Arkansas River – 04/14/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsville

Arkansas River 04/14/2021 Photo Album

A fly fishing adage claims that blue winged olives love weather that is miserable for fly fishermen. Wednesday, April 14 certainly reinforced this belief.

The long range weather forecast for Denver and the front range called for at least seven days with high temperatures in the upper forties to low fifties. Highs in this range translate to thirties and forties in the mountains and foothills, and this angler is not a fan of fishing in cold temperatures. I braved some rather challenging conditions on Monday, April 12, and I was hoping to avoid a repeat. Some of the best fishing of the year occurrs in the pre-runoff time period of mid-March through mid-May, and the colder than normal weather of April was causing me to miss some potentially excellent fishing.

I normally study the DWR stream flows before planning any fishing trip; however, for April 14 my main focus was the weather. I reviewed the towns and cities near potential destinations, and as expected the high temperatures were ten to fifteen degrees lower than Denver and accompanied by high wind to make the fishing option even more forbidding. Finally I checked the Arkansas River near Salida, and the small river town displayed a Weather Underground forecast high of 54 degrees with single digit wind velocity. The Arkansas River is sometimes called the banana belt, because it is far enough south to experience different weather patterns. The forecast also predicted afternoon cloud cover, so I jumped at the opportunity and made the trip on Wednesday.

Because of the cold temperatures I decided to take my time, and I departed Denver at 8:15AM for a three hour drive. As I climbed from Denver on US 285 and traveled through the small towns of Aspen Park and Conifer, snow swept across the highway from low hanging clouds. These driving conditions continued, until I advanced to the southern side of South Park beyond Fairplay, where the fog lifted, and the snow tapered off. The dashboard thermometer did not change, however, and the temperature remained in the upper twenties to just below freezing. Could the Weather Underground forecast be wrong, and was I embarking on a six hour joy ride?

Cold Snowy Start to the Day

I arrived at the wide pullout next to Lunch Rock (my name for it) a bit after 11:00AM, and, frankly, I was reluctant to fish. The banks of the river were covered with an inch or two of snow, the dashboard registered a balmy 32 degrees, and strong gusts of wind rushed up the canyon. I checked Weather Underground to determine whether they modified their forecast, but that was not the case. In fact, the weather application showed a current temperature of 40 degrees, while my car displayed 32. I was baffled by this significant disparity in temperature readings.

Site of Number One

I decided to eat my lunch in the warmth of the car at 11:30 to delay my fishing start time and to allow more time for a warming trend. The ploy worked to some degree, and the temperature climbed to 35 degrees, as I began the process of preparing to fish. I pulled on my UnderArmour long sleeved undershirt and topped it with a fishing shirt. The next layer was my fleece hoodie, and then I sealed my body heat in with my windbreaker raincoat, and the final addition was my Northface light down parka. Once again I tugged on my New Zealand billed hat, and then I pulled the fleece hood over the hat to protect my ears and neck even more. I reached in my Fishpond fishing bag and pulled out my fingerless wool gloves, and then I ripped the ends off my packet of handwarmers and stuffed them in the pockets of my light down outer layer. My Sage One five weight became the fishing tool of choice, as I planned to deal with wind throughout the day, or as long as I could endure the frigid conditions.

Iron Sally Fooled This Spotted Beauty

The river looked spectacular, as it rushed down the canyon at 330 CFS and carried a deep green color with plenty of visibility. I decided to rig my line with an indicator nymphing set up at the car in order to take advantage of some additional warmth and protection from the wind. I applied my New Zealand strike indicator and crimped a split shot above the last surgeon’s knot. For my starting flies I attached an iron sally and classic RS2. When I was ready, my fingers were stinging, so I pulled out my handwarmers and sat in the backseat to regain a level of comfort. How was I going to fish for more than a few minutes, if my fingers grew stiff and numb after ten minutes of configuring my line?

Kicking the Day Off Right

I found a short steep path to the river in front of Lunch Rock, and I began to sling casts to the edge of a foam pocket next to the bank and to a nice deep trough behind a submerged boulder a bit farther out but still above the massive boulder, that I christened Lunch Rock. Miraculously on the tenth cast the indicator dipped at the downstream end of the deep slick, and I set the hook and felt the rod vibrate. Was I snagged? Absolutely not. I fought and landed a gorgeous brown trout that snatched the iron sally, and I was on the scoreboard early in the day. Needless to say my focus on the chilling weather diminished for a bit. Once the thrashing brown trout was in my net, I removed my gloves and tossed them on the bank where they would not get wet. I accurately determined that keeping my gloves dry was the key to a longer day of fishing. I removed my camera from its case and snapped a pair of photos, and then I carefully removed the hook from the lip of the trout. I released the fish and then pulled a blue cloth from my wader bibs and dried my hands thoroughly. Next I stuffed my hands in my Northface pockets and tightly clutched the handwarmers to restore feeling and warmth to my fingers, and then I finished off the routine by slipping my hands back into the dry fingerless gloves.

Working the Left Bank

Not Bad at All

I am pleased to report that I repeated this routine twelve more times during my day on the big river, and I fished for four hours without returning to the car for additional warmth. I was rather pleased with this accomplishment from a wimpy fair weather angler. All the trout landed during the afternoon were browns. As described, the first fish chomped the iron sally, and the next two nipped the classic RS2. Four through eight sipped a CDC BWO dry fly, and nine through eleven fell for a sparkle wing RS2 and soft hackle emerger fished as part of a dry/dropper set up. The last two fish of the day also slurped a CDC BWO.

