Fishing Report - FRA Blog

Thanks for another fun Customer Appreciation Day!

Monday April 14th, 2014 - 12:37pm
A huge thanks to everyone who made it out to help celebrate our 32nd anniversary during our Customer Appreciation Day! You never know what you're going to get during spring in Colorado and we managed to squeeze the event in before the cold and snow returned!  Plenty of fish stories were shared, incredible food and beverage was enjoyed, and loads of prizes were given away. A big thank you to our manufacturers and special guests for helping make the day great!

Here's the list of winners of the hourly prize giveaways -

Raffle Item
Smith ChromaPops Patrick Kehoe
Simms $100 JJ Dowd
FishPond Bag- Westwater Boat Bag Kevin Kana
Simms $100 Michelle Eckstein
FishPond Bag- Yampa Guide Lumbar Pack Bob Hertz
TFO BVK 9' 5wt w case Chris Ozeroff
Simms $100 Randy Hughes
Yeti Tank No Show
Ross Evolution 2 Julien Mira
Simms $100 Sean Pezier
Umpqua Ledges 650 Matt Long
Fishpond Nomad Net Chris Ozeroff
FishPond Bag- Westwater Sling Pack JJ Dowd
Galvan Spoke Reel Eric
Simms $100 JJ Dowd
Exoffcio cool shirt JJ Dowd
Abel Nippers Peter Bendel
Abel Nippers John Barrens
Umpqua Tech Vest Moss Keith Tucker
Hardy Jet Fly Rod Cole Ullom
ex officio cool shirt Bob Seeberger
Titan Rod Vault Chris Ozeroff
Able Hemostats Bobby Greene
Radian Rod Karen Gerber
Sage Trout Rod of Choice Ken Jochim

Things have changed and will change on BC

Thursday March 13th, 2014 - 7:52am
Yesterday, while showing FRA customer Norm some of my favorite spots on Boulder Creek, I was startled to find out that this spot near the first climbing area, was completely different. The water is low now so I was able to scope out the terrain that I used to know like the back of my hand. When the water comes up this is going to be completely different. Furthermore, there is still debris and unprotected banks that will change shape during runoff.

Here are some predictions from Boulder County:

  • Second week of May is best guess of the beginning of spring run-off based on NWS predictions (any unexpected warm spell before then could accelerate)
  • Problems with creek and bank erosion – many creeks are following new paths
  • Snowpack is currently 168% - 248% of normal – reservoirs are already full, so spillover may occur earlier than normal during run-off
  • Flash flood potential is high, especially if thunderstorm activity accompanies run-off
  • Major landslides are not predicted; however, area water tables are very high and will likely remain high for several years, so some slides are possible
  • Debris remains a high hazard, especially debris located in remote sections far from homes and roads (extremely difficult and expensive to remove)

Citizens were asked to promptly report (via calling 911) any of the following NEW events:

  • Sudden river/creek bank erosion, sediment build-up around culverts and bridges
  • NEW hazardous debris appearance; any major drop in water flow that might be due to debris dams
  • Rock falls and/or changes in stream flow/direction
  • Sudden tilting of power poles and trees near roads

Catch and Release Trout: Best Practices 1-10-2014

Friday January 10th, 2014 - 12:51pm
When I started fishing in 1960, we killed every fish we caught. Over a half-century later, even though there are thousand times more anglers, there are more fish and larger trout in Colorado waters.

This is good news. It is caused by a multitude of factors that revolve around preserving the resource. One way, every angler can help preserve the resource is by following state and local regulations with regards to taking fish.

Another way, is to report anglers who are not following the regulations. In Colorado the Department of Wildlife has a number you can call to make these reports: 877-265-6648, 877-COLO-OGT. Put this number on speed dial.

