Trappers Lake – 07/02/2019

Time: 4:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Eastern shore.

Trappers Lake 07/02/2019 Photo Album

Jane and I returned to the North Fork Campground after an excellent cycling trip from Buford to South Fork Campground and back. The gravel road rose relatively gradually on our outbound leg, but rolling hills required 1,300 feet of elevation gain over the course of the total ride. After lunch we decided to make the drive to Trappers Lake, and ultimately quaff a couple brews at the Trappers Lake Lodge and Resort.

Grass and Aspens at a Resting Place

Trappers Lake

When we arrived at the parking lot below the outlet from Trappers Lake, I decided to do some fly fishing in the fabled body of water below the striking cliffs of the Amphitheater. I elected to forego waders and wading boots, and instead utilized my Oboz hiking boots. I assembled my Sage four weight, and wore only my front pack and backpack, and Jane and I hiked over the ridge and then along the eastern shoreline of Trappers Lake. The lake was quite high as a result of the recent snow melt, and the water lapped against the dense border of shrubs that covered the shoreline. When I noticed this situation, I realized that not wearing wading gear was a mistake.

A Weak Attempt to Catch a Fish

 

It was mostly windy with a mild chop on the surface, so I sought protected coves. I began my fly fishing effort with a size 12 olive stimulator that trailed a salad spinner midge larva. Multiple swarms of large midges were visible, as we hiked from the parking lot to our position along the lake. A short period of casting the stimulator failed to provide positive results, so I moved along in search of another protected area.

Jane hiked ahead and found a nice cove, where a creek entered Trappers Lake from the east, and it was situated below a rustic cabin. This description fit my vision of an ideal location, and she led me there, as my enthusiasm spiked. I surveyed the surroundings and found a gap between some clumps of willows, and I shot some nice casts near the current seam created by the incoming creek. Fifteen minutes of searching without tangible results caused my confidence to ebb; however, I remained certain that the inlet was a prime fish holding area. The lake residents could hold in the lake and expend minimal energy, while the creek delivered food to their hungry stomachs.

Zoomed on the Bugger

Prince Nymph

I switched to a streamer method and knotted a Cathy’s Super Bugger to my line and trailed a size 12 prince nymph. What respectable cutthroat or brook trout could resist this delicious combination meal? I cast and stripped these flies to all the reachable positions in the sheltered inlet, but I was unable to generate a response.

I Fished Along the Current Seam Where the Creek Entered

At 5PM I surrendered in my quest to land a trout from Trappers Lake, and I joined Jane on top of a hill overlooking the lake. We hiked back to the car and then stopped at the Trappers Lake Lodge for a brew.

A Dirty Hippy and Fat Tire at Trappers Lake Lodge

I retrospect I should have worn my waders. This preparedness would have enabled me to attain a better casting position away from the shoreline obstacles, and at the cabin cove area it would have allowed me to probe the deeper areas, where the current fanned out into the lake. Although I experienced yet another stint on a lake with no fish, I cannot complain about the beauty of my surroundings. The Amphitheater and various rock wall formations provided a breathtaking 360 degree panorama, and I cannot complain.

Fish Landed: 0

Avery Lake – 07/01/2019

Time: 4:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Dock at the north end of the lake.

Avery Lake 07/01/2019 Photo Album

After our hike to Skinny Fish Lake Jane and I returned to the North Fork Campground to rest and change out of our hiking clothes. Before we departed from Denver, I noticed that Avery Lake was stocked by the CO DOW, and I mentioned this to Jane. Being the considerate wife that she is and knowing that I failed to land a fish at Skinny Fish Lake, she suggested that we drive west to Avery Lake. I drove by the sign to Avery on many previous trips, but never made the turn to explore the area, so I agree to the late afternoon side trip.

Jane packed her chair and book, and we made the twelve mile drive to Buford and then slightly beyond, where we turned on to a gravel road and crested a ridge. After maneuvering around a sharp turn, we reached a wide open meadow populated with a number of RV’s. The closest RV was surrounded by a dense flock of sheep, and we were baffled over what this human and sheep rendezvous was all about. A sign identified the area as a campground, but the campsites lacked picnic tables or fire pits, and a solitary pit toilet was available for the campers. We removed the Avery Lake Campground from future camping consideration.

How Do These Sheep Afford a RV?

We continued down a gradual hill that skirted the eastern shoreline of the lake, until we arrived at a turnaround, and we parallel parked next to some large bushes. Jane jumped out of the car and got comfortable in her chair, while I geared up with my Sage four weight. A RV was parked southeast of the Santa Fe, and the owners were running a generator. The constant din detracted from the ambiance of the setting. When I was ready, I strolled down the dirt road to a wooden dock that extended into the lake. Quite a few preteens were swimming and paddle boarding near the dock, so I strolled south along the shoreline and found a small indentation, where I knotted the black woolly bugger and wiggle damsel to my line.

