Boulder Creek – 11/16/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/16/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

After a frustrating and disappointing day on Tuesday on Clear Creek, I essentially closed the book on fly fishing in 2017. Surely a cold winter weather pattern was around the corner, and I eagerly welcomed some relaxed fly tying while listening to my favorite playlists. And then Thursday happened. The weather forecast predicted a warm sunny day on Thursday with a high temperature of 72 degrees in Denver. This windfall of mild November weather prodded me to text my Instagram friend, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), and he replied that he was off from work and available to fish on Thursday morning. After a few additional exchanges we agreed to meet in Boulder at 9AM on Thursday morning to sample some urban fishing.

I arrived a bit early, and the timing afforded me an opportunity to realize that I forgot to pack my sunscreen. I had an old backup supply in my fishing backpack, so I extracted it and used up the contents. While I waited for Trevor to arrive, I opened the tailgate, and I was surprised to discover a puddle of water under my fishing bag. Fortunately the bottom of the bag is waterproof, but the start to my fishing day was not very auspicious. I persisted with my preparation after tightening the hose on my hydration bladder, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. As I was doing this, Trevor pulled into the space next to me, and since I knew he required some time to prepare, I decided to knot a fly to my line. I stretched out the tippet to find the end of the line, and I was disappointed to notice a wind knot tucked between two surgeons knots. How can this happen? The cause was irrelevant, and I snipped out the three knots and reattached the end of my leader. Three strikes and you are out. Fortunately I was fly fishing and not playing baseball.

Finally Trevor and I were ready to attack the stream, so we ambled across a patch of lawn to the creek, and we began fishing above a bridge. Trevor began with a buoyant humpy dry fly and a hares ear nymph dropper, and after five minutes of casting, he connected with and landed a nice eight inch brown trout. The creek was in fine condition, and the flows were low but not at a challenging level. I left Trevor in his nice run and moved below the bridge to a very nice deep hole. I cast the beetle upstream and prospected some quality locations for twenty minutes with nothing to show for my efforts. Trevor abandoned his starting point to join me, and I managed to generate a swirl to the beetle as he looked on.

The sight of a surface refusal caused me to reevaluate, and I replaced the beetle with a parachute black ant. This tactic proved successful on many occasions during 2017 particularly in the autumn season. On Thursday, however, the Boulder Creek trout were having none of it. Trevor’s success came from his hares ear dropper, so I borrowed a page from his book and added a RS2 on a two foot dropper. This addition simply increased the number of artificial flies that were ignored by the resident trout.

We decided to move upstream, and we migrated above the bridge and above Trevor’s starting point. Trevor allowed me to inspect his nymphs, and I noted that his size 16 represented a bigger mouthful than my small RS2, so I once again reconfigured. I knotted a hippy stomper with a silver body to my line as the surface fly, and then I added a beadhead hares ear, and a soft hackle emerger. This combination stayed in place for fifteen minutes and resulted in another resounding rejection of my offerings. In a last ditch effort to find a winning combination I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a salvation nymph. My lineup now included the most productive nymphs in my fly box, and I reminded myself that I was playing the percentages.

My luck began to turn in a wide relatively shallow riffle. I tossed the three fly dry/dropper upstream, and as the hippy stomper drifted slowly back through the middle of the riffles it paused, and I reacted with a hook set and stripped in a small brown trout barely over the six inch minimum. It was a small triumph, but after an hour of fruitless casting, I was pleased to land a fish.

Over the remainder of the morning we progressed upstream beyond several bridge crossings, and the fish counter swelled from one to six, before we called it quits at noon. The third fish to find my net was a ten inch brown trout that swirled and refused the hippy stomper on the first drift, but then savagely attacked the same offering on the next pass. Another fish in the ten inch range grabbed the salvation nymph in a deep depression along the left bank. In addition to the six landed fish, I experienced four or five temporary connections, so the action accelerated significantly during the last 1.5 hours of the morning. The juicy deep pools did not yield fish, and I enjoyed much greater success in riffles and runs of moderate depth.

Thursday was a fun day and restored my confidence after a dismal outing on Tuesday on Clear Creek. The high temperature reached 75 degrees in the afternoon, and the pleasant weather in and of itself made the day memorable. Spending a morning with Trevor and catching up on his life was the main purpose of the outing, and that goal was realized. Landing six brown trout in the middle of November was a welcome bonus. The day on Boulder Creek may have been my last of 2017, but the one week forecast remains relatively mild for late autumn. Who knows, I may report on some more urban fishing days. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 6

 

 

Clear Creek – 11/14/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location:  West of Tunnel 6 and then between Tunnel 3 and Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 11/14/2017 Photo Album

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The difference between tailwater streams and freestone streams is accentuated by the cold weather months in Colorado. One day after enjoying a successful outing on South Boulder Creek, a small tailwater along the Front Range, I sampled Clear Creek. Clear Creek is a freestone creek that tumbles from its source near the Eisenhower Tunnel, and the contrast between the two at the same time of the year with similar weather was stark.

I arrived at a parking space along US 6 just west of Tunnel 6 by 12:15, and I immediately devoured my small lunch. The high temperature in Denver on Tuesday was expected to reach 72 degrees, but the dashboard in my car registered 50 as I completed my lunch and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. The narrow canyon was almost completely covered by shadows, and the lack of sun combined with the chilly temperature prompted me to wear my fleece and light down layers. Attired in this manner I was comfortable throughout my 1.5 hours of fishing during the early afternoon. The stream flows were around 44 CFS, and the conditions allowed me to wade fairly easily and to cover both sides of the creek.

Before embarking on my Tuesday afternoon adventure, I read my post from November 14, 2016. I visited Clear Creek on the same date a year prior and landed eight trout. Most of the netted fish were attracted to a hares ear nymph, so on the 2017 revival I elected the same approach. I configured my line with a yellow fat Albert, an ultra zug bug, and a beadhead hares ear; and I began to toss the trio of flies to all the likely pools, deep runs and pockets. I was certain that my focused efforts would secure a few small trout, but after forty minutes of fruitless casting, my confidence tumbled to new lows. In fact during this period of intense concentration, I never witnessed a look or refusal. Generally wading triggers a fish or two to bolt from bank side cover, but even this reaction was lacking on Clear Creek on November 14.

