Tim Hannan reports a good time from the Frostbite Tournament from the Arkansas Tailwaters:
As some of you know, the annual Frostbite Fly Fishing Tournament was just held in Pueblo, Colorado. This is one of the best benefits for us on the Front Range. The two entities that put on the tourney were Steel City Anglers and TU 509. Most of the proceeds that are raised in the tournament go right back to the Arkansas River below Pueblo dam. I know that they have started working this week to make stream improvements.
I am consistently amazed when I speak to people about the "tail-water" and they start to roll their eyes. I even had one of our regulars comment, "great place to fish...just watch out for bums and syringes.” Even a description on a local fly-fishing company’s excerpt on the Pueblo tail-water calls it a "gritty urban fly fishing destination.” This could not be any further from the truth. Most of the Arki tail is a beauty to fish and they are making it better every year. Did I mention the huge fish?
When Chris Heim came to me and asked me to be his partner for the tournament I was ecstatic. Chris has been coming in the shop about as long as I have worked here. He is an MP down on Carson and after he retires (71 days – but who’s counting?), he will be doing some guiding for us. He has become a really good friend, so it was really a no-brainer to accept his invitation.
We decided that being prepared was the best way to win the tournament. As it turns out, being prepared was not as important as beat draw. I do think that all of the beats gave anglers an opportunity to catch trout, but some proved to be a little more difficult to fish than others. As many of you know, the Arki tail-water has fished pretty difficult over the last couple of months. This is in stark contrast from last winter and most of last year’s summer and fall. That did not stop us from fishing, though. We fished at least twice a week from December until five days before the tournament (one of the tourney rules).
The day of the Frostbite was upon us. I, for one, was very exhausted from fishing the same stretch of water from the dam down to Pueblo Blvd. I was definitely excited to fish, though. Being that this was the first tournament that I have ever entered, I wanted to represent Angler's Covey and my teammate in the best light possible. I was very pleased to find that there were several teams that call Angler's Covey home. Off the top of my head the other Covey-Heads that fished were Jamie, Ben, Tom, Kim, Chris R., Mark, Gene (his team took third), Chris H., Kayti, Patrick, and Manny.
The day started so well. About 45 minutes into the event I was able to catch and land a 22.5 in Brown trout. Did I mention the big fish?
Thanks to Chris H. for the assist on that one. We also soon figured out that he needs a bigger guide net this year. Needless to say we were excited. Our morning beat was Beat 9 (aka the "cottonwood hole" or the "mysis hole" – it’s known by many other names). Everyone knows this beat because it has huge and generally difficult fish to catch. I got mine on a size 4 Dali Lama streamer. I use a rig that has a trout bead tied onto the leader to really make the fish think it's a leech chasing an egg. Unfortunately, we did not catch another fish the rest of the morning. Not for lack of trying to say the least. We threw everything in our boxes at them.
At lunch we realized that we were probably not going to win the tourney. Thus, operation HAVE A GREAT TIME was underway. We got Beat 3 in the afternoon. This is probably one of the best spots on the whole tail-water. This spot is located just down river of the walking bridge in the park. There is a run called "Cat's Run" which is really good and holds a bunch of 12” to 16” Rainbows. Cat is one of the Drifts A+ guides. She also did a great job as an all around helper, raffle ticket seller and organizer. There is a long sweeping corner after "Cat's Run." Usually some pretty amiable bait guys are sitting up on the rocks fishing, but, this day there were none. We caught our 40 inches of trout (another great tourney rule this year) in the first hour and a half or so. We had a great time fishing dries, streamers, nymphs, peanut butter flavored marshmallows (just kidding) and various other types of flies. There were many fish to be had and it was a blast.
After the tournament was over we cruised to HQ to see who the winners were. They served us a great meal and we had a few beers. They held a great raffle with a bunch of great swag. About 50 people hung around after the Tourney, too, so the chances of winning something cool was almost an afterthought. The big winner was the guy who landed a 23.5 in Brown trout. Notice he landed a fish that was one inch bigger than mine...arghhh! He won a Scott Rod and a Lamson Reel for his efforts. Team Outcast out of Canyon City took first, Team Coasta-Scott (aka Frank Smethurst of Running Down the Man/Eastern Rises fame and Nate) took second, the Pikes Peak Fly Fisher reps took third (Gene Rea and Mike Findley). On a personal note I had a side bet with Gene that we would beat his team. Well, we beat their big fish, but they trounced our total points. Luckily, he let me out of the bet with a Coors Light (sorry Geno, I noticed the Fat Tire you were drinking when I brought over the Coors).
I will absolutely be competing in the tournament again next year. It was a lot of fun: a completely stress free environment and the fishing was great. The guys who ran the tourney should be commended and the folks of Pueblo should be proud of the jewel that they have in their backyard. -- Tim Hannan
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside