Showing posts with label fishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fishing. Show all posts

July 09, 2019

San Isabel, Where the Internet Ends, Sort of

That mysterious box at lower right.

My friend Galen has been visiting the Lodge at San Isabel since boyhood; me, I probably came first in the late 1980s. On a fishing trip last week, we stopped to photograph this newish sign (not 1930s original), but we noticed something else — the functional pay phone.

The information sheet that you get when asking about the lodge's rental cabins makes it clear: no mobile phone service (unless you have a satphone), no wifi at the lodge or cabins, no broadcast television, and no satellite-based TV or Internet access. (Some homeowners have satellite dishes, of course.) You can borrow DVDs to watch. Messages for guests are posted on a notice board by the main door.

Otherwise, go fishing. Go for a walk. Paddle a kayak. Do something.

It is almost like "the land where the Internet ends," a piece about Green Bank, West Virginia, that ran in the New York Times last month.

Green Bank is home to several giant radio telescopes, all set in a "National Radio Quiet Zone, 13,000 square miles of mountainous terrain with few cell towers or other transmitters." (That sounds a lot like much of the Wet Mountains, if you stay off the ridges.) Scientists studying weak signals from the cosmos want no interference. The area also attract "electrosensitives," people who think that cellular phone signals and other transmissions make them ill.

The writer, Pagan Kenndy, wonders,
Activists have already created “dark sky reserves” to protect wilderness from artificial light. In the future, might we also create “privacy reserves” where we can go to escape the ubiquitous internet?
As it happens, San Isabel is (mostly) in Custer County, where to the west, in the Wet Mountain Valley, there is already a "dark sky reserve" with a website, "star parties" and so on.

She talks to a stranger in line at a convenience store. There is something odd about him.
The man carried himself oddly, with his chest puffed out and his head swiveling as if to scan everything in the store, from the hunting gear to the Little Debbie display case. I thought his posture must have been a remnant from his brain injury, but then realized everybody seemed to be walking around with the same heads-up attitude. Take away the cellphones, it turns out, and you also take away the cellphone hunch. And with nothing else to do but meet one another’s eyes, people talk. 
 Or they are gazing at the lake, watching the ospreys dive, looking to see if the trout are rising.

July 08, 2019

A "Blue-collar Glass Rod" and Other Discoveries

It was time to dump out, sort, and organize all the fishing tackle
and to discover things that I did not know that I had.
After a humongous spring runoff, southern Colorado streams are clearing. An old friend came to visit, but for various reasons, we stayed off the creeks and fished a favorite small lake for a couple of evenings. More on that later.

Inspired by catching fish for the first time this summer, I decided to bring up all the fishing tackle to the front porch, dump it out, sort things, and organize them — for the first time in years. Of course, there were some "Oh, that's where [that item] was!" moments.

How did I get so many red-and-white plastic bobbers? By picking up lost ones on various lake shores, enough that I will donate a bag of them to Goodwill.

Whose flies are these? Oh . . . I remember.
In a carton holding spools of monofilament, trolling line, and new-in-the-box flyline from years back, I found a small fly box of streamers and wet flies, mainly.

I looked at them kind of blankly. Where did I . . . . oh, those were Dad's! He used to fish mainly small streams with wet flies. It's been sixteen years, and it's like he reached out to me. Why did I put them away? I am not in the flyfishing museum business! Fish them! So they went into my vest.

I brought up all the rods and rod cases. That one-piece spinning rod missing its tip? I've caught a number of fish on it in that condition anyway. But now it will go to Goodwill, and maybe some handy Pueblo angler can glue on a new tip.

These empty rod cases — they are not empty! Out slides a Shakespeare "Ugly Stik" fiberglass fly rod that I probably used last in in the late 1980s. Really "noodly." It goes. That leaves me with three fly rods (4-wt, 5–6 wt., and 7-wt.) which ought to be enough.


In the mid-1960s, this rod's list price was $22.95. Using the "US Inflation Calculator,"
today''s price would be $181.40, only in reality it would be much less than that. One word: China.

And this one: a Heddon Pal Mark II #8353, 7 1/2 feet for 6-wt. line,  with the Controlled Flex action, which is less noodly than the aforementioned "Ugly Stik."

