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Profiles in Conservation by Walt Gasson

The Natural

Rocky Mountain Arsenal

by Landon Mayer

by Brian LaRue

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Spend your time fiddling with flies, not with software.

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WINTER 2021 VOLUME 18 • ISSUE 1

MAGAZINE CONTENTS 08

THE NATURAL

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DIGITAL RENDEZVOUS: RECOGNIZING OUR CHAPTERS AND VOLUNTEERS

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22

26

28

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BY LANDON MAYER BY DAVID NICKUM

GET PIKE AT ROCKY MOUNTAIN ARSENAL BY BRIAN LARUE

RESPONSIBLE OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT BY BARB SHEEDLO

STREAM GIRLS EARN THEIR BADGES BY GEOFF ELLIOTT

SUN AND ICE IN NOVEMBER BY HAYDEN MELLSOP

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR CATCH WITHOUT HURTING THE FISH BY PETER STITCHER

RIO GRANDE CUTTHROAT RESTORATION ON SAND CREEK BY KEVIN TERRY

ANTERO RESERVOIR’S MARVELOUS DRAUGHT OF FISHES BY JAMES W. WHITE

THE OLD BECOMES NEW AGAIN BY JOEL EVANS

RIO ELITE GOLD REVIEW BY BRIAN LARUE

PROFILES IN CONSERVATION: FREESTONE AQUATICS BY WALT GASSON

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HCA Staff P U B LISHER S

J ac k Tallo n & Frank M ar tin

C O NTENT C ONSU LTANT L ando n M ayer

EDITO R IAL

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

ADV ER TISING

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

DESIG N

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

P HOTO G RAP HY

Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond

STAF F WRITER S

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

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

ON THE COVER: Photo by Landon Mayer

TOC PHOTO: Landon Mayer

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The N 8

High Country Angler • Winter 2021

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Natural by Landon Mayer


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ate fall through winter is a wonderful time for anglers to enjoy an opportunity for solitude with the cold days, clear water, and slowermoving targets. The trout are easier to see, but they are also lethargic and not willing to chase a small midge or baetis, so the wise angler has to fool them. This calls for smaller tippets like Scientific Anglers Absolute 6-7x Fluorocarbon, and even flies down to size #26 in some cases. The biggest change you can make is to turn up the heat in the cold water game by delivering a more natural rig. Accomplish this by replacing anything that may appear unnatural to the trout—like split shot and indicator—and rely on the weight of the fly and the trout’s feeding behavior or movement to dictate when to set the hook. The following tips are rigging setups I have used over the years to crack the cold season code for success.

you have that the fish will commit. To accomplish this, I teach a trick that I learned from one of my mentors, John Barr, to fire the dry fly 1-2 feet above the rising trout, forcing it to react. This is especially effective during low water conditions in late fall-winter when the river’s edge is slow moving and will not allow a long drift. If you really want to sweeten the pot, place a dropper midge pupa in an emerging state below, to allow the trout to feed without even having to break the surface. The trick to this setup is to think short, not just in the distance above the trout for a fast reaction, but also to minimize the distance below the dry with your dropper. This keeps your fly within the trout’s viewing window. Remember the closer the trout is to the water’s surface, the narrower and shorter the fish’s viewing lane is. I usually start with a#18-24 tube midge with a gill tuft 6-12 inches below a Griffiths Gnat or Matt’s Midge. Then if I need to extend, I go with the HopConnection from the Top per, Copper, Dropper setup from John Barr, but with I am a firm believer that the less time you allow a a small fly twist. The second trailing dropper is a tungtrout to investigate your dry fly, the better the chance sten tube midge to match the midge pupa food supply

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closer to the river bottom. This will give you a shot at the fish near the surface and any hidden targets or shadows below.

Materialistic Weight It is amazing how many materials we have that benefit midge fly design. From hooks to 30d silk to micro beads. When flies are tied down to sizes 26 xs, plastic beads and 1.5-2.0 brass and tungsten beads are the way to go. Not only will the small diameter match the diameter of the midge, it will help it look natural. The weight of the bead will replace the split shot and become the lead fly, or when needed, the anchor bug. It is amazing how fast you can sink your rig with tungsten beads! If I am fishing a shallow riffle that drops into a deep run or has a depression in the middle of the river, I will use a plastic or brass bead to achieve depth while preventing a snag on the river bottom, because it has a slower sink rate. If I decide to then fish the deepest part of the bucket, or the tail out of the run, I can switch to a tungsten bead midge trailing behind a brass bead imitation. This takes it to the lower water column and delivers to trout that are sulking deep in the run. Manipulating flies with this bead design not only allow you to control depth, you can deliver different colors, flies with or without wings and gill tuft, and most importantly, a variety of sizes while still remaining a natural presentation to selective trout.

Land Like a Feather For the low water situations, or calm sections of river, fish are pushed to the edge, and you want to try and avoid hard landings with any nymphs rigs. This will not only spook a fish, it could spook a pod of trout that are known to hold or stage in deep holes. Standard large indicators or heavy flies can be the culprit. Instead, think of a way to indicate softly from material with no noise, such as the New Zealand Strike Indicator system with the ability to cut and adjust the wool, or my personal favorite, foam tab indicators with the plastic shell removed. If you double up with one tab cut in half to make two stick-on indicators, you can use one to track the movement of the flies while the other stays in place, www.HCAezine.com

and they both move when you detect a strike. It is also an awesome tracking device for when you are visually focused on the trout and you simply want to know when the rig will arrive in the trout’s feeding lane. This is the best way to use your vision to keep a peripheral view of the drift, so you line up the delivery just like a golfer on the putting green. Remember that in the cold season, every fish counts, and you will become better angler by challenging these slow moving targets in clear runs. By applying these tips this winter, not only will you have more successful days, you will become a more accurate angler and in other seasons be able to line up any shot. I wish you all success on and off the water this winter!

About The Author Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado guide and author of several books. His newest books, The Hunt for Giant Trout, and Sight Fishing for Trout (Second Edition) can be purchased on his website, at www.landonmayerflyfishing.com. His newest video, Master the Short Game, by Headwater Media, can be purchased at www.mastertheshortgame.com. You can follow Landon on Instagram at @ landonmayerflyfishing.

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FROM THE COLORADO TU PRESIDENT • DAVID NICKUM

Digital Rendezvous: Recognizing Our Chapters and Volunteers

RENDEZVOUS Registration for the full conference is FREE!

E

arlier this Trout communities, to engagement people of Live sessions will autumn, be heldColorado on Zoom. Weeknight sessions will startwith at 7pm each Unlimited held our first “Digital color in conservation, to advancing watershed evening with some sessions starting at 8pm. The weekend session will be held Rendezvous” – converting the usual health under the Colorado Water Plan. A during the day. All live sessions be recorded and on available viewing weekend grassroots conference intowill a twospecial session “Coloradofor Fisheries: Today afterwards, sign with up toworkshops make sure you're to access the liveCPW andDirector week onlinesoevent across andable Tomorrow” also featured will include, but not limited to: presentations on recorded Session multiple content. evenings with TUerstopics and partners Dan Prenzlow along with able to participate safely from across the native trout, Gold Medal fisheries, and the state – andgrassroots beyond. The Rendezvousadvocacy implications of climate change. If you missed Effective conservation kicked off with CTU President Matt Moskal the Rendezvous – or simply want to go back Climate change and Colorado's trout sharing an update on the “State of CTU,” to revisit some of the sessions – they were Digital workshops engagement communications included on and a wide range of all recorded and can be seen on our CTU Restoring streams impacted important topics from youth educationby in abandoned our YouTubemines channel.

