Boulder Creek – 07/24/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 07/24/2021 Photo Album

Wet wading on a hot Colorado Saturday is the greatest compliment I can provide for my day of fly fishing on July 24, 2021. After being forced to prematurely abandon my quest for cutthroat trout at Ptarmigan Lake on Wednesday, I was itching to record another day of fly fishing for the week of July 19. July is typically one of my best months of the year, and the days were slipping away rapidly. I reviewed the nearby stream options with extra concern over the batch of thunderstorms that rolled through the area on Thursday evening. Boulder Creek was running at 75 CFS, it was an hour and fifteen minutes away, and it provided an opportunity to stop by my son’s house in Louisville, CO to wish my grandson a happy first birthday. The proximity of my destination prompted me to complete my normal morning workout along with a forty minute run, but these choices may have impacted my fishing experience, as they delayed my fishing time to the middle of the day.

Clear with Decent Flows

I arrived at a wide pullout in Boulder Canyon by 11:30AM, and after I pulled on my wet wading pants and socks, I decided to munch my lunch. The air temperature was in the eighties, but the water looked very encouraging with no turbidity and above average flows based on my knowledge from previous visits. I hiked along the shoulder a short distance and then dropped down a steep bank. Since it was July 24, I assumed the trout were in a surface feeding mode, and I began my day with a size 12 peacock hippie stomper and trailed a size 16 gray deer hair caddis.

Number One

I spent the first thirty minutes prospecting all the likely holding spots with the double dry fly offering, and I managed to land one seven inch brown trout that boldly rushed to inhale the hippie stomper. This bit of action was accompanied by a quite a few frustrating refusals to the hippie stomper as well as landing a few tiny trout less than my six inch cut off. I felt that I could do better, so I began cycling through a host of fly changes that included a user friendly green drake, gray stimulator, olive-brown deer hair caddis, Jake’s gulp beetle, purple haze and peacock stimulator. At one point I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper rig and added an iron sally and pheasant tail nymph to a Chernobyl ant, but the local trout demonstrated zero interest for the subsurface offerings. By the time I quit at 3:00PM the fish count rested on three, as the user friendly green drake and Jake’s gulp beetle beat the odds to fool two seven inch brown trout.

Juicy Bank Lie

Number Two Was a Carbon Copy

Three hours of fly fishing yielded three seven inch brown trout, and the last hour was characterized by extreme futility. It was not a good day on Boulder Creek, and tailwaters and high elevation creeks will probably be my destination over the next eight weeks. The wet wading, on the other hand, was superb; as I felt comfortable and cool throughout my three hours of fly fishing with temperatures spiking in the mid–eighties. On my return trip to Denver I stopped at my son’s house and played with the birthday boy, Theo, for fifteen minutes, while Dan put away the groceries, that he purchased in preparation for the big birthday bash on Sunday. That was another highlight of Saturday, July 24, 2021.

Fish Landed: 3

Ptarmigan Lake – 07/21/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 12:00PM

Location: Ptarmigan Lake

Ptarmigan Lake 07/21/2021 Photo Album

On Wednesday morning Jane and I decided to do a combined hiking and fishing adventure on our getaway day from Buena Vista. We arrived at the Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead at 9:30AM, and we were forced to park along the highway due to a full parking lot. Apparently a lot of outdoors folks had the same idea as us. The sky alternated between sunny and cloudy for most of the morning, as we endured the unrelenting climb over three miles. I wore my wet wading attire, but the only wetness I experienced was the soaking perspiration from the challenging hike.

Moraine Passage

Lower Lake Before Ptarmigan

When we arrived at the lake, I spotted two very nice cutthroats, as they sipped tiny morsels from the surface. I immediately rigged my Sage four weight and tied on a peacock hippie stomper. Before I could cast, however, a cloud blocked the sun, which created some wind, which put a chop on the surface of the lake. This circumstance made it impossible to sight fish, so I made some fruitless prospecting casts to the area of the rises to no avail. The protected left side of the lake remained smooth, so I decided to shift my base of operations, but before doing so and while the wind was up, I wolfed down my sandwich.

My Best Catch Ever

Jane and I hiked the short distance to a small protected cove, and the sun emerged once again, and this halted the air disturbance temporarily. I spotted three rises in this area, which was much deeper than the spot where the trail initially met the lake. The stomper was not drawing interest, so I added a zebra midge on a two foot dropper, but another cloud rolled in, and the wind once again ruffled the surface. The direction of the wind shifted out of the north, so the protected calm area was back, where I began.

This Gem Was My Only Catch

Jane and I moved, and I spotted a rise within casting distance in the shallow flats near our initial arrival point. I flicked out a thirty foot cast, and I was shocked, when a fish attacked the hippie stomper. In short order an eight inch cutthroat entered my net and then slipped through a net hole. This provides a good idea of the diminutive size of my sought after trout. In the process of releasing the little guy the dropper leader and zebra midge inexplicably broke off.

