Eagle River – 06/12/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle

Eagle River 06/12/2018 Photo Album

Although Monday’s results on the Yampa River were decent by most standards, I was disappointed, since I compared the size and catch rate to spectacular fly fishing at similar flows from 2015 through 2017. On Tuesday I envisioned another day comparable to Monday, if I returned to the Yampa, so I considered alternatives. Reports on the Arkansas River were encouraging with flows already beneath 1,000 CFS, but my map application suggested the choice demanded a three hour and thirty minute drive. Another option I contemplated was the Eagle River. The last time I checked, the flows were in the 1100 CFS range, but I speculated that they declined to below 1,000 by Tuesday.

I stopped at a dirt pullout prior to turning on to CO 131 in order to check the flows and fishing reports for the Eagle River. This was the first location, where I received a decent cell phone signal. I quickly learned that the flows on the Eagle in Avon were in the 800 CFS range, however, the fishing report on Vail Valley Anglers was not updated since June 6. I decided to sample the Eagle, since it was at levels comparable to early July in previous years, and prior year trips translated to fantastic fly fishing. I turned left on CO 131 and made the 1.5 hour drive to the section of the Eagle River between Wolcott and Eagle, CO.

I arrived at 9:30AM, and by the time I pulled on my waders and rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked to the river’s edge, it was 10AM. I knotted a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a 20 incher and a yellow sally, and I began prospecting all the likely slower moving areas along the bank. The flows were in the 1,000 CFS range as I expected, and the water was crystal clear and cold. The weather on Tuesday yielded blue skies and sunshine, and the high temperature spiked in the low eighties. It was a gorgeous day for fishermen, but not as perfect for fish.

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Narrow Band of Slow Water Along the Bank Was My Target All Day

I fished along the left (northern bank) between 10:00AM and 2:30PM and managed to land six trout. Four of the six were quite small and barely extended beyond my six inch minimum. Another landed fish was a twelve inch brown trout, and the prize on Tuesday extended to fourteen inches. If I were offered a replay, I would choose to return to the Yampa. I observed far more insect activity in Steamboat Springs, than I encountered on the Eagle River. Pale morning duns, yellow sallies and blue winged olives were present on the Yampa River; whereas, only small blue winged olives made an appearance on the Eagle.

I cycled through a series of flies in an effort to discover a producer. On top I utilized a yellow fat Albert and a size 8 Chernobyl ant, and both were effective indicators, but neither attracted the interest of the Eagle River trout. The top nymph position was occupied primarily by the 20 incher and iron sally with a brief appearance of a hares ear nymph. The iron sally, salvation nymph, emerald caddis pupa, soft hackle emerger, and ultra zug bug spent time on the point. The iron sally and salvation nymph accounted for the small fish, and the soft hackle emerger produced the fourteen inch reward for my persistence.

Between 12:30PM and 2:00PM a light emergence of size 20 blue winged olives commenced. I was skeptical that a tiny olive imitation would attract the attention of the Eagle River trout in the heavy run off currents, so I stuck with other larger nymphs during the early phase of the hatch. Clearly the large nymph strategy was not a roaring success, so I bowed to the match the hatch conventional wisdom and placed a soft hackle emerger on the point. I was stunned to learn that the Eagle River trout responded to the small size 20 wet fly, and I landed three trout on the sparkling emerger pattern. In addition I experienced three momentary connections. This period was by no means torrid action, and the hook ups required many repeated drifts in prime areas, but the results far exceeded the production in the previous three hours.

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Went for the Soft Hackle Emerger on the Swing

A narrow band of slow moving water served as the stage for the highlight of my day. I tossed the dry/dropper rig upstream and allowed it to drift back toward me, as I raised my rod to pick up slack. The flies were no more than six feet from the bank, and they tumbled along a steady current seam. Once they passed my position, I lowered the rod and allowed the fat Albert to continue below me for twenty feet. At that point the slow water fanned out a bit just above some dead branches, so I began to swing the flies across to avoid a snag and in preparation to make another cast. Just as I began to lift the flies, the fourteen inch brown snatched the soft hackle emerger, and in this instance I overcame its resistance and led it into my net.

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Decent Brown Trout

In addition to the long distance releases during the sparse blue winged olive hatch, I also notched three or four during the period from ten o’clock until one o’clock. Several felt like decent trout perhaps in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. Aside from failing to land the fish, I was also upset with my inability to determine which of the nymphs generated the interest of the Eagle River trout.

