September 30, 2010

The Stink: Hope For Denver's South Platte

power plant
The horror stories began long before I arrived. Rumors of fishing mutated sumo-sized carp among abandoned shopping carts and skateboards downstream of the water treatment plant were standard fare. Advisories issued from the Environmental Health Department warning of elevated levels of heavy metals, ammonia, and fecal coliform only confirmed the fact that the city uses this stream as its dumpster. It wasn't until I sat down for a beer with some of Denver's seediest fly fishing characters that the truth really came out. Brazen missions of fishing antiquated cemetery settling ponds were told in such a cavalier manner that I don't doubt for a minute that these guys fish for Nemo inside porcelain thrones. These guys were live.

trash run
urban ashtray
yuppie garbage
When I finally strapped my boots on and hit the DSP, my initial suspicions were confirmed; garbage everywhere. From cigarette butts to snakeskins and cotton ponies, litter lined the banks. The ultimate find was the epitome of yuppie trash, a solitary Keen sandal strewn amongst the driftwood and cocktail bottles, the pièce de résistance. You really had to watch your step around the concrete rubble or else a rebar snake would strike at you, making you wonder when you had your last tetanus shot, or for that matter, if you remembered to get the last few hepatitis boosters. Urban warfare at its finest.

ditch fishing
ricecakes in stinktown
After peeking under the surface film however, glimmers of hope began to rise from the bottom. Freshwater mussels were everywhere, and so were crawfish, thousands of them. Countless schools of smallmouth bass and white suckers filled the shallows. I bore witness to a trico hatch and caddis were everywhere. Recent reports of PMDs hatching are bringing much needed hope for this stream. Coupled with a surprise catch of the occasional trout on the South Platte, perhaps this river isn't in as bad of health as once thought.

hero shot
Carp are an obvious catch in an urban stream. Those things can survive in utter filth. In fact, the only things that will survive the apocalypse are twinkies, roaches, rats, and carp. What holds the most promise, though, is the burgeoning smallmouth fishery that is beginning to take hold on the South Platte. The urban jungle is the perfect environs for the smallmouth. Concrete slabs and boulders provide essential cover for those bellicose bronzebacks, while providing enough water hazards to keep guys like me in business selling you flies. I know I had a hell of a time keeping the red-eyes away from my carp flies on The Stink; those little bastards. In fact, one of them saved me from a skunk, providing me with some much needed relief after losing several hooked carp. While smallmouth bass are not native to Colorado, neither are carp, but they both provide a fantastic fishery on the DSP.

Maybe there is hope for the DSP after all...

September 28, 2010

First Impressions: Carp Fishing the South Platte

First impressions are crucial. From that meeting with a potential client to that joke you deliver in front of your peers, they are as important as that first cast to a skittish carp. I was luckily in the hands of one of Denver's finest brownliners. Yet, even he approached the venture with trepidation. With success, he finds both credibility in himself and his compadre. Fail, and we both delve into the abyss of mediocrity. Most men break under pressure.

There has been a lot of hype placed on the Denver South Platte. In it's glory days, untold numbers of fish breaking twenty pounds graced the pixels of overly proud bloggers; their success fat off their dominance over corpulent common carp. Yet many have failed to notice the increasingly difficult task of catching a DSP carp until recently. Not to downplay the Denver carp scene, but from my experience, the South Platte carp fishery is of similar challenge and merit of many other urban fisheries across the nation, an enigmatic endeavor.

ditch fishin'
I knew it was going to be a tough go of things when a subdued grey bodied carp crack pattern spooked the bejesus out of the fish from five yards away. These little monsters matched the natural forage present in these waters, crawfish. Even hover that fly above the surface and skittish fish would erupt in a boil, leaving a tell tale wake of despair and frustration. To fish of less sophisticated palates, however, poor man's lobster was welcome fare, even inciting chase and pursuit.

The DSP is known for it's incredible sight fishing; oddly enough, my first few takes on the pattern where caught swinging blind amongst the concrete rubble and sheet piling lining the bank. Urban warfare at its finest. Our clear water pursuits were fruitless, as clawed raptors have keen eyes for fish from a mile high, thus minimizing any possible chance we had with these cyprinids. Much like the tactics I've employed back home, these wary fish were using cover and deep water to protect themselves from masked river bandits. I find it fitting that the only landed carp of the trip was hooked underneath of an overpass, using the concrete shoring and shadows of the overhead bridge deck as cover. Pressured fish just don't make themselves vulnerable in clear water.

breaking the seal
Fortunately for me, the bandito lifestyle lends itself to the credo "Improve, Adapt, Overcome". A good roughfisher never gives up, and my persistence paid off by finally breaking the seal. Battling the odds of concrete pylons, steel shrapnel, bank shrubs, and a nearly straightened size 8 forged stainless steel O'Shaugnessy hook, my bandito brethren and I overcame the challenge and landed a beautiful mirror carp on the banks of the DSP, just downstream of the municipal water treatment plant. Perhaps it was the slowly suffocating grip of the ammonia coating our lungs, or the huge dose of pharmaceutical residues and adrenaline pumping through our veins, we were the Kings of the South Platte, if only for a day.

September 27, 2010

the headwaters

Fall Colors
Fall colors at the headwaters of the Mississippi, Itasca State Park. Aerial views taken from atop the Aiton Heights Fire Tower.

en fuego
The Continental Divide. Points east of the ridge drain into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi. Points west drain north into Hudson Bay via the Red River of the North.

southern edge continental divide
northern edge continental divide
A full panoramic vista of the Continental Divide. Click on the image for larger version.

Continental Divide

September 25, 2010

Glücklich Oktoberfest!

mini keg
Nothing wrong with this picture, even if it is an English Ale...

