10/2-3: Our planned three day loop trip to Gunnison was again cut short due to weather issues, but it was fun anyway. We headed out early Sunday morning traveling south through Leadville with a planned quickie stop on the Arkansas near Granite. Unfortunately when we reached the parking area, it was already occupied so we kept traveling and did a pulloff at the Clear Creek "tailwater". I made some casts into the Arkansas there with no success while Sue worked the creek itself.
Eventually she landed a small brown as did I and we saw several others but had no more takers. Continued down the Ark. to Buena Vista and had our obligatory burger & fries at the Dairy Delite (see the "good eats" page for more.) Then it was up and over Cottonwood Pass to the Taylor Park area and upper Taylor River. The latter was a big disappointment this time around. On a stretch of stream where I'd probably hooked 40 fish in an hour the first time around this year and maybe 25 the second, we were lucky to release a half dozen each of what we have begun to term SLOB's - as in "shitty little ol' browns". We miss the feisty rainbows of yesteryear.
Drove below the dam and spent a half hour re-rigging and casting the tiny comparadun with 7X tippet to the Einstein brained locals with but a single strike to show for the effort. After that we gave up & headed down to our regular campsite on the Almont triangle road and spent a very cold night in the Element.
After breakfast in Gunnison we drove towards the part of that named river where it enters Blue Mesa. With Sue still freezing from the campout she dropped me off & I waded & fished a favorite section there with quite good results. The surface rubber legged WRS was pretty ineffective so changed to a #18 standard gray bodied model and had nice luck on the surface with both the local browns and rainbows. Just before Sue arrived back at the parking lot, I shifted to a wooly bugger and caught only a single fish on it - but that one was a chunky eighteen inch rainbow.
The morning insect activity was punctuated by a decent olive hatch, followed by the same trico hatch I'd seen a few weeks earlier. Fish seemed to be looking up, so we did reasonably well with pretty much any kind of surface fly we tried. Got Sue into her waders and we fished another section just upstream from where I started and had outstanding success although none of the fish were sizable. She estimated releasing a good thirty mixed browns and rainbows and I suspect I did the same. We both missed large numbers of strikes. Fish seemed to all be in the six to twelve inch range.
This part of the Gunnison is very foreign to our normal conception of fishing as there's virtually no structure in the river. It's just an easy wading, broadly flowing, freestone stream where the fish are located throughout the flats and along the shore.
After lunch we headed up the East River and did a repeat of the Roaring Judy section again. It wasn't a complete disaster, but the wind had ripped uncounted numbers of aspen leaves from the shoreside trees and the stream was completely littered with them. The consequence seemed to be that the fish could barely see our flies from time to time and the catch rate declined dramatically from previous trips here. Between us I suspect we released a couple dozen mostly browns and a few rainbows - all under a dozen inches in length. We both took a few casts at the late running kokanee in the stream, but neither of us connected. These salmon cannot be taken from the stream, but we'd hoped to at least play one or two. It was not to be today.
Drove up and over Kebler Pass and spent a nice night at the Erickson Springs campground on Anthracite Creek. Although that stream was finally running clear, I suspect the trout habitat has been badly damaged from an earlier mudslide. Wanted to try a bit of casting this morning there, but it had begun to rain in earnest when we were having coffee, so we broke camp & headed back to Glenwood Springs.
10/13-16: A need for some warm weather triggered this weekend's trip to Lake Powell - probably our last time down there in 2005. It was very encouraging to see that the lake level was a good forty feet higher than when we were there in the spring. It's still clearly quite low but looks much healthier. We camped on the west side of the Stanton Creek primitive area and managed to find a spot with some privacy despite a surprisingly big crowd in the area itself.
As always, our fun down here revolves around the the fishing rather than just laying around and soaking up some late fall sun. It turned out to be a very decent trip that way although quite a bit different than we've ever experienced in the past. After getting the campsite pretty well organized we launched the kayak and did some trolling in the confines of the Stanton Creek walls - usually a decent smallmouth area.
This afternoon it was nothing doing. We rigged up as in the past, used our full sink lines and had virtually no strikes.
A couple of undersized largemouth bass were all we had to show for over an hour of paddling. It was a bit discouraging.
