North Fork of the Elk River – 08/04/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Above the main Elk River

North Fork of the Elk River 08/04/2020 Photo Album

During thirty-seven years of fly fishing I experienced numerous days, where I remained in a state of euphoria for days afterward. As I grow older, however, these occasions are less frequent. Tuesday afternoon, August 4, evolved into one of the increasingly rare times of extreme exhilaration. Normally the circumstances that create such a state of jubilation are a dense hatch, large fish or an abnormally large quantity of fish; but Tuesday’s experience resulted from a different source.

Let the Fun Begin

After a disappointing 1.5 AM hours on the Elk River I decided to cut my losses and shifted my attention to the North Fork. I informed Jane that the North Fork was my backup plan should the main Elk fail to deliver on its promise, and at 11:15 I found myself parked at the trailhead parking lot. I hiked the Diamond Park Trail for a considerable distance and then angled to the right at a Y, and a fisherman path delivered me to the river. I suppose the forks are still referred to as rivers, although they approximate a large creek in size. The North Fork was in spectacular shape with cold, clear flows over large boulders and an abundant quantity of deep plunge pools and pockets. The whole scene caused my heart rate to elevate several beats per minute; not a good thing for someone recovering from heart valve surgery.

Subtle Beauty

Handsome Brook Trout

I continued with the double dry fly approach that I initiated on the Elk River, and it included a peacock hippie stomper and olive size 14 stimulator, and I immediately began landing small trout. The fish count surged from one to seven in the thirty minutes before lunch; and my net felt the weight of brook trout, cutbows, and a rainbow trout. I assumed that the North Fork was predominantly a brook trout fishery, so I was pleased with the diversity of species. My optimism soared, as I munched my ham sandwich and observed a tantalizing pool.

Tail of the Pool

Front Half Spotless

After lunch I progressed upstream for .5 miles and boosted the fish count from seven to twenty-four. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as I prospected the dry flies through every likely fish holding location. Of the twenty-three fish landed from the North Fork, five were brook trout, three were small brown trout, and the remainder were cutthroats and cutbows plus one or two rainbow trout. I was surprised to realize that I recorded a Colorado trout grand slam. I estimate that sixty percent of the netted trout preferred the olive stimulator, and the remainder favored the hippie stomper.

Maybe My Favorite Color Scheme

Ooh!

As I migrated farther from my starting point, I began to catch an increasing number of gorgeous cutthroat trout. Quite a few of these prizes were in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and they confidently slashed one of the double dries. I could not have imagined a more perfect scenario than the remote setting, confident rises to large flies, and spectacular native cutthroat trout. I marveled at the coloration of the cutthroats, as they displayed a light olive body with a sparse spot pattern. Bright red cheeks punctuated the subtle beauty, and of course the signature slashes were evident under the jaw.

Nature’s Perfection

Hefty Cutthroat

Trout Haven

Tuesday afternoon was everything I hoped it would be. I was situated in a remote backcountry stream catching five species of trout. The largest and most impressive fish were the cutthroats, as they displayed their bright yet understated colors. The euphoria that I referred to at the outset stemmed from the rare opportunity to catch native cutthroats. A return visit to the North Fork of the Elk River is a certainty in my mind.

Fish Landed: 23

Exiting the Canyon

Elk River – 08/04/2020

Time: 9:30AM – 11:00AM

Location: Along Seedhouse Road

Elk River 08/04/2020 Photo Album

Jane and I enjoyed a camping trip to Steamboat Lake State Park in June, and during that visit we completed the Diamond Park Trail hike with a return on the Wyoming Trail. The total loop was around eight miles, but this outdoor adventure provided an opportunity to scout some new stream miles for future fishing trips. The advance reconnaissance paid off, as Jane and I returned to the area on Monday, August 3, and I scheduled a day of fly fishing in the upper Elk River drainage.

Jane Celebrates Our New Canopy

As expected, the river was considerably lower than during our stay in June. I debated whether to fish the main stem of the upper Elk or one of the three forks, but the lower flows pointed me toward the higher volume of the main river. Jane planned to once again hike the Diamond Park – Wyoming Trail loop, and I departed from the campground and arrived at a pull through parking area next to the Elk River by 9:15. I quickly assembled my Sage four weight, jumped into my waders and strolled on a path through sagebrush to the edge of the river.

Hopes Were High at This Point

The air temperature was around sixty degrees, as I began, and it was obvious that I was not the first person to fish this segment of the Elk River, as I was greeted by worn spaces along the bank. I rigged my line with a pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. These are among my mainstay flies, whenever I approach never before fished water. I probed likely runs and pockets for thirty minutes without an ounce of action; no looks, temporary hook ups, or refusals. I began to challenge my decision to fish the main stem and considered moving to one of the forks, but then I decided to test a double dry fly approach, as I moved upstream and away from the presumably highly pressured area at the end of the trail. I tied a peacock hippie stomper and light olive stimulator to my line, and I finally connected with a decent fish on an across river cast to a nice shelf pool. Luck was not in my corner, as the fish made a quick attempted getaway and succeeded, and I uttered a few choice words, as my limp line dangled in front of me.

