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

Eagle River – 06/27/2018

Time: 3:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards, CO

Eagle River 06/27/2018 Photo Album

This blog post is a bit of a deviation from the norm, as it describes a few hours of guiding rather than fly fishing. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law from Atlanta, Ga. invited us to spend a night at their plush time share unit at the Timbers in Bachelor Gulch, and we eagerly accepted. We chose Wednesday and Thursday, June 27 and 28 as our designated days to visit the Vogels. Their daughter, Jennifer, and son-in-law, Kerby, and grandson, Mason, were also staying at the condo.

Before we departed, Jane texted the Vogels to inform them of our planned activities. She communicated my desire to spend three or four hours on the Eagle River on Thursday. Much to my surprise I received a prompt reply text message from my brother-in-law, Bill, who expressed a desire to fly fish on Wednesday afternoon. Apparently Kerby and Jennifer were the main driving force behind this plan. I agreed to accompany and guide them, if they took care of equipment rental and purchased Colorado fishing licenses.

Originally we planned to be on the river by 1PM, but by the time everybody tried on waders and boots and filled out the fishing license paperwork, our starting time lagged into three o’clock. I was hoping to catch the yellow sally and pale morning dun hatch in the early afternoon, but once I realized that the group would not be ready until later, I modified my initial choice of fishing destination to a location no more than five miles from the Timbers condominium complex.

Bill, Jennifer and Kerby rented waders, boots, and two rods and reels. I showed them how to string the rods, and then provided an impromptu casting demonstration and lesson along the edge of the river, before I tied flies to their lines. Jennifer and Kerby never fly fished previously, and ten minutes of casting practice advanced their skills minimally, but I judged that they could probably execute some twenty foot casts.

I paused to observe the pool next to us, and surface activity was lacking, so I quickly decided to start them off with a nymphing configuration. I was fairly confident that they could sling a line adorned with a strike indicator and split shot to the current seams, and I was certain that quite a few trout occupied this prime location. In fact I was a bit surprised that we had the area to ourselves.

Jennifer Teller Wades Deep

I began with Jennifer and led her to the tail of the pool. I started her off with a size 16 iron sally and a beadhead soft hackle pheasant tail. Clearly I was playing the yellow sally and pale morning dun card. I spent fifteen or twenty minutes instructing Jennifer, but we were unable to generate action, so I left her on her own, while I waded to shore and worked with Bill.

Bill Focused

I decided to position Bill at the top of the pool, where a strong current spilled over some large rocks, and this structure created a quality shelf pool. I knew from past visits that several fish occupied this prime location. Once I had Bill positioned within fifteen feet of the juicy current seam, I scanned the water, and I was pleased to observe some surface action. In fact a decent rainbow trout was visible no more than eight feet to the left of Bill in a deep depression in front of a large submerged rock. I decided to skip the time consuming task of configuring Bill’s line with an indicator and nymphs, and instead I knotted a light gray deer hair caddis to the line.

Bill executed some nice drifts over the rainbow, and as this scenario unfolded, I also noted additional rises along the current seam and fifteen feet upstream behind another large boulder. Bill was rather pleased to actually see his target fish and in fact became quite obsessed with hooking the active feeder. Unfortunately our quarry was quite selective, as we cycled through at least four fly changes, but Bill was unable to fool the rainbow. We tried two deer hair caddis with gray and olive-brown bodies along with a size 14 yellow stimulator and a parachute ant. While the parachute ant was attached to Bill’s line, he cast toward the deep current seam, and a brown trout swirled on the terrestrial. Bill’s untrained eye never saw the take, and by the time I yelled set and grabbed his arm to lift and set, the fish disappeared to the depths.

I looked downstream to check on Jennifer and noticed that she was joined by Kerby, and they were wading back toward the shoreline. I quickly left Bill on his own and met the couple, as they raised their line to display the most intense tangle that I ever witnessed. I jumped into the recovery effort and removed the strike indicator and split shot and cut off the two flies. I spent ten minutes attempting to unravel the tag end of the line and made some small progress, before I surrendered to the monofilament gods and removed the entire tapered leader. I handed the snarl to Jennifer, while I pulled a pack of tapered leaders from my front pack, and I began the task of unraveling a fresh leader to attach to the rental line.

