Monthly Archives: April 2020

Hospital Stay 2 – 04/30/2020

In my previous post I neglected to mention that the nursing staff moved me from the intensive care unit to a regular hospital bed around midday on Friday. Prior to this move they removed the hated drainage tube, but by this time the groin incision pain far outweighed the drainage tubes as a source of torment. After a torturous night on Friday in my new room, I awoke on Saturday morning with a slightly increased appetite. I also noticed that my new room contained a huge picture window with an amazing view of the fresh snow blanketing the Flatirons.

I ordered another breakfast of plain Greek yogurt, honey and strawberries; but on Saturday I supplemented it with a banana muffin and a banana along with a cup of black tea. The combination hit the spot, and after breakfast I called Jane and checked in with her. Talking to my wife after the rough unending nightmare of Friday night was reassuring. Jane informed me that a fly-by was scheduled ahead of the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, and sure enough around noon the sound waves were shattered by a supersonic aircraft. I am always awed by the power exuded by powerful jets.

My day on Saturday consisted of further transitioning from hospital existence to self sufficiency, although I was a long way from that status. The physical therapist came to visit, and I completed several walks during the day. My goal was to get out of bed and walk for five minutes four times a day, and the nurses made sure I succeeded in achieving that goal. In the early afternoon an occupational therapist arrived to observe and guide the nurses in the completion of my first shower. They helped me undress, and I sat on a bench and sprayed my body with warm water from a hand held nozzle. The shower actually felt good, but it took an eternity afterward to reattach the wires and IV’s, and I developed a severe case of the chills. My thighs began to shake uncontrollably, until the nurses assisted me back in bed and covered me with warm blankets recently removed from an oven. These shivering episodes would plague me throughout my hospital stay, and I never heard a solid explanation of the cause.

My dinner on Friday night consisted of broiled salmon, broccoli, and rice. It actually tasted decent given my mental state at that time. For dinner on Saturday my appetite was absent for any sort of protein or salad, so I ordered some chicken noodle soup along with bread and more yogurt. The soup was salty, but overall it hit the spot. My caregivers on Saturday night were the same pair as Friday, but I was more aggressive in demanding narcotics, and the night was as pleasant as could be given the circumstances. The pace of time continued to drag at a glacial pace.

On Sunday morning I received a notification on my phone that Trump was backing the groups that were protesting the Stay at Home orders in response to the covid pandemic. With a daughter and daughter-in-law working in physical therapy and having spent four days under the devoted care of health care workers during the corona virus epidemic, I viewed Trump’s position as a huge middle finger directed at our most courageous people. I actually got teary-eyed over this action. Maybe I was in a fragile emotional state due to the drugs, but I think it was a reaction to the callous uncaring nature of our president.

On Sunday morning I was once again visited by a physical therapist. The young lady grabbed a red Drive walker from a neighboring room and showed me the capabilities. When she mentioned that it would make walks outside in nice weather more manageable, I was sold, so I texted Jane, and she immediately ordered one on Amazon for Tuesday arrival. This proved to be one of my better purchases. The stable walker easily supports my weight, as I roll about the house or outdoors, and it features a padded seat that lifts to reveal a small storage compartment. A padded carrying handle folds down to become a backrest for the seat should I temporarily tire. I was told that cup holders can be added as an accessory. Geriatric crowd, here I come.

I took another shower on Saturday morning, and the chill was controlled better than Saturday, but I made the mistake of ordering a strawberry banana smoothie for lunch. Unlike my mango smoothie on Saturday, the Sunday version was solid like frozen yogurt. Upon completion of the yogurt my body went into shiver mode, and I had to request two layers of blankets to regain my temperature equilibrium.

After lunch and a visit by Dr. O’Hair and PA Mark, the nurses began to prepare me for discharge. The first step consisted of removing me from the oxygen supply to which I had become somewhat dependent. Even after I was at home for several days, I imagined that the oxygen hose was still hooked into my nose on my upper lip. I transitioned off my oxygen dependency for two or three hours before my release.

Finally at 4PM Jane called to say that she was outside in the parking lot. She stopped at the pharmacy along the way to purchase a batch of cuomadin, since I was on a daily dosage for eight weeks. Because of the corona virus situation, Jane was not allowed to enter the hospital, so the nurses helped me dress and then wheeled me down to the curbside pickup area. Jane helped me climb into the passenger seat, and we returned to Denver. Cars were circling through the drive through area in front of the main entrance while displaying yellow banners in support of the health care workers. I was pleased to see this counter to the Stay at Home protesters.

Sunday was a pleasant day with the high temperature in the mid-sixties. I was very pleased with this circumstance given my recent history with chills. We opened the window, but for the first fifteen minutes of the drive I felt that I was verging on being out of breath. I suspect this was part of being weaned from the oxygen supply in the hospital room. In an effort to counter the slight oxygen debt feeling, I began taking long deep measured breaths, but this quickly led to light-headedness and a case of mild hyperventilation. Eventually I adjusted, and the last fifteen minutes of the drive were uneventful. It was quite a boost to be home and under the care of my loving wife. Phase one of mitral heart valve repair was behind me.

Ugly Bug – 04/30/2020

Ugly Bug 04/30/2020 Photo Album

I continued my progression through new flies, that I scanned from my magazines and encountered yet another large foam terrestrial pattern. My fly boxes already contained fat Alberts, pool toys, Amy’s ants, Chernobyl ants, hopper Juan’s, Charlie boy hoppers, hippie stompers and Jake’s gulp beetles. Did I really need another foam terrestrial offering? This fly was portrayed as an ant imitation, even though the instructions prescribed a size 10 hook. How many natural ants are this large? In my mind this fly was another variation on the Chernobyl ant theme.

Hard to Tie

This would be my first tying effort since returning from the hospital after my surgery, so the idea of beginning with a large foam ant pattern appealed to me. I took the plunge and gathered the necessary materials for an ugly bug. The designer of the pattern is Hans van Klinken, and I am fond of his Klinkhammer series of emergers, and this also motivated me to give it a try.

