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

Bear River – 09/20/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Along CO 900 between Yampa and Yamcolo Reservoir

Bear River 09/20/2017 Photo Album

In late August 2016 I enjoyed two solid days of fly fishing on the Bear River in the southeastern Flattops. I anxiously anticipated another visit, and Wednesday, September 20 was that day. I packed the car with my fishing and camping gear and planned to fish on Wednesday and then camp on Wednesday night at Bear Lake Campground. Another day of fishing on Bear River was scheduled for Thursday, and then Jane would meet me in the town of Yampa, and we anticipated a second night of camping followed by a hike in the nearby Flattops. That was the plan.

Unfortunately Jane committed to a tennis time on Friday morning, and she was struggling to find a substitute. I packed the camping gear under the assumption that she would find a replacement. Another unanticipated impediment to our plan was a cold front that swept through Colorado, and the forecast overnight low for Wednesday night was in the upper thirties.

Despite these drawbacks I packed the car and managed to embark on my journey by 8:20 on Wednesday morning. This departure time enabled me to pull into a small pullout at the Bear River downstream boundary of the national forest by noon, and after a quick lunch I jumped into my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight rod. The air temperature hovered in the upper fifties, so I pulled on my long sleeve Columbia undershirt as well as a fleece. Recurring strong gusts of wind caused the aspen leaves to shimmer, and my extra layers were designed to offset the wind chill.

The DWR web site reported flows of 18 CFS below Bear Lake, however, when I approached the water, the velocity seemed greater. The stream where I began was high gradient, and this may have created the illusion of higher flows, but the creek emerges from Yamcolo Reservoir and not Bear Lake, and perhaps the releases from the two impoundments were different. At any rate the rushing water and severe gradient created a difficult fly fishing challenge. Attractive holding spots for trout were scarce, and dense streamside vegetation forced me to constantly wade against the swift current.

Tough Wading

I began fishing with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the workhorse terrestrial created several looks and two long distance releases, but I covered a significant amount of water in order to register these unfulfilling bits of action. I was dissatisfied with the performance of the beetle, so I cycled through a series of fly changes. The beetle was followed with a dry/dropper featuring a hopper Juan on top and trailed an ultra zug bug. The hopper created some splashy refusals, and the dropper was soundly ignored. I unexpectedly lost both these flies to a perplexing bad knot, so I replaced them with a tan pool toy, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. I fully expected my standard offering to be irresistible, but instead I merely exercised my arm for thirty minutes.

A Stimulator Duped the Brook Trout in This Riffle

I pondered the situation and recalled that the beetle and hopper Juan at least created interest, whereas, the nymphs were ignored. Evidently I needed to identify a dry fly that the trout recognized as food. I pulled a size 12 olive stimulator from my fly box, and this fly actually delivered three trout that exceeded my minimum length threshold. One of the stimulator chompers was a ten inch brook trout, and I followed that catch up with a rainbow trout and brown trout. In 3.5 hours of fishing I managed to land four trout, but I was one away from accomplishing the grand slam. A pure cutthroat is the most difficult prong of the grand slam to achieve, and on Wednesday I did not succeed in steering one into my net.

This Brook Trout Was the Best Fish of the Day

By 3PM the stimulator suffered through an extended drought, and I was struggling to follow it through the alternating sunshine and shadows, so I reverted to a dry/dropper featuring a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. The shift paid dividends, as I landed four brown trout before I called it quits at 4:30. One brown snatched the ultra zug bug, and the other three nipped the salvation.

A Decent Brown Trout on a Dry/Dropper Approach

As I climbed a steep hill and hiked .5 mile back to the car, I could not contain my disappointment. I envisioned another day of tough wading and slow fishing for small trout on Thursday, so I resolved to camp one night and then hit the Colorado River at Pumphouse on Thursday. Since Jane was still searching for a tennis sub, I decided to drive back to Yampa, so I could utilize the free Wifi outside Penny’s Diner. I called Jane to inform her of the change in plans, and I expressed my aversion to spending a night in the cold. It was five o’clock when I spoke to her, and she suggested that I turn around and drive back home, where I could sleep in a cozy bed. It did not take long for me to warm up to the idea, and I made the three hour drive back to Denver in time for a late dinner.

Eight fish in four hours is an average catch rate, but the fish were quite small with the largest perhaps measuring eleven inches. More frustrating than the small size and the slow catch rate was the wading and casting difficulty. I experienced at least five or six hook ups with tree limbs during the day, and I lost four flies. The wind made casting in tight quarters exponentially more difficult; and errant casts, tangles and branches in my face were very exasperating. When I returned home, I pulled up my blog post from 8/24/2016 and read it. I registered a twenty fish day in the same stretch of the stream, and the average size exceeded my results on Wednesday. In 2016 I had success with a gray stimulator and a dry/dropper consisting of a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. The main differing variable compared to last year was the weather and time of year. If I return, I will fish the upper canyon closer to Yamcolo Reservoir. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Fish Landed: 8

Yampa River – 06/29/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Stagecoach tailwater.

