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Winter 20



Winter’s Windows

Conserving Colorado’s Poudre River Fishing the Teton Valley

by Landon Mayer


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High Country Angler • Winter 2017



Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


IT’S WINTER, AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! Come to KREMMLING, Colorado for Some of the Best Year-Round Fishing in the Rockies

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High Country Angler • Winter 2017


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BY JOHN NICKUM High Country Angler • Winter 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 ine.co m Landon Mayer, Editorial Consultant Ruthie Mar tin, Editor


B r i an L a R ue, S ales & M a r keting b r ian@ hc am agaz i ne.co m D i rec t : ( 714) 944- 5676 K andily n M ar t i n, Ad S ales k andi ly n@ hc am agaz ine.com Cell: ( 719) 432- 8317


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


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond


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

Copyright 2016, 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 719-265-4082, or email frank@hcamagazine.com. D i str i buted by H i gh Countr y Publi cati ons, L LC 730 Popes Valley D r i ve Colorad o Spr i ngs, Colorad o 809 1 9 T E L E P H O N E 7 19-265-4082 FA X 719-593-0040 Published in cooperation with Colorado Trout Unlimited 620 Sixteenth Street, Suite 300 Denver, CO 80202 www.coloradotu.org

ON THE COVER: Eric Mondragon, Photo by Landon Mayer

Find High Country Angler Magazine on

TOC PHOTO: by Brian La Rue


Winter 2017 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Winter 2017


Winter’s Windows

by Landon Mayer


Winter 2017 • High Country Angler



here is something magical about the winter season that can make you feel like you have found a diamond in the rough. Often you have a good chance of being the only angler on the river, or have more room to

navigate in one day’s time, making it hard to beat. From the unique windows of opportunity you have with concentrating numbers of trout huddling in deep runs for oxygen and cover, to seeing every detailed movement of a lethargic fish feeding in clear water, the knowledge you gain from these chilly encounters will make you a believer in shopping “Winter’s Windows” of opportunities. Before we dive into the following tips that can give you an upper hand for these cold days, you need mentally prepare yourself for the slow down. When trout become lethargic from water temperature hovering in the mid 40-degree range, their movements are minimal as well. Unlike the warm summer day, you will not see the fish chase down any meals, so the fly needs to be within inches of their face or right in the middle of the feeding lane. All the trout has to do is to open its mouth and flare out its gills to suck the fly in like a vacuum. Ultimately, you want 12

High Country Angler • Winter 2017

the imitation to swing in front of the trout and its viewing lane, followed by drifting short to prevent snagging/spooking the fish, and give you more accurate drifts to the trout.

Flouro Tips Yes, flourocarbon does sink, unlike monofilament. However, when you are talking about diameter sizes from 5-7x, the sinking rate is not strong enough to pull

the dry flies below the surface. The lack of water speed with low flows helps to prevent anything on the surface from being swept below the film. As flourocarbon does not reflect light, it is without question capable of providing more top water takes than regular nylon tippet on those bright or glare-filled winter days. That being said, I will still take advantage of the floating factor in nylon with a 9-12 foot tapered leader that will turn over a dual fly rig, easily allowing the rig a chance to ride high on the surface. I prefer the leader to be one size x above the fluorocarbon tip to allow a smooth transfer of thickness from the fly line, tapering thin to the end of the tippet. For example, a Scientific Angler 9 foot 5x freshwater leader, connected to a 3 foot piece of SA fluorocarbon is a common snow season dry fly rig. For subsurface emergers or nymph rigs, I run fluorocarbon all the way through from leader to tippet. This will ensure that less targets will be spooked in the crystal clear water after every deep-water delivery.




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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Window Shopping With low water levels and clear water, you will have more opportunities to see trout in the winter than any other time of year. One of my favorite ways to sight fish is through a “window.” Simply put: a calm section of flat water in between sections of turbulent water that allows you the chance to see directly into the deep water below and any fish that are holding or actively feeding. To utilize the window correctly, you want to track the window while it drifts downstream from the top of the run, through the bottom of the run, similar to a hunter tracking birds before pulling the trigger. Like a custom home, the river will posses different sizes of windows. The trick is not locating the right window, but finding the right water to see into. I prefer scanning the deep zones like drop offs, buckets in shallow water, and my favorite: deep washouts around structure points like boulder or log jams. These are all locations trout have to rely on for safety and survival in the snowy season.

You are going to have fish shake the hook regardless, especially when you are using a small hook size of #22-26. With that in mind, you want to give yourself every advantage to keep the target on until it slides in the net. Lastly, to take full advantage of the proper hook in small sizes, you can choose the “heavy,” or strong wire version, to prevent the weight of a heavy fish straightening out the hook from too much pressure. My go-to for this is using a Tiemco 2488 H, 2x strong wire, compared to a 2488 in sizes smaller than #18. I have

literally hooked large/strong great lakes fish on the 2488 H without a single hook failure. The great rewards given in the sport of fly fishing is the chance of learning something every day you are on the water. The winter season offers a great learning curve in the solitude of a beautiful setting, with the clean crisp mountain air. Life does not get much better. Try these tips the next time you need a break from the Holiday madness. I wish everyone Merry Christmas and multiple gifts from the water HC this winter season.


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 www.landonmayer.com.

Straight Eye Advantage I want to touch on a very important point that has been the topic of conversation in some of my most recent tying demos, and information you do not hear mentioned as often as it should be: the advantage of using patterns that are tied on straight eye hooks vs. imitations tied on a down eye. My favorite example is a size #20 Tiemco 2487 with a down eye, compared to a #20 2488 with a straight eye, or a Tiemco 100 down eye dry fly hook compared to the straight eye 101. The 2488 has a large hook gap opening that will provide more hook ups, with the hook point having a better chance of poking the trout’s jaw without the hook eye getting in the way. 14

High Country Angler • Winter 2017





HANGE, CHANGE, CHANGE should be Colorado TU’s theme for 2017! We can expect major changes and new challenges in the areas of Environmental Regulations, Climate Change, and Public Lands. A new Presidential Administration with all new cabinet members and major Department Heads, combined with a Congress eager to put its new imprint on conservation issues, means that all levels of the TU organization – national, state and local chapter – will have to be diligent and engaged. Our immediate response should be to “Keep On Keeping On” – a continued focus on our grassroots efforts to protect, reconnect, and restore our cold-water fisheries. We can continue to make them more resilient in the face of rising temperatures, impacts from major fires, and reductions or seasonal changes in flows. The more we can keep rivers/streams flowing freely and protect the integrity of their watersheds, the better we can position trout to persist in a changing world. A warmer climate will be unpredictable. When we talk about water, this means more frequent flood and drought. Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Michigan TU’s Executive Director in the Great Lakes region says: “Predictable weather patterns don’t exist anymore – they are unstable – which results in the altering of peak stream flows, hatch times and insect abundance.” The best we can do for weather catastrophes is to restore some of the ecosystem’s missing parts – making populations of native trout more resilient against the hotter, drier, more unpredictable future that will be headed their way. Check out the Fall 2016 TROUT magazine for lots more information on climate change and what it means for TU and the trout fisheries we all enjoy. And Keep Up the Good HC Fight! www.HCAmagazine.com

About The Author. Marshall Pendergrass is President of ColoradoTrout Unlimited. You can contact him via the Colorado TU website at coloradotu.org.

Winter 2017 • High Country Angler




How I Succumbed to Tenkara and Survived


Jack Nicholson would say, “I’m Back.” After taking off a few months from writing and recharging my fishing batteries, I have agreed to write an article or two for HCA again. Thanks to Frank for asking me if I could still write something now and then. Now I actually have a few new things to say that you might find

interesting or comical, whichever comes first. Early this past summer, my compadre, Larry Kingrey and I bought a pop up camper together. We thought it would fit our style just fine, since we consider ourselves to be a little long in the tooth for a tent and not rich enough for a motor home, so a tent on an axel seemed to be the answer. I have to say, and I think he would agree, after several weeklong trips to different rivers, we have found our little house to be more fun than we expected and I suspect it will become close to a permanent home next season. We spent a lot of time fishing, cooking, drinking, and pondering life in general from underneath a Blue Spruce. It also allowed us to escape the political landscape which was entirely out of hand. If you’re CHORIZO CHILAQUILES looking for answers and sanity, it’s on the AND FRIED EGG river, not on TV or Facebook. • 8 corn tortillas, cut into quarters • 1 lb Johnsonville or Boulder Sausage ground Chorizo Due to my friend • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper Paul Vertrees coming • 1 tablespoon red chili powder • 2 tablespoons flour on staff at my Son’s • 1 1/2 cups water flyshop, Royal Gorge • Grated cheddar cheese • 4 eggs Anglers, I was dragged Fry tortilla pieces until soft, and let rest on paper towel. Brown into the Tenkara state Chorizo, sprinkle in flour, cayenne, and chili powder and mix until of mind this summer. a light rue forms around the Chorizo. Pour in water, half cup at a time and stir until a chili gravy forms with the Chorizo. Place I use that term, betortilla strips back into the Chorizo and allow it to cover them cause it is not quite like completely. Top with grated cheese and a fried egg. This should make four servings. Chilaquiles are usually made by using salsa Western fly fishing; and not meat chili, but this is too good to pass up. it’s more like embrac16

High Country Angler • Winter 2017

ing yoga instead of weight lifting. Paul is one of the original Tenkara certified guides, and an consummate outdoorsman. He’s one of those guys that likes to put on a pack and walk 20 miles to catch a 10-inch fish in a place where no one else has been, and he does it with a telescoping graphite pole without a reel....Tenkara. Now if that was the only way a person could use Tenkara, I would have never agreed to even take a look at it. I have discovered that it’s another way to have fun, even if you drive up to the river and roll down the hill to the river. Its simplicity appealed to me initially, but then I found that the technology required me to learn a new skill set. Not having a reel can be a big surprise when you stick a fish of size and reach for the crank handle, and find the whole www.HCAmagazine.com

thing missing in action. Tenkara rods are long and noodle like, but because of that, if you learn to use them properly, it allows you to put more pressure on a fish. You have to respond quickly, though, or they will run you downhill in a hurry. I’ve learned to kneel and get into the power curve and all that stuff. I can say that I do believe that Tenkara is not intended for fish much over 20 inches unless you’re in a boat and can move with them. I have landed 20 inch Trout on Tenkara and even a big sucker for that matter, but I have also lost some big fish and I don’t like leaving flies in a fish just to prove a point. Tenkara is more fun for fish from 6 to 16 inches. That is where its sweet spot lies. Tenkara lines are anywhere from 7 to 15 feet in length without tippet. Some are full floating for dry flies, and others are made of fluorocarbon for nymphing. Most of these lines are level; in other words, there is no taper like a western fly line. However, because we have found Tenkara to be incredible for tight line nymphing, we are playing with a variety of weight-forward designs for fly lines that allow for a tuck cast to be made easily. Now, I’m sure that makes Tenkara purists shudder in their hip boots, but that’s life. There was a time when nymph fishing of any kind was not considered acceptable in fly fishing, and there are documented cases of fist fights breaking out over that issue alone. I am a dyed-in-the-wool dry fly fisherman, so I understand how that could happen. But in my old age, I have come to understand that having fun with your gear is all that counts, and if you are hung up on a particular style being the only one that is correct, then you are wasting precious time and it www.HCAmagazine.com

won’t be mine. As a matter of fact, Larry and I are presenting a seminar at the Denver Fly Fishing Show in January entitled “Rigging and Tying Flies for Tactical Nymphing.” Go figure. Come join us and have some fun. If you’re hungry in the mean time, try out this new recipe. This is one that became a staple for Larry and me this past sum-

mer, and its addiction rate is right up there with good scotch and a martini. It’s a good way to start off a day with a cup of strong coffee. If I spend many more summers living in a pop up trailer on a river, I am convinced that I will become totally incorregable, which is actually something of which to aspire. HC


bout The Author.

