Oregon/California Road Trip Day 5 – 05/31/2019

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 5 05/31/2019 Photo Album

Friday’s weather forecast was very encouraging, and the blue skies and lack of clouds suggested meteorological accuracy. With Amy now on board we decided to undertake a hike on the West Fork Wallowa River Trail. The trailhead was a mile from our campsite, and we appreciated the convenience. I wore shorts and a fishing shirt with rolled up sleeves, and Friday was a rare occasion, when I exhibited less skin coverage than Amy and Jane.

Steep Gradient

The round trip hike was nearly six miles, and it tracked the West Fork of the Wallowa River. The small stream crossings were manageable, and the river crashed and tumbled its way down the high gradient river bed throughout our trek. We marveled at the powerful forces that nature can generate.

Log Collection Point

Our Snack Spot

Our turnaround point was a crude log bridge that connected the West Fork Trail with the Ice Lake Trail. A group of four young women and a dog were just ahead of us, and we paused to watch them carefully cross the raging river. A large log spanned the river, and it was flattened on the top to create a wide surface for walking. As an added safety feature, a rustic log railing was positioned on the upstream side of the log to create a makeshift hand rail. The bridge was our chosen turnaround point, so we did not test our balancing skills.

Log Crossing

The return hike was uneventful, and we returned to our campsite for lunch in the early afternoon. The free concerts at the trailer stage were scheduled to begin at 5PM, and we had some time to kill, so we made the short drive to Joseph, OR, so Amy could browse the small town. Joseph is a small resort town with a few restaurants, shops and bars. Quite a few eye catching sculptures are on display throughout the Main Street area. We stopped at a few shops and purchased some additional grocery items at the market, before we returned to the Wallowa Lake State Park for music.

Fish Sculpture

Our threesome strolled to the trailer stage by the marina, but the parking lot and stage were devoid of human beings, so we entered the marina store and inquired about the free state parks day festivities. A young man behind the counter informed us that the concert was moved to an indoor picnic pavilion near the bridge due to threatening weather. With this change in venue Jane, Amy and I carried our chairs to the wooden pavilion and joined a small crowd of spectators.

Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs

A pair of young women played some delightful folk tunes for an hour, and then they relinquished the stage to Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs. This band was a blend of bluegrass and country; and Amy, Jane and I enjoyed them immensely. Since my return from Oregon I researched Laney Lou and discovered that they are from Bozeman, MT, and they released six albums.

Deer Enjoy the Playground

After the concert we began to hike back to our campsite with the intention of making spaghetti, but along the way we encountered a taco truck. The purveyors of Mexican food were smart in their choice of location, and we could not resist the lure of authentic street tacos. After our impulse dinner we returned to our campsite and mellowed out with another campfire and a game of Oh Hell. Another fun and eventful day in the Wallowas was in the books.

 

 

Wallowa Lake – 05/30/2019

Time: 3:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Cove next to the boat ramp.

Wallowa Lake 05/30/2019 Photo Album

As mentioned in my previous post on Day 4, the knowledge of a recent trout stocking and the vision of rising fish in the cove next to the boat ramp increased my enthusiasm for another fly fishing venture in Oregon. Jane and I returned to the campground, and I immediately geared up for another attempt at successful stillwater fishing. In order to save time I drove the Santa Fe to the parking lot by the marina. For this venture on Wallowa Lake I rigged my Sage four weight.

Wallowa Lake Boat Ramp

Fish rose very sporadically during my 1.5 hours at the cove on Wallowa Lake. I began my attempt to fool the lake dwellers with a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, but the usually productive dry fly generated no interest. In an effort to produce some action I switched to a yellow fat Albert trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug, but this combination also failed to entice trout. After twenty minutes of futile casting the fish ended their sporadic feeding on the surface, so I converted to a slumpbuster streamer trailing a bright green sparkle pupa. This pair of flies was similar to those employed on Kinney Lake, and I hoped that their effectiveness would extend to this nearby body of water.

I Fished This Cover for 1.5 Hours

I stripped the streamer and trailing pupa for thirty minutes to no avail. Are stocked fish supposed to be easy targets? For the last thirty minutes I stood or sat and observed. A burst of rises followed several gusts of wind, but not every air disturbance yielded surface feeding. The flurry of surface activity motivated me to switch back to an olive-brown deer hair caddis, and I combined it with a griffiths gnat on a six inch dropper. I cast the tandem to the vicinity of the random rises, but all my efforts were fruitless.

From the Side Opposite the Boat Ramp

At five o’clock I stripped in my line and hooked my flies to the rod guide and returned to the car. 1.5 hours of fishing in Wallowa Lake was disappointing, and I registered a rare skunking. The frustrating experience also dampened my enthusiasm for additional forays on to Wallowa Lake. I wish I never heard that 10,000 fish were stocked in the lake.

