Tag: Blue River

Tallying the score for my fly-fishing year (2009)

I’d planned on fishing Christmas day, but with high temps expected to climb no higher than the teens I’m likely to bag it. Hence, my fly-fishing year is over, and this year-in-review comes a few days early.

The learning curve

I spent 30 minutes talking one-on-one with Lefty Kreh, in the second week of January. I should have quit while I was ahead. (+30)

Creating infamy

The Wall Street Journal showed up in Denver after I guaranteed them some carp on the fly footage, and Tom Teasdale got front page billing in the print edition, nationally. I know self-made entrepreneurs with $250 million net worths that never made the front page of the WSJ. So I take all the credit for this one. (+250)

Time spent fishing is better than time spent working

I had 22 days on the Blue River, 21 days on suburban lakes, 13 days on the urban South Platte, 10 days on the Dream Stream, 4 days on the Williams Fork, 3 days on the North Platte, 3 days on the salt, 1 day in Cheesman Canyon, 1 day on the Colorado, and a few minutes on Gore Creek and Ten Mile Creek. (+78.5) ALMOST FORGOT: 2 days on the Eagle, and a day on “Moose Creek” – so +81.5

Worth a mention

I caught this fish and this fish using 5X tippets and tiny flies (+2). I used a San Juan Worm one day this year – this fish was the result (+1). I almost died from dehydration in the Carp Slam, but thank my lucky stars Barry Reynolds was my partner (+10).

Some gear runs through it

I acquired five fly rods and four fly reels this year (+9). I dumped one 2009 rod for another (+0), gave one rod up as a going away present (+1), and passed on three reels to folks that really needed them (-3). At least two rods will get ejected in the spring, and I’m on the hunt for another reel (-1).

I retired some waders, and waited patiently for some others (+0). I booted three pairs of wading boots, and wound up with two pairs in their place (-1). I gave away two wading belts (+2), and I found my socks (+20).

I bought seven fly lines, was given one fly line, sold two fly lines, and gave seven fly lines away (+13). I ruined one fly line, and one fly line just plain fell apart on me (-2). Two fly lines are still in the boxes (-2). I gave away a tippet dispenser, six spools of tippet, 250 yards of gelspun backing, and spooled/rigged four reels for newbies (+261).

Fly boxes are for civilians

I purchased 780 flies, tied ten flies, bent four hooks, popped 28 leaders with two-fly rigs, and snagged 2,462 flies on tree branches. (-1,732)

Liar liar pants on fire

I caught 225 brown, rainbow and/or cutthroat trout over ten pounds, 150 carp over forty pounds, 90 largemouth bass over eleven pounds, and one state record brook trout (at twelve pounds) that I didn’t get a picture of since I was by myself in a desolate location with no food, water, or camera. (225 X 10) + (150 X 40) + (90 X 12) + (1 X 12 X 11,500 foot elevation) = +147,330

High note

I acquired a king’s hoard of new friends, but unlike royalty throughout history I wouldn’t trade them for anything. And I spent some precious time fishing with some dear old friends too. ((7382 + 6) X 1014 = 7.382e+17) (Note: score arrived at by adding total friends, new and old, to the number of beers consumed in their company, individually, post-outing, then multiplying by the ACTUAL VALUE of time spent fishing and/or drinking with them)

Final tally

I want to say I lost count, but the reality is I’m an accountant, which means I don’t know how to count it was just a darn good year.

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, What-Have-You, and a Happy New Year to all.

MG signing off (until 2010)

If you’re into hotspotting, best drag your feet


I’ve moved from fly fishing purgatory straight to heaven over the last few weeks. Reports have been posted, and it’s time for the roundup. Why now you ask? Colorado River tributaries have been smoking, and most of my regular cohorts have now had a shot at them. The spawn is over, hence it’s too late for you to do anything about it. It’s the way I’ve gotta roll if I’m to ensure an ongoing free supply Jack Link’s Teriyaki Beef Steak Nuggets.

I’ve fished the Williams Fork four times in the last three weeks. The crew caught plenty of big, healthy (and extremely pissed off) brown trout the first outing, and even more brown trout in need of anger management counseling just five days later. Every angler of noteworthiness netted at least a dozen trout, and a few extremely lucky bastards exceptionally skilled fly fishers had days in the mid-twenties to low-thirties. Flies of note included orange and yellow eggs (go figure), Rainbow Warriors, Juju Baetis, and Mercury Baetis.

