Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rises on the Blue River

The sun was still hidden behind the mountains to the east when the first small rainbow came to the net on the Blue River last Sunday. Zeke Hersh of Blue River Anglers made sure the day got off to a great start. After a brief drive south from his shop in Frisco, we hiked to the river and we started fishing a narrow run with two tiny midge patterns.

The trout didn't mind that the air temperature was in the teens; and I tried not too as well. This stretch of the Blue River is kept ice-free because of an unusual effort to reclaim the river after a long history of mining in the area. Part of the river flows underground, returning to the surface warm enough to keep flowing despite the winter temps.

In one run it appeared that the trout had found a warm-water seep as dozens were bunched up in a small section no bigger than a water bucket. They regularly hit the midge patterns, although it was hard to get a good drift in the slow water were they huddled. The Blue is also home to wild brown trout. While they may be wild, they're not selective. Two attacked the pink strike indicator with enough gusto that Zeke considered tying on a pink hopper fly for kicks.

Upstream, beavers and a deadfall helped create a substantial pool filled with crystal clear water and literally hundreds of trout. Several large browns sat under a pine tree that had fallen along the far bank. Others were stacked up at the tail of the pool. Zeke rigged up an egg fly pattern and the browns eagerly inhaled the fly. It was fun to watch their gills flare in the four-feet deep pool as they fought hard to shake the fly. By now the sun had come over the Ten Mile Range and was fighting a battle with a pesky cloud. We had about 25 minutes of clear sunshine and the added warmth kept the guides from freezing and encourage a prolific midge hatch. Dozens of fish started to rise in the middle of the pool and Zeke rigged up a double dry fly rig featuring tiny (size 20 and smaller) sprout midge patterns. The brown trout were forgiving of my sloppy casts and Zeke netted several browns in the 14-16 inch range. A few even leaped from the 34 degree water into the 25 degree air -- I'm sure they regretted that decision. I laughed with each jump. Even for a dedicated steelheader, there is nothing more fun than hooking rising trout on tiny dry flies and then watching them leap from the water. That the stream is surrounded by snow covered mountains only added to the moment.

Zeke helped make the fishing easy -- which is what good guides do. He knew the spots. He had the right patterns. He helped me adjust my casting. And he put up with all of my mistakes with good humor. What more can a sport ask for?

Eventually the cloud covered the sun again and the guides on the rod and even the fly line began to ice up. I was freezing up, as well (thanks in part to a leaky hip boot) and my casting was getting even sloppier. After a brisk morning of fishing, it was time to go thaw out.

I look forward to returning to the scenic Blue River and fishing again with Zeke.

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