Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM
Location: Texas Creek area
Fish Landed: 5 trout
My obsession with meeting the 2011 Arkansas River caddis hatch drove me to make another Thursday trip to the lower river above Royal Gorge. I reviewed the reports on ArkAnglers and Royal Gorge Anglers. Both indicated the hatch had advanced up the river as far as Coaldale, but the wording led me to believe it wasn’t the all out blizzard hatch that fishermen seek, so I decided to focus on the lower river near Texas Creek.
I got off to an early start again and the day was forecast to be beautiful with temperatures in the low 70’s. This would prove to be accurate with clear blue skies all day and only moderate wind from time to time. I crossed the river at Texas Creek and parked in the fisherman parking area and hiked down the path beyond the abandoned ranch and then descended the bank to the river below the island. I was encouraged to see no competing fishermen even though there was another car in the lot. The flows were up from the previous week and the water was tinged with some murkiness, but still relatively clear.
With the higher flows I decided to go deep with nymphs and rigged up a double nymph set up with a beadhead prince as the top fly and a beadhead emerald caddis pupa on the end. I worked the juicy run below the island from top to bottom and then back up again, but with no success. I thought this was unusual, but moved up the right channel and covered all the likely spots. In this stretch I had several one to two second hookups, so I was at least beginning to attract some attention.
I dropped back to the downstream tip of the island and worked my way up along the south bank of the island. When I reached the nice pockets toward the top of the island I finally hooked and landed my first trout of the day on the emerald caddis. Somewhere during this time I tore off both the flies, so I reconfigured with another prince nymph and a bright green caddis pupa this time. I moved above the island to a nice stretch of long riffles over a rocky bottom with moderate depth. In this area I experienced several more 1 -2 second hookups. At 11:30 I exited the river and hiked back to the car for lunch. I’d landed one fish, but had at least four or five opportunities that I failed to convert.
I grabbed my lunch bag and skipped over the fence at the bridge and sat on the beach below the bridge to eat while observing the water. I spotted very occasional caddis flitting about, but no fish or rising activity. After lunch I returned to the parking lot by way of the old cabin and shook some willow branches along the way. Hardly any caddis erupted from the branches as would normally be the case if the heavy hatch had advanced to this point.
I stashed my lunch back in the car and grabbed my rod and gear and decided to hike down the path as far as I could go. This led me to a sweet spot where some large vertical rocks blocked further progress without climbing to the railroad tracks which were blocked by a barbed wire fence. I climbed out on a large rock that served as a small pier at the end of a pool formed where the river angled in toward the north bank. I drifted my nymphs through this area, and while doing so another fisherman arrived and positioned 30 yards above me beyond the nice pool.
I did notice several BWO’s floating on the surface in the deep pool, but had no action so I exited and climbed up the hill and skirted the other fishermen and went 50 yards up the river before cutting back to the bank to resume my quest for trout. I fished some shallow runs behind rocks and then decided to switch the flies again. I moved the caddis pupa to the top fly, returned the prince to my foam pocket, and added a RS2 to the end of the leader. With this combination I continued fishing up along the right (north) bank. The next hour or so from 1-2PM resulted in my most consistent fishing of the day as I landed four browns on the RS2. Two of the fish were a bit larger than what I’d been catching over the last two outings. I also was frustrated to experience two or three additional quick releases.
When I reached the bottom of the island where I’d begun in the morning, I noticed several fishermen working around the island. The sky was bright blue and it had warmed up to the low seventies. I was seeing no caddis hatching activity or BWO’s for that matter, so I decided to head back to the car and drive back toward Royal Gorge and test the waters below Spike Buck where I’d had a 17 fish day several weeks ago. This was along the way on my return to Denver and also closer to Canon City where caddis were supposedly hatching for several weeks.
I parked the car in a small pullout and dropped down to the river and worked the nymphs up along the left bank for 20 yards with no success. Once again when I shook the shrubs and branches I saw no evidence that a heavy hatch had occurred. When I reached the area where the river widens a bit and creates some nice shallower eddies and pools, I clipped off the nymphs and tied on a bushy size 14 caddis. I thought I’d prospect with it a bit in the shallower areas and perhaps interest some fish. It was a nice thought, but didn’t work so I quit fishing at 3:30 and returned to Denver.