07/08: Finishing up the remodel of Sue's condo in East Vail put a complete kibosh on any possibility of fishing the first part of this month. Happily that project's mostly now behind us - and brother Rick showed up to give us an excuse to get out on the water again.
Since we're all (Rick, Sue, and Sky plus me) heading in the van up to our "favorite" stream Monday morning, we boys decided to have a warm up day on a smaller creek somewhere around Vail. Interestingly Gore Creek is still running a bit on the high side with much of the water still not completely accessible.
So we drove over the pass and made a number of stops along the freeway where it parallels Ten Mile Creek between Copper Mountain and Frisco. It's a neat little mostly pocket water creek that is only lightly fished since most people apparently aren't comfortable parking next to I-70. To be honest, the stream was also running quite a bit higher than I'd prefer, but we had decent success wherever we could find anything resembling holding areas.
Both of us rigged up with a double fly rig - Rick, a parachute adams trailed by a bead head nymph. I chose a surface gray WRS followed by a fairly small black stone. Both setups seemed to do the trick, but Rick maybe had better luck when he switched to a surface stimulator.
Rick, working a piece of bank water on Ten Mile. The creek looks a lot larger than it is in reality.
I-70's in the background. This was probably the only time all day cars weren't in sight moving en masse back to Denver from the 4th of July holiday weekend.
Nymphs probably worked better than the floaters though when the water was shallower, either the WRS or a white rubber legged WRS caught more than the stone.
We made three different stops along the stream and with one exception caught nice numbers of fish at each of them.
As is the case here, most were browns in a six to eleven inch range, but we both caught a couple of rainbows that again were small in stature.
After finishing up on the lower part of the creek, we drove up Hoosier Pass and took a look at Clinton Reservoir which holds good numbers of Colorado cutthroat. Today the water was cloudy for some reason, and the wind had kicked up to the point that we ate a quick lunch and immediately headed back downhill to stop at one last spot on Ten Mile just where it exits the steep canyon at the base of the pass.
Rick had more fun than I here, releasing a couple of nice rainbows from behind a large boulder in a tiny braid just, and further upstream, in a small pocket next to the bank.
I skillfully managed to miss every strike I had on this section.
Tomorrow we're off on what should be a really fun trip to "favorite", plus Crystal and Roaring Fork.
7/9-11: OK. Let's be direct. Our favorite stream really rocked this year! I've never seen anything like this kind of fishing - nor had either of my companions - my brother Rick and my wife Sue. Compared to most of the other streams in the state, our favorite river was flowing way below normal for this early in the summer which may have accounted for the tremendous success we enjoyed here. While the low flow issue is a bit discouraging due to the probability of some degradation to the habitat if water temperatures warm too much later on, the fishing itself was so good, it almost defied description.
We released so many trout over fourteen inches that fish shorter than that lost all meaning this day.
It simply may have been the most astonishing fishing any of us have had in the hundreds of previous days we've spent on dozens of other rivers in the Western United States.
This hole pictured to the left with Ricky playing an eighteen incher and Sue casting up the opposite bank was so full of oversized rainbows that they both spent more time on the water here than would usually be justified.
This is our so called "trough" hole, previously named for the horse troughs situated just behind where I was taking this photo.
The same level of action continued for a full mile upstream from this spot. The number of fish we all released could be considered obscene.
Most were deep bodied rainbows with a smattering of whitefish (that we learned to avoid by either shortening the trailing nymph tippet or by going to double dry flies.)
Once in a while one of the fewer local browns or cutthroats would show up to break the monotony of the rainbows repeatedly inhaling our flies.
An afternoon of this much activity made the evening's campground much more appealing. Rick & I tried wading and casting on the North Fork after dinner - and to be honest we had little success at that spot. Would guess that was mostly attributable to our consuming an excess amount of jug wine before and during the meal - and just as much due to exhaustion from the day itself.
With more fishing places to try (on Rick's short trip here), Sue & Rick did a quick morning repeat on the same trough hole the next morning with decent success but not quite like the previous day.
Clearly the better sized fish do have something resembling good short term memory. I sat the session out due to a torn M.C.L. from a fall down the bank the prior evening while heading to the water to clean some dishes.
Around mid day we loaded the van back up and drove to Glenwood for lunch and then proceeded up the Roaring Fork to Carbondale and on to the Crystal near Redstone. This little stream is still running quite high in contrast to our previous river and the fishing here was not as good as it will be two or three weeks from now.
I tried the riffle water in town and Rick a couple of holes just above the bridge from the parking area at Elk Park.
Both of us had a tiny bit of success though it was not worth shouting about.
Further downstream we made another foray into the creek and all of us enjoyed hooking a few more of the smaller rainbows here before we drove to the flats and braids near where the road turns off to the town of Marble.