Fish Landed: 0

 

Oregon/California Roadtrip Day 4 – 05/30/2019

Oregon/California Roadtrip Day 4 05/30/2019 Photo Album

Of course the anticipated highlight of day four of our road trip was the arrival of our daughter, Amy, in the evening. Amy secured a half day of vacation in order to make the five plus hour drive from Portland to Wallowa Lake State Park. We were very anxious for her to join us.

Would we simply idle away the hours at the campground, as we awaited her appearance? Of course not. We transported our mountain bikes from Denver to Oregon, and we decided that Thursday was the day to spin the tires. On Tuesday we asked Sara at the national forest service office about cycling trails, and she suggested an area by Ferguson Ridge Ski Area. On our way back from fishing at Kinney Lake on Wednesday we detoured to the ski area road, but all we found was a fairly steep packed dirt road. We decided this was too much work and discarded it as a cycling destination.

I followed our route on Oregon 82 on the road map on Tuesday, as we approached Joseph, OR, and I noticed several back roads that connected Joseph and Enterprise. Enterprise is the next town downstream from Joseph along the Wallowa River. The map was not very detailed, but it was clear, that we could complete a loop from Joseph to Enterprise and back without touching the busy Oregon 82 highway.

The weather on Thursday morning was quite nice, although we could not bank on that bit of good fortune to continue indefinitely, so we hustled to put on our cycling clothes and loaded the mountain bikes on the bike rack. In a flash we traveled from the state park to a public park in Joseph, and we parked the car there and began our loop ride.

Green and Snow

For the first half of the ride we followed Wallowa Avenue to Airport Lane and then turned right on to Hurricane Creek Road. We were thrilled with the lush green farmland and the snow capped ridges in the distance. The ranches in the area were very well maintained with cattle, sheep, and horses dotting the landscape. We startled at least five small herds of deer along our route and crossed numerous small streams that were nearly overflowing their banks with high rushing water.

Deer Everywhere

Hurricane Creek Road led us into Enterprise, and we tracked the main street for a few blocks, until we stumbled into a Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. Jane and I locked our bikes to a stand and entered the visitor center, where a very helpful lady offered us a Wallowa County cycling map and suggested a return route that was different from our outbound path. We were quite pleased with this bit of good fortune.

We Liked the Sign

The return route traversed equally pastoral surroundings, and we arrived back at the Joseph Public Park a bit over an hour and a half after we left. We did endure a brief light rain shower within three miles of our car. We reloaded the bikes on the rack, and since we were in town, we stopped at the market to pick up some necessary groceries. We also returned to the forest service office to query Sara on additional hiking options that would avoid crossing swollen tributaries such as Falls Creek.

After lunch at the campground we walked to the marina at Wallowa Lake. A trailer was set up as a stage with straw bales for seating in the parking lot near the marina. Saturday was a free state parks day, and various rock and folk bands were scheduled to perform Friday evening and Saturday afternoon at the trailer stage. We decided to circle past the shop at the marina, and then we strolled to the end of the boat ramp. A fisherman was tossing a spinner to the space between the boat ramp and the opposite bank of the lake, and when queried, he replied that he caught ten trout. He also mentioned that the lake was stocked with 10,000 trout the previous day. This information had a noticeable impact on me.

Hello There

Jane and I proceeded along a long narrow cove between the boat launch and the far shoreline of the lake, and we both spotted some fairly active fish feeding on the surface. Stocked fish and surface feeders stoked my optimism, and we hustled back to the campground, where I prepared to fly fish in Wallowa Lake.

My fishing experience is covered in the next post, but when I quit at 5PM, I returned to the campsite. Jane and I killed 1.5 hours, and by 6:30PM we could no longer contain our anticipation of Amy’s arrival. We began to walk toward the park entrance, and just as we began to cross the bridge over the upper Wallowa River, Amy appeared in her little red Versa. One of us rode in the car with Amy, while the other hustled back to D09 campsite.

Happy hour followed, and we caught up on each other’s weeks. Dinner consisted of quinoa vegetable soup, and afterward I once again constructed a fine blazing fire. Unlike previous efforts, the flaming source of heat was not extinguished prematurely. We were happy campers, and we looked forward to more fun activities on Friday.

Oregon/California Roadtrip Day 3 – 05/29/2019

Oregon/California Roadtrip Day 3 05/29/2019 Photo Album

As Jane and I departed Kinney Lake, a small cluster of storm clouds gathered in the southwestern sky; however, they never produced rain on our return route to Wallowa Lake State Park. We quickly devoured our customary small lunch at site number 9, and then we decided to embark on our first hike in the Wallowas. With a series of threatening clouds overhead and to the west; I pulled on my rain pants, raincoat, and hiking boots at the campsite. For our Wednesday afternoon adventure we chose Hurricane Creek; one of the trails recommended by Sara at the national forest service office in Joseph.

