February, 2009

02/05:  I'm done instructing for another ten days, so with sunshine today and more snow coming tomorrow, it made a little bit of sense to get out on the water while the getting was good.  When the dogs and I arrived at the Eagle County Fairgrounds, it actually couldn't be described as appearing to be "good".  The Eagle was flowing at its regular winter rate, but today it was quite off color given a couple of recent days of higher afternoon air temperatures.

Nevertheless I put the rod together and looped on our favorite strike indicator, a thingamabob, part way up the leader and trudged through the snow down to a sometimes good run near the fairground grandstands.  Nothing doing.  

Before becoming bored and shooting this photo of the dogs having fun, I must have made several dozen casts along the ice shelf and everywhere else in the run fish usually could be found.  

 

Not so much as a strike on the stone or trailing red copper john as far as I could tell.

 

So we hiked back to the car and drove a bit further downstream, parking on some still unmelted ice covering a lot at the west end of this same area.  

Set off for the big hole at the confluence with Brush Creek.  It's clearly very popular in the winter - I'm suspecting more with catch and "eaters" than those who release to catch again, and today it was a repeat of the January experience.  Nothing doing.

Since the dogs were still enjoying playing together themselves - and with other dogs passing through the area - I opted to walk both up and downstream from where I'd been completely unsuccessful to see if any better water might exist.  Most of the stream here is quite shallow without the deeper holes trout prefer to hold in during the colder winter months.  

But in a couple places, mid stream rocks created decent looking eddies, and happily some holding water for a couple of book end sized eighteen inch rainbows that each took the copper john.

 

Good grief it's sure nice to break away from another skunking.  While I wouldn't call today a terrific outing, just being able to release a couple of trout made my spirit soar a bit.

 

We have snow in the forecast for the next several days, and though I have to go to Denver on Monday and Tuesday, with luck sometime in the middle of next week, the older dog and I should be able to do a trip either all the way to the White - or at least over to the Frying Pan.

I'll admit it.  Am getting cabin fever and really need to feel some more fish at the end of a line.

 

7/11:  Sue drove up to Red Lodge, Montana to visit a friend this week - and took the puppy with her.  That leaves only the old dog and the old man at home (how do you spell q-u-i-e-t here in the condo?)  On top of that I'm not working on the mountain again until Saturday.

With that as the background the decision to do some fishing out of town was pretty easy to make.  We'd have liked to try our favorite river, but the cabins we normally stay in overnight which don't object to our doggies, are not open this winter.  Thus a day trip somewhere was the reasonable alternative.  Tailwaters tend to be the only viable fishing places in the dead of winter which is where we are right now.  The Blue's too crowded and Wolford is too iffy given its short length which left us with the Frying Pan in an easy driving distance.

We headed out fairly early in the morning despite the single digit temperatures here at the house.  

 

A little over an hour and a half later I pulled in at my usual starting point roughly four miles up the Pan.  

 

Had rigged up beforehand at home, not wanting to attempt to tie on #22 and 24 midge larva on a 7X tippet at the close to zero air temperatures we knew would be the case on the river.  A 3/4 inch diameter orange thingamabob strike indicator completed the outfit.

As I made a few easy casts on a tiny braid below the big pool I normally work first, a trout almost immediately rolled next to the indicator.  Seemed strange, but I thought maybe it had come up for some kind of midge on the surface.  Amazingly the next cast resulted in that same fish inhaling the strike indicator itself!  I couldn't believe it.  Played the rainbow for maybe two seconds before the fish realized its mistake and expectorated the bubble.  Bizarre.

A couple more casts later brought another bow to one of the larva, but it too flipped the fly out after a couple of leaps.  Still, it was pretty encouraging to have success this quickly.

Unfortunately that was the best result of our stop here.  The bigger hole turned out to be mostly a dud.  

 

I played another couple of fish - both rainbows, missed a handful of very gentle strikes, and that was about it for a place we normally can count on at least a dozen fish or so.  

 

To be completely honest, it was probably utterly unrealistic to expect decent results this early on a truly frigid day.  Normally the fishing, even on a tailwater, doesn't get productive until the air and I'd guess the water temperatures warm slightly.  On this day nothing really warmed up at all.  We saw only two other fisher people on the entire stream all day.  Very unusual for the Frying Pan which is a very popular winter destination.

Before making our way up to the dam area, we stopped at a couple other places and had similar results.  A few strikes and a couple more smallish fish released, but really nothing to write home about.

