September, 2000

9/2-3:  Some comments by a Forest Service friend of Sue's prompted us to try a new stream these past two days - the North Fork of the White River.  It's accessed by driving down I-70 to Rifle, turning North to Meeker & then back East up the main White River to Lost Creek.  Sounds complicated, but it's really not.

There's mostly private water from Meeker to the confluence of the North & South Forks.  WeWhite River looked at a couple of short marked public stretches along the way but opted to pass them up.  Once one hits the Forest Service office near Lost Creek, most of the stream is accessible - with difficulty - by fighting one's way through bankside willows & wetland's beaver ponds.  The stream is very pretty, quite brushy along the banks & it drops quite quickly through this area.  There are a few deeper holes, but most of the fishing is pocket water with some undercut banks.  Wading is not difficult, but the flow strength can be uncomfortable in places.

In all honesty we were a bit disappointed in the fishing although as this was new water for us, it might have been our improper tactics that gave us less than what we expected for success.  The fish are a mixture of 90% rainbows & the balance cuts.  We caught none in the two part days we were there that exceeded 12".  Whoops, my mistake.  I did land a couple of whitefish in excess of 16".  The latter comment suggests what we found to be the case, namely that surface flies really didn't work well.  Our best success came with nymph attractors - prince, large stones, bead head anythings.  Today we caught a few pocket fish on stimulator substitutes.   Hatches during our visit were nonexistent except for midges.  Air and water temperatures are coming down & wading (wet) was less fun than we've had this summer.

This is still kind of a fun place to visit & I suspect we'll repeat here.  We drove part way up the South Fork and turned around after a couple of miles as the water is all private - in addition to this fork being smaller & less attractive.  If a person were willing to go the ten miles to the South Fork Campground & perhaps hike upstream in the roadless canyon above that point, maybe some decent fishing would result.   All in all it was an interesting experience.

9/6-10:  This year's fall trip to Lake Powell was interesting, but less than rewarding from a fishing standpoint.  We had the benefit of a nice new houseboat to travel in complements of Sue's folks who'd never visited the lake.  Plus we brought the kayak along & a Lund bass boat.  While we did some trolling with streamers from the kayak most of our casting was along the banks & shoreline.

In Hall's Creek we had fair success using sink tip lines & those small gray pearl marabou streamers that have been so successful in year's past, but this year a double streamer rig of a gold cone head yellow fly trailing the gray one seemed to be most productive.  Still it took more work than we're used to expending to catch & release a few handfuls of 6-10" smallmouths.  The only other decent fish of the trip was a 14" striper Sue dredged out of a deep side canyon.   So it wasn't terrific fishing despite nice weather conditions & comfortable accommodations.

9/12:  Superb - basically perfect - weather today demanded we fish the Eagle.  The stream's a bit off color compliments of  Vail Resort's infrastructure work on the new Red Sky Ranch golf course near Wolcott.  Actually I think this darker coloration helps the fishing a bit given our current minimal stream flows.

This day brought a couple of firsts for me - things that are hard to come by anymore given the roughly 50 years I've spent fishing.  The first "first" was a good sized rainbow that had to be the dumbest fish I've ever met in my life.  We were casting in some rocky riffle water just up from the bridge in to the town of Eagle.  I'd caught a couple of nice fish on a #20 bead head copper john & was walking up the shore throwing flies in likely spots.  Had just fished a small eddy & was retrieving the fly from the water when a nice sized rainbow swirled at the extraction.

Our dog was standing roughly five feet from where the fish was holding, but the trout was oblivious to his presence.  My next (ten foot) cast brought a strike from this "dumbbow" to the surface stonefly indicator I was using.   The next similar length cast brought a hookup on the trailing nymph.  After playing the fish for maybe 15 seconds, it self released & returned to the same holding spot.  The very NEXT cast brought another hookup to the nymph & this time I landed & released the poor creature.  While it appeared healthy & full bodied, surely that fourteen inch rainbow had a death wish.  I've never seen a recently released group of hatchery trout behave with such idiocy.

