Arkansas River – 07/30/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Pridemore Lease and Tunnels Area and area near Railroad Bridge Campground

Arkansas River 07/30/2019 Photo Album

After spending Monday cycling from Buena Vista to the Railroad Bridge Campground and back with Jane followed by a mellow lunch at Eddyline, I had Tuesday available as a fishing day. Jane and I planned to camp at one of the national forest service campgrounds along Chalk Creek, but much to our amazement they were fully booked for Monday night. Since I stayed at Railroad Bridge Campground the previous Monday and Tuesday, and because Jane was able to inspect it on our bike ride, we returned and reserved campsite two for Monday and Tuesday night.

Sangre de Cristos in the Distance

I was disappointed with my three hours at the Pridemore Lease on Monday, July 22, and I remained convinced that my lack of success was attributable to the muddy conditions. In an effort to prove that Pridemore was a quality section of the Arkansas River, I returned on Tuesday, July 30. The flows on the DWR web site at Salida were 1450 CFS, and the clarity was much improved compared to the previous week.

Promising Spot

I parked by the CO 291 bridge and hiked downstream, until I encountered a fence that marked the border with a new housing development. I began my quest for Arkansas River trout with a tan pool toy, and I added an iron sally and salvation nymph. Surely these reliable producers would reverse my fortunes on a favorite section on the Arkansas River.

Different Light

From a weather standpoint Tuesday developed into a nice day with high temperatures around eighty degrees, before some storm clouds rolled into the valley in mid-afternoon. I fished the Pridemore Lease from 10AM until 1:00PM, and I managed to land four brown trout. One was a decent thirteen inch specimen, and the others were small and barely over the six inch minimum, that I require in order to register on the fish count. In short, it was a very slow three hours of fishing, and the Pridemore Lease has fallen out of favor as a quality destination on the Arkansas River.

The Type of Water That Produces

I cycled through an array of flies including a green chubby Chernobyl with a yellow body and a royal chubby as well. For nymphs I experimented with a hares ear, cranefly larva (truly an archived fly that I tied in the 90’s), a go2 caddis pupa, and a prince nymph. These flies drifted on the end of my line in addition to the salvation and iron sally that I began with. The water remained relatively high, but very little insect activity was present, and perhaps this explained the slow action.

Afternoon Starting Point

At one o’clock I returned to the car, since I reached the CO 291 bridge, and I drove to the tunnels area north of Buena Vista. I enjoyed reasonable success in this area on July 22, and therefore gravitated to the section once again. I parked between the series of three and the northernmost tunnel, and then I crossed the railroad tracks and dropped down the bank to the river.

Iron Sally Lover

Between 2PM and 3:30PM I worked my way upstream and cast a peacock hippie stomper trailing an iron sally and salvation nymph. These flies clicked, and I landed eleven brown trout in addition to the four recorded at Pridemore to reach fifteen on the day. Four browns crushed the hippie stomper on the surface, and the others grabbed one of the nymphs. The salvation nymph was preferred over the iron sally by a ratio of three to one. The trout were generally small with one or two in the one foot range.

Makes My Pulse Rise

At 3:30PM the western sky darkened, so I hustled back to the campground. I was curious about the river around the Railroad Bridge Campground, so I pulled on my raincoat and walked upriver for .4 miles. Here I found a nice gradual path to the river, and I fished my way upstream for twenty minutes, but the terrain was not to my liking, and I failed to connect with additional trout. This section of the river was characterized by a narrow canyon topography; and this condition combined with the continuing high flows resulted in minimal holding spots and difficult wading.

Not Standing for the Hold

My time at the Pridemore Lease was certainly disappointing, but 1.5 hours of fast action above Buena Vista salvaged my day and raised my spirits. The fish were small, but I loved prospecting with a dry/dropper, when my confidence was high, and trout reacted with some aggression.

Fish Landed: 15

Arkansas River – 07/23/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Tunnel area

Arkansas River 07/23/2019 Photo Album

After a pleasant evening at the Railroad Bridge Campground, I was within four miles of my targeted fishing destination. Eight small trout landed within the last 1.5 hours on Monday sold me on staying in the Arkansas River Valley. The weather on Tuesday was ideal with high temperatures spiking into the low eighties. The river was high, but unlike the section where I began on Monday, was crystal clear; and I realized how much of an impact clarity has on my fly fishing confidence level.

Arkansas River from the Railroad Tracks

I began with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a 20 incher and a beadhead hares ear nymph. During the two morning hours I enjoyed steady action on the nymphs. Early results accrued to the 20 incher, but as the air and water warmed up, the hares ear began to contribute. As the morning progressed, the fat Albert lost both legs, and I decided to experiment with a large buoyant hopper Juan. Unfortunately none were in my fly boxes, so at 11:45 I ascended the bank and strode a short distance on the railroad tracks, until I returned to the Santa Fe. I sat in the shade of my hatchback and munched my goodies, and then I topped off my plastic fly canister with two tan hopper Juans. By noon the fish counter rested on fourteen, and I was pleased with the steady availability of small brown trout.

Nice Early Start

Typical Productive Water

When I returned to my exit point, I paused to replace the fat Albert with a hopper Juan, and this large foam terrestrial remained on my line for most of the remainder of the afternoon. The 20 incher fell out of favor, so I swapped it for an iron sally. From 12:30PM until 2:30PM the fish count elevated steadily to twenty-four. One or two browns crushed the hopper Juan, a couple chewed on the iron sally, and the remainder grabbed the salvation nymph. The action was consistent, but not outstanding, and it seemed quite a few attractive spots failed to deliver results. Nevertheless after Monday’s early debacle, I was very pleased with my day on Tuesday.

Fly Bigger Than the Mouth

Iron Sally Worked its Magic

Between 2PM and 2:30PM the pace of action slowed perceptibly, so I opted to change things up. I knotted a size 12 yellow stimulator with an orange tip on the abdomen to my line as a sole dry fly. The bright stimmy generated a raft of refusals, but it also duped three brown trout at the upper end of the size range. I persisted, and refusals became the norm, and after seeing a handful of dapping caddis along the bank, I switched to a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. Surprisingly this close imitation of the naturals spawned a series of snubs.

Orange and Yellow

I pondered the situation and decided to try one last ditch effort with a peacock body hippie stomper. It worked! In an eddy behind a large streamside rock, a spunky ten inch brown smacked the stomper. I continued briefly, but it was now 3:30PM, and the riverbed narrowed and created a whitewater chute for fifty yards. I was not interested in persisting, so I clipped the hippie stomper to the rod guide and returned to the car.

