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•January 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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In the Land of the Cutthroats-2010 Fly Fishing Film Tour

•January 22, 2010 • 4 Comments

Fishing for me has always been about getting away; away from the busy city life of course, but even getting away from crowded tailwaters and frequented man made bodies of water. Fortunately, a certain native trout thrives in places that are a far from these.

There is something special about the allure of a high mountain ridge casting a shadow over an alpine lake as the sun shining through the clouds paints the sky with colors. Could there be a better place to fish? Not only a place with breathtaking scenery but also one where you have a chance to catch a trout species that has lived there for more than a million years. To think about that is simply mind blowing. Imagine the Rocky Mountains untouched 1 million years ago, wild creatures all across the land living amongst each other in a land untouched by man except for a few Anasazi native americans. Untapped lakes and streams ran clean and clear while native cutthroat trout flourished in the mint condition waters. Today, back country wilderness areas are about as close as you can come to how it was long ago. The pristine wild, which is exactly why I treasure spending time in these places.

I’ve always wanted to portray this concept in a film. So I started documenting my high mountain excursions a few years back. This year, with the help of a friend who is a seasoned outdoor writer, we produced “In the Land of the Cutthroats.” The film tells the story of three native trout species that evolved along the Continental Divide in Colorado. From ancient beginnings in tepid coastal waters, the wayfaring cutthroats found their way to the loftiest slopes of the Rocky Mountains and into the hearts of modern fly fishers. After a medley of mountain scenery, cutthroat trout, mayflies, and cutting-edge time-lapse photography, the film takes viewers to a high-mountain lake for action-packed angling for greenback cutthroat trout.

Here is a trailer for the film:

This trailer features the music of Drew Goldstone from Reel to Reel Records Also featured in the film is music from the talented Johnny Martin out of Buffalo NY, and Andy Mass with Mass Destruction Entertainment

Check out another trailer for the film HERE This trailer and the film features fly tying from Brian Yamauchi

We were fortunate enough to have the film accepted into the 2010 Fly Fishing Film Tour. If you get a chance come check out “In the Land of the Cutthroats” along side an incredible line up of films.

The tour officially starts next week, Thursday January 26th at the Patagonia store in Ventura, CA and then comes to Fort Collins, CO Thursday January 28th and then to Denver Saturday January 30th. Also, there is an independent show put on by The Angler’s Covey Saturday January 23rd at 7pm in Colorado Springs.

The tour will make stops all across the country over the next couple of months. Check out the tour schedule HERE

One last thing … the film featured in the film tour is a modified short (8 min) version of the full (14 min)”In the Land of the Cutthroats” film. Stay tuned for information about a screening in Denver of the full length version of the film.

Elk Hunting Colorado

•January 10, 2010 • 2 Comments

Successfully hunting elk in Colorado may seem to be a daunting task. It requires a lot of preparation, scouting, and most importantly a lot of hard work. Fortunately at the DOW, we produced a series of videos not only to get people excited about going after one of the most elusive big game mammals in the forest, but also to assist them in preparing for a hunt.

The first video is my personal favorite, more or less a promotional video to get people excited about coming to Colorado to hunt Elk:

The second can be used as a helpful tool to assist you in planning your elk hunt in Colorado. It includes basic information on where to find harvest statistics, big game migration maps, regulations, and various information helping you have a successful hunt:

The third video is a seminar given by a DOW mapping specialist. It explains in detail how to use the interactive mapping software called MapIt! available for free on the National Diversity Information Source (NDIS) site. This presentation may come across a bit boring at first… but I highly recommend you to open the MapIt! database on your computer, and follow the explanations and give them a try on your own:

Hard Water Fishing

•December 14, 2009 • 2 Comments

I’m pretty sure almost every lake in the state froze after last weeks frigid temps. This does not mean to go putting away your rod and reel … if you’re a fly fisherman buck up and hit some of Colorado’s reputable tailwaters. Winter time may be cold on the water but trout still eat throughout the winter … even fish under a thick layer of ice need to eat.

So get out and drill some holes to drop a line in for some “Hard Water Fishing.”

My nephew Trace, who caught his first trout this summer, is quickly becoming an accomplished angler

Check out the full story:
LINK (Via “Team Klondike“)

Rocky Mountain Elk

•October 30, 2009 • 2 Comments

Colorado is home to the biggest herd of Rocky Mountain Elk Cervus elaphus in North America, numbering more than 280,000. These majestic creatures graze lands from high mountain tundra, meadows, and forests in the summer to low lying valleys and prairies in the winter. Elk, or as native americans refer to them: wapiti, are one of the largest and most vocal members of the deer family.

