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.

Eagle River – 03/28/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Red cliff area below the route six bridge downstream from BLM campground area near Wolcott

Fish Landed: 4

Eagle River 03/28/2015 Photo Album

Early in each new season I am torn between experimenting with new flies I constructed over the winter or going with my old productive standbys. It is fun baptizing new flies, but at the same time I am anxious to catch fish, and I reserve the most confidence for flies that served me well in the past.

Our friends the Gaboury’s invited Jane and I to join them at their new home in Eagle Ranch over the last weekend of March, and naturally we jumped on this opportunity. The weekend projected as a fly fish and ski adventure, so I packed skiing equipment and fishing equipment and in a streak of foolish judgment, I loaded our mountain bikes to the rack as well. When would I have time for all of this over two days?

Jane and I had just returned from Big Bend National Park, so we busied ourselves with unpacking and repacking on Thursday morning before departing at 3PM. We were on the go since Friday March 20, and we were both feeling mentally fatigued with travel and the associated disruption to our routines.

Skiing conditions were spring-like on Friday with afternoon temperatures touching sixty degrees, and this translates to slushy sticky snow. The morning was decent, but Saturday’s weather projected to be even warmer, so Dave Gaboury and I decided to trade our ski poles for fly rods. Dave G.’s friend Tom Buchanan was visiting as well from Kansas City, so three of us made plans for a fun early season outing. Dave G. always prefers to fish Brush Creek, and the stream did in fact look quite attractive with clear water and ideal flows, but we opted for the Eagle River as it afforded more space for three fishermen to spread out.

After a stop at the Vail Valley Outfitters in Edwards where Tom and Dave G. purchased fishing licenses, we reversed our tracks to a downstream area of the Eagle River below Wolcott and then below the route six bridge. A tributary was dumping stained snowmelt above our position rendering the river a light pea green color with around 18 inches of visibility along the edges. Dave G. and I decided that this was good enough for hungry fish, and the young gentleman at the fly shop suggested that we could expect a blue winged olive hatch between 11AM and 2PM.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-yKbL90PI2F4/VRiURxFBWwI/AAAAAAAAyQU/xw1pfORYGGA/s144-c-o/P3280166.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03282015EagleRiver#6131813925618014978″ caption=”Typical Water Fished on the Eagle River” type=”image” alt=”P3280166.JPG” ]

The three of us rigged our rods and pulled on our waders, and Dave G. and Tom preferred to fish downstream, so I grabbed the chance to fish some nice deep side pockets just below the car. After I carefully descended the steep bank and arrived at the river, I spent a fair amount of time rigging with a thingamabobber, pine squirrel leech, and ultra zug bug. This is where the decision described in the first paragraph became reality. I was anxious to break in the pine squirrel leeches that I produced during the winter, but I did not have extensive experience with them in Colorado. They certainly delivered a lot of rainbows on the North Platte River in Wyoming, but would they be favored by Eagle River trout during the early spring season?

I decided to give one of the conehead varieties a try, as I hoped this would act in lieu of a split shot, and the dark color of the natural leech fur would contrast nicely with the green off color water. I began lofting the flies upstream and allowed them to dead drift back toward me, and as I lifted to make each cast, I marveled at the pulsing lifelike movement of the pine squirrel strip. Surely this would attract the attention of any fish present in the Eagle River.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-HVLzvTz0jvU/VRiURDCpWPI/AAAAAAAAyQM/syAqtCkKrSw/s144-c-o/P3280165.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03282015EagleRiver#6131813913260022002″ caption=”Nice Shot of 13″ Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P3280165.JPG” ]

Sure enough as I moved to the second attractive section of soft water between the bank and the swift current seam, I felt a jolt and set the hook and fought a feisty 13 inch rainbow to my net. I was thrilled with this early success and paused to photograph the iridescent rainbow trout that vindicated my fly tying efforts.

I moved on and went through a bit of a dry spell, and I observed a few blue winged olives fluttering up from the stream. The ultra zug bug was proving to be an irrelevant trailing dropper, so I swapped it for a RS2. This proved to be a solid move, and as I jigged the large leech and the tiny RS2 in front of a set of large boulders, a fish latched on to one of my offerings. Again I intuitively set the hook, and this time I felt more weight and battled a strong fighter for a minute or two. Eventually I slid my net beneath a fifteen inch rainbow and noted the tiny RS2 in the lip. Apparently fishing the fly actively with a lifting motion fooled my catch into mistaking the RS2 for an emerging BWO.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-uponevDrge8/VRiUT8c8D8I/AAAAAAAAyQw/sUgA-77rlaQ/s144-c-o/P3280169.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03282015EagleRiver#6131813963030859714″ caption=”Here Is the Entire Fish” type=”image” alt=”P3280169.JPG” ]

Again I moved upstream along the bank, and in a more shallow area at the tail of a long run, the indicator paused and I hooked and landed a small brown trout. This fish chose the meaty leech over the tiny RS2, so now I counted two rewards for tying and selecting the pine squirrel leech.

Unfortunately the hot action waned, and I covered quite a bit of water with no additional action when I reached a nice tail out below some riffles. The pine squirrel leech had ceased to produce, and the number of blue winged olives in the air increased, so I decided to move the ultra zug bug to the top position and jettison the leech. Because I removed my weighted conehead fly, I crimped a split shot above the ultra zug bug. I did not experience immediate action, but after I worked the deep riffle with a number of casts, I resumed the jigging action by lifting my rod repetitively and also by introducing bad downstream mends that accelerated the flies periodically. Finally this approach paid dividends and I landed a twelve inch rainbow that responded to the movement and gulped the RS2.

By now it was approaching 1PM so I decided to exit the river and find a path to the road so I could check the fortunes of my fishing friends, but before I could execute this plan, I heard Dave G.’s voice below me. I waded downstream to his position, and he informed me that he landed one rainbow, and he and Tom were ready to return to the house. We found a reasonably clear path through the brush to the road and returned to the car and subsequently to Eagle Ranch.

Four fish in two hours including a fifteen inch rainbow and two others over a foot was a nice result for early spring fishing in a mountain freestone stream. Two fish gulping my pine squirrel leech was icing on the cake.

