Big Thompson River – 10/03/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Lake Estes in the canyon

Big Thompson River – 10/03/2022 Photo Album

My day of fly fishing on Monday, October 3, 2022 can be characterized as one of frustration. My initial plan involved a trip to my favorite local stream, South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. In preparation for the trip I checked the stream flows on the DWR web site, and the news there was favorable with the valve delivering 76 CFS, which is as close to ideal as it gets. The weather was tolerable with a high in the upper fifties and afternoon clouds with rain commencing at 3PM. I searched my South Boulder Creek posts for early October, and I found one for October 15, when I landed twenty-nine trout using mostly a dry/dropper system. All systems were go except for a check on Gross Dam road. During my last trip, I encountered a sign that notified travelers that the road would be closed the two days after my passage. Was it possible that the road would be closed again and would my access be blocked? I looked up the Denver Water customer service number and made a call and spoke with a representative named Lindsey. She did not have that information, but she gave me the number of the Gross Reservoir ranger, and she suggested he was likely to have road closure information.

I waited until 8AM and called Ranger Don, but my call was forwarded to voicemail. A long recorded message informed the caller that the South Gross Dam Road was closed for the duration of the project, but I concluded that this was the dirt road that I met at a T intersection, where I turned right to cross the creek and access the Kayak parking lot. I asked Ranger Don to return my call, but the request was never fulfilled, so I embarked on my original plan.

I followed my normal route to Coal Creek Canyon, but when I approached the turn off to Crescent Meadows, a large road construction sign announced that Gross Dam Road was closed on October 3 and 4. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I actually anticipated this, but I was unable to gather the necessary information to avoid the wasted trip. I decided to change my plans and reversed my direction to CO 93, and I followed the road through Boulder, CO and eventually on to the Peak to Peak Highway and Estes Park. Upon my approach to Estes Park, I turned right on Mall Road, and then I shortcut to US 34 and followed the two lane to my chosen pullout.

Scene of Hot Start

The air temperature was sixty degrees, so I pulled on my fleece hoodie, and I proceeded to gear up with my Loomis two piece five weight. I used the Loomis in the Flattops, and I liked the feel for casting dry flies and dry/dropper rigs. I hiked down the road a bit and then cut perpendicular to the river, and then I rigged with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph and beadhead salvation nymph. I tossed the three fly dry/dropper upstream to a moderate depth run, and instantly a fish grabbed one of the nymphs, but it quickly escaped. A second cast to the left resulted in a foul hooked brown trout, and then a third cast yielded a small brown trout to my net. After the first thirty minutes of fly fishing I recorded two foul hooked fish, two temporary hook ups and four landed trout. The fourth brown crushed the hopper and then twisted the nymph droppers into a wicked snarl, so I spent a ridiculous amount of time untangling and retying the flies. In the process the one remaining functioning zipper on the drop down foam pocket in my frontpack broke, and the pad remained in the down position permanently. This was a significant nuisance to casting and line management, and since it was 11:45AM, I returned to the car to eat lunch and develop a temporary fix to my frontpack.

Innovated Front Pack Fix

After lunch I searched through my fishing bag, and I found a 2.5 foot long lanyard from a Bucknell reunion that I saved for just such an occasion. I wrapped the lanyard around the frontpack and knotted it in the back. The drop down foam patch was now locked in the upright position, but the strap was low enough to allow me to pull the zippers on the main frontpack compartment to open and close. I walked back down the road to a spot above the no trespassing signs and above my exit point before lunch, and I resumed prospecting with the three fly dry/dropper. The torrid pace of interaction with trout that I enjoyed before lunch slowed to a snails pace, as I managed to increment the fish count by two small fish in spite of covering some very attractive pools, pockets and moderate riffles. Of course this section of the Big Thompson flowed right next to the highway, but I was certain that decent trout inhabited the catch and release water.

Nice One

When I reached a point, where I was opposite the Santa Fe, I climbed up the short but steep boulder strewn bank and threw my gear in the car and drove downstream another mile to another favorite spot. At this location I marched directly to a nice pool with a deep run that split the river into two excellent shelf pools. I paused and observed for a bit, and as some heavy cloud cover blocked the sun, I noticed a few sporadic rises. Before departing the first fishing location, I reconfigured my line with a double dry that featured a peacock body hippie stomper and olive-brown body size 16 deer hair caddis. I sprayed some casts to the area of the observed rises, and I was rewarded with a couple refusals. The time of year and overcast conditions suggested blue winged olive activity, so I replaced the caddis with a CDC blue winged olive, and once again a pair of refusals ensued.

