July, 2002

7/2:  And yes, the Eagle was a kinder, gentler stream for us today.  We hit a couple of favorite stretches of the lease water and had very nice success on surface flies.  Hatches are pretty much standard - various sized caddis, a few PMD's, midges, and we actually saw a red quill or two although this was very early in the day for that species.

Water levels are great now, but will fall quickly we fear.  Also water temperatures are acceptable in the mornings, but apparently rise rapidly after noon - leading to problems with the health of the fish in the river.  A Denver Post article this morning requested that we fish early & leave the rivers before the heat of the day warms the water too much.  Also suggested that we not touch fish, but rather try to unhook them in the water without any handling whatsoever.  I suspect we're within a week or two of some streams literally being closed completely until weather conditions change.

The fish clearly have moved into faster riffle water now.  It's really not worthwhile fishing the deeper pools although surely some trout must still be in there & may be taken by dredging the bottom with nymphs.  For the most part there are decent sized trout lying everywhere behind micro structure in shallower, faster runs and in riffles.  We released a good 15-20 today, mixed evenly between browns & rainbows, and all were between 12-17 inches.  None of the fish we unhooked showed any signs of Furunculosis yet.

Used a double rig of leading yellow stone colored WRS and trailed it with a dark brown model of the same design.  Size #18 hooks seemed to be best although with falling water flows, we'll probably now start tying more # 20's.  It's worth noting that these TMC 200R hooks are really long shanked & that accounts for the flies looking larger than they would on a standard length dry fly hook.

7/3:  The allure of the Eagle fishing as well as it is now was too much to pass up again this morning, particularly in light of the masses of casters who will descend upon it's water over the long holiday weekend.  We went a bit upstream into the red canyon section of the lease water and started wading fairly early (9:30).  Didn't have great hopes for surface fly success at this hour, but was proven wrong immediately with the immediate connection with a couple of 14" browns. 

Used the same combination dry fly setup as yesterday except in 20's instead of 18's.  Probably only fished an hour even though we'd planned on being out for half a day or so.  To be honest it really got too easy to hook fish, and when the challenge is gone, so is much of the fun.  Probably released a dozen or so mixed rainbows and browns in this period.  Sizes were great - 14" being the smallest with a couple in the 18" range. 

It's disappointing to not catch smaller, younger fish so far this year on the Eagle.  That might suggest the loss of a class or two of spawning - hopefully not.  Interestingly the browns today fought much better than did the rainbows of similar sizes which is quite unusual.

7/5-7:  With a boatload of people in Vail over this holiday weekend, we (including Sue) escaped the madness by heading West in the vanagon.   Aborted the initial plan of heading down to the Gunnison and instead we trekked back to the "The River" which we hoped would still be running on the cool side.   While the stream's definitely down from a flow standpoint, it unfortunately also is warming markedly in the afternoons which effects how hatches occur.

We were able to use a mixture of surface WRS's and trailed copper john's or bead head buckskins with decent success Friday afternoon.  Happily the count of whitey's is way off for whatever reason, but then again, so was the count of larger rainbows.  We did land a handful in the fourteen inch range, but the big boys were nowhere to be found.  The fish have also moved further into shallow, but better aerated riffles and also down in the swifter, deeper runs.  Interestingly the hatches ceased in the afternoons and didn't even begin again in the evenings - which fact we attribute to water that was simply too warm.

Fishermen pressure on the stream was also way up - as it should be this time of year, but we still did not feel set upon as might be the case on other rivers.  The pocket water in the non catch & release area was wonderful with a double dry combination.  The best fly seemed to be a dark hair winged, dark brown bodied WRS in size 18 or 20.  On the North Fork the next morning we had fair success with additional rainbows & cutthroat and the water temperatures were much cooler in these upper reaches.

Saturday we headed back to Glenwood & turned up through Carbondale & tried our luck on the Crystal.  As things turned out, this was the best we've seen the Crystal in years.  Flows are still fairly high and water temperatures are decently cool.  Our first stop on the lower river yielded at least 15 fish between us - primarily rainbows although I did land a sixteen inch brown.   The same kind of results occurred in Redstone and the rainbows went crazy for the same dry fly noted above.

After camping out Saturday night we tried the Crystal in the "airport" section of Marble.  It was pretty much a dud and our only success came on whitefish with the standard double nymph rig of leading copper john & trailing bead head buckskin. 

