Category Archives: Eagle River

Eagle River – 07/02/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle.

Eagle River 07/02/2020 Photo Album

Jane reserved a condominium in Eagle-Vail for the Fourth of July weekend, and we arrived at our temporary lodging on Wednesday, July 1.  The original plan incorporated a full day guided float trip on Thursday, July 2, 2020; but my fishing partner suffered a setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery, so we delayed that highly anticipated outing. This circumstance produced a large hole in my calendar for Thursday, so I took advantage with a wading trip to the Eagle River. My most recent visit to the Eagle River was June 23, 2020, when the flows hovered between 1,100 and 1,000 CFS. I followed the DWR charts with keen interest, and I was pleased to see a trend line that depicted a steady descent to the 600 CFS range. I anticipated a river that remained high enough to push the fish to the edges, and from previous years I knew that dense hatches of caddis, pale morning duns and yellow sallies could be expected. In short, I was pumped for some outstanding fly fishing on the Eagle River.

Cannot Wait to Probe This Area

Number One on July 2

The high temperature spiked at a warm eighty degrees on Thursday, and the flows were indeed in the 600 CFS range. More cloud cover would have been welcome, but conditions were mostly conducive to a fun day of fishing. I arrived at one of my favorite roadside pullouts by 10:00AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and jumped into my waders, I made the hike to the river. I began probing the probable fish holding spots with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line for most of the day except for a period around lunch, when I replaced the salvation with an emerald caddis pupa and later with a hares ear nymph. The pupa and hares ear each produced one fish, however, when I spotted an increased quantity of pale morning duns in the afternoon, I reverted to the salvation nymph. Other than the caddis pupa and hares ear eaters, the iron sally accounted for sixty percent of my landed trout with the salvation responsible for the remainder.

A Broad Chunk

Between 10:30AM and 11:45AM, when I paused for lunch, I landed four robust trout. Two were fine brown trout in the thirteen inch range, and the other two were rainbows. The iron sally fooled the first three, and number four was the victim of the emerald caddis pupa.

Slack Edge Water

After lunch a blizzard hatch of yellow sallies commenced, but surprisingly I never observed surface rises. With the relatively high water and no rising activity I stuck with the iron sally, and it rewarded my confidence during the hatch, but it was not as effective as I anticipated given the abundance of stoneflies in the air. Caddis adults were prolific among the streamside bushes and willows, but the trout never expended the requisite energy to chase the erratic surface dippers.

Deep Olive Beast

Perfect Territory for Trout

By the end of the day at 3:30PM the fish count climbed to thirteen. The afternoon fish were the best of the day from a size perspective. In fact, other than the rainbow that was fish number two on the day, all the Thursday trout were twelve inches or greater. My net was visited by a sixteen inch rainbow and a fifteen incher as well. Three brown trout stretched the tape to fourteen inches. There was no magic formula to catching fish on Thursday. I moved upstream at a steady pace and fished areas with slower velocity and moderate depth. Current seams were popular spots as were swirly water at the top of long deep runs and riffles. The pale morning duns never developed into a significant factor, and this was a disappointment, and the yellow sally emergence was heavy but brief, and it also did not provoke surface feeding.

Beast

Chubby

In summary, it was a pleasant and enjoyable day on the Eagle River. As flows drop, and the air temperature remains elevated in the eighties, the Eagle River’s productive days may be limited, so I was pleased to extract one more excellent outing from the popular Colorado River tributary.

Fish Landed: 13

Produced Two Nice Trout

Eagle River – 06/23/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Eagle Lease

Eagle River 06/23/2020 Photo Album

Flows were in the 1100 to 1000 CFS range on Tuesday and remained comparable to Monday. Tuesday also developed into a very nice day with abundant sunshine for much of my time on the water, and the high temperature surged into the middle eighties. For variety I decided to try a section of the Eagle River, that I had not fished in at least ten years. I quickly climbed into my waders and once again assembled my Sage One five weight and then ambled over the open grassy area, until I was on the bank of the rapidly flowing river.

Flows Still High on the Eagle River

During the morning I fished a nymph rig that featured a slumpbuster and a 20 incher. I decided to go big and deep. The versatility provided by the slumpbuster enabled me to fish it dead drift similar to a nymph, or to strip and wiggle it like a streamer. These innovative (for me) approaches sounded great in theory, but they failed to deliver a trout to my net. After a decent trial period with no action I began to substitute new subsurface patterns including an ultra zug bug, emerald caddis pupa, bright green go2 caddis pupa, and a brown X leg nymph. None of these combinations provoked so much as a look.

Many years ago I fished this stretch of the Eagle River, and I remembered an extensive section of pocket water, where I experienced an abundant amount of success. I set a goal to seek this area again with the hope that it would salvage my day. The highlight that stood out in my memory was fishing a size 12 stonefly nymph with a peacock dubbed body and a mylar wing case in deep pockets along the left bank, and larger than normal brown trout surprisingly ravaged the large offering. Could I duplicate this experience on Tuesday?

Best Spot on Tuesday

By noon I rounded a bend, and ahead of me was the sought after pocket water. At 1,000 CFS most of the pocket water was off limits except for the left edge, but this was the area that I targeted. The nymph set up was proven futile, so I removed the indicator and split shot, and knotted a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a brown X leg nymph and bright green go2 caddis pupa. I covered some nice riffles of moderate depth, and my slump continued, but then I arrived at a long slow moving shelf pool next to the fast current seam of the main channel of the river. I lobbed some casts, and as I followed my fly, I noted a pair of rises above me in the pool. I scanned the water for a food source, but I saw none.

