Colorado River – 8/14/10

Time: 11:30AM – 6:00PM

Location: Breeze Access

Fish Landed: 2

Colorado River 08/14.2010 Photo Album

I researched my fishing logs from 2008 and 2009 to see what sort of success I experienced on the Colorado River around the middle of August. I was encouraged to discover several outings with good BWO hatches and some PMD hatches late in the afternoon or in the evening. I checked with Dan, and he was available to fish on Saturday, so Jane and I planned a weekend camping trip that included a day of fishing on the Colorado for Dan and me. We packed the van with all our essential camping gear on Monday before the movers boxed up all our belongings. We suffered through a stressful week of false starts on closing for our new home, so we welcomed the getaway camping weekend.

9026 E 35th Avenue

Jane and I finally successfully closed on our new house on Friday, so we loaded a few remaining items and went to the supermarket to buy food for the weekend. We departed for the mountains and targeted a pair of campgrounds on Colorado 125 northwest of Granby, Sawmill Gulch and Denver Creek. We stopped in Winter Park at a deli and picked up sandwiches. When we arrived at Sawmill Gulch, we cruised the campground and found no openings, so we moved on north for another three miles to Denver Creek. Here we discovered most of the trees had died from the pine beetles and had been sawed down to prevent injury from blow downs. There was a circle of camp sites on the east side of the highway, and then another on the west side next to Willow Creek. We chose the Willow Creek side and set up the tent and ate our deli sandwiches. Dan arrived at around 8:30 after the sun had set and the temperature dove significantly.

Denver Creek Campsite

Dan decided to sleep under the stars on the camp pad that wasn’t being used. When we awoke on Saturday morning, it was cold with thick frost covering the picnic table, the stove, and Dan’s sleeping bag. Dan admitted he was quite chilly during the night and didn’t sleep that well.

Dan Slept Here Under the Stars


Saturday Morning Frost

We made some hot tea and waited for the sun to rise above the hill to the east. Fortunately we chose a site that didn’t contain many trees and the solar energy of the sun warmed things up quickly. After we’d eaten and cleaned up, we took a drive north on CO 125 to the top of Willow Creek Pass to explore for hiking trails that Jane could use while Dan and I fished. We returned to the campground and made lunches and took off for the Colorado River. By the time we drove to the Breeze access and geared up and walked to the river to begin fishing it was around 11:30AM. The sun was out and the sky was a brilliant shade of blue. I was concerned that the fishing would be slow, but hung my hopes on the reports of late afternoon hatches.

We initially hiked toward the pool with the strong center current, but when we got close and entered the river, there were two pairs of fishermen ahead of use. We reversed course and hiked back down the north side of the river. Of course the mosquitoes were fearsome, and we stopped to lather up with repellant. We walked down the path on the north bank to a point where we could cut to the nice riffle area at the head of the long pool. I tied on a yellow Letort hopper and a beadhead hares ear. I used a Letort hopper as well, but added a trailing beadhead pheasant tail. Dan worked the left side and I paralleled him from around thirty feet out in the center of the river.

Dan Readies for Cast on Colorado River

After advancing a few feet, Dan spotted a rise to his hopper and set the hook, but snapped off both flies. Maybe the day wouldn’t be so bad. I worked upstream with no success and eventually switched from the beadhead pheasant tail to a light gray size 16 deer hair caddis. Towards the top of the riffles, a trout sipped the caddis, but I also broke off the fly when I set the hook. We both exhausted the attractive riffle water so decided to wade to the south bank and stash our rods and eat lunch on a large wide rock to avoid the mosquito swarm.

