Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Wildcat Canyon
Fish Landed: 23
When I spent a weekend at Gregg Sutherland’s cabin, we hiked in to Wildcat Canyon with his golden retriever Angie and along the way Gregg caught a couple grasshoppers, clipped their wings, and tossed them in the river. In both cases we watched as the hopper drifted downstream 8-10 feet and a fish confidently rose and inhaled the hapless creatures. I inspected the body of the hoppers and they were a segmented cream color. I decided I needed to tie some cream body parachute hoppers for my fly collection.
On my last trip to the Big Thompson I had great success with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis and broke my wading stick. I inspected my light gray caddis supply and was surprised to learn I only had a few remaining. Clearly I needed to get busy and tie some more light gray caddis for late season fishing.
The weather forecast was predicting a four or five day stretch of beautiful Indian summer weather for Denver culminating in projected highs in the low 80’s for Saturday. I called Dan early in the week and asked if he’d be interested in a hike into Wildcat Canyon on Saturday. He agreed to join the adventure, and Jane signed up for the hiking aspect as well.
On Thursday evening I sat down at the vice and cranked out four cream body parachute hoppers and on Friday afternoon I wrapped things up early at work and returned home to craft a new wading staff made from a street hockey stick. Next I returned to my fly tying desk and quickly made eight size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. I divided the hoppers and caddis flies between my fly patch and a small fly box for Dan.
Everything was set and Dan arrived on Saturday morning at 7AM, and we packed the car with our fishing gear and lunches and began our drive. When we arrived at the turn off on the dirt road that reaches the Platte River trailhead the temperature was 33 degrees, and it improved to only 35 when we parked and began stuffing our backpacks for the two mile hike to our fishing destination.
We arrived at the river by 10:30AM and set up a base camp at the same location we used last October and when I did the same trip with the Costantini’s in late August. Jane put down her blanket and prepared to read her Kindle while Dan and I pulled on our waders and then hiked down the path a short distance. The air temperature was warming as the sun moved higher in the blue sky and I fished with only a fleece over my fishing shirt. The river was running higher than normal, but still quite clear. Dan waded to the far side and I took the bank along the path.
I tied a cream parachute hopper on Dan’s tippet and I decided to prospect with the light gray caddis. On Dan’s second cast he hooked an 11 inch brown, but it broke off the hopper as he was attempting to net it. He replaced the hopper with his second cream hopper. Nearly simultaneously I hooked a brown on the caddis as it began to drag at the end of a drift. It was a great start to our day, but would it continue? In my case I continued working my way up along the right side of the river with the caddis, but nothing was responding. I wasn’t even observing flashes or refusals to the fly that had been so popular on the Big Thompson.
I decided that I needed something more visible and tied on one of the two cream parahoppers I’d allocated to my fly patch. Again I began prospecting the attractive side pockets, small pools and runs of moderate depth, but once again no trout showed interest in my offering. Meanwhile Dan wasn’t having any success either. When I reached a wide juicy run with moderate current and water depth of three to four feet, and I didn’t get any response from the hopper, I stripped in my line and added a beadhead hares ear. This turned out to be a plus, and I quickly landed two browns on the beadhead hares ear. I called out to Dan and moved on up the river and landed two more browns before lunch. We decided to quit for lunch at around 12:15 and walked back to the base camp and met Jane as she was walking down the path to meet us. Dan told me he experienced refusals to his hopper and then tied on a caddis and had refusals to that as well. When I called out that the BHHE dropper was working, he attempted to add a dropper but wasn’t tying the connecting knot to the bend of the hook properly and spent quite a bit of time trying to solve the bend knot riddle.
After lunch I coached Dan on tying the simple loop knot I use to connect the tippet to the bend of the top fly and then added a beadhead hares ear to a cream body Letort hopper that I pulled out of his fly box. We returned to the place where we’d exited the river for lunch, and Dan actually went back to the hole where he’d experienced the successive refusals and landed a brown on the beadhead hares ear.
Meanwhile I spotted a few BWO’s emerging so I decided to try deep nymphing given the higher flows and sparse emergence. There was a lot of aquatic vegetation floating in the river that had apparently been dislodged by the higher flows. Perhaps this meant that there were scuds available to the fish, so I tied an orange scud as my top fly and added a size 22 RS2 as the trailer and began working the deeper runs with a strike indicator, split shot and this two fly combination. This didn’t produce anything, and I was constantly plucking vegetation and slime from my flies while Dan was catching fish at a fairly frequent pace, so I abandoned the deep strategy and went back to the hopper/dropper technique. It was worth an experiment, but wasn’t the right strategy for October 15.
Instead of using one of my valuable cream body hoppers I settled on a gray body parachute hopper that was pretty badly mangled from previous usage. The hackle was climbing up the wing post causing the wing to tilt forward in the water, but I was more interested in using the top fly as an indicator and liked the visibility of the white wing. I added a beadhead hares ear and then a RS2 and began prospecting. Dan had pretty much caught up to me, and he worked his way upstream along the left bank slightly behind me.
I began to catch fish with increasing frequency, and they were smashing the beadhead hares ear. My first goal was to land eleven trout to reach 500 for the 2011 season, and this milestone fell by the wayside pretty quickly. In fact number 500 came out of the sweet pool next to our base camp. I let out a whoop, but before I could celebrate further a man with his dog appeared, and I didn’t want to brag about my accomplishment so I calmed down my demeanor to greet the stranger. Once they moved on I resumed a small celebration with Jane. I continued upstream and by the end of the day had accumulated 23 trout landed. All except two were brown trout and all except three took the beadhead hares ear. The first fish attacked the caddis and I landed one on the RS2 in the deep pool and one nice brown slurped in the bedraggled gray parachute hopper.
Meanwhile Dan was on fire with his beadhead hares ear. When he reached the high rocks next to the juicy pool next to our base camp he climbed up to a high vantage point and could see five trout swimming in the deep pool in front of him. He cast his hopper/dropper in their midst and watched as a fourteen inch rainbow slowly rose up and slurped the Letort hopper. He was now challenged to lift the behemoth rainbow seven feet above the water to his perch, but he realized this wasn’t a recommended move and somehow scrambled back down the rock to a lower position and landed the biggest fish of the day. Shortly after this catch, he landed a second slightly smaller rainbow from the same pool.
After this success he continued working up along the left bank making nice upstream casts and landing a series of browns that grabbed the trailing hares ear. At the end of the day Dan estimated he’d landed around 12 fish. It was quite a day in Wildcat Canyon. For the first time, I was ready to quit for the day and Dan suggested we each catch one more fish. Usually Dan is ready to quit way before Dad.