Yampa River – 06/23/2016

Time: 10:15AM – 3:30PM

Location: Within the town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/23/2016 Photo Album

My euphoria subsided on Saturday morning, as I prepared to chronicle my fishing outing on Thursday June 23 on the Yampa River. The improbable genesis of this spectacular day of fishing was our road trip to Arizona in March. On our return from Phoenix and spring training baseball, we detoured to Cedar City, UT and visited Bryce Canyon National Park. On our journey to the park entrance on Wednesday morning, we negotiated a mountain pass in the aftermath of a light snowstorm on Utah 14, and I noted that the mountains in southern Utah were not as high as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and correspondingly the valleys seemed wider. My fly fishing obsessed mind speculated that the sun would more easily penetrate this terrain, and the run off season in southern Utah might end sooner than in Colorado. As an aside, this demonstrates that my fly fishing addiction grips me throughout the year and twenty-four hours a day.

Fast forward to June 15 2016, and Jane and I returned from Pennsylvania, and run off was in full force in Colorado. I remembered my observations regarding southern Utah, and we formulated a plan for a combined fly fishing/camping trip to that area. I researched campgrounds and earmarked three USFS areas that offered first come, first serve camping near Capitol Reef National Park. The Fremont River flowed through this national park, and this was the water that I targeted for fly fishing. Jane and I marked our calendars for a trip to southern Utah from June 24-27.

Another factor pointing me toward the Fremont River was the Fremont River Guides Instagram account. I began following this feed three or four months ago, and the guide service posts peaked my interest in this relatively small but productive fishery. In an effort to confirm my theory that stream flows were at comfortable fishing levels, I checked some on line reports. One report noted that water was spilling over the top of one of the upstream dams, and this raised some concerns in my mind. It was a long drive to Capitol Reef, so I wanted assurances that stream fishing would be possible. I called the Fremont River Guides phone number, and the person who answered assured me that the guides were on the river and enjoying decent success.

Meanwhile I routinely check the DWR web site, and I noticed that the flows on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs were trending downward at 200 cfs per day. Based on this trend I estimated that volume would be in the low 1,000’s by the date of our scheduled trip to Capitol Reef. On June 23, 2015 I experienced a wonderful day of fishing on the Yampa River within the town of Steamboat Springs, when the flows were at 959 cfs and declining. It appeared that the Yampa would be 200 – 300 cfs higher by the same date in 2016, but the Steamboat Flyfisher web site documented that edge fishing was already possible, and that pale morning duns were hatching.

Jane loves the Steamboat area and particularly Steamboat Lake State Park, so we decided to alter our plans and make the trip to the Yampa Valley rather than southern Utah. The problem was the camping situation. We desired to camp Wednesday through Saturday night, but all the campsites at Steamboat Lake State Park were reserved for Friday and Saturday nights.

I remembered camping at the Meadows Campground on Rabbit Ears pass on June 30, 2015, so I checked the Routt National Forest Service web page and learned that the campground was first come, first serve. Based on this we assumed that we could grab a campsite on Wednesday ahead of the weekend crowd and pay for four or five nights once we selected our site. The Meadows Campground is ideally located for fishing in the Yampa Valley area as well as hiking and biking activities.

On Wednesday afternoon I Initiated our plan when I began my journey to the Meadows Campground. I encountered my first hurdle as I traveled north from Kremmling on US 40, when huge black clouds rolled in from the west, and heavy waves of rain pounded against my car. I slowed my speed to a safe level and called Jane to check the radar. Fortunately she informed me that the weather app depicted only clouds and no rain for Steamboat Springs.

With this positive news in my possession I continued on north and then west on Rabbit Ears Pass until I reached the Meadows Campground entrance road. Indeed the rain ended and only high clouds remained in the western sky. I made a left turn off of route 40, and after a mile I met a gate and campground closed sign. I was perplexed by this turn of events, but road construction was in progress on the highway nearby, so perhaps the campground closing related to that.

My fallback was Dumont Lake, so I reversed direction and traveled east to the larger campground on the eastern side of Rabbit Ears Pass. Reaching the entrance requires driving on a one mile dirt road, and when I approached the Dumont Lake campground entrance, another closed sign greeted me. Now what could I do? Where could I sleep on Wednesday night? I called Jane, who helped me by using the desktop computer at home to access the Routt National Forest web site, and she discovered that both campgrounds were closed and not scheduled to open until June 25 or later.

I recalled seeing three campgrounds northeast of Steamboat Springs on Buffalo Pass Road when I reviewed the web site before leaving, so Jane clicked on them and informed me that all except Dry Lake were not currently open for the season. I decided to drive to Dry Lake, although the web site volunteered that only eight campsites existed, and the usage was heavy. After thirty minutes of additional driving, I found and circled the Dry Lake Campground only to discover that all the sites were occupied. My thoughts turned to hotels in Steamboat Springs, as I descended Buffalo Pass Road.

As I slowly negotiated the washboard dirt road, I glanced to the left and caught a glimpse of a mama bear and two darling bear cubs. They were at the end of a lane and under a ranch gate that read Moose Ridge. I backed up the car to get a better look, but before I stopped, the three bears scattered quickly into the adjacent brush. At least one positive experience surfaced on my otherwise frustrating Wednesday evening.

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Campsite at Stagecoach McKinley Loop

I called Jane again, and she suggested Steamboat Lake, since there were likely openings on Wednesday night although not for the weekend, and this jogged my memory, and I thought of the much closer option of Stagecoach State Park. I drove back through Steamboat and then southeast to Stagecoach, where I finally found three open campsites in the Mckinley Loop. Whew! I secured lodging for Wednesday night. Fortunately it was the second longest day of the year, as I needed the daylight to set up the tent, pay for the site, and eat dinner. Meanwhile some black clouds moved in from the southeast, and the wind kicked up, but only a small amount of rain developed.

Thursday morning was uneventful, although I skipped my normal cup of hot tea and oatmeal, because the camp stove was buried in the compartment under the floor of the tailgate area. Accessing the stove would have entailed removing the mountain bikes and all the camping gear, and I did not relish that undertaking. Our packing system anticipated a four night stay and not a one nighter. I improvised and quickly ate a trail mix bar and a cup of yogurt and took down the tent and headed to town.

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Yampa River at 1200 CFS

When I arrived in Steamboat, I parked at the lot by Howelsen Hill in front of a picnic gazebo and locked the bikes and walked across the pedestrian bridge to the Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, where I purchased a cup of hot tea at the nice coffee bar. I sipped my tea as I strolled back to the car, and then I used the picnic tables to prepare to fish. The sky was overcast and the breeze suggested rain, so I wore my raincoat. After I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight rod, I walked to the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill. Here I gazed up and down the river, and my spirits dipped a bit when I realized that the flows of 1200 cfs translated to bank to bank velocity. Fishing on the town side of the river appeared to be impossible since restaurants and businesses bordered the river, and this allowed minimal space for moving upstream.

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Starting Point

The southern bank offered more flexibility as only vegetation in the form of shrubs and low trees bordered the river. I elected to explore the south side of the river downstream from the pedestrian bridge, so I circled back to the parking lot and then hiked beyond the skate park and crossed the railroad tracks and bushwhacked through some dense shrubs until I reached the edge of the river. The pattern of fighting through brush to move between the few fish holding locations would repeat itself over the remainder of the day.

I began fishing with a size eight Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph at 10:15, and I moved upstream to the pedestrian bridge by noon. I was not confident that I could land any fish under these challenging conditions, but after fifteen minutes I reached a place where there was a narrow five foot slot next to the bank where the river velocity slowed. I drifted my three flies through this area several times, and on the fifth pass, the Chernobyl dipped. I lifted the rod tip quickly and found myself attached to a hot brown trout. I know it was a brown, as it rocketed out of the water several times, before it shed my hook. This jolt of action caused me to reassess my prospects for the day.

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Getting Bigger

Over the remainder of the morning I landed five energized fish, and I learned how to identify the prominent fish holding spots. Several of my morning catches were healthy fish in the twelve to fifteen inch range. By 11:30 I noticed several small mayflies floating up from the edge of the river, and this observance coincided with when the fish began to chow down on my salvation nymph. I was thrilled to see emerging mayflies, and even more pleased to have a fish count of five despite the adverse wading conditions. Evidently I succeeded in finding the hot edge fishing that I seek early in the summer season.

