Green River – 07/25/2014

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: One mile downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam

Fish Landed: 1

Green River 07/25/2014 Photo Album

As I mentioned on my 7/24/14 post, I decided to fish to sighted fish on Friday since blind prospecting delivered only one fish in 2.5 hours albeit a very nice rainbow trout. Friday was forecast to be another hot day with high temperatures in the 90’s, so we had a quick breakfast of oatmeal at the campsite, and then I took the Santa Fe and drove to the parking lot high above the boat launch just below the dam. Jane decided to stay behind as she made a concerted effort to avoid more snake encounters.

The Green River Below the Dam from High Up on the Trail

The Green River Below the Dam from High Up on the Trail

I used my senior pass to cover the day use fee, and pulled on my waders and rigged my rod and began my descent of the steep Little Hole Trail to the Green River. There were quite a few rafts and boats lined up at the launch ramp already at 9:30AM, but I decided to hike for twenty minutes or so to get away from the launch traffic. As I walked along on the trail a steady procession of rafts floated by, and many rafters were laughing and shrieking as heated water fights commenced. I was very curious to know whether these youthful rafters could maintain their feverish pace for the entire seven mile float to Little Hole.

Lots of Rafting Traffic on the River

Lots of Rafting Traffic on the River

After I hiked for 20 minutes I reached a nice area where a wide eddy of slow moving water presented three visible fish that were facing downstream. I picked out landmarks across from the positions of the observed fish and then waded upstream and began making casts to the areas where the fish held. Unfortunately each of the three fish scattered when I presented a fly in front of them.

After I spooked the three fish at the start of my fishing day, I noticed several rises just off the main current seam that fed the huge pool and eddy. Upon seeing this welcome surface activity, I moved upstream a bit and began shooting long 30-40 foot downstream casts to the area of the rises. Finally on the tenth long cast a fish bulged and engulfed the size 12 gray stimulator with a zebra midge dropper. I set the hook and a strong battle ensued, but I was finally able to land a sixteen inch brown trout. I attempted to photograph my prize catch, but as I was gripping the fish to hold for the camera, I slipped from the slimy square rock I was standing on, and this momentary diversion allowed the brown to squirm free.

I was hopeful that this experience was a harbinger of a morning of casting to rising fish, but that was not the case. I resumed sight fishing in the manner described earlier. I walked the path and looked for fish and then dropped down to the water and cast to visible targets. For the most part these fish were in slow moving deep pools above dense aquatic weeds, and they were quite wary. Generally these fish were not risers, but I attempted to target fish that were close to the surface and avoided fish that were hugging the bottom. Adding to the difficulty was the warm air temperature, the cloudless sky, and the constant commotion created by passing water enthusiasts.

After landing the gorgeous brown trout I moved upstream a bit and stumbled across two fish that were once again facing downstream in an eddy. I worked these fish for quite a while as the brown trout closest to shore rose occasionally and sipped something small from the surface. During this time there were some strong gusts of wind, so I hypothesized that the brown was sipping ants that were blasted into the river. I switched my stimulator for a parachute ant and made a nice presentation in front of the fish. I held my breath as the brown finned up to the surface in a leisurely manner and pressed its nose against the fly and then returned to its holding spot. Once again my parachute ant had been refused!

A second fish was further out in deeper water, and it circled in a small pool, but I was never able to generate even a refusal from this fish despite repeated casts. After spending half an hour on these obstinate targets, I turned around and scanned the water upstream, and I was surprised to see a splashy rise 25 feet above me and eight feet out from the bank. The parachute ant was too small to see, so I returned to the gray stimulator and zebra midge and dropped several casts in the vicinity of the rise. On the third drift I was surprised to see a swirl and instantly set the hook and felt the weight of a fish. The penetration of the hook point caused a nice rainbow to leap entirely out of the river, but before it splashed back down the fly came free, and I was once again frustrated in my attempt to land a nice Green River trout. I’ll never know for sure, but I’m convinced that this fish grabbed the tiny zebra midge because it didn’t feel like my fly had much penetration in the lip of the fish.

Once again I slowly walked upstream on the Little Hole Trail and gazed into the water with my polarized sunglasses, and again I approached an eddy with several fish facing downstream but into the reversing current. Initially I spotted two fish, but as I stared into the water I eventually saw at least five trout in the 13-17 inch range. History repeats itself, and I suppose this explains why these fish also ignored my offerings. During the early afternoon time period more frequent episodes of strong wind gusts hampered my ability to look beneath the surface of the water, so I once again decided to change tactics.

I was using my Scott six weight rod, and I’d placed the spool containing a sink tip line in my backpack, so I removed my floating line and loaded the sinking tip. For the last half hour on Friday I experimented with a damsel fly nymph and a conehead sculpzilla, but this tactic unfortunately also failed to excite any trout. I finally hooked the sculpzilla in my rod guide and walked back to the boat launch and then slowly hiked the steep trail back to the parking lot. Once again I landed one nice fish in 3.5 hours of fishing, and the Green River was proving to be a challenging river in late July. I vowed to never return to the Green unless I was drifting the river or wade fishing early in the season when the blue winged olives cause a feeding frenzy.

This Gap Is Part of the Hiking Trail Out of the Green River Canyon

This Gap Is Part of the Hiking Trail Out of the Green River Canyon

Green River – 07/24/2014

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: One mile upstream from Big Hole

Fish Landed: 1

Green River 07/24/2014 Photo Album

Jane and I planned a combination fishing and camping trip for July, and the date finally arrived. Originally I hoped to visit Flaming Gorge and then Strawberry Reservoir and end at the South Fork of the Snake River, but we decided that was too much for six days, so we eliminated the Strawberry Reservoir stay from our itinerary. I used the online reservation system to reserve a campsite at Firefighters’ Memorial Campground in Flaming Gorge Recreation Area for three nights, and then Jane called the Hansen Guest Ranch in Swan Valley to reserve a room for three nights. Our trip would begin on July 23 and end on July 29.

For lodging near the South Fork of the Snake River we originally considered the South Fork Lodge or The Inn at Pallisades Creek, but these proved to be too rich for our tastes, so we downgraded a bit. After three nights of camping we felt it made sense to stay in a hotel and gain access to showers and a bed.

We packed the Santa Fe on Wednesday morning and made the seven hour drive to Flaming Gorge. We discovered that the heat wave that enveloped Colorado also rested over northeastern Utah when we arrived at our campsite on Wednesday afternoon. When we picked our campsite on the reservation system, it only offered sites on Loop C, and it was difficult to see what we were choosing. Upon our arrival we found site number 87 and discovered it was close to the highway, lacked shade and was quite near the neighboring site. We circled loop C and found site 80 was much more desirable and unreserved for our stay period, so we traded sites and left a note for the campground host.

The other complication to the camping portion of the trip was our tent. On a camping trip the week before, I experienced some severe winds ahead of a rainstorm, and the rain fly ended up sheared in five or six locations. We were unable to contact Eureka, the tent manufacturer, over the weekend, so we purchased a new tent from REI on Saturday. Before I departed for work on Monday morning I called Eureka and discovered that I could purchase a replacement rain fly for our Equinox 6 model tent. I placed an order for the rain fly and paid for overnight shipping, and sure enough the new covering arrived on Tuesday, and Jane returned the back up tent to the REI store in downtown Denver for credit.

Once we determined that site number 80 was our home for three nights, we put up the tent and covered it with our new purchase. Our original rain fly was a silver cover, but we soon discovered that the replacement was gold even though the salesperson called it tan. After a quick dinner and an evening exploratory hike on the Bootleg Trail across from the entrance to the campground, we decided to crawl into our tent and read and then go to sleep. It was quite warm, so we decided to sleep on top of our sleeping bags rather than curl up in a toasty down cocoon, but it didn’t take long for the new rain fly to be put to a difficult stress test. For some reason the wind began to blow relentlessly and continued through the night. At one point I woke up and exited the tent and discovered the tablecloth had blown off the table and came to rest fifteen feet away. A towel was on the ground and the tent actually shifted several feet from its original position. The poles supporting the awning over the entrance were on the ground and the rain fly flapped repetitively against the tent. Much to our amazement, we were able to fall asleep again, and when we woke up on Thursday we took inventory of our belongings and found nothing missing. The rain fly had managed to survive the night and high wind without tearing.

As the wind continued in the morning we repositioned the rain fly, and then I pounded stakes through the rings at the bottom of all the tent poles. When we shopped for a new tent, we discovered that all modern tents are equipped with stakes that hold the tent poles in place, so this became valuable information for our camping success.

