Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM
Location: Lee Martinez Park in Ft. Collins
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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