Eagle River – 06/17/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle and then at the Edwards Rest Stop

Eagle River 06/17/2021 Photo Album

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.

Number One From Here

Respectable

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.

Produced a Fish

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.

Red Cliff Area

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.

Looking Up

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.

Source of Number Five

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.

Very Nice

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.

Cutbow Like the Caddis

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

Eagle River – 06/16/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 06/16/2021 Photo Album

With Jane off on a girl’s birthday trip to Angel Fire, NM, I was free to plan some run off fishing. Amazingly the Yampa River dropped precipitously from 650 CFS last Wednesday to 250 CFS on June 16. PMD’s were probably making a strong appearance, but the Yampa in Steamboat Springs at lower flows can be temperamental, and I had better options. Also, tubers at low flows can impact the Steamboat Springs fishing experience negatively.

Two freestone rivers falling within my favored range were the Arkansas River and the Eagle River. The Ark below Salida was 1500 CFS, and the Royal Gorge Angler website cited fish in a barrel action, but I learned that Taylor Edrington  can sometimes be prone to exaggeration.

Site of Number One

The Eagle River was falling steadily, and the gauge below Milk Creek registered daily lows of 900 CFS. I love edge fishing the Eagle at these high but falling levels, and I had a very positive experience on Sunday with Cutthroat Anglers, so I made this my destination on Wednesday.

Rafters Still Active on the Eagle River

Wednesday was another bright, hot and sunny day with a high of 100 degrees forecast for Denver. The temperature when I arrived at my chosen pullout along US 6 was already 80 degrees at 11:00AM. I considered wet wading and probably should have, but I knew I would be hiking through pickers and rough vegetation, so I stuck with waders. I can confirm that perspiration was part of my experience on Wednesday. I assembled my Sage One five weight and ambled to the edge of the river and configured my line with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, olive-black Pat’s rubberlegs, and an iron sally. My first cast was in the water slightly after 11:30AM. In the half hour before lunch I landed a cutbow that gobbled the rubberlegs. This trout measured in excess of sixteen inches, and it caused a significant sag in my net.

Pat’s Rubberlegs Again

Fatty

The early cutbow was an auspicious beginning to my day, and after lunch I resumed my search for robust Eagle River trout. The chubby and rubberlegs remained on my line from beginning to end, while the point fly rotated among the iron sally, salvation nymph, emerald caddis pupa, and a bright green caddis pupa. The iron sally, salvation, and bright green caddis pupa each accounted for a fish along with the chubby Chernobyl, and the remainder snatched the rubberlegs from the drift.

Scarlet Knight

Oohs and Aahs

Favored trout lies were deep troughs or slots next to large boulders and current seams. At 900 CFS the trout remained in close proximity to the bank. I expanded my rule of five drifts and move, and in several cases it took ten passes to gain the attention of the trout. I attribute this to the presence of fast, deep water, which is more forgiving of repeated casts.

Dark Knight

Now for the best part of the ten fish landed, at least five were in the fifteen to eighteen inch range. My net felt the weight of two additional cutbows of similar dimensions, as the one landed in the first thirty minutes. A couple of brown trout extended to fifteen inches, and three more fighting rainbows stretched to the thirteen to fourteen inch range. Even these slightly smaller trout were muscular bullets that tested my 3X tippet. Speaking of 3X, I learned from my guide on Sunday that the Eagle River trout are not leader shy at 1100 CFS, so I adopted his usage of heavy tippet to gain an advantage over the larger fish.

Home for Wednesday Night

Wednesday was another exceptional day on the Eagle River. Ten trout in four hours of fishing is not a torrid catch rate, but it is above average. This was accomplished despite the lack of any significant hatching activity. I did spy some small caddis on streamside rocks and vegetation, but the highly anticipated pale morning duns and yellow Sallies failed to make an appearance, and the caddis never became a major menu item. The factor that made Wednesday special was the size of the fish. All but two of the fish were bruisers in the thirteen to eighteen inch range. The average size was comparable to my netted fish on Sunday, but Wednesday’s success was accomplished without the benefit of a raft, guide, or an attention grabbing hatch. I am a happy fly angler.

Fish Landed: 10

Eagle River – 06/13/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Downstream from Eagle Fairgrounds

Eagle River 06/13/2021 Photo Album

My day of fly fishing yesterday, June 13, 2021, easily qualifies as my best of the year so far. I take great pride in being a do it yourself fly fisherman. What does this mean? I read books and magazine articles and attempt to figure out the nuances of this diverse sport on my own. I tie my own flies, study entomology, monitor stream flows and correlate them to fishing conditions. In short, I attempt to use every resource at my disposal to build experience, so that I can achieve success without the aid of professionals.

