Category Archives: Eagle River

Eagle River – 07/06/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Edwards Rest Area

Eagle River 07/06/2021 Photo Album

As I mentioned in my 06/30/2021 post, on my last day on the Rio Grande River, I contracted a cold that began on Sunday and progressively advanced during my three day stay in the Creede, CO area. Fortunately it remained a sore throat, until it morphed into an annoying cough on Wednesday. My original plan called for a day of fishing on the Eagle River on Thursday, while Dave G. attended an all day town council retreat, but I abandoned those plans and rested at Dave G’s house in an attempt to curb the advancing respiratory virus. My efforts to stop the spread were minimally successful, and by the Fourth of July weekend I experienced persistent coughing, blocked ears and general head congestion. The inability to swallow and reading about the surging delta variant of COVID raised concerns that I somehow picked up the virus even though I was vaccinated, so I underwent a COVID test on Saturday morning.  A surprisingly quick turnaround of the test results relieved some of my anxiety, when a text message informed me of a negative result on Saturday evening.

On Monday the coughing subsided, and by Tuesday morning I was feeling improved with the aid of cold medicines. Since Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were filled with commitments that precluded fly fishing, I decided to attempt a day on the river on Tuesday. The flows on the Eagle River remained in the 350 CFS range, and I guessed that pale morning duns, caddis and yellow sallies were still on the menu, so I made the Edwards Rest Area my destination. Because I slept late in my effort to overcome my summer cold, I got off to a late start and arrived at 11:30AM, and after I assembled my Sage four weight, I downed my lunch. I was perched on the edge of the river by noon, and I began casting a double dry fly arrangement that featured a hippie stomper and size 16 deer hair yellow sally. In a shadowed pocket along the left bank I hooked up temporarily with a twelve inch rainbow, but it shed the hook, and never made it to my net.

Water Still Fairly High

The dries did not seem to be attracting attention, so I converted to a dry/dropper featuring an iron sally and salvation nymph, as I worked my way up the river through some quality deep pockets. By 1:30PM the fish counter rested on two, and that included a very fine rainbow trout with a pink sheen and a quality brown trout of fourteen inches. I was thrilled to land two trout, but I covered a significant amount of quality water, and the action was very slow.

Nice Coloration

Early Afternoon Brown Trout

With another thirty yard section of quality pocket water ahead of me, I decided to modify my approach and returned to a double dry presentation. A hippie stomper assumed the point position, and below it I knotted a cinnamon size 16 pale morning dun. These two flies were ignored, as were the hippie stomper when paired with a size 14 olive stimulator. I also experimented with a size 14 purple haze trailing a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, but again the fish gave me a solid thumbs down.

Pocket Water Galore

I finally reached a point where the river widened into a section of shallow riffles, so I exited with the intention of circling the long run and pool across from the high bank, but the fisherman who occupied the downstream portion of the pool was exiting, so I cut to the river to investigate. A young mother with three kids was wrapping up a swimming session at the top of the run, so I made a few obligatory casts, but I was uncertain whether the swimmers had recently disturbed the water, so I migrated to the pocket water.

Reentry 2

I removed the purple haze and replaced it with a peacock hippie stomper and added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a twelve inch leader. This move proved to be my best decision of the day, and I increased the fish count from two to seven over the next 1.5 hours. Numbers three and four were small brown trout in the seven to eleven inch ranch, but the last three were fine trout that raised my rating of Tuesday from disappointing to decent. Two were bulldog brown trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range and one was a chunky thirteen inch rainbow. The pocketwater feeders grabbed the trailing caddis, although I also suffered quite a few refusals to the size sixteen caddis. All the fish from the late afternoon pocket water section attacked the dry fly, as it drifted next to a seam bordering deep, fast water.

Brilliant

End of Day Surprise

The late afternoon flurry of action salvaged my day on the Eagle River. I took a stream temperature at 2PM, and it registered 62 degrees, so I felt that it was safe to continue fishing; however, I believe that the bright sun and high air temperatures definitely impacted the urge to feed of the Eagle River trout. An increase in cloud cover in the last 1.5 hours provoked increased caddis dapping activity, and this probably explained my improved success rate. A seven fish day under warm temperatures was appreciated and certainly preferred over remaining at home and nursing my cold.

