North Fork of St. Vrain – 9/19/10

Time: 12:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Canyon area accessed by Bright Trail

Fish Landed: Dave – 18, Dan 14

North Fork of St. Vrain 09/19/2010 Photo Album

Dan and I planned a hike and fish day a while ago into the North Fork of the St. Vrain. On Sunday September 19 we executed the plan. I had done this hike by myself in September of 2007, but I drove the minivan and, therefore had to park at the beginning of the national forest four wheel drive road and hike a couple miles on the road before reaching the trailhead. The hike out of the canyon in this area is extremely taxing with a steep ascent of a south facing slope.

For our latest adventure, I took the RAV4 so we could drive to the trailhead, and we planned to begin hiking out around 6PM when the sun was lower in the sky. We left Stapleton at around 8:20AM and drove through Lyons then passed Allenspark and turned right on road 84 at Meeker Park. This road twisted around until we reached the Y where the rough forest road would take us to the trailhead. Jane and I had removed all the windows on the RAV for summer, and Jane zipped the side windows back in but left the rear window open. We soon discovered that the national forest road had been graded recently, and that combined with the dry September weather left an inch or so of fine dirt on the surface. As we drove the rough road, the dust began pouring in the rear window and piling up on us and the steering wheel and windshield and every square inch of internal surface area. We created our own depression era dust bowl within the RAV.

In spite of inhaling copious amounts of dust, we managed to arrive at the trailhead. We gathered all our necessary fishing gear along with lunch and raincoats and began the hike down to the stream. The first mile or so is a nice trail through a rolling forested section. The last mile is a steep descent with sliding stones and brittle dry vegetation that grabs your socks and pants. The trail becomes extremely faint near the bottom, so we more or less just cut across the prairie grass to reach the stream. We found a spot to unpack our fishing gear and ate our lunches at around 11:30AM.

Top of St. Vrain Canyon

Dan and decided to cross the stream and hike down the path on the south side and explore that area. On my previous trip, I’d hiked down the north side, but reached a place where the canyon narrowed, and it was difficult to progress further. There was a decent path on the south side that we followed beyond a spot where the stream divided and both channels were low and difficult to fish. Even below the island the stream was low due to September conditions, so we opted to alternate pools. There was a juicy spot directly across from us, so I volunteered to start a bit below that in some shallower riffles that didn’t appear to be as attractive.

One of Dave's Nice Trout

Dan and His Catch

We both tied on Chernobyl ants and trailing beadhead hares ears. I discovered that I’ve used up all the beadhead hares ear nymphs that I tied in the off season. I flicked the Chernobyl and hares ear in some marginal water and hooked and landed a small brown on the first cast on the BHHE. I landed two more browns from the same shallow riffles and then turned the juicy pool over to Dan. I think Dan pulled a small brown from the nice pool, and then we moved on upstream. We continued fishing this way alternating for the next two or three hours.

Dan's Fish of the Day

We set up some friendly competition and began counting landed fish. Dan was doing quite well as I watched him place his casts and cover the best lies and water. I landed a brown that was around 12-13 inches and speculated that would be my largest fish, so Dan photographed the fish and then took a second photo of me holding the fish. It wasn’t too long after that when Dan hooked and landed a fish of comparable size so I returned the favor and photographed his fish and then a fisherman/fish photo. We had each caught around 12 fish when things began to slow down. This was probably around 3PM. I later discovered that Denver set a new high with temperatures reaching 96 degrees on September 19, so it is understandable that the fishing turned off in the mid-afternoon sun.

Dan Pauses in Midst of Working the Stream

I switched to a parachute hopper with a gray body and left off the dropper and managed to pick up six more fish over the remaining two hours, but the catch rate declined considerably. After I had some success, I tied on a parachute hopper for Dan. The shadows began covering the south side of the stream, so the white wing on the parachute hopper proved to be a major aid in following the fly. Dan was fishing along the north side so he was able to see the Chernobyl longer before moving to the parahopper. By 5:30 I’d landed 18 and Dan had netted 14, and we were feeling rather lethargic due to the heat. We had fished upstream beyond the point where we stashed our gear and could smell a campfire, so we stepped up the bank and discovered three guys from Littleton at a nice campsite on the south side. They were sharing some Jim Beam and enjoying their hard earned fire after gathering firewood.

Dan Rests for Vertical Hike Out of Canyon

The shadow was now roughly half way up the steep north slope, and the air had cooled a bit, so we changed back into our hiking clothes, stashed our fishing gear in our backpacks, ate some snack bars, and took some deep breaths and began the climb. I don’t know if it was because I had a companion, or because we waited until the sun dropped, but the climb didn’t seem nearly as difficult as the previous venture. We stopped to rest and catch our breath 6-10 times (Dave was the catalyst for most of the rest stops), and reached the top of the canyon in 45 minutes. The south facing slope was totally covered in shadows by the time we reached the top, and darkness was descending quickly as I switched out my sunglasses for normal lenses.

When we got back to the RAV, we zippered the back window into place as best we could in spite of the thick layers of dust everywhere. We negotiated the four-wheel drive dusty road in the dark, and stopped to celebrate our day and eat dinner at the Oskar Blues beer pub in Lyons. 

North Platte River – 9/16/10

Time: 11:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: End of path on west bank where canyon narrows and bend with three homes on the hillside

Fish Landed: 13

North Platte River 09/16/2010 Photo Album

When I awoke on Thursday morning I was indeed the only camper at Dumont Lake. It was kind of an eerie feeling. I quickly ate, washed up and packed everything back in the car and continued my journey to North Park. I stopped and took some photos of the rabbit ears on Rabbit Ears Pass then continued north into North Park to Walden. I stopped at the North Park Anglers Fly Shop in Walden and talked to the proprietor. He gave me detailed directions to the parking lot at the entrance to Northgate Canyon on the North Platte River. He told me make sure you hike in a ways. “The fishing gets better the farther you go.”

Rabbit Ears Formation Near Pass of Same Name

Nice Small Fly Shop Visited in Walden

I asked about hatches, and he said there were tricos in the late morning, and BWO nymphs were active in the afternoon. He actually said “the canyon is on fire”. At his suggestion I bought his last four sunken tricos plus two beadhead cdc baetis nymphs. With these added to my arsenal and an optimistic outlook I drove another 15 miles to the parking lot at Northgate Canyon. Since I was going to hike a ways, I loaded all my fishing gear in my blue backpack and hiked the trail in my sneakers and jeans. This would prove to be a bit of a mistake.

