6/2-5: All I can say to anyone reading this who might be planning a fishing trip to Lake Powell in the immediate future is to "fugetahboutit". If you just want a getaway into sun & fun & maybe some sight seeing & water skiing, fine, but the water is so out of shape that the fishing's impossibly bad - for the first time in my memory.
We arrived at the Stanton Creek primitive camping area just after noon on Thursday and were greeted by extraordinary winds that completely prevented us from even thinking about launching the kayak. Paddling was out of the question in the white capped waves that swept the space between Bullfrog Bay and Hall's Crossing. The winds persisted through the night, but when we awoke Friday morning, more bad news greeted us in the form of a series of thunderstorms that blasted down from the North and drenched us for a solid four hours.
Eventually later in the afternoon we were able to hop in the boat & paddle around a bit, but the water is completely murky from this spring's massive runoff from the mountains. Chocolate milk color would be the best way I could describe it. We've never seen the runoff color carried this far downstream into the lake and I have no idea how far the off color persists. Perhaps it's not so bad as one closes on Glen Canyon Dam, but based on the daily volume increases, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes another 2-3 weeks for the turbidity to settle out and make the fishing at least mildly productive.
The only real excitement we had on the trip was when we noticed a large, very expensive houseboat apparently unoccupied drifting to our side of the channel. Sure enough it came to rest on a gentle mud flat near our camp, so we headed over to it, checked for persons on board, and noticing no one about, were able to contact the 911 service of the National Park System and report the incident.
About a half hour later a rescue boat from Hall's arrived and towed the boat back home. It was fortunate they picked it up as quickly as they did since the following day's thunderstorms would have reversed this boat's drift and it would have been driven back into the anchored group of boats across the bay with very costly damage a likelihood.
We paddled to our normal trolling areas that afternoon and the following morning with absolutely no success whatsoever. It's simply impossible for fish to find a lure - or fly - right now and probably will stay that way for a while.
At the terminus of one of the arms we did exit the boat and tried some shore casting with streamers and suspended nymphs. Eventually by casting to some of the carp that were periodically swimming close to the surface, by leading them a few feet, I did hook one and had another strike, as did Sue, but that was truly all we had in the way of action for this long weekend at the lake.
The water still seems to be rising at a rate of 8-18 inches a day - which is substantial - and from looking at our local mountain rivers on the way back home, I'd guess runoff surely will continue at this rate for another three weeks to a month. At least the added water is healthy for the lake and gives us all some hope that we'll be refilling this great big body of water in the next few years.
In the meantime it looks like our next week's fishing expedition will either have to be to a local tailwater or a stillwater. Nothing else around here is even vaguely fishable.
6/9-10: The dates were supposed to read 6/9-12, but as seems to be the case almost every week this year, our relentlessly abominable weather brought an early end to the trip. We weighed the options of either heading to the upper Colorado and possibly the North Park stillwaters or another return to the middle Arkansas & possible the South Platte tailwaters. The latter seemed a better choice as some reports indicated that the Ark. was running somewhat high but quite clear.
So after loading the kayak atop the Element, we headed out on this next adventure early Thursday morning. Drove to Leadville, filled the food basket, and then continued a short distance South of town, pulling off at the Hayden Meadows SWA. Only a couple other cars were present and we had our favorite stretch to ourselves. Unfortunately it really wasn't all that productive. Flow rates through this area were simply too high to make reasonable casts to the limited structure available. Used an up & down rig of a #16 WRS and trailing reverse prince. Eventually I did release 3-4 browns in the 10-12 inch range and played but lost a beautiful sixteen incher of the same species though overall the action really was very slow for this particular piece of water.
Stopped further downstream at the Twin Lakes tailwater and had on only a single ten inch rainbow. Again big releases from the system prevented access to the best water. Next stop was at a favorite part of the Granite SWA, but here we were completely shut out. Just too much flow even for weighted streamers.
At Buena Vista we gassed up and turned up the Cottonwood Pass road intending to visit Cottonwood Lake and possibly the stream above & below it.
Really bad weather now started rearing its ugly head and after we'd turned up the South Fork & finished the short ten mile drive, huge downstream winds and a driving rain greeted us. Launching the boat was impossible so I tried the inlet stream. It's quite pretty though I suspect in the summer this place gets heavily pounded, being so close to town as it is.
But slipping a black wooly bugger under a brush pile brought a wonderful sixteen inch brown to the hook - even though not landed, it was fun finding such a nice fish in such relatively tiny water. Changing to the previously described Hayden Meadows rig, I was able to land a few more smallish brooks & browns before the wind & rain drove us off this stream.
