Category Archives: Cache la Poudre

Cache la Poudre River – 07/17/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Poudre Canyon

Cache la Poudre River 07/17/2020 Photo Album

It is prime western green drake time in 2020, and I initiated my annual effort to encounter this exciting event. I am not certain whether I or the trout anticipate it more, but every year I strive to encounter hatches of this large western mayfly. On 7/10/2020 I met a brief and sparse hatch on the Cache la Poudre River, and I had a hunch that the main emergence had not yet arrived. I decided to make a return trip to the Poudre on 07/17/2020 in an attempt to rendezvous with a longer and denser version of my experience the previous Friday.

Green Drake Eater at the Start

I managed to depart Denver by 7:45AM on Friday morning, and this enabled my arrival at a pullout along CO 14 across from the Cache la Poudre River by 10AM. Traffic was already building on the twisting two lane through the canyon, and my progress was maddeningly slow. The forecast for high temperatures in Denver approached one hundred degrees, and I suspected that the best fishing would be early. I contemplated wet wading, but ultimately decided to wader up to take advantage of the fly box storage of my wader bib. I need to give some serious thought to my wet wading setup. For Friday’s adventure I elected to assemble my Sage four weight, and once I was completely prepared, I ambled downstream along the shoulder of CO 14 for .4 mile. Originally I conceived the idea of crossing the nearby upstream bridge and then hiking downstream along the south bank, but a quick inspection revealed numerous vertical rock walls that made that plan unattainable.  .4 mile delivered me to a favorite spot, that I fished on my previous visit, but I was near the end of the stretch covered a week ago and thus subject to minimal overlap.

Accounted for First Nine Trout

Harrop Hair-wing in the Lip

I deviated from my normal dry/dropper starting strategy and tied a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line. What a choice! A brown trout flashed to the surface and nipped the drake imitation in a small pocket on the first cast.  The second cast fooled a comparable brown in a slightly larger downstream pocket, and then a couple casts to a deep slot toward the middle of the river resulted in another slurp. The magic of the Harrop green drake endured for the first hour, and the fish counter mounted to nine. In short, I relished my first hour of fishing and held my breath with the hope, that it would endure throughout the day.

Juicy

Of course it did not, and by 11:30AM the confident takes of the hair-wing disappeared, and fruitless casts suddenly became the norm. How could this happen? Perhaps a different version of my green drake would resurrect the hot fishing of the first hour? I exchanged the Harrop hair-wing for a parachute green drake and immediately notched my tenth fish, but then the fish once again refrained from gulping my artificial. My watch indicated that it was noon, and the heat was taking its toll on my energy level, so I found a nice flat rock next to a large spectacular pool and consumed my lunch.

Trout Haven Ahead

During lunch I observed carefully for insect activity, but the air was nearly devoid of life. I was baffled by why the trout would eat a green drake in the absence of a hatch between 10:30 and 11:30, but then suddenly show no interest? I decided to revert to my dependable dry/dropper method with a peacock hippie stomper, prince nymph, and salvation nymph. My thought process surmised that the hippie stomper might mimic a green drake, and the prince nymph was an approximation of a green drake nymph. The salvation covered the possibility of a pale morning dun hatch. The ploy paid off, and I elevated the fish count from ten to fifteen, as I progressed upstream along the right bank in the first hour after lunch.

Hippie Stomper

By one o’clock I actually witnessed five or six green drakes, as they slowly drifted above the river like a tiny hot air balloon. I was in a quandary. The dry/dropper was performing reasonably well, but the sighting of natural green drakes nudged me toward a return to dry flies. I ultimately decided to trade in the dry/dropper for a green drake comparadun. I reasoned that I wait all year for the opportunity to fish to green drakes, so why not take advantage? I knotted a size 14 green drake comparadun with a maroon thread rib to my line, and I began to flick casts to likely trout holding locations.

Nice Sheen

The tactic proved productive, and I incremented the fish count from fifteen to nineteen on the back of the comparadun. The trout were grabbing the low riding dry fly with confidence, and I was loving the rhythmic casting and periodic surprises, when a resident trout decided to ambush the western green drake. Unfortunately all good things must end, and suddenly the fish began to refuse the comparadun or ignore it completely. I covered several promising areas with no positive results, and the comparadun body absorbed water and began to sink, so I once again stripped in my fly to make a change. I suspected that the lull in my catch rate was more attributable to a sinking fly and inability to track, so I replaced the comparadun with a user friendly green drake. I tied a batch of user friendly green drakes during the winter between 2018 and 2019, but I experimented only briefly with the new green drake imitation. I decided to give it another try due to its buoyancy, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Typical

The green drake user friendly was not perfect, as it generated its share of refusals, but by the time I hooked it to my rod guide at 3:30, it was responsible for moving the fish count from nineteen to twenty-six. I never saw additional green drake naturals after one o’clock, so the user friendly productivity came in the time frame after the hatch was over. The foam enhanced dun with the white wing was a joy to track, and it apparently represented a desirable meal for the Cache la Poudre trout.

User Friendly Up Close

Friday, July 17 evolved into an outstanding day on the Cache la Poudre River. On my return drive through Fort Collins the dashboard thermometer registered 95 degrees, but I landed twenty-six trout in spite of the heatwave. My quest for green drake action was successful, as twenty-one of the twenty-six netted trout gobbled one of my array of western green drake imitations. The first ten confidently slurped the drake frauds, even though the hatch did not commence until one in the afternoon, and this confirmed my suspicion that trout have long memories when it comes to a sizable meal such as the western green drake. Do readers have suggestions on other Colorado freestones that offer excellent green drakes over the next week or two? I would seriously evaluate a trip.

Fish Landed: 26

Cache la Poudre River – 07/10/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Poudre Canyon west of the Narrows

Cache la Poudre River 07/10/2020 Photo Album

Friday was all about chasing the green drake hatch. I am obsessed with the large western mayflies, and I knew from previous years, that the green drakes typically hatch throughout July on the Cache la Poudre. A 7/9/2020 fishing report from St. Peter’s Fly Shop in Fort Collins announced that the hatch was just around the corner, and that was the only impetus I needed to schedule a day trip to the scenic canyon west of Fort Collins. A disappointing day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on Thursday added incentive to seek out another location for a day of July fishing. I remained undeterred in spite of a forecast high temperature in Denver of 100 degrees. It could not possibly be that warm in the canyon, could it?

I departed Denver by 7:50AM and this enabled me to arrive at a favorite pullout along CO 14 by 9:15AM. A slow moving RV was a temporary impediment to progress, but I slowed down and enjoyed the ride and remained in a positive mindset. As I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, the temperature was a pleasant seventy-five degrees, and I concocted a back up plan in case it was too hot. I would return to the car for lunch and transfer into wet wading attire.

A Good Place to Start

The condition of the river was spectacular. The flows were a bit high at 560 CFS, but I was actually pleased with the extra volume. The cold run off would push the trout to the river banks and help offset the high air temperature. I crossed the highway and entered the river and began fly fishing at 10:00AM. My starting lineup included a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, a green drake X leg nymph, and a salvation nymph. The green drake nymph was a new fly that I created during surgery recovery to imitate the western green drake nymph, and I utilized some dyed green Australian possum for the body. The salvation was intended to imitate the nymph stage of pale morning duns.

Off and Running

The Area Around the Large Rock Was Productive

In the first hour I landed four small brown trout. One trout consumed the X leg nymph, and the other three nabbed the salvation from the drift. Early on I discovered that the trout preferred fairly shallow runs and riffles next to the bank. Before this became apparent I wasted time casting to very attractive deeper runs and pockets that normally produced fish, but for some reason otherwise marginal lies were popular on this day early in the p0st-run off summer season. The catch rate was slower than expected in the first hour, and I knew from previous seasons that a prince nymph was an effective fly ahead of the western green drake hatch, In short, I was more confident in the prince’s fish catching ability, so I exchanged the X leg nymph for a size 12 prince.

