May, 2003

5/9-10:  As most of this month has gone, the weather has been brutally ugly.  We drove to Ft. Collins to have some vehicle work done, then headed up the Poudre in the hopes of enjoying just a little bit of time on that nice stream.  Not to be.  Snow blasted us from the time we left town, so we continued on to the Upper Colorado just below Byer's Canyon.

Got in late so didn't fish that night.  When we woke up the next morning with six new inches of snow on the vanagon, the river had blown out and was as dark as a mahogany dining room table.  Hope to try the Arkansas or Spinney tailwater around the 13th.  Please don't let it snow any more. 

5/13-14:  At the risk of becoming a terminal whiner it seems like we just can't catch any kind of break with weather issues.  This week we planned a trip to the middle Arkansas specifically by using the local forecast.  So when we arrived in Salida at the Ouray SWA around 11:00 that morning, clear skies brought high hopes of decent fishing for the famous spring caddis hatch.  Nope.  Not to be.

A "breeze" that in wind surfing parlance would be described as a "3.0" sail sized wind was driving downstream all the rest of the morning.  Any kind of upstream casting was out of the question.  Even getting a decent drift with a wooly bugger was close to impossible.  The bugger did work, however, and we released a half dozen fish in an hour or so of wading.

Apparently this wind is a real issue in Chaffee and Park Counties again this spring.  Last year the winds destroyed the snowpack before melt could add flow to the local rivers and that's happening again this year.  It's specific to this region.  The stream is in beautiful shape - low and clear and eminently fishable - except for the ever present wind.  I'll not come back here this season.  It's just too iffy a proposition to drive this far and run into the same old rotten conditions.

We drove back towards Buena Vista and stopped at the parking area for the "Champion" SWA.  This was another joke.  The lease water looks to be 400 yards long with perhaps a half dozen small boulders breaking up nothing but a long stretch of gravel.  What our wildlife people were smoking when they signed this lease should remain unmentioned.

Up Trout Creek Pass we again drove to Spinney Tailwater - hereinafter called "S11" since people keep asking whether or not we're talking about the tailwater or the impoundment.  The wind was down to "4.5" in windsurfing terms when we got there.  Fished the lower lot section for an hour.  Caught a half dozen nice sized cutthroats & rainbows on an olive bugger.

Drove to the upper, upper lot.  Walked the half mile to the river, fished for another hour, caught nothing and returned to the van.  Drove to the middle lot, walked to our favorite places and caught another half dozen mixed rainbows and browns on the same wooly bugger.  Still not having much fun.  Downstream winds for eight straight hours frankly stinks.

Here's a comment on a problem with S11 right now.  According to CDOW the flow's at 34 c.f.s.  That rate, I suspect, supports the life cycle of the inhabitants.  Unfortunately it also concentrates the fish in deep holes and makes the possibility of catching them infinitely more difficult.  My personal inclination is to not to return to this wonderful stretch of water until the flow rates gets well over 100.  It's just no fun to fish it at these levels.

Slept in the van.  Got up at 7 and nymphed in "light" downstream winds for an hour.  Released a half dozen rainbows & browns.  There was a modest midge hatch with emergers loafing in the foot or so below the surface film.  By 10 the "3.0" winds had returned to S11.  Gave up.  Drove to Buena Vista for lunch at the hamburger joint.  Wonderful old style hamburger and fries.  Drove down to River Park.  Walked downstream from the bridge and immediately began catching the smallish local browns on a combo rig of surface WRS and trailing caddis pupa.  Strikes were evenly split between the surface and bead head.

This was great!  Almost every pocket below the bridge yielded a strike or released fish.  In an hour we touched at least a dozen & a half wild browns.  Best part of the trip.

Next weekend we try the lower Gunnison and maybe make one more effort on the Frying Pan.

5/17-18:  It was a tossup whether we try the Gunnison or parts of the Frying Pan this weekend.  In the end the Pan won - not because it would be better fishing but because of the difficult lower Gunnison access right now.  Normally we'd drive to Paradise, ford the North Fork & then hike upstream on the main stem.  Right now the North is flowing at roughly 3000 cubes and obviously is impassible by wading.

So despite the inevitable combat fishing that would exist on the F.P., that stream got the nod.  When we started looking at the water on the lower river, we noticed that it was up to roughly 155 c.f.s. which is slightly high for conventional nymphing or dry fly casting.  Also it was mildly off color which actually is a good thing due to the spooky nature of these fish.  Had no success trying nymphs in the first couple of spots, and with zero hatches going on, switched to wooly buggers.

They proved easier to work in the faster water and were also more attractive to a few browns & rainbows here and there.  By noon we had probably released a dozen fish and stopped at the dam to watch the REAL combat fishermen at work.  It's almost hilarious to see these people shoulder to shoulder casting patiently for some of the pickiest trout in the universe.

On the off chance that the flow into Ruedi Reservoir might be slightly fishable we drove past that impoundment and headed a few more miles up the upper Pan.  It was more or less fruitless as runoff is ongoing and very strong.  Tried buggers in a couple of slower, deeper holes with no success and then took a nap in the van.  Heading back downstream I noticed a handful of cars parked across from the most upper portion of the lake.  Then stopped & saw the occupants of those vehicles obviously sitting and worming at the inlet to the lake.

Since they'd all taken the shorter, easier way to the fishing spot, we opted to park & hike a mile or so to get to the opposite side and had no one near us when we started casting.  Fishing was great!  The trout had clearly moved up into the tail of the inlet flow and were apparently feeding madly on whatever happened to be coming downstream.  The catching wasn't instantaneous, but I suspect we had strikes on every four casts or so.  Rainbows all this afternoon; not large - perhaps 10-14 inches, but the fish seemed in good shape and fought well.

Thinking to revisit this spot again the next morning we camped at a pulloff slightly upstream and then after breakfast, made our way back down early on Sunday.  It was a bit slower at first, but when the rain finally stopped, the action improved again.  Same kind of rainbow action and one nice surprise - a sixteen inch lake trout of all things.  Don't know if I've ever caught one of those before.

A # 8 olive rabbit bugger was the best color, but fish took black, yellow, and a hot orange cone headed green bugger as well.  All in all a very nice experience, particularly given the fact that almost every other river in the state is blown out with runoff.

Last Logbook Entry  for previous days

5/26:  With runoff in full bloom our only alternative for a little bit of casting today was the golf course pond here in Vail.  It turned out to be fun for an hour or so.  Fish were rising steadily to some form of midge, but I tied on a leading #18 WRS and trailed it with a smallish BLM nymph.

Almost immediately began catching 6-8 inch brookies.  Most took the surface fly, but then a 12 inch brown inhaled the nymph for a fun fight.  Until it began raining which forced us to cover I suspect we played 15-18 fish all together.  Most were the immature brookies, but it was nice just to be out and throwing a fly around.

It's interesting that the best tactic seemed to that of using a fairly slow hand twist retrieve as opposed to simply letting the fly sit on the surface.


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