Category Archives: Yampa River

Yampa River- 06/26/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Locaton: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/26/2020 Photo Album

Jane was interested in a camping trip to Steamboat Lake State Park during the week of June 22, 2020. Given my success on the Yampa River on June 16 and June 17, I was not averse to visiting the north central area of Colorado again; however, when I checked the flows, I noted a precipitous drop from 1,000 to 450 CFS. Fortunately I recalled decent success at the lower level, and I was anxious to determine whether the embryonic pale morning dun hatch witnessed on June 17 had evolved into a more significant fish attracting event.

My next step was to reserve a campsite at Steamboat Lake State Park on relatively short notice. Steamboat Lake is the crown jewel of the Colorado state park system and very popular with residents and out-of-staters as well. I began fumbling through the availability dates, and I was shocked to discover that site 167 of the Bridge island loop was available on Thursday and Friday night, June 25 and 26. Finding a space on a Friday night in the most desirable loop was a huge windfall, and we wasted no time in snatching it.

Jane and I stopped to complete a five mile hike at Mad Creek on Thursday, as we drove north to Steamboat Lake, so Friday was my designated fly fishing day. As we ate breakfast on Friday morning, Jane discovered that her iPhone battery was depleted to 7%, so she plugged it into the USB port in the Santa Fe to charge. In our minds we were certain that the huge car battery could withstand twenty minutes of energy drain from a puny iPhone battery. Well, our minds were clearly confused, because the only sound that issued from the car, when I hit the start button was the click of a drained battery. I was an angler anxious to fish with no means of transportation. As we pondered our predicament, Jane caught the attention of the young man who was camping across from us with his wife and young daughter, and miraculously he possessed jumper cables. He swung his Jeep around facing the Santa Fe, and in a matter of minutes the Santa Fe engine was rumbling and charging. I thanked him profusely, and while in Steamboat Springs I stopped at the West End liquor store and purchased a craft beer six pack, which I promptly bestowed upon our camping neighbor when I returned.

Once I was on the road, I made the forty minute drive to Steamboat Springs and arrived at my usual parking space at the base of Howelsen Hill. The rest rooms remained locked, so I added that to my planning for a day on the river. Friday was a warm sunny day with a high temperature around eighty degrees. Flows held around the 400 CFS mark, and this made wading along the edges much more manageable than the previous week, however, limited numbers of fish holding lies existed in the main river channel.

High But Lower Flows on the Yampa

I began above the hot springs, and in the first deep pocket next to the bank I landed a fourteen inch brown trout on the second cast. I began my quest for Yampa River trout with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, iron sally, and salvation nymph. Fish number one gulped the iron sally, as did the next three, and I was off to a fast start. For the remainder of the morning I worked upstream toward the Howelsen Bridge, and I landed thirteen trout. Three were a bit diminutive, but the other ten were respectable fish of twelve inches or greater, and my net felt the weight of a fifteen inch rainbow and several fourteen inch bows.

A Long One

By 11:30AM pale morning duns made an appearance, and their presence coincided with a hot streak for the salvation nymph, until I lost it in the process of fighting and releasing one of the fine rainbows. I noted that the majority of the pale morning duns were size 18, so I replaced the salvation nymph with a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail. Toward the tail of a run I spotted a fish, as it flashed in the vicinity of my trailing nymphs, so I whipped the rod sideways and connected with a gorgeous brown trout. I fought the wide body for a minute, before it turned broadside to the current and broke off the iron sally and pheasant tail. Disappointment reigned. Next I tested a fusion nymph and super nova, and the nova accounted for a small brook trout to boost the fish count to thirteen. Recall that one of the inducements of returning to the Yampa was the prospect of a more dense and longer lasting pale morning dun hatch, and that condition did in fact occur.

Pretty Fish

Settled Down

By now I was approaching the Howelsen Bridge and another angler occupied the large pool and eddy on the south side of the river. I remained fifty yards below him, and I observed a pair of rises in a narrow band of moderate depth riffles near the bank. In spite of a fairly dense hatch these were the first glimpses of surface feeding on the day. I decided to convert to a single dry fly and attached a size sixteen cinnamon comparadun to my line. On the very first cast to the spot where the lower fish rose a sip appeared, and I reacted with a swift hook set. A fourteen inch brown trout was not happy, and it went into the typical escape antics. I held tight and guided a beautiful chunk of butter into my net.

A Fisherman Claimed One of My Productive Spots

Cinnamon Comparadun Did the Trick

Pleased

I stayed with the comparadun for a bit, but the rises ceased, and I reverted to the dry/dropper set up. The hatch mostly fizzled by 1PM except for some stragglers. I circled around the upstream angler below the bridge and continued to my favorite spot across from Taco Cabo, but again I was thwarted by the presence of another fisherman. I bashed back out to the railroad tracks and checked out the attractive pool above Fifth Street, but anglers claimed both banks. The sun was bright, the air temperature was eighty degrees, and the fish were ignoring my nymphs. Posses of tubers blew up three of my favorite haunts, so I decided to call it a day at 2PM.

Friday was a very successful day on the Yampa River. Yes, I ended early compared to normal. The end of the hatch, proliferation of tubers, and sudden explosion of other fishermen raised my level of frustration; but fourteen fish including some quality fighters made June 26 on the Yampa a solid outing in 2020.

Fish Landed: 14

Yampa River – 06/17/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/17/2020 Photo Album

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020 I experienced one of the heaviest pale morning dun hatches that I ever encountered. Did the trout notice as well, and did I enjoy one of my best outings ever? I will answer these questions later, but first I need to describe the circumstances.

If you read my posts of June 15 and 16, you know that I camped at Stagecoach State Park on Monday and Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning I consumed my simple breakfast and then took down the tent and stowed my camping gear. The ferocious wind maintained a perfect record, and whipped across the McKindley Loop at Stagecoach in relentless fashion for the third straight day. Have you ever tried to build a sandwich, when a paperweight is required to keep the ingredients in place? That was one of my challenges on Wednesday morning. I made the mistake of removing the stakes to the tent, before I collapsed it, and this misstep nearly earned me my first hang gliding trip. I normally keep the two person tent up, so I can flip it and shake out the dirt, but I learned to forego this tactic during high winds.

