Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM
Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle
Although Monday’s results on the Yampa River were decent by most standards, I was disappointed, since I compared the size and catch rate to spectacular fly fishing at similar flows from 2015 through 2017. On Tuesday I envisioned another day comparable to Monday, if I returned to the Yampa, so I considered alternatives. Reports on the Arkansas River were encouraging with flows already beneath 1,000 CFS, but my map application suggested the choice demanded a three hour and thirty minute drive. Another option I contemplated was the Eagle River. The last time I checked, the flows were in the 1100 CFS range, but I speculated that they declined to below 1,000 by Tuesday.
I stopped at a dirt pullout prior to turning on to CO 131 in order to check the flows and fishing reports for the Eagle River. This was the first location, where I received a decent cell phone signal. I quickly learned that the flows on the Eagle in Avon were in the 800 CFS range, however, the fishing report on Vail Valley Anglers was not updated since June 6. I decided to sample the Eagle, since it was at levels comparable to early July in previous years, and prior year trips translated to fantastic fly fishing. I turned left on CO 131 and made the 1.5 hour drive to the section of the Eagle River between Wolcott and Eagle, CO.
I arrived at 9:30AM, and by the time I pulled on my waders and rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked to the river’s edge, it was 10AM. I knotted a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a 20 incher and a yellow sally, and I began prospecting all the likely slower moving areas along the bank. The flows were in the 1,000 CFS range as I expected, and the water was crystal clear and cold. The weather on Tuesday yielded blue skies and sunshine, and the high temperature spiked in the low eighties. It was a gorgeous day for fishermen, but not as perfect for fish.
I fished along the left (northern bank) between 10:00AM and 2:30PM and managed to land six trout. Four of the six were quite small and barely extended beyond my six inch minimum. Another landed fish was a twelve inch brown trout, and the prize on Tuesday extended to fourteen inches. If I were offered a replay, I would choose to return to the Yampa. I observed far more insect activity in Steamboat Springs, than I encountered on the Eagle River. Pale morning duns, yellow sallies and blue winged olives were present on the Yampa River; whereas, only small blue winged olives made an appearance on the Eagle.
I cycled through a series of flies in an effort to discover a producer. On top I utilized a yellow fat Albert and a size 8 Chernobyl ant, and both were effective indicators, but neither attracted the interest of the Eagle River trout. The top nymph position was occupied primarily by the 20 incher and iron sally with a brief appearance of a hares ear nymph. The iron sally, salvation nymph, emerald caddis pupa, soft hackle emerger, and ultra zug bug spent time on the point. The iron sally and salvation nymph accounted for the small fish, and the soft hackle emerger produced the fourteen inch reward for my persistence.
Between 12:30PM and 2:00PM a light emergence of size 20 blue winged olives commenced. I was skeptical that a tiny olive imitation would attract the attention of the Eagle River trout in the heavy run off currents, so I stuck with other larger nymphs during the early phase of the hatch. Clearly the large nymph strategy was not a roaring success, so I bowed to the match the hatch conventional wisdom and placed a soft hackle emerger on the point. I was stunned to learn that the Eagle River trout responded to the small size 20 wet fly, and I landed three trout on the sparkling emerger pattern. In addition I experienced three momentary connections. This period was by no means torrid action, and the hook ups required many repeated drifts in prime areas, but the results far exceeded the production in the previous three hours.
A narrow band of slow moving water served as the stage for the highlight of my day. I tossed the dry/dropper rig upstream and allowed it to drift back toward me, as I raised my rod to pick up slack. The flies were no more than six feet from the bank, and they tumbled along a steady current seam. Once they passed my position, I lowered the rod and allowed the fat Albert to continue below me for twenty feet. At that point the slow water fanned out a bit just above some dead branches, so I began to swing the flies across to avoid a snag and in preparation to make another cast. Just as I began to lift the flies, the fourteen inch brown snatched the soft hackle emerger, and in this instance I overcame its resistance and led it into my net.
In addition to the long distance releases during the sparse blue winged olive hatch, I also notched three or four during the period from ten o’clock until one o’clock. Several felt like decent trout perhaps in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. Aside from failing to land the fish, I was also upset with my inability to determine which of the nymphs generated the interest of the Eagle River trout.
Six fish over five hours of fishing was undoubtedly a disappointment, although double digits were easily attainable had I converted a higher and more normal percentage of hook ups. On a positive note I had the river to myself, and I gained knowledge of the conditions on another freestone river in Colorado in the 2018 post-runoff time frame. Flows are two to three weeks ahead of normal on the Yampa and Eagle Rivers in 2018. During previous years the declining flows and clear water in the 1,000 CFS range overlapped with the end of June and early July, and this time frame coincided with strong pale morning dun, golden stonefly, yellow sally, caddis and blue winged olive hatches. I attributed my success to hungry fish pushed into the slow water along the banks, but in reality the presence of strong hatches was a significant contributor to the sizzling action in prior years.
Fish Landed: 6