Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: Hayden Meadows
Landing 26 fish on the Cache la Poudre River on Monday was enjoyable, but I craved the deep bend of a more substantial fish, as I contemplated my next fishing trip. July 26 on the Arkansas River lingered as a recent memorable outing, particularly fooling brown trout with a size 14 green drake imitation. The large Harrop hair wing style was easy to follow on the surface of the river, and the trout moved quickly and confidently to crush the fake version. Although I was certain that the gray drake hatch was waning, I pondered whether the stream residents would continue to respond to a well presented imitation.
The Hayden Meadows area was the draw, but the salesperson at the Orvis store, where I purchased my new reel, sang the praises of the Reddy State Wildlife Area on the west side of US 24, and this information also attracted me to a return trip to the upper Arkansas River south of Leadville. I checked out my National Geographic maps of the area, and I identified a nice hike that began from the western end of Turquoise Lake. The Turquoise Lake Recreation Area featured quite a few campgrounds, and I convinced Jane to join me on Tuesday evening for dinner in Leadville and camping at Turquoise Lake. I bribed her with a commitment to accompany her on a four mile round trip hike to Timberline Lake on Wednesday morning.
I packed most of the car on Monday evening, after I returned from the Cache la Poudre, and this enabled me to arrive at the Hayden Meadows northern parking lot by 11AM. I considered exploring Reddy SWA, but I opted to save the new stretch of water for Wednesday afternoon after our hike. I assembled my Sage four weight and departed on the two track dirt lane, and in a slight deviation from July 26 I hiked for twenty minutes in an effort to begin farther downstream. It was warm and sunny, and the temperature peaked in the upper sixties at the high elevation river. Flows were comparable to July 26 although a bit lower, as I was able to cautiously cross at selected spots, where wide shallow riffles reduced the strong velocity.
Since it was 11:30 by the time I entered the river, I decided to go directly to my Harrop hair wing green drake. It was a bit early compared to the previous Wednesday, but I theorized that the large mayfly imitation might serve as an attractor, since the hatch even a week ago was very sparse. My optimism soared, when I spotted a solitary gray drake, while I was attaching the hair wing to my line. Unfortunately this represented my sole gray drake sighting for the day.
The green drake imitation generated a couple refusals early on, so the fish were tuned into something similar, but I began to fear that it would be a tough day. There was no hesitation from the Hayden Meadows fish on July 26, so why the reluctance on August 1? Perhaps the Harrop was a bit too bushy or perhaps the trout were really locked on smaller caddis with a similar profile? I switched to a size 14 gray stimulator, and the smaller fly produced a look, but no take.
After half an hour of fruitless casting I sat down on some rocks and ate my lunch, while I contemplated my next move. The mental sifting led me to shift to a dry/dropper featuring a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. The nymphs yielded five nice brown trout on July 26 before I migrated to the Harrop green drake, so perhaps my application of the dry fly was too early in the daily feeding cycle.
From 12:30 until 1:30 I landed three brown trout using the dry/dropper method. The first fish was one of the best on the day; a fifteen inch bruiser that gulped the salvation nymph. Somehow during the fight the iron sally wrapped around the head of the brown, and this made the battle extra challenging. Another of the three early afternoon fish was small, and the third was a decent twelve inch specimen. Hayden Meadows brown trout seem to be pound for pound tougher fighters than other brown trout in the Rocky Mountains.
At 1:30 I began to worry that I was missing out on drake action, so I converted back to the Harrop style fly. Although the hair wing did not produce in a manner similar to July 26, I managed to net five additional browns. One was a carbon copy seven incher, but three measured in the eleven to thirteen inch range, and the last one on the day was another hard fighting fifteen inch brute. I cast to a narrow slow moving band of water along the bank from above. On previous casts drag commenced within seconds, but in this instance I managed to create a pause which enabled the fly to hover next to the seam in a tantalizing fashion. The brown could not resist the large mayfly about to escape, and it flashed to the surface and crushed the tempting morsel. The visual take was clearly the highlight of the day.
I fished on for another forty-five minutes, but the water seemed increasingly dead as the afternoon slid by. At 3:30 I was uncertain how far I was from the parking lot, and I did not wish to be late for my rendezvous with Jane in Leadville, so I reeled up the green drake and hooked it to my rod guide and found my way back to the car.
Tuesday August 1 was clearly inferior to July 26, but two of my catch were larger than anything that found my net the previous week. As I was stashing my gear at the car, a young Department of Wildlife gentleman appeared, and he asked me a series of questions for a survey. When I communicated to him that I landed eight brown trout with two in the fifteen inch range, he volunteered that I caught 80% of the trout landed in Hayden Meadows that day. His surveys found only two other fish caught on August 1, so while eight fish in four hours is average on my scale, my numbers were quite acceptable based on the DOW survey. More importantly it was a gorgeous first day of August with cool temperatures and spectacular fourteeners in the background.
Fish Landed: 8