The Great Mashup – a clash of small hunting-town folks and big city transplant.

May 18th, 2010

 So I was in Verizon last week trying to resuscitate a dead blackberry.  I have a somewhat unhealthy disrespect for electronics – as I design such things for a living.  I occasionally drop cell phones in rivers, or strap video cameras to croquet mallets to make interesting videos.  I digress however.   Being a Steamboat kind of guy, I had my Bernese Mtn dog with me at the Verizon store.  Toblerone (toble to some, and Toby to most people in town) is a 2 year old ‘puppy’ who weighs in at about 135 lbs.  In cowboy terms he’s sweet as molasses, and dumb as a post.  But he’s really good looking, and if we learn anything from the ‘Twilight’ movie series, it is that looks trump brains.  Am I digressing again?

  As Toble and I waited at Verizon, an older local gentleman came in. I’d say he was a ‘local rancher’ type if I had to stereotype him.  He came over to Toble right away, saying ‘that’s a big dog you got there’.  We had the usual meet-n-greet where Toble sits on the foot of the person he wants to have petting him.  Here things took a turn.  The old-timer (he might not take kindly to that label) said ‘say you want to see a picture of my new pet?”.  Of course, in the interest of mutual pet ownership, I agreed that I did want to see a picture. 

  He whipped out his cell phone (hey this was happening in a Verizon store).  As I was expecting a picture of a cute puppy, I was surprised when he showed me a picture of him, a rifle, and 2 dogs surrounding a HUGE dead Mountain Lion.  He explained that he’d killed in the previous week down near State Bridge.  I asked about the circumstances.  Did he have a license, or was he attacked, or?  Indeed he was licensed at it was the hunt of a lifetime I came to understand. Now I am not a hunter. I annoy trout as often as possible, but almost always put them back to annoy again when they are larger.  My first thought at seeing this picture was that it was an incredibly beautiful animal.  And it was HUGE.  The paws were the size of Toble’s head.  The hunter adjusted his cap, and told me that cat weighed 175# – after they gutted it. “It might be the state record” he said with obvious pride.

 “Oh course We won’t know until we get the skull all dried out and submit it”

  At this point the 3-4 workers in Verizon, and another customer we all involved in listening to this conversation.  The hunter continued it at the counter with a Verizon employee while I worked on my ill cell phone at the other counter.  There was a very pretty young woman working t my counter, whom I was soon to find out is NOT from thisa area.  Here’s the rest of the conversation that left me laughing and smiling all day:


Verizon guy:  “Wow that’s an incredible mountain lion”.

Rancher guy.   “thanks”

Verizon guy:  “you eat it yet?  I’ve killed a couple mountion lions, and the meat is great!”

Rancher guy: “not yet, but mountain lion is great.  Pretty light meat –  It tastes a lot like rattlesnake.”


Verizon woman (NOT from around here!)  by me (looking around wary disbelief):  “Where the hell am I????”

Me:  “you’re not from around here are you?”


I was in stitches all day replaying that scene!

What is it about Winter Fly Fishing?

February 20th, 2010

(hey skip all this reading and enjoy a slideshow of Winter Fly Fishing on the Yampa River at What is it about Winter Fly Fishing? )


 What is it about winter fly fishing?

   So I live in Steamboat Springs, CO. It’s arguably  the best winter town to live in Colorado, which is arguably the best winter states to live in. Steamboat is Ski Town USA, having produced more winter Olympic athletes then any other town in the country.  It is home to Champaign Powder – the lightest, fluffiest powder you’ll ever ski or board.  And the local ski area is the #1 family friendly resort in the country.  The tree skiing here is the best in the world.  I’m a snowboarder, and find nothing to compare to ripping Champaign Powder through aspen trees on a bluebird Colorado day after a big dump of snow.


  And Yet…..


  I have as passion-cum-addiction for fly fishing (tomatoe/toMato. I say passion, my wife says addiction).  The predilection to standing in a river for hours attending the ‘church of the rising trout’ has traditionally been contained to the summer months.  O.K. the summer and fall months.  O.K. somewhat in the spring, and definitely the summer and fall months.  


