Big Thompson River – 05/25/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: In the canyon below Lake Estes.

Big Thompson River 05/25/2017 Photo Album

Jane and I enjoyed six days in Oregon, as we visited our daughter, Amy, and attended her graduation from Pacific University. We were quite proud to be present when she accepted her doctorate in physical therapy diploma. The moment when she bowed on the podium for the placement of the doctoral hood was special, and graduating with distinction was a testament to her many years of hard work. Amy worked at a bakery and attended classes part-time in order to obtain the necessary credits in science and math for acceptance into Pacific University. A doctorate in physical therapy was a special achievement by an extraordinary person.

Since I was away from the Colorado fishing scene for nearly a week, I was skeptical that I would find viable stream fishing, as I reviewed the flows on the DWR web site. On the return flight from Portland my thoughts were already focused on stillwater options. I was pleasantly surprised, when I learned that South Boulder Creek flows were reduced to 66 cfs, and the Big Thompson was chugging along at 125 cfs. From prior visits I recognized that both these streams offered manageable levels for fishing, but I chose the Big Thompson because the trend line displayed a flat line over the most recent five days. South Boulder Creek dropped from 110 cfs to 66 cfs within the last twenty-four hours, and I attempt to avoid rivers and streams after abrupt changes.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-uUhnsp0jHOw/WSeQ8zr-SvI/AAAAAAABKII/qbXcTHCeUtYSmuMEQ8AV-aaGJ1i_T12twCCo/s144-o/P5250127.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6424262756146666625?locked=true#6424262767808498418″ caption=”High and a Bit Off Color, but Not Bad for Late May” type=”image” alt=”P5250127.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I arrived at a paved parking area along the Big Thompson River at 11:30AM, and I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight. I crossed the highway and surveyed the river and noted that it was indeed relatively high, and it displayed a slight brown tinge. The conditions were not ideal, but quite favorable for late May with run off in progress on many other Colorado drainages. The road was wet from a recent storm, and some dark clouds were visible in the southwestern sky. I opted to pull on my long sleeve Under Armour undershirt and then added my fleece and a raincoat as well. Intermittent rain showers and small storms passed overhead during my three hours on the water, and I was very pleased with my fishing attire. By the time I was prepared to fish, the clock displayed 11:45, so I elected to remain in the car, and I quickly consumed my lunch. Some rain drops splattered the windshield during the last five minutes of lunch, but when I climbed out of the car and gathered my gear, the precipitation ended.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-gxoHzcg_r6Q/WSeQ9OyxwCI/AAAAAAABKII/7qOoFmCs6vI8D2MYwTD4LQpGhgCzLuQBQCCo/s144-o/P5250128.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6424262756146666625?locked=true#6424262775084793890″ caption=”Go2 Sparkle Pupa” type=”image” alt=”P5250128.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Another fisherman was forty yards below my parking spot, so I walked upstream a bit until I was next to the right braid in an area where the river split around an island. I tied a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line, and then I added a bright green go2 sparkle pupa and a beadhead hares ear. The higher than usual flows forced me to skip over quite a bit of water, as I searched for viable fish holding runs and pockets. I crossed the right channel and moved up the island, but my efforts failed to yield a fish in the first half hour.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Dzy57tE_npU/WSeQ9dFo_fI/AAAAAAABKII/mTUfo7-dxRApIRjmkMO9mFjpOYOVtulWgCCo/s144-o/P5250129.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6424262756146666625?locked=true#6424262778922008050″ caption=”First Landed Fish” type=”image” alt=”P5250129.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

When I approached the upstream tip of the island, the river spread out a bit, and I quickly discovered that my prospects improved in this type of stream structure. The wider streambed created more shallow runs and pockets, and the dry/dropper approach delivered fish in this scenario. I also swapped the hares ear for a RS2 in case baetis nymphs were active, and the go2 sparkle pupa caddis and bwo nymph imitation remained on my line for the remaining 2.5 hours.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-1X9YsUOvY10/WSeQ_Tdb_-I/AAAAAAABKII/wZVsgqE1wqEMt1BrxF01xw0uODQQ0F9PwCCo/s144-o/P5250135.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6424262756146666625?locked=true#6424262810697203682″ caption=”Unusual Spots” type=”image” alt=”P5250135.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Once I committed to the caddis and mayfly nymph, my fishing success began to click. Over the course of the afternoon I landed ten trout, and eight were rainbows, and two brown trout made an acquaintance with my net. A wide riffle above the tip of the island was the most productive area, and I landed four or five from this spot. It was here that I observed a couple BWO adults in the air, and as expected the trout began to attack the RS2, as it lifted near the end of a drift. Several also responded to a late swing at the downstream tail of the riffles. After seven netted fish I exchanged the RS2 for a soft hackle emerger.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ds2JnNr9rbU/WSeQ-15fC8I/AAAAAAABKII/j_0f6uxBusMODeWfAMA3b-cyQ5Q7sFiXACCo/s144-o/P5250134.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6424262756146666625?locked=true#6424262802761780162″ caption=”Vivid Colors” type=”image” alt=”P5250134.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

The blue winged olive hatch seemed to occur in waves, and the most dense emergence coincided with the fifteen minute period when the sky darkened prior to periods of rain. I noticed three or four rises in one section with deep flows next to exposed rocks, but I avoided the hassle of shifting from dry/dropper to a single dry fly, and the fish did not seem to mind. Apparently there were enough active nymphs and emergers to retain their interest in my subsurface offerings.

On Thursday one brown trout smashed the Chernobyl ant, two nabbed the soft hackle emerger, two snatched the go2 sparkle pupa, two nipped the hares ear, and the remainder locked on the RS2. A variety of flies produced, and I was fortunate to select them for my line. I was pleased to experience a double digit day in late May just prior to the heavy snow melt time frame. I hope to defer lake fishing as long as decent stream options are available.

Fish Landed: 10

 

 

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