8/2-4: The Roaring Fork was muddy when we drove through Glenwood on our way to Aspen on Thursday. Wednesday's thunderstorms had turned the Crystal pure brown, so on the way back down valley we pulled off at Satank to try the Fork just above its confluence with the "brown". It was pretty much a wasted effort. The river was still high which made combined wading and casting difficult. Caught a couple of whitey's, one rainbow & one small brown, but it wasn't a whole lot of fun.
Next day on the White River above Meeker was a different story. With Sue in Jackson Hole fishing the Hoback & Snake for cutthroats, I was stuck with only the dog for a companion over the weekend. Darn. We planned to try some new parts of the stream & visit places we'd not yet waded here. Water levels were ample although lower than when we'd been here in late June. There were no visible hatches going on which was in stark contrast to our last trip here. The bankside hoppers suggested a floaty attractor, but as we suspected, it was - at least initially - unsuccessful.
So it was off to the nymphing race. This kind of nymphing, however, is far more fun than what we normally do. To be honest I hate to nymph since it's pretty much standard operating procedure most of the year around our area. But the White drops so quickly & is shallow enough that we could "dry fly" nymph instead of that painful heavily weighted deep nymphing that is more or less the norm. This means using a bead head up front followed by a smaller nymph and casting it & drifting it much like a dry fly. The rig only has to sink one to two feet to be effective. And it was.
The leading fly was generally a bead head dark stone with a #18 or #20 serendipity tied buckskin trailing. The main reason for the buckskin - aside from its having worked awfully well lately everywhere - was that the predominant stream bottom color here was roughly that of the buckskin. We all know that, when in doubt, match the color of the rocks on the bottom of the stream you are fishing as that color nymph will be the more successful match of a natural inhabiting this particular piece of water.
OK, enough of the b.s. The fishing got better as the day progressed. On the middle section of the White, one either catches rainbows or whitefish, and we caught both. The first day none of the bows were large - biggest being around 14 inches. They are, however, wonderfully strong, fat fish, living as they do in fast currents with plentiful insect life. The whiteys are quite large - several were in the 2 1/2 to 3 pound range. I almost ran out of flies while trying to release them. If you've caught whitefish previously, you know they fight best when trying to get them off the hook. No Einstein's in this species.
Later on Friday we moved up into the public pocket water and had lots of fun on smallish rainbows taking the surface WRS in a brownish tone - finally! None of the fish were over 12 inches, but the action was constant. It was a strike for roughly every five casts.
Later on above the Lost Creek Ranger Station we did land a few small cutthroats, but this part of the White still turns me off. It's tough, bushy wading for limited numbers of small fish. Downstream from the Ranger Station, we did find a nice stretch of dry fly water. Should mention that I managed to do a double face plant while wading this gentle water and didn't need a shower that night.
Today (Saturday), while heading back to our favorite stretch, we stopped at a picnic area that was good earlier in the year. On this day it was a bust. However, we saw a fascinating event. As I was wading up the bank, I came upon a three foot long snake (rat, gopher or whatever) that appeared to be dead lying partially in the stream with a five inch long sculpin protruding from its mouth. Assuming the snake was gone, I reached down to touch the fish & the snake came back to life, moving into the river & sitting there with only its "prize" sticking out its mouth. When we moved off, the snake took the fish back into the undergrowth. In reality the pectoral fins of the sculpin were apparently preventing the snake from swallowing the fish completely. What a snake is doing with a sculpin deceives me. I guess a food item is a food item is a food item. It was remarkable, however, to witness this.
Other events. Two fawns - for whatever reason - ran 400 yards with us down the road. We slowed to to avoid the risk of hitting them as they paralleled our course. Further down the road a golden eagle sat upon and was chewing the remains of another deer - possibly the mother? Hopefully not.
Let's complete this report. Today was great fishing. It started by the landing of an 18-21 inch rainbow caught on a beadhead buckskin. The fish did not fight well but looked healthy. Later we found a run that yielded several 10-18 inch rainbows - all to a #18 surface brownish WRS. The larger fish was a bottom hugger. It took pounding on the base of the rod to make it move from its lair - ala what salmon do in the Northwest when they sulk.
