Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM
Location: Fremont-Chafee County Line
Fish Landed: 3
The weather forecast for Denver was highs of 61 degrees, so I felt it was an opportunity for another late season fishing venture. Jane decided to join me for a drive to the Arkansas River, and we set off by 8:45AM for the three hour drive to the destination below Salida at the Fremont-Chafee county line.
The fish counter on my fishing blog revealed that I needed to catch three fish to equal my 2010 cumulative total, and I’d be misleading readers if I didn’t concede that this was a goal foremost on my mind. We tracked the air temperature on the dashboard thermometer as we crossed South Park on US 285 and the reading troughed at 35 degrees on the top of Kenosha Pass. By the time we reached the pullout along the Arkansas River the temperature had improved to 50 degrees.
The wind was gusting quite vigorously as I pulled on my waders so I decided to wear my down vest with my rain jacket as a windbreaker, and I chose my ski hat for head protection. I munched down my lunch and was ready to fish by noon. I elected to use my new Scott 6 weight that I’d purchased for the Alaska trip as I expected to fish mostly nymphs and streamers and punch casts into the wind.
My first casting foray was from the high rocks just below the pullout where the car was parked. During previous trips in the summer and fall I had spotted numerous fish in this location and figured they’d still be there. Sure enough after five or so casts I moved to the edge of the high rocks closest to the river and spotted a decent fish swimming from the edge closer to the current fifteen feet into the river. I flicked a cast with the thingamabobber trailing a beadhead hares ear and beadhead RS2 twenty-five feet upstream so it would drift to the area where the river dropped off into deeper water. On the second drift the indicator dipped, and I set the hook and was attached to a nice thirteen inch brown that grabbed the tiny RS2. Jane was nearby so I asked her to hold the rod with the fish while I scrambled down from the large rock. Jane handed the rod back to me and I landed the fish and Jane snapped a photo.
I couldn’t coax anymore fish from this area, so I decided to cross the river at the tail of the long pool and hike down the railroad tracks. I didn’t intend to go as far as the small island, but once I climbed the steep bank to the tracks, I got on a roll and ended up below the island anyway. I began in a nice riffle below the island and in short order on an upstream cast; I hooked and landed a slightly larger brown on the beadhead hares ear. The productive right channel north of the island was still ahead, and I was one fish away from 530.
I fished the next stretch of good looking water below the island with no results and then moved up into the right channel as I faced upstream. There is a decent pool two thirds of the way down the right channel, and I skipped the shallow tail section assuming that the fish were holding in deeper water with the cooler water temperatures. I reached a nice deep trough behind a protruding rock at the top of the pool and placed a cast midway up the trough above a large submerged rock. As the nymphs began to sweep around the rock a brown grabbed one of the flies, and I had a momentary hookup, but in short order the fish was free. I’d missed an opportunity at 530 fairly early in my outing. Next I punched a cast into the wind so the nymphs hit the water right behind the protruding rock. As the indicator drifted on the current seam the indicator darted, and I made a strong hook set and saw a nice rainbow streak downstream past me. Eventually I applied pressure and stripped some line before the rainbow once again reversed and headed downstream a bit. Again I applied upstream pressure and as I brought the rainbow upstream a few feet, it turned its head and the tiny RS2 popped free. I’d missed an opportunity to land a beautiful rainbow that would have tied me with the 2010 fish count.
When I got to the top of the island I climbed up on the bank to circle around the shallow tail of the next run in order to reach the deeper runs and pockets along the bank further upstream. I heard a voice and noticed Jane had walked down the highway, and she was checking to see how many I’d landed. I called out, “Two to go” and resumed my quest. Jane continued to track me along the highway shoulder as I worked my way up the river and as I waded into position to continue casting. It was now around 1PM and the wind began to gust fiercely directly into my face. I was using a 9’6” 6 weight rod with a split shot and strike indicator and still was having trouble getting my cast upstream.
Finally after covering around thirty yards of decent water, on a drift through a nice deep trough near the north bank, the indicator bobbed, and I hooked and landed number three on the day and number 530 on the year. It was a nice brown roughly the same size as the second catch. I called out to Jane that I was now even and looking for one more fish. My hand was wet from releasing the fish and also from constantly grabbing the handle of my wading stick, and it became quite gnarled and chilled from the rapid evaporation caused by the wind chill.
I moved up through a few more deep pockets with no results before reaching my crossing point. It was now around 2PM and already the sun had dropped below the ridge to the southwest so that the entire river was covered in shadows where I was fishing. I crossed over at the tail of the pool and climbed the bank and returned back to the high rock where I’d begun the day. As I cast the nymphs into the wind I created a huge tangle around the strike indicator. I had to clip off both the flies and even after doing so, spent quite a bit of time unsnarling the immense tangle of monofilament. The wind was blowing hard and causing my net to repeatedly bang against my leg in an annoying fashion. Once I’d finally straightened the line, I decided to try a streamer in the late afternoon shadows.
I tied on a huge yellow-olive articulated streamer with lead eyes that I’d found while fishing the Taylor River in 2010. I flicked this out into the current above the deeper water next to the high rock and let it swing down and across below me. I executed this process repeatedly and then moved up higher in the run and repeated with shorter casts. Nothing was going for the streamer. I spotted a nice deep pool behind a large vertical rock 25 yards upstream so I walked up along the shore to this point. There were trees behind me, and I was having difficulty getting a backcast to fling the heavily weighted streamer out to the edge of the current. After ten casts with no results, I attempted to backcast downstream and then fling the fly toward two o’clock, up and across from my position. But on the backcast I either hooked some debris or snapped off the fly. The wind was still blowing unrelentingly, and I just spent 10 minutes untangling a mess, and I was quite chilled in the shadows of the canyon so I decided to call it quits and settle for a tie with 2010.
When I returned home and checked the weather, I noticed that Thursday highs in Denver are forecast to be 61 degrees. The book is not yet closed on 2011.