Tag: brown trout

TFC Reader Clint Keating Reports on the Conejos River

| August 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Conejos River Brown Trout - Photo Courtesy Clint Keating
Conejos River brown trout. Photo Courtesy – Clint Keating

The Canejos has been very low due to only about 1/3 normal average snow pack along with hot dry conditions until August when some showers brought waters to decent levels.

As you may know, the Canejos can be a tough river for anglers due to the wide variety of forage and hatches that can occur on a daily basis along with the fact that you can pretty much plan on the dry fly bite being non-existent on most parts of the river with few exceptions.

Texas Fly Fisher - Clint Keating in Southern Colorado - Courtesy Clint Keating
Wouldn’t we rather be there right now? Photo Courtesy – Clint Keating

We fished mainly from the “Hamilton” lease, which is just below the “South Fork” (just below The Pinnacles) up river to Sky Line Lodge. I caught more fish on my two days on the river with no guides then I did with the guides for two days, although, the methods learned on the two guided days (Canejos River Anglers – Jon Harp and his great staff of guides) came in very handy!

The type of waters fished were mostly fast riffle and pocket water with dual fly system with various, midge, worm and nymph patterns. The best fly combo was a red annelid (size 12-14) on top with a chironomid (size 16-18) dropper.

We caught 70 % of our fish on this system. Leaders were 9ft 5X mono with two feet cut off and 5X Fluorocarbon tied on with Blood knot also being used for a split shot stopper. Improved clinch knot tied to eye of first fly and 14-16 inches of 6X fluorocarbon was also tied to the eye of the first fly with a dropper tied on the end.

We used a bubble indicator in white so the float would look like the white bubbles on the river’s surface about five feet above the first fly and would determine if weight was needed by evaluating the drift based on flow and depth. We would also fluctuate the distance of the indicator by a few inches to avoid weight if possible.

Crater Lake Camp - Photo Courtesy Clint Keating
Crater Lake Camp. Photo Courtesy – Clint Keating

NOTE – Thank you Clint for the report. I don’t have to twist arms and beg when all goes so well with reader’s trips, but we all like to hear about everyone’s exploits no matter how successful or dismal. If YOU have a story about your fly fishing experiences, beginner or advanced, from this summer that is winding down, feel free to send it in.

Time Ticks Away on the White River

| April 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Finally. My imagination was piqued by the wide strong flow of the White River as we dropped down the embankment to the rocks recently emerged from their watery topping. The White was still wide, and the grade made for a fifty yard by two to three feet deep rapid.

This, I imagined, was what rivers look like. Not the lazy canal of the Rio Grande, and not the ditch that the Trinity River becomes at times. No, this river makes me think it’s time to see more … more rivers, real rivers. Fascination with fish fleeted as an appreciation, rare for me, for the beauty of the moment and place took over. Yes, perhaps the flow was simply “drainage” as the dam was effectively shut down, but jade green runs of deep water and wide stretches of clear rushing water began to create my personal definition of a “real” river.

Make no mistake, this was challenging water, crossings are deliberate and calculated, and the grade facilitated a faster water than I imagined. Rather than sleepy slow pools lining the sides of the White, it was a search for holding spots and runs that were slow enough to get a good drift. The stocker aquarium life was virtually non existent. I appreciated the new water and new challenge, and was alone in that view. The diversity and beauty alone, were enough to counter the difficulty. This was when I wished a guide were around, someone to set the course for the nymphing drift, or dictate a disgusting streamer and just say, “right there!”

There was no leader, no hero and no villain. I bucked the trend, and crossed river to ply the water from a much more civilized shoreline, one that had put-ins, cabins, resorts and homes along the banks. I disappeared from my cohorts round one bend and up as far as I could go with camera gear and fishing load in tow.

Time ticked and we had only committed to two hours before abandonment. I was certainly going to push that, while the choice to abandon seemed to be more on the minds of others. This was a time where days would possibly solve the riddle, but not two hours on a real clock. We all have these days.