This does not mean that I do not embark on the occasional guide trip, and Sunday was one such adventure. My good friend, Dave G., sent me a list of his scheduled guide trips for the 2021 season, and I decided to join him for two single day floats and one three day and three night extravaganza. Our float trip on the Eagle River with Cutthroat Anglers was the first of these three ventures. and what a day it was! Dave G. and I met our guide, Reed, at the boat launch just downstream of the Eagle Fairgrounds arena at 9AM, and we were on the water by 9:30AM. We drifted downstream for six hours and took out at a crude boat ramp at an RV park between Gypsum and Dotsero.

Typical Bankside Pocket

The sun was bright and intense all day with nary a cloud in the sky. The high temperature probably peaked in the upper eighties. As I write this, I checked the flows, and they remained in the 1100 CFS range. We fished from an inflatable raft, and this is the craft of choice on the Eagle due to many exposed rocks even at high flows. For the morning session Dave G. conceded the front position to me, and this proved to be advantageous. We switched positions after our bankside lunch, and then Dave G. once again suggested a shift with an hour left in the afternoon.

Behind the Branch

I tested dry flies twice during our float, but the fish seemed to much prefer nymphs during the bright conditions, so the surface fly experiments were short-lived. Without a doubt the top producer on the day for both of us were size 12 olive-black Pat’s rubberleg nymphs. Reed’s familiarity with the river paid big dividends, as we concentrated on drop offs from shallow shoals and deep pockets and holes along the bank behind current breaks such as large rocks or fallen logs. Making long casts ahead of the boat toward the bank with my Scott six weight ruled the day, and my exercise regimen for my wrist, elbow and shoulder seemed to pay off.

Prime time was from 10:30AM until 1:00PM, when we enjoyed our lunch break. Reed spotted a few pale morning duns during this time, which probably cued the trout to convert from rest to feeding mode. When we stopped for lunch at 1PM, my fish count was paused at eleven, and these trout were all netted during the active time frame. After lunch I incremented the count to fourteen, but the afternoon period was clearly much slower due to the elevated temperatures and the absence of aquatic insects. I am tempted to blame my shift in boat position, but Dave G.’s afternoon from the front of the boat was equally slow.

My Prize Cutbow

Very Fine Brown Trout Took My Fly

What about the quality of the fish? The size of the trout is what qualifies June thirteenth as likely my best day of the year. Of the fourteen trout landed, all were cutbows or rainbows except for three brown trout. Two of the browns were quality fish in the fifteen inch range, but the rainbows and cutbows were a notch above. A couple rainbows were below twelve inches, but the remainder exceeded thirteen inches, and the prizes were two twenty inchers. The first in the twenty inch range was a cutbow. We were pounding the right bank, and Reed announced a short pocket behind an overhanging branch that most assuredly held a fine fish. I anticipated the spot thanks to Reed’s accurate description and flicked a short cast just beyond the nuisance branch, and within a second of Reed’s proclamation of a fish residing in the bucket, the chubby Chernobyl dipped, and I was connected to the bruising cutbow. I did not have a firm grip on the rod, and the force of the first move of the trout caused the rod to jam against my knuckles, and then, in an attempt to regain the proper grip, I caused the fly line to wrap around my wrist. I allowed the streaking fish to head upstream, while I quickly used my right hand to slide the loop over my left hand. At this point I was in a position of control, and I used the six weight, nine foot rod to tire my catch and guided it into Reed’s large, long handled net. Whew! What a fight and what a beast of a fish.

Very Pleased With This Beauty

The second twenty-incher emerged from a nice slow moving seam along the left bank. Once again the chubby dipped, and I responded with a quick hook set. The ‘bow did not display as much girth as the cutbow, but it acquitted itself quite well with several missile-like streaks that forced me to allow line to spin off the reel. Pound for pound the rainbow probably packed a stronger resistance than the cutbow.

Guide’s Go To Accessories

The seven remaining cutbows and rainbows were not slouches, as several in the fifteen to eighteen inch range graced my net. These Eagle River fish were fresh and energetic after weathering the peak of the run off. I have experienced some outstanding days edge fishing the Eagle River during high water periods, but I cannot claim to have landed as many fish in the fifteen to twenty inch range. I take pride in my DIY capability, but a few professional guide outings remain welcome growth opportunities. I nearly always learn something new from the instruction of a guide. I have three days at the end of the next week to fish, and the Eagle River may have earned another day.

Fish Landed: 14

Frying Pan River – 06/11/2021

Time: 2:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Just upstream from Dallenbach Ranch wedding venue.

Frying Pan River 06/11/2021 Photo Album

I forgot how much fun it is to fly fish the Frying Pan River. It has been at least two years, since I last made the acquaintance of this jewel of a tailwater in the Roaring Fork Valley.

That Smooth Slick Yielded a Brown Trout

My daughter, Amy, moved from Portland, OR to Carbondale, CO to be close to her boyfriend. She obtained a physical therapy position in Carbondale and rented a condominium in the same town. Jane and I were anxious to pay a visit to Amy and her boyfriend, Phil, and we finally made the trip on Friday, June 11.

