Category Archives: Fishing Reports

Fishing Reports

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/09/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/09/2020 Photo Album

Thursday’s fishing adventure was the polar opposite of Tuesday on the Colorado River. The results were also on the opposite end of the spectrum, but the one consistency was the continuing heat wave in Colorado. July and September are generally my most productive fly fishing months. so I felt a strong impulse to utilize the summer prime time to rack up fly fishing hours. As is my practice, I evaluated all the Front Range streams, but some of my favorites continue to crash through their drainages at very high rates. The two exceptions to this condition were the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek and the Cache la Poudre River. I decided to sample the closer North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on Thursday, and planned a longer trip to the Cache la Poudre River in the canyon west of Fort Collins on Friday.

My last trip to the St. Vrain took place on 06/24/2020 with Dan, and it was essentially a bust from a fishing perspective, so I was a bit apprehensive about another visit. The water gauge below the dam registered 68 CFS, and that elevated my optimism, although the flows dropped from 90 CFS to 68 CFS twenty-four hours earlier. I generally try to avoid fishing within the first couple days after significant flow changes, but a downturn is usually less disruptive than a large increase. I rolled the dice and made the one hour and fifteen minute drive to the Button Rock Preserve northwest of Lyons, CO.

Such Unique Flowers

As I mentioned at the outset of this piece, the heat wave that settled over Colorado continued on Thursday, and the warm temperatures prompted me to undertake my first wet wading effort of the year. It proved to be a solid decision, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ice cold flows, while the air temperature soared to the upper eighties. Unfortunately trout did not appear to adapt as readily to the high temperatures. I fished from 11:00AM until 2:00PM and landed five small trout including three browns, one rainbow, and one cutbow. The creek was clear and cold, and the flows were very conducive to successful fly fishing. Insect activity was largely absent, and this might explain the lack of action. After lunch I noticed a couple pale morning duns and a single yellow sally, but that was the extent of my observed food sources.

Slick on the Right Looks Promising

I broke for lunch at 11:45 and landed four of the five fish in the first forty-five minutes. This is an indicator of how slow my early afternoon was, when the temperature climbed into the eighties. I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph; and the salvation produced three of the morning catches. The other trout gobbled the hares ear. After lunch a lengthy period with no action transpired in spite of some very attractive structure, I began to cycle through a variety of flies. I swapped the salvation for a beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and then I exchanged the hares ear for an iron sally. These flies were totally ignored, however, a couple looks and refusals to the fat Albert caused me to reconsider my approach. If the fish were looking toward the surface, perhaps a single or double dry approach would release the lock on the fish counter? I experimented with a size 14 gray stimulator, size 14 yellow stimulator, a size 14 deer hair yellow sally, a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and a size 16 light gray comparadun. The stimulators and gray deer hair caddis spurred refusals, but none of the imitations yielded a trout to my net.

A Little Jewel

In a last ditch effort to dupe the St. Vrain trout with dry flies I tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line, and then copying from my Tuesday guide on the Colorado, I trailed a gray caddis eight inches behind the stomper. Both the hippie stomper and caddis attracted refusals, but the persnickety trout were apparently looking for something else. I finally abandoned the dry fly approach and returned to dry/dropper with a size 12 prince nymph and size 16 fusion nymph trailing the hippie stomper. At the lip of a long deep run a cutbow snatched the fusion nymph, as I began to lift it to complete another cast.

Area to the Right Beckons

After releasing the cutbow I continued fishing for another fifteen minutes, but at 2PM the stream ahead look less appealing, and I decided that the slow catch rate and diminutive fish did not justify additional time on the St. Vrain. I hooked my fly to the bottom guide and hiked back to the car. Thursday was a rough day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. It was the second unproductive visit in a row, and I blame the heat and the lack of insect availability. The recent change in flows may have also played into the situation, with the stream residents requiring more time to adjust.

Five trout in three hours of fishing is not a ridiculously poor showing, but the size was very disappointing. The largest fish was perhaps nine inches, and most were in the six to seven inch range. The ice cold creek kept me very comfortable, and that was probably the highlight of the day. I will seek other options, before I make a return visit to Button Rock Preserve.

Colorado River – 07/07/2020

Time: 7:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pumphouse to Rancho del Rio

Colorado River 07/07/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday’s float trip on the Colorado River was perfect in so many ways. After eleven weeks of recovery from mitral heart valve repair surgery, it was reassuring to learn that I could cast non-stop from 7:30AM until 3:00PM with minimal rest. The day on the large river was a rigorous test of my elbow, chest and shoulder. And then there was coronavirus. This was the first time since February, that I fished with another angler besides my son, and I was very pleased with the level of caution exercised by my fishing companion, Dave G., and our guide, Reed Ryan. It was fun to fish with a guide and friend after a long absence of social contact. And finally there was the fly fishing, but I’ll relate more about the core purpose of the trip in a bit.

My fishing friend, Dave G., contacted me in May to inquire about my interest in joining him for a guided float trip in early July on the Eagle River. I tentatively agreed, although I conditioned my participation to a recovered shoulder and chest after my surgery, as well as improvement in the always threatening covid conditions. Dave G. made a reservation with Cutthroat Anglers for July 2, and I put the whole idea in the back of my mind. Toward the middle of June I texted Dave G. to inform him that my casting arm was capable of handling a day of fishing from a boat, and he informed me that he re-injured his bicep three weeks after surgery on May 20. He asked if I would be OK with a delay of our trip until July 7, and I readily agreed. I anxiously observed the decline in the flows on the Eagle River during the late June time period, and I grew skeptical that we could float the river at 500 CFS. Sure enough Dave G. contacted me to determine, if I would be OK with a change in plans to the Colorado River. Once again I concurred with the change, and we were set for a day of fishing on Tuesday, July 7. I wade fished the Colorado River at Pumphouse several times in October of previous years, but I never made the trip in July, nor had I ever floated the popular section of the middle Colorado, so I was actually pleased with the agreed upon change in destination.

