insects like mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis become more active and abundant. Post-spawning trout are more hungry, giving you your best chance of landing a large trophy trout. Fish will also become more numerous. Prime water temperature for insects like mayflies starts around 40 degrees and peaks at about 46 degrees, usually in early February at lower elevations. Stoneflies begin at around the high 40-degree mark and peak above 55 degrees as early as March. Caddis become active above 50 degrees and peak at upwards of 55 degrees as early as mid-April. I don't know about you but all this talk about temps and hatching bugs has me ready for the top water game and casting dry flies! This is the true meaning of Spring Fever. I am a firm believer that the less time you allow a trout to investigate your dry fly, the bet-


ter the chance you have that the fish will commit. To accomplish this, I share a tip that I learned from my good friend and mentor, John Barr. Fire the dry fly 1-2 feet above the rising trout forcing it to react. This is especially effective during low water conditions in early spring when the river’s edge is slow moving and will not allow for a long drift.

Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


If you really want to sweeten the pot, place a dropI hope these tips and fly selections bring you more per in an emerging state, or with a lot of movement trout in the warming days of spring! See you on the below to allow the trout to feed without even having water! to break the surface. The trick to this setup is to think short, not just in the distance above the trout for a fast reaction, but also to minimize the distance below the dry with your dropper. This keeps your fly within About The Author the trout’s viewing window. Remember, the closer the trout is to the water surface, the narrower and shorter Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado the fish’s viewing lane is. guide and author of several books. His Some of my most confident flies for spring include newest books, The Hunt for Giant Trout, Puterbaugh Caddis #14-18, Amy’s Ant (tan/red) #10and Sight Fishing for Trout (Second 14, Chubby Chernobyl (olive/tan/yellow) #12-16, Edition) can be purchased on his website, Barr’s Vis-A-Dun #14-20, Griffiths Gnat #18-24. For at www.landonmayerflyfishing.com. His nymphs/emergers, I favor Stalcup’s Baetis #18-22, Ju newest video, Master the Short Game, Ju Baetis #18-22, Tungsten Tube Midge (red/black/ by Headwater Media, can be purchased copper), #18-24, Pat’s Rubber Legs #12-16, Mayer’s at www.mastertheshortgame.com. You Mini Leech (black/brown), #14-20, Mini Leech Jig can follow Landon on Instagram at @ (olive/rust), #14-18, Caddis Candy #16-18, RS2 #18landonmayerflyfishing. 22. For streamers: Meat Whistle (rust/tan), #6-10, Double Gonga (olive), #6-8, and Gallops Tips Up (black) #6-8.


High Country Angler • Spring 2021


Spend your time fiddling with flies, not with software.

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Spring 2021 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Spring 2021



Spring 2021 • High Country Angler



Abandoned Mine Reclamation


f there’s one niche role in the arena of coldwater conservation that Trout Unlimited has stepped up to fill better than any other organization, it’s that of abandoned mine reclamation. And if there’s one state where the reclamation of those abandoned mine lands have the potential to dramatically improve the health of a state’s watersheds, it’s Colorado. The alpine wonderland that is the town of Alma (every real Colorado angler has slapped an “Al-Mart” sticker on their cooler, right?) will soon be the latest beneficiary of the dedication and depth of expertise that Trout Unlimited staff, members and partners bring to a conservation project. Through the Mineral Park Ponds project just upriver of town, and with Tanner Banks (National TU Abandoned Mine Land Project Manager) running point, TU and its affiliates aim to significantly decrease the threat of hazardous materials from a legacy mine site - thereby preserving water quality in the Middle Fork of the South Platte River with its Gold-Medal fishery downstream. The project will address the tailings impoundments and site topography that currently traps surface water in six tailing ponds. The area will then be regraded to mimic the surrounding topography and the tailings materials amended with reactive Magnesium Oxide to immobilize heavy metals (predominantly lead), and deter those metals from migrating into the stream. Thanks to a generous matching contribution from Anglers All which in turn helped leverage other individual donations during Colorado Gives Day, the team is anticipating completion of this project as early as August of this year. 16

High Country Angler • Spring 2021

Here at Colorado Trout Unlimited, we tend to rave about the horsepower behind what we refer to as “One TU” - when the organization collaborates from the chapter level on up to the national level, roping in specialists, scientists, business partners and collaborators along the way. Looking back on 2020 and our recordbreaking Colorado Gives Day, we learned that, in the face of great hardship, we are truly stronger together. We are deeply grateful to the many supporters – including Freestone Aquatics with their generous challenge grant – whose support drove that success. The future of abandoned mine reclamation in Colorado will require the enlistment of this same kind of collaborative horsepower. With the prospect of passing Good Samaritan legislation (tu.org/goodsam) in the near future (fingers crossed), the handcuffs of wellintentioned but archaic legislation would be removed and an army of volunteers, aquatic biologists and philanthropic capital would be unleashed on some of the most pernicious abandoned mine sites in the country. Together we will take this critical next step toward healthier Colorado watersheds. And when the time comes to make your voice heard, to help us pass Good Sam once and for all, we know you’ll be there beside us. For that we thank you!

