Pine Valley Ranch Lake – 05/20/2024

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch Lake 05/20/2024 Photo Album

After a frustrating day on Saturday in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was eager to atone for a slow day of fishing. The day was useful in that it forced me to conclude that fishing freestones was no longer an option, until Colorado reached the downside of run off in 2024. My short stay at Sprague Lake, which produced a very nice brown trout, did elevate lake fishing to my upper level of consciousness.

I scanned the most recent stocking reports, and I noticed that Pine Valley Ranch Lake was stocked several weeks ago, so this became my destination for Monday, May 20, 2024. I am not a keen chaser of stockers, but a report of stocked trout assures me that the lake is free of ice, and also suggests a decent population of fish to be caught. I fished Pine Valley Ranch Lake numerous times over the past several years during run off, and I have generally experienced decent success.

I arrived at the lower parking lot in the park by 10:00AM, and ten vehicles occupied spots. Some were hikers and bikers, but obviously a number belonged to fishermen. I expected this given the recency of the stocking. The air temperature was 54 degrees, but the sun was bright, so I wore my fishing shirt over my short sleeved quick dry undershirt, and I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack in case I required additional warmth. I carefully fit together my Sage R8 four weight, and I departed for the lake at a brisk pace, I was anxious for a day of lake fishing.

Calm for a Short While at the Start

I skirted the north side of the lake along the North Fork of the South Platte River, and the river was rushing along at high velocity and very muddy. I surveyed the slough at the western end of the lake, but evidently the stockers did not dump fish in that area, as they have in the past, because I spotted no evidence of coldwater residents. I moved on and circled the western end of the lake and then situated myself on the south side with a very large gap between myself and the next group of anglers. I began my day at a gravel beach where a long fallen tree previously angled into the lake. It was no longer there, but I assumed that the area remained a haven for stocked trout.

Early Catch

I began my fly fishing efforts with a peacock body size 14 hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown body caddis adult. I spent twenty minutes firing medium range casts, and all I generated was refusals to the hippie stomper. It was attracting a lot of attention, but the fish were reluctant to close the deal. The wind kicked up and ruffled the surface, so I added a beadhead pheasant tail and beadhead hares ear below the hippie stomper. The hares ear never produced, so I replaced it with a supernova baetis and eventually a zebra midge. By 11:30AM I managed to land two rainbow trout on the beadhead pheasant tail along with many refusals and several foul hooked fish, when the trailing nymph connected, as I set the hook on a fake take.


Some large puffy clouds blocked the sun, and the wind kicked up causing wave action, so I went through the hassle of removing the dry/dropper, and I converted to a streamer approach. I added a split shot above the last knot and then attached a black ghost and a black mini leech. I worked this combination aggressively for thirty minutes, before I paused for lunch, and all I could manage was a couple follows from small stockers near shore.

After lunch I ended my streamer experiment and returned to a single dry; the hippie stomper. Although the stomper was not a surefire answer to the trout feeding puzzle, it worked often enough to remain as the mainstay fly for the remainder of the afternoon. Initially the solo fly duped quite a few fish, but when a bevy of refusals returned, I once again added a caddis. The hippie stomper and caddis double dry offering dominated the afternoon until the last thirty minutes, when I replaced the caddis with a size 16 light gray comparadun.

Looking East from My Shoreline Location

I built the fish count from two to thirty over the four hours of afternoon fishing. The cycle of clouds, chilliness, wind and waves followed by sun and relative calm repeated itself. This iterative process in turn initiated surface feeding off and on, but I was unable to discern a trend of which conditions created the most favorable results for my flies. During the low light and windy periods, I was on the edge of my comfort zone, and I zipped my collar up as far as it would go and pulled my buff up to my ears. Even with this adjustment, I was on the verge of shivering from time to time.

How did I manipulate my flies? For the most part, I cast out thirty to forty feet and allowed the flies to rest for twenty to thirty seconds. I then gave the flies a quick twitch that created a small bulge, and then I paused. This was followed by a second such twitch, and if that failed to generate interest, I began a series of short strips to bring the flies back to my feet. Roughly fifty percent of the eats were slurps on the stationary flies after the cast, and the other half occurred after the first or second short strip.

One of the Better Trout

As I mentioned, two rainbows fell for the beadhead pheasant tail before lunch. After lunch the trailing caddis accounted for a few fish, and the light gray comparadun nabbed three fish in the last half hour, but the hippie stomper was the favored fly for the remainder of the landed fish. Numerous temporary connections and refusals were part of the equation, but foul hooked fish were no longer an issue.

Monday was my best day of 2024 in terms of quantity of fish. Obviously, they were all rainbow stockers with most of them being cookie cutter eleven inch trout. They displayed the silvery sides characteristic of stockers with minimal vivid markings such as one encounters with wild fish. Nevertheless, they required a ton of casting, and experimentation with flies and retrieves were necessary to achieve success. I had fun, and I plan to incorporate many more days of lake fishing in my schedule, as the rivers and streams bloat as a result of snow melt.

Fish Landed: 30