Looks Rather Buggy

I made two ugly bugs, but I found them difficult to tie. The foam tended to spin around the hook shank, and the front section of the fly seemed bulky after folding back the black foam bottom layer and then adding a white foam indicator. Perhaps I did not have the exact materials specified, and this may have contributed to the bulkiness. For my second attempt I tied in the black bottom layer by a pointy tip and then folded it back over the top to provide a more secure mount and minimize spinning. This improved the fly to some degree, but in the end I decided that the fly was too similar to other patterns that have proven to be effective, and the ugly bug was not worth the additional frustration encountered. If I fish the ones that I made, and they perform at a high level, I will revise my thinking on the ugly bug.

Mitral Heart Valve Repair – 04/27/2020

My second scheduled day of surgery arrived. My first on March 16 was aborted because of an ill-timed ski trip to Vail on March 9, which triggered the high country self quarantine. On Thursday morning, April 16 amid unfavorable driving conditions Jane and I cautiously made our way to Boulder Community Health. When I checked Apple maps, I noted that the Boulder Turnpike was yellow from just west of I25 until the exit on Foothills Parkway. Fortunately we allocated sufficient time and arrived at our designated 6.45AM check-in. We answered questions about exposure to corona virus and travel, and then proceeded to the check-in kiosks. My number appeared on the sequential appointment screen, and I approached the registration person. After answering some basic questions she looked at me from six feet away and said I was not authorized, and would I be willing to sign a waiver stating that I would pay the cost, if my surgery was not approved by insurance. My leaking heart elevated with this surprise turn of events. I quickly rejected this concept, as thoughts of a $200,000 bill rumbled through my brain. The receptionist jumped on the phone and talked to someone, and when she hung up, she said the system was corrected, and we could proceed. I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that my surgery would not be cancelled for the second consecutive time.

Jane accompanied me, as we made our way to the cardiovascular unit on the second floor, and we were ushered into a pre-op room. As was the case on March 16, I removed my clothes and stuffed them in a bag I brought along and slipped into my hospital gown. Hospital gowns come in one size; extra large. Unlike the previous aborted trip, I knew in advance that Jane would not be able to visit me in the hospital, so my bag contained a bath robe, toiletries, an iPhone, iPad, charging cables, and three magazines. I was traveling light for this engagement. I got situated on the bed, and one nurse pushed a vaseline substance up my nostrils, while a pair of female nurses got out the tools. The tools I speak of are razors. Because I would soon be the proud bearer of an infinite number of tubes, wires and hoses; the women began to remove hair at an unprecedented clip (get it). The nurse and anesthesiologist meanwhile occupied my mind with questions, while the hair removal assault continued. This pretty much ends my recollection of the morning, as the drugs were released through the IV tubes, and the surgical staff had their way with me.

My next recollection was around 4PM on Thursday afternoon, at least I think I was told that time. I was on my back in the intensive care unit with numerous faces staring down at me. It reminded me of one of those fisheye lens photos that folks sometimes impose on the public. I think someone phoned my wife, and I uttered some incoherent gibberish, but I would not swear to it. Apparently the removal of my intubation tube was in progress. A person kept asking me a question, but it was impossible to reply with a large tube in my mouth. Can anyone explain the logic of this? It was kind of like the dentist asking you something with his hands in your mouth, only much more uncomfortable. Eventually my major hindrance to voice was removed, but my mouth and throat were an irritated mess.

My next focal point was the drainage tubes that poked me in my back. It felt like I sat on a sharp stick that had been gnawed off by a beaver, and I was forced to hold that position for twenty-four hours. If you ever get invited to such a torturous state, please decline. In an effort to encourage me the head nurse told me that I would feel much better when the tubes were removed on Friday around midday. The effect on me was not positive, as all I could think about was eighteen additional hours of pain. One positive, however, was to divert my attention away from the burning, pinching pain emanating from the groin incision, where the heart machine had been connected. You will hear more about this later.

A certain recipe for laughs in our family is to bring up Dave’s incoherent speech after undergoing anesthesia, and Thursday night was probably no exception. In our family storytelling forum I recount my version of what I was saying, and my wife or guest then refutes my thinking and reveals my actual muddled mutterings. If you have never done this, you should undergo a surgery just to engage in the fun practice. In this case, however, Jane was not allowed to be present, so I was unrestrained. I often wonder what sort of a fool I made of myself. I can only remember that my savior throughout the night was ice. The head nurse constantly dropped nugget ice in my mouth, and without it I am not sure I would be alive to tell this story. As it so happens, during my working career I was the VP- Finance of ICE-O-Matic, an ice machine manufacturing company. After one session that included three mouthfuls of ice, I decided to lecture the nurse on the various ways of making ice. I wonder how that came out? I suppose I will never know, but I swear I was perfectly lucid.

The number one goal for Friday morning was to get out of bed and into a chair. The thought of it made me queasy, but with adequate assistance from my nurses I made the move. You may be surprised to learn that hospital lounge chairs are no more comfortable than beds. While I’m on the subject of hospital beds, let me rant for a bit on that topic. The bed can be controlled by some arrow buttons along the side, and it moves in two ways. The legs can be elevated or the back can be tilted. The one section of the bed that cannot be directly controlled is the butt section. Aside from the drainage tubes, my next source of excessive pain was the two inch incision in my groin between my abdomen and the inside of my right leg. The slightest stretch or movement in my leg elicited a sharp burning, pinching sensation. When the nurse elevated my legs, my butt section sank deeper in the hole, and this placed increased pressure on my groin incision. Raising the back of the bed simply brought my abdomen forward so that my body was in a folded position with my upper body and legs raised. That hurt. I felt like a human being folded into a taco shell. The best the attending care givers could do was to stuff old fashioned pillows in various positions, until I found a point of least pain.

In order to test the mettle of hospital occupants even more, somebody came up with the idea of a hospital gown. Mine was at least five sizes too big, and it came with a small pocket on the right front. Every time I got out of bed, the nurse moved a 6″ X 4″ X 3/4″ heavy electronic module from the side of the bed into the sole pocket on the gown. Guess what? Inevitably the heavy box would sag down to my groin and rest against or bounce against my incision. There must be a better way.

