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

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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.

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Edge Fishing on July 31

 

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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.

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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.

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Decent

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Side View of the Friday Prize

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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A Field of Daisies Next to the River

 

Cache la Poudre River – 07/13/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Pingree Park area.

Cache la Poudre River 07/13/2017 Photo Album

A cannot mask my true feelings. I was very disappointed with my fishing time on the Arkanas River during the early part of this week. After spectacular edge fishing on the Yampa and Eagle Rivers, I was certain to experience similar results on the Arkansas, but I never achieved close to the same level of success. I originally planned to camp at Vallie Bridge on Wednesday night and spend Thursday on a different section of the river in Bighorn Sheep Canyon, but after landing only three fish in 2.5 hours on Wednesday afternoon, I cut my losses and returned to Denver.

My new plan incorporated another day trip to the Cache la Poudre River in the canyon west of Ft. Collins. July 7 was a memorable day, and I was certain the flows would remain elevated, and hatches would multiply through the remainder of July. I needed a solid day to restore my confidence.

I departed Denver at 8:10 on Thursday morning, but I was delayed for fifteen to twenty minutes by a four car accident on northbound I25. The total trip ended up taking roughly two hours and thirty minutes, and I finally stepped into the water with my Loomis five weight by 11:00AM. The flows indeed remained nearly the same as I encountered on July 7, and the weather was quite pleasant although a bit too bright and warm for ideal fishing conditions. The high temperature reached 75, and clouds rarely made an appearance.

As I fished the north side of the river in the Pingree Park section on July 7, I was in awe of the shelf pools and bank pockets on the south shore, but the elevated stream velocity made a crossing impossible. On Thursday when I approached Pingree Park, I decided to cross the bridge and explore the south side of the river. Perhaps I could work my way up from the bridge to the appealing water that I observed on the previous Friday. I was pleased to find a rough dirt road that led to the right, and this placed me in a small circular dirt parking lot. I made this my beginning point, and once I was prepared, I found a scant trail and bashed through some bushes to reach the edge of the river.

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Deep Colors on This Brown Trout

I began my quest for Cache la Poudre trout with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead salvation. This alignment evolved into my standard starting offering, but on this day the fat Albert attracted looks without bites, and this distracted the fish from the trailing nymphs. After twenty minutes of frustration, I decided to downsize with a smaller yellow fly. I chose a size 12 light yellow stimulator, and I fished it solo. This move paid off somewhat, as I landed a fine twelve inch brown that smashed the stimulator confidently. I was beginning to feel a nice rhythm, when I encountered a large vertical rock wall. The main current of the river deflected off the upstream side of the rock, so it was impossible to wade past it, and I elected to climb a steep bank to circle around the impasse.

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Nice Shelf Pool on the Cache la Poudre

It was noon, and the rock offered a comfortable spot to eat lunch, so I sat on a natural bench and ate and observed. As I mentioned previously, the main current of the river bashed into the rock and deflected right and left. The water that curved to the right curled around and flowed back along the south bank and formed a nice little eddy. Initially I did not see any fish, but as I continued to stare, a brown trout appeared in a small pocket where the current curled and began to flow upstream. Next I spotted a very nice dark outline of a fish that hovered just below the surface and fed aggressively on an unknown source of food, where the reverse current passed close to another vertical rock wall. Finally I spotted another fish that appeared twice near the cushion where the heavy current bounced off the rock that I was sitting on.

After lunch I recorded a quick movie of the scenario, and then I cautiously descended along the large rock opposite my lunch position. Two small trees blocked my access to the beach next to the reverse current, and the decent rainbow that I noticed in a feeding rhythm hovered five feet away. Unfortunately even the slight movement of parting the small branches to enable a cast caused the beauty to flee, and I was now left with two targets in the vicinity. I slid through a narrow gap between the branches and lobbed a backhand cast to the pocket where I spotted the brown trout. I held my breath, and the yellow bodied fish glided toward my fly and then drifted back to a holding position. My yellow stimulator was irrefutably snubbed!

In a last ditch effort to convert on my productive lunch time observation, I backhanded another cast to the seam on the edge of the main current. The bushy attractor danced toward the deflection point and then curled along the base of my lunch rock, and just as it began to track back toward me, a fish rocketed to the surface and confidently smashed the stimulator. I set the hook and quickly landed another twelve inch brown trout. One for three is a good average in baseball, but I expect more from myself on a trout stream. Nevertheless I loved the sight fishing and relished the challenge of devising an approach to fish in difficult positions.

I released the feisty brown trout and paused to evaluate my next predicament. An even larger wall of rock blocked my upstream path. I was not about to give up on my goal of working up along the south bank to the attractive water across from my fishing position on July 7. I climbed back to the top of the bank near my lunch rock and followed a trail that angled up a steep slope. When I reached the top, I noticed a thin trail that traversed a steep slope. The area was covered in pine needles, and experience taught me that they are quite slippery and provide zero traction. I decided to make the traverse, and I paused with each step to ensure that I had solid footing, and I grabbed every available solid branch or rock as a safety precaution. It was a tense crossing, but eventually I slid down the bank to the edge of the water. Just above me was another narrow shelf pool that was created by a more formidable rock wall! Since I risked my life and expended significant energy, I lobbed some casts to the marginal shelf pool, but the stimulator was ignored, and the glare and shadows made it nearly impossible to follow the fly.

The high flows prevented me from wading along the next monster obstruction, and I gazed upward and estimated that the top of the rock cliff was eighty feet above me. The climb was nearly vertical, and I did not pack rock climbing gear, so I reversed my course across the slippery traverse, and then headed back to the car. My plan to fish the south bank was in serious jeopardy, and in fact my good sense finally made it an unfulfilled objective.