Another Wild Brown Trout

Between 11AM and 2PM I methodically worked my way upstream along the right bank and steadily incremented the fish count from four to twenty. 75% of the brown trout grabbed the salvation nymph, and 25% snatched the prince. These results included an abundant quantity of long distance releases, and I would characterize the action as lukewarm. The key to success was finding pockets and runs along the bank with a water depth of two feet. A carefully placed soft cast to these locations yielded frequent takes. I stopped for lunch at 12:15PM, and the fish count was paused at ten by that juncture.

A Very Productive Side Channel

A Bit More Size

Just before 2PM I spotted three western green drakes, as they slowly glided upward from the river. In the absence of rises I continued with my high performance dry/dropper rig; however, I began to wonder if a size 14 green drake dry fly might inflict some damage on the local trout population. The third fluttering mayfly sealed the deal, and I snipped off the three fly dry/dropper configuration and replaced it with a size 14 parachute green drake. The changeover was magical, and a ten inch brown trout immediately gave me positive reinforcement, as it slashed the fresh dry fly aggressively. Between two o’clock and 2:30PM I tossed the green drake to likely spots and elevated the fish count to twenty-four, but then the trout wised up, and I began generating refusals or no response at all.

Green Drake Sipper

The water type shifted to deeper pockets and the green drake was very difficult to track, so I reverted to the same dry/dropper set up that gained me twenty fish earlier. Alas, the magic was gone, and the dry/dropper could not recapture the imagination of the Poudre fish. I suspect the heat was the main influence that caused mid-afternoon doldrums, as the dashboard registered 95 degrees, when I started the engine for my return drive. I hooked the salvation to the rod guide and hiked half a mile back to the car and made the two hour drive back to Denver.

Check the Dashboard Temperature

The largest fish to land in my net on Friday was a thirteen inch rainbow (the only rainbow of the day), and most of the brown trout were in the seven to eleven inch range, which is admittedly subpar, but the relatively fast action maintained my interest. I reveled in the challenge of reading the water to determine the preferred holding lies of the wild trout in the high water of the early season. Once I noted their preference, I targeted spots along the bank, and getting casts under branches and into small holding zones was a demanding endeavor. The western green drake “hatch” was icing on the cake, and I was pleased to determine that the Poudre trout were already tuned into the large olive mayflies. A return trip within the next two weeks seems like a likely scenario.

Fish Landed: 24

Cache la Poudre River – 11/15/2019

Time: 9:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Within the town of Fort Collins

Cache la Poudre River 11/15/2019 Photo Album

The forecast of a 63 degree day along the Front Range of Colorado on Friday, November 15 caused incessant brain messages that implored me to visit a trout stream. I contacted @rockymtnangler, also known as Trevor, and learned that he was off from work on Friday and planning a day of fishing. With that news in hand we planned a day on the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, CO. Trevor logged sixty plus days on the city section of the Cache la Poudre, and he has become a bit of an expert on the nuances of the urban fishery. In fact, Trevor shared a sample of his impressive art work with me in the form of a pen and ink rendition of a map of the Cache la Poudre. I am convinced that Trev could have a future in art, if he tires of his current occupation.

We agreed to meet in Fort Collins at 9AM, and I arrived at our designated rendezvous point at that exact point in time. Trevor was already clad in waders, and since he owns a rod vault, his rod is in a constant state of readiness. He waited patiently, while I cycled through my preparation routine which included the assembly of my Orvis Access four weight.

Very Low Flows on the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins

The air temperature remained quite chilly at this early juncture of the morning, so I slid into my North Face light down coat. By the time we quit at 12:30 the temperature rose to the low sixties, but I was never uncomfortable in my chosen attire. In a text message on Thursday Trevor warned me to temper my expectations due to the low water conditions, and evidence of his advice was apparent, as we approached the low narrow stream of flowing water to begin our day. I estimate that only 1/3 of the stream bed was covered by water with the remainder a jumble of bleached river rocks.

We hiked downstream for .5 mile and jumped in the river just below the water gauge bridge. Trevor grabbed a pool downstream, while I targeted a spot, where the river flowed against the north bank and created a nice deep run. Within minutes Trevor hooked and landed an eight inch rainbow trout, but I was unable to lure anything to my line. I began my day with a Jake’s gulp beetle and a size 16 salvation nymph, as I searched for a surface fly that was small yet visible and buoyant enough to support a beadhead dropper.

Trevor Focused on a Run

Trevor and I continued fishing upstream through the remainder of the morning and played hopscotch among the intermittent attractive pools. The most productive locales featured a bit of current that fed large smooth pools, and the trout seemed to gravitate to the top to intercept food, before it spread out in the slower sections. Within the first thirty minutes Trevor added a second rainbow, and both landed fish attacked his small parachute Adams. We both were convinced that my nymph should be generating more interest, so I swapped the salvation for a beadhead sparkle wing RS2. Surely the Poudre trout could not resist the small baetis imitation in the prevalent low conditions. Since the beetle was difficult to track in the shadowed areas, I opted for a peacock body hippie stomper with a white wing, and this move proved effective, as the large wing contrasted nicely with low light conditions.

My strategy seemed viable, but in a twist of trout contrariness, the hippie stomper became the desired food object and not the RS2. During the remainder of my time on the water, two rainbow trout smashed the attractor dry fly, but the small nymph went unmolested. In fact, I swapped the RS2 for a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph for an extended period, and it also was ignored.

A Pod of Rainbows Next to Trevor

By 11:30 the infrequent rises in the pools ceased to appear, and we persisted in our upstream mission, but the fish were no longer willing to accept our offerings. At a spot that contained a large quantity of man-made stream improvement boulders, we agreed that the best fishing of Friday, November 15 was behind us, so we climbed the bank and ambled back to our cars. Once we removed our gear, Trevor led the way to the Odell Brewing tasting patio, and we quaffed craft brews and enjoyed the unseasonably warm afternoon.

The fishing was slow, but my expectations were appropriately lowered. The highlights of Friday were the companionship of a fishing friend, pleasant weather, and a tasty brew at Odell Brewing. Any nice day with a few fish is a bonus in mid-November.

Fish Landed: 2

Cache la Poudre River – 08/23/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Lee Martinez Park in Ft. Collins

Cache la Poudre River 08/23/2019 Photo Album

Sometimes being flexible is a necessity in the world of fly fishing, and today was one of those occasions. I enjoyed an excellent session on South Boulder Creek last Thursday, and after a somewhat disappointing outing on the Taylor River on Tuesday, August 20, I was anxious to return to the nearby tailwater below Gross Reservoir. I tentatively scheduled Friday, August 23 to be that day.

On Thursday I texted my son, Dan, and suggested that we do a joint fishing adventure before the weather turned cold, and he replied back that Saturday, August 24 was a good time for him; since Ariel, my daughter-in-law, had to work. Furthermore when I presented him with several destination options, he chose the relatively nearby South Boulder Creek. Not wanting to fish South Boulder Creek on back to back days caused me to reconsider my plan, and I decided to return to the Cache la Poudre River in the canyon west of Ft. Collins.