We arrived in Carbondale at 11:00AM and spent an hour chatting, and Phil and Amy provided an apartment tour, before we cycled to Dos Gringos Burritos for a tasty lunch of tacos. After lunch I was anxious to wet a line, so I left Jane, Amy, and Phil and made the short drive to the Frying Pan River. Because June 11 is early in the season, and the heavy pale morning dun and green drake hatches were not in progress on the upper river, I decided to gamble on the lower water. I stopped at a pullout upstream of the Dallenbach Ranch wedding venue.

Salvation and Chunky Brown Trout

The river was in spectacular condition with crystal, clear visibility and flows in the 125 CFS range. The air temperature was around eighty degrees, and very little cloud cover blocked the intense rays of the sun. Before departing for my stint on the Frying Pan River, I checked the fishing report at the Taylor Creek website, and it mentioned midday hatches of blue winged olives and pale morning duns, so I armed my line with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a size 16 salvation nymph (PMD imitation), and a size 20 sparkle wing RS2 (BWO imitation). These three flies clicked immediately, and I maintained them for two hours of exceptional fishing on the Frying Pan River.

Speckles and Stripes

I steadily worked my way upstream for .4 mile and landed eleven trout. All but two were brown trout, and the landed population included a pair of fourteen inch browns, and a thirteen inch rainbow, and the remainder were predominantly feisty twelve inch browns. The prime targets were deep slots near large boulders, and pockets of moderate depth.

Promising Small Shelf Pool

In addition to eleven landed trout, I experienced quite a few refusals to the pool toy. Surprisingly very often the flash of a refusal to the hopper revealed the position of a trout, and during a subsequent drift the reluctant surface feeder grabbed one of the trailing nymphs. The pool toy converted one fish, and seventy percent of the remaining landed trout nabbed the salvation nymph, while thirty percent locked in on the RS2.

Length

In summary, I had a blast. I moved fairly rapidly with a flurry of casts to likely spots, and very frequently a hungry trout responded with a grab. The catch rate was fantastic, the size of the trout was excellent, and I basked in the gorgeous natural setting. Hopefully Amy’s presence in the Roaring Fork Valley enables many future visits to the Frying Pan River.

Fish Landed: 11

Yampa River – 06/09/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/09/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday was my day to fish. We broke camp at Steamboat Lake State Park and loaded the Santa Fe in such a way that made my fishing gear accessible, and then we completed the thirty minute drive to Steamboat Springs. The flows dropped precipitously from the 1,000 CFS mark to the 650 – 700 CFS range for Wednesday. The reduction was quite noticeable, and it made quite a few stretches of the river in town more accessible to a wading angler.

As usual, we parked at the Howelsen Hill recreation area, and we immediately noted a group of young women under the gazebo listening to a long-winded speech from a man apparently knowledgeable about women’s softball scholarships. We concluded that a Triple Crown softball tournament was in progress, and college scouts were present for the showcase event. Jane planned to go for a walk before lunch and then cycle the Yampa Trail afterward.

A Bit More Space to Fish

I quickly pulled on my waders and fishing gear and assembled my Sage One five weight. The air temperature was close to eighty degrees, and Wednesday evolved into a bright sunny, warm day. I hiked downstream for .2 miles and then dropped down a steep rocky bank to the river and began my quest for trout. After four separate sessions of lake fishing on Tuesday  with only a momentary connection as a result, I was very eager to once again revel in the throb of my rod. The river remained high, but it was obvious that it receded quite a bit from the previous Tuesday and Wednesday, as I could wade along the edge more easily, and a few decent pockets and riffles existed beyond the narrow edge of the river.

Pleased with This Beauty

During the morning I utilized a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher and iron Sally in the early going, and when the 20 incher failed to produce, I shifted the iron Sally to the top nymph position and cycled through a hares ear nymph and salvation nymph on the point. Two rainbows nabbed the iron sally and a brown trout grabbed the hares ear in the first hour. Fish numbers four and five were brown trout, and they each favored the salvation nymph.

Number five was the last fish of the morning and one of the better catches of the day. A fourteen inch brown trout emerged from a skinny run along the bank that could not have been more than two feet deep. It was rewarding to land such a fine specimen after casting to a marginal lie. I halted my fly fishing progress at noon and hoofed it back to the car, where Jane had already begun her lunch. I relaxed at a picnic table next to the softball field, and listened to Jane’s recount of her morning activities.

Nice Girth

After lunch I decided to progress upstream through a section that I mostly avoided the previous week. At higher flows it is very difficult to access, because dense vegetation grows tight to the bank of the river, and the swift current makes it nearly impossible to move upstream along the edge of the river. The flows on Wednesday made such an approach possible although still quite challenging.

