2020 Top Ten – 12/31/2020

2020 was an eventful year. It began with a pandemic and progressed through racial tensions and political turmoil. Here in Colorado we endured drought and devastating wildfires. On a personal level I survived mitral heart valve repair surgery, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and an ablation procedure. The uncertainties in the early months of the pandemic impacted my ability to fish, and my recovery from surgery further reduced my stream time. The wildfires limited my choice of fishing destinations and the subpar snowpack and drought resulted in very low flows in many of the drainages that I frequent in the latter part of the season. In spite of all these hurdles to the pursuit of my favorite outdoor activity, I managed to land 900 trout over the course of the year in spite of reduced fishing hours during the pre runoff time frame. 2020 was a year defined by green drake hatches, dry fly fishing, and the discovery of high mountain cutthroat trout strongholds. Although my fish count trailed previous years, I am convinced that 2020 was one of my best years in terms of optimizing stream time and overcoming adversity. Here are my top ten outings ranked in reverse order.

10. Taylor River – 07/21/2020 – My day on the Taylor represented my best outing on the central Colorado tailwater in quite a few years. I met a decent green drake hatch and used my arsenal of western green drake imitations along with a yellow stimulator to fool twenty-five robust wild trout. I love the setting of the Taylor River, and achieving success only added to my enjoyment.


9. Eagle River – 07/02/2020 – Although thirteen fish is not an eye-catching quantity of fish, the size and quality more than compensated. The flows declined to the 600 CFS range by 07/02/2020, and this enabled very manageable wading, and I took advantage to move up the river at a steady pace with my dry/dropper approach. Hatches of yellow sallies and pale morning duns were brief, but my iron sally and salvation nymph got the job done. Movement and persistence were the keys to success on this fine day in early July.

8. Clear Creek – 08/27/2020 – Clear Creek is not a destination that typically occupies space on this top ten list. I explored a section of Clear Creek that was new to me, and I was quite pleased to discover a pleasant tumbling creek with a surprising quantity of cutthroat trout and cutbow trout. I revere cutthroats, and I was able to land twenty-three vibrant beauties during my time on this small sliver of paradise. A secondary highlight was discovering success with a sunken ant used in a dry/dropper configuration. I will remember this as I visit streams in 2021.

I Need More

7. North Fork of the White River – 09/16/2020 – How could a forty-seven fish day only rank seventh on the 2020 top ten list? This is a testament to the quality of fishing that I experienced during the past year. Yes, forty-seven is a lot of fish, but this was achieved over 6.5 hours of fishing, and quite a few of the catch were small brook trout. But enough of removing the luster from this fine day in the middle of September. I was thrilled with the fast paced action, as I tossed primarily a hippie stomper to all the likely locations and enjoyed tremendous action which included many wild cutbows in the twelve to fourteen inch range.

6. North Fork of the Elk River – 08/04/2020 – The discovery of a new and productive high country destination counts for a lot in my book, and 08/04/2020 was one of those days. Making the introduction even more exciting was encountering an abundant quantity of wild cutthroat trout. I landed twenty-three trout during this spectacular day, and the dominant species was the light green colored cutthroats with vivid black speckles and crimson heads and slashes.

Maybe My Favorite Color Scheme

5. North Fork of the White River – 09/18/2020 – A large, buoyant and easily visible pool toy hopper attracted cutbows of above average size on this day in September. I caught fewer fish than 09/16/2020, but I fished for half the time in order to get an early start to return back to Denver, and the cutbows were brilliantly colored and fought valiantly in the small stream.

4. South Boulder Creek – 08/11/2020 – 08/11/2020 on South Boulder Creek was a dream come true for this avid fly fisherman. My blog posts document my love affair with the western green drake, and my array of green drake imitations served me well. I landed forty-one  trout, and all of them savored a dry fly. The peacock hippie stomper was popular in the morning, but I cycled through my stash of green drake imitations in the afternoon and notched fish at a torrid pace.

