Salvation Nymph – 11/29/2016

Salvation Nymph 11/29/2016 Photo Album

Perhaps some of my readers are wondering why I have been inactive for two weeks? The short answer is that the weather in Colorado finally shifted to temperatures more typical of late November. I was never a strong proponent of fishing in cold temperatures, and now in my mid-sixties, that is more a certainty rather than a preference. Given this aversion to cold aching fingers and the loss of feeling in my toes, I shifted my attention to fly tying.

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Salvation Nymph

For the last two weeks I visited my comfortable fly tying bench on a daily basis, and I produced eighty-five size 16 salvation nymphs. With the addition of twenty carry overs from 2016, I now possess one hundred of these shimmering nymphs, and I can restock my fly bins with the knowledge that I likely have enough to get me through the 2017 season.

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From the Top

If you review the archives of my blog posts on the salvation nymph, you can read about my history with this favorite. In short it has gone from a recommended purchase at Conejos River Anglers to a mainstay in my fly box, and this explains the significant increase in inventory from sixty to one hundred. For some reason I tend to lose more salvation nymphs than any other fly, and many of these fly separations occur with trees, rocks, and branches and not fish. My only explanation is that I tend to fish it as the last fly on a dry/dropper or nymph configuration, so it tends to encounter foreign objects in advance of the flies positioned higher on my leader.

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Belly

When I composed my salvation nymph blog post last fall, I was crowning it as the champion producer, as it seemed to dethrone the long time number one beadhead hares ear nymph. However, during the spring, summer and fall of 2016, the hares ear staged a frenzied comeback, and I now suspect that it regained the top position on my fly ranking. During a few outings in May I experienced unbelievable success using solely the hares ear, and the strong appetite of Colorado trout for the hares ear extended through the summer and fall seasons.

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Quite a Jumble

The salvation nymph seems to excel during the June through August time frame, and these months coincide with the pale morning dun hatch in most Colorado rivers and streams. I suspect that the hares ear imitates a myriad of subsurface food items including caddis emergers, stonefly nymphs, and various mayfly nymphs; and this may explain its ability to produce success throughout the many seasons. The salvation does exhibit more iridescence, and therefore, it can attract fish during the periods when pale morning duns are not prevalent, but overall I am inclined to knot a hares ear on my line more frequently.

Of course it is not unusual for me to fish both in a deadly combination, and many times when I offered them both, I was surprised to discover the top fly, the hares ear in the lip of my netted fish. Generally I believe that the last fly catches more fish because it demonstrates more movement, so attracting fish from the upper position is quite a statement of effectiveness.

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85 Salvation Nymphs and Ingredients

The pile of sparkling salvation nymphs represents many hours of focused tying, and I am pleased to have this effort behind me. I will now shift my attention to beadhead hares ears, and I plan to produce another batch of one hundred. There may be another significant gap between posts on my blog.

South Boulder Creek – 11/15/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir.

South Boulder Creek 11/15/2016 Photo Album

If today Tuesday November 15 was my last outing of 2016, it was a good memory. Flows continued steady from Gross Reservoir at 58.5 CFS, and the weather forecast predicted high temperatures in Denver in the mid-seventies. Upon returning from Clear Creek on Monday evening I refueled and left most of my fishing essentials in the Santa Fe. My right hand and right hip continued to remind me of some residual soreness from my fall the previous week on South Boulder Creek, but I could not forego fishing on a glorious autumn day in November.

I arrived at the upper parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 10AM and only one other car was present. As I pulled on my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight, I grew suspicious that the flows had changed dramatically. I neglected to check them prior to departing. How else could one explain the lack of vehicles on such a spectacular day in Colorado? Fortunately my fears were put to rest, after I descended the steep trail to the edge of the creek, and I rejoiced to witness ideal flows similar to my last few visits to South Boulder Creek.

As I hiked along the path toward the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop, I greeted the occupant of the other vehicle, as he was in the long popular pool, and he also applauded the weather and the stream conditions. I continued downstream beyond the bridge a good ways, and eventually cut down to the creek in an area, where the morning sun beamed on the entire width of water. I used my rubber soles for the hike in order to avoid wear on the felt, so I paused to swap the Korker soles. I was not going to make the mistake of wading in South Boulder Creek on the slippery rubber again. I decided to test a Jake’s gulp beetle to determine if my preferred approach would attract the interest of the resident trout.

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The Shelf Pool Along the Bank Was the Home of the First Fish

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First Fish on Tuesday November 15

By 11AM I was finally in the water, and I began my upstream migration by dropping some short casts to some marginal pockets along the right bank. Apparently the trout did not view the spots as undesirable, and I landed three brown trout within the first fifteen minutes. This pace did not continue, but when I paused to eat lunch in the sunshine ten feet above the creek at noon, the fish count rested at six. I was quite pleased with my level of success in the first hour.

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The Pool That Delivered the Prize Rainbow

Among the six was a thirteen inch rainbow trout that represented my best fish of the day. I approached a small pool and dropped the beetle into the tiny riffle where water spilled over some rocks at the top of the eight by ten foot smooth area. As the oversized foam beetle bobbed through the deep center section, a fish appeared and moved a foot to view my offering. Unfortunately the beetle did not meet the specifications of the fussy trout, but I persisted with several additional casts with no success. The trout gave away its position when it moved, and I could now see it hovering at the tongue of the faster current and just in front of the deep center trough. I decided to deviate from my normal rule of not lingering on one fish, and I clipped off the beetle and replaced it with a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. Perhaps the South Boulder Creek trout remembered the tasty pale morning duns of August and September.

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My Prize Catch on Tuesday

The small comparadun drifted through the center section on the second cast, and in a flash the sighted fish darted to the surface and sucked in my fly! What a thrill to catch a sizable rainbow on a mayfly imitation on November 15 and after pausing to change flies! I persisted with the comparadun for a few more decent pockets, but the fish did not respond, and it was difficult to follow in the dappled sunlight and swirling currents, so I reverted to Jake’s gulp beetle.