The fishing gods looked upon us with favor, and before I could uncoil the new leader, Jennifer miraculously untangled the mess. Apparently having access to two free ends facilitated the process. I used a loop to loop connection to reattach the line, and then Kerby and I waded back to the tail of the pool, while Jennifer joined her father in an attempt to dupe the rising fish at the top of the pool.

Kerby’s Trout Came from This Area

Kerby is probably 6′ 2″, and this extra stature enabled him to wade closer to the opposite bank than was possible for Jennifer. As we moved into an advantageous position, several fish made their presence known, as they created subtle rings on the river surface. In fact the feeding activity accelerated over the next thirty minutes, and we observed at least six fish actively feeding in the area. Given the surface action I decided to remove the nymphing paraphernalia from Kerby’s line, and I set him up with a single size 16 gray deer hair caddis.

When Kerby spotted the array of rising fish along the far bank, I could see his excitement increase. Initially his casting prevented him from obtaining a solid drift over the risers, but eventually the possibility of hooking a visible fish elevated his casting skills and also seduced him into wading closer to facilitate shorter casts. I noticed that his casts were landing quite a distance above the fish that fed steadily, and consequently line drag caused an unnatural drift by the time the fly reached the target feeding area. I demonstrated mending, and he adopted the line flipping technique with reasonable proficiency.

My Nephew Did Well

After fifteen minutes of practice and twenty drifts, Kerby finally applied all his lessons, and a trout slashed at and ate the adult caddis imitation! We were beyond excited, and now I attempted to provide on the job training on playing a fish. The fish dashed about in short spurts and executed numerous head shakes and rolls. I continually cautioned Kerby to allow the fish to pull out line, if the counter pressure was too great, but miraculously the finned foe eventually tired, and I was able to slide my net beneath it. High fives erupted and cheers cascaded from the shoreline observers, which now included Jane and her sister Judy. I was more excited, than if had I caught and landed the fish myself.

Happy Angler

I gently reached into the net and removed the caddis fly and then snapped a few photos in case the thirteen inch brown trout escaped, before I could stage additional shots with Kerby. After I obtained my safety stock of photos, I handed the net to Kerby, and clicked a few of him holding the prize catch, and then I tapped the video button and recorded the release. Kerby was beaming, and as expected he was very anxious to cast to the remaining feeders in the area. I stayed with him for another fifteen minutes or so, and we changed flies several times, but for some reason we could not repeat the earlier success.

Once again I shifted gears and left Kerby with the lower pool risers, while I returned to the top of the pool. By now Bill relinquished the rod to Jennifer, so I joined her and assisted in her efforts to fool the rising rainbow trout, that Bill attempted to catch earlier. Once again I cycled through a series of fly changes for Jennifer, but alas our educated companion would not be deceived. I even knotted a Jake’s gulp beetle to the line and then added a salvation nymph dropper, but this ploy was also soundly rejected.

We had dinner reservations at a restaurant on Wednesday evening, so by 5:30 we reeled up the lines, removed the flies and returned the equipment to the fly shop in Avon. It was a fun 2.5 hours, and Kerby, Jennifer and Bill repeatedly thanked me for guiding them and expressed how much they enjoyed being in a crystal clear mountain stream in the Rocky Mountains. When I paused to reflect, I realized how astute their observations were.

Eagle River – 06/25/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 06/25/2018 Photo Album

I was disappointed with my June 12, 2018 outing on the Eagle River, and I kept my eye on the flows of my big three choices for fishing Colorado Rivers during receding levels, as snow melt waned. Monday was an open date for fly fishing between a Rockies’ game and another doctor appointment, so I scheduled a fly fishing day trip. The Yampa River and Arkansas River dropped to post run off levels, so the Eagle River was the one remaining option, and even that western slope freestone was down to 400 CFS. The online fly shop fishing reports were out of date for the Eagle River, so I took advantage of my reservoir of information on this web site. I learned that the late June time frame coincided with dense hatches of caddis, pale morning duns, golden stoneflies and yellow sallies.

