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Vail Valley Anglers
Destination Trout | New Zealand
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Fly Fishing Travel

Destination Trout | New Zealand

MadelineG

Guest contribution by Vail Valley Anglers Ambassador, Kinsey Durham. Check out more of Kinsey's adventures here!

As you would expect - fly fishing in the South Island of New Zealand was an incredible adventure. Even though the fishing was very technical and I haven't been fly fishing for that long, it was still worth the trek to the other side of the world. I definitely recommend everyone who loves fly fishing and traveling to visit this truly magical place.

My friend, Emily Petrie, and I were lucky enough to spend 5 days at the Owen River Lodge in the South Island of New Zealand with New Zealand’s only female guide, Hannah Clement. The Owen River Lodge, Felix (the owner), and everyone associated with it, are absolutely amazing. The fishing, the service, the food, the company was out of this world. The lodge is made up of beautiful white cottages along the Owen River. The Owen River is famous for holding big Browns and being extremely technical to fish. There are over 25 fishable rivers/streams that are within an hour and a half drive of the lodge, not to mention lakes. We had a super rainy day that caused the rivers to blow out, so we visited Lake Rotiti nearby to throw streamers. It was one of the most gorgeous lakes I have ever seen. But when we were pulling up to the river, Hannah asked us if there was anything that we were afraid of. I was expecting her to say there were big spiders or something around the lake. I was totally shocked when we saw a bunch of fresh water eels. They were huge, black and would swim by you while you fished. It was eerie and scary!

Fly fishing in New Zealand is about quality over quantity. If you are looking to catch 10+ fish a day, New Zealand is not the place to go. You are sight fishing and you do not see that many fish a day actually, especially ones that are feeding. New Zealand Browns are wild, huge and very hard to catch on the fly. Expect to cast 40+ feet perfectly with relatively few mistakes. New Zealand has the clearest water in the world, so fish spook very easily. So, you need to be able to cast pretty well with a dry fly long distances. We fished mostly dry flies during our trip. My favorite fly that we fished was a cicada pattern. Watching those big browns come up for that big bug, was so exhilarating and incredible.

There were a wide variety of casting situations during our trip. Sometimes, we had to roll cast because we were in a very tight area with bushes and trees everywhere. Other times you were casting super far upstream to put a fly in front of the Brown. You want to stay behind the fish while it is feeding, so that you don’t spook it. Hannah, also, taught us the bow and arrow cast. You pull the rod back and hold the fly and let go to fling it into the water in the very dense areas. It was pretty sweet.

One of the things that I loved most about fly fishing in New Zealand, was that there was no one on the river. I am used to fishing in Colorado where there are people in every hole. Here, it was just Emily, Hannah and I and the river. There were a few cows, though from time to time. There are so many rivers and options with big Browns on the South Island, as long as the river is not blown out. I, also, enjoyed all of the walking that we did. You never stayed in the same place for more than a few minutes. You are constantly on the move hunting for those big, bucknasty Browns walking though the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen.

If you do decide to travel to New Zealand to fly fish, do some other adventures around the South Island, too! I would highly recommend renting a car. Things are very spread out and you will want to explore the rest of the island. You will have to drive on the wrong side of the car and road, though! I was nervous to do it, but it was a lot easier than I expected. I spent a few days in Nelson and it was beautiful. It overlooks the ocean and you can even get into some saltwater fishing there. The town is quaint and there are amazing restaurants and the friendliest people. Emily took another week to travel around the South Island. She ventured to Milford Sound and did an amazing kayak tour. You can, also, take helicopter rides to the tops of glaciers out there!

New Zealand not only made me a better angler, but intensely deepened my love and passion for the sport. It is an insanely beautiful country where everyone is overwhelming nice. I cannot wait to go back to fly fish the South Island again, but this time I am going to stay longer.

