Arkansas River Report | Pueblo Frostbite Fish-Off

Arkansas River Report | Pueblo Frostbite Fish-Off

Location: Arkansas River Below Pueblo Reservoir
Flow: 65 CFS
Slightly Cloudy
Warm, Overcast in the PM
Hot Flies: #14-18 Prince Nymph, Eggs, Worms, Midges
From the Aspen Times...On the fly: Local angler nets another victory
Brandon Soucie and I fished for the second time in the Pueblo Frostbite Fish-Off tourney this past Saturday 1/21. The event is a fundraiser for the Pueblo Trout Unlimited and is run completely by volunteers. Since the competition, there has been an uproar in the blogs, forums etc. about how the tournament is run, organized, etc. While I agree their is room for improving the competition, I don’t think it is ok for people to blast the tournament directors who volunteer their time to put on this fundraising competition to help improve a fishery we all enjoy.

I saw a blog by a guide who competed in the tourney titled “The Pueblo Frostbite Fish-Off Blows.” What get’s me is that the purpose of the competition is to raise funds for  TU and that he bashed their volunteers and told people not to enter. He also called our win “hollow” which I don’t have the energy or time to defend other than to say, look at our track record the last few years and ask around.

I’ve fished tournaments and I’ve gotten plenty of beats that didn’t give me a lot to work with such as in the Carp Slam. Even so, I’m not going to publicly bash a TU sponsored event as an excuse for not doing well.  In competition you play the hand your dealt, find a way to make something out of nothing and at the end of the day, realize it’s just a game (in this case a day of fishing to support the organization that stands beside our local waters).  Don’t make excuses for why you didn’t do well because nobody really cares and as my college baseball coach said, “Excuses are like assholes, everybody’s got ’em and nobody likes em.”  To all Colorado Skies guides, let this serve as a fair warning… Write a post like that, start looking for a new job.

Enough About that…Tell Us about the Fishing!

As for the fishing, luck of the draw beat assignment had Brandon and I on two beats we had never fished.  We asked around, and from the sounds of it things were looking pretty grim for the beat we drew in the morning right above the Bridge at Pueblo Blvd.  Last year, only one fish was caught their in the competitions so we went into the morning with the idea of looking for a big fish, and to worry about numbers in the afternoon where we heard the fish numbers were better.  We kicked around typical trout water and I found one fish that measured at 19″ and Brandon found a solid fish 16″.  Having scoured every inch of the stereotypical “trouty” water we knew we had to start exploring the big lake section in our beat.  The best way we’ve found to do this is to cast and start walking your indicator down river until you find fish.  We did this, and stumbled upon a pile of trout that kept the rod bent on a regular basis throughout the morning.  Primarily small fish 11-13″ but Brandon did hook the big fish of the tourney with a 21″ rainbow! We finished the morning with over 200″ of fish which we felt confident about going into the afternoon. Size #16 no bead prince nymph was the ticket in the morning.

In the afternoon, we had a shorter beat with a riffle on the top, a frog water (deep slow) section in the middle, and a riffle at the bottom. After the morning, our eyes were immediately looking towards the frog water, since the more likely trout water had already been fished by competitors in the morning.  Not to our surprise, this is again where we found most of our fish in the afternoon that added up to 195 total inches. There is a good lesson to be learned here when you fish pressured water.  Certainly fish the obvious water, but if you don’t find them there, look for water that fish can retreat to and hide.  Deep barely moving water offers a good retreat for pressured fish. It might not happen right away, so make sure you are covering the water by casting and walking with your indicator.  If you don’t find fish on the first drift, change your depth.  As a float guide, this is how I dial in a run which works well on foot as well.   On the first run I go with my best educated guess. If I don’t hit a fish in a long drift I will back row the run and make adjustments until we find the right depth and weight.

Suggestions for Improving the Frost-Bite Competion

First, thank you to everyone who volunteered their time!  I know how much work goes into this, and it is much appreciated.  My suggestion would be not to make this competition a European style body count tournament but instead make it an American style big fish competition.  Each team works to measure 4 fish.  The team with most total length over four fish wins.  As a fly fishermen, I enjoy the challenge of targeting big fish.  Trying to soar lip every 10″ stocker in the river isn’t why  most people I know fish. Furthermore, body count competitions are never good for the fishery.  Inevitably, smaller fish are more susceptible to getting hooked in vital areas and body count comps can make for a tough few days of fishing for the public after a competition. Big fish competitions also levels the playing field even if you don’t get assigned a great beat because all it takes is 1 big fish and you are in the hunt.  My .02

Competitor                 Total Inches                                                                          Beat #

1) Soucie / Anest                  406                            Big Fish 21.5 ( Soucie)            22 – 7

2) Nelson / Guerrero             205.5                         Big Fish 19.5 ( Nelson)           4 – 22

3) Penvose / Marietta           178.5                         Big Fish 19.5                           8 – 19

4) Bower / Patterson            171                                                                           2 – 16

5) Rea / Cleveland                 156.5                                                                       5 – 14

6) Glymin / Sides                    149                                                                          11 – 21

7) Puterbaugh / Ramos         144.5                                                                        7 – 18

8 ) Galvin / Knight                   141                                                                          10 – 12

9) Graffam / Olsen                   124                             Big Fish 20.5                         9 – 15

10) Benavidez / Rodell           102                                                                            3 – 13

11) Smith / Van Valkenburg     65                                                                            6 – 17

12) Muzzulin / Morris                25                                                                            1 – 20

13) Valuck / Medina                 23                                                                             18 – 5

14) Kleis / Werthman                 0                                                                             15 – 11

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

About the Author

Justin Nolan

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