Most of the year elk hang out in single sex groups.
Herd of Cow Elk
Every year male elk (bulls) grow a new set of antlers. Typically, males drop their antlers in late winter while new antler growth occurs throughout the summer. Their antlers grow a furry like substance called velvet Elk in Velvet Velvet is a sensitive skin filled with blood vessels that provide antlers with vitamins and minerals essential to their growth.

Come fall bull’s antlers reach full size. Bulls scrape or rub off their velvet by violently rubbing their antlers on trees. As fall moves forward bigger older bulls herd up their harem or group of female elk (cows) to prepare for breeding. This period is referred to as the rut.
Bull with CowsA bull elk starts to gather his harem in early fall

Throughout late September and October bulls challenge each other to establish dominance. Older more powerful bulls typically end up with harems of 20 or more cows while the younger bulls still hanging around the herd are called satellite bulls. The rut lasts for about a month, during this time the bulls are the most vocal, bugling to establish dominance and attract cows.

Recently we were fortunate enough to find a large elk herd with a monster 7X7 herd bull. This thing was HUGE! It was obvious this large herd of 70 plus elk was in the height of the rut. The herd bull was bugling loud and working hard at herding up his harem. It was quite the site watching nature’s beauty at its best…. best of all… we are bringing it to you in high definition.

So turn the lights off, grab some popcorn, and check out our latest a.m. Colorado episode:
(for full screen click on the icon with 4 arrows at bottom right hand corner of the frame)

For those of you who hunt elk I took the liberty of creating an MP3 audio file from this video. Feel free to listen to it here (click the play button): or better yet, DOWNLOAD THE ELK HERD MP3 FILE HERE throw it on your iPod and use it to practice your bugling and cow calling. There’s nothing better than calling in a big bull elk, but at the same time there’s nothing worse than sending one off to the races with a poor call… its never to early to start practicing

If you’ve never been lucky enough to hunt elk in Colorado but want to… Here is some information to get you started:

first of all you’ll need your Hunter’s Education Card

second, you’ll need to decide on a method of take: archery, muzzleloader (black powder), or rifle

third, you’ll need to decide on a time and place… this is where it becomes tricky… especially if you’re from out of state… but don’t worry. There are many resources out there to help you decide. The first and foremost is the latest Colorado Big Game brochure This brochure is your “go to” for all regulations regarding big game. It lists all big game species, seasons, and GMU’s (game management units). Colorado is separated into GMU’s so before you apply for a license you must decide which GMU you want to hunt first.

Colorado is the only state in the nation where unlimited “over the counter” (OTC) elk licenses are available. This means, anyone (except convicted felons) can walk up to any license agent and purchase an elk license that is good for unlimited GMU’s all over the state with out having to go through a draw. OTC licenses are available for archery season and 2nd and 3rd rifle season.

If you want to hunt in Colorado this should get you started… CDOW’s PlAN YOUR HUNT PAGE is a good resource as well. for more information visit the CDOW website or call the CDOW call center at (303)297-1192 (M-F 8am-5pm MST) GOOD LUCK!

Autumn Spawners

•October 22, 2009 • 2 Comments

Fall means dropping temperatures, changing colors and good fishing, especially for a certain salmonoid. Native to Europe and western Asia Brown trout, Salmo trutta, first arrived from Germany in 1883. German fish culturist Baron Lucius von Behr shipped 80,000 brown trout eggs to the northeast which were soon after distributed through out the United States. The first documented brows trout eggs to make it to Colorado were shipped from England to a Denver hatchery in 1885. I’m guessing soon after Colorado’s streams and lakes were full of brown trout. The colorful little bastards were invading the waters native cutthroats inhabited for thousands of years, but that’s another story for another time …

Brown trout are said to be the hardest trout to catch, because they are smarter than most trout. For me, that is hard to believe, especially during spawning. This time of year browns boast a bright yellow gold belly and run from lakes up into rivers to spawn. Females push aside rocks and pebbles by fanning their back fin creating an ideal location to lay their eggs. These spawning beds are called redds. After the females lay their eggs the males fertilize the eggs. Typically both males and females become more aggressive during this time of year …
Picture 11
… which makes spawning browns an easy target for anglers …

Picture 13
Fishing for spawning fish can be exciting at first … but there comes a time when anglers must make a decision as to what exactly is going on. As proud as one may feel catching fish after fish it may not be one’s outstanding angling skills that are enticing these hostile browns to take a fly, spoon or whatever is thrown in their face, but rather the thousands of years of evolutionary instincts instilled in the fishes blood forcing them to be guardians of their offspring. For this reason, some purists refuse to fish for spawning fish …

Picture 12
I am not a purist, but I’d like to think I’m somewhere in between a true purist and a whiskey tango (white trash) bait chucker. I have no problem with fishing for spawning fish … but at the same time I get bored with hammering a pool of fish stacked up, I mean come on, these fish are just trying to get a piece of ass.

Picture 14
Either way, fishing should be about the challenge, the rewarding feeling you get when you work hard at something. When the challenge is taken out of that equation, its hard to get that feeling.

Some Sweet Stuff to Look at:
Potential World Record Brown Trout recently caught in Michigan
Fall Spawning Runs CDOW VIDEO (Including Underwater Spawning Brown Trout)
Meet the Browns By Dennis McKinney

Sea of Cortez

•September 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

2 years ago I fished Lake El Salto, near Mazatlan Mexico. This desolate desert lake is a renowned bass fishery. Of course catching bass all day was a ton of fun, but what I was really interested in was the off shore opportunities Mazatlan had to offer. Saltwater fishing always intrigued me, maybe because I live no where near saltwater… although the closest sea to Colorado is home to some of the most bio-diverse waters in the world. The Sea of Cortez is a critical feeding, breeding, and nursery ground for some of the
world’s rarest marine animals, including 32 species of marine mammals, 170
species of sea birds, 3,000 species of invertebrates, and 875 species of fish. (Alles)
Photo by Nasa

I have always heard about dorado, Coryphaena hippurus, and how they are voracious predators (we’re talking saltwater dorado, not fresh water dorado from South America). Their elongated bright blue, green and gold body is surrounded by a long dorsal fin spanning from head to tail.
Colorful dorado in water
This unique body design creates a powerful force thrashing and displacing water as they feed on baitfish at speeds up to 50 mph. Dorado, one of the fastest growing fish in the world, also called Dolphin or Mahi Mahi, fight like an Ultimate Fighting Championship heavy weight. Once hooked they make hard runs towards the surface resulting in an acrobatic aerial display pulling drag and fighting hard until the bitter end… just like a seasoned mixed martial arts fighter would.

We hired a guide for a half day and first set out to net live bait. Soon after, we found buoys identifying schools of dorado marked by commercial fisherman. The technique is to chum with live bait and throw spin rods rigged hook-less with bait while trolling. Once you see that rod tip starting to bump and the heads of dorado surfacing clobbering bait fish, its on. Simply throw your fly towards the action and watch as the dorado’s predatory instincts kick in as they inhale your fly.

Once hooked these feisty fighters immediately take you for a ride….
Mazatlan Dorado
jumping and flipping all over

Here’s a nice female dorado, also referred to as a hen…
Hen Dorado
while hens heads are round bull dorado have a protruding head (below)
Colorful Bull
when hooked dorado sparkle like light reflecting off a diamond bursting with a gold shine splattered with neon green and blue markings

After an epic morning catching one after another I was officially obsessed. The non-stop action was insatiable. I immediately told myself I’ve got to get back down here to do this again. I found myself dreaming about dorado feeding ferociously and how insanely hard they fight. Well, it wasn’t until this summer when I considered catching dorado again.

A good friend from my Semester at Sea Spring 2006 voyage has been fishing the Sea of Cortez around the Midriff Islands for over 20 years. Every year a group of 20-30 guys live on an ultimate fishing vessel for a week nomadically fishing the area. When he asked me to join I immediately thought I’d have another shot at some dorado and eagerly agreed to join.

The trip started the last week of July. We boarded a bus in Orange County headed for San Felipe Mexico. After driving from Hot Creek through the night to Orange, CA we spent the majority of the 5 hour drive down the Baja sleeping. I was awoken by a bumpy Mexican road under construction (What roads in Mexico aren’t under construction?). As I squinted and yawned myself awake, I took sight of a sterile desert with wind blown sand drifts and cacti. We were deep in Baja’s far-flung desert.

Upon arrival in San Felipe we got our first look at our new home for the week. The Tony Reyes:

Tony Reyes
This 86′ ship once housed crews of commercial shrimpers.