Just above Meeker we tried a T.U. funded section of catch & release water. It wasn't much fun. The stream in this area displays the results of bovine encroachments with lots of muddy flats, etc. I'd assume whirling disease runs rampant in this part of the White. We caught one whitey & one small brown on deep fished nymphs as above and quit quickly.
About patterns. Small buckskins will catch whiteys & some rainbows all day long. The beadhead buckskin was the fly find of the trip. The surface WRS's did work in certain situations this time of year but color was important. The brown model worked far better than did the greenish one or the gray one. Bead head stones also were productive. Metallic colored beads (gold, copper) worked better than simple black cone heads.
The White is a great stream. It's mostly private water, and locating productive public access is difficult. The best thing about the private areas that those holdings act as incubators for many wonderful fish that eventually work their way into "our" fishing zones. Thank goodness the White is a long way from Denver. (No offense intended you guys.)
8/8: Too many thunderstorms lately have put a crimp on the fishing, but it's great for the trout. The cooling water temperatures have to be appreciated by them during this hotter than usual summer. We did manage to fish Gore Creek near Ford Park today for a half hour before the daily rainstorm drove us off the water - and it actually was a decent outing. Despite and in between the ongoing raindrops, the rainbows spotted our #18 brown WRS just fine. There's not great trout biomass in this stretch of stream, but it was plenty of action for the dog & I.
For out of area fisher people planning to head up to the mountains during this wet period, it would make sense to either call a local outfitter before leaving on the drive - or check out your favorite stream's flow rate to see if levels are spiking which might mean muddy conditions exist.
8/11: It didn't begin raining today until we were headed back to the stable which was a nice change from the past week or so. The Eagle below Dowd Junction was running clear, a bit high, and all the smallish browns in this interesting stretch of pocket water were clearly "surface centric" in their feeding patterns. Normally this late in the summer it takes bottom nymphing to get the attention of these fairly fussy fish, so it was a nice change of pace to be able to use dry flies.
We walked downstream to our "private" mile & a half of water we've long since labeled the "land that time forgot" simply because most people tend to ignore it. Right away we got strike after strike on the #18 brown WRS. Size was important today girls. Changing to a #16 that I could see better in the heavy water brought fewer results, so girls, smaller was better on this day. Sorry about that.
At the big pool upstream near the end of our wade I tried trailing a small bead head buckskin behind the surface fly, but it got no attention whatsoever. Probably hooked a couple dozen browns in two hours - sizes ranged from 6-14 inches. It was fun though.
8/15: Monsoon storms are keeping us close to home & off the water. A short window of opportunity arose today, so the dog & I TAG fished our home Gore Creek water. Levels were up slightly & the fish seemed happier at the cooler temperatures. Using the #18 brown WRS, the fly probably touched a good dozen smaller rainbows to 12 inches. Only observed hatches were a few PMD's, yellow sallies, & tiny brown caddis.
In all honesty I don't know why this fly works so well virtually everywhere. It simply must ring a positive impressionistic chord in those tiny trout brains. The greater reality is that presentation and drift management of anything closely resembling food is probably much more important than the pattern itself - particularly when fish are not pursuing one specific insect.
All streams in this area are now up again which may preclude our planned trip to the upper Crystal this weekend. If we get lucky, maybe clearing will occur between now & Friday.
8/17-18: Before we picked up Sue & headed up the Crystal this afternoon the dog & I did some casting on the Roaring Fork. It was really lousy fishing. The river was swollen & sullen & the fish appeared to be equally predisposed. Nothing truly worked - deep nymphing, shallow nymphing, half dry half nymph, etc. In about three hours we managed to release a half dozen smallish, obviously intellectually impaired browns on a dry fly. Happily though, no more storms erupted and the river dropped at least 150 c.f.s while we were on the water.
In the early evening near Redstone we had decent success with a #18 brownish WRS trailed four feet by a bead head buckskin. Small rainbows came equally to either fly & we enjoyed a couple of hours of fun before hitting the hay in the van below the town of Marble.