The dam area proved to be very similar.  I struggled through the snow down to a run that is generally wonderful in the summer months, and it too proved unproductive today.  

 

A slightly deeper and slower pool above gave up a couple more rainbows and this one brown, but it was just very tough fishing.  

 

Ice had to be broken from guides almost every cast, and when the wind came up around 11:00, the chill factor was simply brutal.  So the dog & I returned to the car and ate a quiet lunch with the heater on max.

Drove back down the hill and looked for a couple more places to try before heading for home but most of my favorite places had snow banks that would not even allow us to park the car without impeding passing traffic on the road.  Passing Basalt I had hopes of trying another spot or two just below the confluence with the Roaring Fork, but here we found other fishermen in those places already.

As a last chance for the day, we stopped near the Sunlight Bridge in Glenwood and gave ourselves no more than another hour to try some casting on the Fork.  Walked upstream to a big hole with a nice flat at its lower end and started throwing somewhat larger nymphs along the bank.

Shortly hooked a nice fifteen inch rainbow on a copper john, but he threw the fly after a couple of jumps.  

 

Another couple of twelve inch long rainbows followed further up along with a several smaller whiteys.  

 

So the fishing wasn't bad at all - and even with ice in the guides, the air was quite a bit warmer at this lower elevation in Glenwood.

At the end of the hike upstream I shifted to a black streamer and threw it along the bank as we retreated back towards the car.  A couple of strikes at first felt like those "annoyance" ones browns make when they resent what appear to be other fish in their feeding lanes.

But on the shallower flat at the end of the pool the strikes got much better.  Wish I could say I made some nice releases here too, but the three fish I played were able to do that releasing on their own.  

 

All were rainbows, and all were in the 15-18 inch range.  Despite not "touching" any of them, it was a really pleasant surprise to find how active the fish appeared to be so early in the winter.  

 

Generally we don't have much success on the Fork until water warms substantially around the middle of March, but with a few more days off later next week, we may have to make a return visit here.

Last Logbook Entry  for previous day   

02/21:  We had a remarkably successful fishing expedition today down on the Roaring Fork today - with a couple of somewhat less productive sessions on parts of the Colorado.

Took just the old dog along again due to the puppy's being untrustworthy at this point in her life.  And to be honest, I simply can't either keep a dog on a leash while working the water, nor do I want to have to watch her every move to make sure she stays off the roads, etc.  So it was another senior citizen day on the river.

Drove towards Glenwood pulling off at the No Name exit and fished that part of the Colorado for a half, three quarters of an hour.  Used two nymphs - stone up front and #18 midge larva at the back.  Nothing doing.  Not even a hint of a strike.

Then made our way through Glenwood, over the Sunlight Bridge, and tried some usually nice water just above the airport.  Ditto results  Very disappointing start to the day.  However, a tic in the back of my mind suggested that maybe we were just trying the stream too early in the day - as in the water just hasn't warmed up enough yet.

Back down to the Sunlight Bridge and a half mile walk downstream.  First spot which I knew would be successful as it always had been.  How do we say ditto for the third time??  Absolutely no sign of a fish.  What do I do now?

 

Good stuff finally happened.  On the way back to the car I stopped behind the tiny eddy shown here and finally got lucky.  

 

For some reason trout were stacked like cordwood just on the edge of the seam beyond the eddy itself.  I rerigged with a #20 bead head red midge larva up front and trailed it with a #22 dark bodied CDC winged RS-2.  The fish went bonkers.  Can't say it was a strike a cast but was close to that.

Fished here for maybe 45 minutes and probably released between 15-20 trout, all between 12 and 16 inches in length.  No whiteys at all and only one brown.  Wonderful!

 

When those fish got tired of me I went above the bridge and worked my way up the opposite bank.  It was quieter here, but still played another handful of fish - including of all things - a sucker.  Only the second one I've seen here in Colorado, and even though it was foul hooked, it was fun to see.

Eventually shifted to a streamer and had several hard strikes before finally landing a couple more browns.

On the way back home at the end of this nice day on the water, we stopped at the Barr Ranch exit, walked upstream a bit, and did some casting in a big eddy up there.  Not much happening as a fourteen inch brown was our only take of the day.  Nevertheless a really nice outing for the middle of the winter.

Here's a somewhat grainy video that reconstructs our day on the water:

 


 
 

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