Dave G. and Reed Getting Prepared

On Monday Dave G. contacted me to say that the guide planned to launch at 7AM, so we could get ahead of the other guides and river traffic. In addition hot temperatures were predicted, so he planned to be on the water early and off, before the water temperatures grew dangerously high. Since Jane and I were driving to Pumphouse from Denver, we woke up at 4:15AM for a 4:30AM departure. This was probably the greatest negative to my fishing outing on July 7. The timing worked out nicely, and we arrived at the parking lot by 6:40AM, and this provided ample time to organize my essentials for the full day float. I slathered my face and hands with sun screen and assembled my Sage One five weight. I wore my tan wading pants, Chacos and fishing shirt, and I slid a buff over my head to serve as a face mask during our river trip. I even remembered to extract my fishing license from my fishing backpack, which was not needed for this outing, since the guide was expected to tie on all the flies and handle the fish.

Dave G. arrived five minutes after us, and then the guide wheeled into the parking lot by 6:55. By 7:30AM we launched, and Dave G. generously assigned me the position in the front of the boat, while he secured the rear. In spite of delaying the trip for five days, Dave G. was still rehabilitating his right arm. He adopted a left handed casting stroke while using his right hand to guide it for accuracy. It reminded me of a modified snap T spey cast. In spite of this innovation he knew that he was limited in what he could do, so he graciously allowed me to command the forward position.

My Mate, Dave G.

Our guide, Reed Ryan, started us out on double dry fly rigs. I had a size twelve bushy caddis that trailed a size 14 parachute mayfly imitation with a maroon body. Reed told us that rusty spinners were present on the river, and the parachute served as an effective imitation. Throughout the day he varied the dry flies, and the front fly included a madam X and hopper. During the afternoon he swapped the maroon parachute fly for a purple haze, and the fish were positively responsive.

Very Acceptable

Looked Promising, but No Luck

We drifted through two canyon sections, and during these brief forays into faster pocket water we switched to dry/dropper rods. Reed had a nine foot Winston rigged with a chubby Chernobyl, yellow stonefly nymph, and a variety of small nymphs that reminded me of pheasant tails. I landed a few fish in the Little Gore Canyon stretch, but the double dry fly rig accounted for most of my fish. During the seven hour float I landed twenty fish, and quite a few were substantial beauties in the fifteen to seventeen inch range. All my landed trout were brown trout; however, I tangled with one very respectable rainbow that managed to escape, just before I gained solid control.

Another Dave Catch Featuring a Purple Haze in the Lip

Very Fine

Around noon we glided below a very attractive wide riffle that was thirty yards wide and forty yards long. The ten feet next to the bank were relatively slow and shallow, and then the river grew faster and deeper as one moved from left to right. Reed announced that we would go to “nose up” mode, and I soon understood the meaning, as he positioned the driftboat facing upstream with the bow closest to the target riffle. I was in the bow, and this meant I had the entire juicy area to myself. Reed spotted a couple fish and guided my casts toward the shallow slower moving area along the left bank, and two spectacular brown trout rose to subtly sip the parachute mayfly. What a thrill to place an accurate cast over the feeding lane and then observe the confident sip of the artificial imitation!

The Inside of the Bends Were Prime

During the afternoon a pair of brown trout in excess of fifteen inches crushed the purple haze, as I cast near the bank and executed long downstream drifts. These experiences also added vivid memories to my mental scrapbook.

A Highlight

By two o’clock the wind kicked up to a ferocious level, and Reed had to row downstream against whitecaps, and Dave G. and I took an extended rest. I nearly lost my hat five times, and it was only saved by the strap and clip, that I had the foresight to attach. During our ten mile float we only saw a couple other inflatable rafts with fishermen, but the river was alive with all manner of water enthusiasts. Whitewater rafters were out in force along with kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders. A spring break party atmosphere pervaded the canyon for much of the day, but we focused on the banks, while the others commanded the center of the very large river.

The Red Rocks Caught My Attention

Tuesday was just what the doctor ordered. I enjoyed magnificent canyon scenery while landing twenty gorgeous fish. The quality of the fish was unsurpassed, as nearly all exceeded twelve inches. The wind and heat were small negatives, but our early start allowed us to record hours of great fishing before the gusts ruined the day. Frankly, I remain in a state of euphoria twenty-four hours after our Pumphouse to Rancho del Rio float trip experience. A repeat trip likely lies in my future.

Fish Landed: 20

Eagle River – 07/02/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle.

Eagle River 07/02/2020 Photo Album

Jane reserved a condominium in Eagle-Vail for the Fourth of July weekend, and we arrived at our temporary lodging on Wednesday, July 1.  The original plan incorporated a full day guided float trip on Thursday, July 2, 2020; but my fishing partner suffered a setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery, so we delayed that highly anticipated outing. This circumstance produced a large hole in my calendar for Thursday, so I took advantage with a wading trip to the Eagle River. My most recent visit to the Eagle River was June 23, 2020, when the flows hovered between 1,100 and 1,000 CFS. I followed the DWR charts with keen interest, and I was pleased to see a trend line that depicted a steady descent to the 600 CFS range. I anticipated a river that remained high enough to push the fish to the edges, and from previous years I knew that dense hatches of caddis, pale morning duns and yellow sallies could be expected. In short, I was pumped for some outstanding fly fishing on the Eagle River.

