9/30-10/1: This weekend's vanagon trip with Sue & Sky was supposed to be a repeat of the trip to Spinney tailwater, but it got changed almost from the get go. A strong, but dry, cold front passed through our region over the weekend bringing strong winds with it. At first it didn't effect the fishing when we stopped in Buena Vista & visited one of our favorite stretches of the Arkansas. The day was sunny & bright & the browns were active for us. We both used a rig of a #16 surface hair wing trailed a couple of feet by a bead head copper john & had terrific success in the pocket water in the middle of town.
While none of the fish were over a dozen inches long, they all were fun to ping & release and we probably did that to 20-25 fish or so in the hour & a half we waded at this short stretch of river. But when we finally arrived at the lower parking lot at the Spinney tailwater, everything changed. The first thing that made life miserable was the two dozen cars full of spin casters, fly casters, & assorted hangers on that made the parking area look like the lot at a Denver Bronco's football game. The real killer was the wind sweeping down this vast grassland called South Park. It would have made casting virtually impossible.
So we read magazines for an hour or so & finally decided to head downstream past Elevenmile Reservoir to try the canyon water of that name which neither of us had ever fished. An hour & several missed backroad turns later we arrived at Lake George & headed up the stream. Lord, but it's pretty water. All granite in the canyon, large boulders in the stream, a few flat riffle stretches, and the prettiest water imaginable. Guess what - lots of people too. In fact a carload on virtually every possible parking area. It was late in the day & we tried a couple of nice stretches that had been recently vacated - and had no success - until at one pull off above a bridge, Sue finally got into a couple of fish. She landed one on a #18 white winged surface caddis, and followed that up with several other strikes on the same fly plus one on the flashback trailing the surface fly. I was shut out.
Hatches on this part of the South Platte really consisted of small mayflies in the BWO or PMD/PED types plus midges. But we never saw fish rising for them. Consequently our switching to more "stimulator" type surface flies seemed to be more effective.
Camped that night on a Forest Service road we'd earlier missed while driving in from the reservoir. The next morning (today) we drove upstream into the catch & release water. It actually turned out to be less productive than was the "let's keep a couple" water down below. While the upper water is purported to contain a greater biomass of fish, our experience was the exact opposite. We found some nice riffle water halfway down the stream & had wonderful casting with stimulator "type" surface flies for browns & smaller rainbows without competition from other casters. It's just beautiful water although I'm sure we fished it relatively poorly.
To finish up the weekend we stopped at our favorite turnoff above Leadville - aptly named "Randy Garcia" & had fun releasing several juvenile browns for a half hour. Then back to Vail with good remembrances of the nice weekend.
10/2: Gore Creek this afternoon was something less than a ten. The same powerful winds that raced through the Arkansas River Valley yesterday plagued casting on this little creek today, but fortunately the gusts were at my back instead of in my face. A usually productive section of the stream on the golf course was not that way as strikes were few & far between. Used a combo rig of #18 hair wing x-caddis trailed by a #20 bead head copper john. Had periodic hookups with about equal success - namely very little. Given low & clear water conditions the fish are very spooky. Hooked about a dozen fish & released half those - most were brookies between 7-9 inches and the balance were rainbows all under 12 inches. If the weather holds, we may try the Eagle Lease Water tomorrow.
10/3: It would be great to post a heroic story about huge fish today, but the reality is that didn't happen. More monstrous winds coupled with gazillions of aspen leaves in the water left us frustrated one more time. To be honest I don't know how the few fish with which we connected saw the flies at all, but somehow we released a half dozen mixed browns & rainbows in the hour & a half we were on the water.
This was a place we normally don't fish, but it was enticing given low & clear conditions (until the wind cropped up). Used a surface attractor pattern followed by a variety of weighted nymphs - #16 copper john, #16 dark stone, & #20 bird's nest. All worked - slightly. Even had a couple of nice strikes on the surface fly for whatever reason. Not a good day overall. Tomorrow we go to Aspen & have a chance to fish the Roaring Fork in the afternoon.
10/4: Large raindrops splatted us (the dog & I) when we entered the Roaring Fork downstream of the Satank Bridge. The fishing looked as lousy as the weather on this gloomy day. Joy of joys, a couple hundred yards up the bank, the first nice brown took the weighted & trailed #20 RS-2. It was a good fourteen inches long & fought well for one of its species. That was it for this stretch, but along the upper part of a diversion canal, the action got quite a bit better (all things are relative).
