Arkansas River – 09/26/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Chafee – Fremont County line

Arkansas River 09/26/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Tuesday September 26, 2017 was a day, when quality surpassed quantity. After two cool wet days on Sunday and Monday, I decided to make the long three hour drive to the Arkansas River below Salida. For some reason I suffered through an Arkansas River slump over the last couple years, and I decided to make another attempt to recover some of the fall magic from three to five years ago. I reviewed my posts on the Arkansas River on this blog, and I determined that my last special autumn day on the Arkansas River was October 2, 2015. My goal for Tuesday was to create a day of fishing that approached the early October 2015 endeavor.

I departed Denver by 7AM and arrived at the pullout high above the river at the Fremont – Chafee County line by 10AM. By the time I gathered my gear and assembled my Sage four weight and crossed the river and hiked downstream on the railroad tracks, it was 10:30. I began the day with a tan pool toy hopper, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. I was positioned midway down a huge shelf pool, and I began covering the area by spraying casts systematically up and across. After three drifts between the strong main current and the shoreline, I took three or four steps and repeated the process. After ten minutes I detected a pause in the hopper and initiated a hook set only to discover, that I foul hooked a twelve inch brown trout.

At the top of the pool I ran a drift along the current seam, and as the pool toy bounced through a narrow slot between the fast run and a large submerged rock, it dipped abruptly. Again I raised my rod to set the hook, and this time I was certain that the object on the other end of the line was hooked in the mouth. The indignant fish streaked up and down the shelf pool several times, until I gained the upper hand and raised it into my net. There before me was a husky sixteen inch rainbow trout with a salvation nymph in its lip, and I was thrilled to begin my day on the Arkansas River with such a fine catch.

Once I released my prize first fish of the day, I moved upstream to another shorter and shallower shelf pool. In the lower half of this area a twelve inch brown trout grabbed the same salvation nymph, and I felt somewhat optimistic after landing two fine trout in the first hour. Brimming with anticipation I worked my way up along the left side of the long narrow island, but the dry/dropper combination failed to produce a look or refusal.

I returned to the bottom point of the island, and since it was noon, I sat on a gravel bar and ate my lunch. I intended to change my approach for the shallow slow moving north channel, and the lunch break was a convenient time to reconfigure my setup. I removed the three flies and replaced them with a single size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle. In the small pockets below the long main pool, I noticed three looks, as fish moved to get a closer view of the beetle, but in each case they backed off at the last instant. I was frustrated by this turn of events and began to formulate an adjustment. Before making a change, however, I decided to plop the beetle in the shallow smooth pool just above me. A cast directly upstream generated another refusal, but on the third heave within two feet of the north bank, a head appeared, and a fifteen inch brown trout engulfed the beetle. The brown reacted instantly to the plop, and the visual image of a large fish crushing the foam imitation from above remains quite vivid in my memory.

My confidence in the beetle soared, and I continued patiently prospecting the pool and the deep run where the current entered. Certainly more opportunistic trout lived in this fish condo, and they could not refuse a terrestrial snack. As it turns out they could. I made long casts and covered the entire twenty yard segment, and I never saw a look, refusal or take. I was dumbfounded by this development, but I turned my attention to the next section. Three relatively nice pockets greeted me above the long pool, and I plopped and drifted the beetle through all of them. Similar to the pockets below the main pool, the beetle attracted interest but no take in each small hole. I could see the tail of each fish wag, as it elevated for a closer look.

What should I do now? The fly shop fishing reports mentioned the presence of late pale morning duns and red quills. Would these fish recognize a mayfly imitation? I snipped off the beetle and knotted a size 16 light gray comparadun to my tippet. I floated this over each of the places where I observed fish, and in each case the fish ignored the dry fly and never revealed their presence.

The wind continued to gust with increased ferocity, and this caused my thoughts to revisit terrestrials. Maybe a smaller earth bound insect would fool the trout? I opted for a size 18 black parachute ant with an orange wing post for visibility. I began with the long and relatively shallow riffle pocket just above me, and on the third drift the ant was ferociously attacked. The deceived eater was not happy, and it streaked across the small channel and then downstream. I maintained constant pressure, and eventually the fifteen inch rainbow trout grew tired, and I nudged it into my net. It was very gratifying to cycle through a series of flies and finally settle on an ant that duped such a splendid fish.

But two pockets remained. I thoroughly dried the ant and took a few steps downstream to get a better position for casts across to the angled riffle on the north bank. I began with three drifts through the lanes closest to me, and then I dropped a cast that floated along the far side of a small seam. In a flash a brown trout appeared from the edge of the current, and it too had an appetite for ants. I raised the rod firmly, and the brown trout thrashed and dove and executed a variety of futile head shakes and rolls, until it grew weary and surrendered to my net. What a thrill to revisit the scene of three refusals and then hoodwink two better than average Arkansas River residents!

By now it was one o’clock, and I was perched on five landed fish. The catch rate was fairly typical, but the average size of the fish was very satisfying. Unfortunately I was unable to sustain the momentum of the first 2.5 hours over the remainder of the afternoon. The section of the river between my crossing point and the top of the island historically produced decent action, but on Tuesday I managed one thirteen inch brown trout that slurped the beetle. Another fish refused the beetle in a long riffle, and that was the extent of the action. I continued with the ant in the slower water along the north bank, and then I switched back to Jake’s gulp beetle for better visibility, as the water velocity increased. As mentioned the beetle produced number six and a refusal, and then it ceased to be a factor.

I spotted a handful of tiny blue winged olives, when an occasional cloud blocked the sun, so I added a RS2 on a dropper behind the beetle, but the ploy was ineffective. I suspected that the faster riffles and deeper runs required a larger fly to attract attention, and I responded with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph, but my theory was refuted. I exchanged the salvation for a size 18 soft hackle emerger to once again capitalize on possible subsurface blue winged olive nymph activity. It did not work. Toward the end of the afternoon period I reverted to a Jake’s gulp beetle and a parachute hopper with a hares ear body, but these offerings were similarly avoided.