Fish Landed: 7

Eagle River – 06/25/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Edwards Rest Area

Eagle River 06/25/2021 Photo Album

Two unproductive outings on the Uncompahgre River this week introduced a severe case of self doubt to my mental state. I needed a solid day of success to restore my fly fishing confidence. Could Friday, June 25 be the turnaround?

A couple weeks ago an Instagram friend informed me that he returned to Colorado after a couple year transfer to another state. He had a week off, before he launched his new job and wanted to know, if I was interested in a day of fly fishing. I was already committed to our trip to Ridgway State Park from Sunday through Wednesday, and Theo Thursday was an ironclad and highly anticipated obligation for Thursday, so I replied that Friday was my one open date. My Instagram friend accepted Friday as our fishing day; however, on Thursday evening he realized that he scheduled dog training for his rescue dog at 10AM on Friday morning. I considered a half day scenario at a front range stream, but ultimately I replied and asked for a raincheck. I scheduled a full day of fishing, and I decided to follow through with my plan.

The destination that intrigued me was the Eagle River. Toward the end of my last outing there on June 17 I enjoyed decent success with a double dry fly presentation. Meanwhile, the fly shop reports cited heavy caddis activity and pale morning dun emergences, and my friend, Dave G, who lives in Eagle, CO informed me that he encountered a thick caddis presence on streamside vegetation during an evening visit. The flows remained at 380 CFS, and the high temperature for Friday was forecast to peak at 67 degrees. The confluence of hatches, cool temperatures, and cold, high flows convinced me that the Eagle River was the place to be on Friday.

Good Place to Start

Fatty

I made the trip in two hours and parked at the Edwards Rest Stop. I wadered up and fitted together the four sections of my Sage four weight rod, and I was positioned along the edge of the river ready to begin my day of fishing by 10:40AM. I was itching to try a double dry offering, but since deep pocket water was in my near term future, I chose a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl and trailed a salvation nymph. On the very first cast to a narrow bankside pocket, a twelve inch rainbow snatched the salvation, and I was off and running. I persisted with the dry/dropper between 10:40AM and noon, and the fish count rested on two, after a very nice brown trout grabbed an emerald caddis pupa from a mid-river pocket. Two fish in 1.5 hours was not an outstanding catch rate, but it certainly surpassed five hours of zero success in the Ridgway area. Just before lunch I witnessed a couple refusals to the chubby Chernobyl, so I swapped it for a yellow Letort hopper (ignored) and then a size 10 classic Chernobyl ant. The Chernobyl attracted the interest of a decent fish, and I hooked it for a second or two before it eluded the penetration.

Before Lunch

Experimenting with the double dry approach remained foremost in my mind, and while I munched my sandwich, I noticed a wave of swallows, as they swooped across the river ingesting some sort of bug food. What could they be eating? I guessed that caddis were their target, and I removed the dry/dropper flies and knotted a peacock hippie stomper and size 16 deer hair caddis to my line. I felt confident that this combination would arouse the interest of the Eagle River trout, but after I covered seventy yards of pocket water, the fish count remained locked on two. I paused and observed, and a small pale morning dun floated skyward near my position. This emergence transpired right after a pair of refusals to the deer hair caddis, and I concluded that the fish were looking for upright wings and not down wings. I switched the caddis for a cinnamon size 18 comparadun, and in a short amount of time the fish count increased to three, after a spunky thirteen inch rainbow sipped the comparadun.

I Love the Background Color

For the next hour I moved steadily through a section of prime pocketwater and prospected with the hippie stomper and comparadun, although after getting blanked in a quality spot, I exchanged the cinnamon comparadun for a size 16 light gray version. The stomper and comparadun combination clicked with the Eagle River residents, and the fish counter climbed from three to seven in short order. Quite a few of the PMD chompers were nice rainbows in the twelve to fourteen inch range, and I was getting into the kind of nice rhythm that instilled confidence.

Nice Width

Of course, change is a constant, and after releasing number seven I heard some thunder and scanned the southwestern sky, where a large gray mass of moisture was gathering. I was on a roll, and I was not anxious to take a break to dig out my raincoat; but, of course, that was a mistake. The onset of rain was not gradual, and instead dumped from the sky in sheets. I scrambled to the shoreline and removed my frontpack and backpack and camera and dug out my raincoat, but my fishing shirt absorbed a fair amount of moisture in the process. I stood on the bank and watched the heavy rain descend on the river, but it only lasted for five minutes before a patch of blue sky in the west foretold another change.

