June, 2001

6/3:  All the local rivers are running high, but surprisingly clear for this period of runoff.  The dog & I tried throwing wooly buggers at the resident brown's in the Dowd Junction section of the Eagle this morning without the slightest hint of success.  What I foolishly neglected to do was to shift to either a sink tip or full sink line since even the weighted cone head buggers simply can't get deep enough to find a fish - at least that's the theory for my losing effort.

Later this afternoon we drove up to Vail Pass & fished the main body of lower Black Lake & its tailwater.  More fun.  Caught a 14" cut in the tailwater & had two more on & three other strikes from good fish.  Even saw a large albino that apparently had escaped from the lake.  In the lake itself we spent limited time, catching & releasing a pair of smallish brook trout.  Again, either because of laziness or disinterest, I neglected to change to a sinking line for the lake casting & didn't do as well as I probably should have done.

6/7:  On our way back from Aspen we stopped & spent about 20 minutes in the Glenwood area on the Roaring Fork.  Threw a big attractor surface fly trailed by a bead head caddis emerger - nothing at all happened.  The river's flowing very strong (2540 c.f.s.), but is quite clear.  That's actually the case with most streams in our area.  The Eagle, Gore, Colorado, etc. are all fishable, but best results will probably be had doing the "yank the bugger" thing close to shore.

6/10:  With a half day to spend on the water this Sunday, Sue & the dog & I opted to try some casting on some of the local streams that would be judged impaired by drainage from mines at their headwaters.  Possibly a waste of time but a change of pace nonetheless - particularly since most streams locally are still running bank full & really are tough fishing.

We drove Highway 24 towards Leadville & noted that Homestake Creek looked very wadable in the event we chose to try it on the way home.  Just before Leadville we stopped at one of our favorite summer brown trout stretches which we've christened the "Randy Garcia" water.  If you find it, you'll know why it's so named.  Unhappily, while the stream had great clarity, the pace of the flow was such that our half hour spent looking for any kind of holding water went for naught.

Taking the Climax Mine turnoff we shortly did get into some decent brook trout fishing despite the ongoing runoff conditions.  A stretch of the upper Arkansas just below the mine yielded a dozen or so small brooks and one gigantic 8" brown that turned out to be the haul of the trip.  The fish refused most nymphs here and the best pattern was a generic stone/grasshopper fished on the surface & twitched from time to time.

Continuing on towards Frisco we stopped & threw wooly buggers in Clinton Reservoir for a few minutes, but that didn't work either.  Had we the time to hike to the inlet we may have had better success on the cuts that might be spawning this time of year.

Ten Mile Creek was also running too rough for any possibility of casting, so we turned West on I-70 back to Vail & went up old Highway 6 to the start of the bike path.  Then we hiked up to the gabions that were built during the freeway construction project.  They're an annual event because of the nice one mile hike to them, but as always, the fishing there was spotty.  All we saw were a few small brookies that took copper john's as we "trolled" them in the shoreside eddies.

An amazing day when an 8 inch fish takes the honors.

6/13:  We drove to Glenwood Springs today through an honest to goodness blizzard.  Frigid temperatures obviated any thought of casting on the Roaring Fork or the Colorado, but when we passed by Gypsum on the way back up valley, a little break in the cloud cover tempted up to fish the stream in the area of the Gypsum ponds.

The Eagle, while clearly in flood, was a very nice color.   With a wooly bugger & sink tip rigged up, I got four good strikes in the first eddy and missed them all.  Slightly downstream a nice 14" rainbow did come to hand.  Further down I managed to miss a handful of other strikes, but that seems to be the case for me in the springtime doing this "yank the bank" stuff with the buggers.  Honestly I think that most of the hits were fish just wanting the intruder out of their feeding zones, so I suspect they really don't regard the fly as something great to eat.

But it is encouraging to see the fish active again.  Maybe we'll have to try this again before the weekend arrives.

6/18:  If Gore Creek were a major league pitcher, I've been served up a no hitter for the past couple of days.  At least close to that.  The water clarity is beyond gin in the stream, but it's still runoff full & I keep forgetting that.  Wading is cold & nearly dangerous, but the creek's a thing of beauty to visit.

My feeble attempts to lure a fish from the high water holding areas have been virtually worthless.  One truly stupid 10" brookie blasted a cone head bugger yesterday and that's the only fish I've had a chance to touch.  On the section of the creek I've fished, I've not seen any semblance of a hatch and neither attractor surface flies nor a variety of nymphs have been successful for me.   Tomorrow we drive over to the Gunnison near Hotchkiss to see if we can catch part of the stonefly hatch, although word has it, the lower river remains blown out.

6/19:  From the pits to the palace today on the Gunnison.   Contrary to the reports I could find on the web, the lower river (above the junction with the North Fork) is at mid summer levels and fishing wonderfully well.   The best part about the day was that until we walked out at 5:30 in the evening, there were no other shore fishermen - only a dozen or so drift boats to contend with.

