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Opposites Attract by Landon Mayer

A Return to Eastern Sierra by Brian La Rue MORE 1








Combining Yampa River and mountainous land, this 1,380± acre ranch stands out for its big fish, big game hunting and convenient location within 20 minutes of Steamboat Springs and the regional airport.

A 9,000± acre operating ranch includes a 350± acre private lake, 6.5± miles of a trout stream, outstanding upland bird, waterfowl, antelope, deer and pheasant hunting plus a distinctive log home.

The 537± acre Susie Q Ranch, 40 minutes from Ketchum, is one of Sun Valley’s premier fishing properties. The ranch features tasteful improvements, lush pastures, and nearly 2 miles of world-renowned Silver Creek.










Less than nine miles from Pagosa Springs and Stevens Field Airport, the Adams Ranch offers 535± deeded acres adjacent to national forest and features 4,000± feet of both banks of the main stem of the San Juan River.

The epitome of luxury western living in a storied landscape on 290± acres a half-hour west of Missoula. Custom log home, guest homes and superlative equestrian facilities. Borders Fish Creek State Wildlife Management Area.

301.39± acres with national forest boundaries, three trout ponds, East Fork river frontage and extensive improvements. 9,500± sq. ft. residence, guest and staff residences, and equestrian improvements.




SA LES | AUCTI O NS High Country Angler • Summer 2017







Dedicated to Land and Landowners Since 1946

On Location: Sky River Ranch | Steamboat Springs, CO






Twenty-eight miles northwest of Telluride lies a world-class fishing property situated along three miles of a key stretch of the San Miguel River. A lodge, home and guest cabins are tastefully designed and create an ideal family retreat.

South of Alder within the national forest, featuring comfortable and attractive improvements and two+ miles of both sides of a spring creek-influenced section of the Ruby River and immediate access to user-friendly mountain country.

Dos Caballos, located 27± miles east of Wagon Mound off Highway 120. Offering 6,980± deeded acres, 3,110± acres of state lease, five-plus miles of both banks of the Canadian River, and 3,800± sq. ft. primary residence.










The snowcapped peaks of the Mission and Swan mountain ranges flank the Swan River as it flows through this 165± acre property with two log homes situated next to a trout pond, two barns and airplane hangar.

Located 25 miles east of Sun Valley’s airport, this scenic mountain ranch features 1,440± deeded acres, irrigated pastures, a comfortable home, and over one mile of a year-round trout stream. Adjacent to public lands.

227± acre angling retreat on the famous Smith River. Timber frame home complements river and mountain views. Private retreat in a tightly held, much sought-after part of Montana. Approximately 1.5 hours from Bozeman.






I N FO @ H A LLA N D H A LL.C OSummer M | 82017 88.55 7. 3 09 0 • High Country Angler


Mountain Living and Working Near Colorado’s Newest gold Medal Trout Waters of the Upper Arkansas River

The Reserve at Cottonwood Creek For the Fly Fishing Enthusiast!

Cabin Surrounded by National Forest

Ten lots available at The Reserve, some with frontage along Cottonwood Creek.

$295,000 $64,900 to $169,000 The Reserve is a 100 acre development in Buena Vista with 30 acres of greenspace along one mile of Cottonwood Creek, set aside as a permanent nature sanctuary protecting the Creek and its wooded wetlands. Fly fish along the Creek or in the four private catch and release trout ponds. 10 minutes from the Arkansas River. The covered pavilion provides a social venue for families and the community. A hiking/jogging trail goes along the Creek and around the perimeter. The Reserve has city sewers; lot owners drill their own well, augmented for outside watering. Four lots have Cottonwood Creek frontage, including Lot 25 as shown. Located within minutes of the Arkansas River.

Own a private 15.95 acre mining claim and cabin surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest; 25 minutes from the Gold Medal Waters of the Upper Arkansas River and South Park fishing. The 3 BR, 1 Bath 1090 sq ft. cabin has been well maintained; a 260 sq ft screened porch and bonus room adds extra space for relaxing or sleeping. The 930 sq ft wraparound deck has views from the Collegiates to Buffalo Peaks. Vaulted ceilings with skylights, custom milled pine floors. Solar; generator for well pump. Propane stove, refrigerator and water heater; stove also has wood burning capability. Two car detached garage. Extensive fire mitigation for insurance. Hunting, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, 4-wheeling; badminton, rifle range, and horseshoe pits on the property. Deer, antelope, elk, wild turkey, and Bighorn Sheep roaming. Located in the Bassam Park area, less than 10 miles from US 285/24; less than 16 miles from Buena Vista.

Call Dan Cooper for Details and Private Showing 6

High Country Angler • Summer 2017


Sophisticated Mountain Living

In Harmony with the Environment

$1,289,000 Custom built home in Buena Vista, CO; 15 minutes from Gold Medal Waters of the Upper Arkansas River. Unobstructed views of the 14,000 ft peaks of the Collegiate Range and Sangre de Cristo Range, San Isabel National Forest and the Arkansas River Valley. 3 BR and bonus room; 3.5 baths. 4,820 sf living area, plus sunroom. Upgrades and interesting designer touches throughout. Large decks, partially covered, for relaxing and entertaining. Property includes a detached 1,760 sf workshop/garage with wood stove and oversized doors. Oversized 2 car att. garage; storage above via staircase. Many upgrades and amenities. Beautifully maintained; looks nearly new. Direct access to the adjacent national forest.

Overlooking the Arkansas River Valley


Stunning contemporary home with many of the features you have always wanted, located in The Reserve at Cottonwood Creek. 4 BR 3.5 baths, 3800 sq ft home plus spacious guest quarters above garage. Design features: barnwood siding; steel reinforced loft for two-story open plan; rear patio with fireplace and hot tub; wide-plank oak floors; kitchen has warming drawer, ice machine, wine/mini-fridge. Main floor master with designer bath. This home is beautifully positioned overlooking the 30 acres of greenspace of with Ponderosas and Aspen; steps away from the 3+ mile trail system in The Reserve. Spring Creek runs through the property. Many amenities and upgrades.

Family Compound in Twin Lakes, CO


$739,000 Step into this remarkable contemporary home in Buena Vista designed and built to take advantage of the unique setting overlooking the Upper Arkansas Valley with panoramas of the Collegiate Range. 4 BR, 3.5 BA, 4,084 SF. First floor living includes a dream kitchen, an adjacent office with high-end cabinetry, a dining room/great room with walls of glass, watermilled hickory flooring from Vermont, and an enviable master suite. Take the open staircase down to a walk-out great room with fireplace, 3 additional bedrooms and 2 baths. 4th bedroom can serve as a large office. Home Warranty is included. 15 minutes to the Gold Medal Waters of the Arkansas.

Currently a successful Bed & Breakfast, this property could readily become a family compound in one of Colorado’s spectacular glacial valleys, directly across the street from the Twin Lakes. The property includes four elegant bedrooms with designer ensuite baths; a separate Carriage House with fireplace and front porch overlooking the Lake; and an upstairs apartment with one bedroom, 1 bath and a swing room for office or sleeping. The historic and charming reception building can be the family gathering and dining room with an efficiency kitchen. The covered porch overlooking the Lake is ideal for summer entertaining and could be enclosed for an additional gathering space year-round. Located at the base of Mt. Elbert; six miles to great fly fishing on the Arkansas River, 37 miles to Aspen via Independence Pass. Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


If you are looking for the ultimate fishing paradise, either for an end user, or subdividing, this is it! Call or email for detailed information!

Coldwell Banker Bighorn Realty P.O. Box 100, 305 6th Street Crested Butte, CO 81224



This 157.92 acre parcel boasts some of the best fly fishing in the state, with 1/2 mile of both sides of the Colorado River, and another 1/4 mile of Willow Creek, a tailwater fishery that has been greatly enhanced by some of the best experts in the state. 10.33 CFS of adjudicated irrigation water from the Horn Ditch No. 1 and 2 of Willow Creek for haying, pasture, and livestock. This property can be subdivided. The river is lined with spruce, pines, and cottonwoods. Large meadows, along with a mesa up high for views. Only 20 minutes from Winter Park Ski Resort, and less than a two hour drive from Denver (90 miles) is an added bonus. This property is also minutes from Grand Lake, Lake Granby, Willow Creek Reservoir, and Rocky Mountain National Park. This ranch is not only a fishing mecca for private fishing, but is also home to hunting; many animals call it their home. Ponds and wetlands attract geese, ducks, and cranes. Deer, elk, antelope, moose, and sage grouse--to name a few--frequent the property. This property is truly unique!

Willowfly Anglers Guide Service at Three Rivers Resort

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High Country Angler • Summer 2017

• Beautiful cabins, lodge rooms and vacation homes • Summer time restaurant • Complete fly fishing shop • General Store with gifts, rentals and convenience store • Rafting, horse back rides, zip line and more!

What is your Brand’s


Let us help you answer That Question.

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler








































High Country Angler • Summer 2017


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 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 m D i rec t : ( 714) 944- 5676 K andily n M ar t i n, Ad S ales k andi ly n@ hc am agaz Cell: ( 719) 432- 8317


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


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Joel Evans, David Nickum, John Nickum, Peter Stitcher, Jeff Florence

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 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 620 Sixteenth Street, Suite 300 Denver, CO 80202

COVER PHOTO: By Landon Mayer

Find High Country Angler Magazine on

TOC PHOTO: by Frank Martin

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


Opposites Attract by Landon Mayer


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler



t is easy to get stuck in the groove of fishing the same methods or targeting the same water day in and day out. Not to say this is not effective, but I like to keep it fresh. Try to see if the trout will react to a fly or delivery that is completely opposite of the hatch that is taking place at that time, or use a discipline that would leave most anglers looking at you with bewilderment. Well, why not? Let’s see if that opportunistic fish will attack something that is not on the menu. I was first exposed to this theory while guiding during an introduction to fly fishing course in 2000. We were covering techniques with the clients during a blizzard trico hatch, and after covering dries, emergers, and nymphs, we were going to wrap up the 4-hour session with a streamer. With the fish still suspended and looking aggressively toward the surface, I encouraged one of my students to go with a small streamer attached to a long fluorocarbon leader connected to a floating line. A small #12 olive Slump Buster was the first pick. We walked up as a group to a long riffled run where everyone could spread out, and then, with room to learn the techniques of presenting streamers, I demonstrated the retrieve for the student. Much to everyone’s shock, only two strips into my retrieve, a 17- inch brown attacked the streamer like it had been waiting for it all morning. If that was not surprising enough, all the students in that day’s class hooked and landed fish on olive slump busters during the thickest trico hatch of the year, leaving me forever changed as an angler with the mindset that opposites do attract!