This Area Yielded Quite a Few on Dries

Klinkhammer in Lip

I worked my way upstream along the left bank with the nymph rig for an hour while probing the pockets and runs with the nymph rig. In fact, I never fished more than fifteen feet away from the bank until the final hour. By 1:00PM I began to observe some fairly regular rises in a narrow shelf pool tight to the south bank. I attempted to attract their attention by lifting my RS2 near the spots of the rises, but my lifting and mending did not generate interest. I removed all the nymphing paraphernalia and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. The move paid huge dividends, as I increased the fish count to eight by duping five very fine blue winged olive sippers to my imitation. In addition, I recorded a few temporary hook ups. I was quite impressed with the number of sizeable fish within a fairly small area.

Dry/Dropper Victim

After this session the rising fish temporarily stopped, and I was unable to locate them without the visual cue of a surface disturbance.  Rather than return to the time consuming steps to reprise my indicator technique, I decided to test a dry/dropper approach. I selected a size 8 fat Albert from my box and attached the iron sally as the top nymph and a sparkle wing RS2 on the bottom. Since the fish had been rising to the surface, I assumed that my dry/dropper with a three foot leader would drift deep enough for the trout especially given my casts to moderate depth pockets near the bank.

Zoomed a Bit

A Respectable Brown Came from This Marginal Slot Beyond the Stick

My hunch was on the mark, and the next three trout nabbed the sparkle wing RS2 on the end of my dry/dropper system. In two instances I saw a single subtle rise in relatively marginal pockets. I was skeptical that my subsurface nymph would be noticed by a rising trout, but I made some short casts, and I was surprised to land a pair of thirteen inch browns. I love catching decent fish in obscure lies that most fishermen probably pass by.

A Moderate Sized Torpedo

I continued my path along the left bank of the river and arrived at a wide section with a long deep center-cut run. The total length of this section was probably forty or fifty yards. I began to cast my dry/dropper and successfully hooked and landed a brown trout near the seam along the run. This was the first time all day that I actually executed some longer casts beyond the fifteen feet near the bank. I released catch number eleven, and as I scanned the area for my next move, I noticed several subtle dimples, as trout darted to the surface to grab some form of food. I watched more closely, and I spotted a few small blue winged olives fluttering on the surface and attempting to launch against the cold wind.

Wide Area with Structureless Shelf Pool

Initially I decided to remove the iron sally and sparkle wing RS2, and I substituted a soft hackle emerger without a bead on a six inch dropper behind the fat Albert. I made quite a few fruitless casts, until I shifted my attention to a recent rise no more than ten feet out and another ten feet below me. I dropped a cast across and dragged the two flies closer, so they drifted down a lane to the point of the surface disturbance, and it worked! I noted a swirl below the fat Albert and reacted with a quick hook set and landed another thirteen inch beauty. I persisted with this approach over several additional feeders, but I was unable to replicate the success.

Wide Body for Length

With fish continuing to rise, albeit a bit more sporadically, I took the final step and cut off the fat Albert and soft hackle emerger and knotted a size 20 CDC BWO to my line. The solo olive was quite difficult to track in the glare, but I did manage to fool one final brown trout on an up and across cast.

What a day! I remain a fair weather fisherman, but the steady action and mental challenge of fooling wily Arkansas River brown trout distracted me from the adverse weather conditions on Wednesday, April 14. I was also proud of my “hand preservation” system that enabled me to endure the low temperatures and wind chill. All except one of the thirteen trout landed fell within the twelve to fourteen inch range, and they were very healthy wild fish. The Arkansas River fell out of favor for me over the last several years, but this outing spurs me to plan more trips in the near term. Perhaps my mistake was to seek pleasant conditions, when the key to success is enduring suffering? I will hopefully test this theory with some visits on warm spring days for comparison.

Fish Landed: 13

South Platte River – 04/12/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/12/2021 Photo Album

A cold wind blasted out of the north, as I positioned myself next to some attractive pockets on the South Platte River on April 12, 2021. Given my aversion to cold weather fishing, how did I allow myself to end up in this chilling position? Generally I prefer the air temperature to surpass 45 degrees, and I like the wind velocity to be in single digits. Neither of these conditions were met during my day in Eleven Mile Canyon.

I experienced my best day of 2021 a week ago in the same stretch of river, and I was quite anxious to schedule a return engagement. Unfortunately a variety of circumstances conspired to prevent my return until Monday, April 12. Cold weather and snow provided a hurdle to fishing on April 6 and 7, but I salvaged Wednesday with a day on the ski slopes of Vail Ski Resort. Of course, April 8 was a pleasant spring day, but I devoted that calendar date to helping Jane care for our grandson, Theo. Strong winds plagued Friday, and I used that excuse to avoid a stream. Saturday was the best day of the intervening week from a weather standpoint, but I avoid popular rivers on weekends, so I satisfied my need to fish with a trip to Clear Creek. Sunday was another decent day from a weather perspective, but weekend crowding served as a hurdle to returning to the South Platte River.