Avery Lake

For the first twenty minutes I moved southward along the edge of the lake and sprayed forty foot casts at regular intervals, but I was unable to move a single fish. A couple families continued to splash and play in the vicinity of the dock, but I spotted a few rises in the calm cove on the north side, so I wandered through the group and fished to the sporadic feeders. Initially I tried the streamers, but those offerings were ignored. I switched to a parachute Adams and cast it for ten minutes, and again the fish showed no interest.

In a last ditch effort I swapped the Adams for a size 18 parachute black ant, and I managed to generate a swirl, as I picked up the terrestrial to make another cast. That was the extent of my action on Avery Lake. By 5PM I was burned out on fruitless casting and dismayed by the Avery Lake atmosphere, so I returned to the car, and we hastened back to the campground for happy hour. While I was fishing, a pair of dirt bike riders arrived, and the smell of their gasoline/oil mix fuel combined with the constantly humming generator was making me nauseous.

I allocated another thirty minutes to lake fishing on Monday afternoon, and unlike Skinny Fish Lake, I did manage to spot feeding fish. But the inability to catch fish, the distraction of the swimmers, and the noise pollution of the generator and dirt bikes encouraged Jane and I to seek the calm and quiet atmosphere that existed at our campsite.

Fish Landed: 0

Skinny Fish Lake – 07/01/2019

Time: 12:30PM – 1:00PM

Location: Natural dam next to the outlet.

Skinny Fish Lake 07/01/2019 Photo Album

On July 3, 2018 Jane and I trekked to Skinny Fish Lake in the Flattops Wilderness, and I fished for a short amount of time with no success. We held our experience in such high regard, that we decided to once again travel to the Flattops and repeat the hike in 2019. In advance of the trip I contacted the White River National Forest ranger station in Meeker, CO, and I discovered that Ripple Creek Pass was closed as a result of a surprise late snowstorm and a generous number of fallen trees. This news forced us to revise our route, and we traveled west on Interstate 70 to Rifle, CO and then journeyed north to Meeker, CO and finally made an eastern swing on CO 8 to the North Fork Campground. I reserved campsite number 27 in advance for Sunday through Tuesday nights.

Monday was forecast to be a gorgeous day from a weather standpoint, so Jane and I elected the repeat hike to Skinny Fish Lake as our destination. The report that Ripple Creek Pass was closed prompted us to pack snowshoes, and these were a backup plan in the event that we encountered deep snow on our hike. On Sunday evening after we arrived, the campground host stopped by to introduce himself, and when queried on the Skinny Lake Trail he was fairly certain that snow would not be an impediment to our hike. Based on this information we lightened our loads and left the snowshoes behind.

As we traveled along the White River and the North Fork of the White River on Sunday, it was evident that fly fishing in rivers and streams in the Flattops would not be an option on this July 2019 trip. I was thwarted in my attempt to land a fish from Skinny Fish in 2018; so I packed my wading socks, wading boots, fly rod and fishing packs for the trip. I conjectured that our timing was more appropriate than the previous year given the late snow pack and ice-off on the lake. A twin lake to Skinny Fish Lake named McGinnis Lake is located a half mile to the east, and it can be reached via a trail that branches off from Skinny Fish. My goal was to reach McGinnis and thus experience some new terrain and sample a different high elevation lake.

The Amphitheater Left of Center

We departed from the Skinny Fish Lake Trailhead at 10:30, and we arrived at Skinny Fish Lake by noon. Wait, you might ask, what happened to McGinnis Lake? We took the right turn at a Y in the trail and advanced .2 mile, until we reached a stream crossing to continue to McGinnis Lake. The stream was bloated with run off, but it split into three braids, and we evaluated several crossing schemes, but eventually our better judgment prevailed, and we reversed to the Y and continued to Skinny Fish.

Water Gushes from Aspen Trees

The hike was as breathtaking as we remembered. The meadows and grasses were in a lush green state and wildflowers abounded. We were surrounded by spectacular views of the Chinese Wall, West Wall and Amphitheater; and the wild fire of fifteen years ago opened the vistas in every direction. The path was quite muddy in spots, but we both wore our hiking boots. Several stream crossings presented a challenge due to the melting snow in the headwaters, but we managed to overcome these early season obstacles.

Making Progress

Skinny Fish Lake

When we arrived at Skinny Fish Lake, we immediately extracted our sandwiches and snacks to refuel for the return trip. As I ate, I scanned the surface of the lake, but I was unable to identify a single rising fish. This circumstance reinforced my experience of the previous summer. I had my wading socks, wading boots and quick dry pants for wet wading; but I decided to cast from the natural earthen dam on the south side of the lake and forego changing into the wet wading gear.