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



Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


Getting Salty in Wyoming


lease take this with a grain of salt (pun intended)! As a longtime fishing writer for 25 years now, I always have had a love/hate relationship with a few salty veterans. Most folks read my destinations features about well-known fisheries. Maybe they take my advice, book a trip or in a few rare instances, call me out, saying things like, “You ruined my secret spot.” I simply have replied, “How did I ruin your “secret spot” when the world has known about the Snake or Bighorn (whatever the river in reference was) for generations?” I avoid writing about small backcountry lakes, unnamed streams or even lesser-known rivers and creeks that you need a bloodhound or a topographical map just to find. Sometimes, I highlight a flyfishing destination, then quickly sprinkle in all the great

tor, Idaho, Jackson, Wyoming, and the South Fork of The Snake River. I have highlighted the Grey’s River in the same drainage before, but this time around, let us tackle the Salt River….and no, it is not a saltwater river (maybe a tiny percentage), but history will tell you, it’s been a popular place for a long time! The Salt River got the name due to the saltwater springs, beds and briny areas found in the region that Native Americans and trappers used to cure and preserve meats. The springs offer a flow of 60% saltwater in a limited number of the feeder creeks. The 84-mile Salt River flows north from its headwaters below 10,472-foot Mount Wagner through the town of Thayne and Star Valley, before dumping into Palisades Reservoir to join the Snake River and head West. The whole region is an interesting place as you have three amazing trout fisheries join at Palisades Reservoir—only to become the powerhouse SF Snake that flows West to Idaho Falls and beyond, before joining the Columbia and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Okay, now that I got you on the map, let us talk about spring fishing, pre-runoff fishing since that is the next stage we will encounter in order as I look at the calendar. Locals and guides such as Darin Day from the Rockin’ M Ranch (https://rockinmranchwyoming.com) says fishing typically gets going in June, but if you have friends in the right places, he has been able to plow snow from ramps in late April, which is rare, or May, and have a go at it with dries and streamers. “Since the pre-runoff thing is really not a thing you can count on along the Salt, let’s start with June for a safer bet,” waters you find—maybe flyfishing hubs like West Yel- said Darin. “I like to fish streamers like the Double D, lowstone, Almont, Thermopolis, Glenwood Springs, a leech pattern I tie or stick with Woolly Buggers and Missoula, and Thayne. sculpin patterns, but I’m partial to articulated patThayne you ask—yeah Thayne, Wyoming. This terns like the Barely Legal. Most guys will slay the fish sleepy Wyoming town is just a stone’s throw from Vic- with nymph rigs, but who comes to Wyoming and a

by Brian La Rue

river like the Salt to nymph—not me! “As for the dry selection, make sure you are well stocked for early season action in June with Purple Haze, Parachute Adams and Yellow Salles,” adds Day. “As flows start to diminish and we get to that magical 700 CFS range, that’s the time we start presenting big dries and droppers. Your typical Wyoming bugs that work on the Snake will also work here. Darin suggested Chubbies in your favorite colors, with droppers like Brassies or Tungsten Pheasant Tails. “The favorite colors seem to change each year,” said Day. “Last year a tan or pink was the ticket, but this past season, purple was the top pick. Also, know that the Salt is a well-known hopper paradise. Toward the end of July, I throw big foam patterns like a size 8-12 Fat Albert and Dave's Hopper, and an assortment of stone fly patterns which will produce throughout the rest of the summer. “When the dog days of summer kick in and the fish have a little higher IQs after seeing so much junk on the water, action gets a bit more technical, so I start


High Country Angler • Spring 2021

throwing smaller patterns like Spinners and size 18 Purple Haze or Adams. This is a good time to use a double dry, maybe a size 14 Adams with a size 18-20 mosquito trailer.”  As fall takes over in the region, the streamer bite can be special on the Salt. Get back to those articulated streamers or feed a small bugger down a feedline and be ready for quick grabs by both the river’s browns, and cutthroat. “Before things really lock up with ice, the diehards like me do enjoy an outing or two from October to December unless we are in the backcountry getting an elk or deer,” said Darin. “As you might imagine, depending on the weather, action is typically on small midge dry and wet patterns. Nymphing might be the way to go until you see some heads mid-day. “Overall, the Salt River is a unique  fishery,” says Day. “It is a river that has a little bit of everything for the beginner to the most experienced fly fisherman. I have been fishing the river for over twenty years, and a guide for six of those seasons. Access can be tricky,


as there are a lot of private stretches and low bridges, so I’d highly advise fishing it from a low-profile raft or driftboat.” As for what is on the menu, this windy river hosts a variety of fish, with the Snake River cutthroat leading the charge. Darin says it is also home to whitefish, browns, brookies, rainbows, and a surprise tiger trout here and there. Check it out; I am sure one of the three amazing fisheries in the area will do more than just float your boat.

About The Author High Country Angler contributor Brian La Rue enjoys giving fly fishers ideas of where to go for an adventure. Feel free to reach out to Brian at Brian@hcamagazine. com if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan.

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Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


Speaking Out for Trout Advocacy from the Grassroots Up

by Colorado TU Staff


n important part of Trout Unlimited’s work to conserve, protect and restore coldwater fisheries and watersheds is advocacy with decision-makers at all different levels. Colorado TU’s Bull Moose Committee is made up of many of those grassroots advocates, accompanied by professional staffers, who are helping give voice to Colorado’s rivers and trout. Recent weeks have seen some important victories in advocacy.

