Yampa River – 06/28/2016

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Downtown Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/28/2016 Photo Album

What can I say? If measured by pounds and not fish count, Tuesday June 28 may have been the most successful day of 2016. After my fishing visit to the Yampa River on June 23 was truncated by the reluctance of the National Forest Service to open my preferred campground, I restlessly waited for another shot at edge fishing while flows remained high enough to force the river’s residents to the banks. I checked the DWR web site daily, and the river’s flows were plummeting by 200 cfs per day, and I was fearful that the window of opportunity had closed.

As I departed early on Tuesday morning for the 3.5 hour drive to the Yampa Valley, I was aware that stream flows collapsed to the 600 cfs range. Upon my arrival in Steamboat Springs I parked next to the gazebo at the Howelsen Hill parking lot and assembled my Sage One five weight rod for a day of fishing. My expectations were low, but one can never predict what the fish and weather have in store for an optimistic fisherman.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-_mUknV5zYO8/V3b6vk8sfQI/AAAAAAABAbs/1N9vfzqitp4df-zO9euUi5Ai_fLxJn4DwCHM/s144-o/P6280009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500423830633730″ caption=”600 CFS Was Still High” type=”image” alt=”P6280009.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

When I climbed the pedestrian bridge to scout the river it was evident that the flows were in 500 – 600 cfs range, and I was concerned that they may have dropped below my desired level for edge fishing. On a positive note I was able to wade along the edge more easily than June 23, and the flows remained high enough to create a decent buffer between the ever present tubers and me.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6Fb9_m_PkNg/V3b6v5C7NgI/AAAAAAABAbw/UJLpJSft-PcXPeQg7IGGt_zEJIzX0Pn-gCHM/s144-o/P6280010.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500429225473538″ caption=”Always Holds Big Fish” type=”image” alt=”P6280010.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I began fishing on the town side after crossing the pedestrian bridge and then went downstream until a polite distance above a fisherman, who was located just above the fast water near the confluence with a small creek. A fat Albert, bead head hares ear, and salvation nymph adorned my line, and these flies accounted for the first eight fish. In a sweet area below an overhanging tree limb, the fat Albert dipped, and I hooked and landed a fat 17 inch brown on the hares ear. What a start to my day!

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-mWCKMfUHSEs/V3b6vNSLpKI/AAAAAAABAbk/kUnXsorpxzwTLXFiAoUoIPtSYTliKzQjACHM/s144-o/P6280007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500417478304930″ caption=”First Fish Was This Beauty” type=”image” alt=”P6280007.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Despite the early success represented by the seventeen inch brown trout, I discovered quickly that the bushes and trees were tight to the water making upstream wading very difficult. In addition the shade created by the stream side vegetation made visibility very challenging, so I crossed the bridge again and then walked down the railroad tracks until I was just above an area popular with kayaks and stand up paddle boarders. I carefully scrambled down some large rocks and tossed my flies into a deep shelf pool. As the flies passed below me and began to swing gently, I felt a sharp tug and set the hook. This reaction resulted in a fifteen inch colorful rainbow squirming in my net with a salvation nymph in its mouth. My first two fish were in excess of fifteen inches, and I was losing my concern about the river level being too low for hot edge fishing.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-IvkHS18SVHc/V3b6webZd-I/AAAAAAABAdo/r9VbVrb63385ldwScpB8qRyvkgCxJmJWgCHM/s144-o/P6280012.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500439260231650″ caption=”Thrilled to Hold This Creature” type=”image” alt=”P6280012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Tuesday developed into a hot day with temperatures reaching the upper eighties, but by 11:30 some pale morning duns appeared. I continued working my way up the river, and although I was tempted to switch to a dry fly, I never spotted rising fish. Consequently I maintained the dry/dropper set up and landed six additional fish to reach eight by 12:30. Many of the late morning catches were in the 14 – 16 inch range, and unlike my visit the previous week, brown trout predominated. I offer the explanation, that I was focused on edge fishing where the brown trout tend to lurk, and the rainbow trout spread out more as a result of the lower flows.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/–EhVbLgVBrk/V3b6xb0B4YI/AAAAAAABAdo/QzFCtj2ByI0KCYA5Yd8pOom9Tgw-ascWACHM/s144-o/P6280015.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500455738106242″ caption=”Another Fine Yampa River Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P6280015.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

 [peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-_JeRiPeh9X8/V3b6x9qiMvI/AAAAAAABAdo/ml2jc5tyxiAkhnAOcuv4D2XWqYXHvJD5wCHM/s144-o/P6280017.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500464825086706″ caption=”Ideal Edge Water” type=”image” alt=”P6280017.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

At 1PM the presence of an occasional yellow stonefly transitioned into a fairly dense hatch, and these adult insects approximated a size 12 fly. This observance prompted me to shift my offerings to a fat Albert trailing a solo iron Sally. I should have played the slot machines in Blackhawk, because I hit the jackpot with this move. The Yampa River trout loved the iron Sally, and I progressed through a period when I could count on a nice fish whenever I encountered slower water with depth along the bank. Fish numbers nine though fifteen attacked the iron Sally, and this tally included a gorgeous fifteen inch cutbow and three or four brown trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. All my reservations about the water level being less than ideal melted in the euphoria of landing many larger than average Yampa River trout!

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-9vSQhEOgn48/V3b6yQpghbI/AAAAAAABAdo/k4RJ73MxFx0uX7z-9cP5zJfLvT95eyixACHM/s144-o/P6280020.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500469921056178″ caption=”Quite a Fish” type=”image” alt=”P6280020.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Two failures accounted for more excitement than the successes that I just described. One twenty plus inch brown that I failed to land will remain in my nightmares for months. I cast upstream a couple feet from a three foot high bank, and as the fat Albert drifted eight feet from my position, a huge object elevated and slurped the large yellow foam attractor. At first I thought it was an animated log, but I set the hook and marveled at the huge moving bulk in front of me. Had this fish remained in place as I waded upstream, it would have tripped me.

At first the massive form was quite docile, as it lumbered back and forth and in a circle within ten feet of where I hooked it, but then it calmly swam down and across to the edge of some faster water. I maintained constant side pressure on the beast, but it was so large that I was forced to relent and feed out line. As the behemoth reached the current seam, it felt like the top fly released from the fish’s mouth, and one of the trailers embedded in the fish. This certainly angered my foe, and it reacted by wrapping the line around something. I stripped some line in an attempt to determine if the fish was still connected, but alas my monster catch was free. When I brought my flies close for inspection, I determined that the salvation nymph was gone. I am still shaking as I describe this exciting but frustrating incident.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-f7y9672LVy4/V3b6z0W0QwI/AAAAAAABAdo/u4ms_yEbYrYsHDCsqx-Y-ybkR_HFYRvdACHM/s144-o/P6280025.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500496686203650″ caption=”More Brown Trout Madness” type=”image” alt=”P6280025.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Another notable long distance release evolved as I fished across from a couple guys seated on a rock structure. In this instance the fat Albert dipped, and I set the hook instantly and found myself attached to another very large torpedo. The observers let out a hoot immediately, so they must have been watching my efforts. Unlike the previous lunker, this fellow did not mess around, and it charged immediately into some fast water downstream. I allowed the line to zing from my reel, but when the fish turned slightly in the heavy current, the flies released and shot back toward me. The opposite bank observers shouted, “what happened?”, and I could only grieve over another lost opportunity at a trophy. Unlike the previous fish, all my flies remained, and a break off was not the root cause of the release.

My last fish of the day, number sixteen if you are counting, was another highlight. I took a break and returned to the river thirty yards below the Fifth Street bridge. By now it was 3PM, and temperature was near its peak, which of course created an inner tube hatch. I found a nice riffle/run area off to the side of the main current, where the river swept most of the rafts and tubes toward the opposite bank in a rush. I now sported a Chernobyl ant as my top fly with an iron Sally trailing beneath it, but the flies were not producing. I glanced to the edge of the river before wading farther upstream, and I was startled to see a very large fish hovering next to the bank in water that was no more than two feet deep. The newly discovered target was only ten feet away, and I attempted a few drifts with the dry/dropper with no success. I was reluctant to toss the two flies too close to the bank, as I feared hooking the dropper in the bushes would destroy any chance I had to interest the big boy in my flies.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-CeLcYgWZc7s/V3b61ozYLNI/AAAAAAABAdo/lLxpBxmC1dgxUsFeIDKW18-KqKJti5qxgCHM/s144-o/P6280030.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6302500408766947089?locked=true#6302500527944510674″ caption=”Almost Stepped on This One” type=”image” alt=”P6280030.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

The long trout next to the bank was quite dark in color, and I suspected that it was a rainbow. As I pondered my next step, I was amazed to see the elongated form slowly float to the surface, and then it sipped a straggling pale morning dun! My dry/dropper combination was not producing, and I therefore had nothing to lose, so I switched to a  single size 16 cinnamon comparadun. Two drifts failed to attract interest, but I dropped the next cast four feet upstream and within inches of the bank. I held my breath as the small fly bobbed along the bank and then right over my quarry. I was about to salute my foe, when it slid sideways with the current and then calmly moved two feet and sipped my fly!

I felt like I was watching a slow motion replay of a fishing movie! I calmly set the hook, and after a spirited battle, I slid my net beneath another 17 inch brown trout! I was stunned to discover that it was not a rainbow. This fish was full of surprises. After releasing the prize brown trout, I realized that it was quite hot, and the tube traffic intensified. I was extremely tired from fighting the strong current and ducking in and out of thick bushes, so I quit at 4 o’clock.

Since I suffered through a fifteen minute delay due to road construction at the entrance to the Meadows Campground on Rabbit Ears Pass during my morning drive, I decided to return to Stagecoach State Park. Only two sites were occupied on the McKinley Loop, so I quickly grabbed site number 86.

