Conejos River – 7/22/2011

Time: 9:30AM – 6:00PM

Location: Downstream from 105 bridge and then the Meadows area

Fish Landed: 17

Conejos River 07/22/2011 Photo Album

I’d read articles about the great fishing in Elk Creek, a tributary of the Conejos so I gave some thought to exploring that water, but with the level of success experienced on Thursday, why not return? That’s what I decided to do, but I didn’t need to drive to the store and thus got a nice early start. I was at the bridge by 9AM with my Camelback full and my lunch packed. I tied my raincoat around my waist under my waders to leave room in the backpack for a sandwich and other goodies and set out on my hike. I planned to hike further and stay up high above the trees and vegetation above the stream and hike for 30 minutes. This worked out rather well and put me downstream even further than where I’d begun on Thursday. Unfortunately when I filled my Camelback the small rubber gasket in the cap had come out, and apparently I didn’t seat it properly, and 75% of my water supply leaked from the bladder. This was not a good start to a hot sunny day.

For some reason I decided to start with a tan Charlie Boy hopper on Friday morning. To the hopper I added a purple PT, and began fishing. Two things had changed from the previous day; there were far fewer clouds in the sky thus creating warmer air temperatures and the water level had dropped. I later checked and flows dropped from 170 to 150 between Thursday and Friday. This allowed easier wading, but the fishing became more difficult.

Things started off reasonably well as I landed two browns on the Charlie Boy hopper, but all the deer hair wing fell out upon landing the second fish. I switched to a yellow Letort hopper and added a copper john and landed a very nice brown on the copper john and then a smaller brown on the Letort hopper. But the hopper wasn’t producing consistently and I experienced quite a few momentary hookups where the fish got off. Even though I got an early start, I didn’t seem to be able to get in the same kind of rhythm as I’d enjoyed on Thursday, so I decided to break for lunch on a nice grassy bank and observe the water.

As I munched my lunch I noticed some PMD’s and the occasional huge fluttering green drake and a few golden stoneflies as well as yellow sallies. After lunch I decided to try the bushy green drakes I’d bought at the fly shop. This proved to be a great decision and for the next 1.5 hours I experienced hot action and landed 11 trout including one brightly colored rainbow. The trout loved the bushy green drake and took it with confidence in the deeper runs and pockets.

One of Two Pretty Rainbows Took Green Drake

Head Shot with Green Drake

I was stuck on 15 when the trout seemed to turn off on the green drake as the sun beat down and the temperature soared. I still hadn’t reached my starting point from the previous day when I encountered a place where a large dead fallen tree stretched on an angle from the bank out into the river and then right above the tree there was a high vertical rock wall. The current rushed down my side of the river and then swept along the vertical rock wall before creating a small pool above the fallen tree. I clung to the rock wall and tossed a Chernobyl into the point where the currents formed a small V where the downstream current and the one along the rock wall merged. Suddenly a huge mouth appeared and gulped the Chernobyl and made the sound of a loud burp. I’d never heard anything like this before. I set the hook and the brown charged downstream by me in the heavier current and then leaped from the water. I could see it was a nice-sized brown. Once it splashed back down in the water it shot directly toward the fallen tree and its many protruding branches. If it got among those branches it was game over. I applied steady pressure but couldn’t turn it, and in fact the trout accelerated and it was game over. My line flew back toward me, and I screamed some not so nice words in exasperation.

Large Brown Lost Here as It Headed for Deadfall

Fairly soon after this exciting encounter, I reached the water I’d covered the previous day. I fished my way up to the nice pool where I’d been for the hatch and tried deep nymphing it again. Once again I foul hooked a nice brown. Judging from its size and location, it may have been the same fish I foul hooked yesterday.

Typical Character of Upper Conejos

I decided to skip the rest of the water I’d covered before and hiked back to the parking lot with the intent of sampling the river above the bridge. As I was walking down the road from the parking lot to the bridge another fisherman was driving up the road and rolled his window down to greet me and ask how I’d done. I ended up chatting with Steve from Albuquerque, and he suggested I take a look at the meadows section that he said was three miles further up the road.

By now it was 4PM and I found a nice run of moderate depth north of the bridge and cast my Chernobyl ant and suddenly a fish rose and slurped it in. I fought the hot fish and brought a nice 14 inch rainbow to net. Unfortunately as I was positioning for a photo, it made a spurt from the net and broke off my purple PT dropper and that was my last one of the smaller size.

I continued moving upstream and jumping in to fish nice water. I replaced the purple PT with a beadhead PT, a beadhead hares ear, a beadhead bright green caddis pupa, and a beadhead emerald caddis pupa. Along the way I landed a small brown on the Chernobyl ant. Eventually I came upon a nice pocket water stretch across from the Lake Fork Campground. I had a few refusals from what appeared to be a decent brown in a deep slot across from the campground, so I replaced the two flies with a single size 16 caddis with a light gray body and brown hackle. The targeted fish grabbed the caddis when it got sucked under water by the swirling currents and I experienced a momentary hookup.

It was now 5PM and I had a decent hike back to the car in the heat so I decided to turn around even though some nice water beckoned ahead. When I got back to the car I debated whether to try the meadow stretch or call it a day. Since I’d come a long way and survived the dirt road, I owed it to myself to check out the meadows. It turned out to be more like four miles, but sure enough it was obvious when I reached the meadows. The stream here was quite wide and consistently 3 to 4 feet deep with occasional protruding boulders to interrupt the monotony of the constant flow. How does one fish water like this when nothing is showing on the surface?

Wildflower Meadow Next to Conejos

I spotted another fisherman so angled upstream of him around 100 yards. I still had the Chernobyl ant with the beadhead emerald caddis pupa dropper, so I started fishing the way I’d learned in Alaska. I shot casts out over the river and made a big first mend to get the fly line above the flies and then fed out line while making quick constant stack mends to maintain a nice drag free drift. In addition I walked along the bank at roughly the same speed as the current. Much to my surprise, after walking perhaps 20 yards of bank doing this and just as my flies were five feet above a protruding rock, the Chernobyl disappeared and I set the hook and played a fish that felt decent for a minute or two before it made a sudden turn and freed itself. Again a few choice words were uttered. I continued moving downstream in this fashion with no further success until I approached the other fisherman and exited and quit for the day. Friday was a good day, but not as good as Thursday, but still far superior than waiting for the flows to subside in northern Colorado.

Purchased Green Drake Took Ten Fish

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