Native trout restoration in Colorado Youth Education through the Stream of Engagement Colorado Gold: Protecting and expanding Gold Medal Waters and more!

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This conference is open to everyone, and we welcome anyone who is interested in learning about Colorado Trout Unlimited and the great work that is High Country Angler • Winter 2021 www.HCAezine.com happening across the state to conserve, protect, and restore our coldwater


Watch the full 2020 Digital Rendezvous Sessions

Outstanding Volunteers Stephen Brant for his leadership in developing cooperative relationships, sound science, and projects to protect and improve stream health in South Boulder Creek through its Stream Management Plan. Allyn Kratz for his dedicated efforts in conserving and protecting Bear Creek and educating the community and state about its unique population of Greenback cutthroat trout.

a watershed challenges.

facing

major

climate

San Luis Valley Chapter for their leadership in the Sand Creek Reclamation Project to begin restoration of the Rio Grande Cutthroat trout to a stronghold watershed that can support native trout for generations to come.

Exemplary Youth Education

Gunnison Gorge Anglers and Pikes Mickey McGuire for his leadership Peak Chapter for their collaborative in restructuring the Rocky Mountain efforts in piloting chapter-led STREAM Flycasters board to instill values of Girls programs to bring an outdoor leadership development, committees, watershed experience for Girl Scouts that and succession. His leadership has employs STEM education plus recreation empowered others to grow and be and arts to explore a local stream. successful in the organization. Tom Palka for his tireless work in maintaining creative and effective communication and engagement with Collegiate Peaks chapter membership.

Exemplary Project Dolores River Anglers for their vision and leadership in developing The Upper Dolores Stream Protection Working Group, a model for science-based, collaborative conservation efforts in

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The John Connolly Outstanding Chapter Communications Award

St. Vrain Anglers for their newly redesigned website, strong social media, speaker series, and email communications, as well as local partnerships to broaden community outreach.

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conservation leadership in the St. Vrain watershed. Dale Smith for his years of service and leadership in establishing the Dolores River Anglers chapter as a strong TU presence in Southwest Colorado, and his work in engaging other volunteer leaders to carry it forward. Denver TU volunteers John Davenport and Ronnie Crawford collected water quality sampling data as part of the chapter’s citizen science work on the South Platte River – one piece of the many in their stewardship of the South Platte for which they were recognized as CTU’s 2020 Exemplary Chapter.

Exemplary Chapter

In addition to our CTU Awards, the Silver Trout Foundation presented its annual Silver Trout Awards recognizing lifetime contributions to coldwater conservation in Colorado. The 2020 Silver Trout honorees were:

Denver Trout Unlimited for their Paula Fothergill was outstanding efforts in restoring habitat, honored for her longcitizen science, raising funds and time efforts as an engaging the community through their instructor, organizer, Carp Slam event, educating local youth, and mentor, helping and overall raising the support for and TU chapters and quality of their home waters on the allies to engage more women with fly South Platte River through the Denver fishing and conservation. metro area. Buck Skillen  was recognized for his many years of volunteer leadership in the Durango area, including his work to promote protection of the Hermosa Barbara Luneau  for her dedicated and Creek watershed, and of effective efforts to build programs and the rediscovered San Juan deliver “Stream of Engagement” youth lineage cutthroat trout. education from the annual youth camp to STREAM Girls, as well as her local

Distinguished Service Awards

M

any thanks to our award recipients, to all those who contributed to a successful Digital Rendezvous, and to the many other volunteers across Colorado who give so much of themselves to advance coldwater conservation statewide. Here’s to continued success and a return to more normalcy in 2021! 16

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

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

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Get PIKE at Rocky Mountain Arsenal by Brian La Rue


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t can be hard to escape the responsibilities and headaches of everyday life. Whether you have bills to pay, important appointments or dates on the honey-do, calendar or project deadlines at the job, it’s nice to know you really don’t have to go far to wet a line and clear your head. Heck, you might even catch a new species or something different. Local ponds provide this close-to-home escape, and spots like the Rocky Mountain Arsenal come into play with something different, like pike. Your close-to-home water my surprise you. For me, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal is literally just down Highway 76. From Brighton to Commerce City, I can be at the water’s edge in than 20 minutes. It is home to numerous species, but most tackle the two lake’s catfish and bass. Then, there is the cluster of anglers that target pike religiously out there. Before we dive in for the fishing, you must understand where the entire “arsenal” name/idea came from. The history is quite interesting and makes for a great conservation story if you have not already heard it. Back in the day, Native Americans hunted bison and grew numerous crops on the land. Then came the settlers who raised cattle and numerous crops, as well. But, In the 1940s with World War II and Pearl Harbor, the fertile area was quickly transformed into a chemical weapons manufacturing facility called the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. As the war came to an end, the area was also used to develop agriculture chemicals by the Shell Chemical Corp. It was also used for coldwar weapon production and demilitarization. It was not until the early 1980s, that both the Army and Shell began an extensive environmental cleanup. The transition to a wildlife refuge was well underway as nesting bald eagles brought management interests from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This “discovery” also prompted Congress to designate the site as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1992. Cleanup efforts continued and were completed in 2010—offering some 15,000 acres—making it one of the largest urban refuges in the country. The refuge is home to 10 miles of hiking trails, 330 species of animals, and a unique, drive-thru road which will yield easy sightings of deer, bison, eagles and more. You’ll find a visitor’s center with all the facts, history, and exhibits, but it’s the refuge’s two lakes that offer the fishing, so let’s get on with it! The main lake is called Lake Ladora. At nearly 55

acres, one can walk around the entire lake with help from a pair of waders at one point. The lake is only a little over 17.6 feet deep at most, and can be waded from the shallower spots easily. I’ve seen a few wader-clad guys after Memorial Day for wading (fishing typically opens early May, but is closed to wading to protect spawning fish) out near the middle. You can get away from the shoreline on most of the water to haul a fly and avoid non-wading anglers. About 1/3 of the lake is along a rocky shoreline/ramp which drops off into the deep quickly, and of course those are the most productive spots in my experience. Northern pike, bluegill, and largemouth bass make up most of the action on Ladora. As you might imagine, the pike attract the most anglers. On any given limited open day (only open 3 days a week), 15 guys will be out there. Whether you target pike with floating line, a sink tip or full-sink line, it of course all depends on the water temperature and time of year. Since the lake isn’t very deep, space to cast is the biggest factor, and then your fly selection. Pike are not too picky, but be sure you either have something big and flashy, like a red and white or white and chartreuse streamer, or crawdad patterns; comb the bottom for those times when water temperatures are high. Baby bass or bluegill imitations will produce as well, so really any kind of largemouth imitations will do the job. If they are picky on the day you try your luck, go a little smaller with a smaller-profiled streamer, so they can’t make as quick as a decision. I like an 8-weight out there, as the pike often run 20 to 32 inches. Get to the refuge gate before it opens, drive to the lake/pay station (in 2020 it was $3 per angler per day from June 1 to Nov. 30), and then make the dash to claim a spot. If you fish off the rocks (mostly guys with baitcasters and spinning rods—but most productive), stick with a floating line so you can pull off the roll cast as the backcast space is not worth trying to haul anything more than 25 yards of line. Then you have the onlookers that stand right behind you on the trail—halting any chance of a cast. If you can pull off a little diagonal cast, you can probably throw a little better slightly perpendicular to the shoreline. I have been out in summer when the water was warm and fishing was only good on the bottom with sinking line or at least intermediate line, and the bite turned off by 10 AM. Go in November with nasty weather days, or early in the year at open-