I packed most of my gear the night before and departed from Denver just before 8AM, and this allowed me to reach the lower end of Poudre Canyon by 9:30. Unfortunately as I approached a ninety degree bend just below the diversion structure, I was forced to stop at the end of a long line of stalled vehicles. I was perplexed by this turn of events, as I did not encounter any road construction signs in advance of the halted traffic. I waited for fifteen minutes, as the backup increased behind me, and several passengers jogged ahead to determine the cause of the traffic stoppage. I was by myself, so I was reluctant to leave the car unattended, and I was out of cell range, so information from that valuable resource was unavailable as well. Quite a few of the passengers returned and climbed into cars, and they then executed U-turns and reversed direction.

I decided to cut my losses, and I followed the other cars with a reversal and decided to return to Lee Martinez Park in Ft. Collins. I fished the area once several years ago with my friend, Trevor, so I had some familiarity. In addition Trevor adopted the town section of the Poudre as one of his favorites, and he is a trusted evaluator of quality water.

By the time I drove back to Ft. Collins, parked, assembled my Sage four weight, and walked to the river, it was 10:30AM. Cloudy overcast skies gave way to bright sunshine, and 71 degrees quickly elevated to the upper seventies. The river was very clear, and the flows were in the 100 to 200 CFS range. I struggled to recall the path to the pedestrian footbridge, where Trevor and I began the last time, so I began hiking on a concrete path in a westward direction. After a short jaunt of .3 miles, I spotted a wide dirt trail that appeared to angle toward the river, so I made the turn and arrived at a high bank next to the Poudre. From this vantage point I could see the footbridge, so I returned to the wide dirt path, and in a short amount of time I crossed the bridge.

A young woman was seated on the bank next to the river just below the bridge, and as I ambled to a position on the bank, she remarked that she could see fish in front of her position. I decided to begin my attempt to hook one of the notoriously picky eaters with a size 18 black parachute ant, and as I knotted the small terrestrial to my line, I asked the young lady if she could see what the fish were eating. I was actually teasing her, and she laughed and replied that she was unable to see that well.

I began fishing to a spot twenty feet below the bridge, where several concentric rings appeared, but the ant represented no attraction to the feeding trout. Next I turned my attention to a pod of rises thirty feet below me, and despite some well placed drag fee downstream drifts, the lower fish also ignored my tasty offering. I was in danger of squandering valuable time on the selective feeders, so I decided to move on to some faster water. In the process of casting to the lower dimples I slid down the bank into very deep water that covered my legs up to the mid-thigh level. Now I was faced with the task of extricating myself from a difficult position. I found a toe hold for my left foot and then searched for something to grab in order to pull my weight up, and as I was doing this, my new found friend offered to help pull me up! As she made the offer; however, I found a solid exposed tree root that I could grasp, and I quickly muscled my torso up and forward to a standing position atop the bank. This was yet another example of the need for flexibility in fly fishing.

Deep Run Over Dark Green Bottom Produced the First Brown Trout

I now migrated upstream past the footbridge and above the huge slow moving pool to some faster water that deflected off the opposite bank. I made a few casts with the tiny parachute ant, but it failed to attract interest, so I shifted gears to a dry/dropper configuration. I hoped that the fish were interested in a larger piece of meat, and I noticed quite a few grasshoppers in the tall grass on my way to the river, so I tied on a tan pool toy hopper. Beneath the foam terrestrial I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, and I knotted a salvation nymph after that workhorse fly .

Number One with Sparse Spot Pattern

I began to probe the deep run along the far bank, and on the sixth cast the hopper dipped, and I landed the first fish of the day, a nine inch brown trout. It was small, but at least I was on the board. For the remainder of the morning I progressed up the river, until I approached a bridge that had CFS markings on the concrete support along the north side of the river. During this late morning time period I added three rainbows to the count. The largest at thirteen inches crushed the pool toy, a twelve incher snatched the salvation nymph, and a smaller bow nipped the hares ear. All these trout emerged from a stretch that I was about to skip. The water was characterized by a wide riffle with a depth of no more than three feet, but the rainbows were there, and they responded to the dry/dropper presentation.

A Rainbow with Bright Red Fins

Another Respectable Rainbow

Just before the aforementioned bridge with water level markings, two women dressed in pioneer garb were seated in front of easels, and they concentrated on painting their landscape scene. I was tempted to ask whether I was part of their scene but then thought better of it. I stopped on the west side of the bridge and savored my lunch break content with the knowledge, that I registered four trout in 1.5 hours of morning fishing.

How Accurate Is 200 CFS?

By now the sun was sending down strong rays from its position high overhead, and my choice of wearing waders was looking questionable. I also sensed that the toughest part of my fishing day was just ahead. I continued to move up the river with the dry/dropper, but I was disappointed to land only two small trout over the next hour in spite of covering quite a bit of the river. One of the fish was a rainbow, and the other was a brown, and both barely exceeded my six inch minimum. My confidence sank in direct proportion to the rising temperature.

The Top Left Part of This Run Produced a Nice Brown Trout

At 1:30 I arrived at a gorgeous long deep run that fanned out to a nice riffle of moderate depth. I was certain to resume my fish catching ways, but in spite of thorough coverage, I was unable to connect with a fish. Just above the long run and riffle the main channel of the river deflected against some large exposed boulders that were placed there for stream improvement purposes. At the end of the line of rocks the river spread out a bit and tumbled over some submerged rocks. I paused to assess this section as a possible casting target, when I heard a voice from the top of the bank. A park worker was emptying the trash can, and he asked me how my fishing was going. I replied that I landed six fish so far, but it was slow going particularly the last thirty minutes. He responded that he fishes in the canyon and never fished in town, and I related my intention to fish there as well and told him of the traffic block and my subsequent presence next to him.

Displayed for a Small Girl on the Bank

At this point I directed his attention to a very narrow slot between the rocks fifteen feet to my right, and I remarked that it was a marginal spot, but not unlike some places that yielded rainbows earlier. I asked, if he would cast there, but it was somewhat of a rhetorical query, and before he could respond, I unhooked my flies and flipped a cast to the top of the slot. Two more cast failed to produce, but the fourth landed in a perfect position at the center of the narrow deep spot and just as the hopper arrived at the very tail, it paused, and I responded with a quick hook set. Almost simultaneously with my instinctive set, the man above me shouted, “you got him!” I quickly netted the fine thirteen inch wild brown trout, and I was very pleased with this sudden dose of good fortune. I was even more proud of the expert fly fishing demonstration, that I performed for the onlooking park service worker.

13 Inch Brown Caught with the Park Worker As a Witness

Unbeknownst to me a couple passed by and saw my bent rod, and as I was turning on my camera, the man asked if I could hold the fish up so “she” could see it. I only saw his wife on the bank high above me, and I agreed to display it, after I snapped a photo. While I struggled to get a grip on the brown trout, the couple retreated, so they were next to me, and now I noticed a small girl, so I held the trout for a few extra seconds, before it squirmed free and returned to its river home.

Again I moved up the river, and my next encounter was with a young man wet wading in his shorts. We exchanged greetings and shared what flies were working, and he invited me to prospect the next nice moderate riffle section above him. He mentioned that he caught six there the previous evening during a caddis hatch. I thanked him for allowing me to move in above him and moved on to the attractive stretch. Unfortunately it produced only a four inch brown trout, and I again moved on to the next similar wide riffle section of moderate depth.

In this area I gradually moved from the bottom to the top and thoroughly covered the likely feeding lanes with long casts. Toward the top as the hopper drifted through a bump in the center of the run, a loud gulp sound was accompanied by a splashy refusal. My heart stopped momentarily with this surprise interest from a likely larger than average fish, so I decided to try a different dry fly. I removed the dry/dropper components and knotted a red hippie stomper to my line. I was unable to coax further interest from the loud refuser, but miraculously on the sixth upstream cast to the top of the riffle the stomper disappeared, and I quickly landed a nine inch rainbow trout. Shortly after this fortuitous turn of events in the midst of the warm afternoon, I noticed a fleet of college age women in flotation devices, and they slowly drifted in my direction. It was two o’clock, and I decided to exit before the splashing women arrived.

