Monthly Archives: July 2023

Big Thompson River – 07/26/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Lake Estes

Big Thompson River 07/26/2023 Photo Album

After a fairly strenuous day on Tuesday that involved a fair amount of hiking in the heat and wet wading, I was reluctant to embark on a long journey on Wednesday. For this reason I reviewed all the stream flows on nearby Front Range streams, and I concluded that the Big Thompson River in the canyon below Lake Estes was my best bet. The flows were on the high side at 124 CFS, but the fly shop reports indicated that the fishing was decent. The high flows were actually a positive to buffer warming water temperatures from the soaring heat wave.

Starting Point

I arrived at my chosen pullout by 10:15AM, and this enabled me to be on the river fly fishing by 10:30AM after assembling my Loomis two piece five weight. The air temperature was 77 degrees, and it climbed to 86 degrees, before I ended my day at 2:00PM. I decided to wear my waders after wading wet on Tuesday, since very little hiking was involved with the road running along the river. When I was prepared, I hiked down the highway a short distance to a place that did not present no trespassing signs. I cut to the river and rigged my line with a peacock hippie stomper and size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Within the first thirty minutes I landed five trout and witnessed numerous temporary connections. Three of the landed trout mashed the hippie stomper, and the other two nipped the caddis. Four of the five were wild browns, and one was a small rainbow trout.

After the hot fishing in the first hour, I encountered a private property and no trespassing sign, so I quickly retreated to the highway and skirted the private plot, until I was just upstream. I reentered the river just below a gorgeous deep pool, and I resumed my prospecting approach with the double dry presentation. The action slowed appreciably, and I was shutout in my pursuit of trout, before I claimed my lunch break at 11:45AM. I suspect that my first section of the river was assumed to be private and skipped by most fishermen; and, therefore, the fish were less pressured and more aggressive toward my flies. Of course, another explanation might be the time of day, and the late morning water temperature was in the prime feeding range.

Sweet Spot

After I fished the attractive hole on the upstream side of the private water, another fisherman appeared thirty yards above me. Needless to say I was not enthusiastic about his presence, so I gathered my rod and quickly circled around the intruder. In fairness to the upstream angler, he probably was not aware of my presence, until he waded into the river. I gave him fifty yards of space and cut back to the river across from where my car was parked. The well worn path to the river suggested that the easy access section received a high degree of fishing pressure, but I continued fishing nevertheless.

Near the End of the Day

I ate my lunch next to the river and observed the pool, but insects were not in abundance. An occasional yellow sally fluttered skyward, and small caddis could be disturbed from the streamside bushes and willows. My slow stint before lunch caused me to adjust my approach, and I switched to a dry/dropper, with a classic Chernobyl ant as the surface fly and a salvation nymph on the dropper. The Chernobyl accounted for a small rainbow, but the nymph was totally ignored. I pondered the lack of action and decided to go deeper and added a prince nymph. For the next thirty minutes I applied the dry/dropper methodology with intense focus, but two nymphs were treated the same as one. As this story developed some dark clouds arrived in the southwest sky, and the change in weather blocked the sun and dropped the air temperature.

Two on Caddis Below Overhanging Branch

As I continued my upstream migration, I moved beyond the pullout for the Santa Fe and reached a section, where the river divided into two branches around a long narrow island. I began on the left braid, but when I reached the midpoint, the stream above me was characterized as a wide fast moving riffle, so I crossed the island to the braid next to the highway. I declared the Chernobyl dry/dropper a failed experiment, and I reverted to a double dry with a size 14 yellow stimulator on the top and an olive size 16 deer hair caddis trailing. This combination enabled me to reach ten fish landed by the time a second storm cell arrived and chased me off the water. I had the most success with the double dry tight to the bank and at the tail of runs of moderate depth. Two decent browns smacked the caddis, as it began to swing at the tail of a smooth pool under an overhanging branch. I am sure this was a spot virtually ignored by fly fishermen prior to my arrival.

A streak of lightning and the nearly immediate sound of thunder motivated me to hustle back to the car. I arrived just ahead of the rain, and, in fact, I was forced to pull on my rain jacket as I pulled off my waders. Wednesday was a challenging day. I blasted off to a fast start with five fish landed in the first hour, but the catch rate stalled in the early afternoon, until I worked the edges with a dry/dropper. I was actually quite proud to be able to advance the fish count to double digits in spite of the lack of insects and high air temperature. The size of the fish was lacking with one brown trout perhaps stretching to twelve inches. I find myself yearning for another high elevation creek now that the daily air temperatures have climbed into the nineties and upper eighties.

Fish Landed: 10

Pine Creek – 07/25/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: National forest backcountry

Pine Creek 07/25/2023 Photo Album

After recent trips to the high and clear Eagle River and Arkansas River with decent results, I felt the urge to spend a day on a small high country creek. The high temperature for Tuesday in Denver was projected to reach the upper nineties, so that provided another solid reason for fishing at high elevation. The real question, however, was where to fish. Some of the Front Range freestones such as Boulder Creek and Clear Creek continued to race along at high levels, as did Chalk Creek on Monday, so I needed to exercise caution with my choice. I have a list of high country creeks that I have sampled or that I hope to sample this summer, so I pulled it up on my iPhone notes application. As I scanned down the list, Pine Creek caught my eye. I fished there one other time on 09/08/2021, after Jane and I scouted it via a hike. As luck would have it, there was a water gauge for Pine Creek on the DWR web site, so I checked it, and I was pleased to discover flows in the 30 CFS range. I suspected this was on the high side, but I was also fairly certain that it was manageable.

