Eagle River – 07/03/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO

Eagle River 07/03/2017 Photo Album

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

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

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

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

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

Shelf Pool at the Start

Pool Toy Hopper Fooled Number One

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

Large Gap in My Grip

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

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

What a Beauty

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

Around the Boulders Looks Attractive

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

Best Brown of the Day

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

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

Long and Colorful

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

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

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

Ate the Yellow Stimulator

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

Landed Fish: 17

Eagle River – 07/11/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Edwards rest area; Eagle River below Minturn

Eagle River 07/11/2016 Photo Album

No green drakes!

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

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

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JYIs_DRS9eU/V4alGfPoq8I/AAAAAAABArA/brJAjFTd0vYbvszswRX57O3q5lcJDoE8QCHM/s144-o/P7110002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6306909848586238577?locked=true#6306909859063835586″ caption=”Lovely Pocket Water” type=”image” alt=”P7110002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SD65HDulujM/V4alGWSyf9I/AAAAAAABArE/poc57SdDfb80Kv1PmmqAgAwzxlEz1KORwCHM/s144-o/P7110003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6306909848586238577?locked=true#6306909856661143506″ caption=”Beast” type=”image” alt=”P7110003.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-9B0CiIAe7NE/V4alHPwNY9I/AAAAAAABArQ/xOxMz-jrzV8dZped_OzWqUjPeq36_TWVgCHM/s144-o/P7110007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6306909848586238577?locked=true#6306909872085361618″ caption=”Left Edge Produced” type=”image” alt=”P7110007.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Unu1yXE1kA0/V4alHaBEmwI/AAAAAAABArU/Z-ag6wgfNg0dG6TAzTVUjBJP2Irx22a9gCHM/s144-o/P7110008.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6306909848586238577?locked=true#6306909874840443650″ caption=”Deep Mossy Colored Brown” type=”image” alt=”P7110008.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-_J4HXG0dmic/V4alHVOQBoI/AAAAAAABArY/izbh26h5f34ZgahhucamNwbZyW5ywR8uwCHM/s144-o/P7110009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6306909848586238577?locked=true#6306909873553540738″ caption=”Another Eagle River Beauty” type=”image” alt=”P7110009.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-lXow_Twrndo/V4alHtwofmI/AAAAAAABArc/26ZxW3m-DdkFeFGSsgJ0yQCIewHSNSHTQCHM/s144-o/P7110010.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6306909848586238577?locked=true#6306909880140201570″ caption=”No. 3 at Hornsilver” type=”image” alt=”P7110010.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

Fish Landed: 13

Eagle River – 07/05/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eagle Lease, western end

Eagle River 07/05/2016 Photo Album

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

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

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-iWlNWqyF5cU/V3x7QHyUX8I/AAAAAAABAjA/9SmcK9tTOuoeuZAr1EoqVp8QIbr-SjlMACHM/s144-o/P7050014.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6304049079610269233?locked=true#6304049095310073794″ caption=”High and Clear, Around 1000 CFS” type=”image” alt=”P7050014.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Bci7MDx1kGA/V3x7PhWz1_I/AAAAAAABAjA/Qb7kqW9wQpI89rcPTZd4Ps2xi4x9CGRDQCHM/s144-o/P7050012.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6304049079610269233?locked=true#6304049084994148338″ caption=”First Fish Was This Gorgeous Rainbow Trout” type=”image” alt=”P7050012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-bf54qbZTqmk/V3x7QmU_-bI/AAAAAAABAjA/Bq0rPz2NwicP7OdyXT6WyV5PXzmV8pZvQCHM/s144-o/P7050016.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6304049079610269233?locked=true#6304049103508601266″ caption=”Just a Beautiful Fish” type=”image” alt=”P7050016.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-oS-B8Ma8kmw/V3x7SJa1ouI/AAAAAAABAjA/1GXK2TfoDuA59uZbGuQlGtRUNUzeC450ACHM/s144-o/P7050018.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6304049079610269233?locked=true#6304049130108199650″ caption=”Salvation Nymph Piercing” type=”image” alt=”P7050018.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

 [peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-alNZYPC_JHg/V3x7S629JoI/AAAAAAABAjA/Es7L-IPPAxEx18BJw0i0DgzFBXzInbRKQCHM/s144-o/P7050021.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6304049079610269233?locked=true#6304049143379469954″ caption=”I Landed Four from These Flats on a PMD Comparadun” type=”image” alt=”P7050021.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-bJ66bss2nH0/V3x7T8F1K3I/AAAAAAABAjA/ZZBn2H8ceNU-QqZfHoV30dtDbcMSzZZwgCHM/s144-o/P7050024.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6304049079610269233?locked=true#6304049160890166130″ caption=”Lowered for Release” type=”image” alt=”P7050024.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-bd89dbUVvuQ/V3x7UNEuTgI/AAAAAAABAjA/GuuXbrtdSmcMAYZpwSuNkDuMnyGtyZ1tQCHM/s144-o/P7050025.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6304049079610269233?locked=true#6304049165448924674″ caption=”Very Nice Powerful Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P7050025.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

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

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

On to the Arkansas River.

