7/29-8/1: Hi-Ho Silver! Once again we were off to Frontier Days in Cheyenne for an afternoon of watching the bull riding from directly behind the chutes, and then we drove into the Wyoming wilderness for some (hopefully) great fishing. The rodeo was more pleasant year due to the presence of a large thunderstorm cloud that kept the sun at bay during the hottest part of the day.
After the show we struck off on I-80 late in the afternoon, drove through Laramie, and then camped in the woods off the scenic byway through the Snowy Range. Our intent was to fish some of the high mountain lakes the next morning, but with very cold temperatures and brutal winds, we opted to pass on that masochistic idea and instead drove on to Riverside and the Encampment River parking area.
Despite our previous lack of success three years ago on this pretty little stream we felt it was worth a second chance. So we set off on a 2-3 mile hike up the canyon and began fishing any decent looking runs or holes.
The results actually weren't quite as ugly as on our previous trip. Most of the deeper runs produced one or more smallish browns. We pretty much stuck to a #18 surface WRS trailed by some type of nymph. I used an unweighted prince and Sue shifted back & forth between various pupa and smaller stones. Most fish still came to the floating pattern. All the browns were twelve inches or less. I also released a small rainbow and Sue did the same with a little brookie.
Eventually too much walking between acceptably good fishing areas wore down our patience, and we headed back to the van in the early afternoon. At the parking lot a very nice BLM lady offered the suggestion that we might enjoy the undeveloped camping at the Bennet Peak wildlife area and have a try at that part of the North Platte. It sounded like a decent idea, so we headed over there by taking the French Creek Road just four miles past Riverside.
Arriving at the lower parking area late in the afternoon I had a chance to get out on the river for a few casts before dinner. It was pretty much a bust as the stream was very flat and with low flows offered little in the way of holding water. Finally released a ten inch brookie that took an olive wooly bugger and that was it for the day.
The next morning we walked from our camp-in-the-woods a mile or so down to the Bennet Peak camp area. That campground is a pay-to-stay area so we avoided it as we do all such fee campgrounds. It's much more pleasant to have no other people around particularly when we have to run around naked while taking the daily sun shower before happy hour.
From my perspective the North Platte in this part of Wyoming is a really odd beast. The river is very wide and flat. There's wonderful aquatic vegetation on the river bed - reminiscent of that on the Green below Flaming Gorge. Large numbers of fry worked the banks everywhere we looked. There was an incredible variety of insect life with a new hatch type going on every hour. We saw different stones, caddis, various mayflies, tricos, terrestrials, and other unnamed bugs.
And having said that, my personal opinion is that this is not a particularly good fishing stream - at least when the flow is at summer levels. The lack of decent holding zones simply doesn't allow numbers of larger fish any place to safely hide from their enemies. In fact I would guess that the two miles of river we walked this morning had only four or five short sections that could support decent sizes of trout. I don't have a clue what must happen to the multitudes of juvenile trout that sit everywhere along the banks, but they must either must fall prey to any number of predators or out migrate when the flow diminishes.
We caught very few fish despite trying every fly in the box. Eventually I took a beautiful 16-18 inch rainbow from a moderately deep (two feet), faster run and had a number of strikes from similar sized fish. Sue landed a brookie and we both had several more strikes, but the lack of protected holding areas clearly provide few opportunities for decent sized fish to exist. One hole being plumbed repeatedly by a guide and his client did yield good numbers of fish, but on balance this is not a part of the Platte I'd consider visiting again.
We left this river after lunch, headed back South down the highway towards Colorado and turned off on a Forest Service road that was supposed to lead to the confluence of the various forks of Big Creek - a stream we'd previously fished just off the highway (with no success). The road is not an easy one to traverse, especially for our tank sized vanagon, but eventually we arrived at a bridge crossing the South Fork of Big Creek.
Drove a bit further down the jeep road and started fishing this very willow lined tributary that perhaps runs at 5-8 c.f.s. Boy was it fun. Despite the difficult casting conditions and several lost flies, the scrappy little browns were just wonderful to catch. They were completely innocent compared to their brighter cousins on more heavily fished streams. Best of all a good holding area would contain multiple numbers of fish as opposed to the solitary individuals one finds elsewhere browns dominate the water.
Sue had a ball, as did I. It was so much more fun than what we'd had earlier in the day on the Platte that there was no comparison.
The perfect holding zones were a bend in the creek with a deep hole beneath an overhanging willow. The fish held anywhere in the faster water near this type of structure.
