Time: 9:30AM – 12:00PM
Location: Emerald Park area east of Steamboat Springs
Our friends Judy and Steve Supple graciously invited us to join them at their condo in Steamboat Springs for the Fourth of July holiday. I detoured to the Eagle River on Saturday on my way to Steamboat and weathered some heavy rain and high water to land three small brown trout. During 2016 I enjoyed three solid days on the Yampa, but the last outing on June 29 sent me signals that the hot edge fishing was in the past. Flows dropped to 450 cfs, and the dense pale morning dun hatch appeared to move up the river. These two factors combined with an explosion of holiday water tubing enthusiasts, suggested fishing would be difficult.
My host, Steve, was recovering from shoulder surgery and therefore missed much of the early season, so he was quite anxious to spend time on the water on Sunday July 3. As a guest in his condo, who was I to turn down this invitation to join him on the Yampa River? We set out on Sunday morning relatively early in order to exercise our arms and fly rods before the flotilla of rafts and flotation devices interfered with our pursuit of trout. We parked by the ball fields at Emerald Park, and by the time we pulled on our waders and assembled our rods, we were in the water fishing by 9:30.
Heavy rains in the area combined with increased releases from Stagecoach Reservoir increased the flows back to the 670 cfs level. I was surprised by this circumstance, and I considered the possibility that a second wave of edge fishing might result. The higher flows limited the locations where fish might hold without expending excessive energy, but I was new to the stretch of water. I began my quest for Yampa River trout with a hopper Juan trailing a hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph, and I began casting to areas where I suspected fish might hold, but the fish counter remained locked on zero for quite awhile.
I did experience an adrenaline releasing episode halfway through my morning however. I made an upstream cast and misjudged the clearance resulting in the fat Albert and two nymphs snagged in a willow branch. The flies were out of my reach, so I gave them a slow steady tug, and this action caused the line to break off below the fat Albert. I cursed my luck, and I could see the two nymphs dangling from the branch. They appeared to be taunting me, so I waded as close as I could and reach as high as possible, and the lowest fly remained six inches beyond my fingertips. If only I had a stick to pull the branch back toward me. I looked around, and then I thought of my wading staff floating at my side. I raised it to put against the branch, but it was tethered to my belt. My quick solution was to unhook the stick, and this enabled me to steadily push the branch back within reach.
I needed both hands to untangle the flies, so I let go of the wading stick with my right hand and grabbed the branch and flies with both hands and broke off the tip. At this point I remembered that the wading staff was no longer attached to my belt, and I glanced down the river in time to see it floating twenty yards downstream. Without giving the matter further thought, I dropped the rescued sprig of willow with two tangled flies on a log, and as quickly as possible I dashed to the path and then downstream to the next fisherman path that cut back to the river.
When I reached the bank, I glanced at the river and saw my stick floating by. I was too late to wade eight feet into the river, as it was already passing my position. Undeterred I half ran back to the main path and covered twice the distance as my previous wader sprint, and once again used a crude path to access the river. This time my $5 staff was not in view, so I waited thirty seconds, and then it appeared. I attempted to gauge where the bobbing piece of wood would pass me, and I edged farther into the current. Within seconds it arrived, and I snatched it and clutched it firmly until I was back on land, where upon I clamped it to my belt. This then was my first catch of the day, although I did not include it on my fish counter.
I returned to the scene of my near disaster, and then I moved upstream a bit and found Steve in a delicious deep shelf pool where a metal pipe apparently drew water from the river. Steve informed me that he caught three trout including a fourteen inch rainbow, and a copper john was generating all his action. I was trying to avoid nymphing, but upon hearing this news, I added a strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher, and copper john to my line. Steve added that he temporarily hooked up on a fish that felt very decent in the pool that he presently occupied, but he now vacated and intended to move back to his favorite spot across from the ball field parking lot.
With the shelf pool now open, I moved in. I began drifting my nymphs from the midsection to the tail, and on the fifth such pass, the indicator paused, and I set the hook. Wham! A strong heavy tug bent my rod, and I then held tight as the weight on my line dove and shook its head and attempted a variety of maneuvers to free itself from my fly. It did not work, and eventually I slid my net beneath a spotted deeply colored sixteen inch brown trout. Thank you Steve for the valuable information.
I continued fishing upstream with the nymph rig and managed to land a nine inch rainbow in a fairly fast deep run. When I got close to the point of an island, I decided to return to Steve’s favorite spot near the bench across from the parking lot. Steve was absent, so I stepped in and began covering the nice wide run and riffle with my nymphs. The bottom half proved fruitless, so I waded to the middle and began to spray casts from left to right, until I drifted the flies tight to the heavy fast water that marked the western edge of the riffle.
Once again the thingamabobber dipped, and I was engaged in a battle with a rainbow trout that probably approached or exceeded fifteen inches. I do not know for sure because after two minutes of releasing and retrieving line, the fly broke free, and I failed to land the tough fighter. I left the sweet spot and once again progressed upstream where I met Steve at 11:30. We agreed to fish for another thirty minutes and then quit, since the river traffic was becoming an issue.
I decided to explore downstream and found a worn narrow path that followed the top of the bank along the river. Unfortunately the section of the river that bordered the path was marginal in the higher flows with relatively few holding locations. I bashed through the brush and down the steep bank at one point and managed to land a small brown trout on the copper john to reach a count of three on the morning. It would be interesting to visit this hard to access stretch in lower water conditions.
At noon we returned to the car and chatted with a gentleman named Tracy Echoles from Jackson, MS. He was visiting his son who played for the Steamboat Springs team in a college baseball league based in Colorado. Tracy was a colorful character, and we enjoyed our fifteen minute conversation before we returned to the condominium for lunch.
Fish Landed: 3