At 3:30 I reached the crossing point, and I was weary and bored from the lack of action, so I returned to the car and quit for the day. Originally I considered staying in a hotel in Salida in order to leverage the long drive and fish a second day, but the frustrating afternoon sealed my decision to make the return trip to Denver.

I landed six quality fish in five hours of fishing. The netted fish included two excellent rainbow trout that measured fifteen and sixteen inches. All the brown trout fell in the twelve to fifteen inch range, and they were likewise very respectable fish. Had the afternoon success mirrored the first 2.5 hours, I would have remained for a second day, but the late fishing drought was fresh in my memory, and I could not envision myself on the Arkansas River for another day. The constantly gusting wind and the associated chill were also factors in my decision. I continue to search for the magic of the Arkansas River in 2017.

Fish Landed: 6

Arkansas River – 09/05/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Hayden Meadows

Arkansas River 09/05/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Our friends the Gaboury’s invited Jane and I to join them for a couple days at their beautiful home in Eagle Ranch, CO. We made the trip on Monday, Labor Day, and Dave Gaboury made plans for a day of fishing on Tuesday. In an earlier meeting with Dave and his wife, Beth, Dave floated the idea of driving over Tennessee Pass to fish in the upper Arkansas River, and I jumped on the idea. Historically the nearby Eagle River is very low and difficult around the Labor Day weekend, and I surmised that the higher elevation of the upper Arkansas River might translate to better fishing success.

Our mutual friend, Todd, joined us, and the three of us made the drive to Hayden Meadows on Tuesday morning. We arrived at the parking lot above Hayden Meadows a bit after ten o’clock, and after a thirty minute hike on a dirt lane, we entered the water and began casting by 11AM. I chose my Loomis five weight in case I tangled with a fifteen inch fish, and I like the slower action and shorter rod for chucking dry/dropper configurations. Since three fishermen were in our group, we adopted a hopscotch approach, but we always kept the upstream fisherman in view. The river was roughly half the volume that I experienced in my two earlier visits, but it remained high enough so that two fishermen could fish across from each other, as long as care was exercised, and one angler did not advance ahead of the other.

The weather consisted of bright sun and temperatures that advanced to the upper seventies. The more significant factor was the strong winds that plagued us in the afternoon, and this condition was probably fairly typical for the river that is located on a high open plain with very few wind breakers. The flows listed on the ArkAnglers web site were 130 CFS. The volume of water was actually fairly ideal for fishing and wading, and clarity was perfect.

I began my day with a parachute grasshopper with a hares ear dubbed body, and this fly generated one unproductive look. I switched to a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the usually reliable terrestrial was soundly ignored. In past visits I enjoyed success in the morning with a dry/dropper set up, so I converted to a tan pool toy trailing a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. I persisted with this combination for quite awhile, and the only evidence of trout resulted from another reluctant look to the pool toy. While I was cycling through these fly choice scenarios, Todd hooked and landed a fish on an elk hair caddis, and this forced me to reevaluate. So far only the hoppers attracted any attention, and they were surface flies, so perhaps a dry fly was the best bet.

I removed the three flies and knotted a gray size 14 stimulator to my line. Shortly after this change, I encountered a spot where a narrow side channel split off from the main flow, and I followed it and discovered a very attractive small pool in front of an overhanging bush. I flicked the stimulator to the entry current, and as it slowly floated beneath a small overhanging branch, a fish created a bulge next to the fly and then disappeared. I succeeded in adding a refusal to my list of near misses. Todd was behind me, and he accepted my invitation to toss his elk hair caddis to the small pool, but the inhabitant was apparently now educated and would not reveal itself a second time.

We moved back to the main channel and moved upstream, and the stimulator ceased to create interest. Dave G. experienced a momentary hook up with a decent fish on a chartreuse copper john, so I returned to the dry/dropper system and exchanged the salvation nymph for an ultra zug bug. I persevered with this set up over the remainder of the afternoon, since other options seemed ineffective, and the other guys were not having much more success. Eventually I coaxed a four inch brown into my net, but it measured beneath my six inch threshold for counting. The small trout inhaled the ultra zug bug.

Shortly after 2PM I drifted the trio of flies through a nice deep current seam, and the hopper darted sideways causing me to instinctively raise the rod. I felt significant weight, and a fish executed a quick roll and tail thrash, and then it escaped. The duration of the connection was too fleeting to reach a conclusion on which fly hooked the fish. This was my best shot at a substantial fish on the day, and it lasted half a second.

By three o’clock we approached the bridge next to the parking area, and Dave G. marched ahead in a state of boredom. In short order Todd and I followed suit, and I was forced to record a skunking. I second guessed my fly choices and approach, but the lackluster results of Todd and Dave G. convinced me that Tuesday presented very challenging conditions. I saw virtually no aquatic insect activity, although I was surprised that terrestrials did not produce given the constant gusts of wind. Perhaps I should have cycled through more grasshopper, beetle, and ant imitations; but I suspect this approach would not have changed the results significantly. Hopefully the weather will cool in the near future, and the summer doldrums will come to a quick halt.

Fish Landed: 0

Arkansas River – 08/01/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Hayden Meadows

Arkansas River 08/01/2017 Photo Album

Landing 26 fish on the Cache la Poudre River on Monday was enjoyable, but I craved the deep bend of a more substantial fish, as I contemplated my next fishing trip. July 26 on the Arkansas River lingered as a recent memorable outing, particularly fooling brown trout with a size 14 green drake imitation. The large Harrop hair wing style was easy to follow on the surface of the river, and the trout moved quickly and confidently to crush the fake version. Although I was certain that the gray drake hatch was waning, I pondered whether the stream residents would continue to respond to a well presented imitation.