Cannot Wait to Probe This Area

Number One on July 2

The high temperature spiked at a warm eighty degrees on Thursday, and the flows were indeed in the 600 CFS range. More cloud cover would have been welcome, but conditions were mostly conducive to a fun day of fishing. I arrived at one of my favorite roadside pullouts by 10:00AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and jumped into my waders, I made the hike to the river. I began probing the probable fish holding spots with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line for most of the day except for a period around lunch, when I replaced the salvation with an emerald caddis pupa and later with a hares ear nymph. The pupa and hares ear each produced one fish, however, when I spotted an increased quantity of pale morning duns in the afternoon, I reverted to the salvation nymph. Other than the caddis pupa and hares ear eaters, the iron sally accounted for sixty percent of my landed trout with the salvation responsible for the remainder.

A Broad Chunk

Between 10:30AM and 11:45AM, when I paused for lunch, I landed four robust trout. Two were fine brown trout in the thirteen inch range, and the other two were rainbows. The iron sally fooled the first three, and number four was the victim of the emerald caddis pupa.

Slack Edge Water

After lunch a blizzard hatch of yellow sallies commenced, but surprisingly I never observed surface rises. With the relatively high water and no rising activity I stuck with the iron sally, and it rewarded my confidence during the hatch, but it was not as effective as I anticipated given the abundance of stoneflies in the air. Caddis adults were prolific among the streamside bushes and willows, but the trout never expended the requisite energy to chase the erratic surface dippers.

Deep Olive Beast

Perfect Territory for Trout

By the end of the day at 3:30PM the fish count climbed to thirteen. The afternoon fish were the best of the day from a size perspective. In fact, other than the rainbow that was fish number two on the day, all the Thursday trout were twelve inches or greater. My net was visited by a sixteen inch rainbow and a fifteen incher as well. Three brown trout stretched the tape to fourteen inches. There was no magic formula to catching fish on Thursday. I moved upstream at a steady pace and fished areas with slower velocity and moderate depth. Current seams were popular spots as were swirly water at the top of long deep runs and riffles. The pale morning duns never developed into a significant factor, and this was a disappointment, and the yellow sally emergence was heavy but brief, and it also did not provoke surface feeding.

Beast

Chubby

In summary, it was a pleasant and enjoyable day on the Eagle River. As flows drop, and the air temperature remains elevated in the eighties, the Eagle River’s productive days may be limited, so I was pleased to extract one more excellent outing from the popular Colorado River tributary.

Fish Landed: 13

Produced Two Nice Trout

South Boulder Creek – 06/30/2020

Time: 3:00PM – 4:15PM

Location: South Boulder Road to Boulder Turnpike

South Boulder Creek 06/30/2020 Photo Album

I am always game for a new area to fish, so when a reader of this blog proposed a swath of South Boulder Creek, that I never fished before, my fishing radar went on high alert. Unfortunately this bit of intelligence coincided with a significant ramp up in stream flows, so I tabled the idea for four weeks. When I checked the flows on Monday, June 29, I was pleased to learn that South Boulder Creek below Eldorado Canyon subsided to 117 CFS. As I returned from Boulder, CO and my anticoagulation appointment, I detoured a bit and made a first hand inspection of South Boulder Creek. It was flowing high and clear, and I decided to make an exploratory visit.

Unfortunately Tuesday was a medical day, and I had a 9:20AM appointment in Boulder followed by a 11:20AM at another specialist in Denver. I arrived early for my second doctor visit and then waited an extraordinary amount of time, as the doctor was running thirty minutes behind schedule. The domination of my day by medical commitments threw my planned trip to South Boulder Creek into jeopardy, but I finally convinced myself, that it was simply exploratory, and the drive was only thirty minutes.

I ate my lunch at home and then departed Denver and arrived at the shoulder pull out along South Boulder Road by 2:45PM. By the time I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked to the edge of the creek and configured my line with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, prince nymph and salvation nymph it was 3PM. Some large clouds in the western sky blocked the sun for much of my time on the creek, and the air temperature remained in the low eighties.

High but Clear

For the next forty-five minutes I covered the section between South Boulder Road and the Boulder Turnpike, and I questioned whether the stream contained a single fish. Well, I did manage to land a minuscule three inch brown, so there was at least one cold water inhabitant. I did not have a basis of comparison, but I assumed the creek was running higher than normal, but several inviting deep riffles and runs suggested that trout could be present. I questioned my fly choices and swapped the salvation for a bright green go2 caddis pupa.

Gorgeous Run Failed to Produce

Even though my informer told me that 1.5 miles of public access was available in this area, the powers that be erected annoying fences along the stream and perpendicular at several places. I managed to carefully straddle and climb over the one that paralleled the stream, but the ones that ran at a ninety degree angle and spanned the creek forced me to retreat to the bike path, circle around the fence and then cut back to the water. Had I had been netting copious quantities of fish, I would have accepted the inconvenience of the fencing, but that was not the case.

Some nice deep runs appeared below a concrete structure just before the Boulder Turnpike, and I probed these thoroughly but again to no avail. On the south side of the Boulder Turnpike I found that the west side fencing ended, and I was able to cross the creek and access the bike bath once again. I progressed upstream for another one hundred yards, and I managed to briefly hook a five inch brown trout, and the same deep run produced a swirl at the chubby Chernboyl. Both fish were quite diminutive. By 4:15 I grew weary of the lack of action, and another fisherman blocked my progress, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and hiked back to the car.

