Category Archives: White River

North Fork of the White River – 10/08/2022

Time: 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Public water upstream from the Ute Lodge

North Fork of the White River 10/08/2022 Photo Album

Jane, Amy, Chara and I completed a 6.5 mile hike to Big Fish Lake between 11:00AM and 2:30PM. The fall foliage remained spectacular, and the trail conditions improved measurably since our arrival on Wednesday. The temperature hovered between 58 degrees and 64 degrees under mostly sunny skies with periodic wind.

Upon our return to the Ute Lodge, I decided to spend some time on the North Fork of the White River. I pulled on my waders at the cabin and then drove to a new section, that I hoped to try as a brief scouting expedition for future September fly fishing trips. I parked next to a two track lane that led to a cattle gate and rigged my new Sage R8 with an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl. I passed through the gate and closed it behind me and marched along the two-track to a crude bridge. The bridge was decorated with no trespassing signs as was the area to the right, so I inspected the upstream prospects for public fishing. A tight barbed wire fence blocked me from approaching the north side of the river, so I embarked on an unproductive hike along the fence, as I headed upstream. After .3 mile of frustration, I concluded that the White in this area was off limits, even though all the maps depicted the area as public land. I retraced my steps, passed through the gate, and threw my gear in the car and drove a mile upriver.

After a mile I encountered a crude circular turn around that was clearly used by other fishermen, so I quickly climbed back into my gear and circled around some trees and bushes and entered the river. I consumed a bit of time adding a size 12 20 incher 3.5 feet below the chubby Chernobyl, and I began prospecting the most attractive spots, of which there were very few. Between 4:00PM and 5:30PM I covered .5 mile of river, and I landed two trout.

Very Pleased With This Catch

The first netted fish was a sixteen inch cutbow, and it was a beauty with a light olive body and understated speckles on the top and along the side. The chunky river resident snatched the 20 incher in a narrow band of deep, slow moving water along the north bank. I was thrilled to coax a wild finned fighter into my net.

A Slow Release

The second trout was a rainbow in the fourteen inch range, and this fish also grabbed the 20 incher and put up a respectable fight. Another fish refused the chubby near the spot where fish number one was landed, and a decent trout elevated to inspect the chubby in the vicinity of trout number two. These two locales were easily the best that I encountered in .5 miles of wading. I bypassed many sections characterized by wide shallow and fast-moving riffles. I did pause at a number of more marginal spots, but I only registered futile casting exercise.

Next to the Barely Visible Rock on the Right Produced

The two robust trout made my 1.5 hour fly fishing outing a clear success. The North Fork in this area is fast moving with limited deep pools and runs, but decent trout can be had by covering a lot of territory.

Fish Landed; 2

Ute Lodge Pond – 10/06/2022

Time: 4:30PM – 6:00PM

Location: North and west side of the pond

Ute Lodge Pond 10/06/2022 Photo Album

A fall trip to the Flattops is becoming a family tradition; and Jane, Amy, Chara and I continued the trend with four days at the Ute Lodge in October 2022. Originally this stay was planned for the third week of September, but an important obligation arose which caused us to delay the timing. Jane and I made the drive on Wednesday, October 5, and our daughter Amy and her St. Bernard, Chara, joined us on Thursday morning, October 6. We rented the Pinion cabin during this stayover, and we thoroughly enjoyed our days in the Flattops. The weather was perfect, and we completed some vigorous hikes and experienced a unique horseback ride that included setting up a hunting camp.

1.5 Hours on This Pond

After our hike to Little Trappers Lake on Thursday, I decided to explore the small pond on the Ute Lodge premises. According to the manager, Jason, the pond was stocked with trout and grass carp, so I could not pass up a chance to explore the nearby fishing hole. Jane, Amy, Chara and I wandered to the pond, and when I arrived, quite a few fish were rising. I led with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, but the stocker rainbows ignored it. I decided to try a different approach and replaced the caddis with a peacock size 14 hippie stomper, and then I added a size 22 flashback zebra midge larva. In the process of configuring my line; Chara, Amy’s St. Bernard, walked by and snagged the midge larva and quickly took me into my backing. The 105 pound St. Bernard represented my largest catch ever. Amy corralled Chara and removed the tiny fly from the thick fur on Chara’s leg, and she was released to forage on other food items.