Rods Stashed for Lunch

After lunch we crossed back to the north side and hiked down the path to the top of the island. We crossed to the point of the island then hiked down the north side to the bottom. We began working up the right channel facing upstream where Jeff Shafer landed a 20 inch rainbow a year ago. Dan saw two refusals, but I had no luck whatsoever. When we moved to the top of the south braid, we waded to the bottom section of the long pool along the south bank. Here I observed some subtle rises. By this time there were some scattered puffy white clouds in the sky, and when the sky ducked behind them, the wind would kick up. I had Dan try for the trout that had risen first. The rise showed a couple feet from the bank in shallow water no more than a foot or so deep. I tied a parachute black ant on behind Dan’s hopper. Dan placed some nice casts over the spot of the rise, but couldn’t coax a rise. While Dan was casting to this fish, I spotted another subtle rise higher up in the glassy smooth tail of the pool.

The Long Pool

I added a parachute ant to my hopper as well, and took my turn on the fish higher up. On the third drift, a decent 13 inch brown darted to the surface and sipped my ant. We moved on and again spotted a few subtle rises. Again Dan took first shot and cast from below. I suggested that Dan check his cast high so the flies would gently flutter down to the surface with less immediate drag. He did this in expert fashion, but still couldn’t draw a response. After ten casts or so, I tried for the same fish from the side, and the small brown darted up and grabbed my ant.  I can’t explain it other than the fact that I was casting from the side and the fish didn’t see any line; whereas, the line was in view when Dan cast from directly downstream.

Crescent Moon

We continued working our way up along the right bank a bit. I spotted a rise in front of me no more than eight feet away. Dan was to my right and below me another five feet or so and he popped a cast above the spot of the rise. I watched as a small brown darted to the surface and gobbled Dan’s hopper. Dan made a soft hook set; perhaps overreacting to snapping off flies at the beginning of the outing, and hooked the fish for a few seconds only to have the fish break free. We moved up along the bank some more, but didn’t spot any more rises. It was now around 5PM and the sky was once again devoid of clouds, and the air remained quite warm. Dan and I retreated to a log at the top of the island and sat down and observed the water for a half hour. By 5:45 nothing had changed and the sky continued to be cloudless, so we decided to return to the campground to prepare dinner. Perhaps there was some late activity before darkness, but we didn’t wait to find out. 

Colorado River – 07/29/2010


10:00AM – 3:30PM

Breeze Access near Parshall

7 Trout

Colorado River 07/28/2010 Photo Album

Olive Deer Hair Caddis


Yellow Sally


I had such great success on the Colorado River last year that I don’t want to miss any in 2010. For this reason, I elected to drive two hours to the Colorado at Parshall on Thursday. A week ago I had a reasonable day, but the main PMD hatch had not kicked in yet. My notes from the previous two years told me that it was the end of July when I hit the dense PMD hatches.

I arrived nice and early and was on the river by 10AM. There was only one other car in the parking lot at the Breeze access, but the mosquitoes were still present. I put my waders on to protect my legs, then lathered up with copious amounts of DEET. As I was gathering my fishing gear to take off for the river, I noticed a fly rod and reel lying on the ground at the edge of the parking lot near where I’d parked. It didn’t look broken and there wasn’t any identification, so I picked it up and placed it in the back of the van.

I headed straight to my go to place…the long pool with a deep main current nearly down the center. This time there were no other fishermen present. I had the whole area to myself. It remained partly cloudy, but sunnier than the areas I’d driven through such as Winter Park and Fraser. I tied on a yellow sally and light gray caddis (see photos above) and began prospecting the area roughly in the middle of the long pool where the run fanned out in a nice deep riffle. No fish were showing interest, and I didn’t see any surface activity whatsoever. I decided to rig up with an indicator and a pair of nymphs and go deep along the seam next to the strong main current. I snagged and ripped off the split shot and a pair of flies. I decided to persist and rigged up again, and this time caught a small brown 10-11 inches long. I continued fishing the entire left side of the current until I reached the top of the run, then returned to mid-pool and found a stump to sit on while I ate my lunch. I observed the water and began  to see some rises, and two fish showed themselves several times.

