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We have told you before about the Rocky Mountain Angling Club) in Colorado, a membership organization that provides access to uncrowded fly fishing in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Well, here is a trip report from subscriber Timothy Welch that gives the organization a ringing endorsement. Thanks, Tim, for checking in.
“Imagine for a moment an invitation to fish a stretch of private water on the Yampa River just 15 minutes from Steamboat Springs. Add to this a perfect October day with every as¬pen and cottonwood in full color, and water levels low enough (112 cfs) that freshmen fishermen could work out where the trout ought to be. This rare opportunity was made available to me through the Rocky Mountain Angling Club (RMAC), a fly fishing membership organization that includes the Holloran Ranch waters as part of their portfolio of 46 private ranches and properties throughout three western states, the most being in Colorado.
“Along with two friends, we left our rented condo for a 15-minute ride to a streamside parking spot just 100 steps from the water. We arrived about 9 AM in plenty of time to be on the water before the sun peeked out above the surrounding colorful mountains that are laced with ski runs. Our strategy was to walk about two miles to the bottom of the property so we could fish upstream all day long. Armed with excellent advice and flies from the very talented and friendly staff at the Steam¬boat Flyfisher (www.steamboatflyfisher. com), we spread out and started the day leapfrogging our way upstream. We chose to fish mostly with nymphs: a #16 pheasant tail imitating mahoganies or a #20 Barr’s Emerger and #20 Juju Baetis imitating blue-winged olive mayflies. A two-fly dropper setup was all I was able to handle comfortably, but my partner, Mark, fished a three-fly nymph arrangement with greater success. We all used a new ‘indicator’ (come on, in this day of overdone political correctness, let’s call a bobber a bobber) called an ‘air lock.’ This is a clever new gadget that allows easy and accurate depth changes. Plenty of BB-size split shot kept our bugs down where the big fish were feeding
Steamboat Flyfisher had advised us to vary depth and weight more often than fly patterns, and this advice proved use¬ful.
“Brown trout were in full spawn, so we carefully avoided redds, but we fished below their spawning areas with eggs, for the most part to no avail. It was a nice retreat from the elaborate multiple-fly setups, and made for exciting drifts through shallow, wide riffles. Most of our big fish (15 to 22 inches) were taken from deep, fast tailouts or up against swift, deep cutbanks with loom¬ing trees or overhanging grass. We had bugs hatching all day, even in the bright sunshine, though it was a predominately overcast day with intermittent drizzle, so conditions were ideal for big hatches and bigger fish.
“We lost lots of gear dredging the bottom and in the overhanging brush, so having plenty of the right flies was critical. Using #20 flies and 5X and 6X fluoro posed double trouble for me; I had to sit down, grip the flies with forceps, and make wild fluoro stabs at the eyelets. My average was something like one in 20 tries, but like life in general, persistence is way more valuable than brainpower. Now and then one of my partners would come by and take pity on me and help out.
“We fished with 9-foot 5 wt. rods, perfect for the size and power of these athletic fish. We had plenty of opportunity to ‘high-stick’ the holes, so our longer rods worked well. Mark carried a second rod set up with streamers, mostly a Hale Bop Leach, and another outrageous mad-clown streamer I think was called Circus Peanut. A couple of fish made suggestive passes, but failed to make a deal.
“Late in the day I encountered a pool above a tailout, just below the railroad bridge that crosses the Yampa at the downstream end of the Holloran property. Here, dozens of big fish were slurping, tailing, porpoising, rolling and finning me with impunity. I worked them in a frenzy, muttering to myself and at them, doing the impossible change-of-fly routine a dozen times. I connected twice. The first hog slammed my pheasant tail (no weight, no dropper, no bobber) immediately after it hit the water, and it was like I had hooked the fly to the bumper of my departing Jeep. Veni, vidi, vici! Repeating the process with a #18 Purple Parachute produced one nice 20-inch brownie that I got to touch. But that was it. I was really baffled by what was going on, but my partner said the Yampa is known for this difficult hatch behavior, and I should not punish myself for the minimal success.
Fishing aside, there is another reason the Yampa is a special place to fish. Nearby Steamboat Springs is famous for what American ski and snowboard filmmaker Warren Miller once called snow riding, and if a person timed it right, he or she could fly-fish and snowboard or ski on the same trip! Spas, natural hot-springs, microbreweries, restaurants, and shopping make this location perfect for the full family. There is also plenty of wonderful public water, some of which flows right through town. If you are lucky enough to know someone who is a member of the Rocky Mountain Angling Club, ask to be invited as a guest. If not, consider becoming a member. RMAC is not an expensive, snooty organization by any means. You can get more details at: https://rmangling.com/. Or call them at 303-421-6239 and ask for Jimmy.