Pat Dorsey’s Fishing Report: Cheesman Canyon – South Platte

Cheesman Canyon is one of the best tailwaters in the country. There’s a common belief among “canyon regulars” that if you can catch fish on the South Platte River, you can fool fish anywhere in the world. There’s no substitution for good technique in Cheesman Canyon.

Current Conditions 

Clarity: Excellent

14 Day Forecast:  Look for intermittent hatches of midges.

Tips and Other Information: Nothing has changed in Cheesman Canyon, it’s fishing tough right now with the low flows. Plan on working hard for every fish you catch!  But, the rewards are worth the effort. The fish in Cheesman Canyon are as special as they get. Your best bet is dead drifting tiny midge larvae and pupae in the slow, deep pools where the fish are stacked up for the winter.  There are a few risers in the slow pools and tailouts that are midging. These fish can be fooled with a Matt’s Midges or a Parachute Adams in sizes 24-26. Your greatest challenge is finding a feeding fish with the cold water temps. The water is coming out of the dam at 39 degrees, but quickly drops into the mid 30’s as it carves its way through the shaded canyon walls.

Effective Patterns:  #20-22 Mercury Midge, #20-22 Manhattan Midge, #20 Pale Olive Midge Larva, #22-24 Black Beauty, #22-24 Bling Midge, #22-24 Top Secret Midge, #22-24 Minute Midge, #22-24 Jujubee Midge, #22-24 Matt’s Midge, #22-24 Griffith Gnat, and #24-26 Parachute Adams.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX – TACTICS FOR AUTUMN FISHING – PAT DORSEY

Autumn is one of the best times of the year to fish with streamers. Many anglers get trapped in a rut and rarely do anything but nymph-fish. It’s important to remain open-minded, experiment with your tactics and techniques, and think outside the box from time to time.

During the autumn months, I typically carry a separate rod rigged with two streamers so that I have the flexibility to change tactics when necessary. I’ll routinely nymph a riffle or run first, then come back through with a tandem streamer rig looking for any opportunistic feeders that I may have missed. Some of the biggest fish of the year are fooled with streamers between September and November.

Make sure you carry an ample supply of streamers this time of year. I recommend using a tandem rig, with one light streamer as the lead fly, trailing a darker offering behind it.

Some of my favorite streamers include: Size 1/0-2 Barr’s Meat Whistle (black, olive, white, ginger, and brown), 8-10 Crystal Bugger (white, and olive), 8-10 Heng’s Autumn Splendor, 10 Pine Squirrel Leech (natural), 10 Goat Leech (brown and black), 2-6 Bennett’s Lunch Money (rainbow trout, easter bunny, olive, brown trout, sculpin brown, and black), Barr’s Slump Buster (natural, olive, and rust), and a Cone Head Sculpin.

When I am walk-wading, I typically fish these with a floating line, but don’t rule out using a Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 25 Cold to increase your sink rates when your fishing from a drift boat or inflatable raft.  It is designed with a 25 foot sinking head that gets your streamers deep quickly. When you want to get “down and dirty”, this fly line is a must-have!

new fly fishing gear reviews

Pat Dorsey Gear Review: Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Infinity Fly Line

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Infinity

The new Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Infinity is one of the finest fly lines available! I’ve been fishing it now for about 3 months and cannot say enough good things about it! The Amplitude Smooth Infinity is simply a game changer!

The Amplitude Smooth Infinity is designed a half-size heavy to load fast action rods, which is ideal for fishing dries, nymphs, and streamers. The AST Plus slickness additive is especially nifty as it assists in shooting line with ease and increases the fly lines durability.

Whether your fishing a smooth flowing tailwater, or an untamed freestone, this fly line does it all! The Amplitude Smooth Infinity has an extremely versatile taper that works well for short-line nymphing, delicate deliveries with tiny dry flies, or chucking heavily-weighted streamers. It roll casts like a champ; and when it comes to long-line nymphing, this fly line is a dream come true! I have never used a fly line that mends so easily.

The Amplitude Smooth Infinity is available in two colors: standard and camo. The camo line is designed with stealth in mind and incorporates a mottled frontend taper.

