South Boulder Creek – 08/03/2022

Time: 10:15AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/03/2022 Photo Album

During my last trip to South Boulder Creek on 07/29/2022 I broke my Sage four weight fly rod at 1:30PM, just as I sensed that the fishing was about to explode. On Saturday I made the trip from my home in Denver to Charlie’s Fly Box with the intention of buying a relatively inexpensive backup four weight fly rod to serve my needs for the remainder of the summer, while my old dependable Sage LL got repaired. On Wednesday, August 3, 2022 I found myself once again perched along South Boulder Creek, but in this case I was gripping a brand new Sage nine foot, four weight R8 rod. Instead of a cheap temporary replacement rod, I lightened my wallet to procure the latest top of the line Sage rod. Dave of Charlie’s Fly Box was a good salesman.

My New Fly Rod

New Rod Ready for a Day of Fly Fishing

I arrived at the kayak parking lot by 9:00AM, and a quick check revealed three additional vehicles in the lot. A guide and two customers were gathered behind one of the cars, so I hustled to beat them to the trail. As I was pulling on my waders and gathering my gear after assembling my new Sage R8, a truck pulled into the parking lot next to the guide group. I did not pay much attention, but within five minutes a young man clad in a navy blue uniform approached and asked to inspect my license. My license was in my backpack, and I had not yet pulled it on, so I removed it from the middle pocket and showed it to the Boulder County wildlife officer. Everything checked out, and I began my descent of the steep trail to the creek shortly thereafter.

Pocket Water Deluxe

After hiking a moderate distance I positioned myself along the edge of South Boulder Creek and pondered my fly choices. I was anxiously anticipating a green drake hatch, so why not go directly to a drake imitation? I asked myself this question and made the commitment. I tied a solitary size 14 parachute green drake to my line, and in short order I was netting rainbow and brown trout from the creek. The flows were 142 CFS when I arrived, but the water managers reduced the output from the dam to 125 CFS, while I was fishing. The air temperature was in the low seventies as I began, and probably peaked in the upper seventies by the middle of the afternoon.

Look at Those Ink Spots

My first seven trout were mostly browns with a couple rainbows in the mix, and all inhaled the parachute green drake. Apparently my imitation was close to what the resident trout were looking for, because the fish were sucking it in confidently. Number seven was an eight inch rainbow, and hook removal required the use of my hemostats, and I severely damaged the fly during the process. I replaced the productive parachute fly with another, but it seemed larger, and the trout were much more tentative as exemplified by a significant increase in the number of refusals. I managed to add two brown trout to the fish count, but then I switched once again.

Unusual Red Fin

In this instance I returned the parachute green drake to my fly box and replaced it with a size 14 user friendly. The Grillos user friendly contains two layers of thin foam, and I was hoping for improved floatation. The fly remained on the surface in fine fashion, and by the time I grabbed a boulder for lunch, the fish count had jumped to fourteen. Unfortunately the last fish before lunch severed the hackle on the user friendly, and I made a mental note to swap it for a fresh and undamaged fly after lunch.

A Brown Took My Fly Next to the Rock

I kept my word, but for some reason I abandoned the user friendly and tested a Harrop hair wing green drake size 14. The hair wing paid immediate dividends on a nice bankside pocket, but then it faltered and did no justify the extra effort required to track it in the swirling currents. I was interested to see how the large bulky fan wing of a comparadun played with the resident trout, and I assumed the large wing would be easier to track. My hunch was correct, and one small brown trout launched toward the comparadun and met my net in a brief amount of time. The comparadun then became a high maintenance fly, as the waterlogged abdomen and thorax required constant drying and frequent application of floatant.

So Vivid

View from Lunch

Once again I considered a change, and this time I reverted to the parachute style fly. During the winter I tied some parachute green drakes with moose mane tails and poly wings. Previously I used turkey flats for wings, but I shifted to the poly wing to create the illusion of more bulk similar to the naturals, as they fluttered and attempted to become airborne from the surface of the stream. The poly wing parachute drake was an overwhelming winner, and I stuck with it for the remainder of my time on the water, as I built the fish count to forty-eight. Yes, you read that correctly. I had a blast tossing the large single dry fly with my new Sage rod to all the likely fish holding locations, and in many cases the trout responded by attacking the size 14 fly. I spotted my first natural western green drake at 12:35PM, and their sporadic emergence continued until 3:00PM, when I reached my intended exit point. The catch rate slowed somewhat over the last hour, but how could the torrid pace continue?

Very Clear Pool

Top Shelf

On my return hike I stopped at several of my favorite hotspots, and I picked up three more drake eaters to move the count to forty-eight. I worked diligently to attain a fifty fish day, but during the last hour the interest in drakes seemed to wane, and in my last stand, I experienced only refusals. I was weary and faced more hiking, so I abandoned the goal of fifty and marched back to the parking lot.

