The mind is a terrible thing, or why I needed logbooks

I remember catching 20 fish one morning weighing over 200 lbs. in Lake Granby. We were averaging 10-15 fish a day weighing around 150 lbs.  I do not however remember the depth, but I do the location and the techniques along with the lures. The other things I do not remember

what we were doing before we learned this technique.


     When I started chasing large fish, one gentleman told me to go buy a day timer. It has a daily calendar which would keep fishing logs for numerous years. The beauty to these is after a few years of keeping this style of log book in my truck, I’ve been able to look back at a particular week and see 3 years of fishing. This gives me a great opportunity to go chase the best bite. 


     Items I write down are simple.

Location, depth, weather, results, what I used, any info I was told about (if I thought it was real). I also started using a GPS back then and Id give my waypoints a code. It is something like PHrds23s. The first letter(s) would be location (Pumphouse) then structure (road, south would be the south end of the road bed) then the depth at full pool (23). Depth at full pool is very important out west because I’ve rarely fished the same lake elevation on lake Granby from year to year.


     By keeping a simple written log book I’m able to glean information about my trips for the past 20 years. This has helped me turn tough bites into a manageable bite. Its also given me the opportunity not to think about what’s happening where, I just look it up.


     I’m not saying networking isn’t important, it is very important. If everyone we fished with kept a written log, wed never miss that very hot bite we always talk about. 

The fall season is just beginning, get yourself a day timer and start writing down your experiences. In a few years it will pay huge dividends.


It’s just after Labor Day which means we have less then 100 days before we’re walking on ice. I am not one to wait till last minute to get my gear ready. Over the weekend I spent a little time in the garage assessing my gear. I moved the hitches, extra buckets, chairs and stuff like that to the snowmobile trailer. In the weeks to come it will be time to inventory rods, reels, line and tackle. 

While inventorying rods I will check the guides closely for any damage. The reels will get last year’s line stripped off of them, cleaned and lubricated for the upcoming season. After that I will look at the line inventory, if I have enough ice line I will respool them as U get time. 

The tackle is the best part of the inventory. A few years ago, I started using Clam’s jig boxes and soft plastics wallets. These do help keep me organized.  If I’m lucky I put the tackle away in the boxes they belong in, if not it will be taken care of during a preseason game. After organizing my tackle, I can take a quick inventory and make a list on my phone of anything I need to restock. 

Every fall tackle manufacturer’s come out with their new shapes and colors. It’s always a challenge to see what we can’t live without. I tend to be a “shapes and size “guy more than a color guy. By understanding what you like to use, it helps keep your new orders in budget with your wallet.

While the weather is still warm, it’s a good idea to pull out the tents. Are they dirty, torn or just in need of a little tlc? Now is a good time to take note and get these ready. Look at the stitching closely making sure its not coming apart. Are the windows in good shape? How about the zippers? Did you bend or break any poles last year? Are the tubs cracked or worn down?  You still have plenty of time to get these in shape for the season. 

Later in the season I will go through the snow machines and service them. Along with a service I will spend time looking at the body to make sure I did not crack anything last year. Check the hitches closely, these go through a lot of stress during the season. I also start my machines once a month throughout the summer to make sure the fuel does not evaporate and dry out the carbs. 

This is a list I use to get ready for the ice season. It allows me to move at a comfortable pace and be ready when the ponds freeze up here. I always find more to do but that’s the idea, start slowly and keep moving at your comfort level and you won’t be in a last-minute panic. The other advantage of Labor Day is the water is starting to cool down and that great open water fishing will be getting warmed up. Don’t forget to harass those fish and while you’re out there look for new spots to ice fish. 


Keeping fish for dinner? prep it right.

A lot of people like to eat their catch, Im one of “those guys”. Years ago I would catch my fish, put them on a stringer or in a live well. At the end of the day would fillet them. I did notice the fish would be “mushy” and not taste very good. After a fishing trip with a couple older guys I learned a very important lesson. Fish prep before you're off the water. Here are a few steps I do to keep the fish cool and more desirable to eat.

  1. After catching the fish, I slit its throat and put it in the live well. The fish will generally bleed out in a few minutes. Bleeding the fish out gives us 2 results. Keeps the lactic acid from entering the meat. It also keeps blood from getting on the cleaning area, less mess to clean up.