Eagle River – 09/19/2014

Time: 1:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: The Preserve at Edwards

Fish Landed: 9

Eagle River 09/19/2014 Photo Album

How much fishng can one man endure? I’d been fishing for three consecutive long days in the Flattops region of Colorado, and I was weary of camping and anxious to return to my wife and the comforts of modern living. Yet on the other hand, Colorado was experiencing a wonderful run of gorgeous early fall weather. The leaves in the high country were on fire, and my return route would take me over the Colorado River and along the Eagle River. I resolved to be open to the possibility of spending an afternoon fishing. After all it was right along the way, and I had another day away from the office to enjoy.

Last Photo of Campsite Before Departure

Last Photo of Campsite Before Departure

I woke up early, and since the air temperature continued to be relatively comfortable in the morning, I made breakfast and packed up the tent and began the four hour journey to Denver. As I traveled on the gravel Trappers Lake scenic byway, I stopped numerous times to snap photos of the brilliant yellow aspen trees.

I passed over the Colorado River at Pumphouse and noticed quite a bit of boating activity with many drift boats in the launch area waiting to depart. This area looked quite interesting, and I made a mental note to explore it on a future trip, but since I only had a half day available on Friday, I did not want to spend it on unfamiliar water. I continued for another half hour until I crossed the Eagle River at Wolcott. The sight of the crystal clear flows clinched my decision, and I decided to spend the afternoon attempting to entice trout with my personally tied flies.

Looking Back at the White River Valley

Looking Back at the White River Valley

I gave Jane a quick call to let her know I would not be home until the evening, and then I called my friend Todd Grubin to see if he was available to join me. He replied after only one ring, and sure enough he was headed to the very same section of the river that I had in mind. I pulled into the parking lot at The Preserve at Edwards at around 12:30PM and immediately downed my lunch. I must have known all along that I planned to fish because I prepared a lunch at the campsite. I assembled my rod and pulled on my waders, and I was prepared to fish by the time that Todd arrived. It was quite warm again on Friday with bright sunshine, and it would get even warmer by the middle of the afternoon. The flows were in the 150 cfs range, and that is a bit low, but certainly ample volume to keep the trout happy especially with the colder overnight temperatures.

Todd and I followed the trail to the river, and I decided to cross at the tail of a shallow riffle sEction so I could fish upstream on the far side which included a long stretch of tantalizing deep pockets and runs. Todd meanwhile hiked downstream to a wide deep run where he recently experienced a fair amount of success. I had my eye on the pocket water ever since I first discovered The Preserve with Todd and Dave Gaboury in the fall of 2013, and I was anxious to apply my dry/dropper technique since it appeared to be ideally suited for that approach.

I tied a Chernobyl ant to my line and below that added the ever present beadhead hares ear and then my newly discovered favorite, the ultra zug bug. On nearly the first cast I hooked and landed a small brown trout on the ultra zug bug, but then as I hopped from pocket to pocket, the flies ceased producing. It wasn’t long before I observed some tiny mayflies in the air so I removed one of the flies and replaced it with a RS2 in hopes that the fish would be active on the nymph form of a blue winged olive.

Brown Trout from Eagle River

Brown Trout from Eagle River

Between one and four o’clock I covered the entire north bank of The Preserve and landed a total of seven trout. Most of the fish were in the 7-9 inch range with one reaching 12 inches. The fishing was anything but easy, and I covered a lot of water and made a significant number of casts in the warm September weather. My luck improved somewhat after I exchanged the Chernobyl ant for a tan Charlie Boy hopper and combined that with an ultra zug bug and a soft hackle emerger. Late in the afternoon the air temperature fell a bit, and this provoked a second wave of BWO’s, and perhaps this increase in insect activity aroused the trout and improved the bite on my flies. During this window of time I endured quite a few long distance releases, and two of these brief connections felt more substantial than the bulk of my hook ups.

At 3:45 I waded downstream to say goodbye to Todd, as the quality of the fishing did not merit staying late. While chatting with Todd, I noticed a few sporadic rises, and Todd knew what buttons to push. He encouraged me to toss my flies to the area of the rises since I had the dry/dropper configuration, while in contrast he was set up for fishing deep with an indicator and nymphs. I could not resist the siren call and executed a few futile casts with the clumsy hopper/dropper. I paused to observe the water, and after seeing only debris floating in the surface film, I spotted a small mayfly drifting by. This confirmed that the fish were tuned into a sparse blue winged olive hatch.

A few fish continued to rise, and I was now challenged to fool these fish, so I clipped off the dry/dropper flies and tied on a CDC BWO. Before I began casting to the rising fish, I observed another mayfly floating toward me. It executed an aborted lift off and fell back in the river at which point I scooped it with my net. Todd was standing to my side and behind me, so I reached the net across my body and pointed to the small mayfly so he could inspect it. He seemed quite impressed that I actually caught a mayfly and played the match the hatch game.

Settled Down

Settled Down

I now refocused on the challenge at hand and waited for a fish to reveal itself. It didn’t take long before I spotted a small rise on the edge of the center riffle, and I immediately shot a cast above that position. It took a few casts, but in a short amount of time, I saw a sip near my fly and executed an immediate hook set. Refusal! Todd was acting as my cheerleader, and he commented that the fish “slapped at” my fly. I was disappointed with this turn of events, but I decided to make a few more casts before searching for a slightly different fly that might better pass the fish inspection gauntlet. The water was quite swirly and riffled, so I felt that I might get by with this near enough imitation.

A few more casts and I was proven correct. Near the same area as the refusal a ten inch rainbow made a tactical error and slurped my fraud. I quickly played it to my net to the cheers of Todd and then went through the multiple step process of drying the CDC wing. When I was ready, several more fish resumed feeding on the surface, so I shot some long casts and eventually duped a second ten inch rainbow. This one also came after a splashy refusal. Unfortunately by the time I dried out the CDC BWO again, the hatch halted, and I decided I needed to be on my way. I gave Todd two CDC olives to use should the hatch resume, and then we shook hands, and I hiked back to car. Catching two fish on tiny dries at the end of the day was a fun way to end my fishing week.

