7/1: Before the masses arrive not only in Vail, but in the state as a whole this week Sue & the dog & I took a quick trip over to the confluence of the main stem & North Fork of the Gunnison Rivers. Arriving in the early evening we had a quick bite of dinner, lathered up with mosquito repellent, & waded across the North Fork to fish for a couple of hours on the lower main river.
Unfortunately, while the river was running at mid summer depths, apparently some upstream tributary had blown out due to an afternoon thunderstorm & the water color was less than ideal. Unlike our previous trip over, there were no fish rising along the bank as we hiked about a half mile up the trail. Using a top water caddis or WRS & trailing it with a bead head caddis pupa brought fair numbers of strikes to the surface fly, but nothing to the nymph. Eventually we added a flat water caddis to the rig instead of the nymph & had better action.
Caught nothing over a foot long that night - 90% of which were browns, but the action was decent.
Next morning we went further upstream & with better water coloration we had greater success. Wading out to a mid stream exposed structure we had a multitude of strikes & caught some much better sized fish. Picked up a couple of doubles & lost a number of trout in the 14-16" range, evenly split amongst browns & rainbows. I had one (supposedly) large brown take off downstream & get halfway into my backing which caused me to run down the river after him. Unfortunately as it turned out that I saw while releasing him, the secondary trailing extra fly on the leader had snagged his anal fin giving him a great fighting advantage. The fish was only 16-17 inches long but fought twice that large.
Above a long stretch of flat stream we came upon a rarely waded stretch of riffle water and had extraordinary success on primarily rainbows & browns. They were all small sized, but the action was continuous & this rounded out a very pleasant trip. Our best fly rig was a larger (#14) WRS in a yellow-green color at the end preceded by a flat wing #18 yellow sally - many of which were ovipositing during the time we were on the water.
Returning to Glenwood we stopped & tried the North Fork near Somerset & had nothing strike at all in some decent looking pocket water. There truly may not be many fish in this stream despite its pleasant appearance & the fact that it is fed mostly by Anthracite Creek, which is a wonderful rainbow haven.
At Redstone we cast for a bit in the Crystal in the middle of town & I released four 8-10 inch long trout of three different species. The water's still running too high to be easily fished.
Almost forgot - before we started the trip I had a chance to spend a couple of hours on the Roaring Fork in Glenwood Springs. It was excellent fishing. The browns are lying directly on the banks and are extremely vulnerable to the same yellow sally - yellow stone rig combination. Landed a couple in the 16-18 inch range along with several nice, but smaller rainbows.
7/3: It's difficult to imagine that the Roaring Fork can get much better than it was today. The key number is 1320 - which is the flow rate at Glenwood right now. The shoreside eddies are holding lots of very large fish the like of which will soon return to the depths and be basically unavailable to us, so this is the best of times. Interestingly there were few insects in the air while we spent our hour & a half on the water.
All I saw were a number of pregnant yellow sally's doing their dipping thing plus masses of black ants. No rises were visible, yet surface flies reigned supreme. It was that wonderful WRS in either brown or yellow/green that did most of the damage. A trailing bead head caddis pupa probably hooked the largest fish, but almost everything happened on the surface.
I fished "river right" today which meant casting off handed & it really cost me a lot of strikes - particularly with the larger fish near the bank. Will have to admit that while I can cast OK right handed, my line control is really quite poor compared to my better hand. So what I'm getting at is that I had tons of strikes, but less hookups & releases than would normally be the case. Didn't land anything over 16 inches. Fish were mostly browns with a smattering of good sized rainbows. Lost at least four fish than would have been measured in pounds - and that's fine too.
It was just a great day & this being so close to the holiday had absolutely no other fisher people to contend with during the time on the stream. Doesn't get much better than that.