Reaction Strike A common question I receive during guide trips is, “What is a reaction strike?” I believe it is when a trout instinctively reacts to either defend, at-


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

tack, or take a fly out of curiosity. Like a child snagging a snack amongst siblings, defending themselves with their hands, salmonids do the same with their mouths. The interesting part is that it is not always in the mood to feed. And it is not just limited to trout: we hear of sharks that attack people with a bite not designed to kill. Same thing, but with catch and release in mind. Adult trout become aggressive and territorial as they mature. There is a good chance that when you see a prime feeding lie, like the head of a pool where a riffle is dumping food and oxygen into the bucket, a dominant fish will be staged. As anglers we gain an advantage because we can learn how to push the fish’s button and trigger a reaction strike whether going face to face with the fish using a streamer, or mimicking an escaping meal with the dry fly swing. Remember, it is the art of surprising the fish so that it reacts!

Midging Magic Midges are one of the most important meals for trout around the world. Not only are they plentiful, but they hatch in every season, making them comfort food to the fish all year. With that bit of midge knowledge, I learned years ago that if the going gets tough with selective trout below or on the surface of the water, revert to using midge magic and thinking opposite of what you see hatching in front of you. Fall is my favorite example of this, when large brown trout are known to concentrate on the easy rewards of a baetis hatch (BWO’s) during the cooling days. Some of these hatches can blanket the water with duns, causing some of the trout to become very wary of BWO imitations that ride the surface. It is wise to change color and sizes when imitating the natural, but when the fish simply will not commit, the trusty Griffiths Knat #18-20 and Buzz Ball #16-20 can be the answer as a main or trailing dry fly. I prefer to

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler



bout The Author.

Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado guide and author of several books, including 101 Trout Tips: A Guide’s Secrets, Tactics, and Techniques-Stackpole/Headwaters Books. He has co-produced 2 fly fishing DVDs with John Barr, both available from Mad Trout Media. Visit Landon’s website at and follow him on Instagram @landonmayerflyfishing.


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

match the hatch with my lead fly, and then trail the adult midge, or midge cluster below. This will allow you to match and unmatch the hatch in the same rig.

Big vs. Small I used to always think downsizing my fly was the best way to imitate the trout’s food, and this is a good approach because insects are known to downsize as the hatch progresses for that season. Whether it is a nymph, emerger, or dry adult, think one size down like a #18 instead of a #16 and you will find yourself fooling more trout; however, this is not always the case. There are times when you can supersize the fly and find better results. The best example of this is fishing still waters where the food supplies like callibaetis, damsel flies, and midges can look big enough that you would swear your eyes are playing trick on you. This is a perfect set up to go from a #16 to a #14 when imitating the natural. While thinking this way has produced good results over the years, I recently decided to try doing the exact opposite with a downsized approach on the still water by super sizing my flies on the river. If anything, it’s a great way to learn the behavior of quality trout by watching them react, and it has been rewarded with big fish at times coming over to the fly out of curiosity about the different size. This opposite thinking is a good way to get the most out of every day by being open to using your entire arsenal. There never has to be a dull moment when you are on the water, and it is easy to stick with the same routine. I encourage you to try the opposite approach and see how the fish responds. It can lead to more hookups and more opportunities for quality trout. I wish you all the best on and off the water this year. HC

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


A Return to Eastern Sie


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

o erra

by Brian La Rue

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler



kay, for those of you who do not know me on a first-name basis, I cut my teeth fly fishing Yellowstone every summer. It was fantastic learning the sport in this wild place, but for those “off months,” as a young teen, I dabbled in fly casting to bass and carp in SoCal lakes, perch and halibut off Newport Beach, and trout in the Eastern Sierra. The Rockies offers much more in the way of solitude and wild fishing opportunities, but the Eastern Sierra will always hold a special place in my heart. Running along Highway 395 from Lone Pine in the south to about Carson City in the North, the Eastern Sierra offers some great fly fishing. Known nationally for Yosemite National Park (which straddles the Sierra Range) and Mammoth Mountain in the town of Mammoth Lakes, most people

finally understand what I’m talking about when I reference these landmarks. West and East Walker River Having lived in Reno for a spell, I was able to make the run quickly along the east side to a couple of my favorites, the West and East Walkers. I can vividly remember, long before Reno, a trip listening to John Denver where he says the “the Walker runs down to the Carson Valley Plain”—so you know it is a cool place if he mentioned it---right? Of course, a trip with your dad and your brother in September with a snow storm and your dad talking a slip with wader fill up is hard to forget---it happens to all of us! The West Walker is the freestone of the two. Browns and rainbows are on the menu here. They will readily hit everything

from nymphs to streamers and large attractors in the summer. It is a great river to cut your teeth on or introduce a youngster to fly fishing. I would compare it to a Poudre River, maybe. Closer to Bridgeport, the East Walker gets a lot of attention. It flows out of Bridgeport Reservoir and offers browns pushing double digits. The top mile sees lots of traffic but can produce yearround, particularly on streamers and smaller midges and nymphs. Smaller WD40s, RS2s, Princes--it’s much like Deckers with small bugs the key all the time. However, the big browns will smash sculpin patterns on sink tips if you time it right. For an insider’s tip…fish the Nevada side, only about 30 minutes from Ken’s in Bridgeport! The East Walker saw some hard times with low flows, given the drought of the past couple years, but the heavy snow in late 2016 and early 2017 saw a renewed river with flows jumping from 40 cfs to over 1,000 CFS. An ideal flow here is about 250 to 300 CFS when I’ve done the best. This area is also home to numerous other smaller creeks where you can chase wild browns and stocked rainbows. Robinson Creek and Green Creek are just a few I’ll mention. There are also numerous still waters to try, like Bridgeport and Upper and Lower Twin.

June Lake Loop

Driving south from Bridgeport, anglers will soon come to June Lake Loop. This is a series of four major lakes, all of which produce browns, cutthroat, and rainbows. Weekends can see lots of anglers, but fall fishing on Rush Creek and the Upper Owens can be great. Smaller streamers, small dries, and your standard nymphs work 20

High Country Angler • Summer 2017

well. You never know what you might catch here. One cast might produce a colorless, silver rainbow fresh from the truck, or one tug of a streamer might see a 12-pound brown. Big, bright-colored rainbows and cutthroat are also in the mix. One of my favorite spots to fish around here is Little Walker Lake. It takes a lot of effort to get there, both a drive in the car and a hike

down about 1,000 vertical feet, but strap a float tube on your back or know one of the exclusive owners of a key to the gate and you’ll enjoy casting dries and streamers to surfacing fish. Most fish run 12 to 16 inches, but I’ve personally caught and released rainbows to five pounds and have seen a sevenplus-pound brown swimming under a sunken log. The dirt road and the hike out is what keeps this

place quiet and secluded. Mammoth Lakes Area Further south along the 395, anglers will then come to Mammoth Lakes. Mammoth Mountain puts this community on the map for skiers, but while skiers are enjoying snow until July some years, you can explore numerous creeks, rivers, and stillwaters if ever you find yourself going West. The Devil’s Postpile area offers

Offering Vacant Land and Luxury Homes

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler



bout 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 if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan.


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

the San Joaquin River. This is a summer and fall only option here as the snow gets deep and the road isn’t plowed. The road comes out of the back of the ski area and the trout, mostly wild 8 to 13 inchers will hit attractors like it’s their last meal. Royal Coachman, Caddis, and small Kaufman’s Stimulators will all work. I’ve never caught a fish over 15 inches here, but you can also find a golden or two to check that off your list. On the East side of the highway is Hot Creek. Hot Creek is a skinny little geotermal-type hot springs mixed with a small stream that offers wide open dry and nymph action for those who like technical fishing. Think 20s and 22s, but on windy hot days, I’ve always turned my nose up at technical fishing and thrown Joe’s Hopper to the tune of 10 fish over 16 inches. If you fish here in the fall, you will wonder how these fish make it here as flows get skinny and weed beds dominate the river. Even stranger is the fact that it quickly joins the Owens River and Lake Crowley, offering holdover or resident browns that reach 12 pounds as well. Speaking of the Owens, this river starts with springs near the June Loop area and flows south to Bishop, adding a great option. It is very much like a South Platte, becoming a major spawning tributary for arguable the best stillwater fishery for flies--- Lake Crowley. The Owens, though, is a nymphing nirvana with the upper Owens near Benton Crossing producing all seasons, and summer days offering great hopper action too. Down south of Crowley, there are some great opportunities to get into 10-pound rainbows and browns. Bring your bushwhacking stick and wading

staff. The Owens runs 200 to 600 depending on water needs down south, and it runs a little murky. Lake Crowley reminds me of Spinney. I used to write for Western Outdoor News, and we would hold a float tube fly fishing tournament every year in September. Four-hundred float tubers would catch as many as 200 fish over 18 inches, measuring them and releasing them and getting them scored by numerous judge boats with action limited to two massive bays. The lake receives 200,000+ fingerlings each year so it is as close to a natural fishery as possible. Resident browns, rainbows, and cutthroat all use the Owens River to spawn, and the Sacramento perch fry and midges help them grow fast. A typical day with an indicator rig will produce 25 fish over 16 inches. Find the right midge combo and the right depth, and you’ll be busy.

