Mark's Novel on Kindle

Monday, January 31, 2011

Link to our book

Looking at some spring fishing:  in the hopper?  Red River, Rio Hondo, Rio Grande NM, Gila Wilderness. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Playing the Spring Runoff Game in Southern Colorado

You know the drill:  spring has thawed, snow is melting off the mountains, you have your fishing gear in the truck and you’re ready to go.  But where do you go a-fishin’ in Colorado when most rivers are running high?  Of course, you can hit the usual crowded tailwaters like the Frying Pan, the Blue or the Taylor and fight for space with other disgruntled anglers or, and here is the gist of the article, you can try a new angle, some new waters. 
I’ve been there too many times before.  Tie flies all winter, clean my gear, check my rods and line, get out the maps and plan the first fishing trip; check the fishing reports, peruse the weather predictions, choose a fishery then haul all my gear to one of my favorite rivers only to have seriously underestimated nature.  The river is as swollen as Mrs. Doubtfire.  Nature 1, Me 0. 
To begin with, anglers give up too quickly on high water.  Roily. Muddy. Spate.  Sometimes the best conditions for catching the most trout or the biggest trout are during this kind of high water, especially spring runoff.  The fish are less wary and much hungrier, the stoneflies are in the air and on the water and you are not as visible a target to the trout as in stiller times.  You do have to toss heavy nymphs and you can’t fish dry flies and you won’t see many rising fish but if you work the water, the payoff is there. 
You don’t want to fish high water, now do you?  What are the interesting options in southern Colorado?  How do you maximize your fishing trip so that if one fishery is blown out, you have other nearby choices?  How to play the Runoff Game and win?  I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite waters in southern Colorado that are usually fishable when other better-known trout rivers are not.

Hermosa Creek

This tributary to the Animas River, located north of Durango, behind Durango Mountain Ski Resort, is tailor-made for dry fly enthusiasts. Hermosa Creek runs through meadows covered in wildflowers, in a wooded canyon, past thick green forests, its cold transparent waters coursing through true wilderness on its way to meet its larger sister. Hermosa is where the Durango fishing guides get away for a fun day off to pick pocket water for eager brook, brown and rainbow trout.
            It’s a good hike from the parking lot back into lower Hermosa.  The trail is hard-packed, not especially crowded nor is it sweet solitude but the trail is up and down; you are far from the river then up above the river looking down, then riverside.  And you want to walk past those lazy bums who quit hiking the minute they got to a close access.  Just keep on walking.  The fishing is so much better the farther you walk. 
            Hermosa Creek is drop-dead gorgeous. Pamela Anderson in her prime.  The water gurgles and percolates around grey-white rocks, dumps and drops into plunge pools, slashes under cut banks, wiggles and riffles, dances and dips.  Dry fly nirvana. 
            The trout are bigger than they ought to be in a stream this size. From time to time, lucky anglers land a trout eighteen-inches legit.  The average size rainbow and cuttbow you’ll catch will be in the 10-14 inch range, the brookies will be fat and bigger than you expect. Hermosa trout rise willingly to dry flies, hatch or not.  Just get a good presentation, decent drift over new water, and you’ll get a strike. 

East Fork Hermosa Creek
Another option for small stream fishing is the East Fork of Hermosa Creek, a feeder creek to Hermosa Creek that, at first glance, doesn’t look like much. Wrong.
This winding meadow stream is both easy and challenging, beautiful and maddening. 
This is great flyfishing water, packed with small, feisty, colorful brook trout and sometimes Colorado cutthroats. This is also challenging angling, the water nearly invisible, the trout skittish, the casting demanding. Undercut banks hide these brilliant but diminutive natives. East Fork is a spring creek that snakes slowly across thick grassy meadows and hilly slopes.  Every now and again, you’ll catch a twelve-inch cutt or a ten-inch brookie that makes you forget all the six-inch trout you’ve been catching.  And the colors on these wild trout are Technicolor crazy. 
            The East Fork, at ten or twelve feet wide at its widest, and is chockfull of fish.  When it’s running high, the creek spreads out all over the meadow and you can fish a 100-yard long area for hours with every lie a bounty.  Let all the other anglers drive across the East Fork to the parking lot and hike into big sister, Hermosa Creek while you fish the pockets and cut-banks and bank pools of the little sister. 