 

Eagle River – 07/18/2014

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Arrowhead community from Miller Ranch Road to second gate

Fish Landed: 15

Eagle River 07/18/2014 Photo Album

No rain fell on Thursday evening and for a change Friday morning was dry and beautiful. Of course I spent the night in the luxurious downstairs bedroom at the Grubin house in Arrowhead. It was quite a contrast from sleeping on the hard surface in the back of my Santa Fe on Wednesday night.

Todd needed to attend a meeting on Friday morning, and the fishing before 11AM was marginal on recent outings, so I decided to stay at the house, eat breakfast, prepare lunch, and update my stream notes from Thursday. This proved to be a great plan, and I was anxious to hit the water when Todd arrived at around 9:30AM. We discussed options, and fairly quickly settled on the public water that begins at Miller Ranch Road and continues upstream across from the Arrowhead water that we fished on Thursday.

We drove both cars to a parking lot at a school just across the Miller Branch Bridge where we assembled our rods and began hiking along the gravel path that follows the river. We didn’t go very far before I scrambled down the bank and prepared to fish. The size 16 gray caddis from the previous evening was still attached to my line, so I decided to shoot a few casts upstream close to the bank, but on my first backcast I hooked a branch that was behind me. What a way to start a new day of fishing! I was skeptical that I could retrieve the fly, but I found a tall rounded boulder and perched on top of it and managed to pull the limb down to a point where I could unwrap the line and save the caddis fly.

As I was doing this, Todd reappeared on the path above me and pointed out that another fisherman was fifty yards above us on the same side of the river. He was going to block our upstream movement, and there was a chance he had just covered the water that I was entering. We decided to change our plan and walked across the bridge to the south side of the Eagle River and began fishing upstream. Once again this was Arrowhead water, but Todd was an Arrowhead resident, so we were legally able to fish on the south side of the river.

The flows had dropped to 450 cfs, and this is still high for wading, but we discovered that we could move around more than was possible on the previous day. I decided to forego the size 16 caddis and reconfigured my line with the yellow Charlie Boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and bright green caddis. Once again Todd and I worked our way upstream and alternated stretches of water.

I discovered that the fishing was much slower than Thursday as I landed only three fish between 10:30 and 1:30PM. I did suffer some missed opportunities with several momentary hook ups, but the fishing was clearly more challenging than my recent experience. One of my landed fish was another nice 15 inch brown, and a small rainbow and brown represented the rest of my catch, and all the fish fell for the bright green caddis.

Friday Morning Brown

Friday Morning Brown

Meanwhile Todd was doing quite well with the bright green caddis pupa that I gave him. It was surprisingly cloudy and cool during the morning despite a five day forecast of high temperatures. In fact, cloudy overcast conditions generally indicate excellent fishing, and I began to wonder why that wasn’t the case on this Friday.

At 1:30PM Todd needed to return to his house to walk Quincy, and he used this as an opportunity to move his car from Miller Ranch Road to the same spot where we parked on Thursday. The sun came out around noon and warmed the air considerably, but after Todd departed some large clouds floated overhead and blocked the sun for long periods. Whether it was the cloud cover or the warming water temperature, by 1:30 pale morning duns made an appearance. The number of visible adults remained fairly sparse over the next hour, but I did notice a few surface rises at around 2 o’clock for a ten minute period.

Eagle River Flows at 450cfs

Eagle River Flows at 450 cfs

Despite the lack of surface activity, the fishing improved dramatically. I exchanged the Charlie Boy for a Chernobyl ant and kept the salvation nymph as my top subsurface pattern, but replaced the caddis pupa with a beadhead hares ear as the bottom fly. The Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear produced nicely on Thursday afternoon, and I hoped they would perform again on Friday.

As the sparse emergence commenced, I pressed on with the nymphs and all of a sudden they became a hot commodity. I prospected runs and riffles that passed over moderate depth, and fish seemingly emerged from nowhere to grab one of the nymphs. I also experienced the phenomenon of fish smacking the nymph as soon as it entered the water, and this reaction always surprises me. Particularly productive were the tails of runs in front of large rocks, as fish grabbed one of the nymphs as I lifted to make another cast. I was tempted to switch to a cinnamon comparadun when I spotted a few rises, but thought better of it and pressed on with the nymphs.

During this period I noticed that the salvation nymph was producing more than the hares ear, so I switched their positions, but this occurred near the end of the hatch. Between 1:30 and 2:30 I landed ten fish and five were in the 8-10 inch size range. Another four were around 12 inches in length, and one particularly memorable fish was fifteen inches or greater. I spotted this fish shifting back and forth grabbing food from the current above and to the right of a large submerged rock. I cast above its position, and my offering was ignored on the first drift. On the second drift, I thought the Chernobyl was beyond the trout’s position, but then I saw the fish make a quick move to the side, so I set the hook. Either the fish had changed locations, or it drifted back under the nymphs and took the salvation when it appeared to be escaping. At any rate it was a great visual snapshot, and I achieved closure by battling the fish to my net.

The hatch had almost ended when I lost the salvation nymph in the process of releasing a fish, so I replaced it with a beadhead pheasant tail to preserve my diminishing supply of salvations. I continued working my way upstream and covered a lot of territory as I prospected with the Chernobyl, hares ear and pheasant tail. It was amazing how attractive water that produced fish as expected a few minutes ago, suddenly seemed to be barren of fish. As it was later in the afternoon, I noticed that I was casting a long shadow upstream ahead of me, so perhaps this was affecting my success rate.

15 Inch Brown Came from Run Between Rock and Bank

15 Inch Brown Came from Run Between Rock and Bank

I was beginning to despair of catching more fish when I reached a large protruding boulder with a small but fairly deep run between the boulder and the bank. The boulder offered me the opportunity to hide and thus prevent my shadow from overlapping the upstream area that I planned to fish. I shot a cast to the run on the other side of the boulder a couple times with no reaction, so I decided to cast further upstream beyond the boulder, and this did the trick. A fifteen inch brown emerged from nowhere and snatched the pheasant tail thus providing me with another highlight on the day.