Tips for Fly Fishing New Zealand:

  • Practice your casting and make sure you can cast 30+ feet and that your flies lay out perfectly. Practice casting from your knees, too. Sounds weird, but there were times where I was casting from my knees so I would not spook the fish.
  • Practice sight fishing. Be able to recognize when a fish is feeding. Your guide will be spotting fish for you, but it would be nice to have more than one set of eyes!
  • Your clothing color matters. Wear neutral colors like light green to avoid spooking fish.
  • Go with a guide. You do not need to stay at a fancy lodge, but hire a private guide to help you find the right places to fish. The big fish are few and far between, so make sure you aren’t wasting your time.
  • Practice dry fly fishing. Timing is everything and you do not want to be learning the timing of when to set when you are there and miss a chance at that huge New Zealand Brown.
  • Practice streamer fishing. If it is raining, the rivers blow out and you will streamer fish in a lake or blown out river.
  • Make sure you go during the summer months, otherwise you won’t be able to fish.
  • Practice fighting and landing big fish. I lost a couple of big fish fighting them. It is so heart breaking and everything has to be perfect. The more experienced you are fighting big fish, the more of a chance you will have landing it.

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Fly Fishing, Running, Beer | Welcome to the Flyathlon
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Fly Fishing News Vail Colorado

Flyathlon | Run + Fish + Beer

MadelineG

Guest contribution by Katie Mazzia, Vail Valley Anglers ambassador, trail runner, fly fisher and mom of Jack Arnot. Employed at Vail Health as a registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes educator.

The Rocky Mountain Flyathlon (RMF) has been touted as "Colorado's Coolest New Triathlon” by 5280 Magazine.

A Flyathlon is an event that combines fly fishing, trail running, drinking craft beer and fundraising for water and native fish conservation….with some of the coolest people on the planet! I first learned about the RMF from my good friend Nancy Hobbs, Executive Director at American Trail Running Association (AATRA). I was in disbelief! And for some reason, I’m drawn to "lesser known sports". Burro racing, a Colorado Heritage Sport was my last gig. This is where you run a trail race and lead your donkey with a rope for various miles!

I've [spin] fished since I was a little girl with my dad, grandparents and cousins. Now, fly fishing is a new sport to me since 2013 after my son started competitive events. I figured if I was going to be out on the water all day, I might as well learn! As cliché as it sounds (drum roll), I'm seriously hooked.

I’ve supported CAIC, MS, Diabetes Research and various other causes in my life as well as volunteered for World, US National and Regional Fly Fishing events plus a dozen or more big trail running events--Western States 100, Hardrock 100, Leadville 100 although there's something about the Flyathlon that brings my favorite things in life together: running on dirt in beautiful places, fly fishing small creeks and rivers with good, passionate people for a cause. I’m now an official “Flyathlete”.

Three events later, I can’t wait for the next one. The trail running distances vary from 5 miles - 12 miles. The last one I completed in August was in Saguache, CO (12 miles, 3K vertical); let’s just say the views kept me going. There’s also a short course too—7 miles. If you don't catch a fish during a Flyathlon, no problem, you'll just receive a 20 minute penalty. On the contrary, if you catch a big fish, you just might trump someone's place in "fish points"--2 minutes is deducted for each inch. The cut-off times are generous, so even if you are a "riker" (hiker + walker), you'll likely finish before the bell. There is also a "fish whisper" on course to help you with fly selections and best spots to fish!

Then the night goes on back at RMF base camp….if you catch the smallest fish, biggest fish or are the male/female winner, then you go on to compete in corn hole, horseshoe and a beer can shootout for additional prizes like a custom fly rod. Next, you camp in scenic, remote locations, enjoy delicious BBQ, tell fish stories and drink post-race beer from UpSlope or try some awesome varieties of Three Barrel beer! All of this in cool mountain towns (Creede, CO was my favorite so far) with endless views, new friends...this is what dreams are made of and 110% guaranteed good time!

The Flyathon is a non-profit 5013c named Running Rivers--something special. If you believe in preserving native trout species and waterways now and for the future, please consider supporting the RMF with goods, monies, participating or volunteering! It's SO worth it.

Where does the money go?

RMF San Luis Valley Projects

Haypress Lake. This small reservoir on private land in the Rio Grande basin has for many years served as the broodstock source for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Rio Grande cutthroat trout recovery program. A small grant from the Rocky Mountain Flyathlon is helping with an engineering study that will ensure dam safety, so that the lake can be maintained long-term as a home for Rio Grande cutthroat trout and a source for restoring the fish into new waters.

RMF Native Cutthroat Trout Projects

George Creek greenback restoration. Leveraged with funds raised by local TU members and a grant from Patagonia, Rocky Mountain Flyathlon funds will help cover the cost of installing a new fish barrier for the George/Cornelius Creek area in the Poudre watershed. The barrier will help secure suitable habitat for greenback recovery upstream.