Next to the bank were more feeding browns & they actually went after the big, fat surface indicator fly as well as the trailer. Not superlative action but far better than anticipated. Released another handful of decent browns in addition to missing a similar extra number of strikes. All this in about 45 minutes on the water. Down in Glenwood a quick wading trip below the Sunlight Bridge yielded only three more strikes - all of which I missed.
10/7-9: A three day weekend beckoned us on a big loop trip through Southwestern Colorado. Our hopes were for the weather to hold up so we could fish a number of streams between Glenwood and the Gunnison area. It's pretty cold here right now. Our regular stop in Redstone immediately showed that the fish are holding in deeper, slower water & are not rising for the occasional midge or PMD that flitted by when we walked along the bank.
In town a series of runs that generally yields a dozen or two mixed rainbows & whitefish gave up a single 8" rainbow. Driving upstream I actually did get another bow on a surface fly & Sue was able to cast into a pool that held at least a half dozen nice sized rainbows between 12-18 inches. However none were receptive this day to her nymphs.
We then headed up over McClure Pass & started down the North Fork of the Gunnison. With extremely low flows none of the water we looked at appeared productive so we hurried along past Hotchkiss & turned in to the park at the junction of the North Fork & the main Gunnison. Some access comments will be interspersed with this fishing report. We really started out wading & fishing pretty blindly. There were numbers of people on the river. Many really had no clue what they were doing. In all honesty neither did we at first.
The main river is running low this time of year and can actually be waded across in several places even with the flow that may now be in the 1500 c.f.s. range. It's an unusual stream down here - very wide, freestone type bottom with long runs & pools. To be honest there's not a great amount of good holding water near the mouth although that situation changes somewhat when one gets further upstream.
Both sides of the river offer trail access. According to a state topo map river "left" has a trail that runs for several miles upstream from the confluence, but all we could see was that four wheel vehicles could drive a couple miles & then everything peters out. The river "right" bank has a decent trail upstream which gradually disappears as the hiker gets further away from the parking area. The "right" bank is accessed by wading across the North Fork a couple hundred yards up from the confluence at which point the trail becomes apparent. So much for that.
We tried wade fishing a quarter mile up from the confluence with modest success on smallish browns holding by the bank. Further upstream we tried bottom nymphing in a nice deep run with no success at all. Finally Sue started getting some strikes on a #16 white hair winged surface caddis - it had to be functioning strictly as an attractor pattern since there were only a few BWO's & PMD's in the air & once in a while one of those gigantic fall caddis. A mile or so upstream we found some slightly better looking holding water & again Sue had more strikes. For whatever reason I was simply shut out. I couldn't get anything to even look at my flies & it was really frustrating - being the expert that I am - gag me!
But as we trudged downstream back to the car, I got way out in the main current and started catching a few fish. Used that above surface fly and threw it on the seams of the few eddies being created by some lonely boulders in the middle of the river. Virtually every "spot" like this yielded a strike or two & I released 6-8 fish, mixed rainbows & browns between 8-12 inches. The last good strike resulted in a lost larger fish & the fly. Do you think I will ever learn to re-tie my tippet before it weakens too much? Probably not.
Anyway we decided to spend the night there which we did. The next day we hiked even further upstream and found better water still. The action was not fast & furious, but we did land a 16 inch brown & some other smaller rainbows, so it wasn't all for naught. Next year we'll try to get down here for the stonefly hatch which is supposed to be spectacular & also will try to do an overnight camp out further up the canyon.
Leaving the Gunnison we traveled down through Delta and Montrose & turned up Highway 50 towards the town of Gunnison. The weather turned too - in the direction of sour. It was windy, cold & rainy & we bypassed a number of very nice looking creeks & streams. The area around Cimarron looks particularly inviting & we'll try to get back there next summer. Also missed fishing the Gunnison braids above Blue Mesa as it was just too ugly to get out of the car.
We returned to Glenwood by going through Crested Butte & up over Kebler Pass, down Anthracite Creek & back by Mcclure. The East River has very limited access between Almont & Crested Butte, while Anthracite Creek is virtually completely private except for the Dark Canyon section which looked worthwhile for a hike - sometime when the hunters are not up there in numbers. Should have some photos showing the profile of the Gunnison available shortly for this diary entry.
