Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Good Morning!

...wherein our stalwart hero valiantly attempts to forestall the looming Sword of Damocles (aka working thru the weekend- curse you mtb-hating work gods!). La familia quested for good cheer Saturday AM- found it in the heavenly pairing of espresso shop and bike shop: the Bike Coop and Ecco Espresso in Nob Hill. Karmic, no?

special thanks to my darling wife for this arty shot via the new phone.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In The Fly Box: Elk Paradrake

This installment features a big fly with a blend of influences: the basic pattern from Fly Fisherman Magazine's pattern archives, quill body technique by AK Best. I tie it in various sizes from #12 down to #18. 12's and 14's rule the roost on my favorite waters where you often find matching naturals in brownish-olive and grey throughout the summer.

Works well to match those mysterious red quills we have in northern NM, when tied in pinkish-brown.

Quill body to your liking, light colored yearling elk tied for the post, grizzly hackle to match body, bit of antron or moosetail for the shuck. When dressed with Dryshake, it'll float like a boat in pocket water, serves as an excellent emerger and searching pattern in one fly. Tie it on!

captura y libera-

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Singletracks: ABQ Foothills South

This ride is right in my backyard- ABQ has a fine network of trails tucked in the west foothills of the Sandias, in dedicated Open Space. The overall trail network consists of two distinct areas, conveniently coined Foothills North and South. You can cobble together loops ranging from 3-9 miles in either, with FHN providing some additional bonus mileage. Today, I'm zeroing in on FHS, my more favorite of the two.

My regular loop proves just over 9 miles, over varied terrain, mostly following Trail 365. The tread is generally smooth, with few requisite rock gardens to make for technical riding. There are a coupla notable runs up there to get your rocks on, one in particular is infamous for wreaking havoc on the uninitiated. I'm looking at you, A-Line!
a bit of local gnarl

You'll find FHS generally a bit more sandy than FHN, esp late in the season after our monsoons. However, the decomposed granite fines and more southerly exposure work to your advantage during ABQ's short winter season- the tread consistently remains in excellent shape when it's sister network to the north is too muddy to ride. Yep, ABQ offers rideable tread 24-7-365!

FHS sees less hiking & running traffic than FHN, and offers more varied climbing to keep those pistons in shape. Mule deer, morning dove, desert quail, coyotes, cottontails, and even roadrunners (saw two this weekend!) are common trail companions, despite the trail's proximity to ABQ. Rattlesnakes are more uncommon thankfully, but I've run across (almost over!) a few up there as well.
keep your eyes open!

Monday, August 24, 2009


When I die and they lay me to rest...I'm gonna go to the Place that's best...
I dunno about you guys, but I'm fairly certain it's a high country stream loaded with cutthroat trout on the rise. :-P

Tody, I'm honored to present another installment of Peabody award-winning videos brought to you by the fine folks at Royal Wulff Productions. I luv those guys! Video's cobbled together from a compendium of trips in search of wild cutthroat of the most colorful and (feisty!) variety. I'm hereby exhausted of vid footage!

So plug in some earbuds, crank the vol to 11, sit back and enjoy! You can't get that on Youtube-

cutthroats from ABQ RoughRiders on Vimeo.

double-click vid frame to expand to fit your screen, find it here for mid-sized frame via Vimeo.

(in the second sequence glory pool, look for up to 4 cutts: lower right was the Big Fella (caught him allright! 14", sweet), lower left fronting submerged boulder (rises 0:34), mid left (dark), another that comes & goes hard to catch.) Caught 4 fish from this single pool via dry and dropper.

captura y libera, mis amigos!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good Morning!

ahhhh, memories of coffees past....with a shoutout to those good folks at 10 Speed Coffee Roasters- unbelievably good coffee in Hood River, OR.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jedi Training

So we'd been out fishing as a family a few times this summer- nothing too serious, just whenever we had time to dap a line between camping, picnicing, mountain biking. Seems mtb has been on the brain this summer, go figure that for a diehard angler! So just as it does every season (round the time we get that school-supplies-tax-free weekend, hmmmm), I get in a bit of a panic wondering where the summer has gone already with too few trips in the bag. To whit, last week I found myself thinking I better get some quality time in on the water while the fishing's still good. Next thing you know, aspen time will be upon us, high country will shut down for another year, yikes!

