Is it possible to have a blast fly fishing in Colorado and not catch a darn thing?!?
I recently went to Evergreen Colorado with my wife and another couple to get in some quality time and work my secret agenda to fly fish everyday in between our “couple activities”. We booked the trip a month in advance and I began preparing for the trip by trying a bunch of prince nymphs, hares ear nymphs, woolly buggers, san juan worms in red, zebra midges, and griffiths gnats. If I would have known in advance that the week before an ungodly snow storm would hit that area right before I go on my trip, I might have added some color to my selection and tied some rainbow warriors or added flash to my darker flies. I knew we were going a little early in the season and the runoff would be big anyways but having a fresh snow fall and then have hard rains everyday we were there was a little discouraging. Did that stop me from fishing? Hell no! The cranky weather also allowed me the opportunity to show the other couple we were with the basics of fly fishing and got them casting reasonably well in a short amount of time. I am not a guide or an expert by any means (You get the title of expert after you turn 80 years old and have been doing it your whole life, right? hehe) but I am excited that I was able to articulate the methodology behind casting a fly and they seemed to enjoy themselves. [Editors Note: They have both bought fly rods recently.]
Here is the report on my fly fishing trip in Evergreen Colorado and some spots I found that look promising
Flew into Denver International Airport and rented a car from Hertz. If you ever rent a car on a trip, make sure you sign up for a members programs so that you can get VIP service and get your car immediately and go. Because of the brutal weather the car companies were backed up and the wait in line reached 30-45 minutes to get a car. To be fair the line would have gone quicker if everyone would have stop complaining for 10 minutes about the wait before they got their car. After that little hiccup, we rolled down the windows and started our hour long journey to Evergreen. I spent my summers in Durango but for everyone that hasn’t been to Colorado it is literally a breath taking experience. You have to acclimate to the altitude and for the first time you crest a hill and take in the Rocky Mountain Range for the first time. I have seen it many times and I am still in awe. I am truly jealous of people that live there and have that as their backdrop on their commutes. The hour drive goes quickly as there is almost too much beautiful scenery to take in. During this trip we booked cabins at Bear Creek Cabins in Evergreen Colorado. I found their website searching on-line so I was a little hesitant at first (bc I didn’t know anything about them) but after talking to the owners and then getting a glowing testimonial from the guys working at the Blue Quill Angler, I had no problem pulling the trigger and reserving the last two cabins they had. Everyone was really happy with the cabins, the service, and the 200 yards of private stream we had to work on our fly fishing. We stayed in Cabins 7 & 8 and I recommend trying to secure them as they are at the end of the row and a little separated from the rest of the cabins. We were able to cook out most nights and there was no cell phone reception (bliss) in the immediate area. (You can get cell reception when you head into town a few minutes away.) Overall, Bear Creek Cabins was a great stay and I would highly recommend it.
Now… Let’s get to the fly fishing.
Day 1 – Started off on the private stream from Bear Creek Cabins and rigged up a nymph rig (hair’s ear nymph and a trailing zebra midge) on my Orvis Clearwater rod and Lamson Konic reel. The water was moving fast, really murky, water was freezing and it was a little tricky avoiding the trees so I tried working the water in a pattern to prospect but no luck whatsoever. Switched to a red San Juan worm to see if I could get some action but no love from the fish at all. I think this would be a great stretch of water once the spring runoff is over as the underwater landscape has lots of spots for fish to hide. It looked like the silt and sand layers were being washed downstream and I bet that it is uncovering some great pockets behind small boulders that would be perfect to run a fun through. Talking to the owners later, who are avid fly fishing enthusiasts, they pointed out the same spots I earmarked and said that after the summer the water is glass and if you sneak up on the fish there is great fishing on this section of water. (Bear Creek Cabins are members of Trout Unlimited as well and it is catch and release only and no bait or lures… just fyi.)
Day 2 – My pilgrimage to the Blue Quill Angler.
I have done business with this fly shop on-line but have never been in the shop personally. I respect Pat Dorsey and have read his writings and think he is a world class guide. I think I was more excited to hit the fly shop than the rest of my group but secretly I set up this whole trip so that we would be close to Blue Quill and I could get to go in… so what can you do right? The store is like walking into the biggest toy store right after the grandparents gave you your Christmas money when you were a little kid. I had to reign in the impulse buying as my wife was watching and would have killed me if I went nuts. I got my friends signed up for some 2 day licenses, avoiding touching anything in the fly tying section which could have cost me easily $100 minimum and ended up curbing my impulse to buy with obtaining some size 18 rainbow warriors and a small marabou streamer. You have to support local fly shops, right? I chatted with the guys working at the time and they seemed a little dejected about the high water and murky conditions so I figured if the local guys weren’t catching anything right now then my chances dropped to a snowballs chance in hell. But what is the old saying… You can’t catch a fish if your fly isn’t in the water. This is my go to store for fly tying materials. Free shipping on orders over $5.00 and great customer service makes it a win win for me. Next time I am in Colorado I will check out their guide service and go out for a full day when the conditions are better.