Harrop Hair-wing

3. North Fork of the White River – 09/29/2020 – I was admittedly influenced by the gorgeous autumn weather and the golden leaves of fall, as I ranked this day number three in my top ten list. Jane and I returned to the Flattops at the end of September, and I was allotted one day of fly fishing sandwiched between a couple days of hiking. This valuable stream time provided twenty-four trout, and most were spunky cutbows in the twelve to fourteen inch range. I had a blast, and late season returns to the Flattops may become a tradition.

Excellent Specimen

2. Yampa River – 06/17/2020 – This day on the Yampa River coincided with a heavy pale morning dun hatch, yet the trout seemed to ignore the adults on the surface. This circumstance did not stop me from having a stellar outing, as run off subsided in the middle of June. Early success was attributed to the 20 incher and super nova PMD, and the early afternoon featured a seldom used juju emerger pattern, that I tied several years ago. Of the seventeen fish landed at least six fell in the fourteen to sixteen inch range, and they were muscular bruisers. Edge fishing as run off subsides continues to be one of my favorite times of year.

Big Shoulders

1.Colorado River – 07/07/2020 – May I list a guided float trip as my number one outing of 2020? Even though I had the assistance of a guide, I still had to catch the fish. This was my first float trip through the middle section of the Colorado River between Pumphouse and State Bridge, and what a trip it was! The setting was spectacular, and the fishing matched the grandeur of the big river. I landed twenty trout, and quite a few stretched the tape to the eighteen inch mark. We launched early and notched the best day of the year before the afternoon winds forced us off the river.

A Highlight

There you have it, one through ten for 2020. Quite a few additional candidates failed to make the cut, but the exercise is quite subjective on my part. That is always the prerogative of the author and the angler who enjoyed the trips.


6 thoughts on “2020 Top Ten – 12/31/2020

  1. Chris W

    Incredible year, Dave. Especially when accounting for all the obstacles life threw at you.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures. Living vicariously through them carried even more value for me this year as the pandemic prevented what had become my annual pilgrimage to your great state.

    Best wishes as we head into this new year!


    1. wellerfish Post author

      Chris W – Thanks for your always kind words. May 2021 be the best year ever for @fatfingeredflytyer.

  2. George Banker

    Wonderfull year you had. Thanks to the need to selfl-insolate my wife and I spent every other week this past summer camping, hiking and fishing. Probably my summer with the most fishing days ever. Got to look on the bright side of things.

    1. wellerfish Post author

      George – Your wife is a trooper! Sounds like fun, and I am happy to hear that you made the best out of the challenging circumstances. Good luck in 2021. Dave

  3. lachdj

    Hey Dave – I am profusely jealous of your access to amazing fishing and your persistence in seeking out the right stream on the right day (along with exploring new streams, new patterns, etc). For many of us, its so nice to see the pictures of the trout and their spectacular beauty.

    I got a good amount of fishing in this year and also explored some new areas (mostly on the upper Lehigh with a few very noteworthy days). But the absolute #1 trip of the year for me was a 2 day float trip with my middle kid from Pumphouse to Radium on the Colorado. It was my kids first “guiding” effort on his new raft. It was memorable in so many ways I can’t even begin to explain how treasured it was. We camped out along the river and had an incredible pod of feeding trout just above our camping spot. I would post a picture if I could but what a glorious adventure.

    Oh, and I spent a day on the SBC after we got off the Colorado. I picked that stream largely as a result of your posts. I don’t want to gush about how much fun I had there since I like to keep my favorite spots quiet !!! Thanks for sharing all your memories and congrats on a great year.


    1. wellerfish Post author

      Thanks for your always kind words. I have now completed a decade of fly fishing reports. Sometimes I dread the obligation, but I could never stop the streak now. I have not missed reporting on a fishing outing in ten years, and in addition I’ve documented some pretty awesome travel. I love looking back and reading my posts. As to your Colorado adventures, I wish I could have joined you, but I recognize the risk in these covid times. Please contact me in advance the next time you are out here, if the covid risk is under control, and socialization has returned. Interesting that you and Steve did the middle Colorado float, and I did my first trip ever there as well, and I ranked it as my number one outing of the year. Take care and have a great 2021. Dave


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