Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM
Location: Glenwood Canyon
Several years ago Jane and I completed a bike ride along the entire length of Glenwood Canyon. During this cycling adventure I nearly crashed several times, as I was unable to keep my eyes off the tantalizing water of the Colorado River. Between the power plant and No Name Rest Area, I noted a continuous bank containing large boulders with a steady supply of exposed in-stream rocks and numerous attractive slicks, deep runs, and plunge pools. The area appeared to be very similar to the Arkansas River and exemplified quality brown trout water.
In the intervening years I attempted to verify my suspicions, but various impediments thwarted my efforts to discover the quality of fishing in Glenwood Canyon. Road construction, closed ramps, and murky water were a few of the obstacles that I encountered in my quest to fish the Colorado River in the spectacular canyon setting.
Finally on October 24, 2018 the factors lined up to create my first opportunity to sample the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. The fly shop reports suggested excellent clarity, and several days of mild weather made an autumn trip possible. I met my friend, Dave Gaboury, for dim sum at the Star Kitchen in Denver, and he invited me to stay at his house in Eagle Ranch on Wednesday and Thursday night. Dave G. had a list of chores to attend to, so he was unable to join me in fishing ventures on Wednesday and Thursday, but a bed thirty minutes away from Glenwood Canyon was too good to refuse.
I departed Denver at 8AM on Wednesday morning, and this enabled me to arrive at my chosen destination in Glenwood Canyon by 11:10AM. The high temperature on Wednesday peaked at sixty degrees, and this translated to substantial chill in the shadows, and when the sun was blocked by clouds. My first view of the river revealed mostly clear water with a tinge of olive.
I rigged my Sage four weight and began with a strike indicator, split shot, iron sally and ultra zug bug. The iron sally has become a favorite fly as a result of its productivity in fall conditions. I hiked downstream from my parking space for ten minutes and then scrambled over some large rocks and began lobbing casts in the river. During my entire time on the Colorado River I confined my exploratory casts to within twenty feet of the north bank.
In the thirty minutes before lunch I landed two brown trout; one that measured twelve inches and another that extended to thirteen inches. Both fish were fooled by the iron sally. During the late morning session I became acquainted with the most annoying aspect of the day; the constant need to remove a fibrous moss from the nymphs.
After lunch I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a size 12 20 incher, and I took advantage of this change to rearrange the flies so the iron sally was in the point position. This combination served me for the remainder of the afternoon except for thirty minutes, when I experimented with two streamers. I read many articles in the fly fishing periodicals that hyped the effectiveness of streamers for brown trout in the fall, and I was certain that the conditions were prime for such a tactic on Wednesday, October 24. Between 3:00 and 3:30 I stripped a cheech leech and sparkle minnow, but I never generated a follow. Count me as a skeptic of the hype coming from the fly fishing community.
Despite the streamer shutout I added nine additional brown trout to the fish count over the course of the afternoon, and most of these netted fish crushed the iron sally. My confidence in the yellow sally stonefly imitation continues to grow. All but one of the eleven trout landed on Wednesday were in the twelve to fifteen inch range, and the tally included one fifteen incher and another brown that approximated fourteen inches.
When I resumed fishing after lunch, I continued moving upstream next to the Interstate 70 off ramp, until I was beyond a green sign, and then I reversed and hiked downstream for ten minutes. At this point I cut down to the river and fished the edge of a stretch of fast water. This section of the river yielded the most fish.
Deep troughs of moderate velocity were the most productive areas, and eventually I discovered that I was wasting time casting to the marginal areas of shallow depth. I suspect that prospecting the riffles of moderate depth might be more successful during the summer, when the brown trout spread out to binge on increased insect activity.
I was extremely pleased with my success during my initial visit to the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. I sampled only a small section of the public access available, and I hope to make the area a more frequent destination. The towering red canyon walls are unsurpassed, and even I took frequent breaks from fly fishing to marvel at my surroundings.
Fish Landed: 11