A nice band of shallow smooth water extended across the northern shoreline of the small lake, so Jane and I managed to find a rough path to the one-third point. Reaching the beach required bashing over some tough stunted evergreens, but I managed the feat, while Jane looked on from behind the low and stubborn branches. As I surveyed the area, I spotted a gorgeous orange-red cutthroat cruising in a tight circle within easy casting distance. This was the prize I hiked three miles to stalk. I lobbed five or six casts to the cruising field of the fish, but the target cutthroat ignored the oversized hippie stomper.

Ready to Descend

I stripped the fly in to replace it with something smaller and more imitative of natural food sources, but as I initiated this strategy, several adverse factors came into play. Most importantly, a huge dark gray cloud hovered in the northeast sky, and the wind direction suggested it was headed our way. A loud clap of thunder resounded across the above timberline landscape, and the orange-red cutthroat shifted its food searching operation farther from shore. Jane was justifiably spooked by the threat of lightning, but I hastily tied on a size 16 light gray comparadun, even though I intended to experiment with a gray deer hair caddis. I fired some forty foot casts toward the spectacular cutty, but came up a bit short, although the fly may have been close enough to attract attention from the cruiser. It never made a move or even twitched its tail. Meanwhile a pair of smaller fish swam by me at close quarters, and I dropped some casts ahead of their pathway, but again to no avail.

Scarlet Indian Paintbrush

Jane was getting extremely antsy, and another loud rumble forced me to admit that the sane course was to descend to the trailhead ahead of the storm. Ultimately the storm changed direction and headed northeast away from Ptarmigan Lake, but hindsight is always 20/20.

On the Way Down

Landing one small cutthroat in thirty minutes of fishing after a three mile continuous uphill hike was obviously very disappointing. Even more frustrating was the sight of vividly colored wild trout in the clear high elevation lake, as I realized that my fly fishing time was ending prematurely. Abandoning the search in the face of inclement weather was certainly the wise course of action, but I was angry with Mother Nature nonetheless.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 07/20/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Above Buena Vista

Arkansas River 07/20/2021 Photo Album

Flows and fly shop reports for the upper basin of the Arkansas River were favorable, so Jane and I reserved a campsite for Monday and Tuesday night, July 19 and 20. We completed a new hike in the Arkansas River Valley on Monday afternoon after making the nearly three hour drive from Denver. After camping on Monday night, Jane and I had a light breakfast, before we completed an out and back 6.4 mile bike ride from our campground.

Upon my return to the campground, with the temperature now in the upper seventies, I prepared to fish. I chose to wear my wet wading pants and wading socks, and I was never disappointed with my decision. The river was in near perfect shape with flows in the 650 CFS range and exceptional visibility. The flows were being augmented from Twin Lakes to support the whitewater rafting operations, and us fishermen were the beneficiaries.

Side Pocket

Once my gear was in place, I hiked along the west side of the river for fifteen minutes and then cut down to the shoreline, where I tied on a peacock hippie stomper and a size 14 yellow stimulator. A fly shop report recommended golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, dark caddis, and pale morning duns: and these suggestions influenced my choice of flies at the start of the day. I persisted with the double dries for thirty minutes and landed two small brown trout while enduring several refusals.

Hello Mr. Brown

Fish Were Hanging Out at the Head of Pools Such As This

I concluded that I could do better and switched to a dry/dropper approach. My choice for this method that covered a deeper portion of the water column was a size 10 tan pool toy hopper, iron sally, and a salvation nymph. These flies proved to be winners, and I maintained their presence on my line, until I quit at 3:00PM. My net felt the sag of twenty additional brown trout, and the salvation accounted for eighty percent of them. The game on Tuesday largely centered around reading the water and not dwelling in one place too long. Productive water consisted of moderate depth and velocity, and these attributes when combined with proximity to large boulders offered a high likelihood of success.

River Beast

I returned to our campsite at 1:00PM for lunch with Jane, and the fish count was perched on sixteen. After lunch amid the threat of thunderstorms I notched an additional six fish to bring my cumulative total on the day to twenty-two. The trout on Tuesday were predominantly in the eight to eleven inch range, but three or four pushed the tape to twelve to thirteen inches.

The Sun Shines on Mt. Princeton

Tuesday was a fine day of prospecting promising lies, and steady persistence was rewarded with hard fighting wild brown trout on the Arkansas River. A return trip is not out of the question.