Williams Creek: 
Located north and west of Pagosa Springs, this tailwater that doesn’t look or act like a tailwater is a year-round producer.  Because this rocky stream flows from Williams Reservoir (consistent flows and temps), because there is so much public water (can’t argue with lots of water), because the road parallels most of the river (easy access), an angler can find numerous reasons to fish Williams Creek all year long, especially during spring runoff.  
The fishery has been up and down in recent years but has remained incredibly productive.  Despite heavy usage, you can always find solitude, your own long stretch of water.  Stay away from the obvious access points, park your car along the road and take a short walk to the river that runs beside the dirt road.  There you can fish in the canyon and the pocket water or you wade in the meadow water with its instream improvements. The scenery is as breathtaking as any in the San Juans especially up at Williams Reservoir
You’ll catch mostly rainbows and cutts in the lower reaches, brookies and cutts above the lake. A few years ago, you’d catch some whoppers every now and again from this small stream but lately, not so much. The average size trout isn’t worth bragging about but you can certainly have 20 to 30-fish days, flyfishers and spincasters alike.  Don’t forget to fish the inlet and outlet of the reservoir for cruisers.  To reach Williams Creek, head west from Pagosa Springs on Hwy 160, turn north for twenty miles on Piedra Road and don’t get freaked out when it turns into FR631. After you cross Piedra Bridge, the road follows the river. 

La Jara Creek:
             Take me seriously on these two warnings: 1) watch for rattlesnakes and 2) bring plenty of attractor flies in all shapes, sizes and patterns.   Along with the Cimarron River in New Mexico and Cebolla Creek near Lake City, the La Jara is one of the top wild brown trout fisheries in the Southwest and like the other two, the La Jara is great if you like catching wild browns on dry flies.  La Jara Creek is ideal as part of a three-pronged option with nearby fisheries, the Rio de los Pinos and the Conejos River. 
            La Jara Creek is not the prettiest river you’ll ever fish in Colorado.   Rocky, dusty, high desert.  The payoff? Big pools, lots of pocket water and slashing aggressive brown trout that will tear apart your flies.  The trout don’t typically grow large in this river below La Jara Reservoir but they are chunky and mean-spirited. 
When the snowpack is normal, La Jara dry fly fishing is superb from early May to early July.  The stonefly hatches in late spring, early summer are delicious. The caddis hatches are often heavy.  And the river isn’t just for flyfishers but fishes well if you like to fish worms or spinners, too.  Don’t discount the upper La Jara early especially if you can defeat the mud and snow to get back in there for isolated fishing. The trout are wilder and they take pretty much anything you toss their way.  Located west of La Jara and south of Alamosa. 

Rio de los Pinos:

I don’t want to put this one in this article but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t.  Writers like to keep these kinds of gems to themselves.  But getting back into the upper Rio de Los Pinos is so hairy, so serpentine, so remote, I’m not that worried you are really going to camp beside me. 
Oh, when you read about the cascading clear cold water, the miles and miles of perfect solitary trout water holding native Rio Grande cutthroat as pure as any Colorado river, and the brook trout as fat as small canned hams, you’ll want to take part in the adventure but it’s daunting.  The roads into the upper Los Pinos are potholed, muddy in the spring and early summer.  It’s easy to get turned-around. 
You’ll likely not see a soul on the upper reaches of the river.  I’m not talking about the crowded mile or two just above Trujillo Meadows for you will run into folks there but that seemingly-unending stretch that is reached from Forest Road 188 and its spiderweb of dirt road arteries.  The upper Rio de los Pinos is easily waded, picture-perfect with short deep pools, long runs, choppy riffles, undercut banks, big rocks and all kinds of other ideal trout habitat.  And for the topper?  These Rio Grande cutthroats are the prettiest trout on the planet, a jumble of    

Uncompaghre River: 
Below Ridgway Reservoir flows the Uncompahgre River, a few miles of rehabilitated tailwater, a stretch of obvious in-stream improvements and anecdotes galore of huge trout. The locals call it Jurassic Park for all the big dinosaurs they’ve caught in its green waters.  It’s really like no other trout fishery I’ve ever seen. 
Ridgway Reservoir is the lake-as-filter, and it effectively screens out the acidity and silt and helped this once-productive river return to normalcy after years of suffering from mining.  The fishing gets better year after year.
The fishing isn’t for every angler.  The park is a little theme park, cultivated and manicured with all the rehab work, the streamside sidewalks, the fancy campgrounds. You’ll be fooled by the dancing water thinking you can fish it like a typical freestone stream --- you cannot. You’ll have dreams of sugar plums dance in your head when you see the weirs and rocks, the tails of these pools but don’t fish exclusively there.  The big fish are typically brood fish and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 
Cut-banks are the key to catching these big fish.   You can catch fish in the pools but try these banks. The water along the banks is deep, cut way back under and that’s where you can do some real damage.  Swing a streamer under the bank or plop a splashy nymph or present a drag-free Blue-Winged Olive and whammo! You’ll catch a variety of trout including Colorado River cutthroat, Snake River cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout. 