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Promising Runs

Six fish over five hours of fishing was undoubtedly a disappointment, although double digits were easily attainable had I converted a higher and more normal percentage of hook ups. On a positive note I had the river to myself, and I gained knowledge of the conditions on another freestone river in Colorado in the 2018 post-runoff time frame. Flows are two to three weeks ahead of normal on the Yampa and Eagle Rivers in 2018. During previous years the declining flows and clear water in the 1,000 CFS range overlapped with the end of June and early July, and this time frame coincided with strong pale morning dun, golden stonefly, yellow sally, caddis and blue winged olive hatches. I attributed my success to hungry fish pushed into the slow water along the banks, but in reality the presence of strong hatches was a significant contributor to the sizzling action in prior years.

Fish Landed: 6

 

Yampa River – 06/11/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/11/2018 Photo Album

On Friday June 8, 2018 I began the annual ritual of chasing declining flows on Colorado freestone rivers. This process yielded some fantastic days of fly fishing during 2015 through 2017. Generally the first river in Colorado to fall to manageable levels is the Yampa River, and when I checked the DWR chart on Sunday, it was running at 1000 CFS, and the river did not reach this level until three weeks later in the 2015 to 2017 time frame. I enjoyed decent success in two hours of fishing on our return trip from Steamboat Lake on Friday, June 8, so I planned a two day and one night road trip on June 11-12.

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Ride the Rockies in My Favorite Parking Area

I departed Denver by 7:15 on Monday morning with a car packed with fishing and camping gear, and I arrived on the river in the town of Steamboat Springs ready to fish by 11:00AM. I was surprised to discover that the annual Denver Post Ride the Rockies event occupied my normal parking area by Howelsen Hill, so I improvised and retreated to the large free parking lot at the ice arena. I rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked down the railroad tracks to a position just above the hot springs.The smell of sulfur pervaded the air and settled in my dry throat, and consequently I was motivated to move upstream at a fairly rapid pace.

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Hot Springs Below My Starting Point

As expected, the flows subsided from Friday to the 800 CFS range, and this translated to very tolerable wading conditions. Monday’s weather was sunny and warm, but ten degrees cooler than what was experienced over the weekend.

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Sweet Deep Slow Water

I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. I fished tight to the right bank and accumulated a fish count of six by the time I took a lunch break at 12:30PM, when I reached some large bank side boulders above the wire unintentionally decorated with flies and lures. Another angler was visible just downstream, so I felt a bit of pressure to keep moving, and that was not a problem given the sulfur scent described earlier. All but one of the first six trout were rainbows, and the initial six netted fish snatched the salvation nymph. Quite a few of these willing eaters responded to a lift at the end of the drift. Most of the rainbows were chunky twelve inch trout, but one or two stretched the tape measure to thirteen inches.

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Decent Rainbow

After lunch I covered the remainder of the lower section, until I reached the pedestrian bridge, and then I progressed to Fifth Street, before I quit at 4:30PM. The steady catch rate of the morning continued in the early PM, but from 2:30 until 4:30, it slowed measurably. A highlight of the afternoon session was a fourteen inch rainbow trout, but most of the other fish fell in the ten to twelve inch range.

At two o’clock I began to notice refusals to the fat Albert, so I converted to a yellow Letort hopper and a salvation nymph. I hypothesized that the fish were attracted to yellow but sought a smaller profile. After a fair trial period, however, I deemed my theory faulty and once again implemented a change. I placed a yellow pool toy in the top position and tested a juju emerger and salvation nymph as the nymph combination. I observed a smattering of pale morning duns thus the choice of emerger and salvation, and the pool toy was a compromise in size between the fat Albert and the Letort hopper.

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Aim in the Right Direction

Unfortunately the mid-afternoon fly lineup failed to excite the Yampa River trout, so I returned to the iron sally in place of the juju emerger. The catch rate slowed significantly, but I managed to land three small rainbows to bring the daily total to thirteen. I hasten to note that a sizable brown trout tentatively gummed the pool toy, but I hooked it for only a split second, before it casually separated from the fly. I also generated a temporary hook up with a decent rainbow, but after a brief spurt it popped free.

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A Favorite Spot

Monday was a fair day on the Yampa River, but the size and count were subpar compared to what I was accustomed to during the high but receding flows of runoff. Pale morning duns, blue winged olives, and yellow sallies were present, but their availability was sparse as demonstrated by only one visible rise during my five hours on the stream. In previous years the high but declining flows were two weeks later and coincided with the heavier hatches. I suspect more prolific insect activity translates to more active fish and also makes the larger trout more aggressive. I believe that this theory applies to brown trout to a greater extent than rainbows, and this explains why rainbows predominated my fish count on Friday and Monday.

