Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You can't get there from here. Impasse on South Boulder Creek.

I can see it on Google Earth. I've been within 100 feet 10 times. I know there are great trout just on the other side of the impasse and maybe even Kokonee, but there just does not seem to be a way to get to the upstream canyon above Gross Reservoir on South Boulder Creek.

The Canyon walls to the north and south are nearly vertical. The railroad has been cut into the south side and loose filler stones, railroad tie scraps, and chunks of granite cascade down the slope to the stream bed. 

Walking along the railroad right of way you eventually come to one of the many tunnels between Denver and Winter Park. Below is the view from the tracks of the gorge opposite the tunnel. 

South Boulder creek at this point is at 7812 ft, the tunnel is at 7931, the south canyon wall rises to 8115, and the north canyon wall rises to 8300 ft. The walls of the canyon at creek level appear to be vertical rock. It is tempting to think that just going through the tunnel for 250 yards would put you beyond the impasse, but besides being illegal and frowned on mightily by the Union Pacific, there are some BIG trains that do the same thing. I stepped 20 feet into the tunnel once and discovered that not only is there no light at the other end because it goes around a curve, and the total darkness is overpowering. For some reason being in a cave with NO LIGHT gave me a primordial fear that froze me on the tracks. There is also a chance that a freight train or the California Zephr may meet you in the middle. I pictured myself calmly laying down next to the tracks, covering my ears and simply waiting for the train to pass. But then I remembered the thunderous sound of 4 diesel locomotives at full power, belching exhaust into the closed confines of the cave, moving at a snails pace and pulling 300 cars of coal on screeching metal on metal wheels straining against the curve of the rails. It could be my lungs and ears would simply burst and I wouldn't get to that nice water on the other side of the impasse.

 So I eliminated the tunnel route even though I'd packed my flashlight. I clambered down to creek level and found that some enterprising climbers had installed a safety rope for me to get through the impasse in the canyon. But wait. They don't have on waders and studded wadding shoes. Can I hang fast to the toe holds in my loose wader boots. Not likely. But at 27.3 cfs, for the first time ever, it looked like I could actually wade through the "Tiger Leaping Gorge" between the rock faces. Not only that, but there have got to be some great trout under those massive rocks.
It worked. In and out, although it was certainly exhausting. I met two young guys with spinning rods and their 5 pups who came in another way. I may disclose this in a future post. Or maybe not. 

Once water temperature got to 42 degrees, just as Clint Packo has suggested, the rainbows decided to partake of the miracle midge I'd tied this morning. This section is truly spectacular Colorado mountain stream. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ignore the advice... Pay the Price - Browns on the Arkansas

Clint Packo, Freestone Outfitters, gave a presentation at Denver Trout Unlimited on Tuesday night about cold weather tactics fly fishing for trout in Colorado. I took careful notes.

I'm going to try this out at Stone Bridge on the Arkansas just upstream of Salida.
  • Ok. Stream temperature 42F. Check.
  • Pheasant tail - size 18 just above my egg pattern with dangling size 20 black hook. Check.
  • White yarn indicator 5 feet above my bb shot. Check.
  • Fishy looking water with a depression, that is holding big fish I just know it, just below the middle arch support of this 1908 bridge over the Arkansas. Check.

Getting the drifts the way Clint had shown in the diagrams of his slide show, uhhh, not as easy as it looks. I adjust my weights, walk upstream a ways, spook a nice fish in shallow water. Clint said there'd be fish like this. I fish some more, walk some more. The wind is blowing up stream making casting quite easy but it is blowing at about 30 mph. I change the top fly to a prince nymph and after losing the egg rig some how change to an RS2 on the bottom, about a size 18. Clint said he NEVER uses an RS2. Oh well. I've been fishing about an hour and a half now and have covered a lot of water without a strike of any kind, without any indication of a hatch and it's just past noon, and without seeing any more fish. So much for sight fishing.  I get to this place above the stream and move out from the shore through some quick-sandy looking mud that actually acts like quick sand. I've now invested 2 hours in Clint's can't fail techniques on a river that's know to have 3,000 fish per mile with the sunny conditions and water temperature just as Clint said was perfect for winter fishing.

Nothing is working so I change the bottom fly to a size 20 black beauty that I just picked up at the fly shop in Pine Junction. I seem to remember something about going small as well as going slow and going deep from Clint.

I put it over the rock and let it drift toward the back of the rock that seems to be washed out into a deep cut although I can't see it. 
WHAM, the white yard indicator is sucked under. Oh no, not another snag. But no, it actually is a fish and nice fat 18 inch brown at that. On the very first drift of the correct fly, at the correct depth, with correct drift, in the correct place, at the correct water temperature. And NOT over a redd. 
Thanks Clint. I'll try to not ignore the go small advice next time.