As I was stowing my gear, and gentleman approached me and began talking and asking questions about my day. I was surprised to discover that the friendly person socially distanced from me was the very same reader who suggested South Boulder Creek as a nearby fishing destination. What a small world we live in! If I return to this section of South Boulder Creek, I will visit during late morning and early afternoon, since these are prime time and more likely to yield a hatch. I would also skip the section I covered and hike directly to the area south of the Boulder Turnpike. In spite of a tough 1.25 hours I have not given up.

Fish Landed: 0

Yampa River- 06/26/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Locaton: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/26/2020 Photo Album

Jane was interested in a camping trip to Steamboat Lake State Park during the week of June 22, 2020. Given my success on the Yampa River on June 16 and June 17, I was not averse to visiting the north central area of Colorado again; however, when I checked the flows, I noted a precipitous drop from 1,000 to 450 CFS. Fortunately I recalled decent success at the lower level, and I was anxious to determine whether the embryonic pale morning dun hatch witnessed on June 17 had evolved into a more significant fish attracting event.

My next step was to reserve a campsite at Steamboat Lake State Park on relatively short notice. Steamboat Lake is the crown jewel of the Colorado state park system and very popular with residents and out-of-staters as well. I began fumbling through the availability dates, and I was shocked to discover that site 167 of the Bridge island loop was available on Thursday and Friday night, June 25 and 26. Finding a space on a Friday night in the most desirable loop was a huge windfall, and we wasted no time in snatching it.

Jane and I stopped to complete a five mile hike at Mad Creek on Thursday, as we drove north to Steamboat Lake, so Friday was my designated fly fishing day. As we ate breakfast on Friday morning, Jane discovered that her iPhone battery was depleted to 7%, so she plugged it into the USB port in the Santa Fe to charge. In our minds we were certain that the huge car battery could withstand twenty minutes of energy drain from a puny iPhone battery. Well, our minds were clearly confused, because the only sound that issued from the car, when I hit the start button was the click of a drained battery. I was an angler anxious to fish with no means of transportation. As we pondered our predicament, Jane caught the attention of the young man who was camping across from us with his wife and young daughter, and miraculously he possessed jumper cables. He swung his Jeep around facing the Santa Fe, and in a matter of minutes the Santa Fe engine was rumbling and charging. I thanked him profusely, and while in Steamboat Springs I stopped at the West End liquor store and purchased a craft beer six pack, which I promptly bestowed upon our camping neighbor when I returned.

Once I was on the road, I made the forty minute drive to Steamboat Springs and arrived at my usual parking space at the base of Howelsen Hill. The rest rooms remained locked, so I added that to my planning for a day on the river. Friday was a warm sunny day with a high temperature around eighty degrees. Flows held around the 400 CFS mark, and this made wading along the edges much more manageable than the previous week, however, limited numbers of fish holding lies existed in the main river channel.

High But Lower Flows on the Yampa

I began above the hot springs, and in the first deep pocket next to the bank I landed a fourteen inch brown trout on the second cast. I began my quest for Yampa River trout with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, iron sally, and salvation nymph. Fish number one gulped the iron sally, as did the next three, and I was off to a fast start. For the remainder of the morning I worked upstream toward the Howelsen Bridge, and I landed thirteen trout. Three were a bit diminutive, but the other ten were respectable fish of twelve inches or greater, and my net felt the weight of a fifteen inch rainbow and several fourteen inch bows.

A Long One

By 11:30AM pale morning duns made an appearance, and their presence coincided with a hot streak for the salvation nymph, until I lost it in the process of fighting and releasing one of the fine rainbows. I noted that the majority of the pale morning duns were size 18, so I replaced the salvation nymph with a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail. Toward the tail of a run I spotted a fish, as it flashed in the vicinity of my trailing nymphs, so I whipped the rod sideways and connected with a gorgeous brown trout. I fought the wide body for a minute, before it turned broadside to the current and broke off the iron sally and pheasant tail. Disappointment reigned. Next I tested a fusion nymph and super nova, and the nova accounted for a small brook trout to boost the fish count to thirteen. Recall that one of the inducements of returning to the Yampa was the prospect of a more dense and longer lasting pale morning dun hatch, and that condition did in fact occur.

Pretty Fish

Settled Down

By now I was approaching the Howelsen Bridge and another angler occupied the large pool and eddy on the south side of the river. I remained fifty yards below him, and I observed a pair of rises in a narrow band of moderate depth riffles near the bank. In spite of a fairly dense hatch these were the first glimpses of surface feeding on the day. I decided to convert to a single dry fly and attached a size sixteen cinnamon comparadun to my line. On the very first cast to the spot where the lower fish rose a sip appeared, and I reacted with a swift hook set. A fourteen inch brown trout was not happy, and it went into the typical escape antics. I held tight and guided a beautiful chunk of butter into my net.

A Fisherman Claimed One of My Productive Spots

Cinnamon Comparadun Did the Trick

Pleased

I stayed with the comparadun for a bit, but the rises ceased, and I reverted to the dry/dropper set up. The hatch mostly fizzled by 1PM except for some stragglers. I circled around the upstream angler below the bridge and continued to my favorite spot across from Taco Cabo, but again I was thwarted by the presence of another fisherman. I bashed back out to the railroad tracks and checked out the attractive pool above Fifth Street, but anglers claimed both banks. The sun was bright, the air temperature was eighty degrees, and the fish were ignoring my nymphs. Posses of tubers blew up three of my favorite haunts, so I decided to call it a day at 2PM.

Friday was a very successful day on the Yampa River. Yes, I ended early compared to normal. The end of the hatch, proliferation of tubers, and sudden explosion of other fishermen raised my level of frustration; but fourteen fish including some quality fighters made June 26 on the Yampa a solid outing in 2020.

