Time: 10:00AM – 1:00PM
Location: Edwards Rest Area
Fish Landed: 10
Beth and Dave Gaboury invited us to join them at their house in Eagle, CO for the Fourth of July weekend so I anxiously tracked the flows on the Eagle River in the week and days leading up to the Fourth. Everything appeared to be indicating ideal timing as the flows dropped from 600 cfs to 400 cfs in the days just prior to our visit. Historically I have found that there is a window of time on the Eagle when fishing can be absolutely fabulous with chunky browns gobbling dropper nymphs in the deep pockets or even smashing hoppers or green drakes or caddis or pale morning duns on the surface. The trick is timing as the flows can drop rapidly through the prime zone, and when the water level gets into the 200’s the water temperature rises quickly and the fish stop feeding, or perhaps convert to night time feeders.
Jane and I packed up the Santa Fe on Thursday morning and departed by 9:30AM. I forgot about the construction at the small tunnel just before Idaho Springs, or I probably would have added more urgency to my packing. Fortunately the back up wasn’t too bad and we arrived in Eagle just past noon. Dave G. greeted us as we jumped out of the car still attired in his fishing waders. Apparently he had a fun morning on Brush Creek before our arrival. Since I was planning to fish Friday and Saturday and had just spent Tuesday and Wednesday on the water, I elected to chat and socialize on the Fourth of July. We had a great cookout for dinner and then moved our folding chairs to the alley behind the house and watched an entertaining fireworks display put on by the town of Eagle.
Dave and I made our fishing plans for the next two days to include a session on the Eagle River from 10AM until 2PM and then early evening action on lower Brush Creek above the confluence with the Eagle River on Friday. Dave G. planned to call the owners of the private water and reserve some time to fish Brush Creek there on Saturday. We also discussed making the drive to Sylvan Lake State Park and fishing the East Fork of Brush Creek while Jane and Beth hiked around Sylvan Lake.
When I awoke on Friday morning I discovered that it was overcast and raining. We prepared a quick breakfast and loaded Dave’s 4 Runner with our fishing gear and set off for Edwards and the Eagle River. The girls agreed to meet us at 2:30PM at a deli in Edwards where we would buy lunch and then move on to the Crazy Mountain brew pub. As we drove east on interstate 70 gray clouds continued to obscure the sun, yet the air temperature was quite comfortable. I was getting quite excited about the prospects for some good fishing. Dave G. parked the 4 Runner along route 6 just east of the Edwards rest area, and then we hiked back through the condominiums to the pedestrian bridge. I suggested that Dave G. fish the right bank above the pedestrian bridge as I experienced great success there in previous years. I warned that it is difficult fishing and required backhand casts and climbing over and around a lot of rocks and logs since there is a steep bank right next to the river. Dave G. and I agreed to rendezvous at 11:30AM to check our satisfaction with the fishing and compare notes on successful flies.
Meanwhile I continued across the foot bridge and then turned and advanced up along the left side of the river opposite Dave G. I tied on a Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph and began prospecting the more attractive pockets, but no action was occuring so I switched the salvation for a beadhead hares ear. The sky continued to be quite overcast as I worked over only the prime spots very quickly and rounded the bend and proceeded to the nice run below the small island. In the run where the currents of the river merged downstream from the island I picked up a small brown on the hares ear. Roughly 30 minutes had now passed and I began to notice some very small cream colored mayflies, so I added a RS2 as a third fly beneath the hares ear. I was now poised to fish up the smaller left channel next to the island where historically I’ve landed some very nice trout.
The first sweet spot didn’t produce and in the next nice deeper section I could spot a fish that wiggled its fin and looked at the Chernobyl, but no take was forthcoming. I made quite a few casts and added some lift in an effort to provoke a take, but it was all to no avail. I decided to concede and shot a cast to the very top of this section where some faster water curled into the deeper run and the Chernobyl paused and I set the hook and eventually landed a fine 14 inch brown. When I released the fish I discovered that it had the diminutive RS2 in its lip.
