North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 04/18/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam.

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 04/18/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday was more of a walk the dog day than a serious fly fishing day. Our son, Dan, and his fiancee, Ariel, adopted a dog named Zuni. On days when Dan travels and Ariel works, Jane and I enjoy dog sitting duties for our grandpuppy. Yesterday we transported Zuni to Mt. Falcon Park, where we hiked the Meadows Trail.

Thursday we decided to introduce Zuni to fly fishing. We packed the car with fly fishing gear and dog tending items, and we departed for the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek below Buttonrock Reservoir. First we detoured to the Highlands in Denver, where we gathered Miss Zuni, and we ushered her into the car. An hour and fifteen minutes later we arrived at the parking lot below the gate that restricts vehicle access to the Button Rock Preserve. Jane tended to Zuni’s high energy levels and constant curiosity, while I climbed into my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight rod.

We hiked for a good distance, while Zuni criss-crossed the packed dirt road in an effort to explore the stream, the boulders, the sticks, and the tall grass along the way. Finally we arrived at the location I chose for my entry point. Jane and Zuni remained as spectators for a bit, but my lack of action resulted in their exit, as they advance up the dirt road.

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This Little Guy Was the First Fish of the Day

I began my quest for St. Vrain trout with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead salvation nymph; but this trio of flies was soundly ignored by the local stream dwelling residents. After thirty minutes of focused fishing I covered a fair distance including some quality pools, and the fish counter remained locked on zero. I decided to make a change, and I swapped the salvation nymph for a RS2. This move paid off, when I lifted the rod tip to make another cast in a medium sized pool, and a small brown trout latched on to the RS2. Shortly thereafter the same result occurred in another pool a bit farther upstream, and I was pleased to experience a small amount of success.

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Another RS2 Lover

More upstream progress delivered me to a qualtiy pool above a huge collection of branches and sticks, and as I fired the dry/dropper into the depths, several fish revealed their presence with sipping rises. I halted my casts to avoid disturbing the water and observed for a minute. I spotted at least five fish in close proximity, and several moved back and forth snatching food from the drift, while two elevated to the surface and displayed occasional subtle sips.

Clearly these fish were seeking food in the upper one-third of the water column, and my nymphs were drifting below their area of search. I removed the three flies and tied a tiny size 24 CDC BWO to my line. I was very optimistic that this offering would deceive the pool feeders, but it was ignored in a manner similar to inanimate debris. Could these fish be selective to emergers in a manner similar to Monday on the Eagle River?

I decided to test my theory. I replaced the CDC olive with a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger, and I applied a liberal amount of floatant to the body. I flipped five casts to the center and far side of the pool with no results, but on the sixth drift a nine inch brown darted to the surface and consumed the wet fly. I quickly reacted and netted the feisty eater. Once I photographed and released the small jewel, I glanced at my watch and realized it was 12:30, and Jane and I agreed to meet at the large outflow pipe at that time.

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Soft Hackle Emerger Eater

I quickly clambered up the bank, and as I began walking at a brisk pace, I spotted Jane and Zuni coming toward me. We met, and Zuni showed excessive interest in my wading staff, and then we moved on to a nice spot next to a long pool. Jane spread out her outdoor blanket, and we enjoyed our lunches while Zuni rested.

After lunch I ambled a short distance to the head of the long pool and paused to observe. As I gazed at the far side of the pool, I spotted two dark figures, and then as I stared one fish elevated to sip a morsel from the surface. This of course confirmed that the items I sighted were fish, so I engaged in some long casts to the far side of the pool, while I was careful to avoid the large overhanging pine boughs. The closest fish seemed to look toward the fly several times, but that was the extent of its interest. Another fish several feet beyond the looker slowly moved to the surface to suck in a natural, so I shifted my attention to that target. I dropped a nice cast five feet above number two, and in a flash it darted upward and inhaled my offering. I responded with a short set, and then I guided the small brown to my net. As this transpired, Jane and Zuni looked on. I snapped a photo, while I held the fish next to the net, and then I extended it to Zuni. I was curious to see her reaction, and she responded with her first kiss. Well, it was her first kiss of a fish. I am not aware of the goings on during her frequent dog park visits.

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Zuni's First Kiss

After this fun episode I returned to the road, and I hiked back to the pool that contained five rising fish before lunch. I walked downstream beyond the intended pool in order to reach the shallow tail, where I could safely cross to the opposite side. As I progressed upstream along the far bank, I paused at the bottom of the long slow pool and launched a few casts to the smooth water above me. On the third drift I noted a bulge below the dry fly, and I set the hook and reeled in another small brown trout. I neglected to mention, that I switched the soft hackle emerger for a Klinkhammer BWO, and the recently added fly fooled the pool resident.

I continued to the pool inhabited by five trout, but the Klink emerger failed to entice any interest, and my watch indicated that it was time to depart. I once again scaled the steep rocky bank and hiked back to the parking lot at a brisk pace. I found Jane and Zuni cavorting about the parking area, and a dog water bowl was positioned directly behind the Santa Fe. I began to remove my waders, and a couple arrived with two dogs, and Zuni quickly introduced herself to a black female puppy. Apparently rough play is a necessary phase of dog introduction, as both pups frolicked and rolled in the parking lot for a bit.

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Licking the Net

I was pleased to land five small brown trout in two hours of fishing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Despite the clear blue skies a brief hatch of blue winged olives attracted some surface feeders, and I capitalized by fooling three on dry flies. Not a bad day for a dog walk.

Fish Landed: 5

Eagle River – 04/16/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards

Eagle River 04/16/2018 Photo Album

Wow. I am not sure there are enough superlatives to describe my day yesterday on the Eagle River. Yes, twenty-one trout landed is a nice quantity, but the size was fairly average, with most falling in the twelve to fourteen inch range. The mix of brown trout vs. rainbow trout was around 60/40, and I landed two rare cutthroats as well. Why was it so special?

Last spring and fall I experienced three outings when dense blue winged olive hatches developed, but I was unable to fool trout on a consistent basis. The common factor in all these instances was strong wind. Two memorable occasions when BWO frustration ruled were on the Frying Pan River on 10/26/2017 and the South Platte River on 04/19/2017. My last visit to the Eagle River on 11/01/2018 was another similar example of baetis hatch frustration. So here I was along side the Eagle River again on April 16, 2018 with relatively high winds in the forecast. Would Monday be another exercise in frustration?

When I planned my day on the Eagle River, I reacted to two critical pieces of information. The weather forecast called for highs in the low sixties accompanied by 16 MPH winds. I banked on the warm air temperatures to create comfortable conditions for a day of fishing. The stream flows were in the 150 CFS range; and my friend, Todd, who lives in Arrowhead near Avon informed me in an email, that fishing has been been excellent with consistent blue winged olive hatches in the afternoon. I took the plunge and made the two plus hour drive to Avon.

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Fun Starts Here on April 16

As I prepared to fish, the air temperature was around fifty degrees, and slate gray skies suggested, that it would be awhile before the warming rays of the sun would have an impact. As projected, the wind gusted on a regular basis, so I pulled on my green light fleece jacket in addition to my waders. I eschewed my New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and left my gray fleece in the car. I banked on sunshine and a warming trend in the afternoon.

As the day evolved, the sun rarely peaked through the clouds, and I rued my decision to forego the ear flaps and extra layer. The weather did not create comfortable conditions for fishing, but it did provide an ideal environment for blue winged olives. Once my Sage four weight was assembled, with the fly line pulled through the guides, I crossed the highway and followed the bicycle path down the hill to the river. I was overjoyed to discover that I was the first arrival at the targeted section of the stream. I configured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2 and began drifting the nymphs through some delightful deep runs at the top of the long pool. I was quite optimistic; however, thirty minutes elapsed with no action.

I shuffled to the bank to warm my feet and then retreated to a nice wide run just downstream of the pool. Once again I probed the depths with my nymphs, and again there was no evidence of Eagle River trout. I abandoned the faster run and returned to the midsection of the large pool, and at this point I exchanged the beadhead hares ear for a beadhead emerald caddis pupa. The emerald pupa generated a few nice trout in the early going in Eleven Mile Canyon, so perhaps the same would occur on Monday on the Eagle River. I began drifting the nymphs through the middle of the pool, where the faster water spread out over nice moderate depth, and simultaneously I began to see sporadic rises.

