Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A World-Traveling, Skiing, Fly-Fisherman

Well, I think it goes without saying that I have been neglecting my blog. This had to end!

Since I last checked in there have been many things happen in Muddlerland. It's tough to decide where to pick back up from, so how about I start from the date of my last post, November 18th I believe it was. Since the 18th of November I have skied, then skied some more, worked a little bit, then um.... went skiing, and then I think I skied some more! Unfortunately, winter this year has been less than lackluster. Warm temps, high winds, and low snow have made for a pretty miserable winter of skiing here in the Rockies. Fortunately, we had made plans to ski France back in the fall, and Europe has been getting hammered with snow this winter. Let me tell you about my trip...

Well, we left Denver on Jan 17th bound for Warsaw, Poland. We were headed to Warsaw to meet our friend Maciej and his cousin. Before we could leave DIA, we witnessed the first of many ridiculous things we would see on the trip. Did you know the cockpit windows on a jet opened? Yeah, we didn't either. We watched this unfold as we were drinking the first beer of the trip in the airport bar in Denver.

Our plane departed Denver and we were headed for London. London Heathrow is a bustling airport and the most we saw was the inside of buses, dreary weather outside, and then the terminal where we had a pretty short wait for our flight to Warsaw.

Arriving in Poland was a little nerve racking. We really had no idea if anyone was actually going to meet us there. The only communication we had with Maciej was intermittent Facebook messaging. We also just about witnessed a fight in the customs line between a couple Polish people. Luckily, as soon as we got our bags we spotted Maciej's smiling face in the crowd. He quickly hailed us a large cab (we had tons of luggage. Two ski bags, three carry ons, four suitcases, and a loose pair of ski boots). We were whisked away to the train station and had a three hour ride west to Zielona Gora, Poland. Maciej's cousin, Marcel, picked us up and we headed to his apartment. By this time I had been awake for 32 hours, I was too excited to sleep on any part of the journey. Maciej and Marcel wanted to take us out on the town. What were we to say? Beer sounded good!

Just a few highlights from our two nights in Poland.

1. The first night at Club Demon, Brady won the mechanical bull riding contest. It was funny hearing him give a victory speech in a Polish nightclub in English.
2. I couldn't help myself, I had to sing some karaoke! Again, in English in a Polish nightclub.
3. Food! We had lots of traditional Polish food and it was all DELICIOUS!
4. WOMEN! We were all blown away at how beautiful Polish women were.

Well, it came time to head to France. We knew we would be driving and that it would be about a 20 hour drive. We also knew what we would be riding in, a Ford Focus. And we also knew how much shit we had to fit in that tiny vehicle. Five grown men with all their luggage, ski gear, tire chains, water, beer, food... think it was cramped? Absolutely. Although we did come up with an ingenious way to keep our beer cold. Stow it in the ski bag on top of the car, position zipper for easy access through a rolled down window, and VOILA! The ride didn't seem as long! All of this made for a pretty interesting car ride...

Somehow we made it to Valmeinier, France without killing each other, although we were all a little loopy upon arrival. The night before we arrived it had snowed over three feet. Getting to our place was a nightmare, and waiting to check in was even worse.

We arrived at the resort around 11 am, and were told we couldn't check in until 2 pm and there was no skiing that day. At 2 pm we were told that we couldn't check in until 4. We waited until 4, checked in, and everybody crashed! Did I mention this was my 25th birthday? We didn't even party, at least not that night. We more than made up for that...

I'll let the pictures do the talking, but we skied powder for 6 days on big mountains in the French Alps. All the French skiers stayed on-piste and left three big mountains full of powder for us to enjoy!

Terrible form in this picture... I'm a better skier than this!

We departed Valmeinier and headed for Geneva, Switzerland. After the car ride from Poland, Paul and I were thanking Brady for making arrangements for us to fly back from Geneva. Two hours in a car that full is much more enjoyable than 20. We parted ways with Maciej and Marcel and got a cheap hotel. Then we went out on the town. Geneva is sweet, but WAY expensive. Luckily we got a 24 hour Public Transportation Pass from our hotel. We walked around old town Geneva, saw a marching band, rode around in a boat, and visited Saint Peter's Cathedral. Oh, and naturally we drank some beer, too!

The trip was once in a lifetime. There was nothing about our time in Europe that wasn't incredible. But, I was very glad when we got back on US soil! What did I do when I got back? I went skiing!

