Eagle River – 11/01/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards.

Eagle River 11/01/2017 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.

True to character I sought an opportunity to return to the Eagle River after a successful late season adventure on October 25, 2017. The weather forecast for Tuesday, November 1 indicated a high temperature in the low seventies in Denver, and this translated to a high in the upper fifties in Avon, CO near my intended destination. I loaded the car with my gear and contacted my friend Todd, who lives in Arrowhead, and I anxiously anticipated a late season foray into the Rocky Mountains. Todd agreed to meet me, although he had a commitment at ten o’clock and suggested that he would find me later.

As I completed some last minute preparations on Tuesday morning, Jane perused the Denver Post, and she announced that there was a high wind advisory on interstate 70. I quickly followed up on this unwelcome piece of news, and sure enough wind velocities of 19 MPH were forecast for Avon. I decided to roll the dice and persisted with my plans.

When I approached the long ascent west of Denver on interstate 70, I was greeted with digital signs announcing high wind restrictions on high profile vehicles, and quite a few tractors and trailers were lined up at the Morrison exit as well as the Hidden Valley exit before Idaho Springs. When I reached Georgetown, I scanned ahead, and I was alerted by flashing police lights. Just prior to the exit ramp to Georgetown a large tractor/trailer rig was situated on its side, as it was apparently the unfortunate victim of high winds, and this unfortunate scene served as a warning to the other impatient high profile vehicles in the area.

I pressed on and arrived at my destination just before 10AM, and I borrowed a page from Todd and rigged two rods for my quest for Eagle River trout. During our visit the previous week we stayed in a relatively tight area, so I was reassured that it would not be a hindrance to carry two rods; and I liked the flexibility of being able to quickly switch from a nymph approach to dry flies, should a hatch develop similar to the previous Wednesday.

The temperature in Avon at 10AM was in the middle forties, and the wind made its presence felt with periodic strong gusts, and consequently I bundled up with a layer of fleece and an outer coat of light down. I tugged my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps on my head and wore two layers of long underwear and socks under my waders. To guard against frozen toes, I added toe warmers to my ensemble.

My Sage One five weight was rigged with the deep nymphing system that Taylor Edrington taught me. A short section of 0X ran from the fly line loop to a Thingamabobber, and a five foot section of level 5X was knotted to the indicator as well. The terminal end of the 5X featured a split shot, ultra zug bug, and RS2, and I began chucking this assemblage into the deep run at the upper section of a long attractive pool. I spent an hour from 11AM until noon prospecting the upper and middle section of the area, which I knew contained plenty of trout, but none were interested in my flies. My hands grew chilled from the cold temperatures and the wind, so I decided to pause for lunch and found a large boulder near the midsection and downed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

Just as I finished my snack, Todd appeared on the path, and he immediately jumped into the upper section with his nymph rod. I lingered a bit longer to bask in the sun and eliminate my chill, and then I decided to explore a wide riffle just below the jumble of angled rocks that formed the downstream border of the pool. I switched my flies to a copper john and RS2, and I began lobbing casts to the three foot deep area above me. I covered the section with ten casts, and then before departing, I shot a cast to the deep portion just under the rocks near the right bank. The indicator drifted five feet, and I raised the rod to pick up the line, when I felt significant weight. I reacted with an immediate hook set, and a bullet shot across the riffles toward the center of the river and then streaked downstream.

After some stiff resistance I was able to guide a fifteen inch rainbow trout with a copper john in its lip into my net. Imagine my excitement and surprise after over an hour of futile casting with the nymph set up! After I released the rainbow, I lobbed another cast to the same area, and I was very surprised, when I once again connected with a throbbing resistance. In this instance, however, the stream resident was able to free itself from my hook and escape.

Bursting with new optimism I circled around Todd and moved to some deep pockets above the pool he occupied. I covered the area thoroughly and managed to foul hook a small rainbow, before I returned. I asked Todd for a report, and he offered that he landed thirteen and nine inch rainbows, and he observed some rising fish in the slack water next to the bank across from his position.

I decided to warm up a bit, and then I grabbed my Sage four weight and waded to a position at the bottom of the pool. As I looked on, I witnessed several rises in water with a slight swirling surface. My line featured a size 24 CDC olive, so I began to cast it upstream to the area of activity, but these efforts were ignored. The wind continued to blast, but fortunately it was blowing from the west and provided a tailwind to my casts. I swapped the tiny olive for a size 18 black parachute ant, and I spent twenty minutes drifting the terrestrial through the scene of rising fish, but except for one heart stopping swirling refusal, the ant was unproductive.

The rising activity seemed to come in waves probably related to the emergence of tiny mayflies. During the next pause in feeding activity, I waded back to the shore and warmed my feet and body. When I returned, I reverted to a larger CDC BWO, and after a heavy dose of futile casting, I managed to tempt a twelve inch brown trout to attack my fly, as I gave it a short strip before lifting to make another cast. As was the case on Thursday, October 26 on the Frying Pan River, the trout seemed to be feeding on subsurface emergers, and they were not focused on drifting adults.

I pondered this theory and decided to try a different approach. I knotted a juju baetis to my line, and below that I added a Craven soft hackle emerger. I executed across and downstream drifts, swings and strips in the manner of accomplished wet fly experts, but my efforts were once again thwarted by the Eagle River residents. I never felt a tug nor witnessed a bulge to my unweighted flies, as they knifed through the water just below the surface.

Again I returned to the bank and pondered my options. Todd enjoyed one hook up with a beetle, so I copied his tactic and tied a Jake’s gulp beetle size 12 to my line, and then I supplemented it with a Craven soft hackle emerger on an eighteen inch dropper. I dabbed some floatant on the body of the emerger, and as a test I flicked the two flies into a slow moving section across from where I was standing, and an eleven inch rainbow darted to the surface and confidently inhaled the trailing fly. Perhaps I was on to something. I returned to my position at the tail of the pool and once again began making medium range upstream presentations to the cluster of feeding fish. It required a significant number of unproductive drifts, but eventually I induced a fourteen inch rainbow to snatch the trailing emerger, and the fish count mounted to four.

Two takes on the emerger elevated my hopes, but another thirty minutes of fruitless casting cured me of optimism, and I shuffled back to the bank. Todd by now surrendered to the wind and picky fish, and I joined him, as we grabbed our two rods and hiked back to our cars. I overcame tough conditions on Tuesday to land four trout including two very nice rainbows of fifteen and fourteen inches. The Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film accounted for half the fish, and I vowed to tie some size 22’s before next season to test during a blue winged olive emergence during windy conditions.

Fish Landed: 4

Eagle River – 10/25/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Edwards and Avon

Eagle River 10/25/2017 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.

Jane’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law graciously offered us use of their time share unit in the Timbers Resort at Bachelor Gulch for the week of October 21 through October 28. As expected we jumped at the opportunity to stay at this luxury resort next to the Ritz Carlton near Beaver Creek Ski Area. Early in the week Jane and I participated in hiking and cycling activities with our friends the Maddox’s, and on Tuesday I earned spouse points by hiking the Game Creek Trail with Jane. Actually the trek was very enjoyable, and we reached the western end of the Eagle’s Nest Ridge, where we could see Game Creek Bowl and the start of the Minturn Mile ski trail.

Wednesday was my first of two allotted days for fly fishing, and fortunately the weather cooperated with the best conditions of the week. The high temperature in Avon was in the seventies, and I was quite pleased with this circumstance. Knowing that a day of fishing was on my schedule, I contacted my fishing friend Todd, who lives in Arrowhead, and he agreed to join me. We arranged to meet at the Fly Fishing Outfitters shop near Avon at 10AM, and the rendezvous occurred without a hitch.

Todd led the way, and I followed, and we both drove a short distance and parked and prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature hovered around 45 degrees, and we added a few layers; but Todd suggested a relatively early start, as the area was very popular with guides and their clients. I assembled my Sage four weight, and Todd waited patiently, since his rods remained perpetually strung due to the proximity of his house to the river. We followed a path for a short distance, and this brought us to the destination that Todd chose for our day of fishing. Since Todd was already rigged with his nymph rod, he moved into the upper one-third of a nice long riffle, run and pool section of the river. I meanwhile extended my leader and then tied a size 14 tan stimulator to my line and added a size 20 RS2 and a zebra midge on a three foot dropper. I waded into the shallow shelf pool at the tail and began to sling probing casts to the slow moving bubble line.