Fish Landed: 22

Clear Creek – 07/14/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 07/14/2021 Photo Album

I was completely humbled by the upper Arkansas River on Monday, and I was anxious to atone. Jane and I were scheduled to have dinner guests on Wednesday evening, so I needed a close destination that would allow a return by 4PM. I scanned the DWR graphs for all the Front Range streams, and I narrowed the options down to Boulder Creek and Clear Creek. While most of the state suffered below average snow packs and drought conditions. the Front Range was an exception, and many of my favorite locations were inundated with continuing high flows in the middle of July.

I settled on Clear Creek, because I viewed it first hand on my trip to and from the Arkansas River. In my way of thinking personal scouting always prevails over a graph. When I arrived at my chosen section of Clear Creek, the thermometer registered temperatures in the upper fifties. After a string of days in the nineties, it was refreshing to pull on my fleece and raincoat, as I strung my Loomis five weight line. The reel seat on my Orvis Battenkill reel was loose, so rather than risk it falling in the creek, I elected to dust off the Loomis, since it is shorter than my Sage One and more appropriate for the tight quarters of small stream fishing.

Lush

I hiked a short distance from the car, and I was prepared to cast by 11:00AM. The thick overhead clouds remained throughout my time on the creek, although I did remove the raincoat at noon, as I was feeling a bit overheated. The flows on Clear Creek were high but clear and close to ideal in my opinion. I began prospecting with a size 12 peacock hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper. Between 11:00AM and noon I landed six cutthroat trout, as two nabbed the hippie stomper, and the other four sipped the caddis. I was pleased with my one hour of morning fishing, but I also felt that I was failing to catch fish in locations that offered potential productivity.

Melon Cutthroat

I used the lunch break to reconfigure my line, and I shed the deer hair caddis and replaced it with a beadhead pheasant tail nymph on a three foot dropper. In a brief amount of time the pheasant tail produced a vividly colored cutthroat, but then I lost both flies, when an errant backcast snagged an evergreen limb. The branch was too high to attempt a recovery, and I broke off both flies, when I applied direct force. I replaced the hippie stomper with another similar version, but I migrated to a hares ear nymph as the dropper fly.

Promising Runs Ahead

The stomper and hares ear combination remained on my line for the bulk of my remaining time on the water. I also experimented with a sunken ant for a brief amount of time, but the fish count surged from six to twenty-five mainly on the strength of the hares ear. I estimated that 75% of the afternoon landed fish snatched the hares ear, and the remainder surged to the surface to crush the hippie stomper. In short, I had a blast and moved from likely spot to promising location at a steady rate. If I encountered slower moving water with enough depth for the fish to hide, I typically managed a landed fish or in the worst case a refusal.

Look at the Neon Orange on This Cutthroat

At one point I actually had two fish on my line at the same time. An eleven inch cutthroat sipped the stomper, and as I began to play the aggressive eater, a smaller cousin grabbed the hares ear. I was rather excited, but the larger of the two slipped free, and only the small one was constrained in my net. I would not characterize the catch rate as torrid, but an average of six fish per hour was certainly hot fishing.

Next to the Roots

Splendid

Light Olive Dominates

Wednesday was a nice bounce back from Monday, and I was thrilled to land twenty-five cutthroat trout in four hours on a small stream. The striking colors of the cutthroats made the day worthwhile, and the cool weather was a nice reprieve from the dry heat of July.

Fish Landed: 25

Arkansas River – 07/12/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Hayden Meadows

Arkansas River 07/12/2021 Photo Album

For the week of July 11, I faced limited opportunities to fly fish. Wednesday was a possibility, but I needed to return in the late afternoon for a dinner with friends, and that eliminated a longer trip. Monday was my one wide open opportunity on the calendar, so where should I invest my scarce available time? Originally I considered the Big Thompson River below Estes Park, but then I remembered the upper Arkansas River below Leadville. I scanned my blog posts for Hayden Meadows and found reports for 07/26/2017 and 07/12/2016. This documentation of successful outings, and the presence of strong gray drake hatches pointed me toward a day on the upper Arkansas River. Further research of fly shop river reports indicated that the section was fishing well, and gray drakes were, in fact, making an appearance.

I left the house at 8:00AM and arrived at a parking lot in the Hayden Meadows area by 10:30AM. Maintenance in the Eisenhower Tunnel forced the closure of a westbound lane, and this ill timed event added twenty minutes to my drive. Breaks were not going my way, but I persevered. Three cars preceded me to the parking lot, and two young anglers pulled in next to me just after I arrived. One was from Michigan and visiting a friend who lived in Buena Vista. They asked me which direction I planned to fish, and I told them uptream, and they favored downstream, so I assumed we had compatible objectives.

I prepared to wet wade, and I assembled my Sage four weight, but as I attached my Orvis reel, I realized that the reel base that tucked under the cork handle was loose, and my reel wobbled. I did not trust this condition to endure a day of fishing, so I switched to my Sage One five weight and a different reel that held my five weight line. The tunnel and my fly reel hindered my ability to start a day of fishing on the upper Arkansas River.

