Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM
Location: Between MM 86 and 85 below the fish hatchery
As I reviewed my Colorado fishing guide book searching for rivers and streams that featured green drake hatches, I encountered the Cache la Poudre River west of Fort Collins. I paused and remembered two fun fishing trips to the Poudre in 2015 after ignoring the fine northern Front Range river for many years. I searched my blog and read the post from August 3, 2015 and realized that my text documented fishing to green drakes in early August.
I was seeking a destination to fish on Thursday and Friday July 14-15, and the Poudre fit the bill. I promised to do a hike with Jane on Friday morning, so she agreed to accompany me, and we departed by 8:20AM on Thursday morning. In early August of 2015 we camped for one night at the Kelly Flats Campground, as we broke in our new Big Agnes tent, and we enjoyed the central location and decided to target the same campground for Thursday night. As we traveled west through the Cache la Poudre Canyon, we passed the Mountain Campground and noticed a campground full sign.
This caused us some concern, but we attributed the capacity crowd to proximity to the popular whitewater rafting section of the river. Unfortunately when we arrived at the next campground to the west, Kelly Flats, we were disappointed to discover the same full sign. Now we were in scramble mode, and we did not pack any of our maps or guidebooks that identified campgrounds in the area. We both remembered a campground called Big Bend farther to the west that we utilized when the kids were young, so we set that as our new fall back.
Big Bend necessitated an additional ten mile drive, and we held our breath as we turned on to the dirt entry lane. We both exhaled in relief, when we recognized the absence of the dreaded campground full sign and found nice shaded campsite seven. We had a home for one night. I was now positioned much farther west than I planned, so my choice of fishing location also required flexibility. I remembered reading that some of the best water was the special regulation section near the fish hatchery, and our campground was just west of that facility.
After setting up the tent and canopy, I ate my lunch and pulled on my waders, and departed for a yet unknown section of the Cache la Poudre River downstream from the fish hatchery in the restricted area. I ended up choosing a section between mile markers 85 and 86. Quite a few fishermen gravitated to the water just below the hatchery, but I was deterred by both the smooth long pools and the presence of more competing anglers.
The weather was nearly perfect although perhaps a bit warm for fish with the high reaching eighty degrees amid beautiful clear blue skies. When I descended the steep bank to the edge of the river, I was please to encounter high but manageable flows. The volume of water made it difficult to fish most of the river except for the edge, but the water was low enough to enable safe relatively easy wading along the bank.
I began my quest for Poudre River trout with a size eight Chernobyl ant, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph; and these flies remained on my line for the first twelve fish I landed. The first three shelf pools failed to produce, but then at 12:45 things heated up. During the 12:45 – 2:00 time period I fished deep pockets and slots along the bank, and nearly every promising spot yielded a fish. Especially productive locations featured a large boulder at the end of a deep pocket, and quite a few fish nabbed the salvation when I lifted the flies to make another cast. 75% of the twelve fish snatched the salvation, and the remainder savored the hares ear nymph. The twelve netted fish included three browns in the thirteen inch range, and I read in the guide book that this size approaches lunker status for the Cache la Poudre. Needless to say, I was quite pleased with my early afternoon fishing performance.
While my fish count remained on twelve, I hooked a fish that streaked downstream and ripped line from my reel at an alarming rate. After thirty yards of line stretched between me and the fish, I realized it was impossible to follow the torpedo over the large rocks, so I broke it off, and upon eventual examination discovered that all three flies were missing. For some reason I messed with success and rigged anew with a fat Albert, hares ear and size eighteen pheasant tail. After this change the catch rate slowed considerably, and I am not sure if the change of flies or a reduction in available insects explained the slowdown. The catch rate was slower, but I did mange to land two small fish during this period. One snared the pheasant tail and the other latched on to the beadhead hares ear.
Number fifteen was special. The slow action caused me to revert to the Chernobyl ant as the top fly, and I replaced the pheasant tail with a dark brown marabare. I was consuming my salvation nymphs at an alarming rate, so I decided to experiment with some close approximations. I lifted a cast to a nice deep run where two currents merged downstream from a large rock, and as the Chernoyl drifted slowly through the seam, and large mouth appeared and chomped down on the large foam impostor. Wham! I set the hook and managed to contain the energetic combatant within ten feet of my position, and I eventually scooped a bright rainbow in my net. I cannot remember ever catching a rainbow trout from the Cache la Poudre in previous visits, and now I held a chunky fourteen inch beauty in my hands.
Amazingly I moved on, and the very next fish was another rainbow trout. After failing to catch rainbows, I was now in a rainbow trout hotspot, although this specimen was only a feisty ten incher, and it slammed the marabare. Between three and four o’clock I continued prospecting with the dry/dropper and landed five additional fish. All were pretty small except for a twelve inch brown trout that also made the mistake of gulping the Chernobyl ant, and I paused to photograph the dry fly eater. Three of the other five crunched the hares ear and one nabbed the marabare.
It was a fun 3.5 hours of fishing with the hottest action transpiring between 1 and 2PM. I spotted one green drake and a handful of pale morning duns and a few caddis, but the insect density was never enough to prompt rising fish. Everything seemed to fall in place on Thursday, and I anxiously anticipated another day of outstanding fishing on the Cache la Poudre River on Friday.
Fish Landed: 21