I continued this approach for thirty minutes with no action, but I did observe three rises spaced over the half hour time period, and this provided proof of the presence of fish in the area. I switched to a Jake’s gulp beetle with the hope that the stream residents were open to a terrestrial, but this approach was equally ineffective. Todd meanwhile connected with two or three decent fish while drifting his nymphs through the faster upper riffle segment of the quality pool. I took a break to warm my feet, and then I copied Todd’s lead and rigged with a deep nymph set up. The initial offerings were a beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug, and after a reasonable trial period, I switched the ultra zug bug for a RS2. None of these changes created success, so I circled around Todd to some pocket water above the pool, and eventually I sampled a similar faster section below the lip at the bottom. In a wide but moderate depth pocket above Todd I spotted a trout, and it moved to look at my nymphs, but that was the only evidence of fish during the hour before lunch.

When I returned to the main pool, it was noon, so I decided to warm my feet. I sat on a large boulder next to the river in the warmth of the sun and casually downed my lunch. Todd joined me, and after we finished eating, we chatted for another fifteen minutes, while we observed the water in front of us, and I allowed my frozen toes to thaw. While we scanned the pool, several fish began to rise between the middle and tail sections in slow water next to the far bank.

Eventually I felt warm enough to resume my pursuit of Eagle River trout, and I removed my nymph paraphenalia and tied a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast to rising fish in the bottom one-third of the pool. During the first two afternoon hours I executed across stream casts and presented the small dry fly in a downstream approach. This method yielded a twelve inch brown trout and two hot rainbows, with the third trout measuring sixteen inches. Todd was quite pleased with my ability to fool the finicky feeders that thwarted his efforts, so he invited me to target a pod of risers near the top of the run in some slow water between two exposed rocks.

This area was shrouded in shadows, and I could not follow my tiny tuft of CDC in the dim light. I offered Todd one of my CDC olives, and he accepted, and then I returned to the bottom area of the pool once again. Another thirteen inch rainbow trout fell for the CDC BWO, and then after a lull in action and numerous ignored drifts, I waded to the very bottom of the pool just above the angled jumble of rocks, where the river spilled into a shallow riffle. A few fish were feeding at the extreme tail, and I desired a change in casting angles.

For the first time all day I began casting upstream, and in doing so I added three more trout to my count to reach seven. One of the landed fish was another twelve inch brown, and two were feisty rainbows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. Needless to say I was having a blast on October 25!

By 3:30 the number of rising fish in the lower third of the pool diminished, so I moved to the area between the exposed rocks for a second go round. The sun was now behind me, and this provided improved lighting compared to my first visit in the early afternoon. I made ten casts to the middle and lower portion of the twenty foot area, but I could not convert the rises to strikes. Next I waded above the bottom boulder and fired some longer casts to the scene of regular rises next to and slightly below the top boulder. On the fifth drift a thirteen inch rainbow with vivid colors bulged to the surface and inhaled the CDC olive. This transpired while Todd looked on, and he was sold on the effectiveness of the CDC blue winged olive fly. What a day!

I landed eight gorgeous trout on October 25 on the Eagle River. The weather blossomed into a beautiful fall day after a very chilly morning, and I fished to rising fish from 12:30, until I quit at four o’clock. Best of all, the fish count included two twelve inch browns and six rainbows in excess of thirteen inches with the largest stretching to sixteen. Todd enjoyed a similar outing, and it was great fun to have a dedicated fishing companion. October 25 far exceeded my expectations for a late season fishing adventure.

Fish Landed: 8

 

 

Eagle River – 07/24/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Edwards Rest Area

Eagle River 07/24/2017 Photo Album

Our friends from South Carolina planned a visit to Colorado for the week of July 24, and the visit included a stay at our house on Friday night, July 28, prior to an early flight on Saturday morning. Jane and I, however, hoped to spend additional time with them, so we organized a brief camping trip to the area near Avon, CO; the site of their condo unit for the week.

Of course I took advantage of this serendipitous arrangement to schedule some fishing time. The obvious destination near Avon, CO was the Eagle River, so I anxiously checked the DWR water graphs to determine the state of the local trout river. I was pleased to learn that the flows in Avon were in the 380 CFS range, and levels downstream of Wolcott only recently fell below 600 CFS. Based on my prior years experience, I knew that these levels supported decent fishing and were ahead of the usual summer doldrums when hatches end, and the water warms above the ideal feeding range.

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The Eagle River Was Still Churning

Based on this analysis I decided to fish the Eagle River on Monday, July 24. I packed the car with fishing gear and some of the camping supplies in anticipation of fishing during the day and then meeting Jane at the Edwards Rest Area. We then hoped to drive to Hornsilver or Camp Hale Campgrounds to secure a campsite for two nights. Did Monday go as planned, and was my prediction of decent fishing on the Eagle River accurate?

The brief answer is yes, the fishing was decent for the Eagle River in late July. I landed fifteen fish, and most measured in the twelve to thirteen inch size range. The high temperature was in the upper eighties with bright sun most of my time on the water. Fifteen average size fish in these relatively adverse weather conditions was quite acceptable. As mentioned earlier, the flows were in the 380 CFS range, and this created manageable wading but also kept the fish in a happy and hungry state of mind. I observed a smattering of insects during the noon to 3PM time period. The species included primarily small blue winged olives, caddis, and five or six pale morning duns; and the availability of these food sources accounted for two rises during my entire day on the river.

Given the lack of surface activity, I deployed a dry/dropper set up for all but the last fifteen minutes, when I searched two nice pockets with a size 14 yellow stimulator. This was purely a hunch that golden stoneflies lingered, and perhaps the trout would opportunistically pounce on a large stonefly nugget. Unfortunately the brief trial did not produce any results.

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Juicy Spot Above the Bridge

I began my day using my Sage four weight, and I tied a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a beadhead hares ear and a salvation nymph. This lineup produced quite well on the Poudre on Friday, so why not give it a try on the Eagle River? The universal fish attractor, the hares ear nymph, fulfilled its role and delivered an eleven inch brown trout and a twelve inch rainbow to my net before noon. Along the northern edge of the river between the Edwards Bridge and the rest area I added three additional brown trout in the ten to twelve inch range. I jettisoned the salvation nymph and replaced it with an ultra zug bug, and I repositioned the flies so that the hares ear was the bottom fly. The zug bug accounted for one of the three fish extracted above the bridge, and the hares ear fooled the other two.

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Very Dark Olive Color

Unlike previous years I was able to wade along the high bank above the bridge, and when I moved above the small tributary creek that entered from the north at the rest area, I found myself above the fast chute where the river narrows. Here the river spread out nicely, and this enabled me to fish some deep pockets between the bank and the middle of the river. Reaching these juicy areas during higher flows is impossible. I remained locked on five fish for quite awhile, and I began to dread another tough outing attributable to heat and bright sun similar to the Colorado River on July 17 and 18.

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A Star Behind the Eye of This Brown Trout

The segment of water just above the main path from the rest area is usually low and unproductive, but on Monday I found a nice deep run along the north bank, and this produced two of the best brown trout on the day. They were both in the thirteen inch range, and they displayed a deep buttery gold body color. Surprisingly I also enjoyed some action from the relatively shallow riffles in the same area.

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Marvelous

When I encountered the long deep pool across from the steep dirt bank below some condominiums, I made a few perfunctory casts with no luck, and then I migrated to the pocket water below the pedestrian bridge. This short segment has historically been one of my favorites, and it did not disappoint on Monday. The boulder field and pocket water delivered five trout including a gorgeous cutthroat trout; a rarity for me on the Eagle River. Near the end of this section the ultra zug bug began to unravel, and I replaced it with an emerald caddis pupa. Earlier one of the flies impaled a cased caddis, and when I extracted the hook point, I discovered an emerald green caddis worm. This chance observation spurred me to test the emerald caddis pupa, and the pupa allowed me to land one of the five pocket water trout.

On Monday the ultra zug bug accounted for three fish, the emerald caddis pupa tallied one, and the hares ear delivered eleven. I covered a huge amount of water in the rest area vicinity, and I executed numerous casts, and it paid off with fifteen trout of moderate size on a hot sunny day. It was a solid day of fishing, and I met Jane at the agreed upon time, and we then continued our journey beyond Minturn and selected campsite number four at Hornsilver. A new adventure was in store for us on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 15

Eagle River – 07/05/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle CO.

Eagle River 07/05/2017 Photo Album

Three common vexing fly fishing problems are: the line to leader connection gets stuck in the last rod guide necessitating the awkward practice of grabbing the fly rod in the middle in order to pull directly on the fly line, flies get embedded in one’s sungloves, and lids on dry shake canisters come loose resulting in the powdery substance disbursing all over one’s front pack. Thursday was one of those days. All three occurred, but the dry shake dump was the most irritating. I will highlight this more later.

