Time: 2:30PM – 5:00PM
Location: Tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir
Fish Landed: 13
I returned to Steamboat Springs and found an 8 hour angled parking spot not far below the pedestrian bridge that crosses to Howelsen Hill ski jump. Here I ate my lunch on the rocks while observing river traffic. Since it remained overcast, I was hopeful that this would deter the tubers, and the river traffic definitely seemed lighter than on the previous Tuesday, but I probably counted 15 tubers in the thirty minutes while I ate. They also seemed to gravitate toward the north bank, which was the stretch I wanted to fish.
I experienced an exciting couple of hours at Stagecoach on Tuesday, so I decided to cast my lot with that waterway again. Perhaps the PMD hatch from 3-5PM would repeat? By the time I ate my lunch and made the drive to the tailwater, it was 2:30 when I entered the water. There was only one other car in the lot, and by this point in the afternoon the sun had burned off the clouds. There were some darker clouds to the southwest which prompted me to wear my raincoat, but this proved to be overkill, and I was quite warm for most of my time on the river.
I began at a long smooth pool and made some casts with the dry/dropper combination that remained on my line from the Elk River, but this proved to be futile. As happened on Tuesday I began to witness some sporadic rises, so I exited and went around the wooden fences that were created to promote re-vegetation, and then I cut back to the river at the next spot which proved to be at the top of the long pool where I began.
I walked downstream along the edge a bit and then spotted a rise farther downstream. I observed a few PMD’s floating on the surface and making erratic actions to take flight, so I clipped off the dry/dropper accoutrements and tied on a size 16 light gray comparadun. I tried a downstream drift to the riser along the bank, but could not tempt a take, so I refocused on the area across from me. There I could see a gorgeous rainbow trout hovering a foot below the surface. This fish was moving aggressively and snatching emergers, but it also occasionally sipped food from the film. I worked this fish for quite some time and generated a couple looks, but it was too smart for me.
I abandoned the rainbow and made some downstream drifts along the seam, and registered tallies on the Stagecoach scoreboard with two 13 inch rainbows. At least I now knew that the light gray comparadun could fool these fish. I thought I viewed an occasional rise in the deep V slot behind the large rainbow, and sure enough when I made a cast and allowed it to drift over that area, a very fine rainbow in the fifteen inch range sucked it in. The term cast was a bit of an overstatement for what I did, as I simply reached my long rod over the water so that only leader extended beyond the tip, and allowed the fly to drift with the erratic current until the rainbow tipped up and took the fly.
I photographed and released this beauty, but the rainbow at the head of the slot continued to have nothing to do with my comparadun, and I did not see additional rises, so I moved to the next long pool. This pool is characterized by a strong center current with a ten foot wide shelf pool that featured a long back eddy. I positioned myself across from the back flow at the midpoint and allowed the comparadun to float back upstream along some foam bubbles. Smack! A sixteen inch rainbow slurped the fraud with confidence. I carefully dried the fly and flicked it to the upstream current and after a five foot drift from where I hooked the previous fish, another 16 inch rainbow inhaled it. This fish pretty much allowed me to pull it in, and as I released it, I noticed it had several black splotches on the side. I’d caught the same fish that I fooled on Tuesday.
I was now at twelve fish on the day, and the wide shallow riffle where I ended my fishing on Tuesday still beckoned. As I walked up the path toward my next destination, two women stood on the road. One held binoculars, and the other had a camera, and these accessories were aimed at the opposite bank. I followed the direction of their aim, and observed a deer grazing. I patiently waited until they finished their photography, and then I moved to the worn spot between two large trees to fish the wide riffle.
As had been the case on Tuesday, I could see fish, and many were quite large fish, and they were spread out in the thirty yard by twenty yard riffle. I flicked the light gray comparadun no more that eight feet above my position and drifted it over a large rainbow and then a second rainbow almost as big as the one above it. Both fish elevated to look at my fly but then snubbed it by returning to the bottom. Hmm, now what?
The ratty twenty year old sulfur that produced on Tuesday beckoned me, so I tied it to my line, but on Wednesday this fly was no longer favored. I clipped it off and replaced it with another slightly less poorly tied full hackle sulfur, and flipped this imitation upstream and over twenty feet. As this fly danced down on the riffles a large rainbow could not resist it and gobbled it in. What fun. I dried the fly and lobbed it toward the middle of the riffle and a second rainbow in the 15-18 inch range inhaled it. What made this fly so popular?
That is a good question, because all of a sudden it was rudely rejected by large and small fish in front of me. Did the stage of emergence suddenly change so that a fully hackled fly did not imitate what the fish were seeing? I gave it no more thought and switched to a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. It was clear that the fish stopped liking the gray comparadun and then rejected the sulfur, so I had to try something new. The cinnamon comparadun was ignored by the savvy characters within ten feet of me, but eventually another typical fifteen inch rainbow could not let it pass by. It seemed that once the fly got water logged and then dried out with white dry shake, it became a more desirable morsel. Does the residual white powder somehow modify the color to look more like a natural?
The cinnamon comparadun proved to be the most desirable PMD imitation that I offered the Stagecoach trout. Over the remaining hour I landed an additional seven fish from the giant riffle area. Certainly the comparadun was politely ignored or rejected numerous times, but there were enough that viewed it as a tasty snack to motivate me to repeat the cycle of catch, net, release, refresh fly and recast. The last fish was a twelve inch baby, but all the others were in excess of thirteen inches and mostly in the fifteen to sixteen inch range.
I could have stayed and continued catching fish, but I reached twenty for the day and glanced at my watch and discovered it was approaching five o’clock. I had a 3.5 hour trip ahead of me, so I reeled up my line and hooked the comparadun to my guide and marched back to the car. I’m in love with the Stagecoach tailwater of the Yampa River. Twenty one large fish in 4.5 hours of fishing will do that to you.