Dream Lake/Lake Haiyaha – 07/31/2018

Time: 7:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha

Dream Lake 07/31/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Sometimes it is not all about the numbers. That is the lesson I learned today, July 31, 2018. I exchanged text messages last week with my friend, Trevor, and we arranged to make a summer foray into Rocky Mountain National Park in a quest for greenback cutthroat trout. Trevor is an avid fan of high mountain lakes within the popular Colorado national park, and I planned to tag along in an effort to improve my stillwater fly fishing knowledge.

During the last five years Trevor invested many hours on treks to high country lakes, and he suggested that we start very early on Tuesday. Rocky Mountain National Park is the third most visited national park in the United States, and Trevor knew that the only way to procure a parking space at the trailhead was to be there very early. Our preferred plan had us parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot, and that positioned us for a three mile one way hike to The Loch. As a backup Trevor proposed parking at Bear Lake, and this alternative put us in line for a .75 mile hike to Dream Lake followed by another 1 mile trek to Lake Haiyaha.

We arrived at Glacier Gorge at 6:30AM, and I was shocked to learn that the small parking area was full. Who were these tourists that woke up before dark to snag parking spaces in Rocky Mountain National Park? Plan B immediately advanced from backup to our main destination. A short drive from Glacier Gorge delivered us to the Bear Lake parking lot, where we easily found an angled space, since only 25% of the capacity was used at our arrival time.

We quickly grabbed our gear and departed on the trail to Dream Lake. Again I was amazed to learn that we did not have the trail to ourselves, as avid hikers and backpackers joined us. By 7AM we arrived at Dream Lake, and Trevor led me to a spot on the eastern side of the lake that contained several very large rocks. Trevor was rigged and ready to cast, so he began his day, while I pulled my gear from my backpack and rigged my fly rod. After ten minutes I was outfitted and anxious to join Trevor in pursuit of wild greenback cutthroat trout.

Trevor advised that the strategy for hooking high country trout was to pause and observe. Spotting fish was essential to achieve any level of success. Once a fish was sighted, the next challenge was to anticipate the direction of fish. According to Trevor most of the cutthroats tended to cruise in a circle, but the size and direction of the circle varied from trout to trout.

I applied my lesson to the task at hand and spotted two fish, as they cruised along the edge of the rocky shelf fifty feet from my perch on top of the large boulder. I was about to launch a cast ahead of one of the traveling trout, when Trevor announced that he had one, so I made a quick detour and snapped a few photos of his first catch of the day. When I returned to my previous position, I carefully slid down the steep rocky contour and began casting to the vicinity of observed fish. Trevor informed me that he was using a size 22 comparadun with a tan body, but I elected to begin with a size 24 griffiths gnat.

It took me awhile to improve my ability to anticipate the direction of the moving fish, but eventually I placed some casts several feet in front of some cruisers, but they ignored my tiny midge imitation. During the course of our time on the lakes I learned that dwelling at one spot was counterproductive, as the cutthroats gradually became aware of our presence. This knowledge dictated our pattern for the remainder of the day, as we stayed at one place for no more than ten minutes and then moved on to another spotting location. We moved counterclockwise and crossed the small inlet stream at the north end of the lake and then circled along the less populated eastern edge. We had the side away from the trail to Emerald Lake to ourselves, but the offset to this advantage was the abundance of fallen logs and the close proximity of large evergreen trees that impeded our backcasts.

Trevor demonstrated his advanced experience at this game, as he landed seven or eight nice cutties. Before we crossed the inlet stream, I determined that the griffiths gnat was not in high demand, and following Trevor’s lead I knotted a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line. Finally as we neared the junction with the path that would lead us to Lake Haiyaha, we located several cruisers within reasonable casting distance, and under Trevor’s direction I placed a cast ahead of one of the targets. The scene that unfolded was surreal, as a greenback patiently elevated until its nose was against my CDC olive, and then it subtly sucked in the fake fly. I held my breath for a split second and then set and found myself attached to a brightly colored wild twelve inch greenback cutthroat. I scooped it in my net and snapped a few photos and then carefully removed the tiny mayfly imitation. I achieved my goal of landing a high country greenback from a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was very excited.

We continued a short distance, and then we met the intersection with the trail to Lake Haiyaha. I stashed my frontpack and fishing backpack in my large backpack, and we engaged in the one mile climb to the next high country lake. Fewer hikers joined us on this extended hike, but I was once again surprised by the number of adventurous tourists that preceded us to Lake Haiyaha. Trevor made one prior trip to the larger and higher lake, and thus his familiarity with the conditions and approach was minimal.

The most obvious characteristic of Lake Haiyaha was the abundace of huge jagged boulders that bordered the shoreline in the first area that we encountered. Hikers were perched on many of the hard rocky retreats; and they sipped water, ate snacks and basked in the sun before undertaking their return hike. Trevor and I meanwhile went into scramble mode in order to reach the edge of the water away from the non-fishing spectators. This endeavor was quite a challenge, as many rocks were too high to climb, and in some cases the steep edges prevented an easy dismount. Furthermore some areas contained water of varying depths between the boulders, and we avoided wading deep in the uncharted waters.

Eventually we arrived at the edge of a deep inlet that circled a huge exposed rock, and Trevor spotted a couple cruising fish. According to his research Lake Haiyaha contained Yellowstone cutthroats, so we were very excited to observe a species that is quite rare in Colorado. He managed a couple casts to the sighted cruiser with no success, and then the moving trout migrated in my direction. My heart pounded, as it came into view, and I managed three decent casts that landed two feet ahead of the cruising fish, but in each case it swam underneath and paid my offering no attention. I judged from the speed of the trout, that it was not primarily in feeding mode.

We continued our mad scramble in a clockwise direction until we attained a high vantage point where we could scan the lake for cruisers or rises. Quite a few rings appeared on a regular basis, but of course they were in the center of the lake much beyond our casting skills. The water close to us was quite deep and murky. The cloudiness hindered our ability to sight fish, as we could only peer into the water for four feet at most.

Finally we reversed our direction and cut on a diagonal to an area near our arrival point, but the task of negotiating the large randomly spaced jagged rocks was even more daunting than our first bouldering experience. We managed to arrive at a point where a web of canals and moats enveloped a rock garden of boulders, and we observed a bit for rises, but seeing none we decided to cut our losses and return to Dream Lake. Landing a Yellowstone cutthroat from Lake Haiyaha remains a future goal for both of us.

We quickly tramped back down the trail, and when the path traversed a high steep hill above the area of Dream Lake just above the outlet, Trevor spotted several nice cutthroats. We carefully slid down the pine needle embankment, and Trevor expertly landed a pair of very nice greenbacks. I positioned myself twenty yards above him, but I never spotted trout within casting distance. If you cannot see them, you cannot catch them.

