Boulder Creek – 10/11/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 10/11/2021 Photo Album

Monday deviated from my typical fly fishing outing. During the past summer Jane and I became acquainted with a couple that moved to Denver from Lancaster, Pa. to remain close to their son’s family. They were experienced pickleball participants, and during side conversations, I learned that they possessed all the necessary fly fishing gear, but they never fished for trout in Colorado, and they were anxious to give it a try. After a few false starts Howie (the male member of the couple) and I made plans to make a foray to a Colorado stream. I wanted to choose a stream where Howie had a relatively high probability of catching a fish or two and a destination that did not require a long drive. I narrowed my choices to Boulder Creek in the canyon west of the city of Boulder, the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek at Buttonrock Preserve, and the South Platte River at Deckers. I tested the waters at Deckers on the previous Friday, and I was humbled by a skunking, so I crossed that option off the list. Was I being egotistical to assume that because I was unable to catch fish, that an inexperienced angler would suffer the same fate? Flows on the North Fork of the St. Vrain were seasonally low but adequate, but I knew from experience that the small brown trout can be rather temperamental, and the best sections involved a one mile or greater hike. I went with Boulder Creek because it was close, and it was next to the highway, and I knew from past experience that it contained a relatively high density of small brown trout.

I picked up Howie at 10:00AM, and we completed the one hour plus drive to Boulder Canyon with no significant incidents. The air temperature was in the low fifties, as we prepared to fish at a wide pullout along Canyon Boulevard. Howie suited up in his Orvis waders and assembled his Orvis Clearwater eight foot, four weight fly rod, and I provided a short casting lesson behind the Santa Fe. Howie demonstrated a base level of proficiency; much better than many novice fly fishers that I worked with in the past, and I concluded that we were ready to attack the stream. Boulder Creek was low and clear, as it tumbled along at 19 CFS, and shadows enveloped the entire creek. A breeze was fairly constant thus making the low fifties feel like the forties. I wore my fleece cardigan, and at lunch time due to heavy cloud cover and intermittent wind I added my raincoat as a windbreaker.

Howie Vipler Ready to Fly Fish

We carefully negotiated a moderately steep path to the creek, and I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to Howie’s line. I was hopeful that we could generate some surface action with a single fly to keep things simple, and after twenty minutes, a small trout swirled and refused the top fly. I was pleased to see a response to the foam attractor, but it seemed that we were not getting the amount of activity that I expected. I asked Howie to swing his rod tip over, and I extended a two foot leader below the hippie stomper and added a beadhead hares ear to the dropper. We continued our upstream movement, and Howie experienced another refusal to the stomper and then had a solid hook up with a small brown trout on the hares ear. I actually saw the brown swirl, as Howie lifted his rod in a hook set, and it was probably a ten inch prize, but the fish shed the hook in short order. At this point we took a break and consumed our lunches along the rocky bank.

From Fran Betters Shop

After lunch we continued for another three hours. After another refusal to the hippie stomper in a narrow pocket next to a large rock with an overhanging ledge, I removed the hares ear and added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I also replaced the hippie stomper with a fly that Howie had in his box, that he purchased from Fran Betters’ Fly Shop in the Adirondacks of New York. Howie loved the double dry set up, and after another hour or so, he connected with a small brown trout and played it to my net. It was a small five or six inch fish, but he was, nevertheless, excited to land his first Colorado trout. We exchanged fist bumps and moved on. A bit later Howie executed a nice cast to a narrow band of slower moving water along the far bank, and a trout snatched the caddis just as it was about to drag. I saw the fish bolt halfway across the stream bottom, before it obtained its freedom in a long distance release.

In the Shadows

At one point in the afternoon we encountered a long glassy smooth pool that was probably only two feet deep from the midsection to the tail. Howie gave me his rod and relinquished the pool to me. At the time the line was configured with Fran Betters’ fly and the size 16 deer hair caddis. I fired some thirty-five foot long casts directly upstream to the midsection, and on the fourth such attempt a bulge appeared under the trailing caddis. I quickly lifted the rod, and I was connected with a small brown trout. The little jewel was barely over six inches, but Howie was pretty excited, and I took a couple photos before I released it to continue its growth.

A Small Jewel

DGW Fishing Guide

In the last hour we covered quite a bit of water and numerous attractive spots, but Howie was unable to interest the locals in a meal, so at 3:30PM we agreed to call it quits. The temperature dropped five degrees in the shade of the canyon, as the sun disappeared behind the rock walls across the highway. We ambled back to the car and removed our gear, as my feet were morphing into stumps.

Howie Prepares to Cast

Monday was a fun day with a new fishing companion. He showed me patience and persistence, and his casting skills were above average for the early stage of his development. The low and clear conditions were quite challenging for a novice fly fisherman, so one fish plus two long distance releases plus three or four refusals was quite an accomplishment. During our next outing, if the conditions are similar, I will encourage him to approach prime spots more slowly and to stay back. Pausing his back cast to generate more distance will enable him to shoot longer casts over wary brown trout. Boulder Creek is primarily a brown trout fishery, and judging from the absence of darting and scattering trout, I suspected that the spawning season was already in progress. I certainly observed far fewer fish, than I ordinarily would during a summer visit to the small Front Range stream.

Fish Landed: 1

South Platte River – 10/08/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Deckers

South Platte River 10/08/2021 Photo Album

If the readers of this blog believe that Wellerfish is immune to bad days, they are sadly mistaken. Friday is vivid proof of this reality.