Chubby Little Guy

Tuesday was a fun outing. The fish were small, but I needed action after waiting out the long runoff, and after hours of frustration in high murky conditions on Monday. As a bonus, I explored an expanded portion of the tunnel area, and I will likely return in the near future.

Fish Landed: 28

Arkansas River – 07/22/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Pridemore Lease and tunnel area above Buena Vista

Arkansas River 07/22/2019 Photo Album

I enjoyed success on the Yampa River during the previous week, and I was now in hot pursuit of the temporary window of opportunity on Colorado freestone rivers, when the run off is high, but the water remains clear and cold. Under these conditions the trout bunch up in soft water areas along the bank, and they are extremely hungry after surviving weeks of high velocity thrashing current.

Originally I planned to visit the Eagle River on Monday and Tuesday and then drive south for a day on the Arkansas River on Wednesday. However, when I checked the flows on Monday morning, I noted that the Eagle River remained at 1360 CFS, and I typically desire an upper velocity of 1000 CFS. In addition I suspected a spike on Monday morning that was indicative of a rainstorm, and the area that I targeted was downstream from a tributary that muddies quickly.

The Arkansas River on the other hand was dropping nicely, and the last reading registered flows just below 2000 CFS. I typically look for 1500 CFS, but the Arkansas riverbed is quite large, and I was confident that 2000 CFS was manageable for edge fishing. A narrow spike also appeared on the Arkansas River, Salida DWR graph, but I discounted it under the assumption that it was brief, and could not significantly impact the conditions on a large river such as the Arkansas. The ArkAnglers report shed no light on the situation, as it was not updated since Sunday, a time period prior to the spike. I had all my camping gear packed, so I rolled the dice, reversed my sequence of stops, and headed to the Arkansas River. I planned to camp at the Vallie Bridge Campgroud, one of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area locations, and less popular due to the lack of trees.

High and Dirty Did Not Equal Good Fishing

A 2.5 hour drive placed me at the bridge where CO 291 crossed the river, and I suited up with my new but patched waders and rigged my Sage five weight, since I was facing big water. During my drive I crossed the Arkansas River at Fishermen’s Bridge, and it was crystal clear; however, I also passed over Chalk Creek, and it displayed the color of a cup of coffee with two teaspoons of milk. At the time I convinced myself that Chalk Creek represented a small percentage of the much larger flows of the main river, and the water would be mostly diluted before it cascaded downstream to my chosen location to fish.

This turned out to be faulty analysis, and when I looked at the river at the Pridemore Lease, it was a light brown color. My heart sank, and I considered reversing to the Buena Vista area, but I ate my lunch and reasoned that black flies for contrast and fishing along the edge with one foot of visibility could still attract fish. My original plan assumed edge fishing anyway, so the reduced visibility served as a visual reminder.

My reasoning translated to wishful thinking. I walked along the upper rim of the canyon, and after .4 mile found a marginally reasonable place to descend. My snake radar was on high alert mode after several previous encounters in this area.

One of Two Small Brown Trout from the Murky Arkansas River

I spent the next 2.5 hours working the extreme edge of the river with a three fly dry/dropper set up. Initially the top fly was a size 8 Chernobyl ant, but eventually it was replaced with a more visible and buoyant yellow fat Albert. For dropper flies I cycled through a black woolly bugger, slumpbuster, peacock stonefly, hares ear nymph, red copper john, and a salvation nymph. I landed two seven inch brown trout, and I hooked and played a thirteen inch brown as well. Unfortunately the larger fish twisted free after a brief connection, and the pent up energy of the rod whipped the three flies into a tree branch. Not only did the fish escape, but it put my flies at risk as well. Luckily I climbed around the tree trunk to the uphill side, and I bashed the dead limb with my wading staff causing it to fall to the rocks next to the river, and this fortuitous outcome enabled me to recover all my flies! I neglected to mention that I also acquired three free flies that were snapped off in a streamside bush. One was an amber body chubby Chernobyl, another was a hares ear, and the third was a slender quill body nymph.

Discouraging

After I recovered my flies, I worked quickly, until I was just below the bridge. This period was characterized by futile casting, and represented my nadir of confidence, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car. What should I do now? My plans revolved around two days and two nights on the Arkansas, while I waited for the Eagle to clear and drop. My planned camping destination was Vallie Bridge, and it was miles downstream from Salida. The water from Chalk Creek and downstream appeared to be very murky, and this led to difficult fishing. I remembered crossing Fishermen’s Bridge, and the river at that point was very clear. I decided to make one last effort to fish the Arkansas River before returning to Denver, if the results did not improve.

I drove north on US 285 to US 24, and then I turned right in Buena Vista and made a left on Colorado Avenue. I was headed to the tunnel area, where I fished successfully on one previous occasion. After a six mile drive on a mostly packed dirt road, I arrived at the first tunnel and turned into a wide pullout. My waders remained on, and my rod was strung, so in not time I was ambling downriver on the railroad tracks.

First Success After a Move Upriver

After .2 mile I cut down to the river, and I began probing the nice runs and pockets of moderate depth with a peacock stonefly and hares ear, and in a short amount of time I hooked and landed two twelve inch brown trout. How could this be, and why did I wait so long to change locations? Patience can sometimes be a detriment to fly fishing success.

Having Fun

The peacock nymph was not producing results, so I replaced it with a salvation nymph and kept the hares ear in the end position. Between 3PM and 4:30PM I added six more fish to my netted total, and this allowed me to reach ten on the day. I was very pleased and shocked by this dramatic reversal of fortunes. Fishing in clear water raised my confidence and focus, and landed fish were the result. Of course the trout were relatively small, but regular action was welcome at this stage of the day.

This uptick in success made me want to follow through with my plans to camp. But where? I was so certain that I would camp at Vallie Bridge, that I did not bring a map or book with campgrounds marked or listed. I returned to Buena Vista and attempted to find the Visitor Center, but it apparently moved. I finally pulled into a vacant parking lot along US 24 and called Jane. She used her iPad to go online and found a nearby Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Campground just north of Buena Vista called Railroad Bridge. Amazingly it was four miles north of the tunnels area, where I hoped to fish on Tuesday.

Wildflowers at the Campground

I crossed my fingers, as I pulled into the campground, and fortunately four or five vacant sites greeted me. I thought I was home free, but that was not the case. Little blue slips in the campsite post stated that camping was by reservation only. I was confused, so I approached some neighboring campers, and they told me that they reserved number four, but discovered it was too small for their three tents and moved across the lane. They were, therefore, certain that number four was available. They also mentioned that the campground host had temporarily left, but she was expected to return.

