South Fork of the Rio Grande – 06/21/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Chain up area

South Fork of the Rio Grande 06/21/2022 Photo Album

My sampling of the South Fork of the Rio Grande River on Monday after our Revolution Rails experience and a hike on the Lake Fork Trail convinced me to revisit the gorgeous cold and clear flowing stream again on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Other than my brief exposure on Monday, I never fished the South Fork previously, so I was anxious to give it a try. I also considered the main stem of the Rio Grande, but after spending three days drifting the river in 2021, the thought of wade fishing the big river did not appeal to me as much as exploring the more intimate South Fork, although the significant tributary sourced near Wolf Creek Pass was by no means a small mountain creek. At most places the South Fork was twenty to thirty yards wide, and even at somewhat elevated post-runoff flows, I was able to cross at numerous locations to obtain favorable casting positions.

The temperature was in the low sixties as I began, and I felt comfortable during my stay on the creek with just my fishing shirt. There were a few periods of clouds, but bright sunshine ruled the sky most of the time. It was my first time on the South Fork, so I had no experience with water levels to compare against, but I suspect they were seasonally low although high compared to ideal. Nevertheless, I found the conditions to be very conducive to fly fishing.

Nearly Ideal Flows

I began my quest for wild trout with a yellow body pool toy hopper, an iron sally nymph, and a go2 sparkle caddis pupa. My success was almost instantaneous, as three twelve inch brown trout slashed the hopper and four grabbed the caddis pupa. Between 10:30AM and noon I built the fish count to seven, and all but one fish were browns in the twelve inch range. One small rainbow joined the mix.

A Solid Start

While I ate my lunch, I observed a sparse cloud of mayfly spinners above the riffles to my left. As I munched my sandwich, the mating swarm intensified, and then five or six trout began feeding in the deep eddy in front of my position. I decided to finish my sandwich, but I deferred the remainder of my lunch in order to capitalize on the developing spinner fall. I removed the dry/dropper arrangement after lunch and knotted a classic size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line and added a rusty spinner on a twelve inch dropper. The combination generated a few looks and refusals, but then the two flies were completely ignored, while ravenous trout sipped spinners on a semi-regular basis.

Lunch Pool and Eddy

Nice Size

I was averse to missing out on this early season dry fly action, so I reevaluated my lineup, and I replaced the rusty spinner with a light gray size16 comparadun. The body color of this fly seemed to more accurately mimic the naturals drifting about the eddy. I smashed down the wing to flatten it and create the image of a spinner, and I began casting to various parts of the eddy, where rises materialized. It worked. I landed two additional trout along with several temporary hook ups, and then I progressed upstream along the left bank and upped the count to ten. At some point I pulled some of the deer hair fibers from the comparadun, as I removed the fly from a fish’s mouth, and I replaced it with another version with a fuller wing.

Comparadun Fooled This One

Mashed This Comparadun to Imitate Spinner

As this prospecting took place, I began to observe a smorgasbord of aquatic insects that included golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, and a couple drakes. The spinner fall subsided, and I decided to institute another fly change. I chose an olive hippie stomper as the front fly and extended a tippet section from the bend and attached a size 12 yellow stimulator. These flies remained on my line until 2:45PM and enabled me to boost the fish count to twenty. Two trout chomped the stomper, and the remainder nabbed the high floating, bushy stimulator. I totally enjoyed myself in a gorgeous environment with clear and cold flows and hungry trout.

Typically Productive Water

At 2:45PM the catch rate lagged, and I shifted to yet another approach. I tied a size 8 amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl to my tippet and added an iron sally and a salvation nymph. I covered quite a bit of stream real estate, until I approached some faster deep runs that bordered some slow moving deep slots. On one of the drifts through this run, an energized trout snatched one of the nymphs, but after a streaking run, the fish slid free. I was puzzled by this rapid change of events, and I discovered that all three flies were missing. A closer examination of my line revealed a curly end, and I was forced to acknowledge that a bad knot was responsible.

Distinct Spots and Large Fly

Not wishing to go through the time consuming act of reconfiguring a three fly dry/dropper, I returned to the hippie stomper and yellow stimulator, but I was unable to resurrect the earlier magic. Tuesday was the first day of summer, and I was blessed with a wonderful day of stream fly fishing. I was on a new river for me, and I managed to unlock the code to land twenty fish. All except three were brown trout in the twelve inch range with a couple thirteens in the mix as well. The scenery, the river, and the insects were in perfect condition; and I capitalized.

Fish Landed: 20

South Fork of the Rio Grande – 06/20/2022

Time: 3:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Lake Fork Trailhead

South Fork of the Rio Grande River 06/20/2022 Photo Album

During the last week of June in 2021, I spent three days drifting the Rio Grande River with a guide in the vicinity of Creede and South Fork, Colorado. On June 30, 2021 we launched in the town of South Fork and drifted to Hanna Lane. As we waited for the guide to unload the raft, I noticed a small train station and a line of rail bikes, so I wandered over to the gentlemen fine tuning the bikes and asked them about their operation. The name of the business was Revolution Rails, and the company was based in the northeast with rail biking operations in New York and New Jersey. As it turned out, June 30 was their grand opening of the South Fork Revolution Rails section of track, I was intrigued by the concept, so I picked up a brochure, and when I returned home, I shared it with Jane and described the operation and my interest. Fast forward to Christmas 2021, and I received a gift certificate for a Revolution Rails trip in 2022. Jane and I went online in April and booked a Revolution Rails excursion for the morning of June 20, 2022. It was this booking that generated the trip from Denver to Creede on Sunday, June 19, and we arrived at the South Fork Rev Rail station early on Monday morning.

Dave and Jane Ready

The out and back ride of three plus miles was physically a breeze, and Jane and I both commented that we yearned for a longer trip. Nevertheless, there was something addictive about pedaling along in a light two person rail bike with no steering required. We agreed that another trip might be in our future.

