Location: Across from Wolcott post office and Horn Ranch land trust in the afternoon
Fish Landed: 2 (of 7 hooked)
Our friends, Beth and Dave Gaboury, invited us to visit them at their gorgeous home in Eagle Ranch for April 28 through April 30. We quickly accepted and made the 2.5 hour drive to Eagle, CO on Thursday afternoon. The weather forecast was rather forbidding with highs around fifty degrees for all three days, and the constant threat of snow and rain throughout our stay.
Dave G arranged to meet our friend Todd Grubin, who lives in Arrowhead, on Friday morning at 10AM for fly fishing, and despite the harsh weather conditions, we arrived at a pullout near the Wolcott post office at the appointed time. Todd’s SUV was visible, but he was no where in sight, so Dave G called him and ascertained that he was already in the river. Dave G and I quickly returned to the car and did our best to bundle up as the temperature on the dashboard was 38 degrees and pellets of ice were descending from the sky. I pulled on my fleece, my Adidas pullover, and a raincoat. In addition I snugged my neck gaitor up under my chin and then securely stretched my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps on to my head. At this point I did not believe that I had fingerless gloves with me, so Dave G graciously loaned me his Simms fleece hand covers. This configuration of cold weather attire served me reasonably well through the winter conditions on Friday, April 29.
I began fishing in a beautiful deep pool just below the boundary with a golf course. I set up my Sage One five weight fly rod with a thingamabobber, split shot, flesh colored San Juan worm, and a salad spinner. I the first segment of water I experienced a momentary hook up on a decent sized fish. In fact initially I thought that I was snagged on a rock until I lifted in an effort to free my fly and felt a heavy throbbing weight and then caught a glimpse of a reasonably sized rainbow trout. The bright pink stripe on the side of the fish gave away its species.
I moved upstream a bit, and I experienced a second long distance release. In this case I was connected to a fighting fish for a slightly longer amount of time, and I wrestled it near the surface long enough to know that it was also a rainbow and also a decent sized fish. Two fishermen were above me at the boundary with the golf course, so I retreated along the bank and moved down the river to a place where the Eagle got wide and split around a long narrow island. On my way I passed Dave G who informed me that he landed a seventeen inch brown and a fifteen inch rainbow. He was fishing in the exact location where I began casting at the start of my morning.
I surveyed the new water for a bit and then moved a bit farther downstream, until I was just above a white water chute where the river narrowed once again. There were several slicks behind large exposed boulders that offered small pools of moderate depth, so I began probing the lowest example of this structure. On the fifth cast the indicator dipped, and I set the hook and felt active weight on my line. The object on the end of my line felt the sting of my action and immediately streaked to the top of the small pool. I applied some pressure, and I quickly realized that I was dealing with a sizable fish, and a brief glimpse revealed that it was a substantial rainbow trout.
My pressure caused the football shaped missile to turn around and it sped down the river toward the tail, and I quickly released line and allowed it to slip from my hand and the reel. Fortunately the fish stopped and rested for a bit, and this was my clue to gain back some line. I began to slowly strip line which caused the adversary to gradually move back toward my feet. Suddenly without any provocation on the part of the fish, as I made a strip, the weight disappeared, and the line went limp. When I stripped the line back to examine it, I discovered that the monofilament separated at the first knot that connected the tapered leader to the tippet. I have a habit of tying additional sections of tippet to previous sections when they get reduced to four or five inches, and at the time of the lost fish, I had a series of three of these. I can only guess that these surgeons knots were relatively old and perhaps abraded, thus the unfortunate premature release of my best fish of the day and season.
I lost my trophy fish, my split shot and two flies, so as I mourned this event; I rigged anew with another flesh worm and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. Dave G told that the two fish he landed earlier took a flashback RS2, so the fluoro fiber soft hackle emerger was the closest imitation I had to a flashback nymph. A bit above the site of the lost rainbow, a fish grabbed the soft hackle emerger as I lifted, and I finally landed a nice 13 inch rainbow. Could this be a change in my luck? Amazingly I was not bothered by the weather when fish were attacking my flies.