I can usually remember all my big fish within twenty-four hours of a day on the river, but they were in such abundance on Tuesday, that I lost track. It was another phenomenal day of fishing on the Yampa River, and I was fortunate to enjoy it before the run off window closed. Could Wednesday be another day of intense action in Steamboat Springs? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yampa River – 06/23/2016

Time: 10:15AM – 3:30PM

Location: Within the town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/23/2016 Photo Album

My euphoria subsided on Saturday morning, as I prepared to chronicle my fishing outing on Thursday June 23 on the Yampa River. The improbable genesis of this spectacular day of fishing was our road trip to Arizona in March. On our return from Phoenix and spring training baseball, we detoured to Cedar City, UT and visited Bryce Canyon National Park. On our journey to the park entrance on Wednesday morning, we negotiated a mountain pass in the aftermath of a light snowstorm on Utah 14, and I noted that the mountains in southern Utah were not as high as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and correspondingly the valleys seemed wider. My fly fishing obsessed mind speculated that the sun would more easily penetrate this terrain, and the run off season in southern Utah might end sooner than in Colorado. As an aside, this demonstrates that my fly fishing addiction grips me throughout the year and twenty-four hours a day.

Fast forward to June 15 2016, and Jane and I returned from Pennsylvania, and run off was in full force in Colorado. I remembered my observations regarding southern Utah, and we formulated a plan for a combined fly fishing/camping trip to that area. I researched campgrounds and earmarked three USFS areas that offered first come, first serve camping near Capitol Reef National Park. The Fremont River flowed through this national park, and this was the water that I targeted for fly fishing. Jane and I marked our calendars for a trip to southern Utah from June 24-27.

Another factor pointing me toward the Fremont River was the Fremont River Guides Instagram account. I began following this feed three or four months ago, and the guide service posts peaked my interest in this relatively small but productive fishery. In an effort to confirm my theory that stream flows were at comfortable fishing levels, I checked some on line reports. One report noted that water was spilling over the top of one of the upstream dams, and this raised some concerns in my mind. It was a long drive to Capitol Reef, so I wanted assurances that stream fishing would be possible. I called the Fremont River Guides phone number, and the person who answered assured me that the guides were on the river and enjoying decent success.

Meanwhile I routinely check the DWR web site, and I noticed that the flows on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs were trending downward at 200 cfs per day. Based on this trend I estimated that volume would be in the low 1,000’s by the date of our scheduled trip to Capitol Reef. On June 23, 2015 I experienced a wonderful day of fishing on the Yampa River within the town of Steamboat Springs, when the flows were at 959 cfs and declining. It appeared that the Yampa would be 200 – 300 cfs higher by the same date in 2016, but the Steamboat Flyfisher web site documented that edge fishing was already possible, and that pale morning duns were hatching.

Jane loves the Steamboat area and particularly Steamboat Lake State Park, so we decided to alter our plans and make the trip to the Yampa Valley rather than southern Utah. The problem was the camping situation. We desired to camp Wednesday through Saturday night, but all the campsites at Steamboat Lake State Park were reserved for Friday and Saturday nights.

I remembered camping at the Meadows Campground on Rabbit Ears pass on June 30, 2015, so I checked the Routt National Forest Service web page and learned that the campground was first come, first serve. Based on this we assumed that we could grab a campsite on Wednesday ahead of the weekend crowd and pay for four or five nights once we selected our site. The Meadows Campground is ideally located for fishing in the Yampa Valley area as well as hiking and biking activities.

On Wednesday afternoon I Initiated our plan when I began my journey to the Meadows Campground. I encountered my first hurdle as I traveled north from Kremmling on US 40, when huge black clouds rolled in from the west, and heavy waves of rain pounded against my car. I slowed my speed to a safe level and called Jane to check the radar. Fortunately she informed me that the weather app depicted only clouds and no rain for Steamboat Springs.

With this positive news in my possession I continued on north and then west on Rabbit Ears Pass until I reached the Meadows Campground entrance road. Indeed the rain ended and only high clouds remained in the western sky. I made a left turn off of route 40, and after a mile I met a gate and campground closed sign. I was perplexed by this turn of events, but road construction was in progress on the highway nearby, so perhaps the campground closing related to that.

My fallback was Dumont Lake, so I reversed direction and traveled east to the larger campground on the eastern side of Rabbit Ears Pass. Reaching the entrance requires driving on a one mile dirt road, and when I approached the Dumont Lake campground entrance, another closed sign greeted me. Now what could I do? Where could I sleep on Wednesday night? I called Jane, who helped me by using the desktop computer at home to access the Routt National Forest web site, and she discovered that both campgrounds were closed and not scheduled to open until June 25 or later.

I recalled seeing three campgrounds northeast of Steamboat Springs on Buffalo Pass Road when I reviewed the web site before leaving, so Jane clicked on them and informed me that all except Dry Lake were not currently open for the season. I decided to drive to Dry Lake, although the web site volunteered that only eight campsites existed, and the usage was heavy. After thirty minutes of additional driving, I found and circled the Dry Lake Campground only to discover that all the sites were occupied. My thoughts turned to hotels in Steamboat Springs, as I descended Buffalo Pass Road.

As I slowly negotiated the washboard dirt road, I glanced to the left and caught a glimpse of a mama bear and two darling bear cubs. They were at the end of a lane and under a ranch gate that read Moose Ridge. I backed up the car to get a better look, but before I stopped, the three bears scattered quickly into the adjacent brush. At least one positive experience surfaced on my otherwise frustrating Wednesday evening.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-b6cz51cNnIM/V27rifvWDFI/AAAAAAABAU4/mKUoiqrULV0DfEN_oRo9EyEcFWA0FZuCgCHM/s144-o/P6230001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231906606058578″ caption=”Campsite at Stagecoach McKinley Loop” type=”image” alt=”P6230001.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I called Jane again, and she suggested Steamboat Lake, since there were likely openings on Wednesday night although not for the weekend, and this jogged my memory, and I thought of the much closer option of Stagecoach State Park. I drove back through Steamboat and then southeast to Stagecoach, where I finally found three open campsites in the Mckinley Loop. Whew! I secured lodging for Wednesday night. Fortunately it was the second longest day of the year, as I needed the daylight to set up the tent, pay for the site, and eat dinner. Meanwhile some black clouds moved in from the southeast, and the wind kicked up, but only a small amount of rain developed.

Thursday morning was uneventful, although I skipped my normal cup of hot tea and oatmeal, because the camp stove was buried in the compartment under the floor of the tailgate area. Accessing the stove would have entailed removing the mountain bikes and all the camping gear, and I did not relish that undertaking. Our packing system anticipated a four night stay and not a one nighter. I improvised and quickly ate a trail mix bar and a cup of yogurt and took down the tent and headed to town.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-fan9qt9ayTc/V27rjA33UvI/AAAAAAABAU4/kn4ZiUH-2mcalKdXBw_VY9D7uMzzikK3wCHM/s144-o/P6230003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231915500163826″ caption=”Yampa River at 1200 CFS” type=”image” alt=”P6230003.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

When I arrived in Steamboat, I parked at the lot by Howelsen Hill in front of a picnic gazebo and locked the bikes and walked across the pedestrian bridge to the Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, where I purchased a cup of hot tea at the nice coffee bar. I sipped my tea as I strolled back to the car, and then I used the picnic tables to prepare to fish. The sky was overcast and the breeze suggested rain, so I wore my raincoat. After I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight rod, I walked to the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill. Here I gazed up and down the river, and my spirits dipped a bit when I realized that the flows of 1200 cfs translated to bank to bank velocity. Fishing on the town side of the river appeared to be impossible since restaurants and businesses bordered the river, and this allowed minimal space for moving upstream.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-RGS73VncCMc/V27rjbrF2hI/AAAAAAABAU4/vzbP01M9SAQLwexsK5HG6hfcLFHrwIJYACHM/s144-o/P6230004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231922694347282″ caption=”Starting Point” type=”image” alt=”P6230004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

The southern bank offered more flexibility as only vegetation in the form of shrubs and low trees bordered the river. I elected to explore the south side of the river downstream from the pedestrian bridge, so I circled back to the parking lot and then hiked beyond the skate park and crossed the railroad tracks and bushwhacked through some dense shrubs until I reached the edge of the river. The pattern of fighting through brush to move between the few fish holding locations would repeat itself over the remainder of the day.

I began fishing with a size eight Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph at 10:15, and I moved upstream to the pedestrian bridge by noon. I was not confident that I could land any fish under these challenging conditions, but after fifteen minutes I reached a place where there was a narrow five foot slot next to the bank where the river velocity slowed. I drifted my three flies through this area several times, and on the fifth pass, the Chernobyl dipped. I lifted the rod tip quickly and found myself attached to a hot brown trout. I know it was a brown, as it rocketed out of the water several times, before it shed my hook. This jolt of action caused me to reassess my prospects for the day.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-sypXzeaRGCU/V27rkk9mYzI/AAAAAAABAU4/0uLxLHFHiA8RM5R0MGM_fBt7nkHUiMDpACHM/s144-o/P6230008.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231942367765298″ caption=”Getting Bigger” type=”image” alt=”P6230008.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Over the remainder of the morning I landed five energized fish, and I learned how to identify the prominent fish holding spots. Several of my morning catches were healthy fish in the twelve to fifteen inch range. By 11:30 I noticed several small mayflies floating up from the edge of the river, and this observance coincided with when the fish began to chow down on my salvation nymph. I was thrilled to see emerging mayflies, and even more pleased to have a fish count of five despite the adverse wading conditions. Evidently I succeeded in finding the hot edge fishing that I seek early in the summer season.