A third way, is to release the fish you are not taking in a manner that will allow them to survive. Over the years we have learned more about what stresses fish and techniques for proper fish handling. This article describes the best practices for handling fish and is used by the Front Range Guide Service to train its guides who in turn train their clients. By the way, anglers today are much smarter about catching and therefore a lot more trout are caught now than in 1960. This catch rate increase is due to an improvement in knowledge, tackle, and technique. Therefore, it makes sense to improve our fish handling techniques.

Catch and Release Technique:

The following procedures do not guarantee fish survival and there is disagreement in the fishing community on specific handling methods. And, each fish caught has its own specific conditions that need to be considered. The science on this subject is useful but incomplete. Debate on specific steps is healthy and welcome.

Note to those anglers who use bait, barbed hooks, and/or treble hooks: If you use this kind of tackle, you cannot release fish and expect them to survive. Therefore, once you catch your limit (four Trout in Colorado), you are done for the day. Whereas, when you use a fly with a single barbless hook, you can fish all day and if the local regulations allow it, you can take some fish home to eat. The amount of fish you can take, if any, is determined by local regulations.

  1. Use single barbless hooks
  2. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible.
  3. Trout have a protective slime. Protect that slime by keeping hands and net wet.
  4. Use a rubber net. Large mesh allows for quicker removal of hooks.
  5. Avoid unnecessarily long landing battles.
  6. Trout gills are particularly susceptible to poison, infection, and puncture. Never allow anything, especially fingers inside the gill plate.
  7. If the hook cannot be retrieved easily, cut the line.
  8. Trout are lot more fragile than warm water or salt-water fish.
  9. Large trout are less resilient than small trout, be extra careful with them.
  10. Adverse conditions such as water temperature greater than 65 degrees, require extra care in handling fish. If it’s above 70 degrees, you probably shouldn’t be fishing and many waters will close during this condition.

Taking Photos (Grip and Grin vs Grip and Kill):
 Fish anatomy, courtesy of Tony Bishop[1]article “Trout Dying to Get Good Photo

  1. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible (considered by nearly everyone the most important fish handling technique.) The fish need only be out of the water for less than 5 seconds for a photo.
  2. Do not “lip” the fish (bass photo), do not put them on the grass, beach, or snow.
  3. Keep the fish (especially the large ones) near the water. If a large fish is dropped it risks bursting its air bladder.
  4. When holding the fish, keep fingers out of gills (see Basics #5.) The join between the tail fin and the body (caudal peduncle) can be held firmly as it all bone.
  5. However the area around the pectoral fins must be cradled … not squeezed (aka, Death Grip), as it can do damage to the heart and/or liver. Note in the fish anatomy picture the red circle around the heart area. Check out further explanation and example photos at the end of this article.

  1. Find some slow moving water to release fish (not as necessary for small fish.)
  2. Start with one hand under the belly and the other on the caudal peduncle.
  3. Face fish into slow current and remove hand from belly. Observe to see if fish is stable (stays upright.)
  4. Move tail from side to side. Fish should swim out of your hand, upright.
  5. Stay with fish until first four steps are accomplished successfully.
  6. If fish goes to bottom and sits, it is not a bad thing, but don’t leave it. Let it recover some more and then gently move the tail. A surviving fish will eventually swim away from you.
  7. In a lake add a back and forth motion to the side to side tail motion.

Hands versus Net:
This issue is up for much debate:
Hands only: The basic idea is that a well-handled fish can be released with less contact and more quickly than with a net. In fact, there are tools that can de-hook the fish with no contact at all.
Using a net: The negative is that the even wet rubber can remove the trout body slime and if the fish is bound it the net, it may not be breathing properly when underwater.
In my experience, I have seen more fish mishandled by hands-only rather than with a net. With large rubber nets, the fish can recover in the net better than in one’s hand.  The angler or guide can control the recovery more easily and more gently by keeping the fish in the net in the water, even when moving the fish to slower water for release. Additionally, having a net allows the photographer to prepare while the fish is safely in the water.