ing (May) and they will hit streamers like they haven’t eaten in months. Largemouth and bluegill add fun into the mix when the pike aren’t biting. Numerous times while fishing a crawdad imitation, you might get bass or pike depending where you cast. The bluegill will hit small nymphs to help new fly fishers get bit, or for a bored pike angler to have a little fun. The other lake can be a bit of a circus. Lake Mary has solid cats, nice-sized largemouth, crappie, perch and tons of bluegill in it. There isn’t much shoreline to fish from, but boardwalks—thus the circus—offer access. Folks will be fishing hot dogs for 15-pound cats here. A well-placed, 4-inch worm, or leech imitations along the reeds will entice 3-pound largemouth, but you’d better practice your bow & arrow or flip cast to avoid hooking a half-naked kid running around unsupervised or fish on the colder days. Stick to the big lake unless you have no interest in pike and your first one on the 8.4-acre pond in the morning. Lastly, to sum it all up, the fishing season starts in early May, but wading is only allowed after Memorial Day and the season runs through November. It will

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cost you $3 for the day permit aside from a CO fishing license, and fishing is only allowed Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Get there early with the opening of the refuge itself, and drive to the lake. You will have company, so get out early or fish late and if there’s a bit of weather, that might scare some of the competition off. Good luck, and if you don’t get to the Arsenal, find your own backyard pond or lake and have some fun.

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

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A Step Forward for Responsible Oil and Gas Development Colorado Adopts New Rules With Significant Protections For Fish And Wildlife by Barb Sheedlo

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T

he Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) has completed a historic rulemaking to amend its rules for permitting oil and gas locations in Colorado. This rulemaking was required by Colorado Senate Bill 19-181, which among other major reforms expanded the agency’s mission to safeguard wildlife and its habitat against potential adverse impacts of oil and gas development. SB 181 builds on wildlife legislation passed in 2007 and provided a once-in-a-decade opportunity to ensure stronger protections for wildlife and wildlife habitat, including cold-water fisheries, streams and riparian zones across Colorado. The COGCC process for changes to its wildlife rules – called the 1200 series – was substantial and included significant opportunity for stakeholder input, beginning in November 2019 and concluding a year later. The rulemaking hearings spanned 181 hours of presentations, witness testimony and deliberations conducted entirely over Zoom. Colorado Trout Unlimited joined as a formal party to the hearings as part of a coalition with aligned sportsperson groups, including Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, National Wildlife Federation and Colorado Wildlife Federation. CTU members provided expert witness testimony at the hearings, wrote letters to publications, and sent in over 500 written comments to the Commission in support of additional protections for cold-water fisheries. CTU stakeholder input advocated for expanded “no www.HCAezine.com

drill” buffer zones and spill protection measures around high priority aquatic habitat, including Gold Medal and native cutthroat trout streams. This input, aligned with voices from other conservation or-

ganizations, helped to inform the Commission’s rulemaking, resulting in significantly improved protections for valuable fisheries and aquatic habitats.

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On November 23rd, the Commission unanimously voted to adopt revisions to its rules to implement the new mission set out in SB 19-181, including the following changes to its 1200 Series for wildlife protection: 500’ buffers around important aquatic habitats • 500 foot No Surface Occupancy (NSO) buffers for all aquatic High Priority Habitat (HPH) streams identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, including designated cutthroat trout habitat, Gold Medal streams, sportfish management waters, and native species conservation waters. Nearly all of Colorado’s trout habitats will enjoy this important protection. • Provides stronger standards and covers much more land than prior rules: o Prior rules directed operators to avoid 586,605 acres around cutthroat and Gold Medal waters to extent technically and economically feasible with 300’ buffers. o New 500’ buffer on increased number of streams applies to 6,340,918 acres- 980% more than prior rules- and prohibits exceptions unless the operator demonstrates it will protect the habitat.

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Spill prevention measures within 1000’ of aquatic high priority habitats • Spill prevention measures will be required for any new pad within 1000’ of the aquatic High Priority Habitat streams referenced above, including: o Containing fluids in tanks instead of pits; o Constructing lined berms around tanks; and o Maintaining spill response equipment onsite. • Measures such as these were required in prior rules only to protect drinking water sources (i.e., municipal water intakes); now being used to protect our valuable fisheries as well. Boring beneath aquatic HPH streams • Operators will be required to bore beneath streams in aquatic HPH areas rather than trenching across it, avoiding impacts to fish habitat. Big Game protections: • For the first time ever, operators will be required Fto ULLconsult with CPW O C for locations proposed in migration corridors for LOR elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep and pronghorn. • Operators must prepare Wildlife Mitigation Plans when drilling in migration corridors, including plans to minimize impact on wildlife and habitat and plans to offset adverse impacts through mitigation projects or fees. CTU is grateful to the experts who provided testimony to the process – including Dennis Buechler, Cory Fisher and Dr. Ashley Rust – as well as the many volunteer advocates who weighed in with public comment throughout the process. We also thank Bob Randall with Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLC, whose skilled and effective legal representation through the rulemaking process was instrumental to our coalition’s success.

About The Author Barb Sheedlo is the Chair of Colorado TU’s Bull Moose (Advocacy) Committee and is a retired geologist who worked in the oil and gas industry. www.HCAezine.com

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STREAM GIRLS EARN THEIR BADGES by Geoff Elliott,

CTU Youth Education Coordinator

S

TREAM Girls is a watershed education program created through a partnership between Girls Scouts of USA and Trout Unlimited, with the goal of engaging elementary and middle school girls in STEM-based exploration. In addition to STREAM Girls getting its name from the focus on watersheds, STREAM also stands for Science, Technology, Recreation, Engineering, Art, and Math. The program is divided into eight activities highlighting each of these subjects. Girls learn about stream flow

