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Colorado,Big Thompson,Big Spinners,Mountains and trout

Fishing reports for the entire United States coastline and freshwater systems.

Colorado,Big Thompson,Big Spinners,Mountains and trout

Postby spindoctor » Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:57 pm

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I believe that the sport of fishing is about as close to a perfect sport as there is. The sport of angling can be enjoyed by both young and old, rich or poor, handicapped or not, almost anyone can get into fishing in one way or another. Fishing can be as expensive and high tech as a multi-thousand dollar boat fitted with GPS, sonar, radar and all the fancy radio and electronic gizmos needed to make a space shuttle pilot feel right at home, or it can be as simple as a can of worms, a hook and string tied to the end of a stick. Fishing can be as relaxing as sitting beneath a shade tree with a favorite book and watching a bobber float atop a still pond, or it can be as extreme as hiking high into the mountains to wade against a roaring white-water river supercharged from a summer snow-melt.
Every now and than the stars align and there is a break in the work schedule where both Sue and I are able to get a week or so off together. This time the break came much earlier than had happened in past years, we were taken by surprise, and just a little unprepared. A spur of the moment decision was made, and with Minnesota in the rearview mirror, and the Rocky Mountains somewhere over the horizon, we were on our way to Colorado. We were well across the state of Iowa before we finally settled on making our exact destination River Bend Campground located in the canyon of the Big Thompson between Estes Park and Loveland. We had visited this area a year or so back and were somewhat familiar with the surroundings. At that time I was able to spend a day or so, wading and catching trout. That was in August of another year and BT’s waters were manageable and somewhat friendly.


Now June was in its final days, the mountain snow melt was still evident and the water of Colorado’s Big Thompson River was rolling in force. It had been around 20 hours since we had rolled the old van out of Rochester, and now at last we were in Colorado and I was shaking the hand of Tim O’Brien, the owner of River Bend Campground. Tim directed us to a site on the river bank that had table, fire pit, water and electricity. We were using a tent, so the minimum was all that was required. Due to our late arrival it was nearly dark by the time we got set up, so with the roar of the river as a lullaby we settled in for a very relaxing nights sleep.
The next morning was filled with all the sights and sounds that one could hope for from a mountain canyon experience. River Bend had just changed ownership and though the store is one of the area retailers of my Bow Spinners, Tim was unsure as to which styles he should stock for his area. After an early morning chat we decided that I would fish the stretch of river that flowed around the campground and bring him back a limit of trout and let him know which spinners seemed to be producing best.
From the high banks the river appeared only about as wide as a city street, and not too deep, but my first step took me over knee deep in cold 52 degree water. The color had a slightly stained hue and the bottom consisted of slick rocks and boulders that held their position against supercharged white water.


I fastened on a Gold/Silver Super Bow and as it hung from the end off my rod I said “ little fellow if you get in trouble out there you’re on your own, cause I’m sure not wading out to get you!” My first cast landed in a torrent of white foam and was blown back past me almost faster than I could reel. It was plain to see that the white water rapids were not the place to be fishing, so I elected to try and place my casts into the slower pools that could be found along the banks and behind boulders, many of these were not much larger than a bed-pillow.
Even the slower water had force, and my rubber soled shoes slipped around on the slick rocks like I was standing on ice. Sue was up on the bank with the camera. She was shouting about something, but the roar of the water was so loud that I couldn’t hear her. I was stumbling and slipping, reaching and grabbing, so my first few casts were wild and unproductive. Even though I had only started a few moments earlier this was beginning to take on the form as more of a test of endurance and survival, rather than anything to do with fishing.

I began to focus and break the process down into a series of steps starting by surveying the water ahead for a good place to stand and secure a good comfortable foothold. Once that was accomplished I made note of overhead and shoreline obstacles that could obstruct my cast. Than starting with the closest ones, I would cast to all pockets reachable from that position.
My first trout came out of a long narrow pocket, tight against the rock cliff on the far side of the river. The trout was less than eleven inches long, but he was fully able to use the current to his advantage so playing even a small fish across the whitewater rapids proved to be a real handful.


Due to the power and depth of the river, I decided to change up to the larger Big Bow Spinner in the Black Pearl pattern. BLACK MAGIC! The very first cast produced another scrappy little Brown.


The big black and gold spinner was the right tool for the job and within 22 minutes from the time I had stepped into the water, Sue and I were back in the store with a fresh caught limit of trout lying on the counter.
Sues photographs along with a full limit of trout was just the ticket to get the folks at River Bend on board with Bow Spinners. Done selling for the day, we gave that first limit of fish to Tim and his family, and returned to the river for some trout for our dinner. From now on I would revert back to my standard of keeping only trout that measured between 11 and 13 inches or the ones badly injured.