Yampa River 06/29/2017 Photo Album

After a fun day of fly fishing on the Yampa River with my friend Steve on June 28, I drove to my reserved campsite on the McKindley Loop at Stagecoach State Park. After setting up my small REI tent, eating a light dinner, and washing the dishes; I decided to make the short drive to scout the Yampa tailwater. When I checked the DWR stream flow data before departing from Denver, it displayed 34 cfs, and I concluded that level suggested low flows and technical fishing. When I arrived at the tailwater on Wednesday evening and inspected the river, I was pleasantly surprised. The level was indeed low, but the stream actually looked quite inviting, and the appeal was enhanced by the numerous rising fish in several of the pools. My fishing gear was in the car, but I decided to pass on evening fishing and save my energy for Thursday.

I logged three days on the Yampa within the town of Steamboat Springs over the last week, and I was seeking some variety in my destinations. The pale morning dun hatch seemed to be waning in town, and the tube traffic was building, so I decided to devote a morning and perhaps a day to fishing the tailwater. I camped within a mile of the parking lot, so why not take advantage of my proximity, get an early start, and procure a prime spot in the popular area? I was struggling to remember what time I committed to meet Jane in Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon, so I drove west until I was nearly at the intersection with CO 131, and I finally obtained a mobile signal strong enough to make a phone call. When I connected with Jane, she informed me that our original meet time was 4PM, so I asked her to slide it until 5PM in case a late afternoon hatch developed. I encountered a heavy pale morning dun hatch on several prior year afternoon visits to the tailwater.

The Main Yampa Tailwater

My plans were now in place, so I quickly reversed my direction and drove to the parking lot above the Yampa tailwater. One other car occupied a space in the parking lot when I arrived, and a cyclist on a mountain bike cruised in to use the restroom facility, while I was preparing to fish. The tailwater contains an abundant quantity of large fish, so I chose my Sage One five weight, as it provided a stronger backbone for fighting larger fish. I was nearly ready to begin my walk to the river, when I realized that I did not have my brown cowboy hat. I launched into a mad search in the back of the Santa Fe. The rear of the vehicle was stuffed with bins for camping, camping equipment, cycling gear, and fishing bags. I was unable to find my hat, and I began mulling over the sequence of events on Wednesday, and where I could have possibly misplaced my hat. I concluded that I may have left it behind at the gazebo or bathroom at Howelsen Hill, and I was meeting Jane there, so there was a chance I could retrieve it then. More than likely it remained in the back of the car, but because of the cluttered situation, and my inability to open the hatch due to the presence of two bicycles, I was unable to locate it. This thought consoled me a bit, but I was admittedly out of sorts when the cyclist emerged from the bathroom and greeted me.

We exchanged pleasantries, and he told me he was on a bicycle race from Banff, Canada to the U.S. – Mexico border. He was riding a mountain bike, and carried no panniers, therefore I was a bit surprised by this revelation. He went on to tell me that he was nearly in last place, and he shared drinks in Steamboat with one of his competitors who had already finished! I wished him the best on the remainder of his journey, and I grabbed my Los Angeles Angels ball cap, and proceeded to the river. I made a beeline for my favorite pool just above the section where the DOW modified the stream and installed fencing to promote streamside vegetation.

I was pleased to see the fishermen who preceded me postioned downstream of my desired destination, and the entire area that I favor was wide open. As was the case on Wednesday evening, the flows seemed nearly ideal with plenty of room to move up and down the river between the water and the fencing. I moved immediately to the right topmost section of the pool. I actually intended to cross above the pool, so I could position myself on the opposite bank for more favorable lighting, but I noticed six or seven large fish between a jumble of exposed rocks next to the bank. I could not resist the temptation to cast to these visible fish. I tied a size fourteen light yellow stimulator to my line to imitate the golden stoneflies that I observed on Wednesday on the Yampa in town. If they were present downstream, why would they not be here as well?

While this was transpiring, another fisherman arrived and began to fish in the lower portion of the pool. I immediately rued my decision to dally at the top, as I now assumed it cost me a position on the wide lower section. I added a salvation nymph below the stimulator, and then knotted a small black beauty beneath the salvation. The fish were not impressed with this lineup, but one visible target rose periodically, and a host of midges buzzed about over the river, so I removed the nymphs and tied a griffiths gnat below the stimulator in a double dry fly configuration. The change allowed me to prick the riser, but it flipped free of the tiny size 22 griffiths gnat in an instant.

I gained my position by camping nearby and arriving early, and now I was in danger of losing my favorite pool to the recent invader. These thoughts weighed on my mind, so I resurrected my original intent, and I crossed the river in some shallow pockets, and then I slowly negotiated the weak path to the bottom of the pool on the opposite side. This was my original destination before getting diverted. As I anticipated, the move gained me more favorable lighting, and I could now scan the area for trout. What a sight! I was stunned to see large fish everywhere. I am not certain why I used the word stunned, because I visited Stagecoach many times, but the scene always causes my heart rate to elevate. A quick scan from left to right yielded large fish at my feet, bruisers above me in a run and shallow riffle area, and numerous beauties in the gut of the pool across from me.

