Category Archives: White River

North Fork of the White River – 09/29/2023

Time: 10:45AM – 2:45PM

Location: National forest

North Fork of the White River 09/29/2023 Photo Album

Friday was my last day in the Flattops, and I was rather pleased with my first three days particularly after enduring a lengthy sickness due to an adverse reaction to antibiotics. A fairly lengthy hike to and from my fishing spot on the South Fork of the White River punctuated my physical recovery. For Friday I chose a destination that allowed me to quit by 3:00PM and avoided a lengthy return hike to the car. Once again I chose the North Fork, and I was positioned at a roadside pullout, as I prepared to fish at 10:00AM. I got off to a later than desired start, as I waited until the Ute Lodge office opened at 9:30 in order to pay my remaining bill and check out.

Prime Leaf Viewing

Friday was another glorious late September day, as the temperature rose from 57 degrees, when I began, to the low seventies at the peak. Since I expected to fish dry/droppers and double dries, I chose my Loomis two piece five weight to take advantage of the slower action for casting larger flies. I also favored the slightly shorter length on the relatively narrow high elevation creek. A twenty minute hike placed me on the bank of the river, and I began fly fishing at 10:45AM. To begin my fly fishing experience, I knotted a size 8 tan pool toy hopper to my line as the surface fly, and beneath it I attached a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. In the first decent riffle area, two small rainbows attacked my flies, as one gulped the hopper, and the other snatched the salvation. I was off and running with an auspicious start. I continued my progression upstream through a fairly narrow and high gradient section, and I was careful to focus on only the prime locales with slower current and depth to afford the resident trout security from overhead predators.

Depth of Color Impressive

By the time I broke for lunch at 11:45AM, the fish count rested on five, and I was quite pleased with my first hour endeavor. Number five was a stunning copper colored cutbow, but it crushed the hopper and wrapped the trailing nymphs in a ridiculous snarl that included tight knots and loops. It took me at least ten minutes to unwind the damage, but at least the hassle was somewhat worthwhile with the nice trout as a reward.

Prime Spot

Zoomed Closer

After lunch I continued to employ the same offerings, and the fish count slowly crept to twelve, but frequent refusals combined with blowing up prime spots, when the dropper nymphs snagged on rocks and sticks. suggested that a change was in order. In spite of these downsides to the 11:45 to 1:15 period, my catch included quite a few respectable cutbows and rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range. Most of the larger fish smashed the hopper, so I was reluctant to abandon it, but the terrestrial was also responsible for looks and refusals that detracted attention from the nymphs. Interestingly, the number of brook trout to rest in my net was only a few small ones, and this would be the case for the remainder of my time on the water. I theorized that the older, adult brookies were busy procreating and not eating, and this left the feeding open for the cutbow population.

Prime Spot

Despite my reluctance to abandon the target of larger trout in the stream, I replaced the pool toy with a peacock hippie stomper, and in an effort to reduce the frequency of bottom snags, I opted for a one fly nymph dropper on a three foot leader and chose the salvation nymph. This combination remained on my line until I quit at 2:45PM, and I was quite pleased with the results.

Bronze, Light Green and Pink

I progressed upstream and prospected the two fly set up in all the prime locations that offered depth, slower current and length; and the trout responded. I increased the fish count from twelve to twenty-nine before I quit at 2:45PM in order to achieve my goal of departing for the long drive home no later than 4:00PM. For the most part, if I cast to an attractive spot, the fish responded. The salvation nymph became the food morsel of choice, and I estimate that thirty percent smacked the stomper on the surface and the other seventy percent nabbed the salvation on the drift.

Narrow Section

The quality of the fish was outstanding. I had a difficult time resisting photographing every fish, as they either displayed splendid color schemes, or they were chunky fish in the thirteen inch range. I moved at a fast pace and dropped three to five casts in likely spots, and in the process covered nearly a mile of stream real estate. I love this style of fishing, and the mild weather and the warm glow of the aspens accentuated my fun day. I quit at 2:45PM, which was earlier than I planned, because I was unsure of my exit strategy, but I climbed two steep banks and zig zagged through an aspen grove, before I spotted the road and found my way back to the car.

Rose Predominates

Although I posted a greater number day on Wednesday, Friday may have been my favorite day of the trip. I suspect that another hour on the stream would have enabled me to surpass Tuesday’s big number day, and the cutbows and rainbows were somewhat larger than Tuesday’s haul. I have plans to return to the Flattops next week, but the weather will be cooler; however, I expect that I might be able to carve out another day on the North Fork. Friday’s section might be perfect for a return.