  2. Keep your live well pumping, the water in your well will get very warm and nasty.

  3. I then throw them in a cooler UNDER ice. I always put meat under ice, this helps keep the meat as cold as possible.

  4. Ice fishing is a different animal all together. Frozen fish is tougher too fillet. In the winter immediately after the cash I will slit their throats. After they bleed out I will put them in a cooler.

When you get to the cleaning station your fish will be very cool and firm but wait there’s more. After cleaning your fish rinse them off thoroughly with fresh water. This washes off bacteria that will start breaking down the fish. Put them in a plastic bag, under ice, when you get to the campsite or home the fish will be in excellent shape to eat.

If you are freezing the fish for a later meal, either vacuum seal the fish or freeze them in water. We put our fillets in a plastic bag (with the species name and date on it) fill them full of water then force water out of the bag while zipping it shut. This keeps air out of the bag and prevents freezer burn. When thawing out our fish, we will put the bags in cold water. This will help it thaw faster without damaging the meat.

By following these simple tips your fish just might taste a little better. Please remember selective harvest is important. Let hem big fish go so we can have more smaller fish to eat in the future. If your interested in so fish recipes try these.

Organizing, Cleaning and sharp hooks

A few years ago my buddy and I were pre-fishing for a walleye tournament.  The bite was soft and light. He caught about 5 to my one before I decided to check the hook on my jig. I either didn’t check it before the first cast or the hook point hit a couple rocks. It was so blunt it rolled over my thumb nail. To this day he reminds me every time we go fishing to check the hook. 

After that fateful day I’ve become very aware of dull, rusty or bent hooks. I will also keep a close eye on my leader for twists, fraying or nicks. A couple minutes here and there might help keep that trophy fish pinned on your hook. I always tell my clients there are 3 points of release. Bad hook set or dull hook. Bad knot, twisted or weakened line. A drag that’s too tight or to loose. (We won’t talk about netting in this article)

Let’s start with some tips on hook maintenance. When a hook comes out of the package, I like to line the point of the hook up with the eye. Grab a pair of pliers and push the hook from the base of the bend right or left just a little bit. I’m a firm believer an off-set hook grabs more fish. When selecting your lure, jig or plain hook take a moment to look it over. If you see rust around the point grab a hook file and grind it off. While you’re at it check the sharpness of the hook. I do this by running the point over my thumb nail. If the hook scrapes or slides over it, I spend a few seconds sharpening it. Sharpen the hook away from the point so it will not form a burr on the point. If you keep your tackle in boxes make sure they are waterproof boxes or the boxes that drain and breathe. This will help with rusty hooks. To keep hooks sharp protect them by burying the hook in foam. Pipe insulation from the hardware store works wonders. 

Line can create its own set of problems. When fishing clear water for anything I like to use fluorocarbon. I must admit, I have a love hate relationship with fluorocarbon. Its more sensitive and abrasion resistant then mono, but its memory can drive me nuts. We vertical jig tubes for lake trout, the tubes are terrible line twisters. Keep an eye on twisted line, if and when it starts twisting up and causing problems cut it off and retie. Watch the bottom few feet of your line for nicks or fraying, if you see anything change it. If you’re a sports fan, watching a game on tv is an excellent opportunity to learn new knots. (A little practice hear helps land a few more fish.) If you’re still using fluorocarbon or mono from last year this would be a great time to change it out. Fall is right around the corner and those big fish will be looking to break a few hearts and create more stories. When I replace my line on the spools I color coordinate my line. All 6 lb. will have a green tint, 8 dark or smoke, 10 clear. This helps me look at a spool without wondering what’s really on it. 

I always loosen the drag on each reel at the end of the day. This keeps the washers from warping and gives me a smoother drag. Just make sure to adjust it when arriving at your spot. Run a cue tip through your rod guides, if they pick up the cotton there is a nick that could cut your line. 

Have you ever pulled on a snag only to retrieve a nasty old lure? I always throw them in a bucket and let the plastics dry out. When they dry out you will have the opportunity to see the actual color. Waterlogged plastics turn white in the water. This leads to another cool tip. While using tube jigs I always have a few in a zip lock bag of water. As the tube starts to lose its color I will pull it out, put a hook in it then fish it. Those muted colors can really get fish excited at times.  

All my crankbait, jig and hook boxes are vented, there is nothing worse than finding a box that got water in it and developed rust. Once a month I empty my entire boat, clean the storage compartments then restock it. This helps me keep clutter down to a minimum. If I haven’t used something in a while, I ask myself “Am I really going to use it or is it going to sit there”. There is no use in having your late fall gear in the boat during the month of August. While you’re at it check your life jackets. If your using inflatables check the green or red indicator, then act appropriately. Is your fire extinguisher charge good? 

