Time: 1:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: Lease water between red rocks canyon and Eagle, CO
Fish Landed: 2
Jane, Beth, Dave G, and I did a walking tour of Eagle, CO and had lunch at the Grand Avenue Grill on Saturday morning. After lunch we returned to the house and prepared to fish. Dave G and I decided to check out the clarity of the water on the lower Eagle River above Eagle, CO. It looked good as we drove along the east side of the river in Eagle, so we decided to give it a chance. We parked at a narrow pullout at one of the access points roughly midway through the state lease.
Near where we began there was a small side channel around 5-8 feet wide on our side of the river. I headed up the small channel while Dave G stayed along the main river. I spotted a deep spot in the channel with an area covered with foam around five feet long and four feet wide. As I watched the foam I could see some movement and then a fin poking above the foam. Next I spotted occasional dimples in the foam, but the foam was so thick that I couldn’t really see what kind of fish it was or what it was eating. The foam looked like half inch thick shaving cream. I was able to see that the fish was facing downstream, but apparently the foam was blocking its vision of me.
I had a yellow Letort hopper and a beadhead hares ear, and began casting into the foam. I could barely see the hopper in the foam. On perhaps the tenth cast I spotted a dimple in the vicinity of where I thought my fly was, and set the hook. Immediately the fish shot upstream a short distance then turned and raced past me, down the channel and into some fast water in the Eagle River main stem. I allowed the fly line to rip off the reel as there was no turning this fish in its current state of rage. I decided I needed to follow this fish to have any chance at it, but as I pivoted to face downstream, my foot slipped and in the instant when I raised my arms to catch my balance, the line popped and the foam fish disappeared.
I was almost shaking after this encounter, and was feeling rather optimistic about the afternoon. I returned to the main river and walked upstream a bit to an area of nice pockets and long slots. Dave was above me at this point. As I fished a particularly nice long slot behind a rock that was four feet deep or so, I began to notice small mayflies emerging. They were small size 16 pale morning duns and as the minutes passed the intensity increased. A decent imitation of PMD nymphs is the pheasant tail nymph, so I tied one on below the hopper. After numerous casts, the hopper went sideways and I set the hook and was attached to a decent rainbow for a split second. I could see the bow turn sideways and slip the hook. Would this fish fall for a fly again? The section looked so attractive that I felt there had to be more fish there so I continued working to the left and above where I’d seen the fish. As I did so, I once again saw the rainbow occasionally move out from its lie to snatch insects. Several times it grabbed a fly near the surface.
Could I tempt the rainbow with a dry? I clipped off both my flies and went to the trouble of tying on a light gray size 16 comparadun that worked well for me on the Colorado River PMD hatch. Sure enough, on around the third drift, the rainbow finned up and sipped the comparadun. The fish shot downstream and below me toward the heavy current, but I applied side pressure and coaxed it back to the soft water below. After several shorter runs, I overcame the rainbow’s resistance and netted a beautiful fat 16 inch fish.
I released the beauty and continued fishing upstream with the comparadun, but when I reached a beautiful deep junction pool at a bend in the river, there didn’t appear to be any more mayflies hatching and casting the size 16 fly in the big water seemed futile. I tied the hopper back on and attached a beadhead pheasant tail. It was now getting late in the afternoon, and Dave G and I wanted to fish some nice pocket water that had yielded many nice fish to us many years ago so we moved quickly to that area.
Dave G took the tail of the pockets where the river fanned out over rocks with water perhaps three feet deep and landed several fish. I worked up along the left side fishing the attractive pockets, slots and seams for a 50 yard stretch. I managed one nice 12 inch rainbow on the beadhead pheasant tail in this area. As I neared the top of the targeted stretch, Dave approached from below, and we found our way out of the lease and walked back down route 6 to the car.