I arrived at the dirt road that serves the Pine Creek trailhead by 10:15AM, and I was surprised to see five or six cars parked along the rough and rocky road half a mile away from the trail. I decided to snag an open spot near them, since I was convinced that the closer spots were already taken. The hike from my parking space to the start of the trail was only .5 mile, and I always need steps. The air temperature was 77 degrees, as I prepared to fish, and the high was predicted to reach 84 degrees, so I pulled on my wet wading pants and wading booties. Tuesday would be my first wet wading outing of 2023. For a rod I selected my Orvis Access four weight, and this too was the first usage of the small light weight rod for the new year.

A Trout Home

Once I was properly prepared, I hiked for a bit less than a mile, and then I cut across a sagebrush flat and eventually bashed through some trees and bushes to the edge of the river. As I suspected, the creek was flowing along at a rapid rate, and my starting section was particularly intimidating due to the high gradient. I was forced to navigate the brushy bank for quite a distance, before I encountered a pocket that might allow a trout to hold in the heavy flows. Given the tight quarters and heavy flows, I opted to start with a classic Chernobyl ant, as it is nearly entirely comprised of foam and thus capable of floating without a backcast.

One of the Better Trout

Great Spot for This Small Stream

During the forty-five minutes before lunch I hooked and landed three brown trout, and I was pleased with this performance; however, I experienced an abundance of temporary hookups that far exceeded the number of trout that found their way into my net. After lunch I replaced the Chernobyl ant with a peacock body hippie stomper, and this fly remained on my line for the remainder of the afternoon. Actually the hackle on the first hippie stomper unwound after getting chopped by fish teeth, so I replaced it with another exact replica. The hippie stomper converted a few fish, but I felt that I was bypassing some as well, so I added a salvation nymph on a 1.5 foot dropper. These flies remained as my trusted offering for the rest of the day.

Great Spot

By the time I quit at 4:00PM, the fish count rested on twenty-one. As I mentioned, the first three nabbed the Chernobyl ant, and I estimate that five of the remaining eighteen nipped the salvation nymph with the remainder attracted to the hippie stomper. During the last hour, all the landed trout crushed the hippie stomper, and when I returned to my car to remove my flies at the end of the day, I discovered the explanation. The salvation nymph was missing a hook point, and that explained the high escape ratio on nymph takes.

One of the Better Brook Trout

The species of the landed trout was split fairly evenly between brown trout and brook trout. The brown trout were easily the larger fish, and I actually netted a pair of fine thirteen inchers. The other browns were in the eight to eleven inch range. The brook trout on the other hand were quite diminutive, with perhaps two extending to eight inches. They made up for their small size by displaying vibrant colors including bright orange bellies.

Shine On

Locating trout was easily accomplished, as nearly every spot with some depth and a length of slower moving water harbored fish. Wading to a casting position and placing a cast while avoiding the streamside vegetation was another matter. In addition, the trout were quite finicky, and I probably tallied twice as many long distance releases compared to landed fish. Of course, many of these fish were tiny brook trout beneath the six inch cut off required in order to be counted.

Hippie Stomper Craze

Loving the Left Bank

Tuesday was a successful day and a great introduction to high mountain stream fishing for 2023. The quantity of fish landed was more than I expected, and a few twelve inch plus browns kept me interested. I sensed that the ratio of brown trout to brook trout was greater than my previous visit on September 8, 2021. Tangles caused by spinning small fish were an ongoing frustration, but I managed to persist beyond this small adversity. Wading in the ice cold currents of Pine Creek on a hot day was an added bonus.

Fish Landed: 21

Roaring Fork River – 07/21/2023

Time: 9:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Carbondale to Glenwood Springs

Roaring Fork River 07/21/2023 Photo Album

Friday, July, 21, 2023 was my second scheduled guided float trip of 2023. I completed my first float on the Eagle River on 07/07/2023. As I mentioned in the 07/07/2023 post, my friend, Dave G., booked around ten trips per year, and I signed up to share two dates with him. Jane and I drove to the home of Dave G. and his wife, Beth, on Thursday evening, and I was situated perfectly for an early start on Friday morning. Dave G. transported us from his home in Eagle, CO to our meeting location with Reed of Cutthroat Anglers. Reed has been our guide for nearly all of our guided float trips, and he does a tremendous job of choosing the right rivers, flies and trout lies that lead to consistent success. For Friday, Reed selected the Roaring Fork River as our destination. Flows between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs remained on the high side and ranged between 1,000 and 2,000 CFS, but the river was crystal clear, as we unloaded the drift boat just below the CO 133 bridge in Carbondale.

Ready to Start

I assembled a Scott five weight owned by Dave G., as Reed felt that its flex was more appropriate for dry fly casting than the Sage One five weight that I waved on my previous float trip. The launch site was quite crowded with anglers, but we were able to depart on our float trip by 9:30AM. Reed rigged a dry/dropper rod and a dry fly rod for each of us, and I began the day in the rear of the drift boat. The air temperature was already in the seventies, and it peaked around ninety degrees on the warm summer day.