Fishing Destination Thursday

Beginning of Northgate Canyon

Initially I was flying on the path, but after a half mile or so the path y’d with one leg going down to the river and the other climbing up the steep bank and over a large rock. I tested the path to the river and realized waders were required, so I reversed and stayed on the steep dirt path. I caught up to another fisherman who told me his two buddies were wading down the river and making better time than him. I told him I didn’t think it was possible to wade faster than walk on a path, but eventually I was proven wrong. I continued to struggle on the rough sloping path until I reach a place where a huge vertical rock wall blocked my path on the west bank, and I was forced to put on my waders and cross to continue down the river. The two buddies of the fisherman I passed were visible downstream from my position, so I decided to put on my waders, stash my backpack and fish back upstream from where I was for the next hour or two until I ate lunch.

Canyon Narrows Here

The Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead RS2 remained on my line from Wednesday on the Yampa, so I stuck with the threesome. In a short amount of time I hooked and landed a couple small rainbows after I crossed to the east side of the river. The water I was fishing was very nice with deep pools among large boulders. I worked my way up the left side and landed a couple medium sized browns. Each move upstream brought me to water that was a bit shallower as the river bed spread out. Eventually at around the fifth pool, I encountered an ideal stretch of water with nice runs and riffles around in-stream boulders and water depth of three to four feet.

At this point I’d landed eight fish with several on the beadhead hares ear and the remainder on the RS2. A few of the eight fish were landed at the bottom of the ideal section of water I was currently casting to.

The first thing I noticed when I reached the river were the dense clouds of tricos above the riffles. It was now around noon and strong gusts of wind would occasionally push the trico cloud downstream and above my head. I began to notice sporadic rises, so the tricos seemed to be hitting the water. I quickly opened my fly pouch and plucked a sunken trico then snipped off the RS2 and tied on the trico. I cast this combination to the area I’d seen rises and saw the Chernobyl dip. A hook set response caused me to feel the weight of a decent fish. I fought it back and forth a few times and netted a nice fat brown of around 15 inches. I waded to a nearby rock and rested my rod while I pulled out my camera and then placed the brown on the net on the rock to photograph. But the brown began to flop, and before I could contain it, it got in the water and broke off and stole my sunken trico.

I had three sunken tricos left, and I continued to see rises. I tied another one on and cast to the area of more rises. Wham! A fish grabbed the trico and took off upstream ripping line quickly from the reel. Have you ever noticed some of your fly line looped behind the reel where it attaches to the butt of the rod? Well I noticed this was the case now, but it was too late the line stopped spinning off the reel, but the fish continued and, ping, another sunken trico was lost to a fish.

I found a third sunken trico in my foam pocket and attached it as my third fly. I cast again to the top of the attractive section of water, and once again after a few casts, the Chernobyl dipped and I set the hook and was attached to another nice brown. This one was smaller than the first, and I successfully landed and photographed the brown. This would prove to be the last fish before the trico action died back, and I waded back to the west bank and returned to my backpack for lunch.

Brown Trout Landed on Sunken Trico

The fly shop person’s words continued to play through my head, “The farther you go, the better the fishing.” After lunch I waded back to the east bank and began hiking downstream. There was actually a pretty decent path, and I followed it for perhaps a mile. This probably proved to be a strategic error, but I chalk it up to a scouting expedition. I bypassed some very attractive water in the first .2 miles of where I crossed. There was another shorter stretch of nice water within .5 miles. After that the river was very wide and shallow for quite a distance. I passed by this water and targeted a bend in the river with three or four cabins on the hillside before the bend. The main current ran against the west bank and there were numerous boulders protruding near shore.

This water was fair, but in retrospect, not nearly as attractive as the section I fished in the morning and the sections I passed by. There was very little structure and I had to blind cast to a lot of area. It didn’t take long, however, before a small rainbow grabbed the RS2. Shortly thereafter, the Chernobyl plunged a couple times and I hooked fish that felt heavier, but these ended up being long distance releases from the small RS2. After this flurry of action, I began to notice some sporadic rises, so I switched to a CDC BWO, but this proved fruitless. I saw a few small mayflies dancing on the water when the rises occurred so perhaps my fly was too large or didn’t match. I should have tried the sunken trico, but it’s too late now.

Eventually I switched back to the RS2 and when I got to the last decent riffles above the rocks along the west bank, a fish aggressively grabbed one of my submerged flies and raced away. I pressured the fish back and forth until I could see it was a large rainbow clearly in the 15-20 inch range. When the rainbow was 15 feet above me, I counted number 12 in my head, but it made a sudden spurt downstream and swam right between my legs. I should have grabbed my net and put it between my legs, but I didn’t have enough presence of mind. The Chernobyl hooked into the neoprene gravel guards on my waders and the monster rainbow was free.

I crossed back to the east bank and hiked back up the path beyond the wide shallow barren water and eventually reached the two sets of attractive water below my lunch spot. The water was now in shadows from the steep canyon walls and it was between 4 and 5PM. I managed to land a couple small rainbows in the riffles, but lost my ambition and decided to cross back, gather my backpack, and head back to the car and then to Denver for a hot shower and a good night’s rest.

Nice Colorful Rock Formation

Shadow of the Canyon

I caught up to one of the threesome that hiked in ahead of me, and he was positioned in the ideal water I’d fished just before lunch. He told me he’d been in the same spot most of the afternoon and hooked at least fifty fish, but didn’t land them all. He suggested that the spot held an infinite number of eager fish. He was throwing a beadhead nymph with a non-beadhead RS2 and a yarn strike indicator.

I can only dream about fishing the attractive rocky riffle water in the afternoon and running the RS2 deep through the pools and runs with a swinging motion and lift at the end of the drift. It will happen on another day. 

