Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Pingree Park area.
A cannot mask my true feelings. I was very disappointed with my fishing time on the Arkanas River during the early part of this week. After spectacular edge fishing on the Yampa and Eagle Rivers, I was certain to experience similar results on the Arkansas, but I never achieved close to the same level of success. I originally planned to camp at Vallie Bridge on Wednesday night and spend Thursday on a different section of the river in Bighorn Sheep Canyon, but after landing only three fish in 2.5 hours on Wednesday afternoon, I cut my losses and returned to Denver.
My new plan incorporated another day trip to the Cache la Poudre River in the canyon west of Ft. Collins. July 7 was a memorable day, and I was certain the flows would remain elevated, and hatches would multiply through the remainder of July. I needed a solid day to restore my confidence.
I departed Denver at 8:10 on Thursday morning, but I was delayed for fifteen to twenty minutes by a four car accident on northbound I25. The total trip ended up taking roughly two hours and thirty minutes, and I finally stepped into the water with my Loomis five weight by 11:00AM. The flows indeed remained nearly the same as I encountered on July 7, and the weather was quite pleasant although a bit too bright and warm for ideal fishing conditions. The high temperature reached 75, and clouds rarely made an appearance.
As I fished the north side of the river in the Pingree Park section on July 7, I was in awe of the shelf pools and bank pockets on the south shore, but the elevated stream velocity made a crossing impossible. On Thursday when I approached Pingree Park, I decided to cross the bridge and explore the south side of the river. Perhaps I could work my way up from the bridge to the appealing water that I observed on the previous Friday. I was pleased to find a rough dirt road that led to the right, and this placed me in a small circular dirt parking lot. I made this my beginning point, and once I was prepared, I found a scant trail and bashed through some bushes to reach the edge of the river.
I began my quest for Cache la Poudre trout with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead salvation. This alignment evolved into my standard starting offering, but on this day the fat Albert attracted looks without bites, and this distracted the fish from the trailing nymphs. After twenty minutes of frustration, I decided to downsize with a smaller yellow fly. I chose a size 12 light yellow stimulator, and I fished it solo. This move paid off somewhat, as I landed a fine twelve inch brown that smashed the stimulator confidently. I was beginning to feel a nice rhythm, when I encountered a large vertical rock wall. The main current of the river deflected off the upstream side of the rock, so it was impossible to wade past it, and I elected to climb a steep bank to circle around the impasse.
It was noon, and the rock offered a comfortable spot to eat lunch, so I sat on a natural bench and ate and observed. As I mentioned previously, the main current of the river bashed into the rock and deflected right and left. The water that curved to the right curled around and flowed back along the south bank and formed a nice little eddy. Initially I did not see any fish, but as I continued to stare, a brown trout appeared in a small pocket where the current curled and began to flow upstream. Next I spotted a very nice dark outline of a fish that hovered just below the surface and fed aggressively on an unknown source of food, where the reverse current passed close to another vertical rock wall. Finally I spotted another fish that appeared twice near the cushion where the heavy current bounced off the rock that I was sitting on.
After lunch I recorded a quick movie of the scenario, and then I cautiously descended along the large rock opposite my lunch position. Two small trees blocked my access to the beach next to the reverse current, and the decent rainbow that I noticed in a feeding rhythm hovered five feet away. Unfortunately even the slight movement of parting the small branches to enable a cast caused the beauty to flee, and I was now left with two targets in the vicinity. I slid through a narrow gap between the branches and lobbed a backhand cast to the pocket where I spotted the brown trout. I held my breath, and the yellow bodied fish glided toward my fly and then drifted back to a holding position. My yellow stimulator was irrefutably snubbed!
In a last ditch effort to convert on my productive lunch time observation, I backhanded another cast to the seam on the edge of the main current. The bushy attractor danced toward the deflection point and then curled along the base of my lunch rock, and just as it began to track back toward me, a fish rocketed to the surface and confidently smashed the stimulator. I set the hook and quickly landed another twelve inch brown trout. One for three is a good average in baseball, but I expect more from myself on a trout stream. Nevertheless I loved the sight fishing and relished the challenge of devising an approach to fish in difficult positions.
I released the feisty brown trout and paused to evaluate my next predicament. An even larger wall of rock blocked my upstream path. I was not about to give up on my goal of working up along the south bank to the attractive water across from my fishing position on July 7. I climbed back to the top of the bank near my lunch rock and followed a trail that angled up a steep slope. When I reached the top, I noticed a thin trail that traversed a steep slope. The area was covered in pine needles, and experience taught me that they are quite slippery and provide zero traction. I decided to make the traverse, and I paused with each step to ensure that I had solid footing, and I grabbed every available solid branch or rock as a safety precaution. It was a tense crossing, but eventually I slid down the bank to the edge of the water. Just above me was another narrow shelf pool that was created by a more formidable rock wall! Since I risked my life and expended significant energy, I lobbed some casts to the marginal shelf pool, but the stimulator was ignored, and the glare and shadows made it nearly impossible to follow the fly.