Reed Creation

Rear Fly

Except for a short period of dry/dropper fishing in the mid-morning time frame, Dave G. and I tossed double dry fly offerings for most of the day. We cycled through quite a few flies, but the most effective were a size twelve parachute mayfly imitation with an iridescent purple body and a trailing shuck for a tail. Another favorite was a size 16 parachute with a bright yellow wing and a brown body. The latter seemed to work well during the early afternoon, when a sparse pale morning dun hatch was visible. Other flies included a parachute hares ear, a tan foam hopper, an extended body green drake and purple hazes of varying sizes.

Lunch View

My casting was vastly improved compared to 07/07/2023, and I was able to consistently place my casts within a foot of the bank, when the conditions dictated. Dave G. and I switched places twice, and my stint in the bow was in the late morning and early afternoon. During this time I enjoyed decent success; however, my performance in the rear did not lag significantly. We spent nearly the entire day banging the banks, as Reed rowed us back and forth from left to right depending on how promising each side of the river projected. Casting accuracy, and the ability to mend and reach cast to achieve long drag free drifts were the keys to success. As I observed the fishermen in the other rafts and boats, I noted that most were sporting nymph rigs with large Thingamabobbers hugging their lines. Our approach enabled us to fish areas of the river that were avoided by the deep nymphing crowd.

Representative

Did the results justify the approach? I am pleased to report that I landed fourteen trout over the course of six hours of casting. Four were brown trout, with the first fish of the day being a sturdy fifteen inch brown that grabbed a pheasant tail tied on a jig style hook. Reed called this fly a Frenchie. The other three browns were “small” fish in the twelve inch range. The other ten landed trout were rainbows and cutbows, and two were twelve inchers, while the remainder measured between fourteen and eighteen inches. The cutbows were particularly noteworthy with red cheeks, orange slashes and a background of speckles behind a pink stripe along the side. Several of the cutbows exhibited a relaxed approach to eating, as they circled around their targeted prey, before they chomped down on my fly.

Nose Up Location

In one memorable instance, Reed pulled the boat along the shoreline to work on Dave G.’s line. I decided to cast upstream from the stern to a slow moving shelf pool, and as the flies sat stationary, a large mouth materialized to chomp on the PMD parachute. It was quite a thrill to catch a very respectable cutbow without the guidance of Reed, although I do not mean to imply that I do not value his expert advice and direction. In another case shortly thereafter, Dave G. hooked a very fine fish near a foam patch. As he was battling his fish, I decided to toss a cast to the left of the boat and near the same foam area. Dave G.’s trout would periodically swirl near the surface, as it resisted attempts to be landed. I spotted one of these swirls near my flies, so I lifted to remove them and to avoid a tangle. Much to my surprise, the swirl was to my flies, and I found myself attached to an angry cutbow. Dave G. and I did our best to maintain a safe distance between the fish, and eventually we landed them both to record a cutbow double. Excitement ruled the boat for a good fifteen minutes.

Cutbow Double

Nine very robust trout in the fourteen to eighteen inch range represents a very successful day in my book. These fish were energized and unwilling to bow easily to the pressure of our rods. My casting and line management was vastly improved compared to my previous trip, and I was very satisfied with my fourteen fish day on the Roaring Fork River. I look forward to my next fly fishing adventure of 2023.

Fish Landed: 14

Arkansas River – 07/19/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Between The Numbers and Buena Vista

Arkansas River 07/19/2023 Photo Album

After a couple hours of success on the Arkansas River on Tuesday, I decided to give the river another trial on Wednesday morning. Wednesday was get away day from our cabin, so we were required to pack up and clean dishes and do laundry prior to departure. My wife, Jane, and our friend, Amy, made plans to bike from The Numbers river access area to Buena Vista, and then play pickleball, while I fished, so I settled on fishing a section in between those two end points.

I dropped them off with their bicycles at 9:15, and I then drove to a parking lot at my chosen fishing destination. I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage R8 four weight, and I was ready to hike along the river path by 10AM. The air temperature was already around 75 degrees, and the sun was quite bright. As I was about to leave the parking lot, Jane and Amy arrived, and we said our final goodbyes, as we went our separate ways.

I ambled along the dirt path for .4 miles, before I decided to cut down a steep bank to the river’s edge, but when I peered down, I spotted the hat of another angler. There was one other fisherman in the stretch that I selected, and he happened to occupy my chosen starting point. What luck!. I reversed direction and hiked back toward the parking lot for .1 mile, and then I carefully stepped down a steep bank. I began my day with the size 8 yellow fat Albert, a prince nymph and a salvation nymph, since the aforementioned combination was effective on Tuesday in the late afternoon. On my second backhand cast I created a woeful tangle, and after some nasty words I spent eight minutes cutting off my flies and redoing the entire configuration. I was about to finally make another cast, when the downstream angler arrived. He asked if I was just starting, and I replied yes. He then asked, if I would mind, if he went around me and dropped in upstream. I told him to go ahead but asked for a forty yard buffer. He continued past me and much to my surprise, he resumed fishing no more than twenty yards upstream.

