Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: Spike Buck and Five Points
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 Was Weather Underground out of date compared to the national weather service?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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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