Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: West of Lyons, CO
Jane and I returned from a weekend trip to Oregon, and I once again felt the itch to cast my line. The high temperature on Tuesday was projected to reach the upper seventies, and this generally translates to ten to fifteen degrees cooler at high elevation, so I decided to visit a high country stream, while the the temperatures remained conducive to fly fishing.
I arrived at the trailhead parking lot and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and began my hike. I decided to forego my usual longer hike and cut to the edge of the stream after fifteen minutes. I was skeptical that the stream was significantly more pressured .4 miles from the trailhead than 2 miles on this creek. The temperature, as I embarked, was 53 degrees, but I wore my short sleeved quick dry undershirt and packed my other layers. I planned to swap out my under layer, once I completed my hike.
My plan worked quite well, although that fact is probably more attributable to my short hike in cool conditions. I knotted an olive hippie stomper to my line and began to lob casts to likely trout lies, but I detected no sign of fish life in the first twenty minutes. I paused and added a salvation nymph, in case the fish were hanging deeper in the water column, and this ploy yielded a pair of small brook trout, although initiating the fish count necessitated abundant casts and covering quite a bit of quality trout water. I managed to guide one more brook trout, that chomped the hippie stomper, into my net, before I endured a long dry spell. Mixed among my three landed trout were a number of refusals to the stomper, so I decided to try a double dry with an olive-brown size 16 caddis as my trailing fly. The small dry fly proved its worth, and I nudged the fish count to five including my first cutthroat. I sensed that I was passing up prime spots with no results, and I began to question my decision to jump into the creek so close to the trailhead, so I exited and found the main trail and hiked west for an additional two miles. This delivered me to a stretch that I fished previously, and based on that experience I knew that a decent fish population was present.
After lunch I continued my pursuit of trout, but the productivity of the creek did not really change substantially. The fish count grew from five to eleven by the time I quit at 3:30PM, but six fish in 2.5 hours was a mediocre catch rate at best. I modified my fly lineup by replacing the salvation with a sunken ant for awhile, but the terrestrial never produced a fish. Eventually I returned to the stomper and salvation combination, but nearly all the afternoon landed fish chose the hippie stomper. I lost two salvations to tree branches and finished my day with a size 18 pheasant tail nymph, but it was ignored by the resident fish.
The positive from the afternoon was netting three gorgeous cutthroat trout in the eleven inch range. These trout grabbed the salvation nymph in relatively shallow riffles. On the day, I landed six brook trout and five cutthroats, and this was highly unusual for a stream that normally produces 80% brook trout and 20% cutthroats. I concluded that the brook trout were in spawning mode; and, thus, procreation superseded appetite. I observed some spawning action in a shallow slow moving side pool, and that confirmed my suspicions. I blamed my early lack of success on my short hike, but in reality I now believe it was more related to the advent of the spawning cycle in the high country stream environment. Another significant factor was the seasonally low and clear state of the creek. In spite of my efforts to approach promising locations carefully, I noted some spooked fish, as they darted after a cast or two.
At approximately 2PM I was standing in the middle of a narrow section of the stream, when I heard some strange sounds approaching from behind and to the left. I glanced to my left, and I was shocked to see a large dark form trotting along the south bank. It was a black bull moose, but it seemed to ignore me and wandered along the stream and crossed thirty yards above me. I pulled out my camera and started shooting a video of the intruder, just as it approached the creek, but while this transpired, I heard more tromping from behind accompanied by a sort of low moaning and wheezing sound. I pivoted with the camera, and captured a second albeit much larger moose, as it emerged from the forest. Unlike moose number one, this one stopped no more than thirty feet to my left, and it stared down at me, while I returned the look. I ended the video, but before I stuffed the camera back in my carrier, I snapped a still photo. Needless to say, I was in an elevated state of fear, until the massive beast moved on. It headed toward the southwest, but eventually I saw it turn right, and it wandered slowly toward the creek. I whipped out my camera and poised it, and recorded another short video, as the large mammal crossed the creek at the same spot as moose number one. My heart raced. In retrospect my brief state of fear was outweighed by the awesome sighting of two moose in close proximity. The size of these majestic critters is absolutely stunning, and the antlers on the second moose were ridiculous. Imagine how strong their necks must be to carry that rack around continuously.
My fishing experience on Tuesday was decidedly mediocre, but wildlife viewing was first rate. My focus on high country streams during warm fall days was solid reasoning, but I needed to factor in the risk of brook and brown trout fall spawning. This logic points me toward streams populated by a higher ratio of rainbows, cutbows and cutthroats for future fly fishing adventures. Also, larger rivers and streams in the valleys at lower elevation remain warmer and, consequently the spawn is more delayed. Stay tuned for more fall fishing adventures.
Fish Landed: 11