Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Upstream from the park next to the library in Steamboat Springs until I almost reached the bridge that crosses to the ice rink.
Fish Landed: 12
There is light at the end of the tunnel, and river fishing in Colorado is no longer a distant event. Once again I experienced the elation that comes from fishing to a hatch, catching nice hard fighting trout, and enjoying the surprise that comes with prospecting a dry/dropper combination to likely trout holding water.
After my lack of success on Monday on Steamboat Lake, Jane agreed to accompany me to Steamboat Springs so that I could enjoy a day of river fishing in the Yampa. Based on the stream reports from the Steamboat Flyfisher I envisioned fishing either the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir or the Yampa River within the town of Steamboat Springs. We attached Jane’s bike to the rack so she could explore the trails while I fished. In addition we packed a change of clothes so we could end the day with a fine dinner in town to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary.
Our first stop was the previously mentioned Steamboat Flyfisher where I purchased a three pack of tapered leaders and then asked the sales clerk where he would fish if given a day to fish in the area. He never paused before replying that he would choose the section of water that runs through town. He explained that it was fishing well, and said that a trail parallels the stream and any stretch of water should be productive. I also noticed a blackboard on the wall with fishing reports, and the information suggested PMD patterns for the Yampa in town. The fishing information also noted that flows were 959 CFS.
We left the store and headed west to the area of the library where we found a parking spot that was good for eight hours. I put on my waders and assembled my Sage five weight, and I was prepared to fish. Jane and I agreed to meet at the car at 12:30 after she purchased ice and explored town on her bicycle. By 11AM I approached the water and noted that it was quite high although also clear. I typically enjoy these conditions as the trout are forced to seek relief along the banks where boulders and logs block the current and create eddies and slower moving currents. This situation means that I can virtually ignore the entire river except for the five to ten feet of edge water next to the bank.
I’ve had success in high post-runoff conditions with a Letort hopper, so I elected to tie one on as my surface fly, and then I added a beadhead hares ear beneath it on a long three foot dropper. I prospected the edge water for fifteen minutes or so with no success, so I swapped the hares ear for a beadhead salvation nymph. This also failed to attract interest, so I exchanged the Letort hopper for a Chernobyl ant, but after a half hour of fishing I remained without so much as a look.
Fortunately it was about this time that I began to see pale morning duns fluttering up from the surface. They were a light yellow in color and some were size 18 and others were size 16. They all seemed to emerge from the very fringe of the river right next to the bank. Despite this sudden abundance of food, no trout appeared on the surface, so I decided to go deep with PMD subsurface imitations. I looped a thingamabobber to my line and crimped on a split shot and then tied on a salvation nymph as my top fly followed by a juju emerger at the point. This would be my first test of the juju emergers that I tied over the winter.
My modification resulted in a sudden change in fortune as I landed a thirteen inch brown on the juju emerger as the fly began to swing at the end of the drift. After moving up the river a bit, I felt the throb of a thirteen inch rainbow that inhaled the salvation nymph. I was especially thrilled to discover that both my offerings were of interest to the trout during the early stages of the pale morning dun hatch. I was gaining confidence as I covered a few more attractive spots along the bank with no luck, but then I made an exception to my casting regimen and lobbed a cast to a deep slot behind a submerged boulder more than ten feet out from the bank. As the flies drifted toward the end of the deep run, the indicator paused, and I lifted and set the hook on another nice thirteen inch brown trout. This fish also chomped the salvation nymph, and this would be the only fish on the day that did not come from the ten foot corridor along the north bank.
Next I approached a sweet deep run below some overhanging tree limbs, and I was excited to spot a pair of rises from two different fish. I was tempted to switch to dries, but I patiently stuck with my nymphs. This turned out to be a wise move, and I was rewarded with another thirteen inch brown that also found the salvation nymph to its liking. I cast the nymphs back to the fishy area, and once again hooked a fish on the lift, but this proved to be only a momentary success as the fish freed itself after a short run. I also sensed that this fish may have been foul hooked.
Once again I scanned the target area below the tree limbs, and much to my surprise the two risers were now feeding with increased regularity. I was reluctant to take the time to switch from my nymph rig since it produced four fish in a short amount of time, but these fish were paying no attention to my subsurface offering and were instead focused on the abundant food supply on top of the water. I relented and removed all the nymphing gear and tied on a light gray size 14 comparadun, also known as the money fly.