Bill Edrington is a former Sociology/Criminology professor who owned Royal Gorge Anglers for 20 years before selling to his son, Taylor. He still works there when he’s not on the river. He has authored several books and magazine articles, and has been a contributing columnist for HCA since our first issue, more than 12 years ago. You can follow his fly fishing and cooking adventures on his Facebook page at: Bill Edrington/Tight Lines and Tasty Spoons.

Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Teton River: Fighting For A Great Fishery

by Brian La Rue


High Country Angler • Winter 2017



t is with a heavy heart that I write this feature. The Teton River is one of my favorite spots, as I discovered it when I was in my teens, and then lived within five minutes of it before reluctantly relocating this summer. I’ve reconnected with my Colorado peeps and have enjoyed a warm welcome back—thank you! The Teton will always hold a special place in my heart, but how long can the great people at Friends of Teton River and Teton Valley Trout Unlimited keep it flowing freely? In an era when dams are coming down all over the nation, a new dam is being considered that would wipe away 40 years of nature’s work in the canyon. It’s not the easiest river to access, and the fish can be picky, but if you find yourself in beautiful Teton Valley, it is worth a stop; hopefully the wild canyon stretch will be an option for generations to come. The Teton begins in the southern reaches of Teton Valley, draining the western side of the famous Grand Tetons. The 81.5 mile river runs north through the towns of Victor, Driggs, and Tetonia as it heads north/northeast to join the more popular Henry’s Fork. The Teton doesn’t see half the action that the South Fork and Henry’s Fork see, as they are both located within an hour’s drive of Driggs. That’s a good thing for the Teton, for sure! www.HCAmagazine.com

The bad part: a dam is being considered as part of plans to manage water again. It would replace the earthfill dam that failed June 5, 1976, flooding the local area to the tune of an estimated $2 billion in damages, and taking the lives of 11 people and 13,000 head of livestock. In the 40 years since this devastating event, nature has been allowed to flourish in the canyon. The area has become an extraordinary wilderness area—home not only to a great fishery, but to numerous species of animals which have enjoyed the benefits of a somewhat secluded 1,000-foot deep river canyon running some 25 miles through agriculture fields. On a typical hike in, you will see bald and golden eagles, otters, beavers, elk, deer, and more willing fish than most typical rivers in the West. Add numerous tributaries and the upper reaches of the river and you have a success story. But, can it be saved? “Ever since the dam failed, the state of Idaho and the Bureau of Reclamation has been investigating and studying how to replace water storage and ways to control flows,” said Amy Verbeten, Executive Director of Friends of the Teton River. “The subject keeps coming back, and most recently, a well-organized effort resulted in the Henry’s Fork Basin Study commissioned by the State and Bureau of Reclamation. The question evolved on how to Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


meet water demand for agriculture and growing population on the Snake River Plain. “Numerous alternatives were discussed, including rebuilding a dam. However, the bureau made a statement that although a new Teton Dam could provide additional water, they recognized that the social, environmental, and cost impacts did not rank it high on the list of likely or good scenarios,” added Verbeten. “This was good news for conservation, as the Teton is one the last remaining undammed rivers in the Snake River system, and it is home to some of the highest Yellow-


High Country Angler • Winter 2017

stone cutthroat counts per mile of any stream in their range. The Yellowstone cutthroat is an iconic western native trout species, and the Teton is a magical place. “The mission of the Friends of The Teton River is to work together for clean water, healthy streams, and resilient fisheries in the Teton Watershed. We were deeply involved in the basin study process, working with a variety of stakeholders to find environmentally viable solutions to these kinds of water issues,” said Amy. “We recognize there are and will be bigger demands for water, and we work to find a balance for all involved to benefit fish, farmers, and residential needs.” As someone who personally lived in Victor, you always wondered why farmers would run irrigation systems nonstop early in the season. After my conversation with Amy, I now understood that when water supply is high, the farmers flood their fields, charging up the aquifer so it will be full, feeding not only their crops but powering the river in dryer months of July, August, and September. This practice has been done for years, and when used thoughtfully, can be a proven technique that helps all stakeholders. “We want to see a strong and sustainable economy for all,” said Verbeten. “Numerous Western streams are seeing high temperature spikes. We are finding ways to buffer high temperatures to benefit fish. The colder aquifer water slowly seeps into wetlands, and the river then flows down the Teton to the Snake River Plain in late summer, just when farmers and fish need

it most. Everybody wins. Recognizing the solutions of today is possible, but no one group can do it themselves. It is beautiful and elegant when a community comes together for a solution.” You can learn more about the Teton River and the issues facing the watershed by checking out the Facebook page for Save Teton River Canyon, or see the Friends’ website at http:// tetonwater.org/. Learn about all the great things Amy and her team do for Teton Valley and the valuable resources on the “quiet side of the Tetons.” As for the great fishing on the Teton, I will share my knowledge and why I feel that it is so special. Anglers will find that the highway through Teton Valley offers some obvious access points. As you leave Victor and head north, you will see fishing access signs. Be advised, you will find yourself on lengthy dirt roads, and if you are there in spring, flows will be up, mosquitoes will be out, and there are numerous side channels to confuse the traveling angler….is this the actual Teton? It is a gentle river, but off color spring flows and slippery silt could mean you end up a soggy mess. When it comes to runoff, the ‘earliest’ fishing is typically in June. This is the time when things start to settle down, but warmer days also mean mosquitoes, and they get thick along the river. My home in Teton Valley was on the west slope of the Big Hole Mountains as you leave Victor heading to Swan Valley, and we rarely were bothered by mosquitoes, but as soon as you get near the bottom of the valley near the river, they can be intense. From Driggs to Tetonia, you will find a few more access points. Again, most bridges crossing the river offer access. There is a lot of private property, but drifting and wading is allowed if you are in the river. The river in this stretch is very popular for folks tubing and simply floating with friends. As www.HCAmagazine.com

the summer takes hold, locals enjoy the river, and anglers come out early or late to enjoy the dry fly bite. The most challenging part of the Teton—besides matching some of the dries, which will we get into soon—is the erratic flows. You have lots of mountain snow and spring storms, but sometimes the summers just don’t get the thunderstorms, and things can get skinny. Summer fishing can be good, but last summer’s flows got very low and fall was so skinny it was scary. Thank goodness for the aquifer, which keeps water cool through tough conditions in August and September. Okay, now for spring and summer bugs! Be sure you carry PMDs, yellow sallies, caddis, midges, mahogany duns, golden stones, salmon flies, grey drakes, blue winged olives, and an assortment of streamers. We are talking mostly rainbows and cutthroat and they will get into feeding pods on the river and drive you nuts if you don’t go light enough, small enough, and keep it drag-free. It can be quite a show, as I’ve heard more than my share of profanity on the river as I pull in 12- to 17-inch rainbows and cutthroats on size 18 and 20 dries, while somebody about 100 yards downriver on another pod of feeders gets refused right and left. On the other hand, I’ve also enjoyed trading catchand-release non-stop action with another stranger 100 yards away as we trade hookups and casual glances of approval up and down the river. My favorite times on the upper stretches were about April through May, and late June through November before things got icy. Again, on average, I used 5X-6X tippets, a 4 wt or 5 wt, and size 18 and 20 dries. Rarely did I fish wet flies, but when I did, it was typically with a two-fly rig under a hopper or larger caddis, with something like Umpqua’s sparkle wing RS2. A smaller tan/yellow sally/caddis/mahogany-like bug worked well. If they didn’t hit it on the drift, it www.HCAmagazine.com

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also worked well on the swing when a picky fish would finally give in. On one occasion, I let one of those bugs swing and a fingerling picked it up, only to be demolished by a 22-plusinch cutthroat. Yes, big fish are in there—if you were curious. The centerpiece of the Teton is the canyon stretch, though. This 25-mile piece of water runs through agriculture and ranch land, so it requires a little knowledge of access roads. The canyon stretch is best fished with one of the local guide services who will slide a StreamTech or NRS down a

canyon wall to access the water. Otherwise, you’ll have to hike in, rock hop, and test your luck with rattlesnakes. Once down in the canyon, it is best to stay in the water as numerous guides have shared stories of anglers needing to relieve themselves only to disturb a rattlesnake in the bushes. I enjoyed a couple days down in the canyon in my time in Idaho. It is a fantastic place with plenty of willing trout, and I was lucky not to see any rattlesnakes, let alone another angler. This is more of a big bug proposition here, as big terrestrials like hoppers,


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 Brian@hcamagazine.com if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan.

ants, and stoneflies will turn heads. The fish tend to be a little larger, as the canyon offers a microclimate— offering slightly warmer water, larger bugs, and some very deep pools. I used bugs like chaos hoppers, beefcake beetles, and Morrish hoppers with gold-ribbed hare’s ears underneath. Many folks in the region swear by the circus peanut and other attractor terrestrials that imitate a variety of big dry patterns. When the terrestrial bite slows and you’ve exhausted the walk-in water, the canyon stretch allows you to keep going, hiking miles and miles or even change gears, nymph, and cover the same water again. If you had a guided float or at least a boat, you could get in front of numerous ‘new’ fish, but when limited to a timeframe and on foot, I did equally well re-fishing the couple miles with the standard midge and hare’s ears. I doubled my catch

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High Country Angler • Winter 2017


rate, resorting to the indicator after the initial pass with chaos hoppers and Reece’s beefcake beetle. As you can see, the Teton is as exciting as its bigger brothers and sisters in the area. If you like being surrounding by feeding trout in the early evening, and spending a couple hours matching the tiny dries they are eating, then this will be a fun river for you. Think of the Teton as a small Railroad Ranch if you will. Throw in the adventure awaiting anglers in the canyon, which I think is the main draw, and you’ll be amazed that people simply drive on by. The Teton thus is no “secret,” but often overlooked. If you are in the region, set aside one evening or one full day and give it a try. Oh, and before I forget, if you like great barbecue, check out Big Hole Barbecue in Victor. As for places to stay while you are in the area, try the Lodge at Palisade Creek in nearby Irvin, Natural Retreats’ Teton Springs Resort and Spa, The Cabins at Teton Springs, my old neighbors at The Fin and Feather, or try the Teton Valley RV Park for camping or RVing. All offer some great lodging options and can suggest a guide, or at least show you a map with access to the river if you prefer to go on your own. Lastly, any state or local region has numerous ways you can get involved to help conserve, protect, and restore our precious resources. Here close to home, many people take our beautiful outdoor offerings for granted. Do your part in 2017: join Colorado Trout Unlimited, invest in a “Protect Our Rivers” license plate, volunteer to help with a trash pickup day, or if you’re a busy person and you’re looking for a worthy cause or charity, donate to Colorado Trout Unlimited and help them secure our outdoor fuHC ture for generations to come. www.HCAmagazine.com

Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Aggressive Browns Highlight Poudre River Tug by Brian La Rue


here is something to be said for the numerous fishing opportunities along the Front Range. One favorite river that comes to mind is the Cache la Poudre River, or simply, the Poudre. Given the number of challenges currently hampering access to the Big Thompson, the Poudre might just be the right call this winter, and who knows, you too might become attached! For history buffs, the Poudre got its name from an incident in the 1820s when French trappers were said to have buried a large supply of gun powder along the river’s banks. The name Cache la Poudre means “Hide the Powder” so I guess the story makes sense and it stuck. My favorite days on the Poudre offered a mixed bag of browns, rainbows, and even a brookie up high. Learn from my first outing, as I spent about four hours with maybe one solid brown in the 12to 14- inch for every pullout, but for the most part I thought to myself, “Man, this river looks much better than this; it looks so fishy, but where are the numbers?” 24