I finished my lunch and pulled the insect repellant from my backpack and lathered up once again. Could these rises be the beginning of a PMD hatch? I tied on the money fly, the light gray comparadun. After quite a bit of casting to multiple rises, a 13 inch brown sucked in the comparadun. After releasing the fish, I tried to interest the remaining sporadic risers in the comparadun, but they weren’t fooled. Perhaps fish were rising at the tail of the pool similar to the previous Thursday? I fought my way through the tall grass to the very tail of the pool and did notice a few very sporadic rises. I wasn’t seeing any PMD’s (I only saw a total of two), but did spot some yellow sallies and occasional caddis. I tied on the yellow sally/olive caddis double. I began more or less prospecting since the rises had long ceased, and on a cast directly upstream around 10-15 feet and 5 feet out from the bank, a trout slashed at my flies. I set the hook and a strong battle ensued. I eventually landed the brown and photographed. It was quite a net-filler and extended from the tip of the net to the beginning of the handle (see photo below).

Net Filler from Colorado on Thursday

Amazingly, both flies were in the large brown’s mouth. Did it take both flies or did one just work into its mouth during the battle? We’ll never know the answer to that. The brief hatch appeared to be over, and I didn’t want to go deep again, so I decided to cross the river slowly and carefully and walk up the right bank and search for telltale rises. I waded the very edge of the river on the right side to avoid going into the vegetation and create a mosquito swarm. Amazingly I didn’t spot any rises in the juicy right pool from the center current over to the bank. I waded the entire edge and prospected at a couple places without consequence.

When I arrived at the head of the run, I decided to continue working my way up the river prospecting the riffles in the same manner that I’d done a week ago with the yellow sally and caddis. Once again the skies were darkening, and after I’d fished out one section of angled riffles, I waded to the shore and put on my raincoat. I continued working my way and managed to land three additional browns prospecting in this manner. Two grabbed the yellow sally and one took the caddis. When I got to the spot where I’d quit and exited to the path and then the bridge a week ago, I decided to explore the water between me and the bridge. There always seemed to be fishermen there, so I guessed it was attractive water.

By now the wind was gusting and I could hear thunder but still distant. The attractive water appeared just below a small island where the wide shallow channel on my side merged with a swifter but narrower channel coming from the left. The two merged and created a nice little deeper slower area right in front of me. The skies opened and I pulled my hood up over my head and wore my western hat on top of the hood. It was effective but surely not fashionable. The rain pelted the river for three to five minutes, and I paused for part of the time. When the rain slowed to a steady shower, I noticed the swallows were working and skimming the water occasionally. I looked closely and several fish were working the water near me. One was a decent sized rainbow that cruised back and forth not more than eight feet above me occasionally sipping something. I couldn’t see any PMD’s or caddis on the water. What could they be eating? I stared at the water intently for several minutes and spotted a small mayfly spinner close to 16-18. It had a green body, not dark olive or light yellow/green, but green.

I looked in my fly boxes that contain some of the flies I tied for Pennsylvania and spotted the cornuta spinners. These were actually a bit too large and bit too dark green, but I didn’t have many options. I tied one on and began casting. It was very difficult to follow the fly in the dim light among rain dimples and some broken current. I think I had a couple looks from the rainbow but no take. But on one cast when I couldn’t find my fly, I went to lift and recast and felt weight and hooked a decent brown. I landed the 13” fish and removed the cornuta spinner from the upper lip.

I fished the spinner a bit longer, but as quickly as the spinner fall had commenced, it ended. The area that was alive with fish sipping spinners for fifteen minutes or so was now totally dead. The rain had now dwindled to drizzle, and I moved up closer to the junction of the currents. I went back to the yellow sally and caddis and prospected some attractive water for a bit, but found no action. I was now quite close to the bridge and feeling chilled, so I found the path and exited the river. The mosquitoes were swarming me as I crossed the bridge and hiked to the highway. I had to pause along the shoulder of route 40 and remove my backpack and apply more DEET.

I debated circling back through the lot and then heading back to the river again, but decided I was quite chilled and tired. I removed the rod I’d found when I got back to the car and discovered it was an Orvis four piece 6 weight. The section holding the reel was stuck to the first section part way apart. The reel was a Reddington reel and there was nice fly line in it. I decided to take it home and see if I could separate the sections using ice like I’d done with my old Sage once before.

