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Winter 20



Adopt-aTrout Where Science Meets Conservation Connect in Cold Water by Landon Mayer

Hermosa Creek Cutthroats 1

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High Country Angler • Winter 2018


J ac k Tallo n & Frank M ar tin

C O NTENT C ONSU LTANT L ando n M ayer


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


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


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


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond


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

Copyright 2017, High Country Angler, a division of High Country Publications, LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinting of any content or photos without expressed written consent of publisher is prohibited. Published four (4) times per year. To add your shop or business to our distribution list, contact Frank Martin at D i str i buted by H i gh Countr y Publi cati ons, L LC 730 Popes Valley D r i ve Colorad o Spr i ngs, Colorad o 809 1 9 FA X 719-593-0040 Published in cooperation with Colorado Trout Unlimited 620 Sixteenth Street, Suite 300 Denver, CO 80202


Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


Conn in Cold by Landon Mayer


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

nect Water

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler



Once you determine the right blend to make your leader/indicator effective, whether your are high stick tension drifting, or low stick swinging and drifting, the next step is knowing how to slow ride your flies.

Length for Slow Sinks


he solitude of winter angling is once again upon us. With the promise of clear water and powder days, the river can come to life under insulated skies. While my heart begins to race thinking of the hunt, the opposite is happening with the trout and the river. As winter gears up, active fish slow to the point where they are lethargic, and it takes longer for the water, land, and air to warm up. Staying connected by timing your trip, matching the slow delivery, and seeing the take or strike will keep the rewards high on all your cold water adventures. Before we dive into the three temperature-based tips, let’s go over the leader section and why it is so important for the winter months. In low and clear water, the trout have an easier time detecting unnatural objects and disturbance on the water’s surface. I am a fan of using monofilament leaders connected to long pieces of fluorocarbon tippet. You can mix in a bright tracking device to see the take when tight lining, as well as clear thingamabobbers, white pinch on tabs, and bright putty material that can be rolled into a small ball. When connecting the tippet, I am a fan of using a triple surgeon’s, or blood knot—instead of tippet 8

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

rings—to keep the fish from seeing any metal from the ring. In terms of the rig looking natural, I am also a believer in no shot when at all possible. Stick to weighted flies to achieve depth, with the understanding that you can slow the sinking speed down by simply working in tiers of tungsten beads for deep water, metal for mid column sink, and plastic for shallow riffles. More often than not, I will use metal and plastic because the rewards found in riffles are honestly hard to beat.

One of the best ways to feed trout your flies is by visualizing the drift event before it happens. By watching the line the flies should drift down, and seeing how fast the flies sink in front of you, you can then imagine how long it will take them to descend. I literally do this with most nymph rigs in order to judge if I have too much weight or if I need more. In the lower flows of winter, less is usually more, and instead of adding weight you can extend a drift to achieve the right depth and reach the fish without snagging river bottom. Ultimately this will keep you connected by drifting into the trout’s viewing lane, making sure every drift counts.

In shallow rifles with plastic beads or lightweight #4 shot, I will extend my cast upstream of the target an additional foot or two—giving my rig time to sink instead of diving the flies quickly. It is common to find active targets in 12 inches of water feeding aggressively in the fastest warming water with oxygen and cover. Remember to think short

of the fish, so that you prevent snagging the trout if the fish does not eat on the first drift. Small adjustments in distance like 6-12 inches will ensure you are short. It is normal for a fish to lift to feed instead of diving downward—making the best approach for the trout to start higher in the water column. In deep water, a slow sink is also ef-


fective because you do not have the same speed you would in high flows to push the rig through the water, preventing snags, rubbing, or fowl hooking the fish. Instead, you are relying on a metal bead fly like a Radiation Baetis, or 2 #4 split shots/ tin to slowly sink down drifting just above the trout and its viewing lane.


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Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


See the Take 40 percent or more of strikes when nymphing are not detected through an indicator! Yes, there is contact when the fish takes the fly and moves your rig, but it is not always fast, and doesn’t always provide the straightening effect in the leader. In fact, when you are sight fishing in the dead of winter, you could go a majority of the day with even relying on an indicator, so why use one? The advantage of an indicator or sighter is to not only help you see the take, but to help you keep track of the leader, tippet, and flies during the drift, so that your focus is directed to the fish and its mouth to be ready when it feeds. Floating indicators are also a huge benefit with long drifts, because you keep the flies above the river bottom and fish to prevent snagging. The visual game of seeing the flies when possible, and concentrating on the trout’s mouth, is key


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

to the winter season. If you cannot make out the details of the trout’s body, you will still stand a chance of seeing the white of the trout’s mouth when it does feed. Unlike the warmer season when the fish will move numerous feet to take a fly, in cold water the movements are slow. That being said, like a poker player try to keep a straight face, there is always a tell or giveaway that they have a good hand. Trout in the cold will also have a tell that they are feeding; it could be

drifting back slightly to investigate, rotating the pec fins slightly to lift the river’s current, or leaning to the side to grab a moving meal. For those who have the chance to explore moving water in the winter, you will realize quickly that is can be a winter wonderland full of quality trout. Pay close attention to all the details on and below the surface, and you will see the rewards; you will be come a better angler by learn- HC ing every day.


bout The Author.

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

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Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


Fight For Fisheries by Brian La Rue

Yellowstone River


High Country Angler • Winter 2018


ith a decadelong fight for natural wonders like the fisheries in Bristol Bay, and the numerous proposed mines (as recent as 2015) near Montana’s Smith River, as well as a particular place that is close to my heart—the Yellowstone in Paradise Valley, fly fisherman and fellow nature enthusiasts can never sleep. As if fish in these treasured areas don’t have enough to worry about! Take my favorite water of these three—the Yellowstone. These fish face oil spills downriver, parasites and die-offs above Livingston, lake trout competition in the park, and in the last two years, Canadian mining operations are trying to stake a claim in Paradise Valley. This gorgeous river needs protection, not more stress. Well, to put a positive spin on this story, let’s talk about fly fishing the Yellowstone River starting at the headwaters in the Thorofare, flowing into Yellowstone Lake, and then on through Livingston. To get to the Thorofare (one of the most remote places in the Lower 48), you’ll have to leave all the comforts of home behind. The quickest way is to hire a boat shuttle to take you across the lake to a dock, where you can begin hiking to the inlet area

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler



where the river joins the lake. You can hike in the East Yellowstone Lake trail access and hike some 68 to 80 miles to the south Boundary trail ending near the South Entrance. This gives you access to the Upper Snake, which can be amazing, too. My choice is to let the horses do the carrying and join a trip like the Thorofare pack trip offered by my buddy Shane at Sunrise Packstation. That’s a week long and worth the views alone! The Thorofare’s fishing used to be the best, but with the lake trout issue, fishing has taken a hit. But hold on—there are numerous signs the cutthroat population is making a comeback. For starters, the fishing season on the river runs from July 15 until the close of the season in early November. Hoppers and droppers, smaller streamers, double nymphs rigs with larger Hare’s Ears, and beadhead Princes will work well. An old-school Joe’s Hopper or a modern foam imitation like a Morrish Hopper or a Beefcake Beetle will also do well here. Go with a sizeable stimulator and drop a size 12 gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear and hold in. As for the lake itself: great fly fishing—whether you are in a boat, tube, or wading along the many beaches. Stripping one of Jacklin’s purple and black leeches, flashabous or smaller Woolly Buggers is al14