So I casually mention it to the boy, seeing as he's been working so hard to improve his fishing game this summer, maybe we need to make a special trip, what say? A pilgrimage, as it were, to one of my favorite places- just so happens to be loaded with cutts, of the most beautiful sort letmetellya. Well, his eyes lit right up, no need to hardsell the trip, that'smyboy!

fueling up for the great adventure

So Sunday has us booting up at a favorite sequestered spot, high up an offshoot forest road, not wanting to attract any attention to our endeavors. What this 'bity creek here? Awe, not that good really, mostly brookies, small ones at that....

A bit of a bushwack is requisite- first to cut the trail, then again at our jumpoff point down into the tangled gully that serves as our portal into the dark canyon and its waiting cutthroat. I'm prepping W as we prepare to make our descent, realizing this descent is much more a paratrooper drop than a father might otherwise want for his youngster, don't tell your mother! W's a trooper tho, looking back up at our precipitous freefall, declared it the funnest thing he'd done, !evah!, is there more?

Oh you betcha, just wait a bit!

We scramble into our gear, eyeing the water: hmmm, water's down a ton, never seen it this low....maybe half the surface area I'm used to seeing. Gonna be tough today you think ,Dad? .....naw not with these cutts, they always come out to play.

Never disappoints. Low water, check. Cold temps in the am, check. Hand-numbing water, check. Some other sonofagun fishing ahead of us, maybe yesterday judging by the trampled bank? Check. Sheesh, never seen evidence of anyone else down here, bummer that.

No matter, the Force runs strong in these two anglers, master and apprentice: fish on! Now you give it a go buddy... fish on!

W fished the smaller pockets on his own, working to solve the riddle of Drag as the morning wore on. I punched longer casts up the bigger pools, we trading a single rod back and forth for W to manage The Take, as it came.

We managed to scare up a few fish before things got tough, time for lunch.

As if in respect of the tales I regaled to the boy over lunch, the stream offered up improved success as the afternoon waned. As the canyon shadows encroached onto the streambed, the cutthroats seemed to take advantage of the new found cover to lose some of their earlier caution, sweet. We caught more in those last two hours than we had previously all day. Now, that's the stream I know!

Next up, a triple series of long pools. We manage to pluck one fish from each of the two lower pools, get set up on the last. Up at the head fins a solitary, colorful cutt, his orange flanks flashing now and again. Oblivious, for the moment. Oblivious until one of his brethren scoots up the pool to give warning. No worries, he's still there, phew. W watches over my shoulder with anticipation from his perch on tabletop boulder midstream. In goes the pitch, and the river explodes as the panicked cutt blasts out of his lie, darts around the head, then screams on downstream to safety.....and highsides himself up on W's perch! There he's stuck, a literal fish out of water, flapping around like a dolphin at Seaworld kid you not, while we stare slackjawed at the scene. Incredulous, I finally break the spell to reach for the net, and scoop this beautiful cutthroat up like plucking fruit from the vine! We both break out in laughter at the impossibility of the Moment: my son the Fish Whisperer and the Cuthroat that begged catch me, Catch ME! Don't mind if I do...thank you sir! Just 7 years old and already he's catching them without rod, reel, or fly! Ha!

Later, Last Chance Pool signaled the end of our day, we had a long hike back out. Just a coupla more casts, wham! Dad, another one! Not surprised my boy. After this day, not surprised at all....

(who caught who here?)

& Release

captura y libera, mis amigos! mjh

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Generation to the Next

Took the boy out for some instruction in the finer art of bushwacking for cutthroats. Master and apprentice held forth on some willing pupils...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Continental Divide Trekking

Coupla weeks ago I brought the family out for some Continental Divide explorations, hoping to successfully scout some mtb access to the Continental Divide Trail up in CO. There's a good bit of the CDT running between wilderness areas that is open for use by mtb's, if you can find access, good tread. Well we executed Plan A: only to find our planned higher access trail was blocked with a good deal of blowdown, our lower access proved more wishful thinking than tread.