At the Start

Just before I departed, the two young men that expressed a desire to fish downstream crossed the river and continued in a northerly, upstream direction. Their presence did not deter me, but it was another roadblock to my fishing plans for the day. Finally I was prepared, and I crossed the dirt road to the bridge and dropped some casts to a small eddy on the east side of the river. I began with a size 14 gray stimulator and a size 14 green drake comparadun. During the first fifteen minutes, two fish made subtle rises, but my flies generated no interest, so I moved on. I made a few casts on the north and west side of the bridge, but again my flies were plainly ignored.

After this less than auspicious introduction to the upper Arkansas River, I walked along the road to a point where a path cut to the river. I vowed to hike for fifteen minutes to put some distance between me and the guys that parked next to me; however, I began to swat mosquitoes and decided to return to the car for insect repellent. This was yet another annoying delay in my planned day of fly fishing.

Finally I went into express mode and hiked along the western bank for fifteen minutes. I passed a solo fisherman and then circled beyond the pair of parking lot neighbors, and I began to finally fish in earnest. These early frustrations were actually a foreshadowing of my disappointing day on the Arkansas River.

Typical Section

I covered 1.3 miles of river between 11AM and 3:00PM, and I landed two brown trout in the thirteen inch range. There is no denying that Monday was a rough day. I cycled through an array of gray drake dry flies that included the gray stimulator, green drake comparadun, parachute green drake, Harrop hair wing green drake, and a May break green drake cripple. In one very appealing deep run and pool I observed three refusals to the drakes that were on my line. A short while after lunch, out of frustration, I switched to a dry/dropper configuration that included a yellow fat Albert, prince nymph and iron sally, and the prince fooled one of the brown trout that I landed. I also connected briefly with another fish. I persisted with the dry/dropper setup for thirty minutes, until I arrived at a gorgeous riffle that spread out from a deep run and current seam. I fired some long casts to the top of the riffles, and two fish slashed at but refused the fat Albert. By now I observed a few gray drakes as well as some yellow sallies, so I returned to the double dry approach with a Harrop hair wing drake and a size 14 green drake comparadun.

My First Fish

I stayed with the dry fly approach for the remainder of my time on Monday, and eventually I duped a thirteen inch brown trout with a May break green drake cripple. Catching that fish was probably the worst outcome for me. It convinced me that I could draw fish to the surface, if I found the right kind of water. Unfortunately that theory was flawed, and I never connected with another fish. I fell victim to close-minded thinking. Surely my blog reports accurately documented the abundant presence of gray drakes on July 12, 2016, and spotting several verified that they were in the air, and the trout were tuned into them. I never tested a deep nymphing approach, and I stuck with the dry/dropper for only thirty minutes or so. Insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results. This angler was insane on July 12.

When I returned to the parking lot and began to pull off my wading socks, another older fisherman arrived. I passed him, while he was eating his lunch streamside. He asked how I did, and I replied, “not so well”. I returned the query, and he informed me that he had a huge day. I often take these statements with a grain of salt, as fishermen are prone to hyperbole, but in this case I believe he was telling me the truth. He related that he, likewise, began with dry flies including gray drakes that he purchased at ArkAnglers, and he actually showed me some of the flies. He told me he also tried a dry/dropper with a nymph. but that method also failed to generate action, so he resorted to an indicator nymphnig setup with a tungsten beadhead pheasant tail and a poison tung. He showed me the flies and mentioned that he added weight to get down, and caught quite a few fish in fast water with the tungsten and added weight. I never tested a deep nymphing rig, and I suspect my flies were not getting down the the level of the fish. Yes, some gray drakes made an appearance, but the hatch was very sparse, and I now suspect that the fish were not tuned in and continued to chow down on subsurface food items. I learned my lesson, and now I am debating whether to return to the upper Arkansas in search of gray drakes at a later date.

Fish Landed: 2

Roaring Fork River – 07/09/2021

Time: 7:00AM – 1:15PM

Location: Basalt, CO to Carbondale, CO

Roaring Fork River 07/09/2021 Photo Album

Several weeks ago the Sylan fire launched the summer wildfire season in Colorado. Next, thunderstorms flushed Glenwood Canyon and caused half a dozen mudslides that blocked Interstate 70 for days. Record high temperatures exceeding 100 degrees became commonplace, as each summer seems to top the previous in the hot weather category. It was inevitable that this collection of heat related bad news would impact fly fishing, and right on schedule the Department of Wildlife announced closures on the Colorado River and Yampa River. All this, and the calendar remained in early July.