Upstream from Start

The above rundown brings us to Monday, April 12. Weather Underground displayed a forecast of high temperatures in Lake George, CO of 50 degrees with high single digit wind velocity. This projection satisfied my two critical weather criteria, so I rolled the dice and made the trip to Eleven Mile Canyon. April was rapidly slipping away, and my opportunities to enjoy my passion were diminishing. I needed to compromise my comfort level in order to take advantage of the disappearing 2021 season.

Starting Point

The drive was uneventful, and I arrived at Lake George by 10:00AM. The dashboard thermometer registered 31 degrees, so I confess that I extended my time in the cozy confines of my car for an extra thirty minutes, as I completed two detours to delay my arrival at my chosen destination. The ploy paid modest dividends, as the temperature climbed to 35 degrees, by the time I exited the Santa Fe to prepare for a day of fishing. For attire I snugged into my fleece hoodie, light down Northface coat, and my New Zealand hat with ear flaps. I searched through my Fishpond fishing bag and extracted my fingerless wool gloves. My Sage One five weight became the fly rod of choice to combat the wind and support the expectation of larger than average fish. I hiked up the dirt road for half a mile and then descended a gradual path to the edge of the river and the scene described in the first paragraph. Could I possibly catch fish in these weather conditions, and how long would I survive the wind and cold?

Hares Ear Nymph in Lip

I used my stiff fingers to rig my line with a yellow fat Albert trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug, and I prospected a series of attractive pockets in the area below the medium-sized pool, where I generally pause for lunch. On the third cast the fat Albert plunged, and I set the hook half expecting to be connected to some aquatic moss or vegetation. Much to my surprise a twelve inch rainbow trout splashed about, but after a few brief runs I guided it into my net. I carefully removed my left wool glove to keep it dry; and then I grabbed the trout, posed it for a photo and carefully removed the hook while attempting to keep my hand dry. My optimism soared, but the remaining prime pockets in this section failed to produce.

Lunch Pool

I moved along the left bank to the run that fed the nice lunch pool, and I prospected the shelf pool, current seam and tail out very thoroughly, but the fish were not cooperative. I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a sparkle wing RS2, but the change produced little impact, although I did experience a brief connection tight to a large rock next to the bank. I chomped my lunch at 11:45AM, and then I progressed to the pocketwater that separated the lunch pool from the gorgeous long run and pool that occupied my attention a week ago.

The Big Pool

Initially I cast the dry/dropper system to the seams along the faster runs that fed the pool, but by 1PM I began observing sporadic rises in the gut of the pool, where the river fanned out into the slower moving lower section (photo above). I was not having success with my clumsy dry/dropper set up, so I embraced the opportunity to switch to a dry fly. I removed the three flies as quickly as my cold, stiff fingers allowed, and I knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. This was the same type and size of fly that served me quite well on April 5.


Between 1:00PM and 2:30PM I executed downstream drifts and ratcheted the fish count upward from one to eight. I resorted to across and downstream drifts, and the pool dwelling trout responded with frequent assaults. When a cloud blocked the sun, the wind kicked up, and this weather pattern in turn prompted a flurry of rising fish. The 1.5 hours of fast action included an abundant quantity of fruitless casting, but my frequency of success was, nevertheless, quite rewarding. Brown trout were the predominant species, but I also netted a vividly colored cutbow to add diversity to my efforts. Twitching and lifting the fly in front of a fish proved to be a successful ploy, as the trout attempted to snag a fleeing morsel of food. During the process of releasing a fish early in this time period, a gust of wind whipped my left-hand fingerless glove off of an exposed rock and dumped it in the river. I quickly recovered it, but the palm area was wet, and I was forced to fish without coverage on my left hand for the remainder of the day.

Love the Speckles

Unfortunately change is constant in fly fishing, and although the waves of hatching baetis mayflies continued from 2:30 until 4:00PM, my ability to dupe trout consistently ended. I am hard pressed to explain this change. Perhaps the stronger gusts of wind caused the resident trout population to look for a different stage of the mayfly, or maybe cripples became the predominant food supply? Did my efforts to land thrashing fish disturb the water and make the feeders more wary? I suspect this was not the case, because the pool was populated with ten to fifteen feeding fish at many points in time. I swapped the CDC BWO for a soft hackle emerger for a bit, and this change resulted a a pair of temporary hook ups. Next I exchanged the soft hackle emerger for a Klinkhammer BWO, and almost instantly a small rainbow responded with an aggressive strike. But just as quickly the Klinkhammer became another ignored speck on the surface of the river.

Nice One

By 3:30PM I no longer felt my toes, and I began to shiver steadily. I slowly waded to the bank and stood on an exposed rock to remove my stumps from the cold water. This position was less desirable for presenting flies, but I did manage to fool another pretty cutbow, before I could no longer tolerate the wind and cold, and I returned to the Santa Fe.