Photos or not:

“The photo of a fish of a lifetime is never worth the life of a fish of lifetime.” — Jay Zimmerman

I like this quote from Jay. It provides a good frame of reference for decision-making. But it doesn’t keep me from taking photos. As a guide and an angler, I know how important those photos are. Like a great wine a great fishing trip resonates long after the actual event. Photos have a way of re-energizing that resonance. Additionally, they make it easier to do catch and release fishing. In the old days we would show off our stringers. Now we show off our photos.

A few years back, Front Range Anglers guided a trip for 7 Kuwati men studying English at University of Colorado.
 A cold day for these Kuwati students. Photo by Westfeldt ©

They all caught fish … some caught a lot. They all had great difficulty understanding the concept of “catch and release.” In fact, the young man in the picture below said to me, “Wallace, you understand that ‘Catch’ and ‘Release’ are opposite words.”

This picture works in any language. Photo by Westfeldt ©

He wasn’t allowed to take any fish, but he sent this photo home to his family in Kuwait the next day.

I don’t have any mounted fish on my walls … not yet. If I ever do find that fish of a lifetime and can safely take a picture of it, I will provide the picture and dimensions to the appropriate artist for that wall trophy. In the old days we would just take the fish to the taxidermist who would throw away most of it.

Yes, I’m pro photos, so let’s do it right.

Erin Block has written a great article, “At What Price Glory.”[2] In this article she discusses the current science on fish handling. She explains that taking a fish from the water after a stressful battle interferes with its natural recovery process. She suggests that you exercise heavily and then have your head held under the water for a minute or two in order to understand the stress. I like this extreme suggestion because it precisely explains the problem and the solution. The problem is that fish are often kept out of the water too long, frequently to get that great photo. The solution as an angler or a guide is to prepare for the photo before even catching the fish. If you prepare, the fish should be back in the water within 5 seconds.

Additional photo/fish handling techniques
  1. Have a good camera and know how it works.
  2. Before fishing with client or buddy, go over proper catch and release techniques detailed above. I use a stuffed animal to practice on land.
  3. When the fish is caught, get in the water if you are not already there and stabilize the fish in the net, so it can start its recovery.
  4. Move to the release area, in case the fish is dropped.
  5. Set up camera, angles, positions, etc.
  6. When the photographer is ready the “gripper” wets his hands holds the fish in the net.
  7. The gripper then says, “Ready … 1, 2, 3.”
  8. On 3, the gripper lifts the fish from the water to the pre agreed upon pose. Stay close to the water in case the fish drops.
  9. Photographer takes picture and says, “Got it.”
  10. Fish is back in water in net.
  11. If you follow this procedure, you can take another couple of shots without harming the fish, provided the fish is out of the water less than 5 seconds.
  12. Follow the release procedures above making sure you stay with the fish until it swims away on its own
These are detailed guidelines that should improve your fish handling. However, it won’t make it perfect. We all make mistakes in handling fish. Below are example pictures of good and bad technique with comments.

Front Range Guide and Client doing it right, photo by Westfeldt ©

Despite the cold water and day, Randy and Tom both got in the water from this lake bank. Note, how low Tom keeps the fish to the water and how Randy has the net ready for the fish return.

Oops … author doing it wrong. Photo by Myers ©

Fish do not know they are supposed to cooperate, so often they don’t. In this case, I’m too far away from the water and the fish took a nasty fall.

Gentle grip, net close, bending down close to the water. Photo by Westfeldt ©

If this fish were larger, it would be a good idea to get closer to the water.

 Acck … Photo by Westfeldt ©

Finger in gills, grip too tight, fish too high. And, perhaps, just as important, the guide (yours truly) didn’t correct it. Sometimes smaller fish are harder to handle than larger ones. That’s not an excuse … just something to be aware of.

This fish bandit does it just right. Photo by Westfeldt ©

Heart squeeze … no good. Photo from Bishop article ©

With larger fish it is important cradle the front in order not to squeeze heart and liver. Sometimes this is harder to do because the weight of a large trout.