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Water Like This Gets the Juices Flowing

I threw my gear in the back of the Santa Fe and crossed the bridge to CO 14 and turned left and parked at the first wide pullout along the westbound lane. Plan B was now in progress. I ambled east along the highway a short distance and then found a gradual path to the river a short distance above the Pingree Park access road bridge. The water on the north side of the river at this point was much more conducive to fishing, as the slope of the streambed was gradual, and this produced more riffles, runs and pockets of moderate depth. I spent the next hour prospecting the attractive structure with the yellow stimulator, and the fish counter climbed to six. Several of the landed fish were decent by Poudre standards, but I sensed that I was covering a section of the river that should have produced more fish.

On my previous visit the time period between noon and three provided the most intense action on nymphs, and I did not wish to miss out on a repeat event, so I returned to the dry/dropper method. Unlike the initial time period on Thursday, however, I topped the lineup with a size 10 tan pool toy and dangled a hares ear and salvation beneath it. The change did in fact improve my catch rate, but the size of the landed fish was a bit diminished. The dry/dropper approach incremented the fish count to eleven, and at this point I approached a gorgeous pool and eddy. A secondary current angled along a sandy slope and created a four foot deep run before the current deflected off a huge protruding rock. A nice wide pool extended for twenty-five feet from the run toward the main river, and I was positioned in the river to cast back to the run and pool. I spotted a couple rises, but there was no consistency, and the fish were ignoring my hopper and nymphs.

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Green Drake Time

Suddenly a large drake mayfly cruised skyward in front of me, and I could barely contain my joy. Sporadic aggressive rises and a drake appearance suggested a green drake emergence. I did not waste any time, as I removed the dry/dropper flies and chose a size 14 green drake comparadun from my fly box. Western green drakes are my favorite hatch, and I rejoice on the rare occasions I encounter this large mayfly. My first cast was not auspicious, as a fish rose and refused the fly at the top of the run. I brought the fly to my hand and preened the deer hair and pushed it back to create a more realistic image of the large mayfly wing. Having adjusted the fly in a manner more suitable to imitating the slanted wings of a mayfly, I lobbed a short cast to the middle of the run, and instantly a thirteen inch brown trout materialized and inhaled my offering with confidence. Needless to say I was very excited over this fortuitous turn of events.

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One of the Better Fish on Thursday

I snapped a photo and released the prize, and on the third of several casts later to nearly the same spot, a carbon copy brown trout performed the same confident gulp of the comparadun. This was the boost I needed, and I proceeded to prospect along the north bank with the large western green drake imitation. Despite its size the comparadun was difficult to track because of the olive body and brown tails that blended with the stream color, nevertheless I boosted the fish tally from eleven to eighteen on the strength of the sparse hatch and the comparadun. During this time period I spotted a maximum of four drakes in the air, so I was not benefiting from a dense mass emergence. I learned in the past, however, that fish tune into green drakes very quickly and do not miss an opportunity to ingest the large morsels. The same workhorse comparadun remained on my line and accounted for all the fish in spite of some fairly rough fish hook extraction techniques.

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Wide Body

By 3:30 I no longer observed even a stray drake in the air, and I covered a fair distance without so much as a look or refusal. I encountered a very appealing pocket water segment, and I surmised that the dry/dropper might be more appropriate for the fast brawling channel ahead of me. I reverted to the pool toy hopper, hares ear and salvation; and I resumed my prospecting ways using a three casts and move approach. This change in tactics enabled me to inflate the fish count to twenty-three by 4:30. By now I fished beyond my starting point on July 7, and I remembered that the nature of the river shifted to deep pools among large rocks, and I my state of mind did not lend itself to aggressive wading and rock climbing.

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Purple Bells

I hooked the salvation nymph in my rod guide, climbed the rocky bank, and hiked along the shoulder of CO 14 until I reached the car. I was surprised by the distance that I covered on my return, and I estimated that I waded .75 miles after my move. The Cache la Poudre River once again delivered a superb outing on Thursday. The canyon setting was spectacular, the water was high and clear and cold, and I had the Pingree Park section to myself. I relished my first green drake encounter of the year, and my comparadun fooled seven willing eaters. The size of the fish was solid by Cache la Poudre standards with five or six brown trout measuring in the twelve to thirteen inch range. I could not be more pleased with my day. The greatest impediment to frequent returns is the ridiculous volume of traffic on interstate 25, and the frequent choke points resulting from construction.

Fish Landed: 23

 

Cache la Poudre River – 07/07/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Pingree Park area.

Cache la Poudre River 07/07/2017 Photo Album

After enjoying fantastic success while edge fishing the Yampa River, Eagle River, and Arkansas River for trout over the last two years; I was curious whether the same approach would excel on closer front range streams. After attending the Reds vs Rockies game on Thursday, Friday remained free of commitments, and fly fishing seemed like a fun activity to pursue. I checked the stream flows on the DWR web site and then scanned several fly shop reports. The report on the Cache la Poudre River in northern Colorado caught my attention. The shop described edge fishing and documented yellow sally, pale morning dun, and caddis hatches. This report mirrored the information I gleaned from a review of reports on the Eagle River and Yampa River prior to those excursions.

For some reason I always consider the Cache la Poudre a distant drive, but I can reach Ft. Collins, CO in an hour without speeding. If I were content to fish in the lower Poudre just west of town, I could be there in one hour and thirty minutes. This surprises me since it takes that long to reach the Big Thompson, and I regard that as a close destination. On Friday I chose to drive farther west into the canyon, and for this reason two hours elapsed before I pulled into a nice parking space within the Pingree Park special regulation section.