Ink Spots

On Monday, April 5 I endured adverse weather conditions to notch a ten fish day, so the discomfort at least paid off with double digits. The largest fish was a brown trout that probably measured fifteen inches, and two spectacularly colored cutbows reached fourteen inches. When I checked the dashboard thermometer, as I began to drive back out of the canyon, it displayed 33 degrees. The temperature in Lake George was 41 degrees, and I am certain that the high temperature, where I was fishing never exceeded 40 degrees. I am also convinced that the wind gusted at double digit speeds. Nevertheless, I fished for five hours, survived the wintry conditions and netted double digit trout. The five day forecast for Denver predicts wintry conditions, so I may have to endure another cold day to get my fishing fix. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 10

Clear Creek – 04/10/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO

Clear Creek 04/10/2021 Photo Album

Clear Creek has the reputation of a small stream with modest sized fish, where it is easy to catch trout. My recent experience with the creek west of Golden refuted the idea that the predominantly small brown trout were pushovers. Thus, it was with a great deal of trepidation that I departed for Clear Creek on Saturday morning. A magnificent spring day was forecast for Colorado, but it was a Saturday, so I knew the popular spots such as the South Platte River would be overrun by stir-crazy fishermen. Clear Creek represented an option that was nearby and not as popular but with miles of public access to absorb zealous anglers.

Pocket Water Produced a Few

I arrived at my chosen location along the medium sized stream by 10:30AM, and after donning my waders I assembled my Sage four weight. The air temperature was in the low fifties, as I departed the car, so I snugged on my light cardigan fleece. The flows were nearly ideal at 25 CFS, and the clarity was perfect. My heart rate elevated in anticipation of casting for trout in these inviting conditions. I hiked up U.S. 6 for a bit and then crossed to the side of the creek away from the highway and continued for another .4 mile. This would be the amount of the stream that I covered in three hours on April 10.

Frisky Brown Trout

I tied a size 8 yellow fat Albert to my line and followed it with a beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug. I began prospecting the likely holding areas, and in a short amount of time I landed a pair of small brown trout. Both trout nabbed the hares ear, as it tumbled along runs of moderate depth and velocity. In the first fifteen minutes I spotted a pair of decent fish along the left bank, but they ignored my offerings, and this created some concern over my choice of flies, but after I moved upstream and tested some different stream structure, I was reassured by the two trout that responded.

Small Jewel

I worked my way upstream at a steady pace until 11:50AM, when I paused to eat my lunch, and I built the fish count to six. Several rather nice brown trout by Clear Creek standards rested in my net during this time, and all six of the late morning catch nipped the hares ear nymph. After lunch I moved the hares ear to the point position and replaced the ultra zug bug with my new creation; the krystal stone. The combination proved effective, and the fish count climbed from six to twelve in the hour between noon and 1:00PM. Four of the early afternoon trout crunched the krystal stone and the others gulped the hares ear.

Very Nice Run and Pool Ahead

As 1:00PM passed, I was feeling pretty optimistic about my fortunes on April 10, but as soon as my confidence peaked, the fish felt  compelled to teach me a lesson. I endured an extended slump over the last hour of my time on Clear Creek, and I could only speculate that it was the time of day or my proximity to the easier access from the highway, I cycled through a series of fly changes including a 20 incher, sparkle wing RS2 and emerald caddis pupa; but none of these options could replicate the success that I enjoyed in the first two hours.

Fun Catch

As forecast on my Weather Underground application, the ferocity of the wind accelerated by 2:00PM, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the Santa Fe. Twelve fish in three hours of fishing was a surprisingly strong outcome for me on a pleasant spring day in a nearby creek. A few brown trout measured in the eleven to twelve inch range, and I was pleased with these respectable fish. Clear Creek is back on my short list of close by destinations for spring fishing.

Fish Landed: 12

Shelf Pool Promising

South Platte River – 04/05/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/05/2021 Photo Album

Gorgeous weather with a high in the 60’s at Lake George motivated me to take a trip to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Monday, April 4. I arrived at the wide pullout above the long and placid pool in the special regulation section by 10:30AM, and after pulling on my waders and setting up my Sage One five weight, I was prepared to fish by 11:15AM. I hiked up the road for .5 mile and descended on a moderate path to the river. I was delayed by a couple false starts, when I first forgot my sun gloves and then realized that I was without my frontpack.

First Prime Pool on Monday

The river was flowing clear and low at 56 CFS, and it was free of ice. A fair amount of residual snow remained along the east side of the river, as a steep canyon wall prevented the sun’s rays from penetrating for much of the day. I rigged my nymph system with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, sucker spawn, and sparkle wing RS2, and then I thoroughly explored some deep pockets and a nice medium sized pool, but the trout exhibited disdain for my offerings. By 11:50AM the fish count was stalled at zero, and I paused to eat my lunch, while I observed the pool. Quite a few swarms of tiny tan or gray colored midges buzzed about just above the surface, and I witnessed five or six very sporadic rises in the pool, while I munched my sandwich and crunched my carrots.

Dark Olive Hue

After lunch I swapped the sucker spawn for a 20 incher and replaced the sparkle wing with a classic RS2. Neither of these fish magnets created interest, so I converted to a dry/dropper with a size 8 fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2, and the RS2 produced a thirteen inch brown trout from the current seam created by a run that fed the lunch pool. I was quite pleased with my initial success, and I moved up the river with renewed optimism. In some deep pockets between the lunch pool and the next larger one, I temporarily connected with a larger fish, but it quickly figured out how to jettison my hook.