Fish Landed: 29

South Fork of the White River – 09/28/2023

Time: 11:45AM – 4:00PM

Location: National forest

South Fork of the White River 09/28/2023 Photo Album

When I made plans to visit the Flattops during the last week of September, I was uncertain whether I would attempt my annual hike in to the South Fork. This venture is typically my most arduous day of the week, and after enduring a three week layoff and significant illness, I reasoned that it was a good idea to skip it in 2023. That was before the area was blessed with balmy early fall temperatures that hovered in the sixty to seventy-five degree range. Tuesday and Wednesday were solid from a health standpoint, so I took the plunge and invested one day on the South Fork.

When I arrived at the trailhead, the temperature registered 50 degrees, but I knew that once the sun crept over the mountain ridge to the east, the atmosphere would quickly warm. I elected to deploy my Sage One five weight, as I favored the long and heavier rod, in case I tangled with some energized South Fork rainbows and cutbows.

Number One Grabbed Just Below the Rock

After I established a decent buffer from the trailhead, I cut to the river, and my watch displayed 11:30AM, so I immediately devoured my small snack. As I munched my sandwich, a decent trout darted to the surface to sip a food item trapped in the surface film of a small eddy twenty-five feet above the log I was resting on. I continued to observe, and a second subtle surface grab appeared several feet away from and below the eddy. Given this activity I decided to open with Jake’s gulp beetle. I plopped ten casts in the area, but the targeted sipper never made a move. Maybe the second rise was focused on a caddis? I replaced the beetle with a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis, but it was also ignored.

Nice Length

I decided the random feeder was no longer hungry, so I changed my lineup and waded across the river to the south side. I was now in prospect mode, and I tied a size 8 tan pool toy to my line followed by a 20 incher on a four foot dropper and then added another twelve inch leader with an emerald caddis pupa. I flipped some casts to a slow-moving deep run between an exposed boulder and the swift main current, and on the third cast the hopper disappeared. I suddenly found myself connected to a hard fighting cutbow, and after a five minute battle I dipped the net beneath my prize. My net was occupied with a fat fifteen inch fish that grabbed the 20 incher.

Thick Body

My optimism soared, but I had to endure an hour of fruitless casting, before I enjoyed more action. In this case I lobbed the three fly dry/dropper in a narrow but deep slot between two faster currents. Near the end of the drift the hopper disappeared, and once again an angry fish streaked down and then up the river. I held tight and after a short but spirited fight, I witnessed another fat slab of a cutbow in my net. This adversary was also fifteen inches but definitely very thick and heavy, and it displayed vivid colors particularly the bright orange-red cheeks. Between “red cheeks” and 2PM I endured nothing but fruitless casting and boredom.

Trout Home

I continued to focus on deep areas with slower current velocity, but spots that matched this criteria failed to deliver. Finally at 2PM I changed up with a major new rigging. I went to my stalwart peacock hippie stomper with a beadhead hares ear in the upper nymph position and a salvation nymph at the end of the line. Finally in a small slow side channel, I landed a small rainbow on the hares ear, and then shortly thereafter another ten inch rainbow smacked the hippie stomper. I was beginning to wonder what happened to the small fish that I typically slide in my net on the South Fork.

Pointing Upstream

Productive Spot

I advanced up the river to the point, where the main river was once again one channel. The riverbed was narrower in this stretch, and this created more attractive deep pockets and runs. Since I had success with the small rainbows in slower water near the bank, I began focusing my casts to slow pockets and deep slower runs along the left bank. For the next hour I was on fire. I landed four hard charging rainbows and cutbows, and it felt like I was in a different river. This transpired between 2:30PM and 3:30PM. Casts along the bank that were previously ignored suddenly drew aggressive attacks. The first of this quartet of eaters was a magnificent seventeen inch cutbow that smashed the hippie stomper. I could hardly believe my good fortune, when I guided the behemoth into my net. What a beast of a wild fish!

Hard Fighter

Another Sweet Spot

Two of the others were very respectable thirteen inch chunks, and these wild fish put on noble displays of streaking, rolling and head shaking. As quickly as the river turned on, it ended. I once again made an exorbitant number of futile casts to similar water types, but now the trout had lockjaw. The shadows extended across the river except for a narrow band along the left bank. I continued in spite of glare and difficulty following the white wing of the hippie stomper, and finally a drift through a deep and narrow band of slower water produced another feisty thirteen inch rainbow. I celebrated reaching double digits and initiated the hike back to the car.

Lovely Pink Accents

Thursday was all about quality over numbers. I remain curious over the status of the smaller fish. It was a struggle to achieve double digits, but six quality fish found my net including a seventeen inch beauty and two fifteen inch slabs. The one hour window between 2:30PM and 3:30PM saved my day. Of course the weather and scenery were perfect, and the fall foliage remained near its prime. I have one more day, before my Flattops trip reaches its end.