Chara Loves to Hike

The remainder of my time on the pond, I cycled through a myriad of flies including a parachute ant, CDC BWO, and beadhead hares ear nymph. Eventually I learned that stripping the stomper in choppy bursts generated interest, and I landed six trout using this method. Unfortunately interest was different than eating, and all but one of the chasers were foul hooked, as the trout surged to the surface fly but backed off without eating. When I observed the surface disturbance, I set the hook and dragged the trailing nymph into the body of the stocker. In one instance late in this fishing adventure, a rainbow grabbed the stomper.

Many Rises in This Area

I probably should have tried a Griffith’s gnat, but I did not think of it, until I was hiking back to the cabin. The food source was clearly something infinitesimal, and a size 24 speck of peacock herl may have been the ticket. One trout in 1.5 hours of fly fishing is rather pathetic, but I was captivated by the frequent rises, and I constantly sprayed and stripped casts. The pond represented an easily available source of entertainment. The trout were all cookie cutter rainbows in the twelve inch range.

Fish Landed: 1

South Fork of the White River – 09/16/2022

/Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Upstream from South Fork Campground

South Fork of the White River 09/16/2022 Photo Album

A year ago I fly fished the South Fork and enjoyed one of the most spectacular days of 2021. In fact, it was one of the best days of my life. On Friday, September 16 I revisited the same Flattops gem. I did not expect a repeat, but I also could not predict the adventure that unfolded.

My Destination

The sky was very foreboding, as I assembled my Sage R8 four weight. Knowing that I would perspire on my entry hike, I stuffed my raincoat in my fishing backpack. This left me with a quick-dry undershirt, fishing shirt, and light down parka. After a mile of exertion, I was beginning to sweat, and light rain commenced. I paused under a large evergreen for shelter, and removed all my layers, and then dressed again for the impending weather conditions. I began with my fishing shirt next to my skin, and then my light down parka, and finally my raincoat. The move was timely, as it began to rain steadily, and the raincoat contained my body heat; thus, accelerating my perspiration. It rained so hard for a fifteen minute period, that I once again sought the shelter of a large evergreen.

Goodbye Noble Buddy

Tough Fight

By 10:30 I reached my chosen starting point, and the rain subsided to a steady light downpour. I began fishing with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a prince nymph and a salvation nymph. I reviewed my post from 2021, and these flies delivered outstanding success, so why not attempt to repeat the magic? It was not long before a twelve inch rainbow smacked the pool toy, but in the process of landing the zealous fighter, the trout created a monster snarl. I was forced to cut off all the flies and essentially start over with my rig.

Pretty Aspen Grove Still Green

The Prize I Was Seeking

Between 10:30AM and noon I landed four trout including a brightly colored and chunky fourteen inch rainbow, but the catch rate lagged 2021, and I developed a severe chill while fishing through steady rain. The air temperature, when I began my hike was 44 degrees, and I checked it before lunch only to discover a modest increase to 48 degrees. During the heaviest period of rain the wind kicked up, and I was forced to address another massive monofilament snarl. Once again I snipped off all three flies, but this time I extended the main dropper below the hopper by a foot to four feet. At least I thought I did. When I began attaching my flies, the long dropper was nowhere to be found, so I uncoiled another four foot length. I was feeling bad about unknowingly littering four feet of 4X, but just as I staged my line to cast, guess what I found wrapped around my fly line? It was the recently missing extended four foot section. I coiled it as best I could and stuffed it in my wader bib pocket for potential later use. As the reader will note, I spent a disproportionate amount of time tending to line issues, and this circumstance along with the weather partially explained my low morning fish count.

So Clear

Take Two

Meanwhile, I was beginning to exhibit a slight shiver, so I stripped down to my bare chest and pulled on the quick-dry undershirt and swapped the sweat drenched fishing shirt back to my backpack. This exchange along with food and pulling down my earflaps allowed me to outlast the rain, but the thought of hiking back to the car surfaced in my brain several times. I stayed with the same three fly configuration for most of my remaining time, although I experimented briefly with an amber ice dub pool toy, an iron sally, a 20 incher, and a go2 caddis pupa. None of the trial flies yielded results.