Finally I reached the huge deep pool where we ended on Thursday, and Todd had returned to the river. I tried my flies in the head section where I hooked and landed the 15 inch rainbow the previous day, but only felt a momentary hook up with a 12 inch rainbow. I decided to explore the next sweet spot above the white water that spilled into the huge pool while Todd converted to an indicator and nymphs to get deeper.

As I approached a nice deep run I spotted a very large brown in a small depression in front of a cylindrical moss-colored rock at the very end of the pool.. Twice the fish reacted to the lift of my flies, but then it darted toward shore as it was apparently spooked by my shadow. Just as the large brown escaped, I saw a rise four feet above the depression in some riffly water so I shot a cast to that area. On the second drift I saw a small swirl, and reacted with a swift hook set. I felt the weight of a nice brown for an instant and actually saw the entire fish as it jumped from the water at the moment of the hook set. Unfortunately the hook came flying free as it appeared that the fish took the Chernobyl ant and spit it out while in midair.

With these two disappointments under my belt, I waded upstream along the bank a bit further until I saw a marginal run that split exposed rocks on both sides. The water was fairly shallow at this location, but did probably reach a depth of three feet in the center. I decided to allocate a few casts to the area, but I didn’t see any fish with my polarized lenses, so I was fairly certain that the casts would be fruitless. Again I was shocked when on the third drift a brown materialized out of nowhere and grabbed the pheasant tail as it tumbled by. I landed a 14 inch brown trout for my last fish of the day.

Another Fine Brown Deep in the Net

Another Fine Brown Deep in the Net

At 1:30 I was willing to accept a poor day of fishing, but rationalized it as an offset to my spectacular Thursday. By 4 o’clock I landed fifteen fish including four brown trout that were measured in the fifteen inch range. Friday was a late bloomer and eventually equaled most of my other days on the Eagle River. Todd drove me back to my car, and I removed my waders and stashed my fishing gear and returned to Denver. The weather difficulties of Wednesday evening were fading memories replaced by visions of hungry trout grabbing my flies as they drifted by. 2014 has restored my faith in the Eagle River and elevated it to a top destination for future trips.

 

 

Eagle River – 07/17/2014

Time: 9:30AM – 7:00PM

Location: Edwards rest area across from parking lot; upstream from pedestrian bridge; Arrowhead second gate

Fish Landed: 21

Eagle River 07/17/2014 Photo Album

My most recent fishing trip was all about overcoming adversity to enjoy some great fishing. My two days on the Eagle River on July 10 and 11 remained in my mind as I reached a point at work where I could break away for another fishing trip. I checked the flows on the DWR site, and the Eagle River had dropped from the 600 cfs range to the low 500’s. A series of storms enabled the river to remain relatively high, but I guessed that an upcoming  five day period of high temperatures would bring the flows down to the 300 level, and past experience told me that Eagle River fishing would get difficult with sunny days, hot temperatures and low flows.

Jane wanted to join me, but she did not want to hang out by herself while I fished, so I planned to camp Wednesday and Thursday night at Hornsilver and fish on Thursday and Friday. Jane decided to drive to the mountains on Friday afternoon to join me at the campsite on Friday night, and then we would do some bicycling on Saturday and return to Denver to avoid the Sunday traffic. I packed the Santa Fe with everything required for two campers and departed Denver at around 2:30PM. Before I left, I called my friend, Todd Grubin, and asked if he was interested in joining me for some fishing on the Eagle River on Thursday and Friday. Todd replied that he’d be delighted to fish with me and offered his house as a place to sleep, but I told him about our plans to camp and declined his gracious invitation.

The first sign that I was in for a rough trip was an accident on interstate 70 that caused stop and go driving from where I entered the highway until just beyond Colorado Boulevard.

I arrived at Hornsilver at 5PM and immediately assembled the Eureka five-person tent and staked it out and threw my pad, sleeping bag, pillow and clothing duffel inside. I decided to pay for only Wednesday night in case the fishing was subpar, or I decided to move to another campsite even though Jane and I agreed on Hornsilver as our destination. As I began preparing my dinner I noticed some dark clouds to the north and some distant thunder, but it seemed apparent that the storm would pass by.

Unfortunately as I was finishing my soup, the wind began to kick up, and I realized that the storm was not going to skip Hornsilver. I turned on the burner and began heating water in hopes that I could wash the dishes and jump in the car before the rain commenced. Suddenly a strong gust of wind swept toward me and lifted the five-person tent that was weighed down with my belongings into the air. The tent was now upside down and ten feet away from its original position. I quickly ran to the billowing projectile and pushed it back to a nearly upright position, but another gust of wind forced the tent from my hands and back to a position on its side.

The next phase of the storm now kicked in and sheets of rain began to blow sideways. I was never going to get the tent upright with the strong wind and rain blowing from the north, so I decided to collapse it as fast as I could and then wait out the storm in the car. As the rain drenched my jeans and fleece sweater, I pulled the pins from the tent poles and allowed the entire mass to settle to the ground. The brown tarp that is usually under the tent had somehow been crumpled into a ball so I grabbed one end and pulled it over the tent for some rain protection, and I quickly repositioned the rain fly over the rest of the tent as best as I could in the driving rain.

I jumped in the car stunned by what had just happened and removed my wet fleece and pulled on my down parka for warmth, and then I decided to try and find a spot where I could call Jane and let her know my predicament. I drove through the small mountain town of Red Cliff, but I never had a phone signal, so I looped back to the upper road and then back to 24 and continued up the mountain pass. When I got to the top of the pass, I had four dots and found a pullout where I called Jane to tell her that she should not bother making the trip on Friday as we no longer had a viable tent to camp in.

By the time I returned to the campground the rain stopped, and I was able to wash the dishes and pack them away in the appropriate bin. I was now ready to assess the damage from the storm. Remember that my clothes, sleeping bag and pillow were inside the collapsed tent. The first thing I discovered was that the rain fly had five or six tears mostly along the seams so apparently this was the weakest link in the face of the initial gusts of wind from the north. Clearly the tent could not be used for the remainder of the trip especially given the forecast of more rain over the next few days.