I crossed the railroad tracks below the pedestrian bridge, and circled around the fence and wall until I was on the upside. Here I found a decent path down to the river, and this led to a juicy location by run off standards, where a log jutted from the bank and created a small slow moving shelf pool. A branch from a tree angled in front of me, but I was able to backhand casts around the branch into the very attractive riffle over moderate depth between the current break and the intrusive branch. I made a few fruitless drifts, and as I was doing this, the hatch intensified and three fish began to rise in the sweet spot beyond the branch.

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Wow.

Although a time consuming hassle, I decided to make a conversion from dry dropper to a single cinnamon size 18 comparadun. As I went through this process, I glanced toward my target area, and the stream residents continued to sip duns from the surface. My heart raced as I cinched down the final knot, and I began to flick casts to the lower portion of the run. Needless to say, I was rewarded for making the changeover. I landed three gorgeous fish from this small area, including a fat seventeen inch rainbow and a hook jawed brown trout that measured eighteen inches. The brown was just a brute of a fish with wide shoulders and a large jaw, and I was amazed that it sipped my tiny size 18 comparadun.

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Brook Trout Makes Trifecta

For the remainder of the afternoon I enjoyed similar success, although the three above the bridge were my only dry fly victims. The heavy cloud cover and overcast conditions persisted, and this prompted several waves of intense pale morning dun emergence. Every once in a while the sun would break through, and the dense presence of PMD’s would follow. Unfortunately I never observed additional rising fish, but it did not matter, as I returned to the dry/dropper approach, and the fish seemed to relish the salvation nymph. Sometimes it pays to fish subsurface during a heavy hatch, and this was one of those scenarios.

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Mr. Stripe

I landed twelve additional trout between noon and my quitting time of 3:30. Many were twelve inch rainbows, but several more substantial striped fish were in the mix thus prompting me to snap photos. One fat bow in excess of fifteen inches with a wide scarlet band was particularly memorable. The most difficult aspect of fishing on June 23 was gaining access to the relatively scarce fish holding spots. It was impossible to wade along the edge of the river due to the high velocity current, so I repeatedly punched through the brush to the railroad bed and then moved upstream. It was very difficult to see the river through the brush, so periodically I parted the branches to reach the edge of the river where I could look upstream for attractive locales. Of course all this bushwhacking led to entanglements, sticks in the face, and net grabbing. Aside from landing twenty fish, one of my major accomplishments was avoiding breaking my rod or falling.

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The Release

What a spectacular day on the Yampa River on June 23, 2016! The pale morning dun hatch endured from 11AM until 3PM, and the fish were hungry and willing to grab my offerings. Of the twenty landed fish, at least eight were in the thirteen to eighteen inch range. And all the fish were energized. I attribute the strong fights to the early season, cold water and lack of fishing pressure during the snow melt window. I returned to Denver on Thursday after my exceptional day of fishing, but I am already trying to schedule another visit before the river drops too much, and the tube traffic makes fishing during the day impossible.

Fish Landed: 20

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Goodbye

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Lowering to Freedom

 

Taylor River – 06/20/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Hog trough and then upstream from Lodgepole Campground area after lunch.

Taylor River 06/20/2016 Photo Album

Monday June 20, the first day of summer, was devoted to a full day of fishing. I was torn whether to fish in the popular public water below Taylor Park Reservoir, or whether to drive to the canyon water downstream near the Lodgepole Campground. Fighting crowds and catching one lunker in the hog trough is not my idea of fun, but the short section below the dam was above Lottis Creek and therefore offered lower flows.

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Selecting Flies for the Hog Trough

I decided to compromise and try both. After breakfast was completed, and we packed our camping gear, Jane and I drove the short three miles required to reach the area below the dam. I pulled on my waders at the campsite, so all I needed to do was assemble my rod, and I was ready to fish. Jane lingered for a bit and took some photos, before she jumped on her bike and pedaled back to the South Lottis Creek trailhead to take a hike. I elected to walk downstream to a short section that contained a beautiful run that fanned out into a long pool. I was perfectly located between a fisherman in the slow deep pool just below the bridge and another pair of fishermen near the downstream border with the private section.

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A Happy Fisherman

I began fishing with a strike indicator and a weighted Arkansas rubber legs nymph and a tiny black zebra midge. It is golden stonefly time on many Colorado waters, so I hoped that the Taylor was one of them, thus the stonefly nymph. Midges are always present on rivers and streams in the morning. After ten minutes of drifting the nymph combination along the deep center current seam, I failed to arouse the interest of any trout, and I was certain that fish were present, so I made a change. I clipped off the rubber legs and replaced it with an emerald caddis pupa, and then I swapped the zebra midge for a beadhead hares ear. Because I removed the weighted stonefly nymph, I crimped a split shot to my line above the caddis pupa for added weight.

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The Big Picture

These flies also failed to interest the residents of the lower hog trough so I moved to the very top of the deep run. At this point there was a short deep pocket created by a huge submerged boulder that was positioned six feet below the beginning of the run. I flipped the nymphs into this deep hole, and on the fifth drift, the indicator paused, and I hooked and landed a small seven inch rainbow trout that grabbed the beadhead hares ear nymph. My skunking was eliminated, but this was not a trout that gave the hog trough its reputation.

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Best Fish of the Day Came from the Hog Trough

The next section of water was populated by numerous large boulders, many submerged, but a large quantity exposed. It was impossible to wade into this rushing mass of whitewater, so I decided to work the edge. One-fourth of the distance along the left bank from the start of the frothy section, I found myself downstream from a narrow deep slot between the bank and a large rock that jutted into the river. I hid behind the rock and lobbed the nymphs above the boulder, and as they passed by the current break, the indicator dipped. Once again I executed a swift lift of my rod tip, and instantly it began to throb with the weight of a very angry and energized rainbow trout. The rambunctious fish eventually looped my line around a small branch just below me, but I was fortunate enough to wade a few steps and scooped the prize catch before it could break off the hares ear. The rainbow was thirteen inches in length and very chunky, and it proved to be my best fish of the day.

I continued fishing the left bank and managed one more deeply colored eleven inch brown trout on the hares ear before I reached the bridge pool. It was 11:45AM, and I was hungry, so I concluded it was a perfect opportunity to migrate downstream to the area above Lodgepole for the afternoon.

After lunch on a nice flat rock overlooking the Taylor River, I hiked along the shoulder of the road until I was below the wide pocket water area near the car. I cut down to the river and fished some nice shallow shelf pools next to a raging whitewater chute. I anticipated that the afternoon fishing would consist of fishing shallower areas, so I converted to a dry/dropper approach with a yellow fat Albert as the leading fly, and I trailed the emerald caddis pupa and hares ear.

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Clear River and Green Surroundings Equals Beauty

I spent the remainder of my afternoon prospecting the relatively shallow pockets and runs with the dry/dropper. Early on I replaced the caddis pupa with a salvation nymph, and along with the hares ear and fat Albert, these flies were featured for the bulk of the afternoon. I landed seven additional fish, but I also suffered numerous foul hooked incidents. I suspect I was getting refusals to the fat Albert, and I hooked fish on the trailing flies, when I executed a hook set. I was also disappointed with the size of the brown trout that responded to my flies, as the largest was probably in the eleven inch range. The sun was bright and the air temperature rose into the eighties, and it was delightful to wade in the cool water while I felt the warmth of the sun on my upper body, but the fish apparently did not favor the warm conditions.

At 2:30 I decided to make a change, and I removed the dry/dropper flies and replaced them with a gray size 14 stimulator. A few caddis were present, so perhaps the stimulator would arouse interest while also being fairly visible in the tumbling currents. The thought was good, but it did not pay dividends. I abandoned the stimulator strategy and returned to the dry/dropper approach with a size 8 Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear and beadhead bright green caddis pupa. Almost instantly a twelve inch brown trout rose at the tail of a run and nipped the Chernobyl, but the connection was only temporary.

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Deep Color on This Taylor River Brown Trout

That was the last interest in the foam indicator fly, but then I achieved some success with the bright green caddis pupa with several more brief hook ups and a small landed fish. By 3 o’clock I moved within forty yards of another fisherman, and Jane was relaxing in the shade near the car, so I decided to end my day. Ten fish is a reasonable fish count for four hours of fishing, but the size of the fish was disappointing. In retrospect, I should have deployed the Chernobyl ant and bright green caddis sooner, and I should have been more selective about casting locations and sought deeper bank side pockets and slots. Fishing in a river on June 20 is always a treat, and I remain pleased with my Fathers’ Day fishing outing.