I made a couple conservative casts short of the top riser, and then made a third and checked my forward stroke high allowing the small dun imitation to flutter down to the swirly water where the top fish was working five feet below the menacing branches. Slurp! The dry fly disappeared, and I set the hook and felt a strong active heavy weight on my new Sage rod. Quite early in the battle I obtained a glimpse of my foe and realized I was dealing with a more substantial fish. I played the fish cautiously always prepared to yield line at the first sign of a strong run or change in direction. Luck was with me on this day, and I finally played the fish to my net and discovered a brown trout in excess of fifteen inches. It was a beauty and would be the best fish of the day.
I gently released the prize brown and returned my attention to the area below the branches, and I was surprised to see that the lower fish continued to rise despite the commotion that I just created. I dried the comparadun and placed a cast above the second riser. It took a few drifts to get the timing right, but eventually a fourteen inch rainbow fell for the money fly as well. Did I really just land six gorgeous fish between 13 and 16 inches in the space of an hour on the Yampa River when it was flowing at 959 cfs? I pinched myself and moved along the bank to the next juicy spot. The fishing gods were looking down on me with favor as I once again spotted a rise just below some faster water at the top of a long run. I carefully worked the tail with no results and then positioned myself and dropped a nice cast to the spot where the fish rose. Slurp! Another 13-14 inch brown mistook my imitation for a real PMD and fell victim to my fly.
By now it was nearly 12:30 so I quickly exited the stream just before reaching the tubing rental shop, and I discovered that I was nearly across from the Santa Fe. Jane was waiting, and although I felt the hatch was waning, I asked if we could meet in another hour, as I desired to continue fishing while the hatch was still in progress. Jane was amenable because she was not very hungry, but she requested that we meet at some picnic tables near baseball fields on the opposite side of the river. She planned to move the car there, and she scoped it out on her bike ride and suggested it was a much nicer place to have lunch. I quickly agreed and returned to the river where I exited, but there were very few remaining mayflies on the surface, and I soon felt that prospecting with the small size 16 comparadun was futile with no sighted fish to cast to.
I converted to a Chernobyl ant with a salvation nymph and used up half of my hour exploring water with this combination to no avail. I encountered a place where low hanging branches prevented me from wading along the edge, so I climbed to the bike path, and as I began to walk upstream, an approaching couple flagged me down to ask questions. I learned that they were from Harrisburg, Pa., and they asked quite a few questions about my level of success, what I was using, and what technique I was employing. They seemed quite surprised that I had already fished to a hatch and that I was having success despite the high water level. This conversation used up another fifteen minutes of my time, so when I resumed fishing, I only covered a small amount of water until I reached the tubing shop. I used this as an excuse to quit and hustled across the pedestrian bridge to the Howelsen Hill ski jump parking lot where I discovered Jane at a large picnic table under a massive gazebo.
We enjoyed a one hour lunch and agreed to reunite at 4PM. I returned to the river where I ended before lunch and skipped the tubing shop area until I reached a nice section of water with no interfering vegetation. There was a boulder wall on the left bank, and I landed three more nice rainbows in the next hour while continuing with the dry/dropper approach of the Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph. All three gobbled the salvation as the Chernobyl served merely as a strike indicator. During this time the river exploded with all manner of traffic…tubes, kayaks, and rafts drifted by with jubilant water enthusiasts. As I fought and landed one of the three rainbows, a raft passed by, and I received a strong ovation from the occupants.
After the three early afternoon rainbows I weathered a dry spell, so I changed to a Charlie Boy hopper, salvation nymph and iron sally. I observed a handful of yellow sallies in the air, so I theorized that the iron sally nymph imitation might create some interest. It paid off, as I landed two more rainbows of thirteen and fourteen inches in the last hour on the iridescent attractor nymph, although I covered a lot of water and worked hard to get around bank obstacles to land these fish.
I’m still in a euphoric state as I write this blog. I never expected to have a double digit day on June 23 on the Yampa River with flows still high. Even more surprising was the 1.5 hour long hatch of pale morning duns and my ability to land three nice fish on a comparadun. As the reader might expect, I’m already yearning for another day on the Yampa River as I not so patiently wait for the other rivers to fall into tolerable fishing conditions.