The CORE of Colorado Conservation On February 12th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act, a package of public lands bills that will protect nearly 3 million acres of public lands. One key piece of the bill for Colorado is the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-2nd CD). The CORE Act would safeguard some 400,000 acres of the wild and historic landscapes that define Colorado while supporting the state’s vital outdoor recreation economy by designating new wilderness, special management areas and national recreation areas. Among its provisions: protection for the outstanding wildlife and native fish habitat of the Thompson Divide in western Colorado; securing the Camp Hale area (once home to the 10th Mountain Division) as the first national historic landscape; and reaffirming federal commitments to secure additional fishing access to 12 miles of quality waters in the Gunnison basin. The package now moves on the Senate, where Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have sponsored the Senate version of the CORE Act. 22

High Country Angler • Spring 2021




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Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


Feds Put Brakes on Risky Railroad Proposal The Tennessee Pass rail line has been dormant for 24 years. During its previous operations, it had a history of safety concerns including derailments. Recently, the Midland and Pacific Railway Company began an effort to seek fast-track approval to reopen the line through an exemption process with the Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB). The Collegiate Peaks, Eagle Valley, and Southern Colorado Greenbacks chapters joined with Colorado TU to raise concern that the proposed operations could put at risk fisheries in both the Eagle and Arkansas Rivers that have improved dramatically since the railway last operated – including more than 100 miles of Gold Medal water on the Arkansas. A derailment could release significant volumes of hazardous materials into the river, jeopardizing its high-quality fishery. Given the importance of river-based recreation to communities in both the Arkansas and Eagle valleys, it could also jeopardize local economies as well. Other conservation groups and the Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners also voiced concerns with the exemption proposal. Fortunately, the STB rejected the fast-track request which will allow for a more careful review before any reopening of the line could proceed.


High Country Angler • Spring 2021


Eagle County Rejects Gravel Mine on Upper Colorado In January, Eagle County’s planning commission rejected a proposal to authorize a gravel mine along the Colorado River near Dotsero. A newly-formed mining company sought an exemption under the Dotsero Area Community Plan, which emphasized the natural and agricultural values of the area and did not contemplate large-scale industrial operations like the proposed gravel mine. The Eagle Valley Chapter joined other locals in voicing opposition to the proposal. Ben McCormick, a TU Bull Moose member and owner of Cutthroat Anglers fly shop, testified before the planning commission that “When you think about the pressure and the crowds and everything



that’s going on with the upper Colorado, it couldn’t be more important that we protect this section. It truly is sacred.” TU member and Confluence Casting guide service owner Jack Bombardier added, “Considering the outdoor recreation and agricultural value of this area, putting an industrial site at its gateway makes no sense.” Ultimately, the Eagle County Planning Commission agreed, voting 4-2 against awarding both a special use permit for the sand and gravel pit that would scar the hillside for decades to come and an exemption from the Dotsero Area Community Plan guiding land use in the area as part of the Eagle County Comprehensive Plan.

Fishery Protections Added to Hydropower Legislation At the Colorado General Assembly, Colorado TU worked with Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) to add important aquatic protections to his legislation on pumped storage hydropower. Rep. McKean sought to have such hydroelectric power, which can help retime the availability of electricity by pumping water up during periods of low demand and excess grid supply and then releasing it to generate electricity during peak demand periods, added as “renewable energy” under Colorado’s renewable energy standards. Colorado TU brought potential aquatic habitat concerns to Rep. McKean – an avid angler himself – and he agreed to support amendments to add protections for fisheries to his bill, HB 21-1052, as it advances. Those protections include limiting such projects to off-channel locations, protecting state instream flow water rights and water quality standards, and screening intakes to prevent fish from being caught and killed in the hydropower turbines. 26

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Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


Jeff Ditsworth started his fly rod building company from a simple idea. He traveled often, enjoyed hiking and loved to fly fish. Unable to find a high quality pack rod, he founded Pescador on the Fly. Today, after much testing and prototype development, Pescador on the Fly designs high performance, high quality fly rod and reel combos. And, at a price real people can afford! By bringing quality gear directly to the angler, Pescador on the Fly is able to sell complete combos at a similar price point other company’s offer for just a comparable rod. Take El Jefe, a six piece beauty built on an epic IM12 carbon blank, titanium coated snake guides and a reel seat of aircraft grade aluminum with natural wood insert. Paired with a disc drag, machine cut stainless steel reel, Jeff includes backing and line! This sweet combo comes with an extra rod tip and lifetime warranty. Drop small dries for native small stream cutthroats or strip streamers for tail water rainbows; the 9ft El Jefe comes in 3 to 8 weight choices. From Pescador on the Fly direct to you, at $399.99 its time to upgrade to one gem of a packable fly rod! https://pescadoronthefly.com Pescador on the Fly is a proud Trout Unlimited Business member and contributes a solid portion of their revenues to invest in Trout Unlimited.

As featured in TROUT MAGAZINE!