Rocky Bottom and Depth

I continued mostly along the left bank, and at 10:45AM I hooked and landed an eight inch cutbow. Although it was a relatively small fish, I rejoiced at avoiding a skunking and admired the small wild jewel in my net. With one fish landed in 1.5 hours of fly fishing I decided to cut my losses and switched to plan B and migrated to one of the forks of the Elk River.

Fish Landed: 1

St. Louis Creek – 07/31/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Fraser Experimental Forest

St. Louis Creek 07/31/2020 Photo Album

I continued my pursuit of high elevation trout on Friday with a visit to St. Louis Creek. My last visit to this small headwater stream was on 08/04/2017, when I yearned for some action on my return from a difficult outing on the Colorado River. I was aware that the fish population was comprised mostly of small brook trout, but I was in the mood for a day of exploring and prospecting for small colorful jewels.

Shade and Sun

I arrived at a wide shoulder along a dirt road by 9:30AM, and I quickly rigged my Orvis Access four weight in anticipation of tight quarters and small trout. The air temperature hovered around sixty degrees, and I considered wet wading but eventually settled on wearing my waders in the high elevation shaded stream. The decision proved satisfactory, as I was comfortable for my entire five hours on the creek. The air temperature may have spiked to seventy degrees during full sun periods in the afternoon. The stream level seemed a bit low, but sufficient numbers of deep pockets and pools remained and offered hours of entertainment. Longer than usual casts and cautious approaches were a necessity in the clear conditions.

Even the Shadow Cannot Hide This Promising Little Pool

Lunker for Tiny Stream

When I reviewed my report on this blog from my previous time on St. Louis Creek, I noted that a Jake’s gulp beetle trailing a beadhead pheasant tail created a fair amount of success, and I was tempted to replicate those same offerings on Friday. However, when I began fishing at 10AM, the creek was mostly covered in shade interspersed with intermittent sunlight, and I was concerned about my ability to track the beetle in the variable light conditions. My uncertainty over the lighting prompted me to tie a tan pool toy hopper to my line as the surface fly, and beneath it I added a beadhead pheasant tail nymph. These two flies maintained their position on my line between 10AM and noon, and they generated twelve landed trout. All the morning fish in my net were brook trout except for one outlier, a twelve inch brown trout that elevated and smashed the pool toy in a deep slot next to a large exposed boulder.

Those Spots Though

The brook trout measured in the six to nine inch range, but their vivid colors made them extra special in my opinion. I probably endured one temporary hook up or refusal for every fish landed, but many of the escapees were probably undersized char.

After lunch I decided to shift tactics, and I migrated to a size 12 peacock hippie stomper fished solo. The move proved successful, as I boosted the fish counter from twelve to eighteen, and I moved at a fairly swift pace while flinging the stomper to every possible nook and cranny that might contain a trout. Once I attained eighteen netted fish, I approached a very attractive deep pool, and after the hippie stomper failed to generate interest, I decided to once again add a nymph on a dropper. In this instance I chose a beadhead hares ear. as I was seeking something a bit larger and heavier to probe the depths of honey holes. The tactic delivered results, and the hares ear produced four trout, while the hippie stomper contributed a few additional fish.

Lighter Color on This One

During the last hour of the day the trout interest subsided noticeably, and my catch rate shrank in a commensurate fashion. I cycled through some changes in the nymph component of my system and tested a bright green caddis pupa, ultra zug bug, and a parachute green drake. The ultra zug bug accounted for one trout, and the parachute green drake delivered the final fish of the day. I spotted one western green drake, as it slowly fluttered toward the sky from the stream, and that sighting caused me to adopt the double dry with a green drake imitation.

A Couple Spots to Explore

By three o’clock the catch rate slowed noticeably, and I reached a bridge, which forced me to climb a bank to the road. The fish count rested on twenty-seven, and I was quite weary from climbing over slippery rocks to cast to small wild brook trout, so I called it quits and hiked .6 mile back to the car. Friday was a fun day on St. Louis Creek. Sure, the fish were quite small, but they were not that easy, and the low, clear water conditions forced me to approach with stealth and long casts. I witnessed numerous spooked trout, as they darted from beneath a bank or rock upon my careless approach. The brook trout compensated for their lack of length with splendid colors and glistening spots. I had the entire stream section to myself, and I lost myself in the pursuit of trout and enjoyment of solitude. Something can be said for that.

Fish Landed: 27

Lake Creek 07/29/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Lake Creek 07/29/2020 Photo Album

July 2020 has been hotter and drier than normal, and these conditions caused me to advance my fishing destination selection to tailwaters and high altitude mountain creeks earlier than usual. This process began with my fishing and camping trip to the Taylor River last week. On Wednesday, July 29 I continued my pursuit of hot weather trout with a trip to a crystal clear back country stream. I began my 1.1 mile hike at 9:30, and this enabled me to begin my fly fishing adventure by 10:00AM.