The area west of Tunnel 6 seems to attract more pressure than any other stretch in Clear Creek Canyon, so I concluded that perhaps bait fishermen harvested a proportionately large number of fish from the area. I assumed that general state fishing regulations applied to the length of Clear Creek Canyon. With this thought firmly planted in my brain, I elected to crest the steep bank, and I returned to the car and drove to a pullout halfway between Mayhem Gulch and Tunnel 3. This area was slightly upstream from the section that yielded eight trout on the same date a year ago. Surely the same tactics that worked then would salvage my day.

I carefully negotiated the steep snow covered path to reach the edge of the creek, and I resumed my rapid searching method for another fifty minutes. The canyon in this area was even narrower than my first stop, and quite a bit of snow remained on the large rocks that bordered the stream. I focused on deep slow moving sections, and I executed some nice long downstream drifts along the opposite bank, but once again I was convinced that Clear Creek was barren of fish of any sort. By 2:30 I was chilled and bored, and I scaled the bank and returned to the car and shed my gear. I never saw a fish during 1.5 hours of fishing in two locations, and I attributed this to the cold water temperatures from early snow melt, or perhaps the brown trout continued their spawning ritual.

Two positive conclusions resulted from my 1.5 hours on Clear Creek on November 14. I stopped for gas and fulled my tank on my way to the stream, and I eliminated Clear Creek from my list of possible fishing destinations until the spring of 2018.

Fish Landed: 0

 

South Boulder Creek – 11/13/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/13/2017 Photo Album

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Jane and I returned from four fabulous days in Moab on Saturday, November 11, and I noted that the weather forecast predicted a high of 69 in Denver on Monday, November 13. I thoroughly enjoyed four days of hiking and cycling in the Utah canyons, but I also missed my frequent weekly fly fishing adventures. An abnormally warm day in the middle of November in Colorado was too much to pass up.

The time changed on November 5, and consequently I planned an earlier start to my fishing day. Prior to the time change, the prime period for fly fishing was 11AM until 3PM, so with a one hour fall back, the ideal time shifted to 10AM until 2PM. I departed the house at 7:45AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the kayak parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 9AM. I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders. The temperature was around fifty degrees, so I tied my fleece cardigan around my waist and under my waders. I knew I would overheat on the hike to the stream, if I wore the fleece, but I desired the insurance of an extra layer in case I fished in the shadows of the canyon walls.

Two cars were already parked in the lot, but I never encountered another fisherman during my entry walk. After a decent hike from the parking lot I cut down to the stream and began my quest for South Boulder Creek trout. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line for the trek to the creek, and it remained on my line for the first three hours of fishing. The section that served as my entry point was mostly in sunshine with only five feet along the left bank covered by shadows.

The stream flows were 15.8 CFS, and this level is below ideal, but adequate for enjoyable fly fishing. My outing on 10/17/2017 was strong testimony that excellent fly fishing was available on South Boulder Creek at low flows. I prospected some very attractive water in the first fifteen minutes with no reward for my efforts, but then I lobbed a cast in the shadows in a deep run along the left bank. I was unable to follow the beetle, but a sudden swirl where I estimated my fly to be evoked a quick hook set, and after a short battle I guided a deep olive-colored eleven inch brown trout into my net. I was pleased to register my first fish of the day.

I moved on and landed a second brown, but the catch rate lagged my expectations, so I made an adjustment and added a size 20 RS2 on a two foot dropper. The addition was a solid move, and when I stopped for lunch, the fish count paused at eight including one rainbow and the remainder browns. Two of the netted fish favored the RS2, and six savored Jake’s gulp beetle.

While eating lunch on a large rock bathed in sunlight high above the creek, I observed quite a few small stoneflies, as they fluttered in the streaming beams of sun next to two large evergreen trees. After lunch I persisted with the foam beetle and RS2 combination for a bit, and the RS2 delivered a third trout to my net. My results were decent, but I approached a nice pool and observed several fish rising, so I decided to once again change my tactics. I swapped the RS2 for a size 20 soft hackle emerger with no bead. I applied a thick coat of Gink floatant to the body and fished the emerger in the surface film. I was hoping that the small emerger would cover two bases; blue winged olives and small gray stoneflies.

The foam beetle and bwo emerger tandem enabled the fish count to elevate to twelve by 1:30, and two landed trout devoured the emerger. It was gratifying to receive some positive feedback on my greased emerger ploy. At the twelve fish milestone I could attribute three to the RS2, two to the soft hackle emerger, and the remaining seven slurped the beetle. I was rather pleased with my twelve fish day in the middle of November, and I settled on a two o’clock quit time, as the shadows lengthened over the stream.

Just as thoughts of quitting crossed my mind, I noted a pair of fairly large mayflies, as they slowly floated up from the surface of the creek. On my last visit to South Boulder Creek I experienced decent success with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun, so I copied the move and knotted a pale morning dun imitation to my line. I was situated along the right bank above a gorgeous deep run that fanned into a nice deep pool. I began presenting the comparadun on downstream drifts by checking my cast high and fluttered the single dry to the seam at the top of the run. On four successive casts a very respectable rainbow emerged and hovered beneath the mayfly, but on each drift it resisted the temptation to sip the fraud.

I opted to employ my usual tactic in response to refusals, and I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line. Unfortunately on this occasion, downsizing was not the answer, and the rainbow never budged from its hidden lie to inspect the smaller offering. Perhaps size was not the issue? I pondered the situation and decided to test a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. A tan body would have been preferable, since the cinnamon color of the comparadun seemed to attract attention, but light gray was the best I could do.

It was one of those situations where making do paid off. During the remainder of my time on the water I added nine trout to the fish count and ended the day at twenty-one. In many cases the first cast to a likely pocket or pool elicited a confident slurp. Several times I watched as a brown trout darted two or three feet to snatch the small drifting caddis adult. I am always amazed by how fast a trout can snatch a piece of food from the surface.

A few minutes before 3PM I reached a convenient point to step out of the water. The path was within a few feet of the bank, so I began the return hike to the car. The sun was now positioned quite low in the western sky, and the entire stream was shrouded in shadows. The temperature dipped noticeably, but my quick strides warmed my body. When I started the car, I checked the dashboard thermometer, and I was surprised to see a reading of 51 degrees.

Monday was a very enjoyable day on South Boulder Creek. I landed twenty-one trout, and sixteen fell for a dry fly. I was quite pleased to experience a twenty fish day on November 13, and I plan to take advantage of any additional unseasonably mild weather breaks.

