Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: The canyon west of the Narrows.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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