Cache la Poudre River – 07/13/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Pingree Park area.

Cache la Poudre River 07/13/2017 Photo Album

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.

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Deep Colors on This Brown Trout

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.

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Nice Shelf Pool on the Cache la Poudre

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.

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Water Like This Gets the Juices Flowing

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.

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Green Drake Time

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.

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One of the Better Fish on Thursday

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.

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Wide Body

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.

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Purple Bells

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

 

Arkansas River – 07/12/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Lunch Rock upriver a mile.

Arkansas River 07/12/2017 Photo Album

After packing up our campsite at Shavano on Wednesday morning, Jane and I drove to the trailhead for the Little Rainbow mountain bike trail near Salida on Methodist Mountain. We biked east for half an hour and then turned around and returned. Little Rainbow is a relatively new easy to intermediate single track with constant tight turns and loops, as it follows the contour of the mountain through a pinon pine and juniper landscape. We agreed with the rating, since the trail was wider than most single tracks, and it did not include any significant climbs, but it remained single track and thus incorporated a higher degree of concentration and technical bike handling skill than a paved surface.

After we completed our ride, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on our blanket in a small park next to the Salida Hot Springs. Our timing overlapped with the traditional lunch hour, and we were surprised by the number of park visitors. After lunch Jane and I parted ways, as she returned to Denver for Thursday tennis, and I proceeded east on US 50 to a location five miles below Salida, that I refer to as Lunch Rock. A huge rock juts into the Arkansas River, and I often park next to it and consume my lunch before fishing. I planned to give the Arkansas River another edge fishing trial on Wednesday afternoon to assess whether to commit a full day to the large freestone river on Thursday.

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Promising Section Ahead

 

Between 1:00 and 3:30 I covered approximately .75 mile, and I can report that it was not the “fish in a barrel” experience touted by the fly shops. I landed three brown trout with the first and largest measuring fourteen inches. I began the afternoon with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and ultra zug bug; as these three flies generated some decent action in the late afternoon on Monday. I persevered with this combination for an hour or more, and the fat Albert produced three refusals, while I managed one brief hookup on one of the nymphs. I covered a lot of water, and I finally conceded that the three flies deployed were not effective trout enticers.

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Re-entry

I shifted to a solo yellow Letort hopper in an effort to downsize but retain the yellow body color, and this fly elicited two looks but no takes. Another step down to a size 12 yellow stimulator finally yielded the first landed fish; the fourteen inch brown trout I mentioned earlier. I thought that perhaps the stimulator was the answer, but after the initial success it began to generate refusals as well. I adhered to the yellow stimulator theme and switched to a size 14 version, but once again refusals were the answer from the trout. How about a size 14 lime green trude? It was knotted to my line, but it was totally ignored.

In a last ditch effort to salvage a slow day I tied a size 16 light gray caddis to my leader, and this finally generated interest from the previously selective or lock jawed trout. I landed two brown trout on the caddis, and in addition I endured two long distance releases. A fair amount of glare existed along the bank, but assuming a more advantageous position for lighting was not an option as a result of the high flows and the thick streamside vegetation. The small size 16 caddis was quite difficult to follow in the poor lighting, and gusting wind made it very challenging to know were the fly landed on each cast. The two escaped fish probably benefited from late hook sets linked to poor visibility.

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Velvet Antlered Deer Grazing in the Front Yard of a Home in Salida

In summary it was a tough outing, but I concluded that a return to Denver was preferable to another day on the Arkansas River. I checked off edge fishing the Arkansas from my goals list, but I did not experience the success I anticipated. Monday and Wednesday results were significantly inferior when compared to previous years during receding run off, and I am uncertain of the reasons. I plan to move on to other rivers and streams in Colorado, and I am undecided about when I will return to the newly certified gold medal Arkansas River.

Fish Landed: 3

Upper Waterdog Lake – 07/11/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: West side of Upper Waterdog Lake

Upper Waterdog Lake 07/11/217 Photo Album

I find it interesting that the human brain selectively forgets negative experiences and retains the positive. At least that seems to be my experience. In early July 2016 Jane and I hiked to the Waterdog Lakes near Monarch Pass, and favorable memories of that trek prompted us to plan a second hike on July 11, 2017. Jane prepared a tasty breakfast at campsite number 13 at Angel of Shavano, and we departed early in case the weather report of afternoon thunderstorms was accurate.

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Yum. Eggs and Toast.

We made the short drive to within three miles of the summit of Monarch Pass and parked along the southwest side of the highway. My watch showed 9:40, as we crossed the wide roadway and embarked on the trail among some dense trees. Three other groups of hikers left the parking area ahead of us. The trail to Lower Waterdog Lake was quite arduous, and this was the experience that our brains discounted over a one year period of time. We climbed immediately and steadily with very little flat or downhill respite along the way. Fortunately our conditioning paid off, and we arrived at the lower lake by 10:40. The vista before us after we cleared the final ridge was gratifying, and this was what we remembered from our 2016 visit. We passed nearly all the folks that started just before us, and we were surprised by the absence of campers or fishermen on the spectacular lower lake.

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Lower Waterdog Lake

Unlike our 2016 trip I carried my frontpack, backpack, fly rod and reel, and fishing net on the July 11 outing. On the prior venture I observed quite a few trout concentrated on the western end of Upper Waterdog Lake, and I vowed to pack fishing gear should I return. The moment was near, and I eagerly anticipated shots at the lake dwelling cold water fish, as we turned to the left and followed a worn trail to the southwest corner of the lower lake. A maze of trails branched off at this point, but I strategically remembered that the key to accessing the most direct and easiest route to the upper lake was to always veer to the left. Fortunately my memory remains relatively keen, and we arrived at Upper Waterdog Lake by 11:15. I immediately began to assemble my Sage four weight rod, and Jane explored a trail that circled the lake.

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Wldflowers Everywhere

Several snowfields remained on the steep northern border of the lake, but the more interesting observation to me was the abundance of rings on the lake surface, as fish rose everywhere. Occasionally tiny fish leaped entirely out of the water in their efforts to procure nourishment at 11,400 feet. High elevation trout have three months to eat and fatten up, and the harsh environment does not provide the rich menu of insects that sustain trout populations at lower altitude.

The feeding seemed to follow a pattern that coincided with changes in the weather. When the sun was out, and the lake surface was smooth, very few fish fed on the surface. As soon as a cloud blocked the sun, the fish responded with a flurry of rises. Eventually the cloud cover generated wind and subsequently riffles on the surface of the lake, and this in turn terminated the feeding.

I began fishing with a size 18 deer hair caddis adult, but the fish ignored this usually reliable stillwater fish magnet. I swapped the caddis for a size 14 gray stimulator, and then I added a salad spinner (midge emerger) as a dropper fly. A couple refusals to the stimulator prompted me to go small, and I removed the salad spinner and replaced it with a griffiths gnat. I eagerly anticipated that the double dry approach would bring success, and on the first cast a fish bumped the griffiths gnat, but a swift hook set failed to connect.