I once again uttered some unkind words to myself, and I hooked my flies to the rod guide and scaled the steep bank and continued back along the path, until I was .15 mile from the parking area. I was fuming the entire time. I finally engaged in some serious fishing, but the trout did not cooperate. I prospected with the dry/dropper for the next hour, until I approached the parking lot, and all I had to show for my efforts were a few splashy refusals to the fat Albert. The nymphs were totally ignored, so I concluded that the fish were looking toward the surface for their meals, and I decided to shift to a double dry approach. I removed the nymphs and the fat Albert and tied on a peacock hippie stomper and a size 14 light gray caddis. The hippie stomper attracted some attention with a refusal and a very brief temporary hook up, so I made a slight bit of progress in my quest for trout number one.

Promising but Disappointing

I arrived at the path to my car, so I decided to explore the western bank of the Arkansas River. I crossed at a bridge and carefully negotiated my way along the bank in a down river direction for .2 mile. The western side of the river featured some very nice long and wide runs and riffles over moderate depth, and I was guardedly optimistic that I could finally add a landed trout to my scorecard. The first ten minutes resembled the previous hour of fishing, and I spotted a yellow sally or two, so I replaced the hippie stomper with a yellow stimulator. The stimulator failed to attract attention, so I once again modified my offerings, and in this instance I replaced the stimulator with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and trailed a lime green trude. The fat Albert at least attracted looks, so I reasoned that perhaps the larger foam ant might draw interest. Tilt. Another change followed, and I replaced the lime green trude with a size 14 gray deer hair caddis. This finally did the trick, and I hooked and landed an eleven inch brown trout that consumed the caddis. A few more temporary connections with the Chernobyl and caddis combination elevated my confidence.

Best Fish Near Closing Time

I was now approaching the departure time required in order to meet up with Amy and Jane in Buena Vista by 1PM. I continued to work my way upstream along the left bank, and I allocated the most casts to the most promising sections, where the river flowed at a modest speed over moderate depth. During the last twenty minutes, I hooked and landed two additional brown trout, and both snatched the gray caddis. One of the brown trout measured to twelve inches, and that was my best of the day. Did I leave just as the resident trout began their daily feeding binge? 12:30PM is typically within the time frame of increased feeding activity, although I was uncertain whether that was the case on a hot summer day. I will never know the answer to that question, as I hurried up the bankĀ  and returned to the car in order to meet my commitment.

Wednesday was a tough late morning of fly fishing. I began with limited allotted time, and the encounter with the other angler diminished the fishing window even further. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I felt rushed and constrained by the shortened time frame. My next adventure is a scheduled guided float trip on Friday, July 21. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 3

Arkansas River – 07/18/2023

Time: 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Private water

Arkansas River 07/18/2023 Photo Album

Tuesday was another hot day, so I was reluctant to fish in the middle of the day; however, this may have been a mistaken notion. The ladies in our group went on a hike to Ptarmigan Lake, while I agreed to accompany Dave H. to the pickleball courts in Buena Vista. We had a blast mixing in with some local players, and I got so caught up in the action, that I ignored my expressed desire to fish in the late morning. By the time we exhausted ourselves on the courts, it was 11:00AM, so we returned to the rental house for lunch.

I decided to sample the private water on the Arkansas River in the late afternoon, and at 3:15PM I enacted my plan. I pulled on my waders on the porch and fitted together my Sage One four piece and drove to the trailhead. After following a steep trail to the edge of the river, I applied the necessary dose of insect repellant, and I knotted a yellow size 8 fat Albert, prince nymph and salvation nymph to my line. The air was quite warm, and the atmosphere was punctuated by periodic bursts of hot wind. I was not optimistic.

Perfect Trout Refuge During High Flows on the Arkansas River

What a Start!

I began slinging the dry/dropper to all the likely runs and riffles of moderate depth and velocity, and the first ten minutes reinforced my conviction that the fishing was going to be difficult at best. I was surprised to learn thatĀ  my preconceived assessments of the fishing were misplaced, when I experienced two momentary hookups with what appeared to be respectable trout. This was a harbinger of the excellent fishing in my future.

Much Solid Water to Prospect

Butter Brown

Over the remaining 1.75 hours I landed six nice brown trout and connected with an additional four escapees that offered fierce resistance to a net visitation. Two trout mashed the fat Albert and the other four were split between the prince and salvation. The most productive approach was a lift or swing at the tail of the drift, although the fat Albert eaters responded to upstream dead drift casts.

Nice Length

Would this same level of success have resulted had I moved my fly fishing timing forward a few hours? I will never know, but perhaps the high flows mitigated the heat enough to make such an eventuality possible. Once again I enjoyed a fun although brief outing on private water, and I was quite impressed.

Fish Landed: 6

Rain on Mt. Princeton

Chalk Creek – 07/17/2023

Time: 4:45PM – 6:15PM

Location: Private water

Chalk Creek 07/17/2023 Photo Album

Jane and I, along with a group of friends, rented a cabin near Buena Vista during the week of July 16. On Monday we completed a wild rafting adventure through Browns Canyon which included eight Class III’s and two Class IV’s. Our group narrowly avoided three swimming (falling out of the boat) episodes. Once I returned to our cabin, I decided to explore some fly fishing. I only had a couple hours available to fish, so I chose to fish on some private water on Chalk Creek.