High Country Angler • Winter 2017

I drove higher into the mountains following Highway 14, wrapping around bends and checking out more of the water. At one point, the river got very skinny and I was about to throw in the towel when I decided I would just keep driving. You know…”One more bend, honey!” That’s when I discovered why this river is held in such high regard. Sure, you’ll have to drive a bit to get to the Poudre, particularly if driving from Colorado Springs or Denver, but when you hit that flat section after a decent drive up the river, you find the river flattens out, widens, and offers what I call “fishy” water. From Rustic upriver, fishing gets good thanks to catch-and-release and artificial-only regulations, giving fish a chance to populate and flourish. On my time on the Poudre, I enjoyed the pocket water below Rustic, but the river becomes more of a gold-medal-type of water as rising fish become more common, and action takes on a new look as lighter tippets and carefully-picked fly patterns www.HCAmagazine.com

become the general rule. I have always enjoyed a few particular patterns on the Poudre. My favorites flies include RS2 emergers, rainbow warriors, medallion midge, and black beauties. Size 18 and 20 are standard, but on the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of bends and a few deeper pools where a sink-tip-line streamer like an olive, or black flash-a-bugger or a smaller meaty pattern like an autumn splendor did the trick. When the Poudre’s fish begin to rise, your typical blue winged olives and a variety of midges will turn heads. Smaller Adams, Griffith’s gnats, and my favorite greased RS2s will also work on the surface most anytime, including the winter months ahead. “Flows in winter will drop off, so fishing in the canyon can get a little icy. I would suggest winter fishing in and around town where water temperatures are a little warmer, and larger fish to 21 inches have been reported in recent years,” said Joe GriffinHarte at St. Pete Fly Shop (www. stpetes.com/home.html) in old town Ft. Collins. “Depending on the year, but typically by March, fishing gets going again in the canyon on the upper reaches. There is a great opportunity for midge and baettis, and even a stonefly hatch before runoff.” As with any winter or early www.HCAmagazine.com

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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


spring outing, anglers will want to focus on the Poudre River 11x17 Fly Fishing Map. Share your mid-day hours to get into a quality bite. Joe back pictures from the Poudre or any rivers, lakes, or at St. Pete’s likes to focus on slowly moving water exotic destinations you fish: we are on Instagram with some turbulence when it is cold. @hcamagazine.com, or on our Facebook page. “The fish will not be in the fast water….you’ll We also offer contests here and there with trips HC find them in the slightly deeper water after a tai- even up for grabs. lout, or near edges where they’ll enjoy highly oxygenated water, more bug life, and a steady flow of food drifting by,” said Joe. “During the colder bout The Author. months, utilize smaller midges High Country Angler contributor Brian La in the 18 to 22 size range. Always Rue enjoys giving fly fishers ideas of where have those valuable dry midges, to go for an adventure. Feel free to reach out to Brian at gnats, and other smaller dries Brian@hcamagazine.com if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan. for Poudre’s great dry fly hatches mid-day. “I too like to throw streamers on the Poudre, but that tends to only be a good bet after runoff and through the fall before flows really drop,” added Joe. “With the average fish running 10 inches and a solid fish in the canyon going 14 to 18 inches, I tend to stick with smaller streamers in the 8 to 12 size range. I like thin mints, white or vanilla woolly buggers, and lastly, locally tied Platte River spiders.” Only a handful of folks are well-versed on fishing the Poudre though Ft. Collins. Griffin-Harte suggested to tackle the town stretches and, until it gets extremely cold, try swinging streamers when looking for aggressive bigger fish. “The key is putting in your time, and working the water quickly and diligently to put your fly in front of as many fish as possible,” adds Joe. “Fall weather was abnormally warm; we’ll have to see what winter holds, but get out and have fun!” For more information, contact the team at St. Pete’s Fly Shop, or check out the great map offered by Wilderness Adventure Press on Amazon: Cache la



High Country Angler • Winter 2017



Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Coalitions and Collaboratives “Y

ou’re gonna need a bigger boat!” Many of you might remember that classic line from the first Jaws movie. Unfortunately, rather than describing the list of needs for fishing the Cache La Poudre River, here the line references the ecological efforts and events that followed the 2012 High Park Fire. Late that spring, the 90,000-acre fire followed its earlier 10,000-acre cousin, the Hewlett Gulch Fire, and created one of the largest ecologic challenges in the modern history of this rare freestone river. Beyond its pristine and wonderful fishery, the Poudre River is the primary source of drinking water for approximately 350,000 Northern Colorado residents, provides low cost clean water to numerous businesses, and supplies irrigation water to thousands of acres of irrigated farm land. The fires burned a mosaic of intensity levels from severe 28

High Country Angler • Winter 2017

to mild across the southern third of the watershed. [Picture A] Subsequently, thousands of acres of land became susceptible to severe erosion, as well as the transport of tons of additional sediment into the Poudre’s tributaries and mainstem. Within days of the start of the fire, Rocky Mountain Flycasters was contacting other like-minded organizations and government agencies to determine how we could best respond and assist in ecological recovery efforts. It quickly became evident that no one agency or organization could singularly dedicate the ongoing time and resources necessary to begin the recovery and restoration effort. Furthermore, the fire reinforced what had been known for some time: If we didn’t begin to also find ways to pre-treat highrisk areas of forest lands, it would only be a matter of time before the next big fire started. www.HCAmagazine.com

The Future of Watershed Management Is Today

By Dick Jefferies Just like the shark of movie fame, this threat was enormous and potentially all-consuming for any one person or organization. We knew we needed a bigger boat! The cumulative effort of Rocky Mountain Flycasters and other partner groups was the creation of the High Park Restoration Coalition (HPRC). In August of 2012, HPRC members officially joined together under a non-binding partnership agreement and began efforts to coordinate restoration efforts. At the same time, Greeley Water, Fort Collins Utilities, and Larimer County were also working on recovery and restoration efforts, as much of their upper watershed infrastructure had been directly impacted by the fires. As recovery and restoration work moved forward, it became clear that many efforts could be combined, and thus economized, by using www.HCAmagazine.com

the Coalition as a coordination and implementation body. This work, done by the Coalition, could potentially reduce staffing demand on the County and the utilities. Thus, in May of 2013, the HPRC re-formed as the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW), a non-profit business. Soon after its business formation, CPRW received its IRS Determination as a 501C3 charitable organization. Today, CPRW works throughout the entire watershed of the Poudre River, from its headwaters to its confluence with the South Platte River. Its leadership reflects a cross section of the community through a diverse group of board members from local water utilities, Colorado State University, Larimer County, and individuals representing recreation, forestry, project development, volunteer management, civil engineering, business and finance, and of course, Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Trout Unlimited. Currently, fire related restoration projects are beginning to wind down. Money for those projects is becoming more challenging to secure. However, while fire restoration was the initial impetus behind the creation of CPRW, it is just one area of work for the Coalition. The fires of 2012 reinforced what everyone has known for some time: If we don’t begin the work of forest pretreatment, it is only a matter of time before we see the next disastrous wildfire in the Poudre watershed. Knowing that pretreatment efforts can minimize the negative impacts and costs

early grant award allowed CPRW to create an Upper Watershed Resiliency Plan, including a forest health assessment. That assessment, reviewed by numerous individuals representing many different agencies, has mapped and cataloged areas of need rated from highest to lowest. This assessment can now be used as a decision-making tool for allocation of resources to realize the greatest benefit. The Front Range flood of 2013, for the most part, had minimal impact on the upper Poudre. However, the lower Poudre experienced many changes in flow and course. CPRW was recently awarded a grant to complete a Recovery and Resilience Plan for the lower Poudre. Some of the things this plan will address are remaining flood recovery needs, hazards to the ecosystem and infrastructure, opportunities to increase resilience to future floods, and opportuniLegend

Tie Siding

Upper Poudre Project Area 6th Level Watersheds 7th Level Watersheds Target Areas Overall Watershed Priority Rank Lowest Low Moderate


High Highest

Meadow Creek

Glendevey Red Feather Lakes


Lone Pine Creek


Owl Canyon

Map 27. Upper Poudre Watershed Overall Priority Rank Goodell Corner


Upper Poudre-Black Hollow Idylwilde

Spencer Heights

Glen Echo

Lower Poudre-Hill Gulch

Indian Meadows Eggers



Poudre Park



Pennock Creek

Map 3.15 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Sediment Transport Stream Classification Glen Haven

Map 3.16 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Sediment Transport Ranking Drake



Map 3.23 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Value C - Water Supply Rank Fort Collins





Map 3.14 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Soil Erodibility/Granitic Material Composite Ranking Horsetooth



Horsetooth Heights Masonville

Map 3.24 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Overall Priority Rank Map 4.1 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Target Areas

Sources: Esri, HERE, DeLorme, TomTom, Intermap, increment P Corp., GEBCO, USGS, FAO, NPS, NRCAN, GeoBase, IGN, Kadaster NL, Ordnance Survey, Esri Japan, METI, Esri China (Hong Kong), swisstopo, MapmyIndia, © OpenStreetMap contributors, and the GIS User Community Map 4.2 

Map 3.17 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Value B - Resilient River Corridor Composite Rank

Map 3.18 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Land Use Ranking

Horsetooth Reservoir Target Area Ownership Map 4.3 
 Horsetooth Reservoir Target Area Vegetation Types

ties to improve wildlife connectivity and habitat. The plan will also work toward providing more floodplain access. The boat in the movie Jaws did not fare well in the end. It was constructed of wood and was only slightly bigger than the shark that destroyed it. We are more fortunate today. We have built a much bigger and sturdier boat. It is the size and the strength of the community that built it. With everyone’s continued help, it will take on all sharks in the Poudre’s future. Map 3.19 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Existing Water Quality Impairment Ranking

Map 3.20 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Zones of Concern Ranking

Map 3.21 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Sediment Deposition Junctions Map 3.22 
 Upper Poudre Watershed Sediment Deposition Ranking

Map 4.4 
 Horsetooth Reservoir Target Area Watershed Priority Ranking Map 4.5 
 Horsetooth Reservoir Target Area Target Forest Areas Map 4.6 
 Lone Pine Creek Target Area 
 Ownership Map 4.7 
 Lone Pine Creek Target Area 
 Special Areas

of a wildfire, CPRW is working on pilot thinning projects in the watershed as part of a plan to develop a funded program for thinning trees in unnaturallydense forested areas. We are also working on programs to bring needed training and information to residents throughout the upper watershed that can enable bout The Author. them to better protect their lands Dick Jefferies is a director-at-large with Colorado from impacts of wildfire. TU, and Board Chair of the Coalition for the Information is the key to prioriPoudre River Watershed. He previously served as President tizing what work to do where. One of the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter of TU. Though an avid angler, he has never caught a shark. HC



High Country Angler • Winter 2017


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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler




Keeping Time with the River


here was ice along enough to fuel another hour of fruitless casting), I felt the banks where the a tug on my dropper, deep in a pool, and then almost as water slow-pooled quickly, he was gone. amongst the rocks—placNow I sat, ate, and decided upon my next move. A es where the sun wouldn’t few pallid leaves still clung to spindly aspen branches. reach again until spring. I The rest lay in a decomposing carpet at my feet, or satupicked my way over, un- rated along the edges of the river where the current was der, and around a tangle minimal. of aspen—deadfall mixed From somewhere above, borne by a breeze undewith living—some nearly tected down at river level, a solitary aspen leaf the color three feet in diameter. Softly of gold slowly spiraled and fluttered out of the blue and grunting against the neces- settled gently on the water in front of me. I watched as it sary contortions and the restriction of my waders, care- was carried off by the river, pirouetting on the current, fully feeding my rod between their tangles, I looked thirty yards downstream and around the corner out of for somewhere to break for lunch, somewhere I could sight, the last ten yards partially lost from view in the contemplate the river as it flowed through the otherwise glare, my eyes merely keeping pace with where I imagmotionless landscape. ined it floated. I found a place where one tree had fallen at the base I came to a decision. For the rest of the day I would of another—creating a seat of sorts—then slipped my fish with a single dry fly, and with every cast, try to settle pack from my shoulders, sat down, and looked around. it on the water as delicately as the aspen leaf had landed. So immersed had I been in pursuit of a fish, that I had If that wasn’t good enough to catch a fish, then so be it. little idea of how far up the gorge I’d progressed, or even I finished my sandwich, drained my beer, and removed how much time had elapsed since I’d set out that morn- the dropper from below my dry. Sometimes the days you ing. learn most about the art, as well as the nuts and bolts, of I guessed at the time. The narrow sliver of sky above fly fishing are the days the fish don’t interfere with your me didn’t give much hint of the sun’s location. Perhaps focus. three or four more hours of daylight. I scanned the air The afternoon ceased to be about the fish, and rather above me and toward the far bank, looking for signs of about the fly. Each pool I came to, each riffle and pourlife—an insect or two silhouetted against the breathless over, each eddy and pillow, became a stage upon which November blue, a bird foraging in the foliage growing I, like an apprentice puppet master, would try to bend out of the chalky white face of the opposite cliff—but the fly to my will, to hover it in the eddies, to bob it like a nothing stirred. cork on the wave trains, to twist it in the current seams. All morning I’d fished hard, immersing myself in the The fish, if there were any, weren’t impressed. Drift after nuances of the river: the interaction of light, color, and drift went unmolested, the shade of the canyon unrecontour, shape and shadow, reacting to the most delicate of changes to the drift bout The Author. and action of my flies, and all for no apHayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander parent reward. There was only once the living in the mountain town of Salida, Colorado, hint of a fish. A hundred or more drifts on the banks of the Arkansas River. As well as being a down subtle eddy lines, trenches, riffles, semi-retired fly fishing guide, he juggles helping his wife pools, and drop offs yielded only a few sodden leaves and other bits of streamraise two teenage daughters, along with a career in real bed detritus. Once, tantalizingly, (and estate.



High Country Angler • Winter 2017


lenting, seemingly keep a lid on any sign of life under, on, or above the water. Late in the day, still fishless, and thinking it was about time to find my way up out of the canyon and back to camp, I rounded a bend and came upon a straight in the river, fifty yards long, bathed in the full glow of the late afternoon sunlight. A notch in the canyon wall, smooth as an axe cut, allowed the sunlight to flood in. The effect was like a switch had been turned, and the river had come to life. Several mayflies hovered gently tail down over the water, while a dozen or more caddis busied themselves flying to and fro, darting from one side of the river to the other with the urgency of messengers. Out of the shadow at the top of the straight, three foam lines ran the length of the pool. After a couple of minutes’ observation, fish rose in two of them—slow, deliberate rises—a minimum of energy expended in the process. I cut off the attractor I’d been fishing, replaced it with a mayfly imitation, then waded across the river to clear my backcast, and for the first time since I’d descended into the gorge, stood in the sunlight. After ten minutes I’d landed three fish, with still others rising in the foam lines, the feeding fish working slowly up the pool as the angle of the sun changed. There were still caddis in the air over the pool, so, leaning against a stream-side boulder with feet in the sand, I decided to change flies, to see if I could get a take on an elk hair. Looking west, I realized how much my success was down to timing rather than angling ability. Not only was the sun perfectly positioned to set in line with the notch in the canyon, and but also a notch between two distant peaks. I turned my collar up against the approachwww.HCAmagazine.com

ing chill. In a few short weeks, most of this part of the river would be encased in ice. These fish were taking whatever opportunity they could to pack on as many calories while they could. Their very survival depended upon it. Who was I to interrupt this delicate balance, for no greater purpose than my entertainment? I put the elk hair back in my fly

box, reeled in my line, then sat and watched the river for another ten minutes, counting the rises, guessing by their nature what type of insect had been taken. Finally, in shadow again, the feeding activity shut down. I crossed the river and took to a narrow game trail that led up through the trees to the top of the gorge. It had been a good day. HC

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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Matching Mayflies: Part One


t could have been witnessing your first Hex hatch (Nymph, Dun, and Spinner) and match the natural covering the Great Lakes like an armada of small insect to the best fly pattern in their box will make boats, a brown trout rising to the Spring’s first the difference between frustrated days on the water Sulphur mayfly on an Appalachian creek, or late and those full of tight lines. With a basic undersummer Green Drakes bringing the river to a boil as standing of the physical traits that define mayflies every fish in the river seemed to be rising right in through their life cycle, you will be able to quickly front of you. For many of us, witnessing the ballet match the hatch, anticipate where the trout will be of mayflies dancing over the water, and trout rising feeding next, and add some new memories of epic to our fly, have been the seeds to some of our most days on the water. cherished memories on the water, as well as the opening lines bout The Author. to our favorite fishing stories. Peter Stitcher is an Aquatic Biologist and owner Found in both moving and still of Ascent Fly Fishing. Originator of the Biologist waters, the 611 species of mayCrafted Fly Selection, Peter and his team build their clients’ fly found across North America fly selections specific to the bugs in the waters they fish, are one of the four main aquatwhen they fish them. You can contact Peter or restock ic food groups of trout. The fly your fly box at: www.ascentflyfishing.com. fisher’s ability to identify mayflies throughout their life cycle



High Country Angler • Winter 2017



The Mayfly Nymph

atching from the egg a matter of days to weeks after being laid, the mayfly nymph will spend six to twelve months on the bottom of the stream or lakebed. The compact, aerodynamic mayfly nymph has been engineered by mother nature to thrive in the deep, fast flowing world of trout and will be found in one of two forms: 1) Torpedo shaped - allowing it to swim through the water, or 2) Flattened enabling the nymph to grasp low to the riverbed as the current swirls overhead. The pair of short, bristlelike antenna crowning the head of the mayfly nymph are much smaller than those seen on stoneflies, while each of the closely clustered legs of the mayfly have only one hook per foot, compared with those of the stonefly which have two hooks per foot. Along the sides of the abdomen - located between the legs and tail - are a series of feather-like gills that flutter and pulse, allowing the mayfly nymph to breathe. The most recognizable trait for quick identification is the mayfly nymph’s three long, thin tails (true among 95% of mayfly species).

The Dun Mayfly


rompted by rising water temperatures, the mature mayfly nymph will leave the refuge of the bottom of the stream or lake, and will swim towards the surface of the water. Upon breaking through the surface of the water, the skin along the back of the mayfly nymph splits open and the wings of the Dun Mayfly unfold into the air. Upon fully emerging from its old skin and drying its wings, the dun will leave the water and fly into the streamside vegetation. The adult dun shares several of the characteristics with the nymph, including a pair of short bristle-like antennas, and a closely clustered group of legs—each topped with one hook per foot. The eyes of the adult mayfly almost cover the front of its head, while its wings stand up from its back, similar in shape to a sail standing tall above the deck of a boat. The wings of the Dun are typically smoky and clouded in appearance, its body is muted in color, and its 2-3 tails are of moderate length. www.HCAmagazine.com

Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


The Mayfly Spinner


ithin 2-24 hours after leaving the water, the dun mayfly will emerge a second time, nestled among the streamside vegetation, entering the Spinner phase of its life cycle. Shrugging off the drab skin of the dun, the spinner is similar to a bird putting on its vibrant mating plumage. The wings of the spinner are translucent and glass-like in appearance, while its body stands apart from the dun in vivid contrast and brilliant color. The tails of the spinner are often two to three times longer than those of the dun. After completing this second emergence, the mayfly spinners leave the streamside to dance and weave over the water where they will mate in flight. Immediately after mating, the male spinners flutter down to the surface of the water and die. The female mayfly spinners also return to the surface of the water, where they deposit their eggs on the surface of the water before they too, die. This final exertion and the death of the mayfly is often called the “Spinner Fall,” while the individual mayfly with its wings laying flat on the water is known as the “Spent Spinner.” The entirety of the dun and spinner life cycles lasts between 4-48 hours.


ike a clairvoyant with a view of the future, you can now observe the mayflies in and on the water, and be able to anticipate what will happen next. When you see the dun mayflies lining the branch of a streamside willow, you should be able to predict their imminent transition into the spinner and return to the river. This insider knowledge will enable you to not just match the current life cycle of the mayflies in the water, but to anticipate which flies will be productive in the next day or even the next hour. Join us issue as we take this knowledge of the mayfly into the fly box when we discuss the key fly patterns for matching each life cycle in Matching Mayflies: Part II. HC


High Country Angler • Winter 2017


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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Winter Is Tenkara Time

By JackbyBombardier Peter Stitcher


fter a long, glorious Colorado autumn that seemed to last forever, winter is finally here. Most anglers put their rods away once the snow starts to fall, and break out their skis or retreat to the tying bench. But a new tool has emerged over the past few years which has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about fishing during the “off season,” and that is the tenkara rod. Tenkara-style rods are usually around twelve feet long, with a fixed line and leader combination of fourteen to twenty feet that comes straight off the tip of the rod. Tenkara setups use no reel whatsoever, and make fly fishing even easier than spin fishing. I guide float fishing trips on the Upper Colorado River, and have had days where novice anglers using tenkara rods have out-fished more experienced fishermen using conventional rods. By now you’ve probably already heard about tenkara, and maybe even tried it yourself. The rods were brought to America by Daniel Galhardo of Tenkara USA, but there are now several different companies selling them at various price points and levels of quality. For a person skilled and adept at handling a conventional fly rod setup, the notion of limiting oneself to a fixed amount of line may seem to be very constraining. What happens if the fish you are casting to is eighteen feet away, and you’ve only got a seventeen foot long tenkara rig? It is true that there are situations in which tenkara setups aren’t optimal, and that 38