Collegiate Peaks Views Were a Bonus

I moved my car from site six to site four, and I was pondering my next move. If I set up the tent, and then the host told me it was reserved by others, I was in trouble. Finally my new friends suggested that I reserve an open spot. I was accustomed to a system that required reserving four days ahead, but I decided to check the web site. Sure enough all state park campgrounds required online reserving, but the waiting period was eliminated. It was not easy, but I managed to create an account, reserve a site, and charge my credit card from my phone at the Railroad Bridge Campground. Whew! What a day!

Fish Landed: 10

Arkansas River – 05/14/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Buena Vista white water park area; Pridemore Lease

Arkansas River 05/14/2019 Photo Album

My trip to the Arkansas River on May 3 was perplexing and frustrating. The caddis hatch was in reality an egg laying and dapping event, but I was unable to crack the code. I continued to follow the ArkAnglers’ web reports, and I even began exchanging emails with the person in the shop who updates the information. His name is Braden, and he suggested that I try moving upstream to the leading edge of the hatch, in the event that I face similar circumstances in the future.

Mt. Princeton Still Holding Snow Pack

The cool weather toward the end of the previous week halted the caddis hatch and its upstream advancement, but ArkAnglers advised that a warming trend over the weekend and during the early part of the new week would renew its progression. On Tuesday morning May 14 I decided to test their advice, since the forecast predicted sunny skies and  highs in the seventies. I launched my excursion at 7AM and arrived at a dirt parking lot at South Main in Buena Vista by ten o’clock. The last ArkAnglers report cited caddis as far upstream as Brown’s Canyon, so I theorized that they might make an appearance in Buena Vista with the advent of warm temperatures on Tuesday.

The dashboard thermometer displayed sixty degrees, as I donned my waders and assembled my Sage four weight for a day of fishing. When I was prepared, I found a gravel path and traced it along the rim of the canyon, until I arrived at a bridge. The trail continued across the bridge and then linked to BLM land on the other side, but the properties on both sides of the river downstream were private. I reversed direction on the path, until I found a viable, although steep and rocky route to the river. Once I was on the shoreline I moved downstream a short distance, and then I rigged my line with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead ultra zug bug and beadhead bright green go2 caddis pupa.

Early Success

The river was dirtier than I expected, but visibility along the edge was likely acceptable. I advanced upstream and probed the deep pockets and runs next to the bank with the nymphing system, and after thirty minutes I finally connected with a twelve inch brown trout that grabbed the ultra zug bug on a lift at the tail of the drift.

Typical Morning Scene

Number Two on an Ultra Zug Bug

I continued with this method until the stream bed widened, and this created more riffles and runs of moderate depth. I modified my approach with the change in river structure by switching to a dry/dropper configuration. A yellow fat Albert occupied the indicator position, and the go2 caddis and ultra zug bug were retained as droppers. Shortly after the conversion another fine twelve inch brown found my net, and my fish count rested at two, when I paused for lunch.

After lunch I skipped around the whitewater park, as it consisted of huge deep pools between man-made dams, and this type of water was not conducive to the dry/dropper technique. Above the whitewater park the river once again grew wider, and this created a section of pockets and moderate riffles. I managed to hook and land two small brown trout between the whitewater park and the footbridge that accesses the Midland Trail. During this early afternoon time frame I spotted three blue winged olives, when some clouds blocked the sun, and I responded by swapping the ultra zug bug for a soft hackle emerger. The move had no impact on my meager fishing success, and I climbed the bank, before I reached the footbridge and hiked back to the car. It was 1:30PM, and I pondered my next move.

My main purpose was to interact with the famous caddis hatch, but I saw no evidence of caddis in the South Main section of the Arkansas River. One option was to cross the footbridge and follow the Midland Trail downstream to the whitewater park and then fish back up to the bridge on the opposite side. Hopping in the car for an early return to Denver actually seemed more appealing than fishing the other side of the river in Buena Vista. I also considered driving upriver to the section bordered by some tunnels, but this was even less likely to place me in caddis activity. Finally I decided to drive back toward Salida, since the heaviest reported hatches were in that area.

I threw my gear in the car and drove to the place where CO 291 crosses the Arkansas River. I noted that the sign designated this section as the Pridemore Lease, and previously it was named the Smythe Lease. I shouldered my backpack and snapped in my front pack and grabbed my rod and climbed the wooden steps over the fence and hiked along a crude cattle path for .3 mile, until I angled down a rough bank populated with prickly pears and thorny shrubs to the edge of the river. I was embarking on a last ditch effort to salvage my day.

Depth Around Boulders Produced

The fat Albert generated several refusals during the earlier session in Buena Vista, so I decided to exchange it for a peacock hippy stomper. Perhaps the smaller foam pattern would actually create some eats. I retained the go2 caddis and ultra zug bug for a bit, but after prospecting some fairly attractive deep runs among large submerged boulders with no response, I replaced the unproductive go2 caddis with an iron sally. The iron sally has become a go to favorite for the Arkansas River.

The hippy stomper was difficult to accurately cast with the two large weighted flies, and the wind exasperated the situation, so I once again switched the top fly. This time I chose a size 8 Chernobyl ant from my fly box. The Chernobyl, iron sally and ultra zug bug remained on my line for the last two hours of my time at the Pridemore Lease.

Decent

Did my luck change? Was I engulfed by swarms of emerging or mating caddis? Yes and no. I steadily worked my way upstream to the CO 291 bridge and landed six additional brown trout before I retired at 4PM. All the afternoon trout were twelve inches or greater and included a very handsome ink spotted fifteen incher. Several muscular thirteen and fourteen inch browns also occupied my net.

Curled Up Tail Indicator of Larger Size

I observed six dapping caddis during this time, so I never found the mythical caddis hatch. All the brown trout came from runs of three to four feet in depth next to large boulders. Several responded to a lift at the end of the drift. Once I determined the type of water that produced results, I moved quickly and skipped huge pools and marginal pockets.

Once again the blanket caddis hatch evaded my search, but I did manage to salvage Tuesday on the Arkansas River with six very respectable brown trout from the Pridemore Lease section. Along with the morning results I ended the day with double digits, and given the absence of caddis and blue winged olive activity, that was a victory for this fisherman.

