Pool Toy – 01/17/2015

I’ve written several posts on the pool toy hopper imitation, and you can read them at Grillos Pool Toy and Pool Toy 02/14/2014. I’ll avoid being redundant by resuming my commentary where I ended on my post from 2014.

I made another four last winter to put my supply at around fifteen, and I carried three or four along with me on my trip to Argentina, but they never got wet. During the spring, summer and fall season I did indeed cast a pool toy as a top fly in a dry/dropper configuration more frequently than in the previous year. This resulted in a few more success stories, however, I still feel that a Letort hopper or parachute hopper would out fish a pool toy if used a comparable amount of time.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-Y4ziftoXQcw/VLNLWu9R3WI/AAAAAAAAwJU/pxiwdW5dSks/s144-c-o/IMG_0795.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01112015PoolToy#6103304773951413602″ caption=”Top View” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0795.JPG” ]

The pool toy does offer great buoyancy and visibility, thus, it spends more time on my line admittedly as a sophisticated indicator. Because of its ability to remain afloat while a size 14 beadhead nymph is suspended two feet below, the pool toy was used fairly frequently. This resulted in the loss of quite a few flies mainly in situations where a fish grabbed the nymph, and in its valiant efforts to escape broke off both flies.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-Hjmny6a-90I/VLNLcPVLpqI/AAAAAAAAwKk/EFKItKgBphg/s144-c-o/IMG_0805.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01112015PoolToy#6103304868540950178″ caption=”Yellow Underside” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0805.JPG” ]

By the end of August my supply of pool toys dwindled to the point that I began opting for a tan Charlie Boy hopper to preserve my few pool toys for September. Guess what happened? I rediscovered the tan Charlie Boy and experienced some hot hopper fishing in September and October on this forgotten fly that was exiled to the end of my fly bin. Days on the Arkansas River and Yampa tailwater stand out as two examples where the tan Charlie Boy yielded numerous good sized fish. In fact, the tan foam bodies became so mangled that I had to replace them.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-8twqDcjNHUk/VLNLXggrcPI/AAAAAAAAwJk/9K47SVfMZB0/s144-c-o/IMG_0797.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01112015PoolToy#6103304787253227762″ caption=”Zoomed in on Pool Toys” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0797.JPG” ]

The pool toy was effective enough to merit a decent supply for another season, so I tied thirteen over the last couple of weeks including eight tan, two gray and three yellow. I have approximately 15-20 in inventory, and I’m anxious to continue experimenting with the pool toy in 2015.

2014 Season

I never succeeded in documenting my top ten fishing outings in 2013, but after significant time spent reading my 2014 posts, I’m prepared to suggest a new top ten. It is always fun to review my fishing adventures while avoiding the cold snowy weather currently gripping Colorado.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/–VK–KAmlaU/VBZaUp7Wn7I/AAAAAAAAnPg/M_8XxUXPdbI/s144-c-o/P9100005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09102014FryingPanRiver#6059129659572264882″ caption=”Nice Photo of Green Drake on My Net” type=”image” alt=”P9100005.JPG” ]

Here are the top ten of 2014 in reverse order:

10. Lake Crescent 08/11/14 – My first trout ever in the state of Washington was a thirteen inch crescenti cutthroat, a species unique to Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. I did not catch many fish, but the unique species and the spectacular setting put this in the top ten.

9. Camp Creek 06/05/14 – I landed eighteen small brown trout from this small spring creek in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. It is always fun to experience success in new water, and this small meadow stream reminded me of many streams in my home state of Pennsylvania.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-Mrz0ZCZMTWQ/U_EvBgRsYjI/AAAAAAAAmZ4/l98AkLz8Dnk/s144-c-o/P8110078.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/08112014OlympicNationalParkDay3#6048667477425807922″ caption=”View Along the South Shore of Lake Crescent” type=”image” alt=”P8110078.JPG” ]

8. Eagle River 07/17/14 – Despite a tent catastrophe the night before, I persisted to join Todd Grubin for a great day on the Eagle River. I began with some nice action at the rest area, and then Todd escorted me to fish private Arrowhead water farther upstream. Strong numbers and size put this day in the top ten.

7. North Platte River 03/25/14 – 31 rainbow trout averaging 14-15 inches on 2X tippet. The Grey Reef section of the North Platte continues to be an amazing fishery.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-pRef2lm0-ZM/UzObZwb1R6I/AAAAAAAAjO0/s1mz-y5Ylf4/s144-c-o/P3250083.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03252014NorthPlatteRiver#5995306395760936866″ caption=”Another Shot to Be Certain” type=”image” alt=”P3250083.JPG” ]

6. South Platte River 08/22/14 – A rare day devoted to fishing with my son in a gorgeous remote setting is hard to beat. Landing a bunch of fish makes it even more fun.

5. South Fork of the White River 09/18/14 – This was my best day ever on the South Fork of the White River as I was rewarded for hiking over two miles. The action was slow until late afternoon, but once it heated up, I had a blast.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-EWjucUkEiU8/VB-hZN9TsfI/AAAAAAAAni4/4e4fwA3KrWk/s144-c-o/P9180045.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09182014SFOfWhiteRiver#6061741078079582706″ caption=”Crystal Clear” type=”image” alt=”P9180045.JPG” ]

4. North Fork of the White River 09/16/14 – This was my best day of the year in terms of numbers, and amazingly I could have landed 70 had I not experienced so many long distance releases. This all took place after a four hour drive to the Flattops from Denver; a fabulous half day of fishing.

3. Bear Creek, ID 07/28/14 – New water in a spectacular remote setting yielded 20+ wild cutthroat trout including several in the fifteen inch range. It was just superb!