After lunch I continued plopping the beetle mainly along the right bank, and I increased the fish tally to ten, although the gaps between landed fish grew in length. For some reason casts to attractive slow areas along the south side of the creek did not produce, nor did the across and downstream drift that appealed to the trout of Clear Creek. Two or three long distance releases were also in the early afternoon mix, and I was quite disappointed to lose one particularly nice trout that smacked the beetle tight to an exposed rock wall. I could see it flash to the surface, and its size may have topped the morning rainbow.

By 1:30 I reached a fast pocket water area with huge boulders strewn about the narrow stream bed. I prospected some nice deep pools on the lower end of this stretch, but then I scaled some large boulders and accessed the path to circle around. The beetle ceased producing, so I resorted to the dry/dropper method, and I knotted the standard lineup to my line of a fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph. The change did not immediately reverse my fortunes, but after a bit, I landed a tiny rainbow trout that snatched the hares ear. I did not count the sub six inch baby, but I was pleased that it recognized one of my nymphs as food.

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Another South Boulder Creek Brown Trout

Once again I was forced to climb back to the path to circumnavigate some huge boulders blocking my path. A short distance farther upstream the path angled back to the creek, and before I waded along the edge of a high rock wall, I dropped the nymphs in a short deep hole. The downstream border of the pocket contained a long angled log, and as I lifted the dangling nymphs to make another cast, a nine inch brown trout locked on the hares ear. This trout proved to be the last fish of the day and potentially the last fish of 2016.

I continued along the path and paused at several juicy locations that delivered fish on prior trips, but they were not productive on November 15. One of these spots was the spectacular pool that produced a pair of brown trout on the cinnamon comparadun on November 4. I paused in an attempt to repeat the past, but I was unsuccessful. I did spot several rises, and I once again replaced the dry/dropper with a size 18 cinnamon comparadun, but the pool residents were not interested in my mayfly imitation in the middle of November. I also flicked a size 18 black parachute ant over the rise locations, but the small terrestrial was not on their menu.

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Ground Cover Holly

I vacated the attractive pool and sauntered up the path and stopped at a couple more historical hot spots, but by 2:30 I was bored with the lack of action. My confidence was low and very little water remained that was not shrouded in shade, so I placed my legs in the express gear and returned to the car.

When I arrive to fish, I routinely throw my wallet and iPhone in the glove box and lock it. At the end of the day one of the last things I do before turning the key in the ignition is to unlock the glove box and remove the phone and wallet. On Tuesday, however, when I opened the safe chamber, the phone was visible, but my wallet was no where to be found. I searched the manuals to make sure the bill fold did not get trapped between pages, but that was not the case. Next I dumped all the contents of my tote bag on the front seat in case I never placed it in the glove box. I was fairly certain that I stowed two items, but my mind began to suggest that perhaps I was remembering the many previous similar actions.

Finally I gave up my search and concluded that I never packed my wallet after using it to pay for gasoline on Monday evening. Surely it would appear in one of the usual spots upon my return home. I called Jane when I reached cell range, and she made a cursory check of some likely spots with no success. I was growing increasingly concerned, but I was positive the wallet was either in the car or house.

When I pulled into the garage, I unloaded my lunch bag, water bottle, snacks and tote bag first. Jane assisted and inspected the tote bag, while I grabbed my headlamp and returned to the glove box. I opened the compartment and carefully inspected all the contents, but my wallet was not attached to anything. I shined the light on the floor, under the passenger seat, and along the edges of the seat. Nothing. I grabbed my fleece from the rear and checked the pockets in case I deviated from my normal routine and placed it in one of the fleece pockets. This was not the answer. Finally for some reason I returned to the glove box and opened it. I noticed that the compartment pivoted forward and created a four inch gap between the back edge of the plastic top border and the bottom of the dashboard opening. I reached my small hands into the gap, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel the soft leather surface of my wallet. I carefully pinched it and slowly extracted it from the glove box hinterland. I must have shoved it into the gap in my haste to go fishing.

Whew! This was a happy ending to a fine day of late autumn fishing on South Boulder Creek. Will this be the last day of the year? Who knows, but a cold front is predicted to move through Colorado on Thursday leaving high temperatures in the forties for Friday. I may finally be confined to the fly tying bench after all.

Fish Landed: 11

Clear Creek – 11/14/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Tunnel 3 to MM 264.5 area

Clear Creek 11/14/2016 Photo Album

Surprise. I fished again today on November 14. I felt sufficiently recovered from my bruised hip and hand to venture on to Clear Creek for 3.5 hours. The high temperature in Denver was upper sixties, and this translated to around sixty degrees in the canyon, but it felt more like fifty degrees due to the relentless wind that blasted through the narrow space between tight rock walls.

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A Small Tributary to Clear Creek Near Tunnel 3

I arrived at the pullout beyond Tunnel 3 at 10:30 and after assembling my Loomis five weight and pulling on my waders, I was ready to fish by 11:00AM. Since the air temperature on my dashboard registered sixty degrees, I was surprised to discover that I needed four layers, and even with that apparent excess of clothing, I felt chilled at times. I descended from US 6 where a small side tributary entered from the north, and I immediately tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. I always test this fly first on Clear Creek, because if it works, it is my preferred option.

The first fifteen minutes did not produce any interaction with trout, and I was entertaining thoughts of abandoning the stalwart beetle, when I observed a pair of refusals. This renewed my faith in the beetle, so I persisted, and just before noon I managed to hook and land a small brown trout. I gave the foam beetle a reprieve and continued fishing it, until I broke for lunch just past noon, but it only accounted for one landed fish, two refusals, and a temporary hook up.

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My Third Landed Fish Was This Shimmering Rainbow Trout

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Looks Fishy

After lunch the wind velocity increased, and I decided to switch to a dry/dropper alignment. As usual I opted for the yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead ultra zug bug. The trio of heavier flies would assist my attempts to punch casts into the wind, but I also significantly increased my risk of entanglement. For the most part the shift in strategy paid off, and I accumulated seven additional landed fish before I quit at 2:30. I did experience a few tangles, but I exercised extra care when casting by allowing my line to fully extend before executing the forward stroke.