I climbed up the short bank and walked along the south pathway with the intention of returning to the parking lot, but when I arrived at the wide dirt path, I decided to take another look at the large pool by the footbridge. It was a few minutes after 2PM, so plenty of time remained to renew my efforts.

Zoomed on the Mouth

When I arrived at the footbridge, I was pleased to notice, that I was the only fisherman. I once again took my position on the high bank thirty feet below the bridge, and this was nearly the same spot that I occupied upon my arrival in the morning. In another similarity to the morning experience rises appeared twenty feet below the bridge as well as in the center of the pool thirty feet below my position. I covered both sets of surface feeding dimples with the red hippie stomper, but my casts were fruitless. I suspected that the trout were sipping tiny midges in the surface film, so I added a Griffiths gnat on a six inch dropper behind the hippie stomper. When I completed the addition, I cast the duo of dry flies to the upper fish, but the drift yielded no response, so I allowed the flies to continue directly across from me.  Suddenly I saw two fish, as they raced toward my flies, and I was shocked to see the larger one crush one of my flies, and I assumed it was the Griffiths gnat. I quickly set the hook and realized that the brown trout on the end of my line was the best fish of the day. When I netted it, I was very surprised to determine, that it smashed the red hippie stomper, and it was a solid thirteen inch wild brown.

Stretched Out

I continued my efforts to fool the wily pool feeders for another fifteen minutes, and I swapped the hippie stomper for a Jake’s gulp beetle, but by 3:15PM I concluded that double digits was out of reach. I returned to the car with the fish count stalled at nine, but pleased with the memories and stories accumulated on a late August summer day. Flexibility served me well on the my trip to the Cache la Poudre River on August 23.

Fish Landed: 9

Cache la Poudre River – 08/13/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of the Narrows.

Cache la Poudre River 08/13/2019 Photo Album

The Cache la Poudre River reinforced itself as one of my favorite streams in Colorado. The fish are relatively small; but how can one not admire the canyon setting, the nearly endless miles of public access and the high density of fish? I was very anxious to pay the northern front range freestone a visit in 2019, and Tuesday, August 13 became that day.

I struggle to translate the DWR water gauge readings for the Cache la Poudre, but the fly shop reports were glowing; and my friend, Trevor, provided convincing testimony to the merits of making the trip. I departed my home in Denver a bit after 7AM and arrived at a paved pullout across from the river by 9:30AM. Traffic volume was a bit heavy, until I traveled north of suburban Denver. I glanced at the dashboard temperature reading, as I traveled west in the canyon and noted that it was 66 degrees, so I chose to wear my waders and new Korkers wading boots, although the air temperature eventually spiked to around 80 degrees.

Near the Start

The flows remained higher than normal for August 13, but I was actually pleased with the river conditions. High flows translate to colder water temperatures, and they enable closer approaches than are necessary at seasonally low summer flows. Clarity was excellent, and I marveled at the crystal clear water, as it tumbled over the many rocks and boulders in Poudre Canyon. The river conditions on August 13 reminded me of those that I generally encounter on July 13 in normal years.

Wild Poudre Brown

I chose my Sage four weight because of the higher flows, and when I was prepared, I sauntered down a bank across from the Santa Fe and began fishing. I knotted a yellow size 14 stimulator to my line and began to prospect likely fish holding areas, but I was unsuccessful in the first ten minutes, so I initiated a change. I swapped the stimulator for a peacock body hippie stomper and added a beadhead hares ear on a relatively long dropper. This combination produced results, and I landed two small brown trout that snatched the hares ear.

When I plucked the hares ear from my fleece wallet, I noted that my supply was shrinking, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car to restock from my boat box. When I arrived at the car, I decided to drive west closer to my anticipated exit point, but when I returned to the river, I realized that moving the car distracted me from my initial mission of augmenting the hares ear supply! I resumed fishing for a short distance, but then I once again scaled the bank and replenished my supply of hares ears in my fleece wallet.

Side Channel Yielded a Couple Trout

With the hares ear episode finally behind me, I returned to my last exit point and resumed my pursuit of Poudre trout. Ironically I concluded that the hares ear was underperforming, so I replaced it with a size 12 prince nymph and a salvation nymph. The hippie stomper, prince and salvation combination advanced my fish catching pace, and I attained twelve by the time I broke for lunch at 12:30PM. Most of the trout landed in the late morning time frame grabbed the salvation nymph, while a few outliers chose the prince. Just before lunch I executed some downstream drifts through a narrow seam, and a decent fish elevated and inspected the hippie stomper but turned away at the last instant.

Deep Pools Were Not Productive

As I munched my lunch, I pondered this situation and decided to convert to a parachute green drake. I knew from previous seasons that size 14 green drakes were present on the upper Cache la Poudre, but I was not certain whether they hatched during the high water of July or were delayed into August. The fly shop report did not mention them, so I assumed their time had passed. I also knew from past experience, that trout retain a long memory of the large olive colored mayflies, and I speculated that the refusals to the peacock hippie stomper were attributable to green drake lovers. The color and silhouette were close to a green drake, and this prompted a close inspection, before the fish decided that the profile and color deviated a bit from the naturals.

So Many Spots

I followed through on my idea and removed the dry/dropper components and tied a nearly perfect parachute green drake with a white turkey flat wing to my line. What a move this turned out to be! Between 12:30PM and 2:00PM I incremented the fish counter from twelve to twenty-four. A few refusals occurred, but more often than not a trout rose and slurped the parachute green drake with confidence. I also learned that most of the brown trout were holding tight to the bank in shallow to moderate water, and this observation enhanced the efficiency of my fishing. I mostly ignored all but the shallow edges of the river, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of willing eaters that emerged from fairly shallow riffles and runs very close to the bank. One might expect these to be diminutive dinks, but quite a few stretched to the twelve inch mark, and that is a respectable size for Cache la Poudre trout.

Love Those Pockets

Broke in the User Friendly Green Drake for a Pair of Trout

When I reached twenty-four landed fish, I was quite satisfied with my day, so I decided to introduce one of my Andrew Grillos user friendly green drakes to the local trout. I cast the foam enhanced green drake version for fifteen minutes, and it produced two trout, but the number of refusals increased dramatically compared to the more delicate and slender parachute green drake. By 2PM my count rested on twenty-six, and the bright sun warmed the air significantly. The riverbed narrowed, and I was pondering a change of scenery, when a group of three young fishermen appeared forty yards above me. The combination of the less desirable river structure and competing anglers motivated me to climb the bank and return to the car.

Several Trout Occupied This Run

I was not ready to quit for the day, so I drove west and crossed the bridge and parked in a single pullout above the river. I hiked back toward the bridge for .2 mile and then dropped down a short but steep bank. I resurrected the parachute green drake, and I began prospecting the pockets that were along the south bank of the river. The Poudre in this section was running faster than the area downstream, and this factor along with the preponderance of trees and branches arcing over the water made wading and casting a challenge. Some clouds and the angle of the sun created an annoying glare on the water, and this added to the challenge of tracking my fly in my new fishing stretch. I persisted and managed to land two additional brown trout on the parachute green drake, but when I reached the vertical rock wall just below the Santa Fe, I decided to call it quits. A quick glance at my watch confirmed it was 3PM, and I knew my return drive would overlap with Denver at rush hour.