Delicious

For this outing on a relatively small stream I chose my Orvis Access four weight. The weather was around sixty degrees, when I departed at the trailhead, but the temperature soared quickly and probably peaked in the mid-eighties. Clouds provided periodic relief, but sun dominated more than clouds. The flows struck me as nearly perfect, although I only fished this creek on one previous occasion, so I had no basis for comparison. I can state unequivocally that the water was clear, and cautious approaches were necessary.

Hippie Stomper Reigned in the Morning

While I was in the parking lot, a national forest service employee greeted me and asked, “if I was going to catch a bunch of brook trout?” I replied that I was seeking trout, but then asked if brook trout were the prevalent species, and he confirmed that was the case. This surprised me, since on my previous trip I landed mostly brown trout. I was anxious to confirm or refute his statement, and I began my fly fishing venture with a size 14 yellow stimulator. I concluded that the light hackled fly would not disturb the clear moderately low water, and yellow sallies and stoneflies are a proven staple in high mountain streams. The theory seemed logical,  but the local trout refuted it, as I only managed to generate a few tentative refusals.

Foam Produced a Nice Fish

Hippie Stomper Still on Fire

I paused to reevaluate and decided to change to a hippie stomper. The foam attractor has been a hot fly on recent trips, and when I reviewed my blog post from my last visit to Lake Creek, I noted some success with the foam imposter. The hippie stomper option proved to be exceptional, as I landed nineteen trout between 10:15AM and noon. This batch of netted fish was mostly comprised of small brown trout in the seven to eight inch range, but a sprinkling of eleven and twelve inch fish kept me focused and guessing. The two morning hours were the highlight of the day and validated my high mountain creek choice on a hot day in late July.

Star of the AM

After lunch a lull in action caused me to once again evaluate my fly offerings. How could the stream residents suddenly reject an attractor that they found so delectable earlier in the day? I decided to add a nymph dropper, since I suspected that larger fish were present in some of the deep holes. My logic suggested that I simply needed to go deeper. Once again my thought process was faulty, and the addition of a beadhead salvation failed to stir interest. The hippie stomper was mangled and waterlogged from its workhorse morning duties, so I decided to retire it and introduced a size 10 classic black Chernobyl ant to my line. The Chernobyl accounted for a few fish on the previous visit, and I had a hunch about the low riding attractor with a pearl chenille body. The Chernobyl ant is very buoyant, and I loved the idea of flipping and roll casting the foam terrestrial with no need for backcasts.

Scar on This Beauty

The Chernboyl ant yielded two brown trout, albeit twelve inchers, before it also suffered through a slump and began generating refusals. My mind once again went into overdrive, and I decided to downsize to a Jake’s gulp beetle. Historically the downsizing terrestrial strategy paid off, but on Wednesday that was not the case. I concluded, that I was over analyzing the situation and reverted to a hippie stomper, and Immediately I was rewarded with a small brown trout to bring the fish counter to twenty-two. Unfortunately the hippie stomper did not exhibit the same magic as displayed in the morning, so I added a size 12 olive stimulator on a one foot dropper off the bend of the hippie stomper.

Intimidating Wall

Within a few casts a fish crushed the olive stimulator, but I broke off the fly in the process of fighting the wild battler. Could the olive stimulator be taken for a western green drake? I recalled seeing a couple on my previous trip to this same creek. I replaced the olive stimulator with a size 14 harrop hairwing green drake, and the rest is history. The catch rate lagged the morning sprint, but I ratcheted it from twenty-two to twenty-eight, before I reeled up my slack line and called it quits on a successful day. Of the final six trout netted, one slurped the hippie stomper, and the others sipped the green drake. The average size of the final six of the day surpassed the earlier catches.

A Second View

Wednesday, July 29 was everything I expected. The morning blitz was actually unanticipated, but willing fish rising to an attractor dry was among my envisioned outcomes. I progressed upstream for .5 mile and popped casts in all the likely fish holding lies. Surprisingly, very obvious deep pools and eddies were not as productive as more obscure locations. Of course the landed fish were matched by a significant number of refusals and temporary connections. I am fairly certain that the bright sun and heat had a serious impact on the catch rate in the early afternoon. Nevertheless I persisted and managed to tempt the reluctant feeders with a large juicy green drake imitation, although I never saw a natural in the environment. More so than usual I paused to drink water and reflect on the arid yet beautiful surroundings. I am already anxiously anticipating another trip to a high mountain creek.

Fish Landed: 28

Formations Like This All Day Long

Colorado River – 07/24/2020

Time: 7:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Kremmling and Dotsero

Colorado River 07/24/2020 Photo Album

On July 7, 2020 I floated the Colorado River with a guide from Cutthroat Anglers, and my friend, Dave G., and I enjoyed a wonderful day. Dave G. scheduled a second trip for July 24, and I agreed to once again join him. Reed Ryan was again our guide. How would my second outing on the middle Colorado compare to my first experience? Read on.