Geese and Pockets

As I perused other Front Range options, I discovered that the Big Thompson River and Cache la Poudre River dropped to levels within my upper range of acceptability, but I decided to gamble on another two hour drive to the Eagle River. I theorized after my June 12 visit, that my history of success at high run off levels was more attributable to excellent insect hatches rather than the phenomenon of fish stacked along the banks to avoid the raging mid-river currents. Actually I suspect the combination of both factors produced outstanding fly fishing in the time period after peak run off. I hoped to return to the Eagle River during a strong aquatic insect activity time frame to test my theory.

After a two plus hour drive I arrived at my intended destination along the Eagle River on Monday morning. I was surprised by the number of anglers present in the many roadside pullouts on a Monday, but thankfully none were present at my chosen entry point. I quickly climbed into my recently repaired waders and assembled my Sage four weight and negotiated the stile provided to access the river. A short hike delivered me to my starting point, where I tied a yellow Letort hopper and iron sally to my line. I prospected several quality sections with the two fly combination for fifteen minutes, but the absence of action caused me to make an early change.

Big Shoulders

I replaced the Letort hopper with a yellow pool toy, kept the iron sally as the top nymph, and added a beadhead hares ear as the point attraction. Another solid thirty minutes of exploration yielded no activity, so I once again stripped in my flies and replaced the hares ear with a salvation nymph. This proved to be magic, as a fifteen inch brown trout mauled the salvation shortly after the conversion. It took me forty-five minutes to put a notch on the scoreboard, but the chunky brown made the wait worthwhile.

Pretty Fish

By the time I paused for lunch at noon, the fish counter incremented to three including a rewarding fourteen inch plump rainbow. My confidence in the iron sally and salvation was gradually climbing along with my frustration, as I hooked and failed to land two additional muscular combatants during the period before lunch.

As I sat on a nice flat rock next to the river and munched my snack, the river came alive with a smorgasbord of trout delicacies. Dense swarms of caddis continued to dap the surface of the water, and their animated actions continued throughout the day. New stars took center stage in the form of yellow sallies, pale morning duns and golden stoneflies. I concluded that I was well positioned with the iron sally, as it represented a golden stonefly or yellow sally. The salvation nymph served as a decent copy of a pale morning dun nymph.

Another Wide Trout

By 12:15PM I was back on the river, and the period between noon and 2:30 was electric. The air above the river was alive with stoneflies and caddis and mayflies, and I debated switching from the dry/dropper approach to a single dry fly. I resolved to stay with the nymphs, until rising fish became prevalent. How did this tactic work out?

Sparkling Brown Trout

The fish counter surged from three to sixteen during the period between lunch and 2:30, and many of the netted stream residents were fit and muscular specimens in the thirteen inch to fifteen inch range. In addition I endured three or four escapes, and as is usually the case, these fish felt quite heavy. In one scenario the hooked trout morphed into a jet powered submarine, as it streaked immediately into the heavy current. I attempted to follow it, but before I could cover ten yards, the surging weight on the end of my line disappeared. When I reeled up line, I discovered the reason, as the aquatic freight train broke off all three flies. When I rigged anew, I replaced the pool toy with a yellow fat Albert. The top fly was not attracting attention, so I opted for maximum buoyancy.

More Pocket Water

The intense action of the hatch-driven two hour and thirty minute trout-fest was an absolute blast, and I was very pleased to confirm my theory, that the hatches drove the outstanding late June and early July fly fishing on the Eagle River. The Eagle River contains one of the densest yellow sally hatches, that I ever encountered in my fly fishing lifetime.

Major Stripe on This Beauty

By three o’clock I suffered through an extended lull, and I approached a very attractive section with several deep runs and slots behind large boulders that served as current breaks. I paused to develop a plan of attack, and a fish elevated to gulp a natural insect. The dry/dropper tactic was in a slump, so I abandoned the three fly set up and knotted a size 14 yellow stimulator to my line. I applied floatant and lobbed a cast above the scene of the recent rise. On the fourth drift over the nearby target area, a fish elevated and sipped the heavily hackled stonefly imitation.