In order to reach the trailhead we followed a narrow paved road for several miles until we reached a small turnaround with a bathroom. We prepared to hike, but before we made our first steps, thunder rumbled and lightning sparked across the sky. We wisely decided to initiate a rain delay, and we waited in the car until the core of the storm passed to the northeast. Since we were protected from head to toe in rain gear, we began our hike in light rain.

Hurricane Creek Behaving Like One

We followed the Hurricane Creek trail for .4 mile, and at this point we encountered a significant hurdle to our progress. A tributary, Falls Creek, rushed toward its confluence with Hurricane Creek, and a bridge or crossing was nowhere to be found. A large log spanned the creek fifteen yards upstream from the marked trail, so we moved closer to inspect this crossing option. The log was of adequate size, but it was very wet as a result of the rain; but more worrisome was its position seven feet above the raging creek. Good sense ruled the day, and we reversed our direction and found the intersection with the Falls Creek Trail.

Falls Creek

Indian Paintbrush

This trail was also marked as an option by the forest service employee, but it was an unending uphill climb. In the absence of better options Jane and I accepted the challenge and scaled the steep switchback laden trail for 1.5 miles, before we turned around and returned to the car. We shed layers in rapid succession, but eventually we earned some spectacular views of the Hurricane Creek valley, snow capped mountains and an array of seasonal waterfalls. The thin ribbons of water began as snow packed chasms and then transitioned into plummeting chutes of water.

Rain and Snow Melt

The Falls Creek hike sapped our energy, so we returned to our campsite for our normal evening routine. We quaffed some craft brews, before we ate the lentil/sausage soup that existed as a frozen block of broth on Tuesday evening. After dinner clean up I once again constructed a blazing fire with damp kindling and purchased firewood, but again our toasty comfort zone was interrupted by rain showers. We adjourned to the dryness of our tent and warmth of our sleeping bags and settled into another early slumber.

Lots of Remaining Snow

Kinney Lake – 05/29/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: Southern shoreline.

Kinney Lake 05/29/2019 Photo Album

Jane and I were abruptly awakened from our sleep at 5:30AM on Wednesday, May 29 by the loud rumble of thunder. This disturbance was followed by gusts of wind, and sheets of rain pelted against the side of our Big Agnes tent. Needless to say we were not amused by the unfavorable weather situation on Wednesday morning.

We both nodded off, when the storm ended, but when I decided to roll out of my sleeping bag permanently, I pulled on my rain pants, raincoat, and hiking boots. In Oregon it is prudent to avoid getting one’s clothes wet, as drying is a slow process in the high humidity climate of the Pacific northwest.

Fortunately the storm quickly moved to the east, and it was followed by relatively benign weather with partially cloudy skies. I scheduled Wednesday as a fly fishing day in my original plan; however, the raging flows in the rivers confined me to stillwater destinations. I decided to sample Kinney Lake and estimated, that I would endure no longer than three hours of stillwater fly fishing, so Jane decided to accompany me. Kinney Lake was the body of water recommended by the gentleman at the Joseph Fly Shop on Tuesday.

We made the drive into Joseph, OR and then turned right on the Imnaha Highway and continued for another five miles. We turned right and drove for 1.5 miles, before we headed left on a gravel road, until we intersected with Kinney Lake. Two trucks preceded us to the parking lot. The lake was in a relatively open meadow area with a few trees on the western edge.

Smooth Cove Received Quite a Few Casts

Jane pulled out her chair and prepared to read, while I geared up with my waders and my Sage five weight rod. A breeze riffled the surface of the lake by the parking lot, but I observed a small cove along the southeastern shoreline that was protected, so I departed for that portion of the lake. Another fisherman was moving in that general direction in a pontoon boat, as I ambled along the well worn path. As I moved along, I scanned the surface for rises, but the riffles masked any surface activity, so I decided to try a two fly presentation featuring a slumpbuster as the front fly trailing a go2 sparkle pupa.

I executed an abundant quantity of casts and strips with no response in the partially protected cove, and then I hiked to the eastern end of the lake. During this first hour a breeze blew periodically and ruffled the surface of the lake. Between 11:00AM and 11:30AM I circled back toward the parking area, and I spotted a few rises next to a pair of large rocks along the bank. This observation caused me to stop, and I spent thirty minutes stripping the flies in the new area.

Scene of My One and Only Landed Trout

The stop over was productive, as I connected with five fish.The first hook up broke off both flies, and I never felt the weight, so I suspected a bad knot explained the lost flies. I momentarily hooked two, and another was on my line long enough to propel itself out of the water, before it escaped. One of the five was a nine inch rainbow trout that rested in my net, after it consumed the go2 sparkle pupa. This was easily my most active section of the lake.

Pastel

The response to my slumpbuster and go2 sparkle pupa slowed, as the wind died back, and the pace of surface rises accelerated a bit. The rises were sporadic and by no means a heavy hatch, but they encouraged me to switch to a double dry fly approach. I experimented with an olive-brown body deer hair caddis trailing a size 22 griffiths gnat on a six inch dropper. When I settled on this technique, I was very optimistic that the combination would dupe one of the risers; but alas, noon arrived, and I returned to the car with only one small rainbow in the fish count.