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

ways good. Throw these offerings on a sink tip and cast it just beyond the waves or dropoffs, and you will have a good day. Callibaetis nymphs and dries are the other top pick for Yellowstone Lake’s cutthroat. Early season is best, as cutts are up in the water column. The lake opens to fishing the

Saturday of Memorial Day weekend—think of ice off on a massive scale (depending on the year—could still be frozen and no boats until June). As mentioned earlier, there are good signs of cutthroat coming back in the drainage. One obvious sign: I’ve seen fish in the river of all different

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sizes. For about 7 to 10 years, you’d only catch/see 18- to 24-inch cutthroat, but only managed one or two, and the surface bite was few and far between if at all. My last couple of outings I saw numerous 12- to 14-inch cutts feeding on top, and still managed a couple in the 18- to 22-inch range. Fishing Bridge is off limits as the river naturally draws from the lake. Get there early in the season, and no, you still can’t fish there, but when the ice breaks up, it’s quite a scene as it jams down the river on its way to disappear. Further downriver (about a mile) is where you can start fishing; not many do…might be worth a look? The river fishes well in the larger slower sections in the evenings, and continues to be good before it comes to LeHardy Rapids. No fishing here, but it’s fun to watch the cutthroat sit in the current near the walkway, and if you’re lucky you’ll see them leaping the rapids. Below LeHardy Rapids, anglers can once again try their luck. Beautiful riffles, sweeping runs and a few deep pools await anglers and bison alike. Give them a wide berth! The Mud Volcano area and Buffalo Ford are the most popular areas. Streamers and nymphs will always work, but through here, most are only trying dry flies. Stimulators, Salmon Flies early in the season, Caddis,

Stoneflies, Drakes, and Blue Winged Olives will also produce. It’s a short season, and there are always hatches on top of hatches. Then comes Hayden Valley—no fishing— full of wildlife. Below Canyon and the famous Upper and Lower falls, the Yellowstone is harder to access, but if you’re willing to explore in bear country go for it. Pack your bear spray, keep your head on a swivel and make plenty of noise. The Tower area offers access, but the next “populated” access where you will see some others on the trail at least, is the Blacktail area where you enter the Black Canyon of the Yel-

lowstone. The Black Canyon area is drier—more of the pocket water/rock hopping deal, but the big cutthroat hug the plunges and edges, and are quick to smack an August hopper or a larger nymph that gets down to the strike zone just long enough. I highly recommend this hike as an option, but make it at least an overnighter to have lots of time to fish. As the Yellowstone gains momentum with the Lamar, Slough, and the Gardner rivers, it makes its way out of the park and quickly becomes a driftboat-size water. There are still plenty of wade access areas as you travel through Paradise

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High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Valley, but for the most part, it becomes a better drift option—particularly below Yankee Jim Canyon—the roughest in these parts. Below that rough spot, the Yellowstone widens and offers friendly fishing with some of the best terrestrial action in the region. This is the stretch where one can pull off the highway an catch some nice cuts and browns while the rest of the world passes all the beauty on their way to the park. Some people slow down and take it all in, but most do not wet a line. That’s good for you and me; as you decide to go on foot, the only other anglers you might see are a few guided trips on driftboats making their way through. Enjoy the elbow room, and don’t count out a beefy, articulated piece of meat in the fall, either.

If you’ve never fished the Yellowstone in the park or through Paradise Valley, give it a shot soon. With all the stressors on the fishery and the surrounding space, we’re reminded that we need to fight for gems likes these, not give into the pressures of mining companies and their search for

precious metals. Find a cause in your neighborhood and fight for fish and access. We have to have something left for our kids to enjoy. Find a place to comment, let your voice be heard, and save these or waters close to you before they are lost. HC

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Plan Your Adventure!


bout The Author.

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

KREMMLINGCHAMBER.COM Winter 2018 • High Country Angler




Battle at Bighorn


wo years ago, arranging a shuttle in a smalltown Montana fly shop for a float on the Jefferson, the young guy behind the counter asked, “Dude, have you ever fished the Big Hole?” I shook my head. “Next time you come to Montana, you gotta. I moved here from Virginia, just to fish that river.” I silently envied his youth, when following a whim is easier until age and responsibility add their layers of doubt and complexity to life. However, remembering his advice when recently planning a return to Montana this fall, my buddy and I set aside a couple of days to float the Big Hole. After eighteen hours on the road, broken up by a two day stop over at the Bighorn, we rolled into Melrose late in the afternoon, and talked to the local fly shop owner about float options. “I’d go downstream, especially given how cold it gets overnight now,” he recommended. “Below town, it’s something of a Banana Belt.” Banana Belt or not, it was cold—a thick layer of frost coating any gear left exposed overnight. Next morning, a swift kick of the water jug to break up 18

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

the ice inside, and soon a pot was boiling on the stove and the waft of breakfast sausage and eggs sizzling on the griddle chased away the morning blues. Fair to say, over the next two days I fell in love with the Big Hole. Its size and volume is more intimate, akin to what I am used to in Colorado, as opposed to what seems like the vast, wide-open spaces of the Yellowstone or Missouri, for example. Although the nights were cold, the days were warm and calm, a stunning Montana sky framing rolling ranch land and distant peaks dusted in snow. The dry fly fishing, hinted at by the guy in the shop, came to fruition, and for two days we saw barely another angler as fish rose to attractors and hoppers. Yet, despite the scenery, and despite the quality of the fishing, the event that will stick with me the most will be an encounter we witnessed as we floated a quiet pool the first afternoon. Even from a distance of one hundred and fifty yards, it was evident the bird was large. Off on a shallow side channel away from the main flow, it appeared to be struggling with something

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


wieldy, lying half-concealed in the water. Several times the bird attempted to lift off, grasping whatever lay in the river between its talons, with no success. From the far bank, concealed by a stand of cottonwoods, came the cry of a second bird. “That sounds like a bald,” said my buddy. “The one downriver looks like a golden.” We floated closer, silently hoping to get a better view of what the golden was struggling with. Upon our approach, the bird lifted off the water in a flurry of enormous wings, retreating to the outstretched limb of a bare cottonwood, where it alighted next to a second golden, stark against the cloudless sky. From upstream came another cry, and we looked to see a bald eagle perched on the branch of another cottonwood fifty yards distant, facing the two goldens. More trash talking ensued between the two adversaries, squaring off like a couple of Wild West gunslingers at the opposite ends of Main Street, high noon. The stand off continued for a time before the bald, followed a second later by the golden, swooped down off their respective branches, the distance between them closing in a matter of seconds. It seemed that the

extra jump of the bald eagle had given it the advantage of height and position in the initial contact. Suddenly, all was a whirl of extended talons, contorting bodies and flapping wings as they engaged in aerial combat. As quickly as it began, as if by silent agreement, they disengaged, the golden swooping low, turning and retreating to its branch while the bald uttered a cry of apparent victory and flew off toward the spoils of war. A lone magpie, having taken advantage of the larger birds’ distraction, and pecking at whatever it was in the water, beat a hasty retreat as the bald settled on its prize. “Do you want to eddy out and go see what it was they were fighting over?” I shook my head. “No, let them be.” For the rest of the afternoon, as we cast dry flies to grassy banks and languid bubble lines, drifting toward a takeout where my truck awaited with coolers of food and beer and warm sleeping bags, I thought of the struggle for survival we had just been privileged to witness, one of thousands of such dramas playing out daily in the natural world around us, and of the ties that bind us all, wings, HC fins, two legs, or four.


bout The Author.