I Spent Most of the Day at This Run and Pool

When I arrived at the spectacular long pool fed by two very attractive deep runs that split around an exposed boulder, I tossed the dry/dropper to the faster water. In a brief amount of time I began to notice sporadic rises, and eventually the feeding activity became more steady. This was my sign to switch to a dry fly, and I removed the dry/dropper rig and knotted a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line. This proved to be a prescient move, as I fished the olive CDC comparadun for the remainder of the afternoon and accumulated a total of fifteen fish. Yes, Monday afternoon temporarily satisfied my appetite for early season fly fishing action. During one half hour period, when the CDC BWO was being rudely ignored, I switched to a Klinkhammer emerger, and this fly accounted for one fish. When the Klinkhammer was also shunned, I added a six inch tippet extension and tied on a soft hackle emerger to fish in the film, and this fly also notched one fish. After a half hour of experimentation, I observed an abundant quantity of feeding fish, and they ignored my double dry offering, so I reverted to the CDC BWO.

Showing Off the Slash

Reintroduced to the River

Initially I presented a size 20, but it was soundly rejected, so I returned to a size 22, and this enabled me to revisit success. Monday afternoon was simply a baetis feeding blitz. Large gray clouds blocked the sun’s rays for extended time periods, and this prompted wind and low light, and the blue winged olives became a favored food source for the trout. The cycle of clouds followed my brief periods of sunshine repeated often, and I took advantage of the cloud cover to net wild canyon trout. Brown trout dominated the catch; however, I managed one chunky rainbow in the fifteen inch range, and I added three brilliantly colored cutbows that featured vibrant slashes below their jaws.

A Bit More Girth

Lovely Color Scheme

Down and across drifts yielded the most success, and on several occasions I twitched the tiny dry fly in front of a trout, and this erratic movement provoked a vicious take. I actually felt like I figured things out, but that confidence did not last long. Every take was accompanied by at least fifteen fruitless casts, so the trout were not totally convinced that my imitation was a precise copy of the naturals. Nevertheless, it worked better than the other blue winged olive fakes in my fly box, and it produced with enough frequency to keep me focused for nearly four hours in the same pool. A fifteen fish day on April 5 represented a solid success, and I look forward to a return trip to Eleven Mile Canyon. Catching fourteen out of fifteen on a dry fly was simply icing on the cake. The best of the pre-runoff fly fishing is around the corner, and Monday was a great sample of what may lie in my future.

Fish Landed: 15

Arkansas River – 04/02/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 04/02/2021 Photo Album

I enjoyed a decent early season outing on the Arkansas River on March 9, 2021, and I was quite anxious to make another trip. Unfortunately a massive snowstorm and a series of family and health commitments prevented a return until yesterday, April 2, 2021. Fortunately the stars aligned on Monday, and gorgeous spring weather combined with nearly ideal flows in the 250 CFS range to lure this avid fly fisherman to the area below Salida, CO. I arrived by 10:30AM and quickly assembled my Sage One five weight and reluctantly pulled on a light fleece. The temperature, when I began, was 53 degrees, but forecasts suggested a high in the upper sixties. By the time I assembled my gear and hiked along US 50 for .5 mile and descended to the river, my watch registered 11:00AM.

One of Two Fishermen Spotted During My Time on the River

I began my quest for hungry trout at the Fremont – Chaffee County line, and rigged my rod with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher and classic RS2. During the morning session I hooked and landed two nice brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range on the trailing RS2’s; the first on a classic RS2 and the second on a sparkle wing version. I also snagged bottom early in the game, and when I finally leveraged my flies free, they catapulted into a tall juniper tree directly behind me. The branch was alive and too high to reach, so I was forced to apply direct pressure and snapped off the two flies. I replaced them with a yellow-brown Pat’s rubber legs and sparkle wing RS2, and eventually the Pat’s rubber legs yielded to an iron sally.

Another Nice Brown Trout

Sparkle Wing RS2 Was a Favorite

I broke for lunch with the fly count resting on two, and after consuming my standard snack, I climbed the bank to obtain a strong satellite signal and used my new Garmin Inreach Mini to send a preset text to Jane. This was more of a test than a requirement, but it worked great, and I am now prepared with my satellite phone for hikes to more remote fishing locations.

Slack Water Along the Edge Was Productive

After lunch I continued to advance along the left bank, as I prospected the double nymph rig in likely trout holding locations. I was able to spot some very nice fish along the way, but in spite of some very focused drifts to sighted trout, I was unable to provoke a take. I debated swapping the nymph rig for a dry fly approach, but the hassle of removing the split shot and indicator dissuaded me from the necessary time commitment, and there was no guarantee that a dry fly would induce a rise; although I did see several sporadic rises during one relatively short period of time. Instead I tried to focus on riffles and runs of moderate depth, where the deep nymphing setup likely represented the appropriate method. I also tried some lifts in front of the visible trout, but this technique was ineffective. I did observe a few blue winged olive mayflies during the hour after lunch along with swarms of tiny midges. It was unclear whether the trout were attuned to the midges or mayflies.

Very Nice Brown Trout in the Afternoon

I added two more brown trout to the count in the hour after lunch, but then I experienced a fairly long period of futility. The sun warmed the air temperature, and I was a bit overheated in my down hoodie, and this, in turn, created a state of lethargy. I was hot and tired and bored with the lack of action. The two trout landed in the aftermath of lunch both consumed the sparkle wing RS2, as I lifted the rod to initiate a new cast.