Landed Fish: 21

 

Clear Creek – 11/03/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 6

Clear Creek 11/03/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Not all fishing days are created equal. Friday was a stark reminder of the truth of that statement. A second overstated weather forecast lured me into a trip to the western section of Clear Creek Canyon. The temperature in Denver as I drove west at 11AM was 41 degrees, and I based my decision to fish on a projected high of sixty degrees in Idaho Springs. Could the meteorologists be accurate? Amazingly by the time I entered the eastern end of Clear Creek Canyon, the dashboard temperature elevated to 49 degrees; and when I backed into a parking space on the eastern side of Tunnel 6, I was basking in the comfort of 55 degrees. The air temperature seemed to be rising, as one traveled west and gained elevation. It was a peculiar weather phenomenon.

South Boulder Creek on Thursday provided a splendid outing especially for early November, but I ratcheted down my expectations for Clear Creek. Flows were in the ideal range at 55 CFS, but I was concerned that the trout would be preoccupied with procreation given the predominant presence of brown trout. Since my arrival coincided with my normal lunch time, I remained in the car and chowed down on my sandwich, garden-raised carrot and Greek yogurt. With the matter of nourishment out of the way I pulled on my waders and set up my Orvis Access four weight. A well worn path led me down a hill from the parking area to the edge of a long featureless pool.

Jake’s gulp beetle was favored by Clear Creek trout in previous autumns and in a few earlier outings in 2017, so I knotted a size 12 version to my line, and I began to cast directly upstream along the left bank. I might as well have been floating leaves in the creek, because no trout stirred or revealed their presence. When I reached the top of the long pool, I made some across and down drifts, and finally a small brown trout elevated and pressed its nose against the beetle and firmly rejected my offering. I was disappointed, but at least I located a fish to target. I sensed that Friday was not going to be a day of fast action, so I decided to focus on this fish, and I exchanged the beetle for a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. Negative. The fish never even bothered to rise to inspect the small terrestrial.

I finally surrendered and moved to the next section, which was characterized by a series of fast chutes and short pockets. Presenting the small ant in these turbulent conditions caused my confidence to sink, so I returned to the Jake’s gulp beetle, although this time I added a three foot dropper and tied a flashback baetis nymph to the end. Near the top of the cascading pocket water section a larger shelf pool appeared, and I lobbed the two fly combination to the left side of the fast current. On the fourth drift a fish refused the beetle, but on the next drift I lifted the flies near the scene of the rejection, and a barely six inch brown trout nabbed the trailing nymph. Hooray, I was on the scoreboard on November 3.

I was now on the north side of the oxbow bend, where the stream curves around the mountain that was pierced by Tunnel 6, and shadows extended over the entire width of the creek. I began executing across and downstream drifts of the beetle and nymph in slack water areas along the far bank, and I managed to generate one more refusal to the foam beetle. When I emerged from the shadows near the western portion of the bend, I encountered another section with fast shallow water, and I skipped this stretch and ambled westward until I was below US 6. A group of female rock climbers were clustered at the base of the rock edifice on my left before I reached the highway.

I scanned the stream ahead of me, and I spotted a spectacular pool that stood out due to the aqua color of the slow moving water. A smaller pool was situated just below the granddaddy of holes, so I prospected it first, but it offered no proof that trout called it home. I decided to go for the big boy, and I carefully approached the bluish-hued hole. As I paused to observe, I spotted three dark shadows that hovered just off to the left of the curling main current. The fish closest to the lip of the pool maintained a position near the surface, so I targeted it for my casts. Surely I could entice one of these active feeders to consume one of my delectable creations. I began with the beetle, and the visible trout slowly elevated, pressed its nose against my fly, and then sank back to its holding position. Drat, that was not the desired outcome from my effort.

Rather than disturb the pool with more casts, I resorted to swapping the beetle for an ant. Alas, five drifts of the ant generated yet another rejection from the trout closest to the lip of the pool. I paused and observed again, and I thought I noticed some tiny blue winged olives. Of course, I thought to myself, there was a sparse BWO hatch in progress, and one of my CDC olives would finally unlock their jaws. The ant came off my line, and a size 22 CDC blue winged olive replaced it. I fired some nice casts to the edge of the current seam, checked my rod high and fluttered the tiny mayfly down to the surface. The blue winged olive failed to induce even a look, and the constant motion of my casting caused the visible fish to flee out of sight. In addition to my inability to find the right fly to fool the trout, another factor came into play. The wind began to gust in fierce bursts, and my casts morphed into random efforts with the fly landing only a few feet in front of my feet. The whole scene reminded me of tossing dandelion seeds into the wind.

I was once again in the shadows, and my hands were beginning to stiffen. My confidence was a smidgen above zero, so I decided to end my frustration and called it a day. I hiked back on a nice trail above the creek and welcomed the shelter of my car. Why was I able to land only one small brown trout on Friday, November 3? I blamed it on the spawning process. I did not observe any spawning beds or see actively spawning fish, but it is rare to visit Clear Creek and not see much more evidence of the presence of fish. One six inch fish on November 3 was a notable accomplishment.

Fish Landed: 1

South Boulder Creek – 11/02/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/02/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Fishing with cold hands is not fun, but that is one of the conditions I endured on Thursday, November 2, 2017. I could not resist the temptation to fish for a second day in a row, when I noted a weather forecast with high temperatures peaking around seventy degrees in Denver, CO. I reviewed the usual assortment of front range destinations, and I was pleased to learn that Denver Water boosted the outflows from Gross Reservoir from a trickle of 9.3 CFS to 16.7 CFS. During September I enjoyed some robust action at 15 and 13 CFS, so I decided to make the short drive to the parking area below Gross Dam. The high temperature at Pinecliffe just west of my chosen fishing spot was projected to reach 54 degrees.

Unfortunately my path to fly fishing incorporated the stretch of highway named Interstate 270. Inevitably the section between Interstate 70 and Colorado Boulevard requires stuttering along in bumper to bumper traffic, and Thursday was not an exception. I maneuvered into the left lane and progressed slowly in fits and starts, and during one of the stalled periods I was surprised by a thwacking sound, as my car lurched forward for an instant after the impact. I quickly steered the Santa Fe on to the left shoulder and opened the car door to determine the cause of this sudden interruption of my progress toward fly fishing. A woman exited the car behind me, and she quickly announced that it was not her fault. Another car was parked along the shoulder behind her, and the driver was surveying the situation. Apparently the young driver of the rear automobile failed to stop in time and smacked the woman next in line, and her car smacked into the bumper of my vehicle.