Nicely done, Photo from Bishop article ©

Like all of fly-fishing this is a process of constant learning. Although I have been guiding for 8 years and practicing catch and release for a lot longer, I learn new and improved fish handling techniques every season. This article is a contribution to a discussion that should be on going.

Tight lines,

Wallace Westfeldt


[1] From Bishop article “Trout Dying to Get Good Photo” ©, 

    Fly Fishing Show Winners

    Friday January 10th, 2014 - 10:50am
    Another fun year at the Fly Fishing Show - Denver!

    We want to thank everyone that came out and spent time with us at the Fly Fishing Show last weekend in Denver. Even with the snow it was one of our busiest years ever and we had some great conversations with folks!

    If you made it down then you probably know that we were giving away a couple of cool prizes. Here are the lucky winners!   Congratulations to the winners and we'll see everyone again next year!

    Hardy Zenith 10' 4wt Fly Rod - Steve Holick

    FRA Guided Trip - Craig Beasley

    Saltwater Edition of the FRA Newletter Coming Soon

    Saturday December 28th, 2013 - 6:38pm

    Get ready for a Saltwater edition of the FRA Newsletter.  Features include "Chasing Giants" on Christmas Island & Hawaii, best locations in the world for Permit, new baitfish patterns, how to double the speed of your retrieve, and a lot more.  If you don't subscribe click here.  Pictured above is Mark Moller of Boulder, CO with the largest GT I have ever seen caught on a fly rod...has to be close to 100 pounds taken last year on Christmas Island from shore!

    New Products Available NOW or Early in 2014

    Saturday December 21st, 2013 - 12:18pm

    There is also a listing of 2013 closeouts at the back of the document

    Simplified Quill Body Flies

    Wednesday December 11th, 2013 - 2:40pm

    Hareline Dubbing recently introduced a synthetic body wrap material that simulates natural quills.  It’s tough, long, offered in half dozen colors (can be modified with a marker), and reasonably priced ($4.50).

    The body needs to be coated with a varnish or a light cure acrylic (Clear Cure Goo, Bug Bond, or Loon Clear Finish) to hold the color and enhance durability.

    Rob Kolanda did some experimentation with the Quill Body Wrap which can be seen in the above photo.  Click Here if you would like to see a slide show of the individual patterns.

    In addition, there is a pretty good video on this product done by Curtis Fry

    Stop in and pick up a package or two next time you’re in the shop or send us an email and let us know what colors you would like to get

    WAYPOINTS Finds the Mark

    Thursday November 21st, 2013 - 2:17pm
    As the opening credits rolled and the title screen to WAYPOINTS lit up E-Town hall, I turned and looked back up the theater and was astonished that we had sold out the venue. Over 200 people packed into the hall and enjoyed what was yet another excellent fly fishing masterpiece by Confluence Films. The energy was high and the amount of generosity of not only the attendees but also the sponsors was overwhelming. The evening has been described by others as "epic" and I think that is entirely fitting.

    Now that the big night has come and gone we wanted to give a heartfelt THANKS to all those who participated in the evening, went on guide trips on Boulder Creek, came to the pre-party and helped get the word out.

    A special shout-out goes to The Greenbacks for their help in organizing the event, and getting the volunteers rounded up to make the night go off without a hitch. It was certainly one to remember.

    In case you weren't able to make it to the event we do have some WAYPOINTS dvd's in the shop available for purchase. Believe me, it would make a great stocking stuffer. Also, during the event The Greenbacks launched a new project called 1 of 750, which is being undertaken to save the last 750 known pure Greenback Cutthroat Trout that inhabit Bear Creek west of Colorado Springs. Give it a look and consider helping another great cause!

    The Impact

    Through the ticket sales, raffle items, donations and guide trips proceeds you managed to raise more than $8000 for the Restore the Range fund! That's huge! The funds have been given to Colorado Trout Unlimited and now that nearly all of the roads into the canyons are open, assessments will start and project plans will be drawn up for areas that need the most help. Be on the lookout for more information after assessments are complete.