I stared it it. The slightly abraded cork grip—from a dog's mouth? Something else? Ferrules, guides, and wrappings were all in good condition. The problem was, I just did not remember fishing it.

I turned to the Internet. A "blue-collar glass rod," one source called it. Another said,
By the mid 60s, Heddon made a wide range of fly rods. They sold the Pal, Pal Mark I, II, III, and IV rods, as well as the Pro Weight, Mark I Custom, and Lifetime Pal Stainless Steel models. Like the earlier rods, the various models may have been made on the same blanks with the variations in price simply due to the cosmetics and hardware.

The Pal rods were the economy models, with with olive painted blanks, black wraps over a white backing, nickel silver ferrules, and an anodized black reelseat with silver hoods.
At another website, someone opined that a like-new Mark I Pal that sold for $17.95 would be worth about $50 to a collector today. Assuming you could find a collector. Otherwise, going by eBay listings, it is probably worth about $20 in 2019 dollars, since it lacks the original case.

Of course, there is apparently a retro reverse-snobbery thing going with fifty-year-old fiberglass rods. Wouldn't you know.

Was it Dad's too? I thought I remembered him fishing mostly "hardware store-grade" bamboo rods, but I was pretty young then. In 1975, he and my stepmom moved from Colorado to Whidbey Island, Washington, where he bought a 28-foot boat, took navigation and seamanship classes, befriended local fishermen, and threw himself into the pursuit of salmon -- interspersed with halibut, bottom fish (such as lemon sole), crabs, and clams. I looked forward to my trips out there.

All the saltwater gear went to M's nephew, who was fishing a lot in the Gulf of Mexico at the time. Was this fiberglasss fly rod something I set in a corner of my basement and forgot?

I suppose there are collectors of hardware store-grade fiberglass fly rods from the 1960s out there — there is a niche for everything — but it will probably go to Goodwill too. I am not sure if it "sparks joy."

July 03, 2019

Reviewing Colorado Parks and Wildlife's New Apps

I was going to review two new free smartphone apps from Colorado Parks and Wildlife today, but I will be reviewing only one, because I am having problems with the other.

First up is CoTrex, "Colorado's Trail Explorer." Subtitle: "We're mapping Colorado's trails."

They have a way go on that. Based on my trial, it works well in state parks. But standing on my front porch, I am within two miles of three or four marked US Forest Service trailheads, and none of them shows up on CoTrex. Yet every trail up at Lake Pueblo State Park is visible.

Colorado's state parks are popular, and it is good to get people out walking around. When I tested CoTrex at Trinidad State Park — which has good connectivity, since it is just outside the town of Trinidad — the app was more convenient in some ways than a paper brochure, but it did not give me the historical/ecological information that the park's trail brochures contained.

Cotrex lets you save routes (if you create an account—more on that below) and even set up a sort of "friends" network and other social mediumistic stuff, if you're into all that.  You may complete “challenges” to earn badges.

You can also download your trail map for when you lose your data signal. (If you come to my neck of the San Isabel National Forest, even digital-trunked radios don't work well, not to mention cell phones.) But at that point, no device screen will show you as much as a paper topo map, unless you keep a MacBook Air in your day pack. Me, I like my iPhone SE because it fits in a shirt pocket, even inside its Otterbox fumble-finger protection case. But it is a way-too-small screen for map-viewing.

Pluses: Easy to use. If you have a data signal and GPS enabled, you can see your position on the trail and reassure your anxious hiking partner that you are not lost and that an important trail junction is just head. And it's free.

Minuses: Shows only a fraction of "Colorado’s unique trail experiences" at this time. The app designers invite uses to add them (otherwise known as do their work for them), which could lead to all kinds of confusion over trailheads, private property, seasonal trail-closures, etc. But the makers do promise to grow their database. Like any app, it encourages you to stare down at a screen when you should be looking around and orienting yourself.

I expect that CoTrex will help newbie hikers who are using urban and state parks systems primarily.

I also planned to review an app called CPW Fishing.

It is supposed to help you "visualize your trip and track your catches with CPW Fishing, the official fishing app of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. CPW Fishing can help you discover new fishing locations, learn new skills, stay on top of the latest regulations and journal your fishing experiences.​"

I downloaded it, created an account (see below), received a verification code in my email, typed in the code, hit "Go" — and it stalled. After looking at an "Authorizing . . . " screen for five minutes, with no way to restart the process, I just removed the app. (I emailed the "support" address, but no response yet.)

