Time: 12:30PM – 4:30PM
Location: Along CO 900 between Yampa and Yamcolo Reservoir
In late August 2016 I enjoyed two solid days of fly fishing on the Bear River in the southeastern Flattops. I anxiously anticipated another visit, and Wednesday, September 20 was that day. I packed the car with my fishing and camping gear and planned to fish on Wednesday and then camp on Wednesday night at Bear Lake Campground. Another day of fishing on Bear River was scheduled for Thursday, and then Jane would meet me in the town of Yampa, and we anticipated a second night of camping followed by a hike in the nearby Flattops. That was the plan.
Unfortunately Jane committed to a tennis time on Friday morning, and she was struggling to find a substitute. I packed the camping gear under the assumption that she would find a replacement. Another unanticipated impediment to our plan was a cold front that swept through Colorado, and the forecast overnight low for Wednesday night was in the upper thirties.
Despite these drawbacks I packed the car and managed to embark on my journey by 8:20 on Wednesday morning. This departure time enabled me to pull into a small pullout at the Bear River downstream boundary of the national forest by noon, and after a quick lunch I jumped into my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight rod. The air temperature hovered in the upper fifties, so I pulled on my long sleeve Columbia undershirt as well as a fleece. Recurring strong gusts of wind caused the aspen leaves to shimmer, and my extra layers were designed to offset the wind chill.
The DWR web site reported flows of 18 CFS below Bear Lake, however, when I approached the water, the velocity seemed greater. The stream where I began was high gradient, and this may have created the illusion of higher flows, but the creek emerges from Yamcolo Reservoir and not Bear Lake, and perhaps the releases from the two impoundments were different. At any rate the rushing water and severe gradient created a difficult fly fishing challenge. Attractive holding spots for trout were scarce, and dense streamside vegetation forced me to constantly wade against the swift current.
I began fishing with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the workhorse terrestrial created several looks and two long distance releases, but I covered a significant amount of water in order to register these unfulfilling bits of action. I was dissatisfied with the performance of the beetle, so I cycled through a series of fly changes. The beetle was followed with a dry/dropper featuring a hopper Juan on top and trailed an ultra zug bug. The hopper created some splashy refusals, and the dropper was soundly ignored. I unexpectedly lost both these flies to a perplexing bad knot, so I replaced them with a tan pool toy, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. I fully expected my standard offering to be irresistible, but instead I merely exercised my arm for thirty minutes.
I pondered the situation and recalled that the beetle and hopper Juan at least created interest, whereas, the nymphs were ignored. Evidently I needed to identify a dry fly that the trout recognized as food. I pulled a size 12 olive stimulator from my fly box, and this fly actually delivered three trout that exceeded my minimum length threshold. One of the stimulator chompers was a ten inch brook trout, and I followed that catch up with a rainbow trout and brown trout. In 3.5 hours of fishing I managed to land four trout, but I was one away from accomplishing the grand slam. A pure cutthroat is the most difficult prong of the grand slam to achieve, and on Wednesday I did not succeed in steering one into my net.
By 3PM the stimulator suffered through an extended drought, and I was struggling to follow it through the alternating sunshine and shadows, so I reverted to a dry/dropper featuring a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. The shift paid dividends, as I landed four brown trout before I called it quits at 4:30. One brown snatched the ultra zug bug, and the other three nipped the salvation.
As I climbed a steep hill and hiked .5 mile back to the car, I could not contain my disappointment. I envisioned another day of tough wading and slow fishing for small trout on Thursday, so I resolved to camp one night and then hit the Colorado River at Pumphouse on Thursday. Since Jane was still searching for a tennis sub, I decided to drive back to Yampa, so I could utilize the free Wifi outside Penny’s Diner. I called Jane to inform her of the change in plans, and I expressed my aversion to spending a night in the cold. It was five o’clock when I spoke to her, and she suggested that I turn around and drive back home, where I could sleep in a cozy bed. It did not take long for me to warm up to the idea, and I made the three hour drive back to Denver in time for a late dinner.
Eight fish in four hours is an average catch rate, but the fish were quite small with the largest perhaps measuring eleven inches. More frustrating than the small size and the slow catch rate was the wading and casting difficulty. I experienced at least five or six hook ups with tree limbs during the day, and I lost four flies. The wind made casting in tight quarters exponentially more difficult; and errant casts, tangles and branches in my face were very exasperating. When I returned home, I pulled up my blog post from 8/24/2016 and read it. I registered a twenty fish day in the same stretch of the stream, and the average size exceeded my results on Wednesday. In 2016 I had success with a gray stimulator and a dry/dropper consisting of a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. The main differing variable compared to last year was the weather and time of year. If I return, I will fish the upper canyon closer to Yamcolo Reservoir. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Fish Landed: 8