Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Don't forget about the Little Creeks


While we quietly countdown the days of winter to come to an end, the true sign of spring emerges with snow melt, green buds from trees begin to appear.  Tiny, green shoots begin to produce color and slowly dress winter away.  Springtime is a wonderful reminder of how beautiful changes can awaken after a long winter.  

Brook trout from Clear Creek.

Brook trout in Clear Creek.

Many of us become feverish for the desire and wish to pursue some big fish to the net. Don't forget about those sweet, little creeks for an enjoyable day of plenty of beautiful trout.  Even I get blinders on dreaming about big fish.  Who doesn't like catching a notorious pig of a trout! 

Winter leaves remnants of natural debris.

Jump in your car and drive to a small creek with your 3 weight. fly rod.  Fishing a creek is like having your very one little river.  Some winter remnants of old timber and leaves may be evident.  Young mayflies and caddis have been witnessed as well as rising trout.  Small creek fly fishing is one of the most rewarding ways to fly fish.  Creek fish are easily spooked, therefore approach with softly in a low position.  

Lots of brownies in Bear Creek.

The trout in small creeks will readily take flies voraciously. Look for riffles that may lead to pocket water and plunge pools.  Hatches of PMDs, Caddis, and BWOs has to be some of the most delightful dry fly fishing.  These beautiful creeks can offer gorgeous scenery and solitude with less crowds and excellent fly fishing.  Don't forget about the little creeks.  

Cutthroat trout from Clear Creek.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Spring is off to a good start!  Join us free at the Park Meadows Fly Tying Fanatics Fest for an all-day fly tying extravaganza on April 30, 2022.  20 of the top tiers in the Rockies will demonstrate their signature ties, and give away their favorite fly fishing and fly tying secrets.  Drop in any time and watch tiers like Rim Chung (RS2), Phil Iwane (No Mercy Midge), Rick Takahashi (Crystal Chironomid), Steve Maldonado (Maldo’s Trico), Scott Stisser (Stillborn Midge), Eric Pettine (Lucky Charm), Kevan Davidson (Sow Chow), Chris Krueger (Zombie Snack), Gary Okizaki (Life Cycle of a Midge), Frank Whispell (Fish Whacker), Tim Jacobs (Deer Hair Master), Merne Judson (Gunnilator), Richard Pilatzke (Mighty Mouse), Walter Newman (Micro Matcher), Cat Toy (Blue Quill Angler), Ben Baxter (Anglers All), Antonio Rodrigues (Superman Caddis), Daryl Eakins (Hipster Dufus), Vincent Su (720 Vise). 

Great tiers, refreshments, and raffle!  

Looking forward to seeing you there!


Monday, March 21, 2022

The Handling of Trout


Trout are a very elegant and stunning fish that many anglers are fond of.  They are a very delicate fish that require conscientiousness and careful handling.  Poor handling of trout or being unaware can result in casualties of healthy fish. Their chance of surviving after being released is determined by how we handle and take care for them.  Here are some key recommendations to remember the next time you are on the river to increase their chances for survival. 

The excitement of hooking a trout when your line goes tight, the strenuous headshakes, the flash of colors and size when the trout breaks through the water surface into the air!  These moments are important to be mindful of how long to toil a fish before a swoop in the net.  The quicker you can get the fish in, the better chance for survival.  Avoid playing the fish to the point of exhaustion.  

Prolonged fights increase the stress levels on the fish with a less chance of survival particularly when water temperatures are high.  Carry a thermometer and check water temperatures during those hot summer days and low flows.  Water temperatures headed towards 68 degrees Fahrenheit and above are not optimal conditions to fish.

Rubber basket nets are choice.

Rubber basket nets are choice compared to the old-fashion string nets in protecting the fish from disease and bacteria.  Removing the protective mucous layers places the trout into susceptibility in decline of health.  Always wet hands first before handling trout.  Be conscientious not to squeeze the trout.  Squeezing too hard can cause trauma to internal organs and possibly result in death after release.  Never place fingers in the gills or hold the trout by the lip.  Fingers in gills can insult the trout’s breathing structures as well as holding by the lip can injure or break its jaw.

Keep the fish wet!

Keep the fish wet!  Fish breathe through their gills in moving water.  Prolonged exposure out of water is oppressing or suffocating the fish.  Keeping the trout in the water maintains its capability to still breathe.  Once the fish is in the net, keep the basket submerged underwater while reaching down to unhook the fish.  

Carry a good pair of hemostats for use of unhooking the trout.

