Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Above RV park at large bend in special regulation water
After three challenging days of fishing on the North Platte River, I was anxious for a day of rest on Wednesday. Unfortunately this day developed into the nicest day of the spring of 2019. It would have been an ideal day to fly fish, but I took advantage to plant the remainder of my raised beds. A glance at the five day forecast revealed that Thursday was the last mild day, before cold weather and a storm arrived. One day of relaxation was enough, and I pondered options for a day of fishing on Thursday.
South Boulder Creek, the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, the Big Thompson River and the Cache la Poudre were on my radar, but after reviewing streamflows and fly shop fishing reports I settled on the Big Thompson. Current flows in the canyon below Lake Estes were a moderate 37 CFS, and I was drawn to low clear water after the dirty conditions on the North Platte.
I departed from my house in Denver by 8:45, and this enabled me to arrive at a pullout five miles below the dam at 10:30AM. The low clear flows were indeed in place, and the air temperature was in the mid-fifties, as I jumped into my waders and pulled on a fleece layer. The weather remained comfortable throughout my day on the river. The wind gusted off and on, but it did not represent a significant hindrance until the final thirty minutes.
The starting location was a thirty yard long relatively slow moving pool, and five or six small trout darted from the bank, where I entered to begin my morning quest for trout. I began the morning with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and red annelid worm. I prospected with this combination for ten minutes, and managed two refusals to the fat Albert. I was skeptical of the annelid, so I exchanged it for a beadhead RS2. These three flies finally attracted interest, and I landed four trout before I took my lunch break at noon. A brown trout and rainbow nabbed the RS2, and then a small brown grabbed the hares ear. The last of the four trout netted in the morning slurped the yellow fat Albert, and this represented my first trout caught on a dry fly in 2019.
During the one hour before lunch I continued to notice sporadic refusals to the fat Albert, and I was late to set the hook on quite a few fish. I speculated that these were small fish that nipped the tiny RS2. I observed several groups of rainbows that appeared to be in spawning mode, so I exchanged the hares ear for an apricot soft egg, and I bounced this along the bottom for the last thirty minutes to no avail.
After lunch I continued with the egg and RS2 for a bit without success, so I once again made a change and replaced the egg fly with a salvation nymph. A fifteen minute trial failed to change my fortunes, so I reverted to the hares ear and retained the RS2. From 12:30 until 2:30 I migrated upstream with the yellow fat Albert, hares ear, and RS2; and I tallied three small brown trout. All these fish slashed the RS2, as I drifted the dry/dropper configuration along the rocks that bordered the left and right bank. The third brown actually consumed a sparkle wing RS2, as I broke off the initial RS2 in the process of landing fish number six.
By 2:30 I encountered another angler, so I climbed the bank and hiked back along the shoulder of highway 34, until I returned to my starting point. This section of the river was the thirty yard slow moving pool that entertained me during the early stages of my outing. I decided to experiment with a dry fly in the area, where I could see the reaction of visible trout. I selected a size 14 gray stimulator from my fly box, and I began to shoot long casts to visible fish. The wind accelerated significantly compared to earlier, and I was forced to compensate by directing casts ten feet to the right of the location I targeted.
Needless to say accuracy was not an effective part of my arsenal; however, I did manage to generate a look and several splashy refusals to the stimulator. I paused to consider downsizing to a size 16 deer hair caddis, but the wind once again lashed out with several extended gusts. These outbursts rippled the surface of the water, but once the blast of air subsided, three or four rises materialized throughout the pool. I knew from similar experiences in the past, that the sudden surface feeding probably resulted from terrestrials being blown into the water. I immediately stripped up my line and added a size 18 black parachute ant on a twelve inch dropper behind the stimulator.
I began to cast the double dry to the areas, where I spotted rises, and during the last twenty minutes I succeeded in hooking and landing a brown trout to elevate the fish count to eight. In addition I generated three temporary connections. I feel certain that I cracked the code, and ants were the food of choice for the opportunistic Big Thompson trout. Unfortunately it was very difficult to detect the subtle slurp of the trout given the low riding ant and the rippled surface.
Thursday was a pleasant spring day in the Rocky Mountains. I landed eight small trout over four hours including two on dry flies. The catch rate of two per hour was average based on my fly fishing history. In retrospect I should have factored in the high ratio of rainbow trout in the Big Thompson River and the seasonal spawning ritual, when I chose my destination. I plan to rest the Big T for several weeks, before I return, when the rainbow reproduction cycle ebbs.
Fish Landed: 8