I returned to the river and made a few more casts to the attractive pockets above me, and another rainbow sipped the comparadun to boost the catch total to eight. At this point I ran out of promising water, and a severe chill traveled up my spine, as the evaporation of the wet fishing shirt created a cooling effect. I decided to return to the Santa Fe for another layer. I marked my exit point, marched back to the parking lot, grabbed my hooded fleece, and returned to the path, where I exited. I skipped around the next section of wide and shallow riffles and turned on a well worn path to a long run and pool across from a high dirt bank. Generally this stretch of the river is occupied, but apparently the storm scared off the angling population. I made some casts along the left side of the long run, and this generated two refusals to the comparadun.

Produced

Lots of Pink on This One

My mind evaluated the situation, and I concluded that the storm brought an end to the pale morning dun hatch. The overcast sky and cloud cover suggested that I convert to the size 16 olive-brown caddis, and that is what I did. Caddis tend to become more active in low light conditions, and the afternoon gloom certainly fit that description. The change proved very effective, and the fish count surged from eight to fourteen over the last 1.5 hours, as I fished another very attractive section of deep pocket water, before I ended my day at 4PM. These late afternoon fish were special, as nearly all stretched the tape between twelve and fifteen inches. Brown trout became more prevalent in this section, and two beauties in the fifteen inch range were especially prized. A couple aggressive feeders attacked the hippie stomper, but the caddis was the favored dry fly for most of this productive period of time. In addition to the netted trout, several muscular chunks streaked about the river and shed my fly, before I could gain the upper hand.

Juicy Shelf Pool

Stunning Brown Trout

What a day! I landed fourteen robust trout in six hours of fishing. A pale morning dun hatch followed by caddis madness accelerated my enjoyment, and dry fly action is always the preferred technique. I suspect that the caddis and PMD magic will persist for another week or two and be joined by yellow sallies. If the flows remain in the 200 to 400 CFS range, I will likely consider a return after my trip to the Rio Grande. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 14

Gorgeous

Eagle River – 06/17/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle and then at the Edwards Rest Stop

Eagle River 06/17/2021 Photo Album

Thursday, June 6 was one of those days when my penchant for persistence led to frustration. I always believed in the motto, try and try again, and that belief probably resulted in significant arm fatigue. Read on for an explanation.

After a rewarding day on the Eagle River on Wednesday, I drove to the Hornsilver Campground south of Minturn and set up my tent for a one night stay over. When I arrived, I had the pick of the ten campsites, although a RV pulled in on the opposite side from me later. The temperature remained quite warm, as I assembled the tent and prepared my dinner, and that is quite a statement for a place that historically produced frost in August.

I woke up at 6:30AM on Wednesday, and the air was quite chilly. Frost was not present on the gas stove, but I wore my stocking hat and down parka for the first hour, and the dashboard read 47 degrees, when I departed for my day of fishing. Instant oatmeal, hot tea, a cup of yogurt and a granola bar served as my nourishment, as I pondered my destination for Thursday. I was reluctant to return to the same section of the river as Wednesday, even though I had a hunch, that it might have been the best option. Instead I moved up river to a stretch that I fished last year between Wolcott and Eagle. Two cars were parked in the space across from the designated entry point, so I was wary of competition, but the concern was without basis, as I only spotted a guide and his client significantly downstream from where I began.

Number One From Here

Respectable

For Thursday’s adventure I rigged my Sage One five weight, and although I debated wet wading, I opted for the more conservative path and pulled on my waders. I hiked for .2 mile to a spot where a log extended into the water to block the rushing current. Based on a hunch that the trout might be looking for a yellow body such as a grasshopper or golden stonefly, I elected to tie on a size 8 fat Albert, and below that I placed a green-black Pat’s rubberlegs and a generic brown nymph. I made a few of the latter flies during my heart recovery, and the pattern was highlighted in the Pennsylvania Angler magazine.

Remarkably the brown nymph worked, and I picked up a respectable brown trout in the early going. I moved on and dropped down to the waterway at each place, where the river deepened and the current slowed along the bank. I did not dwell and moved along quickly with a cast or two for quick searching. I remembered a long section of pocket water near the end of the public section, and I was targeting that area for more concentrated coverage. During the early period I noted one refusal to the fat Albert in addition to the decent brown trout, and an ounce of concern tempered my carryover optimism from the previous day. I skipped a fifty yard section of wide shallow riffles and then probed a place, where a fraction of the river was diverted into an irrigation ditch. Nothing was happening, so I began a series of fly changes. I swapped the brown nymph for a salvation and eventually replaced that with a bright green caddis pupa. The salvation nymph anticipated a pale morning dun hatch, and the caddis pupa was a response to the preponderance of small caddis on the streamside willows.

