South Boulder Creek – 05/25/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/25/2016 Photo Album

After enjoying a decent but not outstanding day on the South Platte River on Monday, I felt a bit burned out by that waterway. Dealing with the weekday crowds was a significant drawback, and I desired one more fishing trip before our scheduled trip to Pennsylvania and Vermont, but I was not interested in a long drive. As is my custom, I examined the DWR stream flows, and this review yielded three closer options. The South Platte River below Cheesman Lake was running in the low 300’s, and this level is higher than ideal but still within the range of comfortable fishing. The Big Thompson River was up to 125 CFS. This is at the top of the ideal range, but I experienced decent success at these levels in previous years. I was ignoring South Boulder Creek because of extremely low flows (15 CFS), but I now noted that releases bumped the volume below Gross Reservoir to 30 CFS. South Boulder Creek is within an hour drive of my home, so I decided to make this my destination on Wednesday May 25.

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After I Cleaned the Lens with My Buff

One hour of driving delivered me to the parking lot high above the creek. Two trucks and one SUV were already present, so after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and stashed my lunch in my backpack, I descended the steep path and hiked along the trail until I was below the pedestrian bridge that leads to the Crescent Meadows parking lot. I passed four fishermen along the way, so I was hopeful that I had the lower part of the canyon to myself. In order to give myself space I hiked for a decent distance, and then I dropped down the bank to the stream.

The temperature was in the mid-fifties with sporadic strong gusting wind when I departed at the trailhead . Unfortunately the weather never changed until the wind died back between three and four o’clock. This coincided with fewer clouds and longer periods of sunshine. For the most part large clouds blocked the sun, and chilling wind blasted down the canyon. I was pleased to wear my fleece and raincoat, and occasionally rued my decision to leave my hat with earflaps in the car.

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Look at All Those Deep Pockets

Although 30 CFS is below what I consider ideal for this small Front Range stream, it was adequate to avoid highly technical fishing. By 11:30 I tied a gray stimulator to my tippet and began prospecting all the likely fish holding nooks. I was hesitant to begin plunking a large foam attractor, since the flows remained on the low side, but the stimulator failed to arouse much interest, so after fifteen minutes I took the plunge. I tied on a fat Albert with an orange floss body, and below that indicator fly I attached an ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear.

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Yummy Fat Albert

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Same Fish from the Side

I continued moving upstream, and I was shocked to land my first fish, a small nine inch brown trout, on the large foam attractor. Sometimes trout can be very unpredictable. The remainder of my day was fairly simple. Up until 2:30 I stayed with the same three flies, and I landed ten additional trout bringing the fish counter to eleven. A rainbow gobbled the fat Albert with total confidence, and the other eight landed fish snatched the trailing beadhead hares ear from the drift. The hares ear nymph has staged a comeback comparable to Michael Jordan’s return from minor league baseball. It has become my favorite fly in this late spring pre-runoff time period in Colorado.

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Love the Look of This Fish

The late morning and early afternoon were a fly fishing festival, as I applied my favorite technique of popping short casts to appealing locations. My rapid fire short drifts did not always yield fish, but on a fairly regular basis, a feisty cold water jewel ended up on my line. But in addition to regular action, I was pleased to discover that quite a few of the trout in my net were gorgeous rainbows in the 12-14 inch range. These are very fine fish for the small South Boulder Creek drainage, and the vivid spots and bright colors made them gems in the truest sense of the word.

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Partly Cloudy All Day

During some of the dark cloudy periods in the afternoon I noticed some small mayflies in the atmosphere, so I presumed they were blue winged olives. In fact in one large wide and deep pool with a strong center current, I spotted two fish as they aggressively rose to the surface to intercept a natural food morsel. I examined the water closely, but I could not discern any obvious food source on the surface. I was reluctant to make the switch to a single dry based on the hunch that they were taking BWO’s, so I compromised and swapped the hares ear for a soft hackle emerger. I drifted several casts in front of the place where the lower fish in the pool rose twice, but this selective eater was having none of my offerings.

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My Lunch Spot

I turned my attention to the fish that rose once along the center current near the midsection of the pool. The first cast drifted two feet, and suddenly the fat Albert darted against the current. I made a swift hook set, and felt the weight of a decent fish for a few seconds, before it somehow shed the hook. I could not be 100% certain, but I guessed that the fish intercepted the soft hackle emerger, and the small size 20 hook was not up to the challenge of holding fast.

Since I made the switch of flies, I fished on with the ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger for awhile, but eventually I removed the zug bug and continued with the beadhead hares ear and the soft hackle emerger. Between 2:30 and 4:00 the weather improved, but this was offset by less attractive water and the absence of fishing action. The stream was wider, and consequently with flows at 30 CFS offered fewer deep runs and pockets. I skipped much of this water and spent a fair amount of time wading rather than casting. The brighter sun and warmer temperatures were a death knell for the baetis hatch, and this translated to less active fish.

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Another Gorgeous Rainbow

In spite of these negatives I persisted and landed three additional trout to take my fish count to fourteen, however, I must report that these fish were on the small side and did not compare to the beauties that rested in my net earlier. By 4 o’clock I cast to some extremely promising water and could not even generate a refusal. The path was within a foot or two of the creek, and it beckoned me to begin my homeward journey. I acquiesced and made the vigorous hike out of the canyon and ended my day on South Boulder Creek.

Once again I enjoyed a surprisingly productive day of fishing on a Colorado tailwater during the time when most rivers are subject to rising flows and turbid conditions. I was extremely thankful for another day of success, although I feel certain that lake fishing will be in my plans when I return from Vermont on June 8. Nevertheless it was fun while it lasted.

Fish Landed: 14

 

South Platte River – 05/23/2016

Time: 10:15AM – 7:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon just below Springer Gulch and special regulation water

South Platte River 05/23/2016 Photo Album

My love affair with the South Platte River encountered a small rough patch on Monday. It was another solid day, but I was spoiled by the three previous visits that yielded bountiful quantities of fish and above average size.

I contacted my young friend Danny Ryan to determine whether he was available to join me, and of course I touted the phenomenal days that left me in a state of euphoria on May 12, 13 and 20. Very little arm twisting was required, and Danny texted me that he cleared his calendar and planned to join me on a trip to Eleven Mile Canyon.

I arrived at Danny’s apartment at 7:15, and this enabled us to pass through the entrance gate for Eleven Mile Recreation Area by 9:30. We were about to discover one of the factors that made Monday more challenging and less enjoyable than my previous visits. We slowly drove on the dirt road that snakes along the nine mile length of the river, and once we passed Springer Gulch, the boundary with the catch and release section, every pullout was occupied with one or two vehicles. How could this many fishermen be on the river on a Monday? Does anyone still work in this nation? I speculated with Danny that the South Platte River in South Park is the only river relatively close to Denver that is not affected by early run off, and this explained the hordes of fly fishermen swarming along the upper reaches of the river. The other explanation was that too many people are reading my blog, but I suspect that reason is not likely.

We executed a U-Turn at the parking lot below the dam and returned along the dusty dirt road toward the entrance gate. After two miles we passed the border of the special regulation water, and we continued for another .5 mile. Here we noticed that the gradient increased, and the river passed through a narrows section with huge round boulders and deep plunge pools. This lasted for a short distance, and then the stream bed opened up a bit, and we decided to park and test our skills in this more moderate canyon section.

When I opened the car door, I met a chilly blast of wind, and this weather condition would be a constant irritant over the course of the entire day except for the evening period after 4PM. I elected to wear my Adidas pullover along with my raincoat as a second layer windbreaker. There were a few brief windows of sunshine, but overcast skies and a chilly breeze predominated for most of the day. I never experienced much success fishing after a cold front moved through an area, and Monday’s weather seemed to be one of those days. Certainly the atmosphere was cooler and drier than what Steve and I faced on Friday May 20. I blame the slower action and smaller fish on the combination of more adverse weather and crowds of fishermen forcing us to accept a secondary stream section.