Caddis in Lip

After a few more unproductive drifts I once again saw a rise in the lower third of the pool, and this time I spotted a fluttering caddis, as it disappeared in a swirl. While this scene transpired, I began observing some small size eighteen pale morning duns, but actually witnessing the demise of the caddis prompted me to tie a size sixteen gray caddis to my line followed by a size 16 juju emerger to cover my bases. The second cast to the area of the rise prompted a swirling take, and I netted a twelve inch brown for fish number one on the day.

I continued casting higher in the pool, and on one of the drifts a fish elevated but refused the caddis. I speculated that perhaps pale morning duns were also on the menu, so I converted to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I never duped the looker, but I fooled a decent rainbow to the left of an exposed rock at the top of the run. Unfortunately the stripe-sided fighter quickly escaped the grip of my hook.

Worthwhile

I progressed upstream, and in a marginal short run of moderate depth I netted a second twelve inch brown trout. It rose twice to naturals, before my imitation fooled the aggressive eater. After releasing number two, I continued along the left side of the pocket water, until I encountered a large green sign that proclaimed private property. I was unclear whether this was the end of the lease, but not willing to take any chances, I retreated.

Tail View

About to Glide Away

When I approached the shelf pool again, I circled wide to remain out of view and approached from the downstream side. Rising fish were no longer present, however, occasional pale morning duns made an appearance. I decided to go subsurface and configured my line with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, an iron sally, and a size 16 super nova. The super nova was intended to imitate the nymph stage of the pale morning duns. The tactic paid off, as I landed two rainbows in the fifteen inch range on the nova. It required quite a few fruitless drifts, before the trout responded, but persistence paid off in a big way. A third fine rainbow crushed the super nova, as soon as it hit the water at the top of the pool, but it leaped and tossed aside my fly within a few seconds.

A Chubby One

On my return hike to the car I stopped to prospect another quality shelf pool, and the return visit delivered a spunky thirteen inch rainbow. As I approached the car, I decided it was too early to quit, so I drove west to the last stile and hiked to the river above my ending point on Monday. I found a rock to eat my lunch, and then I spent thirty minutes prospecting two quality areas that delivered fish previously. Almost instantly a fish surprised me, as it crushed the chubby Chernobyl, but it escaped almost as quickly as it slammed the large foam attractor. The remainder of the time in this section was unproductive, and I called it quits at 2:40, so I could make the return trip in time for an anniversary dinner.

My catch rate on June 23 was subpar, but I rediscovered an area that impressed me in the past. I landed five quality trout and had a few opportunities for more. Two fifteen inch rainbows were a bonus, and I also parlayed a dry fly into two netted browns. Hopefully the river remains in decent shape for when the pale morning dun and yellow sally hatches intensify.

Fish Landed: 5

Eagle River – 06/22/2020

Time: 4:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: North of Minturn.

Eagle River 06/22/2020 Photo Album

As I drove from the Eagle River near Eagle, CO toward the Hornsilver Campground, I passed through Minturn, CO, and I decided to sample the clear but high flowing section between Interstate 70 and town. I parked by a concrete bridge and began working my way upstream above the bridge. I continued fishing the fat Albert and 20 incher and placed an emerald caddis pupa on the point. In the early going I landed an eleven inch brown trout that nabbed the emerald caddis pupa in a moderate riffle along the left bank. I always note the type of water that yields results, and then seek out similar water structure. Unfortunately on Monday afternoon this tactic produced little value, and the eleven inch brown would be my only landed trout.

Minturn Stretch

I prospected all the attractive deep runs and shelf pools thoroughly, but the trout seemed to have lockjaw. I swapped the caddis pupa for a salvation after thirty minutes, but is also proved fruitless. The Eagle River above the confluence with Gore Creek offered an hour of casting exercise and a heavy dose of frustration.

Fish Landed: 1

My Temporary Home

Eagle River – 06/22/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eagle Lease

Eagle River 06/22/2020 Photo Album

As I followed the rapid decline in flows on the Yampa River, I kept my eyes on the Eagle River as well. Fortunately the Eagle was lagging, and this enabled me to complete a two day fishing/camping trip to the Yampa on June 15 – 17, and I was very pleased with the results. Now I turned my attention to the Eagle, as it subsided fairly rapidly. I reviewed the Eagle River flow data on the DWR web site, and the graph clearly indicated that my target flows of 1,000 would be reached by Monday, June 22. This was all I needed to prompt preparation for a quick two days of fishing and one night of camping.

1,000 CFS

I arrived at the pullout next to my favorite access point by 10:30AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and climbed into my waders, I was on my way to the edge of the river. The flows were, indeed, in the 1000 – 1100 CFS range on Monday, and these were the exact conditions, that I seek annually in the early summer season on the Eagle. The air temperature was warm and would eventually reach the eighty degree level, however, lots of cloud cover in the afternoon created a degree of comfort. During my day on the river I spotted a fair number of caddis and two yellow sallies, so the insect activity was less intense than years where the 1,000 CFS level of flows coincided with late June and early July.