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First Landed Brook Trout

Finally after a half hour of refusals a skinny ten inch brook trout inhaled the stimulator, and I notched my first Waterdog Lake trout. I continued with the stimulator/griffiths gnat combination, and eventually I netted my best fish of the day; a silvery ten inch brook trout. This fish also crushed the stimulator. Lake fishing is a strange ballgame. It requires infinite patience, as oftentimes the best approach is to simply toss the fly or flies to a place in the vicinity of recent rises and then wait for a fish to find the flies. In moving water the trout typically hold in a stationary position, and the food flows to the fish. In most stillwater scenarios the flies remain stationary, and the trout cruise about and find the food. I have a very difficult time simply waiting for an unseen trout to find my fly. Sight fishing would be more interesting, but for the most part on Tuesday July 11 I was unable to see the fish beneath the surface, and therefore I was unable to ascertain their cruising path.

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So Colorful

By 1:00PM Jane and I paused to eat our lunches, but our munching was cut short when we heard some loud thunderclaps toward the southwest, where some dark clouds formed. We finished our sandwiches and hastily packed our gear and began our return hike, but as we approached the outlet area, it was clear that the storm passed to the east, and our urgency to escape the high country was reduced. We moved to a rocky shoreline on the opposite side of the lake from the outlet, and we finished our lunches, while I observed the continuing trout feeding cycle described earlier. Stage one was bright sunshine and smooth water, and the pleasant setting caused me to resume fishing.

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A More Distant View of Upper Waterdog

I refused to believe that a size 18 caddis was ineffective on Upper Waterdog Lake, so I tested it again, but a trend was established, when it was soundly ignored for a second time. Next I experimented with a slumpbuster streamer and a trailing salvation nymph. Miraculously on a subsequent strip of the two flies, another skinny nine inch brook trout hammered the salvation nymph. Sometimes it pays to try radically different fishing methods. Unfortunately that was the extent of the streamer action, so after a reasonable trial period I ended my fishing day with a parachute black ant. Surely the gusts of wind were dispersing terrestrials in this high elevation lake.

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Basking in the Sun

During one of the feeding periods that coincided with cloud coverage, I spotted a fish near the outlet that was just below the surface, and it was cruising in a circular manner and gulping something tiny with great regularity. In this case I could detect the trout’s direction, so I placed the black ant in its path. The gulper approached the fake ant and inspected it, and I probably reacted with a premature hook set. I missed my opportunity, and with that episode I ended my fishing adventure for the day.

Jane and I packed our belongings and began our return hike at 1:45 after a very enjoyable day at Upper Waterdog Lake. I managed to land three small brook trout, but I observed and gained insight into the feeding cycle of high country trout. Eventually my brain will block out the strenuous climb and only remember the beauty of the mirror smooth sun bathed lake, and I will make another attempt to improve my stillwater skills.

Fish Landed: 3

 

Arkansas River – 07/10/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Smyth Lease

Arkansas River 07/10/2017 Photo Album

I experienced excellent edge fishing success on the Yampa River and Eagle River, and my plans were in place to complete the trilogy with a visit to the Arkansas River on Monday July 10. I completed the trip to the Smyth Lease on the Arkansas River on Monday morning, and Jane traveled directly to the Angel of Shavano Campground after her tennis match. We planned to stake out a campsite as a base for some hiking, cycling and fishing between Monday and Thursday. We followed the plan with one significant modification.

Monday morning was quite hot when I arrived at the parking area just before the CO 291 bridge that crosses the Arkansas River. Fortunately after 12:30 a series of small storm clouds blocked the sun to make the air temperature more tolerable. I heard intermittent thunder, but I never felt rain, while I fished at the Smyth Lease. I assembled my Sage One five weight and added my reel which contained a new Orvis fly line, and then I utilized the wooden stairs to climb over the fence. I hiked along the top of the steep bank for fifteen minutes until I reached a point where the descent was gentler. The river was wide at my starting point and consequently offered few good holding locations, and I accordingly moved quickly during the first 1.5 hours.

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Edge Fishing the Arkansas River on July 10

I began with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph; and I tallied five small brown trout between 10:30 and 3:00, when I came within thirty yards of the CO 291 bridge. In addition to the three flies I began with, I experimented with a single size 12 yellow stimulator (ignored), a yellow Letort hopper (one seven inch brown), and a yellow Letort hopper with a beadhead hares ear dropper (nothing). For awhile I fished a Chernobyl ant, iron sally and hares ear combination; and I rotated the trailing fly among the hares ear, emerald caddis pupa, and a beadhead pheasant tail. The best fish on the Smyth Lease nabbed the pheasant tail, another fell for the iron sally, a small brown crushed the fat Albert, and a fifth trout nipped the hares ear. Needless to say the fishing was extremely slow, and it did not approach the “fish in a barrel” description prevalent on the fly shop web sites.

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Chunky Brown Trout

Wading space along the edge was comfortable, but even the nice deep runs and bank side pockets failed to produce. I felt that higher flows would have done a better job of concentrating the fish along the bank. Perhaps the reason for the slow fishing action was the absence of insect activity. I never saw a single yellow Sally. One pale morning dun appeared while I ate my lunch, and a few tiny caddis were present on the rocks and willows. Inexplicably there was no real insect activity to draw the attention of the trout. I was underwhelmed by the fishing, and I returned to the car at three o’clock and decided to try a different location.

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Slash Barely Visible

My second destination was the stretch of the Arkansas River five miles downstream from Salida and .5 mile above Lunch Rock. I converted back to the yellow fat Albert and combined it with an iron sally and ultra zug bug. I desired a fresh start and a different look. Finally the edge fishing came alive. I landed a thirteen inch cutbow on the ultra zug bug, and then three browns in the twelve to thirteen inch range rested in my net. Two of the brown trout consumed the iron sally, and the ultra zug bug delivered the third landed fish. The brown trout were very tight to the bank.

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From Above Lunch Rock

Perhaps the best fish on the day was one that smashed the fat Albert, and I played it for twenty seconds before my line went limp. When I stripped in my line, I was disappointed to discover that all three flies were absent. Apparently the knot connecting the fat Albert to my tippet was defective. At 4:30 a small storm approached, and this encouraged me to quit. The one hour below Salida salvaged an otherwise depressing day and encouraged me to adhere to my plan to fish the Arkansas River on Thursday after Jane returned to Denver.

Fish Landed: 9

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Happy Hour at Angel of Shavano

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Perhaps the Most Vivid Colors of All on Friday

Eagle River – 07/05/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle CO.

Eagle River 07/05/2017 Photo Album

Three common vexing fly fishing problems are: the line to leader connection gets stuck in the last rod guide necessitating the awkward practice of grabbing the fly rod in the middle in order to pull directly on the fly line, flies get embedded in one’s sungloves, and lids on dry shake canisters come loose resulting in the powdery substance disbursing all over one’s front pack. Thursday was one of those days. All three occurred, but the dry shake dump was the most irritating. I will highlight this more later.