These are some practices that might help catch a few more fish, make your day on the water a little more pleasant or at least help you clean your gear on occasion. I’ve adapted them, it makes me a little more efficient on the water.  My wife just told me she wishes id put as much energy in cleaning the house as I put in my boat. At least she notices.

Water level effects on Lake granby

It was fun this year seeing Dike 3 recede back into the depths.  It rises like a beached submarine every four to six years only to dive back to the depths a couple of years later.  I started guiding over twenty years ago and I have seen it all.  High water, low water, and everything in-between. 

What I haven't seen is horrible fishing.  Each year is not the same, but the fish remain and the habitat withstands the test of time.  Everyone notices the lake trout losing weight and gaining it back but did you ever stop to think about how water levels affect a lake like Granby and specifically a fish like the Lake Trout?  With so many changes, why doesn't lake trout fishing success change? The story is complex and includes two main acts.  Water levels affect feeding patterns of all species but also affects the recruitment at spawning time.  Let's start with how water levels affect feeding behavior.

It all starts with microscopic organisms known as the Phytoplankton (immobile microscopic organisms). These microscopic organisms are not mobile and stay in the top zones of the water column.  Zooplankton (mobile microscopic organisms) eat Phytoplankton but also avoid light.  They migrate up the water column to feed in the evenings and then drop down again to avoid the light in the mornings.  Since sunlight rarely penetrates more than 30 feet into the water the Zooplankton can be found in the top 30 feet of a lake.  

The next level of knowledge necessary to understand lake biology is the Mysis shrimp.  These small organisms were introduced into Lake Granby to feed the kokanee. But Mysis live at the bottom of the lake and Kokanee do not so the food source never materialized.  Instead, Mysis shrimp eat zoo plankton and here is the first detail where water levels come into play---if the water levels are low,   then there  is more of the lake in the 30-foot depth.  With more of the lake at this depth the Mysis are at the same depth as the Zooplankton (who migrate every day) and the Mysis shrimp eat more of the Zooplankton.  

Now we are finally to the Kokanee Salmon.  The Kokanee are filter-feeders and use their gills to filter vast amounts of microorganisms from the water.  They feed mainly on zooplankton and if you follow kokanee on the sonar they follow the daily migrations of the Zooplankton.  Kokanee also prefer a very narrow temperature range.  Their preferred temperature is 54F. At times this temperature range puts the fish outside of the depths of the Zooplankton and they do not feed.  When water levels are down the Mysis eat more of the Zooplankton and the Kokanee struggle to
get their fill.  When water levels are up, Mysis have a tougher time feeding on Zooplankton higher in the water column.

Finally, the Lake Trout prefers colder water (48F) and except at ice-out typically lives in waters 40 feet deep or more.  At extremely low waters levels these fish would be pushed to marginal waters in the deepest parts of the lake.  In some lakes the low waters would warm too much and the lake trout would struggle to stay alive.  Since Granby has many areas with great depths the typical low-water year does not exterminate the lake trout, it just pushes them to new locations.  Small lake trout
(less than 21" in length) often feed on Mysis shrimp and larger lake trout feed on Kokanee

With this knowledge it is easy to see how each part of the food chain operates and  that in low water years more of the feeding zones overlap creating competition.  

To win the competition for food your species must have had a good year for reproduction (called recruitment).  This is the second piece of the puzzle and the key player is the Kokanee Salmon.  The Kokanee only live for four years.  At the end of the fourth year they move upstream to reproduce and, like all salmon species, die after reproduction.  In high water years Salmon do not reproduce well.  So, even with consistent water levels there will always be a shortage of Kokanee four years
after a high water year.

Mysis Shrimp thrive in low water years because their habitat overlaps more with the Zooplankton.  When Mysis levels are high Kokanee suffer from lack of food.  Are you following me here?  High water levels and low water levels are rough on Kokanee recruitment.

High water levels the lake does not stratify. The kokes and plankton lose there "protection zone" the shrimp will live deeper and nothing will eat them. They travel u[p at night and eat the plankton. Then in the morning the kokes have nothing to eat. Low water levels the lake does stratify and the kokes and other fish can eat the Mysis shrimp. The plankton has warmer water and can reproduce.  The kokes do not spawn well in Granby, stocking is the only real way to keep these fish in the lake.
The kokes have crashed, but the CPW is stocking 1.5 million kokes in Granby  this spring. 