The extra steps associated with breaking camp caused me to arrive at the Howelsen Hill parking lot by 9:30AM, and along the way I stopped at Steamboat Flyfishers to purchase a tube of floatant and gather information. The young man that answered my questions was polite, but he did not add much incremental intelligence to what I gleaned on my own during five hours of fishing on Tuesday. I assembled my Sage One five weight with the hope of tangling with larger than average fish, and I decided to work upstream from my ending point the previous day. This section of the Yampa is significantly harder to fish at high flows, because a thick and wide area of vegetation borders the south side of the river. An inability to wade the edge forces one to repeatedly bash through thick brush to gain access to the more attractive fish holding locales. The flows dropped to the 900 – 1000 cfs level for Wednesday, so I was hopeful that this would make covering the stretch above the Howelsen Hill bridge more manageable.

Edgewater at 1,000 CFS

I began my Wednesday adventure just above the footbridge, and I tied a yellow body size 8 pool toy hopper to my line as the top fly. Beneath the hopper I added a 20 incher and salvation nymph. The two subsurface flies were productive morning options on Tuesday. Within the first thirty minutes I landed a ten inch brown trout, but much of my time was spent busting through wild shrubs and bushes, as I paralleled the river along the railroad tracks and then cut at a ninety degree angle back to the river in hopes of finding quality holding water. Approximately an hour of valuable stream time unfolded, as I repeated the stream access ordeal, and I was not rewarded for my persistence.

This Area Produced Nearly Half My Fish on the Day

By 11AM I approached a spot that delivered nice action in a prior season. A small side channel braided through some willows, and the main river spilled over some large submerged stream improvement boulders. The spill over created a deep frothy hole, and much of the main current flowed directly downstream and fanned out into a wide run. The outflow on my side, however, angled toward me and met with another secondary current to create a deep seam. For some reason I swapped the salvation nymph for a super nova nymph, and I flipped the three fly combination to the left of the seam and allowed the pool toy to bop along the bumpy current. On the eighth such pass the hopper dipped, and I reacted with a firm hook set and found myself attached to a large angry rainbow trout. I held tight and after a few dashes up and down the pool, I slid my net beneath a beauty in the fifteen inch range. I finally received a payout for my persistence, and it was well worth it. The super nova was responsible for the much appreciated rainbow in my net.

Scarlet

For some reason this section of the river seems to be a sanctuary for resident trout during high water, so I was certain that more fish remained. I executed another series of casts, and once again the hopper sank, and I raised the rod tip. This time the animated creature on the end of my line behaved like a bulldog, as it dove and shook its head relentlessly. Combating these tactics placed a significant strain on my shoulder and elbow, but eventually a fantastic black spotted brown trout flopped over the edge of my net with the 20 incher firmly embedded in its lip. My elation ticked up several notches, as this doubleheader of good fortune unfolded across from an Italian restaurant on Yampa Street.

From the Same Seam as the Rainbow

If the honey hole had ceased producing at this point, I would have been more than pleased. But it did not. I extracted seven additional trout from the deceiving habitat, and several more fell in the fifteen inch range. The angled current and confluence seam yielded a few, but when I focused on the main current flowing directly downstream, I discovered another cache of feeders just beyond the churning bubble zone. By noon the fish count rested on ten, and nine were concentrated in one place. I was in a state of euphoria and amazement, as I proceeded upstream with my bash out and bash in cycle. The flies responsible for my morning success were split evenly between the super nova and 20 incher.

Another Honey Hole Dweller

The area between the hot spot and Fifth Street failed to yield additional action, and I arrived at the bridge by noon. My lunch remained in the car with the assumption that I would return, but when I arrived on the east side of Fifth Street, I noticed a few small mayflies, as they attempted to get airborne and in many cases tumbled along the surface as a result of gusts of wind. Again, from past experience I knew that the right side of the pool just above the bridge was the sweet spot. During lower flows the main river was a nice wide pool, but the center of the river was deep and flowing rapidly, so I concentrated on the right margin, where a nice narrow riffle emerged beneath some overhanging branches. By now the intensity of the hatch elevated, and a few larger size 16’s were among the more prevalent size 18 mayflies. On Tuesday I was uncertain that these insects were pale morning duns, but the presence of larger bugs with light gray and light yellow bodies convinced me that PMD’s were, in fact, making an appearance.

Two Beauties Came from Under the Branches

I was anxious to convert to a dry fly, but the absence of rising fish constrained my urge to switch. I caught a brief glimpse of a fish, as it elevated to grab something a foot or two below the surface, and this suggested the lack of surface action was explained by a focus on emergers. An Tuesday a light olive body juju emerger produced some fish, so I reconfigured my dry/dropper to include a salvation nymph and a juju emerger. I began flinging backhand casts along the right current seam. This was quite challenging, as I needed to sidearm the backhand, so that the flies looped under the overhanging branches that hung within five feet of the river. Miraculously I accomplished this bit of fly fishing gymnastics without snagging a branch and ultimately blowing up the hole. After fifteen dangerous casts the hopper dipped backward, and I set the hook. Initially the heavy weight on the end of my rod simply sank and held fast, and I was certain that another brown trout was on my line. I applied some pressure, and suddenly a rainbow trout in excess of fifteen inches spurted to the center of the pool. I embraced my decision to break out the five weight and prayed that the combative silver torpedo would remain above the faster water at the tail of the high water run. It did, and I maintained a deep bend in the rod, until I eventually hoisted the muscular beast into my undersized net. The juju emerger was the desired food in the lip of the bow, and once again jubilation ruled, and I smiled over my ability to land the best fish of the day.

Pretty in Pink

Big Shoulders

I photographed and released my latest prize, and I returned my attention to the run along the right bank. I had not yet shot a cast deep beneath the branches, so I resolved to rectify that situation. I stripped out another five feet of line and swept the backcast low, and the hopper smacked down deep and under the branches. A two foot drift ensued, and then the hopper disappeared, as another fifteen inch trout gobbled the juju emerger. I knew this to be the case, as I eventually guided the wide body brown trout into my net for a close up view. How gratifying was it to observe subsurface feeding and select a seldom used fly that fooled two muscular fish? I can assure the reader that it was very rewarding.