Jane at the Little Hole Overlook of Green River

Jane at the Little Hole Overlook of Green River

To start our day Jane and I took a three mile bike ride on the Bootleg Trail to the canyon rim and back, and then Jane prepared a tasty meal of eggs and cornbread muffins. We were now confident that the tent was secure, and my thoughts shifted to fishing. For my first day I decided to drive to Little Hole, seven miles below the dam, and hike up the river to fish. Jane decided to accompany me, but we hiked a short distance up the trail and encountered a long slender silver snake wrapped around the dead branches of a shrub next to the trail. Jane is deathly afraid of snakes, so that would be the furthest penetration of the Little Hole trail for her, as she returned to the parking lot and the comfort of her book.

A Snake Among the Branches

A Snake Among the Branches

We said our goodbyes, and I agreed to meet Jane back in the parking lot no later than 3PM. I was now by myself so I increased the pace and hiked for another twenty minutes until I reached an area that I remembered from my visit in September 2013. This stretch reminded me of the Arkansas River as the current swept parallel to a rocky bank, and there were numerous pockets and deep slots in the space in between. I decided to approach the river in the same manner that I approach this type of water in Colorado, and I tied on a Chernobyl ant, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph and began prospecting all the likely fish holding spots. After some time elapsed, I saw a handful of caddis on the water, so I swapped the salvation nymph for a bright green caddis pupa, but again my efforts were stymied.

Unfortunately more time transpired with no success other than a rainbow that followed the Chernobyl ant as I lifted to recast. This all took place no more than four feet in front of me. My allotted time to fish was slipping away, and I wasn’t having any positive results, so I decided to change tactics and removed the dry/dropper configuration and replaced it with a size 12 gray stimulator. This took place just before my turnaround point.

The Green River on Thursday

The Green River on Thursday

I began prospecting the same type of water that I was casting the dry/dropper to and in some swirling water along a current seam, the large dry attractor disappeared. I reacted with a timely hook set, and my line began spinning off my reel at a rapid clip. I allowed the fish to make a furious run, and when it slowed down, I applied a bit of pressure. This produced several acrobatic leaps in which the entire fish cleared the water, and I was now able to see the wide crimson stripe of a silvery glistening rainbow trout. Eventually I was able to tire out my noble foe, and I slid the net beneath the bright and hefty rainbow and then migrated to the bank for a photo. Catching and landing this fish was a thrill and totally unexpected given my lack of action before and after this episode.

My Only Catch, but a Nice One

My Only Catch, but a Nice One

I glanced at my watch and realized I needed to start my return hike in order to meet Jane by 3PM, but as I walked briskly along the path, I observed closely to spot fish. I was quite successful in recognizing numerous fish in slow moving water hovering near the bank. In fact within .2 miles of the parking lot I noticed a pair of fish close to the bank, and I cast to them for a short while. Initially I drifted the stimulator, but that was ignored, so I clipped it off and tied on a small fur parachute ant. Surely with all the strong wind and with the fish positioned within several feet of the grassy bank,. the fish would jump on an ant! Unfortunately my strategy was a near miss, as the closest rainbow rose in the water column and put its nose against the ant only to drop back down to its holding spot near the river bottom.

With that rude refusal firmly planted in my memory banks, I retreated to the parking lot and met Jane at 3:10PM. One fish in 2.5 hours of fishing is not great, but at least it was a fat 17″ brightly colored rainbow. I decided to fish below the dam on Friday and to use my hard earned Thursday experience to my advantage and fish to spotted trout. Would this improve my catch rate? Stay tuned.

Eagle River – 07/18/2014

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Arrowhead community from Miller Ranch Road to second gate

Fish Landed: 15

Eagle River 07/18/2014 Photo Album

No rain fell on Thursday evening and for a change Friday morning was dry and beautiful. Of course I spent the night in the luxurious downstairs bedroom at the Grubin house in Arrowhead. It was quite a contrast from sleeping on the hard surface in the back of my Santa Fe on Wednesday night.

Todd needed to attend a meeting on Friday morning, and the fishing before 11AM was marginal on recent outings, so I decided to stay at the house, eat breakfast, prepare lunch, and update my stream notes from Thursday. This proved to be a great plan, and I was anxious to hit the water when Todd arrived at around 9:30AM. We discussed options, and fairly quickly settled on the public water that begins at Miller Ranch Road and continues upstream across from the Arrowhead water that we fished on Thursday.

We drove both cars to a parking lot at a school just across the Miller Branch Bridge where we assembled our rods and began hiking along the gravel path that follows the river. We didn’t go very far before I scrambled down the bank and prepared to fish. The size 16 gray caddis from the previous evening was still attached to my line, so I decided to shoot a few casts upstream close to the bank, but on my first backcast I hooked a branch that was behind me. What a way to start a new day of fishing! I was skeptical that I could retrieve the fly, but I found a tall rounded boulder and perched on top of it and managed to pull the limb down to a point where I could unwrap the line and save the caddis fly.

As I was doing this, Todd reappeared on the path above me and pointed out that another fisherman was fifty yards above us on the same side of the river. He was going to block our upstream movement, and there was a chance he had just covered the water that I was entering. We decided to change our plan and walked across the bridge to the south side of the Eagle River and began fishing upstream. Once again this was Arrowhead water, but Todd was an Arrowhead resident, so we were legally able to fish on the south side of the river.

The flows had dropped to 450 cfs, and this is still high for wading, but we discovered that we could move around more than was possible on the previous day. I decided to forego the size 16 caddis and reconfigured my line with the yellow Charlie Boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and bright green caddis. Once again Todd and I worked our way upstream and alternated stretches of water.

I discovered that the fishing was much slower than Thursday as I landed only three fish between 10:30 and 1:30PM. I did suffer some missed opportunities with several momentary hook ups, but the fishing was clearly more challenging than my recent experience. One of my landed fish was another nice 15 inch brown, and a small rainbow and brown represented the rest of my catch, and all the fish fell for the bright green caddis.

Friday Morning Brown

Friday Morning Brown

Meanwhile Todd was doing quite well with the bright green caddis pupa that I gave him. It was surprisingly cloudy and cool during the morning despite a five day forecast of high temperatures. In fact, cloudy overcast conditions generally indicate excellent fishing, and I began to wonder why that wasn’t the case on this Friday.

At 1:30PM Todd needed to return to his house to walk Quincy, and he used this as an opportunity to move his car from Miller Ranch Road to the same spot where we parked on Thursday. The sun came out around noon and warmed the air considerably, but after Todd departed some large clouds floated overhead and blocked the sun for long periods. Whether it was the cloud cover or the warming water temperature, by 1:30 pale morning duns made an appearance. The number of visible adults remained fairly sparse over the next hour, but I did notice a few surface rises at around 2 o’clock for a ten minute period.

Eagle River Flows at 450cfs

Eagle River Flows at 450 cfs

Despite the lack of surface activity, the fishing improved dramatically. I exchanged the Charlie Boy for a Chernobyl ant and kept the salvation nymph as my top subsurface pattern, but replaced the caddis pupa with a beadhead hares ear as the bottom fly. The Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear produced nicely on Thursday afternoon, and I hoped they would perform again on Friday.

As the sparse emergence commenced, I pressed on with the nymphs and all of a sudden they became a hot commodity. I prospected runs and riffles that passed over moderate depth, and fish seemingly emerged from nowhere to grab one of the nymphs. I also experienced the phenomenon of fish smacking the nymph as soon as it entered the water, and this reaction always surprises me. Particularly productive were the tails of runs in front of large rocks, as fish grabbed one of the nymphs as I lifted to make another cast. I was tempted to switch to a cinnamon comparadun when I spotted a few rises, but thought better of it and pressed on with the nymphs.

During this period I noticed that the salvation nymph was producing more than the hares ear, so I switched their positions, but this occurred near the end of the hatch. Between 1:30 and 2:30 I landed ten fish and five were in the 8-10 inch size range. Another four were around 12 inches in length, and one particularly memorable fish was fifteen inches or greater. I spotted this fish shifting back and forth grabbing food from the current above and to the right of a large submerged rock. I cast above its position, and my offering was ignored on the first drift. On the second drift, I thought the Chernobyl was beyond the trout’s position, but then I saw the fish make a quick move to the side, so I set the hook. Either the fish had changed locations, or it drifted back under the nymphs and took the salvation when it appeared to be escaping. At any rate it was a great visual snapshot, and I achieved closure by battling the fish to my net.

The hatch had almost ended when I lost the salvation nymph in the process of releasing a fish, so I replaced it with a beadhead pheasant tail to preserve my diminishing supply of salvations. I continued working my way upstream and covered a lot of territory as I prospected with the Chernobyl, hares ear and pheasant tail. It was amazing how attractive water that produced fish as expected a few minutes ago, suddenly seemed to be barren of fish. As it was later in the afternoon, I noticed that I was casting a long shadow upstream ahead of me, so perhaps this was affecting my success rate.

