Category Archives: Arkansas River

Arkansas River – 04/23/2024

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Lower Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 04/23/2024 Photo Album

Because of doctor and physical therapy appointments, my opportunity to fly fish during the upcoming week was limited to Tuesday, April 23, 2024. I studied the weather and fly shop reports, and largely due to favorable temperatures I settled on the Arkansas River in lower Big Horn Sheep Canyon. Royal Gorge Anglers and ArkAnglers both reported caddis sightings, with the brachycentrus hatch advancing as far as Texas Creek. This information along with overcast skies in the afternoon providing ideal conditions for blue wing olives convinced me to make the drive to the Arkansas River.

For this report I will cut to the conclusion quickly. Two factors impacted my day, that I failed to bake into my planning. The water clarity was somewhat colored, although visibility was adequate for trout to see food; however, the turbidity probably indicated low level snow melt, and this circumstance in turn probably caused lower than normal water temperatures. Caddis like warmer temperatures for their emergence. The second factor was the fly fisherman’s four letter word; wind. It was strong and constant.

I fished from 10:30AM until 3:00PM, and I landed four trout. One was a small brown, and the others were rainbow trout including two quite nice fish in the thirteen to fourteen inch size range. All my success occurred between 10:30AM and 1:30PM, as I deployed an indicator nymphing rig with a strike indicator, split shot, emerald body caddis larva and bright green go2 caddis pupa. All but one of the landed trout grabbed the caddis larva. In addition to the landed fish, I connected with five additional fish that stayed on my line only briefly before shaking free. This issue, losing fish, is becoming an ongoing concern this spring, but I am not sure how to remedy it.

During this nymphing exercise, I spotted only two rises. I fished from the midpoint of the north braid, until the point where it split off from the main stem, as another angler positioned himself in the nice pool just above the downstream confluence with the larger south branch. Not being able to cover the entire north branch was a disappointment, as the entire section was vacant, when I drove by and gazed up the river.

Once I arrived at the main river, I waded downstream to the point where the middle stem branched off, and then I worked my way westward along the right bank. I registered one of my temporary hook ups during this period. Once I reached the fast water, I reversed direction and moved to the nice slow moving pool above my crossing point. In the past I observed rising fish in this area. The sky clouded up nicely, so I patiently waited for a baetis hatch and rising fish. Alas, it never happened, but I decided to experiment with a double dry, and converted to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. Both flies were summarily ignored, even though I cast to very attractive water with a bubble line and moderate depth.

By 2:30PM I surrendered to the moody trout in the Arkansas River, and I crossed at the tail of the long pool. I was reluctant to return to the indicator nymphing method (split shot removal is a major pain in the a**), so I defaulted to a dry dropper with an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl, bright green go2 caddis pupa, and olive perdigon. On the fifth cast the flies wedged on something subsurface, and I ended up breaking off all three flies. I was not a happy camper. I sat on a rock and repeated the rigging exercise with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, bright green go2 caddis pupa and an emerald caddis pupa.

I steadily worked my way up the river along the left bank, and I managed a refusal to the fat Albert and another temporary hook up on one of the nymphs. When I reached the pocket water, my satellite phone displayed 2:50PM, and my confidence was shot, so I carefully retreated and climbed the bank and returned to the car.

Four fish in four hours was a disappointing day. Had I landed all the fish I connected with, I would have logged a nine fish day, but a 100% conversion rate is not realistic. The blue wing olive hatch was extremely brief and never prompted me to switch to dry flies. A few caddis fluttered about on the rocks, but I suspect it was a different species and not brachycentrus. The wind was very annoying, the water was tinged, there were quite a few competing anglers, and I grew bored with the fishing by 2:00PM. Tuesday represented a lot of casting and elbow stress for minimal results. I will take a break from the lower Arkansas, and I will refocus my efforts on tailwaters, unless I discover a sure thing on a freestone.

Fish Landed: 4

Arkansas River – 04/10/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 04/10/2024 Photo Album

After two subpar outings on Colorado Rivers during the last week, I was anxious for redemption. I was pleased with my visit to the lower Arkansas River on 03/27/2024, so I decided to repeat the drive. The flows and clarity were favorable, and the fly shop reports were optimistic (as they usually are), so I took the plunge and made the 2.5 hour drive. I suffered through rush hour traffic in Denver, a long stretch of road construction south of Colorado Springs, a detour around an accident between Florence and Canon City, and ongoing construction on the main street of Canon City. I was exhausted before I arrived at my chosen fishing spot.