The Hayden Meadows area was the draw, but the salesperson at the Orvis store, where I purchased my new reel, sang the praises of the Reddy State Wildlife Area on the west side of US 24, and this information also attracted me to a return trip to the upper Arkansas River south of Leadville. I checked out my National Geographic maps of the area, and I identified a nice hike that began from the western end of Turquoise Lake. The Turquoise Lake Recreation Area featured quite a few campgrounds, and I convinced Jane to join me on Tuesday evening for dinner in Leadville and camping at Turquoise Lake. I bribed her with a commitment to accompany her on a four mile round trip hike to Timberline Lake on Wednesday morning.

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Testing the Phone Camera

I packed most of the car on Monday evening, after I returned from the Cache la Poudre, and this enabled me to arrive at the Hayden Meadows northern parking lot by 11AM. I considered exploring Reddy SWA, but I opted to save the new stretch of water for Wednesday afternoon after our hike. I assembled my Sage four weight and departed on the two track dirt lane, and in a slight deviation from July 26 I hiked for twenty minutes in an effort to begin farther downstream. It was warm and sunny, and the temperature peaked in the upper sixties at the high elevation river. Flows were comparable to July 26 although a bit lower, as I was able to cautiously cross at selected spots, where wide shallow riffles reduced the strong velocity.

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Wide Riffle

Since it was 11:30 by the time I entered the river, I decided to go directly to my Harrop hair wing green drake. It was a bit early compared to the previous Wednesday, but I theorized that the large mayfly imitation might serve as an attractor, since the hatch even a week ago was very sparse. My optimism soared, when I spotted a solitary gray drake, while I was attaching the hair wing to my line. Unfortunately this represented my sole gray drake sighting for the day.

The green drake imitation generated a couple refusals early on, so the fish were tuned into something similar, but I began to fear that it would be a tough day. There was no hesitation from the Hayden Meadows fish on July 26, so why the reluctance on August 1? Perhaps the Harrop was a bit too bushy or perhaps the trout were really locked on smaller caddis with a similar profile? I switched to a size 14 gray stimulator, and the smaller fly produced a look, but no take.

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Lunch Spot

After half an hour of fruitless casting I sat down on some rocks and ate my lunch, while I contemplated my next move. The mental sifting led me to shift to a dry/dropper featuring a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. The nymphs yielded five nice brown trout on July 26 before I migrated to the Harrop green drake, so perhaps my application of the dry fly was too early in the daily feeding cycle.

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First Fish

From 12:30 until 1:30 I landed three brown trout using the dry/dropper method. The first fish was one of the best on the day; a fifteen inch bruiser that gulped the salvation nymph. Somehow during the fight the iron sally wrapped around the head of the brown, and this made the battle extra challenging. Another of the three early afternoon fish was small, and the third was a decent twelve inch specimen. Hayden Meadows brown trout seem to be pound for pound tougher fighters than other brown trout in the Rocky Mountains.

At 1:30 I began to worry that I was missing out on drake action, so I converted back to the Harrop style fly. Although the hair wing did not produce in a manner similar to July 26, I managed to net five additional browns. One was a carbon copy seven incher, but three measured in the eleven to thirteen inch range, and the last one on the day was another hard fighting fifteen inch brute. I cast to a narrow slow moving band of water along the bank from above. On previous casts drag commenced within seconds, but in this instance I managed to create a pause which enabled the fly to hover next to the seam in a tantalizing fashion. The brown could not resist the large mayfly about to escape, and it flashed to the surface and crushed the tempting morsel. The visual take was clearly the highlight of the day.

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Vivid Deep Colors

I fished on for another forty-five minutes, but the water seemed increasingly dead as the afternoon slid by. At 3:30 I was uncertain how far I was from the parking lot, and I did not wish to be late for my rendezvous with Jane in Leadville, so I reeled up the green drake and hooked it to my rod guide and found my way back to the car.

Tuesday August 1 was clearly inferior to July 26, but two of my catch were larger than anything that found my net the previous week. As I was stashing my gear at the car, a young Department of Wildlife gentleman appeared, and he asked me a series of questions for a survey. When I communicated to him that I landed eight brown trout with two in the fifteen inch range, he volunteered that I caught 80% of the trout landed in Hayden Meadows that day. His surveys found only two other fish caught on August 1, so while eight fish in four hours is average on my scale, my numbers were quite acceptable based on the DOW survey. More importantly it was a gorgeous first day of August with cool temperatures and spectacular fourteeners in the background.

Fish Landed: 8

Arkansas River – 07/26/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Hayden Meadows

Arkansas River 07/26/2017 Photo Album

Jane and I packed up our wet campsite on Wednesday morning, and Jane returned home to dry out the tent, canopy and tablecloth, while I embarked on yet another day of fly fishing adventure. On July 12, 2016 the apparent absence of fish on Half Moon Creek caused me to alter my plans, and I salvaged my day with a visit to the Hayden Meadows area of the north Arkansas River. Since I was positioned at Hornsilver Campground north of Tennessee Pass, I was in striking distance of the same section of the Arkansas River Headwaters Area, so I decided to give it another trial.

I climbed Tennessee Pass and passed through Leadville and arrived at the northern parking lot by 9:30. The Department of Transportation was doing road work in the area where one turns to access the parking space for Hayden Meadows, and as I prepared to fish, a group of wader clad fishermen were standing in a circle in the larger lot by the trail that leads to the stocked lake. I could hear guides calling out instructions to the students. I was concerned that this crowd would descend upon the river in a short amount of time, so I elevated my usual preparation pace. I selected my Loomis five weight rod, and I quickly tromped down the dirt road toward the bridge that crosses the river.