The next section of the river extended from Fifth Street to the Island Bridge, and I covered this area between noon and 2:30. Once again I was forced to parallel the river in the relatively clear space along the railroad tracks with periodic whacking sessions through the brush to the river. None of these thrusts; however, led to fish, and I was locked on twelve for at least an hour. As expected much of that time was spent walking and climbing through and over thick growths of vegetation. Finally I arrived at the stretch of the river just below the confluence of two fairly equal channels, and the river spread out to create a very attractive riffle of moderate depth. I paused to observe, and finally I was treated to a series of rises. At least five trout revealed their positions, and I suspected that they were smaller and more aggressive feeders.

I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied on a size 18 light gray comparadun, and on the first and second casts I experienced long distance releases. This was not how I envisioned my long anticipated launch into dry fly fishing. I swapped the size 18 for a size 16, and this move yielded dividends in the form of three rainbow trout in the ten to twelve inch range along with another flurry of temporary hook ups. After I released number fifteen, the rises ceased, and the riffle residents exercised new found restraint in their feeding habits, so I migrated to the bike path and returned to Howelsen Hill.

The Howelsen Bridge Hole

My watch indicated that it was approaching three o’clock, and I was certain that the wonderful pale morning dun hatch was winding down; however, I hoped to investigate the large eddy and pool just below the Howelsen Bridge. I arrived along the south bank directly across from a stand up paddleboard maniac, who repeatedly surfed on the white water and crashed in the ice cold snow melt flows. I was momentarily distracted by this entertaining scenario, but then I turned my attention to the pool in front of me, and sure enough a few random rises emerged along the deep seam where the shelf pool met the fast main current. I stayed with the gray comparadun for a short while, but the fish were unresponsive, so I swapped it for a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. Perhaps the stragglers displayed a different body color than the earlier emergers. The tactic was successful, and I added two nice thirteen inch rainbows to the fish count along with a few more momentary hook ups.

Seeking Cold Water

By 3:15PM the rises ceased, and the mayfly population in the proximity of the river was mostly absent. I hoped to arrive in Denver in time for dinner with Jane, so I hooked the comparadun to my rod guide and returned to the Santa Fe. What a day Wednesday evolved into. One of the best pale morning dun hatches ever witnessed unfolded, yet surface feeding was absent until the very late stages. A rarely used juju emerger duped two spectacular fish, and I managed to land seventeen on the day. Six of the netted fish were in the fifteen inch range. and quite a few substantial trout were hooked and not landed. Five dry fly eaters in the late stage of the hatch were an enjoyable dessert. Can I figure out a way to make the three hour drive to search for the pale morning dun hatch at lower flows? Time will tell. Wednesday was most certainly my best day of 2020.

Fish Landed: 17

Yampa River – 06/16/2020

Time: 3:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Stagecoach tailwater

Yampa River 06/16/2020 Photo Album

My rod remained assembled, and I wore my waders, as I drove to the Yampa tailwater at Stagecoach on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike Monday evening I decided to head downstream from the parking lot to explore never before fished water. I stopped hiking and began fishing, when I encountered a huge vertical rock wall. I probably could have crossed the river and continued on the opposite bank, but that seemed like too much trouble at 3PM after a strenuous day in the high flows in town.

I Never Progressed Beyond the Vertical Rock

Home of the Rainbow

Within the first five minutes of fly fishing I hooked and landed a nice rainbow on the juju emerger, and I began to realize the effectiveness of a forgotten fly. Upon the release of the bow I began working my way upstream, but in a short amount of time I stumbled over a round and slippery submerged rock. I fell forward enough for water to trickle over my waders, and that pretty much ruined the remainder of my day. I persisted and sloshed upstream another forty yards with no action, so I circled back to the dirt lane and sought my favorite pool, where I fished on Monday night.

Not a Bad Beginning

The wind decided to gust relentlessly, and unlike Monday evening very little rising activity was visible. I tried my dry/dropper for a bit and then removed the three flies and switched to a black size 18 parachute ant with a pink wing post. A flurry of rises after a series of strong gusts prompted the move to the black terrestrial. One twelve inch brown trout sipped the ant, but otherwise, it was largely ignored, and the wind and my wet state encouraged me to quit at 4PM. In hindsight I am actually impressed that I managed two fish in one hour of fishing given my saturated and wind blasted state.

Fish Landed: 2

Yampa River – 06/16/2020

Time: 9:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/16/2020 Photo Album

I underwent mitral heart valve repair surgery a bit more than eight weeks ago, and on Tuesday, June 16 I was in the midst of my first solo overnight camping and fly fishing expedition. I was admittedly a bit nervous about this significant early step in my recovery. The camping was not a major concern, but wading the Yampa River with flows remaining at 1,000 CFS instilled a bit of anxiety in my persona. I intended to restrict my wading to the edge, but even this precaution entailed strenuous bashing through thick brush to access the prime high water holding spots in the rushing river. And what about my shoulder? I fished for three hours on two occasions after my operation, but I hoped to extend casting duration to five or even six hours. I did not drive three hours and set up camp for only a few hours of fishing each day. This thought passed through my mind, but I conceded that I could always quit early and rest, if my body cried for relief.

Readers of this blog know that one of my favorite periods of fishing in Colorado occurs as the freestone rivers descend. The rivers are high and clear, and the fish seek refuge along the bank behind large current breaks. Combine large concentrations of fish with some dense hatches, and you have a recipe for outstanding fly fishing. I experienced fantastic days during the run off time frame on the Yampa, Eagle and Arkansas Rivers during previous seasons, and I was averse to missing the highly anticipated event in 2020. A bit of heart surgery was not going to stand in my way, but of course seeds of doubt occupied my thoughts. In order to reserve a campsite at Stagecoach I gambled on June 11 that the flows would decline to challenging but manageable levels by Tuesday, June 16. At the time of making the reservation, the river was gliding through the town at Steamboat Springs at 1500 CFS. Fortunately my analysis of the trend line was fairly accurate, and flows on Tuesday remained in the 1,000 to 1,100 range. When I checked the chart at the end of the day, I learned that the river volume actually dipped into the nine hundreds.