The freestone stream at this point was much tougher fishing and the result was only one more small rainbow.
Had we chosen to rerig from dry flies to nymphs and go deeper, we'd probably have had better luck.
Camped that night on a wonderful plateau above the river with a great view of the Raggeds. Next morning we were off again returning to Carbondale for breakfast and then down to Glenwood for some wading below the Sunlight Bridge. The Sunlight part of the river is possibly the most heavily trafficked by fisher people so we knew it might be a bit tough to do well here.
Dropped Rick off at the park about a mile down from the bridge and he spent close to three hours working his way upstream and surprisingly had quite good success, releasing several nice browns and rainbows and losing a very large one along the way.
Sue decided to sit this session out, so I crossed the bridge and hiked down river left until I ran into some other fishermen on the shore, at which point I turned around and began casting in the shallow riffles and flats that define this part of the river.
Very little action for me. Released a couple of smaller browns that took a flat winged yellow sally imitation, but really it was pretty unproductive casting on my part. Encountered several other fisher people when I tried to work my way upstream of the bridge so threw in the towel and took a nap in the van until Rick was finished.
We then drove back up I-70 towards home, stopping one last time on the Eagle near the Gypsum Ponds SWA. Each of us took a short section of water to work and only Sue had much success here - both Rick & I being - dare I say it - skunked.
That was it for the three day outing. Started out like a wildfire and ended with a whimper.
7/12: This morning's short trip to wade a section of Gore Creek on the golf course was brother Rick's last gasp of fishing in Vail this year. Before we started up the stream itself we took a short detour to one of the many ponds that dot the course.
First cast brought a nice, healthy brookie to hand and shortly I landed a twin. But with the exception of a couple more strikes that was it for the pond fishing.
On the stream I released a ten inch rainbow almost immediately so we had visions of a fun day on the creek.
Again that quick success proved to be very fleeting as more strikes were few and far between. It was just a dud of a day. We'd thought about trying the creek further upstream in East Vail but with so little action down here, it seemed to be a waste of time and energy to make the long hike. So we threw in the towel and called it a day.
7/17-19: This week's expedition was a repeat of a trip we do twice a year - but with a couple of new twists added to it.
It's historically been a big loop starting through the upper Arkansas Valley, turning right at Buena Vista over Cottonwood Pass, and then to Gunnison with a return through Crested Butte. This time I passed on driving through Crested Butte and instead did a long run along the North Rim of the Black Canyon, back to the forks of the Gunnison near the town of Hotchkiss and returned back by the Crystal.
Fishing started great just outside Leadville near the Hayden Meadows SWA. It's a section of the Ark. we discovered only a couple of years ago and have had really nice success each time we've been there.
The Arkansas up here near the headwaters is flowing at natural summer levels right now making it easy wading and similarly easy casting. A double dry/wet rig of small rubber legged WRS and trailing copper john worked just fine.
As best I can tell, it's strictly brown trout water, never having hooked another species in this section. Casting was productive in all the holding areas. Fish are not big, the best being roughly fourteen with most in the 9-11 inch range.
But they are very wild and healthy browns and fun to play and release.
After our regular Dairy Delite burger in Buena Vista, the dog & I traversed Cottonwood Pass and drove a ways up the Taylor River above that named reservoir.
In the middle of the summer season (like now), there are way too many oversized campers in this area hauling around and driving their noisy ATVs to make the experience what might be vaguely termed pristine, but I did find a spot to pull off and had maybe a half mile of this nice little stream to myself.
Taylor River above that reservoir.
Running maybe 100 cubes now, it's a pocket water playground dominated by smallish browns and it's lots of fun to fish.
Bordered only by some low growing willows and sage, the banks can be walked easily and casting rarely results in a fly snagged behind the fisherman.
Would estimate spending a couple of pleasant hours here releasing many of those aforementioned browns along with a couple of sub twelve inch rainbows and surprisingly, a brookie too.
With a thunderstorm building rapidly from the West, I got in a few more casts on Texas Creek where it empties into the reservoir before exiting to the car and driving below the dam to that famous tailwater.
The storm ripped wind through the area, and after having a glass of wine and some crackers, couldn't stand it any longer, so rigged up a tiny #24 comparadun and stared casting along the bank.
The fish here are a lot smarter than I am. With the wind still whipping up the surface I had the satisfaction of feeling two strikes from nice fish, but I failed to connect with either. Probably should have hung around until dark but wanted to see what the river was like lower down so left the dam around 6:00.
On a bench at the top of the Almont Triangle.
As it turned out, I would have been as well served by staying upstream. Pulled off a couple of times and tried some obviously heavily trodden bank water with no strikes to show for the effort.
The lower Taylor is still running too high for my taste - and wading interest, so we drove to the Almont Triangle and camped high on the bluff for the night.