I continued fishing up the left channel through a couple more nice spots that historically produced fish, but Friday was not going to be one of those days. At the top of the island I moved along the left bank and continued prospecting with the Chernobyl, BHHE, and RS2. After covering 10-15 yards I came to a nice spot where two parallel four foot deep runs were ahead of me. I cast to the run that was closer to the middle of the river and toward the tail the Chernobyl dipped and I set the hook and played a fat feisty 15 inch brown trout to my net. This fish had also fallen for the RS2 so I was feeling pretty good about the effectiveness of the small gray fly in the midst of the mayfly hatch. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was 11:22 so I hustled back down past the island to the bend and discovered Dave G. across from me. He raised one finger, and I could see some building frustration in his demeanor. I asked if he’d seen the small mayflies and suggested he give an RS2 a try. He mentioned caddis, and in fact as I looked around me, there were quite a few caddis buzzing around and dapping the water. We agreed to once again meet in another hour to recheck status.
As I returned toward the island I decided to try the nice deep run on the left side just around the large 90 degree bend since I’d now discovered that the RS2 was being recognized as food. It was quite overcast and there were caddis everywhere and small cream colored mayflies rode the surface film and popped into the air in dense numbers. The river level and the cloud cover and the insect activity were all converging into prime fishing conditions. The deep run did not produce so I exited the river and circled back to the merged currents just below the island. I decided to give this section another try but from a different angle, so I waded across the current much further down and then cast to the top of the angled riffles and let my flies drift across and then down the larger current seam. In short order this produced two small rainbows and a surprising nine inch brook trout on the RS2.
With the density of emerging mayflies and no surface activity I decided to try a Craven soft hackle emerger instead of the RS2 which is more of a nymph that is active prior to emergence. Emergence was clearly already in progress. I moved to the right side of the island, a stretch of water I rarely explore and began prospecting near the bottom. In a short amount of time I hooked a fish at the bottom of the island near the bank, but it escaped before I could net it. I was still seeing a large quantity of caddis so I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa, but kept the Craven soft hackle emerger. In a very small nondescript pocket at the very tip of the island the Chernobyl suddenly stopped and I set the hook and entered a battle with a 15 inch brown. After a brief fight I worked the fish upstream and applied side pressure and netted the fine specimen. It was very gratifying to be rewarded for prospecting a marginal spot and for switching to an emerald caddis.
Once I reached the top of the island I returned to the left bank of the river and landed another twelve inch brown on the emerger. By now it was approaching 12:30 so I once again hustled back to meet Dave G. We conversed across the river and Dave G. indicated there was no improvement in his success, so I made the long horseshoe shaped walk back to the pedestrian bridge and then back through the condos and up along route 6 to the point where Dave G. was now fishing. Dave G. indicated he was demoralized and I tried to talk him out of his funk, but he was beyond recovering any optimism for fishing the Eagle River so he returned to the car. I dropped down to the water and fished for another 30 minutes up along the right bank paralleling the highway. By now there were also some larger mayflies emerging and I guessed these were pale morning duns, so I exchanged the emerald caddis pupa for a beadhead pheasant tail. In a nice large run and pocket next to the bank I landed a twelve inch brown on the emerger and then began working a nice slot right next to the bank. On a fourth or fifth drift within inches of the grassy bank a fish darted out and grabbed one of the nymphs. Judging from the momentary weight on my rod, I’m guessing it was a decent fish, but it quickly released itself and I moved up the river a bit.
Some difficult wading over slippery rocks and through some strong current delivered me to another nice stretch of water, and it was the last accessible location before a spot where a strong current ran along the bank with thick overhanging branches and vegetation that would force an exit to continue. In this area I experienced a nice swirl and another split second hook up, but that was it, and I waded back down the river along the bank and returned to the car where Dave G. was embarking on a brief nap. We quickly called the girls and changed our plans to meet in Eagle at the Grand Avenue Grill for lunch. Dave G. needed some time to get over his frustration, and a nice lunch and a later date with Brush Creek was just what the doctor ordered.