High Country Angler • Winter 2017

would include wade fishing big rivers, angling for large prey, and windy days. But there is one scenario where tenkara rods really shine, and that is for winter tailwater fishing. Colorado is home to many productive winter fisheries, most located below big dams. Tailwaters include the Blue River below Dillon Reservoir, the Frying Pan below Ruedi, the Yampa below Stagecoach, and the Taylor, to name a few. What these waters have in common is a steady flow of (relatively) warm water flowing all winter that is conducive to insect hatches, and in turn to feeding fish. Waters like this are justifiably famous for the big trout they produce, but fishing them during the high season usually means casting right beside many others doing the same thing. The nice thing about visiting them in the winter when everyone else is on the slopes, or inside nice and warm and dreaming of April, is that you can often have these normally busy waters all to yourself. The two main obstacles to winter fishing are rod guides that ice up and freezing hands, but tenkara rods solve both problems. (Freezing feet can also be a problem, but if you stand in the forty degree water instead of the ten degree air on the bank it helps!) Tenkara rods have no guides to accumulate ice, so that’s one problem completely eliminated. As for your hands, a tenkara only requires the use of one to hold the rod, so the other hand can stay warm in your pocket. The hand holding the rod can be clad in a www.HCAmagazine.com

snowmobile mitten if conditions I have to row like crazy to keep up. hollow, and have oversized cork dictate, since tenkara rods don’t But here’s an alternative method, handles, and thus will float almost need delicate hand coordination told to me last winter at the Fly indefinitely. (When I tell this stoto fish with. The only time ry to my clients, I’ll ofyou’ll get your hand wet is ten toss the tenkara rod when landing a fish, but they’ve been using into Jack will be a featured speaker at the using barbless hooks can the river to demonstrate International Sportmen’s Exposition in greatly reduce the amount this). Denver, January 12-15th 2017, talking of fish handling necessary Mr. Chouinard and his about tenkara and fly fishing the eastwhen you do land one. partner then waited paern Flat Top Mountains. Flows coming out of tiently alongside the rivdams are usually low, and erbank, hoping that anwith the slow start to our other characteristic that winter season, they’ll probably re- Fishing Show by the folks at Tem- Atlantic Salmon supposedly have main that way all winter. Dam op- ple Forks Outfitters: I’ll preface is true: that is, when an Atlantic erators will be loathe to release any this anecdote by admitting that it Salmon is hooked, although they more water than necessary until we might be complete nonsense, but go on these long runs that take you see how big of a snowpack we end then aren’t most good fishing sto- deep into your line backing, once up with by next year. But low wa- ries? they throw the hook or break it off, ter like that is perfect for tenkara. TFO builds tenkara rods for they’ll go back to the original feedTenkara rods are mostly promoted Patagonia, as its founder, Yvon ing lie they were hooked in. So, afas a way to fish small streams and Chouinard, is a long-time tenkara ter waiting for some period of time, headwaters, and they are great for aficionado. The story told to me they saw their tenkara rod slowly that. But the more I use them, the is that Mr. Chouinard was fishing floating back to where the salmon more I realize that they are good somewhere for Atlantic Salmon was originally hooked, and were for other situations as well. Be- with a tenkara rod, and hooked able to retrieve it. Still attached to ginning fisherfolk? Check. Kids, a nice fish. The salmon did what it was one tired Atlantic Salmon, or the elderly who no longer have they are famous for, which was which they were now able to land! good hand- to- eye coordination? going on a long, athletic run. He I make no claims as to the veCheck. Backpackers, or people did the best he could, trying to run racity of this story, but am just fishing from horseback or moun- along the bank, but the fish quickly passing along what was told to me. tain bikes? Check. Fishing from took him to the end of his limited The storyteller’s nose did not seem a boat, where casts are often fairly line. Faced with a choice of just to grow discernibly in the telling short? Check. But of all the var- breaking the fish off, or tossing the of it. But it hypothetically could ied uses of tenkara rods, there is rod into the water, Mr. Chouinard be true, for tenkara rods do float. none where they give you a bigger chose the latter. With a conven- So if you do happen to hook some edge than for winter fishing. Once tional rod, throwing your rod into huge rainbow in the Toilet Bowl you’ve used a tenkara rod on your deep water would be a sure-fire below Ruedi Reservoir, remember favorite tailwater, you’ll never take way of losing it forever, but tenkara that you do have an alterna- HC your regular rig out again when rods have a trick up their telescop- tive to breaking him off! temperatures dip below freezing. ic sleeve. They float. The rods are And if you do hook a big one, what if he wants to take you deep into the backing that you don’t bout The Author. have to give? If you’re fishing from Jack Bombardier is ther owner of Confluence the bank, it might mean that you’ll Casting in Gypsum, Colorado. He spends his have to sprint along the bank. time float fishing and guiding on the Colorado River. You When we hook one from my boat, can contact Jack via his website at confluencecasting.com. it means that now I’m the drag, and



Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


From the Inner City to the Great Outdoors By Heather Sees, President, “The Greenbacks”


he Greenbacks group within Colorado Trout Unlimited strives to educate, connect with, and influence our next generation to become conservation stewards and active participants in the fly fishing community. Recently we have had the opportunity to partner with groups and organizations that help us reach kids who otherwise may never get a chance to connect with nature through fishing. The first annual Forward Rising camp, and a fishing day with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, were two recent events that allowed The Greenbacks to engage inner city youth with the great outdoors through fly fishing and conservation. Forward Rising Inc, the creator of Forward Rising camp, is a new organization that focuses on engaging inner city girls through conservation, fishing, and the great outdoors. The organization hopes to use these activities to offer girls outlets to the challenges they face. The camp partnered with Girls, Inc. of Metro Denver—an organization that inspires girls to be “Strong, smart, and bold”—for a weekend of camping, fly fishing, and team building exercises. The weekend kicked off when the Girls, Inc. of 40

High Country Angler • Winter 2017

Metro Denver van arrived at Lynwood Park in Bailey, Colorado with six young ladies who were eager, yet a bit hesitant, for the jam packed weekend. As the young ladies got off the van, there was a bit of a buzz about what the weekend had in store for them. We kicked off the weekend Friday evening by having a team building exercise where the girls worked together to set up their tents and sleeping bags. After “home” was established, the girls were introduced to the amazing team of volunteers, and we all participated in ice-breaker games to get to know each other a bit better. Saturday morning started out pretty chilly, so everyone was moving a bit slower, but excitement was in the air. The day kicked off with a session on wilderness survival from Mary Margaret Sweeney, PhD – Director at Way of the Wild. Mary spoke about the basics of wilderness survival, emergency shelter construction (with participation and help from the girls) and instruction on how to build a one minute fire. Following the wilderness survival presentation, we had the pleasure of having Luke Caudillo, UFC fighter, speak to the group about overcoming challenges and following your dreams. www.HCAmagazine.com

The afternoon focused on entomology, fly tying, The Greenbacks, with help from Colorado TU and and fly fishing. The girls suited up in waders and boots partners, have been able to connect with and engage and headed to North Fork of the South Platte River kids with fishing and conservation who may otherto search for bugs. After turning over rocks and do- wise never get that chance. Through these youth proing the “San Juan shuffle” in front of the bug seines, grams, and future programs being developed, there we came away with a few bugs that would later be will be a whole new group of kids welcomed into the identified as mayflies, small craw-fish, and a couple fishing community. HC of worms. After a lesson in entomology and discusAnd that is what it’s all about. sions about the importance of healthy rivers, we tied up some San Juan worms in hopes of tricking the fish. After lessons on safety and catch o Learn More. and release practices, each young To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout lady was paired up with a volunUnlimited, visit coloradotu.org. teer to try their hand at fly fishing. Shortly after we hit the pond, there were screams of excitement. Eventually we heard the words that any angler wants to hear: “FISH ON!” For the next couple of hours we saw several fish to the net – some girls got it on their own, some with a little help, but the end result was the same. A few weeks later, The Greenbacks teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and Denver Parks and Rec to host a fishing day at Lily Pond in Washington Park. The event featured 20 matches of big brothers and their littles to spend the morning fishing. The kids learned how to fish with spin cast rods, fly rods, and of course learned about safety and proper fish handling techniques. The pond was stocked by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) prior to the event, and all but one kid caught a fish! CPW provided rods to the kids that they were able to keep. One boy mentioned that he had always wanted to go fishing, but never had the opportunity or the equipment to go. That’s now changed – for him and many others this past summer.



Winter 2017 • High Country Angler




Tie A Fly When the Snow Flies


fter having participated in a hobby or sport for A minimum tool assortment includes a vise, scisawhile, we become interested in other aspects sors, bobbin, a bobbin threader, and a bodkin. As with of the hobby. A car collector is no longer satis- any hobby, there are many specialty tools that can be fied with owning a classic car, but now wants to restore one. Fishing is no different. Instead of buying flies, a natural progression is to start making flies. At first we might be motivated by an attempt to save money, but truthfully, our efforts can cost more than just buying the stuff in the first place. While there are many other legitimate reasons, the only one that matters is that it is fun! But while fun is number one, we won’t lose our focus that catching fish is still a primary objective. So, although I didn’t realize it when I first tied self-taught from a book decades ago, added to your collection as needed. You can buy these tying actually improves your fishing in ways unrelated tools in a kit or individually. As to quality, you very to the fly itself. much get what you pay for. Almost sneakily, as one learns tying, one also learns A vise is the largest and single most expensive tool about trout food. With insects, it is all about where you will have, available in cheap to expensive. For the they can be found, their various colors, shapes, sizes, occasional tyer, the less expensive models are adequate. hatches, and seasonal life cycle. Same for terrestrials You can always get a better one later if you find yourself and fish fry. Understanding what trout are eating, or engrossed in the hobby and tying non-stop. likely to strike at, will increase the catch. Don’t let the seeming difficulty bout The Author. dissuade you from getting started. Joel Evans is a fly fishing writer, photographer, Fishing and fly tying are like most and long-time member of Trout Unlimited from of our minor obsessions, in that Montrose, CO. You can contact him via the HCA editor at one can indeed buy and buy and frank@hcamagazine.com. buy and still not have it all. So think simple at first.



High Country Angler • Winter 2017


Scissors—good scissors— are critical. Cheap scissors will work, but if there is any one tool you might spend a little more on at first, scissors would be it. In fact, you might even want two pairs. One better pair for 90% of your cutting, and a second pair for cutting heavier material and light wire, thus saving your better pair and keeping them sharp. Scissors come in several different shapes, that is to say the shape of the handles themselves. They are of course available in the traditional configuration with two finger loops, but other handles may fit your fingers better, thus making them easier to use. If you have really big hands, your choice of scissors will be best determined by handling and trying several models first. Just make sure your fingers fit the handles and the loops. A bobbin is a critical but inexpensive tool. The cheap ones will work, but your tying creations will be much more durable if you use a quality bobbin. The bobbin holds a spool of thread, guiding the thread into small and precise placements. Getting the thread placed right is often the key to durable and life-like flies. There are several ways to get started: You could just buy some tools and materials and try on your own. Much easier is to connect with an experienced fly tying friend, look up videos online, or watch for an advertised fly tying demo at a local fly shop or one of the metro area seasonal shows. So what does it take to create a concoction that a fish will actually believe is something to eat? Probably less than you think. Think simple at first, get some basic fly tying tools and materials, and then use your own fly to catch a fish! HC www.HCAmagazine.com

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Confessions of a First-Time Flyathlete David Amalong, West Denver TU


t sounded like my type of event: Run. Fish. Beer…a triathlon of sorts. It only took a second for me to jump onto the Flyathlon website to register for the inaugural event located southwest of Gunnison on the Lake Fork, scheduled for September 2016. The Flyathlon website describes this new multi-sport event as “an integration of three activities that are currently surging in popu-


High Country Angler • Winter 2017

larity in the Western U.S.: trail running, fly fishing, and craft beer. While many enjoy these activities independently, putting them together is even more enjoyable. Simply put, many of the best and most beautiful places to fish are way back in the woods, and the quickest way to get back to these remote places to maximize fishing time is to trail run. And


once you have run back from that mountain lake or stream, all of that effort is rewarded with high quality, local craft beer.” But that’s not even the cool part. Flyathlon is an event that raises money for local conservation projects. The money raised is used to protect the very streams where the events are held. In partnership with Colorado Trout Unlimited and The Western Native Trout Initiative, the 2016 Rocky Mountain Flyathlon campaign – covering two races, in Saguache and my race on the Lake Fork – raised more than $35,000 for native cutthroat trout projects! Run. Fish. Beer. I am a fly fisherman. I am a craft beer connoisseur. What I am not, is a runner. But no worries, I had a plan. Knowing that in about three months I would be competing in this amazing event, I started training the day after I registered. I began by heading to upper Clear Creek to catch some cutthroats. When I arrived back in Denver, I moved on to the next discipline and cracked open a fine west coast style IPA. As I lounged in the back yard enjoying my beer, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be running 10 miles in my waders and boots. I might want to invest in a pair of running shoes. Day #1…training complete. www.HCAmagazine.com

