September, 2006

09/07:  This week's trip could appropriately be termed "three into one".  It sounds like the popular lubricant 3 in 1 oil, but the phrase really refers to an outing that was supposed to be three days long before bad weather turned it into a one day excursion.

With Sue out of town for a few days at a hen party back in Minnesota, the dog and I unanimously voted to try a trip involving a combination of exploration and some revisiting of old favorites. 

We headed out on I-70 early Thursday morning, driving to Rifle to fuel up and then took the back road down the Piceance Creek road to Rio Blanco Lake.  There's a stretch of the White River running behind this warm water reservoir that we'd often looked at, but never had previously fished.  While we could have started at the bridge and walked all the way upstream behind the lake, we instead drove to the earth fill dam itself, parking there, and struggled down through the willows to reach the stream.

This far down from its source the river's quite large here and wading clearly would be a difficult proposition with any higher flows than we encountered today.  The bottom's slimy looking though not particularly slippery.  Moving back and forth across the river is essential due to the masses of vegetation lining the bank in places. 

To cut to the chase where this part of the stream is concerned, there's really not enough good holding water here despite the fact that there appears to be ample sites for trout to be found.  We found no fish at all in riffles or structure associated with modestly deep runs or pools. 


The only spots I got strikes or saw signs of trout life were in a handful of deeper runs and pools where the river had cut deeply into the bottom structure.  It's not really easy fishing.  I'd expected to find lots of whitefish and probably a few big browns.  Instead nothing was hooked but a couple of decent sized rainbows (16-18 inches respectively).


There was a nice mayfly hatch of some indeterminate type though only one fish came to the surface.  Lots of hoppers were along the banks, but my efforts in throwing that imitation came up empty handed.  Eventually I released both of the above fish using an olive/black weighted streamer and missed a couple of other strikes.  A couple of the deeper holes would probably have been better fished with deep nymphs, although it may have taken twenty feet of leader to get the flies deep enough.





So it was an interesting experience albeit not one I would care to repeat more than once a year.




As the wade took us all the way around the perimeter of the reservoir, we enjoyed casting into the stillwater for the resident warm water fish and caught a variety of small large and smallmouth bass along with black crappie and bluegills. 


Didn't run into one of the large pike that are resident here.



An approaching thunderstorm drove us off the rocky wall of the reservoir prematurely, so we loaded the car and headed up to Meeker for a snack and a stop at the city park for a bit more casting. 



Here the local finny residents are very predictable.  This section has always held lots of whitefish and lesser numbers of smaller browns, and that's what we encountered today. 



After playing a handful of browns under a dozen inches in length and a couple of whiteys, we drove well upstream to camp and have dinner before bedding down in the back of the Element.





About the middle of the night the rains began in earnest.  They continued through the early morning hours increasing in intensity.  With the realization that today day was going to be another loser similar to our "wet" day on August's Wyoming trip, we reluctantly broke camp and drove directly back home, missing out on some casting time on the Roaring Fork & Crystal.  In hindsight the most fun part of this experience was in landing seven different species of fish in one day.


Our weather's been its usually lousy fall self lately (see 09/07 above), so with no clouds at all in the sky today, I headed out for a quick afternoon session on Gore Creek.  Normally we choose to avoid our home stream this time of year due to very low flows which concentrates the fish and renders them too vulnerable, but it was simply impossible to pass getting on the water on a nice day like this.

Headed towards the eastern side of town and began casting with a #18 white legged terrestrial colored WRS.  The fly was left on the leader from some trip in the recent past & I assumed it would have to be replaced by something smaller on the surface and probably a trailing tiny nymph as well due to the cloudless sky and very bright sunlight.  Happily the change didn't have to be made.


About the third cast under a willow in a shallow run a nice eight inch cutthroat took the fly readily and was quickly released.  Visions of sugar plums (in the form of a possible grand slam) danced in my head.  As in most parts of the country (Wyoming excepted), cutthroat tend to make up between 1 and 3 percent of the trout biomass, so whenever we catch one quickly, it makes the heart beat a bit faster. 