Since we were bursting with excess energy, we stopped at the South Fork visitor center and asked the young man behind the counter for ideas for a five mile hike. He quickly unfolded a free map and highlighted a trail that was ten miles south of South Fork off the highway that ascends Wolf Creek Pass. Jane and I agreed to investigate the Lake Fork Trail, and rather than driving back to Creede, we stopped at a local grocery market and picked up some lunch snacks.

Exotic Wildflower

Jane drove south on CO 160, while I navigated, and eventually we found a wide paved pullout with a well marked crosswalk, and it was bordered on the west side by some large boulders. This fit the description provided at the visitor center, although we were unable to find a trail sign to confirm that it was the Lake Fork Trail. We trusted our directions and completed the out and back five miler and returned to the parking lot by 2:45PM. The hike was moderately challenging with several steep climbs, but the spectacular scenery spurred us on. We passed through a narrow valley, forested mountain sides, and open meadows sprinkled with wildflowers. Another section consisted of a toothpick forest with charred trees devoid of limbs. The trees were likely damaged in a past wildfire.

Toothpick Forest

When we returned to the parking lot, I told Jane that I would like to cross the highway to inspect the South Fork of the Rio Grande. Jane agreed and accompanied me to a very attractive pool directly across from the trailhead. We stood on some huge boulders fifteen feet above the river, and Jane spotted two large trout finning in the shelf pool on our side of the river. This sighting elevated my heartrate, and Jane suggested that I retrieve my rod and reel. Who was I to reject that idea? I crossed the highway and quickly pulled on my front pack, backpack and net; and I assembled my Sage four piece and returned to the South Fork. Jane remained at her perch high above the river, and she reported that the fish closest to the bank remained within view, and it was feeding periodically on something small.

I cautiously moved below the target trout and knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. I knew drakes were present on the main stem of the Rio Grande and hoped that perhaps they also progressed up the South Fork. I made four casts, and the trout ignored each one, before it disappeared from view. I decided to downsize and attached a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my tippet in place of the green drake. By the time I was ready to resume, the trout returned, but once again my offering was not to its liking. As this scene unfolded, I managed to hook a tree limb to my left and right on four separate occasions. This only reinforced Jane’s aversion to fly fishing, as she observed.

Amazing Pool

I gazed across the pool and noticed three or four decent fish, as they held their position in the slow moving shelf pool across the way. I moved upstream to a large exposed rock and executed quite a few long casts across the main current. Drag became an immediate concern, but a few short drifts suggested that the comparadun was not a favored food source. I resorted to a black size 18 parachute ant, and I managed a very brief connection in the deep eddy behind a group of boulders at the top of the pool. I eventually admitted that the long casts across the strong main current were too challenging, and I redirected my attention to some sporadic risers on my side of the river.

Jane remained as my guide high above on some large rocks, and she informed me that a fish returned to the spot that I initially targeted. In addition, a few splashy rises occurred along the near seam of the main current. I concluded that these were not ant sippers, and I spotted a size 16 mayfly in the air, so I switched to a size 16 light gray comparadun. I positioned myself tight to a large rock along the bank to hide, and I began lobbing downstream casts to the trout that Jane sighted. On the second drift the comparadun slowly moved above the trout, and the fish suddenly darted upward and sipped my fly. Jane saw the entire development and shouted, just as I lifted the rod and hooked a deeply colored twelve inch brown trout.

Worked Hard for This One

I ended the day with a single fish, but it was very satisfying after being rejected  earlier. I never expected to fish at all on Monday, so the South Fork brown was icing on the cake!

Fish Landed: 1

Davis Ponds – 06/14/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Staunton State Park

Davis Ponds 06/14/2022 Photo Album

With the remainder of the week booked with babysitting and pickleball, I decided to take advantage of an open day on Tuesday to make back to back fly fishing trips. I spent Monday on the South Platte tailwater, and I decided to change it up with a visit to the Davis Ponds in Staunton State Park on Tuesday. Slightly less than a week ago I fished the ponds with decent success; however, my time on the water was limited after completing a long hike to Elk Falls. On Tuesday I devoted more time to the scenic ponds.

A Pair of Grazers

I departed from my home in Denver at 8:35, and this allowed me to arrive at the middle parking lot by 9:35AM. The air temperature was 60 degrees, and a large cloud blocked the sun, so I pulled on my raincoat for an extra layer of warmth. I fit together my Sage four weight and set out on the Davis Ponds loop for a day of fly fishing. I was .3 mile into my 1.1 mile hike, when the large cloud disappeared, and the sun emerged, and I was slightly overheated. When I arrived at the ponds, I chose the lower body of water, and I positioned myself on the rocky dam breast, as the northeast corner was occupied with several groups of anglers.

The Dam

I opted to begin with a pool toy hopper along with an ultra zug bug on a fairly long dropper, and I sprayed casts all along the southern shoreline. By the time I stopped for my lunch break at 12:30PM, the fish count rested on six. Most of the rainbow trout snatched the ultra zug bug, as I stripped the flies in; however, I also duped one on a size 14 caddis, when I switched to a double dry offering. In addition to the ultra zug bug, I cycled through a partridge and orange and a wiggle damsel nymph, before I eventually settled on a size 14 prince nymph. The prince seemed to cause the flies to drop faster, and this in turn resulted in more action, but the overwhelming trout favorite was the ultra zug bug. Six fish in an hour sounds respectable, but the successes were accompanied by many refusals, and I never seemed to develop a rhythm. I also swapped the pool toy hopper for a small grasshopper pattern that I purchased many years ago, and it accounted for one of the first six trout.