With this backdrop I tentatively looked forward to my fifth and final day of guided float fishing with Cutthroat Anglers. I elected to join my friend, Dave G., for five days in 2021, and July 9 was the fifth, having already enjoyed a day on the Eagle River and three days on the Rio Grande River. Cutthroat Anglers’ normal home water for drift fishing is the middle Colorado, but the closure announced in the first paragraph extended from Kremmling to Rifle, and that stretch encompassed the heart and soul of the shop’s guided float fishing water. What would we do? Dave G. was in contact with our guide, Reed, on Thursday, and he proposed a trip to the Roaring Fork River on Friday. He offered the alternative of the Eagle River, but the waterway along Interstate 70 was dropping and warming. Dave G. and I discussed our options, and we decided to try something different and chose the Roaring Fork River. Two downsides to the Roaring Fork were considered. In order to beat the competing boat traffic and beat the heat, Reed proposed meeting at 5:30AM in Eagle, CO. Another drawback was the potential for a localized thunderstorm that would create additional mudslides in Glenwood Canyon, and another closure would trap us on the western slope with few viable alternatives. The temperature for Friday in Carbondale was forecast to spike in the upper 80’s, and I was very concerned that the bright sun, lack of cloud cover and heat would put a significant damper on the trout’s appetite.

Poised for the Launch

On Thursday evening I made the drive from Denver to Eagle, CO and slept overnight at Dave G’s house. This positioned me for the early wake up, and after a very quick breakfast Dave G. drove us to our rendezvous point at the Eagle Rest Area, where we met up with Reed, his truck and the raft. The three of us passed through Glenwood Canyon without incident, and we arrived at a boat launch below Basalt by 6:30AM, and this enabled us to be on the water by 7:00AM.

Steep Narrow Boat Ramp

Let the Fun Begin

Dave G. graciously allotted me the forward position in the raft, and we began drifting the Roaring Fork River. The river in this middle section was narrower and faster than the lower stretch, and this dictated frequent cross overs, nimble boat maneuvering by Reed, and extra care when backcasting near overhanging branches and wires. Reed started me off with a size 12 parachute Adams, and I was very fortunate to nail two very fine fish in the early going. Number one was a brilliant pink hued rainbow, and the second was a medium sized brown trout. Dave G.’s flies, meanwhile, were being ignored from the trailing position, and we both suffered an extended lull after my first two catches. Reed began to tinker with the fly alignment, and he added a second fly to both our leaders.

Edna Nestled In

Eventually he hit upon some productive combinations. and I built the fish count to six before our 10:00AM lunch, and Dave G. attained a similar number of landed fish. We swapped positions more frequently than normal throughout the day, as Reed felt that the position in the boat was an important factor impacting fly fishing success. In my case, the popular flies were a parachute hares ear, purple haze and olive haze. Dave G. utilized similar flies with some slight variations.

Parachute Adams

After our early lunch we continued our float through some spectacular water with abundant braids, shoals and drop offs over cobble bottoms, and rocky bankside structure. I steadily incremented the fish counter and ended at 1:00PM with a cumulative total of thirteen. The catch rate was obviously slower than the Rio Grande, but given the high air temperatures and bright sky, we were more than happy with our level of success on Friday. In fact, the quality of the fish was outstanding, as seven of my netted fish were cutbows in the fifteen to eighteen inch range. The remaining six browns were slightly smaller in length, but all the trout exceeded twelve inches with several browns in the fifteen inch range. The brown trout made up for their slightly smaller size with head shaking and diving battles that strained my fish landing capabilities.

Narrowing Ahead

The Roaring Fork is famous for its green drake hatch, and our day on the river overlapped with this much anticipated event. Unfortunately, the hatch takes place in the evening, and our 7AM to 1PM float did not coincide with the main emergence. However, as I noted in previous posts, fish have long memories for green drakes, and we were certain that their awareness of  western green drake activity caused opportunistic feeding on our size 12 parachute imitations.

My favorite fish was a brown trout that sipped the parachute hares ear in the session prior to lunch. I was in the stern position and cast my double dry combination out the left side of the boat to a seam that ran eight feet out from the bank. The two flies bobbed along on the bubble line unmolested, when a large form emerged from the shadows and slowly cruised to the surface. It was almost a slow motion replay as the large brown’s mouth opened to engulf my fly, and after a slight pause I lifted the rod tip and set the hook. Reed and I exclaimed a shout of joy, and I managed to thwart the brown’s escape tactics and guided it to my net. Wow, writing this once again sent my heart rate to an elevated level.

