Early June 2018
Note: For additional information about Beaver Creek fishing, see my articles from November and December 2017
I am just back from my winter fishing haven in Everglades City, Florida. The dust has settled from my settling back in my cabin near Salida, Colorado, and I am hankering for some trout action. This time of year that usually means smaller creeks, because the big rivers like the Arkansas are blown out by spring runoff and too high to wade. The choices are good this year compared to last when even the smaller creeks were running high well into July (See my 2017 blog on Silver Creek.). Because of low snow pack and lack of rain, many nearby streams are low and clear.
I decide that Beaver Creek near Canon City, Colorado, where I had some great fishing last fall may be the ticket. It’s only about 1 ½ hours from the cabin, and I can also catch it on the way back from Denver after visiting my son Matthew and little granddaughter Aly. When I check the Colorado Water Talk website, I figure now rather than in July or August—Beaver Creek is already running very low at about 5 CFS—late summer conditions. I also want to scout out the creek as a possible trip with my Matthew and Aly in a couple of weeks. She’s about 2 ½ years old and ready to catch her first fish!!
Trip #1–The Narrows (Late May 2018): Just finished a fun visit with my Granddaughter Aly in Denver and am trundling down the backcountry road just outside Canon City to Beaver Creek (for specific directions, see my November article on Beaver Creek). The road is dusty and washboardy, reflecting the drought that has enveloped southern Colorado. Wildfires are already springing up to the southwest in Durango and more will be on the way unless we get some rain. I pull into the Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area gravel parking lot around 11 a.m. and am on the water by 11:30–a bright, sunny Colorado spring day with temperatures in the 70s. It’s a Tuesday morning so the lot is empty, and as usual I will have miles of water to myself!
The creek is already low—under 5 CFS, much lower than last fall. I restrain myself from casting till a reach the diversion pool about one-half mile from the trailhead. It’s low, and I can see some small brown trout finning nonchalantly at the tail-end of the pool. I creep up slowly, kneel, and loft a cast past them. One jets forward and nails the #16 Royal Coachman Trude dropper, and the fun begins.
As I work up from the diversion pool, I find most fish are in the deeper pools—the waters in the usually productive runs in between are just too skinny to provide much cover. By mid-afternoon, I have worked about one-half mile upstream to the next trail crossing.
I’ve caught plenty of 6-10 inch colorful, hard-fighting brownies and a few rainbows pushing 12-inches. The best fly has been the #18 red Two-Bit Hooker nymph as a dropper that imitates the wealth of small mayfly nymphs in the creek. However, the Trude produces the occasional hit likely because there are scads of grasshoppers around.
Interestingly, there is a sporadic hatch of big stoneflies that look succulent, but I don’t see a single trout rise to one all day, and the halfback stonefly nymph on my second rod produces only one rainbow. Go figure.
Now the question is how far up should I go. I fished a few pools further upstream from the second trail crossing last fall, but have heard tales of some big fish beyond…so naturally fishing fever wins out and I plunge ahead. Good decision. Almost pool-by-pool, bend-by-bend, the fish get a little bigger. Now 12-13” browns are more common. The Two-Bit Hooker rules, but about 1/3rd come up for the Trude, which is a blast to watch in the clear, shallow water.
By 5:30 p.m. and about a mile later, I reach what I call The Narrows—there Beaver Creek is squeezed between some big beautiful, sheer palisades until it’s barely 10-feet wide. A series of deep pools leading up to the Narrows waterfall produce some nice 12-13” bows that put up terrific battles featuring some big leaps.
Then in the big plunge pool below the waterfall, I manage to hook and lose another rainbow that looked like it would have pushed 15-inches! I have seen few boot marks on this section and no one else all afternoon.
I should be turning back now—it’s at least an hour back to the car, but just have to see what’s above the waterfall. So I scramble around the big boulders, something that would be tough if the water was high, and explore some inviting looking pools upstream where the creek flattens out a bit. Again, some nice 12-13” brownies can’t resist the nymph. Finally at 6:30 p.m. I decide I have to scurry back to the trailhead. I can’t help but stop and admire the blooming cactus on the way back.
