Big Thompson River – 05/13/2013

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Grandpa’s Retreat upstream

Fish Landed: 6

Big Thompson River 05/13/2013 Photo Album

Was my slow day on Friday on the Arkansas River evidence that the delayed snow melt was finally commencing? Was it a lull in the early season insect emergence cycle? Was it an inability of the fisherman to solve the ever changing riddle of trout feeding habits?

With high temperatures projected to reach the 80’s on Monday and a bit of a lull in my workload, I decided to try a different stream and settled on the Big Thompson as the flows were at 103 cfs, and my experience has taught me that this is a decent stream level for fishing. In fact, I researched this fishing blog and discovered that I fished the Big Thompson on May 10, 2011 when flows were 95 cfs, and I landed 13 trout mostly on a beadhead hares ear and a beadhead emerald caddis pupa. On Monday the time of the year and flows matched my 2011 trip rather closely.

Nice Area That I Covered

Nice Area That I Covered

Unfortunately my fish catching experience did not match up as favorably. I fished intensely from 11AM until 4PM and landed six fish and all but one were brown trout with one rainbow in the mix. I couldn’t find a fly or combination of flies that produced consistently during this time period, but I certainly experimented with a number of standby patterns. I began with a pool toy trailing a beadhead hares ear and had a few momentary hook ups on the hares ear. The pool toy eventually became quite water logged so I swapped it for a Chernobyl ant. I noticed some BWO’s emerging early between 11:30 and 1:00PM and tried a RS2 and then a soft hackle emerger. Eventually I spotted some rising fish and tried a CDC BWO and pricked a couple fish. When the rising ended I decided to stay with a single dry and tied on a olive brown deer hair caddis and managed to land a pair of browns.

Small Rainbow Typical of Monday Catch

Small Rainbow Typical of Monday Catch

This success didn’t last so I experimented with a larger stimulator with an olive body and this produced no interest. I remembered that during my 2011 visit I used a yellow Letort hopper trailing a beadhead hares ear or beadhead emerald caddis, so I tried these combinations. The emerald caddis produced one brown and a rainbow and one small brown actually rose and slurped the yellow hopper. I covered a lot of water with the hopper/dropper and went through a period where the hopper was attracting refusals, so I reverted to the olive brown caddis and landed my last small brown.

I probably had an equal number of fish that were hooked for a moment and then escaped, so the action was somewhat better than the fish count would indicate. Despite this, it was a slow day and I could never find a fly that produced in a consistent manner. Perhaps the warm air temperatures and sunny skies were the main reason, but I think I am going to rest my arm and body for a bit and focus on gardening before returning to my fly fishing passion.

 

Arkansas River – 05/10/2013

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Lunch Rock and downstream to nearly Wellsville Bridge

Fish Landed: 7

Arkansas River 05/10/2013 Photo Album

With the pre-snowmelt season winding down, I planned yet another trip to the Arkansas River in hopes of intersecting the caddis hatch. I hoped to travel on Thursday evening and set up my two person tent in one of the riverside campgrounds, but the precipitation and cold temperatures prevented this plan from becoming reality. Instead I got up early and managed to leave the house by 6:45 thus missing the rush hour traffic. I cruised through South Park on dry bare roads, but it was evident that the recent rain in Denver added more snow to the high country snowpack. The peaks above timberline were pure white and probably hold more snow on May 10 than they had over the entire winter season.

It was 45 degrees when I arrived at the pullout by lunch rock as I planned to experiment with the stretch of water between lunch rock and the Wellsville bridge. I visited this area in the fall and had some success but I was foiled in my attempt to fish the opposite bank by a thunderstorm that forced me back to the car. I pulled on my fleece and raincoat and strung my Sage four weight and headed down the shoulder of the road to a point where the top strand of barbed wire was removed from the fence thus enabling me to carefully climb over and descend to the river. I reached the point where the river split around a long narrow island and waded across the shallow wider channel closest to me. At this point I decided to walk to the downstream point of the island and explore the smaller braid.