I am admittedly a novice when it comes to stillwater fishing; however, I did manage to land a fish in Oregon and had opportunities for more. The weather was cool but dry, and the lake was picturesque in an open meadow sort of way. Jane conversed with the pontoon angler, who informed her that he experienced spectacular success during a spring outing the previous year. As we departed the rough dirt parking lot, I pondered a return visit during our remaining stay at Wallowa Lake State Park.

Fish Landed: 1

From the East End Looking West

 

 

05/28/2019 – Oregon/California Roadtrip Day 1 and 2

05/28/2019 Oregon/California Roadtrip Day 1 and 2 Photo Album

Our daughter, Amy, resides in Portland, OR, and several months ago Jane and I concocted the idea of visiting her in the May or June time frame. My devious mind is always influenced by my affection for fly fishing, so I suggested that we combine a camping trip with a visit to Amy, and May and June happened to overlap with the months, when Colorado streams were blown out by snow melt. The 2018/2019 snow pack was significantly above average in all drainages, so an opportunity to escape to Oregon was a welcome option to this avid fly fisherman.

I recalled a trip in September 2002, when I drove Amy back to college at Whitman, and I lingered in northeastern Oregon to fish the local streams. During this visit I enjoyed a fantastic day on the Wallowa River between Minam and Wallowa, and I wondered if I could resurrect the magic in 2019. I researched the camping options in the area and settled on Wallowa Lake State Park as our destination. The on line reservation web site enabled me to reserve a campsite in the park for five nights beginning on May 28 and then departing on June 2. Amy arranged some time off from work, so she could join us from Thursday evening May 30 through Sunday June 2. Needless to say I was very excited to spend three plus days with our daughter with the possibility of fly fishing in some trout streams in Oregon merely icing on the cake.

In preparing for the trip I bought four new tires, since the originals logged more than 50,000 miles. We packed the Santa Fe to the ceiling with camping, hiking, fishing and cycling gear; and departed from Denver early on Memorial Day. Day one was spent driving for ten hours to Twin Falls, ID, where we found a room at the La Quinta Inn and ate a tasty meal at Johnny Carino’s. The highlight of the driving portion of our trip was listening to an audio book by C. J. Box entitled Out of Range. Jane and I love the Longmire series about a sheriff in Wyoming, and Box’s western mysteries about a Wyoming game warden fall within the same genre.

On Tuesday, May 28, we continued through western Idaho and then angled northwest on Interstate 84 through eastern Oregon, until we reached the small town of La Grande. Here we veered to the northeast on Oregon 82, and we followed the highway to Elgin along the Grande Ronde River. This was my first sighting of river conditions in northeastern Oregon, and the picture was not auspicious. The river flowed very high, and the clarity was rather murky. The next section took us down a long hill to the confluence of the Minam and Wallowa Rivers, and my hopes for stream fishing transformed to despair, when I viewed the raging current and turbid conditions.

Oregon 82 followed the Wallowa River to Joseph, Oregon, and since this was the last town before entering Wallowa Lake State Park, we stopped for information. First we visited the Joseph Fly Shop, and the gentleman behind the counter dispelled all my hopes of fly fishing in flowing water. He informed me that all the local rivers and streams were blown out due to the cold wet spring. Normally by this time of year the shop was booking guided fishing trips on the highway section of the Wallowa, but he speculated it would be at least another two weeks or longer until the 2019 season kicked off.

As an alternative he suggested that I make a trip to nearby Kinney Lake. It was six miles from Joseph, and he reported that anglers were enjoying success on woolly buggers and prince nymphs. In addition some surface action was available for short periods during the day. He sketched a crude map on the back of a piece of paper, and I purchased five flies and some tapered leader in exchange for his information.

We departed the fly shop and stopped at the forest service office in Joseph. A nice young lady named Sara suggested some moderate hikes within the local national forest lands. We purchased a nice waterproof map for $16 and anticipated some fun treks near our campground. I consoled myself with thoughts of hiking and cycling with Jane and Amy to replace the fishing time, and my spirits once again elevated.

First View of Wallowa Lake

We were now on our way to the campground. We drove along the eastern shoreline of Wallowa Lake, and since we were already registered at the campground, our stop at the entrance station was brief. The young lady manning the window handed us a tag to place on the rear view mirror and provided directions to our loop and campsite.

Our Space for Five Days

Jane Doing the Heavy Lifting

Jane and I quickly unloaded the car and assembled the canopy and tent. Large clouds continually floated across the sky above us, so we made shelter a priority. Once our campsite was in order, we visited the wood shed and purchased a cart of firewood. Heavy rain the previous day rendered the kindling a bit soggy, but I managed to use newspaper and thin splinters from the purchased logs to get the campfire blazing. As this scene was evolving, a herd of deer arrived, and they began to browse among the neighboring campsites, as if happy hour on loop D was a commonplace occurrence.