Once again we resumed our descent to the parking lot, but one more opportunity remained for me to add to my fish count. A large pool appeared next to the trail fifty yards below the outlet from the lake, and this small annex of Dream Lake contained an abundance of cutthroats. Four or five were hanging in the current, where the small stream entered the pool, and I generated several looks from these fish, but they refused to close the deal. Next I tossed my CDC tuft to a spot, where the current slowed and fanned out, and after the speck rested for thirty seconds, a cutty slowly finned under the fly and inhaled it. Much to my astonishment I landed my second jewel on the day. Another round of photos ensued, and then I released the gem back to its natural environment.

Playing the hooked cutthroat scattered the other nearby fish, so I shifted my focus to some visible fish in the center of the pool. These circling targets nosed my fly a few times, but they were too educated to entice. I turned my attention back to the area at the end of the current, and I noticed a nice trout that slowly moved next to some tall grass four feet away from my position. I paused and watched, as the feeding cruiser changed direction and swam to a small indentation just beyond the tall grass. My fly rod was longer than the distance to the trout, so I reached it out beyond the grass clump and slowly lowered the fly to the surface of the pond two feet beyond the grass. I held my breath, and the target trout very confidently drifted under my fly and sipped it in. I could not believe my eyes and good fortune. I executed a solid controlled hook set, and after a brief battle I had my third greenback cutthroat in my net.

Trevor landed a pair of beauties in the same area, and he announced we needed to be on our way. I hooked my fly in the rod guide and reeled up my line, and twenty minutes later we found ourselves in the congested Bear Lake parking lot. People were everywhere, and I was certain that I had been transported to Disney World.

Wow! What a day. I landed three greenback cutthroats from Dream Lake, but more importantly Trevor taught me the basics of stillwater fly fishing at high elevation. Catching trout at Dream Lake is a game of stalking, observing, anticipating and casting. We discussed future trips, and tentatively scheduled a return to The Loch in September, when the crowds thin and parking at Glacier Gorge becomes a possibility.

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek – 07/30/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Downstream from first bridge after Tunnel 1

Clear Creek 07/30/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

With only a few hours to fish on Monday as a result of a physical therapy appointment at 2:45PM, I decided to make the short drive to Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. I was apprehensive regarding my choice after a mixed bag of success and failure during my most recent trips to the narrow canyon along US 6.

Monday’s projected high in Denver was 77 degrees, and when I arrived next to the tumbling stream, the sky was overcast, and the air was cool, especially compared to the hot weather that settled over Colorado in early July. It was actually quite refreshing, and I appreciated the cool breeze, as I donned my waders and set up my Orvis Access four weight rod. The flows were also very reasonable at 81 CFS. This level enabled comfortable conditions for wading, yet was elevated enough to protect the trout from high summer temperatures.

I parked just west of the first bridge after passing through Tunnel 1, and I shared the pullout with three vehicles that transported rock climbers to the high vertical wall on the south side of the creek. I crossed the highway carefully and hiked along the south bank for three hundred yards, and at that point I carefully picked my way through some rocks and vines, until I was at the edge of the stream.

I rigged my rod with a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph and prince nymph and began to probe the likely fish holding locations with the dry/dropper method. After ten minutes of fruitless prospecting, I became disillusioned with the prince nymph and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. The change paid dividends, when I hooked and landed a small brown trout, and then in a deep pocket in the middle of the trough-like streambed, a very nice cutbow latched on to the ultra zug bug. The pretty fish displayed the stripe of a rainbow and the jaw slashes of a cutthroat. I was pleased to net a trout that deviated from the standard Clear Creek brown trout.

I continued onward and experienced a few refusals, and I decided to follow my normal response by downsizing. I replaced the Chernobyl ant with a peacock-body hippy stomper, and with this lineup on my line I upped the fish counter to five, as two browns slammed the hippy stomper and another snatched the ultra zug bug.

My success rate was satisfactory, but I became disenchanted with the tendency of the hippy stomper to sink. I concluded that the two size 16 beadheads were two heavy for the thin foam construction of the hippy stomper, so I reconfigured with only the ultra zug bug as a dropper on a two foot leader. This arrangement quickly evolved into my most successful offering, and I methodically covered the stream until I arrived thirty yards downstream of the bridge. I incremented the fish tally from five to eleven during this period, and the trout split their vote evenly between the hippy stomper and ultra zug bug.

With fifteen minutes remaining several decent fish refused the hippy stomper, so I decided to experiment with a different terrestrial. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and finished my foray on Clear Creek by plunking the foam terrestrial in likely spots. The move was futile, and several trout expressed their disapproval of my fly choice by rising to inspect and then dropping back to the stream bottom. I glanced at my watch and noted that one o’clock arrived, so I returned to the car, and eventually made the drive back to Stapleton.

I was quite pleased to register an eleven fish day in two hours of fishing on Clear Creek. Once I settled on the hippy stomper/ultra zug bug combination, I enjoyed an extended hot streak. My success rate waned, however, as I approached the bridge; and I theorized that the area near the bridge and highway suffered from more intense pressure. The fish were small, but I cannot complain given the forty minute drive.

Fish Landed: 11

Big Thompson River – 07/26/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Big Thompson Canyon below Lake Estes

Big Thompson River 07/26/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

With an off day between physical therapy appointments I decided to take advantage with a day of fly fishing. I noted that the flows on the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes dropped to the 125 CFS range, and from past experience I recognized that this level translated to manageable albeit higher than ideal wading. I packed my gear and arrived along the river by 10:15AM, and after I jumped in my waders and strung my Orvis Access four weight, I was in the water ready to cast. I added four sets of stretches for my ailing elbow to my already lengthy preparatory routine.

The air temperature was in the sixties, when I began my quest for Big Thompson trout, and the high temperature peaked in the upper seventies. The stream was indeed clipping along at 125 CFS, and it carried a slight bit of turbidity, but I judged the clarity adequate for fly fishing. I also noticed rather large clumps of ice particles, and this provided evidence of a fairly intense hail storm, but I had no knowledge of the timing. I surmised that a storm generated the ice balls and clouded the water overnight.

I began my fly fishing adventure on Thursday with a size 14 parachute green drake. A bit of research on my blog and fishing reports revealed that I experienced a small amount of success with green drakes on the Big Thompson River in July, although the encounters were documented at earlier dates. I observed no other insect activity and assumed that the trout had long memories, when green drakes were involved.

The green drake hunch paid dividends, when a ten inch brown trout surfaced and nabbed the low floating dry fly on the fifth cast of the day. I was guardedly optimistic at this point, although I would discover that more effort was required for future success. I continued on with my upstream movement and landed a nine inch rainbow in a wide riffle close to the bridge below my parking space. Instead of passing under the bridge, I ascended the steep bank and walked along highway 34 and then dropped back down to the stream on the western side of the overpass.

The river at this point narrowed, and the targets of my casts were deeper and generally faster. I questioned whether the solitary green drake was the best approach in this type of water, so I converted to a tan pool toy, prince nymph and salvation nymph. I chose the prince and salvation in case green drake and pale morning dun nymphs commanded the attention of the local trout. The three fly dry/dropper set up enabled me to fish deeper, and my focus intensified with the change in approach, but I failed to attract interest during the forty-five minute period, before I paused for lunch.