Mt. Sopris Looms

In another instance we were once again casting left, and I was in the forward position. I angled a cast to ten o’clock and executed a large mend, so the line was uptream, and the flies floated with the tail fly in the forward position. In this example, we were fishing a series of pockets between large submerged rocks, and suddenly a trout’s entire body elevated above the water, and the mouth opened and closed on my fly on the downward arc. I have rarely seen such an eat, but I would not object to more frequent occurrences. This fish eventually rested in my net, and it was one of the fat cutbows in excess of fifteen inches. I can still feel the excitement.

Best Shot

Thirteen wild fish of above average size represented an excellent day of fly fishing. The early launch and fishing the more technical middle section paid dividends. Dave G. and I were challenged by the tighter conditions, but Reed maneuvered the boat in a professional manner and put us in advantageous positions to optimize the float. Hopefully I can continue to work around the hurdles that the weather and nature throw my way in 2021.

Fish Landed: 13

Eagle River – 07/06/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Edwards Rest Area

Eagle River 07/06/2021 Photo Album

As I mentioned in my 06/30/2021 post, on my last day on the Rio Grande River, I contracted a cold that began on Sunday and progressively advanced during my three day stay in the Creede, CO area. Fortunately it remained a sore throat, until it morphed into an annoying cough on Wednesday. My original plan called for a day of fishing on the Eagle River on Thursday, while Dave G. attended an all day town council retreat, but I abandoned those plans and rested at Dave G’s house in an attempt to curb the advancing respiratory virus. My efforts to stop the spread were minimally successful, and by the Fourth of July weekend I experienced persistent coughing, blocked ears and general head congestion. The inability to swallow and reading about the surging delta variant of COVID raised concerns that I somehow picked up the virus even though I was vaccinated, so I underwent a COVID test on Saturday morning.  A surprisingly quick turnaround of the test results relieved some of my anxiety, when a text message informed me of a negative result on Saturday evening.

On Monday the coughing subsided, and by Tuesday morning I was feeling improved with the aid of cold medicines. Since Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were filled with commitments that precluded fly fishing, I decided to attempt a day on the river on Tuesday. The flows on the Eagle River remained in the 350 CFS range, and I guessed that pale morning duns, caddis and yellow sallies were still on the menu, so I made the Edwards Rest Area my destination. Because I slept late in my effort to overcome my summer cold, I got off to a late start and arrived at 11:30AM, and after I assembled my Sage four weight, I downed my lunch. I was perched on the edge of the river by noon, and I began casting a double dry fly arrangement that featured a hippie stomper and size 16 deer hair yellow sally. In a shadowed pocket along the left bank I hooked up temporarily with a twelve inch rainbow, but it shed the hook, and never made it to my net.

Water Still Fairly High

The dries did not seem to be attracting attention, so I converted to a dry/dropper featuring an iron sally and salvation nymph, as I worked my way up the river through some quality deep pockets. By 1:30PM the fish counter rested on two, and that included a very fine rainbow trout with a pink sheen and a quality brown trout of fourteen inches. I was thrilled to land two trout, but I covered a significant amount of quality water, and the action was very slow.

Nice Coloration

Early Afternoon Brown Trout

With another thirty yard section of quality pocket water ahead of me, I decided to modify my approach and returned to a double dry presentation. A hippie stomper assumed the point position, and below it I knotted a cinnamon size 16 pale morning dun. These two flies were ignored, as were the hippie stomper when paired with a size 14 olive stimulator. I also experimented with a size 14 purple haze trailing a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, but again the fish gave me a solid thumbs down.

Pocket Water Galore

I finally reached a point where the river widened into a section of shallow riffles, so I exited with the intention of circling the long run and pool across from the high bank, but the fisherman who occupied the downstream portion of the pool was exiting, so I cut to the river to investigate. A young mother with three kids was wrapping up a swimming session at the top of the run, so I made a few obligatory casts, but I was uncertain whether the swimmers had recently disturbed the water, so I migrated to the pocket water.

Reentry 2

I removed the purple haze and replaced it with a peacock hippie stomper and added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a twelve inch leader. This move proved to be my best decision of the day, and I increased the fish count from two to seven over the next 1.5 hours. Numbers three and four were small brown trout in the seven to eleven inch ranch, but the last three were fine trout that raised my rating of Tuesday from disappointing to decent. Two were bulldog brown trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range and one was a chunky thirteen inch rainbow. The pocketwater feeders grabbed the trailing caddis, although I also suffered quite a few refusals to the size sixteen caddis. All the fish from the late afternoon pocket water section attacked the dry fly, as it drifted next to a seam bordering deep, fast water.

Brilliant

End of Day Surprise

The late afternoon flurry of action salvaged my day on the Eagle River. I took a stream temperature at 2PM, and it registered 62 degrees, so I felt that it was safe to continue fishing; however, I believe that the bright sun and high air temperatures definitely impacted the urge to feed of the Eagle River trout. An increase in cloud cover in the last 1.5 hours provoked increased caddis dapping activity, and this probably explained my improved success rate. A seven fish day under warm temperatures was appreciated and certainly preferred over remaining at home and nursing my cold.

