OUT: Sunday Column March 08, 2009

Warm spell means anglers apt to pine for their favorite spots

Spring (or at least weather remarkably similar to spring) continues to dominate the local scene, which means anglers are digging out their dust-covered waders and boots and wondering when their favorite water might be fishable.

Even though much of the state snowpack is rated at least 110 percent of long-term average, the forecast is for a far shorter runoff than last year’s, which lingered well into July in some areas.

And that, in turn, means it behooves you to be ready for what might be an early onset of warm-weather fishing.

Nothing is better for getting the fly-fishing bug than the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo, presented by the Grand Valley Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Federation of Fly Fishers.

This year’s expo, the 11th annual, is set for March 27-28 at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Among the 75 or so fly tiers in attendance at the dozens of seminars, presentations and clinics will the familiar face of renowned angling guide Jack Dennis of Jackson, Wyo., and the world, really.

Dennis, always a favorite in Grand Junction, will offer a special “Day with Jack Dennis” on the 27th. This includes a personal session on the Gunnison River talking about trout behavior, streamer fishing, European nymphing techniques, casting tips, and much, much more, which you’ll understand if you know the exuberance Dennis brings to life in general and fly fishing in particular.

This event has limited participation and the $150 fee includes lunch and a rare opportunity to get close to one of America’s iconic fly anglers.

For information, contact Mac Cunningham at 255-7000, ext 10 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Information on the expo is available at http://www.grand-valley-anglers.org.

Craning for some festivals: If you listen carefully and look up in the next few weeks, you may witness a remarkable sight — the spring migration of Sandhill cranes.

Western Colorado is a major crane flyway and as the cranes work their way from southern New Mexico to summer nesting grounds in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and parts north, they’ll stop around here to rest and feed.

In fact, a small flock has been reported hanging around Delta most of the winter and last week sharp-eyed reader Greg Corle reported seeing some cranes heading northwest along the Gunnison River.

The popularity of these bird is well-known and several of the more-popular crane refuges capitalize on this popularity by scheduling special mid-March festivals marking the annual passage.

The line-up starts with the Monte Vista Crane Festival March 14-15. The festival includes workshops, tours of the San Luis Valley, including Monte Vista and Alamosa national wildlife refuges, art shows and much more.

Schedules and lodging information are available at http://www.cranefest.com.

Closer to home is the eighth annual Eckert Crane Days on consecutive Saturdays, March 21 and March 28.

This year’s event was moved back a week because of inclement weather in years past, but the mild late-winter weather, and the frequent sightings of cranes, only illustrate the unpredictability of weather or migration forecasting.

The cranes roost around Fruitgrowers Reservoir east of Eckert, and there might be some there now, although as of Thursday the Crane Count page on the Eckert Web site (http://www.eckertcranedays.com) didn’t register any cranes.

This event is co-sponsored by Surface Creek Winery and Gallery and the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society.

Among this year’s attractions is a presentation by John Vradenburg, a senior biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Bosque del Apache NWR. Many of the cranes passing through western Colorado winter at Bosque, along the Rio Grande south of Socorro, N.M.

Vradenburg’s presentation is scheduled to include crane ecology from breeding through winter and information about other crane hotspots around the west.

A complete schedule is available at http://www.eckertcranedays.com


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