Since I was directly below the Santa Fe, I climbed the bank and tailgated for lunch. I used the stop at the car to stock two additional longer prince nymphs in my fleece wallet, and one of them took a position on my line in the first fifteen minutes of the afternoon. I sought a longer nymph more in line with the size of a western green drake. The thought process was sound, but the trout failed to affirm my logic.

Green drakes typically hatch in the afternoon in Colorado, and the parachute version accounted for my only landed fish, so I reverted to the same size 14 green drake imitation, that served me well during the first hour of fishing. I flicked the large dry fly to likely fish holding lies and bumped the fish count to four, before I approached a long pool that contained a deep entry run, that sliced the slow moving section in half. The tail of the pool widened, and an assortment of relatively shallow pockets spanned across the river, before the current funneled through a large narrow whitewater chute.

I began spraying short downstream casts to the staggered pockets, and much to my surprise trout rose and chomped the green drake. Most of my casts were downstream, and I added two additional netted fish to the count, although I also experienced three momentary connections. This section and time period represented the fastest action on July 26.

Eventually I exhausted all the small pockets and turned my attention to the gorgeous shelf pools on either side of the deep center current, but surprisingly the trout did not react to my green drake in the attractive area. A short section of additional pocket water above the pool yielded two additional trout, and my confidence in the parachute fly surged once again.

I was about to prospect some deeper runs and pools, when a dark cloud drifted overhead, and the sky darkened considerably. In an effort to anticipate a rain shower, I undertook the process of putting on my raincoat. I was about to resume casting, when a relatively loud thunderclap caused me to reevaluate. Good sense prevailed, and I crossed the river and bashed through some brush and returned to the car. I opened the hatchback and sat on the rear mat just as some large raindrops splattered on the pavement. One minute after I perched on the rear of the car, the rain accelerated and descended in sheets for eight minutes before the sun reappeared.

Blue sky to the west was my sign to resume, so I ambled back along the shoulder of the road and assumed the position that I recently vacated. I peppered the area above me with fluttering casts of the drake, and in two instances I observed a trout, as it finned toward the fly and then dropped back to its resting place after a rude rejection of my offering. This shunning behavior caused me to experiment with three alternative flies in the form of a Jake’s gulp beetle, size 18 black parachute ant, and a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. The beetle prompted a refusal, and the other pair of trial flies failed to exact any form of reaction.

I checked my watch and noted that the time was after 3PM. The non-existent action convinced me to call it quits, and I strode back to the car and stashed my gear. Thursday was a slow day on the Big Thompson River. Eight fish landed in four hours represented an average catch rate, and the largest fish may have stretched to eleven inches. The flows were on the high side, and this circumstance reduced the number of possible fish holding locations. All the trout rose to the parachute green drake, and this occurred even though I never witnessed a single green drake natural. I did discover that many fish patrolled relatively shallow pockets, and these stream residents seemed the most willing surface feeders. In retrospect, I probably should have sought more stretches that presented a similar water type.

Fish Landed: 8

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/24/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Camp Dick Campground

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/24/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

A mild case of tennis elbow persisted since after my guided float trip on the Bow River in August 2017, but the discomfort escalated after two fishing outings on July 16 and 17. A dull ache on the top of my elbow expanded to a pinching sensation coupled with an increased burn on the bone on the underside of my right elbow. After my last fishing outing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on July 17 I decided to rest my casting arm for a week.

On Wednesday July 18 Jane and I completed a hike along the Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and I was intrigued by the rushing mountain stream that paralled the hiking trail. I resolved to return with a fly rod in hand in a reasonable period of time. I began a program of icing my elbow on a daily basis, and I made an appointment with my primary care physician. The rest and icing calmed down the elbow discomfort, and my primary care physician wrote a referral to my favorite physical therapy clinic.

Tuesday July 24 represented the one week anniversary of my last fishing trip, so I decided to test the arm before my scheduled physical therapy appointment on Wednesday. I made the relatively short drive to Camp Dick Campground and parked in the western trailhead lot. I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and tramped along the Middle St. Vrain Trail for twenty minutes, before I veered to the left and bashed through dead limbs and bushes, until I intersected with the tumbling Middle Fork.

The air temperature was 71 degrees when I began, and during my time on the water it never peaked higher than 75. A very brief rainstorm passed by in the early afternoon, and the intermittent cloud cover prevented the strong rays of the sun from overheating the Rocky Mountains in my chosen fishing location. I had no basis for comparison, but the stream seemed to be at near ideal flows.

As this stream was brand new to me, I decided to charge in without any knowledge to guide me. The stream was a relatively high gradient section of fast moving water, and I suspect this was true of the entire section from the Peak to Peak Highway and west. The combination of the tight streamside vegetation and the rushing whitewater and large boulders made negotiating my way westward quite a challenge.

During my time on the medium sized creek I landed thirteen small trout. Ten were brook trout in the 7 – 8 inch size range and the other three were brown trout. Two browns measured out at nine inches and one lunker by Middle Fork standards stretched the tape to twelve inches.

I began my fly fishing adventure with a gray stimulator, and this bushy attractor accounted for the first five fish, all brook trout. I sensed that perhaps larger fish were lurking beneath the surface, and perhaps they were more interested in nymphs and pupa, so I converted to a dry/dropper approach that consisted of a size 14 hippy stomper with a peacock dubbed body and a beadhead pheasant tail on a short two foot dropper. The hippy stomper attracted two trout to surface for a bite, and the beadhead pheasant tail delivered the best fish of the day to my net; a twelve inch brown trout. All three of these trout arrived at my net from a gorgeous pool; one of the few quality fish holding lies that I encountered.

The brook trout clobbered the hippy stomper near the tail of the pool, and I was beginning to doubt the efficacy of the pheasant tail. I flicked the two fly combination upstream five feet in front of an exposed boulder in the center of the pool, and suddenly the hippy stomper took an obvious dive. I immediately reacted with a solid hook set, and the bend in the four weight signaled, that the fish frantically attempting escape maneuvers was larger than the heretofore diminutive brook trout. I guided the thrashing trout away from a branch and scooped it into my net, and my enthusiasm for the Middle St. Vrain suddenly skied to new levels.

Unfortunately as I progressed upstream, the action waned. I covered quite a distance with no fish encounters, and I attributed the disappointing circumstance to the lack of quality fish holding locations. The creek was simply a cascade of whitewater, and the effort to move from one marginal target spot to the next was excessive. By noon I found a nice round wide rock in a clearing used by disbursed campers, and I rested my arm, while I munched my sandwich. I pondered the fast stream and my morning results and concluded that I would try a size 12 Chernobyl ant and a salvation nymph dropper. The larger foam top fly would not require frequent squeezing and drying, and it could support the larger beadhead nymph, which I surmised might be more visible to the trout in the tumbling oxygenated environment.

The move paid off somewhat, as I added three additional small brook trout to the fish tally. All of the early afternoon netted fish nabbed the Chernobly on the surface, and all were brook trout in the seven inch range. During this time period some dark clouds developed to the east, and I was certain that I dodged the storm, until a deafening thunderclap ricocheted off the surrounding mountains. I nearly jumped out of the water, as I reacted to the startling natural crash.

