Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Eagle Lease between Eagle and Wolcott and then the Edwards Rest Area
After a two week period of hot weather with highs in the upper 80’s and low to mid 90’s, some cooler weather moved through Colorado. I anxiously monitored the stream flows as I attempted to visit Colorado freestone rivers during the window of opportunity when the flows are dropping and the clarity is decent; however, the fish are forced to dwell along the edges where they can find relief from the continued strong river velocity. I enjoyed some hot fishing on the Yampa River during these exact conditions, and now I had my eye on the Eagle River and the Arkansas River. Each were racing toward my targeted levels, and I was fearful that I would miss out.
I generally avoid fishing on weekends since my retirement status enables me to fish during weekdays when crowds are down and traffic is light. Jane and I accepted an invitation to stay with our friends the Supples in Steamboat Springs over the Fourth of July weekend, so I suggested that we drive separately on Saturday, and this allowed me to travel by way of Wolcott, CO and the Eagle River. I violated my desire to avoid weekends in an effort to capture the magic of edge fishing the Eagle River.
The cool weather was accompanied by moisture, and I noted that the Eagle River flows actually leveled out and increased a bit on Thursday and Friday. The monitor in Avon registered nearly 1200 cfs while the station farther downstream near Milk Creek read 1600 cfs. In previous years I enjoyed success when the Avon gauge showed readings in the 900 cfs range. Since I was not sure when another opportunity would become available to fish the Eagle River, I gambled that conditions would improve. The fly shop reports indicated that caddis and pale morning duns were hatching and that edge fishing was prime.
Unfortunately as I departed on Saturday morning, the skies opened and rain descended on my car as I drove west from Denver. The periods of rain continued off and on for my entire trip, and I was very concerned that the river below Milk Creek would be quite murky. This lower portion is my favorite stretch early in the season, and in past years I landed many above average rainbows and browns while edge fishing at 900 cfs. Amazingly as I drove route 6 along the river beyond the confluence with Milk Creek, I observed nearly clear water conditions.
I found a parking space near the western edge of the last lease section before the town of Eagle, and I pulled on my new Hodgman 5H waders along with my New Zealand hat and rain coat. The weather conditions presented a stiff test to my waders and rain protection, and I am happy to report that I remained dry despite several periods of drenching downpours. The air temperature was in the low 60’s, so I added a fleece layer under my raincoat for the morning session. I strung my Scott six weight and climbed the metal stairs over the fence and descended to the edge of the river anxiously anticipating a day of edge fishing action.
The flows were indeed higher than that which I experienced in previous years, and the conditions severely limited the number of locations where fish could hold to avoid expending excessive energy. I began with a fat Albert, bright green caddis pupa, and a salvation nymph. I managed one momentary hook up and a refusal to the fat Albert between 11 and 1:30, but that was the extent of my success. In one particularly attractive segment of water, I switched to a deep nymphing approach, but this change rendered no impact on my fishing fortunes. I switched flies often and cycled through a Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug, hares ear, iron Sally and a flesh colored San Juan worm. None of these normally productive flies pried open the locked jaws of the Eagle River trout.
At 1:30 I decided to move to the upper Eagle River at the Edwards Rest Area. This section of the river was above several tributaries and therefore carried a lower volume of water. When I arrived I sat on the curb and ate my small lunch, as luckily it was one of the periods between rain. After lunch I hiked down the path from the parking lot to the river, and then I turned right and reached the end of the path, where I cut to the left and approached the river. This portion of the Eagle River was not as high as the lower area, yet it was rushing by at a higher flow than I had ever witnessed previously.
I pondered my options and decided to go “old school” and tied on a yellow Letort hopper with a beadhead hares ear nymph. This combination of flies was my favorite offering when I first began deploying the dry/dropper with excellent success. The water that was available to fish effectively was a narrow strand right along the bank, and I began tossing the two fly combination to this area wherever I could reach it. Finally after a couple fishless hours on the Eagle River, I managed to land a seven inch brown trout that snatched the trailing beadhead hares ear. I was never so happy to see such a small fish in my net.
I persisted and worked my way upstream with great difficulty, as there were many places where the swift nature of the current along the bank made it impossible to wade. In these situations I climbed the bank and struggled through thick trees and brush in order to re-enter the river. Through hard work I managed to land two more brown trout before I quit at 3PM. Each fish that I landed was a bit larger than the previous, with the third brown reaching twelve inches. Just before I quite I experienced a momentary hook up with a yellow bellied brown trout that smacked the Letort hopper. Two of the landed fish fell for the hares ear, and one rose to gobble the hopper.
Saturday was tough fishing. I battled swift currents and adverse wading conditions to land three relatively small trout. My new waders survived a severe test, and I remained mostly dry despite several periods of heavy rainfall. I believe the prime window for edge fishing on the Eagle River lies in the future. Despite fly shop reports to the contrary, insect hatches were absent from the Eagle River on Saturday July 2, and this added to the challenging conditions.
Fish Landed: 3