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-t-357cLURw8/U9hoNB-xEWI/AAAAAAAAmEo/JNetcvDkrfA/s144-c-o/P7270065.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/072914SwanValley#6041693473196806498″ caption=”An Even Nicer Fish Landed in the Late Morning” type=”image” alt=”P7270065.JPG” ]

2. Arkansas River 09/05/14 – How could the tried and true Arkansas River deliver the second best fishing outing of 2014? Simply by delivering thirty-four fish to my net with plenty of them in the 14-16 inch range. A bonus was discovering that the Charlie Boy hopper was productive in the afternoon. It was perhaps my best day ever on the Arkansas River, and that says a lot.

1. Frying Pan River 09/11/14 – Another oft visited river produced my best day of 2014. I landed twenty-nine trout with at least a third in the 14-18 inch range. The Frying Pan River is typically my dry fly refuge, but I accomplished the best day of 2014 with no significant hatch. It was dry/dropper prospecting at its best.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-WOwLn6ac0bw/VBZcmV9mB1I/AAAAAAAAnRg/SI3WbAxVgiQ/s144-c-o/P9100022.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09112014FryingPanRiver#6059132162473854802″ caption=”Beautiful Frying Pan Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P9100022.JPG” ]

Ultra Zug Bug – 12/07/2014

My history with this fly goes back to the Scott Sanchez fly tying book I purchased at the Fly Fishing Show several years ago. In 2012 I was flipping through the book looking for new ideas, and I encountered Scott’s recipe and instructions for ultra zugs and decided to give it a try. I tied a few ultra zug bugs, and at the time I viewed them as simple replacements for a prince nymph. I dislike mounting the white goose biots as wings on the prince nymph, so the simplicity of the ultra zug appealed to me.

Until this year I rarely fished a prince nymph, and thus an ultra zug, except for the April and early May time frame when I’ve had decent success with the peacock bodied subsurface flies during the caddis hatches that occur frequently on Colorado streams. My theory is that the dark peacock body is a reasonable imitation of egg laying female caddis flies. Unfortunately the spring of 2014 featured abnormally high and cold conditions, and I did not fish during the heavy presence of caddis as I was accustomed to in previous years. For this reason my ultra zug bugs remained dormant in my fly box for most of the summer.

During my trip to the Flattops Wilderness in September after hiking two miles into the backcountry to fish the South Fork of the White River, I came to the realization that I was running out of my salvation nymphs. The salvation had advanced from an experimental fly to the new number one workhorse fly in my arsenal. With another month of prime fishing remaining in the 2014 season, I did not want to deplete my salvation supply, so I rummaged through my zippered fleece pouch and spotted several ultra zugs.These flies had an abundance of flash, a scraggly look, and the peacock color that trout relish. Could these be a replacement for the salvation for the remainder of the day?

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-yukdity8o30/VIMmst2hoWI/AAAAAAAAtos/qizOyDNNLC0/s144-c-o/PC050005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/12052014UltraZugBug#6089753670799434082″ caption=”15 Ultra Zug Bugs with Better Light Setting” type=”image” alt=”PC050005.JPG” ]

I tied one on my line, and it instantly became the hot fly. I always avoid tying flies during fishing season, so I continued opting for the ultra zug over the salvation for the remainder of the season, and guess what I discovered? The ultra zug yielded fish on par with the hares ear and possibly matched the salvation nymph in productivity. Was this a fall phenomenon, or is the ultra zug an all season attractor similar to the hares ear and salvation?

In order to answer this question, I decided to tie another thirty this winter so that I have fifty as I enter the 2015 fishing season. Quantity will not be a deterrent to tying an ultra zug to my line, and I intend to test it throughout the season and not limit it to early and late season situations.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-jEddud3t4m4/VIMmtZoI1iI/AAAAAAAAto0/Sn5BGfxg6dg/s144-c-o/PC050006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/12052014UltraZugBug#6089753682550248994″ caption=”Ingredients for Ultra Zug Bug” type=”image” alt=”PC050006.JPG” ]

The beauty of the ultra zug is its simplicity. Excluding the hook, bead and thread only three materials are required to construct this fish catching machine. I start with a brown tail made from pheasant feather fibers, and then I tie in a strand of crystal hair. Next I dub a tapered body of synthetic peacock, and then I rib the body with the crystal hair. Finally I spin small clumps of the peacock dubbing around the body just behind the bead, and then I whip finish. I can crank out two of these flies for every single hares ear or salvation nymph. The synthetic peacock dubbing creates quite a bit of sparkle and the crystal hair augments the flash even more than fine wire. Once I whip finish the fly, I pinch the dubbed collar with my right hand, and then I pull the excess fibers with my left and tear them away. This shrinks the dubbed hackle to the proper length and also strokes the fibers into a nice sheath around the body of the fly.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-8_B4YlprP_M/VIMmuEQVgQI/AAAAAAAAtpE/yHoZqOK4A5I/s144-c-o/PC060008.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/12052014UltraZugBug#6089753693993140482″ caption=”Ultra Zug Bug” type=”image” alt=”PC060008.JPG” ]

I’m excited to give the ultra zug more time on my line. It is a great looking simple fly, and I’m betting the fish will give it a thumbs up.