Nevertheless Danny and I persisted. Experimenting with fishing the unregulated portion of Eleven Mile Canyon was actually an idea I pondered on Friday, but I was reluctant to suggest it to Steve when the highly desirable segment of the catch and release was open and unoccupied. I did well in the Happy Meadows area, another section open to bait fishermen, so I was convinced that I could catch fish in the section of Eleven Mile where standard regulations applied. The crowded circumstances of Monday forced me to test my theory.

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Beautiful Brown Trout

Danny and I both began fishing with dry/dropper configurations. In my case I tied a fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and beadhead hares ear to my line; and I began to prospect all the usual locations that could harbor trout that evaded the bait and spin fishermen over the weekend. It took twenty minutes, but eventually I was on the board with a nice twelve inch brown trout. At eleven o’clock I spotted a few blue winged olives hovering over the stream, so I swapped the hares ear for a soft hackle emerger. Between our starting time of 10:15 and our lunch break at noon, I landed six trout, and all were brown trout. Three of my catch chose the soft hackle emerger as their food source, and the other three were attracted to the ultra zug bug.

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Danny Prospects a Promising Run

After lunch Danny and I continued our progress upstream, and we actually passed under the bridge at Springer Gulch and fished the very bottom section of the special regulation area up until 3PM. At this time we bumped into another fishermen, so we reversed and returned to the car. During the early afternoon session, I abandoned the soft hackle emerger, as it ceased to deliver results, and instead I reverted to the beadhead hares ear. My lineup therefore consisted of the fat Albert indicator and the ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear. The fish counter ratcheted up to ten during this time period, and my netted fish included a husky fifteen inch rainbow. Hooking and landing this fish was clearly the highlight of my day. I angled a short cast around a huge boulder to a narrow deep slot, and after a very brief drift I lifted to make another cast. This action apparently looked like escaping food to the rainbow, and it struck the beadhead hares ear.

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Dave's Best on the Day

Once we returned to the car, we decided to make another move toward the gate, and this time we found a small pullout next to the river just southeast of the single tunnel. Once again we applied our dry/dropper technique to water that was similar to the section fished earlier. I managed to add five additional fish to my tally, but these fish were smaller on average, with one or two reaching the twelve inch measurement. Since Danny works long hours, he wished to take advantage of a rare fishing day, and this motivated us to continue fishing until 7:30.

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Beadhead Hares Ear Performed

Over the last hour I endured several refusals to the fat Albert, so I theorized that the fish were focusing their attention of surface food. In conjunction with this logic I decided to experiment with some dry flies that were more natural in appearance. I cast a light gray size 16 deer hair caddis in a nice pool with no response, and then I switched to a light olive size 12 stimulator. Neither of these options generated any interest, so apparently my hypothesis was off base. Danny meanwhile persisted with the dry/dropper arrangement and managed to net a few small fish on the hares ear and salad spinner.

In conclusion I ended my day with fifteen landed fish, and that sounds fairly decent. Consider however that I fished for nearly eight hours, and this translates to a catch rate of two fish per hour, and that is fairly average. In addition the size of the fish was beneath my experience on each of the three previous trips to the South Platte River. On a positive note I managed double digit fish on May 23, which is a decent accomplishment for a stream, when most of Colorado is in the early stages of run off. Also I spent my day in a beautiful canyon with my friend Danny who I had not fished with since March. Danny also achieved a double digit fish count day, so in retrospect it was a fun and productive day.

Trout Landed: 15

 

South Platte River – 05/20/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon near twin tunnels and then across from a picnic area outside the special regulation water.

South Platte River 05/20/2016 Photo Album

Euphoria lingered as I sat down to craft this report of my fishing trip to the South Platte River on Friday May 20. The quantity of fish landed did not compare with my experience the previous Thursday and Friday, but the quality of fish is what caused my mind to dwell on a fun day.

Two of my fishing friends had rotator cuff surgery in 2016. Steve Supple had his operation performed on March 10, and his doctor informed him that he could resume fishing three months later. Steve is right handed and his right shoulder was repaired. Steve’s wife, Judy, emailed Jane on Tuesday to inform us that Steve was ready to make his first fishing trip.

It was a week since I enjoyed fast and steady action on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and I yearned to return while flows remained in the ideal range. I suggested to Steve that we make Eleven Mile our destination, and after he checked the DWR stream flow data and determined that releases from Eleven Mile Reservoir continued to offer near ideal conditions at 75 cfs, we eagerly made plans to visit the South Platte River on Friday.

I arrived at Steve’s house in Lone Tree at 7:10, and we quickly transferred my gear to his Subaru, and we were on our way. An uneventful drive brought us to a pullout near the twin tunnels on the dirt road that borders the river at 10AM, and we waded into the river by 10:30. Steve chose to begin casting his nymphs in a gorgeous long run and pool just below a long slender island. The two channels merged at this point and created an inviting riffle and deep pool.

I meanwhile walked downstream for thirty yards to some faster water that contained numerous exposed boulders and deep pockets. This river structure was more to my liking, and I began with the usual fat Albert trailing a beadhead ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear. I tied ten fat Alberts this winter, and I continue to use the same one that served me during all my 2016 fishing trips since early March. I am sure it set some sort of record for hours of continuous service without breaking off or being sacrificed to a tree.

In addition to the flows being nearly ideal, the weather was similarly favorable. As we began fishing in the morning, the temperature was in the upper fifties, so I wore my fleece; but the bright sun amidst a deep blue sky quickly warmed the air until the mercury moved into the sixties. There were several periods of extensive cloud cover, but never any significant precipitation, and the gray skies enhanced the fishing conditions.

In the first half hour I methodically worked my way up the river and prospected some very appealing water without any positive results. When I reached Steve, he was on the side of the river below the road, so I approached the gorgeous deep run from the opposite bank. I made some nice drifts from the top of the run along the main center seam, and on the fifth such pass the fat Albert made a dive. I reacted with a hook set, and chaos ensued as an energized rainbow trout charged up and down the run. I maintained contact through several sudden streaks, but then the missile made an abrupt turn and shed the hook. It was fun to finally connect with a fish, but disappointment reigned with the loss of a substantial hook up.

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A Nice Fat Rainbow

Just before this sequence of events Steve landed a very spunky fourteen inch rainbow from his side of the seam on a RS2, and I paused to snap some photographs before moving on. Steve remained at the junction pool while I migrated through the right channel around the long narrow island. Quite a few nice deep pockets and runs presented themselves, and I capitalized on the attractive water by landing five trout before returning to check in with Steve at approximately 11:30. Of the five fish that felt my net, three were brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and two were rainbows. One bow was a chunky fourteen inch fish and the second striped beauty was a fifteen inch beauty although not as wide as the first one.

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Speckled Rainbow in My Net

When Steve informed me that he landed his fish on a RS2, I swapped my hares ear nymph for a soft hackle emerger, and three of the fish on the north channel nipped the emerger, and the other two grabbed the ultra zug bug. This brief morning session built my confidence that I could use my favorite dry/dropper technique to catch fish in Eleven Mile Canyon. I was impressed with the quality of the fish, and trout seemed to materialize in most of the locations where I expected to find them.

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This Rainbow Was Long But Not As Chunky as Previous

When I joined up with Steve, I learned that he landed another fish. I informed Steve that I planned to continue upstream beyond the long slow pool below some high vertical rock walls, and I committed to return by noon for lunch. The plan played out as I envisioned, and I encountered some nice faster pockets and runs above the long pool. In the remaining half hour before lunch I landed three more healthy fish including two rainbows and a brown. One of the rainbows was another feisty thirteen inch well fed specimen. Just before noon I found a nice path that scaled the steep bank and brought me back to the road just west of the second tunnel.