Fish Landed: 10

Taylor River – 06/19/2016

Time: 6:00PM – 7:00PM

Location: .5 mile downstream from the confluence with Lottis Creek.

06/19/2016 Taylor River Photo Album

I love camping on Fathers’ Day, but I do not relish the difficulty in obtaining a campsite for the popular outdoor weekend in Colorado. Since Jane and I are retired, we devised a strategy to counter the weekend crowds and still fulfill my desire to camp and fish on June 19. I continued to monitor the flows on Colorado rivers, and I was attracted to the Taylor River below Taylor Park Reservoir which registered 325 cfs. I recalled fishing this gorgeous tailwater near the end of July and early August at 400 cfs, so I was certain that the flows documented on the DWR web site were manageable.

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Huge Creature

Jane and I initiated our plan by packing the car with most of our camping, hiking, biking and fishing gear on Saturday, and we departed Denver by 9:30 on Sunday morning. We banked on the weekend campers departing on Sunday to return to their workplaces by Monday morning, and we were mostly accurate in our assessment. Since half of Sunday was spent driving, and I desired a full day of fishing, we headed directly to Crested Butte for some mountain biking. A highlight of our journey was sighting a large bull moose browsing in the willows four miles below the summit of Cottonwood Pass. I continue to be amazed by the size of these majestic creatures. The ability to hold their heads up while supporting massive antlers is also an admirable feat, and I am always surprised by the dark brown almost black color of their coats.

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Dave's Favorite, Teocalli Tamale

Upon our arrival in the town of Crested Butte we drove down Elk Avenue, parked and marched directly to Teocalli Tamale, where we each devoured two examples of the namesake menu item. An elk sighting and Teocalli tamales had my Fathers’ Day off to an auspicious start. After lunch we parked at the end of Elk Avenue and lowered our mountain bikes to the pavement to begin our ride. The Lower Loop trail was even more fun than we remembered from our visit just before Labor Day weekend in 2015. The trail consisted of paved road, dirt road and single track, but the difficultly level was easy to moderate, and that suited us sixty year olds perfectly.

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Jane Reflects

After completing our bike ride we reloaded the bicycles on the Santa Fe and negotiated Jack’s Cabin Cutoff and returned to Lottis Creek Campground, where we snagged a nice campsite in the Union Park loop. Once the Big Agnes tent was assembled, we relaxed in our camp rockers and quaffed beers while munching snacks. After an hour or so of relaxation, Jane began to gather the essentials for a stir fry chicken meal, and at this point she discovered that she mistakenly packed frozen chicken drumsticks instead of the thawed boneless breasts she purchased for easy dicing. She was not sure the chicken would thaw in time for dinner, so I suggested we improvise with fresh caught trout and vegetable stir fry. Jane agreed that I should dedicate an hour and a half to fishing, but she also planned to pursue thawing the chicken as a safety net.

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Happy Hour Arrived

I accepted the challenge, and Jane and I drove .5 mile to the first section of public water below Lottis Creek. By now the river was in shadows, so I wore my regular glasses and assembled my Sage four weight and began my quest for dinner. I tucked a plastic shopping bag in the bib of my waders in case I was successful. At this point I realized that the 325 cfs flow that attracted me to the Taylor River was a bit deceiving, as I failed to account for the additional 100 cfs being dumped into the river by Lottis Creek.

I began my search for wild trout with a strike indicator, split shot, slumpbuster and beadhead hares ear, although deploying both a weighted conehead slumpbuster and split shot was probably overkill. I worked some attractive deep pockets along the bank for fifteen minutes without success, and since the allotted window of time was shrinking, I decided to make a change. I retained the slumpbuster and swapped the beadhead hares ear for an emerald caddis pupa. I observed several caddis in the air and hoped that the emerald color of the caddis pupa would stand out and attract attention.

The ploy worked somewhat as I quickly landed a six inch rainbow that chased the pupa, as I stripped it in an attempt to activate the slumpbuster. Unfortunately a six inch fish only represented two bites for each of us, so I released it and resumed my casting with greater urgency. Another fifteen minutes transpired, when I approached a very large run and shelf pool. On the fifth drift through this deep area the indicator dipped, and I set the hook and played a chunky twelve inch rainbow into my net. Hurrah! I would not need to return to the campsite empty handed, although one twelve inch trout shared among two people was still a minimal quantity of food.

I returned my focus to the river and fished intensely for another half hour, but I was unable to repeat the magic. At 6:55 I reeled up my line and returned to the Union Park loop, where I found Jane seated in her camp rocker. She was pleased to see my prize catch, but she was also relieved that she pursued the backup plan by thawing and slicing the frozen drumsticks. I cleaned the pretty rainbow trout, and we shared it as an appetizer before devouring the tasty chicken stir fry that Jane expertly prepared. Fathers’ Day was a success for this Dad, although I did miss my wonderful children, Amy and Dan.

Fish Landed: 2

 

 

Urad Lake – 06/17/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Urad Wildlife Area near the inlet to the lake

Urad Lake 06/17/2016 Photo Album

During the last three off seasons I made two significant pledges that only reached fulfillment to a minor degree. First I committed to fish streamers more frequently, but my time allotted to this fishing approach fell short of my expectations. Secondly, I routinely expressed a desire to visit more lakes during the snow melt season in the Rocky Mountains. Last year I fished at Parvin Lake and Dumont Lake, and the year before I visited Palmer Reservoir. One or two lake outings does not constitute completion of my pledge. On Friday June 17 I took a major step toward realizing these two fly fishing goals.

I am a big fan of Instagram, and I follow a user who goes by the tag @flyhunter333. I noticed that he recently posted photos of trout caught in an alpine lake environment, so I exchanged comments with him, and he invited me to call him at his outdoor shop in Idaho Springs for ideas on lake fishing. I accepted his offer and called him on Thursday, and one of the options he suggested was Urad Lake. I decided to give it a try.

The forecast for Denver was a high in the low 90’s, so I looked forward to cooler temperatures at high elevation. Unfortunately Friday at Urad Lake was colder than I bargained for. Snow remained along the ridges next to the lake, and the water was frigid. By the afternoon my feet turned into frozen stumps, and I could no longer tolerate the cooling effect from evaporation of my soaked sun gloves, so I removed them. Large dark clouds constantly rolled in front of the sun, and the wind gusted at times so hard that it was impossible to cast. At noon before eating lunch I pulled out my raincoat and zipped the collar as high as it would go. An hour or so later I pulled my redneck gaiter over my head and wore it like a hat to cover my ears.

The four mile drive on a coarse dirt road to Urad Lake was passable, but it did not offer calendar quality scenery, as it traveled by mine tailings and settling ponds. But after two steep switchbacks, I arrived at a small gravel parking area below a gate. As I prepared to fish, two vehicles arrived, and a solo fisherman emerged from a pickup truck, while the other truck contained a large family with numerous young children.

Reaching the lake required a 100 yard hike on the dirt road beyond the gate, and the first half was a steep breath depleting climb. The single fisherman stopped ahead of me to chat with an angler returning to the parking lot, and this allowed me to catch up. I greeted him and quickly learned that he fished at Urad previously, so I invited myself to tag along since he knew the path to the water.

Eight people were fishing along the east bank, and a couple was situated on the opposite side of the inlet. One final solitary fisherman was spin fishing along the west bank. My new friend’s name was Chris, and we decided to fish together on the east side of the first inlet. The feeder creek split and entered in two separate channels. Chris carried his waders and not yet assembled rod to the lake, so he found a private spot in the willows to prepare to fish. I meanwhile tied on a fat Albert with a light yellow floss body, and then added a beadhead hares ear. It was not long before I experienced two momentary hookups, and then I managed to land a ten inch rainbow trout that nipped the beadhead hares ear.

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First Fish from Urad Lake

Chris joined me after a bit, and he asked my advice on flies. I told him what I was using, and he opted to try a yellow parachute stimulator trailing a size 16 beadhead hares ear. Between 10:30 and noon I landed three additional rainbow trout in the 9-11 inch range. One slurped the fat Albert on the surface, and the others snatched the hares ear nymph.