7/5: Almost identical wonderful conditions to the above on Gore Creek today - only on a slightly smaller scale. Fishing just doesn't get much better. With the gauging station at the confluence with the Eagle reading 170 c.f.s., this creek's still a bit testy to wade in places & there are pockets that cannot yet be fished. A "climax" caddis hatch was in progress however, and the fish looked nowhere but up. Thought I might have to turn to a pupa given all the surface bugs, but nothing was more successful than a #18 WRS in a brown pattern.
Doing a minimal equipment wade type day I'd neglected to pack a bottle of Gink in my shorts, so the higher floatation qualities of this new fly proved better than the other elk hairs or various emergers that I also tried. Based on the success of the thicker winging material I doubt I'll ever go back to standard elk hair or any of the other fine type furs that are intended to lay flat & not flare.
The fishing was fabulous. Many of the trout in these difficult pockets had obviously not seen an artificial yet this year. Missed lots of strikes as always, but released numbers of good sized (12-15" rainbows & cutbows). Also managed to lose a couple of whoppers (probably not much over 16 inches, yet strong enough to wreak havoc with a light tippet on this small water.)
Was going to do the brown trout area by Dowd Junction tomorrow, but may shift gears & go to the lease section of the Eagle for some of the hog rainbows that should be more active now.
7/6: The Eagle River on the lease section was a bit more spotty than the trips to the Fork & Gore Creek earlier this week. Stream levels are still slightly on the high side although the water temperature is ideal for wading & various hatches occurred in the hour & a half I fished. Saw yellow sally's, a larger golden stone, various caddis, a small brown mayfly & a few red quills.
The fish were picky. Couldn't get anything to bite at a caddis pupa or nymphal stone. Finally put on a #18 brownish WRS & stared getting some strikes. The fish were extremely quick on the take which suggested this fly was close to what they wanted but still slightly "off". Eventually I probably released a dozen or so fish in the period - all but two of which were browns. The browns were decent sized between 10-17 inches and all fought unusually well for that species. A couple of the larger ones were pretty beaten up around the head from previous encounters with fisher people.
Best happening of the day. I finally had my license checked by a couple of D.O.W. people. It's the first time in almost 30 years of fishing in Colorado that's happened. I complimented them roundly for their efforts & asked to see them more often in the future.
7/8-12: My dad died on June 30. So I had to fly to Oregon this week to attend the final ceremony & do the other things attendant to a death in the family. Amongst that set of issues of course my brother came down from Portland with his family & that allowed us a few scant hours of fishing on some warm water places near our parent's home.
Actually the fishing was decent. It was all sunfish fishing - smallish at best sunfish - probably bluegills, but some might have been greenbacks. Our first sessions produced copious numbers of strikes & releases on a small #18 greenish WRS. The next day a thunderstorm rolled by, clouds obscured the sun, & the fishing actually worsened instead of the opposite. We still had success, but it was more like that Friday's stock market results than real success.
Rick went home. I fished the North Umpqua in a favorite stretch below Winchester - fished it top water & down. Ugly results. Caught two five inch chubs (AKA pikeminnows here in Colorado). In Colorado this even would have resulted in rejoicing - here in Oregon, it was basically a pain in the ass. I didn't kill the chubs, even though I should have done so.
Oh. Smallmouth fishing on the South Umpqua at Stewart Park in Roseburg. It was decent. One can - on a fly rod - catch a tiny 5-6 inch smallie on every cast if desired. It's not much fun. Need to use a sink tip line instead of weighted buggers, etc. Eventually I figured out that a high speed surface twitched retrieve of the black bugger following a tiny grey pearl produced better fish. None exceeded 2 pounds, but it was something of a revelation to have discovered this fact.
7/14-15: We drove to Silverthorne on Saturday to do some shopping at the factory outlet stores for some kitchen utensils & along the way stopped above Frisco to try Ten Mile Creek. It ran high. Wading across the stream was virtually impossible. Along the edges both Sue & I connected on smallish brownies in any piece of holding water. The fish all took a #16-18 green or brown WRS. Nothing wanted nymphs, but the reality is that these were all opportunistic feeders.