Laziness, or photographic brilliance?  You make the call.On the last two occasions, rainbows ruled the roost. I suspect the majority of browns were winding up their sexcapades, and the bows were probably moving in to raid the hen house. I fished the stretch on a Saturday with the infamous Luke Bever, creator of Beve’s Better Buckskin and catcher of large carp on drowning grasshoppers. We each posted numbers in the mid-twenties, and Mr. Bever essentially napped on the bank for the last few hours of the day. The trouts’ affinity for eggs notwithstanding, we picked up a significant number of fine finned friends on baetis and caddis patterns. I returned on Sunday with master angler T. J. Marek and occasional carp wunderkind Trent Clifton. It was another outstanding day, although it was particularly good to one certain angler because they sucked up their pride and threw on a buckskin.

Just chunkThe last stop occurred this past Friday – the Blue River below Green Mountain Reservoir. Water management officials, oft considered the Magneto to Gracie’s X-Men, took it upon themselves to drop the flow from guaranteed death while wading level to somewhere between bring several first aid kits and don’t forget to pay your health insurance premiums on the gauge. A group of four charged downstream, along with a full parking lot of fours who arrived just a wee bit earlier. Fishing was tough, as expected. A mysterious individual, however, picked up ten or so on Graphic Caddis and Two-Tone Olive Humpbacks, and if that particular fly fisher hadn’t been so lazy with hook sets would probably have climbed close to twenty. This outlier had an excuse though – he who shall not be named (because people think he is a decent driver so they fill up his tank with glee) generally considers this section his spring season home water, and has fished it at these flows at least two dozen times in the past few years. And as you know by now, he’s prone to keeping his lips zipped until after the fact, although he did open up his fly box to all.

Alas, this past weekend was spent playing stuffed animal tug-of-war with the Collie dog toiling away at the keyboard, part catch-up on a project leaking slightly behind schedule (who’s fault…cough…cough) and part insidious delay tactic in providing fishing reports.

You’ve now got the goods. Go into hibernation, as they’ll be worth something twelve months hence.

MG signing off (to find another fishing spot he can clean out before Christmas and not tell you about until Easter)

The Blue River’s “significant other” on Black Monday 1987

In Colorado fly fishing circles, the name Jones is oft mentioned when discussing a conspicuously maintained section of the lower Blue River.

Lower Blue River via satellite

Actually one of Colorado’s gold medal waters, this section of the Blue is accessible only by raft. The optimum flow conditions for a safe float are a closely guarded secret, and you best be a very experienced (and well insured) oarsman if you try. Reason? The river is littered with huge protruding boulders and man-made weirs, and you can’t stop and/or set foot in the stream bed as it’s almost all private property. By the way, those weirs were built to keep the river’s inhabitants happy, and the occasionally catches of some of the larger [cough, choke, cough, cough] denizens forced locals to nickname the stretch Jurassic Park.

I’ve heard this significant portion of one of the finest trout waters imaginable called the Dow Jones property, but it has nothing to do with the Wall Street-esque publisher. No, the Jones property is owned by one Paul Tudor Jones, an avid outdoorsman who also happens to be a pretty [cough, choke, cough, cough] wealthy hedge fund manager.

A PBS special on Mr. Jones, aired in the late 80’s, was on YouTube for a bit – it’s since been taken down due to a copyright claim, but I did get a chance to see the first clip which ended just before Black Monday, 1987. Anyone want to venture a guess as to how Mr. Jones and his fund fared that fateful day?

Steering fly fishing in the wrong direction

teasdale-sticks-blue-riverI knew that all my hard work trying to get the Primal Fly crew to spend more time trout fishing would pay off. While firmly ensconced hoodlum Tom Teasdale only caught one trout last week, he did get to spend a lot of time rowing. And he’s back on the Blue today. No doubt sold.

Personally, I’m pretty glad that this weekend’s Teva Mountain Games fly fishing competition doesn’t include a rowing component – although I’d probably stand an even better chance of embarrassing myself, it’s very difficult to keep tequila in shot glasses while the boat bobs downstream oar-less. While I’ve never actually been responsible for a damaged boat, I have broken a few oars – I can live with that, but who can live with spilled tequila?