User Friendly Duped This Rainbow

Twenty-eight fish on August 13 was a very successful day by my standards. Yes, the fish were small, with perhaps only one stretching to twelve inches, but hooking and landing sixteen on a green drake dry fly made it special. I never saw a green drake during my five hours on the water, so my assumption about long memories was probably accurate. A return to the Cache la Poudre River during this year of endless run off is a strong possibility.

Fish Landed: 28

Cache la Poudre River – 07/20/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pingree Park area

Cache la Poudre River 07/20/2018 Photo Album

Several months ago I exchanged emails with a friend, who I worked with at Air Products and Chemicals. His name is Dan, and he retired from another company 1.5 years ago, and he and his wife Sandi planned a trip to Colorado and Wyoming for the third week of July. He expressed an interest in fly fishing, and I readily agreed to accompany him and serve as his guide for a day.

On Friday, July 20 that day arrived. I drove to the Elizabeth Hotel in Ft. Collins and picked Dan up by 8:15 on Friday morning. Dan purchased his fishing license on line, and he picked up his rental waders and boots at St. Peter’s Fly Shop upon his arrival on Thursday. We hit the road and drove west in the Cache la Poudre Canyon to the Pingree Park special regulation section. By 9:30 AM the air temperature in the canyon was 80 degrees, and the sun’s intensity never abated during our time on the water. The river level was decent but down considerably from what I experienced during my recent visit on Monday, July 16.

Dan logged only a few days of previous fly fishing, so we spent a few minutes in the parking lot, as he demonstrated his casting proficiency. Eventually I judged that his casts, although fairly rudimentary, would enable him to place a dry fly within reach of the Cache la Poudre trout. We found a rough and somewhat steep path to the river, and I positioned Dan downstream of some relatively attractive runs and pockets along the right bank. During the first hour we focused on casting and line management, and for this endeavor I tied an elk hair caddis and gray stimulator to his line. A small trout refused the caddis, and later another stream inhabitant demonstrated a splashy rejection of the stimulator.

Dan Lines Up a Cast

After an hour of futile casting and movement, I decided to test a foam dry fly, and I plucked a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from my box. I surmised that the foam surface fly would require minimal false casting, and it would float high and be easily visible. My assumption was correct, but the fish did not seem interested in the normally desirable beetle imitation. Despite our inability to hook and land a fish, Dan was improving his casting and line management skills.

By noon we approached a section of the river where the stream bed narrowed, and this created much deeper and faster stream conditions. Dan’s wading boots possessed vibram rubber soles with no cleats, and even with the crude wading stick that I loaned him, he was struggling to gain footing on the large slippery rocks of the Poudre. I decided to move to water more conducive to an untested wader, so we returned to the car and advanced west beyond the next bridge to a wide pullout next to a gap in the fence.

I pulled out the soft sided cooler bag and two stools, and we found a shady spot under some pine trees next to the highway to consume our lunches. We chatted for an hour and caught up on our lives and enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings. Fly fishing is fun, and catching fish is the goal, but renewing friendships in the grand theater of the Rocky Mountains was really the ultimate purpose of our day on Friday.

Nice Shelf Pool Ahead

After lunch we crossed a meadow area and approached the stream. After a bit of walking, I surveyed the river and settled on a section at the head of a long wide riffle. The narrow stream bed created some nice deep pockets along the left bank, and I set Dan up with a tan pool toy and a beadhead pheasant tail dropper. He began prospecting the dry/dropper combination, and he used the friction of the downstream dangling flies to load the rod tip, before he executed sling shot casts upstream. In addition to the pheasant tail we cycled through a prince nymph, salvation nymph and ultra zug bug. While Dan did not hook or land a fish during the afternoon, I feel certain that he experienced temporary hook ups with two trout, but his hook set was a bit slow. Guiding Dan made me realize how much my eye is trained to follow a fly and react to slight and many times imperceptible changes in the drift of the indicator fly. Fly fishing requires commitment and many hours of practice to develop even basic proficiency.

Following Through

By 3PM the sun was high above and sending its intense rays down upon the water and two weary fishermen. We had dinner reservations at a restaurant in Ft. Collins for 6:15, so we called it a day and made the spectacular drive through the canyon back to the hotel. For dinner we were joined by Dan’s wife Sandi and my wife Jane along with mutual friends, Debbie and Lonnie Maddox. The Maddox’s chose the Blue Agave as our dining establishment, and the choice was perfect, as we feasted on chips and salsa and modern Mexican fare.

 

Cache la Poudre River – 07/06/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Pingree Park area

Cache la Poudre River 07/06/2018 Photo Album

I enjoyed some outstanding visits to the Cache la Poudre during 2017, so after reading some encouraging reports from local fly shops, I was very anxious to make the two hour drive to the freestone river west of Ft. Collins. Friday was an open day, and we returned from our camping trip to the Flattops on Thursday, so I made the trek.

Friday’s high in Denver was 95 degrees, and the temperature in the Poudre canyon peaked in the low eighties. It was toasty, but fortunately the flows remained elevated from run off, and that held the water temperature in check. Even though the level was a bit high, wading was very manageable compared to trips in early July a year ago.

Blossom

I parked along CO 14 in the Pingree Park area and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Cache la Poudre fish are typically on the small side and easily managed by the slender four weight, and I preserved my arm and elbow with a short light fly rod. I entered the river at 10:30 and selected a size 8 Chernobyl ant to join a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph.

Lunch View

During the first hour I slowly progressed upriver along the right bank and registered five small brown trout on the fish counter. These trout were in the 7-8 inch range, and I did not bother to use my net, since they would have simply passed through the wide openings. Most of the early trout snatched the salvation nymph, although quite a few trout elevated and refused the oversized Chernobyl. Given the preponderance of refusals, I modified my approach. I swapped the Chernobyl ant for a size 12 hippy stomper and persisted with the hares ear nymph dropper.

The new set up enabled me to increment the fish counter to seven, before I paused for lunch, and the two additional fish grabbed the trailing hares ear. After lunch I continued to offer the hippy stomper and hares ear and added a few more trout to my net, including an overzealous feeder that chowed down on the hippy stomper; but I cast to some reliable fish holding areas with no results, so I lost confidence in my offerings.

In previous years I enjoyed some success with stimulators, so I tested a size 14 yellow version in a few choice spots, but the fish were unimpressed with the high floating pretend yellow sally.

The Type of Water That Produced

I decided to revert to the three fly dry/dropper approach, and for this adjustment in technique I selected a tan pool toy as the top fly. I was actually seeking an indicator that would not elicit refusals. Given the greater buoyancy of the layered foam pool toy, I added back the hares ear and salvation nymph. This set up was far more productive than my earlier combinations, and the fish count climbed into the high teens, with most of the netted river residents fooled by the hares ear and salvation nymph.

Salvation Nymph Was Productive

By 1PM I began to notice an increased quantity of small mayflies, as they steadily floated into the space above the river. I surmised that they were size 18 pale morning duns, and I feared that my salvation nymph imitation was too large. It produced some fish, but given the strength of the emergence, I suspected that the catch rate on the PMD nymph imitation was lagging. I stripped in my line and swapped the salvation for a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail, and this fly provided improved success over the next hour.

Dark Olive Color

I discovered that the key to fast action revolved around the type of water targeted. Deep pockets and runs were unproductive, so I circled around deep holes and gravitated to riffles and pockets of moderate depth near the bank. My three fly dry/dropper offering was extremely effective in these environments. During this time I advanced to a side channel that was ten to fifteen feet wide, and the small brown trout were quite abundant and more importantly very willing to smash my flies.

