Time: 12:15PM – 3:15PM
Location: Parvin Lake State Wildlife Area along the dam area
Fish Landed: 3, Dan 1
Heavy rains during May along with high temperatures in the 80’s converted Colorado rivers and streams into whitewater adventure parks. My son Dan returned from a backpacking trip to the San Juan national forest, and he was interested in spending a day fishing, but the question of where gnawed at my brain. I had a bit of success in Cheesman Canyon on May 26, and the flows there continued to hover in the 1100 cfs range, but the drive and hike to the South Platte was probably a greater commitment than Dan desired.
I began scanning the department of water resources flow data and actually found four drainages that represented viable options. The Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir was running at 145cfs and Bear River southwest of Yampa, CO was registering 65 cfs. These were both manageable, but they represented drives in excess of three hours. The Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir in the southwest corner of Colorado was running at 58 cfs. This actually represents very low conditions, and driving to Durango and beyond is an even greater time commitment. The last viable river opportunity was the Taylor River below Taylor Reservoir, and this fine fishery was listed at 455 cfs, I have fished at this level before, and it is doable, but even the Taylor requires a four hour drive.
We decided to abandon our efforts to find a stream during peak run off season, so instead we studied the map for a lake. The lake needed to be ice free yet cold enough to maintain a trout population, as we preferred coldwater fish over warmwater species. We identified several lakes in the Loveland and Ft. Collins area of the state and then quickly settled on Parvin Lake in the Red Feather Lakes area after soliciting some input from an Instagram acquaintance.
Tuesday morning we packed the Santa Fe with the critical fly fishing gear and made the two hour drive to Parvin Lake. The weather was quite nice with mostly blue skies, and high temperatures at Parvin Lake reached the high seventies and low eighties. Dan forgot to purchase a fishing license, but fortunately there was a sign at the check in cabin that provided a number to call to purchase a license over the phone. Dan took advantage and bought a one day license for $9.00. Meanwhile I began to chat with Seth, another fisherman who returned to his car after fishing during the morning. Seth suggested some places to fish, and he mentioned that there were several rising feeders.
We decided to eat our lunches at the car before hiking to the lake, and by 12:15 we were on our way. We signed the fishing log at the cabin and wrote down the time we entered. A two lane path led to a fishing research area, and we made a left turn at the cluster of buildings and followed the shoreline for .3 miles until we reached an earthen embankment that served as a dam. Here we stopped and prepared to fish. Dan tied on a parachute hopper, and I elected to begin with a peacock stimulator. We both spotted some sporadic rises and tossed out our dry flies to the vicinity of the observed fish.
It only took fifteen minutes before Dan’s rod displayed a sharp bend, and he expertly played a thirteen inch rainbow to his net. This quick action gave both of us a boost of optimism at the start of our exploratory lake fishing adventure.
I turned my attention back to the area where I was stationed and noticed that several rises followed each occurrence of increased wind. This typically suggests that terrestrials splashed into the lake, so I added a dropper to my stimulator and tied on a black fur ant. I was now covering two possible food sources on Parvin Lake. As I was changing my line configuration, I observed two rises within a couple feet of the bank to my right, so I tossed a cast to that area. On the third cast I was shocked to see a fish emerge from the lake to engulf the stimulator, but I retained enough presence to set the hook and land a ten inch brown trout. I was on the scoreboard with my first lake fish of the year, and a skunking was in my rear view mirror.
The cycle of wind, riffled surface and a few rises continued for the next hour, but I was unable to entice any additional movement to my two fly combination. Dan was experiencing a similar lack of success, although he was progressing through a series of fly changes. From my position I could see a small point to the south and then another small indentation in the shoreline, so I decided to explore new water. When I circled around the point I encountered the outlet of the lake, but fortunately the water was low enough that I could wade to the other side.
I continued fishing the stimulator and ant in the smooth water on the south side of the outlet with no success, and then as I returned to the accelerating flow above the outlet, I spotted a subtle surface rise. I began drifting my flies in the moving current and on the tenth pass, a small six inch brown trout dashed to the surface and nabbed the stimulator. I was happy to land a second fish, but the size was lacking.
Again I moved on, and when I rounded the point, I found Dan in the southern end of the first small inlet that we fished. Since the dry fly fishing was quite slow, I decided to experiment with a streamer. I sat down on a rock and swapped my floating line for a sinking line, and then I tied on a peanut envy. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed with the floating line, as the the lake was relatively shallow, and the fast sinking line probably caused my streamer to sink too fast and too deep. I worked out some nice casts from the side of the point, but the fish did not appear to envy the peanut envy, so I exchanged it for a damsel wiggle nymph.
I tried different retrieves with the damsel nymph, but again the fish were close mouthed. In one last ditch effort to induce some streamer action, I knotted a Cathy’s super bugger to my line and then added a trailing bright green caddis pupa. Perhaps the bugger would attract fish, and then they would react to the smaller caddis. These were all great strategies, but the fish did not agree.
I returned with the bugger and caddis combination to the area where I began fishing after lunch. At least I knew there were fish in this area, but the streamer approach did not succeed. The wind riffled the surface, and a few random rises followed within casting distance, so I once again swapped the spool on my reel, and this time I tied a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis to my line. I applied some floatant and flicked a cast to my right in the vicinity of one of the earlier rises. On the fifth such cast a mouth suddenly appeared and engulfed my small offering. I set the hook, and a silver missile streaked across the lake from right to left. I applied some side pressure and turned it back toward the bank, and after several more brief runs, I slipped the net under a chunky thirteen inch rainbow.
I was encouraged by this surface success, but the number of rising fish really dwindled and the air temperature rose, so after another twenty minutes of fruitless casting we decided to call it quits. Dan and I hiked back to the parking lot and stashed our gear and made the drive back to Denver. Along the way we detoured to the O’Dell Brewing Company tap room in Ft. Collins where I quaffed a tasty 90 Shilling. It was fun to explore a new area, and I enjoyed the company of my son while catching a few fish while the rivers and streams raged unrelentingly elsewhere in the state of Colorado.