Fish Landed: 13

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Stagecoach Campsite

Yampa River – 06/08/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Locatoin: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/08/2018 Photo Album

As Jane and I passed through Steamboat Springs on our way to Steamboat Lake on Wednesday, we took a slight detour to inspect the river, where it runs through town. The flows were in the 1300 CFS range, however the water clarity was excellent. I was skeptical that I could manage fishing success under these run off circumstances.

On Friday morning we packed our tent and camping gear with the intention of renting kayaks at the Steamboat Lake marina. We lathered with sunscreen, wore our swimsuits, and snugged our Chacos to our feet in anticipation of an hour on the water in the morning, before the wind kicked up. Unfortunately when we approached the counter at the general store and checked the rates, we discovered that the fee for two hours of kayak rental was $47/kayak. We regarded this as a hefty sum and were not that committed to the endeavor, so we passed and made the drive to Steamboat Springs.

I decided to attempt to fish in the Yampa River in town, so we headed to the Howelsen Hill parking area to set up a base of operations. Jane planned to cycle on the paths in town, while I edge fished a section of the river. The first drawback to our plan was the hordes of cars parked in our destination parking lot. Apparently a Triple Crown softball tournament was in progress, and the area was crawling with players, parents and coaches. I circled the parking lot with the faint hope of finding an opening, and much to our amazement a car backed out of a slot next to the rest room building. I did not waste any time and zipped into the available space.

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The River Flowing Wide and in the Willows

I quickly donned my waders and assembled my Sage six weight and then ambled beyond the skate park and down the railroad tracks, until I was within eight feet of the river. The flows were down a bit from Wednesday, and the DWR graph displayed them in the 1100 CFS range. When I gained a view of the section where I entered, I was pleased to see adequate wadeable water between the fast currents and the willow-lined bank.

I quickly knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line along with an iron sally and salvation nymph. The fly shop informed me that yellow sallies and pale morning duns were present, and these two flies imitated the nymphal stage of the aforementioned aquatic insects. A nice run and riffle of moderate depth were just below and across from my position, so I slowly and carefully moved along the shoreline, until I was within adequate casting position. On the fifth across and down drift, as the flies began to swing at the tail of the run, a thirteen inch brown trout elevated and snatched the salvation nymph. After nearly three hours of no action on Thursday, I was quite pleased with my early success on Friday.

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Number One from the Yampa River

Just below me a series of large boulders created an inviting side pool, so I carefully maneuvered my way over the large rocks and generated an array of searching casts. But before I prospected the deep hole below the current break, I snagged the flies on a subsurface impediment and broke off the iron sally and salvation. In order to thwart future such fly thefts by the river bottom, I rigged anew but used 3X leader instead of 5X. I substituted a hares ear nymph for the iron sally but continued display a salvation nymph albeit a new one.

The area below the current break surprisingly failed to yield success, so I reversed direction and systematically progressed upstream to beyond the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill. I managed to land ten fish in two hours of steady fishing, and nearly all the netted fish favored the salvation nymph. One small rainbow nabbed the hares ear, and another opted for an iron sally, after I returned one to my line in exchange for the hares ear.

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Revival

Aside from the initial thirteen inch brown trout, most of the next nine were rainbow trout in the ten and eleven inch range. The highlight of my two hours of edge fishing was a sixteen inch brown trout, and this prize catch demonstrated its muscular fitness with a valiant battle. I was thrilled to scoop the thrashing fighter into my net.

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End of Day Rainbow

In the fine quality pool and eddy just below the pedestrian bridge I was lucky to hook and land a fourteen inch cutbow that grabbed the salvation, just as I lifted the flies along the current seam twenty feet below the center of the eddy. The slash jawed beauty put up steady resistance, and I was very pleased to slide it into my net.

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Fishing Along the Swamped Willows

I moved above the bridge a short distance without success, and as the amount of viable fishing water disappeared, I elected to return to the car to join Jane for lunch. Friday was a nice introduction to post-snowmelt fishing, and I was quite pleased with my success. Unlike previous years the quantity of insects at 1100 CFS was minimal, although I spotted a few small blue winged olives and occasional yellow sallies. I will watch the flows closely and hope to make another visit within the next couple weeks.