The air temperature was in the mid-fifties, so I pulled on my North Face light down coat, and I assembled my Sage R8 four weight. A white pickup truck preceded me, and I spotted two anglers meandering along the river sixty yards above me. To start my day I elected to hike east along US 50 for .2 mile, before I dropped down a steep bank to the river. My morning session featured fishing to long and deep pockets among very large boulders next to the highway. I began my adventure with a New Zealand chartreuse strike indicator, a split shot, a 20 incher, and a bright green go2 caddis pupa. The 20 incher proved to be in demand, and I landed a small brown and a thirteen inch rainbow, before I adjourned for lunch and returned to the car.

I quickly devoured my standard lunch, and then I crossed two braids and headed to the northern most branch of the river. This was the section I fished on March 27, and I was looking forward to a repeat during the afternoon. However, before advancing to the north branch, I covered some nice deep shelf pools on the braid that bordered the highway. Although the water looked quite enticing, I was unable to attract fish, so I moved on to the confluence of the north braid and the main river. I shuffled along the south bank, until I was positioned next to a large pool twenty yards above the confluence. I swapped the 20 incher for an emerald caddis pupa, and I added a sparkle wing RS2 on the point, and I began to prospect the prime water with my indicator nymphing setup.

I managed to hook and land a spunky thirteen inch rainbow, but as I advanced, I was disappointed to note the return of the occupants of the white pickup truck. While I was eating lunch, they returned to the truck for lunch, and I hoped that they were preparing to relocate, but that was not the case. They were positioned in another prime run and pool fifty yards above my location.

I continued my progress through some decent deep runs along the north side of the river with a couple momentary hook ups rewarding my efforts, until I arrived at a narrow and deep trough along the north bank below a large exposed rock. I was now twenty yards below the two other anglers, who by the way, were the only other fishermen that I spotted on the entire river between Parkdale and where I was fishing. It was just my luck to seek out the same section of the vast Arkansas River public water.

I swept some drifts through the attractive trough in front of me, and as I was doing so, a cloud blocked the sun and the wind kicked up a bit, and five trout began to rise sporadically in the trough area. I checked my watch, and this activity commenced at around 1:30PM. The rises were fairly frequent, but they were not the rhythmic cadence that typically leads to fairly easy fishing. Dry fly fishing to blue wing olives is what I made the trip for, so I paused to remove the indicator nymphing paraphernalia, and I selected a peacock body hippie stomper and added a CDC blue wing olive on a twelve inch dropper. I spent the next forty-five minutes making reach casts along the bubble line, and my fly was treated like inert flotsam. I swapped the CDC olive for a soft hackle emerger and a Klinkhammer emerger, but a refusal and brief look were my only reward. The lighting was not the best, and I was having a difficult time distinguishing the white poly tuft of the hippie stomper from bubbles. I reverted to a size 24 CDC BWO with tiny hackle, since the naturals appeared to be quite small. Finally during a gust of wind, I lifted the flies and inadvertently skated the small trailing CDC BWO, and an aggressive brown trout grabbed the olive. Apparently movement was the key. I concluded that the trout were seeking more movement than what was exhibited by my dead drifting dries, so I began twitching and skating the flies, but, alas, I was unable to entice another strike.

The two anglers above me departed, and this opened up the remainder of the north braid for my exploration. I retained the double dry for a bit, but the faster pockets and runs were not conducive to spotting rises, so I resorted to nymphs; however, I was reluctant to resort to the indicator and split shot, so I deployed a size 8 yellow fat Albert along with a salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2. Between 2:45PM and 4:00PM I advanced along the left side of the north braid, and I managed to increment the fish count from four to seven. The RS2 was the productive fly, and the trout responded to the swing and lift at the end of the drift in moderate riffles of two to three feet of depth. These trout were in the twelve inch range, and I was pleased to net them, but the average size of the trout landed on April 10 was inferior compared to March 27.