For the Birds


verybody is always in too much of a rush to tie on a fly and start casting. Slow down. Ten minutes of sitting and watching is worth forty-five minutes of fishing.” So said an angling mentor to me riverside one cold, blustery afternoon a long time ago. It’s a piece of advice I try to take to heart every time I hit a river or lake. Sometimes that ten minutes of sitting is the most rewarding, and most productive, part of the day. It was just such another afternoon recently that saw me descend a narrow trail toward a section of river upstream of town where a busy, turbulent run fanned wide, then slowed to a meander of eddy creases and bubble lines. Dark cloud shrouded the mountains, and a downstream breeze that nipped at the skin brought with it flurries of snow that settled softly on my clothing. My arrival at the river was heralded by a pair of geese who

immediately announced their displeasure at my presence, swimming to the far bank then shadowing my progress, honking to wake the dead, as I walked downstream toward a boulder in whose lee I intended to sit while rigging my rod. Many things geese may be, but songbirds they aren’t. After several minutes of constant, one-sided conversation, I politely suggested they take their complaint elsewhere, a suggestion they mulled over for a few minutes more before agreeing and, taking to wing, headed upstream again. Precious silence. I located the boulder then proceeded to piece my rod together as I watched the iron grey water. Given the clouds and cold, I hoped to see some rise forms in the slower water. These were, according to the textbook, prime conditions for a hatch of blue-winged olive mayflies, yet as I watched, no tell-tale signs marred the river’s surface. Just then a barn swallow

About The Author Hayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander living in the mountain town of Salida, Colorado, on the banks of the Arkansas River. As well as being a semi-retired fly fishing guide, he juggles helping his wife raise two teenage daughters, along with a career in real estate. 30

High Country Angler • Spring 2021

appeared, working a beat to windward, low over the river, swooping occasionally to skim something off the water; whether feeding or merely drinking I couldn’t tell. It continued on upstream to the base of the turbulent water then wheeled back downstream before turning again opposite me and working back up again. My prospects of catching a fish lifted. Swallows don’t fly for fun. They need to consume an average of sixty insects an hour to survive, hence are harbingers of a hatch to a hopeful angler. Soon several more swallows joined the first, working in unison upstream and down, skimming the surface. Still I watched, scanning the bubble lines for any insects trapped in the foam, but couldn’t see what the swallows did. Nevertheless, encouraged, I tied on a small dry and a smaller nymph to spread my offering deeper in the water column. I watched the swallows and the river for a few minutes more. No rise forms, but who knew what lurked beneath the surface? I cast up into the run. Once in a while a swallow would dip down to inspect my dry fly, thankfully rejecting it at the last second. Several times I’d delay my cast to avoid placing my line right in their flight www.HCAezine.com

path. I had once hooked a swallow on my backcast when it took my nymph mid-air. Fortunately, I was able to reel it in and quickly release it, but it was a traumatic experience for both of us. I still recall how impossibly light and fragile it felt in my grasp. Still no rise forms, still no takers for the nymph, and after a few more minutes, the swallows departed. Snow flurries continued. An osprey arrived, perching high in a tree up the embankment away from the river, with its high pitched, mournful call. I continued to fish, and the osprey continued to call before itself moving on upstream. Upon reflection, it may well have been trying to save me the trouble. “Mate, it’s

no use. I’ve looked. There’s no fish there.” By now the cold was beginning to take its toll, with my toes numb, fingers pinched and clumsy, metabolism demanding sugar. I packed up and headed to a local fast food

joint for a guilty pleasure. As she handed me the strawberry shake, the bright-eyed, frecklefaced young lady smiled at me. “Happy National Bird Watching Day” she said. I agreed. It had been a great day for watching the birds. Helping You Keep Your Eyes on the Big Ones

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Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


Fly Fishing Rigs for Leader & Tippet Tags


he proverb “Waste not, want not” rings true in many areas of fly fishing. We continue to add dry fly floatant in the attempt to resurrect a soggy-bottomed grasshopper pattern, “seasoned anglers” (aka. OLD anglers) will invariably get on their knees to comb through the gravel of a parking lot to search for a dropped midge larva, and everyone who has fished for any period of time has climbed at least one tree to retrieve a rig that


High Country Angler • Spring 2021

the “wind must have caught” on their back cast! However, there is one almost universally wasted opportunity missed by most anglers, and that is the chance to fish some ultra-productive, next level rigs using the tag ends (long remnants) of leader and tippet left after joining line together or tying on a streamer. Here are two of our favorite fishing rigs that utilize tag ends and are guaranteed to save you time on the water and help you net more fish!


Blood Knot Nymphing Rigs There are a number of different knots that can be used to join sections of leader and tippet together, but my fingers inevitably start twisting as if they have little minds of their own when it comes to the Blood Knot. Whether you are joining a leader to a section of tippet, or two sections of tippet, this junction is the perfect opportunity to create a Euro-style, mid-line nymphing rig! STEPS FOR TYING A BLOOD KNOT NYMPHING RIG: 1. Start by overlapping the ends of the lines to be joined with one piece being approximately 5” longer than the other. Twist one around the other 5 times before bringing the tag end back between the two lines. 2. Next, you will repeat step one with the other end, wrapping the second line 5 times in the opposite direction before bringing the tag end back between the two lines. 3. Wet the line before slowly pulling the long ends of the lines in opposite directions. The turns of line will wrap and stack as the knot is pulled tight. Clip the shorter tag end off while using the longer tag to tie on your chosen nymph, larva, or wet fly. This simple rig is an easy connection point to add a free-floating nymph or emerger pattern to your line, and generate solid, deep hooksets that are nearly impossible for a trout to spit!