Love These Shelf Pools

At first the greedy feeder angled across the run in a relatively calm manner, but when I applied side pressure, it apparently realized that the insect in its mouth possessed a metal point. The powerful rainbow trout went into crisis management and executed a series of leaps and high speed sprints. When I finally sensed that it was tiring, I guided it upstream, and this action caused the valiant fighter to roll on the line several times in an attempt to shed the pointy object that constrained its freedom. After three or four minutes of intense resistance, the rod lost its deep bow, and the rainbow trout celebrated its freedom. Needless to say I was less than thrilled by this turn of events, but the entire episode was an adrenaline inducing thrill.

I moved upstream a bit and waded into position below a quality section that featured a fifteen foot wide riffle over moderate depth next to the left bank. A branch from a deciduous tree extended over the bottom portion of the riffle, and before I could cast, a trout revealed its position next to a streamside boulder and under the large tree limb. One rise does not equate to steady feeding, but I was armed with a dry fly and pleased to at least locate a rare surface feeder. I side armed three casts under the tree limb and allowed the stimulator to bob over the area that featured a rising fish. I allocated two more casts to the effort, but only one was required, as a thirteen inch brown trout crushed the fuzzy yellow dry fly. The wild brown trout represented fish number seventeen and my first and only fish on a dry fly for the day.

Bluegill Shape

I continued my upriver progress with the hope of spotting additional rises, but the quality of the river diminished, when long shallow riffles predominated. I stopped at a few deep runs and pockets to prospect with the stimulator, but these late attempts with a dry fly were not met with success. At four o’clock I reached a convenient exit point and took advantage and ended my day on the Eagle River.

Seventeen trout was an excellent accomplishment, and the average size was very satisfying. The hatches between noon and 2:30 were first rate, and I hope to take advantage of the early summer insect activity with a second visit this week.

Fish Landed: 17

 

Eagle River – 06/12/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle

Eagle River 06/12/2018 Photo Album

Although Monday’s results on the Yampa River were decent by most standards, I was disappointed, since I compared the size and catch rate to spectacular fly fishing at similar flows from 2015 through 2017. On Tuesday I envisioned another day comparable to Monday, if I returned to the Yampa, so I considered alternatives. Reports on the Arkansas River were encouraging with flows already beneath 1,000 CFS, but my map application suggested the choice demanded a three hour and thirty minute drive. Another option I contemplated was the Eagle River. The last time I checked, the flows were in the 1100 CFS range, but I speculated that they declined to below 1,000 by Tuesday.

I stopped at a dirt pullout prior to turning on to CO 131 in order to check the flows and fishing reports for the Eagle River. This was the first location, where I received a decent cell phone signal. I quickly learned that the flows on the Eagle in Avon were in the 800 CFS range, however, the fishing report on Vail Valley Anglers was not updated since June 6. I decided to sample the Eagle, since it was at levels comparable to early July in previous years, and prior year trips translated to fantastic fly fishing. I turned left on CO 131 and made the 1.5 hour drive to the section of the Eagle River between Wolcott and Eagle, CO.

I arrived at 9:30AM, and by the time I pulled on my waders and rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked to the river’s edge, it was 10AM. I knotted a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a 20 incher and a yellow sally, and I began prospecting all the likely slower moving areas along the bank. The flows were in the 1,000 CFS range as I expected, and the water was crystal clear and cold. The weather on Tuesday yielded blue skies and sunshine, and the high temperature spiked in the low eighties. It was a gorgeous day for fishermen, but not as perfect for fish.

Narrow Band of Slow Water Along the Bank Was My Target All Day

I fished along the left (northern bank) between 10:00AM and 2:30PM and managed to land six trout. Four of the six were quite small and barely extended beyond my six inch minimum. Another landed fish was a twelve inch brown trout, and the prize on Tuesday extended to fourteen inches. If I were offered a replay, I would choose to return to the Yampa. I observed far more insect activity in Steamboat Springs, than I encountered on the Eagle River. Pale morning duns, yellow sallies and blue winged olives were present on the Yampa River; whereas, only small blue winged olives made an appearance on the Eagle.