A forecast of highs in the eighties in Denver motivated me to seek a fly fishing destination. I considered several options but ultimately chose the South Platte River below Deckers. I liked the idea of a tailwater with relatively constant temperatures, as night time air temperatures plunged, and reports announced the presence of blue winged olives. The drive to the South Platte was shorter than my trips on Monday and Wednesday, and that appealed to me as well.

I arrived at a parking space by 10:30AM, and I quickly moved through my preparation routine. As I began to apply sunscreen, my sunglasses slid between the passenger seat and the center console. If you are an automobile owner, you know what a hassle this can be. I probably spent fifteen minutes trying to recover the sunglasses, and eventually I discovered that the arm of the frames got hung up in the hardware under the seat. As I rejoiced in the recovery, I walked around the back of the car and banged my head against the corner of the partially raised tailgate. I spent another five minutes writhing on the ground in pain, as a knot formed on the right side of my forehead. With this inauspicious start to my day, I seriously considered returning to Denver for a sedentary afternoon on the couch.

290 CFS

The air temperature hovered in the low sixties, as I assembled my Sage One five weight. I bypassed extra layers and relied on my raincoat, in case wind and rain caused a temperature drop. Some dark clouds dominated the afternoon sky, and I pulled my raincoat on for warmth and in case of rain which never developed. The flows were around 219 CFS, and this was high compared to several spring visits in 2021.

As I began my tailwater adventure, I decided to use a deep nymphing technique. I attached a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, orange scud, and salvation nymph. The river was a bit murky, and periodic passing aquatic vegetation suggested the bottom had been stirred up. Scuds and worms seemed like obvious fish food options. Between 11AM and 1PM I progressed upstream with the nymphing rig and failed to attract a shred of interest in my flies. Along the way I experimented with a hares ear nymph, iron sally, RS2, and flesh-colored San Juan worm in addition to the scud and salvation nymph.

Love the Cattails

By 1PM I reached another parking lot, and given the lack of action on the nymphs, I decided to try a dry/dropper method. I knotted a tan pool toy hopper to my line and added a hares ear and RS2. I reasoned that this approach was ideal for the ten feet of water that bordered the bank, but I was certain that it was not effective in the 219 CFS flows through the middle of the river. I crossed a very wide and shallow section and bushwhacked downstream along the bank opposite the road, until I was just above another young angler. For the next 45 minutes I cast the dry/dropper to inviting pockets along the bank, and I managed to create two opportunities to land fish. In the first instance a fourteen inch rainbow rose and refused the hopper from a position underneath a pile of debris at the lip of the pocket. I reacted with a hook set and netted the fish with a trailing nymph embedded in the belly behind the gills. It was a “no counter”. Within the next fifteen minutes another smaller rainbow also refused the hopper, and once again I foul hooked the fish with a trailing nymph, but in this case the fish freed itself before feeling my net.

Wide Shallow Crossing Point

For the final hour I advanced up the river at a fairly rapid pace. I cherry-picked the bankside spots and looked for rises. Near the end of this exercise in water coverage, I flipped a cast to an eddy, and after a very brief pause the hopper disappeared. I set the hook, and a thirteen inch brown trout launched above the surface. In an instant the hook popped free, and a skunking avoidance slipped away. A stream of curses spewed from the angler’s mouth, but nothing could avert the fact that Friday was a fishless day for Wellerfish. I continued fishing for a few more minutes and then shuffled back to the car.

Foam Is Home

Although I was handed a blanking by the Deckers tailwater, I enjoyed my four hours on the river. My mind was constantly mulling over new strategies, and I managed three fish landing opportunities. I never saw another fisherman landing a fish, although my eyes were mainly glued to my flies and indicator. In retrospect I wish I had added a second split shot during the deep nymphing phase. I am certain the section contained fish, and deeper drifts with more weight may have been the proper response to flows of 219 CFS. San Juan worms and scuds should have worked!

Fish Landed: 0

Arkansas River – 10/06/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 10/06/2021 Photo Album

After a rough day on Monday, I decided to give fly fishing another try on Wednesday; however, I opted for a destination that was lower in elevation and a place that offered more openness for solar penetration. My choice was the Arkansas River. Flows below Salida were in the 280 CFS range, and the fly shop reports highlighted blue winged olive activity, with fish spread out across the river and ideal wading conditions.

The temperature when I arrived at a favorite pullout on Wednesday morning was 57 degrees. I chose to forego additional layers, as I viewed my raincoat in my backpack as an insurance policy. Heavy afternoon cloud cover actually forced me to cash in my insurance, and I wore the rain shell for several hours in the afternoon. The river, as expected, was exceptionally clear, and I took advantage of the low flows to wade to the shoreline away from the highway for much of my fishing day.

Early Action in This Area

I began casting at 11AM next to two very attractive deep runs with tantalizing seams along the main current line. I chose a tan pool toy hopper as my top fly and extended a long four foot leader to a 20 incher and then added a salvation nymph. I spent twenty minutes drifting this combination along the seam and shelf pools next to the deep run, but a sign of trout never appeared. I covered thirty yards of prime water with nary a sign of fish, and I knew from past experience that fish occupied this area.

Beast Mauled a 20 Incher

Good Fortune Continued

I pondered my situation and decided to probe the depths, so I converted to a nymphing rig with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher, and a sparkle wing RS2. Much to my amazement I hooked an energetic fish on the first drift, but it shook free from my hook after a pair of powerful streaking runs. It was not long after this disappointment that I hooked and landed a battling sixteen inch brown trout. I quickly learned the importance of depth during fall fishing expeditions. For the next hour I progressed up the river and netted two additional brown trout, with one being a muscular thirteen inch beauty. Several additional momentary hook ups were also part of the before lunch story.