Head Shot

During the afternoon I improved the fish count to fourteen. Of course, there were some six and seven inch tiddlers, but I also added four robust rainbows and cutbows in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. I also experienced my share of long distance releases, and several of them were respectable fish in the same thirteen to fifteen inch range.

I was considering an end to my day, as I was stuck on fourteen, when I snagged three flies in a dead limb due to a lack of awareness. It was just plain stupid fishing, but I suspected that I could pull on my line and bend the branch down enough to unravel the errant flies. This was not a sure thing, but I thought three flies deserved the effort. I pulled the branch down and broke it off, but my right foot, which supported most of my weight, slipped, and I sat back in some relatively deep current next to an exposed boulder. The ice cold water rushed over the top of my waders, and I was in a state of shock and anger. This episode made my decision to quit a no brainer, and I immediately sloshed back to the car over a considerable distance. Of course, the trail was a slick muddy quagmire that was chewed up by pack horses and hunters. When I eventually dumped my waders in the parking lot, I spilled two quarts from each foot.

Left Center Was the Place to Be

On the plus side, I landed five gorgeous wild rainbows and cutbows in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and these robust South Fork trout were some of the hardest fighting fish of that size that I encountered. Given my chill early and late and the dunking, I am not sure the effort justified the results. 2022 was a far cry from 2021, but I will likely give the South Fork another chance in the future, if my health permits.

Fish Landed: 14

North Fork of the White River – 09/15/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Flattops Area

North Fork of the White River 09/15/2022 Photo Album

What does one do for an encore after a sixty-three fish day? Read on.

I heard the pitter patter of rain on the roof of my cabin, so I expected a wet day on Thursday; and I was not disappointed. However, with my light down coat, rain shell, and billed hat with earflaps I was reasonably comfortable during my day on the North Fork of the White River. The temperature as I departed the Santa Fe was 48 degrees, and because of overcast conditions, it never climbed above 60 degrees. As was the case on Wednesday, the flows were normal for mid-September.

Nice Run and Pool

Worth a Second Snap

I copied my wildly successful fly choices on Wednesday, and began with a peacock hippie stomper and salvation nymph on my Loomis five weight. I applied ferrule wax to the single connection on the two piece, and separation at the end of the day was a snap compared to Wednesday. During the 1.5 hour morning session I moved quickly in order to get deeper into the national forest than any of my previous visits, and along the way I picked up nine trout. Unlike Wednesday I discovered that this section of the White held 70% rainbows and cutbows, and this nearly reversed the ratio compared to Wednesday. Several morning cutbows were chunky thirteen inch fish, but I also connected with quite a few decent trout that flopped free, just as I was preparing to hoist them toward the net. This circumstance repeated so often that I actually removed the salvation and replaced it with another during lunch with the hope that it contained a sharper hook point.

Deep Gold

Check Out the Orange

Zoomed in Close

After lunch I continued with the stomper and salvation and nudged the fish count to thirteen. Some dense clouds filled the sky in the early afternoon, and I weathered a fifteen minute period of heavy rain. I grew frustrated with the slow period and the difficulty of tracking the hippie stomper in the intermittent glare, so I replaced the stomper with a size 8 tan pool toy. The pool toy/salvation combination enabled the fish count to blossom from thirteen to twenty-four, but once again the nymph accounted for most of the netted trout. As was the case in the morning, but to a lesser degree, I suffered quite a few temporary hook ups with seemingly nice sized cutbows.

Trout Town

Outstanding Markings

When I reached twenty-four, I stumbled into another fish catch rut, so I swapped the pool toy for an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl. This exchange preceded my arrival at a gorgeous long run and pool along some fallen logs. On my second cast a large trout grabbed the salvation and immediately dashed downstream toward the downstream border of the pool which featured several angled logs. I tried to arrest  the run with side pressure, but the ploy was ineffective, and I stripped in my line devoid of a chubby and salvation. Once again I failed to net one of the best fish encountered during the day.

Tucked Deep to the Logs

Mighty Fine

Classic Rainbow

I was humbled by the experience and replaced the chubby with a classic Chernobyl ant and added another salvation. For the remainder of the afternoon I progressed upstream at a steady pace and augmented the fish tally to thirty-six. Several thirteen to fourteen inch cutbows graced my net during this time. At 3:50PM I decided to fish one last deep hole below a cluster of fallen logs. I landed a small brook trout, but I was convinced the prime location supported some better fish. In a final effort to extract one of these assumed big boys, I added a size 14 prince nymph below the salvation, and I plunked a cast tight to the stick jumble at the top of the run and pool. I was fortunate to avoid a snag, and the Chernobyl dipped thus prompting a swift hook set. Imagine my excitement, when I landed a gorgeous fourteen inch cutbow. The deep golden body filled with large black spots suggested that this fish was more cutthroat than rainbow.