The water was up a bit from what we encountered on Saturday and stained a light olive, but visibility for the fish was still adequate. Because of my success on Saturday with the dry/dropper rig and the continuing low flows I elected to go with the dry/dropper configuration and tied on a tan pool toy and below that knotted a beadhead bright green caddis pupa and a beadhead prince nymph. I thoroughly covered a nice deep pool at the bottom of the braid with no success and then moved to a nice run towards the top of the braid. It was here that I spotted a couple looks from trout that rose toward the surface and inspected the hopper but then returned to their position. This wasn’t a good sign. I continued a bit further and finally experienced a hook up with what felt like a decent fish, but it shed the hook after a thirty second connection.

When I reached the top of the island I encountered a very long deep pool so I climbed up on the rocks on the bank opposite the road and negotiated my way up along the pool. It was slow going as the bank was steep and comprised of loose gravel and I had to frequently climb and descend to get around the rabbitbush occupying the arid soil. After doing this for thirty or forty yards, I paused and spotted a nice rainbow very tight to the rocks along the shore. I dropped a few short casts above the fish, but apparently I startled it and could no longer spot its position. However, as I looked upstream, I noticed a rise in a small slick next to the bank where the current deflected from the rocks back toward the river. It was still quite sunny and before noon, so I was curious to observe what these fish might be interested in. I looked at the water more closely and as I did this spotted a couple small blue winged olives on the surface and then two or three fish magically appeared in the small area where I’d seen the previous rise. They were hovering a foot or so below the surface and finning up to snatch tiny morsels on fairly regular intervals.

Scene of Some Dry Fly Action

Scene of Some Dry Fly Action

I clipped off the pool toy and nymphs and tied on my trusty CDC BWO and lofted a cast toward the pod of fish. Unfortunately as the hatch began some clouds blocked the sun’s rays and the wind kicked up. This happened on Saturday as well and I’m curious to know how the BWO’s know to anticipate the cloudiness and wind. I continued to work out line and extended my casts by compensating for the wind with more power on the forward stroke and shooting further up above the fish. Eventually I got the fly to land in the middle of the small pool and as it drifted a foot or two a small whirlpool appeared where one of the trout sucked in the imitation. I set the hook and the rainbow did an immediate tail dance and then shot across the river a bit before it paused and I applied some side pressure. I was able to gain some ground before the rainbow sensed it was getting close to me and my waiting net at which point it bolted downstream and peeled off line at an alarming rate. Just when I thought I’d have to follow it downstream over the rocky shoreline, it stopped and I furiously reeled up line.

Same Fish Held in Net

Same Fish Held in Net

A couple more shorter runs ensued, but I finally managed to net the fish. Unfortunately I was in an awkward position and I couldn’t find a flat surface to photograph the silvery beauty so I snapped one photo while it rested in the net and followed that with a photo while I gripped it through the net. It was a thrilling first catch of the day. After I dried the CDC BWO and fluffed the wing I gazed back at the small pool and sure enough spotted a rise. Luck was on my side and the fish had resumed feeding, so I shot my fly higher up to the top of the pool as the two visible fish were above the position where I’d hooked my first victim. After numerous unproductive drifts I spotted a sip in the vicinity of my fly and raised the rod tip. Whoosh! Another rainbow shot toward the main current and put on an aerial display with several leaps above the surface. This fish put up an equally valiant battle compared to his brother, but eventually I landed and released the fine finned warrior. The second rainbow was probably fifteen inches in length and equally powerful.

Once I was ready to resume fishing I spotted a third remaining fish make a quick rise to snatch a BWO. I dried my fly and flicked a few casts to the area where the remaining fish was working, but after ten or so drifts, I never spotted the fish or another rise, so I tipped my hat and moved on. The sun was bright now and the air had warmed considerably so I removed my top layers and my backpack and sat on a large rock next to the river and ate my lunch. After lunch I resumed my up and down scramble between the river and the railroad tracks until I reached the head of the long pool. I didn’t spot anymore rises and propecting with the tiny BWO always seems futile, so I reverted to the dry/dropper method except I substituted a Chernobyl ant for the pool toy.

