Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM
Location: Above Mountain Park Campground and a picnic area downstream of the narrows area
Fish Landed: 7
Jane and I joined Debbie and Lonnie Maddox on a fun bike ride in Fort Collins on Friday, and the route included a brief stretch along the Cache la Poudre River. On Sunday Jane and I decided to undertake a fishing trip, and as I surveyed the stream options, I remembered that the Poudre looked clear and inviting as a destination. It had been many years since I fished the Poudre, but on Friday I realized that the distance from our house on the north side of Denver to the Poudre was actually shorter than trips to the South Platte River and Arkansas River. I checked out the St. Peter’s Fly Shop report on the internet, and this favorable piece of information clinched my decision.
Sunday turned out to be a nearly perfect day from a weather perspective. I inserted the word nearly because I did face my spring nemesis – strong wind. As Jane and I drove west along route 14 into the canyon, we noticed the limbs of the evergreens bending eastward as a result of the strong air currents. Sure enough when we parked along the highway just above the Mountain Park Campground, and I opened the car door, a blast of chilly air created a wind tunnel in the Kia Forte.
We had made the drive, so I resolved to make the best of the situation, and pulled on a fleece and windbreaker along with my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. I chose my Sage four weight rod, and decided to walk downstream along the shoulder for fifty yards and then dropped down to the river. The flow was around 120 cfs and this seemed to be nearly ideal to someone who does not have much experience on this northern Colorado waterway. The clarity of the water could not have been better, and in fact dictated stealth and caution when approaching pools.
Because of the strong headwind, I did not even consider a dry/dropper or dry fly approach and instead opted immediately for a nymphing rig. I attached a bright red indicator and then knotted a beadhead ultra zug bug to my line in the upper position, and below that I added a beadhead hares ear. I fished a nice deep run along the north bank with these nymphs and before long I hooked and landed a brown trout and then a small rainbow. I continued moving upstream looking for depth as the river had many wide shallow spots. I covered some juicy deep holes with no results, and then I spotted a couple small baetis tumbling along the surface of the stream. This observation prompted me to remove the hares ear and replace with a beadhead RS2. Over the next hour I covered quite a bit of river and managed to hook up with two more brown trout.
The third fish came from a short pocket in front of a large vertical boulder on the north side of the river. I had pretty much given up on the spot when I allowed my flies to drift deep under the rock; a risky move that exposed my flies to snagging. It paid off however as a twelve inch brown grabbed the RS2, and I brought the hungry native to my net.
As I continued wading the south bank I reached Jane who was bundled in a blanket and multiple layers behind a large rock. She did not seem to be enjoying herself excessively, so I resolved to quit at 3PM. I prospected the subsurface flies farther upstream and added the fourth trout, but just before 3 I retreated to a point where the stream fanned out enough to offer a safe crossing point. When I reached Jane, we decided to drive back downstream so I could give one more spot a try.
Our second location was a nice picnic area just east of the narrows section. A gate blocked our ability to drive to the picnic area parking lot, so we parked in a small pull out just beyond the entrance. We walked down the paved road to the last picnic table where Jane prepared to read, and I walked down along the south bank for another fifty yards until I found a beautiful wide run and pool with a depth of four to five feet. The sparse blue winged olive hatch seemed to end, so I reverted to the ultra zug bug and hares ear combination and added a split shot in order to get my flies deeper in the beautiful run in front of me.
The strategy paid dividends as I landed two browns from the best stretch of water of the day. I continued upstream to some deep slots below protruding boulders, and here I managed to land a third fish from the picnic area location. At this point I reached Jane, and fifteen minutes remained in my allotted hour of fishing time, so I moved to the slow deep pool next to the main portion of the picnic grounds. A tall bearded fly fisherman was at the top of the run that entered the pool, and this is the water I craved. I made some halfhearted casts to the slow section at the tail and midsection of the pool, but as I expected nothing materialized. The water above the long pool was wide and shallow and quite marginal, so I returned to Jane and called it quits.
Despite the stiff wind I managed seven trout in three hours and thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering a stream that escaped my interest for twenty years. I will certainly return to this northern Front Range gem to do additional exploration during 2015.