 

Yampa River – 9/15/10

Time: 12:00-7:00PM

Location: In Steamboat Springs near ice arena then Stagecoach Tailwater

Fish Landed: 10

Yampa River 09/15/2010 Photo Album

My original plan suggested driving out of the Flattops on Wednesday morning to North Park and then through Walden to the North Platte River at Northgate. However while reading my Colorado fishing guide book one evening, I read the section on the Yampa River. I would need to pass close to Steamboat Springs on my trip, and I’d fished the Stagecoach tailwater several times, and loved it. The book said the Yampa had one of the best fall BWO hatches in the state. I modified my plan to fish the Yampa then camp in one of the three campgrounds along Rabbit Ears Pass on Wednesday night.

I ate breakfast and packed up quickly to get an early start. But as I was finishing the packing and getting ready to depart I heard this loud bleating punctuated by occasional whistling. The campground hostess came by and informed me that a sheep roundup/drive was taking place. I asked her if I could drive through it, and she said, “Yes, but slowly”. She was worried about the sheep crapping in the campground. I jumped in the van and drove to the entry lane to the campground where I found sheep everywhere along with the herding dogs, guard dogs, and the shepherds and their horses. Apparently they were young guys from Chile who spent the summer in the mountains while watching and caring for the sheep.

Sheep Being Driven Down the Valley by Campground

Sheep Herding Dog

Horses of Sheep Herders

Need a Sweater?

I took a movie and a bunch of photos and slowly moved into the herd. Fortunately they were almost beyond the entrance road, so I was clear of the sheep and on my way fairly quickly. The road was littered with sheep manure, so I now understood what the hostess was concerned about. As I was driving back road 8, I spotted a colorful pheasant-like fowl on the left bank along the road and stopped to photograph it. I’m guessing it was some sort of grouse.

Grouse Along Road

When I turned on to the road that would take me over the two passes, I stopped at several overlooks to photograph the Flattops Wilderness landscape and also to capture some of the fall foliage that was already brilliant at some of the higher elevations. On my exit trip I ran into two additional sheep herds being pushed down the road and had to slowly move through them as they parted to the side of the road. I was making the shepherds earn their pay as they had to round them back up again to the roadway. Apparently I chose to travel on Colorado sheep roundup day.

Chinese Wall in Distance

Aspen Leaves Changing at High Elevations

I decided to pass Stagecoach and go to Steamboat first to buy ice for the cooler, top off the gas tank, and visit a fly shop for information. The main street in Steamboat was under construction, so it was difficult to get from the north side of town to the south side. I parked the van near the convenience store where I bought ice and gasoline and walked to the south side and then a couple blocks to the fly shop on Yampa Street. I learned that the BWO’s were not yet hatching, there were some tricos in the late morning, and afternoon fishing tended to be slow. The young man behind the counter suggested fishing in town until around 4PM then driving to Stagecoach for the evening.

I went back to the van and found a place to cross to the south side and parked on the south side of the river in the ice arena parking lot. There was another fisherman in the area above the bridge where I planned to start, so I walked up along the railroad tracks on the south side of the river 50 yards or so and entered there. Steamboat Springs has done a lot of stream improvement in town creating very nice runs and pools and a lot a slicks and pockets behind large boulders. I was at the east end of town near where all the stream improvement ended. I started across from a huge deep hole where the water eddied back toward some large boulders. I kept the Chernobyl ant on with a BHHE and began casting. Much to my surprise a medium size brown charged up and inspected the Chernobyl, and then I spotted a quite large fish move up from the depths to within a foot or so of the attractor. But I couldn’t induce either fish to take. The smaller fish actually bumped it a couple times.

I moved on to the next attractive area where a long deep run created a soft shoulder 20 to 30 yards long. I methodically cast the two flies along the seam and then over closer to shore. One-third of the way up, a trout surface and grabbed the Chernobyl, but when I set the hook, the fish slipped off as quickly as it emerged. Next I moved upstream to where two channels of roughly equal size merged. I believe this was two braids of the Yampa separated by a wide island. I stayed to the right and discovered a huge hole below a railroad bridge. I worked this very attractive water to no avail. The next section of water was a long smooth pool, and there were fish occasionally dimpling the surface. I half heartedly began casting my huge Chernobyl in the smooth pool without structure, and as I was doing so the frequency of rises increased particularly along the right bank midway through the pool. I cast the Chernobyl to the spot where I’d seen a couple rises at the downstream end of the area but not even a look. I clipped off the two flies and tied on a parachute ant, and a fish swam up and inspected but did not take.

As I observed, there were three or four browns stacked up in a row along the bank rising fairly regularly now sipping in something. I stared at the water near me but couldn’t find anything significant that might represent food. I tried a CDC BWO and a light gray comparadun to no avail. In retrospect I’m wondering if they were sipping a sparse trico spinner fall even though it was after noon. The rising slowed down and I finally abandoned the pool and the fish and headed up to the railroad tracks and used it as an expressway to return to my starting point. Additional fishermen now occupied the upper stretch where the river came back together below the island. I jumped back in at the deep pool/eddy where I’d interested two trout earlier and gave it another try. This time I couldn’t get the large fish to show. I tried switching flies and removed the Chernobyl and BHHE and started trying other attractors. First I tried a yellow Letort hopper, and it wasn’t floating well so I removed and tied on a bushy caddis. Again no interest so I replaced with a royal stimulator. On around the fifth drift the smaller brown came up and nosed the fly and I set the hook and had a momentary hookup, but that was it. I now decided I need a new approach and fresh water so I decided to continue beyond the bridge where I started to the next bridge crossing. I never made it that far and hopped back in where some stream improvement boulders jutted out in the river and created a flume with some nice slack water behind it. I was now directly across from several restaurants on Yampa Street with dining decks along the river. I returned to the Chernobyl ant with a beadhead hares ear and added a beadhead RS2 in case some BWO nymph activity developed.

My fortunes made a significant improvement. Fish started grabbing the small RS2 aggressively. Between 2:30 and 4:00PM I landed 10 trout; three cutthroats, two browns, and five rainbows. The fishing was extremely hot during this time, and I had quite a few hookups of fish that felt like decent size that I didn’t land perhaps because of the small size 22 RS2 nymph. In one area of riffles of moderate depth I was amazed to hook at least five fish as they attacked the small RS2 practically before it hit the water. Three of the rainbows that I landed were tough heavy 14 inch fish that fought me hard. Most of the fish hit at the end of the drift as the flies started to swing a bit or several times the Chernobyl sank a bit below the surface so I lifted to recast and the fish grabbed on the lift.

