Big Thompson River – 5/10/11

Time: 9:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Upstream from Waltonia Bridge at downstream end of catch and release

Fish Landed: 13

Big Thompson River 05/10/2011 Photo Album

Temperatures cooled somewhat from the balmy Mothers’ Day high of 85 and were expected to reach mid-70’s on Tuesday. I had a lull at work waiting for the office manager to catch up so I decided to take a fishing day. Jane and I had tickets for the Mets vs.Rockies at 6:40, so I needed to return earlier than normal.

I was weary of the long drive to the Arkansas River with high expectations and low returns, so I checked out the flows on alternatives as it was getting late in the pre-snowmelt season. I had seen the St.Vrain and Big Thompson on Sunday during our Mothers’ Day trip so I knew they were likely fishable. The Big T flows jumped from 65 to 95 on Monday, so I was a bit concerned, but decided to give it a try.

Nice Area with Lots of Slower Water

When I arrived in Estes Park to make the turn to the river I looked at the thermometer in the car, and it was 43 degrees. I kept checking it as I drove down the canyon along the river to the Waltonia Bridge pullout, and it moved from 43 up to 50 by the time I parked. The river looked clear but higher than ideal. I rigged my rod and walked upstream beyond the bridge. The water was pretty rapid here and somewhat murky with minimal slower water where fish could hold. But as I gazed down at one of the three foot wide slots along the rocky bank, I spotted a couple fish holding a foot or so below the surface. I tied on yellow Letort hopper and trailed a beadhead hares ear and then a beadhead emerald caddis. It wasn’t long before I hooked and landed a rainbow in one of the narrow slots along the rocks on the BHHE. The rest of the morning pretty much followed this routine. I skipped over a lot of rushing, churning water and fished only the soft slower moving pockets and pools along the right bank. The BHHE was out producing the caddis pupa, so I switched their positions fairly early.

First Spunky Rainbow

By 11AM I’d landed 8 trout, all rainbows and five on the BHHE and three on the emerald caddis. I returned to the car and immediately removed one of my layers as the sun was out and the air temperature was now 60. As I walked back to the car, I observed some nice slack water on the opposite bank so decided I’d try to cross the bridge and work up along the left bank. But as I was eating, I noticed a car and person moving about in the cabin behind the one closest to the stream. I wasn’t sure if I’d be trespassing if I crossed over to the other side as two cabins were moderately close to the stream, so I elected to drive back up the highway to the closest pullout to where I’d ended the morning and began fishing where I’d ended.

A Nice Rainbow

After lunch my catch rate slowed as I landed 5 more trout between 11:30 and 2PM. I attribute this to the fact that I was fishing along the highway where numerous fishermen access the river and apply pressure. Ironically I began to get more action on the emerald caddis so I reversed their positioning again. Two of the trout after lunch were browns and the remaining three rainbows. Four succumbed to the emerald caddis and one of the browns took the beadhead hares ear. There was minimal insect activity as the wind and air temperature warmed up. Facing a 1.5 hour drive back to Denver, the possibility of early rush hour traffic, and desiring to take a shower and gather up snacks and gear for the game caused me to quit at 2PM, and I was on the road at 2:30.

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