Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Hayden Meadows
Our friends the Gaboury’s invited Jane and I to join them for a couple days at their beautiful home in Eagle Ranch, CO. We made the trip on Monday, Labor Day, and Dave Gaboury made plans for a day of fishing on Tuesday. In an earlier meeting with Dave and his wife, Beth, Dave floated the idea of driving over Tennessee Pass to fish in the upper Arkansas River, and I jumped on the idea. Historically the nearby Eagle River is very low and difficult around the Labor Day weekend, and I surmised that the higher elevation of the upper Arkansas River might translate to better fishing success.
Our mutual friend, Todd, joined us, and the three of us made the drive to Hayden Meadows on Tuesday morning. We arrived at the parking lot above Hayden Meadows a bit after ten o’clock, and after a thirty minute hike on a dirt lane, we entered the water and began casting by 11AM. I chose my Loomis five weight in case I tangled with a fifteen inch fish, and I like the slower action and shorter rod for chucking dry/dropper configurations. Since three fishermen were in our group, we adopted a hopscotch approach, but we always kept the upstream fisherman in view. The river was roughly half the volume that I experienced in my two earlier visits, but it remained high enough so that two fishermen could fish across from each other, as long as care was exercised, and one angler did not advance ahead of the other.
The weather consisted of bright sun and temperatures that advanced to the upper seventies. The more significant factor was the strong winds that plagued us in the afternoon, and this condition was probably fairly typical for the river that is located on a high open plain with very few wind breakers. The flows listed on the ArkAnglers web site were 130 CFS. The volume of water was actually fairly ideal for fishing and wading, and clarity was perfect.
I began my day with a parachute grasshopper with a hares ear dubbed body, and this fly generated one unproductive look. I switched to a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the usually reliable terrestrial was soundly ignored. In past visits I enjoyed success in the morning with a dry/dropper set up, so I converted to a tan pool toy trailing a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. I persisted with this combination for quite awhile, and the only evidence of trout resulted from another reluctant look to the pool toy. While I was cycling through these fly choice scenarios, Todd hooked and landed a fish on an elk hair caddis, and this forced me to reevaluate. So far only the hoppers attracted any attention, and they were surface flies, so perhaps a dry fly was the best bet.
I removed the three flies and knotted a gray size 14 stimulator to my line. Shortly after this change, I encountered a spot where a narrow side channel split off from the main flow, and I followed it and discovered a very attractive small pool in front of an overhanging bush. I flicked the stimulator to the entry current, and as it slowly floated beneath a small overhanging branch, a fish created a bulge next to the fly and then disappeared. I succeeded in adding a refusal to my list of near misses. Todd was behind me, and he accepted my invitation to toss his elk hair caddis to the small pool, but the inhabitant was apparently now educated and would not reveal itself a second time.
We moved back to the main channel and moved upstream, and the stimulator ceased to create interest. Dave G. experienced a momentary hook up with a decent fish on a chartreuse copper john, so I returned to the dry/dropper system and exchanged the salvation nymph for an ultra zug bug. I persevered with this set up over the remainder of the afternoon, since other options seemed ineffective, and the other guys were not having much more success. Eventually I coaxed a four inch brown into my net, but it measured beneath my six inch threshold for counting. The small trout inhaled the ultra zug bug.
Shortly after 2PM I drifted the trio of flies through a nice deep current seam, and the hopper darted sideways causing me to instinctively raise the rod. I felt significant weight, and a fish executed a quick roll and tail thrash, and then it escaped. The duration of the connection was too fleeting to reach a conclusion on which fly hooked the fish. This was my best shot at a substantial fish on the day, and it lasted half a second.
By three o’clock we approached the bridge next to the parking area, and Dave G. marched ahead in a state of boredom. In short order Todd and I followed suit, and I was forced to record a skunking. I second guessed my fly choices and approach, but the lackluster results of Todd and Dave G. convinced me that Tuesday presented very challenging conditions. I saw virtually no aquatic insect activity, although I was surprised that terrestrials did not produce given the constant gusts of wind. Perhaps I should have cycled through more grasshopper, beetle, and ant imitations; but I suspect this approach would not have changed the results significantly. Hopefully the weather will cool in the near future, and the summer doldrums will come to a quick halt.
Fish Landed: 0