I cycled through a series of flies in an effort to discover a producer. On top I utilized a yellow fat Albert and a size 8 Chernobyl ant, and both were effective indicators, but neither attracted the interest of the Eagle River trout. The top nymph position was occupied primarily by the 20 incher and iron sally with a brief appearance of a hares ear nymph. The iron sally, salvation nymph, emerald caddis pupa, soft hackle emerger, and ultra zug bug spent time on the point. The iron sally and salvation nymph accounted for the small fish, and the soft hackle emerger produced the fourteen inch reward for my persistence.

Between 12:30PM and 2:00PM a light emergence of size 20 blue winged olives commenced. I was skeptical that a tiny olive imitation would attract the attention of the Eagle River trout in the heavy run off currents, so I stuck with other larger nymphs during the early phase of the hatch. Clearly the large nymph strategy was not a roaring success, so I bowed to the match the hatch conventional wisdom and placed a soft hackle emerger on the point. I was stunned to learn that the Eagle River trout responded to the small size 20 wet fly, and I landed three trout on the sparkling emerger pattern. In addition I experienced three momentary connections. This period was by no means torrid action, and the hook ups required many repeated drifts in prime areas, but the results far exceeded the production in the previous three hours.

Went for the Soft Hackle Emerger on the Swing

A narrow band of slow moving water served as the stage for the highlight of my day. I tossed the dry/dropper rig upstream and allowed it to drift back toward me, as I raised my rod to pick up slack. The flies were no more than six feet from the bank, and they tumbled along a steady current seam. Once they passed my position, I lowered the rod and allowed the fat Albert to continue below me for twenty feet. At that point the slow water fanned out a bit just above some dead branches, so I began to swing the flies across to avoid a snag and in preparation to make another cast. Just as I began to lift the flies, the fourteen inch brown snatched the soft hackle emerger, and in this instance I overcame its resistance and led it into my net.

Decent Brown Trout

In addition to the long distance releases during the sparse blue winged olive hatch, I also notched three or four during the period from ten o’clock until one o’clock. Several felt like decent trout perhaps in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. Aside from failing to land the fish, I was also upset with my inability to determine which of the nymphs generated the interest of the Eagle River trout.

Promising Runs

Six fish over five hours of fishing was undoubtedly a disappointment, although double digits were easily attainable had I converted a higher and more normal percentage of hook ups. On a positive note I had the river to myself, and I gained knowledge of the conditions on another freestone river in Colorado in the 2018 post-runoff time frame. Flows are two to three weeks ahead of normal on the Yampa and Eagle Rivers in 2018. During previous years the declining flows and clear water in the 1,000 CFS range overlapped with the end of June and early July, and this time frame coincided with strong pale morning dun, golden stonefly, yellow sally, caddis and blue winged olive hatches. I attributed my success to hungry fish pushed into the slow water along the banks, but in reality the presence of strong hatches was a significant contributor to the sizzling action in prior years.

Fish Landed: 6

 

Eagle River – 04/16/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards

Eagle River 04/16/2018 Photo Album

Wow. I am not sure there are enough superlatives to describe my day yesterday on the Eagle River. Yes, twenty-one trout landed is a nice quantity, but the size was fairly average, with most falling in the twelve to fourteen inch range. The mix of brown trout vs. rainbow trout was around 60/40, and I landed two rare cutthroats as well. Why was it so special?

Last spring and fall I experienced three outings when dense blue winged olive hatches developed, but I was unable to fool trout on a consistent basis. The common factor in all these instances was strong wind. Two memorable occasions when BWO frustration ruled were on the Frying Pan River on 10/26/2017 and the South Platte River on 04/19/2017. My last visit to the Eagle River on 11/01/2018 was another similar example of baetis hatch frustration. So here I was along side the Eagle River again on April 16, 2018 with relatively high winds in the forecast. Would Monday be another exercise in frustration?