Two other cars were parked in the same area as me, and a woman returned from walking her dog, so that accounted for one of the vehicles. As I began ambling down the two lane dirt road on the west side of the river, I passed a lone fisherman, and that explained the second car. I decided to hike for twenty minutes, and I was fairly certain this would distance me from the fly fishing class in the western lot. This was the second instance in 2017 that I crossed paths with a fly fishing class.

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One of the Mountains to the West

The air temperature was cool for July as the thermometer registered sixty degrees, and large gray clouds covered most of the western sky. During my time on the river, the temperature never exceeded the mid seventies, and the gray clouds blocked the sun seventy percent of the time. The river was clear and 220 cfs translated to a rapid pace, and I was unable to cross until I reached a place where it divided into multiple smaller channels.

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Inside Shelf of the Bend

I adhered to my plan and hiked for twenty minutes, and at that point I cut sharply to the left and bushwhacked through some tall grass and wild shrubs until I encountered the river. I began fishing with a chubby Chernobyl with a mustard colored body, an emerald caddis pupa and a beadhead hares ear nymph. It took me awhile to understand the productive water type, but eventually I learned that the dry/dropper produced the best results at the tail of long slicks behind large rocks and at the downstream end of the inside seam of a bend. This knowledge enabled me to tally five landed fish between ten o’clock and noon, when I paused for lunch. The first fish was an eight inch brown that snatched the emerald caddis pupa in a small marginal seam along the bank. The others were nice brown trout in the 12 – 13 inch range, and these hungry fish grabbed the hares ear at the tail of deeper slots behind obstructions in the middle of the river. I exchanged the chubby Chernobyl for a yellow fat Albert within the first twenty minutes to obtain better visibility in the low light conditions.

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Not Bad Start to the Morning

Mosquitoes were initially a severe nuisance, but after I sprayed my neck and hands with insect repellent, they seemed to fade. I chose a lunch spot that was away from the tall grasses and shrubs in order to avoid stirring up another mosquito nest. While I crunched my carrots, I observed a nice deep run along the bank just upstream, and I noted two dimpling rises. I was unwilling to attribute this surface feeding to small fish, and once I was properly geared up, I removed the dry/dropper configuration and adopted a single dry fly method. I saw one small pale morning dun attempting to become airborne, so I opted for a size 16 light gray comparadun, and I placed five casts over the scene of the dimples. I received no verification that my fly selection was appropriate, so I stripped in the comparadun and pondered my next move.

As I cast the PMD imitation, I saw the second large lumbering drake of the day. The ArkAnglers web site identified these as gray drakes, and I wondered if a large drake imitation might tempt the local stream dwellers. I also noticed quite a few small blue winged olives, but I was reluctant to go that route in the dim light and glare in relatively fast water. I gazed in my fly box and selected a size 14 green drake comparadun.

I gave up on the lunch time riser, and slowly waded to the top of the narrow ribbon of slow water along the bank. I paused, and as I looked on, I could see the back fin of a decent fish, as it plucked something from the surface in some swirly currents. I fluttered the comparadun to the location of the sighted fish, and I was unable to follow my fly, so I lifted and felt the momentary weight of a fish. It was only a split second, but I was certain that I pricked the sighted fish, and I knew that there would be a temporary pause in its feeding regimen.

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A Harrop Deer Hair Green Drake

I moved on, and the comparadun generated a refusal, so I decided to try a size 12 2XL medium olive stimulator. I recalled that a stimulator was effective on July 12, 2016, and I hoped to recapture the year ago success. I persisted with the stimulator for ten minutes, but it was not attracting any interest, so I once again paused to consider my options. I studied the green drake section of my fly box, and I focused on a set of Harrop green drakes, that I tied over the winter. These flies presented a stimulator body and wing form, but the colors were much more imitative of green and gray drakes. I grabbed one and replaced the stimulator.

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Creating a Nice Sag

The choice proved to be a clear winner. The fish counter climbed from five to fifteen over the remainder of the afternoon, and the Arkansas River trout loved the Harrop green drake. Many of the netted fish streaked two or three feet downstream to intercept the high riding drake before it could escape or tumble into faster water. The takes were direct and confident. The most difficult aspect of the afternoon fishing was finding the right type of water to fool the brown trout. Nearly all of the ten afternoon drake chompers were in the five foot band of slow moving water between the bank and the heavy current. Quite often I executed a reach cast and then allowed the fly to float downstream, and a brown trout appeared from the depths and confidently smashed the Harrop green drake.

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Keep Them Wet

Needless to say, I had a blast. For the second day in a row, I fished primarily a single dry fly and avoided all the hassles related to casting three flies among willows, bushes and windy conditions. Once I stumbled on the favored fly, it was a matter of covering a lot of water in order to find the prime spots where brown trout opportunistically pounced on a large bushy drake imitation. The greatest challenges were the dim light and frequent glare, and the repeated cycle of absorbing water from the fly and then dipping in dry shake. When the wings of the Harrop deer hair drake became wet and matted, the fly seemed to lose effectiveness.

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Lunch View

By 3:15 I encountered another fisherman, and I soon learned that I bumped into the fly fishing class. In the .5 mile area below the bridge near my starting point I counted at least eight fishermen. I used this as an excuse to circle around the group, and I reached the bridge and then returned to the car. I am not sure how long the drakes will continue to entice Hayden Meadows trout to the surface, but I would welcome another opportunity to float my Harrop hair wings in the area. Fishing large dry flies to willing trout is a rare treat.

Fish Landed: 15

Arkansas River – 07/12/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Lunch Rock upriver a mile.

