I found out yesterday that this 16″ speck, caught July 4th, just won me a TFO BVK fly rod.
I entered the fish in the Fly East division of CCA’s STAR tournament, which runs throughout the summer. The fly division rules require you catch one speck on the fly (14″ minimum) and have it weighed at a registered weigh station. No, the fish didn’t win the division, it actually got 3rd (which I found surprising because it only weighed 1.37 lbs). It won me a fly rod because this fish was my ticket into a bonus drawing that is held in both the fly and kayak divisions for all non-winners of the fly and kayak divisions. The winner of the drawing gets a TFO rod, a BVK for the combined fly divisions, and a Saltwater Series baitcaster for the kayak divisions. According to an email I got yesterday afternoon my name was the one that was drawn!
This is a tournament I sign up for every year, but never really fish for because I’m not really a speckled trout fisherman. I sign up because it’s like an insurance policy in case I catch a tagged red. That day, Blake and I just happened upon a school of specks that day in the marsh while we were heading out for redfish.
We almost didn’t even weigh the fish in. I knew it was smaller than the fish that was in the lead, so I would only be weighing it in for a shot at the raffle. Compound that with the fact that there wasn’t a registered weigh station on the way home and it being July 4th meant nobody would be open to weigh it in anyway, we pretty much had made the decision not to weigh it. I made a few phone calls to places slightly out of the way, just to check and sure enough someone answered at Eschete’s in Houma. The guy lived next door and had no problem walking over to the shop to weigh my fish. So a big thanks goes out to him for being receptive. Also a big thanks to Blake because he was driving that day.
You can check out the CCA leaderboard here: http://www.ccastar.com/current-leaderboard
Another great video from the guys that brought you Bulls on Top.
We had a morning flight back to New Orleans on Monday, so Sunday would be the last day we had to fish. Greg had given us a tip about a lake we should hike to before we left town. He had assured us the hike wasn’t too bad, maybe 45 minutes tops. He also promised us greenbacks, bigger than those we caught on Friday . To top it off, we would be sightfishing for these fish, they would be cruising the banks, all we needed to do was place a dry fly in their path and they’ll do the rest. It sounded too good to pass up, so no matter how bad the hike would be, that was where we were headed Sunday. 45 minutes? It can’t be too bad.
45 minutes my ass. That hike took much longer, it was at least three miles long, pretty much uphill the last two miles. We didn’t expect that, we should have, but we didn’t. Of course the local guy is going to short sell the hike, he probably does it weekly. I’m not complaining though, it was an amazing hike. It was obvious why Greg pointed us in this direction. Scenic views everywhere you turned, sheer rock faces, stands of yellow aspen, waterfalls – it had it all. Blake and I were definitely huffing and puffing though. The whole way up I was thinking, “this lake better be full of big, dumb fish”.
Seeing the lake was like seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. A sight for sore eyes to say the least. Greg had tried to convince us to go hit a different spot in the Park in the afternoon and not spend the entire day at the lake, but once we started fishing it was hard to leave. The lake was shallow, clear, and surrounded by rock walls on three out of four sides. As we walked up to the lake we could see cutthroat holding in the shallows. I had to rig up, but Blake was ready. It didn’t take long for him to catch fish. He had three before I could even tie a fly on. We got the feeling that we were in for a great day.
It would be a great day. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a fish on every cast. Most were actually somewhat selective which led to some frustration. You know the feeling, you can see ’em, but you couldn’t catch ’em. The bigger ones were especially like that. Still there were some that would gobble up whatever landed in front of them. I downsized everything, went to a 6x leader, with 7x tippet and didn’t fish anything bigger than a size 18. They were keying in on something very tiny. I figured it was some sort of midge, so at the end of the day I had a small griffith’s gnat on that was doing pretty well. The elk hair caddis did pretty well too. It was beautiful up there, and the weather was perfect, with a little bit of wind coming picking up in the afternoon. All good things must come to an end though and we had to hike out, knowing our trip was virtually over.
We tried to stop by Estes Angler to see if our friend Chris was working, but they were closed by the time we got there, so we headed over to Kirks Fly Shop to look around. That’s one thing I loved about Colorado, a fly shop and a brewery in every town. There was still daylight when we got back to the cabin, I had to wet a line in the Big T right outside the cabin. You can’t stay at a cabin on the river and not fish the river it’s on. Blake threw some burgers
on the grill in the broiler as I fished. In the waning hours of our adventure I was able to land the last fish of the trip, a brightly colored up rainbow within spitting distance of our patio. What better way to end a fantastic trip. A trip that really only took place because I was able to score cheap plane tickets from Southwest. Blake and I knew we wanted to go somewhere before he and his wife have their baby this winter, but we really didn’t expect it would be to Colorado. I’m glad it was though, a lot of good memories were made there.
