Time: 10:15AM – 2:30PM
Location: Black Creek inlet/South Fork of the Rio Grande inlet
As I discovered on Saturday, stream fishing in the Creede area was a very challenging proposition. Before departing for Creede, I tracked the flows on the Rio Grande River, so I knew that the river was high compared to the average due to the above normal snowpack. In anticipation of this circumstance, I studied my Easy Access Mountain Lakes book, and I determined that five lakes existed in the Rio Grande Valley within reasonable distance of Creede. One that caught my attention was Big Meadows Reservoir, as it also offered hiking trails for Jane and Amy.
The three of us arrived at the parking lot on the northwest corner of the lake by 9:45AM. I assembled my Sage One five weight, while Jane and Amy departed on the Archuleta Trail. The temperature was in the low sixties, and I set out along the northern shoreline and followed the same Archuleta Trail, until I crossed a small creek on a rickety pedestrian bridge. I cut down to the inlet and knotted a tan pool toy to my line and trailed a beadhead hares ear and prince nymph. I waded into the shallow area, where the creek dropped into the lake, and I began casting the dry/dropper into the plume. Almost immediately I noticed quite a few rises, so after ten minutes of fruitless casting, I switched to a double dry approach with an olive hippie stomper and a tiny size 24 midge emerger. The trout continued rising next to my flies, so I concluded that the tiny midge was a non-starter. I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Over the next 45 minutes I fired cast after cast to the entering flume, and I managed two rainbow trout. One nipped the caddis, and the second gulped the hippie stomper. I was happy to register two trout, but this was by no means easy fly fishing. The trout in the area rose confidently to natural food morsels and ignored my offerings with the exception of the two rainbows that settled in my net.
The book described good fishing at the inlet of the South Fork of the Rio Grande, and I was interested in exploring it, so I hooked my flies to the rod guide and continued westward on the trail. Eventually it was clear that the trail was veering away from the lake, so I made a left and bushwhacked my way to the South Fork of the Rio Grande. For the most part the creek was churning at high velocity, but I found a bend, and I was sure it would deliver a trout or two. My certainty was misplaced, so I reeled up and stumbled upstream through some dense low lying shrubs searching for more water that could hold trout. I found nothing except high gradient runs and riffles right up against the banks.
I reversed direction and scrambled through some marshy land, until I was in some slower-moving bends just above the inlet. A deep run along a deadfall looked promising, but it failed to deliver, so I advanced upstream to a narrow ribbon of slower moving water along the left bank. A cast to the extreme top of the run yielded a flash, and I set the hook and found myself connected to a hard fighting rainbow trout with an iron sally in its lip. I brought it to my net and celebrated with several sips of water.
Next I retreated to the mouth of the South Fork of the Rio Grande. A shallow sand bar ran into the lake for thirty yards with deep drop offs on either side. A cluster of spin fishermen were along the deep channel between the sandbar and the bank, so I confined my casts to the left side. My lineup consisted of a yellow size 8 fat Albert, a 20 incher, and an iron sally. On one of my casts the fat Albert dipped, and I was connected to a rainbow trout that chowed down on the 20 incher. By the time I released my catch, it was 12:30PM, so I sat in the grass on the peninsula and ate my lunch.
After lunch the wind kicked up and the dry/dropper was not delivering results, so I changed tactics. I pulled an olive-black woolly bugger from my fleece and added it to my line after removing the dry/dropper configuration. Below the woolly bugger I knotted a black mini leech on a ten inch tippet extension. I began spraying casts and stripping along the sandbar drop off. Two rainbows were duped by this approach, with both nailing the mini leech. I cast and counted to 15 or 20 seconds and then began my retrieve. Next I pulsed the line with two very quick strips, and then I resumed my choppy retrieve. Quite often I felt a soft bump with the resumption of movement after the initial quick burst, but on two occasions the trout made aggressive grabs.
At one o’clock Jane and Amy arrived and announced they were ready to leave. I negotiated two more hours and hiked with them along the southwest side of the lake to the parking lot. I continued one-third of the way around the lake, where I scooted back down to the Black Creek inlet, but a family with two young boys occupied my desired fly fishing position. By the time I re-rigged my line, however, the family departed, and I had it to myself. I began casting the bugger and mini leech across the entering current, and within a short amount of time a nine inch brook trout flopped in my net. Brookies are wild and brilliantly colored in Big Meadows Lake. The bugger/leech combination failed to interest additional trout, so I replaced the leech with a Mickey Finn that I tied forty years ago. Hooray. My classic fly produced two more brook trout and a rainbow before the streamer disintegrated. A trout apparently locked its teeth on the bucktail fibers and pulled them free of the thread wraps without getting the hook in its mouth. What a wily trout! I was left to stare at a hook shank with an unraveling tinsel body and nothing else. Another Mickey Finn replaced the denuded version, but I ended my day of fishing at 2:40PM, when the wind accelerated to ridiculous speeds leaving whitecaps on the lake and making every backcast a life threatening event.
Ten trout in 3.5 hours of fishing is respectable. I learned about Big Meadows Lake and in the process found productive areas. I gained confidence in streamer fishing and advanced the renaissance of the Mickey Finn. It was not all bad for a windy day during run off.
Fish Landed: 10