High Country Angler • Winter 2018

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

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Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


How to Organize Your Fly Box


High Country Angler • Winter 2018


he question was first voiced several hundred years ago when the grandfather of fly fishing pulled the first roughly-tied fly from the jaws of his primitive vice and mused, “Now what is this fly supposed to imitate and when should I fish it?” Echoing across the centuries, this same question can still be heard muttered from the lips of anglers stumbling from the doors of fly shops, emphasized with frustrated mutterings from along the banks of rivers around the world.  Apart from us lucky few who get to make a career out of fly fishing and find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of thousands of flies on a daily basis, knowing what the flies in our boxes imitate—let alone organizing them in any meaningful way—can seem like an overwhelming task.  I would propose, however, that learning the families of insects and life-cycles that the your flies imitate, and creating order in your fly boxes is a task worth taking on.  Like a well-honed tool in any craft, a purposefully-organized fly box allows you to quickly dissect every hatch, maximizing your time in the water, and pays dividends with more fish in your net on every trip to the river

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler



ndelibly branded into the DNA of trout is the unrelenting need to feed. Like any predator, trout are intimately familiar with the cycles and patterns of their prey, and are in constant pursuit as their food migrates through the water column. Trout’s food follows predictable, clock-work like patterns day to day, and season to season, and by organizing our fly boxes according to these patterns, we can always be ready to meet the trout where they are feeding and anticipate where they will be feeding next.   We’ve coined this approach to fly box organization modeled on nature the Hatch Organization Method.

Aquatic Insects Lead the Dance

A Page for Every Life Cycle & a Line for Every Hatch


he basis of the Hatch Organization Method is to lay out the flies in your box like a book, with one page covering the aquatic life cycles of trout foods that are imitated with wet fly patterns, and the opposite page covering the adult life cycles on top of the water that are imitated with dry fly patterns. Each row within the box belongs to one family of flies: one each for Midges, Mayflies, Caddisflies, Stoneflies, with the final row belonging to “Edible Others,” Terrestrials, and Streamers.  Starting on the left hand side of our wet fly page, we pack the patterns that imitate the aquatic insects freshly hatched from their eggs: midge larvae, mayfly nymphs, caddis larvae and cased caddis patterns, and our stonefly nymphs.  As those insects move through their aquatic life cycles and make their way towards the surface, we pack our emerger patterns to the right side of the family rows - midge pupae, mayfly emergers, caddis pupae, and our larger stonefly nymphs. Mirrored on the same rows on the dry fly page of our box, we pack the patterns that imitate each family as they break through the surface of the water into their first adult forms - dry midge pupae, mayfly dun patterns, and dry caddis emergers.  Then, moving across the dry fly rows of our box, we complete the adult life cycles of each family of flies, packing our fully emerged adult midge, mayfly, caddis, stonefly, and terrestrial fly patterns. 24

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Know Your Flies


n order to apply this or any organization method to your fly box, you need to know your flies and what they imitate. In an effort to simplify this process and break down each life-cycle and hatch into bite-size pieces, we produced the film Creating Order in Your Fly Box.   Available via DVD and digital download, this step-by-step tutorial enables you to identify every fly in your box according to the hatch, and put it in the right spot in your fly box.  To view a trailer of the film or to pick up your copy, visit RIVERORACLE.COM.

The Rewards of an Organized Fly Box


nce your flies are organized by the Hatch Organization Method, choosing the right fly patterns becomes as easy as dropping your finger on the correct family row and moving across that row to the life cycle that the fish are feeding on. As the fish follow the hatch through the water, so you move onto the next course of the meal simply by sliding your finger across the row.  Done are the days of wasted time and missed opportunities, as you will be ready to match every hatch like a pro!  So, take a page from Mother Nature’s book, and get your fly box organized.  Trout will fear you and your buddies will be HC perpetually jealous!


bout The Author.

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

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


Funding the Future of Fish and Wildlife 26

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

by Colorado TU Staff

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler



nglers and hunters have long paid the way for fish and wildlife management in Colorado and in other states – through purchase of licenses, and through federal excise taxes paid on equipment used by hunters and anglers that is allocated to state fish and wildlife agencies. Many take pride in contributing to the conservation and professional management of the fish and wildlife species we enjoy as sportspeople. In recent years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has seen its resources becoming increasingly squeezed. The last resident license fee increase took place in 2005 – and since that time, expenses have climbed by more than 25% and the number of people living in Colorado has grown rapidly, putting more and more pressure on fish, wildlife, and their habitat. The agency has cut or defunded 50 positions and sliced $40 million from its wildlife budget – without new funding, further cuts will be required. CPW will be approaching the Colorado General Assembly in 2018 with a fee authority package to allow them to raise fees to offset the loss of value to inflation, including adjusting future fees to track

inflation. We approached CPW to find out what kinds of projects or programs will benefit from the increase in funding – what new dollars from fee increases can make possible. Several of those major angling investments are described here.

Modernizing Colorado Fish Hatcheries Colorado Parks and Wildlife has 19 fish hatcheries located across the state – averaging more than 75 years in age. While some maintenance has been done over the years, it hasn’t kept up with the aging process. An example is the Durango Hatchery, one of the oldest in Colorado. The facility raises about 150,000 catchable trout and more than 1.2 million native cutthroat, kokanee, and brown trout each year for stocking in southwest Colorado. The Durango hatchery has several thousand feet of concrete raceways in various state of disrepair, with an estimated repair cost of $700,000 to $1 million. Aging water collection systems, pipelines, valves and other necessary infrastructure has an estimated replacement/repair cost of another $500,000. And all of this does not include building maintenance or repair. Without a significant amount of repair in the next few years, catastrophic failure could result in losing hundreds of thousands of fish and potentially having to close the facility. The cost of completely modernize the Durango hatchery with state-of-the-art aquaculture technology would be $3-4 million. Although not all 19 hatcheries are as old or in as much disrepair, more than half are in a similar situation. Without reinvestment in hatchery infrastructure, CPW’s ability to provide fish for stocking programs –catchable trout in reservoirs, native cutthroat for recovery efforts, fingerling fish for put-and-grow programs – will decline over the years ahead.