Seemed Promising

After lunch I was positioned to explore the small north braid of the river, which is one of my favorites on the entire Arkansas. The low, clear flows; however, caused me to be leery of using the deep nymphing set up, so I changed my approach to a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I probed the low, slow-moving bottom third of the braid, and I managed one look for my concentrated effort. The two flies seemed totally out of favor, and I did not wish to waste the final promising two-thirds of the braid on unproductive flies. I converted the double dry to a dry/dropper with an iron sally and a salvation nymph. The change yielded results , as two nice twelve inch brown trout nabbed the salvation in fairly obscure locations.

For the next 1.5 hours I progressed up the river along the right bank and probed likely deep runs and slower-moving small pools with the dry/dropper combination. I was confident that the same tactic that worked in the top one-half of the braid would also succeed along the bank of the large river. Alas, it did produce two additional trout in the sub twelve inch range, but I felt certain that a deep nymphing set up would have produced better results.

Worthwhile

The reason I suspect this to be true is that I switched back to the New Zealand indicator with a split shot, 20 incher, and RS2 for the last hour, and I built the fish count to eleven. Several of these late afternoon catches were wild thirteen inch browns. All the trout landed during this time frame nabbed the size 22 RS2. Moderate riffles over a rocky bottom and depth of three to four feet produced all the brown trout. By 3:30PM I reached a nice deep eddy and pool, and after I fished it thoroughly, I decided to call it a day. I angled along a steep bank for a considerable distance, before I found some hidden stone steps that led me to the guard rail and the highway.

Big Tail

Wednesday was not a spectacular day but a success nonetheless. I achieved double digits that included five brown trout in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. I feel certain that a commitment to deep nymphing for the entire day would have elevated my fish count, but testing various approaches is an enjoyable aspect of the fly fishing game.

Fish Landed: 11

Lake Creek – 10/04/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: National forest area

Lake Creek 10/04/2021 Photo Album

Monday evolved into a decent day of fishing. It was the ancillary events that transformed it into a vexing day on the stream. With highs forecast to be in the eighties in Denver, I gambled that I could sneak in another high country stream adventure in early October.

When I arrived at the parking lot across from the trailhead, the temperature on the dashboard read 46 degrees. I expected the high to reach the upper sixties, and I planned to complete a two plus mile hike to reach my intended destination, so perspiration was a given. I banked on my raincoat for added warmth and stuffed it in my backpack, as is my normal practice. The stream was relatively narrow, so I opted for my Orvis Access eight foot, four weight.

High Gradient and Many Overhanging Branches

I hiked for 2.6 miles, until I reached the farthest upstream penetration to date on the mountain creek. and here I began to fly fish. The creek was narrow and swift as a result of a steep gradient and a fair amount of rain in the previous week. Numerous overarching branches made casting a nearly impossible chore, and the narrow canyon with steep rock walls prevented the penetration of the sun. I broke for lunch after thirty minutes of very frustrating fishing with a tan pool toy hopper, hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I managed to land a pair of small brown trout, but the snag inducing nymphs were largely ignored, as the fish concentrated on refusing the large hopper. The lack of sun and a periodic breeze created a worrisome chill, as my sweat-drenched Brooks long sleeved undershirt next to my skin induced the dreaded evaporation effect.

After lunch I resumed my upstream migration, but the stream structure remained the same, and I was uncertain whether a trail existed above the high vertical wall on the northeast side of the creek. I decided to cut my losses and reversed direction and hiked back toward the trailhead for a mile, before I resumed fishing. The gradient was more forgiving, and extra overhead space allowed for better casting situations. In order to reverse a series of refusals I downsized to a peacock hippie stomper, and the change paid off, as I began to net brown trout at a slightly faster pace. The stomper was not perfect, and it also generated its share of refusals. so after thirty minutes of fly fishing, I added a twelve inch dropper from the bend of the stomper and knotted a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line.

Whoa.

Hippie Stomper Getting It Done

The two dry fly combination performed in a consistent fashion, and the fish count rose in a corresponding manner, until I set the hook on a temporary bite and catapulted the flies into a large evergreen high above the creek. Retrieval was out of the question, so I applied direct pressure and popped both flies off on the branch. I could see the monofilament strand taunting me from its unreachable perch. I replaced the hippie stomper with another like version, but I traded the gray caddis for an olive-brown deer hair caddis in the same size.

Light Gray Caddis Also Effective

The stomper and caddis combination clicked, and the catch rate accelerated, as I boosted the fish count to seventeen by 3:30PM. The section that I fished in the afternoon was much more conducive to fly fishing with fewer overhead branches and more desirable targets in the form of pockets, pools and moderate depth runs. The hippie stomper delivered seventy-five percent of the landed trout and the caddis attracted the remainder.  After lunch I pulled on my raincoat, and that move along with the warming air temperatures associated with the progression of the afternoon placed this fly angler in a more comfortable state. Rarely did the brown trout rise to the first cast, but repeated efforts often extracted interest on the fourth or fifth drift.

Bruiser for Small Stream

Sleek and Shiny

I set a goal of reaching twenty fish, and just before 3:30PM I placed my wading staff on a slippery round rock and leaned on it to make a step upstream. This was a mistake I would learn to regret. The stick slid out, and I reached down with my right hand to break my fall. The move did just that, but much of my body weight landed on my right ring finger and pushed it backwards and into my first knuckle. Ouch. At the same time I dropped my fly rod so as not to break it. That goal was achieved, but dropping the rod resulted in some associated issues. I stood up, and the tip of my ring finger was numb, and burning pain emanated from the knuckle. I was able to move all the fingers on my right hand, although I felt pain in my ring finger, as I attempted to straighten it or move it backwards. I decided to call it a day and hiked back to the Santa Fe. During the 1.8 mile hike, the numbness disappeared, and the knuckle pain subsided significantly allowing me to rule out a visit to the emergency room.

