August, 2003

8/1-2:  We had a couple of good experiences on various streams to start the month of August off with a bang.  I drove the vanagon to Glenwood on Friday to get in a few casts on the Roaring Fork prior to picking up Sue for a campout on either the Crystal or Frying Pan that same night.  It was shocking to see the river a bright reddish brown when I arrived in town.  Interested in finding out where the discoloration was coming from, the dog & I drove up the river to Satank and sure enough, the Crystal was blown out by mud from some sort of thunderstorm event.

So we hiked along the Fork above its confluence with the Crystal and had very little success for the first hour of casting.  Then some heads started peeking through the surface near the ditch diversion.  Although the insects were not visible, through trial & error eventually we figured out that one of those odd mid summer olive hatches was in progress.  For the next half hour the releasing was wonderful - mostly browns to sixteen inches and a couple of smaller rainbows.

Picking up Sue later we decided the best approach would be to try the upper Frying Pan this night and hope the Crystal cleared on Saturday.  Below Ruedi Dam the Pan was wall to wall with fisher people.  No chance to get on any water.  Above the lake, however, it was another matter.  We've really never tried this interesting stream before.  Its flows were pretty strong still, probably in the 150 c.f.s. range.  Wading is very difficult.  There are massive boulders, deep pools, lots of streamside foliage, etc.  We finally found a short stretch that could be fished and played 5-7 fish, all browns between 10-16 inches.

After spending the night in a secluded meadow we tried a bit more fishing in the morning and simply had too much trouble finding accessible and wadable water.  There are obviously good numbers of decent sized browns here, but they're very tough to get at easily.

Drove down 82, turned off at Carbondale & headed up the Crystal.  It still wasn't very good looking water passing on our way upstream running high and somewhat off color.  Just below Redstone we saw the places where the red sandstone mud had come down the previous day, so we continued on above there to our favorite spot near that mountain town.

To put it simply the fishing was just spectacular.  In my life I've never seen so many wonderfully sized rainbows on this stream.  Would it be for not knowing better, I would have suspected a hatchery had released some brood stock in the water.  We caught easily two dozen rainbows - three of which were over 18 inches and probably three pounds apiece.  Also a brown, a pair of nice sized cutthroat, and one lone brookie - plus a few of the resident whitefish.  Just a fabulous couple of hours of fishing.  Many of these fish were lying in water no more than a foot in depth.  Most took the new antenna style caddis pupa that's been so effective this spring, but at least a third came to the "root beer" sparkle wing WRS that's also been a standout recently.

8/7:  It's fascinating that Gore Creek has gone from being slightly too high in flow to way too low in a matter of maybe ten days.  Fish have been driven into deep holes (where those holes exist) and under rock outcroppings by the banks.  Even the highly aerated riffles can't support larger fish right now because the shallow water simply offers no protection for them.  Today there was a complete absence of any type of hatch - not even a few caddis could be flushed from the streamside bushes.

Rode the bike to the golf course section of this stream and kept casting with an up & down combination of #18 sparkle wing WRS and trailing # 20 POGS.  Strikes were few & far between.  Even the "nevermiss" pool produced only an eight inch rainbow and a twelve inch brown.

Upstream a couple of 14 inch rainbows took the surface fly and one larger fish ripped the tippet from my nicely tied leader with a triple surgeons knot (not!).  Finally changed to one of the new hopper patterns and attracted one more twelve incher to the top and another fish to the dropper a few casts later.  It wasn't great fishing - even given good cloud cover.  Could this all have been a poor choice of tactics?  Nah, no chance - ( I wish).

This weekend we drive up to the White again and maybe do a day hike around Trapper's Lake looking for cutthroats.  Fishing's supposed to be lousy at the lake right now - August doldrums or something like that.

8/8-10:  Sue was tied up with her annual pro bono guiding day, so the dog suggested we boys head to a stream for some male bonding and fishing time, and of course, I readily agreed.  It was a tossup as to whether to try the Crystal/Gunnison loop or the White River area and we chose the latter with some trepidation due to CDOW's recommendation this week that the White was the state's hot spot for fishing.  Would we finally be overrun with people up there?

