Beaver Pond Saga, Chapter 3: Return Of The Mojo (Pass Creek Near Salida, CO)

Early June 2021

For my recent befuddling foray on the Trout Creek beaver ponds see: https://hooknfly.com/2021/05/23/__trashed/

For my more successful first outing on the Pass Creek beaver ponds see: https://hooknfly.com/2021/06/24/beaver-pond-saga-chpt-2-mojo-rejuvenation-on-pass-creek-near-salida-co/

and for some tips and techniques for beaver pond angling see: https://hooknfly.com/2021/05/27/runoff-blues-try-a-beaver-pond/

At the close of day after a successful late May Pass Creek beaver pond rehab mission I ventured another mile upstream in my SUV to check out prospects there and stumbled onto a picture-perfect beaver pond with the requisite beaver lodge.  I immediately booked Step Two of the mojo rehab treatment for early June, figuring after another good day on the Pass Creek ponds I’d be fully recovered and ready to tackle those snooty Trout Creek brownies.

So a week later in mid-afternoon I am trundling up the bumpy road that parallels the creek towards the aforementioned alluring beaver pond. Unlike the ones I fished in late May, this pond is visible from the road with easy access. Even better, when I stroll down towards the big pond, I discover there is a second large pond hiding just downstream. I hustle back to my SUV and and get suited up in my chest waders and grab my trusty wading staff. Both are essential for navigating and thoroughly fishing beaver ponds where the going is often difficult due to rough and/or mucky terrain and for doing the often necessary high-wire dance along the beaver dam to access the entire pond. I am carrying my two-rod beaver pond special combo—one an 8.5 foot, 4-weight fly rod and the other a 5-foot ultralight spincast outfit for fishing in tight spots where fly casting is not possible.

Dual Action Beaver Pond Rigs

The fly rod is rigged with a #16 Rio Grande Trude attractor with a #20 red zebra midge nymph dropped about two-feet below.  On the spincast rod are a #18 Two-Bit Hooker nymph and #16 red San Juan Worm along with a BB split shot, a good combination when the water is high and clear as is now the case or there are deep pools in a pond.

With my fishing fever rising and my mojo in good shape, I charge down the slope and head downstream to get below the second pond.  I find an opening in the thicket that leads down to the creek below the dam.  There’s a nice little pool here, but the short stretch is entirely overgrown above and below, making fly casting impossible. 

Where Angels Fear To Tread!

Instead I pull out the spincast outfit and use a pendulum cast to flip the nymphs under the overhanging branches and am immediately rewarded with a feisty little brook trout. 

Scrappy Brook Trout Starts The Day

I release the trout and move downstream, trying to peer beyond the branches and vines. I’m surprised to find there is actually another tiny beaver pond just around the bend, completely hidden from sight above.

Surprise Hidden Postage-Stamp Size Beaver Pond

I carefully move through the thicket and see there is another deeper, longer arm to the pond up against the south bank.  I flip a backhand cast with the spincast rig and as soon as it hits the water above the pool a nice-sized trout rockets from under some downed timber above, chases the nymphs, and nails the San Juan Worm.  I awake from my momentary trance and set the hook.  Battle on.  The fish runs directly for cover towards the dam and its nasty snags, but when he catches sight of me reverses course and jets back upstream.  Fatal mistake, as I now have room to fight the frisky critter.  Soon a well-fed brown trout topping 13-inches is sliding into my net for a quick pix and release. 

After checking the flies, I throw a second cast into the exact spot, and the theatrics are repeated as another big brownie zooms from his hiding place above.  But this time I yank too quickly and pull the fly right out of this mouth.  Grrrr!  Still, not a bad beginning.  Oddly these will be the only brown trout I will see all day as brook trout dominate from here on up.

The way up to the next beaver pond is completely blocked by another impenetrable thicket so I have to scramble out of the water and navigate the steep slope on the south side of the valley.  I slowly and carefully move around broken branches and thorny bushes using my wading staff to keep my aging frame from tumbling down into the undergrowth.  Finally I reach an opening in the lower big pond I had spotted earlier, and am delighted to see it is much larger than I had expected.  Better yet, there are risers dimpling the surface.  If I stand on the dam I have enough room behind me to cast a fly.

Persistence Pays Off

I wait till a riser reveals himself at the edge of a shallow flat in the middle of the pond.  My cast alights delicately a few feet away from the dimple he has left, and immediately something hits the little midge nymph, dragging the dry under. I set the hook and a miniature brook trout jumps in the air in an impressive show of aeronautical skill.  Soon another frisky 8-incher comes in for a photo opportunity.

