Williams Fork River – 09/01/2015

Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Upper portion of Breeze lease water below dam

Fish Landed: 4

Williams Fork River 09/01/2015 Photo Album

“What does not kill me, makes me stronger”. This quote from Friedrich Nietzsche comes to mind after my fishing adventure today on the Williams Fork River. Hopefully I will wake up tomorrow feeling like a much stronger human being, because I am not feeling that way right now.

First there was the traffic backup on Central Park Boulevard on the way to accessing interstate 70. Next came another jam on I70 heading west due to heavy commuter traffic. Unexpectedly there was a four car accident in the Wheat Ridge section of interstate 70 that forced me to creep along for twenty minutes until I finally inched past the accident site. Normally I can reach the Loveland Tunnel in an hour, yet on Tuesday September 1, one hour merely advanced me on I70 just west of the Ward Road exit.

I rejoiced as I hit open roads and traveled at or slightly above the speed limit until I reached the north side of Berthoud Pass where I was halted by road resurfacing for ten minutes, as the highway was reduced to a single lane. Finally I reached the parking lot at the Breeze Unit at 11:00AM and prepared to fish the small Williams Fork tailwater. I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, and to avoid a repeat of my lost rod tip, I made sure to string my line through the rod guides. Finally I was free to fish after a drive that took an hour longer than expected.

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The Brown Dry Road to the Williams Fork

I hiked for a mile across the dry sagebrush terrain until I reached the upper stretches of the Williams Fork River. But wait a minute, what was the stinging pain that emanated from my right heel as I approached the water. I tried repositioning my foot to relieve the sharp needle sensation, but the only thing that provided relief was landing on my toes on my right foot. Initially I feared that I stepped on a nail, but that probably would have generated constant pain. Were the socks that I was wearing the same ones that had a cactus needle in them at Baker Campground, and was a small remnant now invading my heel? I limped to the edge of the water and tied on a Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug, and RS2 and attempted to fish while wading on my right tip toe.

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Nice Stretch Did Not Produce

This sort of worked for half an hour, although I was unconsciously wading slower and more carefully. I covered some fairly attractive water and finally managed to land a six inch brown trout as the flies swept upward at the end of a drift. In addition to the pain in my heel, I was now a bit concerned that I was in for a challenging day of fishing. I sat down on a grassy spot on the bank and devoured my small lunch, and then I decided to investigate the heel pain. This required removing my waders from my right leg, but when I put my hand into the neoprene foot section, I did not feel anything abnormal. This was actually good news, because a sharp object could have created a leak. I pulled out the fleece wading bootie that I wore over my socks, and I inspected the heel closely, but everything appeared to be normal.

Next I removed my SmartWool sock and turned it inside out. I could see blood on my heel, and at last I found the reason. Embedded in the woven fibers of my sock was a half inch section of thin wire. Apparently the wire punctured my heel, and every time I landed on the pierced location, pain shot through my foot. I flicked the wire into the weeds and pulled on the socks and waders and stood up. The pain was gone, and I was ready to resume fishing.

Unfortunately the fish were not ready for me. I worked my way upstream covering attractive areas on both sides with only a second six inch brown trout to show for my efforts. I exchanged the Chernobyl for a Charlie boy hopper since there was some nice tall grass along the bank. I also swapped the ultra zug bug for an iron sally and then a salvation nymph. Nothing improved my fortunes. I encountered a nice deep run that I was certain harbored decent fish, so I took the time to reconfigure my line with an indicator, split shot and two flies. This change did nothing to improve my success rate, but I did clean much green scum from the rocks, and I spent additional time removing the moss from my flies on nearly every other cast.

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Flows at 125 CFS

If I was not going to catch fish, I might as well do it with a dry/dropper approach that picked up less green moss. I switched back to the Charlie boy hopper, salvation, and RS2 and worked my way upstream farther. It was about 2:30 when I noticed some dark clouds gathering in the western sky. More troublesome was the periodic rumble of distant thunder. I was now across from a gorgeous large deep pool that produced great action five or six years ago when Steve Supple and I encountered a dense blue winged olive hatch. I was contemplating returning to the car before the storm hit, but what if the dim light provoked another BWO emergence?

As the clouds moved closer and streaks of lightning increased in frequency, I decided to exit the water and hike to the east away from the tall cottonwood trees that surrounded me. I remembered that it is not good to be near tall objects during an electrical storm. I reached the dirt farm road that parallels the river, and stood there with my back to the rain for ten minutes. Finally it seemed as though the electrical threat of the storm had passed, so I returned to the edge of the pool and began fishing in the slow light rain.