As it turned out, crowds were not the problem.  The fishing was not the problem.  The problem was with the fisherman.  By the time we'd walked the mile downstream to begin our fishing, my dark glasses were completely wrong due to the sudden appearance of a dark thundercloud.  While it never rained this day, the black skies - and my consequent lousy vision - helped me miss at least 30-50 strikes.

Fishing was much tougher regardless.  Lower flows (338 at Buford) and trout that have been cast over all summer long made for lots more wariness on their part.  Unusual for this stream the fish also became more hatch specific.  Started out mid day with the usual suspect  - a WRS caddis imitation and trailing pupa.  With two small exceptions nothing would take the pupa.  Shifting to a double dry of grasshopper and WRS was much better for the next hour, but then a short lived, but fairly heavy PED hatch began.  A small #20 comparadun was all that would draw strikes during that emergence.  Then it was back to caddis type dries.

Overall we probably released a good 30-35 fish.  Most were smallish.  All were rainbows.  I missed a strike on the hopper from that massive brown that was released a couple of weeks ago and missed him again on Saturday.  Touched nothing over sixteen inches, but did play a couple of good fish in the 18-20 inch range.  Also had strikes from a number of large fish.

After camping out Friday night we made our way up to Trapper's Lake to try some still water casting even though CDOW indicated the fishing was lousy up there right now.  I'd never been up here before.  The Big Fish fire burn area of last summer was interesting to pass through, but it detracted from the beauty of the place.  CDOW was right about the fishing.  We did the five mile hike to Wall Lake and had no success with anything.  Fish are deep and sulking.  Night fishing might work, but we had not the time to spare.

Tried the North Fork on our way back downstream and landed only one fish - a fourteen inch rainbow that bit the hopper in a deep eddy.  Then it was back to our Friday section for more of the same.  Still no crowds of bodies to compete with for the water - what a joy this place is particularly from that standpoint.

The fishing was pretty much a repeat of Friday except the fish seemed generally smaller and more did come to the pupa this day.  The new hopper pattern is very useful for larger fish in deeper, faster runs.  I saw one actually come from five feet down to slam it - of course I missed that 20 incher too.  Then it was back to Glenwood for the night.

Today we headed back up the Crystal which turned out to be mildly disappointing.  After such a great session last week, the lower flows (109 above Avalanche) and greater crowds casting over the trout seem to have had the same effect as on the White.  

Common knowledge says this stream fishes better midday and later after the waters warm up.  That seemed to be the case today.  Fishing two long runs at roughly 8:30 in the morning brought only 6-8 fish to hand compared to twice that number normally.  All but one brave soul took the pupa.  The small surface feeder needs to remember the adage about pilots and trout which states "There are old trout and there are bold trout, but there are no old bold trout."

From 9:30 on fishing heated up.  Needed only to use the WRS on top and the pupa trailing all the rest of the day.  Fish took both with vigor.  At one stretch there was so much action that I quit striking unless the head looked large enough to put up a decent fight - it may sound arrogant to say this, but when catching gets too easy, the fun goes out of the sport.  Even at that we didn't release anything over fourteen inches today.  All were rainbows.

8/13:  It was a pleasant outing on the Circle K section of Gore Creek today.  With very low flows (est. 25 c.f.s.) on this part of the stream, fish have moved into shallow, highly aerated riffle water.  Started the casting with one of the new hoppers & a trailing tiny bead head larva.  Fish were interested, but I think also somewhat intimidated by the size of this imitation.

After getting several strikes and no hookups, the hopper was removed and replaced with a sparsely tied #18 sparkle WRS.  The change made all the difference with these smallish trout.  Released numbers of 6-10 inch brookies, rainbows, and three cutthroats of all things.  Only a couple of the fish took the trailing nymph with everything else coming to the surface fly.  Very nice fishing on a quiet section of this creek.

8/14:  Learned a valuable lesson today - don't bother fishing the Eagle midday until the weather starts to cool in the fall.  There's still some muck coming into this stream from Alkali or Milk Creeks or both, but clarity is decent enough.  In retrospect I probably would have done OK had I chosen to deep nymph in the heat of the day but wanted to test a modified hopper pattern first and foremost.