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It Was and Yielded This Nice Brown Trout

Most of the afternoon fish snatched the hares ear, although two grabbed the ultra zug bug. The first two apres lunch eaters were rainbow trout, and I speculated that this indicated that the mature brown trout were busy with their spawning ritual and thus not chowing down. The next five fish landed in the afternoon, however, turned out to be brown trout; so I am not certain that my spawning theory was valid. The pace of action was average, as exhibited by my catch rate, and I covered a lot of stream and scrambled over many rocks in order to achieve my modest fish count. I suspect that the cold overnight temperatures are making the resident trout lethargic, and tight canyon walls block the warming effect of the sun.

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Anxious to Drift the Area Next to the Large Rock

Shortly after lunch I approached a nice deep pocket that was located in the middle of the stream. Normally midstream spots do not deliver on Clear Creek, but I decided to allocate a few casts, as I progressed upstream along the right bank. I dropped the first cast in the middle of the deep 4 X 4 hole, and as the fat Albert drifted toward the tail, a trout rose and pressed its nose against the large foam indicator fly. I paused a bit, but then just before drag set in, I lifted with a tentative hook set. I began to curse the refusal, when I felt a tug and weight on my line. Apparently the lead trout initiated my hook set with a refusal, and my lifting action prompted a ten inch brown trout to latch on to the trailing ultra zug bug. If you fish often, you will surely experience new and different events.

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One of the Ultra Zug Bug Fans

Overall it was a decent day for November 14. By the time I adjourned to the Santa Fe, my fingers were beginning to ache, and my feet felt like frozen stumps. The fishing was relatively slow, but I continued to take advantage of the mild fall weather. A cold front is predicted for Thursday, so my 2016 fishing adventures may be on life support.

Fish Landed: 8

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Keeping an Eye on Me

South Boulder Creek – 11/09/2016

Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/09/2016 Photo Album

Landing nine fish on November 9 is certainly a noteworthy achievement, although I must admit that I was spoiled by the twenty-six fish day, that I enjoyed on November 4. It was really the accompanying adversity that transformed Wednesday from a decent outing into a negative event.

I arrived at the parking lot at 8:45 and after assembling my Loomis five weight and gathering my fishing paraphernalia, I embarked on my journey down the path. I elected to fish a new section, and I was positioned in the stream with a Jake’s gulp beetle on my line by 10AM. The segment in front of me featured tight canyon walls on both sides, and the entire creek was cloaked in shade for the first hour. In addition the water was characterized by fast chutes and pockets, and the combination of the low lighting and swirling current caused me to abandon the beetle, and I converted to a dry/dropper arrangement. I elected to tie a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added the standard lineup of a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug.

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Capturing Some Sky

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Decent Brown Took the Ultra Zug Bug

Between 10:00 and 11:30 I moved at a relatively fast pace through the canyon and landed two small brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug from positions tight to exposed midstream boulders. My casts in the first forty-five minutes were futile, so I was relieved to finally experience some action during the second half of the morning. By 11:30 I reached a segment where the north side of the creek basked in partial sunshine, and this improved lighting enabled me to revert to a size 12 peacock Jake’s beetle.

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Best Fish of the Day Slurped the Beetle

In order to progress upstream I criss-crossed from north to south and back to avoid areas where vertical rock walls made wading a challenge. During one of these crossings, my rubber soled boot slipped on a slanted slimy rock, and I caught my fall by submerging my right arm above my elbow. Of course when I raised my arm to cast, water slowly ran down my sleeve and soaked my shirt and fleece layer. Needless to say I was not a happy wet fisherman at such an early point in my hiking adventure. Stay tuned, however, as the day had another surprise.

Finally by 12:15 I arrived in an area where more of the stream was bathed in full sunlight, so I paused to eat my light lunch. I removed my fleece and spread it out on a rock in direct sunlight, and I also rolled down the bib on my waders to expose my shirt to the sun. These moves were somewhat symbolic, and when I resumed fishing, the fleece remained wet, so I added my raincoat as an additional layer to retain some body heat and counter the cooling effect of evaporation. Fortunately Wednesday was a relatively warm day, but standing in the shade was somewhat uncomfortable.

After lunch I resumed my upstream progression, and the warming effect of the sunshine seemed to energize the stream residents, as I added three more fish to bring my count to five. The best fish of the day was a brown trout that slurped the beetle in a deep slow moving pocket above some large rocks, and it was among the first three fish landed after lunch.

I was beginning to develop a rhythm, although I never generated the fast paced action of November 4. I was standing on the north bank, and I flipped a nice backhand cast to a short pocket above me, and this prompted a solid rise from a nine inch brown. Since I was standing two or three feet above the creek, I decided to step into the water to net my catch. I placed my feet on what appeared to be an innocent slightly angled but light colored submerged rock, and in an instant both my rubber soled wading boots shot out toward the flowing water. Before I realized it, I landed on my right hip and broke my fall with my right hand. A decent amount of water trickled over the top of my waders, before I could right the ship, and then I cringed as the ice cold wetness slowly migrated down both my wader legs. It was a stroke of luck that my Loomis two piece remained just that, a two piece fly rod.

As I stood and absorbed this uncomfortable development, my attention turned to the rest of my body, and I sensed burning from both my hands. The dull ache gradually disappeared from my left hand, but when I inspected my right, I discovered a 3/4″ X 1/2″ scrape in the fleshy area on the outside beneath my palm. I quickly severed some detached skin and rinsed off the blood, but it continued to flood my hand. The scrape was not deep, so I was not worried about immediate medical attention, but I needed to stop the bleeding. I removed my frontpack and backpack and searched the pockets, but alas I apparently removed the bandages that I normally carry. I found a small roll of toilet paper deep in my backpack pocket and peeled off a small bit and dabbed it over the wound. The shaving cut treatment worked long enough to absorb the excess blood, and the bleeding eventually stopped, although the wound was in an awkward location for gripping a fly rod and casting.