Promising

I began my fly fishing adventure by eleven o’clock with a fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. The iron sally represented the nymph of the yellow sally stonefly, and the salvation mimicked the nymph of the pale morning dun. As the day evolved, I discovered that a single consistently productive fly was not in the playbook, and this probably resulted from the lack of a concentrated hatch. The fat Albert remained on my line throughout the day as a visible indicator, but the iron sally got replaced by a 20 incher (2). For the point fly I cycled through a salvation nymph (3), ultra zug bug (1), bright green go2 caddis pupa (3), emerald caddis pupa (2), perdigon, and hares ear nymph (1). The numbers in parenthesis indicate how many landed fish each accounted for.

Broadside

Red Belly Splotch on This Beauty

Wide

Success on Monday required persistent effort characterized by difficult wading, constant movement, and plentiful casts. I made more than five drifts in many places, that I knew from history to be likely producers. Did I dwell? Based on my normal approach the answer is yes, yet I caught several nice fish on the seventh or even eighth pass, so my methodical approach paid dividends. During my time on the water I speculated whether getting deeper may have been beneficial, but I never resorted to indicator nymphing with a split shot. Perhaps I will adopt that strategy on Tuesday.

Ooh That Stripe

A Perfect Brown Trout

Quality was the name of the game on Monday, as only two of the netted fish were less than a foot long, and two rainbows were muscular trout in the fifteen to sixteen inch range. Additionally two brown trout measured around fourteen inches, and the remainder  were respectable rainbows and browns in the twelve to thirteen inch slot. I will take wild quality fish like this all day long.

A Favorite Area, but Tough to Wade

It was a fun day. I have had better Eagle River edge fishing experiences, but the ideal flows were ahead of the heavy pale morning dun and yellow sally hatches in 2020. A double digit day is always appreciated, and quality was a positive on June 22.

Fish Landed: 12

Eagle River – 10/07/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Horn Ranch

Eagle River 10/07/2019 Photo Album

After a warm up on the Frost Creek Pond on Sunday, my friend, Dave G., and I decided to test the Eagle River on Monday, October 7. As we drove from his house to the river, he lamented a recent string of poor outings, when he managed only a few small fish. My expectations ratcheted downward upon hearing this news.

One location where Dave G. did enjoy positive results was the confluence of Brush Creek and the Eagle River below Eagle, CO, so that became our first stop. Unfortunately when we pulled into the open space parking lot, we noted two vehicles, and we concluded that the confluence section was the favored destination of the anglers that preceded us.

We amended our plans and decided to travel upriver to find a new location for our fly fishing adventure. I was surprised by how many pullouts along the Eagle River were occupied with vehicles on a Monday in October, but Dave G. and I concluded that many people extended their weekend stays through Mondays to avoid the heavy traffic on Sunday afternoon. The balmy autumn day may have been another contributor to the greater than expected river population.

Horn Ranch Footbridge

After a short drive we arrived at the Horn Ranch open space, and a cluster of cars filled the lower lot and the area next to the old concrete bridge. The new parking lot just below the Interstate 70 overpass; however, held only two vehicles, and we could see two fishermen in a quality hole just upstream. We gambled that a bit of walking would gain us separation and decided to make the north end of Horn Ranch our Monday fishing destination.

I opted for my Sage four weight on Monday, since it was less taxing on my wrist, and I expected to stay on the water for a longer time than Sunday. Dave G. and I crossed the new footbridge and ambled downstream along the recently completed bike path for a decent distance, until we found a worn path and cut over to the river. Dave G. remained on the west bank, and I crossed to fish up the east side.

Small Rainbow in the Early Going

Flows were seasonally low, and the air temperature was in the upper fifties. I began with a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph; but after thirty minutes the fish count remained locked on zero. Dave G. picked up three fish on a Pat’s rubber legs, so I modified my lineup and replaced the hares ear with an iron sally. Another lengthy drought elapsed, and it was 1:30 PM, so I swapped the salvation for a RS2 with the hope that baetis nymphs were active. Finally this combination clicked, and I netted two six inch rainbows and an eight incher. The first small rainbow inhaled the iron sally, and the other two catches snatched the RS2. In addition I hooked and failed to land four trout including a rainbow that was likely fifteen inches or greater. Another ‘bow of thirteen inches was nicked in front of a large submerged boulder.

Very Long

By 2PM we reached the footbridge, so we crossed and hiked downstream a second time to an old concrete bridge, where we munched our lunches. After lunch I once again waded to the east side of the river, and I began prospecting likely deep runs and moderate riffles. In the first twenty minutes I connected briefly with a muscular rainbow, but it quickly shed the small RS2. A short while later a sizable trout, possibly a brown, swirled around and then crushed the hopper. I maintained tight tension for a few seconds, and then another decent Eagle River trout escaped. Needless to say, quite a few angry expletives flowed from my lips.

Relaxing and Reviving

I persisted in spite of my ill fortune, and I was pleased to finally hook and land two very respectable rainbows of sixteen and fifteen inches. Both fish were very thick and fought valiantly to avoid my net. The last hour was very slow, and I finally found a path to the footbridge parking lot at 5 PM.

Five fish landed in five hours represented a very slow catch rate; however, the two late afternoon rainbows justified the effort. I was not without opportunities, as I hooked twelve fish and observed three refusals during my afternoon on the river. Dave G. logged a fine day with ten netted and six long distance releases. I explored a new section of the Eagle River, and I was favorably impressed. A future return is very likely.

