During the winter, some fishing trips are relatively predictable. That's not a code word for boring. Just predictable. The drive is going to take X amount of time. We'll most likely catch fish on X flies. Good times, for sure. But, predictable. After a bit of debate at the Fly Fishing Show the weekend prior and a quick look at the forecast, there was a certain energy surrounding our midweek trip to South Park. Between the incoming snowstorm and our stupidity, we had all the makings of a less than a predictable trip. Something strange was going to happen. I'd have laid money on it if I could.
About one hour in, I was fairly convinced that it was going to be me. We stopped at Rudy's in the Springs for some breakfast burritos. We hopped back in my truck with a couple of brown paper bags filled with BBQ filed burritos. Fast forward a couple of miles and I had squeezed a container of BBQ sauce so hard it exploded all over the center console and the gear stick. We swung into a gas station to pick up some wipes and I managed to back over some traffic cones. HOT START for the big man. It felt like I was in line to make this day a bit more unpredictable - maybe I forgot to charge my batteries or something of equivalent hilarity.
We pulled up to one of the parking lots at the Dream Stream and I was a little surprised to find three fully charged camera batteries in my backpack. Flows had recently dropped, but there is plenty of holding water for fish at the Dream this time of year. They aren't the most active fish this time of year. While we held out hope that we'd have an opportunity at sight fishing and maybe even picking off some risers, we knew we were likely in for a slower, more deliberate day of nymphing.
Tanner slid on his toasty G3s and we took the beaten path over to the river.
The water was low and clear. We knew snow was headed our way soon enough, so we didn't spend much time here. It was only a matter of time before the clouds were going to move through and any hope of sight fishing went away with their arrival.
The Abel Rove (more on that on the blog coming soon) matched well with the NRX+ and we kept trudging along the banks. Those partly cloudy skies were on the horizon.
No sooner did Tanner throw a cast, did the clouds show up. We knew we'd have to grind a couple out with a little bit of hope. It was time to blind nymph.
Gus, on the other hand, wasn't bothered by the prospects of blind nymphing whatsoever. That old dog loves him some wide-open fields in South Park. I kept myself entertained snapping photos of the 14-year old legend while Tanner dredged.
Before long, Tanner fooled a resident brown with a red D-Midge.
A hearty winter South Platte brown. A damn nice fish if we're being honest. Certainly not out of the realm of expectation for the day, but tell me there's a better way to start the day. Let's take a moment to check back in on our expectations of predictability for the day.
So far...pretty predictable. Throw enough solid drag-free drifts at the Dream and chances are you'll run into a quality trout or two. Were we happy? Yes. Were we surprised? Not particularly.
We moved downstream to check out a bend or two. Took a glance, saw some fish...and Gus decided to swim across to the other side. Solid old dog move from Gus. Gave us the ole..."Oh, I didn't hear you yelling my name and kept on paddling till I got to the otherside" look when he started working his way down the bank. Still not particularly surprised. Par for the course, so to say.
We worked out way back upstream. At the risk of taking too many photos of Tanner roll-casting, I decided to throw a couple of casts with his spare rod.
The ROVE handled this brown well. That classic Abel cork drag is so smooth and protected my fine tippet like it was Dikembe Mutombo in the paint in the 90s. No-No-No breakages.
A couple of drifts later, Tanner hooked into a sporty cutbow. Soon enough, that solid cutbow, which put up a formidable, but somewhat familiar fight, found itself a new home in the big bag of the Rising Stubby Lunker net.
Three quality fish between the two of us and those dark and stormy clouds were creeping our way fast. Things were starting to pick up on the UNPREDICTABLITY SCALE.
Snow started to move through and there was no end in sight. We started our way upstream, expecting an increasing amount of THIS for the rest of the day.
Funnily enough, that snow moved in and out quicker than ole Eric Young swiping bags back at Coors Field. Blue-ish skies were back. Not totally unexpected. After all, as the saying goes in South Park (like many other locales) - "Don't like the weather, wait five minutes."
Glare is the enemy of a sight fishing angler and those clouds were playing mind games with us.
We kept the faith and threw some well-informed drifts in some slow, deep pools. Another stout brown to the bag. We were feeling pretty damn good at this point. Who could have predicted this many solid fish on a day filled with hopeful blind nymphing drifts? Not us.
All of that paled in comparison to what was about to transpire. We alternated turns presenting flies in this hole. It was Tanner's turn, he grabbed my rig which had an old classic - the Buckskin Caddis as the middle fly. As we debated about the merits of abandoning this run and going for a long walk downstream, Tanner hooked into a good one. As I sat on the bank, snapping a couple of photos - Tanner noted that it was indeed a very good trout. I laughed off this concern about what was transpiring and kept snapping away. "This one's DIFFERENT," Tanner exclaimed. Turns out...
It WAS Good. Pretty good. Prettay prettay prettay good.
Our hunch was right. There was something about the day that wasn't going to be that predictable. If you would have asked myself or Tanner if we were going to bag a fish of that size and quality. We would have declared you a BIG OLE liar. But, there we were. Proven wrong...and right.
When we first drove up in the morning, we had no plans of leaving before dark. But, we also weren't expecting that quality of a brown trout to end up in the Rising Stubby Lunker. A couple more hopeful blind drifts were made and we decided to call it. That snow-filled drive back to Denver was going to be predictably HORRIBLE.