I quickly examined the rear of my car, opened the hatch and pushed on the trailer hitch. Everything seemed to be in working order, and all I could find was a small deep scratch on top of the bumper. I was hesitant to leave in case some non readily visible damage lurked, so I began collecting contact information from the other two drivers. Vanessa was the driver of the sandwiched vehicle, and she immediately dialed 911 and asked for the police. This made sense, since the rear of her vehicle suffered the most damage. Gerardo, the driver of the rear most car, meanwhile paced about in a white T-shirt. I approached him and obtained his key information, while he shivered almost uncontrollably. It was not clear if his condition resulted from shock or being attired in a short sleeved shirt in 35 degree temperatures.

As this scene evolved I heard sirens, and an ambulance and fire truck rushed through traffic on the eastbound lane. Within minutes the emergency vehicles exited the eastbound lanes, crossed the highway and proceeded west until they reached our little impromptu gathering. The ambulance parked in the left lane in front of my car, and the fire truck angled and blocked the left lane behind the rear vehicle. The first responders approached each occupant of the three vehicles and asked our conditions. Vanessa accompanied the female medical professional to the ambulance, and the passenger in Gerardo’s vehicle joined her.

We waited impatiently for another twenty minutes, as a large traffic jam developed in the one remaining westbound lane. Finally a Commerce City patrol car pulled over ahead of the fire truck and an officer emerged. He collected driver’s licenses, registration and insurance cards from each of the drivers and returned to his patrol car. Vanessa and I began chatting, and she asserted that Gerardo reeked of marijuana. Finally the officer returned and spoke to Vanessa and I together. He gave us a card with the traffic report number and his contact information, and he informed us that the rear driver was at fault and would be fined. We could use the police trip report, if we filed an insurance claim, and we were free to go.

Forty-five minutes after being struck, I was once again on my way to South Boulder Creek. I arrived in the kayak parking lot at 11AM, and after I pulled on my waders and strung my Orvis Access four weight, I hit the trail by 11:20. I descended to the stream below the dam and hiked a good ways downstream. The flows were indeed higher than my last visit at 9.3 CFS, but the stream level remained on the low side compared to ideal conditions. The temperature in the parking lot was in the upper thirties, and consequently I wore my light down coat and hat with ear flaps.

Once I reached my designated entry point, I unzipped my backpack and pulled out my lunch and ate while observing some nice deep pools in front of me. No aquatic insects revealed themselves, so I decided to begin my day with a parachute black ant with a pink wing post. The ant has been a hot fly for me during the autumn season of 2017 on front range streams. I prospected the ant through two delightful sections with deep slow moving pools, and the terrestrial imitation failed to draw even a slight amount of interest.

I reeled up my line and decided to swap the ant for a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. The change proved fortuitous, and a fat thirteen inch rainbow surged to the surface and crushed it at the tail of a gorgeous deep pool. This was my first fish of the day and likely the longest to find my net. I continued on my upstream path and landed four more trout on the beetle, although I sensed that some quality areas contained fish but did not produce. In an effort to increase my chances, I added a three foot dropper and knotted a size 20 beadhead RS2 to the extension. These two flies occupied my line for the next 2.5 hours, and they were very effective. I nudged the fish counter to twenty, and most of the fish between four and twenty snatched the beetle. However, between two o’clock and three o’clock the RS2 caught fire, and six trout nipped the small baetis nymph on the lift or as it tumbled behind the beetle. I nearly removed the trailing nymph, as it created moderate tangles on several occasions, when fish smacked the surface beetle. I was rewarded for persistence, as the fans of the RS2 were some of the larger brown trout landed during the day.

By 3PM the shadows extended over nearly the entire creek, and my hands were stinging from the evaporation and intermittent breeze. I was about to call it quits in order to initiate the exit hike, but then I spied three large mayflies. It was refreshing to see a mayfly that dwarfed the tiny blue winged olives that dominated my recent dry fly fishing, and I guessed that the bugs that tumbled across the surface were extremely lagging pale morning duns. They seemed to have a pink hue to their bodies, although they bounced along the surface in a haphazard manner making color determination a difficult chore.

I delayed my departure and decided to experiment with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. Could I catch trout on November 2 on a pale morning dun imitation? PMD’s typically hatch from mid-June until mid-July in freestone streams in Colorado, although they are prevalent in tailwaters during August and September. I followed through on my plan and began casting the comparadun to all the likely pools. Positioning was now critical, as the sun was low in the western sky, and this created severe glare depending on the angle of my view. I moved to the right bank and adopted the practice of making across and downstream drifts, and the fish responded. I landed eight additional trout between 3PM and 4PM, and the South Boulder Creek residents smacked the comparadun with absolute confidence. I recall one or two refusals, but in most cases a fish shot through the water and inhaled the low riding dun on the first cast to a pool or pocket. Pale morning dun dry fly fishing was an enjoyable way to spend the last hour of my day on South Boulder Creek.

Finally at 4PM the temperature dropped, and I reeled up my line and tucked the PMD into my rod guide. A twenty-eight fish day on November 2 was a satisfying accomplishment. My hands grew stiff and began to resemble fleshy claws, so I climbed the rocky bank and ambled pack to the parking lot. I was fortunate to escape a fender bender without damage or bodily injury, and I managed to post a fine day of fly fishing in November. Not bad.

Fish Landed: 28

Eagle River – 11/01/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards.

Eagle River 11/01/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

True to character I sought an opportunity to return to the Eagle River after a successful late season adventure on October 25, 2017. The weather forecast for Tuesday, November 1 indicated a high temperature in the low seventies in Denver, and this translated to a high in the upper fifties in Avon, CO near my intended destination. I loaded the car with my gear and contacted my friend Todd, who lives in Arrowhead, and I anxiously anticipated a late season foray into the Rocky Mountains. Todd agreed to meet me, although he had a commitment at ten o’clock and suggested that he would find me later.

As I completed some last minute preparations on Tuesday morning, Jane perused the Denver Post, and she announced that there was a high wind advisory on interstate 70. I quickly followed up on this unwelcome piece of news, and sure enough wind velocities of 19 MPH were forecast for Avon. I decided to roll the dice and persisted with my plans.

