The sky is falling! The end is near! Though not as dramatic as it sounds, we dread the winding down of another fishing season, and that event is coming sooner rather than later. As we're heading out on a ten day trip to California & Oregon later this week, we felt it might be good to beta test the condition of our Eurovan before that long drive begins.
With that in mind, we chose a nice trip south along the Arkansas River to Salida and just beyond. It's a good time to be on that river as flows are low and steady and water clarity is not a problem.
Our first stop came at Granite where Sue plied river right and I waded across to head up the opposing side. Apparently river left was favored today as I had at least a bit of success while Sue got blanked on this stretch.
The browns in here are generally decent sized, and the two I released were both in that twelve-thirteen inch range. Happily the only other fish I managed to hook was one of the few rainbows to still be found on this river.
Downstream a bit further, we left the dog in the van and tried our regular spot below the bridge in River Park in Buena Vista. Again we split the sides of the stream between us, and here both of us had a bit more luck. I'd been using a fairly small rubber leg WRS as a top water/indicator fly trailed by a red copper john and a small RS-2. After changing to a slightly smaller WRS without legs, that fly produced a bunch more strikes. Sue kept using her rubber leg and seemed to have plenty of strikes with it too. Both of us caught some fish on the trailing nymphs although the lone rainbow to hand and all the other browns were at or under no more than ten inches.
Next attempt came at the Ouray SWA just outside Salida. Unfortunately, as it was a weekend, here we finally ran into some limitations due to other bodies on the water in several places. This area, almost always a bit tough, lived up to its reputation today.
While we both released a handful of smallish browns, the strikes were few and far between. We caught the fish on each kind of dries and nymphs with more fish coming to the surface than hitting the ones below. Sue found trout concentrated in the riffle shallows while mine were closer to the bank under brush or near riprap.
Enough casting was enough at this point so we headed to downtown Salida for a bit of window shopping. I'll have to admit, while we kind of like Salida, it is pretty much a hippy kind of town, and that's borne out by the types of stores in the main part of town. After a short visit we headed back on the highway and drove to the Wellsville turnoff and drove a few miles on the gravel road to find a camping spot. Locating a decent place we settled in for the night. Just before nightfall I managed to release three more browns on the dry. Fish were much more active in the closing hours of the day when the bright sun had left the canyon.
Next morning it was back to Salida for breakfast followed by a return to the stockyards area of the river. Sue demurred on fishing this early in the day due to the cold air temperatures so I went out myself for a half hour. It turned into the best results of the whole trip.
Without having to get my feet wet, I played a good dozen fish in that length of time, the best of which was a very full bodied fourteen inch rainbow. Nice morning.
We started back towards home intending to make one last stop at the Crystal Lakes area near Leadville. Unfortunately when we got there, a number of other people were already starting out on the water, and we chose to pass any further fishing.
Thank heavens we generally don't have try to enjoy our sport on weekends as there simply are too many waders out competing for too little water.
It would have been great if each of the past nine days had a good fishing experience attached to it, but that was not the case; fortunately most of the alternatives weren't bad replacements.
This was a long loop trip designed to complete some unfinished business for both Sue and myself. It involved roughly 3500 miles of passage in the trusty Eurovan. We headed out of Vail the first day and immediately encountered a rare persistent rain cloud that stayed with us all the way to the Grand Canyon. A few minutes of gazing over the South Rim were all we could take before a series of massive thunderstorms drove us to cover and a primitive campsite in the woods just outside the park.
Next it was on to the Hearst Castle which was the last West Coast item on Sue's to-do list. Then up the coast to Nepenthe for a great lunch followed by camping in a commercial campground on Big Sur that miraculously wasn't unpleasant. A morning of superb weather on the Carmel beach was followed by another wonderful lunch in that old favorite touristy town. Onward we went to wine country for another night of camping followed by a visit to the daughter in Fort Bragg on the coast.
Sue posing to see if she might have been the inspiration for Mother Nature's rendering of Face Rock off the Bandon beach drive.
By this time we were more or less exhausted by the constant long daily drives, but we persevered into Southern Oregon where we did some (moderately) illegal camping near the Bandon lighthouse.
Finally the next day on our way to Roseburg to visit mom, we had a short bit of fishing.
Stopped at a reclaimed log pond near the North Umpqua close to Winchester and Sue enjoyed a half hour session catching and releasing single and double hookups of the always hungry and never reluctant bluegills that overpopulate this fun body of water.
Enough became quickly enough, so we headed down to the Stewart Park section of the South Umpqua in Roseburg hoping to lure one of the many smallmouths that swim in this unhappily deforested river. Today was not a good one. We both had a couple of strikes but failed to hook a bass.
After a nice evening with mom, we set out the next morning for Eugene and the drive up the McKenzie River. Road delays prevented us from spending a few minutes on that famous stream, but we did pull off the road to Sisters when we arrived at the turnoff to Camp Sherman, where we rigged up and spent a half hour casting for the difficult fish on the beautiful Metolius. Even with a variety of nice hatches going on midday, no fish came to the surface, and I hooked the only trout - a nice fourteen inch rainbow that finally wrapped my red copper john around an underwater obstruction to gain its freedom.
With nothing else to show for our efforts here we opted to head out to a piece of water my brother has long enjoyed, the Crooked River wild and scenic section below the Bowman Dam.