Next morning we pulled off at a couple of areas below Marble & had decent success nymphing. Sue did catch a couple of brookies on a surface WRS, but nymphs always seem to work better in this part of the Crystal. Caught more brooks, a couple of rainbows, & several small whiteys on a combo rig of a #16 copper john trailed by that popular buckskin.
Above Marble we were completely shut out. The river looks great up here being broad shouldered with deep holes on each bend, but we neither saw nor hooked a single fish. On the way back downstream I released the longest fish of the trip - a 14 inch brown. Further downstream both Sue & I hooked rainbows in a familiar deep run - all nymphing. In Redstone we caught a number of rainbows - one 12" cutthroat - and a couple more whiteys. It was a grand slam weekend - albeit with modest sized fish. The best producing fly was the bulky #16 copper john with a couple of turns of Partridge behind the bead head.
8/21: Eastern Gore Creek was an absolute delight this afternoon. The little brooks, browns, & rainbows went wild for a #16 greenish WRS. It's the first time this year I've seen the trout in this part of the stream so actively feeding on surface flies - despite the absence of a noticeable hatch. A little bitty #20 bead head buckskin trailed behind the surface fly caught only one fish. If the rainstorms stay benign for another 24 hours, we may take the van to the South Platte by Spinney & try some luck on the Arkansas as well - tomorrow.
8/22-23: We made the trip as noted above. Weather conditions prevented some of the exploration we'd hoped to do these two days, but overall the experience was favorable. On the way down the Arkansas we fished a new spot above Granite - it was a bust. Windy, rainy, & cold and the casting lasted about fifteen minutes.
After turning up 285 just past Buena Vista we decided to look at the South Fork of the South Fork of the South Platte - how's that for a name? This creek enters Antero Reservoir just to the West of Fairplay & is a decent stream on the public access water, but is always fairly crowded. We drove up Cty. Rd. 22 for eight miles & then gave up further pursuit of this elusive creek. Most of the access is private and that which isn't is boggy & the wetland willows making casting impossible. Perhaps up closer to the pass it might open up, but I suspect by that time there'd be little flow to the stream.
We did also drive through & fish the Tomahawk SWA. It's very interesting water & holds a quantity of fairly aggressive browns that took pleasure inhaling a #18 green WRS. The nice thing about this piece of public water is that there are not many parking spots, thus necessitating lots of hiking - which is our forte.
Pulled in to the upper parking area at the Spinney tailwater at about 6:30. There were still a half dozen cars in the lot. The dog & I hiked downstream to our favorite stretch & pretty much started catching fish right away. The medium sized rainbows & cutthroat were mildly fussy but every so often would clamp on a #16 greenish WRS. We fished until almost 8:00 & probably played 12-15 fish in the 12-15 inch range. Didn't see anything large.
This morning (we slept there in the van) we were awakened by two cars pulling in at 5:45 A.M. These guys were serious about claiming their water! Anyway we got out on the water as the night before by 6:30 & started casting with a variety of surface flies, nymphs, combo rigs, etc. Interestingly there was no hatch of any sort until 9:30 when both a BWO and trico hatch started simultaneously. It ended almost as abruptly.
Fishing the gin clear eddies seemed to call for a hatch matching fly, but it really didn't seem to make much difference if the imitation was seriously oversized. I tried #22's & couldn't see the strikes & after shifting to #18's (looked like battleships on the water), probably got fewer strikes, but many more hookups.
To shorten the story we probably played 20-25 fish in 3 1/2 hours on the water. Nothing was large - except for a couple of logs we hooked & never saw - on nymphs. Everything else took surface flies. These first year rainbows & cutthroats are much more wary than they were a month or so ago, but they still don't have a fraction of the intellect of the browns in this stream.
The real negative about fishing Spinney is the crowded nature of the beast. We refuse to come here on weekends and today when we left at noon, there were sixteen cars in the upper lot. And while I'm reluctant to say this (having started life as a spin fisherman), the place is becoming overrun with spin fish types. If they had the same sense of common sense ethics most fly fisher people display, it would not be an issue, but for the guys we saw this day, they clearly did not share similar streamside or normal environmental values.