The last event was a few weeks ago in Saguache, CO on Middle Creek (off the charts trail running and fishing) and raised 27K. These people are the "reel" deal!

You might just be in it for the free beer, conservation efforts or just plain old camaraderie; I love the whole combo! Co-Founder of the RMF and President of Running Rivers, Andrew Todd and his team of volunteers drum up a rockin’ event. This guy is the master mind and creator of fun. He is a dad, husband, dog owner, trail runner, fly fisher and works full-time as a toxicologist for the EPA in addition to holding these events! The RMF is truly a “bucket list” activity.

Gear Checklist

  • Fly Rod (I use a Greys Streamflex 10ft 3wt)
  • *Tippet: Trout Hunter 5.5X or Umpqua 5X
  • *Nippers
  • *Net (I carry the biggest on course!)
  • Salomon or Other Hydration Pack with 20 oz. an hour
  • LifeStraw
  • Food--150 calories/hour (sport chews, bars, dried fruit, gels , PB sandwich)
  • *Flies, duh 
  • *Floatant
  • *Patagonia Sun Shirt or other
  • *Eye wear, hat, visor, cowboy hat
  • *Buff
  • Trail Shoes (Hoka Trail or Solomon Cross Tech are my choices)—you can add some spikes “cleats” to the bottom if you want to get after it and wet wade!
  • Capris or longer running shorts (branches and brush are abundant!)
*Vail Valley Anglers has all this rockin' gear to set you up!

More Resourses

Next Event: There are still a few spots left for the Lake Fork or take a road trip to Iowa for the “Driftless Flyathlon”
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Introduction to Euro Nymphing
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Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Introduction to Euro Nymphing

MadelineG

Guest Contributor: Jack Arnot

European or “Euro” Nymphing is a versatile and extremely effective style of fishing that allows you to fish efficiently. You can achieve the depth required at a faster rate and stay incredibly connected to your flies throughout a drift. Euro Nymphing may sound like a “mystery” because it wasn't originated here in the United States, but in fact has been the main style of fishing in European countries for a very long period of time and the technique used for competitive fly fishing.

Euro Nymphing has many advantages compared to other fly fishing set-ups such as indicator fishing. It starts with the following:

  1. The rod tip is elevated enough so the sighter, 2-3 brightly colored sections of the line that act as the indicator, is visible and straight almost all the time. This makes for a well-connected, controlled drift.
  2. The angler is also able to "lead the flies" in a drift and present different sighter angles to reach various depths of a run which eliminate all weights and conventional indicators.
  3. In place of split shot, most flies used with Euro Nymphing are weighted with quality tungsten beads.
  4. Euro Nymphing can detect strikes with the slightest of movement in the sighter so set the hook often!
  5. It requires a lighter fly line then usual so the sag won’t change the speed of the flies or hinder the sighter angle or drift in any way.

Personally, I have fished many different lines and found the Rio Euro Nymph 80ft double taper line to be adaptable in most, if not all conditions. There is virtually no mending required with Euro lines as they are light enough to pick up off the water and you don’t have to keep adjusting the line constantly with the current. This is a very important factor when fishing because you want the flies to be presented in the most natural way and maximize drift time.

When nymphing, I tend to fish a two fly rig with my flies about 50-60cm apart from each other on a "tag" system which allows the top fly to move freely and is easier to change out (see "Rigging the Leader" below). Some people prefer to put flies very close together but with proper weight and drift speed I find spacing them out a little longer helps in the long run.

Lastly, one of the most important factors is the weight of flies. Paying attention to how deep a fly will sink can be vital to catching fish. When you eliminate traditional weight with split shot and use varied tungsten beaded flies, you can fish smaller and heavier weighted patterns that get in the zone quickly. This is perfect for picky fish and allows you to cover the hardest flowing water in the river to a shallow riffle with just a quick change of fly pattern with a different weight. It also saves time because you don’t need to adjust a strike indicator or split-shot---just alter the fly pattern and tungsten bead weight and then consider tippet size.

My leader is 12ft of 12lb. fluorocarbon for the butt section, 8ft of 10lb fluorocarbon for the mid-section, finished off with a 2ft-tapered colored sighter. This leader is great for searching heavy, faster runs and still works really well in technical situations like pocket water with small flies.