Fish Landed: 12

Eagle River – 07/02/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

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

Eagle River 07/02/2016 Photo Album

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

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

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

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QhXqDqROkxU/V3szCmSV5VI/AAAAAAABAfw/1eVqqAHCvw0Eg1xyZJMiG4WkVb2G7thUQCHM/s144-o/P7020002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6303688196157112065?locked=true#6303688223165375826″ caption=”The Eagle River Was Wet and Raging” type=”image” alt=”P7020002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-PH_cE0LbxcM/V3szD6CxA7I/AAAAAAABAf8/DL2NQxpCUbsgyZuUUUpAGq6eY1Gop0WzgCHM/s144-o/P7020005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6303688196157112065?locked=true#6303688245648622514″ caption=”Typical Holding Location” type=”image” alt=”P7020005.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-LtXS7Hj30Rk/V3szDQW41tI/AAAAAAABAf4/GB1h3hPKHZgi_tCv8JE0UJYd5Z97xFbKwCHM/s144-o/P7020004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6303688196157112065?locked=true#6303688234458732242″ caption=”Best Fish on Saturday” type=”image” alt=”P7020004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

Fish Landed: 3

Eagle River – 04/29/2015

Time: 10:30AM-2:30PM

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

Fish Landed: 2 (of 7 hooked)

Eagle River 04/29/2016 Photo Album

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-XJFOlNtyscc/VyZPhJfbIsI/AAAAAAAA9Xo/HykAq5uBiK0c484gAgy16Cwjz64BqM6jwCHM/s144-o/P4280046.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6279794157326544833?locked=true#6279794161316733634″ caption=”Our Day Begins on the Eagle River” type=”image” alt=”P4280046.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

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

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-v10i36-85BI/VyZPhujTlII/AAAAAAAA9YU/qqzXtIOvNVMoQ40v0z6HLjv62KvPm9P4gCHM/s144-o/P4280048.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6279794157326544833?locked=true#6279794171265127554″ caption=”Pretty Fish Took Soft Hackle Emerger” type=”image” alt=”P4280048.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-brv8Hl_L1-s/VyZPi7f31BI/AAAAAAAA9YU/MtfLRK1RuTwA2GI9A0CE8riKii-ulRKdACHM/s144-o/P4290053.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6279794157326544833?locked=true#6279794191920256018″ caption=”Lots of Length on This Fish” type=”image” alt=”P4290053.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-zKsu-_buIP0/VyZPitfe9hI/AAAAAAAA9X8/-q-FwtCDOV4keU40zCojG0Vog1rm7grzACHM/s144-o/P4290051.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6279794157326544833?locked=true#6279794188160529938″ caption=”The Bend at the Western End of Horn Ranch” type=”image” alt=”P4290051.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

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

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

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

Eagle River – 09/11/2015

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Climbing Rock area below Wolcott

Fish Landed: 2

Eagle River 09/11/2015 Photo Album

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

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

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-gS8o9K7KFMk/VfSolGTIktI/AAAAAAAA3wM/sL0IeOlRVG0/s144-c-o/P9110067.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09112015EagleRiver#6193760742840767186″ caption=”A Tractor-Trailer Passes Through the Flock of Sheep” type=”image” alt=”P9110067.JPG” ]

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

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-cU8Gdw7WgSI/VfSomqNg52I/AAAAAAAA3wg/7ECtBLw5gA4/s144-c-o/P9110070.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09112015EagleRiver#6193760769660741474″ caption=”I Better Get Moving or Be Overtaken Again” type=”image” alt=”P9110070.JPG” ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HKJmRE5jFoI/VfSonhyu4PI/AAAAAAAA3ww/qp3KCWSZ7mw/s144-c-o/P9110072.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09112015EagleRiver#6193760784580796658″ caption=”12″ Brown from the Eagle River” type=”image” alt=”P9110072.JPG” ]

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

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

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

Eagle River – 07/31/2015

Time: 8:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Edwards rest area and then section between Minturn and interstate 70

Fish Landed: 9

Eagle River 07/31/2015 Photo Album

My most significant accomplishment on July 30 at the Timbers at Bachelor Gulch had nothing to do with fishing, but more on that later. I spent Thursday morning fishing with Jeff Weekley, and this taught me two things. First, I realized that the best fishing was in the morning with the bright sun and warm air temperatures making fly fishing in the afternoon a difficult proposition. I enjoyed my time with Jeff, but I did not want to push him too hard to move often given the extremely slippery wading conditions on the Eagle River. The Thursday experience did whet my appetite for some aggressive wading and dry/dropper fishing in the abundant pocket water near the Edwards rest area.

With these thoughts spinning in my head, I woke up early and quickly munched an english muffin and yogurt. The valet quickly brought my car to the covered entrance to the condominium complex, and I drove the short distance to the Edwards rest area where I prepared to fish. For Friday I decided to explore the pocket water between the Riverwalk shops and the rest area, so I followed the fisherman path and then walked downstream along the bank as far as I could until I reached the very fast whitewater chute that blocked the progress of Jeff and me on Thursday.

I began with a Chernobyl ant with a pink foam inidcator and added a beadhead ultra zug bug and salvation nymph, and interestingly these flies would serve me over the course of my entire day on the Eagle River near the rest area. Despite my early start and the cool air temperatures, the first hour was very slow, and I did not land a single fish. Although the fishing was lacking, I did burn quite a few calories as I slipped and slid over the round slimy rocks that characterize the Eagle River stream bed. I moved back and forth between the left bank and the edge of the heavy current in the middle of the river and prospected all the deep attractive pockets in between.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-jB-85GC9Hk0/Vb2WUQ-xA4I/AAAAAAAA2Zc/NuK337F7kS0/s144-c-o/P7300017.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07312015EagleRiver#6178259538721964930″ caption=”Pocket Water as Far as the Eye Can See” type=”image” alt=”P7300017.JPG” ]

