Big Thompson River – 5/29/11

Time: 9:30AM – 5:30PM

Location: Mile Marker 72 Near Handicapped Platform

Fish Landed: 12

Big Thompson River 05/29/2011 Photo Album

David Luther called earlier in the week to inform me he’d be in Estes Park for Memorial Day Weekend and asked if I’d like to join him for fishing. I agreed to meet him on Sunday. David called me on Saturday from Estes Park after fishing with a guide on Saturday, and we agreed to meet at 9AM at the pullout at mile marker 72 in the Big Thompson Canyon. I was a bit skeptical the fishing would be very good, as I noticed the flows were over 300.

It was quite cloudy and chilly as I drove to Estes Park and then along the Big Thompson in the canyon below Lake Estes. It would remain mostly cloudy all day with high temperatures probably in the low 60’s at best. I fished comfortably with a fleece and rain coat all day and wore a ski hat in the morning.

David arrived at around 9AM and I was already dressed in my waders and stringing my sage rod. The river was definitely up, but I was encouraged by the clarity and the number of slow pockets and pools where fish could hold. I walked down the road to the last point before the river raged over a chute and began fishing back toward the car. David L. would begin fishing 50 yards or so above me. I tied on a Chernobyl ant and then added a beadhead hares ear and below that an emerald caddis pupa. It didn’t take long before I’d land a colorful 10 inch rainbow and photographed it. I continued working up mostly in water tight to the bank and landed the occasional fish on the emerald caddis.

First Trout a Rainbow on Big Thompson

When I reached David L, he was nymphing with flies he’d purchased at Kirk’s Fly Shop in Estes Park, but not having any luck. I skipped around him and fished closer to the handicapped platform and landed a couple more fish. By noon I’d landed 5 trout, 4 rainbows and one brown. I hiked up the bank to go around the handicapped platform and noticed a recently arrived fisherman in the nice water above the parking lot before the 90 degree bend, so I looped back to David to discuss plans. I didn’t want to fish too far ahead of him.

Another Cast

We both decided to hike above the lot and fish further upstream. I entered just above the handicapped platform and David was going to fish an attractive run above a large drainage pipe, but then he noticed another fisherman hidden by the trees. As he began walking beyond the fishermen, the other fisherman and a companion decided to quit and left the targeted water for David. I covered the fishable water between me and David L fairly quickly and reached the lower end of the run that he was beginning to cover. At this point we began to notice some blue winged olives skittering on the water and some sporadic rises. I rearranged my flies and moved the emerald caddis to the top and added a beadhead RS2 to the bottom and cast this combination throughout the lower section of the run, but there were no takers.

Notice Water Level Over Stream Bank

The frequency of rises now increased so I decided to abandon the Chernobyl ant and droppers and go to a single CDC BWO fly. Over the next half hour or so I frantically cast the tiny dry to the 8-10 rising fish, and managed four momentary hookups but didn’t land any of them. David L continued to nymph and then finally added a small Adams parachute and elicited a refusal. Eventually the sun came out, the hatch diminished and the fish stopped rising so we decided to rest the water and return to the car for lunch.

Another Pretty Rainbow

After lunch we returned to the run and observed, but the hatch was off. David L. worked his nymphs through the mid-section and tail while I moved upstream and returned to the Chernobyl ant with the emerald caddis and beadhead RS2. I added a rainbow in a nice side slough before David arrived. This fish grabbed the RS2. David began fishing above me but got snagged on a branch along the far bank and managed to maneuver through the heavy flow to dislodge his fly. Since he was close to the bank away from the road, he decided to remain on that side of the river while I fished up along the road.

Between 2 and 3 in the afternoon it became partly cloudy and another sparser BWO hatch transpired. During this time I stayed with the RS2 as I didn’t see surface rises and picked up five more trout, four rainbows and one brown. The brown was notable in that it rose and slurped in the Chernobyl ant. One of the fish took the emerald caddis and the remainder went for the RS2.

Watching the Indicator Ball

By around 4:30 I was feeling pretty tired so I hiked back down the river to a point across from David L. and watched him work his nymphs. While I watched he caught several fish, so I decided to go deep with my nymphs and work my way back up through the juicier spots I’d already covered. While fishing in this manner I hooked three fish and landed one. I switched out the emerald caddis for a large size 12 beadhead hares ear, and one of the fish I lost broke off at the beadhead hares ear knot. This fish felt a bit heavier than the others.

We fished until around 5:30 when we decided to call it a day. David L. followed me in his rental car back to our home in Denver, and he joined us for a wonderful meal.

Leave a Reply