Another lull in action caused me to once again pause and reexamine my approach. In previous situations in high gradient mountain settings I utilized a three fly dry/dropper with success. Two droppers provided additional weight, and I theorized that reaching greater depth in the plunge pools might yield more fish. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line to support two beadheads, and then I added an ultra zug bug and a pheasant tail. Once again the change reversed my fortunes, and I registered three more catches including another brown trout that chomped the ultra zug bug, but then I once again endured a slump.

Another dark cloud hovered overhead and a few large raindrops spurred me to extract and pull on my raincoat slightly in advance of a brief heavy deluge. The rain only lasted for five minutes, and I continued my upstream migration with the dry/dropper method. Alas I plateaued at thirteen trout for the day, and the number of attractive fish holding lies shrank, as the gradient of the stream surged even beyond the section that I already covered. Fatigue dominated my thoughts, and the sun reappeared to create a steamy environment, and I faced a thirty minute hike back to the parking lot. I reeled up my flies and called it a day.

Thirteen trout was a reasonable total for four hours on a small mountain stream, yet I was undeniably disappointed. I was quite excited, when I discovered the clear tumbling branch of the St. Vrain on July 18, and I was certain that it received low pressure and would reward the diligent fisherman willing to hike away from the trailhead. I crashed through deadfalls and brush and scrambled over boulders and fallen trees, and I was convinced that the extra effort would be rewarded with a large quantity of unsophisticated albeit small trout. In reality the extra effort did not justify the results. As anticipated the fish were small, but fish density was low thus requiring abnormal effort to cover a significant amount of water in challenging wading conditions. I am unlikely to return in the near future.

Fish Landed: 13

Cache la Poudre River – 07/20/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pingree Park area

Cache la Poudre River 07/20/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Several months ago I exchanged emails with a friend, who I worked with at Air Products and Chemicals. His name is Dan, and he retired from another company 1.5 years ago, and he and his wife Sandi planned a trip to Colorado and Wyoming for the third week of July. He expressed an interest in fly fishing, and I readily agreed to accompany him and serve as his guide for a day.

On Friday, July 20 that day arrived. I drove to the Elizabeth Hotel in Ft. Collins and picked Dan up by 8:15 on Friday morning. Dan purchased his fishing license on line, and he picked up his rental waders and boots at St. Peter’s Fly Shop upon his arrival on Thursday. We hit the road and drove west in the Cache la Poudre Canyon to the Pingree Park special regulation section. By 9:30 AM the air temperature in the canyon was 80 degrees, and the sun’s intensity never abated during our time on the water. The river level was decent but down considerably from what I experienced during my recent visit on Monday, July 16.

Dan logged only a few days of previous fly fishing, so we spent a few minutes in the parking lot, as he demonstrated his casting proficiency. Eventually I judged that his casts, although fairly rudimentary, would enable him to place a dry fly within reach of the Cache la Poudre trout. We found a rough and somewhat steep path to the river, and I positioned Dan downstream of some relatively attractive runs and pockets along the right bank. During the first hour we focused on casting and line management, and for this endeavor I tied an elk hair caddis and gray stimulator to his line. A small trout refused the caddis, and later another stream inhabitant demonstrated a splashy rejection of the stimulator.

After an hour of futile casting and movement, I decided to test a foam dry fly, and I plucked a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from my box. I surmised that the foam surface fly would require minimal false casting, and it would float high and be easily visible. My assumption was correct, but the fish did not seem interested in the normally desirable beetle imitation. Despite our inability to hook and land a fish, Dan was improving his casting and line management skills.

By noon we approached a section of the river where the stream bed narrowed, and this created much deeper and faster stream conditions. Dan’s wading boots possessed vibram rubber soles with no cleats, and even with the crude wading stick that I loaned him, he was struggling to gain footing on the large slippery rocks of the Poudre. I decided to move to water more conducive to an untested wader, so we returned to the car and advanced west beyond the next bridge to a wide pullout next to a gap in the fence.

I pulled out the soft sided cooler bag and two stools, and we found a shady spot under some pine trees next to the highway to consume our lunches. We chatted for an hour and caught up on our lives and enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings. Fly fishing is fun, and catching fish is the goal, but renewing friendships in the grand theater of the Rocky Mountains was really the ultimate purpose of our day on Friday.

After lunch we crossed a meadow area and approached the stream. After a bit of walking, I surveyed the river and settled on a section at the head of a long wide riffle. The narrow stream bed created some nice deep pockets along the left bank, and I set Dan up with a tan pool toy and a beadhead pheasant tail dropper. He began prospecting the dry/dropper combination, and he used the friction of the downstream dangling flies to load the rod tip, before he executed sling shot casts upstream. In addition to the pheasant tail we cycled through a prince nymph, salvation nymph and ultra zug bug. While Dan did not hook or land a fish during the afternoon, I feel certain that he experienced temporary hook ups with two trout, but his hook set was a bit slow. Guiding Dan made me realize how much my eye is trained to follow a fly and react to slight and many times imperceptible changes in the drift of the indicator fly. Fly fishing requires commitment and many hours of practice to develop even basic proficiency.

By 3PM the sun was high above and sending its intense rays down upon the water and two weary fishermen. We had dinner reservations at a restaurant in Ft. Collins for 6:15, so we called it a day and made the spectacular drive through the canyon back to the hotel. For dinner we were joined by Dan’s wife Sandi and my wife Jane along with mutual friends, Debbie and Lonnie Maddox. The Maddox’s chose the Blue Agave as our dining establishment, and the choice was perfect, as we feasted on chips and salsa and modern Mexican fare.

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/17/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 1:00PM

Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park between bridge on Wild Basin entry road and Finch Lake Trailhead

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/17/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-WNstippp-P8/W1AJr2_99DI/AAAAAAABgHk/rsq2rwnuyxAHZUx3bBJ6e0MT22b_0EVIwCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P7170013.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6579769699332493553?locked=true#6579769704691135538″ caption=”A Good Place to Start” type=”image” alt=”P7170013.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

After a successful day on the Cache la Poudre River on Monday, I sought another Front Range fly fishing adventure for Tuesday, July 17, 2018. Unfortunately, I aggravated my mild case of tennis elbow on Monday, and now it mushroomed into a more severe situation. Would I be able to withstand back to back days of casting, and would the discomfort escalate to higher levels? I decided to take the risk, since I wanted to assess the extent of my injury.

After my review of my fishing reports over the last eighteen years, I logged my green drake encounters on front range streams, and this exercise revealed two instances in July when I successfully cast green drake imitations to resident trout on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek within Rocky Mountain National Park. With this information tucked in my brain, I decided to make the trip to the small mountain stream in the Wild Basin area on Tuesday. Upon hearing of my plan Jane jumped on board, and we both departed from our home in Denver by 8:15AM.

A relatively uneventful drive enabled us to turn left on to the Wild Basin entry road by 9:45, and we slowly followed the winding narrow dirt road for a mile before we were halted by a young lady with a walkie talkie and a reflective vest. She informed us that all the parking at the trailhead was full, so I executed a tight three-point turn in the dirt roadway, and we found a parking space next to some picnic tables along the stream. Jane gathered the necessary gear to hike to Ouzel Falls, and I climbed into my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight in preparation for some stream time.