Glistening Brown Trout

Another Trout Lair

On July 29 I sensed that I was on the cusp of a spectacular day, and August 3 pretty much confirmed that my intuition was correct. Of course, the forty-eight trout were on the small side, but I estimate that at least ten stretched to the twelve to thirteen inch range. All the trout sported vivid and bright colors, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day. The weather was perfect, the flows were improved,  and I never encountered a competing angler. My new fly rod performed admirably, and I particularly liked the way it cast and the flex that allowed me to confidently control the larger fish. I will reserve further judgement, until I attempt to land a sixteen inch bruiser on the four weight outfit. I love the green drake hatch, and the fish do as well, as all my catches consumed a green drake imitation.

Fish Landed: 48

Clear Creek – 08/02/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/02/2022 Photo Album

The title of this blog report is unfinished business. After my net drifted away from me on Monday, I spent forty-five minutes wading downstream in search of the escaped landing device. I never found it, so I quit and returned to Denver. I immediately made the short trip to Bass Pro Shop at Northfield, and I purchased a cheap $42 wooden landing net. I expected to replace the bag with one with small holes, but I was surprised to discover that the $42 net contained the desired small hole rubber mesh, thus saving me the job of removing and attaching a different net bag. I stopped fishing at 1:30PM on Monday, and I sensed that the action was escalating, and that is why Tuesday’s session is labeled unfinished business.

I departed Denver and arrived at my chosen destination by 10:00AM. Unlike Monday, however, four or five vehicles were spaced along the road that borders Clear Creek, so I was forced to fly fish a section that was not my preferred stretch. I once again rigged my Orvis Access eight foot four weight rod, and I hiked for .5 mile, before I cut perpendicular to the trail and intersected with the creek. The flows were nearly ideal in my opinion, and the air temperature at the start was probably in the sixties.

A Good Place to Start

Moose

I launched my angling day with a yellow stimulator trailing a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, but the fish did not cooperate in the early going. Eventually the double dry fly offering began to click, and I built the fish count to seven, by the time I paused for lunch at noon. The stimulator created mostly refusals, and the caddis was the main attraction for the high country trout. All the trout were small cutthroats or cutbows in the six to ten inch range.

Perfect Color Scheme

After lunch I shifted direction and replaced the yellow stimulator with an olive hippie stomper, and then I extended the tippet from the bend and added a salvation nymph. The salvation accounted for a single trout, but then it was ignored, so I swapped it for a black sunk ant. The ant and stomper combination enabled me to increment the fish count from seven to eleven, but I covered a significant amount of water to net those four fish.

Brilliant

Spotted Fish Here

Once again I pondered a change, and in this case I opted to return to a double dry fly offering. It was early afternoon, and some large clouds blocked the sun to create some cooling, and I spotted a few random stoneflies and tiny mayflies in the creek environment. In fact, I needed to extract my raincoat for a short time, when a heavy mist changed into a brief rain shower. My choice for the double dry fly was a size 14 purple haze trailed by a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Between 1:30PM and 2:30PM the fish count ballooned to sixteen, and the purple haze was the desired food source for most of the trout. After number sixteen shot from my net, I inspected the purple parachute fly and discovered that the hackle was shredded by some strong teeth. Before I could exchange it for a fresh version, I stupidly tried to execute a roll cast beneath an evergreen branch, and the flies snagged some needles beyond my reach. I applied direct pressure to the line (avoided using my fly rod), and snapped off the purple haze and caddis.

Very Fine Catch

I considered tying on another purple haze, but the catch rate had slowed considerably, so I knotted a solitary classic Chernobyl ant to my line in a size 10. I was below a long narrow gliding run that deflected off a very large angled log, and I flipped the foam attractor to the top of the run. Thwack! A magnificent twelve inch cutthroat reacted to the plop and engulfed the low riding fly. I cautiously steered the fish away from the log and its menacing branches and lifted it over my new net. What a beauty!

Closing In

For the next hour I continued upstream at a fairly rapid pace, and I cherry picked only the very best locations. I experienced one very brief connection with a decent trout under some low hanging branches, but that was the extent of my action for the remainder of the afternoon. I added a black sunken ant and finished the day with a double ant offering, but I was unable to interest the high country creek residents in a mid afternoon snack.

I found a relatively unobstructed path that led back to the road and hiked 1.3 miles back to the parking lot. Seventeen trout in five hours of fishing was decent but not exactly a torrid pace. All the trout, however, were absolutely stunning wild cutbows and cutthroats, and this more than made up for their diminutive size. Most importantly, other than the loss of three flies, I avoided losing or breaking any of my equipment.

Fish Landed: 17

Clear Creek – 08/01/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 1:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/01/2022 Photo Album

If you read my blog post of 07/29/2022, you know that I broke my Sage four weight fly rod on South Boulder Creek. When I returned home, I immediately filled out an online warranty claim with Sage and packaged my broken rod and mailed it to Bainbridge Island, WA. The broken rod was a sentimental favorite, as it was the first graphite fly rod that I purchased, when I moved to Denver. It was a 490-4 LL, and it served me well for at least thirty years. I am anxious to learn, if Sage can repair such an old rod.