Needless to say I was very anxious to return to the Eagle River after my splendid outing on Monday July 3. The flows dropped by 200 cfs to the 1050 range, and I suspected that the fish would remain in their bank lies to avoid the surging volume in the middle of the river. Packing my gear for a fishing trip was a breeze compared to loading the car for a camping/fishing/bicycling trip, such as the one we completed the previous week to the Steamboat Springs area.

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Lower Flows Reveal More Slow Water Along the Left Bank

I managed to depart Denver by 7:45, and light traffic placed me at the access point to a public section of the Eagle River by 10:00. One might assume that many of the fishermen who cluttered the pullouts along the river on Monday would be back at their place of work on Wednesday, but that supposition might be questionable. Nearly every spot along US 6 contained a vehicle of some sort, and fishing appeared to be the chosen activity of these outdoor enthusiasts. I parked near the same place that attracted me on Monday, and in fact after I assembled my Sage One five weight and stashed my lunch, I entered the public area at the same location and began fishing at the same spot.

I began my quest with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and beadhead hares ear. If this sounds familiar, it is the exact same lineup that served me so well on Monday. I began fishing at the tail of the long shelf pool that yielded a supercharged rainbow on July 3, and on the seventh cast toward the midsection the fat Albert darted sideways causing me to set the hook. I was instantly connected to a gallant fighter, and it displayed its displeasure of having a pointy object in its mouth by streaking into the fast current. I allowed line to spin from my reel at an alarming rate, and then a football sized rainbow trout launched from the river and crashed back in some frothy waves. I was essentially a spectator to these histrionics, as there was no stopping the freight train. The performance was fun while it lasted, but then the missile made a quick pause and acceleration and ended the affair. I reeled up my line and discovered that the beadhead hares ear was missing in action. What a shame.

I paused to arm my line with another hares ear, and as I was doing so, I heard the sound of something moving through the willows to my left. I gazed toward the dense cluster of whippy trees, and another fisherman appeared. He asked if I was going downstream, and I shook my head in the negative and pointed upstream. He muttered that he would move a good distance above me, and I resumed fishing. It was obvious that this gentleman had entered the area at an unofficial entry point, but I decided not to inform him of this, although I was annoyed that I followed the rules and spent thirty minutes fighting through some adverse conditions, while he jumped the fence and walked directly to my starting spot. I was more upset that he interrupted my karma, and he undoubtedly would disturb some prime bank side runs and pockets that yielded nice fish on Monday.

I continued on my way and picked up three very small trout until I finally hooked and landed a thirteen inch brown on the hares ear. After thirty minutes I spotted the other fisherman actively engaged in casting, so I exited and circled around him. I intentionally walked quite a distance away from the bank, so he would not see me, and I cut back at the point where the river split around a small island. A clump of willows downstream blocked any view he would have of me. This maneuver cost me a significant amount of quality water, but I did not want any additional interaction.

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Nice Brown in Early Afternoon Action

At the top of the smaller left braid I cast the dry/dropper system to the deepest part of the relatively shallow flow. I did not expect much from this half-hearted plop, but suddenly the top fly paused, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a fourteen inch brown trout. This surprising turn of events was quite welcome, and I celebrated after releasing the feisty catch with a brief lunch break.

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Top View of a Yellow Sally

As was the case on Monday, the air was filled with an explosion of yellow sallies after lunch. Most of the stoneflies were small and approximated a size 16 fly; however, some size 12 and 14 adults were in the mix. The stoneflies were the predominant insect in the air, but I also observed some small blue winged olives and pale morning duns. I adhered to my strategy of July 3 and continued to fish with the yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and beadhead hares ear. The iron sally and hares ear were aggressively attacked two days ago, but the fish nearly ignored my offering on Wednesday. I landed one small rainbow trout just over six inches to push the fish count to six, and then I endured a long dry spell that involved repeated casts with unproductive drifts over numerous very attractive deep runs, riffles and pockets. Stoneflies, caddis and mayflies were everywhere; yet no fish were rising, and the hares ear and iron sally were blatantly ignored.

I cycled through a pheasant tail and salvation in case the trout preferences shifted to the nymph state of the pale morning duns, but these were also ineffective. A go2 caddis pupa and bright green sparkle pupa also failed to end the drought. The dry/dropper method was simply not getting the job done, so I removed the trio of flies and experimented with a single yellow stimulator, and I also tested a light gray comparadun. These seemed more futile than the dry/dropper approach, since surface feeding was a non-event. I remained mystified that such a dense source of food did not encourage binge feeding by the Eagle River trout. My only explanation is that the trout were locked into a phase of the insect life cycle that my flies failed to imitate.

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Chunky Brown Was a Late Afternoon Surprise

By three o’clock I resigned myself to a six fish day that included four trout barely over six inches and two medium sized brown trout. The flow conditions were prime, and insect activity was impressive, yet I experienced a mediocre outing. For some reason I decided to convert back to the dry/dropper approach; however, this time I chose a size 8 Chernobyl ant as my top fly, but I resurrected the iron sally and hares ear. The main hatch was now history, but a few stragglers made infrequent appearances over the water. Sometimes persistence is rewarded, and on Wednesday this was definitely the case for me. The section that I finished the day on was wider and thus offered more wide riffles and runs over moderate depth. I executed solid drag free drifts over these stretches, and suddenly brown trout and rainbow trout demonstrated interest in my flies.

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Scarlet Striped Rainbow

In the next hour I landed one gorgeous fifteen inch brown trout, and three rainbow trout in the 13 – 14 inch range. All four grabbed the hare ear. The only difference between the late afternoon and early afternoon fishing was the time of day, fewer hatching insects, wider gentler structure, and a Chernobyl ant lead fly rather than a fat Albert. The late afternoon success salvaged an otherwise lackluster outing.

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Just Gorgeous

At 4PM I approached a very nice wide riffle, run and pool area. Some large clouds slid in front of the sun and dimmed the lighting, and this prompted caddis of varying sizes to begin dapping and dancing above the riffles. The active adult caddis in turn encouraged surface feeding among the residents of the large attractive area in front of me. I removed the dry/dropper configuration and tied a size 16 light gray caddis to my line. I was confident that this fly would appeal to the slashing eaters, but instead four trout surfaced and put their nose against my fly before diving back to their holding lie. How could this be? I waited all day for surface action, and now my fly was rejected. I searched in my fly box and cycled through an olive size 16 caddis, an olive muggly caddis, and a size 14 gray stimulator. The muggly caddis generated some looks, but the others were ignored.

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Nearing My Exit Point

I decided to look for a size 18 caddis, since refusals generally suggest downsizing. I remembered tying light gray size 18’s during the winter, but I could not find any in my MFC fly box. I cursed the fact that they were in my boat box in the car and not available at this critical time. Eventually I stumbled on a tiny CDC puff of a caddis dry fly with a light cream body. I gambled that size mattered most and tied this to my line. Amazingly on a drift along the current seam, a rainbow trout surfaced and inhaled my fake. The fish was clearly in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and I battled it for a minute, until it slipped off the hook. I finally managed to dupe one of the selective feeders, but it never put a sag in my net.

The most active feeders at the bottom of the run ceased to rise, so I shifted my gaze to another wider riffle area on the opposite side of the strong run that sliced the section in half. Rises were not as frequent in this area, but I did spot a few. I decided to move above the main center current, and this allowed me to execute some downstream drifts to the new target area. Remember the capsized dry shake canister? I reached in my front pack for the dry shake, and I discovered it was upside down and wedged on the bottom. I attempted to wrap my fingers around the bottom to prevent a release, but the safeguard did not matter. I guessed that the contents had already dumped. I attempted to dip the CDC caddis in the powder on the bottom of the front pack, but this was largely ineffective. Drying out CDC is difficult under normal circumstances, but it was nearly impossible in this scenario.

I decided to ad lib, and I once again tied on the sparse size 16 light gray caddis that I began fishing with upon seeing the rises in the riffle. Unlike earlier, however, I cast across and down, and this new approach achieved success. I landed a twelve inch brown trout and a similar sized rainbow. Both slashed at and grabbed the dry fly as it twitched slightly near the end of the drift. Perhaps motion was the missing ingredient to fooling the trout in the lower half. I will never know because I decided to call it quits at four o’clock.