Fish Landed: 10

The Return Hike

North Fork of the White River – 09/27/2023

Time: 10:45AM – 5:00PM

Location: National Forest

North Fork of the White River 09/27/2023 Photo Album

After a promising start to my Flattops trip on my arrival day, Tuesday, I was rather excited for a full day outing on Wednesday, September 27. Would I be disappointed? For Wednesday’s adventure I chose a different section of the North Fork. The temperature when I departed from the Pine Cabin was 42 degrees, so I was in no rush to begin my fly fishing day. I was favorably surprised that the temperature was 57 degrees, when I pulled into the parking space next to my chosen trailhead. The sun was warming the atmosphere quickly, and the deep blue sky was devoid of clouds. I pulled on my rain shell for a bit of warmth, but I stuffed it in my backpack after thirty minutes of fly fishing, rock scrambling, and log rolling. My fly rod choice was my Loomis two piece five weight. The Loomis stick is shorter than my Sage options, and it offers a slower action, which I favor for casting large foam flies, dry/droppers and double dries.

Great Beginning

Typical Brawling Section

By the time I was ready and hiked to the creek, it was 10:45AM, and I noted this as my start time. I knotted a size 8 tan pool toy to my 4X tippet and then added a 20 incher on a relatively short dropper. The two fly combination yielded four trout, before I paused for lunch at 11:45AM. Two were ten to eleven inch cutbows, and two were smallish brook trout. Two of the morning catch smashed the hopper and two nabbed the 20 incher. The beginning portion of the section I chose was characterized by high gradient; and, therefore, lacking prime deep pools and long runs, so I was reasonably pleased with my morning.

Vermiculation Impressive

Roy G Biv Example

Home to Trout

After lunch, however, my concern over a lack of action increased. Admittedly the creek continued to rush downward at a rapid pace, so attractive spots continued to be a scarce commodity, but I plateaued at seven after two hours of intense fly fishing. I decided a change was in order, so I elected to try a double dry that featured the trustworthy peacock hippie stomper along with a medium olive body size 14 stimulator. The stimmy attracted a fish almost immediately, but when I moved on to the lower end of a spectacular pool, I witnessed a long look and rejection from what appeared to be a respectable rainbow. Rather than moving on, I did what I rarely do, and I swapped the stimulator for a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis. I launched at least twenty casts to the sighted trout, and it looked a few times, but it refused to eat my offerings. I shifted my attention to the equally attractive top half of the pool, and I managed a very brief connection. After five minutes of frustration, I flicked a downstream cast beneath a branch, so that the dries drifted over my reluctant friend. It worked, and the trout rose and drifted back under the hippie stomper and eventually nipped it. I followed the entire act and set the hook expeditiously, but the rainbow cleared the surface and slipped free.

Copper Tone

Yellow to Orange Belly

A few more pools failed to ignite confidence in the caddis, so at 1:15PM I replaced it with a salvation nymph on a short leader that remained from the double dry set up. I finally stumbled into fast action, and over the remainder of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from ten to forty-two! The hippie stomper and salvation were constants, but I also experimented with several flies in the middle position that included a tan caddis pupa, a yellow PMD emerger, an iron sally, an ultra zug bug, a yellow emergent caddis pupa, and an emerald caddis pupa. This entire group of add on flies probably accounted for three fish, but two were quite nice and deeply colored cutbows. The overwhelming favorites for the fish were the hippie stomper and the salvation nymph, and I estimate they split the catch 50/50.

Rare Pool As Wide as Creek Bed

On Display

What about the quality of the trout? It was outstanding. Approximately twenty netted fish were brook trout, and as expected quite a few were in the six to seven inch range, but I also played my share of ten and eleven inch trophies with hooked jaws and pumpkin colored bellies. The other twenty plus trout were robust wild cutbows, rainbows and cutthroats. In the latter stages of my outing I landed at least three gorgeous cutbows in the form of thick slabs that measured fourteen and fifteen inches. These catches were gratifying prizes. In addition, I probably landed ten rainbows and cutbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and these were much appreciated within the confines of the relatively small creek. The cutbows and cutthroats were deeply colored with that light copper background body and large black spots accented by a thin red stripe, red cheeks, and the iconic orange slash.

Zoomed in a Bit

Pointed Toward Home

What a day! My slump on Clear Creek was in the rearview mirror, and hopefully my body can hold up for another full day on Thursday. The weather is forecast to be spectacular once again.