Salvation Nymph – 11/15/2014

Salvation Nymph 11/15/2014 Photo Album

You can read my previous posts that chronicle how I was introduced to this fly. Suffice it to say, the salvation nymph has risen from a purchase at the fly shop along the Conejos River to the status of my most productive nymph in 2014. The shiny attractor nymph is typically the first nymph that I attach to my line when I approach a stream.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-WmUY1jWhDJE/VGeuiYAV29I/AAAAAAAArYs/XkNLMfD5wVQ/s144-c-o/PB130002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11152014SalvationNymph#6082021727369812946″ caption=”Nice Sideview” type=”image” alt=”PB130002.JPG” ]

During 2013 I experienced some stellar days while tossing the salvation nymph in Colorado streams so I entered the year with 35 in inventory. Unfortunately this quantity did not meet my needs, and I nearly depleted my entire supply. In the last couple months of the season I began to substitute the ultra zug bug, another fly with an abundance of flash, but that is a future story. I found the salvation nymph to be particularly effective during the time periods when there were pale morning dun mayflies available to the trout. An outing on the Eagle River in early July stands out in my memory. For an hour in the early afternoon I spotted an occasional PMD mayfly in the air, but the fish ignored surface flies and aggressively chased my salvation nymph.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-Sj7IRJa0_WQ/VGeujBtU-qI/AAAAAAAArY4/LWC6Xo3-4eo/s144-c-o/PB130004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11152014SalvationNymph#6082021738564352674″ caption=”Very Nice Top View” type=”image” alt=”PB130004.JPG” ]

I spotted one fish next to a submerged boulder, and as my nymph began to lift above the visible target, it aggressively moved a foot to inhale the artificial offering. I recall similar days on the White River in September and the Frying Pan River in late June. This nymph is not just a match the hatch phenomenon, however, as it produced many fish when used as a general attractor during time periods when pale morning duns were not a factor.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-iSbxE_sWHZw/VGeujyDMVdI/AAAAAAAArZE/tN_0oQps5Ig/s144-c-o/PB130005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11152014SalvationNymph#6082021751540962770″ caption=”Ten Completed Salvation Nymphs” type=”image” alt=”PB130005.JPG” ]

Since I nearly ran out of salvation nymphs in 2014, I plan to begin 2015 with 50 brand new shiny prototypes in my fly fishing arsenal. For this reason I kicked off my production tying season by making salvation nymphs, and I’ve already completed twenty-one. I have supreme confidence in this fly. I’m also considering experimenting with some variations that will use different colors for the abdomen. A brown, amber or rust color is high on my list of experimental variations, as this color is an even closer imitation of  pale morning dun and sulfur nymphs. Stay tuned for more on the evolution of the salvation nymph.

Yampa River – 10/08/2014

Time: 3:30PM – 5:30PM

Location: Tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir

Fish Landed: 5

Having finally connected with Steve at our parking place along Bear River, we both agreed that we had sampled enough of Bear River to satisfy our collective curiosity, and we were anxious to move on. Steve told me on the drive to Steamboat Springs on Tuesday that the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir had changed dramatically since the stream improvement work was completed in 2013. He suggested that we stop at that magnificent fishery on our return from Bear River so that I could judge it for myself. Steve commented that the stream improvement work straightened the stream and removed rocks and current breaks. I was led to believe that the opposite is true of stream improvement; rocks and structure are typically added to straight and shallow featureless water. I was very curious to understand what Steve meant by these observations.

Only two or three other cars populated the normally crowded lot near the Yampa River tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir, and the fishermen that were present appeared to be crowding into the upper unimproved stretch of water. Steve and I remained in our waders and our rods remained strung from our Bear River expedition, so we were on the water in a short amount of time. As we negotiated the well worn trail to the lower portion of the public water, Steve realized that he forgot to remove his phone from his shirt pocket, and not wishing to risk water damage, he returned to the car. This allowed me to access the water first, and I began fishing just below the only large bend in the upper catch and release section.

Steve Sneaks Up on Pool

Steve Sneaks Up on Pool

The state park and department of wildlife personnel went to great pains to re-vegetate the land bordering the river by hammering unattractive metal posts into the bank and then stretching metal fence wire in between. The fence was so close that it leaned over the stream a foot or two in many places. There were well marked chutes between the fenced areas to allow fishing access. It reminded me of the crowd control mazes that exist at amusement parks and ski lift lines.

Yampa Tailwater Rainbow

Yampa Tailwater Rainbow

The portion of the stream where I began was representative of the stream improvement area. It appeared to be a deep trough, and the main current began at the center and then angled to the far bank where the river curved. Once the current deflected against the bank closest to the parking lot, it ran for another thirty feet before tailing out and continuing. The mangled Charlie Boy hopper remained on my line from the end of my fishing time on Bear River, so I decided to stick with it for a bit, and the ultra zug bug dropper continued to dangle below the hopper.

The Charlie Boy hopper is an interesting story. I am in a perpetual quest to find the ideal grasshopper imitation. Earlier in my fly fishing career, my preferred hopper imitation was a yellow Letort hopper, and I enjoyed tremendous success with this fly. But as time went by, I grew more and more disillusioned with the dubbed body of the Letort hopper and yearned for an equally effective imitation that was more buoyant. The Letort hopper required frequent trips to my sleeve to sop up the absorbed water and then subsequent dunkings in my dry shake canister.

Jane bought me a fly tying book authored by Charlie Craven, and there was a chapter for the Charlie Boy hopper. Several winters ago I tied a batch of tan and yellow Charlie Boys and anxiously awaited the arrival of fishing season to test the effectiveness of this new pattern. The recipe in the book included unknotted rubber legs, but I have noticed that Charlie’s latest directions on his web site incorporate knotted rubber legs. At any rate, the Charlie Boy served the purpose of floating several medium weight nymphs without sinking, and it was very visible in various difficult lighting situations. Unfortunately it rarely produced fish.