Near the Start

I arrived at the Howelsen Hill parking area at 8:30, and parked in front of the gazebo as is my custom when fishing the Yampa in town. Large groups of boys and girls wandered about, as they waited for organized group mountain bike rides. I was disappointed to learn that the men’s room was locked as a result of the covid lockdown. I will never again take for granted the availability of public restrooms. Tuesday developed into a beautiful day with a high of eighty degrees, although wind was a nuisance from time to time.

Salvation on the Line

20 Incher Was a Top Producer

The high flows created tough wading conditions, so I was selective regarding my casting locations. During the morning I lost five flies including one 20 incher, two salvation nymphs, one iron sally, and one chubby chernobyl with a tan ice dub body. Three of the flies were the victim of a guide wire that spans the river, and the break off occurred in the tapered leader, thus forcing me install a new 7.5 foot leader that tapered to 5X. I was not pleased with this turn of events, but my own lack of focus was to blame. The catch rate was fairly steady throughout the day except for a one hour lull prior to lunch. The top producing flies on the day were a 20 incher, salvation nymph, and a light olive juju emerger. I also experimented with an emerald caddis pupa and sparkle wing RS2, but both were unproductive.

Pretty Wide

Dense Speckles

Prime Fish Holding Area

I landed ten trout between 9:00AM and noon, as six hammered the 20 incher and four favored the salvation nymph. The salvation was a star in the early phases above the hot springs and particularly in the deep areas along the bank. The morning featured a fat thirteen inch rainbow and several respectable twelve inch browns.

Under the Branch Delivered

Tucked in the Net

After lunch back at the car I restocked the flies I lost, and then I hiked across the Howelsen Hill footbridge and downstream on the bike path along the north side of the river. Between one and three o’clock I added nine additional trout to the fish count. For most of this time some small size 18 mayflies with light yellow-olive bodies made an appearance. Initially I exchanged the salvation nymph for a sparkle wing RS2 under the mistaken belief that blue winged olives were fluttering above the river. The fish ignored the RS2, so I swapped it for a juju emerger with a light olive body. I surmised that perhaps the mayflies were small pale morning duns, and the light olive wet fly represented an attempt to imitate the slightly larger mayfly. The combination of the 20 incher and juju emerger performed quite well. I probably landed six of the nine in the afternoon on the 20 incher and three on the emerger.

Steady Now

The highlight of the afternoon and the day was a sixteen inch rainbow trout that snatched the juju in a back eddy in front of a tree. I shot a low cast beneath a limb and then allowed the current to pull the top fly back toward the tree trunk until the hungry rainbow latched on to the emerger.

I progressed past the tube and inflatable rental shop and fished along the bank behind a restaurant, and here I landed a fine thirteen inch brown trout that lurked along the rocky bank in typical brown trout fashion. On the north shoreline I mostly descended to the river where current breaks and slow water attracted my attention, and after the requisite number of casts I returned to the bike path expressway, until I spotted another promising open and sheltered area. Given the relatively high flows I was pleased with my day on the Yampa within the town of Steamboat Springs.

Fish Landed: 19

Yampa River – 06/15/2020

Time: 7:30PM – 8:45PM

Location: Stagecoach tailwater.

Yampa River 06/15/2020 Photo Album

The Lake in the Background

After a three hour plus drive I arrived at campsite number 87 on the McKindley Loop at Stagecoach State Park, and I set up my tent and ate my dinner of soup, bread and carrots. Once the dishes were cleaned up and with daylight lingering until 9PM, I decided to make the short drive to the Stagecoach tailwater of the Yampa River. Only one other vehicle was present, and I was pleased with this revelation. I quickly assembled my Sage One five weight with the hope of landing some larger than average trout, and I departed along the dirt road that leads upstream toward the dam. As I ambled along, I spotted a fisherman downstream from the parking lot, so I knew that I had the entire river above the other angler to myself. Needless to say, I was pleased.

My Favorite Pool

On the Board

I immediately decided to head to my favorite pool next to and above a tall evergreen tree. The reported flows were 47 CFS, and the river looked absolutely gorgeous. A quick scan of the pool upon my arrival revealed a few sporadic rises, so I decided to launch my fly fishing evening with dry flies. The weather was very pleasant with temperatures in the seventies as I began, but the disappearance of the sun, when I quit at 8:45PM, created quite a chill. Only one other car was present in the lot, when I arrived, but another young man named John pulled in, as I departed the parking lot. I know his name, because I chatted with him, when we both returned to our cars at the end of the evening. John does marketing communications for Honey Stinger, a producer of honey-based energy products in Steamboat Springs.

Short but Wide

When I arrived at my favorite pool, I rigged with a size 14 yellow stimulator, and it generated a couple refusals. I progressed to a desperate caddis, but I snapped it off in a tree in short order. Before the fly loss, however, I determined that the fish were not interested, and it was hard to track in the evening light. Next I chose a size 16 parachute Adams, always a solid choice, when it is unclear what the fish are responding to. The Adams was mostly ignored, although I did get on the scoreboard with a small rainbow trout and brook trout. Just as I was gaining confidence in the Adams, the parachute hackle unraveled, and rather that replacing it with a duplicate, I opted to try a size 16 light gray comparadun, but it only produced a couple refusals. I weighed a return to an Adams but instead downsized to a size 18 light gray comparadun, and this choice proved a winner, with three landed and two temporary hook ups over the remainder of my time on the river. The three trout that rested in my net included a fat thirteen inch rainbow trout and a gorgeous thirteen inch brook trout. I consider any brook trout in excess of thirteen inches to be a prize.

Handsome Fish

In summary I landed five trout in 1.25 hours of fishing. I essentially had the short special regulation section of the Yampa tailwater to myself, and that is a rarity. Two of the landed fish stretched to thirteen inches, and I cast dry flies the entire time. The start of my camping and fishing adventure on the Yampa was off to an auspicious start.

