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Reflections on 2017

by Angler’s Covey Guides

At the eve of a new year, we tend to do two things.  We resolve to do or try new things in the coming year to improve our lives, and we reflect on the year that is now in our rear view mirror. Jon Easdon, Director Services, shared that 2017 was “a refreshing year in terms of guiding. With fairly consistent flows throughout the year and no major drought or flooding issues, these consistencies were a welcome change from our roller coaster years before.” Our Angler’s Covey guides took some time to share some experiences that made 2017 memorable.

Kenny Romero:  Sometimes You Have to See The Big Picture

2017 was another amazing fly fishing year in Colorado!  The rivers and lakes fished well all year. Mountain snowpack was above average to begin the year and that resulted in strong river water flows, creating the perfect habitat for a sustainable healthy trout population. We are so blessed to live, work, and play in such a great part of the country.  Our South Park lakes, particularly Spinney Mountain and Antero reservoirs, produced large Cuttbows, Browns and Rainbows on a variety of Chironomids, Callibaetis mayflies, and streamers from ice off to ice on.  There’s nothing quite like having a 25” Rainbow smash your #10 Hopper Juan and take you into your backing on Stillwater.  All in all, 2017 was fantastic.  But the thing that makes fly fishing so special for me is the environment we fish in and the people we fish with.  Enjoying time on a beautiful river or lake with clients, or friends or family is just so special and something I never take for granted. I am so looking forward to the best ever Colorado fly fishing in 2018!

Dave Herber:  Creating Opportunities, Making Memories

Some of my most memorable times of 2017 relate to the high flows in The South Platte.

In July, Deckers flowed at 739 cfs, more than twice the normal. Teaching and practicing wading safety was paramount! All Photos Credit: Dave Herber

We found trout in the eddies behind structure and at the edges.  With the high flow, trout keyed on worms.  On several guide trips I had my clients nymphing with a worm and a worm and lots of weight. One of my clients stepped out of the water and had two live worms attached to one of his wading boots!

In August, as our heavy flows settled, I took many clients to The Middle Fork of the South Platte River (Badger Basin).  With its smaller and un-crowded water, and trout willing to take hoppers, many great memories were made.

Eclipse Day, Monday, August 21, was a magic day at Badger Basin.


Eclipse Day, Monday, August 21, was a magic day at Badger Basin.  I guided a father & adult son who had fly fished The Dream Stream the day before. Their Sunday at The Dream Stream was a very crowded day. They were seeking solitude for their second day on our trout waters. The fishing started slow. When the eclipse came with the eerie darkness it brought, the trout started rising and the bite came on. It was like Happy Hour (the last hour before dark), but in the morning.

Many of my 2017 guide trips were at Rainbow Falls Mountain Trout.  Rainbow Falls is my favorite place to introduce those new to fly fishing. This private fly fishing ranch is also a great place for parents to take their kids for their first day with a fly rod. The kids aren’t bored when they are playing a trout. I have great admiration for parents (and grandparents) that “start them young.”

Anthony Surage:  Some Days It Comes Down to Hope

It was the dog-days of summer. The fishing had been tough. Flows were high. The fish were hard to find. Over the past few weeks, we were not putting many fish in the net. And yet it was during these tough times when the highlights of the 2017 guiding season occurred. Three trips, with clients who met the challenge, stand out.

One.   As we headed out to Deckers, I was forthright with my client. “The fishing has been slow. We will need to make the best of the situation. We will need to make the most of any opportunities that come our way. We may not get another chance.”

When we arrived below Deckers, I started to give instruction on the basics: how to cast and high stick nymph.  I was unable to hide my concern that we might not catch anything but I did my best to prepare him and keep him on task.  A few hours passed and nothing.  More time passed, drifting, casting and drifting. I felt foolish to remind him again, to be ready; it could happen. But I kept reminding him, just in case.

More casting without a bump.

Something inside me changed slightly. Perhaps it was a tiny seed of hope.  I can’t say what it was exactly, but just about when I was ready to give it all up as hopeless, I found myself reminding my client once again what to do if a fish strikes. I kept reminding him that a fish could strike out of no-where and that he would need to let go, raise the rod, and let the fish run.

I looked away for a moment. Then he softly and calmly said, “I think I have one.”  His words did not register to me at first.  The past few hours had been that hopeless.  I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at his line cutting through the water and slightly away. I said, “Yes, you do have one.”  The fish was not moving much.  I had a sense that it was staging a possible surge but I was not sure.  Maybe it was a small fish.  Nonetheless, I reminded him to keep the rod up and if the fish runs to let go. We waited in the tension.

And then the fish made a powerful surge and leapt toward the middle of the river. It was huge.  My client kept asking me what to do. I kept reminding him that he was doing it. We let the fish run when it surged, and we took up the slack when the fish moved toward us. The only problem was the flow was very high and the heavy water kept pushing the big fish down river and the fish knew how to use the flows. And we were running out of real estate. A hundred yards of bank were left before the cable that marked the private section where we could not trespass.   It was now or never. It was time to move down river with the fish from a higher angle. The first three attempts to get the client out of the river failed. Finally I helped him out on to the bank. We moved down the bank with the fish and then we climbed on to the road. I called down to fellow guide Earl to help while I coached the client from the road. The fish was tucked up along the bank holding its ground. Earl slipped his net under the 24-inch Leviathan.