I continued with the caddis pupa but replaced the prince with a beadhead hares ear and worked the pockets tight to the bank. When I was opposite and slightly below a pair of fishermen on the opposite bank, I landed a 12 inch brown on the BHHE. I continued on covering quite a bit of water and picked up two more browns on the hares ear using the dry/dropper technique with three flies. It was pretty slow going, but at least I was catching the occasional fish to keep my interest up. Finally I reached lunch rock and proceeded upstream from there to a nice riffle stretch with perhaps three to four feet of depth over a rocky bottom. This type of water always produces on the Arkansas and I did manage to hook a fish that shot to the left toward the middle of the river and shook off the fly.

Stark Beauty of the Arkansas River

Stark Beauty of the Arkansas River

By three o’clock I reached another long slow moving pool and I was looking for faster water with riffles or pockets along the bank. Once again the sun disappeared and a breeze kicked up and I was about to skip the slow water and move up to the head of the pool and try some faster water. As I looked closely at the pool I spotted a decent trout hovering below the surface in front of a large submerged rock. I watched for a bit and I was excited to see the fish rise and sip something from the surface. There were some caddis tumbling on the surface, but then I began to see BWO’s again. I decided to convert back to the CDC BWO and as I worked on removing my flies and tying on a CDC BWO, I noticed some rises near another submerged rock eight feet further downstream.

Now the trick was how to present my tiny fly without drag and accurately to these fish. The wind was once again blowing upstream, and as I cast my fly across, the wind whipped it directly upstream. It was very difficult to see where the fly landed because of its tiny size and because the wind caught it and pushed it further upstream. I continued working to get my fly over the upper fish, and eventually as I lifted to make a cast I felt the weight of a fish. This fish turned out to be another rainbow and it put up a nice fight, but eventually I slid my net under a 14 inch fish. As I netted the fish I noticed a red round object in the corner of its mouth and thought the fish had taken an egg fly, but upon closer inspection I realized that the red growth was a tumor or abnormality of some sort.

Nice Afternoon Rainbow Had Red Growth in Mouth

Nice Afternoon Rainbow Had Red Growth in Mouth

Once I released the fish, the hatch waned and the sun appeared briefly. I worked my way upstream a bit to a nice deep run with a lot of swirly currents. Again I was seeing an occasional caddis tumbling on the surface, so I decided to replace the CDC BWO with an olive brown deer hair caddis. This was much more visible, and I was determined to catch a fish on a caddis dry fly. I began prospecting the seam and run with the caddis, and much to my surprise a brown rose and slurped in the caddis. It was smaller than the rainbows I’d cuaght, but it was still fun to catch a fish on a caddis dry fly. I continued prospecting with the caddis, and once again the sun disappeared and I observed some more BWO’s on the surface. The caddis was not attacting any more interest, and as my watch ticked past 4PM I decided to walk back to a crossing point and return to the car.

It was a slow cool day on the Arkansas River but I managed to land seven fish including three quite nice rainbows that put up strong fights. I have to admit I was somewhat discouraged by the low catch rate and the off colored water. Perhaps I need to rest the Arkansas and look for some action closer to Denver before the snow melt makes fishing difficult.

 

Arkansas River – 05/05/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: Braided area above Pinnacle Rock

Fish Landed: 9

Arkansas River 05/05/2013 Photo Album

The spring weather regressed on Sunday and it was quite chilly so Dave and I decided to enjoy a nice big breakfast and take our time getting to the river. We drove across the highway from our hotel to the Patio Pancake House and managed to arrive before the throngs. I ordered eggs and toast while Dave had something similar with the addition of a slice of breakfast ham. After lunch we began our drive east along the river as our strategy was to go to Texas Creek and hopefully get into the area where the caddis hatch was already in force.