    Once again a huge thank you from everyone at Front Range Anglers. The Greenbacks dubbed the evening "One night, One film, One Colorado" and that's exactly what we experienced.

    When will Walker Ranch re-open?

    Friday October 25th, 2013 - 10:52am

    Access still closed to Walker Ranch. Eldorado State Park is still closed as well.
    With the continued nice weather staring in at me through my window yesterday I got antsy and decided to head up to Walker Ranch in the afternoon to see what the current status was. Walker  Ranch is a favorite of many in the fall, and having it closed is like bringing a kid to a candy store and just letting him look at the candy through the glass.

    As I arrived at the upper trailhead I was immediately greeted by trail closed signs and ominous yellow tape. A Park Ranger vehicle was also parked there, ensuring I didn't get any daring ideas. I headed down to the Kayak Run trailhead and was met with the same scenario. With every access point clearly closed I headed back down towards Pinecliffe and had a very productive hour of fishing. More on that in a minute.

    This morning I gave Boulder County Open Space a call to try to get the skinny on the closure. They said that much of the park has been restored through numerous volunteer days, but the closure is still in place at the request of the Boulder County Sheriff's office, to limit traffic into the mountains via Flagstaff road (I came in the back way through Hwy 72). A quick call to the Boulder County Transportation office garnered a little more information. They said Flagstaff was still under construction but that it wasn't one of their highest priority roads, so it would probably be December 1st at the earliest before access was restored. Even though S. Boulder in Walker Ranch is a tailwater, it's not looking good for the rest of the season...

    Alright, back to Pinecliffe. I hiked into the national forest section near Pinecliffe and picked my way downstream, hitting every deep hole. Even though the water was a little lower than a couple of weeks ago, the fishing was still excellent. A dry dropper rig was perfect for being able to cover the deep part of the hole as well as the tailout.

    I was getting more hits on my nymph than my dry fly, but my Chubby and a PMX definitely saw some action. Not bad for late October! Similar to Boulder Creek, a larger than normal mayfly nymph was picking up fish. Give a Tung Surveyor a try (hint hint) or a buggy nymph like a Brush Hog, Tombstone, or Iron Lotus and you should pick up fish.
    Dry fly action in late October... Priceless!

    A South Boulder Creek Double!

    Towards the end of my session I came across what appeared to be an escapee from the Lincoln Hills fishing club, which is located about a mile upstream. It clearly was too big of a fish for the ecosystem it was planted into, and obviously didn't last long.

    This 2' DEAD beast was clearly an escapee from Lincoln Hills (insert discussion about putting huge fish into ecosystems that can't support them here)

    Boulder Creek still fishing well!

    Thursday October 24th, 2013 - 12:11pm
    One of the areas 1/2 mile upstream of elephant buttress that had to be filled in to rebuild the road
    On my way back up the canyon yesterday afternoon I took the opportunity to pull over and check out some of the areas at the mouth of the canyon that had been restored post-flood. My first stop was the library, and standing on the walking bridge I was immediately surprised at how clear the water has gotten over the last week. With only a slight stain, I was able to pick out numerous fish moving back and forth in the current.

    I jumped back in the truck and made my next stop about a half-mile upstream from Elephant Buttress. With most of this section being completely overhauled over the last month I wasn't expecting much, but was happily surprised when I saw numerous fish taking residence behind new boulders along the banks and feeding in seams created by recently placed boulders in the current.

    Lots of hits on the PMX

    After just watching fish for a while I was getting the itch, so I headed up to the BFC memorial park area and broke out the rod just to "test the water." As expected, it is still fishing GREAT! I was using a shallow dry dropper rig and was picking up fish both on top and on the dropper. The fish had no problem fully committing to my size 16 PMX, which was a nice bonus!

    Subsurface, I was using a fairly large (size 14) mayfly nymph pattern, and a lot of times it was getting hit immediately as it hit the water. Every likely looking pocket and seam seemed to be holding a fish. As for bugs, the air was actually pretty thick with some minute midges; good to see things are recovering and even thriving.