Near the Bathroom

Meanwhile Jane discovered that the lentil soup on the menu was a block of frozen broth, and without access to a microwave oven, we were forced to consider alternatives. A trip back to Joseph seemed to be the simplest answer, so we jumped in the car and returned to The Embers Brew House on main street. The choice proved to be a winner, as we enjoyed ice cold draft beers and dinner, before we returned to the campground. Tuesday was a long day, so we climbed into the tent and our down sleeping bags early. For some reason I sleep very soundly in a sleeping bag on a Thermarest pad, and Tuesday was no different.

Dinner and Beer

South Platte River – 05/16/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/16/2019 Photo Album

The story line on Thursday, May 16 paralleled that of Tuesday, May 14 on the Arkansas River, as persistence proved to be a significant contributor to success. Warmer temperatures accelerated snow melt, and this reduced the number of freestone options in Colorado. I was forced to narrow my choice of fishing destinations to tailwaters, and the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon was an obvious choice. The flows held at a steady 93 CFS, and the meteorologists projected a high of 69 degrees with clouds all day in Lake George. I signed up for another trip to Eleven Mile Canyon.

Lunch Pool

When I paid my day use fee at the entrance gate to Eleven Mile, I asked the attendant if a lot of cars preceded me. She nodded in the affirmative and informed me that I was the the twenty-third. I counted cars, as I drove to my favorite spot, and I tallied twenty-two, before I parked next to a silver pickup truck at my favorite pullout on the east side of the road. The temperature at 10:30AM was 51 degrees, and high gray clouds blocked most of the sun’s warming rays. I climbed into my waders and wore my long sleeved Columbia undershirt and a light fleece, and then I pulled on my raincoat as a windbreaker. I assembled my Sage four weight and promptly embarked on a short hike along the dirt road to my favorite angled trail. I descended quickly and then ambled along the fisherman path, until I was next to an attractive pool just above a series of narrow deep plunge pools. This was my intended starting point, and I was surprised that I did not encounter other anglers given the number of parked vehicles along the road.

RS2 Worked Before the Hatch

An Early Catch on RS2

I quickly surveyed the water and failed to observe any insect activity, so I decided to prospect the faster seams, pockets and runs with a dry/dropper method. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear nymph. I covered some attractive pockets and runs with no response, so I stripped in my line and replaced the ultra zug bug with a classic RS2. This move proved advantageous, when I hooked and landed a fine rainbow trout and a brown trout. Both of the feisty trout were thirteen inches or greater, and they confidently snatched the RS2, as it drifted behind the fat Albert. I actually landed another rainbow first, but the fly was embedded along the side of the head, and not in the mouth, and my rules dictated that it was not part of the fish count.

Pleased

As the first hour elapsed, I passed by an attractive pool, and with noon approaching I spotted two fishermen in the faster water below the pool. It was lunch time, so I chose to retreat to the edge of the pool in order to claim it, before the downstream anglers arrived. The ploy worked nicely; as I munched my sandwich, carrots and yogurt and observed the pool, while the unknowing intruders trudged up the path to the road high above. By 12:15 a series of surface disturbances caught my attention, and the cadence of rises accelerated. This circumstance in turn caused me to consume my lunch rapidly, and my heart rate elevated a few notches in anticipation of some dry fly action.

I snipped off the dry/dropper paraphernalia and knotted a single CDC blue winged olive to my line. By now I could see quite a few little olives floating on the surface, and the number of feeding fish approximated five. The main current on my side of the river ran along an exposed boulder and then flowed downstream for ten feet, before it curled toward the bank and eddied back to the large rock. The fish were spread out across the area, where the current began to curl, and several were spaced on the downstream edge of the eddy circle. I cautiously navigated along the bank, until I was below the eddy and positioned myself to drop casts to the area of the rises.

The hatch continued for an hour, as some dark clouds blocked the sun and the wind periodically gusted. I cast the CDC BWO and a Klinkhammer BWO to the rising fish during this period, and I am embarrassed to report, that I flunked the dry fly fishing exam. I was unable to encourage a sip from any of the steady feeders within twenty feet of my position. As the emergence waned at one o’clock, I surrendered to the nervous river residents and moved on. The wind and glare made it very difficult to track the small CDC tuft, and consequently drag was probably present more than I realized. Compounding the difficulty was the eddy and the related irregular currents that impacted the drift.

When I finally moved on, I was quite disappointed with the lack of dry fly success, but I consoled myself with the thought that cloudy conditions would prevail in the afternoon, and this would likely spur additional waves of blue winged olives. In the meantime the sun peeked out sporadically, and the hatch ended, so I reverted to the dry/dropper technique. I once again chose the yellow fat Albert and continued with the hares ear and a sparkle wing RS2. I reasoned that baetis nymphs were still prevalent in the drift and likely active with additional emergences expected.