Fish Landed: 14

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 06/24/2020

Time: 6:30PM – 8:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 06/24/2020

My son, Dan, sensing that the long hours of daylight were sliding by rapidly in 2020, while simultaneously lamenting that he was not taking full advantage of living in Colorado, decided to remedy the situation and organized a longest week medley of outdoor activities. The outdoor ventures were scheduled to begin after work, and they were made possible by the abundance of daylight. Dan named his initiative his “longest week”, although technically the five days that were included did not represent the five longest days of the year. The series began with trail running on Monday, road biking on Tuesday, mountain biking on Thursday, and hiking on Friday. The astute reader will note that Wednesday is missing, and that is because Wednesday was earmarked for fly fishing. I agreed to join Dan for an evening of fly fishing on Wednesday, June 24.

While Dan was occupied with the task of earning a living, I took advantage of my retired state and researched fly fishing options. Continuing snow melt along the Front Range escalated the difficulty of my challenge, but I narrowed the options to the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, the North Fork of the St. Vrain at Buttonrock Preserve, and South Boulder Creek below Eldorado Canyon State Park. I also suggested a few lakes, but neither Dan nor I are proponents of stillwater fishing, so that option never received serious consideration. South Boulder Creek below Eldorado was within six miles of Dan’s home, but the reported flows were 145 CFS, and we were both unfamiliar with the stretch under consideration. The North Fork of the St. Vrain registered flows of 107 CFS, and the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins was tumbling along at 130 CFS. From a flow standpoint the Poudre was probably the best choice, but we elected the North Fork of the St. Vrain due to proximity and familiarity. I researched this blog and found four outings to Button Rock Preserve, when I enjoyed decent success at comparable flows.

I met Dan at his house at 3:30PM to pick him up, and after a stop at Snarf’s for delicious sandwiches we drove to Button Rock Preserve and arrived in the parking lot by 5:45PM. We quickly consumed our tasty meals and assembled our rods and hiked up the canyon for approximately a mile. I selected my Sage four weight for the evening and stuffed my regular glasses and headlamp in my backpack. By 6:30 we were positioned in the creek and ready to make our first casts. The flows of 107 CFS were, indeed, a bit high, but many possible holding spots behind structure provided hope to two eager evening fishermen.

Dan Lands a Cast

I began with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl trailing a beadhead hares ear and iron sally, and Dan and I were both frustrated by splashy refusals to the top fly in the early going. We both found it interesting that the trout were looking toward the surface despite higher than normal flows. After thirty minutes of fruitless casting I landed a six inch brown trout along the far bank on the chubby. In spite of some very focused fishing, that was the extent of our success on Wednesday evening. Dan endured a few more refusals.

A Fortuitous Find Before the Storm

By 7:30PM some dark clouds arrived, and we found shelter beneath a wide rock overhang on the opposite side of the dirt road. Some lightning and thunder concerned us, but the net result of the disruptive weather was a five minute drizzle. Once the precipitation slowed we headed back toward the car, but along the way we paused to try some nice plunge pools above a concrete diversion. Alas, this also proved futile, and we reeled in our lines and quit by 8:30PM.

Blackness Was Overrated

I must acknowledge that I was disappointed with our evening outing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. My main goal was to see a few wild fish in Dan’s net, but we never solved the riddle of how to entice the creek inhabitants. I expected to see some caddis activity at dusk, but the stream was largely devoid of insect life. Perhaps the lower flows of the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins would have been a better choice. At any rate, I always enjoy the opportunity to spend time with my son given the demands of his job and his devotion to his wife and soon to arrive son. The highlight of the evening was sitting under the shelf rock and chatting, while we waited out the threatening storm.

Fish Landed: 1

Eagle River – 06/23/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Eagle Lease

Eagle River 06/23/2020 Photo Album

Flows were in the 1100 to 1000 CFS range on Tuesday and remained comparable to Monday. Tuesday also developed into a very nice day with abundant sunshine for much of my time on the water, and the high temperature surged into the middle eighties. For variety I decided to try a section of the Eagle River, that I had not fished in at least ten years. I quickly climbed into my waders and once again assembled my Sage One five weight and then ambled over the open grassy area, until I was on the bank of the rapidly flowing river.

Flows Still High on the Eagle River

During the morning I fished a nymph rig that featured a slumpbuster and a 20 incher. I decided to go big and deep. The versatility provided by the slumpbuster enabled me to fish it dead drift similar to a nymph, or to strip and wiggle it like a streamer. These innovative (for me) approaches sounded great in theory, but they failed to deliver a trout to my net. After a decent trial period with no action I began to substitute new subsurface patterns including an ultra zug bug, emerald caddis pupa, bright green go2 caddis pupa, and a brown X leg nymph. None of these combinations provoked so much as a look.

Many years ago I fished this stretch of the Eagle River, and I remembered an extensive section of pocket water, where I experienced an abundant amount of success. I set a goal to seek this area again with the hope that it would salvage my day. The highlight that stood out in my memory was fishing a size 12 stonefly nymph with a peacock dubbed body and a mylar wing case in deep pockets along the left bank, and larger than normal brown trout surprisingly ravaged the large offering. Could I duplicate this experience on Tuesday?

Best Spot on Tuesday

By noon I rounded a bend, and ahead of me was the sought after pocket water. At 1,000 CFS most of the pocket water was off limits except for the left edge, but this was the area that I targeted. The nymph set up was proven futile, so I removed the indicator and split shot, and knotted a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a brown X leg nymph and bright green go2 caddis pupa. I covered some nice riffles of moderate depth, and my slump continued, but then I arrived at a long slow moving shelf pool next to the fast current seam of the main channel of the river. I lobbed some casts, and as I followed my fly, I noted a pair of rises above me in the pool. I scanned the water for a food source, but I saw none.