15 Inch Brown Came from Run Between Rock and Bank

15 Inch Brown Came from Run Between Rock and Bank

I was beginning to despair of catching more fish when I reached a large protruding boulder with a small but fairly deep run between the boulder and the bank. The boulder offered me the opportunity to hide and thus prevent my shadow from overlapping the upstream area that I planned to fish. I shot a cast to the run on the other side of the boulder a couple times with no reaction, so I decided to cast further upstream beyond the boulder, and this did the trick. A fifteen inch brown emerged from nowhere and snatched the pheasant tail thus providing me with another highlight on the day.

Finally I reached the huge deep pool where we ended on Thursday, and Todd had returned to the river. I tried my flies in the head section where I hooked and landed the 15 inch rainbow the previous day, but only felt a momentary hook up with a 12 inch rainbow. I decided to explore the next sweet spot above the white water that spilled into the huge pool while Todd converted to an indicator and nymphs to get deeper.

As I approached a nice deep run I spotted a very large brown in a small depression in front of a cylindrical moss-colored rock at the very end of the pool.. Twice the fish reacted to the lift of my flies, but then it darted toward shore as it was apparently spooked by my shadow. Just as the large brown escaped, I saw a rise four feet above the depression in some riffly water so I shot a cast to that area. On the second drift I saw a small swirl, and reacted with a swift hook set. I felt the weight of a nice brown for an instant and actually saw the entire fish as it jumped from the water at the moment of the hook set. Unfortunately the hook came flying free as it appeared that the fish took the Chernobyl ant and spit it out while in midair.

With these two disappointments under my belt, I waded upstream along the bank a bit further until I saw a marginal run that split exposed rocks on both sides. The water was fairly shallow at this location, but did probably reach a depth of three feet in the center. I decided to allocate a few casts to the area, but I didn’t see any fish with my polarized lenses, so I was fairly certain that the casts would be fruitless. Again I was shocked when on the third drift a brown materialized out of nowhere and grabbed the pheasant tail as it tumbled by. I landed a 14 inch brown trout for my last fish of the day.

Another Fine Brown Deep in the Net

Another Fine Brown Deep in the Net

At 1:30 I was willing to accept a poor day of fishing, but rationalized it as an offset to my spectacular Thursday. By 4 o’clock I landed fifteen fish including four brown trout that were measured in the fifteen inch range. Friday was a late bloomer and eventually equaled most of my other days on the Eagle River. Todd drove me back to my car, and I removed my waders and stashed my fishing gear and returned to Denver. The weather difficulties of Wednesday evening were fading memories replaced by visions of hungry trout grabbing my flies as they drifted by. 2014 has restored my faith in the Eagle River and elevated it to a top destination for future trips.

 

 

Eagle River – 07/17/2014

Time: 9:30AM – 7:00PM

Location: Edwards rest area across from parking lot; upstream from pedestrian bridge; Arrowhead second gate

Fish Landed: 21

Eagle River 07/17/2014 Photo Album

My most recent fishing trip was all about overcoming adversity to enjoy some great fishing. My two days on the Eagle River on July 10 and 11 remained in my mind as I reached a point at work where I could break away for another fishing trip. I checked the flows on the DWR site, and the Eagle River had dropped from the 600 cfs range to the low 500’s. A series of storms enabled the river to remain relatively high, but I guessed that an upcoming  five day period of high temperatures would bring the flows down to the 300 level, and past experience told me that Eagle River fishing would get difficult with sunny days, hot temperatures and low flows.

Jane wanted to join me, but she did not want to hang out by herself while I fished, so I planned to camp Wednesday and Thursday night at Hornsilver and fish on Thursday and Friday. Jane decided to drive to the mountains on Friday afternoon to join me at the campsite on Friday night, and then we would do some bicycling on Saturday and return to Denver to avoid the Sunday traffic. I packed the Santa Fe with everything required for two campers and departed Denver at around 2:30PM. Before I left, I called my friend, Todd Grubin, and asked if he was interested in joining me for some fishing on the Eagle River on Thursday and Friday. Todd replied that he’d be delighted to fish with me and offered his house as a place to sleep, but I told him about our plans to camp and declined his gracious invitation.

The first sign that I was in for a rough trip was an accident on interstate 70 that caused stop and go driving from where I entered the highway until just beyond Colorado Boulevard.

I arrived at Hornsilver at 5PM and immediately assembled the Eureka five-person tent and staked it out and threw my pad, sleeping bag, pillow and clothing duffel inside. I decided to pay for only Wednesday night in case the fishing was subpar, or I decided to move to another campsite even though Jane and I agreed on Hornsilver as our destination. As I began preparing my dinner I noticed some dark clouds to the north and some distant thunder, but it seemed apparent that the storm would pass by.

Unfortunately as I was finishing my soup, the wind began to kick up, and I realized that the storm was not going to skip Hornsilver. I turned on the burner and began heating water in hopes that I could wash the dishes and jump in the car before the rain commenced. Suddenly a strong gust of wind swept toward me and lifted the five-person tent that was weighed down with my belongings into the air. The tent was now upside down and ten feet away from its original position. I quickly ran to the billowing projectile and pushed it back to a nearly upright position, but another gust of wind forced the tent from my hands and back to a position on its side.

The next phase of the storm now kicked in and sheets of rain began to blow sideways. I was never going to get the tent upright with the strong wind and rain blowing from the north, so I decided to collapse it as fast as I could and then wait out the storm in the car. As the rain drenched my jeans and fleece sweater, I pulled the pins from the tent poles and allowed the entire mass to settle to the ground. The brown tarp that is usually under the tent had somehow been crumpled into a ball so I grabbed one end and pulled it over the tent for some rain protection, and I quickly repositioned the rain fly over the rest of the tent as best as I could in the driving rain.

I jumped in the car stunned by what had just happened and removed my wet fleece and pulled on my down parka for warmth, and then I decided to try and find a spot where I could call Jane and let her know my predicament. I drove through the small mountain town of Red Cliff, but I never had a phone signal, so I looped back to the upper road and then back to 24 and continued up the mountain pass. When I got to the top of the pass, I had four dots and found a pullout where I called Jane to tell her that she should not bother making the trip on Friday as we no longer had a viable tent to camp in.

By the time I returned to the campground the rain stopped, and I was able to wash the dishes and pack them away in the appropriate bin. I was now ready to assess the damage from the storm. Remember that my clothes, sleeping bag and pillow were inside the collapsed tent. The first thing I discovered was that the rain fly had five or six tears mostly along the seams so apparently this was the weakest link in the face of the initial gusts of wind from the north. Clearly the tent could not be used for the remainder of the trip especially given the forecast of more rain over the next few days.

Aftermath of Storm That Hit Hornsilver Campground

Aftermath of Storm That Hit Hornsilver Campground

I pulled the brown tarp off the collapsed pile and draped it over a large boulder. Next I dragged the sheared rain fly on top of another wide rock nearby and spread it out. This left the tent itself along with the poles that were flat on the ground ten feet away from their original position. I gathered the poles and folded them up and lined them up next to the tent, and then I searched for the entry door and zipped it open and lifted the canvas to find my belongings. My pillow was still in a garbage bag, so it was dry and protected from the rain, and I quickly transferred it to the Santa Fe. Next I found my duffel bag and it was wet on one side, but when I pulled it out, I found my fleece pullover and fleece pants were dry. I carefully removed the dry items that I planned to wear that night and placed them on the front seat and stowed the bag and the rest of the contents in the rear of the Santa Fe.

A Gust of Wind Ripped the Rain Fly

A Gust of Wind Ripped the Rain Fly

Next I returned to the flattened tent and searched for my sleeping bag. In a strange stroke of luck the Thermarest pad doubled over when the tent flipped and provided a shelter for the sleeping bag. The pad was totally wet on one side, but the sleeping bag was as dry as when I tossed it in the tent an hour earlier. I now knew I would be able to sleep in the back of the Santa Fe on Wednesday evening, and I could deal with the aftermath of the tent disaster in the morning. I cleared enough space in the back of the Santa Fe to position my sleeping bag and pillow and fell asleep to the sound of more rain.

After a decent night of rest I woke up to a soggy mess. I ate a quick breakfast and rearranged the back of the Santa Fe so that the dry cargo was separated from the wet items. I balled up the wet tarp, tablecloth, rain fly and tent and placed them in the very rear of the SUV and then anchored them with the water container. I was scheduled to meet Todd at the Edwards Rest Area at 9AM, and I planned to accept his offer of sleeping accommodations, and therefore I would not need the camping gear for the remainder of the week.

