The Fly-fishing Wife – Part 1, Colorado Fly Class

By Guest Blogger Emily

Before flying out to Colorado this past September to visit David’s parents, he casually mentioned a free intro to fly-fishing class offered by Blue Quill Angler, a fly shop in Evergreen, Colorado. David has been trying to get me interested in fly-fishing for years, but I can’t say I ever felt much enthusiasm. Sure, I like to be outside, enjoying fresh air and scenic rivers, but fishing just seemed so… boring. However, I do like to learn things and a free class to appease my husband was a small price to pay.

The class was held on a Saturday morning, so we piled into the truck to drive the 1.5 hours to Evergreen. I would be taking the class with my mother-in-law, Sandy, while David took care of our 9-month old (which truly shows how much he wanted me to take that class). For fun, my father-in-law, who already fly-fishes, also sat in for the first part of the class.

To be honest, I was expecting kind of a hokey set-up, but little did I know about the reputation of Blue Quill, or the depth of knowledge and experience bought by the owner, Jim Cannon, who taught the class himself.

The class lasted about two hours and was broken up into two parts. The first part was learning about the equipment and set-up. We learned how to choose the proper rod weight, and the difference between dry flys, nymphs,  and streamers. We also learned about the types of line (fly, leader and tipit) and how to attach them all with the appropriate knots (blood knot and surgeon knot). Whether intentionally or not, my husband always made the knot-tying out to be a mysterious process, turns out it was easier than I’d thought.

By the end, we all had a very good grasp of what was what, and we were eager to try our hand at casting – part two of the class. We all stood behind the shop in an open field, watching Jim demonstrate proper technique and then trying our best to emulate him. I had some prior experience, so it wasn’t completely new to me, but by the end I was able to cast farther and with more accuracy than when I started. What a confidence builder! Of course, after that, I was looking forward to some real-time on a river, which would be later that same week. Would I have more fun? Or more importantly, would I catch fish? Read part 2 of this blog post to find out!

Hope Chest

Just saw someone towing a large fishing boat with a cooler on the back that had the words “Hope Chest” stenciled on it with a outline of a fish. I would have snapped a photo but I would have caused an accident. I may have to crack out the stencils and spray paint and funk up my cooler.

Upper McKenzie – Nice fish but they were sporadic

The upper McKenzie was nice on Thursday but the fishing was extremely sporadic. I showed up about 10:30am and had a few really nice fish on #12 Parachute Adams that I tied a little mahogany dubbing into. Four nice 16-18 inch fish like this one in an hour:

But then it was dead for two hours or more. You could see a few fish rising around but they were not taking anything I was offering. In the afternoon I switched over to nymphing with a #16 BH flashback pheasant tail and a #18 mercury pheasant tail lower. They were nailing the mercury pheasant tail the whole afternoon all the way until the sun went down:

Three days

I had a great three day weekend this past weekend. Since the wife and kid are out of town I headed out on Friday afternoon with my fishing buddy Alex to see if we could find some fresh salmon moving up with the rain. We headed over to the North Fork of the Nehalem near the hatchery and fished about about a mile or so down river but found nothing. When we got back near the hatchery we saw some dark salmon moving up over the riffles and a few bait fisherman who were not having any luck so we decided to move on. We headed an hour north to Big Creek where we found lots of way to far salmon running around. My friend got a rock of all things stuck in his tire and he had a huge leak so we put on a spare and headed back to my house to regroup.

The next morning we headed down to the McKenzie and what a day. After explaining the in and outs of my favorite section of river to a fellow fly fisherman I headed on down and threw on my go to parachute adams and nothing happened. No fish. Ok, ok I can figure this one out. I looked around and saw no mayflies yet. Alright, how about a stimulator?

Alright! After an hour or so of fish eating the same stimulator it lost all ability to float. As I was switching flies I noticed it had gotten a bit later in the day then I thought it had and I looked up river and saw the larger fish rising in the riffles. I headed up to them and put on my parachute adams and was rewarded with this beauty:

I know, three photos of the same fish is a bit excessive but it was a really pretty fish.

After that beauty we caught a few more but the day was slowing. I like the light glistening of the fish in this photo.

We headed south to the Willamette that afternoon and the next morning we went below Dexter dam and did some spey casting for Steelhead. While, Alex did spey casting for Steelhead and I did an interesting blend of single and souble hand casting as I had forgotten my spey reel. Alex snapped this great photo of me:

We found no steelhead so we opted to head up river and find some fun trout. We stopped up above the Black Canyon campground at a place that looked promising. We walked down to the river and I started working my way up river trying out my Ice Dub Prince / Mercury Pheasant Tail combo that had worked so well on the McKenzie. I was fishing a beautiful deep side pool and as I let my nymph swing it stopped. It seemed like such an abrupt stop that I figured it was a rock so I gave a little yank. Then the rock started to move out of the pool towards the whitewater which was moving super fast. I fought the fish for five minuets and getting him out of the twenty foot or so seep pool was really fun. My first large fish on the Willamette. I will definitely have to go back soon and see if he has friends in the pool:

On the way back through Eugene we stopped at the Caddis Fly Shop and I picked up a new #2 Microbarb Saddle in brown to replace the one that I have stripped of every usable feather. Now to get down to business and tie some lovely dry flies. Hmmm, which to do first?