Falling water levels reduce lake trout recruitment.  Lake trout lay their eggs in 20 to 40 feet of water during October and falling water levels can put those eggs in jeopardy, especially as water engineers drop lake levels for winter.  When lake trout numbers are down Kokanee thrive because fewer of them are eaten by the lake trout.  Falling water levels also stress larger fish creating the potential for losses at that end of the spectrum too.  

        Low Water Recruitment  Low Water Feeding  High Water Recruitment    High Water Feeding
Mysis Shrimp          Good                 Excellent                      Poor                                    Poor
Kokanee Salmon      OK                     Tough                        Poor                                   Great
Lake Trout               Poor        Ok, if not too warm                Good                                 Good

Too many low water years in a row, combined with lake trout mortality from hooking, fighting, and trips to the hot oil will eventually decline the overall lake trout  population.  These low water years will eventually slow down lake trout recruitment  as well leading to a decline in the fishing success.  While this is possible, we have yet to see more than two low water years in a row during the last few decades. 

Now that you know the details, how does all of this affect lake trout fishing success?  It doesn't!  Since Granby has enough depth to support lake trout even in low water years, the lake trout will only be skinnier or fatter

Life and times of a lake trout bum or How my addiction got fueled

Lake trout spawn in the fall when the water temps fall to 48-57 degrees, eggs hatch about 140 days after being laid. This is a useless piece of information. I thought it would be a good idea to throw it in here, its how my mind works. For years I walked the shorelines of our reservoirs out west. Catching rainbows, browns, lake trout, salmon and pike.  

Sometime in the 70’s a Dave Leman and I saw our first float tube. We saved up money and had one before the next spring. Shortly after that we figured out how to rig a sonar units on them. In time we learned how to move the transducers around to look for shallow fish at ice off. Shortly after that we were fishing Green Mountain reservoir, drifting over a deep point when we saw some marks on the bottom. We got the heaviest spoons we had in our box, dropped them down and were ignored until we started reeling them up. We both got hit, we had no idea how much this would change our lives. 

About that same time Joe Butler wrote a book about trophy trout. I quickly learned casting big minnow imitating jerk baits was a great way to catch early and late season trout. Following Joes recipe for success after the jerk bait bite was over we switched over to paddle tail baits and lead heads. Having descent success with these techniques we were in heaven. 

Sometimes in the late 70’s or early 80’s a gentleman named Dick Gasaway was down at Lake Powell fishing for stripers. During a very successful trip he ran out of spoons, reaching in his box he decided to try a tube jig. The stripers tore them up, fishing was even better with these things. His buddy was headed to Flaming Gorge the next week, Dick reminded him to try those tubes for lake trout and the most famous lake trout jigging lure was discovered. Dick guided on Granby for a few years, then decided he liked fishing more than guiding. 

We heard the commotion about tubes and trout so we went and purchased a few. WOW! These things caught everything. One of our first trips with these was to Williams Fork reservoir near Parshall Colorado. We spent this snowy day walking the shorelines with tubes and caught over 50 fish. As time went on we fished them in our float tubes and figured out how and where to catch larger fish. 

Around 1985 we started seeing paper topo maps. We ran to the stores and found some of our favorite waters. After looking at places we caught fish, then looking for more spots like that we started to figure out what structure fishing was all about. I started a log book, where I would draw tie points to the spot I wanted to fish. This worked very well but the book would occasionally get wet and the ink would run. 

In the early 80’s I was given my first boat. It had fallen out of a pick-up and was in very bad shape. With a lot of help from a great friend (Curt Gallagher) and a few tubes of silicone we made the boat sea worthy (kind of). I could not afford a motor so I rowed everywhere I went. About a year later my dad gave me a 7 hp motor. Now I could go anywhere. After spending afternoons and sometimes an entire night on a windblown bank (The wind taught me the same lesson a lot of times. I learned to watch the weather and get off the lake before I almost died.)

I found an electric motor at a garage sale, built a small deck at the front of the boat and had a great boat. The boat ended up leaking A LOT! This taught us mobility, we could only fish one spot for a little while. We would have to get the boat on plane, pull the plug and drain the water out of the boat. Life jackets and throw cushions were on the bottom of the boat to help keep our feet dry. 