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Wow a Fatty

As I walked back toward the car, I met a trio of fishermen scaling the steep bank between the twin tunnels. The older of the three was struggling to climb the last ten feet as the loose gravel soil was absent of any toe holds. I offered the young gentleman on the road my wading staff, and he quickly accepted it and extended it to the struggling climber who grabbed the end. With the assistance of the young friend and the sturdy stick, the trailing fisherman finally crested the rim, and thank you’s were offered all around.

After lunch at the Subaru Steve and I decided to descend the same path that I used to return for lunch. Steve mentioned that he fished the water upstream of the second tunnel on previous trips, and he viewed it as an enjoyable area, although on many occasions it was occupied by guides and clients. We quickly gathered our rods and descended to the edge of the river, and we were pleased to see the absence of other fishermen. Steve found another juicy deep run and began to explore the depths with his indicator nymph rig.

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Brilliant Stripe and Cheeks

Meanwhile I stayed with the dry/dropper combination and quickly found some very nice deep pockets, slots and runs where the river rushed around numerous exposed boulders. The river structure was similar to the right braid from the morning, and it matched my favorite type of fly fishing playground. In the first fifteen minutes I failed to generate any interest, and blue winged olives seemed to be absent, so I reverted to the beadhead hares ear. The hares ear was all I needed on Thursday and Friday May 12 and 13, so I was convinced that the trout in the upper section of Eleven Mile would relish it as well. In addition Steve and I observed two mayflies that were size sixteen, and I had a hunch that the larger hares ear might match the nymph stage of the larger mayflies that we saw.

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I Love This Type of Water

My hunch was on target, and I began to land trout with increased regularity. Deep pockets and narrow troughs where currents merged were nearly sure things, and I grew quite confident that if I could find such places, I could extract a fish. Between lunch and 2PM I added six additional fish to my count, and nearly all were in the twelve to fifteen inch range. Rainbow trout predominated this fishing period, as they accounted for five of the six fish landed. Whereas most of the brown trout that I landed in Eleven Mile Canyon measured in the twelve to thirteen inch range, the rainbows on average were strong aggressive fish in the twelve to fifteen inch size slot. The two hours in the early afternoon of May 20 represented some of the best action of 2016. The beadhead hares ear was once again the star, as it enticed all but one of the early afternoon netted fish.

At two o’clock I wandered back to find Steve who reported slow action. He landed one trout in the initial run, but the river residents proved uncooperative after that. Since another fisherman was in view above my ending point, we decided to return to the car and then explore some water downstream outside the special regulation area. We were amazed at the number of fishermen that arrived while we were occupying prime locations near the twin tunnels, as nearly every available pullout contained one or two vehicles. After we passed Springer Gulch we drove for an additional couple miles until we reached a small picnic area on the right that contained a rest room facility. Steve parked here, and we crossed the road to examine the quality of the river. It appeared to be similar to the segments that we fished earlier in the day, so we agreed to give it another hour.

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A Surprise Cutbow

Steve took a position halfway across the river below another nice run, and I walked down the road .1 mile and then dropped down a short bank and began fishing some deep pools and pockets around large rounded protruding boulders. I moved through some exceptionally deep pools without any success, but then I reached a section where the river widened a bit, and I was able to wade and reach some very attractive places in the middle and opposite side of the river. Finally my dry/dropper technique paid dividends, and over the last hour I landed three healthy trout that averaged twelve inches. One was a cutbow and two were wild brown trout with vivid red and black spots.

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Brilliant Spots on This Wild Brown

It was just a superb day in the catch and release section of Eleven Mile Canyon. It was also certainly my best showing in the highly pressured tailwater, and I discovered that using the dry/dropper technique along with covering a lot of water yielded excellent results. I focused on faster pocket water sections because this type of structure worked well for me in the downstream areas of the South Platte the previous week. Also I continue to believe that most fishermen (fly, spinner and bait) avoid this type of water. The typical fisherman gravitates to long deep runs at the head of smooth pools. Fishing pocket water is hard work and necessitates careful wading while leaning into a forceful current. Rocks and sticks tend to grab flies and fly lines, and short drifts dictate frequent lifting and casting. All of these circumstances cause extreme fatigue on legs, elbows, shoulders and the back. Only a dedicated few attempt this style of fishing, thus this type of water is far less pressured.

I am already eager to make yet another trip to the South Platte River in the South Park area. As long as the water managers maintain flows in the 75 – 100 cfs range, exceptional fishing should continue. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 17

 

 

 

 

Boulder Creek – 05/19/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Rogers Park before lunch and then upstream from mile marker 36 in the afternoon.

Boulder Creek 05/19/2016 Photo Album

How long can I avoid the inevitable onset of snow melt? I made plans for another trip to the South Platte River on Friday, so I searched for a close-by option on Thursday. Clear Creek was fun on Wednesday, but I did not wish to return for a second consecutive day. Remaining options were the Big Thompson River, Boulder Creek and South Boulder Creek. I was leaning toward a trip to South Boulder Creek despite posted flows of 15 CFS until I read guide reports on the Front Range Anglers web site. The fly shop experts suggested that the low flows on South Boulder Creek made fishing very technical; whereas, Boulder Creek continued to fish reasonably well while run off was held in check by recent cool temperatures. This tipped my decision in favor of Boulder Creek.

Because I live on the north side of Denver near Interstate 270, Boulder is merely a thirty minute drive. I decided to explore the upper section of Boulder Canyon, so driving through Boulder and then traveling west added another thirty minutes to my trip. I pulled into a parking area next to the creek at Rogers Park, and I was ready to cast by 11AM. The creek in this upper section above Boulder Falls was actually quite low and very clear, and I questioned whether it might be more technical than South Boulder Creek. I knotted a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line on my Orvis Access four weight and began tossing it to likely fish holding locations.

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Rogers Park Area Was Wide and Shallow

Spots where fish might hold were actually in short supply as the small stream was relatively wide and shallow in this area, where the gradient leveled out a bit. I managed to land a small brown and had another split second connection, but I covered a significant amount of stream before lunch with only one fish added to my fish count. After a half hour of mostly wading I encountered a large wide shallow beaver dam. Beaver dams tend to have mucky bottoms, so I waded to the bank along the road and skipped around the huge pool, but I did observe a few decent fish, as they scattered while I disturbed the pool ever so slightly. Above the beaver dam I continued to toss the Chernobyl ant and eventually landed a second small brown trout in a fairly fast shallow run.

I glanced at my watch after releasing fish number two and noticed that it was 11:45, so I climbed a short steep bank and hiked back to the car. This short walk confirmed that I covered approximately half a mile in forty-five minutes of fishing. As I drove west upon my arrival earlier in the morning, I made a mental note that the water upstream from mile marker 36 seemed interesting, so I turned right at the end of the short dirt lane that led to the parking area, and I proceeded directly to a small pullout between mile marker 37 and 36, but much closer to 36. I munched my lunch on a large flat rock overlooking the stream, and then I grabbed my gear and began working upstream.

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View from Where I Ate Lunch

During the afternoon I covered more than a mile of Boulder Creek. The section of water was similar to Clear Creek, as the creek rushed down a fairly narrow high gradient stream bed. Nearly all the action was limited to slow pockets and pools which served as refuge from the high velocity current in the center. Because the stream was fairly narrow, I was able to cast to a few pools along the opposite bank by holding my rod high to keep the fly line off the water. This technique yielded one or two of my twelve fish.