Non-Slip Loop Carolina Rigs for Streamers If you aren’t currently using a Non-Slip Loop when tying on your streamers, that needs to change today! Unlike a traditional Clinch Knot that cinches tightly down to the eye of the hook, the Non-Slip Loop allows the head of the streamer to freely swivel and turn on the line—vastly increasing the life and realism of your fly. The unique twist that we’ve added to this tried-andtrue knot (first introduced to us by longtime STEPS FOR TYING A NON-SLIP LOOP KNOT & CAROLINA RIG: 1. Start by making an overhand knot in your leader/tippet approximately 10” from the end. Pass the tag end through the hook eye and back through the loop of the overhand knot. 2. Wrap the tag end around the length of the line 4 or 5 times before bringing the tag end back through overhand knot, entering from same side it exited from before. 3. Wet the knot before slowly pulling the tag end to loosely stack the wraps of the knot together. Then pull the loop and the standing line in opposite directions to firmly seat the knot. 4. Make an overhand knot in the tag end 3” to 5” below the loop knot and then trim away any excess line beneath the overhand knot. 5. Pinch 1 or 2 split shot to the line above the overhand knot. (*The size and quantity of split shot can be adjusted based on the depth you would like to fish your streamer). 34

High Country Angler • Spring 2021


Roaring Fork Valley guide and guru, Jeff Sirbu) is using the long tag end left at the completion of the knot to create a fly fishing Carolina Rig! The combination of the hinged union created by the Non-Slip Loop Knot with the jerky, quick-diving motion caused by the pendulum-like split shot will cause your streamer to move like a wounded baitfish while allowing you to fish sections of the river rarely touched with a floating line!

We hope that you “Tag Along” with the Ascent Fly Fishing crew, and try out these rigs the next time you are on the water!

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.


by Kevin Terry


ince 2008, The San Luis Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Conejos River Anglers Fly shop have partnered to raise money for Conejos River habitat projects through a casual fishing competition known as the “Conejos Superfly.” Every year, on the second weekend of April, just as the glorious Conejos River is waking up from a long winter slumber, approximately 40 twoperson teams roll into Antonito, CO for a weekend of comraderie and fishing. The Superfly offers anglers the opportunity to draw one of 25 beats, including access to otherwise very exclusive private water. Teams draw a beat in the morning, fish hard all day, and then get together for great local food and tall tales of the day’s adventures. The casual, family-like atmosphere is refreshing, and the event offers even lifelong Conejos anglers opportunities to fish new waters. The best part is that the Superfly raises money for projects to improve habitat on the Conejos River, and the results have been quite 36

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significant. So far, the Superfly has raised over $31,000 for the San Luis Valley Chapter of TU, and the chapter has kicked in an additional $12,000 over the years. Leveraging this money effectively, TU has received 3 grants for habitat work, and multiplied the $43,000 by nearly 7 times. The first grant of $54,000 came from the Fishing is Fun program administered by CPW, and the project improved trout habitat on a section of USFS land known as the “Hidden Mile.” The project also protected the reach with fencing to keep cattle out, and improved the parking area. More recently, TU received two complimentary grants, one from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and a second grant from the Fishing is Fun program, for a total of $219,000. The project will be constructed in the fall of 2021 in the “Meadows” section of the Conejos near Platoro. The work will enhance wintertime/refuge habitat, and connectivity between habitat during low flow conditions

on a 2-mile section of the Conejos. This project will compliment TU’s Winter Flow Program work, which is a partnership with the Conejos Water Conservancy District designed to increase wintertime releases from Platoro Reservoir. Additionally, SLV TU recently partnered with the Division of Water Resources to install temperature sensors on the Platoro and Mogote stream gages, making that information available in near livetime, which helps managers and anglers protect the fishery when water temps are too high, and helps anglers and guides strategize for optimal water temperatures for hatches and good fishing! Collectively, these projects are making a big difference for a fishery dominated by a wild, self-maintaining population of Brown Trout. The Conejos River has tremendous public access and the surrounding watershed presents a lifetime of opportunity for the adventurous angler. The Conejos is a stonefly factory with prolific hatches and an incredible diversity of aquatic www.HCAezine.com

insects. The San Luis Valley Chapter of TU is incredibly grateful to the folks at Conejos River Anglers for their generous support over the years. The fly shop owned and operated by the Blankenship family is a tremendous resource for anglers, and they also offer comfortable lodging on site. The Blankenship clan does 100% of the work to organize and host the Superfly event, to give back to the resource and have fun doing it. This is incredibly admirable, and if you think so too, please stop by the shop and say thanks to them in person while you pick up a few local patterns and some of the daily on-the-water intel. SLV TU and CRA are aiming to double the fundraising for Conejos projects over the next decade. You can be part of that in any number of ways. You can join us at the Superfly, give directly to SLV TU, leave a check at Conejos River Anglers, spread awareness to people in your personal network that love the Conejos, etc. This year the Superfly will be held April 9-11, 2021, and the event will be modified to comply with Co-Vid guidelines and to provide a safe comfortable experience for participants. You can find more information on the Conejos River Angler website and Facebook page (www.conejosriveranglers. com).

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


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COLORADO TU PARTNER SPOTLIGHT: RAREWATERS FISHING & CONSERVING RARE WATERS IN THE ROCKIES High Country Angler recently had the chance to interview Brenden Stucky, Clint Packo and Erin Crider, partners in an emerging new player within Colorado’s fly fishing business community, RareWaters, to learn more about how they are working to advance angling and conservation.


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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?

Ha, that's funny. We appreciate the comparison and see the similarities but think we're more environmentally conscious than the AirBnB's of the world. Conservation is a big focus for us. Our mission is to, "Spread the power of the outdoors and inspiration to conserve it." Although we leverage modern-day technology to make our users' experiences seamless and easy, that's not our core focus. Our team gets out of bed every morning to share fly fishing with more people. As a fellow angler, I'm sure you can appreciate fly fishing is a powerful 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.