Fish Landed: 10

 

Arkansas River – 05/03/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon below Stockyard Bridge

Arkansas River 05/03/2019 Photo Album

My inability to locate the famed Arkansas River caddis hatch in recent years has been well documented in this blog. Yet a few wildly successful interactions with blizzard hatches in 2010 tease me back for more. I attended a presentation by Greg Felt of ArkAnglers at the Sportsmen’s Exposition in January, and he informed the audience that a high water season in 2008 practically wiped out a generation of the caddis population, but better water management policies brought it back to blizzard status in recent years.

With this background I attempted to decide on a destination for Friday, May 3. I vacillated by the hour between the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and the Arkansas River. The Eleven Mile water chart displayed steady flows of 92 CFS, and I visited the canyon tailwater on April 26 with decent success. This choice was a fairly low risk option.

The Arkansas River DWR data presented flows in the 750 CFS range, and this fact alone alarmed me after a successful day of fly fishing on April 23 at 444 CFS. Surely the root cause of the elevated flows was early snow melt from the above average accumulations over the past winter. I learned over my many years of fishing in Colorado that a shot of cold run off quickly reduces the metabolism of the resident trout. Another red flag was the emphasis that the fly shop report placed on visibility. If clarity were not an issue, it would not be mentioned; however, ArkAnglers emphasized that visibility existed up to three feet. Offsetting these cautionary signs was a bold notation that guides encountered fairly dense caddis emergences in the area below Salida. There it is was again. The lure of another epic caddis hatch experience. In my mind I debated the low risk option of consistent flows and predictable hatches on the South Platte River versus high flows, murky water, and the allure of a rare confrontation with the fabled Arkansas River caddis hatch. I concluded that the steady flows in Eleven Mile Canyon would continue for a few more weeks and gambled on the possibility of a mega hatch on the Arkansas River. What could be the outcome of this daring move?

Classic Brown Trout Bank Water on the Arkansas River

I departed Denver by 7AM and arrived at a wide pullout west of the Chaffee-Fremont County line by 10AM. The temperature was around fifty degrees, so I slid into a light fleece and pulled on my new Hodgman breathable waders. I strung my Sage four weight and ambled east along the shoulder of US 50 for .4 miles, whereupon I scrambled down a rough rocky path to the river. Another angler occupied the place, where I planned to begin my day, so I retreated to a point fifty yards upstream.

I began Friday with a tan pool toy hopper, an iron sally and a bright green go2 caddis pupa, but after some focused prospecting for thirty minutes I found no evidence of the presence of trout in the Arkansas River. The high stained flows forced me to limit my casts to the possible bank side holding spots, but even this targeted fishing yielded no response. I adjusted my offerings at 11AM to the bright green go2 caddis pupa as the top fly and knotted a sparkle wing RS2 to my line at the end position. These flies occupied my line, until I broke for lunch at noon. I was quite disappointed with my lack of results, but I consoled myself with the expectation that a blue winged olive hatch would likely place the trout in a hungry mood.

Shot Number Two

After I consumed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt on a small sandy beach, I reconfigured my approach with a thingamabobber and split shot, and I retained the caddis pupa and RS2 flies. In the next two hours I finally achieved a small level of success, as I netted three brown trout in the twelve inch range. One grabbed the bright green caddis and two snatched the RS2. The takes came from riffles of moderate depth, and movement in the form of a lift or swing seemed to be the common thread that yielded results. In addition to the landed fish, I experienced five temporary connections. Three were simply the feeling of weight for a split second, but two were actually attached long enough for me to see the outline of a brown trout.

Closer View

During this time period a sparse emergence of blue winged olives was in progress, although I never observed surface feeding from the Arkansas River trout. At 2:30PM I connected with a fourth trout along the bank within .1 mile of the car, and given the slow catch rate I decided to snap a photo. I opened my waterproof camera carrying case, and I was stunned to discover that my camera was absent. Perspiration began to ooze from my arm pits, as I went into panic mode and attempted to remember the whereabouts of the camera. I searched the area near me feet in case the case was not secured properly and fell out, as I opened the case, while the fish thrashed in the net, but it was not visible. Next I searched the area inside my waders in case it fell within, while I waded and moved. Again my search efforts were thwarted by the lack of a camera. I now pondered my afternoon of fishing, and I remembered removing the camera to take a photo, and then I placed it on a rock, while I released the fish and reattached my net. I concluded that the camera was on a rock along the shoreline somewhere between my lunch spot and my present position.

I clambered up a steep rocky bank and over some prickly vegetation, until I reached the highway, and I quickly strode along the shoulder, until I was perched high above the spot, that I remembered as my lunch stop. I spotted a small sandy area among streamside shrubs with red branches, and this agreed with my recollection. I carefully scrambled down the rocks and parted the leafless branches, and immediately spotted my Olympus Tough camera in the sand next to a rock. What a relief to grip it and place it back in its waterproof container!

With a crisis averted I climbed the steep embankment and returned to the spot, where I discovered my lost camera. I progressed upstream along the left bank, and I endured a long period of inactivity, so I once again reverted to the dry/dropper approach. During my previous trip I enjoyed decent success in the afternoon on the hippy stomper, so the foam attractor with a peacock body became the lead fly with the caddis pupa and a soft hackle emerger as the subsurface combination.

Another angler occupied a large pool next a huge rock, so I circled around and then encountered another fisherman in an attractive run and pool a bit farther upstream. I gave the second gentleman space and cut back to the river next to a very appealing shelf pool. This area offered a nice seam along the main current as well as a slow moving shelf pool. As I observed, the wind kicked up, and an increasingly abundant quantity of small caddis began to tumble along the surface of the river. I watched impatiently with the expectation that the surface would explode with frenzied feeding, but other than two random rises, it never materialized.

I decided to persist with the dry/dropper rig until risers became commonplace, but it never happened. I was surprised to see another angler across from me, and he landed three decent trout between three and four o’clock, but I was unable to determine his method. After a significant number of fruitless casts, I finally connected with a thirteen inch brown trout that snatched the caddis pupa, as it drifted along the main current seam, but that would prove to me the extent of my success during the heavy caddis activity of Friday, May 3.

Caddis Pupa Fan

After thirty minutes of frustration I switched my strategy and migrated to a single size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis dry fly. I placed casts in the vicinity of the two random rises that I observed early on, but this approach quickly struck me as futile. Massive quantities of active tumbling natural caddis, made my dead drifting imitation seem lifeless and uninteresting. The trout apparently agreed, and the caddis dry went unmolested.