At the top of the secondary braid I faced another quality section characterized by many inviting riffles and pockets that met the likely success criteria, and I did indeed land a few fish, but I once again sensed that I was missing opportunities. The quantity of small pale morning duns diminished, so I elected to revert to the salvation instead of the pheasant tail. I reasoned that the salvation nymph was larger and displayed more flash, and this in turn might attract more attention from the stream dwellers.

Longest Fish of the Day

The ploy was effective, and my catch rate surged in the last hour. During this time four or five rainbow trout thrashed in my net, and this was surprising given their absence heretofore. I did not complain, as two of the rainbows represented my longest trout of the day.

By 3:30 I notched catch number thirty, and I was weary and hot, as the sun peaked, and the temperature rose to the level that promotes sluggishness. The character of the river shifted, as the river bed narrowed resulting in many deep pockets along the bank. I was not interested in circling around the lengthy area ahead to seek a more conducive stretch, so I ambled back to the car and called it a day.

Pool Toy Hopper Did Its Job

My largest fish was probably no more than twelve inches, so my day on the Poudre did not challenge the strength of my four weight rod. But once I determined the type of water that the stream residents preferred, I enjoyed a high level of success, and I loved the fast paced action offered by responsive trout. The insect activity was less evident than 2017 trips, and I am unsure whether I was earlier in July, or perhaps the hot weather was the main deterrent. I already have plans to return on July 20, and additional visits may fit on the schedule.

Fish Landed: 30

 

 

 

 

 

Cache la Poudre River – 10/15/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: The canyon west of the Narrows.

Cache la Poudre River 10/15/2017 Photo Album

My good friend and fishing companion Danny Ryan contacted me and expressed an interest in fishing. We quickly exchanged availability information and settled on Sunday October 15 as the date of our scheduled adventure. Having recently sampled the North Fork of the St. Vrain and Big Thompson with moderate success, I suggested a trip to the Cache la Poudre River west of Ft. Collins. Fishing the Poudre in the fall was a new endeavor for me, and I hoped the fishing might surpass my experience on the St. Vrain and Big Thompson.

On Sunday morning I picked Danny up at the 84th Avenue Sportsman’s Warehouse, and I was introduced to Juls’ and Danny’s new buddy, Wilson. Danny and Juls adopted Wilson from an animal rescue mission, and he has been in their small family for three weeks. Wilson lived in an overcrowded dog pound in Texas, where the ratio of dogs to care givers was 1,200 to 6, and consequently he suffers from PTSD. I am very thankful that caring folks such as Danny and Juls exist in this harsh world.

As I drove north on I25 and west on CO 14, Danny and I caught up on all the significant life events that transpired since our last fishing outing in the spring. Time passed quickly until we arrived at a paved pullout along CO 14 west of the Narrows in the Poudre Canyon. The weather was spectacular with the high temperature approaching seventy degrees on Sunday. I made four visits to the Cache la Poudre in July, and I was mildly surprised to view the low flows that existed in the middle of October. Many areas, that offered wide riffles sections and deep pockets in July, were now reduced to trickles of water flowing through exposed boulder fields.

Danny Throws a Tight Loop to a Nice Run Along the Rocks

We searched for segments where the river bed narrowed and thus created deeper pools and runs, and our first stop met this criteria. I once again assembled my Orvis Access four weight in an effort to ease the stress on my tennis elbow, and we descended a faint path to the river. Danny crossed at the tail to arrive along the opposite shoreline, and we began progressing upstream in parallel. I knotted a size 14 gray stimulator to my line and began to probe the clear riffles and runs in front of me. After fifteen minutes I failed to generate any interest, so I exchanged the stimulator for a Jake’s gulp beetle. I was certain that the plop of the terrestrial would attract the attention of the wary stream residents.

After another ten minutes of fruitless wading and casting, Danny, who was a bit downstream, announced that he had a fish on, and I paused to watch him land a nice rainbow trout in the thirteen inch range that crushed a royal wulff. During the interim period I added a salad spinner midge imitation as a dropper, but with the news that Danny tempted a fish with a surface dry fly, I reverted to the gray stimulator.

Once again we progressed upstream until we approached a spot where huge vertical rocks bordered the river. Danny began to cast directly upstream and allowed his flies to drift back along the base of the rock wall, while I cast across and executed downstream drifts from the riffles at the top of the run. On the second cast a fish head emerged, but at the last second it turned away from my fly. I developed a tangle in my fly line which forced me to rest the water, but Danny informed me that several rises were visible in the area of my recent refusal. I managed to unravel my snarl, and when I fluttered the stimulator back to the vicinity of the rises, another head appeared. This time, unlike earlier, the rainbow trout engulfed my imitation, and I managed to guide a husky twelve inch fish into my net. I was on the scoreboard, and I was pleased that Danny and I each landed a fish in the early going.

First Fish Was This Speckled Beauty

After I photographed and released my first catch of the day, Danny experienced a temporary hook up on a brown trout along the rock wall. We continued our upstream migration over the next thirty minutes, and at noon we decided to return to the car for lunch. Before eating, however, we discussed our options, and we both agreed to travel west and explore new water. We hoped that the canyon narrowed, and this in turn might offer deeper holes and more structure for trout.

My Path Followed the Right Channel

We tossed our gear in the car, and I drove west for twenty minutes until we parked across from the Sleeping Elephant rock formation. The stream in this area carried less volume than our first destination, as we probably journeyed beyond several tributaries. We quickly downed our lunches and followed a worn path downstream for fifty yards and then cut back to the river (more a creek in this area). I continued casting the stimulator for a bit, but Danny generated another temporary hook up in a deep run below the point of a long island, and he revealed that the fish nabbed his trailing nymph. This prompted me to reconsider my approach, and I reconfigured with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear on a 2.5 foot dropper.

A Large Snack

With this combination in place I cast to a nice deep run next to a large boulder, and an eleven inch brown trout surfaced and crushed the Chernboyl. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this turn of events. I captured a photograph and released the wild brown trout and continued on my way. We were now at a point where the river split around a very long island, so Danny explored the left channel, while I migrated up the right branch.

Even prior to the split the river was quite low, and now I was dealing with 40% of the full flow. Most of the pockets and runs were quite marginal due to the reduced volume, and I moved quite rapidly by skipping the uninteresting shallow riffles. Utilizing the two fly dry/dropper in the low conditions spooked several fish, and I debated returning to a single light dry fly, but I decided to seek deep pools and places with more cover rather than change flies. To some degree the strategy worked, as I coaxed two additional brown trout into my net, when they snatched the beadhead hares ear in marginal pockets. I was pleased to boost the fish count to four, but Sunday was more about spending time with Danny and enjoying the perfect fall weather.

I reached the top of the right channel and looked back to see Danny working the left flow twenty yards below the upper tip of the island. I could see a nice deep pool ahead, where the combined flow of the river dumped into a depression next to another large boulder. I cautiously approached and shot two casts to the low end of the pool with no sign of a fish. At this point I decided to go directly to the sweet spot, and I lobbed the Chernobyl and hares ear to the area where the center current spilled over some exposed rocks. The large foam ant floated a couple feet, and then it disappeared. Upon seeing this development I raised my rod tip and felt the throb of some significant weight.

A rainbow trout rocketed about the pool several times in an effort to shed my hares ear, but eventually I guided the husky fourteen inch trout into my net. What a bonus! I could scarcely believe my good fortune, as I gently positioned the Sunday prize for several photos and a movie.

One of the Poudre’s Best

I was now reinvigorated, and after Danny caught up to me, we continued our progress, but the results did not reward our enthusiasm. Danny was in the middle of a long dry spell, so at 3PM we agreed to call it a day. We hiked back to the car, stashed our gear and returned to Ft. Collins, where we paused for a cold craft beer or two and dinner at Odell Brewing’s tasting room and outdoor patio. Danny suggested that this was the highlight of the day.

