Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: South Fork to Hanah Lane
Wednesday was our third day of guided float fishing with Brandon of Cutthroat Anglers. The weather forecast projected temperatures and precipitation similar to Monday and Tuesday, so I wore my waders on board the raft, but ultimately the day was warmer with no rain, and for the first time on the trip I fished with just my fishing shirt and no extra layers. The river on the stretch downstream from South Fork was larger and wider than the Monday and Tuesday beats, but it was very clear and perfect for fly fishing. I manned the bow position in the morning, and Dave G. and I switched positions at 1PM after a lunch break. During our drive to Creede on Sunday I noticed the symptoms of a sore throat, as swallowing created a catching feeling. On Wednesday afternoon I developed a persistent tickle in my throat that caused intermittent coughing. Fortunately the early stages of a cold progressed slowly, and the first two days of the trip elapsed mostly symptom free, but Wednesday signaled the onset of a more severe stage of a summer cold.
I was plagued by poor casting technique for much of the morning, as I was over zealous and failed to allow the double dry flies to extend enough on the backcast. This resulted in a significant number of snarls, where the leader on the trailing fly wrapped around the forward fly. The tangles were not severe, but I spent a significant amount of time unwinding the twisted leader, and this subtracted from the time my fly was on the water, when I held the advantageous forward position in the raft. In spite of this angler error, I landed fourteen trout by the time of our 1:00PM changeover. Similar to Tuesday most of the landed fish were vividly colored wild brown trout in the fifteen inch range. They battled valiantly, and Brandon warned me not to count them before they were secure in my net.
Because Wednesday was our last day, we planned an earlier end point in order to jump start our four plus hour return drive to Eagle, CO, and this explained the earlier than normal lunch time. At around 11:00AM a dense hatch of gray drakes commenced. This aquatic insect event caught the attention of the Rio Grande trout population. Brandon purchased a batch of gray drake cripples the previous evening based on the recommendation of some local guides, and these flies were close approximations of the naturals, because the trout crushed them. In fact, we agreed to eat only half of our lunches to take advantage of the long lasting emergence.
Rising trout remained a sporadic occurrence in the afternoon, but our prospecting attracted interest on a regular basis. As we drifted past the heads of riffles, we encountered clouds of mating gray drakes, and they bounced off our faces and glasses. I mention this only to emphasize the abundance of gray drakes on the South Fork section.
After lunch the drake population waned a bit, but eager eaters remained, and we continued to pick off trout with regularity. I increased the fish count from fourteen to twenty-four from my rear position in the raft, and I concentrated on better casting form. This resulted in my flies spending more time on the water and less time in monofilament snarls. We fished double dries all day, and the gray drake cripple was far and away the top performer. During the afternoon time frame, Brandon switched us to purple hazes, and the size 12 parachute versions contributed additional netted fish.
Wednesday was another excellent day on the Rio Grande. Steady action kept me focused, and most of the trout were hard fighting brown trout in the fifteen inch or greater range. Compared to the first two days, we caught more fish from bubble lines five feet or greater from the bank or wide riffle sections over cobble bottoms with a depth of two feet. The drop in flows and wider river bed clearly allowed the resident trout space to spread out and feed on the abundant quantity of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies.
My most vivid memory of the day and trip was created by a twenty inch bruiser that put a substantial sag in Brandon’s large net. We were casting to nice pockets tight to the left bank, and I was popping short casts into a stairstep series of pockets for short, quick drifts. On the sixth such flick, the cripple floated ahead of the point fly and crept in front of a large exposed boulder. Suddenly a large head and then body emerged from the shadow of the large rock, and the cripple disappeared. It was a very visual take and the highlight of my day. Needless to say, I was quite impressed with the Rio Grande River during our three day stay at the end of June 2021.
Fish Landed: 24