Aftermath of Storm That Hit Hornsilver Campground

Aftermath of Storm That Hit Hornsilver Campground

I pulled the brown tarp off the collapsed pile and draped it over a large boulder. Next I dragged the sheared rain fly on top of another wide rock nearby and spread it out. This left the tent itself along with the poles that were flat on the ground ten feet away from their original position. I gathered the poles and folded them up and lined them up next to the tent, and then I searched for the entry door and zipped it open and lifted the canvas to find my belongings. My pillow was still in a garbage bag, so it was dry and protected from the rain, and I quickly transferred it to the Santa Fe. Next I found my duffel bag and it was wet on one side, but when I pulled it out, I found my fleece pullover and fleece pants were dry. I carefully removed the dry items that I planned to wear that night and placed them on the front seat and stowed the bag and the rest of the contents in the rear of the Santa Fe.

A Gust of Wind Ripped the Rain Fly

A Gust of Wind Ripped the Rain Fly

Next I returned to the flattened tent and searched for my sleeping bag. In a strange stroke of luck the Thermarest pad doubled over when the tent flipped and provided a shelter for the sleeping bag. The pad was totally wet on one side, but the sleeping bag was as dry as when I tossed it in the tent an hour earlier. I now knew I would be able to sleep in the back of the Santa Fe on Wednesday evening, and I could deal with the aftermath of the tent disaster in the morning. I cleared enough space in the back of the Santa Fe to position my sleeping bag and pillow and fell asleep to the sound of more rain.

After a decent night of rest I woke up to a soggy mess. I ate a quick breakfast and rearranged the back of the Santa Fe so that the dry cargo was separated from the wet items. I balled up the wet tarp, tablecloth, rain fly and tent and placed them in the very rear of the SUV and then anchored them with the water container. I was scheduled to meet Todd at the Edwards Rest Area at 9AM, and I planned to accept his offer of sleeping accommodations, and therefore I would not need the camping gear for the remainder of the week.

As I drove toward Edwards, I anxiously looked down at the Eagle River and much to my relief, it was clear and unaffected by the rain from the previous evening. I pulled into the parking lot at 8:30 and called Jane and then prepared to fish. Todd rolled into a space near me at our agreed upon time of 9AM, and in short order we were ready to fish. I decided to use my Sage 4 piece 4 weight, and we agreed to try the water a bit downstream from the parking lot as other fishermen were ahead of us, and we assumed they would head directly to the long pool next to a sandy beach that was a popular spot upstream from the parking lot.

Todd and I both began our morning with dry/dropper configurations. I tied on a yellow Charlie Boy hopper and below that I added a copper john, and we began alternating pockets as the river was still rather high and wading to areas more distant from shore was a safety risk. After I covered a few juicy pockets with no results, I added a bright green caddis pupa below the copper john; and after this change, I landed a 15 inch brown trout. Eventually the copper john was exchanged for a beadhead hares ear, and this combination served me for most of the morning.

15 Inch Brown Landed Thursday Morning

15 Inch Brown Landed Thursday Morning

When we approached lunch log, the large fallen log that parallels the river that attracts tourists and the lunch crowd, we encountered another fisherman, so we exited the river and circled around to a point forty yards upstream. We fished through a few more pockets in this area, and then again cut back to the fisherman path and advanced to a point where we could branch back to the river above the long beach pool. Neither Todd nor I caught any fish during this one hour period of fishing and movement.

Finally above the long beach pool we had the water to ourselves, and we continued the pattern of alternating the attractive pools. Despite some intense fishing, the fish continued to avoid our flies until I reached the last attractive pocket at the top of the fast water section. Here I cast to the middle and almost immediately the Charlie Boy darted sideways, and I set the hook and played a 15 inch brown trout to my net. Once I released the buttery brown, I lobbed a cast to the very top of the pool, and the foam hopper dipped, and I was attached to a streaking 13 inch rainbow. Both of these fish were fooled by the bright green caddis pupa, and suddenly my outlook on fishing the Eagle River improved considerably.

Next we approached a narrow stretch of slow moving water between the rocky bank and some very fast whitewater. Todd began prospecting the lower half of this area and then moved to the midsection. On one of his drifts we both spotted the tail of a substantial fish, and we could now see the holding position. As I looked on, Todd made a series of dead drifts over the fish with no reaction. I suggested that he try lifting the nymph and pupa in front of the fish’s position, and miraculously on perhaps the twentieth drift, the target trout grabbed the caddis pupa. It was a thrill to watch Todd work over this fish and get rewarded for his persistence.

It was now noon, and Todd needed to run some errands and return to his house to walk his dog, Quincy, so we returned to the parking lot. We decided that I would stay and eat lunch and then fish the right bank above the pedestrian bridge, and then I would return to the parking lot and meet Todd at 2PM.

Pedestrian Bridge at the Edwards Rest Area

Pedestrian Bridge at the Edwards Rest Area

The area above the pedestrian bridge is one of my favorites on the Eagle River, and I’ve experienced some memorable runs of hot fishing there. Todd did inform me that both sides of the river above the pedestrian bridge are private water, so that concerned me a bit, but we decided that I’d probably be OK since I was tucked beneath a steep bank and out of the vision of passing motorists on route 6. I quickly consumed my lunch and then hustled along the path from the rest area parking lot to the bike path and across the pedestrian bridge. On the southwest side of the river I circled under the bridge and faced an attractive wide pool, and here I began an hour and ten minutes of superb fishing.

I resumed fishing with the Charlie Boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and bright green caddis pupa, and this was pocket water fishing at its finest. I fished from the bridge to a point half way to the large bend where the river begins paralleling the highway, and the water was characterized by long deep pockets behind large protruding boulders. For the most part these deep runs were 8-10 feet wide and bordered by the steep bank and dense bushes on one side and strong fast current on the other side. I worked the side of the slot tight to the bank first and then shifted my casts methodically to the left until I floated the flies along the current seam, and of course I covered the tail and then the midsection and then the top.

A Very Chunky 15 Inch Brown

A Very Chunky 15 Inch Brown

In addition to covering water that was private and probably unmolested for two months due to the high flows, I enjoyed the added benefit of increased insect activity. I began to notice quite a few adult caddis dapping the surface and the occasional pale morning dun slowly gliding up from the surface. By the time I found a steep path to the top of the bank and began my hike back to the parking lot, I had landed six brown trout on the bright green caddis pupa including three smaller fish, one chunky twelve inch fighter, and two fat fifteen inch beauties. I had a blast.