As I drove back along the river on route 40, I looked down at the river and noticed a stream of brown water on the right side. Apparently it had stormed quite a bit somewhere and washed a bunch of sediment into the river. The decision to leave when I did was looking pretty good.

Colorado River – 7/22/10

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Kemp-Breeze and Breeze Access Areas

Fish Landed: 9

Colorado River 07/22/2010 Photo Album

I almost finished all the June closing work by Wednesday, July 21, with a couple hours of work remaining. I decided to take off on Thursday to make a longer fishing trip because I had to be back on Friday to pick Dan up at the airport from his trip to China. I wanted to try the Colorado again as I hoped the PMD hatch had begun, and I didn’t want to miss any of this hatch action. The forecast called for cloudiness in the afternoon with the threat of thunderstorms.

I got off to a nice early start and arrived at the first fisherman access west of Parshall and began fishing at around 10AM. There were a number of cars in the lot, but not full like occurs when the fishing is very hot. When I got to the stream by the handicapped platform I could see two separate fishermen positioned near where I hoped to fish. I walked down along the north bank and crossed below the island across from the platform. The mosquitoes were intense and swarmed around my arms and head in spite of a heavy dose of high percentage DEET. I fished up the smaller channel on the far side of the island with a yellow Letort hopper and beadhead hares ear and landed one small brown trout. When I got to the top of the island I crossed and fished the nice run and riffle opposite the platform. One of the fishermen was 30 yards above me, and I didn’t want to crowd him. I didn’t have any success so switched to a double nymph set up with a strike indicator. I tied on a beadhead hares ear and put a beadhead pheasant tail on the point. This didn’t produce any fish, so I crossed back over below the island again and hiked upstream along the bank to an area where I’d previously seen many fishermen. There was a wide riffle about 3-4 feet deep and I probed this water with the nymphs and again had no action. Next I walked back along the bank toward the parking lot and stopped opposite the second fisherman who was now working the far bank area. I didn’t want to get too close, so decided to break for lunch at around 11 and went back to the parking lot.

I felt constrained on where I could fish, so decided to drive to the second access, and see if there was more open water. There were a couple cars in the lot, and I walked out along the high bluff so I could look back up the river to the sweet spot where I had previous success. I didn’t see any fishermen there, so I returned to the car and ate my lunch. After lunch I hiked out along the ridge, then down the steep hill, then turned left and went up along the north side of the river to the targeted run and pool. When I entered the river at the tail of the pool and looked up, two fishermen were sitting on the bank. I’d spent all this time to get to the desired area, and now it was occupied. Meanwhile I spotted several rises at the lip of the pool. I looked closely and saw a few PMD’s floating on the surface, so I tied on a size 16 light gray comparadun, my go to fly for PMD hatches. On perhaps the third cast of the comparadun, a spunky 13 inch brown rose and sucked in the fly.

Colorado River Brown

I continued casting where I saw rises, but couldn’t entice anymore fish. The hatch only lasted 15 minutes at most. What should I do now? Would it be bad manners to cross to the opposite bank and fish across from the two fishermen who by now had returned to fishing the pool? I decided to cross and see how they reacted. I walked up along the far bank and went above them by 30 feet or so. I didn’t get a good feeling about fishing close to them, so I moved upstream beyond the long run and pool. Between the long run and pool there was a succession of three or four sections where the current tumbled over some rocks then flowed on an angle toward either bank. I removed the comparadun and tied on a size 14 yellow sally as I’d noticed quite a few dapping the water. I caught a small rainbow on the yellow sally. I was also noticing occasional caddis dapping the water, so I tied tippet on to the bend of the yellow sally and added a light gray caddis and fished a two dry fly setup.