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der gemiitlichkeit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der gemiitlichkeit
(Cheer!) Eins, zwei, Drei g'suffa!
Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,
Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,

The Next Generation

What happens when you're bored fishing for squirrels.

September 23, 2010

Truth in Advertising

There's reality, and then there's actuality.
Scott ARC
Suck it Gracie, my ARC is lighter than your S4, with six additional inches to boot.

September 21, 2010

Under the Influence

Everyone seems to want to be writing up a best of show awards from the recent 2010 IFTD show in Denver earlier this month. Not to be outdone, here are a few of the *high*lights from Denver according to the roughfisher.

BEST FILM: 2010 Drake Film Awards

BEST COSTUME: ¡El bandito!
el bandito

wild hops

BEST TRUCKER HAT: Kyle "Mr. Social Media" Perkins
Kyle Perkins

BEST STREAMSIDE SCORE: Ribbed for her pleasure

BEST FISH PORN: Roughfisher's mirror from the DSP, Gracie behind the lens

BEST SPREAD: Gracie's house
tasty shit

BEST POSEUR: Gracie at the casting pond
Gracie at the casting pond

BEST BROMANCE: "When Gracie Met Roughie"
brothas from anotha mutha

BEST PARTY FOUL: 2010 Drake Film Awards After Party
Drake party carnage
Bravo! Looks like next year's competition in the Big Easy will be tough to beat...

September 20, 2010

Kindling for the Kindle

Kindle has gone mainstream and now offers our blog streaming to your Kindle. Don't know what a Kindle is? No worries, some of us knuckle draggers can barely even read good, let alone master a handheld electronic device. But for those of your who like to eat your literary sandwich off of the e-reader, knock yourself out.

Another great idea courtesy of the brilliant Michael Gracie, who I am watching like a hawk for my next move.

September 17, 2010

Get the Ark Ready

Fancy flow charts don't lie. Flows on the Otter Tail downstream of Fergus Falls are currently running at 1760 cfs. That's higher than what we had for spring flows, even after an above average snow pack.

shitty flows
This is the third highest flow on the OT since I moved up here in 2004, and the fourth highest peak flow since flows were first recorded in 1931. Current flows are nearly nine times the median for flows this time of year.
Other historical peak flows:
May 29, 2001: 2,040 cfs;
June 03, 2007: 2,000 cfs;
April 23, 2009: 2,020 cfs.

Just when I thought I was gonna get my game back together and start the fall hunt for sea donkeys... FML.

September 14, 2010

Adios Tweeps

After following Michael Gracie's lead (again), I too have resigned from the Tweet life. No, it wasn't because of something you tweeted that pissed me off. Long story short, I am trying to reduce my e-clutter.

I have met many good friends on Twitter so for those of you who I have abandoned, please feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook, and while you're at it, if you haven't done so already, join the fan page too.

September 13, 2010

Money Shot

el bandito, Michael Gracie © 2010
Photo used by permission from Michael Gracie © 2010

A big thanks to Michael Gracie for not leaving me out to die after a severe bout with "altitude sickness".

brutha from another mutha
Stay tuned for the full recap on the DSP.

September 6, 2010

Audi 5000 G

I'm off to the IFTD show in Denver.

While I'm out kicking ass on the DSP with Gracie and the boys and tossing back some High Gravity, you'll have to keep yourselves amused for the week with some of the classics from the archives. There'll be plenty of good shit to go around when I get back. I promise.

September 5, 2010


Trying to whittle down over a thousand flies into two boxes is always a chore. I'm down to about five hundred. Wish me luck.

A foolish heart is worse

A foolish heart will call on you,
To toss your dreams away,
Then turn around and blame you,
For the way you went astray,
A foolish heart will cost you sleep,
And often make you curse,
A selfish heart is trouble,
But a foolish heart is worse.

I'm just going through the motions of living..

September 3, 2010


Hard to believe it's September already. The weeks have flown by, countless days wasted working instead of being spent out on the river. Morning lows are finally threatening to dip into the thirties. Crimson hues are beginning to encompass the fringes of those saccharin laden maples, contrasting against the golden yellow school buses studiously making their way through the neighborhood route. While fall marks the return to school for most children, September also means that the International Fly Tackle Dealer (IFTD) Show is just around the corner.

Hurricane High Gravity
This year the roughfisher is making the voyage west to Denver to make the retailer show. That means a taco truck full of sick carnitas burritos, afternoons on the Dirty South Platte, and evenings chugging down some High Gravity a mile high. Thanks to MG the roughfisher has a couch to crash on and a throne to leave his mark behind. Sure, we will hit the show, make a few bizness transactions, and crash the annual after show parties like the Drake Flyfishing Video Awards. We'll be privy to sneak peaks at new products for 2011, maybe even post a few gear pics or reviews; I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time. I only wonder if Anheuser-Busch will be there so I can get sponsored by High Gravity...

We will be on the prowl. Our posse runs deep; flanked with the Primal Fly crew Denver is about to get the taste slapped out of its mouth. Time to go browntown and wreck some shit.

September 2, 2010

The New Bohemians

A twist to the czech nymph, in classic roughfisher style.

czecher nymphs
Bohemian nymph
Hook: Extra Strong Curved Size 8, barbless
Thread: 6/0 UNI, brown
Underbody: 0.20" Lead wire wrapped around thorax
Case: 1/4" strip latex, clear
Body: Brownstain or Olivine dub
Rib: Gold Ultra Wire, Brassie
Thorax: Glimmer Flash Chenille, Peacock or other contrasting color
Head: tapered thread

Note: the carapace is formed by pulling the latex strip back over body after it is dubbed. Tie in the Glimmer flash chenille around thorax area, pulling the latex forward over the chenille to the head and tie off. Color with permanent brown marker.