Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM
Location: Between Avon and Edwards
Eagle River 11/15/2021 Photo Album
My cumulative fish count was stalled at 1,093 for 2021, when colder temperatures moved into the state. I spent the weekend of November 5 – 7 at Rendezvous Ranch near Fraser, CO, and although I hiked along the Fraser River several times during mild weather, I was prohibited from fly fishing. In fact, my fly rods and equipment remained tucked in the garage back in Denver during the entire weekend.
After a short period of cooler temperatures another four day stretch of mild weather stalled over the state, and I decided to take advantage with a fly fishing trip on Monday, November 15. Unfortunately the warmer temperatures were accompanied by high winds along the Front Range, so I ruled out two favorites; South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson River. I scanned the weather forecast for the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and the Arkansas River near Salida, and I was encouraged by what I found. I was nearly committed to Eleven Mile Canyon, when I decided to review the flows and weather on the Eagle River. I was pleased to discover that the high temperature in Avon, CO was 61 degrees and the flows were seasonally low at 81 CFS. Historically late season visits to the Eagle yielded some interesting casting to blue winged olives, so I settled on the trip to Avon on Monday, November 15. Would I be able to reach my even goal of 1,100 trout for the year? Stay tuned.
I arrived at a wide pullout along the highway near Avon by 10:30AM, and I was perched along the bank of the river ready to cast by 11:00AM. The temperature, as I prepared to fish, was 50 degrees, and I wore my Under Armour long sleeved undershirt, my North Face down coat and a rain shell. I considered wearing my brimmed hat with ear flaps, but I quickly decided it was overkill, since I assumed the air temperature would rise to the low sixties. I also gave some thought to toe warmers, but again I rejected the idea. In the latter case I regretted foregoing the aid of foot warmers, as my toes and feet eventually morphed into stumps.
Top of the Pool
I began my day twenty-five yards downstream from a huge pool, and I rigged my line with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, Pat’s rubber legs, and an ultra zug bug. This combination failed to draw interest, so I swapped the ultra zug bug for a sparkle wing RS2; however, the new lineup failed to excite the trout of the Eagle River. During the first thirty minutes I progressed up the river to the midsection of the huge pool that was my planned destination. I covered both sides of the entering center run with the nymphs, but again the trout ignored my offerings.
As this lack of action transpired, I began to observe quite a few feeding fish. Most of the early risers were along the opposite shoreline feeding in a long shelf pool. Targeting them required a long forty-five foot cast across a strong run, so initially I focused my attention on the area on my side of the river. Within a short amount of time rises commenced within easier range of my position, and I decided to convert to a dry fly approach. I removed the strike indicator, split shot and both nymphs and knotted a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line.
First Catch Was a Cutthroat
I began casting to the rising fish on my side of the center current, and after quite a bit of futility, a nine inch cutthroat trout sipped the tiny olive mayfly imitation. This initial success was accompanied by a pair of momentary hookups and numerous fruitless drifts. The low position of the sun created a discouraging glare on the water, and I resorted to lifting the rod tip, when I estimated that a rise approximated the location of my fly. I am not a fan of this sort of fly fishing, but it was the best option available to me.
Eventually I decided to adopt a double dry technique, and I added a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis to the front position with a CDC BWO in the trailing spot. This made tracking the flies moderately easier, although glare and the swirling surface continued to wreak havoc on my ability to follow the flies. After quite a bit of fruitless casting to fairly regular rises, I managed to connect with a twelve inch rainbow that grabbed the size 24 CDC blue winged olive. Surely I was now on track to land more trout.
By this point in time the wind kicked up, and my feet burned and warned me that they were entering stump status. I decided to forego lunch, while the river remained alive with rising fish. The caddis and CDC olive combination produced a couple more temporary hookups, but even the takes I managed to generate seemed very reluctant. Was I even imitating their natural food source? I never saw a natural blue winged olive, so perhaps an adult midge was more to their liking, but I had no evidence upon which to base my fly choice.
By 1:15PM the number of rising fish dwindled and the frequency of rises diminished from regular to sporadic feeding. The wind became a significant negative factor, and I decided to replace the leading caddis with a more visible size 14 hippie stomper. My ability to track the front fly improved significantly, but the trout were ignoring both offerings. I scanned the water along the opposite bank and observed some fairly long fish nosing the surface with their fins exposed. How could I approach these tantalizing feeders?
By now the two fishermen that claimed the bottom end of the pool had departed, so I decided to cross below the pool and then wade along the edge of the opposite bank to obtain a favorable downstream position below the feeders across from my present position. It took some time to make the crossing on feet that behaved more like fence posts, but eventually I was positioned below the spot, where I observed feeders from the south shoreline.
Head of the Pool
While I paused to observe, three fish rose, but the regular rhythmic feeding that grabbed my attention was absent. I fired quite a few casts to the area, but my north side gambit never generated the slightest interest. I finally surrendered to the weather and the fish and the river, and I progressed upstream to a point, where I could safely cross back to the side bordered by the bike path.
By now the wind was gusting at frequent intervals, and the river was nearly devoid of rising fish. I decided to return to the car and call it quits after landing two fish. I was unable to land seven fish to reach my goal of 1,100 for the year, but I cannot pin the blame on a lack of feeding fish. Instead I attributed my inability to land more fish to angler ineffectiveness. Will I have another chance? My window of opportunity is shrinking, but I will continue to look for mild days, before winter permanently descends on the Rocky Mountains.
Fish Landed: 2