SIDE NOTE FOR THE GAMES: As of this morning the Eagle River was running 2,330 cfs and the Colorado below Kremmling (the suspected alternate to the Eagle for the Games) was at 3,370 cfs. Some might call those flows less than optimal conditions for competition, with some being anyone besides a world class kayaker. The Blue River below Green Mountain, at 952 cfs, is a little more reasonable for fly fishing, but even that is subject to sudden change. The tailwater was at 750 cfs just last night. Stay tuned.

Turning brownliners into Blue

Tyler Kendrick producing on a Gracie rigDodging turds in water you must first check with a geiger counter is more than any fly fisher should be forced to endure. Let’s face the facts – urban water is putrid, ugly stuff, and a fly fisher cannot reconnect with Mother Nature when they are deciphering graffiti and snagging submerged retreads. As a man oft described as caring and selfless, undeniably altruistic, I’ve taken it upon myself to try and rehabilitate a few of these brownlining folks.

Places and People

Last Saturday I again marched to the Blue River, described by some of the Orvis Cherry Creek folks as my home water. Precede that categorization with spring and you’ve got yourself a deal – I adore the Blue this time of the year, and will generally fish it hard right through caddis semester. I had Primal Fly mastermind James Snyder in tow once again, along with his colleague David Luna and bunny tying extraordinaire Tyler Kendrick.

Tough Love

I’d like to say we slayed trouts with reckless abandon, but around here we’re also trying to quash the general consensus that all fishermen are liars. A grand total sixteen fish were netted amongst us, a tally made all the more dismal considering we spent nine hours trying. Worse…two rods, a Loop Multi and a Scott A2, were broken (one through carelessness and one through Murphy’s Law), and one fine Rio Gold fly line was frazzled (although me thinks that was a manufacturer’s defect). A dozen plus flies were lost.

Beauty near day's endThe fishing results themselves were somewhat expected. I’d missed out on a Friday invitation, and the report back was a handful each. Those doing the reporting were more skilled than I, so the assumption was things were slowing down a bit. Nevertheless, what can go wrong will go wrong, and that includes having not a cloud in the sky.

On a positive note, what fish we did catch were gorgeous. Rosy cheeks and fat bellies. Like repetitive visits from Santa Claus, in May. And after breaking his rod early on and enduring an additional (undesirable) slog to the vehicle and back, Mr. Kendrick was able to put it behind him and pick up the fish of the day, a 22/23-ish rainbow in a difficult spot (and with the author’s rig…damn I’m a nice guy, eh?).

Intensive, long-term counseling should steer these dirty water thugs towards the road to recovery. I may not be the most qualified man for the job, but heck…someone’s gotta do it!

Dark, Brown and Blue

When a guy pulls a piece on you and says tie, you tie (even if you haven’t tied in years and don’t like it much). But when he calls you and asks nicely if you’d like to hit the Blue River, you exclaim ‘YES’ without thinking (and even if you know he’s going to bag early, shirking in his duty to pick up the dinner tab). This is much the relationship I have with Primal Fly’s James Snyder.

Last Sunday we hit the Blue River. The stretch had just undergone a flush, and the flows were as low as low could be, roughly 100 cfs. We were expecting truckloads of fish stacked up in deep pools and narrow runs. And that’s essentially what we got.

piggy-rainbow-going-homeother-bug-huntersThe morning started off with a bang – within the first hour we’d picked up several piglets. James and I worked swiftly downstream, soon losing our other colleague in the process. And the fishing slowed down a bit too. We needed some clues, some deeper understanding of what the fish were eating – we’d been fishing Jujubees and Buckskins, and knew the fish would be into meat if we could just figure out what flavor. Geese became our inspiration.

We donned our snorkels (you do carry a snorkel in your vest, right?), and found stones, cranes, as well as something we still have no genus species for…

cranefly-larva golden-stone strange-bug

Needless to say, we added stoneflies to the mix. Not long after a couple of CDOW troopers passed by, checking licenses. After a quick chat, we determined we were doing better than the average bear, of which we counted only four others on the water. Still not satisfied, we continued our march.