Plan B that day consisted of meadow napping, wildflower snapping, cutthroat chasing...

There's a few cutts in that meadow, keep yer head down!

So we stashed the bikes the second day, booted up, found our way up a headwater meadow onto the CDT. From there, just a hop, skip, jump on up top of one of the many peaks looking down into Pacific and Atlantic drainages. Wow- pbj/cliff bar lunch served on top of the world, 12,600 ft by our gps!

Smallish squall to the north had us packing up before too long. Not half hour later, that small squall had matured into full blown tboomer, thankfully still centered over the ridge to our north.

Wasn't long however, before the storm spilled over the ridge, urging us to quicken our pace.

Little buddy couldn't take the pace wearing his lowtops, the uneven meadow grass wanted to roll his ankles at every opportunity. No problem, buddy, let me give you a lift-

not gonna beat the rain, troop: deploy jackets!

One thing about those high country storms, they sure move right along. From sunny skies, to tboomer, back to sunny skies, all in 90 minutes.

our vistas gave me some good leads towards better mtb access to the divide, I'm sure to be back before the end of this season!


Backcountry Cutthroats

...wherein our intrepid angler fishes the backcountry of central Colorado...remote streams, spectacular vistas, beautiful cutthroats!

Singletrack Sweetness

....wherein the family of 4 samples the singletracks of Fruita/CO and Moab/UT for singular sweetness....

Singletrack Sweetness from ABQ RoughRiders on Vimeo.

Father's Day Goodness

I think my darling wife is just a bit piqued she didn’t think of it first......

Always one to look a gift horse in the mouth, in responding to the family's queries, I innocently offered how I wouldn’t mind a bit of fishing for Father’s Day. Thinking more on it later, I offered it might be even better if we could camp, whaddaya think kids? Maybe get a little biking in one day, fishing the next? Heck, might as well make an extended weekend out of it all, what say? Yayyyyyy Dad! Alright then kids, as you wish. ;-)

So we loaded up the son of Big Red, Clampet style, figuring to pull into the Chama Grill parking lot Friday around 3 to replenish our ice cream supplies. The road gods had us arriving near dinner time, don’t ask (all you Dad’s can figure this one out: Napoleon Bonaparte had nothing on today’s Dads when it comes to staging an army of kids, dogs, gear.) Trujillo Meadows Campground near Cumbres Pass, CO turned out to be the prettiest little find, sitting near 10K in elevation, surrounded by receding snow fields, green parks, dense green-black forests. The CDT runs right past camp, the numerous connecting trails had me dreaming of ridge riding the high country all that night.

Saturday dawns to rain, not so much a downpour as that solid grey overcast and steady, measured rainfall that says you better have a good tent this weekend, buddy. So Plan B was put into effect immediately after French toast breakfast. The ...let’s head into Chama for forgotten supplies… morphed quickly into:

Chat with all the train buffs and photographers milling around Cumbres station, just down from the campground. Seems the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge train takes on water at the pass, before heading back into the mountains on her way to Osier. Cool vibe ripe with anticipation, as everyone stands around in driving rain, waiting for The Arrival.

Chase the Cumbres & Toltec up and down the pass: I defy anyone’s ability to keep driving in the sight of that engine churning up the mountain, her st
ack belching smoke, the engineer blasting her steam whistle Here She Comes! So we screech to a halt at a convenient overlook, wave the train on by, soaking up the sight and my lord the sounds of The Passing. Left behind, we just stare at each other, silly grins on our faces. Hey, you kids wanna chase it back up to Cumbres? Yaaaaay, Dad! As you wish…

Flattening coins on the tracks: we arrive breathless back at Cumbres Pass, catch sight of grown men placing their offerings down for the train gods. Hey you kids want to place some coins on the rails? Now they have no idea what will happen: W thinks the coins will shatter, C thinks they’ll get spit out like watermelon seeds. Let’s see, here she comes! Ground rumbling, stack spewing, wheels churning, whistle blowing, all combined in bass resonating deep in your chest, wow!