Respectable

My decision proved sound, and I increased the fish count from five to eleven, before I quit at 3:00PM. Several nice brown trout in the thirteen and fourteen inch range were part of the afternoon catch as well as a chunky thirteen inch rainbow. Number eleven was the highlight of the day, as a fat fifteen inch cutbow nipped a sparkle wing RS2 at the very top of a short pocket that bordered the bank. I was very excited with this development on a warm late spring day in June.

A Favorite Spot Ahead

I attributed my moderate catch rate on June 1 to the lack of significant insect activity, and my observation on June 9 supported that theory. When I first began in the morning a squadron of lime-colored Sallies fluttered up from the vegetation and stream. After lunch I began to notice quite a few small blue winged olive mayflies along with a couple pale morning duns. The denser population of small mayflies prompted me to substitute a sparkle wing RS2 for the salvation, and it was that fly that sparked the relatively rapid action between 1PM and 2:30PM. In addition to the six landed fish, I tangled with a couple escapees that seemed to be of above average size. It seemed that the uptick in mayfly emergence activity spurred the appetites of the Yampa River trout.

Cutbow Was Last and Best of the Day

Wednesday was a fine day by this angler’s standards. The catch rate was a bit low, but I achieved double figures, and four of my netted trout were in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. The pace of action improved in the early afternoon after the appearance of a decent number of blue winged olives. The weather was a bit warm, but after the chilly spring of 2021, I welcomed a bit of heat. In a week or so the pale morning duns should make an appearance, and I am contemplating a return visit to the Yampa. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 11

Pearl Lake – 06/08/2021

Time: 1:30PM – 2:30PM

Location: Across from boat launch

Pearl Lake 06/08/2021 Photo Album

After two frustrating hours on Steamboat Lake on Tuesday, June 8, I convinced Jane to accompany me on a drive to nearby Pearl Lake. I was convinced that the smaller lake would be more protected from the wind, and the greater intimacy would aid in spotting fish, whether they be rising or cruising the shoreline. We arrived at 1:15PM, and since I remained in my waders and had my rod strung from the morning sessions, we immediately departed and followed the trail to the right of the boat launch. We circled around the end of the lake and settled on the bank on the opposite shoreline from the boat dock.

Pearl Lake Let Down

I began my quest for a lake fish with a hippie stomper and salvation nymph, but no rising fish and some chop on the surface made this approach seem hopeless. I exchanged my floating line for a sinking tip version and knotted an olive sculpin imitation to the end of my 4X tippet. For the remainder of my time on Pearl Lake I trailed several flies behind the olive sculpin including a yellow and red bucktail, a bright green caddis pupa and a cream wooly bugger.

Looking the Part

During my hour on Pearl Lake I was thorough in my search and used various methods of retrieval while counting my flies down to different depths, but I observed no sign of a fish. After thirty minutes of casting and stripping, we hiked around the next bend, and I prospected the deep drop off water twenty feet beyond the bank, but again I was unable to report the slightest evidence of a trout. Jane grew bored, before I did and returned to the car, and then I finally surrendered as well and followed her lead.

An hour of fly fishing at Pearl Lake failed to satisfy my yearning for the throbbing weight of a trout on my line.

Fish Landed: 0

Steamboat Lake – 06/08/2021

Time: 9:00AM – 10:00AM, 11:00AM – 12:00PM, 8:00PM – 9:00PM

Location: Steamboat Lake State Park

Steamboat Lake 06/08/2021 Photo Album

I was feeling smug after several high fish count days on front range lakes. In these instances I was catching stocked rainbow trout relatively consistently. My day of 06/08/2021 on Steamboat Lake brought me back to reality. Catching trout from Steamboat Lake consistently remains an elusive goal for this veteran fly fisherman.

I presented Jane with an inflatable kayak for Christmas, and she was quite anxious to try it out for the first time. We both love the camping experience at Steamboat Lake State Park, and we were able to find campsite availability for two nights, June 7 and 8, so we reserved campsite number 62 in the Harebell Loop. We normally plant our tent on Bridge Island Loop, but we decided to deviate from our previous practice. As it turned out, we were quite pleased with our choice, as our site offered a spectacular view of Hahn’s Peak, and the north side of our campsite bordered an aspen grove and natural woods.

Originally Tuesday was my day to make the drive to fish the Yampa River; however, we modified that plan, so I could be present to help Jane inflate her kayak, and more importantly be available to pack it up and transport it to the campsite after her maiden voyage. In exchange we agreed that I could fish the Yampa on Wednesday on our return trip to Denver. This made obvious sense, since our return route passed through Steamboat Springs, and that was where I planned to fish.