Finally after an hour of fishing, a twelve inch brown grabbed the salvation nymph as it tumbled next to a large exposed rock. This gave me some hope, so I continued in this manner and landed three additional trout until I encountered a wide shallow section of the river above the rest area. All the fish landed in the rest area pocket water were brown trout in the twelve inch range, and all but one took the salvation nymph. The other one inhaled the ultra zug bug. This segment of my outing between 8:30 and 10:30 represented a lot of difficult wading over much stream real estate for a fairly minimal return.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-cJbz1ie5ci4/Vb2WTi-aJFI/AAAAAAAA2ZQ/k-XMdEkic_8/s144-c-o/P7300016.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07312015EagleRiver#6178259526372435026″ caption=”A Decent Brown from the Eagle River Early Friday Morning” type=”image” alt=”P7300016.JPG” ]

I could see fishermen in the prime run between the rest area and the pedestrian bridge, so I exited and climbed the bank to the path and circled high above the river and then crossed the pedestrian bridge. I returned to the river on the opposite side and decided to fish the right bank upstream from the bridge. This is my favorite stretch of Eagle River water, although Todd Grubin told me it is private. I decided to fish it anyway and plead ignorance should I be confronted, as I rarely see anyone on the condo side of the river high above a steep bank.

This section of the Eagle is perfect brown trout water. It consists of a series of deep pockets and runs between the heavy main current and the bank. The dry/dropper method is devised for this water, as the approach matches the moderate depth. On Friday the right side produced three additional fish under some very challenging conditions. I began fishing at 10:30, and the sun was strong, and the air temperature was rising quickly. There was no evidence of a hatch of any sort. Despite these adverse conditions, I landed a feisty twelve inch brown from the area just above the pedestrian bridge.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JYqrx1q3WaM/Vb2WWV1hHlI/AAAAAAAA2Z4/CYx6crm5iuo/s144-c-o/P7300021.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07312015EagleRiver#6178259574385090130″ caption=”Same Chunky Fighter from the Side” type=”image” alt=”P7300021.JPG” ]

After I released the brown trout, I cast to a fairly shallow riffle close to the bank, and the indicator paused for a split second. I reacted to this subtle shift in drift and set the hook and landed a very healthy 15 inch brown. Ten yards farther upstream as the flies drifted tight to the edge of the current seam, the indicator once again dipped, and I executed a swift lift with my rod tip and discovered a beautiful 16 inch rainbow attached to my line. I enjoyed the battle with this beauty and eventually brought it to my net and rejoiced in the two large fish that I managed to land under very trying conditions.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HoMCgs3tAiM/Vb2WXZGsPLI/AAAAAAAA2aI/Y_W2iriseeM/s144-c-o/P7300023.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07312015EagleRiver#6178259592442297522″ caption=”Great Shoulders on This Pretty Fish” type=”image” alt=”P7300023.JPG” ]

By 12:30 it was quite warm, and I had fished the entire right bank from the pedestrian bridge to the ninety degree bend, so I exited and walked back to the car via Riverwalk and the Edwards bridge. It was 12:45, and I wanted to fish a bit longer, so I drove east and exited at the Minturn ramp. A short drive south brought a bridge into view, so I turned left, crossed and then turned right and drove on the rough dirt road until I was a decent distance beyond a camper. I cut straight down to the river, and began prospecting with the same flies that I used at the Edwards rest area, but there were no signs of fish until I landed a small brown on the salvation nymph as it drifted tight to a large side boulder along the bank.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-jJiPYNhFRXo/Vb2WX3jjVGI/AAAAAAAA2aU/V_X68oGaobA/s144-c-o/P7310024.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07312015EagleRiver#6178259600616412258″ caption=”The Eagle River Below Minturn” type=”image” alt=”P7310024.JPG” ]

The river here was narrower than the main branch, but it was similar to the Edwards section in terms of many exposed boulders, deep runs and pockets. It seemed there should be more fish than I was encountering, so I clipped off the dry/dropper components and tied on a size 14 olive stimulator. This generated some refusals, so I downsized to a size 16 gray caddis. In a short amount of time after the change, I landed a ten inch brown on the caddis, This caused me to believe that I unlocked the secret, but then the fish began refusing the small caddis imitation.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-AG4mftVragI/Vb2WYpS8dLI/AAAAAAAA2aY/gtIqsY620jQ/s144-c-o/P7310025.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07312015EagleRiver#6178259613968528562″ caption=”Small Brown from the Minturn Section” type=”image” alt=”P7310025.JPG” ]

I continued on and covered quite a bit of the stream, and I did manage several momentary hook ups at the very lip of pockets. I saw a few PMD’s rising up from the surface and wondered if the fish were refusing the light gray caddis because they recognized the light gray body, but were then turned off by the swept back wing. I went to a light gray comparadun to test my theory. In a nice deep trough next to the bank, I spotted a swirl in the glare and set the hook and felt the weight of a decent fish, but it only lasted for seconds, and the fish was gone. The comparadun stopped producing, so I experimented with a large peacock body stimulator, but that only elicited a refusal or two.

By 2:45 I was weary and frustrated by how picky the small fish were, so I returned to the Timbers at Bachelor Gulch condo. Nine fish on a hot day was actually respectable, and this included two beauties of fifteen inches or greater.

