Category Archives: Yampa River

Yampa River – 06/09/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/09/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday was my day to fish. We broke camp at Steamboat Lake State Park and loaded the Santa Fe in such a way that made my fishing gear accessible, and then we completed the thirty minute drive to Steamboat Springs. The flows dropped precipitously from the 1,000 CFS mark to the 650 – 700 CFS range for Wednesday. The reduction was quite noticeable, and it made quite a few stretches of the river in town more accessible to a wading angler.

As usual, we parked at the Howelsen Hill recreation area, and we immediately noted a group of young women under the gazebo listening to a long-winded speech from a man apparently knowledgeable about women’s softball scholarships. We concluded that a Triple Crown softball tournament was in progress, and college scouts were present for the showcase event. Jane planned to go for a walk before lunch and then cycle the Yampa Trail afterward.

A Bit More Space to Fish

I quickly pulled on my waders and fishing gear and assembled my Sage One five weight. The air temperature was close to eighty degrees, and Wednesday evolved into a bright sunny, warm day. I hiked downstream for .2 miles and then dropped down a steep rocky bank to the river and began my quest for trout. After four separate sessions of lake fishing on Tuesday  with only a momentary connection as a result, I was very eager to once again revel in the throb of my rod. The river remained high, but it was obvious that it receded quite a bit from the previous Tuesday and Wednesday, as I could wade along the edge more easily, and a few decent pockets and riffles existed beyond the narrow edge of the river.

Pleased with This Beauty

During the morning I utilized a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher and iron Sally in the early going, and when the 20 incher failed to produce, I shifted the iron Sally to the top nymph position and cycled through a hares ear nymph and salvation nymph on the point. Two rainbows nabbed the iron sally and a brown trout grabbed the hares ear in the first hour. Fish numbers four and five were brown trout, and they each favored the salvation nymph.

Number five was the last fish of the morning and one of the better catches of the day. A fourteen inch brown trout emerged from a skinny run along the bank that could not have been more than two feet deep. It was rewarding to land such a fine specimen after casting to a marginal lie. I halted my fly fishing progress at noon and hoofed it back to the car, where Jane had already begun her lunch. I relaxed at a picnic table next to the softball field, and listened to Jane’s recount of her morning activities.

Nice Girth

After lunch I decided to progress upstream through a section that I mostly avoided the previous week. At higher flows it is very difficult to access, because dense vegetation grows tight to the bank of the river, and the swift current makes it nearly impossible to move upstream along the edge of the river. The flows on Wednesday made such an approach possible although still quite challenging.

Respectable

My decision proved sound, and I increased the fish count from five to eleven, before I quit at 3:00PM. Several nice brown trout in the thirteen and fourteen inch range were part of the afternoon catch as well as a chunky thirteen inch rainbow. Number eleven was the highlight of the day, as a fat fifteen inch cutbow nipped a sparkle wing RS2 at the very top of a short pocket that bordered the bank. I was very excited with this development on a warm late spring day in June.

A Favorite Spot Ahead

I attributed my moderate catch rate on June 1 to the lack of significant insect activity, and my observation on June 9 supported that theory. When I first began in the morning a squadron of lime-colored Sallies fluttered up from the vegetation and stream. After lunch I began to notice quite a few small blue winged olive mayflies along with a couple pale morning duns. The denser population of small mayflies prompted me to substitute a sparkle wing RS2 for the salvation, and it was that fly that sparked the relatively rapid action between 1PM and 2:30PM. In addition to the six landed fish, I tangled with a couple escapees that seemed to be of above average size. It seemed that the uptick in mayfly emergence activity spurred the appetites of the Yampa River trout.

Cutbow Was Last and Best of the Day

Wednesday was a fine day by this angler’s standards. The catch rate was a bit low, but I achieved double figures, and four of my netted trout were in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. The pace of action improved in the early afternoon after the appearance of a decent number of blue winged olives. The weather was a bit warm, but after the chilly spring of 2021, I welcomed a bit of heat. In a week or so the pale morning duns should make an appearance, and I am contemplating a return visit to the Yampa. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 11

Yampa River – 06/02/2021

Time: 9:00AM – 11:00AM

Location: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/02/2021 Photo Album

I rarely deploy streamers, even though I know they are a very effective method of catching large trout. Wednesday, June 2, 2021 was a rare occasion, when a streamer made an appearance on the end of my line. How did it turn out?