Things improved in the evening. We were camped very near the terminus of this arm of the lake and had a couple of nice sized rock platforms from which to cast from the bank. In fact one nice flat area, if one will excuse the "French" description, I labeled "pissing rock" since it seemed the perfect place to drain the bladder while waiting for the line to sink deep enough in the water to begin a retrieve. The tactic worked very well and after a couple of casts I had two very nice smallmouths on the line simultaneously. Each evening the fishing improved dramatically as the shadows lengthened.
Next morning we renewed our trolling pattern, this time around to the next arm of the lake and again had very limited success. Historically we've had strikes or fish on roughly once every ten to fifteen minutes while paddling, but this year results were much lower.
When we got out of the water though and cast from the bank we did much better. The surprising thing about our catch (and release of course) was the dominance of largemouth bass. Normally smallies outnumber the largies by nine or ten to one, but it was just the opposite this year. The next most popular hookups were bluegills, followed by immature stripers.
In all we released six different species on the trip. One slightly lame carp was included in that number and several nice crappies that we picked up in the evening off the previously named rock.
Our last morning of trolling took us further out in the main channel of the Colorado and here Sue landed the largest fish of the trip - this very nice smallmouth that I'm holding. She later hooked but did not bring to hand a somewhat bigger largemouth that slipped off the barbless hook while she was leading it to shore.
I had tons of fun off the rock walls and for both of us, this was clearly the best shore fishing we've seen at this lake. One of the things that improved our catch rate was moving to a much smaller trailing fly that more imitated small shad that are the dominant bait fish in the lake.
The fly was a regular shank nymph hook tied mostly with gray marabou and a bit of sparkle. It was much more popular than the larger black or olive wooly buggers we used as a leading fly in the double fly rig we almost always work with down here.
We were very pleased with the trip and will look forward to more fun down here - when the snow melts next spring.
10/21-22: The numbers of remaining fishing days are growing ever fewer with the onset of winter. On Friday we opted to take the vanagon on a rare outing (for it) down the Arkansas to test how hungry the resident browns there might be as the water continues to cool.
Drove through Leadville, down along the Arkansas and elected to pass on trying the upper section of Hayden Meadows due to too many cars in the lot. We did pull in at the lower parking area further downstream planning only a short bit of time on what can be very difficult water.
It turned out to be fairly decent fishing. Put on a #18 rubber legged WRS for the surface fly and trailed it with a reverse tied prince and almost immediately had a nice twelve inch brown suck in the nymph in a foam covered eddy.
A bit further upstream in one of the few deeper runs on this part of the river hooked and played maybe a half dozen similar sized fish - all of which took the nymph. So it seemed to be a productive start to the trip.
We debated trying the River Park area of the river in Buena Vista, but decided to fish it on the way back home Saturday - which decision turned out to be a mistake. Had a regular burger lunch at the Dairy Delite and continued on down highway 24 to Salida, where we drove to the Ouray SWA and rigged up again when we got down to the water. Had hoped for a fall olive hatch, but the bright, sunny skies eliminated that possibility. So both Sue & I kept the same up & down rig and began working our way up opposite sides of the river.
It was really tough fishing. I can't remember making so many casts on such nice water with so few strikes as a reward. When something did finally come up for the surface attractor, the hit was totally unexpected, and I missed at least the first six of those strikes. Initially nothing at all came to the nymph.
Eventually we shifted to an antenna pupa and began to get a few hits down below. Most of the local browns took the attractor, but I did release a thirteen inch, and the lone, rainbow of the trip on the nymph.
The weather was so nice through the late afternoon that it made only the dozen fish we released seem not an issue. Drove downstream through Salida scoping out places to camp for the night and had a happy hour along the river at an appropriate spot. The wind, however, had picked up monumentally, and with thousands of loose aspen leaves clogging the water, casting during that windstorm was virtually impossible. Did release a few more fish, but it really was too tough to place the fly and then drift it through the debris on the river.
Had a wonderful dinner at the Laughing Ladies restaurant in town and then spent the night at our "free" campground. This morning we found another terrific breakfast spot at the County Bounty on highway 50, after which we took off upstream planning on trying that previously named River Park section. When we arrived there, the parking lots were completely packed with soccer mom's cars apparently for some kind of Saturday tournament, so we kept moving upstream. Another fisherman was plying the water at our favorite Granite section, and we passed on that place too.