My long trek lead to beautiful water, water that was a puzzle with so many missing pieces. On my arrival back at point “A,” where we started, it turns out my three compatriots had made short work of dinner, taking limits of rainbow trout from a backwash pool of hapless trout. Occasionally eating a trout is so … underrated. And with Johnny at the galley helm, my spirits were immediately lifted by the thought of that night’s table fare.

The uneducated adventure upriver had been, for me, all in all, a bust. I was thoroughly enthralled by the water’s size, and sophistication, but also feeling thrashed by the reality that the famous White River brown trout were not flopping at my feet. Something was beginning to creep in, something foreign to my thinking – pressure.

Getting Norforked

| April 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

Recording is a sample from the 17th. and the video is from the 16th.

The weather was predicted to break to the warm side in a couple of days in Northern Arkansas, but until then the generators were running in intervals at one, two and four generators. As much as the water tweaked our learning curve, the weather was heavily overcast, and threatening rain; a perfect setup for trout fishing.

The phone report (which you are to take with a grain of salt) doled out the Bull Shoals release schedule, and then tossed us a glimmer as they also reported the Norfork had not released water in the last twenty-four hours. We could imagine pools of hungry trout, just waiting …

After what seemed like a long sidetrack at the Blue Ribbon Fly Shop in Mountain Home, Arkansas, we were back on the road toward the Norfork.

We headed down Arkansas mountain roads, down 201, right on 5, and back to the left and along the river on River Ridge road. Pools and runs of deep green began to appear on a calm and finally, fishable, river.

So far we had been running on trout time, which is as you know, generally anytime. However, the parking lot was packed with license plates – New York, South Dakota, Texas and mostly Arkansas. Dudes, with their off-the-shelf dude hats, off-the-shelf dude waders, off-the-shelf dude rods, dude wading sticks and dude nets, were dotting the pools for as far up the river as the eye could see. The river bends, so the eye could only see about a half mile. Downriver, it was less crowded, and I had to assume, less populated with fish as the water temperatures rose.

There was nothing imposing about the cadre of fly fishers, as they were respecting each other’s distance, abiding by all known stream etiquette. Friendly greetings are the norm, in the parking lot and on the water. There’s a typical handicap size Rent-a-Can … that you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to have to use. Make sure all necessary movements are elsewhere, and if you have females in your trust, make sure they are relieved before arriving here. It is the worst (inside) I have ever seen, and I can say with authority, I have seen a few outhouses.

Nymphing seemed to be the dudes order of the day, so of course I tied on a streamer late Tuesday morning, and split up with my fellow Texans – our general direction downstream from the lot, and splitting our distances by about 100 yards each. The water picked up speed between shoals (piles of river rock) and would fall out into pools or swirls before moving on. The first rainbow I picked up was in a normal trout holding spot, squirreled in a swirl behind a boulder.

After a very nice battle, I was overwhelmed to see the rainbow trout of legend and lore. It wasn’t huge, or even large, but it was perfect. The fins were perfect, and the color was the deep native color with a bold read sidewall. These are beautiful fish. Norfork rainbow trout do not look like stockers of Oklahoma or Texas. They look like “real” rainbow trout. You will want to get some of this just for the beauty of the fish.

Then, there’s the brown trout. Fewer, and further in between, but loaded with attitude, they are actually more along the lines of browns seen everywhere. Nonetheless beautiful, and as always my favorite freshwater fish for their honey, gold and dense spotting. Even though there are fewer, they don’t hesitate to strike again if they miss the first time, so slow that strip if you get tapped, feign injury and pick up the next strip long and slow.

Our group managed to form independent impressions of a very sizable quantity of rainbow trout of an average fourteen inches, and some scattered browns up to sixteen. The Norfork, shut down from generation, was quite manageable and a great place to get your Northern Arkansas footing, not tottaly unlike Broken Bow, just with massive amounts of steroids.

Back at out campsite along the White, the water was still coming through thanks to two generators at the dam being opened up, but the sky was clearing and the temperatures were warming. That means a decreased demand for electricity, and couple that with the chamber of commerce’s need for peace and tranquility for the weekend’s deluge of fly tiers; the word was a complete shutdown at Bull Shoals was coming.