Always carry a pair of hemostats for use of unhooking the trout.  Try to unhook the fish when it is in a more relaxed state and cradle the underbelly of the fish.  Remember to not squeeze the fish for a better grip in unhooking.  Once your hemostat has a good grip on the hook, gently reverse the curve of the hook out of the fish.  Thrashing while unhooking can cause injuries, and bleeding to the face and mouth of the fish. Often, I’ve caught many trout already missing one or both maxillary bone structures.  This can be prevented by simply being patient in the removal of the hook.

Fishing barbless causes less physical trauma and removal is effortless.  Again, with a grip on the hook with your hemostats, reverse the curve of the hook out of the fish.  Bonus with barbless hooks is that it is very easy to unhook from your clothing and anything else you may accidentally get hooked into. 

Cradle underneath just behind the head and the wrist of the tail.

Many anglers marvel over a big catch which means taking a photo to share with friends.  It is easy to figure the experience of an angler by how he or she holds a trout.  First and foremost, avoid placing a trout on the dirt, rocks, and sticks on the river banks.  This is harmful causing damage to their outer protective slime as well as dirt sediment in their eyes and gills.  No fingers in those delicate gills. With taking photos, be hasty with the fish out of water.  Trout calm down by cradling them and supporting their weight.  Cradle underneath just behind the head and at the wrist of the tail.  Keep the trout in the water, lift up very briefly out of the water for the picture shot.  Always use two hand with large trout.  Your hand cradling just behind the head is right where the heart and many other essential organs are located.  So, don’t crush the heart as a fish may soon swim away and die shortly thereafter.

The cradle hold is calming for the trout.

As always with release, ensure the fish are properly recovered before freed back into the water.  Release the trout facing it upstream and when the fish has responded with a sure recovery.  With being knowledgeable of how to handle trout, we can continue to savour our beautiful fisheries.  See you on the river!

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Words of Inspiration

I have met some really wonderful people on the rivers whom I call my friends.  I really appreciate the support, camaraderie, and sharing the passion with other great friends in fly fishing.  I am sharing this very special compliment and respects from one of my good fly fishing friends:

"Several weeks ago while fly fishing the S. Platte River at Deckers, Colorado, I had the good fortune to meet, converse, and fish with a female fly fisherman named Cat Toy. Several of my fly companions had met and fished with Cat previously and had told me about her many gifts as a fly fisherman. After fishing with Cat on several occasions since our initial meeting I feel that I am uniquely qualified to render an opinion as regards Cat Toy an incredibly talented fly fisherman (woman).

Simply stated, Cat’s uniqueness and strength is her passion for fly fishing. She has an insatiable desire for knowledge of the river. I often observed her overturning rocks and digging in underwater dirt on a “critter search”. Once she discovers what is living and hatching in the river she opens one of several fly boxes and ties on the fly that will produce hookups. Cat fishes a modified Euro rig and her hookups are five times more prevelant than those fishing in close proximity. I previously fancified myself as an excellent fly fisherman. I know believe that as compared to Cat I am merely average.

For many years while living in Evergreen, CO I associated myself with and patronized The Blue Quill Angler Fly Shop. I know Blue Quill ownership and many of the Blue Quill fly fishing guides. I consider the Blue Quill Fly Shop and their team of guides the ultimate fly shop and certainly the “Best In The West”. Cat Toy will shortly join the Blue Quill team as a guide. In my opinion she will immediately become the best female fly fishing guide in Colorado. She is that good."

Cal Winn

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Leech

Did you know leeches are native residents in our local rivers and lakes?  Some of my greatest days on the river have been fishing Mayer’s Mini Leech.  Leeches exist in virtually all matters of freshwater lakes, ponds, freestone streams, and creeks.  They are prolific in shallow coves with verdant growth but they can also be found in most stillwater settings, from shoreline waters to the darkened depths of lakes.  Because they are prominently found in freshwater, they are eagerly snarfed by trout and many other fish.

Leeches are flattened segmented worms with a sucker on both ends.

Leeches are a significant year-round food source for the trout.  They are a common aquatic worm of ringed or segmented worms in the phylum of the annelid.  Leeches are flattened, elongated wormlike creature with a sucker at each end.  Their colors can be found in olive, brown, black, or grey.  Size range can be a 1/2 - 3 inches in length.  They can grow very large up to 8 inches in length.

Leeches can be found in shallow water.

They feed on detritus, or decomposed organic material and animal matter such as worms, insect larvae, and other decay that deposits to the bottom of rivers and lakes.  Leeches can be found in warm, safe, shallow water where currents are minimal.  Under drought conditions, leeches can produce a mucous-lined cell, then burrow itself into sediment and remain dormant until water returns. 

A hungry rainbow trout hankered for a mini leech.

