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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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Offseason Explorations: Part 2

May 22, 2014
My girlfriend Elsa and I always take some time each fall to visit family in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Similar to this area, it can be cool there that time of year; however, fall seems to hang around a bit longer in that area than in the mountains. While on one such visit last fall around Halloween, Elsa’s dad Rockie and I decided to take the boat out on Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior for perhaps one last fish before the snow started falling. I brought my fly rod along as I always do if I’m around water; however, we were trolling with big Raps and spoons, which is a great way to cover water and figure out where the fish might be holding. We started picking up very nice sized browns, Coho Salmon, and Steelhead. We were both surprised to see such great action this time of year when Rockie pointed out to me that we were picking these fish up in less than 15 feet of water with relatively shallow lures. I immediately thought about my fly rod and the possibility of getting a few on the fly. We decided to finish the day trolling and trying to locate exactly where the fish were and ended the day landing several more large fish. Before we were off the water, a return trip for the next day had already been planned with Elsa’s brother Luke, and it would be done with fly rods. 

The next morning after Luke and I made a brief stop at some sand flats looking for smallmouth bass that were not there, we went right back to the area we had worked the day before. We fished a variety of water from shallow, sandy bottom river inlets, where we found the Coho Salmon to rocky shorelines with lots of structure where the steelhead and browns were cruising. This was not a trip where we boated 50 fish but every fish hooked was quality and the fact that we were able to sight fish for several different species made this a very unique experience for both of us. There we were alone on Lake Superior in late fall hooking fish in beautiful water from a flats skiff, it was perfect. It really does not matter what time of year it is, there are so many opportunities to explore, and I will always travel with my fly rod close at hand.
Posted by Zach Kinler
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Offseason Explorations: Part 1

May 6, 2014

With the offseason here, I got to thinking about some of my past offseason adventures, and I realized how much I enjoy the ebb and flow of a ski town. There will be times when every hotel and condo is occupied, the restaurants are full and work is easy to find. A week or two later and it is the exact opposite. That’s life in a town like Crested Butte, and you have to love it and be prepared for it if you are going to live here.  I think it presents a great opportunity to make a living but also provides time to explore the rest of the state and beyond…

Every year in April, the ski resort closes down and Crested Butte turns into a relative ghost town. This time of year is actually quite enjoyable, the crowds are gone and town is quiet. In between snow storms, we get nice sunny days in the 50s and there can be good fishing opportunities. It is actually a great time to be around town, I don’t feel that I have to leave to escape anything; however it is also nice to enjoy some warmer climates if you have the opportunity. While it is still winter above 9,000 ft in Colorado, spring is in full swing in other parts of the country. 

I grew up in southern Missouri near the Ozark Mountains where spring starts in February and by April temperatures can be near 80 degrees.  This area has about as much water as anywhere in the states, from large lakes and rivers to smaller streams and stillwater. One great spot is the Eleven Point River. The river is fed by the 10th largest freshwater spring in the world which turns this normally warm water river into a great trout fishery. There are about 20 miles of productive trout water downstream from the spring and a wild population of rainbow trout that are very aggressive. Canoes are the most efficient mode of travel and we spent four days during the week on the river and did not see another person camping, only a few people floating through. It was April, the weather was warm, the dogwoods were blooming, and we were wet wading in our bathing suits catching wild trout in the middle of the Mark Twain National Forest. This is just one of many great places to extend your summer when the snow is still flying in the high country. 
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 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

Find yourself in Crested Butte

March 4, 2014
We all have our favorite spots to go whether it is a great place to fish, a sweet line on the mountain that we love to ski, or maybe just a quiet spot off the beaten path where we can enjoy a little peace and tranquility. Last week I found myself at a place where of all three of those met.  Standing just below the peak of Mt. Crested Butte, I looked west towards the Ruby Range and had a great perspective on some of my favorite fishing spots. I looked below to see the infamous chute named ‘Banana,’ which I was about to ski. And then I looked all around and could only see a few people skiing on the mountain hundreds of feet below me. 