The DJ never arrived for the Blue River party

blue-river-in-silverthorneIf you’re a party goer, you have to hate getting up at 4am so you can drive to the club in hope of getting a seat at the open bar before the other guests arrive. You shouldn’t care if a rave is deemed better than work – you wind up exhausted by 2pm and you’ll inevitably sleep way too late the next day, so make sure you do this on Saturdays. At the party the drink of choice is 158 parts of vodka clear (we don’t drink gin around here and we don’t drink much vodka either, but the phrase “gin clear” is quite tired). It’s mixed at a temperature around 40 degrees (F), while the air temp swirls at much the same.

By the time your feet are wet you realize everyone else wants to party too (i.e. the dance floor is shoulder to shoulder at 6:30am). Everyone is dressed for success but you’re on the wagon – you’ve sworn off subtle charm in favor of cockiness. You “peacock” your way around the venue, showing the audience every color imaginable. But the DJ never turns up. By the time you succumb to peer pressure, the guests have all left but the punch is all gone too.

You inevitably wind up mingling in the corner with with outcasts – seven lonelies, all seven inches or shorter. Your wing-man notes that you shouldn’t feel bad – everyone else went home alone. It’s little consolation – you’ve been talking smack half the summer because you’ve been “picking up” week after week.

It’s now mid-morning Sunday. You are sitting in your bathrobe in front of the computer, wondering whether your “rap” will ever return.

Fly fishing translation follows…


Fly Fishing Tip #219: Don’t let your dog plan your outing

After lingering around Orvis for an hour yesterday, I took the prevailing advice and decided to head for the Blue River – a little morning green drake action seemed the ticket. I thought scooting up there immediately, catching a late hatch and maybe a little streamer action, then catching some zzz’s under the single-wall, would have me set up for a solid Sunday adventure. Scheduling around the Gracie household usually involves the collie dog, but since he’s recently been sleeping his days away in air conditioned comfort while I toil away on mosquito-laden gold medal waters, I thought he should join and do all the planning as well. Or at least, in retrospect, that’s what happened.

Arrival and investigation

After packing for the overnight stay, which included securing dog food, dog biscuits, dog leashes, and a dog bed, we set off. We showed up at the desired location and took a quick walk to survey the scene. The dog spent his time sniffing, and I struck up a conversation with the first fisherman I saw (who just so happened to be hooking up as I approached). Red San Juans were the hot item according to this guy, so I side-barred with the pup. A tilt of the head during the ensuing communication was the nod I needed – red Juany followed by a greenish Copper John would start things off.

Underdressed for the party

Not five minutes had passed and I already had a dink in the net (and please note: “dink” means anything under a foot in Colorado speak). But, several fish had already rolled on the indicator, midges were dotting the water, and PMDs were fluttering around too. It was cloudy and cool out, so the dog had decided to stay in the truck – I was therefore safe from criticism regarding the relative chances of scoring surface feeders. So I switched to up-top – now throwing a size 16-ish PMD followed by a tiny Griffiths Gnat.

At first this combination seemed a good choice – less than ten minutes of laying it behind two rocks just upstream produced one pursuit and one hookup – I now had a decent rainbow in net. But it was time to walk up a bit, and it was precisely at that point which I remembered the dog telling me I didn’t need studded soles. See…the Blue has always been a wading nemesis for me, so I’d bought “some steel” for this very moment. But I’m also wary of “signs”, and a waggle of the tail always meant ordinary felt was fine – again, I’m superstitious. Damn dog! If I hadn’t listened to him, I’d would’ve been dancing up to those fine pockets ahead – instead I was now bumbling towards them.

Needless to say I didn’t make quick progress, but spent the next hour and a half pretending the part (and managed to land one more). The light was now in front of me, so I couldn’t see bottom. I felt like I was wading in beach sandals. And now, it seems, my legs were feeling soggy. What? Yep, my waders were leaking. And they were leaking a little last week too, but when I took them home, dried them out, and started studying the issue, the dog brought a squeaking stuffed toy into the office and begged to be played with. I ended up putting off the wader repair to satisfy this canine’s need for on-demand attention. What do I get in return? Soggy legs!

We can wet wade in the morning, so let’s sleep on it

Once back at the truck, I realize the only one who had food was the dog. Ironically, said furry passenger barely eats a thing when we’re out and the driver usually snarfs down at least two cheese dogs and a half-dozen donuts before we’ve left the city limits. This was a problem, so we cranked up and headed for the closest convenience store. Convenience is a relative term when it comes to Colorado open space, meaning the closest outlet for acquiring even stale snack food was a cool fifteen miles away. And we had to double back, so in reality we would now cover an additional thirty miles as a result of four-legged selfishness.

