Article and Photos by Scott Willoughby
Spawning kokanee by © Scott Willoughby
In a state that pretty much has it all, the most glaring gap in Colorado’s vast menu of outdoor options becomes obvious at its borders. The ability to walk across state lines almost anywhere without getting your feet wet serves as evidence of a basic reality: We’re landlocked. High and dry.
For a large chunk of the fishing world, that could be considered a problem. There are plenty of fish in the sea, as they say, and the opportunity to chase a wide variety of them is what drives many an angler to wet a line. But in the network of rivers and lakes draining from the mountainous spine of the nation to oceans east and west, well, the species selection falls a bit short by comparison. Sure, we’ve got a respectable assortment of more than 40 types of cold-, cool- and warm-water fish species statewide in Colorado, but it seems like the grass can always get a little greener. Read more
Urad Lake. Photo by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.
If you are looking to either fish, hike, see the aspens change, wildlife watch or all of the above, you can do far worse than a trip to Urad Lake.
Urad Lake is in the Urad Lake State Wildlife Area, the newest SWA in Colorado. Located off of Jones Pass and Berthoud Pass in Clear Creek County, it is the result of a cooperative effort between the Climax Molybdenum Company (Henderson Mine), the City of Golden and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
The property was historically open to the public for several decades, even though privately owned by the mine. In 2011, the property closed to the public as Henderson Mine did a massive, multimillion dollar mitigation project in the Woods Creek Valley.
During the closure, the mine, City of Golden (which owns the water and reservoir) and CPW were able to work out a long-term lease to turn over the management of the property to Colorado Parks and Wildlife which reopened the area in 2014. During that time, CPW stocked the lake with 6,000 10- to 12-inch cutbow trout. The lake is full of small brook trout, recently stocked rainbow trout and plenty of the cutbows. Read more
Article & Photos By Scott Willoughby
Jason Lieverst. Photo by © Scott Willoughby
Jason Lieverst is performing a magic trick. Or so it would seem. With just a few flicks of his 11-foot wand, the former captain of the British national fly-fishing team plucks trout after trout from a seemingly shallow pool in the Eagle River like some overgrown Harry Potter pulling a litter of rabbits out of a hat.
“What was that, about 14?” Lieverst estimates in a proper English accent as we hike back up the bank toward the truck before the engine had time to completely cool. “Not bad for an hour or so of fishing.”
Unlike most modern magic, Lieverst’s wizardry is no illusion. Rather, it’s a systematic technique originating in Europe and honed over nearly 30 years before making its way to the banks of the Eagle River near Avon, where it’s now being put on display on an increasingly routine basis. Read more
The author’s hand-tied Gray Ugly flies. Photo by Wayne Lewis/CPW.
In the modern era of overly complex, match-the-hatch fly patterns, adding a few simple, traditional flies to your fly box can be effective weapons in your fly-fishing arsenal.
The Gray Ugly is a vintage fly that surpasses many of its modern-day brethren in its amazing ability to catch trout. An oldie but a goodie, I was first introduced to this pattern in the late 1970s by my grandfather who spent most of his life trout fishing in Colorado and Montana. The Gray Ugly was one of his favorite patterns because of its versatility and effectiveness. Over the years, I also saw my dad and uncle use this fly with great success, catching everything from small brook trout at Monarch Lake to bruiser brown trout at North Delaney Buttes.
The fly works especially well with a fly-and-bubble rig and a spinning rod, which is how my grandfather, dad and uncle fished this pattern. For fly-fishing purists, the Gray Ugly also performs just fine at the end of a 5-weight fly rod, fished either wet or dry. Read more
Article & Photos by Scott Willoughby
Floating a scenic slice of the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon. Photo by © Scott Willoughby.
When it comes to their favorite places to wet a line, fishermen are pretty tight-lipped by nature. So it comes as no surprise that the one-year anniversary of the designation of Browns Canyon National Monument came and went last February with little fanfare among Colorado’s angling community.
Besides, nothing has really changed along the scenic slice of the Arkansas River that qualifies among the nation’s premier public trout fisheries. And that’s precisely the point.
“I grew up in big, wide-open spaces in Nevada, and there’s been enormous change to the landscapes — transmission lines, oil and gas coming in, major hard-rock mines and other projects,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) director Neil Kornze said while rafting through the newly minted monument last July. “So I love it when I see a community come together and say: ‘Let’s not just trust that this will always be the way we love it. Let’s do something about it.’ It’s not necessarily about changing something in a dramatic way. Sometimes it’s about keeping what you’ve got and what you love.” Read more
Article & Photos By Scott Willoughby
Jon Becker mans the oars of a drift boat. Photo by © Scott Willoughby
Just on the outskirts of the self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe” at the riverside community known as Rancho Del Rio, the light grows dim and the bats begin their evening swirl. In a moment, the Colorado River begins to boil like a bubbling cauldron of fish. Then the big bang hits. m “There he is,” oarsman Jon Becker booms from the cockpit of his Hyde drift boat. “Nice fish!”