Later we drove upstream to my favorite hole on the Eagle.   Interestingly there's never been another person fishing this hole while I've been there, although I have seen footprints along the shore.  We always have it to ourselves and try to fish it only once a month to keep the fish rested.  Used the same rig as above and caught 3 or 4 fish at the shallower lower end of the pool.  Up above I got blanked until changing to a #20 lead weighted bird's nest behind the strike indicator fly.

At that point we caught a few nice fish & turned some other decent ones.  It wasn't quantity fishing, but the quality of size was in every trout.   Nothing was under 12" and the largest was a good 18".  Did turn a hog of a fish that appeared to be 5-6 inches ACROSS the shoulders, but could not get him to take, and as we all know, that kind of fish doesn't hang around for long.

But up above this pool the other first occurred.  I'd never landed a rainbow longer than 19 inches on the Eagle and that changed today.  The fish was a true whumper.  He took the trailing #18 soft hackle copper john & hobbyhorsed all the way across the stream and into my backing.  The fight took only 5-8 minutes, but he really was a gamer - and the rod measure marks made him just over 20 inches.  OK, I've had on a couple of larger rainbows on this stream, but this really is the biggest that I've ever touched by hand.  It was fun.  The dog liked it too.  That was it for the day

9/13:  The Roaring Fork was actually quite productive this afternoon.  We arrived in Glenwood & hiked downstream from the Sunlight Bridge & started casting with a double nymph rig as the sun was still bright on the water.   Fifteen minutes of dragging the bottom with limited success coupled with a need to remove green gunk from both flies on virtually every cast put an end to that approach.

Interestingly there were some modest hatches going on.  Saw some #16 sized brown sedges, a tiny PMD type mayfly, some small yellow stones, & a larger mayfly that probably was a green drake even though it looked like a red quill.   No sign of fish to the surface, but at least the hatches suggested a surface fly might draw some attention.  So changed the rig to a darkish #16 hair wing caddis & trailed it by a couple of feet with one of those tiny lead weighted #20 bird's nests.  The combination worked fairly well.

Until the sun left the water the fish - mostly smaller rainbows & browns - took the trailing nymph, but close to 5:00 all the action turned to the surface hair wing.  Although I didn't land any large fish, it was fun releasing a number of rainbows & browns in the under 12" range.  Tomorrow we travel to Oregon for the fall trip with some smallmouth fishing planned on the South Umpqua & perhaps a bit of trout/steelhead casting on the North River.

9/14-18:  The trip to OREGON this fall was pretty much a dud from a fishing standpoint.  Time considerations prevented much casting as most of the visit was devoted to spending time with dad in the nursing home.  It's a painful process for all of us.  He needs to die - mostly for his peace of mind & body, but that process will probably take longer than it should.  Enough of that grimness.   Brother Rick came down for a day & a half & we did do some fishing on a warm water fish log pond, and up at Whistler's Bend on the North Umpqua. 

The bass pond was nominally decent although we really only dragged in bluegills.  Rick had better success using a surface caddis trailed by some type of nymph.  I left on my double stone rig & had less success - possibly because stones don't exist in the pond!

At Whistler we feigned fishing for steelhead as the river is closed completely for trout fishing ostensibly to allow the dozen or so remaining sea run cutthroats to attempt to perpetuate their species - something that will happen when pigs fly.  We did catch numerous smolts & inholding rainbows, none of which were decent sized.  The trout in this river seem to be most receptive to small dark stones, but I also had good success on a #18 copper john - which probably also represents that species.  On my own I "inadvertently" caught & released some other smallish trout below Winchester, but there's really nothing of great note to report from this trip.

9/20:  Last night's cold front slipped down the front range & missed us completely.  Thus the local streams didn't go out & we were able to fish for a bit today.  There were several carloads of guides & their clients on the Eagle in the lease water section.  We finally found a good spot to park with no others about & hiked downstream to fish a couple of usually productive pools & runs.  I left on the previous outing's rig of a #16 gray x-caddis trailed by that lead bodied #20 birds nest.