Produced a Fish

I rounded a bend, and the extended pocket water was in front of me. The river flooded the willows on my side of the river, and I began methodically casting to all the deep troughs and pockets. The fish count elevated from one to three with the addition of two brown trout, one of which extended to a foot, but the area seemed to suggest better results. Eventually I reached the white private property sign, so I reversed direction and carefully slid through the shallow water that flooded the willows and returned to the car. My watch displayed 12:30PM, as I threw my gear in the back of the Forte and drove to another location.

Where to next? I decided to explore the area along the right side of US 6 just below the Horn Ranch Wildlife Area, and I grabbed the second large pullout. A young lady was on the tailgate of a hatchback preparing to fish , but I remained set up from the morning, so I slid down a very steep bank and then meandered downstream to a very attractive wide riffle of moderate depth. Surely this fine swath of water would reverse my fortunes. I found a nice small beach spot and sat on a rock to consume my lunch and observe the river for signs of insect activity. As I was finishing up my lunch, I heard the zing of a fly line, and fifteen yards above me stood another angler. He chucked his line four or five times and stripped his fly back, and it was evident that he was covering the water with a streamer. Eventually he spotted me at my lunch spot, and he was very apologetic and said that I was camouflaged in my little retreat. I invited him to fish on through, but he said he was waiting for a woman, and I assumed that was the young lady putting her waders on, when I arrived.

Red Cliff Area

I truly did not mind his presence, but he was a gentleman and departed, and after lunch I resumed my assault on the Eagle River trout. I covered the wide riffle thoroughly with no sign of fish. I lingered in this section of the Eagle River for an hour and a half, as I worked my way upstream. Despite some very fine pools, pockets and runs I was unable to entice so much as a refusal. This is where the penchant for persistence alluded to in the first paragraph tripped me up. The air temperature spiked, and the sun beat down on me and the river relentlessly. There was no sign of insect activity, and I would have been smart to cut my losses, but that is not my nature. Finally I reigned in my insanity and hoofed it back to the car. I debated surrendering to the heat for the day, but then I reasoned that a move upriver might yield better results.

Looking Up

I threw my gear in the back of the hatchback and proceeded to the Edwards Rest Stop. This is a favorite of mine from previous years, and I knew that it offered a plentiful amount of pocketwater, and I knew that the related aeration is favored by trout in warm conditions. I grabbed my fly rod and headed down river to near the bottom of the extended fast water section, and on my second cast I hooked and netted a twelve inch brown trout. Clearly I should have made this move earlier and not been a slave to the try harder mantra.

Unfortunately the early good fortune at the rest stop was temporary, and I encountered the same lack of action, as I thoroughly waded among the exposed rocks and prospected all the viable deep fish holding lairs. My spike in optimism waned, and by 3:00PM I exited and circled around a long run and pool that was occupied by another fisherman. Another section of pockets existed above the long run, and that was my destination. The rock garden is very difficult to wade, and I am sure that condition keeps the pressure down compared to the obvious places such as the long run and pool below me. I carefully wedged my boots between some large submerged rocks and dropped a cast into a long pocket behind an exposed boulder, and on the fifth cast the chubby Chernobyl dipped, and I felt the weight of a rambunctious rainbow trout. In fact, it was so rambunctious that it shed the hook in less than a second. It had been quite a while since the last brown trout, and I was very upset with botching this opportunity.

Source of Number Five

I moved upstream a bit and repositioned myself to cover a couple pockets close to the left bank. These were fairly marginal, but the first cast to the left produced a long look at the chubby chernobyl. I now knew the home of a decent brown trout. I shifted gears and tossed another short cast to a tiny slot directly above me. What happened? A slightly bigger brown trout rose to sniff the chubby. I was drawing the attention of some nice fish, but I was unable to close the deal. I pondered the situation and decided it was time to go to a dry fly.