Silvery Sheen

View from the Northeast

After lunch the fishermen in the northeast corner deserted their honey hole, and this provided me with an opportunity to claim their spot. I remained on that section of the lake for the remainder of the afternoon and elevated the fish count from six to eighteen. I snapped off the prince and UZB on a bank of rocks on the north side of the lake, and I used the lost flies as an excuse to modify my offering. I switched the hopper for a size 8 hopper Juan and a bright green caddis pupa and the ultra zug bug. This combination was a clear winner, and most of the afternoon fish grabbed the ultra zug bug with a few locked in on the hopper Juan.

Decent Size for the Pond

During my first trip to the Davis Ponds on 05/23/2022, I settled on an approach that involved slowly stripping a double dry combination that featured a hippie stomper and caddis adult. On the abbreviated 06/08/2022 visit, I discovered that steadily stripping a hippie stomper trailing an ultra zug bug was the ticket. On Tuesday, June 14 yet another approach provided consistent action. I simply cast the large foam hopper along the shoreline or toward the middle of the pond and allowed it to rest for up to thirty seconds. Quite often the hopper disappeared below the surface, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a thrashing rainbow trout. Tuesday was quite windy, and I suspect that the wave action imparted just enough action to the trailing nymphs to interest the trout.

Another Fine Specimen

I once again had an abundance of fun at the Davis Ponds. Even though the trout were stocked, I was challenged by the problem of finding the right flies and tactics to fool trout consistently. Eighteen trout in five hours is not a spectacular catch rate, but I was pleased with the results nonetheless. For some reason the last forty-five minutes were fruitless, and I lost interest and stripped in my flies by 3:30PM. I suspect at least one more trip to these ponds is in my future.

Fish Landed: 18

South Platte River – 06/13/2022

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/13/2022 Photo Album

After five days of pickleball and social gatherings I was anxious to return to fly fishing on Monday, 06/13/2022. The weather forecast predicted a high of 98 degrees in Denver, so cold water was high on my priority list for Monday. On Sunday I inventoried all my usual fly fishing destinations in Colorado, and I confirmed that all freestones and even some Front Range tailwaters were blown out; and, thus, not viable options for Monday. I experienced decent success on 06/08/2022 on the Davis Ponds, but I surmised that the hot weather might impact a stillwater fishery more than a tailwater. The DWR website displayed decent flows on the South Platte tailwater, and I quickly settled on the Eleven Mile Canyon section. The graph depicted a gradually declining flow curve with the current reading registering 87 CFS. I knew from historical experience that these flows were favorable for fly fishing.

Pocket Water Was Productive on This Hot Day

I arrived at my chosen pullout along the Eleven Mile Canyon road by 11:00AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and pulled on my waders, I ambled upstream for .2 mile and then cut to the river on a steep path. I began fly fishing in a relatively narrow section that featured huge exposed boulders and deep runs and attractive pockets around the rocks. I tied a size 10 classic black Chernobyl ant to my line and then added a go2 bright green caddis pupa along with a salvation nymph. The combination clicked almost immediately, and four trout occupied my net over the first hour, before I took a lunch break at 12:30PM. What a midday! Two of the landed trout were marvelous rainbow and cutbow trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range, and they were very healthy trout as evidenced by their chunky body type.

Near the Start

Cutbow Color Scheme

I ate my lunch next to my usual lunch pool, but I failed to notice any insect activity, so I continued with the dry/dropper approach. I worked my way up the river through some enticing pocket water, and three additional rainbows joined  the fish count. Two were small and in the nine to eleven inch range, but one was a very respectable rainbow of fourteen inches. Next I reached the attractive pool below Steve’s bend pool. I cast the dry/dropper for awhile, but then I observed some very splashy rises, and a couple fish actually leaped above the surface in an effort to grab an unidentifiable food source. As I continued watching, I noted a fairly large yellowish adult bug above the surface, and I speculated that the trout were chasing yellow sallies. Off went the Chernobyl ant and the trailing nymphs and on went a size 14 yellow stimulator with a size 18 parachute black ant trailing on a six inch leader.

I executed some downstream drifts through the vicinity of the aggressive rises, and on the tenth pass I noticed a subtle swirl behind the stimulator. I quickly reacted with a hook set and found myself attached to a hard fighting brown trout. After a brief battle I lifted the battler to my net, and just as it was about to settle over the rim, it wiggled free. It saved me the trouble of releasing it, and I added it to the count to bring the total to eight.

Nice Length

For the remainder of the afternoon I walked up the river to inspect my usual favorite haunts, as I reverted to the dry/dropper with a tan pool toy hopper, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. The pools were glassy smooth and showed no signs of rising fish, so I circled around them and focused on the faster runs, where they entered the slow moving  pools. Another factor affecting my afternoon was the presence of other anglers. One occupied the pool next to the high vertical rock wall, and another was stationed in the next wide pool situated above a pair of ninety degree bends. Since I was targeting pocketwater on this hot late spring day, I was not bothered by the presence of these two fisherman. However, when I arrived at the long stretch of pocket water above a long and wide pool, another fisherman occupied a very desirable section. I circled around him and gave him adequate space and once again began to cast the dry/dropper flies to seams and pockets among the many exposed boulders. We played hopscotch a couple times, and the other angler migrated to the west side of the river.

Deep Run

Finally in a very nice deep run over a rocky bottom a fourteen inch rainbow nabbed the salvation nymph, and I quickly played it and released it to move the fish count to nine. I felt an acute desire to land number ten and thus accomplish double digits, but my nemesis was now thirty yards above me in a prime spot. I considered once again hopping around him, but my watch was moving toward 3:30PM, and I was frustrated by the presence of the other angler, so I climbed the steep bank and hiked .8 miles down the road to the car.