I crossed the railroad tracks below the pedestrian bridge, and circled around the fence and wall until I was on the upside. Here I found a decent path down to the river, and this led to a juicy location by run off standards, where a log jutted from the bank and created a small slow moving shelf pool. A branch from a tree angled in front of me, but I was able to backhand casts around the branch into the very attractive riffle over moderate depth between the current break and the intrusive branch. I made a few fruitless drifts, and as I was doing this, the hatch intensified and three fish began to rise in the sweet spot beyond the branch.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-x_4sIBsWBzQ/V27rl3LNIWI/AAAAAAABAU4/hcfG3pS7R_shYO9Gepuf2XXUR-rF1ps3QCHM/s144-o/P6230013.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231964436537698″ caption=”Wow.” type=”image” alt=”P6230013.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Although a time consuming hassle, I decided to make a conversion from dry dropper to a single cinnamon size 18 comparadun. As I went through this process, I glanced toward my target area, and the stream residents continued to sip duns from the surface. My heart raced as I cinched down the final knot, and I began to flick casts to the lower portion of the run. Needless to say, I was rewarded for making the changeover. I landed three gorgeous fish from this small area, including a fat seventeen inch rainbow and a hook jawed brown trout that measured eighteen inches. The brown was just a brute of a fish with wide shoulders and a large jaw, and I was amazed that it sipped my tiny size 18 comparadun.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6SHRPHqnVVI/V27rmY6UkcI/AAAAAAABAU4/6XyNK74oLaU1ujjT4wtKXblEf1SNnKDqQCHM/s144-o/P6230015.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231973492527554″ caption=”Brook Trout Makes Trifecta” type=”image” alt=”P6230015.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

For the remainder of the afternoon I enjoyed similar success, although the three above the bridge were my only dry fly victims. The heavy cloud cover and overcast conditions persisted, and this prompted several waves of intense pale morning dun emergence. Every once in a while the sun would break through, and the dense presence of PMD’s would follow. Unfortunately I never observed additional rising fish, but it did not matter, as I returned to the dry/dropper approach, and the fish seemed to relish the salvation nymph. Sometimes it pays to fish subsurface during a heavy hatch, and this was one of those scenarios.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wfzKf6x3ASQ/V27rnQyi-AI/AAAAAAABAU4/Pndc_nQNkDMrkQYLtbSd2ABklvVeMUeogCHM/s144-o/P6230020.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231988492302338″ caption=”Mr. Stripe” type=”image” alt=”P6230020.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I landed twelve additional trout between noon and my quitting time of 3:30. Many were twelve inch rainbows, but several more substantial striped fish were in the mix thus prompting me to snap photos. One fat bow in excess of fifteen inches with a wide scarlet band was particularly memorable. The most difficult aspect of fishing on June 23 was gaining access to the relatively scarce fish holding spots. It was impossible to wade along the edge of the river due to the high velocity current, so I repeatedly punched through the brush to the railroad bed and then moved upstream. It was very difficult to see the river through the brush, so periodically I parted the branches to reach the edge of the river where I could look upstream for attractive locales. Of course all this bushwhacking led to entanglements, sticks in the face, and net grabbing. Aside from landing twenty fish, one of my major accomplishments was avoiding breaking my rod or falling.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-8_b8x5CzZBM/V27rnL4lJtI/AAAAAAABAU4/dBkjd8ei0T0mPfzgBg5H1LYg_vfGfAXrACHM/s144-o/P6230019.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231987175433938″ caption=”The Release” type=”image” alt=”P6230019.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

What a spectacular day on the Yampa River on June 23, 2016! The pale morning dun hatch endured from 11AM until 3PM, and the fish were hungry and willing to grab my offerings. Of the twenty landed fish, at least eight were in the thirteen to eighteen inch range. And all the fish were energized. I attribute the strong fights to the early season, cold water and lack of fishing pressure during the snow melt window. I returned to Denver on Thursday after my exceptional day of fishing, but I am already trying to schedule another visit before the river drops too much, and the tube traffic makes fishing during the day impossible.

Fish Landed: 20

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-eKHO9e6YJHE/V27ro_F2v3I/AAAAAAABAU4/bYGJIaJIfvkMTrCqu35VNh1_Opt7nGvtQCHM/s144-o/P6230025.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300232018101190514″ caption=”Goodbye” type=”image” alt=”P6230025.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ] [peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-MRBB5HOVcZ8/V27rnwpgXII/AAAAAAABAU4/aBnFiZ-4k10X6LhWCHKNK__0z-DWVaLaACHM/s144-o/P6230022.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6300231867582169057#6300231997044317314″ caption=”Lowering to Freedom” type=”image” alt=”P6230022.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

 

Elk River – 07/05/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Christina public water upper end

Fish Landed: 5

Elk River 07/05/2015 Photo Album

Sunday July 5 was overcast with light rain off and on and temperatures in the low to mid-60’s in the Yampa Valley. This weather was quite a change from Friday when the hot sun made it nearly impossible to cool the Supple’s south facing condominium. Once again Steve and I evaluated fishing options. We fished the tailwater on Friday, so we were anxious for a change, and the crowds on the Sunday of the Fourth of July weekend would probably be formidable. I considered the east end of the Yampa before it enters downtown Steamboat Springs, but Steve was convinced the tubers would not be deterred by the cool damp weather. That left our remaining option, the Elk River, and we agreed to give this tributary of the Yampa a chance.

I drove to the Christina public access stretch, and we parked by a large green sign that enumerated the rules of the leased water. The sign stated that we were within 200 yards of the northern border with private property,. so Steve and I decided to walk downstream a bit to a large bridge. A sign warned that the bridge was private, so Steve and I found a rugged path down a short but steep bank to the edge of the river. The flows at Milner, near the junction with the Yampa, were 580 compared with 750 on Wednesday July 1 when I last fished the Elk River. This represented a significant drop, however, the water remained fairly high and fast compared to the norm. Unlike my visit earlier in the week I was able to wade much farther from the shoreline in my pursuit of likely trout holding spots.

I began fishing with a thingamabobber, split shot, a salvation nymph and a size 18 gray nymph to imitate pale morning duns. We visited the Straightline Fly Shop on Lincoln Avenue on the Fourth of July, and the young salesman showed me some flies that represented the nymph stage of the PMD, and they were all size 18 and mostly gray. I thought I was outwitting the trout, but this was not the case as I failed to attract a hook up of any sort. I pondered the situation and concluded that the small nymph was not flashy enough in the higher flows, so I replaced it with a beadhead hares ear. This finally yielded a six inch rainbow from a current seam in a non-descript area.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-BOx0r37mIqQ/VZtBOGmRR7I/AAAAAAAA1Nk/ZKjzHuax-GI/s144-c-o/P7040065.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07052015ElkRiver#6168595825159129010″ caption=”Shadowy Figure in My Net” type=”image” alt=”P7040065.JPG” ]

I worked my way upstream to a wide deep run that Steve abandoned, and here I discovered that I could carefully cross at the tail out. I waded slowly and carefully and reached the west bank where I could effectively drift my nymphs through a deep run. This proved to be the winning spot for our Elk River venture, as I fought and landed three nice thirteen inch rainbows from the area. It required many drifts, but eventually the fish spotted my nymphs. The salvation proved to be the most desirable of my two flies to the finned creatures that I was attempting to fool.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VlQtXiYEwQE/VZtBOhPUGtI/AAAAAAAA1Ns/ICZlcKrPT_Q/s144-c-o/P7040066.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07052015ElkRiver#6168595832310602450″ caption=”A Fine Elk River Rainbow Trout” type=”image” alt=”P7040066.JPG” ]

After I exhausted the attractive area I crossed back to the road side of the river and waded above Steve to a narrow deep slot next to the bank. A narrow evergreen leaned at a forty-five degree angle over the top of the run, and I frustrated myself by losing two sets of salvation/hares ear nymphs to the nuisance tree. Steve was not having any success, and I was frustrated by the careless casting that resulted in a loss of flies, so we hacked our way through some dense brush and reached the car.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-yOU2pcP3Gj4/VZtBPPRy3vI/AAAAAAAA1OI/4jJUPjYHG6g/s144-c-o/P7050067.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07052015ElkRiver#6168595844669038322″ caption=”Steve Changes Flies at a Nice Pool on the Elk River” type=”image” alt=”P7050067.JPG” ]

We left the large parking area and drove to the downstream area where we parked and scrambled down another bank to the edge of the river. I succeeded in finding the gentle pool where I ended on Wednesday with a brook trout, and I invited Steve to give it a try. I meanwhile went downstream a bit and worked some pockets surrounding exposed rocks with my nymphs. I experienced no success, so I decided to at least have some casting fun, and switched to a yellow sally dry fly. The highly visible little stonefly attracted a six inch rainbow which I landed, but then the rain picked up so I met Steve, and we returned to the car and called it a day.

I managed five fish in three hours, and I was frankly disappointed with the quality of fishing on the Elk River which presents many stretches of wide shallow riffles. As the flows drop it seems that fewer fish holding locations exist. The Yampa Valley provided some excellent late June stream fishing, but now other rivers are falling to attractive levels, so I plan to take a break and move on.

 

Yampa River – 07/03/2015

Time: 2:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Stagecoach tailwater

Fish Landed: 7

Yampa River 07/03/2015 Photo Album

Our friends, Steve and Judy Supple, invited us to spend the Fourth of July with them at their condominium in Steamboat Springs, so we quickly accepted and found ourselves in that fine western town by 11AM on July 3. We took a walk to the ski area to check out an art fair, and then returned to the condo for lunch. Steve was anxious to do some fishing, so we discussed the options and settled on the tailwater at Stagecoach. I knew the odds were in favor of a crowd since Friday was a holiday for most of the United States, but counterbalancing that factor were the warm temperatures in the upper 80’s and the fact that we would reach the water in the mid-afternoon. The flows were running at 84 cfs, and that is quite favorable compared to other streams in Colorado at the time of the July 4th weekend.