So far I've gotten in just under 60 days on the slopes. Like I've said previously though, the winter here in the Rockies sucks. We had about 2 weeks of actual winter weather and then it was gone. The past two weeks have seen temperatures in the mid to upper 40s, bright sunshine, and most importantly - no snow. So what's a man to do when the skiing sucks this time of year? Go fishing!

I've fished the past two days, which has been the first time in FOUR MONTHS! INSANITY! Anyways, the fish weren't very cooperative and the weather didn't help. High winds, bluebird skies, unseasonably warm. I managed to hook 3 fish and land 2 of them in 2 days. It's all good though. I had a good time being out there. Saw some wildlife, too. There is a group of 3 deer that I see every time I fish a certain stretch of the Colorado. They are all does and always hang out in the exact same spot. It's like clockwork!

This is the only fish I caught yesterday. He ate a lowly San Juan Worm. He put up a decent fight for being so skinny! I'm just glad he came along and ate my fly, I was starting to think I'd be skunked my first time out in 2012.

This is the only fish I caught today. A beautiful rainbow that put up a good fight after he ate an egg.

In the winter this little guy is known as an Ermine. During the summer, he's a Lesser Weasel. This is only the second one I've seen, and let me tell you; THEY ARE FAST! Really cool little critters, though!

Aside from shitty winter weather that is affecting the skiing and will effect water levels this summer, I have nothing to complain about! I've been a fisherman, a skier, and a world traveler in the past 4 months. Oh, and I've worked a little on the side! My buddy George is heading out here next week and I'm going to ski Jackson Hole the first week of April (they've actually had some semblance of a winter).

Life is good in Muddlerland!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Month Down

Once again life is in flux. And as usual not in a bad way. The seasons have become the determining factor of my life! Water is freezing which means we are skiing!

Fishing season is never really out of season for a person like myself, but I have a feeling fishing time will be dwindling...

That being said, in the past month I've had some great fishing. I've caught some big fish and without a doubt the highlight was fishing with my good friend, Zane. He's a youngster full of wanderlust that, I believe, has caught the wind of the Wild West. Time will tell if he'll be back...

Lately I can't help but be transfixed by skiing. Sliding down a snow covered hill in complete control is a feeling I can't help but love. The moments I lose control are the ones that keep me coming back.

Like fly fishing, one must be completely in tune with everything around him to really get the whole picture and (in fly fishing terms) catch the fish. Unlike fly fishing, one is not depending on another creature to decide success. One decision could be life or death. Sobering. Awesome.

Just a few thoughts...

As usual life is sweet!

Monday, October 10, 2011


... the stars align and we are blessed with a day of fishing that compares to nothing else. I experienced a day like this last week. Armed with a new piece of jewelry that was sure to bring good fish ju-ju (my friend picked the fish up in Steamboat, I made the necklace by braiding nylon backing), I set out.

The weather was perfect. Overcast with no wind. Surefire weather to get the fish biting. I hit a stretch of water that isn't fished very much and contains very large fish. I started with a grey RS2 which had been producing in the past few weeks. To my surprise there were no bugs hatching except for some microscopic midges. I fished a few spots I knew held fish, but couldn't get anything but a large bow that came up and sniffed my indicator. I was getting rather worried after fishing an hour with no action. I moved upstream and tied on a large midge that has produced in the past. It didn't take too long to get into the fish.

I nailed a few nice browns as I made my way upstream. I was getting into the groove. I still couldn't see any discernible hatch going on, but they were biting and that's all that matters.

This was a nice brown, but take a look at his coloration. I have no idea what makes some fish look like this. I've caught browns that were completely black on part of their body. Anybody know? He put up kind of a lethargic fight too, weird.

I am in love with this picture. Sometimes, pretty much daily, I look around and can't believe I live and work in such a beautiful place!

I worked my way on upstream, picking off fish after fish as I went. I came to a run which was just upstream of a fence which could be the boundary of the property. Maybe I was trespassing, but this one final run was just too tempting to pass up. I took a look around to see if anybody was watching and proceeded to nail this chunky brown. I was manhandled by a couple large fish that made me feel foolish.

I made four drifts and got four bites, the fourth bite yielding this massive bow. To date the largest rainbow I've caught on the CO. He put up a whale of a fight and I snapped this pic of him before I released him.