Fish Landed: 42

North Fork of the White River – 09/26/2023

Time: 1:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest

North Fork of the White River 09/26/2023 Photo Album

After a rough outing on Clear Creek on Friday, September 22, I was anxious to atone. I suffered through a severe illness from Labor Day through September 19, and I was feeling well enough to resurrect the idea of a Flattops trip. I did it. Jane helped me book three nights at the Pine Cabin at the Ute Lodge from Tuesday, September 26 through Thursday, September 28 and departing on Friday, September 29. I was undecided about whether to fish on my departure day, but I decided to allow the quality of the fishing to dictate that decision. Another factor prompting my decision to undertake the Flattops trip later that usual was the weather. I had reconciled myself to the fact that my annual trip was not in the cards, until I examined the Weather Underground forecast. The closest stations were in Yampa, CO and Meeker, CO; and both predicted highs in the low to upper seventies with virtually no threat of precipitation. Surely I needed to take advantage of this window of prime fall weather.

I departed Denver at 8:15AM on Tuesday morning and arrived at my chosen fishing destination by 12:40PM, and I elected to chow down before preparing to fish. As forecast, the temperature was in the mid-sixties, so I chose to wear only my fishing shirt and stuffed my raincoat in my backpack. With the expectation to tangle with some hot fish, I assembled my Sage R8 nine foot four weight. The only negative through my three hours of fishing was a fairly persistent wind.

Great Beginning

I began my quest for rainbows and cutbows with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper and a size 12 beadhead prince. In the first nice deep pocket, a feisty rainbow gobbled the prince, and I was on my way. Next a pair of small rainbows barely over six inches grabbed the prince, but this welcome but underwhelming action was accompanied by quite a few looks and refusals to the hopper. Number four emerged from a prime deep run to smash the hopper, and this reinforced my belief in the pool toy, but another string of refusals caused me to reevaluate.

Slick Behind the Rock


Keeping Wet

I elected to swap out the pool toy for a size 8 yellow fat Albert, and then I added a 20 incher and a salvation nymph. This combination clicked, and I boosted the fish count from four to twenty by the time I quit at 4:30PM. Eight of the trout landed on the dry/dropper combination ranged in size from twelve to fifteen inches, and these cutbows and rainbows were hard charging and thick wild fish. The fifteen inch beauty was a certifiable wide slab with gorgeous scarlet coloration. Of course, the remainder of the trout were small juveniles in the seven to ten inch slot, but they were colorful jewels in the backcountry setting. One of the trout in the five to twenty count sequence nailed the fat Albert, and the remainder snatched the salvation or 20 incher. I estimated that the salvation outperformed the 20 incher by 60% to 40%. I covered a lot of water in three hours by skipping marginal spots, as I cherry-picked deep runs and large pools. It seemed that depth was the main factor that attracted trout and particularly the larger fish.

Foam Line Promising

Dense Spots

Of course , a day would not be perfect without a bit of adversity, and I endured my dose of hardship. I was paused on six trout, when I approached a gorgeous narrow pool and deep run. I landed two very fine rainbows, and then I tossed a cast to a promising spot where two currents merged to form a deep V slot. The hopper paused, and I quickly set the hook and connected with what felt like a decent fish. Before I could gain control, however, the obstinate fighter turned its head, and the fly slid free. The pent up energy caused the flies to slingshot around a dead branch high above me. I was not ready to surrender these flies, so I started breaking off the lower branches. I made progress, but the dead branch that captured my flies was out of reach. I found a large rock that boosted my reach, so that I could grab the target branch just beyond the junction with the main trunk, but in spite of being dead wood, it remained strong enough to resist breaking. I inched my hands outward on the branch, but I lost my grip and fell backward into the edge of the river. Fortunately I landed on my backpack, so there was no bodily injury, but in spite of my quick response in righting myself, my shirt and undershirt were soaked, and spillover ice cold water slowly trickled down my long underwear and saturated my socks. On a positive note I limited the overflow enough, so that my feet were not sloshing in their neoprene booties.

Red Cheek and Matching Red Spot on the Tail

Under the Evergreen

As a footnote, after my spill I grabbed one of the dead branches that I broke off early on, and it had a notch, which I was able to hook over the dead branch that held my flies. I applied minimal pressure, and the end of the branch tumbled into the edge of the river, where I quickly grabbed it and untangled and recovered my flies. Why didn’t I try this sooner? I was roughly half way to my exit point, so I had no recourse except to grimace and move. When I was in the sun, I remained fairly comfortable, but the shade and wind put me between chilled and shivering. My shirt dried somewhat, and the wet suit effect caused the wet socks and long underwear to warm a bit, but the remainder of the afternoon was a bit of a struggle. Fortunately the post-fall period coincided with steady action and upstream movement, and this distracted me to some degree from my wet sponge state.

Another Fine Rainbow

Tuesday was a fun day on the North Fork of the White River. I gained confidence after my tough outing on Clear Creek, and I landed twenty fish including ten robust fighters in the twelve to fifteen inch range. I solved the puzzle and eventually found fly combinations that met the criteria of the local trout. I look forward to tomorrow and another Flattops adventure.

Fish Landed: 20

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