Pretty Fish

I considered June 13 to be a very successful day. Nine trout in the middle of June during snow melt was very respectable, and four were rainbows in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. I was a bit surprised that all the landed fish were rainbows or cutbows, except for the one brown that managed to slide free, before I could net it. I will keep my eye on Eleven Mile Canyon for additional opportunities during June.

Fish Landed: 9

Quite a View

Davis Ponds – 06/08/2022

Time: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Staunton State Park

Davis Ponds 06/08/2022 Photo Album

During my visit to Staunton State Park on 05/23/2022, I stopped at the visitor center to obtain a 2022 annual parks pass. While the park employees sorted through the process to issue a pass for someone who already paid, but the pass got lost in the mail, the young woman provided me with a map of the park and pointed out the extended road that now made hikes to the western side of the park more accessible. This aroused my curiosity, and on Wednesday, June 8, Jane and I completed the 7.2 mile out and back hike to Elk Falls. Staunton offers stunning scenery along the trails, and the spectacular Elk Falls at our turnaround put an exclamation point on our venture.

The Murky Corner

I underestimated the time required to complete the longer than expected hike, so when we returned to the car, I debated whether late afternoon fly fishing was worth the additional effort. Ultimately, I decided that I could add an additional 1.5 hours of fishing to my day, and Jane and I made the one mile hike to the ponds. Jane claimed a picnic table to read, while I descended to the lower pond. I hoped to position myself in the northeast corner, where I enjoyed significant success on  5/23/2022, but two pairs of anglers preceded me, so I defaulted the rocky dam breast to begin my pond fishing effort.

Decent for Davis Ponds

I began my fly fishing with a peacock body hippie stomper and a size 14 olive body deer hair caddis, but after twenty minutes of very focused casting the fish count rested on one, as an aggressive stocker attacked the hippie stomper. I also observed several looks and follows to the hippie stomper, and the caddis seemed to be totally ignored. With a limited amount of time remaining, I decided to implement a change, and I replaced the caddis with an ultra zug bug on a 2.5 foot dropper.

Grip

I began to cast the combination twenty-five to forty feet into the lake, and after a move along the shoreline, the catch rate improved. I landed three additional rainbow trout, as they snatched the ultra zug bug, when I executed short rapid strips to my line. I was feeling very confident, but the good vibes were interrupted, when I hooked a tall evergreen tree on a backcast. The snag was too high to reach, so I applied direct pressure and snapped off the stomper and UZB. I was not a happy camper, and I strolled over to the picnic table that Jane occupied and sat down to rig my line anew. As I did so, I sat on my net and broke the frame at a place that was already cracked. I was not happy.

The Last and Best

For the remainder of my time on the pond I continued with the hippie stomper and UZB dry/dropper approach along with the cast and strip routine, and I moved the count to seven, before I called it quits at 4:00PM. The two pairs of anglers left, and this enabled me to move along the eastern shoreline to the position that I originally targeted, and it seemed that the fish density improved in the area. Along the way I lost another hippie stomper, and I resorted to a Chernobyl ant as my top fly, and the fish did not seem to mind, as they were focused on the ultra zug bug.

Seven trout landed in 1.5 hours of fishing was a nice accomplishment, and it only peaked my appetite for more time on the Davis Ponds. Perhaps next week I will repeat the trip.

Fish Landed: 7

South Platte River – 06/07/2022

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Waterton Canyon

South Platte River 06/07/2022 Photo Album

An angler that I follow on Instagram posted some photos and videos from his day on the South Platte River in Waterton Canyon on Sunday. I had been contemplating a trip to the nearby stretch of the South Platte, and his evidence of a successful day spurred me to make the trip. I checked the flows and noted 180 CFS below Strontia Springs dam and 121 CFS at Waterton. The Waterton graph displayed an increase from 81 CFS to 121 CFS within the last 38 hours, and that represented a nearly 50% increase. Large percentage increases usually cause me some concern, but even the high flows of 180 CFS in the upper three miles were encouraging compared to the blown out conditions on Colorado freestones.

Waterton Canyon

After a couple side issues I was able to depart Denver by 10:30, and this enabled me to arrive at the always busy Waterton parking lot by 11:15. I spent a more than normal amount of time preparing to fish, as I packed all the essentials in a backpack and unloaded my mountain bike from the car. I chose my Sage four weight as my fly rod for my day on the South Platte River in southwest Denver. I cycled from the Waterton parking lot to the Rattlesnake picnic pavilion, and arrived there around noon, so I immediately downed my lunch. I pulled on my waders and assembled my gear and stashed my bike and backpack out of sight behind a clump of vegetation. Once I was fully geared up, I hiked down the road for . 3 mile and then angled down a steep bank to the river. The South Platte carried a tinge of color, and it was indeed rushing along at 179 CFS. The sun was out with the occasional large cloud, and the temperature was in the upper seventies.

180 CFS

I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph, and I began prospecting all the attractive deep runs and riffles. Alas, my enthusiasm quickly waned, as no sign of fish rewarded my diligent casting efforts. I reeled up my flies after twenty minutes and climbed a steep bank and crossed the bridge. I intended to explore the gorgeous pool on the upside of the bridge, but two fishermen bearing a fly rod and spinning rod each claimed the popular pool, so I continued on the road, until I was upstream of the pair. In order to attain access to the river forty yards above them, I was forced to bash through some tight bushes, but eventually I was perched next to some very inviting pockets and runs of moderate depth. Surely this section would yield my first fish of the day.

Unfortunately my optimism was ill founded, and after another twenty minutes of intense fly fishing, my fish counter remained at zero. My mind began working overtime to solve the riddle, and I concluded that I needed to get my flies deeper in the cold and elevated flows. I removed the dry/dropper paraphernalia and replaced it with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot and the hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. On the second cast with this configuration, the split shot wedged on some rocks, and when I waded closer to inspect, I concluded that  the area was too swift and deep to attempt a close rescue. I applied direct pressure, and the line snapped. Imagine my utter disgust, when I discovered that the line broke off at the tapered leader, and I realized that I lost the strike indicator, split shot, two flies and a significant portion of my leader.