I landed twelve trout on Wednesday, and six landed in my net during the late afternoon portion of my day. Normally my most productive period is between 11AM and 3PM, but on this day the timing was reversed. The July 5 fishing outing transformed from mediocre to better than average, and my net felt the weight of a fifteen inch brown and several muscular hard fighting rainbows. I anticipate that the Eagle River will continue to be in prime fishing condition for two more weeks. Hopefully I can schedule another day or two on the beautiful freestone tributary to the Colorado River.

Fish Landed: 12

 

Eagle River – 07/03/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 07/03/2017 Photo Album

Superb is the word that enters my mind, as I reflect on my day on the Eagle River on Monday July 3. How did it compare to June 22 on the Yampa? Read on to find out.

After four excellent visits to the Yampa River, I was itching for a different river experience. I kept my eyes glued to the stream flow data and singled out the Eagle River and Arkansas River as potential near term trips. Both are freestone rivers, and historically I enjoyed great days during receding snow melt conditions. On the July 1 – 2 weekend I checked all the Colorado flows, and I noted that the Eagle River was at the upper range of the window that I desire with flows below Wolcott in the 1250 cfs range. Originally I planned to make the trip to the lower Eagle on Wednesday, but seeing this information caused me to adjust.

Monday was not a holiday per se, but it did occur in the middle of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, so I was certain this timing would generate swarms of anglers. I was correct. I reached Wolcott, CO by 10:15 on Monday morning, and as I drove along the river on US 6 nearly every pullout that allowed access to public water contained two or three vehicles. When I reached my target access point, one SUV occupied a space facing west, so I executed a U-turn and pulled into a narrow gravel area facing east toward Wolcott.

The sky was quite overcast, and it felt as if a small storm was imminent, so I hustled and assembled my Sage One five weight and prepared all my associated fishing gear. Once again I was hopeful for some larger than normal fish thus the five weight rod. Just as I was ready to depart some light rain began to fall, and this prompted me to undo my suspenders and pull on my raincoat. I also stashed my lunch in my backpack, as I planned to make a full day of it. Returning to the car for lunch would subtract too much fishing time given the distance I planned to walk.

After a 30 minute hike with a couple challenging obstacles along the way, I arrived next to the Eagle River to begin my day of fishing. The sun returned to its normal spot, and the light rain and clouds moved on to the east. I overheated during my hike, so I removed my raincoat and jammed it in my backpack underneath my lunch. I surveyed the river, and as expected it was churning at high velocity. Clarity however was excellent, and these were the exact conditions I was seeking. Now it was time to determine whether the fish were hungry and aggressive.

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Shelf Pool at the Start

 

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Pool Toy Hopper Fooled Number One

I began with a tan pool toy, beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and a salvation nymph. The fly shop reports advertised afternoon hatches of yellow sallies, caddis and pale morning duns; therefore, the caddis pupa and salvation covered two of the main anticipated food sources. The starting point featured a nice wide shelf pool, where the river widened before it rushed over some rocks into a narrow chute. The shelf pool was fifteen yards long and began as a narrow five foot wide run that fanned out into a slower moving fifteen foot wide pool at the downstream border. I began making drifts along the current seam and then worked casts back toward the shoreline. My eager anticipation was not rewarded, until I moved to the midsection. I shot a cast to the narrow top area, and as the pool toy bobbed through some riffles, it sank, and I set the hook. I half expected a snag, or the foam fly to be waterlogged, but fortunately I was totally mistaken. A large torpedo reacted to the hook set, and it charged toward the faster current. I let it expend energy, and line peeled from my reel, until it applied the brakes and turned. I quickly gained line and put it back on my reel, and after a few more spirited sprints I guided a husky seventeen inch rainbow into my net. I may have shouted an exclamation of joy. What a start to my Monday on the Eagle River. Surprisingly the pool toy was solidly wedged in the corner of the big boy’s mouth.

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Large Gap in My Grip

I was still shaking from the previous tussle, as I moved uptream along the bank and prospected any area with depth and slower current. After a short time I lifted the flies and felt some weight, and this resulted in a twelve inch brown trout. After this success, however, thirty minutes elapsed with no further action, and this prompted me to make some changes. I observed several instances where a fish elevated and looked at the pool toy, and this situation bothered me because attention was diverted from the nymphs. I removed the pool toy and replaced it with a size 8 yellow fat Albert. This fly would easily support two beadhead droppers, and I hoped it would not attract attention, unless the look translated to a take. In this case the droppers were an iron sally and a beadhead hares ear nymph.

As noon approached I drifted the trio of flies in a nice wide run that was four to five feet deep, and toward the tail the fat Albert paused, and I set the hook. Once again pandemonium broke loose as another pink striped missile streaked toward the fast water and then launched into the air. I simply allowed line to peel from the reel until the combative fish calmed down, and eventually after several additional outbursts I had another huge sag in my net. I paused and photographed my prize and rejoiced at my good fortune, and then I resumed my migration. Three fish in 1.25 hours is not an exceptional catch rate, but two of the catches were muscular rainbow trout in the 15 – 18 inch range. I covered a few more marginal runs along the edge, and then I approached a place where some flat rocks and grass invited me to settle down for lunch.

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What a Beauty

I quickly consumed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt, while I observed the water in front of me. Much to my amazement the river suddenly came alive. Caddis left their stream side perches on the willows and began to dap the surface. Occasionally a small blue winged olive mayfly fluttered up from the edge, but the star attraction was the vast number of yellow sallies. Unlike their large lumbering cousins, these small stoneflies actually flew very smoothly, and they were everywhere.

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Around the Boulders Looks Attractive

I reattached my frontpack and backpack to my body along with my wading staff, and grabbed my fly rod and resumed my pursuit of Eagle River trout. The early afternoon was simply a spectacular experience. Despite the blizzard of yellow stoneflies that coasted up from the surface of the river, I spotted very few rises. I surmised that I was properly armed with the iron sally and hares ear nymph for the underwater imitation of stonefly nymphs, and I was correct. Between 12:30 and 3:00 I moved the fish count from three to fourteen. Three of these fish were quite small fish that latched on to the trailing hares ear, but two matched the earlier rainbows for size, energy and fighting ability. A couple brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range rested in my net as well, and the remainder were feisty medium size rainbows.

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Best Brown of the Day

If I found water with good depth and slow to moderate current, I generally hooked a fish or two. This period also included a couple foul hooked rockets, and trying to leverage a large fish across the surface with a fly embedded in its fin or side is a very tiring experience. Of course I also suffered several requisite long distance releases, but only one of these resulted in the loss of a fly. All the significant netted fish featured the iron sally in their mouths, while the hares ear seemed to attract the dinks. Off and on the sun blocked large clouds, and it seemed that when full sunlight returned, it prompted the stoneflies to resume their emergence. This cycle resulted in three or four waves of thick stonefly clouds. I experienced many summer days when yellow sallies popped off the surface, but I never witnessed a scene such as this, where they overshadowed the caddis and mayflies.

By 3PM I began to see a handful of pale morning duns, and I reached a place where a shelf pool existed just below a large branch that protruded over the river for five feet. I lofted some casts just below the branch, and as I followed the drift of the fat Albert, I noticed a subtle rise five feet below the branch. I tried lifting my flies in that location in the hope that the rising fish might grab one of the nymphs as if it were an emerger. The ploy did not work. I was fairly certain that the fish before me reacted to a pale morning dun, so I snipped off the three flies and tied a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line. I checked my cast high so that the PMD fluttered down, and just as the small comparadun reached the location of the previous rise, a mouth elevated and engulfed the imitation. When I saw the rise originally, I assumed it was a medium sized fish, but the streaking fish now attached to my line suggested otherwise. The annoyed trout shot to the faster water, and just as it seemed to decelerate, I attempted to gain some line, and at that moment it turned its head, and the cinnamon fraud released and catapulted into a bush on the bank. The whole scene was so visual, that I was not overly upset with the loss.

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Long and Colorful

I moved on and reached a point where the river spread out into a very wide section. On the left side in front of me, however, there was a large wide riffle that angled toward the middle of the river, and then it merged with the main current that was flowing from the right. Surely this water would reveal some rising fish? It did, but the rise I noticed appeared to be a small fish. I tried some prospecting casts in what I perceived to be the gut of the run, but the comparadun was ignored. Eventually I returned my attention to the spot where a fish continued to rise, and after six casts it elevated and sucked in my dun pattern. In this case my instincts were correct, and I netted a ten inch rainbow trout.