HCA: For an angler whose fishing experiences may have only been on public water, what would you tell them they could expect in fishing on private water?

This is a loaded question, and a politically sensitive one. There's plenty of great public water out there. We fly fish public water just as much as the next angler! However, we've noticed a huge drop


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in the quality of the fly fishing experience at public fly fishing locations. To us, fly fishing is about more than catching fish. It's a timeless tradition providing anglers with a sense of adventure, solitude and a deep connection with the outdoors. When's the last time you were able to enjoy over a mile of the South Platte River to yourself near Deckers? Shoot, when's the last time you were able to enjoy a few hundred yards of the river to yourself in Deckers? You can't find a parking spot in Deckers or Cheeseman Canyon at 7am on a weekday! It's out of control. This ruins the fly fishing experience for us and we believe there's a big difference between privately managed water and publicly managed water. Many of our landowners invest hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars into their watersheds. It's kind of like Jack Nicklaus designing a stretch of water instead of a golf course. You won't see more than 1-2 other anglers on a full mile of water when booking with RareWaters. We also offer customized river reports and fly recommendations for your trip, and the fishing on each property is spectacular!

HCA: What does RareWaters offer to the private landowners who work with you in managing fishing on their waters?

One of our co-founders has 25 years of fisheries management experience. We like to think we know everything there is to know about improving, maintaining and managing fish habitat in a responsible and environmentally conscious way. But hey, just like everyone else, we're always learning!  


High Country Angler • Spring 2021


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We also teach and educate our landowner partners on how to utilize and manage their bookings without overpressuring fish and their properties as a whole.  Although we want to share premium fly fishing experiences with the masses, we're very cognizant of 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.


HCA: How have you incorporated conservation into your business model – both with the landowners with whom you work, and with your members looking to book a fishing trip?

Great question! This year we're excited to start donating a portion of each trip to conservation organizations like Trout Unlimited, and other cool fly fishing non-profits. In addition to these donations, we've also partnered with respected organizations like Freestone Aquatics, Colorado Trout Unlimited, The Trout and Salmon Foundation and others to help consult on and/ or construct improved trout habitat! We're really proud of these partnerships.

HCA: How do you see conservation on private lands like those where you operate advancing the overall health of rivers, fisheries and watersheds?

There have been many examples over the years of private landowners and donors leading the charge to conserve, protect and restore large portions of land including rivers. Take the Railroad Ranch in Harriman State Park, Idaho for example. The railroad baron helped shape modern day conservation as a result of his forethought and vision. Similarly, many landowners today are exceptional stewards and have the financial resources to advance conservation efforts. Conservation isn't cheap, and as mentioned previously, many of our landowner partners invest hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars into the restoration and management of their watersheds. Our team devotes significant time and expense to partner with landowners that “get it” and work toward bettering the system for everyone.

HCA: What does the future hold for RareWaters? What is your vision for where you hope to be over the next 5 to 10 years?

We're optimistic personalities and are excited about what the future holds (or may hold)! Our vision is to offer our anglers with over


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200 miles of water access in the next 5 years. Each stretch of water will provide the sense of adventure, solitude and deep connection with the outdoors I mentioned earlier. We'll be focused in the Rocky Mountain region until 2023 and branching out nationally after that. As mentioned, we believe fly fishing is a powerful and fulfilling experience. We want you and your family and friends to enjoy this experience on a beautiful and trusted stretch of water no matter where you may be traveling!

For More Information Brenden Stucky, Clint Packo and Erin Crider are the Co-Founders of RareWaters. Readers interested in learning more about RareWaters can visit their website at www.rarewaters. org or send an email to support@rarewaters.org.


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Connect with and explore what’s wild, and support Trout Unlimited in the process





All in a few clicks



We’re always looking for new properties. Are you a landowner with over one mile of river, stream or creek running through your property? If yes, we’d love to talk with you.


Contact us today at

Share your water with families, veterans and responsible land stewards looking to fly fish. support@rarewaters.org We practice catch and release fishing only and provide our landowner partners with www.HCAezine.com Spring 2021 • High Country Angler handsome rod fees and $2M in free insurance coverage.


The EDDY Tank:

A Conversation with Denver TU’s TIC Intern by Colorado TU Staff




uring the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have been turned upside down with closures, online learning, and hybrid environments to try and protect students, teachers, and communities. Amidst all of this, teachers have been tasked with adapting their curriculum to on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. This dynamic environment made it difficult for many schools to host Trout in the Classroom this year. The Denver Trout Unlimited (DTU) chapter recognized these challenges. Rather than accept the reality of fewer TIC sites, DTU chapter leaders seized the opportunity to innovate by finding new creative ways to

host the program. Through an existing relationship with the Greenway Foundation, DTU expanded their partnership to include a Trout in the Classroom site at Greenway’s office along the South Platte in Denver. This was no ordinary TIC site. The “EDDY Tank,” as it has come to be known, provides virtual access to classroom teachers through webcams and remote water quality telemetry sensor. DTU did not stop there! They hired a local high school student to serve as the TIC intern and support the EDDY Tank. I was able to connect with Denver TU’s TIC Intern in February to learn more about her and her experience:

Geoff: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you get involved with Denver TU’s Trout in the Classroom program? Tori: My name is Tori. I’m 16 and I’m a junior at East High School in Denver. I’m very interested in animals, and have 22 pets. I got involved with Denver TU indirectly. I loved this summer camp that the Greenway Foundation hosts called SPREE (South Platte River Environmental Education). I was so upset when I grew out of it, that I served in a junior teaching position. Since then, I have been a River Ranger with Greenway for the past couple of years, which has been great! After nine years with Greenway, everyone knows me. This past year, Greenway reached out to some alumni regarding the TIC internship position. Initially, I ignored it assuming they wanted someone full-time, because I was in school. Two days later, Greenway contacted me again, letting me know they were specifically asking me based on my interest in animals and past work. After an interview, I learned about Trout Unlimited and got the job!