The Amplitude Smooth Infinity retails for $99.95. You can purchase it here https://store.bluequillangler.com/scientific-anglers-amplitude-smooth-infinity.html

Tight Lines – Pat Dorsey

FLY FISHING GUIDE TO THE SOUTH PLATTE RIVER – Revised Edition 2018 by Pat Dorsey

I’m happy to announce that a Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River is being completely  revised and updated.  It is expected to be in the warehouse by December 1, 2018, just in time for the holidays and the show season!

While a large percentage of the information in my original project is still applicable today, a lot of the material is out-of-date.  Over the past decade the river has changed as a result of drought, fires, flash floods, and a lot of fishing pressure.

My goals and objectives for this updated version of a Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River is  to produce a reasonably priced book in a smaller format that can be put into your fishing vehicle for a streamside reference. The revised edition of a Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River has new photos, maps, hatch charts, and fly images with corresponding recipes. The text is broken down into separate chapters for each river location (e.g., Cheesman Canyon, Eleven Mile Canyon, Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area, etc. ) to make it easy to navigate the South Platte corridor. Detailed maps pinpoint the holes and parking facilities in each location.

There are also individual chapters on hatches, tactics, tips, techniques and more much to help you become a better angler.  There are numerous side bars on important topics like the Hayman Fire, Whirling Disease, streamflow data, etc. all of which are helpful. As an added bonus, regional experts like Landon Mayer, Greg Blessing, Jeremy Hyatt, Chris Wells, and many more lend their expertise on the locations they guide on. They were willing to share their valuable information which is a win/win for everyone.

You can pre-order a signed copy at the Blue Quill Angler (www.bluequillangler.com). The cost of the book is $34.95, plus applicable shipping fees. –

Go-To Midge Larva for the Winter Season – Pat Dorsey

With the winter-season quickly approaching, fly-fishers need to break out their arsenal of tiny flies.  For the next several months, midges make up the bulk of a trout’s diet. I strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with a midges’ lifecycle (larva, pupa, and adult) and carry patterns to imitate the various stages of their development.

Midge larvae can be identified by their wormlike appearance. Larva are characterized by their slender, slightly curved, uniform abdomen with visible segmentation. Midge larvae look like little segmented tubes! Another distinguishing feature is their small head which is easily imitated with a few wraps of tying thread.  Most larvae you’ll encounter on  streams  range between one-eighth and one-half inch in length.

winter fly fishing with midges in colorado

Throughout the winter months, anglers need to carry a thorough assortment of midge larvae in size 18-20. Pale-olive and red larva are among the top producers.

Midge larvae are commonly found in cream, tan, gray, pale-olive and red. They live in the substrate of our rivers and attach themselves to aquatic vegetation, rocks, and branches. Some midge larvae burrow into mud and silt. The amount of midge larvae that reside in our streams is mind-boggling! According to Leonard C. Ferrington, Jr., a professor at the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota, “Midge larval densities depend on month of year, productivity of stream, and kinds of stream bottom substrates. Typical densities, however, may range from 800 to 2,000 larvae per square meter.”

Midge larvae living in low oxygenated areas of a trout stream are called blood worms or blood midges. They are blood-red because they contain an oxygen carrying pigment called hemoglobin that allows them to survive in areas with little or no oxygen.

Colorado Rainbow fooled with a red midge larva in the winter

This rainbow was fooled with a Bead Head Red Midge Larva. Midge larvae living in low oxygenated areas are referred to as blood worms or blood midges.

Midge larvae are an important food source for trout year-round because they get knocked loose from the substrate and drift continuously in the water column, a phenomenon referred to as constant drift. A constant supply of midge larvae is especially important for opportunistic trout when other aquatic insects are inactive. In most cases, opportunistic trout do not waste any time grabbing a midge larva that is floating helpless in the current.

Here are a few my favorite midge larva patterns that have proven themselves over the years. I strongly recommend adding these to your midge selection if haven’t already done so.