Little Lakes Valley

Just south of Crowley is the Rock Creek Lake turnoff. Do you like catching brookie after brookie, and the chance to catch a trophy brown? Well, Upper Rock Creek is loaded with them, and a June, July, August, or September trip can mean a dozen takes in every “fishy” spot. Rock Creek is a tumbling creek connecting numerous large pools or what I would call small lakes—thus Little Lakes Valley. This is the kind of place to enjoy great scenery, catching wild fish, and introducing young ones to the world of fly fishing. It is also the kind of place where a wader-clad angler can wade half-way across a small lake and sight fish to large brookies pushing 17 inches. This valley has it all! Hiking up creek and fishing

every holding area will take up to a whole day, so plan for it. You’ll want to keep moving up, but eventually you either will need to make camp or return to your car. This is the kind of place you will want to tell your friends about, and they will think you are crazy for chasing six to 10-inch brookies, but you’ll still share this too-good-to-be-true creek with more friends, unless you decide to keep it all to yourself. If you want to try for a big brookie in one of the shallow lakes, try a small olive or amber Woolly Bugger and throw it well ahead of any sighted brookie; the rest is up to you. I’ve seen browns pushing 20 inches and have heard stories of these other deep, skinny lakes producing browns to 10 pounds too.


Finally, I mentioned the Owens flows south to Bishop. This area is thick with vegetation and is either best fished from a driftboat or when flows are 250 or less. There is some great water here, with streamers and your basic zebra midge and baettis patterns working well. Watch out for steep banks, deep pools, and big fish. Above Bishop is Bishop Creek and too many other waters to mention. I will tell you that you can find Kamloops in backcountry lakes, a whole area to the south called the Golden Trout Wilderness, and even a bass lake with few anglers even further south of Bishop. Too many options to mention, and too many secrets I will have to take to my grave, HC unless you talk to me at a show or on the water! 307 East First Street,

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Summer 2017 • High Country Angler



ever a Dull Moment by Hale Harris


ne morning in the fly shop I noticed a 19 year old “flat brimmer” sitting in a chair near the coffee maker. His buddies were chatting and joking as they purchased their flies and leaders, but this guy looked bored. So I struck up a conversation with him. Come to find out, this guy was just “along for the ride” on this fishing trip—his preferred sports were rock climbing and snowboarding. “I’m more of an adrenaline junkie,” he proclaimed. “I’m just hanging out with my buddies, but fly fishing seems a bit dull to me.” I didn’t have the time to explain it to him, but fly fishing can provide lots of opportunities for excitement, even adrenal gland stimulation. You just have to know what you’re doing, or sometimes NOT know what you’re doing. First of all, wading around 24

in a meandering, summer trout stream can be a bit dull. I’d suggest focusing your efforts in the spring when runoff is occurring. And while small, turbulent streams can be fun, it’s the big rivers that can sweep you off your feet and take you for an exciting ride; plus, if conditions are right, they have hydraulics that can suck the paint off your Hypalon kick boat. If you wade too deeply in this stuff you may find yourself getting an up-close, personal view of trout habitat. Even the Bighorn River, a waterway where you can often fall asleep at the oars and not hurt yourself badly, can be exciting at 14,000 cfs. That sound of frying bacon you hear is the sound of silt and sand scouring the side of your boat. There are cute little whirlpools that form on the downstream side of islands, and they gather and

High Country Angler • Summer 2017

suck debris down to the bottom, spitting them back up to the surface 50 yards downstream. You, too, can be treated like the debris. So what do you do when you find yourself hurtling downstream in this type of turbulent water? Without being overly analytical, I prefer the advice of veteran river kayaker Arlene Burns, who says, “I’m a proponent of the Mark Spitz school of self-rescue: ‘Swim like heck.’ ” Another excitement-inducing activity I highly recommend is the use of jet boats. I ran them in Alaska years ago, and they’re appearing in Montana in increasing numbers. Not legal everywhere, jet boats provide the ability to travel through rock-studded rapids and treacherous shoals at high speeds, an endeavor totally dependent upon fallible human judgment.

It’s kind of l Speed is an important component of jet boat excitement and since most jet boats can go fast, why have one if you’re not going to take advantage of it? The feeling of imposing your will over the river is exhilarating, right up until the time you strike that slightly submerged boulder. I recommend putting all fly rods in the back of the boat, and all the soft baggage in front for padding, but pray you’ll be thrown out of the boat completely. Wild animals often provide the opportunity for adrenaline secretion. Here in Montana, there are the usual suspects like grizzly bears and mountain lions. We’ve also introduced wolves. To be fair, there are few documented cases of wolves attacking humans. Of course, there are thousands of undocumented cases—ha, ha, ha, only kidding. I like wolves, but were the elk and deer consulted about the reintroduction? Or the sheep? It’s easy for us to relish hearing the quavering, mournful

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


howl of the wild, grey wolf while enjoying the comfort of our motor homes, but we’re not the ones getting our hamstrings ripped out on a cold, winter morning. Rest assured that if the wolves ever do eat all the elk and deer, they would never consider viewing you as a potential meal, and they don’t cross the Park boundary … very often. Large predators aside, it’s the small animals that should concern us most. Some people are unaware that pound-for-pound, the common muskrat is one of the most ferocious animals on the planet. I won’t go into detail about how I know this, but suffice it to say, if you inadvertently snag one while fly fishing, cut your line and leave the little critter alone. In the small animal world, wolverines may have the reputation, but in an actual cage match, I’d bet on the muskrat. Fowl of various types can also present a hazard. Suicidal pheasants decide to end it all by flying into the windshield or grill of your SUV. I don’t know if these feathered creatures have just broken up with their boyfriends or girlfriends, but there are times they will not be denied. Don’t try to evade them or you’ll just run off the road and kill yourself. This advice applies to almost all wildlife encounters on the highway, except maybe for moose. Keep both hands on the wheel and let the pheasant end it all. If you feel guilty days later, donate to Pheasants Forever. On some trout rivers, there is an abundance of swallows who take to the air in vast numbers, usually on days when a prolific insect hatch is in progress. This winged multitude flits, flitters, and glides over the stream, heedless of the fly caster plying his craft just a few feet away. Sooner or later you will hook one of these little birds, and that’s when the difficulties begin. No, the birds aren’t hard to land on light tackle. But holding them firmly without crushing them, while you back the hook out of one of their wing feathers, is not easy. Plus, they peck with surprising speed and strength. Because of their tiny size, the damage they do is minimal, but I once calculated the strength to weight ratio, and if they were the size of say, a chicken, they could easily fillet your forearm. My calculations notwithstanding, swallows are the least of your problems. If you fish into the evening, the day may come when you hook into a bat. Yes, the kind that hang upside down in caves, and fly around at night. I didn’t really know what was going on when it happened to me. Suddenly my cast just stalled in mid-air. I began stripping my line in, pondering how I must have hooked some type of airborne vegetation. 26

High Country Angler • Summer 2017

When I made a grab for the mysterious object, it hissed, fluttered, and lunged at me. Some would say the “lunging” part is an exaggeration, but I know what I saw. I can’t say positively that the bat was of the vampire variety, but I am reasonably certain it was. I cut the line and let the little bloodsucker drift downriver. I apologize to bat lovers everywhere who feel I should have cradled the little creature delicately in my hands in an effort to release him. Even insects can increase excitement levels if you consider the consequences of their presence. In the old days, insects were responsible for simple discomfort and annoyance. Today, you can contract exotic and highly-incapacitating diseases from them. The mosquitoes have West Nile Virus and Encephalitis, and the ticks have Lyme Disease. I miss the good old days, when all you could get was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. By the way, insect exotic disease is an issue I researched extensively for this piece, even going so far as to look up a Wikipedia article entitled “Tropical Disease.” There were many troubling passages contained therein, but get a load of this one concerning Chagas Disease: “(Also called American trypanosomiasis) is a parasitic disease which occurs in the Americas, particularly in South America. Its pathogenic agent is a flagellate protozoan named Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted mostly by blood-sucking assassin bugs, however other methods of transmission are possible.” At that point in my research, I shut down my computer and hid behind a potted plant for several minutes. Now I know we haven’t heard much about Chagas Disease up north, but please recall that just a few years ago scientists told us that Africanized “killer bees” were heading this way. I assume they were killing all the peaceful bees in their path as they plundered and pillaged their way through Mexico and the southern states. Not sure if they ever made it all the way here, but I’ll take them over “blood-sucking assassin bugs” any day! By the way, there is some good news in the war against insects and exotic diseases. Instead of smearing your body with cancer causing toxic chemicals that ward off the disease-infested critters, you can now buy clothing—Bug Stopper is the trade name—that has the cancer causing, toxic chemicals embedded in the fabric itself. Inclement weather is something the excitementdriven angler can utilize if one plans his trips carefully.

I prefer the months of March and April, although late you into your own reckless abandon, and you fish October can be good, too. Remember those episodes until after dark. Finding your way back to the vehicle of “Little Outhouse on the Prairie,” where Pa would is the exciting part. I’ve found trees to be helpful as be out hunting or getting supplies in Mankato, and they deflect your course when you panic and run. a freak blizzard would blow in. TV blizzards are They keep you from veering too far off course. Try fearsome events, with Antarctic temperatures and to remember to bring survival gear and fire-starting Donner Pass-like snowfall appearing out of nowhere. equipment, and it helps to have somebody back at the Ma would have to stand in the doorway of the cabin truck with pots and pans. banging pots and pans so Pa could hear the sound These are only a few of the exciting opportunities and walk toward it amidst the unholy howl of the fly fishing presents. Some other time we can discuss wind. Pa would finally stumble in, nearly dead from electrical storms, rattlesnakes, or angus bulls hooked frostbite and hypothermia. Fortunately, Pa recovered on backcasts. The bottom line is, there’s no HC quickly, and the very next day he was building barns reason for fly fishing to be dull. for neighbors and chasing Ma and Halfpint around the woodstove. Anyway, I’ve fished through similar weather, and the fishing is bout The Author. usually spectacular. I guess the fish Hale Harris is the owner of Bighorn Trout Shop are already cold and wet, and they in Fort Smith, Montana. This article originally can’t imagine a human being stupid appeared on Hale’s blog on their shop website at www. enough to be out there casting to (Reprinted with permission of the them in such conditions; hence, author) they feed with reckless abandon. This reckless abandon aspect tempts


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Summer 2017 • High Country Angler