Sitting around watching wilderness television along the White River in Arkansas.

Just before dark, I paddled my Native Ultimate 12 across the two generator current and broke even (not getting washed downriver) landing parallel to departure from the other side. There were sandy outcroppings and logs that formed good holding for fish in current. Finally, a very nice, the biggest I had ever caught, brown trout, came on and took the black bugger for a ride that fly will never forget. Not so dramatic in length, as in the shoulders, I wet my hands, secured the hook and released the fish – no net as I mostly do. No photograph either, because this was only the end of day one, and that brown made me think bigger. Lesson 1 – always photograph.

I was the only one to successfully cross there that day, and the workout left me ready to collapse by the fire, warm my bones, and look forward to tomorrow. With the rumored change in generation, tomorrow would be a bigger mystery than that day.

The Conejos – To Make a Long Story Short

| August 26, 2008 | 0 Comments

Fly Fishing on Colorado’s Conejos River

OK, so I have been catching some heat for the long entries on the Conejos. Admittedly, the detail was a little long, but I am guessing that anyone with zero knowledge will appreciate the detail over getting lost! If I had been more on my toes at tracking down resources in the area, I would have made it out to the outfitter I learned about from the fly shop in Pagosa Springs.

Here is the Cliffs Notes version:
Weather – beats the heck out of Texas 50 lows and 80 highs with very low humidity. Rain daily in early afternoon and potentially all afternoon.

Fish – yes. Quick mood swings. Some pressured – Hike to those that are not.
Water – cold. This time of year – waders, but no insulating layers as the air is quite warm. Watch the flows. If you have to go to plan B, go to the reservoir and including where Conejos flows into the reservoir. My guess is the stockers are all gone from the secluded high lakes and ponds by the end of summer because they are so easy to reach.
Flies – Golden stone fly and many,many more. Bring everything and try it all. Fish in Reservoir will go after almost anything.
Guide – Recommended. Try Conejos River Anglers. If you’ve got the money, they’ve got the time. They have access to what looks like a vast amount of fantastic private access waters.
Gear – 3-5 weight rods with a stout 4 perhaps the perfect choice. Net. Backpack or vest with big back compartment for long hikes.
Clothes – Waders for sure. No heavy layers this time of year. Hat. Rain gear used every day. Hunker down or ride it out.
Medical – WATER. WATER. WATER. This is high altitude fishing, and that means adjusting to less oxygen, needing more water than usual, and unforgiving rugged water access (for the most part). Aerobic conditioning necessary. Strength helps, but be ready to go long distances. Try not to go alone. I took three real falls in one day.
Communication – No Cell phone. No radio. Pay phones. Modest supplies at the Skyline Lodge. Make a friend, and take a friend – you’ll both be safer.

The Conejos River – Day 4 – No Getting Over This Rainbow

| August 14, 2008 | 2 Comments

Conejos River Rainbow trout and observations along the way


Conejos Trout Habitat Sponsorship.

I sat in the Skyline Lodge restaurant earlier tonight, stretched my elbow straight, and just stared at my forearm, and smiled to no one but myself. The end of a quality day.

The new Forester was meant for this.

I managed to get an early start, and loaded up the pack vest for what I anticipated to be a long hike. According to what I had read and heard, there are two major things about the stretch of the Conejos across from The Pinnacles, and they are 1) It is considered a difficult or strenuous hike, and 2) Some of the biggest fish on the Conejos reside there. That was a good enough reason to pack the Winston 5wt. as well … little did I know.

Along the Colorado roadside north of Lake City, Colorado.