The next section was a wide relatively slow moving area with depth of no more than three feet. I paused and noticed several tiny sipping rises, so I positioned myself at the tail and shot some long casts to the deeper trough areas. One fish looked at my fly and returned to its position, but that was the extent of the action. I fully expected this area to reveal more larger fish, but the density of the pale morning dun hatch did not seem to spur the Eagle River trout to spread out in shallow lies. As the river drops and the hatch intensifies, the occupation of shallow exposed areas may evolve. Just beyond the top of the wide shallow pool, I tossed a cast into the middle of a marginal pocket and picked up a ten inch brown. This brought the fish count to sixteen, and I was quite pleased with my edge fishing venture.

I was reluctant to convert back to the dry/dropper configuration so close to when I planned to quit, so I decided to cover a lot of water, and look for slow sections, where I could spot rises and cast the small comparadun. Unfortunately I did not encounter any, but I did find a nice wide deep run similar to productive stretches from the early afternoon. With the abundant supply of yellow sallies, could the trout opportunistically pounce on a yellow stimulator? I decided to give it a try. I replaced the comparadun with a size 12 light yellow stimulator, and I began to cast it to the appealing run above me. On the fifth drift a mouth appeared, and it crushed the attractor dry fly. My jaw dropped, but that did not prevent me from setting the hook, and another series of streaks and dives and jumps and turns ensued, but the stimulator and fisherman did their job, and a deeply colored solid muscular rainbow slid into my net. What a way to end my day on the Eagle River!

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Ate the Yellow Stimulator

In summary I landed seventeen trout on Monday, and all except four were rainbows. Five of the bagged trout were hard fighting hefty fish in the 15 – 18 inch range. For some reason my percentage of hooked to landed fish was much better than my success rate on the Yampa. Perhaps I have learned to relax more and not force the issue. As one might expect, and I am already planning another visit for this week.

Landed Fish: 17

Eagle River – 07/11/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Edwards rest area; Eagle River below Minturn

Eagle River 07/11/2016 Photo Album

No green drakes!

When I endured surgery in January, it made me realize that the fuse of life is getting shorter. This in turn prompted me to set some goals for the 2016 fishing season, and devoting time to edge fishing was one of them. I enjoyed successful and in some cases spectacular days fishing the Yampa, Eagle and Arkansas Rivers during the two week time period from June 23 through July 8, so I checked off one of my main commitments.

While recovering and tying flies during February, I added two additional pledges. I planned to eliminate commitments in July and keep the calendar open for frequent fishing and camping trips. July is the prime month for insect hatches in Colorado, and in 2016 I hoped to be on the stream participating, not voicing the “wait until next year” utterance.

My favorite western hatch is the green drake, and I spent quite a few hours during the winter tying and planning for this event. Another dream for July is to do the green drake tour. I hope to meet and fish to as many green drake hatches as possible. I flipped through one of my Colorado fishing books and reviewed all the hatch charts and made a list of all the drainages that support green drake hatches.

With this background, I set out on a new fishing adventure on Monday morning, July 11. My destination for Monday was the Eagle River with an overnight stay at Hornsilver Campground south of Minturn in the plan as well for Monday night. I spent some time packing the car for camping in the morning, and consequently I left the house by 8:30 and thus arrived at the Edwards rest area parking lot by 10:30. The temperature was cooler than the previous couple days with the mercury rising to the upper seventies and low eighties. The flows in Edwards were in the 550 cfs range, and these levels remain above the summer norm, so in some ways Monday was an extension of the edge fishing phase of my summer.

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Lovely Pocket Water

I began my quest for trout below the bridge that is downstream from the rest area, and I fitted my line with a fat Albert, copper john, and beadhead hares ear, as I launched my fishing adventure. In the one hour before lunch I landed two decent browns with the largest and first being thirteen inches. Both fish grabbed the hares ear nymph, and I was quite pleased with the start of my two day fishing trip. I returned to the car to grab my lunch bag and water bottle, and then I followed the path to the edge of the river to eat. While munching my sandwich I noted a fair number of caddis resting on the branches of the shrubs and dapping on the surface of the river.

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Beast

After lunch I returned to the stretch of the river just above the bridge, and I fished the narrow pockets next to a high bank until I was unable to progress farther up the left side. This period was action packed as I landed five trout including a fourteen inch brown before moving on at 1:15. Three of the five were small rainbows, and the salvation nymph was responsible for all the fish that reached my net. At 1:15 the high bank forced me to retreat back to the bridge to intersect with the trail, and I stopped at the car to stuff my raincoat in my backpack in case of adverse weather, although the sky suggested that rain was unlikely.

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Left Edge Produced

After my visit to the car I followed the trail across from the parking lot to its downstream termination, and here I fished some nice pockets in the rest area section with a size 8 Chernobyl as the top fly, and a bright green caddis paired with a salvation nymph. This area in past years typically produced several nice fish, but on July 11 my efforts were futile, and I failed to add to the fish count. Again I retreated to the trail, and I skipped around a large segment of marginal water, until I reached the long pool. Amazingly no one else occupied the long pool, so I paused to prospect the top one-third. The dry/dropper approach failed to attract any fish, but while I was casting, I noticed a fish rise twice in the cushion in front of a submerged rock.

There were many caddis dapping in this area, so I patiently converted to a solitary size 16 light gray deer hair caddis adult. This fly failed to attract the riser, but I continued presenting it for the remainder of my time at the rest area, and it enabled me to land an additional six fish. Several of the six fish were decent catches in the hefty thirteen inch range. I covered quite a bit of territory during this time frame including the pockets above long pool, the small braid around the first island, the left bank above the island, and the side of the island that faces highway six.

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Deep Mossy Colored Brown

At the upper end of the pockets above the long pool, a hot fish (it appeared to be a rainbow) peeled out a significant amount of line as it streaked upstream, and unfortunately when it executed a leap above the water, it freed itself. I was unable to maintain line pressure with the great amount of line between me and the fish. In another disappointing incident, a weighty brown trout broke off the caddis with a violent head twist in the area along the bank above the island.

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Another Eagle River Beauty

At 4PM I hiked back to the car, but I stayed in my waders in case I decided to test the Eagle River between Minturn and interstate 70. As I exited the interstate and traveled along the river above the confluence with Gore Creek, I was intrigued by the glistening flows next to me, so I crossed the cement bridge and parked and then pushed my way through the bushes to the river. Alas I discovered that the river was dead between 4:30 and 5:00, at least by my definition. I tried the caddis and a dry/dropper arrangement and never spotted as much as a refusal. I closed the book on the Eagle River and drove south and paid for campsite 3 at Hornsilver Campground.

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No. 3 at Hornsilver

Monday was a solid day on the Eagle River, as I enjoyed quite a bit of success on the caddis dry fly. The higher than normal water level forced me to focus mainly on the edge, and I adapted and netted a decent number of nice fish. The two escapees were probably my best shots at fifteen inches plus, however, I felt the tug of quite a few brown trout in the 13-14 inch range.

Fish Landed: 13

Eagle River – 07/05/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eagle Lease, western end

Eagle River 07/05/2016 Photo Album

My goal for 2016 was to experience prime edge fishing conditions on the Yampa River, Eagle River and Arkansas River. All three of these rivers are essentially freestone rivers, and each offers excellent action as the high run off volume of water recedes. Under these conditions, the hungry trout are forced to seek relief from the high velocity by migrating to the banks and places with large rocks or logs. A fly fisherman can enjoy hot fishing by seeking out the locations where the fish are forced to congregate.

In 2016 I checked off the Yampa River, as I enjoyed superb days on June 23 and June 28 by focusing my efforts solely on the thin band of water within eight feet of the bank. I was rewarded with a decent quantity of larger than average healthy hard fighting fish. The Eagle River was next on my list, but unfortunately Saturday July 2 proved to be very challenging. The weather was uncooperative, hatches failed to materialize, and the flows elevated to very difficult levels between 1500 – 1600 cfs. The Arkansas River was on my to do list, but flows on that large river remained in the 1500 level. The same storm system that hammered the Eagle River affected clarity and levels on the Arkansas River, so I designated that as a near future destination.

The Eagle River remained foremost on my mind as an unfulfilled edge fishing goal, and the window was quickly closing. Jane and I planned to undertake a camping and fishing trip to the Arkansas River on July 5-8, but the impact of rain reported above caused me to reconsider. I decided to insert a day trip to the Eagle River on Tuesday July 5 and delayed the Arkansas venture to July 6 – 9.

