Big Thompson River – 04/12/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 2:45PM

Location: Canyon below Estes Park

Big Thompson River 04/12/2024 Photo Album

Another fabulous early spring day was forecast for Friday, April 12, and I decided to take advantage for a day of fly fishing. After the long drive on Wednesday to the Arkansas River, I was averse to making a trip in excess of two hours, so I focused on South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson River. Both locations projected high temperatures in the low sixties, and flows were favorable on both streams. South Boulder Creek was running at 44 CFS and the Big Thompson rolled along at 55 CFS. The fly shop report suggested blue wing olives were present on the Big Thompson, and South Boulder Creek necessitated a fairly arduous return hike, so I chose the Big Thompson.

I arrived at my chosen pullout by 10:40AM, and this enabled me to be positioned along the stream casting by 11:00AM. I used my Sage R8 four weight, and I wore my North Face light down parka. I began my day with a tan ice dub body chubby Chernobyl and a beadhead hares ear nymph along with a salvation nymph. Within the first fifteen minutes I hooked and landed a small brown trout that was barely over six inches, but as I reached for my net that is usually dangling behind me, it was absent. This sent me into panic mode, and I began to plan a trip to a fly shop in Estes Park to buy a new net. Before resorting that rash solution, however, I decided to retrace my steps to the car if necessary. Did I fail to clip it to my retractor at the car? I was fairly certain that was not the case.

I waded back down the river a short distance to the small island, where I began, but it was nowhere to be found. What if it wasn’t properly clipped and fell in the river and floated downstream? Next, I waded back to the bank on the US 34 side of the river, and then I followed my path back to the highway. I scrambled up some large rocks, and I was extremely pleased to spot my net five feet off the asphalt. What happened? I inspected the net and discovered that the eye screw that goes into the handle pulled out; and, sure enough, clip that snaps into the retractor remained in place with the eye screw dangling from it. I pulled the eye screw out and twisted it back in the hole on the end of the net, until it was very secure, and I returned to the point, where I was interrupted. What a relief to recover my net in a fairly short amount of time.

Between 11:30 and 2:15 I prospected the dry/dropper arrangement, as I worked my way upstream, and I landed two additional small trout to finish the day at three. I was quite disappointed with this performance, however, I had my opportunities for a better outcome. I actually connected with nine fish, but six managed to evade my net; and, of course, the escapees felt like the better fish. By one o’clock I expected to see some blue wing olive activity, so I abandoned the salvation nymph and replaced it with a sparkle wing RS2 size 22. I suspect that my long distance releases after this fly change can be attributed to the small hook size.

By 2:00PM I reached private water, so I returned to the car and drove downstream a mile or two to another favorite location. Unfortunately an angler was in the pool that I targeted, and a car was parked in my normal spot, so I rolled downstream a bit farther. I gathered all my gear and hiked down the road a tenth of a mile or so, and I resumed my quest for trout. I was curious to experiment with a smaller dry fly, so I removed the dry/dropper offerings and transitioned to a peacock hippie stomper with a size 16 olive-brown body caddis. I flicked these flies to likely locales particularly along the bank and large protective boulders, but the fish were having none of it. By this time the sun was bright in the sky, and the temperature elevated, and it seemed as if the trout were lulled into sleep mode. When I reached a point, where the channel narrowed and created deep plunge pools and fast runs, I called it quits and climbed the steep boulder strewn bank and then ambled back to the car.

Friday was a disappointing day for this avid angler. Three trout landed in three hours of fishing is rather abysmal, and the size of the trout was lacking as well. In spite of these results, I was motivated by the fairly steady action created by temporary connections, and these fish raised my interest, because they felt larger and fought harder. I have no explanation for my poor conversion ratio of hook ups to netted other than the small hook size of the RS2. The R8 rod carries a softer tip than most of my other rods, so perhaps I need to strengthen my hook set power lift. The weather and the beauty of my surroundings were a distinct positive.

Fish Landed: 3