Fish Landed: 5

Yampa River – 07/16/2019

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 07/16/2019 Photo Album

Camping at the Meadows Campground on Rabbit Ears Pass on Monday night enabled me to return to the Yampa River within the town of Steamboat Springs for another day of fly fishing, and my arrival time was much earlier, than when I began on Monday. In retrospect the morning fishing was superior to the afternoon, and this cast my results from Monday in a new favorable light.

Unlike Monday, a storm never developed, so the sky was mostly clear, and the thermometer peaked in the mid-eighties. The river was down in the 600 – 650 CFS range, and this translated to easier although moderately challenging wading. The lower flows also meant that the fish spread out more, and I landed several from mid-river lies behind large boulders that served as current breaks.

Tuesday developed into my best day of the year on the Yampa River. The first seven landed trout were in the thirteen to sixteen inch range, and I was quite pleased with this result. For the entire day eight trout measured in that range, and another was a surprise ten inch brook trout. I fell a cutthroat shy of a traditional grand slam, unless the rules allow a cutbow and rainbow as separate species. In addition to the fish tally my fly supply was not depleted to the same magnitude as Monday, although I managed to break off the one remaining olive ice dub chubby Chernobyl that remained in my possession.

I decided to cover the south bank of the Yampa in town for the second day in a row, but the game plan included more rapid movement in order to reach the river section above the Fifth Street Bridge. I never made it to that point on Monday.

Looking Back Toward the Hot Springs

I began with a Chernobyl ant and trailed a dubbed peacock stonefly and hares ear nymph, and my starting point was above the fast section upstream of the hot springs. Within the first thirty minutes I landed a feisty fourteen inch rainbow and a gorgeous fifteen inch brown trout. The rainbow gobbled the stonefly, and the brown took the hares ear. The brown wrapped the leader around itself in an effort to escape, and at first I thought it was foul hooked, but eventually while resting in the net, it was obvious that the small nymph fooled the wily brown.

Better Perspective

Early on I exchanged the Chernobyl for a yellow fat Albert, as the low riding foam attractor was difficult to track in the glare from the eastern morning sun. After the first two fish I suffered a bit of a lull, so I switched to the olive ice dub chubby Chernobyl that was on fire on Monday. In addition the peacock stonefly was not producing, so I reconfigured with the hares ear placed in the upper position and the salvation in the end spot. This combination clicked in the 11AM to 1PM time frame, and suddenly the salvation was the fly of choice. Initially the chubby served as an indicator, and it was quite adept at that function. The foam made the fly very buoyant, and the double poly wing when coated with floatant rode high above the water. A grab of the nymph caused the wing to slide under the surface in a seductive manner, and this prompted an instant set. During this time I could count on a nice fish in all the obvious holding lies.

Salvation Nymph in Demand

Splendid

The fish count increased from two to seven, and as mentioned earlier all were very nice strong fish. At the count of seven the fish began to show interest in the chubby, and initially this manifested itself with a pair of refusals, but then an eleven inch rainbow grabbed the salvation, and a respectable brown smashed the chubby. I had visions of another chubby Chernobyl blitz, when I was beset with a dose of misfortune. A nice rainbow or cutbow elevated and nipped the chubby, and I quickly responded with a lift. This action resulted in a momentary connection, but then the fish twisted its mouth and the flies sprung free. The pent up energy in the rod catapulted all three flies into an aspen branch twenty-five feet above the ground. I tried to retrieve the flies with a long dead branch, but the limb was young and stiff, thus preventing me from breaking or bending it to recover my flies. I had no choice but to apply direct pressure, and my precious remaining ice dub chubby remained dangling from a tree along the Yampa River along with two nymphs.

Lowering the Torpedo

My fly fishing continued, but I could not resurrect the magic. While I ate my lunch next to a small thirty foot run, I spotted several fluttering stoneflies and a rise, so I removed the dry/dropper elements and tested a size twelve yellow stimulator. It immediately generated two refusals, so I downsized to a size fourteen and then a sixteen, but the fish were apparently wise to my trickery.

Another Favorite Pool

I vacated the troublesome run and returned to the size fourteen stimulator, and this fly produced trout numbers ten through twelve. One was a small rainbow and another was a nice thirteen inch brown. Both these trout slurped the stimulator on downstream drifts in a large midstream pool. Number twelve was a ten inch brookie, and it also fell for the stimulator.

The last hour of the afternoon was spent mostly above the Fifth Street Bridge. It seemed that the middle of the afternoon coincided with increased run off, and this reduced the number of attractive spots. I switched back to a dry/dropper with a standard Chernobyl ant, hares ear, and iron sally; but none of these flies were a hit with Yampa River trout. I finally reached the point where the river splits around a huge island, but after some fruitless casts and drifts below the confluence, I called it quits.

Lurking

The afternoon was slow, but a twelve fish day including eight in the thirteen to sixteen inch range was a fine outing. I suspect this is the end of my Yampa River visits for the year barring an unexpected return in the fall. I love fly fishing the Yampa during high flows within the city of Steamboat Springs.

Fish Landed: 12

 

Yampa River – 07/15/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 07/15/2019 Photo Album

After several days visiting our friends the Gaboury’s in Eagle Ranch with limited fishing options, Jane and I spent a hot weekend in Denver. I am proud to announce, however, that I placed first in my age group in the Sand Creek 10K. The downside to this accomplishment was the onset of a very sore heel, and I decided to take a break from running for a couple weeks, while I waited for new shoes to arrive.

The readers of this blog can probably predict the outcome of this near hiatus from fly fishing in July. I had a strong itch to cast a line in a moving river or stream. As in past seasons I eagerly tracked the declining flows on three large Colorado freestone rivers: the Arkansas River, the Eagle River and the Yampa River. I visited the Yampa on July 9 with reasonable success, and the DWR chart depicted steady declines with flows in the 700 – 750 likely for Monday, July 15. The Eagle River finally crashed beneath the 2000 CFS range, and the Arkansas River at Salida flattened out between 2200 and 2500. The top of my range for edge fishing the Eagle River is 1200 CFS and for the Arkansas 1500 CFS.