My pace was quick as I strode back to the parking lot and arrived twenty minutes before 2PM, so I hopped on the path and headed to the river by lunch log. As I expected, the fisherman that occupied this space earlier was no longer there, so I prospected the deep runs across from the log for ten minutes, and I was pleased to land two rainbows including a fine thirteen inch fish on the caddis pupa before I returned to the car and met Todd.

Pretty Eagle River Rainbow

Pretty Eagle River Rainbow

Todd and I discussed our next move and decided that there were too many fishermen to contend with at the rest area, so he suggested that we migrate to the Arrowhead community private water that was upstream a mile or two. Because Todd is a resident, he possesses access, and who was I to object to this proposal? We drove up route 6 and made a left turn at the second  or middle gate, and Todd’s pass allowed the gate to swing open. I followed closely and slid through the gate behind him, and we drove a short distance to a cul-de-sac and parked. I jumped out of the car and gazed down at the water below us, and it was beautiful with lots of deep pockets and slots to explore.

From the cul-de-sac we hiked up a steep bank and found a bike path and walked downstream to a point where a path cut to the river. An appealing stretch of water appeared before us, and we began the chore of working our way upstream along the south bank. It really wasn’t a chore, and I began with the same dry/dropper that served me well at the rest area. Almost immediately I noticed the Charlie Boy dart sideways, but I experienced only a momentary hook up. I persisted and landed a nice brown on the caddis pupa shortly thereafter.

Todd Demonstrates a Backhand Cast

Todd Demonstrates a Backhand Cast

As Todd and I moved upstream, the sky clouded up, and we began to observe an increased quantity of caddis on the water. This provoked a series of surface rises, so I clipped off the three fly setup and tied on a size 12 gray stimulator. This move paid dividends as I landed two but then the sun reappeared, and that halted the caddis dapping and also ended the effectiveness of the stimulator.

I decided to revert to the dry/dropper method, however, I substituted a Chernobyl ant for the Charlie Boy, and in addition I added a beadhead hares ear nymph as one of my droppers. This combination worked wonders for the next hour or so as I continued to land fish on a fairly regular basis. Two were particularly memorable and emerged from shallow water along the bank.

In the first case, I tossed a cast just below some overhanging branches and a sizable brown refused the Chernobyl, so I now knew I had an interested fish in my range. I carefully made another cast with no success, but on the third effort, the fifteen inch brown flashed to the side and grabbed the trailing hares ear. I set the hook and battled the beautiful wild fish to my net. This was a great thrill and the type of fishing I love.

This Brown Was Caught in Shallow Water

This Brown Was Caught in Shallow Water

I waded upstream a bit further and found a similar shallow lie just downstream from some branches, and here I observed another brown of similar dimensions as it rose and sipped something small from the surface. Once again I had my target, and I flipped the Chernobyl just above the fish. As the surface fly slowly drifted over the brown, it confidently rose and sucked in the Chernobyl, and then the fight was on. I carefully played my prized catch to the net and then released it and watched in awe as it swam back to its natural environment.

Early evening was now upon us as I circled around Todd and found myself at the tail of a huge deep pool that was 60 feet long and 20 feet wide for most of its length. I began fishing with the dry/dropper combination, but as I did this, caddis began dapping and a few fish rose. When I arrived at the juicy top of the pool, I clipped off the three flies and knotted a size 16 gray caddis to my line. On a drift along the right side of the pool near the top, a twelve inch brown responded and smashed the caddis.

Next there was a short six foot long pocket that was deep and right below the whitewater area above the pool. I spotted several fish working the surface, so I began floating my caddis in the area. On the fourth or fifth cast near the bubbling water at the very top of this section, a gorgeous fifteen inch rainbow emerged and gulped in my fly. This fish put up quite a battle with several sprints downstream, but I eventually subdued it and snapped a photo to remember it by. What a way to end a fantastic day of fishing on the Eagle River.

Impressive 15 Inch Rainbow from Eagle River

Impressive 15 Inch Rainbow from Eagle River

During our time in the Arrowhead piece of water, I landed ten fish with four taking a caddis dry fly, one falling for the Chernobyl and the remainder grabbing the beadhead hares ear. This action included four sizable brown trout and the final rainbow. I bought Todd dinner at the Gashouse Grill to show my appreciation for gaining me access to the Arrowhead section, and for being my fishing companion on a memorable day. Oh and also for allowing me to use his house as my place of rest on Thursday night. It was quite a contrast from the back of the Santa Fe surrounded by soggy clothes.

 

Eagle River – 07/11/2014

Time: 9:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Edwards Rest Area

Fish Landed: 17

Eagle River 07/11/2014 Photo Album

As I walked back to my car on Thursday after my day of fishing, I heard the rumble of thunder and peered toward the southwest and noticed a huge black cloud. I hustled to get out of my waders and stow my fishing gear and successfully avoided the storm, but as I drove east on interstate 70 toward the Minturn exit, rain poured down on me in sheets and waves. Would this ruin my plans to fish the Eagle River again on Friday? As I exited the interstate and began driving toward Minturn, I got my first decent view of the stream, and sure enough it was chocolate brown. This water condition continued through Minturn until I began climbing the pass that moves away from the river. As I set up my tent and made dinner at Hornsilver, I decided that my backup plan was to fish Gore Creek if the Eagle River was too muddy, but I had no idea if Gore Creek was clear or murky.

On Friday morning I ate a quick breakfast and rolled up my wet tent and departed toward Minturn and the Eagle River with great trepidation. The lower Eagle River below Edwards muddies quickly from a tributary, so I didn’t even consider driving that far, and instead decided to examine the water by the Edwards rest area. Historically this section of the Eagle River has been great for me particularly during the high flows and edge fishing period. As I descended the winding pass I caught my first glimpse of the Eagle, and much to my relief it was nearly crystal clear. Unless Gore Creek was dumping sediments into the Eagle at the junction near I70, I was probably going to encounter clear fishable water at the Edwards rest area.

