Colorado USA 2013
It was with great expectations that I got to return to USA after a drought of almost 11 years since my last visit to Colorado through my work. I was anxious to get there again and after getting an invite to fish the Americas cup with a few guys I knew and did not know I was like a dog with two tails.
After the long haul to Denver Colorado the first leg of my journey was to go and stay with a guy I had never met, only online almost like blind dates in fishing Rob Kolanda. Rob had fished on the Team USA group and was a very competitive angler in his own right fishing for Team USA in Europe he proudly wore that stars and stripes tie.
Working at the Front Range Angler in Boulder Colorado a top fly shop in Colorado www.frontrangeanglers.com with some of the best angler’s in Colorado working there Rob had a nice place to set up a wee fly tying demo by myself for some USA anglers. Since I have been in Colorado the shop has a new start, he’s not too bad a fisherman but a great friend of mine Antonio Rodrigues and my very good friend Randy Hanner, so you can see the shop has some great anglers not just from USA but from Europe also.
So, after the introductions to Robs wonderful family Tammy and William, I got settle into life in USA once again. I could not wait to get fishing the next day and to see what Rob had planned for me 😊.
So Fly Tying demo was the first order of business, I had a demo booked for a dozen or so people where they wanted to learn European Stillwater patterns and how to fish them, so that was my challenge of the day. So, after an enjoyable day tying and talking, just as I like to do and hopefully helping other to improve their fishing skills I had earned part of my pay for my new Simms G3 Waders. Waistcoat and Boots, tomorrow was the day to test them out.
Visit Shop and get ready to fish. License purchase $65 for the whole year we were sorted, now where should we go? Big Thomson was the reply and Sylvan dale ranch www.sylvandale.com was the stretch, normally a very hard to get to fish piece of water as its private, but Rob being the gentleman and me being the Scottish guy we were invited along to fish in this beautiful part of Colorado and this beautiful ranch.
We had a fantastic day and we caught a lot of fish, nothing huge maybe 18” was the biggest but fishing with my nylon leader and fishing just some various flies from Martin Droz and a few of my own PT nymphs we were catching loads and having a great time, big thanks to Sylvan dale for allowing us this opportunity to fish such a lovely piece of river.
Every little crease and nuek and cranie had at least one fish hiding in there. I have to say Rob looked very fetching in his Bawbag buff that I had brought over from Scotland for him, this was the first time in USA that they understood what a Bawbag was lol. Big thanks to Wullie McDonald the owner of Bawbags for supply me with gifts for the USA angler, including underwear and buffs. Bawbags are a Scottish company that selling underwear and various other items of clothing, not much different from other companies as you may think, but unlike others they actually give a percentage of their sales to Testicular cancer research which is a very worthy cause, hence the name Bawbags. www.bawbags.com
Unfortunately, the next day saw some of the worst ever floods in USA history in Colorado and Sylvan Dale was almost all washed away, the devastation was huge and I could not believe that some of the historic building some 100 meters back from the river and more were washed away. Rob and I were very privileged to be the last people to fish the old layout of the river and lodge. It has taken some years for the lodge to recover and the river but all is going well, I’m glad. Oh did I mention we went to a College American Football Game, what a show it was amazing and the amount of people there, we never stayed to the end and I still don’t understand that game lol, but the cheer leaders were fantastic.
Day Three – The Day of the Flood (Noah’s Day)
Rob had decided to head Wyoming to a couple of lakes and do some Stillwater fishing, I was happy with that to give my brand-new Echo 3 10’ 7wt c/w Echo Reels and Airflo lines a chuck. We left pretty early hooking up Robs Aluminium boat and off we set, some three hours later we were in Wyoming and buying some Squirrel skins and a license, happy days. The lakes in question were Twin Buttes and some other lake that was close, can’t remember the name of it but Twin Buttes won the day.
I set up with my usual kit, Di-5 Sweep and 2 Humungus on barbless hooks, Rob setup with his Blank saver and something else and off we went. Now even though we are friend’s we are competition anglers so you can guess what happened next, game on.
The lake was stunning and the water that aqua blue colour but not that big a manageable size, probably similar to the top half of the Lake of Mentieth in Scotland. Drifting down the middle of the lake it was not long before I had an almighty smack on my line and a fish of about 6lb smashed my 10lb Sightfree G3, I can’t remember the last time a fish hit me that hard, they wanted that humungus on that long slop pulls, I was getting excited.