Dorsey’s Pale Olive Larva
Hook:  Size 18-20 Tiemco 2487
Thread: 8/0 Light Cahill Uni-Thread
Abdomen: Clear Hareline Micro Tubing

Bead Head Red Larva
Hook:  Size 18-22 Tiemco 200R
Bead: red glass extra small
Thread: 8/0 red Uni-Thread
Abdomen: Red Hareline Micro Tubing

Miracle Nymph
Hook:  Size 18-22 Tiemco 100
Thread: 6/0 white Danville
Underbody: 8/0 black Uni-Thread
Abdomen: 6/0 white Danville
Head: 8/0 black Uni-Thread

Mayer’s Tube Midge
Hook: Size 18-22 Teimco 2488
Thread: Red 8/0 Uni-Thread
Abdomen: Clear Hareline Midge Tubing with red Ultra Wire inserted into tubing
Head: Black 8/0 Uni-Thread

McCannel’s Neon Nightmare Midge
Hook: Size 18-22 Tiemco 2488 H
Thread:  70 denier white UTC Thread
Rib: 70 denier orange or pink UTC  Thread
Clear Coat:  5 minute epoxy

Midge Larva Fishing Strategies

Larvae doesn’t require the same amount of finesse as it does with pupae or adults.  I typically dredge my larvae imitations close to the substrate when there are no obvious hatches. My nymph rig includes three flies: One attractor (red midge larva, egg pattern, etc.) and two droppers. Make sure you check your local fishing regulations pertaining to tandem rigs. In some states you can fish with three flies while others you can only use two.

​Egg-midge combos are effective a large percentage of the winter because there are always a few trout spawning in our streams. Oftentimes the egg-pattern draws attention to the midge imitation. I frequently use a red midge larva as an attractor with the same goals in mind.

If there are no obvious hatches, I’ll trail two larva imitations off my attractor.  To get my flies down in the current, I place a #6 split shot on my leader about 12 inches above my first fly. Then I put some JP’s Nymphing Mud over the split shot to get my flies to the desired depth.  If you’re not occasionally picking a little moss off your nymphs you’re probably not deep enough!

Once I begin seeing a few adults buzzing around the stream, I’ll swap out my bottom dropper with a pupae imitation. Some of my favorites include: Size 20-24 Black Beauties, Top Secret Midges, Manhattan Midges, Medallion Midges, Minute Midges, Jujubee Midges, and South Platte Brassies. This allows me to cover my bases and imitate both larvae and pupae, the predominant food organisms on any given day during the winter months.

Between November and March it is important to concentrate your efforts in the slow, deep runs and pools. This is precisely where trout overwinter, trying to maximize their food intake while expending the least amount of energy. The best fishing is between 11 a.m and 3 p.m. when the water temperatures are conducive to finding a few feeding trout.

Pat Dorsey

new fly fishing gear reviews

GEAR REVIEW: Fishpond’s Gunnison Guide Pack by Pat Dorsey

Fishpond Gunnison Guide Lumbar Pack is the new standard in fly fishing hip packs that will comfortably carry all you need for a day on the water.

After 25 years of guiding in one of the most rugged canyons in the west, I appreciate quality products that make my job easier.  Comfort, durability, and performance are of the utmost importance when amassing fly fishing gear to battle the elements.

I hate to admit it—but I’m a gear-junkie! I’m always looking for new ways to have the upper hand in fooling selective trout. Each season when new merchandise becomes available, I make it a point to get up to speed with the latest and greatest equipment.

For the past three months, I’ve been using Fishpond’s Gunnison Guide Pack.  Built and designed for anglers who carry a lot of fly boxes, terminal tackle, and other gear into rugged terrain like the Gunnison Gorge and Cheesman Canyon, the Gunnison Guide Pack is a must-have for any serious angler!

The Gunnison Guide Pack integrates the best features of Fishpond’s other proven lumbar packs, with additional space to keep things organized. The Gunnison Guide Pack is constructed out of recycled Cyclepond nylon. It is lightweight, comfortable, and extremely durable! Additional features include a net holder, places to hold large fly boxes or water bottles, fly patches, gadgets, and tools (Headgate Tippet Holder, Arrowhead Retractor, Sawtooth Clipper, etc).