Eventually we drove the jeep road down to the confluence of all three forks and tried our hand there. The Middle Fork had the most water, but neither of us had so much as a strike here. The North Fork simply had too little flow to be fishable, and we did catch a few more browns in the South Fork. Even the main stem of Big Creek provided no success for us as it - like the Platte - had little holding cover for fish in this part of that stream.
After spending a nice night in some lodgepoles across the road by the South Fork we had a nice breakfast and another hour of good dry fly fishing before heading back into Colorado and home.
8/3: Before the heart of today's thunderstorm hit, I had the chance to get out on my "Western" section of Gore Creek for an hour of casting. This home water is pretty much at optimum levels right now, but the fish still aren't overly active in the middle of the day. No hatches and intermittent bright sunlight kept them close to the bottom.
Still I probably tweaked the mouths of a good dozen fish in various pools and runs and missed roughly that many other strikes. Also had one very nice 14-16 inch brown separate the tippet from the leader on a vicious strike, so that was fun. Used a #18 darker WRS in front and trailed a #18 unweighted prince behind. Fish were more interested in the floater but hooked up better to the nymph.
8/6-8: The dog days are upon us. This was a Glenwood Springs area fishing weekend - and not good fishing it was. Got on the Roaring Fork around 2:30 on Friday, walked down to the riverside park and began combo dry/nymph casting upstream and in the pockets. One six inch brown to the #16 WRS was it. Changed to a deep stone & buckskin rig and labored with trying long upstream casts to deep, swift runs casting off handed and was completely miserable. For me casting off handed is fine with something light at the end of the leader, but these heavy rigs are murder to work.
One three pound whitefish was my reward.
Went out again after dinner between 6-8:00 and had many more strikes on the surface but landed only one sixteen inch hen rainbow. Missed at least a dozen good strikes by not being able to see the fly on the water. Hatches are very sparse, even at sunset. A few caddis began ovipositing around 7:30 and there were a few sallies about.
Saturday morning Sue & I tried a new section near Westbank Ranch and had only a couple of strikes for our efforts. Did some work about the condo through the rest of the day and did another repeat in the evening as with the prior day. Even fewer bugs in the air this night, and the only fish landed was a twelve inch brown.
The Fork is simply too low & clear right now to be fishable anywhere but on the absolute bottom during daylight hours and frankly, I'm not sure I'll fish it again anywhere until air temperatures go down substantially.
Thank heavens, however, for the Crystal. We spend a good three hours on that pretty little stream in the middle of the day Sunday and had very nice success. The fish initially took only small prince's or pupa's on the bottom, but by noon were coming up to a #18 gray bodied WRS with regularity.
Every stop we made produced fish in varying numbers. None were particularly good sized - my best was a slender, probably not very healthy, fourteen inch rainbow. 90% of the rest of the releases were smaller rainbows with a smattering of whiteys and a cutthroat or two. The river's in perfect wading condition and is not even nominally as slammed as is the Frying Pan just a few miles away from here.
8/12: Back to the Colorado by State Bridge - and what a surprise was in store for us. Apparently water calls are now being made from the reservoirs on the upper river, and the stream was, while not quite raging, certainly much higher than we'd seen this summer.
Hoping that our favorite braid was now full of brown trout, the dog & I did the mile hike upstream to that spot and were disappointed to find the flow way too fast for fish to hold in this nice spot. Hooked only a small rainbow on a black woolly bugger that was almost as long as the fish itself. Along the way we did cast a dry fly and nymph by the bank and played probably a dozen smallish browns. Nothing was over a foot long. The nasty downstream wind played a big part in our lack of success. It's just very difficult (for me) to throw a combo rig into tight pockets when the wind's blowing and swirling more or less directly into my face.
There were no observable hatches while we were on the water today. Used a #18 gray bodied WRS trailed by a #18 bead head prince. Most fish took the floater, but on balance, it was a bit disappointing fishing.
8/14: With Sue walking the dog through the Saturday Minturn Farmer's Market, I had a chance to wade & fish the Eagle in that same town for about a half hour. The stream's at low summer level right now, and the fish are hiding near or under any structure they can find, but the casting was productive.
The small browns in this heavy metal impacted water responded nicely to a #18 gray bodied WRS, and a couple took the same sized trailing prince. Twenty minutes of casting produced 6-8 fish to hand and probably twice that many missed strikes. All the fish were under twelve inches, but the activity was continuous and a very pleasant alternative to shopping.
8/17: Absolutely amazing fishing on the Eagle lease water today. While the precise section the dog & I fished needs to remain a mystery, it's worth commenting that the trout - especially rainbows - are now concentrated in faster riffle and pocket water. Stacked up might be a better term. The stream's very low right now and temperatures are warm, but not for the fish, dangerously so as of yet.
