Frying Pan River – 09/23/2013

Time: 11:00AM – 6:00PM

Location: Small island below MM12 up to fast water below MM12; tree rock and angled riffle

Fish Landed: 27

Frying Pan River 09/23/2013 Photo Album

Occasionally the fishing gods smile upon us humble fishermen, and Monday proved to be such a day, but before getting to that part of the story, more on the weather. While sleeping at The Green Drake in Basalt I awoke periodically to the sound of rain pounding down on the roof and as the morning drew near, these periods of heavy rain continued. Would we be able to fish in these wet rainy conditions?

We killed some time by paying for another night’s stay at The Green Drake and then proceeded down the street to Saxy’s coffee shop for some tea. After our morning tea we returned to the hotel and prepared lunches as we were optimistic that the weather would clear based on Jeff’s review of the satellite weather imagery. It remained quite overcast with ongoing periods of moderate rain and drizzle. Next we drove to Aspen to check on a medical issue and then returned and headed back up the Frying Pan River Valley to the upper 2.5 miles below the dam. Here we found a parking place in the large guide lot which only contained two other cars at 10:30 in the morning. Jeff overheard a guide saying that Frying Pan Anglers experienced three cancellations due to the rainy weather, so perhaps the morning rain would keep some of the fishermen off the water.

Upstream View of Right Channel Below Rectangular Rock on Monday

Upstream View of Right Channel Below Rectangular Rock on Monday

Jeff decided to begin fishing near the parking lot, but I elected to walk down the road to the small island just below MM12 where I angled on the path that meets the smooth pool at the bottom of the left braid around the island. At this point I proceeded down the fast water to the bottom point of the island and then began fishing my way up the right channel which contained more favorable volume at the low 115 cfs flow rate. I began once again by prospecting with a green drake and alternated between the size 14 parachute green drake and a size 14 comparadun. I used the parachute pattern with the easily visible white tipped wing post in the faster water and switched to the comparadun in smooth water.

When I arrived at the large pool at the top of the island with the large rectangular rock I substituted an even smaller comparadun for the one that I used previously, and this comparadun seemed smaller than others that I tied because it was not tied on a 2XL hook and it had a lighter tan wing. This comparadun produced far better than the darker winged version and the combination of green drake flies delivered eight fish to my net by approximately 12:30. Meanwhile it was quite chilly but the sky was brightening and the sun peeked through the large puffy gray clouds on a more frequent basis. The weather was changing but presistent wind and breezes were part of the clearing equation.

Nice Chunky Brown From Rectangular Rock Pool on Monday

Nice Chunky Brown From Rectangular Rock Pool on Monday

At around 12:30 a BWO hatch commenced in the large pool and I was still positioned at the tail and continuing to prospect with my green drake imitations, but the fish were either wise to my fraud or had switched to another food source. Within a few minutes the BWO hatch thickened and the pool came alive with rising fish. The fish in the faster current along the main run down the center of the pool rose sporadically and I could see them underwater moving and perhaps feeding on subsurface nymphs and emergers. More of interest to me were two very visible brown trout that began sipping BWO’s along the smoother left side of the large pool where the current fanned  out below a large protruding rock. These fish were directly above my position so I tied on a CDC BWO and began making casts above the two fish. I was careful to shoot my casts high and check them early so the fly fluttered down with plenty of slack tippet. It took quite a few casts and patiently watching these fish snatch natural duns within inches of my fly, but eventually I duped and landed both fish, an accomplishment that I was quite proud of.

Rectangular Rock Pool

Rectangular Rock Pool

By 1PM the BWO hatch had abated somewhat although with the overcast skies it never truly stopped, so I used this period to quickly down my lunch next to the rectangular rock pool. After lunch I waded closer to the top of the pool where the faster water entered and I began to notice a larger mayfly mixed in with the BWO’s. As I looked on I observed a brown trout ten feet in front of me drift back sipping BWO’s and then a larger mayfly fluttered on the suface, and the feeding brown slurped that in as well. Clearly the fish were tuned into this larger mayfly in addition to the BWO’s, and this natural was larger than the BWO’s but smaller than green drakes. I spotted another one drifting on the suface toward me and was fortunate enough to scoop it off the surface with my net for closer observation.

The mayfly appeared to be a size 16 with a light olive/maroon body so I began searching through my fly boxes, especially the two that contain comparaduns that I tied for the many mayflies that hatch in Pennsylvania. Buried along the edge of one of these boxes was a size 18 comparadun with a body blended with light olive and maroon dubbing. The resultant color was a shade of cinnamon with tinges of olive. At this point I thought I had only one of these so I tied it on my line and began to cast it over rising fish. What a choice! Over the next hour and a half I landed twelve nice fish on the one fly wonder, and I was careful to not damage it too much with each release. Several of the fish were in the 14-16 inch range and the remainder were chunky twelve inch browns. At one point I felt abrasions on the tippet near the eye of the hook so I clipped off an inch of monofilament and reknotted the valuable comparadun with smooth line. I rarely pay this much attention to line damage.

This Brown Isn't Missing Any Meals

This Brown Isn’t Missing Any Meals

I moved above the long narrow island and fished the pockets along the left side of the river, but because the flows were lower than normal based on past trips I was able to wade across to the south side and explore new water that is typically out of reach at higher flows. It was in this area between the top of the large rectangular rock pool and one of the larger pools along the right side that I experienced the success with the olive/maroon comparadun.

I Was Attracted to the Small Fin with Brilliant Orange Red Spots

I Was Attracted to the Small Fin with Brilliant Orange Red Spots

There were two nice pools that formed along the south bank where significant current breaks allowed the water to fan out and provide nice feeding stations for hungry trout. The lower pool was smaller and had a branch angling upstream from just below the tail. Here I spotted four or five trout rising regularly and I managed to fool and land several on the size 18 comparadun, but the nicest fish cruised about the pool in a small circle and periodically sipped a fly off the surface. I worked this fish relentlessly, probably longer than I should have during a nice hatch when other fish were more willing to cooperate with my efforts. Unfortunately I couldn’t time my casts, avoid drag and predict where the fish was moving and eventually conceded and moved on.

Just above this smaller pool was the larger wider version and this also contained some visible fish. The most visible was a large fish that resided in a deep depression at the very tail of the pool next to a large rock that extended from the bank. The water in the pool funneled through this narrow deep trough before pouring downstream. I observed this fish rising occasionally, but my magical comparadun was not of interest. At this time I also noticed two green drake naturals on the surface of the water so I removed my valued comparadun (the wing had by now been reduced to a small cluster of five deer hair fibers), and replaced with the size 14 comparadun with the tan wing, and cast to some decent water to my left and above me and landed two medium sized browns.

My eyes returned to the big guy in the trough and again I observed a sipping rise. I ran a few drifts of the comparadun green drake over the large target, but they were ignored. Jeff had given me three green drake flies that he purchased at Taylor Creek Fly Shop so I decided to try one of them on this stubborn fish right in front of me. I nervously removed my comparadun and tied on the purchased version with a tall dark gray CDC wing and yellow hackle wound parachute style around the wing post. This fly looked quite similar to the naturals while on the water as it created the illusion of fluttering movement similar to the ones that floated by.

I flicked a short cast above the fish and as it drifted toward the target, the large fish drifted up and sucked it in! What a visual moment! Somehow I remained under control and waited for a second or two so as not to pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth. Now the battle was on and the rainbow charged up and down the pool and thrashed vigorously from time to time, but much to my relief it never attempted to escape the pool and swim into faster water. I carefully lifted the thrashing fish so its nose was above the water and quickly slid my small net opening beneath the long body and the net bowed out with the weight and length of an eighteen or perhaps nineteen inch rainbow. In addition to the discovery of an effective fifteen year old fly, I had now landed perhaps my longest fish of the summer.