But what about my most significant accomplishment on Thursday? I often saw runners gliding along at high altitude, and I held these folks in very high regard. It is difficult to run at the elevation of Denver, let alone 8,000 feet above sea level as is the case in Vail or Avon. Even more impressive is running uphill at altitude against a severe grade. When I returned from fishing with Jeff on Thursday, the other guests at the condo were golfing, and I felt like I needed to exercise. I decided to run to the tennis courts and back, but I soon discovered that it was only a half mile with the return being a severe uphill that followed several sharp switchbacks. After I finished the one mile loop, I turned left and followed the paved road that skirts the Bachelor Gulch developed area and continued on an uninterrupted climb for another mile. At age sixty-four I accomplished what I marveled at other young runners doing; I ran a continuous uphill at altitude in eighty degree temperatures. Now that is something to celebrate.

Eagle River – 07/30/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Edwards rest area; downstream of bridge and then back above to the high bank

Fish Landed: 6

Eagle River 07/30/2015 Photo Album

The life style change was a shock to my system. After spending four days and three nights camping in the wilderness next to the Conejos River, I returned to Denver, and then on Wednesday Jane and I journeyed to Beaver Creek. Our sister and brother-in-law invited us to visit them at their luxurious condo at the Timbers at Bachelor Gulch, and we were grateful to join them. Bell hops, valet parking, maids, and chocolates on the pillows contrast to the extreme with pit toilets, no showers, sleeping in a tent and soup for dinner every night.

Joining our in-laws were the Weekley’s, Gail and Jeff, also from Atlanta, Ga. Jeff was the only member of the group who expressed an interest in fly fishing, so he and I made plans for a morning outing on July 30. The Eagle River flows within a few miles of the Timbers resort, so I targeted that stream as our destination. The reports of the fly shops indicated that the flows dropped to the 300 cfs level, and I know from past experience that fishing on the Eagle can be quite challenging after the run off ends and water levels normalize. Compounding my concern was the weather report which called for clear skies, bright sunshine, and high temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s.

Jeff and I left the condo on Thursday morning by 9AM, and our first stop was the Vail Valley Anglers at Riverwalk in Edwards, CO. Jeff purchased a fishing license and rented waders and boots for our morning on the river. When I asked the salesperson behind the counter about the fishing, he informed me that dry/dropper was working best in the morning and evening. He showed me some attractor dry flies such as chubby Chernobyls, but I declined to purchase since I have quite a few close facsimiles that I tie myself. Next he opened the fly case and pointed to some small flashy nymphs that were probably size 18 or 20. I thanked him for the suggestions, but decided that I had enough options that were close to his choices.

Next Jeff and I drove to the parking area at the Edwards rest stop and prepared to fish. I elected to use my Sage four weight, and I set Jeff up with my Loomis five weight two piece rod. We hiked through the trees to the bridge below the rest area, and then we found a path to the river. Here some trees and bushes blocked our path, so we carefully waded along the edge of the river until we were just above a very tiny island. The river here had some attractive deep pockets, and I wanted to introduce Jeff to fishing this type of water even though navigating the round slimy boulders was quite challenging.

Initially I tied a chubby Chernobyl to Jeff’s line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph, and I demonstrated how to make short upstream casts and then allow the large attractor to drift back while raising the rod and keeping the fly line off the water. He was fairly proficient at this style of fishing immediately, and we observed a fish that repeatedly swam toward the surface to inspect the chubby, but it would not commit to eating. Eventually we decided we were wasting our time with this picky eater, so we moved upstream to the next juicy slot. Because he was receiving refusals to the chubby Chernobyl, I swapped it for a conventional Chernobyl ant.

While Jeff was prospecting with the dry/dropper technique, I began rigging the Sage four weight for myself. I decided to fish dry/dropper with two nymphs, so I knotted a tan Charlie boy hopper to my line and then added a beadhead ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. In the middle of this preparation Jeff called out that he hooked a fish, but before I could even glance toward him, the fish escaped and popped off the Chernobyl and hares ear. Jeff asserted that the fish felt quite heavy as it began to charge downstream, and I was happy that he at least felt the tug of a significant Colorado trout.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-E10AgEn9ODc/Vb2I98BA0EI/AAAAAAAA2YE/Ub9VWWNRJuc/s144-c-o/P7290011.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07302015EagleRiver#6178244861485961282″ caption=”Another Shot of the Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P7290011.JPG” ]

I tied another Chernobyl ant to his line and added an ultra zug bug as his dropper, and he resumed prospecting in a very enticing wide deep slot across from his position. I delayed fishing myself, as I watched him make some nice accurate casts to the top of the deep trough. Suddenly on the fifth drift, as the flies began to sweep at the end of the slot, Jeff felt a tug and set the hook. The battle began, and Jeff expertly allowed the valiant fighter to run a bit, and then stripped up some line. The tussle lasted for a few minutes with several runs and counter moves, but eventually Jeff tipped the head of a thirteen inch rainbow above the surface, and I slid the net beneath it. Jeff and I were quite excited that he landed his first fish of the day, and it was a very nice hard fighting rainbow trout.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KDIUwj-YUNE/Vb2JDJxmQ3I/AAAAAAAA2Yw/OfsJ8er2SQo/s144-c-o/P7290013.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07302015EagleRiver#6178244951078749042″ caption=”Reaching Across Currents” type=”image” alt=”P7290013.JPG” ]

