Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Skunked on the Blue and the Gunnison

Blue River

Gunnison River
I took a trip of a lifetime this summer after I finished my Ph.D. and the first stop was Colorado for a conference and, of course, some fishing.  In the first week I was lucky  enough to fish both the Blue river and the Gunnison.  Both of which are blue ribbon trout streams known around the world for stellar trout fishing.  There was only one problem.  I got skunked on both rivers.  This years epic snow pack was still on the move down the rivers of Colorado into August.  From what I could gather, that is about a month and a half longer than normal.  Walking back from a rather demoralizing experience on the Blue, with a blanket hatch in the air, I ran into a rafter who asked me if I had any luck.  You could tell by the sheepish sideways smile on his face when he asked that he already knew the answer but was hopeful something had changed.  I said no luck but that the hatch was out of control.  He said "Yeah man, Its all blown out man."  "It'll be epic in September though!"  He's probably right. That didn't help me out any but I hope things have picked up for him by now.   What I did gather from that trip is that the rivers in Colorado are big and they are even bigger in Wyoming and Montana, more on that later. I am used to fishing rivers I can walk across but these beasts are not to be messed with.  Granted the run off was raging but even in low flows these rivers are too big to cross.  They are filled with varying currents and pockets that will send you back to mending school.  And with the currents moving like they were, one really appreciates arial mending or a reach cast.  I am probably the last person anyone should be taking casting advice from but the reach cast is handy and you should use it because it is easy and it helps you catch more fish.  There is probably a good youtube video with someone demonstrating a reach cast but I'll try to briefly explain it here and give you a pointer or two on making it work.  The reach cast is best used when casting at a 45 degree angle up stream and drifting down to a 45.  It you cast normally you line will be pointing at your fly at a 45.  To reach cast, instead of following your line to the water with your rod, reach up stream like you are meaning as the line is falling to the water.  If you did it right your line will be about  perpendicular to the current.  This line angle will create a better drift and significantly reduce the slack line you have on the water.  The problem is this technique shortens your cast. Fortunately, it is easy to compensate because it shortens you cast by the same distance you move the line up stream.  Typically about a 6-8 foot over shot should give you the distance you want. 

Painted Wall in the Black canyon of the Gunnison NP

Gunnison river in the NP

Friday, August 12, 2011

Winston GVX and Allen reels

Great looking rod and reel. I love my new setup!  I added a walnut handle to the Allen reel.  They come with a matching aluminum handle.
I recently finished my Ph.D. and got a few sweet graduation gifts.  The first was a Winston GVX 9' 5 wt rod.  It has been on my "fly rod of the moment" ever since it was released.  Now that I have had about a month to fish and cast with it, I feel like I can give a fair and balanced review.  My first impression was "wow, what a smooth rod to cast." It is billed as a fast action rod but I think it fished very well with more open loops when using two fly, or indicator rigs.  I now know what they mean by the classic Winston action.  My Ascent is a nice rod but seems to be a little rough around the edges compared to the GVX.  It has some serious gun to it also.  I could launch a cone head bugger about 60 feet without a problem.   Now, the conehead sculpzilla I got at a fly shop in Missoula was a different story.  The guy there said he could cast it without a problem with a 5wt.  All I have to say is he must have been one hell of a caster.  I, on the other hand, needed a helmet and maybe some body armor if I were going to cast that thing around with a 5.  I did get it out across the stream a few times, fearing for my life each time that thing whipped by my head.  Both decent casts got strikes when nothing else was working mid-day, but after a few near misses I had to take that beast off.  I'll stick with my 7wt for streamers.  All in all I think the GVX did everything on the stream well. The only thing that I noticed, which is likely user error, was the bottom ferrule would be loose sometimes after casting a couple hours.  Better than a sticky ferrule I guess. 

Update: 8-28-2012

I've fished my winston GVX for over a year now and I love it as much today as I did when I first got it.  What it does best: Dry flys.  This rod is a smooth casting, pinpoint accurate, dry fly casting machine.  It does everything else I have tried well too.  I can chuck a cone head bugger with a double haul into a lake about 50 feet and can toss two nymph rigs with a big heavy point fly or split shot with no problem either.  I have fished a 6 wt with cumbersome nymph rigs and that is better but to have the ability to switch to a dry dropper and toss those with the GVX is worth dealing with a slightly less than ideal wt. rod with nymphs.  What I don't like:  The handle hardware seems a little cheap for a $500 rod.  That's about it.  I love the color, the aluminum rod tube and most of all, the way it casts.
Nice female Colorado River Cutthroat

The next awesome gifts I got were two Allen trout series fly reels.  Why two? Apparently, Allen sent the wrong color on the first order and when my wife called them about it they said to keep the black one and they would send the gun metal color for free.    If that doesn't tell you that Allen has the best customer service around, then I don't know what would.  The reels are machined 6061 bar stock aluminum with a carbon disk drag and are right around $100.  I have looked around at reels for a really long time and there is absolutely no better reel for the price right now than an Allen.  In fact, the Allen trout reel is probably as good or better than any $250 reel on the market.  They also just released the Alpha II which is their big game reel and if it is anything like the equipment they sent me it will not disappoint.  Check out their fly tying hooks fly boxes too.  Sweet deals.  I also bought line from Allen and used it on my trip. They have all the usual sizes in DT and WF plus a few sinking lines all for $20.  Unfortunately, they don't have sinking rates or any specific info on the sinking line.  They were so affordable I thought I would give it a shot.  I used the 5 wt WF the most and so far it seems to float as well as other lines.  It has very low memory and came with a welded loop.  On the down side, it got hot one day and I think the line coating picked up some sand or some kind of grit to make it rough.  I'll try to clean it off and see how that goes but it started to cast with quite a bit of resistance after that incident.  I'll post a longer term review of the line after I have used it a few more times.

Update: 8-28-2012

Yeah, the line sucks.  I took it off mostly because the color was too bright for where I fish but mostly because it really wasn't that good.  For $20 maybe get one to toss in your bag for emergencies but it is not a long term line solution.  The reel, on the other hand, is still awesome for the price.  I did have one problem, I put the reel in the water and got some sand in the drag system.  I tried to take it apart to clean it but striped a screw.  I contacted Allen and heard back right away.  They said that screw is reverse thread...no wonder I stripped it.   They repaired the reel for free and upgraded the drag.  I got the reel back super fast and it has been perfect ever since.  The 3-5 reel which is now their 3-4 reel is a little small for a DT 5wt and the larger reel looks too big for a 5 wt.  I am basically running with no backing but really, will I ever see my backing on my 5 wt?  Probably not.  I do try to keep it out of the sand, but for $100?  Its awesome.  

Male Colorado river cutthroat in full spawning colors with my new Allen reel.  I hope this one wins me the photo of the week contest!