Poised for Fun

On Tuesday morning after I helped Jane inflate the kayak, assemble her three part paddle and launch from the swim beach; I jumped in the car and made a ten minute drive to Sage Flats. I read on several websites that the best shore fishing could be obtained via a ten minute walk across the dam from the Sage Flats parking lot. When I arrived, two other vehicles were present, and I noticed a gate across the road that seemed to lead to the dam. I prepared to fish with my Sage One five weight to combat the wind in the wide open area lacking in trees or windbreaks of any sort. When I was properly geared up, I ambled to the gate, but barbed wire extended to the lake, and the gate was locked. Clearly the park rangers did not want anyone passing beyond this point, so I reversed my direction and hiked along the Willow Trail for eight minutes and then dropped down to a small inlet and waded into a position on the northeast side of the arm in that area.

Pretty Place

The first twenty yards were rather shallow, and of course my entry was the cue for the wind to kick up. I began fishing a hippie stomper with a salvation nymph dropper, but after fifteen minutes of throwing casts parallel to the shoreline and then watching the surface fly bob in the small waves, I recognized the futility of my endeavor. I decided to move to a section that I passed, where some high banks suggested a steeper decline and deeper water. Three minutes after making my move, I was positioned on the shoreline, and I switched tactics to a sparkle minnow streamer trailing a wiggle damsel. I sprayed casts in this area and several more farther south, but my only result was the loss of the valued sparkle minnow and the damsel nymph. I experimented with various stripping speeds and movements and counted down to different depths, but the wind continued to blast the surface of the water, and the fish, if they were in the area, ignored my best efforts.

Macro View

After an hour of fruitless casting I stripped in my line, bowed my head against the wind and wandered back to the parking lot with my confidence at a low ebb. I returned to the swim beach twenty minutes early and discovered Jane waiting next to her kayak. She reported an enjoyable maiden voyage; however, she could only last an hour before paddling into the wind brought extreme fatigue to her arms and shoulders. I provided a minor amount of help, as we deflated and folded up the kayak, and then we returned to number 62 on the Harebell Loop for lunch.

Second Session Was Here

It was eleven o’clock when we arrived, so I decided to explore the cove and inlet, where a small stream enters Steamboat Lake from the north. I parked at a lot on the closest camping loop and hiked along the Willow Creek Trail, before I cut down a gradual grassy bank to the shoreline. I waded across a small shallow cove, and this positioned me to fire casts across the mouth of the small bay where the creek entered. I worked my way back toward the mouth of the creek with no response to my wooly bugger, and then I made a strategic mistake and began progressing up the stream. Since it was early June, the creek was swollen with higher than normal flows, although it seemed nearly ideal at the time. I suspect that later in the season it shrivels to a trickle; and, thus, is not a viable fishery. I realized this after fifteen minutes of fishing, and it was easier to finish the commitment to reach the Willow Creek Trail rather than turn around and wade across the lake again. I never saw a fish during my entire time on the small creek.

I returned to the campsite and after a short rest convinced Jane to drive to Pearl Lake State Park. I reasoned that perhaps a smaller body of water would be less susceptible to wind, and a more intimate lake might make spotting fish an easier proposition. Another post documents my visit to Pearl Lake.

After dinner I once again persuaded Jane to join me in a final fishing venture on Tuesday, June 8. We drove to Meadow Point, a section of land that juts between two long narrow coves. During previous visits to Steamboat Lake I fished in this area, and it usually came alive with rising fish in the hour before dark. Jane and I sat on a bench and observed for thirty minutes, before I extracted my fishing gear from the car. I spotted no rises during this time, and the wind remained a significant nemesis. Finally at 7:30PM I assembled my Sage One once again, and I ambled down a short path to the shoreline of the finger of water that extended from the main lake. I once again tied on a hippie stomper and trailed a size 18 deer hair caddis, and I began to blind cast. Once again my effort seemed rather futile, but after a few minutes an occasional rise gave me a glimmer of hope.

Cove Next to Meadow Point

For the next hour I fired long casts to the vicinity of sporadic rises, but the trout were once again ignoring my offerings. I tried short strips and stops, but none of my tactics produced results. The sun dropped behind a western peak, and the temperature dropped, and the frequency of rises picked up. I exchanged the caddis dry fly for a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. I caught one of the abundant quantities of midges buzzing about my head, and it possessed an olive body with clear wings, so I reasoned that the tiny BWO could pinch hit.

I now began to drop casts in the vicinity of recent rises, but interest was nonexistent, until finally a bulge appeared behind the hippie stomper. I quickly lifted my rod and felt a momentary sensation of additional weight, but then the fish shed the size 22 fly, and I was left to vent my frustration to the croaking frogs and gobbling sand hill cranes. Four hours of lake fishing, and my reward was a split second hook up. Lake fishing education is an ongoing project.

Fish Landed: 0

Pine Lake – 06/04/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: South side of lake mostly

Pine Lake 06/04/2021 Photo Album

OK, so I fished for stocked rainbow trout. Catching trout from a lake of any kind is an ongoing challenge for this novice stillwater fisherman. How did I do this time? Read on.

A week ago Jane and I made the trip from Denver to Pine Valley Ranch Park after some serious pickleball in the morning. On June 4, 2021 I decided to make the trip solo in order to log additional time on the lake. Also by foregoing pickleball I intended to get an earlier start.