Fish Landed: 5

Eagle River – 08/05/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle (11AM – 2PM); Edwards Rest Area (2:30PM – 4:30PM)

Eagle River 08/05/2019 Photo Album

Monday, August 5, 2019 was one of the more frustrating days of my many years of fly fishing. I suffered through nearly every imaginable negative during my 5.5 hours of fishing, and it is a miracle that I moved the fish counter to double digits.

Flows Lower but Still Edge Fishing

New Korkers Baptized

The first sign of bad karma was the feeling of cold water penetrating my left boot foot of my third pair of replacement waders. The sensation of a wet sock and sloshing water plagued me throughout my entire time on the river. I could not stop thinking about the impending hassle of obtaining a refund, that I could apply to the purchase of a different brand.

The second impediment to an enjoyable day on the Eagle River was the preponderance of long distance releases. I counted twenty-two trout hooked throughout the day, and I landed ten. My basic math suggests a success rate less than 50%. Of course the escapees in most cases were large and muscular trout, and this fact added to my frustration. I must admit that quite a few curse words were uttered during the heat of the battle.

A related hindrance to a satisfying day on the river was the loss of a significant number of workhorse flies. I recall severing three salvation nymphs, two iron sallies, and one bright green go2 caddis pupa.

Tangles were another negative feature of my day. The typical catapult release from a lost fish occurred several times, but several novel entanglements added to my variety of frustrations. I lost two flies while attempting to photograph a prize sixteen inch rainbow, and a subsequent tangle added insult to injury. In another episode of fly fishing slapstick I wrapped my line around my wading staff, legs and fly rod.

Although I managed to not fall in the river (I suffered a wet leg and foot due to the leak), I struggled through numerous near misses on the slimy round boulders that were positioned to trip an unsuspecting fisherman. On a positive note I did not incur injuries or break any equipment, so I suppose that is something to be thankful for.

The weather was reasonable, although bright sun lifted the air temperature to eighty degrees in the early afternoon. Flows in the area between Wolcott and Eagle, CO remained in the 700 – 800 CFS range, and this allowed for more comfortable wading, but my casts were largely confined to the slack water areas along the bank.

Easily the Best Fish of the Day

Between 11AM and 2:30PM I covered nearly the same stretch of water as my previous two visits to the Eagle River in 2019. I used a yellow fat Albert and added primarily an iron sally and salvation nymph. After I lost a second salvation, I substituted an ultra zug bug, and it delivered a small brown trout, but eventually I returned to the salvation. My best fish from the Wolcott – Eagle stint was a chunky sixteen inch rainbow, and I was quite pleased with the sag in my net, that it created. The other four landed trout were sub-twelve inchers. During the first phase of my day on the Eagle River I connected with twelve trout and only landed five. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed with this ratio, and several of the escapees were bruisers.

Classic Bank Pocket

When I moved to the Edwards Rest Area for the late afternoon session, the sky darkened and some raindrops prompted me to engage the windshield wipers, but the shower was brief. Flows at Edwards were in the 600 CFS range, and this necessitated strenuous wading and edge fishing.

Big Flipper

Between 3:00PM and 4:30PM I prospected the water next to and upstream from the Edwards Rest Area. Again the fat Albert served as the indicator fly, and I trailed a hair nation and bright green go2 sparkle caddis. In the starting section downstream from the parking lot I netted two trout on the hair nation. One was a feisty eleven inch rainbow, and the other was a respectable brown trout. Another angler blocked my upstream path, so I circled around him to the long pool next to a high bank on the south side of the river. The pool failed to produce, but an hour of dry/dropper dapping in the pocket water above the long pool yielded three nice trout including two fine browns and one bronze cutbow. During this time the bright green go2 sparkle caddis developed into a hot fly, and I was pleased with the aggressive slashing takes. Of course I would be remiss, if I did not mention that I hooked ten during this period, but I landed only five. This was a pathetic ratio, but an improvement over the earlier session farther down river.

Get a Grip

Ten fish, including four of above average length, represents a worthwhile day, but I cannot overlook all the frustrations listed in the first part of this post. Hopefully Monday filled my quota of bad luck for 2019, and future days will provide good fortune.

Fish Landed: 10

Stretched Out

Eagle River – 07/27/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 07/27/2019 Photo Album

Today, Saturday, July 27, felt like an instant replay of Wednesday. If I characterized Wednesday as spectacular, then today can be described as a bit less spectacular.

I battled 1500 CFS flows (Eagle River below Milk Creek gauge) on Wednesday with outstanding success, and I was anxious to make a return trip, before the river fell out of edge fishing status. Jane and I planned a camping trip for the first part of next week, and commitments on Thursday, Friday and Sunday left Saturday as my only open date. Since my retirement in 2015 I rarely fished on the weekend, but I decided to make an exception today, July 27. Flows on the DWR graph for the Eagle River below Milk Creek gauge registered 1100 to 1200 CFS, and this drop from Wednesday greatly aided my ability to wade and move along the still relatively high Eagle River.

I Love Water Like This

During my 5.5 hours of fishing today I landed eighteen trout, and the split was roughly 50/50 between the brown and rainbow species. The fish count improved over Wednesday by one, but the average size of the fish was slightly smaller. Five of the eighteen landed trout were under twelve inches, and this impacted the average. The other trout were very fit and hard fighting battlers in the thirteen to fifteen inch range.