Caddis in Lip

After a few more unproductive drifts I once again saw a rise in the lower third of the pool, and this time I spotted a fluttering caddis, as it disappeared in a swirl. While this scene transpired, I began observing some small size eighteen pale morning duns, but actually witnessing the demise of the caddis prompted me to tie a size sixteen gray caddis to my line followed by a size 16 juju emerger to cover my bases. The second cast to the area of the rise prompted a swirling take, and I netted a twelve inch brown for fish number one on the day.

I continued casting higher in the pool, and on one of the drifts a fish elevated but refused the caddis. I speculated that perhaps pale morning duns were also on the menu, so I converted to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I never duped the looker, but I fooled a decent rainbow to the left of an exposed rock at the top of the run. Unfortunately the stripe-sided fighter quickly escaped the grip of my hook.

Worthwhile

I progressed upstream, and in a marginal short run of moderate depth I netted a second twelve inch brown trout. It rose twice to naturals, before my imitation fooled the aggressive eater. After releasing number two, I continued along the left side of the pocket water, until I encountered a large green sign that proclaimed private property. I was unclear whether this was the end of the lease, but not willing to take any chances, I retreated.

Tail View

About to Glide Away

When I approached the shelf pool again, I circled wide to remain out of view and approached from the downstream side. Rising fish were no longer present, however, occasional pale morning duns made an appearance. I decided to go subsurface and configured my line with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, an iron sally, and a size 16 super nova. The super nova was intended to imitate the nymph stage of the pale morning duns. The tactic paid off, as I landed two rainbows in the fifteen inch range on the nova. It required quite a few fruitless drifts, before the trout responded, but persistence paid off in a big way. A third fine rainbow crushed the super nova, as soon as it hit the water at the top of the pool, but it leaped and tossed aside my fly within a few seconds.

A Chubby One

On my return hike to the car I stopped to prospect another quality shelf pool, and the return visit delivered a spunky thirteen inch rainbow. As I approached the car, I decided it was too early to quit, so I drove west to the last stile and hiked to the river above my ending point on Monday. I found a rock to eat my lunch, and then I spent thirty minutes prospecting two quality areas that delivered fish previously. Almost instantly a fish surprised me, as it crushed the chubby Chernobyl, but it escaped almost as quickly as it slammed the large foam attractor. The remainder of the time in this section was unproductive, and I called it quits at 2:40, so I could make the return trip in time for an anniversary dinner.

My catch rate on June 23 was subpar, but I rediscovered an area that impressed me in the past. I landed five quality trout and had a few opportunities for more. Two fifteen inch rainbows were a bonus, and I also parlayed a dry fly into two netted browns. Hopefully the river remains in decent shape for when the pale morning dun and yellow sally hatches intensify.

Fish Landed: 5

Eagle River – 06/22/2020

Time: 4:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: North of Minturn.

Eagle River 06/22/2020 Photo Album

As I drove from the Eagle River near Eagle, CO toward the Hornsilver Campground, I passed through Minturn, CO, and I decided to sample the clear but high flowing section between Interstate 70 and town. I parked by a concrete bridge and began working my way upstream above the bridge. I continued fishing the fat Albert and 20 incher and placed an emerald caddis pupa on the point. In the early going I landed an eleven inch brown trout that nabbed the emerald caddis pupa in a moderate riffle along the left bank. I always note the type of water that yields results, and then seek out similar water structure. Unfortunately on Monday afternoon this tactic produced little value, and the eleven inch brown would be my only landed trout.

Minturn Stretch

I prospected all the attractive deep runs and shelf pools thoroughly, but the trout seemed to have lockjaw. I swapped the caddis pupa for a salvation after thirty minutes, but is also proved fruitless. The Eagle River above the confluence with Gore Creek offered an hour of casting exercise and a heavy dose of frustration.

Fish Landed: 1

My Temporary Home

Eagle River – 06/22/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eagle Lease

Eagle River 06/22/2020 Photo Album

As I followed the rapid decline in flows on the Yampa River, I kept my eyes on the Eagle River as well. Fortunately the Eagle was lagging, and this enabled me to complete a two day fishing/camping trip to the Yampa on June 15 – 17, and I was very pleased with the results. Now I turned my attention to the Eagle, as it subsided fairly rapidly. I reviewed the Eagle River flow data on the DWR web site, and the graph clearly indicated that my target flows of 1,000 would be reached by Monday, June 22. This was all I needed to prompt preparation for a quick two days of fishing and one night of camping.

1,000 CFS

I arrived at the pullout next to my favorite access point by 10:30AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and climbed into my waders, I was on my way to the edge of the river. The flows were, indeed, in the 1000 – 1100 CFS range on Monday, and these were the exact conditions, that I seek annually in the early summer season on the Eagle. The air temperature was warm and would eventually reach the eighty degree level, however, lots of cloud cover in the afternoon created a degree of comfort. During my day on the river I spotted a fair number of caddis and two yellow sallies, so the insect activity was less intense than years where the 1,000 CFS level of flows coincided with late June and early July.

Promising

I began my fly fishing adventure by eleven o’clock with a fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. The iron sally represented the nymph of the yellow sally stonefly, and the salvation mimicked the nymph of the pale morning dun. As the day evolved, I discovered that a single consistently productive fly was not in the playbook, and this probably resulted from the lack of a concentrated hatch. The fat Albert remained on my line throughout the day as a visible indicator, but the iron sally got replaced by a 20 incher (2). For the point fly I cycled through a salvation nymph (3), ultra zug bug (1), bright green go2 caddis pupa (3), emerald caddis pupa (2), perdigon, and hares ear nymph (1). The numbers in parenthesis indicate how many landed fish each accounted for.