South Clear Creek and North Clear Creek:             
Not many anglers have ever heard about these two productive streams, not even seasoned, avid anglers of southern Colorado.  On the map, they’re unremarkable, feeder creeks to the Rio Grande.  North Clear Creek flows through a big wide open meadow before it drops over cleverly-titled North Clear Creek Falls, tumbles through a rocky canyon before tidying up through campsites in a huge open park.  South Clear Creek has a barely-marked road and you won’t find any books or articles that can tell you much about it. 
So go there.  Fish both of them. Trust me. 
North Clear Creek holds athletic trout, fish that have lived in forceful water their entire lives.  A fourteen-inch rainbow caught in North Clear Creek is the fighting sizeable equivalent to a nineteen-incher on any other river. And they jump.  In the meadow section of North Clear Creek, brook trout are willing participants, bountiful and no bigger than 12 inches.  From the falls downstream, the river plunges into wicked deep pools, strong rainbows pop off your fly or lure and you have to lay down to get a good cast under overhanging limbs at times. 
South Clear Creek, when high, is a great trout stream.  You’ll need a four-wheel drive to get back to it and you’ll need sharp eyes to find the turnoff from Highway 149 onto this BLM land.  A mile before you get to the Rio Grande Reservoir turnoff, you’ll see a dirt road going east off the highway. If you get to the upper Rio Grande turnoff (FR 520), you’ve missed it so circle back.  The river has big browns and lots of brookies and only locals know about it.  You’ll reach North Clear Creek a few miles north on Highway 149 and it’s well signed. 

Flyfishing Mistakes Rookies Often Make

Rookie Longrodding Mistakes

            If you’ve been wanting to take up the sport of flyfishing and have thought it a tad too intricate or elite; if you learned how to flyfish when you were a kiddo and forgot half of what you learned and weren’t really all that good at the other half, or if you have thought to yourself while knee-deep in a New Mexico stream fishing with a spinning rod and Power-Bait that you’d like to have a different angling option, it’s not too late to learn.

            And the good thing is that almost anywhere you live, you have numerous options and lots of fellow flyfishing fools to help you learn. Over 20 million anglers in America flyfish annually and since we're so close to so many trout streams, you might as well take back up the sport so you can enjoy the scenery and sport.  Chad McPhail and I have a how-to-flyfish book coming out this summer (So You Want To Flyfish from Frederick Fell Publishers) that is meant for those anglers who are newbies or have tried it but haven't had success.  We think too many fly-anglers get overwhelmed by all the complexities.  Simplify things.  That said, here is a short list of rookie mistakes that you probably made when you gave it a go.  Read and learn:

·      Pay attention! Be careful when scrambling on rocks or walking along the bank while holding the fly in your fingers. All it takes is for a limb to snag the loose flyline and it’ll sink right into your fingers or hand. Secure the fly to your rod (hook keeper or in the cork handle) so you don’t have to waste time crying and bleeding all over the bank.

·      Part two of bad move?  Not de-barbing the hook.  When, not if, you hook yourself, for you most certainly will at some point, if you have not de-barbed your hook, you will be in for a big surprise.  Those barbed flies don’t back out easily.  You’ll lose flesh or if stuck in the right spot, it won’t be coming out rather it will have to be removed by making it go forward. That’s right.  You’ll push it through the skin so you can cut it with pliers.  Gross, huh? Well, there is a slightly –less gross method in the removing a hook section.

·      Watch a stretch of water for a minute before casting.  You’ll be able to see fish rising or feeding under the water and then you can formulate a plan of attack, how you’ll position, how you’ll cast, how you’ll drift.

·      Don’t use too much rod for the water and the fish. That’s a problem that’s hard to fix unless you are willing to drop cash on several rods. A lot of the beginner rods are 6-weight and that’s just too thick and stiff for your basic trout stream. The pitch for the 6-weight is that it’s versatile. You can fish for big bass and for small trout with the same rod. Truth is, you can. But you won’t want to. 4 or 5-weight is better for trout. Even a 3. The rods today can handle heavier fish even though they’re slimmer and lighter. You’ll feel the difference with a lighter rod when you cast and when you feel a take and play the fish.

