Time: 2:15PM – 4:15PM
Location: Pumphouse access
Fish Landed: 1
After visiting the Pumphouse access area of the Colorado River with my friend Steve on Tuesday October 7, I was very curious about the water upstream from the boat launches. Steve and I fished up the river perhaps .3 mile, but we stopped at some gorgeous water below a large island, and the Gore Canyon Trail continued. I really wanted to explore the river in the canyon as far as one could reasonably access it.
The weather on the weekend was forecast to continue its glorious trend, and Jane was interested in undertaking a hike somewhere in the mountains, so I suggested the Gore Canyon Trail. It was a two hour drive to Pumphouse, but I convinced her it was a very scenic area that she had never visited. I also searched Gore Canyon Trail on Google and discovered that the length was 1.5 miles one way, but one could continue another mile if not averse to scrambling over boulders.
Saturday did indeed develop into a very nice day weather wise with high temperatures in the upper sixties before some clouds rolled in during the late afternoon resulting in some brief showers and a cool wind. Jane and I began hiking the Gore Canyon Trail at approximately 11AM, and we covered the entire trail by noon. After the island above the attractive water featuring various merging currents, one trail split off and followed the river while the official Gore Canyon Trail ascended the steep slope of the canyon and then traversed high above the water. After approximately a mile, the trail gradually descended and ended in a boulder field right next to the river.
Jane and I found some large rocks in the sun and ate our lunches, but we were not alone, as two groups of fishermen arrived shortly after we began to eat. Apparently the additional mile into the canyon meant scrambling over the large rocks next to the river, and I assume that eventually a fisherman or hiker would encounter a place where the steep canyon walls prevented additional progress toward the east. The end of the trail was not marked at all, and Jane and I speculated that we missed a turn that would have kept us high above the river. On our return hike we searched carefully for such a turn off but never found one, thus we concluded that we hiked to the end of the trail.
As we hiked out and back on the trail, we counted at least twenty other fishermen between Pumphouse and the end point, but the Colorado River is such a large body of moving water that plenty of space remained. Naturally before we left Denver I asked Jane’s permission for two hours of fishing time, so when we returned to the parking lot I prepared to fish. I elected my Scott six weight rod, as it is perfect for the large deep flows of the Colorado River. I made sure to stuff my spool of sinking tip line in my fishing backpack, and then Jane and I once again hiked east on the trail.
I was hoping to start at the water below the large island, but when we arrived another fisherman was already enjoying the juicy deep runs and eddies. Jane set up her folding chair on the gravel beach, and I crossed the south braid next to the island and began fishing the north channel where it bordered the northern edge of the island. My first flies were a gray pool toy, beadhead hares ear, and an ultra zug bug. This threesome is developing into my standard starting combination of flies. The first nice pool behind some large boulders was quite attractive so I spent fifteen minutes there, but had no success.
After abandoning the starting pool, I continued around a bend and fished along the north side of the island. I had the water to myself, but I moved rather quickly as the runs and pockets in this stretch were quite marginal. The river on the north side was essentially a wide fast riffle, so I crossed the island and forded the south braid and returned to Jane. The fisherman occupying my favored destination remained, so I continued downstream below him. The river made a large bend below the island and then as the main current angled back toward the middle of the river, it formed a nice twenty-five foot wide pool that continued for a length of around seventy feet.
I fished this pool thoroughly with my three flies, but again I saw no sign of fish. Once again I reeled up the flies and climbed the bank until I found the Gore Canyon Trail, and then I walked farther downstream to the area where I caught two fish and observed numerous rises on Tuesday. I carefully observed the water in this area for rising fish, but seeing none, I once again prospected likely places with the three fly combination. After ten minutes of fruitless casting, the sky clouded up and the wind picked up, and I noticed a few sporadic rings on the surface.
I moved up a bit until I could execute a backhand roll cast, and on the third drift the hopper paused, and I hooked a small brown. The bend in my rod was short lived as the fish quickly broke free, and I was disappointed to miss my opportunity to prevent a skunking. Now the sky grew darker and the frequency of rising trout increased, so I moved up the river a bit to gain a better position closer to the visible fish. Once I was settled in my new position I swapped the ultra zug bug for a soft hackle emerger with the hope that the fish were seeing a lot of subsurface BWO nymphs and emergers.
The two fish that were rising in the smooth water above where I had the first hook up showed no interest in my offerings, and then I hooked a branch on a backhand cast, and this forced me to disturb the water to rescue my flies. Once again I gazed upstream and spotted a few rises in a faster current below a protruding rock that was positioned farther out and away from the bank. I decided to study the water for a bit in hopes of confirming that blue winged olives were the insects that enticed the trout to the surface. Initially I could not find any evidence of a hatch, but then I glanced at a smooth spot next to the eddy downstream and a bit to the side of the rock. Finally I saw a flotilla of tiny mayflies with upright wings silhouetted against the sun glare on the smooth water.
This discovery caused me to consider converting to a CDC olive, but between the swirly water and the sun glare, I knew I would never be able to see my fly, so I cast the trio of flies to the run and along the seam between the fast and slack water. The combination of adverse lighting factors was so difficult that I could not even see the pool toy and its bright neon pink indicator tuft. My answer to this frustrating circumstance was to remove the pool toy and replace it with a chubby Chernobyl, and the bulky white poly wing of this fly did in fact improve my ability to follow.
Unfortunately shuffling the top fly was all for naught, as the fish ignored the emerger and the hares ear, and after ten minutes the rising fish ceased their feeding. The sky brightened at this point and the quantity of tiny mayflies in the glare spot dwindled. Once again I looked upstream to an extended stretch of smooth water and again I observed a couple rises. Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expect different results, so I must be insane because I repeated the whole process once again. I waded to a new position below the pair of rises, and I lobbed the three flies above the location of the fish. Again the fish ignored my flies and stopped rising.
By now the hatch ended, but the sky remained gray and the air temperature began to plummet. I was frustrated with my futile attempts to match the hatch with an emerger, and I planned to experiment with streamer fishing, so I decided now was the time. I sat on a rock and removed my spool of floating line and replaced it with a sinking tip line. I rummaged through my fleece patch and ripped out a large ugly sulpzilla with a silver conehead and knotted this to the end of my short stout leader. I began chucking the heavy weighted fly toward a current seam fifteen feet across from my position, and then I stripped, jigged and swerved it back to my feet.
I repeated these steps as I worked my way up toward a protruding rock and varied my retrieve motions and speed. Just when I was ready to denounce streamer fishing as a waste of time, and as I was midway between where I began and the exposed rock, my rod began to throb. I quickly set the hook and felt the weight of a fish! My first thought was that I foul hooked a fish with my huge streamer. I used the flex of my Scott six weight to apply side pressure and guided a twelve inch brown trout into my net. When I got a closer look, I rejoiced to see that the articulated streamer hook was clearly in the mouth of my little meat eater.
I took a few photos to prove to myself that I actually caught a fish on a streamer and avoided a Saturday skunking, and then I resumed fishing with renewed enthusiasm. Of course, streamer success comes in small doses, and on my second cast I snagged a solid immovable object. I waded upstream in an effort to pull in a different direction to save my sculpzilla, but despite the heavy leader I left the ugly olive streamer on the river bottom. It was now approaching 4PM, and Jane had passed by me on her return to the parking lot thirty minutes prior. My allotted fishing time was near an end, and it was quite chilly, so I reeled in my line and called it quits. I really wanted to see if I could repeat the streamer success, but other factors trumped this desire.