Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Bird Trap and the Tooth Fairy

On the last morning of our road trip to Colorado, we were in the gift shop of a Best Western in Vernal, Utah. They had a bird house for sale at a great price ($11) so I bought it. Casey and his cousins River and Rain were interested in it and Casey asked me what it was.

Mind you, Casey will believe just about anything I tell him so I have gotten very good at keeping a straight face while I tell him some real yarns. This is one of those times.

"Why, its a Bird Trap, son," I said, "See we'll put some nails around this hole here and the birds will fly in and they won't be able to fly out. When the trap becomes full of birds we put the whole thing in the microwave and they pop like popcorn. Then we open this door on the top and pour them into a bowl. They're yummy."

The boys seemed kind of grossed out but they quickly went back to looking at their plastic dinosaur that we'd gotten them.

When we got home and unpacked the car, I just tossed the "bird trap" onto the porch so I could figure out where to hang it later. The following day, Amy saw it and asked Casey where it came from.

"Its Daddy's Bird Trap, mom!" He said enthusiastically, and then he related the whole bit about how it traps birds and we eat them like popcorn. He clearly had completely believed me.

When Amy told me about it later that night after he was asleep I could not help but laugh and laugh and laugh til I was crying. I mean, inside he must think I'm a pretty gross character but he's not only willing to put up with it he still likes me. Its hilarious and kind of sad at the same time.

A few days later, Casey's first tooth fell out. Amy put the tooth in a glass of water next on Casey's bedside table and told him that the Tooth Fairy would come while he was sleeping and replace the tooth with money. I immediately began scheming.

I told Amy that I was going to find a large dead moth or bird or something and put it in the water and say that it was the tooth fairy and that she had drowned in the water. But Amy would have none of it, she said we were going to do this "normal". Okay, fine, so we did. We left him $2, figuring that this would ultimately cost us $40 when all 20 teeth were accounted for.

Casey was SUPER EXCITED the next morning and he repeatedly showed me the 8 quarters. He told me all manner of things he was going to do with the money. But you know what? When he and I drove to church the next day, he announced simply "Dad, I'm going to put my tooth fairy money in the collection plate."

I was surprised and I said "Did your mom suggest that?"

"No" he said. It was his idea. And it was.

And he did.

He's so awesome.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Colorado Fishing Report

Silver Jack
The Silver Jack Reservoir

I spent the last week of August 2008 fishing around Montrose, Colorado. The region is still feeling the affects of the long, wet winter previous: the two main rivers crossing the town, the Gunnison and the Uncompahgre are running high, the latter is practically unfishable in town. Which is sad because THERE ARE HOPPERS EVERYWHERE and one could be throwing giant foam bugs behind the Mexican café downtown! But that didn't stop yours truly: four of the five mornings I got up early, grabbed my hat and slipped out the door before the kids were up.

East Portal of the Black Canyon, Gunnison River
Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Because of the high water, most of the "spots" on the Gunnison that had produced for me last year were not fishable this year. I fished the East Portal of the Black Canyon three times this trip and each time I hooked the same big 20" rainbow in the same spot, only to lose him before he could get into the net. Most of the Gunnison fish taken this trip were actually taken on a dry fly: a rubber-legged caddis to be exact. Fun fishing.

Silver Jack Rocks
Cimarron Creek

For a change of pace, and to get away from the 95 degree heat of the valley, I drove up to the Silver Jack reservoir near the headwaters of the famous Cimarron Creek. I fished the creek below the reservoir for a couple of hours but I must admit I’m not a very good pocket water fisherman. The scenery and the cool mountain air was better than the fishing. The size of the fish in the creek is pleasantly surprising – I was able to see some of them as they rose and inspected my hopper and humpy. I had plans to fish the beautiful reservoir itself but an afternoon thunderstorm came through and drenched the valley; the open range cows were bellowing about it as I drove back to Montrose.

Mesa Lake
Mesa Lake

The highlight of the trip was a whole day fishing the amazing Grand Mesa. This region of 300 lakes resides at the 10,000-foot mesa east of Grand Junction. This is the start of the off-season so most of the lakes that I drove by had ZERO anglers on them. They all beckoned to me to come fish them! Beautiful mountain lakes ringed by meadows, aspens and evergreens. 100 of the 300 have fish and most of those are heavily stocked.