I rigged my Sage four weight and surveyed the river upon my arrival. As reported on the fly shop web site, the river was rushing at high velocity; however, it was crystal clear, and numerous slow moving pockets were visible along the bank. I concluded that the approach would be very similar to that used on the Eagle on Wednesday, and upstream progress required some repeated bank climbing and descending to circumnavigate spots, where fast water flashed tight to trees and vegetation. I told myself that I was up for the challenge and carefully descended a steep boulder strewn bank to the edge of the river.

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Surprise Chernobyl Ant Eater

Since I finished my day on Wednesday with a Chernobyl ant, I elected to begin Friday with the same top fly. Beneath the Chernobyl I attached a beadhead hares ear nymph and an iron sally. The report promised yellow sallies, and I was prepared. On the first cast to a nice slack water pocket next to the bank a ten inch brown trout rocketed to the surface and smashed the large terrestrial. Could it be this easy? I quickly found out it would not be that simple. I moved along at a fairly rapid pace and notched a couple more small brown trout that exhibited an appetite for the hares ear, but the period also included quite a few refusals to the Chernobyl. In addition I hooked but did not land at least three fish, and I was frustrated by this turn of events.

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Very Inviting Shelf Pool

A guide and two clients suddenly appeared along the opposite bank, and I hoped to put on a show for these random observers. I decided to swap the refusal generating Chernboyl for a yellow fat Albert. I normally place the larger dropper fly above the smaller, and I speculated that having the larger iron sally on the bottom was somehow impacting my ability to retain fish that grabbed the hares. To remedy this situation I tied a salvation to my line as the top fly and shifted the hares ear to the bottom.

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Fat Albert Is Tasty

This move paid off, and I began to hook and land fish with greater regularity. In fact shortly after the change, a nice thirteen inch rainbow surfaced and crushed the fat Albert. That is the way a surface indicator fly should perform. The man across from me saw the bend in my rod and shouted, “nice fish!” By noon the fish count rested on five, and I encountered a nice flat rock that served as a bench. I quickly downed my lunch, while I observed the water and monitored the three gentlemen across from me. They moved on as abruptly as they arrived, and I noted a couple random barely visible rises in the swirling currents just above my position.

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Gorgeous Rainbow Trout

After lunch I continued my upstream progression, while I offered the three fly combination to Poudre trout. I fell into a nice rhythm and pushed the tally upward, until I reached a point where the river veered away from CO 14. I scanned the nature of the river, and it was characterized by a wide stretch of fast riffles that extended against the shoreline, where the river swamped some small willow plants. This type of water did not appeal to me, so I climbed the bank and returned to the car to seek a new section of river to explore.

Initially I drove west and crossed the river just above Dadd Gulch, but I liked the idea of remaining on the south side, since this was more accommodating to a right handed caster like myself. I reversed my direction and drove east beyond my morning starting point. Unfortunately the river crossed to the south side of the highway again, but the next section offered some inviting structure, so I accepted the fact that backhand casting was in my future. At least it was only required for two or three hours.

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The Shallow Riffles Around the Rocks Were Productive

I hiked along the shoulder of the highway for a good distance, until I was at the bottom of a long wide riffle and pocket water section. The pockets and pools along the far bank were quite appealing, but I  wisely avoided a stream crossing attempt in the deceivingly fast flows. The first location that I reached was actually very interesting, as it featured some deeper riffles and troughs below and around a tiny narrow island. I began here and immediately enjoyed a spurt of fast action, and the rapid catch rate accompanied my efforts over the remainder of the day. The sky clouded up repeatedly, and light rain made an appearance several times.

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Needs Fattening

I noticed a few pale morning duns and caddis on the water and in the air, but I observed no more that two or three rises. This seemed irrelevant, however, as the trout keyed on the salvation nymph and the hares ear nymph. Four of the fish netted in the afternoon smashed the fat Albert on the surface, and I was pleased that it served a purpose other than an indicator. The nymph action was absolutely superb. I placed casts in all the likely spots including some rather marginal areas. It did not matter. The fish grabbed the nymphs when they entered the water, when they tumbled along banks, when they lifted at the end of a drift, and even when they dangled in the current below me.

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Very Black Spots on the Head

Admittedly many of the fish were nine and ten inch brown trout, but at least five or six browns and rainbows the twelve inch range joined the mix. The fish counter climbed to thirty-two by the time I hooked the hares ear in the rod guide at four o’clock. I had a blast, and I now know that edge fishing is a great technique for fly fishing on rivers other the big three that I normally visit sequentially as the snow melt subsides in late June and early July. I suspect that the Poudre will carry higher than normal flows for another two or three weeks, and this will afford me a few more opportunities to visit this gorgeous canyon west of Ft. Collins.

Fish Landed: 32

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Perhaps the Most Vivid Colors of All on Friday

Cache la Poudre River – 03/09/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Lee Martinez Park

Cache la Poudre River 03/09/2017 Photo Album

Meeting a new friend and discovering unfamiliar water were the goals for Thursday, March 9, and I can report with great enthusiasm that both objectives were met. I departed from Stapleton at 8:05 and arrived at new friend Trevor’s house by 9AM, and that was the time we set for our meeting. I transferred my gear into Trevor’s vehicle which sported a rod vault on the roof, and we were on our way to Ft. Collins to fish the Cache la Poudre River.

I connected with Trevor, AKA @rockymtnangler, through Instagram; and we quickly realized that we frequented many of the same front range streams, thus our rendezvous on Thursday. Trevor is a pharmacist, and he has been fly fishing for five years, and he is an accomplished adventurer in Rocky Mountain National Park. I hope to learn a lot from this young man about fishing high mountain lakes during the summer of 2017, although he quickly informed me that accessing the trailheads in RMNP during the prime summer season requires arrival at sunrise. On another level Trevor was a successful lefthanded pitcher at Longmont High School, and since I also carry a baseball pedigree, we possessed another experience in common.