One of the Smaller Fish on the Day

I initiated some casts with the stimulator and gnat, and I was shocked when a fourteen inch rainbow smacked the big stimulator. I was convinced that the large fly was mostly an inidicator, since the Yampa tailwater trout prefer tiny midge and mayfly imitations. I continued casting to the pool in the early morning and built the fish count to five. Not surprisingly I was quite pleased with this performance on a waterway populated by educated trout. Twenty minutes after landing fish number one, I concluded that the griffiths gnat was not on the menu, so I clipped it off and implemented a three fly configuration that included a RS2 on top and a salad spinner on the bottom. I spied a couple tiny BWO’s on the water, and this prompted the RS2. Two of the first five trout rose to the stimulator, one grabbed the RS2, and two inhaled the salad spinner. The Yampa trout preferred a diverse menu.

At one point toward eleven o’clock the thread on the popular midge emerger pattern unraveled, and I replaced it with a fresh version, but for some reason this preceded a lengthy lull in action. I continued spraying casts in all directions, but the fish ignored my offerings in spite of their continuous surface sipping. They were hungry, but not for the food I was presenting. I anticipated a pale morning dun emergence, and I remembered that I neglected to place my lunch in my backpack, so at 11:30 I reluctantly abandoned my precious position and returned to the car.

She Wants My Pool

On the way to the car I passed another fisherman on his way to the river, and he quipped, “Was I making the fish wiser?”. When I reached the car I hastily stuffed my lunch in my backpack, and then I stocked additional salad spinners and yellow stimulators in my fly boxes. When I returned to my pool, the same gentleman who exchanged greetings with me occupied my space. Fortunately he chose the top right corner where I began my day, so I crossed at the lip and resumed my position from the morning.

The pace of trout feeding in the pool accelerated, but I was unable to discern the cause other than swarms of miniscule gnats with cream or light gray bodies. My fly box contained nothing to imitate this food source, so I found a flat rock and munched my lunch. After lunch I resumed casting to the pool. Since I did not carry any viable dry fly imitations of the midges, I searched and found a tiny size 24 midge larva with a cream body, and I replaced the salad spinner. In an effort to reverse my fortunes, I advanced to the top left corner of the pool where a pair of small deep pockets attracted my attention.

Freedom

I began making casts to the second pocket over from the left bank, and this resulted in short drifts before the flies accelerated through a fast chute at the lip. I was rewarded for my willingness to move, when a fat sixteen inch brown trout slashed at and gobbled the stimulator. This was the third trout from the notoriously picky Yampa tailwater residents that grabbed a size 14 stimulator. I was pleased that my early hunch about stoneflies was proving correct. The latest stimulator eater proved to be my first and only brown trout on the day, although I foul hooked one and played another for an extended time before it escaped. In the latter case after losing the brown I inpsected my flies and discovered that the hook point of the size 24 cream midge larva was broken off. I tied the midge pattern twenty years ago, so it was undoubtedly beyond its shelf life.

Could the five by seven pocket contain more fish? You bet. On a later cast the stimulator dipped, and I found myself attached to another powerful rainbow trout in the fifteen inch range. After another lull in action I turned my attention to the small shelf pocket along the left bank, but it failed to deliver fish. The fish count was now perched at seven, and I recall thinking that Thursday was a success even if the last two hours failed to produce. Several fishermen were above the pool that I dwelled in thus preventing farther progress upstream, so I once again retreated to the tail area.

That Stripe!

Since I rested the main pool for a lengthy period, while I explored the top left area, I once again fanned casts upstream, up and across, and then directly across. The fish in the heart of the pool continued to rise on an irregular basis, and I fully expected a decent pale morning dun hatch at any moment. Periodically I saw a PMD float by, and then I witnessed a rainbow as it ingested one nearby just as the bug attempted to launch into flight. I decided to convert to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. The change paid off when another fourteen inch rainbow sipped the dry fly in the riffle area directly above me, but this success proved to be fleeting, as the remaining denizens of the pool shunned my offering.

I once again abandoned the pool and shifted my attention to the section downstream. Of course my departure enabled another fisherman, who previously focused on the top right corner, to command the entire pool, and he waded into the center. Meanwhile I was at the top of the next section where the main current sliced the river in half with nice deep shelf pools on each side. The section was probably 25 yards long and the strong center run fanned out into a slow moving pool on the bottom third. Trout were stacked all along the shelf pool on my side of the river, and I began fluttering the cinnamon comparadun along the current seam.

Lovely Speckles on This Beauty

The beauty of drifting flies over large visible trout is being able to observe their reaction. In this case the reaction of the fish was to ignore my offering. I was disappointed, but at least I determined that the cinnamon comparadun was not on the menu. I redirected my efforts to a dry/dropper with a yellow bodied pool toy, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead pheasant tail. I speculated that the faster current and depth were amenable to the larger flies. My theory was somewhat correct, as I connected with a trout for a split second at the very top of the run where the main current curled around an exposed boulder, but this momentary action was succeeded by another period of futile casting.

I concluded I could not fool the Phd’s, and I returned to my favorite pool, albeit along the bank that bordered the path. Fish continued to rise sporadically throughout the wide attractive main section in front of me, but what were they eating? By now I expected to see a pale morning dun emergence, and an occasional size 16 or 18 mayfly did make an appearance, so I reverted to the size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I executed some very nice downstream drag free drifts, but I only succeeded in generating refusals. As this scenario unfolded, I noticed a larger mayfly with a light olive coloration, and this prompted me to test a size 14 sulfur comparadun. Almost immediatley a decent trout rose to inspect my new offering, but it turned away at the last minute with a splashy rebuke.

