Time: 7:30AM – 3:00PM
Location: Pumphouse to Rancho del Rio
Tuesday’s float trip on the Colorado River was perfect in so many ways. After eleven weeks of recovery from mitral heart valve repair surgery, it was reassuring to learn that I could cast non-stop from 7:30AM until 3:00PM with minimal rest. The day on the large river was a rigorous test of my elbow, chest and shoulder. And then there was coronavirus. This was the first time since February, that I fished with another angler besides my son, and I was very pleased with the level of caution exercised by my fishing companion, Dave G., and our guide, Reed Ryan. It was fun to fish with a guide and friend after a long absence of social contact. And finally there was the fly fishing, but I’ll relate more about the core purpose of the trip in a bit.
My fishing friend, Dave G., contacted me in May to inquire about my interest in joining him for a guided float trip in early July on the Eagle River. I tentatively agreed, although I conditioned my participation to a recovered shoulder and chest after my surgery, as well as improvement in the always threatening covid conditions. Dave G. made a reservation with Cutthroat Anglers for July 2, and I put the whole idea in the back of my mind. Toward the middle of June I texted Dave G. to inform him that my casting arm was capable of handling a day of fishing from a boat, and he informed me that he re-injured his bicep three weeks after surgery on May 20. He asked if I would be OK with a delay of our trip until July 7, and I readily agreed. I anxiously observed the decline in the flows on the Eagle River during the late June time period, and I grew skeptical that we could float the river at 500 CFS. Sure enough Dave G. contacted me to determine, if I would be OK with a change in plans to the Colorado River. Once again I concurred with the change, and we were set for a day of fishing on Tuesday, July 7. I wade fished the Colorado River at Pumphouse several times in October of previous years, but I never made the trip in July, nor had I ever floated the popular section of the middle Colorado, so I was actually pleased with the agreed upon change in destination.
On Monday Dave G. contacted me to say that the guide planned to launch at 7AM, so we could get ahead of the other guides and river traffic. In addition hot temperatures were predicted, so he planned to be on the water early and off, before the water temperatures grew dangerously high. Since Jane and I were driving to Pumphouse from Denver, we woke up at 4:15AM for a 4:30AM departure. This was probably the greatest negative to my fishing outing on July 7. The timing worked out nicely, and we arrived at the parking lot by 6:40AM, and this provided ample time to organize my essentials for the full day float. I slathered my face and hands with sun screen and assembled my Sage One five weight. I wore my tan wading pants, Chacos and fishing shirt, and I slid a buff over my head to serve as a face mask during our river trip. I even remembered to extract my fishing license from my fishing backpack, which was not needed for this outing, since the guide was expected to tie on all the flies and handle the fish.
Dave G. arrived five minutes after us, and then the guide wheeled into the parking lot by 6:55. By 7:30AM we launched, and Dave G. generously assigned me the position in the front of the boat, while he secured the rear. In spite of delaying the trip for five days, Dave G. was still rehabilitating his right arm. He adopted a left handed casting stroke while using his right hand to guide it for accuracy. It reminded me of a modified snap T spey cast. In spite of this innovation he knew that he was limited in what he could do, so he graciously allowed me to command the forward position.
Our guide, Reed Ryan, started us out on double dry fly rigs. I had a size twelve bushy caddis that trailed a size 14 parachute mayfly imitation with a maroon body. Reed told us that rusty spinners were present on the river, and the parachute served as an effective imitation. Throughout the day he varied the dry flies, and the front fly included a madam X and hopper. During the afternoon he swapped the maroon parachute fly for a purple haze, and the fish were positively responsive.
We drifted through two canyon sections, and during these brief forays into faster pocket water we switched to dry/dropper rods. Reed had a nine foot Winston rigged with a chubby Chernobyl, yellow stonefly nymph, and a variety of small nymphs that reminded me of pheasant tails. I landed a few fish in the Little Gore Canyon stretch, but the double dry fly rig accounted for most of my fish. During the seven hour float I landed twenty fish, and quite a few were substantial beauties in the fifteen to seventeen inch range. All my landed trout were brown trout; however, I tangled with one very respectable rainbow that managed to escape, just before I gained solid control.
Around noon we glided below a very attractive wide riffle that was thirty yards wide and forty yards long. The ten feet next to the bank were relatively slow and shallow, and then the river grew faster and deeper as one moved from left to right. Reed announced that we would go to “nose up” mode, and I soon understood the meaning, as he positioned the driftboat facing upstream with the bow closest to the target riffle. I was in the bow, and this meant I had the entire juicy area to myself. Reed spotted a couple fish and guided my casts toward the shallow slower moving area along the left bank, and two spectacular brown trout rose to subtly sip the parachute mayfly. What a thrill to place an accurate cast over the feeding lane and then observe the confident sip of the artificial imitation!
During the afternoon a pair of brown trout in excess of fifteen inches crushed the purple haze, as I cast near the bank and executed long downstream drifts. These experiences also added vivid memories to my mental scrapbook.
By two o’clock the wind kicked up to a ferocious level, and Reed had to row downstream against whitecaps, and Dave G. and I took an extended rest. I nearly lost my hat five times, and it was only saved by the strap and clip, that I had the foresight to attach. During our ten mile float we only saw a couple other inflatable rafts with fishermen, but the river was alive with all manner of water enthusiasts. Whitewater rafters were out in force along with kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders. A spring break party atmosphere pervaded the canyon for much of the day, but we focused on the banks, while the others commanded the center of the very large river.
Tuesday was just what the doctor ordered. I enjoyed magnificent canyon scenery while landing twenty gorgeous fish. The quality of the fish was unsurpassed, as nearly all exceeded twelve inches. The wind and heat were small negatives, but our early start allowed us to record hours of great fishing before the gusts ruined the day. Frankly, I remain in a state of euphoria twenty-four hours after our Pumphouse to Rancho del Rio float trip experience. A repeat trip likely lies in my future.
Fish Landed: 20