Two Fishermen in My Pool
Blue Heron

I systematically worked my way through the next three stretches of riffle/runs prospecting with the two dry fly configuration and landed six nice brown trout mostly ranging between 13 and 15 inches. Four inhaled the yellow sally and two others attacked the caddis on the end. Most of the action occurred at the tail of the run or at the head of the run. It wasn’t total blind casting as I spotted occasional subtle rises, and when I did, I placed my flies in the vicinity of the rise, and was typically rewarded. I’d reached nine fish caught on the day and approached the bridge separating the first access area and the one I was currently in, so I exited and hiked across the bridge then back down route 40 to the parking lot. Some nasty clouds were brewing to the west, so I put on my raincoat and returned to the river, this time going right and reaching the long pool where I’d had so much success the previous summer. I prospected the riffles, the far bank, and the eddy around some rocks on the far side at the top of the pool, but had no success. The wind started gusting and sheets of rain burst from the sky, so I retreated to the bank and stood and watched the water as it was pelted. I did this for five minutes or so hoping to see some sort of hatch instigated by the overcast conditions, but nothing was changing, so I reeled up my flies and called it a day.

Colorado River – 7/15/10

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Kemp-Breeze, first leased access after Parshall

Fish Landed: 0

Colorado River 07/15/2010 Photo Album

After my poor results on Wednesday, I could not foresee enduring another slow day on the Eagle River, so I decided to cut my losses and drive to the Colorado River near Parshall. The downside to this strategy was that I would spend the morning driving, and once again be on the river during the afternoon. Thursday was once again forecast to be a hot dry clear July day. I had to wait for the dew to dry on my tent before packing it up, so I didn’t leave the campground until around 9:30AM. It was still a two hour drive to the Colorado as I had to go north to I70, then east to Silverthorne, then north to Kremmling, then east to Parshall.

When I arrived at the parking lot, there were quite a few cars there. I immediately applied DEET to ward off the insatiable mosquitoes and then ate my lunch at the picnic table in the center of the parking lot. After lunch I put on my waders and set up my rod and walked to the stream. There were some fishermen near the stretch I like, but enough space for me to enter at the lower end. I began fishing with the yellow Letort hopper trailing a beadhead hares ear. In short order I foul hooked a small brown that refused the hopper, but I set the hook and nailed it with the trailing nymph.

I moved across the river, but was not moving any fish. As I cast repeatedly, I noticed quite a few yellow sallies descending to the water, then taking off again. I decided to tie on a size 16 yellow sally fly, and had no luck with this fly. I caught a natural out of the air in front of me and examined it. It appeared to be larger than a size 16, so I tied on a size 14 2XL lime green trude. This was close in size, but perhaps too dark in color. This didn’t generate any interest, so I found a nice yellow sally imitation with a quill body that I’d tied from A.K. Best’s Flybox book. This was a great looking fly, but again it did not produce.

Colorado River Devoid of Fishermen

I was making all these fly changes as I crossed the river to the far side and worked my way up along the right bank covering the water from the deep mid-river run to the south bank. At one point after some strong gusts of wind, I noticed several trout rise, so I decided to fish a double dry fly with the lime green trude in front and a parachute ant on the end. Two trout swirled to the ant, but refused to take it.

I continued working the right side to the top of the sweet area. I did hook a fish that took off down the river toward the top of the nice area, but the fish got off as I tried to turn it and bring it back toward me. Toward late afternoon the sparse yellow sally action slowed down, and I’d reached the end of the area I desired to fish, and it didn’t appear that conditions were going to change, so I called it a day and headed back to Denver. I got skunked on the Colorado River in July.

Colorado River – 08/05/2008

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Breeze Unit at Parshall

Colorado River 08/05/2008 Photo Album

After a great day of fishing on Saturday and a great hatch, I was aching to return to the Colorado River, so I planned a return trip for Tuesday, August 5. I reached a good point at work to break away for a day. I left the house at 7:30 and arrived at the Kemp-Breeze parking lot at around 10AM. There were more cars in the lot than I expected for a mid-week day. I applied my insect repellent and dug some additional light olive-gray comparaduns and black ants out of my large fly storage box and placed them in my front pack.