The air temperature was in the sixties and the stream appeared to be clear and near ideal flows. It had been a while, since I fished the narrow high gradient section of the North Fork in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was anxious to see if it changed much over the intervening years. My stream notes suggested that historically I landed small brook trout and larger brown trout, but the ratio was roughly 60% brook and 40% browns. Would today’s experience match up to history? I asked myself these questions, as I strode along the dirt road at a brisk pace, until I reached the bridge that was .3 miles back toward the entrance. By now a string of cars was lined up along the narrow dirt road, and the RMNP guide was informing them that parking was full beyond the stopping point.

I walked to the middle of the bridge and gazed upstream and discovered two gentlemen in the creek approximately thirty yards above. One of the young men was wearing waders, and it appeared that a wide band stretched over the creek next to their position. At the time I assumed that they were fishermen, and they were using the band as a support for crossing the swift current. Later I concluded that the band was set up for slack lining over the water. Regardless of their intent, I circled through the woods and around them, until I was positioned a good distance above. They were no longer in view, as I knotted a size 12 olive stimulator to my line, and I began to prospect likely fish holding locations.

In the early going I experienced a mixed bag of success and frustration as exemplified by a 50/50 mix of takes and refusals. I landed five brook trout in the first thirty minutes, and none measured up to my standards for a photograph. The five that I counted were barely over my six-inch threshold. I felt that I was passing over catchable fish, so I snipped off the stimulator and swapped it for a size 12 Chernobyl ant, and below the ant I added a size 18 pheasant tail on a two-foot dropper. The Chernobyl was moderately more effective than the stimulator, and I built the fish count to eight, before I reeled up the flies and reconfigured the droppers. The pheasant tail was not carrying its weight, so I replaced it with a beadhead hares ear and then added a salvation nymph as the point fly. Although the Chernobyl accounted for three fish, it also generated its share of refusals.

The three-fly dry/dropper combination improved the catch rate, and I incremented the fish counter to fourteen. Once again, the Chernobyl was the clear leader in attracting trout, but the salvation chipped in a few fish as well. In fact, the best fish of the day put a sag in my net during this time period. A small patch of slow water formed just upstream of a fallen angled evergreen. It was a marginal spot at best, but I decided to allocate a few casts. I lobbed three casts to the short space above the newly fallen evergreen, but after only a two-foot drift, I raised my rod to extract the flies, before they snagged one of the branches. On the fifth cast I decided to go for it. I cast farther toward the bank and then moved my rod tip to the right, which caused the trailing nymphs to sweep deep under the overhanging evergreen boughs. I was shocked, when I saw a thirteen-inch brown trout emerge from its hiding place, and it nabbed the accelerating salvation nymph, as it moved diagonally along the fallen tree. The fish hooked itself, and then I played it in the narrow stream and managed to prevent the battling brown trout from tangling around the numerous rocks and branches in the area. This scenario represented the high point of the day.

When I reached fourteen, I sensed that the action slowed measurably, so I once again implemented a change in tactics. I snipped the three flies from my line and reverted to a single stimulator. I deviated from the morning session and tied a size 14 gray stimulator to my line. For the next thirty minutes I prospected likely spots with the high floating attractor and increased the count to seventeen. I experienced quite a few refusals, but one nine-inch brown trout and two brook trout mistook the bushy stimulator for a natural food of some kind. As this scenario was unfolding, dark clouds appeared in the western sky and faint thunderclaps heralded an oncoming storm. A few large raindrops created wet imprints on my shirtsleeves, and I knew that the forecast predicted thunderstorms in the 1PM time frame. I stripped in my line and hooked the stimulator in the hook keep and returned via the dirt road to the Santa Fe.

After I removed my fishing gear and waders, I pulled on my raincoat and set out on the bridal trail that paralleled the road in search of Jane. The sky grew darker, and I was very pleased to encounter her after a brief eight-minute hike.

Tuesday was a reasonably successful day, as I landed seventeen fish in 2.5 hours of fishing. I had the stream to myself, and I moved quickly and covered a fair amount of stream mileage in a short time. The fish were small, but two brown trout encouraged me to continue seeking more surprises, and the brook trout made up for their lack of size with brilliant orange bellies. The area was crowded with park visitors, but they did not interfere with my fishing. The constant pinching sensation in my right elbow was an annoyance, but it did not prevent me from notching a fun day of fishing during the summer of 2018.

Fish Landed: 17

Cache la Poudre River – 07/16/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pingree Park above bridge on CO 14

Cache la Poudre River 07/16/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I did not fly fish over the weekend, but I did some research to determine my next destination. I used the search and find capability of my blog to ascertain the dates, when I encountered green drakes on front range streams. I was rather certain that early to mid-July coincided with the presence of green drakes on northern Colorado streams, and this exercise confirmed my recollection. I met green drakes on the Cache la Poudre River on July 13, 2017 and July 15, 2016. The North Fork of the St. Vrain produced green drake activity on July 28, 2010 and July 23, 2006. Brief emergences enabled some dry fly action with green drakes on the Big Thompson River on July 18, 2013 and July 18, 2002.

Armed with this historical data I made the drive to the Cache la Poudre River west of Ft. Collins with the hope of rendezvousing with green drakes. I arrived at a pullout along CO 14 at 10AM, and after I pulled on my waders and assembled my Fenwick five weight fiberglass, I hiked east along the shoulder of the highway, until I reached the bridge. Here I angled down a steep bank and began fishing back toward the Santa Fe.

Monday was a warm day with highs in Denver in the upper 80’s. This probably translated to highs in the low eighties in the Poudre Canyon by the time I quit at 3PM. The sky was virtually cloudless for most of my time on the water. The flows remained quite strong, and I never entertained the thought of wading across the full width of the river.

I began with an olive-brown size 12 stimulator, and I began prospecting the slow-moving pockets and pools along the left bank. This approach was effective, and I brought eight trout to my net using the single dry fly method. All the landed fish were brown trout, and several extended to the 12-13 inch range. A fish of this size on the Cache la Poudre is worth celebrating.

I was curious whether a dry/dropper technique might produce more and larger fish, so I used my nippers to remove the stimulator and switched to a size 12 Chernobyl ant trailing a salvation nymph. Several trout nipped the Chernboyl but easily escaped my hook set, and then an aggressive feeder assaulted the black foam attractor, and I landed number nine. The catch rate with the dry/dropper lagged that of the olive stimulator, and I was about to revert to the productive fly of the morning, but then I decided to experiment with a green drake. I selected a Harrop hair wing green drake from my box and tested it in a long smooth glide, and after five casts a decent brown surfaced and smashed the green drake imitation to increment the fish count to ten.