Unfortunately when we arrived at the parking lot in Texas Creek there were four or five cars parked in the lot, so we made a quick U-turn and continued down the highway. When we arrived at the braided area above Pinnacle Rock, there were two cars parked at opposite ends of the long shoulder, so we decided to snag the middle spot and hopefully find some space away from the other fishermen. As we prepared to fish the dashboard thermometer displayed 41 degrees. I was quite chilly with a piercing wind making it seem worse than it was. Dave and I found the nice long deep run next to the highway void of fishermen so we grabbed our positions first thing. Dave remainded on the road side, and I waded across below the pool and worked up the side away from the highway. I began with an indicator, split shot, bright green caddis, and a size 14 prince nymph. My thought process on the prince nymph was that the caddis had already emerged, and I’ve had previous success using the prince to imitate diving caddis behind the hatch.

We shook the vegetation to see how many caddis would escape, but we were disappointed to see very few flying up from the willow branches. As I worked up the deep run with my nymphs I managed to land a small brown on the prince. I was somewhat above Dave G., and he was not having any luck at all with his nymphs. When I reached the top of the long run, I continued on for a bit to some shorter pockets, but again I wasn’t seeing any action. At this point I decided to cut across the willows to see if the north braid was occupied. Sure enough when I pushed away the willows and looked down the north channel, I spotted a fisherman downstream in the area that I like to frequent. I bushwhacked through the willows thinking I’d get above the visible fisherman by 50 yards and begin fishing from there. Unfortunately when I broke through the willows there was another fisherman close to the bank and only 10 yards downstream.

I beat a hasty retreat and began fishing where two braids join, so I was working with less volume than I desired. Over the next 1.5 hours I landed eight small browns in the 8-11 inch range and perhaps one of them reached 12 inches. All the small browns were grabbing the prince and quite a few were hanging tight to the bank in 3-4 foot slots, and they darted from their holding lie to snatch the trailing prince as it swung by. Eventually I caught up to another fisherman, so I plowed through the willows again and came out on the main stem. Here I worked some juicy pockets to no avail and then crossed by a dry creek bed and circled back to the highway.

Pockets and Run Sunday Morning

Pockets and Run Sunday Morning

I walked down the highway a short distance and found Dave back in the deep run where he began the morning, and he wasn’t having much luck so we decided to head back to Denver as I had a 6PM flight to Philadelphia to catch.

Arkansas River – 05/04/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: .2 miles below Fremont – Chafee County line

Fish Landed: 16

Arkansas River 05/04/2013 Photo Album

A month or so ago Dave Gaboury and I made plans to go fishing on the weekend of May 3-5, and we both agreed that the delayed advancement of the caddis hatch due to a cool spring made the Arkansas River the place to be. I took responsibility for lodging and booked us for Friday and Saturday night at the Hampton Inn in Salida, CO. Dave and Beth arrived a bit earlier than expected on Friday night from Kansas City, and we stopped for dinner at the Cherry Tomato in the Park Hill section of Denver. After that we were off on our journey to Salida while Beth navigated to Castle Pines to spend the weekend with some friends.

Saturday morning we ate the continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn to save time and then visited the ArkAnglers fly shop in Salida. The salesperson in the shop was quite bullish on our chances of encountering a decent caddis hatch, and Dave G. purchased some recommended flies. Once we were satisfied with our supply of flies and accessories, we jumped in the Santa Fe and drove east along the river. I was targeting my favorite spot; the boundary of Chafee and Fremont counties, but when we arrived there were three or four cars in the pullout with quite a few fishermen pulling on their waders and rigging their rods, so I proceeded another .2 mile or so and parked in a short pullout in front of a guard rail facing west. I knew we were below the small island that I regard as my favorite spot on the Arkansas River and hoped we could work our way up the river to that location.

The air temperature was probably in the low 50’s but sunny as we prepared to fish, so I zipped on my raincoat to serve as a windbreaker and add a bit of warmth. This proved to be a good move as I wore it the remainder of the day and never felt overdressed and in fact I was quite happy to have it on during several periods of overcast skies and wind. Dave G. and I dropped down a worn path to the river and then decided to cross to the north side of the river, and Dave G. elected to explore going upriver and I went downstream. I’d fished this stretch previously, but never from the north side. After hiking down the bank for 200 yards I cut down to the river a comfortable distance above the next pair of fishermen.

