Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM
Location: Bottom boundary of catch and release water below dam
Fish Landed: 15
Jane and I had dinner guests on Friday night, and I got to bed too late to get up early and make the long drive to the Arkansas River as I planned, so I decided to visit the Big Thompson below Lake Estes instead. I left the house at around 8:30AM, and I was on the water fishing by 10:30AM. The flows were surprisingly high for early September, and this was confirmed when I checked them on Sunday, 150 cfs. I probably would have gone somewhere else had I checked beforehand.
I began fishing at the downstream boundary of the catch and release water approximately eight miles below the dam. Initially I tied on a caddis dry fly, but this produced only a few refusals so I switched to a yellow Letort hopper trailing a beadhead hares ear. This also began producing refusals so I swapped out the Letort hopper for a Chernobyl ant. I fished a fifty yard stretch from below the bridge to the bend with only a few refusals. When I got to the small bend and water that was not as easy to fish from the road, I began to catch fish. The Chernobyl began producing as well as the BHHE. In some nice water where the stream spread out into a lot of small pockets, I began to score with increasing frequency and finally broke for lunch at around noon with a fish count of nine. These fish were predominantly rainbows with a few browns mixed in and the size was 7-9 inches.
I returned to the car for lunch and decided to drive back upstream a bit and park where I would resume fishing. I ate my lunch on the rocky bank overlooking the river, and spotted several fish in an eddy opposite me, but they were in a spot that was nearly impossible to cast to from my bank. After lunch I walked down the shoulder of the road to a point above a narrow chute where white water thrashed through some rocks making fishing impossible. I continued catching fish mainly on the Chernobyl ant but with less frequency than the last hour of the morning. The size of the fish was improving and most of my catches were tight along the bank.
I’m certain that I could have caught more fish if I could have accessed the south bank, but the high flows made crossing dangerous and drag free drifts with the intervening swift current were nearly impossible. Toward the end of the day I spotted a decent fish in a small pocket downstream of a boulder hugging the bank. The fish showed itself briefly when it darted toward the surface to refuse the Chernobyl ant. I patiently made a few more casts, and eventually the rainbow made a subtle move and I hooked and landed a nice fish on a small beadhead RS2.
On another occasion I hooked a left handed cast around some overhanging branches and saw a rise and hooked a nice rainbow. I executed the cast and hook set entirely with my left hand. There were small mayflies emerging sporadically between 3PM and 4PM which is what caused me to tie on the RS2, but there were never enough to spur any surface feeding and I stayed largely with the Chernobyl/dropper approach. At the very end of the day I drove a bit further upstream to just below the handicapped platform and watched the water for a while without casting. I spotted many caddis and a few BWO’s, so I rigged up with a strike indicator and yellow caddis pupa and RS2 and worked a nice deep run repeatedly, but my flies didn’t receive any attention. As the shadows covered the river, I placed my flies in the hook keep and returned to the car and made the return trip.