I removed the dry/dropper flies and knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a size 16 deer hair caddis on a six inch dropper. Were these fish jaded by the chubby, or would they respond to something different? It did not take long for me to have my answer. On the first cast to the left, the thirteen inch brown trout slashed the caddis, and I was attached to an unhappy camper. Nevertheless, I managed to slide the brown in my net, and I was very pleased with my success. I snapped some photos and turned my attention to the larger brown directly above me. I could still see it in a deep and narrow space between two larger rocks at the tail of a short faster run. I flicked the double dry above the target, and its tail twitched, but that was extent of the response. I was convinced that this wary critter was not going to eat my fly, but on the second drift it grabbed the trailing caddis. What a thrill! This brown trout measured around fifteen inches, and after a valiant battle I guided it to my net. The contrast with the earlier part of the day was amazing.

Very Nice

Again I carefully waded upstream around a gentle bend, as I carefully evaluated each foot placement on the slippery bowling ball rocks. Here I encountered a small shelf pool bordered by a fast run on the right and the bank with an overhanging branch on the left. First I probed the inside seam on the left of the run, but that strategy yielded no result. Next I tossed a short cast to the left side, and as the two flies slid to the tail, I spotted a subtle underwater movement. I repeated the same cast, but in this pass, a trout elevated and slashed one of the flies. At the time I was uncertain which fly was consumed, but when I dipped my net below a fifteen inch cutbow, I realized that the adult caddis was once again the desired food item.

Cutbow Like the Caddis

I continued up the river for another thirty yards and managed to land another twelve inch rainbow. In addition, I foul hooked a nice brown trout on a refusal, and experienced a few other instances, where my fly was visibly avoided. What an ending to a day that seemed hopelessly undermined by heat! I moved the fish count from three to eight at the Edwards Rest Area, and I challenged my thought process for failing to react earlier. Three of the four fish extracted from the pocketwater were quality trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and they responded to dry flies. I also second guessed not trying the double dry set up in the long section of pocketwater, where I first began at the rest stop. I have a strong hunch that the the high floating dries may have yielded a few more trout. I managed to convert a disappointing three fish day into a respectable eight fish outing, and for that I was pleased.

Fish Landed: 8

Eagle River – 06/16/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 06/16/2021 Photo Album

With Jane off on a girl’s birthday trip to Angel Fire, NM, I was free to plan some run off fishing. Amazingly the Yampa River dropped precipitously from 650 CFS last Wednesday to 250 CFS on June 16. PMD’s were probably making a strong appearance, but the Yampa in Steamboat Springs at lower flows can be temperamental, and I had better options. Also, tubers at low flows can impact the Steamboat Springs fishing experience negatively.

Two freestone rivers falling within my favored range were the Arkansas River and the Eagle River. The Ark below Salida was 1500 CFS, and the Royal Gorge Angler website cited fish in a barrel action, but I learned that Taylor Edrington  can sometimes be prone to exaggeration.

Site of Number One

The Eagle River was falling steadily, and the gauge below Milk Creek registered daily lows of 900 CFS. I love edge fishing the Eagle at these high but falling levels, and I had a very positive experience on Sunday with Cutthroat Anglers, so I made this my destination on Wednesday.

Rafters Still Active on the Eagle River

Wednesday was another bright, hot and sunny day with a high of 100 degrees forecast for Denver. The temperature when I arrived at my chosen pullout along US 6 was already 80 degrees at 11:00AM. I considered wet wading and probably should have, but I knew I would be hiking through pickers and rough vegetation, so I stuck with waders. I can confirm that perspiration was part of my experience on Wednesday. I assembled my Sage One five weight and ambled to the edge of the river and configured my line with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, olive-black Pat’s rubberlegs, and an iron sally. My first cast was in the water slightly after 11:30AM. In the half hour before lunch I landed a cutbow that gobbled the rubberlegs. This trout measured in excess of sixteen inches, and it caused a significant sag in my net.

Pat’s Rubberlegs Again

Fatty

The early cutbow was an auspicious beginning to my day, and after lunch I resumed my search for robust Eagle River trout. The chubby and rubberlegs remained on my line from beginning to end, while the point fly rotated among the iron sally, salvation nymph, emerald caddis pupa, and a bright green caddis pupa. The iron sally, salvation, and bright green caddis pupa each accounted for a fish along with the chubby Chernobyl, and the remainder snatched the rubberlegs from the drift.