Fish Landed: 10

Steamboat Lake – 06/07/2018

Time: 4:00PM – 6:00PM; 7:30PM – 9:00PM

Location: Willow Creek Inlet, and Meadow Point

Steamboat Lake 06/07/2018 Photo Album

Jane determined that we only had one window of time in June when we could camp together, and that was June 6 through June 8, so we made the drive to Steamboat Lake State Park on Wednesday afternoon, after I returned from a doctor’s appointment, and she came home from a tennis match. We gambled that campsites would be available during weekdays in early June, and our assumption proved to be correct, when we snagged site number 178 on Bridge Island.

On Thursday morning we completed one of our favorite mountain bike rides, Willow Creek Trail. The wide single track skirts the eastern edge of Steamboat Lake and passes the visitor center. We elected to turn left off the Willow Creek Trail onto another spur, that led us beyond the Poverty Bar; the remains of an early placer mining operation. After the ride we returned to our campsite and munched our lunches and then traveled a few miles up the highway to Hahns Lake, where we completed an out and back trek on the Hahns Lake Trail. Cycling and hiking were apparently not enough exercise, so we once again drove a short distance to Pearl Lake State Park, and here we hiked the Pearl Lake Trail for a half hour and then returned via the same route. The trail skirted the southern shore of Pearl Lake for .6 mile, before it veered through a wooded valley and then ascended a ridge requiring a continuous climb.

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Near My Fishing Location on Steamboat Lake

Once again we returned to our campsite, and I departed on my first fly fishing venture of the trip. I read that fishing in Steamboat Lake is best after ice off, and the hot spots are located at creek inlets, so I targeted the point where Willow Creek flowed into Steamboat Lake in Placer Cove on the northeast side of the lake. Thursday was an eighty degree day, so I elected to wade wet and drove to a small parking lot in Sunrise Vista Campground. From the parking area I connected with the Willow Creek Trail, and then I descended a short sagebrush covered bank, until I was along the edge of the lake. I circled along the marshy shoreline, until I reached the inlet of Willow Creek.

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Willow Creek Inlet

The lake mouth of the stream was quite wide; however, it quickly narrowed into a smooth slow moving trough. I waded along the western edge through some soft muck, until the channel was twenty-five feet wide, and here I began my stillwater fishing adventure. I tied a slumpbuster to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph as a trailer, and I began fanning casts toward the opposite bank followed by a series of intermittent strips. After I executed three across and upstream casts, I made three or four strides toward the lake and repeated. After three or four of these cycles I felt a bump and made another strip, before I felt the throb of a live weight on my line. At first I suspected a large vibrating branch, but then the recipient of my strip set streaked back toward the inlet. I held tight and endured several additional escape attempts, before I slid my net beneath a bright rainbow trout. The thirteen inch net occupant was quite chunky, and it displayed a very white-silver body with only a faint pink stripe.

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First and Only Fish on Thursday

This small success heightened my optimism, and I continued the spray and strip sequence, until I was actually within the body of the lake and beyond the mouth of the creek inlet. I wish I could report additional success, but my only action occurred when I  connected with some sort of immovable object twice, and these incidents resulted in the loss of two slumpbusters and an ultra zug bug and a hares ear nymph.

By 5:45 the wind escalated to an outrageous gale, and this blew two float tubers and myself off the lake. The wave action kicked up sediments, and casting became a challenging and dangerous endeavor with the conehead slumpbuster whizzing by my ear. I called it quits and returned to the campsite for dinner.

After dinner and clean up Jane agreed to accompany me to Meadow Point. I fished at Meadow Point in 2017, and I recalled an abundant quantity of rising fish in the last hour before dark. 2018 was no different, and by 8PM the residents of the cove in front of me began to slash the surface in pursuit of some abundant food source. During our entire stay at Steamboat Lake, I observed swarms of large size 16 midges with a dark peacock body, and I assumed these insects were the target of the cove dwellers.

I knotted a size 16 olive brown caddis to my line and exercised my arm shooting out sixty foot casts, but the active feeders ignored my offerings. I tried twitching and stripping and added a midge emerger in the form of a salad spinner, but I failed to match the favorite meal of the trout in front of me. It also seemed that the trout were wise to my efforts, as they invariably rose five or ten feet beyond my best distance casts. In addition it seemed as if the trout were cruising in a wide arc, as I directed casts to the scene of a recent riseform, only to discover the next surface ring appeared twenty feet farther to the left.