Headed towards Buena Vista we went and turned off on the back road to Princeton Hot Springs and Chalk Creek. Very pretty country over here although the runoff again made fishing this stream very difficult. Where I finally was able to find a tiny piece of relatively calm holding water the fishing was decent. A good half dozen small browns fell to the same up & down rig.
Both South Cottonwood and Chalk are running summer clear right now, but both need to drop substantially before the fishing will really get decent (and easier).
Since we'd planned to boat fish Spinney Reservoir the next morning we headed up Trout Creek Pass and drove all the way to the Spinney tailwater upper parking area where we camped for the night. Walked down to the stream for a half hour or so after dinner, but had zero success (one strike) on a streamer. Apparently this tailwater is now running at about 81 cubes, but my personal opinion is that it's just not worth wasting time on at the moment. The fish that remain are sullen, and the water level really needs to be three times this flow for a quality environment for the trout.
Next morning three thunderstorms raged by us before I could even roll out of the sack around 8:15. Truly ugly weather. We drove across the dam & with maybe 40 knot winds from the East, didn't give a modest consideration to trying to launch the boat. Walked around the South end of the dam throwing a bugger into the froth and had not a lick of success. Gave up after a half hour.
Up the Spinney inlet stream we drove pulling off at an unoccupied entry to this part of the Platte. Fishing here proved quite decent. The CDOW has done extensive structural renovations to the streambed and this work may finally be paying off. There aren't lots of fish, but there are a few decent ones - assuming we understand that decent means 12-13 inches.
Caught a good half dozen mostly browns in the 10-14 inch range here - happily mostly on the surface fly despite cloudy water and runoff sized flows. Another nasty lightning storm drove us running from the water. We headed back to Hartsel, ate a quick junk food lunch, and waited for the storm to pass. Then we fished our favorite water near that little town & had very nice success - this time almost entirely on the soft hackle reverse prince.
A few decent (12") rainbows were in the mix too.
Last stop of the trip was further upstream towards the turnoff to Fairplay and here too, I'd guess having a good dozen fish on or released. Same size rainbows & browns. All in all, this probably wasn't too bad a trip, but given the wind, hail, rain, and yes, a couple of inches of snow we had to deal with, please Mother Nature, it's really time for summer to happen.
Next week looks like a return to the Green as reports of the Cicada hatch beginnings are showing up on the web. I love that bug!
6/12: A heavy rainstorm cut our pre-breakfast run short today. With difficult weather predicted throughout the day we took a chance around 10 in the morning and drove the short distance up to Vail Pass and gave Lower Black Lake a quick try with a streamer. One specific area here always yields a handful or so of nice rainbows early in the season and today was no exception. In the space of less than ten minutes I had a good dozen strikes and released probably half that many plump rainbows sized from 10-15 inches.
The rest of the morning was a complete bust. Walked and cast all the way around the East Shore of the lower lake and then near the inlet to the upper with not even a hint of another strike. At the end a ferocious snow squall blew through and drove us to the shelter of the car. Hopefully Mother Nature will relent somewhat when we head to the Green next Wednesday.
6/14-16: With all my work caught up and visions of a few hours on the Frying Pan in mind, the dog & I left Vail early Tuesday morning, drove to Glenwood and then up the Pan to our regular starting hole. Interestingly the flows were up nearly fifty percent from our last trip here and it definitely impacted the fishing - somewhat negatively from my personal standpoint. Had absolutely no strikes at all in this big pool despite using more weight to get the flies deeper in the water column.
We continued on upstream and with virtually every other of our favorite locations already occupied, we continued up to the tailwater just below the dam. And boy is it tough fishing too. These fish have seen everything on earth thrown at them and they are as finicky as it's possible for a fish to be.
Turned a number of nice rainbows on a #22 comparadun but no strikes after working the first run. Then by sneaking under some overhanging willows on another run, finally found a few trout somewhat more willing to accept the offerings and released a handful of modest browns and rainbows - all under twelve inches. Not a lot of success in an area that has some really good sized lunkers waiting for the right presentation.
On the off chance that Ruedi reservoir had not yet filled we drove above the dam and up to the inlet area. It was evident along the way that we were probably 45 days late to enjoy the migration of the lake based trout population to the inlet to enjoy early season feeding caused by the mountain runoff.