Both objectives were achieved. I arrived at the lower parking lot at Pine Valley Ranch Park by 10:15AM, and this enabled me to be on the water fishing by 10:30AM. I hoped to revisit the upper end of the lake, where I achieved a small degree of success on 05/28/2021, but a youth with a small spinning rod, who was accompanied presumably by his grandmother preceded me. As I approached, however, the pair abandoned their spot, and the woman announced that “there were lots of trout, but they were not hungry”. Another young male angler was positioned toward the west end of the channel, but I decided to try the eastern end that was recently vacated.

End of the Lake

I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my 5X tippet and then added a size 18 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a short six inch dropper, and I began to flip casts to visible fish. Unfortunately the trout were preoccupied with invisible food items, and they ignored my large offerings. A few brave finned residents inspected the hippie stomper, but they eventually shunned the imitations. Not wishing to invade the space of the young angler, I hooked my flies to the rod guide and took a walk around the western end of the lake, until I found a nice open space on the southwest side of Pine Lake. I began spraying twenty to thirty yard casts to the deeper part of the lake, but without rising or sighted fish, my prospects seemed rather slim. I spent fifteen minutes pursuing this futile strategy, when I observed the occupant of the channel area walking along the north side of the lake, and I quickly reversed my path and claimed the channel section that produced six rainbows in two hours on May 28.

Nice for Stocker

For the remainder of the morning I sight fished to the shallow water inhabitants, and I landed five trout before I broke for lunch at 12:30PM. All these fish were clearly stocked, and surprisingly four crushed the hippie stomper, while one fell victim to the size 18 caddis. I also tested a size 24 griffith’s gnat, but it was ineffective unlike the previous Friday, when the tiny peacock speck was a favorite. After lunch on the bank next to the canal-like waterway, I resumed fishing and swapped the griffiths gnat for a size 20 parachute Adams. The small Adams repaid my confidence, as it produced one of the larger rainbow trout of the day.

Although you might expect this fishing to be rather easy, it was not. I executed numerous casts to sighted fish, and more often than not they simply swam by my imitations. Occasionally they slowly moved below the hippie stomper and nudged it, but failed to eat the medium sized foam attractor. Inexplicably on rare occasions one of the targeted fish darted a foot or more to gobble the hippie stomper. Why the stomper produced random aggressive assaults was beyond my comprehension, but I was pleased with the variance in behavior. This area of the lake contained significant gobs of green algae or moss, and it was a nuisance to pick the slime off both flies after four or five casts. Another element of difficulty was the need to make fairly long backhand casts because of my position on the north side of the slough and the presence of dense willows along much of the section.

Beaver House I Walked Over

By one o’clock the fish count rested on six, and the random rises in the area ceased, and I grew bored with backhand casts and picking slime, so I stripped in my line and waded across the channel in order to explore the western shoreline of the lake. I waded along some mucky reeds and crossed over the top of a beaver house, and then I paused to scan the water for rises of visible fish. None of these appeared, but a long mammal came into view, and just as I recognized it as a beaver, it raised its tail and smacked it down on the water to create a loud whacking sound. Beavers do this to warn their mates. I watched the beaver circle around the western bay three or four times, while I recorded several videos, and then I moved toward the southwest shoreline. A man and young girl arrived on the north shore, and they, likewise, spotted the beaver, and the girl began to chant “go away beaver”. Perhaps in response to the chant the beaver executed one more tail thwack, and then it dove beneath the surface. I moved on and disregarded any additional beaver activity.

Same Fish, Better View

I was next perched on a gradual beach in the extreme southwest corner of the lake, and I began casting the hippie stomper and parachute Adams to the deeper area. Two fly fishing anglers occupied spots roughly thirty yards to the east, but I gradually worked my way toward them with no success. When I reached a long narrow deadfall that extended into the lake for twenty feet, I fired a cast to the deep area beyond the tip of the fallen tree, and a small rainbow rose and crushed the hippie stomper. Imagine my surprise, when I netted number seven from the large lake. This was my first landed fish from Pine Lake that did not originate from the shallow channel, where I began the day.

I continued to fire casts to the area surrounding the angled tree without success, and then the pair of anglers to the east decided to call it a day. This opened up the entire south shore, and I began to gradually move in an easterly direction. I duped a few more fish with the hippie stomper, but quite a few refusals crept into the equation as well. The gap between surface action was fairly long, and I was frustrated with my inability to determine what caused the random attacks on my hippie stomper.

