Like any good fisherman, winter can take its toll on me, especially now that I'm living in Colorado where winter apparently means frozen water instead of cold but fishable lakes and streams. Yes, in the short term I miss Tennessee, but just wait until summer. In the meantime, I've got to occasionally get out and fish even if the weather is nasty.
On Monday, the weather was anything but nasty. Probably just about as good as it gets in winter, the temperatures were flirting with 60 degrees, there was practically no wind, and it was a holiday so I had NO SCHOOL!!! The previous day I had already satisfied my craving for time in nature with a great hike up the Flatirons near Boulder. The views were magnificent, and I gained some much needed exercise. Oh, and those are people on top of the 2nd Flatiron pictured below...
While hiking is great, I still wanted some time on the water. My last fishing trip was over a month ago and was beginning to seem more like ages. That's why I decided to get out and do something about it! That's right, when all else fails, its time to actually go fishing instead of daydreaming. Knowing that I-70 would be clogged with traffic due to the holiday and all the skiers heading back to Denver, I opted to instead head south to Pueblo and the Arkansas River.
Having fished the Arkansas above Canyon City before, let me start off by saying that the tailwater is definitely not the same remote and uncrowded experience as points further upstream. However, the fishing is good enough that I only noticed the differences until I started catching fish.
Sometimes the drive can produce some of the memories on a fishing trip. This was the case on Monday for sure. Cruising down a mostly deserted road in Colorado is downright peaceful. Watching the scenery go by is always one of my favorite parts of any trip. What I didn't expect were the cars pulling off up ahead like something was the matter. Yep, you guessed it, a Greyhound was racing along down the road..............seriously. I'm not joking on this one although my first reaction was the same. By the time I realized I was not dreaming, I was flying by in the other lane. I'm still not sure what was going on...
Finally on the water, the plan for the day was to nymph and hope for a hatch. I rigged up my go-to 5 weight, a 9 foot St. Croix Legend Ultra that has caught many nice fish over the years. For flies, I'm not going to be any more specific than to say that larva patterns, mostly of the midge variety, were my top producers. For an indicator, I have been gravitating towards the indicator system some people now refer to as a New Zealand Indicator. I love the ease of adjustability and the sensitivity of these indicators. Byron Begley from Little River Outfitters got me started on these, and I've used the system in just about every situation since then.
I wandered slowly up the river in search of fresh water or at least some solitude. Finally, with fishermen all over the place, I decided to walk a ways. Apparently approaching another access, I started to run into more fishermen and decided to turn around and fish my way down through the open water below. Other anglers would appear above and below and then vanish again as if someone was sitting in the control room shuffling the pieces of a puzzle. My piece of river was always respected however and for that I was grateful.
Just below one deeper hole, I found a perfect run that I knew held some trout. They just weren't where I thought they should be. Continuing to drift my rig through time after time while slowly shuffling downstream, I started to get some hits...or was it ticking the bottom? The possibility of fish playing with the flies refocused me just enough so that when the indicator twitched and then slowly sucked under, I was completely ready and in command of the situation.
Upon setting the hook, I discovered more than the 12 inches of trout I expected. The fish pulled back, hard. Worrying about the quality of my 6x fluoro, I settled down to whipping the fish. Every time I thought it was ready to come to the net I was proven wrong. The strong surges were beginning to make me wonder if the fish would ever come to hand or if it would have one last trick to throw the hook. When the fish slid into my big net, I was like a little kid at Christmas. Starting a fishing trip with a 20" fish is the perfect solution for a relaxing finish. There just isn't any more pressure to catch something spectacular. A nice gentleman happened by at just the right time and graciously agreed to snap a quick picture for me as well...a good day on the water and kind strangers to boot!
I was so satisfied that I almost quit fishing right then, but of course I didn't. Surprisingly, the longer I fish, the more I occasionally consider calling it a trip at one good fish. Maybe I'm getting to the point where the experience is more important than catching fish, but I guess I'm not quite there yet because so far these thoughts end with more fishing.
Continuing slowly downstream while giving other anglers a wide berth, I picked up a fish here and there and occasionally found an especially hot run that was good for several rainbows until I either caught all the hungry fish or spooked the rest. Over the next couple of hours I caught enough rainbows to 18" to keep me satisfied. One brown was hooked but not landed. I also saw a couple of other guys stick some pigs so I have a few more ideas of where to fish next time.
Oh yeah, there will definitely be a next time. This river is pretty awesome, especially considering that I don't have to fight the ski traffic on I-70 and its only about the same distance for me as going to the Smokies was in Tennessee. That said, I can't wait for some local water to open up a little more. There are a couple of browns over on Boulder Creek that I owe some attention to...
UPDATE: 5/24/2015 -- Streams in the Smokies are getting lower with the recent lack of rainfall. Dry/dropper rigs are accounting for a lot of fish, especially on the dropper. High gradient streams in the mid and higher elevations will fish better because of the broken water but water temperatures are still acceptable all the way to the Park boundary on Little River. We could use some rain so keep praying, doing rain dances, or whatever it is you do to get the water flowing.
The Caney Fork continues to fish well. Conditions vary from good to great with some days being easier than others. On days that start out slow, a pattern change or two will keep the rods bent. Contact me about a float trip if you want to get in on this great fishing at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884. With the holiday weekend and summer coming up, expect the fishing pressure to steadily increase on this river so get out and enjoy it while you can.
Cumberland Plateau smallmouth fishing is definitely getting cranked up. Two weeks ago, I landed my new personal best smallie from a favorite local stream. This fishing will only improve. Isonychias are hatching on the smallie streams here on the Plateau and Golden Stoneflies should be just around the corner. Over the next few weeks, the streams will transition to great surface terrestrial and popper fishing.
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