We tried a couple of spots on the river just above the lake, but even though the color was fine, there's just too much water coming down still to make that section fishable at this time. Caught a couple of small browns on an attractor WRS and that was about it.
Down by the entrance to the lake itself, after having strikes on several successive casts with a wooly bugger, it was obvious that the DOW had recently stocked a bunch of rainbows for the visiting spin fishermen to yank out, so I clipped the hook & barb off a streamer and continued to TAG fish until I had hopefully at least started to educate a few of these "pilgrims" that they need to be a bit wary of gifts presented by fisher persons.
Wednesday morning it was once again off to the Green. For what seems the first time this year, the weather actually looked promising with forecasts of 80 degree temperatures predicted. Given the fact that I'd just started a rare and definitely unwanted summer cold, the possibility of burning out that cold in the sun was even more appealing.
We arrived at the Spillway just after 12:30, rigged up a streamer for the walk downstream and got on the river shortly thereafter. What a shock to see 4,000 cubes running through this section that normally goes for about 8-900. River bottom vegetation had stabilized so there wasn't a problem of fouling the hook, but the fishing was gruesome most of this afternoon. Although our historical experience with high spring releases here has generally been very favorable, this time around it was mostly a big negative.
With 48 degree water coming from the bottom of the dam it appeared that regular hatches were completely shut down. Even worse the fish that normally could be sight cast to near the bank were now sullenly sitting deep in the water flow. I've really never seen anything like it. The local guide service - Trout Creek Flies - which offers a good online report was indicating that conditions were pretty marginal, and I'd have to agree that they were accurate in that assessment.
I continued to cast the streamer for a couple of miles of downstream hiking and had only one brown & a handful of other "annoyance" strikes to show for the effort. Changed rigs a number of times eventually releasing maybe a handful of browns & rainbows this afternoon, but on balance it was pretty discouraging. Even going very deep with double nymphs of all sizes in eddies where fish clearly were active, produced little in the way of success.
After finishing up at the dam we drove to Little Hole, had a quick dinner and then tried more casting in the upper part of "B". This too was pretty much a bust. Caught three smallish rainbows on a #14 rubber legged WRS, but decent sized fish were nowhere to be found.
Thursday morning we broke camp, drove again to Little Hole, and prepped for the long upstream hike we usually do. I guess it was indicative of the predicted lack of quality fishing that found us the first car in the parking lot at 8:30, and we really had very little competition on the water throughout the day.
The high releases created a couple of other problems that we hope to avoid in the future by avoiding coming here under these conditions. First, with water levels fluctuating daily up to three feet along the bank, the shore becomes incredibly slippery to navigate. There's green slime on all the rocks and the gray mud along the bank makes walking close to the stream almost impossible. Secondly with these relatively high flows, the willows beside the water are now in the water which makes control of the drift of the line very difficult. Tangles with brush are frequent and irritating.
Probably the most depressing issue was that there were zero cicadas about. Apparently the previous week's bitter temperatures (+ snow) had driven our favorite bug back into the depths of the ground.
On a positive note! The fishing in this part of "A" was far better than what we experienced yesterday.
Am not entirely sure how to account for this, but the character of the river from the mid point of this seven mile stretch to Little Hole is much different. It flows quicker and drops more, making for better eddies and other kinds of holding water.
Particularly early in the day, the fish seemed to be holding higher in the water columns and they were far more focused on the surface. I'm also guessing that the water had warmed somewhat as it moved this far downstream since we did see some signs of modest stone hatches and some limited mayfly activity.
Everything we caught today came to a surface fly - which flew in the face of local recommendations. After messing around with various combinations, the best pattern seemed to be a size 18 or 20 dark bodied WRS. Don't have a clue what it imitated but apparently it was generically enough appealing that the fish found it relatively edible. The second best choice was that old favorite #20 comparadun which always seems to work well here.
So statistically here's roughly what we did today. I'd estimate 18-20 fish released, mostly browns, with one cut and several rainbows. Nothing was really large, but a fat sixteen inch brown was the best of the bunch. This is not a great success rate for the river but certainly enough to keep me pretty happy.
When we finished up around 1:30 in the afternoon the fish were already leaving the shore areas and heading for deeper water to get out of the sun. That behavior is consistent with what we've experienced on previous summer trips here.
Our intent had been to spend another night here in the mountains and then drive the next morning to Steinaker reservoir to make another try for what are purported to be some of the largest bluegills in the country. Since we got off the stream so early in the afternoon we instead made the drive in the afternoon back to that lake near Vernal and tried some casting off the bluffs near the main highway. Zero success. I think we'd need some local knowledge and probably a boat to get to these sunfish.