After I accomplished the amazing feat of getting out of bed and dropping into my chair, I ate my first breakfast (Greek plain yogurt with honey and strawberries, a cup of black tea and an untoasted bagel with margarine that would not melt because the bagel was cold). By the noon hour someone decided that it was time to remove the drainage tubes. I looked forward to this event all night, but now I can barely recall it. I remember that some pain disappeared, but I think the groin incision and my impossible position in the bed or chair dominated my thoughts, and the tube removal boost never materialized. I would compare it to opening a Christmas gift and discovering that you already knew you were getting it.

On Friday afternoon I requested my electronic devices, so I could open up communication with friends and relatives. I Face-timed with Jane (I think I was coherent), and I sent a few text messages. I remember getting extremely frustrated, as my addled state of mind, poorly functioning digits, and predictive text and spell check were absolutely abusing me. These hindrances combined with a person, who writes every communication as though they are submitting a term paper for an A is a recipe for irritation. I can only hope that the nurses in the hallway could not hear my less than cordial language.

Friday night was a nightmare. The head nurse and assistant changed shifts, and eventually I would grow to like the new crew, I was not pleased with them on Friday night. They were professional and efficient, but for some reason my previous attendants seemed more caring. Maybe it was the preponderance of ice from the Thursday night guy that won me over. Has anyone else ever noticed the glacial progression of time during nighttime in a hospital? Can’t someone install a booster in the clocks? At any rate Friday night, April 17 was certainly the worst night of my life. Somehow I let the pain get ahead of me. I was quasi-lying/sitting in an uncomfortable position that stretched my groin incision beyond tolerance. Have you ever over inflated a football to the point that the internal bladder is visible between the seams? My groin was the bladder and the seams were the incision. The center of my chest felt like someone rammed it with a digging bar, and the right pectoral area was so sore, that it was numb. I reclined in my least painful position in the bed and counted throb after pinch. It was incessant, and I began to wonder, if a person could die from pain. The prospect of constant future pain is what really demoralizes the mind. and the clock hands seemed to be frozen in time. At one point the nurse came in to check on me, and it was dark and felt like 3AM, and they told me it was 8:30PM. I was a grumpy, stressed mental case, so I did what any red blooded man would do, I began begging for morphine. Well, I’m not sure I specified morphine, but I asked for relief. They asked my pain level, and I didn’t even lie and uttered 8. Several doses of morphine got me through the night, but it was the longest ever. What happened to the fun part of doing drugs? All I ever felt was the negation of pain, but I was thankful for that.

I made it through my low ebb, and the next installment will cover the final night and two days in Boulder Community Health.

The Next Challenge – 04/26/2020

Simply stated my life expectancy goal is to remain as active as possible for as long as possible. Of course I would like to live as long as possible, but the quality of life is important, and this objective drives me to exercise and eat healthy. My previous blog post provides much more insight on my views on this topic.

In June of 2019 my primary care physician diagnosed a heart murmur and referred me to a cardiology practice for further testing. In July 2019 I underwent an echocardiogram, and the heart specialist recommended a TEE. A TEE is a procedure, whereby, an instrument is lowered into the esophagus to obtain a clearer view of the heart valve. For various reasons related to insurance and referrals this procedure was never administered until January 2020.

During this time period I ran a road race in Stapleton, and although I placed first in my age group, I severely injured my Achilles tendon. The ache on the inside of my right heel was so severe, that I canceled all pickle ball and halted my running program. When the pain ceased to improve, I began attending physical therapy, and these sessions continued from September through November. July, August and September are my favorite months to fly fish, and my Achilles did not inhibit my stream time, so I was partially guilty of not pushing treatment for the heart murmur condition.

By October my Achilles improved, and I began a controlled return to running. Shortly thereafter the physical therapist approved a return to pickle ball, and I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately this action resulted in another delay in my return to fitness. During a pickle ball session in the middle of October, a short rain shower left the court wet. I circled back to the baseline for a lob shot, and when I planted my right foot, it slipped and moved twelve inches. I applied my muscles to prevent a fall, but the sudden action generated a popping sound. For the next several weeks my inside groin and the outside of my hip were extremely sore. I attempted to return to running and pickle ball, but the soreness after each session was significant, and I sensed that I was doing more damage than good. I returned to physical therapy in January, and the therapist diagnosed me with a severe right hip nerve impingement. Maintaining an active lifestyle during my aging was proving to be more challenging than I expected.

Also during this time period Jane and I booked two bucket list trips. The first was scheduled for May 17 to Kauai, as Jane and I never visited Hawaii. We also made a deposit on a June 6 boat and bike trip from Cologne, GER to Amsterdam, NED. The boat would transport 26 guests on European waterways. and the guests would disembark each morning and cycle for 20 – 25 miles and then return to the barge, as it floated down the river. Breakfast, lunch and lodging were provided by the boat and were part of the package. Needless to say we were quite excited about this new adventure.

By January the TEE was finally scheduled and approved by my insurance, and it took place on January 24. I called to make an appointment with the cardiologist who performed my procedure and learned that he was on vacation for two weeks, and the earliest I could meet him was four weeks later. Given the scheduled trips I did not wish to wait four weeks, so I opted for a different doctor. Within a week of my TEE, I met with Dr Decicco, and he informed me that I had a leaking mitral heart valve. The border for severe is 60 ml, and my leakage was 100 ml. My atrium, the heart chamber downstream of the heart valve was somewhat dilated because of my condition. I was shocked and dumbfounded by this news. I felt strong and fit and did not exhibit any of the leaking heart valve symptoms. Dr. Decicco told me that the rest of my heart was extra strong due to my fitness and compensating for the leak, but he advised that this could not continue forever. Eventually the condition would deteriorate, and in all likelihood the repair would be more difficult and the recovery longer. I agreed to pursue surgery, and Dr. Decicco prepared a referral. Another prerequisite to heart valve repair surgery was to undergo a heart catheretization. This step was necessary to confirm that the remainder of my heart was healthy, as the surgeons did not want a surprise.