A Second Quality Brown Trout

The thinking was somewhat accurate, as a very healthy brown trout stopped the fat Albert, when it nabbed the RS2 in a narrow ribbon of slow water along the left bank. I was surprised and quite pleased with this good fortune, but then a significant amount of time elapsed with no action in spite of casting to some quality spots. I stripped in my flies and made another change. I flipped open my fleece wallet and scanned the contents and elected to try a bright green go2 sparkle pupa. I speculated that the green flashy body might attract the attention of the rainbow trout. I retained the hares ear as the top fly and continued prospecting to pockets, riffles  and pools of moderate depth.

Go2 Sparkle Pupa Was Very Productive

Amazingly the bright green caddis became a desired commodity. The catch rate was not torrid, but it was more than satisfactory, as the fish counter climbed from three to nine by the time I quit at 4PM. At 2PM clouds once again rolled in, and a sparse baetis hatch made an encore. This prompted me to replace the hares ear with a sparkle pupa, and I stayed with this combination for a fair amount of time. The caddis pupa continued to fool a fish or two, but the RS2 was ignored, and it seemed that some very appealing areas failed to deliver. I concluded that the caddis pupa worked better when combined with a larger heavier nymph, so I matched it with an ultra zug bug for the last hour.

Wide Body with Abundant Spots

Back Home

I encountered four anglers during the afternoon upstream migration, but these gentlemen focused on pools, and I was more interested in the pockets and runs among the many exposed boulders. My preference was very complementary with the other fishermen, and I enjoyed the steady prospecting and the surprise created when a trout suddenly intercepted the caddis pupa, which generated an intuitive hook set. My approach required an abundant amount of wading over slimy rocks and repetitive casting, but the quality of the fish justified the energy sapping method. As I stated at the outset of this narrative, persistence was the main key to my success.

The Catch of the Day

In summary I landed nine quality trout on Thursday, May 16 in Eleven Mile Canyon. Four were muscular brown trout and four were streaking rainbow trout. The ninth and best fish of the day was a husky seventeen inch cutbow, and it served as the exclamation point on a superlative day of fly fishing. Every one of the nine fish that rested in my net were thirteen inches or greater. I suspect that I will revisit the South Platte River again, as run off prevails on Colorado freestone rivers.

Fish Landed: 9

South Boulder Creek – 05/15/2019

Time: 6:00PM – 8:00PM

Location: Below first footbridge below Gross Dam

South Boulder Creek 05/15/2019 Photo Album

A bit of adversity makes fly fishing the intriguing challenge that keeps me returning to the lakes and streams of this wonderful earth. If fooling fish with a fly were as easy, as dunking a basketball in a kid’s five foot high basketball hoop, would that be fun? I reminded myself of this fact after an evening on South Boulder Creek on Wednesday.

My son, Dan, mentioned that he could meet me at the South Boulder Creek parking lot on one evening during the week for an early spring outing. I quickly checked the stream flow graph, and I was delighted to discover that Denver Water reduced the flows from the 125 CFS range to 69 CFS, and this falls within my ideal range for the small front range tailwater. Dan chose Wednesday evening for our fly fishing rendezvous, and that was perfect given a weather forecast of highs in the eighties in Denver.

Promising Small Pool

When I arrived at the kayak parking lot ten minutes before five o’clock, Dan was already there along with eight additional vehicles. Apparently many front range anglers had similar thoughts regarding fishing on Wednesday evening. I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while Dan did the same with his fly rod, and we stuffed the Snarf’s sandwiches that Dan purchased in our backpack and vest. Despite the forecast for balmy temperatures, some large dark clouds formed in the western sky, so I stuffed my light rain shell in my backpack. Dan opted to forego the extra layer, and he later grew to lament this decision. Three separate sets of brief showers kept the temperature down, and the last thirty minutes before were quit were downright chilly.

Dan Focused

Flows were 69 CFS in the morning, when I reviewed the graph, but when we arrived next to the stream to begin our quest for trout, they seemed higher. My instincts on this matter were vindicated the next day, when I checked the DWR website and discovered that the flows were elevated to 89 CFS sometime during May 15, probably before our fishing trip.

I suggested we begin with single dry flies, hoping we could avoid the more risky tangle inducing dry/dropper approach. Dan began with a caddis, and I started with a gray size 14 stimulator. I suffered a few refusals, and then I approached a small pocket tucked against a midstream exposed boulder. A trout rose and rejected my dry fly three times, but on the seventh cast it slurped the high floating imitation. Getting a strike after three refusals is highly unusual. In any event I was thrilled to learn that my only trout of the evening was a very brightly colored rainbow trout.

Beauty Over Size

After releasing my catch I was unable to create additional interest in the dry fly, so I switched to a dry/dropper that included a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and emerald caddis pupa. This arrangement failed to trigger action, but Dan followed my lead with a change to a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. During the last thirty minutes Dan switched to a yellow fat Albert trailing a bright green go2 sparkle pupa, and this move generated two momentary hookups. We speculated that perhaps we should have tried the bright green caddis pupa earlier.