The Canvas


duffle bag, half unpacked, has been sitting times that fly fishing is never really about the fish. on the floor next to the couch for several They are merely a medium by which the angler days. Aside from the dirty laundry accu- connects to things deeper and more vital—peomulated during the course of a week-long fish- ple, places, and contemplations otherwise likely ing trip to the Bighorn River, nothing has been not encountered. removed. Similarly, in the garage my rods and We were in may ways a disparate bunch: a corwaders sit in a heap, nothing cleaned or sorted. porate head-hunter, three craft brewers, a fund Usually, I am unpacked within a matter of hours. manager, a retired architect, and a reforming In part, this lack of action is due to jumping straight back into work bout The Author. after a week away, then spending a Hayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander couple of hours a day locked in fuliving in the mountain town of Salida, Colorado, tile battle with the dandelions in my on the banks of the Arkansas River. As well as being a yard. In part also is an unwillingness semi-retired fly fishing guide, he juggles helping his wife to let go, to cut the final physical cord connecting me to what was a signaraise two teenage daughters, along with a career in real ture—in many ways life changing— estate. experience. It has been said many



High Country Angler • Summer 2017

fly fishing guide turned realtor. We arrived from all points of the globe, and when the trip was done, so returned, each to his own slice of reality. But for a time, we sipped from the same cup, the friendships forged likely to withstand the tyranny of distance. The river, naturally, played its pivotal part, the canvas on which we painted our picture. While perhaps lacking the archetypal beauty one associates with a Montana river—no heavily-forested banks, no towering mountains in the backdrop—it possesses an elemental beauty of rolling green hills, cottonwood-studded floodplains, sky as wide and open as any ocean, and, in quieter moments over the landscape settles the presence of those who have walked this way before, living and dying to protect a way of life now lost forever. Five days of no phone service and intermittent wifi—only if one stood in the right place with one’s tongue held just so—were a real treat in today’s hyperconnected, must-happen-now world. Many fish were caught. New styles and techniques of rigging, casting, hooking, and playing fish were learned, compared, and critiqued. Evenings were given over to fine food, wine, and spirits, and if by the end of the day hands and shoulders ached from casting and playing fish, by the end of the evening it was ribs and stomachs that ached with laughter inspired by each other’s foibles, successes, and failures. Finally, as it inevitably does, the end came, and it was time to

go our separate ways. Flights to catch, highways to travel, clothing and memories to be unpacked and stored away for future use. So perhaps when I get home from work this evening, I’ll give my back a break from the dandelions and get around to putting my gear away, before

my wife’s considerable patience reaches its end. Already there is talk of a reunion—perhaps Montana, perhaps Colorado, perhaps familiar waters, perhaps new. In many ways, it doesn’t matter where. The river is, after all, only HC the canvas. Helping You Keep Your Eyes on the Big Ones

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Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


Czech Nymphing: Simple, Responsive, and Deadly


ften times, the angler who catches the most fish is the one who can best detect and swiftly respond to the lightning quick strikes or subtle takes of trout as they sip a passing fly from the current. The trout we pursue on the fly are a wily prey, and are experts at detecting elements that are outside of the norm. The splash and flash of an indicator overhead or the unnatural pressure of a split shot hanging beneath their lip can cause the trout to retreat or spit out a fly before the hapless angler ever knew there was a fish on the end of their line. In order to slip past the guard of the trout and capital30

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ize on these speedy strikes, employing a simple Czech Nymphing Rig will allow you to remove elements that may alarm the fish, and allow you to feel every subtle tap and take of your flies as if they were an extension of your own hand. The traditional North American style of nymphing is based off of a clumsy adaption of our spin fishing roots. A strike indicator is attached to our leader, lead or tin split shot are pinched to our line somewhere below the indicator, and our wet nymph patterns are tied on in succession below the split shot. While this technique can be quite effective, its drawbacks are twofold: 1. The trout sees the strike indicator and weights before the flies, increasing the likelihood that they may be spooked, and 2. The trout needs to lift the weights off the bottom of the river and pull the line straight before you can detect the strike. Employing a Czech Nymphing rig allows the angler to simplify their setup, strip away elements that may spook trout, and detect the lightest of strikes from trout.

A Tungsten Beadheaded Czechmate Czech Nymphs are a short line nymphing technique where the split shot and strike indicator are removed and the weight needed to sink your flies to the bottom of the river is incorporated into the lowermost fly pattern in the form of lead wire or tungsten beads. Additional flies are added above the heavy bottom fly by tying short legs of tippet (4”-6”) into a metal tippet ring or by a slightly more involved tying of a “dropper

bump and tap from rocks or fish will be telegraphed up through that tight line to our fingertips as we follow the progression of the drifting fly by moving the rod tip slowly downstream. The greatest advantage of this rig is that by removing the slack and resistance created by the split shot and indicators and separating you from the fish, you become hyper-sensitive to strikes the moment they happen, and can respond with quicker hook sets. So if you are frustrated by missing fish with late hooksets, or are ready to just simplify and start catching more fish, check out Czech Nymphing. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the number of fish loop.” By tying flies off of these short, perpendicular that are taking your flies, as well as by the in- HC legs of tippet, they swim much more freely and realis- creased catch in your net! tically through the water, helping to put the feeding fish at ease. bout The Author. When fishing the Czech Nymphing Peter Stitcher is an Aquatic Biologist and owner rig, we focus on drifting through waters of Ascent Fly Fishing. Originator of the Biologist just beyond the tip of our fly rod, using Crafted Fly Selection, Peter and his team build their clients’ only a couple feet of fly line, and holdfly selections specific to the bugs in the waters they fish, ing our tip high and line taut above the when they fish them. You can contact Peter or restock water. The weight of our heavy bottom your fly box at: fly should draw our line tight, and each


Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


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t. Vrain: Pick Your Fork!

by Brian La Rue


here is something to be said about a river system that offers three forks. Sure, this one in particular might only offer action on a smaller scale here and there, but just the idea that you could hike in the backcountry or enjoy a session in a town like Lyons, catch a few and then go cool off with a beer, makes rivers like the St. Vrain very appealing. Throw in willing browns, rainbows and cutthroat with the beauty of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park, and you have everything you and I enjoy about getting outside. Of course, the St. Vrain, like the Big Thompson, saw some trouble some years back with the huge runoff and subsequent floods, but Mike Clark, owner of South Creek Ltd., a bamboo rod maker and essentials fly shop in Lyons, says the river is fishing well and hasn’t missed a beat.

“The St. Vrain is loaded with fish holding structure and it fared well when the heavy runoff and spring rains hit a few years ago,” said Clark. “The browns never left and the rainbows are still thick too. The rivers continue to offer a 50-50 supply of browns and rainbows with great action being reported, even today, in the National Forest section, off Highway 7 and through the town of Lyons.” Starting with the North Fork. Anglers will find the headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park. I personally have found some fun action within the Wild Basin. Access is found from the road and trail, though you might not catch anything big, but who knows? As we move downriver, you can access the North Fork off Highway 7. As with any river in Colorado, there’s always the challenge of private property, but armed with a Forest Service map, you can find your way to some special Wild Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


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High Country Angler • Summer 2017

Trout Water. Hiking in isn’t for the faint of heart as steep rocky walls highlight this canyon area, but if you haven’t figured it out—more work typically equals a better payoff! Another spot worth a look is from CR 80 which allows for hiking along the river for about two miles. Consult the regulation book regarding fishing on this tailwater. Over on the Middle Fork, campers like to try their luck around Peaceful Valley Campground. This is the spot to try for smaller, but feisty cutthroat. You can also follow this fork along Highway 72, finding pullouts and easy access to test your bouldering skills, dabbing cast or break out the Tenkara.

Lastly, the South Fork of the St. Vrain, kick- well.” starts in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Again So, you have an idea of a few new access spots Highway 72 is the best road to get you in the on these fine little streams, but what are the fish area. Most folks will recommend a hike in here going to eat? Think of these forks as a year-round, from the trailhead from Brainard Lake Recreation fish haven with action easy for double nymph Area. Don’t count out these lakes too, there are riggers in the spring, fall and winter (minus ice), many options. but I like these guys right at the tail end of runoff. Some of the best fishing on the St. Vrain sys- When water flows are still up and clarity starts to tem is right in the heart of Lyons. The Middle return. Dry-dropper rigs are always the bread and and South forks come together in town offering butter for me. some of the best fish counts and action if you don’t mind other anglers or the occasional gawker over your shoulder. Once in Untapped. Untamed. a while, you just get that one guy who feels the need to yell from the foot trail, “catch anything?” As if he hasn’t watched you catch and release three fish in the last 15 minutes. You give him the benefit of the doubt and say fishing is great, wondering if he believes you as he jogs away? “Fishing right through Lyons can be good despite only about one mile of public water,” added Clark. “In recent years, we’ve seen up to 22-inch browns, but it is the rainbows that run 12 to 20 inches daily. I’d say the average brown will run eight to 12 inches with an occasional 14. “They’ve been working on the South Fork for some time,” said Clark. “Reconstruction should wrap up in July, but with late snow and runoff, they could be working on the South Fork for a bit longer, so keep that in mind if you come try your luck. When the snow melts, you can access the lakes too, don’t forget they offer some good fishing as KREMMLINGCHAMBER.COM

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Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


Having fished all over the West, dry-dropper rigs are my go-to rigs on smaller waters I don’t fish a whole lot. They allow for quick coverage of skinny water, but also give you the peace of mind that you are still nymphing if the fishery hasn’t woken up just quite yet. You’re fishing high and low covering both banks, pools and riffles and you should leave no stone unturned. As soon as the surface fly starts getting bit more than the nymph, I typically cut the nymph off and throw

dries to these types of fish all day. There might not be anything huge, but dozens of 8- to 13-inch fish will help you forget about that hawg you lost at Deckers in the spring. Okay, bugs…what do you need? I like size 14 to 16 Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Wulffs, Yellow Humpies…anything that rides high or an assortment of attractors. Smaller size 12 to 14 Stimulators, smaller Schroeder’s Hoppers and even a few Drakes will do the trick. Pair these dries with Midges, smaller size 16 to 18 Prince’s or Pheasant Tails, but don’t count out a small Rainbow Warriors or a Hot Spot either. Just pair your bugs so that a small nymph will not sink your dry. Finally, top off your day in the area with a good meal in Lyons or even run up to Estes. Oskar Blues has been a long favorite watering hole up on the St. Vrain. Make a day of it and like they say, shop local! HC


bout 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 if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan.