Now that I temporarily attended to my first injury, I realized that the ache in my right hand continued, and I noticed that the impact of the fall created a large deep bruise on the fleshy area at the base of my right thumb. I rotated my thumb in all directions, and that functionality remained, so I concluded that my injury was a bruise or sprain. The last manifestation of my fall finally surfaced, as I began to take a step, and I felt an aching tightness in the right buttock area behind my hip. Again I exhibited full range of motion, but not without some annoying pain.

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More Sunshine on This Photo

I concluded that I completed a full inventory of my new aches, and I resumed fishing. Over the remainder of my fishing time I landed three additional fish on the beetle, but I would be lying, if I said I was having fun. The bruise below my thumb came into play while casting and more significantly when I leaned on the wading staff when I crossed the stream. I was quite fearful that the reduced strength of my hand would lead to another unfortunate incident, and since I was in new territory I decided to reel up my fly and began the relatively lengthy return hike.

Additional mild weather remains in the five day forecast, but I suspect that I need several days to recuperate from my rough outing on South Boulder Creek on November 9. I already added rubber soles with cleats to my Christmas list. Perhaps this was the last fishing trip of 2016, but I learned to never jump to conclusions during this extended autumn.

Fish Landed: 9

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 11/08/2016

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 11/08/2016 Photo Album

Similar to October of 2015 I enjoyed superb success using a Jake’s gulp beetle in the Front Range streams near Denver during recent visits. The preferred version is a size 12 beetle with a peacock dubbed body. In 2016 mild autumn weather lingered into the first two weeks of November, and this circumstance allowed me to continue fishing much later than normal. The combination of extended fishing and the effectiveness of Jake’s gulp beetle stressed my supply, so I visited my fly tying bench today and produced six additional foam terrestrials.

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A New Jake's Gulp Beetle

Fortunately I documented the tying steps in detail in a previous post, and this eliminated the need to reinvent the wheel. When the weather eventually reverts to normal Colorado November conditions, I plan to continue tying Jake’s gulp beetles until I accumulate twenty peacock body size twelves for the 2017 fishing season.

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Six Ready for Action

 

South Boulder Creek – 11/04/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Tailwater below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/04/2016 Photo Album

The euphoria lingered  as I returned from a day of fishing and even continued as I composed this blog the next morning. Certainly Friday November 4 was my best day of fishing during the month of November. The streak of mild unseasonable weather continued into the first week of November, and I could not resist the temptation to take advantage.

The water managers finally reduced the outflows from Gross Reservoir to ideal levels, and this circumstance along with temperatures in the low sixties prompted me to toss my fishing gear in the Santa Fe. In early November the warmest part of the day is between 11AM and 3PM, so I targeted this time period. Three other vehicles occupied the South Boulder Creek parking lot when I arrived, and two men were present, as they assembled their rods. They departed five minutes before me, and I wondered what section of South Boulder Creek was in their plans.

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Starting Pool

 

Once my waders were on, and my Loomis five weight was assembled, I descended the steep path to the stream and crossed to the south bank. I passed two fishermen above the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop, and then I passed the two anglers that I greeted in the parking lot. Eventually I passed a third fishermen who was waded into the creek, so I knew I accounted for all the vehicles. I moved beyond the last fisherman a good distance and cut down the bank to a position below a gorgeous large pool. A strong heavy current cut the pool in half, and a nice moderate riffle was above me on the right side of the stream.

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Beetle Lover

On my walk in to the creek I devised a strategy. I love plopping a Jake’s gulp beetle, so I planned to test that approach first. If successful, I would adhere to drifting the single foam dry fly, since that is the method I prefer. However, if after fifteen to twenty minutes, the beetle was not attracting interest, I would default to the dry/dropper configuration. The downside to fishing the solitary beetle is visibility. Fall fishing in narrow canyons yields shadows, glare and difficult lighting conditions; and the beetle with a narrow orange foam indicator strip can be difficult to follow. Fortunately the attractive pool where I began was bathed in sunlight.

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Another Fine Brown Trout from the Attractive Starting Pool

I tied a size 12 peacock body beetle to my line and lofted a cast to the lower section of the riffle above me. Thwack! A feisty wild brown trout darted to the surface and smashed it with confidence. What a start! After I photographed and released the first landed fish, I inspected the fly and noticed that the aggressive brown cut the black foam overwing, so it now pointed toward the sky. The legs and thin foam indicator were still intact, so I decided to give it another try. I cast a bit farther toward the top of the pool, and another twelve inch brown crushed the disabled offering. Could this really be happening?

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Gorgeous Colors

When I once again brought the fly up for a closer look, I noticed that the thread was unraveling, but the crippled beetle worked once, so why not try it again. Once again I made a couple casts upstream, but this time all I observed were a couple tentative refusals. I opened my fly box and found another size 12 peacock beetle and replaced the damaged terrestrial. I turned my attention to the current seam along the deep fast center current, and I placed a cast right on the inside edge above me. The tiny orange speck glided along the seam, and suddenly a mouth chomped down on the imitation. I raised my rod and set the hook, and a short time later I gazed at a brightly colored thirteen inch rainbow trout. Three gorgeous wild fish from the first pool in the first half hour certainly raised my expectations for the day, although I attempted to dampen them.

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My Lunch View, and Several Nice Fish Were Visible

I finally experienced some unsuccessful drifts and moved on to the next stretch of South Boulder Creek. Needless to say the catch rate slowed a bit, but not significantly. I built the fish count to twenty-one by two o’clock, and every landed fish displayed Jake’s gulp beetle in its mouth. Unlike Clear Creek casts directly upstream were the most effective. I also discovered that the fish were extremely sensitive to drag, and most of my success occurred when I approached a pocket or run with stealth. This enabled me to drop a short cast and hold my rod high, so only the leader was on the surface, and thus minimized drag. The beetle was not universally accepted, as refusals were also part of the game, but by and large, if I eliminated drag, the fish were willing to slurp. Since South Boulder Creek contains a strong rainbow trout population, I expected the spring spawning species to dominate my landing net, but all the beetle feasting trout except for the third catch were brown trout. I have no explanation.