West End

After a lengthy lull with a few refusals and some splashy rises, I contemplated another change. This time I decided to swap the trailing dry fly for a beadhead nymph, and I selected a size 16 salvation nymph. I cannot explain the choice other than the thought, that I wanted flash, and I harbor exceptional confidence in the salvation. Can you guess how this change played out? It was a stroke of genius. I fired forty foot casts to random areas and allowed the hippie stomper to rest for thirty seconds. In the absence of a response from lake residents, I began to strip the flies with short strokes, and quite often the hippie stomper disappeared, and I was connected to a rainbow trout chowing down on the flashy salvation nymph. In some cases, the trout attacked the hippie stomper, but more frequently the salvation was the object of desire of the stocked trout.

Silvery Sheen

The fish count mounted from seven to seventeen, once I uncovered the winning technique. I could have continued tormenting Pine Lake trout, but by 4PM I was tired, and I broke off the salvation as a result of an abraded knot. Rather than replacing the salvation with another fresh version, I decided to call it quits. What a fun day! Sure, most of the landed trout were stocker rainbows, but I was mentally stimulated with the challenge of unlocking the code for success. Once I settled on the nymph dropper, the trout responded. I love the feeling of confidence, when I find the secret key. I discovered that an abundant quantity of fish remain in Pine Lake, and I will likely pay it another visit or two before run off winds down.

Fish Landed: 17

Yampa River – 06/02/2021

Time: 9:00AM – 11:00AM

Location: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/02/2021 Photo Album

I rarely deploy streamers, even though I know they are a very effective method of catching large trout. Wednesday, June 2, 2021 was a rare occasion, when a streamer made an appearance on the end of my line. How did it turn out?

Tuesday was a fairly average day on the Yampa River, and it failed to live up to my expectations for edge fishing, when flows are in the 1,000 – 1,300 CFS range. At 5PM I packed up my gear and remained in Steamboat Springs to grab some barbeque on Tuesday evening, before I drove to Stagecoach State Park to claim my campsite reservation. Only two other campers occupied sites on the McKindley Loop, and I was pleased with the solitude, since I was extremely tired from fighting the heavy currents for six hours on Tuesday. Since dinner was in my rearview mirror, I completed my fishing notes, and then I tuned in the Trailblazers vs. Nuggets game on satellite radio. I managed to listen to three quarters, until my eyelids grew heavy, and I clicked off the game and climbed into my sleeping bag in the rear of the Santa Fe. I decided to learn the result of the game, when I woke up on Wednesday morning. As it turned out, I missed a memorable double overtime win by the Nuggets in which Damian Lillard scored 55 points. Going to sleep early was probably a sound move to avoid stress on my heart.

My decision to forego a tent enabled me to get a reasonably early start, and I was back at Howelsen Hill by 8:45AM on Wednesday morning. I quickly donned my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight and ambled along the south side of the river, until I was thirty yards above my starting point on Tuesday. I was required to leave by 11:00AM in order to be back in Denver in time to accompany my wife to a Rockies game at 6:10PM. I chose to fish the same, albeit shorter, section of the river on Wednesday because refusals from Tuesday haunted my dreams. I knew that respectable fish occupied the prime spots, and I was convinced that I could fool them a day later.

I began with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher, and iron sally. I reasoned that the chubby Chernobyl and pool toy hopper matched the size favored by the resident trout, but the body color was off. I guessed yellow might be the answer due to early season golden stonefly activity. The absence of any significant hatch other than some tiny blue winged olives convinced me that the trout were in an opportunistic frame of mind, and the most prevalent early season food source was dark and golden stoneflies, thus, the 20 incher and iron sally.

A Rare Brook Trout

I worked my way upstream in a very focused manner, and in the early going I landed a small brook trout and temporarily hooked a fine rainbow trout. However, my strategy did not play out in the manner that I envisioned, and at 10:30AM the fish counter remained at one, and I was once again in a state of disappointment. I was near the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill, and two attractive deep pools remained ahead of me. I decided to deviate from my normal stubborn adherence to dry/dropper and indicator nymph fishing, and I deployed a streamer. I opted to forego changing to a sinking tip line and instead knotted a sparkle minnow to the leader on my floating line. The sparkle minnow was heavily weighted, and this allowed me to sidestep adding weight.

Sparkle Minnow Shines

A Top Notch Pool at Flows Over 1000 CFS

The first deep shelf pool was rather marginal, but I stripped the flashy baitfish imitation through the area ten times with the slim hope of inducing a strike. Either the area was devoid of fish, or the aquatic inhabitants were not interested. I moved on to the main attraction, the large eddying pool just downstream from the Howelsen footbridge. Once again I began firing casts to all areas of the pool, but I focused my probing on the current seam that curved along the rapid flow near the middle of the river. I allowed the streamer to sink a bit, and then I stripped it in with all manner of movement – fast, slow, erratic, across the current, upstream against the current and even downstream. Nothing. It was 10:45AM, and I was about to get a jump on my return trip, while once again judging streamer fishing as an ineffective fly fishing technique invented to sell expensive flies.