As I drove toward Edwards, I anxiously looked down at the Eagle River and much to my relief, it was clear and unaffected by the rain from the previous evening. I pulled into the parking lot at 8:30 and called Jane and then prepared to fish. Todd rolled into a space near me at our agreed upon time of 9AM, and in short order we were ready to fish. I decided to use my Sage 4 piece 4 weight, and we agreed to try the water a bit downstream from the parking lot as other fishermen were ahead of us, and we assumed they would head directly to the long pool next to a sandy beach that was a popular spot upstream from the parking lot.

Todd and I both began our morning with dry/dropper configurations. I tied on a yellow Charlie Boy hopper and below that I added a copper john, and we began alternating pockets as the river was still rather high and wading to areas more distant from shore was a safety risk. After I covered a few juicy pockets with no results, I added a bright green caddis pupa below the copper john; and after this change, I landed a 15 inch brown trout. Eventually the copper john was exchanged for a beadhead hares ear, and this combination served me for most of the morning.

15 Inch Brown Landed Thursday Morning

15 Inch Brown Landed Thursday Morning

When we approached lunch log, the large fallen log that parallels the river that attracts tourists and the lunch crowd, we encountered another fisherman, so we exited the river and circled around to a point forty yards upstream. We fished through a few more pockets in this area, and then again cut back to the fisherman path and advanced to a point where we could branch back to the river above the long beach pool. Neither Todd nor I caught any fish during this one hour period of fishing and movement.

Finally above the long beach pool we had the water to ourselves, and we continued the pattern of alternating the attractive pools. Despite some intense fishing, the fish continued to avoid our flies until I reached the last attractive pocket at the top of the fast water section. Here I cast to the middle and almost immediately the Charlie Boy darted sideways, and I set the hook and played a 15 inch brown trout to my net. Once I released the buttery brown, I lobbed a cast to the very top of the pool, and the foam hopper dipped, and I was attached to a streaking 13 inch rainbow. Both of these fish were fooled by the bright green caddis pupa, and suddenly my outlook on fishing the Eagle River improved considerably.

Next we approached a narrow stretch of slow moving water between the rocky bank and some very fast whitewater. Todd began prospecting the lower half of this area and then moved to the midsection. On one of his drifts we both spotted the tail of a substantial fish, and we could now see the holding position. As I looked on, Todd made a series of dead drifts over the fish with no reaction. I suggested that he try lifting the nymph and pupa in front of the fish’s position, and miraculously on perhaps the twentieth drift, the target trout grabbed the caddis pupa. It was a thrill to watch Todd work over this fish and get rewarded for his persistence.

It was now noon, and Todd needed to run some errands and return to his house to walk his dog, Quincy, so we returned to the parking lot. We decided that I would stay and eat lunch and then fish the right bank above the pedestrian bridge, and then I would return to the parking lot and meet Todd at 2PM.

Pedestrian Bridge at the Edwards Rest Area

Pedestrian Bridge at the Edwards Rest Area

The area above the pedestrian bridge is one of my favorites on the Eagle River, and I’ve experienced some memorable runs of hot fishing there. Todd did inform me that both sides of the river above the pedestrian bridge are private water, so that concerned me a bit, but we decided that I’d probably be OK since I was tucked beneath a steep bank and out of the vision of passing motorists on route 6. I quickly consumed my lunch and then hustled along the path from the rest area parking lot to the bike path and across the pedestrian bridge. On the southwest side of the river I circled under the bridge and faced an attractive wide pool, and here I began an hour and ten minutes of superb fishing.

I resumed fishing with the Charlie Boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and bright green caddis pupa, and this was pocket water fishing at its finest. I fished from the bridge to a point half way to the large bend where the river begins paralleling the highway, and the water was characterized by long deep pockets behind large protruding boulders. For the most part these deep runs were 8-10 feet wide and bordered by the steep bank and dense bushes on one side and strong fast current on the other side. I worked the side of the slot tight to the bank first and then shifted my casts methodically to the left until I floated the flies along the current seam, and of course I covered the tail and then the midsection and then the top.

A Very Chunky 15 Inch Brown

A Very Chunky 15 Inch Brown

In addition to covering water that was private and probably unmolested for two months due to the high flows, I enjoyed the added benefit of increased insect activity. I began to notice quite a few adult caddis dapping the surface and the occasional pale morning dun slowly gliding up from the surface. By the time I found a steep path to the top of the bank and began my hike back to the parking lot, I had landed six brown trout on the bright green caddis pupa including three smaller fish, one chunky twelve inch fighter, and two fat fifteen inch beauties. I had a blast.

My pace was quick as I strode back to the parking lot and arrived twenty minutes before 2PM, so I hopped on the path and headed to the river by lunch log. As I expected, the fisherman that occupied this space earlier was no longer there, so I prospected the deep runs across from the log for ten minutes, and I was pleased to land two rainbows including a fine thirteen inch fish on the caddis pupa before I returned to the car and met Todd.

Pretty Eagle River Rainbow

Pretty Eagle River Rainbow

Todd and I discussed our next move and decided that there were too many fishermen to contend with at the rest area, so he suggested that we migrate to the Arrowhead community private water that was upstream a mile or two. Because Todd is a resident, he possesses access, and who was I to object to this proposal? We drove up route 6 and made a left turn at the second  or middle gate, and Todd’s pass allowed the gate to swing open. I followed closely and slid through the gate behind him, and we drove a short distance to a cul-de-sac and parked. I jumped out of the car and gazed down at the water below us, and it was beautiful with lots of deep pockets and slots to explore.

From the cul-de-sac we hiked up a steep bank and found a bike path and walked downstream to a point where a path cut to the river. An appealing stretch of water appeared before us, and we began the chore of working our way upstream along the south bank. It really wasn’t a chore, and I began with the same dry/dropper that served me well at the rest area. Almost immediately I noticed the Charlie Boy dart sideways, but I experienced only a momentary hook up. I persisted and landed a nice brown on the caddis pupa shortly thereafter.

Todd Demonstrates a Backhand Cast

Todd Demonstrates a Backhand Cast

As Todd and I moved upstream, the sky clouded up, and we began to observe an increased quantity of caddis on the water. This provoked a series of surface rises, so I clipped off the three fly setup and tied on a size 12 gray stimulator. This move paid dividends as I landed two but then the sun reappeared, and that halted the caddis dapping and also ended the effectiveness of the stimulator.

I decided to revert to the dry/dropper method, however, I substituted a Chernobyl ant for the Charlie Boy, and in addition I added a beadhead hares ear nymph as one of my droppers. This combination worked wonders for the next hour or so as I continued to land fish on a fairly regular basis. Two were particularly memorable and emerged from shallow water along the bank.

In the first case, I tossed a cast just below some overhanging branches and a sizable brown refused the Chernobyl, so I now knew I had an interested fish in my range. I carefully made another cast with no success, but on the third effort, the fifteen inch brown flashed to the side and grabbed the trailing hares ear. I set the hook and battled the beautiful wild fish to my net. This was a great thrill and the type of fishing I love.

This Brown Was Caught in Shallow Water

This Brown Was Caught in Shallow Water

I waded upstream a bit further and found a similar shallow lie just downstream from some branches, and here I observed another brown of similar dimensions as it rose and sipped something small from the surface. Once again I had my target, and I flipped the Chernobyl just above the fish. As the surface fly slowly drifted over the brown, it confidently rose and sucked in the Chernobyl, and then the fight was on. I carefully played my prized catch to the net and then released it and watched in awe as it swam back to its natural environment.

Early evening was now upon us as I circled around Todd and found myself at the tail of a huge deep pool that was 60 feet long and 20 feet wide for most of its length. I began fishing with the dry/dropper combination, but as I did this, caddis began dapping and a few fish rose. When I arrived at the juicy top of the pool, I clipped off the three flies and knotted a size 16 gray caddis to my line. On a drift along the right side of the pool near the top, a twelve inch brown responded and smashed the caddis.

Next there was a short six foot long pocket that was deep and right below the whitewater area above the pool. I spotted several fish working the surface, so I began floating my caddis in the area. On the fourth or fifth cast near the bubbling water at the very top of this section, a gorgeous fifteen inch rainbow emerged and gulped in my fly. This fish put up quite a battle with several sprints downstream, but I eventually subdued it and snapped a photo to remember it by. What a way to end a fantastic day of fishing on the Eagle River.