Tuesday was a fairly average day on the Yampa River, and it failed to live up to my expectations for edge fishing, when flows are in the 1,000 – 1,300 CFS range. At 5PM I packed up my gear and remained in Steamboat Springs to grab some barbeque on Tuesday evening, before I drove to Stagecoach State Park to claim my campsite reservation. Only two other campers occupied sites on the McKindley Loop, and I was pleased with the solitude, since I was extremely tired from fighting the heavy currents for six hours on Tuesday. Since dinner was in my rearview mirror, I completed my fishing notes, and then I tuned in the Trailblazers vs. Nuggets game on satellite radio. I managed to listen to three quarters, until my eyelids grew heavy, and I clicked off the game and climbed into my sleeping bag in the rear of the Santa Fe. I decided to learn the result of the game, when I woke up on Wednesday morning. As it turned out, I missed a memorable double overtime win by the Nuggets in which Damian Lillard scored 55 points. Going to sleep early was probably a sound move to avoid stress on my heart.

My decision to forego a tent enabled me to get a reasonably early start, and I was back at Howelsen Hill by 8:45AM on Wednesday morning. I quickly donned my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight and ambled along the south side of the river, until I was thirty yards above my starting point on Tuesday. I was required to leave by 11:00AM in order to be back in Denver in time to accompany my wife to a Rockies game at 6:10PM. I chose to fish the same, albeit shorter, section of the river on Wednesday because refusals from Tuesday haunted my dreams. I knew that respectable fish occupied the prime spots, and I was convinced that I could fool them a day later.

I began with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher, and iron sally. I reasoned that the chubby Chernobyl and pool toy hopper matched the size favored by the resident trout, but the body color was off. I guessed yellow might be the answer due to early season golden stonefly activity. The absence of any significant hatch other than some tiny blue winged olives convinced me that the trout were in an opportunistic frame of mind, and the most prevalent early season food source was dark and golden stoneflies, thus, the 20 incher and iron sally.

A Rare Brook Trout

I worked my way upstream in a very focused manner, and in the early going I landed a small brook trout and temporarily hooked a fine rainbow trout. However, my strategy did not play out in the manner that I envisioned, and at 10:30AM the fish counter remained at one, and I was once again in a state of disappointment. I was near the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill, and two attractive deep pools remained ahead of me. I decided to deviate from my normal stubborn adherence to dry/dropper and indicator nymph fishing, and I deployed a streamer. I opted to forego changing to a sinking tip line and instead knotted a sparkle minnow to the leader on my floating line. The sparkle minnow was heavily weighted, and this allowed me to sidestep adding weight.

Sparkle Minnow Shines

A Top Notch Pool at Flows Over 1000 CFS

The first deep shelf pool was rather marginal, but I stripped the flashy baitfish imitation through the area ten times with the slim hope of inducing a strike. Either the area was devoid of fish, or the aquatic inhabitants were not interested. I moved on to the main attraction, the large eddying pool just downstream from the Howelsen footbridge. Once again I began firing casts to all areas of the pool, but I focused my probing on the current seam that curved along the rapid flow near the middle of the river. I allowed the streamer to sink a bit, and then I stripped it in with all manner of movement – fast, slow, erratic, across the current, upstream against the current and even downstream. Nothing. It was 10:45AM, and I was about to get a jump on my return trip, while once again judging streamer fishing as an ineffective fly fishing technique invented to sell expensive flies.

Zoomed on the Sparkle Minnow

Showing Off

I tossed a cast toward the middle of the seam, and as I made rapid, short strips to swing the fly through the tail section, I felt a pronounced bump. Could that have been a fish? I was convinced it was, and this small bit of action elevated my concentration. Two casts later I fired a short missile to the top one-third of the pool, and as I stripped the fly back toward my position along the bank, I felt a tap and then a grab. I was connected and swept the rod sideways, and this action provoked a heavy throbbing through the five weight rod. I held tight, as a splendid cutbow streaked up and down the pool, until I guided it into my net. Needless to say I was thrilled with the fourteen inch beauty and with the rare streamer fishing success story. I snapped quite a few photos and gently returned my Wednesday prize to its home in the Yampa River.