I rigged my Sage four weight and walked along the lake to the outlet, and I decided to attempt a crossing on several wide logs that angled across the moving creek. This was a significant error in judgment. I placed my left foot on a log next to the bank, and as I leaned to disengage from land and placed my right foot on another log, I discovered that the first step was perched on a floating log. Both my feet sank two feet below the surface, and I found myself wet wading in my hiking boots. I quickly jumped back on land, but my pants, boots and socks were saturated with ice cold lake water. How ironic that I lugged wet wading essentials for 2.5 miles and then ended up with wet feet while forsaking the appropriate equipment.

Wet Oboz

I shrugged off the minor mishap and focused my attention on fly fishing. Jane of course chuckled at the entire episode. Evidence of surface feeding continued to be absent, and an advantage of remaining on the earthen dam section was the open space for backcasts. I abandoned all thoughts of fishing a dry fly, and I crimped a split shot to my line and then added a black woolly bugger and wiggle damsel nymph. This combination accounted for seven fish on Flatirons Reservoir, so why would it not entice wild trout from Skinny Fish Lake?

Shooting a Cast

I cannot answer that question, but it did not lure any trout to my flies during thirty minutes of focused casting and stripping. I launched forty foot casts, counted down the sink period, and stripped them back with varying cadences; but I never saw a follow or felt a bump. I began near the outlet and moved in three step increments, until I was in the southwest corner to the lake. My confidence sank to a new low, and combined with the futile experience in 2018 I gave up hope and called an end to Skinny Fish Lake fishing by 1:00PM.

Run Off in Full Swing

Jane attempted to hike around the lake, but this endeavor was thwarted by deep snow drifts, and this scouting report convinced me, that trying to circle the lake to try different areas was not worthwhile. I repacked my fishing gear in the backpack, and we began our descent to the trailhead parking lot. Skinny Fish Lake pitched me a second strike, and I am not certain, that I will offer it the opportunity to strike me out.

Amphitheater in the Distance

Thirty minutes is not a long time, and some inbound fishermen that we encountered on the return hike assured us that fish do call Skinny Fish Lake home. Perhaps the end to my quest for trout was premature, but the primary objective of the hike was accomplished. We were together in a beautiful remote Colorado environment, we viewed pretty wild flowers; and we overcame the mud, snow and snow melt to reach our destination. The hike to Skinny Fish Lake was a win in my book.

Fish Landed: 0

Perfect Columbine

North Fork of the White River – 09/21/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Trappers Lake and Marvine

North Fork of the White River 09/21/2018 Photo Album

The dashboard thermometer registered 44 degrees F, as I drove along the dirt road toward my chosen fishing destination on Friday morning. When earlier I tilted the water container to fill my teapot on the deck of cabin 5 at Trappers Lake Lodge, I could hear chunks of ice rattling against the plastic sides. The weather forecast predicted highs around seventy degrees, but fly fishing in the shadows of the canyon at 9:30AM had me concerned. After banner days on Wednesday and Thursday, I was a bit apprehensive about my prospects on Friday. The section of the North Fork that I selected yielded varying results during prior ventures, but I was averse to covering river and creek mileage experienced during the previous two days. On 9/14/2017 I enjoyed an outstanding day in the area that I planned to fly fish on Friday, so I banked on a repeat.

My Orvis Access four weight was already rigged with a peacock body hippy stomper, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph; so I decided to continue my quest for Flattops trout with the same alignment that fooled numerous spunky fish on Thursday. I pondered wearing a fleece to counter the morning chill, but I eventually pulled on my raincoat to add warmth and serve as a windbreaker. If the temperature elevated as predicted, I could remove the rain layer and roll it tightly to fit in my backpack. I arrived at the bottom of a long canyon section prepared to cast by 9:30AM, and the steep southeastern wall cast a shadow over the entire width of the river.

In the Shadows

Between 9:30 and noon I moved fairly rapidly along the left bank of the river, as I prospected with the three fly combination. I employed a strategy learned in previous visits to the White River. The fish occupy only long deep troughs, pockets and pools; so I curbed my innate urge to cover the many small marginal spots that surprise with fish on other rivers and creeks. Skipping wide fast sections with only short marginal pockets enabled me to cover more stream real estate than usual. In 2.5 hours of targeted fly fishing I managed to land nine trout, and several were very energetic rainbows and cutbows in the thirteen inch range. These fish were powerful for their size, and scooping them into the net was not a foregone conclusion. In fact five of my better hook ups managed to slide free after a brief connection, and I was not pleased with this series of disappointing outcomes. One of the escapees broke off the hippy stomper, and this misfortune resulted in the loss of three flies. I was not happy, although I used this circumstance to swap the small hippy stomper for a larger more visible and more buoyant tan pool toy.