Here's the fishing information.  Air temperatures were very warm.  When we drove back through Hotchkiss on the way home, the digital readout on the bank registered 98 degrees.

We (the dog & I) were able to wade across the North Fork at Paradise & headed a half mile or so upstream before starting to fish.  All along the walk I could hear the splashy rises of  fish along the bank.  Hatches in evidence were dominated by a yellow sally & a mid sized caddis, although two or more other species of caddis were also on the bushes.  Only saw one giant Pteranarcys all day, so that event is apparently past on this part of the stream.

The fishing was great during the roughly three hours we walked & waded.  I'd estimate between 125 and 150 strikes.  Most of these were very small fish - primarily browns between 5-9 inches.  Did release a couple of handfuls of decent fish in the 12-14 inch range, again mostly browns with about one third being rainbows.  Best casting was directly along the bank in 1-3 feet of water.

Patterns:  The popular fly was a modified #16 grayish-brown X-caddis; others that worked well were #16-18 yellow sally in flat wing or hair wing style.  Caddis pupa, bead head pupa, and flat wing caddis all did OK.  Had I been willing to deep nymph, the fish probably would have been bigger, but I'm sick & tired of nymphing & wooly buggering at this point in the summer.

So much for the fishing.  Here are some reminders to myself when heading over this way.  It's about a three hour drive from Vail to the forks.   Because we'd heard the North stem was high & blown out, I attempted to find the jeep road system that got one across the river from Paradise by driving towards Delta & then heading upstream on some back roads.  It's tough.  My Subaru Impreza probably would have made it, but a pickup truck or true 4 X 4 would be much safer.   To get to this access road, drive to the junction for Austin, but turn left across Hwy. 92 - cross the Gunnison & turn left again on H75.  About 20 minutes on this decent gravel road, there's a cattle guard.  Immediately turn right again & head across the mesa which must lead to the river after another 15-20 minutes.  There's no signage whatsoever, but this has to be the route.  I aborted  at this point.

The problem we were faced with was that if the North Fork was not wadable, there was no other method of accessing the main Gunnison.  With the stream reports reporting over 450 c.f.s. upstream at Somerset, it's difficult to believe that a 240 c.f.s. flow at the mouth was a reality.  The last discouraging thing is that the people running web sites purporting to be "real time" information for conditions here were anything but real time.  Maybe those outfitters are intentionally misreporting to keep other people off the river, but I personally don't find it to be good practice.  Enough said.

6/24-26:  This weekend's outing was supposed to be a four day trip with two rivers to fish.  It turned into one with lots of catch & release on a single stream.  We've fished the White River above Meeker a couple of times prior to this date with decent, if not great, success.  What happened this time around was either simply serendipitous, or maybe a sign that we're finally starting to better feel the pulse of this river.

Where to begin the story?

I wanted to revisit the lower Gunnison before the summer vacation crowds turn it into a version of Coney Island.  Since I had to pass through Glenwood Springs (Sue's place of residence) on my way to the Gunnison, she suggested that all three of us (dog included) join her at Sleepy Cat Ranch on the White for a couple of days & enjoy some "private" stream section fishing on that river prior to heading over the hill to Paonia & the other river.  She had a meeting at the ranch & allowed that we could cast to our heart's content most of the day, and she'd join us on the water when time permitted.

Before Sue arrived home, the dog & I had a chance to spend an hour on the Roaring Fork below the Sunlight Bridge.  A very nice yellow sally hatch went on through our hour on the stream, but we deep nymphed instead & did marginally well on some smaller rainbows & browns.  No whiteys this day.  The river's still high, but wadable along the banks - with care.

After Sue arrived, we drove to the ranch on Sunday night & immediately headed for the nearest stretch of stream.  Water color was perfect although the river's still running somewhat high (maybe 350 c.f.s.).  That's not a lot of flow normally, but given the steep drop through this section, I scared myself a bunch of times crossing the river at mid thigh level.  The first hour of fishing that night we had very modest success.   Neither Sue nor I knew what imitation would work, so we tried various patterns. 

A couple of large attractors brought a few whitefish & small rainbows to hand, but our success would not be regarded as special.

Monday we tried again although I was more or less on my own due to Sue's meetings.  The lower ranch water was more productive - rainbows to 12", but again not what would be called great.  Wading is still tough here because of the flow levels.  We (the dog & I) then drove upstream to to the public water across from the dam.  Damn.  It got good all at once.  Changing to a surface fly that will henceforth be named the "White River Special" and trailing it with a bead head sparkle pupa brought strike after strike.  In an hour I must have touched or released 30-40 various sized rainbows & whiteys between 6-15".  That was enough fish-mouth-pinging for the morning.