High Country Angler • Summer 2017



Colorado Meatballs


t’s time to fire up the grill or smoker and get this grill season kicked off in style. With some local and wonderful Colorado Meatballs. We start with:


bout The Author.

Chef Jason Morse is the owner of 5280 Culinary and the Ace Hardware Grill expert. A life long grilling and bbq enthusiast, Chef has turned his love into a business. The 5280 Culinary line of products can be found at your local Ace Hardware and across the nation as well. Chef can be seen on local TV in Colorado and doing Facebook Live events for Ace Hardware. For more information visit and take your grilling to the next level.

2 lbs Beef, Ground, Angus 80/20 2 ea Eggs, fresh, large 1/2 Cup Bread crumbs, panko

by Peter Stitcher

1 Tbsp Parsley, italian, fresh, chopped 2 Tbsp Oink Rub - a 5280 Culinary Rub 2 tsp Rub A Dub - a 5280 Culinary Rub 1/4 Cup Low Country BBQ Sauce - a 5280 Culinary Sauce 1/4 Cup High Altitude BBQ Sauce - a 5280 Culinary Sauce

Add this all to a big bowl and mix it up. The next part is the best. Choose from grilled, smoked or baked, they work well in every cooking method. Make sure to cook them to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. This recipe is ready for your culinary twists, imagine adding some cheese, or cooked bacon, oh man. We have even cooked these in a cast iron dutch oven over a campfire. So frie up the grill or smoker and have fun this grilling season, meatballs are just the start. HC Happy Cooking!

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler




The Evie Fly


bug of legends, the salmonfly has been the subject of truth and fiction. Truth in that it is one of the most exciting insect hatches in the world of trout fly tying. Truth in that it is a relatively large insect, hatching in many but not all western rivers; the hatch is prolific but short, sometimes occurring at just the wrong time of snowmelt runoff and dirty rivers. Trout are caught with swollen PLAY VIDEO bellies and bugs falling out of their mouth such that they cannot swallow any more, yet they take a dry as if they were starved. Truth in that The Evie Fly some of the best single days of the Thread: Orange 6/0 year—maybe a fishing lifetime— Tail: Black goose biots Ribbing: Orange floss can be connected to this hatch. If Abdomen: Light Siamese cat soft underbody hair any bug can bring up a large trout Thorax: Dark Siamese cat underbody with stiffer guard hairs, weighted Wingcase: Pheasant tail, cemented from the depths to feed on a dry fly, Legs: Picked out guard hair the salmonfly is that one. Fiction in that some great stoamong different patterns, most work well, and ries of the one that got away, perhaps greatly so what is the point of another one? Maybe it enhanced as the years cruise by, are also con- is confidence, but mostly this one just works. nected to this hatch. Where does my confidence come from? Here Most fly fishermen, experts included, know is the story. only a few Latin names of the insects. But This nymph pattern is tied from the hair of most fly fishermen, beginners included, know my Siamese cat. One evening years ago, I was this one. Pteranarcys Californicus. Saying tying some Orange Stone patterns for a nextthat makes one no Latin expert, but other an- day trip to the Gunnison River, using natural glers will understand you. Me, I call it the Or- hare’s ear dubbing. I ran out of hare’s ear. My ange Stonefly. Siamese cat, named Evie for having been born Of the stonefly insect group, the salmonfly, on Christmas Eve, will sit at my tying desk, or Orange Stonefly, has many published pat- drawn by the heat from the tying lamp. Needterns, both for the nymph and the dry. While ing more dubbing, and out of time before the I have experienced some difference in success 38

High Country Angler • Summer 2017

next day’s excursion in the deep Black Can- because they have a four year life cycle in the yon, I noticed Evie laying there quietly curled river. While the large hatching dries are from up and with her eyes closed. large mature nymphs of three or four years, I thought, “Hmm, about the same color there are at all times present in the river one and texture and some guard hairs, too.” So and two and three year old nymphs going I clipped her, finished some flies, and that thru their annual growth cycles. So, tie variweekend caught one of the biggest rainbows I ous sizes to match. While there are a lot of had ever caught from the Gunnison River. A great synthetic materials available, for this new pattern was born! To spare my cat being one I like the natural stuff. Fish the big ones naked, I do substitute real hare’s ear, desiring before and during the dry fly hatch, and fish the guard hairs of natural rabbit fur. the smaller ones all summer long. One advantage of this pattern as a nymph is its scalability. The natural insects are actually multiple sizes. While the dries are a bout The Author. Joel Evans is a fly fishing writer, photographer, uniform size except for some and long-time member of Trout Unlimited from difference by sex, the nymphs Montrose, CO. You can contact him via the HCA editor at are small to medium to large, all in the same season. That’s HC


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Summer 2017 • High Country Angler



tanding up for Monuments

A Photo Essay by Corey Fisher


hen Teddy Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act in 1906, he saw it as a way to protect the nation’s most valuable public lands, which he believed formed the wellsprings of American character and national greatness. In the succeeding century, 16 U.S. presidents – eight Democrats and eight Republicans – have used the Antiquities Act to protect some of the nation’s most spectacular public lands, including areas beloved by generations of hunters and anglers like Colorado’s Browns Canyon and New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte. Today, sportsmen are recognizing the unique value of the Antiquities Act and National Monuments and responding to threats to our public lands’ hunting and fishing heritage. Now is a time for vigilance and making sure we make our views known by decision makers. Recently, the Trump administration issued an executive order to review dozens of monuments, with an eye to rescinding or scaling back some of them. A public comment period is open through July 9 and citizens can make their voices heard using the Department of the Interior’s online comment form. 40

High Country Angler • Summer 2017

Meanwhile, members of Congress have introduced proposals that would weaken the Antiquities Act. In response, more than 100 hunting and fishing business owners have sent a letter to Congress to show their support for national monuments and the responsible use of the Antiquities Act. Some of them also travelled to Washington, D.C. with other outdoor leaders to personally deliver the message to lawmakers. “As someone who has helped develop the outdoor industry in Colorado and watched it grow into an economic powerhouse, I am concerned by current efforts both to curtail national monuments and weaken the Antiquities Act itself,” said Jim Bartschi, president of Scott Fly Rods in Montrose. “Public lands such as the new Browns Canyon National Monument preserve incredible outdoor opportunities to hunt, fish, hike, bike, camp and float – and they’re strongly supported by local communities, who understand that these lands offer one of the best new, sustainable ways to grow their local economies.” Consider that outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending each year and supports 7.6 million American jobs.

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More than ever, Americans hunger for outdoor experiences and the solace of open spaces. But that booming recreation economy only works if people have unspoiled places to visit and enjoy. To name just a few of these gems: Browns Canyons National Monument, established in 2015 after two decades of bi-partisan legislative efforts failed to pass, Browns Canyon has widespread local support and protects vital hunting and fishing opportunities, including a Gold Medal waters stretch of the Arkansas River. Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, established in 2104, preserves not only spectacular river canyon vistas but also generations of local cultural ties to the land. Like Browns, Rio Grande Del Norte enjoyed longtime local support but for years was bogged down in partisan gridlock in D.C. The Antiquities Act provided a path forward. Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon is a stronghold for rare native redband trout and contains one of the most significant concentra-


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

tions of biodiversity in North America. Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in northern California, established in 2015, offers outstanding hunting and fishing and is a day trip away for millions of Americans in Sacramento and the Bay Area. All of these are places and experiences brought to you by the Antiquities Act. It’s true, as some critics point out, that monuments should be established with transparency and the input and support of local communities. It’s also true that the vast majority of monuments meet that standard and are wildly popular and heavily used by both locals and visitors alike. We’ve taken these monumental places for granted for too long. Without accessible, protected places like these, our sporting life is a dream without substance --literally groundless. So feast your eyes on some photos of these glorious places and then rededicate yourself in coming months to speaking up for America’s public lands.

These lands belong to us. And they need our voices. You can make yours heard by visiting our grassroots action page. HC


bout The Author.

Corey Fisher is the Senior Policy Director with Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. A Montana resident, he also spent several years leading TU’s campaign to protect habitat on Colorado’s Roan Plateau.

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Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


Donor Spotlight A conversation with River Stewardship Council member, Clint Packo Colorado Trout Unlimited is pleased to present this High Country Angler ezine feature, “Donor Spotlight.” In each issue, we’ll introduce you to a new member of our flagship donor program, the River Stewardship Council (RSC). Donors to RSC contribute $1000 or more annually to Colorado TU and provide critical support for our work on native trout restoration, grassroots engagement, youth education, and advocacy on behalf of healthy watersheds. • Clint Packo • TU member for 24 years • River Stewardship Council donor for 10 years

What brought you to Trout Unlimited? In my early days of fly fishing, spending nearly every waking moment not in school in Waterton Canyon, I was introduced to Trout Unlimited by some other anglers who suggested I join. Though I was far too young to grasp the concept of a conserva-


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

tion organization or non-profit, it was several of my first significant influences in fly fishing that convinced my parents to buy me a TU membership for my 13th birthday. Though I can’t say that I maintained that membership perfectly through my teens, Trout Unlimited and Colorado Trout Unlimited have been on the forefront of my conservation consciousness since 1993.

Why did you become a donor to Colorado Trout Unlimited? As my experience in fly fishing progressed, my passion grew, and my understanding of human impact became more conscious, I felt that the best way to support conservation organizations other than volunteering was to donate financially. After experiencing the growth in popularity of fly fishing in the mid and late 90’s, combined with the population growth of the Denver area, all my favorite home waters began seeing so much use that the effects couldn’t be ignored. Combine this increase in use with increased demands for water by municipalities, tragic environmental events like the Hayman fire, a little drought sprinkled in, and one can readily see the need for an organization to be seeking the best possible outcomes for our riparian resources and cold clean water. My early participation in CTU was volunteering for small projects and attending as many chapter meetings with West Denver and Cutthroat as I could get someone to drive me to, so I could hear Pat Dorsey talk about the Williams Fork or Cheesman Canyon. Beginning about 12 years ago, I began donating financially, particularly

as time became more of a commodity than it was when I was younger. For the last 10 years, I’ve been a RSC donor.