We obviously also got lucky on choice of fly rig as a #18 gray bodied WRS trailed by a #16 or 18 bead head prince worked perfectly. When the flow was heavier, I simply tied on a bushier WRS for better flotation.
It was virtually nonstop activity. Eventually we felt sorry for the fish and clipped off the hook and continued to TAG fish. Don't know how many were played or released, but it was a bunch. 90% were rainbows - mostly in the 12-14 inch range, the balance being similar sized browns. Truly an outstanding couple of hours of casting. Tomorrow we may try the "Land that time forgot" water on the Eagle closer to Vail. With a population of mostly browns it's unlikely we'll have similar success on that part of the river.
8/20-22: Relentless thunderstorms blew out the local rivers and kept us off the "forgotten" brown trout water near Vail, but Friday afternoon the dog & I loaded up the van, picked up Sue in Glenwood, and we all headed back to our favorite trout stream in the state. We were able to rig up and start wading by 3:30 and then enjoyed two wonderful hours of casting on this river.
Flows are still decently strong, and even with an almost complete absence of visible hatches, we caught plenty of the local rainbows on both the surface WRS and trailing prince or pupa nymphs. Before another thunderstorm blew us off the river, I suspect we played a good thirty fish between us. A single cutthroat for Sue was the only other species besides the dominant rainbows and whitefish that we returned to the water. Sizes were probably down a bit from earlier in the year, but I did get lucky and landed one of what we call a "Henry's strain" rainbow of almost 20 inches and several pounds in weight.
Here's the story on that "strain". About four miles upstream from where we were fishing is an elegant private resort and long stretch of the North Fork owned by Henry Kravis. He periodically stocks his water with oversized, massively bodied rainbows - Lahontan's? - we just don't know. Obviously some of these wonderful fish migrate into the adjoining public water and provide extraordinary opportunities for us peons to enjoy his largess. And that we do.
The following morning, mostly because of bad weather overnight and with more in the offing for this day, we drove to the South Fork trailhead and once again headed up that stream where we had previously not fared particularly well. This time instead of hiking strictly along the trail where it left the river, we got into the streambed and bushwhacked our way all the way up the river. Despite somewhat lower flows, it still was tough going in places, but our efforts were rewarded with much better success than on our earlier trip.
Although this fairly flat stretch of stream offers limited holding areas, where deeper runs and holes existed, the fish did too. Same rig as we used yesterday brought strikes to both types of fly. Sue caught one whitey and all the rest were rainbows. Nothing was over fourteen inches although we suspect that some larger versions must lurk in the deeper holding areas. As with the previous day, thunderstorms passed through while we fished, but with good Patagonia outerwear, we stayed nice & dry.
Leaving the trail just after noon we headed back to our favorite part of the main stem, and with Sue concentrating on crossword puzzles, I had another couple of hours to enjoy the upper section of our nice water. Once again it was outstanding fishing - both on the surface and below. And once again, I lucked into another Henry's strain - this one only about sixteen inches however. Probably played a good 20-25 other fish too.
As it was still early afternoon when I finished up, we decided to take a look at the Marvine Creek drainage, so drove to the day use parking area at the confluence of the East & West Forks. These tiny streams drop like rockets, are terribly overgrown and make conventional casting almost impossible. Sue got to practice her bow & arrow cast, while I made do by "trolling" the fly in some tiny eddies. There actually were numbers of smaller, but very strong fish in all the decent holding spots, but neither of us landed any despite hooking several.
Sunday morning we cooked delicious huevos "van"cheros before taking one more shot at our favorite part of the main stream. The huevos were the most productive part of this day's activities, as the sun shone brightly for the first time in three days, and the trout completely disappeared. It was brutally tough fishing. I finally changed to an olive wooly bugger, dredged it in deeper holes, and after missing a few tentative strikes, finally played and released one fat eighteen inch bow. Sue avoided her skunk at the upper part of the run by playing four or five fish in a shallow riffle. A nice trico hatch occurred towards the end of our wade, but those tiny flies brought nothing to the surface.
8/25-27: The dog & I took a roundabout trip to Applejack's in Denver via the Poudre in Northern Colorado. Fall seems to have arrived already - probably a month earlier than I would have requested. As we drove up the middle Colorado past Kremmling and Parshall, the wind howled and gray skies threatened rain at any moment. On a whim we stopped at a deep part of Byer's Canyon & did the steep hike to the boulder strewn section of that river. Formerly large rainbow trout water, it now harbors a modest population of smaller browns. Throwing buggers in the deeper pockets brought a number of slashing strikes but no fish to hand to release.
Pulled off again at the edge of Hot Sulphur Springs and yanked the bugger along the bank across from the town's campground. Better luck here, I was able to release three twelve inch browns & missed another handful of strikes.
