Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM
Location: Urad Wildlife Area near the inlet to the lake
During the last three off seasons I made two significant pledges that only reached fulfillment to a minor degree. First I committed to fish streamers more frequently, but my time allotted to this fishing approach fell short of my expectations. Secondly, I routinely expressed a desire to visit more lakes during the snow melt season in the Rocky Mountains. Last year I fished at Parvin Lake and Dumont Lake, and the year before I visited Palmer Reservoir. One or two lake outings does not constitute completion of my pledge. On Friday June 17 I took a major step toward realizing these two fly fishing goals.
I am a big fan of Instagram, and I follow a user who goes by the tag @flyhunter333. I noticed that he recently posted photos of trout caught in an alpine lake environment, so I exchanged comments with him, and he invited me to call him at his outdoor shop in Idaho Springs for ideas on lake fishing. I accepted his offer and called him on Thursday, and one of the options he suggested was Urad Lake. I decided to give it a try.
The forecast for Denver was a high in the low 90’s, so I looked forward to cooler temperatures at high elevation. Unfortunately Friday at Urad Lake was colder than I bargained for. Snow remained along the ridges next to the lake, and the water was frigid. By the afternoon my feet turned into frozen stumps, and I could no longer tolerate the cooling effect from evaporation of my soaked sun gloves, so I removed them. Large dark clouds constantly rolled in front of the sun, and the wind gusted at times so hard that it was impossible to cast. At noon before eating lunch I pulled out my raincoat and zipped the collar as high as it would go. An hour or so later I pulled my redneck gaiter over my head and wore it like a hat to cover my ears.
The four mile drive on a coarse dirt road to Urad Lake was passable, but it did not offer calendar quality scenery, as it traveled by mine tailings and settling ponds. But after two steep switchbacks, I arrived at a small gravel parking area below a gate. As I prepared to fish, two vehicles arrived, and a solo fisherman emerged from a pickup truck, while the other truck contained a large family with numerous young children.
Reaching the lake required a 100 yard hike on the dirt road beyond the gate, and the first half was a steep breath depleting climb. The single fisherman stopped ahead of me to chat with an angler returning to the parking lot, and this allowed me to catch up. I greeted him and quickly learned that he fished at Urad previously, so I invited myself to tag along since he knew the path to the water.
Eight people were fishing along the east bank, and a couple was situated on the opposite side of the inlet. One final solitary fisherman was spin fishing along the west bank. My new friend’s name was Chris, and we decided to fish together on the east side of the first inlet. The feeder creek split and entered in two separate channels. Chris carried his waders and not yet assembled rod to the lake, so he found a private spot in the willows to prepare to fish. I meanwhile tied on a fat Albert with a light yellow floss body, and then added a beadhead hares ear. It was not long before I experienced two momentary hookups, and then I managed to land a ten inch rainbow trout that nipped the beadhead hares ear.
Chris joined me after a bit, and he asked my advice on flies. I told him what I was using, and he opted to try a yellow parachute stimulator trailing a size 16 beadhead hares ear. Between 10:30 and noon I landed three additional rainbow trout in the 9-11 inch range. One slurped the fat Albert on the surface, and the others snatched the hares ear nymph.
I was feeling quite chilled by noon, so I began to circle around the couple on the bank by the second inlet. I targeted a space between the campers and the single spin fisherman, so I stopped by the young pair to ask their permission to fish just beyond them. As I was chatting with the bearded gentleman, I heard some rapid barking and then felt a solid pinch on my left buttock. I did not pay much attention to the dog, but Hobbs made his presence known by biting me in the butt. The young man gained control of Hobbs and was very apologetic, but in that moment I was concerned that Hobbs bit through my waders. I asked his owner to check my waders, and he assured me there was no tear, so I felt better about the incident, but the sting of the clenched teeth on my rear continued to throb.