What are some of the projects Colorado TU works on that interest you most? There are certainly too many to list, but I can say that I am fascinated by projects that range from improvements and clean up on Clear Creek, to reintroduction of native species, to mine cleanup and restoration of impaired watersheds throughout the state. Efforts to mitigate the disastrous effects of the Hayman Fire, protecting the remaining water in the Upper Colorado River Basin (ILVK Project, Windy Gap Bypass, and Fraser Flats Project), and improved access for anglers with limited mobility such as the HEART Project in South Park are all TU projects that really strike a chord with me.

Please tell us one of your favorite fishing stories. Quite some time ago, I was guiding on the Upper Colorado downstream from Parshall on a perfect Grand County summer day. My client for the day was a man from Ohio who had been fly fishing for years, but never “out west.” We spent the first part of our day fishing the Breeze unit on the Colorado, and after lunch moved downstream to the Powers section. The day had been fantastic to say the least. We only moved at lunch time so we could see new water; we had caught fish every way imaginable. Though the great fishing was no fault of mine, the client had gotten quite comfortable with me as a result of our great day together. Most of the way throughout the day, he had just landed another fine brown, and we both remarked that we were blown away at the size and quantity of the fish we were catching all day. He mentioned that he needed to use the restroom, but didn’t want to stop fishing because it was just that good. About thirty minutes later he asked, “So Clint, is fishing ever so good that people don’t want to stop and they just go to the bathroom in their waders? Since they’re waterproof and all, it seems like it’s probably OK, right?” To which I replied, “Tom, people can pee in their wad-

ers all they want, but you’re wearing my waders and I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Needless to say, he had already used the waders in this manner, and I spent the next several days cleaning a nearly new set of breathable waders and drying them out.

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a fifth generation Coloradan, but the only member of my extended family that fly fishes. I have been fly fishing since I was 13 years old, and quite frankly from the first day I started, it’s been the focus of my life. Though that sounds odd I’m sure, I have essentially based my life around chasing fish with a fly rod. I began guiding in 1994 and put myself through the University of Colorado as a guide working for Breckenridge Outfitters. I worked for Orvis Corporate, opening the original Orvis Park Meadows and Orvis Cherry Creek stores, and have managed or owned five different shops and guide services. Though I have guided in Wyoming and South Carolina and have hosted trips and fished all over the world, I prefer my home state of Colorado because of its access to great water, the diversity of angling opportunities, and the ability to catch everything from trout and muskie to smallmouth bass. With some of my friends and business partners, I have founded river protection groups and river stewardship foundations such as the North Fork South Platte River Foundation in 2008. After having spent hundreds of days per year for more than two decades fishing and studying rivers and how they work, I founded an aquatic habitat restoration company in 2007, specializing in restoring degraded sections of rivers throughout the western US. We have completed projects in New Mexico on the San Juan below the Navajo Reservoir, in every major drainage in Colorado, and many projects in Wyoming and Montana and numerous other states. I am married to a real life rocket scientist who also enjoys fly fishing and who supports the efforts and mission of Trout Unlimited in the same manner I do. We have a smallish, goofy border collie mix named Goose, and we spend as much time on the water in our raft or drift boat as possible.

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


A New Home for Greenbacks

By David Nickum


he Cache la Poudre River is one of Colorado’s crown jewels. It is Colorado’s only federally designated Wild & Scenic River, and its headwaters span multiple scenic wilderness areas including Rocky Mountain National Park. In the future, it will also be home to the largest connected native trout habitat in Colorado – thanks to an agreement among Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the Water Supply and Storage Company. In April, the U.S. Forest Service finalized a litigation settlement that will allow the Water Supply and Storage Company, a northern Colorado ditch company, to continue to use Long Draw Reservoir on the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests, and will launch a large-scale native trout restoration program for the Cache la Poudre river headwaters within the Forests, including the Neota and Comanche Peaks Wilderness Areas, as well as in Rocky Mountain National Park. The journey to this landmark agreement has been long: it was in the mid-1990s when Trout Unlimited first challenged the U.S. Forest Service on its decision to issue an easement for Long Draw Reservoir without mitigation adequately protecting the area’s fish and wildlife resources. When the Federal District Court ruled in TU’s favor in 2005, the easement decision was remanded to the Forest Service for new analysis and to incorporate protection for fish and wildlife – such as minimum “bypass flows” to maintain flows below the dam year-round. 58

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Due in part to the operating challenges associated with winter access to the remote, high-elevation location of Long Draw Reservoir, the Water Supply and Storage Company (which owns and operates the dam) opposed a requirement for bypass flows through the winter. Local habitat conditions – an expanded river channel created by imported west slope water through the Grand Ditch – also would have limited the fishery benefits that bypass flows could provide. That led TU, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Water Supply and Storage Company, and the Forest Service to look for alternative mitigation to protect the area’s fish and wildlife. Ultimately, the parties agreed that a project to restore native greenback cutthroat trout to the Poudre headwaters was the best solution. The project will span about 40 miles of connected stream habitat and multiple lakes, including Long Draw Reservoir itself, creating a native trout “metapopulation.” Biologists speak about the importance of these metapopulations – larger watersheds with connected fish populations that can experience genetic interflow, and also provide a natural pathway for repopulation of habitats that might be lost to local disturbances such as fire or flood. Large-scale restoration projects provide strongholds for native species that are more stable and secure than smaller piecemeal sites. Completion of all project elements will take more than 10 years, but once completed the Poudre headwaters will constitute the largest restored native trout habitat in Colorado. To protect the watershed from

invasion by non-native species, fish barriers will be Colorado Trout Unlimited praised the agreement established on the Grand Ditch and on the mainstem as an example of how open dialogue and a spirit of Cache la Poudre below its confluence with La Poudre cooperation can yield conservation solutions. In a Pass Creek. Within the watershed, temporary barri- formal statement on the agreement, Colorado TU ers will also be installed at three locations (possibly stated: “We are pleased that settlement efforts enabled more) to enable fishery biologists to complete res- all the parties to find a solution for the area’s natural toration of native trout one section of the basin at a resources that meets federal stewardship responsibilitime. After installing temporary barriers, biologists ties, respects the operating needs and challenges of will remove non-native fish from the upstream areas. long-standing water users, and achieves meaningful Once the areas are confirmed to be free of non-native benefits for Colorado’s environment and the millions trout, they will be re-stocked with native greenback of residents of and visitors to our state who enjoy it.” cutthroat trout. The work will be done through colThis project has been some two decades in the laboration among the USDA Forest Service, Rocky making – and will take more than another decade to Mountain National Park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife complete – but the Cache la Poudre headwaters are Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Colorado now on the way to becoming Colorado’s most HC Trout Unlimited. important stronghold for native Greenback Under the settlement, a trust will be established cutthroat trout. with $1.25 million from the Water Supply and Storage Company for purposes of funding these restoration activities. Colorado bout The Author. Trout Unlimited will serve as the Trustee. David Nickum is the Executive Director The trust will cover the majority of project of Colorado Trout Unlimited, and enjoys costs, though additional funds – perhaps in fishing for cutthroats and other wild trout in Rocky the range of $500,000 – will need to be raised Mountain National Park. to fully fund the decade-long project.


Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


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High Country Angler • Summer 2017

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


Measuring Success: the Fraser Flats River Habitat Project By Anna Drexler-Dreis



fell in love with the Fraser River the moment I entered its canyon at dusk six years ago. Originating on Berthoud Pass, the Fraser cascades down the mountains and enters the valley where it meanders through the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, Tabernash, and Granby. It is in Tabernash that the Fraser enters the canyon, where thousands of anglers seek its bounty each year. Just before Windy Gap Reservoir in Granby, the Fraser joins with the mighty Colorado River. Since that day at dusk, I have learned that over half of the Fraser’s native flows are diverted to another watershed. I have also learned there are stakeholders on both sides of the Continental Divide working together to save it. What I didn’t know six years ago was that I would become one of those stakeholders and that I would make it my master’s degree work to develop and implement a Vegetation Plan that would help heal the Fraser. The Fraser Flats River Habitat Project is a community-supported stream restoration project that is the result of years of negotiations among stakehold62

High Country Angler • Summer 2017

ers on both sides of the Continental Divide. This first-of-its-kind collaboration is the result of two Inter-Governmental Agreements that established a long-term partnership of cooperation, not conflict, among the groups. Out of these agreements, a collaborative Learning By Doing (LBD) group formed that addresses issues with Grand County’s streams. LBD is composed of multiple stakeholders with one shared interest: the rivers and streams of Grand County. The pilot project of LBD is the Fraser Flats River Habitat Project, which includes instream channeling and vegetation projects on a 0.9-mile stretch of the Fraser River before it enters the canyon. Denver Water has diversions on the Fraser and its tributaries that total 60% of the native streamflow being diverted to Colorado’s Front Range. These diversions have left the river channel too wide to support the diminished flows, resulting in high instream temperatures, a heavy sediment load, and a measured decline in the fishery and riparian zone. The instream channeling

project, being designed and built through Freestone of sculpin. Fish counts have already been completed Aquatics (see sidebar), will create a deeper channel at the project site, and these will continue in addiin the middle of the river, where the water can flow tion to sites upstream and downstream of the projduring times of low flow. ect area. Over time, LBD hopes to see an increase in In May, 150 community volunteers planted wil- macroinvertebrate abundance and fish counts. lows and cottonwoods along the Fraser River’s banks; The project should also increase the woody canthese will provide much needed shade cover, stabi- opy of riparian habitat along the project reach. In lize stream banks, and improve aquatic and riparian May, thousands of willow stems and 90 Kremmling habitat. cottonwoods were planted along the Fraser River. A key component of Learning by Doing, or adap- Over time, the canopy will mature and provide intive management, is monitoring before and after res- creased shade cover and cooler instream habitat. A toration projects to learn if the project was successful healthier riparian habitat will support insects during and how it could be improved. The LBD group has the terrestrial stage of their lives and help stabilize developed a monitoring plan that will evaluate five and maintain the narrowed, deeper river channel. project outcomes, and will be implemented annually To document an increase in riparian habitat, I estabfor at least 3 years—and in some cases 10 years—af- lished 13 photo points along the project reach, and ter the project is complete. in 2016 took pre-project photos. To show change, One project outcome is improved aquatic habi- post-project photographs will be taken at the same tat features and substrate conditions. To monitor the 13 photo points for 10 years. In addition to photonumber of riffles, pools, and runs, pre-project sur- graphs, stem counts will occur immediately after veys have been completed and post-project surveys the vegetation project, and for several years after the will be completed for three years. TetraTech will project is complete to determine success rates. conduct pebble counts to document substrate conditions, presence of fine materials, and embeddedness. Learning By Doing also seeks to understand how the project will impact instream temperatures. Grand County Water Information Network (GCWIN), a local nonprofit, will maintain temperature loggers at the upstream and downstream project boundaries. Benthic macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity, fish counts, and trout quality will also be measured. GCWIN will monitor bug abundance and diversity by establishing a site in the Fraser Flats area and downstream. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will Cody/Yellowstone conduct fish counts to determine Premier Flyfishing fish pounds per surface acre of Outfitter North Fork Anglers • USFS WAP478 • BLM WYO20-RUO7-017 water, number of trout greater Professionally Guiding than 14 inches, and the number 1107 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414 • 307.527.7274 Anglers for 30+ Years!