Better Pool

At the end of the trail I crossed the creek and decided to toss a few casts to test my grip. The proximity of the area to the road and parking area dictated a low level of confidence, but in the pool just above the crossing area, an eleven inch brown trout found the hippie stomper to its liking. The fish count ticked up to eighteen, and I sauntered up the hill to the car thankful for a double digit day and grateful for avoiding a more serious injury to my finger.

Breaking down my rod and removing my reel were my first chores, after I opened the tailgate on the car. I unscrewed the locking mechanism on the reel seat, but when I attempted to slide the collar down off the reel foot, I discovered that It was stuck. I tugged and pulled and pushed the collar with a screwdriver, but I was unable to budge the recalcitrant mechanism. I turned my attention to breaking down the rod, and the upper two sections pulled apart with ease, but the section above the butt was as stubborn as the reel. I tugged and twisted and pulled. I found my gripper pads in my fishing bag and employed the behind the back maneuver, but all I accomplished was strained muscles, and I raised my frustration level. I tossed the two section fly rod and reel in the car and vowed to deal with it, when I returned to Denver.

Salivating

After I unloaded the car at home, I turned my attention back to the fly rod. I asked for Jane’s help, and after several unsuccessful attempts, we were able to separate the rod sections. I was very thankful for that accomplishment. Jane began to work on the reel. Our pliers were not long enough to get a good grip on the collar, so I retrieved the vise grip pliers from the garage, After some serious tugging the reel came free from the cork grip, but the end of the reel seat and collar were still in place on the reel foot. How could this happen? The threaded portion of the reel seat and the collar pulled out of the wooden reel seat cylinder. After a bit more effort we separated the threaded section from the reel, but I now had a broken fly rod. I prepared the online fly rod registration form and elected to drop the rod off at the local Orvis store to be shipped back to Orvis for repair.

Pocket Water

An eighteen fish day on Monday, October 4 was very respectable. All eighteen fish were brown trout, and the largest was in the twelve to thirteen inch range. The trout landed on Monday were on average smaller than those that I caught on my previous 2021 visit. However, the afternoon action was decent, and I enjoyed prospecting through the pocket water and deeper holes. The trip cost me a sprained finger and a fly rod repair, but I suppose adversity is part of the fly fishing equation.

Fish Landed: 18

North Fork of the White River – 10/01/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 10/01/2021 Photo Album

On October 1, 2021 I returned to a section of the North Fork of the White River, where I experienced a 52 fish day on September 15. Could my luck continue?

Jane and I rented the Cedar cabin at Ute Lodge from September 28 through October 2, and we spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hiking trails in the Flattops area. The weather was adverse during this time, but the worst hiking conditions occurred on Wednesday, when we hiked the Big Fish Creek Trail in the rain. On Thursday we trekked on the South Fork of the White River Trail, and a pair of horses chewed up the black mud ahead of us. Hiking in the sticky black muck was very challenging.

Friday was my day to fish, and I decided to visit the section of the North Fork, where I lost my fly box on September 15. The section of fly line that tethered the box to my wader bib severed, and I was oblivious to this unfortunate event, until I arrived back at the car at the end of the day. I thought I remembered, where I accessed the fly box, after I snapped off the hippie stomper on a branch that extended into the water, so I waded directly to that spot to begin my fishing. I used my Garmin watch to clock the distance, and it was .5 mile. I actually found the branch that snagged my flies, but I was unable to spot the MFC box in spite of some careful searching in the nearby area and for a ways upstream. The effort reinforced what a “needle in the haystack” challenge I faced in recovering my stuffed fly box. I am resigned to elevate my fly tying efforts this winter to restore my fly supply to its previous excessive level.

Early Going

The temperature, when I began was 44 degrees, so I pulled on my light down North Face coat, and I wore my New Zealand billed hat. The temperature warmed nicely between 10:30AM and noon, and I actually began to perspire; however, while I munched my lunch, some dark clouds rolled in, and I pulled my rain shell from my backpack. I wore the raincoat for the remainder of my time on the river, and I was quite chilly for much of the time. Twice during the afternoon I weathered short periods of rain.

What a Color Scheme

Settled a Bit More. Love the Bronze.

I began my quest for high country trout with a tan pool toy hopper and a prince nymph. The hopper pattern delivered one trout early, but then an extended lull forced me to reexamine my approach, and I switched the prince for a 20 incher. The 20 incher clicked, and I built the fish count to five, before I halted my efforts for lunch. By lunchtime I progressed to within fifty yards of my normal exit point. I felt that I was covering a lot of normally productive water with below average results, and I surmised that the pool toy hopper was disturbing the water excessively. I decided to make a radical shift and replaced the pool toy with a peacock hippie stomper, and I swapped the 20 incher for a  beadhead hares ear nymph. Well, perhaps that was not radical, but I sought a top fly that produced a softer landing. In the next fly fishing interval the hares ear yielded two feisty rainbows, but then I suffered a long drought, so I returned to the pool toy and 20 incher. As I rounded a large bend and paralleled the road, a very thick cutbow crushed the pool toy to bring the count to eight.

