Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM
Location: Boulder Canyon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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