When I approached the long ascent west of Denver on interstate 70, I was greeted with digital signs announcing high wind restrictions on high profile vehicles, and quite a few tractors and trailers were lined up at the Morrison exit as well as the Hidden Valley exit before Idaho Springs. When I reached Georgetown, I scanned ahead, and I was alerted by flashing police lights. Just prior to the exit ramp to Georgetown a large tractor/trailer rig was situated on its side, as it was apparently the unfortunate victim of high winds, and this unfortunate scene served as a warning to the other impatient high profile vehicles in the area.

I pressed on and arrived at my destination just before 10AM, and I borrowed a page from Todd and rigged two rods for my quest for Eagle River trout. During our visit the previous week we stayed in a relatively tight area, so I was reassured that it would not be a hindrance to carry two rods; and I liked the flexibility of being able to quickly switch from a nymph approach to dry flies, should a hatch develop similar to the previous Wednesday.

The temperature in Avon at 10AM was in the middle forties, and the wind made its presence felt with periodic strong gusts, and consequently I bundled up with a layer of fleece and an outer coat of light down. I tugged my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps on my head and wore two layers of long underwear and socks under my waders. To guard against frozen toes, I added toe warmers to my ensemble.

My Sage One five weight was rigged with the deep nymphing system that Taylor Edrington taught me. A short section of 0X ran from the fly line loop to a Thingamabobber, and a five foot section of level 5X was knotted to the indicator as well. The terminal end of the 5X featured a split shot, ultra zug bug, and RS2, and I began chucking this assemblage into the deep run at the upper section of a long attractive pool. I spent an hour from 11AM until noon prospecting the upper and middle section of the area, which I knew contained plenty of trout, but none were interested in my flies. My hands grew chilled from the cold temperatures and the wind, so I decided to pause for lunch and found a large boulder near the midsection and downed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

Just as I finished my snack, Todd appeared on the path, and he immediately jumped into the upper section with his nymph rod. I lingered a bit longer to bask in the sun and eliminate my chill, and then I decided to explore a wide riffle just below the jumble of angled rocks that formed the downstream border of the pool. I switched my flies to a copper john and RS2, and I began lobbing casts to the three foot deep area above me. I covered the section with ten casts, and then before departing, I shot a cast to the deep portion just under the rocks near the right bank. The indicator drifted five feet, and I raised the rod to pick up the line, when I felt significant weight. I reacted with an immediate hook set, and a bullet shot across the riffles toward the center of the river and then streaked downstream.

After some stiff resistance I was able to guide a fifteen inch rainbow trout with a copper john in its lip into my net. Imagine my excitement and surprise after over an hour of futile casting with the nymph set up! After I released the rainbow, I lobbed another cast to the same area, and I was very surprised, when I once again connected with a throbbing resistance. In this instance, however, the stream resident was able to free itself from my hook and escape.

Bursting with new optimism I circled around Todd and moved to some deep pockets above the pool he occupied. I covered the area thoroughly and managed to foul hook a small rainbow, before I returned. I asked Todd for a report, and he offered that he landed thirteen and nine inch rainbows, and he observed some rising fish in the slack water next to the bank across from his position.

I decided to warm up a bit, and then I grabbed my Sage four weight and waded to a position at the bottom of the pool. As I looked on, I witnessed several rises in water with a slight swirling surface. My line featured a size 24 CDC olive, so I began to cast it upstream to the area of activity, but these efforts were ignored. The wind continued to blast, but fortunately it was blowing from the west and provided a tailwind to my casts. I swapped the tiny olive for a size 18 black parachute ant, and I spent twenty minutes drifting the terrestrial through the scene of rising fish, but except for one heart stopping swirling refusal, the ant was unproductive.

The rising activity seemed to come in waves probably related to the emergence of tiny mayflies. During the next pause in feeding activity, I waded back to the shore and warmed my feet and body. When I returned, I reverted to a larger CDC BWO, and after a heavy dose of futile casting, I managed to tempt a twelve inch brown trout to attack my fly, as I gave it a short strip before lifting to make another cast. As was the case on Thursday, October 26 on the Frying Pan River, the trout seemed to be feeding on subsurface emergers, and they were not focused on drifting adults.

I pondered this theory and decided to try a different approach. I knotted a juju baetis to my line, and below that I added a Craven soft hackle emerger. I executed across and downstream drifts, swings and strips in the manner of accomplished wet fly experts, but my efforts were once again thwarted by the Eagle River residents. I never felt a tug nor witnessed a bulge to my unweighted flies, as they knifed through the water just below the surface.

Again I returned to the bank and pondered my options. Todd enjoyed one hook up with a beetle, so I copied his tactic and tied a Jake’s gulp beetle size 12 to my line, and then I supplemented it with a Craven soft hackle emerger on an eighteen inch dropper. I dabbed some floatant on the body of the emerger, and as a test I flicked the two flies into a slow moving section across from where I was standing, and an eleven inch rainbow darted to the surface and confidently inhaled the trailing fly. Perhaps I was on to something. I returned to my position at the tail of the pool and once again began making medium range upstream presentations to the cluster of feeding fish. It required a significant number of unproductive drifts, but eventually I induced a fourteen inch rainbow to snatch the trailing emerger, and the fish count mounted to four.

Two takes on the emerger elevated my hopes, but another thirty minutes of fruitless casting cured me of optimism, and I shuffled back to the bank. Todd by now surrendered to the wind and picky fish, and I joined him, as we grabbed our two rods and hiked back to our cars. I overcame tough conditions on Tuesday to land four trout including two very nice rainbows of fifteen and fourteen inches. The Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film accounted for half the fish, and I vowed to tie some size 22’s before next season to test during a blue winged olive emergence during windy conditions.

Fish Landed: 4

Frying Pan River – 10/26/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Within one mile of Reudi Dam.

Frying Pan River 10/26/2017 Photo Album

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I reviewed the stream flows on other rivers within a reasonable driving distance from Bachelor Gulch, and I discovered that the Frying Pan River was trickling out of Reudi Reservoir at 81 CFS. Another possibility was the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir, and the DWR site reported flows there of 41 CFS. I never fished the Frying Pan at volumes below 100 CFS, so I browsed the Taylor Creek web site. The report indicated that pale morning duns and blue winged olives were emerging, and this convinced me to make the tailwater east of Basalt, CO my fishing destination on October 26.

I asked my fishing companion of Wednesday, Todd, whether he cared to join, and he enthusiastically agreed and volunteered to drive. Todd picked me up at the Timbers at Bachelor Gulch on Thursday morning at 8:30AM, and we completed the drive to the upper one mile section below Reudi Dam by 10:15. The temperature was around fifty degrees when we began casting our flies at 10:30, and it never climbed above 55 during our day on the river. Intermittent gusts of strong wind made casting difficult especially during the afternoon. The flows were indeed lower than I ever witnessed at 88 CFS, and a constant stream of green scum attacked our fly lines and flies throughout the day. Removing the green algae with cold hands was an annoyance that we could have done without.