We continued on to Rand and across the dirt road to the highway leading to the pass above the headwaters of the Poudre. Just over the top we pulled off at the Zimmerman Lake parking area and did the mile or so hike to this restricted greenback cutthroat lake. Unfortunately there was no insect activity so floating flies did no good, nor did streamers and for the first time we were shut out here. Out of curiosity we hiked to the tiny outlet stream and lo & behold, in the six inch deep, two foot wide outlet below a culvert were about 15 cuts from four to ten inches in length. What a nice find. Dapping the WRS into this pod of fish I released three before deciding it was unethical to fish that way any longer.
Again out of curiosity, we decided to try to follow the outlet downhill to see where it led. More tiny pools brought more strikes, and eventually the stream began to drop precipitously - the obvious reason the wildlife people chose this lake to be purely populated by the endangered greenback. There was no way anything could possible migrate up the several waterfalls we passed on the descent to Joe Wright reservoir.
Next stop was supposed to be Chambers Lake, but with the wind whipping the water to a froth, we passed on that idea and continued our drive down the upper part of the Laramie River as it headed towards Wyoming. Shortly after passing the confluence of the West Branch we found a nice camping area and pulled off for the night. I spooked a couple of small fish from under the bank, but the casting was very difficult and produced no strikes. The dog, however, enjoyed his glass of Ch. de Fontenille Bordeaux Clairet along the bank while I fished.
In the morning we retraced our drive uphill past Chambers and then headed down the highway along the Poudre toward Fort Collins.
Shortly we stopped at the confluence of the Big South - which tributary is probably three times the flow of the main Poudre. While we didn't hike the trail into the wilderness area, I suspect the upper Big South just might be outstanding fishing due to its isolation and very strong flows. It was fascinating that the casting even in the campground was very good for smaller browns. And downstream it was even better. This early in the morning I was surprised that the trout preferred a #18 surface WRS to any trailing nymph. No complaints when that's the case.
We made several more stops on the quality wild fish water on the upper part of the stream and enjoyed very good success everywhere. The casting was terribly difficult due to fierce winds, cold temperatures, and racing clouds. Had we been able to place the flies more carefully, I suspect even better results would have been the case. It's hard to categorize exactly what the primary holding water was, although where the stream flattened out, the deeper runs clearly were favored.
The only change in fly selection was to the trailing nymph. An antenna pupa was probably better received than either a conventional prince or a brown winged one, but fish still preferred the #18 surface WRS by an order of magnitude.
Camped above Rustic Wednesday night and did the short drive to Red Feather Lakes. What a joke that place is. Too much development, private lakes, etc. will keep us from every returning there.
This morning the weather turned even more sour & cold. We fished for a couple of hours, but when the third thunder shower had closed in on us, we left the water for good.
The Poudre's definitely a nice fishing stream with many more miles of water worth exploring. While none of the many browns and fewer rainbows we released were over fourteen inches, there certainly are enough trout available to keep any caster happy for many days.
8/30: Our local browns are clearly in a feeding mood anticipating the nearness of spawning season. The dog & I did our annual hike and wade of a part of the Eagle we've christened the "Land that time forgot" because it's so relatively accessible, yet receives relatively little fishing pressure.
With low flows many pockets that are unavailable earlier in the year can easily be reached. Used a setup of floating # 18 gray or green bodied WRS and trailed it with a #18 antenna pupa. Both flies worked great. It was surprising so many fish came to the surface given the completely clear day with bright sunshine.
We caught all kinds of fish - all were browns mainly between 6-10 inches with a couple of 12's and one 14. At the last big pool at the end of the wade I suspect every fish the flies passed over took a swipe at one or the other. Just amazing fishing in this pool that gets heavy pressure from wormers as well as guides. Played fifteen fish in this hole alone and missed another dozen strikes. An outstanding experience that took only two hours out of the afternoon.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous day
8/31: Somewhat disappointing fishing on the lower Piney River this afternoon. We caught a couple of smallish browns on the Colorado on our way up to the mouth of the Piney, but with that latter stream running at only 21 cubes and fairly warm besides, the fish seemed to either be hiding from the sun or had run out into the bigger river to escape the heat.
Used only a #18 gray WRS on the surface as the stream is too shallow to even bother with a nymph. Many good looking holding areas appeared to hold no fish at all - at least it seemed that way.
The strikes that did come were extremely sharp and quick suggesting the fish were very uneasy with the bright sky conditions. Did play about ten trout - all rainbows - the best of which were nice twelve and fourteen inch hens, but the rest were all in the 6-8 inch range.
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