A Promising Deep Pool

I selected my Loomis 5 weight, and I began my fly fishing effort with a size 10 Chernobyl ant, a prince nymph, and a salvation nymph. The air temperature was in the low eighties, but some dark threatening clouds made it seem cooler. The flows were around 95 CFS, and this translated to some very difficult wading. In addition, the viable fish holding spots were scarce.

Butter Colored Brown

Over the course of my 1.5 hours on the creek, I landed twelve trout. Ten were browns, and two were rainbows. Two browns measured around twelve inches, and one of the rainbows reached thirteen inches. The other trout were in the nine to eleven inch range. One trout crushed the fat Albert, and 25% of the others grabbed the prince nymph, with the remainder consuming the salvation. If I could find a spot, where the current was slow enough to allow a trout to hold a position, I more often than not landed a fish.

Very Productive Spot

Surprise Rainbow

My first hookup was easily the best fish of the outing. I dropped the three-fly offering in a small pocket tucked between the bank, a branch and a fast current. After the fly rested for a couple seconds, I lifted and felt the weight of a substantial trout. I managed to guide it out of the bucket hole, but when I leveraged it within five feet of my net, it shot downstream and found a strong, deep current. I allowed line to spin off the reel, and when the run ended, I attempted to recover some line. The trout suddenly twisted its head, and the flies flipped free.

Zoomed in on the Site of the Big Guy

I was quite pleased with twelve fish over 1.5 hours given the elevated flows. Although the size was lacking a bit, constant action late on a hot day was much appreciated. Private water was valued and probably contributed to my Monday success.

Fish Landed: 12

Eagle River – 07/12/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Downstream from Wolcott and then in Edwards

Eagle River 07/12/2023 Photo Album

Ever since I met my friend, Nate, I have been hyping the edge fishing on the Eagle River, as something that he should experience, Nate had off work on Wednesday, so we made plans to undertake the two plus hour trip to the Eagle River on July 12, 2023. Since I was the advocate to fish the Eagle, I developed the plan for our day.

We met at 8AM at the Woolly Mammoth parking lot west of Denver, and we arrived at a pullout below Wolcott by 10:30AM. The air temperature was already in the upper seventies, and the afternoon high registered in the mid-eighties. Nate’s fly rods were already strung, and he chose his five weight based on my suggestion. I also put together my Sage One five weight, and we hiked to the river. Early on in our exploration of the river, Nate hooked and landed a feisty rainbow trout, and I was encouraged by the early success. The flows were in the 800 to 850 CFS range, so wading was easier than on my visit on Monday; however, most of the casting remained limited to the ten feet of river that rolled along the bank.

Tough Release

Because of the continued fast current, Nate and I alternated between promising spots. Not too long after Nate netted his fish, I also connected with a very fit and energetic rainbow trout, and I was fortunate to land the fourteen inch fighter. During the late morning we observed an increased number of insects including pale morning duns and yellow sallies; however, the density of the hatches never brought fish to the surface. We both continued to deploy our dry/dropper rigs, as we cherry picked only prime runs, pockets and slots. In my case, I cast a size 8 fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph. I had a goal to reach the wide riffle, where I ended on Monday, by 12:30PM; and we arrived ten minutes late, but the attractive section was devoid of rising fish.

We eventually acknowledged that a hatch was not going to materialize at one of my favorite sections of the river, so we stripped in our lines and returned to the car. During the morning session, I landed one fine rainbow trout, but I also connected briefly with three additional trout, and each appeared to be a very respectable fish in the thirteen to fifteen inch range.

I was now in scramble mode to salvage some action for Nate and I on a hot day in July. Originally I planned our second stop to be the Horn Ranch section, but this area was also on the lower, wide open portion of the river, so I continued onward to Edwards and parked at the rest stop. I knew from past experience that the narrower and tree-lined section by the rest stop fished better on hot summer days.

Our rods were at the ready, so we grabbed them and ambled along the path in an upstream direction, until we arrived at the massive run and pool that serves as the centerpiece of the rest area public water. Much to my amazement the pool was devoid of other anglers. We prospected our dry/droppers through the shelf pool nearest to our position with no success, so we paused to eat our lunches. As we munched our food, we observed the river, and a cluster of rising fish appeared at the tail of the pool.

Nate Displayed with Pride

We pulled on our gear after lunch, and we reconfigured our lines with double dry fly offerings, and Nate approached the risers at the tail, while I moved along the bank to the midsection. We both spent fifteen minutes tossing our dries, and Nate came up empty, while I logged brief hookups with two brown trout that were rising in the shelf pool on my side of the strong center cut run. Near the top of the run, I spotted another rise, and I placed quite a few casts in the vicinity to no avail other than a cursory look.

Admiration

The risers ended their feast, so Nate and I moved on to the pocket water section above the large pool. We spent the remainder of the afternoon prospecting the pockets with our double dry fly rigs, and we finally experienced a modicum of success. Nate featured a black hippie stomper and size 14 golden stonefly adult with a yellow and orange abdomen. As we covered the first half of the pocket water, the stonefly caught fire, and Nate upped his fish count to three, but he also notched a bevy of long distance releases.