·      Don’t wade where you should be fishing. We know. It’s fun to wade. That’s part of the appeal of flyfishing. But don’t wade unless you have to. The more you wade, the greater the chance you spook trout. Trout can hear and feel your “Sasquatch” footfalls from a long ways away. Think “Twinkle-toes,” not “Buffalo.”

·      Know where you’re stepping before you step. If you can’t see the bottom, maybe you’re in over your head. Slide your feet, always keeping one on the ground / river bottom. Shuffle. Sashay. Mosey, if you will. But whatever you do, don’t beeline rush it.

·      Don’t set the hook on a trout as you would on a bass. Otherwise, “Pop goes the weasel.” Lift the rod tip. That is all. 

·      Do not walk into some other angler’s water.  This isn’t sand bass fishing where all the boats circle round the one boat that is catching fish.  In flyfishing, anglers walk upstream on a river so you don’t want to jump in front of someone and make them have to get out and go around.  Be aware as you walk behind them – don’t get too close. Your footfalls, shadows and general presence cause problems for fish and anglers.

·      It’s easy to stand so close to the bank that you scare every trout within ten feet.  Don’t.

·      More power on your forward stroke (cast) does not equal more line being cast.  It means trouble.  Stay smooth and keep things tight, short, controlled.

·      If you stop to talk to an angler to pry info, respect them.  Don’t invade their space or time.  Most flyrodders are eager to share what is working (or not working) but don’t assume anything.  They may be sitting on the motherlode, working a huge fish, seeing the most prolific hatch ever, that sort of thing.  In that case, you can understand their proprietary nature.

·      Don’t wear your chest waders to fish a shin deep stream.

·      A store-bought fly costs 2 bucks.  If you get one stuck in the trees, and you will, look at the risk-reward factor.  Is it really worth it to cross the dark deep pool of which you have no idea the depth just to recover that fly that hasn’t been working any way?

·      Rookies will often cast to the same rising fish over and over without success.  They’ll change flies but the ones they select are too similar.  The trick often is drifting a dropper nymph or stripping a woolly bugger in front the trout.  Or going much bigger or much smaller with your fly.  Summary:  change depth or change size.

·      Bird’s nests.  For rookies, it’s just easier to cut the line and cut your losses. Start over and tie on new leader and a new fly.

·      You’ll find paths on any fished river.  That means that angler after angler tends to cast to the same pools, the same lies, the same water as the previous one. That also means that trout in waters that never see casts are never seeing flies.  Cross the river on the other side of the path and that way, you’ll get to fish fresh water.

 Be sure to look for our how-to flyfish book coming out next month:  So You Want To Fly Fish? 

Barnes and Noble Booksigning

We had a great booksigning at Barnes and Noble -- sold out all the Colorado Fly Fishing and most of the Top 30. 

ESPN radio interview by Chip Howard

ESPN Interview, part one and ESPN interview, part two

We visited for twenty minutes the other day with our buddy and ESPN radio personality, Chip Howard. We threw together some so-so video over it to give you something to look at while you laughed at our radio hilarity.

reader checks in

Got this email on Facebook. It's bound to happen --- restaurants and flyshops close or move or whatever. Still, you gotta include them

Bob PowellJanuary 30, 2011 at 7:38pm
Subject: Colorado Flyfishing
Mr. Williams,
Picked up your book, CO Flyfishing, while in Durango a few weekends ago. Very nice. A quick update for you: Darwin's in El Jebel is no longer open. Imagine our displeasure. My wife and I drove up from Palisade for a quick Sun. trip (she shops, I fish). We were craving Mac and cheese and crab. Not only did I get skunked on the Fork, but for lunch too. Ended up with the beer cheese soup in Glenwood; very good as well. At any rate keep up the good work. Your book has inspired me to plan a shorter version of your trip with my grown sons from Dallas. Thanks again. Bob Powell
P.S. If your interested you can find a fishing piece I wrote a few years back for Texas Magazine/Houston Chronicle/State Lines. Entitled 'It's Not Always About the Fish' RD Powell. Thanks for your good work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Flyishing the Upper Roaring Fork, Colorado

Going through some pics from two summers ago, the one where Mac and I spent traipsing across Colorado and I ran across a bunch of videos. We didn't take much care to video anything (it was more spur of the moment sort of a thing). Here's a nice wild trout Mac caught in the narrow upper waters of the Roaring Fork.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Radio interview (Amy and Mark)

Amy and I did an interview with Chip Howard (ESPN Radio). Here's the link: Radio

Mark and Mac, yes us, we will be doing the same show next week

From the Telluride Watch, A review of two books

Ridgway Publishing Company Puts Two New Guidebooks on Shelves
by Martinique Davis
Aug 13, 2009 | 832 views |
RIDGWAY – Wayfinder Press, Ridgway’s local book publishing company, has come out with two more opportunities for regional visitors to find their way while vacationing in the spectacular San Juans.

