Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Began just above flooded RV park and fished upstream to private water.
Fish Landed: 5
I did not fall in the river, and the weather was beautiful, and I only lost one fly. These were the positives for Thursday on the Big Thompson River. Actually the river was quite clear although low at 30 CFS, and I spotted many fish. Unfortunately I only landed five fish in four hours of fishing, so my catch rate was sub par for my personal expectations, but all things considered, it was a fine day.
Thursday was the first day in 2016 where I fished comfortably, and the wind was present but not a significant deterrent. I also scored another first, but more on that later. I arrived at the pullout five miles below the dam in Estes Park by 10:30, and I was on the water fishing a few minutes before 11AM. The water was very low and clear, so I concluded that I could use the dry/dropper approach and effectively fish most locations. An indicator with a split shot would disturb the water excessively, but a large foam dry fly would land with a natural plop.
I began with a size eight Chernobyl ant, and below that I attached an ultra zug bug on a long three foot dropper. In the first half hour I hooked but did not land two rainbow trout, and one felt like a fish in excess of twelve inches, which is decent for the Big Thompson River. Before breaking for lunch at noon I landed two small rainbows on the ultra zug bug, but I spotted many fish that did not respond to my offerings. In fact quite a few fish darted from cover next to the bank as I waded upstream. I decided to be much more cautious in my approach after lunch.
The first location that I encountered after lunch was a huge long smooth pool. I paused to observe before making any casts, and I could see at least seven fish in front of me. They were hovering a foot or so below the surface, and it seemed that they were feeding on something in the drift. In the morning I noticed a few refusals to the Chernobyl ant so I exchanged it for a Fat Albert, and I added a RS2 as a third fly. Unfortunately the visible trout in the pool treated these flies like unappetizing flotsam, so I was forced to reconsider my approach. I decided to try a dry fly, and I knotted a light gray size 16 caddis to my line after removing the other ineffective imitations. This created a refusal from a small trout, but then it was soundly ignored as well.
Could the fish be accustomed to blue winged olives, and should I try one of my minute CDC olive flies? I decided to throw a double dry and tied a CDC olive to an eighteen inch leader attached to the bend of the caddis. I began shooting casts to the riffle at the head of the pool and allowed the dainty dries to dance along the seam toward the tail out and the smooth water. On the fifth cast I watched in amazement as a fairly large trout moved a couple feet and sipped something on the surface. I guessed that my flies were in this vicinity, so I set the hook, and a thirteen inch rainbow trout began thrashing angrily on my line. I maintained tension, and within a minute I maneuvered the prize catch into my net. The pretty silvery rainbow trout was probably my best fish on the season to date, and I induced it to sip my size 22 CDC olive. Needless to say I grinned, and I was quite proud of this turn of events.
I moved on, but I did not see any BWO’s in the air nor did I observe rising fish. Continuing to prospect with the small dries seemed like a difficult proposition, so I returned to the Fat Albert, emerald caddis pupa, and soft hackle emerger. A small caddis landed on my hand at one point thus the caddis pupa offering, and I continued to believe that blue winged olives would make a strong appearance at some point. I fished these three flies for the remainder of the afternoon, and I managed to land two additional trout, both browns. I covered a huge amount of stream for two fish, but both registered another first for me in 2016. They both appeared out of nowhere and smashed the Fat Albert!
I feel that the lack of a significant hatch was a factor contributing to my low catch rate on Thursday; however, fisherman error probably accounted for more of the slow action. I continually fight my obsession with thoroughness by forcing myself to move rapidly and to limit the number of casts to an area. Thursday was the perfect day to adhere to this principle, since I only saw one other fisherman on the stream, and that was just before my departure. Instead of constantly moving, I tended to dwell in areas under the false belief that I could change flies and eventually dupe the visible trout before me. It rarely happened.
I was also guilty of clumsily approaching pools and likely fish holding locations. I mentioned that I saw numerous fish scatter as I waded along the bank in the morning, and although I improved my approach in the afternoon, I have to admit that fleeing fish remained a common observance. Hopefully I can learn from my outing on the Big Thompson River and improve my performance on future visits.