Odell Tasting Room After Fishing the Poudre

Sunday was a gorgeous day among spectacular scenery, and I shared it with my good friend Danny. The fishing was average at best, but it is not always about the fish count. Hopefully we can meet again soon for another stream adventure.

Fish Landed: 5

Cache la Poudre River – 07/31/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Upper Landing to Stevens Gulch

Cache la Poudre River 07/31/2017 Photo Album

I could not bring myself to pack the car with fishing and camping gear on Monday, so I decided to make a foray into the local Front Range streams. Unfortunately when I reviewed the DWR stream flow charts, the status of the local drainages remained largely unchanged. Bear Creek was an option, but I desired something larger in scale. South Boulder Creek was down to 185 CFS, and that is quite high for the small tailwater west of Golden, CO, but I considered giving it a try. Once again the most viable options were the North Fork of the St. Vrain and the Cache la Poudre River. I fished the St. Vrain on Thursday July 27, so I elected to take another trip to the Cache la Poudre. My previous three visits were very productive, so why not revisit a known quantity.

During my previous experience on the Cache la Poudre, the morning was relatively unproductive, so I completed my normal morning exercise routine before I departed at 9:10. In one minor deviation from past practice I decided to experiment with new water, and since the new locale was east of the Pingree Park area, the trip was shortened a bit. I arrived at the Upper Landing Picnic Area by 10:30, and I stepped into the water across from the parking lot and began fishing by 11AM. I chose my Loomis five weight in order to test my new Orvis Battenkill disc drag reel.

A woman was sitting in a lawn chair on a gravel beach next to a nice shelf pool, so I asked her permission to fish. She quickly voiced her approval, and I tied a medium olive size 14 stimulator to my line. I was not more than five feet in front of her, when I spotted a small rainbow trout, as it sipped the stimulator, and I quickly guided the pretty seven inch fish to my net. After I released the small gem into the river, a man appeared, and he began talking to the woman in the chair. I gathered that he left his fly rod at home, and he stood on the beach with a relatively heavyweight spinning rod. I took the hint and quickly moved upstream and vacated the quality shelf pool to the newly arrived gentleman.

Edge Fishing on July 31

Small Guy Near Start

In the hour between 11AM and noon I moved quickly from pocket to pocket, and I incremented the fish counter to six before I sat down on a flat rock and ate my sandwich, carrots and yogurt. Although the catch rate was excellent, the fish were on the small side for even the Poudre, and I felt that I cast to some quality locations that did not yield fish, and I was fairly certain that trout existed in these attractive locales.

Before resuming my casting I took advantage of my break, and I reconfigured my line with a three fly dry/dropper set up. I chose a size 10 Chernboyl ant as the top fly, and then knotted the beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph beneath the large foam attractor. These three flies served my purposes admirably over the next 3.5 hours, as I lifted the fish tally from six to twenty-six. Three of the netted fish smacked the Chernobyl ant on the surface, and 75% of the remaining landed fish gobbled the salvation nymph. The remainder nabbed the upper offering, the hares ear nymph.

Rainbow Liked Chernobyl

The action was not as frenetic as my last session on the Poudre, but it was steady and kept me focused. I adhered to my three to five cast rule, and in the process I covered the left bank from Upper Landing to Stevens Gulch. This is likely .5 mile or more of shoreline. Quite a few of the trout attacked the nymphs, as I lifted at the tail of a run to make another cast, and another popular tactic was to cast across to a nice slot and then allow the nymphs to swing at the end of the drift. As this solid day of fishing unfolded, it was accompanied by quite a few temporary connections. I estimate there was one long distance release for every two fish that rested in my net.

Decent

Nice Water

At 2PM I waded near a section that looked particularly attractive, and it was bathed in sunlight thus providing excellent visibility. Even though I did not observe green drakes in the surrounding environment, I was curious to discover if a large juicy drake would tempt the resident river dwellers. I removed the three flies that served me quite well, and I replaced them with a size 14 Harrop hair wing green drake. Initially two fish refused the bushy mayfly imitation, but then a nice eleven inch brown trout crushed it in a fairly shallow pool next to the bank. Perhaps my move would pay off after all. Sadly my optimism was misplaced, as two or three refusals followed the release of my solitary green drake eater.

The experiment taught me that the fish were looking toward the surface, so I returned to the medium olive size 14 stimulator. This fly produced six takes in the late morning, so why not give it an encore? It was worth a try, but the twenty minutes of drifting the stimulator failed to induce even a look or refusal. I was now in the middle of a series of quality deep runs and pockets, and not wishing to waste an opportunity, I returned to the Chernobyl ant, hares ear and salvation. The green drake experiment took place while I rested on a fish count of eighteen, and the resumption of dry/dropper prospecting lifted the count to its final resting place of twenty-six.

So Vivid

By 3:15 I reached the Stevens Gulch day use area, so I turned right and traveled along a paved entry lane to a wide gradual beach that served as a launching point for whitewater rafters. As I ambled to the water, I looked downstream and noticed a short elderly angler at the very tail of the large pool. In order to provide space I began casting my flies at the very top of the pool where a series of choppy rapids entered. I sprayed five drifts to this area, with each one farther toward the middle of the river, but the fish were either not present or not interested in my flies.

I applied my rule and moved to a small marginal pocket below some shrubs, and I hooked a cast beneath the limb, and when I lifted to make a second cast, I felt some weight and landed an eight inch brown trout. Several bushes extended over the river tight to the bank, so I began to circle inland with the intent of resuming my upstream progression, when I noticed the same elderly fisherman that was positioned forty yards below me at the tail of the large pool. He had just moved into position ten feet above me, and I concluded he was not aware of my presence, so I shouted, “I’m here”. I expected he would apologize and give me some space, but instead he replied, “I see you”, and he resumed his preparation to cast. I was more dumbfounded than angry at this point, so I reeled up my line and hiked back to the car. In excess of fifty miles of river exist on the Cache la Poudre, and this angler felt compelled to cut in ten feet above me. Sometimes the thought process of other human beings is very perplexing.

After I reached the car, I stashed my gear and drove east beyond Stove Prairie to a segment of the river that was wide with a long fast riffle structure. I surmised that I could fish the narrow ribbon of slow water along the bank, so I geared up and walked to the base of the long fast section. Before resuming the edge fishing, I prospected around some large exposed boulders where the river angled away from the highway, but this was not productive. The clock was ticking toward four, and I wanted to prospect the left bank, as I was certain that few fishermen endured the hassle of sliding down the steep bank through thick bushes to fish relatively unattractive water. My light pressure theory may have been correct, but twenty minutes of tough wading and casting rewarded me with only one more nine inch brown.

Typical

The one fish I did land resulted in the loss of my two nymphs. When I hooked the spunky brown trout it raced downstream past a large submerged block-shaped rock, and the trailing nymphs snagged the rock on the side away from me. I waded close to the fish and lifted it above the water and swooped my net under it. Somehow this action caused the leader to break above the first nymph, and all that remained was the Chernobyl ant. I reached my hand around the rock, but I could not feel any line or flies, so I added them to my lost inventory.

Monday was an enjoyable day on the Cache la Poudre River. Twenty-six fish is a solid tally for five hours of fishing, and the action was relatively steady throughout the time on the river. I encountered only a couple other fishermen, and I proved that other sections of the river besides the Pingree Park special regulation area could provide decent results. Unlike my previous visits, I observed very few insects, but the above average flows seemed to please the trout, and they continued to feed opportunistically.

Fish Landed: 26

Cache la Poudre – 07/21/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Pingree Park area.