So on we went to our next planned stop - Rio Blanco reservoir - near Meeker. Had hoped to shore fish this lake for the resident bass & bluegills, but as we got rigged up, the local mosquito population found us very popular, so we hopped back in the car and drove all the way back home, arriving late in the evening. Not the greatest of trips, but sure better than sitting on the sofa all day long.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous day
6/29-30: This two day trip was done more or less as a research project. With stream levels still overly high pretty much everywhere to allow any wade fishing, we needed to check out a different part of the state and also test a couple of stillwaters that purportedly are producing quite well. The dog & I took off to Silverthorne, gassed up and then drove down the Blue to the Ute Pass turnoff & headed over towards the inlet to Williams Fork reservoir. The stream itself running into that lake is still running too high to fish.
We drove to a fishermen's pulloff near the inlet, rigged up a wooly bugger & hiked down to the shore to see if any fish were still near the banks. Lo & behold, after about five minutes of casting I landed & released a beautiful fat bodied rainbow of roughly 18-19 inches. Maybe ten minutes later a Northern pike of perhaps 24 inches came to hand. It's worth noting that the pike was lip hooked which meant the 3X tippet worked this time around. Several times later it did not. Unhappily I had no camera at the time so both fish were lost for posterity. Spent about a long hour at this shoreline and had a couple more fish on & a couple other strikes but nothing else to hand.
So we left the lake & drove down to Highway 40, turned right & aimed for Granby. The upper Colorado through this stretch is still too high to wade, and after a quick snack, we drove up the road towards Rocky Mountain Park and Grand Lake. Before coming to either of those places we turned off on the Willow Creek reservoir road and took a look at that body of water. Too much wind and too many restrictions around the dam for us to try any casting here, but we did park downstream from the dam and tried some casts on the ugly tailwater with no sign of a fish. I suspect this tailwater runs completely dry at times which would explain why we saw no sign of any fish life.
Then it was on towards Grand Lake. We made several side trips trying to find a tributary stream that might be fishable but found only private property below the lakes in this area.
After a whole series of false starts we finally drove into the park itself and pulled off at one of the early access points for this part of the upper Colorado. It's really a beautiful smallish stream, but the flow is extremely strong up here too. The 200 c.f.s. at which it appears to be moving is several times the normal summer rate. Tried a number of approaches as we walked the s-curves in these meadows. No dry/nymph combo worked, nor did any double nymph setup. There simply is very little holding water. The undercut banks where the trout normally hide are swept by the currents. Eventually I tied on a heavy olive wooly bugger and began having a bit of success.
The only places trout appeared to be able to hold were a few deep eddies, and in those places we got a decent number of strikes. Connected on some small brookies, decent rainbows (12-14 inches) and hooked a couple of browns in that fourteen inch range. Tried to shoot a couple of pictures, but every time as I fumbled with the camera, the fish popped off.
As I rounded one bend, I came up short & held my breath as I saw a cow moose feeding downstream - and upwind - from us. Grabbed the dog & headed in the opposite direction as quickly and quietly as we could and barely got a hundred feet or so away before the cow's calf gave a bellow. Fortunately we must have been far enough away from them to not find us threatening. I'm not sure which I'd rather run into - a grizzly with a cub or a moose and her calf. Either would be very dangerous.
Drove back towards Granby Lake and finally found the turnoff to the tailwater of Shadow Mountain. Again the stream's running way too hot here, but we did find a couple of places to hook rainbows on the bugger and then a bit later on either a #16 WRS or an antenna pupa. There was a nice caddis hatch in progress. Just below the reservoir hooked another couple of nice browns in the sixteen inch range.
Had to bypass one stretch of stream as it was closed for the summer to let this osprey family enjoy some peace and quiet. When the water levels drop sufficiently, it will be fun to walk the whole part of the Colorado between Shadow Mountain and Granby Lake.
Debated driving up Stillwater Creek to see if any public land was available near the pass of that name but as it was very early evening, we decided to head back to Williams Fork in the hopes of maybe trying for some more pike & trout in the morning. And that we did today. Drove around Williams Fork a few miles and tried casting off some steeper shorelines but without success.
Went back to our first location and managed to release but one small pike. Did get several other strikes and hooked but lost flies to another four fish. I'll not go back there without some steel leaders - and we may do that tomorrow as Sue is taking a day off early before the holiday weekend.
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