Needless to say I was very anxious to return to the Eagle River after my splendid outing on Monday July 3. The flows dropped by 200 cfs to the 1050 range, and I suspected that the fish would remain in their bank lies to avoid the surging volume in the middle of the river. Packing my gear for a fishing trip was a breeze compared to loading the car for a camping/fishing/bicycling trip, such as the one we completed the previous week to the Steamboat Springs area.

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Lower Flows Reveal More Slow Water Along the Left Bank

I managed to depart Denver by 7:45, and light traffic placed me at the access point to a public section of the Eagle River by 10:00. One might assume that many of the fishermen who cluttered the pullouts along the river on Monday would be back at their place of work on Wednesday, but that supposition might be questionable. Nearly every spot along US 6 contained a vehicle of some sort, and fishing appeared to be the chosen activity of these outdoor enthusiasts. I parked near the same place that attracted me on Monday, and in fact after I assembled my Sage One five weight and stashed my lunch, I entered the public area at the same location and began fishing at the same spot.

I began my quest with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and beadhead hares ear. If this sounds familiar, it is the exact same lineup that served me so well on Monday. I began fishing at the tail of the long shelf pool that yielded a supercharged rainbow on July 3, and on the seventh cast toward the midsection the fat Albert darted sideways causing me to set the hook. I was instantly connected to a gallant fighter, and it displayed its displeasure of having a pointy object in its mouth by streaking into the fast current. I allowed line to spin from my reel at an alarming rate, and then a football sized rainbow trout launched from the river and crashed back in some frothy waves. I was essentially a spectator to these histrionics, as there was no stopping the freight train. The performance was fun while it lasted, but then the missile made a quick pause and acceleration and ended the affair. I reeled up my line and discovered that the beadhead hares ear was missing in action. What a shame.

I paused to arm my line with another hares ear, and as I was doing so, I heard the sound of something moving through the willows to my left. I gazed toward the dense cluster of whippy trees, and another fisherman appeared. He asked if I was going downstream, and I shook my head in the negative and pointed upstream. He muttered that he would move a good distance above me, and I resumed fishing. It was obvious that this gentleman had entered the area at an unofficial entry point, but I decided not to inform him of this, although I was annoyed that I followed the rules and spent thirty minutes fighting through some adverse conditions, while he jumped the fence and walked directly to my starting spot. I was more upset that he interrupted my karma, and he undoubtedly would disturb some prime bank side runs and pockets that yielded nice fish on Monday.

I continued on my way and picked up three very small trout until I finally hooked and landed a thirteen inch brown on the hares ear. After thirty minutes I spotted the other fisherman actively engaged in casting, so I exited and circled around him. I intentionally walked quite a distance away from the bank, so he would not see me, and I cut back at the point where the river split around a small island. A clump of willows downstream blocked any view he would have of me. This maneuver cost me a significant amount of quality water, but I did not want any additional interaction.

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Nice Brown in Early Afternoon Action

At the top of the smaller left braid I cast the dry/dropper system to the deepest part of the relatively shallow flow. I did not expect much from this half-hearted plop, but suddenly the top fly paused, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a fourteen inch brown trout. This surprising turn of events was quite welcome, and I celebrated after releasing the feisty catch with a brief lunch break.

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Top View of a Yellow Sally

As was the case on Monday, the air was filled with an explosion of yellow sallies after lunch. Most of the stoneflies were small and approximated a size 16 fly; however, some size 12 and 14 adults were in the mix. The stoneflies were the predominant insect in the air, but I also observed some small blue winged olives and pale morning duns. I adhered to my strategy of July 3 and continued to fish with the yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and beadhead hares ear. The iron sally and hares ear were aggressively attacked two days ago, but the fish nearly ignored my offering on Wednesday. I landed one small rainbow trout just over six inches to push the fish count to six, and then I endured a long dry spell that involved repeated casts with unproductive drifts over numerous very attractive deep runs, riffles and pockets. Stoneflies, caddis and mayflies were everywhere; yet no fish were rising, and the hares ear and iron sally were blatantly ignored.

I cycled through a pheasant tail and salvation in case the trout preferences shifted to the nymph state of the pale morning duns, but these were also ineffective. A go2 caddis pupa and bright green sparkle pupa also failed to end the drought. The dry/dropper method was simply not getting the job done, so I removed the trio of flies and experimented with a single yellow stimulator, and I also tested a light gray comparadun. These seemed more futile than the dry/dropper approach, since surface feeding was a non-event. I remained mystified that such a dense source of food did not encourage binge feeding by the Eagle River trout. My only explanation is that the trout were locked into a phase of the insect life cycle that my flies failed to imitate.

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Chunky Brown Was a Late Afternoon Surprise

By three o’clock I resigned myself to a six fish day that included four trout barely over six inches and two medium sized brown trout. The flow conditions were prime, and insect activity was impressive, yet I experienced a mediocre outing. For some reason I decided to convert back to the dry/dropper approach; however, this time I chose a size 8 Chernobyl ant as my top fly, but I resurrected the iron sally and hares ear. The main hatch was now history, but a few stragglers made infrequent appearances over the water. Sometimes persistence is rewarded, and on Wednesday this was definitely the case for me. The section that I finished the day on was wider and thus offered more wide riffles and runs over moderate depth. I executed solid drag free drifts over these stretches, and suddenly brown trout and rainbow trout demonstrated interest in my flies.

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Scarlet Striped Rainbow

In the next hour I landed one gorgeous fifteen inch brown trout, and three rainbow trout in the 13 – 14 inch range. All four grabbed the hare ear. The only difference between the late afternoon and early afternoon fishing was the time of day, fewer hatching insects, wider gentler structure, and a Chernobyl ant lead fly rather than a fat Albert. The late afternoon success salvaged an otherwise lackluster outing.

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Just Gorgeous

At 4PM I approached a very nice wide riffle, run and pool area. Some large clouds slid in front of the sun and dimmed the lighting, and this prompted caddis of varying sizes to begin dapping and dancing above the riffles. The active adult caddis in turn encouraged surface feeding among the residents of the large attractive area in front of me. I removed the dry/dropper configuration and tied a size 16 light gray caddis to my line. I was confident that this fly would appeal to the slashing eaters, but instead four trout surfaced and put their nose against my fly before diving back to their holding lie. How could this be? I waited all day for surface action, and now my fly was rejected. I searched in my fly box and cycled through an olive size 16 caddis, an olive muggly caddis, and a size 14 gray stimulator. The muggly caddis generated some looks, but the others were ignored.

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Nearing My Exit Point

I decided to look for a size 18 caddis, since refusals generally suggest downsizing. I remembered tying light gray size 18’s during the winter, but I could not find any in my MFC fly box. I cursed the fact that they were in my boat box in the car and not available at this critical time. Eventually I stumbled on a tiny CDC puff of a caddis dry fly with a light cream body. I gambled that size mattered most and tied this to my line. Amazingly on a drift along the current seam, a rainbow trout surfaced and inhaled my fake. The fish was clearly in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and I battled it for a minute, until it slipped off the hook. I finally managed to dupe one of the selective feeders, but it never put a sag in my net.