Respectable Rainbow

I, meanwhile, deployed a yellow stimulator and size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, and I managed to land a small brown that savored the caddis. However, as Nate’s stonefly became the preferred meal, my flies fell out of favor, so I switched to a red-body hippie stomper trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph. This move was renounced by the local trout, so after a short trial period I switched to a peacock body hippie stomper that trailed a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. This combination performed admirably, and I increased my fish count to four including a very fine thirteen inch brown trout. I made a nice cross stream cast to a narrow slot and allowed the flies to drift without drag to the lip of the slick. Just as the flies began to accelerate to the next pocket, a fish chomped on the caddis, but I was connected for a brief split second. I resumed casting, and the hungry stream resident continued to make refusing swirls at the flies. On a subsequent cast I halted the drift so that the flies fluttered at the lip, and then I moved my rod to the left and created a skittering caddis. The trout aggressively pursued the waking flies, but once again it came up short. Nate was in awe of this performance. Finally I extended a cast another three feet, and fed the fly down another lane tight to the fast current, Just as the caddis was about to drag over the lip, a thirteen inch brown attacked, and I landed it. Nate and I both suspected that the fish I landed was different from the one that put on a chasing show.

Nice One by Dave

The Brown Chased the Caddis at the Tail of the Smooth Water

By 4:30PM we reached the pedestrian bridge that marks the border with private water, so we called it quits and hiked back to the car. Just before we quit Nate connected with a very nice rainbow, but it maneuvered into the faster main current and managed to elude the net.

Needless to say Wednesday was a bit disappointing, as we landed seven fish between us over 4.5 hours of fishing. Nevertheless, we salvaged some fun in the pocket water with opportunistic fish in the late afternoon, and Nate received an introduction to several sections of the river, should he decide to revisit on his own at a future date. I, meanwhile, will turn my attention to the Arkansas River in the near term, as Jane and I are renting a cabin with private river frontage in the upcoming week. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 4

Eagle River – 07/10/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Wolcott

Eagle River 07/10/2023 Photo Album

After a somewhat disappointing day on the Eagle River on 07/03/2023, I was anxious to return. I blamed the relatively low catch rate on the high flows, which rushed along at 1250 CFS below the Milk Creek tributary. I generally favor levels to be around 1,000 CFS at the lower gauge. The flows on Monday morning, July 10, 2023 were at 985 CFS, so I packed the car and made the drive.

I arrived at my chosen pullout at 10:30AM, and I pulled on my waders, gathered my gear and assembled my Sage One five weight. The temperature was in the seventies, and the high probably peaked in the mid-eighties. I completed a short hike to the river, and I was positioned to cast by 11:00AM. The flows were lower than I experienced on July 3 and July 7, but the river still rushed along at a rapid clip.

Lower Flows

Similar to my 07/03/2023 trip, the morning fishing was very slow, and I did not land my first fish until after lunch. I fished a dry/dropper rig for most of my time on the water except for a twenty minute period during the peak of the pale morning dun hatch, when I switched to double dries, after I observed a pair of rises. The move partially paid off, as I hooked a decent trout on the cinnamon comparadun, but it quickly charged into the fast water and shrugged off my nuisance fly.

Only Brown Trout

Pink Striped Beauty

During the morning I cycled through an olive-black Pat’s rubber legs, an iron sally, salvation nymph and a dark olive nymph with rubber legs. None of these flies met the standards of the resident fish. During the afternoon I fished a tan pool toy hopper on top and trailed an iron sally and traditional size 18 pheasant tail nymph. Of the eight fish landed via the dry/dropper, roughly half snatched the pheasant tail and the other half grabbed the iron sally. The catch rate never elevated to lukewarm status, but I did manage steady action in the time period after the heavy PMD emergence. Three of the trout that landed in my net were very fine rainbows in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and one fifteen inch brown trout joined the mix. The other four landed trout were very feisty rainbows in the ten to twelve inch range. I counted my temporary hookups, and eight additional fish made contact with my flies but managed to slide free. Several very nice fish moved into the heavy current of the main river, and it did not take long before they chucked the hook and fled to freedom.

Promising Edge Water

Coiled to Jump

I suffered through more than the normal number of tangles, and the wind was an ever present nuisance. At one point I stepped on a muddy bottom, and my feet shot out and left my butt in the mud. Fortunately I was not hurt and the river did not spill over my waders. The abundant quantity of willow sticks that were wedged between rocks presented another annoying hassle to my day of fishing. In one case I was unable to extract my flies, and I ended up snapping off an iron sally and pheasant tail nymph. I abandoned tying size 18 pheasant tails in favor of super nova pale morning dun nymphs, but after experiencing success on the old classic pheasant tail, I may need to revise my tying program. After I snapped off the two flies, I replaced the pheasant tail with a super nova, but all the catches after that were attributable to the iron sally.

Long and Fast

I am planning another trip to the Eagle River on Wednesday, July 12, and I may now possibly target some sections farther upriver. During the float on Friday, it seemed like the hatch was denser in the Wolcott area, and more rising fish were visible.