I put this encounter behind me, so to speak, and moved to an open area on the west side of the second inlet, and I removed my backpack and ate lunch while sitting on a small rock that was a component of a primitive fire ring. While I was eating, Chris arrived, and he chose a position on a small point that protruded into the lake between the inlet and a small bay on the southwest corner of Urad. Immediately Chris began to land fish after fish, as the resident trout smashed his stimulator and grabbed his hares ear. At one point he lost the trailing nymph, and I waded over to take a look at his fly box. He asked me which fly he should use to replace the hares ear, and I pointed to a similar nymph that possessed a bit of purple flash in the body.
Between lunch and 2PM I continued fishing the area on either side of Chris, and I landed three additional rainbows to take my fish count to seven. The hares ear that served me in the morning began to unravel, so I replaced it with an ultra zug bug, and this fly produced one of the rainbows. After a bit of a lull and in a period when the wind died back a bit, I spotted two rises fifteen feet in front of me. This caused me to remove the dry/dropper configuration, and I switched to a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis. I was confident that this fly would dupe the riser, but it did not.
I gave up on the rising fish when the wind once again resumed its angry assault on the water, as it created three inch waves and tiny whitecaps. Chris’s catch rate subsided a bit, and he ceded his spot to me while he munched a snack bar. The small deer hair caddis was nearly impossible to track in the riffled surface with sun glare, so I copied Chris’s fly choices and tied on a yellow size 12 stimulator and then returned to the beadhead hares ear nymph as a dropper.
I waded until I was thigh deep and made a long cast toward the eastern shore, and after what seemed like an eternity, a slurp appeared, and the stimulator disappeared. I reacted with a quick hook set, and felt a decent bend in my five weight Sage One. Eventually I played the fish to my net, and Chris photographed my best trout of the day, as it measured twelve inches. The third rainbow landed in the early afternoon window nabbed the subsurface hares ear nymph.
My catch rate slowed significantly by 2PM, and the adverse weather conditions peaked. Since the dry fly and dry/dropper approaches were not generating hot fishing, I decided to experiment with a streamer. I removed my floating line and replaced it with a sink tip that I carried in my backpack. To the end of the sinking tip leader I knotted a slumpbuster, and then I added the beadhead hares ear as a trailer about eight inches behind the slumpbuster. I began making long sling casts and retrieved the flies with short rapid strips. Initially my energy was wasted on fruitless casts and strips, but I was enjoying the change of pace.
Fortunately on the tenth cast I felt a bump, but the initiator of the strike backed off and did not follow up with another bite. On the very next cast, however, back to back bumps occurred, and I then felt the throb of a fish. The hooked fish proved to be a small rainbow trout, but I was nevertheless excited to generate some success on my slumpbuster. In the area next to the west inlet I succeeded in landing two more rainbows using the sinking line with one taking the hares ear and another falling for the slumpbuster. I was delighted to realize that the fish counter reached double digits, and my decision to fish in a lake during the peak of run off was vindicated.
I was now curious if the streamer tandem could produce fish in the area between the two inlet currents, so I circled around the Hobbs territory that now contained a tent, and stationed myself east of the western entry point of the creek. I began spraying casts in all directions between the entering flows, and the fish responded. I landed five additional trout with three attacking the slumpbuster and two grabbing the hares ear. I am not sure if it was the time of day or the weather conditions, but for some reason Chris and I began to land more brook trout. Of the five fish that I landed between the inlets, three were brookies and two were rainbows.
By 3PM heavy dark clouds amassed above us, and the sun appeared very infrequently. The wind gusted unrelentingly, and my feet were mere fence posts with all feeling absent from my toes. I decided to call it quits, and Chris agreed. It was inconceivable to me that Jane was sweltering in ninety degree heat in Denver, while I shivered at Urad Lake, but when I descended on interstate 70 to the Denver metro area, my dashboard thermometer displayed 91 degrees. Colorado is a strange place.
Friday was a success on three levels. I met a fishing friend named Chris, and I partially satisfied my pledge to fish lakes more frequently. My favorite accomplishment, however, was landing eight trout on a streamer/dropper combination. I now look forward to another outing to determine whether I can repeat my streamer fishing prowess. 2016 continues to be an exciting time for fly fishing.
Fish Landed: 15