Meanwhile my physical therapy was progressing nicely, and I resumed running and pickle ball. I began the running program by walking for three minutes and running for two minutes for a total of twenty minutes. Over time I increased the running over the walking and eventually the distance and time. I played pickle ball indoors, and my Achilles and hip held up well under the increased strain of my activities.

Concurrent with my fitness and health progression, the rest of the world began to display signs of distress from the corona virus. The first U.S. case was reported on January 20, so the timing of my heart valve evaluation roughly coincided with the covid progression in the United States. I scheduled the heart catheretization for February 7, and the procedure confirmed that my heart was very healthy other than the leaking mitral valve, and Dr. Decicco referred me to a doctor at CU Health, who was highly recommended, to perform minimally invasive surgery. Things were moving along, and I clutched at the hope of threading the needle with surgery without cancelling our trips.

I contacted the office of Dr. Rove at CU Health, and I discovered that she was out of network, but her assistant was very certain that I could be approved and treated as an in network patient. I made an appointment for February 18, but two days before the meeting, I received a call from my primary care office, and they told me the doctor visit was not authorized. I immediately assumed it was because of being out of network, but instead I was told that the referral was only submitted two days earlier!

Again wishing to expedite the process with the hope of completing our scheduled trips, I decided to pursue in network options. I did an online search for cardiologists who perform minimally invasive mitral valve repair, and as I did this, I cross referenced the doctors’ names to the United Healthcare provider search list. I found six in network doctors that could perform my necessary surgery. One stuck out to me, Dr. Daniel O’Hair, at Boulder Health. He did robotic minimally invasive mitral valve repair, and I experienced good results from robotic surgery on my prostate. I made an appointment with Dr. O’Hair and asked my primary care physician to generate a referral. Ultimately the referral for Dr. Rove was approved, and I ended up with back to back appointments with two cardiologists during the first week of March. In the end I elected Doctor O’Hair, because I liked the idea of robotic, and he was in network, thus, less risk of not being approved given my tight window before our scheduled trips.

The die was cast, and Dr. O’Hair’s office called fairly soon after my appointment to offer surgery on March 16. I gritted my teeth and signed up with the continuing hope of fitting the surgery and recovery in before our Kauai trip. During the week prior to my scheduled surgery my daughter visited from Portland, OR, and in an effort to take advantage of her stay, we spent a day skiing at Vail on March 9. On March 15, the day before my surgery, the rapidly rising number of covid cases in Colorado ski country caused the governor to self quarantine anyone who had been there in the previous 14 days. On Monday morning March 16 I reported to Boulder Community Health for my surgery. The receptionist in the cardiology area asked, if I had been in the high country, and I truthfully answered yes given our ski trip the previous Monday. She immediately tossed a surgical mask my way and asked Jane and I to sit down the hall, while she investigated the next steps since the protocols were only announced late on Sunday.

After a short time, however, Jane and I were ushered into a pre-op room, where I was asked to remove my clothes and get into a hospital gown. The nurse arrived and hooked my left arm up to IV, and I was starting to believe that I would sneak in under the wire. My optimism was unfounded, as a Dr. Ellis eventually appeared, and he told me that my surgery was cancelled, and that I needed to self quarantine for 14 days. In addition the hospital was discontinuing elective surgeries starting on March 17, so he was unsure when my surgery would be rescheduled.

I put my regular clothes back on, and Jane and I returned home. My stress level dropped considerably, but now what about the surgery. Given the progression of the pandemic, I was convinced that I would not be rescheduled until May or June. Did I even want to be scheduled for heart surgery during a respiratory virus epidemic? I decided to take advantage of the break, and I resumed my running and fly fishing. The Stay at Home order put a clamp on pickle ball, but outdoor activities remained in bounds when associated with social distancing. I continued to ramp up my running, until I was able to run forty minutes consecutively by April 14. When weather was cooperative, I managed five fishing trips to Colorado rivers and streams. I was making good use of my surgery hiatus.

On April 7 I was sitting in my home office, when the mobile phone rang. I answered and heard the voice of Beth, Dr. O’Hair’s assistant, who informed me that she signed me up for surgery on April 16, and was I interested? I told her the timing was perfect, but I was concerned about the safety given the corona virus crisis. She provided a host of reasons that the doctor and hospital felt it was safe, so I accepted the date. In the final analysis I felt that the hospital would not accept the liability, if they were not very certain that the risk was low.

Aging – 04/25/2020

Until recently I tried to avoid thinking about aging. The human body will inevitably break down, but I set a goal to remain as active as possible over my lifetime. My strategy included daily exercise, running, and an abundance of outdoor activities. My eating habits since childhood have generally been exemplary. My father always planted a large garden, and fresh vegetables were always available. I was the rare child that did not need to be prodded to eat my vegetables. I am lactose intolerant, so that eliminates fatty dairy products from my diet, and I elect to avoid red meat on a regular basis.

In 2010 I acquired an iPad, and at the time my weight had ballooned from the 120’s of my twenties to the 155 mark. I would not consider myself overweight, but I began to experience difficulty getting up when I fell on skis, and my impact while running was noticeably heavier. I decided to try a calorie counter app and downloaded FatSecret to my new iPad. I set a goal to finish each day at negative 500 calories. Later I discovered that a cumulative negative 3000 calories over time translates to a loss of one pound of weight. Counting calories was a significant eye opener. Early in the game I discovered some quick hitters to cut my calorie intake. First came sugary beverages. I was amazed at how many calories could be avoided by shifting from Gatorade to water or unsweetened ice tea, so that was an easy move. I regularly ate a whole bagel for breakfast, so I reduced that to one-half, and once again a small change in diet resulted in significantly reduced cumulative calories. While I was still working, I had a small scone along with my cup of tea during a mid-morning break. Can you guess how many calories a small scone has? I stopped buying scones. I am an avowed pretzel lover. Pretzels are actually a relatively healthy snack, but they are a carbohydrate, and they do provide calories.  Previously I could binge on a half bag of pretzels at one sitting. Once I understood the calorie impact of my addiction, I limited myself to two servings at snack time.