Fish Landed: 8

Eagle River – 07/07/2023

Time: 10:00AM – 6:00PM

Location: Edwards to Eagle, 17 mile float

Eagle River 07/07/2023 Photo Album

Each year over the past three I have scheduled a guided float trip with my friend, Dave G. Actually Dave G. schedules the trips, and I select a few to accompany him. Friday July 7 was the first of two such trips in 2023. Our guide, Reed, selected the Eagle River as our river destination. The flows at the gauge in Avon were peaking around 1050 CFS, and the downstream gauge at Milk Creek registered 1250. For wade fishing I prefer flows approximately 200 CFS lower, but floating in an inflatable raft made managing the higher flows quite feasible. In fact, the high flows accentuate the capabilities of a nimble, high-floating raft.

Launch Site Was Crowded

I stayed at Dave G.’s house in Eagle on Thursday night, and on Friday morning after a delicious breakfast, we drove separately to the Eagle museum parking lot. Here we parked our cars and jumped into Reed’s truck, and he drove the trailered raft to our launch point west of Edwards, CO. The boat ramp area was buzzing with guides and fishermen, so it was evident that prime floating season was in progress on the upper Eagle River. Reed notified the shuttle company that he needed a shuttle to the Eagle Museum, and this committed us to a 17 mile trip!

Stimulator

The weather was perfect, as the temperature at the start was in the mid to upper sixties, and the high probably spiked in the low eighties. Rain never developed, however, some strong gusts of wind hindered us for short periods in the afternoon. I wore my fishing shirt and quick dry wading pants with my Chacos, and I completely lathered up all exposed skin with sunscreen. I strung my Sage One five weight, and Reed provided a six weight for the heavy lifting of tossing a large dry/dropper configuration.

Attractor Dry

We launched and began fly fishing by 10AM. From our start until noon Dave G. and I fished mostly dry/droppers with a chubby Chernobyl as the top fly and an olive-brown Pat’s rubber legs and yellow sally nymph. Several other flies factored in the mix including a Frenchie (jig pheasant tail), but the three mentioned previously were the mainstays of the morning time period. I landed four fish before lunch, and one of the four was a stunning eighteen inch brown trout. What a fish! The husky brown put up quite a battle, and I was thankful for the 4X tippet and the heft of the six weight rod.

Looking Back

Toward the end of the morning Dave G. and I swapped positions, and I moved from the normally favored bow to the rear of the raft. By noon or shortly thereafter, we began to notice a dense emergence of pale morning duns and to a lesser extent, yellow sallies. Caddis were present throughout the day, but they were never on the water enough to distract the trout from feeding on the other two more prevalent insect food sources. Reed was quick to switch Dave G. and I to dries, when he spotted the mayflies floating up from the surface.

Bank to Bank Flows

Love the Red Rock Cliffs

The two hours between noon and 2:00PM were the most exciting of the day. Trout fed ravenously, and we could spot nice fish hovering just below the surface and then rising to snatch tasty morsels from the film. Many of these trout were tight to the bank, so accurate casts and drag free drifts were the keys to success. On several occasions Reed rowed the raft back upstream to fish especially attractive pools and eddies behind current breaking structures. These instances were dry fly fishing at its best, as Reed positioned each of us to make medium range upstream casts to pods of feeding fish. My heart rate elevated with the adrenalin rush that accompanied my anticipation of hooking a steady feeder. During this time our lines featured yellow sally dry flies and parachute pale morning dun imitations.

Reed’s Chubby

By 2:00PM the PMD hatch waned into random stragglers; however, the yellow sallies continued their fluttering reconnaissance over the river. Unfortunately the trout did not seem as excited over yellow sallies compared to their appetite for pale morning duns. Eventually we converted back to a dry/dropper approach, and I picked off a few trout to boost the fish count to double digits. In order to reach the take out ramp by 6:00PM, Reed rowed through some of the less desirable sections, and he converted me to a double dry rig for the home stretch. Caddis became the more prevalent insect, and I hooked and landed a small rainbow trout near the take out to raise my fish count on the day to eleven.

Afternoon Beauty

Friday was a fun day of fly fishing on the clear but high Eagle River. Seventeen miles was a long trip, and Dave G. and I enjoyed a lot of fly fishing. My casting was off as evidenced by losing at least eight flies on riverside vegetation, and I tended to rush my forward cast, and I allowed my arm and elbow to elevate upward. These were all faults that took the power out of my forward cast. Casting close to the bank and not wasting time on break offs and snarls were critical to experiencing a spectacular day on a float trip, and I was a bit off my game on Friday. Nevertheless, I landed double digits and my catches included five trout in the thirteen to eighteen inch range with the early eighteen inch brown my prize. A slow motion surface take of a dry fly by a respectable rainbow trout during the dense PMD hatch was another highlight of the day. I am looking forward to my second guided float trip on July 21, and conditions will dictate our destination.

Fish Landed: 11

 

Jefferson Lake – 07/05/2023

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eastern shore

Jefferson Lake 07/05/2023 Photo Album

After a somewhat disappointing day on Monday on the Eagle River, I yearned for a return. I was hopeful that two days would allow a 200 CFS foot drop, and that would place the flows at the upper limit of my favored range for edge fishing. Unfortunately, when I checked the flows on Tuesday evening, it was apparent that the run off had leveled off, and the graph depicted no appreciable decline. I also checked the Arkansas River, although I was reluctant to make the nearly three hour drive, and the flow graph displayed a similar trend of flat water levels. I considered the Big Thompson, and flows there remained on the high side at 127 CFS, so I ultimately chose to visit another high country lake.