One problem is that these guys generally fish downstream (makes sense) but they seem to be oblivious to anyone else on the water, so they fished through holes clearly already occupied. Another issue was that (at least those I saw today) they left cigarette butts on the banks along with the empty smoke packs, beer cans, etc. I suspect they tend to mishandle fish. Two floating and very dead rainbows drifted by me today when these guys were above & working their way downstream towards me. Enough said.
8/24-25: Loaded the van with Sue & the dog & left from Glenwood late Friday afternoon for what is becoming our favorite stream - the White River. We didn't arrive on our favorite stretch until almost 6:00 so we rushed a bit to get out on the water. One of the nice things about the White is that the streamflow remains remarkable constant throughout the summer season - despite there being no impoundment's upstream to control the flow. Thus it's very similar to a tailwater.
No hatches were noticeable so we tried various up & up or down & down or a combination of approaches to find the best rig for the conditions at hand. It wasn't great fishing this night even though we ended up releasing a couple dozen fish between us. Sue (as she did on Saturday pretty much stuck to a surface #16 green WRS while I ended up going double deep with a leading copper john trailed by a small buckskin. None of the fish were over a foot long - except for a couple of big whiteys & the trout were all rainbows this night.
The next morning we explored some water above Buford near the Forest Service station & had very little success up here where the North Fork is smaller flowing. The lack of connection was somewhat surprising as we have a fair number of quality spots up here to wade. We failed to find good access above the F.S. corrals which was disappointing as it's purported to be excellent fishing here too.
Further downstream on the public water below Buford we continued to struggle with the best fly rig & I personally managed to miss a good dozen strikes in a row before landing a smaller rainbow.
So we gave up on the exploration & headed back to our favorite spot. It was good this day. Sue landed a beautiful larger cutthroat right out of the box & followed up with several rainbows & a brook. The whitey she added for good measure gave her a "mini" slam. Towards the end of our wade I finally figured out the best rig for me & released a dozen or so fish in the span of roughly that many minutes. It turned out that the trailing nymph need to be within two feet of the dry fly instead of far behind it. The winning up & down rig consisted of a #18 brownish WRS trailed by a #20 beadhead buckskin, and it worked like a bandit. It took my largest fish of the trip - a fat 16 inch hen rainbow that matched Sue's best.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous day
8/28-29: Sizzle, fizzle, & drizzle probably best described my trip to the Crystal on Tuesday. The focus of this expedition was to attempt to locate new water we'd not fished before & because so many of these spots appeared close to the highway I left the dog at Sue's place in Glenwood before heading up through Carbondale.
The first place I pulled off on the lower part of the river after entering public water turned out to be the "sizzler" of the day. Even though the stream bottom is quite ugly in this part of the stream, it held some wonderful trout. With nothing visibly hatching I used a double down nymph rig of leading #16 copper john & a trailer of a #18 buckskin. Most of the fish took the john, but the buckskin brought a fine sixteen inch rainbow to hand. In this hundred yards of walking along the bank I must have played at least a dozen fish - all of which were rainbows.
Upstream the action slowed measurably despite the presence of some wonderful looking holes & runs. Probably would have done better in many of them had I opted to deep nymph, but the heart wasn't in that form of fishing today. That's when the fishing more or less began to fizzle out.
Just below Redstone a thunderstorm killed off a good hour of casting - thus the drizzle. But when the skies cleared, the action did pick up using a #18 surface brown WRS & a beadhead buckskin behind. All the way through Redstone we did quite well, picking up a few more small rainbows, one cut, and a few of the ubiquitous whiteys.
That night after dinner Sue & I walked the dog to the river & cast a bit on the Fork in Glenwood, releasing a handful of the middling brown trout that seem to move nightly into the pocket water along the banks. They mostly took the surface WRS.
While heading home today we stopped at a couple of familiar places on the Eagle & had very poor success. Between Eagle & Gypsum the river's still very off color despite not much rain the past several days. We saw nothing there & assume the trout could not see our nymphs either. Above Eagle on the lease water the stream ran much clearer, but we still were virtually shut out. Missed a couple of surface strikes & lost a wonderful 16-18 inch rainbow that threw the buckskin on its first graceful leap. It's possible we've entered the transition season into fall when the trout seem to give up actively feeding for a while until they become accustomed to the new stream temperatures, etc.
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