When I planned my day on the Eagle River, I reacted to two critical pieces of information. The weather forecast called for highs in the low sixties accompanied by 16 MPH winds. I banked on the warm air temperatures to create comfortable conditions for a day of fishing. The stream flows were in the 150 CFS range; and my friend, Todd, who lives in Arrowhead near Avon informed me in an email, that fishing has been been excellent with consistent blue winged olive hatches in the afternoon. I took the plunge and made the two plus hour drive to Avon.

Fun Starts Here on April 16

As I prepared to fish, the air temperature was around fifty degrees, and slate gray skies suggested, that it would be awhile before the warming rays of the sun would have an impact. As projected, the wind gusted on a regular basis, so I pulled on my green light fleece jacket in addition to my waders. I eschewed my New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and left my gray fleece in the car. I banked on sunshine and a warming trend in the afternoon.

As the day evolved, the sun rarely peaked through the clouds, and I rued my decision to forego the ear flaps and extra layer. The weather did not create comfortable conditions for fishing, but it did provide an ideal environment for blue winged olives. Once my Sage four weight was assembled, with the fly line pulled through the guides, I crossed the highway and followed the bicycle path down the hill to the river. I was overjoyed to discover that I was the first arrival at the targeted section of the stream. I configured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2 and began drifting the nymphs through some delightful deep runs at the top of the long pool. I was quite optimistic; however, thirty minutes elapsed with no action.

I shuffled to the bank to warm my feet and then retreated to a nice wide run just downstream of the pool. Once again I probed the depths with my nymphs, and again there was no evidence of Eagle River trout. I abandoned the faster run and returned to the midsection of the large pool, and at this point I exchanged the beadhead hares ear for a beadhead emerald caddis pupa. The emerald pupa generated a few nice trout in the early going in Eleven Mile Canyon, so perhaps the same would occur on Monday on the Eagle River. I began drifting the nymphs through the middle of the pool, where the faster water spread out over nice moderate depth, and simultaneously I began to see sporadic rises.

Gray-Green Rocket

I scanned the water several times, but I was unable to detect any surface food source of significance. I debated shifting to a blue winged olive dry fly, but I was not certain that was the answer. As these thoughts were swirling through my brain, another fisherman arrived, and I carefully watched him. He had a large backpack, and he changed into his waders and assembled his rod among the large boulders next to my pool. I was eager to see where he planned to fish. Eventually he was ready, and he began fishing the faster run below the pool, that I prospected fifteen minutes earlier. After a bit he signaled, and asked if I minded if he crossed to the the very lower portion of the pool, and I responded with an OK. I was a bit concerned that he would occupy the slower moving lower section of the pool above the natural rock dam, but the area was quite large and could easily accommodate two fishermen.

Sparkle Wing RS2 Lover

I returned my attention to the prime matter at hand, catching fish. I resumed drifting the nymphs through the midsection, and I continued to observe sporadic rises from trout throughout the area. Finally at the end of one of my drifts I allowed the nymphs to dangle, while I took a few steps to change positions, and suddenly I felt a bump and a throb on my line. I reacted with a quick hook set, but just as quickly the fish escaped. Clearly this fish reacted to the fluttering nymph, so perhaps that was the key to enticing the feeders surrounding me. I began to impart movement to the drifting nymphs including bad down stream mends, jigging action, and strips toward the end of the swing. I managed a couple more momentary hook ups with trout, and then as I attempted to lift the flies to recast, a fish struck. This time I set the hook and succeeded in eventually guiding a fine fourteen inch rainbow trout to my net. It apparently had a hankering for the sparkle wing RS2. I shot a video and snapped some photos and released number one on the day.

I thought I solved the puzzle, as I began lifting and swinging the nymphs, but my confidence was misplaced. The other fisherman was now slowly working his way downstream along the north bank toward the golf course, and I noticed quite a bit of activity in the tail area. I circled back to shore and then carefully waded to a position, where I could easily cast to the risers at the tail. I carefully observed the water once more, and I spotted a few gray or tan colored midges. I suspected that this was the source of food, but I had no adult midge imitations in my fly box. What should I do?