Impressive 15 Inch Rainbow from Eagle River

Impressive 15 Inch Rainbow from Eagle River

During our time in the Arrowhead piece of water, I landed ten fish with four taking a caddis dry fly, one falling for the Chernobyl and the remainder grabbing the beadhead hares ear. This action included four sizable brown trout and the final rainbow. I bought Todd dinner at the Gashouse Grill to show my appreciation for gaining me access to the Arrowhead section, and for being my fishing companion on a memorable day. Oh and also for allowing me to use his house as my place of rest on Thursday night. It was quite a contrast from the back of the Santa Fe surrounded by soggy clothes.

 

Eagle River – 07/11/2014

Time: 9:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Edwards Rest Area

Fish Landed: 17

Eagle River 07/11/2014 Photo Album

As I walked back to my car on Thursday after my day of fishing, I heard the rumble of thunder and peered toward the southwest and noticed a huge black cloud. I hustled to get out of my waders and stow my fishing gear and successfully avoided the storm, but as I drove east on interstate 70 toward the Minturn exit, rain poured down on me in sheets and waves. Would this ruin my plans to fish the Eagle River again on Friday? As I exited the interstate and began driving toward Minturn, I got my first decent view of the stream, and sure enough it was chocolate brown. This water condition continued through Minturn until I began climbing the pass that moves away from the river. As I set up my tent and made dinner at Hornsilver, I decided that my backup plan was to fish Gore Creek if the Eagle River was too muddy, but I had no idea if Gore Creek was clear or murky.

On Friday morning I ate a quick breakfast and rolled up my wet tent and departed toward Minturn and the Eagle River with great trepidation. The lower Eagle River below Edwards muddies quickly from a tributary, so I didn’t even consider driving that far, and instead decided to examine the water by the Edwards rest area. Historically this section of the Eagle River has been great for me particularly during the high flows and edge fishing period. As I descended the winding pass I caught my first glimpse of the Eagle, and much to my relief it was nearly crystal clear. Unless Gore Creek was dumping sediments into the Eagle at the junction near I70, I was probably going to encounter clear fishable water at the Edwards rest area.

It wasn’t long before I reached interstate 70 and had my first look at the combined flow, and sure enough it was essentially clear. My anticipation of fishing in the Eagle River soared as I pulled into a parking spot at the rest area and prepared to fish with my Sage four weight four piece rod. I walked back to the bridge just below the rest area and then negotiated my way under the bridge and over some large round rocks and went downstream as far as I could go before encountering some fast whitewater. The whitewater stretch was going to be too difficult to fish, so I decided to begin my fishing day just above it. It was chilly and cool in the shadows of the big cottonwood trees when I began at 9:30AM.

I knotted a Charlie Boy hopper to my line as the top fly, and then beneath that I attached a copper john. Within the first fifteen minutes I hooked and landed a feisty twelve inch brown on the copper john and this increased my optimism. The flows remained at approximately 600 cfs, and this made for tough wading over slippery slime covered boulders. Also this section of the Eagle River has a narrower stream bed than the Eagle lease stretch, and this translated to high fast current tight up against the bank in many places.

After my quick success, I worked my way upstream and landed a second small brown just below the Edwards bridge. The copper john didn’t seem to be producing in some fairly attractive locations, so I added a bright green caddis pupa as my third fly. Above the bridge I cast to some nice short pools where a huge vertical cut bank looms over the river, and in this series of pockets I landed a few more browns on the caddis pupa. Given the success of the caddis, I moved it up to replace the copper john and then added a salvation nymph as my bottom fly.

These Runs Produced Two Nice Browns

These Runs Produced Two Nice Browns

At the end of the cut bank some large spruce trees extended over the river to the edge of some very swift current. I somehow managed to slide around the trees and resumed my upstream progression along the bank until I reached a point where the river widened a bit. There were a huge number of pockets in this area, and I was able to wade a bit and fish the short deep pools that were 15 yards from the bank. By wading carefully and moving from pocket to pocket, I added a few more browns to my count, and then I approached the place where a long log lies parallel to the river. This log is popular with tourists and workers who use it as a perch while they eat their lunches by the river.

16 Inch Brown from Eagle River

16 Inch Brown from Eagle River

Several nice long deep slots ran parallel to the log, and I began to drift the Charlie Boy from the the top of the closest one to the tail. After five drifts, I coaxed a nice fish to snatch the salvation nymph, and this led to a brief battle with a 15 inch brown trout before it rested in my net for a photo. Once I released this nice catch, I began to cast to the next deep area that paralleled the one that yielded the 15 inch brown. This slot bordered some faster water, and as I ran the Charlie Boy along the current seam along the fast current, I saw a flash and set the hook and once again found myself attached to a hard fighting trout. After thwarting several short runs downstream, I applied side pressure and managed to scoop the 17 inch fish into my net and discovered it was a very hefty brown. I was flying high after landing two nice fish in such close proximity.

Fat Sixteen Inch Brown Put Up a Ballte

Fat Sixteen Inch Brown Put Up a Battle

It was now 11:30, and I was directly across from where the car was parked, so I decided to eat my lunch by the water. As I munched away, I began to notice some pale morning duns in the air, and the swallows were actively swooping across the river. This is always an indication of an insect hatch.

After lunch I swapped the Charlie Boy hopper for a Chernobyl ant as I hoped that I could generate some interest in the surface fly. I skipped the next section where evergreen branches once again obstructed my forward progress, and once I was beyond the group of trees I found a narrow path back to the river and resumed fishing along the bank. I executed this some workaround maneuver several times as I moved up the river, and in the process I landed five more trout including several rainbows.

Rainbow Materialized from Current Seam

Rainbow Materialized from Current Seam

By 1:30 I came upon a long extremely juicy pool that is usually occupied by other fishermen. There was a young gentleman at the very tail of the pool, and I asked if he was fishing. He responded no, as he appeared to be supervising his two dogs in a game of retrieve the stick. Another young man was sitting on a log overlooking the pool, so I asked if he was fishing, and he replied that he was not. With this good fortune I approached the pool and relished the fact that I had it all to myself.

16 Inch Rainbow from Long Pool on Eagle River

16 Inch Rainbow from Long Pool on Eagle River

I began prospecting the eight feet of water along the left side of the fast deep run that flowed down the center of the pool. I fanned out three casts twenty feet upstream, and then made three or four steps and repeated the process. Much to my surprise I didn’t even receive a refusal, but I continued until I was near the top of the run. Here I made a nice cast that landed right along the current seam and as the Chernobyl drifted back toward me it took a dip. I set the hook and felt the weight of a substantial fish. This fish fought differently than the earlier browns, and eventually I slid my net beneath a seventeen inch rainbow. What a thrill to catch a rainbow of this size in the Eagle River near the rest area.

Beadhead Pheasant Tail Produced

Beadhead Pheasant Tail Produced

The rainbow was fish number fourteen, and I continued working the left bank above the long pool. There were several nice pockets in this stretch, and I managed to land three more fish with one being a decent thirteen inch brown and the other two fish under 10 inches. Once again some foreboding dark clouds appeared in the southeastern sky accompanied by distant rumbling. I did not have my raincoat in my backpack, so I decided to hike back to the car to retrieve it so I could resume fishing without worrying about the weather. When I reached the car, however, I could see that the storm was going to hit the rest area, and it was not worth the effort to hike back to the river.

I hustled to remove my waders and stash my gear, and just as I jumped in the drivers’ seat, large raindrops began splatting on the windshield. The intensity of the rain increased as I began my return trip to Denver, and wet roads became the norm for most of the drive.

I experienced another fun day on the Eagle River on Friday with seventeen fish landed and three in excess of fifteen inches. Once again I began planning a return to the Eagle River while the water remains cold, and the fish continue to be active.

Eagle River – 07/10/2014

Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Third set of steps over the fence in Eagle Lease when traveling west on route 6 upstream to the second set of steps

Fish Landed: 14

Eagle River 07/10/2014 Photo Album

Despite landing 16 fish in 5.5 hours of fishing on Wednesday afternoon on the Arkansas River, I rolled the dice and drove three hours to the Eagle River. Would this be a colossal blunder or a stroke of genius? I traded a relative known for the notoriously temperamental Eagle River.

I underestimated the time it would take to make the trip, as I encountered a variety of obstacles along my way. First there was the unexpected wait for road construction west of Salida. I should have factored in all the small towns along the way and the associated slow speed limits, and it should have been obvious that I would follow countless out of state recreational vehicles slowly negotiating every minor curve between Salida and Eagle. I also stopped for fuel and ice, and as I reached Hornsilver Campground, I took extra time to pick a campsite and pay my fee for Thursday night.

