Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM
Location: E. Fork from where road crosses below yurts and then lower Brush Creek from above private water to above Sylvan Lake Road bridge
Fish Landed: 5
I was floating on a cloud of euphoria after two fun days of fishing on the Elk River in British Columbia. After one day of recovery on Monday, Jane and I drove to Eagle, CO to visit our friends the Gabourys at Eagle Ranch. Since we arrived around noon on Tuesday, and Dave Gaboury was tied up with an issue related to a company where he serves on the board of directors, I decided to skip fishing. Jane and I did a nice bike ride around Eagle Ranch that included a return on the cinder bike path that borders Brush Creek. I used this as an opportunity to scout the stream, and immediately I was struck by how low the water was compared to my previous visit in July.
Dave G. and I discussed fishing options on Wednesday morning. I reported tough fishing on July 30 and 31 on the Eagle River, and when Todd Grubin joined us for dinner on Thursday night, he confirmed that the last two weeks were slow. I suggested the East Fork of Brush Creek within Sylvan Lake State Park, and Dave G. quickly agreed. On Wednesday morning we packed our lunches, and I drove to a parking area along the East Fork just below the yurts that can be rented within the state park. Dave G. extended his tenkara rod, and I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. In addition I wore my Simms neoprene wading boots and prepared to wade wet for the first time.
The air temperature was cool and in the low 60’s as we began on the west side of the road and began working our way upstream. In fact initially I was concerned that I would need to return to the car to pull on my waders, as both legs felt numb from the frigid high elevation water. Fortunately as we began to fish, my thoughts turned away from cold legs and focused more on what flies might tempt these high elevation trout to rise. Dave G. elected to cast a renegade dry fly first, and I opted for Jake’s gulp beetle. It worked well over the weekend on the Elk River, so why would it not shine on this small creek with tall grass and vegetation on both sides. Surely beetles inhabited these plants, and the wind certainly deposited numerous quantities in the tumbling stream.
Dave G. connected first, and as I looked on, he landed several fish and experienced an equal number of refusals. Once he was done harassing the small fish in the first attractive pool, he ceded the upstream position to me. I flicked the beetle to a nice deep run, but there was no reaction. We continued playing hopscotch in this manner, and Dave G. continued to see more reaction to his fly than mine, so I switched to a size 12 peacock stimulator. After quite a bit of upstream wading, the stimulator finally duped a small brown trout, and I was on the scoreboard. Dave G. meanwhile was dissatisfied with the number of refusals created by his renegade, so he tied on a royal wulff.
After the stimulator registered one landed fish, it ceased to produce takes or even refusals, so I finally surrendered to adding a nymph dropper. I swapped the stimulator for a Chernobyl ant and then added a two foot tippet and a beadhead hares ear nymph. This improved my fortunes, and in a short deep run below some overhanging branches, the Chernobyl paused, and I made a quick hook set. I was shocked to see a substantial fish attached to the other end of my line, and when I eventually landed the feisty fighter, I discovered a thirteen inch brown trout in my net. A thirteen inch fish in the tiny East Fork is quite a catch, so I celebrated my good luck and moved on.
It did not take long before I saw another pause in the ant and set the hook, and this time I found an eight inch brook trout. The brook trout was so pretty that I could not resist taking a photo despite its relatively diminutive size. Dave G. seemed to be passing me at shorter intervals by now, and he was voicing displeasure over the lack of action. I pressed ahead, but I knew that his frustration level would likely put an end to the East Fork adventure shortly. Just before noon I landed a small six inch brookie in a smooth shallow pool behind a large rock, and then I caught up to Dave G., and we decided to move downstream to Brush Creek in Eagle Ranch. Although I landed four fish in two hours, the action was admittedly rather slow, and I was amenable to making a change.
We thrashed through some thick bushes until we reached the dirt road, and then we walked back to the Santa Fe and tossed our gear in the back. A brief fifteen minute drive brought us to the bridge on Sylvan Lake Road where I parked, and we grabbed our rods and tromped across a grassy field to the upstream border between the private water and the public Eagle Ranch section. Here we once again began playing the game of hopscotch as we worked our way upstream. The creek in Eagle Ranch was relatively low, although probably normal for the middle of August. The low clear conditions dictated much caution as one approached and cast to the deeper runs and pools.
Dave G. immediately began to experience success on his dropper, however, I was unable to unlock the secret code to catching these Eagle Ranch brown trout. I stuck to the Chernobyl ant and hares ear for awhile, but after a half hour with no success I switched back to Jake’s gulp beetle. This was rudely ignored, so I reverted to the Chernobyl ant with a hares ear and again the combination failed to excite fish. I swapped the hares ear for an ultra zug bug and then a salvation nymph, and none of these combinations put any weight on the end of my rod. Eventually I returned to the hares ear and picked up a six inch brown.
Dave G. began like a ball of fire, but after his initial success, he also found the fishing quite challenging. After two hours of difficult fly fishing on Brush Creek, we surrendered to the wild fish and called it a day. Wednesday on Brush Creek was disappointing, but the weather was pleasant and the scenery was outstanding. The August doldrums have officially arrived, and I now plan to seek out high elevation creeks and tailwaters to offset the impact of high temperatures and low flows.