A Green Drake Fooled this 19 Inch Rainbow

A Green Drake Fooled this 19 Inch Rainbow

This pool was actually the last piece of good water along the right side so I backtracked along the bank and crossed above the island and fished the deep pocket above the island on the left side with the purchased green drake and landed a few more fish. At this point it was 4PM so I exited and walked down the road to “tree rock” pool, a nice small pool with a large protruding square rock at the center top with a small tree growing from it. I spotted two fish below the rock and made some solid casts with the green drake but they ignored it and seemed to be focused on smaller food. I acknowledged their preference and removed the green drake and tied on a CDC BWO and placed some casts over the fish in tree rock pool, but they were not interested so I turned my attention in the direction of angled riffle.

I was positioned in the middle of the river and to my right was a nice wide riffle where much of the river angled toward the south bank and then deflected and ran swiftly along the bank for twenty feet. From past experience I knew these riffles held quite a few nice fish so I began drifting my BWO along the current seams sequentially covering the water closest to me and then extending away. This search yielded a nice rainbow on the BWO but other visible fish were not reacting. After I’d worked the area for awhile Jeff arrived and began making downstream casts from the bank next to the road, and he experienced some success.

I was quite chilled and weary at this point with quite a successful day behind me, so I wandered back to the car and left the area for Jeff. When I arrived at the lot I noticed that Jewel Pool directly across from the parking lot was void of fishermen, so I decided to wade part way across the riffles and give it a try. I spotted small tan wing caddis on the water, so I tied on a light gray caddis and prospected with that for a bit, but it only generated refusals. Suddenly the pool came alive with slashing fish that occasionally broke the surface and I noticed some fairly large midges flying by. These natural insects appeared to approximate size 20 flies, so I tied on a Chernobyl ant as my indicator and then added a trailing zebra midge larva. This did not generate a response but the fish continued to slash and move subsurface for something. I clipped off the midge larva and replaced it with a griffith’s gnat, and once again my flies were simply treated like floating leaves or debris. Nothing was working and it was getting quite cold so I called it a day and retreated to the car and waited for Jeff who arrived fairly soon thereafter.

On this chilly autumn Monday I experienced some great surface action and landed 27 fish on green drakes, PMD’s and BWO’s. I discovered an old fly that was eaten like candy and I landed a 19 inch rainbow. It was certainly one of my better days on the Frying Pan River.

 

 

Frying Pan River – 09/22/2013

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Above guide lot

Fish Landed:10

Frying Pan River 09/22/2013 Photo Album

Jeff and I spent Saturday night in the tent at Lottis Creek and although it was quite chilly on Sunday morning, we didn’t think it was as cold as Saturday morning. We were anxious to get an early start for the Frying Pan River and the drive entailed a trip over Cottonwood Pass and then Independence Pass, so we rolled up the tent in a damp condition and ate some quick breakfast foods that didn’t require any stove or cooking. As we traveled up the Arkansas River and then over Independence Pass we encountered some thick clouds and heavy rain.

The rain abated somewhat in Aspen and when we reached Basalt there was no precipitation, but the sky to the north and west was quite dark and foreboding. We stopped in Basalt for gas and purchased ice and then visited the Taylor Creek Fly Shop and then moved on and drove up the road that follows the Frying Pan River. The flows were at 115 cfs and the water was crystal clear. We quickly decided to park in a pullout on the opposite side of the road from the river .5 mile or so above MM12 and quickly prepared to fish while the rain held off, but with each passing moment the wind kicked up and the sky darkened.

My rod was still rigged with the nymphs that were on my line from the end of the day on the Taylor River, a beadhead hares ear and a salvation nymph. I walked down the road a bit until I was somewhere between the Santa Fe and the large “guide lot” across from Jewel Pool. Jeff continued on down the road a bit further and found some nice water with respectful distance between fishermen above and below him.

Almost immediately an eleven inch brown hit the beadhead hares ear on an upstream cast, but the nymphs stopped working and the water seemed a bit shallow at 115 cfs for this approach so I converted to a green drake and began to prospect. My first green drake was a size 14 parachute version and before long a 15 inch brown smashed my offering. At this point I was pretty excited about my early hot streak, but the sky was very gray and the air temperature hovered in the low 60’s.

A Nice 14 Inch Brown from the Frying Pan River on Sunday

A Nice 14 Inch Brown from the Frying Pan River on Sunday

Next I spotted some nice fish in a smooth pool behind a current break and noticed they were sipping something quite small so I put on a CDC BWO and after quite a bit of casting I induced a nice 13 inch brown to rise and take the BWO. As I progressed upstream I encountered water with faster current as well as slower smooth water so I continued to switch back and forth between the parachute green drake in the riffles and runs and then the CDC BWO in the placid water. The BWO got ignored in the next two slow water situations, however, the green drake picked up two smaller browns.

When I reached five fish landed a nice brown rose to the green drake in a current seam, but it broke off when it went into heavy current and needless to say I was quite disappointed with this turn of events. Another medium size brown slid into my net after slurping the green drake and I was now pleased to have landed six fish on the afternoon. Unfortunately at this point it got quite windy and began to rain fairly heavily so I crossed the river and returned to the car for 5-10 minutes until the rain subsided. I felt it wasn’t worth getting drenched when it was nearly impossible to cast in the stiff wind blowing across the stream.

After the wind and rain subsided I returned to my exit point and resumed fishing just below some overhanging tree branches on the road side of the river. The branches forced me to wade up the middle or south side of the stream and fish back toward the north bank. After covering this area with no success I prospected along the left bank by popping the green drake into all the narrow pockets between the bank and the heavy current. This approach yielded two more trout including a rainbow and a brown that probably measured thirteen inches. The last pocket before the raging chute with no fishable water contained at least four fish working in a small space, and when they flashed their sides they appeared to be rainbows.

A Rainbow Adds Variety

A Rainbow Adds Variety

Unfortunately these fish ignored the green drake so I tried a light gray comparadun and that was equally uninteresting to these trout so I gave up on them and decided to walk back down the road to see if there was an open space with rising fish. Sure enough I found Jeff stationed in a nice riffle area and joined him. Fish were rising everywhere and just as I arrived Jeff began to have success with a quill body parachute green drake. Prior to this, however, he insisted that the naturals on the water were mayflies larger than pale morning duns, but smaller than green drakes and he was ill prepared.

Based on his description of the naturals on the water I tied on a size 14 comparadun with a yellow body and landed a small brown, but then Jeff began landing fish on the quill body green drake so I quickly clipped off the comparadun and tied on the parachute green drake that had performed admirably for me earlier while I was in prospecting mode. Unfortunately  the fish in this part of the river did not favor my green drake imitation, so I switched to a green drake comparadun and this resulted in a thirteen inch brown for my tenth fish of the afternoon.

At this point the hatch faded and the rain continued to fall steadily and it was 4PM so we decided to call it a day and returned to Basalt and found a room at The Green Drake. We draped our wet clothes on hangers in the bathroom and visited the Riverside Cafe for dinner. We survived some difficult weather conditions on our first day on the Frying Pan River, but did experience some decent hatching action and looked forward to Monday.

Taylor River – 09/21/2013

Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Start of road construction above Almont and then about a mile upstream.

Fish Landed: 18

Taylor River 09/21/2013 Photo Album

Jeff and I woke up to frost on the tablecloth and tent as the temperature dropped to nearly 32 degrees on Saturday morning. I slept with no socks on my feet and had great difficulty keeping them warm in the early morning but did roam around the campsite in a ski hat, down parka and ski mittens. We decided to fish the lower Taylor on Saturday and camp at Lottis Creek again on Saturday night and then pack everything up on Sunday and move on to the Frying Pan River.

Jeff Shafer at Lottis Creek Campground

Jeff Shafer at Lottis Creek Campground

After making breakfast and paying the campground host we threw our fishing gear in the Santa Fe and made the drive to Almont. Unfortunately the road construction on the lower river between Spring Creek and Almont was still in progress, and this forced us to detour using Jack’s Cabin Cutoff, and when we finally began traveling east from Almont we ran into a roadblock. A barricade impeded our progress and a construction worker informed us that we were not allowed beyond this point. He even insisted that walking up the road beyond this point was not recommended although we could certainly work our way up along the stream.