After shopping we waded the shoreline below the town offices in Silverthorne & had good success on the brown trout "bankers" driven to the edge of the stream by the recent higher releases from Dillon Reservoir. Same fly as above.
Today we tried Gore Creek in the golf course area. This stream too, ran high due to our ongoing monsoon storms. Very few fish came to the surface, but both of us refused to go deep & that impacted our results negatively. Between us we released a handful of decent sized brookies & rainbows. Same fly as the day before on the Blue & Ten Mile Creek.
7/16: No midday thunderstorm disturbed Gore Creek today. It dropped 40 c.f.s. at the mouth and may be running at a perfect level. By a lucky happenstance I had initially tied on a #16 brownish WRS, and it worked almost obscenely well. A decent red quill hatch was the only thing going on except for a few midges coming off & this fly apparently was an almost perfect hatch matcher - even without the tail one would normally place on a mayfly imitation.
It was fun for a while but soon became too easy so stopped fishing before wading even a third the length of the water we'd intended to visit. Released three species, missing only a cutthroat. Fish were all in wonderful shape & averaged about 12".
Tomorrow the dog & I take the vanagon to Denver for its annual tune-up and we plan to return via Hwy. 285 & make our annual excursion to the South Platte below Spinney. Will assume those extremely selective feeders will not be so easily fooled.
7/17-18: Driving up Hwy. 285 from Denver, we took a quick look at the Platte near Bailey but opted to not fish it - again - this time because most of the pulloffs were occupied. Got to Hartsel around 3 in the afternoon & parked at one of the spots in town available to fishermen to get down to the river. Had never been on this particular stretch before due to it normally being occupied. We hiked down to the water with low expectations and ended up being pleasantly surprised.
Virtually every run or pocket or seam held decent browns. I was amazed that they came so readily to the surface fly - another WRS, although lots of grasshoppers were present along the banks. To be honest when we first started fishing the water above & below Hartsel, I never thought it would amount to much given the poor riparian stream habitat caused by extensive overgrazing. The browns here were strong & frisky. Average size was probably 12", and they were firm, fat fish. We'll be back for more of this fun later in the summer.
In early evening we drove to the Spinney tailwater & parked in the upper lot. At least a dozen other cars were there when we arrived, but soon all but one departed. The tailwater's really running high (258 c.f.s today) - which turned out to be helpful - as it spread out the fish. In the fading light there appeared to be gobs of midges about, which is always the case plus some crane flies (high water causing the hatch), and a few caddis. It was only a couple of hours before darkness drove us off the stream, but to shorten the story, the WRS in brown or green did the trick that evening. It's an easy fly to see in the fading light, being high floating, and we probably had the best action of both days with better sized fish this night.
Missed many strikes & broke off several fish but eventually managed to release a rainbow that was roughly 20" long, 6" deep, & must have been in the four pound range. A slightly shorter brown was probably a pound less. Lots of other rainbows & browns in the 12-14 inch range.
Next morning (today), we got down to the river by 6:30 or so & froze my hands for a while before the sun hit the water. It was interesting that a large (#18) BWO was on the water early - although in limited numbers - and very few fish came up for it. I only released a couple in the first hour & a half of casting - not exactly heavy action. Eventually a smaller BWO came off in quantities & the fish moved shoreside from all over the river to feast. That didn't make things easier for me as I missed strikes repeatedly on the nearly invisible #20 & 22 comparaduns that I was throwing. Just couldn't see the strikes & these heavily cast over fish pull the trigger quickly. What turned the tide was putting a grayish WRS out at the back end & tying a #20 stuck-in-the-shuck BWO in front of it. That way, when anything happened up front or at the back, at least I knew something was going on. As the morning progressed, more fish began coming to the larger attractor fly which was surprising since there were no other visible insects on the water beyond the BWO's, and the attractor sure doesn't resemble any mayfly I've ever seen.
