9/28-30: It's time to start another month even if our last trip was taken in the closing days of September. Drove to Glenwood late Thursday afternoon & noted that the Fork was running nice & clear & fairly low. The next morning took the dog down below the Sunlight Bridge & had one of the worst fishing hours of my life. We had an extreme direct downstream wind coupled with the sun rising in my eyes. It was hell. The water called for short, precise casts to small pockets, and I had no chance at all. Half the time the fly landed behind me. So much for that.
By noon the wind had let up a bit & we did have some decent - if limited - success above the bridge. A greenish WRS finally took a beautiful 15 inch rainbow in the seam of a mid stream eddy.
Sue left work at noon & we headed out towards the Gunnison after lunch stopping a few miles above Carbondale to fish a stretch of the Crystal that had been wonderfully productive all summer. With the flow half of what it was our last visit, Sue used the rig I'd tied on for her of a leading small copper john & a trailing bead head buckskin. I changed mine to a surface WRS followed by the buckskin. The latter proved more successful although neither of us did exceptionally well. Probably played 6-8 rainbows in the 8-14 inch range in the hour we spent here. Lost a bigger one that ripped the WRS off the leader - probably stress fatigue of the tippet knot.
Tried another piece of the Crystal up by Redstone with similar results. Using the WRS as a strike indicator seemed to provide a better rate of hookups than simply watching the tip of the line. Fish were smaller here & we added a few whiteys to the list of rainbows released.
Then drove over McClure Pass (beautiful Aspen colors this time around) and camped in the van near the confluence of the North Fork Gunnison & main stem. Next morning after breakfast we headed up the main stream & had very little early on success. With only a few scattered caddis & mayflies in the air, the fish simply weren't responsive to either our surface flies or nymphs. Then we got to our favorite difficult-to-wade-to-island in the middle of the river & started catching fish. Both of us used the up & down rig of surface green WRS & trailing bead head buckskin & we did very well at this rarely fished spot - although the rainbows & browns were all under a foot long.
Success with smaller fish continued for the next mile or so we walked this day. The riffle water held lots of rainbows & smaller browns & we saw some huge browns broaching in the deeper pools. Eventually the large indigenous grasshoppers were awakened by the sun & I suspect that's what the larger fish were taking. My fault was not anticipating this possibility.
It was fascinating to have browns be unusually responsive to a green WRS (albeit way too small) being twitched & retrieved on the swing. My best fish of the trip here - a modest 14 inch brown took the fly using that method. Next year we'll be more aware of the need for larger flies here & will return with some size 6-8 imitations - probably with some rubber legs thrown in.
The weather was perfect for fishing, if not for hatches and we probably played 5-6 dozen fish on the Gunnison. It also appears that the DOW has recently stocked the North Fork as we hooked 8-10 "shiners" in that stream on our way back to the car.
Heading back to Glenwood the following morning we took another hour out on the Crystal up by Marble. As with the lower river, water levels are extremely low & the spots we'd had decent success earlier in the summer were simply too shallow to hold many fish. But Sue had her first "double" hookup in a stream. Two nice sized whitefish simultaneously took the nymphs she was casting. So that's a decent memory of the trip.
10/5-6: We visited Glenwood on Thursday afternoon & took a few casts below the Sunlight Bridge. Flows on the Fork are quite low, water temperatures are making wet wading less desirable & no hatches were going on. Tried a rig of a new grasshopper pattern with a buckskin trailer. Had visions of sugarplums dancing in my head about the hopper's chances for success, but as with most fantasies, this one proved to be no more than that. But a few fish did connect with the buckskin so I guess the whole rig wasn't a complete bust.
Unfortunately there aren't many hopper opportunities left this fall as most of those bugs are being eliminated by sub freezing nighttime air temperatures. Hope to get back to the Gunnison one more time to try this fly on some of the large, aggressive browns over there before the season ends.
On the way back to Vail yesterday we stopped by the Gypsum Ponds and fished the Eagle for an hour or so. Started with a double nymph rig of copper john & trailing buckskin & did catch a few smaller browns on one or the other of the nymphs.
Upstream with a few heads peeking tentatively through the film, changed rigs to a #16 green WRS & followed it with a #20 stuck shuck BWO. It was fun to play a handful of mixed rainbows & browns that sure enough came to the olive. Suspect that had I been smart enough to weight the emerger & get it closer to the bottom results would have been much better, but it's so much fun to still find a fish on the surface that I'll take less success for more casting with a dry.
10/8: Sue & I fished a dandy stretch of the Eagle on this perfect fall day & each of us successfully landed a skunk. Generally speaking when we have one of these fairly rare fishless trips it's the result of our getting stubborn & unchanging in choice of tactics.. Today nothing worked. We tried everything in the fly box. Sue had a single strike & I had two, but neither of us had even the notion of a hookup. It was a humbling experience - and that is all well and good - from time to time.
10/12-15: A whole lot of travel to various streams in the state brought a whole lot of nothing in the way of results. With winter being close at hand we decided to do a long vanagon trip back to the White & other favorite streams this weekend. Not very much went right along the way if fish catching success was the primary criteria.
