As good things must, our trip was drawing to an end. We were reluctantly headed back down the road towards Denver, determined to stop a few times to fish along the way. I was looking forward to getting some dry fly action in, which you might think is a little funny after catching several great streamer browns. I just love a topwater bite over any other. I think it might have to do with tempting a fish to enter my world, the world above water, if just for a little bit, if only with the tip of his nose.
I was planning on throwing a hopper all day.
We put the pavement behind us, already rehashing stories of the fish we had caught in the previous days.
A couple hours later the truck was rumbling down gravel, then bouncing through potholes, and then resting in the shade of a riverside tree grove.
We wadered up as Brian filled me in on stories of fishing the water in years past. Rigging quickly as we talked, we smelled the river-smell and listened to the gentle chuckle of the riffle only a few yards away. Determined to get the dry fly eat that I was hankering for, but not yet confident they were willing to eat on the surface, I tied on a hopper-dropper rig. Call me a noob if you must, but I love the versatility and functionality of using a floating fly as a strike indicator. It just makes sense to me to have as many options available to the fish as possible when you're unsure of their mood.
I was soon to find out exactly what kind of mood the fish were in.
Brian and I strode down to the water, heading upstream of where we had parked to a more convenient wade-in point. Ever the gentleman, Brian encouraged me to forge slightly ahead and fish the beautiful shallow run, knowing I was craving an eat on dry fly. My first cast laid out flat, drifted with the current about 5 feet, and - whap! - a trout came up and smacked the hopper. I honestly wasn't ready for it, so I missed that fish, but a huge grin lit my face. The next strike came a few casts later, my hopper slipping under the surface to tell me the midge dangling below the surface had found a fishy face to hang on to. A beautiful little rainbow trout was soon in my hand, with the truly vibrant color that the small trout seem to show off best.
Slipping the fish back in the water, we exchanged high fives and moved slowly upstream, working current seams and other likely water. I moved towards the shady far bank as Brian hooked and released several of the gleaming young trout. I moved a couple more fish on the dropper, but decided to trim the midge off and stick to the hopper. A few yards further upstream, at the end of a 12 foot drift down a current seam, this fish moved to take the fly just a rod length away. The moment is clear in my mind - watching the fly drift, the sudden blur of yellow-gold appearing from nowhere in a foot of clear water, the slashing take. Immediately the fish realized its mistake and ran downstream, almost going between my legs. After a brief but spirited fight, she came to hand.
Not a bad fish for that stretch of water. My dry fly thirst was slaked. Before the anticipated afternoon thunderstorm rolled in I continued upstream, exploring and casting at likely pockets. A few more of the small river jewels were eager to bite, and I carefully released them as quickly as possible.
As the rain and lightning came down, we sheltered in Brian's truck and dripped water from the brims of our hats, considering our next move. We knew the rain would murk up the water but what the heck. We were here.
After the rain had passed, we started downstream, swinging flies across the current to see if we could spark a strike in the off-color conditions. Brian quickly hooked a couple nice trout in a row, and before dark we had each caught a few more. As dusk settled in, we came to a pair of small feeder creeks. One flowed with milk-white water at the top of a short, swift rapid. The other came in several yards below the swift water, high with frothy brown runoff, creating a stark color change before the waters mixed. I decided there was probably a fish hanging on the edge, and this was going to be my last cast anyway, so I stripped out a pile of line. The mouth of the creek was probably 60 feet away, so that conehead streamer was humming as it whistled by my head headed to the far bank. The line tautened, the fly zipping across the current, and just like that - bam. Fish on. A couple minutes later a 14 inch brown trout slipped from my fingers and Brian and I headed back to the truck.
Last cast, last day, awesome trip. Doesn't get much better than that.