Arkansas River 07/12/2017 Photo Album

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

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

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Promising Section Ahead

 

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

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Re-entry

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

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 3

Arkansas River – 07/10/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Smyth Lease

Arkansas River 07/10/2017 Photo Album

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

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

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Edge Fishing the Arkansas River on July 10

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

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Chunky Brown Trout

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

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Slash Barely Visible

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

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From Above Lunch Rock

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

Fish Landed: 9

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Happy Hour at Angel of Shavano

Arkansas River – 04/25/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Fremont/Chafee County Line

Arkansas River 04/26/2017 Photo Album

A day of fishing is better than a day at work, but not all fishing days are created equal. The Arkansas River humbled me on Tuesday April 25. I surrendered in my annual search for the caddis hatch, and I am increasingly convinced that the caddis hatch is a myth manufactured by the fly shops in Canon City and Salida. Despite my recent repudiation of the relentless search for the dense caddis hatch, I recognize that the Arkansas River is a quality fishery, and it offers the opportunity to land some fish that are on average larger than many of the closer front range streams. In addition a fine blue winged olive hatch continues to provide solid action for anglers who make the visit, and for these reasons I decided to make the long drive to the Salida area.

The flows near Salida were in the 400 cfs range according to the DWR chart, and the fly shop reports indicated solid clarity. In all likelihood run off conditions will commence in a couple weeks, so I intended to prospect the water one last time. Most of my fly fishing equipment remained in the car from my Monday venture, and this enabled me to depart my house in Denver by 6:45. I knew the high temperature was expected to peak at 56 degrees in Salida, so I anticipated cool weather, but I did not plan to drive through snow and light slush during my time in South Park. I arrived at the pullout near the Chafee/Fremont County boundary at 10AM, and I pulled on my heavy Under Armour undershirt to combat the cool temperature. Unfortunately the four letter word of fly fishing announced its presence, and I battled stiff gusts of headwind during my entire time on the water.

Since it was a weekday, I assumed that the number of fishermen would be down compared to the weekend, but an Instagram contact warned me that crowds might be an issue. Unfortunately he was correct. The East Salida Campground was full, and quite a few of the roadside pullouts were occupied, as I traveled east to my planned destination. Two vehicles were present in my favorite parking area when I arrived, and one gentleman was in the process of preparing to fish. I walked to the edge of the bank and surveyed the river, and I did not see anyone, so I concluded that I could execute my normal crossing to the north bank and avoid the other fishermen.

This turned out to be a faulty assumption. After I pulled on my waders and put together my Sage One five weight, I descended the bank and crossed the wide river at the tail of a large pool. Crossing such a large river even at 400 cfs remains a scary proposition, but I took my time and assured myself that each step formed a solid base for the next shuffle. My heart was pounding when I reached the opposite shoreline, and then I elevated it some more, as I climbed the steep slope to the railroad bed. I was now in my own world as I strode down the rail bed and stepped on alternating ties. I was high above the river and unable to see the near side below me, until I approached the location where the river splits around a small island.

Here I paused to glance downstream, and I was shocked to see two fishermen above the island and two below, and as I shifted my gaze farther east, four additional anglers came into focus. What was going on? How did all these fishermen cross to my side of the river? All my favorite spots were occupied, so I reversed my direction and hiked back along the top of the rim, until I was a good distance above the most upstream fisherman. I carefully descended the rocky bank and found a position next to a nice deep run. I decided it was too early for blue winged olives, so I tied a 20 incher to my line and then added an emerald caddis pupa. I flicked the strike indicator upstream with a backhand cast, and on the fifth drift I noticed a dip and lifted my rod tip. I was pleasantly surprised to feel the throb of a fighting fish, and after a short battle I netted a chunky thirteen inch brown trout with the 20 incher in its mouth.

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First and Only Fish on Tuesday

What an auspicious beginning to my day on the river! I could endure the wind and competing fishermen, if additional similar outcomes were in my future. Unfortunately that was not going to be the case. During the morning I played hopscotch with two other fishermen, and as one of them passed me, he paused to chat. After exchanging information about our success or lack thereof, he asked how I crossed the river. I told him and pointed to my crossing point. He seemed surprised, so I inquired regarding how he arrived at his current position on the north side of the river. He informed me that his group parked at the Stockyard Bridge and hiked three miles along the railroad tracks with the intention of fishing back to the bridge. It was just my luck to choose the day of the hiking/fishing club excursion to fish on the north side of the Arkansas River.

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Upstream from My Lunch Spot

I fished intensely for the next three hours and forty-five minutes and failed to land any additional fish. I churned through an iron sally, RS2, and BWO soft hackle emerger; but none of the flies created interest among the Arkansas River trout. The wind continued its maddening rush down the canyon, and I was quite pleased to be wearing my light down coat and my hat with ear flaps. After lunch I managed to create some space from the large group, but the fishing did not improve. For the last hour I remembered the quote, “Insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results”, so I removed the nymphing system and converted to a dry/dropper arrangement. While these flies were occupying my line, I temporarily hooked up on one fish, and witnessed an exciting refusal from a rainbow trout in front of a large submerged boulder.

During the last thirty minutes I abandoned the multiple fly arrangement and rested my hopes on a size 14 gray stimulator. This fly generated two refusals, and then I hooked a fish for a moment only to see it escape. I reeled up my line to inspect and discovered a pig tail indicative of a poorly tied knot. I replaced the lost stimulator with a medium olive version, and I managed another refusal before I shrugged and hooked my fly to the rod guide at 2:30.