Next morning it was off to the Roaring Judy section of the East River which was visible from and was directly below our camp site down the hill.
I like the East here. It's wild trout water, fly fishing only, and in the fall we have the opportunity to try to catch one of Blue Mesa's kokanee that run up attempting to spawn here.
This time of year it's basically a brown trout stream with a few rainbows here and there.
Didn't do particularly well but may have released a dozen or so of the local inhabitants sized up to that particular number. Same kind of double fly rig keeps working OK.
Either a plain or rubber legged #18 WRS up front and a copper john or small stone behind.
Passed through Gunnison on our way to the Beaver Creek access point at the head of Blue Mesa, but the lake level has come up so much that there really was no chance of doing any fly fishing along the river here so we kept going.
I'd always wanted to take a look at the Cimarron River and its headwaters and kept traveling on Highway 50 to the town of that name. The road to Silver Jack Reservoir looked too twisty and was unpaved so rather than spend the rest of the afternoon getting up to the East or West Forks, so I turned around and headed back on the highway to Sapinero where I crossed the dam and started on the North Rim of the Black Canyon on Highway 92 back towards Hotchkiss.
It's a beautiful, if very slow drive at first, with dozens of 20 m.p.h. curves. I'd heard that there were some forest service roads leading to what was purported to be good wild trout fishing on some of the creeks that we drove over, but I never found a stream that seemed to be flowing with enough water to be even vaguely fishable.
So we continued on to Crawford, had lunch in the shade there, back through Hotchkiss (103 degrees on the bank board in town), and finally to Paradise Park at the confluence of the North Fork and main stem of the Gunnison.
Crossed the North Fork and started up the cauldron that was the gorge this day.
It was unbearably hot. Truly the worst possible time of day to try to cast on this heavily fished water, but we had no other option at this point of the day except bite the bullet and keep on casting.
Not a strike did I have for the first mile & a half, and I almost gave up completely. Finally in a long, quite shallow riffle, started getting strikes on the rubber leg and a few to the nymph.
The fish were enjoying the quicker paced, more aerated water here and I managed to hook and release a couple of handfuls of the local browns and managed to lose a couple of their larger cousins, both of which found a way to dive to the bottom, hang up the trailing nymph and break off the dry. Apparently good sized fish communicate with one another.
Eventually enough was enough so we slogged back to the car, consumed lots of water (and a couple of beers) and drove upstream on Highway 133 towards McClure Pass. Made another stop just below the base of Paonia Reservoir and waded the water for a while here. It was decent, if not great. A few rainbows to ten inches took the dry and for some reason in the murky water, ignored any nymphs.
This is the top of the North Fork of the Gunnison.
Truly a ridiculous and very short trout stream. While Anthracite Creek joining the North Fork at the base of the dam is high quality (and mostly private) water, the completed North Fork itself has a very short section of fishable water until it is almost totally dewatered by the mine ditch diversion just below the town of Somerset.
From that point downstream, this river actually dries up completely some years, and in any case by the time it joins the main stem at the forks, it is basically as warm as bathwater and cannot contain trout.
OK. Night was close at hand. We drove up McClure Pass, down to the Crystal River and camped for the night at our favorite spot on a bluff above the river overlooking the Raggeds.
Up the next morning and tried a bit of fishing in the early half light in Redstone. The Crystal is notorious for being poor early day fishing, and today was no exception. Caught two small rainbows before throwing in the towel and heading further downstream. Crystal is still running too high to be wadable in some of our preferred locations, so kept going on to Glenwood and headed to the airport for some last fishing there on the Roaring Fork..
Started deep nymphing in some faster water upstream of the section and hooked two very large fish, neither of which I either saw, nor obviously landed.
Quite disappointing as these were clearly the best fish of the whole trip.
Downstream was a lot better. Used a three fly rig along this fairly shallow bank water and quite quickly played and released three browns between fourteen and sixteen and one rainbow in the same range.
Thank heavens the finale of the trip was something of a win.
A nice ending to the outing with these decent sized fish.
Next week we're off on the annual trip to Cheyenne Frontier Days, which means a day on the Poudre, plus some fun on the upper Encampment and maybe a smaller high mountain stream or two in that same part of Wyoming.
Last Logbook Entry é for previous days
This summer our fishing expeditions seem to always either start poorly and end happily or vice versus, and that's exactly the form this week's trip took.
With the "Daddy of them All" rodeo in Cheyenne being the primary focus of our drive to Wyoming, we still enjoy the once a year fishing we get to do on the Northern Front Range streams - and generally some in Southern Wyoming as well. Given that as a backdrop to the trip, we made our way from Vail through Silverthorne towards Granby and then North on the road to Walden before turning off at tiny Rand and driving the shortcut dirt road over to Gould.
