Saturday, 10 January 2009

Winter Fly Fishing

I fished the South Platte River near Deckers Colorado with Garrett yesterday. The fishing itself wasn't great, but winter flyfishing is always an adventure. Someone once said that fly fishing was the best excuse for standing around in rivers. Standing around in a river in a gentle snow fall is even better. And if there is the expectation of catching a big trout, all the better.

Deckers is not such an easy place to get to. Last time I was there was in the late 70's to climb with Don Hamilton. We climbed at Turkey Rocks for a few days after a disastrous trip to the Bugaboos in British Columbia. We'd backed off the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, a beautiful route put up by a bunch of older Gunkies in 1958. We were traveling in my little Subaru and, rather than drive home to NY from the Bugs, Don said, "Let's go climb at Turkey Rocks." I didn't even know where it was. "Colorado, not to far." We arrived in South Platte about twenty hours later. It is to far. There was no one there then. We hadn't seen anyone else for days when, walking along the base of rocks looking for a climb, we heard familiar voices. It was Ivan Rezucha and Annie, friends from the Gunks. A casual hello was exchanged and we didn't see them again until we were back at the Gunks.

During winter, the fish are mostly eating midges (Chironomids). These are mosquito sized aquatic insects and for these educated fish to take a fly, it has to be a damn good imitation. If you are lucky (we weren't) there is a short hatch of these insects during the warmest part of the day and if the fish key in on them, you have a chance to actually catch one on a very tiny dry fly. Mostly, if fish aren't rising, you fish a pair of imitations of the larval form underwater. The classic midge imitation is the South Platte Brassie which is just a bit of fine copper wire wrapped around a very small hook, maybe with a tuft of some dubbing wrapped on the head to represent the hard and gills. I fished yesterday with a size 22 metalic bodied green midge and a larger size 20 brassie as the dropper. I was using two #6 split shots about a foot above the flies to get them down into the little troughs where the winter fish are most likely to be. The size 20 brassie was a monster in comparison.

We fished hard for about three or four hours and neither of us managed to raise a fish. We did see some other anglers, and Garrett talked to one local after seeing him hook, land and release one decent, but not extraordinary sized fish. His advice, "Go home."

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