After hitting the fly shop we got to drive around to check out the scenery which is great for couples and secret code for “reconnaissance” for fly fishing. I found a couple of spots and decided to try a small stream that wasn’t flowing as fast that tied into a little man made lake in the heart of Evergreen. There were a ton of people fishing around the area so I decided to give this area some time. Due to it being murky, I went with the nymph rig and worked that for a while. It was a little claustrophobic as we were packed in a little tight and I couldn’t work the stream the way I wanted but the scenery was amazing and everyone was friendly so I had an enjoyable time. Still nothing, no strikes, no sightings, no nothing. I took solace in the fact that no one else caught a thing either so I didn’t feel as bad.
Day 3 – The secret honey hole
On our recon mission from day two, I spotted an area a mile or two past Kittredge CO (the spot is just south of Corwina Park) that looked promising so I got up extra early to grab a section of this stream. The temperature dropped 20 degrees overnight and I had to rethink my attire for the morning. It was 37 degrees and freezing outside. Beautiful morning though. I hit the stream at the right time and was alone for a hour. I started fishing a prince nymph that I tied with a trailing rainbow warrior that I bought at Blue Quill Angler and was working a huge boulder and a small pool behind it. The stream had the same conditions as everything else but that boulder was massive and creating a great opportunity for fish. I worked the area for about 15 minutes trying to keep the flies and line out of the torrent and keep them in that small slip than funneled into that small pool. This is that part in the story where you will cringe and feel sorry for me or shake your head and grumble like an old person. I call it “The only one that got away”. Sigh.. I worked my rig into that area and had it perfectly lined up to wash into that pool. It was moving quickly and as it washed around the boulder a beautiful rainbow flashed and went right after it. I don’t know if the fish struck it, got spooked right before, or if the water was moving so fast that we didn’t connect but I didn’t set the hook and ended up seeing the only opportunity from three days of fly fishing flash before my eyes. At the time I was excited because even though I missed it.. there was a fish in that spot and I was going to get him. Guess what folks.. this story doesn’t have a happy ending. I must have spooked him as I couldn’t get him to take anything after that. After playing that area I went downstream a bit and prospected. At that time I knew this had to be a honey hole because two separate guides brought clients to my spot. They jammed me out and tried to force me down the stream a bit and normally if another angler tried that I would stand my ground and give them the old man stink eye, but I have a soft spot for guides and packed up and gave them the area to work. I feel guides make their living getting somewhat inexperienced first timers on the fish and that is hard enough as is so if they have a spot that works.. more power to them. I have friends who are guides and they always look after me so I am happy to pay it forward.
The secret honey hole Part 2
When I moved down I got another piece of stream that was just beautiful and again I found myself alone. I immediately got hung up trying to fish an area that was tight with a log and a tree overhang and spent some time tying another nymph rig. I thank the Boy Scouts for teaching me knots. I fished that area in a grid pattern and worked my way down the stream. It was picturesque. As I was concentrating on watching my flies drift and making sure I was mending my line I noticed some movement in my peripheral. I looked up at the other side of the stream and three baby foxes came out and started playing around. It was amazing to watch the three foxes frolicking and I had to take a break to watch. I wasn’t moving but maybe they caught my scent because they immediately stopped playing and started watching me watch them. I decided at that time to resume my fishing and let them be. It dawned on me slowly that I hadn’t yet seen the parents which caused some nervous glances behind me. It’s so funny the moment that you realize that you are so focused on fishing that you forget you are in nature and there are animals that could take your face off. But whatever.. I wasn’t bothering them and they weren’t bothering me… and I really wanted a fish out of that spot so I kept at it for an hour and then packed it up to head back for breakfast. I chatted with one of the guides on my way back. They hadn’t had any luck and I told them about the boulder upstream a bit and I think he took his client up that way. Hopefully he was able to put him on a fish.
That night I showed the friends that came with us some fly fishing basics and got them into bear creek to practice. I was secretly hoping they wouldn’t catch anything. Wouldn’t that be my luck that a beginner lands a fish in the area that I have been fishing on and off for three days. I don’t think I would ever hear the end of it. I was really impressed on how quickly they picked it up and they had fun. Thankfully they didn’t catch anything.. I know that sounds selfish but after three days of not catching anything I think your brain reverts to a primordial state and you start thinking of self preservation or something..hehehhe.
Day 4 – Last day before packing up.
I didn’t fish in the morning. I have a thing where if I go on a trip with my wife and she lets me fish early every morning that I will spend one morning sleeping in and having breakfast with her and relaxing by the river. I think it is important to take time to spend it with her if she goes on fishing trips with me. She doesn’t fly fish and will get lost in a book instead which works for both of us. She lets me fish whenever I want and it is important to reward that. I DID fish that evening though. Waded down bear creek one last time and worked the area.. still nothing. The continual rain that poured down all trip just wouldn’t give me a break and I did feel a little sad that I don’t have a fantastic story of catching a monster brown or rainbow. I did have a fantastic time though. I love fly fishing and would take a trip like that again even if it means I go through a dry spell like that again. Although next time, I think I will set up a day with a guide to show me the other secret spots and to tie up my nymph rigs for me.. hehehe is that lazy of me? Tight Lines ~ William