By 4:00PM I reached the main stem of the river, so I waded along the edge toward my crossing point to return to the car. Below a long section of fast pocket water, the river formed a nice wide pool, and I spotted a few rises in the slow band of water along the bank next to my position. I took the time to remove the dry/dropper and tied a solo CDC BWO to my line, but as was the case on March 27, the feeding stopped by the time I was prepared to cast, and the change in tactics did not pay dividends. I returned to the car by 4:30PM and made the return trip.

Wednesday, April 10 was a decent day, but I truthfully had higher expectations. Using 20-20 hindsight, I probably should have reverted to the indicator nymphing method after my failed attempt with the double dry. Also, I should have abandoned the dry fly debacle sooner, and perhaps I should have sought another section of the river that featured the absence of competing anglers. Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous day, and I enjoyed moderate success.

Fish Landed: 7

 

Arkansas River – 03/27/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 03/27/2024 Photo Album

I was seeking warmer temperatures somewhere in Colorado after another slug of winter hit the state on Sunday, March 24, 2024. As I scanned my Weather Underground app, I noted that most highs were in the 40’s, and I am averse to fishing in winter conditions. However, I discovered a ray of hope, when I tapped on the Canon City location, where the high on Wednesday was expected to peak at 52 degrees. I decided to explore the lower Arkansas River.

I was reluctant to fish in the lower canyon because of the Hayden Creek fire burn scar and subsequent ash flows leading to reduced insect populations and subsequently an impact on trout numbers. For this reason I avoided the area over the intervening eight years, but weather considerations caused me to reevaluate. I called ArkAnglers, and the gentleman I talked to assured me that the lower canyon had recovered, so that became my destination.

Road construction on I25 and major road work in Canon City slowed my progress, but I arrived at my chosen destination by 10:30AM. I was excited to renew my acquaintance with a favorite spot in lower Big Horn Sheep Canyon. The temperature was 42 degrees, as I prepared to fish. I donned my Under Armour long sleeve thermal undershirt, fleece cardigan, North Face light down coat and rain shell along with my billed New Zealand hat with earflaps. I was layered up and prepared for the cold. For a fly casting instrument I chose my newest Sage R8 four weight.

I began in a section of the main river that ran next to US24. The river was tinged with color, so I rigged with a strike indicator, split shot, molting rubber legs stonefly, and 20 incher. I utilized lots of weight, and It was at this point that I discovered that I lost the wool material for my New Zealand strike indicator, so I was forced to deploy an orange Thingamabobber.

I worked the deep, slow moving slicks next to the steep rocky bank for 45 minutes, until I got snagged. The wedged flies were in a spot that was too fast and deep to risk a rescue, so I yanked directly on the line and popped off both flies and the split shot. I replaced the tandem with an emerald caddis pupa and classic RS2, and just before I quit for lunch, a nice, thick rainbow nailed the caddis emerger. I was on the board, but my hands were stinging from the cold, and it was lunch time, so I climbed the bank and returned to the car. I grabbed my lunch and sat in the drivers seat, and I turned on the car to check the temperature, and it displayed 36 degrees. How could this be?

When I returned to the river, I added fingerless wool gloves to my winter attire, and I crossed the highway and several braids to reach the northern-most channel. For the remainder of the afternoon I worked my way up the entire north branch and landed another seven trout. One additional trout took the caddis pupa, and the remainder snatched the RS2, The rainbow that grabbed the pupa, broke off the RS2 in the process of fighting, and I replaced it with a sparkle wing version of the RS2.

Around 2PM the pace of the action increased noticeably, and I spotted a few natural olives above the river along with two bankside risers; however, my success rate was such that I stuck with the indicator nymphing set up. Clearly, however, the fish were tuned into baetis activity in the mid to late afternoon.

In addition to the eight fish that I landed on the day, I experienced at least six additional trout hook ups, that I fought for varying lengths of time, before they managed to escape. The downside of using size 20 RS2’s is the lower ratio of hooked to landed fish. One of these fugitives from my hook point was a decent rainbow that totally cleared the surface of the river and snapped off the RS2, as the aggressive fish splashed back down. I replaced the sparkle wing with a beadhead soft hackle emerger, and that yielded a few fish over the remainder of my time on the river.