We exchanged fist bumps, and I moved above Jeff to some three star pockets (Jeff’s spot was five star) along the left bank. I began my typical short upstream casts while keeping my line off the water, and fairly quickly I landed a small brown and a chunky twelve inch brown on the ultra zug bug. Jeff seemed to be enjoying himself in the water below me, so I quickly moved up to the long deep run and tailout below the Edwards bridge. As I began to fan out some longer casts to the wide tail area, I spotted a pair of rises in the riffles just below the bridge where the light transitioned from shadows to sunshine. I took a few steps closer, and lofted several casts to the vicinity of the rising fish, and on the third drift saw the hopper disappear. A swift hook set resulted in a streaking fish, but I halted its downstream progress and managed to steer it to the side and above me. It was not long before I netted a spunky twelve inch rainbow.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-mHvdNHjXHno/Vb2JEdtIQhI/AAAAAAAA2Ys/9qQXSL8pFp0/s144-c-o/P7290015.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07302015EagleRiver#6178244973608583698″ caption=”Rainbow from Below the Bridge” type=”image” alt=”P7290015.JPG” ]

I paused and waited for Jeff to catch up. He liked the appearance of the long run and pool, so I allowed him to continue to cover that water while I moved under the bridge to the head of the run on the east side. The seam along the faster current looked ridiculously delicious, but I was unable to attract any residents to my flies. I moved farther along the left bank and dropped a few casts in some marginal small pockets before I reached a deep pocket below some large exposed boulders. This spot was also a five start trout lair, as it was ten feet long and eight feet wide with a huge foam layer covering nearly forty percent of the surface. This was a perfect place for a trout to hide and pick off delicious snacks as they drifted by.

I lobbed a cast above the foam and as it drifted along the edge, the hopper paused, and I set the hook and landed a nine inch rainbow. Upon the release of the rainbow, I tossed another cast to the same area, and once again I set the hook, and this time I landed a small brown trout. Despite the small stature of this fish, it had a huge hump behind its head, so I named it the hunchback of Edwards. One of the nine inch fish snatched the ultra zug bug, and the other nabbed the salvation nymph. I saved the top half of the pool for Jeff, and went back to lead him to it. He appeared beyond the concrete bridge support, and I enticed him to the pool with comments about the certainty of landing a big fish. Unfortunately despite some accurate and repeated casts to the top of the pocket, he did not succeed in landing a fish let alone a lunker.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-UVsOXpd7nJc/Vb2JD4VJaFI/AAAAAAAA2Yg/86BDiMiCmMc/s144-c-o/P7290014.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07302015EagleRiver#6178244963575883858″ caption=”A Nice Brown Trout Landed by Dave” type=”image” alt=”P7290014.JPG” ]

We exhausted our forward progress along the left side of the river, as we encountered some white water that rushed against a vertical fifteen foot high bank. We retreated to the area just above the bridge and then hiked back to the car. From here we followed the fisherman path back to the river and then hiked east until we reached a run that opened up into a huge long pool. This is probably the prime water on the section of the Eagle River near the Edwards rest area. Another fisherman had waded into the tail of the pool, so I asked if he minded if we fished the top section, and he replied that he was fine with that.

Jeff took the area at the very head of the run, and I began fishing in the midsection. I sprayed twenty casts throughout the run, but the water appeared to be devoid of fish. As this was transpiring, however, I observed some tiny mayflies slowly fluttering up from the surface of the river. The birds also seemed to notice the beginning of a sparse hatch, as they began to swoop back and forth across the river. No surface rises were apparent, so I wondered if perhaps the fish were locked on the subsurface version of the small mayfly that was present. I clipped off the salvation nymph and replaced it with a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger, and despite my efforts to impart movement as well as fish it dead drift, the fish were not interested.

I could tell Jeff was losing interest, so I quickly made one last attempt to catch a fish from the gorgeous run and pool in front of us. I clipped off the dry/dropper flies, and reconfigured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, salvation nymph and RS2. I covered the middle section of the run with drifts, and after five minutes of effort, I managed to hook and land a nine inch brown that grabbed the salvation nymph as I began to lift and make another cast. I accomplished my goal of landing a fish from the prime run, so we called it quits.

Jeff landed the best fish of the day and hooked another fish that appeared to be of decent size. I managed to land six trout, two rainbows and four browns, although the size was inferior to most of my previous experiences on the Eagle River. I spent quite a bit of time setting up Jeff and pointing him to likely areas, so six fish in three hours was actually respectable. Thursday was more about introducing Jeff to the Eagle River, and I obtained almost as much of a thrill as him when he landed the nice rainbow trout.




Eagle River – 07/10/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Downstream end of Eagle lease; Horn Ranch open space above the route 6 bridge.

Fish Landed: 7

Eagle River 07/10/2015 Photo Album

All a fisherman seeks is opportunity. On Friday July 10 I would have numerous opportunities on the Eagle River.

The sun was bright and the sky was a deep blue as Dave G. and I departed from the Gaboury house in Eagle Ranch at 9AM on Friday morning. Despite the sunny sky, the air temperature was cool and in the sixties, although the warming effect of the sun would quickly have an impact. We decided to investigate the Eagle lease above Eagle, CO first before moving farther upstream. The section of water we were interested in fishing was quite turbid on Thursday as a result of the day of rain of Wednesday, but we were hopeful that the lack of precipitation on Thursday allowed sufficient clearing to enable edge fishing.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6EoUpvL5cKQ/VaFPCzDd_LI/AAAAAAAA1SU/kTdW_CYw7jQ/s144-c-o/P7100007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07102015EagleRiver#6170299873957379250″ caption=”Entrance to the Eagle Lease” type=”image” alt=”P7100007.JPG” ]