Part of the reason for our good overall success today can be explained by the holdover stocked rainbows that apparently were released earlier this season. They've grown plump & fairly wary (for rainbows) and most are now in the 13-14" range. Wait till next year here! Those fish will be wonderful sizes by then. Right now they're simply too easy to catch. We quit counting fish and also quit fishing early as it ceases to be much fun when the catching is this easy.
On the way back to Vail, we stopped at our favorite stretch of the Arkansas in Buena Vista. Unfortunately the river's running abnormally high due to releases from Twin Lakes. We caught a dozen or so browns & small rainbows - again on the surface fly - but much of the pocket water that we love to wade was simply inaccessible. Altogether the two days represented a really good outing. I'm really not sure fishing is any better than this in Montana or Wyoming despite those state's deserved reputations for excellence.
7/19: At first it seemed like "paradise lost" today on Gore Creek. After the rapid fire fishing of the previous two days on big water, our tiny home stream (currently running 94 c.f.s at the mouth) felt like being back in a nursery. It's been a dramatic and rapid drop in flow to late summerlike conditions. All the bigger fish have taken to hiding from the midday sun (or at least that's what I hope happened since I didn't catch any).
Blueback swallows were in the air, but I truly saw no hatch going on. Shifted to a smaller (#20) brown WRS & did catch several fish. All but one were rainbows & the other was a brookie. The fish are very healthy & fought well. Stripe coloration on the rainbows was as scarlet red & bright as any I've seen. The average fish size dropped to around 10 inches & none were over 12. It's back to the tying bench to work on smaller versions of the same flies that have worked so well up to now.
7/21-22: Small expeditions over the weekend. Sue & I went to the Minturn Market on Saturday morning & fished the Eagle between Dowd Junction & that town on the way home. We caught a couple of handfuls of small browns on surface WRS's, but the reality is that the fishing in this part of the Eagle just doesn't seem to improve much as the years have passed following the mine cleanup. D.O.W. would like us to think differently based on their spring shocking results, but I'm not sure the river between the mine & its confluence with Gore Creek will ever be a lot of fun.
On Sunday Sue had to work at her office in Glenwood for a few hours, so the dog & I drove along and got on the Roaring Fork in town. Like all the other streams in this area, it too has succumbed to the dog days of summer and is much tougher to fish. We cast surface flies through a quarter mile of normally productive riffle water without so much as a nudge. Finally gave into reality & put on a couple of nymphs & deep drifted the next big hole with decent success. Used a leading #18 copper john trailed by a tiny curve bodied serendipity tied buckskin - the fish took the buckskin exclusively.
Unfortunately 80% were whiteys. Did release a couple of decent rainbows to 16 inches, but they really don't look particularly healthy right now. Very dark colored fish compared to the bright ones on Gore Creek.
On the way back to Vail up I-70 we stopped along the freeway between Gypsum & Eagle and did have some better success nymphing. The day was just too cloudless & bright to do any dry fly casting. Sue caught and/or missed a number of fish on a trailing red midge larva & I had similar success using the same rig as above on the Fork. Didn't get to touch a couple of very large rainbows. One went almost all the way through my backing on a downstream run before the hook pulled fee & another good sized fish shook the fly loose too. Here on the Eagle the fish seemed concentrated in very fast runs & deep riffles where the water's more aerated. That will probably be the case through the rest of the summer.
7/24: Surprisingly decent fishing on the Eagle lease water today. It may have been triggered by the cloudier weather conditions or who knows what. This is my favorite stretch of the river & the big pool was excellent. Strikes tend to be few & far between, but when a fish makes up its mind to strike, generally it's going to be a hookup due to the size of the animals in this water.
Used a surface #18 brown WRS & trailed it three feet by a #20 serendipity type buckskin. At the flat, shallow tail of the pool, the trout universally came to the surface, but in the faster water at the head, the exact opposite was the case. Probably would have done even better had I switched to strictly a nymph rig, but I really don't enjoy those long slow drifts this time of year even if the technique is more effective. Almost all the fish were good sized rainbows in nice shape & except for a 10 inch brown, the fish released were at least a foot long.