Jeff and I surveyed this situation and decided to drop down off the road while within eyesight of the construction gatekeeper and then climb back up the road and walk east on the shoulder. We parked our car at the post office and prepared to fish. Saturday morning was quite cool and I wore a fleece and carried my raincoat as we set off on our adventure. We both felt that the fishing could be good as a result of the road construction and the likely reduced pressure from lack of access. Most fishermen would not go to the trouble that we were undertaking.

We followed our plan and walked below the shoulder of the road for a bit and almost immediately passed a pair of fishermen who set up near the post office parking lot. After another ten minutes or so we found a reasonable path through the brush to the river and began fishing and by this time it was 11AM. I decided to cross to the bank opposite the road and Jeff worked up the road side of the river. As has become my custom I tied on a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear and began prospecting the likely holding locations.

Unfortunately I did not experience any success in the first half hour so I switched the hares ear for a salvation nymph and this resulted in two fish landed including a fine brown in the 15″ range. Because of the slow fishing Jeff and I met and agreed to break for lunch at around 12:30. Jeff ate on a large midstream boulder, but I wanted to add a layer so I used the north bank as my resting place. After lunch we switched sides and Jeff worked the north shore while I crossed back to the bank next to the road. The sky remained cloudy and the air temperature probably never climbed much higher than the low 60’s.

A Nice Brown Landed on Taylor River Saturday

A Nice Brown Landed on Taylor River Saturday

After lunch I decided to switch to nymphing with a strike indicator, 20 incher and salvation nymph. The weighted 20 incher served as my split shot and this setup began producing fish at a faster clip than the dry/dropper arrangement. Jeff took the stream temperature and announced it was 53 degrees and later he checked again and it climbed a whole degree to 54. These water temperatures suggest fishing deep, so that is exactly what I decided to do.

Jeff Enjoys His Lunch

Jeff Enjoys His Lunch

While fishing this combination I landed two fish on the 20 incher including a brown in the 14-15 inch range, but as time passed I began to see BWO’s in the air and the 20 incher stopped producing so I moved the salvation to the top position and knotted an RS2 as the bottom fly. This combination of flies and method of fishing served me well over the remainder of the afternoon, and I ended up landing 18 fish on the day including the two on the 20 incher, one on the RS2, one on a hares ear nymph, and the remainder on the salvation nymph. Saturday was pretty much a game of prospecting with nymphs and covering the water; not a lot of decisions to be made but fun nonetheless.

Bighorn by the River

Bighorn by the River

Taylor River – 09/20/2013

Time: 4:00PM – 7:00PM

Location: Below wide pullout below Lottis Creek

Fish Landed: 2

I invited my fishing friend, Jeff Shafer from Whitehall, Pa., to visit me and spend some time fishing in September 2013. We found a window of time that fit our schedules from September 20 until September 24, and Jeff booked his flights and arrived at 10:15AM on Friday.

My original plan was to spend two days on the Arkansas River and then travel over Independence Pass to Basalt and spend Monday and Tuesday on the Frying Pan River. We wanted to avoid the Frying Pan on the weekend if possible. Unfortunately the rain that caused flooding in the northern Front Range rivers also created high and dirty water on the Arkansas River, although there was no flooding on the larger Arkansas drainage. Two subsequent storm systems west of Salida added more murkiness to the river just before Jeff’s arrival, so I switched plans to the Taylor River instead of the Arkansas.

I had the Santa Fe packed with camping and fishing gear for two people and picked Jeff up at the airport after his timely arrival. We were instantly on our way to Buena Vista and then over Cottonwood Pass to the Lottis Creek Campground three miles below Taylor Reservoir Dam. Jeff and I stopped at the hog trough, but it was crowded with fishermen and we decided to avoid the combat fishing and moved on to the campground. We were pleased to discover that Lottis Creek was still open even though the NFS office informed me that it was closed on September 16. We quickly paid for a campground on Friday night and then drove down the road a mile and parked at a wide pullout across from the river. Next we hiked down the road a ways to a place where a dirt lane angled toward the river and then we cut through the woods to some nice water with large pools.

Since the water was fairly narrow and swift at this spot we elected to not attempt a crossing, and Jeff and I alternated the attractive locations along the right bank. I fished for quite awhile with a parachute gray hopper and a beadhead hares ear before landing my first fish. During this time I experienced several refusals to the hopper but eventually landed a small brown on the hares ear nymph.

The hopper became saturated with water and required frequent drying and wasn’t producing any fish, so I exchanged it for a yellow pool toy as I hopped around Jeff on my way to the area across from the Santa Fe. Jeff meanwhile was having more success using dry flies and actually spotted some fish rising to dry flies and landed several of them.

When I reached the smoother water near the car I switched to a light gray caddis and a 13 inch brown slurped it in a small pocket along the edge. This would be my best and last fish on the evening. We concluded our fishing by 7PM and returned to the campsite where we put up the tent using the propane lantern for light and then ate our dinners before crashing under the shelter of the tent. It was a decent beginning to our five day fishing trip.

 

 

 

Green River – 09/15/2013

Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: About a mile upstream from Little Hole

Fish Landed: 4

Green River 09/15/2013 Photo Album

Fire Burn Area Along Road to Little Hole on Sunday Morning

Fire Burn Area Along Road to Little Hole on Sunday Morning

I ate a farmer’s breakfast at the restaurant at Flaming Gorge Resort and then checked out and found a campsite at the Firefighter Memorial Campground just down the road. Site 17 was available and featured a nice flat tent pad. It began to rain lightly as I quickly put up the tent and then prepared a lunch while dodging raindrops. It looked pretty black so I decided to drive to Little Hole and wait out the rain there where I planned to fish. Little Hole is a boat launch and take out point eight miles below the dam. Many guides float from the dam to Little Hole and take out there, and others launch at Little Hole and take out further down the river. The river spreads out in a wide riffle above the boat launch and at some flow levels it is possible to wade to the south bank and then walk upstream and fish on that side. Several years ago Steve Supple and I did this and had a decent amount of success.

Amazingly as I drove along the paved road that leads to Little Hole the sky brightened, the sun appeared, and it actually felt warm. There was fire damage in this area near Dutch John and the landscape looked as bleak as that in the vicinity of Himes Peak along the White River. I stopped at the overlook above the boat launch at Little Hole and took a panorama shot of the river from high above. Once again I used my Senior Pass to cover the daily use fee and quickly pulled on my waders and prepared for a day of fishing. Several fishermen were crossing in the wide riffle arm in arm, but I decided I didn’t want to risk getting wet as I was solo and didn’t have an accompanying partner. Just as I was ready to depart, I noticed some heavy dark clouds just over the hill on the other side of the river, so I quickly removed my front and backpack and slid on my raincoat. Now I was ready for anything except what actually happened. I walked a short distance from the car and the skies opened. Buckets of rain dumped from the dark cloud so I quickly raced to a picnic table with a roof overhead and sat on the table to escape the blowing rain.

Overlook of Green River at Little Hole

Overlook of Green River at Little Hole

This continued for 10-15 minutes and then the rain abated a bit so I decided to continue on my way to the Little Hole Trail. As the rain slackened a myriad of poorly dressed fishermen drenched from head to toe emerged from the river and headed to their cars. I found the entrance to the Little Hole Trail that followed the north shore of the river all the way to the dam and began hiking in the muddy trough. It reminded me of my hike along the South Fork except that this soil was red instead of black. After I’d hiked ten minutes or so, the intensity of the rain increased again, and I found a spot next to a high vertical wall where the upper portion angled out over my head and blocked the rain.I waited here another ten minutes and then the rain slowed to a drizzle and I continued on my way. Another fisherman just above me used this break in the storm to return to the parking lot as he was wearing a fleece top under his waders. He looked quite wet and chilled and told me his raincoat was in his truck.

