Living here in Fort Collins, I am fortunate to live within a couple hours drive of many trout streams. Many of the waters are quite well known; Big Thompson River, Cache La Poudre River, North Fork of the Platt River, the many streams in Rocky Mountain National Park. While these waters have rightly deserved reputations, they also receive a lot of fishing pressure, especially during tourist season - Memorial Day to Labor Day. But there are litterally hundreds of other streams some with equally good fishing that are not as well known like the North Fork of the Cache La Poudre River an hour north of Fort Collins.
The North Fork of the Poudre presents many appearances depending on where you see it. Much of the river below Halligan Reservoir is private except for a short stretch below Seaman Reservoir through the Gateway Natural Area owned by Forth Collins. Just below Halligan are several miles owned by The Nature Conservancy which has very limited access for the public. Also there is about one mile of river in the Larimer County Eagle's Nest Open Space just upriver from Seaman. Between Halligan and Seaman are several irrigation diversions which during irrigation season leave very little water in the stream. The Eagle's Nest stretch is particularly impacted by this.
Above Halligan the North Fork originates in Roosevelt National Forest flowing through a mix of public and private land which includes about four miles of water in the Cherokee State Wildlife Management Area. "Turkey Roost" is in the WMA. Stream flows above Halligan are good year round and support a healthy trout population. Despite the good fishing, the area does not get much fishing pressure because it is off the beaten track and does require some effort to get there. The WMA is about 18 miles back on a maintained dirt road. When the gate is open at the WMA, it is then a 2 mile drive back in on an unmaintained dirt road which requires a decently high clearance vehicle. From this parking area it is about a 1/3 mile hike down into the canyon with a loss of about 450' in elevation - nice going down but seemingly much longer and steeper coming out at the end of a day of fishing.
The river has a good mix of habitat types from open meadows to deep pools. One needs to be careful wading, but the stream can be easily crossed in most places. Because there has been little disturbance in the watershed above there insect life is excellent. Yesterday, there were Blue Wing Olives, Grey Drakes, Various Caddis and even an occasional salmonfly coming off.
Although Phil has lived in Fort Collins for a number of years, he had never fished the North Fork above Halligan. Despite the number of insects observed when we got to the water at 10 a.m. we saw no risers. But the nymphing was good with at least one hookup at each likely looking spot.
Most of the fish were in feeding locations so it seemed that at some point we would get some dry fly fishing in. The fish population is predominantly browns with occasional rainbows - all wild. Most fish caught willbe in the 9" to 13" range and occasionally up to 16".
13" Brown taken from seam behind rock in middle of above photo.
With the seriously below normal snowpack there has been no high runof period this spring. As a result some of the hatches that normally coincide with peak runoff are fishable hatches this year like the Western Green Drake and Salmonfly below.
Wildflowers such as the Yellow Pea below are prolific at this time of year.
About 1 in the afternoon I got to a pool where there were a couple of consistent rising fish. I switched to an elk hair caddis and caught both. When Phil caught up with me I told him the fish were begining to hit dries so he also stwitched to a dry caddis imitation. For the next couple of hours, as at least three different types of caddis came off, we caught fish on dries.
Phil has a nice brown on in the above shot. Unfortunately, there are a number of verylarge rocks about 4' in front of him and the fish has gotten down into them and is wedged head first into a crack. He got his hand on the tail but the fish shook his head and broke off.
We ended up at a really nice large pool where the river makes a 90 degree turn. Giving Phil the first shot at the pool he got four browns on his first six casts. And, a few minutes later got the nicest fish of the day a 15" rainbow; which turned out to be the only rainbow landed.
By now it was almost 4 o'clock but Phil was reluctant to leave with fish still rising. But we were a half mile from the car which included the hike out of the canyon and it would be at least 6 before I got home, already an hour later than my wife was expecting me.
But Phil was amazed at how good the day had been. Especially considering that it was water he had known about for years but had never fished. Lesser known local waters can be that way!