In a last ditch effort to capitalize on the long sought after caddis hatch, I returned to a nymphing approach. The lack of surface action convinced me, that the trout were keyed on to subsurface pupa and egg laying females. I quickly configured once again with an indicator, split shot, prince nymph and bright green sparkle caddis pupa. I lobbed some casts and imparted action via bad mends and lifting movements, but before I could assess the effectiveness of my method, I snagged a branch. The obstruction holding my hook hostage was located in fast deep water, so I defaulted to a direct tug on the line and broke off both flies. I quickly replaced the lost nymphs with an ultra zug bug and another bright green caddis, and within minutes I was once again connected to a branch or rock in an area that left me no choice except to break off a second time. In this case the split shot was contributed to the stream bottom along with two flies.

I was now in an exasperated state, and it was 3:45PM and I was clueless regarding how to capitalize on the best caddis hatch in recent history on the Arkansas River. I reeled up my line and climbed to the shoulder of the highway and hoofed it back to the Santa Fe.

Be careful what you wish for. For years I searched for the caddis hatch of my dreams, and I found it on Friday, yet I was unable to take advantage. I landed five brown trout in the twelve inch size range, and connected with another five along with two foul hooked fish. The action was very slow, and I covered a lot of river mileage which encompassed quite a bit of strenuous rock climbing. The low point and highlight of my day were losing and then recovering my digital camera. I am at a loss to explain the lack of surface feeding fish during a spectacular hatch. Another week of fishing the Arkansas River is probably available before true run off commences, but I am uncertain whether I will gamble another long drive and day on the large freestone river.

Fish Landed: 5

Arkansas River – 04/23/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsvile

Arkansas River 04/23/2019 Photo Album

I characterized my 04/08/2019 trip to the Arkansas River as a mild disappointment, but I was itching for a return visit. During the early April appearance the flows were in the 560 cfs range, and the blue winged olive hatch seemed a bit delayed by the cold water temperatures resulting from a late spring. When I reviewed the stream flows and fly shop reports on Monday evening, I learned that the water managers reduced the supplemental flows from Twin Lakes, so that the Arkansas fell to native levels. In addition the fly shop reports indicated that the river was clear, and blue winged olive emergences were in full swing.

South Park Still Looks Like Winter

I departed from Denver at 7AM and drove through fresh snow in the South Park area, while the dashboard thermometer dipped to 33 degrees. Fortunately by the time I descended to the Arkansas River valley and arrived at my pullout below Salida, the air temperature elevated to 48 degrees. Even with this comparative warmth to South Park, I was chilled when I stepped out of the Santa Fe to prepare to fish. I elected to pull on my heavy fleece and topped it with my raincoat as a windbreaker. Initially I opted for my wide brimmed hat, but the gusts of wind and overcast skies forced me to swap it for my New Zealand hat with earflaps. The gray clouds, cool temperatures and wind continued throughout the remainder of the morning, and I was pleased with my clothing choices. I assembled my Sage five weight and surveyed the river.

Starting Point on the Arkansas River on Tuesday

As reported, it was in fine shape, and clarity was the prominent feature. I hoped to cross the river at the tail of the large pool below my parking space, and the DWR graph displayed 444 CFS, when I checked prior to my trip. Indeed the river appeared to be lower than my previous visit, when my better judgment forced me to execute a U-turn two-thirds of the way across the tailout. On Tuesday I decided to make another attempt, and this time I was successful. I carefully tested each foot placement and angled downstream rather than fight against the stiff current.

After my cautious crossing, I angled up the steep bank and ambled down the railroad tracks. After a short hike I was surprised to see another fisherman at the bottom of the island, that served as my target. Amazingly this would be the only other fishermen I encountered all day, and he happened to be where I desired to fish. I adjusted my plan and cut down a steep rocky bank to the river seventy-five yards above my nemesis. When I settled along the bank, I configured my line with a thingamabobber, split shot, Go2 caddis pupa and sparkle wing RS2. For the next half hour I prospected the troughs and riffles of moderate depth across from my position and worked my way upstream. During this phase of my day I hooked but failed to land two trout, and I was mildly upset by this turn of events but consoled myself with the knowledge that many hours remained.

Pleased With This One

As this was transpiring, I noticed that the downstream fisherman vacated his spot, so I found a steep path, that enabled me to scale the rocky cliffs, and I walked at a rapid pace to the destination I originally targeted to start my day. I decided to cherry pick the prime deep runs and skip the tailouts and slower moving areas, that I traditionally probed with a few casts. The first two quality areas failed to deliver a tug or dip in the indicator, but the long shelf pool below the island finally yielded two brown trout of average size. One nabbed the sparkle wing RS2, and the other grabbed an iron sally, that I substituted for the Go2 caddis.

By this time my watch displayed noon, so I found a wide flat rock and consumed my small lunch. After lunch I removed my raincoat and stashed it in my backpack and folded my earflaps under my hat. The sun now overwhelmed the clouds, and I prepared for a mild afternoon.

After lunch when I reached the downstream tip of the island, I moved up along the left shoreline, and near the tip I temporarily connected with another fish. I caught a brief glimpse of this escapee, and it appeared to be a bit larger than my two previous connections.

I returned to the bottom tip of the small island and surveyed the smaller north channel. I fired a few casts to the area where the flows curled around some exposed boulders, but no response was provided. Next I approached the tailout of the long pool, and I lobbed some casts to the slow water along the left side and along the center current seam. The nymph rig seemed too invasive for this tamer branch of the river, and I contemplated switching to a lighter dry/dropper approach. As this thought crossed my mind, a trout rose several times in quick succession directly above me on the left side. This settled the matter, and I quickly removed the split shot and indicator and replaced them with a peacock hippy stomper. I retained the iron sally and placed a classic RS2 in the bottom position.

Iron Sally in the Side of the Mouth

I progressed upstream along the north braid and added two nice brown trout to my fish count. In addition I temporarily connected with three trout that felt like very respectable Arkansas browns. One of the early afternoon landed browns crushed the iron sally as it smacked down on the water.

Impressive Girth

When I reached the upstream tip of the island, I debated switching back to the deep nymph method, but I decided to stay with the dry/dropper and work the deep pockets and moderate runs close to the north bank. This decision proved to be a smart one, and I increased the fish tally from four to twelve between one and four o’clock. All the late afternoon trout were browns except for one fourteen inch rainbow that surprised me in a deep shelf pool tight to a large rock. In addition to the netted fish I hooked and failed to land another three fish, including a rocket that snapped off all three flies. When I reconfigured my line I replaced the peacock hippy stomper with another comparable model, but I tested a chartreuse copper john and soft hackle emerger for the subsurface flies.