The most active feeders at the bottom of the run ceased to rise, so I shifted my gaze to another wider riffle area on the opposite side of the strong run that sliced the section in half. Rises were not as frequent in this area, but I did spot a few. I decided to move above the main center current, and this allowed me to execute some downstream drifts to the new target area. Remember the capsized dry shake canister? I reached in my front pack for the dry shake, and I discovered it was upside down and wedged on the bottom. I attempted to wrap my fingers around the bottom to prevent a release, but the safeguard did not matter. I guessed that the contents had already dumped. I attempted to dip the CDC caddis in the powder on the bottom of the front pack, but this was largely ineffective. Drying out CDC is difficult under normal circumstances, but it was nearly impossible in this scenario.

I decided to ad lib, and I once again tied on the sparse size 16 light gray caddis that I began fishing with upon seeing the rises in the riffle. Unlike earlier, however, I cast across and down, and this new approach achieved success. I landed a twelve inch brown trout and a similar sized rainbow. Both slashed at and grabbed the dry fly as it twitched slightly near the end of the drift. Perhaps motion was the missing ingredient to fooling the trout in the lower half. I will never know because I decided to call it quits at four o’clock.

I landed twelve trout on Wednesday, and six landed in my net during the late afternoon portion of my day. Normally my most productive period is between 11AM and 3PM, but on this day the timing was reversed. The July 5 fishing outing transformed from mediocre to better than average, and my net felt the weight of a fifteen inch brown and several muscular hard fighting rainbows. I anticipate that the Eagle River will continue to be in prime fishing condition for two more weeks. Hopefully I can schedule another day or two on the beautiful freestone tributary to the Colorado River.

Fish Landed: 12

 

Eagle River – 07/03/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 07/03/2017 Photo Album

Superb is the word that enters my mind, as I reflect on my day on the Eagle River on Monday July 3. How did it compare to June 22 on the Yampa? Read on to find out.

After four excellent visits to the Yampa River, I was itching for a different river experience. I kept my eyes glued to the stream flow data and singled out the Eagle River and Arkansas River as potential near term trips. Both are freestone rivers, and historically I enjoyed great days during receding snow melt conditions. On the July 1 – 2 weekend I checked all the Colorado flows, and I noted that the Eagle River was at the upper range of the window that I desire with flows below Wolcott in the 1250 cfs range. Originally I planned to make the trip to the lower Eagle on Wednesday, but seeing this information caused me to adjust.

Monday was not a holiday per se, but it did occur in the middle of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, so I was certain this timing would generate swarms of anglers. I was correct. I reached Wolcott, CO by 10:15 on Monday morning, and as I drove along the river on US 6 nearly every pullout that allowed access to public water contained two or three vehicles. When I reached my target access point, one SUV occupied a space facing west, so I executed a U-turn and pulled into a narrow gravel area facing east toward Wolcott.

The sky was quite overcast, and it felt as if a small storm was imminent, so I hustled and assembled my Sage One five weight and prepared all my associated fishing gear. Once again I was hopeful for some larger than normal fish thus the five weight rod. Just as I was ready to depart some light rain began to fall, and this prompted me to undo my suspenders and pull on my raincoat. I also stashed my lunch in my backpack, as I planned to make a full day of it. Returning to the car for lunch would subtract too much fishing time given the distance I planned to walk.

After a 30 minute hike with a couple challenging obstacles along the way, I arrived next to the Eagle River to begin my day of fishing. The sun returned to its normal spot, and the light rain and clouds moved on to the east. I overheated during my hike, so I removed my raincoat and jammed it in my backpack underneath my lunch. I surveyed the river, and as expected it was churning at high velocity. Clarity however was excellent, and these were the exact conditions I was seeking. Now it was time to determine whether the fish were hungry and aggressive.

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Shelf Pool at the Start

 

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Pool Toy Hopper Fooled Number One

I began with a tan pool toy, beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and a salvation nymph. The fly shop reports advertised afternoon hatches of yellow sallies, caddis and pale morning duns; therefore, the caddis pupa and salvation covered two of the main anticipated food sources. The starting point featured a nice wide shelf pool, where the river widened before it rushed over some rocks into a narrow chute. The shelf pool was fifteen yards long and began as a narrow five foot wide run that fanned out into a slower moving fifteen foot wide pool at the downstream border. I began making drifts along the current seam and then worked casts back toward the shoreline. My eager anticipation was not rewarded, until I moved to the midsection. I shot a cast to the narrow top area, and as the pool toy bobbed through some riffles, it sank, and I set the hook. I half expected a snag, or the foam fly to be waterlogged, but fortunately I was totally mistaken. A large torpedo reacted to the hook set, and it charged toward the faster current. I let it expend energy, and line peeled from my reel, until it applied the brakes and turned. I quickly gained line and put it back on my reel, and after a few more spirited sprints I guided a husky seventeen inch rainbow into my net. I may have shouted an exclamation of joy. What a start to my Monday on the Eagle River. Surprisingly the pool toy was solidly wedged in the corner of the big boy’s mouth.

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Large Gap in My Grip

I was still shaking from the previous tussle, as I moved uptream along the bank and prospected any area with depth and slower current. After a short time I lifted the flies and felt some weight, and this resulted in a twelve inch brown trout. After this success, however, thirty minutes elapsed with no further action, and this prompted me to make some changes. I observed several instances where a fish elevated and looked at the pool toy, and this situation bothered me because attention was diverted from the nymphs. I removed the pool toy and replaced it with a size 8 yellow fat Albert. This fly would easily support two beadhead droppers, and I hoped it would not attract attention, unless the look translated to a take. In this case the droppers were an iron sally and a beadhead hares ear nymph.

As noon approached I drifted the trio of flies in a nice wide run that was four to five feet deep, and toward the tail the fat Albert paused, and I set the hook. Once again pandemonium broke loose as another pink striped missile streaked toward the fast water and then launched into the air. I simply allowed line to peel from the reel until the combative fish calmed down, and eventually after several additional outbursts I had another huge sag in my net. I paused and photographed my prize and rejoiced at my good fortune, and then I resumed my migration. Three fish in 1.25 hours is not an exceptional catch rate, but two of the catches were muscular rainbow trout in the 15 – 18 inch range. I covered a few more marginal runs along the edge, and then I approached a place where some flat rocks and grass invited me to settle down for lunch.

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What a Beauty

I quickly consumed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt, while I observed the water in front of me. Much to my amazement the river suddenly came alive. Caddis left their stream side perches on the willows and began to dap the surface. Occasionally a small blue winged olive mayfly fluttered up from the edge, but the star attraction was the vast number of yellow sallies. Unlike their large lumbering cousins, these small stoneflies actually flew very smoothly, and they were everywhere.

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Around the Boulders Looks Attractive

I reattached my frontpack and backpack to my body along with my wading staff, and grabbed my fly rod and resumed my pursuit of Eagle River trout. The early afternoon was simply a spectacular experience. Despite the blizzard of yellow stoneflies that coasted up from the surface of the river, I spotted very few rises. I surmised that I was properly armed with the iron sally and hares ear nymph for the underwater imitation of stonefly nymphs, and I was correct. Between 12:30 and 3:00 I moved the fish count from three to fourteen. Three of these fish were quite small fish that latched on to the trailing hares ear, but two matched the earlier rainbows for size, energy and fighting ability. A couple brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range rested in my net as well, and the remainder were feisty medium size rainbows.