Throughout the dog days of summer I continued my training, pretty much following the routine of my first day. Since Flyathlon would be my first time fishing Lake Fork, I made it a point to fish new sections of creeks and rivers. I practiced the discovery of new beers with my friends. I was feeling pretty confident, mostly. It was the third leg of the event, the trail running, that kept nagging me. On several occasions I ran alongside my daughter in my new running shoes as she biked to piano lessons. I did a trail run and fishing expedition on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. As my training progressed I began to formulate my winning strategy. It was pure genius. Based on my understanding, the Flyathlon rules are pretty simple: It is basically a race, so the fastest time wins. The twist is that for each inch of fish caught and photographed there is time deducted from the run. There is also a major penalty of added time for not catching a fish at all. So it was pretty obvious to me that I would need to build an Excel spreadsheet. I don’t remember the exact details, but the equations were telling me that if I totaled 120 inches of fish, I could walk the 10 miles at a brisk pace, fish a lot, and still end up with a respectable time. I even figured Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


out what it would take for me to completely zero out my time, but I dismissed this idea pretty quickly since it would have meant that I’d have to move pretty fast. So, with that strategy under my belt, I trained some more, did some on-line research on Lake Fork fish, water, and bugs, and really started to get psyched for the 24th of September! The week finally arrived. It was a hectic week, and in between a few business trips I assembled my gear and was ready for the big day. One morning that week the Flyathletes were greeted by an email from the organization. It contained the rules, directions, waivers, and all of the usual official stuff...including the beer sponsors. It was during the reading of the rules that my entire strategy came crashing down. My strategy assumed that I would catch 120 inches worth of fish in a six-hour period. What I had just learned is that Flyathlon rules only give you credit for a single fish! Not one to be easily discouraged, I scrapped any notion of competing in the timed portion of the event and began to think about the prize for The Biggest Fish. When the weekend finally arrived I loaded up the car with all of my camping, fishing, and “running” gear. I also filled my cooler with my favorite craft beers to share with all of the new friends I was going to make. It was a glorious drive. The leaves were at


High Country Angler • Winter 2017

peak color, I drove through snow showers on Monarch Pass, and I rolled into the campsite just west of Gunnison with about an hour of sunlight left. There were tents everywhere, people busying themselves setting up, swapping fish stories, and sharing beers. I settled into a night of great beer, warm campfires and stimulating conversation. I met people from all across Colorado and all walks of life. There was even a guy that had flown in from Nashville just to take part in the Flyathlon! During the evening I encountered at least three other Flyathletes that had calculated their victory just as I had, only to be thwarted by the rules of the event. The next morning everyone gathered at the start line shortly after 8:30 AM. For most of us this was our first trip to the Lake Fork and the water looked amazing! Deep pools, pocket water, and long runs and riffles paralleled the gravel road that we would run. It looked very fishy. Fly rods were required to be “broken down” at the start and Flyathletes stretched their legs and checked their gear. I pretended to stretch and ran back to the car for my midge box and some sink putty. The sacrifice of a non-craft beer with a wellplaced shot from a BB rifle signaled the start of the race. We were off! Some sprinted from the line, others moved out


slowly and others began at a brisk walk downstream. I set out at a pretty good pace with the intent of running awhile, fishing awhile, but making sure that I made it to the halfway point before the time cutoff. I could see flashes in the water as I ran, but resisted the urge to fish. As I warmed up and started to feel the burn in my legs, I came to realize that this event wasn’t about the competition. It was about the opportunity to fish a beautiful river with a bunch of great people, and raise money in the process to protect the resources that we value! After about 3 or 4 miles, I gave in, rigged up my rod and settled into a section of pocket water. I had decided early on that I would start out with my confidence rig—a double nymph rig that I sometimes tie on even before I look at the water. With determination, I worked my way downstream toward the halfway point, jumping back to the road to then work a section of river upstream. I was not having any luck! I kept at it, adjusting my weight, changing up my bottom fly. I have discovered that I tend to get pretty focused when I’m trying to figure out a river, and even though this was a race, I quickly fell into my routine: I was going to use all of the time that I had to catch that big fish. I missed a fish in some fast moving water and thought that I finally might be on to something. Then I looked at my watch. Trouble! I was at mile 4.35 and I had about 4 minutes to make it to the halfway point! I scrambled up the bank, stumbled onto the road and proceeded to bury both of my flies in my shirt. I cut them loose, and began to sprint down the road. I ran into a guy heading upstream. “You better hurry up, but it’s not too far,” he said. I looked at my watch. 12:00 and I couldn’t see the turn-around. I had missed the cut off! I almost stopped running but the end of the road finally came into view. I pushed a little bit harder and reached the checkpoint at 12:01. As my race number was being checked off, I mumbled something to the guys about not even making it halfway. “No, dude, we started late, you have until about 12:15!” Cool! I had another 3 hours of fishing within official race time! Just upstream from the turnaround I bumped into a couple that I had talked with for quite a while the night before. We decided that we were all going to get the most out of this river, so we slowly started www.HCAmagazine.com

to work our way upstream, alternating all the good looking spots. I immediately started to get into fish. There were some decent-sized fish, but I played them too long and carefully in the heavy water and couldn’t land one. Finally, I landed my first fish. It was a beautiful 13-inch rainbow that was painted with amazing purples and pinks. I unrolled my official fish measuring device, an 11x17 paper with a printed scale, and snapped a photo. I kept having success in this lower section of the river, landing several more in the 9-12inch range. I landed another measuring 14.5 inches so I photographed this one, thinking that it was a good size, but pretty sure that the largest fish overall would measure in the 18-20-inch range. I worked my way back toward the start line, fishing good-looking water, keeping an eye on my watch, and feeling pretty good about the fish that I had caught. As I got closer, I began to run into other competitors still working the water trying to catch their first fish. We exchanged stories, passed some advice and flies, and everyone was just psyched to be out on this amazing day. My thoughts turned to the cold beer at the finish line and the catered barbecue back at the campsite. About 60 Flyathletes competed in the Lake Fork Flyathlon, raising $10,980 for conservation projects. The winner of the Women’s division, and overall crowd favorite, was an enthusiastic 13-year-old with a winning time of 1:50:01 and a 14-inch rainbow trout! She also took the Grand Prize with a BB rifle shootout with the men’s winner. The men’s winner clocked in at 1:31:56 with a 10-inch rainbow trout. Prizes for the largest fish—a 17-inch rainbow trout—and the smallest—a 9-inch rainbow trout—were awarded. Top fund-raisers were also honored with a special award and prizes. The Flyathlon is an event for everyone. It’s not about the running, or the fishing, or the beer. It is about the people, the camaraderie, and mostly the experience. It’s about a group of hard-working people coming together to protect and enhance the precious resources that make Colorado a great state. HC For me, this is now an annual event.

Learn more at: www.flyathlon.com

Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


A Season of Thanks for the Roan Plateau and Thompson Divide By the Colorado TU Staff


t this time of year, we all take stock of the to protect native cutthroat trout habitat being restored many things for which we can be thankful. In by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the East Fork or November, the Bureau of Land Management Parachute Creek. Native cutthroat trout were rein(BLM) and Department of the Interior gave Colorado troduced above the barrier last year, adding another anglers and hunters two more reasons to give thanks: population to the Roan’s native trout fisheries. the agencies announced two final decisions on oil and Throughout the past decade, Colorado TU has also gas leasing that protect key backcountry habitats on been involved in advocacy and litigation to help prothe Roan Plateau near Rifle and the Thompson Di- tect the Roan in the face of proposed oil and gas devide near Carbondale – two of Colorado’s “Last Best velopment. The legal battle culminated in productive Places.” settlement talks that produced the new Roan plan that The Roan Plateau is home to outstanding big game BLM approved last week. For the next 20 years, the habitat and rare native Colorado River cutthroat trout. most sensitive watersheds atop the Roan will remain Trout Unlimited has been hard at work on the Roan unleased, while responsible development will be alfor more than two decades, with many hundreds of lowed on other areas on and around the Plateau that volunteer hours invested by the Grand Valley Anglers are closer to existing oil and gas infrastructure. Conchapter on habitat protection and improvement projects from instream structures to riparian fenco Learn More. ing, and replanting to protect trout To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout in Trapper and Northwater Creeks. Unlimited, visit coloradotu.org. TU also helped install a fish barrier



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tinued improvements in directional drilling technology over those years could make it possible, by the time BLM next updates the Roan plan, to extend development to natural gas reserves below the Roan without needing to sacrifice the valuable habitat on its surface. “The BLM’s Roan plan recognizes that some natural areas of the Roan are too special and valuable to drill, while other areas can be responsibly developed to help meet our energy needs,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “It is the result of good faith dialogue among industry, agencies and conservationists about finding balance, and should serve as a model for how BLM can look at resource values on a landscape scale to determine where development should—and should not—take

THE ROAN PLATEAU RISES THOUSANDS OF FEET ABOVE THE COLORADO RIVER AND HARBORS OUTSTANDING BIG GAME HABITAT AND NATIVE TROUT RESOURCES. PHOTO: JOSH DUPLECHIAN, TROUT UNLIMITED. place.” The Thompson Divide makes up more than 220,000 acres of federal land in Pitkin, Garfield, Gunnison, and Mesa counties, and contains some of Colorado’s most productive habitat for big game, cutthroat trout, and numerous other native species. The area is used by more than 10,000 resident and nonresident big game hunters every year, and serves as the headwaters to some of Colorado’s most popular fisheries— including the Roaring Fork, North Fork of the Gunnison, and Crystal River. Concurrent with its Roan announcements, the BLM also issued a decision canceling 25 contentious oil and gas leases within the Thompson Divide (the leaseholders to be repaid from government funds), while maintaining 40 other leases in surrounding lands—mostly closer to existing development areas. As with the Roan, the decision reflects a responsible balance between protecting our most valuable fish and wildlife habitats and enabling responsible energy development to move forward on public lands. www.HCAmagazine.com

Unlike the Roan, this decision does not yet reflect a larger consensus among conservationists and industry, nor does it provide longer-term protection for the Thompson Divide. The decision was a necessary victory in protecting the Thompson Divide from the imminent threat of oil and gas drilling, and TU remains committed to working with the BLM, Forest Service, ranchers, local governments, and the oil and gas industry to achieve a long-term solution that includes permanent protection of the Thompson Divide as part of a larger, responsible plan for energy development in the region. “TU and its membership want to ensure we are not battling for the future of this great place again,” said Tyler Baskfield, TU’s Colorado sportsmen’s coordinator. “TU will continue to work with the Thompson Divide Coalition, elected officials such as Sen. Bennet, local businesses, land management agencies, and all of the other voices to make sure permanent protection comes to fruition. We want sportsmen to be secure in the fact that the Thompson Divide will be providing outdoor recreation opportunities for HC generations to come.”






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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


The Fly Fishing World Comes to Colorado USA Hosts World Championships, Team Claims Bronze Medals


n September, the world of fly fishing gathered in Colorado for the pinnacle of all competitive fishing events: the World Fly Fishing Championships. The event featured 24 countries from all over the globe, including New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, and Japan, to name a few. TU member and event organizer John Knight, supported by a team of dedicated volunteers, put on an amazing show – earning extensive praise from the international competitors who descended on Vail. Team USA finished in third place, earning a bronze medal after catching 289 fish, while France (302 fish) and Spain (293 fish) won gold and silver, respectively. Throughout the event, competitors caught and safely released 3,802 total fish. USA team member Lance Egan placed with the individual bronze medal with 60 fish caught. The teams fished on sections of the Blue River, Eagle River, and Colorado River, as well as one lake sector at Sylvan Lake State Park. The event allowed Colorado to share some of our great waters with guests from around the world, united in an atmosphere of camaraderie and a shared love for fly fishing and trout.