In the three months after acquiring my iPod I reduced my weight from 155 pounds to 135 pounds. Since that period of time I have been in maintenance mode. I continue to track my calories, but rather than be in a net negative position each day, I target to balance intake and burn. It is not unusual for me to tabulate my position after dinner with the hope that I am negative 800 and, therefore, eligible for an evening snack. Counting calories made me appreciate the value of my running program, as running burns significant calories in a short period of time. Running translated into more snacks for Dave. In addition, running along with cycling and hiking improved my cardiovascular strength and allowed me to enjoy outdoor activities that were out of reach for others my age.

Of course there are no guarantees in the game of life, and in 2016 I faced my first obstacle to a continued active lifestyle. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2015 and survived a prostatectomy in January 2016. The operation and recovery were a bump in the road, but I survived and eventually elevated my fitness back to levels before the operation. The next four years were golden years, as I maintained my weight and fitness and achieved record years in fly fishing accomplishments. I was retired and in good health, and Jane and  I maximized our opportunities for travel, hiking, camping, cycling, running and fly fishing. I was living the dream.

My Medicare plan provides for an annual “in home” check up, and during this event in November 2018 the nurse heard a heart murmur. She advised me to confer with my primary care physician, and I followed up with a physical in June 2019. My doctor confirmed the heart murmur and referred me to a cardiologist. In July 2019 an echocardiogram revealed a leaking mitral heart valve, and a TEE procedure in January 2020 refined the diagnosis, and my valve leak was placed in the severe category. In spite of this condition I remained without symptoms, and my cardiologist attributed this to my superb conditioning.

I was reluctant to proactively go from a healthy sixty-nine year old male to a rehabilitating heart patient, but the cardiologist reasoned with me. First there was the chart that showed that the life expectancy of a man with a repaired mitral heart valve was the same as a man without a heart valve condition. On the other hand, the life expectancy curve diverged rather rapidly when comparing a male with no heart valve problem compared to a man who failed to correct the condition. Facing death is always a sobering experience. In addition, I was a candidate for minimally invasive repair, and this procedure is far more desirable than invasive repair or even heart valve replacement.  Aging increased the likelihood of the latter developments, and aging also made recovery longer and more difficult. I was convinced and made the decision to undergo minimally invasive heart valve repair. My next post will resume the story from here.

Why a Blog? – 04/23/2020

Originally when I embarked on my blog journey in 2010, I was seeking a way to combine the text from my fishing logs, that I maintained in Word, with the photos that I accumulated in my albums. Ten years later I can unequivocally state that my blog has more than served its intended purpose. My son has been instrumental in the evolution of this forum, as he provided endless hours of technical support from securing a server and URL to digging me out of technical difficulties. The tabs for the fish counter and fishing analytics are purely the creations of Dan.

This site now contains ten years of entries that include every fishing outing during that time as well as other significant travel adventures. In many ways the travelogues are more fun to review than the fishing logs. My blog has evolved into a hobby unto itself, as I enjoy writing, and I chronicled a significant part of my life story. I am convinced that composing the blog improves my writing skills, enhances my vocabulary, and stretches my mind.

What role do I envision from this blog? Well it is sort of grandiose to even think that I planned a purpose other than logging my stories, but I repeatedly refer to it, when I project future fishing conditions based on historical experiences on the same rivers. Why start a day of fishing from ground zero, when I already possess clues about what tactics worked in the past? Change is constant in fly fishing, and one must be careful to match the variables before drawing conclusions, but many times the past has been a predictor of the future. In addition to this practical application of the Wellerfish blog, I also enjoy immensely simply reading about many of my fishing days and travel adventures. During the winter I relive days on the stream from the summer, and I particularly love re-imagining my travel adventures years after the fact.

What about the readers? Why share all this information with strangers around the world? I have spent upwards of thirty-five years fly fishing, and if another angler can pick up a tip or learn about a fly that propels them to success, I am all in favor. I constantly read about fly fishing and fly tying, but the best teacher is on stream experience. I truly write this blog for myself, but if it can help others, that is even better. The ten years of fishing reports contain a huge amount of information on flies, approaches and conditions. Most of the information is available elsewhere, but this blog applies it directly to a specific river or stream, and that is not always easy to obtain. I have curated an infinite number of fly choices for my part of the world, and I can cite results to back their effectiveness. Are there other, better and even more productive flies out there? Of course, and I constantly search for new winners, but it is reassuring to have workhorse flies that I know I can depend on. Why not read and take advantage?

But what if I create efficient fly fishing robots armed with killer flies that hook, land, injure and pressure local fish? First of all it is quite presumptuous to suggest that my humble web site could do that. I do not have that much power. But more importantly I am a strong believer that fly fishing success is not attainable from having the right fly or fishing in the best place. It requires days and days of practice and years of continuing education. two of the most overlooked aspects of fly fishing success are casting and reading the water, and these keys to achievement cannot be learned by reading. They require on stream experience. The majority of fishermen do not have the time or inclination to devote to fly fishing in order to develop a high level of proficiency. The risk of stream exploitation from this blog is infinitesimal.

I also utilize different techniques, as I explore the waters of the west and beyond. I am a huge believer in paying attention to the water type that produces fish during a given day at a certain time of the year. My casting becomes more efficient, if I know fish are holding at the tails of deep runs or in the cushion in front of large rocks. I can exploit this advantage, as I move from place to place and limit my casts to higher probability spots. Dry/dropper, double dry, single dry, indicator nymphs, and streamers are all possible techniques; and I apply them all. This blog provides feedback on what worked and did not work in many situations. In short, this blog can accelerate the learning curve of novice or beginning anglers. Are you the type of person that needs to be hands on and learn through success and failure? By all means go for it. Half of the fun of fly fishing is the process, but I like to gather as much knowledge as possible, so that I can accelerate my learning curve and become better faster.

This blog opens me to criticism over revealing secret spots and contributing to the escalating crowding on western streams. If folks are using this blog simply as an enhanced Delorme Atlas, I really cannot do anything about it. However, most of the rivers and streams that I fish are easily accessible public waters. There are books and online resources that reveal more details about hot spots than this blog does. I have no problem with identifying a creek or river, when similar information is available in the fly fishing universe. For large rivers secrecy is never a concern. It would be ridiculous to assume that a fisherman could catch more fish if they used my blog to identify a place that is better than the wide array of options available. And if you do, congratulations, there are an unlimited number of alternative places for me to seek out and find success.