For this adventure I drove to Dave G.’s house and stayed overnight, and this enabled me to be closer to our starting point on Friday morning. As we departed Dave G.’s house, heavy clouds dominated the sky after some significant rain showers. The weather forecast predicted showers in the morning and a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. In short, I anticipated great conditions for fish but a high probability of getting wet for humans.

Dave G under Overcast Skies in the AM

When Dave G. and I arrived at the launch site, the rain stopped, but dark clouds in the western sky portended additional precipitation. With this possibility foremost in my mind I opted to wear my wading socks and wading boots rather than Chacos in order to keep my feet dry and warm. In addition I slid into my rain jacket and stashed some rain paints, that Dave G. loaned me, into the compartment underneath my seat in the driftboat. I strung my Sage One five weight and handed it to Reed, and after some brief preparations the driftboat was bobbing down the river.

Not Another Boat in Sight

The flows were in the 900 CFS range, and the river was very clear. One boat manned by a man, who did not appear be fishing, departed ahead of us; but we essentially had the river to ourselves until noon, when we stopped for lunch. After lunch the canyon came alive with all manner of watercraft and groups of people. The weather was a major contributor to this dichotomy of river traffic, as dense clouds ruled the sky in the morning, while lengthening periods of sunshine arrived after one o’clock.

Similar to our float on July 7, Reed configured our lines with double dry flies for most of the day. I tried a dry/dropper for a short while around mid-morning, and this change in approach delivered one average sized brown trout. Immediately after lunch I deviated in a substantial way from my conventional practice, when I agreed to allocate thirty minutes to streamer fishing. Reed advised that the cloud cover created good streamer conditions, and I was interested in learning new techniques. I only lasted twenty minutes, as my partner Dave G. began to connect with fish in rapid fire fashion. I, meanwhile, registered one very brief tap and a couple follows. Reed did impart some excellent pointers in a very brief amount of time, and I hope to leverage the instruction for increased hours of stripping over the remainder of the season.

Streamer Trial

Interesting Bank

During our previous float I occupied the bow of the boat for our entire trip, so Dave G. held down the front position for most of our time on the river on Friday. At 1:30 his rehabilitated arm and shoulder began to send signs of overuse, so we switched positions, and I enjoyed the bow for the last 1.5 hours. I felt the pressure of being the only active fisherman, but I managed to add five trout to the fish count.

One of My Better Fish

The water was a bit lower than July 7, and in spite of the excellent cloud cover, I sensed that the Colorado River trout were much more wary and deliberate in their pursuit of food. Despite this hindrance I landed seventeen trout during seven hours of fishing. I also missed a significant quantity of fish due to late hook sets, and a fair number of long distance releases were also part of the equation. The opportunity for an even more impressive day was available thanks to Reed. Dave G. also racked up an impressive double digit day.

The average size of my fish was below July 7, but seventeen fish landed from a population of more wary fish that saw an additional two weeks of pressure was exceptional in my opinion. Quite a few of the trout were in the twelve to fifteen inch range, so I do not wish to convey, that I was catching small fish. I also believe that fishing from the rear of the driftboat is a handicap compared to being in the front, so that was another factor impacting my fish count. Over the course of the day we concluded that the most productive locations were bands of moderate depth and medium current velocity near the bank, and we concentrated much of our casting to those places.

Our Guide Said This Was an Eagle

Setting aside the numbers, I once again had a blast on the Colorado River. The scenery was spectacular and the guide was an expert and very adept at maneuvering the boat to our advantage. We fished large visible dry flies to all the attractive spots, and we were steadily rewarded with wild trout. I sampled streamer fishing for a brief period and gained insight into tactics that produce with this alternative approach to fly fishing. Friday, July 24 was an absolute success, and a return trip is a definite, if not this year then certainly 2021.

Fish Landed: 17

 

Taylor River – 07/22/2020

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Taylor Canyon

Taylor River 07/22/2020 Photo Album

I was reluctant to return to the same area that I fished on Tuesday, because my favorite ploy there is to wade to the opposite bank and fish upstream. With only a few hours available to me on Wednesday, before I needed to launch my return drive, the risk and time necessary to cross the river two more times were not justified. Instead I opted for another area a bit upstream. I estimated that the trout upstream would be tuned into the green drakes similar to my experience on Tuesday.

I made an interim stop at a potential fishing destination, but once I surveyed the situation, I decided to move up river a bit farther. Before doing so, however, I sat on the stool that I keep in the car and munched my small lunch. Afterward I continued along the highway a bit, until I found a convenient wide pullout. I removed my Sage One five weight from its case and quickly assembled it, and I was ready for a few hours on the high gradient Taylor River. I upgraded to the larger rod to counter wind and to cover a bigger river and, hopefully, tangle with some larger fish.