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Nice Lighting

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Rainbow from Huge Pool

At two o’clock my fish count surged beyond my expectations, and I encountered a narrow fast section of the creek that was mainly covered by shadows. I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper rig mainly for improved visibility in the turbulent water and dim light. I tied a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added the standard fall lineup of a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug. In a deep trough below some large rocks the fat Albert paused for a split second, and I executed a quick hook set. Instantly a brightly colored thrashing rainbow trout appeared on my line, but just as quickly it slipped free of the hook. I persisted in the juicy deep slot and on the second subsequent drift, the same scenario played out, but this time I netted a small rainbow trout that snatched the ultra zug bug.

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Comparadun in Corner of the Mouth

I thought perhaps I stumbled on to another winning technique, but I advanced through the remainder of the pocket strewn section with no additional success. I climbed to the bank and circled around a wide riffle area with marginal depth and eventually came to another beautiful pool similar to the one where I began the day. I lobbed the fat Albert to the nice riffle directly above me, but the three flies failed to attract interest, so I shifted my attention to the seam along the rapidly flowing center run. As I watched the foam top fly bob along the current, I spotted two rises in the shelf pool on the south side of the center current.

I paused to observe and wondered what may have generated this sudden display of surface feeding in the pool. Quite a few midges buzzed about, and I was about to try a griffiths gnat, when three pale morning duns slowly fluttered up from the surface of the water. Could these fish be tuned into pale morning duns in early November? I opened my MFC fly box and pulled a size 18 cinnamon comparadun from the foam and attached it to my line. Once I dabbed it with floatant and bent down the barb, I made a couple reach casts across with some quick mends to avoid immediate drag from the strong center flow.

On the third such maneuver a ten inch brown trout drifted to the surface and sipped my comparadun! I fooled a trout on a mayfly that normally appears in the June – August time frame. It gets even better. After I released the first comparadun sipper, I dried the fly and repeated the reach cast and mend higher up in the pool, and another slightly larger brown surfaced and engulfed the fly. This wild brown took the cinnamon dun with confidence, as its momentum carried its head entirely out of the water. For the next fifteen minutes I continued upstream along the right bank and added two more brown trout to my count. The third comparadun eater was a twelve inch brown that crushed the tiny mayfly imitation in a two foot wide narrow deep pocket along some large boulders that lined the bank.

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Speckled Brown Trout Also Ate the Cinnamon Comparadun

Twenty-six fish landed on November 4 is an outstanding day. But even more impressive is the fact that twenty-five were caught on a dry fly. Rarely do I experience this level of surface fishing success during the prime times of July and September. Will the mild weather continue and allow me to make more successful fishing trips during 2016?

Fish Landed: 26

Clear Creek – 11/03/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Mile Marker 260.5 area

Clear Creek 11/03/2016 Photo Album

Jane and I returned from New Mexico on Tuesday, and I once again directed my attention toward the Denver weather. Could the string of beautiful fall days continue? In short the answer was yes, so I planned a November fishing outing to nearby Clear Creek. It was in the low fifties when I arrived at the pullout just beyond the third pedestrian bridge along the Peaks to Plains Trail, and when I departed at 3:30PM the air temperature registered in the low sixties

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Manmade Improvements Where I Began

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I began my fishing day with a Jake’s gulp beetle with the hope that it would be on fire as was the case in several earlier visits, but all I could muster was infrequent refusals. I switched to a small size 10 Chernobyl ant with a beadhead hares ear, and this yielded two small rainbow trout by 12:30, when I broke for lunch. After lunch I experienced mostly empty casts along with a couple refusals to the Chernobyl, so I reverted to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle with a peacock body. Perhaps the warmer air temperatures in the afternoon would make the trout more receptive to juicy terrestrials on the surface.

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This Rainbow Chomped a Caddis

By 1:30 I added two more small rainbows that consumed the beetle to the fish count, and then I switched to a yellow floss body fat Albert trailing a beadhead hares ear and an ultra zug bug. Amazingly shortly after the conversion a rainbow rose and slurped the fat Albert, and then another rainbow grabbed the hares ear. I was now at six fish; all rainbows on a predominantly brown trout stream. Given the seasonal timing I concluded that the brown trout were busy procreating and not interested in eating. Normally the ratio of brown trout to rainbow trout is roughly five to one if not greater.

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The Kind of Water That Produced

As the fish counter reached six, the shadows covered most of the stream, and I began fishing the dry/dropper across and down in order to cover the slack water areas along the far bank. This approach proved to be a winner, and I landed seven more fish between 2:00 and 3:00, when I quit with icy hands and cold feet. The late run on netted fish included four brown trout, and these fish were mostly larger than any of the rainbows. The browns seemed to come from very shallow slow areas close to the bank; whereas, the rainbows were distributed throughout the stream.

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Best Brown Trout of the Day Fell for a Downstream Presentation

The rainbows were more aggressive, and several grabbed the ultra zug bug, as it began to swing away from the bank at the tail of the pool. I probably wasted too much time trying to entice fish to the surface during early November, and it seemed that the refusals to the beetle and Chernobyl were brown trout; whereas, most of the fish that grabbed the nymphs in the first 2.5 hours were rainbows. I did not spot any spawning beds, and four afternoon brown trout responded to my subsurface offerings, so my earlier explanation about the abnormal ratio of rainbow trout may not be accurate.

It was a decent day as measured by fish count for early November; however, the fish were on the small side with the largest being an eleven inch brown. I will continue to prioritize fly fishing over fly tying as long as the weather provides comfortable temperatures.

