Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: The Preserve in Edwards
Fish Landed: 11
Having fished the Yampa River on three separate trips over the last two weeks of June and through the Fourth of July, I was ready to explore some new flowing water. The next most likely candidate was the Eagle River, a freestone river with its headwaters near Vail, CO. The DWR site indicated that the cubic feet per second were dropping nicely into the 700 – 1000 range. During the early summer of 2014 I experienced some very exciting fishing on the Eagle as the run off subsided yet remained high compared to normal summer levels.
My friend Dave Gaboury called and invited me to join him and Todd Grubin for a day on the Eagle on July 10. I accepted the invitation, but one day was not enough to satisfy my yearning for edge fishing. I made plans to pack my camping gear, drive to the Eagle on Wednesday morning and spend Wednesday and Thursday fishing while I used my campsite as my base of operations. On Friday I planned to join Todd and Dave G. for a day and then return to Denver Friday evening.
Unfortunately when I checked my weather app it showed rain all day Wednesday and throughout the night. I do not mind fishing in the rain, but sleeping in a tent in steady rain or thunderstorm conditions is not one of my favorite activities. I modified my plan to include only one night of camping, Thursday night, and then I called Todd to ask if he was interested in joining me on Thursday. Apparently when Dave G. called Todd to make final arrangements for Friday, Todd informed Dave of my intent to fish on Thursday, so Dave G. called me and graciously invited me to sleep at his Eagle Ranch house on Thursday.
The plan was in place, and I made the early morning drive to The Preserve in Edwards on Thursday where I met Dave G. and Todd. I actually made great time and pulled into the parking lot 30 minutes before our prearranged meeting time of 9:30. Over the past year Todd gained access to the private water below The Preserve, and he requested and received approval to fish there with two friends on July 9 . We left the parking lot and headed directly to the private water. Todd and Dave G. hiked farther down the river behind a gravel quarry, while I began my quest for run off trout in the braids that flowed around two small narrow islands. As we hiked through the tall grass to the river we stirred up dense clouds of hungry mosquitoes, so my first act before fishing was to douse my neck, hands and ears with insect repellent.
The area had indeed received quite a bit of rain on Wednesday which caused the flows to spike from the 750 cfs level back to the 900’s. This made fishing a bit challenging, but I flashed back to fishing at 900 cfs in 2014, and this gave me confidence that I could enjoy some success on Thursday July 9. The sky was overcast most of the day, but no additional rain fell on us.
To begin my quest for Eagle River trout I tied on a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. Because of the high flows, I was tempted to configure a nymphing rig, but the small side channel ahead of me swayed the decision to dry/dropper. For the next two hours I worked the three fly combination through the seams where the side channels joined the main river as well as through the two side braids. I landed three brown trout in the twelve inch range in addition to one small six inch cutthroat trout. This probably represented the first cutthroat that I ever landed from the Eagle River. Two of the landed fish took the hares ear, and the other two snatched the salvation nymph.
Just before lunch I moved above the second island and began to work some very attractive side pockets along the bank. The pool toy was serving simply as an indicator, and I thought I saw a solitary golden stonefly, so I tried a yellow Letort hopper as a stonefly imitation. The dubbed body hopper does not support two beadheads very well, so I kept the salvation and removed the hares ear. This change did not pay off, as the Letort hopper simply provoked refusals and distracted the trout from any interest in the salvation.
After a 45 minute lunch we returned to The Preserve water, and I resumed fishing near my lunchtime quitting point. It was not long before I began to observe caddis tumbling and skating on the surface of the river, and this prompted some sporadic rises. I reacted to these observations by clipping off the hopper and salvation, and I knotted a solitary size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis to my line. This drew interest in the form of refusals, so I made another switch to a slightly larger olive brown caddis with a wing that extended beyond the body of the fly. This fly generated a decent momentary hook up, but then it also was ignored by the surface feeding trout.
By now the hatch intensified, and many small caddis skittered across the surface, and I was frustrated that I was missing out on some fine dry fly action. Perhaps the body color was too dark? I replaced the olive brown caddis with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and this produced the success I was afraid I would miss. Over the remainder of the afternoon I worked my way upstream along the right bank and cast the light gray caddis and landed an additional seven fish. Most the of the fish resulted from spotting rises, but some also reacted to prospecting casts to likely fish holding spots. I was disappointed with the size of the afternoon catch, as I landed one nice thirteen inch fighter, and a twelve inch brown, and the remainder were in the six to seven inch range. I suppose catching fish is better than not catching fish, but I would have liked more size.
The caddis hatch waned by 3PM, so I experimented with a Charlie boy hopper with a bright green caddis pupa and light yellow caddis pupa. This combination did not produce, so I switched the bright green caddis for a beadhead hares ear, and this also failed to interest the resident trout. The wading was very arduous in the afternoon, as I was forced to carefully wade against some stiff current or exit the river and battle through thick brush and tree limbs. When I was catching fish, the trade off was beneficial, but now with the lack of results, I decided to return to the car at 3:15 ahead of our agreed upon 3:30 quitting time.
I am forced to admit that Thursday was a disappointment for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high, and eleven fish landed is certainly a worthwhile accomplishment. The positive experiences on the Yampa River may have spoiled me, and certainly the size of the Eagle River fish paled by comparison to the Yampa trout. Also my positive experience during the receding flows of 2014 provided another unfavorable comparison point to Thursday July 9. At least I had Friday to look forward to before returning to Denver.