The other option was the Yampa River within Steamboat Springs, but the high temperatures assured a never ending stream of tubes and flotation devices, so we agreed it really was not a valid choice. I drove to the Stagecoach State Park parking lot below the dam, and seven cars greeted our arrival. I was disappointed, but Steve accurately commented that it was not that bad for the Fourth of July weekend, and there were actually some decent gaps visible as we looked down at the stream. If only the state of Colorado could somehow extend the public access for another .5 mile.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-A7K5MXanAEQ/VZs6OgM53tI/AAAAAAAA1Mo/4Wcx8seB6NM/s144-c-o/P7030042.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07032015YampaRiverStagecoach#6168588135450664658″ caption=”The Water Available to Steve and Me” type=”image” alt=”P7030042.JPG” ]

As one would expect, many of the fishermen were stacked at the upper end of the public segment starting with our favorite wide riffle pool, and then more anglers occupied the next two downstream pools. Steve and I stepped in between the bend below the parking lot and a long pool occupied by two fishermen. I tied on a size 16 cinnamon comparadun and began to cast to a short shelf pool where some slow water slid off from the main current. In this comparatively obscure spot a deeply colored fifteen inch rainbow rose and slurped my comparadun, and I was quite pleased to begin my July 3 outing in such an auspicious manner.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-BlVcvGTiPZY/VZs6OKnuDSI/AAAAAAAA1Mg/_pzPeB-vKk8/s144-c-o/P7030041.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07032015YampaRiverStagecoach#6168588129657556258″ caption=”Nice Early Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P7030041.JPG” ]

I tossed another cast a foot from the bank and witnessed a refusal, and then dropped a cast at the top of the short pool and registered a momentary hook up with a rainbow that was visible as it leaped above the water and tossed aside my fly. I could not have asked for a faster start to my day.

The cinnamon comparadun was on fire, as I landed an eleven inch rainbow in the next short pool, and then I turned my attention to some twin side pools on the opposite bank. This led to a second momentary hook up on a decent fish, but that was the extent of the action from the stair step short side pockets in this area. I’m sure most fishermen skip these areas, so I was quite pleased to have such heated action under hot sunny skies and relatively crowded conditions.

Next I moved to the very bottom of a long deep pool where two fishermen occupied the top third. The pool was probably thirty yards long, so I felt that it was proper etiquette for me to cast to the bottom third, and they seemed to be paying no attention to the area I was targeting. I spotted a few rises along the bank but spent way too much time here with no results. Making the situation even more challenging was a muskrat that worked busily along the bank gathering grass and sticks. The bank risers ceased their feeding as the muskrat frolicked and performed aquatic movements eight feet in front of me.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-_wz4f1bikOU/VZs6QrjigpI/AAAAAAAA1NA/kWquM1lEYHs/s144-c-o/P7030045.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07032015YampaRiverStagecoach#6168588172858131090″ caption=”Five Fishermen in View” type=”image” alt=”P7030045.JPG” ]

Finally after wasting half an hour in this area I met up with Steve, and we decided to hike up the road to the area above the riffle pool. As we grew closer we realized that even the next area above the riffle pool was occupied so we settled for some faster pocket water more typical of a high gradient mountain stream. I stood on a rock high above the river and looked down on many large rocks and numerous pockets and runs. Steve took a pair of moderate sized upper pools, and I carefully waded toward the center of a lower section so I could reach some narrow slots and pockets on the opposite half of the river.

I began executing mostly drifts that were across and downstream from my position, but the fish were showing no interest in my cinnamon comparadun, so I switched to the scraggly sulfur from my formative years of fly tying. This fly also lost its magic, so I defaulted to a size 16 gray comparadun which exhibited a nice full upright deer hair wing. This fly drew immediate interest, although I was disappointed to witness two momentary hook ups with rainbows of decent weight on downstream drifts. Downstream presentations are tricky as they require a bit of hesitation before setting the hook, and I have a very quick trigger when I see a fish react to my fly.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Mxxvxid4i5o/VZs6PSfi0-I/AAAAAAAA1Mw/aENo_B-4Lwg/s144-c-o/P7030043.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07032015YampaRiverStagecoach#6168588148950619106″ caption=”Just Outstanding Color” type=”image” alt=”P7030043.JPG” ]

I shifted my focus back to a narrow pocket across from me where I spotted a fish on an earlier drift. I dropped a very accurate cast right along the short current seam by a large exposed rock, and a deeply colored fourteen inch rainbow gulped the comparadun. Unlike the two escapees that occupied my line for a brief period, this feisty fish found a brief home in my net.

I attempted some downstream presentations to some swirly water in front of a large boulder where I experienced one of the momentary hook ups, and I finally enticed a rise from an eleven inch brook trout. Eleven inches is a nice size for a brook trout in a western stream, and I could not recall ever catching a brookie in the Yampa tailwater previously.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-w5nl9gT9b3w/VZs6QOndOzI/AAAAAAAA1M8/izM90HMR4gk/s144-c-o/P7030044.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07032015YampaRiverStagecoach#6168588165089934130″ caption=”A Rare Brook Trout from Stagecoach” type=”image” alt=”P7030044.JPG” ]

By now I exhausted my limited holding locations, so I climbed the bank and investigated the remaining stretch of water to the outflow from the dam. It was quite fast and could be described as a white water chute, so I reversed my direction and circled back to Steve. The sweet series of upper pools remained occupied, but Steve claimed the bottom of a long deep area. Steve told me he observed a pair of rises along some rocks on the far bank, but he was unable to attract any surface bites, and he invited me to take some shots at the difficult stream dwellers.

I made some decent across and downstream drifts a foot or two away from the bank with no results, so I decided to gamble and shot a longer cast that landed on top of the largest rock. I twitched it so it fell off the rock and into the water and instantly a fifteen inch rainbow pounced, after which I worked the thrashing trout across the current and guided it into my net. I was quite proud of this success under some fairly challenging conditions.

Once again I moved downstream to the area with three cascading side pockets on both sides of the river. As a first step I addressed the first pocket directly below me. I checked my cast high and piled some slack, and the pale morning dun slowly drifted toward the tail of the short side slack water. I watched intently as a beautiful rainbow slowly drifted up from the bottom and sipped my fly. What a visual! Unfortunately after a brief tussle the ‘bow managed to shed the hook, and I was back in stalk mode.

The lower two pockets on my side did not yield any interested trout, so I turned my attention to the mirror images along the opposite bank. Using the slack cast technique with a downstream drift, I managed another connection that lasted for five seconds, but then I repeated the scenario in the lower pocket and played a nice rainbow to within five feet of my net at which point it flopped free.

After completing the six side pocket episode, I made some downstream drifts along the center current line and hooked and landed an eleven inch rainbow. I wandered upstream a bit to the top of the big pool with a long back eddy since the occupying fishermen departed. Steve preceded me, and he suggested that I take a crack at the location where he spotted some risers. I accepted his suggestion and fluttered some casts to the eddy line, but I did not generate any interest, and I perceived that the fish shifted to a new food source.

It was now close to 5PM, so Steve and I agreed to call it a day, and we returned to the car. We were both curious about a second stretch of public water a couple miles north of the tailwater called Sarvis Creek, so we decided to return to Steamboat Springs via the dirt road that passes that access point. The Sarvis Creek public water did indeed look very interesting, but there were many cars along the road and in the parking lot, so we posited that it may have been almost as crowded as the tailwater. We discovered the main impediment to future trips to this intriguing water was the extremely rough dirt road that we suffered through on our return trip.

Once again I enjoyed a fun visit to the Yampa River at Stagecoach Reservoir. I was unable to cast to the prime pools, but I managed to work around this hurdle to land seven nice rainbows, and I am embarrassed to admit that I probably could have landed another six fish that escaped before reaching my net. After two successive outstanding visits to Stagecoach, I was probably due to be humbled, and Friday certainly served that purpose.

 

 

 

Yampa River – 07/01/2015

Time: 2:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir

Fish Landed: 13

Yampa River 07/01/2015 Photo Album

I returned to Steamboat Springs and found an 8 hour angled parking spot not far below the pedestrian bridge that crosses to Howelsen Hill ski jump. Here I ate my lunch on the rocks while observing river traffic. Since it remained overcast, I was hopeful that this would deter the tubers, and the river traffic definitely seemed lighter than on the previous Tuesday, but I probably counted 15 tubers in the thirty minutes while I ate. They also seemed to gravitate toward the north bank, which was the stretch I wanted to fish.

I experienced an exciting couple of hours at Stagecoach on Tuesday, so I decided to cast my lot with that waterway again. Perhaps the PMD hatch from 3-5PM would repeat? By the time I ate my lunch and made the drive to the tailwater, it was 2:30 when I entered the water. There was only one other car in the lot, and by this point in the afternoon the sun had burned off the clouds. There were some darker clouds to the southwest which prompted me to wear my raincoat, but this proved to be overkill, and I was quite warm for most of my time on the river.

I began at a long smooth pool and made some casts with the dry/dropper combination that remained on my line from the Elk River, but this proved to be futile. As happened on Tuesday I began to witness some sporadic rises, so I exited and went around the wooden fences that were created to promote re-vegetation, and then I cut back to the river at the next spot which proved to be at the top of the long pool where I began.

I walked downstream along the edge a bit and then spotted a rise farther downstream. I observed a few PMD’s floating on the surface and making erratic actions to take flight, so I clipped off the dry/dropper accoutrements and tied on a size 16 light gray comparadun. I tried a downstream drift to the riser along the bank, but could not tempt a take, so I refocused on the area across from me. There I could see a gorgeous rainbow trout hovering a foot below the surface. This fish was moving aggressively and snatching emergers, but it also occasionally sipped food from the film. I worked this fish for quite some time and generated a couple looks, but it was too smart for me.