We went back to the ranch for lunch & fished the middle water for a bit before returning to that pocket water up by the dam.  It produced better results, and we knew the surface fly was starting to do the job.

The most exciting action of the trip occurred that afternoon in the pocket water along the edge.  Struggling up along the bank and hooking or getting strikes in almost every small holding area, I finally had an extraordinary fish take the surface fly in a nondescript eddy near the confluence with the South Fork.  When the rainbow rolled over the fly on the second cast into this spot, my heart almost stopped.  This was probably the largest (non salt water rainbow I've ever hooked). When the fish got into my backing while running directly upstream into a raging current, I knew there was no chance I'd ever touch him.

The three leaps he made while having his way with me & his eventual exit from the fly 150 feet across & below me were as much fun as it's possible to have with a fish.  I really didn't want to touch him.  He's priceless.  OK.  Given that all of us fisher people tend to exaggerate, my continued assumption is that this fish was roughly 23-26 inches in length and between 6-8 pounds.   On a dry fly it just doesn't get any better.  More fascinating is where he lived.  A well beaten path led to his home.  Unfortunately for most fisher people seeking him, that's the way they tried to find him - by hiking down the (his) path.   As you might suspect, the instant a shadow appeared above the fish, he simple disappeared from sight - and it was as though nothing was ever lived there at all.  The only reason I got lucky was because of the unusual approach from below him along the bank.  He never knew I was coming for him - just chance luck.

Enough is enough.  This story is dragging on too long.   Here are our other fascinations about the White River.  The hatches this time of year are beyond belief.  It's impossible to conceive of a time on any other stream when we'll see all of the following insects simultaneously dancing on a single given day:

Mayflies: trico duns, blue winged olives, red quills, pale morning duns, pale evening duns. plus some other smallish dark brown dun.

Caddis:  at least six different species from black to tan to sedge to Grannom.

Stones:  minimally there were yellow sally's & ovipositing golden stones all day long.

Midges:  Several and other true flies including the ever present mosquitoes.

That afternoon, when Sue had time off from meetings, we visited the upper water and she released fish after fish.  I did the same.  In one eddy, I had twenty straight strikes on that number of casts.  Our fish (either rainbows or whitefish) ranged from 5 to 18 inches in length.  They're strong & wonderful fighters, due as much as anything to the difficult watery environment in which they dwell.  What a terrific stream.

OK.  The fly that worked.  It once was a generic stone/hopper/stimulator/whatever imitation.  Today it earned the name - "W.R. Special".   For a fly to roughly imitate the ongoing hatches (see above) and somehow still be effective, it had to be incredibly generic - & apparently it is just that. Picture & tying instructions are below.  Great weekend.  I was so tired, I couldn't cast any more & gave up on the Gunnison until next weekend.  Life's good.

6/27:  Follow up on the above.  Here's the fly.   No, I do not purport to be any kind of fancy tyer.  Once in a while, all of us get lucky with something, and that's what happened to me this past weekend.  The fly simply worked. White River Special This thing is a nothingburger to tie.  It has only three elements - one of which is the orange 6/0 thread.  Trying to find something out of the ordinary about it is difficult.  Except perhaps for the TMC 200 R hook on which it's tied, this is as simple as it gets.

The body is a complex dubbing of brown antron, black, grey, and brown hare's mask fibers.  The overwing is a very thick type of deer, elk, or antelope hair, the precise animal name of which I cannot recall.  The desirable feature of the wing is that it is extra thick  That makes it extra "floaty" & extra visible to (aging) eyes like mine.  Apparently the body was generic enough to universally appeal to the fish despite the plethora of hatches occurring throughout the day.

Friday we get on the "Fork" again and later that evening on the lower Gunnison.

Last Logbook Entry  for previous days.

6/28:  As I write this, a massive Grannom caddis hatch is occurring on Gore & Middle Creeks.  In the 30 years I've lived in this condo I've never seen the bugs this thick in our parking lot 100 yards from Gore Creek.  Almost reminds me of Hitchcock's "The Birds".

The latent burst of reproductive caddis energy did however, not effect our results while on the creek for an hour this afternoon.  Water levels are still roughly 100 c.f.s. over prime wading conditions (happily so given the upcoming 4th holiday crowds), and our beloved local stream should not be prematurely scoured of its finny residents by the "grip 'em & rip 'em wormers who seem to show up this time of year.  Sorry.  No offense intended to wormers - it's just that this small stream is extremely vulnerable to killers of fish & some holes don't repopulate at all for at least a full year after being cleaned out.

OK.  We released a few fish today - all rainbows - all under 12" on a generic surface fly.  It wasn't great fishing, but the water temperatures are rising rapidly - thus the caddis hatch.  Tomorrow we get a couple of hours on the Fork, followed by an evening and the following day on the lower Gunnison.


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