Gullet satisfied and stores for the morning secured, we went searching for a camping location. I drove through two maintained venues, only to find tents tripled up at each site. We then scooted back by the last fishing spot, but people were hootin’ and other dogs were howlin’. And no sooner did I leave that parking area then the already dark skies opened up – it started dumping. Now I’ve got nothing against rain, and have pitched plenty of tents in downpours. But dragging a sopping wet collie dog into the tent, and then trying to sleep soundly next to the mop, pushes the limits of even trout-driven fanaticism.

We drove home instead

So…for forty bucks in gas I touched three fish. I’d be happy with that count if they were all 20+ inch piglets, but nary a trout hit 16 inches so I’m calling Saturday a bust. I’ve got nobody to blame but the dog myself. Had he I filled the cooler, left a little earlier, secured a campsite before dusk, and tied on a PMD first, I might have had a decent story to tell. Flash visions of slurping fish gave way to unpreparedness…

And this (hopefully) memorable blog post.


My owner is a sucker. And couches rule!

Saturday’s Blue Blues

The flows came down, and a few spots we haven’t touched in months became prime targets. Once again, we found ourselves on some short stretches of the Blue River, surrounded by peace and quiet (the spots receive little pressure). The day was not without its trials and tribulations – I’m short on words this afternoon, so we are working in outline form, with the pleasant news first…

The Good

1) I started the morning with a feisty 15 inch brown…and for the first time on the Blue can happily say I didn’t snap off the first two fish I hooked.
2) Pep Meister pulled in a brown that the newbie we brought along said was the largest river trout he’d ever seen caught. I saw a picture of it from the camera screen, and immediately thought it was one of those inflatables Todd brings along for photo ops.
3) Wild Bill Hickock took my advice on grey RS-2s, and ended up with the highest in-the-net count among the four of us.
4) My neighbor (the newbie) didn’t fall in, his third-hand waders didn’t leak, he got no tangles in his two-fly rig, and he lost precisely zero flies.

The Bad

1) My first fish was my last (unless you call a 6 inch dink rainbow a fish – then I caught two for the day); I lost twenty bucks worth of flies, a whole container full of #4 split shot, and a brand new bottle of Gink. My new streamer line sinks way too fast for anything but Loch Ness.
2) Pep Meister didn’t do much better, with a grand total three catches for the day. He only lost two flies, but they were both custom-made presents from a close friend.
3) Wild Bill caught a meager five, and ditched us before 3 o’clock without telling us any secrets. He didn’t like the cookies I brought him for lunch either.
4) The newbie went home empty handed (and I don’t mean because we’re catch and release freaks either). His dirty waders and boots are still lying next to dog toys in his backyard.

The Ugly


No explanation necessary.

We will chalk this one up to egos in need of adjustment, and will be back on the water, someplace, as soon as the bruises heal.

Fall fly fishing full of wonder

Particularly if you are hanging with a motley crew like us!

October 6th, 2007 is a day that will go down in the annals of fly fishing (in the world according to my cohorts and I) as a day full of wonder. We wondered why Bill wanted to stop at this godforsaken crowded place and try salmon fishing with lead cores and barrel eyed streamers. We wondered if good photography and stupendous fishing action could go hand in hand. We wondered why people get so worked up about fly fishing. And we wondered why fishing couldn’t be this easy all the time.

Why Salmon?

It didn’t take long to answer that question. Bill walked downstream with a 6-weight and enough lead to sink a medium-sized cruiseliner. Meanwhile, Todd and I decided to avoid the crowds and wandered up. As we rounded this bend we saw nothing but super fine trout water – off came the lead cores and on came the beadheads. It didn’t take long to figure out what the trout were into…eggs! I started with the usual, a #16 Prince, and followed it up with a green egg pattern. As expected, my first two casts produced hookups that I subsequently lost – that happens to me every time, despite warnings from my colleagues to pay attention from the get go. The action persisted from then on – I split my catches between the Prince and the egg, and things slowed a bit about ninety minutes in. But Todd came to the rescue, after discovering the fish had simply decided to go pink versus green – thank goodness I carry plenty of pink eggs. We still wonder whether the fish actually key on a particular color as a natural inclination, or whether the changing light spectrum as the sun moves higher has something to do with it. Nevertheless, we were quick to realize that despite the crowds most of the folks were both giving us our space and spending most of their time gawking at us instead of fishing (always nice). We’ll never wonder why Bill bagged the salmon chase and joined us.