The Only Rainbow on the Day

The three afternoon hours were a blast. The dry/dropper with the three foot leader constrained me to areas of moderate depth. I popped the three flies into prime spots near the bank or behind large boulders, and I was amazed to learn that the brown trout responded. A sparse blue winged olive emergence commenced at 1:30 and continued until 3PM, but I never observed rising trout, so I persisted with the hippy stomper and the trailing nymphs. The hippy stomper was the star performer and accounted for six of the twelve fish landed, and three of the four trout in the 14 – 16 inch range crushed the surface attractor. I am now an even bigger fan of the hippy stomper, than I was previously.

Huge Spots. I Love This Look.

Over the course of the day I landed one trout on the iron sally, one on the chartreuse copper john, six on the peacock hippy stomper; and the other four favored one of the RS2 variations. I was a bit surprised that I did not generate more action on the small trailing baetis nymphs during the light blue winged olive emergence. The vision of wild vividly spotted brown trout smashing the hippy stomper continue to haunt my dreams, and I hope to make another trip before the heavy snow pack of 2019 impacts the river.

Fish Landed: 12

The Arkansas River at 444 CFS

Arkansas River – 04/08/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Salida.

Arkansas River 04/08/2019 Photo Album

Mild temperatures, favorable fly shop reports and nearly ideal flows had me anxious for a longer trip to a bigger river with the hope of hooking some larger trout in 2019. The small front range tributaries to the South Platte River offer decent fish density and provide close proximity, but size is generally a missing ingredient. The Arkansas River was running at 560 CFS below Salida, so I selected the large freestone river as my destination.

I packed clothing and food for an overnight stay in case the fishing merited a return engagement on Tuesday. After a three hour drive across a snow drift laden South Park, I arrived next to the river below Salida by 11AM. The river was nearly clear, and the flows, as expected, were in the 560 CFS range. The temperature was already 59 degrees, as I pulled on my waders, so I added only a single fleece layer over my fishing shirt. After I strung my Sage four weight, I carefully descended the steep bank near the Fremont – Chafee county line, and then I paused to assess the possibility of crossing at the tail of the long pool. I love fishing the Arkansas River from the bank opposite US 50, and I desired that experience on Monday.

560 CFS was a bit higher than the flows that I normally attempt to cross at, but a brief visual inspection yielded a line of attack that suggested success. I carefully negotiated my way halfway across, and at this point I reached the deepest channel with the highest velocity. In a concession to age and good sense, I exercised my better judgment and returned to the shoreline that borders the highway.

Happy With This Brown Trout

With fording the river now eliminated from my plan, I walked down the highway for .5 mile and then descended a gradual path to the edge of the river. Here I began my day, and I fished from 11:30 until 12:15, and I landed a twelve inch brown trout and experienced a temporary hookup with another fish. Since it remained early in the season, and Colorado was experiencing a late spring; I began fishing with an indicator, split shot, iron sally and Craven soft hackle emerger. The single fish landed before lunch inhaled the soft hackle emerger.

Attractive Shelf Pool

After I completed lunch on a nice sandy beach, I progressed along the left bank, until I reached a point where a large rock bordered the river. This impediment to my progress forced me to retreat to a place, where I could scale the bank, and then I walked along the highway, until I dropped back to the river above the vertical rock wall.

A More Distant View of the Arkansas River

During the remainder of the afternoon I landed five additional trout. I continued to present the iron sally and the Craven soft hackle emerger in the afternoon. I used a soft hackle emerger without a bead for much of this time, and a hares ear nymph occupied the position of the iron sally for a brief interval. My landing percentage finished at 60%, as four trout escaped after temporary connections. One of the escapees was a very fine brown trout that probably measured in the fifteen inch range. I cast to the very top of a nice long riffle of moderate depth, and the indicator paused almost immediately.

Prime Deep Runs

In addition to landing six out of ten hook ups, I lost three iron sally flies and four soft hackle emergers. Most of the lost flies snagged on rocks, but one was lost in the mouth of a fish, and I suspect a couple were victimized by a bad knot. A blue winged olive hatch commenced at 1:30, and for a thirty minute period I spotted quite a few naturals lifting off the surface of the river. Unfortunately the emergence never seemed to initiate surface feeding, and this explained my devotion to the deep nymphing game.

Lovely Curl

Two of the landed fish snatched the iron sally, and the other four nabbed the soft hackle emerger. The most productive type of water was moderate depth and medium velocity near the bank. Casting to the deeper holes and faster seams was an unproductive activity. My best fish was a fourteen inch rainbow, and a nice thirteen inch brown was the last fish of the day. Both rested in my net during the final hour of fishing.

Best Brown Trout on the Day

At 3:50 I snagged a stick, that was wedged in a large boulder, and it was too far out and in a fast deep chute, so I chose to apply direct pressure. This resulted in a break off of both flies, so I used this as an excuse to quit for the day. Monday was an average day on the Arkansas River. Nymphing with an indicator is not a favorite method, but it was likely the most productive technique, while the water temperature remained cold and the flows were a bit elevated. I gained first hand knowledge of the status of the blue winged olive hatch, and I managed to land a couple larger trout to satisfy that objective for the day. Hopefully I will schedule another trip within the next two weeks, when the insect activity intensifies.

Fish Landed: 6

Arkansas River – 10/11/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsville

Arkansas River 10/11/2018 Photo Album

A series of cold snaps passed through Colorado, and the unfavorable weather caused me to forego fishing for eight days, while I waited for warmer temperatures. I was certain that warm fall conditions would return, and I was prepared to take advantage. Although the high temperature in Denver was projected to reach only forty-six degrees on Thursday, October 11; I noted that the Arkansas River valley was warmer. A high of fifty-six in the Salida area encouraged me to make the long drive on Thursday.

In order to allow the air to warm up I departed Denver by 8:15, and this enabled me to arrive at a pullout along the Arkansas River below Salida by 11AM. I wore my long sleeved Under Armour shirt, fishing shirt, fleece and down vest and chose my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps to keep my ears warm in the forty-two degree cold that was accompanied by brisk wind. I retained these layers until 3PM, when I returned to the car to move to another location, and I never overheated. I assembled my Sage four weight rod, since it offered length and stiffness to counter the wind.