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New Friend Chris Lands a Rainbow at Urad Lake

I was feeling quite chilled by noon, so I began to circle around the couple on the bank by the second inlet. I targeted a space between the campers and the single spin fisherman, so I stopped by the young pair to ask their permission to fish just beyond them. As I was chatting with the bearded gentleman, I heard some rapid barking and then felt a solid pinch on my left buttock. I did not pay much attention to the dog, but Hobbs made his presence known by biting me in the butt. The young man gained control of Hobbs and was very apologetic, but in that moment I was concerned that Hobbs bit through my waders. I asked his owner to check my waders, and he assured me there was no tear, so I felt better about the incident, but the sting of the clenched teeth on my rear continued to throb.

I put this encounter behind me, so to speak, and moved to an open area on the west side of the second inlet, and I removed my backpack and ate lunch while sitting on a small rock that was a component of a primitive fire ring. While I was eating, Chris arrived, and he chose a position on a small point that protruded into the lake between the inlet and a small bay on the southwest corner of Urad. Immediately Chris began to land fish after fish, as the resident trout smashed his stimulator and grabbed his hares ear. At one point he lost the trailing nymph, and I waded over to take a look at his fly box. He asked me which fly he should use to replace the hares ear, and I pointed to a similar nymph that possessed a bit of purple flash in the body.

Between lunch and 2PM I continued fishing the area on either side of Chris, and I landed three additional rainbows to take my fish count to seven. The hares ear that served me in the morning began to unravel, so I replaced it with an ultra zug bug, and this fly produced one of the rainbows. After a bit of a lull and in a period when the wind died back a bit, I spotted two rises fifteen feet in front of me. This caused me to remove the dry/dropper configuration, and I switched to a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis. I was confident that this fly would dupe the riser, but it did not.

I gave up on the rising fish when the wind once again resumed its angry assault on the water, as it created three inch waves and tiny whitecaps. Chris’s catch rate subsided a bit, and he ceded his spot to me while he munched a snack bar. The small deer hair caddis was nearly impossible to track in the riffled surface with sun glare, so I copied Chris’s fly choices and tied on a yellow size 12 stimulator and then returned to the beadhead hares ear nymph as a dropper.

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Dave Smiles After Landing His Best Rainbow Trout on the Day

I waded until I was thigh deep and made a long cast toward the eastern shore, and after what seemed like an eternity, a slurp appeared, and the stimulator disappeared. I reacted with a quick hook set, and felt a decent bend in my five weight Sage One. Eventually I played the fish to my net, and Chris photographed my best trout of the day, as it measured twelve inches. The third rainbow landed in the early afternoon window nabbed the subsurface hares ear nymph.

My catch rate slowed significantly by 2PM, and the adverse weather conditions peaked. Since the dry fly and dry/dropper approaches were not generating hot fishing, I decided to experiment with a streamer. I removed my floating line and replaced it with a sink tip that I carried in my backpack. To the end of the sinking tip leader I knotted a slumpbuster, and then I added the beadhead hares ear as a trailer about eight inches behind the slumpbuster. I began making long sling casts and retrieved the flies with short rapid strips. Initially my energy was wasted on fruitless casts and strips, but I was enjoying the change of pace.

Fortunately on the tenth cast I felt a bump, but the initiator of the strike backed off and did not follow up with another bite. On the very next cast, however, back to back bumps occurred, and I then felt the throb of a fish. The hooked fish proved to be a small rainbow trout, but I was nevertheless excited to generate some success on my slumpbuster. In the area next to the west inlet I succeeded in landing two more rainbows using the sinking line with one taking the hares ear and another falling for the slumpbuster. I was delighted to realize that the fish counter reached double digits, and my decision to fish in a lake during the peak of run off was vindicated.

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A Pretty Meateater

I was now curious if the streamer tandem could produce fish in the area between the two inlet currents, so I circled around the Hobbs territory that now contained a tent, and stationed myself east of the western entry point of the creek. I began spraying casts in all directions between the entering flows, and the fish responded. I landed five additional trout with three attacking the slumpbuster and two grabbing the hares ear. I am not sure if it was the time of day or the weather conditions, but for some reason Chris and I began to land more brook trout. Of the five fish that I landed between the inlets, three were brookies and two were rainbows.

By 3PM heavy dark clouds amassed above us, and the sun appeared very infrequently. The wind gusted unrelentingly, and my feet were mere fence posts with all feeling absent from my toes. I decided to call it quits, and Chris agreed. It was inconceivable to me that Jane was sweltering in ninety degree heat in Denver, while I shivered at Urad Lake, but when I descended on interstate 70 to the Denver metro area, my dashboard thermometer displayed 91 degrees. Colorado is a strange place.

Friday was a success on three levels. I met a fishing friend named Chris, and I partially satisfied my pledge to fish lakes more frequently. My favorite accomplishment, however, was landing eight trout on a streamer/dropper combination. I now look forward to another outing to determine whether I can repeat my streamer fishing prowess. 2016 continues to be an exciting time for fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 15

South Platte River – 06/13/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream from Eleven Mile Canyon.

South Platte River 06/13/2016 Photo Album

Upon my return from Pennsylvania and Vermont, I was too busy catching up to consider fishing. The second week of June usually offers few options, as the rivers and streams of Colorado are usually swollen with high muddy run off, and given the average snow pack of the past winter, I had no reason to believe 2016 would be any different. By Sunday, however, I made solid headway on my list of backlogged “to do’s”, so I decided to take a peek at the DWR streamflow data.

As I expected, most flowing water options were not in play, but I was surprised to see that the South Platte River near Lake George displayed flows in the seventies. Two other tailwaters that stood out as possibilities for a fishing trip were the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir and the Taylor River, but these destinations required longer trips and possibly an overnight stay. I made plans to visit the South Platte River once again on Monday, June 13. This represented my fifth trip to the Park County river, and the previous four were quite successful.

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Rocks and Pockets

I arrived at the river by 9AM and quickly assembled my Sage four weight rod. I took some time to review my fly box since I put a major dent in my fat Alberts in Pennsylvania. My boat box, which I transport in the car on every fishing trip, did not contain additional fat Alberts, so I filled some open slots with pool toys and Charlie boy hoppers. By 9:30 I was ready to attack the river, and I began with a tan pool toy as my top fly, and beneath that I dangled a salvation nymph and beadhead hares ear. In the first half hour I managed to land a small rainbow and slightly larger brown trout on the hares ear, but some huge dark clouds appeared on the western horizon, and they were accompanied by the distant rumble of thunder.

By 10AM some rain began to fall from the sky and the thunder was closer, so I quickly found a place to wade to shore and climbed a bank to the Santa Fe. Just as I arrived the clouds opened, and I removed my gear and climbed into the drivers’ seat, where I watched sheets of rain descend for ten minutes. Once the precipitation dwindled to a light sprinkle, I prepared to resume my quest for trout by exchanging the pool toy for a fat Albert with a green floss body. The fat Albert is a very buoyant fly, and I wanted a top fly that could support two size 16 beadhead nymphs. I also removed the salvation nymph and replaced it with an emerald caddis pupa. Believe it or not, I found a small size 16 natural caddis with a gray body inside the car while I was waiting out the rain, and I seemed to recall that an emerald pupa sometimes matures into an adult with a gray body.

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Nice Fish Landed in the Morning

I returned to my point of exit prior to the storm and began working my way upstream Suddenly the sky turned blue and the sun reappeared, and fish began to attack my nymphs. By noon I registered ten fish landed including the two prior to the storm, and all but two hammered the hares ear while the others favored the emerald caddis pupa. I approached the river with the same fast paced wade and cast strategy that worked in previous South Platte visits. The fish were smaller on average, but several of the first ten were husky twelve inch specimens.

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Deep Coloration on This Brown Trout

After lunch I once again resumed my upstream migration, and this period was the most interesting phase of my day. Again some clouds blocked the sun, and this low light triggered several types of mayflies to emerge. I noticed small blue winged olives as well as a few that could be imitated by size sixteen flies. I was also delighted to view a smattering of pale morning duns. Generally PMD’s appear in decent numbers in the Deckers section of the South Platte in the middle of June, so I was quite pleased to see these size sixteen mayflies in the Lake George area on June 13.

