Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: Piney River Trail
It was Jane’s idea to introduce the Manson family to the Piney Lake area ten miles north of Vail, CO. Who was I to talk her out of an expedition that landed me at the trailhead to the Piney River one mile downstream from the lake? The Mansons offered convenient hiking partners for Jane, and while she was occupied entertaining our friends, I could embark on a hike-in fly fishing adventure. I visited Piney River twice in 2017, and each trip provided hours of enjoyment, so I was quite excited about the prospect of casting my line on the small stream again on Tuesday, July 25.
Jane and I downed a quick breakfast at Hornsilver and then made the twenty minute drive to Avon and met the Mansons at their condominium. After some conversation we formed a convoy and made the somewhat rough nine mile drive north on Red Sandstone Road to Piney River Crossing. Jane gathered her gear and supplies for the day and switched to the Manson’s rental SUV, and I pulled on my waders and strung my Orvis Access five weight rod.
Originally I planned to wet wade, but the sky was overcast, the air temperature was a relatively cool sixty degrees, and rain was a likelihood; so I scuttled the wet wading plans. I departed the parking lot and hiked for forty-five minutes and then approached the stream at the top of a meandering meadow section. As indicated by the stream gauge reading near the confluence with the Colorado River, the flows were nearly ideal. The level was high enough to prevent the fish from being overly skittish, yet I could wade comfortably, and I could maneuver through the narrow walled canyon sections. It never rained during my tenure on Piney River, but I wore my raincoat for added warmth for all but the last two hours.
I began the day with a Chernobyl ant and an ultra zug bug, but after fishing through three areas that suggested the presence of fish with no action, I converted to a size 14 gray stimulator. On a previous trip the large foam indicator flies and trailing nymphs seemed to create excessive disturbance upon landing on the water, and I did not wish to make the same mistake on this visit. The gray stimulator became the star fly for the day, but I depleted my inventory by four as a result of shrinkage. Two were left behind in trees, one was retired due to an unraveling hackle, and one was left in the mouth of a trout; as I was unable to dislodge it without harming a pretty cutthroat.
In the first hour within forty yards of the meadow I landed ten fish! Several were some of the nicer brown trout netted during the day, and they measured in the thirteen inch range. It was a very enjoyable outing. Fly choice was a nonissue, as the stimulator produced at a steady rate. I never saw another fisherman, and the solitude was welcome. Amazingly I landed five different species of trout (if one counts brook as a trout and not a char): brown, rainbow, cutbow, cutthroat, and brook (although barely six inches). I moved quickly and avoided bogging down in any single spot. The trout typically smacked the stimulator on the first or second cast. I adopted the philosophy that failure to strike in two casts meant they were spooked or aware of my presence.
The colors of the wild fish were amazing particularly the bright orange slash on the jaws of the cutbows and cutthroats. After lunch the catch rate slowed a bit as the gradient of the stream increased, thus offering fewer above average holding spots. At one point after losing a third gray stimulator, I tested a size 12 medium olive version, and this accounted for a couple fish, but then it seemed to fall out of favor. For the final thirty minutes I cast a size fourteen stimulator with a beige/rust body, and this coaxed three to the net, but again its effectiveness seemed diminished compared to the gray body version.
The drive on a rough dirt road was a hassle, and the hike was tiring, but I had another great time on the Piney River. I already chose the stretch that I expect to explore on my next visit.
Fish Landed: 30