Gazette Article - How To Properly Handle Trout!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Colorado Springs Urban Flyfishing

One of the biggest reasons I got into flyfishing as a business, other than the fact that flyfishing is my passion, is that I want to break barriers that I see in the sport. One of the biggest barriers that I see here in my home town of Colorado Springs is that we have these incredible small streams and stillwater fisheries right here in our backyard and yet they are extremely underutilized by flyfishermen. Anywhere that bait is being used anglers casting fly rods are noticeably not present. 

The irony is that some of the biggest and most challenging fish to be caught in our state are in a local pond or lake that many flyfishermen assumed didn't even have fish, and the people with the best chance of catching these fish are the ones with the most knowledge about fish behavior and entomology (the scientific study of insects). I have said it time and again, most fish species diets are almost completely comprised of aquatic insects and crustaceans. There are exceptions to that rule such as members of the Pike and Bass family who's diet is mostly smaller fish. With that being said, two out of the three times I've landed a Northern Pike on a fly rod it was with a trout fly that imitated a Callibaetis or a Damsel.


This fish was caught in Pikeview Reservoir June 25th 2011. Yes, Pikeview is that little body of water right behind the big feed store on the corner of Garden Of The Gods and Nevada that looks like it is used for water treatment. Being a Colorado Springs native I remember riding in the back seat as a little kid and yelling the words “fishy water!” every time my mother drove by Pikeview on her way to work. Mom never thought there were fish in the place nor did she know that the pond had a name but she would always humor me because I was so pumped about fishing.


Not only does Pikeview have huge carp but it is loaded with Rainbow and Brown trout that I have been told can reach 4-6 lbs. There are Saugeye which is a Sauger and Walleye hybrid, Largemouth bass, Tigermuskie, Red Ear sunfish, Channel catfish, and just about anything else that swims can be found in Pikeview. All of which are insanely fun to catch on a fly rod. Two other local lakes that are built and stocked in the same fashion that have great fishing are Prospect Lake which is in Memorial Park, and Quail Lake which is off of Cheyenne Mountain east of the Broadmoor Hotel.


The fly I used to fool this carp (which measured 31.5 inches long with a 22.5 inch girth and weighed anywhere from 22-25 lbs) was a bug I tied that morning to imitate a dragonfly nymph or a crawfish which are both staples in a carps diet. Anglers beware these fish have a reputation for being the smartest and hardest fighting freshwater fish pound for pound for a reason. Which is why they can get so huge in such heavily fished water. 


Huge Common Carp!

Colorado has two major carp species, the Common Carp and the Grass Carp. Both species are two of the biggest fish you can find in Colorado and are also the least sought after. The largest fish landed anywhere in Colorado to date is a state record Grass carp that weighed 51 pounds and was landed in Prospect lake. This is the heaviest fish landed in Colorado, outweighing the state record Mackinaw by close to 2/3's of a pound.


No need to pinch yourself. You read this correctly. The heaviest recorded fish landed in all of Colorado according to the C.D.O.W. Website was in Prospect lake. Fellow flyfishing guide and friend Colton landed a Grass carp on the surface with an Elk Hair Caddis around the same time I landed my big carp and his fish weighed somewhere between 12-15 pounds. If watching one of the biggest and most intelligent fish around come up to sip a dry fly doesn't get you excited seek professional help now!


Common Carp have an insanely sharp sense of smell and they look like they came out of the stone-age with massive scales, whiskers, and large eyes. If a carp notices your hook or so much as smells a trace of the sunscreen you put on before you tied on your fly you are hosed. Kiss your chance of fooling that fish goodbye. Common Carp tend to cruise in small groups of two or three but can be found in larger numbers in shallow bays and flats where under the right conditions they will stir up the bottom and feed. A Carp's swimming behavior is erratic. They will either sit completely still or swim 4-6 feet and change direction constantly which makes it very difficult to lead them with your cast. If your cast falls right over the top of them they spook and its game over.


Giant plume of sand and mud from the bottom of a shallow bay left behind
by a massive carp.  Notice my line right on top of the mushroom cloud of
mud?

Common Carp or “Commons” are in all three local body's of water that I mentioned and most of the time if you know where to look you can sight fish to them from shore just like you would a Bonefish or a Redfish on a saltwater flat. Sight-fishing for any species of fish in any situation is the most exciting type of fishing you can do anywhere, and we have a mecca here in Colorado Springs waiting to be discovered. 


Chironomid
Almost all warm-water species of fish will take a fly. The edible living things that can be found in Colorado's lakes, reservoirs and ponds are as follows: mayflies such as the callibaetis, several different types of midges such as the chironomid, damsel flies, dragon flies, caddis flies, mosquitoes, crustaceans which include the scud shrimp and crawfish, leaches, baitfish such as shad, small aquatic worms, and the fry (young newly hatched fish) of the many different species of freshwater game-fish that inhabit our bodies of water and manage to successfully spawn.






Fish behavior depending on the body of water and the type of forage available is going to greatly determine what flies will work best. Bass and Pike for instance are mostly ambush predators. They stay close to structure and eat other fish or larger insects that swim by. Sometimes they will claim a territory and attack anything that swims by or floats over the top of their position out of defense or aggression. During these times using top-water floater/divers or poppers can produce huge hits on the surface.