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Gray-Green Rocket

I scanned the water several times, but I was unable to detect any surface food source of significance. I debated shifting to a blue winged olive dry fly, but I was not certain that was the answer. As these thoughts were swirling through my brain, another fisherman arrived, and I carefully watched him. He had a large backpack, and he changed into his waders and assembled his rod among the large boulders next to my pool. I was eager to see where he planned to fish. Eventually he was ready, and he began fishing the faster run below the pool, that I prospected fifteen minutes earlier. After a bit he signaled, and asked if I minded if he crossed to the the very lower portion of the pool, and I responded with an OK. I was a bit concerned that he would occupy the slower moving lower section of the pool above the natural rock dam, but the area was quite large and could easily accommodate two fishermen.

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Sparkle Wing RS2 Lover

I returned my attention to the prime matter at hand, catching fish. I resumed drifting the nymphs through the midsection, and I continued to observe sporadic rises from trout throughout the area. Finally at the end of one of my drifts I allowed the nymphs to dangle, while I took a few steps to change positions, and suddenly I felt a bump and a throb on my line. I reacted with a quick hook set, but just as quickly the fish escaped. Clearly this fish reacted to the fluttering nymph, so perhaps that was the key to enticing the feeders surrounding me. I began to impart movement to the drifting nymphs including bad down stream mends, jigging action, and strips toward the end of the swing. I managed a couple more momentary hook ups with trout, and then as I attempted to lift the flies to recast, a fish struck. This time I set the hook and succeeded in eventually guiding a fine fourteen inch rainbow trout to my net. It apparently had a hankering for the sparkle wing RS2. I shot a video and snapped some photos and released number one on the day.

I thought I solved the puzzle, as I began lifting and swinging the nymphs, but my confidence was misplaced. The other fisherman was now slowly working his way downstream along the north bank toward the golf course, and I noticed quite a bit of activity in the tail area. I circled back to shore and then carefully waded to a position, where I could easily cast to the risers at the tail. I carefully observed the water once more, and I spotted a few gray or tan colored midges. I suspected that this was the source of food, but I had no adult midge imitations in my fly box. What should I do?

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Midge Sipper

It was clear that the trout were focused on a food source in the surface film or just below it. I thought of the Craven soft hackle emergers without beads. Perhaps I could apply floatant to the small wet fly, and fish it right on the surface. It was worth a try. I plucked one from my fleece wallet and dabbed some floatant on the body and began to fire casts to the area of rising trout. It was a stroke of genius. Within the next forty minutes I landed three additional trout to increment my fish count to four.

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Look At Those Cheeks

It was around noon when something equally surprising occurred. I began to note small blue winged olives on the surface, and the Eagle River trout never skipped a beat. They simply shifted their preferred diet from midges to baetis. I, meanwhile, continued fishing the wet fly as a dry, and by the time I stumbled to the boulder strewn beach on stump-like feet to eat lunch, I registered eight fish landed and released. After lunch I waded back into the pool but more toward the midsection, where an abundant quantity of fish were chowing down. The wind continued to gust frequently, and when the river surface riffled, the trout ceased their feast, and I rested my arm.

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Deep Cooper- Olive Scarlet Color Scheme

The soft hackle emerger continued to fool fish, and the fish counter climbed to twelve, but then I suffered through a significant dry spell, when the tiny wet fly was ignored. Was I overly focused on my newly discovered technique? Would the Klinkhammer style emerger outperform the Craven soft hackle if given playing time? I made the switch, and the Klink model produced five more decent trout. Similar to the soft hackle, I cast it across and executed downstream drifts. The main reason downstream drifts excelled was the advantageous light, but the lack of presence of a line may have also been a factor.

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Those Spots Are Amazing

If this sounds like I had the perfect flies, that was not the case. For each fish landed I lobbed twenty or thirty casts over the feeding trout clustered in the pool. Many times I could not follow my fly and simply set when a rise occurred in the vicinity of where I anticipated the fly to be. But in some cases particularly with the higher floating visible Klinkhammer, I witnessed looks and refusals. The pool dwellers definitely preferred naturals, but as evidenced by the fish count, my flies worked often enough to maintain my interest.

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So Chunky

Toward the later part of the afternoon, the other fisherman returned to the beach next to the pool, and I invited him to wade into the lower end. His name was Kevin, and he was fishing a size 20 olive body parachute fly with a red wing post. While I shared the pool with him, he notched three or four trout.

At one point we both rested on the shoreline to warm our feet, and I noticed a large rainbow trout hovering in very shallow space just above a large submerged rock. It darted to the surface and picked off a tiny morsel. I pointed it out to Kevin and gave him first shot, but he was having difficulty locating the fish. He managed to put two casts over the rainbow with no reaction, and then as we observed, another similar sized rainbow joined the first one. I told Kevin it was my turn. I dropped two casts above the two trout, and the trout were so close, that I did not have to strip additional line from the tip of the rod. On the third cast as Kevin and I watched, I lifted the soft hackle emerger to recast, and before the fly got off the water, the rainbow closest to the bank lifted and snared the emerger! I was frankly a bit surprised, but I continued lifting and felt momentary weight, and then the fly slipped out of the jaw of the hungry rainbow. I failed to catch the sighted trout, but I enjoyed the challenge of generating a take.

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Perfect Ending

After this exciting episode I returned to fishing the soft hackle emerger as a dry fly, and I tallied an additional four landed trout. Again there was a significant amount of fruitless casting, but the catch rate was reasonable. During this late afternoon time frame I had some success with drifts that were twenty feet below me, and in one instance a fish grabbed the fly just as I made a quick mend that translated into a tweak of the fly.

By 4:30 my feet were once again stumps, and my entire body was quite chilled from the relentless wind and standing in frigid snow melt water. I reeled up my line, and Kevin decided to quit as well. We hiked back up the path to the road, and together we marveled at the day we experienced.

The greatest thrill on Monday was discovering a technique that produced fish on a fairly consistent basis during a hatch of tiny blue winged olives in windy conditions. This situation frustrated me in the past, and I was ecstatic to land fifteen wild fish on the Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. I now have three weapons for blue winged olive hatches: the CDC BWO, the Klinkhammer BWO and the Craven soft hackle emerger fished like a dry fly. Fly fishing is a lifetime experience that provides a never ending learning curve.

Fish Landed: 21

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 04/11/2018

Time: 12:30PM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 04/11/2018 Photo Album

Wind. This four letter word sums up my fishing experience on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. I knew from reviewing the weather forecasts, that wind speeds up to 28 MPH were expected to invade Colorado on Wednesday and Thursday. I vacillated between cancelling my fishing plans and forging ahead, but in the end I settled on making a trip. I hedged my commitment by driving 1.25 hour to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek northwest of Lyons. If the conditions were not tolerable, I could at least minimize my drive time.

I arrived at the parking lot below the entrance to the dirt lane that provides access to the North Fork tailwater by 11:45AM. I could see the tree limbs waving and the frequent dust clouds caused by the blasts of warm air, so I decided to eat my lunch in the protected comfort of the car before enduring the gale that was sure to greet me. Finally after finishing my yogurt cup, I brace myself and opened the door. Sure enough a steady stream of forceful air greeted me, but I pressed on under the largely hopeful belief, that I could cast my flies during the intermittent gaps. The wind could not gust constantly, could it?

I rigged my Sage four weight since it is a stiff fast action rod, and I needed the rigid backbone to counteract the wind. The air temperature was surprisingly comfortable, as the dashboard displayed sixty-six degrees. I wore my gray fleece over my fishing shirt, but I discovered that I could have easily fished without the extra layer. I hiked up the road for fifteen minutes, and I was forced to turn my back to the gusts on a regular basis.

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Starting Pool Yielded a Small Fish

When I approached the inlet to Longmont Reservoir, I walked for another one hundred yards, and then I cut over to the stream. The water was on the low side at 25 CFS and very clear, and this dictated long casts and cautious approaches. Long casts into a ferocious headwind was a difficult challenge to say the least. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line along with a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph, and I launch a long cast to the tail of a small marginal run. Miraculously a small brown trout nipped the trailing salvation, but I was caught off guard by this instant action and set the hook a fraction of a second too late.

