Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Upper river above no parking bend and then below special regulation boundary after lunch
Fish Landed: 14
After landing two fish on the North Platte I was feeling unfulfilled and in need of some fish to bend my rod. With another day available to fish and high temperatures in Denver projected to be 85, I decided to make another fishing trip. I was weary of driving after the long haul to North Park so I checked the flows on the Big Thompson. They had dropped to 90 cfs over the past two days and that is still a bit high for late September but much improved over the 150 cfs spike I experienced on my last trip. I left my gear in the car so packed a lunch and filled my Camelback, and I was off by around 8:30AM.
As I drove down the canyon from Estes Park I was looking for a stretch where the sun was hitting the water, and I found a nice area a couple miles below the dam. After rigging up I hiked down the road a bit to the bend and noticed some no trespassing signs, so I reversed approximately twenty yards and cut down to the water through some dense willows. I tied on a Chernobyl ant and a hares ear nymph as the dropper and began flicking in the likely pockets and pools. In short order I had a couple refusals to the Chernobyl and then a ten inch brown darted up and inhaled the large foam imitation. For the next two hours I worked my way upstream mostly on the left bank away from the road and picked up two more trout on the Chernobyl. I was getting five refusals for every fish that succumbed, and this frustrated me. I went through a period where I tried a caddis, a royal stimulator, a gray parachute hopper, and a yellow Letort hopper; but none of these ever created refusals so I returned to the Chernobyl ant.
Toward the end of the morning I began to observe midges so I added a black ribbed midge larva below the hares ear. There was a tough lie ahead where some branches hung out over the water so I side armed a cast beneath the branch and let the three flies drift back along the bank in the shadows. As I lifted to pull the flies at the end of the drift a brown darted out and grabbed one of the nymphs. I landed a nice twelve inch brown and amazingly it had taken the tiny midge larva.
At noon I exited the river and drove downstream to the handicapped platform area hoping to jump in around the bend and fish back up toward Grandpa’s Retreat. Just about every pullout was now occupied by a fisherman vehicle, and this amazed me for a river that doesn’t produce very sizable fish. I ate my lunch on the bank while watching another fisherman work his way upstream with no apparent success. I returned my lunch bag to the car and gathered my fishing gear and walked around the bend on the highway and then cut down to the water twenty yards above the bend. Much to my chagrin as I pulled back the willows to enter the water another fisherman in a blue shirt appeared. I acknowledged his presence and did a quick U-turn.
What should I do now? I decided to drive back downstream below the special regulation boundary, and as I did so, I spotted two pullouts near two stretches of water where the gradient didn’t appear to be too severe. I parked and walked down the road to a point where I thought I could scramble across the rocks and through the willows. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought and the water was rushing quite rapidly forcing me to contort myself to move upstream tight to the willows and shrubs.
But once I got in a decent position the fishing heated up quickly. I landed four rainbows on the BHHE in a half hour or so after lunch. Once I moved past the thick streamside vegetation to where the river flowed next to some large rocks next to the road, the fishing slowed. I was still able to pick up fish, but not in every likely pocket like I’d experienced in the less accessible area. Over the course of the next couple hours I added four more fish mostly on the hares ear, but a couple on the Chernobyl as well. By 3 o’clock I’d reached twelve, and I was pretty satisfied with my day.
I arrived at a nice deep pool across from me and I could spot at least six fish, two at the tail and four at the midpoint up to the head. By now a sparse hatch of BWO’s began to emerge so I added a RS2 below my Chernobyl and hares ear and experienced a brief hook up with a fish in the middle part of the pool. The fish seemed to be showing no interest in my RS2 so I decided to go deep with a split shot and strike indicator. Just as on Thursday on the North Platte, this had no impact, yet I could see the fish and they seemed to be eating something. Finally I watched a single fish for awhile and noticed it rose to the surface once. It was the only surface rise I saw, but because of the lack of success with other methods, I decided to go to a CDC BWO.
I cast the tiny tuft towards the tail and immediately had a refusal from a small brown. I worked the middle and then the top of the pool where I cast downstream and let the eddy bring the fly back to the heart of the eddy. After flailing with no action for ten minutes or so, I sent a cast downstream to the tail again. When the tiny tuft of gray got to the end of the drift it did a little curl and hop. Normally drag is the enemy of a fisherman, but in this instance it aroused a nice brown trout who swirled and inhaled the tiny fly as it skipped across the water. The tiny drag must have imitated a natural trying to escape the surface film. I landed the brown and photographed and then caught one more nine inch rainbow in the middle of the pool before calling it quits for the day.