Surprisingly, five of the landed trout were rainbows, with the remainder being browns. I say surprisingly because memory tells me that this section of the Arkansas River was ninety percent brown trout, when I fished it eight years ago prior to the Hayden Fire. The size of the trout was quite favorable with nearly all falling within the twelve to fourteen inch range, with chunky thirteen inch fish being the norm.

As I hiked back along the main stem of the river at 4PM, I spotted some rising trout along the near bank, and I could see more naturals drifting up from the river, than I had seen previously. This observation caused me to extend my day, and I removed all the nymphing accoutrements and tied on a CDC BWO. By the time I reconfigured, however, the flurry of surface feeding subsided, but I did manage to get a look from the most upstream feeder. I was having issues with tracking the tiny fly in the surface glare, so I added a peacock hippie stomper as the forward fly, but that move failed to produce success, so I called it quits and returned to the Telluride.

While I would have preferred more surface feeding and dry fly action, I was quite pleased with my day. Eight nice trout over four hours equals an average of two fish per hour catch rate, but this could have easily been better, had I converted more of my connections. The size of the trout was satisfactory, and the trout were hot fighters that challenged my fish fighting abilities. This was my first usage of the indicator nymphing technique in quite awhile, and I was pleased with my ability to achieve success. Above all, I discovered that the lower Big Horn Sheep Canyon has, indeed, recovered from the fire, and I will surely add the area as a future fly fishing destination.

Landed Fish: 8

Arkansas River – 10/17/2023

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 10/17/2023 Photo Album

The high temperature was predicted to reach the low eighties on Tuesday, October 17, so I decided to take advantage of the summer-like weather with a trip to the Arkansas River. I departed Denver at 7:30AM, and I arrived at my favorite pullout along US 50 by 11:00AM, and this enabled me to be on the river fly fishing by 11:30AM. I geared up with my Sage R8 four weight, and I wore my Under Armour long-sleeved undershirt. The air temperature was in the upper fifties with a periodic chilly breeze, so I added my raincoat as an outer layer and windbreaker. The sky was bright blue with no clouds in sight, and the flows on the river were in the 285 CFS range and crystal clear.

Perfect Run and Shelf Pool

I hiked downstream for .3 miles and cut to the edge of the river, where I configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a 20 incher nymph, and a size 22 olive zebra midge. I covered a spectacular long run and shelf pool, but the fish were not cooperative, so I moved on toward the narrow island. Between the long run and the island, I landed a nine inch brown trout on the 20 incher, but several prime locations failed to produce, so I swapped the olive zebra midge for a blue-green perdigon. This combination was unproductive, and I once again paused to exchange the perdigon for a size 22 sparkle wing RS2. The trout provided another resounding thumbs down, as I worked my way along the south side of the island to the very top.

Soft Hackle Emerger

Managed Two from This Smooth Pool

Before approaching the smaller and shallower right braid next to the island, I sat on a nice rock and munched my lunch. After lunch I cautiously approached the right channel, and given the low water conditions, I decided to modify my approach. I switched to a peacock hippie stomper and trailed a beadless soft hackle emerger. A small brown trout responded to the hippie stomper, and I elevated the fish count to two, but I was sensing a tough day under the bright sun and clear skies. I made long casts with no positive results, until I arrived at the very top of the long pool, and a nice twelve inch brown trout sipped the soft hackle emerger in a bubble seam next to a large submerged rock. In the attractive feeder currents at the head of the pool, I witnessed a refusal to the hippie stomper, and then I moved on to short angled riffles on the north bank above the long pool. I sensed that trout were present and ignoring my flies, so I removed the soft hackle emerger and replaced it with a beaded size 22 sparkle wing RS2.

Trout Here

I methodically sprayed casts across the fifteen foot wide riffle, and as the hippie stomper bobbed along the north bank, it paused, and I immediately set the hook and found myself connected to a brutish fifteen inch brown trout. This proved to be the best fish of the day, and it inhaled the trailing sparkle wing. Unfortunately the trout escaped my net in the process of removing the fly, so I was unable to capture a photo.