I abandoned the rainbow and made some downstream drifts along the seam, and registered tallies on the Stagecoach scoreboard with two 13 inch rainbows. At least I now knew that the light gray comparadun could fool these fish. I thought I viewed an occasional rise in the deep V slot behind the large rainbow, and sure enough when I made a cast and allowed it to drift over that area, a very fine rainbow in the fifteen inch range sucked it in. The term cast was a bit of an overstatement for what I did, as I simply reached my long rod over the water so that only leader extended beyond the tip, and allowed the fly to drift with the erratic current until the rainbow tipped up and took the fly.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-vM9R_HNlVzA/VZaDby8-iGI/AAAAAAAA1JM/RfJk9zmf2Ow/s144-c-o/P7010031.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015StagecoachTailwater#6167261253287708770″ caption=”Beautiful Color” type=”image” alt=”P7010031.JPG” ]

 [pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-FIU9bObA1pA/VZaDeMivH1I/AAAAAAAA1Jk/iArSkzvYE4U/s144-c-o/P7010034.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015StagecoachTailwater#6167261294516707154″ caption=”Back Eddy Pool” type=”image” alt=”P7010034.JPG” ]

I photographed and released this beauty, but the rainbow at the head of the slot continued to have nothing to do with my comparadun, and I did not see additional rises, so I moved to the next long pool. This pool is characterized by a strong center current with a ten foot wide shelf pool that featured a long back eddy. I positioned myself across from the back flow at the midpoint and allowed the comparadun to float back upstream along some foam bubbles. Smack! A sixteen inch rainbow slurped the fraud with confidence. I carefully dried the fly and flicked it to the upstream current and after a five foot drift from where I hooked the previous fish, another 16 inch rainbow inhaled it. This fish pretty much allowed me to pull it in, and as I released it, I noticed it had several black splotches on the side. I’d caught the same fish that I fooled on Tuesday.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-rBD841lOOpY/VZaDdNn4hPI/AAAAAAAA1Jc/G7qajJcDUXc/s144-c-o/P7010033.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015StagecoachTailwater#6167261277626860786″ caption=”Better View” type=”image” alt=”P7010033.JPG” ]

I was now at twelve fish on the day, and the wide shallow riffle where I ended my fishing on Tuesday still beckoned. As I walked up the path toward my next destination, two women stood on the road. One held binoculars, and the other had a camera, and these accessories were aimed at the opposite bank. I followed the direction of their aim, and observed a deer grazing. I patiently waited until they finished their photography, and then I moved to the worn spot between two large trees to fish the wide riffle.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Wc8TCKDLN4Q/VZaDeo9jG3I/AAAAAAAA1Jo/LTKbubn8LSk/s144-c-o/P7010035.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015StagecoachTailwater#6167261302145358706″ caption=”Riffle Pool Ahead” type=”image” alt=”P7010035.JPG” ]

As had been the case on Tuesday, I could see fish, and many were quite large fish, and they were spread out in the thirty yard by twenty yard riffle. I flicked the light gray comparadun no more that eight feet above my position and drifted it over a large rainbow and then a second rainbow almost as big as the one above it. Both fish elevated to look at my fly but then snubbed it by returning to the bottom. Hmm, now what?

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-xm0WoSnLwjE/VZaDbau0qTI/AAAAAAAA1JA/FGlSq1DKAfQ/s144-c-o/P7010030.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015StagecoachTailwater#6167261246785890610″ caption=”Old Sulfur Productive” type=”image” alt=”P7010030.JPG” ]

The ratty twenty year old sulfur that produced on Tuesday beckoned me, so I tied it to my line, but on Wednesday this fly was no longer favored. I clipped it off and replaced it with another slightly less poorly tied full hackle sulfur, and flipped this imitation upstream and over twenty feet. As this fly danced down on the riffles a large rainbow could not resist it and gobbled it in. What fun. I dried the fly and lobbed it toward the middle of the riffle and a second rainbow in the 15-18 inch range inhaled it. What made this fly so popular?

That is a good question, because all of a sudden it was rudely rejected by large and small fish in front of me. Did the stage of emergence suddenly change so that a fully hackled fly did not imitate what the fish were seeing? I gave it no more thought and switched to a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. It was clear that the fish stopped liking the gray comparadun and then rejected the sulfur, so I had to try something new. The cinnamon comparadun was ignored by the savvy characters within ten feet of me, but eventually another typical fifteen inch rainbow could not let it pass by. It seemed that once the fly got water logged and then dried out with white dry shake, it became a more desirable morsel. Does the residual white powder somehow modify the color to look more like a natural?

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-s13uW-gfn7Q/VZaDhakO7wI/AAAAAAAA1KM/dXxq5RT6s3A/s144-c-o/P7010039.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015StagecoachTailwater#6167261349820690178″ caption=”Gill Color Is Amazing” type=”image” alt=”P7010039.JPG” ]

The cinnamon comparadun proved to be the most desirable PMD imitation that I offered the Stagecoach trout. Over the remaining hour I landed an additional seven fish from the giant riffle area. Certainly the comparadun was politely ignored or rejected numerous times, but there were enough that viewed it as a tasty snack to motivate me to repeat the cycle of catch, net, release, refresh fly and recast. The last fish was a twelve inch baby, but all the others were in excess of thirteen inches and mostly in the fifteen to sixteen inch range.

I could have stayed and continued catching fish, but I reached twenty for the day and glanced at my watch and discovered it was approaching five o’clock. I had a 3.5 hour trip ahead of me, so I reeled up my line and hooked the comparadun to my guide and marched back to the car. I’m in love with the Stagecoach tailwater of the Yampa River. Twenty one large fish in 4.5 hours of fishing will do that to you.

 

Elk River – 07/01/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 1:00PM

Location: Christina Lease downstream end and then upstream

Fish Landed: 7

Elk River 07/01/2015 Photo Album

The fishing on the Yampa River within the town of Steamboat Springs on Tuesday was not enjoyable enough to offset the annoyance of the heavy traffic of flotation devices, so I decided to gamble a bit and try new water. When Jane and I camped at Steamboat Lake, we drove along the Elk River for much of its length, and at the time it was flowing at 1,200 cfs. The Elk River streambed is smaller than the Yampa, yet the flows were 25% greater. While I was in cell range in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, I checked the department of water resources web site, and the velocity had dropped to the 750cfs range. This is still quite high, but I hoped that edge fishing might be a hot ticket so I made the trip.

Other than the headwaters in the national forest along Seedhouse Road, there is only one 1.2 mile section of public access on the lower Elk called the Christina lease. I arrived at a pullout at the downstream edge of this area after 9AM on Wednesday morning and prepared to fish with my Sage five weight rod. As I looked down at the water, I could see that it was indeed high but also very clear. Unlike Tuesday the weather was cool as the sky was quite overcast, and it would remain this way for most of my time on the Elk.

Once I was ready I walked along the shoulder for a short distance to check out the water and to find a reasonably safe path down the very steep bank. A dangerous fall before I even wet a line was not in my plan. After some searching I discovered an angled path and very cautiously side stepped my way down to the edge of the river. Since I was hoping for robust edge action, I tied on a buoyant Charlie boy hopper and trailed a beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. This was virgin water for me, and I did not remember the recommended flies from the online fishing reports.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-AUGDKSsxo_E/VZaCbDMtiOI/AAAAAAAA1IE/-NwCDUYrT0c/s144-c-o/P7010024.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015ElkRiver#6167260140957173986″ caption=”Nice Deep Pool Along the Edge” type=”image” alt=”P7010024.JPG” ]

Despite my optimism I covered quite a bit of water in the first half hour with only a small six inch rainbow to show for my efforts. The hungry rainbow inhaled the hares ear, but I was hoping for more size and quantity. The river was somewhat intimidating due to the high fast flows and my lack of familiarity with the river. In addition I was in the shadow of the high eastern bank, and this made it difficult to judge water depth as I moved upstream. As an added hindrance dense thick bushes hugged the shoreline, and this did not facilitate walking, so I was forced to carefully negotiate around branches and trees that swept over the river. I was quite fearful of being knocked off my feet at these spots by the swift run off currents.

After an hour or so of unproductive dry/dropper fishing, I decided to try deep nymphing. I added a split shot, thingamabobber, pine squirrel leech (no bead), and juju emerger. I spotted a few PMD’s floating up from the surface thus the choice of a juju emerger. On nearly the first cast the indicator paused, and I set the hook and saw a large brown trout thrash near the surface. What a shock! I played it for five to ten seconds, and then it made a sudden twist, and the fly came free. Needless to say I was quite disappointed.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-BpWdDAPdRYk/VZaCaVUHvNI/AAAAAAAA1H8/I8xwr6D3Vx4/s144-c-o/P7010023.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015ElkRiver#6167260128640220370″ caption=”Best Rainbow from the Elk River” type=”image” alt=”P7010023.JPG” ]

I moved on, but the pine squirrel leech did not appear to be producing, so I removed it and added a salvation nymph but kept the juju emerger, since I thought the escaped brown was fooled by it. The salvation/juju combination improved my fortunes, and I landed six more fish until I quit at 1PM. It was not especially hot fishing, but at least it was steady enough to keep me interested. Among these fish were a feisty thirteen inch rainbow and a very nice thirteen inch brown. The brown had vivid spots and deep gold coloring and was quite thick. As expected by this description, it put up a tenacious battle with much head shaking and deep diving. The brown trout took the juju emerger.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-q2OHiv6yAFI/VZaCcoFDjsI/AAAAAAAA1IY/Ed4qUHza6Mo/s144-c-o/P7010026.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015ElkRiver#6167260168037043906″ caption=”Another Angle” type=”image” alt=”P7010026.JPG” ]

Not long after the first hefty brown, I also hooked another that appeared to exceed fifteen inches. This bruiser came from a nondescript relatively shallow rocky chute right along the edge. I fought this fish longer, but as I was finally guiding it to within 10 feet of my net, it worked free, and the pent up energy in my rod caused the flies to catapult into an evergreen tree high above me on the bank. Somehow I stretched as far as I could and managed to break off the tip of the evergreen branch to recover the fly.