I enjoyed a thirty -six fish day including some stunning cutbows, and I accomplished this in spite of adverse weather conditions. Once again the Flattops delivered outstanding fishing to this appreciative angler.

Fish Landed: 36

North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest

North Fork of the White River 09/14/2022 Photo Album

Wednesday was an amazing day and a stellar payback for my disappointing Tuesday afternoon. Let me explain.

Ooh and Ah Pool


The last weather forecast that I examined before getting out of cell range on Tuesday predicted a high probability of rain on Wednesday afternoon with a high temperature in the low sixties. This forecast caused me to postpone my hike in to the South Fork, and instead I chose to spend the day on the North Fork, where I was closer to civilization in case of heavy rain. The temperature at 10:00AM was fifty degrees, so I wore my light down parka with my raincoat as an external layer and windbreaker. In addition, I wore my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps. I chose this hat, as it is more compatible with a raincoat hood than my western wide-brimmed head piece. During the morning and early afternoon the sky featured large high clouds and sporadic rain, but thunderstorms and heavy rain never materialized. Some blue sky appeared between 3:00PM and 4:00PM, and I was actually borderline overheated with my layers.

Another Promising Slot

Workhorse Stomper


The flows appeared to be normal for the second week of September, and I took full advantage. I began with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper combined with a size 14 prince nymph and these flies allowed me to build the fish count to nine by the time I adjourned for lunch at noon. Although the morning results were decent, I was plagued with quite a few refusals and temporary connections to the pool toy, so I removed the hopper and shifted to a size 14 peacock body hippie stomper. The ninth fish that I landed snapped off the salvation, as I raised it to my net, so I experimented with the stomper fished solo. The single dry performed admirably, and the fish count climbed to nineteen.

Gold, Pink and Black


At this point in the early afternoon, I suffered through a rare fifteen minute slump, so I added a salvation nymph to the arrangement. Voila! The stomper and salvation remained on center stage, until I quit at 4:30PM. What a winning combination it was, as the fish count exploded to sixty-three! The overwhelming star of the afternoon performance was the salvation nymph, although the hippie stomper continued to be in demand.

On Fire

Fat and Orange Like a Pumpkin

Of course, a huge number of landed trout were brookies in the 6-8 inch range, but I estimate that at least twenty rainbows and cutbow hybrids chomped on my flies during the course of my fly fishing expedition. Of the bow family haul at least ten trout were dynamic finned creatures in the twelve to fifteen inch range. I was quite pleased to interact with these feisty creek residents. I do not wish to overlook the brook trout, as I was fortunate to touch five in the eleven to twelve inch range with brilliant orange bellies. A foot long brook trout is a catch to be proud of. In this small stream environment beauty more than made up for size. As usual, the most productive locations were characterized by depth and length, and as time passed, I became more adept at placing my casts in the higher probability trout locations. Hopefully the torrid high mountain angling can continue on Thursday.

Fish Landed: 63

Closing In

Next to the Foam Produced

North Fork of the White River – 09/13/2022

Time: 1:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Flattops area

North Fork of the White River 09/13/2022 Photo Album

September 13 was the beginning of my annual four days of fishing in the Flattops area of Colorado. I returned from family reunions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey on Sunday, September 11, and I was anxious to get reacquainted with high country fly fishing. For the past ten years this trip during the second week of September has become a tradition. The five day weather forecast called for sunny and dry on Tuesday, September 13; however, rain was a high probability over the remainder of the week. For the second year in a row I abandoned camping in favor of a small rustic cabin at the Ute Lodge. A bed, flush toilet, running water, a refrigerator and heat qualified as luxury in this remote region of the Flattops.

