Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM
Location: Braids above Pinnacle Rock, Salt Lick access, and Parkdale
Fish Landed: 15
After a brief cold snap moved through Colorado on Monday and Tuesday, nicer weather was forecast for the remainder of the first week of April. Steve Supple and I planned to take advantage and scheduled our first trip to the Arkansas River for Wednesday, April 3, 2013. After experiencing the fishing aberration that is named Grey Reef, would we face a dose of reality and crash back to earth with a loud thud of a day?
I arrived at Steve’s house in Lone Tree at the appointed hour of 7AM, and we transferred Steve’s gear from the garage to my Santa Fe and set out on our trip to Canon City and beyond. Traffic stalled a bit in Colorado Springs as we met the morning rush hour and the fog was rather dense from Monument to Florence, but we managed to make the trip in a couple hours. We anxiously watched the dashboard air temperature as it hovered around the freezing mark and desparately prayed for the sun to break through the clouds and warm things up before we began to fish. Unfortunately as we pulled into a pullout along route 50 at the braids section above Pinnacle Rock, the temperature read 37 degrees. I once again wore my down vest under my waders and my ski hat but decided to eshew my toe warmers.
Steve elected to fish the channel that splits away from the road just across from where we parked and I began in a moderately deep run right next to the road and across from the car. I started out with the nymphing rig and tied on an Arkansas rubber legs and a beadhead RS2. In the first run I experienced a split second hook up but then things went dead until I moved above the Y where Steve’s channel split off to a nice deep run and pool. In the bottom of this stretch I also failed to create any interest in my flies, so I decided to abandon the RS2 and tie on a reliable beadhead hares ear nymph. This turned the tide, and toward the top of the run a small brown attacked the hares ear, and I had my first Colorado brown trout of the new season.
Shortly after landing the first fish, I snagged the nymph combination on a stick, and broke off both flies. The Arkansas rubber leg didn’t seem to be doing much, so I swapped it out for a 20 incher and plucked a replacement hares ear from my patch. This combination was a winner and I landed six more browns over the remainder of the morning until around 11:45 when I worked my way across to meet Steve and return to the Santa Fe for lunch. One of the seven morning fish was a nice 13 inch brown and I stopped to photograph it as it was my first decent fish in Colorado for 2013. Steve and I compared notes, and he seemed to be having similar success, but he was catching his fish on a baetis nymph imitation.
We decided to move to a new location for lunch so we drove back east on route 50 to the Salt Lick access and parked there. We took our lunches down by the river and observed a pair of small browns rising fairly frequently next to a large protruding rock in front of us. This prompted me to switch the hares ear for a Craven soft hackle emerger BWO imitation as I began fishing a nice long run after lunch. I experienced two momentary hook ups as the soft hackle emerger made a swing at the end of the drift, so I crossed to the north bank and worked upstream imparting action to my flies and landed three more small browns on the tiny wet fly.
There was an exceptionally brief BWO hatch in the hour or so after lunch, but I hesitate to call it a hatch as I observed minimal surface feeding. Clearly however the fish were active on the emerging nymphs and I began to catch fish by jigging my nymphs on direct downstream drifts back toward me and executed bad downstream mends to induce takes on the acceleration. When I’d landed around 10 fish, it seemed that the action slowed, so I swapped the soft hackle emerger for a beadhead RS2, and this resulted in a couple more fish. I was catching fish but they were spaced apart and required quite a bit of casting and covering a fair amount of stream real estate.
Eventually neither of my flies were producing so I decided to try a bright green caddis pupa on the off chance that the fish were beginning to tune into these bugs which become very prevalent in a few weeks. Sure enough I added three more browns to my count on the caddis pupa and they attacked the fly aggressively on the swing. I began to impart movement on every drift and this paid modest dividends.
By 2:30 I reached a stretch of fast pocket water and decided to retreat back to Steve’s position and worked my way back across the river to the bank next to the road. Steve was working the pool above the parking lot with tiny BWO dry flies, and he was experiencing a bit of success, but we decided to make another move to the Parkdale recreation access.
The river is quite wide at Parkdale, but a few attractive spots presented themselves. Steve gave me a nice deep run below a huge protruding boulder directly across from the picnic tables where we parked. Meanwhile he moved up along the bank to a nice stretch more suitable to his dry flies. I worked the water below the boulder thoroughly with one split second hook up and then went above the boulder to drift my flies next to a huge 5 X 10 foot foam area. On the fifth or sixth drift a fish attacked the caddis pupa as it accelerated from beneath the foam to the run next to it. I set the hook and immediately a 14 or 15 inch brown jumped from the foam. I played the fish on an angle to my right to the top of the faster riffles just above the boulder. I decided to switch and angle the fish sideways to my left to bring it around and hopefully tire it, but the fish somehow broke free during this maneuver. When I reeled up my line I discovered the green caddis pupa was missing and all that was left was a broken knot. Needless to say I was disappointed.
I moved up the river across from Steve and decided that this water begged for a dry fly, so I sat down on the bank and removed all the nymph gear and replaced with a brand new tapered leader. I tied on a small CDC BWO imitation and made some nice downstream drifts, but to no avail. Eventually I climbed up on the bank and shuffled down the path to the picnic table area and half heartedly cast in a marginal spot near the car. In a short amount of time Steve joined me and we decided to call it a day.
We both landed double digit fish that were on the small side even for the Arkansas River. Normally this would be a satisfying opener for Colorado, but coming off the euphoria of big rainbows and lots of them on the North Platte, it was a bit of disappointment. It will take some time to come back to the reality of local fishing.