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Trevor Works a Tough but Attractive Trout Lair

After a short drive north on I25 Trevor pulled into a parking space at Lee Martinez Park on the northern edge of thriving Ft. Collins, CO. Trevor extracted his already strung rod from the rod vault, and I was quite jealous, as I struggled to match his head start. I chose my Sage four weight, as it is light enough for a small stream, but the fast action performs reasonably well in windy conditions. The air temperature was already at sixty degrees as we embarked on the bike path to the river, and a breeze rustled the trees as a harbinger of what was in our future. Trevor fished the Cache la Poudre within the town limits once before, so he led the way.

We crossed a narrow pedestrian bridge to the north side of the river and then circled to a huge smooth pool that extended fifty yards through the natural park. Immediately Trevor spotted a pod of rises, and our expectations soared. On Trevor’s previous visit he encountered a blue winged olive hatch at 10AM, so we crossed our fingers that history would repeat itself. Trevor cautiously waded into the pool between some large overhanging trees and in front of a log jam that extend from the opposite bank. I meanwhile circled above and entered at the top of the pool below a long gravel bar. Several fish were rising thirty feet below me, and I surmised that a downstream approach was in order, so that the feeding fish would see the fly before the leader and fly line.

Given Trevor’s encounter with small mayflies I  assumed that the fish were feeding on blue winged olives, so I knotted a size 24 to my line and paused to observe the water and plan a strategy. It was nearly impossible to take a small step without sending small ripples across the pool. Before I could attempt my first cast Trevor shouted that he had a take but pulled the fly from the fish’s mouth. A few minutes later he checked his line and learned that he actually broke the fly off in the trout’s mouth. Needless to say this elevated my heart rate. If I was lucky enough to induce a take, I pledged to pause before executing a hook set, since downstream drifts are more prone to stripping the fly upstream and out of a fish’s mouth.

Finally I was ready, and I launched a long cast, and I checked it high to allow a large amount of slack to fall to the water. The slack slowly uncoiled as the fly drifted down the center of the pool, and my pulse raced when a fish sipped a natural within inches of my fly. Not a good sign. Two fish were rising within reach of my casts, and I managed to make ten drifts with no assault on my flies, before the wind gusted with relentless force down the river. This sudden rush of air placed a significant chop on the surface, but then when the blast subsided a flurry of feeding rises ensued. This series of events happened a second time, and this made me suspect that perhaps ants were deposited in the stream by the wind, and the fish were reacting.

I replaced the BWO with a parachute ant and covered the area of rising fish with ten more casts, but my theory did not explain the feeding habits of the fish, and I remained a frustrated fisherman. Trevor meanwhile registered another refusal or momentary hookup. After a half hour next to a pool with at least ten rising fish, the feeding halted, and we decided to explore the upstream sections of the river.

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Four Feet Above the Indention Was the Rainbow Home

The next area was characterized be several long deep pools along the south bank, but as we moved away from the large pool, we realized that the flows were extremely low, and this foreshadowed challenging fishing. Wind and low flows are a difficult combination. After another half hour of futile casting we approached a place where a concrete wall bordered the river on the north side, and as I paused, I noticed a pair of subtle rises within six inches of the bank. By now I converted to a dry/dropper configuration with a size 16 gray stimulator as the surface fly, and a beadhead hares ear that dangled eighteen inches below. I was skeptical that the rising fish would show any interest in the stimulator, but perhaps a drifting hares ear might represent a tasty temptation.

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17

I executed a few casts eight feet above the rise, but they were not close enough to the bank, so I picked up the line and delivered another shot closer. I was fearful of lodging the trailing hares ear in the vegetation, but the stimulator rested a foot from the bank, and I managed to avoid a snag. I carefully watched the dry fly bob with the current for a few feet, and then before it reached the target area where a fish previously rose, the bushy imitation dipped, and I instantly set the hook. Imagine my shock and state of euphoria when a seventeen inch rainbow flashed near the surface. How could my fortunes turn in such an abrupt manner during these challenging early March conditions?

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I shouted to Trevor and carefully maintained tension until I elevated the glistening prize over the lip of my net. The fish caused a huge sag, and in the same instant that it slid over the rim, the hares ear released. The timing of the hook release was amazingly advantageous. Trevor kindly halted his efforts and quickly crossed the stream and snapped off a barrage of photos. Even now I am amazed at the stroke of good fortune that enabled me to land the largest fish of the season under difficult low water conditions within the town of Ft. Collins. By the end of my fishing day I would discover that the rainbow catch was a significant aberration.

Once the excitement of the fortuitous catch wore off, we gathered our senses and proceeded farther west. The river at this point consisted of long stretches of shallow riffles through medium sized rounded boulders, but intermittently we encountered a section with some depth that suggested the possibility of fish. Twenty minutes after the catch of the day, I approached one such location where two braids of the river merged below a small island and formed a slow moving pool that was thirty yards long. I waded to the bottom of the deep section, and as I prepared to cast the dry/dropper combination, a fish showed itself on the left side with a subtle rise. I shot several casts above the scene of the surface feed, but this failed to generate a response, so I progressed with additional casts, as I moved from left to right. Once again failing to interest any fish I shot a cast back toward the left, and after an eight foot drift, the dry fly submerged, and I rapidly raised the four weight and found myself attached to a chunky eleven inch brown trout. My confidence in the hares ear surged, as I flicked it from the wild brown trout lip, and my expectations for the remainder of the day elevated.