North Fork of the White River

As usual, I stopped along my route to the Ute Lodge to fish on Tuesday afternoon. The air temperature was in the low sixties, when I arrived at my chosen starting point, and the thermometer probably peaked around 66 degrees, before some dense gray clouds slid in from the west. After thirty minutes of fishing I was forced to don my raincoat, as two brief periods of heavy rain made my effort worthwhile. Toward the end of the afternoon the western sky appeared to be even more threatening, and the wind kicked up and dropped the temperature to 60 degrees. I was on the edge of a significant chill. As I gazed down to the river while preparing to fish, I noted that it seemed lower than previous years, but the flows were easily adequate for my purposes.

Lovely Fish

Speckles Everywhere

I began my quest for White River rainbows and cutbows with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a size 14 prince nymph, and a size 16 salvation nymph. Except for the final hour, when I replaced the salvation with an ultra zug bug, these flies remained on my line. I covered .6 mile of river and landed thirteen trout. All the fish that rested in my net were rainbows and cutbows, and the tally included three respectable cutbows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. I moved fairly quickly and limited my casts to spots with depth and length.

Some Deep Runs

Very Nice Chunk

I must admit that Tuesday was a bit disappointing. Thirteen trout is certainly respectable, however, I traditionally scoop more and larger fish from this section on day one. I sensed that lower flows reduced the number of prime holding spots for larger fish. I also suspect that improved signage denoting public water increased the pressure on this section of the White. Tomorrow is a new day, and the weather forecast predicts a high likelihood of rain. It will be interesting.

Fish Landed: 13

North Fork of the White River – 10/01/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 10/01/2021 Photo Album

On October 1, 2021 I returned to a section of the North Fork of the White River, where I experienced a 52 fish day on September 15. Could my luck continue?

Jane and I rented the Cedar cabin at Ute Lodge from September 28 through October 2, and we spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hiking trails in the Flattops area. The weather was adverse during this time, but the worst hiking conditions occurred on Wednesday, when we hiked the Big Fish Creek Trail in the rain. On Thursday we trekked on the South Fork of the White River Trail, and a pair of horses chewed up the black mud ahead of us. Hiking in the sticky black muck was very challenging.

Friday was my day to fish, and I decided to visit the section of the North Fork, where I lost my fly box on September 15. The section of fly line that tethered the box to my wader bib severed, and I was oblivious to this unfortunate event, until I arrived back at the car at the end of the day. I thought I remembered, where I accessed the fly box, after I snapped off the hippie stomper on a branch that extended into the water, so I waded directly to that spot to begin my fishing. I used my Garmin watch to clock the distance, and it was .5 mile. I actually found the branch that snagged my flies, but I was unable to spot the MFC box in spite of some careful searching in the nearby area and for a ways upstream. The effort reinforced what a “needle in the haystack” challenge I faced in recovering my stuffed fly box. I am resigned to elevate my fly tying efforts this winter to restore my fly supply to its previous excessive level.

Early Going

The temperature, when I began was 44 degrees, so I pulled on my light down North Face coat, and I wore my New Zealand billed hat. The temperature warmed nicely between 10:30AM and noon, and I actually began to perspire; however, while I munched my lunch, some dark clouds rolled in, and I pulled my rain shell from my backpack. I wore the raincoat for the remainder of my time on the river, and I was quite chilly for much of the time. Twice during the afternoon I weathered short periods of rain.

What a Color Scheme

Settled a Bit More. Love the Bronze.

I began my quest for high country trout with a tan pool toy hopper and a prince nymph. The hopper pattern delivered one trout early, but then an extended lull forced me to reexamine my approach, and I switched the prince for a 20 incher. The 20 incher clicked, and I built the fish count to five, before I halted my efforts for lunch. By lunchtime I progressed to within fifty yards of my normal exit point. I felt that I was covering a lot of normally productive water with below average results, and I surmised that the pool toy hopper was disturbing the water excessively. I decided to make a radical shift and replaced the pool toy with a peacock hippie stomper, and I swapped the 20 incher for a  beadhead hares ear nymph. Well, perhaps that was not radical, but I sought a top fly that produced a softer landing. In the next fly fishing interval the hares ear yielded two feisty rainbows, but then I suffered a long drought, so I returned to the pool toy and 20 incher. As I rounded a large bend and paralleled the road, a very thick cutbow crushed the pool toy to bring the count to eight.