Melon Colored Stripe

After lunch I continued with the pool toy, ultra zug bug, and salvation and boosted the fish counter from nine to thirty. Yes, I had a very pleasurable afternoon. My strategy paid dividends in a major way, as I cherry picked the prime spots, and fortunately the river narrowed and offered many more attractive runs and pockets that met the casting-worthy criteria. One particularly productive long deep pool yielded at least ten of the thirty fish landed on the day. Every time I allocated one more cast with the expectation that the pool was excessively disturbed, another fish jumped on the swinging or lifting nymphs, and this caused me to linger.

Quite Nice

Between 1:00 and 1:30 I looked ahead, and I was surprised by some movement fifty yards upstream along the left bank. I quickly determined that a young male moose was browsing among the streamside vegetation. I snatched my camera and snapped a photo, just as the moose paused in an opening between some large shrubs. I assumed that the wild creature was moving away from the river, so I resumed my focus on the matter at hand; catching fish. I waded upstream ten yards, and suddenly I heard some thrashing no more that ten feet away from me. The moose meandered along the bank and passed me, while I scrambled to once again grab my camera from its waterproof case. Finally I had a grip on the camera, and the moose decided to execute a river crossing! I pressed the video button and captured two short segments, as the large antlered beast stumbled across the river. My heart pounded from being so close, and then the moose paused two thirds of the way across and looked back at me, as if to say goodbye friend. Wow!

A Moose Visit

In spite of my reservations Friday evolved into a very enjoyable day on the North Fork of the White River. A thirty fish day is worth treasuring, the weather was perfect, and I had the area to myself. Five of the trout landed were rainbows and cutbows in the 12-14 inch ranch, and each were very feisty and a challenge to land. In addition I hooked at least five that would have extended to the top end of the scale, but they managed to elude my net. The Flattops once again delivered superb fishing in September, and visiting the remote high elevation area a week later than normal actually seemed to enhance the quality of the fishing.

Fish Landed: 30

Marvine Creek – 09/20/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: .5 – 2.0 miles from the trailhead

Marvine Creek 09/20/2018 Photo Album

I first experienced Marvine Creek last September when the upper North Fork was closed due to a wildfire. My day on the small Flattops creek was favorable, and I decided to return on Thursday, September 20. After my prior year adventure I made a mental note to fish a .5 mile canyon stretch that was a mile from the trailhead. I now realize that I failed to review my blog post from last year; and, consequently, I bypassed the canyon section. Instead I cut down to the creek after a ten minute and .5 mile hike, and this delivered me to a section of the creek downstream from the area I targeted. I suspect that the water I covered during two hours of morning fly fishing was the most heavily pressured due to its proximity to the trailhead.

This Spot Yielded a Brook Trout

The air temperature was sixty when I began, and despite clear skies and sunshine, the high never surpassed seventy. Nevertheless I was comfortable in my fishing shirt and never resorted to an additional layer. I was surprised by the decent flows in spite of the winter drought, although I suspect that water levels were lower than September 2017.

Tough Wading

During the morning I simply continued fishing a size twelve Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph; since my rod remained rigged from Wednesday. Between 10AM and noon I landed nine trout, and all were brookies except for one ten inch rainbow. Most of the fish snatched the salvation. After thirty minutes I exchanged the Chernobyl for a tan pool toy, as the foam ant was not attracting attention, and the small yellow indicator was difficult to follow in the shadows and glare. A few fish hammered the pool toy, but the surface fly eaters managed to escape, after they attacked the foam impostor.

Speckled Cutbow

Promising

After lunch and a lack of action in some quality sections, I decided to make an adjustment. I replaced the pool toy with a peacock ice dub hippy stomper. In addition I extended the length of the leader between the surface fly and the upper nymph, which was the ultra zug bug. The change paid off, and the fish count ballooned from nine to forty-two during the afternoon. Five netted fish, all brook trout, slurped the hippy stomper, and the remainder favored the nymphs. I estimated that 25% chomped the ultra zug bug and 75% grabbed the trailing salvation. The overwhelming majority of landed fish were brook trout in the six to nine inch range with an occasional ten or eleven inch orange bellied bruiser in the mix.

Orange Tinged Brookie

My focus remained at an elevated level throughout the afternoon with the possibility of an occasional cutbow, cutthroat, or rainbow. I landed five of these spectacular jewels in the twelve to fourteen inch range. These catches were welcome surprises, and the silver sided fighters offered significant resistance in the tight quarters of Marvine Creek. The rainbows tended to materialize in riffles of moderate depth; whereas, the brook trout frequented slower edge pockets and the tails of pools.