The event also featured a conservation symposium, sponsored by Colorado Trout Unlimited and the Eagle Valley Chapter of TU. The symposium featured a screening of Patagonia’s DamNation Film, sharing the US experience with dams with the international attendees. DamNation highlights the issue of dam removal on some of the nation’s key salmon rivers. Following the film, a speakers’ panel, including representatives from Colorado TU and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, narrowed the focus closer to home on the conservation issues going on in Colorado, including our own efforts to reconnect the Colorado River through a dam bypass project at Windy Gap. Colorado TU and Team USA have an ongoing partnership to promote conservation and fellowship through fly fishing in international competitions. This was the second straight World Championship where Team USA medaled (the team’s first medals in the event’s 36 year history), and all Americans can be proud of the Team’s accomplishments and success!

Photos courtesy of The America Cup, Inc. 52

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


Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


An Increase in Fishing License Fees? If so, Why? By Jon P. Weimer


n the summer of 2016, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) conducted a series of 18 public meetings across the State, entitled Funding the Future. CPW anticipates budget shortfalls, and the meetings were conducted to get feedback from hunters and anglers on how best to stop the financial hemorrhaging and perhaps even enhance its coffers. Increasing hunting and fishing license fees for State residents has been proffered by the Agency as one possible option.

Background In 2011, the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation merged with the Division of Wildlife. Ostensibly, the merger would allow the new Agency— CPW—to capture some efficiencies through sharing resources—such as accounting and marketing—and position it to connect with the general public as a single organization. A prevalent rumor at the time was that the merger was enacted to bail out the Parks Division using Wildlife funds. This view, apparently, was a misconception. There are very specific Federal and State laws that require that Wildlife funds— which include hunting and fishing license fees—be spent only for Wildlife purposes, while Park funds were to be spent only for Park purposes. It is important to note that although these two Divisions merged, each retains its own budget. It is also important to note the irony that Parks currently is in relatively good shape financially; it is Wildlife that is hurting financially, and providing the impetus for CPW to plead for more revenue.

Current Status CPW has a user-pay, user-benefit funding mode; it does not receive General Fund revenue (i.e., taxpayer money). So, fish and wildlife conservation 58

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programs, as well as management of recreational lands, are primarily funded by hunters, anglers, and park visitors, through sales of hunting and fishing licenses, habitat stamps, and park passes. More specifically, about 62 percent of the revenue generated by CPW comes from hunting and fishing license fees. Federal excise taxes levied on hunting and fishing equipment comprise 16 percent of the budget, and grants from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) make up 12 percent of the revenue. Those Federal excise taxes are collected from makers of outdoor equipment, which are returned to the State based on license numbers and geographic size. Any proposed increase in license fees must be approved through the Colorado legislature before they are finalized by the Governor’s signature. Presently, resident fishing licenses for adults (age 16 to 64) cost $26. A $10 habitat stamp is also required from adults (18 to 64 years). Licenses for seniors (age 65 and over) are provided free, although they must pay a $1 charge, $.25 of which goes for a search and rescue fee, and $.75 of which reflects a Public Education Advisory Council (CPEAC) fee.

Reasons for Budget Deficits CPW’s Wildlife Management Division claims that, in recent years, it has faced substantial budget shortfalls, which have resulted in the elimination of over 50 positions and $40 million from Wildlife budgets. Without increasing revenues, CPW states that Wildlife Management will have to cut additional staff and core services, which could include reductions to wildlife and property management, biological research, access for hunting and fishing, as well as the closure of some reservoirs and fish hatcheries. CPW avers that, basically, for the past decade, its incoming revenue has been relatively stagnant while faced with increased costs, a larger mission, and more complex issues to manage. CPW is the largest owner of dams in Colorado and oversees 19 hatcheries in the State, where it raises www.HCAmagazine.com

90 million fish annually for stocking rivers and lakes, and with limited funds it says it is falling behind on dam and hatchery maintenance. As examples of rising costs since 2005—the last time resident fishing license fees were increased--CPW points to some specific examples: leasing water for hatcheries has increased 344 percent; fish food has risen 92 percent; and the cost of a fisheries work boat has increased 24 percent. CPW personnel indicate that there have been some major investments out of their control, such as information technology and new Statewide accounting systems. They also point to new wildlife challenges with which they’ve had to contend, such as whirling disease and invasion of aquatic nuisance species that have imposed unexpected costs. Then, of course, costs such as those associated with personnel, health care, and utilities have consistently increased during this time span as well.

Possible Solutions for Reducing Budget Deficit Resident License Fee Increase: During the course of CPW’s Funding for Wildlife series of public meetings, the Agency discussed, and received from participants, a number of proposed solutions to remedy the budget deficit. Invariably, though, possible www.HCAmagazine.com

license fee increases loomed large. At these meetings, CPW personnel attempted to explain the Agency’s budget situation, detailing what it had done recently to address shortfalls in revenue, and provided a forecast of how CPW might address its programs. CPW indicated that maintaining the current wildlife programs and restoring or adding a slate of new programs requested by stakeholders, would essentially require doubling the price of most State hunting and fishing licenses. This calculation, as might be expected, received emphasis from the media and stakeholders, although CPW insisted that the Agency had NOT proposed such an increase. However, even CPW Director, Bob Broscheid, admitted that a license increase must be considered. Regarding fishing licenses, the price increment in resident fishing licenses that has been bandied about most often at these meetings was a hike for adults from $26 to $50, almost a 100 percent increase. If such an increase was approved, CPW discussed whether or not it should be implemented in one year or, perhaps, in stages over a 4- to 5- year time span. Whatever price increase is instituted—if any— should have a sound rationale if it’s going to receive legislative approval. CPW might look at the price increases that other states have adopted, or possibly the Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


price increase could be based on some econometric modeling derived from results obtained in a “willingness to pay” survey. In addition to holding 18 public meetings this past summer, CPW sent post cards to 3,000 randomly chosen resident license holders (half hunters, half anglers) to ask if they supported increasing license prices. CPW also gathered input from an online public comment form on its website regarding people’s willingness to pay more for a fishing/hunting license. In economics, there’s a concept called price elasticity. Price elasticity has many facets to it, but it basically refers to determining what percent increase in the price of a product or service will lead to optimal revenue, recognizing that as prices increase the numbers of customers willing to buy a product decreases. Very simply, one is looking for that price “sweet spot” that will lead to the most revenue. If your price falls below that sweet spot, you won’t obtain as much revenue as possible; however, if you overshoot that sweet spot, you could actually lose revenue because a large number of your previous customers decline to buy your product. Retail outlets have the luxury and flexibility to continually change prices, looking for that sweet spot. Government agencies don’t have that luxury---they make a decision that they have to live with for a while. The $26 to $50 price hike in resident fishing license fees that has been discussed may be tolerable to a certain segment of the angling population, but not to another that may feel that it is too steep a hike, and who may simply stop purchasing a license. Obviously, it’s a complex and important decision that CPW has to make, requiring a great deal of deliberation. CPW has also discussed at these public meetings the idea that, in order to avoid further price hikes that are perceived as too steep, the Agency may attempt to secure legislative approval to tie resident angling license fees to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a price structure that would basically mirror that for out-of-State angling/hunting licenses which are indexed to the CPI, usually resulting in small annual increases to keep up with inflation. In addition to possibly raising the resident fishing license fees for adults, CPW is also considering levying a license fee for seniors who, as mentioned earlier in this article, are currently charged $1. Seniors account for approximately 20 percent of the State’s annual license purchases. In 2015, CPW issued 85,510 senior fishing licenses. None of these senior licenses 60

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count toward the license numbers that determine Colorado’s share of Federal excise taxes; reinstating a senior fishing license fee would thus increase Colorado’s Federal funds as well as generating dollars directly from sales. Further, it costs about $1.5 million annually just to print the licenses – making the status quo a net financial loss. Thus, the Agency sees an opportunity to further enhance revenue by requiring seniors to buy fishing licenses, although no specific price structure has been discussed in any detail for this demographic group. CPW considers an increase in both hunting and fishing licenses to be a feasible means of offsetting, at least in part, its financial difficulties. CPW claims that if the current fee structure remains, and no other fund-raising and/or cost cutting measures are instituted, the Agency will need approximately an additional $15-20 million each year to maintain current operations, and up to $36 million to implement additional programs that hunters and anglers have indicated are important to wildlife management and conservation in the State—such as expanded access or restoring “Fishing is Fun” grants to historic levels. As mentioned earlier, after public comments are received and analyzed, the Agency must approach the legislature to ask for a bill approving any resident license fee increase. Undoubtedly, CPW hopes to get a vote of confidence from the hunting and angling public that would help persuade legislators. Other Possible Solutions: In addition to, or in lieu of, raising resident license fees, the Agency has sought to broaden its sources of funding, looking for opportunities to bring in new revenue. For example, in the series of public meetings sponsored by CPW, participants suggested that there is a much larger pool of public land users that exist beyond hunters and anglers that might be able to help fund CPW. Why, they ask, are hunters and anglers being asked to pay more while others who use public land, such as hikers, birdwatchers, and photographers are exempt? It was also suggested at these public meetings that the general public can purchase a Habitat Stamp and/or contribute money via the Non-Game and Endangered Wildlife Fund income box check off on their Colorado tax form to raise money for wildlife conservation—but that these venues may not be generally known and could use a massive publicity push. Further questions were raised at these meetings about whether CPW in general, or Wildlife Management in particular, could initiate additional cost-cutwww.HCAmagazine.com

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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


ting measures. CPW, as you might expect, indicates that it has already initiated a number of efficiencies to offset declines in revenue, along with implementing significant reductions in program and operation expenses. More cuts in funding, according to CPW, would lead to further reduction to popular and important “Fishing is Fun” Wetland, Boating, and Habitat Protection grants, the Aquatic Nuisance Species Program, and as mentioned earlier, a reduction in capital improvement projects such as repairing hatchery runways and maintenance of CPW-owned dams. A possible ray of hope for additional funding is the proposed “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act” (H.R. 5650), which would direct approximately $1.3 billion in federal revenue from energy and mineral development toward wildlife conservation efforts across the nation. If this legislation were to pass at the Federal level, it should bring significant additional revenue for meeting Colorado’s fish and wildlife needs. At the time of this writing, no Congressional action had been taken on this proposed legislation. In short: CPW states that the basic problem is that revenue is essentially fixed at 2005 levels, while operating costs have continued to rise, so that budget cuts and program elimination are the only tools available to balance the budget. Colorado’s natural resources, according to CPW, are experiencing the pressure of population growth and increasingly fragmented habitat. A key factor in maintaining financial sustainability in the long run, they argue, will be the ability to increase license fees and continue to adjust them on a regular basis to offset inflation – a step they believe will be needed if Colorado is to remain a premiere destination for outdoor activities. HC

Donor Spotlight A conversation with River Stewardship Council member Mark Dickson Colorado Trout Unlimited is pleased to announce a new High Country Angler feature, “Donor Spotlight.” In each issue we’ll introduce you to a 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 habitat and native trout restoration, grassroots engagement, youth education, and advocacy on behalf of healthy watersheds. • Mark Dickson • TU member for 40 years • River Stewardship Council donor for 5 years

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a 4th generation Coloradan. I am a professional painter and print maker, who attended graduate school in the 1960s in New York City before coming back to Colorado and completing my MFA at DU. I taught art at the St. Thomas Seminary College for ten years before deciding to take my painting and print making full time in 1980. My wife Katy and I have three daughters and three granddaughters. Being an artist allowed me to have lots of time for fishing, and although I’ve yet to paint a fish, being out along a river or stream filled my need for visual stimulation (light, sound, a storm moving in), and I was able to take that sensory experience back to my studio and use it in my work. Katy and I and my daughters and their families all get together for one big family fishing trip each year. My granddaughter, Gracie, . got an Orvis rod not long ago, and got Colorado TU wants to hear from you! The the hang of fly fishing right away. I just Colorado TU Board of Directors will be love this sport and investing in the peodiscussing potential license fee legislation at its January ple who work so hard to make sure the board meeting. If you have thoughts on this issue that you rivers and fish are healthy! would like to share with Colorado TU leadership, please send your thoughts via email to Jeff Florence (Jflorence@ What brought you to Trout Unlimited? tu.org) for distribution with CTU’s board meeting packets. I’ve been a Trout Unlimited member Thanks in advance for your feedback!


hare with us


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for nearly 40 years. I joined a chapter in Cherry Creek to interact with other members and talk fishing. Sometimes I’d attend the chapter meetings if the speaker sounded interesting; other times, some of us would get together for dinner to talk more fishing. In the beginning, I didn’t realize it was a conservation organization. I have been fortunate in my life to be a member of a number of private fishing clubs. Over time I realized that my fishing experience at these places was different, often better, than it was not too far downstream. Being curious by nature, I started to delve into why this might be, and the answer that kept coming up was that these private stretches of water were managed from a fisheries perspective—that the focus was on creating and protecting healthy stretches of water that supported healthy fish.

