Cache la Poudre River – 07/07/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Pingree Park area.

Cache la Poudre River 07/07/2017 Photo Album

After enjoying fantastic success while edge fishing the Yampa River, Eagle River, and Arkansas River for trout over the last two years; I was curious whether the same approach would excel on closer front range streams. After attending the Reds vs Rockies game on Thursday, Friday remained free of commitments, and fly fishing seemed like a fun activity to pursue. I checked the stream flows on the DWR web site and then scanned several fly shop reports. The report on the Cache la Poudre River in northern Colorado caught my attention. The shop described edge fishing and documented yellow sally, pale morning dun, and caddis hatches. This report mirrored the information I gleaned from a review of reports on the Eagle River and Yampa River prior to those excursions.

For some reason I always consider the Cache la Poudre a distant drive, but I can reach Ft. Collins, CO in an hour without speeding. If I were content to fish in the lower Poudre just west of town, I could be there in one hour and thirty minutes. This surprises me since it takes that long to reach the Big Thompson, and I regard that as a close destination. On Friday I chose to drive farther west into the canyon, and for this reason two hours elapsed before I pulled into a nice parking space within the Pingree Park special regulation section.

I rigged my Sage four weight and surveyed the river upon my arrival. As reported on the fly shop web site, the river was rushing at high velocity; however, it was crystal clear, and numerous slow moving pockets were visible along the bank. I concluded that the approach would be very similar to that used on the Eagle on Wednesday, and upstream progress required some repeated bank climbing and descending to circumnavigate spots, where fast water flashed tight to trees and vegetation. I told myself that I was up for the challenge and carefully descended a steep boulder strewn bank to the edge of the river.

Surprise Chernobyl Ant Eater

Since I finished my day on Wednesday with a Chernobyl ant, I elected to begin Friday with the same top fly. Beneath the Chernobyl I attached a beadhead hares ear nymph and an iron sally. The report promised yellow sallies, and I was prepared. On the first cast to a nice slack water pocket next to the bank a ten inch brown trout rocketed to the surface and smashed the large terrestrial. Could it be this easy? I quickly found out it would not be that simple. I moved along at a fairly rapid pace and notched a couple more small brown trout that exhibited an appetite for the hares ear, but the period also included quite a few refusals to the Chernobyl. In addition I hooked but did not land at least three fish, and I was frustrated by this turn of events.

Very Inviting Shelf Pool

A guide and two clients suddenly appeared along the opposite bank, and I hoped to put on a show for these random observers. I decided to swap the refusal generating Chernboyl for a yellow fat Albert. I normally place the larger dropper fly above the smaller, and I speculated that having the larger iron sally on the bottom was somehow impacting my ability to retain fish that grabbed the hares. To remedy this situation I tied a salvation to my line as the top fly and shifted the hares ear to the bottom.

Fat Albert Is Tasty

This move paid off, and I began to hook and land fish with greater regularity. In fact shortly after the change, a nice thirteen inch rainbow surfaced and crushed the fat Albert. That is the way a surface indicator fly should perform. The man across from me saw the bend in my rod and shouted, “nice fish!” By noon the fish count rested on five, and I encountered a nice flat rock that served as a bench. I quickly downed my lunch, while I observed the water and monitored the three gentlemen across from me. They moved on as abruptly as they arrived, and I noted a couple random barely visible rises in the swirling currents just above my position.

Gorgeous Rainbow Trout

After lunch I continued my upstream progression, while I offered the three fly combination to Poudre trout. I fell into a nice rhythm and pushed the tally upward, until I reached a point where the river veered away from CO 14. I scanned the nature of the river, and it was characterized by a wide stretch of fast riffles that extended against the shoreline, where the river swamped some small willow plants. This type of water did not appeal to me, so I climbed the bank and returned to the car to seek a new section of river to explore.

Initially I drove west and crossed the river just above Dadd Gulch, but I liked the idea of remaining on the south side, since this was more accommodating to a right handed caster like myself. I reversed my direction and drove east beyond my morning starting point. Unfortunately the river crossed to the south side of the highway again, but the next section offered some inviting structure, so I accepted the fact that backhand casting was in my future. At least it was only required for two or three hours.

The Shallow Riffles Around the Rocks Were Productive

I hiked along the shoulder of the highway for a good distance, until I was at the bottom of a long wide riffle and pocket water section. The pockets and pools along the far bank were quite appealing, but I  wisely avoided a stream crossing attempt in the deceivingly fast flows. The first location that I reached was actually very interesting, as it featured some deeper riffles and troughs below and around a tiny narrow island. I began here and immediately enjoyed a spurt of fast action, and the rapid catch rate accompanied my efforts over the remainder of the day. The sky clouded up repeatedly, and light rain made an appearance several times.

Needs Fattening

I noticed a few pale morning duns and caddis on the water and in the air, but I observed no more that two or three rises. This seemed irrelevant, however, as the trout keyed on the salvation nymph and the hares ear nymph. Four of the fish netted in the afternoon smashed the fat Albert on the surface, and I was pleased that it served a purpose other than an indicator. The nymph action was absolutely superb. I placed casts in all the likely spots including some rather marginal areas. It did not matter. The fish grabbed the nymphs when they entered the water, when they tumbled along banks, when they lifted at the end of a drift, and even when they dangled in the current below me.

Very Black Spots on the Head

Admittedly many of the fish were nine and ten inch brown trout, but at least five or six browns and rainbows the twelve inch range joined the mix. The fish counter climbed to thirty-two by the time I hooked the hares ear in the rod guide at four o’clock. I had a blast, and I now know that edge fishing is a great technique for fly fishing on rivers other the big three that I normally visit sequentially as the snow melt subsides in late June and early July. I suspect that the Poudre will carry higher than normal flows for another two or three weeks, and this will afford me a few more opportunities to visit this gorgeous canyon west of Ft. Collins.

Fish Landed: 32

Perhaps the Most Vivid Colors of All on Friday

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