Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM
Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle and then at the Edwards Rest Stop
Thursday, June 6 was one of those days when my penchant for persistence led to frustration. I always believed in the motto, try and try again, and that belief probably resulted in significant arm fatigue. Read on for an explanation.
After a rewarding day on the Eagle River on Wednesday, I drove to the Hornsilver Campground south of Minturn and set up my tent for a one night stay over. When I arrived, I had the pick of the ten campsites, although a RV pulled in on the opposite side from me later. The temperature remained quite warm, as I assembled the tent and prepared my dinner, and that is quite a statement for a place that historically produced frost in August.
I woke up at 6:30AM on Wednesday, and the air was quite chilly. Frost was not present on the gas stove, but I wore my stocking hat and down parka for the first hour, and the dashboard read 47 degrees, when I departed for my day of fishing. Instant oatmeal, hot tea, a cup of yogurt and a granola bar served as my nourishment, as I pondered my destination for Thursday. I was reluctant to return to the same section of the river as Wednesday, even though I had a hunch, that it might have been the best option. Instead I moved up river to a stretch that I fished last year between Wolcott and Eagle. Two cars were parked in the space across from the designated entry point, so I was wary of competition, but the concern was without basis, as I only spotted a guide and his client significantly downstream from where I began.
For Thursday’s adventure I rigged my Sage One five weight, and although I debated wet wading, I opted for the more conservative path and pulled on my waders. I hiked for .2 mile to a spot where a log extended into the water to block the rushing current. Based on a hunch that the trout might be looking for a yellow body such as a grasshopper or golden stonefly, I elected to tie on a size 8 fat Albert, and below that I placed a green-black Pat’s rubberlegs and a generic brown nymph. I made a few of the latter flies during my heart recovery, and the pattern was highlighted in the Pennsylvania Angler magazine.
Remarkably the brown nymph worked, and I picked up a respectable brown trout in the early going. I moved on and dropped down to the waterway at each place, where the river deepened and the current slowed along the bank. I did not dwell and moved along quickly with a cast or two for quick searching. I remembered a long section of pocket water near the end of the public section, and I was targeting that area for more concentrated coverage. During the early period I noted one refusal to the fat Albert in addition to the decent brown trout, and an ounce of concern tempered my carryover optimism from the previous day. I skipped a fifty yard section of wide shallow riffles and then probed a place, where a fraction of the river was diverted into an irrigation ditch. Nothing was happening, so I began a series of fly changes. I swapped the brown nymph for a salvation and eventually replaced that with a bright green caddis pupa. The salvation nymph anticipated a pale morning dun hatch, and the caddis pupa was a response to the preponderance of small caddis on the streamside willows.
I rounded a bend, and the extended pocket water was in front of me. The river flooded the willows on my side of the river, and I began methodically casting to all the deep troughs and pockets. The fish count elevated from one to three with the addition of two brown trout, one of which extended to a foot, but the area seemed to suggest better results. Eventually I reached the white private property sign, so I reversed direction and carefully slid through the shallow water that flooded the willows and returned to the car. My watch displayed 12:30PM, as I threw my gear in the back of the Forte and drove to another location.
Where to next? I decided to explore the area along the right side of US 6 just below the Horn Ranch Wildlife Area, and I grabbed the second large pullout. A young lady was on the tailgate of a hatchback preparing to fish , but I remained set up from the morning, so I slid down a very steep bank and then meandered downstream to a very attractive wide riffle of moderate depth. Surely this fine swath of water would reverse my fortunes. I found a nice small beach spot and sat on a rock to consume my lunch and observe the river for signs of insect activity. As I was finishing up my lunch, I heard the zing of a fly line, and fifteen yards above me stood another angler. He chucked his line four or five times and stripped his fly back, and it was evident that he was covering the water with a streamer. Eventually he spotted me at my lunch spot, and he was very apologetic and said that I was camouflaged in my little retreat. I invited him to fish on through, but he said he was waiting for a woman, and I assumed that was the young lady putting her waders on, when I arrived.