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Best Brown of the Day

If I found water with good depth and slow to moderate current, I generally hooked a fish or two. This period also included a couple foul hooked rockets, and trying to leverage a large fish across the surface with a fly embedded in its fin or side is a very tiring experience. Of course I also suffered several requisite long distance releases, but only one of these resulted in the loss of a fly. All the significant netted fish featured the iron sally in their mouths, while the hares ear seemed to attract the dinks. Off and on the sun blocked large clouds, and it seemed that when full sunlight returned, it prompted the stoneflies to resume their emergence. This cycle resulted in three or four waves of thick stonefly clouds. I experienced many summer days when yellow sallies popped off the surface, but I never witnessed a scene such as this, where they overshadowed the caddis and mayflies.

By 3PM I began to see a handful of pale morning duns, and I reached a place where a shelf pool existed just below a large branch that protruded over the river for five feet. I lofted some casts just below the branch, and as I followed the drift of the fat Albert, I noticed a subtle rise five feet below the branch. I tried lifting my flies in that location in the hope that the rising fish might grab one of the nymphs as if it were an emerger. The ploy did not work. I was fairly certain that the fish before me reacted to a pale morning dun, so I snipped off the three flies and tied a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line. I checked my cast high so that the PMD fluttered down, and just as the small comparadun reached the location of the previous rise, a mouth elevated and engulfed the imitation. When I saw the rise originally, I assumed it was a medium sized fish, but the streaking fish now attached to my line suggested otherwise. The annoyed trout shot to the faster water, and just as it seemed to decelerate, I attempted to gain some line, and at that moment it turned its head, and the cinnamon fraud released and catapulted into a bush on the bank. The whole scene was so visual, that I was not overly upset with the loss.

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Long and Colorful

I moved on and reached a point where the river spread out into a very wide section. On the left side in front of me, however, there was a large wide riffle that angled toward the middle of the river, and then it merged with the main current that was flowing from the right. Surely this water would reveal some rising fish? It did, but the rise I noticed appeared to be a small fish. I tried some prospecting casts in what I perceived to be the gut of the run, but the comparadun was ignored. Eventually I returned my attention to the spot where a fish continued to rise, and after six casts it elevated and sucked in my dun pattern. In this case my instincts were correct, and I netted a ten inch rainbow trout.

The next section was a wide relatively slow moving area with depth of no more than three feet. I paused and noticed several tiny sipping rises, so I positioned myself at the tail and shot some long casts to the deeper trough areas. One fish looked at my fly and returned to its position, but that was the extent of the action. I fully expected this area to reveal more larger fish, but the density of the pale morning dun hatch did not seem to spur the Eagle River trout to spread out in shallow lies. As the river drops and the hatch intensifies, the occupation of shallow exposed areas may evolve. Just beyond the top of the wide shallow pool, I tossed a cast into the middle of a marginal pocket and picked up a ten inch brown. This brought the fish count to sixteen, and I was quite pleased with my edge fishing venture.

I was reluctant to convert back to the dry/dropper configuration so close to when I planned to quit, so I decided to cover a lot of water, and look for slow sections, where I could spot rises and cast the small comparadun. Unfortunately I did not encounter any, but I did find a nice wide deep run similar to productive stretches from the early afternoon. With the abundant supply of yellow sallies, could the trout opportunistically pounce on a yellow stimulator? I decided to give it a try. I replaced the comparadun with a size 12 light yellow stimulator, and I began to cast it to the appealing run above me. On the fifth drift a mouth appeared, and it crushed the attractor dry fly. My jaw dropped, but that did not prevent me from setting the hook, and another series of streaks and dives and jumps and turns ensued, but the stimulator and fisherman did their job, and a deeply colored solid muscular rainbow slid into my net. What a way to end my day on the Eagle River!

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Ate the Yellow Stimulator

In summary I landed seventeen trout on Monday, and all except four were rainbows. Five of the bagged trout were hard fighting hefty fish in the 15 – 18 inch range. For some reason my percentage of hooked to landed fish was much better than my success rate on the Yampa. Perhaps I have learned to relax more and not force the issue. As one might expect, and I am already planning another visit for this week.

Landed Fish: 17

Yampa River – 06/29/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Stagecoach tailwater.

Yampa River 06/29/2017 Photo Album

After a fun day of fly fishing on the Yampa River with my friend Steve on June 28, I drove to my reserved campsite on the McKindley Loop at Stagecoach State Park. After setting up my small REI tent, eating a light dinner, and washing the dishes; I decided to make the short drive to scout the Yampa tailwater. When I checked the DWR stream flow data before departing from Denver, it displayed 34 cfs, and I concluded that level suggested low flows and technical fishing. When I arrived at the tailwater on Wednesday evening and inspected the river, I was pleasantly surprised. The level was indeed low, but the stream actually looked quite inviting, and the appeal was enhanced by the numerous rising fish in several of the pools. My fishing gear was in the car, but I decided to pass on evening fishing and save my energy for Thursday.

I logged three days on the Yampa within the town of Steamboat Springs over the last week, and I was seeking some variety in my destinations. The pale morning dun hatch seemed to be waning in town, and the tube traffic was building, so I decided to devote a morning and perhaps a day to fishing the tailwater. I camped within a mile of the parking lot, so why not take advantage of my proximity, get an early start, and procure a prime spot in the popular area? I was struggling to remember what time I committed to meet Jane in Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon, so I drove west until I was nearly at the intersection with CO 131, and I finally obtained a mobile signal strong enough to make a phone call. When I connected with Jane, she informed me that our original meet time was 4PM, so I asked her to slide it until 5PM in case a late afternoon hatch developed. I encountered a heavy pale morning dun hatch on several prior year afternoon visits to the tailwater.

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The Main Yampa Tailwater

My plans were now in place, so I quickly reversed my direction and drove to the parking lot above the Yampa tailwater. One other car occupied a space in the parking lot when I arrived, and a cyclist on a mountain bike cruised in to use the restroom facility, while I was preparing to fish. The tailwater contains an abundant quantity of large fish, so I chose my Sage One five weight, as it provided a stronger backbone for fighting larger fish. I was nearly ready to begin my walk to the river, when I realized that I did not have my brown cowboy hat. I launched into a mad search in the back of the Santa Fe. The rear of the vehicle was stuffed with bins for camping, camping equipment, cycling gear, and fishing bags. I was unable to find my hat, and I began mulling over the sequence of events on Wednesday, and where I could have possibly misplaced my hat. I concluded that I may have left it behind at the gazebo or bathroom at Howelsen Hill, and I was meeting Jane there, so there was a chance I could retrieve it then. More than likely it remained in the back of the car, but because of the cluttered situation, and my inability to open the hatch due to the presence of two bicycles, I was unable to locate it. This thought consoled me a bit, but I was admittedly out of sorts when the cyclist emerged from the bathroom and greeted me.

