Time: 9:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Morning and early afternoon in Steamboat Springs and then 3:00 until 4:30 at Stagecoach tailwater
After enjoying perhaps the best day of the year so far, how could Wednesday be anything but outstanding? Remember that change is constant in fly fishing.
I relaxed in pleasant slumber at the McKinley Loop at Stagecoach Reservoir State Park on Tuesday night, and I was anxious to get an early start on Wednesday. After a quick breakfast at campsite 86, I packed up my tent and all the camping gear, and I was on my way back to the Steamboat Springs section of the Yampa River. Thursday June 23 was a fun day, and Tuesday surpassed it with numerous large brown trout in the 13 – 18 inch range. I arrived at the ice rink parking lot and prepared to fish using my Scott six weight rod. After losing two brown trout in excess of twenty inches on Tuesday, I desired the advantage of a heavier rod to better control large fish.
I forgot that the Scott six weight was still rigged with a custom leader that Jake Chutz constructed for my day of streamer fishing on the Elk River, but I decided to keep it in place and try some deep nymph fishing in the morning before hatches commenced. I cut back the tippet until a very thick section of leader occupied the end segment, and then I knotted a slumpbuster to the line. Next I extended a foot of 4X and added an iron sally, since this fly was a hot producer during the previous day. Surely some stonefly nymphs were still available to the trout given their abundant emergence on Tuesday.
I began fishing thirty yards below the Fifth Street bridge and worked my way toward that landmark in the morning, but the fish were not paying attention to my offerings. I dead drifted, allowed the flies to swing, and stripped them back toward me at different rates of speed; but none of my efforts aroused attention from the resident fish. Flows were down slightly from Tuesday, so I covered more attractive slots and pockets away from the bank, but nothing seemed to interest the fish.
I passed under the Fifth Street bridge, and given the lack of success, I decided to revert to my Tuesday approach with a dry/dropper arrangement. Unfortunately the custom leader was built for slinging streamers and was not conducive to casting a dry/dropper rig, so I returned to the car at the ice rink parking lot, and spent some time converting the leader. I replaced the streamer construction with a standard tapered leader, and then I configured it with a Charlie boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. I returned to the river above the bridge and worked my way upstream fishing in the same style that produced numerous large fish for me the previous day. Alas change is constant in fly fishing, and what works one day, seldom works the next.
By the time I reached the island, I accumulated two small fish on the fish counter, and I exchanged the Charlie boy hopper for a fat Albert. In similar fashion, the hares ear was swapped for the star of Tuesday, the iron sally. None of these moves changed the interest of the fish. My last spot was the downstream point of the island, and here I began to see a decent number of pale morning duns, as they slowly floated upward from the surface of the river. I was not sure how long the hatch would last, but I hoped to explore the right braid along the island, so I walked back across the bridge and found the railroad tracks. The initial water along the right side of the island was wide and shallow and fast, so I skipped it, until I approached a very deep pool beneath the railroad bridge.
Above the bridge an appealing segment of water appeared, and I paused to look for rising fish, but none appeared, and only one or two mayflies hovered over the river. I glanced at my watch and noted that it was 12:20, and I desired to be on better water in case another decent pale morning dun hatch developed. I quickly reversed my direction and hiked back downstream past the ice rink, rodeo, and Howelsen Hill parking area until I reached the skate park, and here I cut across some weeds to the railroad tracks. I used the crushed rock bed as a thruway and strode quickly until I was just above the hot springs. I could smell the pungent aroma of sulfur in the warm air, as I carefully descended a steep bank to the edge of the river.
On the second cast as I lifted the flies to recast, I felt weight and held tight as a thirteen inch rainbow trout thrashed on my line until I led it into my net. This fish proved to be my best on June 29 in the Yampa section within the town of Steamboat. I continued working my way upstream along the right bank and eventually covered some of the same water that entertained me on Tuesday morning. This portion of my fishing day yielded four trout and incremented the fish counter to six, but the hatch was brief and the size of the fish paled in comparison to the robust specimens that attacked my flies on Tuesday. Most of the fish landed in town attacked the salvation nymph, and I somehow managed to lose at least three salvations and three iron sallies. I was not pleased with this circumstance.