Dave Waited Out Rain Where Fly Rod Leans

Dave Waited Out Rain Where Fly Rod Leans

On I marched in the by now light drizzle until it was 11:30 and I decided to cut down to the water and begin my fishing day. Amazingly that would prove to be the last of the rain and the skies gradually brightened so that the afternoon turned into a delightful sunny day. I  decided to begin my quest for Green River fish with a Chernobyl ant and a brown bead midge larva. These two flies worked will on a previous September trip with David Luther when we drifted the river, so why wouldn’t they work today? It didn’t take long before I landed a nine inch brown on the Chernobyl ant. The size was disappointing after seeing great numbers of large fish, but it was a start.

Unfortunately that was the end of the action for quite awhile despite the sky clearing and the wind picking up.Since I began fishing at 11:30 I waited until 12:30 to pull out my lunch and the timing seemed appropriate since I wasn’t experiencing any action. After lunch I was once again tired of struggling to see the low riding Chernobyl so I converted to a yellow Letort hopper with a beadhead hares ear. Later I added an orange scud below the hares ear as I’d seen several fish nosing about in the aquatic weeds on Saturday, and I assumed they were knocking scuds loose and consuming them.

With these three flies now in action I came upon a stretch of faster water that reminded me of the Arkansas River so I decided to approach it in the same manner and made upstream casts into pockets, along current seams and to moderate depth riffles. I kept the line off the water to prevent drag and also made some downstream drifts with stack mends. It was while executing these techniques that I tossed the flies into the center of an eight foot wide pocket between two faster runs. Much to my surprise I saw a swirl for the hopper so I set the hook, but as the fish began to battle it seemed that the underwater force was connected to one of the lower flies. At this point I began to wonder if the fish was foul hooked but it fought fairly normally so it seemed to be hooked somewhere in or near the mouth. The fish initially ripped out line and then I brought it back across from my position and it made a major move downstream. I gave it line but when it got in heavy current, I applied pressure to bring it back toward shore, and bling, the flies came free and shot back over me and wrapped around the line of another fisherman!

Where did he come from? I asked myself this question as he emerged out of nowhere at the most inopportune time. I waded over to the victim of my fishing misfortune and apologized for cutting into his space but he was very nice about it and said he was back away from the stream working on his line and was about to say something when I hooked the fish and didn’t want to break my concentration. He was quite a gentleman and after he unwrapped my line I continued to apologize and moved upstream quite a ways to give him adequate space to cover the water.

When I re-entered the river I was perhaps half way through the long stretch of faster water and on one of my drifts I felt a bit of weight as I lifted to recast, but in a split second the fish was off and I saw the outline of a nice brown drifting back downstream. After this near miss another long dry spell developed, and I grew weary of constantly dabbing and drying the Letort so I exchanged it for a yellow pool toy. I was skeptical this would produce and assumed it was serving as a buoyant indicator for the trailing beadhead hares ear.

It was however quite windy and there was a lot of streamside vegetation that certainly harbored grasshoppers so it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that the yellow hopper could represent a food source that was quite prevalent in this area. It wasn’t long until I cast the pool toy to the top of a wide slot and a nose appeared and I set the hook and was attached to a head shaking and diving brown trout. When I finally netted the big boy and stretched it across my net it measured 16 inches. What a thrill to catch a fat brown on my pool toy creation!

16-17" Brown Was Prize Catch on Sunday

16-17″ Brown Was Prize Catch on Sunday

This episode prompted me to continue on with renewed optimism and in a shallow side channel with a thick amount of aquatic weeds I spotted two or three fish. I was back in sight fishing mode similar to Saturday, but my hopper/dropper had no impact other than to cause the fish to move after several casts. But as I scanned the channel and moved on a bit I spotted another fish closer to where the water branched off from the main river. I stripped out line and measured the distance with a couple false casts off to the side and then shot a cast toward the sighted fish. The hopper dropped just above the nose of the fish and then ever so slowly the fish finned over to the pool toy and gobbled it in! This fish thrashed for an instant and then allowed me to strip it in to the net almost as if it had been through this numerous times and just wished to get the game over with. Once I examined the rainbow in my net I realized that it appeared to be blind in one eye and wasn’t in prime shape.

Close Up of the Classic Drift Boat

Close Up of the Classic Drift Boat

In the next half hour I landed one more eleven inch brown that snatched the hares ear on a downstream swing but that was all the action before 5 o’clock rolled around and I made the 30 minute hike back to the parking lot and the Santa Fe. When I returned to the campsite I discovered that the tent had dried in the afternoon after the heavy morning rain and I enjoyed a peaceful night of rest with cooler temperatures prevailing. On Monday morning I packed up the tent and decided to make the 6.5 drive back to Denver and skip another day of fishing on the Green River. It was an interesting couple days, but much slower action than I was used to.

Site No. 17 at Firefighter Memorial Campground

Site No. 17 at Firefighter Memorial Campground

Green River – 09/14/2013

Time: 4:00PM – 7:00PM

Location: One mile below dam

Fish Landed: 1

I went a whole day without rain on Friday on the South Fork of the White River so perhaps the weather was clearing. Not a chance. I woke up several times during Friday night to the sound of thunder, the flashes of lightning, and the sound of rain pounding on the roof of the tent. It was still raining when I awoke so I skipped making breakfast and reorganized the car to isolate all the belongings that I didn’t want to get wet on the passenger seat, and then rolled up the tent and tablecloth and tossed in the back of the Santa Fe. Once again I was thankful for the tent pad.

I drove to Meeker and bought some pliers that enabled me to remove the reel from my Orvis rod. Somehow in the course of fishing on Friday the reel seat had become wedged so tightly that I couldn’t twist it with my fingers and needed the added leverage of a tool. In addition the first two sections of the rod were connected and I was unable to separate them thus adding worries over breaking the exposed rod in the back of the car.

Next I stopped at a supermarket and purchased some lunch meat and ice and then found a nice breakfast cafe and consumed a hearty breakfast and called Jane since I was in cell range for the first time in three days. Jane informed me of all the tragic flooding in Denver and along the front range, and I was no longer feeling sorry for suffering with a bit of rain on my tent. After breakfast I drove to Vernal, Utah and ate lunch there before proceeding on to Flaming Gorge where I checked out the Deer Run and Firefighter Memorial Campgrounds. The weather continued to look threatening so I decided to book a room at the Flaming Gorge Resort for Saturday night, but planned to camp again at the Firefighter Memorial on Sunday night.

Flaming Gorge Dam on Saturday

Flaming Gorge Dam on Saturday

After reserving a room I wandered over to the fly shop and purchased a new dispenser of floatant and a Utah fishing license and then headed to the parking area below Flaming Gorge Dam. I was pleased to avoid the day use fee of $5 by placing my Senior Pass on the dashboard as instructed by the sign. After putting on my waders and assembling my Loomis 5 weight rod I hiked down the Little Hole Trail for a mile. I carried my Adida pullover and raincoat, but it only rained lightly and was actually very pleasant for most of my time on the Green River on Saturday. In fact is was very quiet and I didn’t encounter another fisherman until on the way back at the end of the evening.

I began fishing with a caddis but it seemed futile in this huge wide river so I switched to the Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead bright green caddis, but these flies provoked no response. I chose the caddis because it was mentioned several times on the white board in the fly shop as a fly that was producing. After spending a half hour or more flailing away and blind casting, I discovered that I could spot fish by walking slowly along the shore and staring at the water, and this is how I occupied my fishing time for most of the remainder of the evening.