It was around this time, that I found myself next to a nice rocky area in the sun, and it was after 12PM, so I paused for lunch. After lunch the Harrop hair wing yielded several refusals, so I decided to switch to a size 14 green drake comparadun with no ribbing. This offering was quite popular, and the fish count swelled to seventeen on  the appeal of the green drake with the upright deer hair wing. The comparadun was more difficult to follow than the hair wing, and it necessitated frequent dunkings in the dry shake canister; however, when properly presented, it was very effective. Most of the green drake munchers were typical brown trout in the nine to eleven-inch range with one outlier that measured twelve inches. By 1:30 I reached a section along the south bank characterized by a long deep shelf pool, and this type of water failed to produce on Monday, so I exited and hiked back down the road to the car.

My tennis elbow was acting up, and I blamed it on the fiberglass rod with a wider grip than I was accustomed to, so I stopped and switched to my Loomis five weight. As I advanced on the south shoreline, I craved an opportunity to sample the nice pockets and pools along the north bank, so I ambled east on CO 14 once again, but this time I crossed the bridge and circled along the opposite bank.

During my entire stay on the river to this point, I observed only one green drake, and I sensed that the fish were not responding to my green drake offering with the zest that they demonstrated earlier. I decided to try a dry/dropper approach once again, and my afternoon lineup included a yellow fat Albert, size 12 beadhead prince nymph, and a salvation nymph. The prince was intended to imitate the nymphal stage of the green drake, and the salvation was geared to suggest a pale morning dun nymph. Whether the fish interpreted them this way is unknown, but the next 1.5 hours produced ten additional fish to raise the fish tally to twenty-seven. Two aggressive feeders pounded the fat Albert, and a brown trout nipped the salvation, while the remainder grabbed the prince nymph. Perhaps the stream residents were accustomed to seeing green drake nymphs and therefore responded to the prince as a close facsimile. Two of the final ten trout in my net were rainbows including a ten incher that crushed the fat Albert in some faster riffles.

By 3PM the air temperature was peaking, and I felt very sluggish after a day of rock climbing and battling through overhanging branches. I reeled up my line and called it quits. I was also conscious of the request to voluntarily not fish during the hottest afternoon hours of the day in order to avoid stressing the trout in elevated water temperatures.

Monday was a fun day. I landed an abundant quantity of trout, and I fulfilled my goal of successfully fishing green drake dry flies. I only noted one natural, but the fish seemed tuned into my green drake comparadun imitation. Competing anglers were scarce, and I explored the north side of the river with some success.

Fish Landed: 27

South Boulder Creek – 07/12/2018

Time: 6:30PM – 9:00PM

Location: Below Gross Dam in the area of the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop Trail.

South Boulder Creek 07/12/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Thursday was intended to be a day of rest after three straight outings on my recent camping and fishing trip. Imagine my surprise, when I checked my phone and noticed a text message from my son, Dan. He planned an after work visit to South Boulder Creek and asked, if I was interested in joining. Opportunities to fish with Dan are rare, as he is engaged to be married, in the early stages of a career, and the proud owner of a new puppy dog. Fatigue, aches and rest suddenly became secondary considerations, and I quickly agreed to join Dan at the kayak parking lot at 6PM. Of course I also took a peek at the stream flows on South Boulder Creek, and I was pleased to see that they were steady at 151 CFS for the last four days. 151 CFS is higher than I prefer, but I knew from past experience that it was manageable.

I arrived fifteen minutes early at the parking lot that already contained five other vehicles. I got a jump on preparation and donned my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while I waited for Dan’s arrival. A bit past 6PM he appeared with two Snarf’s submarine sandwiches in his possession. We made quick work of the Italian sandwiches, and then we descended the steep trail to the creek below. At a wide area shortly after encountering the stream, we crossed to take advantage of the easier hiking trail along the opposite shoreline.

Since we only had a few hours of daylight, we decided to allocate more time to fishing and less to hiking, so we began our quest for trout twenty yards below the first pedestrian bridge. Dan initiated his fly fishing adventure with a size 16 stimulator with a dark brown or maroon body. I selected a size 14 gray stimulator from my fly box and tied it to my 5X tippet. I began the evening with some downstream casts to a deep eddy at a large bend in the creek, and Dan meanwhile cast to some very enticing slower moving runs along the bank.

The trout in the eddy below me showed no interest in my attractor fly, but a nice ten inch rainbow attacked Dan’s high floater, and we celebrated his initial success. We spent the first hour familiarizing ourselves with the higher flows, and where the trout were holding. We discovered that the faster runs did not produce, and the fish were concentrated in the slow moving pools along the bank. Within these locations they frequented the seams along faster water and sheltered lies next to large boulders.

After 7:30 we progressed above the pedestrian bridge and cherry picked the spots that conformed to our stream criteria. We were both frustrated by evening glare and our inability to follow our flies, so we independently switched to a Chernobyl ant and trailed a dropper nymph. I chose an emerald caddis pupa, since I observed adult caddis, as they danced along the surface of the water. Dan and I both foul hooked a rainbow trout, when we reacted to a refusal to the Chernboyl and embedded the hook of the trailing nymph in the reluctant feeders.

By 8PM I failed to land a fish, but I was content to give my son first shot at quality spots. I had my fill of fishing success during my recent road trip, and I was genuinely content to enjoy the cool evening, while Dan took advantage of some sorely needed mountain time. I was now above the bridge in an area with numerous huge boulders and below a nice smooth pool. Dan approached from below and executed some nice casts to the lower portion of the run, where the creek swirled around several large exposed boulders. I suspected that the fish in this area inhabited the narrow lanes, where the current passed between the three large boulders, so I lobbed the dry/dropper to the current seam above rock number two. I could barely see the chartreuse indicator on the foam ant, and then it disappeared in a bulge, and I raised my arm and felt a connection to a nice eleven inch rainbow. Although I was content to be an observer, I must admit I was surprised and pleased to notch a fish on the scoreboard.

As darkness slowly descended, Dan and I migrated to the tail of the long and popular pool a bit upstream. Other anglers vacated the popular spot, so I assumed a position near the tail. A jumble of long logs angled across the stream bed to create the lower pool, and just above them a huge area of foam suspended between the logs and the bank. I paused to observe, and I was pleasantly surprised to note three subtle rises just above the foam. One exposed boulder was positioned fifteen feet above the foam patch, and suddenly another rise appeared five feet below it. I followed the path of the feeding fish, and noticed a very respectable rainbow, as it settled back along the sandy bottom.

The Chernboyl and caddis pupa were still on my line, so I delivered five drifts over the upper fish below the rock, but the target displayed no evidence of interest in the Chernobyl or pupa. I elected to reconfigure to a dry fly, but before doing so, I caught Dan’s attention and invited him to join me. Upon his arrival, I pointed out the rising fish, and he began the task of converting to a single caddis as well. Just enough light remained to allow me to thread the leader through the eye of a small size 18 caddis adult, and I was finally in a position to cast, while Dan continued his conversion.