Fishpond’s Gunnison Guide Pack is lightweight, comfortable, and durable. Its spacious design allows anglers to keep their gear organized without any compromise.

What’s Inside

A productive day on the water begins with flawless organization. The Gunnison Guide Pack has two compartments that hold everything you’ll need to spend a long day on the water. Each section is equipped with with either open-ended or zippered pockets. The rearward compartment holds a dozen fly boxes, leader wallet, camera, and much more.

I use several varieties of fly boxes to keep organized.  I am a huge fan of the Richard Wheatley Swing Leaf Fly Boxes. They allow me to stock upwards of 2000 flies per box. I typically carry at least two of them with me at all times. I also tote along several of the new Umpqua UPG LT fly boxes. I fill these with my go-to guide flies that I use on a regular basis. This allows for easy access and quick restocking without any hassles.  For dry flies, I use Myran 1800 Fly Boxes. These fly boxes help protect the hackle from getting damaged, in comparison to ripple foam models that have a tendency to mash down the bottom side of my flies.

I store a thorough assortment of leaders (7 and 9 foot) ranging in size 2X to 5X in a leader wallet. It comes with several re-sealable plastic compartments to keep your leaders separated and organized by size and length.  I carry extra spools tippet, both nylon and fluorocarbon in sizes 2X to 7X.

In the front zippered pouch, I stash my terminal tackle: Yarn strike indicators, Thingamabobbers, split shot, JP’s Nymphing Mud, tape measure, stomach pump, Aqua floatant, Dry Shake, Frogs Fanny, and sunscreen. This compartment affords anglers with easy access to commonly used items.

If you’re looking for a new lumbar pack, I would highly recommend Fishpond’s Gunnison Guide Pack.

Pat Dorsey

Dry or Die – Dry Fly Fishing Season in Colorado

Anglers throughout the state of Colorado are finding excellent dry fly fishing as of late so the Dry or Diehards should be extremely happy!!  Currently, Colorado’s tailwaters are providing fly-fishers with reliable dry fly fishing with pale morning duns, yellow sallies, caddis and Tricos. River levels are perfect and the trout are eating a variety of surface offerings with confidence!

Brian Leen fooled this beautiful Roaring Fork brown trout with a size 12 Mathew’s Sparkle Dun Green Drake. The green drake hatches have been excellent as of late on many of Colorado’s fabled freestone rivers.

Freestones streams are providing legendary dry fly fishing with caddis, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, golden stoneflies, and green drakes. Nymphing is not even a consideration right now with the explosive dry fly fishing! Anglers can begin their day by fishing with caddis or yellow stimulators, then switch to PMD’s mid day, then the finale includes green drakes between 1 and 3 p.m.

If you’re a die hard, you’ll find good caddis fishing in the evenings after 5 pm. Flies of choice have been #14-16 yellow Stimulators, #14-16 yellow Humpies, #10-12  Green Drakes,  Mathew’s Sparkle Dun PMD, and #14 Elk Hair Caddis.

In the Gunnison Valley, anglers are experiencing one of the best green drake hatches in recent memory. If you are fortunate enough to have overcast skies, the dry fly fishing is a good as its gets.  Its not uncommon to see 8-10 fish rising in a glassy pool or in the tailout of a run. On a recent float below Almont, my partner and I netted 20 fish a piece on green drakes and lost many, many more. The caddis and pale morning dun hatches are equally impressive right now in the Gunnison Valley!

A thorough selection of green drakes are important right now. I would recommend carrying size 10-12 Mathew’s Sparke Dun, Hair Wing Green Drake Emergers, Parachute Green Drakes, Extended Body Green Drakes, and Colorado Hen Wing Green Drakes. Make sure you carry and ample supply as the strikes are aggressive and its not uncommon to have several break off’s.

Look for the state’s dry fly fishing to stay strong for the remainder of the summer season. Get out while you can–it’s pretty impressive right now! – Pat Dorsey 

Why European Nymphing is so Effective

The main difference between European Nymphing and Traditional setups are simple yet small changes that make the system more efficient in getting the flies in the right zone quicker. There is no indicator (suspension device) attached to the leader that floats on the surface but rather is incorporated into the leader itself.  This serves two purposes, one strike detection via a visual clue, deviating or pausing during the drift and secondly this in-line system will tell you what the flies are doing below the surface as the indicator/sighter will always point to where the flies are.  For example, you make a cast and hit a faster current that is sweeping away from your position in the stream, the indicator/sighter will point at the opposite bank and the flies will sweep high in the water column instead of sinking.