A tailwind pushed me back to my crossing point, and once I reached the car, I changed into my street clothes and said goodbye to the wind, the waves of fishermen and the lock-jawed fish. It was a tough day on the Arkansas River, and I am not sure I will return until after run off. I suspect my next fly fishing adventure will seek out a tailwater that is sheltered from the wind. If anyone knows such a place, let me know.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 04/07/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pinnacle Rock

Arkansas River 04/07/2017 Photo Album

Friday was a success on many fronts, but I harbor some concerns about the health of the Arkansas River in lower Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Despite the reports on the Royal Gorge Angler web site touting the heavy presence of the blue winged olive life cycle, I failed to witness a single BWO in any stage of its life cycle while fishing for four hours in the vicinity of Pinnacle Rock. I was acutely aware however of dense piles of gray mucky sludge along much of the river bank. The Hayden Pass fire in 2016 impacted the ecosystem south of Coaldale, and subsequent storms washed ash and sludge into the Arkansas River. I am not an expert on stream biology and the impact of wildfires, but I want to believe that the absence of BWO’s is attributable to weather or water temperatures, and not to the Hayden Pass wildfire.

With high temperatures projected to reach the upper sixties in Canon City, Jane decided to join me for a trip to the eastern section of Bighorn Sheep Canyon above Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River. We departed Denver by 8AM and arrived at the Pinnacle Rock access area by 10:40. I chose Pinnacle Rock since I knew it contained bathrooms, and I speculated it would offer a nice haven for Jane, while I fished in the nearby river. Pinnacle Rock is located .5 mile below a section of the Arkansas River that I hold in high regard, where the flow splits into four or five channels. These separate braids transform a large intimidating river into smaller medium sized creeks, and this makes reading the water a much more manageable undertaking.

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Trough Next to the Sticks Was the Source of Two Brown Trout

I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight rod and ambled across the parking lot to the downstream border, where I found a nice wide path that led to the river. I paused to assess the structure, and then I configured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, Arkansas rubberlegs, and a beadhead hares ear. A narrow deep trough existed within a few feet of the bank upstream from my position, so I lobbed the nymphs toward the midsection and allowed the indicator to slowly drift, until it was in front of me. I repeated this cycle several more times, and on the fifth drift as I lifted the nymphs to make another cast, I felt a sharp tug and accelerated my movement into a hook set. My reaction provoked a sudden response from a finned creature, and a spirited battle ensued, before I gently lifted a fourteen inch brown trout over the lip of my net. What a surprise to land what would turn out to be the largest fish of the day within the first five minutes.

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First and Best Fish of the Day

Nearly as amazing was the next sequence of events. After I photographed and released the energetic brown trout, I moved up along the bank a bit, and tossed a cast to the top of the run just behind an exposed rock. The flies barely hit the water when the indicator raced upstream toward two o’clock, and again I executed a sharp sweep of my rod tip to the right. I entered a tussle with a wild brown trout, and this version ended up in my net as well. I estimated the length to be thirteen inches, as I carefully removed the Arkansas rubberleg and nudged it back into the ice cold current.

I wish I could announce to my readers that the first fifteen minutes of fishing were representative of the remainder of my day, but that was not the case. In the next 3.5 hours I added six additional trout to the fish count. Four were decent fish in the twelve to thirteen inch size range, and the other two measured seven to nine inches long. I worked extremely hard for these prizes, as one might conclude from the slow catch rate. The first two fish described earlier represented my only catches in the morning, and at noon I climbed the bank and joined Jane at a picnic table near the car. The spot was protected from the wind and benefited from the direct rays of the sun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time with my lovely wife, while I basked in the warmth.

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Near Our Lunch Spot

After lunch I prospected the water around a tiny island just above our parking space, but the exploratory session proved fruitless. I returned to the picnic area and persuaded Jane to drive me to the large bend in US 50, where I planned to access my beloved multi-braid section of the river, while Jane returned to the comfort of the Pinnacle Rock picnic area. I crossed the highway and hiked a short distance along the shoulder, before I dropped down a steep bank. By now I lost faith in the Arkansas rubberlegs, so I clipped it off and realigned my offerings with a beadhead hares ear on top followed by an emerald caddis pupa and then a soft hackle emerger. I was hedging against the likelihood that caddis or blue winged olives might be present in the drift.

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Surprise Rainbow Trout Was a Beauty

I covered a nice stretch of moderate riffles next to the highway with no results, so I questioned whether I needed a larger fly to attract attention in the somewhat cloudy water. I removed the hares ear nymph and replaced it with a size 12 20 incher, and the lineup of the 20 incher, emerald caddis, and soft hackle emerger remained on my line for the remainder of the afternoon. Before abandoning the segment across from my drop off point, I tossed the three flies upstream and tight to the bank. As the nymphs tumbled toward a deep chute, I felt a tug and reacted with a lift. Instantly a silver pink-sided torpedo rocketed across the river and then dashed downstream in the riffles below me. I allowed line to spin from my reel, until the fish paused, and then I gradually regained line and lifted the head of a thirteen inch rainbow trout out of the water and into my net. This fan of the 20 incher would be my only rainbow on the day, but it was a hard fighting foe, and I was pleased to guide it into my net.

I decided to move to the north channel, as it represents my favorite section of the braided area. I carefully crossed the two intervening branches, and then I drifted my nymphs through some nice moderate riffles in the channel just above the confluence with the north braid. This slight detour in my route yielded a twelve inch brown trout that crushed the emerald caddis pupa, as it began to swing at the end of the drift.

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My Favorite Branch

Finally I reached the point where the north channel dumped its volume into the main river, and during the remainder of the afternoon I methodically worked my way upstream to a point forty yards below where the flow split off from the main stem. I prospected with the three nymph system and added four additional trout to my fish tally. Two of the fish were on the small side, but the other two were very decent brown trout that rewarded me for my persistence.

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For the most part moderate current and moderate depth seemed to describe the productive trout yielding destinations on Friday. Normally I edge fish the deep pockets of the Arkansas River and land numerous brown trout that relish the cover provided by the large protective rocks, but on this occasion that type of structure was not productive.