I planned to begin fishing in the middle of the Eagle lease just east of Eagle, CO where Dave G. and I ended on Saturday afternoon, and when I arrived there, two cars occupied the wide pullout in front of the fisherman steps that arched over the fence. This caused me some concern regarding competing fishermen, but I went beyond them, and executed a U-turn, and parked twenty yards west of the access point. My paranoia caused me to speculate that too many fishermen were reading my blog and flocking to my favorite spots.

It was another hot sunny day and the flows had dropped from 900 cfs to 600 cfs in the five days since I’d enjoyed success, so I was a bit concerned that the warm temperatures might impact the fishing. By the time I prepared to fish and climbed the stairs and walked to the edge of the river, it was noon. I began with the traditional Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear, but I didn’t enjoy any action for 15 minutes or so. Fortunately as doubts about my decision began to creep into my head, I began to observe some pale morning duns riding the surface of the river. The hatch was relatively sparse at first and consequently no fish were rising, so I elected to stick with the hares ear nymph, but I added a salvation nymph hoping that it would imitate the nymph stage of a pale morning dun mayfly.

Fished This Nice Wide Riffle During PMD Hatch

Fished This Nice Wide Riffle During PMD Hatch

The intensity of the hatch increased, and I began to observe bulges from the backs of the fish breaking the water surface. This is typically a sign that the fish are taking subsurface emergers, so I began giving my nymphs more movement, but this tactic failed to generate any action. My frustration was beginning to build as the hatch moved into full bloom, and I was on the outside looking in. At this point, however, a few surface rises developed so I decided to abandon the subsurface approach and try a single dry fly. I removed the three fly dry/dropper configuration and tied on a size 16 gray comparadun, and it took quite a bit of persistent casting, but I eventually landed two medium rainbows.

Held for a Side View

Held for a Side View

I was pleased with this hard earned success, but again a lull occurred and the gray comparadun was ignored even though I placed some nice casts over fish that continued feeding. In fact, with the aid of my polarized sunglasses, I could see that several of the risers were nice sized trout. I decided to switch to a cinnamon comparadun that I tied over the winter to imitate the PMD’s that hatch on the Frying Pan River. This turned out to be a solid move, as I landed three more rainbows from the wide riffle, and one was a very nice 15 inch bow that I spotted subsurface. I cast to this fish repeatedly before finally enticing a take. The strong pale morning dun hatch lasted for an hour, and I managed to land five nice rainbows, so I was starting to feel better about my decision to abandon the Arkansas River.

Cinnamon Comparadun Did the Job

Cinnamon Comparadun Did the Job

Once the hatch ended at around 1PM, I reverted to the dry/dropper approach but used a Charlie Boy hopper as my top fly with a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph as my two droppers. The surface fly wasn’t attracting interest, and I have a lot of Charlie Boy hoppers that I tied two winters ago, so I decided to put them at risk rather than the pool toys of which of have fewer to lose, and they take longer to make. During the post-hatch time period I landed a gorgeous brown trout that measured 17 inches, and this fish carried a lot of weight. As you might expect, this fish put up quite a fight, and in order to land it, I followed it downstream a bit and then angled it to shore.

I increased my catch total from five to nine after the hatch, as I picked up fish at a fairly regular rate, and next I approached another beautiful wide riffle that ran over a rocky bottom with three to four feet of depth. I paused to observe and quickly noticed several rises and upon closer examination with my polarized sunglasses spotted some nice fish holding along the river bottom. One particular fish appeared to be quite large, so I decided to focus on it and began to cycle through a series of flies. On an early drift over the target fish, it appeared to show interest in the hopper, but backed away, and the nymphs seemed to be useless. I removed the three fly dry/dropper arrangement and tried a gray size 12 stimulator next, but this didn’t even generate a look or tail twitch. A green trude was introduced to the big guy next, and the trout rose a bit and inspected but returned to its holding position. Perhaps a small caddis similar to the ones I saw over the water would do the trick? I tried a size 16 gray caddis next, but that was scorned by Mr. Trout. What about a PMD? Some stragglers continued to emerge and drift on the water, but nowhere near the number that were present during the prime time of 12-1PM. It was worth a try, so I tied on a brand new cinnamon comparadun since the one I used earlier no longer had tails and was unraveling a bit.

I cast above the fish and as it drifted by slightly to the right, the big boy casually swam over a foot or so and sipped in my fly! It is moments like this that keep me coming back to this sport. I fought the fish for a bit, but it didn’t put up as much fight as the 17 inch brown. I carefully waded to the bank and kept the big rainbow in the water until I had my camera ready, and then positioned my net and the fish on a flat area. Unfortunately the rainbow made a last ditch effort to escape and rolled in some sand, so that when I repositioned for a photo, it was marred by a clump of sand and dirt. Still it was perhaps my biggest fish of the year and extended beyond my 15 inch net opening by at least 3-4 inches.

18-19" Rainbow Was a Thrill

18-19″ Rainbow Was a Thrill

With my heart still racing I continued on along the north bank prospecting with the dry/dropper and landed four more fish. The last fish near my quitting point was a rainbow that took a pheasant tail nymph that I substituted for the salvation nymph in hopes of preserving my dwindling supply.

In summary it was a fun day on the Eagle River in the Eagle lease section. The fish were more spread out than on July 5, but this gave me a chance to fish to a decent hatch and do some enjoyable sight fishing. My catch ratio was roughly 60% rainbows and 40% brown trout, and I enjoy having the opportunity to catch rainbows in a predominantly brown trout state. Fourteen fish landed is quite respectable, and the average size of the fish was superior to what I was catching on the Arkansas River on Wednesday. I concluded that my move to the Eagle River on Thursday was well worth the drive..

Close Up of State Flower

Close Up of State Flower

 

 

Arkansas River – 07/09/2014

Time: 1:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Lunch rock upstream to my favorite island below Chafee – Fremont county line

Fish Landed: 16

Arkansas River 07/09/2014 Photo Album

The perfect wave. A powder day of skiing. Edge fishing a river in Colorado as runoff subsides. Participants in the related sports go to great lengths to experience these peak events. Well, perhaps edge fishing doesn’t rank with the others, but it is a lot of fun and on the few occasions when I’ve timed it perfectly, it leaves me thirsting for more. This describes my mindset after a three hour sampling of outstanding edge fishing on the Eagle River on Saturday, July 5. I immediately began formulating a plan to experience more excellent edge fishing even as the streamflows on the major freestone rivers began to trend downward.

My desire to return to a river while edge fishing remained in its prime spurred me to work efficiently, and I completed my closing responsibilities by the end of Tuesday and formulated a camping and fishing plan for the rest of the week. I decided to pack the car on Wednesday morning and drive to the Arkansas River to check on the fishing there. The reports from Royal Gorge Angler suggested that edge fishing was superb with flows still at 1600 cfs and five feet of visibility. I would fish the Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon and then stay overnight at one of the campgrounds along the river. If the fishing was excellent, I planned to remain and fish there again on Thursday, and then drive to Hornsilver Campground Thursday evening, and this would position me to fish the Eagle River on Friday. If the fishing was less than excellent on Wednesday, I would move to the Eagle River on Thursday morning and fish there for two days.

Everything went according to plan, and I departed Stapleton by 8:45AM on Wednesday morning. I elected to drive the route through Colorado Springs as I targeted the Vallie Bridge Campground as my camping destination for Wednesday evening, and I felt the drive on I25 south was a bit easier than heading southwest on US 285. Unfortunately when I descended the long hill from Royal Gorge to the river, I discovered that the water was quite turbid and there was at best one foot for visibility along the bank. Would I even be able to fish on the Arkansas River? I began to chastise myself for not going directly to the Eagle River.

I drove west on US 50, and the river remained quite murky. When I reached the turn for Vallie Bridge, I detoured briefly and examined the accommodations. There were quite a few tent pads, fire pits and picnic tables and only one appeared to be claimed. The bathroom was along the river and quite a distance from the campsites, and there were only a few cottonwood trees, thus providing minimal shade for two or three campsites. I decided I could make this work, but I also concluded that I would check out Rincon Campground seven or eight miles upriver.

As I neared Rincon I passed Badger Creek, a small tributary that enters the river from the north, and here I discovered the source of the discolored water. Badger Creek was dumping coffee colored water into the river, and the river above this point was much clearer with more than five feet of visibility. I was excited to make this discovery and continued on in a more upbeat frame of mind past the Rincon Campground. The campground appeared to be empty at 12:30PM, so I resolved to stop and explore the option of camping there once my day of fishing ended.

With my renewed positive attitude about fishing the Arkansas River, I decided to begin fishing at a large rock that juts into the river near a bend in the highway above the Wellsville Bridge. I refer to this as lunch rock, as I return to this spot to eat my lunch when I am fishing in this area. I’d purchased a sandwich in Canon City, so on this day, I began by eating at lunch rock before beginning my day of fishing.