Given the high flows of 123 CFS, could the trout be focused on active nymphs and emergers? I decided to try a deep nymphing approach, and I invested time in converting my set up to a New Zealand yarn indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and classic RS2. I circled back down the river to where my car was parked, and I worked my way back to the pool by drifting the nymphs along the slow moving band of water along the south bank. The deep nymphing ploy failed to pay dividends, until I reached the large pool, and here I waded directly to the top where the strong main current entered. I began drifting my nymphs along the seam, where the main current met the slow moving pool, and I picked up two brown trout on the nymphs. One nabbed the RS2, and the other nipped the hares ear.

I finally cracked the afternoon code, so I persisted upstream to an area that contained some very attractive deep pockets, slots and runs, but the nymph rig was not productive, so I decided to revert to a three fly dry/dropper rig. If I was not catching fish, I at least wanted to use a method that I preferred. For this dry/dropper system I opted for a size 8 classic Chernobyl ant, a size 12 prince nymph, and a hares ear nymph. In a deep slot between some exposed boulders, the Chernobyl disappeared, and I raised the rod and found myself connected to a thrashing twelve inch rainbow trout. The rainbow snatched the prince nymph from the drift, and I was convinced that I found the answer to the riddle. Unfortunately after another ten yards of probing, the Chernboyl snagged on a stick, and the high flows prevented me from wading into a rescue position, so I applied direct pressure and popped off the three flies.

A Favorite Pool

I was in a state of frustration, and the sky was growing progressively dark with rain nearby, so I decided to call it a day at nine fish landed and began marching back along the shoulder to the car. As I passed the large pool, I decided to scramble to the midsection in case more blue winged olives were making an appearance. Sure enough, I spotted several very sporadic rises in the wide and shallower lower portion of the pool. I grabbed my line and added a two foot 5X section and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to the end and began casting across and down to initiate downstream drifts. Over the next twenty minutes I sprayed casts over a twenty yard area and managed to land two aggressive brown trout of nine and eleven inches. By 3:30PM light rain began to fall, and rather than removing my backpack and frontpack to access my raincoat, I simply ambled back to the car and quit for the day. The rain increased in intensity, as I removed my gear and waders, and I drove through four sessions of heavy downpours and strong winds on my return trip.

Best Rainbow

I managed to salvage eleven trout from the Big Thompson River on Monday, October 3. None of the fish exceeded twelve inches, but I was quite proud to land two on dry flies. Why did the first half hour begin with such hot action? I have no answer other than the fact that the first stretch was more away from the highway and perhaps less pressured. I remain very anxious to return to South Boulder Creek, so I will pursue a source of information for road closures of Gross Dam Road between Coal Creek Canyon and the Kayak parking lot.

Fish Landed: 11

4 thoughts on “Big Thompson River – 10/03/2022

  1. Eduardo Estrada

    Hello Dave.. sorry to heard that the road was close …
    I just landed to Boulder.. I’m
    Mexico City.. and im urged to know places to go fishing .. so if you want to
    Have company on of this days .. I ll
    Be happy to go with you …
    My email is. [email protected]
    My name is Eduardo Estrada..


    1. wellerfish Post author

      Hi Eduardo. I’m very impressed with your effort to communicate with me in English, and thanks so much for following my blog. I should probably write back in Spanish, but I’m afraid you would not be able to understand it. Thanks for offering to accompany me on some fishing, but my wife and I already have plans to visit a lodge in the mountains today through Sunday. As to places to fish, I would suggest the Big Thompson River below Estes Park and the South Platte River near Deckers or Eleven Mile Canyon. Any fly shop can help you find places to fish in these rivers. Good luck on your trip. Dave


    Click on the Gross Dam Road on the map, then the left hand of the screen will display road closure schedule:

    This link will give the tentative construction/road closures. Denver Water updates it weekly, however, I cannot speak to its accuracy. Wednesdays so far are the only weekday that the Kayak Lot is available for public use.

    I enjoy your blog posts, it has been a useful source in helping me learn how to fly fish in CO. Thank you!

    1. wellerfish Post author

      Hi Chad. Thanks for that link. It would have been useful on Monday morning. I actually obtained it yesterday after making a phone call to Denver Water. And thanks for following my blog, and hopefully your fly fishing learning continues to progress. Dave

Comments are closed.