One late September evening a friend of mine and I went out to fish for browns at night in Columbine Bay on lake Granby. There were low clouds, rain and a little wind. Perfect weather for browns. As the night got later the fog came in, we could not see 50 feet. It was so dark we could not find our way out of the last “pond” in the bay. When we finally did we got back to my trailer, I called and ordered my first GPS, this changed everything. 

Now we could use our sonar units, the paper maps, my drawings to locate spots and mark way points on the GPS. I remember going out for hours locating structure and marking it. After a short while I realized the info I was putting on the GPS was a bit incomplete. I had so many waypoints I could not remember what was what. A friend mentioned putting names to them. We started naming spots some were common local names others were just made up. We then realized it would help if we added the depth at full pool this would help us know when to fish what spots. A waypoint might read “GRCC85” This included the lake, the spot and the depth at full pool. It was easy and quick.

In the late 80’s I found a 16’ Starcraft with an 80 hp motor on it. After putting a Lowrance LMS 350a and an electric motor on it, we were off. Then on a curious twist of fate on my way to the lake one day my truck blew a head gasket. That cancelled fishing, I took the truck to High Country Motors in Granby and had it fixed. While I was in the shop the owner came out and asked if I wanted to guide for him. He told me he just purchased an outfitter business for the hunting but needed a fishing guide.  I asked him “Why me” he stated “You are the only one dumb enough to go out every day”. That was my interview and I started guiding on Lake Granby. 

I was just hoping to make enough money to pay for a couple fishing trips out of state. After a couple years I figured guiding also bought new rods and reels. In 2003, guiding was getting busy enough I went shopping for a new boat.  A friend of my brothers was a sales man for Colorado Boat Center, he found out I was looking for a boat and called me. I stopped by looked at what was then a Tournament Series 192. Really liked the lay out and purchased it. The boat center put me on their pro staff, gave me a discount on the boat. All I had to do was work a couple boat shows for them. This is when I met Terry Wickstrom, he was full of great insight and advice in the business. He still invites me on his radio show to share fishing reports and stories. 

The following year I found myself guiding on Grand Lake, Williams Fork and Granby. Working almost 7 days a week between my day job of Utilities manager at Snow Mountain Ranch and guiding. The ranch was having a lot of problems with the water system and the swimming pool on the weekends. My boss came to me and made me an offer I could not refuse. I started working Friday thru Monday and guiding during the week. This opened up even more opportunities for me to guide.

In 2008 I met my wife Leesa while on vacation in Florida, after a couple dates and about 6 weeks we decided to get married. Within about 3 years she convinced me to quit my day job and follow a passion. We bought a house close to Lake Granby, and with great apprehension I started guiding full time. Guiding got busier then I could handle so I started bring a few people on board I thought I could trust. Now we have a great team with Dan Shannon, Randy Hall, Jake Foos and Sam Hochevar. 

I started writing this article on lake trout and the spawn, that subject did not get far. But that’s how fishing goes. Plan on doing one thing, then change to another. I never thought that guiding would give me the career it has. With any luck we can supply enough education, laughs and fish to make everyone happy. Our motto has always been “Learn something, have fun and catch fish”.


Have you heard the stories about how fishing was so good in the 80’s? We could go and catch 20 fish limits of salmon by noon almost any day of the year. Lake trout fishing was just being discovered and the lake trout anglers had a lot to learn. Let’s “flash” forward to 2018 and think about salmon fishing. It’s incredible at Blue Mesa and Wolford but what happened to Green Mountain, Eleven Mile, Williams Fork and others?


GILL LICE has destroyed some of Colorado’s best salmon fisheries. 


Green Mountainonce a prominent salmon fishery has been destroyed. The biologist at Green Mountain is trying an experiment; don’t stock any salmon for 4 years. Let the hosts die off and maybe they will take the lice with them. He is also not stocking rainbows, trying everything possible to get rid of any hosts.


Williams Fork reservoirused to produce 1-2 million eggs, (in 2007 a record year of 4 million eggs) this year produced about only 150,000 eggs. The DOW will halt egg operations at Williams Fork after this year. The lack of salmon in the run is the reason why.


Eleven Mile reservoirused to be an incredible salmon fishery for limits of salmon pushing 20”. There are still a few in there but it will never be the fishery it was.


Blue Mesathe states largest salmon producer. It has produced runs of 17 million eggs. During the drought of 2012-13 they suffered from a large algae bloom which reduced the egg take to 3 million eggs. In 2016 they cut the daily salmon limit in ½. That year they had 17 million eggs. In 2016 Gill lice were found in 9% of the salmon with an average of 1/salmon. In 2017 the 68% of the salmon in the run had gill lice with an average of 2/fish. The run produced 16.7 million eggs. In 2018 87% of the salmon had gill lice with an average of 9/fish.