Fat Rainbow from Yampa on Wednesday

Toward the end of this time period the rainbows and cutthroats stopped hitting aggressively, and I had to make numerous drifts, but I managed to catch the two browns at the tail of the drift. The final brown was a 15 inch bruiser that took the beadhead hares ear. In fact, both browns took the BHHE, one small cutthroat took the Chernobyl, one rainbow hit the BHHE, and all the other fish slashed and took the RS2.

When I caught and landed the last brown a younger father was fishing above me, and he immediately commented “Nice fish. What did you catch him on?” I told him and circled around and above him. After the flurry of action, I was now bored by the lack of action so at 5PM, I decided to follow the fly shop’s recommendation and drive to the Stagecoach tailwater of the Yampa. Unfortunately the road construction really delayed me, and I didn’t arrive until 6PM.

Another View Upstream of Tailwater

Even this late in the day, the parking lot was nearly full with six or seven fishermen stationed in the prime spots. The reservoir was being drawn down so the flow was higher than I expected. Nymphs probably would have been the preferred method with a RS2 or tiny midge larva, but I thought perhaps I could interest a fish or two in a caddis. I fished several spots for an hour with no success. I didn’t see anyone else around land any fish and I was concerned about driving to a campground on Rabbit Ears Pass in the dark, so I quit at 7PM.

Dumont Lake Campground Thursday Morning

I was planning to camp at the Walton Creek campground right along US 40, but I must have driven past it and missed the sign. I finally saw a sign for a campground, Dumont Lake, so I pulled over and checked my camping book to see how far off the highway it was. 1.5 miles worked and I drove on the paved road to the campground. It was now dark so I picked off the fifth site as it appeared to have a relatively flat pull through for parking the van and sleeping. It didn’t appear there were any other campers, and I had the place to myself. 

 

White River – 9/14/10

Time: 10:00AM – 6:00PM

Location: Snell Creek area

Fish Landed: 16

White River 09/14/2010 Photo Album

Day three on the White River began with some non-fishing excitement. I was eating my continental breakfast (muffin, tea, granola bar, and yogurt) at the campsite when the campground hostess walked by on her morning hike and informed me two moose were visible on the eastern edge of the campground. I grabbed my camera and rushed over to camp site 25. Indeed there was a cow and bull that had moved out of the clearing to the edge of the trees. The cow was a bit more visible as the bull was hidden behind an evergreen so I attempted to snap some photos of the cow. I was amazed by the size of these animals and how black their coats appeared. I got one decent shot of the female stretching her neck to browse on some vegetation. Eventually the bull trotted up by the side of the female. What a sight that was with the big moose antlers protruding above his head. The two of them then trotted up through the woods. Again I was amazed at the agility of these large beasts. All I heard the constant sound of splitting and cracking wood as the heavy beasts crushed the fallen branches under their hooves.

Best Shot Reaching to Browse

Because I was up early and ready, I took a hike around the entire campground loop and ended up talking to the campground hostess for a bit, and then two guys that were camping near the moose sighting. They were postal workers, one retired and the other still working, on a fishing trip similar to mine. They told me they’d caught huge trout on spinners on the White River where the small outlet from Lake Avery joins. I was somewhat suspicious until they pulled me over to their cooler and showed me a 20+ inch rainbow and an even larger brown that they were taking back to Littleton to smoke. This certainly made me think about changing my plan, but I was intrigued about exploring new less accessible water.

I decided I would fish for an hour and a half in the morning near the campground covering the same stretch I’d done on Sunday. This time, however, I’d give streamers a serious test. I’d start at the same place as Sunday, but fish only the deeper holes and runs. At the same time I wanted to look again for my lost net. I still held out hope that I’d left it on the bank and in my haste on Sunday night hadn’t thoroughly covered all the terrain.

I began at the same bend pool and began casting and stripping a black nosed dace. This streamer has the silver tinsel body with black, white and brown bucktail wing. I felt this would be as close as I could come to the basic metal spoons that the postal workers showed me as the source of their great success. I employed this strategy with no success, not even a bump. I tried casting ¾ and swinging, across and stripping, up and bouncing back, and all manner of movement. Finally at a beautiful deep long run that became a pool, I decided to switch to nymphs and go deep. This rewarded my efforts with a big fat mountain white fish on the beadhead hairs ear. I covered the same water as Sunday and then some with no success. It was time for the second phase of my Tuesday strategy.

Start of Fishing on Tuesday at End of Island

I’d read that Snell Creek offered another access to the White River and it was not too far from the campground. I’d driven by several times and scouted it out. The challenge was that where the creek entered the White River, there were extremely steep banks along the road. Above the entry point of Snell Creek the White River flowed through wilderness as the road took a big curve to the northeast and there was a sizeable hill in between the road and the river. This whole stretch had to receive light fishing pressure. There was perhaps 1 mile of water below Snell Creek before a long private stretch that was well marked with sturdy fences clearly making this off limits.

Island in White River

I drove east and found a small two track lane just beyond the private land. The lane was very rough and hadn’t been driven in some time, but I could hike down the single tracks and it was the least steep access to the river. My exit strategy was to wade up Snell Creek, although it was probably .3 miles from the mouth to the point where it intersected with the road with steep hills on both sides.

Steep Bank Makes Fishing Access Difficult

When I got down to the river it seemed smaller than I expected, but I began fishing with a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. Almost immediately I landed a brook trout and then two hot rainbows in the 13 inch range. The rainbows fought hard and made several charges up and down the river. They packed much power for their size. As I moved up the stream I realized why it seemed small as I reached the junction with another braid at the top of an island. Once I met the joined river, it represented a nice size spanning perhaps thirty feet in most places.

Nice Rainbow Early Tuesday

I fished the Chernobyl ant and BHHE the remainder of the afternoon and landed 16 trout in total. Two were brook trout, two pure cutthroats, and twelve rainbows. The rainbows were decent fish mostly in the 12-14 inch slot with perhaps one 15 incher. I need to measure my new net dimensions. I learned pretty quickly that the short pockets were barren, but any run or pocket with decent length and depth yielded fish. This meant I covered a lot of distance between the ideal water types. This also meant I fished all the water up to Snell Creek and quite a distance up into the wilderness away from the road. I probably caught 75% of the fish on the Chernobyl and 25% on the hares ear. As great a day as I experienced, it could have been even better as I lost three additional nice rainbows. Two broke off the Chernobyl and the other came free after running downstream and then making a sudden U turn.