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Beadhead Ultra Zug Bug Visible

 

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Pocket Produced

I began by casting the same Chernobyl ant that I knotted to my line at the start of my day, but it was apparently not appetizing to Boulder Creek trout, so I defaulted to my new standard; a fat Albert trailing an ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear. These flies began to produce, and I incremented my fish total from two to eight in the early afternoon time period. Six fish over 2.5 hours is an average catch rate, and covering the edge on Boulder Creek proved to be hard work. Large rocks bordered the creek the entire time, and I was extremely careful to analyze each foot placement to avoid any unexpected slips or falls.

At 2:30 I spotted a few blue winged olives, and then at the downstream lip of a deep run I noticed a small brown as it darted to the surface to grab a wayward BWO. I exchanged my hares ear for a soft hackle emerger and then attempted to simulate an emerging baetis by giving my flies a lift in front of the location of the rises. It did not work, so I moved on. In one nice deep run I generated a short momentary hook up most likely on the small soft hackle emerger, but I was skeptical that the tiny fly would attract much attention in the tumbling flows of the mountain creek.

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Hot Corner

I was about to make another fly change when I approached the Boulder Creek version of the hot corner. The creek glided through a deep run and then eddied back along a large vertical rock wall. I paused to observe, and I was immediately excited to see a decent fish hovering just below the surface facing downstream. While I watched, it rose twice and sipped something from the film; most likely one of the sparse blue winged olives that I observed earlier. I was not doing well with my dry/dropper rig, so sight fishing to a decent fish with a dry fly was too much to resist.

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CDC BWO Sipper

I clipped off the three flies and converted to a single size 22 CDC olive. Once I was ready, I flicked a nice cast with quite a bit of slack to the downstream beginning of the eddy seam, and as the tiny lint-like morsel slowly drifted back toward the nexus of the eddy, the large fish slowly slid beneath the fly and rejected it! I was sorely disappointed, but I allowed the fly to continue on its journey toward the hub of the eddy, and much to my amazement, a different fish darted to the surface and sucked in my offering. I brought it to my net and determined it was a fairly typical ten inch brown trout. I dried my fly thoroughly and resumed casting, and I was pleased to extract two more browns from the hot corner. The last one was the best of the bunch and perhaps the largest brown that I ever caught in Boulder Creek, as it extended to twelve inches.

Eventually the rising fish ceased to show interest, and I moved on. I tried to prospect two decent pockets with the small CDC BWO, but following a tiny fly in fast water is a frustrating proposition, so I added a size 14 stimulator and attached the CDC BWO behind it. These flies looked great in tandem on the surface, but the fish did not seem to be interested.

Prospecting on the surface did not seem to be a winning strategy in the late afternoon, so I once again reconfigured, and this time I decided to go old school. I knotted a yellow Letort hopper to my line as the top fly, and beneath it I attached a beadhead hares ear. Ten years ago this was my number one option for dry/dropper prospecting. I managed to land one small brown trout on the hares ear, and then I approached a whitewater chute and a driveway bridge, so I decided to end my day.

The weather was delightful and the stream level and clarity were conducive to fishing on May 19. Boulder Creek was a fine choice, and I continued to make the most of the remaining days of stream fishing in Colorado before flowing water blows out for a couple months.

Fish Landed: 12

Clear Creek – 05/18/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Downstream from Hidden Valley exit below Idaho Springs.

Clear Creek 05/18/2016 Photo Album

Adverse weather moved into Colorado on Sunday evening, and this placed a temporary halt on my fishing ventures. Rather than stewing over the cool wet conditions, I used the weekend and Monday to rest, and Tuesday Jane and I took full advantage of the cool temperatures by visiting Arapahoe Basin for some late season skiing. Conditions were actually quite good for May 17, and generous quantities of snow remain on the high elevation slopes. Jane volunteered to drive on our return trip, and this afforded me the opportunity to inspect Clear Creek where it runs along interstate 70. It was a bit high but clear on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday morning I reviewed the stream flows on the Front Range streams, and this exercise revealed that Clear Creek was flowing at 133 cfs. This is a bit high but within the 50-200 cfs range that generally suggests manageable fishing conditions. Since I had first hand knowledge based on our return trip from A-Basin, I opted to make the short trip to Clear Creek. On Tuesday I observed that clarity was decent, and this information is difficult to obtain over the internet.

I left the house at 9:30 on Wednesday morning, and I pulled into the pullout along the frontage road south of Interstate 70 off the Hidden Valley exit by 10:30. I quickly jumped out of the car and looked down at the stream and determined that it was in decent condition. The flows were obviously higher than the 50 cfs level that I encountered during my most recent visit to Clear Creek in the canyon, but the creek was only slightly discolored with decent visibility along the edges. Clear Creek is essentially a huge trough, and it is a waste of time to toss flies anywhere but right along the bank, so edge clarity is all that matters.

I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight. A large black cloud was gathering to the west, so I added my fleece and raincoat and then threw my lunch in my backpack. I planned to hike down the bike path to the spot where the creek makes a bend, so returning to the car for my sandwich was not an option. After a twenty minute brisk hike on the path, I found a nice open area to approach the stream. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was 11:45, so I decided to eat next to the stream before beginning my quest for Clear Creek brown trout.

I began my afternoon by tying a fat Albert to my line, and then I added a beadhead hares ear nymph on a two foot dropper. These flies were on fire on the South Platte so why not test them on Clear Creek? Very quickly I discovered that the small brown trout were mesmerized by the fat Albert, but they chose to inspect but not eat the large foam attractor. After fifteen minutes of frustration, I clipped off both flies and tied on a size 10 Chernobyl ant. The fish actually chomped on this fly, but the first three or four were on my line only temporarily before they somehow escaped. Refusals and long distance releases upped my frustration level, but eventually a small brown gulped the Chernobyl ant, and I had my first fish of the day.

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First Decent Fish on Wednesday

I discovered that my successful fish landing ratio improved if I paused for a couple seconds after I observed a fish slurp the foam ant. This took quite a bit of discipline, but restraint did improve my catch rate. The other key discovery was the water type that held brown trout willing to smash a surface fly. Basically the entire stream could be ignored except for very slow moving deep pockets right next to the bank. I landed eighteen brown trout over the course of the afternoon, and once I found the formula for success, I simply moved quickly and dapped or flicked the Chernobyl ant to tiny pockets or slack water along the bank. Many fish dashed from their hiding spots beneath rocks to snatch the foam fly within six inches of shore.

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Fishing Next to the Interstate

The first Chernobyl ant rolled around the hook shank a bit, and I was concerned that this explained why a high percentage of hooked fish were able to shed the fly. After I reached six fish, I exchanged the first Chernobyl for a newer imitation that I tied during the past winter. This version was more solidly secured to the hook shank, and I feel that my landing ratio improved after this switch.

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Perhaps Best Fish of the Day

At one point around 2:30 another dark cloud appeared to the east, and I heard the rumbling of thunder in the distance. The storm tracked southeast of my position, so I did not need to exit for safety, but a short period of light rain justified my decision to wear a raincoat.

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Mmm. Radioactive Ant.

By 4PM I fished my way back to the Santa Fe, and I was quite weary from carefully climbing over large slippery rocks, so I called it quits. Twenty fish has a nice ring to it, but eighteen is not bad for a freestone stream on May 18. The Chernobyl ant worked its magic as long as I placed it in preferred fish holding neighborhoods.

Fish Landed: 18

 

South Platte River – 05/13/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Near Happy Meadows Campground.

South Platte River 05/13/2016 Photo Album

Insanity is continuing to do the same thing but expecting different results. We have all heard this proposition. Is the corollary to this, therefore, that continuing to do the same thing will yield the same result? The corollary proposition is what I set out to test on Friday May 13. The other question weighing on my thoughts was whether it was a good idea to engage in a fishing trip on Friday the 13th?