This convinced me that I should retreat to the river below the diversion, where the flows were a more manageable 121 CFS and more conducive to the dry/dropper approach. I sat down at the picnic table at the Rattlesnake Pavilion and removed my stunted leader and replaced it with a brand new nine foot version tapered to 5X. I coiled the old leader and tossed it in the bear-proof trash can next to the pavilion. Next I tied the fat Albert on my leader, so I had something to hook in the rod guide for my bicycle ride to a new location. When I retrieved my mountain bike and backpack from their hiding place, I was unable to secure the backpack on top of the Fishpond fishing backpack, so I removed the Fishpond frontpack and backpack and stuffed them in the camping backpack. My wading staff went in the side compartment, and I held my fly rod on the handlebars for the two mile downhill ride to my next chosen fishing spot.

120 CFS

Upon my arrival at an area approximately .5 mile below the diversion I positioned the bike and backpack near the top of the bank along the road, and then I found a safe spot to angle to the water. For this session I added a go2 sparkle pupa below the fat Albert and then supplemented it with a salvation nymph. Once again I began probing the likely holding spots, and finally at the tail of a narrow deep slot behind an exposed boulder, I nabbed a brown trout that barely exceeded the six inch minimum required for counting. I was on the verge of a skunking, so I shamelessly counted it.

I moved a bit upstream and tossed the dry/dropper to a fairly nondescript riffle next to the bank, and a mouth appeared, as it chomped down on the fat Albert. What a shock! I lifted my rod tip and felt myself attached to a rambunctious trout that eventually nestled in my net. It was a twelve to thirteen inch brown trout and easily the best fish of the day. Within the next fifteen minutes the fat Albert dove, and I set the hook into a ten inch brown trout. Was I poised for an extended period of success in Waterton Canyon?

Best Fish

The short answer is no. I continued fishing for another couple hours, and failed to land another fish. By 4:00PM I was bored with my lack of action, so I decided to mix things up and replaced the dry/dropper with a double dry that consisted of a peacock body hippie stomper and a size 14 olive-brown body deer hair caddis. On the very first drift over a moderate riffle, a fish smacked the hippie stomper, and I reacted with a swift rod lift; but, alas the fish streaked downstream on an angle, and the flies popped free. For the next twenty minutes I cast the double dry to some very promising areas, but the long distance release was my last connection with a trout on Tuesday, June 7.

My luck in Waterton Canyon has been lackluster during my last couple visits, and Tuesday was no different. I suspect the higher flows in the upper water had the fish hugging bottom, and I probably should have persisted with the deep nymphing approach, but the quick break off and total leader reconfiguration caused me to overreact and move. I managed a small amount of success in the area below the diversion, but I suspect the significant increase in flows caused the trout to adjust, and eating was not their primary focus. Other than a few tiny caddis, I observed no significant food source for the Waterton Canyon trout. I suspect it will be awhile, before I visit the canyon again. Cycling and carrying a backpack represent a significant amount of effort for meager results.

Fish Landed: 3

Pine Lake – 06/01/2022

Time: 2:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Lake 06/01/2022 Photo Album

On my return drive from Carbondale on Tuesday I encountered heavy wet snow from the Eisenhower Tunnel until Genesee before the long steep descent to Denver. Fortunately the snow accumulated on the ground but not on Interstate 70. At my home the precipitation switched to rain, and I heard the steady pounding throughout the night. Wednesday was an open day, and I hoped to take advantage with another fly fishing outing, but the weather remained uncooperative.

I opened my trusty Weather Underground app and noticed that the rain was supposed to end around 10AM, and the air temperature was projected to gradually warm to the low sixties in the afternoon. I immediately shifted my attention to Pine, CO, a small town near Pine Valley Ranch Park, and the by-hour line depicted clearing and temperatures in the mid-fifties to low sixties by late afternoon. I decided to make the 45 minute drive to Pine Valley Ranch Park on Wednesday afternoon.

I consumed my lunch and threw my gear in the car and departed by 1:00PM. Heavy, low clouds remained in the sky, as I progressed southwest on US 285, and dense fog became a new challenge between the foothills and Conifer. Was Weather Underground off base, and was I wasting my time and fuel on a fly fishing boondoggle? I was relieved, when I crested a hill near the turn off for Staunton State Park, and I noticed blue skies and sporadic sunshine. By the time I arrived at the Pine Valley Ranch parking lot the temperature registered 59 degrees, and I was a very happy camper.

I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight and ambled along the short trail to Pine Lake. I skirted the north side of the lake in order to investigate the narrow lagoon on the west side, but after a thorough inspection I concluded that no trout were present. I experienced quite a bit of success in the canal-like inlet during two visits in 2021. I continued around the west end of the lake and then paused on the south side, where a large log angled into the water.

Rare Mirror Smooth

I knotted a silver body hippie stomper to my line and then added a salvation nymph, and I began shooting thirty to forty foot casts into the lake. The wind kicked up and ruffled the surface, and after ten casts I sensed futility, so I continued to circle the lake and stopped in the southeast corner. I stared in the water and observed quite a school of fish, as they darted about near the shoreline. I was unconvinced that these were trout, but I did spend fifteen minutes attempting to catch one in order to identify the species. It never happened. I added a pink San Juan worm, but this imitation bait was ignored in the same manner as the salvation nymph. I bent over and stared at one of the larger fish, and it was obviously not a trout, so I moved along the shoreline to the eastern side of Pine Lake.