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measurements, aquatic macroinvertebrate life, riparian habitats, and fly fishing, throughout the program. Through inquiry-based learning, Girl Scouts get to know their local watersheds, develop new outdoor skills, and increase their understanding of real work applications of STEM. After a successful year of hosting 6 STREAM Girls events in 2019, Colorado Trout Unlimited was excited to carry the momentum into 2020 with six more scheduled programs. Unfortunately, 2020 plans were stifled by the COVID-19 global pandemic. With public health orders restricting group size and concerns surrounding shared gear utilized during in-person programming, CTU shifted STREAM Girls to a virtual platform. To facilitate this transition, CTU staff and volunteers created several videos and sourced additional existing educational resources to support the STREAM Girls activities. Over the course of fall, CTU hosted STREAM Girls programming through four virtual/self-guided events with the support of local Trout Unlimited chapters. The four STREAM Girls programs engaged 59 girl scouts from across Colorado. Beyond the Girl Scouts who received STREAM Girls patches, the virtual programming engaged entire families in getting outdoors to explore and learn about local watersheds. To understand the efficacy and impact of the virtual STREAM Girls program, CTU asked Girls Scouts and their parents to complete a post-program survey. Colorado Trout Unlimited was pleased to have 100% of respondents note increased knowledge of their local watersheds, heightened interest in STEM-subjects, activities, and careers, desire to further develop fishing skills, and recommendation of the program to other girl scouts. Participants provided additional www.HCAezine.com


A big THANK YOU goes out to Girls Scouts of Colorado, Pikes Peak Chapter, St. Vrain Anglers, Rocky Mountain Flycasters, Gunnison Gorge Anglers, Grand Valley Anglers, and all of the volunteers who helped support these events! Additionally, we would like to acknowledge Orvis, New Jersey Audubon, The Stroud Water Research Center, Arizona Department of Water Quality, and Arizona Game and Fish for allowing Colorado Trout Unlimited to use educational videos for STREAM Girls. Colorado TU was the first to pilot and host virtual/ self-guided STREAM Girls events across the country. CTU is proud to have shared our success and lessons learned with Trout Unlimited staff and volunteers across the country. We look forward to further developing these resources to help support STREAM Girls events in the future!

About The Author STREAM GIRL LEARNS TO TIE FLIES positive feedback, which included:

Geoff Elliot is the Youth Education Coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited, based out of Glen Haven.

• “This is a great program to introduce girls to fly-fishing and knowledge of local streams. It was a well-thought out, self-guided program that covered a great deal of information. We had a fun time doing all of the steps.” • “It is a wonderful break from our overwhelmingly electronic world! I thought it was a great way to introduce different aspects of stream science so that have it in their head as they are thinking about future endeavors.” • “It is a great activity to get outside and bond/ enjoy the time with your girl.” • “A great way to get involved with your Girl Scout and learn as a family with specific detailed tasks to help you learn about rivers, fly fishing, etc.” • “It was really fun and would like to do it again in person. All the activities were awesome!” www.HCAezine.com

STREAM GIRL AND FATHER IDENTIFY MACROINVERTEBRATES Winter 2021 • High Country Angler

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A GUIDE’S LIFE

BY HAYDEN MELLSOP

Sun and Ice in November

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ollowing a fifteen-degree night in a twenty-degree sleeping bag, I wake to a frozen five-gallon water jug, and the realization that I may have chosen the coldest place to camp in the entire valley. Positioned close to the creek, the camper also sits in the shade of the low ground, in the lee of snow-covered slopes with a northerly aspect. Kicking my water jug frees up enough liquid to brew a cup of tea. Like my dog on the living room rug on a winter’s day, I position myself in anticipation of where the sun will first reach, watching as the golden light fingers 28

High Country Angler • Winter 2021

slowly toward me. After a breakfast burrito that leaves rivulets of congealed bacon grease on my fingers, I take to the trail downstream. The creek bears all the hallmarks of a low water year—threadbare save for the occasional deeper pool; a layer of reddish silt covers the bed, swept clean only where seams of current are concentrated. Where not iced along its shallow reaches, the water flows gin-clear, and I stop from time to time to spot fish, to reassure myself they haven’t retreated for the season into the deep pools and cut banks. They seem few and

far between, but seeing one or two gives me hope that my day may be fruitful. The fish I do see hold station under thin ice shelves that have formed overnight. My hope is that, as the sun rises higher and the day warms, the ice will disappear. The canyon narrows the further down I hike, and trees grow heavy to the water’s edge. Although the trail shows ample sign of being well-used—ATV and bike tracks, boot and hoof prints—I encounter nobody. From the south a small stream, little more than a trickle, is frozen in place, the boulders over which it flows cased in ice. www.HCAezine.com


Many places down here will not see direct sunlight for the next several months. I come upon a clearing where a small meadow opens out, and the transition from dark to bright, the sharp reflection of light off one boulder in particular brings with it the onset of a migraine. The angry amoeba behind my eyeballs grows bigger and brighter and more jagged, morphing its shape and color. I lie down next to the stream. Using my pack as a pillow, I slip into a half-doze as the amoeba does its thing. Van Gogh drove himself crazy, not to mention half blind, trying to paint the sun, and I wonder at the effect on my state of mind if I made it my life’s mission to try and accurately paint in words the sound and soothing of gently running water.

The worst of the headache passes, and I begin to fish my way back upstream. I catch a couple of lovely brook trout, including one, large for the stream, with a gaping mouth black as night on the inside of its jaws. I work one pool for a good half hour, trying to tempt a couple of sighted fish with a variety of flies. The closest I come is when one half-heartedly follows a hopper for a few feet, then turns back to its station. I wave the white flag after losing two flies into the same overhanging branch in consecutive casts. I catch the day’s last fish in the aerated pool in a pour over at the base of some kind of old dam or diversion, a small cutthroat that, quick as a flash, darts from the depths,

engulfs the fly, and dives deep again, hooking itself. Shadows already lengthening upon my return, I decide to relocate camp to higher ground, further from the sound of the creek, but to a place where I calculate the sun will reach me earlier, and linger longer. The effort is worth it; my fly rod miraculously survives being shut in the tailgate of my truck, and I sit in the last of the day’s light among the watchful eyes of a small glade of aspens, long since stripped bare for the coming winter. Whiskey warms me, and I reflect that November might mean cold nights and frozen water jugs, but also deserted campsites, and solitary streams.

Hayden Mellsop Fly ďŹ shing guide. Real Estate guide.

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

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Recreation, residential, retirement, investment. 5IFEJĂľFSFODFCFUXFFOMPPLJOHGPSZPVSTQFDJBMQMBDFBOEmOEJOHJU 1JOPO3FBM&TUBUF(SPVQ4BMJEB 0ĂśDF]$FMM XXX)PNF8BUFSTDPN INFMMTPQ!QJOPOSFBMFTUBUFDPN

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How to Photograph Your Catch Without Hurting the Fish

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e take pictures of the fish we catch because we want to share the moment with our family and brag to our fishing buddies. Instagram and Facebook, however, are regrettably full of photos of exhausted fish hauled limply onto the shore, or held in the vise-like grip of grinning, oblivious anglers. The tragedy of these photos is that the

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High Country Angler • Winter 2021

fish we are trying to capture in these photos will more often than not die due to their rough handling. I’m not suggesting that we stop taking pictures of the fish we catch, only that we do so in a way that keeps the trout wet, healthy, and gives us the chance to catch these fish again after they’ve grown a couple more inches!