I had passed a few rising fish in a tail-out as I was fishing up. I didn't want to re-rig with a dry because the action was so fast. But on the way back to the car I decided to tie on a dry and give these rising fish a go. As I was lengthening my leader with some 6x, I spied this little guy fluttering on the water. Bingo, I found what the fish were eating and the midge I had been throwing was a spitting image. Sometimes it's pretty nice to be lucky.

Having found this little mayfly, I tied on this fly. Look similar? I think so....

...and so did this guy! It's the only fish I caught the rest of the day. But I'm pretty sure it was a cutt-bow. The yellowish gill plates and the spots oriented more to the tail of the fish make me think this. I was pretty stoked when I landed this dude.

The orange gill slits are another reason I believe this to be a cutt-bow. This is the first one I've ever caught. Pretty sweet!

Aww yeah. I dig it...

And sometimes the stars are in disarray and the weather is crap. Bright bluebird skies and gusty winds make for terrible fishing! The fishing may be bad, but these days make for some amazing vistas.

This is taken just down the road from the ranch looking over the divide back towards Denver.

This is the Vail Range. Spectacular.

I had big plans of hitting the Blue and throwing meat for hungry browns. I got to the parking spot and looked down upon the river. I thought it looked pretty high. I made the trek down a very steep grade and ran across these three mule deer. They just stopped and looked at me as I snapped a few pics. These were the only form of wildlife I'd see on the Blue that day.

The Blue is a tailwater. I have never checked the release schedule here, and the other day was the first time it's ever bitten me in the ass. I made it down to the water and was the only soul around; for a reason. The water was raging. There was no way in hell I was wading this river alone. Dejected, I trudged back up the hill to the car.

I made my way back to the CO and hopped on the water in a place I'd only been to once. There were others on the water and nobody was catching a damn thing. I fished for a few hours and caught what I believe to be a retarded fish. This guy ate an RS2 in a very unsuspecting piece of water while there was NOTHING hatching. Not even midges...

Everyone fishing around me called it a day. I moved back upstream and finally fulfilled my hopes of throwing meat. As the sun was starting to set the fish started to eat a streamer. I had many strikes but only connected with two. This being the best of the day. I fished until after dark with the aid of a full moon. I packed it in and headed for some chicken fingers with my tail between my legs. They call it fishing, not catching. And I'm cool with that. Every great day has a not so great day to go with it.

Life is good right now. In fact, life is great! Today, I locked in my plans of heading to Poland in January to meet up with my good friend Maciej. After meeting up with Maciej, we're heading to the French Alps for a week of skiing. What could make this better? My 25th birthday is the Saturday we'll start skiing. HELL YEAH!!!

Keep it reel folks!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

As Bob Dylan Once Said...

... these times they are a' changin'. Summer's been long gone, and fall is quickly winding down. We won't have to wait too long to ski now, Winter Park opens November 16th.

I haven't been fishing too much lately, but the last trip I took was stellar!

This pic is actually taken on the Blue. I caught one nice fish, but he wiggled out of my hands before I could snap a pic. These deer scared the hell out of me though. They came crashing through the brush right behind me and scurried on across the river. I thought I had heard something behind me, but dismissed it as an auditory illusion. Obviously it wasn't...

On to the fish. I headed to the CO in Parshall a couple of weeks ago, and to my surprise I was the only one on the water. This spot gets hammered, the fish are smart, and I have never caught anything of size. This was to change...

The caddis have quit hatching and have been replaced by small grey-bodied mayflies. PMD's or BWO's would be my guess. I can't be sure which one, but a grey RS2 paid off in spades.

The bugs were coming off in swarms and there were twenty-plus inch fish heaving themselves clear out of the water to pick them off. I caught a small brown dead drifting an unweighted RS2 in the surface film, then switched over to nymphing on the bottom. It wasn't too long that I nailed this guy. To date, the best fish I've caught at the Parshall hole. There was one person around to see it, and I made sure he heard my whoop as I landed him.

This is a pic of one of the bugs that were coming off. Anybody know what it is?

I feel like an idiot for not taking more pictures of the fall foliage, it's all but gone now. Anyways, this is a pic of the Parshall hole. I've taken this same pic in every season I've been out here and it's cool to see how it's changed!

I didn't have any more luck where I was fishing and moved upstream. I came upon a guy trying to teach his girlfriend how to fly-fish. They were standing just downstream of the run I was wanting to fish. I asked if I could scoot in just upstream of them, and they obliged. I felt kind of bad watching them flog water while I nailed this nice brown on my second drift. The first drift resulted in a bite where the fish came unglued as he streaked across the swift current.