I never keep heavily fished rivers like the South Platte River and Big Thompson River secret. In these places the game is about being a better fisherman than others as a way to achieve success. There are a few high mountain creeks that I protect. If I put in a lot of shoe leather and discover a hidden gem, I am not going to reveal the location. A small stream is too fragile to expose, and I like to lessen the chances of meeting competing fishermen. But these situations are rare, and nearly all of my posts refer accurately to the actual destination.

Why am I going through all this background? A week ago I had a mitral heart valve repair, and I am considering posting short pieces that chronicle my recovery. The last week has been a rough experience, and perhaps other readers are out there that could learn from mine. Besides, I enjoy writing, and a lot of new material is available to me in the health care industry. Stay tuned. Perhaps the purpose of this blog will expand to include my new physical challenges. It has, after all, become my life story.

Squirrel Tail Comparadun – 04/15/2020

Squirrel Tail Comparadun 04/15/2020 Photo Album

I browsed through my collection of scanned fly patterns from back issues of my various fly fishing magazines, and I encountered the squirrel tail comparadun from Fly Tyer Magazine. I am a huge fan of comparaduns, and I recalled having a thirty year old squirrel tail that was given to me by a friend, while I lived in Pennsylvania.  Why not give these a try?

Nice Side View

I searched through my zip lock bag of natural animal hair patches and quickly snatched the squirrel tail. A quick inspection revealed that it remained in prime condition, so I placed it on my fly tying bench. I also grabbed my muskrat patch for the body and then shook some size 16 standard dry fly hooks on my magnet and threaded some gray thread into my bobbin. I was now prepared to experiment with squirrel tail comparaduns.

Five Completed Next to a Squirrel Tail

I made five, but I must report that squirrel hair is harder to manage than coastal deer hair. The five flies turned out to be quite respectable comparaduns, but the hair is fine and slippery and difficult to cock as an upright wing. The stiff squirrel tail fibers served as excellent outrigger tails, but microfibbets are an equally effective stiff tailing material. I gave them a try, and I embedded a pair in my fly box. It will be interesting to see how they perform compared to my usual gray deer hair comparaduns.

Perdigon – 04/13/2020

Perdigon 04/13/2020 Photo Album

Around five years ago my daughter, Amy, introduced me to Instagram. It was a seminal moment in my fly fishing career. I now follow hundreds of anglers around the world, and I am amazed at the quality and creativity of tiers on every continent. A fly that frequently appears in my Instagram feed from these international tiers is the perdigon. The perdigon fly originated in Spain, and it is a small yet comparably heavy sleek design that quickly plummets to the bottom even in fast water conditions. Many tiers make them on a jig hook, and they typically incorporate a tungsten bead to hasten the sink rate. These flies portray very slender, sleek bodies that slice through the water column with minimal resistance.

I Love the Shine

I never experimented with a perdigon, but in a recent article in Fly Fisherman Charlie Craven instructed on the steps. Given the covid hiatus I decided to make a few. I discovered that Charlie created a video of the tying steps, so I viewed the clip from beginning to end to get an overview. I did not possess any jig hooks, so I dug out some size 18 scud hooks. Charlie did not use a jig hook in his demonstration, so I felt that I was not deviating excessively from the pattern.

Five Completed

I gathered the remaining materials and produced my first perdigon. I used fluorescent orange thread and mylar tinsel for the body, but I struggled to prevent the tinsel from sliding back to clump the tail. On the second attempt I used olive floss for the body, and it was an improvement, although quite a bit of the fluorescent thread showed through the floss. Both may be acceptable to fish, but I knew I could do better. For my last three I used olive thread with pearl flashabou for the body and then wrapped strands of brown and black super hair for the rib. If you check out the embedded photos, you will agree that the super hair versions are the best. The topping on all these perdigon flies is UV resin, and I utilized flow for the layer over the abdomen. The epoxy layer renders a rich iridescent look to the tiny nymph.

Materials Used

For the final step I used a black marker to color a black wing case on top, and then I applied a small thick drop of UV resin for the wing case. This last step gives the fly the stereotypical hump that distinguishes the perdigon. I have five more new flies to experiment with during the 2020 season.

Super Nova PMD – 04/12/2020

Super Nova PMD 04/12/2020 Photo Album

A second version of the super nova from @hopperjuan_fly_fishing imitates the pale morning dun nymph. Generally a pheasant tail nymph is a solid representation of these summer emergers, and I continue to stock them mostly in size 18. For larger PMD nymphs I nearly always knot a size 16 salvation nymph to my line, and it has become my number two producer if not number one. I am quite satisfied with the performance of my salvation nymphs during both pale morning dun emergences as well as when deployed as an attractor searching pattern. A super nova PMD is mostly redundant in my view, but given the stay at home times and the search for indoor activities, I decided to spin out five.

Fly ComponentMaterials
HookSize 16 curved nymph hook
Thread6/0 brown
TailBrown hackle fibers
Body6/0 brown
RibBrown slim rib
ThoraxPeacock ice dub
LegsBlack krystal flash

Bringing It Closer

For these super novas I used brown thread, brown hackle fibers for the tail, slim rib brown, peacock ice dub thorax, and krystal flash black for the legs. I am quite pleased with the output, and I will place some along side my pheasant tails and salvations to try later this summer. This fly has a look very similar to the other PMD flies, but it is a much faster tie and also more durable than a classic pheasant tail.

A Batch of Five Plus Materials

Bring on the pale morning dun hatches in 2020.

South Platte River – 04/08/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/08/2020 Photo Album

My fishing outing on Wednesday, April 8 was an example of quality over quantity. In an ideal world I enjoy both, but sometimes my fortunes follow an either/or scenario. On Tuesday I learned that the surgery that was scheduled originally for March 16 and then cancelled was rescheduled for April 16. Because of the corona virus pandemic, I was surprised to learn of the resumption of elective surgery this soon, but I made the decision to go with it. Hopefully the surgery will progress to completion this time, and I can recover to reasonable fishing shape by the time the rivers and streams recede to fishable levels in late June or early July.

