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 Saga, Chpt. 2: Mojo Rejuvenation on Pass Creek (near Salida, CO)

Late May/Early June 2021

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

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

Beaver ponds are my go-to alternative when my favorite rivers and creeks in Colorado are blown out from spring runoff.  This year I decided to try some inviting new waters close to home that I had overlooked for years.  Based on decades of experience, mostly in the school of hard knocks, I fancy myself a fair-to-middling beaver pond angler.  However, as documented in a recent blog post in May (See link above.), my first beaver pond outing of the season on a stream near Buena Vista, Colorado, one with a very promising name—Trout Creek—left me bewildered and despondent.  After some four hours of hacking my way through a willow jungle and numerous casts on picture-perfect ponds, I netted only three modestly-sized fish!  Needless to say, my piscatorial mojo was severely depleted.  Undaunted, I promised I would return to take on the insolent critters, but decided first I better get some semblance of my full mojo back.  To do so, I settled on a series of beautiful beaver ponds that dot Pass Creek, a small stream only a mile from my cabin near Salida, Colorado, as a potential antidote. 

Pass Creek originates high up near the Continental Divide at the foot of 12,850-foot Chipeta Mountain, flowing out of beautiful Pass Creek Lake which holds some gorgeous cutthroats. 

Pass Creek Lake With Chipeta Mountain Above

It then cascades some eight miles to its confluence with Little Cochetopa Creek just below my cabin.  I had fished the lake and upper four miles of the creek a number of times over the years and had a ball catching some nice cutts in the lake and smaller cutts and brookies in the creek below, with a few surprise out-sized cutts mixed in.  However, further down below the remnants of a little mining ghost town, I hadn’t given the stream much attention, primarily because it is heavily overgrown in its lower stretches or runs through private land. 

In 2020 curiosity had finally gotten the best of me, and I sampled a couple of the beaver ponds a mile or so above the Little Cochetopa Creek confluence, landing several hefty brownies. 

Alas, sometime in the past year those little waters had been blown out by the runoff, which often happens with beaver ponds.  Fortunately, one fine winter’s day in 2021, I had decided to get some fresh air and drove up the bumpy gravel road that parallels the creek to do some recon.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a series of beaver ponds that had been invisible all those years, hidden by a thicket of bushes, vines, and trees.

I marked the location on Google Maps and then bided my time.  Now that time had arrived with my beaver pond mojo needing some readjustment!

On a sunny afternoon in late May I was bouncing up CR (County Road) 212 that winds above the creek.  The breeze was light and temperature in the 70s.  I could see the creek was high from the runoff but reasonably clear and definitely fishable.  I drove up about two miles up from the junction of CR 210 and 212 and pulled over at a turnout in the road where I had spotted the ponds earlier, then walked about a quarter mile back down just below where I estimated I would find the last of the ponds in this stretch. 

The ponds were completely hidden, but relying on my keen navigational skills and some prayers, plunged into the thicket for a serious bushwhacking session. 

Let The Bushwhacking Begin

Soon the wild roses and other assorted thorny bushes were grasping at my waders, and just as I was about to utter some choice expletives, I spied what looked to be a pond and could hear the rush of the creek. 

I Spy!!

I navigated carefully around a waterfall above the pond, but despite my stealthy approach, sent a squadron of small trout in the shallows scurrying for cover.  Well, I thought, at least the fish are here.  I decided to let the denizens of the pond settle down and fish the creek right below the waterfall.  I checked some stream rocks and found them loaded with small mayfly and caddis nymphs.  Caddis and mayflies along with midges were also flitting around in the air above the water.  All signs were looking good!  I was carrying two rods, one a 7.5-foot three-weight fly rod that I rigged with a bushy #16 Rio Grande King Trude attractor below which I tied on a #18 red Two-Bit Hooker to imitate the mayfly nymphs.  The other, blasphemously, was a 5-foot ultralight spincast outfit that I figured I might need to be able to cast in the overgrown stretches above where fly casting would be impossible or to get down deep in the ponds.  It was rigged with a beadhead sparkle caddis nymph and a #20 red zebra midge.

Dynamic Duo Is Good Combo To Tackle Overgrown Beaver Ponds

I knelt carefully on a sandbar 20-feet below the waterfall and targeted my cast at the foam line along the grassy undercut bank.  The trude floated jauntily down the little run and promptly disappeared.  I set the hook and was on to a trout that scampered back and forth in the small pool.  Finally a Lilliputian brown came to the net. 

Given my baffling experience on the aforementioned Trout Creek, I celebrated with a victory dance.   Never has there been such rejoicing over an eight-inch fish as there was for this little guy.

Now I was ready to tackle the beaver pond.  I concentrated on the darker, deeper water near the dam, but came up empty.  Next I proceeded cautiously up the long south arm of the pond.  Despite my stealth, again I scared the daylights out of a school of small trout that promptly jetted to safety above, no doubt alerting their brethren.  Cracks began to appear in my still fragile, recovering mojo.  

I retreated to the north arm of the pond and climbed back around the waterfall.  Above, the creek narrowed, requiring me to claw through the overhanging branches and brush to reach open water.  But the effort was worth it as I emerged just below the next good-looking beaver pond. 

I crouched below the dam to avoid spooking any fish in the pond, and had just enough room to make a short backcast.  As soon as the dry hit the water it was inhaled by a spunky brown pushing 9-inches.  That was more like it!  Surprisingly, however, a dozen more casts came up empty.  I decided to mount the beaver dam and use the spincast outfit to probe the deeper water with the double-nymph rig to which I had added a split shot.  No sooner had the flies sunk out of sight into the dark pool than something hit hard.  It was another brown enticed by the zebra midge, this one a little bigger. 

