Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Come Hell or High Water...

-- Meadows of Onahu Creek in RMNP --
... we will catch fish! At least half of this is true. We planned this trip back in March before the Rockies received record spring snowfall. We landed at Denver International with spring runoff on the rivers at record highs, but we are making lemonade out of lemons.

Our first full day hike and fish was up to Onahu Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). With all the rivers and streams totally blown out at lower elevations, we took the advice of Steve Schweitzer (author of "A Fly Fishing Guide to RMNP") to hike as high as possible and fish the streams and lakes.

In addition to exploring RMNP, we planned to fish the Colorado, the Williams Fork, the Cache La Poudre, the Fraser and area tribs near Grand Lake so the high water kept our options limited actually allowed us to focus on a couple of fishing destinations from an overwhelming number of quality opportunities in the area.

-- Onahu Creek Trailhead --
The hike to the first meadows of Onahu Creek was about 3 miles  from 8,700 to 9,500 feet above sea level. While the creek was following fast, the water was gin clear and there were pockets & pools which held some brookies.

-- High, but fishable flows at 9,500 ft --

We have some beautiful mountain streams in New Hampshire and Maine, but nothing like vast open meadows close to two miles above sea level like what we discovered in RMNP.

We all started throwing Parachute Adams, BWOs and PMDs. We had some takes, but the fishing was slow.

-- Moose mom with calf --

As I was switching to an olive slumpbuster, picked up at Charlie's Fly Box on our drive from the airport to the mountains, a moose mom with calf startled me, but they keep feeding while mostly ignoring me.

It was really easy to swing the streamer in the fast flows, but finding just the right current and area which would hold fish was a challenge.

-- A patient, stealth approach to a small pool --

-- Fat, little brookie fooled by Parachute Adams --
My son's friend landed the first brookie of the day by patiently flipping a dry into a large still pool off the main flow of the stream. He worked the pool for about 30 minutes waiting between casts for the small brookies to start rising after each cast.

-- Tiny brookie landed with swung Olive Slumpbuster --
I was working the top of the meadow swinging the slumpbuster through varying flows and depths.  I landed a smaller brookie in a shallow slow flow and had a another take in a another riffle a few minutes later.

While not a stellar fishing day, we were blessed with the beauty of the Rockies and perfect weather.

This is the first post from our Colorado experience during the first week of July.  We had good days on the water with lots of adventure and stories to tell.

I'll do my best to capture these experiences, in no particular order, over the next couple of weeks.