Typical Stretch of Green River

Typical Stretch of Green River

Initially I failed on a couple nice sighted fish and spooked a few that I didn’t see soon enough along the edge, but then I noticed one next to a large submerged rock. After a few casts the brown rose and sucked in my caddis in an exciting visual display fifteen feet away. The brown went into a vigorous head shaking and diving routine, but I was able to maintain contact and landed and photographed a fine fish in excess of 15 inches. After this exciting experience my optimism was renewed, and I continued sight fishing but failed to land any more fish. I probably sighted ten fish in total, but could only tempt the one just described to eat my fly. In addition to the caddis I tried a black parachute ant and a predator beetle and then added a hard body ant as a dropper off the beetle. Judging from tail twitches and body movement, several fish noticed the flies but they were rejected.

16" Brown Was Sole Catch on Saturday

16″ Brown Was Sole Catch on Saturday

Three hours of fishing yielded only one fish, but it was a nice one. Stalking large fish in clear water and sight fishing certainly held my interest because I could see my target, and I was challenged to develop strategies for positioning, casting and fly choice.

After hiking back on the Little Hole Trail I returned to Flaming Gorge Resort, obtained my room key, and had a nice dinner at the Flaming Gorge Restaurant next to the fly shop. Sleeping in a warm dry bed was certainly an enjoyable luxury on Saturday night.

South Fork of White River – 09/13/2013

Time: 10:30AM – 5:30PM

Location: Hiked from trailhead for 30 minutes and then cut down to the river

Fish Landed: 7

South Fork of White River 09/13/2013 Photo Album

Friday began with overcast skies and threatening clouds again as I began the drive to the South Fork of the White River. I thought I allowed enough time to arrive at the trailhead by 9:30 and then hike for 30 minutes so I could be wetting a line by 10AM. Unfortunately I missed the turn at Buford and drove to Sleepy Cat before I realized I had gone too far. This added perhaps 30 minutes to my drive resulting in my arrival at the trailhead by 10AM and with the 30 minute hike I was not fishing until 10:30. As it was overcast and chilly when I began, I decided to wear my ski hat, Adidas pullover and raincoat, but this proved to be too many layers and I was quite warm. In addition the lack of a brimmed hat proved to be a significant impediment to my fishing experience.

The trail was extremely muddy due to the recent rain and apparently some horses had recently passed and chopped up the black mud. This made for a very slippery and unappealing hike, although I was grateful to be in wading boots. After hiking for approximately 30 minutes I spotted a faint trail that cut off to the right and descended through some scrubby trees to the river. I tied on a tan pool toy and extended some 5X off the hood bend and added a salvation nymph. Initially I did not encounter much attractive water as the river was wide and shallow with long stretchs of riffles.Toward the end of the first hour however I picked up two twelve inch rainbows so I became more optimistic about my prospects.

South Fork of White River Near Starting Point on Friday

South Fork of White River Near Starting Point on Friday

I was feeling good about the fact that I had two layers and a ski hat in case it rained again, when I somehow slipped and lost my balance while standing in some shallow water along the right bank. Before I knew what happened I was sitting in the water and a tiny amount spilled over the top of my waders in the back. So much for having nice dry insurance layers. I had tied the Adidas pullover around my waist under my waders, and of course this material absorbed the water that spilled inside. I guess it may have been fortuitous that the pullover absorbed the water and prevented it from running down my legs.

I uttered some choice words, but there wasn’t much I could do this far from the trailhead so I moved along and added another small rainbow to my count before breaking for lunch at 11:45. I decided to take a longer than normal lunch break to allow my clothes to dry and spread them out on a large rock nearby.

South Fork Narrows Here

South Fork Narrows Here

After lunch I landed another small rainbow, but now I reached a nice narrow stretch with deeper pools and pockets. I was dissatisfied with the productivity of the pool toy and nymph so I decided to go deeper with a split shot, strike indicator, and beadhead hares ear plus a salvation nymph. This actually proved to be a decent strategy as I experienced four or five hook ups, but for some reason I couldn’t land any of them.until finally I connected on a small rainbow for fish number five on the South Fork. One of the nymph hook ups was a very nice rainbow as I saw it leap above the water right after the hook set, but it shed the hook almost immediately.

After covering a fair amount of water with my nymphs I reached a point where my progress was blocked by a high vertical wall so I climbed to the top hoping to circle around and come back down quickly. Unfortunately the rock wall extended for quite a distance and I had to bushwhack through some dense vegetation to reach a point where there was a gradual descent back to the river. As I looked at the beautiful pool below me from a high perch on the rock wall, I spotted three fish hovering near the surface. This really got my juices flowing and then I observed the most downstream fish sip something in the surface film twice. The top fish was ridiculously large and probably extended beyond 20 inches.

Spotted Three Large Trout Next to Large Rock on Left But Failed to Catch

Spotted Three Large Trout Next to Large Rock on Left But Failed to Catch

I carefully negotiated my way down some steep rocks to the tail of the pool and realized I still had my nymphing rig on, and surely this would immediately spook the fish, so I took the time to remove all the components. But what were they sipping and what should I use to imitate the target of there casual rises? I looked at my patch and decided to bet on an ant and selected one with an orange wing post. I was a right handed fisherman along the right bank so this dictated a backhand cast. I was greedy and decided to try and catch the two largest fish and thus cast to the downstream fish first. This proved to be a strategic error as the lower fish did in fact move toward the ant but rejected it and the single cast put down the other fish including the monster farthest upstream.

I moved on in despair and switched to a Chernobyl ant for better visibility, but the fish were having none of it, and due to the shadows and glare typical for a canyon area, I was having a hard time following the small yellow foam indicator low in the water. I wanted something more visible so I tied on a yellow Letort hopper with the added advantage that it had become breezy and the weather was clearing somewhat so perhaps there were actually hoppers being blown in the water.

Not long after tying on the hopper I made a long cast to the top of a long riffle of moderate depth. The riffle spanned the entire width of the river, but somehow I chose to cast where there was a fish and the hopper dipped and I set the hook on a hot rainbow. I battled the fish for a minute or two but then the hares ear came free and flew back toward me and more expletives were uttered. In another deep run where the current ran against a large rock I thought I saw a fish hit the hopper so I set, but as I fought the fish it felt more like it was hooked on the trailing nymph. Unfortunately I’ll never know which fly the fish hit because it got free after making a dash for the current.

It was now late afternoon and I considered exiting, but I absorbed a couple refusals to the hopper. The fish were obviously looking up for their meal, but what were they looking for? Something smaller perhaps? I clipped off the hopper and tied on a size 12 caddis with a palmered body but this didn’t work so I downsized to a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis and of course after a few casts the hackle broke and unwound. I removed the damaged fly and tied on a new size 16 light gray deer hair caddis and flicked it above a protruding rock at the tail of a nice deep but short pool right above me.

Close Up of Colorful Head

Close Up of Colorful Head

Much to my surprise a huge head appeared and sucked in the caddis and the fight was on and tough one it proved to be, but unlike the previous decent hooked fish that managed to evade my tactics, this fish succombed to my pressure and slid into my net. I snapped several photos of the 15-16 inch beauty with an amazing girth.

With fresh optimism I moved on to another nice riffle over moderate depth and seduced a 14 inch rainbow to smash the caddis. Perhaps I found the answer in the caddis, but that was the end of it. I prospected on with the caddis but no more action presented itself and I reached a point where the trail was easily accessible so I took advantage and hiked back to the trailhead. It was 5:30 when I began to hike out, so it was a good choice.

North Fork of White River – 09/12/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Two track lane from road to river to a point above Snell Creek; Himes Peak upstream from where I quit on Wednesday and then from footbridge below campground upstream a bit

Fish Landed: 18

North Fork of White River 09/12/2013 Photo Album

In 2010 I experienced a fine day of fishing as I explored the area near where Snell Creek flows into the North Fork of the White River. I discovered a two track lane that gradually descended from the dirt road to the river that enabled me to access the water without undue risk to my physical well being. I decided to explore this area again in 2013 on Thursday, September 12. The morning weather was much nicer than Wednesday afternoon with predominantly sunshine and only occasional clouds. When I arrived beside the river I decided to work my way downstream a bit and investigate some new water. I began with the usual Chernobyl ant but attached a salvation nymph instead of a beadhead hares ear after having some great success with the salvation on Wednesday.