Mesa Lake Stringer
Stringer on Mesa Lake

Mesa Lake is a popular lake near a small resort. It has nice facilities and drive-to access. The water in this gorgeous little lake is bright turquoise and there are all manner of aquatic plants. It was astonishing how many trout one could see in the water. In some places they were so thick you could count a half dozen rainbows swirling around in a depression. And you may not believe this but for two hours I got a hit on 95% of my casts. At one point I counted 20 successive casts with either a hit or a fish on or a fish landed. It would have been more but I lost my fly in a fish and didn’t bother to put a new one on. In 90 minutes, I caught 16 fish and lost 20 more and kept four (the limit in the Mesa) for my mother.

Griffith Lake
Griffith Lake

Nearby, but less accessible, is Griffith Lake which requires a short hike through a forest and a meadow. The meadow was full of heifers and calfs. They mooed at me and turned to watch me trudging by in my waders, wearing a float tube on my shoulders. I chose Griffith Lake because I wanted some solitude and the fish are supposed to be bigger there. The lake was warm and very, very dirty. Visibility was perhaps three inches. I simply had to fish it though, having spent an hour trying to find it and then another 30 minutes hiking to it. There appeared to be one deep part of the lake and that's where I hooked one holdover rainbow. He was the biggest fish of the day at around thirteen inches. One of the cows chased me a little bit as I was walking back to the car.

Rainbow Trout on Griffith Lake
Bleeding Rainbow

I also fished Sunset and Island lakes for a time (and caught a few more fish) and took a short driving tour of the mesa. I wished I had more time to explore the mesa. Sometime I'll spend a week up there.

People in Montrose are so lucky to have all this great fishing so close by. I feel like I barely scratched the surface while I was there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chewey & Ella Love Fest

Too cute.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hyas Lake

casey, hyas lake
2 mile trail to Hyas Lake

Took today off to get in some more family summer fun time. Amy still has a cold so she stayed home. I've always wanted to see Hyas Lake. It supposed to be a great pay-off for such a short, easy hike. And it is, sort of.

casey, hyas lake
Casey on the Beach at Hyas Lake

It took two hours to get to the trailhead from our house. My guidebook said it was 1.5 miles to the trail, but the signs at the trailhead say 2 miles. And you know what? It's definitely 2 miles because it took us an hour on the trail. The trail itself is in great shape and very easy. There's just a limit to how fast Casey can hike and apparently that limit is 2 miles an hour.

casey, hyas lake
Warm Water

The first camp site we found had a great little beach. We emerged from the trees onto the beach to the sight of the brilliant green, clear water and rising fish. The water was very slack and looked like it had been that way all day. Most of the rising fish were small but every now and then there was a slurp that suggested a bigger fish. I strung up my flyrod but the fish were always 20 feet out of reach no matter how far out I cast.

Hyas Lake, Casey
Casey Makes Friends

After a while, some real campers showed up and I assured them they were welcome to the site since we were leaving soon. They had three young girls with them. The girls came out and saw Casey and I'm not sure who started showing-off more; Casey or them. They were all putting it on pretty thick. Casey actually asked me to time him running up and down the beach as if he were some kind of olympian doing casual training.

casey, hyas lake

Eventually the sun went down and we started heading back to the car. We had DEETed at the trailhead but playing in the water had washed it all off. The mosquitoes became merciless. We hurried back to the car as fast as we could but again, we could not make it in less than 60 minutes. I think we left a couple of pints of blood back there. Then we had a two hour drive home, but we stopped in Roslyn for some Father-Son pizza time. After Pizza, Casey fell right asleep on the ride home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cedar River Trail

Cedar River
From a bridge on the Cedar River trail

Took today off. Biked the Cedar River Tail from Riverside Park upstream to Maple Valley to Big Bend Park. I thought, it being the middle of the work week, that I'd have the river to myself but there were fishermen in almost every pool! I did manage to find three pools and I fished them hard but only had a few nibbles. One worthy fish on but it came unglued before I could get a good look at him.

In one pool I hooked something inanimate and started dragging it up the river. "Come on! Please be a shoe with a foot in it or a hand!" I had high hopes of fulfilling my dream of finding a body. But it turned out to be a diaper. Oh well.