There was not much going through my head except maybe a feeling of contentment that you can easily get in these mountains. I think that experience and feeling epitomizes Crested Butte and helped remind me what a great place this is. If you are lucky enough to have spent some time in this area, you probably know the feeling. If you are looking for a special spot to relax, have fun, and enjoy life, check out Crested Butte, Colorado. 

Let Dragonfly Anglers be the place you call or stop by for local knowledge and information about anything Crested Butte. This is what we do and we are pretty good at it. 

Photo Cred: Tom Flawn-Chopp
Posted by Zach Kinler
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Dragonfly Anglers Product Review: Patagonia Stormfront Line

February 25, 2014
Dragonfly Anglers is excited to be carrying Patagonia's new Stormfront line beginning this March. The Stormfront line integrates the simplicity and effectiveness of a 100 percent waterproof pack into a line of bags, packs, and vests. Whether you are going out for a few hours on the water or packing a bag for a two-week excursion to Mexico, the Stormfront bags will provide you all the features you need and nothing you do not. 

Check out these videos to see all that the Stormfront line has to offer and stop by Dragonfly Anglers at 307 Elk Ave or call the shop staff at 970-349-1228 for any questions or to order your own. We're now taking pre-orders!

Strormfront Roll Top Pack

Stormfront Roll Top Bag

Stormfront Sling

Posted by Zach Kinler
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Fly Fishing on My Mind

February 17, 2014
I wasn’t exactly sure what it was that got me really thinking about fly fishing a few days ago. The street I was walking on was ankle deep in slush, the temperature was 37 degrees, and even a few birds were chirping. That could have been it or maybe it was a timer in my head that said “you haven’t been fishing in a few months, so…”

Either way, despite almost six feet of snowfall in two weeks and some of the best turns of the season, my mind can’t help wander towards fly fishing. With sunny skies and temperatures in the 30’s, that spring-time feel is just starting to show up, and with that comes the possibility of some great early season fishing opportunities. As March approaches, so will the open water on the Gunnison, East, and Taylor Rivers, and the stage will be set for some great pre-runoff fishing. This time of year might be overlooked by most people but it can surprise you with some great days on the water. The crowds are nonexistent, the fish are hungry, and the weather can be pleasant.

If you don’t have any plans this March and April or just want to take a break from the great skiing, book a trip with one of our professional guides or come by the shop for some up-to-the-minute conditions and information. In the meantime, here is an awesome video from New Zealand to get you stoked for the fishing season. 

Damsels in Distress from Sharptail Media on Vimeo.

Posted by Zach Kinler
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Dragonfly Anglers Product Review: The Patagonia R1

February 5, 2014
The R1 was most definitely designed with the active person in mind and has all the features that such a person requires. Its sleek design and athletic fit make this a great jacket with other layers, or on its own as an outer shell. Kept close to skin, the unique grid pattern on the inside pulls moisture from your body and leaves you warm and dry. This makes it great for skiing, whether you are hiking in the backcountry, riding the resort, or touring on the skinny skis. The R1 is also a great choice for winter fishing when you need to pack on as many layers as you can fit. You can also grab it on your way out the door to Kochevars for a “Nowak” or two after a big day outdoors. Lightweight, versatile, and great for everyday life in Crested Butte, Colorado, the R1 will not disappoint.

Dragonfly Anglers carries the R1 in several colors and sizes or we can special order one from our Patagonia dealer inventory. Shop our online store, stop by our shop in Crested Butte, or call us at 970.349.1228 for your custom order. 

*All products are tested and used by Dragonfly Anglers Pro Staff and Guides

Posted by Zach Kinler
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Colorado River Tops America's Most Endangered Rivers in 2013

January 28, 2014
This issue is directly related to us here in the Gunnison Valley and in fact to most anybody across the country. Water shortage is currently a major issue almost anywhere in the U.S. due to the demand for water and the numerous areas that are experiencing droughts. There are many things at stake here, including a lot of recreational opportunities around Crested Butte. The Gunnison River is a major tributary of the Colorado and a lot of the water in question here originates in our state. We need to recognize that it is an issue no matter where you live. Read this article for an in-depth look at this issue, courtesy of American Rivers.