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Return to Home

Readers of this blog may note that I often stumble on to a fly that is preferred above all others by the trout, but that was not the case on April 7. I landed one brown on a beadhead hares ear, one on an Arkansas rubberlegs, one on a soft hackle emerger, two on the emerald caddis pupa, and three fish that clobbered the 20 incher. The fish definitely seemed to validate my tactic of using the 20 incher to attract attention.

Overall it was a decent day. The weather was perfect and the flows were reasonable although a bit murky, but edge visibility was quite good. I managed to land eight trout during four hours of fishing, and this represents an average catch rate, however, six of the eight were in the twelve to fourteen inch size range, and that was noteworthy. I enjoyed the companionship of my wife, Jane, during the drive to and from the river, and we stopped at the Smiling Toad in Colorado Springs for a craft beverage on the way home. Spring is upon us, and I look forward to more fishing adventures.

Fish Landed: 8

Arkansas River – 10/23/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Fremont – Chafee County Line

Arkansas River 10/23/2016 Photo Album

I contacted my friend, Danny Ryan, after returning from Pennsylvania, and he indicated an enthusiastic interest in fishing the Arkansas River on October 23 and 24. I was considering a trip to the South Platte River, but Danny informed me that his Facebook sources lamented the crowds and combat fishing on the popular fishery south of Denver. Danny suggested the Arkansas River as an alternative, as he sought a larger river with more elbow room. I quickly agreed to the excursion, and I offered to pay for a hotel room in Salida on Sunday night.

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Ominous Start to Day on Arkansas River

I picked Danny up at 6:30, and we arrived at the Fremont – Chafee county line pullout at 10:30. By the time we assembled our gear and waded across the river and hiked downstream, it was 11:00AM when our flies hit the water. I began fishing farther downstream than normal where the main current created a large foam pool. I was certain that a deep nymphing rig would extract some sizable fish, but my 20 incher and ultra zug bug failed to interest the Arkansas River fish. I continued to advance with the nymph offerings, until I reached the downstream tip of the island, but the only evidence of fish was a foul hooked fourteen inch brown trout. This was a beautiful deeply colored fish, but the ultra zug bug was embedded in the belly, and I do not count or photograph snagged fish. I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a salad spinner and a soft hackle emerger along the way, but these flies were equally unproductive.

When I approached the right braid at the bottom of the long narrow island, I switched to a peacock body size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle and retained the soft hackle emerger as a dropper. Given the relatively low flows of autumn, I was cognizant of the clear and technical nature of the small right channel, so I did not wish to scatter the resident fish with a splashy cast of a large fly. I probably over analyzed the situation, as I covered the entire right braid without landing a fish. My only action was a refusal to the beetle in a small pocket at the very bottom of the right branch. Danny, meanwhile, experienced some decent success with several nice brown trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range.

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Danny with a Fine Arkansas River Brown Trout

After finishing the right channel I prospected the right bank through the wide shallow area above the island. This proved to be a futile exercise, so I stopped for lunch at 12:45, and my fish count remained locked on zero. After lunch I converted to a tan Charlie boy hopper trailing an ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger. Within thirty minutes a thirteen inch brown trout that was located tight to an exposed rock grabbed the soft hackle emerger, and I registered my first and only fish of the day.

I continued my progress through the pockets between the top of the island and our crossing point beneath the long pool, and I managed a couple long distance releases. For some inexplicable reason the fish seemed dormant, and neither Danny nor I could unlock the secret code to the Arkansas River trout. I attempted a modification to my approach by swapping the ultra zug bug for a hares ear, but the variation in offering made no difference to the fish. I observed very little insect activity with only a couple random blue winged olives sighted. The sky was largely devoid of clouds and the temperature peaked at the eighty degree mark. It felt like August in late October.

When I reached our crossing point, I skipped around the long pool and proceeded to the faster water where the river entered the large deep slow moving section. The wind kicked up a bit, and I began to see more BWO’s as they were tumbled and skittered across the river. This observation prompted me to convert back to nymphing. I hoped that the added weight of the indicator and split shot would enable me to more easily punch casts into the wind. In addition I theorized that the split shot would sink my flies deeper and allow me to better mimic a nymph or emerger, as it spurted from the river bottom to the surface. My theory worked, sort of, as I temporarily hooked a brown trout in a deep trough near the middle of the river.

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The County Line

Alas that was the extent of the payback on the nymphing ploy. I continued my progress along the north bank, but the remainder of the afternoon evolved into futile casting. At three o’clock I reversed my course and crossed at the bottom of the long pool, and then I walked east along US 50 until I was above Danny. I was rather frustrated and bored at this point, so I experimented with a slumpbuster for the remainder of the afternoon, and surprisingly I connected with a decent fish on an upstream cast and strip during this time period. Typical of my day, however, the deep bend in the rod did not last very long, and my slumpbuster fancier was gone.

Near 4:30 I encountered a place where I had to exit the river in order to circle around some thick bushes where the river ran with strong velocity tight to the bank. As I attempted to battle through some dense shrubs to return to the rivers edge, my rod tip apparently dug into a stiff branch, and I was shocked to discover that I broke three inches off my tip.

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Most Rises Seen on October 23 During Dinner

This last unfortunate event ended a frustrating day that was characterized by long distance releases, a near fall, a broken tip and one landed fish. Quite possibly Sunday October 23 was the worst day of fly fishing in my life.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 10/06/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Spike Buck and Five Points

Arkansas River 10/06/2016 Photo Album

The view out of my windshield was miserable as I departed from Stapleton on Thursday morning October 6. I alternated the windshield wipers between intermittent and steady, and the dashboard digital thermometer displayed 38 degrees. Could I really enjoy fishing in the Arkansas River, when the weather in Denver was this adverse? My Weather Underground app forecast a high of 65 degrees in Canon City and only a very slim chance of rain. Was Weather Underground out of date compared to the national weather service?