The hardy brown trout turns out to be the nicest among a steady string of “nice fish,” it’s girth amplified by the cloak of twilight yet easily overshadowing others landed and released throughout the afternoon. There’s no measuring tape to verify the size, yet no reason to suspect the fish is anything less than the 18-inch guesstimate of an optimistic angler’s imagination. Read more
DID YOU KNOW? Fishing in Colorado contributes roughly $1.9 billion to the economy. Become an angler today and be an active participant in wildlife management and help our local economies. Photo by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW
Why Learn to Fly Fish?
Fly fisherman by © Howard Horton/CPW
When most people think of fishing in Colorado, fly fishing is one of the first techniques that come to mind. Like all types of fishing, it can be a fun group or family activity or it can be your way to find peace and tranquility — an escape from our busy lives.
Learning to fly fish does not have to be intimidating, difficult or expensive. There are lots of opportunites for classes with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), local fly shops and fly-fishing organizations around Colorado.
People in Colorado love to fish. Colorado sells more than 900,000 fishing licenses each year! There are so many fishing choices in Colorado with 9,500 miles of streams 2,000 natural lakes and 800 reservoirs. Your new favorite fishing spot may be just around the corner. Read more
A reproduction brook trout created by Colorado taxidermist Jeff Mourning. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
Marvin Gaye once sang, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” For most things in life, he was spot on (pleather, tofurkey and sugar substitutes immediately come to mind). But, when it comes to fish taxidermy, artificial mounts, called reproductions or “replicas,” are even better than the real thing. And they are the only real option for anglers who want to practice catch and release and have a trophy fish to hang on the wall of their office or den.
Replica fish-mounts are made from gel-coat resin and fiberglass. They are are completely artificial — no actual fish parts are used in their creation. However, to ensure the most accurate reproductions possible, replicas are forged from molds cast from real fish. A donor fish of a specific species and size is used to generate numerous fiberglass blanks, which are then sold to taxidermists. Blanks have no markings or color, hence the name. Therefore, a taxidermist or “fish artist” must entirely design and paint a fish onto the empty pallet, using only photos as references for the finished design.
Traditionally, an angler who wanted a wall-mounted fish had to keep his/her catch and provide the entire specimen to a taxidermist. A taxidermist would then skin the fish and stretch the skin over a Styrofoam mannequin to create a lifelike mount. These days, thanks to fiberglass replicas, anglers can preserve their fishing memories and conserve the fishery resource at the same time. Read more
A cutthroat trout. Photo by Kevin Rogers/CPW.
Colorado is truly an angler’s paradise. Home to more than 9,000 miles of rivers, 2,000 natural lakes and hundreds of gin-clear streams, it’s as if Mother Nature had fishing in mind when she created this beautiful state. And with waters generously dispersed from the high mountains all the way to the Eastern Plains, Colorado’s fishing opportunities are as diverse as the Rocky Mountain landscape.
However, in spite of the variety of fishable waters and abundance of natural habitat, it’s only because of the dedicated conservation work of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) aquatic biologists and hatchery technicians that Colorado boasts some of the best fishing in the nation.
Whether you’re an avid angler or just someone who enjoys the occasional weekend fishing trip, here are 11 “Fish Facts” that you should know about Colorado’s fisheries: Read more
A fly-and-bubble angler fishes in Pearl Lake State Park.
It’s not often that someone hates the title of your story before you write it, but that is the case with this piece. Last fall, while fishing with a good buddy (who prefers to remain nameless) we were discussing the merits of the angling method we’d been using for the last few trout-fishing expeditions — fly and bubble. He really liked how far he could throw a fly when the bubble was filled more than halfway with water which got me thinking. “Throwing Bubbles — that’s what I’ll call my article,” I said.
My enthusiasm was met with much manly scorn. And he had a good point. Something that can, at times, be brutally effective shouldn’t be described so frivolously. But it’s my title, and I’m sticking with it.
Many people, like my buddy and I, can only afford so much equipment and devote only so much time to their recreational endeavors. Learning how to fly fish, and getting geared up to do so, is out of the question for many spin anglers. But when the fish are ignoring spoons and spinners, and hitting flies instead, then something must be done to level the playing field. Read more