10/17: Fun fishing trips seem to be few & far between these days. Last weekend we attempted to do a vanagon overnighter on the Colorado between State Bridge & Dotsero, but ugly cold winds drove us off the water on Saturday (no success at all) and back to the comforts of our condo here in Vail that night.
Today turned out differently. Absolutely blue bird weather for this late in the fall. Using a trip to gather data as an excuse for a couple of hours of casting, I hopped on the Eagle just above the start of the Lease Water at my favorite stretch of this stream. As always there was no competition for the water although most other turnoffs had one or two cars. Go figure. The river's running gin clear and low - and cold as a witch's ***. Low water still meant wet wading was OK although I didn't stand in it very long at any one stretch.
Given the cold water temperature I presumed that nymphing would be the order of the day, particularly since there was zero insect activity in the air. Boy it's a lot of work. The fish just didn't move more than a few inches for the fly. It takes an ungodly number of casts to produce a strike when the fish are lethargic like they appeared to be. A hundred casts produced three modest fish - two rainbows & a brown - all under 12" to either a #20 birds nest or a #16 dark stone.
At that point a fish swirled for my strike indicator fly which was a #16 white winged generic surface fly. Given the relatively poor level of activity to the nymphs I changed to one of the new #18 BWO's. My what a difference that made. As I got closer to the faster water at the head of this pool, strikes came often and hard. The fish absolutely loved this fly, so obviously there either was a hatch in progress or one had occurred in the recent past. Even in slower eddies the fish took the fly readily which was really delightful. We'll have to add this one to the tying page shortly. It's clearly a step above even the regular comparaduns that were so successful on the Green this spring.
So it was really fun. Didn't land large quantities of large fish, but the action was pretty continuous for the next hour. Fish were dominantly rainbows and the balance were browns. Sizes ranged between 8-18" with fewer toward the high end of that range. But what a joyous way to spend an afternoon catching lots of trout on dry flies at this time of year.
Thursday we fly to Naples, Florida for a long weekend and will take our pack rods along in the hopes of catching "something" in the inland waterway or on the beaches down there.
10/19-24: Our long weekend trip to Naples, Florida, was pleasant but a nothingburger from a fishing standpoint. We stayed at the Vanderbilt Country Club in a nice townhome & ventured to the Gulf shore every day. The loafing & shelling were both great, but unless one has a friend with local fishing knowledge, attempting to fly cast off the beach & into the waterways is probably a waste of time.
We threw various streamers, poppers, & sliders in several places with virtually no success. Sue did have a quick strike & lost her gray pearl streamer to "something" that went unseen - probably one of the immature sharks inhabiting the waterway. I landed a minnow sized fish (Can you see it in this photo?) of indeterminate type in the same location on another small gray streamer, and that was basically it. To be reasonably successful down here a boat's probably a necessity.
Had we more patience to wait for visibly feeding fish to swim by us along the beach we also might have had more luck, but every time we encountered that condition neither of us was ready to cast. But the weather was perfect, the stone crab claws delicious, & the getaway was a wonderful respite before our winter season sets in up here in Colorado.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous days.
10/26: It was a treat to get out on Gore Creek again this afternoon. The air was bright & crisp with temperatures in the high 40's, but wet wading still worked. Water levels are extremely low this time of year & the fish are spooky. My first setup of a #16 hair wing trailed by a #18 birds nest didn't work at all. Changing to a #16 green bodied comparadun trailed by a #20 copper peacock helped a bit.
Surprisingly the first couple of fish took the surface fly - a 5" brown and an 8" cutthroat respectively. Then I got into one of those "let's miss a bunch of strikes" modes & I managed to not execute on about six straight nymph & surface strikes. Finally was able to release a nice 12" rainbow that porpoised over the surface fly. Recognizing that I was only one species away from the local grand slam, I biked over to one of the golf course ponds & immediately landed a couple of fat 7" brookies to complete that process. One or two more smallish browns & rainbows later I called it a day.
First though I stopped by a favorite deep pool on this creek & watched some monster trout circle the bottom. A dozen fish topped 14 inches, a handful were between 16-18 inches, and a couple of giants were in the 20-24 inch range. It was the wrong time of day to fish this spot and all my casts were resoundingly ignored. We'll return to this spot just before dark next week.
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