After hearing the reports at the fly shop, I decided to rig up initially with an indicator, split shot, beadhead bright green caddis pupa and a RS2 assuming that I was covering the two most prevalent food sources in the river. It didn’t take long before I lofted the nymphs directly upstream tight to the bank and as they drifted back toward me, I noticed a subtle pause in the indicator and lifted and set the hook in a nice 14″ brown trout. Unfortunately this was not a harbinger of things to come as I continued working the nymphs over the next 1.5 hours with no additional success. All manner of presentation were tested…dead drift, across and down swing, jerky mends, and jigging action on upstream casts.

Dave G. and I had agreed to meet again at 11:30 at the river crossing point, and this worked out nicely as Dave was already there and fishing a nice deep run slightly above the crossing point. I watched Dave G. land a nice rainbow and then snapped a photo of him holding his catch. Dave reported that he was having success with a bright green caddis larva so I swapped the RS2 for a go2 caddis as it sports a bright green body. I decided to cast to a nice deep slot between the shore and a fast run that was 10-15 yards above Dave. Talk about instant gratification; in short order I was attached to a very nice fat rainbow that approximated 15 inches. This renewed my optimism so I advanced up along the north bank to some attractive deep runs below the small island and my revered small right braid.

Dave G. Displays Fine Rainbow

Dave G. Displays Fine Rainbow

I worked the double caddis combination through the normally productive deep runs below the island, but the fish were apparently not interested or focused on a different food morsel. When I reached the very bottom of the braid to the right of the island, I decided to change my approach in recognition of the smaller clear water, and removed the indicator and split shot and tied on a Chernobyl ant. I kept the two caddis flies in place as droppers off the Chernobyl ant. The first shallow run at the tail of the channel didn’t produce, but I shot a long cast to the top of the next long shallow pocket behind an exposed rock, and as the ant drifted halfway through the pocket, it paused and I set the hook. A nice brown trout torpedoed out of the pocket and made a futile attempt to escape. The brown was fooled by the bright green caddis and I now had only three fish landed on the morning, but each was a beauty in the 14 – 15 inch range. At this point I decided to return to Dave G. for lunch as I knew that if I worked further up the right braid I couldn’t stop. In addition more time might allow a hatch to develop before I returned to my holy water.

Dave G. and I grabbed the sandwiches we purchased at Safeway in the morning and found perches atop the high rock wall just below the car. After lunch I asked Dave if he fished the small braid around the island and he said no, it was too small, so I asked if he would mind if I fished it. He indicated no problem so we agreed to meet again at the car at 2PM and I set off to my end point before lunch. When I arrived at the bottom of the right braid I positioned myself at the very tail of the nice long forty foot pool just above the small pockets I fished before lunch. I began with some short casts above the tail with the Chernobyl/dropper combination, but almost immediately I began to notice rising fish. The sky had darkened and the wind picked up and I saw occasional caddis tumbling on the surface in the wind, so I was about to tie on an olive brown deer hair caddis. But wait a minute, now I began to see little BWO’s riding on the surface, and there appeared to be more of them than caddis. In addition the riseforms in the pool were tiny sipping rings, and these are not typical of caddis rises.

I clipped off the dry dropper flies and tied on a size 22 CDC BWO and observed four or five fish rising on a fairly regular basis. After quite a few casts I fooled a decent 13 inch brown that engulfed my fly directly upstream and just to the right of a large submerged rock. After I released this fish, I began to notice more regular rises in the small current seam that ran through the center of the pool, so I began running my fly along this slow moving current. Initially I pricked a pair of trout and then several refusals added to my frustration. Finally a trout sipped my imitation, but in my zeal to land one on a dry, I set too hard and snapped off the BWO. Next I swapped out my CDC BWO several times as I strived for one with a smaller wing profile.