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The MFC Sparkle Minnow

I worked my way upstream for .2 miles, but the dark clouds and rain and wind did not seem to change the case of lockjaw that inflicted the Williams Fork fish. It was 3PM when I returned to the pool, and my confidence was at an all time low. What should I do? I finally decided to experiment with a sparkle minnow. I removed my floating line and replaced it with a five weight sinking tip, and then I knotted my sole sparkle minnow to the 3X tippet. I began chucking the weighted streamer to the far bank and worked my way downstream. I thoroughly covered fifteen feet of the bank with multiple casts, and I varied the retrieve between short choppy strips, long strips, wiggling rod tip, and rapidly repeating mends. On the fifteenth cast (approximately) as I quickly stripped the streamer back toward me from the five o’clock position, I felt a bump. I remembered my lesson from Adam and Jake, and did not set, but instead gave the line another strip, and suddenly I felt the weight of a large fish. The torpedo also felt the penetration of a hook and instantly shot upstream.

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Curled Deep in the Net

I applied side pressure and endured several strong runs before I was able to hold my ground and then leverage the head of the fish to the surface and guide it into my net. What a surprise! There before me in my net was a meaty seventeen inch rainbow trout. I actually caught a nice fish on a streamer on my own without guidance. Needless to say this modified my gloomy outlook on the Williams Fork, and after carefully releasing the rainbow, I resumed chucking the clumsy weighted bait fish imitation to the bank and frantically stripping. Alas, I was unable to induce any more meat eaters to hammer my offering.

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Stretched Out. A Very Thick Fish.

As this was transpiring, I observed a few sporadic rises in the foam eddy along the far bank. The sky remained quite overcast, and I spied a couple small mayflies in the air, so I suspected that a fish or two were plucking cripples or stragglers from the eddy. In my previous wanderings I did not see additional attractive areas that suggested streamers, so I removed the minnow and the sinking tip line and returned to the floating line. I tied on a size 22 CDC blue winged olive and made some half hearted attempts to cast to the eddy. This seemed hopeless as I could not see the tiny fly, and my ability to drift the fly in the swirling currents without drag was impossible.

I decided that my best chance of catching another fish was to focus on the risers across from me, so I walked to the tail of the pool and crossed to the high bank on the far side. I cautiously crept to a position next to the eddy and observed. The main current ran downstream four feet away from the bank for fifteen feet and then curled toward the bank and flowed back within six inches of some tall grass until it reached the deepest nook of the eddy. A long narrow foam patch hovered between the main current and the return current that bordered the bank. I noted a fish that rose once or twice next to the foam area, a fish that rose several times where the current curled toward the bank, and another fish that was downstream beyond the curl. I decided my best shot was the fish at the point of the curl so I made some downstream drifts to that area.

I could not follow my fly at all in the dim light, so I resolved to set whenever I spotted a rise in the area. Naturally the fish stopped rising, so I stripped in my line and tied on a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and then I added a section of eight inch tippet and attached the CDC olive. My strategy was to fish a double dry and follow the leading caddis as a means to estimate approximately where the trailing BWO was. It worked!. I saw the fish at the curl location rise and set the hook and felt decent weight on my rod tip. Unfortunately it was momentary, and the fish escaped in a short amount of time.

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The Eddy

I was now forced to wait until I located another fish. The sky remained dark and the wind picked up considerably. I turned and looked back upstream at the return eddy next to the grass and thought I saw a nearly imperceptible dimple within four inches of the tall grass. It was only four feet away from me, so I reeled up all my fly line so I had only the tapered leader beyond the rod tip. I held the line away from me and allowed the wind to blow the flies down on the water in a position where the slow current would feed them along the bank. On the fifth such attempt I noticed a bulge at the approximate location of my double dry offering and set the hook. Instantly a large fish dashed into the heavier current and then downstream a bit. I allowed some line to play out, but when the fish stopped, I applied side pressure and forced it back into the eddy next to me where I scooped it with my net.

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Trying Unsuccessfully to Stretch Out

What a thrill! Another large rainbow trout flopped desperately in my net, so I took several photographs and then gently released it into the eddy. This was one of the tougher situations in all my days of fly fishing, and I was quite proud to have landed this sixteen inch beauty.

At 4:45 the sun peeked out again, and the sparse hatch seemed to abate, so I waded back across the river and passed through the cottonwoods and then climbed the steep bank to the sagebrush path. Thirty minutes later I was at the car and ready for my return drive. Of course Tuesday could not end without two more road construction traffic delays on the trip back to Denver. Four fish is admittedly a slow day, but the last two were quite gratifying. I landed a large rainbow on the sparkle minnow streamer, and then managed another on a size 22 dry fly in low light and difficult surface currents. I cannot wait to wake up with extra strength tomorrow.

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