I planned to capture a couple days on the Yampa, while the flows remained elevated. I hoped that the flows on the Eagle or Arkansas would drop to the upper range of my edge fishing window by Wednesday, and I would move my camping gear to the new destination.

One of the Prime Spots at Elevated Flows

I departed Denver by 8:15 on Monday morning and arrived at the Howelsen Hill parking lot by 11AM. The sky was cloudy and overcast much of the day, and the temperature peaked in the low eighties. This development was a nice break from the nineties that blanketed the city of Denver. The flows, as suggested by the DWR graph, were in the 650 CFS range, and this allowed for much easier wading compared to the conditions I endured on July 9.

Once I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, I hiked along the railroad tracks, until I reached the hot springs. The pungent smell of sulfur dried my throat, and numerous trickles of hot water cascaded from the rocks and entered the high flowing river.

The Run on the Left Usually Produces a Fish

My starting lineup included a tan pool toy, iron sally, and salvation nymph; and in the first hour I landed two twelve inch rainbow trout, as they sucked in the salvation. I stopped for lunch on a large rock among some willows at 12:30. Shortly after my early afternoon meal I broke off all my flies, and as part of my new rigging I substituted a fat Albert for the pool toy.

Husky Rainbow Trout

In the first hour after lunch I built the fish count to four, with the salvation nymph accounting for the additional fish. The fat Albert was not generating interest, so I replaced it with an olive ice dub body size 8 chubby Chernobyl, and this fly produced three swirls but no takes. I interpreted this to mean that the trout were seeking golden stoneflies or yellow sallies, so I cycled through a yellow stimulator and yellow Letort hopper, but my theory was apparently off base, as the trout did not respond to these attempts at a more exact imitation of yellow stoneflies.

The Prize Olive Ice Dub Chubby Connected

I returned to the dry/dropper for the remainder of the afternoon and committed to an iron sally and salvation nymph as the droppers. Suddenly the olive ice dub chubby started to generate takes, and I elevated the fish count to nine. The ninth fish was a very respectable brown trout that slurped the gaudy foam indicator fly.

On Full Display

A bit beyond the spot where the brown trout temporarily rested in my net, a nice cutbow hammered the chubby and escaped after a valiant battle. Shortly after this disappointment a brown trout gulped the chubby in the same deep run near the bank, but in the first couple seconds the hook pulled free, and one of the trailing nymphs snagged the tail of the trout. I was unable to follow the fish downstream, and it eventually snapped off all three flies including the highly prized olive ice dub chubby Chernobyl. I rigged anew with a green foam chubby bearing a yellow body, bit it generated only one swirl during its extended tenure in my dry/dropper lineup. It never produced a fish, and I concluded the ice dub body was the key to chubby Chernobyl success on the Yampa River. The last two fish of the day took a trailing hares ear.

Another Nice Pool Below Man Made Structure

Monday was a so so day of edge fishing. The quantity of fish landed was satisfactory, although size was a bit lacking compared to historical edge fishing experiences on the Yampa River. Putting a damper on the afternoon was the loss of eight flies including the valuable ice dub olive chubby, three iron sallies and three salvation nymphs. I also failed to land the best fish of the day as described in the previous paragraph. I never observed much insect activity, and this circumstance may be attributable to a brief thunderstorm that coincided with the time, when stoneflies normally frequent the river. Stoneflies seem to pop off during warm sunny early afternoons.

I stopped at the Steamboat Flyfisher and purchased five new chubby Chernobyls, but as you might imagine, they did not stock olive ice dub versions. I took stock of my supply in my boat box and stumbled across one more with an olive ice dub body. Needless to say, I moved it to my MFC fly box for Tuesday action. Wading on Monday was improved from the previous week, but fighting the current in the many areas, where the strong velocity bordered the bank, remained taxing.

Fish Landed: 11

My Home for Two Nights

Yampa River – 07/09/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: In the town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 07/09/2019 Photo Album

Finally the window of opportunity, that I was anxiously waiting for, arrived. Every year I enjoy some of my best fishing, when the run off subsides to high but clear and manageable levels. During these conditions the trout are pushed up against the banks to avoid the high velocity current in the main riverbed, and I focus my efforts on the narrow ten foot band of water, where obstacles slow the ever rushing flow. I carefully tracked the flows on my three favorite freestones for this type of fishing over the past week, and all the DWR stream flow graphs displayed consistent downward curves. The most advanced was the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs.

Jane and I were committed to spend Wednesday evening through Friday evening with our friends the Gaboury’s in Eagle, CO, and I was unsure that fly fishing would be part of the scheduled itinerary. The window on the Yampa was open during this time frame, so I decided to gamble, that I could sneak in a day of fishing on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, and I estimated the flows would reside in the 1250 range. When I read the Steamboat Flyfisher report, it mentioned visibility to two feet, so this raised some concern, but I decided to make the trip anyway.

The drive to Steamboat is more than three hours, and a six hour round trip is a lot to absorb for one day of fishing, so I decided to do a one night camping trip. When I mentioned my plans to Jane, she determined that she had an open calendar, and she jumped on board. We loaded the Santa Fe on Monday afternoon and departed Denver by 3:30PM. In order to minimize the camp packing we stopped at the Grand Old West restaurant in Kremmling and savored some cowboy cooking, before we arrived at the Meadows Campground on Rabbit Ears Pass. This would serve as our lodging on Monday evening.

Tuesday morning was on the chilly side, and it reminded of me of why snowdrifts were scattered among the many campsites at the high elevation campground. Jane and I took our time to sip our coffee and tea, and then we downed some bagels and zucchini bread and broke camp by 9AM. This enabled us to arrive at the Howelsen Hill parking area by 9:30, and after I donned my waders and assembled my Sage five weight, I was on my way. Jane unloaded her mountain bike from the rack and departed on a ride on the many bike paths in the resort town.