Glowing Foliage and Gray Skies

I followed a nice angled trail to the river and then hiked downstream for another two hundred yards, before I began casting at 11:30AM. I began my quest for trout with a dry/dropper configuration consisting of a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher, and ultra zug bug. My first bit of action was a refusal to the pool toy, and then I connected with a small brown trout that grabbed the ultra zug bug and a small rainbow that snatched the 20 incher. I continued on my path upstream and added another small rainbow and brown trout to my count, before I adjourned for lunch in an area with large flat rocks. Numbers three and four nabbed the 20 incher.

Beefy

After lunch the slow catch rate continued, and the cloudy sky suggested that blue winged olive nymphs were active. I replaced the ultra zug bug with a RS2 to match the baetis nymphs, but after the change I speculated that I was drifting my flies over fish that ignored my offerings. Finally after an extended lull, I stripped in my line and converted to a deep nymphing approach with a split shot and indicator. During the changeover I elected to replace the 20 incher with an iron sally, and I tied the RS2 on the point.

Looking Back

Immediately my fortunes improved. In a nice long riffle section of moderate depth an aggressive feeder latched on to the iron sally. The hungry aggressor went into battle mode, but eventually I dipped my net beneath a gorgeous fifteen inch brown trout. I was very pleased with this sudden dose of success. Between 1PM and 3PM I progressed upstream with the two fly nymphing rig, and the angling gods smiled upon me. I increased the fish count to eighteen by the time I reached the bridge, where US 50 crossed a small tributary stream.

Another Fine Arkansas River Brown Trout

The most productive section was a fifty yard stretch that consisted of many pockets scattered among fast whitewater chutes. I prospected the deepest spots between the bank and the midpoint of the river, and quite often a brown or rainbow trout snatched one of the nynmhs, as they tumbled toward the tail of the target area. Fifteen and sixteen inch browns were the prizes during this time frame, and both favored the iron sally in relatively marginal pockets. Midway through this period of fast action, I broke off both flies, so I replaced the iron sally with another and swapped the RS2 for a sparkle wing version. Roughly half of the afternoon fish ate the iron sally, and the others were fooled by the RS2 or sparkle wing. It seemed that the bigger trout were attracted to the stonefly imitation, and smaller fish pounced on the size 22 baetis nymph. During my time on the Arkansas River six of the landed fish were small rainbow trout, and the rest were brown trout.

Wide Body

At 3PM I reached the bridge, so I passed beneath it and then circled back to the highway and crossed to the Santa Fe. The air temperature was now in the low fifties, but the wind velocity kicked up a notch. I was curious whether my nymph alignment might attract fish in another section of the river, so I drove downstream for an additional mile. I found a gradual path to the river and spent the next hour casting the nymphs to pockets and seams in a manner similar to the method that yielded fourteen trout in the early afternoon.

The shadows now covered the south side of the river, where I was positioned, and the wind accelerated appreciably. I skipped a long pool and covered the pocket water above and below. The catch rate slowed significantly, but I managed to add two small brown trout to the count, before I hooked the bottom nymph to the rod guide and returned to the car at 4PM. I am not sure whether to blame the slow action on the time of day, less desirable river structure, or a higher degree of angling pressure due to the ease of access.

Pocket Water Was Productive

At any rate I enjoyed a very successful day on Thursday, October 11, 2018. Over the last two years I suffered through some fairly lean outings on the Arkansas River, and I was beginning to doubt my proficiency on the large body of water in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. A twenty fish day under fairly challenging conditions restored my interest in undertaking future drives to the Arkansas. The flows at Salida were 233 CFS, and this level was very low compared to average, but it translated into nearly optimal wading conditions. I was able to access parts of the river that normally can only be fished from a raft or driftboat. Three brown trout in the fifteen inch range certainly influenced my assessment of my day of fishing on October 11.

Fish Landed: 20

Arkansas River – 07/10/2018

Time: 9:00AM – 2:00PM; 3:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Granite information sign along US 24 and CO 55 dirt road; Hayden Meadows upper lot to US 24 bridge.

Arkansas River 07/10/2018 Photo Album

The salesman at the Orvis Shop in Cherry Creek recommended the upper Arkansas River upstream from the US 24 bridge as a productive fishing destination. I hoped to sample this section on my 2018 trip to the upper Arkansas River area, but on Monday five vehicles occupied the small parking space just ahead of the the US 24 bridge. On Tuesday, since I camped at nearby Turquoise Lake, I hoped to be the first fisherman there as a result of my proximity and early start. Wrong. Two trucks were already present when I passed by at 8:45, so I defaulted to my backup plan.

I continued south along US 24 for another two miles below CO 55 and arrived at a wide pullout with an informational sign about granite. I was the only vehicle present, and I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight for a day of fly fishing. The first fifty yards looked rather inviting but I assumed its proximity to the parking space translated to excessive pressure. I hoped to cover two miles of river, so I skipped around it and explored the upstream territory.

It was earlier than usual for me to be on the the river, and no gray drakes were evident, so I began with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. These flies are my most productive, but they failed to interest the Arkansas River trout on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. After thirty plus minutes with no results despite prospecting some quality spots, I reconfigured with an iron sally instead of the hares ear, and I swapped the salvation for a size 12 prince nymph.

Iron Sally Also Popular

This change was a master stroke, and the newly added flies enabled me to land fish and boost the fish count from zero to seven. The prince accounted for the trout during the 10AM to 11AM time frame, and the iron sally became a favored food source in the last hour before noon. The first three netted brown trout were on the small side, but the next four were prize catches in the twelve inch range including a welcome surprise in the form of a fifteen inch brown trout.

Whoa Those Spots

Just before lunch I unknowingly snapped off the two nymphs, so replaced the iron sally and size 12 prince with a fresh pair. Two lost princes in the morning forced me to settle for a smaller size fourteen on a standard hook, and this unforeseen substitution failed to attract much interest from the river residents. Despite this handicap I incremented the fish count to ten after lunch. Surprisingly a fourteen inch rainbow was among these catches, and I suspect this was the first rainbow that I ever encountered in the upper Arkansas River.

Muscular Rainbow Trout

During this time I enjoyed four instances of success, when I cast the dry/dropper to very narrow ribbons of slow moving water along the bank. The space was not more than four feet wide. I landed three of the bank dwellers, and several managed to escape after being pricked temporarily.

