Fall Edition

Fall Edition
Fall Edition

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Colorado Fly Fishing Odyssey ~ Part 1 ~ 9/6/2020


Finally some time on my own, a road trip for trout, and back to where I spent a great amount of time earlier in life. Yeah, I’ve got roots in Colorado that go back for three decades. It’s cool because I still have many close friends and more in the state, and know some of the watersheds intimately. As I age, I’ve realized that I can’t just guide and run a totally independent fish business all the time, and need to enjoy life much more, no matter what curve ball it throws at me, big or little.

Travel Day - After picking up my mint 2020 mini van at the Grass Valley Enterprise office (special thanks to Jana and Natalie) I left behind some extremely smokey conditions that were enough to make one gag – It was really bad that morning. It’s about 15 hours from GV to my first stop, the Stagecoach tailwater section of the Yampa River. I typically drive 11 to 12 hours, pull over and sleep for about 6 hours, then bang out the rest of the drive. I’ve done the trip to and from Colorado over 50 times and it’s not that bad. I have a bed already set up to go when I get sleepy, and I’m totally self-sufficient with food, water, and all the gear I’ll ever need for a fly fishing odyssey. The trip out was good and non eventful. The smoke finally dissipated about halfway through the Silver State of Nevada – Blue skies! I did experience some hellacious wind with blowing dust and salt across the Great Salt Flats of Utah. Enough wind to make one pucker and keep two hands on the wheel at all times. Kinda gnarly. 

I stopped to get some shut eye at the most beautiful rest stop outside of the town of Vernal in Utah that was super clean, and not one human there. It was just myself all night long. Now that’s unheard of…

Day 1 - I awoke at first light, made coffee, and set out for the Stagecoach tailwater of the Yampa River. Imagine the special regs section of the Little Truckee with 4 times the amount of fish (rainbows, browns, cut bows, and brookies), gorgeous scenery, and angler friendly access and amenities. It’s much shorter though, about a quarter length of the LT. This place is just as crowded as the LT, but today it was on the light side. 

I carried two rods, a WildStream Horizon 9’ 5wt for my dry fly rod...

    and a WildStream Searcher 10.5’ 3wt. for my tight line rig. I'm really stoked on both of these rods!

Cat's Wendell Zebra without a bead doubles as a bwo nymph and crushed them in the early afternoon.

For dries I fished a solo cdc bwo dun, or a custom tied midge cluster. For the tight line rig, all small flies sizes #18-22 including the black beauty, zebra midge, Wendell zebra, RS2 in gray and black, and in the early morning, #12 scuds – plus other random midgey zebra type stuff, more like variations of the others. 

I’m usually not a fish counter, but I like to go by the Cat Gauge and the first day brought 17 fish 13-16”. Got a hat trick too featuring browns, rainbows, and brookies – That always a cool jib. There was a Trico spinner fall in the late morning from the previous day’s hatch from 10 to 11am. At around 1pm, a fresh hatch of bwo duns would come off, not a huge hatch by any means but enough to see some heads poke up. During those times there were many surface feeders, and plenty of targets to choose from.

Thanks to my guide @crazycat313 from previous trips, I know this river really well, and every detail of almost every run. Mornings were cold at 35 degrees leading into sunny skies, big beautiful cumulus clouds, and air temps reaching in the 80’s. Absolutely gorgeous weather. It was a really good day…

Day 2 – Same place, same rod setups, same flies. Just a few vehicles in the lot, and looking out onto the river, I could see that most my fish pots were vacant. I got there earlier at around 7:30 and the trout were going crazy for the scud right away. Like right when it hit the water…BOOM! Hook up! The spinner fall and main dun hatch came off a little earlier in the morning due to it being a tad warmer. Not as many risers than day 1, but enough. I had one drift that was a rod length away, casting the cdc dun to a large bow grazing in the film like a big fat cow – just munching away. I made two casts and finally on the third one, the bow saw it, came up and grabbed it like it was the real thing. Next, an explosive run upstream into the whitewater with line peeling of the reel at a very high rate of speed, and after a lengthy battle, a 18” fat bow in the net. 

I also got my first brookie after many trips at Stagecoach, kind of a big deal for me since @crazycat313 always catches numerous ones there, and some of them are big. That’s why I call her the Brookie Master, and wrote a poem about her amazing fortune while fishing at Stagecoach (read it HERE). 17 total fish to the net today. This fishery is utterly amazing…

Day 3 – The Blue River. Fished a section called Slate Hole located just outside of Silverthorne. I did really well there last September with @shogun_of_denver so I was eager to cover the same section of water that I remembered so well.  The flows were lower than last year, but the water was cold in upper 50’s during the morning. I fished hard for close to 5 hours and managed only 2 dink bows, and one 14” brown. I covered so much good water with great detail, but I was not getting grabs. The fish were simply not there. 

I finally bailed by noon, went back to the van to organize, eat, and wash up, and then headed to town for cell service to conduct fish business emails and reply to messages. Along the way I stopped into Cutthroat Anglers to buy some more of those super effective cdc duns in a size 20, what a kick ass dry fly! Great shop, really cool and helpful staff too. The manager Casey, and crafty guide Trent @tct_hustle gave me the lowdown on the Blue, and why it was so crappy. It was really fun shootin’ the breeze with those guys. If you’re in the area, it’s a must visit. I’m going back to Stagecoach tomorrow…

Day 4 - Stagecoach tailwater section of the Yampa River. Just a day trip from my USFS Blue River campground site. Same everything as before, except there was way too many vehicles in the lot at 8am, with only two spots left. You see all those cars and think this sucks, but I found many of the fish pots open. I like to start in the ones that have some sun on the water, It’s neat to visually see your quarry, plus it’s nice to warm the body up – I don’t carry a lot of natural insulation on me (LOL). 

Really good dry fly action in the late morning, like unbelievable. They were stupid for the midge cluster, like the cookie monster – crumbs flying everywhere. Today was pure magic, I could do no wrong. Bigger fish too, at least 6 that went 17 to 20”. 21 total for the day, mostly fish from 12 to 16” – I’ll gladly take it.

Smooth Green Snake ~ Liochlorophis vernails blanchardii

What really helped today was going through a run rather quickly with your tight line set up and fly selection, then going through 2 to 4 times with different flies. Yeah, you’re tying a lot of knots and burning time, but it pays off in the end. Dead drift presentations in the right seams, with the right amount of weight, and at the right depth was everything. This place rules…

Mt. Guyot, 13,376 ft. ~ French Gulch ~ Breckenridge Area

Off Days – On Saturday I went to Breckenridge, my old home from many moons ago to visit with close long time friends. Hangin' in the Gulch, checking in with Underground Snowboards where I worked and provided the best tune and glide with my famous “Jonny B Mirror Tech Finish”. A quick stop into Jackson Streit’s Mountain Angler to patronize the shop was also on the list. Jackson was the man who turned me onto 11 Mile Canyon and Tomahawk of the South Platte River in 1992, what a gift that was. I hadn’t seen Jackson in 25 years, and what a cool visit it was. Reminiscing about the good old days of Breck, and the current fishing conditions. Awesome shop, a great staff, and a good man! What a legend.

It’s Sunday, and more fish business to deal with. Also organizing and cleaning gear too. Back at it tomorrow, other side of the Divide and concentrating my efforts on the South Platte, The Ark, and some other areas that are best left unmentioned. Blue skies (cold temps and snow in the forecast for Tuesday LOL!), big mountains, high plains, and plump tout await.  Check back for my follow up report sometime after the 12th. I’m going fishin’…  

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