Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM
Location: Inlet end of the lake.
My calendar was clear for one day before a host of obligations prevented me from straying away from Denver on Tuesday. I felt a strong desire to fish, but all the local streams were essentially blown out from run off. Bear Creek was listed at 62 cfs, and I was tempted to gamble, but before doing so I reviewed stillwater options. I looked at Clear Lake, Pine Valley Ranch Lake, and Pinewood Reservoir. All three represented a reasonable drive; however, I never visited them, so they represented a bit of a risk. Last year at roughly this same time I discovered Urad Lake, but I was unsure that it was ice free by June 26 in 2017. I was reluctant to make a 1.5 hour drive only to realize that the body of water was covered in ice.
I checked the Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocking report, and I was pleased to discover that Urad Lake was stocked in 2017. I could rather safely conclude that the DOW would not stock a lake covered in ice. I designated the lake near Berthoud Pass as my destination, and I gathered my gear and departed by 10AM. Traffic was reasonable, and I negotiated the rough and steep dirt road that linked US 40 to the state wildlife area without incident. Seven vehicles were parked in the lot when I arrived, so I knew that I would have company. I assembled my Sage four weight and began a steep hike up a dirt road until I reached the dam. One fisherman staked out the water next to the dam, and I could have found enough space there, but I decided to continue on the road to the inlet end of the lake.
Another ten minute hike delivered me to the upper end of the lake, where I joined ten fishermen already prospecting the stillwater. Two swollen creeks rushed into the lake, and four fishermen occupied these desirable locales. During my visit in 2016 I fished next to the first inlet with considerable success, so I was disappointed to eliminate these spots from my fishing options. I retreated to a path through the low bushes and crossed both feeder streams until I was on the bank on the west side of the lake. From my position I could reach the near side of the second inlet current with a long cast, but such a cast taxed my distance casting abilities.
I began with my sinking tip line, and I attached a slumpbuster streamer and then added a beadhead hares ear. I fished this combination for thirty minutes and covered the lake between the inlet and the point of land to my left, but my efforts were futile. I did not even experience a bump or follow, in spite of my confidence in the streamer approach. Since it was slightly past noon, I decided to take a break for lunch and change my approach to dry/dropper.
While I ate lunch I observed quite a few trout hovering within ten feet of the shoreline. Some were wasting energy chasing other fish, but a few were clearly searching for food. When the wind died back, and the surface of the lake was relatively smooth, I noticed very sporadic rises. After lunch I replaced my sinking tip line with a floating line, and I began fishing with a green floss body fat Albert. Beneath this foam attractor I added the beadhead hares ear and a salad spinner. I flicked the three fly combination to the area where several fish lurked. I closely observed these fish as they swam right past my droppers, but after six or seven casts I allowed the flies to dangle for what seemed like an eternity, and sure enough an eight inch rainbow grabbed the hares ear.
Am I the only person who does not have the patience to allow my flies to remain in a stationary position for an interminable period of time waiting for a fish to cruise by in a large body of water? It takes every ounce of self control for me to resist twitching or stripping the flies. On Monday this actually proved to be a beneficial trait. I began to slowly crawl the flies with a hand twisting retrieve, and for some reason this worked. I began experiencing momentary hook ups and eventually landed three additional small rainbow trout, as they snatched one of the nymphs on the slow retrieve. One trout nabbed the salad spinner, another nipped the hares ear, and one gluttonous finned fool smashed the fat Albert.
Unfortunately the wind kicked up and created larger riffles and small waves, and this change in atmospheric conditions coincided with an extended lull in my trout action. Clearly the fish were willing to grab subsurface offerings, so why not return to the streamer method? I snipped off the fat Albert and salad spinner, and I replaced them with a slumpbuster and bright green caddis pupa. The mainstay hares ear remained in the lineup as the middle fly, and I began to cast and strip my streamer. Unlike the initial session I deployed a slower retrieve, as I made short erratic strips. I also paused to allow the flies to sink, before I began my retrieve in case the trout were hanging out lower in the water column. The third deviation from the morning period was the addition of a third fly.
The three fly streamer approach evolved into my most productive fly fishing method over the remainder of the afternoon. I moved the fish count from four to thirteen, and all of the netted fish were rainbows, and all slammed a fly in a streamer lineup. Toward the end of the afternoon I briefly experimented with a size 14 gray caddis, but the wind kicked up and created waves, and I abandoned the single dry after only five or six casts. When I returned to the streamer and trailers, I opted for a natural pine squirrel leech, beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug.
The tally by fly for fish numbers four through thirteen is as follows: two consumed the bright green caddis pupa, two slammed the slumpbuster, one grabbed the pine squirrel leach, and four nipped the beadhead hares ear. I experienced at least double that many bumps and nips during the streamer time period, and I probably hooked between six and ten for only a second or two. I am uncertain what technique I should use to convert more hook ups and bumps to netted fish.
It was 61 degrees when I left the parking lot, so I wore a long sleeved undershirt, and I was comfortable until the wind accelerated at two o’clock. This forced me to unwrap the light down coat that was around my waist, and I was comfortable while wearing this extra layer for the last two hours. When I returned to my home in Denver it was 89 degrees!
The fish were small and likely stockers, but the alpine scenery was breathtaking, and I enjoyed the challenge of using different techniques to catch trout in a stillwater environment. Will I undertake more lake fishing in 2017? Stay tuned.
Landed Fish: 13