Our last hope was upper Hayden Meadows, but when we parked there, the wind was really howling downstream, keeping Sue in the car & me bundled up racing to get in a few casts before the chill completely froze my fingers. Twenty minutes later I'd made it back to the car with three browns released and another six strikes missed. Not a bad trip
As Sue is starting a part time job next week, the dog & I plan to get in 2-3 days of casting up on the Miracle Mile in Wyoming.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous days.
10/24-25: Sure enough, Tuesday arrived, Sue was off to work, and the dog & I hit the road to Wyoming. Like the trip from Vail to the Green, getting to the Mile is right at a five hour drive - provided one does not tarry along the way. We simply gassed up in Saratoga and arrived at our normal starting point on the Platte at 2:00 in the afternoon.
While the internet fishing reports had the river flowing "clear", it was obvious we all have different conceptions of what that term means. Whoever wrote the report probably also thinks the Mississippi flows clear at its mouth into the Gulf of Mexico. It was possible to see rocks under the surface, but I would describe the color of the water as more like our local streams are in runoff. Anyway.
No bugs were about except for a few midges and there was no sign that fish could have seen a bug on the surface so we rigged up with a ginger colored wooly bugger on a sink tip line and began casting - and casting - and casting ad nauseum. Several changes of streamers much later in the afternoon I finally dredged a fourteen inch Colorado cutthroat from a deep eddy behind a midstream rock. And that was it for the day.
Sky guarding the picnic table.
In all I spent four and a half hours of nonstop casting on several good parts of the river with one fish to show for the effort. Very disappointing start to one of our last trips of the year.
The most difficult thing I find about fishing up here is not the ever present wind, but the incredible amount of floating aquatic grasses and other material in the stream. It's virtually impossible to make a single cast without the fly being fouled by some type of vegetation. I'd guess that happens on 95-98% of all casts. Given that issue it's a miracle that one can get any strikes at all from some of the larger, warier fish.
Brutally cold the next morning. It took two cups of mocha grande to get the blood flowing minimally. When the sun finally hit the campground, dog & I ate our respective breakfasts and we took off to some other runs and pools. After suffering through a couple more "no strike" sections, finally rerigged around 10:00 in an attempt to shake the jinx that seemed to be upon us.
Wow. What a difference this made. By 10:30 I had enough nice fish released to call the trip a complete success. Swapped the single wooly bugger for a double fly setup - a #8 gold cone head olive bugger up front trailed fifteen inches by a tiny (#12) black marabou streamer. This made all the difference in the world. Apparently playing the "momma - poppa" game was just what it took to get the trout's attention.
In that particular half hour I played & released a half dozen mixed rainbows and cuts, all of which ranged between 14 - 20 inches. The latter rainbow got into my backing and took a good 8-10 minutes to land. Just massively bodied. All fish but the big boy took the tiny black trailing fly.
A group of interested kibitzers.
This actually was the best fishing of the whole trip. Interestingly the small trailing fly did catch large numbers of small trout as well as many of the larger ones. It would appear the dept. of wildlife has done some serious stocking of rainbows this fall, as those fish were evident everywhere.
While the main focus of this expedition was to be on the big browns that supposedly run up from the reservoir this time of year, the only one of that species I released was around five inches long.
The rest of the day was fine fishing if not up to the standards of the morning. Never did release any more really large fish but several in the 12-14 inch range. Suspect that I must have touched a good 18-22 fish over twelve inches this day and a couple times that number in smaller sizes. Probably as good a trip as we've ever had on the Platte. Best thing was the few number of other fisher people in the area. Mid week is always the best time on this and other similarly popular streams.
Since we were pretty much sated with the fishing here - and the dog was beaten up from chasing every jack rabbit along the stream, we headed out in late afternoon intending to try the Platte above Seminole, where we've sometimes had decent success. Today it proved to be a big zero.
Part of the problem was getting around the stream due to a higher than normal flow rate. Also the dog was out of energy and acting a bit sluggish, so we cut the trip short, drove through Saratoga, and camped just over the Colorado border at a put in on the North Platte.
Around 3:00 in the morning, the dog was whining and in obvious pain, so we broke camp and headed back to the vet here in Vail where he declared the dog to have some moderately serious back problems. Too much rabbit chasing apparently. Maybe one more trip next week up to the White to finish up our season.
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