When we crossed the river at the first bridge after the circle at Eagle, we stopped and checked the water clarity. The river remained a milky olive color and flowed at 1,000 cfs, but we banked on enough edge visibility for the fish to see our flies. We both agreed that it was sufficiently clear to allow a trial run, so we continued on to the western most access point to the Eagle lease. Dave G. called Todd to inform him of our decision, and within ten minutes we were all geared up and prepared to fish. We each used the metal ladder to climb over the barbed wire fence and then crossed the meadow until we reached the river at its western most edge. Dave G. elected to fish the bottom of a nice side pocket that began as a narrow deep run and then fanned out into a small pool.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VOFItYEReBE/VaFPD6VLUKI/AAAAAAAA1Sg/ns_SIFV3CG8/s144-c-o/P7100009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07102015EagleRiver#6170299893090570402″ caption=”Hares Ear in the Lip” type=”image” alt=”P7100009.JPG” ]

I meanwhile moved to the deep narrow top section and began with a Charlie boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. Dave G. hooked up very quickly, and then I saw a pause in the hopper and set the hook and found myself attached to a spunky streaking thirteen inch rainbow trout. I skillfully played the energetic fish to my net and snapped a quick photo before I released it back into the olive stained river. Next I dropped some casts into the small pocket above the triangle pool, and once again I was pleased to see a dip in the hopper. I reacted with a solid hook set and battled a second mirror image thirteen inch rainbow to my net. The cloudy state of the water did not seem to be affecting our fishing success, so I was quite optimistic about our prospects on the Eagle lease.

The three of us worked our way up along the left bank of the river over the remainder of the morning. Unfortunately the good fortune of my first thirty minutes did not repeat over the remaining 1.5 hours. I did manage three solid opportunities; there is that word again, but I was unable to convert any of them. The first missed chance came when I cast my flies to the mid-section of a long narrow deep channel next to the willows. As the Charlie boy drifted back toward, me a huge pink sided mouth appeared, so I set the hook. The owner of the large mouth reacted immediately and bolted to the heavy nearby white water. All I could do was allow the fish to streak down the river. I attempted to follow it for a couple steps, but the round slippery Eagle River boulders made this quite a challenge. After ripping out line at an alarming rate, the fish accelerated even more and snapped off my two subsurface flies. I surmise that the rise was actually a refusal, and my hook set resulted in a large angry foul hooked rainbow trout.

The other two opportunities of the morning were matching experiences. In both cases the hopper paused during the drift, and this caused me to react with a hook set. The fish on the other end of the line demonstrated some aerial acrobatic skills, and I maintained tension and fought the fish for a couple minutes when somehow the rainbows managed to slide free of the hook. Both fish were probably in the thirteen to fourteen inch range, and both amounted to lost opportunities. Adding insult to the situations, in both cases the pent up energy of the arced rod released when the fish escaped resulting in a massive snarl of my tippet and three flies with the expected curse words in response.

As noon approached I realized that I had fished the prime edge water that yielded quite a few nice fish in 2014, and I could see Todd and Dave G. wading along the edge of the river 100 yards ahead. In addition some dark clouds were rapidly rolling toward me from the southwest and the wind kicked up to the sound of thunder claps. I decided to hustle and skipped the remaining water which my fellow fishermen waded through. Just as I came within twenty yards of the retreating Todd and Dave G., some waves of rain blew sideways and instantly soaked the back of my arms. I quickly caught up and turned up a path and followed the other two fishermen to the car, where we quickly shed our gear and took our seats sheltered from the brief rain shower.

We used the brief period of rain to drive upriver to a new spot called Horn Ranch. Apparently the Eagle County conservation fund along with some other grants secured a nice stretch of land between the route 6 bridge downstream from Milk Creek and the I70 bridge crossing. This was new water to us, so we parked in the dirt lot before a railroad crossing and finished our lunches and then progressed through some tall weeds to the edge of the river. Just as we left our cars, the rain subsided, and the sun reappeared, and it became quite warm and muggy. The water in this area was still below Milk Creek and therefore the clarity remained compromised.

Dave G., Todd and I spread out along the left, north bank and worked our way upstream between 1 and 2:30PM. Early on in this period I hooked a fourteen inch rainbow on the ultra zug bug. I was still fishing with the dry/dropper combination of the Charlie boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug. The rainbow was a tough foe and put up quite a bit of resistance before I brought it to my net.

The Horn Ranch section in this lower area was actually not my type of water, as it was a large wide smooth deep pool with few current breaks to signal likely fish holding locations. Because of the lack of visible structure, I began to doubt the efficiency of casting a dry/dropper and, therefore, after a lull in action following the rainbow landing, I converted to a nymphing set up. This consisted of an indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear and bright green caddis pupa. I noticed a handful of surface rises to caddis while fishing the dry/dropper and actually debated employing a single caddis dry, so the caddis pupa was an attempt to take the middle ground.

After finally setting up my nymph rig, I made a cast to a deep trough just below a subtle current seam and immediately snagged bottom. I waded as close as I could, but I realized the snag point was too deep and too fast to risk further rescue efforts, so I snapped off my entire system. The only thing that remained was the strike indicator and tapered leader. This unfortunate incident resulted in quite a bit of wasted time extending the leader, crimping split shot and knotting on new flies. Eventually I resumed fishing, but I quickly grew bored with the uninteresting water and lack of action, so Dave G. and I found a path and met Todd and returned to the parking lot.