About to Take Off

Pool Below the Falls Yielded a Trout

At this point, I progressed along the road and under a bridge and then beyond a large pond. None of these spots produced, and I attributed this result to easy access from the road leading to greater fishing pressure, so I moved upstream. The section of the river above the pond was relatively small as a result of being above two fairly sizeable tributaries, so I skipped through it quickly, until I reached a nice deep pool. As I surveyed the pool, I spotted three or four trout sipping something tiny from the surface. I knew the dry/dropper was too heavy for the situation, so I removed both flies and knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my line. I carefully fluttered a host of casts to the area, but the olive was rudely ignored. Fortunately the occupants of the pool continued to rise in spite of my casts, so I abandoned the CDC BWO and gambled on a size 18 black parachute ant with a bright green wing post. Success! A beautiful brook trout sipped the ant, and I guided it to my net for photos. When I returned my attention to the pool, another pair of fish resumed sipping. The ant was ignored by these persistent feeders, so I switched to a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. This move paid dividends, when I landed a twelve inch cutbow and a twelve inch brook trout to push my final count to eleven.

Curled in My New Net

Parachute Ant and Brook Trout Complement Each Other

I ambled along the narrow stream a bit farther, until I reached a huge spring, where the North Fork emerged after flowing underground below Trappers Lake. The deep pool displayed a blue color, and I paused to observe for five minutes with the hope that some trout would expose themselves, but that happenstance was not forthcoming. My body was chilled from the wind and the overcast skies, so I returned to the large pond that I bypassed earlier. A small olive mayfly perched on my rod earlier, and I spotted a few random BWO’s in the air, so I approached the pond with optimistic hopes that some trout would be sipping blue winged olives. The optimism was unfounded, so I continued below the pond to a spot, where a dirt path ascended the bank to a road, and from there I marched back to the car. Unlike September 15, my fly box was secure in my wader bib pocket.

Hard to Concentrate on Fishing

Subtle Beauty

Handsome

Obviously my fishing results on October 1 did not come close to matching my day on September 15. On the plus side I did not lose anything. The weather was less comfortable, than I expected, as I was chilled in spite of wearing an Under Armour insulated shirt, a fishing shirt, a light down coat, a raincoat, and a hat with earflaps. It was pretty raw. In spite of these conditions I managed to land eight very respectable hard fighting rainbows and cutbows in the eleven to fourteen inch range. Toward the end of my time on the stream I fooled three trout on dry flies including two vividly colored brook trout. I failed to recover my fly box, but expectations on that proposition were very minimal going into the venture. The aspen leaves were brilliant yellow with a few trees peaking at scarlet, and the Chinese wall and Flattops rock formations were spectacular. If I could repeat Friday, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Fish Landed: 11

North Fork Emerges Here After Going Underground

Clear Creek – 09/24/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: National forest area

Clear Creek 09/24/2021 Photo Album

My trip to the Frying Pan River was successful, if for no other reason than I got to spend an evening with my daughter and her significant other, Thirty-two fish in two days was also respectable, and that included a nice sprinkling of fish in the twelve to fifteen inch range. The forecast for highs in the eighties in Denver spurred me to plan another day trip to fish in a local stream on Friday, September 24. The days are rapidly getting shorter, and I was anxious to take advantage of mild weather. My first choice was South Boulder Creek, but a quick check of the DWR gauge revealed that flows were reduced to a trickle of 6.74 CFS. I suspect that I could have caught some fish, but I did not feel that it was fair to fish at such ridiculously low levels.

Promising Water Above and Below the Dam

My fallback option was Clear Creek, and I found myself along the banks of the front range stream at 11:00AM ready to cast. The air temperature upon my arrival at the pullout was 53 degrees, and this reading prompted me to pull on my rain shell for warmth and to act as a windbreaker. Periodic gusts chilled me, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. When I quit fishing at 4PM and returned to the car, the dashboard digital thermometer read 67 degrees, and I wore the raincoat during my entire time on the creek. The conditions were pleasant for fishing but a bittersweet reminder that cold weather is imminent in the high country.

Skinny Water Required Stealth

So Pastel

I began my day with a peacock hippie stomper fished solo on a 5X tippet, and in the one hour before lunch I recorded three cutthroat trout. I targeted quite a few very attractive pools with no results, so I pondered some changes. After lunch I extended a one foot leader from the bend of the hippie stomper and fished a double dry setup that included a gray size 16 caddis. The combination produced a trout on the caddis, but it was less effective than the solo stomper, so I once again implemented a change. In this instance I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, but in a short amount of time I realized that the plop of the weighted nymph was scattering the trout on the first cast to a new spot. I quickly made another adjustment and replaced the hares ear with a sunk ant. The ant did not create the same impact upon landing, During this period of experimentation with fly combinations I raised the fish count from three to six. I was beginning to question my ability to hit double digits. In my mind I was debating the reasons for a low catch rate, and my mental list included a marginal stretch of creek, cold overnight temperatures that made the trout lethargic, and my inability to choose the right flies.

Trout Alert

Prominent Slash

In spite of my lowered confidence level I persisted. During this time refusals to the hippie stomper continued, so I downsized the surface fly to a Jake’s gulp beetle and retained the sunk ant. The terrestrial pair attracted a few looks, but no takes, and I once again shifted direction. I removed the double dry fly and migrated to a single lime green trude. This was an archived fly that occupied space in my box, but was rarely used until Friday. The trude exhibited some magic, when it accounted for a cutthroat, and I was certain that I had solved the puzzle. In the next pool a larger than average fish nipped the trude, and I was connected for a very brief moment, until it shed the hook point. I was convinced that this fish was a prize worth pursuing, so I entered the game of changing flies, even though a fish that is pricked rarely eats a second time. The targeted cutthroat actually rose and looked at the lime trude two more times after being nicked by the hook, so I concluded it was worth a few more fly changes. First I knotted a size 18 parachute black ant to my line. Time and again the low riding ant has rescued me in difficult dry fly situations, and on Friday it drew a look, but that was the extent of it. Next I swapped the ant for an olive-brown caddis, and it topped the ant, as it induced a swirling refusal. At this point I surrendered to the king of the pool and moved upstream.