User Friendly Green Drake Fan

I crossed the road and threaded my way through a sparse forest and eventually arrived at a nice spot along the tumbling river. I borrowed from my success on Tuesday and immediately tied a size 12 yellow stimulator to my line along with a size 14 user friendly green drake. For the next 2.5 hours I fished the stimulator with an array of green drake patterns along the south bank and built the fish count to ten. I only spotted two natural western green drakes during this time, and inexplicably the trout were much more selective during the early afternoon than was there mood on Tuesday. The weather was quite different, as large dark clouds blocked the suns rays for much of the afternoon, and this in turn created cooler temperatures and more air movement.

As Good a Place As Any

The narrow river bed and high gradient in this section of the Taylor forced me to fish entirely in bankside pockets and runs. The first five trout were relatively small, and I remember this, because I was waiting for at least a twelve incher to photograph. I covered many places that appeared promising with no success, and refusals were part of the early game. These factors caused me to cycle through nearly all my green drake styles. I began with the user friendly, then tested a parachute version, and then switched to a Harrop hair wing. After the hair wing I reverted to a user friendly for buoyancy and visibility, and my last change placed a size 12 comparadun at the end of my tippet.

Size 12 Green Drake Comparadun Did the Heavy Lifting

Every green drake style yielded a few trout, but none emerged as a consistent producer. The average size of the landed trout increased during the last hour, and I managed to net a substantial fifteen inch brown trout that slurped the comparadun within the last thirty minutes. Several twelve and thirteen inch browns also thrashed in my net during the latter half of my stay on the Taylor River. Surprisingly the larger size 12 comparadun seemed to produce more confident takes, as it accounted for the last three fish of the day. A substantial, muscular rainbow crushed the user friendly on a downstream drift at the tail of a wide deep pool, but after several streaks, it flexed its substantial muscles and shook free of the fly.

Easily the Fish of the Day

In another example of my lack of good fortune, I spotted a very nice trout hugging the bottom of an appealing shelf pool. I placed eight casts over the dark figure with no response, and then it suddenly elevated and confidently sipped in the green drake. This decent brown trout also managed to shed my hook after a couple head shakes and a roll. By 3PM a storm threatened, and the wind gusted, and I decided it was time to initiate my return drive over Cottonwood Pass back to Denver.

Wednesday afternoon on the Taylor River was a challenge, but I did attain double figures and landed a few nice fish. The conditions were more adverse than Tuesday, but I was nevertheless pleased with the results, and the day yielded twenty-three fish in total when combined with Spring Creek. My 2.5 day stay along the Taylor River was an enjoyable experience, and my goal of encountering green drakes was fortunately achieved.

Fish Landed: 10

Spring Creek – 07/22/2020

Time: 9:00AM – 11:30AM

Location: A couple miles upstream from the Spring Creek Campground

Spring Creek 07/22/2020 Photo Album

During the morning of Tuesday, July 21, I was unable to land a single fish on the Taylor River; so I decided to delay my arrival on the frigid tailwater until the afternoon. Not wishing to waste a morning after the long drive to the Taylor River valley, I decided to spend Wednesday morning on Spring Creek, a small tributary. I fished Spring Creek one other time many years ago with decent results, and I was anxious to discover, whether the fishery continued to flourish.

I packed up my camping gear and made the fifteen minute drive to CO 744, and I followed the creek on a washboard riddled dirt road. I passed the area that I fished previously and looked for a spot that combined four key criteria: a pullout where it was safe to park, a lower gradient section, reasonable access although not too easy, and the absence of other anglers. I found a location that seemed to meet these criteria and prepared to fly fish with my Orvis Access four weight. Once I was ready, I hiked downstream along the dusty road, until I arrived at a spot, where the creek made a bend next to the road. Thick bushes occupied most of the area between the road and the creek, and gaps that afforded reasonable access were few and far between.

Perhaps the Best Pool of the Morning

I began my effort to locate Spring Creek trout with a size 14 yellow stimulator, as I surmised that yellow sallies were present on the mountain stream. The fish seemed to recognize my fly as a local food item, as I immediately experienced four very brief hookups. I was pleased with the recognition of my fly as food, but the takes seemed to be very tentative, and I attributed the temporary connections to the reticence of the trout to fully commit to the yellow stimulator. Quite a few small caddis and spruce moths occupied the shrubs and trees that bordered the stream. I decided to persist with the stimulator concept but change body color, and I switched to a gray size 14. This fly drew refusals, but it also registered a few brown trout, and I was off and running.

Mono Wrapped Early Brown Trout Took a Gray Stimulator

At some point I attached a six inch leader to the bend of the stimulator and added a size 16 olive-brown caddis. The move benefited my quest for trout, and the fish count quickly climbed. It seemed that every nook and cranny in the creek yielded a trout in the early going, although in many cases the interest was a look or long distance release. After I reached eight trout, the flies became permanently waterlogged, and I grew weary of sopping up the moisture and dipping the flies in dry shake, so I initiated a new approach. I yearned for the additional buoyancy of foam and snipped off the double dry and knotted a size 12 peacock hippie stomper to my line.