   But over the past 2-3 years I have forsaken time riding the powder for time going numb in the river flicking ice out of my guides.  Winter fly fishing has taken hold of me.  Luckily I live in Steamboat Springs, and the Yampa river winds by not 5 minutes from my home on it’s way into town. There are several hot springs that dump into the river downtown, and other then about a month or two at the most, the river is ice free – in places at least.  Even in the depths of winter it’s possible to snowmobile, ski, snowshoe, hike, sometimes mountain bike into the Stagecoach Tailwaters to get a fix.


  So what is about winter fly fishing?  First off, it feels adventurous. I’ll strap on my snowshoes, and leave RVRROVR to trek into the river.  Often I can follow the duck hunters trail, or tracks of a few other erstwhile fishermen. Other times, I’ll have to slog through feet of that Champaign Powder down to the river.  Though it can be a heart-rate pinging, stair-master matching exercise, it’s rarely more then a few hundred yards to where I can get in the river.  I’ll leave my snowshoes at the bank and work up and down mostly walking in the river.  Winter flows on the Yampa near Steamboat Springs are typically about 100 CFS, so it’s quite easy to walk. 


  At times it will be bluebird Colorado skies, and 30 minutes later a snow squall will blow thorough pelting my face and reducing visibility greatly.  At those moments I’ll feel quite manly out in the wilds in severe weather stalking rainbows and browns.  The next moment the weather will clear though, and I’ll see the landrover in the distance… Damn it’s hard to be on a real man adventure when you can still see the car.  But hey it’s a rare day I ever see anyone else on the river in the winter.


  Which brings me to the second point.  I love getting to fish with no crowds, and feel really blessed when I am on a piece of public water with no others in sight the whole time I fish.  That is rare indeed in the summer unless one is willing to walk.  The reality is that if you’ll get an hour walk from your car in this part of Colorado, you can have private streams time quite often.  In the winter however, I can get completely ‘private’ public water day after day – 5 minutes from the house.  Combine that with a day where the temperatures are in the mid 20’s, and it snowing softly with no wind and it’s magic. 


 Whiskey clear waters, untouched fields of snow, hoar frost in the bushes, midge hatches in improbably cold conditions,  that upstream twitch of a strike indicator, and just walking in the river where the occasional ripple will cleave off a small ice floe – these all call to me and draw me back throughout winter.  And here’s the rub, I didn’t even mention the large fish I seem to catch in winter.  I’ll nymph most of the winter, and have learned more about using streamers in the late fall and early spring.  In short, I’ll dredge deep holes and pools trying to bounce a treat off the nose of a big sleepy trout. 


  The mechanics of winter fly fishing are pretty straight forward. I’ll wear longjohns and jeans under gortex waders, with warm socks!  I’ll layer on top, and try to remember to wear a red shell if I am thinking I’ll be in a picture (ask a photographer about it….) I have winter fishing gloves with flaps that go over cut out fingers, and will wear a ski hat of some sort to keep the ears warm.  If  I am going to the ‘spot’ 5 minutes from the house I gear up in the garage where it is warm. I’ll rig the first (many times only) rig of the day at home to avoid futzing around with cold fingers at the river. Often the nymph rig is a heavy lead fly like a depleted uranium, and either a san juan worm dropper, or any number of emergers etc.


  I find that days above about 20 or 25 degrees are reasonable to fish as long is there is no wind.  Days about 32 degrees are great as the guides ice up much less.  I keep wondering if wind chill factor can cause the guides to ice up – that’s the engineer in me getting out sometimes.  The water temperature I guess it typically just above freezing. On a reasonable day your line won’t build up ice while it’s in the water!  Once, my friend Scott and I were slightly delirious and tried to fish in about 12 degreee weather downtown. We last less the 15 minutes as our lines were freezing solid in the air and wouldn’t even melt off while in the water.  To top it off on the walk back our boot froze solid and it took about 20 minutes to thaw them out enough to unlace.  Everything has limits!