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Indian Paintbrush

The PMD observance caused me to rethink my fly alignment, and I swapped the emerald caddis pupa for a juju emerger. I conjectured that this medium olive creation would cover the larger BWO and the pale morning duns. In fact, I did land a couple trout that snatched the juju on the swing, but the hares ear continued to outproduce the second subsurface option. As I continued moving, the number of pale morning duns began to exceed BWO’s, so I once again made a swap and added a hare nation in place of the juju emerger. The hare nation is intended to copy the nymph stage of pale morning duns, and it did chip in with a few takers, but clearly the hares ear was preferred.

As these mayflies preoccupied my thoughts, the sky once again grew extremely dark and the sounds of thunder echoed across the valley. The deep reverberations were louder than the morning percussion, so I did not delay and quickly made my way back to the car as sheets of rain began to descend. I decided to use this break in fishing to move the car upstream closer to where I expected to end my day, and by the time I parked and turned off the windshield wipers, it was nearly over. The second storm sounded worse than number one, but it was much briefer and delivered less of a wallop.

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Tail Wagging Rainbow Trout

The remainder of the afternoon continued in a manner similar to the morning and early afternoon, as I prospected all the likely pockets and runs with the three fly assemblage. At some point the hare nation seemed to be unproductive, and the very small BWO’s were still present, so I exchanged for a soft hackle emerger. This move landed me a fish or two, but the consistently favored fly was the hares ear nymph. By 3:30 I covered most of the attractive water, and once again some dark clouds appeared, although the threat of another storm was not imminent. Nevertheless I was weary from a day of aggressive wading and constant casting, so I called it quits with the fish counter resting on thirty.

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Head Shot

During the afternoon I spotted several golden stonefly adults fluttering over the water, and I was curious if the fish might react to a dry fly. Over the last twenty minutes I fished a size ten Letort hopper with a light yellow body to see if I could attract any interest from the fish, but apparently the presence of these large insects on the water is not frequent enough for the fish to be tuned in at this early stage of the season. It was worth a try for future reference.

In conclusion I enjoyed a thirty fish day near the middle of June. I must admit that the predominant size of the fish was 6-9 inches, but I estimate that at least ten were in the eleven to twelve inch range, and that is not disappointing. I assumed that I would be fishing stillwater and managed to salvage one more decent outing on flowing water. I am thankful for the opportunity.

Fish Landed: 30

Penns Creek – 06/03/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 8:30PM

Location: Section downstream from the no kill area.

Penns Creek 06/03/2016 Photo Album

I was unaccustomed to sleeping in luxurious accommodations such as the cottage we enjoyed on Wednesday and Thursday night in Aaronsburg, Pa. Normally I am camping and need to take down a wet tent before proceeding to my stream of choice. But here I was at the Schafer Cottages with a bed, a toilet and a shower. What more could a fisherman ask for? In addition to the plush lodging, we had several options for breakfast on Friday morning, so we drove a short distance to downtown Millheim and entered the Inglebean Coffee House. This stop proved to be a nice discovery, and the menu featured breakfast pastries and sandwiches in addition to quality tea and coffee. Jeff sampled a sandwich, while I devoured a yogurt parfait, black tea and a delicious scone. Scones and tea were made for each other.

After breakfast we traveled south and east to the section of Penns Creek below the no kill area. Earlier forecasts predicted heavy rain most of Friday, so we were uncertain we could complete our planned full day of fishing. Jeff checked his radar app in the morning, while we had a strong signal, and he concluded that a large mass of moisture would slide by us to the south. I listened and hoped that his meteorological skills matched his fishing ability. The air did feel humid and quite a few large clouds rolled across the sky causing cool temperatures. Before we settled into our parking space near Penns Creek, Jeff took me on a brief tour to a section of river quite a bit downstream. This location received numerous feeder creeks, and consequently the clarity of the water was somewhat compromised as a result of the heavy rain on Thursday, although Jeff was confident that it was easily within the range where fish would respond to flies and natural insects.

We assembled our rods in the stretch below the No Kill and walked a short distance to the stream, and I was surprised to notice that the water clarity was much improved compared to the downstream segment, although there was slightly more brown color than Thursday. Jeff wanted to introduce me to some water farther upstream than the section that we fished on Wednesday evening, so we walked up a lane a good distance and then cut down to the creek. We met a long slow pool behind a yellow cabin. I asked Jeff if there was faster water, and he directed me upstream. I followed his wave and found an area with numerous deep runs and slots and exposed boulders.

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Jeff in the Mist on Friday Morning

On the previous two days I did not experience much luck with dry flies or the dry/dropper approach in the morning, so I decided to experiment with a nymphing rig. I deployed a strike indicator and tied a weighted slumpbuster to my line. As an added enticement, I knotted a section of leader through the eye of the slumpbuster and then tied a prince nymph to the end. I began at the top of the bumpy water and began casting three quarters upstream and then allowed the two flies to tumble through deep slots on a dead drift. When the flies reached the end of their natural drift, I introduced short rapid strips, as I hoped to activate the slumpbuster into a bait fish imitation.

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First Brown Came from This Area on a Leadwing Coachman

After a half hour of fishing in this manner with two bumps but no landed fish, I decided to substitute the leadwing coachman that Jeff loaned me for the prince nymph. It was longer and probably yielded a better match to the locally present isonychia nymphs. This change proved successful, and at the head of the long deep pool behind the cabin, I felt a bump and then a grab, and then I was attached to a fish. I battled the thrashing weight on my line for a bit, and then lifted it over the edge of my net and celebrated the landing of a fourteen inch brown trout that snatched the leadwing coachman on the strip. I finally cracked the code and landed a fish in the morning on Penns Creek.

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Gorgeous Markings on This Brown Trout

I released the brown trout and continued working downstream using the same technique. After another half hour the indicator paused along a deep current seam, and I once again set the hook. I was pleased to feel a throbbing weight and fought another fourteen inch brown trout for a few minutes, until I once again guided it into my net. This brown was slightly longer and heavier than my first catch, and it also displayed the leadwing coachman in its lip.

My enthusiasm for stripping a slumpbuster and leadwing coachman accelerated, but unfortunately the euphoria was short lived, as I continued fishing some attractive water downstream with no reward for my focused efforts. Meanwhile the sky grew darker, so I decided to seek Jeff. Earlier I saw him as he walked above me toward what he described as butter hole, so I climbed to the path on the bank and began walking upstream. I passed behind the last set of cabins in the area and continued until I was forced to clamber up some rocks and through rhododendrons to a narrow path. It was about this time when rain began to descend, so I paused to pull on my raincoat. After another five minutes on the path, I did not spot Jeff, so I concluded that he somehow passed downstream of the area I was fishing.

I retreated and stayed on the upper path until it connected with a lane comprised of two tire tracks. Fortunately I followed this, and it led me to Jeff’s minivan, and he was there when I arrived. We debated our next move, and Jeff suggested that we sample the water near where we were parked for an hour, and then we planned to return to the No Kill. The rain slowed down, and we proceeded to follow Jeff’s plan. As we walked along the road in the morning, Jeff pointed to a fifty yard stretch of the creek that he called “the canyon”. According to Jeff one of the residents of the surrounding cabins caught fish after fish in this fast narrow area using nymphs. This was all I needed to hear to attract me to the canyon, so I crossed at the top and walked down the opposite bank until I was nearly at the bottom of the faster water.

This segment of the creek was more open than the morning stretch, so I decided to return to the dry/dropper technique, but after fifteen minutes or so of fruitless casting and wading, I observed a few sporadic rises. The fish showed no interest in my fat Albert or trailing nymphs, so I decided to switch to a single dry approach. Explosive sporadic rises indicated isonychia to me, so I knotted an iso comparadun to my line. I was unable to provoke additional rises from the area where I spotted fish earlier, but I did manage to hook and land a twelve inch brown that was along a short run near the bank.

I moved up the stream a bit, and once again I was excited to see a couple rises, but they were toward the middle, and on the opposite side of a strong center current. I attempted to counter the drag caused by the intervening run, but I was unsuccessful. It was at this time that the sun reappeared, and I was quite warm in my raincoat, so I removed it and stuffed it in my backpack. Unfortunately the visor on the hood of the raincoat was my only tool to block the suddenly bright sunlight, so I had to hold my left hand above my eyebrows while I cast and drifted my comparadun. This was not an ideal situation, so I hiked back to my initial crossing point and found Jeff, who flipped me a spare key. I returned to the minivan and promptly snugged my hat on my head. I quickly chomped a sandwich and minimal lunch and grabbed a water for Jeff and returned to him with the keys and the bottle of water.