Wolford reservoiris a “clean” lake for now in 2018 it produced 2.957 million eggs. Wolford is critical for Colorado’s egg take. If Blue Mesa fails the state will rely on Wolford to supply all the brood lakes. This will mean a lot of the other “salmon” lakes will be shorted or not stocked at all.


There are more lakes affected by this, to keep interest in reading this I chose to only include the data above.


Everything I learned about gill lice makes me believe it is being spread around by private hatcheries. A land owner with a private pond calls a hatchery. The hatchery dumps the contaminated trout in the pond. The outlet of the pond flows down to a reservoir, carrying the lice in the currents. Lice then attaches to a fish and proceeds to spread. 


There is a board called “Fish Health Board” Here are their email addresses.


Here is an email for the CPW wildlife commission.


Elizabeth Brown heads the ANS program in Colorado.


The Fish Health Board consists of 5 members 1 CPW employee, 1 dept of agriculture employee, 2 private aquaculture peopleand a US Fish and Wildlife person. They decide what “bugs” are legal or illegal. For instance, whirling disease is illegal.  They won’t make gill lice illegal. WHY NOT!! LOOK WHATS HAPPENING STATEWIDE!


Why are the private aquaculture guys outnumbering the state CPW employees? This system makes no sense to me. Why do the private guys outnumber the CPW guys and make the rules they have to follow? 


Here is the way I see it. We are letting a couple guys that run hatcheries make a very good living dumping gill lice in our waters, which in turn is ruining our fisheries.


If you’re not a fan of fishing for salmon, think about this. In ALL the great lake trout fisheries across the west there is one common denominator.  KOKANEE SALMON!!! Every time a state record lake trout has been caught since the 90’s in Colorado the lake that produced that fish had ample supplies of kokanee. Flaming Gorge which might be the best lake trout fishery in the west has lots of….. Kokanee Salmon! The only exception to that rule is Flat Head Lake Montana, it has Lake Whitefish instead of salmon. 


There is another factor in all of this. Drought cannot be controlled, it stratifies the lake and lumps all the salmon into a very tight band of the water column. Which in no time will help spread these nasty little critters. Drought can cause algae blooms and numerous other problems. 


I encourage everyone reading this to write the Fish Health Board, Elizabeth Brown and the wildlife commission (their contact info is above) and demand they make gill lice illegal. Then share this with your friends. We should be able to raise awareness of this problem and get it fixed before we lose more opportunities. 


Here are my suggestions to start to fix this issue.

 1.    Ban the transportation of gill lice.

2.    Give the hatcheries tools to help prevent gill lice from spreading through them. 

3.    Start research projects on smaller infested bodies of water to help determine how to rid our reservoirs of gill lice.


How to download CMAP Genesis maps for your Lowrance by Dan Swanson

About the author
*DAN SWANSON* is a multi-species guide in Northern Colorado. He is an 
instructor and seminar speaker on fishing techniques with a specialty 
around the use of fishing electronics - sonar, GPS and making lake maps. 
Dan competes professionally in walleye tournaments in Colorado, Wyoming and 
throughout the Midwest. He is on the Pro-Staff for Ranger Boats, Evinrude, 
Lowrance, St. Croix Rods, Crowley Marine, Abu Garcia, Berkley and Costa Del 

2018 Grand county fishing guide

While visiting Grand county there are a few things I always remind people to bring with them. A pair of binoculars, we have lots of wildlife and its always safer to see them from afar. Lots of water, this altitude can make a person very sick if they get to dehydrated. Their fishing equipment.

We have a wide variety of fishing opportunities here in Grand county. High mountain lakes above tree line to the large reservoirs and the rivers that travel through them. The choices on how to fish these waters are as abundant as the waters them selves. Make sure to check regulations for the body of water or section of river you are fishing.

Rainbow trout and brown trout can be caught along the banks of almost every reservoir or river in the area. They are most active from first light to the time the sun hits the water then again in the evening from just before sundown to dark (throughout the night can be very good for you night owls). Fishing near the shore with a variety of baits and lures can be vary productive in the lakes. In the rivers the rainbows like to sit in a little bit faster water then the browns, they will eat the same flies and lures. 

