Author:  Deb Berkenbile
Location: Geneva, Ohio

About The Author:
Deb Berkebile is a member of the North Coast Fly Fishers Club in Kirtland, Ohio where she serves as Director of Communications. She is also a member of Flygirls of MI.




Well, I just have to say that if you have not attended a Federation of Fly Fishers fishing conclave, you are in for a treat when you do! I highly recommend to book all your workshops foron the water topics.

Due to flight delays, my adventure launched with a rocky start, so much so that I missed my first workshop on Thursday morning! By the time I made it to Denver, got my rental car, drove through Denver traffic at no other time than infamous rush hour, I was yearning to hit the streams for some fishing and retire for a while from the hustle and bustle of the city.

I headed up the canyon, for it had been 18 years since I had been to Colorado and I was going to an area where I had grown up. As a youngster, we had moved to Coal Creek Canyon
Deb is second from right in the photo

and my father built an A-frame house nestled in the mountainside. Driving through the canyon was like reminiscing; everything was so familiar I could remember it like yesterday. Time must move at a slower pace when in higher altitudes closer to nature.

I passed the road I lived on and decided on the trip back I was going to go see the old homestead. As I neared the location where we were suppose to fish I kept saying the name of the road where I was suppose to end up at Pactolus Rd it just kept slipping off my tongue like an old familiar friends name. Finally it came to me that this is where we used to ice skate, for further down the road was Pactolus Lake!!!

Deb &What a site to behold as I pulled up to the old location things really had changed here. The old icehouse was taken down and a lodge erected from where it set. The lake almost looked the same, but we only went there when the lake was frozen over to skate on its cold, windy ice, so seeing it years later in summertime was a breathtaking event.

Soon the fishing commenced. The first workshop was called Instructor Fish Along - Fish With and Learn from the Best. We fished the South Boulder Creek, one of the largest tributaries of the South Platte River, located in Pinecliffe. Being four o-clock in the afternoon, the mist had settled a bit, not rainy, just misting every now and then, so the conditions were just right. I met our guides Ethan Emery & Scott McCaslin and they showed us several different techniques for rigging, reading the water, and picking the flies necessary for these waters. They bragged how big the trout were!!! I soon knew they were not just telling us a fish story.

                                                                                                                                                                              Deb & Charles Jardine

They were extremely big fish! Have you ever experienced hooking a 21 and 25 inch trout! I caught six from just this one hole! WOW!!! What a rush; a rite of passage to any mountain fisher! I was fishing a rig with two - bead head nymphs and a Thingamabob for an indicator. I hooked a total of ten fish that evening. These were the best waters I fished on while on this trip and to top it all off, later on I found out that I had been fishing with the famous Ally Gowans and Dennis Grant that evening.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the two are highly professional international fly fishermen. I even had breakfast with Ally, at which time he courteously signed my book for me after a modest display and much teasing on my part! I wanted the cereal bowl he ate out of so I could frame it What a laugh that brought out of him. Us silly Americans!

I did venture down the canyon again and go look at the old homestead. Not exactly how I remembered it, but it was still there. I thought I would not take pictures so I would not ruin the memories that I have of that home built by my own familys hands.

The next day brought another workshop. A Stranger in a Strange Land: River Workshop. Here I got to meet another professional fly fisher, an Englishman, Charles Jardine. What a treat his class was. It was a blast and a highly educational experience.

Charles writes it best from this excerpt of his blog:

- Colorado Trout Gods Partially Appeased
August 1, 2009 by charlesjardine -

After suffering the slings and arrows of the vagaries of fly fishing the sun shone delineating the Rocky Mountains to the Western distance, the group was joyous eager and fun (they mostly are but today doubly so), I had finally got some sleep and a corner of sorts had clearly been turned. The On-Stream Class was to be a Stranger in a Strange World and how I dealt with situations on an unknown river. Given the lack of success earlier in the week just about everything is unknown! Still, we decided to start the proceedings in the hotel amidst a welter of muffins, notes, coffee cups, fly boxes spreading like a pervasive garden weed and a huge sense of fun. Then it was on to the river. Oddly it was as though we could catch fish for fun today and what bright litte trout they were: feisty little (and not so little) browns and rainbows sprang from the turbulence of the Big Thompson in a fountain of spangled spray from the foam and the careening currents. It was just wonderful. I even managed to bring a devoted dry fly fisher into the dark-side of nymphing. All is well today.