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Hello Mr. Brown Trout

Alas, the renewed confidence was unfounded, as Trevor and I pressed on upstream. In truth the quality of the water deteriorated, and our advance required longer and longer intervals to skip uninteresting shallow riffles. In addition the wind announced an upgrade in ferocity that compromised accuracy greatly. By 2PM we decided to reverse our direction and hit some of the prime spots on the return. In a nice angled run 15 yards above the scene of my rainbow conquest, Trevor managed a temporary connection. We made a final curtain call in the large pool above the bridge, as I spotted a couple sipping rises. Not wishing to disturb the water with a beadhead dropper, I replaced the hares ear with a parachute ant, but after two upstream casts to the scene of the rises, the surface show ended.

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Some Man Made Pools

We called it quits at 2:30 and hoofed the short distance back to the parking lot and car. Trevor and I agreed it was a slow day, but fun nonetheless to be outdoors in early March. For me the two trout and especially the rainbow were a bonus. I met a new fishing partner face to face, and he introduced me to a stretch of water that suggests future opportunities at higher flows. It was all good.

Fish Landed: 2

Cache la Poudre – 07/15/2016

Time: 1:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Between MM 86 and 87

Cache la Poudre 07/15/2016 Photo Album

High expectations are a recipe for disappointing fly fishing. In reality my day on the Poudre on July 15 was a decent outing, but it suffered from comparisons to Thursday and the last five or six fishing trips of my summer tour.

The high point of Friday was not a fishing related experience. Jane and I explored a new hiking trail in the Red Feather Lakes area called Lady Moon Trail. We read a review of the trail on the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers web site, and the two thoughts that remained in our minds were “easy” and “horse pack trail”. As we completed our five mile round trip hike, we were pleasantly surprised that the trail was indeed relatively flat, but in addition we passed through a variety of landscapes ranging from pastures to aspen groves to fields of wildflowers to ponderosa pine and evergreen forests. I expected deep troughs from horse traffic and abundant horse excrement, but these worries were unfounded. I could hardly keep my eyes on the trail to ensure safe footing, since I was constantly gazing at the variety of colorful wildflowers.

By the time we returned from our hike, it was noon, and we were required to leave our campsite by one o’clock. Jane and I hustled and teamed up like camping professionals and beat the deadline by two minutes, I even had time to gobble my lunch before we pulled our loaded car out of the campground parking lot.

Because I enjoyed an outstanding day on Thursday in the restricted fishing area below the fish hatchery along the Cache la Poudre, I decided to visit another section on Friday. On our drive west from Rustic earlier in the morning I identified a section of faster water near the downstream border of the special regulation water, and this is where we parked. Jane pulled out her camp rocker and prepared to read, and I rigged my Sage four weight and slid down a steep bank to fish. Immediately I was greeted by a huge deep shelf pool below some large exposed boulders, and I carefully tied a size eight Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. By the time I began fishing it was 1PM, and this coincided with the beginning of the best period of fishing on Thursday. Needless to say I was excited to finally be on the water.

I began casting the dry/dropper to the current seam in the deep hole, but on the third cast I snagged something. I attempted some rudimentary tugs from various angles, but it became clear that one of the flies was severely wedged. I waded upstream and looked closer, and sure enough the flies were attached to an immovable object in front of a large submerged boulder. The water was fast and deep, and there was no way I could get close enough to attempt to use my wading stick to free the flies, so I pulled my line toward me in order to preserve my rod tip, and then I heard the ugly sound of my line popping. I reeled up the line and discovered that all three flies were missing along with several sections of tippet.

After shouting some curse words, which Jane unfortunately heard from her perch in the camp rocker, I sat on a rock and grieved. When I accepted that I lost the three flies that I spent ten minutes tying to my line, I began the long process of repeating the task. What a way to start my Friday fishing venture! I tied the exact same lineup of flies to my line, and after another ten frustrating minutes, I was back on the water. I skipped the deep shelf pool to avoid additional snags, and began my upstream migration.

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The Brawling Cache la Poudre

Friday was another warm day with temperatures peaking in the low eighties. The river level was similar to Thursday with high early summer flows that limited fishing to the edge except for sections that were wide and exhibited lower gradient. For the first hour I fished the pocket water along the edge and netted four brown trout. All were relatively small and all attacked the salvation nymph except for one gullible brown that slurped the Chernobyl ant.

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Big Fly, Small Fish

As I was working my way upstream some dark clouds moved in from the west, and the wind kicked up. The low light and wind made fishing a challenge, and it was at this time that I spotted several large mayflies, as they floated from the surface of the river like a rising hot air balloon. The mayflies were obviously green drakes, and I was not setting the world on fire with the dry/dropper combination, so I converted to a Harrop deer hair green drake. July was after all the green drake tour.

Over the course of the next hour I landed four 9-12 inch brown trout that smacked the green drake. In addition I experienced three long distance releases, a foul hooked fish, and three or four refusals. On the one hand I was pleased to encounter a very sparse green drake hatch and successfully fool some fish with my imitation, but I was also frustrated by the refusals and temporary hook ups. My imitation was close to what the fish were looking for, but apparently differed in some significant way. In these situations I always challenge and analyze me approach, and on Friday I regret not experimenting with different versions of  green drake dry flies. In hindsight I also question whether I would have been better off sticking to the dry/dropper approach, since it was highly effective the previous day.

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Best Fish on the Day

During the last half hour of fishing I reverted to the dry/dropper presentation, and I landed one more small brown trout to bring my fish count to nine. Nine fish in 2.5 hours of fishing is actually a decent catch rate, but I was comparing my day to Thursday, when I landed twenty-one fish in 3.5 hours. As I reflect on my day, I suggest several factors that perhaps explain my reduced catch rate. Utilizing the green drake versus the dry/dropper configuration is the first and most obvious. Generally subsurface  offerings produce more fish, but I could not dismiss the allure of fishing a large green drake on the surface.

