Fly Fishing for Trout Home
User Password
or register.
Scientific name search:

> > High Country Hoofing: A Photo Essay

Report at a Glance

General RegionN Colorado
Fish Caughtlotsa brookies
Conditions & HatchesBaetis in afternoon. A few large mays that must have been late Drunella coloradensis. A largish tan caddis all day that dipped to lay eggs. Stomachs surveyed were eclectic.

Details and Discussion

PaulRobertsSeptember 10th, 2012, 2:06 pm

Posts: 1776
I did some fishing last week on a small stream that, like all Colorado Front Range streams, starts up high on the Continental Divide and drops some 7000ft to the plains in a mere 15miles as the raven flies. The stream shades from cutthroats, to brookies, to browns over this span. This is John Gierach’s home stream on which a number his essays center. It's a half hour drive from my home and this day consisted of an 8 mile round trip hike starting just above the brown trout limit at ~8800ft, I cherry-picking pools up to ~9800ft. I turned back as dusk approached never reaching the cutthroat water.

There are little trout in every cut and run but the better deeper pools usually (but not always) hold the better fish, thus the cherry-picking. The water was as low as I‘ve ever seen it though and I took none of the larger fish that I normally find at least a few of (11”-12” for browns and cutts, and 10” for brookies), except for a single 11” cutt.

Now… I chose to offer this photo essay as digital watercolors through PhotoShop. Apologies to Mark, and to my father, who are both accomplished watercolorists, and to others who may think it’s cheesy. I kinda like it.

Here in the west it's the groundcover that turns a kaleidoscope of color, and when the mountainsides take on those hues I yearn to be hiking through it, especially bowhunting for grouse or deer, or flyfishing for spawning brookies.

Dippers, and thrushes, were my streamside companions.

This is the rod I built especially for this size stream, a 7-1/2ft XF 4wt dubbed, "Arctopsyche". It performs perfectly for the dry fly fishing I often do on these streams.

It's all brookies at this elevation.

And they reside in every cut and pocket.

Better pools, usually provided by well situated deadfalls or large boulders are more apt to give up the better fish, or the most -as many as a half dozen at a go with a careful approach and lane coverage.

The brookies were just coming into spawning condition. The males are especially stunning.

The females tend to be paler in coloration and bear the pearly swollen bellies common among many freshwater fishes that provide a visual gender cue to the aggressive males.

The lone cutt.

Hoofing out I came upon this scene, a spike bull elk and a moose cow and her calf. The cow did not seem to want to yield the trail to me so, with no solid trees to hide behind should she charge, I detoured. I’ve been chased by cow moose before.

Wild trout, wild plums, and a salad from the garden (this time of year wild greens are intolerably bitter).
SofthackleSeptember 10th, 2012, 10:36 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Hey Paul,
I like it, too. Photoshop can be fun, for sure.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
OldredbarnSeptember 10th, 2012, 10:41 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
Very nice Paul! I'm loading up the fishing wagon as I type...What a wonderful looking day...The PhotoShop stuff looks nice, but the male brookies need little enhancement, no?! :)

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like to hear a bit on your tactics for fishing such a tiny, fast flowing, little stream.

Voelker has mentioned the Yellow Dog in some of his writings. It is in the UP and has the steepest slope of any river in our state here...It runs from the Huron Mountains not too far from the town of Big Bay...The site of the shooting in his "Anatomy of a Murder". The river is wider than your little stream, but has a great many small water falls with pools and current runs and whirlpools.

An aside: I just read somewhere that Voelker's famous Frenchmen's Pond in the UP is no more. It was created by a very old beaver dam and somehow it has finally gave way. I think I spotted the story in the newsletter of the Angler's of the Au Sable...The River Watch is the name of their publication.
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsSeptember 11th, 2012, 12:43 am

Posts: 1776
Thanks, Mark. I sure love watercolors. I actually think they can convey more of what we love in our visual world than photo's -more emotion maybe. Feels kinda cheap though to reduce a summer's worth of painting work to a couple hours on PS. Then again, I'm happy to be able to do it. The results, while a bit repetitive, are effective enough to give me something akin to that spark I feel from real paintings.

On Voelker and fishing wagons: I inherited only two things from my maternal grandfather: His copy of Anatomy of a Fisherman and his fishing wagon -a metallic blue 1966 Chevy II wagon. It was a base model with one upgrade -a posi-traction rear end. It was his fishing car, purchased when he retired as the last surviving railroad engineer on the old Adirondack rail line. In the glovebox was the original sticker: It cost $2745 spanking new. I drove it for a bunch of years myself.

As to fishing such water, gosh, I actually had written up a long Tolstoy-esque piece on fishing high gradient canyon streams earlier this summer, almost posted it, and then got off onto other stuff.

The short answer is dealing with drag, so stealth,positioning, and a short line are the best bets. Still you're apt to receive a lot of "false rises". This is due first to barely perceptible micro-drag, than to fly choice. Keep your leader dry and greased all the way to the fly. A tip: Change your entire leader after a few hours as soaked nylon begins to sink. This is huge, and after a few hours you may be too tired to notice why your "false rise" rate has increased.

The trick to nymphing such water lies in identifying fishable lanes. Turbulence is triple the trouble subsurface.

All casts need to be well planned, and approach is a key part. Fish in such turbulence face in all directions and drag matters. Start gunning and you are going to pass up a whole lot of fish. Which can be OK; Finding water that fits your rig, skills, energy level, expectations, etc... is what the "cherry picking" is about.

