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Matt Snider
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A Visit from Dave Coulson, Grayling at Joe Wright

Blog by: Matt Snider 8/24/2021
Shortly after I returned from the ICAST fishing show in Orlando I got a text from our old friend, former state editor, prolific writer, and fishing nut Dave Coulson saying he was back in Fort Collins on a road trip.  I haven’t been doing a great job of calendar management lately, but luckily I was able to meet up with him on a few occasions and even do a little fishing. 

I got to meet Dave’s new pup, a blue merle mini Aussie named Loki, a budding fishing dog with all the traits of a high-quality angling partner. We puppy-sat Loki at our house a few times which my angling-addicted dog Bailey loved. Hopefully her zest for fish rubbed off on him.  He made his first boat trip when Dave joined me for a brief outing at Douglas Reservoir. It took a bit of time for Loki to get his sea legs, but he learned quickly that being on a boat is a great place to be. 

No visitation from Dave would be complete without an actual thorough fishing trip, so we organized an outing to head up to Cameron Pass and fish out of float tubes for arctic grayling that Monday with friends.  I hadn’t had my tube out in years so I had to dust it off, pump it up, and pack up the pockets.  It thankfully kept air, and Monday morning we met at our Fort Collins coffee shop, grabbed a breakfast sandwich, and drove up the Cache La Poudre canyon.

The river along the route was fast yet fishable but not inviting, the water still dark gray from ash runoff. In the upper stretches we were surrounded by wildfire-torched trees and witnessed the devastation of a recent deadly flash flood around Black Hollow just up from Archers, debris strewn for miles down river.  It’s not been a great year for the CLP canyon. 

We arrived at Joe Wright Reservoir around 9am to 50 degree air temps and sunny skies.  A half hour later we were bobbing around in our tubes with fly rods and began casting a variety of rigs.  The action got fast and furious quickly.  We fished mostly deeper water with multiple-fly combos such as brassie/chironomid, damsel/nymph, hopper/dropper, and even two dry flies. Which one was better?  I can’t say.  They all worked.

We fished until a rainstorm drove us off around 3pm.  Each of us stopped counting at some point of the day, at least I did – after I reached 30. The grayling were more than eager to eat, and they were as opportunistic as you would ever hope they’d be.  Most were in the 12-14 inch range.  Being within chatting distance of each other and giddily catching fish after fish was a perfect recipe for a pleasant day on the water.

It was great to see Dave again and visit with his wife and Loki.  He did so much for FishExplorer during the years he was in Colorado and involved with the site – we all benefit from his research and his knowledge spread throughout this website.  I am forever thankful for his contributions.  Thank you Dave, I hope we can fish more often in the future!

Speaking of arctic grayling at Joe Wright Reservoir, this spring I was lucky enough to join and witness the annual CPW spawning operation. Aquatic biologist Kyle Battige was heading it up, coordinating a small army of CPW staff as they marched up and down the inlet creek.  It is an event I have been intending to attend for years, and I am thankful I finally got to see it firsthand. 

Joe Wright Reservoir has never been stocked with grayling. But in the 1980s there was a planting of this species up hill in Zimmerman Lake, and the fish eventually made their way into Joe Wright Reservoir where the population took hold and prospered. Now, this body of water is the resource for producing hatchery raised grayling for stocking in other lakes around the state. 

To see the spawning operation yourself, check out the video that CPW’s Jason Clay created, and listen to Kyle talk about the fishery and the operation.  It is fascinating.

If you need to check grayling off your list you can find a lot of the lakes where they are stocked on our grayling fish species page.
My dog Bailey telling Dave`s new pup Loki how this is going to work.Good to have Dave back out on the boatColorful dorsal fin of an arctic grayling
Float tube fishing grayling at Joe Wright ReservoirAmy with her first grayling after watching the CPW spawn operationCPW aquatic biologist Kyle Battige and crew during the Joe Wright Creek spawn operation spring 2021
Arctic grayling spawn operation crew spring 2021Arctic grayling spawn operation crew spring 2021 
Blog content © Matt Snider
Blog Comments
Barnacles, 8/25/2021 9:42:41 AM
Great stuff Matt. This is why I pay for my FX membership. I still haven't caught my first Grayling. 4 hours is just too far - but I'll drive 1500 miles for one more adventure with a good old friend anytime.
spicyhombre, 8/26/2021 3:07:59 PM
Great to hear that Dave is still catching them up. He is truly missed for his contributions to FX.
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