Another lost opportunity was a rainbow that also appeared to be in the fifteen inch range. This fish actually took one of the flies from a slick behind a large boulder farther out away from the bank. I fought this fish for awhile, but it managed to break free on the third or fourth hot dash toward the middle of the river. In the case of all the lost fish, the fly did not break, but worked loose during the heat of the battle.

At 12:30 I approached a point where the river split around a small island. The right or eastern channel created a lovely pool where the current spilled around a curve toward the bottom tip of the island. I tried the nymphs, but this water screamed for a dry/dropper approach, so I made the conversion with a Charlie boy on top and the salvation and juju emerger on the bottom. I sprayed casts along the main current seam and spotted one refusal, as a rainbow finned toward the hopper but then turned back. A secondary current ran toward the island above the main one that I prospected, so I launched a long cast to the slow area above the tongue of the current. A swirl to the hopper surprised me, so I set the hook and stripped in an eight inch brook trout and took a photo. While not much size, this gave me a trout trifecta on the Elk River…one brown, one brook, and five rainbows.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-44R9wOC2GDU/VZaCdJdL-9I/AAAAAAAA1Ig/K0IsnfDYTFY/s144-c-o/P7010027.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/07012015ElkRiver#6167260176996629458″ caption=”A Brook Trout Completes the Trifecta” type=”image” alt=”P7010027.JPG” ]

After releasing the brook trout, I noticed a worn path on the other side of the river, so I found a safe crossing point and climbed to the road and then walked down the shoulder to the car. The Elk River fishing was steady, and I missed some decent opportunities for better fish, but I was quite weary from all the climbing and scrambling required to negotiate the bank with the high flows. I never found a great rhythm and was not clear on what type of water produced the better fish. There did not seem to be any commonality to the productive areas. I decided to return to Steamboat Springs to check out the Yampa in town and assess the tube traffic while I ate lunch. I was keeping my options open for the afternoon.

Dumont Lake – 06/30/2015

Time: 7:00PM – 9:30PM

Location: Eastern shore

Fish Landed: 4

Dumont Lake 06/30/2015 Photo Album

When I woke up I noticed that my water container was less than half full. The spigot has a slow leak, and I forgot to put the container in a upright position before I went to sleep. Meadows Campground does not have a water supply, so I decided to drive five miles east to Dumont Lake Campground to refill the container. After I pumped enough water to meet my needs, I took a side trip to the picnic area at Dumont Lake. I camped at Dumont Lake once but never bothered to actually view the body of water.

I looked across the fairly large lake situated at high altitude and formed the idea of returning to try some evening fishing. At this point it was merely a passing thought, but as I drove back from Stagecoach, I realized I would have a couple hours after dinner, so why not explore Dumont? When I pulled into the camp site, I made a firm commitment and facilitated the plan by keeping my waders on through dinner and clean up.

By 6:30 my light dinner was finished, and I cleaned up the dishes, so I was on my way to Dumont Lake. I pulled into the small parking area and walked down a short path to the shore. I expected to see a smooth surface with dimpling trout, but instead I was shocked to see five inch waves verging on whitecaps. A large dark cloud hovered in the sky to the north, and Dumont Lake appeared to be at the southern fringe of the bad weather and just close enough to absorb the strong winds. I switched my reel to my sinking line and knotted an olive Cathy’s super bugger to the leader. Perhaps the fish were hungry and eating goodies below the surface, although this was not the pleasant dry fly fishing to rising trout that I envisioned.

I sprayed casts to the right, center and left and stripped the bugger back at varying speeds, but there was no sign of fish life in the corner of Dumont Lake that I occupied. Fairly quickly I grew bored with this game and reeled up my fly. I decided to kill some time hiking and exploring, so I followed the worn path along the shore of the lake with the inlet as my impromptu destination. For awhile this seemed like any easy accomplishment, but then the path ended, and I cut through some tall grass until I encountered some short woody bushes that thrived in the marshy conditions. I was not to be deterred and carefully picked my way through the brush and marsh until I came to what appeared to by the inlet. It was difficult to tell as the beavers worked overtime to build a network of dams and canals.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-OGCB517moo0/VZYKtlM6joI/AAAAAAAA1HE/Y1pdYCqsNCI/s144-c-o/P6300018.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015DumontLake#6167128517927145090″ caption=”Indian Paintbrush and Lupines Adorn the Hillside at Dumont Lake” type=”image” alt=”P6300018.JPG” ]

Eventually I found a solid spot next to a still beaver pond and observed for five minutes. Sure enough some small dimples presented themselves, so I took the bait and changed my reel back to a floating line and tied on a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis. I made twenty to twenty-five casts around the pond, but the target of the fish must have been something much smaller, because they ignored my well placed offering. After quite a bit of this wasted motion a fish finally slashed at the caddis. I made a quick hook set and momentarily hooked up with a tiny trout. The hook was probably bigger than the mouth of this water bound fish as it quickly fell back into the pond. A significant return hike remained, and the sun was setting so I made my exit and battled back through the woody shrubs until I reached an official hiking trail on the higher ground overlooking the lake.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-4pIu6YFiaKg/VZYKuL-as0I/AAAAAAAA1HI/6gBSjCLaq5g/s144-c-o/P6300019.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015DumontLake#6167128528335319874″ caption=”Clumps of Columbine Were Everywhere” type=”image” alt=”P6300019.JPG” ]

I hustled back along the path, but I was startled by an animal that loped across the trail and then down the hillside. I crested the hill and looked down to the meadow next to the lake and saw what initially appeared to be a deer. However as I gazed more closely, I concluded that it was an antelope, and it was making a strange high pitched hissing sound.

Onward I strode until the path veered back to the main lake shoreline, and by now the wind had ended and the surface of the lake was mostly calm. I paused and looked closely at the water, and I was pleasantly surprised to see several rises. This was what I envisioned although I did not expect it to occur at 8:30 at dusk. I began to cast my caddis to the vicinity of recent rises while observing the strange activity of the fish. They seemed to travel in a school as rises erupted in waves all along the shoreline. The water would be still for several minutes, and then I was treated to a feeding frenzy as four or five fish would gulp whatever they were eating for an intense but short period.

I was making a lot of casts but apparently my caddis was not part of their diet. I persisted however and finally after ten minutes or so, I spotted a bulge on my fly and set the hook. Instantly a missile blasted above the lake surface and crashed back, and I could tell that I had a decent trout. I cautiously played the resisting torpedo and eventually steered it to my net. Indeed I had a beefy thirteen inch rainbow trout, and that meant that the entire pod of fish in front of me were probably rainbows as well.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6WqkI6x3F4w/VZYKuvfUTbI/AAAAAAAA1HQ/1S8qzMG9Yqo/s144-c-o/P6300020.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015DumontLake#6167128537868553650″ caption=”A Fat 15 Inch Rainbow from Dumont Lake After Dark” type=”image” alt=”P6300020.JPG” ]

This scene played out for nearly an hour until 9:30, and I landed three more greedy feeders. The best of the bunch was my third fish which aggressively gulped my fly and then made loud thrashing noises as it attempted to expel the sharp thing in its lip. This vanquished rainbow appeared to by in excess of fifteen inches and apparently in need of a South Beach diet. For the last half hour I was fishing by moonlight as a full moon aided my efforts, but even that light was not enough to see my fly, so I played the game of setting the hook every time I saw a rise near where I anticipated my fly would be. It worked.

What an ending to a spectacular day of fishing. The four leaping and streaking rainbow trout from Dumont Lake were certainly icing on the cake after the great fun at Stagecoach, and I still had Wednesday to look forward to.

 

Yampa River – 06/30/2015

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir

Fish Landed: 8

Yampa River 06/30/2015 Photo Album

What is not to like about a pretty section of the Yampa River with bottom release cold water that contains large trout with the majority being healthy rainbows? Crowds. The public water is only .5 miles, and the parking lot is frequently packed with fly fishing enthusiasts.

I was apprehensive about my move to Stagecoach after being underwhelmed by the Chuck Lewis water. Fortunately as I crested the gravel road next to the dam and gazed down at the tailwater parking lot, I noted only one car. Working in my favor were the facts that it was a weekday and the middle of the afternoon when the trout notoriously develop a case of lock jaw. When I arrived at 2:30PM it was also quite warm with clear blue skies above.

My rod remained rigged, and I was already in my waders, so I descended down the rutted path to the river and then found an entrance aisle to an area where there was a long forty foot run with a narrow corridor where fish could hold along the bank. I tossed my nymphs upstream and allowed them to drift back toward me, and on the second such cast a spunky rainbow nabbed the ultra zug bug. Could it really be this easy? In fact, no, but I did follow up on the rainbow with a momentary hook up, so I was a bit optimistic early in the game.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-YkcUvJn9d2c/VZYF1jJ2snI/AAAAAAAA1Fk/R5nAmtAI8sE/s144-c-o/P6300009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015StagecoachTailwater#6167123157258252914″ caption=”Another Look at the First Fish from Stagecoach” type=”image” alt=”P6300009.JPG” ]

Next I moved up to a long deep run that was bordered on my side by a shelf pool where the current slides off to the side and creates a sloping pool with a sand bottom. In this particular pool, the current forms an eddy, and a nice current flows back upstream for quite a distance until it meets the nook of the eddy. At about this time some clouds moved in from the southwest and blocked the sun for five to ten minute intervals. Much to my glee, this provoked some pale morning duns to emerge, and this in turn caught the attention of the resident trout. Rise rings began to appear along the current seam, so I elected to jettison the nymphs and converted to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-g-YzxMl_z1A/VZYF2tC3V8I/AAAAAAAA1F0/4-jr299ybis/s144-c-o/P6300011.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015StagecoachTailwater#6167123177093158850″ caption=”Looking Downstream from Long Pool” type=”image” alt=”P6300011.JPG” ]