Two gentlemen were preparing to fish while I was in the lot, and they headed out before me. I crossed my fingers that they would go downstream and leave the area I love open. When I reached the river, I was disappointed to see a group of fishermen one hundred yards upstream as well as two fishermen just above the stretch that I target. But there was space at the tail of the run that I favor, and I entered.

Competition for Space

Rising fish were absent, so I tied on the yellow Letort hopper and a beadhead pheasant tail and began prospecting the runs and the areas behind rocks. In short order I caught a 12 inch brown on the beadhead pheasant tail. The guy above me left his position and returned to shore to pee, and then he walked back to the group 100 yards upstream. Around 11AM I started seeing more rises, but I was not noticing any mayflies, rather lots of dapping caddis. I tied on a size 16 deer hair caddis and experienced a few refusals, so I asked why not go to the olive-gray comparadun and see if that was what the fish were looking for. I tied on one of the new ones I placed in my front pack, but it was a size larger than what I used Saturday. The fly was not working, so I switched it out for the bedraggled fly that yielded a bunch of fish on Saturday. This produced two nice browns, but the deer hair wing was sparse, and the fly continually fell on its side, and this made it difficult to see. I clipped it off and tied on a new size 16 comparadun, and this proved to be the ticket.

Meanwhile another fisherman split off from the upstream group, and he was methodically working downstream along the left bank, as I faced upstream. He was making downstream presentations and picking up a few fish. My path was now clear to cross to the far bank and fish upstream between the bank and the deeper run in the center of the river. I crossed over and fished my comparadun to rises, and I caught ten browns by 1PM, when the hatch subsided.

Fat One

When I reached the top of the run where there is a shallow riffle area, I returned back to near my starting point and noticed some sporadic rises. I tried the light olive-gray comparadun over these fish, but I experienced several refusals. I noticed some small BWO mayflies, so I tied on a CDC olive and caught a 13” brown on that fly. I also connected with two other trout for a bit, but they escaped before I could play and land them. One was particularly sweet. I spotted a fish rising in some fairly shallow water near the bank behind a small rock. On the third drift the trout, which appeared to be decent size, sipped my CDC olive, but I played it for only a few seconds before it turned and got off the hook.

It was now 1PM, and I decided to head back to the car and eat my lunch. I lathered up with more insect repellent after lunch, and then I returned to the same starting point. Some wind kicked up, and again I noticed fish dimpling the riffles after a gust. I tied on my black ant with a tuft of orange poly for visibility, and I caught two nice ant sippers.

Rare Rainbow

At this point the wind subsided, and not much was happening on the surface, although I continued to spot occasional small BWO’s in the air. I tied on a Chernobyl ant assuming that this would do double duty as an indicator and perhaps draw some rises given the wind and terrestrials in the water. I attached a light yellow beadhead caddis pupa to the bend of the Chernobyl, and then I tied a small beadhead RS2 below that. I began prospecting the water and catching fish on the small beadhead RS2. Apparently the fish were taking the RS2 for the BWO nymphs that were active all afternoon. At some point I switched the caddis out for a beadhead hares ear. During the remainder of the afternoon I caught five trout on the beadhead RS2 and one on the beadhead hares ear. The action was not as fast as during the hatch, but enough to keep me interested in anxious anticipation.

I waded to the small island below the point where the group of fishermen were present during the hatch. By now only a few anglers remained, and they were not in that area. The weather changed, and the wind began to gust, so I decided to call it a day and waded back down to my entry point. I stopped and observed a young fisherman fishing the far bank that produced for me during the hatch, and he landed a couple fish. I looked above him, and I spotted a few sporadic rises among the whitecaps created by the wind, so I decided to wade in and share in the fun of fishing ants. I removed the beadhead hares ear and RS2 and tied a black ant behind the Chernobyl. I made ten casts and eventually witnessed the subtle take of a nice brown and hooked up and landed my 21st trout. As I waded out of the river past the young fisherman, I asked if he was catching fish on black ants, and he said no, PMD emergers.

I caught 21 trout on an assortment of flies and only one of the fish was a rainbow.

Fish Landed: 21