Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: Tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir
Fish Landed: 8
What is not to like about a pretty section of the Yampa River with bottom release cold water that contains large trout with the majority being healthy rainbows? Crowds. The public water is only .5 miles, and the parking lot is frequently packed with fly fishing enthusiasts.
I was apprehensive about my move to Stagecoach after being underwhelmed by the Chuck Lewis water. Fortunately as I crested the gravel road next to the dam and gazed down at the tailwater parking lot, I noted only one car. Working in my favor were the facts that it was a weekday and the middle of the afternoon when the trout notoriously develop a case of lock jaw. When I arrived at 2:30PM it was also quite warm with clear blue skies above.
My rod remained rigged, and I was already in my waders, so I descended down the rutted path to the river and then found an entrance aisle to an area where there was a long forty foot run with a narrow corridor where fish could hold along the bank. I tossed my nymphs upstream and allowed them to drift back toward me, and on the second such cast a spunky rainbow nabbed the ultra zug bug. Could it really be this easy? In fact, no, but I did follow up on the rainbow with a momentary hook up, so I was a bit optimistic early in the game.
Next I moved up to a long deep run that was bordered on my side by a shelf pool where the current slides off to the side and creates a sloping pool with a sand bottom. In this particular pool, the current forms an eddy, and a nice current flows back upstream for quite a distance until it meets the nook of the eddy. At about this time some clouds moved in from the southwest and blocked the sun for five to ten minute intervals. Much to my glee, this provoked some pale morning duns to emerge, and this in turn caught the attention of the resident trout. Rise rings began to appear along the current seam, so I elected to jettison the nymphs and converted to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun.
I dropped the small dry fly near the beginning of the back flow and as the comparadun drifted slowly upstream a seventeen inch rainbow elevated and sucked it in. I landed the cooperative cold water fish and noticed it had some dark splotches on its side. They did not appear to be fungus but perhaps some sort of birth defect. Once I dried the fly, I noticed another fish feeding next to the main current seam, and after numerous casts, I induced a rise and landed a 13 inch rainbow. At this point I pinched myself to make sure it was not a dream.
As this was going on I noticed a young fisherman was wet wading in the next pool, and he had a female companion with a long handled net who assisted with landing fish. After I released the second fish in the reverse current pool, the young man foul hooked a large brown trout in the belly, and he was forced to allow it to tumble over the rapids and followed it down to the pool I was occupying. Of course this disturbed the pool, but I was tolerant since the young man had no control over the situation. The couple returned to their wide riffle area while I considered my options. I finally decided to skip around them to explore the narrow pocket water above, but before I could do that, the couple arrived on the bank next to me and invited me to take their places. Apparently they were finished for the day. I asked if there were any fish rising, and they quickly nodded in the affirmative and told me there were fish stacked everywhere.
Who am I to turn down such an invitation? I found a spot on the right bank between two tall evergreen trees and surveyed the water. I was in the middle of a forty foot long riffle, and indeed I could see trout stacked everywhere across the wide shallow expanse of water. I fluttered down a few casts of the size 18 cinnamon comparadun and anxiously watched the reaction. Unfortunately the response was not what I desired, as fish lifted a bit and inspected but soundly snubbed the comparadun.
Hmm. What should I do now? I remembered that I stocked my front pack with an assortment of PMD imitations, so I unzipped it and scanned the flies. I spotted a size 16 sulfur that I tied when I lived in Pennsylvania. This was an early tie, and I was not proud of the result. The hackle was sparse and matted, and the wing protruded at a 45 degree angle from the top of the thorax, but I theorized that it was a great imitation of a cripple. It was the right color and size, so I grabbed it and knotted it to my 5X tippet.
The minds of trout work in mysterious ways. The bedraggled dun became the pretty girl at the function that everyone wanted to dance with. Over my remaining time at Stagecoach I landed five more trout with several in the 15-17 inch range. One was my first brown trout of the day, and it measured a chunky fourteen inches. In short I had a blast, and I could not fathom why I had the entire stretch of prime water to myself. Apparently the word was not out, or other fishermen accept the myth that one needs to arrive early to beat the crowds. Hopefully Steamboat fishermen will not read this blog. Of course success is predicated on having a misfit sulfur dun, and who possesses any of those?
The sky grew even darker, and I heard distant thunder, so I reeled up my line and returned to the car. Without the weather interruption, I could have continued fishing for another couple hours. I drove back to my Rabbit Ears campground in a total state of euphoria that was enhanced by a sugar free Red Bull. Stream fishing in Colorado is back.