The jump off point for the trail is the same one the ladies backpacking trip started off, and will return tomorrow by that same trail. From what I could tell, markings for the split of the trails is non-existent. The best I could call this venture is a long shot. It was fast water in a rough area. You begin at South Fork Trail Head by parking, loading up and heading straight down the trail, over the bridge and then the trail goes north. The split between 724 (South Fork Conejos Trail), and 720 (Roaring Gulch Trail) happens at the gate – don’t go through the gate, [ppw id=”92839269″ description=”Details for rainbow trout on the Conejos River” price=”.10″]

just go along the fence line. When I arrived at the gate, it was time to catch my breath. It turns out the gate is the apex of the climb for the Roaring Gulch Trail. For whatever reason, I was expecting to be on the trail much longer and be in for a much more difficult traverse. This is about the time I began to question the accuracy of my directions … this just was not as difficult as it was made out to be by the maps and from talking to a fisherman much younger, and seemingly in good shape. Anyway, I followed along the fence line until the trail dead ended at Roaring Gulch – there’s no mistaking this because the fall may not kill you, but the sudden stop at the bottom will. I backtracked and dropped in to the river – literally sliding about ten feet on my bum when the sheer loam gave way momentarily. Finally at the bottom and the roar of the water was almost deafening. I truly believe this place would rock with lower water levels, but as it is, it is fast and impossible to cross or wade safely. The fishable water was limited, and after probably three hours of hitting it as hard as possible I made my way back, leaving a cairn at the gate for LK’s return greeting tomorrow.

Conejos River found art
Dude, I found your net!

Once back at the virtual starting point (down by the bridge not the parking lot), I could see a trail going up the east side of the river, so I decided to explore that. It was much more safe and civilized than the “real” trail and covered the same water from the other side. Nice. Although the first jaunt was not the workout it was made out to be, it was basically unnecessary. I hit it again from this side and began to realize this was not going to be an all day location as I first thought it would be. I worked back to the bridge, had lunch and decided to work that area since it was so easily accessed.

Now, this fisherman I talked to last night in the Lodge lobby gave an apt and accurate description of why he liked to catch trout in a bigger river. He loves the fact they go ballistic, and use the current to help them fight and how he has to work them -sometimes letting them run with the current for a hundred yards all the while trying to catch up with them, reel in the slack and keep from busting something personal on a rock. The strength of a fish fight in a fast river multiplies significantly in comparison to a the same fish caught in calm waters.

Rainbow trout habitat Conejos River

I saw this little slow spot where part of the river curved, maybe five feet in diameter, and I had a feeling. The Stone Fly stopped and I figured I hung it on one of the branches that was braided into the back corner, but then a trout exploded out of that small hole and it was on. The Rainbow skittered across rocks and shallows, in full view only half submerged, in a split second and headed for the current, with the skarkskin line sizzling out of the rod I knew to let him run. Once I put some tension on the Winston, and tightened the drag slightly, the Rainbow reset his trim straight upstream and into the bottom of a fall where he stayed motionless. I was scrambling down to get parallel, over rocks, though current and hopping dead logs. Finally (probably a few seconds) I got parallel and saw that once we got moving again I could maybe land him on the gravel point of a little debris island – to the left mild current and to the right was whitewater. There was no way I could stand up in his water and have a chance of netting him. I put side pressure on him, keeping the rod low, and finally coaxed him over to the sandbar and arrived at the same time he did, and was just as beaten and pumped as he was. I tried to make a good photograph, but it is so difficult when you are struggling to make sure the fish survives. Where’s a photographer when you need one?! I had to have some empirical way of measuring exactly how long the fish was so I stretched my right arm out parallel to the ground, and laid him right on top of my arm. From the tip of my middle finger to one-and-a-half inches past the crease in my elbow. Good enough, better than I deserve, and gone.

conejos river rainbow trout
Nice Rainbow Trout – Conejos River Colorado.

The day was still young, and it was to be the last day, so I hit some more fast water at the Lake Fork trail and ended the day fishing the meadows below Platoro. When you fish somewhere like these rapids on the meadows, you go for long stretches without seeing fish, but I was fortunate enough about an hour before dark (actually the sun going behind the mountain) to see a real feeding frenzy where there were absolutely no fish evident only minutes before they went ballistic. Unfortunately, what I was serving was not on their menu. I can guess that if you can get to these fish before they get months of pressure, they may be catchable. For now, they are still laughing at me.

Tomorrow LK finally comes off the trail. I am guessing she is pretty beat, living in a tent and getting rained on every day for the past five days. I wonder if she caught any fish up in those high mountain streams?

Conejos River Flies.
Flies used on the Conejos River in early August.