Leeches reproduce in the spring.  All leeches are hermaphrodites of which they have both female and male reproductive organs.  They reproduce sexually by intertwining their bodies together.  The leeches male organs release an encapsulate sperm sac that affixes its way through the skin to the other leech to the ovaries and fertilizes the eggs.  Fertilization occurs where both leeches become impregnated simultaneously.  The mother leech forms a strong, glutinous cocoon around the egg mass from its glands and bounds it to the substrates like rocks and plants or buries it in the mud.

Some of my favorite leeches are tied in crawdad orange and black.

The cocoon is enriched with nutrients for the young leeches necessary for survival.  The young emerge from the cocoon several weeks later and resemble that of a microscopic adult leech.  Leeches become mature in about a year.  Many leeches may only reproduce once or twice in their lifetime.  They typically die after reproducing once.  Leeches only reproduce sexually, and they are not capable of regeneration.  A leech can live up to 2 - 8 years.  Maturity and life expectancy varies with species of leeches.

Planaria can be confused by the leech, but they are easily visually observed with its unsegmented body and two cross-eyes with its triangular shaped head from the leeches.

During bright times of the day, they will hide in rock shelters, sticks and other structures.  Leeches can be active all day, but the early morning and evening hours are often when they come out of retreat.  They swim by extending and contracting their bodies with an undulating motion like a snake.  They will drift the current to travel to other locations.  This is where the dead drift presentation is significant in your fishing presentation.  It can be incredibly effective for the trout seeking a sizable meal.

A hungry trout literally took a bite of my leech.
Many of my fishing friends know how successful I fish with Mayer’s mini leech.  I enjoy tying these trout morsels, a very simple tie to learn. A fly fisherman should have some of these mini leeches in their fly box.  See you on the river!

One of my crawdad orange mini leech tied on a Togens Scud hook size 16.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

McFly, The Water's Calling at the Denver Fly Fishing Show


A featured fly fishing products, McFly's, Water's Calling at the upcoming Denver Fly Fishing Show, February 11th, 12th, and 13th 2022.  Stop by at McFly's booth, say hello to Roger Remaley and I, and pick yourself up a cool fly fishing hat, t-shirt, and stickers!

US Western Steelhead Rivers and Western Canadian Rivers Steelhead Plaid hats. 

The Mcfly US Western Rivers Steelhead hat and the Mcfly Western Canadian Rivers Steelhead hat are some of my winter favorites lucky fly fishing hats I take to the rivers here in Colorado.  They are a warm, plaid trucker style hat that are sharp, lined inside with soft flannel, and with an adjustable snapback.  The unique woven Steelhead artwork, designed by Roger Remaley, is a one of a kind fly fishing.  A $5.00 donation is made to the Wild Steelhead Coalition sold on and at all the booths for 2022 Fly Fishing Shows.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Platypus SoftBottle 1.0 L

I have been using Platypus products for the last 20 years.  This summer, fall, and winter has been so much enjoyment with the fly fishing.  Often, we find ourselves far from our cars when fishing along the rivers and creeks.  I would admit, packing a water bottle does take a lot of room in my pack.  Platypus has these fantastic drinking SoftBottles.  The lightest most compact hydration bottle available.  It is the easiest way to bring water in my pack whether I am fly fishing on the rivers, riding my dirt bike in the mountains, or on the mountain for ski patrol.

Platypus SoftBottle™ are made with materials that do not leave a strange after taste.  BPA-free, BPS-free, and phthalate-free.  Choices of a closure cap, or a push-pull cap.  I love the 1L because it gives me plenty of hydration, and it fits great in my packs.  The nicest thing is how compact it is easily flattens and it can be rolled or folded once it is empty.  Easy wash and dry and store flat until next use.

Take a look at Platypus line of products of hydration bottles, filtration system, reservoirs, and accessories.  Lots of options and sizes to choose from to fit your needs.

Wendell, my lucky fishing frog, loves Platypus!  He doesn't get squished.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Fly fishing with the Scud

Winters can be quite picturesque in the wilderness of the mountains blanketed with glistening snow and featureless earthscape.  The winter is a crystalline bliss, with days of brilliant rays that show the uniqueness of every snowflake.  The air is a frozen lace on existing uncovered branches on bare trees and limited blades of grass.  As Old Man Winter settles in, the rivers, creeks, and lakes lay frozen and dormant beneath the ice and snow leaving the tailwaters exclusively for fishing.  During winter, freshwater shrimp-like crustaceans, or scuds, are a significant food source in the tailwaters for the finicky trout when other food sources are not readily available.

My scuddies.