It wasn’t long before I reached interstate 70 and had my first look at the combined flow, and sure enough it was essentially clear. My anticipation of fishing in the Eagle River soared as I pulled into a parking spot at the rest area and prepared to fish with my Sage four weight four piece rod. I walked back to the bridge just below the rest area and then negotiated my way under the bridge and over some large round rocks and went downstream as far as I could go before encountering some fast whitewater. The whitewater stretch was going to be too difficult to fish, so I decided to begin my fishing day just above it. It was chilly and cool in the shadows of the big cottonwood trees when I began at 9:30AM.

I knotted a Charlie Boy hopper to my line as the top fly, and then beneath that I attached a copper john. Within the first fifteen minutes I hooked and landed a feisty twelve inch brown on the copper john and this increased my optimism. The flows remained at approximately 600 cfs, and this made for tough wading over slippery slime covered boulders. Also this section of the Eagle River has a narrower stream bed than the Eagle lease stretch, and this translated to high fast current tight up against the bank in many places.

After my quick success, I worked my way upstream and landed a second small brown just below the Edwards bridge. The copper john didn’t seem to be producing in some fairly attractive locations, so I added a bright green caddis pupa as my third fly. Above the bridge I cast to some nice short pools where a huge vertical cut bank looms over the river, and in this series of pockets I landed a few more browns on the caddis pupa. Given the success of the caddis, I moved it up to replace the copper john and then added a salvation nymph as my bottom fly.

These Runs Produced Two Nice Browns

These Runs Produced Two Nice Browns

At the end of the cut bank some large spruce trees extended over the river to the edge of some very swift current. I somehow managed to slide around the trees and resumed my upstream progression along the bank until I reached a point where the river widened a bit. There were a huge number of pockets in this area, and I was able to wade a bit and fish the short deep pools that were 15 yards from the bank. By wading carefully and moving from pocket to pocket, I added a few more browns to my count, and then I approached the place where a long log lies parallel to the river. This log is popular with tourists and workers who use it as a perch while they eat their lunches by the river.

16 Inch Brown from Eagle River

16 Inch Brown from Eagle River

Several nice long deep slots ran parallel to the log, and I began to drift the Charlie Boy from the the top of the closest one to the tail. After five drifts, I coaxed a nice fish to snatch the salvation nymph, and this led to a brief battle with a 15 inch brown trout before it rested in my net for a photo. Once I released this nice catch, I began to cast to the next deep area that paralleled the one that yielded the 15 inch brown. This slot bordered some faster water, and as I ran the Charlie Boy along the current seam along the fast current, I saw a flash and set the hook and once again found myself attached to a hard fighting trout. After thwarting several short runs downstream, I applied side pressure and managed to scoop the 17 inch fish into my net and discovered it was a very hefty brown. I was flying high after landing two nice fish in such close proximity.

Fat Sixteen Inch Brown Put Up a Ballte

Fat Sixteen Inch Brown Put Up a Battle

It was now 11:30, and I was directly across from where the car was parked, so I decided to eat my lunch by the water. As I munched away, I began to notice some pale morning duns in the air, and the swallows were actively swooping across the river. This is always an indication of an insect hatch.

After lunch I swapped the Charlie Boy hopper for a Chernobyl ant as I hoped that I could generate some interest in the surface fly. I skipped the next section where evergreen branches once again obstructed my forward progress, and once I was beyond the group of trees I found a narrow path back to the river and resumed fishing along the bank. I executed this some workaround maneuver several times as I moved up the river, and in the process I landed five more trout including several rainbows.

Rainbow Materialized from Current Seam

Rainbow Materialized from Current Seam

By 1:30 I came upon a long extremely juicy pool that is usually occupied by other fishermen. There was a young gentleman at the very tail of the pool, and I asked if he was fishing. He responded no, as he appeared to be supervising his two dogs in a game of retrieve the stick. Another young man was sitting on a log overlooking the pool, so I asked if he was fishing, and he replied that he was not. With this good fortune I approached the pool and relished the fact that I had it all to myself.

16 Inch Rainbow from Long Pool on Eagle River

16 Inch Rainbow from Long Pool on Eagle River

I began prospecting the eight feet of water along the left side of the fast deep run that flowed down the center of the pool. I fanned out three casts twenty feet upstream, and then made three or four steps and repeated the process. Much to my surprise I didn’t even receive a refusal, but I continued until I was near the top of the run. Here I made a nice cast that landed right along the current seam and as the Chernobyl drifted back toward me it took a dip. I set the hook and felt the weight of a substantial fish. This fish fought differently than the earlier browns, and eventually I slid my net beneath a seventeen inch rainbow. What a thrill to catch a rainbow of this size in the Eagle River near the rest area.

Beadhead Pheasant Tail Produced

Beadhead Pheasant Tail Produced

The rainbow was fish number fourteen, and I continued working the left bank above the long pool. There were several nice pockets in this stretch, and I managed to land three more fish with one being a decent thirteen inch brown and the other two fish under 10 inches. Once again some foreboding dark clouds appeared in the southeastern sky accompanied by distant rumbling. I did not have my raincoat in my backpack, so I decided to hike back to the car to retrieve it so I could resume fishing without worrying about the weather. When I reached the car, however, I could see that the storm was going to hit the rest area, and it was not worth the effort to hike back to the river.

I hustled to remove my waders and stash my gear, and just as I jumped in the drivers’ seat, large raindrops began splatting on the windshield. The intensity of the rain increased as I began my return trip to Denver, and wet roads became the norm for most of the drive.

I experienced another fun day on the Eagle River on Friday with seventeen fish landed and three in excess of fifteen inches. Once again I began planning a return to the Eagle River while the water remains cold, and the fish continue to be active.

Eagle River – 07/10/2014

Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Third set of steps over the fence in Eagle Lease when traveling west on route 6 upstream to the second set of steps

Fish Landed: 14

Eagle River 07/10/2014 Photo Album

Despite landing 16 fish in 5.5 hours of fishing on Wednesday afternoon on the Arkansas River, I rolled the dice and drove three hours to the Eagle River. Would this be a colossal blunder or a stroke of genius? I traded a relative known for the notoriously temperamental Eagle River.

