Big Thompson River – 09/29/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Private boundary upstream until near Noel’s Draw

Big Thompson River 09/29/2016 Photo Album

After a day of rest on Wednesday I was anxious to visit a local stream on Thursday September 29. The 2016 season is winding down, and I felt the need to take advantage of gorgeous weather while it lasted. I drove to the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes and arrived at the pullout above the first bridge after Noel’s Draw by 10:30. After I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I walked downstream along the highway, until I reached the barbed wire fence that denotes the beginning of private water.

It was a beautiful late September day, as the temperatures reached the middle seventies by the afternoon. I wore only my fishing shirt, and I was comfortable all day. The stream flow was 39 cfs, and this is a bit below ideal for the Big Thompson, but fairly normal for early autumn.

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First Trout on September 29

To begin my quest for Big Thompson River trout I tied a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. These mainstays from my fly box allowed my to net four trout, before I broke for lunch at noon. Two of the morning fish were brown trout and two were rainbows. One of the rainbows smashed the Chernobyl ant, and the first fish snared the salvation nymph. The brown trout that snatched the salvation shot under a small branch, and I was certain I would lose the fish. By some stroke of good fortune the Chernobyl got lodged on the submerged stick, and I was able to wade over and net the brown trout. That was the good news. The whole episode created one of the worst tangles of my fly fishing career, and that is saying something. The other two morning catches favored the hares ear.

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A Bright Rainbow Adds to the Fish Count

After lunch I continued to plug along with the same flies for a bit, and I landed a nice brown on the hares ear to boost the fish count to five. The catch rate, however, slowed appreciably, and I spotted a pair of blue winged olives in the air. This observation prompted me to switch the salvation for a soft hackle emerger. The change did not spur instant results, however, and I covered a significant amount of water with no results. By the time I moved above the bridge below the Santa Fe, the fish count rested on seven as a result of two small fish that latched on to the hares ear.

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Lots of Boulder Hopping

I moved rather quickly through the long pool located above the bridge and next to my parked car, and then I arrived at another elongated pool next to the cabin on the side of the stream opposite the road. I spotted two rises near the tail of the deep center run, so I made the effort to remove three flies, and I tied on a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. The fish that rose previously ignored the tiny speck, but a prospecting cast prompted a darting rise from a small brown, and I moved the fish count to eight. Catching a fish on the microscopic dry fly boosted my spirits, so I made a long cast to the top left side of the long run. I lost sight of the tiny fly, so I lifted and found myself momentarily attached to a decent fish, but it managed to escape.

Above the long pool the river transformed into deep runs and pockets, so I shifted my strategy back to a hopper/dropper arrangement. I tied on a beige pool toy hopper, and then reattached the hares ear and soft hackle emerger. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast the threesome to deep pockets and runs, as I maneuvered my way around the bend and eventually exited thirty yards below Noel’s Draw. This period was the most productive segment of the day, as I incremented the fish count from eight to fourteen.

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Another Hungry Rainbow

Surprisingly the hares ear was the productive fly; whereas, I expected the soft hackle emerger to shine in the midst of the sparse BWO hatch. During this time one fish snatched the soft hackle emerger, and the rest nabbed the hares ear. At one point I landed three foul hooked fish in a row. I suspect these fish refused the pool toy, and when I recognized the splash in the glare, I reacted and pulled the trailing soft hackle emerger into the front fin.

It was a decent day, but most of the action took place between 2:30 and 4:30, when some clouds moved into the area. I could have skipped the noon until 2:30 time period and saved quite a bit of wear and tear on my arm. The wind was a factor from time to time, and I suffered some of the worst tangles of the season. I blame the tangles on the wind and casting three flies, which is always a challenge. I suspect a cooler overcast day would enhance the intensity of the blue winged olive hatch, so I will keep a watchful eye on the weather forecasts.

Fish Landed: 14

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