Rob then bent into the first fish of the day a nice fish of a few pounds, we had this lake all to ourselves apart from one angler on a canoe with peddles. We then got to the weed beds and that’s where the fun started, we went fish for fish, every time rob hooked up from the engine side of the boat he would be saying to me that me one up again, then bang I was in again from the front of the boat, it was frantic at times but great fun and a good friendship was made between us that day. I lost count of how many of these beautiful rainbow trout’s we caught but we did finish equal, although my fish were bigger for sure lol.
Our day was cut short when the thunder storm that cause the huge floods started on the horizon it was spectacular forked lightning crazy rain, but in a boat made of metal was not a good idea. In to shore and out the boat, gear left in the boat and sat in the car until it had passed, which we though would never happen. Just shows you the power of mother nature as this was to destroy a lot of Colorado and the river systems in the coming days.
Day Four – Pick up by my Team
So, it was time to leave Rob, Tammy and William and head to the Mountains of Colorado namely Copper Mountain a Ski resort that one of my Team mates and good friend Michael Yelton owns a condo in the mountain I was excited. After waiting with Rob in what looked like a dodgy par tof Colorado for my pick I was on my way to Copper Mountain or so I thought. I was fishing with a team from North Carolina but there were two teams and we were all staying in different places. Ben Van Devender, his beautiful wife Heather and daughter and one of the other team members Justin Pickett in the Minivan we were on our way to Copper Mountain, well we never and we drove right past it, so I spent the night in Vail in the van trying to sleep lol.
Day Five – Meeting some Team Mates
In the morning I was introduced to one of my team mates who was already staying at the Condo in Copper Mountain he had already been there for a few days, Jeff Turner a nice guy and a guide from North Carolina. We got to know each other a bit and we headed off to fish the Blue River down by the shopping centre, as you would imagine not an ideal and scenic place to fish with such easy access. But no rubbish the river was clean and clear but there were a few people fishing combat style.
Jeff had already fished this bit a few days before and had taken some decent numbers and sizes of fish. As the water was so clear I decided to go into stealth and crawl mode, where Jeff decide to stand tall and big, and he was a big lad.
I had 6 fish one that had one eye so I had to pop my nymphs to the side that had the eye to catch that one, these fish are caught and released in this river all the time so they are not that easy to catch due to the fishing pressure and to catch 6 in a few hours was pretty good.
Stealth and popping nymphs in the streamy water where the fish and angler are less visible to each other was the key to success and PT nymphs/Frenchie’s again were the top flies for me.
Back to the condo to relax and eat, what a condo and view the place was stunning and its just as stunning every time I go back there and I’ve been a few times.
Day Six – Time to Meet the main Man Michael Yelton
Jeff headed off to pick up Michael from the airport and I got my kit organised and did some fly tying. We decided to go fish the Blue River again in a special part that not many know about, well the ones in the know do. We had some fish and Michael had a real nice fish about 20” and we got used to the flow rates on the blue and also used to the float boats piling through. I was having fun in the water was fast and strong and I headed downstream on my own.
I came out the water and decided to have a swing with some wet flies as a friend from overseas had told me he had some great success with them, I did not I caught nothing on them. However, when I came out the water to meet my team mates Michael pointed out a pile of droppings and then informed me they were fresh and that they were from a bear, nice but when your fishing you don’t really think of those things, maybe I should.
Day Seven – Colorado River and Black Lake
So, the rain had washed out the Colorado river when we arrived it was chocolate brown, Michael and Jeff decided to have a go I opted to watch instead, nothing was caught so we headed to Black Lake which was to be used as an alternative where I met up with Rob Kolanda and his team all practicing there. This lake quickly became known as Blank Lake, not Black Lake as one fish was winning the session for one angler, the only person to catch more than one was my good friend Devin Olsen form Team USA, he got 2 well done Devin.
Comp Day One
This was the first day I met with Ken Crane our other team member for the Competition, it was also the first day I met with John Knight and Jodi Knight whom I had become great friends with, this dynamic duo organised this comp and they also organised the World in 2016 that I will write about later. Amazing couple with a lot of passion, drive and determination.
So, day one I drew Sylvan Lake in the morning and Dillon Reservoir in the afternoon, both boat venues.
With Sylvan being the smaller of the two I got there to find out that I had drawn none other than Rob Kolanda as my boat partner, so a good morning was ahead of us.
What quickly showed for me was that my flies were too big for the fish in the lake, the average size was 22-28cms so not huge but plenty in there for the catching. I tried all type of European styles fished boobies and humungus and was beaten by Rob 14-8 although I was beaten I knew what I had done wrong and took note for the up and coming World Championships in 2016. I was getting a lot of offers, a lot more than Rob but they were tail nipping and coming short or just simply falling off the hooks, and Rob was having most of his success right below the boat on the hang 15’ down and that allowed him to lift the fish almost straight into the net. I was hooking fish at distance on the drop and loosing them when I was trying to get them to the boat, lessons learned for the Worlds in 2016. There were some great number caught but way out in front was Team USA Youth member Hunter Enloe with some 24 fish, using a blank saver and sitting behind all the other boats no one seen him smashing the fish, good tactics well done.