  When I bravely say that day of 20 degrees or more are fishable, I must say that I am lucky enough to be able to fish for 1-2 hours and still get a full day work in around it.  So I don’t spend 4-6 hours in the river at those temperatures! I like to fish until 1) I catch at least one fish, and 2) my feet are getting numb.  I always think it’s a good idea to hike back out to the car while I can still walk!  Catching the big trout is a mixed blessing.  Once I reel in a fish, I take my gloves off to keep them dry while releasing the fish.  Of course putting your hands in 33 degree water to let the big pig go has a chilling effect on the old hands.  Many days that’s why the ‘one fish and done’ comes into play.  It’s impossible to be happy, fish well, and heaven forbid tie on a fly with numb hands.


  If the guides on my rod are icing up fast, it tells me I missed on the temperature. I don’t use anything to de-ice my guides.  Not that they don’t work, I just have never tried any ice off type stuff.  I’ll flick the ice out of each guide with a thumb.  But be warned, once after releasing a fish, I had the old numb hands going.  As I tried to flick ice out of the last guide at the tip, a fumbled and snapped the tip of the rod.  Shhhhh don’t tell Sage that’s what happened that time I sent my rod back!


  If this convinces you to NOT want to go winter fly fishing, then I’ve succeeded – and will get to have more days of wonderful, sweet, quiet, beautiful and productive days on the Yampa all alone!  But if you actually read all of this, then you deserve to see what may await on a wonderful winter day near Steamboat Springs. Here’s a little slide show to get you ‘down to the river’ this winter.


What is it about Winter Fly Fishing?

or cut n paste this link:


Tight lines, no ice, and big fish!

-Peter aka Cutthroat

Streamers – the *other* way to fish

October 26th, 2008

  I fish streamers a few times a year, half heartedly, when all else fails.  I tie streamers because they are easy and look pretty cool.  But I’ve never really learned to fish streamers.  This fall, however, I’ve been hearing over and over how good the streamer fishing is – from guides and shop owners, and other fishermen in the know.  I started thinking that I should actually give streamer fishing a try.  So I went to a area I was l told was fishing well (downtown) and dragged a streamer around for an hour or so – and got skunked.

 I thought, well that’s what happens whenever I fish streamers.  Thinking about it later I decided that I’ve never really learned anything about fishing with streamers, but perhaps it has techniques and tricks like everything.  So I started asking, and even googled for streamer fishing tips.  it turns out that hey, there are lots of skills to develop for successful streamer fishing. 

  Steve at Steamboat Fly Fishers gave me a great chalk talk upon request. Well he used scratch paper and a pen, but the affect was the same.  He talked about streamer fishing being the underrated, disrespected leg of the flyfishing tripod.  Steve talked about how often he fishes streamers, just about any time in the year, about how great the strikes are, and how big the fish you get can be.

  He gave me his rudimentary streamer technique (advanced techniques I’ll have to pry out with beers sometime).  Basically it goes like this.  Cast across and down stream - ‘quartering downstream’.  The fly will then swim sideways across the river, facing about 45 degrees up stream. You don’t need to strip in massivly.  Twitching can help, as a strip as it swings at the end of the sideways ’swim’.  As the fly swims across if it intrudes on a fish’s holding spot, it’s likely to get hammered.  Sometime it will get hit at the end of the swing – as if it’s starting to dart upstream away from the predator. 

 When fishing streamers you are trying to imitate bait fish, or leeches, or crawdads etc.  All things that flee from a big nasty trout.  So you want them to act as if they are fleeing when they are close to a trout.  I have also read that presenting the streamer ‘broadside’ to the trout so it gets a good look at it is effective.   At other times making the streamer bounce like a wounded fish is good (like just below the dam at a tailwater where small fish get flushed through either wounded or dizzy). 

Steve (and Keith) at SFF suggested getting a big white streamer (double bunny or Zonker etc) and practice with it as you can see it well. I did that and quickly started to see how the streamer can face partially up stream, and ’swim’ sideways across the river as it is dragged to the downstream position.   All of it made me start to think about what a streamer should look like when being fished – instead of just hucking it or treating it as a huge nymph of some sort). 