Since I was now on the side of the creek next to the road, I walked down to a place directly across from where I saw the risers. I waded in a bit, and on the fifth drift over the spot of the closest riser, a strong gulp made the comparadun disappear! This brown trout put up a strong fight, and when I examined it nestled in my net, I could see that it was a fine fifteen inch fish. Based on the appearance of the rise, I would never have guessed the trout was that large.

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This Beauty Came from The Canyon

Despite Jeff’s suggestion that we give the area an hour, we continued fishing the canyon until four o’clock. I adopted the approach that yielded the fourteen inch brown on the iso comparadun for the remainder of the afternoon, and added one more brown trout in the 14-15 inch range. I scanned the water for the occasional rise, and once a fish revealed its position, I moved within casting range. Four times during this period I hooked a substantial fish on the isonychia comparadun, but the last two slipped free with strong downstream runs and relentless head shaking. After a gang of beer drinking tubers passed through the area, Jeff joined me, and he had some success with his leadwing coachman.

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Jeff Works the Leadwing Coachman

By 4PM the action subsided, so Jeff and I returned to the car to discuss plans for the evening. Apparently his weather forecast was accurate, as the skies cleared, and the lack of clouds suggested a pleasant evening. We decided to move downstream a short distance to the scene of the blue winged olive spinner fall on Wednesday. Jeff bought some new spinners at the Feathered Hook, so we were prepared for another feeding frenzy.

The plan partially succeeded as we fished from 5PM until 8:30 in the area around the long island behind the cabins. I landed an eleven inch brown trout on a hare nation nymph from the small eddy at the downstream tip of the island, before I crossed to the far bank along the left channel. Unlike Wednesday evening the creek was now swarming with weekend fly fishermen, and a tall young man occupied the shallow riffle that provided me with abundant surface action two nights earlier. I was forced to station myself in a nice moderate riffle and short pool two thirds of the way down the island. The section was nice water, but it did not appeal to me as much as the upper area.

Sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 I spotted three or four rises along some rose bushes on the island at the downstream portion of the pool. I seined the water and confirmed that blue winged olive spinners were once again floating along with their outstretched flat wings. I quickly knotted one of my old trusty poly wing spinners to my line, and I waded across the tail of the pool so I was below the risers. I executed a huge number of casts to the area, but I was unsuccessful. Because the fish were within a foot or two of the bank, I was careful not to overshoot and hook a rose bush. This caution, however, prevented me from making my usual pile cast with a lot of slack to avoid instant drag. Consequently the flies were probably dragging over the spot of the rises more than half the time. The low light and low riding spinner also made it difficult for me to follow the fly to determine if was dragging or not.

I finally surrendered to the fish and waded back to the bank and then walked upstream looking for more rises. I invited Jeff to cast to the rises I abandoned, since he possesses much better casting skills. He obliged, and while he moved into position at the low end of the pool, I spotted two rises in the center downstream from a large branch that arced over the stream. I began making downstream drifts to the two time riser, and on the fifth attempt saw a slurp in the vicinity of my fly. I quickly set the hook and brought chubby eleven inch brown trout to my net.

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Finally Cooperative

The spinner fall on Friday night only lasted for thirty minutes maximum. The short duration and the large population of fishermen constrained my spinner fall fishing experience. By 8:30 the surface of the river was dead, twilight was upon us, and we faced a two hour and fifteen minute drive to Whitehall, Pa. We decided to end our day and carefully waded back to the bank behind the cabins and walked along the road to the car. My 2016 Pennsylvania fishing adventure reached its final chapter.

Friday proved to be my best day from a numbers perspective, as I landed seven fine Pennsylvania brown trout. The afternoon time period when I spotted sporadic rises and followed up with targeted presentations of my isonychia comparadun were the highlight of the day, although landing two nice fish on the leadwing coachman technique was also fun. I am not certain when I will revisit central Pennsylvania, but after listening to Jeff’s description of trips earlier in the season, I get excited over the prospect of fishing to hendricksons and March browns. These hatches overlap during early May, so perhaps that will be my next Pennsylvania field trip.

Fish Landed: 7

Penns Creek – 06/02/2016

Time: 1:00PM – 8:30PM

Location: No kill area.

Penns Creek 06/02/2016 Photo Album

After a leisurely lunch at the rod and gun club, while we waited for the rainstorm to pass, we moved on to the No Kill parking lot. The Penns Creek No Kill area is the holy water of Pennsylvania fly fishing, and up until this time, we devoted only a few hours to it on Wednesday morning. On Thursday Jeff intended to cover a significant segment of the famous 3.9 mile special regulation water. After all, the stream conditions were near ideal, and I traveled all the way from Colorado to hook up with a fabled wild Pennsylvania brown trout from the Penns Creek no kill.

After we parked and retrieved our gear from the rear of the minivan, we carefully side-stepped our way down the hill and began fishing the lower water similar to Wednesday morning. Jeff once again ceded his favorite hot spots to me, but I was unworthy of his generosity in the first location, as I once again failed to interest any fish. Our plan was to hit three or four prime areas that Jeff knew held large healthy fish, and then we would quickly head upstream to attractive spots above the cabin and the adjacent long pool.

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Isonychia Comparadun

After I struck out at the first trout lair, I waded across the stream to a nice deep run and pool below a fallen tree. I circled around by land and positioned myself a safe distance below the target area. On Wednesday morning Jeff coached me on the best strategy for covering the riffles, run and pool; and I now applied all of his teachings. The large isonychia duns served as productive searching patterns during a previous early June trip to Penns Creek, so I pulled a comparadun from my box and knotted it to my tippet. I cautiously sprayed casts from left to right with no results, but I saved the juicy deep top half of the run for last.

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Out of the Net to Show Off

My confidence received a necessary boost when a sudden slurp materialized near the downstream portion of the riffle. My comparadun was no more than eight feet above my position, when I reacted with a swift hook set, and this action initiated a panicked head shaking response from what appeared to be a decent brown trout. The finned foe made several short bursts around the pool, but fortunately it never attempted to reach the faster water below me. After several minutes of diving, sprinting and head shaking; I slid my net beneath a fifteen inch wild Penns Creek brown trout. It was a moment of gratification, as I snapped some photos and gently released my friend back into his watery lair.

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And About to Be Released

Next Jeff and I hiked upstream beyond the cabin quite a ways until we approached a section that he referred to as the splits. Again Jeff graciously gifted me the large right channel that received flows from four separate braids. I was feeling quite confident, as he described several visits when he and his friend landed four to six fish from this area. My adrenaline spiked, as I observed several sporadic rises, while I methodically cast my way upstream along some log jams that paralleled the stream for ten yards or more. Unfortunately my focus and intensity were all in vain, as I failed to add to my fish count despite some fairly regular rises. I switched iso patterns several times, but the fish were having none of them.

Finally I despaired of landing a single fish from the prime run, and I waded to one of the middle braids in the splits. Another fisherman had covered the lower portion of the section I targeted, but that was fifteen or twenty minutes prior. Jeff was positioned in the next channel, so I laid claim to the middle area. Later Jeff referred to the place I fished as rose bush run, since the current rushed toward the opposite bank and then flowed at a rapid pace along some roses. The deepest and enticing portion was the slow pool on the inside of the fast run, but Jeff suggested that I should not ignore the narrow six inch strip of slow water between the rose bushes and the fast current.

I covered the entire stretch very thoroughly with an isonychia dun, but once again the fish did not cooperate. I was weary of fruitless casting of a dry fly, so I decided to make a radical change and converted to a dry/dropper configuration. I returned the pool toy to my line, and beneath it I tied a hares ear nymph and a hare nation. The hare nation is a fly I invented two winters ago that combines the best qualities of a hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I drifted the three fly offering through the main pool several times and then heeded Jeff’s advice and allowed the trio to glide along the fast current toward the tail. Wham! The pool toy dipped, and I set the hook and battled another gorgeous Penns Creek wild brown trout to my net. My catch rate was below my expectations, but when I was fortunate enough to land a fish, the quality and size of the fish was impressive.

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And a Smile

Jeff appeared from below and congratulated me on my success, and then we advanced above the splits to Aumiller pool. Aumiller is a monster long slow moving pool, and rising fish are a constant occurrence. I made a few casts to the stagnant bottom section but quickly realized this was not my game. Jeff and I skipped the bottom two-thirds and moved immediately to the upper portion, where moderate riffles and glides predominated. I mentioned a desire to fish an isonychia nymph, so Jeff offered me one of his size twelve versions that display a light hackle stem along the top. I added this to my three fly arrangement by replacing the prince, so that I now showed the trout a pool toy, hare nation and iso nymph.