We arrived at the Nelson-Prather section of the White late on Friday afternoon with a brutal West wind blowing up the stream. Snow was still on the ground from the previous night's storm & the weather was crisp to say the least. Sue & I nymphed for a half hour until our hands froze & each of us got into a (single) whitefish. Not a great start.
After warming up with a nice pasta dinner we slept for the night just above Sleepy Cat & tried fishing a bit the following morning. The snow flew along with some hail & with the river running a good 100 cubes above normal, we had no luck with anything on some very nice water that had been extremely productive earlier in the year. So much for the White. Headed back to Glenwood & watched some football & then cast on the Fork by the bridge for another half hour. At least here a nice 14 inch brown came to a bead head stone, but that was it for the fishing.
Next day we drove up the Crystal & tried several spots that have been wonderfully active all summer & fall. Nothing again. All three above streams are very cold right now & we suspect the fish have gone deep & pretty dormant setting up for their winter semi-hibernation state. In Redstone I did land a small rainbow for the only fish of this trip.
OK, today (Monday) was better. Borrowed Sue's Subaru & the dog & I went over through Hotchkiss to fish the lower Gunnison. Stream's a bit high but fairly clear. The fish we played were generally quite small - still a lot of those early summer stocker rainbows up here and a smattering of smallish browns to 12 inches. On the way upstream I fished with a new foam grasshopper design (yes, those insects are still active midday) and it pretty much turned out to be a bust. Crushed again.
A light green WRS trailed by a #16 black stone nymph was a fairly effective combination. We saw a number of large browns broach the surface, but I couldn't convince any of them that I was offering something attractive. Smaller fish came eagerly to a twitched surface fly. They must be reacting to the action of the native grasshoppers.
On the way back downstream the best success of the weekend turned out to be with a gold bead headed wooly bugger. It was actually terrifically productive & probably brought 2-3 dozen strikes or more in the hour & a half it took for us to work our way back to the car. While most of the fish released were pretty small, this river produced by far the most action of the four day weekend.
10/18-19: Spent a half day this week tying a number of variations of trico's, which according to some shops is the dominant hatch at the Spinney tailwater of the Platte where we intended to fish Friday.
When we arrived at Spinney around 2:00, thoughts of throwing delicate trico's disappeared when I could barely push my way out of the van into a 25 knot West wind. Gusts were higher. It was ugly. Rigged up conventionally at the lower parking area & walked downstream to try this less heavily fished and more lightly trout populated part of the stream. Casting up into the wind was virtually impossible. Changing to a double nymph rig and casting upstream also proved useless. The wind picked up the line laying on the surface and yanked it downstream so fast that any kind of dead drift was unthinkable.
I surrendered. Ripped off the 5X tippet & tied an olive bugger on the 3X leader. Made a few casts across & downstream and then felt a nudge. Hmm. Was that the bottom weeds or actually something alive? Then on the next retrieve, it sure looked like a fish trailing the streamer. Sure enough in the next half hour I landed 6-8 twelve to fourteen inch rainbows. What a treat - given the truly awful conditions.
Around 4:00 the dog & I drove to the upper parking area & set out for our favorite couple of stream loops. The wind was relentless - but so were the trout. Having run out of olive wooly's, we shifted to a yellow one & never missed a beat. Why the fish wanted this thing is beyond me, but they did - in spades. In the next three hours of fishing we played at least thirty fish of three different species. It was fabulous action. Nothing was under twelve inches. Best fish of each species - a 14" brown, a 16" cut, and a football shaped 18" rainbow.
When we woke up this morning, the temperature was in the upper teens. It seemed to stay at that level for the hour or so we struggled to keep the hands warm & continue to try to cast. To add to our misery the wind also came up shortly. Hard to tell what the wind chill was - had to be close to or below zero. Rod guides iced up immediately. Still the fish bit. Same rig as yesterday afternoon. Fish were smaller but still all over twelve inches. Gave up fishing before wanting to do so, but the cold was really unbearable.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous days.
10/28: Our first half mile of across & downstream casting on the Eagle this morning yielded a grand total of two tentative strikes. The dog & I decided to test some new olive buggers on a heavily fished over stretch of this river below Dowd Junction. Water's low & clear & no hatches were evident despite it being a fairly warm & cloudy morning.
When we got to the big hole, the action picked up significantly. The first fish to hand was a fat fifteen inch rainbow, which was mildly astonishing given that this part of the Eagle is at least 95% browns only. We had good success covering the hole top to bottom with the bugger and played roughly 7-9 fish with an equal number of additional strikes. At least half of the fish were rainbows - why I don't know. It suggests that the mine cleanup activities continue to improve the water quality in this upper part of the river.
Here's the story on the olive rabbit bugger. It's just a takeoff on a standard wooly bugger. Hook is a 3X long size 8 streamer hook. Head is small gold, black, or copper cone. Tail is a few strands of light green flashabou & an olive marabou feather. Body is the balance of the marabou wrapped to the cone head, then overlaid with rabbit fur twisted on a dubbing loop.
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