The destination was the Midriff area which lies about 250 miles south of San Felipe. The plan was to set sail loaded with 10 pongas headed toward the southern end of the Midriff area and fish our way back north.

Most of the target species were all new to me: yellowtail, cabrilla, spotted sea bass, grouper, but what I was particularly excited about was again hooking up with a dorado. This trip was primarily a conventional tackle-stock the cooler kind of trip, but I knew if there were dorado around I could have some fun with my fly rod.

The first day we set out on a boat loaded with heavy jigs and conventional rods with lines up to 120 lb test. We were after yellowtail, more specifically California yellowtail, Seriola lalandi dorsalis, a subspecies of Yellowtail amberjack which are found nearly all over the globe.

The technique required to catch yellowtail was really not suitable to fly fishing. We were dropping heavy jigs 200-300 feet deep and after a morning filling the boat with nice size yellowtail it was quite apparent that we weren’t going to target these fish on a fly.
yellow tail An average 10-15 lb yellowtail

The majority of our catch was yellowtail, although we were pulling in all sorts of species including:

Trigger Fish trigger fish

and multiple Species of bass, or cabrilla, which in Spanish refers to any species of bass-like fish

cabrilla sabrosa

spotted bass Although we weren’t necessarily targeting spotted sea bass we couldn’t keep these big and healthy fish off our lines.

Some boats were lucky enough to hook into some bigger species like Sailfish:Sailfish

While we were having a ton of fun catching all these nice fish on conventional tackle we never gave up on catching fish on our fly rods.

Lenny's Bass We did have some success nailing some fish on the fly… but were still looking for dorado

Every night while docked the boats flood lights shined outward to the sea attracting plankton and baitfish. We rigged our rods to catch mackerel to use as bait to the following day. Blake, the experienced fly tyer in our group, saw what we were using to catch these mackerel and immediately decided to tie up some flies to match. So ironically enough we saw most action on fly rods catching bait. Not exactly what we had in mind for this trip but catching 3 mackerel at once on a soft 8 weight was a kick in the ass.

Blake w mackrel
Blake was real excited to catch multiple fish on single casts

I can’t go without mentioning a subject that interests me almost as much as fishing…comida sabrosaMexican food is hard to beat, especially authentic mexican food. On the Tony Reyes we were served 3 meals a day and more often than not the meals were mexican and damn good. The one meal that I still drool over the thought of is the beach BBQ the crew put together for us. We devoured fresh grilled clams we dug up that morning and a yellowtail grilled whole over an open fire on the beach. Fastened to the grill with foil for an easy flip the yellowtail’s crispiness yielded some amazing fish tacos.Picture 32

Speaking of good food, one night we got a chance to go after some squid. Calamari anyone? Using special glowing squid lures that looked like mini fancy chandeliers with spikes sticking out of them in every which way everyone was hooking up with these beasts left and right. I’d heard of people catching squid on a fly before so I had to give it a shot. Blake tied a special weighted bright green fly for my deep sinking fly line. Immediately after I hit bottom I felt a big tug, the squid immediately pulled drag and ran. It felt like a huge fish completely bending over my 14 wt two handed rod. All of the sudden I lost tension and the squid was off. Apparently, you really need those special lures to get them to stick.
Giant SquidHumboldt Squid

My hopes for dorado slowly dwindled. By the the end of the trip only one person had caught one dorado. We just didn’t get into them. I spent one morning walking a remote beach line where I heard rooster fish prowl the banks but I struck out there too. Despite the lack of success on the species I hoped to find on my fly rod this trip was sensational. Simply the opportunity to explore this lush ecosystem was a privilege. I must admit, I wasn’t to excited seeing the amount of fish killed to stock the cooler, but the crew on the Tony Reyes do a good job of helping manage the resource by releasing small fish under a certain size.

Apparently dorado, being prolific breeders, would double in population if they weren’t commercially fished for at all over the course of one year. Who knows if thats true about some of these other species. All I know is that we are very privileged to have such a rich and unique resource in our back yard and hopefully we will be able to utilize and maintain this sustainability for many years to come. As long as crews like the Tony Reyes continue to respect the resource and the Mexican government enforces illegal fishing the future is bright.

With that said… I leave you with a time-lapse reel I shot of the Tony Reyes wandering through the Sea of Cortez

Works Cited:
Alles, David (2007) The Sea of Cortez
retrieved on sept 30th from: HERE