McKenzie Solo

I dropped off my wife and child at the airport Saturday morning so they could go see the Grandparents in Virgina and I was going to have to work on Sunday, and again several times at the start of the week, so I thought it best to make a mad dash down to the McKenzie. After a 2.5 hour drive that I probably did to fast due to excitement I got to my favorite spot and saw Ed fishing there already. Ed is either 82 or 84 years old (depending on which story he his telling) and is the happiest fly fisherman I have met. I have met with him several times in the same area and he is always super excited when anyone gets a fish. He loves to carry on with stories and encouragement and this last time he walked 200 feet up the river just to show me the fly that he caught a fish on.

So Ed was fishing upstream a way and I ran down to the river trying to run line through the ferrules. I put on one of the #12 Parachute Adams that I had tied the night before and had a fish strike hard on the third cast.

A few cast later I had another one on. And then it was dead for an hour and a half. Even Ed was starting to wonder what in the world the rising fish were taking. All around you would hear hard takes and I was fishing my Parachute Adams as hard as I could. Then I put on a #10 Orange Stimulator and that did the trick. Ed was super excited and was dying to see what fly I had caught the fish on. He promptly switched over to a Stimulator and got two in a half hour. While I was standing talking to Ed I noticed several large fish rising farther up the river in the rapids. I snuck up towards the area and crept out into the river and cast from behind a rock to the fish. On my third cast I got another 14″ like the one I got earlier and then a few casts later another. Then the fish lost all interest in my Stimulator. I cycled through a few other dries and then did something I rarely do on the McKenzie, I put on nymphs. The top was a #8 Ice Dub Prince and the bottom a #16 Flashback Pheasant Tail. Both I had tied that morning (and I am tying more now they were that great).

I found a nice little deep run and started working from the closest out. About half way out I found a really nice fish. A few casts later, and a few feet farther out, I caught a really hard fighting 15″ on the Flashback Pheasant Tail.

I let that fish off and threw my line out to get ready to cast and got slammed on the Ice Dub Prince.

(I love how that fish looks like he just told a great joke.)

The fish were getting larger and larger through the day . How perfect. Then I saw the salmon starting to move around. The monsters were easily 24″ and made my little rainbows look like fingerlings. I thought about going up to get my 5 weight rod because I wasn’t sure what I would do if I got into one of those fish on a 3 weight but there is just no time to worry about such things, so I fished on. A few fish later I got into my favorite fish.

I had been noticing a really nice area on the other side of the river and so I waded, probably to far, into the river and cast over to it.

You really can’t tell from the photos but the thing was shaped like a football and really gave my 3 weight a work out. I fished on after that but the day was getting late and the fishing had slowed.

On one of my last cast I threw the line straight up the riffles in front of me and to my surprise there was a huge salmon chasing my flies back out of the riffles. The fish was headed straight towards me and I got a great look at him but unfortunately I think it got a great look at me and headed back up to the safety of the riffles. I want to head back down there soon with the Ice Dub Prince and Pheasant Tails I am tying now—and I think I will use my 5 weight this time—just in case.

Back on the McKenzie

The weekend after we got back from our trip to Colorado my family headed down to the McKenzie to have a little time together and let my wife, who had just taken a class the previous week, get in some fishing. I was the first to kick things off with a nice little rainbow on a #10 Parachute Adams that I had just tied that morning.

But then an hour or so later the best thing happened… my wife saw a fish rise a few times and decided that she was going to catch THAT fish. So she waited until the correct timing in the fishes rising and voila! Look what she found

Awwww…. what a happy fly fishing husband I am.

There were more fish after that but nothing could compare to her fish. Now I just need to tie some more Parachute Adams to make up for the six I lost. Aww, schucks I have to tie flies.

It’s been awhile… Part 2

So the next day after catching the resting—yet hungry—fish (see It’s been awhile… part 1) our little group made up of my mom, dad, wife, child, and me all headed over to the Eagle River. We stopped by a fly shop in Minturn and picked up some more red WD-50’s in some ridiculously small size (typical small CO flies) as that is all I could get the fish on Gore Creek to take. We headed just down river from the town a few miles and picked a spot that was good for my wife and mom to fish since they don’t have waders (yet). The four of us worked the nice little stretch but it was my wife who was getting in the flow that day. She caught two beautiful brown trout! This just a day after taking her Blue Quill lesson. Rock on! My wife, Yeah!

The next day we headed back down to my parents house. We had one more day on my wife’s fishing permit so we randomly stopped at Clear Creek near the town of Idaho Springs. Just off the Interstate we found a nice little stretch and got fishing. With just an hour or so before we wanted to be back in the car I decided to cast a few times into each nice spot and move on hoping to find a hungry fish. With the time ticking down and everyone heading back to the car I found this guy in a nice little pool behind a boulder

The day before we left to come back home I thought it would be fun to take my wife and mom up into Cheesman Canyon since neither of them had ever seen it. They both made it through the long hike in and out with flying colors! We caught no fish that day but it was great to spend time with my ladies (wife, mom, and daughter).