15 Inch Cutbow Landed on North Fork on Thursday

15 Inch Cutbow Landed on North Fork on Thursday

Unfortunately the run of success ended and I did not experience any success in the early going, so I swapped the salvation for a beadhead hares ear and this fly produced two fish; a nice cutbow and a Colorado cutthroat. In the second hour of fishing two more fish rested in my net; a small cutbow and a seventeen inch cutbow. The large cutbow was a thrill to battle and made five or six strong dashes before I could slide my net beneath its hefty body. I was once again using the Orvis four weight and the cutbow certainly tested the capacity of the slender rod. The cutbow took the Chernobyl ant at the very top of a slot that was five feet wide and fifteen feet long.

17" Cutbow Also Thursday

17″ Cutbow Also Thursday

With four fish landed I stopped fishing at noon and ate my lunch beside the river and then after lunch proceeded upstream to a nice deep pool below a large evergreen tree along the left bank. I crossed to the right side of the river to gain a better casting position and began working the deep run and pool. I remembered this spot to be quite productive during my 2010 visit. I managed to land one nice cutbow in the deep run after working it for quite a while with numerous casts. Eventually my instincts proved correct and the cutbow snared the salvation nymph which I returned to after a long unproductive period with the hares ear.

In addition to the cutbow I landed a huge whitefish that probably extended 18-19 inches and was quite fat. I continued working my way upstream and beyond the confluence with Snell Creek, but there were not that many attractive spots so I eventually decided to retreat and return to Himes Peak where the fishing had been quite fast and furious on Wednesday. I did manage to land two small fish on a pink pool toy that I experimented with for one of the first times since tying this winter.  I climbed the steep slope until I found a faint trail and then descended to Snell Creek and crossed and discovered a well worn trail that carried me up the steep slope to the road. This was a major improvement over my exit in 2010 when I slipped and slid my way up Snell Creek.

North Fork Stretch Fished on Thursday Viewed from High Bank Next to Road

North Fork Stretch Fished on Thursday Viewed from High Bank Next to Road

Overall I was a bit disappointed with this stretch of water compared to my memory of 2010, but the 17 inch cutbow was quite a thrill and did compensate somewhat for the slower action.

Meanwhile Himes Peak beckoned and after parking in the trailhead parking lot I descended the still muddy trail and then made a left and traversed the hill next to the river until I reached a point where I could descend and begin fishing approximately where I ended my day on Wednesday. I began with a pink pool toy with a salvation nymph on a dropper two feet below. In short order I spotted a rise so I splashed the pink pool toy above the spot of the rise and a nice brook trout gobbled the pool toy which prompted me to photograph and include the pink creation in the frame.

Nice Brook Trout Took Pink Pool Toy

Nice Brook Trout Took Pink Pool Toy

I continued working my way up the stream with the pink pool toy and salvation nymph and added six more fish beyond the brook trout with most grabbing the trailing salvation nymph. One of these fish was a beautiful cutbow with a bronze underside, and it was so colorful that I anticipated it would be a brook trout when I glimpsed it while still in the water. Unfortunately as I was truly enjoying this solitary remote wilderness fishing experience, the sky darkened and lightening commenced so I exited with sixteen fish landed on the day and returned to the parking lot. As I walked up to my car I discovered the same gentleman from Philadelphia that I encountered along the road, and he was now parked next to me and preparing to fish at Himes Peak. We chatted a bit and I learned that his name was Chris Daley and he was staying at Trappers Lake Lodge and he is an emergency room doctor.

We decided to walk down to the river together and this time cut down a trail from one of the campsites which led to a footbridge across the river. Chris and I decided to alternate pools so I began in the nice pool below the footbridge where I landed a small brook trout. I then circled around Chris and dropped back down to a decent area and landed a small rainbow before the rain began to fall from the sky in sheets. The heavy rain forced Chris and I to quit and retreat to our cars, although as I was departing I noticed a lot of BWO’s and a few PMD’s. The rain was coming down so hard that I was forced to change out of my waders in the back of the Santa Fe.

I experienced another productive day on the North Fork of the White River, although not quite as intense as Wednesday afternoon. I decided to stay for Friday and explore the South Fork and pay for a third night on Friday and then move on to the Green River on Saturday.

North Fork of White River – 09/11/2013

Time: 1:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Bridge where Dan caught some nice fish when he was young up to where the river re-emerges from underground; Himes Peak area

Fish Landed: 21

North Fork of White River 09/11/2013 Photo Album

Tent pads are a wonderful thing. While the Front Range of Colorado endured one of the worst periods of rain in history, I camped and fished on the western slope of Colorado for three nights and then one night near Flaming Gorge, Utah. During the four nights of camping, I slept in my REI two person tent for three nights, and this was only possible because I used campsites with tent pads. Tent pads look like large raised beds that are popular for gardening except that they are filled with a fine gravel material that is very porous. When it rains a lot the water seeps almost instantaneously into the fine gravel and thus does not create streams and puddles that eventually undermine a tent and tarp.

Apparently Being Herded Down from the High Country

Apparently Being Herded Down from the High Country

I planned this trip for quite awhile, and had most of the camping and fishing gear loaded in the Santa Fe the night before scheduled departure. On Wednesday morning all that remained was packing the food items, the water container, my Camelbak, and my pillow and I was on my way to the North Fork of the White River in the Flattops Wilderness Area. This is a fairly remote area of Colorado and requires 40+ miles of driving over a dirt road that climbs two mountain passes. I actually did quite well and completed the trip in roughly four hours and fifteen minutes in spite of slowly creeping my way through a flock of sheep just beyond the tiny town of Pyramid. There were plenty of spots available at the North Fork Campground so I snagged number 25 as it contained a tent pad and as described earlier, this became a critical choice. I unloaded the water container, ate my lunch and paid for two nights and immediately went in quest of wild White River trout.

The sky was quite overcast as I drove east on the road I had just covered and then turned right and headed toward Trappers Lake. I decided to fish in the area I remembered from perhaps fifteen years ago when Dan and I did quite well not far below Trappers Lake. After approximately eight miles I spotted the old bridge that appeared close to my memory so I pulled along the shoulder of the dirt road and prepared to fish. I hiked thirty yards below the bridge and tied on a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear nymph and began to cast my Orvis Access four weight. By now the sky was even more threatening than it appeared back at the campground and the surrounding landscape was quite bleak as a wildfire had consumed all the trees and left twisted black stumps and branches behind on the meadow grass covered hills.

Fairly quickly I landed a  nice brook trout that would actually be a monster by eastern standards. It was around eleven inches long and flamboyantly attired in orange and iridescent blueish green hues. Next I landed a small Colorado cutthroat and snapped a photo of this increasingly rare catch and then worked my way upstream and beyond the bridge and added a third fish along the way.

Pretty Cutthroat from North Fork of White River

Pretty Cutthroat from North Fork of White River

There was a large beaver pond ahead but below it a nice deep run cascaded from the dam, and here I landed another nice colorful brook trout. Several other fish were rising in this area, but they ignored my Chernobyl/BHHE combo, and then I switched to a CDC BWO as I noticed a few small BWO’s fluttering up through the air. Unfortunately this did not deceive the feeding fish so I moved on to the beaver pond.

At this point the rain began and became quite heavy but I stuck it out as there was no thunder or lightning and I had on my ski hat, fleece and raincoat. I negotiated my way around some beaver channels and soft muddy bottom areas until I approached the inlet and here there were quite a few fish rising. Again I cast my fortunes with the CDC BWO and again the fish ignored my offerings. The rain was so dense that it riffled the water and made it quite difficult to discern any insects that might be attracting the attention of the trout. I decided to switch to a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and after a few casts a fourteen inch cutbow slurped it in. I was now very excited and assumed I’d unlocked the secret code to duping these beaver pond fish.