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Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


The Fraser River is adored in Grand County. The community has seen stream temperatures so hot that trout begin to die, and has seen the river reduced to a trickle. Now, with east slope water providers committed to investing resources to protect western slope streams, we are starting to heal the Fraser. The Fraser Flats River Habitat Project is the first project for Learning By Doing. The monitoring plan, also a collaboration among many stakeholders, will enable LBD to evaluate the effectiveness of this project and use that knowledge to conduct future stream HC restoration projects in Grand County.


bout The Author.

Anna Drexler-Dreis is a board member of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Grand County, completing her Masters of Environmental Management with Western State Colorado University.



High Country Angler • Summer 2017



Partners in Conservation. Since May of 2016, Freestone Aquatics has been incorporated as an integral part of the Fraser Flats project. Freestone has worked with the various stakeholders, including the Learning by Doing Committee, Denver Water, and the Colorado Rivers Headwaters Chapter to design, permit, and ultimately construct the project. The project has combined the desires for improved habitat conditions, defined goals for the riparian corridor, and improves the carrying capacity of the project reach for macroinvertebrates and trout. These goals are accomplished through a design that reduces the overall width of the wet channel at low water times of year, while still allowing the Fraser River to expand laterally into the floodplain as water rises. The low flow channel will create a narrower, deeper, more oxygenated channel which will increase the amount of holding water, riffles, overwintering habitat, and spawning areas. In the end, that means better fishing. As part of its ongoing commitment to the project, Freestone Aquatics has donated the construction of up to two undercut bank habitat structures valued at more than $30,000 each. Both of the undercut bank structures are located on what will ultimately be public access fishing, and will improve access, reduce erosion, and improve fishing by creating additional cover for large predatory trout.

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler




High Country Angler • Summer 2017


Summer 2017 • High Country Angler




High Country Angler • Summer 2017




Climate Change and the Upper Dolores Watershed

By Duncan Rose, Dolores River Anglers



ocated deep within Southwest Colorado (the “Four Corners” area), the Upper Dolores River and Mancos River watersheds serve as the ”home waters” for TU’s Dolores River Anglers Chapter. These two watersheds characterize the abrupt transition between the high desert mesa country of the Colorado Plateau and the 13,000 to 14,000 foot peaks of the Southwestern Rockies. Due to this location, and the emergent, unrelenting forces of climate change, the Chapter recognizes that fundamental ecological changes will likely occur throughout its two watersheds and steadily increase well into the distant future. Projected changes in air temperature and patterns of precipitation will likely have substantial impact on the persistence of trout habitat, especially in the lower elevation stream reaches. The hard reality is that our local fisheries will likely be considerably different from current conditions in as little as 20 to 30 years. To most cost-effectively sustain our coldwater fisheries for future generations, we need to understand what changes to our local waters are most likely to occur. Then, in collaboration with those who manage our local waters, we can pursue the most appropriate and cost-effective long-term, in-stream, and near-stream best management practices (“BMPs”). All habitats exist within a framework of limits. To fully understand the impact of the expected changes and to link them to appropriate BMPs, we need to anticipate how these changes are likely to impact the ecological limiting factors that govern the viability of native and wild trout habitat and associated populations in our area. To that end, DRA has taken the lead in 70

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working with National TU Research staff, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the San Juan National Forest, the Mountain Studies Institute, and other conservation oriented organizations in developing and field testing a decision support framework that provides guidance for watershed-wide down to stream-reach mitigation strategies and BMP investment. This framework is called CAMF—Coldwater-fisheries Adaptive Management Framework.


CAMF is a decision support framework to assist trout habitat planning and decision making by providing a multi-scale context (from geographic region to watershed to stream to reach), looking over the long run (to the year 2100) through the Upper Dolores watershed. This planning deals with stream, reach, and site-specific management, often in the form of near-stream or instream intervention. Geophysical and other ecological factors some distance away from the stream can also significantly impact trout habitat and, consequently, management activity also may be needed well away from the stream. CAMF is a strategic framework with a “big picture” context within which to make on-the-ground investment decisions. What are the major forces at work at the watershed and even the regional level that are likely to shape trout habitat and affect trout populations in our Study Area over the long run? CAMF is a carefully structured effort to systematically identify and map long-term native and wild trout strongholds within the evolving context of climate change. Strongholds

are expected to continue to support trout in spite of significant changes to the streams’ ecological, geophysical, and hydrological attributes that may result from climate change. CAMF provides a compilation, summarization, and systematic analysis of available studies and data on existing trout habitat and population conditions, limiting factors, and climate change predictions relevant to the Study Area, lists streams ranked by long-term vulnerability, provides GIS based mapping of the data, and offers suggested actions to protect, reconnect, restore, and sustain trout fisheries in the long run. It helps answer the core question: “Given increasingly limited private, state and federal resources, and in the face of substantial habitat change, where should our Chapter, working with and through local public and private partners, focus its in-stream and near-stream efforts most cost-effectively over the long run?”


With very few exceptions, current coldwater-fisheries in the Study Area are healthy and trout populations are viable. Virtually every long-term perennial stream has a self-sustaining trout population. Key limiting factors for these fisheries include stream temperature, flow regime, stream morphology, pollution, competition, and hybridization with other fish, sedimentation, and disease. The future is more uncertain. Habitat will be challenged through drought-induced low flows, increasing stream temperatures, periodic flash flooding, and sedimentation due to increased wildfire frequency. Based on a review of a range of climate change scenarios, the most critical limiting factors changing in the future are likely to be temperature and flows. Lower, slower, non-shaded streams may be so significantly impacted by 2070 that they no longer support trout. Streams with high headwaters, large watersheds, numerous highelevation feeder streams, and high levels of northern aspect shading, narrow canyon walls, and healthy riparian cover will likely be the most resistant and resilient. The map shown here summarizes these findings geographically, highlighting both the strongholds and the most vulnerable waters. Our analysis suggests that managers should consider responses to the projected changes that are built around strengthening both resistance and resilience of trout habitat. Sustainability of long-term refugia and spawning areas is critical. Potential strategies will likely involve an integration of in-stream construction with focus on long-range strongholds; increased regulations (such as catch and release, or closure during high temperature periods); integrated land management across all

relevant disciplines (hydrology, fire management, road maintenance, etc.); coordination with water users; and promotion of a low-impact philosophy through public outreach.


There is nothing particularly mysterious about climate change. It has been a basic force on earth since the emergence of a global atmosphere, both driving and subsequently responding to the effects it creates. Science has a rather clear grasp, even if yet somewhat incomplete, of the nature of and relationships among the major forces of those dynamics. What is new—and extremely challenging—is the rate at which change is occurring. The very good news: our watershed and its associated trout habitat has survived many substantial swings in climate over many millennia. Paleoclimate studies indicate we have experienced several 25 plus year droughts in the past 1000 years, yet trout populations still thrive locally. More recently, our area survived three substantial droughts, each between two to almost four years of continuous duration, in just the past 15 years. While some streams did become seasonally intermittent (and some completely dry) and all reduced substantially in size and flow, all seem to have recovered, with help from our fisheries managers, to current levels of trout populations. The lesson? Nature is incredibly resilient. Research indicates that trout can show substantial DNA adaptation in as little as 10 - 20 generations – about 40 - 80 years. What is unknown is over how many drought cycles and of what intensity and duration, trout habitat and populations can recover from over the long run. But if history is a guide, some will indeed adapt. The engines driving climate change are massive. Many streams in our area will face serious challenges as they approach 2100. Some will respond well to carefully selected and properly timed mitigation efforts. Many, though, may well be outside the range of cost effective management and will either become warmwater fisheries or will simply dissipate. To slightly adapt the conclusion of Reinholt Neibuhr’s famous Serenity Prayer, “May we have the wisdom to know the HC difference.”


bout The Author.

Duncan Rose is the past president of the Dolores River Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited and the chapter’s CAMF project coordinator.