Trough Next to Fast Water Was Prime

Rather that continue fruitless casting I decided to finally make a significant change in approach, and I switched to a dry/dropper method. I tied on a yellow size 8 fat Albert and added an emerald caddis pupa and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I decided to focus my casts on the soft water with depth near the bank, as this was the type of structure, in which I spotted decent trout in the earlier time period. The strategy seemed applicable, but I managed one thirteen inch brown on the emerald caddis pupa, and then sank into another state of inactivity.

Healthy Arkansas River Trout

At 3PM I acknowledged the ineffectiveness of the dry/dropper method and reverted to the deep nymphing technique. For this last phase of my fly fishing day I opted for a 20 incher and a sparkle wing RS2, and I covered quite a bit of stream real estate, as I guided two more typical sized brown trout to my net. The first of the pair snatched the sparkle wing, and the second chomped the 20 incher. By 4PM I reached a section of rapids, and I was near a path that led to the highway, so I called it a day and made the .5 mile return hike.

One More in the Net

I landed seven trout on Friday, April 2, and five nipped a form of RS2, one snatched a caddis pupa, and the final one crunched a 20 incher stonefly. All but one of the landed trout measured in the twelve to thirteen inch range. My catch rate was low, and I was disappointed to not encounter a denser and more sustained blue winged olive hatch, but Friday was a stunning spring day accompanied by a brilliant, cloudless blue sky and a high temperature around seventy degrees. I doubled my cumulative fish count, and the fly fishing bug assumed a prominent position in my brain. Nice weather in the upcoming week portends a few more fly fishing outings.

Fish Landed: 7

Arkansas River – 03/09/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chaffee County Line

Arkansas River 03/09/2021 Photo Album

Another spring-like day with a high temperature in the upper sixties along with a significant impending snowstorm motivated me to complete a fishing trip on Tuesday, March 9. I envisioned a larger river than the front range streams within close proximity to Denver, and I considered the Arkansas River and several sections of the South Platte River. After consulting with a fishing guide, fly shop reports, and DWR flow data I decided on the Arkansas River, and I departed from my home in Denver by 7:15AM.


Fortunately the drive was uneventful, and I arrived at my usual parking space high above the river by 10:00AM. The river was low and clear, and the air temperature was 53 degrees, as I assembled my Sage One five weight and added several layers to my upper body. The wind gusted on a regular basis in excess of 10 MPH, and this condition explained my tendency to over dress for my day on the river. I crossed the river at my usual spot and marched along the north bank, until I reached an attractive deep run that became my starting spot. I knotted a size 12 20 incher to my line, and beneath it I added a crystal stone. I read that little black stoneflies were in abundance on the South Platte River, and I concluded that they might be a tasty morsel on the Arkansas River as well. Guide Pat Dorsey’s recommended imitation for the little black stonefly was a black pheasant tail, but I did not have a dyed black pheasant tail feather in my possession, so I improvised. My size 18 black stonefly pattern contains a black crystal flash tail, wing case, and legs. The preponderance of crystal flash suggested a name that contained crystal, and, thus, the crystal stone was born.

Deep Run Did Not Produce

I thoroughly fished the double nymph combination with a thingamabobber indicator from bottom to top in the starting run, with no evidence of hungry trout. After this disappointment I continued upstream to the narrow island and then up the southern side of the island, and again my efforts to connect with a local trout were thwarted. When I returned to the downstream tip of the island, my watch displayed 11:30AM, so I found a nice flat rock and consumed my lunch. I was now positioned along the north side of the narrow island at the downstream end of the right channel. I concluded that the double weighted nymph combination would disturb the low flows excessively, so I paused to reconfigure with a peacock hippie stomper, sunken ant, and iron sally. The three fly arrangement looked great to this avid angler, but once again I found no evidence of resident fish; not even a darting spooked fish.

First Trout Came From This Bank Side Run

When I reached the top of the island and right channel, I found a spot to sit down and reverted to the indicator nymphing arrangement; however, this time I used a chartreuse yarn New Zealand strike indicator along with the 20 incher and a coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs. I hiked quite a ways to skip around a wide shallow section, and eventually began to probe the deeper runs on the north side of the river. I reached a nice deep run and trough along the right bank by 1:00PM, and my fish count was mired on zero, so I decided to make another change. I replaced the coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs with a yellow/brown Pat’s rubber legs with orange legs. This fly was a size 12 with a bead, and it was also weighted.

Numero Uno

Nice View of 20 Incher

Almost instantly I found success, when two very nice brown trout snatched the 20 incher, as the flies drifted along the deep run by the bank. After two hours of fruitless casting, I was elated to finally tally some fish and prevent an increasingly likely skunking. The sun broke through, and the air warmed up, and I was overheated in my light down coat and fleece hoodie, so when I reached my original crossing point, I moved to the south bank and climbed to my car, where I removed the down coat layer. I retrieved my phone and checked in with Jane and then advanced to the high vertical wall next to the river. Here I observed for a few minutes in an attempt to spot a fish, but the effort did not yield any targets. I made several upstream casts tight to the wall and drifted through a foam line, but this ploy proved futile.

Site of Two Landed Brown Trout

Better Light and Focus

I departed from the deep slow moving portion of the massive pool and moved to the area just above, where a nice deep riffle fed the depths. The current was moderate, the depth was three to four feet, and the river bottom contained numerous large submerged boulders. I was convinced that this was brown trout territory, and after some patient casting I was proven correct, when I landed two more respectable brown trout in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. The first trout gobbled the 20 incher, but I was surprised to discover the yellow/brown rubberleg in the mouth of the second netted fish.

