5/1-5/3: On our way back from the annual windsurfing expedition to Corpus we took a long detour to visit Sue in the town of Durango in the Southwest part of the state as she was attending a four day conference there. I only was able to spend a half hour fishing one of our favorite stretches of the Animas in that same town (without any success), but this report is mostly to update any readers on the status of rivers around our area right now.
All the streams we passed on the drive over from Walsenberg (Rio Grande, Piedras, Florida, etc.) appeared to already be at late summer levels. The Animas was flowing at around 430 c.f.s. when we were there compared to the historical average of between 1500 and 2500 feet. Observance of the low flows simply is a confirmation that this part of the state will be a disaster area later in the summer. We'll surely lose all kinds of populations given the low flow, warm water conditions that may exist as early as July.
Today when we picked up some data at the Eagle County offices I had the chance to spend another few minutes on a nice part of the lease water. Just cast an olive wooly bugger down the bank for a bit & released one 12 inch brown with a couple of other hits. There was a modest caddis hatch in progress, but time pressures prevented changing to that species of insect. The Eagle is in great shape and it appears that the unthinkable happening of no runoff this year is going to happen on that river as well. If flows don't come up sometime soon, we'll be faced with the same problems here that other parts of the state will also be experiencing. It's possible that the best (and maybe only) good fishing of the year may happen between now and the 4th of July. What a turn of events.
5/5: Cold winds turned us off to the thought of an overnight expedition to the Homestake area, so today we took a drive to the Brush Creek area of the county. Despite its close proximity to Vail (roughly 40 miles) I hadn't visited that valley in about 25 years. As expected it has changed dramatically with development, but the area's still beautiful. Looking for a spot for Sue to test her new one weight rod we turned up East Brush Creek & after several miles of washboards eventually found some decent looking beaver ponds.
Both of us rigged up with smallish attractor dries - hers a green body & mine a gray bodied WRS. In fairly short order we both had a handful of strikes. Sue connected more often than did I and she released three 7-8 inch brookies while I touched only one lone brown of about nine inches. After missing a few more strikes we had a nice lunch and drove downstream looking for more water. A great bit of Brush Creek proper is private so we headed back to Eagle & stopped in town just above the roundabout & threw wooly buggers along the bank. A massive caddis hatch was in progress, but this section doesn't lend itself to either nymphing or dry flying under fast water conditions. I ended up without a strike, but Sue managed to release a nice 14 inch rainbow in the twenty minutes or so that we fished.
Stream flow is definitely on the rise so our token runoff for the year may have started. We'll try some other parts of the Eagle later this week.
5/9: The Eagle's definitely in a mild form of runoff right now although the color is absolutely clear. The dog & I downstream fished a good third of a mile of nice bank water below Dowd Junction with only one small nudge to show for our efforts. We tried brown and olive wooly buggers and the only strike came to a lead eyed sculpin.
Upstream across from the Forest Service office we changed to an indicator WRS trailed three feet by a #16 black headed buckskin. Given the few caddis flies blowing around in the wind, it apparently made more sense to fish with some subsurface form of that insect. In the next twenty minutes we released a handful of smallish browns (7-10 inches) all of which took the buckskin.
5/11-12: Since we had to attend a brunch at Sue's mom's place in Denver we took the van on a quick overnighter to the South Park area. Stopped first at the Tomahawk S.W.A. on a fork of the South Platte near Hartsell. Stream was extremely low & clear & fish were spooky beyond the meaning of that word. I had a half dozen strikes on either the green WRS indicator fly or the trailing bead head buckskin & managed to miss them all. Sue landed a six inch brown on her copper john.
We then drove to Hartsell & fished the stream running through it. Better luck here. Sue landed 3-4 mixed small rainbows & browns & I pretty much mirrored that catch. Also of all things, I released a 14 inch sucker that either swam into my buckskin while it moved along the bottom - or he actually found the fly appealing enough to taste. It's only the second sucker I've either hooked or seen hooked in the past 30 years of fishing here.
With the wind cranking up in advance of a quick winter storm we then headed to the Spinney tailwater & arrived to fierce gusts between 40-50 m.p.h. out of the Northeast of all things. Sue passed on leaving the van, so I trekked downstream with the dog for a quarter mile & tried to blast casts into the wind for 20 minutes or so. The olive wooly bugger worked again in the deeper pools with three rainbows between 10-15 inches released and another half dozen strikes or fish played & not seen.