    Another colorful little Brown!

    Today and the rest of the week look to promise to be great examples of a Colorado indian summer, so get out while the gettin' is good!


    A Friend in Need ... Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

    Friday October 18th, 2013 - 1:19pm

    Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch has been a primary go-to fishing destination for Front Range Anglers for many years.

    During the flood the the ranch lost everything in and around their complex.  The hub of the resort, the dining hall and reception area are gone, floating down the Big Thompson along with most of the cabins.

    I received this note today from Kathy Willkomm for the Jessup family.

    "As you may know, much of the Sylvan Dale Guest ranch was devastated by flooding last month.  While we still have a few activities available (fly fishing, horseback riding & lessons, hayrides and natural grass-fed beef for sale), all other events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future while clean up, recovery and rebuilding efforts take place.

    We are humbled and deeply grateful for the offer of help from a local chapter of Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Flycasters (RMF), for a river cleanup effort in our Bass Ponds area.

    This volunteer effort is this Saturday, October 19th from 10am to 4pm.  If you’d like to participate, please reply to this email AND include RMF Volunteer Coordinator, Dave Piske ( ) so he can send you more details.

    We’re hopeful this will be a great beginning to a longer-term effort to recreate a prime trout fishery along the Big Thompson River corridor.

    If you can’t make it this time, there will surely be more chances to volunteer.  You can also support the ranch in other ways, like enjoying the activities we do have available.  Contact me directly for fly fishing trips or lessons!  The river is not yet fishable, but we have several lakes full of trophy trout waiting for your flies, cameras and smiles!  And please visit our website to see all the ways you can help this treasured, historic dude ranch.

    Colorado is rebuilding!  It’s the Rocky Mountain Way!"

    If you have an interest in making a donation to the recovery effort,  click here


    Friday October 18th, 2013 - 11:37am
    Forgive me for going on a rant here, but I feel strongly about an issue not usually talked about and I'm having a hard time biting my tongue.

    Back in the early spring, I bared witness to the most disgusting moment of my fly fishing life. I came upon an obvious guide trip where the guide was generously spooning fish eggs out of a mason jar into the river just upstream of where his two anglers were simultaneously casting over a  large group of spawning Rainbows. I was disgusted that the guide not only felt it necessary to chum the water for his anglers, but also didn't consider it his job to educate his anglers on stream ethics. When I learned of pictures being posted by another fly shop that clearly showed browns being pulled from redds, it drew me to an equal level of nausea.

    Look, we all want to catch big fish and we have all made that cast before, but as guides, or staff, or as pro anglers it's our job to promote catch and release, barbless hooks, rubber nets, and all other ways to preserve the resource that we all enjoy. A desire to protect the resource is generally what separates fly anglers from bait fisherman! Walking the line between catching large fish during spawning season and destroying the future generations is a line that many anglers come close to but try not to cross.

    Interrupting spawning fish is just bad practice, and it's generally obvious when it happens. This seasons run of browns had bad news written all over it when the flows in the Dream Stream dropped to a mere 35cfs. This flow presents a real "fish in the barrel" situation where these large browns are forced to spawn in only inches of water.

    Here's the first picture posted:
    Nice fish, big brown, you should be proud of yourself. This female was obviously on a redd if she's firing eggs. It's one thing to interrupt her spawn but the additional stress of a photo shoot while she's losing eggs is ridiculous. Dipshit #1 here is giving us a visual abortion of our next generation.
    Here's the next picture:
    Same fish, caught in the exact same spot, different idiot. Dipshit #2 here continues to rape the resource. Nicely done guys, you should be proud, you are the new poster children for stream ethics. This is purely tasteless, disrespectful, and it reminds me of when I see pictures of people holding up large fish in their kitchen.

     If anyone has questions on the etiquette or ethics to which I have expressed, please email me and I would be happy to discuss this further. Ben AT

    Respect your Catch,

    Ben McGee
    Front Range Anglers Guide Service

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