About to Take Off

Pool Below the Falls Yielded a Trout

At this point, I progressed along the road and under a bridge and then beyond a large pond. None of these spots produced, and I attributed this result to easy access from the road leading to greater fishing pressure, so I moved upstream. The section of the river above the pond was relatively small as a result of being above two fairly sizeable tributaries, so I skipped through it quickly, until I reached a nice deep pool. As I surveyed the pool, I spotted three or four trout sipping something tiny from the surface. I knew the dry/dropper was too heavy for the situation, so I removed both flies and knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my line. I carefully fluttered a host of casts to the area, but the olive was rudely ignored. Fortunately the occupants of the pool continued to rise in spite of my casts, so I abandoned the CDC BWO and gambled on a size 18 black parachute ant with a bright green wing post. Success! A beautiful brook trout sipped the ant, and I guided it to my net for photos. When I returned my attention to the pool, another pair of fish resumed sipping. The ant was ignored by these persistent feeders, so I switched to a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. This move paid dividends, when I landed a twelve inch cutbow and a twelve inch brook trout to push my final count to eleven.

Curled in My New Net

Parachute Ant and Brook Trout Complement Each Other

I ambled along the narrow stream a bit farther, until I reached a huge spring, where the North Fork emerged after flowing underground below Trappers Lake. The deep pool displayed a blue color, and I paused to observe for five minutes with the hope that some trout would expose themselves, but that happenstance was not forthcoming. My body was chilled from the wind and the overcast skies, so I returned to the large pond that I bypassed earlier. A small olive mayfly perched on my rod earlier, and I spotted a few random BWO’s in the air, so I approached the pond with optimistic hopes that some trout would be sipping blue winged olives. The optimism was unfounded, so I continued below the pond to a spot, where a dirt path ascended the bank to a road, and from there I marched back to the car. Unlike September 15, my fly box was secure in my wader bib pocket.

Hard to Concentrate on Fishing

Subtle Beauty


Obviously my fishing results on October 1 did not come close to matching my day on September 15. On the plus side I did not lose anything. The weather was less comfortable, than I expected, as I was chilled in spite of wearing an Under Armour insulated shirt, a fishing shirt, a light down coat, a raincoat, and a hat with earflaps. It was pretty raw. In spite of these conditions I managed to land eight very respectable hard fighting rainbows and cutbows in the eleven to fourteen inch range. Toward the end of my time on the stream I fooled three trout on dry flies including two vividly colored brook trout. I failed to recover my fly box, but expectations on that proposition were very minimal going into the venture. The aspen leaves were brilliant yellow with a few trees peaking at scarlet, and the Chinese wall and Flattops rock formations were spectacular. If I could repeat Friday, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Fish Landed: 11

North Fork Emerges Here After Going Underground

North Fork of the White River – 09/16/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/16/2021 Photo Album

Thursday felt like a repeat of Wednesday. I spent Wednesday evening filling two empty fly boxes with dry flies from my boat box to replace my MFC box that broke free from its leash on Wednesday. Needless to say I am still grieving over the loss of a box stuffed with hopper patterns, chubby Chernobyls, classic Chernobyls, ants, beetles, stimulators, caddis, yellow sallies, and comparaduns. I am anxious to fill another MFC brown trout box with my mainstay patterns, when I return home.

Trout Expected

The temperature at the car, as I prepared to fish, was already in the sixties, and by the time I returned to the Santa Fe at 4PM, it was 69 degrees. I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked to my chosen starting point. During the afternoon some large puffy clouds rolled across the sky on a regular basis, and I actually resorted to wearing my rain shell for additional warmth for most of the afternoon.

Brilliant Red Says It All

For the day I kept my fly selection rather basic, as I started and ended with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a size 14 prince nymph, and a size 16 salvation nymph. Thursday’s game was more about casting to the right water than choosing the correct fly.

Love the Deep Color

Another Look

I began my quest for trout at 10:30AM, and by lunchtime the fish counter rested on eleven. Quite a few chunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbows rested in my net, but the ones that escaped were the most impressive. I quickly learned that marginal spots were a waste of time, and I focused my casting on places with depth and length. Of course, as is usually the case, the farther I moved from easy access, the better my catch rate. The hopper only generated a couple fish, but the prince nymph delivered most of the damage. The salvation induced ten grabs, and the prince accounted for the remainder. Inexplicably numerous prime spots failed to produce, but I discovered that movement was my friend. Rather than dwelling on the failure, I pressed on and found spots that produced multiple trout.