We'd planned to camp here, but opted to move along due to the ugly weather. Driving down towards Lake George on Hwy. 24 we turned off on a forest road & headed towards Tarryall Creek. Camped at one of the very few public pulloffs that night without fishing any more. After awakening to snow on the roof in the morning I tried a few casts in this small stream & we left without so much as a strike. The reservoir of the same name is completely empty of water due to repair work on the dam, so it's probably not worthwhile visiting this area for another year or two.
5/14-16: Back to the Green. With no sense of closure from our first trip to Utah's Flaming Gorge tailwater earlier this spring, the dog & I tried the stream again this week. Guess what. Same result. The weather gods simply don't like me this year. We pulled into the overlook above Little Hole at roughly 3:00 in the afternoon, rigged up, & headed downstream to the upper part of the B section.
Naturally the thunderstorm that had trailed us in from Vernal took this as an opportune time to erupt and do its thing too. The normally strong afternoon westerly's picked up to 40-50 m.p.h. making casting into the olive hatch that began at the same moment impossible. So we wooly buggered with the wind for an hour until the gustiness abated somewhat, releasing a couple of shore hugging browns in the sixteen inch range. Once we could begin to force casts upstream into the wind, we started getting numerous strikes on a tiny #22 parachute baetis. Unfortunately it was utterly impossible to see the fly and even more difficult to know its general vicinity due to being blown about by the winds.
However we did manage to release a half dozen of the dumber browns in the area - none of which were over eighteen inches. Even using a larger indicator fly as a guide didn't seem to help much with hookups, but at least the fish were actively feeding due probably to the cloudiness. It was interesting that a fellow casting just above me had some decent success using a black ant pattern during the olive emergence. My suspicion is that there really weren't ants on the water but the first batch of small cicadas which are also beginning to appear streamside. Then the rains came & we exited the water for the evening.
Next day we repeated our earlier trip's hike roughly four miles up from Little Hole. Happily being midweek there were few other people on the water this early. The day was hot & clear & stayed that way. Not good. Low flow conditions - 850 c.f.s. plus - coupled with no cloud cover meant no olive hatch. A few of those bugs came off at noon, stopped shortly, & then we had a few more in the air around 3:00 in the afternoon. As always, midges were about & being gobbled by the shoreside feeders early on.
We had some modest success with midge emergers & slightly sunken larva, but it wasn't great fishing. As I see it, there are a lot of problems with the Green this spring & it's all related to stream flow. The river's simply too low and there's zero flow fluctuation. Even the guides are complaining although they're all catching fish. Without some kind of runoff to move the fish around & shake up the river bed the trout are just staying put in their long time holding zones & they're more suspicious than ever. Guided boats & the personal watercraft being increasingly used are very effective platforms during this kind of situation since the casters can present the fly to the fish without the fish ever seeing the leader.
Historically we've been able to drop a fluorocarbon tippet right over a trout and if it's done softly, we normally get a high percentage of strikes with an actively feeding fish. Not so nowadays. The trout are just too wary. Even though they are so habituated to people on the bank, it seems that once they know a fisherman is somewhere near them, they simply ratchet up their sensors.
To shorten this story, after fishing the surface for about three hours, I changed to a wooly bugger and began the hike back downstream to our starting point. Tried a variety of color options and the only one that really worked was an olive rabbit bugger with a black cone head. Interestingly with one exception all the fish caught on the bugger were rainbows and some were decent sized - up to eighteen inches. Thank god for a few dummies like that.
Best fish of the trip was hooked - and of course - not landed. I'd waded out to throw the bugger in a midstream eddy and connected with a huge (by my standards) brown of a good two feet in length and probably weighing 4-7 pounds. Tried to coax him into the bank for a photo opportunity but he managed to sneak under a big mossy boulder & detach himself without my aid.
For all the hiking & fishing put in this day, I suspect I didn't release more than 20-25 fish. The catch was pretty equally split between browns & rainbows with a couple of nice sized cutthroat thrown in for good measure. To be honest this is not a lot of success for probably 6-7 hours of casting.
Next morning we headed for the White River above Meeker & again were dealt a nasty blow by Mother Nature. The stream had blown out since we'd driven over it two day prior & although we did hike along the bank near Sleepy Cat, no fish came to hand. Had a handful of strikes on a black wooly bugger or a combination stone/buckskin nymph rig, but the wind howled in my face & made accurate casting virtually impossible.
Hopefully the winds will be less ferocious when we visit Spinney again later this week or next.
