Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: Upstream from the Pumphouse access area
Fish Landed: 2
I fished the Colorado River at the Pumphouse access area twice in October a year ago. In both cases, I fished for only two or three hours, and this is roughly half the time I normally devote to a river or stream that is not within an hour of Denver. On my second trip Jane and I hiked the Gore Canyon Trail, and this provided a great overview of the vast amount of water available at this public area along the middle reaches of the Colorado River. I was itching to make another trip with the intent of hiking farther east along the trail to sample water that I never had time to explore in 2014.
I selected Thursday October 15 to be that day. The weather forecast projected clear dry weather in the Pumphouse area with a high temperature in the low 70’s. Balmy summer-like temperatures continued into the middle of October, and I did not intend to waste my good fortune. Jane agreed to accompany me, so we loaded the car and departed by 8AM. This enabled us to arrive at the Pumphouse parking area by 10:45, and I prepared to fish by rigging my Sage One five weight. The air temperature was in the low fifties, so I pulled on my fleece sweater and wore it for my entire time on the water, although I must admit that I was quite warm during the middle of the afternoon. Some thin clouds provided cover for the first couple hours, and this combined with intermittent wind made me appreciate the extra layer.
Jane and I entered the Gore Canyon Trail and hiked for .5 mile until we reached a spot where the river merged after splitting around a long island. Jane spread out her blanket here and designated the area as her base camp. She told me to move ahead, and she planned to hike out the fisherman path along the river and meet me after she got established. Unfortunately I hiked farther than we expected, and we never rendezvoused until I returned to the parking lot at the end of the day.
I was not sure where I would fish, but I started on the trail and hiked until I passed the island. The next section of the river was a wide deep pool, and I was intimidated by such a large featureless body of water, so I continued until I arrived at the first fast segment. Here I configured my tapered leader with a Thingamabobber, split shot, iron sally nymph, and salvation nymph. These flies did not deliver results despite some very attractive deep runs and pockets, so I switched out the salvation for an ultra zug bug. Finally after thirty minutes of fishing, an eleven inch brown snagged the ultra zug bug as I began to lift in a narrow slot along the bank.
I continued to fish in this manner from 11:30 until 3:00, and the only reward for my efforts was a small brown trout. I changed the ultra zug bug for a beadhead soft hackle emerger after an hour, as I hoped that blue winged olives might be in the drift despite the clear sunny day. I also removed the iron sally and replaced it with a pine squirrel leech part way through my time on the river. I covered a half mile of the river including some gorgeous deep runs, pools and pockets, but I was frustrated in my efforts to catch fish.
By 2:45 I reached a place where a very large rock formed a barrier to my progress. Rather than attempt to scale the steep obstacle to proceed, I decided to turn around. I used this as an opportunity to swap reels, and I switched to my sinking tip line and then knotted a sparkle minnow to the end. For the next forty-five minutes I threw the streamer in all the likely places and aggressively manipulated the minnow imitation in all directions and at various retrieval speeds. The flashy fly looked great as it darted and twitched, but I could not even generate a follow.
Eventually I worked my way to the large pool above the island, and at this point I found the path and returned to the confluence area. Jane had already returned to the car, but I paused to strip the sparkle minnow through the delicious pool and eddy just below the confluence of the two channels. I saw and felt nothing, so I began to question whether the sparkle minnow was the correct choice for autumn brown trout. I removed the flashy fly and replaced it with a peanut envy. I tied a batch of these over the winter, but I have yet to connect on a fish with my recent handiwork. The articulated olive streamer looked great in the water, as it exhibited pulsing movement, but the fish did not seem to agree. By 3:10 I gave up on the deep eddy and headed back to the parking lot. I stopped at a couple attractive spots along the path and made five or six casts, but again my efforts to catch a Colorado River trout on a streamer were thwarted.
The scenery was gorgeous, and the weather was more like summer, but the fishing proved to be quite challenging on the Pumphouse section of the Colorado River on October 15. If I return to this location, I will try to time my visit to a different month when more insect activity might spur the trout to become visible feeders. Prospecting such a huge body of water is a daunting proposition, and I learned that it can be unproductive as well.