Reservoir Repairs The dam on Lake John (in 28

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

the North Park area of northern Colorado) is the responsibility of CPW – and it is in need of repair and maintenance. The trout fishery in Lake John is one of the most productive in the state and is highly valued and used by anglers. It is estimated that fishing at Lake John results in an economic impact to Colorado of over $2.5 million annually. Other dams that are need of repair include Steamboat Lake, Tarryall Reservoir, and Skaguay Reservoir – all recognized for their fishing and recreational value to many of our citizens and visitors (and with a combined $3.25 million of economic benefits to the state). Unfortunately, without needed repairs on these dams, they will become unsafe and may be placed under restriction by the Division of Water Resources – meaning that they could no longer safely store the water that supports their outstanding lake fisheries and would instead need to be drawn down.

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"Fishing is Fun" For three decades, CPW’s Fishing Is Fun program has invested in angling improvements across Colorado, opening up new fishing opportunities and improving existing ones. Through more than 350 projects, Fishing Is Fun has made angling available from urban settings to rural towns to the mountain streams and rivers for which Colorado is famous. Projects are sponsored by angling organizations such as TU chapters, local governments, parks and recreation departments, water providers and others. Historically, local match has covered more than 40% of the

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


tal project costs, so the boost to local angling projects is nearly double each dollar invested. Unfortunately, as agency funding has tightened, Fishing Is Fun grants have been cut by more than half, from $900,000 annually to $400,000. Examples of the work Fishing is Fun has supported – and that can increase with restored funding - include: Clear Creek has grown as a brown trout fishery in recent years as mining pollution problems have been addressed. But despite its proximity to the Denver metro area, and good quality existing or potential fish habitat, angler access was difficult and limited. Over the last ten years, Fishing Is Fun has supported projects stretching from Golden up to Silver Plume that make it easier for anglers to get into the water. Improvements include rock stairs to navigate steep banksides, short access trails, safe off-road parking, and stream habitat improvement. Multi-year investments in the Blue River north of Silverthorne, the Yampa River around Steamboat Springs, and the Arkansas River in Pueblo have turned those stretches into major fishing destinations. In fact, Fly Fisherman magazine cited the Arkansas River near Pueblo as one of the Top 10 tailwater rout fisheries in the United States. It does not necessarily take years of work and multiple projects to create noticeable improvement in fishing opportunities. A recently completed Fishing Is Fun-supported project addressed habitat limitations on a 1 mile stretch of the Fraser River near Tabernash. A CPW electrofishing survey after the project completion found major increases in fish biomass -- more than a 400% jump for brown trout and more than 250% for rainbow trout. As the area biologist reported, “this reach is now obviously much more desirable real estate for adult trout to set up shop, and they’re not wasting any time doing it.” Fishing Is Fun also is an important source of funding for flat water projects that are often where youth are introduced to angling and learn fishing skills. Projects in the pipeline right now will open new ponds in Thornton, Penrose (southwest of Colorado Springs) and Akron (on the eastern plains) over the next two years. All the ponds are centrally located, allowing easy access by young anglers and families, and for hosting high-visibility fishing clinics. 30

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Colorado's Native Trout Heritage

Like Colorado TU, CPW is committed to restoring healthy populations of Colorado’s native cutthroat trout in suitable habitats within their historic ranges – so these unique fish are available for anglers to enjoy now and in the future. From designing and installing barriers to protect native habitat from downstream non-native fish, to removing non-natives to prepare new waters for restoration, to rearing cutthroats in state hatcheries in preparation for their release back into the wild – CPW is at the heart of native trout recovery in Colorado. CPW’s personnel costs on Greenback recovery alone totals around $250,000 per year. Enhanced funding will help CPW support growing programs for restoring Greenback, Colorado River, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. In one notable example, CPW resources will be needed for fish removal and subsequent stocking as part of the ambitious multi-year plan to restore Greenback cutthroat trout in the Poudre headwaters – agency support that will total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the project’s lifetime. Through CPW partnerships with Trout Unlimited, the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain National Park, and other stakeholders, this project will help bring Colorado’s state fish back to some 40 miles of connected streams and high mountain lakes.

Providing Fishing Access While Colorado is blessed with excellent fishing on federal public lands and state-owned properties,

many popular fishing waters are available for public angling through CPW’s program of leasing access from private landowners. One example: CPW holds a fishing lease on the White River that is up for renewal in 2018. It has the benefits of being close to Meeker, is known for large brown trout, and also is home to other important native species of conservation interest. Another CPW fishing lease on Boedecker Reservoir (375 acre reservoir near Loveland) is set to expire in 2020 and provides good opportunities for warmwater fishing along the northern Front Range. Stabilizing CPW funding will provide resources to maintain these kind of opportunities – and to pursue new waters for public access leases.

Restoring the Upper Colorado River The Upper Colorado is home to Gold Medal waters on State Wildlife Areas like Kemp-Breeze – but it is also a river challenged by reduced flows as water is diverted to meet urban and agricultural needs on the eastern slope. Through its mitigation and enhancement plan processes, CPW is engaging water users in broad efforts to address those impacts through large-scale river restoration partnerships along the Colorado and key tributaries like the Fraser. CPW biologists have developed the concept of creating a “channel within the channel” for the Colorado that will help provide quality fish habitat even at lower flows, while also functioning during peak flow runoff periods. In partnership with Northern Water, Grand County, TU, the Upper Colorado River Alliance, and others, the agency is also working toward reconnecting the Colorado River around Windy Gap Reservoir with the “Windy Gap Bypass” project – an effort that will restore fish passage, improve water quality, and create a new restored reach of about one mile around the reservoir – reconnecting Colorado’s namesake river around a dam that has severed it for decades. CPW’s ability to contribute both in-kind and cash toward these partnership efforts depends on secure, HC stable funding.

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

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Cutthroats Returning to Hermosa Creek by Colorado TU Staff

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler



ith its reasonably easy access from Durango, Hermosa Creek has been a focus of the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited going back to the 1980s and 90s. From on the ground projects to improve habitat and restore native cutthroat, to participation in a River Protection Workgroup that was the genesis of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act passed by Congress in 2014, the chapter has made Hermosa an important part of its home waters.


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Colorado River cutthroat trout restoration in Hermosa Creek reached an important milestone this November, with the completion of the final downstream barrier that will protect the upper watershed for reintroduction of native trout. Located a short distance below the East Fork’s confluence with the mainstem of Hermosa Creek, the new barrier will allow for restoration within the final reaches of Hermosa Creek and ultimately create a contiguous reach of 23 miles of native trout habitat throughout the federally-designated Watershed Protection Area.