During my time on the stillwater I was able to observe rises from time to time, but the surface feeding was extremely sporadic. I was feeling rather overwhelmed with the prospect of blind casting to the large body of water, but I knew the lake had been stocked the previous week, and I was certain that not all the fish were harvested.

Put Up a Fight

Using the theory that the sporadic rises featured emerging midges, I swapped the San Juan worm for a zebra midge. I executed a prospecting forty foot cast to an area to the right of one of the handicapped casting platforms, and after a brief rest I began making short strips. i was shocked when a bulge appeared behind the leading hippie stomper, and I set the hook and connected with a very strong and stubborn stocker rainbow. Eventually I guided the rankled trout into my net. Two casts later the same scenario played out, and I landed a second albeit smaller stocker rainbow. My confidence surged and my enthusiasm was renewed.

Goodbye

Another dry spell ensued, so I moved farther north along the east bank, and I began spraying thirty to forty foot casts toward the drop off in the lake, but my previous good fortune deserted me. Quite a bit of time elapsed before a random rise appeared no more that fifteen feet out from the shore between me and the handicapped platform. I pivoted my body and fired a cast to the space, where the trout fed, and I was surprised when a tug occurred, and I set the hook and landed another rainbow.

I slid down the shoreline another ten yards, and I slapped the flies down twenty feet from shore, as I prepared to make a longer cast. Again I was shocked, when an aggressive trout attacked the hippie stomper, and I quickly reacted with a hook set. This trout felt a bit larger than the two small versions that I landed earlier, but after a twenty second tussle, the finned creature on the end of my line escaped.

This would be my last bit of action for the day. I worked my way to the northeast corner and then reversed direction and moved along the southern shoreline, but the magic was gone. The number of surface rises shrank even more, and I cycled through various midge pupa and larva patterns, but I was mired in an extended slump. At 4:30 I placed my hook in the rod guide and ambled back to the car.

Lovely Scene

Three fish in two hours is not very exciting, but I managed to avoid a skunking, and I enjoyed some very pleasant spring weather after the wintry blast of the morning. I essentially had the entire lake to myself, although two young anglers appeared and fished across the way from me for the last thirty minutes. I suspect that warmer weather will encourage more aquatic insect activity, and this in turn will spur the stocked trout to be more aggressive with their surface feeding. I will hopefully return before the run off ends during 2022.

Fish Landed: 3

Frying Pan River – 05/31/2022

Time: 11;15AM – 3:30PM

Location: MM3 and MM11

Frying Pan River 05/31/2022 Photo Album

After a rewarding day on Sunday, I had two more nights reserved at the Comfort Inn in Carbondale, and I planned to leverage the accommodations into two more days on the Frying Pan River tailwater. The freestones in the area were out of play due to high and turbid run off conditions. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating with my plans; as rain, snow and cold temperatures rolled into the Roaring Fork Valley on Sunday evening. I reviewed my Weather Underground forecast for Basalt, CO, and I noted that the rain was expected to clear on Monday morning, so I decided to hang out in my room and read, until the pavement dried. I researched pickleball in Carbondale and determined that drop-in play was available from 7AM until noon. Prior to the weather deterioration, I gave thought to playing pickleball in the morning before migrating to the Frying Pan for the afternoon. With the change in weather I decided to dress in my pickleball attire and check out the courts and play for an hour or two and then proceed directly to the Frying Pan for some afternoon fishing.

The first part of this plan evolved nicely. I arrived at the courts, and two players sat on the bench waiting for more to arrive. They welcomed me, and within ten minutes a fourth joined us. For the next three and one-half hours I enjoyed myself immensely playing against new and skilled opposition in Carbondale, CO. As the games progressed, the weather worsened, and the wind was an ever-present hindrance to controlling the light pickleball. A heavy layer of clouds shrouded the peak of Mt. Sopris, which was constantly within my view from the courts, and I decided to forego fly fishing for the active game of pickleball on Memorial Day.

Tuesday was my getaway day, and after bypassing fly fishing on Memorial Day I was anxious to pay another visit to the Pan, before embarking on my return drive to Denver. Once again cold temperatures were forecast for the morning, so I enjoyed the warmth of my room, before I checked out at 10:15. The short drive south on CO 82 and then through Basalt delivered me to a roadside pullout along the lower Frying Pan by 10:45AM, and I was perched along the river fly fishing by 11:15. I chose my Sage four weight and rigged it with an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl, salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2. These were the flies that produced solid results on Sunday, so why not default to them again on Tuesday?

Looks Prime

Happy with This Landed Trout

I worked my way upstream over the next two hours and landed four trout. An eleven inch brown chowed down on the salvation in the early going, and then after a long dry spell I landed two browns barely over six inches plus the fish of the day, a deeply colored cutbow that smacked the amber ice dub body chubby Chernobyl. My results on the lower river were better than what I achieved on Sunday in the early going; however, I was disappointed, and I decided to once again move to the upper section. I packed my car with my gear and made the drive to the river area between MM10 and 11.

Prime Pockets

I spent the remainder of the day probing the pockets and deep runs upstream from where I ended my day on Sunday. Throughout this time I maintained the chubby Chernobyl and salvation nymph, but the third fly cycled among an ultra zug bug, hares ear nymph, a classic RS2 and the sparkle wing RS2. The fish counter elevated from four to twelve, and the salvation was responsible for all these trout except for one aggressive brown that chomped the chubby Chernobyl. The eight later afternoon fish included one nice rainbow plus seven brown trout. Several of the browns were in the twelve inch range, but most of the netted fish fit in the eight to eleven inch slot.

Olive Brown

I lost six flies during my Tuesday wanderings, and all were due to human error. I actually dropped five of the flies in the river, when I failed to realize that the leader broke, while I rescued them from streamside shrubs. I was quite disturbed about this turn of events. The final demonstration of human blunder occurred at 3:30PM, and this provided a convenient excuse to end my day.