Christmas Colors

Caddis Consumer

I stuck with the deer hair caddis for a bit and landed a few more fish, but the earth toned fly was very difficult to follow in the shadows and glare, so I decided to revert to the hippie stomper, and I added a gray size 16 deer hair caddis as a dropper dry fly. Bingo. This dynamic duo enabled me to elevate the fish count from ten to twenty-eight, before I called it a day at 4PM. I actually planned to quit at three o’clock, but a large and steep bank on the north side of the creek blocked my exit and forced me to continue upstream, until the terrain became more forgiving. Once again I debated in my mind why the fishing improved significantly in the two o’clock to four o’clock time frame. The long, steep bank was certainly a barrier to anglers, and this probably explained much of the improved success along with the direct sunlight and warming of the water temperatures to the optimal zone for feeding. Whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple hours. I searched for deeper holes and pools and concentrated my casts to the most productive spots. Long casts were more effective than short ones and cautious approaches paid dividends. In short I gained confidence in my flies and knew that accurate casts and properly reading the water resulted in repetitive success. Hopefully I can squeeze out a few more days like Friday before the winter winds blow.

Fish Landed: 28

Perfection with Fins

Frying Pan River – 09/22/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir Dam

Frying Pan River 09/22/2021 Photo Album

Quite a few cars occupied the prime parking pullouts along the upper three miles below the dam and as expected contending with competing anglers was a given. I found a spot above three other vehicles and marched down to the stream to eat my lunch. Another fisherman occupied the spot that I desired, so I mentally surveyed my alternatives. I returned to the car to jettison my lunch bag, and I decided to walk down the road a bit to assure myself that my target entry point was occupied. As I walked along, I passed a car with its hatch open, and an angler was stashing his gear. Could it be the fisherman that I observed in my desired starting space? It was, so I continued down the road and then cut along an angled path to the edge of the river.

My dry/dropper remained in place, so I prospected some nice runs with the hope that perhaps the trout were interested in the salvation nymph, as it typically imitates a pale morning dun nymph. This was not the case, so I began to carefully angle my way across the river toward a favorite spot, where the main current deflects against the south bank, and in the process the river created a very attractive riffle of moderate depth. The flows of 290 CFS made the crossing much more challenging than normal, but I succeeded in my plan. I began lobbing the dry/dropper to the churning water at the head of the riffle and allowed the three flies to drift to the tail, and I was disappointed to discover a lack of interest from the resident trout.

I began to ponder my next move, and as I watched the stream, several subtle rises manifested themselves. By now my watch displayed 1:30, and a chilly wind gusted up the river. I removed my fleece during the drive from the upper river to where I was presently, and I was wishing that I kept the extra layer in place. Could the anticipated green drake hatch be underway, and could the fish be rising to the windblown adults? I quickly clipped off the dry/dropper flies and shifted to a parachute green drake. The number of rising fish in the vicinity ballooned to five or six, and I made downstream drifts to all of them, but other than a couple refusals, my efforts were thwarted.

In a state of frustration I stretched my seine across the net opening, and I held it and collected samples from the surface film. After a minute or two the only food item of interest was a solitary blue winged olive, so I added a one foot extension to the green drake and knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my tippet. Nothing. The tiny olive was treated with even more disdain than the green drake. The wind continued to gust, and I remembered historical BWO hatches in windy conditions, when the trout honed in on emergers, since they were available, before the wind swept them from the surface. I cycled through a Klinkhammer emerger BWO and a soft hackle emerger, but neither of these yielded success, and I acknowledged that my windswept theory was misguided. Typically pale morning duns overlap with green drakes, so I added a cinnamon comparadun of size 18 and then 16 behind the green drake, and once again the trout continued to rise but ignored my offerings.

This Cutbow Was the First Decent Trout

As I focused on a downstream rising trout, I thought I saw a green drake natural, as it danced above the surface. The wind buffeted the large mayfly causing it to touch the surface repeatedly, as it attempted to get airborne. Did my fly need to look more active? I tied a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line behind the parachute green drake and fished a double dry. Finally I managed to hook and land a greedy eleven inch cutbow on a downstream drift, as the greedy eater grabbed one of the green drake imitations. I thought perhaps I was on to something, but after I released my first tailwater fish of the day, I returned to a state of frustration.

I finally decided to surrender to the picky eaters, and I crossed to the roadside bank once again. However, before stepping on land, I paused at the tail of the nice riffle where I began, and I thought I spotted a very subtle sipping rise in the tiny nook at the tail of the riffle tight to the bank. It took four casts to get a drift of the two flies over the spot, where I thought I saw the fish, but suddenly a nose appeared, and it sipped the parachute green drake. I set the hook, and a fight commenced, but the top fly slipped free and the trailing green drake foul hooked the battler. Eventually before I could land the brown trout, it broke free and escaped. The vision of the sipping take remains in my head, even though the brown trout was not among my fish count.