The air temperature was in the 60’s, as I hiked downstream along the railroad tracks, and the thermometer peaked at 80 in the afternoon. The sky was clear, and the flows were indeed high in the 1250 CFS range. I was very pleased to observe that the clarity was quite good. I advanced downstream, until I encountered the sandstone rock wall just upstream from the hot spring. I knew I was close by the pungent smell of sulfur that wafted in my direction. Before I stepped down to the river, I peeked downstream and discovered a female angler twenty yards below, so I reversed my direction and retreated upstream for twenty yards to allow adequate space.

High Flows Dictated Edge Fishing

After I carefully maneuvered down some large boulders, I configured my line with a size eight fat Albert and a size 14 twenty incher, and I began to lob casts to the soft water along the right bank. The likely holding water was easy to identify, and after ten minutes the fat Albert dipped, and I set the hook and found myself connected to a twelve inch rainbow trout. I was pleased with this auspicious start to my day. After a lull in action I added a slumpbuster as the bottom fly below the 20 incher, and I was surprised to note several follows, but the chasers veered away at the last instant. Eventually I felt a bump and foul hooked a small brown trout with the slumpbuster.

Nice Start

I grew dissatisfied with the catch rate of the 20 incher and slumpbuster, so I executed another change, and I knotted an iron sally to my line as the top fly and followed it with a salvation nymph. I also extended the dropper to four feet and added another eighteen inches between the top nymph and the end fly. I suspected that the high flows dictated a longer leader. The change paid dividends in a wide section, where the river spread out and created some nice deep runs of moderate depth. I lobbed the three fly offering, and a nice thirteen inch rainbow nabbed the iron sally near the tail of the run.

My View Through Flooded Willows

On Display

Between 11AM and noon I persisted with the iron sally and salvation nymph, and in the process I increased the fish count from two to four. The two additional fish included a small brown trout and another twelve inch rainbow. The iron sally accounted for three of the first four fish. Jane and I planned to meet at 12:15PM at the gazebo next to the rest rooms, so I battled through some bushes and crossed a swampy irrigation canal and returned to the car.

A Nice Long Stretch of Slack Water

After lunch I returned to my lunchtime exit point and progressed along the right bank, until I was at the eastern end of the town of Steamboat Springs. Along the way I boosted the fish tally from four to thirteen. All of the afternoon catches were rainbows except for one small brook trout. The salvation nymph gained attention, and most of the afternoon chompers favored the size 16 imitation with the flashback strip. Among the afternoon catch was a fifteen inch rainbow and a fourteen inch cousin. I observed quite a few golden stoneflies and yellow sallies in the 12:30PM to three o’clock time period, and a smattering of small caddis and size sixteen mayflies joined the party.

One of the Better Fish on the Day

The highlight of my day occurred across from one of the many streamside restaurants on the opposite side of the river. I bashed through some dense vegetation, until I was positioned just above a string of man-made stream improvement boulders. A small narrow channel was along the right bank, and a quasi-island populated with flooded willows was straight ahead. The thirty feet of river beyond the willow island consisted of a nice deep pool of moderate depth. I landed four trout from this stretch including a fine fourteen inch rainbow. In addition I connected with three additional trout that escaped, before I could coax them into my net. During this fishing highlight film, I noticed a female diner at the restaurant, as she stood up to snap a photo of my success. Each time I landed another fish I glanced toward the outdoor seating, and she rose and focused at least two more times!

Nice Release

By 2:45PM I moved above the Fifth Street bridge, and in the nice deep shelf pool above the bridge I connected with a fish that felt substantial. I suspect it was a brown trout, as it never surfaced, so I could catch a glimpse. Instead it bulled and dove in the manner of brown trout, and eventually the fly pulled free.

Tough Lie

Tuesday developed into a fine day of fishing on the Yampa River. The size of the fish was beneath previous edge fishing standards, but after three weeks of lake fishing with minimal returns, I was very pleased with a double digit day, and I am now optimistic that edge fishing on the Arkansas River and Eagle River will be just around the corner. A drop of an additional 200 CFS would improve the Yampa River, as it would enable much more manageable wading. Difficulty in accessing sections limits competing anglers, but on Tuesday this circumstance forced me to skip some fairly extensive stretches.

Fish Landed: 13

Yampa River – 06/11/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/11/2018 Photo Album

On Friday June 8, 2018 I began the annual ritual of chasing declining flows on Colorado freestone rivers. This process yielded some fantastic days of fly fishing during 2015 through 2017. Generally the first river in Colorado to fall to manageable levels is the Yampa River, and when I checked the DWR chart on Sunday, it was running at 1000 CFS, and the river did not reach this level until three weeks later in the 2015 to 2017 time frame. I enjoyed decent success in two hours of fishing on our return trip from Steamboat Lake on Friday, June 8, so I planned a two day and one night road trip on June 11-12.

Ride the Rockies in My Favorite Parking Area

I departed Denver by 7:15 on Monday morning with a car packed with fishing and camping gear, and I arrived on the river in the town of Steamboat Springs ready to fish by 11:00AM. I was surprised to discover that the annual Denver Post Ride the Rockies event occupied my normal parking area by Howelsen Hill, so I improvised and retreated to the large free parking lot at the ice arena. I rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked down the railroad tracks to a position just above the hot springs.The smell of sulfur pervaded the air and settled in my dry throat, and consequently I was motivated to move upstream at a fairly rapid pace.

Hot Springs Below My Starting Point

As expected, the flows subsided from Friday to the 800 CFS range, and this translated to very tolerable wading conditions. Monday’s weather was sunny and warm, but ten degrees cooler than what was experienced over the weekend.

Sweet Deep Slow Water

I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. I fished tight to the right bank and accumulated a fish count of six by the time I took a lunch break at 12:30PM, when I reached some large bank side boulders above the wire unintentionally decorated with flies and lures. Another angler was visible just downstream, so I felt a bit of pressure to keep moving, and that was not a problem given the sulfur scent described earlier. All but one of the first six trout were rainbows, and the initial six netted fish snatched the salvation nymph. Quite a few of these willing eaters responded to a lift at the end of the drift. Most of the rainbows were chunky twelve inch trout, but one or two stretched the tape measure to thirteen inches.