I scanned my list of lakes, and I singled out Jefferson Lake. I never fished Jefferson Lake, however, I recently read a brief article about it in American Fly fishing, and I searched and found the article that I scanned. The brief description of Jefferson Lake was found in my destinations folder on the computer. After reading the article, my curiosity was peaked, and I decided to make the trip. Jefferson Lake is located in South Park a little over 1.5 hours from Denver.

I needed to make some phone calls about appointments, so I got off to a late start and departed the garage by 9:00AM. This enabled me to pull into the boat launch parking lot by 10:40AM after paying my $5 fee to use the Jefferson Lake Recreation Area. The air temperature at the high elevation lake was 51 degrees, and huge snowfields were located along the western side of the parking lot. I pulled on my fleece hoodie and raincoat, and I assembled my Sage R8 four weight, and I was prepared for a day of fishing. An ominous dark cloud appeared in the western sky, but I began my hike with the hope of getting in thirty minutes of fly fishing before the rain began. The article in the magazine suggested fishing the eastern shoreline to get away from the crowds of fishermen that pressured the water near the south end parking lot.

My Fly on the Still Surface

I followed the instructions perfectly and hiked to a spot roughly one-fifth of the length of the eastern bank. I tied a yellow size 8 fat Albert to my line and then added an olive-brown size 16 deer hair caddis on a three foot dropper. I do not usually fish such a long tippet in a double dry arrangement, but I was reluctant to cut down the leader without a place to dispose of the excess. I began lobbing relatively long casts toward the center of the lake, and during the times when the wind died back, I observed sipping rises in the vicinity. The feeding was very sporadic, but I used the action to locate fish, and tossed casts nearby. I counted thirty seconds and then stripped, and I generated several swirls, but no commitment to the fake food source. Finally after several teases, a fish absolutely crushed the fat Albert, and I landed a fine twelve inch rainbow trout.

Number One Was Pretty

I was rather excited that I unlocked the secret to catching Jefferson Lake trout, when the wind kicked up, and a curtain of rain descended on me and the water. It was too early to get soaked, so I retreated to the shelter of a clump of pine trees, and I waited out the weather interruption. The rain varied between very heavy and moderate, before I heard loud smacks, and at this point I realized that small hail balls replaced the liquid precipitation. I waited for roughly thirty minutes, until I resumed casting in light rain under partially blue skies at 11:30AM. Rising trout were absent after the storm ended, so I spent twenty minutes making fruitless casts and strips, until I adjourned to a large rock, where I consumed my lunch.

North End of the Lake

After lunch I decided to move toward the north to sample different sections of the lake and to eventually investigate the inlet. Between 12:30 and 2:30 I walked the shoreline to the inlet, and I stopped intermittently to cast the flies, when I spotted random rises. During this process I added two additional rainbow trout in the twelve inch range. One crushed the fat Albert, and the other inhaled a peacock hippie stomper that replaced the Albert. At one point I removed the caddis and replaced it with a salvation nymph in case the trout were focused on subsurface offerings, but that change never produced success. When I removed the salvation, I used the changeover as an opportunity to exchange the fat Albert for the hippie stomper, and I also swapped the salvation for a black size 18 parachute ant.

Inlet Area

The catch rate was below average, and there was very little activity in the form of refusals, looks or temporary connections. By 2:30PM I arrived at the first inlet to the lake. A very small mountain stream trickled into the lake, but the entry was not attractive to fish. I crossed the small entering stream and walked across a spit of land to the point where another slightly larger stream entered. This area had more depth, where the current flowed, and it fanned out into a nice wide mouth with moderate depth. I began spraying casts upstream and then across the little inlet cove, and as I did this, some sporadic feeding activity materialized. Finally on a cast to the center of the lake where the stream current ended, a fish rocketed to the surface to inhale one of my flies. The take was so rapid, that I was uncertain which fly was attacked.

A Lake Trout Perhaps?

The fish put up a stronger fight than my previous catches, but eventually I landed it, and I was both pleased and surprised to see a lake trout. I think it was a small lake trout, although I read that the lake contains splake, so that was another possibility. After releasing the cold water species, I resumed casting, but the wind kicked up, and the rises ended, and my flies were not productive.

I stripped in my flies and once again changed tactics. For my final effort at salvaging Wednesday, I knotted an olive-black woolly bugger to my line along with a wiggle damsel nymph. For the next hour I worked my way back along the eastern shoreline, and I stopped periodically to cast and strip the streamer combination. I cycled through a black mini leech, a blonde woolly bugger, and a Mickey Finn during this last hour, but my only reward was a soft bump to the mini leech.

Columbine Family

When I was next the last cove before the parking lot, a wide bank of black clouds rolled in from the west. Distant thunder suggested ominous weather, so I hustled back to the car and removed my gear and broke down my rod. My timing was perfect, as large but widely spaced raindrops smacked my shirt, as I climbed into the Santa Fe for the return trip.

Four trout in 3.5 hours of fly fishing was a sad catch rate. The rainbows were feisty adversaries, and it was fun to break the monotony of stocker rainbows with a small lake trout. I would have liked more fishing time without wind and a riffled surface, but I explored quite a bit of the lake, and if I ever return, I now know the layout.

Fish Landed: 4