Spawning Colors

I Know You Are in There

The ratio by species was around seventy percent rainbow and cutbow and thirty percent brook trout. At one point I considered adopting Wednesday’s lineup of a hippie stomper and salvation nymph, but I concluded that the configuration might attract more small trout, and I was pleased with the steady stream of energized eleven to thirteen inch rainbow trout that were finding their way to my net.

Like Opening a Christmas Present

By 2:30PM the catch rate slowed considerably, my arm was sore and weary from four straight days of casting, and I grew increasingly concerned about my exit plan. I called it quits at 3PM to allow time to find the main dirt road, and after a .9 mile hike I arrived at my car.

Outfitter and Horseback Riding Stables Next to Ute Lodge

Although I fell short of fifty fish on Thursday, I registered another outstanding day of fly fishing. I estimate that half of the thirty-six fish were robust rainbows and cutbows in the eleven to thirteen inch range. A sprinkling of vividly colored brook trout added to the mix, and I ended my week in the Flattops in a satisfied state of mind.

Fish Landed: 36

North Fork of the White River – 09/15/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/15/2021 Photo Album

Another spectacular day of fly fishing was overshadowed by an expensive loss, but I will return to that misfortune at the end of this report. After a terrific day on the South Fork, I returned to the North Fork on Wednesday.

Typical Productive Bank Pocket

Once again the weather was perfect, as the dashboard displayed 53 degrees, and I assembled my Sage four weight and prepared for a day of fly fishing. I felt a bit chilly, so I slipped into my rain shell, but within fifteen minutes of fishing I shed the layer and remained in my fishing shirt for my 6.5 hours on the creek. The air temperature was 75 degrees, when I started the Santa Fe for my return drive to the cabin. The stream appeared to be in prime condition, although a bit lower than previous Septembers. Eventually I would discover that greater than normal stealth was required to fool the wild trout on Wednesday.

Pool Toy Hopper 2

Very Fine Specimen

The day of fly fishing essentially breaks down into three segments. During the two morning hours I prospected a significant distance from my starting point and landed eight trout. The fish count included a couple of chunky twelve inch rainbows and a mix of smaller brook trout and rainbows. Perhaps I was spoiled by my ridiculous success on the South Fork, but I sensed that I was not catching fish in prime shelf pools that produced in previous years. I used a size 8 tan pool toy with a salvation nymph for most of the morning. I did hook up with two above average beasts that I failed to land, so I had a shot at double digits.

Promising Pocket

Orange Belly

After lunch I began to experiment with dry/dropper combinations. I added an ultra zug bug along with a salvation for a short period, but the results were no better than the two fly approach. I also added a sunken ant below the salvation, and that move seemed to provide a temporary boost, as the fish count advanced to the thirteen range. Still, it seemed as though I was casting to prime lies with no sign of fish, and I was not catching my normal quota of hot cutbows and rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range.

Lowered for Release


I pondered the situation and concluded that the large hopper and nymph tandem was disturbing the water too much at the lower than normal water level. I remedied the excessive splash down by replacing the hopper with a smaller yet buoyant hippie stomper and matched it with a salvation nymph and sunken ant. This combination turned the tide, and the fish counter zoomed from fifteen to fifty-two during the remaining hours on the creek. After some time I realized that the ant was simply getting in the way, so I revisited the two fly dry/dropper, and judging from the numbers, the trout obviously approved.

Defined Slashes

Elegant Trout

I’m not sure whether to credit the fly selection, the rise of the water temperature to a prime feeding range, or my increased distance from the trailhead; but suddenly the North Fork was on fire. The afternoon action was equal to or better than previous years, and my net was visited by bright orange-bellied ten inch brookies, a host of muscular rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and two copper-hued cutbows. One of the cutbows may have been the best fish of the day, as it stretched the tape to fifteen inches. The salvation was easily the star fly of the day, although five trout crushed the foam-bodied stomper.