Jane and I dropped Dan off at the Central Park light rail station on Tuesday morning, so I was up extra early, and this enabled me to depart the house by 6:15. I avoided rush hour traffic and made great time. I decided to return to the western end of the Eagle Lease if the water was clear, and once I passed Wolcott and drove along the river on route six, I realized that water clarity was perfect. I quickly pulled on my new waders and stuffed my lunch and raincoat in my backpack and strode down the shoulder of the road to the designated entry point to the lease. The raincoat turned out to be only a safety net, as the weather was perfect for my entire day on the river. The high temperature reached the upper seventies, but long periods of cloud cover permitted shirt sleeve comfort.

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High and Clear, Around 1000 CFS

Because of my difficult day on Saturday, I began fishing with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear and 20 incher. I assumed that I needed to fish deep given the elevated flows, although it was obvious that the water was lower than my previous venture to this same spot on Saturday. In the first juicy shelf pool I was unable to interest any fish, and the next stretch of water was more conducive to dry/dropper, so I made the conversion. I began with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares ear and emerald caddis pupa.

These flies also failed to arouse interest in the next couple attractive areas characterized by slower moving water, so I once again made a change and placed my fortunes with an ultra zug bug instead of the emerald caddis. Again I was stifled in my attempt to catch a fish. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was 10:30, so I gambled that the fish would be tuned into pale morning dun nymphs. I moved the hares ear to the top fly and added a salvation nymph to imitate the nymph state of the PMD.

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First Fish Was This Gorgeous Rainbow Trout

Success. Between 10:30 and 11:30 I landed four trout, and three were absolutely stunning and powerful 15-16 inch rainbows. Each of these fish put up an intense battle before I was fortunate enough to slide it into my net. Given the hot action on the salvation, I was fairly certain that an emergence would transpire, so I sat on a log and munched my small lunch at 11:45.

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Just a Beautiful Fish

Sure enough after lunch the population of adult PMD’s intensified, but I only spotted one or two rises. I removed my three flies and tried a size 18 cinnamon comparadun for a bit, but the fish did not respond, so I changed back to the dry/dropper configuration. The next phase of my day was one of frustration, as I hooked but failed to land at least four very nice fish and remained entrenched on a fish count of four for quite awhile.

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Salvation Nymph Piercing

 

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I Landed Four from These Flats on a PMD Comparadun

Finally I approached some nice riffles and runs of moderate depth, and I succeeded in landing three additional fish to bring my total to seven. Two were relatively small, but one was another powerful rainbow trout that forced me to employ my best fish landing skills. By this point I progressed farther up the river than any of my previous ventures to the western edge of the lease, and I arrived at a gorgeous section of flats. The water in this area was relatively smooth, and the depth was only two to three feet. I could see three or four fish working in the surface film, so I paused and once again removed my dry/dropper lineup and pinned my hopes on the cinnamon comparadun.

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Lowered for Release

The move paid off handsomely, as I landed four additional trout including another rocket fueled rainbow that streaked up and down the flats, until I finally pressured it into my net. What a thrill it was to catch a chunky fifteen inch rainbow on a size 18 dry fly. I moved up into the flats to get a closer look at the riffle at the head beneath a tree limb, and sure enough I saw a decent fish feeding fairly aggressively. On the fourth cast my heart jumped, when the fish turned its head and sipped my dun. I fought this brown for a minute or two, and then it escaped my hook.

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Very Nice Powerful Rainbow

I now had a bit of confidence in fishing the small comparadun solo, so I continued with the approach, and I was surprised to witness another slurp when I prospected a long slick behind an exposed rock. This was another quality rainbow and brought the fish counter to twelve on the day. I attempted to continue with the comparadun, but the water type changed into faster deeper flows. A small fish actually refused the PMD near the bank, so I swapped it for a light gray caddis because quite a few adults were dapping on the surface. The small picky eater rejected this fly as well.

I decided to forget about the little guy and moved to the next section, but this water was more conducive to dry/dropper, so I once again invested time to make the change. This time I used a Chernobyl ant as the top fly along with the standard hares ear and salvation combination. I tossed the trio of flies directly upstream to a nice deep run within three feet of the bank. As the flies drifted back toward me, the Chernobyl dipped, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a brute of a brown trout. I am sure this fish was in excess of fifteen inches. I battled the angry brown for a couple minutes and then for some unknown reason the hook released. Adding insult to injury, the pent up energy in my bowed fly rod caused the three flies to lurch high into the air, and they landed in a willow tree behind me. It was impossible to reach the flies, so I grabbed the line and tugged forcefully, and the flies broke at the knot that attached the Chernobyl ant. The foam ant dangled two feet below the tree limb and mocked me for attempting to match my strength with the big brown.

I sat on a log and grieved my bad luck for a few minutes, and then I replaced the three flies, but I only lasted for another fifteen minutes before I noticed it was 3:30, and I was not sure what my exit strategy was. I climbed a steep bank and then paralleled the river for a bit until I saw a rope fence. I walked along the fence for twenty yards and then found a dirt path that eventually led me to the road.

I achieved my goal of successfully edge fishing the Eagle River in 2016, and I landed quite a few large powerful rainbows that caused me to apply my best fish fighting skills. Unfortunately I lost the battle at least six times, but that is what makes fly fishing so interesting. Another negative for the day was the loss of five salvation nymphs. I am consuming them at a rapid pace, and the bulk of the best fishing lies ahead, but then again, that is why I tied a large quantity of them during the winter. It was a fun day in beautiful weather catching lots of hefty energized trout. That is what edge fishing is all about.

On to the Arkansas River.

Fish Landed: 12

Eagle River – 07/02/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eagle Lease between Eagle and Wolcott and then the Edwards Rest Area

Eagle River 07/02/2016 Photo Album

After a two week period of hot weather with highs in the upper 80’s and low to mid 90’s, some cooler weather moved through Colorado. I anxiously monitored the stream flows as I attempted to visit Colorado freestone rivers during the window of opportunity when the flows are dropping and the clarity is decent; however, the fish are forced to dwell along the edges where they can find relief from the continued strong river velocity. I enjoyed some hot fishing on the Yampa River during these exact conditions, and now I had my eye on the Eagle River and the Arkansas River. Each were racing toward my targeted levels, and I was fearful that I would miss out.

I generally avoid fishing on weekends since my retirement status enables me to fish during weekdays when crowds are down and traffic is light. Jane and I accepted an invitation to stay with our friends the Supples in Steamboat Springs over the Fourth of July weekend, so I suggested that we drive separately on Saturday, and this allowed me to travel by way of Wolcott, CO and the Eagle River. I violated my desire to avoid weekends in an effort to capture the magic of edge fishing the Eagle River.

The cool weather was accompanied by moisture, and I noted that the Eagle River flows actually leveled out and increased a bit on Thursday and Friday. The monitor in Avon registered nearly 1200 cfs while the station farther downstream near Milk Creek read 1600 cfs. In previous years I enjoyed success when the Avon gauge showed readings in the 900 cfs range. Since I was not sure when another opportunity would become available to fish the Eagle River, I gambled that conditions would improve. The fly shop reports indicated that caddis and pale morning duns were hatching and that edge fishing was prime.

Unfortunately as I departed on Saturday morning, the skies opened and rain descended on my car as I drove west from Denver. The periods of rain continued off and on for my entire trip, and I was very concerned that the river below Milk Creek would be quite murky. This lower portion is my favorite stretch early in the season, and in past years I landed many above average rainbows and browns while edge fishing at 900 cfs. Amazingly as I drove route 6 along the river beyond the confluence with Milk Creek, I observed nearly clear water conditions.

I found a parking space near the western edge of the last lease section before the town of Eagle, and I pulled on my new Hodgman 5H waders along with my New Zealand hat and rain coat. The weather conditions presented a stiff test to my waders and rain protection, and I am happy to report that I remained dry despite several periods of drenching downpours. The air temperature was in the low 60’s, so I added a fleece layer under my raincoat for the morning session. I strung my Scott six weight and climbed the metal stairs over the fence and descended to the edge of the river anxiously anticipating a day of edge fishing action.

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The Eagle River Was Wet and Raging

The flows were indeed higher than that which I experienced in previous years, and the conditions severely limited the number of locations where fish could hold to avoid expending excessive energy. I began with a fat Albert, bright green caddis pupa, and a salvation nymph. I managed one momentary hook up and a refusal to the fat Albert between 11 and 1:30, but that was the extent of my success. In one particularly attractive segment of water, I switched to a deep nymphing approach, but this change rendered no impact on my fishing fortunes. I switched flies often and cycled through a Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug, hares ear, iron Sally and a flesh colored San Juan worm. None of these normally productive flies pried open the locked jaws of the Eagle River trout.