A follow up of the experience of yesterday with the same subsurface setup in Redstone was again surprisingly successful.  The fish just found this fly combination irresistible.   All were rainbows in the 6-15 inch range.  Absolutely wonderful fishing.   We just keep praying for more thunderstorms to keep the water levels at a decent height and temperatures down.  The Yampa in the Steamboat area closed this weekend and we fear the same will shortly happen to the Eagle.

7/11:  Ah, the Eagle........there's not much to say except we truly need some thunderstorms or even a cow to spit in the stream and raise the level & cool it down.  We tried a favorite stretch in the lease water just above the town this morning.  After I missed three strikes while casting downstream on my way into the best water, I said "aha - a new game".  So instead of trying to hook fish, I tried to miss the strikes.  Except for one fourteen inch brown the tactic was successful.

It's amazing how much self restraint it takes to avoid punching the rod skyward when a large head tries to inhale one's fly.  So maybe it will take games like this or some form of T.A.G. fishing to get through the summer of drought.   Happily we didn't see any dead fish, nor any that were visually afflicted with Furunculosis.  There also weren't many fishermen which was also good.  The water's warm & getting warmer.  Lots of fry were in the shallow water by the bank and maybe if the oxygen levels remain at a decent level, we'll get a lot of escapement from this summer's class of rainbows.

Tomorrow we leave for another couple of days in the vanagon - Friday to revisit that great fishing on the Crystal and a long day Saturday on the lower Gunnison with some new terrestrial patterns.

7/12-14:  Sue was once again tied up this weekend - not by fires on the forest for a change but from a visit of a college sorority sister who she needed to entertain.   Traveling in the van to our fishing destinations we (just the dog & I - again) had a quick lunch in Glenwood & then headed up the Crystal, stopping at the first of our favorite lower river set of pools.  Initially it looked like the stream flow had dropped to the point that the fishing would be difficult, but happily that turned out to be an erroneous assumption.

 The trout simply had moved upstream closer to the more aerated entry water and were still as anxious as last weekend to take a dry fly or wet buckskin.  With the air temperatures approaching 90 degrees & the dog still in the van I fished only the lower pool and it was as productive as before.  Sizes were smaller, quantities about the same and one of those rare simultaneous double hookups (both 12" rainbows) made the experience a fun one.

 Midway between Carbondale & Redstone we stopped at a pool which never previously had been too productive.  What a change today.  Apparently a serendipitous combination of the right set of flies & a corresponding matching caddis hatch brought almost obscene results.  Finally broke off both fly points to simply TAG fish, but the numbers of trout hooked in a couple of adjoining pools probably approached 50.   Sizes were smallish - between 8 - 14 inches.  As always the case when things are too easy, it quickly became no fun to continue.

 The Redstone stretch of this stream was less productive than last weekend.  Fish are getting smarter.  Strikes were quicker and the rejections more rapid.  Good for you fast learners.  Hopefully you will live longer and prosper.

Had the action been slower on the Crystal we'd have stayed on this side of McClure Pass for the night.  Instead we drove over it & downhill to the base of Paonia Reservoir, turning left up Anthracite Creek.  Last summer Sue & I had come over the pass from Crested Butte & vowed to hike up the canyon here above the private water.   It's a really fascinating place to visit.

 The creek's roughly the size of Gore Creek (perhaps running 120 c.f.s. or so at the moment, but it drops sharply and has limited holding areas.  The short pools & runs that do have slower water do have decent numbers of both rainbows & browns.   These wild fish are quick & wary strikers & hookups require lightning reflexes.  Since I can acknowledge a few stretches of 5-10 misses in a row, that pretty much describes my reflexes.

Sizes were appropriately small for this sized stream, but one of the browns did reach fourteen inches.  This is a great fun place to hike and fish & we'll return here later this summer.

Camping overnight at the base of the Paonia Dam we headed down the North Fork of the Gunnison early next morning and arrived at the confluence of that tributary with the main stem just outside Hotchkiss.  

Upstream releases have the Gunnison running much higher than we're used to at this time of year.  It makes wading somewhat more difficult & spreads the fish out more.   We hiked a couple of miles up river "left" casting along the way as we went.  A variety of flies proved variously good and bad.  A new grasshopper pattern for which I had high hopes turned out to be weakly successful. The only major hatch we saw was a quick emergence of trico duns around 11:00.  Fish ignored them completely.  Never did see the spinner fall.  There were also a few small yellow stones from time to time.