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Keep em’ Wet Until Showtime As soon as you set the hook in a fish, they crank the energy dial from 0 to 100 and their fight or flight instinct kicks into overdrive. When you finally lead the conquered fish into your net, it is exhausted and in a vulnerable place. Our first priority before reaching for the camera needs to be to unhook the fish and help it to recover. Always wet your hands before handling the fish so as not to scrape away their protective slime coat. While the fish is still submerged in your net, cradle it with one hand around its midsection and side, and slowly rotate it so that its belly is facing the air. This position will often temporarily “calm” the fish so that the hook can be removed without an unnecessary struggle. Once the hook has been removed and the trout returned to the water within the basket of your net, it is time to get your smartphone ready to snap your picture.

Time to Get it Right with the Camera Timer

Trout aren’t always willing participants in our fishy photoshoots, and oftentimes we’re going to need a little time to line up our photo. For a handsfree option that will allow you to get that perfectly framed shot without unduly stressing the fish, I recommend using the Camera Timer function on your smartphone’s camera app. www.HCAezine.com

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HERE IS HOW YOU GET YOUR PERFECT PICTURE WITHOUT HARMING THE FISH:

1. Open the Camera App on your smartphone. 2. Select Photo on your camera app. 3. Select the  Timer Icon  (highlighted in yellow on the left side of the image above). 4. Choose the 10 Second Countdown. 5. Select the  Reverse Camera Icon  (highlighted in yellow on the right side of the image above) so that you can line yourself up in the frame and view the countdown. 6. Prop your phone up next to the river so that the screen is facing you (you should see yourself on the screen if the Reverse Camera Icon is indeed activated). 7. Touch the white Camera Shutter Button to start the 10-second countdown. 32

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8. Cradle the fish with your hands while it is still in the net and in the water between you and the phone. 1. One hand should wrap under the belly of the trout and below the pectoral fins or “Flippers”, while the other hand should cradle the tail between the anal and caudal (tail) fins. 2. With just a light resting pressure, the trout will relax into your hands during the tensecond count allowing you to easily raise it from the water in time for a quick shot. 9. Lift the fish into the frame 2-3 seconds before the countdown ends and the photo is taken. 10. PRO TIP - Holding an 8” trout close to the camera will make it look like a HOG and will help to support your fish stories www.HCAezine.com


While you are still bound to capture a few fish-flops, your catch will spend its time between takes recovering in the water instead of flogging itself or choking on the shore. Once you’ve taken your photo, simply lower the fish back into the water until it kicks itself out of your hand and into the depth, where it will be waiting to battle you another day! A big thank you and shout out to Tommy Brown (Instagram handle: itstwiggles) for permission to use his selfiefish-shots. All of the fish in your pics look so wet and happy! Keep em’ wet and keep your flies on the water!

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

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by Kevin Terry

High Country Angler • Winter 2021

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Rio Grande Cutthroat Restoration on Sand Creek

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hen I first heard about Sand Creek, I was in my first year of my first real job as a fisheries biologist. I was hired to manage the fisheries program for the Jicarilla Apache Nation in northern New Mexico, and the tribe is a signatory to the range-wide conservation agreement for Rio Grande cutthroat trout. I was at my first annual meeting of the group, and it was my first introduction to Fred Bunch of the Great Sand Dunes, and John Alves, who at that time was the fish biologist in the Rio Grande for Colorado Parks and Wildlife ( CDOW back then). That was 15 years ago. That’s right, the Sand Creek reintroduction project has been in the works for over 15 years! When I first saw Sand Creek from the top of Music Pass, I knew instantly that it would occupy a space in my heart for the rest of my life. Why, you might ask, but to understand, you need to stand in that very spot too, as there are no words. This was 2014, a full 9 years after I had first learned of the effort to bring back Rio Grande cutthroat to Sand Creek, and the beginning of year 2 with my job at Trout Unlimited as the Rio Grande Basin Project Manager in the San Luis Valley. I was there as part of a team of researchers alongside Andrew Todd and Ben McGee of the USGS, and our task was to characterize the physical and biological attributes of the watershed through the lens of a fisher-

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ies reclamation scope. As we stood there, just before our first of many nights spent in the watershed over the next 5 years, I was overwhelmed with our task but incredibly motivated that such a thing might actually be possible in a place as pristine and intact as Sand Creek. The first few trips were daunting, the watershed huge and intimidating. But we got to work and slowly chipped away at the tasks. We outfitted streams and tributaries with temperature and intermittency loggers, battling through the lush healthy riparian jungle and mosquito swarms that could carry a baby away. We explored tributaries in near vertical climbs to map the perennial sections, and determine if fish were present. We used electrofishing and environmental DNA sampling to determine fish species distributions. We captured fish from the lakes and streams and sent in tissue samples for genetics testing. Through the process our team grew, adding Dewane Mosher, the newly hired biologist from Great Sand Dunes National Park and getting staff support from CPW for mapping the lake bathymetry, amongst other tasks. Each year we became more familiar with the lay of the land, finally wrapping our minds around the expansive watershed and gaining confidence in the physical space. The data was adding to our confidence on the biological side of things, too. We learned that

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most of the tributaries were unoccupied by fish, but instead they contributed clean, super cold water, that was even too cold for successful cutthroat reproduction and recruitment. That meant we didn’t have to treat most of the tribs with rotenone, securing source populations of aquatic invertebrates to recolonize Sand Creek. This information demonstrates the watersheds resiliency in the face of climate change. Ultimately, this became a driving factor for why Sand Creek is so well suited for re-introduction. Even though the tributaries were found to be too cold, the mainstem was just right as goldilocks would say, benefitting from solar thermal gain at the two lakes in the uppermost sections of the watershed at 12,000 feet in elevation. These lakes are very productive, and our genetics work showed that fish could also reproduce successfully in them. Successful reproduction in lakes is very rare throughout the range of the species, and again added positively to the project’s potential. In fact, the information was so promising, that even before the study was fully complete, the Sand Creek project elevated to the top of the list for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the stage was set for a monumental undertaking. In 2018, our study complete, and the details of a treatment plan in the works, the decision was made to attempt to treat the upper portion of Sand Creek in the fall of 2019. Then we got snow, lots and lots of snow, a winter like we hadn’t seen for a long while. www.HCAezine.com

This 30-year event was a challenge to say the least, and the lakes didn’t even ice-out until July. A valiant and sincere effort was taken up to try to get it done anyway, but it was just not in the cards in 2019, and the decision was made to postpone. In 2020 the pressure was on. These projects take so much time and effort (sweat and $$$$$) and we all felt an urgency to get this phase done. CPW, NPS, and TU staff joined up for most of the summer to prepare. We cut trails and flagged routes, identifying springs and seeps. We installed a gauge system and monitored stream flows. Every inch of flowing water was scoured for the presence of fish, and importantly the young of year fish emerging from the gravel. Outfitter tents were installed by the Laske family, in preparation of the treatment week. The work was hard, but the team stuck it out. Finally, it was go-time, and 44 people, mostly from Colorado Parks and Wildlife journeyed into Sand Creek during the first week of September 2020. We had a challenging start, with helicopters not able to fly the first day. Plans were modified and there was no giving up. The second day we got after it, treating all of the streams above the waterfall barrier, while the helicopters got running, delivering boats and motors and barrels of Rotenone to the Lakes and base camp. Day three was a repeat of the stream treatment, and both of the lakes were treated as well. It was finally done, and all went as planned. An enormous sigh of relief rippled through the troops and we celebrated in exhaustion with a little Colorado whiskey donated Winter 2021 • High Country Angler

