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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Legends of the Late Fall: Badger, Beaver, and Grape Creeks (near Cañon City, CO)

November/December 2017 

It’s mid-November, and I am traversing down a steep slope into the canyon where Grape Creek runs free.  It’s a balmy 50 degrees, but I’m crunching through a few inches of snow left over in shaded areas from a storm earlier in the week.

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Late Fall Often Sees Snow On Shaded North-Facing Slopes

After stowing my RC Cola and Almond Joy candy bar in a snow bank,  I ease into the water.  It’s icy, and I do mean icy cold–only increasing my growing doubts about finding any willing fish.   The sun is just climbing over the canyon rim, lighting up the good-looking u-shaped pool created where the creek plunges over a riffle and head first into a big rock palisade.  I start throwing a line, and to my surprise on the third cast something big nails the caddis nymph that trails a couple of feet below the Royal Coachman Trude dry.  After a good tussle, a brightly colored 15-inch rainbow eases into the net.  All doubts evaporate.  It’s the start of another banner late fall angling escapade.

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My Idea Of Ice Fishing!

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Badger Creek: Legend Of The Late Fall #1 (Near Salida, CO)

BADGER CREEK:   LEGEND OF THE LATE FALL #1 (Near Salida, CO)

 

 Note:  Please read this article in tandem with my Dec. 6 blog on late fall fishing in Colorado that discusses gear, tackle, and technique in greater detail.

Late October 2017

I have heard rumors for years about big trout in a remote small stream called Badger Creek near my home base of Salida.  But I have always pooh-poohed them based on the sparse little rivulet I see that empties into the Arkansas River above Howard.  The water is so thin at the mouth that the creek couldn’t possible sustain trout, small or big, through a hot, dry summer! Or at least that’s what I think.

It’s a beautiful late fall day in October and the sun is out and the temps are predicted to be in the mid-60s by mid-afternoon.  I’ve run through my to-do list for the day by noon, and am hankering to cast to some trout, but my favorite high-country creeks are already beginning to ice up.  So I decide to see if the tall tales are true.  I load up my fishing gear around noon and head for Gribbles Park northeast of Salida, the headwaters of Badger Creek.

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