Time: 4:00PM – 8:00PM
Location: Special regulation water three miles upstream from Aspen Glade Campground
Fish Landed: 1
I was all caught up at work and waiting for the office manager to finish job costing for June, so I had the rest of the week available to fish. I checked all the likely rivers within a day’s drive of Denver, and all were still running high from the 2011 protracted snow melt. The only day trip option was edge fishing the Arkansas. I checked some of the southern drainages and discovered that the Rio Grande and Conejos Rivers in south central Colorado were flowing at ideal levels, so I decided to do a three day camping and fishing trip to the Conejos. Jane and I and the kids had been to this area perhaps 15 years ago when we took a trip on the Combre and Toltec Railroad and camped at Elk Creek, but I hadn’t fished very much.
I packed everything up on Wednesday morning and made the 4.5 hour drive to the Aspen Glade Campground along the Conejos River. I arrived at around 3PM and cruised the campground. Quite a few sites were reserved for Friday night, and I wanted to stay Friday and drive back to Denver on Saturday morning. The campground was on two levels and the premium sites were among tall cottonwood trees along the river, and all those sites were either taken or reserved for Friday night, so I defaulted to a nice site among some tall trees on one of the upper level loops. I set up the tent and while doing so the campground hosts stopped by to say hello and warn me that a bear had been in camp the previous two nights. They suggested keeping my key fob in the tent, and should a bear appear, hit the panic button to scare off the bear.
I was anxious to hit the river, and it looked clear and ideal so I drove approximately three miles upriver to a pullout with wooden stairs over the fence. The sign said this was private land but special regulation water and fishing by flies and lures allowed. I walked a short distance to a cattle bridge and crossed to the southern side and began fishing with nymphs and a large indicator. I worked my way up a beautiful long deep run with the nymphs, and was amazed that I didn’t have any success. When I got to the top, I tried the stack mend technique and once again was not rewarded. This would continue for essentially the next four hours.
The next beautiful spot was a huge deep pool and the grass was beaten down along the edge so obviously fishermen had been there recently. After thoroughly working the seam and run with nymphs, I switched to a large olive-brown articulated streamer and swept that through the pool from top to bottom in the manner I’d learned in Alaska. Again there were no takers.
I moved up some more to a spot where the river ran along a dead tree. I switched to a Chernobyl ant and this brought a couple refusals from obviously small fish. I switched to a bushy size 12 caddis and again saw a refusal. Meanwhile I paused to remove my backpack and make my second application of heavy duty DEET. The mosquitoes here were voracious.
It was now getting toward dusk, and I had lost confidence and was growing weary so I retreated back toward the cattle bridge while swatting the persistent winged attackers. When I got near the bridge I found a rod tube, the type with a place to store your rod with the reel attached. It didn’t have a name on it, so I took it along with me. I crossed the bridge and walked up along the north bank to a spot where the river split around an island and cast my caddis in some small pockets around protruding rocks. Here I finally landed a small 8 inch brown trout on the caddis.
My last attempt was the north side of the long run above the bridge. I converted back to nymphs and thoroughly covered some very sweet fishy water with the nymphs, but once again I was foiled. I quit fishing at 8PM and returned to camp and made dinner using the light from my propane lantern with only a small brown trout and an empty rod tube to show for my efforts. I was now regretting paying for three nights at the campground.