Decent Rainbow

After lunch I covered the remainder of the lower section, until I reached the pedestrian bridge, and then I progressed to Fifth Street, before I quit at 4:30PM. The steady catch rate of the morning continued in the early PM, but from 2:30 until 4:30, it slowed measurably. A highlight of the afternoon session was a fourteen inch rainbow trout, but most of the other fish fell in the ten to twelve inch range.

At two o’clock I began to notice refusals to the fat Albert, so I converted to a yellow Letort hopper and a salvation nymph. I hypothesized that the fish were attracted to yellow but sought a smaller profile. After a fair trial period, however, I deemed my theory faulty and once again implemented a change. I placed a yellow pool toy in the top position and tested a juju emerger and salvation nymph as the nymph combination. I observed a smattering of pale morning duns thus the choice of emerger and salvation, and the pool toy was a compromise in size between the fat Albert and the Letort hopper.

Aim in the Right Direction

Unfortunately the mid-afternoon fly lineup failed to excite the Yampa River trout, so I returned to the iron sally in place of the juju emerger. The catch rate slowed significantly, but I managed to land three small rainbows to bring the daily total to thirteen. I hasten to note that a sizable brown trout tentatively gummed the pool toy, but I hooked it for only a split second, before it casually separated from the fly. I also generated a temporary hook up with a decent rainbow, but after a brief spurt it popped free.

A Favorite Spot

Monday was a fair day on the Yampa River, but the size and count were subpar compared to what I was accustomed to during the high but receding flows of runoff. Pale morning duns, blue winged olives, and yellow sallies were present, but their availability was sparse as demonstrated by only one visible rise during my five hours on the stream. In previous years the high but declining flows were two weeks later and coincided with the heavier hatches. I suspect more prolific insect activity translates to more active fish and also makes the larger trout more aggressive. I believe that this theory applies to brown trout to a greater extent than rainbows, and this explains why rainbows predominated my fish count on Friday and Monday.

Fish Landed: 13

Stagecoach Campsite

Yampa River – 06/08/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Locatoin: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/08/2018 Photo Album

As Jane and I passed through Steamboat Springs on our way to Steamboat Lake on Wednesday, we took a slight detour to inspect the river, where it runs through town. The flows were in the 1300 CFS range, however the water clarity was excellent. I was skeptical that I could manage fishing success under these run off circumstances.

On Friday morning we packed our tent and camping gear with the intention of renting kayaks at the Steamboat Lake marina. We lathered with sunscreen, wore our swimsuits, and snugged our Chacos to our feet in anticipation of an hour on the water in the morning, before the wind kicked up. Unfortunately when we approached the counter at the general store and checked the rates, we discovered that the fee for two hours of kayak rental was $47/kayak. We regarded this as a hefty sum and were not that committed to the endeavor, so we passed and made the drive to Steamboat Springs.

I decided to attempt to fish in the Yampa River in town, so we headed to the Howelsen Hill parking area to set up a base of operations. Jane planned to cycle on the paths in town, while I edge fished a section of the river. The first drawback to our plan was the hordes of cars parked in our destination parking lot. Apparently a Triple Crown softball tournament was in progress, and the area was crawling with players, parents and coaches. I circled the parking lot with the faint hope of finding an opening, and much to our amazement a car backed out of a slot next to the rest room building. I did not waste any time and zipped into the available space.

The River Flowing Wide and in the Willows

I quickly donned my waders and assembled my Sage six weight and then ambled beyond the skate park and down the railroad tracks, until I was within eight feet of the river. The flows were down a bit from Wednesday, and the DWR graph displayed them in the 1100 CFS range. When I gained a view of the section where I entered, I was pleased to see adequate wadeable water between the fast currents and the willow-lined bank.

I quickly knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line along with an iron sally and salvation nymph. The fly shop informed me that yellow sallies and pale morning duns were present, and these two flies imitated the nymphal stage of the aforementioned aquatic insects. A nice run and riffle of moderate depth were just below and across from my position, so I slowly and carefully moved along the shoreline, until I was within adequate casting position. On the fifth across and down drift, as the flies began to swing at the tail of the run, a thirteen inch brown trout elevated and snatched the salvation nymph. After nearly three hours of no action on Thursday, I was quite pleased with my early success on Friday.

Number One from the Yampa River

Just below me a series of large boulders created an inviting side pool, so I carefully maneuvered my way over the large rocks and generated an array of searching casts. But before I prospected the deep hole below the current break, I snagged the flies on a subsurface impediment and broke off the iron sally and salvation. In order to thwart future such fly thefts by the river bottom, I rigged anew but used 3X leader instead of 5X. I substituted a hares ear nymph for the iron sally but continued display a salvation nymph albeit a new one.

The area below the current break surprisingly failed to yield success, so I reversed direction and systematically progressed upstream to beyond the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill. I managed to land ten fish in two hours of steady fishing, and nearly all the netted fish favored the salvation nymph. One small rainbow nabbed the hares ear, and another opted for an iron sally, after I returned one to my line in exchange for the hares ear.

Revival

Aside from the initial thirteen inch brown trout, most of the next nine were rainbow trout in the ten and eleven inch range. The highlight of my two hours of edge fishing was a sixteen inch brown trout, and this prize catch demonstrated its muscular fitness with a valiant battle. I was thrilled to scoop the thrashing fighter into my net.

End of Day Rainbow

In the fine quality pool and eddy just below the pedestrian bridge I was lucky to hook and land a fourteen inch cutbow that grabbed the salvation, just as I lifted the flies along the current seam twenty feet below the center of the eddy. The slash jawed beauty put up steady resistance, and I was very pleased to slide it into my net.

Fishing Along the Swamped Willows

I moved above the bridge a short distance without success, and as the amount of viable fishing water disappeared, I elected to return to the car to join Jane for lunch. Friday was a nice introduction to post-snowmelt fishing, and I was quite pleased with my success. Unlike previous years the quantity of insects at 1100 CFS was minimal, although I spotted a few small blue winged olives and occasional yellow sallies. I will watch the flows closely and hope to make another visit within the next couple weeks.

Fish Landed: 10