Number Four Was a Beauty

For the next 1.5 hours I progressed along the south bank and systematically nymphed all the likely spots with the double stonefly presentation. At a spot fifty yards above the vertical wall and large pool, I scooped two more brown trout in the twelve to fourteen inch range into my net. Both savored the yellow/brown stonefly imitation, and my confidence in the fly zoomed. I tied these quite a while ago to imitate vulnerable stoneflies, after they molt. Initially I chose the fly to add weight and keep the 20 incher along the bottom of the cold flows of the Arkansas River. Who knew that the molting event truly attracted Arkansas River trout?

Long Brown

Number Six

The wind was a constant nuisance, but Tuesday was a fine day for fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains. After getting skunked for two hours, I landed six twelve to fourteen inch brown trout on the double stonefly combination. These six fish came to my net in the final two hours. At 3:00PM I snagged bottom in a spot, where it was too deep to risk my life to retrieve the flies, so I broke them off and declared it a day. I will not complain about six nice fish early in the season, and I will now have to wait out the return of winter before venturing out to another trout stream in March.

Fish Landed: 6

Klinkhammer BWO – 03/06/2021

Klinkhammer BWO 03/06/2021 Photo Album

Links to a materials table and additional information regarding the Klinkhammer BWO are available on my 02/23/2020 post. I utilize three different styles of flies to mimic the small blue winged olives that hatch in prodigious numbers in western streams. My first choice is generally a CDC blue winged olive which is tied similar to a comparadun but with CDC substituted for deer hair for the wing. Frequently, however, the trout ignore my CDC BWO, and in these cases I resort to the Klinkhammer BWO. The Klinkhammer imitates a mayfly in an intermediate state of emergence with the curved abdomen dangling beneath the surface. On rare occasions neither of these flies meet the rigid specifications of the resident trout, and my fly of last resort is a Craven soft hackle emerger with no bead. I apply floatant to the body and fish the small wet fly like a dry fly in the surface film. Visibility is a major drawback to this manner of fishing.

Solarez Coating on Body

During the 2020 season I experienced sporadic success with the Klinkhammer BWO. It yielded a selective trout on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon late in the season to help salvage a slow day. It has produced often enough to earn a spot in my fly box. When I counted my blue winged olive supply in preparation for the upcoming season, I determined that I was adequately supplied, but the number of CDC BWO’s and soft hackle emergers far outnumbered the Klinkhammers. I decided to narrow the gap on this situation, and I tied six additional flies for the upcoming season. Four were new flies tied from scratch, and two were unraveling examples, that I repaired. I expect to encounter blue winged olives in the very near future.

Six New Klinkhammer BWO’s

Crystal Stone – 03/06/2021

Crystal Stone 03/06/2021 Photo Album

I am taking credit for creating and naming a new fly, although I have not researched whether a similar tie already exists. I was researching destinations for a fishing trip prior to my visit to the Arkansas River on 03/09/2021. One of my options was one of the sections of the South Platte River. I follow guide, Pat Dorsey, on Instagram; and a post during that time frame mentioned that little black stoneflies were present in decent numbers along the South Platte. He suggested using a black pheasant tail size 18 as an imitation. I pondered this and realized that I did not possess any small black nymphs, so I decided to cover my bases and tie a few.

Sideview of a Crystal Stone

I surfed YouTube and browsed some black pheasant tail patterns, and that was when I realized, that they required dyed black pheasant tails, and I had none in my possession. Over the last year I made a concerted effort to utilize the materials that I already stock in abundance rather than increasing my supply, so I contemplated replacement materials. I settled on black crystal flash, as it was the correct color, offered some flash, and worked well in an iron sally.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookSize 18 dry fly hook or nymph hook
BeadSilver, size to fit hook
Thread Black 6/0
TailSix strands of black crystal flash
RibFine silver wire
AbdomenFine black dubbing
Wing CaseBlack crystal flash
ThoraxBlack peacock ice dub
LegsBlack crystal flash

Here are my steps for tying a crystal stone:

1. Put down a solid thread base over the back 2/3 of the hook shank.

2. Cut six strands of black crystal flash from the clump and tie them in on top of the hook at the midpoint of the shank.

3. Wrap over the crystal flash keeping the strands on top of the hook, until you reach the point, where the hook begins to bend.

4. Cut the tail, so it is roughly equal to the hook gap or a bit longer.

5. Tie in the fine silver wire at the midpoint and wrap back to the beginning of the tail.

6. Move the thread to a position above the hook point and twirl black dubbing on the thread. Use the bare thread to move back to the front of the tail and then build a tapered body from the tail to a point 1/3 behind the hook eye.

7. Wrap the wire forward to create a rib over the abdomen. Tie off and cut off the wire.

8. Fold the strands of crystal flash back over the abdomen and make a couple wraps to keep it pointing toward the tail.

9. Use black peacock ice dub to create a nice thorax that is thicker than the abdomen.

10. Fold the six strands of black crystal flash forward over the top of the thorax and tie down behind the bead with some secure wraps. Use your fingers if necessary to spread the fibers so they have a decent width for a wing case.