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Lovely Run and Pool

The next pool was larger and deeper, and two small brown trout latched on to the salvation, and I was in a state of shock. Of course the brown trout were barely seven inches, but the rapid fire response to my nymphs was quite encouraging. I proceeded with heightened optimism and moved upstream to a point just above an old concrete dam or diversion structure, and I added two additional browns to the fish counter. The last fish that found a home in my net stretched to nine inches, and I paused to snap a photo of the wind aided trophy.

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Home of Best of the Day

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Best of the Day

The section between the concrete structure and the ninety degree bend consisted of huge boulders and a sequence of deep plunge pools. Perhaps it was the topography or maybe just timing, but the wind blasts peaked during my final thirty minutes. I spent more time holding my hat with my back to the creek, than I spent casting the flies. Had the fish rewarded me for my patience and persistence, I could have continued, but that was not the case, so I reeled up my flies and hooked them in the rod guide at 2:00PM.

I spotted several trout in one of the deep pools, but they were not paying attention to my offerings, although they seemed to shift from time to time, as if they were grabbing food from the drift. I thought I recognized two blue winged olives above the water surface, so I swapped the salvation for a sparkle wing RS2, and I dropped five casts into the relatively small eddy above the sighted fish. Perhaps the fish in front of me were nabbing active baetis nymphs? It was a great theory, but the change in flies did not end my fish catching slump.

I cut my losses and returned to the car with a fish tally of four. My sanity remained in place, and I enjoyed the silence and stillness inside my car on the return drive to Stapleton. In hindsight landing four trout in 1.5 hours of atmospheric turbulence was actually a notable achievement. Spring fishing can be quite variable, and Wednesday was a good example of the seasonal risk.

Fish Landed: 4

South Platte River – 04/10/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/10/2018 Photo Album

In fly fishing rarely does history repeat itself, and that was certainly true on Tuesday April 10. After an outstanding day on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Thursday, April 5, I decided to make another trip to the quality tailwater below Eleven Mile Reservoir. The high temperature in Denver was forecast to reach the low seventies, and that translated to the low sixties in the canyon near Lake George. Unlike the Wednesday and Thursday weather prediction, the wind was projected to be moderate on Tuesday, so I leaped at the opportunity to take advantage of the favorable conditions.

I arrived at the pullout in the upper catch and release section by 10:15AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and pulled on my fleece and light down, I was prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature at the start of my quest for South Platte River trout was in the mid-forties, but once the sun arced above the canyon walls, it warmed up nicely. My favorite pool below the second tunnel was occupied, so I hiked down the road for .4 mile. Another solo fisherman was just ahead of me, but he exited and descended the steep bank after .2 miles, and I continued toward the long shallow pool with a wide overlooking pullout, that I remembered from the drive into the canyon.

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Lovely Starting Point on the South Platte River

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Emerald Caddis Holds the Top Position on my Line

I found a manageable trail that included some rock scrambling and descended to the edge of the river. I began at the top of the long pool, and I rigged my line with a strike indicator, split shot, emerald caddis pupa and RS2. For the remainder of the morning I progressed upstream at a modest pace and probed all the runs and riffles that promised hungry trout, and my efforts produced four trout ranging in size from twelve to fourteen inches. Two of the net occupants were rainbows and two were brown trout. Two fish snatched the emerald caddis pupa, one grabbed a sparkle wing RS2, and another nabbed a beadhead hares ear nymph. I broke off the RS2 and replaced it with a sparkle wing, and I swapped the caddis pupa for a hares ear after another snag and lost flies.

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Strong Start

At noon I arrived at a very nice pool with a promising deep run that split the pool, before it fanned out into a long deep slow moving tail section. I could see another angler in a longer quality pool above me, so I shed my front pack and backpack and satisfied my hunger with a nice lunch. After lunch I began to probe all the sections of the neighboring pool with the hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2, but the underwater residents were oblivious to my offerings.

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This Became My Go To Pool on the Day

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A Brown Trout Checks Out My Net

The upstream angler blocked my path, so I ascended a path to the dirt road, and I hiked downstream to the long pool for a second time. Another car was parked in the wide parking area, so I restricted my search for trout to the upper section, although I never saw the owner of the blue pickup truck that was parked next to the road. I completed ten or more drifts through the narrow deep entering channel, and then I began to observe some very sporadic rises and the occasional blue winged olive. The sky remained relatively devoid of clouds, and I suspect this explained the sparse nature of the baetis hatch.

Although the surface activity was sporadic, I was bored with the indicator nymphing approach, so I removed the indicator and split shot and replaced the two flies with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. I placed casts over the three or four spots, where fish revealed their positions through rises, and my fly was mainly ignored, although one interested diner elevated and created a bulge but turned away at the last minute.

I surrendered to the picky eaters in the deep pool next to me, and I pondered whether perhaps the hatch was more advanced in the quality pool where I ate lunch. I scrambled up the steep bank and retraced my steps along the edge of the road, until I was adjacent to the target pool. I found a relatively gentle path and arrived at my lunch spot near the midsection. I paused to observe the activity, and once again a few trout flashed to the surface to snatch emerging insects. I was fairly certain that blue winged olives were the preferred menu item, as quite a few small gray winged mayflies fluttered and tumbled above the river.

I attempted to make some downstream casts to the more aggressive feeders on the opposite side of the center current, but I was unsuccessful, so I moved to the shallow tail area and crossed to the west bank. I was hopeful that I could get better lighting and a better angle for executing downstream drifts. I began targeting  three or four trout that fed irregularly, and eventually one of the more aggressive brown trout chomped on the tiny fake bug. I was pleased to land number five and my first victim of a BWO dry fly.

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Pivoted for Better Light

After I released the hard earned brown trout, I continued probing the pool, but visible fish were refusing or totally ignoring the CDC BWO. I recalled my success on April 5 with the Klinkhammer blue winged olive, so I converted to the new ace in the hole. On this day and in this pool, however, the Klink BWO was not popular. I finally gave up on the lunch location and circled around the long pool and fisherman above me and resumed fishing a good distance beyond. I slowly walked along the edge of the river and scanned the water for surface feeding activity. It was not long, before I arrived at a nice long riffle of moderate depth, and after some careful observation, I detected some subtle dimples in the swirling current.

I noted at least three feeders, and after quite a few futile casts, I floated the emerger down a slot toward the tail, and a nice thirteen inch brown trout mistook my offering for a natural olive. A brief tussle followed, but I eventually guided the wild brown into my net. I remained in the area for another twenty minutes and floated the Klinkhammer over two additional snacking trout, but I was unable to interest them in my fly.

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Creating a Sag

Once again I opted to move on, and my next stop was the tunnel pool. The angler who occupied it, when I first arrived in the morning was just now departing and climbed the bank, so I quickly staked my claim to my favorite location in Eleven Mile Canyon. Alas, I was too late. A pair of fish dimpled in the slow moving tail section, but I was unable to deceive them. A blind cast in the center section elicited one refusal, but again I was unable to seal the deal. I paused and observed for three minutes, and the river surface was devoid of surface feeding. It was 3:30, the sky was clear and blue, and the hatch was essentially over; so I decided to devote the last thirty minutes to the dry/dropper method.

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End of Day Pool

I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and suspended a beadhead hares ear and Craven soft hackle emerger below it. I began prospecting the west branch above the tunnel pool and covered some marginal shallow runs, until I reached the upstream tip of the island. I was now below another nice long pool with a huge vertical rock wall on the east side of the river. The current flowed fairly slowly over a boulder strewn bottom, and several fish revealed there presence with an occasional sipping rise. I decided to make one last ditch effort to fool these trout with a dry fly.

I removed the three fly system and attached a size 22 CDC BWO to my line and began fluttering the tiny mayfly imitation above the scene of rises. As I stared into the water, I could identify four or five trout lined up in feeding positions, and several elevated and refused my fly. What now? I stripped in my size 22 CDC BWO and replaced it with the Klinkhammer style, but the curved hook emerger simply served up additional frustration in the form of refusals.

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Very Nice Brown Trout Ate a Size 24 CDC BWO Dry Fly

I was about to quit, since it was getting late, but I decided to undertake one last ditch effort. I opened my MFC fly box and plucked a size 24 CDC olive from its slot and knotted it to my 5X tippet. I targeted a trout that was more than halfway across the river, and I shot a cast across and up from my position. Much to my amazement this fish elevated and slid under the fly and drifted downstream for a foot, and then it sucked in the tiny morsel. I lifted and connected, and after a brief battle I photographed and released fish number seven and my third catch on a dry fly.