Still, it's out there, and maybe I can get it work later. Tell me your experience if you use it.

There is also a "Match a Hatch" app that I mean to try as well. My little iPhone should display invertebrates well enough.

CoTrex was created by a software firm called Natural Atlas, whereas CPW Fishing was created by Crestone Digital. Apparently they do not talk to each other — they are competitors, after all. Worse, no one at CPW is forcing them to talk to each other and to agree to make accounts interchangeable.

Right now, I have four CWP accounts:

1. For buying hunting and fishing licenses
2. For volunteer work
3. For CoTrex
4. (in theory) for CPW Fishing.

Wouldn't it be nice to have One Password to Rule Them?

June 11, 2019

Our First Trip to Trinidad Lake State Park

Part of Carpios Ridge Campground from an overlook.
As I turned into the Carpios Ridge Campground at Trinidad Lake State Park, pulling the little pop-up trailer, I saw this tall building with a bright red-orange metal roof.

"That must be the visitor center," I said to M. But I was so wrong. It was the "camper services" building — toilets, plus coin-operated showers, laundry room, and vending machines. The actual visitor center was more modest.

By happenstance, the first weekend of June found us holding reservations for the dogs at the boarding kennel, but our original planned destination was impossible. What to do? A lot of the high country was still snowy and/or in the middle of the Big Melt, so we looked lower down.

A view from our campsite. The forest here is mostly piñon-juniper.
Trinidad Lake SP was not too far away, and thanks to our volunteer work, we had a brand-new hang tag for the Jeep that would give us free park admission — we still had to pay for the campsites. I went online to check, and there were two left, so I grabbed one. (All these campsites are by reservation only.)

The Purgatory River was dammed to create the lake in 1979, making it slightly younger than Pueblo Reservoir.  The lake's level fluctuates, but it is around 800 acres.

Creating the lake drowned some former "coal camps," but you can see visit Cokedale at the park's west end, with its long row of former coke ovens aging under the Colorado sun — when they were working, that little valley must have filled with choking smoke.

One morning I went down to fish before breakfast, and I admit to being skunked—I saw a couple of fish, but they rejected my lures. Some anglers in boats were not doing well either, but I saw one hooked by a fisherman on the shore.

Muddy water flowing into the lake.
When I don't know a lake, my default strategy is to fish the inlet. We went up there later, but the muddy water of "the Purg" was flowing in big-time out of the Culebra Range. So I switched to hiking and geocaching — CPW staff have placed some excellent caches, as well as those left by other geocachers.

The riparian zone meets the P-J in Long's Canyon.
The best hike is Long's Canyon, about a three-mile round trip, because it is away from roads and follows a creek and riparian area that offers the best birding and wildlife-viewing opportunities. There are even some permanent blinds.

It also includes a geological feature, the KT (KPg) Boundary, as described in "An Earth-Shattering Kaboom at Trinidad Lake State Park."

If all this is not enough, you are only about five miles from the Corazon de Trinidad National Historic Area.

July 07, 2018

Beat the Heat — at the Fish Hatchery!

Rainbow Trout
From Colorado Parks and Wildlife:


Free family-friendly fun available at CPW hatcheries in Upper Arkansas Valley


SALIDA, Colo. – Looking for a unique, free outing where your family can have fun such as making the water churn with ravenous, leaping trout in spectacular mountain settings? How about an outing where you may even learn a thing or two?

Consider visiting two Colorado Parks and Wildlife hatcheries in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, set amid the Collegiate Peaks in central Colorado, where staffers live by the motto “Your fishin’ is our mission.”

Start by visiting the Chalk Cliffs Rearing Unit hatchery, where CPW raises catchable-size rainbow trout. The hatchery is at 22605 CR 287 near Nathrop, about two miles west of U.S. Highway 285 toward Mount Princeton.

CPW volunteer “camp hosts” greet visitors from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. See where CPW raises about 700,000 10-inch rainbows annually in concrete raceways and ponds for stocking in lakes along the Front Range.

Free activities include fish feeding – watch the water bubble with frenzied rainbow trout that jump into the air when you toss a handful of feed into the ponds – and videos. For tour information, call Chalk Cliffs at 719-395-2378.