Wednesday morning was nearly a significant flop, but a major deviation in my normal approach yielded an exciting result. I landed rainbows and browns on Tuesday, and that fact, along with the small brook trout and cutbow on Wednesday produced a grand slam! Netting a gorgeous cutbow on a sparkle minnow was easily the highlight of the day, and perhaps a streamer will find a place in my arsenal more frequently in the upcoming weeks, as the flows on the rivers and streams begin to abate.

Fish Landed: 2

Yampa River – 06/01/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/01/2021 Photo Album

I sat down at my computer on Memorial Day to survey the stream flows on the many rivers and streams, that I regularly frequent. Imagine my surprise, when i learned that the flows on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs were in the 1,000 – 1,300 CFS range. Historically I enjoyed many excellent days of fly fishing during high but clear flows, as the rivers subside, and the Yampa was already in my desired state on June 1! I called the Steamboat Flyfisher and conferred with a young lady, who told me that the river peaked at 1,500 CFS, and it was indeed receding and clear. I immediately decided to build a trip into my plans so as not to miss my favorite post run off conditions.

Fortunately I had no prior commitments for June 1 and 2, so I completed most of my packing on Monday night for an overnight camping stay and a day of fly fishing on the Yampa on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. I reserved a campsite on the McKindley Loop of Stagecoach State Park, and the forecast of a warming trend starting on Tuesday reinforced my decision to spend a couple days in the Yampa River Valley.

An early departure on Tuesday enabled me to arrive at the parking lot by Howelsen Hill at 10:30AM, and I was positioned on the southern side of the western end of the river ready to cast by 11:00AM. The temperature, when I began, was in the low sixties, and the thermometer climbed to seventy by the time I quit at 4:30PM. The flows were indeed in the 1,100 – 1,300 CFS range as depicted on the DWR streamflow graph. The river was stained a bit, but visibility remained quite good for my purposes. The elevated flows did not surprise me, but it was tough to get around as a result of high velocity along the bank and thick vegetation blocking land access at many spots.

Tight to the Bank

I pulled my Sage One five weight from its rod case and decided to wear only my fishing shirt with no additional layers. For starters, I knotted a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl , a 20 incher, and a go2 bright green caddis pupa to my line; but the combination failed to produce in the early going, so I swapped the caddis pupa for a pink San Juan worm. These three flies finally delivered positive results, as I netted three fish before lunch. The two rainbows grabbed the 20 incher and a brown trout greedily gobbled the San Juan worm. After lunch the worm no longer satisfied the appetites of the fish, so I exchanged it for an iron Sally, and the chubby Chernobyl, 20 incher and iron Sally served as my main offerings for much of the remainder of the day, as the fish count grew from three to seven. During this time period three fish favored the iron sally and one crushed the chubby Chernobyl. Along with the seven landed trout, I suffered numerous refusals to the chubby Chernobyl, a couple foul hooked fish, and some temporary connections. It was good to see trout looking to the surface in spite of the high flows, but something was amiss with the large attractor.

Stretched Out

At Ease

In an effort to eliminate the refusals I tried a peacock hippie stomper along with a purple haze for a bit, but the resident trout displayed zero interest. I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach, since it at least created interest, and I tested a tan pool toy, coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs, and an iron sally. The iron sally enabled me to add two to the fish count, so the new lineup was somewhat of a success.¬†The last hour was a challenge, as I cherry picked some prime spots, but the flows surged with ice cold snow melt, and that seemed to give the trout a case of lockjaw.

River Running Through the Willows

The high flows yielded limited prime locales, and the fish were in the moderate size range, but I scratched out nine successes over 5.5 hours to salvage an average day. I suspect the fishing will improve as the flows drop below 1,000 CFS, and this will also enable easier movement and better holding lies. I observed a sparse blue winged olive hatch after lunch, but the trout seemed to ignore it. The absence of significant bug activity probably explained the slower catch rate compared to previous visits when flows exceeded 1,000 CFS. I have come to understand that high flows that concentrate the fish along the bank are one variable required for run off edge fishing success. The other major factor is the timing of the conditions over the latter half of June, when a variety of insect hatches coincide with fish hugging the banks. I look forward to another day next week, when Jane and I camp at Steamboat Lake State Park.

Fish Landed: 9

Back to Rainbows

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