Crafty Coots Bewilder Cutts: A High-Country Getaway

Early September 2020

I just rolled in from my annual two-week backcountry fly fishing trip in the Colorado high country during which I was accompanied by my fishing buddy from Florida, Robert Wayne, Esq., internationally known angler and barrister (AKA “Insane Wayne”). We chase snook, redfish, tarpon and anything else that will bite in the winter in the Everglades, but during the summer he joins me in Colorado to devote two weeks to chasing Salmo truta (brownies), Salvelinus fontinalis (brookies), and other members of the trout family. Our mission on this outing: Search secret high-elevation creeks for cagey Oncorhynchus clarkia—native Colorado cutthroat.

Both of us are 72-years old, grizzled veterans of numerous trout-hunting campaigns across the USA. On this quest we faced riled-up rattlers, marauding bears, pesky camp robbers (Clark’s Nutcrackers), drought, an August snow storm (honest!), and steep canyon trails not to mention arthritis, sciatica, cataracts, and other assorted ailments well-known to septuagenarians. I am happy to report it was a rousing success! Using our small RVs as mobile fish camps, we managed to catch and release dozens of trout while covering three-to-seven miles on the water each day without any major disasters that might have called for hitting the rescue button on our emergency satellite phones.

We called upon our accumulated wisdom and prodigious casting skills to overcome skinny, crystal clear water in narrow creeks, pernicious grasping overhanging trees and bushes, and other impediments to outwit wild and shrewd trout (with brains the size of a quarter). Our best flies were the redoubtable Royal Coachman Trude dry that imitates both grasshoppers and caddis flies and the Tung Teaser and Beadhead Sparkle Caddis Nymphs that are excellent facsimiles of the two predominant aquatic bugs in these creeks, mayflies and caddis.

Mr. Wayne had his sights set on catching native cutthroats in each of the waters we plied which he accomplished in admirable fashion, the high point being a muscular 14-inch beauty, a big fish for any small water. Add to this piscatorial slams on several of the streams we fished—brownies, brookies, and cutts–and it all added up to a grand expedition.

Mr.Wayne’s culinary skills were also on display each evening back at camp, featuring delicious homemade meals including a hearty chicken vegetable stew and zucchini lasagna. When coupled with free-flowing bottles of pinot grigio and pinot noir and a daily ibuprophen fix, all bodily aches and pains were eased while assuring strength and nimbleness for the following day.

Here’s a visual recap of our trip:

Cutthroat Quest In The Rockies

2019 Hooknfly High-Water Marks: The Best, The Bummers, and the Blood-Curdling

Late December 2019

Greetings to all my friends and readers. I hope your holidays have been peaceful, and here’s wishing you the best for a great 2020. It’s been a very interesting and rewarding year writing my blog. In addition to providing an admitted excuse to go fishing and explore remote places and share them with my friends, my main goal continues to be helping reinforce and building the constituency to preserve and protect these wild and wonderful places fish inhabit. Given the current state of politics in the country and multiple threats to our environment and natural resources, it’s more important than ever to take a stand and do whatever we can to protect Mother Nature and her finny denizens.

I was especially gratified to have some of my piscatorial peregrinations published by Florida Sportsman magazine in an article about kayak fishing in the Everglades. You can find a link to it in my October post.

It was also great to see that by late December, the Hooknfly blog has had over 53,000 views and over 23,000 visitors, a 40%+ increase over 2018An added and very satisfying benefit has been connecting with people and making new friends around the USA and the world.

Among them are readers from over 60 nations.  Now it’s easy to figure out why people who follow my blog are mainly from English-speaking countries, but who am I to ask why anyone from Belarus, Ukraine, or Russia would read my articles.  Hmmm, but on second thought perhaps there is indeed a common thread here—could it be I’m on Putin’s watch list after posting a not-so-flattering wise crack and photo of him in a 2018 article on upper Saguache Creek:

“By now it’s nearly 2 p.m., and the sun is beating down and things are heating up.  I decide to shed some clothing and strip off my long-sleeve fishing shirt and polypro T under it, reveling in my bare-chestedness in the mountain air with no prying eyes.  Visions of Vladimir Putin, similarly bare-chested and buff, riding over the ridge float through my mind.  No wonder Agent Orange couldn’t resist him at Helsinki! What a hunk!!”

Agent Orange’s Dreamboat

But seriously, as the year comes to a close it gives me great pleasure to look back on the best, the bummers, and the blood-curdling moments of 2019 from an angling perspective. It’s been a treat to have you with me! Here we go…

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The Florida Glades Beckon

October 2019

It’s been a wonderful summer and fall with family and friends in Colorado. The trout have been more than cooperative. A lot of good memories etched.

But the arrival today of little slate-colored juncos at my cabin to be followed tomorrow by sub-zero temps and snow signals it’s time to think about island time in the Florida Glades…and soon! Then again maybe time for a couple more backcountry outings before I hit the road.

Chokoloskee Up Close: Chasing Snook, Tarpon, And Reds In The Everglades

October 2019

As the temperatures start to dip into the 30s and below here in the Colorado high country, my thoughts are starting to turn from trout to chasing snook, tarpon, and redfish in my winter home in Florida’s Everglades.  I live on a little island in the Glades called Chokoloskee surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful saltwater teeming with big fish.  Here’s a sampling of my favorite places that can be reached easily by kayak or small skiff from my latest article from Florida Sportsman with the inside skinny on lures and technique as well.  Come on down when you want to thaw out and catch some fish this winter!

Click on the link below to view a copy of the article “Chokoloskee Up Close.”

Chokoloskee Article FS

Lake Fork Of The Conejos River: Solitude In A Sanctuary For Rare Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

Early September 2019

If you want to tackle the main stem of the Conejos, see my article: https://hooknfly.com/2019/09/26/solving-the-conejos-river-conundrum/amp/

After a couple of days of throwing heavy nymph rigs, navigating unruly rapids, and muscling out some big trout on the Conejos River (See my article from September 28,  2019.), I’m ready for some backcountry small creek angling and a dose of solitude.  When I learned through a little on-line sleuthing that the feds and state have collaborated to create a sanctuary for rare Rio Grande Cutthroat trout on the Lake Fork of the Conejos River, I was intrigued.  Rio Grande Cutts are some of the most gorgeous trout in the world, bar none, with their flaming orange and red colors looking like something out of an artist’s dream.  They are also rare, occupying only about 10% of their original habitat that actually extended into Texas at one point.  Fortunately they are making a comeback thanks to the dogged efforts of federal and state fish and wildlife agencies.  The bonus is that they live in some of the most scenic, remote creeks in Colorado.  A little more digging revealed that I could get into some good fishing after a relatively moderate 2-3 mile hike, some a septuagenarian like me could handle.  I was sold!  I went to bed thinking of leaping trout.

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