I dropped the small dry fly near the beginning of the back flow and as the comparadun drifted slowly upstream a seventeen inch rainbow elevated and sucked it in. I landed the cooperative cold water fish and noticed it had some dark splotches on its side. They did not appear to be fungus but perhaps some sort of birth defect. Once I dried the fly, I noticed another fish feeding next to the main current seam, and after numerous casts, I induced a rise and landed a 13 inch rainbow. At this point I pinched myself to make sure it was not a dream.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JKKCKLsxXpY/VZYF3fJlVYI/AAAAAAAA1F4/utGki_GFTsk/s144-c-o/P6300012.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015StagecoachTailwater#6167123190543111554″ caption=”Another Stagecoach Beauty” type=”image” alt=”P6300012.JPG” ]

As this was going on I noticed a young fisherman was wet wading in the next pool, and he had a female companion with a long handled net who assisted with landing fish. After I released the second fish in the reverse current pool, the young man foul hooked a large brown trout in the belly, and he was forced to allow it to tumble over the rapids and followed it down to the pool I was occupying. Of course this disturbed the pool, but I was tolerant since the young man had no control over the situation. The couple returned to their wide riffle area while I considered my options. I finally decided to skip around them to explore the narrow pocket water above, but before I could do that, the couple arrived on the bank next to me and invited me to take their places. Apparently they were finished for the day. I asked if there were any fish rising, and they quickly nodded in the affirmative and told me there were fish stacked everywhere.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-20i8T4M5kOo/VZYF4j8N_YI/AAAAAAAA1GM/RkrtCIreHpw/s144-c-o/P6300014.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015StagecoachTailwater#6167123209009102210″ caption=”The Wide Riffle Pool” type=”image” alt=”P6300014.JPG” ]

Who am I to turn down such an invitation? I found a spot on the right bank between two tall evergreen trees and surveyed the water. I was in the middle of a forty foot long riffle, and indeed I could see trout stacked everywhere across the wide shallow expanse of water. I fluttered down a few casts of the size 18 cinnamon comparadun and anxiously watched the reaction. Unfortunately the response was not what I desired, as fish lifted a bit and inspected but soundly snubbed the comparadun.

Hmm. What should I do now? I remembered that I stocked my front pack with an assortment of PMD imitations, so I unzipped it and scanned the flies. I spotted a size 16 sulfur that I tied when I lived in Pennsylvania. This was an early tie, and I was not proud of the result. The hackle was sparse and matted, and the wing protruded at a 45 degree angle from the top of the thorax, but I theorized that it was a great imitation of a cripple. It was the right color and size, so I grabbed it and knotted it to my 5X tippet.

The minds of trout work in mysterious ways. The bedraggled dun became the pretty girl at the function that everyone wanted to dance with. Over my remaining time at Stagecoach I landed five more trout with several in the 15-17 inch range. One was my first brown trout of the day, and it measured a chunky fourteen inches. In short I had a blast, and I could not fathom why I had the entire stretch of prime water to myself. Apparently the word was not out, or other fishermen accept the myth that one needs to arrive early to beat the crowds. Hopefully Steamboat fishermen will not read this blog. Of course success is predicated on having a misfit sulfur dun, and who possesses any of those?

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-oLpO8Q7bNug/VZYF5VGf8CI/AAAAAAAA1GY/7QoeVe4NK1w/s144-c-o/P6300016.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015StagecoachTailwater#6167123222205558818″ caption=”Scruffy Sulfur in the Corner of the Mouth” type=”image” alt=”P6300016.JPG” ]

The sky grew even darker, and I heard distant thunder, so I reeled up my line and returned to the car. Without the weather interruption, I could have continued fishing for another couple hours. I drove back to my Rabbit Ears campground in a total state of euphoria that was enhanced by a sugar free Red Bull. Stream fishing in Colorado is back.

 

Yampa River – 06/30/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 2:15PM and then 1:00PM – 2:00PM

Location: Across from Steamboat Flyfisher and then upstream to pedestrian bridge that spans an island; Chuck Lewis fishing access.

Fish Landed: 6

Yampa River 06/30/2015 Photo Album

Ever since the fun day I experienced on June 23 on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, I yearned to return. On that Tuesday I worked exclusively along the edge of the river and landed twelve very nice fish. The other rivers in Colorado were receding, but the Yampa remained the best option for late June.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-dyUHfY_tPzs/VZYAL2ux0jI/AAAAAAAA1EM/iDDM042tv3s/s144-c-o/P6290001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015YampaRiver#6167116943400751666″ caption=”Campsite Number 11 at Meadows Campground along Rabbit Ears Pass” type=”image” alt=”P6290001.JPG” ]

I created a window of time in my schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday, June 30 and July 1 to make the drive to Steamboat to recreate the magic. On June 23 a strong pale morning dun hatch developed between 11AM and 1PM, so I wanted to be present during that time on June 30 in case it repeated. For this reason, I drove to Rabbit Ears Pass on Monday and secured campsite number eleven at the USFS Meadows Campground. The long drive was now behind me, and I was positioned to be on the water early on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning I made the thirty minute drive to town and parked at the Howelsen Ice Arena lot and rigged my Sage four weight rod. I made sure I had several varieties of pale morning dun imitations in my front pack, and then I crossed the Fifth Street Bridge and turned left so that I entered the water directly across from the Steamboat Flyfisher. I knew that the flows had dropped quite a bit in a week, but I was surprised to discover that they were now at 320 cfs. It was obvious as I stepped in the water that this would not be edge fishing. The lower flows made it possible for the river population to spread out, and I could no longer focus on the ten feet next to the bank. At least I could count on a pale morning dun hatch to cause the trout to reveal their positions. Or could I?

I began fishing some attractive pockets along the left bank with a Charlie boy hopper trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. I moved along at a decent pace and quickly arrived at the Fifth Street Bridge with no results to report. A nice pool beckoned me just above the bridge, so I positioned myself at the downstream lip and began to cast. As I was in the process of covering the pool, I spotted a rise, but the fish was not interested in my three course meal. I was contemplating a switch to a pale morning dun imitation even though I did not see any in the air, when a mother and two young boys appeared. The boys were quite active, and they scrambled across some exposed rocks at the top of the pool. Of course this alerted the fish to the presence of human beings, so I waited out the surprise guests and abandoned ideas of switching to a comparadun.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-rR5Vcc–DYY/VZYAMWdazSI/AAAAAAAA1EY/vkzNtoVpLLc/s144-c-o/P6300002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015YampaRiver#6167116951917874466″ caption=”A Nice Fish from the Yampa River in Town on Tuesday Morning” type=”image” alt=”P6300002.JPG” ]

After five minutes the threesome moved on, and so did I. More time passed, and I was having no success, so I decided to convert to a deep nymphing approach. I began with a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph and continued upstream. This change in strategy paid dividends, and I landed a pair of rainbows that nabbed the hares ear nymph as it drifted by. Number three was a hard fighting rainbow that measured in excess of fifteen inches, and this fish displayed lots of girth.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-7HKkY-cQmCA/VZYANbz2J8I/AAAAAAAA1Ek/PhE-BvWxp40/s144-c-o/P6300004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015YampaRiver#6167116970533988290″ caption=”Great Girth on This Bruiser” type=”image” alt=”P6300004.JPG” ]

Late in the morning I spotted a small blue winged olive, so I clipped off the salvation nymph and tied on a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This move provided temporary results as I landed my fifth fish on the small wet fly. All the other fish that found my net in the AM favored the hares ear. In fact between 11 and noon I noticed quite a few yellow sallies cruising up from the water surface, and the hares ear nymph is a fair imitation of the stonefly nymph. The yellow sallies would represent the only hatch I encountered on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, as the much anticipated pale morning duns never appeared.

By 12:15PM the tuber and kayak traffic became an annoyance, so I decided to move to a different location. I chose the Chuck Lewis public access east of Steamboat Springs, as I knew that this was beyond the reach of the tubing enthusiasts. I pulled into the parking lot and munched my lunch so that I was prepared to resume fishing at 1PM. A nice worn path cut through a recently cut hay field until I eventually arrived next to the river. The river was still flowing too high to enable crossing, and it is largely a wide featureless trough. Some man-made concrete wings were constructed, but at 320 cfs the water simply flows over the top of these structures, and therefore there are minimal current breaks that create fish holding sanctuaries.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KtdpXPuu6tc/VZYAOg8r87I/AAAAAAAA1E0/y-GJfRHGuC4/s144-c-o/P6300006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06302015YampaRiver#6167116989093114802″ caption=”Featureless Chuck Lewis Segment of the Yampa River” type=”image” alt=”P6300006.JPG” ]

I began covering the middle of the river with the nymphs that remained on my line from downtown, and much to amazement I landed a thirteen inch rainbow from the middle of a deep trough on the ultra zug bug. The ultra zug bug was on my line because I broke off the salvation nymph on a root clump earlier. Once I covered the entire trough section, I could see another fisherman above me near a bridge, and the water in between was unattractive, so I decided to cut my losses and head to Stagecoach State Park.

Six fish in a morning of fishing is relatively slow, and clearly the conditions changed quite a bit since my fun day of edge fishing on June 23. The greatest impact on my success was the apparent absence of a pale morning dun hatch. Was this a temporary phenomenon related to the weather conditions, or was the hatch complete on the Yampa River for the 2015 season?

Yampa River – 06/23/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Upstream from the park next to the library in Steamboat Springs until I almost reached the bridge that crosses to the ice rink.

Fish Landed: 12

Yampa River 06/23/2015 Photo Album

There is light at the end of the tunnel, and river fishing in Colorado is no longer a distant event. Once again I experienced the elation that comes from fishing to a hatch, catching nice hard fighting trout, and enjoying the surprise that comes with prospecting a dry/dropper combination to likely trout holding water.