For the first time in awhile the top of the pool was vacant, so I decided to explore some nice deep runs and pockets along the right side. The gentleman who claimed my pool earlier dwelled in the area for quite awhile, so it apparently offered some attraction. I crossed in the riffle in the center of the pool and positioned myself to begin with the pocket that yielded two fish earlier. I was also now in a solid place to cast to a nice eddy with an angled outflow. I removed the sulfur comparadun and returned to the size 18 cinnamon comparadun, and although I made a large number of casts, I landed three more rainbow trout in the 14 – 16 inch range. One came from the pocket that produced earlier, and two materialized from the area with the angled outflow.

Next I slid to the left bank and made some drifts in another short pocket above the popular pool. On the fifth pass a rainbow chomped the fake dun, and after it felt the hook point, it streaked to the top of the pocket and leaped out of the water. I managed to maintain solid contact and weathered the escape tactics, until I lifted the writhing rainbow trout toward my outstretched net. The escape artist executed a late wiggle and dropped back in the river. Number twelve was a blast to fight, but a photo was not obtained.

Submarine

I committed to meet Jane in Steamboat Springs by 5PM, and I needed to quit fishing by 4PM to fulfill this obligation. It was 3:45, so I waded to the side of the river bordered by the road and circled around some trees and bushes. I arrived at the same place where I began my day. Three or four exposed boulders forced the river to cut deep channels, and the separation and merging of the river created erratic swirling currents. I spotted five or six large trout in this small area, and one rose several times in front of a boulder right before a steep plunge. I tossed ten casts, and my fly generated several looks but no takes. The naturals appeared to be light yellow, so I swapped the cinnamon variety for a size 18 light gray compardun. Three casts later the wary riser mistook my fly for a natural. A brief battle ensued, but I eventually viewed another superb healthy rainbow trout in my net.

I snapped some photos, released number thirteen, and glanced at my watch to note that it was 4:05. I hustled back to the Santa Fe and managed to greet Jane at the Howelsen Hill gazebo by four o’clock precisely.

What a fun day! I landed thirteen trout, and nearly all were in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. I fished almost continuously for seven hours, and I never strayed more than twenty yards from where I started. Large visible fish were packed tightly in this small space, and I managed to land double digit numbers of these educated cold water stream dwellers. Wow!

Fish Landed: 13

 

Yampa River – 06/28/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/28/2017 Photo Album

I met my friend Steve at 10AM on Wednesday, and after we completed the necessary preparations for a day of fishing, we hiked down the railroad tracks until we were just above the hot springs. I chose my Sage One five weight, as I hoped to battle some high powered monsters from the Yampa River. During the course of our day on the river on Wednesday, Steve and I covered the south bank from above the hot springs to the 5th Street bridge. The flows were in the 400 – 450 cfs range, and the river was quite clear. The adjective ideal jumped into my mind several times, as it was high enough to enable close approaches, yet low enough to allow reasonable wading. Tubers were a bit of an issue, but the traffic seemed lighter than normal perhaps as a result of the midweek date. Unlike my visit the previous week, the fish were able to flourish in areas toward the middle of the river.

Steve Attacks the Yampa

I began my attack on the Yampa denizens with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. This combination enabled me to pick off four small fish that inhaled the hares ear. The catch rate was slow, and the size of the fish was disappointing, although Steve connected with a fish that felt more substantial in the first hour. Unfortunately he was unable to guide it into his net, before it made a sudden spurt and removed the end fly from his dry/dropper system.

At approximately 12:30 we began noticing sporadic rises. At this first sign of dry fly possibilities, I removed my dry/dropper set up and selected a size 16 light gray comparadun. The pale morning dun imitation enabled me to land three additional trout, and the highlight was a very nice rainbow that sipped the comparadun in the angled pool across from the noisy construction zone. This pool was the first one after another juicy spot where the hatches commenced the previous week.

Improved Lighting on the Morning Rainbow

Steve and I moved upstream and alternated casts in a narrow ribbon of slow water that separated the fast current from the streamside willows. After this stretch we ceased observing rises, and prospecting with the size 18 seemed futile, so I switched back to the dry/dropper method. Steve excused himself to return to the car to check messages and email, and I proceeded to the large eddy pool below a man-made structure thirty yards below the pedestrian bridge. My lineup now consisted of the yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear, and a beadhead size 18 pheasant tail nymph. I substituted the pheasant tail, since I speculated that the pale morning dun nymphs were smaller than the size 16 salvation that was failing to attract attention.

I cast the dry/dropper flies near the deepest section of the eddy, and the vortex sucked the fat Albert backward. Suddenly the top fly disappeared, so I set the hook and connected with a seventeen inch rainbow trout. I know this because after a heated tussle, it created a deep sag in my landing net. After I released my best fish on the day, I returned to the gazebo and quickly munched down my lunch along with Steve who returned from his strong mobile signal retreat.