At 2:30 I approached a wide shallow area, and the hatch appeared to diminish, and the number of inflatable water craft exploded. I was not encouraged by my prospects given these conditions combined with the high hot sun, so I fought through the bushes and returned to the car. I decided to pay a visit to the Yampa tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir. I utilized this ploy in 2015, and on several occasions I encountered pale morning dun hatches in the afternoon. Could I repeat a similar fortuitous turn of events?
I arrived at the parking lot already attired in my waders, so it did not take long for me to assemble my Sage four weight and quickly descended the path to the river. I began prospecting with the dry/dropper approach that consisted of the fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. In the first thirty minutes I failed to land three fish that momentarily nipped my flies as they drifted along the edge of some faster currents. Unfortunately these opportunities proved to be some of my best chances to optimize my time on the tailwater.
After accepting that I was thwarted by the Yampa trout, I moved to an attractive shelf pool, but this area generated only fruitless casting even though I could see some sizable fish lurking in the depths. Another fisherman occupied the next of a nice series of stair step pools, so I circled around on the opposite side and approached a long pool where the main current flowed tight to the opposite bank. I launched some casts from the tail, but I could see some large fish totally ignore my flies as they passed overhead. Clearly my flies lost their magic, so I decided to change things up. In previous years I encountered pale morning duns, so I switched to a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. I fluttered some long casts to the midsection of the pool, where I spotted a couple sporadic rises, and once again I managed to prick a fish with a momentary hook up.
Again the visible fish ignored my fly, but occasionally a fish would rise, so it was clear they were looking for some type of food on the surface. Some small caddis randomly fluttered about, so I exchanged the PMD for a light gray caddis. I flicked this fly to the general area where fish rose, and suddenly a fish gulped the caddis. I quickly netted a nine inch brook trout and congratulated myself on finally landing a fish in the tailwater.
Next I moved to the middle of the pool so I could observe the upper half. The main current curled near the middle and then eddied back to the head of the run, and four or five nice fish hovered in front of me facing downstream. I stood motionless for a bit and observed several fish as they moved side to side to snag minute morsels of food from the drift, and then suddenly a long rainbow drifted to the surface and sipped something from the film. Since the caddis remained on my line, I lofted a couple casts to the turning point in the current and watched as it slowly crept back toward the nook of the eddy. My heart stopped as a sizable trout finned to the surface and then calmly turned away.
What should I do now? In the past I resorted to a small fur ant in these encounters with picky trout, so I knotted a size 18 black parachute ant to my line and presented it to the educated fish in front of me. I wish I could report that my choice of last resort solved the riddle, but it did not. The fish did not even inspect it, so I pondered the situation some more. While analyzing the puzzle, another rainbow sipped a mystery substance from the surface. A few midges buzzed above the river, and the targeted food source was minute, so I opted to try a griffiths gnat. I carry these size 22 generic midge imitations at all times but rarely resort to such a tiny fly.
Magically on the fifth drift from the turning point in the current to a place directly across from me, a rainbow lifted its nose and sipped my griffiths gnat. I landed bigger fish and harder fighting fish on Tuesday, but somehow this rainbow established itself as my most gratifying catch of the two days fishing on the Yampa River. I netted the crimson beauty, estimated its length at fourteen inches, photographed it as proof of my persistence, and then released it to frustrate future anglers.
Wednesday was a disappointment compared to my previous two visits to the Yampa River, but I enjoyed a nice early summer day in the Colorado outdoors, and I was thankful for that. New adventures await as the prime period of the 2016 fishing season approaches.
Fish Landed: 8