Midge Sipper

It was clear that the trout were focused on a food source in the surface film or just below it. I thought of the Craven soft hackle emergers without beads. Perhaps I could apply floatant to the small wet fly, and fish it right on the surface. It was worth a try. I plucked one from my fleece wallet and dabbed some floatant on the body and began to fire casts to the area of rising trout. It was a stroke of genius. Within the next forty minutes I landed three additional trout to increment my fish count to four.

Look At Those Cheeks

It was around noon when something equally surprising occurred. I began to note small blue winged olives on the surface, and the Eagle River trout never skipped a beat. They simply shifted their preferred diet from midges to baetis. I, meanwhile, continued fishing the wet fly as a dry, and by the time I stumbled to the boulder strewn beach on stump-like feet to eat lunch, I registered eight fish landed and released. After lunch I waded back into the pool but more toward the midsection, where an abundant quantity of fish were chowing down. The wind continued to gust frequently, and when the river surface riffled, the trout ceased their feast, and I rested my arm.

Deep Copper- Olive Scarlet Color Scheme

The soft hackle emerger continued to fool fish, and the fish counter climbed to twelve, but then I suffered through a significant dry spell, when the tiny wet fly was ignored. Was I overly focused on my newly discovered technique? Would the Klinkhammer style emerger outperform the Craven soft hackle if given playing time? I made the switch, and the Klink model produced five more decent trout. Similar to the soft hackle, I cast it across and executed downstream drifts. The main reason downstream drifts excelled was the advantageous light, but the lack of presence of a line may have also been a factor.

Those Spots Are Amazing

If this sounds like I had the perfect flies, that was not the case. For each fish landed I lobbed twenty or thirty casts over the feeding trout clustered in the pool. Many times I could not follow my fly and simply set when a rise occurred in the vicinity of where I anticipated the fly to be. But in some cases particularly with the higher floating visible Klinkhammer, I witnessed looks and refusals. The pool dwellers definitely preferred naturals, but as evidenced by the fish count, my flies worked often enough to maintain my interest.

So Chunky

Toward the later part of the afternoon, the other fisherman returned to the beach next to the pool, and I invited him to wade into the lower end. His name was Kevin, and he was fishing a size 20 olive body parachute fly with a red wing post. While I shared the pool with him, he notched three or four trout.

At one point we both rested on the shoreline to warm our feet, and I noticed a large rainbow trout hovering in very shallow space just above a large submerged rock. It darted to the surface and picked off a tiny morsel. I pointed it out to Kevin and gave him first shot, but he was having difficulty locating the fish. He managed to put two casts over the rainbow with no reaction, and then as we observed, another similar sized rainbow joined the first one. I told Kevin it was my turn. I dropped two casts above the two trout, and the trout were so close, that I did not have to strip additional line from the tip of the rod. On the third cast as Kevin and I watched, I lifted the soft hackle emerger to recast, and before the fly got off the water, the rainbow closest to the bank lifted and snared the emerger! I was frankly a bit surprised, but I continued lifting and felt momentary weight, and then the fly slipped out of the jaw of the hungry rainbow. I failed to catch the sighted trout, but I enjoyed the challenge of generating a take.

Perfect Ending

After this exciting episode I returned to fishing the soft hackle emerger as a dry fly, and I tallied an additional four landed trout. Again there was a significant amount of fruitless casting, but the catch rate was reasonable. During this late afternoon time frame I had some success with drifts that were twenty feet below me, and in one instance a fish grabbed the fly just as I made a quick mend that translated into a tweak of the fly.

By 4:30 my feet were once again stumps, and my entire body was quite chilled from the relentless wind and standing in frigid snow melt water. I reeled up my line, and Kevin decided to quit as well. We hiked back up the path to the road, and together we marveled at the day we experienced.

The greatest thrill on Monday was discovering a technique that produced fish on a fairly consistent basis during a hatch of tiny blue winged olives in windy conditions. This situation frustrated me in the past, and I was ecstatic to land fifteen wild fish on the Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. I now have three weapons for blue winged olive hatches: the CDC BWO, the Klinkhammer BWO and the Craven soft hackle emerger fished like a dry fly. Fly fishing is a lifetime experience that provides a never ending learning curve.

Fish Landed: 21