Tomorrow we head to Denver as Sue has a three hour session at her regional office. If I can drive fast enough to the Platte, I may get in an hour or so at the base of Waterton Canyon. Then we spend Wednesday night on the Big Thompson in the vanagon before going to Cheyenne Frontier Days on Thursday. The rest of the weekend will be devoted to the Poudre basin - basically the last major stream system in the state we've not yet visited.
7/25-28: This long weekend trip was scheduled around a Thursday single day visit to the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade & rodeo. Last year the outing resulted in our having some casting on the Encampment & other small Wyoming streams, and this year's focus would be on the Cache la Poudre - the last major watershed we've not yet fished in Colorado.
On Wednesday while Sue was doing some business at her regional office in Denver, the dog & I had an hour available to wade & cast the lower part of Waterton Canyon on the Platte. It turned out to be a pain-in-the-rear-end-experience as upstream Platte River releases made wading close to impossible. We did catch a handful of the small browns that inhabit this particular stretch, but the stronger flows made much success impossible.
After picking up Sue we drove North to Loveland, fueled up, & headed up the Big Thompson to pick up a jar or two of the special lingonberry syrup that we've found only at one gift shop up here. Bought that item & drove to a couple of spots where we've previously had some fishing success. This river's flow is down from earlier visits, but we did manage to haul a few browns from underlying foliage by the banks before downstream winds from a thunderstorm drove us off the water. After camping along the river in the van that night, we managed to catch a couple more browns in the morning prior to driving to Cheyenne. All the fish from both the above streams were taken on #18 brownish surface WRS's.
Leaving Cheyenne after the rodeo late Thursday we drove back to Fort Collins, filled the cooler with ice, etc. & headed up the Poudre without really knowing what we were doing. Drove along this truly beautiful stream for 10-12 miles & finally pulled off to camp for the night. It was just too dark to attempt to fish. When we got started on Friday morning we just pulled off at a decent looking run & started casting. Apparently the Poudre's flow is supplemented to a great extent by various impoundment releases during the summer months, so rafters & kayakers were common on the lower river.
It's an interesting and somewhat difficult stream to wade in most places below the town of Rustic. Flows appear to be in the 300-400 c.f.s. range which means the cajones get cooled off in the current when trying to wet wade across the river anywhere. The bottom structure is decent freestone with none of the slimy vegetation that we see on the Eagle & Roaring Fork, but the water clarity is such that one is tempted into venturing into depths that would not be reasonable risks on other streams.
We found the fishing to be fun albeit not spectacular. Most of the fish we hooked were browns - as is the case on most Colorado waters now. Because we stuck mostly to the surface with occasional trailing nymph droppers, fish tended to be 12 inches & shorter. They fought well. Portions of this stream are devoted to catch & release although the bulk of the water has a slot limit of some sort. Had we chosen to deep nymph some of the better runs, I suspect we'd have picked up a few larger fish.
Patterns used were the standard #16 & #18 WRS's in brown or olive-green. Trailing nymphs that proved productive were small copper john's & black stones. The browns we hooked - as is the case everywhere we've fished - prefer bankside lairs. Rainbows tended to be available in a variety of holding areas.
The Poudre is an exceptionally beautiful stream. It takes on many characters throughout its length. It's sometimes like Elevenmile Canyon, sometimes like the Crystal, sometimes like the North Umpqua in Oregon, and even a bit like the Platte below Spinney Reservoir. It's one stream that a person could literally spend a lifetime exploring. We'll come back here again.
Friday night we camped out near John Thomas Reservoir at the top of the pass leading towards Walden. Fished that lake at night with surface flies & managed to miss eleven straight strikes from some small trout of a type I obviously cannot identify.