Fish Landed: 13

South Boulder Creek – 10/27/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/27/2016 Photo Album

It was a marvelous day for fly fishing. The string of unseasonably warm days in late October continued, so I decided to take advantage, and I embarked on a trip to South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. This small tailwater is a candidate to be my home water; however, the Denver Water managers make it difficult to adopt. I experienced one fine day on September 7, when I was fortunate to catch flows at 84 CFS. That evening Denver Water tightened the valve to 8.4 CFS, and that is a trickle, so I chose other options. After a week or so of minimal flows, the managers increased the releases to 210 CFS. This volume of water is very high for the small stream bed, and I did not wish to fish in spring-like run off conditions.

When I checked the DWR stream flow data after returning from the Taylor River, I noted that the flows were reduced to 90 CFS a week prior, and after another adjustment they were at 64 CFS. The combination of nearly ideal flows and high temperatures of eighty degrees in Denver provided sufficient incentive for me to pack the Santa Fe with fishing gear in preparation for a visit to South Boulder Creek.

I departed Stapleton at 8:45 and arrived at the parking lot high above the creek near the outlet from the dam by 10AM. Three vehicles were already present, as I quickly pulled on my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight for a day on the stream. Since I usually hike quite a distance from the car, I packed my lunch in anticipation of a four or five hour sojourn in the canyon. I descended the steep path, crossed the stream and then hiked for thirty minutes, until I was positioned below a gorgeous deep pool. The main current divided the pool in half, and then the water tailed out into a nice smooth stretch of moderate depth.

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Downstream Drift to This Area Produced Fish Number One

Much of the canyon remained in shadows, but this area was bathed in sunshine. I surveyed the scene and decided to begin with Jake’s gulp beetle. I always prefer fishing on the surface, and it was clear that visibility would not be an issue. I knotted a size 12 beetle to my line and moved to the bottom of the pool. Before casting upstream to the delicious moderate riffles along the right bank, I decided to warm up with some across and down drifts to an inviting area that remained in the shadows. What a great choice! On the fourth drift, as I mended to eliminate drag, a nose and bulge appeared, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a thirteen inch brown trout. What a start to my day, and what a thrill to land a large fish by South Boulder Creek standards on the beetle in thin water.

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Sideview of the Chunky Brown Trout

 

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Two More Fish Came from This Perfect Riffle

Next I probed the wide twenty foot wide riffle above me, and two more respectable brown trout gulped the floating terrestrial. I pinched myself to make sure I was not in the middle of a dream. Evidently I was not, so I proceeded upstream and landed two more fine South Boulder Creek residents, before I adjourned for lunch at 12:15. The last landed fish in the morning was a deeply colored rainbow trout that emerged from a short pocket along the left bank.

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Rainbows Like Beetles Also

Before lunch I encountered a section of the creek that was totally immersed in shadows. The thin neon orange indicator strip on the beetle was very difficult to follow in the poor light and occasional glare, so I converted to a dry/dropper with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. Between 11:45 and 12:15 I prospected some great water with these three flies, but my net remained empty.

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Lunch on the Rock

After lunch I entered another area that was covered with sunshine, and the dry/dropper was not producing action, so I returned to the single Jake’s gulp beetle. This proved to be a smart shift in approach, and I added four additional trout by 2:30. The afternoon fish were average in size, but I continued to enjoy the ideal flows, comfortable temperatures and fishing a dry fly successfully in late October.

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Best Look

2016 has been a record year for me, so I made a conscious effort to slow my pace and absorb the amazing Colorado environment around me. On Thursday I felt at ease with my surroundings and thoroughly enjoyed my new laid back approach. My fish count was resting on nine when I reached a nice isolated pool along the right bank. A large corrugated pipe sank in the water and angled across the pool, and I decided to flip a few casts in the top section where the current feeds the slow moving main area. On the second drift I noticed a decent fish, as it moved to inspect my fly, but it failed to eat. Given my new attitude toward fishing, I decided to focus on this fish. Normally after a refusal, I limit myself to a few more casts, but then I move on in an effort to maximize my fish count.

What would this fish eat? I cycled through a black ant (another refusal), a CDC BWO, and a size 16 gray caddis, but none of these offerings triggered a take. Finally I conceded to the educated pool dweller and moved on. It is difficult to accept being outsmarted by a fish, but that was my plight on Thursday afternoon.

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Buttery Belly

Although I was operating in a new relaxed mental state, I was still cognizant of the fact that I needed one more fish to achieve double digits. The next segment of the creek was forty yards long and contained numerous delightful pockets and deep runs, as the stream tumbled around the many exposed rocks below a rock moraine on the right side. I knew the beetle would be difficult to follow in the dim light and swirly water, so I once again converted to the dry/dropper style. This time I topped off the alignment with a gray pool toy, and next I affixed a salvation nymph and then an ultra zug bug.

The lower third of the turbulent area did not produce a fish, but then I cast to a nice deep slot along the left bank and observed a pause in the pool toy. I raised the rod, and I immediately felt the throb of a thrashing ten inch brown trout. I quickly landed number ten and then released it to continue its life among the swirling currents of South Boulder Creek.

I progressed to the end of the fast water section, and here I encountered another young fisherman. It was approaching 2:30, and I knew I had a fairly long hike to exit the canyon, so I tucked the last fly in the rod guide, crossed the stream, and climbed to the path for the return. After crossing the pedestrian bridge I paused at a couple shelf pools in a last ditch effort to increase my fish count, but these efforts proved unsuccessful. Just after three o’clock I completed the final steep ascent to the parking lot, and I realized that Thursday felt like August in late October.

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Stonefly Landed on My Sunglove

South Boulder Creek remains a magical nearby destination. I landed ten quality trout on a gorgeous fall day. If ever there was a definition of Indian summer, October 27 was that day. How long can this perfect autumn weather continue?

Fish Landed: 10

Clear Creek – 10/26/2016

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Around mile marker 267.5, below first bridge after tunnel 1 heading west.