5/19: Our annual trip to the Black Lakes at the top of Vail Pass was a success today. Ice still covers most of the larger upper lake, but the lower one's completely open. We fished a special spot on the lower and had wonderful fishing in the place we always try first. Released five fat & obviously unhappy rainbows - one was a spunky eight inches - but the rest were between 12-15 inches & all were very feisty. Used a copper cone head brown tone bugger in this piece of water.
Walking further around the lower lake was totally unproductive which was surprising as there's usually a stray brookie or two willing to try the bugger. Unfortunately I forgot to bring along the sink tip line as usual & not getting the fly deep enough probably caused the problem. The only depressing thing about fishing here is the litter mess left on the banks by the wormers. I don't know what causes these idiots to have the kind of mind set that suggests they can just leave their line boxes, beer bottles, chip wrappers & other assorted mess for others to pick up. Such is life.
Leaving the parking area we pulled off by the inlet area of the upper lake & had a surprising number of strikes in this shallower end of the lake. Released another handful of rainbows, some of which were still "snakey" looking from not feeding well over the winter. All of these fish were caught on an olive bugger.
Our fishing terminated with the onset of the usual afternoon thunderclouds, and we were pleased to have this much success in only an hour on the water.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous days
5/25-27: Going against all conventional logic, Sue, the dog, & I did a Green River redux - on not just any weekend - but this week's Memorial Day weekend. My personal rule had always been to never under any circumstances visit these kinds of popular waters any time but mid week, yet for whatever reason, the trip turned out remarkably well. We drove up through Vernal Friday night & camped near the top of the pass overlooking Flaming Gorge. Saturday morning we drove down to our "free" parking place above Little Hole & did our long upstream hike.
Surprisingly by the middle of the morning there were no more than the usual number of people ahead of us on the stream. It's worth noting that we were aware of the increased releases from the dam that were ongoing to assist an endangered species of some sort, so the water was running at nearly 4,000 c.f.s. compared to the 800 of our two earlier trips. Apparently the first couple of days after the higher releases started, the river was completely blown out & unfishable due to masses of bottom vegetation being torn loose from the streambed, but it was clear while we were there.
We assumed that the fishing would be tougher given fewer holding places & stronger currents. Unfortunately - as it turned out - we started casting immediately with brown or olive wooly buggers & did land a couple of fish on the way upstream. When we arrived at our favorite area midway to the dam, we continued to use the streamers for another couple of hours with only minimal success.
At a certain point we recognized that things just weren't going well at all & noticing some fish starting to fin near the surface film, we shifted to an attractor WRS dry trailed by one of our stuck-in-the-shuck generic baetis emergers & began to do much better. There really was nothing more than a midge hatch going on, but the nondescript coloration of the emerger seemed to be attractive & we began to catch browns, rainbows, & particularly cutthroats with some regularity. At least I did.
Sue suffered through a couple of days of what golfers would call a case of the "yips". She persistently and consistently struck prematurely and simply missed at a minimum a couple dozen fish each day before finally calming down late Sunday & started getting hookups.
Both days we did extremely well using the dry fly/emerger trailer rig. On Sunday we went down to a #20 dry & kept the emerger at #22 & had a few more strikes on the surface fly. It was crucial to cast to fish that were actively seeking feeding on emergers or dries. Any attempt to lure a fish from the bottom or even a couple of feet from its feeding lane was basically an effort in futility.
Apparently the increased flows have flushed numbers of rainbows and cut's from nearer the dam downstream closer to Little Hole. The rainbows in particular seem to hold in faster water with enough underwater structure to give them occasional rest, and we found many situations where they'd be slashing & flashing in 5-6 foot deep runs. We also hooked an inordinately large number of cutthroats which seemed unusual.
Because of the warm, fairly cloudless days the baetis hatch was noticeable, but extremely sparse. Nonetheless the trout did appear to key on that species when it was present. We left the Green completely happy. Not only were the crowds manageable, but the fishing was wonderful.
Drove to the White River above Meeker on Sunday night & camped at the junction of the North & South Forks. River was running way too high to be fun to fish. I tried a few casts near Sleepy Cat & gave up without a strike. We then pulled over by the river near Meeker & I managed to release a few whitefish with a combination nymph rig of cone head stone trailed by a bead head buckskin.
Back in Glenwood we decided on one last session on the Roaring Fork before the Av's game started. Walked downstream from the Sunlight Bridge to a small park & both Sue & I had decent success using nymph combos. With her Prince up front & trailing buckskin she had a handful of whitefish, while my releases were all rainbows. The bows took either a black cone head stone or another of the bead head buckskins. All in all it was a very nice holiday weekend.
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