Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Waterton Canyon…the Bike and Fish

During the Labor Day weekend I sought out some waters that would most likely be less crowded. Waterton Canyon is a section of the south Platte that is close but the best stretches are guarded by a 2, 4 and even 7-mile journey to reach. For a trip like this an angler may need one item they rarely consider for fishing…their mountain bike. Unauthorized vehicles are not allowed on the road up the canyon so a two-wheeled peddle unit can be deployed to make short work of the journey.

(Above: Shot of the river just before the bridge. The road is a fairly smooth ride with gradual inclines.)

This section of river provides a decent trout fix. The numbers of fish are fair to good by most standards but generally average 10 or 12-inches. There is the chance of catching bigger trout in the 16 and even 18-inch range. Anglers that frequent Waterton Canyon don’t come here in search of huge trout. They come for the natural beauty of the canyon with decent fishing action closer to home.

Right now the river is suffering from a “milky” substance that looks to be an algae die off. The water clarity gets worse as you go up. The poor water quality really seemed to cut the action down a lot. The first handful of spots that I tried came up empty. No flashes, no follows and zero bites. Good thing the natural beauty of Waterton can often make up for the poor fishing…well almost.

The view up Waterton Canyon is framed with breathtaking rock cliffs and outcroppings. Bighorn sheep and other wildlife are active in the canyon and can often be seen close to the road. Rattlesnakes are also something to look out for in this area and just like the bighorns the rattlers can be found on or near the gravel road.

(Above: Three rams from a total of five. This picture was taken with some zoom as to not disturb. Please respect these amazing creatures by allowing them their privacy as you view them.)

(Above: Baby Bighorn…how @#$%^ cute is that? Everyone was real polite and gave this little critter all the room needed to munch some easy grass pickens right along the roadside.)

I started picking apart the larger holes first working at the headwater and then sectioning off other areas cast after cast. The more popular holes seemed void of any action whatsoever. Not even smaller hits. Honeyhole #1, 2 and 3 were pretty much no-go. Most of the fish that I found were tucked behind less obvious rocks and river structure as opposed to the big pools. More often than not the action would come from an aggressive brown trout.

(Above: This is a small brown trout caught in a safe place to put the camera and get a picture.)

A 4-mile section above the parking lot off of Waterton canyon Rd. is guided by general Colorado State fishing regulations but the area above that has an imposed Artificial Fly lure only rule with a two fish limit. Most anglers prefer catch and release in this section to maximize the fish activity.

(Above: Hybrid “cutbow” trout are stocked in Waterton canyon to supplement the sport with a species of trout that is whirling disease resistant.)

Gold blade patterns ruled the day but I only saw bites later in the afternoon. Action was best when the sun was shining. As cloud cover moved in the action went right back to nil. I have never seen conditions like this in Waterton. It was a noodle-scratcher for sure dealing with the fish this day. But you can always enjoy the easy ride down.

Waterton is a great opportunity for both the angler and exercise enthusiast to bike and fish! Good luck and good fishing!

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