Fish Landed: 7

Rio Grande River – 06/30/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: South Fork to Hanah Lane

Rio Grande River 06/30/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday was our third day of guided float fishing with Brandon of Cutthroat Anglers. The weather forecast projected temperatures and precipitation similar to Monday and Tuesday, so I wore my waders on board the raft, but ultimately the day was warmer with no rain, and for the first time on the trip I fished with just my fishing shirt and no extra layers. The river on the stretch downstream from South Fork was larger and wider than the Monday and Tuesday beats, but it was very clear and perfect for fly fishing. I manned the bow position in the morning, and Dave G. and I switched positions at 1PM after a lunch break. During our drive to Creede on Sunday I noticed the symptoms of a sore throat, as swallowing created a catching feeling. On Wednesday afternoon I developed a persistent tickle in my throat that caused intermittent coughing. Fortunately the early stages of a cold progressed slowly, and the first two days of the trip elapsed mostly symptom free, but Wednesday signaled the onset of a more severe stage of a summer cold.

Wide Riffles

I was plagued by poor casting technique for much of the morning, as I was over zealous and failed to allow the double dry flies to extend enough on the backcast. This resulted in a significant number of snarls, where the leader on the trailing fly wrapped around the forward fly. The tangles were not severe, but I spent a significant amount of time unwinding the twisted leader, and this subtracted from the time my fly was on the water, when I held the advantageous forward position in the raft. In spite of this angler error, I landed fourteen trout by the time of our 1:00PM changeover. Similar to Tuesday most of the landed fish were vividly colored wild brown trout in the fifteen inch range. They battled valiantly, and Brandon warned me not to count them before they were secure in my net.

Showing Off

Because Wednesday was our last day, we planned an earlier end point in order to jump start our four plus hour return drive to Eagle, CO, and this explained the earlier than normal lunch time. At around 11:00AM a dense hatch of gray drakes commenced. This aquatic insect event caught the attention of the Rio Grande trout population. Brandon purchased a batch of gray drake cripples the previous evening based on the recommendation of some local guides, and these flies were close approximations of the naturals, because the trout crushed them. In fact, we agreed to eat only half of our lunches to take advantage of the long lasting emergence.

Gray Drake Cripple Rocked

Rising trout remained a sporadic occurrence in the afternoon, but our prospecting attracted interest on a regular basis. As we drifted past the heads of riffles, we encountered clouds of mating gray drakes, and they bounced off our faces and glasses. I mention this only to emphasize the abundance of gray drakes on the South Fork section.

After lunch the drake population waned a bit, but eager eaters remained, and we continued to pick off trout with regularity. I increased the fish count from fourteen to twenty-four from my rear position in the raft, and I concentrated on better casting form. This resulted in my flies spending more time on the water and less time in monofilament snarls. We fished double dries all day, and the gray drake cripple was far and away the top performer. During the afternoon time frame, Brandon switched us to purple hazes, and the size 12 parachute versions contributed additional netted fish.

Typical Scene

Wednesday was another excellent day on the Rio Grande. Steady action kept me focused, and most of the trout were hard fighting brown trout in the fifteen inch or greater range. Compared to the first two days, we caught more fish from bubble lines five feet or greater from the bank or wide riffle sections over cobble bottoms with a depth of two feet. The drop in flows and wider river bed clearly allowed the resident trout space to spread out and feed on the abundant quantity of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies.

Twenty Inch Beauty

My most vivid memory of the day and trip was created by a twenty inch bruiser that put a substantial sag in Brandon’s large net. We were casting to nice pockets tight to the left bank, and I was popping short casts into a stairstep series of pockets for short, quick drifts. On the sixth such flick, the cripple floated ahead of the point fly and crept in front of a large exposed boulder. Suddenly a large head and then body emerged from the shadow of the large rock, and the cripple disappeared. It was a very visual take and the highlight of my day. Needless to say, I was quite impressed with the Rio Grande River during our three day stay at the end of June 2021.

Fish Landed: 24

Friends Checking Us Out

Rio Grande River – 06/29/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 6:00PM

Location: Sneaky boat launch to below Deep Creek ramp near Creede, CO

Rio Grande River 06/29/2021 Photo Album

The weather on Tuesday was similar to Monday with highs in the low sixties. I wore my waders for the second day in a row, and I was comfortable all day. Between 1:00PM and 2:00PM some storm clouds gathered, and I wore an extra layer for thirty minutes, until the sun reappeared. For most of the day I wore a fleece and raincoat.

This Is a Boat Launch?

