Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: Lunch Rock and Chafee-Fremont Country Line
Fish Landed: 5
Overcast skies, dense blue winged olive hatches, and a caddis emergence were in my dreams as I anticipated my planned fishing trip to the Arkansas River on Friday. I read the Royal Gorge Angler reports as well as ArkAnglers, and I was convinced that the stars were aligned for some fantastic fishing.
Jane decided to join me for this cool spring day, and we departed from Denver at 7AM. I planned to fish from the lease stretch west of Vallie Bridge, so we followed the route through Colorado Springs instead of route 285 that I usually choose for trips to the Salida area. During my fishing trip to Wyoming, I realized that I needed a spool of 3X tippet and a pack of tapered leaders, so we stopped at Royal Gorge Anglers along the way and made that purchase.
By the time we drove west through Big Horn Sheep canyon, we arrived at the Vallie Bridge lease by 10:30, and I began to prepare to fish. There were two cars in the parking lot, and as I pulled on my waders two additional vehicles arrived with a total of seven fishermen. I was quite concerned about the availability of open water given the number of fishermen in the parking lot, so Jane suggested we move to another spot, and I readily agreed with her proposal.
We continued west on route 50 until we reached Lunch Rock just beyond the Wellsville Bridge. A small RV was parked in front of us, but when I walked out on Lunch Rock, I could not find any other fishermen in the area. After I assembled my Sage One five weight and attached a new tapered leader, I began fishing in front of the large rock and continued up the river along the south bank. I began with a strike indicator, split shot, emerald caddis pupa, and RS2; and after fifteen minutes of fruitless prospecting, I managed to hook and land a twelve inch brown trout. Since it was the first fish of the day, I paused for a few minutes to snap a photograph.
Unfortunately the brown trout represented my total action in the morning before I paused for lunch at noon. I returned to the car and found Jane exploring the stone beach next to the huge eddy and pool below Lunch Rock. We both grabbed our lunches and munched them next to the river. Large high slate gray clouds covered the sky, and a constant breeze kept me on the edge of being uncomfortable, so after lunch I pulled on a fleece layer and my New Zealand hat with ear flaps.
I did not see any fishermen downstream from Lunch Rock, so I decided to explore that area after lunch. I walked along the shoulder of the highway for .3 mile until I found a spot where I could climb over the barbed wire fence that blocked my access to the river. Once I was next to the river, I traversed a path along the top of a steep bank until I found an angled path that allowed me to easily descend to the edge of the river. Almost immediately I encountered a long pool with a slight riffle as the river flowed over a moderate depth. This water was extremely attractive, and I judged it to be a prime spot to occupy should a hatch evolve.
At this point I had a beadhead prince nymph with a RS2, and I made some great drifts with no results. I exchanged the prince nymph for a bright green caddis, and still I was thwarted in my attempts to harvest the gorgeous pool. As I was changing flies and prospecting the water the sky darkened, and a breeze kicked up, and I spotted a couple caddis skittering across the surface. Shortly after making this observation, some sporadic splashy rises commenced. I maintained my methodical wet fly approach and attempted to impart some lifting action near the spots where I observed rises, but all these ploys were to no avail.
I could not believe that the beautiful stretch of water in front of me held no fish, so I decided to jettison the nymph rig and convert to a single dry fly. My fly of choice was a size 16 deer hair caddis with a dark olive-brown body. This fly proved to be a great choice, as I landed three fine twelve inch brown trout on the caddis imitation. I spent quite a bit of time in the area, but the rises were very spaced out and sporadic, and prospecting the tiny caddis dry fly without the benefit of a rise seemed quite futile. After fifteen minutes without any rises, I decided to explore new water upstream. The next attractive area consisted of a nice deep run that fanned out from a large vertical rock along the left bank.
Again I spotted two or three random rises and began drifting my deer hair caddis in the vicinity of the riseforms. Eventually after quite a bit of casting, I induced a small brown to slurp my dry fly. The fly actually dragged a bit at the end of the drift, and this provoked a savage attack.
The sparse caddis hatch only lasted an hour or even less, and once the rises ceased to expose fish, I grew impatient with trying to follow the tiny caddis. I added a gray stimulator in front of the caddis and fished a pair of dries for awhile, but this ploy did not yield any results.
A pair of fishermen appeared above me, so I circled around them and then skipped some marginal water and arrived at Jane’s sand bar. I had pretty much exhausted the possibilities around Lunch Rock, so Jane and I jumped in the car and drove west to the Fremont – Chafee county line. Here I descended the path to a perch high above the river and a large pool, and I began probing the depths with an emerald caddis pupa and RS2. These flies attracted no response so I moved upstream and cast to all the likely deep runs and pockets for another fifty yards, but the river was devoid of fish as far as I was concerned.
I was about to return to the car to call it quits when I remembered that I had a five weight sinking tip line in my backpack, so I removed my floating line and replaced it with the sinking tip and attached a peanut envy to the end of the tippet. I worked the articulated streamer for another twenty minutes and saw one small trout follow the fly and also felt a bump in the large pool next to the high rock where I began. It was fun to work the pulsing streamer, but unfortunately it did not reward me with a fish.
I have to admit that Friday was a disappointment. Five fish in four hours is a subpar catch rate, and the average size of the fish was below average. The weather was chilly and blustery, but I believe I determined that the main caddis hatch has not yet migrated to upper Big Horn Sheep canyon, so I will look for future opportunities to meet the 2015 caddis emergence.