Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM
Location: Pingree Park area
Several months ago I exchanged emails with a friend, who I worked with at Air Products and Chemicals. His name is Dan, and he retired from another company 1.5 years ago, and he and his wife Sandi planned a trip to Colorado and Wyoming for the third week of July. He expressed an interest in fly fishing, and I readily agreed to accompany him and serve as his guide for a day.
On Friday, July 20 that day arrived. I drove to the Elizabeth Hotel in Ft. Collins and picked Dan up by 8:15 on Friday morning. Dan purchased his fishing license on line, and he picked up his rental waders and boots at St. Peter’s Fly Shop upon his arrival on Thursday. We hit the road and drove west in the Cache la Poudre Canyon to the Pingree Park special regulation section. By 9:30 AM the air temperature in the canyon was 80 degrees, and the sun’s intensity never abated during our time on the water. The river level was decent but down considerably from what I experienced during my recent visit on Monday, July 16.
Dan logged only a few days of previous fly fishing, so we spent a few minutes in the parking lot, as he demonstrated his casting proficiency. Eventually I judged that his casts, although fairly rudimentary, would enable him to place a dry fly within reach of the Cache la Poudre trout. We found a rough and somewhat steep path to the river, and I positioned Dan downstream of some relatively attractive runs and pockets along the right bank. During the first hour we focused on casting and line management, and for this endeavor I tied an elk hair caddis and gray stimulator to his line. A small trout refused the caddis, and later another stream inhabitant demonstrated a splashy rejection of the stimulator.
After an hour of futile casting and movement, I decided to test a foam dry fly, and I plucked a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from my box. I surmised that the foam surface fly would require minimal false casting, and it would float high and be easily visible. My assumption was correct, but the fish did not seem interested in the normally desirable beetle imitation. Despite our inability to hook and land a fish, Dan was improving his casting and line management skills.
By noon we approached a section of the river where the stream bed narrowed, and this created much deeper and faster stream conditions. Dan’s wading boots possessed vibram rubber soles with no cleats, and even with the crude wading stick that I loaned him, he was struggling to gain footing on the large slippery rocks of the Poudre. I decided to move to water more conducive to an untested wader, so we returned to the car and advanced west beyond the next bridge to a wide pullout next to a gap in the fence.
I pulled out the soft sided cooler bag and two stools, and we found a shady spot under some pine trees next to the highway to consume our lunches. We chatted for an hour and caught up on our lives and enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings. Fly fishing is fun, and catching fish is the goal, but renewing friendships in the grand theater of the Rocky Mountains was really the ultimate purpose of our day on Friday.
After lunch we crossed a meadow area and approached the stream. After a bit of walking, I surveyed the river and settled on a section at the head of a long wide riffle. The narrow stream bed created some nice deep pockets along the left bank, and I set Dan up with a tan pool toy and a beadhead pheasant tail dropper. He began prospecting the dry/dropper combination, and he used the friction of the downstream dangling flies to load the rod tip, before he executed sling shot casts upstream. In addition to the pheasant tail we cycled through a prince nymph, salvation nymph and ultra zug bug. While Dan did not hook or land a fish during the afternoon, I feel certain that he experienced temporary hook ups with two trout, but his hook set was a bit slow. Guiding Dan made me realize how much my eye is trained to follow a fly and react to slight and many times imperceptible changes in the drift of the indicator fly. Fly fishing requires commitment and many hours of practice to develop even basic proficiency.
By 3PM the sun was high above and sending its intense rays down upon the water and two weary fishermen. We had dinner reservations at a restaurant in Ft. Collins for 6:15, so we called it a day and made the spectacular drive through the canyon back to the hotel. For dinner we were joined by Dan’s wife Sandi and my wife Jane along with mutual friends, Debbie and Lonnie Maddox. The Maddox’s chose the Blue Agave as our dining establishment, and the choice was perfect, as we feasted on chips and salsa and modern Mexican fare.