I began making casts toward two o’clock from my position along the bank, and then I mended several times to allow a dead drift. For some reason, however, on one of my three step moves toward the head of the pool, I flicked the flies directly upstream ten feet above a large exposed rock. I was astonished when I noticed a gorgeous trout that materialized from the cushion in front of the rock, but I retained the presence of mind to react with a hook set. Instantly the creek resident streaked toward the middle of the current, but I held tight and raised my rod to maintain tension. When the trout turned near the surface, I was astounded to see a vibrantly colored fish. In fact the color was so vivid that I thought I hooked a rare rainbow trout.

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Close Up of a Model Penns Creek Brown Trout

The trout fought valiantly below me, but eventually it tired enough so that I could leverage its head above the water, and I lifted it into my net. It was a brown trout, but the deep body color was so intense that it projected a shade of orange. I was dazzled by the beauty of this wild Penns Creek brown trout, and Jeff assisted by snapping several clear photographs with his camera. By the time I released the fish, dusk began to descend on the valley. I continued fishing for another thirty minutes, but neither Jeff nor I observed rises. In a ridiculous bonehead move, I neglected to pack my headlamp and regular glasses, so we decided to begin our long return hike by 8:30PM.

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So Vivid

Thursday was a tough day when measured by fish count, but I was thankful to land three absolute jewels from the hallowed no kill section of Penns Creek. These fish justified my hours of casting and wading, and I felt quite satisfied and fortunate to hold the beauties in my hands. One more day remained, but I proclaimed the trip a success regardless of what Friday might deliver.

 

Big Fishing Creek – 06/02/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 12:00PM

Location: The Narrows.

Big Fishing Creek 06/02/2016 Photo Album

The central Pennsylvania countryside was lush and verdant, as Jeff navigated numerous rural roads on our ten mile trip to the north and Big Fishing Creek. We did not know what to expect, but Jeff suggested that the green drakes typically emerge later on smaller and colder Big Fishing Creek than is typically the case on Penns Creek. We clung to the hope that this might be true, and perhaps we would intersect with the tail end of the large heavily pursued eastern mayfly emergence during a weekday when crowds are reduced.

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Big Fishing Creek

When we arrived at the narrows section of Big Fishing Creek, I elected to move upstream from our parking place to some moderately faster water while Jeff migrated downstream to observe for rises in a slower pool. The water conditions were nearly perfect with a slight tinge of green color and near ideal flows. I was convinced that Big Fishing Creek would break our central Pennsylvania daytime slump. I stayed with my dry/dropper set up, but after no response from the fish in a prime location, I exchanged the prince nymph for a hares ear nymph. Alas, the swap made no difference, as I fished for 1.5 hours with nary a refusal, flash or temporary hook up to justify my efforts.

As noon approached it began to rain, and I slid on my raincoat. Jeff and I had walkie talkies in our possession, and I heard a voice that informed me that he returned to the car. My confidence was at a low, and I was building an appetite, so I readily agreed to return to the car to meet him. We called an end to our Big Fishing Creek experiment and drove south over the wooded hills to Penns Creek. Along the way we stopped at a rod and gun club and used a picnic pavilion to eat lunch, while the clouds opened and dumped volumes of water on the surrounding fields. I was concerned about the impact of an hour of heavy rain on Penns Creek, but Jeff remained confident that clarity and volume would remain nearly ideal. In fact, we both welcomed the cloud cover and hoped for a beneficial impact on our fishing success.

Fish Landed: 0

Penns Creek – 06/02/2016

Time: 8:00AM – 9:30AM

Location:.5 mile downstream from the Coburn humped parking lot.

Penns Creek 06/02/2016 Photo Album

Wednesday’s fishing adventure ended with a flurry, as I landed four nice brown trout during a dense blue winged olive spinner fall. Unfortunately I endured a significant amount of dead time during the daytime hours despite beginning our quest for fish at 8AM. Jeff and I were hopeful that Thursday would be a different story.

Since we slept at the Schafer Cottages in Millheim, we were conveniently positioned near the upper section of Penns Creek below Coburn, Pa., so we made that our starting point. We were encouraged by the cool 65 degree temperature and cloudy skies, as we parked in a gravel lot below Coburn, and then we crossed a narrow bridge and hiked a worn path on the north side of the stream for .5 mile. After moving away from the creek, the path eventually returned, and we took the first decent worn trail to the edge of the water.

Penns Creek in this area consisted of long smooth pools with short faster glides and long pockets in between. I elected to test my dry/dropper technique, and I began my day with a yellow pool toy, emerald caddis pupa, and prince nymph. In 2003 Jeff and I visited this same segment of Penns Creek on a Saturday morning of Bucknell reunion weekend, and I enjoyed a bit of success on the emerald caddis pupa. I attempted to repeat my success, and added the prince nymph to cover the possibility of active isonychia nymphs in the area.

Jeff and I enthusiastically covered the attractive water for 1.5 hours, but once again the central Pennsylvania limestone creek did not reward us for our efforts. I did manage a momentary connection with a medium sized brown trout, but that was the extent of our action. Our best catch was a bundle of five interlocking tippet spools that Jeff spotted on the bank as we moved downstream near the end of our morning venture. I inherited the windfall since Jeff favors brown tinted Maxima tippet for his leader sections.

The temperature rose into the upper seventies, and neither of us were satisfied with our fishing prospects, so we decided to once again shift our focus to another central Pennsylvania stream at 9:30. Could we tolerate another fishless day with no reward for our persistent efforts? I was beginning to have doubts.

Fish Landed: 0

Penns Creek – 06/01/2016

Time and Location: 8:00AM – 12:00PM No Kill area; 1:00PM – 2:00PM Spring Mills; 5:00PM – 9:00PM Water below No Kill

Penns Creek 06/01/2016 Photo Album

Spring creeks in central Pennsylvania are characterized by placid flows with smooth glides over moss covered rounded boulders. Semi-clear deep milky green pools beckon an observant fisherman to execute long fluttering casts, if he or she can manage to avoid the dense canopy of green leaves that cast dark shadows over much of the stream. The wily brown trout reveal their presence with subtle sipping rises in out of the way corners of the limestone creek environment. In the absence of surface clues, fly fishing becomes a waiting game. A sudden appearance of an abundance of one or several aquatic insects shatters the calm, and frantic casting and hatch matching follow, and these are the electric moments that eastern fly fishermen savor and anticipate.

Western fly fishing approaches follow the lead of the streams and rivers that begin in the high Rocky Mountains. These waterways typically rush toward their journey through the large agricultural valleys, and along the way they crash and churn over rocks and logs in a high speed race to the ocean. Whitewater, rapids and plunge pools frequent these rivers and creeks, and the fishing approach mirrors the high energy hydraulics of the targeted environment. Rather than calmly wait and observe in a manner similar to eastern counterparts, the western fly fisherman wades aggressively and casts often in an effort to present a variety of imitations to opportunistic fish. The western trout does not have the luxury of waiting for a dense hatch or to closely inspect its prey. The conveyor belt of food is set on high speed, and anything that looks alive and tasty is fair game. I was about to face the transition from the contrasting styles, as I anticipated my trip from Colorado to Pennsylvania.

In preparation for my trip to Pennsylvania from May 27 through June 4 I reviewed my MFC fly box. My Pennsylvania fishing friend Jeff informed me that the the green drakes and sulfurs were likely over, so I could probably look forward to isonychia, blue winged olives and golden stoneflies. I removed all my western green drakes to create space, and filled the vacant row with six isonychia comparaduns that I tied for a trip five years ago. I also added three isonychia spinners. Jeff promised to lend me some of his expertly constructed flies, but I felt an obligation to transport flies I tied myself to match the relevant insects projected to be present during my stay.

Next I examined my fly box thoroughly, and I was surprised to discover a row that contained six size 14 dark olive comparaduns and another six size 14 medium olive spinners. Why was I carrying these large blue winged olives designed for Pennsylvania mayflies on my Colorado ventures? I could not answer that question, but I was pleased to have them for the pending trip. Finally I checked for size 16 and 18 sulfur imitations in case we encountered stragglers, and I added a few more sulfur comparaduns from my boat box.

