Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: The meadow approximately one mile from the North Inlet Trailhead.
Wednesday’s fishing outing began as an effort to catch fish in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it ended up as the pinnacle of my moose viewing experiences. I encourage readers to click on the link above to view the photo album including the videos.
After a challenging day of fishing on Tuesday on the Colorado River, I was humbled and deferred to John for recommendations of a fishing destination on Wednesday. We considered Willow Creek where it runs along CO 125, but John had some prior experience on North Inlet Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park. He described a moderate sized meadow stream that contained brook trout in the 8 – 10 inch range, and during his visit, the fish were rather willing to consume his dry flies. This was all I needed to hear before I jumped on board, and North Inlet Creek became our destination.
All three parking lots at the North Inlet Trailhead were full, when we arrived at 10:00AM, so John parked his pickup truck along the road downhill from the last lot. According to John reaching the meadow area for fishing necessitated a one mile hike through private land on the North Inlet Trail. The temperature climbed into the upper seventies as we prepared to fish, so I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and then changed into my quick dry pants and pulled on my wading socks. I anticipated that it would be a hot day even at the high elevation in RMNP, and I did not relish a one mile hike in heavy waders. Wet wading turned out to be the correct choice, and I was comfortable during my time on the meadow creek.
After we were properly prepared for a day one mile away from the truck, we set out on the North Inlet Trail. Just as John described, after a mile we reached a point where the stream made a ninety degree bend away from the trail, and I could readily see that it flowed through a wide meadow in a languid manner. We made a sharp right turn and began to march through the tall meadow grass, and as we were doing so, John pointed to a deer in the process of crossing the creek. I quickly extracted my camera from its protective case and snapped a few shots of the velvet antlered creature. This was a brief preview of the rest of our day, which included fishing amid two cow moose, a calf and one bull moose.
We began casting our flies at eleven o’clock, and within minutes a pale morning dun hatch commenced. The hatch was rather sparse, but enough emerging adults speckled the surface of the stream to create a number of random rises. I immediately tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line to imitate the mayflies, but my imitation failed to attract any interest. John meanwhile had more luck with his Adams dry fly in a section of slow moving water upstream and around the bend. While this hatch evolved, I spotted a tan colored moose calf in the clearing to my left, and I advanced cautiously, as I anticipated a cow moose to be nearby.
Sure enough when I rounded the bend, a cow moose came into focus, as it browsed along the edge of a tree stand no more than twenty yards to my left. I circled above John, and I observed quite a few decent fish in the clear and deceivingly deep pool. I made some casts with my comparadun, but the fish were once again disinterested in the best case, and in the worst case they scattered from the motion of the line. I decided that a dry/dropper approach in areas with more current might be a preferred method, so I converted to a yellow stimulator with a salvation nymph dropper. I was amazed when a fish moved six inches to the right and nipped the salvation, but my excitement was short lived as it quickly evaded the hook and returned to freedom.
With a bit of action under my belt, I moved on to some faster runs at the head of pools. I surmised that the higher velocity current would prompt fish to react in a more rash manner, and this would translate to some landed fish. My theory proved to be flawed, and as the day continued, I learned that the densest population of fish were concentrated in smooth moderately deep pools, but these fish were extremely skittish and scattered quite easily.
After lunch I migrated upstream for .5 mile, and since the dry/dropper was ineffective, I converted to a single size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Clearly the fish were looking to the surface for meals, and in my experience the size 16 gray caddis is a solid searching pattern. Finally in a faster run in a narrow section of the stream, I spotted a quick slurp among some riffles, and I set the hook and battled a thirteen inch brown trout to my net. John never mentioned the presence of brown trout in North Inlet Creek, so I was surprised by its size and presence.
By 3PM John and I were burned out from the technical fishing in slow moving pools to edgy wild trout, so we returned to the area near the path where our fishing adventure began. Along the way we once again passed the cow moose with her calf nearby, so we cautiously circled to the south and allowed a wide buffer. I managed to reach a section near my beginning point that consisted of a short run below some large rocks, and here an eight inch brook trout smacked the caddis resulting in my second landed fish of the day.
I released the wild brookie and walked to the point where the stream made a ninety degree turn from the path, and here I observed two splashy rises. I paused to make some casts, and as I did so, a hiker approached on the trail and informed me that a moose was just ahead and around the bend. Sure enough a large crowd of hikers gathered along the trail west of my fishing hole, and they watched and photographed a bull moose. My view was blocked by a large shrub, but after ten minutes the antlered beast slowly ambled to a spot directly across from me! This was my closest encounter with a moose in my lifetime, and I abandoned my fishing and the rising trout to take some spectacular close range movies and snapshots of the wild antlered beast.
Eventually the moose crossed the stream fifteen yards above me after pausing to gulp four or five large mouthfuls of water from the creek. I finally retreated to the path and moved downstream to a long smooth pool. Some fish resumed a feeding pattern, and I observed a second wave of pale morning duns, albeit even more sparse than the morning hatch, so I exchanged my caddis for a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I managed to prick two fish in this area, but John broke off his fly and was not in the mood to tie on another, so I called it quits, and we hiked back to the car.
The fishing on Wednesday was quite challenging in slow moving clear water with very wary selective fish. The real highlight was wildlife viewing, as I tallied a marmot, deer, and four moose including the bull that stared at me while standing twenty-five feet away. What a thrill!
Fish Landed: 2