Slash of Cutbow or Cutthroat

Slash of Cutbow or Cutthroat

Alas that wasn’t the case and the caddis went unmolested until the rain slacked off and I could now see PMD’s fluttering and skipping on the water thus prompting yet another conversion to a size 16 light gray comparadun.This proved attractive to a nice brook trout, but then the other fish ignored it. I noticed that the natural PMD’s were quite active on the still pond surface so I began stripping my PMD and received 5 or 6 hits, but I was unable to land any of them. I was perplexed by this situation, but decided to concede and continue on my way up the stream.

Another Colorful Brook Trout from North Fork

Another Colorful Brook Trout from North Fork

Between the inlet to the beaver pond and the spot where the North Fork of the White River emerges from underground like a spring, I landed another three trout including a nice cutbow, a chunky brook trout and a small brooky. Another heavy wave of rain descended and most of the river disappeared underground so I decided to leave this area and explore the Himes Peak stretch of the North Fork. In the hour or two that I fished near the beaver pond I landed nine trout; one cutthroat, two cutbows, and six brook trout. It was a fine beginning to my five day fishing trip.

North Fork Above Beaver Pond

North Fork Above Beaver Pond

As I walked down the dirt road to my car a Hyandai sedan approached and the driver rolled down the window to ask how I fared. I discovered that the driver was from the Philadelphia area and had traveled to the White River to fish by himself. I continued hiking down the road as the rain continued to fall and jumped in the car and drove down the road to Himes Peak Campground. This area was also marred by wildfire damage and there were several hunters parked in the lot at the trailhead as well as camping in the campground. I hiked down the muddy trail to the river and then descended a steep bank and began to fish with low expectations due to the rain and the fire damage.

My low expectations proved to be misguided as the fishing proved to be awesome. In the very first place I fished after sliding down a steep bank in the mud and converting to a Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph, I landed four trout; three rainbows and one cutbow. Two of the rainbows and the cutbow were 13-14 inch chunky fish that attacked the salvation nymph.

I continued fishing upstream for the next one and a half hours and landed a total of twelve fish including the four from the initial small pool. Several were nice brookies, another pure cutthroat came to my net, and the remainder were largely rainbows. Once again a period of heavy rain commenced, but again I stuck it out given the high level of success I was experiencing. After the rain once again slowed a dense BWO hatch kicked in, but the fish seemed to ignore it. The salvation nymph probably produced all the Himes Peak fish except for three that crushed the Chernobyl ant on the surface. Toward the end of the afternoon, the salvation nymph got destroyed so I tried a Craven emerger, RS2, and beadhead pheasant tail, but these did not produce and the last fish landed was on the Chernobyl ant.

It was an auspicious start to my fishing trip with a total of twenty-one landed in four and a half hours of fishing in some rather adverse conditions with three waves of heavy rain. Unfortunatey I have discovered that bad weather for fishermen is good weather for fish and vice versa.

Soggy Campsite Wednesday Evening

Soggy Campsite Wednesday Evening

I returned to the campsite, and the ground and tent pad were saturated due to the constant and intermittent heavy rain so I decided to rearrange my cargo and sleep in the back of the Santa Fe. I was able to eat my dinner during a brief thirty minute lull in rain showers which resumed after dinner and continued through much of the night.

Frying Pan River – 09/06/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Pool across from large parking area .3 miles above MM12

Fish Landed: 29

Frying Pan River 09/06/2013 Photo Album

What did the Frying Pan River have in store for me on Friday September 6? Would it be another hot bright sunny day? Would I have to battle for prime space on the upper public water? Should I perhaps retreat to the water near the spring between mile markers 10 and 11 where I had a great day during my previous visit in August? The Frying Pan continues to amaze me, and Friday was certainly another different experience. How would Friday stack up against my other days on the Frying Pan River?

Thursday evening yielded several rain showers, one during my dinner, and then I retreated to the Santa Fe and listened to the first half of the Ravens vs. Broncos game. With the Broncos losing at halftime 17-14, I snuggled in my sleeping bag and fell asleep to the sound of the pitter patter of rain on the tent roof. I find this sound very relaxing and in a brief amount of time I was sound asleep. When I awoke on Friday morning the sky was blue and once the sun peeked over the hill to east of the campground, the moisture from the previous night’s rain burned off quickly. As I ate my breakfast and prepared my lunch I discovered that my ice supply was quite low, so this required a trip to Basalt to purchase more.

I loaded the car with my lunch and fishing gear and made the 14 mile drive to Basalt where I bought a 10 pound bag of ice at the liquor store and then stopped at Taylor Creek Fly Shop where I purchased five PMD imitations. My standby light gray comparadun did not seem to be producing as on previous occasions, so I decided to experiment with some locally recommended store bought flies. Next I called Jane to check in with her while in cell range, and she asked me to buy some M&M’s at the supermarket. Jane packed her car and drove to work and planned to make her departure from downtown Denver in the early afternoon.

By the time I returned to the upper Frying Pan it was 9:45AM but this was still earlier than my Thursday arrival so I decided to cruise the upper 2.5 miles in case there was prime open water. Sure enough the wide pullout just above mile marker 12 was totally open so I stopped there and prepared to fish. When I approached the water I discovered another fisherman on the opposite side who must have parked further upstream and crossed and waded down the south bank. The river is quite wide at this spot, so I began to fish next to the parking lot in the beautiful deep run and riffle with a Chernobyl ant trailing a salvation nymph and beadhead RS2. Other than a few refusals to the Chernobyl, I was unable to attract any fish in this attractive area, so I began wading up along the left bank.

In a short amount of time I arrived at another favorite spot where a large rectangular rock juts out into the river and creates a fifteen foot long eddy. I’ve fished this numerous times in the past by going above the rock and then casting downstream and allowing the eddy to bring the fly back toward the rock. I replicated this manuever, but initially I didn’t spot any fish facing downstream as is usually the case. However, as I observed I noted the huge nose of a rainbow sip a tiny insect very tight to the rock that I was kneeling on. I continued to watch the water and recognized another decent but smaller rainbow along the current seam four feet downstream of the large rock. I tried the three fly combo including some lifting action, but this didn’t attract any interest. Next I clipped off the flies and tried a parachute green drake and again no sign of recognition by the two rainbows. How about a light gray comparadun? Once again my strategy was thwarted. Finally having seen some tiny mayflies in the air, I tied on a CDC BWO, but the two target trout were apparently tuned into something different and I couldn’t unlock the code.

I tipped my hat to the fish and moved on upstream where I encountered two young men fishing the edge of the river in the stair step riffle area. The river was fairly wide here so I carefully waded across the bottom of the wide shallow riffles and began working my way up along the shadows from the branches on the south bank. I switched back to the Chernobyl plus salvation plus RS2, but after a brief time I swapped the RS2 for a BWO emerger. The emerger finally produced two fish; one as the flies began to swing at the end of the drift and the second as I lifted to recast at the tail of a pool. In spite of these two fish the action was quite slow so at 11:30 I decided to wade back to the road above the two fishermen working the edge, and I walked back to the car for my lunch.

Before making the walk, however, I noted that there was only one car in the large lot that is usually filled with at least six automobiles, so I decided to drive the .3 miles upstream and park in the “guide” lot. As I walked down to the river, two guides with clients did in fact pull into the lot and began preparing their customers to fish. I wolfed down my sandwich and the remainder of my lunch and practically sprinted back to the car to exchange my lunch bag for my rod and fishing gear. I made a bee line for the spot where I ate lunch and waded out into the river, and observed the two young men that I encountered before lunch thirty yards below me and another fisherman twenty yards above, but directly across from me was a very desirable pool that was open and beckoning my flies. I waded to the middle of the river where I was midway through the pool and standing in a 2-3 foot deep riffle that comprised the larger current of the river.