Whew! What a difference from April 5. The hatch only lasted for an hour at most; whereas, it lingered for four hours the previous week. Cloud cover is definitely a huge factor, when it comes to blue winged olive hatches, and on Tuesday it was mostly lacking. On a positive note I managed to land four feisty wild river inhabitants on nymphs, and I developed a feel for the type of water structure, where this approach excelled. Over the course of a season not every outing can be euphoria inducing, and Tuesday was fun but never easy.

Fish Landed: 7

 

Arkansas River – 04/06/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chafee Line

Arkansas River 04/06/2018 Photo Album

After a spectacular day on Thursday on the South Platte River, I was very skeptical that Friday could even approach that level of success. Last fall I reviewed historical posts in this blog and determined that my last reasonably successful day on the Arkansas River was three years ago. As I drove from Lake George to Salida on Thursday evening, I reveled in the euphoria from Thursday and contemplated a return trip to the South Platte on Friday.

I checked into the Woodland Motel a bit after six o’clock on Thursday evening, and within a few minutes I walked along the main street, until I reached the Boathouse Cantina. This small purveyor of Mexican fare along the Arkansas River has developed into my favorite dinner haunt each time I spend a night in Salida on one of my fishing excursions. Al Pastor tacos satisfied my appetite, before I returned to the hotel, where I updated my fishing notes to include Thursday’s results.

I concocted the idea of the overnight stay in Salida as a means to eliminate one round trip, since I wanted to visit both the South Platte River and Arkansas River. The weather forecast for Salida projected highs in the upper fifties, and this was much more favorable than the high of forty with afternoon snow that confronted the Rockies season opener in Denver. Jane approved the motel stay, and I woke up Friday morning literally across the street from the Arkansas River, where it flows through town.

I packed a small breakfast consisting of a Greek yogurt cup, a leftover hard boiled Easter egg, and a Nature Valley granola bar; and I quickly consumed the three items in my room before checking out. I missed my morning cup of tea, so I decided to pay Howl Mercantile and Coffee a visit before embarking on my river adventure. It was 8:30 and the air temperature remained on the chilly side, so I took advantage of the free WiFi and sipped my black orange pekoe mug of tea.

By 9:15AM I was on my way to my customary stretch of the Arkansas River below Salida. I was pleased to observe that very few cars were parked in the usual pullouts along the river, and in fact I encountered only one other group of fishermen during my day of fishing. I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight, and then I paused to consider my layer options. The thermometer ascended to fifty degrees but strong gusts of wind assaulted my body on a fairly regular basis. I decided to wear my gray fleece cardigan, and I covered it with my raincoat as a windbreaker. I considered my light down coat but opted to forego it based on the assumption, that the temperature would rise throughout the day. On my head I wore my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. I also packed my lunch in my backpack in order to avoid a return hike to the car.

The flows at Salida were seasonally low and just below 200 CFS, so this made crossing the wide river at the tail of the pool below my parking space a relatively easy chore. I climbed the north bank and hiked down the railroad tracks to my usual starting point, and here I configured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, an emerald caddis pupa, and a beadhead hares ear nymph. The water in front of me consisted of a nice wide shelf pool that extended thirty feet into the river, where it met a fast center current. I began drifting the nymphs through the shelf pool and extended my casts across the river, until the indicator bobbed along the current seam. On the sixth drift the indicator dipped just as the nymphs began to swing, and I made a quick hook set and felt the jolt of a substantial live fish.

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Great Start

The energized underwater missile streaked downstream and ripped out line until it paused, and I cautiously applied side pressure and regained line. A few more shorter dashes disturbed the pool, but eventually the pink striped combatant grew weary and acquiesced to my invitation to rest in the net. What a start to my day on the Arkansas River! A sixteen inch rainbow displayed the hares ear nymph in its lip, and it created a substantial sag. I removed the hook and snapped a few photos and then allowed the glistening creature to return to its aquatic home.

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On Display

I checked my flies for debris and once again lobbed some casts to the top of the run, and on the third pass, as I lifted the flies to recast, I felt a tug, and once again I was attached to a hard charging fish. This time the resistance consisted of some sporadic dives, head shakes and rolls; and sure enough a fourteen inch brown trout glided over the rim of my net and took the place of the earlier rainbow. Thirty minutes into my day, and I already netted two spectacular trout from the Arkansas River. Perhaps my apprehension was misplaced.

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Rainbow and Brown Came From This Run

I was feeling rather optimistic about my prospects on Friday; however, similar beginnings in the recent past lapsed into disappointment. I moved upstream to the next deep run and current seam brimming with newfound confidence, but my optimism was misplaced in the quality water just below a long slender island. Normally I devote considerable attention to the small right braid on the north side of the island, but the indicator and split shot were not the appropriate rig for the clear channel at the early spring low flows that were present. I skipped around the secondary branch of the river and moved beyond the top of the island in search of some deeper channels among the wide shallow riffle section.

A father and two sons were positioned across from me thirty yards above the tip of the island, and the two boys were casting with their spinning rods toward the middle of the river. The oldest boy was across from me at my starting point at ten o’clock, and he witnessed my efforts to land the initial rainbow trout. He recognized me and waved hello, and I returned the greeting. In a small relatively marginal pocket above the island  and below the family, I hooked and landed a twelve inch brown trout, and then I moved thirty yards upstream to a spot, where the main current rushed through the center of the river and created some nice deep troughs along the north side. Perhaps the young man could bring me luck similar to the earlier encounter.

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Handful

I began lobbing casts upstream so that the indicator drifted tight to the seam, and on the fifth pass the indicator paused, and I lifted the five weight and felt significant weight. The victim of the hook impalement immediately shot downstream with the current, and just as I prepared to follow, it made a sudden stop and circled below me in the slack water. It made some dives and doggedly thwarted my attempts to gain control, but eventually I lifted its head from the water and steered the fifteen inch brown trout into my net. Once again the hares ear nymph was the food of choice, and I silently celebrated a great start to April 6. The younger of the two boys glanced upstream and observed my bent rod, and I secretly hoped they would migrate upstream with me to bring additional good fortune my way.

I achieved a four fish day, and it was noon, so I found a nice grassy spot on the north bank facing the sun and paused to devour my lunch. The rays of the sun continued to warm the air, but gray clouds were visible in the western sky, and the frequency and velocity of the wind notched up to another level. I pondered the afternoon, and concluded that the conditions were building toward a blue winged olive hatch. In case the BWO nymphs became active and attracted the attention of the river dwellers, I reconfigured my nymph alignment and placed the hares ear in the upper position and replaced the caddis pupa with a sparkle wing RS2. I tied the sparkle wings this winter with times such as this clearly in mind, so I leaped at this opportunity to take advantage of my tying efforts.

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Slick Behind the Large Rock Typical of Productive Water

I methodically worked my way up the river and searched out all the slots, runs, and troughs with above average depth and reduced current velocity, and I probed each such area with the nymph combination. Along the way I experienced two momentary connections, but these fish managed to shed the hook after three second downstream dashes. I suspected that they grabbed the small size 20 sparkle wing, since small hooks provide reduced hook holding capability.

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Rainbow Home

After thirty minutes of utilizing the approach described above, I encountered a nice section along the right bank, where the river tumbled between several large exposed rocks. The current break created some nice plunge holes just below the boulders, and below that some deep slack water troughs existed between spots where the various faster currents merged. This location proved to be a trout haven, and I landed two thirteen inch brown trout along with a magnificent fifteen inch rainbow from the area. The two browns snatched the sparkle wing RS2 on the lift and swing, while the rainbow latched on to the hares ear in the frothy plunge pool at the top of the run.

The fishing effort was significant on Friday due to constant wading in the current and casting the heavy nymph rig into the relentless wind, but the endeavor was producing solid results. The fish count was climbing, but the more satisfying outcome was the size of the trout, as all except one measured in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. I was thankful for my success at this point, and I remained optimistic that some blue winged olive hatching activity might lie ahead.