What a fish — caught against all odds by a first-time fly fisher.

Two. The best fish highlights seem to occur when it feels just about hopeless.  The Dream Stream was at a high flow and not fishing well. My client was a 12-year old boy named Caiman. He had never fly fished before. We stood on the banks looking at the intimidating currents swirling around the submerged boulders.  The river looked big; Caiman looked small and I knew the fish were big and strong.

Caiman was a humble young man. He listened. He did what I asked him to do. So he casted and casted and worked on getting good drifts. Several times throughout the fish-less morning, I reassured him that he was doing well; that he was not doing anything wrong. I blamed it on the fish. “Caiman,” I said, “I know it does not feel like there are any fish in this river. We have not had a bite. But stick to it as best you can and try to remember that the fish are here and a big fish can strike in any moment.”  I added the painful truth, “I am not saying a fish will bite but I am saying that one can.”

I am not sure if my words gave him hope or made him feel more hopeless. I am not sure those words even gave me hope, but 45 minutes later, he humbly uttered those wonderful words, “I have a fish.”  I immediately told him to just hold the rod up and to let the fish run which he was already doing. It was wonderful. But we were far from landing the Brown. It surged down river over and through the boulders. It made a marvelous leap. Caiman did everything perfectly. He moved with the fish, rod held high, keeping the fish just above the boulders.  Against all hope, one hundred yards down river we netted the large Brown. One fish for all those hours of waiting but it was worth it.

Three.  My client John knew what he was doing. It was mid November and we were big game hunting on the Dream.  But even with his acquired skill set, the fishing was going to be tough. Not many fish were being caught lately. I think it was because every fall the river gets pounded.  Every big fish we saw had spotted us first and took off. But John persisted. He fished a deep hole hoping that the water depth would give the fish some security and perhaps take a fly drifted deep. He was right. He was tight to a big fish, and then another and another. These were slabs.

And of course, we lost a few that we saw. We both agreed were pushing 30 inches.  Wow.  The fish that got away! John will be back.

Paul Martinez:  It’s More Than The Fish

I would have to say that my season was summed up with two different clients. One had Parkinson’s disease, and the second had MS.  Preparing for these two clients many things ran through my mind. Where to take them for easy access to the water, there ability to stand not just in moving water but to just stand. Can I get them to cast any distance with any accuracy? IF WE HOOKUP, would they be able to hold the rod with a trout tugging on their line? Actually can I get them into fish, isn’t that why they hired a guide?  Finally, God forbid, what if they go down!

As the days progressed with each client it became very clear, it was not about catching fish. Each gentleman was and avid outdoorsman in their younger days. They both had hooked and landed many trout in the past, and know that there days on the river are numbered. Each day turned into more of an outdoor experience talking about birds, fora, fauna, geography, and yes swapping fishing stories. These two trips remind us that fly fishing is not just about catching trout, it is about experiencing everything that Mother Nature has to offer, and good camaraderie.

By the way, both clients added to their “fish landed” totals for their lifetime.

Jon Easdon: Bucket List

This last year was special to me. I got to cross off a bucket list item Ive had since childhood. I was blessed to get the opportunity to travel to Alaska on a week long fishing trip with Iliamna River Lodge. I could write a novel on the experience, but in short this place was amazing. I’ve never seen so many fish everywhere. This was exactly what an unpressured fishery looks like. (By the way, we have secured the 3rd week in August in 2018. If you can swing this trip, I’d highly recommend it.)

Juan Ramirez: Sometimes You Need a Plan B

One thing that never fails to amaze me is how you can plan for one thing and have a completely opposite event.  The hatches are there, the weather is great but the flows are not what you want them to be.  Or the flows are great but the bugs failed to show up.  Or the water temps were perfect for caddis hatches, but then they raised the flow and the caddis went away.  Or the low flows had every fish looking up and now they raised the flow by 300 CFS!   It seems like you can only plan on the unexpected on the South Platte River.  This year was no different.  Throw in a flash flood on the Dream Stream and high water at Deckers, and you better have a back up plan or know how to fish different areas.  For 2018, let’s all have a back up plan for the days we fish.  And make sure you get all those fly boxes ready right now for the unexpected.


Kristina Dougherty: Best Days On The Water

I can honestly say that all of my best memories this year have been on the water!  From fishing the Taylor in blizzard to kick off the year, hitting the Ark and hot springs with Pikes Peak Women Anglers, to seeing clients grinning ear to ear on guide trips, or just hitting the river with my dad.  This year was all about spending time with the people I love and sharing this passion that brings us all together.  The fish were just the bonus.

Best wishes for a productive, prosperous, and healthy 2018!  Tight lines, and we hope to see you on the river!

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