Thursday was a spectacular day on the South Platte River, and the conditions for Friday were likely to match the previous day in nearly every aspect. The high temperature was expected to be in the mid-60’s in the Lake George area and the stream flows continued to release from Eleven Mile Reservoir at a very benign 64 cfs. I had my eye on the section of the South Platte River downstream from Lake George near the Happy Meadows Campground.

I sampled this stretch one time several years ago for a few hours, and I landed eight small fish, so I knew that trout were present. The area impressed me as a haven of bait and spin fishermen, so I suspected that it received considerably more pressure than the Eleven Mile segment, and since normal regulations apply, there was a greater risk that fish were harvested. At the very least it was likely that the bigger fish were killed and consumed for table fare. Perhaps I would undertake a two plus hour drive only to discover that small fish resided in the river, but the weather and scenery would certainly compensate for a pedestrian fishing experience. Most of the other stream options along the Front Range were beginning to exhibit the higher flows related to run off conditions, so I decided to gamble on the South Platte River in the Happy Meadows Campground area.

If you read my post from Thursday, you may recall that I suffered some disappointing equipment failure, so before I departed on Friday, I decided to attempt a contrived temporary repair. The metal button on the heel of my right boot snapped off, and with no place to hook the rubber tab; it flapped, and the rear section of the sole was loose. I was concerned that this situation could worsen if the tab wedged beneath a rock, so I created an on stream solution by knotting a section of 0X monofilament through the hole in the tab and then around my ankle. This held for a few hours until I made a quick movement which caused the heavy duty mono to snap.

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Another Contrived Boot Repair Held Up Better on Friday

My new solution on Friday morning was to deploy a small bungee cord. I hooked one end of the cord through the hole in the tab and then stretched it across the front of my boot and around the other side before I hooked the other metal end of the bungee through the same hole. Voila! The bungee cord was sized perfectly and it stretched enough to hold the rubber tab taut against the heel of the boot, and thus the sole was lifted up against the mid-sole. I was pleased with my creativity, and the temporary fix did in fact bridge me through a day of fishing.

I took my time preparing for the Friday fishing venture, and therefore I departed the house by 7:40AM, and this enabled me to cruise into a narrow dirt pullout a mile or two below Happy Meadows Campground by 10AM. The air temperature was around sixty degrees with a slight breeze blowing, so I opted for a single fleece layer. It was warmer than Thursday, but it remained slightly uncomfortable without an extra layer over my fishing shirt. As was the case on Thursday I assembled my Sage four piece four weight for a day of fishing on a relatively small river.

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Cannot Wait to Drift Flies Through That Run

I could continue to describe my tactics and fly choices, but it was really a fairly simple scenario. In the opening paragraph I questioned whether continuing to do the same things would yield the same results? In addition to weather and stream flows, I utilized the same fly patterns and same tactics as Thursday, and the results were in fact quite similar. At this point I emphatically declare that the beadhead hares ear nymph is back in a big way. On Friday I slapped on the same yellow fat Albert and then added a beadhead hares ear, and I utilized my favorite dry/dropper technique to prospect all the likely runs, riffles pockets and pools; and the results attest to the effectiveness of this fly fishing strategy.

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A Beast

The fish in the South Platte River simply have a love affair with the beadhead hares ear nymph. By noon when I quit for lunch, I registered nineteen landed fish with another five or six brief hook ups that escaped. Once again the pace of fishing was insane. Admittedly the size of the fish was a bit lacking with numerous seven and eight inch fish, but there were enough twelve and thirteen inchers in the mix to keep me guessing. A few fish slurped the fat Albert on the surface, and an occasional refusal to the large buoyant indicator fly generated some frustration, but the constant effectiveness of the hares ear induced me to persist with the winning combination.

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Tiny Slot Yielded a Decent Fish

After lunch it seemed that I covered a few juicy pockets with no results, so I decided to augment my offerings. I added an ultra zug bug in the top position and moved the beadhead hares ear to the end of the three fly lineup. Whether because I moved onto better water, or because of the addition of a second fly, the action resumed at a torrid pace. Toward the late afternoon I bumped into another fisherman who was tossing live minnows in a long deep run and pool. I did not want to infringe on his space, and the water he was covering was not to my liking, so I hiked back to the car and drove upstream a half mile and then reentered the river and resumed my progression.

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Gorgeous Rainbow

The late afternoon section featured more white water and deep pockets with numerous large protruding boulders, and the ultra zug bug began to shine. I estimate that greater than 50% of the landed fish displayed the ultra zug bug in the 1.5 hour session from 2:30 until I quit at 4. In addition a higher percentage of netted fish were rainbow trout, whereas, the morning split was closer to 50/50. Several of the rainbows were very chunky thirteen and fourteen inch battlers.

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A Wide Shallow Section

Friday was another fabulous day on the South Platte River. My gamble paid off in a big way, and the hares ear nymph temporarily resumed its place at the top of Dave’s favorite fishing flies. Will this last through the summer? Stay tuned. I continued to do things the same, and the results were similar. Friday the 13th did not seem to have a negative impact on my fishing results.

Fish Landed: 58

South Platte River – 05/12/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/12/2016 Photo Album

Sometimes the stars align. Thursday represented one of the most insane fishing days I ever experienced. Did I really land sixty-two fish? Yes I did plus or minus two or three. I probably had ten to fifteen additional hooked fish that I was unable to bring to my net. The only downside was the size of the fish; but constant action, while most streams balloon with run off, is nothing to scoff at.

In addition to a great day of fishing, I received positive news on my Tuesday blood test related to my January surgery. In the grand scheme of things, that was probably greater cause for celebration than any sort of fishing accomplishment. But this is a fishing blog, so I will stick to the script.

I got off to a nice early start and arrived at the river and prepared to fish with my Sage four weight four piece rod. The air temperature was in the low 40’s, as I waded into the water, so I threw on my fleece to maintain some semblance of warmth, although I expected the temperature to rise into the sixties as the morning progressed into a sunny afternoon. The river was flowing at 64 cfs, and it looked nearly ideal. There was enough water to allow wading without requiring excessive caution, yet I could easily cross from side to side to fish attractive runs and pockets

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Gorgeous Setting

One piece of bad news that placed a small blemish on a wonderful day was the discovery of a defect in my right wading boot. Jane purchased the Korkers for me as a Christmas gift, so I only used them this season; and as I prepared to fish, I noticed that the rubber loop at the heal was dangling away from the boot. I compared the right boot to the left and realized that the button or rivet over which the rubber loop stretched was missing. Hopefully this can be repaired and is covered by the warranty. I feel like a wading boot should last more than a couple months before breaking. I took a few minutes to contrive a repair, and it lasted for roughly half my time on the water. I cut a three foot length of 0X monofilament and threaded it through the hole in the rubber loop. I then tied a loop on the other end and wrapped the line around my ankle, and finally I used the end without a loop to tie a clinch knot through the mono loop. Unfortunately there was too much play in the leader, so I then wound the slack around the boa dial until it was taut. It worked for awhile, and I was rather proud of my creativity.

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On Stream Boot Repair

To start my day of fishing I tied on a yellow fat Albert. I hoped that this would be the only fly required to dupe South Platte River trout, but unfortunately it was not the answer. Almost immediately I observed a refusal, and several juicy pockets failed to generate any interest, so I pulled up the fly and attached a beadhead hares ear on a three foot leader. This adjustment proved to be a stroke of genius, as I went on to land seventeen fish between 10:30 and my lunch break at noon. All the trout hammered the beadhead hares ear except for one gorgeous fifteen inch brown that rose and crushed the fat Albert. This was the largest brown trout I ever caught in Eleven Mile, and it was also the biggest trout landed on Thursday, May 12. The fat Albert fooled one fish on Thursday, and it was the largest of the day.