Head of Productive Nice Run

Only Rainbow Landed Out of Three Hookups in Nice Run

One of the most memorable spots was a delicious deep run that fed a nice pool not too far below the confluence with Snell Creek. In this one spot I landed my largest fish of the day and had one break off then leap above the water twice after the break off. A trout was the one that ran to the fast water below me then made a sudden turn to free itself.

Closer Shot of Cutthroat

The last fish of the day was also a highlight. Shadows were beginning to lengthen across the stream when I approached a nice riffle section with decent depth. I flicked the Chernobyl upstream and as it drifted back a fish attacked it. I set the hook a played a decent sized fish that fought up and down the run a few times. When I brought it to net I was surprised to discover a pure Colorado cutthroat of around 13 inches in length. I rarely catch pure cutthroats, so to catch one of decent size like this was quite exciting.

Rough Trail Followed on Way Out of Canyon

I was looking for a hatch similar to that which I experienced on Monday between 5-6PM, but it never really materialized. There were a few small midges and mayflies, but no rising fish. Tuesday was warmer than Monday, so perhaps it was delayed more, but I was concerned about getting out of my remote location, so I called it quits and began my exit trek. I had fished up through the valley that was away from the road quite a distance so I climbed up the slope above the streamside vegetation to scrubby grass and sagebrush. I found a faint path and followed it as best I could along the bottom contour of the slope just above the stream vegetation. The path became more pronounced as I moved closer to Snell Creek. When I got near the evergreens and shrubs that surrounded the creek, the path led down to the stream. I now began working my way up the stream actually fishing the pools. But I realized this was taking too long and clipped my flies to the rod guide and got serious about wading and hiking out of the deep river valley. The slope between me and the road was still intimidating.

Waterfall Along Snell Creek Tributary

My Exit Route

I reached a point where there were difficult blockages to wading the stream such as steep rock cascades or large trees spanning the creek, so I climbed up the left bank and fought my way through vegetation on the steep slope with dangerous sliding rocks. I went through the exercise of wading then climbing out and around two or three times. Eventually I managed to reach the point where the creek was close to the road and climbed a twenty foot slope to the road near a cattle guard and then hiked back down the road to the car. It was one of the best days of the year for good fishing and remoteness and adventure. 

White River – 9/13/10

Time: 10:30AM – 6:00PM

Location: Sleepy Cat Ponds area and Himes Peak Campground area

Fish Landed: 27

White River 09/13/2010 Photo Album

I got an early start on the day Monday as I needed to build in a plan to drive to Meeker to buy a new net. Meeker is 32 miles downstream from the North Fork Campground via a twisty road. I found an Ace Hardware store that had a sign for fishing and hunting supplies, and found an Eagle Claw net that I liked. Unfortunately it had an elastic strap to wear across ones shoulder, so I also bought a quick release fastener that would allow me to release the net from my retractor.

Since I was in the downstream area, I scoped out fishing in the town of Meeker, but didn’t care for the character of the water. I then checked out some additional public access points listed in my Colorado fishing book, but none of them appealed to me either. I decided to stop at the Sleepy Cat Ponds and fish the river where it flows past the ponds. I fished this stretch for an hour. There was a nice deep run on the other side of the ponds, and I worked this with the Letort hopper and beadhead hares ear, but had no success. The next attractive water was a wide deep pool, and I covered this with the hopper/dropper rig. I caught one small rainbow too small to count. When I got to the top of the water, I clipped off the hopper dropper and tied on an olive woolly bugger with a black tail. I swung this through the big deep pool from top to bottom, but met with no success.

I moved back down to the nice deep run where I had started and cast and stripped the bugger through this water as well. When that didn’t work, I went to a nymphing rig with a prince nymph and beadhead hares ear, but this was equally unproductive. At around 11:30AM I decided to give up on the big water, and head to the upper North Fork of the White River at Himes Peak, not far below Trappers Lake. I remembered fishing this stretch a number of years ago and doing quite well with attractor flies.

Hunting Camps Like This Were Everywhere

When I arrived at Himes Peak after a 40 mile drive, the parking lot was crawling with hunters wearing orange coats and orange hats. I was actually a bit concerned that with my subdued clothing, I might be mistaken for game prowling the streamside. I quickly ate my lunch and hiked down the trail that led to the North Fork. I noticed a significant number of blow downs, dead trees that had blown down across the stream.

Many Deadfalls to Work Around

I removed the nymphs I’d experimented with on the lower river, and tied on the bushy caddis that had brought me refusals on Sunday. My thought was that these fish would be more receptive to the high floating caddis fly. I worked my way upstream and landed the first five trout on the bushy caddis. Two were brook trout and the others rainbows. It was another blue sky almost cloudless day with temperatures probably peaking in the mid to high seventies. I lost the bushy caddis on a tree branch, so looked through my cylindrical box of attractors and pulled out a wulff style fly with a red body. I landed a couple rainbows on the wulff, but it wasn’t producing to my satisfaction in some very attractive fishy spots, so I removed it and tied on a Chernoyl ant with a beadhead hares ear dropper. I love the Chernobyl for this type of fishing because its foam construction allows it to float without false casting. I can just flip the flies ahead into likely lies and cover a lot of stream.

Nice Brookie in New Net on Monday

As it turned out, this combination was a major producer. Up until the last hour, I landed another 17 trout on the Chernobyl/BHHE combination. From 2-4, the Chernobyl was attracting fish, and then from 4-5 the beadhead hares ear kicked in and became the top producer. I’m not sure if it was a function of the time of day, or whether I was moving further away from the campground, but the fishing got very hot between 2:30 and 3:30. The rainbows were surprisingly nice fish averaging 10-12 inches and quite chunky.

Pretty Spots on This Rainbow

Wildfire and the Pine Beetles Create Toothpick Forest

Pretty Rainbow Liked Chernobyl

Action slowed in the last hour so I switched to an olive caddis and managed to land one on that offering. Between 5 and 6 some a nice little hatch of small mayflies took place. I tied on a light gray comparadun and landed a brook trout and cutbow in a little pool where I spotted a few rises. 