Before getting to that miniscule berg I made the turnoff to the North Fork of the Michigan River and continued past the reservoir to the inlet stream just above the stillwater. Flows were significantly lower than on my last visit here a few weeks prior. It had an effect on the fishing this tiny creek, but we still experienced very good success with the smaller rainbows that exist here.
This is one of those willowy, wetland types of meandering high mountain streams that apparently don't get fished heavily because of the popularity of the reservoir itself - and due to the fact that the lake attracts mostly bait casters.
So much the better for us.
We spent a happy couple of hours working our way up this pleasant miniscule creek enjoying success to both an attractor dry fly and its trailing nymph counterpart.
Admittedly with lower flows the better fish had long since retreated to very difficult holding zones below roots and undercut banks. Casting was tough, and both Sue & I experienced many snagged and lost nymphs and dries on the tight corners and willows which line the banks.
But we both had excellent success on the small rainbows here. Every spot that should have held a fish or two did so. When we'd encounter the rare beaver dam, some larger trout would be free swimming in the deeper water and thus would be more accessible to us.
I doubt we released anything over twelve inches, but it was a wonderful start to the trip.
Finishing up, we had a nice tailgate lunch at the parking area and then continued our drive up past the Crags to the headwaters of the Poudre River. Apparently the greenback lake at the top of the pass is still undergoing poisoning and reconstruction to remove trash fish so we passed on that one mile uphill hike to try for those cutthroats.
Just downstream a bit further, however, was Joe Wright Reservoir where I'd had such nice success from my kayak for grayling on the last trip through here.
Unfortunately the unpleasant monsoon rains had already started when I got out of the car to rig up at this lake, Sue opted to stay put and work on crossword puzzles.
Good decision. I said I'd be back if fishing was decent from the shore at the inlet stream, and I did get back fairly quickly due to catching a few small grayling almost immediately.
When I told Sue about releasing some fish (apparently she assumed they were rainbows), she was not initially impressed at all, but when I said they were all GRAYLING, she changed her mind, suited up, and came back to the lake with me. OK. Sue was the only one in our family with a grayling to her credit up to this time, having caught a couple on our last trip to Montana on a creek of that same name, so I've been jealous ever since - and was happy on an earlier trip here to report that I'd now matched her with that species.
Long story short. She had all kinds of strikes - and experienced the same issue I did the first time around - soft mouths on this somewhat strange looking fish leading to lots of quick escapes.
Eventually she toned down the pressure from a strike standpoint and released several of them - including one of the rare doubles we enjoy encountering from time to time.
The weather continued to deteriorate with rain squalls following us down past the confluence with the Big South and beyond. Eventually we arrived at a spot that was irresistible despite the lousy weather and we both fished part of the Poudre for a short period of time. Nothing doing despite our matching the ongoing PMD or PED hatch with comparaduns of that type.
Unwilling to fish this river without touching a FISH, the last riffle finally produced a nice twelve inch brown for me. That was it for stream success on the way to Cheyenne.
An early arising from the night's campout in the Element gave me a quick ten minutes to try the flat water below the hatchery. Nothing doing. The river was muddy from last night's rain - at least that was my excuse.
We got to the rodeo in late morning and enjoyed sitting five rows up above the bull chutes. Departed the arena at 4:00 or so, visited with some friends, had a couple glasses of wine and drove to Laramie for a nice dinner. More wine. Probably not a good idea, but we continued down Highway 230 towards Woods Landing and camped for the night on a Forest Service Road.
Next morning our plan had been to drive on to Riverside and then to the upper Encampment where we'd had such a great time last year. As the weather was already threatening, we turned left at the junction, went to Walden for breakfast, then explored the area around Delaney Buttes and the North Platte. No fishing for us here either. A nice trico dun emergence was in progress on the Platte, but the stream was murky - and we all know that only a trico spinner fall is likely to be reasonably productive.
Took off again hoping Willow Creek might be in better shape - it was not. On to Granby and up the road to Rocky Mountain Park. Turned right at the Shadow Mountain tailwater is now running at low summer levels. Sue passed fishing again, while I gave it another try.
Not bad here, but had trouble finding any fly the fish really liked. Linked a #18 PMD comparadun with a #20 unweighted prince and had a few fish on from time to time.
Shortly the weather soured again and I scrambled back to the car. It was interesting that most of the fish I hooked here pulled loose - seemingly very soft mouths like the earlier grayling. Have never experienced the problem of soft mouthed browns until today.
Back down the Colorado we drove, ignoring the water by Hot Sulfur that we normally fish for some easy success. Ditto for Barr Canyon and the river below that point too. Just no fun with threatening skies and periodic rainstorms.
Went back over Ute Pass and got home in mid afternoon. Another outing with a good start and a lousy finish - but there really are no bad times on the water. Life's short - play hard.
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