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Fat Albert Fooled This Guy

My biggest concern was that I would deplete my supply of beadhead hares ear nymphs. In the morning two broke off and one unraveled. After lunch I decided to test a different fly in case my beadhead hares ears disappeared. Why not, as my fish counter already registered seventeen fish? I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa, and I began to prospect the attractive spots in a manner similar to my morning experience. After coming up empty in two spots that screamed fish, I concluded that the trout were selective to a hares ear nymph. Instead of exchanging the emerald caddis for the hares ear, I added it on a second dropper, so that I was fishing three flies. This would now be an experiment to see if the fish ate only the hares ear, or whether they attacked both subsurface flies.

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Beadhead Hares Ear Ruled

Guess what happened? Nearly all the fish landed in the afternoon grabbed the hares ear. It was amazing. In nearly every deep pocket, moderate riffle and deep run, a fish materialized from nowhere to snatch the hares ear as it tumbled along behind the fat Albert. In many cases I could observe fish move a foot or more to intercept the simple gray beadhead nymph. At one point I removed the emerald caddis pupa because it did not seem to be serving any purpose, but when I then fished with only the beadhead hares ear, it seemed that my catch rate deteriorated. I concluded that the two fly combination somehow attracted more fish, even though they were predisposed to take the hares ear

Instead of an emerald caddis pupa, I elected to knot an ultra zug bug to my line as the top fly, and this simple nymph did hook four or five fish. By 3:30 I reached fifty fish, and two more hares ears unraveled as the thread was severed by the repeated attacks of sharp teeth. Quite a few additional hares ears remained in my MFC fly box, but I once again decided to experiment. Over the course of the afternoon, the sky clouded up often, and during these gray periods I witnessed a fair number of blue winged olives. I never bothered to switch to a BWO imitation because the fish seemed to relish the hares ear, and who was I to tamper with success? But now I removed a beadhead soft hackle emerger from the fly box and added it to my line below the ultra zug bug. The soft hackle emerger accounted for four or five fish in the late afternoon time period, but it also generated many more long distance releases perhaps due to the smaller hook size.

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Pink Stripe

Fly fishing on Thursday was outstanding and reduced to its simplest form. The beadhead hares ear was what the fish wanted, and I probably could have landed more fish if I yielded to their preference. Instead I over analyzed and experimented with other patterns. Since fly selection was a no brainer, the only challenge was wading and moving quickly from place to place. It was important to recognize the water types that yielded fish. The best spots were deep narrow runs or V-shaped pockets where currents merged. If I allowed the flies to drift beyond the sweet spot and then lifted, I hooked numerous larger than average fish from this type of structure. Riffles over a rocky bottom with moderate depth were also productive, and deep pockets longer that five feet yielded many fish as well.

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Some Nice Water Ahead

It was a blast. I love this sort of fast paced action. I covered more than a mile of the river, and in most cases I found fish where I expected to find fish. Hopefully the ideal flows will last a bit longer so I can enjoy another opportunity to fish the South Platte River.

Fish Landed: 62

 

Clear Creek – 05/10/2016

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Half a mile upstream from Tunnel 6.

Fish Landed: 8

Clear Creek 05/10/2016 Photo Album

Day two of my fly fishing blitz in advance of the inevitable snow melt in Colorado unfolded on Clear Creek on Tuesday May 10. The DWR web site indicated flows of 89 CFS at Lawson, and I knew from experience that this is a manageable level for fishing. The graph did not portray any significant fluctuations within the last four days, so that was another positive. My only concern was clarity, but I decided to make the drive and discover first hand what the stream conditions were. A 9:30AM appointment with the doctor dictated that I fish in a local waterway, and Clear Creek is the closest, and all the factors indicated that it was a relatively safe bet.

I departed from Stapleton at 11:15 and arrived at a pullout roughly .5 mile west of Tunnel 6. The water was fairly murky at the eastern end of the canyon near Golden, but the turbidity gradually diminished as I drove westward and passed several sites where construction equipment was disturbing the earth in the process of building a bike path along the creek. The path will be a future recreational asset once completed, but heavy equipment is playing havoc with stream clarity on the eastern end of the popular stream in the present.

The weather was similar to Monday with more clouds than sunshine. The temperature never surpassed the mid-fifties, so I wore my fleece and raincoat as a windbreaker. The likelihood of rain was real, so I also wore my brimmed hat with ear flaps in the event I needed to pull my hood up. A fair amount of stain was present in the section that I planned to fish, but the rocks and stream bottom were visible throughout the creek, and I rarely fish any portion of Clear Creek other than the edge.

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Typcial Water and Santa Fe Within View

Once I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod, I marched along the shoulder of route six for .2 mile, and then I dropped down the bank at a location where some nicely spaced boulders provided a natural stairway. I was optimistic that a solitary Chernobyl ant would draw hungry Clear Creek trout to the surface, so I knotted one to my line and began prospecting the pockets and shelf pools along the right bank. Very little time transpired before I discovered that the Chernboyl created refusals. I was looking for commitment not curiosity, so after four or five juicy spots yielded only inspections of the huge ant, I elected to make a change. The emerald caddis pupa caught the attention of the trout on the Big Thompson on Monday, so perhaps the Clear Creek fish were aware of emerging caddis as well.

It was a great thought, but the addition of the dropper did not change my fortunes, so I paused and pondered my next action. Surely caddis were present during May, but I did not wish to default to the small size 16 deer hair caddis just yet. I looked through the dry fly section of my fly box and spotted the size 14 stimulators that I carefully tied during the winter. A peacock body stimulator was my choice, but I was unable to locate one, so instead I slid a gray version from the foam slit and tied it to my line. This fly possessed the same shape and triggering characteristics as a caddis, but it was larger and floated better than the deer hair varieties.

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Fooled by a Stimulator

My choice proved to be excellent. I landed seven small trout over the remainder of the afternoon on the gray stimulator. This may sound like some hot fishing, but in reality it was quite difficult. I covered nearly a mile of stream and made hundreds of casts to deliver these fish to my net. The most vexing challenge was the wind which blasted down the canyon in typically unrelenting fashion. In many cases the air currents pushed my light dry fly back to my feet, but more frustrating were the situations where a cross wind thwarted my attempts to place the stimulator in the sweet spot of a small pocket. Whereas normally from a short distance I can drop a a dry fly precisely where I intend on the first cast, on Tuesday such placement necessitated four or five casts, as it was impossible to anticipate the impact of the cross wind on the resting spot of my fly.

Persistence was the name of the game, but it was not easy to endure refusals, wind, and obstinate fish. The large deep pools and eddies once again failed to deliver feeding fish, and the most productive areas were deep still pockets next to large rocks along the bank. In addition a few appeared in riffles over moderate depth, but the steep Clear Creek gradient did not present much of this type of stream structure.

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Nicest Catch on the Day

Near the end of my day an errant backcast caused me to donate a gray stimulator to a young tree, so rather than replace it with another copy, I experimented with an olive brown muggly caddis. This fly does not feature hackle, but instead it is constructed with an underwing of snowshoe rabbit foot hair. This fly floated quite nicely, and a spunky brown trout found it desirable in some moderate riffles. Unfortunately number eight was my last fish of the day, and the muggly caddis lost its magic over the last half hour of fishing.

It was great to visit a stream within a forty-five minute drive from my home, and eight fish over four hours represented my average catch rate. I am certain that I could have achieved double digits with more favorable wind conditions, preferably no wind at all, but any day of stream fishing on May 10 capitalizes on borrowed time.

Big Thompson River – 05/09/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream border of special regulation water near mile marker 73.