Top 30 Things to Do in Telluride and Top 30 Things to Do in Durango, two slim-but-packed guidebooks that are designed to give visitors a glimpse of the full spectrum of year-round activities, hit regional bookstore shelves in July. Wayfinder Press owner Marcus Wilson says the guidebooks, written by Pagosa Springs residents Mark D. Williams and Amy Becker Williams, offer a wealth of information compressed into two easy-to-carry, fun-to-read books that dip a toe into just about everything there is to do in Durango and Telluride.

“They have a handy format… they’re something I would look for if I were visiting one of these towns,” he says of the two new Wayfinder publications.

The Top 30 Things to Do concept represents a new branch for Wayfinder Press’s family tree, which includes nearly 20 local-interest history and guidebooks including Exploring the Historic San Juan Triangle, The Telluride Story, Ouray Chief of the Utes, and the Telluride Hiking Guide. Rather than focusing on just one aspect or activity found in Telluride or Durango, like fly-fishing, biking, or hiking, the two new books deliver the full monty – outdoor activities, dining, shopping, and nightlife, historic interests, annual events, what to do with the kids, and even boast helpful hints like where to find public restrooms and fun tidbits like “How to look like a local” and “Best places to people watch.”

The Williams’ exploration of Durango includes thorough descriptions and helpful information about such popular local activities as “Riding the Rails” on the famous Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (#1,) “Hitting the Slopes” at Durango Mountain Resort (#4,) and “Cliffside,” exploring the Mesa Verde National Park (#19.) Descriptions of these Durango-area tourist standards are enhanced with practical tips and tidbits, like asking for the canyon side of the train and getting to Mesa Verde early to get tickets for high-demand tours.

Yet the Top 30 also boasts highlights that wouldn’t necessarily be on every Durango visitor’s agenda, like visiting the Durango Soda Company (#16,) taking a trip to all the area Microbreweries (#15,) or Picnicking at one of the area’s 32 parks (#9.) These more off-the-beaten-path Things to Do round out the Durango’s Top 30, offering a more in-depth exploration of the area and its unique vibe.

Telluride’s Top 30 also includes some of the more obscure alongside the tourist classics; the Williams delve into the popular Festival Scene (#11,) High Altitude Golfing (#12,) and Historic Walking Tour (#30,) but also share advice about “How to Spot a Celebrity” at the annual Telluride Film Festival (#38) or “Digging for Treasure” at the infamous Free Box (#10.)

Both Telluride and Durango Top 30 also include hiking, skiing, off-road, and biking highlights, with especially in-depth descriptions of local fishing opportunities.

The two new books add to Wayfinder Press’s extensive collection of tourist-oriented publications, which offer windows into the four corners region’s most popular things to do and explore. Wayfinder has been printing books locally since 1980, with its current owner Wilson operating the full-spectrum publishing company and Country Graphics graphic design business since 1993. The two new Top 30 books may be the first in a series of Wayfinder-published Top 30 guidebooks, Wilson says, which could include Top 30 explorations of places like Crested Butte, Albuquerque, or Ouray.

Top 30 Things to Do in Telluride and Durango are currently on the shelves at regional bookstores; or, contact Wayfinder Press at 626-5452 or

one reader's view of the new book

Kyle McAdams
Kyle McAdamsJanuary 14, 2011 at 11:02am
Subject: Colorado Fly Fishing...
Well.... I finished C.F.F. last night and I have to tell you guys that I was a little sad when I flipped the final page over only to realized it was over.
For this half illiterate, red neck, wanna be fly fisherman to be so engulfed and looking forward to reading every sentence, paragraph, page and chapter is a true testament to what a great book C.F.F. is! I can't wait for your next installment to come out! I'd be willing to bet I told Ronna at least 100 times how badly I wanted to jump in the Yukon and test my skills at finding just one of the streams you mentioned as I read.
Until then, I think I may read it again! So much great info, and the stories of your travels past and present... Good Stuff! Well done!