“Hermosa Creek is a special place because it takes our past back to the future,” explains Five Rivers Chapter President Bear Samples. “Rehabilitating the stream and introducing native Colorado cutthroat trout turns back our environmental clock one hundred years. It is difficult to think of rainbow and brook trout as invasive species, but introducing these non-native gamefish to Hermosa was the death knell for the little cutthroat. The labor, energies, and resources of many groups partnering with Trout Unlimited have made it possible for this trout reintroduction.” Cutthroat restoration in the basin began in 1992, with about two miles of the East Fork headwaters (near Purgatory Ski Area north of Durango) reclaimed for native trout above a natural 8

foot waterfall. Since that time, additional manmade barriers have been installed to allow for reintroduction of cutthroats for an additional four miles along the East Fork, as well as on more than 10 miles of the mainstem of Hermosa Creek above Hotel Draw. Fish barriers are an important piece of native trout restoration, as they help protect habitats restored with native fish from reinvasion by non-natives from downstream reaches. Without such barriers, native cutthroat could be displaced by or hybridized with other non-native trout species. The new barrier will allow for Colorado River cutthroat to be returned to several additional stream miles downstream of the previous barriers. Just as importantly, it will connect both drainages into one interconnected system supporting native trout – establishing the largest cutthroat trout stronghold in southwest Colorado. Partners in the Hermosa barrier project include Trout Unlimited, the US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Trout and Salmon Foundation.

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


Work on the project will continue through the coming years, as further bank stabilization and habitat improvement efforts are implemented; non-native fish removed from the reaches between the new and old barriers; and Colorado River cutthroats restocked into that habitat after the non-native fish are out of the system. The ultimate payoff will come for anglers visiting the area to enjoy fishing for a beautiful and unique fish.

“I am one of the fortunate fly fishers to catch a bejeweled Hermosa cutthroat,” Samples said. “While diminutive, they win a large place in your heart. It is hard to believe that such a small package holds such transformative power. Into the future, many people, young and old, will come to enjoy and appre- HC ciate the beauty of Hermosa Creek and its special residents.”

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


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Upcoming Events

2018 Colorado TU River Stewardship Gala – Join Colorado TU and nearly 400 river and angling enthusiasts on March 8th for this annual celebration of our state’s amazing rivers and fisheries! The Colorado TU Gala is a fun-filled evening featuring delicious food and drink, silent and live auctions with items for the angler and non-angler alike, and annual River Stewardship Award presentation. Colorado TU is pleased to announce that our 2018 honoree will be Governor John Hickenlooper! Governor Hickenlooper’s leadership on the state’s first ever Colorado Water Plan and his vision for the urban South Platte during his tenure as the Mayor of Denver are among the reasons for his recognition. The CTU Gala has sold out the last two years! Get your tickets today or sponsor a table and bring your friends – 2018 TU Western Regional Rendezvous - Join fellow anglers and TU volunteer leaders from across the West on April 27-29, 2018 in Keystone, Colorado for enlightening presentations, inspiring dialogue and camaraderie with those who share your dedication to TU and our mission. TU regional rendezvous are occasions to be inspired – by the work of CTU and TU staff, lessons from volunteer leaders, and conversations with newfound friends. They are also an excellent opportunity to discuss the unique issues facing the region as well as a chance to network and build relationships with fellow TU volunteer leaders. Learn more here -

Frostbite Fish-Off – The Southern Colorado Greenbacks Chapter of TU will again be hosting their winter fishing tournament. Join your fellow anglers for a day of fishing on the Arkansas River through Pueblo and compete for awesome prizes and bragging rights if you win the tournament! Scheduled for Saturday, February 24, 2018 - this is a super fun event that helps the chapter to raise necessary funds for their local conservation and education projects.

Fly Tying Clinic – West Denver’s annual Fly Tying Clinic is every tyer’s dream! With nearly 60 tyers demonstrating a variety of techniques, learn how to tie the most effective fly patterns from the best tyers around. If you’re new to tying, there’s a beginner’s station where experienced tyers will help you to improve your skills. There’s also casting classes, theater tyers and speakers, and rod building information. Join the West Denver Chapter on February 10, 2018 from 9-3 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds - you’re sure to pick up a few helpful hints for tying successful flies for your next angling adventure!

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


Adopt-a-Trout: Where Science Meets Conservation by Briant Wiles


e must have been quite a sight that day.

Jesse Kruthaupt, a fellow TU member, had his hands on the wheel of his old pick-up while I had what looks like an old rooftop cable antenna pointing strategically out of the window. We were racing down Highway 50 just outside of Gunnison, Colorado – two anglers chasing big trout. But this time we weren’t armed with rods and flies. Instead, we were listening for that telltale “ping” from the transmitter that told us we were close.


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Tomichi Creek, like many small rivers around the West, suffers from the impacts generated by human settlement over the past 150 years. Draining an area of more than 700,000 acres, the creek provides water for irrigation and municipal use – as well as a recreational fishery. In 2012, Gunnison was hit hard by a devastating drought. The extremely low flows and warm water temperatures significantly impacted trout populations in small creeks throughout the valley. Realizing that there was a major problem on the

Tomichi, local biologists and anglers began searching for ways to keep this important fishery alive. Understanding that the creek had long been impacted by diversions and grazing, the local Gunnison Angling Society chapter of TU (many of whom are irrigators and ranchers themselves) decided that the Tomichi needed significant restoration to buffer against future drought and low flows. But where were the problem areas? Where did fish move throughout the year? How could limited resources be best applied in such a large drainage? Over time, the group came up with an idea to let the fish tell the story of what needed to be done – that is when Adopt-a-Trout made its way to Gunnison. With start-up funds from the New Belgium Brewing Company, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, and Gunnison Angling Society, our team of anglers and researchers purchased the necessary radio frequency tags and tracking equipment. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also jumped in on the project - offering time and expertise. The aim of the initiative was to shed light on the issues impacting