Off to Dillon Reservoir which was so much bigger and more dangerous, being a mountain water, it was freezing and as we did not have proper boats I did not feel comfortable at all. The lack of space in the float boats and also the seating position with your legs dangling over the side was not ideal. I was not a happy bunny in this boat, I did however draw John and Jodie son as my boatman so thanks to him for rowing us about.
Most of the boats went to the harbour side of the lake, I decide to head over the to the other side where it was empty and no one was fishing there. I had one the Team USA youth angler with me and I tried to help him as much as I could. After I had to change the way the boat was set up, the drogue on the wrong side me trying to cast over all the stuff and with legs dangling off the side, I felt I needed a seat belt. I manage 2 fish not a great result and lost a couple but was similar all around apart from one boat that had went all the way down the bottom and found a bit if shelter behind the island and 10 fish was the winning catch. I did not enjoy that session at all and hoped it would not be included in the up and coming Worlds. It wasn’t included thank goodness.
Comp Day Two
The Blue River (Private Water) in the morning and Black Lake (Blank) in the afternoon.
This was my first draw on the blue river and it was private water, a fantastic piece of water with amazing fish in it, I drew the furthest away beat and I ended up with my bus driver as my controller.
I had 7 fish and lost a few in a frantic 3 hrs, I know I should have had more but I tried my best and I felt good with 7, I got on the bus and there a few 8’s and a few 7’s and I got a 4th place I was happy with that although I lost a few fish.
Steve Parrot from Blue Quill anglers won that sessions with some huge fish, he had fun playing them. I really enjoyed this session and the water I had was amazing and I long for the day I can go fish that stretch again but being private like many parts of Colorado its difficult to get access.
Black Lake (Afternoon)
So, arriving here the rumours were already flying around that it was not good, as a last-minute alternative to the mighty Colorado River John and Jodi had no choice. It was bad the beats were among trees and a high sloping back so casting was basically a no go on half of the beats and roll casting was all that could be achieved. Some people were lucky to hook a fish and some people like myself hooked nothing it was a long boring 3 hour, until Rob Kolanda lost Sean Crocker’s truck keys in the long grass, what a panic that caused with some many of the anglers crawling about in the grass trying to retrace Rob footprints. It could only happen to Rob lol, they did find the keys it was a miracle.
I was glad to see the back of that Lake, well done Devin on two fish.
Last Day – Blue River Upper
The last day being a half day, one sessions as the prize giving was that evening I was to draw another nice piece of river on the Upper Blue.
I arrive and the bus was a little late but we still had our 30 mins to get setup and I met with my controller Woody, a great guy and he had his daughter with him all dressed in pink, she was happy running about the Forrest while Woody and I got down to the serious business of catching fish. I had a great stretch with some nice little runs but below me was a weir and it was out of bounds, it was stuffed with fish, dang it.
So, the whistle goes and I crawl into position I catch a fish almost right away, but I notice that the two competitors above me have not started fishing yet. I mention this to my controller and he says they should have, I carried on thinking they had just decided to take their time. I was to find out later that they were a bit naughty and decided to start 30 mins later, which should not have been the case so they could get 30 mins added on and catch the midday hatch, tut tut. One of those anglers caught most of his fish in the last 30 mins and won the sessions.
I caught 5 fish and worked hard for them, one fish was a cracking brown on the Hare’s Ear Rubber leg of 50cm and I was chuffed as you would be, I also met a new friend that day Woody a genuine character.
Closing Ceremony was well what it says a closing ceremony, medals were given out new friendships were formed and old ones rekindled and I’m lucky to say I have a lot of great friends in USA and I love hanging with them and fishing with them, I cannot mention them all but I will mention a few that helped make this trip and recon mission for the Worlds in 2016 happen.
John and Jodi Knight for the organisation of everything, Michael Yelton for being a great guy and letting us stay in the Condo, Randy Hanner for being a good mate and helping me out, Rob Kolanda for letting me stay with him and taking me fishing on his days off and all the others who had a great time. I truly hope that John and Jodi do not stop and will revive this amazing comp in the USA once again.
After that it was not time to head back to Scotland yet, I had one more adventure in North Carolina with Mac Brown and Josh Stevens to complete before I could go home, that's for another story.