Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM
Location: Lee Martinez Park
Meeting a new friend and discovering unfamiliar water were the goals for Thursday, March 9, and I can report with great enthusiasm that both objectives were met. I departed from Stapleton at 8:05 and arrived at new friend Trevor’s house by 9AM, and that was the time we set for our meeting. I transferred my gear into Trevor’s vehicle which sported a rod vault on the roof, and we were on our way to Ft. Collins to fish the Cache la Poudre River.
I connected with Trevor, AKA @rockymtnangler, through Instagram; and we quickly realized that we frequented many of the same front range streams, thus our rendezvous on Thursday. Trevor is a pharmacist, and he has been fly fishing for five years, and he is an accomplished adventurer in Rocky Mountain National Park. I hope to learn a lot from this young man about fishing high mountain lakes during the summer of 2017, although he quickly informed me that accessing the trailheads in RMNP during the prime summer season requires arrival at sunrise. On another level Trevor was a successful lefthanded pitcher at Longmont High School, and since I also carry a baseball pedigree, we possessed another experience in common.
After a short drive north on I25 Trevor pulled into a parking space at Lee Martinez Park on the northern edge of thriving Ft. Collins, CO. Trevor extracted his already strung rod from the rod vault, and I was quite jealous, as I struggled to match his head start. I chose my Sage four weight, as it is light enough for a small stream, but the fast action performs reasonably well in windy conditions. The air temperature was already at sixty degrees as we embarked on the bike path to the river, and a breeze rustled the trees as a harbinger of what was in our future. Trevor fished the Cache la Poudre within the town limits once before, so he led the way.
We crossed a narrow pedestrian bridge to the north side of the river and then circled to a huge smooth pool that extended fifty yards through the natural park. Immediately Trevor spotted a pod of rises, and our expectations soared. On Trevor’s previous visit he encountered a blue winged olive hatch at 10AM, so we crossed our fingers that history would repeat itself. Trevor cautiously waded into the pool between some large overhanging trees and in front of a log jam that extend from the opposite bank. I meanwhile circled above and entered at the top of the pool below a long gravel bar. Several fish were rising thirty feet below me, and I surmised that a downstream approach was in order, so that the feeding fish would see the fly before the leader and fly line.
Given Trevor’s encounter with small mayflies I assumed that the fish were feeding on blue winged olives, so I knotted a size 24 to my line and paused to observe the water and plan a strategy. It was nearly impossible to take a small step without sending small ripples across the pool. Before I could attempt my first cast Trevor shouted that he had a take but pulled the fly from the fish’s mouth. A few minutes later he checked his line and learned that he actually broke the fly off in the trout’s mouth. Needless to say this elevated my heart rate. If I was lucky enough to induce a take, I pledged to pause before executing a hook set, since downstream drifts are more prone to stripping the fly upstream and out of a fish’s mouth.
Finally I was ready, and I launched a long cast, and I checked it high to allow a large amount of slack to fall to the water. The slack slowly uncoiled as the fly drifted down the center of the pool, and my pulse raced when a fish sipped a natural within inches of my fly. Not a good sign. Two fish were rising within reach of my casts, and I managed to make ten drifts with no assault on my flies, before the wind gusted with relentless force down the river. This sudden rush of air placed a significant chop on the surface, but then when the blast subsided a flurry of feeding rises ensued. This series of events happened a second time, and this made me suspect that perhaps ants were deposited in the stream by the wind, and the fish were reacting.
I replaced the BWO with a parachute ant and covered the area of rising fish with ten more casts, but my theory did not explain the feeding habits of the fish, and I remained a frustrated fisherman. Trevor meanwhile registered another refusal or momentary hookup. After a half hour next to a pool with at least ten rising fish, the feeding halted, and we decided to explore the upstream sections of the river.
The next area was characterized be several long deep pools along the south bank, but as we moved away from the large pool, we realized that the flows were extremely low, and this foreshadowed challenging fishing. Wind and low flows are a difficult combination. After another half hour of futile casting we approached a place where a concrete wall bordered the river on the north side, and as I paused, I noticed a pair of subtle rises within six inches of the bank. By now I converted to a dry/dropper configuration with a size 16 gray stimulator as the surface fly, and a beadhead hares ear that dangled eighteen inches below. I was skeptical that the rising fish would show any interest in the stimulator, but perhaps a drifting hares ear might represent a tasty temptation.
I executed a few casts eight feet above the rise, but they were not close enough to the bank, so I picked up the line and delivered another shot closer. I was fearful of lodging the trailing hares ear in the vegetation, but the stimulator rested a foot from the bank, and I managed to avoid a snag. I carefully watched the dry fly bob with the current for a few feet, and then before it reached the target area where a fish previously rose, the bushy imitation dipped, and I instantly set the hook. Imagine my shock and state of euphoria when a seventeen inch rainbow flashed near the surface. How could my fortunes turn in such an abrupt manner during these challenging early March conditions?
I shouted to Trevor and carefully maintained tension until I elevated the glistening prize over the lip of my net. The fish caused a huge sag, and in the same instant that it slid over the rim, the hares ear released. The timing of the hook release was amazingly advantageous. Trevor kindly halted his efforts and quickly crossed the stream and snapped off a barrage of photos. Even now I am amazed at the stroke of good fortune that enabled me to land the largest fish of the season under difficult low water conditions within the town of Ft. Collins. By the end of my fishing day I would discover that the rainbow catch was a significant aberration.
Once the excitement of the fortuitous catch wore off, we gathered our senses and proceeded farther west. The river at this point consisted of long stretches of shallow riffles through medium sized rounded boulders, but intermittently we encountered a section with some depth that suggested the possibility of fish. Twenty minutes after the catch of the day, I approached one such location where two braids of the river merged below a small island and formed a slow moving pool that was thirty yards long. I waded to the bottom of the deep section, and as I prepared to cast the dry/dropper combination, a fish showed itself on the left side with a subtle rise. I shot several casts above the scene of the surface feed, but this failed to generate a response, so I progressed with additional casts, as I moved from left to right. Once again failing to interest any fish I shot a cast back toward the left, and after an eight foot drift, the dry fly submerged, and I rapidly raised the four weight and found myself attached to a chunky eleven inch brown trout. My confidence in the hares ear surged, as I flicked it from the wild brown trout lip, and my expectations for the remainder of the day elevated.
Alas, the renewed confidence was unfounded, as Trevor and I pressed on upstream. In truth the quality of the water deteriorated, and our advance required longer and longer intervals to skip uninteresting shallow riffles. In addition the wind announced an upgrade in ferocity that compromised accuracy greatly. By 2PM we decided to reverse our direction and hit some of the prime spots on the return. In a nice angled run 15 yards above the scene of my rainbow conquest, Trevor managed a temporary connection. We made a final curtain call in the large pool above the bridge, as I spotted a couple sipping rises. Not wishing to disturb the water with a beadhead dropper, I replaced the hares ear with a parachute ant, but after two upstream casts to the scene of the rises, the surface show ended.
We called it quits at 2:30 and hoofed the short distance back to the parking lot and car. Trevor and I agreed it was a slow day, but fun nonetheless to be outdoors in early March. For me the two trout and especially the rainbow were a bonus. I met a new fishing partner face to face, and he introduced me to a stretch of water that suggests future opportunities at higher flows. It was all good.
Fish Landed: 2