There are many various species of scuds, but the group in tailwaters primarily belongs to the family, Gammaridae.  They are categorized in the crustaceans and in the order of the amphipoda.  Their body structure are of a head (cephalothorax) with 2 pairs of antennae sensitive to touch and smell, a body (thorax) of 7 segments each with a pair of legs used for clutching food, scurrying, and mating.  They have an abdomen with 6 segments each with appendages for swimming.  With a translucent appearance, they are found in various colors like cream, light brown, grey, and multiple shades of green connected by their diet and surroundings.

Olive scud.  Image by Brandon Molzahn, Togens Pro Staff.

Tailwaters below dams are often perfect scud habitat where they thrive in shallow, stable flows with abundance of aquatic vegetation.  They are nocturnal crustaceans usually feasting during starlight.  With their two pairs of clawed feet, they grip food and relish on dead decomposed organic matter particularly plant detritus, biofilms of algae, fungi, bacteria, and animal matter.

A pregnant scud.  Image by Rick Beck, Togens Pro Staff.

During mating, the male and female scuds wrap their bodies jointly where sperm is released into the female’s brood pouch, or marsupium, where fertilization occurs with her eggs.  Her marsupium is visibly distinct with an orange in coloration.  She carries her eggs about one to three weeks until they hatch.  The newborn scuds are tiny at 1 mm in size and resembling that of microscopic adult scud.  The next time she molts and sloughs her exoskeleton, her young are liberated.

An exoskeleton molted from a growing scud.  Image by Cat Toy.

Young scuds will grow and shed their exoskeleton about eight to nine times as they mature into adults.  Scuds change to a tan color when molting to shed its exoskeleton and replacing it with a radiant carapace.  With the molting process, the exoskeleton splits across the back between two thoracic segments. First the front half of the body is pulled away of the old exoskeleton followed by the back half. Many scuds live for about one year.

Scuds come in a variety of colors.  A light brown and grey scud. 

Trout will often hunt for scuds by drifting leisurely with their snouts down in the river bottom vegetation and gatherings of loose sedimentary matter.  When there is a trout hot on a scuds tail, they uncoil and swim briskly for shelter.  Scuds contain the pigment carotene and when ingested by trout, the pigment is transferred to the tissue of the fish displaying a pinkish-red color.

The pigment carotene transferred to the tissue of the fish displaying a pinkish-red color.

Scuds are a year-round food source for the trout.  It is good to have a generous stash of scuds in your fly box.  I have had some of my best fishing days with scuds in tailwaters. With fewer hatches during springtime and late fall, fishing with scuds can be amazing.  Present them as a dead-drift presentation to the depths of vegetation where the trout live.  Do not underestimate casting into the faster water.  I have caught some trophy sized trout chasing after tumbling scuds in the swifter water.  Stay warm and enjoy some winter fly fishing.  See you on the river!

Glass Scud.  Image by Christopher Deen, Togens Pro Staff.

This blog is also featured on Togens Fly Shop and United Women on the Fly.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Fishing the Summer of 2021!


The perpetual neon blue skies with a few buckles of clouds illuminating with a few thunderstorms.  The mountains, rivers, and creeks are laden with the mesmeric beauty with multitudes of wildflowers, and a sundry of scents twirl in the dry air.  Summer brings in long flattering days of the year, where fly fishing and lifetime friendships are made.  This summer has been stupendous fly fishing.  I have met some incredible fishy friends as we kindled our own fishing symphony and many days on the rivers.

Phil Iwane and I fishing the S. Platte River.

Phil reached out to me a little before summer was coming to fishing together.  One of his cherished places to fish is the S. Platte River.  Phil Iwane is one of Umpqua's elite fly designers and the innovator of the No Mercy Midge and his Extended body Mayfly.  To be honest, I felt a ton of anxiety fishing with Phil since he is well-known in the fly fishing industry.  We met in the parking area of Cheesman Canyon with a group of is fishing buddies, Scott Stisser and Mike McVay.  Sometimes, with all the nervousness we place on ourselves just puts us at a higher level to try to meet expectations.  We had an exceptional time on the river catching an uncountable number of good fish.  Phil is one of the kindest, fun, happy-go-lucky fishing friend I can appreciate, share, and learn from.  And boy, that No Mercy Midge drives those fish crazy!  I love fishing often with Phil.

I told Lee, I see a big trout.  He said, "well cast in there Cat, go get em!"