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


trout on Tomichi Creek, as well as engage the commu- an irrigation ditch and unable to find a way out. In one nity in the stewardship of their local watershed. extreme case, a tag was found under a cottonwood tree The six-mile section just above the Tomichi’s conflu- over one-hundred yards from the creek – you can guess ence with the Gunnison River was understood to hold what happened there. the greatest ecological challenges and therefore became Some of the fish stayed put in the same hole we the focus of the original tracking effort. The lack of ri- tagged and released them into, while others made long parian cover and over-widening channels in the area and surprising swims well beyond our initial study area. contributed to warmer water temperatures, which were This latter occurrence made for some pretty interesting further exacerbated by a significant portion of the flow road trips. being diverted for irrigation. By tracking trout moveIn the early stages of tracking, there was confusion ment through this stretch, the team would be able to over the fact that our routine search efforts could not better understand habitat needs and where to focus res- turn up a handful of the trout in the original six-mile toration efforts. study area. After much deliberation, we resorted to drivUnder the supervision of Colorado Parks and Wild- ing up and down Highway 50 that parallels the creek life staff, we tagged and released 15 trout - fourteen the antenna sticking out the window. There we were, Browns and one Rainbow - in three locations in the low- trout-obsessed researchers chasing a handful of fish in er six miles of Tomichi Creek just outside of town. The a 700,000-acre drainage with the help of an old pick-up battery life of the tags was rated for 500 days, allowing us truck, a big metal rod, and the theory of radio telemetry. to track the fish for almost two full seasons. The journey revealed that five of the tagged trout had Another important benefit of the Adopt-a-Trout made it as far as 23 river miles up Tomichi Creek – some (AAT) program was its ability to provide local students even turned up the Quartz Creek tributary. A few of the with opportunities to learn about trout ecology and the fish that made this long run stayed in their new home, various water-related issues impacting their community. but one fish made the trip twice! Focusing on various age groups, AAT engaged over 160 Stream connectivity is critical to a healthy trout fishdifferent youth participants in the program, with proj- ery, and results from AAT have demonstrated, at least ects ranging from classroom visits to full-day willow planting and trout tracking. When the students got the antenna and receiver in-hand, their 38339 US Hwy 50 eyes would light up. With every tellGunnison, CO 81230 tale “ping” of the tagged trout, their 970.641.1442 connection to their watershed became a little more real. “My students and I found the experience of tagging and tracking the trout in Tomichi Creek very valuable,” says Scott Nordberg, the • Walking distance to the gold-medal Agricultural Education instrucwaters of the Gunnison River tor at Gunnison High School. “We not only experienced [the] hands• Near Blue Mesa Reservoir on work of Trout Unlimited, but • Vintage charm and ambiance learned about fish anatomy, aquatic habitat, trout migration, radio te• Great outdoor space lemetry, and the valuable work Trout • Multiple room layouts Unlimited does to preserve a variety of Colorado’s resources.” • Fully stocked kitchens Over the course of the experi• Spacious boat parking, including ment, each fish provided a valuable piece to the ecological puzzle. A free long-term for multiple stays handful of tags, for example, were located in the middle of hay meadows - the trout having swam into

Island Acres


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

for this size of fish at certain flows, that there may be fewer barriers restricting trout passage up and down the corridor than previously thought. The movement of certain fish during different times of the year also encouraged a host of interesting speculations as to the drivers of trout movement throughout the drainage, and added a greater depth of understanding for local aquatic biologists as they work in Tomichi Creek. The batteries in the tags have all been dead since the end of October 2017, and we are now sifting through the various data, lessons learned, and what the future of the Adopt A Trout program will look like. We generated some very interesting results from the tracking effort, but every “ping” seemed to bring about more questions still left to answer. As the snow starts to fly, our group is now discussing opportunities to repeat the experiment – perhaps using alternative tagging and tracking methods, sampling different age classes, and looking at specific issues on the creek. The educational experience was just as beneficial to the community as the research was for the trout. “These programs allow students to experience real world application of classroom knowledge and participate in community service projects,” claims Nordberg. “Kids then understand why wildlife and conservation groups are important to our quality of life.” Ultimately, the Adopt-a-Trout program has been a big success in the Valley and has resulted in healthier habitat along the banks of the Tomichi, a better understanding of local stream connectivity, and more young people engaged with their local watershed. Adopt-a-Trout truly blends the borders of science, conservation, and education and fortifies the future of trout in Tomichi Creek – all HC with that telltale “ping”.


bout The Author.

Briant Wiles is the President of the Gunnison Angling Society and director of the Adopt-aTrout Program. More information on the program can be found at: A special thanks to Jesse Kruthaupt of Trout Unlimited and Dan Braugh of Colorado Parks and Wildlife for lending their efforts and expertise to make Adopt-a-Trout possible.

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Winter 2018 • High Country Angler






recently had the privilege of fishing with Frank Drummond of Brush Creek Cane. I had two goals in mind: 1: Put his high-quality bamboo rods to the test on RMNP trout, and 2: Enjoy a fun outing with a great guy who not only specializes in making these unbelievable rods, but also shares his intrinsic knowledge by teaching classes to help others create masterpieces. I brought my 12-year old Barrett with us, so I thought of the outing as old-school fly fishing meets the next generation. We put a few creations to the test: a 3-weight and a 4-weight, a couple of Drummond’s favorite rods. As someone who rarely has been exposed to bamboo, raised on a Fenwick Feralite and now with a fast-action rod, I was curious to put this bamboo to the test. We began our morning upriver from Moraine Park, and before long, my son had a cutt on. Fun way


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

to start the morning. I fished downriver from Frank and Barrett. The 4-weight threw line with ease. I expected it to be super slow and not very sensitive, but was quickly reminded how special bamboo is with effortless, accurate casts. The rod felt a bit heavier than graphite, but I felt every bump when I hooked a cutthroat myself. It was nice fishing with natural material in my hand. It gave me the feeling of enjoyment in fly fishing while the beautiful rod performed nothing like anything basic. We moved on and switched to dry flies as the sun became higher in the sky and fish were looking up. We soon hooked and played a half dozen brookies, and then came upon what appeared to be a sizable For more information on the Simms Contender Insulated Jacket or what my wife has affectionately called “A Riverside, Heated Seat,” see or try one on at the next outdoor show. Stay warm and inside, my fair-weather friends!

brown feeding. I tossed a smaller CDC emerger/dry to eliminate snags and improve fit, and you’ll find pattern, slumping down in the film with each drift that there are no more exposed snags grabbing your that Frank and I figured would be hard to pass up. leader, costing you valuable fishing time. Cold hands? The rod allowed me to present the fly effortlessly un- Warm your hands in the spacious micro-fleece-lined til the brown couldn’t take it anymore. The estimated pockets. A durable, 3-point hood also shields you 15-incher exploded onto the surface. It wasn’t meant away from sleet while holding tight—allowing you to to be as I allowed for a long line release, but I was im- read water and make decisions—not fight your hood. pressed to say the least—both with a fish of that size Simms has also included top notch YKK Aquain this skinny water, and the command of presenta- Guard zippers on key connections, keeping you and tion I was enjoying with Frank’s creation. your fly boxes warm, dry, and sealed from the blusSee Frank’s works of art for yourself, or better yet, tery wind and flakes. Two chest pockets are ideal for take a class with him and learn to build a rod. From your dry fly and emerger boxes. About the only bad tying flies to building a rod and catching a fish—what thing I can say about my new cold weather wingman a sense of accomplishment. For more information see is: if too many guys get this jacket, then the winter or reach out to Frank at solitude I find on the region’s rivers might be a thing (303) 810-4538, or at of the past! Simms Tames Elements with Contender For more information on the Simms Contender Wet shoulders, faulty zippers, and chilled to the Insulated Jacket or what my wife has affectionately bone…no thanks! I’m a believer in quality gear and called “A Riverside, Heated Seat,” see www.Simmsenjoying the moment—whatever mother nature or try one on at the next outdoor show. throws at me. Whether I get caught in a hailstorm, Stay warm and inside, my fair-weather friends! HC downpour, or a Dream Stream nightmare with sideways snow and 30 mph wind, the new Simms InsulatBamboo Rod Making Classes ed Contender warms me, allowing Create Your Own Classic for comfortable fishing in the nastiest of elements. Don’t be that fair-weather guy! If the thermometer drops to 25 and there’s a little breeze, Simms has your back! Check out the company’s latest insulated Contender jacket. Armed with a 2-layer GORE-TEX shell, you’ll feel as if you’ve got your feet up in the easy chair by the fire when you’re really waist deep in the best pool of the morning. What flurries? Get it done! Why is it so warm? Besides a GORE-TEX shell for unparalleled waterproofness and breathabilFrank Drummond ity, the insulated Contender also is 303-810-4538 loaded with toasty Primaloft Gold insulation. Throw in shingled-cuff construction and Lycra inner cuffs Winter Classes Starting in November 2013