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by Laws Whiskey. Day 4 was clean-up and de-mobilization, helicopters buzzing around in a flurry and people gathering the gear for the years last trip out. Personally, this was the single most meaningful and important project that I have been part of in my career. I believe with all of my heart, that Sand Creek will hold this incredible native trout for centuries to come. This is for our children and their children and everyone can experience it, because it belongs to all of us. It is our public land, managed diligently by our National Park Service and the amazing men and women who serve us all in their vital work. There are too many people to thank for making this a reality. Fred Bunch has been an incredible leader, patiently waiting and guiding a slow-moving ship. Without Fred, this project would never have happened, plain and simple. Dewane Mosher has been an amazing right hand for Fred and the NPS. Dewane and his crew worked tirelessly over the years getting ready for this Project. Nic Medley the NPS fisheries biologist for the region provided incredible support, authoring the fisheries management plan for the park. John Alves, now the senior biologist for CPW, was here in the beginning, and he was here in the end too. John and his staff have always kept the door open on this huge project, and when it came down to it, they brought out every tool in the shed and then some. It was incredibly rewarding to share this with John in Sand Creek itself. Mark Seaton and the rest of the San Luis Valley TU chapter team have been incredibly supportive of the project, and I am so proud of my chapter for their unwavering support. Raising the money to hire the Laske’s outfitting services was the perfect contribution and a fitting role for good old Valley hospitality. Thanks to Colorado Trout Unlimited and their generous supporters too, for helping the chapter leverage chapter dollars to raise money online. The Laske Family went above and beyond, making things 38

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so comfortable, and serving delicious food in a rough place during Covid. There are too many CPW staff to name here, but I need to call out Kevin Rogers for his support over the years. Kevin mapped the lakes, and guided research efforts. My colleagues and friends Andrew Todd and Ben McGee did a fantastic job with the characterization study, which teed it all up. I am incredibly proud of Running Rivers too. This unique non-profit raised over $20,000 for this project! Carrie Tucker, the CPW fish bio in the SE, alongside her crew, did an incredible job co-piloting this project. Lastly, Estevan Vigil, our Rio Grande fish biologist for CPW, and his tremendous crew, have done an enormous amount of work (and suffered incomprehensible stress loads) to get this project to the finish line. Estevan inherited this huge project and I can’t imagine what was going through his mind the first time we took him into the watershed. Estevan endured with grace under pressure (my high school English teacher would appreciate this Hemingway tribute), dealing with plenty of setbacks and hoops, but he never wavered once. Estevan and his crew should be unbelievably proud. I am so grateful to the entire CPW fish Save 10% - Use Promo Code HCA1703 Offer Expires 03/31/2021

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crew. The effort they put forth in the midst of Covid, to bring 40plus people from around the entire state is simply astonishing. I am so proud of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and thankful to the amazing staff we have in this great state. Because of them, we just might be able to keep our beautiful native fish around, after all.

For More Information For more information on the Sand Creek Characterization Study, please visit this link: https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/ publication/sir20195061.

@shyanneorvis

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Antero Reservoir’s

Marvelous Draught of Fishes by James W. White

Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” When the disciples had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Simon and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. —Luke 5: 1-10

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F

or best late spring chironomid and callibaetis fishing, Spinney Mountain Reservoir has been our go-to still water. Dave Leinweber of Anglers Covey, however, said, “You oughta hit Antero. Right now it’s on fire.” “Then, it’s Antero, next trip,” I told my oft-fished-with friend, Bruce Kuster of Ft. Collins. So on Friday of memorial Weekend from the north shore of Antero, he and I put in with our Water Otter pontoon boats. Using a slip bobber technique, we each took twenty rainbows this exploratory day. Friday’s positive results convinced us to return to Antero on Saturday. And this turned out to be, not just a good day, but one outstanding—bordering on incredible, biblically “marvelous.” We launched from the Antero south side boat ramp and rowed out exactly 300 strokes. The water was glassy, the sky overcast. Anchors were dropped and rigs put into action. I dedicated one of my rods “for midges only” and the other “strictly callibaetis,” two flies per fitting. I wanted to know which setup might be the most taken. Bruce, fishing with only one fly per rig, said, “I’m going to change every second catch.” Right away, bang-bang, he caught two beautiful bows on a size 12 Hebgen callibaetis, a fly we developed fishing Montana’s Lake Hebgen. Having succeeded with the Hebgen, he next put on a dark #12 hare’s ear. It took two, bang-bang. “Okay, now how about a zug bug?” he asked without answering. It worked for two more. “Hey, man, you’re on a roll!” I sputtered. “What’s next?” “Think I’ll go with a bead head prince.’ It worked the same. “Now what?” “Maybe an egg or a San Juan worm.” During the time of Bruce’s early-on eightcount success, I managed to take only two, one on a red #14 frostbite midge and the other on a #16 Mercer’s callibaetis. “Kinda slow www.HCAezine.com

WATER OTTER READY FOR LAUNCH here,” I lamented. Bruce replied, “You had better come fish on the other side of me.” “That,” I told him, “sounds like a Jesus-line, ‘Cast your net on the right side of the boat.’” “Nay,” he let me know, “just advice from Ron Newman’s book, Fly Fishing: A Guide for Still Waters. Newman says to move if a location isn’t productive.” So I moved to Bruce’s east side, stopping en route to pick up one of his prince’s and to check my depth of bait-suspension against his. This check, it turns out, was critical. His flies were held at a depth of 11.5 foot in this 14- foot water. Mine, on the other hand, had been hanging just off the bottom, around 13 feet. (Both of our fishing depths were con-

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CHIRONOMID NATURAL

CHIRONOMID IMITATION

trolled by small, movable rubber bobber stops placed on 6-lb. monofilament. The indicator floats up and down between the stops. Depth to the bottom was shown on our Fishing Buddy fish finders). I shortened up and moved to a new nearby location. Positioned on Kuster’s “right side of the boat” [cf. John 21:6], I “let down” my baits. The zebra midge I was using no more than got in the zone but what the orange indicator went under. I lifted and was onto a scrappy rainbow. He jumped two times before submitting to my net. I measured him 17 inches and thick. Once released, I recast the midge rig for an 11.5-foot depth marinating. It was just starting to sink when the callibaetis bobber disappeared. It dropped for a second only, for this fish shot right to the surface and started pulling the indicator behind him. Dorsal fin exposed, he created a shark-like wake going away. Bobber on the surface, fly line and backing following, he went out—way out. Then he slowed and, at great distance, turned to fight doggedly. When he was finally in, I held an 18-inch beauty in my net. “These fish are so healthy,” I said to Bruce, “it’s unreal.” “Got that right,” he let me know. I reported too that the just-taken bows had small heads, large bodies, were healthy, dorsal to belly, and broad in the shoulders. Both trout were bright silver, undamaged, and hard to bring in. “Hot, hot, hot!” Bruce next changed flies to a self-tied black callibaetis, and, soon, had a take and hook up. This fish jumped not once but four times, then came off. “Darnitall,” he fumed. “I think I’m netting only one fish in four takes. I either miss ‘em or they spit it quickly or they some42