I underestimated the time it would take to make the trip, as I encountered a variety of obstacles along my way. First there was the unexpected wait for road construction west of Salida. I should have factored in all the small towns along the way and the associated slow speed limits, and it should have been obvious that I would follow countless out of state recreational vehicles slowly negotiating every minor curve between Salida and Eagle. I also stopped for fuel and ice, and as I reached Hornsilver Campground, I took extra time to pick a campsite and pay my fee for Thursday night.

I planned to begin fishing in the middle of the Eagle lease just east of Eagle, CO where Dave G. and I ended on Saturday afternoon, and when I arrived there, two cars occupied the wide pullout in front of the fisherman steps that arched over the fence. This caused me some concern regarding competing fishermen, but I went beyond them, and executed a U-turn, and parked twenty yards west of the access point. My paranoia caused me to speculate that too many fishermen were reading my blog and flocking to my favorite spots.

It was another hot sunny day and the flows had dropped from 900 cfs to 600 cfs in the five days since I’d enjoyed success, so I was a bit concerned that the warm temperatures might impact the fishing. By the time I prepared to fish and climbed the stairs and walked to the edge of the river, it was noon. I began with the traditional Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear, but I didn’t enjoy any action for 15 minutes or so. Fortunately as doubts about my decision began to creep into my head, I began to observe some pale morning duns riding the surface of the river. The hatch was relatively sparse at first and consequently no fish were rising, so I elected to stick with the hares ear nymph, but I added a salvation nymph hoping that it would imitate the nymph stage of a pale morning dun mayfly.

Fished This Nice Wide Riffle During PMD Hatch

Fished This Nice Wide Riffle During PMD Hatch

The intensity of the hatch increased, and I began to observe bulges from the backs of the fish breaking the water surface. This is typically a sign that the fish are taking subsurface emergers, so I began giving my nymphs more movement, but this tactic failed to generate any action. My frustration was beginning to build as the hatch moved into full bloom, and I was on the outside looking in. At this point, however, a few surface rises developed so I decided to abandon the subsurface approach and try a single dry fly. I removed the three fly dry/dropper configuration and tied on a size 16 gray comparadun, and it took quite a bit of persistent casting, but I eventually landed two medium rainbows.

Held for a Side View

Held for a Side View

I was pleased with this hard earned success, but again a lull occurred and the gray comparadun was ignored even though I placed some nice casts over fish that continued feeding. In fact, with the aid of my polarized sunglasses, I could see that several of the risers were nice sized trout. I decided to switch to a cinnamon comparadun that I tied over the winter to imitate the PMD’s that hatch on the Frying Pan River. This turned out to be a solid move, as I landed three more rainbows from the wide riffle, and one was a very nice 15 inch bow that I spotted subsurface. I cast to this fish repeatedly before finally enticing a take. The strong pale morning dun hatch lasted for an hour, and I managed to land five nice rainbows, so I was starting to feel better about my decision to abandon the Arkansas River.

Cinnamon Comparadun Did the Job

Cinnamon Comparadun Did the Job

Once the hatch ended at around 1PM, I reverted to the dry/dropper approach but used a Charlie Boy hopper as my top fly with a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph as my two droppers. The surface fly wasn’t attracting interest, and I have a lot of Charlie Boy hoppers that I tied two winters ago, so I decided to put them at risk rather than the pool toys of which of have fewer to lose, and they take longer to make. During the post-hatch time period I landed a gorgeous brown trout that measured 17 inches, and this fish carried a lot of weight. As you might expect, this fish put up quite a fight, and in order to land it, I followed it downstream a bit and then angled it to shore.

I increased my catch total from five to nine after the hatch, as I picked up fish at a fairly regular rate, and next I approached another beautiful wide riffle that ran over a rocky bottom with three to four feet of depth. I paused to observe and quickly noticed several rises and upon closer examination with my polarized sunglasses spotted some nice fish holding along the river bottom. One particular fish appeared to be quite large, so I decided to focus on it and began to cycle through a series of flies. On an early drift over the target fish, it appeared to show interest in the hopper, but backed away, and the nymphs seemed to be useless. I removed the three fly dry/dropper arrangement and tried a gray size 12 stimulator next, but this didn’t even generate a look or tail twitch. A green trude was introduced to the big guy next, and the trout rose a bit and inspected but returned to its holding position. Perhaps a small caddis similar to the ones I saw over the water would do the trick? I tried a size 16 gray caddis next, but that was scorned by Mr. Trout. What about a PMD? Some stragglers continued to emerge and drift on the water, but nowhere near the number that were present during the prime time of 12-1PM. It was worth a try, so I tied on a brand new cinnamon comparadun since the one I used earlier no longer had tails and was unraveling a bit.

I cast above the fish and as it drifted by slightly to the right, the big boy casually swam over a foot or so and sipped in my fly! It is moments like this that keep me coming back to this sport. I fought the fish for a bit, but it didn’t put up as much fight as the 17 inch brown. I carefully waded to the bank and kept the big rainbow in the water until I had my camera ready, and then positioned my net and the fish on a flat area. Unfortunately the rainbow made a last ditch effort to escape and rolled in some sand, so that when I repositioned for a photo, it was marred by a clump of sand and dirt. Still it was perhaps my biggest fish of the year and extended beyond my 15 inch net opening by at least 3-4 inches.

18-19" Rainbow Was a Thrill

18-19″ Rainbow Was a Thrill

With my heart still racing I continued on along the north bank prospecting with the dry/dropper and landed four more fish. The last fish near my quitting point was a rainbow that took a pheasant tail nymph that I substituted for the salvation nymph in hopes of preserving my dwindling supply.

In summary it was a fun day on the Eagle River in the Eagle lease section. The fish were more spread out than on July 5, but this gave me a chance to fish to a decent hatch and do some enjoyable sight fishing. My catch ratio was roughly 60% rainbows and 40% brown trout, and I enjoy having the opportunity to catch rainbows in a predominantly brown trout state. Fourteen fish landed is quite respectable, and the average size of the fish was superior to what I was catching on the Arkansas River on Wednesday. I concluded that my move to the Eagle River on Thursday was well worth the drive..

Close Up of State Flower

Close Up of State Flower