Saturday we woke up bright and early to make the 2 hour drive west through the Park and over the Continental Divide on Trail Ridge Rd. to meet up with our guide-friend Greg for a float on the Upper Colorado. The drive was absolutely stunning and leaving at twilight meant there were no other cars on the road (people start their days much later in Colorado than in Louisiana), so we had the road all to ourselves. Everywhere you looked was a breathtaking view, especially once we got above the treeline. As we approached Milner Pass we stopped to take pictures of a bull elk feeding right on the side of the road. We rolled down the window and Blake yells “Hey elk!” and almost on queue the elk struck a pose for us as we snapped a quick pic, then we were on our way. As we winded our way down the mountains and into the valley that holds the Colorado River headwaters we spotted a couple of animals we had yet to see, moose. They looked to be calves, we stopped and grabbed a quick pic of them as well. First time I’ve ever seen moose in the wild. The drive continued past Lake Grandby and followed the Colorado River until we hit our destination.
We were meeting up with our friend Greg, who would be taking us down the Colorado on his Down River raft. The plan was to float a section of the river that permitted a lot of wade fishing as well. We were in no hurry and the weather was too beautiful to just bust ass down river, plus Greg knew some good spots to wade fish. He showed us what we should be throwing and we rigged up our rods to match. Almost immediately after taking off from the ramp Blake hooks up with a fish.
I was off to a slow start at the back of the boat while Blake proceeded to catch a few fish. I caught a small brown to get the skunk off, then another that was a little bigger while wading. Blake was on a roll and caught a nice brown while he was wading.
We got back in the boat and kept heading downstream, it wasn’t long before we’d get out and wade again, but that also meant it wasn’t long before Blake would be hooked up again at the front of the boat. As for me, I was a mess in the back of the boat. I couldn’t put a proper hookset on a fish to save my life. It was only my 2nd time fishing for trout from a boat and it showed. Blake was making it look easy. I was having an easier time when I was wading. I picked up a couple rainbows at the next stop. Greg took off upstream and really showed us how it’s done, which was good, because I could just watch him and emulate. I could tell I had to work on my line control, make shorter drifts, and just be quicker on the set.
It was neat to see all the trains pass as we made our way down river, I couldn’t help but think of what an awesome train ride that must be following along the Colorado River, through multiple canyons across the Colorado countryside. We had been having a great day so far, Blake had a few nice browns and lots of other decent ones, while I caught a few decent fish, but many on the smaller side, which I’m convinced is harder to do, since their mouths are smaller. Anyway, by this time I was on the front of the boat and my luck still hadn’t changed. When I wasn’t all tangled up, I was missing hooksets, or catching dinks.
As we were approaching a set of rapids, Greg is telling us to get ready to cast at one side because fish will be holding there, but before we get there we needed to hit the holding water immediately above the rapid on each side. Naturally I’m casting left and Blake, in the rear, is casting right. As I go into my backcast his forward cast rolls through and we get tangled. I just remember thinking, “Ugh, are you kidding me?!” Luckily it wasn’t too bad and I was able to untangle us before we completely made it through the rapid. On my second cast in the rapid I get hooked up with my best fish of the day, then shortly after Blake sticks one as well, so we’re both hooked up riding through the rapid. Greg tells Blake to ride it out with the fish on as I net my fish. Well around that time, a rock comes out of nowhere and knocks the rear of the raft to one side. All I see is Blake’s body go flying toward the side of the boat, right arm high trying to keep rod up, left arm reaching out for something to grab on. Unfortunately he grabbed on to the swivel seat he was sitting on and he slipped right out the boat. So he goes in the water, but luckily is able to get his feet under himself and recover his footing, while somehow still maintaining contact with the raft. The line isn’t taught, but as he reels it in he still has the fish on. Through this whole process I’ll admit that I didn’t know what to do, but the first thought in my mind wasn’t “Are you alright?”, rather it was “Keep that rod tip up”. I know, what kind of a friend does that make me? He was alright after all and jumped back in the boat and we were able to net the fish with mine. Turns out his was bigger than mine too, go figure. It was a moment of utter chaos and one that we laughed a good bit about. It was really no fault of Greg’s that Blake was jettisoned, we were all paying attention to the the double hook up and no one saw the rock. I have no idea how we were able to land those two fish and not lose anything either.
We had to re-rig after the incident, once we netted both those fish we were all tangled up. After that we got out and did some wading and proceeded to stick some more fish. I managed to blow it on my last good chance of the day when I made a cast behind a rock and watched as a brown launched himself out of the water for my fly, full body exposed. I fought him for a few seconds, before he took my fly with him. He would have been my nicest on the day, maybe even the biggest of the trip, but it wasn’t in the cards. Really I’m just thankful I got to experience the thrill of watching him eat, it was incredible.
We popped open a couple beers and relaxed for the rest of the float, recapped the day’s events and watched a bald eagle soar through the air. It was really a great trip, one that will surely stick with me for awhile. Fishing with Greg was a lot of fun, he’s got that water dialed in, I learned a good bit from him and we came away with some quality fish stories. I felt like I was a better fisherman at the end of the day than I was at the start.
On the drive back we stopped at Milner Pass, I had to get the picture of the Divide sign, I missed it on the way there, and take a few more pictures of the mountains. We happened to make the drive on Trail Ridge for both sunrise and sunset. There were far more people on the road in the evening than in the morning. Greg gave us a tip on a place to eat in Estes after we dogged the Estes Park Brewery (good beer, below average food). It was Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ, and it was delicious, so Greg was hitting on all cylinders on Saturday. Especially considering he clued us in on where we needed to fish in the Park on Sunday.