I’m Looking at You Brown Trout

Another similarity to Wednesday was the high number of escaped fish. Over the course of the day I connected with twenty-six fish, but only landed eighteen. By nearly every measure today was a very successful outing, yet I remain haunted by the many fish that managed to shed my hooks. I did not lose a single fly, so all the long distance releases were attributable to the advanced fighting tactics of the Eagle River trout population.

Another Favorite Stretch

I can count five situations, where I hooked the fish, and it then streaked downstream from my position. I maintained tension on the line and held my rod upstream of the fish, and in each case the fish managed to twist or shake its head causing the fly to release and catapult into a bush or tree along the bank. Fortunately in all cases I was able to rescue the flies, although some fairly acrobatic maneuvers were required. I am not sure what I need to change in order to improve my landing percentage of fish hooked. Certainly the trout were adept at using the higher flows to their advantage, and the larger size of the fish was also a factor that worked in their favor. I also believe that the extended run off kept the fishing pressure down, so the fish that I was hooking were very fresh and fit, as they had not been caught and released since the period prior to snow melt.

Lots of Pocket Water

Pool Toy Hopper Was the Top Fly All Day

I fished the same stretch of the Eagle River as Wednesday, and I began with a tan pool toy, iron sally and salvation nymph. The same tan pool toy remained on my line throughout the day as did the iron sally. I suffered an extended lull during the two morning hours, and during this time I cycled through an emerald caddis pupa, ultra zug bug and bright green caddis pupa. The ultra zug bug accounted for two very nice fish, and the emerald caddis yielded one, but it broke off. Actually the leader remained in tact, but the shank of the fly broke 1/8 of an inch behind the hook eye. This was probably a cost to refurbishing flies on old hooks.

A Beauty

When I paused for my lunch break the fish count rested on four, including two fish that nabbed the ultra zug bug and a nice brown trout that crushed the pool toy hopper. The hopper victim was the only fish that fed on the surface during my Saturday fishing outing.

Lowering to Freedom

As I ate my lunch, I observed yellow sallies, golden stoneflies, small caddis and a handful of blue winged olives and pale morning duns. The density of aquatic insects was much reduced from Wednesday, and the dapping caddis were actually the most prevalent aquatic insect species present. Because the iron sally and salvation nymph proved very effective between 12:30PM and 2:30PM on Wednesday, I reverted to that lineup on Saturday afternoon.

A Missile

On Wednesday I observed a brief flurry of surface feeding during the early afternoon window, but on Saturday I never spotted more than one or two rises. I also lingered at several prime spots with the expectation of hooking fish, but in several cases I was disappointed. Nevertheless I had a blast popping the dry/dropper in all the quality slow water areas along the left bank, and in many cases I was rewarded with beautiful wild hard fighting trout.

The Rest of the Fish

I expect that the Eagle River will remain in prime condition for another two to three weeks, and I intend to return. In all likelihood the fish will be more spread out, and a positive of lower flows might be more surface feeding and, thus, some dry fly action. Normally this phase of water flows on the Eagle River coincides with the pale morning dun hatch, but the late run off may necessitate increased reliance on caddis and terrestrials.

Fish Landed: 18

Eagle River – 07/24/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 07/24/2019 Photo Album

2019 has certainly developed into an abnormal fishing season. Normally by now ideal flows greet me, as I journey about Colorado in an attempt to locate the very best conditions from a myriad of options. Loyal readers know that I am a big proponent of using a variety of resources to identify the waterway that offers the highest probability of experiencing a fantastic day. In fact I believe that fifty percent of fishing success is attributable to the choices made of where to fish on any given day. My number one resource for making this decision is the Department of Water Resources surface water tables and graphs. A second significant source are fly shop reports, although these always have a positive bias that must be tempered. My third significant source of information is my own blog. It contains nine years worth of fishing reports, and I refer to it often to recall what worked in different seasons and at varying water levels.

Every year I make a concerted effort to fish the Yampa River, Eagle River, and Arkansas River in a narrow window, as the flows from run off subside. During this time period the water is clear but high, and the fish are confined to the tight ribbon of water that borders the bank, where obstacles such as rocks and logs create slack water spots that enable trout to rest and eat. I managed to catch the Yampa River during this window in early July, and a quick check recently indicated that the Yampa in Steamboat Springs is down to 228 CFS. This example reveals the urgency required to react and hit the prime time. Fly fishing needs to be a priority, or the window will pass, and another twelve months will elapse before the opportunity once again presents itself.

Next on my list were the Eagle River and the Arkansas River. When I planned my three day and two night trip on Sunday, I learned that the flows on the Eagle River were in the 1360 CFS range, but I was spooked by a spike. The portion of the river that I desired to fish is below a tributary that muddies very quickly, and I was concerned that the lower river would be turbid. The Arkansas River on Sunday was on the verge of dropping below 2000 CFS. I prefer flows in the 1500 CFS range, but the Arkansas is a very large river bed, and I assumed that edge fishing would still be possible at 2000 CFS. On Monday morning I noticed a narrow spike in flows at Salida, but I discounted this, because it occurred for a short period of time. You can read about the ramifications of this decision in my posts for July 22 and July 23.