The river above me split with two thirds of the flow tumbling between the north bank and where I was standing. The other one third struck a current break and deflected toward the far side where it ran in a deep eight foot wide run along the south bank. In between these major flows was a sweet pool that was 25 feet wide at its maximum point near the top and then narrowed slowly until it tailed out below my position. The total length of the pool was probably 30 to 40 feet. This appeared to be one of the nicest spots on the river, but I was concerned that I was hemmed in by fishermen above and below me. I resolved that I would fish this attractive pool as long as I could see fish and then possibly retreat to the spring area for more space to wade and cover water.

The Chernobyl, salvation and BWO emerger remained on my line and in fact I now began to notice more of the tiny mayflies occasionally floating up from the surface. I tried dead drifting and then imparted motion to the emerger in hopes that this would imitate the small emerging mayflies, but the fish were having nothing of my overanalyzing ways. After a half hour or so of futility, however, I began to see a few fish break the surface and in short order I noticed some yellowish colored mayflies cruising on the surface. Meanwhile some larger clouds glided overhead and blocked the intense rays of the sun periodically causing the hatch to intensify during the low light periods and then wane a bit when the sun reappeared.

I clipped off the three fly combination and replaced with one of the store bought flies, a fly that had an olive quill body and a white poly tuft on top as an indicator. This didn’t draw interest so I tied on another store bought version with a light yellow body and again the fish told me my fly was a joke. What should I do now? Maybe my tried and true light gray comparadun would work on these educated fish today so I gave it a try. I moved up a bit toward the top of the pool and began relying on downstream drifts more and as I did this noticed several rainbows rising on a more regular basis along the current seam no more than six feet out and five feet below my position. I flicked some short casts to the seam up and across from me and then slowly raised my rod to take all the line off the water and then lowered the rod as the fly drifted below me. Smash! One of the rainbows tipped up and inhaled my comparadun and the fight was on. I quickly worked the rainbow back and forth and elevated it over my outstretched net and then carefully waded across the swift riffle to photograph on the bank while keeping an eye on the fishermen above and below me.

Nice Rainbow Landed from Upper Frying Pan Pool on Friday

Nice Rainbow Landed from Upper Frying Pan Pool on Friday

It was now after 1PM and I was at the point of no return. Should I continue fishing from this hemmed in position or quickly adjourn to the spring area. Fortunately I’d just landed a nice rainbow, so I decided to give the jewel pool more time. I waded back to my same position in the riffle and observed more and more fish rising. In fact the scene morphed into one of those electric experiences where it was total mayhem. The clouds got larger, the light dimmer, the wind kicked up a bit, and the mayflies began to emerge and flutter and skip across the water. Trout noses appeared everywhere and I could spot at least twenty fish rising in the pool at any point in time. There were nice rainbows along the seam near me as well as several decent rainbows working the upper center area of the pool where the current created a small eddy. These fish were cruisers that worked in a small circle so it was difficult to judge where to place my fly. Meanwhile some browns were working from the midsection of the pool down to the tailout. Several fish rose along the current seam on the far side of the pool and a fine fish rose at the very top of the pool where the angled current fanned out toward the opposite bank. I would estimate that the jewel pool contained at least 50 fish if not more!

For the next two and a half hours I cast relentlessly to these feasting fish and landed twenty-two more beyond the initial rainbow described above. I was making perhaps ten casts and drifts for each landed fish, but there were so many flies on the water that I wasn’t surprised that my fly was often ignored. It was a matter of targeting a fish and making enough casts to finally match the feeding rhythm of the fish. I managed to land one of the cruisers in the eddy but never pricked the big feeder at the tail of the angled current at the top of the pool. Quite a few of my fish resulted from downstream drifts, and this was actually a suggestion from the sales clerk in the fly shop, although I normally use this approach on my own.

Dave Grips Nice Brown at Productive Pool on Friday

Dave Grips Nice Brown at Productive Pool on Friday

As this was going on two guides with clients moved in below me and another fisherman was fifteen yards above me. These fishermen landed a few fish, but I seemed to be eclipsing their productivity and couldn’t help feeling a bit smug after my guide encounter on Thursday. As this was transpiring my feet grew so cold that I lost feeling, and I felt like I was balancing on stumps. I tried to move only a step or two and almost lost my balance before leaning on my wading staff for support. When the sun was bright and adding solar energy to my body, I could tolerate the icy cold flows of the tailwater, but now the clouds were dark gray and the rumble of distant thunder rolled through the air.

The hatch continued but did wane a bit and the gaps between fish now extended so I decided to take a break and give up the jewel pool. I waded to the bank and placed my worn comparadun in the hook keep and returned to the car. I didn’t bother to look back to see how quickly the guides swooped into the prime pool. The wind picked up and some light rain began to fall as I stashed my gear in the car. I decided to  drive downstream to the area I fished on Thursday, but work upstream where the river splits around a long island. There were a few cars parked in the two pullouts but I found a space in the upper area and as I put on my backpacks, another white SUV pulled in front of me. Most of the fishermen seemed to be downstream in the area where I fished the previous day so I walked upstream along the shoulder to a path that angles down the bank and meets the smaller north braid between the island and the road. I added a fleece layer and raincoat to my attire and it was raining very lightly as I resumed fishing at the bottom of the long shallow smooth pool with my light gray comparadun.

I spotted a few dimples in the water and made some long casts and may have aroused a refusal, but experienced no success in the lower half of the north braid. When I reached the top area where the river narrowed and the velocity of the current increased I flicked my fly to the center of a small pool and a long rainbow sipped my comparadun. The sky was now quite dark and the rain was intensifying as I played and landed the surprise 16 inch fish to my net. I couldn’t end on this note even though some closer streaks of lightning lit up the sky, so I popped a cast to the left side and again at the lip a nice brown nosed up and engulfed my fly. Another brief fight ensued and I gently landed and released a nice 13-14 inch brown. The weather was now getting a bit scary as the wind kicked up but I managed to dry my fly and flick a cast to the right of the main center current and, wham, another brown mauled the money fly. I landed three beautiful fish within a span of 10 minutes in a fairly nondescript area near the top of the small left channel. Unfortunately the rain began to come down in sheets at this point so I retreated to the Santa Fe and jumped in the car, started the engine, turned on the heater and warmed my frozen feet. This all took place just before 4PM.

Meanwhile unbeknownst to me, Jane was able to depart Denver by 12:30PM and was approaching Basalt. She later told me that it was hot and 92 degrees as she entered the small town at the junction of the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork; however, as she drove east along the river she approached dark clouds with streaks of lighting and thunder and the temperature reading on her Forte plunged to 56 degrees. She scanned the parked cars along the river and when she passed mile marker 11, she located the Santa Fe in the pullout. This was just before 4PM and she claims it was raining hard with lighting and thunder everywhere and yet I was not in the Santa Fe. She became concerned and got out of her car in the pouring rain to look for me. As she did this, another fisherman emerged from the white SUV so she approached him and asked if he’d seen me. He responded that, “Yes, he’d seen me and thought I went upstream”. Jane then asked, “Why is my husband fishing in this terrible storm?”, to which the fisherman smiled and replied, “Because he has the DISEASE!”.

Jane Prepares Shrimp for Spinach Spaghetti on Friday Evening

Jane Prepares Shrimp for Spinach Spaghetti on Friday Evening

I must have just missed Jane as I sat in the car and waited out the worst of the storm probably for 30 minutes or so. Eventually the rain slowed to a drizzle so I climbed out and geared up and returned to the top end of the left channel next to the island. At the tail of the nice run just above the point where the river splits, I landed a bright and colorful rainbow on the money fly to reach 29 fish on the day, and then had a shot at number 30 when I hooked a medium sized brown in the angled pocket ten feet further upstream, but the feisty fish managed to shed my hook.

I had now run out of decent water and it continued to rain lightly so I decided to call it a day and returned to the car and removed my waders and began to drive back to the campground, but as I approached mile marker 12 I spotted Jane in the oncoming lane. I pulled into the pullout at mile marker 12 and waited for her to U-turn, and then we caravaned back to the campsite where I was chastized for fishing in a thunderstorm. What a day it was on the Frying Pan River!