After lunch we resumed our upstream migration above the pedestrian bridge. I skipped most of this water the previous week because the strong current ran tight against thick vegetation making the area inaccessible. On Wednesday, however, the stream velocity subsided enough to allow us to proceed safely. By now the hatch was essentially over, but while Steve was absent, I noticed a significant flurry of yellow stoneflies. This observation provoked me to try size twelve and fourteen yellow stimulators as stonefly imitations with a trailing size sixteen gray comparadun in a two dry fly system. This approach yielded a medium sized rainbow that grabbed the trailing comparadun. As I moved on, the stimulator generated only refusals, so I reverted to the dry/dropper.

Great Colors

The dry/dropper lineup included the fat Albert, an iron sally, and a size 16 emerald caddis pupa between three and five o’clock. The iron sally was a response to the flurry of yellow stoneflies observed earlier, and the emerald caddis pupa was an attempt to attract attention with a buggy body color. The combination produced, and numbers nine and ten materialized from the nook of another nice eddy roughly two-thirds of the way between the pedestrian bridge and the 5th Street bridge. The ninth fish landed was a twelve inch rainbow, and the tenth fish to visit my net was a gorgeous sixteen inch brown trout. I witnessed the brown trout as it pivoted its head to snatch the emerald caddis pupa, as the emerger drifted along the current seam below the eddy. As this late afternoon action was unfolding, I moved a good distance above Steve, but then he reappeared, and we worked in parallel for most of the remainder of the day.

Happy Fly Fisherman

Not long after Steve joined me, he was sitting on the bank working on his flies, and I lobbed a backhand cast to a marginal run that sliced through a moderate depth pool next to the bank. The pool was just above Steve’s position. As the pool toy drifted toward the center section, I spotted a large subsurface figure that slowly elevated and then casually chomped down on the foam hopper imitation. What a sight! I set the hook in a reasonably controlled fashion, and then the fight was on. The noble foe displayed some head shaking and serious diving, until we reached a standstill. This created an opportunity for me to exert side pressure, and I coaxed a large brown trout into my net. What a surprise! I removed the pool toy, and Steve helped me capture a few photos, and then I released the brute. I estimate it measured out at seventeen inches.

Great Colors

We continued on for a bit, as we were both energized by the fortuitous interaction with the beautiful brown trout. Before quitting at five o’clock I landed one additional brown trout. Wednesday proved to be another fabulous day of fly fishing on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs. In addition to twelve netted trout, I endured four long distance releases. One acrobatic rainbow went airborne twice, before it slipped free of my hook. The tubers were a nuisance, but for the most part they floated the center of the river or the north bank. A few were unable to steer and drifted through our targeted water. The traffic was a bit lighter than usual, and perhaps this was attributable to it being Wednesday or the fact that the air temperature was lower than the previous week. It was very enjoyable to have a fishing companion in Steve, who is relatively new to fly fishing but progressing quite well.

Fish Landed: 12

Yampa River – 06/23/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/23/2017 Photo Album

Friday by any measure other than the prior day was a solid day of fly fishing. Unfortunately Thursday was outstanding, and June 23 suffers by comparison.

Stagecoach Lake on Friday Morning

I snagged a campsite on the McKindley Loop at Stagecoach State Park on Thursday night, and this positioned me to be on the stream by 9AM on Friday morning. On Thursday morning I experienced some decent action on nymphs just prior to the spectacular hatch that commenced by 11:30, so I surmised that I missed some great pale morning dun nymph action earlier. I planned to corroborate this assumption by taking advantage of my close proximity to be on the water early.

It was a great theory but in reality the day did not evolve that way. Once again I parked at Howelsen Hill, and I was fortunate to find a parking space. A Triple Crown baseball tournament was on the schedule, and the 8AM games were already in progress, thus attracting a large number of spectators. I managed to grab one of the few remaining spaces and quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight. I was an obvious outlier compared to the men and women carrying folding chairs and coolers from their vehicles to the ball fields.

Nice Start

I was averse to covering the same water that entertained me on Thursday, so I crossed the pedestrian bridge and walked downstream along the bike path until I was just above the location where the river narrows and picks up considerable velocity just upstream from the hot spring. I once again tied the yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph and began my search for hot Yampa River trout. I worked my way upstream on the Steamboat Springs town side of the river, and I popped down the bank where gaps appeared in the streamside brush.

The river was flowing at roughly 800 CFS, and this rate was very comparable to Thursday. The main current surged toward the north bank, the side I was on, and for this reason fewer locations with slow holding water were present. I spent an hour casting the dry/dropper to likely spots, and I managed to land one trout, although I also registered two momentary hook ups. Needless to say this was not the fast paced nymphing action that I anticipated, when I decided to arrive at the river early.

When I approached the pedestrian bridge, I advanced thirty yards above it and prospected a couple places, but then I was directly behind the boat, kayak and tube rental shop; so I reversed direction and crossed the bridge. I skipped around the section between the pedestrian bridge and Fifth Street, since I knew from Thursday that access was difficult due to high flows up against the bushes and trees. When I reached Fifth Street I cut down to the river just above the bridge, and I began to fish the deep run in that area. Another fisherman was directly across from me, but with the main channel crashing between us at high velocity, I was not interfering with his success.