The section of the river that I chose to fish was also a factor. On Thursday I fished the edge on a stretch of the river that was fast moving, but the gradient was not as extreme as Friday. On Friday there were many portions where the river was churning and kicking up whitewater, and the high velocity extended to the bank, thus offering fewer deep pockets and runs for me to prospect. I spent much more time scrambling over rocks and skipping marginal water. The cardinal rule of fishing is, “You cannot catch fish if your fly is not on the water:”

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Some Side Pockets

The last variable was the weather. The wind impacted my casting efficiency causing me to make multiple casts to adjust, whereas, on Thursday one toss may have been sufficient. The wind also caused some tangles, as I was casting backhanded for most of the time. The overcast sky was another weather related factor, as the low light made following my flies difficult, particularly the olive and gray toned green drake. The difficult visibility may also help explain the lost fish and refusals.

As I returned to the car to meet Jane, I was frustrated with my day, but now that I reflected and chronicled the sequence, I realize that it was an average outing. Even the size of the fish was likely normal for the Cache la Poudre based on what I read in the guide books. The green drake tour will continue on Sunday when I make the annual trek to the Conejos River. It will be difficult to contain expectations for this trip, but I will do my best.

Fish Landed: 9

 

Cache la Poudre – 07/14/2016

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Between MM 86 and 85 below the fish hatchery

Cache la Poudre 07/14/2016 Photo Album

As I reviewed my Colorado fishing guide book searching for rivers and streams that featured green drake hatches, I encountered the Cache la Poudre River west of Fort Collins. I paused and remembered two fun fishing trips to the Poudre in 2015 after ignoring the fine northern Front Range river for many years. I searched my blog and read the post from August 3, 2015 and realized that my text documented fishing to green drakes in early August.

I was seeking a destination to fish on Thursday and Friday July 14-15, and the Poudre fit the bill. I promised to do a hike with Jane on Friday morning, so she agreed to accompany me, and we departed by 8:20AM on Thursday morning. In early August of 2015 we camped for one night at the Kelly Flats Campground, as we broke in our new Big Agnes tent, and we enjoyed the central location and decided to target the same campground for Thursday night. As we traveled west through the Cache la Poudre Canyon, we passed the Mountain Campground and noticed a campground full sign.

This caused us some concern, but we attributed the capacity crowd to proximity to the popular whitewater rafting section of the river. Unfortunately when we arrived at the next campground to the west, Kelly Flats, we were disappointed to discover the same full sign. Now we were in scramble mode, and we did not pack any of our maps or guidebooks that identified campgrounds in the area. We both remembered a campground called Big Bend farther to the west that we utilized when the kids were young, so we set that as our new fall back.

Big Bend necessitated an additional ten mile drive, and we held our breath as we turned on to the dirt entry lane. We both exhaled in relief, when we recognized the absence of the dreaded campground full sign and found nice shaded campsite seven. We had a home for one night. I was now positioned much farther west than I planned, so my choice of fishing location also required flexibility. I remembered reading that some of the best water was the special regulation section near the fish hatchery, and our campground was just west of that facility.

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Nice Setup

After setting up the tent and canopy, I ate my lunch and pulled on my waders, and departed for a yet unknown section of the Cache la Poudre River downstream from the fish hatchery in the restricted area. I ended up choosing a section between mile markers 85 and 86. Quite a few fishermen gravitated to the water just below the hatchery, but I was deterred by both the smooth long pools and the presence of more competing anglers.

The weather was nearly perfect although perhaps a bit warm for fish with the high reaching eighty degrees amid beautiful clear blue skies. When I descended the steep bank to the edge of the river, I was please to encounter high but manageable flows. The volume of water made it difficult to fish most of the river except for the edge, but the water was low enough to enable safe relatively easy wading along the bank.

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Nice Shelf Pool

 

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Buttery Good

I began my quest for Poudre River trout with a size eight Chernobyl ant, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph; and these flies remained on my line for the first twelve fish I landed. The first three shelf pools failed to produce, but then at 12:45 things heated up. During the 12:45 – 2:00 time period I fished deep pockets and slots along the bank, and nearly every promising spot yielded a fish. Especially productive locations featured a large boulder at the end of a deep pocket, and quite a few fish nabbed the salvation when I lifted the flies to make another cast. 75% of the twelve fish snatched the salvation, and the remainder savored the hares ear nymph. The twelve netted fish included three browns in the thirteen inch range, and I read in the guide book that this size approaches lunker status for the Cache la Poudre. Needless to say, I was quite pleased with my early afternoon fishing performance.

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Another Prime Shelf Pool

While my fish count remained on twelve, I hooked a fish that streaked downstream and ripped line from my reel at an alarming rate. After thirty yards of line stretched between me and the fish, I realized it was impossible to follow the torpedo over the large rocks, so I broke it off, and upon eventual examination discovered that all three flies were missing. For some reason I messed with success and rigged anew with a fat Albert, hares ear and size eighteen pheasant tail. After this change the catch rate slowed considerably, and I am not sure if the change of flies or a reduction in available insects explained the slowdown. The catch rate was slower, but I did mange to land two small fish during this period. One snared the pheasant tail and the other latched on to the beadhead hares ear.