Easy There

Thursday was a very enjoyable day. The weather was perfect, the autumn trees were glowing, and the trout were hungry. That sums up perfection in my mind.

Fish Landed: 42

 

North Fork of the White River – 09/19/2018

Time: 1:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Between Trappers Lake and the North Fork Campground

North Fork of the White River 09/19/2018 Photo Album

I departed Denver at 8:05AM on Wednesday morning, September 19, and arrived at my intended fishing destination along the North Fork of the White River by 12:30PM. As a result of my zeal to get on the stream, I hastily consumed my small lunch and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, and a short hike on a trail delivered me to a spot next to the tumbling North Fork by 1PM.

Difficult Wading Ahead

The temperature was around 64 degrees and the sky was overcast, and the cloud cover intensified as the day progressed. By 3PM I became quite chilled, so I pulled on my raincoat for the remainder of the afternoon. In spite of this extra layer I yearned for my fleece during several brief periods, when the sky darkened and the wind picked up.

Cutthroat Magic

I began my quest for trout with a gray stimulator, but after ten minutes and no action, I moved on to a tan pool toy and beadhead hares ear. This combination was also ignored, so I added a salvation nymph to create a three fly lineup. For the next hour I moved upstream, and the dry/dropper alignment began to connect. Interestingly I netted five trout during this time period, and four smacked the tan pool toy. Midway through the progression I exchanged the salvation for an ultra zug bug, and the iridescent peacock nymph produced a trout as well. In addition to the landed trout, I hooked three decent fish that managed to escape, and consistent with fishing lore, these were the largest.

Pumpkin Brook Trout

I covered a significant amount of stream real estate, and I learned that the deep slots and pockets were the most productive, and marginal water was largely barren. Among the first five catches were wild and colorful brook trout and cutthroats. I created a nasty entanglement near the end of this period, and the two front legs on the pool toy fell off in the process of unraveling the line. This circumstance prompted me to swap the two-legged hopper for a peacock body hippy stomper, and this move paid off handsomely.

Number six was a spectacular cutthroat that smashed the recently added hippy stomper; and the three fly combination of hippy stomper, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph remained on my line from 3:00PM until 4:30PM, and they lifted the fish count from five to twenty. The catch rate accelerated with these three offerings, and during the late afternoon the nymphs took center stage, although the foam attractor continued to fool one out of every four fish.

Money

When I reached twenty, a few size sixteen mayflies made an appearance. They tumbled and fluttered on the surface in their efforts to combat the wind and become airborne. The hatch was very sparse, but I spotted four or five subtle rises in response to the emergence. I tossed the hippy stomper to a nice deep pocket, and an above average cutthroat refused the dry fly. I continued casting, and when the top fly was a few feet beyond the rejection point, I glimpsed a flash and splash. I responded with a hook set, felt momentary weight, and then the fish was gone along with three flies. What happened? I stripped the line in and discovered a curled end, and this typically indicates a poorly tied knot or abraded monofilament.

Deep Colors

I Love the Orange/Blue Halo Spots

Before this dose of disappointment I spotted a rise in the vicinity of the original refusal, and since I needed to re-rig, I decided to try a size sixteen cinnamon comparadun, in case the rise was a response to a sparse pale morning dun hatch. I flicked a cast across from my position and allowed the very visible comparadun to drift through the tail of the pocket. Nothing. I repeated the ploy two more times, and on the third pass a head appeared, and the dun disappeared in a swirl. I reacted with a swift hook set, and eventually guided a gorgeous cutthroat into my net. I removed the comparadun, and before I snapped a photo, I noticed something glittering in the fish’s cheek. I inspected more closely, and I discovered my ultra zug bug and salvation nymph embedded in my hungry catch! I caught the same fish that broke me off minutes earlier!

More Pockets to Pick

I continued with the comparadun, and it produced a small brook trout, but then I advanced to some faster water, and this created visibility problems, so I returned to the dry/dropper method. For the last half hour I tossed a size twelve Chernobyl ant combined with the ultra zug bug and salvation, and I boosted the fish count to twenty-five.

Wednesday provided a fun 4.5 hours of fishing with excellent results. Fall certainly arrived in the Flattops.

Fish Landed: 25

 

North Fork of the White River – 07/04/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Trappers Lake and Himes Peak Campground

North Fork of the White River 07/04/2018 Photo Album

After spending Tuesday on a spectacular hike to Skinny Fish Lake with my lovely wife, Jane, Wednesday was my allotted day to revel in some serious fishing in the Flattops region of Colorado. I selected the segment of the North Fork of the White River between Himes Peak Campground and Trappers Lake as my destination and arrived so that I was in the stream casting by 10:00AM. Jane dropped me off along the road, so she could utilize the Santa Fe to access some nearby hiking trails.