I walked along the shoulder to a point where I could once again angle to the river, where it formed two braids that split around a long narrow island. I progressed along the left braid observing for rises, but none were forthcoming, so I crossed below another angler above the upstream tip of the island, and I negotiated my way through some tight willows to cube rock pool. A huge rock in the shape of a cube occupies the top of the pool thus the name. I explored the near side of the strong center current with a multitude of casts, and only managed to generate three looks. It was maddening to attract the attention of decent trout without being able to close the deal.

Best Fish on Wednesday by Far

I slowly waded back to the top of the island with the intention of moving to another section of the river, but as I was about to cross the north braid below the other angler, I decided to make a few casts to a nice deep but short pocket that spanned the braid. On the fifth drift I noticed that a trout emerged from a position at the lip of the pocket. By now I reverted to the size 16 cinnamon comparadun behind the green drake, and I began to forego casting, as I dragged the two flies to the top of the pocket and then allowed them to drift back to the lip. Eventually I simply lifted the flies and let them flutter in the wind and then allowed them to touch down repeatedly at the lip of the pocket. After quite a few such actions, a large mouth appeared, and the comparadun disappeared. The fight was on, and I managed to land the best fish of the trip, a fifteen inch cutbow. Needless to say catching this fish under difficult conditions was very gratifying.

Tip of the Island Area

I decided to move on at this point. As I drove along the stream during my approach, I noticed a few open pullouts above the wide parking area that is generally filled with guide vehicles. I pulled into one of these. The river narrows in this area, and I was uncertain that low velocity holding spots existed at the higher than normal flows. For the next hour I migrated upstream along the left bank, and I managed to land a nice thirteen inch brown trout from a narrow slot and some slack water next to the bank. By four o’clock I was burned out, and whitewater chutes were all that remained ahead of me, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car and called it a day.

I Fished This Stairstep Edge Water and Landed One Brown Trout

Wednesday afternoon was very challenging. The 290 CFS flows reduced the number of prime fishing spots for the abundant quantity of fishermen. The chill and wind had an impact on the hatches, and I never saw the “profuse” emergences described by the salesperson at Taylor Creek Fly Shop. I should have remained on the upper Frying Pan River, but I did manage to finesse a fine fifteen inch cutbow from an obscure lie. For this I was grateful. I am amazed at the fishing pressure that the Frying Pan tailwater absorbs.

Fish Landed: 3

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Above Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021 Photo Album

I stayed at my daughter Amy’s condo in Carbondale on Tuesday evening, and she needed to report to work early on Wednesday to catch up on some documentation. As she drove to work, she texted me that her thermometer registered 30 degrees. I checked out her garden and noted that five or six leaves on the squash plant were damaged from frost. I decided to take my time to allow the air temperature to warm up, before I hit the stream on Wednesday morning.

Deep Spots Like This Produced

I was somewhat disappointed with my so-so day on Tuesday on the Frying Pan River tailwater, so I decided to spend Wednesday morning on the upper Frying Pan River above Reudi Reservoir. I departed from Amy’s condo in Carbondale at 8:45AM, and this enabled me to arrive along the upper Pan by 10AM, and I was positioned to make my first cast a bit before 10:30AM. I wore my fleece hoodie, since the air temperature, when I began, was 53 degrees. The flows were probably average for September at 30 CFS, and an abundant quantity of large exposed boulders occupied the stream bed.

Small Stream Gold

Speckles Galore

I rigged my Sage four weight with a fat Albert, prince nymph and salvation nymph, and I began to methodically work my way upstream. It was not long before several brown trout jumped on the prince, and this action in the early going was indicative of my two hours on the river. The Frying Pan in the stretches above Reudi is actually more of a creek than a river. Although the action was not as torrid as that which I experienced in the Flattops, it was more interesting than what I encountered on Tuesday on the Frying Pan tailwater. I progressed up the stream at a moderate pace and probed all the deeper pockets and runs with the dry/dropper. More often than not a rainbow, cutbow or brown trout emerged from the clear flows; and I netted eighteen trout in two hours. The air temperature warmed to the sixties, but I remained quite comfortable in my fleece hoodie.

Morning Prize

The species caught split fairly evenly between brown trout and rainbows and cutbows. I was pleased to net five trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, but the size of the fish in the upper Frying Pan were certainly smaller than my better catches in the tailwater. As I moved along, I pondered the idea of remaining on the upper water for my entire time on Wednesday. The higher than normal flows of 290 CFS on the tailwater frustrated me, and I was having a great deal of fun on the smaller and more intimate upper Frying Pan. On the other hand I made the long drive and spent the night in order to experience the fabled hatches on the lower Pan, so should I not return for another shot at green drakes and pale morning duns? The air temperature for Wednesday was forecast to be ten degrees higher than Tuesday, so perhaps the hatches would be longer and more robust. In the end this argument trumped the idea of staying on the smaller Frying Pan, and I threw my gear in the car and drove to a spot within the first three miles below the dam.

Fish Landed: 18

Frying Pan River – 09/21/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 09/21/2021 Photo Album

I suspect I was spoiled by my high fish count days in the Flattops, and consequently I was somewhat disappointed by my day on the Frying Pan River. I decided to make the trip on Tuesday morning and cleared a one night stay at my daughter’s condo in Carbondale.

A cold front moved through Colorado on Monday night, and this produced temperatures near freezing at the Eisenhower Tunnel and at the summit of Vail Pass. The temperature when I began fishing on the Frying Pan River on Tuesday was 55 degrees. I wore my fleece hoodie for the entire time on the river, and I was never too warm.