Scarlet Knight

Oohs and Aahs

Favored trout lies were deep troughs or slots next to large boulders and current seams. At 900 CFS the trout remained in close proximity to the bank. I expanded my rule of five drifts and move, and in several cases it took ten passes to gain the attention of the trout. I attribute this to the presence of fast, deep water, which is more forgiving of repeated casts.

Dark Knight

Now for the best part of the ten fish landed, at least five were in the fifteen to eighteen inch range. My net felt the weight of two additional cutbows of similar dimensions, as the one landed in the first thirty minutes. A couple of brown trout extended to fifteen inches, and three more fighting rainbows stretched to the thirteen to fourteen inch range. Even these slightly smaller trout were muscular bullets that tested my 3X tippet. Speaking of 3X, I learned from my guide on Sunday that the Eagle River trout are not leader shy at 1100 CFS, so I adopted his usage of heavy tippet to gain an advantage over the larger fish.

Home for Wednesday Night

Wednesday was another exceptional day on the Eagle River. Ten trout in four hours of fishing is not a torrid catch rate, but it is above average. This was accomplished despite the lack of any significant hatching activity. I did spy some small caddis on streamside rocks and vegetation, but the highly anticipated pale morning duns and yellow Sallies failed to make an appearance, and the caddis never became a major menu item. The factor that made Wednesday special was the size of the fish. All but two of the fish were bruisers in the thirteen to eighteen inch range. The average size was comparable to my netted fish on Sunday, but Wednesday’s success was accomplished without the benefit of a raft, guide, or an attention grabbing hatch. I am a happy fly angler.

Fish Landed: 10

Eagle River – 06/13/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Downstream from Eagle Fairgrounds

Eagle River 06/13/2021 Photo Album

My day of fly fishing yesterday, June 13, 2021, easily qualifies as my best of the year so far. I take great pride in being a do it yourself fly fisherman. What does this mean? I read books and magazine articles and attempt to figure out the nuances of this diverse sport on my own. I tie my own flies, study entomology, monitor stream flows and correlate them to fishing conditions. In short, I attempt to use every resource at my disposal to build experience, so that I can achieve success without the aid of professionals.

This does not mean that I do not embark on the occasional guide trip, and Sunday was one such adventure. My good friend, Dave G., sent me a list of his scheduled guide trips for the 2021 season, and I decided to join him for two single day floats and one three day and three night extravaganza. Our float trip on the Eagle River with Cutthroat Anglers was the first of these three ventures. and what a day it was! Dave G. and I met our guide, Reed, at the boat launch just downstream of the Eagle Fairgrounds arena at 9AM, and we were on the water by 9:30AM. We drifted downstream for six hours and took out at a crude boat ramp at an RV park between Gypsum and Dotsero.

Typical Bankside Pocket

The sun was bright and intense all day with nary a cloud in the sky. The high temperature probably peaked in the upper eighties. As I write this, I checked the flows, and they remained in the 1100 CFS range. We fished from an inflatable raft, and this is the craft of choice on the Eagle due to many exposed rocks even at high flows. For the morning session Dave G. conceded the front position to me, and this proved to be advantageous. We switched positions after our bankside lunch, and then Dave G. once again suggested a shift with an hour left in the afternoon.

Behind the Branch

I tested dry flies twice during our float, but the fish seemed to much prefer nymphs during the bright conditions, so the surface fly experiments were short-lived. Without a doubt the top producer on the day for both of us were size 12 olive-black Pat’s rubberleg nymphs. Reed’s familiarity with the river paid big dividends, as we concentrated on drop offs from shallow shoals and deep pockets and holes along the bank behind current breaks such as large rocks or fallen logs. Making long casts ahead of the boat toward the bank with my Scott six weight ruled the day, and my exercise regimen for my wrist, elbow and shoulder seemed to pay off.

Prime time was from 10:30AM until 1:00PM, when we enjoyed our lunch break. Reed spotted a few pale morning duns during this time, which probably cued the trout to convert from rest to feeding mode. When we stopped for lunch at 1PM, my fish count was paused at eleven, and these trout were all netted during the active time frame. After lunch I incremented the count to fourteen, but the afternoon period was clearly much slower due to the elevated temperatures and the absence of aquatic insects. I am tempted to blame my shift in boat position, but Dave G.’s afternoon from the front of the boat was equally slow.