Todd parked his Denali at the parking lot next to a bathroom and picnic area below the dam, and we began fishing in a long slow moving pool. I knotted a stimulator with a tan body to my line, and then I added a dropper with a zebra midge. I noticed three splashy rises in the early going, but I covered the entire pool without a look, refusal or take. Upon completion of the pool search, I reversed my course and prospected some runs and pockets of moderate depth, but again my efforts were futile. Todd returned from his pursuit in some flats upstream and reported a similar lack of success, so we drove downstream and parked by the first bridge below the dam.

It was now 11:30, and I flicked a few casts in a short deep run above the bridge, but again I was not rewarded for my persistence. Todd positioned himself at the bottom of the large pool just above the bridge, and I decided to explore some long pockets along the left bank and just above the pool that Todd was prospecting. I crossed the bridge and walked up the dirt road to my new target area. After a few ineffective casts of the stimulator, I decided to shift gears; and I moved to a Chernobyl ant, beadhead salvation nymph, and a RS2. The conversion paid off when an eight inch brown trout nipped the RS2, and a fourteen inch rainbow snatched the salvation. Both trout grabbed my flies deep in the V where two currents merged. In the next pool above the V run I nicked a fish, as it probably latched on to the RS2. After connecting with a pair of fish I was more optimistic about my day, as I returned to the car, and then Todd and I consumed our lunches.

After lunch I decided to explore the left side of the large pool that Todd sampled before lunch. When I approached the narrow shelf pool along the left bank, I observed three nice trout along the strong current seam eight feet away. Two fish elevated to inspect the Chernobyl, but they would not commit to eat. After ten minutes of fruitless casting, I spotted numerous rises throughout the wide pool. I took the plunge and replaced the dry/dropper with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive, the same fly that helped me record a spectacular day on the Eagle River on Wednesday. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast various sizes of CDC BWO’s to rising fish; and the best I could manage was one foul hooked rainbow, a couple temporary hook ups, and a bunch of refusals.

In addition to the CDC BWO I mixed in four different colors and sizes of caddis, a size 20 soft hackle emerger, and a Jake’s gulp beetle. The baetis hatch came in waves. When the clouds blocked the sun, BWO’s emerged, and a flurry of fish activity ensued. The return of sunshine and strong gusts of wind caused a suspension of the emergence. It appeared to Todd and I that the trout were snatching emergers just below the surface. I watched many dorsal fins break the surface, and frequently the sides of fish flashed, as they shifted to intercept an emerger.

By 3:30 some gray clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped, the wind acceleratied, and the surface rises ceased. This combination of conditions motivated us to reel up our lines, as we called it a day. Thursday was a disappointment, although we were fortunate to encounter a steady hatch of baetis for at least three hours. We had our opportunity but could not solve the puzzle and convert the presence of a large number of feeding fish into success. This experience has me contemplating tying blue winged olive emerger patterns this winter.

Fish Landed: 2

Eagle River – 10/25/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Edwards and Avon

Eagle River 10/25/2017 Photo Album

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Jane’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law graciously offered us use of their time share unit in the Timbers Resort at Bachelor Gulch for the week of October 21 through October 28. As expected we jumped at the opportunity to stay at this luxury resort next to the Ritz Carlton near Beaver Creek Ski Area. Early in the week Jane and I participated in hiking and cycling activities with our friends the Maddox’s, and on Tuesday I earned spouse points by hiking the Game Creek Trail with Jane. Actually the trek was very enjoyable, and we reached the western end of the Eagle’s Nest Ridge, where we could see Game Creek Bowl and the start of the Minturn Mile ski trail.

Wednesday was my first of two allotted days for fly fishing, and fortunately the weather cooperated with the best conditions of the week. The high temperature in Avon was in the seventies, and I was quite pleased with this circumstance. Knowing that a day of fishing was on my schedule, I contacted my fishing friend Todd, who lives in Arrowhead, and he agreed to join me. We arranged to meet at the Fly Fishing Outfitters shop near Avon at 10AM, and the rendezvous occurred without a hitch.

Todd led the way, and I followed, and we both drove a short distance and parked and prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature hovered around 45 degrees, and we added a few layers; but Todd suggested a relatively early start, as the area was very popular with guides and their clients. I assembled my Sage four weight, and Todd waited patiently, since his rods remained perpetually strung due to the proximity of his house to the river. We followed a path for a short distance, and this brought us to the destination that Todd chose for our day of fishing. Since Todd was already rigged with his nymph rod, he moved into the upper one-third of a nice long riffle, run and pool section of the river. I meanwhile extended my leader and then tied a size 14 tan stimulator to my line and added a size 20 RS2 and a zebra midge on a three foot dropper. I waded into the shallow shelf pool at the tail and began to sling probing casts to the slow moving bubble line.

I continued this approach for thirty minutes with no action, but I did observe three rises spaced over the half hour time period, and this provided proof of the presence of fish in the area. I switched to a Jake’s gulp beetle with the hope that the stream residents were open to a terrestrial, but this approach was equally ineffective. Todd meanwhile connected with two or three decent fish while drifting his nymphs through the faster upper riffle segment of the quality pool. I took a break to warm my feet, and then I copied Todd’s lead and rigged with a deep nymph set up. The initial offerings were a beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug, and after a reasonable trial period, I switched the ultra zug bug for a RS2. None of these changes created success, so I circled around Todd to some pocket water above the pool, and eventually I sampled a similar faster section below the lip at the bottom. In a wide but moderate depth pocket above Todd I spotted a trout, and it moved to look at my nymphs, but that was the only evidence of fish during the hour before lunch.

When I returned to the main pool, it was noon, so I decided to warm my feet. I sat on a large boulder next to the river in the warmth of the sun and casually downed my lunch. Todd joined me, and after we finished eating, we chatted for another fifteen minutes, while we observed the water in front of us, and I allowed my frozen toes to thaw. While we scanned the pool, several fish began to rise between the middle and tail sections in slow water next to the far bank.

