Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: Upstream from South Fork Campground
Since the inception of this blog I enjoyed nearly annual trips to the Flattops area of Colorado to fish the North Fork and South Fork of the White River. If you search on White River, you can read about these historical adventures. Generally the fishing has been excellent for abundant quantities of small rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout; but the true attraction is the beauty and remoteness of the Flattops area. During September quite a few hunters make the trip, but they tend to set up camp along the high ridges and mountain passes. I generally have the streams to myself during this time.
Sunday September 11 was the start of my 2016 trip to the White River. I checked the weather forecast before my departure, and I noted that the best days were Sunday and Monday with cooler temperatures and a greater chance of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday. During 2015 I enjoyed my best day of fly fishing of the entire year, when I hiked for an hour along the South Fork, and I anxiously anticipated another foray into the remote reaches of this branch, so I decided to make the South Fork my destination for the first half of my stay. In order to position myself for an early start and lengthy hike, I set up camp at the South Fork Campground. I prefered the campsites at North Fork because of the presence of tent pads, but that campground was 22 miles away from the South Fork Trailhead.
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I arrived at the campground by 1:30 and chose site number 8, as it was close to the trailhead and mainly free of tall trees on the eastern side. In September I seek the warming effect of the sun in the early morning hours. I ate a quick lunch and transferred food bins to the bear proof locker, and then I paid for one night. Sunday was a gorgeous day with temperatures approaching eighty degrees even at the high elevation of the South Fork, so I decided to sample the fishing for a couple hours. I climbed into my new Hodgman waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked up the trail for ten minutes, before I cut over to the river at a convenient access point.
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-U8wUs3OUGbM/V9y0yqKrNoI/AAAAAAABDGU/NbXQrPa4oTgkrqbTYRNuON6MV-WnfxwowCCo/s144-o/P9110025.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6331133930403963857?locked=true#6331133958581597826″ caption=”Pretty Spectacular” type=”image” alt=”P9110025.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
Because this stretch of the South Fork was near the campground, I assumed that it received significant pressure during the summer months, so I was skeptical that I would experience much success. The flows were excellent for early September, and I marveled at the clear cold water, as it tumbled over light tan and gray rocks in the brilliant sunlight.
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-84qHpEUHgmk/V9y0yKKlc1I/AAAAAAABDGU/qXsGp2BMMxcJ3CzUPYhpBfzWuHGNLWG0wCCo/s144-o/P9110024.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6331133930403963857?locked=true#6331133949991285586″ caption=”Decent Size” type=”image” alt=”P9110024.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
I decided to begin my quest for bonus time trout with a tan pool toy, beadhead ultra zug bug, and a salvation nymph. Once I configured my line with these offerings, I tossed the flies to the top of a nice deep depression, and almost immediately the pool toy took a dive, and I set the hook. The clarity of the water enabled me to catch a glimpse of a sizable fish with silvery sides, but it thrashed and dove unlike a rainbow trout. Sure enough, as I applied pressure, I learned that I was attached to a sixteen inch whitefish. Normally I am disappointed with a whitefish, but this fish was a surprise and a welcome catch early in my outing. I was amazed that such a large fish possessed a tiny mouth, and the salvation nymph was embedded in the soft lips that surrounded the round opening. I snapped a few photos to capture the shimmering silver beauty of the sides of the wild fish, as it reminded me of a grayling.
Next I moved a bit farther upstream, and I cast the dry/dropper combination to the top of a narrow deep slot. As the pool toy drifted toward the tail of the trough, it once again dipped, and I executed a solid hook set. This time the pricked fish streaked back and forth several times, until I coaxed it into my net and marveled at a fourteen inch rainbow trout that also favored the salvation nymph. What a thrill to enjoy this early success near the campground on Sunday; a day on which I did not plan to fish.
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-lTgw4JQGFCg/V9y0zJQIMiI/AAAAAAABDGU/vTq0rUXHXogXIvcTrVsMHpYxv4xyco9XgCCo/s144-o/P9110027.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6331133930403963857?locked=true#6331133966925967906″ caption=”Quite a Prize” type=”image” alt=”P9110027.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NWB-cZthFjQ/V9y0ziW2Q2I/AAAAAAABDGU/gmP3hp48vuwxy4SX7XMVTrExVY1WdDMgwCCo/s144-o/P9110028.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6331133930403963857?locked=true#6331133973665039202″ caption=”More Enticing Pocket Water” type=”image” alt=”P9110028.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]
Unfortunately the action slowed after the initial successes, but I did manage to land four additional small rainbows. Two measured in the ten inch range and the others were smaller. One of the four inhaled the hares ear nymph, and the remainder savored the salvation similar to their larger cousin. In addition I experienced three temporary hook ups with small fish, so this added to the action during the two hour period. All the fish emerged from deep water, and I quickly discovered it was a waste of energy to prospect the smaller marginal pockets and runs. I also filed this information away for Monday, when I planned to skip the marginal water and focus on deeper high probability locations. Sunday was a great introduction to the South Fork of the White River in 2016.
Fish Landed: 5 + 1 whitefish