Even Marginal Spots Like This Held Trout

Hippie Stomper Fan

The stomper performed well, although the frequency of rises ebbed, and the fish that exerted the energy to crush the foam attractor seemed to be larger. By 11:00AM I noted another fisherman fifty yards upstream, and naturally I was disappointed with this development. Apparently he spotted me, and departed after a few casts, but I was nevertheless concerned that he moved a short distance upstream and out of view. As I moved closer to the opening, where the other angler appeared, the frequency of interaction with trout lessened, and I attributed this circumstance to easy access for fishermen who, unlike me, were unwilling to bash through bushes or wade in fast currents.

Very Nice for a Small Stream

Size 12 Peacock Body Hippie Stomper

I added a beadhead hares ear on a dropper off the hippie stomper to counter the assumed pressure, and two of the last three trout nabbed the subsurface offering. My final tally leveled out at thirteen, and after glancing at my watch I noted that it was approaching 11:30. I decided to climb the bank and walked back down the road to my car in order to secure a few hours on the Taylor River during prime time. My morning on Spring Creek was a pleasant change from the larger brawling Taylor, and I had a blast prospecting with attractor dry flies. Thirteen trout in 2.5 hours of fishing was a pleasing outcome, and Spring Creek seems to be thriving since my previous visit. I would eagerly welcome a return.

Fish Landed: 13

Taylor River – 07/21/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Lodgepole Campground area.

Taylor River 07/21/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 developed into a nice day along the Taylor River, as it was actually fairly cool with long periods of dense cloud cover. The high temperature probably peaked in the upper seventies, and flows were in the 300 CFS range. I arrived at a wide pullout next to the river by 9:15AM and started fishing by 10:30AM. I assembled my Sage One five weight and methodically moved through my preparation routine, as I planned to cross to the opposite bank and be away from the car for the remainder of the day. I was quite pleased, when I was able to realize my goal of crossing, and the last ten percent was the most difficult, as I tested every foot placement and leaned heavily on my wading staff.

Stair Step Section

Once I climbed the bank opposite the road, I chose a path through the forest, until I was downstream at my chosen starting point. I rigged with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, 20 incher, and salvation nymph. After thirty minutes of unproductive fly fishing, I reconfigured with a size 12 prince nymph and hares ear. These flies were equally unimpressive, and I sat down in a grassy area next to a gorgeous pool to consume my lunch at 11:45AM. I did hook a very nice rainbow in the lunch pool on the hares ear, but after a twenty foot streak, it shed the fly.

Lunch Pool

i observed the pool during my lunch break and spotted two green drakes and five pale morning duns. After lunch I decided to hedge my position, and I replaced the chubby Chernobyl with a size 12 peacock hippie stomper. For droppers I stayed with the prince, but I replaced the hares ear with an ancient cranefly larva. It was simply a hunch. The hippie stomper generated a pair of refusals, but the nymphs were ignored. A swarm of caddis on the streamside bushes prompted me to remove the larva, and I replaced it with an emerald caddis pupa. None of these well conceived moves broke the zero fish logjam, so in a final fit of frustration with my inability to land a fish, I made a total commitment to the green drake. A series of very attractive riffles of moderate depth suggested a perfect trial situation for the olive-hued mayfly.

Dense Spots

Pretty Summer Arrangement

Finally my intuition paid off, and I landed an eleven inch brown trout that slurped the parachute green drake imitation. The remainder of the afternoon was a Taylor River trout feast. I prospected my way along the left (north) bank and methodically picked up twenty-four additional trout. All but four were brown trout including four in the twelve to thirteen inch range. Of course quite a few browns also measured in the seven to eleven inch slot. The minority population of rainbows were well represented and included sixteen and fifteen inch slabs.

Yowzer

The catch rate seemed to accelerate around 1:30PM and remained fairly intense until 4PM. A couple was sitting on a log eating lunch, as I fished upstream a bit from the Santa Fe. I performed a nice show, as they watched, and I landed two medium sized browns, but the highlight and crowd pleaser was a sixteen inch rainbow. As I continued above them, another fisherman arrived, and he chatted with the couple and watched me intently. As he looked on, I suffered through four long distance releases. Two of the releases catapulted my flies into the trees, as the coiled energy of the bent rod was suddenly released. I am sure my fans were jealous of my action but thankful to not be part of the associated woes. The angler who joined the couple simply shook his head in sympathy, when I looked back at him. I managed to recover the first set of flies that lodged in a tree; but I battled, broke and crushed quite a few dead branches in the process. Of course that episode was also part of the price of admission.

Another Slab Rainbow

Slick Behind the Exposed Rock Delivered the Rainbow

I would be remiss, if I did not mention that I added a size 14 yellow/orange stimulator to the green drake and fished a double dry for much of the afternoon. The green drake dominated the action, but the stimulator aided significantly in tracking the green drake and produced eight of the twenty-five landed trout. I added a stimulator as the top fly, after I spotted a pair of yellow sallies in the atmosphere above the river. The double dry ploy that I copied from my Cutthroat Anglers guide is becoming an increasingly important element of my fly fishing arsenal.