My Prize Cutbow

Very Fine Brown Trout Took My Fly

What about the quality of the fish? The size of the trout is what qualifies June thirteenth as likely my best day of the year. Of the fourteen trout landed, all were cutbows or rainbows except for three brown trout. Two of the browns were quality fish in the fifteen inch range, but the rainbows and cutbows were a notch above. A couple rainbows were below twelve inches, but the remainder exceeded thirteen inches, and the prizes were two twenty inchers. The first in the twenty inch range was a cutbow. We were pounding the right bank, and Reed announced a short pocket behind an overhanging branch that most assuredly held a fine fish. I anticipated the spot thanks to Reed’s accurate description and flicked a short cast just beyond the nuisance branch, and within a second of Reed’s proclamation of a fish residing in the bucket, the chubby Chernobyl dipped, and I was connected to the bruising cutbow. I did not have a firm grip on the rod, and the force of the first move of the trout caused the rod to jam against my knuckles, and then, in an attempt to regain the proper grip, I caused the fly line to wrap around my wrist. I allowed the streaking fish to head upstream, while I quickly used my right hand to slide the loop over my left hand. At this point I was in a position of control, and I used the six weight, nine foot rod to tire my catch and guided it into Reed’s large, long handled net. Whew! What a fight and what a beast of a fish.

Very Pleased With This Beauty

The second twenty-incher emerged from a nice slow moving seam along the left bank. Once again the chubby dipped, and I responded with a quick hook set. The ‘bow did not display as much girth as the cutbow, but it acquitted itself quite well with several missile-like streaks that forced me to allow line to spin off the reel. Pound for pound the rainbow probably packed a stronger resistance than the cutbow.

Guide’s Go To Accessories

The seven remaining cutbows and rainbows were not slouches, as several in the fifteen to eighteen inch range graced my net. These Eagle River fish were fresh and energetic after weathering the peak of the run off. I have experienced some outstanding days edge fishing the Eagle River during high water periods, but I cannot claim to have landed as many fish in the fifteen to twenty inch range. I take pride in my DIY capability, but a few professional guide outings remain welcome growth opportunities. I nearly always learn something new from the instruction of a guide. I have three days at the end of the next week to fish, and the Eagle River may have earned another day.

Fish Landed: 14

Eagle River – 10/13/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Avon

Eagle River 10/13/2020 Photo Album

I was eagerly anticipating an October trip to South Boulder Creek, but when I reviewed the flows at the DWR website, I was shocked to learn that the releases from Gross Dam were lowered from 103 CFS three days ago to 7 CFS. 7 CFS is comparable to fishing in puddles between exposed rocks, and it is not my idea of sporting fly fishing. I considered alternative options, and with temperatures peaking in the low 80’s in Denver I decided to take advantage and made the two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, CO. I knew from looking at the DWR site that the Eagle in this area was extremely low at 56 CFS, but past experience taught me that a fairly reliable blue winged olive hatch spurred surface feeding. I was banking on meeting this emergence on Tuesday, October 13 to offset the low and clear conditions.

Brilliant Background

I arrived at my chosen destination on the Eagle River near Avon, CO at 11:00AM, and by the time I put together my Sage four weight and gathered all my gear and hiked to the river, it was 11:30AM. I observed the main pool for a bit, but I saw no signs of blue winged olives or surface feeding, so I rigged with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead pheasant tail nymph and classic RS2. I prospected the upper section of the gorgeous pool next to me, but evidence of the presence of trout was absent. I progressed above the pool, and I began to explore what appeared to be marginal glides and relatively shallow water between an array of exposed boulders. I sought the places with the most depth, and I was shocked to connect with the best fish of the day in one of the easily overlooked locations. The rainbow trout stopped the hopper in its tracks, and after a relatively short battle, I slid my net beneath a sixteen inch beauty. The RS2 was barely snagged in the thin membrane of the bony jaw of the deeply colored fish. In addition to the substantial rainbow trout I also landed a ten inch brown trout on the RS2.

Quite a Tail

When 1PM arrived, I climbed to the bike path and returned to the main pool in anticipation of some BWO hatching activity. I was disappointed to see only placid water riffled by the intermittent gusting wind. I dug my raincoat from my backpack and pulled it over my shirt to act as a windbreaker, and I was pleased to have the extra layer in my possession. I decided to cover the nice run and riffles below the main pool, but this area yielded only a refusal. After a thorough search I moved to the tail of the huge main pool, and I covered the bottom third of the deep slow moving section with the dry/dropper, but the effort was purely an arm exercise.