It took quite a few casts but eventually I noticed a subtle sip on my fly and set the hook. An explosion ensued as a fat brown blasted above the surface and crashed in the pool like a swimmer executing a cannonball. The bruiser moved up and down the pool several times but I eventually applied side pressure and slid my net gently beneath the wide body. What a sag it created! After taking a photo I knelt to remove the fly and noticed it was embedded in the hard lip of the trout with only a tiny 1/8 inch space between the hook and the outside of the bony lip. It was quite a thrill to land this 16″ fat brown on a size 22 CDC BWO.

6 Inch Brown Took Size 22 BWO

16 Inch Brown Took Size 22 BWO

Unfortunately the fight with Mr. Brown scattered the other rises in the pool and while I dealt with my prize, the sun reappeared and the sky brightened and the BWO’s were no longer evident on the surface of the water. I paused before resuming my fishing and tried to spot rises in the top two thirds of the pool or even in the next short pockets, but seeing none I decided to convert back to the Chernobyl ant with a beadhead bright green caddis pupa dropper and then a second fly below that, a Craven BWO soft hackle emerger. I didn’t want to prospect the remainder of the delicious right braid in front of me with the tiny CDC BWO if no fish were visible rising to the surface.

The cycle of heavy clouds, darkened sky and increased wind followed by sun and brighter skies would play out repeatedly over the remainder of the afternoon. Each period of cloud cover and wind was accompanied by another wave of BWO emergence, although they became shorter in duration and the fish didn’t seem to tune in as much to the subsequent hatches.

Meanwhile with the end of surface feeding I again made the conversion to the dry/dropper approach, and it proved to be a stroke of genius. Over the next hour or so I worked up the right channel next to the island and landed six additional fish with perhaps half being rainbows and half browns, and these were not the average run of the mill twelve inch Arkansas River fish. They were bruisers and averaged in the 14-16 inch range. It amazed me how nearly every little pocket and nook produced fish, even spots that I normally would skip, and there were a few refusals and momentary hook ups mixed in with the six landed fish. It was insane how many above average fish this small channel delivered over an hour of fishing, and I didn’t even fish out the entire stretch as I realized I was late to meet Dave G. at our prearranged time of 2PM.

Another 16 Inch Bow, But More Girth

Another 16 Inch Bow, But More Girth

I quickly reeled up and hooked my flies to the guide and skipped to the top of the island and then crossed to the south side between two fishermen, and then practically trotted in my waders to the car. No Dave. Now what should I do? I shouted a few times and hustled down to the large rock overlooking the river where we ate lunch so I could look down the river. Seeing no Dave I remembered he had passed by me on the left side of the island next to the channel where I’d experienced a great hour of fishing, so I decided to walk up the road and scan the river as best I could looking for Dave. I ended up at the pullout at the Chafee – Fremont county line, and hadn’t seen him so I decided to resume fishing although I was feeling guilty about missing our appointment.

I crossed the river at the tail of the long pool by the county line and climbed the bank and walked down the railroad tracks toward the top of the island ahead of where I ended at 2:15. One of the fishermen I’d split on my crossing was now above the braid I was fishing so I cut down to the bottom of a long wide riffle that I like. Sure enough there was Dave G. on the opposite side, and I was quite relieved to find him. He had returned to the car before me, and when I didn’t arrive he returned to the place where I now found him.

It was now 2:30PM and we went through a period of bright skies, but this didn’t last long before clouds moved in and another smaller BWO hatch commenced. I never bothered to switch to dries and kept working the three fly system. In a nce V behind a protruding rock near the top of the riffle the ant paused, and I set the hook and played and landed a nice 13 inch rainbow. For some reason the later mid-afternoon hatch as well as one that lasted longer and began around 4PM did not bring as much action or surface feeding as the first emergence of the day.

I continued moving up along the right bank and eventually discovered a method that yielded three additional fish. I positioned myself eight feet upstream of a large boulder and cast across and allowed my flies to drift downstream and then swing across the cushion that existed in front of the large boulder. Two rainbows and a small brown fell for this ruse and attacked the trailing soft hackle emerger like it was an escaping BWO. I also experienced three or four momentary hook ups using this method. In one memorable case I thought I spotted a faint movement of a silvery ghost a foot below the surface and in front of a rock and slightly to the outside. I made a couple casts that swept short of the mark, but when I executed one with a bit more distance, I saw the ghost emerge and set the hook and felt a momentary weight. While I didn’t land this fish, it was gratifying to spot the movement and then have success with my method. This one got away but I was having enough success to keep things interesting.

