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Fall River, Rocky Mountain National Park

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

Went spent a week in Rocky Mountain National Park on vacation. We love to go to the mountains for vacation and got to see the start of the elk rut. We also saw the aspens turning colors.

One afternoon my wife suggested that I fish the Fall River for a ways and she would meet me at the Alluvial Fan. This was an opportunity not to be missed. She dropped me off where the highway goes over the Fall River. Actually this is a small stream, from about 10 to 20 feet wide. I did see another car parked in the small parking lot but did not pay it much attention.

As I started fishing after crossing the road I could see numerous fish but was not able to get any of them to hit the flies I was using. I tried a Paraloop Adams, a CDC Elk Hair caddis, a Mosquito, and several midges. When things on the surface are not working it is time to go subsurface.

I had tied up some small size 16 - 18 fullback and halfback nymphs. I tied half of them conventionally and half with the tail of the nymph at the hook eye. About half of each of these had a small beadhead on it also. My thought was that as the fly came down stream, from an upstream cast, that it might look more natural. I tied one of the reverse nymphs on. Takes a little more time with the tail in front of the eye of the hook not to catch it in the knot.

I cast this fly forward into a riffle that had a few little pockets of still water by the bank edge. When the fly came by the second little pocket the line twitched. I set the hook and had a 7" brown trout. This is the size fish that I was told that I would catch in this river. I then cast to the opposite side of the river and did the same thing. I picked up a 6" brookie on that side. I thought I might be onto something.

I moved up a little ways moving very slowly and quietly. The fish are hit so much in this river that they are very skittish, from the ones I had spooked at the start. I was a little smarter this time and made a shorter cast. I caught another brown in the first pocket of water. There was a small cutthroat in the next patch of calm water in front of that. I was catching a fish in almost every little calm pocket that I was casting to.

I am sure that this was very much more luck than skill. I have never caught fish like that in the park. I did not even know that the river had that many fish in it. I continued to move up the stream slowly repeating this in the little pockets beside the riffles. I did cast into the deep pools, relatively, at the bends of the river but had no luck.

At this point I noticed another fly fisher about 60 yards away from me. I caught a few more fish and then I noticed that he was about 40 feet behind me. When I turned he asked me what I was using as he had not caught a fish yet. When I told him, he said that he did not have any of that fly. I told him to come up and gave him one. He was wearing waders so I told him to cross the river and fish from the other side. I would fish his side of the river and he would fish mine. It was easier to cast that way.

As we slowly worked up the river we continue to catch fish. It was one of those marvelous days when you have the right fly and every fish in the river wants to take it.

We came to a spot where I was going to cast. I was going to bring it by a fairly big, for this river, pocket of calm water. There were bushes hanging out over the water with grass growing under them that trailed in the stream. A couple of the branches from the shrubs had been broken and were trailing down in the water. The place seemed to have a neon sign above it that said, "fish reside here."

I cast to this spot and in my typical ability put the fly about three feet out from the bank. As the fly came by I caught my second cutthroat of the day.

I did decided to cast again to see if there might be another fish in this place. This cast turned out much better. The fly dropped very lightly, as compared to parting the Red Sea, and I started retrieving the line. Just as the fly came between two of the branches hanging in the water I saw a flash. I sat the hook and had a rainbow come out of the water. This fish jumped six times before I could get it landed. Bill, the other fisherman, came over to my side as he had a tape with him. We measured this fish at 11.75 inches. Huge for this river. I did release her, calling myself names for not bringing the camera with me.

We started to go around a corner in the stream and jumped two huge bull elk. We decided that the better part of valor was to go back and not argue with bull elk at the start of the rut. As we headed back toward the road, Bill started to take the fly off his line. I told him to keep it and catch another fish sometime.

He said he was going to fish back down the stream to where he was parked. I walked out to the road and hiked up to where my wife was enjoying herself.

I caught 35 trout along that part of the stream in an hour and a half. I will freely admit that this was a glorious day. One that I may never repeat, but it sure was fun. I was able to release all the fish.

I did see Bill the next day and he said he caught another dozen fish as he worked his way down stream. He said that made his total 25 fish. He also said that he was so glad that I gave him a fly to use. He stated it was the best day he had ever had in the Park. I am not sure if I am happier for the day I had or that I was able to help someone else have a great day.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

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