Fish Landed: 10

Big Thompson River 05/09/2016 Photo Album

Having finally conceded that emerging caddis on the Arkansas River were not on my list of 2016 fly fishing successes, I refocused my efforts on other local stream options. High temperatures in Denver in early May remained in the sixties, and this delayed the inevitable run off on Front Range streams. Realizing that I was living on borrowed time, I committed to take full advantage of my retirement status to jam as much fishing into the next couple weeks as possible. Monday was the beginning of promise fulfillment.

On Mothers’ Day Jane and I drove to Rocky Mountain National Park, and we completed several hikes in various popular sections of the park. During these travels I obtained a good look at the Big Thompson in Moraine Park and Cascade Creek along the road to Bear Lake. Both streams were a bit high but very clear. In addition Jane and I traveled along the Big Thompson River in Estes Park and also skirted the North Fork of the St. Vrain northwest of Lyons, CO. All the drainages mentioned remained in fine shape for fishing in advance of the inevitable high muddy snow melt.

On Monday morning I checked the stream flows and fly shop reports on the Big Thompson River in the canyon below Lake Estes, and all the information indicated that this was a solid destination for a day of fishing. I departed from my house at 9:45 and after a stop for gas made the two hour drive and arrived at the extreme downstream boundary of the catch and release water below Lake Estes. I parked facing west near mile marker 73, and I elected to assemble my Sage four weight rod.

The air temperature was in the low fifties so I pulled on my green Columbia fleece to provide added warmth. The fleece remained a critical part of my attire throughout the day, and I added a raincoat and my hat with ear flaps in the afternoon when numerous large gray clouds blocked the sun and held temperatures in the range requiring extra layers.

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2013 Scoured the Vegetation

I read some blog posts from previous trips to the Big Thompson in late April and early May, and based on this review, I opted to begin with a single size eight Chernobyl ant. In 2015 at this same time, the solitary Chernobyl produced a solid day, and I did not want to over complicate my choices. Within the first fifteen minutes I generated two split second hook ups with the foam ant, but then the large attractor simply drew refusals. After four or five teasing looks with no take, I decided to experiment with some alternatives. First I tried a smaller size ten Chernobyl, and this also drew some inspections accompanied by rejection. Next I downsized again to a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle. Although this fly looked more like a real terrestrial than the Chernobyls, it was soundly ignored.

I hoped to avoid the next step in fly experimentation, but several of the reports I read referenced success with dropper flies. I returned the size eight Chernobyl to the end of my line, and then I added a three foot dropper with an emerald caddis pupa attached. This combination finally delivered my first fish of the day at 12:30. I celebrated the success of the emerald caddis pupa by breaking for lunch.

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Quite a Meal for This Little Guy

As I munched my sandwich on a large rock near the river, I observed two small blue winged olives. I was not surprised by this development because the sky was growing increasingly overcast, and perfect blue winged olive weather arrived. When I resumed my upstream progress, I added a Craven soft hackle emerger to my dry/dropper configuration. I was now certain that I had the correct combination of flies to accumulate some landed trout over the remainder of the afternoon. My last remaining hope, the ability to cross the river flowing at 97 cfs, finally reached fruition when I found a section with a wide and relatively shallow depth. I was now positioned to prospect the most attractive pools, runs and pockets on the side of the river away from the highway and less pressured by most fishermen.

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A Nice Shelf Pool Produced a Rainbow

Between 1PM and 3:30PM I built my fish count to ten. I would be embellishing the truth to state that it was hot fishing, but my catch rate was steady. The entire lower section of the catch and release area belonged to me, and I took full advantage by moving quite rapidly from prime run to juicy hole. I disciplined myself to deliver only three to five casts depending on the quality of the location. Most of the landed fish were on the small side, but I also netted a twelve inch rainbow and a couple eleven inch brown trout.

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Lots of Pockets and Pools

The overwhelming highlight of the afternoon unfolded when I reached a deep pocket where two currents merged. One small flow skirted below a large exposed boulder at the very top of the small pool. A larger run merged at an angle from the right. Initially I was certain that any resident fish would hold out in the deep pit in front of the merging currents, but my drifts through this area proved fruitless. The small run that flowed from the left was only two feet wide, and a small foam slick hovered just below it. I lobbed a cast to the left side so that the smaller current carried the flies along the edge of the foam and, wham, a fish nose appeared beneath the Chernobyl. I reacted with a swift hook set, and I was certain that the fish inhaled the ant.

The fish reacted to my quick lift by making a dive and then thrashing around the perimeter of the pocket. Either I connected with a decent fish, or I foul hooked a smaller trout when it refused the Chernobyl. I held my breath and maintained tension on the line as the fish slid downstream into some moderately faster water. I followed it for a few steps until I could lever the head above the surface and guide it to my net. Much to my delight the fish in my net revealed the emerald caddis pupa in its mouth, and a quick glance told me that it was the largest brown trout I ever caught in the Big Thompson River. In fact it was likely the biggest trout of any kind that I landed in the Big T. Once Mr. Brown settled in the net, I estimated that it was sixteen inches long, and it carried a decent amount of weight for its length.

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Beautiful Fish

Monday proved to be a solid day on the Big Thompson. Ten fish landed in 3.5 hours of fishing represents a reasonable catch rate, and the Big Thompson trophy brown was icing on the cake. I moved about freely and used my dry/dropper method effectively. Three of the ten smashed the Chernobyl on the surface, two fish nabbed the soft hackle emerger, and the remainder were attracted to the emerald caddis pupa. Clearly Monday was solid justification for maintaining wellerfish.me, as my review prompted me to use the Chernobyl ant and the emerald caddis pupa. Four more weekdays remain in the current week, and the weather forecast improves with each additional day. I cannot wait.

Arkansas River – 05/05/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Lunch Rock and Fremont/Chafee County line

Fish Landed: 5

Arkansas River 05/05/2016 Photo Album

Although I was convinced that I would not encounter the magical leading edge of the Arkansas River caddis emergence, I continued to be excited about another day of fishing. Instead of attempting to move around and chase the hatch, I decided to commit to a location and fish the water. I enjoyed numerous successful trips on the segment between Salida and Wellsville in the past, so I was sure that if I applied my normal fishing techniques and knowledge to gold medal water, I could achieve positive results even if I struck out on the caddis hatch. I camped on Wednesday night, so this offered the additional advantage of being in close proximity to the river, and this translated into an early start. The fishing was best between 11AM and 1:30PM on Wednesday, so perhaps the time period before 11AM was even better. I had no sample size from which to draw conclusions regarding the morning fishing.

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Frosty Morning

Once again I relied on information from my weather app to decide to camp on Wednesday night, as the forecasts suggested low temperatures in the forties. Therefore I was quite surprised to discover a layer of frost on the stove, tablecloth and rain fly when I woke up at 6:30. In addition to the colder than expected temperatures I shared the campground with a stray black angus bull. I never determined how he circumvented the fence surrounding the campground, but I noticed him grazing among several campsites on Wednesday evening, as I set up the tent. He eventually migrated to the grassy area between the campground and the road, and this is where he remained when I surveyed the area on Thursday morning. In fact he paused from munching his grass breakfast to scrutinize me, as I passed him on my return from the bathroom.

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You Again. Campground Host Gives Me the Eye

At any rate I had to wait for the tent and tablecloth to thaw and dry before I packed them in the car, but I still managed to be on the water fishing by 9:30, and this created an additional 1.5 hours of morning angling compared to the previous day. I decided to return to the section of water between Lunch Rock and the Fremont/Chafee County line where I quit on Wednesday before moving to Vallie Bridge. It was sunny and bright, but the temperature was in the low fifties so I wore my fleece when I embarked on my second day of fishing on the Arkansas River. In another change from Wednesday I switched from my Sage One five weight to my Sage four weight, as my arm and shoulder cried for some relief.