Prime Habitat

I began fishing with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph, and I landed seven trout between 10AM and noon, when I took a break for lunch. Among the seven trout were three gorgeous brook trout in the 10-12 inch range with bright orange bellies. The remainder were rainbows, and several of the pink striped variety measured out in the 12-13 inch range. Size was secondary, as these fish dazzled the observer with vivid colors and artistic spot patterns.

Monster for a Brook Trout in a Stream

After lunch I continued with the dry/dropper approach, but I exchanged the iron sally for a hares ear nymph. During the two morning hours all the landed fish nabbed the salvation except for one deviant, who snatched the iron sally. The dry/dropper method increased the fish tally to eleven after lunch with the hares ear and the salvation producing two fish each. Near the end of this period the salvation and leader broke off in my net, so I secured it to my fleece wallet and continued for a bit with the single hares ear dropper.

I arrived at a quality deep pool after thirty minutes, and I could see a pair of fish flash to the fat Albert. As I studied the attractive spot, I sighted at least four decent trout, and they were ignoring my nymphs. I decided to made the significant move to a single dry, and I began with a yellow size 14 stimulator. Two fish refused the fuzzy light yellow attractor, so I cycled through a series of changes including a size 14 light olive stimulator and a light gray size 16 caddis. The caddis proved to be temporarily effective, as I picked up three pool dwellers.

Likely Trout Lair

I persisted with the caddis for another fifteen minutes or so with moderate success, but I also spotted trout that totally ignored the small adult. From time to time small yellow sallies fluttered over the stream and although less prevalent than the caddis, I speculated that perhaps the fish favored the less active stoneflies. I switched to a size 16 yellow sally adult, and this fly was a winner. I moved the fish counter up by ten and reached twenty-five on the strength of its magnetism.

Most of the fish landed on the dry flies were brook trout in the 8-10 inch range. I was pleased with the action and success, but I yearned for additional slightly larger and brightly colored rainbows and cutbows. I also sought a fly that was more visible, so I resurrected a lime green trude size 14. The lime green attractor with a swept back wing produced well for me in previous visits to the North Fork. During July 2018 it again proved its worth, but after four fish in the net, it became waterlogged, and I again desired a fly that floated high and dry.

Rainbow Trout Joins the Mix

I returned to the yellow stimulator, and it attracted a couple small brook trout from marginal lies along the bank. Where were all the rainbows? I pondered this question and recalled that my most robust rainbows arrived in my net via the dry/dropper nymph approach. Suddenly I remembered the hippy stompers that I tied over the winter, so I knotted one to my line and added a single size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph on a two foot dropper.

The tactic proved to be a master stroke, and the trout demonstrated their overwhelming approval, as they hammered the pheasant tail cast after cast. If I found a nice deep pocket or hole, and executed nice drag free drifts, I could expect a favorable reaction on nearly every cast. The fish count ballooned to thirty-eight, and during this exciting period spunky 10-12 inch rainbows outnumbered the brook trout.

Astounding Colors

The Fourth of July was a blast in spite of banned fireworks! By 3:45PM I realized that I would not be able to cover the remaining fifty yards of stream, so I scrambled over dead trees and jagged rocks and climbed a steep hillside in order to meet Jane at the prearranged time and place. What a fun day on the North Fork of the White River! The fish were plentiful, but more impressive was the exceptional colors of the wild fish.

Fish Landed: 38

North Fork of the White River – 07/03/2018

Time: 5:00PM – 6:00PM

Location: North Fork of the White River across from the North Fork Campground

North Fork of the White River 07/03/2018 Photo Album

The shutout at Skinny Fish Lake had me aching for the throb of a trout on the end of my fly line, so I requested Jane’s approval to explore the North Fork of the White River in the public section across from our campground. She readily agreed, as this allowed her to cleanse her dust covered ankles and feet after our afternoon hiking adventure. I decided to wade wet in an effort to achieve a similar rinsing effect on my legs.

My Sage four weight remained assembled from our Skinny Lake venture, but I deviated from the lake configuration and began fishing with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and go2 caddis pupa. I spent an hour prospecting viable holding locations, and I managed to land two small rainbow trout in the 6-9 inch range. I also temporarily hooked a fish that felt heavier, but it quickly shed the pointy irritant after a five foot downstream dash.

