Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rocky Ford Creek Report: Jackpot

The afternoon was chilly, and a strong wind whipping out of the north made it feel almost wintry. I wasn't sure what to expect from the trout on this last trip of February.

The standard wisdom about Rocky Ford Creek at this time of year is that you need to bring a variety of subsurface flies with you: scuds, midge larvae, midge pupae, pheasant tail nymphs,leeches, and San Juan worms are all recommended. The Rocky Ford Rainbows like all those things a lot. The trick is that you never know exactly which one they're eating at the moment. So you try them all and hope you hit on the right one at the right time.

Well, I hit on the right fly at the right time.

I've had a single San Juan worm for a few years. It was in one of the fly boxes that came with an old bamboo rod I bought in an auction. After catching a very nice fish on a little red nymph the other day I went home and found that San Juan worm. It was still in good shape--looked almost brand new--so now, on this windy day, I tied it on.

It got immediate attention.

Two more small fish came to it in quick succession. They seemed to like it.

Then the indicator dipped under the windswept surface for a fourth time and I came up on a big fish. This is why you come to Rocky Ford Creek.

I started to cast again, but the wind caught my backcast and snagged the fly in some cattails just off the bank. I pulled in slack line and tried to pull the cattails in close enough to grab. The tippet broke at the indicator.

There was the San Juan worm, still hanging just out of reach. This time I lassoed the cattails with the fly line and tried again to bend them within reach. This time the flyline slid up the stems and broke off the clump of dry leaves holding the fly. The clump fell in the water, and the wind quickly caught it. So all I could do was watch as the clump of leaves, and the San Juan worm, drifted away downstream.

I was all out of San Juan worms, but I had tied up a couple of big red nymphs at the same time I had found the San Juan worm. I hadn't caught anything with them on the last trip, but it seemed like this might be the day. It was.

I hooked a second big fish. It was harder to bring in than the first one, using that big tail to good advantage to avoid the net. As I released it I thought I would probably be OK without the San Juan worm.

The wind was blowing even harder, but I continued to get bumps on the red nymph.

I caught two more small fish.

Then the wind backed off a little, and the activity backed off with it. I kept laying out long slow drifts.

At the end of one of those drifts the indicator disappeared again and I came up on the third big fish. This may be the best fish I've caught at Rocky Ford so far. What a beauty.

After that things slowed down. The red nymph got no more attention. I saw fish still working out in the main channel, their dorsals or tails cutting through the riffles. I tried a stimulator, thinking they might be jacked up enough to ambush a big meaty fly right over their heads. But they weren't. I tried a scud for a long time, but they didn't want that either.

I never did figure out what they wanted--this time. But I was feeling good: I had already hit the jackpot on one of my best days at Rocky Ford.

Friday, February 27, 2015

"Wild Geese Alighting on a Lake" by Anne Porter

"In For the Evening" by Peter Mathios

I watched them
As they neared the lake

They wheeled
In a wide arc
With beating wings
And then

They put their wings to sleep
And glided downward in a drift
Of pure abandonment

Until they touched
The surface of the lake

Composed their wings
And settled
On the rippling water
As though it were a nest.

"Wild Geese Alighting on a Lake" by Anne Porter from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Highway 12, Just East of Paradise, Idaho" by Robert Wrigley

"The Dead Doe" by Gustave Courbet, 1857

The doe, at a dead run, was dead
the instant the truck hit her:
In the headlights I saw her tongue
extend and her eyes go shocked and vacant,
Launched at a sudden right angle-say
from twenty miles per hour south to fifty
miles per hour east-she skated
many yards on the slightest toe-edge tips
of her dainty deer hooves, then fell
slowly, inside the speed of her new trajectory,
not pole-axed but stunned, away
from me and the truck’s decelerating pitch.
She skidded along the right lane’s
fog line true as a cue ball,
until her neck caught a sign post
that spun her across both lanes and out of sight
beyond the edge. For which, I admit, I was grateful,
the road there being dark, narrow, and shoulderless,
and home, with its lights, not far away.

"Highway 12, Just East of Paradise, Idaho" by Robert Wrigley,
from Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems. © Penguin, 2010. 

From Salmon Beyond Boundaries

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rocky Ford Creek Report: Continuing Education

February is on the way out. I want a few more of those Rocky Ford Rainbows before it's gone so I make my usual Tuesday trip.

I've come to enjoy the drive, especially since hazardous weather has not been an issue since the first week of January. I make a quick stop at Dry Falls to take a look back into the Pleistocene.

Then it's on to Rocky Ford and the present.

It will be a scud day. A half dozen small trout want a taste of scud, and only scud--though I try to tempt them with other flies.

I keep looking for a better fish. In the evening light, one finally comes--also to a scud.

I close out the light with dries. No go. If only I had a scud dry...

On the walk back to the pickup I hear Killdeers. One more bird to add to the Spring bird list.

Rocky Ford has been my winter option in years past. This year, with an unusually mild winter, it has been my spring option. I discovered as early as the end of January that my tried and true cold weather strategies no longer applied here. I have had to dust off techniques and flies I haven't used in awhile (indicators and nymphs, for example) in order to keep up with the trout as they adapt their feeding patterns to warmer weather and the earlier development of hatches.

You're never too old to learn. And I still have some things to learn. I've seen one old timer here at Rocky Ford--it seems like the same guy even though I've seen it happen several times--very quietly and calmly come out on the bank across from me, make one or two casts, and hook, land, and release a beautiful fish. Then quietly move on. No fuss, no muss.

I would like to learn the ways of this fishery well enough to be that proficient some day.

