Time: 2:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: Below Shadow Mountain Dam
Our friends, John and Brenda Price, invited us to join them on a three day camping retreat at Green Ridge Campground next to Shadow Mountain Reservoir. After experiencing a nearly full campground at Angel of Shavano Campground near Monarch Pass, we felt it was prudent to make reservations for Monday through Wednesday July 17 – 19. John and Brenda selected campsite 67, so we opted for number 66, as that was located next door. We planned to share meals, and the close proximity made this site convenient.
Jane and I arrived at the campground on Monday at 12:30, and John and Brenda greeted us after ten minutes, while we set up our tent and canopy. The Prices own a Casita travel trailer, so tent and canopy assembly were not part of their routine. Jane and I quickly made sandwiches and ate our lunch, and John suggested that we rig our rods and explore the Colorado River that ran just beyond a field of sagebrush fifty yards behind our campsite. I assembled my Sage four weight, and a short amount of time elapsed before we were positioned next to the river just below the spillway of Shadow Mountain Reservoir.
The river at this point was quite low. I am not aware of a gauge that meters the flow, but I guessed it was in the 40 – 50 cfs range. Before making the trip, I reviewed the DOW stocking reports and searched on the Colorado River, but no recent stocking data surfaced. I fished the short stretch of the Colorado River between Shadow Mountain and Lake Granby over ten years ago, and I experienced decent success, but the segment of the river benefited from frequent stockings. With the apparent discontinuation of stocking, I was skeptical that the segment of water before us would be a productive fishery.
I began my afternoon efforts with a size 12 yellow stimulator, and the first marginal run yielded numerous refusals and a five inch brown trout. Perhaps I arrived at my judgment of the Shadow Mountain section of the Colorado too hastily. I crossed the river at a shallow riffle and moved downstream to the next attractive area where, a swift run churned through the middle of the channel and then spread out into a deep slow moving pool.
Fish were rising quite frequently, and I began with some across and down drifts, and in a short amount of time I registered a host of refusals and several tiny rainbow trout. Tiny in this case is defined as small trout in the 2 – 4 inch range. These fish could barely get the size 12 hook in their mouths, and in fact quite a few flipped off the fly shortly after the hook set. A couple flew through the air like a yo-yo on a string despite a relatively gentle lift of the rod tip.
As this action transpired I noted some rises in the gut of the pool; a place where the current spread out over the deepest section. I began to focus on the area of this activity, and I fluttered some casts in the current and allowed my fly to drift downstream to the area of the feeding fish. I was shocked when a bulge engulfed my stimulator, but I reacted with a swift hook set and instantly felt the weight of a more substantial fish. The hooked underwater combatant immediately went into a frenzied streak and repeated this escape effort several times, before I lifted it into my net. There before me was a lightly speckled cutbow that measured in the thirteen inch range. I was quite pleased with this fortuitous turn of events. I snapped a photo and released the creamy silver sided specimen and resumed casting.
Once again I cast across and allowed the current to float the stimulator downstream toward the deep section, but in this case the drift was farther out. Again a slurp materialized, and this time I netted a fine eleven inch cutbow. This fish also displayed a strong pound for pound fight, before I subdued it. At this point I was feeling rather optimistic about the remainder of the afternoon, but alas this positive view of my future was misplaced.
John and I continued downstream and eventually passed twenty yards below a pedestrian footbridge, and I simply exercised my arm and endured a huge number of refusals, temporary hook ups, and landed five or six trout that measured beneath my six inch minimum for counting. I tested a pheasant tail nymph dropper below the stimulator to no avail. For a period of time I knotted a tan pool toy to my line and combined it with a beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug. No dice. I noticed a few tiny blue winged olives at one point and swapped the ultra zug bug for a RS2. This change was also in vain.
Toward the end of my time on the river I tested a size 16 gray caddis, and this yielded looks, refusals, temporary connections, and a few tiny fish; but nothing that could be counted. It was cloudy for much of the afternoon, although thirty minutes of sunshine appeared around 3PM, and rises ended during this time. When the clouds reappeared, I observed a few tiny BWO’s, some caddis, and two PMD spinners; but these sparse populations of insects provided no relief from the frustration of interacting with very small trout.
The Colorado River below Shadow Mountain was very convenient, and I managed two reasonable sized cutbows, but the afternoon was rather disappointing. The highlight was standing under a dead pine tree with a huge osprey nest perched on the tip. During our stay we enjoyed watching the comings and goings of the nearby osprey family.
Fish Landed: 2