It was a hot sunny day with little cloud cover as I pulled on my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight rod. The river was indeed high at 1600 cfs, and the only viable place to fish was along the rocky bank that separated the river from highway 50. I decided to tie on a Chernobyl ant for flotation and visibility and then added a copper john since I’d gotten away from this fly, and I wanted to experiment to see if it produced results similar to a salvation nymph; my early candidate for 2014 fly of the year. Like the salvation nymph, a copper john is a general attractor nymph and not a precise imitation of a single insect species.

Nice Rainbow from the Arkansas River

Nice Rainbow from the Arkansas River

I began working my way upstream from lunch rock, but the copper john wasn’t producing in water that seemed to be excellent holding water for Arkansas River brown trout, so I snipped it off and replaced it with a beadhead hares ear nymph. The beadhead hares ear nymph has historically been one of my best producers on the Arkansas River. Unfortunately I remained without any fish, so I relented and tied on a salvation nymph below the hares ear. The nymph combination spurred more interest, and I landed two modest-sized brown trout to finally get on the scoreboard. The hares ear by itself did not yield any fish, but once I added the salvation nymph, it began to produce, and I landed three more fish as I moved on, and all the fish grabbed the hares ear.

15 Inch Brown

15 Inch Brown

I heard what the fish were telling me and removed the salvation nymph and tied on a prince nymph as my top fly and moved the hares ear to the bottom. At the same time the Chernobyl ant wasn’t generating any interest, so I replaced it with a yellow Letort hopper since this fly produced for me on previous years during the edge fishing time period. Unfortunately the hopper did not attract interest and only grew saturated with water and sank forcing me to continually dry it to maintain buoyancy. I grew frustrated with this routine and exchanged the hopper for a chubby Chernobyl, and this fly stayed on my line for quite awhile along with the prince nymph and beadhead hares ear as I progressed up the river and landed more fish.

The chubby Chernobyl was performing its job well of floating and remaining visible and even resulted in a fish caught, but after I reached eleven fish landed, the wing absorbed water, and the fly began to sink. Once again I decided to make a change, and I replaced the chubby Chernobyl with a tan pool toy with yellow legs. The prince nymph had yielded one fish, so I replaced it with a black wet fly with a shiny body and kept the beadhead hares ear in place. This combination produced the last five fish in late afternoon, and all fell for the hares ear nymph.

A Nice Stretch of Edge Pockets

A Nice Stretch of Edge Pockets

The catch rate slowed over the last couple hours, however, I did land some sizable brown trout, and that offset the reduced quantity of fish netted. On the day I landed sixteen fish and three were rainbows and the remainder brown trout. Two of the rainbows were around 15 inches and the longest brown measured 14 inches. On the surface this would seem to be a great afternoon of fishing, but numbers can be deceiving. I covered a huge amount of water, and many areas that looked like prime trout habitat did not produce. It was a fun afternoon, but it wasn’t quite the hot fishing that the web site described, or that I remembered from several past experiences.

Opened Wings Just for Me

Opened Wings Just for Me

At 5:30 I found a path to climb the steep bank to the road and hiked a mile back to the car. I decided to check out the campgrounds that I’d passed and stay along the Arkansas for the night, but I also resolved to move on to the Eagle River on Thursday morning. When I pulled into Rincon I discovered a mass of river rafters setting up camp in all the available sites, so I continued down US 50 through Howard to Vallie Bridge. Four or five sites were also occupied by whitewater enthusiasts here, but plenty remained, so I made my claim of site no. 1 and unloaded my gear.

My 2 Man Tent in Foreground

My 2 Man Tent in Foreground

Sixteen fish is a decent day, so perhaps I was taking a risk to move to the Eagle River, but I couldn’t get Saturday’s three hours of success out of my mind, and I needed to know whether this could be repeated.

Brush Creek – 07/06/2014

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Downstream boundary of the “private water” to the road near Bryse Gaboury’s lot

Fish Landed: 8

Brush Creek 07/06/2014 Photo Album

Before Jane and I arrived at Eagle Ranch, Dave G. called the owner of the “private water” and reserved Sunday, 7/6/14 for our personal enjoyment. Dave has cultivated a positive relationship with the owners of the private water by being respectful and providing occasional gifts as appreciation for allowing him access. The private water is roughly a .5 mile stretch within Eagle Ranch, and it contains numerous bends and pools as it winds its way through a large meadow. The combination of bends and limited access make this a very desirable piece of water to fish, and I’m always grateful that Dave G. invites me to join him.

Once again we asked Jane to drop us off near the beginning of the private water, and we began walking down a path at around 11AM. I elected to begin with a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear plus a salvation nymph, but I covered quite a bit of water without landing any fish. Because of the lack of action, I switched the salvation nymph for an emerald caddis pupa, and in an eddy, I landed my first fish. It was a brown trout that measured approximately twelve inches long.

A Brightly Colored Brush Creek Brown on Sunday

A Brightly Colored Brush Creek Brown on Sunday

Next I found myself at the bottom of a huge deep pool where the stream makes a ninety degree bend. I tossed several casts to the lower end of the pool and landed two small browns that couldn’t resist the caddis pupa. Perhaps I stumbled on to a winning fly.

Dave G. and I found ourselves across from each other, and he informed me that a purple San Juan worm had produced nearly all of his fish. I didn’t have any purple worms in my possession, so I tried a brown and light pink version to no avail. Next I added a red rock worm such as the variety that produced well on the North Platte River, but this also failed to attract any fish. Eventually I gave up on my worm patterns since apparently the fish were selective to purple, and I tied on a bright green caddis pupa.

Several Small Browns Came from This Deep Bend Pool

Several Small Browns Came from This Deep Bend Pool

The green caddis pupa produced a rainbow when I twitched my flies next to an undercut bank, and then I landed a small brown before the Brush Creek Road bridge. Above the bridge I landed another 12 inch brown on the hares ear nymph after a momentary hook up and refusal to the Chernobyl ant. The water above the bridge was quite fast and straight with minimal places to fish, but I did manage to hook and play a large brown in one of the few attractive spots. Unfortunately after quite a tussle, the fish managed to get in the fast current, and as I took my first step to follow it downstream, the fish made a sudden move and broke off three flies; a Chernobyl ant, hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph.

I continued on and managed one more small brown and then reached an angled pool near Bryse Gaboury’s lot. As Dave G. was quite a distance downstream, I took the time to switch my floating line for a sink tip and tied on a sculpzilla that I’d purchased for Argentina. The big ugly olive concoction produced three follows from small fish, but none chose to close the deal and bite on the big streamer.

Wildflowers Along Brush Creek

Wildflowers Along Brush Creek

I somehow managed to land eight fish, but they were mostly small with only a couple extending to 12 inches. Overall it was a slow day, but it was still fly fishing in Colorado, and that is always fun.

Brush Creek – 07/05/2014

Time: 4:00PM – 6:00PM

Location: Confluence with Eagle River up to split in Brush Creek downstream from the Gaboury’s house

Fish Landed: 5

Brush Creek 07/05/2014 Photo Album

After a fun morning of edge fishing the Eagle River at 900 cfs, Dave G. and I returned to the Gaboury house where we ate leftover barbecue from the neighborhood Fourth of July party. We hadn’t had our fill of fishing after three hours on the Eagle River, so we decided to undertake a second outing on Brush Creek. Once again we enlisted Jane to be our taxi driver, and she drove down Violet Lane and dropped us off next to the open space path that leads to the confluence of the Eagle River and Brush Creek. Again a red pick up truck was parked beneath route 6, but this time we chose to ignore it, and made the assumption that a fishermen would have passed through this stretch of Brush Creek hours ago.

When we reached the mouth of Brush Creek, I fished a short stretch of the Eagle downstream but had no success. I then waded across a rather swift Brush Creek and fished along the Eagle for a short distance before turning my attention to the smaller tributary. As was the case on Friday, Brush Creek was still flowing at a high level with only a few spots that fish could find refuge in and fishermen could fish. I began walking along the left or north bank and came upon Dave G. fairly quickly. Through no planning, it worked out that we were on opposite sides of the stream as we progressed back toward Eagle Ranch.

In a long straight stretch below Violet Lane I encountered a three foot wide swath of slower moving water next to the bank and tossed my pool toy and salvation nymph within a foot of the bank. The pool toy drifted a short distance when it paused, and my reflexes took over with a solid hook set. The fish reacted with a dive and head thrashing and then a brief downstream attempt at escape, but I managed to maintain control and landed a beautiful 15 inch brown that consumed the salvation nymph. My good fortune from the morning seemed to be continuing.