Nothing like a hot lunch on a rainy day: Hey you guys want to treat ourselves to some lunch? As you wish….rubbed ribs at funky local cafĂ© in Chama.

Lazy tent time: games, reading, napping while it continued to drizzle until early afternoon.

Waterfall frolicking: small stream adj to camp cascades abruptly over a 50’ cliff, beautiful. Hey you kids wanna head down to the bottom of the falls? Yaaaay, Dad! As you wish…

Dinner proves wonderful in its simplicity: chili dogs roasted over the campfire, smothered one of L’s favorite chili finds. Yum!

Sunday dawned all ragged. The remnants of last night’s storm continued to skim the high ridges around camp, threatening more rain only to clear then threaten again. I love mountain weather! Looks like biking just isn’t in the cards today kids, you wanna try a hand at fishing? Yaaay, Dad! As you wish…

But first we just have to chase the train again: we hear it whistle its way into Cumbres station just as we finish packing. We shoot on over just in time to see her off. Away she goes, and away we go, racing up to the first overlook, to pile out, and greet her again. And again.... and again. Those poor tourists must’ve been thinking the shops of Chama are selling-out of all their ugly chartreuse fleece shirts and funny cowboy hats, the rate they were seeing them up in the hills. But those Chama kids sure were cute! L caught them laughing along with us on the caboose as we scrambled to pick up our flattened coins.

So we finally head down on over to the river valley, a prettier venue for family fly fishing I have yet to see. We find that small public water stretch bracketed by private ranches, decide today is the day to finally sample that green meadow, after passing it by every summer for 12 years. Always seemed too small to warrant the trouble to scramble down there, but should be perfect for a picnic alright.

So we plunk ourselves down on this seemingly private reach, grassy meadows upstream and down, perfect for kid casting. W finds the first stonefly, hmmm, smaller than I remembered, then quickly finds a bigger cousin. That’s it my boy, that right there is a giant stone, see how much bigger he is than the other? Turns out, we were still upstream of the main body of giant stones, but evidence of the river's smorgasbord was all around: golden stone adults #8, giant stones #6, dense grey caddis hatch #18, smattering of grey drakes #12, all caught and examined by C, W that afternoon.

Grey Drake, #12

Giant Stone, #6(look at that tiny red mite on his side!)

I set C to fishing downstream while W naps away some tummy troubles. We watch a smattering of adult stones skim the water, but no risers are evident, hmmmm. C wonders at the sight of a cliff swallow diving in to snatch an adult stone mid-air. I hear that familiar plash, and turn back to see rings disappearing from midstream. Alllrighty then, but darnitall, I just switched to nymph rig. I watch the second rise, and send my tandem rig down the same line. Up comes the fish and he gently inhales my shockingly-pink indicator! I pull tight, momentarily have him on as I pull the trailing fly thru his teeth. Woooo, that was fun, didya see that?! He proves too far for C’s casting, so I shoot a coupla casts out there for her, while she anticipates the strike. Yep, he come up again, now he’s on tight! Go C go! Nice 16” bow is shooting this way and that while C works to get him under her reign. Up to the bank he comes, oooooh, he’s off! But as good as caught he was, yaaay C!

A nap later, the caddis are really crowding the bank, despite the growing breeze. Not another fish in sight, despite (result of?) our collective pounding. Finally, one spunky little brown begins taunting first C, then L, out at midstream. I happily watch my girls’ growing intensity, as they slowly ratchet up their game in the face of repeated heckling. Finally C calls in the big guns: hey Dad, can you help us catch this fish? As you wish Sweet Pea….sigh, I guess a father’s work is never done!

I patiently wait for this fish to reveal himself, begin to turn away even, but upon seeing that, apparently he just couldn’t resist one more little dig of a rise. OK brother, I have you now. Cast, drift, cast drift, now I have him! Yaaay Dad!

Perfect day, with finishing touch of ice cream at our favorite burger shack down in town. All told, a perfect weekend, gifted by my favorite people on the planet.

lil Buddy

sweet pea


.....and away we go!

Welcome to my flyfishing and mountain biking blog chronicling our explorations in the West, in search of pristine high country streams and flowy mtb trails. Hope you enjoy the ride as much as we...