As it turned out, neither the more common brookies were anywhere to be found today, nor were the trickier to lure browns.  All I could catch were bunches of modest sized rainbows.  Darn.  Too many rainbows.  How many times do we get to say that here in Colorado?  With whirling disease still rampant, even finding a single rainbow in a day's fishing on many of our more popular streams is almost an impossibility.




The rainbows were fun and the biggest came in at about fourteen fat inches.





It was a really gorgeous day with aspens just beginning to turn color and the first hint of snow crowning the Gore Range in the distance. 




Thursday I need to have the auto worked on down in Glenwood so hope to get in almost a full day of casting on the Crystal, a river that has been flowing so strongly this summer, we've not been able to access certain good runs.  That should not be an issue this week.




09/14:  The Element's alignment seemed to need some work, so we drove to Glenwood early this morning in the hopes of getting that taken care of before heading up the Crystal.  Unhappily it has more of an "owie" than I thought it did, my apparently having damaged an adjustment bar when I took the car into some jeep type terrain where it had no business.  So the part takes a week to acquire which means another jaunt down to GWS next Thursday to finish the repair.

With an hour & a half of the day blown in this process we drove to Carbondale, up the Crystal, and pulled off at a long time favorite spot just as some massive gusts of wind were being driven downstream by a rapidly approaching thunderstorm.  Rigged up quickly and had barely gotten on the water when the first rain squall arrived.  Trying to slug a cast into that wind was a joke, but I finally got maybe a dozen on the water before racing back to the car to get out of the rain. 


Interestingly I did release two modest sized rainbows that took a #18 red copper john trailed behind the WRS terrestrial.  So it wasn't a complete bust of a trip even though it felt like it.



Headed back downstream to Glenwood where another thunderstorm was also in progress, so turned on to I-70 and drove up through the canyon, hoping to get to Gypsum or Eagle before those same storms arrived.  Turned off at one of the parking areas for the Gypsum Ponds stretch of the Eagle and had a couple of hours of decent fishing here.

I've historically never found lots of fish in this part of the river although those that are here are generally larger than elsewhere upstream.  It wasn't completely the case today, but the browns released were all between twelve and sixteen inches - the latter being a very chubby male that had to weigh a good 2 1/2 pounds.  Most unusual for this part of the stream was the complete absence of any of the larger rainbows that usually make up much of the catch here.

I also found it unusual that the only fly any of the fish took was that same red copper john.  One or two strikes to the WRS and possibly a couple to a trailing RS-2 rounded out the afternoon.


A follow up trip to Glenwood for some automotive repairs allowed us some happy hours on the Roaring Fork today.  Initially we (the dog & I) had hoped to try the Crystal one last time this year, but as we have now planned a trip to the Gunnison Valley later in the week, the return drive from that part of the state will bring us down the Crystal on Friday.

Started out driving to the airport public water of the Fork and hiked downstream a half mile or so to do some pocket water casting before getting into the deeper stuff.  It was pretty much a bust, much to my surprise. 


The bright, cloudless sky surely didn't help any, but finally having some nice weather after last week's seemingly endless series of snowstorms made just being able to be outside a treat.  Was rigged with a mid sized rubber legged WRS trailed by a red copper john and then a #20 RS-2.  On this part of the stream, even though hoppers were still present in good numbers along the bank, nothing came to the surface. 


The john and the semblance fly both had a handful of strikes, and I did release a couple of sub twelve inch browns, but on balance, it wasn't very good fishing.

Upstream where we'd had wonderful success earlier in the summer, I claimed a complete bust.  Not a strike that I could tell on anything for another long hour of throwing these flies.  Changed a couple of times to a BWO comparadun with emerger trailer and then to a heavy black stone in front of the tiny emerger - all to no avail.

Debated giving up on the Fork and going up the Crystal after all, but as we only had another couple of hours to spare, decided to try our regular spot below the Sunlight Bridge.  Despite this area's being consistently slammed by wormers and other assorted hook & eat types, it still manages to hold nice numbers of decent fish.



We again hiked well downstream to one of the few deep holes by the bank and immediately noticed fish turning and flashing in the mid part of the flow - indicating some kind of emerger activity in progress.  With nothing visible in the air except for a rare caddis and some midges, it was tough to tell exactly what the insects were that aroused this behavior.  So I kept experimenting with a variety of imitations, frankly none of which was outstandingly effective.

