Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: Pingree Park area
I enjoyed some outstanding visits to the Cache la Poudre during 2017, so after reading some encouraging reports from local fly shops, I was very anxious to make the two hour drive to the freestone river west of Ft. Collins. Friday was an open day, and we returned from our camping trip to the Flattops on Thursday, so I made the trek.
Friday’s high in Denver was 95 degrees, and the temperature in the Poudre canyon peaked in the low eighties. It was toasty, but fortunately the flows remained elevated from run off, and that held the water temperature in check. Even though the level was a bit high, wading was very manageable compared to trips in early July a year ago.
I parked along CO 14 in the Pingree Park area and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Cache la Poudre fish are typically on the small side and easily managed by the slender four weight, and I preserved my arm and elbow with a short light fly rod. I entered the river at 10:30 and selected a size 8 Chernobyl ant to join a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph.
During the first hour I slowly progressed upriver along the right bank and registered five small brown trout on the fish counter. These trout were in the 7-8 inch range, and I did not bother to use my net, since they would have simply passed through the wide openings. Most of the early trout snatched the salvation nymph, although quite a few trout elevated and refused the oversized Chernobyl. Given the preponderance of refusals, I modified my approach. I swapped the Chernobyl ant for a size 12 hippy stomper and persisted with the hares ear nymph dropper.
The new set up enabled me to increment the fish counter to seven, before I paused for lunch, and the two additional fish grabbed the trailing hares ear. After lunch I continued to offer the hippy stomper and hares ear and added a few more trout to my net, including an overzealous feeder that chowed down on the hippy stomper; but I cast to some reliable fish holding areas with no results, so I lost confidence in my offerings.
In previous years I enjoyed some success with stimulators, so I tested a size 14 yellow version in a few choice spots, but the fish were unimpressed with the high floating pretend yellow sally.
I decided to revert to the three fly dry/dropper approach, and for this adjustment in technique I selected a tan pool toy as the top fly. I was actually seeking an indicator that would not elicit refusals. Given the greater buoyancy of the layered foam pool toy, I added back the hares ear and salvation nymph. This set up was far more productive than my earlier combinations, and the fish count climbed into the high teens, with most of the netted river residents fooled by the hares ear and salvation nymph.
By 1PM I began to notice an increased quantity of small mayflies, as they steadily floated into the space above the river. I surmised that they were size 18 pale morning duns, and I feared that my salvation nymph imitation was too large. It produced some fish, but given the strength of the emergence, I suspected that the catch rate on the PMD nymph imitation was lagging. I stripped in my line and swapped the salvation for a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail, and this fly provided improved success over the next hour.
I discovered that the key to fast action revolved around the type of water targeted. Deep pockets and runs were unproductive, so I circled around deep holes and gravitated to riffles and pockets of moderate depth near the bank. My three fly dry/dropper offering was extremely effective in these environments. During this time I advanced to a side channel that was ten to fifteen feet wide, and the small brown trout were quite abundant and more importantly very willing to smash my flies.
At the top of the secondary braid I faced another quality section characterized by many inviting riffles and pockets that met the likely success criteria, and I did indeed land a few fish, but I once again sensed that I was missing opportunities. The quantity of small pale morning duns diminished, so I elected to revert to the salvation instead of the pheasant tail. I reasoned that the salvation nymph was larger and displayed more flash, and this in turn might attract more attention from the stream dwellers.
The ploy was effective, and my catch rate surged in the last hour. During this time four or five rainbow trout thrashed in my net, and this was surprising given their absence heretofore. I did not complain, as two of the rainbows represented my longest trout of the day.
By 3:30 I notched catch number thirty, and I was weary and hot, as the sun peaked, and the temperature rose to the level that promotes sluggishness. The character of the river shifted, as the river bed narrowed resulting in many deep pockets along the bank. I was not interested in circling around the lengthy area ahead to seek a more conducive stretch, so I ambled back to the car and called it a day.
My largest fish was probably no more than twelve inches, so my day on the Poudre did not challenge the strength of my four weight rod. But once I determined the type of water that the stream residents preferred, I enjoyed a high level of success, and I loved the fast paced action offered by responsive trout. The insect activity was less evident than 2017 trips, and I am unsure whether I was earlier in July, or perhaps the hot weather was the main deterrent. I already have plans to return on July 20, and additional visits may fit on the schedule.
Fish Landed: 30