White River – 9/12/10

Time: 4:00 – 7:00PM

Location: Across from North Branch Campground

Fish Landed: 6

White River 09/12/2010 Photo Album

Each year in roughly the second week of September I’ve traditionally taken a fishing/camping trip through some area of Colorado. Jane can’t understand how this is fun. I remove all the seats from the minivan and sleep there surrounded by my other camping supplies and fishing gear. Sunday marked the beginning of this annual road trip for 2010. My plan called for driving to the White River in the Flattops Wilderness on Sunday, fishing in the White River Monday and Tuesday, then driving to the North Platte and fishing there Wednesday and Thursday, and finally stopping and fishing the Colorado River on the way home on Friday. As you’ll see it didn’t quite work out that way, but was fun nonetheless.

View from Dunckley Pass

 

The drive to the Flattops Wilderness is a long and relatively difficult one that involves a 41 mile stretch on a dirt road over two mountain passes, Dunckley Pass and Ripply Creek Pass. It takes around four hours. I arrived at the White River at around 3:30 and snagged a nice campsite number 31 there. There were around four or five other campers, some hunters and some fishermen. I met Ralph, the campground host, almost immediately and got to know him pretty well over the next couple days. He was a Vietnam veteran and possessed a booming baritone voice.

Western Scene on Route to Flattops

 

By the time I paid for the camp site and unpacked a few things, I was ready to fish at around 4PM. Ralph told me there was a 3-4 mile stretch of water open to the public across from the campground, so I decided to give it a try on Sunday evening. I drove down the lane to the campground, and then made a right turn and parked a short distance away by some old horse or sheep corrals. I hiked a short distance across some sagebrush and dropped down to the river. There was a nice bend pool just above where I entered, and I immediately landed a rainbow and brook trout on the beadhead hares ear nymph dropped off a yellow Letort hopper.

Bend Pool Where My Fishing Began

 

In short order I landed another small rainbow on the beadhead hares ear, but then I went through a lengthy dry spell with no action. After perhaps an hour of no fish on my line and covering quite a bit of water, I tied on bushy size 14 caddis with a palmered body. Several fish refused this, and after several rejections, I switched to a smaller sparse size 16 olive deer hair caddis. Over the remaining hour I landed a brook trout on the olive caddis, and then two nice 12 inch cutbows (pink stripe of rainbow, but orange slash under mouth like cutthroat). When I attempted to net the second cutbow, I discovered I no longer had a net on my back.

Decent Cutbow befoe Losing Net

 

I retraced my steps to where I’d landed the first cutbow to photograph, but couldn’t find my net. I must have dropped it in the water as I worked to release the fish, and it was no longer tethered to my retractor. I was pretty upset to start my week long trip by losing my net in the first three hours of fishing. 

Arkansas River – 9/9/10

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Chafee-Fremont County boundary

Fish Landed: 10

Arkansas River 09/09/2010 Photo Album

With the Labor Day weekend behind me, and the fantasy football draft history, I was feeling the itch to explore some Colorado streams again. It was September 9 and the nights had grown perceptibly cooler. I checked the reports and decided to give the Arkansas River a try. Historically I’ve experienced some great September fishing on the Arkansas.

Rabbitbrush in Bloom

 

I arrived at the river and parked at the wide pullout just beyond the Chafee-Fremont county border sign, and I was ready to fish by around 10:30AM. I crossed the river (380 cfs) at the tail of the long pool beneath the pullout, and then hiked down the railroad tracks on the north side of the river to my traditional beginning point below a small island. I tied on a size 12 parahopper with a gray body and added a beadhead hares ear (BHHE) 2.5 feet below the hopper. I began prospecting a nice run and within 10 minutes landed a small rainbow on the trailing BHHE. I kept moving up the river a few feet at a time and cast the double presentation upstream. Around half way up to the island, the hopper dipped and I set the hook and played a feisty fat thirteen inch rainbow to my net.

Chunky Rainbow

Next I began working the right side of the island. This has traditionally been my favorite stretch of the Arkansas River. The right channel has several cascading small pools at the end before merging with the main channel, then a smooth pool that is fed by a deep run down the middle, then another series of small pools before reaching the top of the island. I began by probing the small pools at the bottom and spotted a couple fish flash toward the hopper but then drop back to a position on the bottom. I covered the three or four pools but then noticed a small one along the north bank tucked behind a tumbleweed that had become lodged against a protruding boulder. The pocket was only five feet long at most. I looped a cast around the tumbleweed into the short pocket and noticed two fish move toward my flies. I set the hook and was surprised to be attached to a beautiful 15 inch brown. The brown bolted downstream a bit then came up behind me before finally succumbing to my pressure and splashing into the net.

Tumbleweed Brown

 

Next I worked the smooth pool area and again noticed a refusal or two to the parahopper. When I moved up higher in the pool and cast to the center current, a brown grabbed the BHHE and I landed another fish. Next I encountered a nice little wide but short pool with several protruding boulders that the deeper current swirled around. Initially I worked this pool and experienced a refusal, but then I created a tangle. Amazingly after I rested the water while I untangled my line, and then began casting again, the fish turned on to my BHHE. I was casting a very short line and holding my rod high with only the flies and leader touching the water. Using this technique I extracted four brown trout from the small pool in a half hour. The fish were decent size averaging around 12-13 inches and fat and chunky. Perhaps this was going to be one of those days.

Pool on Right Channel

 

Toward the top of the right channel I had several refusals to the hopper in very shallow water. I could see these were decent sized browns lurking in very shallow lies. I’d now exhausted the opportunities in the right channel, so I crossed over the river to a nice spot that is only fishable late in the season when the flows are down. The river cuts against a large vertical rock, and there are nice riffles above the rock and then a nice smooth run with some depth along the rock. I had two momentary hook ups in this area, and then decided to follow a path up along the large rock to the road and return to the minivan for lunch.

Path to River Along Large Rock

 

After lunch I returned to the same spot and waded back to the north side of the river. In some fairly shallow riffles along the bank where the river begins to divide around the island, after making some fairly long upstream casts, I flipped the flies into some very shallow water. As I watched with little expectation, a beautiful rainbow finned up and slurped in the hopper. This proved to be a hot fish that made numerous charges out toward the middle of the river before being subdued and cradled in my net. My expectations for the remainder of the day were now sky high.

