Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Afternoon “T”

(Above: The Big Thompson River just below the dam of Estes Lake with mixed cloud cover.)

Another weekend with not a lot of time to fish. Looking to make the most of another afternoon mountain canyon run, I threw some gear in the truck and headed back up Hwy 36 towards Estes Park. This time my plan was to tackle “The Big T” for some late day trout.

(Above: A quick map of the area from Olympus Dam to the town of Drake. Most of the river is private property but a few public sections dot the highway downstream. An additional map of the fee area by Estes Lake is shown below.)

The Big Thompson River flows out of The Rocky Mountain National Forest through Estes Park and runs downstream along Hwy 34. The river from Olympus Dam (Estes Lake) to Waltonia Bridge near the town of Drake is regulated as artificial fly and lure only fishing as well as catch and release. The extra regulations make a huge difference towards better quality in my opinion as it allows these fish to get healthy and wise.

Sporting a mix of brown and rainbow trout in the 12 to 14-inch class, some of the larger fish can reach a stocky 18’er size slot. Sure you hear of a few brutes in the 5lb range that get washed down from the lake every decade or so but let’s set expectations realistically for the Big Thompson, 16 = quality, 18 = great…anything over that is OMG for The Big T.

than others. This little guy seemed to pose for one or two shots without too much trouble.)

The late afternoon towards nightfall is generally a good bite anywhere. The problem is that folks can get a lot of work on the water before you get there and the Big Thompson is a bit of a hot spot for anglers. Competition was far more thick than I like but better than it could have been for a Saturday afternoon. Fishing the un-crowded spots I was able to plink out a few fish here and there.

(Above: Here’s another river shot with a bit more light. Some sections were very crowded and “spectator only” by noon.)

Catching a few smaller brown trout right away I thought the day was going to be all sweet and easy. But this quickly changed when I moved into the even more crowded areas. The fish were hunkered down and just plain jittery. They would relax a little bit in the shallow water after a few raindrops but would vanish back into the swift when the sun came out. Eventually I did land a few of the 16’ers and got in some quality fish photo time.

(Above: Not too shabby in the hand shot with one of the few fish willing to hang on long enough to get some light photo work in.)

Estes Lake and the Olympus Dam keep the flows stable throughout most of the year and the water is ultra clear. In some of the areas you can literally see trout holding in the water close by and nearly count the dots while it picks tasty tidbits from the trough. Mixed with the rugged Rocky Mountain landscape it can make for a tasty afternoon.

(Above: Another map with a more detailed view of the fee section below the dam.)

The largest public access section of the Big Thompson is just below the dam and is a fee area with a 5-dollar charge for the day permit. No overnight camping allowed but there are picnic and bathroom facilities fairly close to the dam\parking area.

Some of the public sections downriver from the fee area vary in size (most are only a few hundred feet) and tricky to find. I have added a map above of the fee area and a few links below that will help locate these areas as well as fill in a few blanks that could not be squeezed in my blogilicious post.



My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.


Pat Cohen (smalliestalker) said...

Nice looking river and fish.....it's been raining like mad here....

Emily said...

I love the Big Thompson and Estes Park. I lived in Estes one fall. It was wonderful.

Bill Trussell said...

With scenery like that who needs to catch fish

Bigerrfish said...

thumbs up man! sorry you had to deal with the pressured fish and people in your way.

Shoreman said...

We have a lot of $5.00 daily fee areas along the American River. Last Fall I purchased a year long pass ($50.00). They have something there like that, if you frequent the area?