Frostbite Fish-Off 2014 Pueblo Colorado

by Jamie Roth

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FBFOLogo 2-19 JRI remember hearing about the Frostbite Fish-Off in Pueblo Colorado just before the 2012 event. It was either too late for registration or I was too chicken to sign up so I didn’t get to fish but I did show up the day of the tournament and walked a few beats. The tournament looked great. Unfortunately walking along beautiful trout water without a fly rod in your hands is not natural. In fact it is as wrong as….. well I won’t finish that thought but it’s wrong!

2-19 JRThe Frostbite Fish-Off is run by the Southern Colorado Greenback Chapter 509 of Trout Unlimited. An entire Army of volunteers make this tournament happen. Ben Wurster and Lou McCullough from Steel City Anglers walk point in this effort and they have done an outstanding job to make this event a fun but competitive event that raises a good amount of money for Chapter 509. All of the proceeds from the event go directly to improving the fishery and many stream improvements have happened and continue to happen due in part to the money raised by this event. Lou McCullough provided a little history on the event.

Stream Improvement 2-19 JR6“Ben and I started the FFO after Ben was a controller in the Carp Slam in downtown Denver organized by the Denver Chapter of TU.  I knew a lot of guides and people in the business and we had the support of Team USA, Rob Kolanda and company.  I sent out hundreds of e-mails and we had 23 teams the first year.  It was an insane experience, with over 100 people at Garlic and Onions, the venue for the first year.  The money we netted over the first 2 years went into a total contribution from Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of $11,100.00 which was doubled by a GOCO grant. Coupled with a Packard Grant and $100,000.00 from CPW and other sources we totaled $340,000.00 for the Arkansas River Legacy Project Phase II.  It has been a real adventure, meeting new friends and spreading the word about the Arkansas River tail water.  Now the river is one of the top ten tail water fisheries in the country, thanks to Pete Gallagher of Fin-Up Habitat Consultants and his incredible design for the structures”.

Ben Lewis and I joined “forces” and created Team Chuck and Duck for the 2013 tournament. At that time, neither one of us had fished in a tournament before so we didn’t really know what to expect. Ben and I had drawn two good beats the night before (a fun event in itself) that we had both fished before so we were feeling pretty confident the morning of the tourney. As we walked to our first beat with a dozen tangled rods however, I began to question my confidence in two dudes with way too many rods who could only come up with “Chuck and Duck”.

When it was all said and done fish were caught, old friends were caught up with, new friends were met, and Ben and I had an absolute blast. We endured paparazzi, mobs of crazed female spectators, fish that ignored us the entire morning save our last THREE MINUTES of morning fishing, and a last hour of the day, buzzer beating, jaw dropping, ROD BREAKING fish hook up! Fun was to be had each step of the way. 2014 had big shoes to fill.

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Feeling the pressure just before the morning session

The 2014 Frostbite Fish-Off did not disappoint! The tournament this year started off with the news that we were going to fish two outstanding beats. We were going to fish beat 4 in the morning which had recently been worked on through the ongoing stream improvements and featured several beautiful weirs, a long deep run with large submerged boulders, and a run fed by the hatchery outlet. In the afternoon we had beat 2 on tap that featured a long riffle that tails out into a deep pool with a gradual drop off toward the north bank along the entire run. We would not be able to blame our beats if we didn’t post some respectable numbers. The pressure was on!

Ben got us off to a great start with a 19″ rainbow within the first 10 minutes of the morning session.  I was able to post 17″ of rainbow trout about 45 minutes later. We had two fish on the board and needed two more to max out our morning session. We needed to keep up the momentum. At that point Ben stepped in and turned it to 11.

Ben is starting to make a habit out of pulling absolute slabs out of Pueblo on the biggest nastiest flies that have survived since his Alaska days in the deepest recesses of long forgotten fly boxes. Good for Team Chuck and Duck that Ben sticks to what works!  I don’t want to give away his secrets but I’ll say that he was chucking a purple leach type pattern that almost looked as though it was sucking on a hot pink trout egg. Almost as if a leach was swimming around sucking on a leach. I’d probably call it a huge purple egg sucking leach….. and it’s awesome.

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Ben Lewis winner of biggest fish 14′!

This awesome. When combined with the correct retrieve of course. This fatty could not resist the purple nightmare dangling in front of its face. Getting to net this thing was a treat enough. When it kicks in that you get 21″ out if this beauty since you are fishing in a tournament, the world is yours. But it got better.