Almost immediately I landed a 10" brown & 14" rainbow - both on the surface fly.  Then missed a couple other good strikes & had a couple fish look me over, but pass on sampling the caddis treat.  A little further upstream I found the reason for their reluctance.  A couple of very large red quills thundered over the water, so those were probably the object of the trout's attention.

Changing to a #16 loop wing followed by a #16 red quill comparadun produced no results whatsoever through three quarters of the next pool.  But up at the top of the run a cast finally brought a strike & what a great rainbow it was.  She fought all through the pool for a good five minutes before letting me twitch the comparadun out of her mouth.  The trout actually needed respiration assistance, it was so exhausted from the fight.  It was a good 19 inches long - one of my best of the year on this river.  The next few casts brought a handful of strikes by good fish, but I missed them all.  Later tried to fish the same pool strictly subsurface, but those tactics brought no strikes at all.  The fish are clearly still gathering in the more aerated riffles.  One in fact was swimming in water so shallow that his dorsal fin was visible through the surface film.

9/25:  Unfortunately the seasons have to change and the transitional periods tend to be very unsettling to the fish.  At least that's what I hope caused my poor success today on the Eagle.  Last weekend's storm passed quickly but left a legacy of murky water & very cold stream temperatures - at least compared to what we've had until now.  Used a double nymph rig of small copper john trailed by a #14 black stone and had very little in the way of action.  One eddy in a riffle yielded up two 12" rainbows to the dark stone, but everywhere else was a blank.

Tomorrow we head out to Spinney Reservoir's tailwater in the hopes that stream will still have some decent color and some aggressive pre-spawn browns.

9/26-27:  As always, the Spinney tailwater was fascinating.   We (the dog & I) arrived in the vanagon shortly after noon & drove to the upper parking area.  And again as always, regardless of the day of week, there were a half dozen cars full of fishermen in both lots.  People tend to spread out fairly well although it's difficult to fish any of the pools or runs without someone having been there recently.

A hot day called for shorts & a t-shirt & wet wading sandals.  The water was clear & no fish were coming up.  To get started I put on a #18 PMD & trailed it with a weighted #20 BWO emerger.  Some casts to a couple of medium depths runs produced a couple of look sees and no true strikes.   Upstream a bit, I did get into a few fish, but my reactions were really lousy.   Eventually I connected on a couple of rainbows and missed another half dozen strikes.  It was tough fishing.  Later in the day I hooked and broke off - of all things - a couple of nicer rainbows in the 18-20" range.

Driving down to the lower parking area & fishing the water to the Eleven Mile side of the road produced absolutely not a single strike which amazed me.   Conditions were tough, however, as the afternoon winds prevented any long distance casting.

This morning we woke up to a frozen sunshower & more ice in the water bottles in the van.  The dog even went frigid last night & almost pushed me out of bed trying to get warm.  Obviously he's not a beast of the forest.   After a couple cups of coffee & cocoa mixed we headed down to the stream up near the dam.  The water's not as interesting here although there are some efforts at creating better structure now.  I caught a half dozen juvenile browns on a #20 PMD and that was about it up there.

Returning to our favorite mid section stretch, a few fish began coming up although I didn't see the hatch type right off the bat.  Later it became apparent that we had a decent BWO hatch in progress and fish came up everywhere.  Man it's tough casting to these Ph.D. trout.  Any kind of line or leader passing over their heads immediately puts them off their feed.  What I did find to work was casting to surface breaking pods clear across the stream.  The problem is that these 60-70 foot casts with small comparaduns & rs-2's basically makes it impossible to visually see the drifting fly.  Consequently I missed a good 20-25 strikes in the 2 1/2 hours I was anchored to this one pool.

So the good news is that these trout like my flies - the bad news is that I got few hookups.  In this period I did manage to land a half dozen fish ranging from 12-18 inches so it was not a completely wasted effort.  It is really tough fishing.

On the way back to Vail I stopped for a quick 45 minutes on the Arkansas near Granite & got shut out completely.  It's the first time that's happened in this nice section of water although the cold stream temperatures may be keeping the browns in a sluggish mode.

Last Logbook Entry  for previous days.

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.


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