Tried running flies just under the surface with a bead head pupa and trailing RS-2.  Then went with a number of other types including Barr emerger, midge emerger, bead head larva, and even sank a loop wing (spent) type mayfly.  The fish very much ignored most everything, but once in a while one of them would give in and succumb to what had to be simple curiosity, would strike, and I would play and/or release a fish every so often.  It was a little bit maddening watching all these fish swimming right below my feet on the rock I was casting from and not know precisely what to throw to them.



Maybe I was just expecting too much.  In an hour or so off the rock, I probably released 6-8 large whitefish, a couple of decent rainbow, 3 or 4 nice browns, and missed another dozen strikes, but it still felt like my glass was half empty.


Running out of time, we then headed up to the flats below the bridge (which I love to fish) and had much better success. 


Here the water's quite shallow this time of year, with the fish holding in depths from a foot to three feet.  Tied on a #18 golden stone colored RL WRS and trailed it with a #20 red copper john and had really good results.



Though the surface fly had been soundly rejected elsewhere, here it proved very successful, connecting on a good six or eight nice sized browns and the treat of the day - a ten inch Colorado cutthroat.



The copper john was equally well loved as it did just about as well as the WRS, so the close of the trip turned out to be far more productive than was the beginning.

With more good weather in the offing through the end of the week, we hope to do that Taylor/Gunnison/East/Crystal trip one last time this year, and hopefully maybe get a hook into one of the rambunctious kokanee that swim up the East.

Last Logbook Entry  for previous day


This week's trip, while not outstanding in terms of results, tells us that the best part of the fishing season is finally winding down.  With great weather in the forecast and with Sue stuck at work in the middle of this week, the dog & I headed out on a repeat of our Cottonwood/Kebler Pass trip covering a variety of streams. 

Roads were fine over the first pass dropping down into Taylor Park where we turned right at the main highway & drove a couple of miles up the dirt to the upper Taylor River. 


Miraculously none of the normally ubiquitous ATV's were in evidence, so our fishing would finally be undisturbed up here.


This meadow stream was running on the high side for this time of year due in part to snowmelt from the storm that raced through Colorado last week.  It looked terrific, but after quickly landing & releasing one of the modest sized browns, a really nasty north wind kicked in and pretty much drove us off the river. 

Laying down anything resembling a quiet cast on the water became impossible, and these tricky browns refused to have any part of the flies I slammed down on the water in an effort to get the fly upstream.  We gave up.

Drove down to the base of the dam and spent a half hour or so trying the tailwater for even more difficult fish here with no success again.  The wind again was the culprit as these monster rainbows are even more suspicious than the upper river's browns.

So off we went again stopping at several places on the middle and lower Taylor above Almont.  On our last pass through here, we'd discovered that heavily weighted streamers were very successful, and while they were a bit that way today, for the most part, pickings were pretty slim.  Released a handful of very modest rainbows before changing rigs at a bridge crossing in the Almont Triangle.

It helped to tie on a surface rubber leg WRS with a trailing red copper john.  Above and below the bridge I released a good dozen or so middle sized browns and rainbows, most of which took the surface fly, so that was more fun.  Since we still had a couple of hours before sunset, we then headed to Almont and back up the East and spent the remaining time on that river near Roaring Judy. 

Another disappointment.  The same north wind was howling downstream making casting very difficult.  The main focus of this trip was to finally catch one of the masses of kokanee that run up the East on their spawning mission.  I've never caught one of these little salmon, and despite lots of dropping flies in their midst on this trip too, no hookups occurred.  Even worse, this afternoon, the plucky local browns also were conspicuously absent.  All in all, not a good day of fishing.

The night wasn't much better.  That same brutal north wind kept the dog awake most of the night, and while I stayed toasty warm in my down bag, he didn't have the common sense to crawl under Sue's bag that I opened up for him.

Freezing temperatures in the morning suggested we head directly to Gunnison rather than trying to heat some coffee beforehand.  A nice breakfast of huevos at the Quarter Circle helped a bit, but it was still below freezing when we arrived at the Beaver Creek rest area and suited up for some wading.  This is one of our favorite stretches of the Gunnison River with some nice braids and a variety of decent bank holding water.  In 2006, for the first time in a few years it was buried beneath the rising waters of Blue Mesa this summer, so we weren't able to fish it on the last trip.



