Time: 9:30AM – 2:30PM
Location: Below Sheriff Reservoir
After two successive days fishing the same section of the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs I was ready for a change. When I planned my camping and fishing trip to Steamboat Springs, I was convinced that the flows on either the Arkansas River or Eagle River would drop to the top of my ideal edge-fishing range. They did not. I checked the flows from my phone on Tuesday afternoon, while I had a strong signal, and the Eagle was in the 1600 CFS range, and the Arkansas River at Salida was hovering around 2500 CFS. The Arkansas was actually hgher than when I reviewed the flows prior to departing on my trip on Monday. I was looking for 1200 for the Eagle and 1500 for the Arkansas.
When Jane and I returned from our trip to the Flattops on July 3, we utilized the Flattops Trail Scenic Byway, and I stopped to check out Trout Creek, where it flows underneath the gravel road. It was clear but similar to a whitewater log flume ride at an amusement park. On my many trips to fish the White River on the west slope I passed Trout Creek, and I was intrigued over what it might offer. Some online research revealed that it flows out of Sheriff Reservoir, and a campground is situated next to the lake.
I reasoned that it was now two weeks since Jane and I stopped to assess Trout Creek, and surely by now it was at a fishable level. In a worst case scenario I could scout the area for a later trip, and since it was on the east side of Dunckley Pass, I was not going significantly out of the way.
I woke up early and broke camp by 7:30AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the turn off for Sheriff Reservoir by 8:45AM. The road sign indicated that Sheriff Reservoir was four miles from the turn from the scenic byway, so I followed the road to the lake to gain a feel for the terrain and accessibility. A mile below the lake a bridge crossed the creek, and it was indeed clear but still rushing down the high gradient valley at a high velocity. The small lake was filled to the brim, and I was surprised to note that at least half of the seven campsites were occupied on Wednesday.
After I circled the campground, I retraced my route to a dirt road that turned left just before the bridge. This road led to a disbursed campsite, and I planned to park off to the side away from the campers, and hike downstream through a clear area on the west side of the creek. Unfortunately after I drove twenty yards, I realized that the road was extremely rough, and I was averse to putting my car at risk, so I backed out to the main road. I crossed the bridge and parked in a wide pullout on the east side.
While fishing on Tuesday on the Yampa, I detected a leak in the left boot foot of my waders, and since the temperature was expected to peak in the upper seventies, I decided to wet wade on Wednesday. I assembled my Sage four weight and stuffed my two large shirt pockets with fly boxes, that I normally carry in the bib area of the waders. When I was prepared to fish, I crossed the bridge on foot and took a shortcut from the road to the disbursed camping access road. I was surprised to encounter a young woman taking a pot to the stream for water, and we exchanged hellos. Next a friendly dog appeared, and I dug out my camera to snap a photo of my new found fishing buddy.
As planned, I hiked along a barely visible trail through the clear area, until I arrived at a spot where the slope of the bank to the creek was more gradual, and I carefully sidestepped my way to the stream. Upon close inspection I realized that I was facing the double challenge of above average flows on a high gradient stream. Between 9:30AM and noon I bashed my way through shrubs and willows and cherry picked the few available spots, where trout might be able to exist without expending more energy than they consumed.
I began with a yellow fat Albert and copper john and covered a decent amount of stream, before a small brook trout crushed the fat Albert. This proved to be an aberration, and after another fifteen minutes with no response, I replaced the copper john with a beadhead hares ear. The viable casting spots were few, and I was uncertain whether my lack of action related to the flies or marginal water. Finally after an hour of fishing another small brook trout grabbed the hares ear.
I decided to persist, until I arrived at the bridge and then evaluate whether to continue the pursuit of tiny fish in very adverse conditions. On the plus side I was in a gorgeous remote setting and had the stream to myself. By the time I arrived at the bridge, the fish count rested on four, and this included another brook trout and an eight inch rainbow. Both late morning catches latched on to the hares ear, and I abandoned the fat Albert and replaced it with a hippie stomper halfway through the morning.
Before returning to the car I decided to explore the water just above the bridge. A quick inspection from the bridge revealed, that the creek braided into numerous channels, and I guessed that perhaps some of the side channels offered refuge for the resident brook trout. My hunch proved prescient, and I added three more brook trout to reach seven before I retreated to the Santa Fe. Two nabbed the hares ear and one mashed the hippie stomper. The latter was the largest brook trout of the day, and it appeared from beneath a foam patch in a relatively large swirling eddy.
Perhaps the section downstream by the scenic byway offered a lower gradient? I was anxious to find out, so I reversed my direction and turned left on CO 8 and then executed a U-turn, after I crossed the stream. I parked on the southwest side of the road high above the creek and pulled out my stool and ate my lunch. After lunch I crossed the creek and angled down a drainage ditch,until I was along the edge of the rushing water.
I began progressing upstream along the left bank and continued for 1.5 hours, but I was unable to extract a fish. The terrain was very similar to that which I explored in the morning, and in many ways it was even more difficult to access. I replaced the hippie stomper with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and added a salvation nymph below the hares ear, but this three way combination failed to interest the local fish. Some earlier refusals to the hippie stomper suggested that perhaps the trout were looking to the surface for food, since the nymphs seemed to be totally ignored.
In a final effort to pound up a fish in the lower section of Trout Creek, I switched to a single gray size 14 stimulator. The high floating dry fly was reasonably easy to track, and it generated several refusals, but I was unable to close the deal. By two o’clock I was weary of parting branches and banging my rod tip into obstacles, so I reversed direction and returned to the car parked high above the creek.
I spent four hours on Trout Creek, and I was not impressed. Certainly lower flows would make wading easier, but I suspect that the high gradient geography is the main deterrent to an attractive and productive fishery. The brook trout were tiny, and in my mind do not justify the hardship of whacking through thick vegetation while stumbling on slippery rocks and swatting aggressive mosquitoes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but this may be my last visit to Trout Creek.
Fish Landed: 7