Down the highway, Mount Shavano Hatchery sits along the Arkansas River west of Salida at 7725 CR 154.

Camp hosts are on hand 10 a.m.-4 p.m., daily, to provide information on the hatchery and Colorado fish. Guests park at the top of the hill at Mount Shavano and walk down a set of steps to the hatchery.

Mount Shavano Hatchery is one of the largest trout hatcheries in the state, annually producing 540,000 disease-free catchable 10-inch trout and 2-3 million smaller trout and kokanee salmon.

Guests are greeted by interpretive signs explaining the life cycle of trout. Go inside, meet the CPW volunteer camp hosts, get a tour and watch great videos, including dramatic footage of CPW staff using airplanes to stock high mountain lakes. Then it’s out to the raceways to feed the fish. For more information, call 719-539-6877.

For more information on these or any of Colorado’s 19 hatcheries, visit the CPW website www.cpw.state.co.us/Hatcheries.

July 28, 2017

Links Taller than Your Head

It's a good year for wild sunflowers.
Links. Do I have links. They sprout like sunflowers on the prairie.

How to improve your outdoor photography. 10-2-4 is not about Dr. Pepper — 2 p.m. is when you are traveling to the place that you wish to photograph after 4 p.m. And "Zoom with your feet" does not apply to buffalo.

Predatory ducks. It's Romania, so maybe they suck blood as well.

• How older elk survive to a ripe old age (for elk).  They learn the difference between bowhunters and rifle hunters.

A poacher goes down hard. If only this happened more often.

• From Colorado Outdoors: "Five Tips to Catch More Fish This Summer."

Another article on bold, aggressive urban coyotes. Denver, this time.

• High country trails don't just happen. It takes people like this.

July 03, 2015

John Martin Reservoir is Full Again

Enjoy it while it's this way.
I have never fished John Martin, but I have tried it for waterfowling with mixed success. When it is high like this, you can find some cover and improvise a blind.

But when it is low,  the best areas are surrounded by a wide margin of boot-sucking mud. I wonder how far down the original bottom is under the the silt that has washed in.

News release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

HASTY, Colo. - The wet Colorado spring at John Martin Reservoir has allowed something that hasn’t been seen for quite a while: high water levels.

That means it’s a great time to visit the park. There’s plenty of room for boating in the reservoir that now spans roughly nine miles long and two miles wide. There's also 200-plus campsites and nearly five miles of hiking trails to explore.

Water levels at John Martin Reservoir are nearly seven times higher than levels last year. As of June 23, the reservoir had 276,000 acre feet of water, while last year at a similar time of year the reservoir held only around 30,000 acre feet.

"The reservoir hasn't looked like this in a long time," said Park Manager Dan Kirmer. "If you haven't been to the reservoir before or haven't been in awhile, you definitely need to come check it out."

Boat, picnic and fish at this peaceful oasis known for its wildlife. John Martin Reservoir is also considered a birdwatcher's paradise with almost 400 species documented in Bent County.

Beat the crowds and long lines at boat ramps at other reservoirs across the state and enjoy the open water at John Martin Reservoir. While the dock at the east boat ramp had to be closed, boats can still launch and both the east and west boat ramps remain open.

The reservoir is letting in water at a rate of around 3,900 cubic feet per second and is releasing at a rate of about 820 cfs, so the high water levels will remain for a while.

For more information about John Martin Reservoir State Park call 719-829-1801, or click here.

April 10, 2015

Royal Coachman

Royal Coachman (The Fly Shack)
Fidget. Eyes sticky/watering from hay fever. I have a long paper that I am supposed to be editing for an academic journal, helping the author whip the prose into shape.

Fidget. I write an email to a friend, mentioning that I am truly in editorial mode today.

But instead I walk ten minutes up into the national forest to check a scout camera. It has thirteen images, but I have forgotten to bring a new data card to swap. Looking around, I see fresh turkey droppings.

And on the way home, I hear a turkey gobbling right up where I took Fisher on his walk this morning.

Fidget. Internet. Nap. M. comes back from a trip to the grocery store, and I tell her that since her Jeep's engine is warm, I would like to borrow it and go fishing.