Fine Chunky Brown from Brush Creek on Saturday

Fine Chunky Brown from Brush Creek on Saturday

Once I’d released the husky brown, I ventured further upstream under route 6 and then contorted myself to scramble over a steep bank and through some difficult wooden thickets. Next came a long straight fast riffle stretch, and that did not offer any viable locations to cast a fly. Finally in a deep pocket next to the bank below a dead tree branch, I landed two chunky twelve inch brown trout. I was thrilled to experience some action after a long dry spell.

Once again I skipped around quite a bit of water that offered few holding spots, and then passed under the Sylvan Lake Road bridge. From the bridge to the point where Brush Creek divides into two roughly equal channels, I landed two small 6-8 inch browns from marginal areas. The split afforded me an opportunity to cross the brawling stream, so I took advantage and met Dave G, and we decided to return to the house so we could prepare for a dinner date at Pastatively with Jane and Beth. Brush Creek continued to be tough fishing with few viable spots that could yield fish, but I’d managed to pick up five fish in two hours including a 16 inch beauty.

Eagle River – 07/05/2014

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Downstream end of Eagle River lease above Eagle, CO

Fish Landed: 13

Eagle River 07/05/2014 Photo Album

Each year as the streamflows decline in the Rocky Mountains I search for the sweet spot characterized by tolerable water levels, but stream conditions that are still high and clear. This confluence of factors pushes the fish up against the banks to conserve energy, but they continue feeding on tasty morsels that drift by. This gives the fly fisherman a solid advantage particularly on large rivers as casts can be confined to the five feet of water next to the edge. I’ve experienced success in these circumstances on the freestone rivers in Colorado, primarily the Arkansas River and Eagle River, but in 2012 and 2013 I largely missed out. Would I be able to experience hot edge fishing in 2014?

The flows on the Eagle River in Avon, CO on the Fourth of July in 2014 were 900 cfs. This is roughly double what I consider to be ideal, and the highest I’ve ever dealt with on the Eagle was 650 cfs. Dave G., however, suggested we give it a try on Saturday morning so I jumped on the idea. I tend to favor the water above Edwards as I believe it stays colder during the hot summer months and, therefore, holds nicer trout from season to season, but Dave G. wanted to try the lease that is several miles above Eagle, CO. I was skeptical that this water would yield a positive experience, but I was agreeable to giving it a try.

We drove along the river on route 6 until we saw a sign indicating that we were next to the leased water. We continued looking for a public entrance point, and approximately .5 mile from the upstream border with private land, we found a point where some stairs enable fishermen to climb over the fence. There were some cars parked at this access point, so we decided to execute a U-turn and return to the western boundary. We parked in a wide spot west of  a large cattle gate and prepared to fish, and when ready, we quickly climbed over the gate. This was probably not a sanctioned entrance point, but it was clear from footprints that others had done it before us, and we weren’t damaging the fence in any way.

Dave G. selected this stretch because it carried a lower gradient and spread out in a wide riffle. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves at the edge of the river where there was a nice long and wide run with a decent amount of slack water between the bank and the current. Dave G. began with a nymphing rig and cast at the tail of the narrow pool and almost immediately hooked and landed a decent rainbow. I, meanwhile, tied on a tan pool toy and added a bright green caddis pupa as a dropper and began prospecting the narrower top 1/3 of the area. Dave G. hooked another fish, and I began to question whether I was employing the best technique for fishing this high cold river.

First Fish from the Eagle River on Saturday

First Fish from the Eagle River on Saturday

After covering some very attractive water, I noticed a short pocket just above an exposed boulder at the very top of the run and decided to flick my hopper/dropper into this area. On the second or third cast as I lifted to make another, I felt some weight on my rod and realized I was connected to a feisty 15 inch rainbow. I was somewhat reassured that my choice of method might produce, but I looked back downstream at Dave G., and his rod was bent with yet another nice fish that consumed a prince nymph.

With High Flows This Edge Water Was Hot Fishing

With High Flows This Edge Water Was Hot Fishing

I decided to press on upstream and called to tell Dave G. my intention. I worked up along the edge of the river with no additional success for fifteen minutes or so, and then added a beadhead hares ear as a second dropper below the pool toy. This action began to pay dividends, and I landed three small rainbows in some marginal shallow pockets next to the willows that lined the bank. It was at this point that I approached a more enticing stretch with a series of deeper cascading pockets that ran eight feet wide and at least four feet deep. My pulse began to race with the anticipation of fishing this water as my confidence in the dry/dropper offering had increased.

16" Brown Trout Was a Surprise

16″ Brown Trout Was a Surprise

On one of my drifts at the beginning of this section, I observed a decent trout that looked at my pool toy and then returned to the bottom of the river. Was this fish just teasing me, or could I entice it to take one of my nymphs? I made a few more casts and executed a lift near the spot where I guessed my target was holding, and sure enough a 16 inch brown trout snatched the beadhead hares ear. I managed to steer the strong fighting beauty downstream and netted it in some shallow water. Perhaps I had stumbled into the exciting runoff edge fishing that I was searching for? I wasn’t sure of this, but I was now confident that my dry/dropper combination could be effective in the high flows of the Eagle River on 7/5/14, and this was important because prior to this fish, I was still debating whether to convert to indicator nymphing.

17" Rainbow Was a Fun Catch

17″ Rainbow Was a Fun Catch

Next I cast to the head of the narrow slot where some frothy water spread out into the slower moving pool, and the pool toy disappeared in a heartbeat. My arm reacted with a solid hook set, and I was once again engaged in a thrilling battle. This fish made some strong runs but did not utilize the faster current to its advantage as much as the previous brown, so I was able to net the 17 inch rainbow and snap a photograph. All my doubts about the relative effectiveness of dry/dropper compared to nymphing disappeared as did my reservations about fishing this “warmer” western section of the Eagle River.

As I was releasing the 17 inch rainbow, Dave G. arrived, and I informed him of my dry/dropper success so he began the time consuming process of converting from nymphing to dry/dropper. While he was doing this, I continued on my path along the left bank and landed a small brown and a rainbow in the 12-13 inch range. I was enjoying my time on the Eagle River immensely as I fell into a routine of casting the pool toy and nymphs directly upstream and carefully watching the big foam indicator fly for a pause or dip.

Another Fat Rainbow from the Eagle River

Another Fat Rainbow from the Eagle River

Finally Dave G. was ready, and he moved 30-40 yards above me to an area where the river spread out and braided around some clumps of willows that protruded from the surface. As he disappeared from my view, I landed another thirteen inch rainbow, and as I released the silvery fish, I heard him call, so I scrambled over some slick boulders to find out the reason for the shout. As I approached him, he was netting and releasing a 20 inch rainbow, so I snapped a series of photos to capture the exciting moment.

Nice Work

Nice Work

Next on our path was an area where the bank grew quite steep, and it was covered with thick brush and dead branches thus forcing Dave G. and I to wade in some fairly deep water with lots of obstacles jutting out over the water. Dave G. and I decided the only way for two of us to fish this water was to alternate. Dave G. took a turn at the bottom of a nice deep section and landed three small browns, and then turned the pool over to me. I flipped a cast to the relatively shallow oxygenated head of the pool, and the pool toy instantly disappeared. A battle with a feisty 16 inch rainbow ensued, and I successfully landed and photographed my foe, but in the process I looped my line over a bare but not dead branch. I didn’t want to damage my tip by putting too much tension on it, so I grabbed both lines on either side of the branch and tugged hard. Everything released but much to my dismay the flies broke off from the tapered leader at the uppermost knot.

Salvation Nymph in the Lip of another 15 Inch Rainbow

Salvation Nymph in the Lip of another 15 Inch Rainbow

I was now forced to relinquish the water to Dave G. as I tied on a new pool toy, hares ear and salvation nymph. Eventually I returned to action and resumed alternating and landed several more decent rainbows that inhaled the salvation nymph. After quite a run of decent action, Dave G. and I encountered another fishermen who had come in above us, and the bank was not quite as steep and devoid of thick vegetation so we used this as an opportunity to make our exit. We climbed the bank and traversed a pasture and discovered that we were at the access point that featured a set of stairs to climb over the fence. We took advantage of this luxury and then hiked back along route 6 for close to a mile.

I was quite euphoric as we drove back to the Gaboury’s as I’d stumbled into the very situation I was seeking. The fish were concentrated along the edge of the river and hungry, and the water level was clear and low enough to enable us to fish successfully. Of the thirteen fish I landed, ten were rainbows, and I discovered that a stretch of the Eagle River that I’d grown to bypass contained lots of nice trout. I immediately began formulating a plan to return.