 With all this in mind I got to fish a private stretch of the Elk for a few hours last weekend.  On a beautiful October day, I decided to only streamer fish  - commit to it, and try to learn.  For the first 15 minutes, there was nothing and I was starting to think ‘yeah this is what it feels like’ -but I figured I was at least getting skunked with much better form. Then there it was – a tug-Chomp – a difinite hit. I promptly yanked the fly hard away from the denizon that hit it.  In the next 30 minutes I did that 4 times – yanked the fly on the first tug and never hooked a fish.

 I vaguely remembered a comment about setting streamer hits with a gentle side tug upstream.  Sometimes the trout ‘hit’ the bait fish to stun it, and then grab it on rebound – the second it.  Or they will chase it up stream  – if it doesn’t rocket away at light speed. So, I had to check my heart rate a bit, and be less twitchy on the next hit – with EXCELLENT results.

Fish:  Tap


Fish: Chomp

Me:  Hang on!

Streamer chomping Rainbow









 Ye Ha! Took almost 10 minutes to land this fish.  I instantly became a ’streamer believer’.   I waded back into the river stepped 2 steps downstream, and cast the streamer again.  Tap-Chomp! Another big fish. Not qutie the fight of the first one, but bigger and prettier:

And on that my first day of being a streamer fisherman ended. 

Today, I had a 2 hour slot to fish near my house.  I fished an area that I have fished occasionally over the years, and heard about big fish. But I have never caught one here.  I decided to make it another streamer fishing ‘training’ day.  I ran into a ’streamer-man’ who gave me some great tips, and even let me cast is custom streamer-rig (dual over-head cams, sinking tip line, secret streamer fly – thanks John!)…. Anyway I only caught one fish, but it was the biggest fish of the year for me……. -










  I am a dry fly fisherman when I can be, a dredger when I have to be, and now a streamer-guy at least some of the time. What I have figured out is there is lots of technique like in all fishing, several conflicting ‘best techniques’ as many ‘best streamer patterns’ as ways to tap a keg properly, and the potential for great results.  So my motto today is ‘Streamers – the *other* way to fish.


Rainy Days and Brooktrout Never get me Down

August 16th, 2008

Scott, and I and my son Max decided to do a 2 night backpacking trip to a secret trout stream in the Flattops a week ago.  it’s the first time the backpacks have been filled this summer, what with life and everything going on.   Friday morning early the weather looked really dicey, and the nightly news (which to me always seems wrong) was calling for heavy rain all weekend. I surfed to the national weather site, and here’s part of what they said:

430 AM MDT FRI AUG 8 2008





Geez, that’s about as bad as it gets around here! Well except when we get 500 inches of snow in a season.  We headed to pick up Scott, and decided a ‘meeting’ and vote was to be had. Max was all for 2-3 days in pouring rain (having never had 2-3 days in the pouring rain). Scott and I felt that after an hour stuck in a damp tent with Tobias the trout dog, the thrill would be gone.  The vote was 2-1 not to go the the Flattops.

Instead we chose to go fish for the day up in Big Red Park on the XX YY ZZ river.  I’d never been there, but had been hearing about it from Scott for several years.  What the heck, we had the gear packed, the dog to carry our lunches, and could hike out in about 45 minutes when the Great Flood arrived.  So off we went.  We drove through hard rain for an hour, geared up in a light sprinkle, and hiked for 45 minutes in a light mist.  When Scott finally said ‘this be it!’ with a big grin, Max and I headed right in.  We wet-waded, and getting into the river did not make us substantially wetter then when we were on the shore. 