While I was dinking around with midges and leaches, Ben was dredging away to seal the deal. And it turns out our 21″ slabba had a friend that also had an eye for purple. He held out as long as he could but not long enough. With 10 minutes left in the morning session, his glutinous Prince loving friend (the trout’s not Ben’s) let loose and bit down hard on the purple dancing dream that had been swimming around his head for the last 20 minutes. No way! Catching two trout over 21″ in that short period of time is no small accomplishment folks. There was no way we weren’t winning.

And we were! This was crazy considering our main goal going in was to not finish last. Lunch was fun and all but it took an eternity. We were looking to get back in the water. Our normal lunches on fishing trips take about 4 minutes. We were winning a fishing tournament! Crazy…

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Are we friggin winning!?

 

winning 2-19 JR7After a quick wardrobe change, we kicked off the afternoon session. Ben hooked up quick and landed a 16″ bow. We were on the board in the first half hour. So far so go. Then I was lucky enough to hook and land a 17″ bow about a half hour after that. On a good pace! 20 minutes or so later I hooked up but felt the dreaded release and hook. I knew he came unbuttoned and my second fly found his tail. Foul hooked trout don’t count so after a quick net and release Ben was fishing again.

We needed one more fish! We got down to two minutes when Ben hooked up! I told Ben that I would get in position while he netted. I tied on the nastiest egg cluster pattern I had and threw a slab of mojo mud on the line. I told Ben that as soon as the fish was landed I would cast. I kid you not, with less than a minute left I saw a nudge and set the hook to a solid pull. Jim Good gave me a heads up that I had 10 minutes to land it. A nice 10-15 yard run of line and I was living the dream. Then my monster trout started coming right in.

No…… please no…… not now…. please not now. I’ve felt this fight before. I’ve been burned by this fight before. Yes, it was……………a sucker. A beefy egg faced sucker! Last year I broke a rod on a huge last minute bow…. And now a sucker burn with the clock at zero…… terrible 1st world problem to have.

BUT,…… we had put three descent fish on the board. We knew not posting four fish in the afternoon would make it very hard to place but we also knew that the conditions on the water were tough.

I think both of us figured we’d done well but didn’t know if we did well enough to place. I couldn’t believe that we were even considering the thought of placing. We have a LOT of REALLY good fisherpeeps (cannot forget our ladies) teaching our trout lessons year round in our great state of Colorado. Just to be close was a great feeling.

FBFO14Bronze 2-19 JR Lou provided a really nice introduction welcoming Team Chuck and Duck up front to accept Third Place at the awards dinner! Bronze Baby! And Ben gets the Biggest Fish award and a new rod to boot!

I’ve never won an award for fishing before. This was sweet! Bringing home hardware from a hard days fishing. Life is really good. I’m making Ben Most Valuable Fisher (MVF) for the 2014 FBFO. Thanks buddy! Can’t wait for next year.

On a very personal note, I would like to thank my Dad who introduced me to fishing at a young age. I learned from the get go that fishing isn’t all about catching fish. Thanks Dad! Looking forward to many more write ups.

For more information on fishing the Arkansas River Tailwater in Pueblo Colorado check out my blog at http://jamiesfishingjournal.blogspot.com . To book a trip to this great fishery head over to http://www.steelcityanglers.com and talk to Ben and Lou.

Small Stream Fly Fishing

by Mark Hanes

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Well it has been a rough and long winter in the Northeast so far this year and I have not been able to beat the winter blues with a few fishing trips to get by. To this point the reading of magazines and looking at the latest and greatest new gear on the web is beginning to become more depressing rather than a way to pass the time in anticipation of warmer weather and hatches.  Cabin fever has been in full force this winter.

 

Cabin Fever takes hold.  (Photo by Bella Hill)

Cabin Fever takes hold. (Photo by Bella Hill)

 

I enjoy all types of fly fishing and trout is normally my target,  but as I look back on many of my favorite times fishing over the years I realize they often happen on many of the small brooks and runs that are within an hour or two drive of home.  There is just something special about walking into a small stream and catching wild fish that seem to be perfectly made for those small streams.  What those fish lack in size they make up for in beauty.

 

 

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Proper Catch and Release is vital to the health of these fish populations for years to come. (Photo by Daniel Hanes)

 

Gear:

 

One of the beautiful things about small stream trout is that you can keep things simple. Rods used are usually in the 6 ft to 8 ft range and 3 wt to 5weight.   Reels do not need to do more than hold the line and I even suggest not spending too much on them since they will likely get scratched up in time due to climbing over rocks and logs.  When it comes to flies I only carry one small box of flies with it mostly being dry flies.   I am partial to elk hair caddis, Adams, and the classic royal coachman.  I will usually have a few ants and beetles as well.  The Nymphs I carry are simple like a selection of pheasant tails and hare’s ears will do the trick.  A couple of wooly buggers are also good to have just in case you feel streamers might be the ticket.  I usually only use flies from size 10 to 14.  Throw in a couple spools of tippet and a short 6 to 7.5 foot taper leader and you are set.  I do personally take a net to help take extra care of fish that I may want to photograph.  I guess that means a digital camera is required equipment for me as well.