For the next hour I progressed upstream until I reached another bridge serving the bike trail, and at this point I exited and returned to the car for lunch among the baseball madness. The segment covered before lunch was nearly as difficult to fish as the portion I skipped, so I cherry picked a few marginal places, until I reached a relatively nice shelf pool below the bridge and also downstream from the confluence of two channels that flow around a large island. In this area I managed to hook a second trout of moderate size; however, it flopped off my line just as I lifted it from the water and toward my net. This prevented me from capturing a photo, but I added it to my fish count. During the last fifteen minutes I began to notice a fair number of blue winged olives, so I removed the hares ear and replaced it with a RS2. As I made this change, I elevated the salvation to the top position and knotted the RS2 to my line on the end. Despite the baetis activity the fish did not respond to my RS2.

As I munched my sandwich and crunched some carrots while perched on the tailgate of the Santa Fe, I pondered my path forward in the afternoon. I was running out of water to fish in town, and I concluded that the most comfortable section to fish at high flows was also the most attractive stretch for the fish. The strong current favored the north bank, and therefore the south bank provided more areas with moderate riffles that were popular with the trout. They could spread out and chow down on the abundant food source created by the blue winged olive and pale morning dun hatches. I also noticed the occasional caddis and golden stonefly in the mix. I decided to fish the same section on Friday afternoon that provided outstanding action on Thursday.

I hiked down the railroad tracks until I was just above the hot springs, and here I carefully maneuvered over some large boulders until I was standing at the bottom of a nice narrow slot where the current slowed down. There was a cable overhead that was littered with lures and flies and dangling monofilament, and I managed to avoid that small impediment to casting. I scanned the water and immediately noticed that a thick emergence of mayflies was in progress. As was the case on Thursday, a fairly dense population of blue winged olives and pale morning duns were gracefully floating up from the river. I recognized this as my sign to remove the dry/dropper, and I tied on a size 16 light gray comparadun.

I spent some time casting in the narrow spot in front of me, but no fish rose to take advantage of the windfall of food, as mayfly after mayfly popped off the surface of the river. Hatch time is precious, and I did not wish to waste it, so I climbed up to the railroad tracks and moved to the first substantial pool. The same pool on Thursday was where I spotted rising fish and made the conversion to fishing a single comparadun. Sure enough the same situation presented itself. The main current rushed around a man made barrier of large boulders, and then it curled back toward the south bank and swirled by a large submerged boulder. This created a beautiful eddy and shelf pool, and I positioned myself at the bottom next to the submerged boulder. I scanned the scene and immediately noticed several rises. One fish smacked the surface twice along the seam in front of the submerged boulder, so I focused on it first. On the third cast a shadow elevated and sipped in my comparadun, and I reacted with a swift hook set. The fish streaked downstream a bit and then paused, while I reeled the slack on to the reel and exerted some pressure. By now I could see that my combatant was a strong rainbow trout, and it accelerated once again and streaked toward the barrier at the top of the pool. Suddenly the throb on the rod ceased, and my heart sank, when I realized that the cagey rainbow had shed my fly on a submerged stick.

I paused and observed for a bit, but I was certain that the wild commotion disturbed the pool, so I moved on to the nice moderate riffle area just above the stream improvement barrier. Surprisingly no fish were showing in this wide area. I made some obligatory prospecting casts to no avail, and then I moved farther upstream to some marginal slots behind exposed rocks. Once again I did not see any rising fish, so after some desultory casts I returned to the bank. I was convinced that more fish resided in the pool where I hooked the angry rainbow, so I carefully waded along the edge until I was back at the man-made structure. I stood motionless for a few minutes, and I was surprised to see three fish smacking the surface in the shallow riffle below the submerged rock that deflected the current. I made some nice downstream casts over the trio, but the aggressive eaters simply showed their disdain toward me with splashy refusals.

Cinnamon Color on These Spinners

I was standing along the edge of the pool near the reversing eddy, and for some reason I directed my attention to the surface of the water. What do you suppose I saw? Lying motionless with outstretched wings were a large quantity of size 16 spinners. No wonder the residents of the pool were eschewing my dun. The river was feeding them a steady supply of motionless easy to eat spinners. I checked my fly box, and I had a few rusty spinners, but I guessed that they were a bit large. Last summer on the Conejos I enjoyed success with a cinnamon comparadun with the wing mashed down during a spinner fall, so I reactivated the ploy. I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line and mashed down the wing. This ugly fly delivered four trout to my lonely net over the next thirty minutes. Three resulted from the downstream drift, and another sipped the fraud spinner in another nice eddy below a structure farther upstream.

Speckles and Stripes

The spinner ruse worked for awhile, but then I reached some water that was a bit faster, and several fish showed their position with rises, but they paid no attention to the size 18 comparadun. I focused on these fish and cycled through a series of fly changes. First I experimented with a size 14 light gray comparadun, but the targets ignored it. Quite a few of the naturals in the air displayed light olive bodies, so I plucked a sulfur style fly from my front pack and gave it a spin. Amazingly this fly delivered two medium sized fish, but through wear and tear the wing was reduced to a nub, and the fish then snubbed the handicapped fly. Finally I settled on the classic, a size 16 light gray comparadun, and the Yampa trout gave it a vote of confidence.