Clear Creek 10/26/2016 Photo Album

A forecast of high temperatures in the seventies unleashed a strong desire to take advantage of the unseasonably mild weather, so I scheduled another fishing excursion to Clear Creek. A day on the Arkansas River and the Taylor River provided a break from the small local stream, so I felt another short trip was appropriate. I packed my lunch and gear and left Denver a bit after 10:45, and this enabled me to park in the pullout just beyond the first bridge after Tunnel 1 when heading west on US 6 by 11:30. Since it was nearly lunch time, I downed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt before I pulled on my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight.

I crossed the highway and hiked downstream along the south bank until the trail faded, and then I scrambled down some large rocks until I was along the creek. The flow was around 45 cfs and consistent with my experience in October of 2016, and a tinge of color was visible although not enough to impact the fishing. The air temperature was in the sixties in the canyon, so I wore a long sleeved undershirt and fleece for the entire three hours. Normally this many layers would translate to being over dressed, but I remained in the shade of the canyon wall all afternoon.

I began my fishing day with a Jake’s gulp beetle. During my last visit on October 21, the beetle produced six fish, but it was not the popular food source that generated frenzied feeding in early October visits. Nevertheless the air temperature was more favorable on Wednesday, so I gambled that the fish would look to the surface and remember their fondness for beetle snacks. It was a reasonable theory, but apparently the cold nights removed beetles from the trout menu, as I was unable to produce more than a refusal on the size 12 peacock body Jake’s gulp beetle.

After fifteen minutes I ended the beetle experiment and converted to a dry/dropper configuration. I tied a fat Albert with a light yellow floss body to my line for visibility in the shadows, and then I added a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug. Initially these flies were also left undisturbed, but then I landed two small browns in quick succession. Both fish nabbed the hares ear nymph. Once I boosted the fish count to two, my catch rate accelerated. I progressed upstream mainly along the left bank and tossed the fat Albert in all the inviting deep pockets and runs.

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Keep Them Wet

Between 12:30 and 2:30 the hares ear and zug bug were magical. I boosted the fish count to fourteen, and one decent brown trout even gobbled the fat Albert. I thoroughly enjoyed prospecting the likely holding lies with rapid fire casts and three to five drifts. Most of the fish emerged from the deep slow moving holes and pockets that bordered the rocky south bank. I tested the opposite bank with downstream drifts, but this ploy did not pay dividends in a manner similar to earlier Clear Creek fishing trips.

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Very Nice Clear Creek Brown

Do fish have meal times similar to human beings? The steady feeding came to an abrupt end at 2:30, and I covered a significant distance without so much as a refusal. It seemed odd that the fish suddenly stopped feeding after some fairly aggressive action in the previous two hours. Perhaps a headmaster blew a whistle and ushered them back to their resting spots for the remainder of the day.

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A Bit of Sunlight Ahead

By 3:00 the canyon was blanketed with shadows, the air temperature dropped a few degrees, and the fish decided to fast; so I reeled up my flies and climbed the steep bank to the highway. I was a short distance above my car, and as I hiked along the shoulder, I heard voices echoing across the canyon. I gazed upward and saw two rock climbers scaling the vertical canyon wall above me. I was not the only Colorado resident taking advantage of the mild late October weather. Stay tuned as the weather forecast is very favorable through the remainder of the week.

Fish Landed: 14

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Sharing My Space

Taylor River – 10/24/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: River’s End and across from Lodgepole Campground

Taylor River 10/24/2016 Photo Album

Danny and I agreed that we would remain on the Arkansas River if the quality of fishing was decent on Sunday, but in the event that the fishing was slow, we would move to another river. Clearly the results of our Sunday exercise in frustration made the decision easy. We agreed to make the drive to the Taylor River on Monday morning, as this offered three options. Option one was to fish the hog trough below Taylor Reservoir, and the second option was the upper Taylor River above the reservoir. Of course the third alternative was to wet our lines in the public canyon area downstream from the hog trough.

We spent the night in the Woodland Hotel in Salida, and for dinner we walked to the Boathouse Cantina that overlooks the Arkansas River near the kayak course. We snagged seating next to the open window, and as we waited for our dinners, we marveled at the regular feeding of ten to fifteen trout next to the restaurant and above the F Street Bridge. We concluded that a small midge hatch was in progress, and several of the trout were feeding quite voraciously. It was entertaining to watch, but were not motivated to retrieve our fishing gear.

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Taylor Reservoir

We woke up at 6AM on Monday, and this enabled us to depart before eight o’clock after a small breakfast at one of the local coffee shops. The drive over Cottonwood Pass was uneventful, and we arrived at the hog trough just before 8AM. The dashboard temperature registered 22 degrees, and a crisp wind ruffled the grasses and bushes next to the parking lot. I decided to remain in the car, while Danny braved the elements in an attempt to land a trophy from the tailwater immediately below the dam. I read for an hour and a half, and then I drove to the parking lot overlooking the marina, where I obtained a strong cellular signal. I checked in with Jane and noted that the temperature advanced into the low forties, so I returned to investigate Danny’s success.

While I was by the marina, Danny moved below the bridge, and a huge cluster of ridiculously large fish were visible in the center of the slow moving pool. Most of the fish appeared to be temporarily dormant, but some were moving and occasionally rising to sip something from the surface. Quite a few of the regular risers were at the point where the moderate current fanned out into the pool. Danny asked if I had any griffiths gnats, so I secured one from my fly box and watched as he executed some downstream drifts, but the fish were ignoring his tiny speck of a fly. Next I gave him a size 22 CDC blue winged olive, but again the fish served him frustration. Finally I returned to the car and retrieved a plastic canister that contained various small flies, and Danny selected a minuscule parachute Adams and presented that to the ultra selective residents of the pool. Once again the fish treated Danny’s offering like a tiny speck of inert dust.