I truly did not mind his presence, but he was a gentleman and departed, and after lunch I resumed my assault on the Eagle River trout. I covered the wide riffle thoroughly with no sign of fish. I lingered in this section of the Eagle River for an hour and a half, as I worked my way upstream. Despite some very fine pools, pockets and runs I was unable to entice so much as a refusal. This is where the penchant for persistence alluded to in the first paragraph tripped me up. The air temperature spiked, and the sun beat down on me and the river relentlessly. There was no sign of insect activity, and I would have been smart to cut my losses, but that is not my nature. Finally I reigned in my insanity and hoofed it back to the car. I debated surrendering to the heat for the day, but then I reasoned that a move upriver might yield better results.
I threw my gear in the back of the hatchback and proceeded to the Edwards Rest Stop. This is a favorite of mine from previous years, and I knew that it offered a plentiful amount of pocketwater, and I knew that the related aeration is favored by trout in warm conditions. I grabbed my fly rod and headed down river to near the bottom of the extended fast water section, and on my second cast I hooked and netted a twelve inch brown trout. Clearly I should have made this move earlier and not been a slave to the try harder mantra.
Unfortunately the early good fortune at the rest stop was temporary, and I encountered the same lack of action, as I thoroughly waded among the exposed rocks and prospected all the viable deep fish holding lairs. My spike in optimism waned, and by 3:00PM I exited and circled around a long run and pool that was occupied by another fisherman. Another section of pockets existed above the long run, and that was my destination. The rock garden is very difficult to wade, and I am sure that condition keeps the pressure down compared to the obvious places such as the long run and pool below me. I carefully wedged my boots between some large submerged rocks and dropped a cast into a long pocket behind an exposed boulder, and on the fifth cast the chubby Chernobyl dipped, and I felt the weight of a rambunctious rainbow trout. In fact, it was so rambunctious that it shed the hook in less than a second. It had been quite a while since the last brown trout, and I was very upset with botching this opportunity.
I moved upstream a bit and repositioned myself to cover a couple pockets close to the left bank. These were fairly marginal, but the first cast to the left produced a long look at the chubby chernobyl. I now knew the home of a decent brown trout. I shifted gears and tossed another short cast to a tiny slot directly above me. What happened? A slightly bigger brown trout rose to sniff the chubby. I was drawing the attention of some nice fish, but I was unable to close the deal. I pondered the situation and decided it was time to go to a dry fly.
I removed the dry/dropper flies and knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a size 16 deer hair caddis on a six inch dropper. Were these fish jaded by the chubby, or would they respond to something different? It did not take long for me to have my answer. On the first cast to the left, the thirteen inch brown trout slashed the caddis, and I was attached to an unhappy camper. Nevertheless, I managed to slide the brown in my net, and I was very pleased with my success. I snapped some photos and turned my attention to the larger brown directly above me. I could still see it in a deep and narrow space between two larger rocks at the tail of a short faster run. I flicked the double dry above the target, and its tail twitched, but that was extent of the response. I was convinced that this wary critter was not going to eat my fly, but on the second drift it grabbed the trailing caddis. What a thrill! This brown trout measured around fifteen inches, and after a valiant battle I guided it to my net. The contrast with the earlier part of the day was amazing.
Again I carefully waded upstream around a gentle bend, as I carefully evaluated each foot placement on the slippery bowling ball rocks. Here I encountered a small shelf pool bordered by a fast run on the right and the bank with an overhanging branch on the left. First I probed the inside seam on the left of the run, but that strategy yielded no result. Next I tossed a short cast to the left side, and as the two flies slid to the tail, I spotted a subtle underwater movement. I repeated the same cast, but in this pass, a trout elevated and slashed one of the flies. At the time I was uncertain which fly was consumed, but when I dipped my net below a fifteen inch cutbow, I realized that the adult caddis was once again the desired food item.
I continued up the river for another thirty yards and managed to land another twelve inch rainbow. In addition, I foul hooked a nice brown trout on a refusal, and experienced a few other instances, where my fly was visibly avoided. What an ending to a day that seemed hopelessly undermined by heat! I moved the fish count from three to eight at the Edwards Rest Area, and I challenged my thought process for failing to react earlier. Three of the four fish extracted from the pocketwater were quality trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and they responded to dry flies. I also second guessed not trying the double dry set up in the long section of pocketwater, where I first began at the rest stop. I have a strong hunch that the the high floating dries may have yielded a few more trout. I managed to convert a disappointing three fish day into a respectable eight fish outing, and for that I was pleased.
Fish Landed: 8