Saturday morning we had our highlight experience of the trip. The previous night we'd noticed that a lake called Zimmerman at the top of the pass had been stocked with rare Colorado Greenback cutthroat, a threatened species here in the state. It's obviously catch & release only. Getting to the lake involves an easy mile & a half uphill hike. This appears to be a fairly popular spot to visit and camp, and a number of fishermen carried in belly boats. Fish were rising sporadically when we to the lake and we chose a location to fish where we could make a decent back cast without getting snagged on a tree & started fishing.
Sue caught two nice cutthroats between 10-13 inches fairly quickly. I managed to miss four or five strikes without a hookup before finally landing a fish in this same range. These greenbacks truly are beautiful trout with bright red undersides & gill markings. We felt blessed to had the experience to see these fish up close & personal - while at the same time simultaneously we got to watch a massive bull moose splash in the reeds at the far end of the lake. Sue's tactics were better than mine. She used a larger dry fly attractor with a smaller dry fly trailing. When I changed to that rig, my strike rate picked up right away. It took only an hour to get our fill of this type of fishing, but the experience will stay with us for a long time. Actually the cutthroats we released brought our weekend species list to something of a grand slam. That's always fun.
Dropping down off Cameron Pass we stopped at the headwaters of the Michigan River & managed to catch a handful of jewel-like brookies in the tiny pocket water. Fueling up at Walden we drove over Willow Creek Pass towards Granby & fished another stream the size of the upper Michigan for more tiny brookies. Finally we just flat got fished out. Our plans to try Ten Mile Creek outside Frisco were abandoned and we just headed back to the barn to plan for another trip.
7/29: The next day. Surprisingly good fun for an hour on the Eagle below Dowd Junction this afternoon. Killing time before dinner should always be this pleasant. Sue, the dog, & I hiked down the tracks & stepped into the water in the big pool here. We both rigged with a WRS up front & a copper john 2-3 feet behind the surface fly.
I got lucky on a number fish from the left side of the stream while Sue was shut out in this hole. Upstream it was another story. She continued fishing the bankside pockets & caught several fish - one of which was her largest trout ever from the Eagle. It was, of course, a brown and she estimated it at 18-20 inches in length. It took a small bead head stone & apparently was quite dark & without much fight. But fooling a fish that size of that species is always a welcome event.
On the other side I managed to hook a dozen fish, but missed probably twice that many other strikes. The reflexes just didn't work today. A fascinating thing about our respective fishing was that she caught everything with the nymph and my success was all on the surface fly. Go figure.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous days.
7/31: Last day of fishing for this month, but what a day. Gathering data at the Eagle County offices allowed the dog & I a chance to fish a part of the Red Canyon section of the Eagle we had not yet visited this summer. Happily there were no guides with clients, etc. parked at our preferred pulloff.
We walked downstream, rigged up with a leading #18 grayish WRS and followed it by three feet with a #20 copper john. Amazingly we released three fish from 10-15 inches just wading across the stream to start fishing. I've never seen action like that so quickly on this piece of water. Everything came to the surface. In the next thirty feet of wading and casting I released another eight fish. It was really bizarre. Most were fat rainbows between 12-14 inches with one a bit larger and one nice brown thrown in for good measure. The most exciting incident was having two 14 inch rainbows simultaneously connect to each fly. One immediately ripped the fly off, but we were able to land the second one.
This was too much of a good thing. It all happened in a space of maybe fifteen minutes. Walked upstream further & avoided nymphing in the runs where it was called for - so happily did not catch any more fish for a while. After moving the dry fly to the far end of the tippet & placing a #20 buckskin on the short dropper, did manage to hook a few more fish and left the river happy. July was good to us this year.
Speaking of the WRS (White River Special), I did find some good winging material in Denver last week. It's called "bleached coastal deer hair". Ties down beautifully and the flare is obviously negated if not desired by the wrapping of a couple of dubbing collars over the hair near the head.
We head to Aspen on Thursday and plan to then go to the White River above Meeker for another couple of days on that delightful stream.
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