Lee Beard had been following me for a couple of years on Facebook and a bit astonished of this Cat in the Hat who posted a lot of fish pictures.  He shared with me, when he would view my postings, he said to himself, this girl can fish!  Lee Beard is a retired successful crew chief in the History of National Hot Rod Association drag racing.  He has an impressive history of 55 National Event wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car classes.  His first win as a crew chief was in 1980 at Bandimere Speedway High Nationals.  In 2017, he was inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame and in 2018 into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.

A winning cutbow in the net!

He reached out to me to fish sometime, of which I gladly accepted.  We met on a day to fish the Blue River.  I realized in fishing with this guy, it seem imperative that my expectations needed to be at a high caliber.  I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off at a river I was unfamiliar with.  To summarize that day, we both caught some substantially big fish of which we kept slapping each other of the exhilarating day.  We fish almost weekly.

Lee Raley with a fantastic rainbow.

Lee Raley and I have been friends for a couple of years.  He gifted me his old Big Thompson fly tying vise a couple of Christmas’s ago that helped unfold my passion of fly tying.  We fished the Yampa River that cold day with lots of fish in the net.  Lee reached out to me this summer to fish together.  We met out on the Eagle River on a hot summer day in July.  We had not fished together for a couple of years, and so the day was relaxing and easy.  A kind-hearted man I love to call my friend, we fished until we knew it was time to go home.  Boy, we had a very successful day on the river.  

A big Snake River Cutthroat Trout for me!

There is something so special in connecting with other fly fishermen.  We all share a passion that only we can go off the deep end.  With Lee, we really can fish, and we can zero in just in the little, big world of fly fishing, the river, and share the excitement of netting another beautiful trout as if it was our first.  We fish as regularly as we can.

Son Tao and I getting after these big fish.

I have been following Master Fly Tier, Son Tao on Instagram since the start of my love for fly fishing in the last 3 years.  I envied and marveled over this man of his exceptional talent in fly tying.  Master Sergeant Son Tao has a combined 22 years of service in the US Army where he has been deployed to the Philippines, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  Not only is he a master fly tier, but an extraordinary fly fisherman.  We got to meet on the S. Platte River with Phil Iwane and I for a day fishing with the boys.  Every time I glanced over at Son, I started to believe his rod was bent before we even got to the river!  Kind of cool to be up in his fishing status and even a double catch.  I’ll miss Son as he and his family will relocate to S. Carolina.

I netted this fat rainbow and netted Anh's rainbow on top of mine.

One of my favorite lady anglers I love to fish with is Anh Thai.  She is an outstanding fly tier, and she is one of the fishiest girls I know.  We both agreed this summer, we must fish. The day came, and we wet waded and fished the Blue River.  We stalked the trout and had an amazing day and made efforts to out fish the guys on the river.  Since then, we have had some great days on the S. Platte River as our fishing crew keeps growing.  Anh and I are both involved with United Women on the Fly as well as Colorado Women on the Fly teaching, promoting, and educating about fly fishing.  I will have new blog to come out soon with United Women on the Fly.

Beauty of a rainbow from the S. Platte River.

It was such an amazing summer of fly fishing, honestly I have lost track of how many fantastic fish I have caught.  This summer I found myself more days then not on the rivers.  I am a full-time registered nurse, and I am constantly under a level of stress sometimes I don't want to admit.  The rivers, creeks, and the fish keep me coming back.  To recharge, enjoy, and remember why I am here.  To help take care of others, to fish, and to enjoy what life has to offer.  I am so thankful for all my fishing friends as well as new friendships.

Duc and I on a double catch at the S. Platte River.

I have been fascinated by the pictures Duc posts on Colorado Fly Fishing on Facebook. The beautiful trout he catches with his son Oliver at Deckers are unbelievable.  Duc Nguyen is an award winning certified koi judge with some big koi shows. Kois are judged by their size, vivid color, pattern, and presence.  It is the art and hobby movement of ‘koi kichi’ or koi maniacs.  You know this guy is fishy and beyond!  Phil and I got the chance to meet Duc at Cheesmen Canyon.  You guessed it, yet another fishy day with friends.  We even had a triple with the three of us!  Can’t make that happen unless it’s Cat, Phil, and Duc!

Duc, Phil, and I all caught and netted a fish at the same time.

I have met some amazing fishy friends and these friends are some to mention.  Fall fishing is starting off like a firecracker!  I intend to fish and fly tie through winter and back around to spring.  I hope your summer was incredibly fishy as mine was.  May this fall bring lots of fish in your net!

The fish crew, Cat, Michael, Jeff, Son, Phil, Anh, Erin, and Son in front.

What a fight this rainbow threw at me!

Welcome fall with a glimpse of the fishing!

Last day of Summer treat me well with a huge Cutthroat trout.

Does it get any better than this with the colors?