At 1:30 I decided to move to the upper Eagle River at the Edwards Rest Area. This section of the river was above several tributaries and therefore carried a lower volume of water. When I arrived I sat on the curb and ate my small lunch, as luckily it was one of the periods between rain. After lunch I hiked down the path from the parking lot to the river, and then I turned right and reached the end of the path, where I cut to the left and approached the river. This portion of the Eagle River was not as high as the lower area, yet it was rushing by at a higher flow than I had ever witnessed previously.

I pondered my options and decided to go “old school” and tied on a yellow Letort hopper with a beadhead hares ear nymph. This combination of flies was my favorite offering when I first began deploying the dry/dropper with excellent success. The water that was available to fish effectively was a narrow strand right along the bank, and I began tossing the two fly combination to this area wherever I could reach it. Finally after a couple fishless hours on the Eagle River, I managed to land a seven inch brown trout that snatched the trailing beadhead hares ear. I was never so happy to see such a small fish in my net.

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Typical Holding Location

I persisted and worked my way upstream with great difficulty, as there were many places where the swift nature of the current along the bank made it impossible to wade. In these situations I climbed the bank and struggled through thick trees and brush in order to re-enter the river. Through hard work I managed to land two more brown trout before I quit at 3PM. Each fish that I landed was a bit larger than the previous, with the third brown reaching twelve inches. Just before I quite I experienced a momentary hook up with a yellow bellied brown trout that smacked the Letort hopper. Two of the landed fish fell for the hares ear, and one rose to gobble the hopper.

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Best Fish on Saturday

Saturday was tough fishing. I battled swift currents and adverse wading conditions to land three relatively small trout. My new waders survived a severe test, and I remained mostly dry despite several periods of heavy rainfall. I believe the prime window for edge fishing on the Eagle River lies in the future. Despite fly shop reports to the contrary, insect hatches were absent from the Eagle River on Saturday July 2, and this added to the challenging conditions.

Fish Landed: 3

Eagle River – 04/29/2015

Time: 10:30AM-2:30PM

Location: Across from Wolcott post office and Horn Ranch land trust in the afternoon

Fish Landed: 2 (of 7 hooked)

Eagle River 04/29/2016 Photo Album

Our friends, Beth and Dave Gaboury, invited us to visit them at their gorgeous home in Eagle Ranch for April 28 through April 30. We quickly accepted and made the 2.5 hour drive to Eagle, CO on Thursday afternoon. The weather forecast was rather forbidding with highs around fifty degrees for all three days, and the constant threat of snow and rain throughout our stay.

Dave G arranged to meet our friend Todd Grubin, who lives in Arrowhead, on Friday morning at 10AM for fly fishing, and despite the harsh weather conditions, we arrived at a pullout near the Wolcott post office at the appointed time. Todd’s SUV was visible, but he was no where in sight, so Dave G called him and ascertained that he was already in the river. Dave G and I quickly returned to the car and did our best to bundle up as the temperature on the dashboard was 38 degrees and pellets of ice were descending from the sky. I pulled on my fleece, my Adidas pullover, and a raincoat. In addition I snugged my neck gaitor up under my chin and then securely stretched my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps on to my head. At this point I did not believe that I had fingerless gloves with me, so Dave G graciously loaned me his Simms fleece hand covers. This configuration of cold weather attire served me reasonably well through the winter conditions on Friday, April 29.

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Our Day Begins on the Eagle River

I began fishing in a beautiful deep pool just below the boundary with a golf course. I set up my Sage One five weight fly rod with a thingamabobber, split shot, flesh colored San Juan worm, and a salad spinner. I the first segment of water I experienced a momentary hook up on a decent sized fish. In fact initially I thought that I was snagged on a rock until I lifted in an effort to free my fly and felt a heavy throbbing weight and then caught a glimpse of a reasonably sized rainbow trout. The bright pink stripe on the side of the fish gave away its species.

I moved upstream a bit, and I experienced a second long distance release. In this case I was connected to a fighting fish for a slightly longer amount of time, and I wrestled it near the surface long enough to know that it was also a rainbow and also a decent sized fish. Two fishermen were above me at the boundary with the golf course, so I retreated along the bank and moved down the river to a place where the Eagle got wide and split around a long narrow island. On my way I passed Dave G who informed me that he landed a seventeen inch brown and a fifteen inch rainbow. He was fishing in the exact location where I began casting at the start of my morning.

I surveyed the new water for a bit and then moved a bit farther downstream, until I was just above a white water chute where the river narrowed once again. There were several slicks behind large exposed boulders that offered small pools of moderate depth, so I began probing the lowest example of this structure. On the fifth cast the indicator dipped, and I set the hook and felt active weight on my line. The object on the end of my line felt the sting of my action and immediately streaked to the top of the small pool. I applied some pressure, and I quickly realized that I was dealing with a sizable fish, and a brief glimpse revealed that it was a substantial rainbow trout.

My pressure caused the football shaped missile to turn around and it sped down the river toward the tail, and I quickly released line and allowed it to slip from my hand and the reel. Fortunately the fish stopped and rested for a bit, and this was my clue to gain back some line. I began to slowly strip line which caused the adversary to gradually move back toward my feet. Suddenly without any provocation on the part of the fish, as I made a strip, the weight disappeared, and the line went limp. When I stripped the line back to examine it, I discovered that the monofilament separated at the first knot that connected the tapered leader to the tippet. I have a habit of tying additional sections of tippet to previous sections when they get reduced to four or five inches, and at the time of the lost fish, I had a series of three of these. I can only guess that these surgeons knots were relatively old and perhaps abraded, thus the unfortunate premature release of my best fish of the day and season.

I lost my trophy fish, my split shot and two flies, so as I mourned this event; I rigged anew with another flesh worm and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. Dave G told that the two fish he landed earlier took a flashback RS2, so the fluoro fiber soft hackle emerger was the closest imitation I had to a flashback nymph. A bit above the site of the lost rainbow, a fish grabbed the soft hackle emerger as I lifted, and I finally landed a nice 13 inch rainbow. Could this be a change in my luck? Amazingly I was not bothered by the weather when fish were attacking my flies.

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Pretty Fish Took Soft Hackle Emerger

I photographed the rainbow trout and released it and dried my hands before resuming my casting to another similar pocket and slick a bit farther upstream. As the flies began to swing at the end of the drift, another rainbow attacked the soft hackle emerger, but once again my connection was short lived, and the streaking silver fish shed my hook and escaped. At this point I was one fish landed out of five hooked. This is not a good average in baseball and a poor showing in fly fishing as well. Adding insult to the situation was my loss of two flies.

I waded across the river at the shallow wide area and fished some nice deep pockets behind exposed rocks that served as a current break, but this move yielded no action. Next I climbed the north bank and passed Todd and fished the top of the run across from my starting position. This water was shallower than the south side and did not produce, but as I progressed to the top of the riffle, I got snagged and broke off both flies again. I took this as a sign, and Dave G was anxious for lunch, so I circled back to the wide shallow area and crossed and returned to the car.

Dave G and I piled into the Santa Fe, and I turned the ignition and ran the engine so we could blast the heater while eating. Todd joined us, and we discussed options for the afternoon. After evaluating several possibilities, we settled on the Horn Ranch segment of the Eagle River. I parked near the railroad tracks at the western end of the land trust, and as Todd crossed to the opposite side, and Dave G worked upstream; I walked back toward the route 6 bridge. This entailed climbing some metal steps over a fence, and then I began fishing in a deep long pocket at the tail of a pool.

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Lots of Length on This Fish

I was out of flesh worms, so I chose a bright pink version and added another soft hackle emerger since that fly seemed to be attracting a lot of attention in the area across from the post office. The fish showed no interest in the long pocket, so I moved to another smaller replica just above the bridge. On the fourth drift as the indicator moved beyond the midsection toward the tail, it dipped, and I executed a swift hook set. This resulted in a throbbing heavy weight on my line, and I played the fish carefully, as it executed several
escape maneuvers before I slid the net under a seventeen inch hook jawed brown trout that nipped the soft hackle emerger. What a thrill to finally land a significant fish after losing several earlier in the day.

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The Bend at the Western End of Horn Ranch

I had now landed two out of six hooked fish and felt slightly better about my fishing skills, as I advanced along the left bank and reached the large bend in the river. Here it was not long before I hooked a rock or stick along the bottom of the rocky stream bed. I applied pressure from various directions until the flies eventually broke free, but the pent up energy of the bent rod caused the split shot and flies to catapult from the river until they lodged in a dense grove of sumacs behind me. I seriously desired to recover the flies, but I could not reach them, and the sumac stand was too dense to push through. I surrendered to the fishing gods and snapped off both files and replaced them with exact duplicates.