Not far, just up the canyon, where I park and put a new leader on the 5-weight line. A package of tippet material in my vest says "Best used by November 2002."

Does that mean
  1. that I don't fish enough?
  2. that "use by" dates are meaningless on fishing gear?
  3. that I buy more supplies than I need, forgetting what I have?
  4. all of the above?
On the stream, I tie on a Royal Coachman — a little season-opening ritual in honor of my father — and I catch a a couple of tiny brook trout, which go back into the little creek. I demand at least a six-inch minimum on brookies.

At least they are back, after nearly being lost to drought. The beaver ponds, I think, act as refugee camps when the creek goes dry, but the trout do not get very big.

So I feel better now. Maybe I can start that paper after supper.

March 26, 2014

Boots on the Ground: Backcountry Hunters & Anglers' 10-Year Climb

I spent last weekend at the national rendezvous of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and although I do not plan to write it up in a journalistic way, I have at least one post planned.

Meanwhile, here is a short video summarizing BHA's tenth anniversary. BHA went from a small group passing the whiskey around a campfire in Oregon to being a "player" in land and wildlife conservation.

March 12, 2014

Backcountry Rendezvous Comes to Denver!

In just ten days I will be traveling to Denver for the annual rendezvous of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a conservation group that while still pretty new, punches above its weight.

Let me pass the mike to outdoor/nature writer David Petersen, who was present at the creation:
"What hunting desperately needs," one of us opined, "is a national grass-roots sportsman's group comprising outdoorsmen and women who are sufficiently enlightened to put ecological integrity above all else, including our own self-interests." 
Indeed, what we were daydreaming about was a nonprofit organization built firmly upon Aldo Leopold's "land ethic." By "land," Leopold meant what we know today as the ecology -- including wildlife, fish and their habitats. "A thing is right," Leopold's land ethic proposed, "when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
You may not realize how revolutionary a statement that is. There are other good conservation groups that put ecological integrity first yet are still comfortable with hunting or fishing—I think Trout Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited rank highly. TU in particular works to protect aquatic ecosystems that just happen to have Salmonids in them, which means most higher-elevation Colorado waters.

BHA's focus is protecting "backcountry" (not just designated draw-a-line-around-it wilderness areas) from disruptive motorized travel and anything else that negatively affects what lives there. And yes, these just happen to be good places to hunt and fish in traditional ways.

Dave continues,
And that's the briefest possible overview of how BHA came to be and who we are. Now let's fast-forward to March 21-23 -- next week! -- and the Red Lion Hotel Denver Southeast, where a now mature BHA with members in every state and several foreign countries, and 17 active chapters in the U.S. and Canada, is holding its third annual rendezvous and 10th birthday celebration. . . .
If you can't afford to spend the entire weekend with BHA members from all over America, you're most welcome to drop by on Friday evening, March 21, for kick-off events including a reception, vendor booths and displays, opening remarks by BHA Executive Director Land Tawney, dinner, and a get-acquainted "backcountry bash" featuring live bluegrass music.
 Here is a full schedule of events and registration information.

February 21, 2014

Gold Medal Water versus Over the River

In January, the Colorado Div. of Parks and Wildlife named much of the Arkansas River a Gold Medal stream, a designation given to the state's best fishing waters.
The Gold Medal reach is 102 miles long from the confluence with the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River, near Leadville, downstream to Parkdale at the Highway 50 bridge crossing above the Royal Gorge.

The designation has been 20 years in the making, and although anglers have enjoyed the improved conditions for years, it is an official acknowledgement of the myriad efforts undertaken by state and federal agencies to turn an impaired river into one of the most popular fishing destinations in Colorado.
Now Rags Over the River (ROAR), the group opposed to ze artiste Christo's "Over the River" plan to hang plastic sheeting over several miles of the river, is trying to use that Gold Medal designation to leverage a new environmental assessment.
“Gold medal designation is an extremely high standard for any body of water to meet. The art project threatens to seriously affect the Arkansas River’s important and sensitive fishery and the ability of anglers to access the river,” [ROAR's Joan] Anzelmo said.
Christo's people say otherwise. A lawsuit is still pending. Christo is 79, so one imagines certain actuarial calculations at work.

