Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Between Avon and Edwards.
True to character I sought an opportunity to return to the Eagle River after a successful late season adventure on October 25, 2017. The weather forecast for Tuesday, November 1 indicated a high temperature in the low seventies in Denver, and this translated to a high in the upper fifties in Avon, CO near my intended destination. I loaded the car with my gear and contacted my friend Todd, who lives in Arrowhead, and I anxiously anticipated a late season foray into the Rocky Mountains. Todd agreed to meet me, although he had a commitment at ten o’clock and suggested that he would find me later.
As I completed some last minute preparations on Tuesday morning, Jane perused the Denver Post, and she announced that there was a high wind advisory on interstate 70. I quickly followed up on this unwelcome piece of news, and sure enough wind velocities of 19 MPH were forecast for Avon. I decided to roll the dice and persisted with my plans.
When I approached the long ascent west of Denver on interstate 70, I was greeted with digital signs announcing high wind restrictions on high profile vehicles, and quite a few tractors and trailers were lined up at the Morrison exit as well as the Hidden Valley exit before Idaho Springs. When I reached Georgetown, I scanned ahead, and I was alerted by flashing police lights. Just prior to the exit ramp to Georgetown a large tractor/trailer rig was situated on its side, as it was apparently the unfortunate victim of high winds, and this unfortunate scene served as a warning to the other impatient high profile vehicles in the area.
I pressed on and arrived at my destination just before 10AM, and I borrowed a page from Todd and rigged two rods for my quest for Eagle River trout. During our visit the previous week we stayed in a relatively tight area, so I was reassured that it would not be a hindrance to carry two rods; and I liked the flexibility of being able to quickly switch from a nymph approach to dry flies, should a hatch develop similar to the previous Wednesday.
The temperature in Avon at 10AM was in the middle forties, and the wind made its presence felt with periodic strong gusts, and consequently I bundled up with a layer of fleece and an outer coat of light down. I tugged my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps on my head and wore two layers of long underwear and socks under my waders. To guard against frozen toes, I added toe warmers to my ensemble.
My Sage One five weight was rigged with the deep nymphing system that Taylor Edrington taught me. A short section of 0X ran from the fly line loop to a Thingamabobber, and a five foot section of level 5X was knotted to the indicator as well. The terminal end of the 5X featured a split shot, ultra zug bug, and RS2, and I began chucking this assemblage into the deep run at the upper section of a long attractive pool. I spent an hour from 11AM until noon prospecting the upper and middle section of the area, which I knew contained plenty of trout, but none were interested in my flies. My hands grew chilled from the cold temperatures and the wind, so I decided to pause for lunch and found a large boulder near the midsection and downed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt.
Just as I finished my snack, Todd appeared on the path, and he immediately jumped into the upper section with his nymph rod. I lingered a bit longer to bask in the sun and eliminate my chill, and then I decided to explore a wide riffle just below the jumble of angled rocks that formed the downstream border of the pool. I switched my flies to a copper john and RS2, and I began lobbing casts to the three foot deep area above me. I covered the section with ten casts, and then before departing, I shot a cast to the deep portion just under the rocks near the right bank. The indicator drifted five feet, and I raised the rod to pick up the line, when I felt significant weight. I reacted with an immediate hook set, and a bullet shot across the riffles toward the center of the river and then streaked downstream.
After some stiff resistance I was able to guide a fifteen inch rainbow trout with a copper john in its lip into my net. Imagine my excitement and surprise after over an hour of futile casting with the nymph set up! After I released the rainbow, I lobbed another cast to the same area, and I was very surprised, when I once again connected with a throbbing resistance. In this instance, however, the stream resident was able to free itself from my hook and escape.
Bursting with new optimism I circled around Todd and moved to some deep pockets above the pool he occupied. I covered the area thoroughly and managed to foul hook a small rainbow, before I returned. I asked Todd for a report, and he offered that he landed thirteen and nine inch rainbows, and he observed some rising fish in the slack water next to the bank across from his position.
I decided to warm up a bit, and then I grabbed my Sage four weight and waded to a position at the bottom of the pool. As I looked on, I witnessed several rises in water with a slight swirling surface. My line featured a size 24 CDC olive, so I began to cast it upstream to the area of activity, but these efforts were ignored. The wind continued to blast, but fortunately it was blowing from the west and provided a tailwind to my casts. I swapped the tiny olive for a size 18 black parachute ant, and I spent twenty minutes drifting the terrestrial through the scene of rising fish, but except for one heart stopping swirling refusal, the ant was unproductive.
The rising activity seemed to come in waves probably related to the emergence of tiny mayflies. During the next pause in feeding activity, I waded back to the shore and warmed my feet and body. When I returned, I reverted to a larger CDC BWO, and after a heavy dose of futile casting, I managed to tempt a twelve inch brown trout to attack my fly, as I gave it a short strip before lifting to make another cast. As was the case on Thursday, October 26 on the Frying Pan River, the trout seemed to be feeding on subsurface emergers, and they were not focused on drifting adults.
I pondered this theory and decided to try a different approach. I knotted a juju baetis to my line, and below that I added a Craven soft hackle emerger. I executed across and downstream drifts, swings and strips in the manner of accomplished wet fly experts, but my efforts were once again thwarted by the Eagle River residents. I never felt a tug nor witnessed a bulge to my unweighted flies, as they knifed through the water just below the surface.
Again I returned to the bank and pondered my options. Todd enjoyed one hook up with a beetle, so I copied his tactic and tied a Jake’s gulp beetle size 12 to my line, and then I supplemented it with a Craven soft hackle emerger on an eighteen inch dropper. I dabbed some floatant on the body of the emerger, and as a test I flicked the two flies into a slow moving section across from where I was standing, and an eleven inch rainbow darted to the surface and confidently inhaled the trailing fly. Perhaps I was on to something. I returned to my position at the tail of the pool and once again began making medium range upstream presentations to the cluster of feeding fish. It required a significant number of unproductive drifts, but eventually I induced a fourteen inch rainbow to snatch the trailing emerger, and the fish count mounted to four.
Two takes on the emerger elevated my hopes, but another thirty minutes of fruitless casting cured me of optimism, and I shuffled back to the bank. Todd by now surrendered to the wind and picky fish, and I joined him, as we grabbed our two rods and hiked back to our cars. I overcame tough conditions on Tuesday to land four trout including two very nice rainbows of fifteen and fourteen inches. The Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film accounted for half the fish, and I vowed to tie some size 22’s before next season to test during a blue winged olive emergence during windy conditions.
Fish Landed: 4