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler




Order from the Fancy Menu


suppose if you grew up in a saltwater fishing family with easy coastal access, you might well be accustomed to both using shrimp as bait and eating it fresh yourself. Me, I grew up in a Rocky Mountain trout family, and shrimp were something you had only if you ordered from the fancy menu. And most likely, in those prehistoric days before overnight delivery for anything, the shrimp were likely frozen. As a kid in the 60’s, I learned to fly fish on the Roaring Fork River near Aspen, CO using a fly rod with a weighted tapered leader and a real salmon egg on a bait hook. My, how times have changed! Maybe not so much actually, as today’s fly fisherman, myself included, might use an egg fly. The technique is basically the same – high stick nymphing, including the Euro method. Really not all that new. Which brings me back to shrimp. Fishing an egg fly or a worm fly or a shrimp fly is really just another form of imitating what is in the water that a fish would feed on. But the difference between and egg and a worm, as compared to a shrimp, is that fish eggs and earthworms are ubiquitous in freshwater streams world over. Fresh water shrimp, however, exist in a limited places. And the mysis shrimp particularly, is a recent phenomenon. In my kid days, along with the Roaring Fork, we frequented the Frying Pan. But shrimp were not present then. You can search online for the long story, so suffice it to say that this unnatural food base is of little value—even harmful—to the fishery in Ruedi Reservoir into which they were introduced. Yet unwittingly it became a delectable meal to the tail water trout finning below. In other words, tailwater trout get to order from the fancy menu. So, it turns out that saltwater fishermen don’t have a corner on the shrimp fishing market anymore. Besides the Frying Pan, other well-known 46

High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Colorado shrimperies are the Blue River below Dillon Reservoir and the Taylor River below Taylor Park Reservoir. From a fly tying view, there are many patterns— good patterns—to imitate the mysis. So what’s another one? My interest in something different stemmed from avoiding the excellent but timeconsuming clear patterns that commonly require use of epoxy or UV resin, and the attendant dry time or curing light steps. So let me digress for a moment. Distinguish between translucent and opaque. Mysis shrimp, and hence the patterns, can be broken into two general groups representing the two phases of the “tailwater life cycle.” Not life cycle as in metamorphic that river insects undergo, but as in being freshly ejected from the lake into the river vs. a little further downstream. Mysis, while alive and living in the reservoir, are mostly clear, and when the exit the lake they retain their clear appearance for a short time. But the river environment is deadly to them and they soon die, turning from clear to cloudy to white. This change is important in tying and fishing. Your box needs to contain both clear and white patterns. You might even be fishing both at the same time. Ok, so as to white patterns, there are many materials from threads to feathers to ostrich to hair that are white. So the variations in white

Watch The Video

patterns are more abundant. Ah…but clear, not so much. Few tying materials are clear, including the plethora of synthetics. Which brings me back to epoxy and UV. They are clear and come away with great results. But again, to me they are a problem. I personally am allergic to epoxy. The day after using it, my eyes are red and swollen from the fumes. And UV is easy, but you have to slow down for the cure time. So what else is clear? And synthetic and cheap? Glass or plastic beads. Admittedly, beads are delicate to load on a hook—especially a small one for a mysis, but here are what I see as the advantages; I’ll give you 5:

same pattern, just changing from clear beads to pearl or white beads. No need to have a UV pattern for one and an ostrich herl pattern for the other. 4) The actual live and clear shrimp does have some light brown body parts showing thru the clear, but only in one section near the head and behind the eyes. This pattern accomplishes that by using a colored bead in the mix. 5) Beads are easy to finish with the knot. When tied backwards with the bead and nothing else at the hook eye, there is nothing sticking out to get in the way of the whip finish rotations. You can even stop short of the front bead that touches the hook eye, and instead finish at an intermediate bead to avoid having to catch the thread in the narrow gap behind the hook eye.

1) Epoxy and UV require doing one complete fly at a time and slowing down for cure time. However, with beads, as with many other patterns such as a bead head nymph, you can preload a dozen or more hooks with the beads and be done quickly and efficiently. 2) Beads come in multiple sizes, so you can customize the bead size to the pattern from 12’s to 16’s, even using varying sizes on one hook as this pattern does, to create the realistic taper of the real shrimp. 3) Beads come in multiple colors, so you tie both the clear shrimp and the white shrimp in the

Ok, enough reading the fancy menu – order some shrimp to go!



bout The Author.

Joel Evans is a fly fishing writer, photographer, and long-time member of Trout Unlimited from Montrose, CO. You can contact him via the HCA editor at Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


Donor Spotlight A conversation with River Stewardship Council member, Bob Biebel In each issue of High Country Angler, Colorado TU will introduce you to a member of our flagship donor program, the River Stewardship Council (RSC), through the “Donor Spotlight”. Donors to RSC contribute $1000 or more annually to Colorado TU and provide critical support for our work on native trout restoration, grassroots engagement, youth education, and advocacy on behalf of healthy watersheds. • • •

Bob Biebel TU member for nearly 15 years River Stewardship Council donor for 2 years; NTU donor for 5 years

What brought you to Trout Unlimited? During my college years a friend introduced me to trout fishing. I’ve been a trout angler ever since. I fished on and off for years before moving to Atlanta in the late 1980s. Once in Atlanta, I spent a lot of time fishing the Chattahoochee River and other


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

rivers in North Georgia. The Chattahoochee is the southern-most trout fishery in the US. Unfortunately the section that runs through Atlanta is one of the most endangered trout fisheries in the country. My concern for the Chattahoochee got me involved with the Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper organization. As I began to get more involved with the River Keepers, I was introduced to Trout Unlimited as they were a partner organization on a number of projects. I found myself really becoming passionate about protecting the river from further pollution and improving it both as a source of drinking water for the residents of Atlanta and for fish. I joined a TU chapter in north Georgia not long after.

Why did you become a donor to Colorado Trout Unlimited? I moved from Georgia to Colorado about six years ago and transferred my commitment to TU along with my move. I really appreciate the work Colorado TU does under the Gold Dome and their vigilance in advocating for healthy rivers and fisheries. TU’s commitment to compromise is also something I support. As an organization, both at the state and national levels, they strive to find the common ground that can move a project forward to the benefit of multiple users. It’s a realistic approach that recognizes that everyone has to give a little to find a solution, and in the end, these collaborations result in good outcomes for fish and people alike. I also appreciate the work Colorado TU does on native trout reintroduction and stream restoration. Now that I’m mostly retired, I absolutely love fishing for cutthroat trout on waters near my cabin in Allenspark. My wife, Sandy, and I are thoughtful about our charitable giving, and CTU does the good work we can really get behind!