On Tuesday evening after dinner at my sister’s house, Jane drove me to Whitehall, Pa. and dropped my off at my friend’s house. Jeff, being the perfect fishing buddy, had the minivan packed with food and fishing gear. We discussed a departure time for Wednesday morning, and given the forecast for hot and muggy conditions, we committed to a 4:30 start.

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A Flash Lights Up the Minivan

Despite having a body clock that remained on mountain time, my excitement caused me to wake up before 4:30, and we were on the road by 4:45. This very early departure enabled us to be in the No Kill parking lot by 7:30, and subsequently we were on the water at 8AM. As Jeff texted me earlier in the week, Penns Creek was nearly ideal with flows of 270 cfs and a tinge of color that gave the cautious fisherman a bit of cover upon approaching attractive trout holding locations.

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Concentration

Jeff is a veteran of Penns Creek and on a first name basis with many of the large denizens of the premier central Pennsylvania stream, so he stationed me in some prime spots and gave me first shot. I cannot overemphasize the generosity of my long term fishing buddy. We tossed isonychia and golden stoneflies at Linden Tree, Willow Hole and Red Cabin Run; but the educated brown trout of Penns Creek were having none of our fake offerings. The air temperature warmed quickly, and the sky was mainly bright blue with only an occasional white cloud. Simply stated, the conditions were quite challenging, and two veteran fishermen were skunked despite a long morning of focused fishing. In one nice run of moderate depth I experimented with a dry/dropper approach. I tied a fat Albert to my line and trailed an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear, and this combination yielded two small creek chubs. I finally felt the tug of something on my line, but chubs were not what I was seeking in Pennsylvania.

With the thermometer rapidly rising, Jeff and I decided to switch venues at noon. We drove to Millheim where we checked out the cottage that was reserved for Wednesday and Thursday night. From there we continued west and eventually headed south until we reached the upper stretches of Penns Creek at Spring Mills, where we crossed a bridge and parked in a vacant lot under some trees. The creek in this locale was a classic limestone spring creek with slightly milky flows and  an abundance of thick aquatic vegetation. Jeff gave me first choice, so I elected the thirty yards of prime water below the bridge. Jeff jumped into the stream farther down at the end of a long deep pool where long branches displayed wide leaves and arched over the small stream. I was actually somewhat intimidated by the prospect of casting in these difficult conditions.

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Spring Mill

As I studied the water, I spotted several sporadic rises, but when I gently cast a splash beetle, parachute ant, and Jake’s gulp beetle to the open lanes between the subsurface weeds, I received no response. I plopped my way along the edge until I was positioned at the downstream border of the bridge. I noticed three rising fish at the upstream section in the shadows, but these fish also ignored my presentation. I switched to a size 16 deer hair caddis for a bit, but it too was simply debris to be ignored to these smart Penns Creek trout.

Jeff appeared on the bank below me, and he described a similar lack of success with extremely skittish fish in the warm humid afternoon conditions. Once again we packed our gear and made a move, and this time we transitioned to the section of water behind some cabins below the No Kill area. We were careful to stash our dinner in our backpacks, and I also remembered to carry a headlamp and my regular glasses in case we fished into darkness. We were hoping for an evening hatch, but we had no insight that such an event was probable.

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A Nice Loop

When we met the stream, we made a left and continued until we were beyond the last cabin, and here we began our quest to prevent a Penns Creek skunking. Since it was early, and I was not patient enough to wait for a rise or visible sign of a fish, I found some nice fast water that contained long pockets and deep narrow slots. I reverted to the dry/dropper approach with a fat Albert that contained a tan ice dub body. In addition I tied on a prince nymph to represent isonychia nymphs and the much favored beadhead hares ear nymph.

It did not take long before I hooked a medium size fish on the hares ear, but it quickly wiggled free, and I uttered some unkind words while my skunking continued. Shortly after this frustration, I cast to the top of a relatively fast run, and I was shocked when a sizable Penns Creek brown trout utterly smashed the fat Albert. This fly was supposed to be my indicator, so what was going on? Unfortunately I played the brute for a couple minutes before it made a mad dash to the fast water. I was not in a good position to follow the fish downstream, and once again I must report on a long distance release. Unlike the previous incident, however, the larger brown broke off the fat Albert and the other two flies.

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Huge Eastern Stonefly

Jeff observed my futile attempt to land the fat Albert eater, and he concluded that the trout took my attractor for a golden stonefly. My size 8 yellow foam imitation was larger than his creations, but he suggested that perhaps his were a bit undersized. I actually saw two golden stoneflies on the creek, and one was much larger, so perhaps the big boys were in egg laying mode earlier than the smaller species. At any rate I did not have any more fat Alberts with a yellow body, so I switched to a size 8 pool toy with a light yellow dubbed body. Boom. It was not long before I endured another momentary hook up to the pool toy. This only confirmed that my hopper imitations seemed to be reasonable approximations of egg laying stoneflies. Unfortunately I was now zero for three, and my scorecard was blank.

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First Penns Creek Brown of the Trip

I moved farther upstream to the stair step area behind the cabins, and finally I connected with a twelve inch brown that gobbled the hares ear nymph. This fish was not a trophy, but I was appreciative of landing at least one shrewd Penns Creek brown trout. Next I approached a small eddy that Jeff recently abandoned. The location was just below the point of the long narrow island that separated the stream into two juicy channels. I flipped the pool toy into the nexus of the whirlpool, and in a matter of seconds a large mouth engulfed the buoyant hopper imitation. A tough fight ensued, but in this situation, I held the upper hand, as a strong fourteen inch brown trout nestled in my net. Another fish attacked one of my size eight hopper imitations perhaps mistaking it for an egg laying stonefly.

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Fourteen Inch Brown Crushed the Pool Toy

I now crossed the left braid and walked along the bank to the upper faster section, where I prospected with the pool toy and dropper nymphs. I was brimming with a bit of confidence since the large foam hopper flies with yellow bodies yielded three hook ups with solid fish. As I worked a narrow deep slot next to an exposed boulder near the bank, I spotted several barely discernible rises in some fairly fast water. I made numerous drifts without success, so I went to the trouble of removing my dry/dropper flies and switched to a single isonychia comparadun. This fly also failed to generate interest, so I surrendered and moved to the next attractive space.

The creek created a very wide gentle riffle in the area just above the left channel that flowed around the island. Surely the last hour of the day would cause hungry brown trout to spread out in these flats in search of easy meals. Just as this thought crossed my mind, several riseforms appeared fifteen feet above my position. I made some long casts with the isonychia with high expectations, but once again I was sorely disappointed. What should I do? I always carry a seine in an elastic pocket at the base of my net opening and rarely use it, but here was an obvious application. I stretched the seine over the net opening and held it in the creek in front of me for thirty seconds. When I extracted it from the water and peered closely, I discovered five or six crumpled olive-bodied spinners. It was now obvious what the feeding fish were tuned into.

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Result of Seine

I went to my MFC fly box and extracted one of the six poly wing spinners that consumed space in my Colorado box for no obvious reason. I tied these six years ago in preparation for a similar trip to Penns Creek, but they never made it to the end of my line, since I did not encounter the elusive blue winged olive spinner fall. On this evening of June 1, however, I was very thankful for the presence of these archived flies.

The fly possessed a deep olive body, dun hackle fiber tails, and white poly wings. The wings were kinked and splayed to each side in a curved style. The naturals in the water matched quite well except for the smooth flat wings that stretched at a ninety degree angle from the body. I was very concerned that my S shaped wings would be a deal breaker for the smart Penns Creek browns.

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Gorgeous Spots on This Twilight Fish

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Cornuta Spinner

Fortunately this was not the case. In the dwindling light between eight and nine o’clock I managed to hook and land four additional brown trout. All were quite nice specimens that measured in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. Two additional fish were hooked momentarily but managed to shed my heirloom tie. The magical spinner fall hour was the highlight of my trip, and I experienced the dense feeding frenzy that I hoped would commence. It was especially gratifying to pull an old fly out of my box that performed exactly as I hoped. By 9 o’clock the spinner fall ended and the feeding trout returned to their safe harbor holding spots. Jeff and I met above the island and carefully waded to the shore near the cabins and then walked back to his minivan. A night of rest beckoned us to our cottage, and I dreamed about two more days of eastern fishing.

Fish Landed: 6

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