Max is 12 – almost a teen.  He’d rather mountain bike, rock climb, or snowboard, but he likes to fish when there are fish. One as a little kid, when I asked him where he’d like to go fish, he said quite insight-fully “somewhere where there’s lots of fish and the aren’t too smart”.  Well that’s where we arrived on this Friday morning.  Max set up on a nice inside bend and started his soon-to-be patented sidearm ‘cursive’ cast. By the time I headed up 100 feet and got in the stream, I heard ‘GOT ONE’.  By the time I had chosen a rock to cast to, and put shake-n-float on my fly, I heard ‘Got another one!’.  max picke up 6 brookies in the first hole, and missed at least that many more.  The groans mixed with the ‘Got another’ came steadily through the drizzle. \

Eventually I got my first brookie, much to my relief.  It’s a joy to be out fished by your son, but not to be



The rain came and went in waves, and the three of us worked our way up the stream with Tobias the trout dog carrying our drinks and lunches.  After awhile, Scott started a game of brooktrout baseball (no we did not hit them with bats).  Each person took a turn picking the next hole.  You got 3 casts only, and if you didn’t hook up, you were out. All three batters would try the hole, and then we’d move on.  Max gets a bit competitive and claimed several foul balls when he had a strike but didn’t hook it. 

That took us to lunch time.

 Lunch time!


The rains started to pick up, we were soaked to the teabags (read ‘Fools Paradise’ by John Gierach), and decided it was time to head out.  By 4pm we were back in rainy Steamboat and even Max agreed that we made ‘the right call’ about the camping.  At home we left all the key gear packed, and are looking to try the Flattops trip again later this week – if we are dried out by then…. -Cutthroat












Steamboat Lake camping, & Eating a trout – Every 3 years or so

June 30th, 2008

I am almost a pure catch and release kind of guy.  I’ve failed to revive one fish in the past4+ years (that I know of).  I felt lousy about it, but know it’s a part of the game.  On rare occasions I kill and eat a trout – usually when my son says ‘ I want to try a trout this year’ or I am camping alone.

 This past weekend we went camping at Steamboat Lake with friends from the front range.  I brought my float tube(s) and filled em up in anticipation of taking a friend out to try floating during a glassed out sunset in the glow of Hahns Peak and the Zirkel Wilderness.  In the grass they would sit all weekend. 

But it’s not a sad story of lost opportunity.  Saturday I went Moutain biking with Max, my son.  I always take my 3 wt 4 piece sage along ‘in case’.  Well now, I make Max carry it for me. He’s less likely to fall on it then I am.  We biked around Pearl Lake, and up a few miles (grunt) toward Colton Creek Rd and Vista Verde.  We can back the same way and stopped at the dam of Pearl Lake. I just found out that it has a structural problem. They are about to lower the water level there 10 feet vertically -permanantly.  Between that and the beetle kill, the vista’s of Pearl Lake are about to change.  Actually the vistas in all of the Colorado Mountains are about to change, but that’s a subject for another day.

We fished the edge of the dam for tiny trout for a bit, wondering where the grayling are hiding.  We had 1 strike (I wasn’t paying attention and missed it), and enjoyed watching the little fish running around in the clear water.  If you haven’t been to Pearl Lake, or Hahn’s Peak Lake, or Steamboat lake- get there for a quiet morning or lazy evening.  They are beyond wonderful.  We took out friends to see Pearl lake on Sunday morning, and Carol’s comment was ‘This is church for today. Thanks God’.

  Saturday afternoon was spent touring Steamboat Lake on a pontoon boat.  We dragged a woolly bugger around while occasionaly looking at a fish-finder that was stuck on ’simulation’ mode. It always showed fish, but we saw none.  Still we beached the boat on the SW side of the lake in a cove for the kids to swim. There were 2 deer watching us, and 3 sandhill cranes peeking in and out of the trees at us.  Even our dog that does not swim, well – swam - sort of.  (Bernse Mountain Dog – big, fluffy, friendly, loves snow – doesn not swim).

  After getting back to camp, I decided I wanted one good shot at catching a trout to eat.  I walked down to one of the inlet streams of the lake (was it Dutch Creek, or another – gee I can’t remember ;-) . I know the twists and turns as it goes into the lake, so I hacked through the bushes to the creek.  All the post-iceoff spawing activity is done, so I didn’t expect much action in the creek,  But still…. I hucked the cone headed tan wolly bugger that was still on my line (yes the same one from the ‘one that got away post’ up the narrow creek to a little run.  ON the second cast it got gobbled up!  To my slight (as always) suprise, I hooked an 18″ cutthroat.  I netted it after a brief battle where it tried to wrap line around my legs and trip me (as I said it was a narrow stream). 

