Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gone Fishing

About a week ago I was lucky enough to get an invite to a very nice day of fishing on some very private water at the North Fork Ranch. The Ranch is located in Shawnee which is about 13 miles west of Bailey on 285. It sits on the North Fork of the South Platte River. The staff has done an amazing job with the section of river that runs through their property and they manage it super closely. Yesterday we were the only ones on the water except for the Ranch dog who checked on us routinely to make sure we were being ethical and to get scratches behind the ears. You can't even look at the water without a guide and our guides for the day were Kay and Luke who work out of The Hatch (located on 285 in Pine Junction which is just east of Bailey). If you choose to stay at the Ranch, you will work with their guide (Kevin) but the Ranch also works with some shops to bring on clients but then you not only pay the shop guide fee but also an additional $100 rod fee that goes straight to the ranch. Normally, this would have been a steep bill for a dirtbag like me but huge thanks to my buddies Scott and Steve for thinking of me when a slot opened up in their trip.

We were able to get on the water at about 9:30 and worked until 4:50 before calling it. Right away I was blown away with how many fish were on the property and how big they were. This stretch of the North Fork has got to be a challenge to manage because the folks in government in Denver do not see fly fishing as a viable economic benefit to the state. Water flow is strictly based on how many people are thirsty in Denver (and not to support trout habitat) and that just plain sucks. Because of this, the entire North Fork (which flows out of Dillon Reservoir up near Frisco) pretty much freezes up solid in the winter. There are a few deep holes on the property and the staff will corral the fish before the freeze and relocate them to those holes or they will die. They also have a large holding pond on the property and they relocate many fish to it as well. Of course the rule is barbless hooks only (and they will check) and catch and release goes without saying. Someone who plays and handles the fish appropriately is very much appreciated.

The South Platte drainage amazes me for it's diversity. Bailey is a 55 minute spirited drive for me but the aquatic life is 180 out. When I fish the South Platte we use very small flies (20-24) and 6x fluorocarbon tippet (it's like hair) because the fish will slide out of the feeding column when presented with anything different. You have to play them gingerly with that gear. I rigged up how I normally would but with much bigger flies. I started with an egg pattern and dropped a 14 Prince Nymph off it after Luke suggested it and I gave him the stink eye. I broke off the first 8 or so fish I got into and lost 2 flies each time. I spent a lot of time rigging up. I finally got frustrated after seeing 22" Rainbows make a pretty simple run and bust me that I cut my 5x leader way down and ran single fly with no tippet and a San Juan Worm and landed my first one of the day. From 10:30 until about noon I caught countless trout in the 20" range on weird (for me) flies like huge Pheasant Tails, bead heads, Prince Nymphs, Copper Johns, etc. and 4x tippet. They were not shy at all and you could put it on them right away to get them in line.

We broke for lunch at noon and something happened (barometric pressure change is all I can think of) and we saw a lot less fish set up and nymphing was tough. I spent some time talking with Kay about streamer fishing and she suggested I switch. Normally I would never think of fishing a streamer unless it was night, early morning, or really cloudy but she said they would hit it. Things had already been more strange than what I was used to and Kay had impressed me enough that I trusted her judgment so I made the move. I started in and quickly had a big Bow come up from the deep to take an ugly ass white pattern. I landed two more just like that and then pitched it to the far bank and let it swing all the way back and had another follow it the entire way before crushing it in the near shallows. I had fish set up below me where I would just swing it in front of their face and work it until they got pissed enough to kill it. Streamer fishing is my favorite and it saved the afternoon so I was really glad that Kay told me to switch. It was really special to see Scott and Steve rig up with streamers (they had never done it before) and they both put on a clinic after a tennis lesson from Kay. At about 3, things really took a turn for the worst and the fish got weird. I could actually hit them with a streamer and they wouldn't even spook. So something happened and I ended up chatting with Kay most of the rest of the day about fishing and cameras. Super fun day. If you are looking to hire a guide I would highly recommend Kay. She will work her ass off to make sure you enjoy your day. You can get in touch with the shop and they will take care of the rest (even outfitting you with all the gear if you don't own it). If you wanna chase big fish she can set it up. If you just wanna catch a lot of smaller fish, she can handle that too. She might even bring you cookies but I think that was just special for us. The one negative thing I will say about Kay is that I never got to see her fish. I have several guide friends and know that they are trying to earn money so there have been a few times I've hired them to fish with me for the day with the stipulation that THEY FISH. I fish alone a lot because my friends that truly get it have a life of their own as well (with kids and wives) and it's sometimes hard to get out together. Sometimes it's hard to find people that like to fish as hard and as much as I do so hiring someone is always an option. I saw Kay carry rods and sometimes even paused to say, "Is she gonna hit it?" But Kay, the consummate professional, never did. She is now another guide that I may call and throw out the offer to make some cash on her day off to go fish. Thank you Kay for a killer day.

The slide show this time is a little longer than normal. I took out a lot of pictures so hopefully it's not boring to watch. Enjoy and thanks for checking in. Now get out there and do something fun this weekend.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Sweeeeeet. I can't get that day out of my head. Amazing.