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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Exploring The Headwaters Of The Rio De Los Piños Near Antonito, CO


Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.”   Henry David Thoreau

Late July 2016

It’s a cloudy morning at my campsite on the Conejos River west of Antonito, Colorado.  I’ve slept in a bit late after a long day on the water yesterday, and anyway, rain is in the forecast. But by noon the sun is starting to peek out, and I’m getting the itch to explore.  Given the late hour, I need to find something close by that won’t take hours to reach so settle on the Los Piños river, a popular stream only 20 minutes away. I have fished the Pine below Trujillo Meadows Reservoir near the New Mexico border and have had decent results.  But I have never been in the more remote headwaters above the lake where the banks are not dotted by cabins or tromped by cattle.

imageI talk with one of the experienced old hands at the campground, and he draws me a little map.  It’s a tricky route to the trailhead up the river canyon, so I am happy to have some directions, especially later when I find the topo maps are out-of-date.  I load up and head out on Highway 17, over La Manga Pass and then hit the turn off for the Trujillo Meadows Reservoir just before the road angles over Cumbres Pass.  It’s a beautiful drive, capped by a close-up view of the narrow gauge train chugging along the lower Los Piños on its way to Chama, New Mexico.  I keep my eyes peeled for the sign for Forest Road 118 to the upper Los Piños and a waterfall that is a popular scenic attraction…then it’s off into the wilds, four-wheel drive at the ready!!

The gravel road is fairly smooth at first, but all that changes when I follow my hand-drawn  map and make a right turn a couple of miles up the road.  I cross a little creek that runs under the side road in a culvert, then switch into four-imagewheel drive as the road begins to climb and gets much rougher.  The next waypoint is an orange barrel where the road splits, and  I have been cautioned to stay left–and rightfully so.  The fork to the right looks smoother, but it soon turns nasty,  big rocks and muddy holes making it nearly impassable in places.  Not to say that the left fork is a picnic.  Passenger cars need not apply!!  It’s four-wheel only.  Lots of deadfalls across the road from the beetle kill (hello climate change) mean I have to thread the needle several times where the Forest Service has cleared the way.  After a couple of more miles, that imageinclude imagea very rough steep stretch, I arrive at the waterfall trailhead…and find a cadre of ATV’s and a jeep already there.  When I have more daylight, I want to hike up above the waterfall, which acts as a barrier to non-native trout, allowing the beautiful native Rio Grande Cutthroat to thrive.  But for now I’ll go contrarian and head back down the road for a 1/2 mile where I spotted a section of the river down in the canyon that looks inviting!  And I should have it all to myself.  I suit up in my waders and  carefully pick my way down the steep but short slope that is overgrown with wildflowers and bushes–this is a lush valley that gets plenty of moisture.  I see fish rising in the pools!!

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