The main reason Euro Nymphing has proven so adaptive is you're in control of every aspect of the line, leader, flies, and rod. Every part can be dialed in just the way you need it to be for the short time you’re fishing. There is less guess work as to what the flies are doing below the surface since you know immediately from the feed back in the sighter and length of the two flies spaced out. Overall, Euro Nymphing is a streamlined and efficient way to catch fish and I would recommend it to any one who is currently fly fishing or wants to start.

You don't have to cast far to Euro Nymph either so it's great for the beginner fly fisher! Rods are longer in length, typically 10ft, 3wt. vs. a traditional 9ft. 5wt trout set up.

Jack Arnot is our youngest and still one of our most accomplished ambassadors.  He is a junior at Vail Christian High School and still finds time to be a competitive angler and avid fly tier. Outside of fly fishing he excels in cross country and track. This kid is one to watch - check him out on social media @jackarnot.  

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Mothers on the Fly | Natalie Bennion
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Fly Fishing News Vail Colorado

Mothers on the Fly | Natalie Bennion

MadelineG

Natalie Bennion (@a_ladys_angle) is first a wife and mother of two - but what caught our attention about Natalie and her online presence was her fishy-ness, her photography and her positivity. In a recent interview she was kind enough to share with us a glimpse into her busy life and boy, was it a breath of fresh air. This mother's day we celebrate the female outdoorswomen who are paving the way, figuring it out, and making it happen. Thank you moms!

What is your biggest pet peeve while fishing? Tying a 3 rig set up and then snagging on the bottom of the river and losing the entire set up on the first drift.

What is the story of your first fly fishing experience? I picked up my first fly rod in September 2015. Over the past year or so, I have had many friends ask me why I began this journey to educate myself in the art of fly-fishing. In my mind, the answer is simple. I want to be on the river with my husband and son making memories. Why do the men always get to have all the fun? Sure, my husband and I have to make some less than ideal fly fishing compromises handling a small child around a roaring river, but we always make it work. The day is always well spent and the memories are invaluable.  These experiences one the river with my son and husband are worth more value than any treasure this world has to offer. It is the entire experience, time under the trees, in the mountains, the sounds of the river that got me hooked to fly fishing.

Do you have a good luck charm? My son. He cheers for me on the sidelines of the river. He gets to release every single one of my catches. It’s his favorite part.

What is the first thing you would tell a novice angler? Personal growth is exactly that, personal. Don’t compare your beginning journey to some-one else’s years of experience. Be patient with yourself.

What is your favorite fly rod? Haha, I am a poor college student and currently fish with a simple Redington rod. I have yet to discover my favorite brand and rod.

What is the craziest thing you have seen on a river bank? While living in Alaska our close friends saw a seal swim up river to clean out the last of the King Salmon. This seal was nowhere near his ocean home. It was insane!

Highlights of this past year? The biggest highlight was having the amazing opportunity to live in Alaska for 15 weeks. A different kind of fly-fishing that I will never forget.

Wade or float? Wading… for sure. It wins all day long. Although, I do get a little jealous when a drifter floats by and reaches that one hole I will never get to.

East or west [coast]? Spirit of the West baby!

Do you listen to music while fishing? If so, what do you listen to? No, I get to listen to a chatty 4 year old talk about Transformers, pooping and bears.

What is your drink of choice on the water? Water

What is your signature snack/restaurant on the water? I keep it simple with a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Makes a great snack for the kiddo too.

What is your favorite: nymphing, streamers, dry flies? I love nymphing. Probably because it’s how I originally learned to fly fish with it being fall. I love any kind of red zebra midge, rainbow warrior and have killed it in the winter with shrimp mysis.

What is your day job? What do you love most about it? I am a mom and a portrait photographer. I love being on my own time schedule and being my own boss.

What do you want to be when you “grow-up”? Grow up ha-ha? I don’t think I’ll ever grow up. But being a mom is pretty dang cool.

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Fly Fishing News Vail Colorado

Video: Waterworks Lamson Exclusive Interview

MadelineG

“You heard it here first…” – Ryan Harrison, founding partner of Waterworks Lamson

2017 is already shaping up to be an incredible year of innovation for the fly fishing industry and Waterworks Lamson is no exception. This exclusive interview includes mountain bike technology, innovation, and what makes this company get up in the morning.

Not to mention the much anticipated Saltwater Reel and the first Waterworks Lamson…fly rod?! We aren’t kidding, this classroom style “Bat Cave Session” is worth a watch. 

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