We exchanged pleasantries, and he told me he was on a bicycle race from Banff, Canada to the U.S. – Mexico border. He was riding a mountain bike, and carried no panniers, therefore I was a bit surprised by this revelation. He went on to tell me that he was nearly in last place, and he shared drinks in Steamboat with one of his competitors who had already finished! I wished him the best on the remainder of his journey, and I grabbed my Los Angeles Angels ball cap, and proceeded to the river. I made a beeline for my favorite pool just above the section where the DOW modified the stream and installed fencing to promote streamside vegetation.

I was pleased to see the fishermen who preceded me postioned downstream of my desired destination, and the entire area that I favor was wide open. As was the case on Wednesday evening, the flows seemed nearly ideal with plenty of room to move up and down the river between the water and the fencing. I moved immediately to the right topmost section of the pool. I actually intended to cross above the pool, so I could position myself on the opposite bank for more favorable lighting, but I noticed six or seven large fish between a jumble of exposed rocks next to the bank. I could not resist the temptation to cast to these visible fish. I tied a size fourteen light yellow stimulator to my line to imitate the golden stoneflies that I observed on Wednesday on the Yampa in town. If they were present downstream, why would they not be here as well?

While this was transpiring, another fisherman arrived and began to fish in the lower portion of the pool. I immediately rued my decision to dally at the top, as I now assumed it cost me a position on the wide lower section. I added a salvation nymph below the stimulator, and then knotted a small black beauty beneath the salvation. The fish were not impressed with this lineup, but one visible target rose periodically, and a host of midges buzzed about over the river, so I removed the nymphs and tied a griffiths gnat below the stimulator in a double dry fly configuration. The change allowed me to prick the riser, but it flipped free of the tiny size 22 griffiths gnat in an instant.

I gained my position by camping nearby and arriving early, and now I was in danger of losing my favorite pool to the recent invader. These thoughts weighed on my mind, so I resurrected my original intent, and I crossed the river in some shallow pockets, and then I slowly negotiated the weak path to the bottom of the pool on the opposite side. This was my original destination before getting diverted. As I anticipated, the move gained me more favorable lighting, and I could now scan the area for trout. What a sight! I was stunned to see large fish everywhere. I am not certain why I used the word stunned, because I visited Stagecoach many times, but the scene always causes my heart rate to elevate. A quick scan from left to right yielded large fish at my feet, bruisers above me in a run and shallow riffle area, and numerous beauties in the gut of the pool across from me.

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One of the Smaller Fish on the Day

I initiated some casts with the stimulator and gnat, and I was shocked when a fourteen inch rainbow smacked the big stimulator. I was convinced that the large fly was mostly an inidicator, since the Yampa tailwater trout prefer tiny midge and mayfly imitations. I continued casting to the pool in the early morning and built the fish count to five. Not surprisingly I was quite pleased with this performance on a waterway populated by educated trout. Twenty minutes after landing fish number one, I concluded that the griffiths gnat was not on the menu, so I clipped it off and implemented a three fly configuration that included a RS2 on top and a salad spinner on the bottom. I spied a couple tiny BWO’s on the water, and this prompted the RS2. Two of the first five trout rose to the stimulator, one grabbed the RS2, and two inhaled the salad spinner. The Yampa trout preferred a diverse menu.

At one point toward eleven o’clock the thread on the popular midge emerger pattern unraveled, and I replaced it with a fresh version, but for some reason this preceded a lengthy lull in action. I continued spraying casts in all directions, but the fish ignored my offerings in spite of their continuous surface sipping. They were hungry, but not for the food I was presenting. I anticipated a pale morning dun emergence, and I remembered that I neglected to place my lunch in my backpack, so at 11:30 I reluctantly abandoned my precious position and returned to the car.

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She Wants My Pool

On the way to the car I passed another fisherman on his way to the river, and he quipped, “Was I making the fish wiser?”. When I reached the car I hastily stuffed my lunch in my backpack, and then I stocked additional salad spinners and yellow stimulators in my fly boxes. When I returned to my pool, the same gentleman who exchanged greetings with me occupied my space. Fortunately he chose the top right corner where I began my day, so I crossed at the lip and resumed my position from the morning.

The pace of trout feeding in the pool accelerated, but I was unable to discern the cause other than swarms of miniscule gnats with cream or light gray bodies. My fly box contained nothing to imitate this food source, so I found a flat rock and munched my lunch. After lunch I resumed casting to the pool. Since I did not carry any viable dry fly imitations of the midges, I searched and found a tiny size 24 midge larva with a cream body, and I replaced the salad spinner. In an effort to reverse my fortunes, I advanced to the top left corner of the pool where a pair of small deep pockets attracted my attention.

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I began making casts to the second pocket over from the left bank, and this resulted in short drifts before the flies accelerated through a fast chute at the lip. I was rewarded for my willingness to move, when a fat sixteen inch brown trout slashed at and gobbled the stimulator. This was the third trout from the notoriously picky Yampa tailwater residents that grabbed a size 14 stimulator. I was pleased that my early hunch about stoneflies was proving correct. The latest stimulator eater proved to be my first and only brown trout on the day, although I foul hooked one and played another for an extended time before it escaped. In the latter case after losing the brown I inpsected my flies and discovered that the hook point of the size 24 cream midge larva was broken off. I tied the midge pattern twenty years ago, so it was undoubtedly beyond its shelf life.

Could the five by seven pocket contain more fish? You bet. On a later cast the stimulator dipped, and I found myself attached to another powerful rainbow trout in the fifteen inch range. After another lull in action I turned my attention to the small shelf pocket along the left bank, but it failed to deliver fish. The fish count was now perched at seven, and I recall thinking that Thursday was a success even if the last two hours failed to produce. Several fishermen were above the pool that I dwelled in thus preventing farther progress upstream, so I once again retreated to the tail area.

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That Stripe!

Since I rested the main pool for a lengthy period, while I explored the top left area, I once again fanned casts upstream, up and across, and then directly across. The fish in the heart of the pool continued to rise on an irregular basis, and I fully expected a decent pale morning dun hatch at any moment. Periodically I saw a PMD float by, and then I witnessed a rainbow as it ingested one nearby just as the bug attempted to launch into flight. I decided to convert to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. The change paid off when another fourteen inch rainbow sipped the dry fly in the riffle area directly above me, but this success proved to be fleeting, as the remaining denizens of the pool shunned my offering.

I once again abandoned the pool and shifted my attention to the section downstream. Of course my departure enabled another fisherman, who previously focused on the top right corner, to command the entire pool, and he waded into the center. Meanwhile I was at the top of the next section where the main current sliced the river in half with nice deep shelf pools on each side. The section was probably 25 yards long and the strong center run fanned out into a slow moving pool on the bottom third. Trout were stacked all along the shelf pool on my side of the river, and I began fluttering the cinnamon comparadun along the current seam.

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The beauty of drifting flies over large visible trout is being able to observe their reaction. In this case the reaction of the fish was to ignore my offering. I was disappointed, but at least I determined that the cinnamon comparadun was not on the menu. I redirected my efforts to a dry/dropper with a yellow bodied pool toy, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead pheasant tail. I speculated that the faster current and depth were amenable to the larger flies. My theory was somewhat correct, as I connected with a trout for a split second at the very top of the run where the main current curled around an exposed boulder, but this momentary action was succeeded by another period of futile casting.

