The Tiny First Fish of 2020 in Colorado

I’ve been at work in Colorado for two weeks now and have eased back into fly fishing freshwater. Aside from a few outings for panfish in a Petaluma pond and a couple of short days on creeks in Arizona and Nevada, I haven’t fished freshwater since the Fall of 2018.

I went with a friend to a small creek on my first Saturday in CO to look for brook trout with my little glass Eagleclaw Featherweight. They were there, but I couldn’t get any to look up and had to resort to a Copper John under a big bushy stonefly. The water was still high and cold… the brookies will be more eager in another month when the bugs get more active.

When I got back to Fort Collins, I thought I may as well go have a look at the Poudre, since I had my gear ready to go and it’s not far from home. But since I had the 3 weight, I thought my best chance was the series of ponds along the river and the bluegill and bass that would be getting active this time of year. I did swing a rubber leg stonefly through a couple of nice runs in the river, but didn’t get any interest from the trout.

The ponds were busy though, and it was hard to keep the littlest bluegill off whatever fly I put in the water. I’m not sure where to go to find actual pan-sized panfish.

This past Sunday I was determined to scout the Poudre river in the canyon, where the water is running at full flow. In town, the river is a relative trickle now, because the diversions for farming are taking the maximum flow from the bottom of the canyon, and all the canals and ditches are running full. In fact, the stretch I fished in town last weekend lost about a foot of water in the three hours I was there.

The online flow reports said that the canyon was very high, and it was indeed. I had packed a box with big salmon fly patterns, because any day now the big bugs should begin to hatch, and I don’t want to miss it. But there were few places I passed on the way uphill that looked approachable, let alone fishable. So I kept on going to see the lakes up at the top, by Cameron Pass.

I’d heard that Joe Wright reservoir was still iced over, and it was, but it had a large open section near the dam. I figured I’d go cast for a half hour, then go back down canyon to look for slow water to dredge with big nymphs and San Juan worms.

It was a beautiful day and the open water looked really fishy. I tried dry flies and got no action, so I tried a streamer that I’d caught good fish with in this lake in the past, but got zip. A gear fisherman nearby  landed a nice graying on a gold spoon, so I tried a gold Krenik in the same area, but had no luck. I finally gave up and switched to a little bobber with a tiny black zebra midge about six feet deep, and got a grab on the first cast! I didn’t land the small fish, but it was encouraging, and I had a number of bites that I missed. While in this spot at the base of the dam, a quite large rainbow trout was cruising by and zoomed right up to my feet to take a look at what I was doing. That encouraged me to stick around.

I ended up landing a handful of small grayling on the zebra midge, before I realized that dark clouds had gathered and it soon began dumping rain amidst claps of thunder. I hustled to my bike and got into waders and a rain jacket to stay dry, and went to wait out the rain under the spillway bridge at the dam.

When the worst had passed, I got on the bike and headed down to try a spot on the river that looked to have a big slow run outside a bend, where fish might stack up on the edge of the current. The sun came back out and it was beautiful again, but no fish were interested in my offerings. I stopped again near the end of the canyon when I realized I’d gotten no pictures of the high water…

The setup I chose for my new KTM 1090R worked pretty well for the moto-flyfishing job. The Giant Loop Siskiyou bags were big enough to carry waders and boots in one side and my gear in the other. Two rod cases and a net sat in the center with bungees securing them, and I can carry a fully rigged rod under the straps atop each bag. I’m looking forward to doing some serious exploring this summer and hopefully the pandemic restrictions will ease so I can camp along the river soon. Stay tuned…

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