Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM
Location: The canyon below Estes Park
Admittedly I was very excited to watch game two of the NLCS between the Phillies and Padres, and this may have distracted me from fly fishing. The Phillies have been my favorite team since my early childhood. I can remember sneaking my transistor radio into bed with me and listening to the woeful Phillies of the early sixties, when I was supposed to be sleeping. On the other hand my day of fishing on the Big Thompson River is probably better explained by the lack of insect activity and the bright blue sky that yielded pleasant autumn weather for the fisherman, but not much insect activity for the fish.
I chose the Big Thompson, because it represents a relatively short drive from Denver, and the flows were adjusted downward to 45 CFS three days ago. I favor Big Thompson flows in the 50 – 100 CFS range, and 45 CFS was close to the bottom. I used to believe the Big T harbored a fairly high ratio of rainbow trout, but fishing experiences since the big flood of 2013 have caused me to reconsider that opinion. At any rate I was looking for a higher proportion of rainbow trout over brown trout to offset the spawning effect, and I felt the Big Thompson had more bows than other Front Range options.
I made the drive to the canyon below Estes Park without incident, and the air temperature was 51 degrees, as I rigged my Loomis two piece five weight and prepared to fish. My starting point featured a long and wide, slow-moving section, so I knotted an olive-brown size 16 deer hair caddis to my line and began making long upstream casts. I covered the entire thirty yard stretch with one refusal to show for my efforts, and then I adjusted my approach to an olive body hippie stomper and retained the caddis on a one foot dropper. Once again the trout gave my choices a resounding rejection.
The water type shifted to faster runs and pockets around exposed boulders, so I once again made a change, and this time I opted for a tan size 8 pool toy hopper with a beadhead hares ear trailer and a zebra midge. A solid fifteen minutes of prospecting with the dry/dropper failed to ignite the interest of the fish, and I exchanged the zebra midge for a size 22 olive bead. This fly is as basic as it gets with a silver bead and an olive thread body. The trout rejected this combination, and as noon rapidly approached, I once again swapped the olive bead fly for a sparkle wing RS2. Finally in a deep pocket a barely six inch brown trout nipped the RS2, and I was on the scoreboard with one trout. The first hour of fishing was very inauspicious.
Since I was near the car at noon, I climbed the boulder strewn bank and ambled back to the Santa Fe. I threw my gear in the back of the car and drove downstream for a couple miles before I parked in a pullout facing west. The portion of the canyon that I planned to fish after lunch ran tight to steep canyon walls, and I was fearful that I would be forced to fish in the chilly shadows. I debated traveling farther down the river to a point that was more open, but I decided to remain, because I remembered some nice pools in the area, in case blue winged olives made an appearance.
I retained the three fly system that included the pool toy hopper, hares ear and RS2 for the next 1.5 hour, and I was rewarded with frustration and one very pretty ten inch rainbow trout that nabbed the RS2 in a small eddy downstream from a large bankside boulder. Along the way I swapped the hares ear for an ultra zug bug, in case the rainbow trout desired more flash, but this idea failed to turn around my fortunes. By 1:45PM I arrived at a long wide riffle that spanned the entire river, and I was certain that this was prime dry fly water. I removed the dry/dropper and revived the olive hippie stomper with a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. A couple refusals reinforced the idea that the trout were tuned into the surface, and eventually I found a taker in the form of a ten inch brown trout.
I continued upstream for another fifty yards, and the hippie stomper and caddis attracted a bit of additional attention in the form of refusals and a temporary hook up, but the action was very sporadic, and I never saw signs of a BWO hatch or insect activity of any form. Toward the end of this period I exchanged the caddis for a size 22 CDC BWO in case the trout were looking for upright wings, but that move proved as futile as my others. By 2:20PM my mind was preoccupied with the baseball playoffs and bored with fishing, so I climbed the bank and meandered back to the car.
A three fish day in 3.5 hours was rather pathetic, however, the weather was outstanding and the scenery and drive were spectacular. I listened to the Phils take a lead on the return drive, but once I got home, they unraveled and stumbled to an 8-5 trouncing. Oh well, they won game one and return to Philadelphia with a split of their away games. I still like their chances.
Fish Landed: 3