Not Bad

I persisted with the light gray comparadun for nearly the remainder of the afternoon, and I built the fish count to thirteen. At one point I was directly across from a family of four, and while they observed I landed an 18 inch rainbow and a 16 inch brown. The size of my fish on Friday paled in comparison to the previous day, but these two fish were exceptions. By three o’clock the hatch was essentially over except for the everpresent stragglers, so I converted back to a dry/dropper system. This time I used a size 8 Chernobyl ant as the indicator fly, and below that I added an iron sally and an emerald caddis pupa. This change enabled me to add two more small fish to the fish count with one falling for the iron sally, and the other craving the emerald caddis pupa.

Pleased to Land This Beauty

By 3:45 I reached a huge wide eddy pool behind another stream improvement structure. This pool was four times the size of the one I described earlier. I made my obligatory casts of the dry/dropper along the current seam, but they were futile. I paused for a bit to evaluate the situation. A pair of kayakers were oppposite me, and they made periodic attempts to buck the whitewater chute just below the pedestrian bridge. Three thirteen year old girls dangled in hammocks beneath the bridge, and from a distance they reminded me of a colony of fruitbats. Suddenly I was aware of a huge swarm of miniscule mayflies. They could not have been larger than a size 24, and they hovered above the eddy, and as I watched, several gusts of wind scattered the delicate insects.

Eddy That Yielded the Fine Rainbow

Shortly after this observation I noticed three very subtle dimpling rises in the center of the eddy where the current was barely perceptible. The fish at the farthest outside point of the eddy was the most persistent riser, so I decided to focus on that spot. I removed the dry/dropper offerings and tied a size 24 CDC olive to my line. I fluttered a short cast to a spot above the rise, and I allowed the eddy to feed the small morsel toward the target, and suddenly a small trout darted to the surface! I set the hook, but my action resulted in a brief connection. I rested the water a bit after this disturbance, and two fish closer to the center of the eddy resumed feeding.

I decided to try for the feeder closest to the large barrier rocks. I floated a cast farther upstream than the last one, and again the eddy slowly fed the fly back toward the nook. I was astonished by what followed. I assumed that I was fishing to small rainbows in the nine to eleven inch range based on the nature of the rise, which appeared to be an almost insignificant dimple. The CDC olive crept along, and I detected a subtle barely perceptible sip. I lifted the rod tip to set, and instantly a hulk of a rainbow thrashed to the surface and then leaped from the river and fell back in a thunderous crash. I stayed connected, and the football shaped opponent executed an array of escape maneuvers, before I lifted its head and slid it into my net. I gasped at this late day stroke of good fortune. Never underestimate the size of a fish based on the nature of the rise!

Very Nice

Now it was nearly four o’clock, but my heart was racing, and my optimism was peaking. I circled around the wall of rocks and passed under the bridge and spotted a couple rises in a nice run along the bank. An occasional PMD appeared during the late afternoon, so I concluded that the rise was instigated by the straggling emergers. I once again knotted a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and I began shooting some searching casts near the scene of the rises. Several drifts bobbed right along some submerged willow tips, but no response was forthcoming. I was about to call it quits, but I decided to send one more long cast to the very top of the narrow run. The comparadun fluttered down and after a one foot drift, a large mouth appeared and engulfed my fly. I could not believe it. I set the hook, and the point penetrated causing an underwater freight train to streak upstream. The water was not more than two feet deep, but the fish dashed toward the bank, while I allowed line to spin from my reel. Suddenly it slowed down slightly, and then it hit the accelerator a second time, and I heard the gut wrenching sound of my line popping.

Tubers and Girls Hanging in Hammocks from the Bridge

All I could do was tip my hat to the fish. It was just after 4PM, and I was not about to tie another fly to my line, so I slowly shuffled to shore and returned to the car. By the end of Friday I landed seventeen trout including three very nice fish in the fifteen to eighteen inch range. I had shots at two additional beauties that foiled my attempts to land them. The average size of the other landed fish was beneath the high standards of Thursday, but overall it was still a fine outing during the late run off time frame. Two fish consumed the salvation nymph, four favored the cinnamon comparadun, two slurped the size 14 sulfur comparadun, the iron sally and emerald caddis pupa accounted for two in the late afternoon, one fat glutton sipped a size 24 CDC olive, and six fish plucked the size 16 light gray comparadun. The fish on the Yampa River were not narrowly selective on June 23.

Fish Landed: 17

Yampa River – 06/22/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs.

Yampa River 06/22/2017 Photo Album

Thursday represented another spectacular day of June fishing on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs. June 22 was an example of how great fly fishing can be when fishing during the high but receding flows of run off. The Yampa was flowing in the 850 cfs range and crystal clear, and I capitalized with some superb action.

I woke up at 4:30AM in order to drop Jane off at DIA for her flight to Philadelphia. I packed most of the necessaries for fishing and one night of camping on Wednesday, and I returned to the house to change, eat a light breakfast, and pack a few remaining items. I was on the road by 6:35, and this enabled me to pull into the Howelsen Hill parking lot by 9:45. Before I started, I walked out on the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill, and I was pleased to see that the flows remained high enough to push the fish against the banks, but low enough to facilitate reasonable wading. I repeat reasonable not easy. Obvious spots remained where a fair amount of bushwhacking was required to reach the railroad tracks, advance to another location, and then blast through the brush again to gain access to the river.