The high flows prevented me from wading along the next monster obstruction, and I gazed upward and estimated that the top of the rock cliff was eighty feet above me. The climb was nearly vertical, and I did not pack rock climbing gear, so I reversed my course across the slippery traverse, and then headed back to the car. My plan to fish the south bank was in serious jeopardy, and in fact my good sense finally made it an unfulfilled objective.
I threw my gear in the back of the Santa Fe and crossed the bridge to CO 14 and turned left and parked at the first wide pullout along the westbound lane. Plan B was now in progress. I ambled east along the highway a short distance and then found a gradual path to the river a short distance above the Pingree Park access road bridge. The water on the north side of the river at this point was much more conducive to fishing, as the slope of the streambed was gradual, and this produced more riffles, runs and pockets of moderate depth. I spent the next hour prospecting the attractive structure with the yellow stimulator, and the fish counter climbed to six. Several of the landed fish were decent by Poudre standards, but I sensed that I was covering a section of the river that should have produced more fish.
On my previous visit the time period between noon and three provided the most intense action on nymphs, and I did not wish to miss out on a repeat event, so I returned to the dry/dropper method. Unlike the initial time period on Thursday, however, I topped the lineup with a size 10 tan pool toy and dangled a hares ear and salvation beneath it. The change did in fact improve my catch rate, but the size of the landed fish was a bit diminished. The dry/dropper approach incremented the fish count to eleven, and at this point I approached a gorgeous pool and eddy. A secondary current angled along a sandy slope and created a four foot deep run before the current deflected off a huge protruding rock. A nice wide pool extended for twenty-five feet from the run toward the main river, and I was positioned in the river to cast back to the run and pool. I spotted a couple rises, but there was no consistency, and the fish were ignoring my hopper and nymphs.
Suddenly a large drake mayfly cruised skyward in front of me, and I could barely contain my joy. Sporadic aggressive rises and a drake appearance suggested a green drake emergence. I did not waste any time, as I removed the dry/dropper flies and chose a size 14 green drake comparadun from my fly box. Western green drakes are my favorite hatch, and I rejoice on the rare occasions I encounter this large mayfly. My first cast was not auspicious, as a fish rose and refused the fly at the top of the run. I brought the fly to my hand and preened the deer hair and pushed it back to create a more realistic image of the large mayfly wing. Having adjusted the fly in a manner more suitable to imitating the slanted wings of a mayfly, I lobbed a short cast to the middle of the run, and instantly a thirteen inch brown trout materialized and inhaled my offering with confidence. Needless to say I was very excited over this fortuitous turn of events.
I snapped a photo and released the prize, and on the third of several casts later to nearly the same spot, a carbon copy brown trout performed the same confident gulp of the comparadun. This was the boost I needed, and I proceeded to prospect along the north bank with the large western green drake imitation. Despite its size the comparadun was difficult to track because of the olive body and brown tails that blended with the stream color, nevertheless I boosted the fish tally from eleven to eighteen on the strength of the sparse hatch and the comparadun. During this time period I spotted a maximum of four drakes in the air, so I was not benefiting from a dense mass emergence. I learned in the past, however, that fish tune into green drakes very quickly and do not miss an opportunity to ingest the large morsels. The same workhorse comparadun remained on my line and accounted for all the fish in spite of some fairly rough fish hook extraction techniques.
By 3:30 I no longer observed even a stray drake in the air, and I covered a fair distance without so much as a look or refusal. I encountered a very appealing pocket water segment, and I surmised that the dry/dropper might be more appropriate for the fast brawling channel ahead of me. I reverted to the pool toy hopper, hares ear and salvation; and I resumed my prospecting ways using a three casts and move approach. This change in tactics enabled me to inflate the fish count to twenty-three by 4:30. By now I fished beyond my starting point on July 7, and I remembered that the nature of the river shifted to deep pools among large rocks, and I my state of mind did not lend itself to aggressive wading and rock climbing.
I hooked the salvation nymph in my rod guide, climbed the rocky bank, and hiked along the shoulder of CO 14 until I reached the car. I was surprised by the distance that I covered on my return, and I estimated that I waded .75 miles after my move. The Cache la Poudre River once again delivered a superb outing on Thursday. The canyon setting was spectacular, the water was high and clear and cold, and I had the Pingree Park section to myself. I relished my first green drake encounter of the year, and my comparadun fooled seven willing eaters. The size of the fish was solid by Cache la Poudre standards with five or six brown trout measuring in the twelve to thirteen inch range. I could not be more pleased with my day. The greatest impediment to frequent returns is the ridiculous volume of traffic on interstate 25, and the frequent choke points resulting from construction.
Fish Landed: 23