I methodically worked my way up along the right bank and prospected all the likely pockets, pools, slots and slack areas for the next three hours. Elation transformed into frustration. I observed numerous refusals, but the fish no longer showed any interest in the beadhead nymph. I tried to analyze why fish were attracted to the parahopper but wouldn’t take it, and began switching out the top fly. I tried a yellow Letort hopper, a smaller parahopper, a small stimulator with a green body, and a royal stimulator. I also began switching the trailing nymph and eventually settled on a beadhead pheasant tail. Finally perhaps around 3PM in a short deep pocket a fish aggressively hammered the BHPT and shot toward the heavier river current. I fought this fish and eventually landed a fat 14-15 inch rainbow. That was my tenth fish and only second of the afternoon. By 4PM I was bored by the lack of action and decided to quit for the day.

I was encouraged by the number of fish I saw during the day. I believe some fantastic fishing on the Arkansas River lies ahead as the temperatures cool a bit and the fall BWO hatch develops. I was amazed at the number of large fish I spooked from extremely shallow lies along the bank. I generally fish the edges more than most fishermen, but this was water that even I wrote off as not containing fish. Visualizing these large fish sipping BWO’s in shallow lies along the edge during cool fall days gets the juices flowing.

Frying Pan River – 9/5/10

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Across from spring then island area below mile marker 12

Fish Landed: 18

Frying Pan River 09/05/2010 Photo Album

On Sunday morning Jane and I packed up the tent and all our camping gear early. Jane wanted to get back to Denver early, so we drove to the spring along the Frying Pan together where Jane filled her water bottle and departed for home. I planned to fish the Frying Pan on Sunday and return later, so I parked at the spring and prepared to fish across from the spring in the morning. I tied on a parahopper and beadhead hares ear then RS2 and waded below the line of trees between the road and river. I fished the pocket water then worked my way across and covered some attractive runs along the south bank. I couldn’t entice any action over the following 1.5 hours, so I waded back to the road and drove back toward the dam at around 11:30.

Spring Along the Frying Pan River

The upper Frying Pan appeared to be quite crowded on Sunday, with fishermen occupying all the nice locations. I hoped to fish the long run at the western boundary of the public water, but several fishermen occupied this desirable location. In addition a family with a guide was entrenched above the long run in the pool area next to the pullout. I decided to eat my lunch and observe the river for openings. While sitting on the bank, I could see the family and guide below me. I also spotted a medium size brown in a narrow slot between some heavy current and the bank right in front of me.

When I resumed fishing, I floated my three fly combination through the slot where I ate lunch and momentarily hooked the brown I’d observed. I concluded I could work my way upstream from that point and fish the obscure slots and pockets at the bottom of the island and then head up the right channel and see if any fishermen occupied the sweet pool below the large cube rock at the head. I landed four small brown trout in the pocket water below the island and then on the lower end of the right channel around the island. I was amazed to discover no fishermen in the nice run and pool below the large rock, so I positioned myself at the tail. I expected another fisherman or two to come crashing through the willows at any time, but it never happened.

Cube Rock Pool on Sunday

Initially I spotted some fish toward the tail of the pool and attempted to entice them with the hopper/dropper then switched through a number of flies. But it didn’t take long before some hatching action commenced at around 1:15 or 1:30. There were some clouds in the sky, but it was mostly sunny with gusty winds coming into play occasionally. I was anxious to try the new flies I’d purchased, so I prospected with both before any real hatch activity got underway. I received a couple refusals, but concluded the fish weren’t interested since they hadn’t seen enough naturals yet. When the green drake imitations didn’t work, I switched to the red-olive comparadun that I use to imitate the red quills. I was assuming that these mayflies would appear first. I managed to land a small brown on this fly along the left side of the pool, but the red quills never materialized as they did on Thursday closer to the dam.

Red Quill Comparadun Caught One

In early May I experienced two fantastic days of fishing on the Arkansas River when I encountered the fabled caddis hatch. The next couple hours on the Frying Pan represented a third highlight of the 2010 season. The green drakes began to emerge in earnest at around 1:30. I spotted two rises next to a medium size rock along the left bank. I tossed the purchased flies in this area, but received no attention. What should I do now? The new killer flies weren’t working. I reverted back to the comparaduns that disappointed me on Thursday. I tied on the comparadun with the dark olive sparkle yarn body and fluttered it down to the place where the fish had risen. It worked. I hooked and landed a medium size brown. Next I spotted a single rise in the nervous water at the tail of the riffle where it entered the pool. I popped the comparadun into the riffles and as it floated through the sweet spot it was engulfed by a large mouth. I played the brown and eventually landed it. This brown had a huge hook jaw and measured the length of my net opening, but the hook was embedded awkwardly in the hooked jaw, and when I used my hemostats to remove, broke the point off.

Nice Chunky Brown

For some inexplicable reason, I replaced the olive sparkle yarn comparadun that had just caught two nice fish with a different comparadun. This fly had an exaggerated tall deer hair wing and an abdomen constructed with an olive dubbing and maroon thread ribbing. As it worked out, this proved to be a stroke of genius. I moved up above the pool to the top of the island. There were at least ten juicy deep pockets in this area and I fully expected to bump into other fishermen, but it never happened. The next hour in this area was magical. I cast the comparadun to the pockets and held my rod high so the line didn’t touch the water and introduce drag. In nearly every pocket, one or two fish would magically appear and inhale the green drake that was easily visible with the high wing. It is hard to describe the feeling of confidence one gets when there is a good hatch, and the fisherman has found the imitation that the fish take with confidence. I landed eight trout in this manner, half browns and half rainbows, and the fish were averaging 13 inches in length but well fed and chunky.

Once I’d exhausted all the nice pockets and tasty water at the top of the island I circled back down the road to the car and added a few more of the maroon ribbed comparaduns to my patch. Next I noticed no fishermen in the smaller left channel between the island and the road, so I decided to give that area a test.

Pretty Rainbow

I dropped down the bank to the bottom of the left braid. This water was smoother and slower than the water above, and the green drake wasn’t producing so I switched to a light gray comparadun. My theory was that the pale morning duns generally prevail in late to mid-afternoon after the intense green drake hatch. This proved to be a valid theory, and I landed an additional four trout as I worked my way up the left channel to the top of the island again. The last two were very nice chunky fish, one a brown and one a rainbow that sipped in the light gray dun with confidence in the last two small pools at the top of the channel. I had spotted the rainbow from the top of the island and made several efforts to entice it with casts from above. In this case the upstream presentation worked.