Towards the end of the afternoon I was surprised to dupe a thirteen inch brown on the Chernobyl after flipping a backhand cast into some deep water behind a huge vertical rock that formed a barrier to my progression. After this I climbed up and around the rock and spotted some rising fish on the upstream side as a late afternoon BWO hatch reconvened. I managed to land a sixteenth fish on the soft hackle emerger but then switched to the CDC BWO to attempt to fool the risers. Unfortunately the wind picked up and blew straight up the river so that when I cast across the wind just shot my fly upstream and removed any intended slack. In addition I had no idea where the tiny gray winged fly was landing. When I tied on the CDC BWO I noticed a tiny nick in my leader about an inch above the hook eye, but I stupidly chose to ignore it.

I finally got the idea to move below the risers and angled some casts above and to the left of the rise. This worked better for compensating for the wind and sure enough I spotted a rise to my fly. I set the hook and felt the weight for a split second and then it was gone. You guessed it, I reeled up and the line snapped at the point of the nick or abrasion. On that note Dave and I called it quits and returned to the Hampton Inn. It was a fun day and the hour and a half between 1PM and 2:30PM was perhaps the best of the year so far.

 

 

Big Thompson River – 04/29/2013

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: AM in area across from first large turnaround after private section and in PM from Grandpa’s Retreat upstream

Fish Landed: 10

Big Thompson River 04/28/2013 Photo Album

As the first nice days of spring continued through the last weekend of April and into the first part of the week, I felt a strong urge to spend another day on a Colorado trout stream. I had work commitments for Tuesday and a dentist appointment on Wednesday morning, and then the weather was forecast to take a turn to a cold state again, but Monday was open so I announced my absence and planned a fishing trip. The caddis emergence on the Arkansas appeared to be lagging according to the reports from Royal Gorge Angler and ArkAnglers, and I didn’t want to make the long trip again without the strong probability of hitting the major hatch. I had a nice day on the Big Thompson on April 25 and the flows had increased moderately to 53 cfs, so I made Estes Park my destination. Temperatures were expected to hit 80 degrees in Denver, so I expected a pleasant day in the Big Thompson canyon below Lake Estes.

I departed Denver by 9:30AM and took the I25 North route and then cut over north of Longmont to Lyons to avoid the Boulder Turnpike and the associated road construction. I arrived at the river by 10:15 and I was making my first cast by 10:30. I chose a spot perhaps .5-1 mile below where I’d fished on Thursday where there is a large pullout/turnaround on the right side of the highway when traveling east. Once again I elected to fish with my new Orvis four weight and hiked down the road a bit until I encountered a parked car and looked for the associated fisherman. Sure enough another fisherman was located approximately forty yards downstream from the car, so I turned around and descended the small bank and began fishing above the car and slightly below a long narrow island.

Since the Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph combination worked well for me on my prior visit, I tied on the same combination and began prospecting the likely locations. The area below the island offered no interest from fish and then I worked up the narrow right channel around the island. Toward the tip of the island I made a long 25-30 foot cast and as the Chernobyl made a four foot drift toward me, it paused. I lifted my rod and a spunky brown trout bolted downstream and made several leaps. I landed the spunky guy and quickly released it to go on with its humble life. Things were looking promising as I’d landed a fish in the first 15 minutes on a beautiful spring day. Sometimes the early signs can be quite misleading.

With fresh optimism I retreated to the bottom of the island and worked up the wider and deeper left channel. I spotted quite a few fish, but they were showing no interest in either of my offerings. I fished hard for the remainder of the morning and covered all the likely pools, runs, pockets and riffles until I reached a point across and slightly below my car. I had nothing to show for my efforts except a tiring arm and a few tangles caused by the wind. I saw quite a few fish and experimented with many fly combinations including a deer hair caddis, yellow Letort hopper, beadhead hares ear, RS2, and beadhead pheasant tail.