Morning Sun Glistens Off Yampa River

I began my day by hiking downstream until I was just above the hot springs, and there was no mistaking the strong scent of sulfur. I was on the water shortly after 10AM, and I began fishing with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. Almost instantly I experienced two momentary hook ups, and then I connected with four trout that inhaled the nymphs. One was a fat brown trout in excess of fifteen inches, and another was a long lean rainbow. Of the four netted fish one took the hares ear, and the other three snatched the salvation nymph. I hooked fish almost instantly, and I fully expected to have a day of hot dry/dropper fishing, as Yampa trout moved aggressively to active nymphs.

Closer Look

Resting Up

I departed the productive deep narrow pocket and moved upstream until I approached some attractive deep troughs next to the steep rocky bank. I tossed a backhand cast to the very top of a deep run that fed into a narrow pocket. As soon as the nymphs sank, the fat Albert darted upstream. I reacted with a decent and not overly aggressive hook set, and my heart sank as the line popped back toward me minus two nymphs. I was certain that this fish was a prize.

Hatch Brought the Fish Up Here

I replaced the nymphs with new versions of the same type, and as I continued upstream, and I hooked and landed two more moderate sized trout. Another move brought me to a very attractive wide shelf pool, and I observed three or four rising fish. Initially small blue winged olives were fluttering up into the air, but then I noticed a smattering of larger mayflies, likely pale morning duns. It seemed the fish shifted from subsurface nymph gobbling to emergers and adults, so I made the switch to dun imitations. I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied a size 18 gray comparadun to my line. Previously after snapping off the two nymphs I reconfigured my leader with a 4X tippet. I debated adding a 5X extension for dry fly fishing, but in my haste to pursue the surface feeders, I gambled that the trout would not be leader shy in the high flows and swirling currents.

Eating a Bit Too Much

The size 18 gray comparadun failed to seduce the feeders, so I swapped it for an 18 cinnamon comparadun. This duped one twelve inch brown, but then it generated a couple of refusals. Judging from the pale morning duns in the air, I surmised they were size 14 or 16. I grabbed a fairly large cinnamon version from my front pack foam, and this fly created only refusals as well. The flies I observed appeared to possess gray-light yellow bodies, so I changed again, this time to a size 16 light gray comparadun also known as the money fly. Of course this fly was on the money, and one might ask why it took so long to test a money fly?

Long Bow

I extracted two more trout from the gorgeous hole, where I noticed the first rising fish, including a fifteen inch rainbow. I was now brimming with confidence, and the money fly did not disappoint. Between 11AM and 1:30PM I moved the fish count from six to fourteen, and the money fly accounted for all but one of these fish. The lone outlier was the twelve inch brown that sipped the size 18 cinnamon comparadun.

I recounted the numbers story, but the size saga was even more impressive. The eight dry fly eaters included a sixteen inch hook jawed brown that was feeding in extremely shallow riffles among submerged willow tops. Another beauty found my net in the form of an eighteen inch rainbow that streaked into fast current and then leaped out of the water. In a rare display of  fish fighting skill, I allowed the hot fish to run and then shifted the rod tip to allow slack to absorb the jump. What a blast! Several additional fish in the 13-14 inch range were among the dry fly eaters.

Hands Do Not Fit Around This Slab

By 1:30 the hatch subsided to occasional stragglers, and I approached the pedestrian bridge, so I fought through the brush, crossed the tracks, and returned to the gazebo next to the Santa Fe. I chowed down, made a couple phone calls, and added a hydration bladder and raincoat to my backpack. I was now ready to attack the river, and I was pretty optimistic.

Bright Stripe and Cheek

I returned to the a spot below my exit and covered a portion of the river a second time with a dry/dropper setup. It featured the yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph. These choices resulted from reading my blog covering historical trips to the Yampa River at this time of year. The hatch was essentially complete, although a brief wave of blue winged olives appeared and generated a few slashing rises. I guessed emergers and replaced the salvation with a soft hackle emerger, but the strategy failed to click, and eventually I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a hare nation nymph.

During the middle to late afternoon time period I managed to land four additional trout. The slow catch rate highlighted how much a hatch energized the trout’s eating habits earlier. Two of the four after lunch catches crushed the fat Albert including a thick rainbow that measured around seventeen inches. Another fourteen inch brown trout joined the afternoon mix. The iron sally duped one of the trout, and the hare nation accounted for the other.

In the Weeds

What a day! Eighteen fish were landed, including five in the fifteen to twenty inch range.. This count does not include the four or five long distance releases, and several of these felt substantial. The hatch period was insane. Mayfles were popping off the water surface everywhere, and the blizzard included blue winged olives and pale morning duns of varying body colors. The whole scene was electric with hungry trout assuming feeding stations to chow down on the abundance of food. The trout took the money fly with confidence once I settled on it, and I caught several nice fish by prospecting the comparadun in obvious trout holding water.

Tomorrow I hope to be on the water earlier in order to probe likely spots with nymphs before the hatch. What will tomorrow bring? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 18