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Hard to Wrap My Hand Around

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Deep Run Along the Bank Worth Prospecting

The next section of the river was the long slow moving pool below where the Santa Fe was parked. I climbed up on the north bank and slowly strode along, while I carefully scrutinized the pool next to me. If olives were hatching, they would be most obvious in this type of water. Unfortunately I did not spy any small mayflies, so I accelerated my pace a bit, and marched to the head of the long pool, where faster water bounced over a rocky bottom to create a wide relatively deep riffle. I waded on to a shallow sand bar fifteen feet from the bank and began to fan casts of increasing length across the riffle, and as I executed this approach, I searched for seams where the current slowed somewhat. Once I completed a set of searching casts, I carefully took three or four steps upstream and replicated the up and across casts and swings. After three cycles of this process, I lobbed the nymphs into a barely perceptible trough, and I was surprised to see the indicator dive. I swept the rod to the left and jolted a lightning bolt into action. The muscular attachment on the other end of my line reacted with several hot runs, and I prayed that the combatant chose the larger hares ear fly.

After three minutes of activity including multiple streaks and my frantic attempts to maintain tension by rapidly reeling or stripping line, the fifteen inch rainbow slid into my net. Whew! the miniscule sparkle wing RS2 was embedded in the thin membrane next to the lip, and I felt very fortunate to hang on long enough to land and photograph this beauty.

As I inspected my flies before resuming the quest for more trout, I noticed several baetis adults, as they rode the current and tumbled along at the mercy of the sudden blasts of air. The long anticipated hatch was beginning, but I was not observing any surface feeding. I concluded that the wind was sweeping the adults into the air before hungry fish could react. Should I continue with the deep nymphing approach, or should I reverse tactics and switch to a small dry fly? I envisioned the trout feeding in the small more protected north braid near my morning starting point, and I considered hiking downstream on the railroad tracks to check out the situation.

On the other hand I just landed a splendid rainbow on the sparkle wing RS2, and I was convinced that the two previous temporary hook ups responded to the BWO nymph as well. It was 2:00PM, and I decided to persist upstream. I continued working the nymphs in the likely locations, but the effort was not rewarded. From time to time I spotted wind blown adults, but it seemed that more visible mayflies translated to reduced interest in my nymphs. At 2:30 I decided to initiate plan B; that is, I climbed the bank to the railroad tracks and hiked downstream to the small channel on the north side of the island, that I skipped in the morning.

My heart pounded as I waded to the bottom tip of the island and reached a position, where I could scan the lower pool. Were my eyes deceiving me? A ring materialized along the bubble line, where the long current flowed through the center of the channel. As I continued to scan the surface, another rise form appeared and then another and another. I shifted my gaze to the slow slack water above me on the left side, and several concentric rings slowly spread out from a center point. My hands trembled, as I quickly snipped off the nymphs, pried apart the split shot crimp, and removed the strike indicator. Should I try a CDC BWO or one of the Klinkhammer style emergers that duped sixteen trout on the South Platte River? For some reason I chose a size 22 CDC olive, and I impatiently manipulated my cold fingers to attach the tiny BWO imitation.

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Adios

By now I could see a steady series of sailboat-like gray winged mayflies on the surface, and I paused to once again observe the pool. I decided to target the three or four fish feeding along the bubble line first, but the intermittent wind made executing a nice slack cast nearly impossible. After five unsuccessful attempts I averted my attention to the slow moving side pool above me. Reaching the site of the earlier rise required a long cast, but during a lull in the wind I made the attempt. The first try fell short, but the next one shot five feet farther upstream, and after a one foot drift a bulge appeared under the fly. It is hard to describe the feeling of elation that ensues upon completing all the correct steps to fool a large trout on a tiny dry fly, but that was what I felt at that moment. I tightened the line and struck firmly, and a torpedo immediately dashed upstream and then reversed to a point halfway between me and the scene of the original disruption of the trout’s feeding rhythm. I applied pressure and eventually coaxed a fifteen inch brown trout into my net. I was in fly fishing euphoria.

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Shoulder View

But I was not done. The mayflies continued to emerge, and the fish continued to sip in apparent gluttony. Ten minutes elapsed with no additional action, as I once again attempted to battle the wind in order to execute a decent presentation to the bubble line feeders. Again I glanced to the left and noted a slow water sipper. Could I repeat my earlier success? I shot a cast upstream and fluttered the CDC tuft down, and history repeated itself. A mirror image brown trout inhaled the BWO fraud and displayed valiant escape tactics, but I was equal to the challenge and slid my net beneath another prize Arkansas River brown trout.

I snapped several obligatory photos and dried the size 22 olive and once again surveyed the scene. Despite two tussles with cantankerous brown trout, the current seam feeders continued their ravenous feeding. Surely I could fool one of these chomping maniacs. The closest fish to me in the current seemed to be quite nice, and it also appeared to be the most aggressive, as it lurched to the surface in rapid fire fashion to grab floating morsels. I made four casts and allowed the fly to skip down the center of the run with no response, but on the fifth attempt the target fish sipped in my offering. It almost seemed like that fish instantly recognized the error of its ways, but my swift reaction did not allow it to undo its mistake.

The fish leaped and streaked up and down the pool, and I quickly realized that it was a high spirited rainbow. I held tight, maintained tension and rode out the strong attempts to escape, until I dipped the net beneath a gorgeous shimmering rainbow. What a thrill! Two fifteen inch brown trout and now a similar size rainbow in a shallow clear pool on a tiny dry fly certainly elevated my day from nice to exceptional. I recorded a brief video and released the prize, and then I resumed my quest for more Arkansas River trout.

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Collection Point

The battle with the rainbow put down all the other bubble line feeders, so I turned my attention to the very top of the pool. A sporadic riser caught my attention, but after ten casts I was unable to create a reaction. I could not follow the tiny olive in the faster swirling current, so I decided to experiment with another tactic. I tied a peacock hippy stomper to my line and then extended eighteen inches of tippet from the bend and attached the sparkle wing RS2. I drifted this combination over the earlier riser at least ten times, but once again the fish paid no attention, and in fact it stopped feeding. I moved on to two more quality pockets, but the dry/dropper technique was not effective, and I now pondered my next step.

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Stuck in Foam

It was 3:30 and the clouds thickened while the temperature dropped ten degrees. My raincoat shell was a windbreaker but provided minimal insulation from the biting wind, so I decided to amble upstream to my crossing point and then check out the long pool from the south bank. If olives continued to emerge, they would surely be visible in the pool from the high rock overlook. When I reached the rock ledge below my car, I paused and observed, and sure enough a few sporadic risers appeared toward the middle of the river. I concluded that I could not effectively present my flies to these feeders, so I turned my attention upriver closer to my bank. After a minute or two several subtle bulges revealed themselves, so I climbed down to the rocks across from the observed rises. The water was faster here, so I exchanged the CDC BWO for the Klinkhammer version, and then I scattered some casts over the rise locations. Alas my fly was lost in the waves, and I never spotted another surface take to react to, and my fingers began to curl into stiff numb hooks.

I called it quits and climbed back to the car, where I shed my waders and stowed my rod and reel as rapidly as possible. The sky was darkening, the wind was blasting and the temperature was plunging; and all I could think about was the warmth of the seat heater.

Once I warmed up on my drive back to Denver, I remained in a state of fly fishing euphoria. Eleven fish is not a high fish count, but the quality of the landed trout was outstanding. Eight very strong trout grabbed my nymphs between ten o’clock and three o’clock, before the pinnacle of fly fishing unfolded. I fooled three wary surface feeding Arkansas bruisers in a shallow slow moving clear pool. What a conclusion to a fabulous day! The Arkansas River is back on my list of favorite destinations in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 11

 

 

South Platte River – 04/05/2018

Tiime: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon near Tunnel 2

South Platte River 04/05/2018 Photo Album

Some days are just special. With moderately nice weather in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, April 5 – 6, I embarked on a short overnight fishing trip. Friday’s weather in Denver for the Rockies’ opener was projected to be rather adverse, but for some reason Salida dodged the cold front with a high in the upper fifties in the forecast. I decided to take advantage of this apparent Colorado weather conundrum, and I booked a room at the Woodland Motel for Thursday night, thus avoiding two redundant long drives.

My first stop was the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and I pulled into the parking space just before Tunnel Number 2 at 10:30AM. The air temperature hovered at 45 degrees, so I wore my gray fleece and light down coat as well as my brimmed hat with earflaps. I was never too warm throughout the entire stay on the river.

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Pool Where I Began on Thursday, April 5

I rigged my Sage One five weight with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and sparkle wing RS2; and then I hiked downstream for 200 yards. Here I discovered a relatively gradual path down the steep bank, and I began casting to some quality runs and riffles among the boulder strewn river. The flows were seasonally low at 70 CFS, and this condition dictated long casts and stealthy approaches.