Number Five

I continued prospecting the remainder of the narrow braid, but when I reached the very top, I crossed the upstream tip of the island and approached the nice deep pool and riffles bordered by a huge vertical rock wall on the south side of the river. I committed to experiment with streamer fishing, and this was my moment to pursue it. It was around 1:30PM, as I studied my fleece wallet and the messy flap that contained an assortment of streamers. I had decent success with classic bucktail and feather wing streamers, the gray ghost and Mickey Finn, in Iceland, so I gravitated to that style. Unfortunately the versions that I tied, when I first started fly tying, unraveled or lost bucktail fibers, but I did notice an Edson Tiger Light, that I tied in the same early stages of my fly tying career. The Edson Tiger light contained the same red and yellow bucktails as the Mickey Finn, so I plucked it from the fleece and knotted it to my line.

Sunk in the Net

I began to cast across the current to the vertical rock wall, and on the fifth cast and strip I felt a bump and then stripped and hooked a ten inch brown trout. Although I was expecting more size, I was quite pleased with my streamer success story. After I covered the lower half of the area, I waded up the river for ten feet, so that I was positioned across from the upper portion of the riffle, where the river deflected off the large rock. I threw some long casts across the current, and on the third pass I felt a solid shock, and I made another strip and connected with a fish. I immediately knew this was a bit larger, and sure enough, when the fish rested in my net, I inspected a chunky thirteen inch brown trout. It was a thrill to earn success on the Edson tiger light, a fly that I tied thirty-five years ago, when my skills were in their infancy.

Edson Tiger Light

I crossed the river to the north bank and worked my way upstream and cherry picked a few spots with deep troughs, but the river structure was not very conducive to streamer fishing. When I reached my original crossing point, I crossed back to the side of the river near the highway, and I ambled along the path to the top of the wide and deep pool below where my car was parked. I maneuvered the Edson tiger through some very attractive deep riffles and runs to no avail, and then I moved upstream thirty yards to a gorgeous shelf pool. Once again the trout were not kind to me, so I searched my fleece wallet once again and replaced the Edson tiger with an articulated streamer with dumbbell eyes and a clump of rust colored marabou. This fly was quite heavy, and I worked it diligently for fifteen minutes, but the trout were not interested.

By 3:00PM I was bored and weary, so I climbed the bank and returned to the Santa Fe and ended my day of fly fishing. Six trout was a rather anemic quantity; however, I landed a thirteen inch and fifteen inch brown. so that was rewarding. Catching two trout on the classic bucktail was another highlight of the day, and I definitely plan to construct more classic streamers and bucktails this winter. With my improved tying skills I look forward to this challenge.

Fish Landed: 6

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

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.

Perfect Trout Refuge During High Flows on the Arkansas River

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.

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 SpotSurprise 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 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

Arkansas River – 05/03/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 05/03/2023 Photo Album

Wednesday, May 3 marked my annual attempt to intersect with the Arkansas River caddis hatch. I am pleased to report that I found it; however, I did not succeed in finding the elusive leading edge of the emergence. In 33 years of fly fishing in Colorado, I made the journey to the Arkansas River nearly every spring, but I only hit the sweet spot of the leading edge three times. 2023 was not one of them.

The high temperature was forecast to peak at 73 degrees on Wednesday, and the fly shop reports suggested that the caddis were in the vicinity of Salida, so I made the trip to the river below the popular rafting town. I arrived at my chosen pullout by 10:00AM, and two cars preceded me to the parking area. One contained two fly fishermen, and they departed heading east along US 50, before I was ready. The other car belonged to a gentleman, who was doing some sort of maintenance to the cable that crosses the river across from where my car was parked. I planned to fish upstream, and I only encountered one other fisherman during my five plus hours of fishing. I was quite pleased with this fortunate circumstance.

This Type of Water Produced

The air temperature at the start was around sixty degrees, so I pulled on my raincoat for a bit of added warmth, but as I prepared to fish, I felt overheated, so I removed the rain shell and stuffed it in my backpack. My fly rod of choice was my Sage One five weight, as I anticipated tangling with larger fish, and I liked the additional backbone of the five weight to counter the wind and cover the large river. When I was ready, I headed down the gradual path to the river, and began my caddis hatch adventure. To begin my quest I opted for a dry/dropper configuration with an ice dub tan chubby Chernobyl, size 14 prince nymph and a bright green go2 caddis pupa. I progressed along the left bank of the river for quite a distance and through some usually productive riffles and pockets, but by the time I broke for lunch, I could only claim credit for two temporary hook ups. Along the way I swapped the prince for an ultra zug bug, but the late morning was characterized by a lot of futile casting. I tried to impart movement to the flies by swinging them, twitching the rod tip and jigging; but none of these ploys produced the steady action that I anticipated.