Spring 2021 • High Country Angler



Geoff: What makes the “EDDY Tank” unique? How has it allowed Denver TU to continue to connect with schools during the pandemic? Tori: There are a few things that make the EDDY tank unique. It is a 100-gallon coldwater tank in the Greenway office. First of all, it is unique because its size allows more trout to be hosted in one tank. Often schools have multiple tanks across classrooms where teachers care for each tank throughout the year. The EDDY tank allows more trout to be hosted, and is video broadcast to classrooms—allowing students to have the experience of having a tank without teachers having to take care of it when they weren’t sure that they would be in the classroom. It is also unique because it is DTU’s first tank to be electronically monitored. We have cameras and a Seneye sensor. The Seneye sensor is a telemetry device recording pH, ammonia, temperature, and other metrics.


High Country Angler • Spring 2021


Geoff: Does Denver TU envision integrating the remote access technology into tanks moving forward? What benefit does it provide to schools once they are back in-person? Tori: From what I understand, DTU does plan to integrate this technology into TIC tanks moving forward. These tools are really quite invaluable to the program. The Seneye sensor helps by letting you know when something is going wrong by sending you an alert when the temperature is off, pH levels are too high or too low, and even when it has not taken a reading for too long. If there is a power outage or your water quality is off, it will let you know. This is helpful on weekends or vacations when you might not know a problem is occurring until it is too late. The cameras help confirm issues by providing a visual of the tank, so you can see if there is a power outage, monitor fish activity and health, as well as the sensors. These tools give you the information to make the best decisions for the trout to ensure you keep the tank safe and healthy. Geoff: Tell me about your internship experience. What have you learned? How do you hope to use your experience moving forward? Tori: My role as an intern is a little bit of everything. I take care of the tank at least three times a week but usually more depending on what is happening. I check on the fish, adjust their feeding, monitor egg and fish health, clean the filter, adjust the pH, and other tank maintenance tasks. I also help with outreach and share access with interested teachers. I never worked with trout before, and have learned a lot about a trout’s life cycle. I’ve also learned lots of skills. I’ve learned dedication and initiative through having to check on the trout often. I’ve learned about how to communicate professionally with folks you work with and how to respect their time and experience. I have also learned a lot about tank systems, such as filters and chillers.


Spring 2021 • High Country Angler


Geoff: How do you see these skills supporting your future goals? Tori: My goals are slightly unclear. I know I want to work with animals. For now, I may continue working with Greenway Foundation. When I go to college, I hope to study biology or wildlife biology. With that, these skills will be applicable to understanding the needs of different animals and how to work with fish. Additionally, the time management and communication skills will be essential no matter what I end up doing. I’ve also learned how to convince people of what needs to be done and to delegate tasks, which will be helpful. Geoff: Based on your involvement with Trout in the Classroom, what do you see as the benefits of the program for classrooms and students? Tori: There are a lot of benefits. Students get to learn about fish. Here in Denver, we have the South Platte where there are fish and even trout. Trout in the Classroom helps one learn about the environment and wildlife here in the community. It also teaches responsibility because often the teaches have the students help take care of the tank. They must take on responsibility and problem solve. It’s very valuable for students to watch trout during the beginning of their life cycle. Seeing the trout hatch and swim for the first time creates a connection with the species. By caring for them and seeing them grow, they learn a lot about trout and how to care for the environment. This fosters a desire to protect trout, which is a very valuable takeaway. Geoff: Any closing thoughts? Tori: Getting to see the fish swim for the first time was a wonderful experience. I named the first one Jimmy, because I was so excited for them. It was truly amazing to watch them grow and learn how to be a fish. I have enjoyed caring for them, and am excited for others to have that experience.


High Country Angler • Spring 2021



For more information. If you are interested in learning more about the EDDY Tank set-up or Trout in the Classroom, contact Geoff Elliot at geoff.elliot@tu.org. The spring is a great time of you to explore TIC opportunities in your community!


Spring 2021 • High Country Angler




How Will The Wildfires of 2020 Impact Colorado’s Trout Fisheries? Colorado, along with many states in the Rocky Mountain West, experienced a record-breaking fire season in 2020; over 650,000 acres burned in our state. How will the trout populations in nearby streams be impacted? What should anglers expect to see in the rivers this year?