I concluded I could not fool the Phd’s, and I returned to my favorite pool, albeit along the bank that bordered the path. Fish continued to rise sporadically throughout the wide attractive main section in front of me, but what were they eating? By now I expected to see a pale morning dun emergence, and an occasional size 16 or 18 mayfly did make an appearance, so I reverted to the size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I executed some very nice downstream drag free drifts, but I only succeeded in generating refusals. As this scenario unfolded, I noticed a larger mayfly with a light olive coloration, and this prompted me to test a size 14 sulfur comparadun. Almost immediatley a decent trout rose to inspect my new offering, but it turned away at the last minute with a splashy rebuke.

For the first time in awhile the top of the pool was vacant, so I decided to explore some nice deep runs and pockets along the right side. The gentleman who claimed my pool earlier dwelled in the area for quite awhile, so it apparently offered some attraction. I crossed in the riffle in the center of the pool and positioned myself to begin with the pocket that yielded two fish earlier. I was also now in a solid place to cast to a nice eddy with an angled outflow. I removed the sulfur comparadun and returned to the size 18 cinnamon comparadun, and although I made a large number of casts, I landed three more rainbow trout in the 14 – 16 inch range. One came from the pocket that produced earlier, and two materialized from the area with the angled outflow.

Next I slid to the left bank and made some drifts in another short pocket above the popular pool. On the fifth pass a rainbow chomped the fake dun, and after it felt the hook point, it streaked to the top of the pocket and leaped out of the water. I managed to maintain solid contact and weathered the escape tactics, until I lifted the writhing rainbow trout toward my outstretched net. The escape artist executed a late wiggle and dropped back in the river. Number twelve was a blast to fight, but a photo was not obtained.

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I committed to meet Jane in Steamboat Springs by 5PM, and I needed to quit fishing by 4PM to fulfill this obligation. It was 3:45, so I waded to the side of the river bordered by the road and circled around some trees and bushes. I arrived at the same place where I began my day. Three or four exposed boulders forced the river to cut deep channels, and the separation and merging of the river created erratic swirling currents. I spotted five or six large trout in this small area, and one rose several times in front of a boulder right before a steep plunge. I tossed ten casts, and my fly generated several looks but no takes. The naturals appeared to be light yellow, so I swapped the cinnamon variety for a size 18 light gray compardun. Three casts later the wary riser mistook my fly for a natural. A brief battle ensued, but I eventually viewed another superb healthy rainbow trout in my net.

I snapped some photos, released number thirteen, and glanced at my watch to note that it was 4:05. I hustled back to the Santa Fe and managed to greet Jane at the Howelsen Hill gazebo by four o’clock precisely.

What a fun day! I landed thirteen trout, and nearly all were in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. I fished almost continuously for seven hours, and I never strayed more than twenty yards from where I started. Large visible fish were packed tightly in this small space, and I managed to land double digit numbers of these educated cold water stream dwellers. Wow!

Fish Landed: 13

 

Yampa River – 06/28/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/28/2017 Photo Album

I met my friend Steve at 10AM on Wednesday, and after we completed the necessary preparations for a day of fishing, we hiked down the railroad tracks until we were just above the hot springs. I chose my Sage One five weight, as I hoped to battle some high powered monsters from the Yampa River. During the course of our day on the river on Wednesday, Steve and I covered the south bank from above the hot springs to the 5th Street bridge. The flows were in the 400 – 450 cfs range, and the river was quite clear. The adjective ideal jumped into my mind several times, as it was high enough to enable close approaches, yet low enough to allow reasonable wading. Tubers were a bit of an issue, but the traffic seemed lighter than normal perhaps as a result of the midweek date. Unlike my visit the previous week, the fish were able to flourish in areas toward the middle of the river.

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Steve Attacks the Yampa

I began my attack on the Yampa denizens with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. This combination enabled me to pick off four small fish that inhaled the hares ear. The catch rate was slow, and the size of the fish was disappointing, although Steve connected with a fish that felt more substantial in the first hour. Unfortunately he was unable to guide it into his net, before it made a sudden spurt and removed the end fly from his dry/dropper system.

At approximately 12:30 we began noticing sporadic rises. At this first sign of dry fly possibilities, I removed my dry/dropper set up and selected a size 16 light gray comparadun. The pale morning dun imitation enabled me to land three additional trout, and the highlight was a very nice rainbow that sipped the comparadun in the angled pool across from the noisy construction zone. This pool was the first one after another juicy spot where the hatches commenced the previous week.

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Improved Lighting on the Morning Rainbow

Steve and I moved upstream and alternated casts in a narrow ribbon of slow water that separated the fast current from the streamside willows. After this stretch we ceased observing rises, and prospecting with the size 18 seemed futile, so I switched back to the dry/dropper method. Steve excused himself to return to the car to check messages and email, and I proceeded to the large eddy pool below a man-made structure thirty yards below the pedestrian bridge. My lineup now consisted of the yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear, and a beadhead size 18 pheasant tail nymph. I substituted the pheasant tail, since I speculated that the pale morning dun nymphs were smaller than the size 16 salvation that was failing to attract attention.

I cast the dry/dropper flies near the deepest section of the eddy, and the vortex sucked the fat Albert backward. Suddenly the top fly disappeared, so I set the hook and connected with a seventeen inch rainbow trout. I know this because after a heated tussle, it created a deep sag in my landing net. After I released my best fish on the day, I returned to the gazebo and quickly munched down my lunch along with Steve who returned from his strong mobile signal retreat.

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After lunch we resumed our upstream migration above the pedestrian bridge. I skipped most of this water the previous week because the strong current ran tight against thick vegetation making the area inaccessible. On Wednesday, however, the stream velocity subsided enough to allow us to proceed safely. By now the hatch was essentially over, but while Steve was absent, I noticed a significant flurry of yellow stoneflies. This observation provoked me to try size twelve and fourteen yellow stimulators as stonefly imitations with a trailing size sixteen gray comparadun in a two dry fly system. This approach yielded a medium sized rainbow that grabbed the trailing comparadun. As I moved on, the stimulator generated only refusals, so I reverted to the dry/dropper.

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Great Colors

The dry/dropper lineup included the fat Albert, an iron sally, and a size 16 emerald caddis pupa between three and five o’clock. The iron sally was a response to the flurry of yellow stoneflies observed earlier, and the emerald caddis pupa was an attempt to attract attention with a buggy body color. The combination produced, and numbers nine and ten materialized from the nook of another nice eddy roughly two-thirds of the way between the pedestrian bridge and the 5th Street bridge. The ninth fish landed was a twelve inch rainbow, and the tenth fish to visit my net was a gorgeous sixteen inch brown trout. I witnessed the brown trout as it pivoted its head to snatch the emerald caddis pupa, as the emerger drifted along the current seam below the eddy. As this late afternoon action was unfolding, I moved a good distance above Steve, but then he reappeared, and we worked in parallel for most of the remainder of the day.