The scene that ensued was an example of why I love fly fishing. I made three downstream drifts toward the fringe of the foam patch, where I observed several rises earlier. I was having difficulty locating the small tuft of deer hair in the waning light, but on the third cast I picked it up quite clearly. I checked my fourth cast high and the deer hair caddis fluttered down in the subtle current seam above the foam, and a foot above the white blanket of bubbles a mouth appeared and gulped down my impostor. Dan saw the entire episode develop, and I quickly lifted my arm and connected with an eleven inch cutbow. The South Boulder Creek gem displayed a brilliant crimson cheek and a pink-red stripe, and it was truly a jewel in the wild.

I released my prize, and Dan was now prepared to prospect the area of rising fish with his caddis. He demonstrated some excellent casts and drifts and extracted two aggressive surface feeders from the area. The trout were quite diminutive, but he was nonetheless pleased to earn a level of success, as darkness rapidly descended. We expected to quit at 8:30, but 9PM found us returning on the path to cross at the wide section, and then we warmed ourselves with a steady ascent of the steep path to the parking lot.

Dan and I both enjoyed 2.5 hours of evening fishing on Thursday, and a couple wild trout were icing on the cake. A ninety degree day transformed into a pleasant cool evening, and we both gained insight on fishing South Boulder Creek at elevated flows. Best of all I spent a few precious hours with my son, and I always treasure such an occasion.

Fish Landed: 2

Piney River – 07/11/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream from parking area at river crossing

Piney River 07/11/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

An axiom of fly fishing posits that the more difficult a stream is to access; the better the fishing. Wednesday would be a test of this theorem.

After two days on the upper Arkansas River I was ready for a change. I packed all my camping gear in the Santa Fe on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning I bypassed the normal hot tea and oatmeal in order to avoid the necessity of firing up the camp stove. Instead I downed a slice of zucchini bread and ate a cup of yogurt and then brushed my teeth. I took down the tent in record time, and consequently I was on the road by 6:30AM. A 1.5-hour drive delivered me to Vail, and then I bounced over the rocky Red Sandstone Road for nine miles, until I reached a dirt parking area and the trailhead for the Piney River.

It was 8:20 when I departed on the trail in my waders carrying my Orvis Access four weight. I considered the option of wading wet, but the air temperature was fifty degrees, and I surmised that the waders offered more protection against bruises and thorns, since I knew I would be scrambling over numerous large rocks and slashing through dense vegetation.

I hiked for forty-five minutes and then angled down a steep slope to a meadow section of the Piney River. Normally I skipped this placid section of the small stream in the Eagles Nest Wilderness; however, on Wednesday I decided to test the willingness of high elevation trout to partake of my flies in challenging conditions. I tied a size 14 gray stimulator to my line and shot some long casts to the middle of the pond-like water in front of me. In a short amount of time a missile of a fish charged to the surface and inhaled my dry fly. Was it going to be this easy? The first landed fish was actually a stunning ten-inch brook trout, and I later learned that it represented one of only two of the char species landed on the day.

I continued prospecting the slow-moving meadow area for an hour and landed five additional trout, all smaller than the opening brook trout. Several of the early catches were brown trout, and the others were cutbows and rainbows. While this may seem like fast action, it was not. I fired out numerous very long casts, and scattering fish represented the predominant scenario. As I moved closer to the faster water at the entrance to the meadow, I actually grew bored with the lake-like nature of the fishing and skipped the final thirty-yard section.

The abuse delivered by the small fish in the meadow caused the palmered brown hackle on the stimulator to unravel, so I replaced it with a near replica, as I entered the fast canyon section of Piney River. I began popping the stimulator in all the pockets, large and small, and the ravenous trout in the lower end of the canyon responded by crushing the high floating attractor. The fish count doubled in short order to twelve, and my day was off to a promising start.

Again the durability of my fly was challenged by the hungry trout, and the collar hackle unraveled on gray stimulator number two. I considered switching to a foam fly that would offer improved durability, improved buoyancy and better visibility. The advantages seemed obvious, and I swapped the damaged stimulator for a red hippy stomper. The body on this fly was flash red, and a layer of red foam served as the underbody. The new menu item seemed to please the resident trout, although perhaps the catch rate diminished, but the size of the fish improved. As I progressed farther from the meadow section, the species diversity expanded, and I began to encounter cutbows, rainbows, and cutthroats in addition to the ever present brown trout.

Life was good, and I landed four trout on the hippy stomper design, but of course the fishing gods decided to introduce some adversity. For some unknown reason the hippy stomper began to land upside down with the flashy red body on top, and the white poly indicator faced down. The stream dwellers did not like this presentation. I began to dip the fly in the dry shake to absorb the water that soaked into the poly tuft, and this helped for a while, but then I grew weary of this repetitive maintenance. I stopped for lunch on a wide flat rock, and as I downed my sandwich, I considered alternatives. Might a small Chernobyl ant appeal to the trout and avoid the repeated dry shake cycle?

This is exactly the direction I took, after I took the final bite from my honey crisp apple. I knotted a size 14 Chernobyl ant to my line, and I began to toss the buoyant attractor to the same promising locales that occupied my efforts in the morning. Voila! The monster ant was dessert to the hungry Piney River residents, and amazingly the catch rate accelerated. The fish counter swiftly climbed through the twenties, and I enjoyed my afternoon immensely. This period coincided with my migration through the middle part of the canyon, and the stream was characterized by steep walls and deep plunge pools. The steeper gradient and boulder strewn stream bed translated to a change in the predominant species, and my net was visited by a preponderance of colorful cutbows and rainbows. A twelve-inch fish was a rarity, but the vivid colors and unique spot patterns more than made up for a slight deficiency in size.

Good things do not last forever, and after an hour of hectic catch and release action, I sensed a slowing in my success rate. My failure to generate even a look in an extremely attractive pool caused me to reassess, and the net result of my evaluation was the addition of a salvation nymph dropper to my offering. This proved to be another fortuitous action, as the fish counter once again surged. The presence of the size 14 Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph created a halcyon period on Wednesday afternoon. Sixty percent of the time, the trout crushed the Chernobyl on the surface, but the rest of the time aggressive feeders could not resist the trailing nymph. Several times a trout attacked the salvation as soon as it plunked in the water, and I am always amazed by this phenomenon. Are fish lying in wait for random food to splash down and sink below the surface?

As was the case earlier, the torrid action subsided a bit, and then I created a tangle between the Chernobyl and the salvation. In the process of undoing the snarl, I somehow pulled out the rubber legs on one side of the foam ant. Past experience taught me that a handicapped fly is more of a problem for the fisherman than the fish, but in this instance it seemed that a disfigured Chernobyl ant lost some of its appeal. I eventually recognized this deficiency, and I exchanged the lopsided ant for a fresh version that was a size twelve. I continued with the salvation nymph dropper, and the new combination enabled me to increment the fish tally albeit at a somewhat slower pace.

As the afternoon wore on, the canyon widened a bit, and the gradient was reduced, and this shift in terrain coincided with the return of brown trout as a more significant part of the landed fish ratio. For some reason I switched the salvation for a beadhead pheasant tail, and this normally dependable fly fooled a few fish. Some dark clouds moved in from the southwest, and a few distant claps of thunder caused me a bit of concern, although the density and size of the clouds assuaged my fears a bit.