It really wasn't all that successful, but then again, neither was anything else.  Tried various up & up and up & down combinations and as usual the WRS was the most accepted fly with the bead head pupa a distant second.  Many fish turned to look over the hopper & WRS, but unless the fish were in a tree's dark shadow or by the bank, they simply were too spooky to take something as large as those flies on the surface.

Of all things we also had a rare downstream wind of about 20 knots making fly presentation almost impossible in the pocket water we were fishing.  An inability to set the fly down in a precise location - gently - probably reduces its effectiveness by an order of 75-90%.  So I actually quit early.  It just wasn't much fun.

As for the one big fish I did play - a brown of at least 20 inches - after its first leap it dove into a brush pile ala what a big bass would do, and tore off the tippet immediately.  A couple of other fourteen inch rainbows made up the balance of a pretty lousy outing this afternoon.

With the exception of a few tiny BWO's there was no insect activity on the water whatsoever.  Tomorrow we're off for Grand Mesa and then a day or two on the Gunnison and Crystal.

8/15-17:  While waiting for Sue to get off work, I hiked downstream below the Sunlight Bridge and had some decent success both deep nymphing and surface fishing on the Roaring Fork.  A nymph rig of stone and trailing buckskin brought a couple of nice sized rainbows and whitefish, while upstream in some flats, the browns found a WRS almost irristable and I was able to release another half dozen of them.

Leaving Glenwood we drove up state highway 65 Friday night and camped on Grand Mesa overlooking the Powderhorn ski area.  Next morning spent some time on the roads leading to several lakes in that region, but none looked attractively fishable.  So we passed on downstream through Cedaredge - found a great breakfast spot - and then did our normal hike up from the confluence of the two Gunnison's.  

The main stem's flows are up, but clarity remains excellent.  I was obsessed with using a new hopper tied specifically for this stream, and frankly, it was something of a bust.  For whatever reason the fish didn't even come up for real hoppers that we scared into the stream while walking up the trail, so perhaps the pattern isn't as awful as I feared.  Anyway I spent too much time testing the new fly and consequently had much less success than did Sue who stuck to the regular rig of WRS and pupa.  She probably had on close to two dozen fish, and I ended up releasing only a handful.  None were large - the best being a couple of rainbows in the fourteen inch range.

As we headed up the North Fork with the intention of fishing it just below Paonia Reservoir, the stream was badly clouded from recent thunderstorms.  Anthracite Creek was in the same condition so we had to pass on both those waters.

Found no interesting camping around the Marble area so headed down the Crystal with an intention to try Avalanche Creek, supposedly a terrific small trout tributary of the Crystal.  There's virtually no place to camp outside one fee campground, but we found a "feeless" pulloff and spent a nice evening there.  Unfortunately more storms during the night muddied up this creek as well, so we were shut out of fishing here too.

The main Crystal was also colored but moderately fishable but we tried anyway.  Even with the darker water, we caught a few nice rainbows in the Redstone area including one of the lunker sixteen inchers of a previous trip here.  Downstream the creek was even more off color and further attempts were fruitless.

8/20-21:  At 76 cubes the Spinney tailwater wasn't really running at a healthy level today.  It looks like many of the fish have exited the stream for the cooler waters of Elevenmile just below it.  Fishing from the lower parking area downstream with a wooly bugger was almost a complete bust - the first time I've seen this happen.  Two "annoyance strikes" were all we could get down there.

After driving to the middle lot it really didn't get much better.  A combination of hot midday sun and way too much vegetative growth in the water made for very difficult fishing of any type.  I tried everything.  Deep nymphing would probably have been the best approach, but the weeds made virtually every cast a hang-up experience.  Around 4:30 a dark cloud passed overhead and suddenly a head would peek up now and then.  Even though I couldn't see an active hatch in progress, a few fish did take the #18 gray bodied WRS.  Hoppers were worthless.  Trailing nymphs the same.

