Time: 12:30PM – 4:30PM
Location: Staunton State Park
After a couple days of heavy wet snow, I was seeking an opportunity to sneak in a day of fly fishing. Unfortunately the weather forecast reflected a few additional days of cool and wet weather for Monday and Tuesday, May 23 and 24. Most of the rivers were running high, although the freestones dropped as a result of the cool temperatures that created a significant slow down to snow melt in the high country. In spite of this temporary window, I decided to make my first trip to a lake for 2022.
I checked the weather for Pine, CO, and the high temperature on the graph displayed 51 degrees. Staunton State Park was my chosen destination, and that location is higher in elevation than Pine, so I suspected temperatures there in the upper 40’s. I decided to make the forty-five minute drive with the understanding that it was not that far, should I decided to reverse direction.
As I began my drive west on Interstate 70, I remembered that I had not yet received my Colorado State Parks Aspen Leaf pass. I paid for and ordered it on March 23, and when I followed up on its status in early May, I was told to fill out a lost in the mail form. I did so, and returned the form within 24 hours, yet three weeks later I was heading to a state park without a current pass. I pulled over to a chain up area along I70 and searched through my inbox on my phone, until I found the email that contained the receipt from my purchase. I continued onward with the knowledge that I could at least produce a receipt on my phone to substantiate my purchase of an annual pass.
When I arrived at the entrance window, a young lady asked if I had a current pass, and I replied that I did, but that there was a story connected to it. She told me to pull into the parking lot next to the office and to come inside. I learned that the young state park employee had only been on the job for four days, and she fairly quickly summoned her supervisor to assist. After a few hiccups in the process the Staunton State Park team was able to confirm my purchase, and they printed and issued my a new state parks pass. The entire effort consumed thirty minutes, but I was abnormally patient, as I was willing to allow the 41 degree temperature to warm, before I ventured along the trail to the Davis Ponds.
After securing my annual pass I continued on to the second parking lot, and I immediately downed my lunch while again hoping for a small warming trend. When I was ready to prepare for an afternoon of fishing, I pulled on my fleece and light down and raincoat along with my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps. In addition, I dug out my wool fingerless gloves, and then I assembled my Sage four weight. The one mile hike along the Davis Ponds Loop warmed me up considerably, but I maintained the three layers for the first two hours of fishing, and I was not overheated. This was also the first day to use my new Korkers’ Darkhorse wading boots, and I was pleased with their comfort and fit, as I traversed the hilly trail leading to the ponds.
Upon my arrival, I moved instantly to the lower pond, and I remained there for my entire time on the water. I began my effort to catch some fish on a raw and chilly day with a size 8 yellow fat Albert and an antique wet fly with a gold body, that I tied thirty years ago. Beneath the classic wet fly I added a salad spinner midge emerger. The first thirty minutes produced some heart stopping swirls and refusals to the fat Albert, but I only registered one small rainbow trout that nabbed the salad spinner. After a decent trial period I swapped the classic wet fly for a sunk ant and then replaced that fly with a pheasant tail styled nymph with a marabou tail and glass bead. The pheasant tail variant produced a second trout, but I was frustrated by the refusals to the fat Albert, and this prompted me to downsize to a hippie stomper. Downsizing to the stomper actually attracted less interest, and the fish mostly ignored the trailing subsurface droppers, so I again shifted gears and transitioned to a size 14 yellow stimulator.
During this time the sun came out for short periods, and when this occurred, the lake changed into a very smooth and calm body of water. This condition was, in turn, accompanied by a lack of surface rises and no response to my flies. However, when clouds blocked the sun, and the wind kicked up, a flurry of rings dotted the surface of the lake. After two hours of relatively frustrating fishing and two small trout in the fish count, I decided to alter my approach. Other than the two fish landed, the nymphs seemed to be mostly ignored, while trout consistently approached and turned away from the surface flies.
I removed the nymphs and added a parachute ant on a twelve inch dropper behind the stimulator. These two flies continued to attract looks and swirls and a few temporary hook ups, but the results were far below my expectations given the number of trout observed during my time on the water. Once again I pondered the situation and implemented yet another change. I returned to the hippie stomper as the lead fly, albeit one with a bright red mylar body, and I knotted an olive-brown deer hair caddis behind the lead fly. I cast the two flies near recent rises and allowed them to rest for thirty seconds. If no response was forthcoming, I began to make short strips that caused the two flies to create a wake, and quite often an eager fish appeared to either grab one of the flies or initiate a large heart-pounding bulge beneath the flies.
For the final two hours on the pond I landed sixteen additional rainbow trout. The pace of action elevated significantly, although I executed many fruitless casts and retrievals for each successful cycle. At the beginning of the double dry approach, I removed my raincoat and light down coat, as the sun was out more frequently and for longer periods. I lived to regret this move, as some dense clouds rolled in within thirty minutes, and eventually I was forced to reinstate the raincoat, as light rain descended. The change in weather seemed to improve the fishing, and I became absorbed with casting and stripping and releasing fish in spite of the turn in the weather. I am always amazed that I can endure adverse weather better, when I am having fly fishing success.
By 4:30 my hands and fingers were stiff and curled due to the cooling evaporation effect of the rain, so I decided to call it quits and hiked back to the car. After two hours of fishing I was mentally writing off Monday as a trip to secure a state parks pass; however, on my drive home I was reveling in an eighteen fish day that was accomplished in forty degree temperatures on a lake. I am not a very accomplished lake fisherman, so any degree of stillwater success is always gratifying.
Fish Landed: 18