Big River

Before lunch I converted to a deep nymphing set up that featured a Thingamabobber, bright green go2 caddis pupa and a RS2. I drifted these flies through a prime deep run and shelf pool, but once again my efforts were stymied in spite of aggressive strips, twitches and swings. I consumed my lunch at 11:45AM, and upon resumption of fly fishing I changed out my flies. I substituted a 20 incher for the top nymph and replaced the RS2 with a bright green caddis pupa with a dubbed body. On the fourth cast to the entering riffle section of the shelf pool, a nice trout grabbed the bright green sparkle pupa, and I avoided a skunking on May 3. I was seriously starting to believe that a zero fish day was a possibility.

Lots of Caddis

Repeat Shot

As the morning developed, it was clear that I was among the epicenter of the caddis hatch. The willows and boulders along the bank were absolutely swarming with caddis, and periodically they would flutter above the water and dap. Surely this activity was attracting the attention of the trout. I decided to forsake the deep nymphing, and I adopted the double dry fly approach. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my leader as the forward fly, and then I added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on an eight inch 5X dropper. The hippie stomper was intended to be the indicator fly that enabled me to track the small caddis through riffles and glare.

Bruiser

Another Fine Arkansas River Brown Trout

These flies remained on my line for the remainder of the afternoon except for a very brief period, when I swapped the caddis for a BWO puff. I would not characterize the afternoon fishing as hot action, but I was able to inflate the fish count from one to ten. Among these nine landed fish were two stunning rainbow trout in the fourteen inch range. The remainder were wild and deeply colored brown trout ranging in length from twelve to fourteen inches. By one o’clock the caddis left their streamside perches and clustered over the water and dapped down periodically. When the wind gusted, it knocked caddis on to the surface of the river, and the trout responded. The surface eats were very subtle, but I stumbled across two areas, where multiple fish exposed themselves via dimples in the surface chop, and I was able to leverage these observations to land five trout. The other four trout resulted from persistent blind casting, and two of these net dwellers actually smashed the hippie stomper.

Targeting the Seam Below the Exposed Rock

Caddis Macro

Yikes. Surprise.

Deep slow moving pools and slicks behind large exposed rocks were not productive. My best success occurred in long choppy riffles and troughs with four feet of depth. Nine fish in three hours represents a slightly above average catch rate, but the action was steady, although it required an abundant amount of long casts into the breeze. One of the surprise eaters that resulted from prospecting was a fourteen inch brown trout, and this angler was extremely pleased to see this prize curled in his net.

Foam Is Home

Lovely Spot Pattern

By 4 o’clock the caddis returned to their streamside habitat, and very few adults touched the surface. I covered .5 mile of the river, and the fish count extended to double digits, so I reeled up my line and hooked the caddis adult to the hook guide. Did I achieve my goal of hitting the 2023 grannom caddis hatch? Yes I did, but it was not the crazy drag your fly and catch a fish on every cast bonanza that characterizes the leading edge emergence. Achieving double digits on Wednesday required constant upstream movement, keen observation to notice subtle rises, and solid water reading skills. I drove six hours in order to log 5.5 hours of fishing, but landing ten quality trout made it worthwhile.

Fish Landed: 10

Arkansas River – 04/07/2023

Arkansas River 04/07/2023 Photo Album

Finally an extended streak of nice weather encouraged me to seek out another day of fly fishing. High temperatures in the upper sixties on Friday, April 7, 2023 translated to fifties on the Arkansas River and South Platte River. I chose the Arkansas River because the ArkAngler’s report stated that blue wing olives were active and hatching in the Salida area.

I departed at 7:40AM, and this enabled me to pull in to my favorite pullout along US 50 by 11:15PM, and the temperature registered 46 degrees. Yes, if you do the math, you can determine that my usual 2 hour and 45 minute drive took 3 hours and 25 minutes. I sat in the first position of a long line of traffic for twenty minutes while waiting for a flagman to release us at the top of Kenosha Pass. I was not happy.