For the next 30-minutes I circumnavigate the pond, first by prancing carefully along the dam, then wading through the mucky shallows on the upper end.  All the while the brookies cooperate.  Interestingly, all fall for the nymph and turn their noses up at the attractor dry.  A second fly rod with a midge dry probably would have done the trick, but two rods is plenty to try to carry in thickets or while walking on top of a mess of sticks and logs on top a beaver dam.

The action finally cools, and I start trudging up to the big photogenic dam that got me here in the first place.  There’s a little pond just below the big one, but it’s too shallow to hold anything, so I creep up carefully to the big dam.  Up close it’s even more breathtaking than from above. 

The dam is a huge half-moon structure, creating a deep pool above it.  The beaver lodge is the punctuation point.  I try a dozen casts with the fly rod but nothing is interested.  However, when I throw out the double nymph rig and let it sink into the deeper water, I immediately get a strong hit and soon land a beautiful little brookie on the San Juan Worm.

Can’t Resist Those San Juan Worms

I circle the pond, casting from the dam then around to the other side near the beaver lodge.  Trout usually like to stack up around the lodges with the deeper channels the beaver have dug for access, and this one is no different.  The big pond has yielded about a dozen fish, all brookies in the 8-10 inch category.

Mojo Rejuvenation Treatment Nearly Complete

It’s getting late, so I start back to the SUV, but the sound of rushing water above catches my ear.  I bushwhack upstream and am surprised to find another series of beaver ponds stepping up the hill. 

I can’t control my piscatorial urges, and a beautiful rushing pool below the first one yields four brookies, one on the dry fly and the rest on the red zebra midge. 

Another Hungry Brookie

The pond just above looks so inviting, but before I can scramble up on the dam and make a cast,  a loud clap of thunder from the dark clouds that have been rolling in argues otherwise. 

Not wanting to tempt one of the lightning bolts dancing on a ridge to the west, I pick my way carefully back to the SUV through downed logs and branches with a big smile on my face.  Trout Creek brownies BEWARE!!  My angling mojo has returned!

Beaver Pond Recon: The Perfect Antidote For Post-Covid Second Shot Fishing Fever

February 28, 2021

While being a septuagenarian has increasingly few benefits, one major exception is jumping to the head of the line to get the coveted Covid vaccinations.  After scoring my second one last week, I didn’t suffer from any serious side effects–except found myself nursing a mild case of fishing fever in its wake.  No one warned me about that!! What to do??  Fortunately I found the perfect antidote:  A two-hour recon mission scoping out the beaver ponds on a little creek near my cabin just outside Salida, Colorado, that produced some good brownies last spring. 

Spring 2020 Beaver Pond Magic

And with spring just a few weeks away so must the spring thaw that will let this small stream aficionado get on back on the waters he loves.  What I found definitely lifted my spirits but oddly only stoked my fishing fever.  What’s an angler to do??

It was a bright and sunny day when I embarked on my exploratory mission, albeit a brisk 29 degrees at 8,000 feet.

Sunny Day For Beaver Pond Recon

Nevertheless, the first big pond I came to that produced that nice brown trout was already showing some open water! And in the creek up above I even heard and then caught a glimpse of running water!!

A Hint Of Open Water Already!
See That Running Water?!?

To further stoke the fever, a mile upstream I stumbled on a promising series of beaver ponds, replete with a picturesque lodge, that had been hidden by overgrown vegetation last time I was up that way. Got to be some decent fish in there!

Hopefully it won’t be long before I am boasting about my piscatorial acumen accompanied by photographic proof of my beaver pond exploits. To all my fly fishing friends out there, keep the faith—winter is about over!!

North Fork Sampler: The Three Faces Of The North Fork River

Early August 2018

Photography by Jody Bol

CAVEAT: The North Fork Road has reopened but is still rough. Call ArkAnglers in Salida, CO for latest information.

For more about fishing North Fork Valley lakes see my articles:

https://hooknfly.com/2016/07/16/north-fork-sampler-arthur-lake-near-salida-colordo/amp/

https://hooknfly.com/2015/08/17/hunky-dory-lake-near-salida-co/

https://hooknfly.com/2016/08/17/north-fork-sampler-island-lake-high-above-salida-colorado/amp/

 With the surfeit of beautiful and productive lakes in the North Fork Valley, the valley’s namesake river often gets overlooked.  I’m as guilty as anyone—I fished it once some 20 years ago when my boys were youngsters, and we caught some nice rainbows.  But since then I have scurried by it numerous times headed to the lakes instead.  In all of those trips, I don’t recall ever seeing anyone fish the North Fork River.  But when I trekked across the North Fork Reservoir Dam a few days ago and ogled the good-looking water below the spillway, I vowed to change all that.