Miraculously when I reached the Palmer Divide just north of Monument, CO, the steady rain/sleet ceased to slap my windshield, and the sun peeked from behind the clouds in the eastern sky. The thermometer registered its low of 34 degrees, and it gradually climbed through the forties and peaked at 50 degrees, when I pulled into the Arkansas River Headwaters access location at Spike Buck. I was quite relieved to confirm the accuracy of the Weather Underground app, and I prepared to fish.

When I exited the Santa Fe, I detected some air movement, but clearly wind was not the significant negative factor that frustrated me on Monday on the South Platte River. Nevertheless I pulled on my long sleeved Under Armour base layer and then topped it with my fishing shirt and raincoat. I was relatively comfortable during my morning session, although intermittent gusts of wind gave me a slight chill, so I added a fleece layer when I reached the car again in the early afternoon. Although the wind did not impact my fishing as was the case on Monday, it did accelerate in the afternoon and provided several moments of frustration.

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Cheech Leech to Begin the Day

I pledged to dedicate thirty minutes to streamer stripping, so I assembled my Sage One five weight and attached the reel that contains my sinking tip line. I was not ready to devote an entire day to streamer fishing, so I dropped my five weight floating line in my backpack, and then I sauntered along the shoulder of US 50 until I was .3 miles below the Spike Buck parking lot. I dropped down to the edge of the river and knotted an articulated cheech leech to my line. The river was rushing along at a bit over 300 cfs, and it was crystal clear, as I began tossing the weighted streamer into the attractive deep pockets. I experimented with upstream casts with a jigging action, up and across slings with fast and slow strips, and downstream dangles. I tried to strip the animated marabou streamer along large boulders and typical brown trout hiding places, but I never detected a bump or follow. After twenty minutes of arm exercise I snipped off the cheech leech and replaced it with a black woolly bugger, but the results mimicked the first twenty minutes.

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Looks Fishy

Having fulfilled my streamer commitment, I shifted direction and swapped the sinking tip line for my floating line. I invested twenty minutes to configure my line with the deep nymphing arrangement that Taylor Edrington taught me during a guided trip several years ago. I removed my tapered leader and tied a six inch section of 0X to the end of the fly line, and then connected the other end to a thingamabobber. I fumbled in my frontpack and uncovered a five foot section of 3X, and I knotted this to the thingamabobber as well. The addition of a split shot, 20 incher, and hares ear nymph completed my set up, and I began to lob casts to the deep holes, pockets and runs along the south side of the Arkansas River.

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20 Incher in the Mouth

Between eleven o’clock and noon I managed to land two brown trout in the twelve inch range. One snatched the 20 incher, as I raised my rod at the end of the drift, and the other slightly smaller catch selected the hares ear nymph. I was pleased to register a pair of landed fish, but the action was slow, and I covered quite a bit of productive water in order to get on the fish count scoreboard.

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Wet and Effective 20 Incher

After lunch I continued the same approach, until I reached the Spike Buck parking lot , and during this time I netted four additional brown trout. All of these landed fish grabbed the 20 incher, and the other fly on the end of my line did not contribute. I replaced the hares ear with a small baetis imitation that I purchased from Royal Gorge Angler in the spring, as I hoped that the trout would be dialed in to active blue winged olive nymphs. Taylor Edrington recommended the fly, since it sported a loop wing case, and he believed that the fat thorax was a key triggering characteristic.

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The Edge Was Productive

Unfortunately on Thursday the loop wing feature did not interest the trout, so I once again made a change and replaced the BWO nymph with a Craven soft hackle emerger. I experienced success with this shiny fluoro fiber imitation during past fall blue winged olive hatches, so I decided to give it a try. The Arkansas River trout threw a penalty flag on the soft hackle emerger, and it did not yield any fish during this October 2016 outing.

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Lovely Spots

When I reached the car, I decided to move to another location. I drove west on US 50 until I was just above the Salt Lick access point. I remembered this as a productive spot from previous spring ventures, but the descent was steep over some large rocks, and the river bed was narrow and quite swift. I chose the location because I was certain that most fishermen avoid it because of access difficulty, but I only lasted twenty minutes, and then I realized that it was not the right type of water for October 2016. I cautiously scaled the very steep bank, and executed a U-turn and returned to the Five Points location.

Five Points would be my last stand. I continued with the nymph configuration, but I removed the unproductive soft hackle emerger and replaced it with a salvation nymph. The swap yielded a temporary hook up in a moderate run, but just as I felt weight, I saw the side of the ten inch fish flash, and then it was gone. Shortly after this brief connection, I snagged a rock in a place where I could not wade to a position to salvage the flies, and I ended up breaking off the salvation. Salvation nymphs and lost flies seem to be a repeating story.

I decided to replace the salvation nymph with an ultra zug bug, since I recalled success with this simple fly in the autumn in previous years. Similar to the salvation, the zug bug produced a momentary connection, as it began to swing it in the nice bend run next to the island above Five Points. This fish felt a bit larger, but I did not get a glimpse of it. At this point farther progress involved climbing around a large vertical rock or wading to the island in the swift current. Rather than undertaking these challenges, I ambled back to the parking lot, and then I returned to the stream below some picnic tables. While at the bend I observed a flurry of blue winged olives taking flight, so I reverted to the soft hackle emerger, but the gambit proved unsuccessful, and I did not spot any additional mayflies in the air.

By now it was just past 3PM, so I reeled up my line and called it quits. The wind velocity escalated, and I was quite weary from a day of casting the five weight, and a significant hatch did not appear to be in the future. I managed to enjoy a day of fishing when remaining along the Front Range would have likely meant forsaking my beloved pastime, so that was a positive. Six brown trout over four plus hours of fishing is rather mediocre, but as usual, I was in the Colorado outdoors, and I took advantage of the dwindling opportunities to fish in 2016.

Fish Landed: 6