  With a sharp rap from the side of my net, the trout was ‘committed’ to dinner.  It’s very rare that I eat a trout, but really wanted to try one out this trip.  I returned to camp the trout-slayer.  I prepped it the only way I really know, butter, lemon, salt and seasoning inside, wrapped it in 2 pieces of uncooked bacon.  I covered it in 2 layers of foil, and put it in the coals of the fire.  Like all grilling the key seems to be poke at the food, flip it around, and drink a beer or two. Once you get bored, it’s probably done. 

  Well this trout was best tasting camp appertizer in many a moon. It fed eleven people as an appetizer.  Even 3 kids that had never had trout (and helped by putting a cherry in it’s mouth when the decision was made to cook him with the head on) tried it, and liked it (at least didn’t spit it out).   We picked him clean in about 8 minutes.  I am sorry to say for the trout population, that I probably won’t wait 3 more years before having another…. 


One that got away

June 26th, 2008

SO this blog thing is new, and we’ll work out the kinks as we go along.  Scott is off to Alaska, or I know’d he be diving into it. I’m sure we’ll get some good tales when he gets back….

As for me, well the Yampa is still blown out running about 2000 CFS.  It is coming down day by day if you check out the flows. And it has cleared up. It is no longer Mocha colored running through town, it’s Earl Gray Tea, which is much better.  I’ve seen a few rods on the water the past 2 days.  I think the only fishing to be had is to strip streamers right up against the banks.  The fish that haven’t been blown down to Craig are holding tight against the edges I understand. This technique worked great for me as the river was going up in May, and I caught ~6 browns and rainbows in about an hour against one bank down town.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to be visiting a ranch near Hayden that has ~ 1 mile of the Yampa running through it.  My son Max and I were invited to go check out the river.  This ranch’s fields have been fairly flooded the past month, and are still swampy as the river just is starting to retreat into it’s banks.  I haven’t fished ‘below’ where the Elk comes into the Yampa before, and boy it’s a much bigger river there!  The Elk brings in a huge amount of water from the Zirkels during runoff.  In fact the Elk holds some weird record for carrying the most water per it’s total length of any river in the Country – or is it the world.  It’s only ~17 miles long, but drains the entire west side of the ZIrkel WIlderness area or so. 

So anyway, I stipped a few streamers along the roaring Yampa on this Ranch.  Max mostly caught frogs. There are 1000’s of Northern Leapord frogs out there right now.  After an hour, I stripped a size 10 cone headed tan bugger of some sort into an eddy on the upstream side of a large tree trunk in the river.  Tug Tug wham!  I hooked something big!  I yelled for Max to bring the net (he was using it on Frogs). We had a great few minutes with me trying to move this fish up against the shore, and Max trying reach out for it from the bank. He saw it splash, and yelled ‘it’s a huge brown!’.  I was working it in close, but with alot of rod pressure – the fish hadn’t even started to tire out.  Max was on the ground on the edge of the cut bank, reaching for it with the net. He got the net within about 6 inchs of it, and ‘PING’.  The trout spooked, bolted, and snapped my 4x tippet at the knot to the leader.  I saw Max lunge and scoop, but alas the fish was gone. 

We groaned, and then high-fived for the fish that got away.  Despite all the mosquitos around I grinned all the way back to the Rover while catching frogs.  A ‘big-pig’ battle with my son Max (age 12) is about as good as it gets.


Hello world!

June 26th, 2008

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Hello Steamboat Fisher-folks

June 26th, 2008


 THis is the first test post from ‘Cuthtroat’ one of the creators of ‘Fishing from the ‘Boat, and the Guide to Public Waters on the Yampa.  If this works, we’ll start telling stories of our frequent (I hope) jaunts to the river. So check back!