Week 2 proved to be much different simply because of an artic cold front that pushed through leaving much colder temperatures and snow in its wake. 4 to 12” of early season snowfall landed up in the mountains. Rocky Mountain States are a whole different world compared to Northern California. A higher altitude with different seasonal jet streams makes a big difference. So with that…Let’s get on with the report from the rest of my awe-inspiring trip!
Being Labor Day, it was super crowded, the most people I’ve ever seen. Back in the mid 90’s it was not uncommon for us to be alone up there fishing all day and never see another angler. Times have changed for sure. We worked two of my favorite sections that are located in a tighter canyon configuration with vertical walls, beautiful rock formations, and unmolested pocket water.
The other anglers we saw made camp on the larger pools where they would spend hours upon. We didn’t see one bent rod from those large groups hurling over sized bobbers at all. That’s not our style, but rather stick and move, and hit every fishable pocket no matter the size of it. Those nooks and crannies is where it’s at, and nobody was fishing them – perfect.
There was a brief Trico spinner fall with some dry fly opportunities during mid-morning, but we opted out and went for the pockets and mini plunge pools.
Water temps were in the low 60’s, and there is so much algae and moss in the system that you are constantly cleaning off your flies using the circular swing of your leader across the top of the water that is aptly named “The San Juan Slap” (which I learned there back in the day).
I hooked 19 fish from 12-18 inches but many came off as they were chunky and wiley – Super feisty! A good mix of rainbows, browns, and cut bows were slayed. We got our fill and headed back to Denver. What a fricken awesome day it was!
Day 8 – Arvada. On Monday I was wearing flip flops and shorts, and on Tuesday with a massive temperature change of nearly 60 degrees, it was long underwear, pants, and boots. With 11 Mile under a blanket of snow, it was time to catch up working on some upcoming articles for California Fly Fisher that morning.
I finally got to hang out with @crazycat313, she had been hosting a friend that traveled a great distance to fish with her. I would spend the rest of my trip with Cat and with the current weather we opted out of fishing and got caught up since my last visit in July. A visit to Jax Outdoor Gear (the place is so cool!)
Red Robin gourmet burgers, thrift stores, and other fun stuff with lots of laughter. That night I had somehow forgot to close the side door of the van, like wide open. It snowed more that night and the interior of the van was soaked as was my sleeping bag and gear. Yes, lots of gear that anyone could have easily taken, but it was all there in the morning. That could have been an expensive brain fart to say the least!
Day 9 – Arvada. Cat and I really wanted to fish, we thought about hitting Clear Creek as the brookies are in spawn mode showing off the most spectacular colors. Instead we did more of the same from the day before, and stayed inside enjoying each other’s company.
After one try at the cluster, she had it down. That evening we vowed to go to 11 Mile Canyon the next morning no matter the weather. I’ve always wanted to share that special place with her, and finally it would be a reality…
Day 10 – 11 Mile Canyon / South Platte River. We expected snow on the ground everywhere, but the ground was too warm for it to last long, and just a few small patches in the shaded areas was all that was left. Way less crowded too, and the same thing – Nobody was tight lining the nooks and crannies.
We fished the same two sections as on Monday but the fishing was off and not as good. It must have been the low pressure and the big change in the weather that affected the bite. Whatever…We still had fun and I made a little video of our day mixed in with the Yampa trip we did on day 11. You can see it HERE.
We each landed about half dozen fish, nothing big this time, just around 12-14”. We took our time that morning, sleeping in and such and only fished from noon until 5pm, then headed back to Arvada for a big dinner. What a great day spending time with Cat in the canyon, the first of many more to come…
Day 11 – Yampa River / Stagecoach Tailwater. There’s something special about the drive out to the Steamboat Springs area that brings back fond memories of when I traveled up there in the early 90’s to snowboard with a fellow team member of the now defunct Wave Rave Clothing brand of Boulder, Co. I think it’s mostly that when you leave the I-70 corridor, the pace of life slows down, and the fact that Rabbit Ear’s pass is extremely beautiful.
Again, we took our time getting there from the Front Range and fished from noon until twilight. Fishing pressure was extremely light and the least amount of cars that Cat and I have seen in a long time. The cold front also affected the bite at Stagecoach as we really had to work to for the trout. It was nothing like the week before.
We ended up with some nice trout, and for myself the most gorgeous fish of the trip, a butter belly of a brown with orange and gold highlights and big black spots. What a specimen! It gave me a hell of a fight and came from the most obscure pocket that was half the size of a bathtub.
The bwo hatch did not materialize in the early afternoon, so it was all Tight Line Nymphing with tiny flies. We used the same patterns as my report in part 1, with the exception of some new variations of Cat’s custom guide ties. I didn’t fish as hard as I did the week before, but instead just watched Cat, and her approach do the different runs. I like that, to watch other good anglers as I always learn something from those experiences. It’s also very gratifying to watch Cat fish because of her accelerated progression of skills.
I’ve never ever seen someone learn so quickly. She’s so focused on every drift, and also changes flies a lot until she finds the winning combo of the right pattern with the right amount of weight. Many factors have contributed to this including her life skills of working as a Registered Nurse, which she’s so proficient at, plus racing motocross which teaches you that training, hard work, and determination achieves great results. Those skills combined with her outstanding work ethic makes Cat nearly peerless as an aspiring fly angler. Watching Cat gives me goose bumps. Like I said, the fishing was on the slow side, but her persistence paid off.
The original plan was to leave for home the next morning from the Travel Lodge in Yampa, but with such an outstanding fishery that is so beautiful, and my best fishy buddy hitting the water again in the morning, I had to get in one more session…
The first thing I noticed were the abundant amount of warblers flying around eating aquatic insects, way more than the previous week. The change in the weather had them on the move with their seasonal migration. Yellow warblers, Audubon’s warblers, Wilson’s warblers, and Hammond’s Flycatchers shared the river with us. It was spectacular. We had rising fish eating midges so we both grabbed our WildStream Horizon rods (See my review HERE) and rigged up with Cat’s midge clusters that she tied the Wednesday before. She was into them quickly, and I was so stoked for her catching fish on a new pattern that she had just learned to tie. How awesome is that? Pretty damn awesome if you ask me. I hooked 6 fish, landing 4, all on the cluster.
It was 11am and it was time for me to make the long drive back to the reality of work and fish business. Leaving Cat was so tough, and also the fact that here I am leaving blue skies for the smoke choked land of Northern California. Cat stayed a few more hours with @flyfisherjoe, a really cool young dude I met through Cat that lives in Steamboat. Give him a follow on Instagram, he’s got some rad pictures of some very large trout from the area. Like I said, persistence is one of Cat’s strong points and it paid off again while Tight Lining into the afternoon. She finally landed a big toad. As I drove away I looked down into the valley, gave a few honks of the horn, a wave, and a vow I’d be back in a couple months.
What a spectacular trip! Colorado never disappoints, great fishing, good friends, amazing landscapes, and the onset of fall colors. Yeah, fall colors comes a month earlier in the Rocky Mountains. I hope you enjoyed my Colorado Fly Fishing Odyssey. Do yourself a favor and checkout the amazing fisheries in Colorado. Just like Northern California, so much water, and so little time…See you on the water.