With the advent of the scheduling change I decided to take advantage of another fine spring day to visit a Colorado river, and I chose the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon for my Wednesday adventure. The high temperature was forecast to reach the upper fifties, and the stream flows were tumbling through the canyon at 80 CFS. I knew from this blog and previous experience that these levels are very conducive to fishing. The fly shop reports touted dry fly action on midges and blue winged olives.

Quite a few vehicles were parked along the nine mile access road, but I was fortunate enough to claim a spot just before the first of the twin tunnels. A surprising amount of snow remained on the north and western facing canyon walls, but the open areas that received plentiful sunlight were clear. When I arrived, the thermometer was stuck on 41 degrees, so I pulled on my North Face light down coat and assembled my Sage four weight rod. I hiked down the dirt road a short distance, until I found a reasonably manageable path down the steep bank to the river. Once I reached the shoreline of the river, I continued downstream for another .2 miles, until I reached a nice pool.

Lunch Pool

I began my search for South Platte River trout with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher, and super nova baetis; but when I paused for lunch at 11:45, the fish count was locked on zero. Needless to say it was a frustrating morning. I did detect two very brief nips, but never felt the weight of the fish. Just before lunch I prospected a very attractive run and pool, where I normally add a fish or two to my count, but I was disappointed by a lack of success despite covering the water very thoroughly. I experimented with a few fly changes and switched the super nova for a sucker spawn fly and my recently tied partridge and orange, but luck was not my friend. In a last ditch effort to turn my fortunes around I substituted a sparkle wing RS2 for the partridge and orange.

The Area Beyond the Fast Water Delivered

As I sampled my lunch goodies, I observed the pool and spotted two very separate rises in the shelf pool on the right side of the fast center run. This observation prompted me to wade to the opposite bank to approach the area of rising fish from a different angle. Unfortunately the rises never repeated, so I shifted my attention to the riffle on the opposite side of the run, that I covered quite exhaustively prior to lunch. Amazingly on the third cast the fat Albert dipped, and I set the hook quickly, and a very nice trout with a bright pink stripe announced that it was not happy with the hook prick. I fought the battler up and down the run a few times, before I managed to thump it into my net. My first fish of Wednesday was a beauty that created a significant sag. It probably measured in the sixteen inch range, but it displayed an ample amount of poundage coming out of the winter. I was also interested to learn, that it grabbed the 20 incher, although I was certain that the RS2 would be the productive fly.

Plenty of Width

Once I photographed and released my highly sought after prize, I resumed casting to the riffle on the opposite side of the fast current. I allowed some casts to float deeper in the run below me, and on one of these longer floats I felt a grab, as I began to lift the flies to make another cast. Although this rainbow did not approach the size of the first one, it may have been stronger pound for pound, as it put up a spirited fight, before I slid it into my net. The muscular rainbow approximated thirteen inches, and my optimism spiked considerably compared to the morning session.

A Second Fine Rainbow

Having disturbed the lunch run and pool considerably, I pressed on in an upstream direction. While eating lunch I noticed another angler in the appealing pool above me, but as I prospected some deep pockets in between, I was pleased to see that the pool was vacant. I lobbed three to five cast to three promising pockets with no results, and then I quickly claimed one of the better pools in the canyon. Two nice deep runs fed the wide smooth area, and since I was rigged with a dry/dropper arrangement, I skipped immediately to the top. I carefully covered both entering runs with my three fly offering, but I was disappointed to discover that the trout did not savor my menu choices.

A Favorite Spot

As this scenario unfolded, I began to observe rising fish where the larger of the two entry runs fanned out into the wide, smooth pool. I abandoned the dry/dropper approach and quickly knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my 5X tippet. The timing of the rises was relatively spaced, but clearly several trout were attuned to the small mayflies that now began to dance and flutter on the surface. It took me quite a few casts and a few position changes, but eventually I lobbed a cast directly across and accompanied it with an upstream midair mend. The small speck of fluff imitating a blue wing olive was smacked aggressively, and I swooped a very fine thirteen inch brown trout into my net. I anticipated the blue winged olive hatch, and now I notched my first dry fly success of the day.

Pleased With This One

The hatch at this stage in the early afternoon was relatively sparse and developed in small waves. A cloud would block the sun, and this created a breeze, and BWO’s appeared. They were blown by the wind and tumbled across the surface, and a series of feeding fish would respond. After a short frenzy the sun reappeared, I basked in the sun, and the surface action abruptly ended. During one of the extended calm, sunny periods I decided to move on to sample another segment of Eleven Mile Canyon.

A man and woman arrived in the section characterized by a series of deep pockets just above the pool, so I circled around them and re-entered the river thirty yards upstream. I converted back to the dry/dropper technique for the faster pocket water; however, this time I featured a size 8 black Chernobyl ant, bright green caddis pupa, and sparkle wing RS2. The pockets were not productive, nor was the nice long pool downstream from my favorite bend pool on the entire river.

Bend Pool Beckons

I was actually astonished to see the bend pool just down from the first tunnel vacant of fishermen, as this sight is a rarity. The river braids around a small narrow island with one channel feeding the bend pool from the south and the larger branch feeding water from the west. I was on the northwest side of the pool, so I advanced to the section at the top where a wide riffle enters. The dry/dropper remained on my line, so I opted to take advantage of the set up in the faster water of medium depth while observing the lower pool for rising activity. I could see a cluster of quite nice trout spaced throughout the riffle, but despite some very focused prospecting, I was unable to tempt any of them to nab the drifting caddis or RS2. Meanwhile the middle and lower sections of the pool were alive with actively feeding fish.