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Meadow Point Near Dark

I continued my futile efforts until 9PM when the lighting dimmed, the rising fish diminished, and the air chilled beyond my comfort level. The surface exploded with fish in the last fifteen minutes of light, but I was simply a spectator to the natural buffet at Meadow Point.

Fish Landed: 1

Penns Creek – 06/01/2018

Time: 9:00AM -10:30AM

Location: Aimeitti Lane

Penns Creek 06/01/2018 Photo Album

One of the prime purposes of my visit to central Pennsylvania was to attend my 45 year reunion at Bucknell University. Bob Sauers was a fraternity brother and friend, and after a career in the military he resided in the Lewisburg area. During our college years Bob and I enjoyed several fishing trips to Penns Creek, so I contacted him and arranged to meet for a few hours of fishing on Friday morning.

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A Roadside Covered in Wild Phlox

I arrived at the Union County Sportmans’ Club a bit after 8AM, and Bob appeared in his Jeep Wrangler with a Bison license plate holder by 8:15. Jeff was also present, so he and Bob chatted, while I made a bathroom stop. By 8:30 Bob and I were on our way, and we traveled a short distance to Weikert and turned on Aimetti Lane and continued until we parked our cars at Jim’s cabin. Jim is a close friend of Bob, and Bob performed numerous helpful chores to maintain the rustic cabin located on the bank of Penns Creek.

Bob pulled out his spinning rod and began chucking casts near the tail of the long pool, while I tied a parachute isonychia with a trailing shuck to my line. I strolled to the top of the pool and searched the entire length with the large dry fly with no success. At this point I abandoned the dry fly approach and converted to a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and prince nymph; and with these weapons at my disposal I began working the seams at the top of the pool.

Near the bank in the upper run a fish elevated to inspect the fat Albert, but no take resulted. I systematically worked my way downstream and covered the same water on my side of the pool that occupied me earlier. Again I failed to encounter any trout during this survey of the water in front of me. In the midst of this process Bob shouted that he had one, and then he eagerly displayed a ten inch brown trout for my approval. I was excited for Bob, since he informed me that it was his first fish of the 2018 season.

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Yellow Swallowtail Haven

I assessed my position and decided to inspect the faster water above the pool. I was prepared to nymph, and I hoped to find some nice deep runs and riffles of moderate depth in the area that was new to me. My desire was fulfilled, and I encountered a fifty yard stretch that displayed the very characteristics I was seeking. I employed a systematic prospecting methodology over the next half hour. Midway through this phase I spotted a subtle rise in a seam just above a large submerged boulder. I anticipated a fly change to a single dry fly was in order, but I decided to flick the three fly configuration upstream for a couple of drifts.

On the first pass I was shocked when a brown trout glided to the surface to inspect the fat Albert. For a brief instant the fish dropped down, as if to reject the foam impostor, but then a hunger pang caused it to throw caution to the wind, and it crushed the fat Albert. I executed a swift hook set, but the fish dashed five feet downstream and twisted its jaw, whereupon the flies recoiled toward me. Needless to say I was not pleased with this turn of events.

I continued my progression for another fifteen minutes, but I could not replicate the magic. At 10:30 I waded back along the edge of the creek and met Bob, and we decided to adjourn to the Old Turnpike Restaurant in Mifflinburg for lunch. After lunch I drove to Lewisburg, refueled the rental car, and meandered into Gerhard Field House to register for my Bucknell reunion. The registration process generated my dorm room assignment and keys, and I sought the comfort of some air conditioning.

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Hafer Holds Court

Friday developed into a warm and humid day, but I was undaunted and embarked on a forty minute run around the perimeter of the campus. Afterward I anxiously looked forward to a warm shower, as perspiration flowed from my pores. Imagine my surprise when I ran the shower for five minutes, and the temperature never rose above refrigerator level. While dripping in sweat, I was in no position to wait for facility maintenance, so I took the plunge. The cold spray took my breath away, and Friday’s shower may have been the shortest ever, but it got the job done. When I returned to my room, I looked up facility services and requested a review of the Schwartz Hall plumbing.

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Russel's Cornhole Toss

Meanwhile a good Bucknell classmate called to let me know he arrived, so we undertook a brief stroll around the campus and checked out the new facilities. At 5:45 we jumped in my rental car and drove four miles south on US 15, where we joined additional classmates at an outdoor cookout at a friend’s house. The meal and company were first rate, but the highlight was my dominance of the corn hole venue.

Fish Landed: 0