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CALLIBAETIS NATURAL

CALLIBAETIS NATURAL

how work free.” In fact, quite a few fish did break us off. Our 5x tippet was seemingly too light. Mostly, though, we missed fish because we were too slow setting the hook, being occupied changing the flies on an out-of-the-water rig. “One rod could be enough,” I suggested. “Maybe,” he allowed, “but right now I’ve got another on the second rig.” He did. Amazingly enough, by keeping one rod’s cork handle clamped in his teeth, Bruce managed, to get both fish in. Two beauties. It was a “single double.” “Remember,” I said, “the time on Spinney when we had a double-double?” “I do,” he said. “That was a rodeo.” This day, when I got my first single double, I shouted, “Join me!” And he did. So, we had a “triple,” so to speak. I managed to net both fish. They were identical—17 inches. One had taken a #16 Mercer’s callibaetis and the other a #18 Kaufmann zebra midge. Through the day, Kuster and I doubled maybe twenty times, but not always netting every fish. With my next and only-other single double of the day, I only managed to hold one. We fished on, breaking only for on-board lunch and bladder tending, description of which requires TMI (Too Much Information) for non-curious readers. All along, the sky threatened to open up with sunshine, but, most unusual for Colorado, it never did. What else I can tell about this day is most other fisherfolk in float tubes and pontoon boats trolled about. We, on the other hand, stayed in place, letting the fish find us, flies moved only by wave action and underwater currents. Late in the morning, two guys and a woman www.HCAezine.com


chugged by in a large party boat. It had giant aluminum pontoons, a blue canopy-on-theready, and a charcoal grill on board. As they passed, I saw them watch Bruce fighting a fish. One guy on the craft spoke out to me, “Are you fishing flies?” “Sure enough,” I replied. “Which fly?” “A callibaetis.” “Like in the Robert Redford movie?” the woman asked. That stopped me. “Not quite. A nymph, a fly that goes under the water.” “Oh,” came the acknowledgement. Nothing more. They chugged on. “That was interesting,” I finally commented. “Give ‘em the benefit of the doubt,” Kuster opined: “They thought your orange indicator was a dry fly.” Yes, of course. Now waiting for that orange float to drop, I remembered to consider my rig experiment of the day: Would the callibaetis or the chironomid rod be more productive? In general, I decided, the takes per rod were about even. But then an imbalance occurred. I began to miss take after take on the midge rod. Only the baetis rig was succeeding. Finally, though, the midge rod indicator disappeared in earnest. I lifted and felt that wonderful “solid something” on the other end. “It’s a better one,” I announced. The fish, first of all, dived deep and then started out on a long run, taking me well into the backing. Could he be fowl hooked in the tail? Possibly. Eventually strong runner turned and passed www.HCAezine.com

under my pontoons. As he did, I saw that he held a fly in his chops. Then came an abrupt reverse and the showing of a yellow flash. I shouted, “I have a brown!” “Take him slow,” Bruce called out. I would have, but he went screaming out again, stronger this second time and again exposing the white nylon backing beneath the floating yellow line. It was only with slow “lift rod up/pump down” handling that the fish returned. “This is indeed a bigger one,” I announced. And he was. When I finally got him into the net and could measure him, he was a full twenty inches and, oh, so thick and deep. Likely four pounds. Best fish of the day, and he took the upper midge, a green frostbite with ice-cream cone head, size 12. Then I noticed the point fly, my #16 red midge was straightened. My miss-after-miss during the previous period of time I now understood. Should have checked. Didn’t. Dumb.

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Bruce made an offer: “Try my Kaufman’s zebra midge. I’m going to do more experimenting.” I took it. He then put on for himself something he called a “chromie,” having a chrome body wrapped with black thread and black dubbed head. “Bingo,” he said, as the indicator went under.

why, his waders, jacket, stripping basket, net, fingerless gloves, drying towel were all wonderfully shiny evidence of fish taken. He announced, most happily, “I’m slimed.” “Just like you like it,” I affirmed. “Besides your chromie, what others have you tried?” “Oh my. I’ve had luck with yarn eggs, a San Juan worm, red annelid, a green glass bead midge—and even a golden stone. If I’d let down a #8 royal wulff dry, I believe it would’ve worked.” Guess the age of miracles hasn’t passed! But, think you’ve had enough?” “It’s 2:30,” came the reply. “I could quit.” With the wind picking up from the south, we had a challenging 600-stroke row back to the boat ramp. Once seated in the Tahoe, his boat within and mine on top of the vehicle, I asked, “How many do you suppose you netted today?” “I’d say sixty, plus or minus. You?” “Fifty range. A biblical marvelous draught. SLIP-BOBBERS FLOATING ON Simon Peter and the sons of Zebedee, no THE SURFACE OF ANTERO AND SPINNEY RESERVOIRS doubt, are smiling.” Actually: best catching day we’ve ever had And, soon thereafter, “Bingo” again, caus- in fifty years angling together. I mark it “Meming him to add, “I got Ole Fighter this time. He orable Memorial Weekend Indeed!” doesn’t want to come in.” I watched as the fish swam out and then began “circling and circling” Kuster’s boat “in ever widening gyre” (Yeats). Bruce and he did a 360-degree rotation twice. The fish, while resolved not to submit, eventually did. Ole Fighter entered the net, 19 inches, going on 20. A lovely, strong bow. “Nice job. Good show,” I told him. “Thank you. They really like this chrome bout The Author midge.” Soon we doubled but as catching stopped James White is a retired “Senior” for me, Bruce went on getting quick take afGuide for Anglers Covey in Colorado ter quick take, some which he missed, two which broke him off, yet others succumbed. Springs, Colorado. He and his wife No fish was less than 13 inches. Most were in Patty live in a historic Victorian home the 15-17 inch range; none skinny. Excluding in Colorado Springs, with their Golden my brown and two splakes, all were rainbows Retriever, Gilda. You can contact or cut-bows. James via our editorial dept. at I glanced over at Bruce and then stared. He Frank@HCAmagazine.com. was looking himself over and smiling. I knew