On my way to the river I stopped at Taylor Creek Fly Shop to buy two spools of 5X tippet, and the salesman informed me that profuse hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns, blue winged olives, caddis, and yellow sallies were in play. He also noted that the flows were in the 290 CFS range. He spoke like this was desirable, but it concerned me, since I prefer the water to be the 100 – 200 CFS range. This concern would ultimately prove to be valid.

Near My Starting Point

I rigged my Sage four weight and configured my line with a pool toy hopper, prince nymph and salvation nymph and began prospecting the promising runs and pockets below a small island. On the fifth toss the pool toy hopper darted sideways, and I set the hook. Instantly a missile shot downstream, and I allowed line to spin off my reel at an alarming rate. Just as I prepared to follow the torpedo below a fast chute, the tension released, and I quickly realized that three flies were missing in action from my line. I suspect that I foul hooked a respectable fish, but needless to say I was not pleased with the need to once again configure my three fly dry dropper.

Downstream

By the time I paused for lunch at 12:15PM I notched one small brown trout. I returned to the car for lunch and to restock my fleece wallet with prince nymphs and salvation nymphs. After lunch I cautiously crossed the river at a point across from the Santa Fe and added a second small brown trout to the count, but I was certain that I was bypassing fish, so I decided to implement a change. Crossing the Frying Pan River at 290 CFS was not a walk in the park, but I hoped to position myself to search the less pressured water opposite the road.

Slab

Appreciated Brown Trout

The cool temperatures and intermittent wind suggested a high pressure system, and I rarely do well in such conditions. The 290 CFS flows also reduced the viable fish holding spots, but the fly shop salesman promised profuse hatches. I decided to heed his advice, and I converted to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a parachute green drake. The change paid off, when I duped a thirteen inch rainbow trout on the green drake, although I lost the original paradrake to a bad knot and landed the rainbow trout on a comparadun. Eventually I switched back to another parachute, and over the course of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from three to ten. Two of these trout slurped the hippie stomper, and the remainder snatched the green drake. A fifteen inch rainbow and two fourteen inch brown trout were part of the afternoon haul.

Lifted for Display

Parachute Green Drake

Long and Lean Brown Trout

By 3:30PM I reversed my direction, and on the way back, along the south bank I landed a medium sized brown trout on a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. The move to the comparadun was dictated by a sparse hatch of pale morning duns. By 4:00PM I returned to the car and drove to mile marker 11.5, where I fished the braids, the pool at cube rock, and the pockets at the upstream tip of the island. These efforts were futile, and I called it quits at 4:30PM. Shadows and glare covered the entire river, and my confidence plummeted.

Hops Dried on the Vine

Tuesday was a fair day on the Frying Pan River. The catch rate was average, the hatch was less than profuse, and I landed four respectable trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. Hopefully warmer temperatures and less wind will yield better hatches and more success on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 11

North Fork of the White River – 09/16/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/16/2021 Photo Album

Thursday felt like a repeat of Wednesday. I spent Wednesday evening filling two empty fly boxes with dry flies from my boat box to replace my MFC box that broke free from its leash on Wednesday. Needless to say I am still grieving over the loss of a box stuffed with hopper patterns, chubby Chernobyls, classic Chernobyls, ants, beetles, stimulators, caddis, yellow sallies, and comparaduns. I am anxious to fill another MFC brown trout box with my mainstay patterns, when I return home.

Trout Expected

The temperature at the car, as I prepared to fish, was already in the sixties, and by the time I returned to the Santa Fe at 4PM, it was 69 degrees. I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked to my chosen starting point. During the afternoon some large puffy clouds rolled across the sky on a regular basis, and I actually resorted to wearing my rain shell for additional warmth for most of the afternoon.

Brilliant Red Says It All

For the day I kept my fly selection rather basic, as I started and ended with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a size 14 prince nymph, and a size 16 salvation nymph. Thursday’s game was more about casting to the right water than choosing the correct fly.

Love the Deep Color

Another Look

I began my quest for trout at 10:30AM, and by lunchtime the fish counter rested on eleven. Quite a few chunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbows rested in my net, but the ones that escaped were the most impressive. I quickly learned that marginal spots were a waste of time, and I focused my casting on places with depth and length. Of course, as is usually the case, the farther I moved from easy access, the better my catch rate. The hopper only generated a couple fish, but the prince nymph delivered most of the damage. The salvation induced ten grabs, and the prince accounted for the remainder. Inexplicably numerous prime spots failed to produce, but I discovered that movement was my friend. Rather than dwelling on the failure, I pressed on and found spots that produced multiple trout.

Spawning Colors

I Know You Are in There

The ratio by species was around seventy percent rainbow and cutbow and thirty percent brook trout. At one point I considered adopting Wednesday’s lineup of a hippie stomper and salvation nymph, but I concluded that the configuration might attract more small trout, and I was pleased with the steady stream of energized eleven to thirteen inch rainbow trout that were finding their way to my net.

Like Opening a Christmas Present

By 2:30PM the catch rate slowed considerably, my arm was sore and weary from four straight days of casting, and I grew increasingly concerned about my exit plan. I called it quits at 3PM to allow time to find the main dirt road, and after a .9 mile hike I arrived at my car.

Outfitter and Horseback Riding Stables Next to Ute Lodge

Although I fell short of fifty fish on Thursday, I registered another outstanding day of fly fishing. I estimate that half of the thirty-six fish were robust rainbows and cutbows in the eleven to thirteen inch range. A sprinkling of vividly colored brook trout added to the mix, and I ended my week in the Flattops in a satisfied state of mind.

Fish Landed: 36