The next added benefit to fishing the Euro methods is you no longer have to fuss and fight with adding or removing split/tungsten putty to the leader.  You simply use a lighter or heavier fly with changing water conditions. Ideally you will carry the same patterns in several different weights by varying the bead size or adding a small amount of lead wire just behind the bead.  To make identifying simple, you can color code the head of the flies with different thread color in the beginning but eventually, you will be able to look at the bead size or feel the weight difference in your hand.

One of the most important tools you can have is a Euro Specific rod. It is hard to commit those hard earned dollars to such a specific nymphing method but you will soon realize it was worth every penny. There are several options from Sage, Redington, Cortland and Syndicate that will fit your price point.

Major Benefits from a longer fly rod:

  • Increased sensitivity/strike detection from super supple tips that fish under load (slightly bent) as well as light tippet protection which sinks way faster than larger diameter tippet.
  • Ability to cover more water with added reach of 10′ or longer rods and adjust your drift depth by raising or lowering instead of changing weight or moving indicator
  • Improved fish fighting ability and better angles when landing fish (better leverage and angle)

The next and most overlooked piece of equipment is the fly line itself.  Your standard weight forward fly line works for propelling your rig out into the river but then begins to cause issues during the drift.  Because the leaders are longer, very little fly line is out of the rod tip and fishing with the rod tip elevated, this type of line wants to slide back toward the fly reel introducing slack into the system.  The solution to this in the beginning was spooling the reel with monofilament or fluorocarbon line which was light enough to maintain tension in the system to better transmit strikes.  The one issue with this setup was the line would twist over time from casting and wrap around the tip of the rod which created a multitude of issues including breaking the rod tip when setting the hook.  The solution to this was a 4 month collaboration between RIO and Steve Parrott creating the RIO Euro Nymphing Fly Line which is a modified double taper line that is 80′ long with the tip section measuring .023″ and the middle of the line .025″.  As you can see, there is not a ton of taper to the fly line over 40′ which makes the fly line act like an extension of the leader.  Casting this thin diameter line is not as hard as you may think because the weight of the flies will pull the leader/fly line through the guides with ease and there is very little slack in the line/leader system which will drastically increase sensitivity.

Most people get these basics above with the heavier flies and longer rods but really do not understand the actual concept of fishing these methods.  Most think you cast the heavily weighted flies upstream and then drag them back down stream at the speed of the current.  While this may work occasionally, it is the most common misconception about these techniques.  With some instruction or practice, most anglers will have that moment of awakening where they see the surface currents (foam, bubbles or debris) racing by while the sighter is slowly moving downstream.

Why is this?  Hydrodynamics!!!

What is hydrodynamics you may ask?  Hydrodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with the motioon of fluids and the forces acting on solid bodies immersed in fluids and in mo4on relative to them.  Whoa!!!!!  Too much technical information for fly fishing you might say but it is actually a very simple concept.  In the image below, you can see that the water in the middle of the river channel is a pretty straight flow with the fastest being at the surface and the slowest at the bottom of the river or stream. Why is this?  Simple, the uneven bottom of the river causes the water to deviate around rocks, depressions and other structures which provides cover and food delivery for fish in the heaviest of flows.  This is where the thin diameter tippet section of Euro leader slices through the faster flows and allows the flies to tumble in the slower bottom section without drag unlike a traditional tapered leader that is larger in diameter and gets caught up in the faster currents at the surface requiring you to mend.

 

Here you can see a cross-section diagram of a traditional vs Euro leader and how the hydrodynamics of the stream affect them. This is the real key to why Euro Nymphing is so successful!!!