11. Separate the six fibers that protrude over the eye of the hook into two clumps of three, and then fold each back and lock down with some wraps, so the legs point backward along the sides of the body. Build a collar behind the bead and whip finish.

12. Cut the legs to an even length, so they extent slightly beyond the wing case.

13. Optionally apply a bead of UV resin to the wing case and cure.

I know I am biased, but I tied five of these, and I think they look great. They are the right size, totally black, and they display an eye-grabbing amount of flash. I tried one at the start of my day on the Arkansas River on 03/09/2021, but I was unable to interest the trout in my new creation. Perhaps little black stoneflies are more prevalent in the South Platte drainage. Once the recent snowstorm disappears, I hope to visit the South Platte for another test of the crystal stone.

Five Crystal Stones

South Platte River – 03/03/2021

Time: 2:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Within Chatfield State Park above Chatfield Reservoir

South Platte River 03/03/2021 Photo Album

Lots of Wide Shallows

By the time I ate my lunch and drove the short distance from Bear Creek to Chatfield my watch registered 2PM. I gathered my gear and cut to the river, and as I suspected, the stream was devoid of ice shelves or snow. The clarity was crystal clear, and I carefully walked upstream with the goal of sight fishing. The South Platte River in this area consists of many shallow stretches over a gravel bottom, so I skipped these sections and focused on deep pools and runs.

Looks Very Fishy

I covered a mile of the South Platte River in 1.5 hours, and sadly I was unable to land a fish. In fact, I was unable to sight a fish, and that placed a significant hole in my sight fishing strategy. The temperature peaked in the low sixties, and I enjoyed a pleasant two mile hike in my waders. I landed my one fish on Bear Creek to kick off 2021, so I was not overly upset with my lack of success on the South Platte.

Fish Landed: 0

Bear Creek – 03/03/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 1:15PM

Location: Lair O’ the Bear Park

Bear Creek 03/03/2021 Photo Album

With mild temperatures forecast for Wednesday, March 3, I could not contain my urge to visit a local stream for my first fishing outing of 2021. My initial plan incorporated a trip to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, but when I checked the stream flows, I was disappointed to discover a reading of .66 CFS. Apparently the work on Buttonrock Dam was still in progress. I quickly refocused my search and settled on Bear Creek and the South Platte River near Deckers. Ultimately I selected Bear Creek, because it was a shorter drive, and I was reluctant to travel the extra time to Deckers for an early season trip.

Typical Open Water on Bear Creek

I arrived at the Lair O’ the Bear Park lot by 10:45, and I was armed with my Sage four weight and ready to cast by 11:00AM. I was disappointed to learn that much of the creek was covered in ice and snow, but I gambled that I could entice a fish or two to my flies from the intermittent open sections. I began my quest for fish number one of 2021 with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2. On the second cast one of the nymphs hung up on the stream bottom, so I gave the rod a quick upward flick. The flies immediately came free, but the catapulting action of the the lift and bent rod sent all the flies to a dead branch above and behind me. I attempted to unwrap the flies, but it was a futile effort at retrieval, and I broke off three flies after only two casts in the new season. It was an ominous start to 2021.

Nice Spot

I found a nice rock and sat down, while I reconfigured my line. For some reason I replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant, but I replaced the hares ear and RS2 with different versions of the same flies. I began moving along looking for openings in the ice and snow that enabled decent drifts, but I was unable to attract the attention of any resident trout. My mind began to wander to thoughts of moving to the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir, as I knew that section of the river would be ice free.

Scene of My One Landed Trout

After hopscotching through five holes I encountered another fisherman, so I circled around him and followed the trail to a spot above a foot bridge. I resumed the practice of fishing the open areas, until I encountered a nice deep run with an overhanging ice shelf along the left side. I executed ten casts, and then I spotted a couple decent trout as they darted from beneath the ice shelf. One seemed to stop three feet out from the shelf, but I was unable to spot it in the greenish brown bottom.

Orange Scud Was a Winner

The sight of several fish spiked my focus, and I decided to swap the RS2 for an orange scud. I surmised that perhaps the bright orange color would imitate eggs or at the very least stand out compared to the drab brown and olive background. On the third cast with the orange scud the Chernobyl ant displayed a subtle pause, and I lifted the rod to sense a connection with a thrashing twelve inch rainbow trout. I had already chalked Wednesday up to an exploratory skunking, so imagine my delight when I netted the prize rainbow! I recorded a video and snapped a few photos to document my first fish of 2021 and continued my progress upstream.

Vibrant Colors on Display

Shortly after my success story I approached another nice open deep spot where the current reflected off the left bank. I flicked a cast to the top of the run, and just as it drifted to the lip of the hole, a trout darted to the surface to inhale the Chernobyl ant. In spite of my state of shock over a dry fly rise early in the season, I managed to set the hook, and I was momentarily connected to a trout. Alas, the joy of hooking a second fish did not persist, as the trout quickly shed the hook and disappeared into the depths.

Momentary Hook Up Along the Ice Shelf on the Left

After my two connections I proceeded in a westerly direction, but it wasn’t long before the stream narrowed between steep banks, and this condition prevented the warming rays of the sun from melting the snow and ice covering. The open holes that provided periodic fishing opportunities were nonexistent. I called it quits on Bear Creek and hiked back to the car, where I ate my lunch and then departed for the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir.

Fish Landed: 1