After thirty minutes of fruitless casting I exchanged the RS2 for an orange scud. I theorized that the rainbow trout were in spawning mode and hoped that the orange fly could serve double duty as an egg imitation or a freshwater shrimp. It did neither, and eventually I decided to change my approach to a deep nymphing set up. I could see quite a few nice trout in some deep holes, and I surmised that my dry/dropper was causing the nymphs to tumble too high in the water column.

Initially I tried a pink squirrel as the top fly with a pink San Juan worm on the bottom, but again my choices did not tempt the underwater residents. I swapped the worm for the sparkle wing RS2, and I thought I observed some follows but again no takes. Lacking success I once again reconfigured. I desired a greater distance between the two nymphs, so I replaced the pink squirrel with an emerald caddis pupa, and then I retained the sparkle wing RS2 as the offering at the end of my line.

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This Pool Entertained Me All Afternoon

I prospected with this combination for a short while, and then my watch told me that it was lunch time, so I skipped around a small segment and staked out a large flat boulder along the bank next to my favorite locale in the canyon. I quickly downed my lunch, while I observed eight fish in the tail of the pool. Several small trout hovered across from me and performed almost imperceptible sips in a sporadic manner. The quality water was located below the bottom tip of a small island, and the two braids merged at the midsection of the pool. A nice riffle of moderate depth carried the current from the western channel, and then the eastern channel joined to create a gorgeous deep smooth pool with a strong current running through the center.

As I grabbed a granola bar as my last lunch item, another angler appeared at the tip of the island. I suspect he asked permission to fish, as he spoke some words, but I could not comprehend over the rush of the stream, so I cupped one hand next to my ear to indicate a lack of understanding. He must have taken my gesture for approval, as he began to drift his nymphs in the run above the confluence. His casts seemed rather half-hearted, and once I pulled on my backpack and front pack and grabbed my rod, he vanished upstream from whence he came.

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Right After Lunch

I waded into the shallow left channel and lobbed casts to the slack water near where the invading angler stood. Miraculously on the third cast my indicator paused, so I raised the rod to nudge the nymphs into the current, and a fish grabbed the caddis pupa. A nice battle ensued, before I slid my net beneath a fourteen inch rainbow trout. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

I photographed and released my prize and began drifting the nymphs through the left side of the nice riffle that ran across the entire west braid. This tactic failed to attract interest, so I moved upstream along the west branch to some marginal runs. At higher flows on previous visits this area was productive, but on this day they were shallow, and I shifted to the west side of the river. I drifted the nymphs through the wide riffle from the west bank with no appreciable increase in trout responsiveness.

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The Scene of My Entertainment

I began edging downstream a bit with the intent of swinging the nymphs along the front edge of a large submerged rock that deflected the merging currents. The spot screamed trout holding water, and my intuition was validated, when I momentarily pricked one while executing the swing ploy. As this was transpiring, an angler reappeared. It was the same guy, and he did not bother to ask permission this time. He assumed a position near my lunch rock and began splashing his nymphs and indicator upstream.

Fortunately as this scene unfolded quite a few steady rises commenced in the tail area on both sides of the center current. The uninvited guest angler spotted this activity as well, and we both raced to remove our nymph paraphernalia and converted to dry flies. I knotted a size 22 CDC olive to my line and began feeding downstream drifts along my side of the current seam. On the fifth such pass a mouth engulfed my tiny tuft of CDC, and I played and landed a fine thirteen inch brown trout.

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Decent

As I photographed and released the trout, fisherman number two arrived; however, he seemed more interested in photography, as he snapped several photos and kept his rod on the sidelines. It was not long before the friendly duo moved on and bequeathed the pool to the original owner.

The frequency of rises escalated, and I could now see blue winged olives, as they drifted along on the surface and tumbled in the breeze. Surely my size 22 CDC BWO would dupe these aggressive eaters, but alas that was not the case. I focused on several nice feeders across from me, and they clearly inspected and ignored my fly. I pondered my next move, and concluded that the natural olives were larger than a size 22. It is fairly common for the early broods to be the largest in the baetis emergence cycle. I replaced the 22 with the largest CDC blue winged olive in my fly box, and this move immediately fooled a twelve inch rainbow trout.

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Silvery Rainbow Rests

Perhaps my observation solved the riddle, but now the assemblage of trout in the pool adopted a shunning state of mind for this fly as well. What should I do? Trout were rising over the length of the pool, and my CDC versions were not in favor. I remembered tying the Klinkhammer emerger styles, but when I searched my box, they were absent. I scanned my memory banks and recalled, that they were in the boat box in the Santa Fe.

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Klinkhammer Style BWO Emerger Was the Hot Fly on Thursday

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Growing Into the Tail

My flies were not effective, and no anglers were in sight, so I ascended the steep bank and transferred four Klinkhammer emergers to my MFC fly box. I returned to my position on the west bank and resumed the downstream drifts to the ample population of feeding trout. It worked! The Klinkhammer blue winged olive enabled me to land sixteen additional trout before I quit at 3:30. I continued to endure numerous false looks and refusals and a few momentary pricks, but as the count suggests, it performed quite well.

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Perfect Rainbow Pose

My final tally on the day was nineteen beautiful trout, and all fell within the twelve to fifteen inch range. The mix was roughly 50/50 between rainbows and browns, but the rainbows were on average longer and heavier fish. The first fish fell for a cadds pupa, and all the others nabbed a dry fly. The hatch began at 12:30 and continued until 4:00PM, and fish continued to rise sporadically, as I hooked my fly in the guide and departed at 4:30.

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The View from Behind

What a day! 2018 is developing into a very memorable year for this avid fly fisherman.

Fish Landed: 19

South Boulder Creek – 04/02/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/02/2018 Photo Album

What does a forecast of high temperatures in the low seventies in Denver, a rescheduled doctor’s appointment, and nice steady flows of 20 cfs on South Boulder Creek yield? A fishing adventure for Dave of course. Originally I aspired to make a longer trip to the Eagle River or Arkansas River; however, projected high winds across Colorado discouraged me from those options. Weather prognosticators anticipated high wind velocities of 27 MPH at both locales. Pinecliffe just west of my desired destination on South Boulder Creek was marginally better, but I concluded that I was reducing my drive time investment in the event that the gusts were not tolerable.

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Lunch View

I arrived at the kayak parking lot by 11AM, and after assembling my Sage four weight I completed my normal fishing preparation routine and hiked to the creek. Since it was approaching noon, when I arrived streamside, I paused and munched my snack and consequently began fishing at noon. I kicked off my day with a yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph.

The air temperature was in the low fifties as I began to cast, and the wind was in fact a significant hurdle throughout much of the afternoon, although it seemed to relent a bit toward the end of my venture. The creek was extremely clear and flowed at 20 CFS. Past experience at these low levels or even less taught me to approach each target spot cautiously and with a low profile.

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Number One

During the first twenty minutes even these measured precautions failed to yield a fish, although admittedly the quality of the water was lacking compared to that which I would encounter over the remainder of my day. I was beginning to consider a change in flies, when I approached a long smooth pool with a very deep trough near the far bank. I restrained myself from getting too close and lobbed a long cast to the top of the faster run that entered the deep section, and after a five foot drift the fat Albert suddenly plunged toward the depths. I raised my arm and connected instantly with a decent brown trout that seemed to materialize from the brown stream bottom. The fight was on, but I quickly gained the upper hand and guided the wild beauty into my net. What a start to my day! A thirteen inch brown rested in my net with a beadhead hares ear nymph firmly embedded in its lip, and I was quite pleased to extract such a noble fighter from the challenging clear pool.

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Again

This episode symbolized the remainder of the afternoon, although the size of the remaining catches failed to measure up to number one. I continued my upstream migration at a steady pace and added eighteen trout to my count. All except two were brown trout, and the two exceptions were rainbows in the ten inch range, but they compensated for their lack of size with sheer beauty.

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One of Two Rainbows Landed

After the first hour the fish count perched on four, and I endured a dry spell of fifteen minutes. During this time several small trout elevated and inspected the fat Albert, but they shunned the large offering and returned to their holding positions. I was having some success with the nymphs, but now the residents of South Boulder Creek seemed to be distracted by the large surface offering. I opted to downsize and removed the three fly dry/dropper lineup and replaced it with a peacock body hippy stomper. I fished the smaller foam attractor solo for a bit with no results, so I added a beadhead hares ear and beadhead sparkle wing RS2.