Traditional Nymphing Setup

     Euro Nymphing Setup

There are those that think Euro Nymphing is snagging fish and not really fly fishing which really baffling as realistically, it is one of the purest forms to effectively deliver flies where the fish are residing in the river.  The bottom line is having fun on the river and this style of fishing is very interactive as you are not only feeling the takes through the rod but are able to control exactly what the flies are doing throughout the drift which will only make you a better angler as you will have a better understanding of the interaction of your flies in the current.

Give it a shot and decide for yourself!!

Mathew’s Sparkle Dun Dry Fly

Craig Mathews of West Yellowstone, Montana invented the Sparkle Dun during the late 1980’s.  Mathews owns and operates Blue Ribbon Flies in the Yellowstone National Park area and is considered the local guru in the park region.  Mathews has studied the Yellowstone hatches for more than 30 years and is the co-author of the Yellowstone Fly Fishing Guide, which is the authoritative book to the fabled Yellowstone area.

Mathew’s Sparkle Dun is tied to imitate a variety of mayfly duns—green drakes, pale morning duns, blue-winged olives, Tricos, and red quills. Color and size varies depending on the species.  The Sparkle Dun is my favorite blue-winged olive dun imitation. The Sparkle Dun “fishes” better than conventional hackled patterns because it sits flush in the film like the naturals.Mayfly duns provide technical (small flies, long leaders, and super selective trout feeding in gin clear water), yet rewarding dry fly fishing in the spring, summer, and fall.  The BWO Sparkle Dun is a must-have pattern for tailwaters and spring creeks in April and May and then again in September and October. Hatches often extend until mid-November in many drainages.

Picture

This beautiful South Platte Rainbow was fooled with a Mathew’s Sparkle Dun. It is my go-to fly during the height of an “olive” hatch.

I typically fish my Mathew’s Sparkle Duns with 9-foot leaders terminating in 6 or 7X tippet. I use 6X for size 18, and 7X for 20-22. If you are getting refusals with 6X, drop your tippet size down, and watch your drag closely.

If you notice your fly traveling faster than the current or creating a V above your fly, you may need to reposition yourself in the current to offset any conflicting currents.  Sometimes changing your angle of attack can make a huge difference in a drag free presentation.

Another option is to use a slack line cast, such as a S cast or a reach mend to put a little slack in your line to keep the fly from dragging.  In most cases, the fly only needs to float drag free for a few inches; so don’t get carried away with super long casts.

I hope you enjoy this fly as much as I have over the years.  Mathew’s Sparkle Dun is a game-changer no doubt! – Pat Dorsey

Pat Dorsey’s Fishing Report: Blue River

The Blue River is a pocket water paradise. There are miles of public water between the town of Silverthorne and Green Mountain Reservoir for you to sample.

Current Conditions

Flow: 81 cfs Silverthorne

Clarity: Excellent

Water Temperature: Low to mid 40’s

Hatches: Midges

14 Day Forecast:  Look for low flows and technical fishing. Anglers can expect to see sporadic hatches of midges. Target the traditional winter lies (slow, deep pools) where you’ll find the largest concentration of fish.  The best fishing is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Tips and Other Information:  Considering the time of year, conditions are ideal in the town of Silverthorne, and fishing has been good. Anglers can expect to see sporadic hatches of midges with the occasional riser in the slower pools and tailouts.  In addition to the trout eating midge larva and pupa; Mysis Shrimp imitations are fooling a decent number of fish.  A red larvae or a Mysis pattern trailed with darker pupa has been an effective rig as of late. Its hard to go wrong with a size 26 Parachute Adams to fool the trout feeding on adult midges.
 
Effective Patterns:    #20-22 Mercury Flashback Pheasant Tail, #20 Laney’s Mysis, #22-24 Mercury Black Beauty, #22 Red Midge Larva, #20-24 Brassie, #22-24 WD 40, #18 Hot Tail Flash Egg, #24-26 Parachute Adams, and #22 Matt’s MidgeBlue Quill Angler’s veteran guides who frequently visit many of these streams on a daily basis guiding their clients.  We have guides on the South Platte, Blue, Colorado, William’s Fork and North Fork several times a week. This incredible network allows you to share their successful tips, and techniques as well as keeping you informed on effective fly patterns.