I once again went through the re-rigging process, and I began with a CDC BWO. The next hour was the most frustrating segment of my day, as I cycled through two sizes of CDC olives, a Klinkhammer style BWO, and a Craven soft hackle emerger; but none of these options appealed to the selective feeders in front of me. I cast to the middle area, the current seam, the eddy between two exposed boulders and the slow moving tail section. They all contained actively feeding fish, but I failed to guide any into my net. I pricked two fish, and I attribute the quick escapes to very tentative takes. My flies were clearly missing a key triggering characteristic compared to the naturals. During windy conditions I always assume that movement is the missing element.

Downstream from the Afternoon Pool

Deming’s quote, “Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results” looped through my brain, and I cut my losses and moved upstream. I gravitated to the western channel and fired some casts to several likely fish holding areas, but the the tiny olive was not a solid searching fly, so I moved on fairly quickly to the next favorite pool. This spot with slow moving water is directly below the tunnel and features a tall vertical rock wall on the east bank. Half the river was shrouded in shadows by the time I arrived, but I circled around a huge boulder and positioned myself in front of it while looking across to the shaded portion. I was immediately pleased to see some regular rises twenty-five feet across and down from my position, but how was I to follow my tiny tuft of CDC in these unfavorable lighting conditions? I decided to give it a try and simply lift, when I saw a rise, where I approximated my fly to be. It worked on the third drift, I raised the rod tip and felt decent weight, as a fish sent vibrations through my four weight. Unfortunately the joy of hooking a fish in challenging conditions was short lived, as the attached live body quickly slipped free of the tiny size 24 hook.

Smallest Fish of the Day

I paused to blot and dry my fly, and luckily the feeding fish resumed their afternoon routine. Once again I executed a straight across cast and immediately flicked an upstream mend. This time a fish rose five feet downstream from the previous one, and I once again elevated the rod tip and felt a connection. Unlike the previous episode, however, I remained in touch with an eleven inch brown trout and quickly slipped it into my net. When I resumed casting, the wind died back, and the sun broke through the clouds, and the calm sunny break halted the ravenous feeding. Some sporadic activity remained, and I attempted my blind cast and set method for a bit, but then rising futility drove me onward.

My Late Afternoon Spot

I investigated the very attractive faster run at the top of the pool, but I was armed with a tiny dry fly, and the trout were not revealing their presence. I quickly waded through the wide shallow connector section and approached a vast wide pool. The lower half of the pool was only a few feet deep and extremely clear. I deemed this another recipe for frustration and immediately waded to the midsection, where I could reach the upper and middle portion of the pond-like section. I paused to observe, and several larger than average trout hovered below the surface and sipped olives in a rather leisurely manner. Could I fool these discerning eaters? I began making long casts to the area, and I managed to elicit several nose to fly inspections, but something did not conform to the standards of my potential eaters. I gave up on these middle of the pool snobs, and waded toward the feeder lanes in the top third. I once again stopped to observe, and I spotted a couple rises in a moderately faster current close to the boulder strewn west bank.

I began flinging casts across the current with an upstream reach and tracked my tiny fly through the area between the bank and a large exposed boulder to my right. It took ten drifts, and I was about to surrender, when a fourteen inch brown trout smacked the olive, just as the fly began to drag at the end of the float. This brown trout fought more like a rainbow, as It made several long streaking runs upstream, but I maintained a tight line and swept my net underneath another wild prize. I was actually contemplating quitting, but this burst of success refocused my attention.

Aggressive Brown Trout

What next? I moved back toward the east bank and looked once again at the midsection, where I failed to fool some nice trout earlier. They were now rested, and they resumed their finicky feeding. The hatch at this point was more advanced, and although not very dense, quite a few airborne mayflies were visible. Should I try for the center stage trout a second time? Why not? I began to toss casts above the sporadic feeders with an air mend and allowed the fly to drift downstream to their position. Shockingly, after six fruitless casts I saw a nose tip up, and my fly disappeared. I executed a swift lift, and chaos ensued. A fifteen inch rainbow rocketed upstream and then reversed direction several times, while I maintained constant upward and then side pressure. In this instance the fly fishing gods favored me, and I dipped my net beneath a gorgeous, fat rainbow trout. A sub par day was morphing into a quality day after all.

Pleased to Land This Ultra Selective Trout

After my heart rate subsided, I sopped the moisture from my fly, dipped it in desiccant and fluffed the wing. I peered across the pool and noted several fish rising at the base of the current seam that earlier produced a brown trout twenty yards upstream. I targeted these fish, but they were ignoring my tiny olive. My peripheral vision revealed several active fish at the extreme tail of the pool, just before where the water tumbled over a wide flat submerged rock. I examined the flies on the water, and I noticed that they were in a state of constant motion, as they fluttered in their attempt to break free of the surface film. My CDC olive by comparison looked very rigid and inert. I pondered the matter and wondered whether one of my soft hackle emergers might imitate a cripple, and whether the soft hackle and fluoro fiber might create a greater illusion of motion?

I gave it a try. I replaced the CDC olive with a size 22 soft hackle emerger with no bead and applied floatant to the body and wing. I moved downstream toward the shallow tail, and flicked a cast above the scene of the feeders. On the third drift a fish aggressively smacked the wet fly, and I paused a fraction of a second, before I set the hook, and once again a tussle developed. Similar to the first brown trout from the pool, this fish battled hard, but I once again held the upper hand. Again my net sagged under the weight of a robust fourteen inch brown with a vivid black spot pattern over a light silvery body. Needless to say I was on a cloud.

Black Spots on Light Background

The sun reappeared, and the hatch waned, and a glance at my watch revealed that it was nearing 4:30PM. I did not wish to advance farther upstream, and I was averse to waiting out the lull in the hatch, so I clipped my hook to the rod guide and sought a reasonable path up the very steep bank to the road. I barely succeeded in cresting the lip of the bank and returned through the tunnels to my waiting Santa Fe.

What a day! Of course, seven fish in six hours of fishing is a below average catch rate, but the quality of the fish was outstanding. All but one landed fish were thirteen inches or greater, and several exhibited exceptional heft. Five of my netted fish were on dry flies, and I always favor surface action over subsurface. Getting skunked in the tunnel pool was a huge disappointment, but how was I to know? If this is my last outing before surgery, I will fondly remember the day.

Fish Landed: 7