Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: Upstream from Cascade Campground.
My sister, Marcia, and brother-in-law, Greg, arrived from Pennsylvania on Monday August 8. In planning for their visit, Jane and I attempted to balance travel time with personal time, and one of our agenda items was a one night camping/fishing/whitewater rafting trip to the Arkansas River Valley. We wanted to avoid overloading them with scheduled activities, but we also anxiously anticipated introducing some of our favorite Colorado spots.
We departed Denver on Wednesday morning with two cars stuffed with camping gear and made the three hour trip to the campgrounds along Chalk Creek above Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. We attempted to reserve a campsite ten days prior, but all that was left were first come first serve sites, so we gambled that a Wednesday arrival would allow us to grab one of the unreserved spaces. We lost our bet. Mt. Princeton, Chalk Lake and Cascade campsites each displayed campground full signs. We improvised and drove another forty-five minutes, until we turned into the dirt lane that leads to Angel of Shavano Campground. A campground full sign was absent from the pay station area, and fortunately we were able to choose from five or six spots. We grabbed number three, as it offered a nice large tent pad.
Jane graciously offered to team up with Marcia to set up the tents and canopy, so Greg and I could salvage some fishing time, since we unexpectedly drove the extra time and distance. Greg and I thanked Jane and took advantage of the offer and departed the campground by 2PM. Initially I decided to drive east through Salida to the Arkansas River, but after a bit of discussion with Greg, we decided to persist with our initial plan to fish in Chalk Creek. At most the drive to Chalk Creek was fifteen minutes longer, and I felt that the fishing in a small stream would be easier for Greg, who was resuming fly fishing after an absence from the sport in excess of ten years. Prior to departing from Denver I read my blog posts from Chalk Creek, and they chronicled decent success with stimulators and Chernobyl ants, so I was hopeful similar tactics would apply on August 10.
As we pulled into a large pullout along the dirt road that borders Chalk Creek above Cascade Campground, some large dark clouds appeared in the western sky. Greg packed only some old wading boots, and we planned to wade wet, so I hoped for a warm sunny day. Unfortunately that was not the case, as we endured cold light rain, a breeze and a temperature drop during our two hours on Chalk Creek. These weather conditions did not help us offset the ice cold flows of a crystal clear mountain stream.
I set up Greg with my Orvis four weight rod and tied a size 10 Chernboyl ant to his ten foot leader. I guided him for the first fifteen minutes, but we were unable to generate any interest from the resident trout. Greg felt comfortable enough to proceed on his own, so I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight and began alternating with him using a yellow stimulator. After twenty minutes I took my turn and dropped a short upstream cast to a nondescript shallow pocket along the bank, and a ten inch brown suddenly emerged from the chalk colored stream bottom to inhale the bushy attractor. I was pleased to land my first fish, and I debated converting Greg to a similar fly.
The stream widened a bit, so I used my wading staff to maneuver to the opposite side, and Greg and I continued our parallel upstream migration. Just as I was considering switching Greg’s fly, and decent brown smashed the Chernobyl along the current seam in a nice pool, and although Greg failed to coax it into his net, I was now assured that the fish would recognize the black foam attractor as a viable food item.
Surprisingly the stimulator was ignored by fish, as I progressed upstream, and I was disenchanted with our success rate. I was baffled by the fewer number of refusals, temporary hook ups and landed fish, since I experienced reasonable success on prior visits. My usual fallback in these situations is a dropper, and that is exactly the direction I chose. I switched to a size 10 Chernobyl ant that matched Greg’s, and I added a thirty inch tippet to the bend and tied on a beadhead hares ear.
Over the remainder of our afternoon I landed five additional brown trout including a scrappy eleven inch battler, and all five of the landed fish chowed down on the hares ear. Six fish in two hours may sound like a fine day, but I was actually somewhat disappointed. I repeatedly executed nice drifts in very favorable water that did not generate any action. I added a hares ear dropper to Greg’s lineup for the final half hour, but it failed to produce action. Greg reported hook ups with two additional fish, but overall the fish did not respond to dry flies in the manner I expected.
In addition to the lackluster fishing, the weather presented further adversity to our day. At one point I approached Greg, and he was shivering quite vigorously. Normally I am the first to chill in these situations, so I was surprised by Greg’s condition. I offered him my raincoat, but he declined and insisted that we fish on. I was not about to allow the extra layer to go to waste, so I pulled on the raincoat and continued casting. The rain was steady but light, but the quality of the fishing was not enough of an inducement to merit enduring the chill. We finally agreed that a warm campfire and beer were more appealing and called it quits at 5.