My original plan provided for two days on the Arkansas River to enable the Eagle to drop to 1000 CFS, and this also allowed time for the clarity between Wolcott and Eagle to improve. It was now Wednesday morning, and I decided to forge ahead with the third prong of my plan. I woke up early and packed my wet tent and drove from Railroad Bridge Campground to Buena Vista. I stopped to purchase a bag of ice for the cooler, and then I used the improved cellular network to check the flows on the Eagle River at Avon, CO. Sure enough the DWR graph showed the flows at 1110 CFS, and I was confident that this was at the upper range of my desired window. But what about clarity? I called Vail Valley Anglers and spoke to JP at the shop, and he informed me that the river was clear all the way to the confluence with the Colorado River. With this positive news in hand, I initiated my plan to fish the Eagle River on Wednesday, July 24.

Two Escapees from This Area at the Start

I arrived at a narrow pullout along US 6 by 10AM, and I quickly completed my well rehearsed ritual in preparation for a day on the river. I assembled my Sage five weight, in case I encountered larger fish in the high flows, and I negotiated my way to the river. Wednesday was a gorgeous sunny day, and the temperature rose, until it peaked in the low eighties. Very few clouds passed overhead. The river was very clear, but it rushed along at a rapid pace, and these were the conditions I was seeking.

Let Free

I began with a hopper Juan and added an iron sally and salvation nymph. I was pleasantly surprised, when I hooked two hot fish within the first fifteen minutes in the first two edge pools that seemed likely high water holding retreats. Unfortunately both escaped after torpedo-like runs to the fast water. In both cases the flies hurtled behind me to some willows, when the trout shed the hook.

Zoomed a Bit Closer

Between 10:30AM and noon I built the fish count to five, and all were very fresh and muscular rainbow trout that streaked up and down the river upon realizing that a sharp hook was in their lip. The rainbows were in the twelve to fourteen inch range, but the larger versions were quite plump and fit, and they tested my fish landing capabilities to the extreme.

Prime Edge Fishing Water

While eating lunch I noticed an abundant quantity of golden stoneflies and yellow sallies in the airspace above the river, and I was dissatisfied with the look of the hopper Juan, so I switched things up. I replaced the hopper Juan with a yellow fat Albert, and in the process I extended the leader from the foam indicator fly to the first nymph by a foot. I placed a beadhead hares ear in the upper position and a salvation nymph on the end, and I resumed popping casts to the most attractive soft water edge locations. The move paid dividends, and my catch rate accelerated, as the Eagle River residents honed in on the salvation. I noticed a handful of pale morning duns and a fair number of dapping caddis in addition to the stoneflies during my lunchtime biology study, and the presence of PMD’s probably accounted for the popularity of the salvation nymph.

Fine Finned Creature

The heavier presence of stoneflies and the lack of interest in the hares ear caused me to reevaluate my lineup, and I swapped the hares ear for an iron sally. Immediately upon making this change, two fish aggressively smashed one of the nymphs, but they managed to escape after a brief connection. Past experience suggested the hook holding ability of the upper fly is inferior to the bottom counterpart, so I switched the position of the salvation and iron sally. The offering of the fat Albert, salvation nymph and iron sally became my workhorse threesome, as I progressed through the early afternoon.

My Hand Provides Perspective

And what a job they did! The fish counter steadily climbed from five at lunch to seventeen by the end of the day, and these were not sub-twelve inch dinks. Included in the gallery of net dwellers were four brown trout, and three of these beauties were plump fish in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. Rainbows continued to dominate, and although they were smaller on average, three or four extended to fourteen and fifteen inches with broad muscular shoulders. The iron sally and salvation nymph produced in roughly a 50/50 ratio, and one of the fine brown trout crushed the fat Albert.

Gorgeous

Of course this story would not be complete without mentioning the ten fish, that I met only briefly. Connecting with these aggressive high water rogues was only the beginning of the contest. Eagle River trout are very powerful, and the high ratio of long distance releases attests to that fact. Only one loss resulted from a snapped off salvation; as all the others managed to shake, leap and twist, until the fly popped free.

Spots and Stripes

One particularly notable escape artist performed its Houdini routine late in my day. I cast the dry/dropper rig directly upstream to a deep slower moving run five feet from the bank. The fat Albert drifted a few feet and then dipped, and I instinctively reacted with a firm lift of the rod. I immediately realized that this was not the typical fifteen inch rainbow. I caught a glimpse of the rocket, as it dashed downstream, until it was just below me, and the girth and length were substantial. I feared that the runaway freight train was headed to the fast water, but inexplicably it reversed direction and swam back upstream against the current. But then the angry fighter thought better of this move, and it raced to the tumbling and frothy whitewater. I suspected that the fight was over, but I held on and allowed twenty yards of line to peel out, as the bullet streaked downstream. The river was too high and the rocks too slippery to follow, so I maintained tension until the line went limp. I was fearful that all three flies broke off, but when I stripped in the line, I was pleased to discover that the trout magically shed the annoying hook, and all three imitations were present on my line. Needless to say, this episode had me shaking a bit.

Another Soft Water Location

Wednesday, July 24 developed into a spectacular day on the Eagle River. I landed seventeen trout, and at least ten were in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. These fish were hungry, and in all likelihood they experienced their first hook penetration of the season, and they did not like it. Even the twelve inch rainbows spurted up and down and back and forth, before I was able to coax them over the lip of my net. Nearly every spot that suggested likely fish holding water delivered a hook up or landed fish. Wading was difficult, but persistence paid off with big rewards. Will I be able to return before the flows pass through the prime window? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 17

Long and Tough

Eagle River – 10/26/2018

Time: 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards

Eagle River 10/26/2018 Photo Album

When I returned to the Santa Fe after prospecting Brush Creek for an hour, I heard my phone ringing. I quickly hit the green accept button and heard the voice of Dave G. We agreed to meet at the Grand Avenue Grill, as that was a convenient point along our route to the Eagle River between Edwards and Avon. Since I planned to continue on to Denver upon the completion of our time on the river, we drove separately.