I really love small streams like these bc of all the fishing they require. Kind of puts golf to shame, as each "pool" consists of SO much real estate to negotiate. The really steep canyon streams can be physical torture though, so those are more a love/hate relationship.
Jmd123September 12th, 2012, 5:54 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
Beautiful scenery, beautiful fish, beautiful fishing. Thanks for sharing with us, Paul! The trout-on-a-plate photo is a perfect finish.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
JOHNWSeptember 13th, 2012, 4:24 pm
Chambersburg, PA

Posts: 452
I love the report and the PS work. I have no issue with the transformation to water colors in photo shop as you had to capture a decent image to start with. The old adage of crap in = crap out still applies and those images certainly were NOT crap!!!!!
"old habits are hard to kill once you have gray in your beard" -Old Red Barn
PaulRobertsSeptember 17th, 2012, 10:05 pm

Posts: 1776
Thanks, Jonathan, and John. The one thing I'm missing in my images are people. I can't fish and shoot too. I do have a uni-pod but it wasn't in my vest. It also takes time to set up a good shot with it, but I need to do that.
JOHNWSeptember 18th, 2012, 7:52 pm
Chambersburg, PA

Posts: 452
Simply enclose one round trip first class nonstop ticket in an envelope and mail to my address and I will gladly provide a person for you to include in your photographs. Come to think of it I have a little over two weeks of vacation time built up so you could have a lot of practice. ;)
"old habits are hard to kill once you have gray in your beard" -Old Red Barn
MartinlfSeptember 18th, 2012, 9:27 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
If something happens to JW and he can't make it, I'll gladly sub for him. Gorgeous photos.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PaulRobertsSeptember 19th, 2012, 11:59 am

Posts: 1776
It would be fun to fish together. But you'd have to think through traveling this far for such little trout.
MartinlfMay 12th, 2014, 7:56 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
I went looking for one of Paul's older stories, and so far have found this. I'm bumping it up for those who may not have seen it. Photos to inspire a new season.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
OldredbarnMay 12th, 2014, 11:34 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
Nice...Thanks Louis. I almost thought Paul was back home, but somewhere in this old brain I had a faint memory of having seen it somewhere before.


It was nice seeing ole' Libertone's face again in that thread as well.
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
MartinlfMay 15th, 2014, 12:31 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
You're welcome, Spence. The size issue comes up in Paul's last post in this thread, though he may have just been trying to avoid mailing those pricy airline tickets to either JohnW or me. But to continue the theme, we might consider a Thoreau mis-quotation someone shared with me at some point, and the actual passages from Thoreau:

Misquotation: Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.

Michael Baughman wrote in his A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156, clearly paraphrasing and not quoting: “I think it was in Walden where he wrote that a lot of men fish all their lives without ever realizing that fish isn’t really what they’re after.” Baughman may have been paraphrasing from Thoreau’s Journal, January 26, 1853:

It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.

The closest parallel in a non-Thoreau text is from E.T. Brown’s Not Without Prejudice: Essays on Assorted Subjects (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1955) p. 142: “When they go fishing, it is not really fish they are after. It is a philosophic meditation.”

I'd gladly travel far and wide to spend a day with Paul, and to see a bit of what he's seen up in those mountains.

"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PaulRobertsMay 16th, 2014, 8:15 pm

Posts: 1776
Thoreau goes on to describe those fisherman:

"His life itself passes deeper in nature than the studies of the naturalist penetrate; himself a subject for the naturalist."

This is why I am a naturalist, an angler, a writer, and a Thoreau fan.

Some day I hope to catch up with you too Louis, and the others here. Maybe when I come east (or is it west now?) again.
MartinlfMay 17th, 2014, 9:15 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Paul, as Spence can tell you, the PA boys will roll out the red carpet. And Spence himself is also known for his hospitality. Not to forget Kyle who has offered floor space or a chicken coop to a PA boy--or did someone else suggest those accommodations? Come on home when you're ready. The trout await.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
EntomanMay 17th, 2014, 8:53 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Thank for bumping, Louis.

Excellent, Paul - you homesick yet? ;)

Yes it is, Spence...
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman

Quick Reply

You have to be logged in to post on the forum. It's this easy:
Username:          Email:

Password:    Confirm Password:

I am at least 13 years old and agree to the rules.

Related Discussions

TitleRepliesLast Reply
Two Days on a beautiful river
In Fishing Reports by Motrout
Re: Rain, Sleet, and Blue Winged Olives
In Fishing Reports by Motrout
4Nov 27, 2010
by Jesse
Re: Autumn on the water with Bubba
In Fishing Reports by Martinlf
3Oct 12, 2008
by JAD
Re: Current River (belated report)
In Fishing Reports by Motrout
1Sep 25, 2010
by Martinlf
Re: best mountain stream trout
In General Discussion by Smallstream
8Jul 5, 2009
by Troutnut
Re: Tellico River Tennessee
In General Discussion by Streamdream
1Jun 26, 2014
by Ranny
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
In Fishing Reports by Teddyp
Re: Nymph??
In the Identify This! Board by Btbo32
7Nov 4, 2017
by Btbo32
Re: looking to spring
In General Discussion by Bowmandjk
2Dec 28, 2008
by Aaron7_8
Re: Two for one special
In Fishing Reports by Motrout
2Jun 21, 2014
by Motrout