Eventually I felt warm enough to resume my pursuit of Eagle River trout, and I removed my nymph paraphenalia and tied a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast to rising fish in the bottom one-third of the pool. During the first two afternoon hours I executed across stream casts and presented the small dry fly in a downstream approach. This method yielded a twelve inch brown trout and two hot rainbows, with the third trout measuring sixteen inches. Todd was quite pleased with my ability to fool the finicky feeders that thwarted his efforts, so he invited me to target a pod of risers near the top of the run in some slow water between two exposed rocks.

This area was shrouded in shadows, and I could not follow my tiny tuft of CDC in the dim light. I offered Todd one of my CDC olives, and he accepted, and then I returned to the bottom area of the pool once again. Another thirteen inch rainbow trout fell for the CDC BWO, and then after a lull in action and numerous ignored drifts, I waded to the very bottom of the pool just above the angled jumble of rocks, where the river spilled into a shallow riffle. A few fish were feeding at the extreme tail, and I desired a change in casting angles.

For the first time all day I began casting upstream, and in doing so I added three more trout to my count to reach seven. One of the landed fish was another twelve inch brown, and two were feisty rainbows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. Needless to say I was having a blast on October 25!

By 3:30 the number of rising fish in the lower third of the pool diminished, so I moved to the area between the exposed rocks for a second go round. The sun was now behind me, and this provided improved lighting compared to my first visit in the early afternoon. I made ten casts to the middle and lower portion of the twenty foot area, but I could not convert the rises to strikes. Next I waded above the bottom boulder and fired some longer casts to the scene of regular rises next to and slightly below the top boulder. On the fifth drift a thirteen inch rainbow with vivid colors bulged to the surface and inhaled the CDC olive. This transpired while Todd looked on, and he was sold on the effectiveness of the CDC blue winged olive fly. What a day!

I landed eight gorgeous trout on October 25 on the Eagle River. The weather blossomed into a beautiful fall day after a very chilly morning, and I fished to rising fish from 12:30, until I quit at four o’clock. Best of all, the fish count included two twelve inch browns and six rainbows in excess of thirteen inches with the largest stretching to sixteen. Todd enjoyed a similar outing, and it was great fun to have a dedicated fishing companion. October 25 far exceeded my expectations for a late season fishing adventure.

Fish Landed: 8

 

 

Clear Creek – 10/20/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 5 and 6

Clear Creek 10/20/2017 Photo Album

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In two hours of fishing on Monday on Clear Creek I landed seven trout. A return trip was in order, and temperatures were projected to spike at eighty degrees in Denver on Friday, October 20. This windfall of summer-like weather motivated me to make the short drive to the western end of Clear Creek Canyon. I arrived at the parking lot just west of Tunnel 5 by 10:45AM; however, the lot was full, so I exited and parked along the highway a short distance to the west.

After I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and climbed into my waders, I was on my way, and I followed the Peaks to Plains Trail around the oxbow until I reached the point where I exited on Monday. I had unfinished business, and I began my quest for trout by 11AM. On Monday I enjoyed success with a Jake’s gulp beetle, so I knotted one to my line on Friday and began to prospect the deep pockets that existed mainly along the left bank.

After thirty minutes of fruitless casting and wading I paused to eat my lunch on some sunny rocks, and I lamented my lack of action. It was already obvious that the catch rate would probably lag the pace of my previous visit to Clear Creek. Just prior to my lunch break, I waded across the creek at a wide relatively shallow riffle section, and while casting upstream to a moderate riffle, I spotted two decent fish. I interrupted my pursuit of trout to observe, and I noticed that the two fish were rubbing against each other and generally frolicking about at the tail of the shallow area. I surmised that I was viewing some amorous activity, and the brown trout spawn was in progress. Not wishing to interrupt their procreation, I returned to the bank below the path and consumed my modest lunch.

Shortly after I resumed fishing at 12:15, I plopped the beetle into some moderate riffles directly above my position, and I was surprised when a fish elevated and inspected my fly. Unfortunately the stream inhabitant chose not to eat and only inspected. Sensing that I would not have many opportunities to sight fish on this day, I decided to focus on the fish that revealed its position to my observant eyes. I swapped the beetle for a parachute black ant with a pink wing post. The first cast went unmolested, but the second pass floated directly over the place where the trout inspected the beetle, and this time the rainbow could not resist the black ant. I quickly raised the rod tip and connected with an eleven inch rainbow trout, and I snapped a photo in case it was my first and last fish on the day.

I settled on the bait and switch routine as my preferred approach on Friday, and I cut off the ant and returned the beetle to the end of my tippet. I prospected with the larger foam attractor fly with the expectation of once again switching to the ant, if I observed another look or refusal. When I reached the bend I encountered some nice wide deep pockets, and I employed the across and down approach that yielded seven trout on Monday. I was very pleased, when I executed a reach cast to a pocket fifteen feet across from me, and just as the beetle was about to accelerate over the lip at the tail, another rainbow trout surface and slurped the foam terrestrial.

After I released the second rainbow, I continued my upstream progression, and I searched for additional locations suitable for the across and down drift technique. Several appeared, but I was unable to repeat the earlier success, and by 2:30 I was positioned just below the parking lot at the end of the Peak to Plains Trail. I climbed up the steep rocky embankment and tossed my gear in the Santa Fe and drove west beyond Tunnel 6. I chose this spot because I recalled landing a disproportionate number of rainbow trout there in 2016. It was clear to me that the brown trout spawn was in progress, and rainbow trout were more apt to be in a feeding mindset on this warm autumn day.

The move paid off to some degree, as I added three more small trout to the fish count in the last hour of fishing. One of the netted fish sipped the ant on an across and downstream drift, and the other two fell for a similar presentation of Jake’s gulp beetle. Surprisingly two of the victims near Tunnel 6 were brown trout, and one was another eleven inch rainbow trout. I bumped into two other anglers positioned next to prime deep holes, and I was between them and restricted in my movement for my last hour. For this reason I decided to quit at 3:30 rather than drive to yet another location on Clear Creek.

The weather was glorious for October 20, and I managed to fool five trout. I executed the same across and down drifts that yielded success on Monday, and achieved similar success. Jake’s gulp beetle was the leading character in the fly fishing play, but the black parachute ant played a key supporting role. The trout population of Clear Creek is probably ninety percent brown trout, so landing five trout while the spawning ritual was in full swing was a significant accomplishment.