We did the regular wade across the stream and fished the lower braids with a bit of success, releasing a half dozen sub twelve inch rainbows and similar sized browns that mostly took the terrestrial style WRS, with a couple biting the trailing copper john.



Off the high bank further upstream some nicer fish followed.  It's fascinating to cast down to the water from the bank as the fish can clearly be seen either following or being put off by the flies.  Eventually I tried sinking the WRS on the retrieve and the trout were really interested in the fly, twisting and turning in the current behind it.  They were absolutely mesmerized by the action of the white rubber legs pulsing in the current, and even though they knew it was not something they should bite, from time to time, one would do so.  And a couple came to the trailing nymph as well.  These are much larger fish, ranging in size from twelve to sixteen inches, which means they're a lot more fun to hook.

To rest the water we hiked about a half mile further up along the bank and cast to seams that historically have held decent numbers of nice browns.  Today those fish were completely absent.  If I had to guess, it would be because the river had covered these holding spots for the first time in several years, and apparently the fish simply had moved on to other venues.  At the top of the hike I shifted to a weighted streamer followed by an Alexandra and retraced my steps down to our starting point.

Until we got back to the deeper spot by the high bank, no strikes came.  But by the bank, the action picked up again.  It was outstanding fun  watching those fish take either the leading or trailing streamer.  Probably had fifteen or twenty strikes on this setup in a very short span of time, with maybe eight nice rainbows being released.  OK.  Normally I'd take a photo or two of these better fish, but across the stream from where I was standing were probably six to eight other fishermen working the opposite side, and frankly, I was embarrassed to do so because none of them were catching anything.  Some were wormers, some lure casters, and a couple were fly fisher people.

They were basically fishing side by side in water that is slammed eight hours a day seven days a week, yet none of them had the gumption or common sense to walk four hundred yards downstream, cross the shallow river, and then walk up where I was.  It is inexplicable why people are so lazy.  I guess that's good for those who are willing to take a few steps to get away from crowds.  So be it.

Shortly we moved along, recrossed the river, loaded up the gear and headed back up the East.  As the day had warmed and the downstream wind had abated, wet wading was finally an option. 



Wonderfully, the fishing actually picked up.  Maybe the fish prefer the aroma of sweaty feet to that of Gore-Tex waders, but for whatever reason the small local browns finally came to life. 


There was a light mayfly hatch off & on, and without specifically identifying what must have been olives, I changed the setup to a leading #18 gray bodied WRS and trailed it with a #20 olive comparadun. 


Lots of strikes followed and lots of releases in a short period of time.  Nothing big.  All twelve inches and under, but fun nonetheless.  Surprisingly two thirds of the hits were to the larger fly even though it seemed to imitate nothing that was on the water.




Though we'd planned to spend another night in this area, with most fishing goals met for the trip (kokanee being the exception) we decided to head back towards home.  Up through Crested Butte we drove and on up over


Kebler Pass which is absolutely gorgeous right now.  The aspens and scrub oak are turning, which coupled with the snowy mountains in the background make for an almost indescribably beautiful picture.  My shot taken from the car window doesn't do the scene justice, but we did pass by roughly 100 other photographers standing by the roadside with their tripods and long range lenses.  They'll produce much better results.



Pulled off at Erickson Springs at the bottom of the pass on the other side of the hill and made a few casts into Anthracite Creek.  This first nice pool generally indicates what the fishing will be like further upstream, and as the creek was off color from snow melt, and since no strikes were forthcoming, we took off again, drove over McClure Pass and stopped a ways down the Crystal.



The dog was waterlogged from all our wading today and gave me a nasty look as I set off across the stream, but he followed reluctantly. 




This was nice fishing too, though it took deep dredging to get the rainbow population interested. 




Most trout came to the copper john, but a couple to a #22 RS-2 that was a second trailer, and happily I had a double hookup of bows which is a rare, but nice treat (second trout is beneath the one shown here on the surface.




That was it for a couple of days of lots of driving and lots of casting.  This weekend we'll try either the Arkansas or White - Sue's choice.

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