Why is Michael such a crummy photographer? Don’t worry – he has plenty of excuses.

bill-in-constant-formIt was hard to get a good close-up of Bill in action. Everytime I looked over at him with camera in hand he was casual as could be. Every time I glanced over when my camera was in pocket he was hooked up and I was too! Combine those facts with a new camera and a photo dummy such as myself and you see the result. Something tells me nobody minded.

I didn’t get much chance to test the new camera’s underwater features as I wasn’t carrying a net. It’s a bit difficult to hold a rod, snap an underwater photo of the fish on your line, and then get the camera back into your pocket so you can grab said fish and release (particularly when you are pretty convinced the next cast will likely produce another catch). Call it no net, not enough hands, simple procrastination, or all of the above. I did, however, get a little better with the electronics as the day progressed, but it took a lunch invitation to get me there.

Bill brought food. Who’s taking a break?

The lack of photog flurry had a lot to do with the fact that every time I put my fly in the water some trout would grab it and go running for the closest rock/merry-go-round. You simply didn’t want to leave your flies in the river unless you were concentrating specifically on them. If you strolled over to another hole and your rig was dragging behind you, a fish was likely to follow it with eating on their mind. At one point, my colleagues declared the morning over – it was time for lunch.

lunch-time-or-landing-timeBill wandered my way and sat on a rock directly across from the hole I was working. He made a quick flip out with the intention of straightening out his line and leader on the way back in. Unfortunately for Bill and his meticulous gear care habit the trout had other ideas, and he was quickly back on his feet trying to get another pesky rainbow off his line. Here’s Todd having to deal with the same issue – reaching down for yet another fish when all the poor guy wanted to do was pack up and go munch a ham and cheese sandwich and some chocolate chip cookies. I was smart enough to take my rig completely off (after wondering whether a fish would have it in them to actually try jumping out of the water after dangling flies) and had the camera ready.

Results are facts. What you make of the rest of your day is up to you.

Feet were wet at about 9am. By noon we had roughly 50 fish between us, ranging in size from 10 to 16 inches. The trout were primarily rainbows, and a few scattered (and quite beautiful) cutbows. We ate lunch as planned and then ventured north for an afternoon on the Colorado. The production up there paled in comparison to the Blue morning. We also had a run in with some guy who thought he owned the place, screaming something about etiquette and “the 100 yard rule.” We wondered who the heck can maintain 300 feet of distance from fellow fishermen on a public stretch of river roughly a third-mile long, particularly when there are a dozen vehicles in the trail head lot. Personally, I think he and his cohort were “overly geared” and weren’t catching anything. We, on the other hand, were still dancing from the morning, and the fact that I hooked a decent fish roughly ten seconds after we arrived which subsequently ran me downstream to within an eye-shot of him didn’t exactly add to the camaraderie. Nevertheless, we wound up wondering why people get so stressed out about fishing, particularly fly fishing, and concluded that those who do probably need to find another sport.

My new Garmin Vista HCx was cranking away all day, tracking our progress across Colorado from Denver and then up through the Blue River Valley. The day covered 232.1 miles, including a little foot traffic, on a minimum altitude of 5,226.5 feet and maxing at 11,088 feet. We made a few stops and marked some waypoints. I’ll give those to you for ONE MEEELLLIIIOOON DOLLARS. I wonder if anyone will take me up on that offer, particularly considering I’ll just tell you where we were at if you ask.

And here is one of the fish of the day – a 20 inch female rainbow who from her appearance was definitely having some tough goings heading upstream – we named her the “bone of contention,” and hoped she remained happy:


We wondered how many of her future offspring we might have the opportunity to catch in our lives.

Editors note: the word “wonder” was [over] used precisely 12 13 times during the construction of this post, much to the readers’ wonder. Oops, that makes 14 – add the tag, and its 15 (but still less than the number of fish we each caught over the course of the day).