Brook trout reside in our smaller streams and higher mountain lakes and ponds. They are not known for their size but they are aggressive feeders. In the lakes a fly and bubble early and late in the day can be amazing for these fish. Do not worry so much about matching the hatch, just switch colors of the flies till you find out what they like. Small lures will works as well. In the evening wait for a fish to rise then cast directly at the rise. If your cast is quick and accurate that fish will come back and eat your offering. The small streams in the county can be full of these beautiful fish. Try sneaking up on the creeks to be successful, these fish are vary wary and will hide under anything they can if they sense danger.

Lake trout can grow to lengths over 40” and over 40 lbs in this county. During the summer months they are best caught from a boat or other floating craft. Minnow and fish looking baits top the list for these fish. Try trolling lures deep or jigging with soft plastic lures tipped with a small piece of sucker meat. 

Northern Pike can be caught in a few lakes in the area. The largest swim in Williams Fork reservoir and can be seen swimming along the shorelines. Top water bass lures, crawdad imitations and lures that imitate other fish can all trigger strikes from these water wolves. 

Kokanee Salmon live in the deeper water of our reservoirs and below their spillways. The reservoirs are generally best fished from a boat, however early summer when the water is still cool they can be caught from the banks. Using heavy small spoons (kastmasters, leech flutter spoons) with a bright color painted on them can illicit strikes early and late in the day. When fishing below the spillways try a small bright colored jig tipped with a wax worm, shrimp or white show peg corn under a bobber. 

Here are a few ideas of places to go and how to fish them. 

Willow Creek reservoir rainbows will be catchable most of the summer. Bait will work vary well, but mobility will catch more fish. Walk the banks in the morning and evenings with small spoons. Vary colors and retrieves. A simple retrieve with a few rod twitches and pauses should get bit. It the fish are not on the points make sure to fish the backs of the bays.

Monarch lake brookies bite vary well in the evening. A small black ant fished vary slowly behind a bubble will yield brookies.  Try the inlet areas as well as the shady shallow areas as the sun goes behind the mountain. The creeks that run in and out of the lake are a great opportunity for fly fishermen. Just remember to sneak up on the river to not spook the fish.


There is a lot of public stretches of water on the Colorado river starting at Hot Sulpher Springs. Fishing small spinners and jigs tipped with Gulp minnows or small tubes can be vary productive. Fly fishermen should try to match the hatch. When fishing during the evening try swinging wet flies across the pools. If you see bats flying around in the late evening, put on larger wet flies. There will be a good hatch happening and fishing can be incredible.

The more adventurous people might try hiking to a higher lake for great fishing and seclusion. Gourd Lake above Monarch lake has some vary large Cutthroat trout in it. The hike is a difficult, we never did it in a day hike it’s a great are to spend a few days. To fish any high mountain lakes all the tackle we bring with us is small tube jigs with 1/16 oz lead heads a few small spoons and a few nymphs with a bubble. 

Lake Granby is a very scenic lake with some great opportunities. Rainbows can be caught along most of the shorelines. Try spoons and flies with a bubble early and late in the day. Powerbait or worms on the bottom during the day. Brown trout can be caught casting minnow style baits around rocky points early, late or on cloudy, windy days. Lake trout will be moving deeper as the summer progresses but can be caught trolling spoons or crankbaits with wireline, snap weights or downriggers. Jigging tube jigs and spoons tipped with sucker meat can entice strikes as well. 

Bernie Keefe has been a fishing guide in the area for over 25 years please check out www.fishingwithbernie.comfor more iformation.

Lake Trout On The First Step Down


*Lake Trout On The First Step Down*
*Timely tactics for early season success*

As lake water temperatures warm during late spring and summer, lake trout make a predictable migration from shallow shoreline areas deep into the offshore abyss. Right now, the fish are on the first leg of their seasonal exodus, offering anglers the opportunity for fast fishing a short cast from shore.

"I call it the first step down," says veteran lake trout guide Bernie Keefe, of Granby, Colorado. "When the water temperature reaches about 52 degrees, which typically happens three to four weeks after ice-out, the trout move onto humps, ridges and flats in 10 to 40 feet of water, near the shallow water where they've been feeding since open water arrived."

"The fish are active and highly catchable," he reports. "So finding them is more than half the battle."

Keeping a close eye on his Lowrance Carbon 12 electronics, Keefe idles over likely areas, watching the screen for signs of life below. "In depths of 10 to 20 feet, you might not mark an entire school of fish since the sonar cone is still pretty narrow," he says. "So it pays to spend a little time over every fish you mark because there may be more trout in the area."