Dave G. suggested that we move upstream to the spot where an old concrete bridge spanned the river, so Todd and I agreed with his suggestion. We all walked out to the middle of the bridge and surveyed the new water. As I gazed downstream I salivated over the edge water along the east bank (road side), so I chose that as my territory for the remainder of the afternoon. Todd and Dave G. meanwhile liked the look of the west bank, as Milk Creek entered and created some side channels and structure.

I walked down the shoulder of route 6 until I was above a large drainage pipe, and then I carefully descended a steep bank to the river. A guide and client were below me on the same side of the river, but the intervening distance was at least 100 yards. The water ahead of me was much more to my liking with numerous large rocks forming current breaks and large side pockets and runs where the river either fed against the bank or reflected back toward the middle.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-zA9_PtL5oyg/VaFPE0vA3-I/AAAAAAAA1S0/4eWQrWmh49Q/s144-c-o/P7100011.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07102015EagleRiver#6170299908768194530″ caption=”A Fat Caddis Slurper in the Afternoon” type=”image” alt=”P7100011.JPG” ]

I prospected with the nymphs that remained on my line from the western end of Horn Ranch, but it was not long before I began to observe quite a few caddis dapping on the surface. The trout also seemed to become keenly aware of this new food source, and sporadic rises dimpled the surface upstream and across from my position. I quickly removed the nymph paraphernalia, and tied a size 16 deer hair caddis to my line. This paid quick dividends as I picked up a feisty and plump rainbow, but then I hooked a nice fish in the tail. This fish streaked downstream, and it took quite a while to tire it to the point that I could hydroplane it upstream across the surface to my net for a gentle release.

Once I was back in action, refusals became the standard, so I clipped off the gray caddis and replaced it with an olive brown version. Again this satisfied the trout for a bit as I hooked and landed a twelve inch brown and then a thirteen inch rainbow. Just when I felt I had the puzzle solved, I moved up along the bank a bit to fish to some steady risers, and the olive brown deer hair caddis fell out of favor. What did I have left in my bag of tricks? I scanned my velcro Simms fly box and spotted a muggly caddis. Charlie Craven designed this fly to look raggedy from the start, so I decided to give it a try. The fly has snowshoe rabbit foot hair as an underwing to aid buoyancy, but no hackle, and thus rides deep in the surface film.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-U7vmgQFPvB4/VaFPGLquQdI/AAAAAAAA1TE/KLepeHotgUU/s144-c-o/P7100013.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07102015EagleRiver#6170299932104081874″ caption=”Caddis in the Corner” type=”image” alt=”P7100013.JPG” ]

The muggly proved to be a smart choice, and I landed another very solid chunky rainbow in the fourteen inch range. All the rainbows were robust fighters that made electric runs and performed aerial maneuvers in their attempts to escape. I attributed their energy to the fact that the river had just subsided to fishable levels, and therefore the fish had not yet been caught and released in the 2015 season. I also blame my high percentage of lost fish to the early season spunky nature of the fish.

I released fish number seven and looked upstream and once again observed some gulping rises just below an exposed rock where the current curled around it and toward the bank. I lofted a fairly long cast to this area and allowed the muggly to flutter down to the nook of the tiny eddy. Dave G. and Todd had just appeared on the concrete bridge above me, but I kept my focus on the recently delivered fly. Wham! A nice fish smashed the muggly caddis and the fight was on. Clearly this fish was hooked in the lip as it instantly made a strong upstream dash. I allowed my line to spin rapidly off the reel until the fish paused in its flight. I gained back some additional line, but then the silver bullet decided to make a second strong dash. The line screeched from my reel a second time, but inexplicably the rainbow reached some turbulent water upstream and made a sudden side move and snapped off the muggly. I rued another lost opportunity, and this one occurred with my friends as spectators on the bridge above.

I was now just below the bridge, and several fish rose sporadically in the squiggly current seam below the bridge supports. Todd and Dave G. saw them and attempted to direct my casts. I followed their guidance as best as I could, but after fifteen minutes of unproductive casting, I decided to yield to the fish and quit for the day. I did manage one very brief hook up during this time, but again the fish never made it to my net.

I landed seven very nice fish on Friday with all being rainbows except for one brown. The four nice fish that slurped my caddis imitations in the afternoon really salvaged my day, as it was great fun to spend 1.5 hours casting to an array of rising fish. Unfortunately I should have easily recorded a double digit fish count, as I lost nearly as many fish as I landed. I cannot complain about the number of opportunities, but I do need to improve my ability to capitalize.

Eagle River – 07/09/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: The Preserve in Edwards

Fish Landed: 11

Eagle River 07/09/2015 Photo Album

Having fished the Yampa River on three separate trips over the last two weeks of June and through the Fourth of July, I was ready to explore some new flowing water. The next most likely candidate was the Eagle River, a freestone river with its headwaters near Vail, CO. The DWR site indicated that the cubic feet per second were dropping nicely into the 700 – 1000 range. During the early summer of 2014 I experienced some very exciting fishing on the Eagle as the run off subsided yet remained high compared to normal summer levels.

My friend Dave Gaboury called and invited me to join him and Todd Grubin for a day on the Eagle on July 10. I accepted the invitation, but one day was not enough to satisfy my yearning for edge fishing. I made plans to pack my camping gear, drive to the Eagle on Wednesday morning and spend Wednesday and Thursday fishing while I used my campsite as my base of operations. On Friday I planned to join Todd and Dave G. for a day and then return to Denver Friday evening.