Hello There

After two parachute green drakes migrated to the damaged and unraveling space in my fleece wallet, I experimented with a user friendly green drake, and the foam backed imitation once again impressed. The fifteen inch rainbow was among the user friendly fans.

On Tuesday, July 21, I discovered that I do not need to rush to fish the Taylor River. A noon or one o’clock arrival would be sufficient. Once the water warmed up, and I attached a green drake to my line, a very satisfactory day of fly fishing unfolded. My ongoing quest for green drakes was successful, and I logged three hours of fast paced action. Showing off to spectators was an unexpected bonus.

Fish Landed: 25

My Rocking Chair

Lottis Creek – 07/20/2020

Time: 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Near Lottis Creek Campground

Lottis Creek 07/20/2020 Photo Album

July in Colorado is green drake time, and on an annual basis I travel around the state attempting to meet my favorite hatch. After a couple nice outings on the Cache la Poudre River, when the trout responded to my green drake patterns, I researched other destinations that might offer me an opportunity to visit this western mayfly emergence. I read my various books that cover the rivers and streams of Colorado, and anxiously reviewed the hatch charts. I quickly determined that the best green drake hatches in July were along the western slope, and I narrowed the possibilities to the Taylor River and Roaring Fork River. The Roaring Fork event is an evening affair, and I preferred daytime, so I gathered my fishing and camping gear and made the drive to the Taylor River.

Before departing I studied the campsites in the destination area, and I quickly learned that all the sites that could be reserved were taken for Monday and Tuesday night. Fortunately I counted one hundred first come, first serve sites in the vicinity, so I decided to gamble that by arriving at 3PM on Monday, I could snag a walk up site after campers departed following the weekend. On my trip to the area I drove over Cottonwood Pass, which was under construction for the last two years. The main improvement was the paving of the west side of the pass, and this bit of road construction shaved thirty minutes off the trip. Despite the paving project the views from Cottonwood Pass remain breathtaking.

Typical

Once I landed on the western side of the divide, I circled Taylor Reservoir and stopped at Lakeview Campground across from the marina. The national forest web site indicated that ten first come, first serve sites existed at Lakeview, but I only found two with that designation. I did not agree with the vibe of the Lakeview Campground, so I decided to continue my quest for a tent site elsewhere. I assumed I could return later and grab one of the two available sites. Lodgepole Campground was my location of choice, and it contained five walk up sites. I began driving along the river toward Lodgepole, but as I passed Lottis Creek along the way, I decided to make a quick survey. The web said that only two sites were first come, first serve (FCFS). Much to my surprise I discovered one campsite next to the campground host that was open on the Union Loop, and one available on the Baldy Loop. I quickly set up at the Baldy Loop site, as it was beneath a nice grove of evergreen trees and not next to the campground host. I unloaded the car with camping gear and set up the tent by 3:45PM, and this left me with some free time before dinner and clean up. What should I do?

Fine Start

Lottis Creek ran by the campground on its way to the Taylor River, so I decided to devote an hour or two to the small tributary. After a disappointing day on the Taylor last summer, I defaulted to Lottis Creek for an hour and a half and experienced decent luck, so why not attempt a repeat? The sky was dark with clouds most of the time, but rain did not fall, until I returned to the campsite, but even that amount was minimal. The flows are not tracked on the DWR web site, but they seemed nearly ideal to me. During my 1.5 hours on the creek, no significant insects were observed other than a few small caddis.

Another Vivid Brown Trout

I fished the entire 1.5 hours with a size 14 peacock hippie stomper and a beadhead hares ear nymph. In an auspicious start I landed a decent wild brown trout on the second cast, when it gulped the hares ear. The greatest challenge on Monday was avoiding the tight streamside vegetation and untangling the inevitable snarls. I experienced steady action and moved constantly. Three brown trout crushed the hippie stomper, and five nabbed the hares ear.

The Only Place with Cell Phone Signal

The late afternoon time on Lottis Creek was not perfect, as I endured numerous refusals and even more long distance releases, but it was a splendid introduction to the Taylor River valley and increased my anticipation for a full day of fly fishing on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 8

Cache la Poudre River – 07/17/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Poudre Canyon

Cache la Poudre River 07/17/2020 Photo Album

It is prime western green drake time in 2020, and I initiated my annual effort to encounter this exciting event. I am not certain whether I or the trout anticipate it more, but every year I strive to encounter hatches of this large western mayfly. On 7/10/2020 I met a brief and sparse hatch on the Cache la Poudre River, and I had a hunch that the main emergence had not yet arrived. I decided to make a return trip to the Poudre on 07/17/2020 in an attempt to rendezvous with a longer and denser version of my experience the previous Friday.