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Very Nice Fish for Poudre

Number fifteen was special. The slow action caused me to revert to the Chernobyl ant as the top fly, and I replaced the pheasant tail with a dark brown marabare. I was consuming my salvation nymphs at an alarming rate, so I decided to experiment with some close approximations. I lifted a cast to a nice deep run where two currents merged downstream from a large rock, and as the Chernoyl drifted slowly through the seam, and large mouth appeared and chomped down on the large foam impostor. Wham! I set the hook and managed to contain the energetic combatant within ten feet of my position, and I eventually scooped a bright rainbow in my net. I cannot remember ever catching a rainbow trout from the Cache la Poudre in previous visits, and now I held a chunky fourteen inch beauty in my hands.

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Submerging

Amazingly I moved on, and the very next fish was another rainbow trout. After failing to catch rainbows, I was now in a rainbow trout hotspot, although this specimen was only a feisty ten incher, and it slammed the marabare. Between three and four o’clock I continued prospecting with the dry/dropper and landed five additional fish. All were pretty small except for a twelve inch brown trout that also made the mistake of gulping the Chernobyl ant, and I paused to photograph the dry fly eater. Three of the other five crunched the hares ear and one nabbed the marabare.

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A Greedy Chernobyl Gulper

It was a fun 3.5 hours of fishing with the hottest action transpiring between 1 and 2PM. I spotted one green drake and a handful of pale morning duns and a few caddis, but the insect density was never enough to prompt rising fish. Everything seemed to fall in place on Thursday, and I anxiously anticipated another day of outstanding fishing on the Cache la Poudre River on Friday.

Fish Landed: 21

Cache la Poudre River – 08/03/2015

Time: 9:00AM – 11:00AM; 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: First bridge after beginning of Pingree Park special regulation water and then upstream for a mile.

Fish Landed: 13

Cache la Poudre River 08/03/2015 Photo Album

Jane and I drove to the Kelly Flats Campground along the Cache la Poudre River on Sunday where we tested our new Big Agnes Big House tent. We are scheduled to make a long camping and sightseeing trip to Crater Lake in Oregon to visit with our daughter Amy in August, so we decided to practice assembling and taking down our new purchase. We completed a 2.2 mile hike on Sunday afternoon, and then we relaxed and enjoyed happy hour and dinner at our prime campsite along the Poudre River.

On Monday morning I ate a quick breakfast of cherries and breakfast bars, as I hoped to get an early start with warm temperatures in the forecast. Jane, being the wonderful wife that she is, dropped me off so she could keep the car and begin packing all our camping gear for the return trip. We drove west along highway 14 until we reached the special regulation water at Pingree Park, and then we continued another mile until we crossed a bridge, and this is where I began my efforts to catch and land some Cache la Poudre trout.

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The Brawling Cache la Poudre

I was pleased to note that the sky was quite overcast, and the air was cool as I descended the bank to begin fishing. These were ideal fishing conditions, so I hoped I could capitalize. I noticed a dozen or more caddis with a dark gray/brown body on the tablecloth on Sunday night as we played cards by the bright propane lantern, so I decided to begin my day with a size twelve peacock stimulator. This was larger than the caddis at the campsite, but the body color was a close match.

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A Nice Brown Trout Near the Start

Initially I experienced two momentary hook ups and two refusals, but then I landed four fish in the first hour. One was a fourteen inch brown that slurped the stimulator confidently in a tiny pocket right along the edge of the river. My fishing guide book pointed out that the upper limit for Poudre fish is fourteen inches, so I was quite ecstatic with this catch.

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Peacock Stimulator Did the Trick

The second hour was rather tough as I endured forty-five minutes without any action. I eventually came to realize that my success on Monday came from a distinct type of water, and I wasted quite a bit of time during this unproductive forty-five minutes in non-productive water. The characteristics of the water that produced the most fish was along the edge and at least three feet deep, and the pace of the current had to slow down quite a bit. Water that did not produce was riffles and current seams along faster runs; places that generally produce for me on other rivers. Other non-productive areas were deep pools such as the places that other fishermen flock to. These did not produce for me at all on August 3, but it was difficult to skip over them because they looked so attractive.

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A Different Look

Between 10:45 and 11:00 I decided to change to a dry/dropper, and this proved to be a great move. I tied on a Chernobyl ant with a pink indicator and then added a beadhead ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear nymph. This combination worked quite well as I landed three browns before lunch in some nice pockets along a steep bank with moderate depth. All three fish snatched the ultra zug bug from the drift, and several reacted to my lift.

I returned to the campground at 11AM and ate lunch and helped Jane take down the canopy, load the car and put the bicycles on the rack. At 12PM we checked out of the campground, and Jane dropped me off a half mile above the bridge where I stopped fishing at 11AM. I began working upstream with the dry/dropper combination and landed two more small browns, but the action was very slow, and I covered a considerable amount of water between catches. I began to wonder if the fish in the first hour took the peacock stimulator mistaking it for a green drake? I decided to try one of the bushy green drakes that worked on the Conejos in case the fish were still accustomed to seeing these large mayflies. The bushy green drake actually has the characteristics of a large stimulator, so I attached an ultra zug bug as a dropper.

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An Afternoon Prize

I approached a spot that appeared to offer the requisite depth and desirable stream characteristics, but some branches stretched out over the water. I fired a sidearm cast up under the branches, and as the green drake drifted just below the branch I saw a slurp. A hook set yielded a nice 12 inch brown, and then I moved a bit closer and fired another sidearm cast up under the leaves but a bit farther, and a smaller brown attacked the ultra zug bug almost as soon as it hit the surface.

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Success Under the Branches

I thought I was on to something, but that was the end of the green drake/ultra zug bug production. Between 1:30 and 2:30 I began to see a handful of pale morning duns in the air. By this time the sun burned off the clouds, and the air temperature increased dramatically. While I was next to a deep pool, I decided to go deep with nymphs. I attached a thingamabobber, split shot, hare nation nymph, and pheasant tail. The hare nation is a new fly I invented over the winter that combines features of a salvation nymph and hares ear nymph, and I hoped that this fly would imitate the nymph stage of a pale morning dun.

