Arkansas River – 10/03/2014

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chafee county line up and downstream

Fish Landed: 9

Arkansas River 10/03/2014 Photo Album

Every day of fishing is better than a day at work, but not all days are equal. Friday October 3 was one of those fishing days that tested my patience. Jane and I returned from a trip to Pennsylvania where we attended my high school reunion and visited with family members. Since I had not fished in over a week, I was anxious to make a trip while the weather remained relatively comfortable. My last trip to the Arkansas River was disappointing due to the rain and muddy water conditions, and I was convinced that a return would yield some very enjoyable fishing. I opened my blog and read my reports on two trips that I took in previous years on October 2, and this served to increase my desire to make the trip on October 3.

Unfortunately I began feeling the effects of a developing head cold on Wednesday, but I decided to ignore my body’s desire for rest and make the long drive in spite of a stuffy head and a body sapped of energy. The weather forecast called for highs in the low sixties, and this actually sounded fairly pleasant to me for early October. The piece of information I failed to factor into my planning however was wind, and a constant breeze hindered my fishing the entire time I was on the water.

I got off to a reasonably early start, but by the time I reached the pullout at the Fremont – Chafee county line, another car was parked in my spot, and two fishermen were pulling on their waders. I decided to reverse my direction and drove west on route 50 to the next large pullout. The dashboard thermometer registered 39 degrees as I prepared to fish at 10:30AM, so I pulled on my UnderArmour underlayer plus my Adidas insulated pullover and then added my raincoat as a windbreaker. For head gear I chose my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and then I stuffed my lunch in my backpack and rigged my Sage four weight four piece rod.

Starting Point on the Arkansas River

Starting Point on the Arkansas River

I carefully descended the steep bank next to the highway and crawled through a tunnel that another fisherman had pruned through the willow canopy and found myself on the edge of the river. I remembered a place where I thought I could cross to the opposite bank, but it was forty yards farther upstream, so I began fishing the edge pockets as I moved in that direction. I began with a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear, and in the first 30 minutes I landed two small trout barely over six inches. The small rainbow slurped the Chernobyl, and a brown trout snagged the hares ear before I reached the place where I planned to cross the river.

As I scanned the river at my intended crossing point, I concluded that it was too risky particularly given my low energy levels from fighing the developing head cold. I hooked my fly in the rod guide and climbed up the steep embankment to the highway and returned to the car and then hiked along the shoulder to the county line pullout. Of course the fishermen that diverted me from my orginal plan were no longer present, and I could have driven to my favorite pullout. I thought about returning to the Santa Fe in order to move it closer to the area I hoped to fish, but I decided that the extra walking was good exercise.

As is my usual practice, I dropped down to the river and waded across the shallow tail of the long pool and then climbed the north bank to the railroad tracks and walked east until I was above the small island that I favor. Much to my amazement there was another fisherman on the north side of the river twenty yards below the tip of the island. I did not feel it would be courteous to take my normal path and cut in just above him, so I scrambled down to the river above the island and then waded along the southern edge to a point where I could begin fishing the small north channel. I skipped the bottom third of the small braid, but I still had the upper two-thirds remaining to fish, and that is generally the most productive portion of the braid.

I was finally in a desirable position, and I began prospecting the north channel with the Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug. After overcoming numerous obstacles to reach this water, I expected to be rewarded, but that was not the case. I experienced a couple long distance releases, but failed to land a single fish from my favorite stretch of water on the Arkansas River. From the tip of the island I continued for another fifty yards along the right bank, and once again the fish were uncooperative, so I welcomed a break and found a nice spot to eat my lunch and observe the river. It was now a few minutes after noon, and all I had to show for my efforts were the two trout barely over six inches.

After lunch the sun was high in the sky and quite bright, and I was too warm with my multiple layers, so I removed my Adidas pullover and wrapped it around my waist and rolled up the raincoat and stuffed it in my backpack. In a final concession to the warmer air temperatures I folded my earflaps up under my hat. In addition to changing my clothing, I also elected to swap the Chernobyl ant for a tan Charlie Boy hopper since the Chernobyl was generating occasional refusals. As I made this exchange, I moved the ultra zug bug to the second fly position and replaced the hares ear with a soft hackle emerger on the point. I was refocused with a new positive attitude as I resumed my upstream migration through some very attractive deep pockets that generally are quite productive.

Well I suppose everything is relative. The nice pocket water yielded a ten inch brown and another smaller fish, so that was better than my morning results, but it did not compare favorably with my history in this area. I was now across from the county line pullout at the bottom of the long slow moving pool that I typically skip, but I decided to cast along the edge while I moved quickly and covered a lot of water. I was targeting fish that were holding tight to the bank that might jump at the opportunity of a quick grasshopper meal. The wind continued to blow constantly with intermittent strong gusts, so surely some late season hoppers were getting blasted into the river.

In the deep slow water at the lower end of the pool next to a large protruding rock a nice fourteen inch brown trout smashed the Charlie Boy hopper, and I successfully battled it to my net. Since this fish far exceeded the size of my previous catches, I decided to take a photo; but when I reached inside my wader bib where I usually keep my camera in its waterproof case, I discovered that it was missing. I quickly released the wild brown and remembered that I removed my camera and case in the process of removing layers of clothing at lunch, so I hustled back along the rocky shoreline and fortunately recovered my camera at the lunch spot.

Instead of returning along the river, I scaled the steep bank to the railroad tracks and returned to the point of my missing camera revelation where I resumed prospecting the edge of the pool. During this early afternoon time frame a severe headwind kicked up and hampered my casting, however, I managed to land another decent brown on the trailing soft hackle emerger. I was actually pleasantly surprised that the slow deep water was producing better than the normally preferred deep pockets and runs. Next I approached a very attractive spot where some nervous water fanned out from a deep pocket. It was one of those places that screamed large trout, so I cast the Chernobyl so it plopped at the very tail of the fan area, and the nymphs dropped into the deeper water below the swirly surface. Immediately I saw a large rainbow emerge from the riffled water as it grabbed something. I surmised it was one of my trailing flies, so I reacted with a solid hook set and battled a sixteen inch rainbow to my net. This would be my best fish of the day, and it was an exciting visual experience.

Nice Rainbow Squirmed and Splashed the Lens

Nice Rainbow Squirmed and Splashed the Lens

As I attempted to photograph my prize catch, the rainbow resisted all attempts to be calmed and in the process splashed my camera lens with water. I snapped a couple photos anyway, so I would have something to remember and then carefully released my valiant foe to return to the depths of the river.

Once again I moved on and landed two more much appreciated medium sized browns in riffle areas. Both fish snatched the soft hackle emerger as it drifted back toward me in water of moderate depth, but I covered many other sections of similar water without similar results.

A Decent Brown Trout

A Decent Brown Trout

By late afternoon the sun glare frustrated my efforts to follow the surface fly, the temperature dropped, and wind continued its relentless assault on my patience, so I decided to call it quits at 3:45 and hiked back to the crossing point. I climbed the bank once again to the highway and then paid my dues for not moving the car by hiking along the shoulder for another .2 miles. The last hour of fishing was nonproductive and a late afternoon hatch did not seem imminent.

Given my developing cold, my lack of energy, the vexing wind and the lack of a hatch, I was quite happy to land nine fish including three fish in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. The casual sip of my nymph by the large rainbow was certainly a highlight of the day and perhaps one of the better moments of 2014. The season is quickly dwindling, but hopefully I will have a few more opportunities to enjoy autumn fly fishing before the weather drives me to the fly tying bench.

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