I got a few more strikes from what I'm sure were big fish, based on how they manhandled me. Then I got a bite and the hook set firmly in this fish's jaw. A beautiful rainbow. Again, right in front of this guy and his lady. I could tell the guy was getting a little perturbed. He slogged upstream and with a dejected look asked me what I was using. I told him and they packed up and left. I didn't have anymore action for the afternoon. I couldn't complain though, I had my best day yet at the Parshall hole.

Another view of the fall foliage.

The ranch is changing over seasons also. Pretty much all the summer staff has departed, and we're getting into lonely season. There's one person in particular that I miss, but time heals all wounds I guess. I only have to make it another month and a half... Come on snow!

Life's pretty good, just in a state of limbo right now. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hay 'n Hawgs

Hay and hawgs, that's been the story of my life for the past week or so.

Hay season has been in full swing for over a month now, and it's coming down to crunch time. Days are getting shorter and it's starting to rain more. Rain equals no work in the hay fields. I'll have to say I've really enjoyed the time I've spent haying. I'm farmer Smith and it's strange because were haying the Smith ranch! We have everything mowed but there is lots more to do. There's a lot more to haying than I thought there would be.

This is a view from one of my offices. It's a big John Deere. It's much tougher to stack hay in this tractor than the skid steer. I've mangled a few bales...

This is the "Staging Area." This is where we eat lunch, work on equipment, meet up, and BS. It's centrally located in the middle of about 20 fields were haying on this property.

Mary Jane whipping up a fine lunch. Grilled chicken, carrots, potatoes, artichokes, bread, a Sprite, and dessert. Nothing out of the ordinary. We eat pretty well out there!

We may be farmin', but we're far from roughin' it! The view during lunch isn't half bad either!

A view from another office I occupy. Haying requires scouting, mowing, raking, bailing, stacking, and transporting. Everything is dependent on the weather. I'm raking in this picture. The point being to throw the hay onto dry ground while turning it over to let the wet hay on the bottom dry. We've had to do a whole bunch of raking, it's been raining a good bit here lately.

But enough about hay, what about the fish?

BOOM! I fished hard this past Tuesday and Wednesday. I caught two small fish on Tuesday on the CO, and nailed this brute on Wednesday on the Blue. I was fishing a stretch known as "Jurassic Park." Why you ask? BIG FISH. This public stretch of water is rather tough to catch fish on, but the fish caught here are tremendous.

I had the days off because of inclement weather. Inclement for haying at least. Perfect for fishing. Cloudy, rainy, and cool. I was throwing meat...

This was the only fish I caught, but well worth the time I put into it. I could have really used an extra pair of hands for the photograph, I would have loved a hero shot with this guy. The picture just doesn't do him justice.

Fatty nailed this guy. I had many other strikes, all of which I could easily see. The fishing was very exciting. Conditions were perfect for streamers, the fish just didn't quite connect. Oh well, that's fishing...

The fight Fatty put up was epic! I was throwing 0x flouro with two No. 0 split shot to get it down. Heavy rig. He bit right downstream of the log you can see in the river. I was standing just down from the log on a little sandbar with very swift water on each side of me. He ate my streamer about 12 feet from me and immediately turned into the fast water and smoked line off my reel. I had nowhere to go and no way to chase him down. I palmed the hell out of the reel and tried my best to turn him back into more slack water. Luckily this tactic worked. He darted in and out of the fast water, and I finally saw how big he was when he jumped. My heart froze. I worked him back up to me, and when time came to land him I didn't think my net would be big enough. He fit, but barely.

This evening I broke down and took a bite of the forbidden fruit. I hit up a stretch of water that is "off-limits." But they gave me the combo to the gate! I couldn't help it, it's just sitting there untouched! I'll never say where...

I fished for an hour and a half after work. I caught three fish. This guy ate a San Juan worm and put up a pretty good fight.

I moved upstream as the sun was going down. I got a bite at the head of a good looking run. Didn't connect. Undeterred, I kept on fishing. Shortly after, I got another bite and felt the weight of this guy. I never saw him until he broke the water in a magnificent jump. I landed him and snapped a few pics before returning him to the water healthily. Damn, I love brown trout!

I dig it...

Fall is coming on, the aspens are starting to turn and we've had heavy frost in the mornings. Browns will be spawning soon, and skiing comes after that!

My life is just plain fun!