Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM
Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle, CO
A successful day of fishing on the Eagle River on Monday, and an afternoon guiding my brother-in-law, niece and nephew on Wednesday, made me anxious for a return outing on Thursday. Jane and I stayed at our sister and brother-in-law’s time share in Bachelor Gulch on Wednesday night, so the Eagle River was only a few miles away from our doorstep. I checked the flows, and they remained relatively stable in the 390 CFS range down moderately from the 450 CFS level experienced on Monday.
I served as a fourth for some doubles tennis in the morning, and after one closely contested set I grabbed my lunch snack and headed to the river. I arrived along the edge of the river by 11:45 and downed a granola bar, a handful of carrots, and a yogurt; before I began my quest for Eagle River trout. I chose my Sage One five weight in anticipation of battling some hard fighting fish.
As I surveyed the river after lunch, I observed quite a few golden stoneflies and yellow sallies, and this prompted me to prospect the nice pockets along the edge with a size 14 yellow stimulator. I was certain that the large heavily hackled dry fly would draw the interest of the resident cold water inhabitants, but that was not the case. I fished for twenty minutes without a refusal or look, so I changed my strategy and knotted a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph to my line. Initially I was very confident that these mainstay offerings would reverse my fortunes, but after another forty minutes of concentrated fishing through many attractive locations, I began to doubt my approach.
Finally at one o’clock the fat Albert dipped, as it floated along a deep current seam, and I reacted with a swift hook set and felt significant throbbing weight on the end of my line. The angry brown trout deployed every escape tactic imaginable, but eventually I scooped it with my net and admired my first catch of the day. The wild fish before me was very chunky, and I estimated that it measured fifteen inches. I slowly revived the valiant fighter and watched it swim gracefully back toward its river home.
The dense hatch of yellow sallies and pale morning duns ended by 12:30, and surface feeding was absent, so I persisted with the dry/dropper method. I surmised that the high temperatures on Thursday advanced the hatches to the late morning time period, and my later than normal start caused me to miss the prime hatch time.
Between 1:00PM and 3:00PM I added six additional trout to my count. Three of the six were relatively small, but the other three were very robust rainbow trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch size range. One of these hot catches was also disproportionately wide and heavy for its length, and it demonstrated excessive resistance to my efforts to confine it to my net.
The first iron sally that occupied a position on my line was a size fourteen, and it failed to generate interest. Only after I exchanged it for my normal size 12 2XL did I begin to experience success. In fact all but one of the landed trout chowed down on the iron sally. The lower velocity of the river enabled me to explore more deep pockets and runs toward the middle of the river, and the extra wading over slippery round boulders paid dividends with excellent results in the 1PM to 3PM time period. All the fish emerged from large moderate depth pockets and increasingly from the deep seams that bordered faster currents.
At 2:30 I approached a series of nice deep runs along the left bank. Each was characterized by a set of large boulders that served as current breaks with a forty foot long and twenty foot wide run and pool downstream. As I began prospecting with my dry/dropper configuration, I spotted a pair of rises in the lower pool, and eventually a third surface feeder joined the party. My nymphs were soundly ignored, so I converted to a single dry fly to finish my day.
First I presented a tiny size 18 caddis with a tan body, and this imitation provoked a close inspection and subsequent rejection. Next I tested a size 16 deer hair caddis with a light gray body. Historically this pattern served as a solid all around caddis generalist, but these Eagle River trout were not impressed. Perhaps the trout continued to concentrate on straggling yellow Sallies? I revived the size 14 yellow stimulator, but once again it failed to attract actively feeding trout. In a last ditch effort to dupe one of the brown trout in front of me, I switched to a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive-brown body, but again the trout indicated that they were looking for a triggering characteristic that my flies lacked. While this scene was unfolding, quite a few caddis fluttered down from the bank, and they dapped and frolicked constantly on the surface of the river. I was sure that the food of choice was caddis, but I never succeeded in corroborating my hunch.
I finally conceded to the selective trout and progressed upstream to the large ditch that served as my access and exit avenue. Along the way I made some additional blind casts to some very attractive deep runs and moderate riffles, but I never spotted additional rising trout. I departed from the river at 3PM, as I committed to that time with Jane.
Thursday was another fun day on the Eagle River, although I was disappointed to miss the more intense emergence event, that I presumed occurred in the late morning. Another possible explanation for the smaller than expected hatch was an upstream migration of the epicenter of the hatch, but I will never know the answer with certainty. Seven fish in three hours does not constitute a blistering pace; however, four of the landed fish were in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and they presented a significant challenge to land. I fear that the days of prime fishing on the Eagle River are numbered, and the fly shops in the area are already refraining voluntarily from fishing during the warm afternoon hours.
Fish Landed: 7