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Happy Fly Fisherman

Not long after Steve joined me, he was sitting on the bank working on his flies, and I lobbed a backhand cast to a marginal run that sliced through a moderate depth pool next to the bank. The pool was just above Steve’s position. As the pool toy drifted toward the center section, I spotted a large subsurface figure that slowly elevated and then casually chomped down on the foam hopper imitation. What a sight! I set the hook in a reasonably controlled fashion, and then the fight was on. The noble foe displayed some head shaking and serious diving, until we reached a standstill. This created an opportunity for me to exert side pressure, and I coaxed a large brown trout into my net. What a surprise! I removed the pool toy, and Steve helped me capture a few photos, and then I released the brute. I estimate it measured out at seventeen inches.

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We continued on for a bit, as we were both energized by the fortuitous interaction with the beautiful brown trout. Before quitting at five o’clock I landed one additional brown trout. Wednesday proved to be another fabulous day of fly fishing on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs. In addition to twelve netted trout, I endured four long distance releases. One acrobatic rainbow went airborne twice, before it slipped free of my hook. The tubers were a nuisance, but for the most part they floated the center of the river or the north bank. A few were unable to steer and drifted through our targeted water. The traffic was a bit lighter than usual, and perhaps this was attributable to it being Wednesday or the fact that the air temperature was lower than the previous week. It was very enjoyable to have a fishing companion in Steve, who is relatively new to fly fishing but progressing quite well.

Fish Landed: 12

Urad Lake – 06/26/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Inlet end of the lake.

Urad Lake 06/26/2017 Photo Album

My calendar was clear for one day before a host of obligations prevented me from straying away from Denver on Tuesday. I felt a strong desire to fish, but all the local streams were essentially blown out from run off. Bear Creek was listed at 62 cfs, and I was tempted to gamble, but before doing so I reviewed stillwater options. I looked at Clear Lake, Pine Valley Ranch Lake, and Pinewood Reservoir. All three represented a reasonable drive; however, I never visited them, so they represented a bit of a risk. Last year at roughly this same time I discovered Urad Lake, but I was unsure that it was ice free by June 26 in 2017. I was reluctant to make a 1.5 hour drive only to realize that the body of water was covered in ice.

I checked the Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocking report, and I was pleased to discover that Urad Lake was stocked in 2017. I could rather safely conclude that the DOW would not stock a lake covered in ice. I designated the lake near Berthoud Pass as my destination, and I gathered my gear and departed by 10AM. Traffic was reasonable, and I negotiated the rough and steep dirt road that linked US 40 to the state wildlife area without incident. Seven vehicles were parked in the lot when I arrived, so I knew that I would have company. I assembled my Sage four weight and began a steep hike up a dirt road until I reached the dam. One fisherman staked out the water next to the dam, and I could have found enough space there, but I decided to continue on the road to the inlet end of the lake.

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Fishing Companions Guard the Inlets

Another ten minute hike delivered me to the upper end of the lake, where I joined ten fishermen already prospecting the stillwater. Two swollen creeks rushed into the lake, and four fishermen occupied these desirable locales. During my visit in 2016 I fished next to the first inlet with considerable success, so I was disappointed to eliminate these spots from my fishing options. I retreated to a path through the low bushes and crossed both feeder streams until I was on the bank on the west side of the lake. From my position I could reach the near side of the second inlet current with a long cast, but such a cast taxed my distance casting abilities.

I began with my sinking tip line, and I attached a slumpbuster streamer and then added a beadhead hares ear. I fished this combination for thirty minutes and covered the lake between the inlet and the point of land to my left, but my efforts were futile. I did not even experience a bump or follow, in spite of my confidence in the streamer approach. Since it was slightly past noon, I decided to take a break for lunch and change my approach to dry/dropper.

While I ate lunch I observed quite a few trout hovering within ten feet of the shoreline. Some were wasting energy chasing other fish, but a few were clearly searching for food. When the wind died back, and the surface of the lake was relatively smooth, I noticed very sporadic rises. After lunch I replaced my sinking tip line with a floating line, and I began fishing with a green floss body fat Albert. Beneath this foam attractor I added the beadhead hares ear and a salad spinner. I flicked the three fly combination to the area where several fish lurked. I closely observed these fish as they swam right past my droppers, but after six or seven casts I allowed the flies to dangle for what seemed like an eternity, and sure enough an eight inch rainbow grabbed the hares ear.

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A Bit Larger

Am I the only person who does not have the patience to allow my flies to remain in a stationary position for an interminable period of time waiting for a fish to cruise by in a large body of water? It takes every ounce of self control for me to resist twitching or stripping the flies. On Monday this actually proved to be a beneficial trait. I began to slowly crawl the flies with a hand twisting retrieve, and for some reason this worked. I began experiencing momentary hook ups and eventually landed three additional small rainbow trout, as they snatched one of the nymphs on the slow retrieve. One trout nabbed the salad spinner, another nipped the hares ear, and one gluttonous finned fool smashed the fat Albert.

Unfortunately the wind kicked up and created larger riffles and small waves, and this change in atmospheric conditions coincided with an extended lull in my trout action. Clearly the fish were willing to grab subsurface offerings, so why not return to the streamer method? I snipped off the fat Albert and salad spinner, and I replaced them with a slumpbuster and bright green caddis pupa. The mainstay hares ear remained in the lineup as the middle fly, and I began to cast and strip my streamer. Unlike the initial session I deployed a slower retrieve, as I made short erratic strips. I also paused to allow the flies to sink, before I began my retrieve in case the trout were hanging out lower in the water column. The third deviation from the morning period was the addition of a third fly.

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My Position Was on the Far Side of the Entering Creek

The three fly streamer approach evolved into my most productive fly fishing method over the remainder of the afternoon. I moved the fish count from four to thirteen, and all of the netted fish were rainbows, and all slammed a fly in a streamer lineup. Toward the end of the afternoon I briefly experimented with a size 14 gray caddis, but the wind kicked up and created waves, and I abandoned the single dry after only five or six casts. When I returned to the streamer and trailers, I opted for a natural pine squirrel leech, beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug.

The tally by fly for fish numbers four through thirteen is as follows: two consumed the bright green caddis pupa, two slammed the slumpbuster, one grabbed the pine squirrel leach, and four nipped the beadhead hares ear. I experienced at least double that many bumps and nips during the streamer time period, and I probably hooked between six and ten for only a second or two. I am uncertain what technique I should use to convert more hook ups and bumps to netted fish.

It was 61 degrees when I left the parking lot, so I wore a long sleeved undershirt, and I was comfortable until the wind accelerated at two o’clock. This forced me to unwrap the light down coat that was around my waist, and I was comfortable while wearing this extra layer for the last two hours. When I returned to my home in Denver it was 89 degrees!

The fish were small and likely stockers, but the alpine scenery was breathtaking, and I enjoyed the challenge of using different techniques to catch trout in a stillwater environment. Will I undertake more lake fishing in 2017? Stay tuned.

Landed Fish: 13