Avoiding a Snag in This Spot Was a Victory

We covered .2 miles in two hours, and Dan managed a couple temporary hook ups, while I landed one ten inch rainbow trout, and that was pretty much the extent of our success on South Boulder Creek. The cloud cover created difficult lighting conditions, and the structure of the section I chose to fish was high gradient; thus, offering few prime runs and riffles of moderate depth. I am now convinced that the elevated flows played a significant role in our slow fishing experience, as typically fish require a period of time to adjust to a nearly 30% change. Our results indicate that we were unable to overcome three negative factors on May 16, 2019.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 05/14/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Buena Vista white water park area; Pridemore Lease

Arkansas River 05/14/2019 Photo Album

My trip to the Arkansas River on May 3 was perplexing and frustrating. The caddis hatch was in reality an egg laying and dapping event, but I was unable to crack the code. I continued to follow the ArkAnglers’ web reports, and I even began exchanging emails with the person in the shop who updates the information. His name is Braden, and he suggested that I try moving upstream to the leading edge of the hatch, in the event that I face similar circumstances in the future.

Mt. Princeton Still Holding Snow Pack

The cool weather toward the end of the previous week halted the caddis hatch and its upstream advancement, but ArkAnglers advised that a warming trend over the weekend and during the early part of the new week would renew its progression. On Tuesday morning May 14 I decided to test their advice, since the forecast predicted sunny skies and  highs in the seventies. I launched my excursion at 7AM and arrived at a dirt parking lot at South Main in Buena Vista by ten o’clock. The last ArkAnglers report cited caddis as far upstream as Brown’s Canyon, so I theorized that they might make an appearance in Buena Vista with the advent of warm temperatures on Tuesday.

The dashboard thermometer displayed sixty degrees, as I donned my waders and assembled my Sage four weight for a day of fishing. When I was prepared, I found a gravel path and traced it along the rim of the canyon, until I arrived at a bridge. The trail continued across the bridge and then linked to BLM land on the other side, but the properties on both sides of the river downstream were private. I reversed direction on the path, until I found a viable, although steep and rocky route to the river. Once I was on the shoreline I moved downstream a short distance, and then I rigged my line with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead ultra zug bug and beadhead bright green go2 caddis pupa.

Early Success

The river was dirtier than I expected, but visibility along the edge was likely acceptable. I advanced upstream and probed the deep pockets and runs next to the bank with the nymphing system, and after thirty minutes I finally connected with a twelve inch brown trout that grabbed the ultra zug bug on a lift at the tail of the drift.

Typical Morning Scene

Number Two on an Ultra Zug Bug

I continued with this method until the stream bed widened, and this created more riffles and runs of moderate depth. I modified my approach with the change in river structure by switching to a dry/dropper configuration. A yellow fat Albert occupied the indicator position, and the go2 caddis and ultra zug bug were retained as droppers. Shortly after the conversion another fine twelve inch brown found my net, and my fish count rested at two, when I paused for lunch.

After lunch I skipped around the whitewater park, as it consisted of huge deep pools between man-made dams, and this type of water was not conducive to the dry/dropper technique. Above the whitewater park the river once again grew wider, and this created a section of pockets and moderate riffles. I managed to hook and land two small brown trout between the whitewater park and the footbridge that accesses the Midland Trail. During this early afternoon time frame I spotted three blue winged olives, when some clouds blocked the sun, and I responded by swapping the ultra zug bug for a soft hackle emerger. The move had no impact on my meager fishing success, and I climbed the bank, before I reached the footbridge and hiked back to the car. It was 1:30PM, and I pondered my next move.

My main purpose was to interact with the famous caddis hatch, but I saw no evidence of caddis in the South Main section of the Arkansas River. One option was to cross the footbridge and follow the Midland Trail downstream to the whitewater park and then fish back up to the bridge on the opposite side. Hopping in the car for an early return to Denver actually seemed more appealing than fishing the other side of the river in Buena Vista. I also considered driving upriver to the section bordered by some tunnels, but this was even less likely to place me in caddis activity. Finally I decided to drive back toward Salida, since the heaviest reported hatches were in that area.

I threw my gear in the car and drove to the place where CO 291 crosses the Arkansas River. I noted that the sign designated this section as the Pridemore Lease, and previously it was named the Smythe Lease. I shouldered my backpack and snapped in my front pack and grabbed my rod and climbed the wooden steps over the fence and hiked along a crude cattle path for .3 mile, until I angled down a rough bank populated with prickly pears and thorny shrubs to the edge of the river. I was embarking on a last ditch effort to salvage my day.

Depth Around Boulders Produced

The fat Albert generated several refusals during the earlier session in Buena Vista, so I decided to exchange it for a peacock hippy stomper. Perhaps the smaller foam pattern would actually create some eats. I retained the go2 caddis and ultra zug bug for a bit, but after prospecting some fairly attractive deep runs among large submerged boulders with no response, I replaced the unproductive go2 caddis with an iron sally. The iron sally has become a go to favorite for the Arkansas River.