Could Be an Ad for a Toyota Truck

Once again our guide was Brandon from Cutthroat Anglers. The river was in fine condition, and we launched the inflatable raft at Sneaky Boat Launch, a crude rutted area that was barely more than a slanted meadow bank. This put in was upriver from Creede, CO, and consequently the river carried less volume.

Tuesday evolved into a day just as productive as Monday. My fish count was twenty-six, but the size of Tuesday’s catch was on average larger than Monday. Other than four brown trout barely above the counting threshold, the remainder of the netted fish were easily within the fourteen to eighteen inch range. I landed four hard charging rainbows, and the remainder were robust brown trout. These fish were dogged fighters, and they put a significant strain on my arm.

Zoomed in on the Purple Body

Fuzzy Wuzzy?

Dave G. and I registered at least three doubles, when we were both hooked up at the same time. The upper section was somewhat smaller than the day one stretch, and this created a more intimate feel. I manned the stern position in the morning and switched to the bow at 1:30PM. Sixteen of my landed fish were recorded in the morning, and ten reached my net in the afternoon. Arm and body fatigue played a significant role in my afternoon fishing experience.

Nice One

During the afternoon I connected with three very strong fish that streaked for logs and branches, and my efforts to prevent them from reaching their destination resulted in break offs. A thirty fish day was easily attainable with better luck and skill. Dave G. and I spent the entire day tossing dry flies. The most productive of these flies were a size 14 purple haze and a fuzzy wuzzy foam surface fly. The fuzzy wuzzy imitated both a grasshopper and stonefly. Twice during our drift I witnessed a lumbering egg laying stonefly, as it crash landed on the water. The egg laying proved short lived, as ravenous trout crushed the large morsels of meat in confident swirls.

Swallows Everywhere

Before lunch quite a few PMD’s, caddis, and drakes made an appearance, and I observed the most rises of my cumulative time on the Rio Grande. I spotted four or five green drakes, and I was tempted to try one of my parachute style flies, but I stuck with Brandon’s expert recommendations.

Another Prime Rainbow

Tuesday represented another outstanding day on the Rio Grande River. All the necessary elements of superb fly fishing were present; cool weather, cloud cover, clear water, large and hungry wild trout, insect hatches, productive flies, and expert guiding. Bring on day three.

Fish Landed: 26

Rio Grande River – 06/28/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 6:00PM

Location: Creede, CO to Palisade Campground

Rio Grande River 06/28/2021 Photo Album

My friend, Dave Gaboury, and I scheduled three days of guided float fishing with Cutthroat Anglers on the Rio Grande River in the Creede, CO area, and on Sunday, June 27 we completed the five hour drive from Denver. We arrived at The Grove in Creede on Sunday at around 6:00PM. MIchelle of Cutthroat Anglers was our chef for the three days, and she prepared our breakfasts and dinners at the modern cabin in addition to making box lunches for our daily float trips.

Monday Morning

We met our guide, Brandon, at 8:00AM on Monday morning, and we were on the river by 9:30AM. Monday was a cool day with a high in the low sixties after a decent amount of rain on Sunday night. I wore my waders and wading boots in case of afternoon thunderstorms, but they never materialized. Nevertheless, I was only a bit warm for a short window in the afternoon. The flows on the Rio Grande at Wagon Wheel Gap were 900 CFS, and the river was very clear. Conditions seemed perfect to this newbie to the Rio Grande River.

Some Whitewater

We began our morning with double dry flies, but this approach yielded no success, so we switched to dry/dropper rigs that featured a chubby Chernobyl and pheasant tail nymph on a jig hook. The move to dry/dropper paid dividends, and we began scoring fish with some regularity on the pheasant tail. By 11:00AM some pale morning duns appeared, and Brandon switched us back to double dries with a pale morning dun comparadun paired with a chubby Chernobyl. My fish count surged to twenty-one by the time we paused for lunch at 1:30PM at Wagon Wheel Gap.

PMD Comparadun

Chubby Chernobyl on the Point

After lunch Dave G. and I switched positions in the boat, and we continued presenting double dries. During this afternoon time frame the most productive fly was a size 12 parachute adams. The water type that delivered the most fish was tight to the bank with moderate depth and velocity. Casting to bank side pockets next to large rocky structure was particularly advantageous. All the trout landed were browns except for two rainbows. The standard size of the fish was 13 – 14 inches, but I also landed a decent number of trout in the fifteen to eighteen inch range, and Dave G boated an eighteen inch beauty.

Showing Off a Fine Brown Trout

A Double!

Monday was a blast, and a thirty-three fish day was certainly a healthy introduction to floating the Rio Grande River. As I curled under the blanket listening to the rain outside our modern cabin on Monday evening, I was filled with anticipation for what Tuesday might bring.

Fish Landed: 33

Entering More of a Canyon