For this reason I continued searching for alternatives, and on a guided fishing trip with Taylor Edrington, I asked him what his favorite hopper pattern was. Taylor was quick to reply “pool toy”. I greatly value Taylor’s opinions on matters that relate to fishing, so I dutifully returned to my vise the following winter and churned out 10-15 pool toys in colors ranging from yellow to tan. The next summer I began using pool toys as my number one hopper imitation, and the Charlie Boys began gathering dust in my large plastic fly bin.

During 2014 I continued using pool toys, but for various reasons including tree branches and broken off fish, my supply dwindled to the point that I was concerned I would have enough for the prime late summer hopper season. On several outings when I needed a large buoyant fly to support several nymphs, I decided to use a tan Charlie Boy since I had a bunch of them, they were visible and buoyant, and I was just using them as in indicator. Guess what happened? Fish started smashing the Charlie Boy! The Charlie Boy was staging a revival that put all of Brett Favre’s comebacks to shame. On two trips to the Arkansas River in October the brown trout craved the tan Charlie Boy as I tossed it upstream along the bank. Not only did they favor the Charlie Boy pattern, but I was catching these fish on the same fly.

Beautiful Fish Fell for Charlie Boy Hopper

Beautiful Fish Fell for Charlie Boy Hopper

By the time I tied this very same tan Charlie Boy to my line on Bear River, it exhibited numerous holes and tears from the teeth of a long line of ravenous fish. The Bear River usage served to mangle my treasured Charlie Boy even more. Now I was casting my poor workhorse hopper to the inside seam of the main current on the Yampa River. At 3:30 in the afternoon I was certain that it would only be an indicator, and despite its ragged appearance, it still floated reasonably well. Guess what happened? I’m sure with that history lesson on the Charlie Boy, you must have guessed the answer. As the Charlie Boy danced along the inside edge of the current seam and drifted back toward me, a large silvery missile with a crimson flank dashed to the surface and inhaled it. I could not believe my eyes, but somehow I reacted in an appropriate manner and set the hook in the lip of a hungry rainbow trout. The rainbow streaked up and down the slow moving water next to the faster current several times until I could apply side pressure and slide my cracked net beneath it.

I expected difficult fishing in the late afternoon using tiny midge imitations and in my first section of water, I landed a sixteen inch brightly colored rainbow trout on a large foam hopper imitation. Apparently the fishing gods were rewarding me for my patience on Bear River. I moved on and approached another section where the main current flowed down the center of the river in a deep run. This created slack water on both sides, but the area between the opposite bank and the center current featured an eddy and a small white foam patch. I flicked the Charlie Boy and ultra zug bug along the downstream edge of the eddy, and as the top fly slowly floated upstream next to the foam, it disappeared. I set the hook and felt significant weight, so I responded by battling a second sixteen inch rainbow. This tough fighter sucked in the ultra zug bug, and I was quite surprised to experience this exciting action late in the afternoon when there did not appear to be any significant source of food present.

A Second Gorgeous Rainbow from the Yampa

A Second Gorgeous Rainbow from the Yampa

Once again I moved upstream, but now my success rate fell, and I began to make numerous casts without any response. I decided to add a third fly to hopefully attract more attention and spied a gray scud in my fleece patch that I purchased in Viroqua, WI. The Yampa tailwater typically contains quite a bit of aquatic vegetation, and that usually suggests scuds, so I added the gray scud to my lineup. I approached another deep run in the center of the stream and ran my three flies along the seam and witnessed another dip of the Charlie Boy. Could the scud have made the difference already? I managed to land this fish, and it turned out to be a thirteen inch brown that fell for the ultra zug bug. The late afternoon time on the Yampa was proving to be icing on the cake.

I continued on, but now I was covering attractive water, and I was not generating any response so I clipped off the gray scud and replaced it with an orange version, but this also was ignored by the residents of the Yampa River. I did observe a fair amount of midge activity in the cool late afternoon air with shadows beginning to lengthen across the river, so I opted to follow the conventional wisdom and tied on a zebra midge as my bottom fly. By now I arrived in a slow deep pool and fish were sipping something sporadically on the surface. I cast the Charlie Boy one third of the distance up the pool, and as it slowly drifted back toward me, it dipped and I set the hook and discovered a small seven inch rainbow had sipped the zebra midge. It was not much of a fish, but at least I now knew that the tiny zebra midge was viewed as a viable source of food on the Yampa River in the late afternoon.

A short stretch of faster water separated the slow deep pool from another nice pool closer to the dam. The second pool was above the stream improvement area, and it exhibited many of the features that were prominent in the entire tailwater prior to stream reconstruction. There were numerous large boulders with downstream pockets, and the current split into many areas and did not just run down the center of the river. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the faster water below the second classic pool, I landed a nine inch brown trout that followed the lead of the rainbow and grabbed the zebra midge just as it started to swing at the tail of the drift.

Stagecoach Reservoir Late in the Afternoon

Stagecoach Reservoir Late in the Afternoon

I was quite optimistic as I waded into the tail of the classic pool, but my optimism was misplaced as I covered the entire area with casts and received no response. Steve walked up from below, and his fly was in the hook keep, so we decided to call it quits. It was a pleasant day weather wise with temperatures around 60 degrees when we began on Bear River at 10:30AM, and they probably reached a high in the upper 60’s. I wore a fleece all day and never felt too warm. Landing five fish from the notoriously difficult Yampa tailwater was a pleasant surprise, and I felt rather satisfied as we drove back to Steve’s condo in Steamboat Springs.