Otherwise streamers such as black, white, or rust colored Slumpbusters, or Barr's Bouface (pronounced boo-face) fished beneath the surface will produce strikes. Large wooly buggers with a lot of flash and articulated patterns like Kelly Galloups Peanut Envy will work as well. Cast streamers out and let them sink then bring them back with long or short strips of line. Change your retrieve or let your fly sink longer if you're not getting strikes. Sometimes you have to cast to the same spot that you know has a fish holding multiple times in an attempt to get it angry enough to attack your fly out of frustration.


Trout during the dog days of summer can still be landed on a fly rod in the early morning or late evening when things are cooler and they can comfortably cruise the bank. Rainbow trout aren't really ambush predators though they will eat other fish. Trout tend to stay in schools and circle around a large area of water (sometimes even the entire lake) and eat insects as they go. During the middle of a hot day, trout will move to deeper water and find a depth where the water temperatures suit them. This time of the day is when having a float tube and sinking tip fly lines or really long leaders will give you the best chance to hook up. Good flies to have when fishing deeper water for trout are the Jumbo JuJu Chironomid, Schroeder's Callibaetis, or a Black Wooly Bugger.


Smaller panfish like Crappie, Red Ear Sunfish, and Bluegill will school up in shallow bays and along the edges where there is cover starting around the middle of May and then spawn. This is when they are most accessible and will feed on anything that looks good that they can fit in their mouth. This includes most trout flies like Beadhead Prince nymphs, Beadhead Hares Ear nymphs, and Beadhead Pheasanttails. Bass, Pike, Walleye, and Saugeye will follow the food so you can count on them being nearby making snacks out of the panfish. After the spawn the panfish move to deeper water and disperse until things cool down again later in the year. Fellow fly anglers don't ignore that little voice telling you to drive ten minutes up the street and relive your youth by catching hundreds of these Sunfish or Crappie during your lunch break. Trust me you're missing out if you don't.


 A nice little brown landed in Fountain Creek on a Hopper...
As far as small streams go we are spoiled but with massive room for improvement. Fountain creek just a few miles west of downtown and right behind Anglers Covey fly shop holds wild brown trout. I talked to a guy that said he helped shock and do studies on the fish population in Fountain creek between the 8th street and 21st street bridge along highway 24 and he said they counted over a hundred browns and at least a dozen of them were over 12 inches. I read a recent study on Monument creek and many of it's feeder creeks that comprise the Colorado Springs watershed, and only half of them contained wild fish populations. Monument creek is so polluted that the majority of it is completely uninhabited by fish.


The Falls at Fountain Creek

My two favorite ladies winning tickets at the penny arcade after exploring
the stream.

It warmed my flyfishing heart two months ago to hear about the city's plans for restoration and habitat improvement on Fountain Creek in Manitou. It is common knowledge that the quality of water in a place is an indication of the quality of life. We as Spring's residents should be concerned about the health of our local streams. I don't see any reason why we can't keep our streams clean enough to contain fish from North Academy Blvd. to the city of Pueblo. This is our lifeblood and you can't tell me that it wouldn't be amazing to be able to catch a wild brown trout where there is a killer view of Pikes Peak and beautiful downtown right here within city limits.  . 



Fishing can be more than just the pursuit of fishy lips to bruise or catching tonight's dinner. It isn't about egos or insecurities. There is a message that lays deeper than looking cool casting a fly rod or being too stubborn to try something different. It's about practicing conservation and understanding our environment and what makes us and nature tick. It's about preserving what we have for our future generations to enjoy, and challenging ourselves to grow and become better anglers and better people. Tight lines!

Here are the links to maps of Fountain Creek and Quail Lake...


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If you would like to request a guided trip with me shoot me an email with your name and phone number and date you would like to wet a line at jonkleisflyfishing@yahoo.com.

7 comments:

  1. I guess I'm going to have to break down during this forever runoff and take a trip to fish for carp. What's the smallest weight rod you'd recommend?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I landed that 20 lb 'er on a 5 wt... There is a balancing act you kinda play when your doing this type of insane addicting fishing. You are using bigger bugs and fishing to bigger fish but at the same time the heavier wt lines will slap the water and spook the fish. Id say a six or a seven wt but the right 5 wt works. May the carp gods be with you Cofisher! Its hard to go back once you land your first one and I know one thing for sure I wont waiste to much more time messing with runoff myself.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice post.

    If I had a dollar for every time this conversation happens with some yahoo bystander:

    yahoo: What'cha ya doing? Never seen a fishing pole like that.

    me: This is a fly rod.

    yahoo: Is there really fish in there?

    me: Yep.

    yahoo: What'cha fishin' for? Trout?

    me: Nope, carp.

    yahoo: Oh....(long pause)...do you eat 'em.

    me: Nope, throw 'em back.

    yahoo: Oh....(long pause and walks off shaking head)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hahahahahahahahaha! Love it! I have had plenty of conversations with yahoos just like that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What weight and length setup do you recommend for fountain creek?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Adam,
    I just use my 9 ft 5 wt Z, but a 7 1/2 f to 8 ft 3 wt. would work great.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great article. I read this article properly. This is one of the best posts. Thanks sharing this article
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