December 20, 2013

More People Hunting and Fishing, says Multi-state Survey

This news comes from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which in its news release cited these factors:
Responsive Management, a public opinion research organization specializing in survey research on natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, focused on recent showing a nine percent increase in hunter participation among Americans nationwide from 2006 to 2011.

The study pinpoints 10 major reasons for the increases:

•    The economic recession

•    Higher incomes among some segments of the population

•    Hunting for meat and the locavore movement

•    Agency recruitment and retention programs

•    Agency access programs

•    Agency marketing and changes in licenses

•    Current hunters and anglers participating more often

•    Returning military personnel

•    Re-engagement of lapsed hunters

•    New hunters and anglers including female, suburban and young participants
Just to pick a few numbers, Colorado resident hunting-license sales are up 14 percent since 2006 but New Mexico are down 3 percent. Illinois, however, saw a 78-percent increase in those years — one of the larger increases. In many cases, these numbers represent an upturn after several years of declines. So it is not a complete turnaround by any means.

Interestingly, the top major influence to go hunting listed by respondents (68 percent of them) was "Interest in hunting as a local, natural, or green food."

Read the complete survey (PDF).

December 05, 2013

Browns Canyon and a New Spin on Wilderness Advocacy

Senator Udall outlines his bill.
Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) stood up in front of a group of mostly Chaffee County folks on Tuesday to announce that his bill to create the Browns* Canyon National Monument soon start its perilous journey downstream through the dark canyon that is Congress.

As snow swirled outside the venue, the reception area at Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting, no doubt some of those present were mentally calculating what percentage of a decent snowpack had accrued thus far in the season.

This proposal has been a long time coming. I remember seeing Browns Canyon from a raft for the first time in 1986 or '87 — and that trip was a junket organized for some conservation group (Trout Unlimited?) connected either with Browns Canyon or the proposed Arkansas River state park. And I can recommend testifying at a public meeting in Buena Vista six (?) years ago before Ken Salazar when he was in the Senate. And there has been a lot more done along the way.

Part of the proposed national monument — to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, not the Park Service — has been a BLM wilderness study area (WSA) since the 1980s, at least.

Like a lot of the BLM WSA's, it is a not a high-altitude alpine forest-and-snow area, but would protect lower elevation forest (important big game habitat) and riparian areas. It had a road into it to an old mining camp. And lots of people wanted a say for or against the proposal: recreational gold miners, hunters, dirt bikers, four-wheelers, cattlemen, commercial rafters, private rafters, anglers . . . and one group that surprised me, but whose inclusion makes perfect sense.

Over the years, compromises were made, and the original proposal shrank down to about 10,000 acres.

Udall praised the effort as "emblematic" of how a public lands bill should be crafted, from the bottom up and as a "common sense proposal" that would "protect all existing legal uses."

Then came brief statements from supporters. There was the motel owner-real estate agent from Buena Vista, who said that a designated national monument would bring more visitors. I suspect that he is right. The vice president of the commercial rafters association made a similar point, noting that whitewater rafting on the Arkansas is a $54 million industry.

Another outfitter, Bill Dvorack (holder of Colorado outfitting license #1) spoke about protecting wildlife habitat. Bill Sustrich of Salida, at 87 years probably the oldest life member of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, talked about ATVers ruining elk hunting.

Interestingly, there was another speaker from a nonprofit group helping veterans reintegrate into society. He identified himself as a former Army sniper in Iraq, and talked about the part that public lands recreation played in his own de-stressing from his war experience.

That rang a bell — I remembered outdoor writer and vet Galen Geer writing an article about how hunting did something similar for him after his tours in Vietnam. His article seemed to stand alone at the time (the late 1980s or early 1990s), but now people are organizing such outdoor experiences.

* About a century ago, the US Board of Geographic Names or some such agency decided that the possessive apostrophe was too complicated for them.

August 29, 2013

New Hunters Not Joining Habitat-Protection Groups?

Hank Shaw, author of Hunt Gather Cook and the forthcoming Duck Duck Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild, worries that too many "locavore" and "adult-onset" hunters are failing to join conservation groups like Duck Unlimited or the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that protect wildlife habitat.