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Happy New Year: Going Balmy In The Balmy Banana Belt (near Salida, CO)

“Nothing Makes A Fish Bigger Than Almost Being Caught!”

December 30, 2017

Some of my cheeky friends accuse me of being a tad balmy for my dedication to piscatorial pursuits.  Just to confirm these suspicions, I decided this last week of 2017 to take advantage of balmy weather in Colorado’s Banana Belt to chase trout several times in the Big Ark River around Salida, Colorado.

Locals use the term “Banana Belt” somewhat tongue-in-cheek.  At an elevation of some 7,500 feet, Salida admittedly does not have tropical or even subtropical weather any time of year.  But in truth, it is a remarkably warm high mountain  valley when compared to surrounding alpine communities–Fairplay, Gunnison, Saguache–just over the passes to the north, west, and south.  They are truly frigid!  Indeed, this past couple of weeks we have been just as warm in Salida, and often much warmer, than mile-high Denver.  The temps pushed 60 degrees several times.  That’s not to say the fishing is a snap.  Some tips follow that may put a big rainbow trout or brown on your line before winter really arrives.

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The Ice Man Cometh–And With Him A Time To Reflect On 2017 And Hopes For 2018

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not the fish they are after.”  Henry David Thoreau

December 19, 2017

The Ice Man Cometh this weekend sayeth the weatherman….so time to sneak away for one last outing in the water and dances with trout.  With 50 degree weather and light winds in the forecast, I decide to visit my home water, the Arkansas River just upstream from Salida.  I know a stretch where the valley is broad and the sunshine plentiful, even in winter, and hopefully the fish cooperative.

When I arrive at just after noon after a short 15-minute drive from my cabin, I am treated to a picture-perfect scene, abundant sunshine, and no ice flow on the river.  Two weeks ago several  nights of single digit temperatures had clogged up the water with ice, but now it’s flowing freely, at least for a couple of more days.

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The Arkansas River Below Big Bend

I used that spate of cold weather profitably, hunkering down inside with the fireplace going to tie up a bunch of my favorite fly pattern for the upcoming season—a concoction I created called a green hotwire beadhead caddis.  Naturally, it’s a simple tie—I am no Rembrandt at the fly-tying vise.  But it works, and how!!

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This Vise Is An Eminently Acceptable Vice To Pursue

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Hotwire Beadhead Caddis Nymph

I wade into one of my familiar reliable pools, the water frigid despite wearing three pairs of socks underneath my neoprene waders.  On my third cast the little yellow yarn strike indicator, below which dangle two nymphs, hesitates ever so slightly.  I lift my rod slowly and it’s FISH ON!  Just a little brownie, but a good start.  No skunk for me on this final 2017 outing.

For the next hour or so, I have a ball laying out long casts over the crystal clear water.  At the end of the year fly casting becomes so natural, so easy, so graceful that it’s a treat in itself to watch the line unfurl, and the tiny flies alight delicately on the water exactly where the cast was aimed.  A bonus is hooking an occasional trout.  The first half-dozen are small (all on the beadhead caddis except for one on a big stonefly nymph), but then a nice 14-inch brown surprises me by nailing the caddis in a shallow, fast mid-stream run where the fish are not supposed to be this time of year.

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Trout On Ice

Usually they retreat to deeper pools where the slow-moving water is warmer.  Then if to prove the point, 15 minutes later an even bigger, stronger 15-inch rainbow gobbles the caddis nymph in a deeper hole off the main current.

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Chunky Rainbow Provides Exclamation Point For 2017 Angling Adventures

As I release the shiny beauty, I take a seat on the bank and reflect on what a wonderful world we have and what a wonderful year 2017 has been thanks to family, friends, and yes, fish.  Great gifts and a refuge in turbulent times.  My little sweetheart of a granddaughter, Aly, went from baby to toddler in a flash, and along the way exhibited a strong predilection for running water and playing in creeks.  Sure way to grandpa’s heart!!

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My Sweetheart Aly–That’s a Stick In Her Hand, Not A Flyrod…Yet!

I have had many great adventures in the wilds this year, alone and with friends.  Solitude and pristine nature abounded and surrounded me, kept me peaceful and sane.  It has been written that fishing is a perpetual series of occasions of hope, elusive but attainable.  And so it is with life.  2017 has been a wonderful year, and I see hope on the water and in the world for 2018.  My best to all my readers, compatriots, and friends for the New Year.  Here is a tribute to 2017 in pictures….indeed a wonderful world!!