Broadside

Red Belly Splotch on This Beauty

Wide

Success on Monday required persistent effort characterized by difficult wading, constant movement, and plentiful casts. I made more than five drifts in many places, that I knew from history to be likely producers. Did I dwell? Based on my normal approach the answer is yes, yet I caught several nice fish on the seventh or even eighth pass, so my methodical approach paid dividends. During my time on the water I speculated whether getting deeper may have been beneficial, but I never resorted to indicator nymphing with a split shot. Perhaps I will adopt that strategy on Tuesday.

Ooh That Stripe

A Perfect Brown Trout

Quality was the name of the game on Monday, as only two of the netted fish were less than a foot long, and two rainbows were muscular trout in the fifteen to sixteen inch range. Additionally two brown trout measured around fourteen inches, and the remainder  were respectable rainbows and browns in the twelve to thirteen inch slot. I will take wild quality fish like this all day long.

A Favorite Area, but Tough to Wade

It was a fun day. I have had better Eagle River edge fishing experiences, but the ideal flows were ahead of the heavy pale morning dun and yellow sally hatches in 2020. A double digit day is always appreciated, and quality was a positive on June 22.

Fish Landed: 12

Yampa River – 06/17/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/17/2020 Photo Album

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020 I experienced one of the heaviest pale morning dun hatches that I ever encountered. Did the trout notice as well, and did I enjoy one of my best outings ever? I will answer these questions later, but first I need to describe the circumstances.

If you read my posts of June 15 and 16, you know that I camped at Stagecoach State Park on Monday and Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning I consumed my simple breakfast and then took down the tent and stowed my camping gear. The ferocious wind maintained a perfect record, and whipped across the McKindley Loop at Stagecoach in relentless fashion for the third straight day. Have you ever tried to build a sandwich, when a paperweight is required to keep the ingredients in place? That was one of my challenges on Wednesday morning. I made the mistake of removing the stakes to the tent, before I collapsed it, and this misstep nearly earned me my first hang gliding trip. I normally keep the two person tent up, so I can flip it and shake out the dirt, but I learned to forego this tactic during high winds.

The extra steps associated with breaking camp caused me to arrive at the Howelsen Hill parking lot by 9:30AM, and along the way I stopped at Steamboat Flyfishers to purchase a tube of floatant and gather information. The young man that answered my questions was polite, but he did not add much incremental intelligence to what I gleaned on my own during five hours of fishing on Tuesday. I assembled my Sage One five weight with the hope of tangling with larger than average fish, and I decided to work upstream from my ending point the previous day. This section of the Yampa is significantly harder to fish at high flows, because a thick and wide area of vegetation borders the south side of the river. An inability to wade the edge forces one to repeatedly bash through thick brush to gain access to the more attractive fish holding locales. The flows dropped to the 900 – 1000 cfs level for Wednesday, so I was hopeful that this would make covering the stretch above the Howelsen Hill bridge more manageable.

Edgewater at 1,000 CFS

I began my Wednesday adventure just above the footbridge, and I tied a yellow body size 8 pool toy hopper to my line as the top fly. Beneath the hopper I added a 20 incher and salvation nymph. The two subsurface flies were productive morning options on Tuesday. Within the first thirty minutes I landed a ten inch brown trout, but much of my time was spent busting through wild shrubs and bushes, as I paralleled the river along the railroad tracks and then cut at a ninety degree angle back to the river in hopes of finding quality holding water. Approximately an hour of valuable stream time unfolded, as I repeated the stream access ordeal, and I was not rewarded for my persistence.

This Area Produced Nearly Half My Fish on the Day

By 11AM I approached a spot that delivered nice action in a prior season. A small side channel braided through some willows, and the main river spilled over some large submerged stream improvement boulders. The spill over created a deep frothy hole, and much of the main current flowed directly downstream and fanned out into a wide run. The outflow on my side, however, angled toward me and met with another secondary current to create a deep seam. For some reason I swapped the salvation nymph for a super nova nymph, and I flipped the three fly combination to the left of the seam and allowed the pool toy to bop along the bumpy current. On the eighth such pass the hopper dipped, and I reacted with a firm hook set and found myself attached to a large angry rainbow trout. I held tight and after a few dashes up and down the pool, I slid my net beneath a beauty in the fifteen inch range. I finally received a payout for my persistence, and it was well worth it. The super nova was responsible for the much appreciated rainbow in my net.

Scarlet

For some reason this section of the river seems to be a sanctuary for resident trout during high water, so I was certain that more fish remained. I executed another series of casts, and once again the hopper sank, and I raised the rod tip. This time the animated creature on the end of my line behaved like a bulldog, as it dove and shook its head relentlessly. Combating these tactics placed a significant strain on my shoulder and elbow, but eventually a fantastic black spotted brown trout flopped over the edge of my net with the 20 incher firmly embedded in its lip. My elation ticked up several notches, as this doubleheader of good fortune unfolded across from an Italian restaurant on Yampa Street.

From the Same Seam as the Rainbow

If the honey hole had ceased producing at this point, I would have been more than pleased. But it did not. I extracted seven additional trout from the deceiving habitat, and several more fell in the fifteen inch range. The angled current and confluence seam yielded a few, but when I focused on the main current flowing directly downstream, I discovered another cache of feeders just beyond the churning bubble zone. By noon the fish count rested on ten, and nine were concentrated in one place. I was in a state of euphoria and amazement, as I proceeded upstream with my bash out and bash in cycle. The flies responsible for my morning success were split evenly between the super nova and 20 incher.

