Time: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Location: Snell Creek area
Fish Landed: 16
Day three on the White River began with some non-fishing excitement. I was eating my continental breakfast (muffin, tea, granola bar, and yogurt) at the campsite when the campground hostess walked by on her morning hike and informed me two moose were visible on the eastern edge of the campground. I grabbed my camera and rushed over to camp site 25. Indeed there was a cow and bull that had moved out of the clearing to the edge of the trees. The cow was a bit more visible as the bull was hidden behind an evergreen so I attempted to snap some photos of the cow. I was amazed by the size of these animals and how black their coats appeared. I got one decent shot of the female stretching her neck to browse on some vegetation. Eventually the bull trotted up by the side of the female. What a sight that was with the big moose antlers protruding above his head. The two of them then trotted up through the woods. Again I was amazed at the agility of these large beasts. All I heard the constant sound of splitting and cracking wood as the heavy beasts crushed the fallen branches under their hooves.
Because I was up early and ready, I took a hike around the entire campground loop and ended up talking to the campground hostess for a bit, and then two guys that were camping near the moose sighting. They were postal workers, one retired and the other still working, on a fishing trip similar to mine. They told me they’d caught huge trout on spinners on the White River where the small outlet from Lake Avery joins. I was somewhat suspicious until they pulled me over to their cooler and showed me a 20+ inch rainbow and an even larger brown that they were taking back to Littleton to smoke. This certainly made me think about changing my plan, but I was intrigued about exploring new less accessible water.
I decided I would fish for an hour and a half in the morning near the campground covering the same stretch I’d done on Sunday. This time, however, I’d give streamers a serious test. I’d start at the same place as Sunday, but fish only the deeper holes and runs. At the same time I wanted to look again for my lost net. I still held out hope that I’d left it on the bank and in my haste on Sunday night hadn’t thoroughly covered all the terrain.
I began at the same bend pool and began casting and stripping a black nosed dace. This streamer has the silver tinsel body with black, white and brown bucktail wing. I felt this would be as close as I could come to the basic metal spoons that the postal workers showed me as the source of their great success. I employed this strategy with no success, not even a bump. I tried casting ¾ and swinging, across and stripping, up and bouncing back, and all manner of movement. Finally at a beautiful deep long run that became a pool, I decided to switch to nymphs and go deep. This rewarded my efforts with a big fat mountain white fish on the beadhead hairs ear. I covered the same water as Sunday and then some with no success. It was time for the second phase of my Tuesday strategy.
I’d read that Snell Creek offered another access to the White River and it was not too far from the campground. I’d driven by several times and scouted it out. The challenge was that where the creek entered the White River, there were extremely steep banks along the road. Above the entry point of Snell Creek the White River flowed through wilderness as the road took a big curve to the northeast and there was a sizeable hill in between the road and the river. This whole stretch had to receive light fishing pressure. There was perhaps 1 mile of water below Snell Creek before a long private stretch that was well marked with sturdy fences clearly making this off limits.
I drove east and found a small two track lane just beyond the private land. The lane was very rough and hadn’t been driven in some time, but I could hike down the single tracks and it was the least steep access to the river. My exit strategy was to wade up Snell Creek, although it was probably .3 miles from the mouth to the point where it intersected with the road with steep hills on both sides.
When I got down to the river it seemed smaller than I expected, but I began fishing with a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. Almost immediately I landed a brook trout and then two hot rainbows in the 13 inch range. The rainbows fought hard and made several charges up and down the river. They packed much power for their size. As I moved up the stream I realized why it seemed small as I reached the junction with another braid at the top of an island. Once I met the joined river, it represented a nice size spanning perhaps thirty feet in most places.
I fished the Chernobyl ant and BHHE the remainder of the afternoon and landed 16 trout in total. Two were brook trout, two pure cutthroats, and twelve rainbows. The rainbows were decent fish mostly in the 12-14 inch slot with perhaps one 15 incher. I need to measure my new net dimensions. I learned pretty quickly that the short pockets were barren, but any run or pocket with decent length and depth yielded fish. This meant I covered a lot of distance between the ideal water types. This also meant I fished all the water up to Snell Creek and quite a distance up into the wilderness away from the road. I probably caught 75% of the fish on the Chernobyl and 25% on the hares ear. As great a day as I experienced, it could have been even better as I lost three additional nice rainbows. Two broke off the Chernobyl and the other came free after running downstream and then making a sudden U turn.
One of the most memorable spots was a delicious deep run that fed a nice pool not too far below the confluence with Snell Creek. In this one spot I landed my largest fish of the day and had one break off then leap above the water twice after the break off. A trout was the one that ran to the fast water below me then made a sudden turn to free itself.
The last fish of the day was also a highlight. Shadows were beginning to lengthen across the stream when I approached a nice riffle section with decent depth. I flicked the Chernobyl upstream and as it drifted back a fish attacked it. I set the hook a played a decent sized fish that fought up and down the run a few times. When I brought it to net I was surprised to discover a pure Colorado cutthroat of around 13 inches in length. I rarely catch pure cutthroats, so to catch one of decent size like this was quite exciting.
I was looking for a hatch similar to that which I experienced on Monday between 5-6PM, but it never really materialized. There were a few small midges and mayflies, but no rising fish. Tuesday was warmer than Monday, so perhaps it was delayed more, but I was concerned about getting out of my remote location, so I called it quits and began my exit trek. I had fished up through the valley that was away from the road quite a distance so I climbed up the slope above the streamside vegetation to scrubby grass and sagebrush. I found a faint path and followed it as best I could along the bottom contour of the slope just above the stream vegetation. The path became more pronounced as I moved closer to Snell Creek. When I got near the evergreens and shrubs that surrounded the creek, the path led down to the stream. I now began working my way up the stream actually fishing the pools. But I realized this was taking too long and clipped my flies to the rod guide and got serious about wading and hiking out of the deep river valley. The slope between me and the road was still intimidating.
I reached a point where there were difficult blockages to wading the stream such as steep rock cascades or large trees spanning the creek, so I climbed up the left bank and fought my way through vegetation on the steep slope with dangerous sliding rocks. I went through the exercise of wading then climbing out and around two or three times. Eventually I managed to reach the point where the creek was close to the road and climbed a twenty foot slope to the road near a cattle guard and then hiked back down the road to the car. It was one of the best days of the year for good fishing and remoteness and adventure.