Zoomed on the Sparkle Minnow

Showing Off

I tossed a cast toward the middle of the seam, and as I made rapid, short strips to swing the fly through the tail section, I felt a pronounced bump. Could that have been a fish? I was convinced it was, and this small bit of action elevated my concentration. Two casts later I fired a short missile to the top one-third of the pool, and as I stripped the fly back toward my position along the bank, I felt a tap and then a grab. I was connected and swept the rod sideways, and this action provoked a heavy throbbing through the five weight rod. I held tight, as a splendid cutbow streaked up and down the pool, until I guided it into my net. Needless to say I was thrilled with the fourteen inch beauty and with the rare streamer fishing success story. I snapped quite a few photos and gently returned my Wednesday prize to its home in the Yampa River.

Wednesday morning was nearly a significant flop, but a major deviation in my normal approach yielded an exciting result. I landed rainbows and browns on Tuesday, and that fact, along with the small brook trout and cutbow on Wednesday produced a grand slam! Netting a gorgeous cutbow on a sparkle minnow was easily the highlight of the day, and perhaps a streamer will find a place in my arsenal more frequently in the upcoming weeks, as the flows on the rivers and streams begin to abate.

Fish Landed: 2

Yampa River – 06/01/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/01/2021 Photo Album

I sat down at my computer on Memorial Day to survey the stream flows on the many rivers and streams, that I regularly frequent. Imagine my surprise, when i learned that the flows on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs were in the 1,000 – 1,300 CFS range. Historically I enjoyed many excellent days of fly fishing during high but clear flows, as the rivers subside, and the Yampa was already in my desired state on June 1! I called the Steamboat Flyfisher and conferred with a young lady, who told me that the river peaked at 1,500 CFS, and it was indeed receding and clear. I immediately decided to build a trip into my plans so as not to miss my favorite post run off conditions.

Fortunately I had no prior commitments for June 1 and 2, so I completed most of my packing on Monday night for an overnight camping stay and a day of fly fishing on the Yampa on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. I reserved a campsite on the McKindley Loop of Stagecoach State Park, and the forecast of a warming trend starting on Tuesday reinforced my decision to spend a couple days in the Yampa River Valley.

An early departure on Tuesday enabled me to arrive at the parking lot by Howelsen Hill at 10:30AM, and I was positioned on the southern side of the western end of the river ready to cast by 11:00AM. The temperature, when I began, was in the low sixties, and the thermometer climbed to seventy by the time I quit at 4:30PM. The flows were indeed in the 1,100 – 1,300 CFS range as depicted on the DWR streamflow graph. The river was stained a bit, but visibility remained quite good for my purposes. The elevated flows did not surprise me, but it was tough to get around as a result of high velocity along the bank and thick vegetation blocking land access at many spots.

Tight to the Bank

I pulled my Sage One five weight from its rod case and decided to wear only my fishing shirt with no additional layers. For starters, I knotted a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl , a 20 incher, and a go2 bright green caddis pupa to my line; but the combination failed to produce in the early going, so I swapped the caddis pupa for a pink San Juan worm. These three flies finally delivered positive results, as I netted three fish before lunch. The two rainbows grabbed the 20 incher and a brown trout greedily gobbled the San Juan worm. After lunch the worm no longer satisfied the appetites of the fish, so I exchanged it for an iron Sally, and the chubby Chernobyl, 20 incher and iron Sally served as my main offerings for much of the remainder of the day, as the fish count grew from three to seven. During this time period three fish favored the iron sally and one crushed the chubby Chernobyl. Along with the seven landed trout, I suffered numerous refusals to the chubby Chernobyl, a couple foul hooked fish, and some temporary connections. It was good to see trout looking to the surface in spite of the high flows, but something was amiss with the large attractor.

Stretched Out

At Ease

In an effort to eliminate the refusals I tried a peacock hippie stomper along with a purple haze for a bit, but the resident trout displayed zero interest. I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach, since it at least created interest, and I tested a tan pool toy, coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs, and an iron sally. The iron sally enabled me to add two to the fish count, so the new lineup was somewhat of a success. The last hour was a challenge, as I cherry picked some prime spots, but the flows surged with ice cold snow melt, and that seemed to give the trout a case of lockjaw.

River Running Through the Willows

The high flows yielded limited prime locales, and the fish were in the moderate size range, but I scratched out nine successes over 5.5 hours to salvage an average day. I suspect the fishing will improve as the flows drop below 1,000 CFS, and this will also enable easier movement and better holding lies. I observed a sparse blue winged olive hatch after lunch, but the trout seemed to ignore it. The absence of significant bug activity probably explained the slower catch rate compared to previous visits when flows exceeded 1,000 CFS. I have come to understand that high flows that concentrate the fish along the bank are one variable required for run off edge fishing success. The other major factor is the timing of the conditions over the latter half of June, when a variety of insect hatches coincide with fish hugging the banks. I look forward to another day next week, when Jane and I camp at Steamboat Lake State Park.

Fish Landed: 9

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