Unfortunately when I checked my weather app it showed rain all day Wednesday and throughout the night. I do not mind fishing in the rain, but sleeping in a tent in steady rain or thunderstorm conditions is not one of my favorite activities. I modified my plan to include only one night of camping, Thursday night, and then I called Todd to ask if he was interested in joining me on Thursday. Apparently when Dave G. called Todd to make final arrangements for Friday, Todd informed Dave of my intent to fish on Thursday, so Dave G. called me and graciously invited me to sleep at his Eagle Ranch house on Thursday.

The plan was in place, and I made the early morning drive to The Preserve in Edwards on Thursday where I met Dave G. and Todd. I actually made great time and pulled into the parking lot 30 minutes before our prearranged meeting time of 9:30. Over the past year Todd gained access to the private water below The Preserve, and he requested and received approval to fish there with two friends on July 9 . We left the parking lot and headed directly to the private water. Todd and Dave G. hiked farther down the river behind a gravel quarry, while I began my quest for run off trout in the braids that flowed around two small narrow islands. As we hiked through the tall grass to the river we stirred up dense clouds of hungry mosquitoes, so my first act before fishing was to douse my neck, hands and ears with insect repellent.

The area had indeed received quite a bit of rain on Wednesday which caused the flows to spike from the 750 cfs level back to the 900’s. This made fishing a bit challenging, but I flashed back to fishing at 900 cfs in 2014, and this gave me confidence that I could enjoy some success on Thursday July 9. The sky was overcast most of the day, but no additional rain fell on us.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wtOxfI-o6oM/VaFNglCeBXI/AAAAAAAA1Rc/Zjr-vz7cL8Q/s144-c-o/P7080002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07092015EagleRiver#6170298186567910770″ caption=”Side Channel Fished in the Morning” type=”image” alt=”P7080002.JPG” ]


To begin my quest for Eagle River trout I tied on a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. Because of the high flows, I was tempted to configure a nymphing rig, but the small side channel ahead of me swayed the decision to dry/dropper. For the next two hours I worked the three fly combination through the seams where the side channels joined the main river as well as through the two side braids. I landed three brown trout in the twelve inch range in addition to one small six inch cutthroat trout. This probably represented the first cutthroat that I ever landed from the Eagle River. Two of the landed fish took the hares ear, and the other two snatched the salvation nymph.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-EXk11NOCcxQ/VaFNfwI5AYI/AAAAAAAA1RQ/dMcThsLWlEA/s144-c-o/P7080001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07092015EagleRiver#6170298172367765890″ caption=”Nice Early Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”P7080001.JPG” ]

Just before lunch I moved above the second island and began to work some very attractive side pockets along the bank. The pool toy was serving simply as an indicator, and I thought I saw a solitary golden stonefly, so I tried a yellow Letort hopper as a stonefly imitation. The dubbed body hopper does not support two beadheads very well, so I kept the salvation and removed the hares ear. This change did not pay off, as the Letort hopper simply provoked refusals and distracted the trout from any interest in the salvation.

After a 45 minute lunch we returned to The Preserve water, and I resumed fishing near my lunchtime quitting point. It was not long before I began to observe caddis tumbling and skating on the surface of the river, and this prompted some sporadic rises. I reacted to these observations by clipping off the hopper and salvation, and I knotted a solitary size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis to my line. This drew interest in the form of refusals, so I made another switch to a slightly larger olive brown caddis with a wing that extended beyond the body of the fly. This fly generated a decent momentary hook up, but then it also was ignored by the surface feeding trout.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Z2b-N1MiQ64/VaFNhmQUBaI/AAAAAAAA1Ro/CXboFfXMv8U/s144-c-o/P7090004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07092015EagleRiver#6170298204074280354″ caption=”Nose Included on This Shot” type=”image” alt=”P7090004.JPG” ]

By now the hatch intensified, and many small caddis skittered across the surface, and I was frustrated that I was missing out on some fine dry fly action. Perhaps the body color was too dark? I replaced the olive brown caddis with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and this produced the success I was afraid I would miss. Over the remainder of the afternoon I worked my way upstream along the right bank and cast the light gray caddis and landed an additional seven fish. Most the of the fish resulted from spotting rises, but some also reacted to prospecting casts to likely fish holding spots. I was disappointed with the size of the afternoon catch, as I landed one nice thirteen inch fighter, and a twelve inch brown, and the remainder were in the six to seven inch range. I suppose catching fish is better than not catching fish, but I would have liked more size.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-puevhXFDFPA/VaFNiUHSdKI/AAAAAAAA1Rw/MBct-u2ooF4/s144-c-o/P7090005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07092015EagleRiver#6170298216384459938″ caption=”Edge Water Fished at the Preserve” type=”image” alt=”P7090005.JPG” ]

The caddis hatch waned by 3PM, so I experimented with a Charlie boy hopper with a bright green caddis pupa and light yellow caddis pupa. This combination did not produce, so I switched the bright green caddis for a beadhead hares ear, and this also failed to interest the resident trout. The wading was very arduous in the afternoon, as I was forced to carefully wade against some stiff current or exit the river and battle through thick brush and tree limbs. When I was catching fish, the trade off was beneficial, but now with the lack of results, I decided to return to the car at 3:15 ahead of our agreed upon 3:30 quitting time.

I am forced to admit that Thursday was a disappointment for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high, and eleven fish landed is certainly a worthwhile accomplishment. The positive experiences on the Yampa River may have spoiled me, and certainly the size of the Eagle River fish paled by comparison to the Yampa trout. Also my positive experience during the receding flows of 2014 provided another unfavorable comparison point to Thursday July 9. At least I had Friday to look forward to before returning to Denver.