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Careful Approach in Order

The shift in approach paid huge dividends, and these flies remained in place during the remainder of the afternoon. The trout overwhelmingly favored the hares ear, although two eager eaters chomped the hippy stomper. The sparkle wing RS2 failed to attract interest, and I removed it after a thirty minute trial period.

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Decent South Boulder Creek Brown Trout

The wind was a constant nuisance, but it abated enough to make casting a reasonable endeavor. The warmth of the strong spring sun counterbalanced the wind, and I thoroughly enjoyed my continuous progression along South Boulder Creek. My initial foray into the South Boulder Creek canyon was a solid success, and I hope to return before the water managers initiate their inevitable fluctuation in flows.

Fish Landed: 19

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/30/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/30/2018

Steve and I returned from our wonderful trip to Wyoming on Thursday, March 22, and the weather returned to typical variable conditions with cool temperatures, a couple small snow accumulations in Denver, and high winds. I was quite anxious to get out on a stream before my scheduled skin procedure on Friday March 30. Jane and I skied on Tuesday, and the highs on Wednesday and Thursday barely reached fifty degrees. This translated to much lower temperatures at higher elevations, where I was likely to fish.

On Thursday I received a surprise call from the dermatology office, and my appointment was rescheduled for April 20. This provided me with a two week reprieve, and Friday now became an option for a day of fishing. The high in Denver was projected to peak in the low sixties, and I chose another trip to the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The forecast high in nearby Lyons was expected to top out at sixty-one, and I concluded that the small tailwater would be a better bet than other freestone options given the possibility of low elevation snow melt from the recent storms.

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Pool at Starting Point

I took my time preparing on Friday morning, and I arrived at the parking lot below the gate by 10:45. I hustled to apply sunscreen, pull on my waders, and assembled my Orvis Access four weight; and this enabled me to hit the dirt road by 11AM. A thirty minute hike delivered me to a nice section of the stream, and I scrambled over some rocks and entered the creek. I began my quest for small North Fork brown trout with a size 8 fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. These flies produced quite well on my previous visit to the St. Vrain.

Twenty minutes elapsed before I finally detected a pause in the fat Albert, but I reacted and landed a small brown trout to register my first fish of the day. I continued my progression upstream for another forty-five minutes, until I reached a long deep slow moving pool, and here I paused to eat my lunch behind a large streamside boulder that offered protection from the gusting wind.

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Rising Fish in This Long Pool

Fortunately after lunch the catch rate elevated, and I finished the day with seventeen on the fish counter. The wind remained a nuisance throughout the afternoon, and large gray clouds prevented the air temperature from rising to the sixty degree range. In fact, I wore a fleece and light down coat during my entire day, and I was quite  comfortable.

Three of the first five brown trout favored the beadhead hares ear, and two snatched the salvation, but then I somehow snapped off the salvation on a rock or stick. I replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger, since a small gray stonefly landed on my hand, and the soft hackle emerger proved to be a favorable imitation in previous years. I was also covering my bases in case a blue winged olive emergence evolved.

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This Guy Liked My Hand

The soft hackle emerger yielded three trout, but then my catch rate slid below my expectations, so I swapped the small fluoro fiber BWO imitation for an ultra zug bug. This fly produced one eater, and then I slipped into another lull. Finally I approached another slow moving deep pool, and small sipping rises were visible in the tail area. I reluctantly removed my dry/dropper configuration and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. The wind continued to blast down the canyon, and the tiny fluff of CDC was not a fit for casting into the gusts. After ten unsuccessful casts I moved up along the bank a bit and shot a cast across, thus causing a cross wind to blow the fly near my target area. The adjustment worked, when a small brown sucked down the minute olive. It was my first landed trout on a dry fly in North America during 2018.

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Having Fun

I continued with the CDC BWO olive a bit longer, but the fierce wind compromised my accuracy, and I reached the head of the pool, so I reverted to the dry/dropper. I assumed that the fish were responding to blue winged olives, even though I never saw a natural, so I combined an RS2 with the hares ear nymph. The move rewarded me with five additional trout, and three grabbed the RS2, as I lifted at the end of a drift. The other two snatched the beadhead hares ear.

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Quality Spot

This action coincided with fairly rapid progress through some nice quality water, but eventually I broke off the RS2 on a submerged stick. I covered some juicy spots without results just prior to losing the fly, so I used the separation as an excuse to return to the salvation nymph. The salvation was on fire during the afternoon on March 15, 2018, and I hoped to recapture the magic. To some extent the ploy worked, as I landed two more trout during my remaining time.

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Keeping Wet

By 4:30 I was quite chilled, and the wind continued to attack everything in its path, so I hooked my flies to the rod guide and scrambled up the steep bank to the road. Forty-five minutes later I was in the parking lot, and shortly thereafter I was munching on sourdough specials and sipping a Red Bull.

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Ears on Alert

Friday was a fun, although challenging, day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The fish were small, with the largest perhaps extending to eleven inches. I cycled through an array of flies, and I experienced some success with each. I suspect the trout were hungry, and Friday was more about placing casts in prime areas, and this required patience and persistence given the persistent air movement. Blue winged olives made an appearance, and that event encouraged me to schedule more fishing outings over the next two weeks.

Fish Landed: 17

North Platte River – 03/22/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 1:00PM

Location: Miracle Mile

North Platte River 03/22/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday was a special day, and after our skunking on Tuesday I was very skeptical that Steve and I could produce some action without the aid of a guide and a drift boat on Thursday. When we asked our guide, Greg, for a suggestion on where to wade fish on Thursday morning and early afternoon, he suggested the Miracle Mile. Our expectations were relatively low, but the idea that we needed a miracle was a bit excessive. Or was it? The Miracle Mile is a five mile section (not sure why it is named a mile) of the North Platte River between Seminoe and Pathfinder Reservoirs, and it has the reputation of harboring very large brown and rainbow trout. Our lack of wading success below Grey Reef and in the Alcova Afterbay convinced us to explore a new section of water on Thursday morning.

We checked out of the Hampton Inn in Casper and made the nearly two hour drive to a picnic area below the Seminoe Dam. The temperature on the dashboard was 50 degrees, when we opened our doors to prepare to fish, but a fairly steady breeze made it seem much colder. I opted to wear my heavy down coat, billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and two layers of socks under my wading boots. I stuck with this attire during my 2.5 hour stay on the river and never regretted it.

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Merging Braids at the Downstream Tip of the Island

As we pulled on our waders and prepared to fish, a group of five fishermen departed from the parking lot, and they headed downstream below the point of a narrow island, where three channels merged. Our rods remained strung from the Wednesday float trip, but my line only contained one apricot egg, so I quickly added a second of the same color. Unfortunately I did not possess one of the light chartreuse varieties that shared space on the leader during our float of the river below Grey Reef. I also added a BB split shot and a thingamabobber and then waited for a short time, while Steve made some adjustments to his line.

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Wide Featureless Section Was Windy and Did Not Produce

We decided to explore the upstream river, since this was our first visit to the Miracle Mile, and we had no idea what to expect. We hiked beyond a campsite and crossed a small stream and quickly reached the point, where the main river split into three braids. The combined river above this point was quite wide and featureless, but similar sections of the downstream North Platte produced on Wednesday, so we decided to prospect it a bit. I began spraying casts ranging from twenty feet to forty feet across the river from the bank, and after three or four drifts, I stepped downstream four or five steps and repeated the process. I completed four or five cycles in this manner with no evidence of fish, and then Steve approached me after having similar results.

We decided to reverse our direction to check out the area where the currents merged below the parking lot. After an eight minute hike we reached the aforementioned confluence of braids, and much to our surprise the area was vacant. A fisherman was visible sixty yards upstream, and two fishermen were waded into a nice shelf pool thirty yards below us. The river in front of us was very tantalizing, as the main current rushed by fifty feet from the bank, and the area in between was a nice deep shelf pool. I offered to fish the bottom of the pool, and Steve charged into the top section.

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My First and Largest Rainbow Came from This Seam

I began to fire casts toward the midsection and allowed the eggs to drift downstream, but on every third cast the hooks snagged in some sort of aquatic growth. I was using 2X tippet, so in each snag situation I moved upstream and applied direct pressure and pulled the flies free, but the interruptions to my fishing rhythm were frustrating.