Arkansas River – 08/21/2014

Time:5:30PM – 7:00PM

Location: Downstream from Eddyline and then back to the kayak area at South Main in Buena Vista

Fish Landed: 1

Our niece and nephews from New Jersey arrived on Sunday August 17, and Jane and I made a concerted effort to introduce them to the beauty of the Colorado outdoors. On Wednesday we packed two cars with camping gear and departed for Cascade Campground along Chalk Creek near Buena Vista. We enjoyed a great evening with the highlight being a roaring campfire. The McKays toasted marshmallows after dinner, and we assembled tasty s’mores.

On Thursday morning we took down the camping gear and drove the short distance to Buena Vista where we killed time at the river park, and then we drove back south to the River Runners rafting facility located near Fisherman’s Bridge. We reserved a raft for six and at the scheduled time, we chose our helmets and life jackets and climbed into a van. The white van transported us to our launch point at Ruby Mountain Campground, and one of the guides gave us a safety lecture in the van. The six of us had our own raft, and our guide was Byron from Texas who was a graduate of Texas A&M. The flows in the Arkansas River were just over 500 cfs, and the low flows created numerous opportunities for our raft to become awkwardly lodged on large exposed boulders, so we concentrated extra hard on our paddling to avoid this eventuality..

After we completed our float and returned to River Runners, Jane and the McKays returned to Denver while Dan and I took the Santa Fe and returned to South Main in Buena Vista. We parked across from the Eddyline brewpub and geared up to fish. A short hike along the Buena Vista Arkansas River Trail took us downstream from the kayak area, and we prepared to fish for an hour or two.

Since we were on the same side of the river, we began alternating pockets. It was quite cloudy as we began, and this type of weather generally portends excellent fishing, so I was quite optimistic over our chances of having some good evening action. Dan tied on a size 12 gray stimulator, and I began with a tan Charlie Boy hopper with a beadhead hares ear dropper. It did not take long before Dan landed a small brown trout on the stimulator, but my efforts were thwarted for the first hour. I wasn’t spotting any fish, and my flies weren’t even being refused.

I swapped the Charlie Boy hopper for a yellow Letort hopper, but this move did not change my fortunes. We continued moving quickly and covered a large amount of water with no signs of fish other than the small brown that Dan landed early. Eventually near the end of our fishing time I tied on a Chernobyl ant and managed to land a seven inch brown. We were both getting hungry, the fishing was extremely slow, and we were approaching the kayak area so we decided to call it quits at 7PM.

Since we were parked across from the Eddyline brewpub, we took the opportunity to visit one of our favorite establishments for dinner, and then we drove back over Trout Creek Pass and east on route 24 to Round Mountain Campground where we camped on Thursday night.

Cross Country Skiing – 02/02/2014

Cross Country Skiing 02/02/2014 Photo Album

Shortly after Jane and I moved to Colorado in 1990 we decided to purchase cross country ski equipment since we experienced more snowfall in Castle Rock than we were accustomed to in Allentown, Pa. More important than the amount of snow, however, was the quality of the snow due to the higher elevation. We quickly learned that when it precipitates in the winter; it snows, and we weren’t faced with rain, freezing rain, or sleet.

We continued enjoying our equipment over the next twenty years, but Jane gradually realized that her boots did not fit properly thus leading to foot pain and blisters. Consequently for the last two or three years when we’ve skied together, we generally visit a nordic center where she can rent boots, skis and poles. True to my frugal nature, I persisted with my 20+ year old skis and boots, although I noticed my skis tended to ice up quickly on snow that was soft or warmed by the intense rays of the sun.

A Pause Early On

A Pause Early On

As Christmas approached in 2013, I asked Jane if she had any gift wishes, and she mentioned cross country ski boots. Before departing for Argentina we made a visit to Wilderness Exchange and then REI to examine their ski packages, and Jane eventually settled on some new skis and fashionable black boots. I purchased these and hid them from her and then wrapped and placed them under the tree. While at REI I asked the salesman if there was a way to revive my ancient Fischer skis, and he suggested a can of SWIX wax. Jane purchased this item for me; I totally forgot about it, and it reappeared as a stocking stuffer on Christmas morning.

On the Sunday after Christmas our entire family decided to go cross country skiing, and Jane welcomed the chance to test out her new skis and boots. We chose Eldora Nordic Center because Joe, Amy and Dan needed to rent skis, and we didn’t wish to battle interstate 70 traffic on a Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s. Jane had a great day on her new set up and did not experience any sort of pain or blisters. I meanwhile defaulted to my old skis and boots, and I was noticeably slower than the rest of the family. The air temperature was quite cold, probably around 20 degrees, so I did not have issues with ice forming on the bottoms, but clearly my skis did not glide smoothly like those of Jane, Amy, Dan or Joe. My new can of ski wax was still secure in its packaging as I forgot to break it out for the Eldora trip.

Navigating the Boardwalk

Navigating the Boardwalk

When I returned from Eldora I remembered to carry my skis downstairs and then the next day after they had dried, I applied a coat of the new wax. Applying was a simple task using the sponge pad that came in the can, allowing the wax to dry for one minute and then wiping off with a rag. My newly waxed skis rested in the garage awaiting some significant snowfall in Denver to be tested.

Four or Five Prairie Dogs Visible Here

Four or Five Prairie Dogs Visible Here

At the end of the last week of January Denver received approximately 4-5 inches of snow, so Jane and I decided to break out the cross country gear on Saturday morning. We did a loop along the Sand Creek Trail and then through Bluff Lake Wildlife Area and then returned to the house. I was ecstatic over the performance of my “new” old skis. In fact, I can’t believe I skied with slow sticky boards for as long as I did without applying wax. We had so much fun on our one hour and fifteen minute loop that we decided to venture north five miles to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge on Sunday morning.