Riffles Deflect Against the Bank

Having attained ten fish by one o’clock including several decent wild river inhabitants, I decided to shift gears and switched to a size 14 parachute green drake. One of my goals for Tuesday was to begin with the parachute style to determine if it outperformed the hair wing and stimulator style. The experiment on Tuesday was not really fair as the conditions were quite different. Unlike Monday I only spotted two or three gray drakes in the air. On Monday several quality deep runs and riffles exhibited rising trout, but surface feeding was largely absent on Tuesday. Despite the less than optimal gray drake emergence conditions, I managed to hook and land two very respectable brown trout. One consumed the parachute style and another chomped the comparadun.

So Pretty

Just before 2PM large gray clouds billowed up on the eastern horizon, and the sound of distant thunder caused some concern. By now I was at least 1.5 miles from the car, and the landscape was devoid of any reasonable shelter. Even the vegetation lacked trees of any significant size. The thunder claps grew louder, and I finally relented to my better judgement and embarked on an exit. I walked at a quick pace toward the CO 55 parking lot, but then I spotted a faint trail through the bushes and scrub grass. Fortunately an old barbed wire fence was beaten down, so I stepped over it and crossed the railroad tracks to intersect with US 24. I began to stride along the shoulder at a rapid pace, but after ten minutes the large widely spaced raindrops intensified. I stepped off the shoulder, removed all my packs, and slid into my raincoat. The added layer became essential as sheets of rain blew against my body and face for most of the remaining hike on the shoulder of the highway.

I Landed This Caddis Stick

When I reached the Santa Fe, naturally the rain stopped, so I spent another thirty minutes sampling the attractive water, that I skipped upon my arrival. in the post-storm calm several trout displayed their presence via random rises. I cast the parachute green drake and experienced several refusals and a foul hooked brown, but finally in a deep riffle a thirteen inch brown elevated and sucked in the drake.

I covered the first fifty yards by the pullout, and then I reached an uninteresting wide shallow section, so I returned to the car. Perhaps the storm scared off the crowd on the west side of the US 24 bridge? I decided to check it out. I was surprised to discover that two vehicles remained in the bridge lot, so I reversed direction and drove to the parking area across from the north end of Hayden Meadows. Between 3:30 and 4:30 I covered the section of the river between the parking area and the US 24 bridge.

Wild Iris

Drakes were absent so I returned to the producers of the morning and early afternoon; yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and prince nymph. In a deep step pool behind some man made structure the Albert dipped, and I guided a twelve inch brown to my net. I was near the highway, and the sky threatened rain again, so I found a nature trail that skirted the pond and called it a day.

Although the fish count matched Monday, I was more satisfied with my Tuesday effort. I discovered a new stretch of water never before explored, and I was selective about my target areas. I covered a significant amount of water and skipped long unattractive areas to focus on proven structure. Narrow deep slow moving bands along the bank and moderate riffles through large rocks were the obvious fish producers. I did not fish to a significant gray drake hatch as anticipated, but I stumbled into two solid nymph producers. The average size of the fish exceeded Monday’s results as well. These accomplishments were attained despite being interrupted by a storm during a normally productive time period. Bravo! Tuesday was a fun day of fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 14

Mt. Elbert

Arkansas River – 07/09/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Hayden Meadows, southern section

Arkansas River 07/09/2018 Photo Album

Fourteen fish in a day of fishing is a decent accomplishment, but nevertheless Monday was a day, when I never achieved a consistent rhythm.

I evaluated several possible destinations for a multi-day camping and fishing trip, and I settled on the upper Arkansas River/Turquoise Lake area. Numerous vehicles occupied the parking lots and pullouts at the northern side of the Hayden Meadows area, so I continued until the CO 55 sign appeared, and I turned left and crossed the river and parked. Two SUV’s were present when I arrived, and a pair of fishermen were downstream from the bridge.

Productive Spot

I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight. I elected to fish upstream and began with a size 14 Harrop hair wing green drake in the attractive deep foam covered hole and eddy just above the pipe that carries water under the road. The eddy failed to deliver fish, but then I moved to the upstream position and drifted the hair wing through a V-shaped area where the currents merged. On the third drift I allowed the dry fly to float deep and along the seam at the start of the eddy, and suddenly the green drake imitation disappeared. I quickly set the hook and was temporarily connected to a twelve inch brown trout. Temporarily is the key word, as the fish executed a leap and plunge and shed the fly.

Deep Run on a Bend

For the next two hours I moved upstream at a rapid clip, and I was forced to circle around two pairs of anglers. The Harrop generated refusals, so I rotated among a size 12 olive stimulator, a size 14 gray stimulator, and a size 14 yellow stimulator. All these choices were intended to imitate gray drakes and yellow sallies. Several quality deep runs revealed rises, but all my flies were refused by the choosy surface eaters. I did, however manage to land five brown trout during this period including a very rewarding fifteen inch chunk. For a period of time I fished a double dry combination with the gray stimulator in front and the yellow version on the point. The gray stimulator produced three of the five landed trout, and the yellow one accounted for two. I witnessed a few large natural gray drakes along with a smattering of pale morning duns and yellow sallies. Aside from the fifteen inch brown trout the other fish measured in the ten to twelve inch range.

Looking Good

As I spotted a couple additional gray drakes, while I munched my lunch, I challenged my rigid thinking. I read my blog post from 2017 on the upper Arkansas River, which documented that I crushed trout on the Harrop hair wing, and this research caused me to focus on the stimulator and hair wing styles of dry fly. But what about other productive green drake imitations? I rotated between three different styles on the Frying Pan, until I determined which one fooled the most fish. I resolved to think outside the box, and I knotted a size fourteen parachute green drake to my line after lunch.

Looking Down on a Brown

The move was effective, and I jumped the fish counter from five to eleven between one and two o’clock. The trout in moderate riffles ripped the surface parachute with conviction. Another fifteen inch brown visited my net during this period, but it was quite skinny, and I feared it was suffering from some sort of disease. Of course the parachute was not perfect, and quite a few refusals accompanied the confident takes.

By 3PM the presence of gray drakes, yellow sallies, and pale morning duns disappeared, so I switched to a dry/dropper method. A red hippy stomper assumed the surface position in my lineup, and beneath it I attached an ultra zug bug and size 16 iron sally. During the last hour these flies enabled me to add three additional small brown trout to the count. All favored the iron sally, and in addition several trout snatched one of the subsurface offerings but avoided the net after perfecting some escape maneuvers.

Less Shadow

Monday was a decent day, but I wish I would have experimented with the parachute and comparadun green drakes earlier, especially during the time when fish were visibly feeding on the surface. Perhaps I will return on Tuesday and test the alternative green drake styles.

Fish Landed: 14