Is it a culture-war sort of thing?
There is a myth among new hunters that long-time hunters merely eat the choicest bits of an animal, leaving the rest to rot — if they eat the animal at all. I freely admit I used to think this way, a decade ago. While I’ve never had a problem getting along with people of all political stripes — I was a political reporter for nearly 20 years, after all — I certainly held my nose high when I heard about how this hunter or that angler cooked his or her quarry. But as I met more and more “traditional” hunters, and actually listened to them, I began to realize that even though they might not make a liver creme caramel from that whitetail they just brought home, they might still just cook up that liver in some butter, or grind it into sausage. And isn’t that the point? To eat it, and not to waste. Everything else is aesthetics.
It is this culture clash that lies at the root of a much larger dilemma. In my experience, the vast majority of the new hunters, or as my friend Tovar Cerulli calls them “adult-onset hunters,” either have never heard of the various habitat organizations organized around the animals they seek, or reject them as right-wing old boys’ clubs.

This is a grave error.
He offers two reasons for joining. One is that most of these groups are efficient charities that put the majority of their money into programs, not into salaries and further fundraising. Second, by being part of the hunting or angling community, you learn stuff and make connections.

I could speak to both sides of this question. While I support Ducks Unlimited or RMEF, for example, with occasional checks, a big banquet hall full of people I don't know is not a comfortable experience for me, although I have been to a few.

If my only connection with people is shared waterfowling or trout-fishing, it's hard to stay enthused. (I was president of a Trout Unlimited chapter once, not necessarily a good one.)

So staying home and writing checks is my contribution, as it working some with smaller, locally focused groups, because I support what they do, even though I last attended a DU banquet in about 1996.

I noticed the comments to Shaw's post ended up deteriorating into Republicans-vs.-Democrats stuff. That is another grave error.

August 16, 2013

Monsoon on the Conejos (3) Pagosa Springs & Assorted Mushroom Thoughts

Boletus edulis in the Wet Mountains
Saturday the 10th was our last full day of the camping trip. I put away the fly rods and picked more mushrooms (and wild strawberries) on Cumbres Pass, then drove on west through Chama, N.M, to Pagosa Springs.

I had planned to be in Pagosa the previous weekend for a state-sponsored fire class, but it was cancelled, so this was sort of a consolation visit.

In Pagosa, the weather was warm, and the San Juan River was running high and brown. Tubing outfitters were busy shuttling their customers to the east side of town so that they could ride down past the city park and the mineral springs, where the terraces were crowded with bathers.

In the midst of this "rubber hatch," I saw one guy casting a spinning rod. I thought of congratulating him for upholding the archetype of the always-optimistic fisherman, but he gave up and walked away.

We visited a couple of thrift stores—nothing exciting—where does all the outdoor gear go?—and then had a late lunch/early supper at the Riff-Raff brew pub ("Hoppy people. Hoppy earth").

I reckoned that my cabrito burger with Hatch green chiles was sort of quasi-locavore-ish.

It rained steadily most of the way back to the campground.

The next morning I observed a mulie doe moving strangely through the woods. She had her nose down like a dog following a scent trail.

Was she eating mushrooms? I had picked a few in that area, mostly Suillis  ("slippery jacks"). I tried to follow, but I could not get too close without spooking her, and there were a lot of spruce boughs in the way.

I did see some Suillis that had been scraped by what looked like a deer's lower incisors (Deer don't have upper incisors.) Were there fewer mushrooms than before? Not sure.

Two days later, having done well on a mushroom hunt closer to home, M. and I were easing down a rough forest road in the Jeep when we saw a squirrel wrestling — or something — in the road. It turned out to be trying to carry the stem of a Boletus edulis ("king bolete"), which was nearly as big as it was.

Yesterday M. was walking Fisher on lead down the driveway when he dashed into the oak brush, dragging her along. He had scented another bolete, one unfortunately past its prime. It was probably another Boletus chrysenteron, which grows under oaks, like the one he snarfed off the kitchen counter a few days ago.

Does this mean that he might have a talent for finding good mushrooms? If the French have truffle-sniffing dogs, could we have a Southern Rockies bolete-sniffing dog? Further research is required.

August 14, 2013

Monsoon on the Conejos (2): Platoro y Yo

Platoro, Colorado. The bands of light at right are windshield reflections.
With the Conejos River running high and turbid, I decided to travel upstream. That meant Rio Grande Forest Road 520, which might be described as a pretty good road — if you were in Afghanistan.

