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Fishing the Wild West
September 9, 2014

Last week, I had an opportunity to get into the West Elk Wilderness, one of five wilderness areas within a 30-minute drive of Crested Butte, Colorado.  It is not hard to get away from humans anywhere near Crested Butte, and our wilderness areas are certainly no exception. With no road access and no mechanized vehicles allowed, all access is by foot and some of the best spots require off-trail navigation and sometimes tricky bushwhacking.  

I fished two streams in complete solitude, one named, the other an unnamed tributary of the first stream. Both were full of native cutthroat, many of which have never seen an artificial fly in their lives. It’s usually pretty easy to tell because when you set the hook on a fish that has never been caught, there is that second or two of pure shock after the fly bites back before they realize something is wrong and put up the fight of their lives to get free. For me there is nothing like catching fish in a spot that I saw the week before while studying maps and google Earth and thinking, “that looks hard to get to, I bet the fishing is good”. There is a lifetime of water just like this spot, from small streams and tributaries to larger streams and high alpine lakes, all of which can be accessed on foot, by car, or by a 4X4 vehicle.

If you want to experience a truly unique experience in the middle of the most remote mountains in Colorado, whether it is a hike into one of the wilderness areas or a hair-raising, expert 4X4 drive to cutthroat-filled beaver ponds near treeline, let myself or one of our other backcountry experts put together a trip for you! Please call the shop at (970) 349-1228for more information. 
Posted by Zach Kinler

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Lucky, the Catch and Release Superstar: Part Three
April 15, 2014

We did not make it back to Lucky before the river froze over, but I have already visited that area twice this year in search of Lucky, and I know I will have to bring my A game if I want to see him up close again. 

One way to ensure the survival of each fish is proper catch and release techniques. If done properly, mortality rate can be less than one percent, but success not only requires putting the fish back in the water at the end but also proper treatment during the landing and handling of the fish. 

I recommend a rubber net in order to not compromise the valuable slime layer that keep fish healthy. We fish Brodin and Gold Metal Nets, both of which possess high quality and long lasting craftsmanship. In addition, getting the fish into your net as quickly as your tippet will allow will prevent the fish from wearing itself out completely in the fight and leave it with some strength when it is returned to the water. Keeping the fish out of water for too long, letting multiple people hold the fish, or putting it on land to get a picture with your rod will severely limit the survival rate of your catch and release fishing. And of course, barbless hooks will greatly reduce the damage caused to the fish and allow you to release fish almost without touching them at all. 

Through our catch and release practices, we had a fish that was getting smarter every day, and I’m fairly certain he is not getting any smaller either.  Smart fish make smart fisherman. Thanks, Lucky. 

Below is a great video with some additional information on catch and release practices. 

Posted by Zach Kinler
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Lucky, the Catch and Release Superstar: Part Two
April 3, 2014

Needless to say, I was stoked after that first day and returned with my buddy CJ the next day to find what looked like the same fish in the spot I first hooked it. CJ stepped up and within a few minutes hooked the fish. I thought the fish had put up a pretty spirited fight the two times I hooked it but when it felt CJ’s fly, it did what any smart fish that has been hooked does and headed for the current and around a big rock as we said goodbye to that rig. The fish was evolving right in front of our eyes. 

The next day, I had a client on the Taylor, and I decided we would end our day attempting to get CJ’s flies back. By now, the fish had acquired the name “Lucky” and sure enough Lucky was back in the same area. It took a little more time this round but eventually Martin got a drift Lucky liked, and he was on the line again. After only a day, Lucky had gotten even smarter and was only on the line for a few seconds before he headed downstream at a blistering pace. No match for 5X. 

 I had to go back the next day if for nothing else than to try to get all those flies out of the fish. So the parade of fisherman continued as I returned the next day with my girlfriend and sure enough we spotted Lucky right away. It took a bit more work than the previous days but after fishing the run for a bit, Elsa got him on the line. I’ll give her credit—she did well putting the fly where it needed to be and hooking the fish but in the battle, Lucky spit the fly and got away. I was happy that we did not leave another couple flies hanging from Lucky’s mouth but Elsa was disappointed not to have a 20” rainbow in her hand. I told her there would be another day. Over the course of those few days, I witnessed Lucky becoming not only more selective to flies and drift but also learning what to do after getting hooked….
Posted by Zach Kinler
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Lucky, the Catch and Release Superstar: Part One
March 26, 2014

I have never had a problem with anyone who wanted to keep their legal limit of fish. The Division of Wildlife has set limits for each stream in order to maintain healthy populations of trout and I do respect those who take up to their limit. Hunting and gathering has been going on since the beginning of time, and there is something to be said about somebody who goes out and puts in the time to hunt and capture something that will feed and sustain them. 

I have other means of putting food on the table; however, so ever since I started fishing I have enjoyed the return on investment of catch and release fishing. Being able to see and hold a wild animal in my hands and then release it back into the wild to remain as a vital part of the water is quite fulfilling. I always tell people to let them go and then you can come back and catch them again when they are bigger and smarter. This idea was proven this last fall on the Taylor River. 

After hooking and landing a 20” rainbow, my dropper got snagged on the dorsal fin of the fish and broke off as it swam away. I went on fishing that area for a bit when I decided to work back upstream. In a hole upstream of the one that held the first rainbow, I spotted another rainbow that I thought was about 20” as well. I got a couple looks from the trout but no takes. I made a quick change and after about the 10th drift, the trout took my dropper. I managed to land this 20-incher again, only to find my dropper being kept safely in its dorsal fin. The fish had moved upstream from where I released it and was feeding actively again in that short amount of time. In the span of half an hour I had caught and released the same mature trout twice. I would have just guessed it was a different fish if not for the fly. This same fish provided me with two thrilling hook ups that I would not have gotten if I had not released him unharmed the first time. I thought that might be the end of the story of me and this fish but I was wrong….  

Photo Caption: Not Lucky, but a nice Taylor River rainbow. 
Posted by Zach Kinler
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