I photographed the rainbow trout and released it and dried my hands before resuming my casting to another similar pocket and slick a bit farther upstream. As the flies began to swing at the end of the drift, another rainbow attacked the soft hackle emerger, but once again my connection was short lived, and the streaking silver fish shed my hook and escaped. At this point I was one fish landed out of five hooked. This is not a good average in baseball and a poor showing in fly fishing as well. Adding insult to the situation was my loss of two flies.
I waded across the river at the shallow wide area and fished some nice deep pockets behind exposed rocks that served as a current break, but this move yielded no action. Next I climbed the north bank and passed Todd and fished the top of the run across from my starting position. This water was shallower than the south side and did not produce, but as I progressed to the top of the riffle, I got snagged and broke off both flies again. I took this as a sign, and Dave G was anxious for lunch, so I circled back to the wide shallow area and crossed and returned to the car.
Dave G and I piled into the Santa Fe, and I turned the ignition and ran the engine so we could blast the heater while eating. Todd joined us, and we discussed options for the afternoon. After evaluating several possibilities, we settled on the Horn Ranch segment of the Eagle River. I parked near the railroad tracks at the western end of the land trust, and as Todd crossed to the opposite side, and Dave G worked upstream; I walked back toward the route 6 bridge. This entailed climbing some metal steps over a fence, and then I began fishing in a deep long pocket at the tail of a pool.
I was out of flesh worms, so I chose a bright pink version and added another soft hackle emerger since that fly seemed to be attracting a lot of attention in the area across from the post office. The fish showed no interest in the long pocket, so I moved to another smaller replica just above the bridge. On the fourth drift as the indicator moved beyond the midsection toward the tail, it dipped, and I executed a swift hook set. This resulted in a throbbing heavy weight on my line, and I played the fish carefully, as it executed several
escape maneuvers before I slid the net under a seventeen inch hook jawed brown trout that nipped the soft hackle emerger. What a thrill to finally land a significant fish after losing several earlier in the day.
I had now landed two out of six hooked fish and felt slightly better about my fishing skills, as I advanced along the left bank and reached the large bend in the river. Here it was not long before I hooked a rock or stick along the bottom of the rocky stream bed. I applied pressure from various directions until the flies eventually broke free, but the pent up energy of the bent rod caused the split shot and flies to catapult from the river until they lodged in a dense grove of sumacs behind me. I seriously desired to recover the flies, but I could not reach them, and the sumac stand was too dense to push through. I surrendered to the fishing gods and snapped off both files and replaced them with exact duplicates.
Near the top of the bend pool eddy I hooked the bottom again and repeated the break off.
At this point I was very frustrated, so I swapped my reel and floating line for a reel with a sink tip line. I tied on a sparkle minnow and on the first cast my favorite streamer snagged, and I broke off my ninth fly on the day. I was extremely exasperated, but I scanned my fleece wallet and spotted a new cheech leech and knotted it to the short leader attached to the sinking line.
I moved up to a run that Dave G had fished, and after temporarily hooking bottom twice, I lobbed the articulated streamer across the top of the run. A pause allowed the streamer to sink a bit, and then I gave the line one strip and felt weight. My MFC friends taught me not to set the hook when stripping a streamer, so I repeated a strip and felt some solid resistance. Much to my dismay the weight disappeared, as I spotted the side of a decent fish, and then I realized that my prized cheech leech was absent, and I was the victim of a second break off. I was now two landed out of seven hooked fish, but even more disappointing was the fact that the lost fish all felt like substantial trout.
I tied a peanut envy to my line for a bit, but after five half-hearted casts, Dave G appeared and informed me that it was time to depart, if we planned to meet our wives to see a movie at 3:40.
It was a frustrating day on the Eagle River, but I learned that quite a few sizable fish reside in the lower Eagle River, and they can be hooked during the time period prior to run off. I also hooked a fish on a newly tied cheech leech, so that gives me a bit more confidence to try the streamer method of fishing. I endured some harsh weather, and I will be more apt to undertake a fishing trip when temperatures are projected to peak in the upper forties. And finally I landed a seventeen inch brown trout, and that fish represents my largest fish so far in the 2016 season. All was not lost despite an abysmal fish landed ratio and the loss of ten flies.