Another Cluster of Blackbirds

A Herd of Deer

A Herd of Deer

What a joy it was to smoothly glide over the crisp four inch layer of snow in the refuge with no one else around except for prairie dogs, deer, eagles and a coyote! I can’t wait for more snow to arrive so I can continue to cruise in my twenty year old skis.

Dollar Shave Club – 01/18/2014

Dollar Shave Club 01/18/2014 Photo Album

I was probably nine or ten when I would sit in our living room in Boyertown, Pa. and watch a sporting event with my father. Although it is now fuzzy in my memory, I seem to recall we were watching a football game together, and I asked my father which team he was rooting for? He replied with the name of the team he favored, and I followed up with the inevitable question, “Why?” Dad paused and replied, “Because I like rooting for the underdog.” That brief experience molded my character forever going forward, and while it has often resulted in frustration and sadness, it also forms a fundamental foundation for what drives me through many life experiences. I’m nearly always a fan of the underdog.

This preference for the underdog has carried over beyond sports teams to the business arena. One reason I love to read the Wall Street Journal is to follow businesses and corporations in their journey through the ebb and flow of financial success and failure. I particularly love the in depth features that delve into the fabric of companies and the strategy and thinking that makes them what they are. This all brings me to another underdog story and how it touched my life.

In my younger days because of my red hair I could get away with shaving every other day, but for some reason, as I’ve aged I’ve been forced to follow the shaving ritual on a near daily basis. Fifteen years ago I purchased a Gillette Sensor Excel razor, and I’ve been using it faithfully ever since, but the price of replacement blades has been an ongoing irritant. For a while I discovered some cheaper generic Kroger two blade cartridges, and kept a supply of these in my drawer to partially temper my frustration with high blade prices. I also received a free supply of disposable razors from a previous neighbor and my brother, but I discovered that these dulled quickly, and I didn’t like the light plastic feel.

In order to prolong the interval between the agony of purchasing overpriced twin blade cartridges I resorted to using one cartridge for three to four weeks before replacing. Only when it was necessary to drag the dull blades over the same difficult patches of stubble on my face multiple times, did I take the plunge and buy a new pack of replacement blades. This cheapskate approach to shaving served me well until the last year or so, when after a remodeling of the local King Soopers, I discovered that they no longer stocked the generic twin blades. I gritted my teeth and purchased a five pack of Gillette twin blades for an obscene price in excess of $20, and I milked these cartridges for six months.

Unfortunately I inserted my last cartridge from this pack into my razor a couple weeks ago, and when I visited the local supermarket discovered that their buyers no longer stocked twin blades of any sort. What was I to do now? I needed to either purchase the ridiculously overpriced and over engineered four blade cartridges or even worse a six blade system, or find an alternative source for my ancient twin blade razor.

Enter the internet. I fired up my browser and began searching online for generic twin blades, and I discovered that Amazon offered five packs for roughly $17, and I filed this information in my memory banks while I continued to search for alternatives. $17 for five cartridges equals in excess of $3 per cartridge, and in this day of inexpensive flash drives with gigabytes of storage, I refused to believe that someone could not manufacture a decent twin blade cartridge at a lower cost. In fact, I thought to myself that there might be a business opportunity to manufacture replacement blades and offer them to the marketplace at a slight discount off the prices charged by the market leaders, Gillette and Schick.

I decided to defer the purchase until I could do more research, as I was convinced there was a better deal. This research took place on a weekend, and the following Monday morning when I started up my computer at work, I noticed a link to a story about Dollar Shave Club. I thought it was ironic that this popped up in the same time frame that I was searching for a razor blade deal, so out of curiosity I clicked on the link and the browser took me to a page featuring a video. I plugged in my earbuds and clicked the play button and was entertained by a fast paced “in your face” style of ad for Dollar Shave Club. I was now very curious so I transferred to the Dollar Shave Club page and clicked on the offer and then chose the humble twin option. Dollar Shave Club was offering five twin blade cartridges per month for $1 plus $2 shipping for a total of $3 per month.

I did some quick math and estimated that I was buying 2.5 packs per year or 12 cartridges at a price in excess of $20 per five pack so this equaled an annual razor blade cost of close to $50. The Dollar Shave Club deal would cost $36 per year, and five blades per month meant I could replace my cartridge every week. The deal seemed very inviting, but I searched on Dollar Shave Club reviews and read four or five accounts to assure myself that the company was legitimate and the blades were good quality. Nearly all the reviews verified the quality and confirmed the legitimacy of Dollar Shave Club, but I still waited another day before placing an order.

On Tuesday I decided that I would make the plunge and joined the club. Unfortunately there was a glitch with the web site order process, so I had to chat online with a customer service representative, but eventually my order was placed, and I could see it on my club membership page.

With this task now out of the way, I was fascinated by this new entrant into the shaver market, and I wondered how the underdog was faring. I did some more online research and discovered that Dollar Shave Club began offering their service in April 2012. At the time of the Dollar Shave Club launch Gillette held 80% of the razor market and Schick trailed at 18%. Simple math told me that the two big guys comprised 98% of the razor market. I began searching for information that updated the razor market share to 2013 numbers to see if the underdog Dollar Shave Club was making any inroads, but unfortunately I was unable to uncover any new information.

I did, however, find some interesting articles that critiqued and applauded the Dollar Shave Club strategy, and one of these identified the manufacturer of the blades offered by DSC. I checked out the source and found that I could buy bulk packs of blade cartridges directly from the supplier of DSC for under $1 including shipping. I decided to remain in the club for six months to see how the service pans out, but perhaps eventually switch to buying direct from the supplier.