I hope to make one more February trip. Then I'm really looking forward to continuing my education in March.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weather Word

Waxing Crescent, 14% of full, February 21, 2015.

Moon lore says that a crescent moon with its points up will hold water like a bowl, thus causing a dry spell. Not what we need out here in the West, but good news perhaps for folks in the Midwest and East desperate enough to grasp at any hope for an end to the onslaught of snow. Good luck.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Out of the Stump Rot, Something" by Mary Oliver

Out of the stump rot
glides forward
that is not a rope,

unless a rope has eyes,
tongue like a smack of smoke,
body without shoulders.

Thus: the black snake
over the leaves
of the old year

and down to the pond,
to the green just beginning
to fuzzle out of the earth,
also, like smoke.

If you like a prettiness,
don't come here.
Look at pictures instead,
or wait for the daffodils.

This is spring,
by the rattled pond, in the shambled woods,
as spring has always been
and will always be

no matter what we do
in the suburbs.
The matted fur,
the red blood,

the bats unshuttering
their terrible faces,
and black snake
gliding across the field

you think you own.
Long neck, long tail.
Tongue on fire.
Heart of stone.

"Out of the Stump Rot, Something" by Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings, 2012.

Fifteen Minutes

I submitted three of my photos of the conjunction on Friday evening to Earthsky, one of my favorite science sites. What do you know, they posted one of them.

But check out the caption.

Jim Yaussy submitted this photo to EarthSky from Albright, Washington.

Jim Yaussy submitted this photo to from Albright, Washington.

I start out the evening as an unknown, and now I have a town in Washington named after me.

To see more photos on Earthsky, click HERE.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rocky Ford Creek Report: Catch of the Day

It's another beautiful afternoon at Rocky Ford Creek. The sun is in and out of scudding clouds. It's almost hot when it's out, and refreshingly cool when it's hidden.

I'm hoping to get some photos of the conjunction of Venus, Mars, and the new moon after sunset. My DSLR camera and tripod are in the truck. But as the afternoon rolls on the clouds roll in.

Meanwhile I just fish. I spend lots of time with an indicator on, and I pick up four or five youngsters on scuds and various nymphs. (I get no takes on a bloodworm.)

Robins have now joined the list of Spring birds, and more Great Blue Herons have come. A male Marsh Hawk--ghostly white--patrols the opposite bank. He hits the brakes and drops like a stone. I hear a commotion in the cattails, and he rises with a dark shape in his talons and heads for a perch in the rocks. Mallards are here, and a variety of Grebes, all paired up and engaged in courtship. I wonder when the Pelicans will arrive.

I catch a better fish on a nondescript nymph as I'm stripping it in for a change of flies. It's a very pretty fish.

Each time I've been here in the past few weeks I hear sounds below my feet. The banks are riddled with Muskrat tunnels, and I often see them paddling in and out. Now I'm also hearing them gnawing away at their domain, creating even more passageways.

It seems like I just got here, but the light is going. I try a scud again--I've gotten the most attention with that fly--and sure enough, I hook a good fish. I work it in carefully and have the net in my hand when it breaks off. So it goes.

I clip off the indicator and tie on a stimulator and throw it around until it's time to go. I watch Great Blues circle overhead against the darkening clouds and figure someone else will have to take photos of the celestial show. I'm sorry to have to miss it.

The truck is packed. I start the engine, and pour some coffee. I'm about to shift into gear when a glint of moonlight flickers out of the shifting clouds. I study the sky critically. It looks like the clouds may break up enough for a good view.

I shut the engine off, grab my DSLR and climb out. Yes, it's going to happen. I set up the tripod as quickly as I can and get ready. And I get my shot.

It's the catch of the day.

Conjunction: Venus, Mars, and New Moon

I stayed in the deserted parking lot at Rocky Ford Creek for almost an hour taking many photos. These are two more of my favorites. What a show!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Heads Up: Venus, Mars, and Crescent Moon

This is why I'd rather live in this universe than any other. Venus and Mars have been spectacular the past few evenings. And now the newborn crescent moon will join them.

This is a bona fide phenomenon. Hope you can check it out where you live. I'm planning to be at Rocky Ford Creek on the evening of the 20th, and there's a good chance it will be clear. If it is, I'll be soaking it all in.

If you miss the young moon after sunset on February 19, try again after sunset February 20. The green line depicts the ecliptic - the pathway of the moon and planets

Earthsky has this to say about this celestial event:

The planets Mars and Venus are about to be at their closest in our sky since 2008. They won’t be closer until 2017! Their nearest point is Saturday, but tonight – February 19, 2015 – you’ll find these two planets in the west after sunset, nearly as close as they will be then. Venus is the much brighter one. What’s more, the young moon is now returning to the west after sunset. And that means we’re about to have some incredible scenes in the western, twilight sky. Friday night’s sky scene will be especially grand.
Although the new moon fell yesterday, February 18, we still expect some observant people in the Northern Hemisphere – especially in North America – to catch the whisker-thin young crescent moon after sunset Thursday evening. Look westward, beneath Venus – the brightest planet and bright evening “star” – and near the horizon, starting an hour or less after sunset. Binoculars may be helpful!
It’ll be harder, though not impossible, to catch an even thinner lunar crescent from northerly latitudes in Europe – and harder yet at northerly latitudes in Asia. We expect few, if any, observers at temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere to spot the young moon after sunset February 19. We tell you why later.
Whatever you do, just start watching the western twilight sky. Set a reminder on your phone if need be. The planets and moon won’t be up for long after sunset. And the views will be spectacular from now through Saturday night!