The hippy stomper was difficult to accurately cast with the two large weighted flies, and the wind exasperated the situation, so I once again switched the top fly. This time I chose a size 8 Chernobyl ant from my fly box. The Chernobyl, iron sally and ultra zug bug remained on my line for the last two hours of my time at the Pridemore Lease.

Decent

Did my luck change? Was I engulfed by swarms of emerging or mating caddis? Yes and no. I steadily worked my way upstream to the CO 291 bridge and landed six additional brown trout before I retired at 4PM. All the afternoon trout were twelve inches or greater and included a very handsome ink spotted fifteen incher. Several muscular thirteen and fourteen inch browns also occupied my net.

Curled Up Tail Indicator of Larger Size

I observed six dapping caddis during this time, so I never found the mythical caddis hatch. All the brown trout came from runs of three to four feet in depth next to large boulders. Several responded to a lift at the end of the drift. Once I determined the type of water that produced results, I moved quickly and skipped huge pools and marginal pockets.

Once again the blanket caddis hatch evaded my search, but I did manage to salvage Tuesday on the Arkansas River with six very respectable brown trout from the Pridemore Lease section. Along with the morning results I ended the day with double digits, and given the absence of caddis and blue winged olive activity, that was a victory for this fisherman.

Fish Landed: 10

 

Clear Creek – 05/13/2019

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon between Tunnel 3 and Big Easy Access Area

Clear Creek 05/13/2019 Photo Album

A two hour session on Clear Creek on Saturday afternoon along with a weather forecast that included five straight days with high temperatures in the upper seventies encouraged me to make another short drive to the canyon west of Golden. I considered Boulder Creek and Bear Creek, but the flows on Clear Creek were comparable to Saturday, and I decided to take advantage of the close destination, before true run off blasted down the freestone waterway. The downside to Boulder Creek is the highway construction taking place in the canyon west of the city. Bear Creek was an interesting option, that I hope to explore in the near future, if flows remain manageable.

I followed my normal morning routine including my workout and run, and this delayed my arrival at a pullout along westbound US 6 until 12:30PM. I am convinced that the best fishing early in the season is in the afternoon, so the later arrival conformed to this assumption. Since it was nearly noon, I ate my lunch in the car, before I launched my fishing preparation routine that included assembling my Sage four weight. I like the extra length and stiffness of the Sage in canyon situations, when wind inevitably becomes a factor. 71 degree temperatures allowed me to fish with only a short sleeved undershirt and a fishing shirt, and I was comfortable during my stay on the creek.

My Future

I ambled east along the shoulder of US 6 for .2 mile, and then I scrambled down a rocky bank to the edge of the stream. Like Saturday the flow was ample at 70 CFS, but structure remained easily identifiable for prospecting. I configured my line with a yellow fat Albert for flotation and visibility and then added my traditional spring nymphs of an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear. I progressed upstream between 1PM and 4PM and netted nine wild brown trout. As was the case on Saturday, most of the trout were in the eight to ten inch slot, although I was pleased to extract a nice twelve incher on a downstream drift in some slack water along the opposite bank. A foot long fish from Clear Creek is a trophy.

Best Fish by Far on Monday

Nine in three hours is an above average catch rate; however, I would not describe the action as easy pickings. I covered a fair amount of stream mileage and fired off a generous quantity of casts to achieve this fish count total. In the first hour refusals to the fat Albert were also part of the equation, but that annoyance seemed to fade as the afternoon advanced. It seemed that casts to very slow shelf pools were the primary initiators of nips and rejection.

When my tally climbed to nine, I focused on attaining double digits, and as is usually the case, the fish began to ignore my offerings, when a goal was within reach. Some heavy clouds rolled above the canyon, and I spotted a very sparse blue winged olive emergence. I decided to react to this observation, and I swapped the hares ear nymph for a soft hackle emerger size 20. This move paid dividends, when a small brown trout grabbed the BWO wet fly, as it began to swing and lift at the end of a drift.

Sleek Body

I glanced at my watch and noted it was 3:50PM, so I decided to test a dry fly for ten minutes. The yellow fat Albert attracted attention, so I plucked a size 14 yellow stimulator from my fly box and spent the remaining time prospecting two nearby shelf pools. Again some clouds blocked the sun, and this created some difficult glare, which made following the size 14 dry fly difficult. My experiment failed to translate to success, but it partially satisfied my curiosity of whether a smaller dry might be a winner on Monday, May 13.

Once again the fish that I landed were small, and although the action was not exceptional, it was steady and held my attention. I must admit that I now feel a strong urge to tangle with some larger fish, and Tuesday may fulfill that wish. In spite of my fears over clarity, the stream was crystal clear and exceeded my expectations for May 13.

Fish Landed: 10