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The Inlet Where I Began Fishing

Finally by 11AM Danny surrendered, and we returned to the car and drove to River’s End Campground. The gate was closed to the campground, so we parked along the entry lane, and we prepared to fish the smaller upper Taylor River. The campground was located .3 mile above the inlet, so we hoped that spawning brown trout were present.  We hiked along the ridge next to inlet, and then we began fishing our way back to the campground. Danny deployed a dry/dropper approach, while I deviated from my normal habit, as I attached my sinking tip line and opted for a cheech leech streamer. I worked the deep section where the lake backed up into the river channel, and then I moved rapidly along the eastern side of the stream and cherry picked the deepest locations with streamer casts and various forms of retrieval.

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The Cheech Leech

Danny and I thoroughly covered the area upstream of the inlet for an hour and never saw even a sign of fish. The water was 43 cfs, but the stream bed was wide, and this yielded long stretches of shallow water. In truth the river was not very attractive at the low fall flows, and we probably wasted too much time in this marginal half mile of river.

Just before noon we acknowledged our poor choice of stream section, and we returned to the car and drove to the canyon section across from Lodgepole Campground. Here we quickly downed our lunches, and then we migrated to the large pool next to the parking lot. My confidence was at a low ebb, but the air temperature warmed nicely to the low forties, so at least my level of comfort was a positive. I selected the very bottom of the pool to probe with my cheech leech, while Danny began to cast his dry/dropper rig in a nice deep run a bit upstream. I generated two follows, when I cast to the far bank and rapidly stripped the leech, but that was the extent of my action. Meanwhile Danny hooked a nice fish on his trailing nymphs, so we were encouraged that the possibility of landing fish was within our grasp.

I circled above Danny to a nice deep run, and after some ineffective streamer retrieves, I took the plunge and converted to a dry/dropper configuration as well. Ironically as I switched to dry/dropper, Danny shifted to an indicator nymph system. I tied a gray pool toy to my line and then added hares ear nymph and salvation nymph droppers. Almost immediately after making the change, I observed a double refusal to the pool toy. A medium sized brown rose to the surface and nosed my fly and then dropped down a foot, drifted back at the same pace as the hopper, and then made a second inspection. I was not encouraged by two refusals on one drift, but at least I attracted the attention of a Taylor River brown trout.

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Looking Good at 100 CFS

I waded across the river to the north bank and continued working my way upstream. I managed a temporary hook up on a brown that snatched one of the nymphs, and then frustration once again weighed on my being, as a string of refusals to the pool toy ensued. A top fly that takes attention away from the nymphs, but does not result in takes, is one of my worst nightmares.

Finally I accepted that the pool toy was not going to produce netted fish, so I swapped it for a size 8 Chernobyl ant. In a short amount of time the Chernobyl produced a take, but within seconds the hook pulled free, and I remained fishless on the Taylor River. Fortunately I persisted with the dry/dropper setup, and I finally landed a thirteen inch rainbow that consumed the salvation nymph from a deep run near the north bank. After enduring a long drought from Sunday through Monday afternoon, I paused to snap a photo of my first landed fish on Monday.

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Yellow Belly

Onward I advanced using the dry/dropper technique to positive advantage and between 2PM and 5:30PM I incremented the fish count to seven. I persisted with the Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear, but I changed the salvation for a soft hackle emerger and then an ultra zug bug. The zug bug produced two small rainbow trout, but all the other landed fish responded to the hares ear. During this period on Monday afternoon I finally fell into a rhythm, as I moved quickly from deep pocket to deep run and popped the dry/dropper combination in likely holding spots.

During the summer the pace of action generally fades in the late afternoon hours, but on Monday it seemed the opposite was true. This can probably be explained by the very cold overnight temperatures, and the water required a much longer time frame to warm to the optimal feeding range.

At 3:30 Danny and I approached a place where a huge boulder forced the river to churn through a narrow chute, and this effect created a large pool, where the current fanned out into a wider stream bed. The large rock formed the outside anchor for a massive jumble of dead branches and logs that were likely deposited there during run off. Danny worked the deep center portion of the pool with his nymph set up, since we spotted at least three sizable trout hugging the bottom. While he was probing this area, I lobbed a couple casts to a small deep pocket just behind the giant boulder. Much to my amazement as I lifted to  make another cast, a large brown trout grabbed the hares ear nymph. I managed to fight off several dives and head shaking episodes, and then I lifted the beast toward my net, and it shook its body and broke off the two bottom flies. Danny and I both marveled at the bright orange belly of the wild fish, and I named it my pumpkin brown. I was sorely disappointed that I missed the opportunity to capture a photograph.

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A Bit Closer

After venting a bit over losing the brown trout so close to my net, I climbed up on top of the log jumble and dropped a cast to the slow eddy above the sticks. The Chernobyl ant slowly crawled along the edge of the branches, and then the top fly dipped, and I set the hook and realized that I was connected to a thirteen inch brown trout. I was standing five feet above the eddy, and I recognized that the fish was large enough to prevent hoisting it to my position high above the water. I sat down on the stick mound, and allowed my body to slide toward the pool, and fortunately I caught myself on some larger branches just above the water. While this was happening, the fish sought shelter under the sticks, but I was able to leverage it out once I settled near the eddy. Unfortunately I broke off a second ultra zug bug in this process. It was worth the effort, however, as I netted the brown and photographed the deep olive-brown wild specimen.

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Deep Color on This Brown Trout

By 5:30 I reached a location where the river spread out, and I carefully waded across to the road. Before I did this, however, I made some casts to a nice wide moderate riffle section, and on the fourth drift, a fish smashed the Chernobyl ant. I responded with a swift hook set, and the fish dashed toward the middle of the river, and then the line snapped, and my line fell limp in the current. When I reeled up the line, I realized that the two bottom flies were gone, so I suspect that I foul hooked the fish when it refused the Chernobyl.

After a woeful day on the Arkansas River on Monday, I was pleased to regain my confidence on the Taylor River tailwater. Danny experienced similar success, and we commiserated on the time wasted on the upper Taylor, but we both recognized that sometimes it pays to experiment with new locations, and not all investments pay off. Seven wild fish late in the season is certainly something to savor.

Fish Landed: 7