After lunch next to the stream I converted to nymphing with a beadhead hares ear on top and a RS2 on the bottom. There were two very nice deep runs near my lunch spot and 10 yards upstream where I was certain the nymphs would produce, but my confidence was misplaced. I looked upstream and noticed another fisherman had cut in fifty yards above me and I realized I would not be able to progress further in this area. I did manage to land a second small rainbow in a pocket above the deep run, but then I was forced to return to the car and evaluate my next move.

My next move was to drive further downstream and look for open pullouts. Quite a few fishermen were also drawn to the river by the nice weather forecast, but a mile or so of travel yielded a small pullout just before the dirt road that leads to Grandpa’s Retreat. I quickly slipped into the space and grabbed my rod and walked down the road to a point just above the no trespassing signs. I removed the strike indicator and split shot and decided to return to my gold standard; a Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear. Unfortunately the value of gold must have depreciated because these flies were not producing results other than a few refusals to the Chernobyl. Clearly the fish were looking up, but what would make them close the deal? Perhaps a smaller attractor was the answer, and could they be looking for wind blown ants on the surface? I found a lime green trude attractor in my patch and then added a parachute black ant. The white wing of the trude would allow me to follow the two dry flies.

By this time on Monday another huge factor came into play…wind. It had been vexing in the morning, but now the velocity really picked up. In the AM the wind was largely a cross wind, and this made it quite difficult to deliver my flies with any sort of accuracy. In the early afternoon the wind was a headwind and in order to cast my flies, I had to overpower the forward stroke. This allowed me to get the flies upstream, but I couldn’t check my cast and create slack to counteract drag. This may explain my lack of success with dry flies and the greater than normal refusals. The trude and ant combination proved to be no different, and I observed two or three refusals to the trailing ant.

As the afternoon moved along some high clouds blocked the sun and I began to observe some BWO’s ascending from the surface of the stream, and it wasn’t long before I noticed some rising fish. I clipped off the trude and ant and tied on a CDC BWO to see if I could cash in on the surface feeding activity. Unfortunately I lost awareness of my position and hooked my newly tied-on fly high in a tree, and spent a fair amount of time bending the limb down to retrieve it. I moved upstream a small distance and guess what happened? I did it again and scrambled to remove my fly a second time. This removal was much more difficult than the first, and I created quite a tussle with the tree. At last I was free and ready to focus on the rising trout, but as I reached for my plastic floatant dispenser that is tethered by a section of backing and usually lodged in a small pocket on my frontpack, I discovered that it was missing and all that remained was the frayed end of my backing cord. I didn’t relish the idea of fishing dry flies without floatant so I retraced my steps to the scene of my battle with the tree and sure enough found the red capped floatant bottle on the rocks beneath the tree. I knotted the remaining backing cord and resumed my quest for trout. It was proving to be one of those days, and I was mentally thankful that I hadn’t broken my rod or reel, fallen in the river, or punctured my waders.

Typical Rainbow

Typical Rainbow

Finally I was positioned by a nice stretch of river of moderate depth and spotted rising fish. It was still difficult to place my casts with any degree of accuracy using the tiny CDC BWO and without introducing the dreaded drag, but I did manage to land eight trout in the 8-12 inch range between 2PM and 4PM. I discovered that getting above rising fish and making casts down and across and then letting the fly drift downstream to the position of the riser was the most effective method of catching fish. This was easier said than done, however, and not all situations allowed me to execute this technique without spooking the fish.

Fish Taken Tight Against Rock

Fish Taken Tight Against Rock

By 4PM I’d wrestled with a couple more trees and lost a couple CDC BWO’s and the hatch seemed to be waning. I was weary of fighting the wind and the everpresent tangles and tree limbs so I decided to retreat to the car. It was a tough, humbling day on the Big Thompson and I was pleased to have landed 10 fish and not injure myself in the process. I did discover that there are quite a few fish in the stretch from Grandpa’s Retreat boundary back up to where the Big Thompson parallels the highway, and this information will prove useful in the future.