A New Dollar Shave Club Razor

A New Dollar Shave Club Razor

When I checked the mail after my run on Thursday I found a small cardboard box and quickly carried it back to the kitchen where I opened my DSC razor and pack of five blades. I’m happy to report that I’ve now used the razor twice, and it delivers comparable shaves to a new Gillette cartridge. The razor itself is all plastic and it makes small squeaking noises as it shifts across my face, but it is certainly adequate for a light beard like mine.

And Five New Cartridges for $3

And Five New Cartridges for $3

I’m still pulling for the underdogs to make a dent in the razor market. My dad cheered the underdog, and I will follow in his footsteps.


Vail – 01/11/2014

Vail 01/11.2014 Photo Album

What would you get if you combined Vail ski area, 10 inches of fresh snow, blue skies and sunshine, and a Saturday? You’d get an extremely crowded mountain, but a great day of skiing nonetheless.

Jane and I reserved a condo in Frisco at the Mountainside complex for Friday and Saturday night, January 10 and 11 so we departed Denver at 6:30PM on Friday night expecting to avoid the traffic congestion on I70 on Saturday morning. Unfortunately it was snowing heavily from Georgetown all the way to Frisco resulting in stop and go driving from mile marker 220 through the Eisenhower Tunnel. We didn’t reach Silverthorne until 9PM when we stopped for a quick dinner at Chipotle, and we finally arrived at our condo by 9:30. Our unit was on the third floor so that required several trips with our belongings, and consequently we didn’t get to bed until 10:30.

Jane Under Lionshead Gondola

Jane Under Lionshead Gondola

The heavy snow was unfortunate for driving but well received by skiers. Because of the exhaustive travel on Friday night, Jane and I didn’t wake up until 7AM on Saturday morning, but when I checked the ski reports I discovered that Vail received 10 inches of new snow. We hustled to eat breakfast and make up for lost time, but the best we could do was leave Frisco by 8:30 and arrive at Vail by 9:15. By the time we waited in the line to enter the parking garage, put on our boots and ski clothes, hiked to the chairlift and rode to the top of Born Free lift it was between 9:30 and 10:00AM, and we could see that most of the powder below us was already chopped up. We’d largely missed out on a rare powder day at Vail in spite of lodging only 45 minutes away.

Lots of Snow

Lots of Snow

In spite of the missed opportunity we made the best of our day, and it was spectacular nonetheless. We found some powder caches on the front side and then worked our way across the mountain to Two Elks Lodge for lunch. We learned from several friendly skiers that Blue Sky was a zoo, so we stayed on the front side in the afternoon and had some outstanding runs on Blue Ox and Ouzo before concluding our day on Born Free. The high temperature climbed to 30 degrees and the sky was a perfect blue. Even after the powder was tracked out, we enjoyed soft packed fresh snow and gentle moguls.

Looking Strong on Ouzo

Looking Strong on Ouzo

One of the highlights of the day was getting acquainted with a nice family of four from Mexico City that joined us at our lunch table. The family consisted of a husband and wife with a 15 year old son and 13 year old daughter. Jane and I struck up a conversation with the kids while the parents were getting their food in the cafeteria, and we were very impressed with their mastery of English, and their poise when talking to strangers. I gave the mother my business card, and we hope to exchange contacts and stay in touch.

Crooked River – 06/19/2013

Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Between Castle Rock campground and the next campground upstream

Fish Landed: 4 rainbows, 3 whitefish

Crooked River 06/19/2013 Photo Album

Having been skunked on the fabled Metolius River, I now felt a strong need to prove that I could catch at least one fish in the state of Oregon. I’ve proven that I can catch fish in Colorado, but what was it about Oregon that made me feel like a neophyte? Oregon streams can’t be any more difficult than Penns Creek or the South Platte River in Cheesman Canyon. As I reminisced I realized that I landed only a few small fish on the Clackamas River in 2011 and one on the Deschutes, albeit a steelhead. I had to go back to 2002, when I had some big days on rivers in the northeast corner of Oregon while returning Amy to Whitman College, to recall any degree of success.

Before leaving Amy’s house in Portland I printed a small brochure that listed fishing locations in Oregon with a small map. I began reading the brief descriptions of streams within a reasonable distance of the Metolius and settled on Crooked River near Prineville and the upper Deschutes River near Mt. Bachelor. The Deschutes in this area was described as a headwater with numerous brook trout, so this certainly sounded like an option where I could pad my numbers, but of course I was taking nothing for granted in Oregon. Crooked River was east of the Metolius and a tributary of the Deschutes and featured a 6-8 mile tailwater below the Prineville Dam where redband rainbow trout and whitefish were the predominant species. I liked the idea of catching native redbands, so chose this as my Wednesday destination.

I whined enough about getting skunked that I apparently convinced the rest of the campers that they needed to transport me to Crooked River and dump me off to get a break for their ears. Amy, Jane and Joe decided to spend the rest of the day hiking at Smith Rock State Park after depositing me by the river. The stretch of river I targeted was approximately 60 miles away, so it took over an hour of driving. The trip was at least quite scenic and the terrain changed from forests to green grassy flats with much agriculture including cattle and wheat fields.

We arrived at a wide pullout along the Crooked River at around noon and I grabbed all my gear and put on my waders and bid adieu to the others while descending a path to the river. I chose to stop in this area because I read the best fishing was between Castle Rock Campground and the dam and we’d just passed the campground. I observed numerous large exposed boulders in smooth pools linked by nice runs and pockets, and I usually prefer this type of water. It was a cool day with high temperatures projected in the sixties, and quite a few large gray clouds were visible in the western sky, so I wore my Adidas pullover and my raincoat over that.