We pulled into a nice wide pullout along US 6, and since both of our rods were assembled and ready for action, we immediately hiked along a path to the river. Dave configured his line with a strike indicator, beadhead pheasant tail and RS2 and immediately charged into the tantalizing long run next to our position. I, meanwhile, pulled my small lunch from my backpack and quickly snacked on a sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

Clouds began to dominate the sky during the afternoon, and this change in weather was accompanied by a constant chilling breeze. I pulled on my raincoat to trap body heat and serve as a windbreaker, and it was partially effective. I suspect the temperature along the Eagle River never spiked higher than 54 degrees.

After lunch I grabbed my Orvis Access four weight that was already equipped with a hippy stomper and iron sally, and I began exploring the nice riffle of moderate depth below the large pool that Dave G. occupied. This endeavor occupied me for fifteen minutes, and although I was unable to coax any fish into my net, I did generate one very brief connection in the frothy water, where the river spilled over some large rocks at the top of the riffle.

Convinced that I thoroughly covered the area below the pool, I scrambled over the rocks at the lip and waded along the shoreline, until I was opposite the mid-section. I paused on the beach and observed for five minutes, and during this time I noticed four very sporadic rises from different fish spread out in the center of the pool.

Wow

I decided to begin my quest for trout and waded into the pool, until I was mid-thigh deep in cold river water. I began to lob casts with the two fly dry/dropper, although I was not very confident that the large hippy stomper would attract attention. It was at this time that I glanced at Dave G. and noticed a huge bend in his rod. I stripped in my line and waded back to shore, so I could photograph his catch, which turned out to be a splendid rainbow trout in excess of fifteen inches. Dave G. proudly displayed his catch and informed me that it was fooled by a pheasant tail nymph.

When I returned to the middle of the pool, the pace of rising fish accelerated, so I removed the hippy stomper and iron sally and tied a tiny size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. I began shooting casts above the scene of the rises and utilized downstream drifts over the target locations. Normally this technique is fairly routine, but the upstream blasts of wind made it nearly impossible to locate the tiny speck of fluff that served as my fly, and I was unable to flutter the fly down with any amount of slack to counteract drag.

Dave’s First

Nonetheless on the tenth drift I miraculously tracked the baetis imiation and saw a subtle sip, whereupon I lifted the rod tip and hooked a hard fighting twelve inch rainbow trout. I was very pleased to enjoy this modest success under some fairly adverse conditions.

I took time to dry the fly and my hands and to fluff the matted CDC wing. I pivoted to survey the river, and the feeders in the center of the pool remained active, so I reclaimed my previous position. During this foray into the river I focused on a pair of feeders directly across from me. They were sipping naturals in a nice regular rhythm, so I lengthened my line and fired casts toward a seam closer to the far bank. On the fifth drift a bulge appeared under my speck of a fly, and I once again reacted with a confident set. This fish immediately streaked upstream and then down, and it was evident, that I had a larger foe on my line.

Dave’s Best

I maintained constant pressure, and after several additional spurts, I lifted the scarlet head of a chunky fifteen inch rainbow trout and guided it into my net. As expected I was very pleased with this sudden dose of good fortune, and I carefully removed the fly and snapped a series of photos of my prize catch of October 26.

Again I meticulously blotted the fly, doused it in dry shake, and fluffed the CDC wing. I waded back toward the middle but took a few steps downstream toward the tail. This placed me closer to a small pod of risers fifteen feet below my previous casts. The fish in this area hovered just below some swirly water, and this made following my fly even more of a challenge. Nevertheless I persisted, and on the tenth cast I spotted a sip in the neighborhood of where I estimated my fly to be. I raised the rod tip and connected with another twelve inch rainbow.

Hard to Grip

My confidence was now soaring, but the wind accelerated, and the trout seemed to eat in waves. I waited out a brief feeding lull, while I tended to refurbishing my fly, and then some subtle surface disturbances resumed. I targeted one of the more frequent feeders, but after three cycles of catch, dry and fluff; I was unable to track the size 24 CDC BWO. I remembered some Klinkhammer emerger style BWO’s that I tied over the winter, so I located one in my fly box and replaced the CDC BWO. On the fourth cast another rainbow lurched to the surface to sip my fly, and again I scooped a twelve inch rainbow into my net.

The white poly wing post on the emerger was much easier to track than the gray CDC wing of the previous fly, and I was pleased to enjoy some early success. My confidence elevated, and I began to shoot casts to the pod of risers across from my position. I allocated another thirty minutes to the emerger with the white wing post, but it was rudely ignored. Perhaps it was too large or maybe the wind made achieving a drag free drift impossible, but eventually I surrendered to the selective fish in front of me.

Again I pondered the situation, and I remembered some 2017 success in a similar situation with a Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. Again I searched my fly box and found a size 22 emerger with no bead, and I applied a sufficient layer of floatant to the body and wing. My optimism increased, as I waded to the tail of the pool in order to obtain improved lighting and a better casting angle to some of the lower risers.