Near the top of the bend pool eddy I hooked the bottom again and repeated the break off.
At this point I was very frustrated, so I swapped my reel and floating line for a reel with a sink tip line. I tied on a sparkle minnow and on the first cast my favorite streamer snagged, and I broke off my ninth fly on the day. I was extremely exasperated, but I scanned my fleece wallet and spotted a new cheech leech and knotted it to the short leader attached to the sinking line.

I moved up to a run that Dave G had fished, and after temporarily hooking bottom twice, I lobbed the articulated streamer across the top of the run. A pause allowed the streamer to sink a bit, and then I gave the line one strip and felt weight. My MFC friends taught me not to set the hook when stripping a streamer, so I repeated a strip and felt some solid resistance. Much to my dismay the weight disappeared, as I spotted the side of a decent fish, and then I realized that my prized cheech leech was absent, and I was the victim of a second break off. I was now two landed out of seven hooked fish, but even more disappointing was the fact that the lost fish all felt like substantial trout.

I tied a peanut envy to my line for a bit, but after five half-hearted casts, Dave G appeared and informed me that it was time to depart, if we planned to meet our wives to see a movie at 3:40.

It was a frustrating day on the Eagle River, but I learned that quite a few sizable fish reside in the lower Eagle River, and they can be hooked during the time period prior to run off. I also hooked a fish on a newly tied cheech leech, so that gives me a bit more confidence to try the streamer method of fishing. I endured some harsh weather, and I will be more apt to undertake a fishing trip when temperatures are projected to peak in the upper forties. And finally I landed a seventeen inch brown trout, and that fish represents my largest fish so far in the 2016 season. All was not lost despite an abysmal fish landed ratio and the loss of ten flies.

Eagle River – 09/11/2015

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Climbing Rock area below Wolcott

Fish Landed: 2

Eagle River 09/11/2015 Photo Album

Lady Luck withdrew her good fortune on Friday, September 11. After three spectacular days of fishing in the Flattops area of Colorado from Tuesday through Thursday, I returned to the reality of lower elevation fishing in early September.

I woke up early at the North Fork Campground and managed to pack up my camping gear and depart by 8AM. I was off to an early start and hoped to hit another river in proximity to my return route to Denver, but much to my dismay, as I turned on to the main gravel road that follows the North Fork of the White River, a large flock of sheep came into view ahead of me. There were gray chunks of bleating animals everywhere. They filled the road and spilled over into the brush on both sides of my return route from the Flattops. Two shepherds on horseback attempted to keep the group moving in a reasonably straight path.

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A Tractor-Trailer Passes Through the Flock of Sheep

I’ve encountered these September sheep roundups in previous years, so I knew the drill. I slowly pulled up behind the dense moving gray and white cloud and began to nudge my way forward. Slowly the flock parted just like the Red Sea at the command of Moses, and I was able to creep through the mass. Once I reached the other side, I drove a safe distance ahead, and stopped to retrieve my camera which was stowed in the back of the car. As I turned to snap a photo or two of the wave of woolly creatures, I noticed a large tractor/trailer was now following my path, and it was surrounded by the sheep just as I had been several minutes earlier. I took a photo of the large vehicle in the midst of mayhem, and then snapped a couple more of the flock totally covering the road. I determined that the tractor/trailer was actually the destination of the bleating mass, as they were probably being transported from their high elevation summer home to somewhere else down low. I choose not to think more about their future.

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I Better Get Moving or Be Overtaken Again

Once I was beyond the animal traffic jam, I made good time and traversed the 36 mile gravel road to Phippsburg and then turned right and followed Colorado route 131 to Wolcott. At the end of July while biking through Glenwood Canyon with the Vogels, I became intrigued by the possibility of fishing the Colorado River between the Shoshone power plant and Grizzly Creek access. Friday was to be the day that I acted on this plan, so I took the entrance ramp to interstate 70 and traveled west. I knew that this was a bit risky, as extensive construction was taking place in Glenwood Canyon, and I was inviting possible traffic delays.

As I entered the canyon and quickly surveyed the river to my left, I was disappointed to see a deep dark green water color. This was not the clear conditions that I expected nor anywhere close to what I observed up close during our bike ride. The river however did not appear to be muddy or brown, so I consoled myself that there would be reasonable visibility along the edges, and that was the only part of the large dangerous river that I planned to fish.

Bad assumption. When I reached the construction zone, I discovered that I had to travel at 45 MPH through the entire canyon to Glenwood Springs before I could exit and then travel back east. When I motored beyond the power plant and gazed anxiously at the river, I was surprised to see that it was now the shade of coffee with an ounce or two of milk added. This was an unexpected and highly disappointing discovery. I made my U-turn at Glenwood Springs and traveled east to the Grizzly Creek rest stop where I exited and parked, so I could inspect the river more closely. I walked along the bike path until I reached Grizzly Creek which was running crystal clear, but when I cut down the bank of the main river, it was very opaque with no visibility along the edge. I tried to convince myself that perhaps a black fly that contrasted with the color of the river would yield success, but at that point I decided that I was only fooling myself, and the exploration of the Colorado River was best left to another time.

I re-entered the interstate and crept along at 45 MPH until I finally exited the eastern end of the canyon and continued along to the Eagle River. I fished the newly public Horn Ranch section of the Eagle for a couple hours in July, and this whet my appetite for more time on this stretch of water. I pulled into a parking space along route six halfway through the conservation land and another car preceded me. I decided to eat my lunch on the old concrete bridge, and as I wandered out to a position where I could look upstream and down, I was disappointed to see two fishermen. One gentleman had crossed the bridge and was thrashing through the middle of the river upstream, and another angler was positioned one hundred yards below the bridge on the side next to the road. This was actually where I wanted to fish, and I was tempted to drop in halfway between the downstream fisherman and the bridge, but I realized that if I were that person, I would probably be upset by such a move.

Crestfallen with another dose of adversity, I finished my lunch and jumped back in the car and drove another half mile to the Climbing Rock Campground. I parked and finally donned my waders and prepared to fish. I rigged my Sage four weight and walked across the railroad bridge to the north side of the river. The Eagle River is notoriously tough for me at the low flows of late August and early September before air temperatures drop and the fish become more active, and the temperatures in the low seventies on Friday seemed to place this outing in the doldrums period. I slid down the bank and began fishing in a delicious deep side pool above the bridge that featured a huge foam patch between the bank and main current.

I tied on a gray pool toy and then added a salvation nymph and ultra zug bug and began to prospect the attractive water before me. Unfortunately I methodically advanced through the long deep pool with no action, but then at the riffles at the head of the pool, the hopper dipped, and I set the hook and retrieved a twelve inch brown trout that fell for the salvation nymph. I was elated to avoid a skunking, and the feisty brown was actually beyond my expectations.

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12

I continued fishing in this manner and landed a second smaller brown that snatched the ultra zug bug, and this fish came from a short but deep pocket along the bank. I was beginning to suspect that my best chances for fish were from pockets in the fast oxygenated water on a relatively bright sunny warm day. My optimism zoomed, and I skipped some slower moving water to reach more pockets, but I encountered a troubling sign. The large placard warned that there was no trespassing and no hunting, and this information was the product of Denver Water. I fished this area previously, so I rationalized that the sign was intended for hunters, and harmless catch and release fishing was exempt.

I ignored the sign and fished up the river for another fifty yards and actually hooked two more fish that escaped before I could net them, but I did not feel comfortable ignoring the sign. It clearly stated no trespassing and made no exceptions, and I did not want to ruin a wonderful week of fishing with a fine, so I elected to turn around and return to the public water. I ascended the path to the railroad bridge and then followed the tracks downstream before I cut back to the river via a path down a steep bank. The water below the bridge was much more placid and offered no pockets which would have been my preference. The deep pool in front of me with a steady center current screamed for a deeper approach than I could offer with my dry/dropper set up, so I converted to a strike indicator, split shot, and two nymphs.

I probed the top of the long deep pool with my nymphs but to no avail, and then I moved up to a wide shallower riffle section and worked the nymphs there. The nymphing gambit was not delivering results, and my watch was showing that 2:30 was approaching, so I called it a day and returned to the car. An uneventful two hour and fifteen minute drive returned me to Denver, and I could assert that I spent five hours driving and one and a half hours fishing on Friday. I avoided a fishless day by landing two small brown trout, and I gained significant appreciation for the fantastic experience that I enjoyed in the Flattops on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.