Got about ten miles of bike riding in. Saw some pretty serious bikini action too.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Combining Fly-Fishing and Mountain Biking

My Trek Navigator Hybrid

The Iron Horse Trail (also called the John Wayne Trail) parallels the Yakima river up and down/stream of the town of Cle Elum. The Trail is perfect for riding and the river is perfect for fishing. This time of year the water up there is low and easily wadable. You don't expect to find big fish up there this time of year though.

Anyway, I had earned a full fishin' day on Sunday. I got up early and packed up all my stuff. I grimly looked at my flybox. It was practically empty. All out of prince nymphs. Almost out of chironomids. Only a few copper johns left. And just one gnary Pat's Stonefly. The only one I've ever tied. It was on the wrong size hook and for some reason had an odd number of legs. It was truly pathetic but I stuck it in my hat anyway. I figured it probably wouldn't matter because recent reports from the river had been terrible.

Bike on the Iron Horse Bridge
On the old, rail-less bridge: The Cle Elum on one side

An hour of driving got me up to Cle Elum where I parked the car at the Depot Cafe along the Iron Horse Trail. In one of the pictures above, you can see what a 9 foot flyrod looks like sticking out of a pannier. I only ran into one other person on the Iron Horse Trail all day, and no other fishermen, which is somewhat surprising given how beautiful the weather was and the fact that it was a weekend day. The trail was hot and dusty but the water was green and cool.

Upper Yakima from Iron Horse Bridge
Now looking the other way up the Yakima

In the second pool that I fished I let my hare's ear/snowcone combo drift to the back of the pool and hooked a nice fish! I was so excited because I honestly wasn't expecting much. My delight turned a little mellow when it turned out to be just a whitefish. Hey, it was still a good fish though. Moving downstream, in the next pool there was a 10" rainbow; I figured that would probably be the best fish of the day. Boy was I wrong. Around the next bend, in the very next pool in front of some ladies standing on a front lawn, I hooked a true giant of a fish. When I finally landed it I was somewhat mystified. It wasn't a trout, and it seemed too big to be a whitefish. It was about 18" and about three pounds. It had the mouth of a whitefish but large scales like a carp. He had taken the bottom fly: the black snowcone. I was trying to get it back when the fish bolted out and broke the line. I honestly don't know what it was but lets just say it was a giant whitefish I guess.

Rootball Hole
About to catch three big trouts!

Downstream from the houses I fished an elbow in the river very hard. This particular curl of the river is very productive and in fact there's a trail that goes right to it from the main road. But this pool yielded no fish. That's okay because I was still smiling from that giant whitefish-thing. Now there was time for a decision. If I crossed the river I could get to another three pools that have fished well for me in the past. But the crossing was tricky and a little dangerous and I wasn't sure if I was in the mood for it. Also, coming back would be even more difficult. I decided to go for it. Nothing ventured nothing gained right?

Yakima Trout
Very Cooperative Fish!

On the other side, I tied on that lame Pat's Stonefly from this morning. On the second cast into the pool the indicator drifted slightly too fast so I set the hook. Aha! Another good fish! This time it wasn't a white fish. It was a big wild rainbow and he'd taken the stonefly. He and I had a long fight and in the end he was wrapped up in both flies. Getting him off and back into the water took a long time so I didn't get a picture. He was beautiful though: probably around 17". A few casts later I hooked an identical fish in the same pool. Either this one was foul hooked or it maybe it was the same rainbow that was just released and he was embarassed because he never showed his face: only his tail came out of the water. Eventually he got the hook out of himself and got away. Oh well.

The smaller of the big fishes of the day

In the very next pool the indicator did that funny drag again so I set the hook and was surprised by a THIRD nice trout. This one I managed to get a few pictures from as he was quite cooperative. He was smaller than the other fish: maybe 14 or 15". He, too, was quite pretty and fatter than the others. I could scarcely believe my luck: catching these nice fish during the wrong month, during the wrong time of day using a terrible fly in the wrong part of the river. I'm not complaining though!

I continued riding the trail and later in the afternoon fished mostly terrestrials (read: grasshopper flies). I hooked a few smaller fish in the fast water below the confluence of the Yakima and Cle Elum rivers. I called it a day kind of early and came home to happy family. What a great summer Sunday.