Why did you become a donor to Colorado Trout Unlimited? As I started learning more and more about healthy rivers and fish, I realized that the conservation work being done behind the scenes was the backbone to these amazing waters, and I knew I wanted to get involved. Fishing is my sport – I see things through that lens! I became a River Stewardship Council donor and really like the more in-depth look you get into the projects and watersheds Trout Unlimited is working on. My investment in the organization in turn increased my interest in the work that was being done around Colorado. The thing about being an RSC donor is that there is no downside; it’s all positive. You get the opportunity to contribute to the sport we all love; you get to know you are helping to support the behind the scenes conservation work that is so important; and you get to meet other donors and get to know their stories and fish with them.

What are some of the projects Colorado TU works on that interest you most? The work on the Upper Colorado/Windy Gap Bypass is very interesting! The complexity of the issues, the long commitment by TU and the other


parties involved, and the Headwaters Chapter members’ passion for improving the river are just a really great story. I also enjoy seeing the positive impact TU Chapters around the state have made, whether it be a sign with guidelines for how to keep the river and fish healthy in Summit County, or the summer flows managed for fishing and other river users on the Arkansas. And I love seeing young people getting involved with fly fishing and understanding the connection between healthy rivers and great fishing!

Please tell us one of your favorite fishing stories. Katy and I had gone out for a day of guided fishing on a large lake in Wisconsin. We’d been fishing most of the day without catching a ton of fish but like just about every day on the water, it was a good one. All of sudden Katy gets a strike. We stop the boat but the fish gets off. Just about the same time, a fish takes my line. We get the bluegill close to the boat and all of a sudden a pike swallows the bluegill whole with the line and hook still attached. Right after that another larger pike bites the head of the pike with the bluegill in his mouth. The guide and my wife and I are just in awe that we have three fish on at once! Eventually we bring the larger pike into the boat and bring it back to cook up and share later that evening.

Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


Keeping Things Cool for Colorado’s Trout by Jeff Florence


ast summer, Trout Unlimited and a coalition of agencies, concerned citizens, and conservation and sportsmen groups rallied to defend Colorado’s water quality standards for temperature in coldwater streams. The Colorado Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) proposed changes in standards that would have raised standards for water temperature to levels that could prove fatal to trout in spring and fall seasons, and year-round in mid-elevation “transition” waters. The proposal was based on flawed science, and failed to adequately protect coldwater fisheries and to address the varied factors that influence temperature regimes in natural streams. Thanks to the efforts of TU and our coalition partners, the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) rejected the proposed changes, keeping in place the protective temperature standards that currently apply to coldwater streams. It was an impressive team – including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Wildlife Federation, 64

High Country Angler • Winter 2017

the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Western Resource Advocates, and others. The proposed changes would have weakened water temperature standards for around 1/3 of Colorado’s trout streams, based solely on their elevation, allowing the fish’ stress levels to increase and ultimately cause problems for feeding, growth, and movement. According to the EPA, the proposed standards for lower elevation coldwater streams could have actually proved lethal to trout exposed to them over seven days. Higher temperature standards also would have been allowed for all trout streams during the “shoulder” months of March, April, October, and November. These shoulder months overlap with rainbow and brown trout spawning seasons, when the fish are more sensitive and susceptible to changes in their environment, putting natural reproduction at risk. Water temperature is always affected by natural conditions like air temperature, seasonal flows, www.HCAmagazine.com

and elevation. But often the problem is caused or also helped collect data through a citizen science made worse by human activity, including water initiative and offered their own testimonies to diversions, wastewater effluent discharges, and the issue from various vantage points. land use practices. Weakening standards and “We owe a big thanks to Dr. John Woodling, allowing these unnatural causes to further hurt whose strong testimony was a turning point in our streams goes against the WQCD’s responsi- the hearing,” said Whiting. “And to fish biolobilities under the Clean Water Act to provide for gist Robin Knox, who in 5 minutes conveyed a “fishable and swimmable” waters, and to protect lifetime of experience, including his example of aquatic life. all the poor fish huddling in a small pool in the When water temperature falls out of the Yampa to avoid warm water, in response to the trout’s preferred range, they can no longer feed, Division’s callous assertion that if it’s too hot, fish grow, or move properly. As the water becomes can just swim away. And a big thanks to Dennis warmer, there is less dissolved oxygen available. Buechler, who brought in the impacts of these Conversely, when the water cools, more oxygen decisions on small businesses.” is available and the fish can feed and move comWhile the WQCC rejected the temperature fortably. Trout species require 4-5 times more proposal, the fight for our trout and water qualdissolved oxygen when the water temperature is ity isn’t over yet. The WQCD is preparing for out of their preferred range than when the water additional proposals to address shoulder season is close to 40 degrees. and transition zone temperature issues. We hope But for now, our fish can chill out. TU’s participation in that technical process can Groups all over the state worked together to prevent costly future battles before the Commisprotect our state’s water quality and our trout’s sion, starting with the San Juan and Gunnison quality of life. CTU and our allies hired water basins in 2017. quality expert Ashley Rust as a consultant to proWe are currently working with Colorado vide technical support. Her work demonstrated Parks and Wildlife to collect more temperature flaws in the data selection and analysis used for data on more streams – information that will aid the WQCD’s proposal. She was joined by a broad in protecting our fisheries. Collecting data from coalition of stakeholders including many that are large rivers to smaller streams all over the state usually allies of the WQCD. will provide extensive and critical information “I heard a Commissioner express concern about our state’s water quality, and provide deciwith the fact that so many of the Division’s tra- sion-makers with insight on the need to protect ditional allies were opposing the Division,” said it. At the same time, Ashley Rust continues to Mely Whiting, TU’s Water Counsel who repre- represent Colorado TU and our coalition partsented the coalition in the hearing. “I don’t recall ners in technical working groups that are trying the last time so many organizations participated to steer temperature standards in a more proin a Commission hearing. It makes a huge differ- tective and science-based direction. These comence!” bined efforts should help keep the “cold” in HC Members of CTU stepped up and sent more Colorado’s coldwater stream temperatures. than 200 individual comments to the Commission, stating their argument against the changes, o Learn More. along with an organization-wide To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout letter co-signed by Colorado TU Unlimited, visit coloradotu.org. chapter presidents. Members



Winter 2017 • High Country Angler




Can Trout Keep up with Climate Change?


TROUT magazine’s recent issue highlighted climate change and its effects on trout. Do you have additional thoughts for High Country Angler readers? For example: Can trout adjust rapidly enough to survive, if faced with rapid climate change?


These questions pose some intriguing possibilities that range from answers based on scientifically valid evidence to pure speculation. I have a stronger scientific background when I am addressing questions about fish and aquatic ecology than when I am addressing climaterelated issues. Nevertheless, I and other scientists can use the methods and rigor of our scientific backgrounds to determine whether or not arguments are based on scientifically valid evidence, or an individual’s personal belief and biases, even when the discussions are outside our specialties. I consider it very unfortunate that the overwhelming evidence supporting the conclusion that global climate patterns have been disrupted is considered controversial. The arguments against climate change and global warming lack supporting evidence and are based on personal beliefs and political biases. Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have doubled from their historic average levels; mountain glaciers have nearly disappeared across much of the world; ice sheets in Greenland are melting at unprecedented rates; the Arctic ice sheet has melted to the point that ships are now transiting the famed Northwest Passage; and the waters off the West Coast of North America have


warmed so much that the food webs of the area no longer support their normal fauna. Atmospheric pollution from carbon dioxide, methane, and an array of other greenhouse gases produced by our energy and transportation systems is clearly the major factor driving global climate disruption. Yet there continues to be a coordinated set of actions designed to delay action by denying the realities of climate disruption. These arguments are not legitimate alternative conclusions. Scientists love to argue and take considerable pride in finding errors in the work of other scientists, yet more than 90 percent of scientists world-wide accept the evidence supporting the conclusion that climate disruption caused by human-induced atmospheric pollution is the cause of global warming. While the reality of climate change is well-established, the questions of how fast climate disruption is proceeding and whether or not various species of fish can adapt to the changes before they become extinct are difficult, probably impossible, to predict accurately. Nevertheless, there are general concepts for us to keep in mind. First, animals and plants do not change their genetic constitutions because they need to adapt. Every species and every individual living animal, plant, bacterium, or virus has variations in their genetic make-up. Many factors, including environmental conditions, influence the specific expression, or repression, of individual genes. When we consider the variations in specific genes that exist in a population of thousands of individuals, we begin to understand that each species

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.


High Country Angler • Winter 2017

has the capacity for changing from one generation to the next in adapting to a changing environment. Sexual reproduction, plus random mutations, plus small changes from genetic copying “errors,” combine to cause changes in the specific genetic make-up of individuals. In turn, these changes may help the next generation survive in spite of changing conditions. In addition to genetic variance among individuals within a single population, sets of semi-isolated populations (meta-populations) of the same species have additional variances, which may be useful or at least neutral, as adaptations to the specific conditions of their location. Keep in mind the fact that some genetic variations may not be expressed, and are essentially neutral in a given environment – but these variations have the potential to be beneficial, neutral, or harmful in a different environment. All the forms of life that exist today have adapted to countless changes over eons of time because of variances in their genetic constitutions and the capacity for some genetic variants to improve survival under changed conditions. The new situations that trout will face in the coming years are not limited to temperature changes. Climate disruptions will include far more than warmer water in the summer. Changes in seasonal temperature patterns may disrupt spawning and also affect the abundance of food items available to the trout during their life cycle. Changes in precipitation – both drought and flood – may affect stream flows to the point where sub-populations become isolated or are eliminated altogether. During past climate cycles, which were relatively mild, trout populations disappeared in some environments, but were eventually replaced by survivors within the total meta-population when “normal” conditions for each species returned. Political decisions may determine just how severe the current climate disruption becomes, but genetic variations within the total populations of individual species make it highly probable that “Trout will Survive”… but with changing conditions the trout 100 years from now, or 500 years from now may look and act quite differently from HC the trout of today. www.HCAmagazine.com

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Winter 2017 • High Country Angler


What Ski Season?


High Country Angler • Winter 2017


Profile for High Country Angler

High Country Angler | Winter 2017  

High Country Angler | Winter 2017