But still by 7:30 I am stripping off the waders and then quaff a welcome Genesee NA Beer as I motor back to Salida under a gorgeous sunset. Beaver Creek does not disappoint. Of course now I am wondering what lies farther above the narrows—there’s another couple of miles of little-visited water to where the stream splits into East and West Beaver Creeks. Next time!
Trip #2–Aly’s First Trout (Early June 2018): Two weekends later I am pulling up to Fremont County International Airport just outside Canon City where my granddaughter Aly and my son Matthew and his friend Kayla are waiting. It’s about a 1 ½ hour drive from Denver or Salida to our rendezvous spot, then another 30 minutes or so to the Beaver Creek State Wildlife Refuge trailhead. Being a weekend, there are a few cars in the parking lot, but we don’t see anyone on the trail till the end of the day. After a quick lunch at the trailhead, we hightail it towards the creek, my confidence high based on my Narrows trip that Aly is going to get her first fish!
The half-mile hike to the diversion pool takes a bit longer than usual as Aly does her usual rock-hounding on the way. We march on, singing Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s Off To Work We Go, Grandpa and Aly lustily belting out the tune.
I breathe a sigh of relief when we catch sight of the stream—it’s even lower that my last trip, but still appears fishable. When we arrive at the diversion pool, Aly wastes no time wading in and spooking the little guys in the shallows! Undaunted, I cast a couple of nymphs with my little ultra-light spin outfit into the depths at the head of the pool.
My idea is to hook a trout and hand the rod to Aly and let her reel in the fish. As planned, I immediately get a strike, but then an even quicker long-distance release. That scene is repeated two more times before the fish finally get spooked. Dang, this is going to be tougher than I thought. We walk up a few hundred feet to the next pool, a real honey hole on my earlier trips, and I manage to hook and lose a couple of more fish! Then I adroitly throw a cast right into some brambly bushes growing out of the side of the canyon wall and have to spoil the pool to retrieve my flies. Aarrgghh!
Fortunately, Aly is completely unconcerned, more than happy to make mud pies, paw through my fly box, and look for bugs under rocks. It’s amazing how her little bare feet can stand the cold water. Grandpa is wearing his chest waders and big wading boots!
Matthew and Kayla decide to ascend the trail from the diversion pool up to the canyon rim trail far above that offers spectacular views.
Aly and I stay behind and have fun putzing around in the water. I find some big stonefly nymphs, but she refuses to touch the gnarly looking critters. We then hike up the trail a bit to meet Matthew and Kayla who are descending.
Now it’s back to the quest for the elusive trout. I hook several more, but they wriggle off. Now I’m getting a bit desperate. I leave the gang back at the diversion pool and head upstream, switch back to my fly rod, and pound every promising looking spot with all the skill and acumen I can muster. Just as hope is about to fade completely, the fishing gods take pity as a 10” brownie rockets from a little postage stamp-sized pool behind a rock in a riffle and nails the Royal Coachman Trude dry. Netting the prize, I plunge through the streamside brush back to the diversion pool, and while Aly isn’t looking, hook the little guy to the nymph on the spin rod. Aly wades over to see what’s up, and I hand her the rod. She feels the fish and at our urging, starts to crank the reel. As she sees the fish surface and splash, she lets out a shriek of delight accompanied by a big smile.
I don’t think Grandpa has had this much fun or felt happier for a long time. I think it will be the first of many for this little girl who just has an innate attraction to running water!
To make the day even more complete, we revisit the honey hole just upstream that I had spoiled earlier, and Matthew, who is an accomplished fly fisherman, catches a nice 12” rainbow then hooks onto one even bigger, but it escapes. I think he may be back here with me later this summer for some serious angling! Kayla is even getting the fever, and catches on quickly to the nuances of fly casting.
It’s late afternoon by now, so we head back to my cabin for a quick dinner and then stroll down to banks of Little Cochetopa Creek that runs through my land for a good old-fashioned campfire marshmallow roast and s’more feast. Aly handles the marshmallow stick like an expert! A gooey time was had by all.
A wonderful day, with nothing more special than that look of wonder in Aly’s eyes when she saw that trout, her first!!