Fish Landed: 5

South Boulder Creek – 10/19/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/19/2017 Photo Album

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The weather on Thursday, October 19 was similar to Tuesday on South Boulder Creek, but that is where the similarities end. After a spectacular October outing on Tuesday, I could barely contain my desire to return immediately. Unfortunately on Wednesday I scheduled a minor surgical procedure in the morning, and that event precluded a day of fishing despite a continuing string of pleasant weather. The doctor cautioned me about running or doing activities that raised my blood pressure, but when I asked about walking, he approved. According to my thought process fishing is less strenuous than walking, so I planned another visit to South Boulder Creek.

I arrived at the Kayak parking lot at 9:45 and departed for the stream by 10AM. My Santa Fe was the sole vehicle occupying the lot, so I was assured of having the entire stream to myself for some period of time. The air temperature was 55 degrees, as I rigged my Orvis Access four weight, and I was convinced that the sun would provide enough warmth to allow fishing without an outer layer. Given the lack of competing anglers and in deference to my surgery, I did not hike as far as I did on Tuesday, and this enabled me to wade in the creek with a red hippy stomper on my line by 10:30AM.

According to the DWR stream flows, South Boulder Creek was trickling from Gross Dam at 9.33 CFS. I find it interesting that Denver Water carries out the flows to two decimal places, when the reading drops to single digits. By comparison the flows on Tuesday were 10.8 CFS. When I decided to make the trip to South Boulder Creek, I discounted the 1.5 CFS change, but now that I stood in the creek, it was apparent that the difference was significant. Fewer deep pools and runs existed for the trout to seek safety from overhead predators. On Tuesday I made long casts to relatively shallow slow moving pools, and as long as I was stealthy and delivered a soft presentation, I experienced some success. On Thursday shallow pools did not produce fish, and I rarely spooked trout, when I  waded through an area that I recently cast to. Most of the alarmed fish bolted from tight cover next to boulders.

The hippy stomper with a bright red body produced two refusals, so I defaulted to a size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle. The large visible beetle induced a couple looks, but the fish decided not to bite, so I switched to a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. Two small brown trout finally rested in my net, after they sipped the caddis along the edge of exposed boulders. I managed to land a small rainbow on the caddis, but then the sparse dry fly lost its allure. The sun rose higher in the southern sky, and this reduced the shadows to the left side of the stream. I decided that the conditions were now conducive to floating and tracking a black parachute ant. I restocked my fly box with five fresh parachute ant imitations before I left the house, so I extracted a size 18 with an orange poly wing post.

I began to shoot long casts to the top of a long wide smooth pool, but initially I was frustrated by two refusals. Finally I fluttered a cast to some slack water along some exposed boulders and a brown trout aggressively crushed the ant. Perhaps the ant would take center stage again similar to Tuesday. As much as I hoped this would be the case, I was forced to realize that ants and beetle were not on the menu on Thursday.

I found a cluster of large flat rocks next to a very attractive pool and paused to consume my small lunch. I was at a standstill at four small trout, and it was quite apparent that Thursday was a much different scenario compared to Tuesday. The lower water made the fish very skittish, and they favored more protected out of the way lies along exposed boulders and under deep frothy water. On Tuesday I simply tossed a black ant to all the obvious holding spots, and in most cases a fish responded. This approach was not productive on Thursday, and I was now mulling alternative tactics.

After lunch I began to observe an increased number of small charcoal colored stoneflies. Initially I thought perhaps I could fool the fish with a soft hackle emerger, since it was the same color and comparable size. In order to support the small beadhead wet fly, I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and extended a two foot dropper with a soft hackle emerger from the bend. It was a nice theory, but the fish totally ignored both offerings. After thirty minutes of fruitless casting, I began to observe sporadic rises in a small deep pool. I could see two of the feeding trout, and they paid no attention to my flies, so I removed and replaced them with a size 18 olive-brown stonefly. I tied quite a few of these several years ago, when I encountered a similar small black stonefly hatch on South Boulder Creek.

The tiny earth toned fly was very difficult to follow in the riffles and glare, and the fish seemed to ignore it. The stoneflies were clearly the most prevalent aquatic insect, but I also spotted a few blue winged olives. Perhaps the stoneflies remained airborne and unavailable to the trout, while the blue winged olives were more accessible, as they made their emergence? I had nothing to lose, so I swapped the stonefly for a size 24 CDC BWO. On the second cast one of the visible brown trout darted a foot from its holding location to grab the CDC BWO. I was both shocked and pleased by this sudden turn of events. I moved on to another pool and duped a second brown trout with the CDC blue winged olive, but then the small mayfly lost its magic, and I grew weary of trying to track the minuscule tuft of CDC in difficult lighting conditions.

What next? I refused to eliminate the possibility that the trout were feeding on the small stoneflies. I decided to try a size sixteen olive-brown deer hair caddis again. These imitations were a bit large for the stoneflies, but they possessed the same profile and color scheme. The ploy kind of worked. As I approached attractive pools, I tossed the caddis upstream, and in many cases the hackled pattern provoked a refusal. This enabled me to pinpoint the location of the target trout, and I quickly switched the caddis for one of the size 18 stoneflies with a charcoal sculpin wool wing and and olive-brown body. In three instances this bait and switch pattern yielded a brown trout. Clearly this was not the mindless exercise of Tuesday, but I found a way to elevate the fish count toward double digits.

I was now perched on nine fish, and the refusal generating adult caddis was on the end of my line. It was after three o’clock, and nearly the entire creek was covered with shadows. The trout of South Boulder Creek tossed me another curve, but this time it was fortuitous. Apparently the waning light provoked adult caddis activity, because the heretofore refused caddis suddenly became a popular food source. Over the last hour I ratcheted the fish count from nine to sixteen as brown trout suddenly relished the hair wing caddis. I covered a lot of stream and fired the caddis to all the likely trout havens, and the catch rate accelerated appreciably. Hot spots were deep runs that bordered large boulders.

As I mentioned at the outset, Thursday was a very different day from Tuesday in spite of the similar weather. The flows were 1.5 CFS lower, and initially I discounted this as insignificant, but it was not. I fished a different section of the stream, and I suspect this was also a factor that caused more challenging fishing conditions. Despite the demanding conditions I managed to land sixteen fish. Trying to solve the riddle was all absorbing and in many ways more therapeutic than the easy ant tossing that I enjoyed earlier in the week. I developed numerous theories on what might fool the wary inhabitants of the small tailwater, and eventually I experienced some level of success. In all likelihood I will not return to South Boulder Creek until the water managers elevate the flows.

Fish Landed: 16