 

Dejon Hamann demonstrates how to stay low to increase your chances of catching more trout. (Photo by Author)

Dejon Hamann demonstrates how to stay low to increase your chances of catching more trout. (Photo by Author)

 

Tactics:

 

You do not need to be able to make long cast when fishing the tight quarters that you will encounter.  I rarely cast more than 25 feet with most cast being in the 10 to 20 foot range.   What is more important with casting is accuracy since on these small streams you will likely spend more time keeping your flies out of the brush and trees.  One of my favorite tactics is sneaking as close as I can and dapping flies on the water.  When doing this close up fishing you get the thrill of seeing all aspects of the trout taking your fly.  The fish are spooky so you will want to tread lightly and keep a low profile often fishing from your knees to increase your chances of catching.

 

Nick Bell snuck up and made things happen with this fish. (Photo By Author)

Nick Bell snuck up and made things happen with this fish. (Photo By Author)

 

I hope you all get a chance to enjoy a few days experiencing the joys of small stream fishing.  You won’t catch a fish that will be one to brag about but you might catch a few that have the beauty to leave you wanting more.  By getting a little off the beaten path and fishing some small streams the gems (fish) are worth the adventure.

 

Native brook Trout (Photo by author)

Native brook Trout (Photo by author)

 

Wild rainbow trout. (Photo by author)

Wild rainbow trout. (Photo by author)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving the Catch

By Greg Hall

psgreghallblurred“Catch and Release” has been around and in practice for many years.  Fishing organizations embrace it. I still think taking a few fish on a very rare occasion provides a great meal and is an acceptable practice.  Fish are returned to the waters with the thought that they will survive to be caught by another angler in the future. Many of us have no idea how fragile our released fish are, or what practices we can do to promote their survival.

 

Dr. Ed Crum has best described to me what catching a fish is like, to the fish, in human terms: think about running 40 yard sprints and then sticking your head in a bucket of water and trying to breathe. Hopefully, that got your attention!! Let’s use some common sense and observe some practices to improve the chances of keeping your catch extant.

 

  • In choosing your fishing equipment, match the proper rod weight with to fish you plan to catch.
  • Don’t use a 3 wt rod to catch 5 pound trout.
  • Use a proper catch and release net with rubber netting. The other nets cut into the fishes skin, removes the protective mucous membrane and can cause infections.
  • WET YOUR HANDS before handling the fish.
  • After netting your catch keep the fish in the water at all times. Unhook quickly and under water.

 

Using the proper size rod to match the fish you are catching allows one to land a fish easier than bringing it to exhaustion using a lighter outfit. Trout will exhibit lighter discolorations in skin areas where the oxygen in those tissues is near or at exhaustion. If they survive it may possibly take many hours to recover. By keeping pressure on the fish using the rod tip in the opposite direction that the fish is traveling will fatigue the larger lateral muscles without exhausting your catch. By the way, FISH BARBLESS HOOKS. The time it takes to free and the damage the barbs create may cause your released fish to be no longer extant.

 

photo 1The eye and mouth of the fish can demonstrate how stressed your catch is:

   Ready to release: when the eye is focused, moving, looking down into the corner; mouth closed or slightly open

    Fatigue and some stress: eye is fixed with some dilation and not looking down; mouth slightly open. Gently revive moving back and forth in slow current until the fish is capable of swimming off on its own.

      Suffering severe shock, stress, and possibly near dead: Pupils fixed and dilated fully (glass eye appearance); mouth fully open and no movement. Little can be done at this point to revive your fish.

 

Life threatening injuries to your catch usually involve keeping it out of the water too long, damaging the gills with the hook or your fingers, and /or squeezing the fish behind the pectoral fins in the area of the heart.

The large brown trout exhibits a trout near death. The rainbow shows a little stress but with proper handling will regain excellent condition for release.

Videos and pictures of your catch can be safely taken if you keep your fish in the net in the water until the video/ camera is ready. Quickly hold the fish up and out of the water for no longer than fifteen seconds or less and place him back into the net, check his condition and properly release

I hope this gives a better understanding of really what “catch and release” should be. Hopefully other anglers will enjoy these fish and practice the same techniques.

 

Greg Hall, Exec. Pro Staff

Fly Rod Chronicles

 

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