Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM
Location: Parshall Breeze Unit/Hot Sulfur Springs below Byers Canyon
I was admittedly frustrated with the tiny fish that populated the Colorado River below Shadow Mountain, so I proposed a trip to the Colorado River near Parshall, CO below the confluence with the Williams Fork. I enjoyed some amazing trips to that area in the 2007 – 2009 time frame; however, recent experiences were very disappointing. Despite this reluctance, I absorbed the various fly shop reports, and they all voiced glowing reviews and cited pale morning dun, yellow sally, and caddis hatches. Our location at Shadow Mountain offered limited large rivers with the potential for larger fish, so we rolled the dice and made the drive on Tuesday.
The day can easily be summed up as very tough. The upper Colorado River valley was quite warm, and bright sun beat down on us amid a clear blue sky for nearly the entire time on the river. The flows were in the 450 – 500 cfs range, and that is actually nearly ideal, so water levels were never an issue.
John and arrived at the Breeze Unit parking lot at 10:00AM, and after he and I assembled our rods (in my case the Sage One five weight), we hiked toward the river. We turned right at the end of the high sagebrush plateau and then angled down a long bank until we reached the riparian zone. Here we were immediately attacked by mosquitoes, and this state of insect siege never relented during our entire stay at the Breeze Unit. We waded halfway across the river to the tip of an island, and then we proceeded to the downstream point until we spotted a pair of fishermen. This forced us to change our plan, and we elected to fish the north braid.
The north channel offered quite a few nice deep runs behind large submerged boulders, but the fish paid no attention to my tan pool toy, iron sally nymph, and salvation nymph. After striking out on the north side of the island, John and I moved to the tip. Here I observed the current, as it ran along the south bank, and I was surprised to spot two rises likely from the same fish. I removed the three flies and began to cast in the vicinity of the rises with a yellow stimulator. The fish was not impressed. Perhaps some early stage pale morning duns were on the water. I switched to a size 16 light gray pale morning dun, and the situation remained the same.
I gave up on the sporadic riser and surveyed the area for a place to eat my lunch. All the banks were covered in tall grass, and this translated to mosquito hell, so I sat down on the gravel bar at the tip of the island.
After lunch John and I hiked for .4 mile to a gorgeous long pool with a strong deep current down the middle. This particular spot was one of my favorites during the halcyon days of 2007 – 2009. I reverted to a size 12 yellow stimulator, and this generated a refusal. Normally a refusal frustrates me, but after the extended dry spell without so much as a look, it was encouraging to draw interest from a trout. I downsized to a size 14, and this led to a small foul hooked brown trout. I seemed to be on the right track.
At this point the sky clouded up briefly, and during this respite from the sun I spotted several yellow sallies in the air. Finally a twelve inch brown trout crushed the stimulator three feet above the location of a splashy rise, and I landed my first fish on the day. This encouraged me to stay with the size 14 stimulator, and after a period of bright sunshine, a cloud once again blocked the sun. I executed a long downstream drift along the center current, and an eleven inch brown trout slurped the stimulator. During this period of temporary cloudiness I also witnessed three or four refusals and looks.
After another lull in action I experimented with a yellow Letort hopper size 10, and I was surprised by a temporary hookup. Eventually I once again returned to the stimulator, but the sun came out bright, and this quashed any additional action. John and I surrendered to the heat and sun and mosquitoes and returned to the car before malaria and West Nile set in.
We debated paying a visit to Willow Creek, a small tributary to the north, but we settled on the Colorado River just below the US 40 bridge at the western end of Byers Canyon. John fished there previously, and he was eager to showcase the nice water. We hiked downstream, and I fished some attractive water with the size 14 stimulator with no success. In a last ditch effort I experimented with a slumpbuster trailing the iron sally, and this trial led to no success.
Just before quitting we noticed some rises in a smooth pool by the car, so I knotted a parachute ant to my line, but it was another failed effort. We were hot and tired and itchy from bites, so we retreated to John’s truck and made the drive back to Shadow Mountain for happy hour. We invested a lot of blood (to mosquitoes) and sweat for minimal return on the Colorado River on July 18.
Fish Landed: 2