Best results continued to come on a double dry combo of # 18 brown WRS trailed by the same sized light green bodied one.   Fishing wasn't "hot" in the conventional sense even though the air temperatures peaked at roughly 105 this day.  But we did connect on two very large browns in the upper water, landing neither of them.  A visual sighting of both put their lengths in the 20-24 inch range.  All the other fish hooked ranged from 6-14 inches and were a mix of 75% browns to rainbows.

Standing at the top of an eddy and peering into perhaps fifteen feet of water I did see a "log" moving at the bottom.   Had we been on the banks of the Umpqua this leviathan would quickly have been identified as a Chinook simply cruising and waiting for more rains to move upstream.  Here it could only be an ancient & gigantic brown - easily three plus feet in length.  I shakily tied on a double nymph rig & plumbed the depths for ten minutes or so, but this fish was as wise as it's years, and it rightfully ignored me completely.

Heading back to Glenwood this evening we again stopped at the spectacularly successful hole on the Crystal thinking we could not possibly have a repeat of the prior day.  But we did.  In a half hour probably 25 fish were ticked by the hooks.  Highlights were two more double hookups - 10 and 12 inchers to the dry & nymph rig and then 12 and 14 inchers to the double dry.  Also released a whumper of female rainbow in the 16-18 inch range.  Great day of fishing.

7/19:  Just a note about our local streams.  The daily paper noted that voluntary fishing restriction notices will be posted on the Eagle between Wolcott and Dotsero beginning early next week.  If drought conditions continue as it appears they will, then the restrictions may become mandatory shortly thereafter.

Personally I wouldn't even consider fishing either the Eagle or Gore Creek due to low water conditions.  Hopefully the monsoon will start shortly & give us - and the fish - some relief.  We plan to head to the Crystal Saturday & then hike well up into the Dark Canyon of Anthracite Creek on Sunday.  Flows on both those streams are still holding up.

Last Logbook Entry  for previous days.

7/20-21:  Hooray.  Sue finally gets to join us on a weekend fishing outing.  With a late Saturday start from her condo in Glenwood, we chased up to Carbondale & then up to three (it turned out to be two) of our favorite spots on the Crystal.  Although this stream's levels are falling & temperatures rising slightly compared to last week, it's still a healthy environment.   Our first couple of pools were as good as before.  Sue found the fish particularly hiding in the shade of trees close to the bank.  A double rig of green WRS & trailing beadhead buckskin again did the trick.  We probably tickled ten to fifteen fish apiece here.

The next upstream spot that had been so phenomenal the prior weekend had slowed as the trout finally seem to be gaining some brain power.  These fish preferred a brown bodied brown winged WRS which apparently matched a few of the caddis in the air at the time.  We were chased from the water by an impending thunderstorm that finally hit as we drove closer to Redstone.  Giving up on that water we kept going over McClure Pass and instead of driving directly up Anthracite Creek, we continued on downstream past Hotchkiss and arrived at the Gunnison confluence around 4:00 in the late afternoon.  Here the rain had stopped & as the stream still looked great, we hiked upstream a short distance to some favorite holes.

Mosquitoes were a bit of a problem & so were connections with the fish.  These local browns have quicker strike rhythms than I've seen in a long time & neither of us had a lot of hookup success.  But in the next couple of hours we probably released another dozen smallish browns & rainbows to twelve inches.  The only decent fish - a sixteen inch brown - was hooked while casting downstream into a popular eddy on the way back to the car.  The dark colored WRS again was the fly of choice for these fish.

Camped that night on the North Fork above Somerset & drove to the Anthracite Creek trailhead the next morning.  Stream is definitely lower & our first efforts near the camp area were discouraging.  But as we trudged up the trail through Dark Canyon pretty soon we began to be rewarded in the better holding areas in pools & along steep rock walls.  Sue & I hopscotched one another for a mile and a half or so enjoying an average of two to four fish in each decent piece of water.  All were rainbows in the six to fourteen inch range & all again preferred the dark brown fly.

Driving out we turned off on the difficult to find road to Coal Creek - a major tributary of Anthracite and I did a bit of quick casting while Sue took a break.  The stream was somewhat off color & probably would have been more productive with some nymphing, but I stuck with the brown fly & did manage to release three more rainbows in the 8-12 inch range.  We'll try this little stream again as it gets far less pressure than does Anthracite.

As a last gasp on the way down the Crystal, we again fished the same middle pool area as on the day before.  It continued to yield fewer & fewer fish, although in a downstream eddy, Sue did hook the best rainbow of the trip - a fat sixteen inch hen rainbow.

Wednesday we head out on the great "cut-slam" quest to Wyoming.  We'll be on the road for a week & hope to collar photos of all four species.

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