Eventually Steve and I swapped places, and I waded in to the very top of the pool. A small V-shaped pocket existed where the river tumbled over some large boulders, and then a quality current seam extended along the fast main current of the river. I began lobbing casts to the V and allowed the egg flies to tumble along the seam. I repeated this maneuver five times with no evidence of fish, but on the sixth drift the indicator dipped, and I set the hook. Instantly my line moved, and I felt significant weight on the end of my line. Fortunately the object attached to my line was a diver and thrasher more than a streaker, and I slowly waded back toward the shoreline while allowing the active fighter to make several brief runs.

I gained the upper hand and applied side pressure and coaxed a spectacular rainbow trout into the shallow water, where I eagerly scooped it into my net. What a fish! The tail flopped over the edge of my undersized net, and I estimated the length at twenty inches. But more amazing was the girth of the brilliantly colored fish, as it seemed to fill all but two inches of space on either side of the net frame. Steve joined me and snapped a photo, while I reached into the net and removed the apricot egg hook. I hoped to snap a few photos, but before I could remove my camera from the case, the football shaped finned creature extended its tail and executed a flop. Before I could react, the wild trout was free and headed back to its underwater home.

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Wow

My adrenaline was coursing through my arteries, as I returned to my position at the head of the seam, and I began repeating the long drifts, although I concentrated on the area a bit farther downstream from my surprise hook up. Sure enough after quite a few unproductive floats, I spotted a dip in the thingamabobber and once again lifted my rod to embed the hook in the mouth of a hungry subsurface life form. Again the recipient of the hook penetration reacted, and it streaked up and down the pool. This fight lasted much longer than the previous, and I was certain that a trophy was within reach. Alas when I finally leveraged the trout to the surface, I determined that it was a fat rainbow, that I foul hooked in the belly. This fish was shorter than my first one, but nearly as corpulent.

With two euphoria inducing battles under my belt, I invited Steve to return to the top of the pool, and I began to probe the midsection. Unfortunately I was unable to reprise the earlier magic, and after another ten minutes I approached Steve to discuss our next move. As I looked downstream, I could see a long jumble of rocks that angled into the river, and I suspected, that this created some quality rainbow trout structure. We decided that Steve would continue to fish the present pool for another twenty minutes, while I walked downstream to the area described. In the absence of action Steve would drive the car down to the next picnic area, which was just below the section that I targeted, and we would meet there.

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Looking North or Downstream

The plan developed as described. The area by the rock bar was indeed quite attractive, as the river tumbled off a steep drop off and created a deep hole with numerous swirling currents. I began to cast to the shallow riffle and allowed the flies to drift off the shelf into the deep pool, and within a short amount of time the indicator dipped, and I once again found myself attached to a pink striped rocket. When I slid it into my net along the bank, I was delighted to learn that this fish displayed an apricot egg in its mouth. It was another beautiful trout in the seventeen inch range, and I snapped a few photos and carefully released it to fight another day.

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I Like This Position

I returned to my perch on the shelf and resumed casting to the entering riffle, and once again the thingamabobber dipped. I lifted my rod, but in this case it felt like I was snagged to a stump or rock. I began to curse my ill fortune, when the heretofore stationary object began to move. I exerted increased side pressure, and the slow steady movement accelerated, until there was no doubt that I was once again attached to a fish. This rainbow trout was another tough customer, but once again the cause was disappointing, as I eventually discovered that the hook was embedded in one of the small fins along the belly.

I marveled as the slab slowly swam away, and then I scanned the parking lot by the picnic ramada downstream and noticed that Steve arrived. Once he began hiking toward me along the path, I stepped on to the bank and ambled along a worn path to meet him. I told him of my success and invited him to take my place on the shelf, and he eagerly accepted my suggestion.

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Number Three

Once Steve was situated, I circled below him and began firing casts to the pool below the deep hole and eddy. I was running drifts near the current seam and fishing the middle third of the long shelf pool, and much to my surprise another thingamabobber dip initiated a solid hook set. Again a muscular combatant streaked back and forth across the pool, and I maintained tension, while I edged to the shallow water along the shoreline. Eventually after several mad rushes, I once again carefully slid my net under a solid North Platte River specimen. I was pleased to observe the apricot egg lodged in its mouth, and I was frankly stunned by the knowledge, that I landed three gorgeous rainbow trout from the Miracle Mile.

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Marvelous

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Sag

Had the day ended at this juncture, I would have been ecstatic, but it did not. I circled around Steve and waded along the edge of the shelf, until I was in a position to reach the inviting moderate riffle that fed the far current seam. I was now standing where I could reach enticing virgin water in the large honey hole that we occupied. Over the remaining thirty minutes I landed two additional chunky hard fighting rainbows in the sixteen to eighteen inch range to bring my fish count to five. While this good fortune was unfolding I paused to wade to the shore and photograph an incredible eighteen inch rainbow that was unable to bypass Steve’s egg fly. I recorded a video of the netting and snapped a few photos, before I returned to my favorite position at the top of the pool.

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My What Red Cheeks

By 12:40 a drift boat rowed into position thirty yards below us, and the occupants paused to eat their lunches. Steve and I experienced a brief lull in action, so we decided to call it a day at 1PM. I escalated my focus and delivered some expert drag free drifts to the top of the hole and along the seam, but I was unable to replicate the earlier success. At one o’clock I reeled up my line and hooked the egg fly to the rod guide and slowly waded to the bank to join Steve. We informed the occupants of the drift boat that the pool was all theirs and returned to the Subaru.

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Drift Boat Below Us

What an amazing day! Before we began fishing, I announced that I would be happy with a couple fish. I ended up landing five stunning rainbow trout, and all measured in the sixteen to twenty inch range. More impressive than the length, however, was the considerable weight of these healthy specimen. I was certain that all my fish as well as Steve’s exceeded all but one or two of our landed fish on Wednesday. I was convinced that the Miracle Mile would not live up to its name, but I must now confess that it is not an example of modern day hyperbole. I cannot wait to return.

Fish Landed: 5

North Platte River – 03/21/2018

Time: 8:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Grey Reef boat launch to Government Bridge

North Platte River 03/21/2018 Photo Album

The dashboard temperature hovered in the 28-30 degree range, as Steve and I drove to the Wyoming Fly Fishing shop after breakfast at the Hampton Inn on Wednesday morning. We met Greg, our guide, at 7:30AM, and this was earlier than our previous float trips. Prior to our departure from Denver, in an email to Steve, Greg mentioned floating the Miracle Mile, but when I greeted him, he informed us that he scheduled the normal float below Grey Reef. He later explained that a friend fished the Miracle Mile with solid results, but he was hesitant to make that our destination before he personally inspected it.

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A Crowd Gathered at the Boat Launch

Wednesday, March 21 was the last day of the flush, and the water level at the boat launch remained higher than our experience on Tuesday afternoon. I took my place in the rear of the drift boat, while Steve manned the bow. I began the day wearing my heavy down coat, mittens with hand warmers, billed hat with ear flaps, and two layers of socks with toe warmers under my waders. I was not taking any chances after the adverse 2017 weather experience. Over the course of the day I never shed a layer, and I felt reasonably comfortable. The high temperature for the day was 55 degrees, but it never felt that warm because of the stiff wind, which gusted up to twenty MPH during the midday time period.

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Beauty on Display

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A Better Angle

Steve and I enjoyed steady action throughout the day. We both drifted double plastic egg rigs; one light chartreuse and one apricot. The consistent catch rate enabled me to tally twenty-one fish, and eleven filled my net in the morning, while ten occupied the rubber mesh receptacle in the afternoon. The takes were equally divided between the two egg varieties. The most productive river locations were slow moving  sections of decent depth next to faster current lanes and drop offs.

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Deep Snow Drifts in This Section

Greg managed the speed of the boat in expert fashion, and this enabled long drag-free drifts. In one particularly productive spot, Greg rowed upstream repeatedly thus allowing six drifts through a sweet trough, and the effort rewarded Steve and I with four or five fish each.

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Bronze Variety

All the fish landed were in the thirteen to twenty inch range, and we each topped out with one at the twenty inch mark. The rainbows were in perfect condition and consequently strong fighters, and the males displayed vivid stripes and bright scarlet cheeks. We both hope to make another trip in the spring of 2019. In short, we had a blast.

Fish Landed: 21

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Guide Service Sign