North Fork of the White River Across from the Campground

I noticed a few small caddis and a rare mayfly in my short time on the water. The flows remained a bit above normal summer levels, but I was very disappointed with the number of decent holding lies. This translated into covering quite a bit of water in a one hour time frame. Although I registered a couple of fish, the outing was fairly disappointing and did not satisfy my urge for a decent fish on the end of my line.

Fish Landed: 2

 

Skinny Fish Lake – 07/03/2018

Time: 1:15PM – 2:45PM

Location: Western shoreline

Skinny Fish Lake 07/03/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I completed the long challenging drive from Denver to the Flatttops area on Monday July 2, 2018. Upon our arrival we secured campsite 25 at the North Fork Campground, and then we made our way to the outlet parking lot at Trappers Lake. Many years elapsed since Jane and I gazed upon the gem of a lake situated among stunning rock formations such as the Chinese Wall and the Amphitheater. A 2005 wildfire converted the forests into green slopes with scattered dead tree trunks, and the grey remnants of evergreen trees reminded me of toothpicks. Certainly the scenery was much different from the views prior to the fire, but it remained stunning nonetheless.

Must Be a Perfect Climate for Indian Paintbrush

Before committing to the trip I reviewed my National Geographic contour map and selected a few interesting hiking trails. Tuesday was devoted to exploring wilderness trails with Jane, and we chose a five mile round trip trek to Skinny Fish Lake. Naturally since the destination was a high mountain lake, I filled my backpack with fly fishing gear with the hope of sneaking in an hour or two of casting for gullible high elevation trout.

Wildflowers Were Abundant

Our expectations were more than satisfied, as we enjoyed a fun 1.5 hour hike to Skinny Fish Lake. The wildflowers en route were amazing, and the views of the Chinese Wall and Amphitheater were spectacular. Upon our arrival at the picturesque body of water, Jane and I found a large fallen log, and I munched my lunch, while she marveled at our surroundings. My Sage four weight accompanied me, so after lunch we circled along the left shoreline, until we reached the point of a peninsula that protruded into the middle of the lake.

Giving Lake Fishing a Go

I knotted a slumpbuster to my line and trailed a beadhead hares ear, as I began my optimistic attempts to attract the attention of resident coldwater species. I slowly fanned casts out from the point, and then I worked counterclockwise back to the spot, where I ate lunch and stashed my backpack. Unfortunately I must report that I experienced zero action. I did not land or hook a fish. In fact I did not witness a single refusal or see a fish or even observe a rise. As far as I was concerned, Skinny Fish Lake was barren of fish, but it was worth the hike simply for the view and the wildflowers.

Fish Landed: 0

Jane Floats in Wildflowers

North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2017

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Near North Fork Campground

North Fork of the White River 09/14/2017 Photo Album

I concluded that the allure of the Flattops is its remoteness and its beauty largely unblemished by the hand of man. When I returned home from my 2017 Flattops trip, a family member asked how many other fishermen I encountered. I paused and did a mental rewind of my trip, and then I smiled and spoke the truth. None. There were numerous hunters and horses, but fishermen were absent from my chosen fishing destination.

As explained on Monday’s post, the area I planned to fish on the North Fork was off limits due to a wildfire, so I was forced to improvise once again. I was quite weary after completing two hike-in ventures on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I gave serious consideration to packing up the tent to execute an early return to home. However, I recalled the demanding drive required to arrive in the Flattops, and I came to the realization that Thursday was my last opportunity to capitalize on my perfect location in the stunning backcountry.

Monday afternoon evolved into an outstanding day on a stretch of the White River that I abandoned after a couple disappointing outings in previous years, so why not visit the rediscovered section and continue upstream from where I ended? This became my plan, and I am pleased to report that the day developed into a quality adventure.

I took my time on Thursday morning to pack up the camping gear, since I was positioned very close to my fishing destination for the day. By 9AM, however, the tent dew evaporated from the rain fly and footprint, and I could no longer contain my enthusiasm for another day on the White River. Not even the minor ache of a newly developed case of tennis elbow could delay my departure, and I arrived at a wide pullout next to the river ready to create yet another fly fishing adventure.

My Orvis Access four weight remained ready for action after a day on Marvine Creek, so after I pulled on my waders and stashed my lunch, I found a moderately steep path to the river and began casting. Wednesday’s flies remained on my line, and they were a tan size 8 Charlie boy hopper, an ultra zug bug and a salvation nymph. The two bottom nymphs remained in place throughout the day, but the Charlie boy began to attract an excess of refusals after lunch, so it was swapped for a tan pool toy.