In a series of nice deep pockets of moderate depth along the bank, I hooked and landed three brown trout on the hare nation. The fish aggressively attacked the nymph almost as soon as it hit the water, so perhaps the hare nation was mistaken for a pale morning dun nymph as I theorized. Again I thought I had solved the riddle of the Cache la Poudre, but the nymphs ceased producing.

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A Huge Eddy and Pool

Over the last half hour, I returned to a green drake dry, but this time I experimented with a size 12 comparadun style that I tied myself. This fly looked quite juicy as it danced on the current, but I was more enthralled by it than the fish. I quit at 2:35 to make sure I was at the pullout when Jane arrived, and she arrived promptly so we could begin our return trip to Denver.

It was a productive day on the gorgeous Cache la Poudre River west of Ft. Collins, CO. The river carries higher than normal flows for early August, so this probably bodes well for late August and September fishing. Unfortunately I did not experience the easy number boosting fishing that I hoped for, but thirteen fish including a fourteen inch brown that approaches the maximum for the Poudre is a solid outing. The miles of access to this gorgeous clear free flowing river will bring me back at some future date.

 

Cache la Poudre – 04/12/2015

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Above Mountain Park Campground and a picnic area downstream of the narrows area

Fish Landed: 7

Cache la Poudre 04/12/2015 Photo Album

Jane and I joined Debbie and Lonnie Maddox on a fun bike ride in Fort Collins on Friday, and the route included a brief stretch along the Cache la Poudre River. On Sunday Jane and I decided to undertake a fishing trip, and as I surveyed the stream options, I remembered that the Poudre looked clear and inviting as a destination. It had been many years since I fished the Poudre, but on Friday I realized that the distance from our house on the north side of Denver to the Poudre was actually shorter than trips to the South Platte River and Arkansas River. I checked out the St. Peter’s Fly Shop report on the internet, and this favorable piece of information clinched my decision.

Sunday turned out to be a nearly perfect day from a weather perspective. I inserted the word nearly because I did face my spring nemesis – strong wind. As Jane and I drove west along route 14 into the canyon, we noticed the limbs of the evergreens bending eastward as a result of the strong air currents. Sure enough when we parked along the highway just above the Mountain Park Campground, and I opened the car door, a blast of chilly air created a wind tunnel in the Kia Forte.

We had made the drive, so I resolved to make the best of the situation, and pulled on a fleece and windbreaker along with my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. I chose my Sage four weight rod, and decided to walk downstream along the shoulder for fifty yards and then dropped down to the river. The flow was around 120 cfs and this seemed to be nearly ideal to someone who does not have much experience on this northern Colorado waterway. The clarity of the water could not have been better, and in fact dictated stealth and caution when approaching pools.

Because of the strong headwind, I did not even consider a dry/dropper or dry fly approach and instead opted immediately for a nymphing rig. I attached a bright red indicator and then knotted a beadhead ultra zug bug to my line in the upper position, and below that I added a beadhead hares ear. I fished a nice deep run along the north bank with these nymphs and before long I hooked and landed a brown trout and then a small rainbow. I continued moving upstream looking for depth as the river had many wide shallow spots. I covered some juicy deep holes with no results, and then I spotted a couple small baetis tumbling along the surface of the stream. This observation prompted me to remove the hares ear and replace with a beadhead RS2. Over the next hour I covered quite a bit of river and managed to hook up with two more brown trout.

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Long and Thin Brown Trout

The third fish came from a short pocket in front of a large vertical boulder on the north side of the river. I had pretty much given up on the spot when I allowed my flies to drift deep under the rock; a risky move that exposed my flies to snagging. It paid off however as a twelve inch brown grabbed the RS2, and I brought the hungry native to my net.

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Nice Water Ahead

As I continued wading the south bank I reached Jane who was bundled in a blanket and multiple layers behind a large rock. She did not seem to be enjoying herself excessively, so I resolved to quit at 3PM. I prospected the subsurface flies farther upstream and added the fourth trout, but just before 3 I retreated to a point where the stream fanned out enough to offer a safe crossing point. When I reached Jane, we decided to drive back downstream so I could give one more spot a try.

Our second location was a nice picnic area just east of the narrows section. A gate blocked our ability to drive to the picnic area parking lot, so we parked in a small pull out just beyond the entrance. We walked down the paved road to the last picnic table where Jane prepared to read, and I walked down along the south bank for another fifty yards until I found a beautiful wide run and pool with a depth of four to five feet. The sparse blue winged olive hatch seemed to end, so I reverted to the ultra zug bug and hares ear combination and added a split shot in order to get my flies deeper in the beautiful run in front of me.

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Ultra Zug Bug in Corner of Mouth

The strategy paid dividends as I landed  two browns from the best stretch of water of the day. I continued upstream to some deep slots below protruding boulders, and here I managed to land a third fish from the picnic area location. At this point I reached Jane, and fifteen minutes remained in my allotted hour of fishing time, so I moved to the slow deep pool next to the main portion of the picnic grounds. A tall bearded fly fisherman was at the top of the run that entered the pool, and this is the water I craved. I made some halfhearted casts to the slow section at the tail and midsection of the pool, but as I expected nothing materialized. The water above the long pool was wide and shallow and quite marginal, so I returned to Jane and called it quits.

Despite the stiff wind I managed seven trout in three hours and thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering a stream that escaped my interest for twenty years. I will certainly return to this northern Front Range gem to do additional exploration during 2015.