Tuesday was a mediocre day in my opinion. The weather was pleasant, but the fishing was relatively slow, and the average size of my catch was below my expectations for the Frying Pan River. However, with most options blown out across the state, I felt fortunate for the opportunity to cast in moving water on May 31, 2022. With my daughter, Amy, now living in the Roaring Fork Valley, I foresee more visits during the 2022 fishing season.

Fish Landed: 12

Frying Pan River – 05/29/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: MM1 and Upper River

Frying Pan River 05/29/2022 Photo Album

Jane and I made the drive in separate cars from Denver to Carbondale on Thursday evening after returning Theo to Louisville, CO. Since Phil’s mother was visiting for the Memorial Day weekend, Jane and I reserved a room at the Comfort Inn and Suites from Thursday through Monday nights. We planned to spend Friday and Saturday hiking and gardening, and Amy was scheduled to return to work on Sunday, so Jane planned to return to Denver on Sunday for the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend.

Since I drove separately, and I had accommodations available to me, I took advantage to plan three days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River. With most of the freestone rivers in Colorado flowing high and murky, I anxiously anticipated some quality fishing on a low and clear tailwater.

On my way to the river on Sunday morning I stopped at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop and bought floatant and used my visit to query the salesman regarding current insect activity. He informed me that the area below the dam featured an all day midge hatch and a two hour blue winged olive hatch. Small caddis were present throughout the canyon. I told the salesman that I preferred to fish the lower canyon to escape crowds, and upon learning this he suggested that I could get away with larger beadhead flies.

At the Start

Because Sunday was on Memorial Day weekend, and freestones were blown out with run off., I assumed that the upper tailwater was slammed with anglers. I drove to a wide pullout near mile marker one, and a United Rentals vehicle occupied a space ahead of me. I was unsure whether this was a fisherman or not, so I prepared to fish, and just as I was about to depart, the United Rentals angler appeared. He told me he had just fished the stretch I planned to target, but I concluded that the water had been rested long enough and proceeded with my original plan. In retrospect, this may have been a strategic error.

Deep Pools

At 10;00AM the flows were low and clear at 113 CFS, and the weather was quite nice with blue skies and air temperatures in the low to mid fifties. I rigged my Sage four weight and fitted my line with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, a 20 incher, and a salvation nymph and began prospecting all the promising deeper runs and moderate riffles. In the early going two small brown trout elevated to inspect the fat Albert, but those two instances of activity proved to be the only bright spots during my two hours of morning fly fishing. I also experimented with a sparkle wing RS2, hares ear nymph, emerald caddis pupa and iron sally. Nothing unlocked the jaws of the trout, and I decided to move on at 11:45AM.

The flows seemed greater than 113 CFS, and I speculated that a tributary was contributing run off above me, so I decided to move upstream. In hindsight I think the narrow deep canyon was funneling the river through a narrow streambed, and this minimized the number of slow velocity holding spots for trout.

Bankside Pockets

I drove slowly eastward and eventually stopped to fish within the last four miles below the dam. I quickly devoured the lunch that I collected from the Comfort Inn breakfast room, and before departing for the river, I noticed large gray clouds forming in the western sky. I used this observation as an opportunity to pull on my raincoat and my billed hat with earflaps. I walked along a short path to the river and stepped over some slippery branches and resumed casting the fat Albert. In two pockets along the bank a brown trout rose and snubbed the fat Albert. This sudden dose of action raised my optimism, but then a lengthy period of inactivity brought me back to earth. I converted the fat Albert to a peacock hippie stomper and substituted some different nymphs, but the changes failed to alter my skunking status.

The River Ahead

I progressed upstream quite a distance, as the sky darkened, while black clouds moved in from the west. The low light fueled a sparse hatch, and three trout began to rise in an eight foot wide slick behind a large exposed boulder. I removed the nymphs and added a CDC BWO behind the peacock stomper, but the leader was too long, and I was unable to track the size 22 baetis imitation. I was frustrated by my inability to convert during the dry fly opportunity, so I snipped off the flies and deployed a simple dry; the CDC BWO. Finally a small brown barely over the six inch minimum grabbed my offering, and I was barely on the scoreboard.

Chubby Chernobyl Getting It Done

I moved upstream along the left bank, and I spotted a decent brown in a small pocket in front of a large rock, but it was not rising. Once again I initiated a change, as I added a hippie stomper with a silver body and retained the CDC olive on a twelve inch dropper. The visible trout rose to engulf my fly on the fifth drift, but it immediately tucked under the rock and broke off both flies. At this point I was facing the need to replace the lost flies, and this was a natural decision point to reevaluate. I shifted my tactical gears and knotted an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl to my line and then added a salvation nymph followed by a sparkle wing RS2.

This combination proved to be a winner, and I moved the fish counter from one to twenty over the remaining 2.5 hours of fly fishing. Initially several fish refused the chubby, but eventually the surface fly proved to be a desirable food source in addition to serving as an effective indicator.

Love the Speckles

In a nice deep V between two merging currents, I netted three very fine trout. The species were cutbow, rainbow, and brown; and each fly produced a fish. The trout were in the thirteen to fourteen inch range, and this sequence was the highlight of my day. The remainder of the afternoon involved a steady progression with relatively constant action. The next sixteen fish were mainly browns in the nine to twelve inch range with a rainbow or two in the mix. Four trout succumbed to the chubby, and three nabbed the sparkle wing. The overwhelming favorite was the salvation, as it accounted for the remainder. Moderate riffles and long narrow slots with some depth were prime trout producing locations.