I learned from Monday on the North Fork and Tuesday on the South Fork that casting to marginal pockets and shallow riffles was essentially of waste of time, so I moved quickly and stopped only at locations that were obvious fish magnets. Long deep slots and troughs were the number one producer along with extensive deep pockets. The water covered in the first hour was a replay of Monday afternoon, so I waded through this section very rapidly and only stopped to prospect two or three quality locations. The first of these was a fortuitous choice, as I extracted four very nice trout from a long deep trough. One of the four was a ten inch brook trout, and the others were two chunky fourteen inch rainbows along with a size twelve speckled and striped beauty.

Decent Brook Trout

Deep Slot Behind the Exposed Boulder Was Productive

A short distance above the productive slot, I tossed seven casts into a deep pocket that was eight feet long, and on the eighth drift the hopper dipped, and I quickly set the hook. Immediately I spotted a large hulking form, and I correctly concluded that a whitefish grabbed the salvation nymph. I managed to hoist the ponderous load into my net, and the silvery beast represented the largest whitefish of my life. It was approximately seventeen inches long, but its width and weight were the characteristics that elevated it to the top of my lifetime achievement chart.

Giant Whitefish

The period between the whitefish and lunch did include a disappointing highlight. Shortly after releasing the whitefish, I tossed a couple casts into another deep slot below some large boulders, and the hopper took a sudden dive. I quickly raised the rod tip, and instantly I realized that I was connected to a special fish. The large object streaked downstream and then stopped in another smaller pocket across from me, and here I determined that it was a rainbow trout that easily measured eighteen inches. I held tight and began to reel up line, and then the reluctant fish shot upstream to the top of the deep trough where the battle began. I thought that the run was over, so I began to reel line, but the savvy foe made a sudden move, and broke off the salvation nymph. Needless to say, I was very disappointed for the next ten minutes.

The catch rate slowed over the remainder of the morning, but I managed to increase the fish count to seven, before I sat on a large rock to consume my lunch. The weather vacillated between overcast and cool and sunny and bright, but the former ruled the sky roughly 75% of the time. After lunch I pulled on my raincoat for added warmth, and I never regretted the move.

I continued the selective prospecting strategy for the remainder of the day, and the approach paid off, as the fish count climbed to twenty-six. Quite a few were spunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbow trout with a couple more fourteen inch beauties in the mix. My day ended with two nine inch brook trout nestled in my net.

Keeping Them Wet

By 2:30 I reached an area characterized by a long twenty yard run along the left bank. A shelf pool fanned out on the right side of the strong center current, and a narrow eight foot band of slower moving water was situated between the deep current and the left bank. I began casting at the very tail where the river spread out into a riffle that was three feet deep, and I landed a couple small rainbows. Next I shot some long casts to the very top of the slower water along the right side of the run, but this only yielded a refusal. My attention now shifted to the band of water along the left bank.

One of the Better Fish

I began at the bottom where the current slowed, and I lofted a short cast within two feet of the bank and held my rod high while the three flies cruised along the shoreline. After a long drift the flies began to swing away from the bank, and at this instant an eleven inch rainbow snatched the salvation nymph. This same scenario played out a second time and once again resulted in an eleven inch bow. Could the technique work along the entire ribbon of water between the heavy run and the bank? It sure did. Six additional fish landed in my net, as I slowly migrated upstream and executed the across and down maneuver. Every fish grabbed one of the nymphs, as they began to swing away from the bank, and these were not small fish. All except one were in the twelve to thirteen inch range along with one of the fourteen inch prizes. In addition I endured at least four long distance releases when a fish latched on to a nymph for a fraction of a second and then twisted free of the pointy annoyance.

More Cutthroat than Rainbow Cutbow

Of course this Thursday highlight film of fish catching was not perfect. On one long drift I felt a strong tug as the nymphs began to swing, and I responded with a swift downstream and across hook set. Instantly a heavy force made a twist and thrashed violently to the surface. I held tight as the rainbow shot into the heavy current and then crossed until it was directly below me. It paused, and this was the signal I needed to begin reeling, but in that instant my line went limp. I stripped in the leader and discovered that all three flies were missing, and upon closer inspection I realized that a section of 4X leader broke where a wind knot previously existed. I noticed the wind knot earlier, but I was too lazy to cut back three sections of tippet to rebuild my line. It was a tough way to learn that wind knots weaken a line.

What a surprisingly successful day it was on the North Fork of the White River! The scenery was spectacular, and I relished the solitude that I crave. The world consisted of me and my thoughts, as I focused on how to land wild Flattops trout. The weather was cool, and a small sampling of leaves shifted from green to light yellow. I learned that White River rainbow trout prefer a certain type of water, and I took advantage of this knowledge to land twenty-six wild hard fighting fish. Difficulty accessing this wilderness preserves its special quality, but it also makes me cherish the rare opportunities to visit.

Fish Landed: 26