Here is a helpful resource that outlines some things you can do to help conserve this valuable resource. 
Posted by Zach Kinler
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Deep into the Fly Box I Went

January 12, 2014
This past summer, I got the chance to guide a couple of great clients for two days. It was a father who had a lot of fly fishing experience and his son who was a bit newer to the sport. It was the perfect chance for me to show them some great local water, as well as get a young fly fisherman “hooked.” The day started out pretty well with a few hook ups and a few small fish to hand. As the morning wore on and the sun got brighter and higher in the sky, the fishing got a little tougher.

The water on Spring Creek that time of year was gin-clear and low. The fish were spooky and there were not many bugs on or in the water. We had seen a few PMD mayflies and the occasional Blue Winged Olive and were fishing patterns to mimic what we found, but the strikes were few. We approached one spot that was in the shade with a submerged log, which created a deeper channel right through the middle of the stream. This was classic trout holding water and with the day almost over, I knew we had to take advantage. At this point I was working with Graham, the son, and the first drift through the slot revealed a very nice rainbow. It was only a look; however, so I quickly changed the fly. Another look followed but not a strike. As I cut the second fly off and went to my box, I was searching for answers.

There it was, the Royal Wulff. This is a pattern that I fished heavily myself when I first started fly fishing, but one that I had not gone to in years. For those who might not be familiar, the Royal Wulff is known as an “attractor” pattern not meant to look like anything in particular but a fly that floats well, is easy to see and just looks buggy. I thought that maybe I was over-thinking what the trout was looking for, so I grabbed a size-12 and tied it to the end of the leader. I told Graham to land it five feet upstream of the trout and drift it right over where we saw it. That was it, the rainbow took it willingly on the first drift and after a real strong fight we had a beautiful 14-inch rainbow in the net! This one fly and one fish had turned a good day into a great day and one that I know I will not soon forget. Thank you, Royal Wulff.
Posted by Zach Kinler
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Great Crested Butte Snowpack Foreshadows Promising Fishing Season

December 10, 2013
While most people see snowfall as good for skiing, those of us who live, work, and play in the mountains see it as not only good skiing but good livelihood. It is easy for someone who visits here to come and enjoy the great early season skiing we have, then leave and only remember the exceptional skiing.

As a kid, I was obsessed with watching the snowflakes fall in the porch light, and not much has changed. Now I think about not only skiing through those beautiful snowflakes but also standing in a river full of them next summer. With the snow starting to pile up here, we are all thankful for a good ski season, but those of us who rely on snowpack to drive this town year round have an extra special appreciation.

The Gunnison River Basin snowpack is at 134 percent of normal for this time of year, and we can’t help but think that the rivers and lakes might fill up this summer. Despite the low moisture in the past two years, fishing has been phenomenal but there has been impacts on the fishery that come from low water and fishing pressure. A good snow year will put us right back to normal and keep everything that swims very happy.

If you are still contemplating a good place to ski this winter, come on out and enjoy not only the great skiing in Crested Butte but appreciate what it will do for us in the long run as we continue to live, work, and play in this great place. If you are looking for a world-class fishery this summer, keep your fingers crossed for a big winter, but know that it will be great either way.
Posted by Zach Kinler
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Same Time, Same Place

September 18, 2013
Having been a guide in both the skiing and fishing businesses for many seasons, every new day makes me realize that I truly haven't seen it all.  I love the question in the summer time, “So how many days do you work a week?” My response is usually around nine or so.

For us, it's all about making our clients happy and making sure they have an awesome day on the water.  Many guides have clients that have been fishing with them for forever and make it a point to come back to the same time, same place every summer.  It's also exciting to have people who show up having never held a fly rod.  This diversity is what makes me get up every morning with the same enthusiasm and mindset like it is the first day of the season because for most of our clients, it is their first day of fishing for the season.