With a little success under my belt I went back to the car, had a light dinner, and assumed the evening might be great.  Wrong again.  All activity had ceased when we hit the water again and I released only a single extra fourteen inch rainbow.  We camped out for the night, but given the nature of the stream right now, opted to return to Buena Vista and try our luck on the Arkansas in that area.

It was decent fishing.  I however was not a decent fisherman.  While I probably released a good 15-18 small (under 13") browns, I guess I missed four to five times that many strikes.  Anyway it was decent action.  Fish took either the surface WRS or trailing pupa with equal vigor.

Stopping at the Granite SWA we've almost always had decent luck on nicer sized browns here.  Not today.  Only a couple of little peckerheads took the trailing pupa.  Another disappointment.  That was it for this trip as thunderstorms came on the scene around the noon hour.

This Friday we head back to the White - hopefully for some better action.

8/22-24:  It was a late arrival on the White Friday evening due to some work complications.  Sue & I hiked a short way downstream on our favorite water and enjoyed some very nice casting for a quick couple of hours.  Although no hatches were evident, clearly the thought of caddis for dinner remained in many trout minds.  Both the surface WRS and trailing pupa were enjoyed by a number of smaller fish.  The action was steady and with water and air temperatures just right, we probably released a couple dozen fish - all under fourteen inches and all rainbows.

Saturday morning we spent more time on a longer stretch of the same water.  Today it was pupa madness under sunnier midday skies.  A few fish took the surface imitation, but the majority didn't want to break the waters film.  Interestingly we also are picking up numbers of whitefish again after a long lull during the earlier summer periods.  Sue caught a couple of smaller browns - which species is still fairly rare this far upstream.  Both of us landed and/or played several fish in the 14-17 inch range and we both had some long separations from fish probably larger than that.

After lunch with storm clouds building we headed up towards Trapper's Lake with the thought of fishing the North Fork just below that wilderness area.  This stream drops very rapidly and offers limited holding water, but in one tiny eddy perhaps 3 feet by 5 feet by 2 feet deep, I actually had nine consecutive strikes, landing a couple of 12 inch bows and having a larger fish literally snap off the surface fly.  Amazing.

Upstream we had similar success right next to the road and probably released 15-18 fish in a rainstorm.  None were lunkers but we did have brooks and a couple of hybrid goldens mixed in with the rainbows.

Drove up into the flattops that night & camped out in the van again.  A massive thunderstorm dropped rain on us for a good four hours straight so we knew the following day would be a fishing disaster.  Heading over towards Yampa and back to Vail, we stopped at a small feeder tributary of that river and I released a few more tiny brook trout.  Continuing on to Glenwood we walked down to the Roaring Fork before happy hour and caught several browns in the shallow pocket water just above the Sunlight Bridge.  All of Sue's were good fish - in the fourteen to sixteen inch range.  Again most took the pupa.

8/27:  A trip to the Silverthorne factory stores to buy a couple new pair of running shoes offered our first opportunity this year to fish the smallish Ten Mile Creek between Copper Mountain & Frisco.  It's a very likable little stream that carries about the same flows as Gore Creek, but obviously it suffers the effects of some heavy metals due to the Climax Mine at its headwaters.

Had no success at all on this summer's standard setup of surface WRS and trailer pupa in the first couple of holes.   Replaced the WRS with a hopper pattern due to many of the latter in the grass along the bank.  It did help but mostly as an attractor to the pupa.  After that almost every piece of holding water gave up a small brown or two.  Eventually caught a gigantic twelve incher on the hopper, but most fish were in the 5-8 inch range.

For some reason the fish in this stream overwhelmingly prefer nymphs - even at these lower flows.  It's inexplicable, but true.

Last Logbook Entry  for previous day

8/29:  There were a dozen or so unhappy rainbows in Gore Creek this afternoon compliments of their willingness to be fooled by a little gray WRS.  A trailing nymph was ignored completely.  The upper golf course area was best followed by the Lionshead section.  The creek's in great shape; water temperatures are decently cool, and the fish are spooky, but active.  Largest was about 14 inches.


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