The only thing Charles forgot to mention was that we also fished with his very own designer fly, the Zippy, complete with trailing nymphs. We used Zippy as an indicator because he would zip up and down on a leader line so you could change the depth of your nymphs. Very clever and successful! We became so very fond of the fly we dubbed him Mr. Zippy! I hooked a couple fish and learned a lot about rigging and fishing pocket waters from a very fast moving river.

Saturday brought even more exciting activity to a wearied body. I now had fished almost 2 days straight. Getting back into my hotel room at 10 pm and starting all over at 7 am!

My first workshop Saturday morning was Small Creeks, BIG Fun! with Matt Wilhelm. We headed up the canyon from Loveland to some private waters at Sylvan Dale Ranch.

Topics for this workshop included specialty casts, reading water, aquatic insects, fly selection, and stealth activity.

Here I caught my first fish on a dry fly! To my amazement: a 12' brown trout! He put up quite a fight and then was suddenly gone. I caught him with a very small yellow dun with a yellow humpy as my rig. This brown just happened to be up stream above a large rock, but still hooked him! This was a beautiful part of the Big Thompson that I had fished on, very clear so I could locate the fish from the bank in prime locations.

I also used some hoppers & Copper Johns successfully. There was a large field of grasshoppers, but the hatch of dun took the prize! Too soon was my morning spent. The afternoon brought me to the other side of Sylvan Dales 3200-acres to their numerous ponds. This workshop was called Sight Fishing Lakes and Ponds with Chuck Prather.

Sylvan Dale has an abundant amount of small bass & trout ponds. We fished on Mother Lake first, one of the many trout ponds. Initially, I fished with a large beetle pattern & a nymph trailing below. Since you could see the trout from the edges of the pond this was were the stealth came into play. The objective was to sneak up to the edge so that the fish could not see you, Bear Grills style!

Unfortunately, the beetle pattern fished to no avail. I finally put on a damsel adult because the pond was loaded with dragonflies. Once I started with this pattern the trout went wild. I had a good size rainbow pop out of the lake to bite at my damsel but I never could hook anything the entire day.

I eventually made my way to Big Lake, which was one of the bass ponds. Chuck explained to me how bass fishing was related to telling your life history. He said that you cast your line out and as you jig your line in you tell stories about your life as your waiting for the bass to strike. Then as you cast again, the second part of your life story can be told. Thus fly-fishing is a great way to get to know ones fishing partner. After a few minutes of this, Chuck took me to a sweet spot on the nearby river. I actually casted quite a few times, but only got a couple of strikes for bass. It was late in the day and it was time to pack it in. I found that a lake is not my favorite setting for fishing, for I would rather be on a fast moving stream, working the water as I go. I have found there are just more escapades and exploits with stream fishing! Maybe after I use my float tube (that I won in the auction) I will change my mind. But for now I have truly enjoyed stream fishing the best.

Saturday night bought quite a nice dinner and the cowboy BBQ food hit the spot. One of the fly fishermen used to be an opera singer, and once he got out his guitar, we truly were entertained with an array of music the rest of the evening. Sunday was my free day, the conclave had ended and before I left Ohio I had bought The National Geographic map for Rocky National Park and the book written by Todd Hosman Fly Fishing Rocky Mountain National Park. I was determined that I was going to fly-fish in the park.

I had mapped out sections of the park that would be very accessible for great fishing. Todds book is a worthwhile read, especially if you want to hit the hot spots of a large park area. He details it all for you. I started out sightseeing around the park. The breathtaking scenery made the enjoyment of fishing ever more acute and poignant. I was taken aback by the view, even though I had lived here years ago, for sometimes life makes one forget what a masterpiece of Gods craftsmanship the Continental Divide really is. Due to a massive flood a few years back there was now a waterfall and a great alluvial fan area, which the fish have taken a liking to. Every bend in Fall River you could see a variety of trout, all different sizes and colors. This is where I tried several different fly patterns, beetles, nymphs, and a yellow humpy dry fly.

However, all these where to no avail. Even after using my newly acquired stealth mode, I could not hook a single trout. Sometimes the will of nature cannot be reckoned with! I stood there on the sandy banks of the alluvial fan watching the trout swim as though I did not even exist. In a way it was like they were mocking me, or just trying to convey the lesson of patience and humility.

As I stood by the waterfall, I could see the trout being thrust amongst the running water against the rocks. If they made it to the bottom through all the cascading rocks and water they would surely survive. Such a harsh path for such a small species imparts another of natures mysteries.

My day ended by casting a few more dry flies and watching the sunset in the greatest place on earth to be at that moment

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