Time: 10:45AM – 2:45PM
Location: National forest
Friday was my last day in the Flattops, and I was rather pleased with my first three days particularly after enduring a lengthy sickness due to an adverse reaction to antibiotics. A fairly lengthy hike to and from my fishing spot on the South Fork of the White River punctuated my physical recovery. For Friday I chose a destination that allowed me to quit by 3:00PM and avoided a lengthy return hike to the car. Once again I chose the North Fork, and I was positioned at a roadside pullout, as I prepared to fish at 10:00AM. I got off to a later than desired start, as I waited until the Ute Lodge office opened at 9:30 in order to pay my remaining bill and check out.
Friday was another glorious late September day, as the temperature rose from 57 degrees, when I began, to the low seventies at the peak. Since I expected to fish dry/droppers and double dries, I chose my Loomis two piece five weight to take advantage of the slower action for casting larger flies. I also favored the slightly shorter length on the relatively narrow high elevation creek. A twenty minute hike placed me on the bank of the river, and I began fly fishing at 10:45AM. To begin my fly fishing experience, I knotted a size 8 tan pool toy hopper to my line as the surface fly, and beneath it I attached a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. In the first decent riffle area, two small rainbows attacked my flies, as one gulped the hopper, and the other snatched the salvation. I was off and running with an auspicious start. I continued my progression upstream through a fairly narrow and high gradient section, and I was careful to focus on only the prime locales with slower current and depth to afford the resident trout security from overhead predators.
By the time I broke for lunch at 11:45AM, the fish count rested on five, and I was quite pleased with my first hour endeavor. Number five was a stunning copper colored cutbow, but it crushed the hopper and wrapped the trailing nymphs in a ridiculous snarl that included tight knots and loops. It took me at least ten minutes to unwind the damage, but at least the hassle was somewhat worthwhile with the nice trout as a reward.
After lunch I continued to employ the same offerings, and the fish count slowly crept to twelve, but frequent refusals combined with blowing up prime spots, when the dropper nymphs snagged on rocks and sticks. suggested that a change was in order. In spite of these downsides to the 11:45 to 1:15 period, my catch included quite a few respectable cutbows and rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range. Most of the larger fish smashed the hopper, so I was reluctant to abandon it, but the terrestrial was also responsible for looks and refusals that detracted attention from the nymphs. Interestingly, the number of brook trout to rest in my net was only a few small ones, and this would be the case for the remainder of my time on the water. I theorized that the older, adult brookies were busy procreating and not eating, and this left the feeding open for the cutbow population.
Despite my reluctance to abandon the target of larger trout in the stream, I replaced the pool toy with a peacock hippie stomper, and in an effort to reduce the frequency of bottom snags, I opted for a one fly nymph dropper on a three foot leader and chose the salvation nymph. This combination remained on my line until I quit at 2:45PM, and I was quite pleased with the results.
I progressed upstream and prospected the two fly set up in all the prime locations that offered depth, slower current and length; and the trout responded. I increased the fish count from twelve to twenty-nine before I quit at 2:45PM in order to achieve my goal of departing for the long drive home no later than 4:00PM. For the most part, if I cast to an attractive spot, the fish responded. The salvation nymph became the food morsel of choice, and I estimate that thirty percent smacked the stomper on the surface and the other seventy percent nabbed the salvation on the drift.
The quality of the fish was outstanding. I had a difficult time resisting photographing every fish, as they either displayed splendid color schemes, or they were chunky fish in the thirteen inch range. I moved at a fast pace and dropped three to five casts in likely spots, and in the process covered nearly a mile of stream real estate. I love this style of fishing, and the mild weather and the warm glow of the aspens accentuated my fun day. I quit at 2:45PM, which was earlier than I planned, because I was unsure of my exit strategy, but I climbed two steep banks and zig zagged through an aspen grove, before I spotted the road and found my way back to the car.
Although I posted a greater number day on Wednesday, Friday may have been my favorite day of the trip. I suspect that another hour on the stream would have enabled me to surpass Tuesday’s big number day, and the cutbows and rainbows were somewhat larger than Tuesday’s haul. I have plans to return to the Flattops next week, but the weather will be cooler; however, I expect that I might be able to carve out another day on the North Fork. Friday’s section might be perfect for a return.
Fish Landed: 29