Cache la Poudre 07/21/2017 Photo Album

After landing two fish per day in three days of fishing in the Middle Park area of Colorado, I was quite anxious to return to a different place to determine if August conditions existed elsewhere in the state during the middle of July. I suspected that the Colorado River below Shadow Mountain was a marginal fishery, but it was within walking distance of the campsite, so very little time was invested to access the river for a few hours. It was my idea to drive to the Breeze Unit section of the Colorado River. I read fly shop reports that said fishing was excellent with yellow sallies, pale morning duns and caddis in abundance. Perhaps we fished during the wrong time of the day, but the level of success was not worth the constant skirmishes with clouds of mosquitoes. The Colorado River near Parshall fished like it was the middle of August.

My friend John suggested fishing on the North Fork of the Colorado River from the North Inlet Trail on Wednesday. The wildlife viewing was perhaps the best I ever witnessed, but I was not prepared for the low clear slow moving water in a meadow environment. Some sparse hatches developed, and I spotted a lot of fish, but the bright sun and clear water created very challenging conditions. I was ready for a change, as I reviewed the stream flows closer to Denver along the Front Range. All except Bear Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain remained quite elevated, so I once again made plans to fish the Cache la Poudre River on Friday July 21.

I departed Denver at 7:20AM, and fortunately the traffic was relatively light, thus allowing me to pull into a narrow parking space along CO 14 by 9:30. Many pullouts were occupied along the highway in the lower canyon, so I was pleased to find some open water in the Pingree Park special regulation section. The air was quite warm with temperatures in the upper seventies, as I prepared to fish between 9:30 and 10:00. I considered wet wading, but the weather forecast predicted afternoon thundershowers, and I was not inclined to fish in wet pants without the benefit of the strong radiant energy of the sun.

Let the Day Begin

I strung my Loomis two piece five weight and crossed the highway and then angled down a gradual wash until I reached the river. The Poudre continued to flow in a strong manner, although there was notably more space along the edge for wading than I encountered on my previous trip on July 13. I began my effort to land some cold water beauties with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph; and I managed to land one small brown trout that nipped the salvation. Unfortunately the more prevalent scenario was splashy refusals and aborted looks at the pool toy.

The River Was Still Brawling Through the Canyon

After twenty minutes of being snubbed by the trout, I removed the dry/dropper configuration and switched to a solo size 14 yellow stiimulator. This fly produced some action in the morning during my last trip, so I hoped the same result would ensue. The stimulator did in fact enable me to increment the fish count to five, but the four additional landed fish were carbon copies of the first and consistently in the 6-7 inch range. The quality of the water that I covered suggested that larger residents were present, but they did not seem inclined to eat what I was offering. In addition the yellow stimulator was not immune to refusals, so I made another change to a size 14 harrop green drake and then a gray stimulator. The green drake move was an attempt to take advantage of the known propensity of trout to recognize the large mayflies. The gray stimulator trial presumed that body color was the deterrent to fish eating the yellow version, but the gray attractor produced one additional small brown, and fewer looks and refusals.

I remained at six small fish at 11:40 when I encountered a family picnicking along the river next to a huge pool. I was a harsh critic of the fishing options in Middle Park during the earlier part of the week, but perhaps the Poudre and other streams in Colorado were only marginally better? I circled around the family and cut back to the river twenty yards above them. The father had a spinning rod, but he did not seem to be the type of fisherman who would progress quickly upstream to the area I now occupied.

A Predator

I found a nice wide flat rock and removed my packs and munched on my lunch, as I observed the river. Very little was happening in the form of aquatic insect activity, so I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach, but in the afternoon I utilized a size 10 Chernobyl ant as the top fly. I was actually hopeful that the fish would not be attracted to the radioactive ant and therefore would molest the trailing nymphs. The strategy paid off and between noon and 2PM I lifted the fish count from six to eighteen. I moved fairly quickly, and I began to discern the types of river structure favored by the trout, at least the trout that were willing to eat the flies that I was offering.

I essentially skipped over the large deep pools with only a couple token casts to the tail and very top where fast water entered. The large deep center sections were unproductive, so I used the time saved to focus my attention on pockets, runs, and wide riffles of moderate depth. Quite often I was pleasantly surprised to engage with trout in these surroundings. The average size of the fish also improved in the early afternoon, and I estimate that 75% of the trout favored the salvation nymph with the remainder willing to accept the hares ear.

A Narrow Pool Beckons

By 2:30 I met three obstacles to my progression up the Cache la Poudre River. The first was a bridge where CO 14 passed over the river. Of course this was a temporary intrusion on the fun day that was evolving. Second was a group of fishermen. One jumped in the river twenty yards above me, but he was in and out in a short amount of time. But as I grew closer to the bridge, another young gentleman appeared, and he was clearly an impediment, since he was about to begin casting. We exchanged greetings, and he suggested that nice water existed between his position and the bridge, so I circled around him and jumped back in. I fished two normally attractive spots with no action, so I began to suspect that he previously covered the water or disturbed it via casts or wading.

I began to reel in my flies, and as I did so, the third hurdle to continuing my enjoyable day appeared. Some dark gray clouds that heretofore were a distant nuisance, now hovered over my head, and some rumbling sounds reminded me that a storm was in the neighborhood. I quickly removed my packs, undid my suspenders, pulled my raincoat from the backpack, and slid it over my shirt. I was bit late in this endeavor, as my light olive fishing shirt could attest, as large wet olive blotches spread over my arms and chest. For the most part, however, I remained dry, and I decided to return to the car to move above the bridge, while the storm delivered its worst fury. The plan was solid, but the .5 mile return hike to the car was a dampening experience. As I exited the trees below the river, I noted that three vehicles were parked along the road, and two displayed rod vaults. Clearly I needed to leave and find more space.

Side View of the Friday Prize

Quality Edge Water

I proceeded west and grabbed the first pullout beyond the bridge. I decided to fish the same area that I covered on my first 2017 visit to the Cache la Poudre on July 7. I hiked east toward the bridge a short distance, and then I found a gap in the brush and approached the edge of the river. By now the rain subsided, and I was uncertain what impact the twenty minutes of steady downpour would have on the fishing. Although I was pleased with a fish count of eighteen, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of insect activity. Did the overcast conditions and rain delay any impending emergence?

As I began to cast the Chernobyl/hares ear/salvation alignment, I did in fact begin to notice a few random mayflies that were likely pale morning duns. Yellow sallies never made an appearance, and green drakes were conspicuous by their absence. Caddis were present along the rocks and streamside vegetation, and they occasionally dapped the surface of the river.

Another Big Boy by Cache la Poudre Standards

It did not take long before I discovered the impact of the storm. The trout of the Cache la Poudre exhibited a distinct affinity for the nymphs on my leader. Even though I never observed a significant number of adult mayflies, their nymphal stage must have been quite prevalent and active. Suddenly trout connected with my nymphs even when I cast the dry/dropper to small marginal slow moving pockets along the bank. In several cases I hooked fish as soon as the nynphs dropped below the surface, and I continue to be amazed by this phenomenon. The fish counter doubled from eighteen to thirty-six between three o’clock and 4:30 when I returned to my car.

Side View of the Friday Prize

It was a magical 1.5 hours of fishing. I moved quickly and rarely made more than four or five casts without hooking a fish. The size of the fish was another satisfying shift from the earlier part of the day, as several thirteen inch brown trout curled in my net after spirited battles. I learned that it pays to remain on the river after a storm, and that there are streams in Colorado that continue to produce hot fishing during the third week of July. I am already planning trips to other areas for next week, but I suspect that the Cache la Poudre may host me again in the near future.

Fish Landed: 36

A Field of Daisies Next to the River