Mile after pothole'd mile crept by. I would stop now and then and check the river. Still roily.

Eventually we reached the resort hamlet of Platoro (plata plus oro — weren't those early miners clever?) which always makes me think of what the Alaskan bush might look like (having never visited Alaska) — dense forest, a straggle of modest frame and log buildings, thick willows along the river.

The old lodge, currently bearing the name Sky Line Lodge, is classic, but right now its owners cannot decide whether it is a grocery store or a fly shop and so fall between two stools. (It and I make an unflattering appearance in Ed Engle's memoir Seasonal: A Life Outside. That's what happens when you hang around writers.) A UPS driver was making a delivery, and the shelves of his van were empty. Platoro is the end of the line.

The inlet to Platoro Reservoir, managed by BuRec for flood control, etc. It's quite low right now.
Above Platoro is Platoro Reservoir, and we continued past it to the Three Forks area, at the edge of the South San Juan Wilderness Area, where the stream was clearer, and I got into a few small trout while playing peekaboo with a herd of cows in the dense willows.

Rain clouds build above Platoro Reservoir.
And then it was time for the afternoon deluge, plus hail. Too much driving time versus fishing time.

(to be continued)

August 13, 2013

Monsoon on the Conejos (1)

We brought a screen for drying mushrooms.
The campground host's name tag said "Noah." That should have been a hint.*

M. and I set out Thursday for a camping trip to the Conejos River. I had looked at the stream flow online, and it was up from July's average, but I still had this picture in my mind from other late-summer trips: clear waters, a slight crispness in the air.

Just getting there had its moments. When we stopped in Antonito to get some snacks from the trailer, people driving by kept looking at us. Sure, Antonito seems a little insular, but why the stares?

Maybe it was because the Jeep and the pop-up trailer were liberally coated with mud.

Conditions on the Secret Cut-off Road had been worse than I had expected. Seeing the trailer in the rear-view mirror going sideways is unsettling. All I could think was, "This would be worse if I were going downhill."

We kept going and later in the afternoon reached the Forest Service campground that was our destination. About 5:30 p.m. it started raining. That would be the pattern: two-hour downpours each afternoon or evening.

But with a hot meal, wine, a good book, and a Coleman lantern, all was good.

Friday morning I got up (mist-filtered sun), put on hip boots, and walked to one of my favorite fishing spots. The river looked like chocolate milk. A tributary stream was re-enacting the June run-off.

Walking back to the campground, I picked a few mushrooms. That would be the theme.

(to be continued)

* No, there was no name tag. I am joking.

July 02, 2013

Some Days I Just Don't Do 'Catch and Release'




Semi-wild rainbow trout caught in this county. Rice. Green salad, partly from our CSA farmer and partly from other organic sources. Fetzer wine, because a good friend used to live behind the winery, and because they try to be "sustainable."

May 31, 2013

Fish Free in Colorado June 1–2

This is Colorado's free fishing weekend — no license required.

From the Colorado Parks & Wildlife news release:
Each year, the agency designates the first weekend in June as the only two-day period that anglers all around the state are not required to have a fishing license. For the rest of the year a fishing license is required for anyone 16 years and older.      

A recent survey of resident and non-resident anglers revealed a high level of satisfaction with fishing experiences in Colorado. Anglers said they especially like to pursue the numerous trout species available in state waters. The majority of fish caught in Colorado are stocked by the agency, and each year more than 3 million catchable-sized trout and 14 million trout fingerlings are stocked into the more than 2,000 lakes, ponds and reservoirs around the state.
       
While fishing licenses are not required during free fishing weekend, all other regulations remain in effect. Anglers should consult the 2013 Colorado Fishing brochure for specific regulations and restrictions for the waters where they'll be fishing.
       
Fishing licenses can be purchased at any Colorado Parks and Wildlife office or from one of the more than 600 license agents across the state.  Licenses can also be purchased online. Anglers may also purchase a fishing license over the phone and receive a temporary authorization number allowing them to fish immediately by calling 800-244-5613.

April 26, 2013

Low Water on the Arkansas

River running about 200 cfs
The guide scrambles back into his seat after dragging the raft through a riffle. Sport #1 is fishing. Sport #2 (stern) seems drowsy. Maybe he drank his lunch. Photo taken near Howard, Colorado.