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


By Colorado Fly Works


he quality of machining is evident when you of the tying process. This can be especially true when remove the Pueblo Vise from the box. This the rotary function is applied. The Pueblo does not sound craftmanship is also visible in the display this fault and through it all remains firmly smooth adjustability of the vise. With the simple planted on the tying table. This vise is fully capable of twist of an allen wrench, the angle and length of the filling the role of a primary at home vise. Yet with its jaws can be set to the ideal position for the particular compact adjustability, the Pueblo also serves as an apt pattern that is being tied. This is extremely beneficial traveling companion on fly fishing adventures. when moving through different sizes and types of flies. Editor’s Note: Sounds like the Pueblo Vise When working with the Pueblo, these adjustments impressed Bob. The vise is getting upgraded bearings allowed for the efficient creation of flies ranging from and new CAM jaws by the time production is size 22 midges to size 1 streamers. The jaws attuned complete. Watch for it in our market now! For more with ease and held firm to the hook regardless of size information, contact Colorado Fly Works at HC and style. . With its compact size, the Pueblo Vise boasts a stout weight. This mass begins in the pedestal that holds it to the table top with what seems like magnetic bout The Author. force. This subsequently creates a Bob Reece is an Umpqua Signature Fly high amount of stability, leading to Designer. He also writes for Fly Fusion Magazine efficient and consistent fly creation. and Gink & Gasoline. During his summer breaks from teaching With lighter weights, some pedestal science, Bob works as a Wyoming fly fishing guide. vises wobble during various phases



High Country Angler • Summer 2017

Gridlock Comes to Colorado: 2017 Legislative Session By Jen Boulton

The story of the 2017 legislative session is that it was the first time Washington-style obstructionism really appeared in Colorado. Historically, despite agonizing gridlock in Congress, Colorado’s legislature generally ignored national politics and worked fairly collaboratively to get things done. While that still occurred in some cases, it became much more common for each chamber to view things through a partisan lens. Even things as benign as resolutions commemorating Earth Day were caught in the crossfire. In an unusually partisan atmosphere it is unsurprising that even water, historically a largely nonpartisan issue, was a victim of the session. Despite passing the State House, there were a number of good bills which failed to pass a single committee in the Senate. HB1273 would have strengthened existing law by making water conservation a mandatory element of new development applications. Even after the mandate was dropped, so the bill merely listed types of conservation measures that should be included if local governments chose to include them, the bill was killed on a party line vote in the Senate State Affairs committee. A similar fate met HB1364 which would have allowed local governments to beef up the water conservation portion of their master plans, and to make those plans enforceable. On the non water front, it has been over ten years since Colorado Parks and Wildlife has raised resident license fees. For an agency which relies almost exclusively on cash funding, this has created an unsustainable state of affairs. Additionally, every time the agency needs a revenue boost, it needs to run a bill through the legislature – it has no ability to adjust resident hunting and angling fees to keep up with inflation. HB1321 was a full funding package, designed to produce a level of future sustainability for Parks and Wildlife. The bill gave fee setting authority to the division within a statutory maximum for both the parks and wildlife branches. It also allowed future growth of those maximums according to the consumer price index. There were some significant problems with a section of the bill restricting future land and water purchases, which was added late as an attempt to win over some legislators who oppose public ownership of land. Although a compromise could probably have been reached on the problematic section, the issue proved to be moot. Despite support from every major sportsmen’s organization in the state, as well as the organized parks and trails communities, the agricultural community, and the environboth Trout mental community, the Senate Finance committee summarily killed the bill.

Still, the session wasn’t all bad. As noted, water tends to be a particularly nonpartisan issue, and there were several bills which passed to promote good environmental stewardship and collaborative partnerships with agriculture. HB1248, the annual funding bill for the Colorado Water Conservation board, includes funding for implementation of the Colorado Water Plan, including continuation of stream management planning and watershed health grants. HB1219 extends and expands an existing lease/fallow program for agricultural water rights owners to rent part of their rights for other uses. This concept provides additional cash flow to struggling farmers, while also helping to protect rivers from additional diversions for municipal or industrial use. Similarly, HB1233 broadened existing protections for owners of agricultural water rights who loan some of their right to the State for in-stream protections. Also, HB1306 passed to provide some funding for cash-strapped rural school districts to test lead levels in their drinking water supply. Securing clean drinking water for school children is always a good idea. Gridlock isn’t always a bad thing, either: bad ideas are just as vulnerable to it as good ones. In some cases, the divisions between the House and Senate made bad environmental bills a little easier to stop. Particularly in the public lands arena, the House was an excellent backstop for some of the worst ideas, such as HB1124 which would have made it a felony for federal land managers to “interfere” with public land grazing – even when their job requires it, to place some limits on grazing consistent with sustainable, multiple use management. The bill was summarily killed in House committee. Still, water often stays largely immune from partisanship, and some bad ideas can die simply because they are bad ideas. SB235 would have allowed seaplanes to land in reservoirs at state parks. This idea puts water quality at risk from invasive species, as adequately inspecting aircraft is difficult. Additionally, however, the proposal threatens the recreation value of our State Parks by eliminating large corridors within reservoirs from access to boating, swimming, or fishing, in order to create large takeoff and landing lanes for benefit of a very few seaplane owners. It would also create legal conflicts as some State Parks are on federally-owned reservoirs where planes are prohibited by the dam-building agencies that actually own the reservoirs. SB235 was killed on a bipartisan vote in the Senate Ag- HC riculture and Natural Resources committee.


bout The Author.

Jen Boulton is a registered lobbyist at the Colorado legislature, where she represents Unlimited and the Audubon Society.

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler




Stream Channel Enhancement


I have heard that long term projects for habitat improvement of the Fraser River are being planned, to help improve habitat despite a reduced flow regime. How do managers and planners decide what habitat improvements to make, and why do they think those actions will actually improve the fishery?


Research scientists have conducted hundreds, probably thousands, of carefully designed studies to determine which factors are most important for stream productivity. Fisheries managers have made tens of thousands of observations that indicate which characteristics productive streams have that are different from streams with low productivity. In addition, anglers provide millions of anecdotes that describe characteristics of their favorite waters. When these data points are collected and organized for statistical analyses, scientifically valid correlations emerge showing which factors are most important. Relatively small numbers of physical, chemical, and biological factors have been identified as the primary limiting factors in specific streams, but 74

there is some variation from chemistry and support revival stream to stream. of a fishery, through support from the Environmental ProEcological studies and ecol- tection Agency and other partogy-based observations de- ners). scribing natural systems usually emphasize primary “limiting Stream improvement projfactors.” For example, if a man- ects typically focus on physical ager hopes to develop a trout aspects of streams. Channel fishery in a stream where sum- depth and width, plus in-stream mer water temperatures exceed structure and the amount of 80 F, temperature will be a pri- meandering are factors that are mary factor. That manager has a relatively easy to change. The serious problem: excessive sum- riparian areas adjacent to the mer heat. The mineral content stream are typically additional of stream water is a less obvious targets for “improvement” to limiting factor. It may place a help control sedimentation and “cap” on productivity, but it will provide shade. Some factors are be variable. Hard water streams not so easy to adjust – producwith abundant calcium and tivity tied to an area’s underlycarbonate-bicarbonate ions are ing geology, a stream’s gradient usually more productive than over a longer reach, or overall soft water streams, provided flow regimes (except where acthat there are not toxic levels tive management, such as timof certain harmful elements. ing of reservoir releases, can be These types of “soft” limiting adjusted). These factors cannot factors are difficult—often im- be forced beyond their boundpossible—to manage. Manag- aries for long distances. ers sometimes will attempt to Streams that are selected alter the chemical makeup of for trout habitat improvement the water, particularly where must have sufficient flows and chemical limiting factors have water temperatures throughbeen human-induced, but fi- out the year that are suitable nancial realities often preclude for trout. Average temperature such practices. (Extensive mine and average flow do not count. cleanup in Clear Creek is an ex- If a stream is dry, or nearly dry, ample where financial resources for two weeks, it will have to were available to change water be managed as a seasonal, put-

High Country Angler • Summer 2017

and-take fishery. Catch-andrelease makes little sense if the fish are going to die anyway when the stream goes dry. Similarly, a two-week spell of water temperatures in the mid-80s eliminates the stream for consideration as a year-long fishery. One of the common destructive changes that formerly productive streams suffer is a loss of depth, as well as changes in pool-riffle flow patterns associated with greater depth. As streams fill with sediment and become shallower or wider, the waters tend to become warmer, pools disappear, and structure is lost. Shallow, warm water and an absence of sheltering structure are severe limits for producing large numbers of healthy trout. The design for a habitat improvement project should start with a detailed stream survey to identify the positive attributes/ characteristics of the stream, as well as the factors that are limiting it from its full, productive potential. A physical description of the stream is a basic starting point. What is the seasonal flow pattern? What are the maximum and minimum flows? What are the temperature extremes of the water? Are there sedimentation problems

and what are the sources of the sediment? Chemical analyses of the water are also part of the baseline description, along with identification of the insect and invertebrate animals in the streambed. If rooted, vascular plants are present, what are they? Actual construction of stream habitat improvement projects typically starts with actions to create a narrower stream bed with greater overall depth (but with a well-connected floodplain to pass higher flows), a meandering path, a series of pools and riffles. Additional in-stream structure, such as boulders and large woody debris, as well as riparian plantings to stabilize stream banks are also early steps in the habitat improvement processes. These modifications address primary limiting factors. Years ago, when I was in

the early phases of my career, an “old-timer” stream manager with years of practical experience told me to “think like a fish.” “What does a fish need to prosper?” It needs well-oxygenated, clean water of proper temperature and good chemical characteristics. Places to rest, shelter, and avoid predators are important. An abundant food supply is essential. A well-designed habitat improvement project will address all the factors that enhance these attributes, as well as reducing or eliminating any factors that limit them. It’s not “rocket science” – it’s actually more complicated, because many of the factors involved are not as predictable as “rocket science.” Nevertheless, experienced managers who focus on the primary limiting factors can have great success. Hopefully the Fraser will be another HC such success story.


bout The Author.

John Nickum, is a retired PhD. fishery biologist whose career has included positions as professor at research universities including Iowa State and Cornell University, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s fisheries research facility in Bozeman, MT, and science officer for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. He was inducted into the National Fish Culture Hall of Fame in 2008.

Summer 2017 • High Country Angler






Reach Fly-Fishing community



High Country Angler • Summer 2017




COLORADO Cherry Creek | 2770 E. Second Avenue | 303-355-4554 Park Meadows | 8433 Park Meadows Center Drive | 303-768-9600 COLORADO Cherry Creek 2770 E. Second Avenue | 303-355-4554 Park Meadows 8433 Park Meadows Center Drive | 303-768-9600


Summer 2017 • High Country Angler


The Ultimate Wingman


High Country Angler • Summer 2017

High Country Angler | Summer 2017  
High Country Angler | Summer 2017