A Good Place to Start

I pulled on my North Fork light down coat and my raincoat for a windbreaker, and then I rigged my Sage R8 four weight for a day of casting. Two anglers ambled past me, while I was preparing to fish, and I held my breath that they would not head toward my chosen starting point. They did not, so I crossed the river and hiked downstream, although a guide with an inflatable raft was sitting on top of the nice deep run and shelf pool that usually serves as my starting point. I killed some time rigging my line with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, olive-black Pat’s rubberleg and sparkle wing RS2; and then I prospected a nice trough behind an exposed rock with no success.

Yielded a Trout

By the time I was ready to move on, the raft had disappeared down the river, so I circled around on the adjoining floodplain and positioned myself to fish the normally productive deep run and shelf pool. After ten minutes of unproductive casting, the indicator dipped, and I found myself attached to a feisty thirteen inch brown trout that gobbled the RS2. I snapped some photos and savored my good fortune and resumed my upstream migration.

Uncoiled

I experienced a momentary hook up in the short run, where I began, when I lifted the flies to recast in front of a submerged rock. The wide deep run and riffles below the upstream island looked very attractive, but I was unable to generate any interest, so I continued along the main branch of the river on the south side of the island. Near the top I once again connected for a split second with a fish, but it escaped very quickly, and it almost felt like it was foul hooked.

I retreated back to the downstream point of the island, and by now I could see the two fishermen that hiked past me at the car, but they were seventy yards away. The north branch of the river next to the island was very low as a result of flows in the in the 200 CFS range, so I decided to modify my approach to a softer presentation. I removed the split shot and the two nymphs, and then I knotted an olive hippie stomper to my line and dropped the beadhead sparkle wing RS2 below it. I left the tuft of neon chartreuse yarn that served as an indicator in place, as it was near the end of the fly line, and I felt it was far enough away from my flies to not affect the trouts’ interest. The ploy worked to some degree, as I landed a second trout, when it grabbed the trailing RS2, as it drifted along the bubble line near the head of the pool. I also generated two refusals to the hippie stomper, but that was the extent of the action in the usually productive north channel.

Yucca Clump

I advanced up the river above the island and stayed with the dry/dropper for a bit, and in a relatively shallow pool along the right bank, I managed to land a small brown trout in the eight inch range. This little guy also nipped the RS2. I was gaining confidence, but then I approached a long section with faster riffles and a few pockets, and the stomper/RS2 combination did not seem appropriate for exploring the deeper and faster water, so I once again made a switch. I reverted to the indicator (which remained in place), split shot, and a 20 incher nymph and RS2.

20 Incher

Sparkle Wing RS2

With this deeper water rig I decided to cherry pick the most attractive spots that featured depth and a slower current. My strategy seemed sound, but the fish did not agree, and I moved all the way back up the river to my crossing point with nary a fish to add to the count. At this point I crossed the river and climbed the bank and then dropped down to the juicy riffle section just upriver from the high rock wall and pool below my parking space. I began covering the wide riffle over four foot of depth and a very rocky bottom, and after ten minutes the indicator paused, and I set the hook into another fine thirteen inch Arkansas River brown trout. This healthy fish nailed the 20 incher, and I was fairly confident that the promising riffles, pockets and deep runs along the left bank would produce more action.

Nice One

Alas, my confidence was misplaced. During the 2:30 to 3:30 time period two circumstances commenced. The wind, which was bothersome due to intermittent gusts up until the early afternoon, began to blast down the canyon on a more consistent basis, and this made punching casts an arm-challenging event. Also during this time frame some heavy clouds blocked the sun, and I noticed a sparse hatch of blue winged olives, as they tumbled along the surface of the river. They never rested in one spot long enough to catch the interest of the fish, and consequently, I never spotted a single rise. I was, however, convinced that my RS2 would represent a tasty subsurface treat, but that thought was misplaced.

I reeled up my line and hooked the RS2 to the guide and clambered up a very steep bank to the highway at 3:30 and called it a day. Three hours and fifteen minutes of fly fishing yielded four trout. Two were fine thirteen inch chunks. I made the trip seeking the BWO hatch, and I found it, but I never intercepted the surface feeding that I was anticipating, and the nymph action was very slow. On the plus side I mostly had the river to myself, and my Sage R8 performed admirably. With another five days of nice weather ahead of me, I will continue to search for blue wing olive hatches in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 4