When I reached the top of the island I fished my way up through the fast channel with the light gray dun. I covered the slack water along the edge, but didn’t have any luck. I skirted the bend pool at mile marker 12 and dropped back down to the river above the large flat rock where I’d caught some nice fish last summer. The rock creates a long eddy where you actually have to get on the rock and cast downstream so the eddy brings the fly back toward the rock. I spotted a couple decent fish rising as I walked by on the road, but once I got in position lying on the flat rock, I couldn’t bring any of the fish to the top for my fly. It was now 4PM so I decided to call the day a success and begin the four hour drive back to Denver. 

Frying Pan River – 9/3/10

Time: 12:00PM – 1:00PM

Location: Run at downstream border of public water below dam where two fallen trees span the river

Fish Landed: 3

Frying Pan River 09/03/2010 Photo Album

As I drove back down the road to beyond the dam, I passed Jane on her way to the campground from Denver. I turned around to tell her our campsite number, and she suggested that I needed to quit fishing at 1PM so we could drive to the festival and park and find our way around. This meant I’d have virtually no hatch time on Friday.

I decided to drive to the bottom edge of the public water below the dam and try nymphing the juicy run in that area. I’d eat my lunch when I got back to the campground. I tied on a beadhead hares ear on the top, and then a beadhead pheasant tail on the bottom and began casting three quarters upstream and working the tail of the run. On one of the swings near the tail a small brown nailed the BHHE.

I noticed a couple early green drakes struggling on the surface and followed one to the point where a trout emerged from under the log at the very tail and slurped it in. This prompted me to remove the nymph rig and tie on a green drake comparadun. I cast the dry and gave it a downstream drift to the point where I’d seen the trout rise to a natural. Sure enough it happened again, but this time the brown fell for my fake green drake.

I crossed 2/3 of the way across the tail and then waded up a bit to the far side of where the center current fanned out around some submerged boulders. This was nice deep water that I knew held decent fish. Once again I spotted a solitary rise on the other side of the center current. I cast repeatedly while mending my line to avoid drag from the strong center current. After perhaps 10-15 casts, a rainbow rose and snatched my green drake. It was now 1PM, so I quickly waded back to the more shallow tail and crossed back to the bank and road.

Jane and I enjoyed the concert immensely on Friday. People-watching the entire Aspen crowd was almost as interesting as the music. It was quite hot in the late afternoon sun, but by the time Wilco emerged on the stage, we were putting on our ski caps, gloves and multiple layers.

Devotchka on the Stage

The next morning after breakfast, Jane and I packed all our hiking belongings into the RAV and drove out the road that parallels the upper Frying Pan and then does switchbacks on an old railroad bed to the trailhead for a hike to Lyle Lake and Mormon Lake. We’d done this hike numerous times, and Jane wanted to accomplish it as a milestone after her hip replacement surgery. She did it, but did experience some soreness over the last .5 miles.

Dave Rests on Steep Ascent

Numerous Trout Rose Behind Dave at Mormon Lake

After the hike we drove back to Basalt to buy some ice. I stopped at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop and bought six green drake dry flies since I wasn’t happy with the effectiveness of my comparaduns on Thursday, and I planned on spending Sunday on the Frying Pan again. After buying the flies, Jane and I had drinks and appetizers at the Riverside Bar and Grill next to the Frying Pan River in Basalt.

Jane Relaxes at Riverside by Frying Pan

Purchased Green Drake Slayer

Purchased Green Drake Fly

Upper Frying Pan River – 9/3/10

Time: 10:00AM – 11:30AM

Location: Thomasville lime kilns to bridge

Fish Landed: 7

Upper Frying Pan River 09/03/2010 Photo Album

Friday was Jane’s birthday, and she would be arriving around noon and then we planned to attend the Aspen Snowmass Jazz Festival. The first band performed at 4PM, the second at 6PM and Wilco, the main act, at 8PM. I assumed we would need to leave by around 3PM, and I could fish until 2PM. This would allow me to experience the early phase of the hatch assuming it materialized similar to Thursday.

I formulated a plan to fish the upper Frying Pan above Ruedi Reservoir in the morning while the water below the dam was still cold, then reverse tracks and hit the tailwater from noon until 2PM. It almost worked this way. I drove along the reservoir then up the road along the stream through Meredith and Thomasville. I parked at a large wide pullout across from the Thomasville lime kilns. After putting on my waders and stringing my rod, I scrambled down the steep bank next to the pullout and was on the water just a little past 10AM. I tied on a green body elk hair caddis trailing a beadhead RS2 to begin. This combination was on my line from the end of the previous day. This drew two refusals, so I clipped both flies off and tied on a light gray deer hair caddis. This fly didn’t even prompt any refusals, so I clipped it off and added a yellow sally. The yellow sally received some attention with a refusal. As I was changing flies I was moving upstream through some pretty sweet water and knew there were fish ignoring my offerings.

Thomasville Lime Kilns

I decided I was being too fine, and tied on a Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear. This proved to be my best combination. The Chernobyl ant brought two rainbows to the surface as I hooked and landed my first fish of the morning. Next I spotted a subtle rise on the right side a couple feet out from a rock along the bank. I flicked the combination so the nymph splashed down where the rise was observed, and bam, a brown snatched the nymph.

Nice Rainbow on Friday Morning

I continued moving upstream prospecting with the Chernobyl/BHHE and came to a long smooth pool. Within eight feet of the lip of the pool, a rainbow grabbed the trailing BHHE. The next juicy long pool came behind a cabin. 2/3 of the way up the pool I spotted a trout in the clear water and cast my flies in front of it. The rainbow tipped up and grabbed the Chernobyl, but shook free as I lifted and set the hook.

Sweet Pool on Upper Frying Pan

At the very top of the long pool the current ran against a rock ledge wall on the far side. In the slack water on the near side of the current, I landed three browns on the BHHE as it slowly tumbled along the current seam. It was now approaching 11:15 so I looked for an exit route and quickly found a gap where I could scramble up the hill and then found the road and hiked back to the minivan.