Now that it's mid September, I finally have some time to reflect on the last hundred or so days of guiding.  I am truly blessed to say that each day was unique in its own way.  I've had everything from the granddad and grandson who wanted to throw lures all day (I think we put 60 in the net that day) to the crew of 12 beginners on the first day who at least felt like experts after their three days of float fishing. Of course, you can't forget the clients that show up for the eighth year-in-a-row holding that new Sage One and Able reel (probably sold to them by the one and only Pedro).  With these guys, it's a hug when you see them instead of a handshake, which is a nice change of pace.  Anyways, with all this said, it’s the relationships we make with everyone who comes to fish with us that keeps us in this business. So to all you clients out there, thanks and we hope to see you again next summer, same time, same place.
Posted by Brandon Snyder
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Spring fishing is heating up!!

March 16, 2013

Temperatures in the Gunnison Valley have been through the roof for the last week or so and the ice is breaking up and fishable water is appearing everywhere. Dragonfly has spent time on the East and Gunnison Rivers in the last couple of days and the fishing has been very very good. Look for the fishing to be the best during the warmest part of the day, keep an eye on the insect activity and don't be afraid to change flies. The fish are there and they are ready to bite you just need to find the correct depth and a fly they find appetizing. If you are looking to get out on the water and need some advice, some flies or are interested in taking a trip give us a call at 970-349-1228 or swing by the shop!
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Fall Trip into the Gunnison Gorge!!!

September 14, 2012
The Gunnison Gorge Conservation Area is a unique part of the Gunnison River directly downstream of Black Canyon National Park near Hotchkiss Colorado.   This area is remote and can be accessed on a number of trails leading from the Canyon rim to the river bottom.  On September 11th Dragonfly guides and clients took a two day one night self supported trip into the Ute Park area.  This high desert environment is contrasted by the lush canyon bottom of the Gunnison River and produces some great rainbow and brown trout fishing.  Our recent trip was highlighted with several nice rainbows and browns like the one seen above.  On the day of our scheduled trip mother nature decided to throw us a curve ball and produced rain and storms for better part of half of the trip.  Our clients were tough and fished through the weather and saw some great fish!  The clouds helped us a lot with the fish staying active as long as the clouds were hanging around.  The fishing in the Canyon is excellent and makes for a great Fall adventure!!!
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The Witching Hour: Dusk on the Taylor River

August 3, 2012
That’s the Taylor River in southwest Colorado up there. The little figure in the white hat on the left side of the frame high-sticking a 4-wt fly rod is one of Dragonfly's guests. The sky is that color because a thunderstorm has just passed through the valley, and while the noise and lightning are over, the clouds are still thinning causing refractions in the sun’s setting rays. Moments earlier a double rainbow filled the sky, but a unicorn never came. Only trout after trout after trout. Feasting on mayflies tied with feathers and string. It was full dark before we thought to wade back across, and then still it was one more cast. Just one more. The bats swooped around our shoulders as we slipped and slid on hidden river rocks back to the side where we’d left the keys, the car, the phones, the day behind.

To purchase flies, book a guided trip on the Taylor (or other area rivers), or just to talk story, visit us at Dragonfly Anglers in downtown Crested Butte, or call the shop at 800.491.3079.
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Guided Flyfishing is On Fire!!!!

June 21, 2012
       Wow, I have herd several terms- insane, sick, and redonkulous(rediculous) to describe the fishing over the past week in the Gunnison Valley.  The fishing over the entire drainage is spectacular. 
       The Drakes have been heavy on the Gunnison, East, and the Taylor rivers.  The hatch on the Gunnison has been from around 11am.-2pm.   I have seen drakes as well as caddis, pmd's, and yellow sallies at similar times on the East and the Taylor.  The backcountry has also been fishing off the hook!  Fish have been very active all throughout the day with the slowest fishing during the hottest times of the day.
       Water levels are at perfect levels for float and walk trips right now and should maintain these levels for the next month.  Call our shop 1-970-349-1228 for trip availability and to book your favorite guide!!
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