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FIT TO BE TIED

BY JOEL EVANS

The Old Becomes New Again

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ren’t we always looking for something new? What we have may be just fine, but we are tempted that we might be missing out on something better. Take for example that nice sweater you got for Christmas a few years ago. You like it a lot, you wear it regularly, and take good care of it. So even though it has been around awhile, that comfortable sweater still looks good on you. But this year, there you were in the clothes department of your neighborhood store and a new sweater caught your eye. Gotta have it. Suddenly that old favorite sweater gets pushed back in the closet and forgotten. Well, fly patterns have a way of getting pushed back to the corner of your fly box. Old favorites get mentally lost in favor of the latest new pattern. You were catching fish just great with the old pattern, but, just like the sweater, something new came along. Gotta have it. Same here. Being not just a fly buyer, but a fly tyer, it is easy to experiment with

one pattern will give me an advantage I’m missing out on. Well as much as I like to cruise the fly box counter of my local fly shop, or tie the new pattern that my fishing buddy just invented, I am a believer that on the list of things that matter as to catching a fish on a fly, other things such as stealth, presentation, casting accuracy, and reading water matter more than pattern selection. So what about that old favorite pattern that worked just fine, but you haven’t fished for a few years? You can probably think of one from your past river days. One that comes to mind for me is the Halfback. It’s primarily intended as a stonefly pattern, but given its proven material and enticing shape, could be other insects, all the way to just simply an underwater attractor pattern. So this winter I have vowed to myself to tie a few dozen Haflbacks and place them prominently in my box. I’ll tie the standard size 10 on a long shank hook. But I’ll also tie some down to a 14—some with a bead head, some with rubWATCH FLY new materials and new techber legs, but the basic patTYING VIDEO niques that tempt us with tern of years ago will get the thought of maybe that the most quantity. Being a nymph, I expect to lose a few to snags and bushes HOOK: 8-14 NYMPH, 2X OR 3X LONG along the way, so I’ll need THREAD: BLACK, BROWN, OR OLIVE 6/0 more than a few, anyway. BEAD: GOLD BRASS OR BLACK TUNGSTEN, OPTIONAL If you are not familiar with the Halfback, give it a UNDERBODY WIRE: LEAD FREE 0.020, OPTIONAL try. Also, think what that TAIL: PHEASANT TAIL forgotten pattern is for BODY: PEACOCK you. Move it to the front of ABDOMEN BACK: PHEASANT TAIL OR TURKEY, CEMENTED the closet. HACKLE: BROWN SADDLE HACKLE, PALMERED

HALFBACK

About 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 frank@hcamagazine.com. www.HCAezine.com

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Gear Review by Brian La Rue

Eureka! Find A Goldmine with Rio Elite Gold

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ith constantly changing technologies and the number of dialed-in applications when it comes to new fly lines, it’s no wonder how you can get lost in a fly shop when picking the right line. Like golf, there is a club or line to match exactly what you are doing, but for those who need an awesome all-around all-star—look no further than Rio’s Elite Gold. Slick—is the key attribute you’ll notice instantly when you spool up and cast Elite Gold for the first time—hold on. Designed to check all the boxes, whether your nymphing, dry fly fishing or ripping streamers, this all-around fly line will impress you. Reach out to risers in the distance with a soft landing or make effortless mends while drifting a pair of midges, or power a favorite sculpin pattern to the opposite bank—Rio Elite Gold can do it all. One feature I’ve come to appreciate is the long head for accurate casts and the line’s lowstretch design which translates into more on target presentations and quick hooksets. I think

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we can all enjoy that fact. Rio’s SureFire tricolored measuring system also helps your next cast as to how much line needs to be shot for precise placement. We all hate when our floating line gets old, tired and worn out, and begins to sink. Elite Gold features Rio’s MaxFloat Tip technology which serves up a high float coating that floats more than twice as high as other fly lines while there is no increase in actual diameter. Not only will it ride higher and be less visible on the water surface, but it will float longer than the competition, too. If you appreciate a welded loop for easy and quick connections, well, this line has loops ready for you on both ends. Lastly, the extremely durable and slick Elite Gold is available in line weights ranging from 4 WT- 8 WT and features mossy-olive, gold, and grey sections. The 5 WT I’ve grown quite fond of features a 47-foot head, and I plan to make it my go-to line. If you bump into me on the river, ask to cast it—you’ll be impressed—I promise. Learn more at https://www.rioproducts.com.

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Winter 2021 • High Country Angler

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Profiles in Conservation: Freestone Aquatics by Walt Gasson

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lint Packo. If you don’t know him, you should. He was one of the first people I met back when I first started with TU. I liked him from the get-go. He was sharp, a no-nonsense guy who clearly loved fish and fish habitat. His outfit, Freestone Aquatics, Inc. in Littleton, CO became a TU Business member almost immediately. And in time, we became friends. The old saying goes that they don’t care how much you know until they know how much they care. Clint Packo and the staff at Freestone know fish and fish habitat. And they care deeply. Take stream restoration, for example. The whole thing starts with an evaluation to find the hidden potential with-

in any piece of property. Whenever considering a project related to stream restoration, it’s extremely important to understand the present conditions and dynamics of the aquatic ecosystem. This can be as simple as taking a few samples or it may involve a more intensive analysis that can take several seasons. The primary consideration of Freestone Aquatics on any ecosystem evaluation is to understand the goals and vision of the project, large or small. Once the goals of the project have been clearly established, Freestone Aquatics can then provide a plan to meet those goals that is economically viable and biologically sound. Design comes next. This is crucial to the

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Freestone Aquatics led the design/build effort at the Fraser Flats near Tabernash, the first cooperative project for the Learning by Doing partnership among Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and others. The project led to a major boost in wild trout populations for the reach and has become a popular angling spot for locals and visitors to the area. This video tells a bit of the story of this project and how Freestone helped the local partners make a real difference for this important fishery.

success of any stream restoration project. Different projects require different objectives including improved riparian habitat, waterfowl habitat, or trout habitat. The design phase is about the tiered collaboration of landowners, fisheries/ wildlife professionals, hydrologists, engineers, and permitting agencies to produce a comprehensive stream design for a sustainable aquatic ecosystem. Then the exciting part begins – real work, in stream habitat construction. Again, Freestone Aquatics does it. They provide general contractor, and construction management services to make the design a reality in the stream and remain one of the only firms in the country whose staff designs, permits and builds all phases of the aquatic ecosystem. Their goal throughout this phase is to promote long-term sustainability while maintaining the integrity of the natural environment. Their trademark is a light hand on the land and in the stream. A year post-construction, you might not ever be able to tell they were there. But the fish will know. With habitat enhancement structures, stream-

bank stabilization and the creation of new habitats, the fish will most definitely know. And what’s more, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing. Clint Packo always goes the extra mile. That’s just who he is. That’s why he’s a Gold Level TU Business member. That’s why he serves on the board of Colorado TU. That’s why he’s a well-known and respected member of the fly-fishing community across the West. Freestone Aquatics – they’re the real deal.

About the author. Walt Gasson is TU’s Director of Endorsed Business and makes his home in Laramie, Wyoming.

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Virtual

River Stewardship Gala March 11, 2021 Join Colorado Trout Unlimited for the River Stewardship Gala - this annual event is going virtual in 2021 with an online silent auction, unique lineup of online content, and virtual live program on March 11th. Funds raised at Colorado TU’s Gala are used across our beautiful state to restore trout habitat and reintroduce native cutthroats to their home waters, engage youth in conservation education, partner with our 24 chapters on local projects, and advocate for Colorado's rivers and fisheries.

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High Country Angler | Winter 2021