Now the action turned fast and furious, and I quickly fooled five more.  The mojo meter was inching steadily up!  As I worked to the upper end of the pond where the trees and brush receded, I switched back to the fly rod and fooled several more browns on the Two-Bit Hooker.

As I continued wading upstream I stepped out on a sandbar for easier going and immediately saw some fresh animal tracks.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up when I realized they were those of a mountain lion.  Yikes. 

Close Encounter Of The Cougar Kind

Chaffee County is reputed to have one of the largest cougar populations in the state, but I have yet to see one here.  I had the feeling something was watching me, but fortunately didn’t see or hear anything the rest of the afternoon if the big cat was indeed spying on me. He probably figured there wasn’t much worth gnawing on this old grizzled body.

From here on up, the going thankfully got easier as the ponds were spaced more closely together. The next one featured a big dam and plenty of casting room for the fly rod on the south side.  I carefully scaled the south end of the dam and worked my way to an open spot where I knelt carefully in the shoreline grass.  A few fish were rising along the opposite shoreline where the water was deepest.    I unfurled a long cast that alighted delicately near the risers and was rewarded with an immediate strike on the dry.  I set the hook and was onto the biggest fish of the day.  He immediately headed towards the safety of the deepest part of the pool up against the dam and its riot of sticks and branches.  My little rod was bent double as I tried to horse the trout away from danger.  It was nip and tuck, but he finally relented and came in—a 14-inch beauty! 

Catch Of The Day

After my nerves calmed down, I made several more long casts with the dry/dropper rig but to no avail.  So out came the spincast outfit.  I cast across the pond again and let the nymphs descend to the depths of the pool.  I cranked the reel handle a couple of times and was jolted by a hard strike.  Another good-sized brown had inhaled the red zebra midge.  He would also go near 14-inches!!  This was definitely the honey hole, and three other brownies over 12-inches soon followed.   My mojo meter was spinning wildly!!

When things quieted down, I proceeded to the next pond immediately above that was smaller and required a tricky backhand, sidearm cast to squeeze the flies into the main current under some overhanging dead branches.  My first two casts were just out of the flow, but the third swung in gracefully just below the little waterfall created by the dam above and glided under the twigs.  BAM!  There was a miniature explosion as another nice brown that would measure 13-inches gulped down the dry.  He dove for the undercut bank but I was able to winch him out into open water and into my net.

This would be the last of the good-sized fish, but who can complain. 

The next pond upstream turned out to be shallow, yielding only a couple more diminutive trout.  From there I ventured back into the fast-running creek upstream.  As my flies floated pell-mell past a little brush pile at a bend in the stream, several miniature browns came flashing out in hot pursuit.  I decided to have a little fun and made several more casts.  They tried fearlessly again and again to nail the little imitations, but to no avail.    Nothing like ending the day with a good laugh, a smile on my face, and the mojo meter recharged.

Eager Little Brownies In Fast Run Help End Good Day With A Chuckle

After I bushwhacked my way back up the slope to the SUV and had shed my waders, I quaffed a good NA beer.  With another hour or so of daylight, it entered my trout-addled brain that maybe I should drive another mile upstream to where the creek flowed out of a stretch of private land to see if there were any more decent looking ponds up that way.  Look what I discovered that some busy beavers had built since my last sojourn up here a couple of years ago. 

Who Could Possibly Resist?!?

Guess I’ll have to sample them next week…somebody has to so might as well be me, and maybe I’ll supercharge my angling mojo for the return bout on Trout Creek. I think I’ll need it.

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!!

Beaver Pond Perspicacity: Solving The Puzzle

For another article on beaver pond fishing see my article from late May 2020: https://hooknfly.com/2020/06/07/on-the-road-to-riches-finding-fish-and-solitude-in-south-park/

July 2019

Per-spi-ca-ci-ty:  The quality of having a ready insight into things; keenness of mental perception; shrewdness

With the epic runoff this year and most rivers and streams blown out till mid-July or later, smart anglers are turning their attention to beaver ponds, many of which remain fishable.  But truth is, beaver ponds can be honey holes any time of the fly fishing season and loads of fun.

They are usually lightly fished and often hold scads of eager fish plus occasional lunkers.  Did I mention the wildlife that abounds around them??

img_1455-1
Close Encounter Of The Moose Kind In Beaver Pond Country

But they can be challenging, often calling for a distinctly different approach than the waters that feed them.

I still remember clearly that first beaver pond I met in Colorado as a novice teenage fly fisherman.  I saw trout rising everywhere in a picture-perfect pond featuring a big beaver lodge in the middle, and promptly spooked them to the next county as I confidently walked up to the shoreline and started casting.  Bass and bluegill never did that in the Kansas farm ponds where I had practiced learning this new art.  Like most small mountain trout waters, stealth is critical, and even more so on the often clear, shallow, and still waters of beaver ponds.  But as experience taught me over time, there is much more to successful beaver pond angling than stealth.  They are not all alike, sometimes differing dramatically on the same creek.  They can also vary radically from year-to-year, sometimes disappearing completely as high flows bust them up or silt fills in the best holding water.

Blown Out Beaver Dam

Here Today…Gone TomorrowHere Today, Gone Tomorrow

Never fear!  Here are some tips on solving the riddle of these unique and intriguing waters that I have gleaned over the years in the school of hard knocks.

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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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