Amazing Yellow Spots

Below the Woodpile

Highlight of the Day

By 4:30PM I was quite weary from climbing over rocks and deadfalls, and I was positioned below a short steep bank, so I called it quits. When I returned to the car, I decided to replace flies that I lost throughout the day, and one of those was a hippie stomper. I grabbed my waders and reached in the bib pocket for my MFC dry fly box. Imagine my shock, when all I found was half of the fly line that served as a tether, and it was frayed where the fly box was previously connected. My pulse and heartrate elevated at the thought of losing my valuable selection of dry flies. I quickly returned to my exit point and carefully maneuvered down a steep bank to a place, where I remembered fishing through some difficult shrubs, but the box was nowhere to be found. I estimate that the box contained at least 400 flies. I thought about spending Thursday retracing my path, but I concluded that it would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Did the fly box fall in the water or on the bank? If on the bank, which bank? I would need to search both banks, since I criss-crossed the stream on a regular basis. I decided to write off the flies and move on. Fortunately, I had my boat box along on the trip, and it contained a deep supply of backup dry flies. I planned to fill two spare fly boxes that evening and continue my Flattops adventure on Thursday and possibly Friday.

Chinese Wall

The loss of my flies put a significant damper on what should have been the celebration of another fifty fish day. Hopefully as time passes, my memory of the magnificent day of fishing will overshadow the loss of a fly box.

Fish Landed: 52

South Fork of the White River – 09/14/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest area

South Fork of the White River 09/14/2021 Photo Album

The temperature was 51 degrees, when I began my hike, but the exertion from hiking quickly warmed my body temperature. I never wore a layer beyond my fishing shirt, and I was comfortable all day. The sun was bright and warm with only a rare cloud. There were some periods of breeziness, but not enough to impact my casting. The river was very clear and perhaps slightly lower than previous visits, but not enough to impact my fishing.

Near the Start

Not a Bad Start

I knew from past trips that the cutbows and rainbows of the South Fork are very strong fighters, so I rigged my Sage One five weight for extra leverage. This proved to be a very prescient move. I hiked a good distance from the parking lot and then cut to the river and configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Ablert, a size 12 weighted prince nymph and a salvation nymph. I extended the leader, so that the total distance from the fat Albert to the salvation was four feet. I wanted to make sure that I was getting deep enough in the relatively high and cold flows of the South Fork.

Nice Deep Water in This Area

Jagged Wing Edge

Look at That Tail

The system apparently fit the circumstances on Tuesday, because I never changed the flies through six hours of fly fishing. I lost four salvation nymphs and replaced them, but I never changed to different patterns. I also knew from previous years, that extreme efficiency was necessary to succeed on the Flattops river. I skipped wide sections with shallow riffles and marginal pockets, and I focused my efforts on long slots and riffles of moderate depth. I knew my strategy was paying off, when I paused for lunch at 11:45AM with eight rainbows already notched on the fish counter. In addition, two very respectable fish escaped from my line and prevented me from upping the fish count total to ten.

Smooth Water by the Bank Enticing

Pastel Pink Stripe

Dense Speckle Pattern

The remainder of the day was simply amazing. I concentrated my casts to quality spots with depth and progressed upstream for .7 mile, and the fish count soared from eight at lunch to fifty-one, when I quit at 4:30PM. The fishing was simply outstanding. Of the 51 trout landed, one was a brook trout, and the remainder were rainbows and cutbows, but the rainbows clearly dominated the net. I estimate that thirty-one trout gobbled the prince nymph and twenty snatched the salvation. By the end of the day the prince nymph was essentially a tapered peacock cylinder with gold rib and a gold bead. I find it amazing that the fly held up that well through thirty fish.


Love This Shot

But what about size? The size and energy of these fish is what makes Tuesday potentially the number one day of fishing in 2021. I landed at least three rainbows that stretched the tape to the sixteen and seventeen inch range. The predominant size was twelve to fourteen inches, and the rainbows were pound for pound some of the toughest I have ever wrangled with. Of course there were probably fifteen below twelve inches, but if you do the math, you will realize that my day included an abundant quantity of above average size fish. Can someone pinch me?


On Tuesday fifty-one fish were landed on a stream that historically has proven to be quite temperamental. What was different about this venture? I am placing credit on the longer dropper leader and the extra weight of the prince nymph. These modifications to my approach enabled me to get my nymphs in front of large trout in deeper lies. I suspect I was drifting over the top of likely eaters on previous trips. Being disciplined on my river coverage was also a major positive. How can the next several days in the Flattops possibly compare to Tuesday? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 51