Time: 10:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Pingree Park area.
After landing two fish per day in three days of fishing in the Middle Park area of Colorado, I was quite anxious to return to a different place to determine if August conditions existed elsewhere in the state during the middle of July. I suspected that the Colorado River below Shadow Mountain was a marginal fishery, but it was within walking distance of the campsite, so very little time was invested to access the river for a few hours. It was my idea to drive to the Breeze Unit section of the Colorado River. I read fly shop reports that said fishing was excellent with yellow sallies, pale morning duns and caddis in abundance. Perhaps we fished during the wrong time of the day, but the level of success was not worth the constant skirmishes with clouds of mosquitoes. The Colorado River near Parshall fished like it was the middle of August.
My friend John suggested fishing on the North Fork of the Colorado River from the North Inlet Trail on Wednesday. The wildlife viewing was perhaps the best I ever witnessed, but I was not prepared for the low clear slow moving water in a meadow environment. Some sparse hatches developed, and I spotted a lot of fish, but the bright sun and clear water created very challenging conditions. I was ready for a change, as I reviewed the stream flows closer to Denver along the Front Range. All except Bear Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain remained quite elevated, so I once again made plans to fish the Cache la Poudre River on Friday July 21.
I departed Denver at 7:20AM, and fortunately the traffic was relatively light, thus allowing me to pull into a narrow parking space along CO 14 by 9:30. Many pullouts were occupied along the highway in the lower canyon, so I was pleased to find some open water in the Pingree Park special regulation section. The air was quite warm with temperatures in the upper seventies, as I prepared to fish between 9:30 and 10:00. I considered wet wading, but the weather forecast predicted afternoon thundershowers, and I was not inclined to fish in wet pants without the benefit of the strong radiant energy of the sun.
I strung my Loomis two piece five weight and crossed the highway and then angled down a gradual wash until I reached the river. The Poudre continued to flow in a strong manner, although there was notably more space along the edge for wading than I encountered on my previous trip on July 13. I began my effort to land some cold water beauties with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph; and I managed to land one small brown trout that nipped the salvation. Unfortunately the more prevalent scenario was splashy refusals and aborted looks at the pool toy.
After twenty minutes of being snubbed by the trout, I removed the dry/dropper configuration and switched to a solo size 14 yellow stiimulator. This fly produced some action in the morning during my last trip, so I hoped the same result would ensue. The stimulator did in fact enable me to increment the fish count to five, but the four additional landed fish were carbon copies of the first and consistently in the 6-7 inch range. The quality of the water that I covered suggested that larger residents were present, but they did not seem inclined to eat what I was offering. In addition the yellow stimulator was not immune to refusals, so I made another change to a size 14 harrop green drake and then a gray stimulator. The green drake move was an attempt to take advantage of the known propensity of trout to recognize the large mayflies. The gray stimulator trial presumed that body color was the deterrent to fish eating the yellow version, but the gray attractor produced one additional small brown, and fewer looks and refusals.
I remained at six small fish at 11:40 when I encountered a family picnicking along the river next to a huge pool. I was a harsh critic of the fishing options in Middle Park during the earlier part of the week, but perhaps the Poudre and other streams in Colorado were only marginally better? I circled around the family and cut back to the river twenty yards above them. The father had a spinning rod, but he did not seem to be the type of fisherman who would progress quickly upstream to the area I now occupied.
I found a nice wide flat rock and removed my packs and munched on my lunch, as I observed the river. Very little was happening in the form of aquatic insect activity, so I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach, but in the afternoon I utilized a size 10 Chernobyl ant as the top fly. I was actually hopeful that the fish would not be attracted to the radioactive ant and therefore would molest the trailing nymphs. The strategy paid off and between noon and 2PM I lifted the fish count from six to eighteen. I moved fairly quickly, and I began to discern the types of river structure favored by the trout, at least the trout that were willing to eat the flies that I was offering.
I essentially skipped over the large deep pools with only a couple token casts to the tail and very top where fast water entered. The large deep center sections were unproductive, so I used the time saved to focus my attention on pockets, runs, and wide riffles of moderate depth. Quite often I was pleasantly surprised to engage with trout in these surroundings. The average size of the fish also improved in the early afternoon, and I estimate that 75% of the trout favored the salvation nymph with the remainder willing to accept the hares ear.
By 2:30 I met three obstacles to my progression up the Cache la Poudre River. The first was a bridge where CO 14 passed over the river. Of course this was a temporary intrusion on the fun day that was evolving. Second was a group of fishermen. One jumped in the river twenty yards above me, but he was in and out in a short amount of time. But as I grew closer to the bridge, another young gentleman appeared, and he was clearly an impediment, since he was about to begin casting. We exchanged greetings, and he suggested that nice water existed between his position and the bridge, so I circled around him and jumped back in. I fished two normally attractive spots with no action, so I began to suspect that he previously covered the water or disturbed it via casts or wading.
I began to reel in my flies, and as I did so, the third hurdle to continuing my enjoyable day appeared. Some dark gray clouds that heretofore were a distant nuisance, now hovered over my head, and some rumbling sounds reminded me that a storm was in the neighborhood. I quickly removed my packs, undid my suspenders, pulled my raincoat from the backpack, and slid it over my shirt. I was bit late in this endeavor, as my light olive fishing shirt could attest, as large wet olive blotches spread over my arms and chest. For the most part, however, I remained dry, and I decided to return to the car to move above the bridge, while the storm delivered its worst fury. The plan was solid, but the .5 mile return hike to the car was a dampening experience. As I exited the trees below the river, I noted that three vehicles were parked along the road, and two displayed rod vaults. Clearly I needed to leave and find more space.
I proceeded west and grabbed the first pullout beyond the bridge. I decided to fish the same area that I covered on my first 2017 visit to the Cache la Poudre on July 7. I hiked east toward the bridge a short distance, and then I found a gap in the brush and approached the edge of the river. By now the rain subsided, and I was uncertain what impact the twenty minutes of steady downpour would have on the fishing. Although I was pleased with a fish count of eighteen, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of insect activity. Did the overcast conditions and rain delay any impending emergence?
As I began to cast the Chernobyl/hares ear/salvation alignment, I did in fact begin to notice a few random mayflies that were likely pale morning duns. Yellow sallies never made an appearance, and green drakes were conspicuous by their absence. Caddis were present along the rocks and streamside vegetation, and they occasionally dapped the surface of the river.
It did not take long before I discovered the impact of the storm. The trout of the Cache la Poudre exhibited a distinct affinity for the nymphs on my leader. Even though I never observed a significant number of adult mayflies, their nymphal stage must have been quite prevalent and active. Suddenly trout connected with my nymphs even when I cast the dry/dropper to small marginal slow moving pockets along the bank. In several cases I hooked fish as soon as the nynphs dropped below the surface, and I continue to be amazed by this phenomenon. The fish counter doubled from eighteen to thirty-six between three o’clock and 4:30 when I returned to my car.
It was a magical 1.5 hours of fishing. I moved quickly and rarely made more than four or five casts without hooking a fish. The size of the fish was another satisfying shift from the earlier part of the day, as several thirteen inch brown trout curled in my net after spirited battles. I learned that it pays to remain on the river after a storm, and that there are streams in Colorado that continue to produce hot fishing during the third week of July. I am already planning trips to other areas for next week, but I suspect that the Cache la Poudre may host me again in the near future.
Fish Landed: 36