Big Thompson River – 10/23/2011

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Noel’s Draw and Next Bridge

Fish Landed: 9

Big Thompson River 10/23/2011 Photo Album

Fishing is supposed to be a quiet non-competitive pastime and an escape from life’s many constant pressures, but for some reason I keep falling into the trap of counting fish and achieving goals. The last two outings in October exceeded my expectations and brought me within 18 of 2010’s cumulative total of 530. Was it possible to catch another 18 fish and equal last year’s total? Sunday was forecast to be yet another warm late October day with highs in Denver in the 70’s, so I decided to give fly fishing another try. I drove to the Big Thompson below Lake Estes and arrived and prepared to fish by approximately 11:30AM. I discovered that the fishing doesn’t heat up until early afternoon with the cold nighttime temperatures requiring more sun to warm the water to an optimal feeding range.

I elected to walk below the bridge to the next bend and began fishing my way back upstream toward the Santa Fe. I tied on one of the light gray deer hair caddis I’d made in preparation for the trip to Wildcat Canyon and began flicking casts to the likely holding spots. After working my way upstream 15 yards, I made an across stream cast in front of a large rock tight to the opposite bank, and a decent rainbow tipped up and sucked in the caddis. This was an auspicious start to my day, and I continued working my way upstream to the bridge. In another spot tight to the bank and below a rock, a fish flashed to my fly but refused it possibly due to the start of some drag.

First Fish of the Day

I carefully waded through the darkness under the bridge and came to a wide relatively shallow area. I startled several nice fish as I began to cast and didn’t meet with any success until I moved further upstream to a narrower chute section. I wasn’t drawing additional interest in the caddis, so I tied on a cream body parachute hopper, but that fly also didn’t produce looks or takes. Following the script of the Wildcat Canyon trip, I added a beadhead hares ear nymph dropper to the parachute hopper, and this finally produced a second trout, a small brown, on the BHHE. I was now positioned below a steep bank directly opposite the Santa Fe so I climbed out of the water and negotiated the large rocks and ate part of my lunch. I tuned in the Broncos to discover they were losing 6-0 to Miami at the start of the fourth quarter.

After lunch I resumed fishing the hopper/dropper combination and covered quite a bit of water from the car upstream and around the bend beyond the tidy cabin on the road side of the river. I landed another four fish, all on the BHHE and was feeling better about the day; however, the water I was anticipating was behind the cabin as this was where I had great good fortune on my last visit catching very nice rainbows. Unfortunately the water was totally covered in shade in this area, and the air was quite chilly without the benefit of the sun. I also had difficulty seeing the large upright white wing on the parachute hopper. I wasn’t generating any action or even refusals and was getting quite chilled so I decided to call it a day at six and around 3PM.

I trudged back to the car, but then decided to walk over the bridge and check out the water I’d begun fishing in the late morning. The sun was still shining on most of the water downstream for 50 to 75 yards below the bridge, so I kept walking until I reached the point where shade was encroaching. I hustled down over some rocks and tied an olive body caddis to my leader. It didn’t take long before a decent rainbow flashed to the surface as the fly bobbed along a current seam, and I eagerly landed number seven. I continued working upstream at a rapid pace making no more than three casts in likely spots and by the time I’d reached my starting point I’d landed two more fish to total nine on the day. Fishing in the sunlit sections of the river appeared to produce more ready fish than the chilly shadows.

Another Pretty Rainbow

By 4PM the shadows were beginning to migrate across the stream in all areas, so I clipped my fly in the rod guide and returned to the car to prepare for the drive home. As I walked across the bridge I paused and observed the water. I could discern the outlines of at least ten trout in the wide shallow area just above the bridge. One fish appeared to be a brown trout at least 15 inches in length, but my presence high above on the bridge appeared to spook many of the fish.  I decided not to approach from below and attempt to increase my numbers, and I made a mental note of the spot, and I’ll be there again at some future date. Maybe I’m learning to relax and enjoy the day and worry less about the numbers. Maybe.

Pretty Stretch of Big Thompson

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