The thought process was sound, but the remaining thirty minutes of casting delivered only frustration. The low riding small wet fly was nearly impossible to track, so I opted to set the hook upon seeing a rise in the vicinity of where I estimated my fly to be. This was my only option, but it was not effective. The wind continued to gust, and my feet morphed into stumps, and my body began to shiver. My watch displayed 3PM, and I decided to conclude my day on the Eagle River.

In two hours of fly fishing I landed four rainbow trout including a very respectable fifteen incher. I was pleased to have rising fish in front of me for nearly my entire time on the Eagle River. It was a successful outing, but the wind and cold became intolerable. Friday was a fairly typical day of autumn fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 4

Eagle River – 06/28/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 06/28/2018 Photo Album

A successful day of fishing on the Eagle River on Monday, and an afternoon guiding my brother-in-law, niece and nephew on Wednesday, made me anxious for a return outing on Thursday. Jane and I stayed at our sister and brother-in-law’s time share in Bachelor Gulch on Wednesday night, so the Eagle River was only a few miles away from our doorstep. I checked the flows, and they remained relatively stable in the 390 CFS range down moderately from the 450 CFS level experienced on Monday.

I served as a fourth for some doubles tennis in the morning, and after one closely contested set I grabbed my lunch snack and headed to the river. I arrived along the edge of the river by 11:45 and downed a granola bar, a handful of carrots, and a yogurt; before I began my quest for Eagle River trout. I chose my Sage One five weight in anticipation of battling some hard fighting fish.

Where I Began

As I surveyed the river after lunch, I observed quite a few golden stoneflies and yellow sallies, and this prompted me to prospect the nice pockets along the edge with a size 14 yellow stimulator. I was certain that the large heavily hackled dry fly would draw the interest of the resident cold water inhabitants, but that was not the case. I fished for twenty minutes without a refusal or look, so I changed my strategy and knotted a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph to my line. Initially I was very confident that these mainstay offerings would reverse my fortunes, but after another forty minutes of concentrated fishing through many attractive locations, I began to doubt my approach.

Wide Body Brown Trout

Finally at one o’clock the fat Albert dipped, as it floated along a deep current seam, and I reacted with a swift hook set and felt significant throbbing weight on the end of my line. The angry brown trout deployed every escape tactic imaginable, but eventually I scooped it with my net and admired my first catch of the day. The wild fish before me was very chunky, and I estimated that it measured fifteen inches. I slowly revived the valiant fighter and watched it swim gracefully back toward its river home.

Nice Deep Pocket

The dense hatch of yellow sallies and pale morning duns ended by 12:30, and surface feeding was absent, so I persisted with the dry/dropper method. I surmised that the high temperatures on Thursday advanced the hatches to the late morning time period, and my later than normal start caused me to miss the prime hatch time.

Heads Up

Between 1:00PM and 3:00PM I added six additional trout to my count. Three of the six were relatively small, but the other three were very robust rainbow trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch size range. One of these hot catches was also disproportionately wide and heavy for its length, and it demonstrated excessive resistance to my efforts to confine it to my net.

Hard to Grip

The first iron sally that occupied a position on my line was a size fourteen, and it failed to generate interest. Only after I exchanged it for my normal size 12 2XL did I begin to experience success. In fact all but one of the landed trout chowed down on the iron sally. The lower velocity of the river enabled me to explore more deep pockets and runs toward the middle of the river, and the extra wading over slippery round boulders paid dividends with excellent results in the 1PM to 3PM time period. All the fish emerged from large moderate depth pockets and increasingly from the deep seams that bordered faster currents.

Three Fish Were Rising in This Area

At 2:30 I approached a series of nice deep runs along the left bank. Each was characterized by a set of large boulders that served as current breaks with a forty foot long and twenty foot wide run and pool downstream. As I began prospecting with my dry/dropper configuration, I spotted a pair of rises in the lower pool, and eventually a third surface feeder joined the party. My nymphs were soundly ignored, so I converted to a single dry fly to finish my day.

First I presented a tiny size 18 caddis with a tan body, and this imitation provoked a close inspection and subsequent rejection. Next I tested a size 16 deer hair caddis with a light gray body. Historically this pattern served as a solid all around caddis generalist, but these Eagle River trout were not impressed. Perhaps the trout continued to concentrate on straggling yellow Sallies? I revived the size 14 yellow stimulator, but once again it failed to attract actively feeding trout. In a last ditch effort to dupe one of the brown trout in front of me, I switched to a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive-brown body, but again the trout indicated that they were looking for a triggering characteristic that my flies lacked. While this scene was unfolding, quite a few caddis fluttered down from the bank, and they dapped and frolicked constantly on the surface of the river. I was sure that the food of choice was caddis, but I never succeeded in corroborating my hunch.

I finally conceded to the selective trout and progressed upstream to the large ditch that served as my access and exit avenue. Along the way I made some additional blind casts to some very attractive deep runs and moderate riffles, but I never spotted additional rising trout. I departed from the river at 3PM, as I committed to that time with Jane.

Thursday was another fun day on the Eagle River, although I was disappointed to miss the more intense emergence event, that I presumed occurred in the late morning. Another possible explanation for the smaller than expected hatch was an upstream migration of the epicenter of the hatch, but I will never know the answer with certainty. Seven fish in three hours does not constitute a blistering pace; however, four of the landed fish were in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and they presented a significant challenge to land. I fear that the days of prime fishing on the Eagle River are numbered, and the fly shops in the area are already refraining voluntarily from fishing during the warm afternoon hours.

Fish Landed: 7