Smooth Pool Downstream

Smooth Pool Downstream

Initially I walked downstream a bit and cut over to the river at the top of a long smooth pool where some nice runs and current entered. The clouds blocked the sun and almost immediately I noticed rising fish. I wasn’t seeing anything on the water, but several fish were definitely feeding on the suface, so I chose a CDC BWO. Overcast skies and small flies that are nearly invisible usually point to blue wing olives. Unfortunately that rule apparently doesn’t apply to Oregon as I received numerous refusals and no fish. After quite a bit of unproductive casting I decided to move on and leave the frustration behind and I convinced myself that the fish that were rising were quite small.

I moved upstream a bit to the nice runs and riffles and switched to a yellow Letort hopper with a beadhead hares ear; my typical beginning combination in Colorado. It didn’t take long before I hooked and landed a small whitefish and then a minnow sized rainbow that couldn’t have been more than two inches long. The day was beginning to play out similar to Tuesday on the Metolius.

Next I resorted to nymphing and added a thingamabobber along with a weighted 20 incher for weight and then an orange scud. A gentleman that I chatted with on the Metolius across from our campsite told me that scuds and San Juan worms are effective on Crooked River. He was apparently fishing a different section or different time of year because these flies were ignored so I switched the orange scud for a Craven BWO emerger. This finally did the trick and I hooked a rainbow that appeared to be around 10 inches, but as I played it, the fish dove into some heavy light green fibrous growth that was prevalent on the rocks of the Crooked River and got free. I was pretty frustrated at this point, as I still hadn’t landed a legitimate trout in Oregon on the trip.

I persisted and waded to the opposite side of the river thinking that few fishermen go to the trouble of doing this. In short order I approached a small island and began walking up the bank next to the smaller right channel. As I gazed up the smooth water, I spotted a rise. I’d seen a few caddis fluttering about and the rise was not a sipping rise like the ones observed in the pool at the start, so I elected to remove the nymphs and try a light gray size 16 caddis. On the third drift a rainbow knifed to the surface and gulped my caddis imitation, and I carefully played and landed a ten inch rainbow and photographed my achievement.

Finally an Oregon Rainbow

Finally an Oregon Rainbow

Perhaps I’d found the key on the Crooked River? I moved upstream a bit further and stumbled on the nicest stretch of water I would encounter on the day. A long riffle slid over moderate depth over the entire width of the river and fanned out into a deep long pool. I was stationed at the point where the riffle slowed down and dropped into the slower moving pool. Meanwhile some dark clouds once again moved above me and a brief shower ensued, and like clockwork fish began to rise directly across from me. Prior to the hatch I’d converted back to nymphs, and on one of my drifts about 10 feet across from me, a fish rose and inhaled the orange thingamabobber! I know for certain that it chomped on the orb because I instinctively set the hook and felt weight for a split second.

What did this mean? Was there a hatch of small orange balls commencing? I searched my fly boxes for an orange fly and spotted an orange Madam X that I’d tied quite a few years ago so I removed the nymph rig and tied on the Madam X. Sure enough after a few drifts a seven inch rainbow rose and sucked in the size 12 orange Madam X. Clearly I was overanalyzing Oregon fishing!

Unfortunately the number of fish rising increased, and they were ignoring the Madam X so I added a light gray comparadun trailing the Madam X. This was a nice setup for visibility and following my flies, but the fish were ignoring and the Madam X became waterlogged and began to sink. I clipped off the large attractor and used a single gray comparadun. This move elicited some refusals, but no takes, so I switched to a size 16 comparadun with a light yellow body that I’d tied for fishing to sulfurs in Pennsylvania. This did the trick one time and I landed another small rainbow, but then a string of refusals continued until the hatch ended when the sunshine returned.

I’d now landed three small rainbows, and the rising fish at least gave me optimism. I continued upstream past another campground and a huge long slow moving pool to an island above the pool. Near the top of the pool I spotted a few sporadic rises and climbed down close the water to make some half hearted casts, but this did not produce. I was now searching for an exit strategy, in other words a place to cross back to the road and return to the pullout where I was scheduled to meet my transportation. I scouted the other side of the island and determined that I could wade to the island at the bottom end and then walk up the island to the top where I could cross the opposite channel. After executing this maneuver I hiked down the road toward the meeting place pullout.

As I moved to the lower end of the long pool I noticed a couple strolling along the river bank and then I heard the woman began to screech something in a high pitched voice. A minute or two later I noticed a young dog on the opposite side of the river in the very spot where I’d landed two rainbows, and the spaniel or pointer appeared to be upset and unable to cross back to the side of the river of the approoaching owners. The woman yelled up to me and asked if there was a place to cross and I suggested the island above the long pool.

I moved on and arrived at the meeting point slightly before 5PM, so I decided to return to the river by the pullout and fish until Amy, Jane and Joe arrived. I could see the arrival of any cars above me. I tied on a Chernobyl ant with a pink foam indicator, but the fly kept landing on the wrong side, so I swapped it for a yellow Chernobyl and beneath that attached a headhead hares ear. I began fishing, but before long I heard a car door slam, and then looked upstream to see the male portion of the couple with the dog. Apparently the boyfriend volunteered or was ordered to save the dog, and the young man was looking for a place to cross. I suggested the island to him, but also mentioned that I’d crossed somewhere between his current location and the long pool. I suggested that he obtain a strong stick before he made the attempt.

A Ten Inch Rainbow with Streamside Mint from Crooked River

A Ten Inch Rainbow with Streamside Mint from Crooked River

I refocused on my fishing and began prospecting the Chernobyl and BHHE, and eventually hooked and landed and photographed a ten inch rainbow that hit the BHHE on a swing in front of a large rock. In addition I landed another whitefish just before my family arrived and picked my up for the return trip.