Green Drake Eater at the Start

I managed to depart Denver by 7:45AM on Friday morning, and this enabled my arrival at a pullout along CO 14 across from the Cache la Poudre River by 10AM. Traffic was already building on the twisting two lane through the canyon, and my progress was maddeningly slow. The forecast for high temperatures in Denver approached one hundred degrees, and I suspected that the best fishing would be early. I contemplated wet wading, but ultimately decided to wader up to take advantage of the fly box storage of my wader bib. I need to give some serious thought to my wet wading setup. For Friday’s adventure I elected to assemble my Sage four weight, and once I was completely prepared, I ambled downstream along the shoulder of CO 14 for .4 mile. Originally I conceived the idea of crossing the nearby upstream bridge and then hiking downstream along the south bank, but a quick inspection revealed numerous vertical rock walls that made that plan unattainable.  .4 mile delivered me to a favorite spot, that I fished on my previous visit, but I was near the end of the stretch covered a week ago and thus subject to minimal overlap.

Accounted for First Nine Trout

Harrop Hair-wing in the Lip

I deviated from my normal dry/dropper starting strategy and tied a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line. What a choice! A brown trout flashed to the surface and nipped the drake imitation in a small pocket on the first cast.  The second cast fooled a comparable brown in a slightly larger downstream pocket, and then a couple casts to a deep slot toward the middle of the river resulted in another slurp. The magic of the Harrop green drake endured for the first hour, and the fish counter mounted to nine. In short, I relished my first hour of fishing and held my breath with the hope, that it would endure throughout the day.

Juicy

Of course it did not, and by 11:30AM the confident takes of the hair-wing disappeared, and fruitless casts suddenly became the norm. How could this happen? Perhaps a different version of my green drake would resurrect the hot fishing of the first hour? I exchanged the Harrop hair-wing for a parachute green drake and immediately notched my tenth fish, but then the fish once again refrained from gulping my artificial. My watch indicated that it was noon, and the heat was taking its toll on my energy level, so I found a nice flat rock next to a large spectacular pool and consumed my lunch.

Trout Haven Ahead

During lunch I observed carefully for insect activity, but the air was nearly devoid of life. I was baffled by why the trout would eat a green drake in the absence of a hatch between 10:30 and 11:30, but then suddenly show no interest? I decided to revert to my dependable dry/dropper method with a peacock hippie stomper, prince nymph, and salvation nymph. My thought process surmised that the hippie stomper might mimic a green drake, and the prince nymph was an approximation of a green drake nymph. The salvation covered the possibility of a pale morning dun hatch. The ploy paid off, and I elevated the fish count from ten to fifteen, as I progressed upstream along the right bank in the first hour after lunch.

Hippie Stomper

By one o’clock I actually witnessed five or six green drakes, as they slowly drifted above the river like a tiny hot air balloon. I was in a quandary. The dry/dropper was performing reasonably well, but the sighting of natural green drakes nudged me toward a return to dry flies. I ultimately decided to trade in the dry/dropper for a green drake comparadun. I reasoned that I wait all year for the opportunity to fish to green drakes, so why not take advantage? I knotted a size 14 green drake comparadun with a maroon thread rib to my line, and I began to flick casts to likely trout holding locations.

Nice Sheen

The tactic proved productive, and I incremented the fish count from fifteen to nineteen on the back of the comparadun. The trout were grabbing the low riding dry fly with confidence, and I was loving the rhythmic casting and periodic surprises, when a resident trout decided to ambush the western green drake. Unfortunately all good things must end, and suddenly the fish began to refuse the comparadun or ignore it completely. I covered several promising areas with no positive results, and the comparadun body absorbed water and began to sink, so I once again stripped in my fly to make a change. I suspected that the lull in my catch rate was more attributable to a sinking fly and inability to track, so I replaced the comparadun with a user friendly green drake. I tied a batch of user friendly green drakes during the winter between 2018 and 2019, but I experimented only briefly with the new green drake imitation. I decided to give it another try due to its buoyancy, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Typical

The green drake user friendly was not perfect, as it generated its share of refusals, but by the time I hooked it to my rod guide at 3:30, it was responsible for moving the fish count from nineteen to twenty-six. I never saw additional green drake naturals after one o’clock, so the user friendly productivity came in the time frame after the hatch was over. The foam enhanced dun with the white wing was a joy to track, and it apparently represented a desirable meal for the Cache la Poudre trout.

User Friendly Up Close

Friday, July 17 evolved into an outstanding day on the Cache la Poudre River. On my return drive through Fort Collins the dashboard thermometer registered 95 degrees, but I landed twenty-six trout in spite of the heatwave. My quest for green drake action was successful, as twenty-one of the twenty-six netted trout gobbled one of my array of western green drake imitations. The first ten confidently slurped the drake frauds, even though the hatch did not commence until one in the afternoon, and this confirmed my suspicion that trout have long memories when it comes to a sizable meal such as the western green drake. Do readers have suggestions on other Colorado freestones that offer excellent green drakes over the next week or two? I would seriously evaluate a trip.

Fish Landed: 26