What are some of the projects Colorado TU works on that interest you most? Colorado TU’s current work on returning the greenback cutthroat trout to its native watersheds is especially intriguing to me. I like to stay abreast of current reintroduction projects and to see how the story of greenback health and viability will play out over time. I continue to be interested in what is happening down at the State Capitol and appreciate that CTU helps to focus those at the legislative level on issues like healthy rivers, adequate instream flows, and quality fish habitat. Since my time in Atlanta, I have always been impressed by the partnership projects that TU works on with a wide array of constituents and users. My background is in business so I am a proponent of a vibrant, growing economy. However, with that comes an ever-increasing need to acknowledge that water is a scarce resource and the planning and collaborative projects we do today must focus on ways we can ensure a positive outcome for our state’s water future!

Please tell us one of your favorite fishing stories. I love to see wildlife while I’m out fishing! Years ago I was fishing on the Soque River in Georgia. The stretch I was on was pretty wild and bordered a large swath of National Forest land. I was standing in the river fishing, then stood perfectly still while I watched a river otter swim to within ten feet of me. I had rarely seen a river otter, let alone one that close! On that same river, I was fishing just down from a ninety-degree bend. When I looked up I saw an osprey come around the bend with a trout in its talons. I frequently reflect about how a healthy river supports much more than just a healthy fish population.

Please tell us a little about yourself. I grew up in a southern suburb of Chicago and lived about a mile from the Calumet River. As a kid, I remember being told that if you fell into the river, you would have to go to the hospital to have your stomach pumped. Looking back, I think I just assumed that a dead river was the price you had to pay for progress. The Current River as it ran through Montauk State Park in Missouri was where I caught my first trout. I was introduced to the Current River by a college friend. This was such a beautiful stretch of river and far different from the heavily industrialized river of my childhood. After college, I entered into a career in public accounting. My job was very demanding and left little time for fishing. About fifteen years ago, I was fortunate to take a job with Ted Turner Enterprises. This gave me the opportunity to fish in some wonderful places in both Georgia and Montana as well as on Turner’s other properties around the world. Ted Turner has made conservation and habitat restoration a cornerstone of how he manages his many hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and miles of trout water. I have enjoyed fishing and seeing all sorts of wildlife on many of his ranches. About six years ago, I decided to retire, move west and get married. Sandy and I had been dating long distance between her home in Colorado and mine in Georgia. We decided on Colorado and now split our time between our home in Denver and our cabin in Allenspark. Sandy now enjoys trout fishing and she frequently joins me on the water. The cabin sits only fifty yards from Rocky Mountain National Park, and I am fortunate to call Wild Basin and the North St. Vrain my homewater.

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler




On Habitat Modeling and Flows I have been hearing discussions about something called “Chatfield Reservoir Water Reallocation Plan”. It sounds like it can help the South Platte and its fish, but also complicated. Can you explain in layperson’s terms how reallocation works and how science can inform the process?


That’s a tough question! I like to explain science for lay people, but explaining science intertwined with law is a more difficult undertaking. The water reallocation plan for the Chatfield Reservoir is quite straightforward, but it is based on water resources law for the United States. Water resources law is always complex, but it’s even more so when it involves water from a reservoir that was created as part of a project constructed with public funds. The Chatfield dam and reservoir are owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). In turn, the Corps leases 5,381 land and water acres to the State of Colorado to operate Chatfield State Park. [Hmmm… It’s starting to get complicated already; especially for an old scientist who specializes on the fish, not the laws pertaining to the wa-



High Country Angler • Winter 2018

ters where the fish live.] The principles of United States water law derive from common law dating back centuries to Europe, but specific aspects of the law also derive from statutory laws; constitutional principles, such as separation of State and Federal powers; treaty obligations and rights of Native Americans; water project laws pertaining to the formation and operation of specific projects, such as the Chatfield Reservoir; and case law resulting from specific judicial decisions. The fundamental tenet of Colorado water law is “first in time, first in right” – older water rights are entitled to be satisfied in full before newer rights begin to be met. However, it rapidly grows more complicated from there. If you are interested in delving deeper into the murky depths of water law, you can start by looking at one of the Citizens Guides from Water Education Colorado. The Chatfield Reservoir project was built in 1975 at the confluence of the South Platte River and Plum Creek as a flood control project. The reservoir currently has the ability to store more than 350,000 acre-feet (AF) of water. Although, the main purpose of the reservoir is flood control, it also provides space for water stored for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational uses, as well as maintaining fisheries and wildlife habitat.

These additional uses also improved habitat will result under different flow the benefit-cost ratio for the initial au- regimes. There will be trade-offs: difthorization and allocation of project ferent flows may be more beneficial for funds. different species, or for different parts In response to drought and increas- of fish life history such as spawning ing demand for water, the U.S. Army and rearing. Corps of Engineers determined reHabitat modeling will play a critical cently that Chatfield Reservoir can ac- role informing the reallocation discuscommodate an additional 20,600 acre sion, but, inevitably some decisions feet of water storage for water supply will carry political overtones. This powithout compromising its flood con- litical fact of life was recognized by the trol function. At least 1600 acre feet of Denver Chapter of Trout Unlimited the added water storage space in Chat- when the Chapter proposed a study: field Reservoir will be dedicated to an “Biological and Ecological Benefits environmental pool. Ongoing discus- from Chatfield Reallocation Environsions among project participants in- mental Pool Increased Releases”. Decluding Colorado Parks and Wildlife veloping recommendations based on will determine the timing and vol- data and evidence-based models, as umes for how water is released from Denver TU and its partners are now the environmental pool, which brings doing, can provide the science needed this discussion back to point indicated to guide those political discussions by the title. and move management of Chatfield In-stream flow models and habitat Reservoir toward operations that HC suitability models have been devel- fulfill its multi-purpose responsioped for most species of fish that have bilities. recreational value. These models look at key variables like wabout The Author. ter depth and velocJohn Nickum, is a retired PhD. fishery biologist ity and how “suitable” whose career has included positions as professor at research universities including Iowa State and habitat is for a given Cornell University, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s species and life stage fisheries research facility in Bozeman, MT, and science under varying conofficer for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie ditions. The models Region. He was inducted into the National Fish Culture can then predict what Hall of Fame in 2008. changes in available


Winter 2018 • High Country Angler






Reach Fly-Fishing community



High Country Angler • Winter 2018


DENVER JANUARY 5, 6 & 7, 2018 Free Parking!


Fly Fishing is NOT part of the show


The International Fly Fishing Film Festival world premier. One night only, Friday, January 5 at 6:30. Tickets are $15 at the door or $10 in advance or with a paid Fly Fishing Show admission for that day. See for more details.

Winter 2018 • High Country Angler


Need a Break From the In-Laws? Go Fish.


High Country Angler • Winter 2018

Profile for High Country Angler

High Country Angler | Winter 2018  

High Country Angler | Winter 2018