Drove along this river and even though I knew it was permanently discolored by what we assume are irrigation issues, it's still a shock to see what's purported to be a nice trout stream running almost pure mud in color.
We stopped first at the entry to the wild stretch and I waded tentatively across the stream to fish river left. Sue kept to the opposite side which was less easy to cast due to bushes along the stream edge.
Wading is tricky due to the invisible bottom, and I did not find it fun. Even at a flow of only perhaps 200 c.f.s. the water's still ornery enough to be unpleasant while walking blindly upon the streambed.
Even with some interesting hatches in progress, no fish really came to the surface, yet we caught trout on attractor flies. Frankly I don't know how those fish could see a #18 BWO or smaller, but apparently they do from time to time. With the trailing flies near the stream bottom we caught trout and whiteys with a variety of nymphs - copper johns, princes, Barr emergers, antenna pupa, etc. Pattern style really didn't seem to make much difference as long as the fly passed directly by the trout's nose.
Fairly quickly I played and/or released a half dozen fish - mostly small rainbows with a couple of whitefish thrown in. Not bad results, but to be honest, I neither enjoy wading water where I cannot see the bottom, nor do I like to throw flies randomly at water where the bottom is not visible. Where logical trout holding structure is present, casting is not a problem, but trying to work water from bank to bank without knowing where the fish are likely to be stationed is - again - really not our thing.
We did persist through a couple of the late afternoon's fading hours and did manage to hook probably twenty five predominantly rainbows between us.
It was interesting fishing although I'm not sure I'd return here again. The cloudy water is very reminiscent of the way the Miracle Mile looks during the summer months, but while the Mile will still give up a very large fish now and again, the Crooked seemed populated by mostly "smolt" sized bows.
So it was a different kind of experience.
With bad weather in the forecast here at home, I suspect it may be another several days before we try any more outings locally.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous days.
A rare warm and sunny day brought smiles to our faces and visions of some of the last trout of the season dancing at the end of the tippet. With Sue buried at work (gosh it's great to be retired), the dog & I hit out for our favorite stream early in the morning. After the two & a half hour drive, we arrived expecting several of the hunters that swarm the area in this season to be wading on our water, but miracle of miracles, we had the whole stretch to ourselves.
The river is running a bit on the high side due to recent snowstorms, but clarity was perfect. Waders finally are a must as water temperatures are now at a shivery level, and no more wet wading machismo is called for. As usual, the first part of the hike was more or less unproductive. Somewhat disconcerting was the lack of even a whitey to one of the two nymphs that trailed the surface rubber leg WRS.
But when we reached the "trough" hole, life got back to normal. With no hatches about to speak of - except the ever present midges - I assumed my only strikes would be to the copper john or tiny RS-2 behind it. So when a big mouth inhaled the surface attractor, I was so startled that I missed the hookup by a good two seconds.
The next half dozen fish also came to the ugly rubber leg despite no sign of hoppers in the grass, nor any appearance of stones along the banks.
Unfortunately it took probably seven or eight hookups to finally actually release a fish - a nice fourteen inch rainbow.
After working one side of the hole I waded across the stream and repeated the process up my off arm side. Same problem with hookups, but at least this time I could blame it on poor reactions from my right hand side. Eventually hooked the two largest fish of the trip in the pool, one which greyhounded off like a steelhead before snapping the fly off and another that behaved like a Chinook, slowly moving off like a freight train until he pulled the hook free from what must have been a light lip hook. Both fish, from what I saw of them, were in the 5-8 pound class.
The action continued apace as we moved upstream, finally giving up on faster riffle water and concentrating more on deeper pools & eddies where the fish apparently are setting up for the winter months.
At one of these artificial eddy structures the fishing simply got out of hand. At one point I counted eight straight fish on that number of casts.
It was just unbelievably good fishing. Again most of the rainbows took the surface fly, but in the deeper water, when the nymphs had time to slow down, the larger fish preferred them to the dry.
With the exception of one ten inch cutthroat and the brown shown here, all the fish were rainbows. In this one hole alone, I would conservatively guess releasing twenty five fish or so and playing or missing strikes from another fifteen. Just astonishing numbers of fish in a relatively small body of water. Sizes for the rainbows released ran between ten and sixteen inches and a couple of hookups were clearly by fish in the twenty's.
While this hole was the hotspot of the trip, virtually every other decent holding spot upstream gave up more and more fish. At a certain point I started yanking the fly away from mouths that seemed to be too small, and finally I even got jaded releasing trout up to sixteen inches.
Did the mile long walk back downstream to the car casting an occasional wooly bugger into some nice pools but didn't have a strike at all on the way home.
As I'd not been able to photograph the cutthroat while releasing him, we then drove up the North Fork to the start of the USFS public water, where earlier this summer I'd released so many cuts. that the fishing quickly got too easy and thus too boring. Today it was a complete bust - not a sign of a fish. Don't understand the reason for this at all. Flies were fine and the same pools allowed nice drifts, but I was totally shut out.
Camped last night in our usual spot, hoping to do a morning repeat on some of the same water, but when we awoke in the van, a cold drizzle mix of rain & snow coated the windshield. While we understand that kind of weather is normal for winter steelheading, it's not a heck of a lot of fun to deal with for trout. Gave up the ghost & drove back home in the middle of the day.
There are a couple more outings to go, but the season's definitely nearing a close.
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