When Keefe spots a promising return on sonar, he marks the spot with GPS, turns his Crestliner around and prepares for battle. "I don't look for the fish on sonar," he notes. "The fish is most likely on the move, cruising the structure in search of a meal. My job is to lure him back to me."

Keefe's "first step down" tackle setup includes a 6- to 6½-foot Scheel's Guide Series spinning rod, paired with an Abu Garcia Revo reel spooled with 14-pound Berkley FireLine. He finishes off the mainline with a 10-pound leader of Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon.

Jigs are his lures of choice. All feature razor-sharp TroKar hooks and range in weight from ¼ to 1½ ounces, depending on the depth and conditions. Plain heads are tipped with 4- to 6-inch Berkley artificial softbaits including Havoc tubes, PowerBait Power Tubes, Gulp! Minnows and Jerk Shads. Shades of white or natural grays, greens and browns are perennial producers. "An assortment of hair jigs in the same colors rounds out my jig box," he adds."

Keefe's presentation includes a variety of moves. "Drop the jig to bottom and start with a nice constant jigging rhythm," he advises. "Then experiment with snaps and deadsticking. Don't be afraid to raise the jig for suspended fish or even reel it all the way to the surface, inviting hungry trout to give chase. Pay attention to what works, because consistent success is all about repeatability." The diehard guide also encourages trout fans not to wait too long to give the first step down pattern a try. "It typically lasts four to five weeks," he says. "Some of the areas will produce fish all summer, but others become barren as trout continue their journey into deeper water offshore."

CONTACT INFORMATIONFor more information or to book a trip with Keefe, visit: or call (970) 531-2318.

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Crankbaits, Swimbaits and really big fish!!!

Crankbaits, Swimbaits, Single Hooks and Really Big Fish

The sun had just began to send its rays through the peaks on the continental divide and a small chop from the morning breeze kept slapping the boat. I had the Crestliner a long cast from shore. Steve had a Sebile Magic Swimmer and cast it towards the bank. About 5 or 6 cranks of the handle it stopped for a brief second Steve wondered if it was a snag then felt the head throb of a large fish. After a brief battle the 34” lake trout surrendered to my net.

A Guides Life

As a fishing guide I get to fish more then anyone I know. On hot bites I get to net a lot of fish, slap high fives and listen to people giggle with excitement when they get a big fish on.

 I generally get my Crestliner ready in April for ice off in May. This year mother nature decided to give me an early spring. When my boat was ready for delivery my wife and I decided pick it up in Minnesota. After a short 2.5 day drive and 2 days of rigging my boat with a Motorguide XI-5 and Lowrance sonars we were ready for ice off.

Early Fall Trout, Opportunities Abound for Fast Autumn Action

Fall offers ample options afield. Across the spectrum of hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits, autumn is truly a time of plenty. And one of the more overlooked opportunities involves the early fall trout bite.

The action often gets lost in the shuffle of activities, and is largely misunderstood by the masses. But the fact remains, September produces fine fishing afoot and afloat for anglers who understand a bit about fall trout behavior.

Logbooks, who needs them

Keeping a logbook of waters you fish, conditions, and details of the catch are to me, a key tool in the development of an angler.  Logbooks help us to remember significant and minute events that may have affected the bite of the fish that day.  Why were they there?  Why aren't they here?  What are they feeding on?  Those are all questions which a fishing logbook can answer for you.

Lessons learned from one particular fish

My buddy Scott and I were out ice fishing at Granby recently.  I had moved a ways away to drill our next series of holes when I heard a shout from Scott. Setting the auger down hurriedly, I sprinted over to Scott.  He was totally fixed upon the screen of the Vexilar FL-20.  He had a fish there and Scott was doing his best to entice it to bite while the fish was eyeing the jig to see if it was real or not.  Scott would offer up the jig, jiggling it, lifting, slowly falling, trying everything he knew to get the bite.

Working with fluctuating reservoirs

Up thirty feet and down eighty feet in the same year?  If your reservoir regularly changes depth to manage water supplies or due to drought the daily, monthly, or yearly change in depth affects your fishing success.  Or simply plays with your mind and tests your ability to find the fish every day.

Lake Granby Water Cycles Explained

It will be fun this year seeing Dike 3 recede back into the depths.  It rises like a beached submarine every four to six years only to dive back a couple of years later.  I started guiding about 20 years ago and I have seen it all.  High water, low water, and everything in-between.