As 3:30 neared I approached a spot where the severity of the grade of the canyon wall tapered down a bit, and I recognized the area as my normal exit point. The edge of the dark cloud hovered overhead, and a few random large drops of rain reminded me that a small storm was imminent. The fish count was perched on forty-nine, and I desperately wanted to achieve a fifty fish day. I cannot explain this compulsion for round numbers and goal setting that burdens my personality. For some reason the fish stopped favoring my Chernobyl ant, and I spotted several yellow sallies throughout the day, so I removed the two-fly dry/dropper rig and tied a size 14 yellow stimulator to my line. Success. Not only did I quickly notch number fifty, but I was drawn to a very nice large pocket, where I cast the stimmy, and a final brown trout slashed the fraud.

I was very weary and faced a forty-five minute return hike, and the rain was intensifying, so I decided to begin my outbound trek. I once again gazed at the clouds and assessed that the rainstorm would be brief, so I did not extract my raincoat. A very brief shower ensued, and my shirt absorbed a decent amount of moisture, but in actuality it felt cool and refreshing.

What a day! I spent six hours on a small mountain stream and landed in excess of fifty fish. The fish were small, with the largest perhaps reaching twelve inches, but they were wild and spectacular in their colorful splendor. I achieved a Colorado grand slam that included rainbow, brown, brook, cutthroat and cutbow species. The outing necessitated a rough drive over rocks and potholes, and the forty-five minute hike each way tested my stamina, but the action was fast and furious. The fish were hungry, and I was totally absorbed with fooling them, and I enjoyed the magnificent beauty of my surroundings. Wednesday certainly proved the axiom outlined at the outset of this blog post.

Fish Landed: 51

Arkansas River – 07/10/2018

Time: 9:00AM – 2:00PM; 3:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Granite information sign along US 24 and CO 55 dirt road; Hayden Meadows upper lot to US 24 bridge.

Arkansas River 07/10/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

The salesman at the Orvis Shop in Cherry Creek recommended the upper Arkansas River upstream from the US 24 bridge as a productive fishing destination. I hoped to sample this section on my 2018 trip to the upper Arkansas River area, but on Monday five vehicles occupied the small parking space just ahead of the the US 24 bridge. On Tuesday, since I camped at nearby Turquoise Lake, I hoped to be the first fisherman there as a result of my proximity and early start. Wrong. Two trucks were already present when I passed by at 8:45, so I defaulted to my backup plan.

I continued south along US 24 for another two miles below CO 55 and arrived at a wide pullout with an informational sign about granite. I was the only vehicle present, and I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight for a day of fly fishing. The first fifty yards looked rather inviting but I assumed its proximity to the parking space translated to excessive pressure. I hoped to cover two miles of river, so I skipped around it and explored the upstream territory.

It was earlier than usual for me to be on the the river, and no gray drakes were evident, so I began with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. These flies are my most productive, but they failed to interest the Arkansas River trout on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. After thirty plus minutes with no results despite prospecting some quality spots, I reconfigured with an iron sally instead of the hares ear, and I swapped the salvation for a size 12 prince nymph.

This change was a master stroke, and the newly added flies enabled me to land fish and boost the fish count from zero to seven. The prince accounted for the trout during the 10AM to 11AM time frame, and the iron sally became a favored food source in the last hour before noon. The first three netted brown trout were on the small side, but the next four were prize catches in the twelve inch range including a welcome surprise in the form of a fifteen inch brown trout.

Just before lunch I unknowingly snapped off the two nymphs, so replaced the iron sally and size 12 prince with a fresh pair. Two lost princes in the morning forced me to settle for a smaller size fourteen on a standard hook, and this unforeseen substitution failed to attract much interest from the river residents. Despite this handicap I incremented the fish count to ten after lunch. Surprisingly a fourteen inch rainbow was among these catches, and I suspect this was the first rainbow that I ever encountered in the upper Arkansas River.

During this time I enjoyed four instances of success, when I cast the dry/dropper to very narrow ribbons of slow moving water along the bank. The space was not more than four feet wide. I landed three of the bank dwellers, and several managed to escape after being pricked temporarily.

Having attained ten fish by one o’clock including several decent wild river inhabitants, I decided to shift gears and switched to a size 14 parachute green drake. One of my goals for Tuesday was to begin with the parachute style to determine if it outperformed the hair wing and stimulator style. The experiment on Tuesday was not really fair as the conditions were quite different. Unlike Monday I only spotted two or three gray drakes in the air. On Monday several quality deep runs and riffles exhibited rising trout, but surface feeding was largely absent on Tuesday. Despite the less than optimal gray drake emergence conditions, I managed to hook and land two very respectable brown trout. One consumed the parachute style and another chomped the comparadun.

Just before 2PM large gray clouds billowed up on the eastern horizon, and the sound of distant thunder caused some concern. By now I was at least 1.5 miles from the car, and the landscape was devoid of any reasonable shelter. Even the vegetation lacked trees of any significant size. The thunder claps grew louder, and I finally relented to my better judgement and embarked on an exit. I walked at a quick pace toward the CO 55 parking lot, but then I spotted a faint trail through the bushes and scrub grass. Fortunately an old barbed wire fence was beaten down, so I stepped over it and crossed the railroad tracks to intersect with US 24. I began to stride along the shoulder at a rapid pace, but after ten minutes the large widely spaced raindrops intensified. I stepped off the shoulder, removed all my packs, and slid into my raincoat. The added layer became essential as sheets of rain blew against my body and face for most of the remaining hike on the shoulder of the highway.

When I reached the Santa Fe, naturally the rain stopped, so I spent another thirty minutes sampling the attractive water, that I skipped upon my arrival. in the post-storm calm several trout displayed their presence via random rises. I cast the parachute green drake and experienced several refusals and a foul hooked brown, but finally in a deep riffle a thirteen inch brown elevated and sucked in the drake.

I covered the first fifty yards by the pullout, and then I reached an uninteresting wide shallow section, so I returned to the car. Perhaps the storm scared off the crowd on the west side of the US 24 bridge? I decided to check it out. I was surprised to discover that two vehicles remained in the bridge lot, so I reversed direction and drove to the parking area across from the north end of Hayden Meadows. Between 3:30 and 4:30 I covered the section of the river between the parking area and the US 24 bridge.

Drakes were absent so I returned to the producers of the morning and early afternoon; yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and prince nymph. In a deep step pool behind some man made structure the Albert dipped, and I guided a twelve inch brown to my net. I was near the highway, and the sky threatened rain again, so I found a nature trail that skirted the pond and called it a day.

Although the fish count matched Monday, I was more satisfied with my Tuesday effort. I discovered a new stretch of water never before explored, and I was selective about my target areas. I covered a significant amount of water and skipped long unattractive areas to focus on proven structure. Narrow deep slow moving bands along the bank and moderate riffles through large rocks were the obvious fish producers. I did not fish to a significant gray drake hatch as anticipated, but I stumbled into two solid nymph producers. The average size of the fish exceeded Monday’s results as well. These accomplishments were attained despite being interrupted by a storm during a normally productive time period. Bravo! Tuesday was a fun day of fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 14