Yes, 2020 was an unprecedented year. Colorado experienced three of the largest fires in the state’s history: the Cameron Peak fire, the East Troublesome fire and the Pine Gulch fire-- each burning well over 100,000 acres apiece. And this is after the Grizzly Creek fire had engulfed forest areas around I-70 and caused highway closures. With climate change, our fire season each year is two months longer on average, starting a month earlier in the spring and lasting a month longer in the fall. Combine a longer, drier season with current forest management practices, and more people living in the wildland-urban interface, and we are observing fires that are larger, more severe, and more costly than ever before. We are reckoning with our attitude of fire suppression, which has been a warfare on fires, allowing forests to age and fuels to accumulate. However, fires are a part of the forest landscape. Fires are a natural disturbance, and the inhabitants of the West, including our beloved trout, have evolved with fire. Native plants, insects and fish have all adapted to return after fire. If you take the “long-view” fires generally help revitalize ecosystems, acting as a natural re-set in climax communities. I have spent much of the last decade studying



High Country Angler • Spring 2021

how wildfires disrupt water quality, impact water supplies and affect aquatic life. I have been on the ground sampling aquatic insect and fish populations immediately after and many years following fires in Colorado. And I have utilized public data to evaluate the most common water quality responses in streams disturbed by hundreds of wildfires. My main observation is that the earth is incredibly resilient and ecosystems recover healthier after fire when enough time has passed. I hope to convince you to be patient, remain hopeful, and observe some remarkable landscape scale changes and recovery. Wildfires are evaluated by their burn severity, a spectrum where foresters consider how much of the vegetation was combusted. Low severity fires leave much of the vegetation intact, are more like crown fires, and do not disrupt the hydrology, water quality, insect or fish populations in the streams within and below the burn scar. Moderate and high severity fires, where vegetation is completely combusted and the ground is scorched, result in higher streamflows and compromised water quality for 1-5 years after the fire. The greatest impacts on streams have been observed after rainstorms. In moderate to high severity burn scars, the forest floor becomes hydrophobic because the organic material has been cooked, reducing infiltration capacity of the soil, preventing rainwater from percolating into the ground and causing rain to accumulate as surface runoff, delivering more water to the streams after rain. The higher flows can scour stream bottoms, flushing fine sediment and material from the system. During Colorado’s monsoon season late in the summer, short intense rain-events also physically dislodge soil from burned landscapes, increasing erosion and delivering soil to streams. The eroded soil carries nutrients, like nitrates and phosphates, and absorbed heavy metals from ash and minerals to the stream. But www.HCAezine.com

it is the dirt alone that causes the most commonly-observed disruption: higher suspended solids in streams within and below wildfire areas. Algal growth has been observed to increase in some areas after fire, because the streams are receiving more nutrients from the burned landscape and the canopy over the stream is open allowing more sunlight. These are temporary effects that are more common in landscapes where the fire burned at a moderate to high severity; large but low severity fires do little to change the stream. So, within and below the high severity burn areas, anglers can expect to see muddier water after each rain event, shifting deposits of ash and fine material, and maybe more algae growing in streams. Generally, after 1-5 years, these impacts dissipate as the landscape recovers and vegetation returns, stabilizing soils. Aquatic insect populations experience the disruption from fire in and below burned areas. Surprisingly, the density and total number of insects inhabiting streams generally remains the same. But there is a species shift in diversity, from a wide variety of orders and sensitive species, to a few hearty pollution tolerant species. The stoneflies, most caddisflies, and most mayflies are temporarily absent from the community after fire and there are more chironomids (midges). The high flows that follow rainstorms in high severity burn areas scour the streambed, removing many species and the fine sediment embedded between rocks. This acts as a re-set to the ecosystem, and the early pioneer, pollution-tolerant insect species come back first; the diversity of sensitive species tend to return in 2-5 years. Anglers may notice changes in their favorite local hatch, but

impacts are extremely localized to within and directly below high severity burn areas, so hatches may be patchy throughout a burned landscape. Stream fish, including trout, can be killed directly from the heat of the fire and from high suspended solids (turbid water) that follow monsoon storms. The suspended solids in the water can clog the fish gills and suffocate them. Patchy fish kills can occur 1-3 years after a fire if fish are trapped in streams with poor water quality. However, even when fish kills occur, and I have observed several after fires, the fish return and populations rebound quickly. The key to fish survival in streams is connectivity. If a fish can escape a poor water quality event, such as muddy water after an intense rainstorm, by swimming upstream, downstream, or into another tributary, they can survive. And even when fish kills do occur, if the stream has high connectivity, other fish will be quick to re-populate the open habitat. I have personally observed several trout populations rebound with higher numbers of adults and young in year two-three years after a fire caused a fish kill or burned the area upstream. While the purple fireweed is still carpeting the burned landscape and the aspens begin to re-establish, the fish and the population of insects they rely on for food are back stronger than before. For them, the fire was not a catastrophe but a moment that rejuvenated their ecosystem. We have to get used to a future with more fires. It is hard to watch, but the change that follows as the landscape recovers from black and scorched to a fresh bright green, scattered with wildflowers and new young tree growth is awe-inspiring.

About The Author Ashley Rust is a researcher and professor at the Colorado School of Mines.


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Have you considered a planned gift to Colorado TU? A legacy gift to Colorado TU helps to secure our future and enables us to continue our work preserving and restoring Colorado’s watersheds for years to come. It allows us to improve wild trout habitat in your homewaters, to restore native cutthroats, and to offer our River Conservation and Fly Fishing Youth Camp to more of Colorado’s youth. By making Colorado TU a beneficiary of your estate, you are making one of the most sincere and lasting commitments to our conservation mission and supporting cold, clean, fishable waters in Colorado. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss planned giving options with you further. contact Kindle at (303) 440-2937 or skindle@tu.org to learn more. High CountryShannon Angler • Spring 2021 www.HCAezine.com 54Please

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High Country Angler | Spring 2021