Another Honey Hole Dweller

The area between the hot spot and Fifth Street failed to yield additional action, and I arrived at the bridge by noon. My lunch remained in the car with the assumption that I would return, but when I arrived on the east side of Fifth Street, I noticed a few small mayflies, as they attempted to get airborne and in many cases tumbled along the surface as a result of gusts of wind. Again, from past experience I knew that the right side of the pool just above the bridge was the sweet spot. During lower flows the main river was a nice wide pool, but the center of the river was deep and flowing rapidly, so I concentrated on the right margin, where a nice narrow riffle emerged beneath some overhanging branches. By now the intensity of the hatch elevated, and a few larger size 16’s were among the more prevalent size 18 mayflies. On Tuesday I was uncertain that these insects were pale morning duns, but the presence of larger bugs with light gray and light yellow bodies convinced me that PMD’s were, in fact, making an appearance.

Two Beauties Came from Under the Branches

I was anxious to convert to a dry fly, but the absence of rising fish constrained my urge to switch. I caught a brief glimpse of a fish, as it elevated to grab something a foot or two below the surface, and this suggested the lack of surface action was explained by a focus on emergers. An Tuesday a light olive body juju emerger produced some fish, so I reconfigured my dry/dropper to include a salvation nymph and a juju emerger. I began flinging backhand casts along the right current seam. This was quite challenging, as I needed to sidearm the backhand, so that the flies looped under the overhanging branches that hung within five feet of the river. Miraculously I accomplished this bit of fly fishing gymnastics without snagging a branch and ultimately blowing up the hole. After fifteen dangerous casts the hopper dipped backward, and I set the hook. Initially the heavy weight on the end of my rod simply sank and held fast, and I was certain that another brown trout was on my line. I applied some pressure, and suddenly a rainbow trout in excess of fifteen inches spurted to the center of the pool. I embraced my decision to break out the five weight and prayed that the combative silver torpedo would remain above the faster water at the tail of the high water run. It did, and I maintained a deep bend in the rod, until I eventually hoisted the muscular beast into my undersized net. The juju emerger was the desired food in the lip of the bow, and once again jubilation ruled, and I smiled over my ability to land the best fish of the day.

Pretty in Pink

Big Shoulders

I photographed and released my latest prize, and I returned my attention to the run along the right bank. I had not yet shot a cast deep beneath the branches, so I resolved to rectify that situation. I stripped out another five feet of line and swept the backcast low, and the hopper smacked down deep and under the branches. A two foot drift ensued, and then the hopper disappeared, as another fifteen inch trout gobbled the juju emerger. I knew this to be the case, as I eventually guided the wide body brown trout into my net for a close up view. How gratifying was it to observe subsurface feeding and select a seldom used fly that fooled two muscular fish? I can assure the reader that it was very rewarding.

The next section of the river extended from Fifth Street to the Island Bridge, and I covered this area between noon and 2:30. Once again I was forced to parallel the river in the relatively clear space along the railroad tracks with periodic whacking sessions through the brush to the river. None of these thrusts; however, led to fish, and I was locked on twelve for at least an hour. As expected much of that time was spent walking and climbing through and over thick growths of vegetation. Finally I arrived at the stretch of the river just below the confluence of two fairly equal channels, and the river spread out to create a very attractive riffle of moderate depth. I paused to observe, and finally I was treated to a series of rises. At least five trout revealed their positions, and I suspected that they were smaller and more aggressive feeders.

I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied on a size 18 light gray comparadun, and on the first and second casts I experienced long distance releases. This was not how I envisioned my long anticipated launch into dry fly fishing. I swapped the size 18 for a size 16, and this move yielded dividends in the form of three rainbow trout in the ten to twelve inch range along with another flurry of temporary hook ups. After I released number fifteen, the rises ceased, and the riffle residents exercised new found restraint in their feeding habits, so I migrated to the bike path and returned to Howelsen Hill.

The Howelsen Bridge Hole

My watch indicated that it was approaching three o’clock, and I was certain that the wonderful pale morning dun hatch was winding down; however, I hoped to investigate the large eddy and pool just below the Howelsen Bridge. I arrived along the south bank directly across from a stand up paddleboard maniac, who repeatedly surfed on the white water and crashed in the ice cold snow melt flows. I was momentarily distracted by this entertaining scenario, but then I turned my attention to the pool in front of me, and sure enough a few random rises emerged along the deep seam where the shelf pool met the fast main current. I stayed with the gray comparadun for a short while, but the fish were unresponsive, so I swapped it for a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. Perhaps the stragglers displayed a different body color than the earlier emergers. The tactic was successful, and I added two nice thirteen inch rainbows to the fish count along with a few more momentary hook ups.

Seeking Cold Water

By 3:15PM the rises ceased, and the mayfly population in the proximity of the river was mostly absent. I hoped to arrive in Denver in time for dinner with Jane, so I hooked the comparadun to my rod guide and returned to the Santa Fe. What a day Wednesday evolved into. One of the best pale morning dun hatches ever witnessed unfolded, yet surface feeding was absent until the very late stages. A rarely used juju emerger duped two spectacular fish, and I managed to land seventeen on the day. Six of the netted fish were in the fifteen inch range. and quite a few substantial trout were hooked and not landed. Five dry fly eaters in the late stage of the hatch were an enjoyable dessert. Can I figure out a way to make the three hour drive to search for the pale morning dun hatch at lower flows? Time will tell. Wednesday was most certainly my best day of 2020.

Fish Landed: 17