Low Eagle River on October 13

I was set up for fishing the shallow riffles in a manner similar to the earlier session, so I cut back to the south bank and hiked up the bike path to my exit point at 1PM. I re-entered the river and spent the next two hours prospecting the most promising glides that offered a bit of depth, but the results of this focused fly fishing were disappointing. I recorded temporary hook ups with two small fish and landed another small brown trout to bring the fish count to a meager three. I an effort to boost my confidence I reminded myself of the sixteen inch rainbow that filled my net earlier.

Much of My Day Was Spent on Inconspicuous Water Like This

At 3:30PM I grew weary of the fruitless wading and unproductive casting, so I decided to retreat back to my home base; the large pool where I began. I commenced fishing at the top of the pool, where I began my day, but my confidence was low, and I sensed that I was passing over fish that were holding deeper in the cold mountain water. I decided to commit to some deep nymphing, and I removed the dry/dropper flies and then crimped a split shot to my line and fastened a New Zealand strike indicator one foot below the end of the fly line. The NZ strike indicator attachment process went much smoother than the flawed experience suffered during the previous week on the Arkansas River.

I began working the center current, the seams and shelves next to my position; and after five minutes of unproductive casting the flies caught on something, as they began to swing at the end of the drift. I flexed the rod a few times, and It was clear that the snag was relatively severe. The depth and swift current precluded any attempt to save the flies, so I applied direct pressure and snapped off the beadhead pheasant tail and RS2. I patiently reconfigured my line with a salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2 and resumed casting, but at 3:30PM my wish was finally fulfilled. I began to notice dimpling rises along both sides of the current seam. Once again I turned my attention to knot tying, as I removed the deep nymphing paraphernalia and replaced it with a single size 22 CDC blue winged olive. The pace of feeding accelerated a bit, as four or five trout fed fairly sporadically in my vicinity.

Unfortunately the wind was gusting upstream and some shadows covered the area next to me, and these natural impediments created an extremely challenging situation. It was impossible to track the tiny CDC tuft, although I set the hook several times, when I spotted rises, where I estimated my fly to be. The ploy did not work, and I was frustrated with my inability to track my small fly. I waited all day for the emergence, and now the conditions were conspiring against my efforts to take advantage of the long overdue hatch.

Deep Colors on This Cutbow

I paused to consider my options and noticed that the north side of the center seam was bathed in sunlight. I decided to circle along the south shoreline of the large pool, cross at the tail and then work upstream along the north bank. In this way I could approach the trout directly across from me with upstream casts and the wind behind my back. It took some doing, but ten minutes later I was positioned at the bottom of the shelf pool on the north side of the river. I carefully observed the area, and I was pleased to discover that four or five fish continued to feed. I picked out two that were across from me, but after an abundant quantity of casts, I was forced to acknowledge that my fly was not to their liking. Meanwhile a pair of trout rose more steadily in the secondary feeder run directly above me. I began to execute some forty foot casts and checked my cast at eleven o’clock, so the fly fluttered down to the faster current. I was unable to track the fly in the swirling water, so I resorted to the “guess-set” technique. On the fifteenth drift I spotted a dimple along the left side of the secondary seam, and I raised the rod firmly. Instantly I felt the power of a fine rainbow trout, and it dazzled me with an extraordinary aerial display that included at least five leaps above the surface of the river.

I Love the Net Shadows on This Shot

This rainbow measured around fifteen inches, and it possessed a significant girth. I was very pleased that my circuitous route to the opposite side of the river was rewarded with a fourth trout. After I released the brute, I resumed casting, but the surface feeding waned. In a last gasp attempt to fool another trout I replaced the CDC olive with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I applied floatant to the body of the wet fly to make it float, and I sprayed casts across the wide shelf pool area; but, alas, the late ploy did not produce.  I reeled up my line and called it a day and then crossed in the wide shallow area above the long pool.

Four fish in 4.5 hours of fishing is clearly a low catch rate, but two rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range compensated for the lack of volume. The cool wind, lack of clouds, and low clear water presented very challenging conditions, so I was pleased with the success that I managed. Bright sun, lack of clouds, and low, clear water seems to be a recurring theme during the autumn of 2020. I will continue my pursuit of trout, until conditions become too extreme.

Fish Landed: 4

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