Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: Lunch Rock and then downstream from the Chaffee – Fremont County line.
The one positive to a five fish day is that I can remember each fish, and Tuesday September 20 was one of those days. I slept at the Rincon Campground in John’s casita, and I was overwhelmed with fine food and comfort. On Tuesday morning we arrived at Lunch Rock in time to begin fishing by 10AM after a tasty breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages, and hashed brown potatoes.
It was quite overcast and windy when we began, so I wore my raincoat for a windbreaker, until I stopped to eat lunch at noon. We spent the first half hour just above Lunch Rock, and John and I attempted to coax a nice brown trout to accept our offerings, but our efforts were in vain. After John covered the deep pocket with many futile casts, I took my turn, but I was equally unsuccessful. Initially I used a strike indicator, split shot, iron sally, and zebra midge; but after I spied a couple blue winged olives, I swapped the midge for a RS2. The new offering did not phase the trout.
I suggested that we leave Lunch Rock and move to the Fremont – Chaffee County line, so we would be in a good position before an anticipated blue winged olive hatch. On Monday the hatch commenced between 12:30 and 1:00, and given the overcast conditions, I suspected the hatch might materialize sooner. We parked at the pullout off of route 50 and crossed the river at the tail of the long pool, just as I had done on Monday. Next we climbed the steep bank, and then we hiked down the railroad tracks, until we arrived at my normal starting point fifty yards below a narrow island.
I retained the strike indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and RS2; and I worked the bottom half of the huge shelf pool, while John patrolled the juicy top section. I covered the entire bottom half with no action, so I added a second split shot in order to fish the deep seam along the fast current effectively. Finally near the midsection of the pool, the indicator paused, and I set the hook and landed a nice eleven inch brown trout to register my first fish of the day.
John meanwhile snapped off all his flies on a rock, and this required a significant time commitment to rig anew, so I progressed upstream to the next nice riffle and run below the point of the island, where the two channels merged. Surprisingly the nymph tandem failed to deliver results, so I worked up along the left side of the island to kill time, while I waited for John to join me. The water was relatively marginal here except for a riffle of moderate depth at the top of the island, but it also proved to be unproductive.
I circled back to the downstream point of the island and ate lunch while I waited for John to catch up. After lunch I prepared for my foray into the smaller and shallower right channel by switching to a dry/dropper configuration. I tied a size 12 medium olive stimulator to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and a RS2. I fired a long cast upstream to the top of a relatively shallow run below the main pool on the right channel, and almost instantly a fish rose. Initially I thought the fish hammered the stimulator, but when I slid the net under the thirteen inch brown trout, I discovered the hares ear in its lip.
I immediately went back to our starting point to check on John, and I informed him of my good fortune, and I discovered that he landed a brown trout in the shelf pool on a nymph. He decided, however, that he was ready to move, so we waded upstream and approached the right channel again. When we arrived, we spotted a flurry of rises at the bottom of the long shallow pool, so John made some nice casts, but to no avail.
While he fished the bottom portion of the pool, I made some upstream casts along the left side, and I managed one splashy refusal to the stimulator. I was certain that the fish would respond to the subsurface RS2 as an imitation of the blue winged olive nynph, but I was mistaken. Finally as I approached the prime area at the top of the long pool, I switched to a size 16 gray comparadun, since I also spotted a few pale morning duns floating in the air among the smaller blue winged olives. I was hopeful that the trout might recognize the larger mayfly and go for it, but again my wish was misplaced.
When the money fly was ignored, I relented to my instincts, and tied on a size 20 CDC BWO. Timing is everything, and by the time I defaulted to the tiny imitation, the hatch ended, and the fish ceased their surface feeding. I prospected with the CDC BWO for a bit, but the tiny fly seemed futile, so I reverted to the stimulator, hares ear, and RS2. I experienced one foul hooked twelve inch brown that refused the stimulator, and I dragged the trailing nymph into its tail. Another small fish inspected the stimulator but returned to its holding position.
When I reached the top of the island. I remained at two fish, and it was 1:30, and I was not optimistic about my prospects for Tuesday. John and I met and decided to fish the deep run and riffles between the island and our crossing point. I waded toward the center of the river and fished back toward the north bank in the likely deep pockets, riffles and runs. Since the hatch was over, I converted to a gray pool toy hopper as my top fly, and retained the hares ear, but swapped the RS2 for a size 20 soft hackle emerger.
Halfway through my search of the faster water section, a fifteen inch brown attacked the soft hackle emerger, and I was quite pleased to net and photograph this beauty. This was the best fish of the day at that point, and it boosted my energy level. I moved upstream a bit and tossed a cast into a narrow slot behind an exposed boulder, and I was shocked to see a fish rise and gulp the pool toy hopper. I set the hook, and this fish put up a dogged fight, but I eventually subdued a gorgeous sixteen inch brown trout. I thought that perhaps my fortunes had turned.
Alas I covered the second half of the deep riffle area with no success to reward my hard work, and wading in the relatively fast current over slippery boulders was indeed a challenge. Once I reached the top, I noticed that John crossed to the bank along the road, so I joined him. He expressed a desire to fish the side that is conducive to right handed casting, so I left him at the bottom of the long pool, and I climbed to the high rock wall to watch. It was now late afternoon, and the sun broke through the thick clouds, and I anticipated a repeat of the dead time that evolved in the late afternoon on Monday.
As I sat on the rock perch, I spotted the same rainbow that haunted me in the late afternoon the previous day. I watched its movement and made some half-hearted casts with the dry/dropper, but the circling rainbow ignored the flies. John meanwhile joined me and waded upstream of the deep pool. I observed the rainbow as it sipped something small from the surface, so I clipped off the hopper and nymphs and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. I was now prepared, but I waited and observed for another ten minutes. Finally the rainbow came into view, and it cruised in an oval below me, and then it slowly drifted to the surface and sipped another small morsel.
This was my sign, and I flipped a cast above the fish’s position. I held my breath and lost sight of the tiny fluff of a fly, but then I spotted a subtle disturbance near the position of the rainbow. I raised my rod and executed a swift hook set, and the fish darted toward the middle and made a quick dive while thrashing fiercely. I was six feet above the water and not in a good position to land the fish, so I asked for John’s assistance, since he arrived from above. As I slid down the rock precipice on the bank, I applied side pressure and guided the rainbow toward shore, where John scooped it with his net.
What a team effort! It was an exciting ending to a tough day on the Arkansas River, although four of my five fish were very nice, and I remembered each one.
Fish Landed: 5