Melon Color

After fears of skunking and dread of two more days on the Frying Pan River with no viable alternatives, my day on Sunday developed into a very productive outing in terms of both quantity and quality. If only I could train myself to pause for two seconds before setting, when I spy a fish approaching the chubby Chernobyl. This gives me something to practice on Monday and Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 20

Fine Brown Trout

Davis Ponds – 05/23/2022

Time: 12:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Staunton State Park

Davis Ponds 05/23/2022 Photo Album

After a couple days of heavy wet snow, I was seeking an opportunity to sneak in a day of fly fishing. Unfortunately the weather forecast reflected a few additional days of cool and wet weather for Monday and Tuesday, May 23 and 24. Most of the rivers were running high, although the freestones dropped as a result of the cool temperatures that created a significant slow down to snow melt in the high country. In spite of this temporary window, I decided to make my first trip to a lake for 2022.

I checked the weather for Pine, CO, and the high temperature on the graph displayed 51 degrees. Staunton State Park was my chosen destination, and that location is higher in elevation than Pine, so I suspected temperatures there in the upper 40’s. I decided to make the forty-five minute drive with the understanding that it was not that far, should I decided to reverse direction.

As I began my drive west on Interstate 70, I remembered that I had not yet received my Colorado State Parks Aspen Leaf pass. I paid for and ordered it on March 23, and when I followed up on its status in early May, I was told to fill out a lost in the mail form. I did so, and returned the form within 24 hours, yet three weeks later I was heading to a state park without a current pass. I pulled over to a chain up area along I70 and searched through my inbox on my phone, until I found the email that contained the receipt from my purchase. I continued onward with the knowledge that I could at least produce a receipt on my phone to substantiate my purchase of an annual pass.

Late Spring Snow

When I arrived at the entrance window, a young lady asked if I had a current pass, and I replied that I did, but that there was a story connected to it. She told me to pull into the parking lot next to the office and to come inside. I learned that the young state park employee had only been on the job for four days, and she fairly quickly summoned her supervisor to assist. After a few hiccups in the process the Staunton State Park team was able to confirm my purchase, and they printed and issued my a  new state parks pass. The entire effort consumed thirty minutes, but I was abnormally patient, as I was willing to allow the 41 degree temperature to warm, before I ventured along the trail to the Davis Ponds.

After securing my annual pass I continued on to the second parking lot, and I immediately downed my lunch while again hoping for a small warming trend. When I was ready to prepare for an afternoon of fishing, I pulled on my fleece and light down and raincoat along with my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps. In addition, I dug out my wool fingerless gloves, and then I assembled my Sage four weight. The one mile hike along the Davis Ponds Loop warmed me up considerably, but I maintained the three layers for the first two hours of fishing, and I was not overheated. This was also the first day to use my new Korkers’ Darkhorse wading boots, and I was pleased with their comfort and fit, as I traversed the hilly trail leading to the ponds.

Davis Ponds Loop

Upon my arrival, I moved instantly to the lower pond, and I remained there for my entire time on the water. I began my effort to catch some fish on a raw and chilly day with a size 8 yellow fat Albert and an antique wet fly with a gold body, that I tied thirty years ago. Beneath the classic wet fly I added a salad spinner midge emerger. The first thirty minutes produced some heart stopping swirls and refusals to the fat Albert, but I only registered one small rainbow trout that nabbed the salad spinner. After a decent trial period I swapped the classic wet fly for a sunk ant and then replaced that fly with a pheasant tail styled nymph with a marabou tail and glass bead. The pheasant tail variant produced a second trout, but I was frustrated by the refusals to the fat Albert, and this prompted me to downsize to a hippie stomper. Downsizing to the stomper actually attracted less interest, and the fish mostly ignored the trailing subsurface droppers, so I again shifted gears and transitioned to a size 14 yellow stimulator.

On the Board

During this time the sun came out for short periods, and when this occurred, the lake changed into a very smooth and calm body of water. This condition was, in turn, accompanied by a lack of surface rises and no response to my flies. However, when clouds blocked the sun, and the wind kicked up, a flurry of rings dotted the surface of the lake. After two hours of relatively frustrating fishing and two small trout in the fish count, I decided to alter my approach. Other than the two fish landed, the nymphs seemed to be mostly ignored, while trout consistently approached and turned away from the surface flies.

I removed the nymphs and added a parachute ant on a twelve inch dropper behind the stimulator. These two flies continued to attract looks and swirls and a few temporary hook ups, but the results were far below my expectations given the number of trout observed during my time on the water. Once again I pondered the situation and implemented yet another change. I returned to the hippie stomper as the lead fly, albeit one with a bright red mylar body, and I knotted an olive-brown deer hair caddis behind the lead fly. I cast the two flies near recent rises and allowed them to rest for thirty seconds. If no response was forthcoming, I began to make short strips that caused the two flies to create a wake, and quite often an eager fish appeared to either grab one of the flies or initiate a large heart-pounding bulge beneath the flies.

Decent Fish for the Pond

For the final two hours on the pond I landed sixteen additional rainbow trout. The pace of action elevated significantly, although I executed many fruitless casts and retrievals for each successful cycle. At the beginning of the double dry approach, I removed my raincoat and light down coat, as the sun was out more frequently and for longer periods. I lived to regret this move, as some dense clouds rolled in within thirty minutes, and eventually I was forced to reinstate the raincoat, as light rain descended. The change in weather seemed to improve the fishing, and I became absorbed with casting and stripping and releasing fish in spite of the turn in the weather. I am always amazed that I can endure adverse weather better, when I am having fly fishing success.

Smooth Surface

By 4:30 my hands and fingers were stiff and curled due to the cooling evaporation effect of the rain, so I decided to call it quits and hiked back to the car. After two hours of fishing I was mentally writing off Monday as a trip to secure a state parks pass; however, on my drive home I was reveling in an eighteen fish day that was accomplished in forty degree temperatures on a lake. I am not a very accomplished lake fisherman, so any degree of stillwater success is always gratifying.

Fish Landed: 18