After my lack of success on Monday on Steamboat Lake, Jane agreed to accompany me to Steamboat Springs so that I could enjoy a day of river fishing in the Yampa. Based on the stream reports from the Steamboat Flyfisher I envisioned fishing either the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir or the Yampa River within the town of Steamboat Springs. We attached Jane’s bike to the rack so she could explore the trails while I fished. In addition we packed a change of clothes so we could end the day with a fine dinner in town to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary.

Our first stop was the previously mentioned Steamboat Flyfisher where I purchased a three pack of tapered leaders and then asked the sales clerk where he would fish if given a day to fish in the area. He never paused before replying that he would choose the section of water that runs through town. He explained that it was fishing well, and said that a trail parallels the stream and any stretch of water should be productive. I also noticed a blackboard on the wall with fishing reports, and the information suggested PMD patterns for the Yampa in town. The fishing information also noted that flows were 959 CFS.

We left the store and headed west to the area of the library where we found a parking spot that was good for eight hours. I put on my waders and assembled my Sage five weight, and I was prepared to fish. Jane and I agreed to meet at the car at 12:30 after she purchased ice and explored town on her bicycle. By 11AM I approached the water and noted that it was quite high although also clear. I typically enjoy these conditions as the trout are forced to seek relief along the banks where boulders and logs block the current and create eddies and slower moving currents. This situation means that I can virtually ignore the entire river except for the five to ten feet of edge water next to the bank.

I’ve had success in high post-runoff conditions with a Letort hopper, so I elected to tie one on as my surface fly, and then I added a beadhead hares ear beneath it on a long three foot dropper. I prospected the edge water for fifteen minutes or so with no success, so I swapped the hares ear for a beadhead salvation nymph. This also failed to attract interest, so I exchanged the Letort hopper for a Chernobyl ant, but after a half hour of fishing I remained without so much as a look.

Fortunately it was about this time that I began to see pale morning duns fluttering up from the surface. They were a light yellow in color and some were size 18 and others were size 16. They all seemed to emerge from the very fringe of the river right next to the bank. Despite this sudden abundance of food, no trout appeared on the surface, so I decided to go deep with PMD subsurface imitations. I looped a thingamabobber to my line and crimped on a split shot and then tied on a salvation nymph as my top fly followed by a juju emerger at the point. This would be my first test of the juju emergers that I tied over the winter.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-kf5k2Yat_Kg/VYs2LlnwlWI/AAAAAAAA07E/dH8ORQd786A/s144-c-o/P6230125.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080087691990370″ caption=”Nice Speckles” type=”image” alt=”P6230125.JPG” ]

My modification resulted in a sudden change in fortune as I landed a thirteen inch brown on the juju emerger as the fly began to swing at the end of the drift. After moving up the river a bit, I felt the throb of a thirteen inch rainbow that inhaled the salvation nymph. I was especially thrilled to discover that both my offerings were of interest to the trout during the early stages of the pale morning dun hatch. I was gaining confidence as I covered a few more attractive spots along the bank with no luck, but then I made an exception to my casting regimen and lobbed a cast to a deep slot behind a submerged boulder more than ten feet out from the bank. As the flies drifted toward the end of the deep run, the indicator paused, and I lifted and set the hook on another nice thirteen inch brown trout. This fish also chomped the salvation nymph, and this would be the only fish on the day that did not come from the ten foot corridor along the north bank.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wKLyNCnvt-Q/VYs2MFMhGuI/AAAAAAAA07M/p2jZ6isjP7Y/s144-c-o/P6230126.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080096167664354″ caption=”No Two Was This Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P6230126.JPG” ]

Next I approached a sweet deep run below some overhanging tree limbs, and I was excited to spot a pair of rises from two different fish. I was tempted to switch to dries, but I patiently stuck with my nymphs. This turned out to be a wise move, and I was rewarded with another thirteen inch brown that also found the salvation nymph to its liking. I cast the nymphs back to the fishy area, and once again hooked a fish on the lift, but this proved to be only a momentary success as the fish freed itself after a short run. I also sensed that this fish may have been foul hooked.

Once again I scanned the target area below the tree limbs, and much to my surprise the two risers were now feeding with increased regularity. I was reluctant to take the time to switch from my nymph rig since it produced four fish in a short amount of time, but these fish were paying no attention to my subsurface offering and were instead focused on the abundant food supply on top of the water. I relented and removed all the nymphing gear and tied on a light gray size 14 comparadun, also known as the money fly.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-7rm6S4OtUkM/VYs2NFsdVnI/AAAAAAAA07c/O1lRXnYUaI0/s144-c-o/P6230128.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080113481504370″ caption=”Best Fish of the Day Was This Fat Brown” type=”image” alt=”P6230128.JPG” ]

I made a couple conservative casts short of the top riser, and then made a third and checked my forward stroke high allowing the small dun imitation to flutter down to the swirly water where the top fish was working five feet below the menacing branches. Slurp! The dry fly disappeared, and I set the hook and felt a strong active heavy weight on my new Sage rod. Quite early in the battle I obtained a glimpse of my foe and realized I was dealing with a more substantial fish. I played the fish cautiously always prepared to yield line at the first sign of a strong run or change in direction. Luck was with me on this day, and I finally played the fish to my net and discovered a brown trout in excess of fifteen inches. It was a beauty and would be the best fish of the day.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HxSOm3HN1lk/VYs2N6qFsZI/AAAAAAAA07k/7Fk8Cj_Yr4I/s144-c-o/P6230129.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080127698645394″ caption=”Site of Brown Trout Chow Down” type=”image” alt=”P6230129.JPG” ]

I gently released the prize brown and returned my attention to the area below the branches, and I was surprised to see that the lower fish continued to rise despite the commotion that I just created. I dried the comparadun and placed a cast above the second riser. It took a few drifts to get the timing right, but eventually a fourteen inch rainbow fell for the money fly as well. Did I really just land six gorgeous fish between 13 and 16 inches in the space of an hour on the Yampa River when it was flowing at 959 cfs? I pinched myself and moved along the bank to the next juicy spot. The fishing gods were looking down on me with favor as I once again spotted a rise just below some faster water at the top of a long run. I carefully worked the tail with no results and then positioned myself and dropped a nice cast to the spot where the fish rose. Slurp! Another 13-14 inch brown mistook my imitation for a real PMD and fell victim to my fly.

By now it was nearly 12:30 so I quickly exited the stream just before reaching the tubing rental shop, and I discovered that I was nearly across from the Santa Fe. Jane was waiting, and although I felt the hatch was waning, I asked if we could meet in another hour, as I desired to continue fishing while the hatch was still in progress. Jane was amenable because she was not very hungry, but she requested that we meet at some picnic tables near baseball fields on the opposite side of the river. She planned to move the car there, and she scoped it out on her bike ride and suggested it was a much nicer place to have lunch. I quickly agreed and returned to the river where I exited, but there were very few remaining mayflies on the surface, and I soon felt that prospecting with the small size 16 comparadun was futile with no sighted fish to cast to.

I converted to a Chernobyl ant with a salvation nymph and used up half of my hour exploring water with this combination to no avail. I encountered a place where low hanging branches prevented me from wading along the edge, so I climbed to the bike path, and as I began to walk upstream, an approaching couple flagged me down to ask questions. I learned that they were from Harrisburg, Pa., and they asked quite a few questions about my level of success, what I was using, and what technique I was employing. They seemed quite surprised that I had already fished to a hatch and that I was having success despite the high water level. This conversation used up another fifteen minutes of my time, so when I resumed fishing, I only covered a small amount of water until I reached the tubing shop. I used this as an excuse to quit and hustled across the pedestrian bridge to the Howelsen Hill ski jump parking lot where I discovered Jane at a large picnic table under a massive gazebo.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-UYua2RlvYeA/VYs2Oe6HILI/AAAAAAAA07s/jb69QOYf_UE/s144-c-o/P6230130.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080137429524658″ caption=”The Middle of Town” type=”image” alt=”P6230130.JPG” ]

 [pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-chs6k9DRbU4/VYs2RUBLGOI/AAAAAAAA08Q/GFJySyN1N94/s144-c-o/P6230135.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080186045962466″ caption=”16″ at Least” type=”image” alt=”P6230135.JPG” ]

We enjoyed a one hour lunch and agreed to reunite at 4PM. I returned to the river where I ended before lunch and skipped the tubing shop area until I reached a nice section of water with no interfering vegetation. There was a boulder wall on the left bank, and I landed three more nice rainbows in the next hour while continuing with the dry/dropper approach of the Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph. All three gobbled the salvation as the Chernobyl served merely as a strike indicator. During this time the river exploded with all manner of traffic…tubes, kayaks, and rafts drifted by with jubilant water enthusiasts. As I fought and landed one of the three rainbows, a raft passed by, and I received a strong ovation from the occupants.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Roby82qhn1s/VYs2VGPnEHI/AAAAAAAA088/T8CgO3Z4jTo/s144-c-o/P6230142.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080251067895922″ caption=”Evening Tubers on the Yampa” type=”image” alt=”P6230142.JPG” ]

After the three early afternoon rainbows I weathered a dry spell, so I changed to a Charlie Boy hopper, salvation nymph and iron sally. I observed a handful of yellow sallies in the air, so I theorized that the iron sally nymph imitation might create some interest. It paid off, as I landed two more rainbows of thirteen and fourteen inches in the last hour on the iridescent attractor nymph, although I covered a lot of water and worked hard to get around bank obstacles to land these fish.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nrO4XHV9idw/VYs2S-OvKWI/AAAAAAAA08g/tgRI8QR5fHM/s144-c-o/P6230138.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/06232015YampaRiver#6164080214557010274″ caption=”Last Fish of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P6230138.JPG” ]

I’m still in a euphoric state as I write this blog. I never expected to have a double digit day on June 23 on the Yampa River with flows still high. Even more surprising was the 1.5 hour long hatch of pale morning duns and my ability to land three nice fish on a comparadun. As the reader might expect, I’m already yearning for another day on the Yampa River as I not so patiently wait for the other rivers to fall into tolerable fishing conditions.