7-8-2014 Piney River Report
Just 40 minutes north of Vail on Red Sandstone Road, The Piney River has finally come down to a ‘sweet spot’ of just under 100 cubic feet per second. Both upstream and downstream of the lake fishes beautifully when the USGS reports 30-100 cfs and the temperatures are still low enough (below 65º).
Above the Lake
The Piney River coming down from the high country abounds with beaver ponds and deep turns. The easiest way to get there is by canoe from the ranch. A 20-minute hike will get you to a meadow section with some brush-busting to get to where the creek bends away from the trail, but there are several deeper pools, in which brookies (and an occasional cutthroat) congregate and eat voraciously. Try a standard dry-dropper or small krystal bugger (#10-#12) below beaver dams and in the undercut corners. A little stealth will pay off big in this section
Below the Lake
An amazing profusion of bug life lives in the wilderness area just downstream from Piney Lake. Recent trips have seen convincing hatches of caddis (#14-#18), yellow sallies (#16-#18), and mayflies such as red quills (#12-#14). Ants are another good option for investigating the pockets and side runs that hold fish. The main current is still strong, so many fish are pushed to the sides and away from the main flow, especially in the steeper section just downstream from the Forest Service sign. Wading, and especially crossing, is still a challenge until the flows drop to about 50 cfs. Good fly options include small (#14-#18) yellow stimulators, yellow or lime humpies, and simple mayfly patterns (para Adams, quills, #12-#16), with caddis (#14-#18) dries as well. Small beadheads (#16-#20) and beadless emergers (#18-#20 soft hackle PT, #20-#22 Barr’s BWO and PMD emergers) have been producing well.
In the Lake
One of the few high-alpine lakes by car, Piney Lake has been fishing well with long dry-dropper setups during the day and small dries in the “power hour”. Deep dredging with smaller (but heavier) streamers (#8-#12) has been effective as well, with black Slump Busters, Sculpzillas, and Krystal Buggers being effective patterns.
In the end, Piney Lake and the Piney River are places that we could safely say that ‘the fishing was good’, whether the catching was so good or not. The views and alpine environment are breathtaking. Most of the fish are generally below 12″, but they provide a lot of entertainment. With eager trout (and yes, a Colorado slam can be caught within a mile of the trailhead), the catching is likely to be just as good as the fishing.