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First Hour on Thursday Spent Here

 

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Big Tail

I began with a nymph set up and tied on a prince nymph as my top fly and an ultra zug bug as the bottom offering. I hoped to find some fish feeding on egg laying caddis. I also tried one of the two locking thingamabobbers that I purchased at ArkAnglers on Wednesday morning. Halfway between my start point and the place where the river moves away from the highway, I was surprised to see a dip in the indicator, and I set the hook and landed a nice thirteen inch brown trout that grabbed the prince nymph.

When I approached the large sycamore tree between the river and the road, I climbed to the shore and circled above to a nice run and riffle area. This water was similar to the type that yielded decent success on Wednesday, and I was excited to notice a few blue winged olives, so I replaced the ultra zug bug with a soft hackle emerger. The nice deep slow moving water at the tail and along the side of the run did not deliver, but when I cast to some very shallow riffles among some rocks at the extreme top, the indicator paused, and I set the hook and landed a twelve inch overweight brown that featured the soft hackle emerger in its lip. My fish count stood at two, and I had only been fishing for an hour, so perhaps the morning period would be more productive.

I continued up the river for a bit to a huge deep pool and an eddy behind a massive rock that jutted into the river. I never have much luck in this type of water, but I donated fifteen casts to the location, and this reaffirmed my avoidance of deep pools on the Arkansas River. Another fisherman was above me, so I considered my options and decided to ascend the bank to the road, and then hiked back to the car, and moved to the Fremont/Chafee County line. I hoped that the flows remained at a level where I could make a crossing, and this would position me to fish the northern edge of the river where far fewer fishermen ventured.

I parked at the pullout at the county line and removed my fleece and stuffed my lunch in my backpack. As I assumed, I was able to slowly and carefully cross at the tail of the long pool below the car, and then I hiked down the railroad tracks to my favorite area of the Arkansas River. I began at the top of the second deep run below the island, but I was surprised that no fish attacked my flies. Past experience assured me that numerous trout reside in this attractive section of the river.

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Beginning Point After Move

The next nice run and shelf pool was similarly difficult on Thursday despite some nice casts and focused fishing. By now I witnessed a fairly dense BWO emergence, and I was at a loss to explain why my soft hackle emerger was not producing. It worked on Wednesday, and this was the same river. I exchanged the Craven soft hackle emerger for one that I purchased from Royal Gorge Angler, since Taylor Edrington vouched for the fat CDC wing case. This was also ignored. I worked my way quickly up along the left side of the island with nothing to reward me for my thorough search.

Next I waded along the edge of the river and back to the downstream tip of the island, and I paused along the gradual gravel beach next to the long pool on the small north braid. I waited quite awhile for a fish to show, and eventually two rises emerged in the lower portion of the pool. I took the time to remove the nymphs, indicator and split shot; and I knotted a CDC BWO to my line. I lofted some nice casts to the area of the rises, but the fish ignored the small baetis imitation. Next I shot some prospecting casts upstream and then up and over, but still no response.

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Normally Productive Pool Skunked Me on Thursday

It was 11:45, and I was hungry, so I decided to eat my lunch and observe. While I ate, I spotted a subtle rise off the point of a large ledge rock across from me, and two splashy rises in the current seam twenty feet above where I saw the two rises when I first approached the pool. I decided to try a double dry to cover the possibility that the upper splashy riser was slurping caddis. I tied on a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis and then added the CDC BWO on a six inch dropper.

First I took a shot at the fish off the point of the rock, and this resulted in a refusal, but it was obvious that this fish was quite small. Next I targeted the splashy riser, but neither of my offerings interested the fish. I waded to the midsection of the pool and began lofting casts to the top segment from distance, but much to my amazement no fish were attracted to the dancing dry flies. The top portion of the long pool on the small right channel is normally money in the bank, but on Thursday morning it was simply frustrating. I did see one fish below the surface move toward the flies, but it backed off at the last instant. This is always an inauspicious sign.

Clearly my surface flies were not what the fish wanted, but the fish were obviously feeding as evidenced by the few rises. I decided to use my normal dry/dropper approach, as it worked quite well in this area on previous visits. I tend to over analyze situations, and I surmised that this may have been one such incident. I tied on a tan Charlie boy hopper that displayed numerous teeth marks from previous usage, and below the Charlie boy I knotted a go2 sparkle pupa and the soft hackle emerger. This combination resulted in a foul hooked fish that apparently rose to the hopper, and in my zeal to connect after a long drought, I set the hook and dragged one of the trailing nymphs into its body.

Along the left edge in some fairly nondescript shallow pockets, I generated a couple refusals, and then I approached a narrow deep slot that runs along a large vertical rock on the north bank. On the first cast a huge fish rose and inspected the hopper and then dropped back to the depths. My heart stopped for an instant at this sighting. Then as the flies continued toward the tailout of the slot, a second smaller brown refused the hopper. I made several more casts, and on the fourth drift the large fish once again appeared. This time it actually did a circle under the Charlie boy, but once again it rejected my large foam terrestrial. This fish, which probably measured between 15 and 20 inches had my attention. Perhaps it was looking up for terrestrials, but not grasshoppers. I tied on a Letort hopper as I hoped the more slender profile would turn the tide. This did not even provoke a look. Next I tried a Jake’s gulp beetle. Nothing. Finally I pulled out my trusty size 8 Chernobyl ant. This big attractor did not interest the big guy, but it did generate a second refusal from the lower brown trout. I threw up my hands and decided to move on.

It was now around 1PM, and the sun was bright, and the air temperature was moving toward its peak of 76 degrees. I knew from Wednesday that these conditions were quite pleasant for human beings, but not to the liking of trout, and I feared I squandered the best part of the day stubbornly dwelling on the normally productive north channel along the island. I debated quitting, but I worked hard to cross the river, and I was now positioned on the side that few fishermen attempted to reach. Certainly I needed to capitalize on this investment in stream field position.

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Same Fish, Different View

I retained the large Chernobyl ant as my surface indicator fly, and below that I tied on the go2 sparkle pupa and the soft hackle emerger. I planned to stick to the right edge of the river and prospect the best pockets, and perhaps I could find a few bank huggers willing to move to one of the flies.

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Lowering to the River

Between 1 and 3PM I deployed this strategy, and I added three more fish to my count. They were all very nice fish in the thirteen to fourteen inch range, but I covered a ton of water and wore out my arm in the process. All three came from short deep pockets where the current formed the outside border. I tossed the flies to the center area, and when they reached the sweet spot where the outer currents merged, the fish nabbed one of the trailing flies. On several occasions a large cloud blocked the sun, and during these brief periods of cloudiness, I observed a few straggling blue winged olives. This probably explains why two of the afternoon browns displayed the tiny soft hackle emerger in their lip. The third brown grabbed the go2 sparkle pupa.

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Snake or Rock Border

When I reached my initial crossing point, I climbed out of the water and then scaled the steep bank to the railroad tracks. On the way up the bank I almost stepped on a snake, but I spotted it in time to make a right turn and not disturb it. I took the railroad tracks express lane to the pockets, runs and riffles above the long pool, and I was certain I would pick up a few additional fish, but I was mistaken. By 3 o’clock I made the long return hike and slowly and safely made the crossing to the highway side of the river.

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Wating for the Rude Human to Pass

It was a tough day from a numbers perspective with five fish finding my net over five hours of concentrated fishing. But all the fish were quite nice, and I enjoyed having the entire north bank of the large river to myself. I love to move about and do not relish having my progress impeded by upstream fishermen. Clearly I did not encounter the caddis hatch that I deeply yearned to meet. It seems that a fisherman cannot count on beautiful weather and hot fishing. They are mutually exclusive events. I was in a gorgeous setting on a lovely spring day in a relatively solitary position, and I fooled a few fish. That pretty much sizes up my fishing venture on May 5.

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Lots of Snow on Mt. Princeton