Unlike fishing the streams of Minnesota, where I normally just get into the water and than wade upstream casting as I go, here I would enter into a sheltered spot along the bank, cast to all of the pools within range, than exit from the water to climb and hop over huge rocks and boulders to another spot upstream, and repeat the process. A great way to limber up the old knees, get your exercise and test the endurance level of those light-weight waders.
When casting to pockets of water located across the stream, I could often place the big spinner into the pool, lock the bail and allow the force of the middle rapids to grab the line and drag the spinner through and out of the pool. By raising the rod tip and/or swinging the rod upstream, I was able to control the speed and movement of the spinner. When the big spinner entered the fast whitewater rapids, I would raise the rod tip high and quickly retrieve the spinner before it could get wrapped around a boulder or snag. Casting upstream was basically a matter of timing the bail latch, and speed reeling with the current.
I found most of the fish to be holding in the pockets of stiller water, tight against either bank, with just a few coming out of the mid-stream pools that formed behind large boulders and structure.
I fished about two hours, the length of the campground, ending with a total of 27 trout, one Rainbow and the rest Browns, none over 14”. Out of these we filleted 4 for dinner and released the rest.
We spent most of the next day touring the Rocky Mountain National Park, and taking advantage of their free tour bus service.


The scenery consisted of snow capped mountains, roaring rivers, flowers, trees, and animals of all types. The most common seemed to be the Fan Tailed Humming Bird.
Earlier that morning I had displayed my Bow spinners to a local shop owner who took a very narrow view of the product, stating “Those may work in the lakes and rivers where you’re from, but they won’t catch anything here, they’re too big for the little rivers and streams we have in the park”. These words had been echoing around in my head all day and before I left the park I just had to see if he was right.
Moraine Park is a section of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Big Thompson begins in this area and it is easily accessed via roads and parking lots, making it a very popular place to fish. There was a beaten path on both sides of the stream and folks using various methods of angling dotted the banks in both directions. The stream was “well tromped” and I figured if I could catch trout here my Bow spinners would have made a good accounting of themselves. I followed a path down to the stream and after asking permission from a nearby angler, I entered the stream and tossed a Gold/Silver Super Bow into the current.

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The first cast was followed and the second cast produced a small Brown. Here the river was twice as large as the Whitewater River back home, deep runs lined the strong side, there was no way of wading across it, and if large spinners wouldn’t catch fish here, than the trout hadn’t got the memo.

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I was able to fish for about an hour before I was driven off of the stream by a storm.

I ended with a total of 18 trout one was a small rainbow the rest were browns none measuring over 15”. On a third outing we went back to the R.M.N.P to try for some Greenback Cutthroat trout.


Time was limited, and small cloud bursts were crawling between the high mountain peaks. It was on again, off again rain and small fish, but no cutthroat.


Overall we spent only about 9 hours fishing, and if I just rated the fishing quality it would be “good action, smaller fish”. I am sure that with more time and a good guide the size of fish would increase greatly.
To wake up in the morning and have all your senses blasted by the smell of fresh coffee and immense mountain scenery, and than go toe-to-toe against a raging white water river, can make sizes and numbers of fish seem fairly unimportant, as well as place a person into an environment that erases backlogged stress and refocuses them onto the important things in life.


Special thanks to the folks at River Bend Campground, Loveland Co. Ph-970-667-3641.
Until we wade again.
Keep it low, slow and with the flow, and don’t go without your Bow!

See my Bow Spinners at

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For all your Bow spinner needs, please visit the following fine bait and tackle merchants:
Gone Fishing in Rochester. 507- 289-0039
Elba Valley Express, Elba, in the White Water area
Curt's Bait and Tackle in Preston
Magnum Sports in Chatfield
Root River Outfitters in Lanesboro
Tri-State Bait & Tackle in La Crescent
River Valley Outfitters in Wabasha 651-565-2326
Maple Springs Campground and Country Store by Forestville 507-352-2056
And now available at Hooked On Fishing, Rochester 507-282-4982
Anglers Nook in Lancaster
Captain Hook's Bait & Tackle in Genoa, 608-689-2800
Jack's Tackle Shop, 923 main St. Cashton, 608-654-7775
Schnitzler's Sports Store, in Sparta, 608-269-2686
And now at SPORTSMEN’s UNLIMITED located at 866 Allamakee St., in Waukon, Ph-563-568-4955
Ozzie’s Outdoors in Cresco
Franks Bait Shop, 621 North Dixie hiway, Momence, Ph-815-472-6638
Roaring Fork Outfitters Inc. in Glenwood Springs, 970- 945- 5800
Jonah’s in Jefferson, 719-836-0289
Three Rivers Resort in Almont 1-888-761-FISH
11 Mile General Store of Lake George, 719-748-3424
Pomeroy Sports in Aspen, 970-925-9589
American Hunting & Fishing Supply in Salida, 719-530-0725
River Bend Resort on the Big Thompson River by Drake 970-667-3641
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