Since my fly rod inventory was down to one Orvis Access eight foot four weight, I made a trip to Charlie’s Fly Box on Saturday, and I walked out of the store stunned and the owner of a brand new Sage R8 nine foot, four weight. Most of the shock came from the sticker price.

By Monday I was recovered from my state of depression and anxious to follow my commitment to focus on high country streams and tailwaters. I decided to make a relatively brief drive to Clear Creek, as the location I selected was at high elevation and flows remained quite robust. I am disappointed to report, however, that my outing was once again short circuited by a ridiculous angler error. Read on.

Small Pool Ahead

I arrived at the pullout high above the creek at 9:45AM, and by the time I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, hiked to my starting point and attached my flies; it was close to 10:30AM. The sky was perfectly blue, and the temperature was cool and in the sixties. By late morning the sun dominated the sky, and the temperature warmed, but then some heavy clouds moved in and kept the atmosphere cool during the early afternoon.

Pink and Lime

I began my search for gullible trout with a medium olive hippie stomper and beadhead hares ear nymph, and the combination delivered positive results. By the time I paused for lunch at 11:45AM, the fish count rested at eleven. All the landed trout were cutthroats and cutbows, and three hammered the hippie stomper, and the remainder nabbed the hares ear. Nearly all the fish were in the six to ten inch range with possibly one or two that stretched the tape to eleven inches.

Wild Beauty

After lunch I decided to experiment with a double dry. The hippie stomper drew periodic interest, but many of the strikes came in the form of refusals. I snipped off the hares ear and added a size 16 gray deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper.

Cutthroat Haven

Between 12:15PM and 1:30PM I flicked the dries to likely fish holding locations and moved the fish counter from eleven to twenty-four. I had a blast, as I moved quickly with only two or three casts to marginal areas. Eventually I learned to bypass the small and short pockets, as they produced only sub-six inch fish or no fish at all. The deeper slow moving holes next to logs and boulders were the spots that delivered trout. Of the thirteen early afternoon trout landed, three chomped the stomper and the remainder attacked the caddis adult.

Perfection with Fins

By 1:30PM I fell into a nice rhythm, and the fish count was improving steadily. It was at this time that I landed a very nice cutthroat that was probably my largest of the day at twelve inches. Because of its beauty and size, I paused along the bank to photograph it and carefully released it into the current. The spot I chose was at the tail of a nice pool and just above a narrow chute of fast water and small pockets. Somehow in the process of releasing the fish and unhooking the flies, the net slipped into the creek, and it was unclipped from the retractor on my backpack. I stabbed the water quickly, but I failed to get a grip, and in a fraction of a second the net floated downstream. As I pointed out, I was above a narrow chute, and the net gained speed and tumbled down the rapids. I quickly placed my rod on the rocks and began to scramble along the bank, but I was losing ground, and I began to fear for my physical well being. I could easily sprain an ankle, or even worse, fall and break something.

Lovely Red Cheek

I returned to the origination point of the runaway net, and I gathered my sungloves, camera and rod and began to wade downstream. I was banking on the net getting caught in a tree, log jam or shallow section; and my eyes searched anxiously for any exposed portion of the net. After .5 to .7 of a mile I encountered three successive stream improvement devises that spanned the entire creek, and I was certain  the net would appear; but, alas, no sign of it presented itself, and I conceded that my relatively new $100 Wolf Moon net was donated to the wilderness or some downstream beneficiary.

I was physically exhausted from the intense downstream wading exercise over extremely slick rocks, and I was mentally distraught. All I could think about was breaking my favorite rod and now losing my Wolf Moon net. I now realize why I purchased cheap nets up until this last purchase. I gave up my pursuit, and I hiked back to the car, after ending my day at twenty-four trout by 1:30PM. Once again I was forced to quit early, and similar to Friday I was on the verge of a very productive day.

Fish Landed: 24

South Boulder Creek – 07/29/2022

Time: 12:15PM – 1:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 07/29/2022 Photo Album

As I reviewed flows on the DWR web site prior to my trips to Boulder Creek and the Cache la Poudre River, I noted that the water managers reduced the releases from Gross Reservoir to the 168 CFS range. Based on previous experience, I knew that this level is high in the narrow canyon; however, I have enjoyed decent success at these levels particularly when green drakes and pale morning duns are active. July 29 was a bit early for drakes, but I suspected some early emergers could be on the creek. I decided to make the trip on Friday, July 29, 2022.

One small hurdle remained; however, before I could finalize my trip plans. We were waiting for a visit from our new HVAC guy, and he suggested that he could stop by in the 8:00AM – 10:30AM window on Friday. Jane had waited for him earlier in the week, so in fairness to our relationship, it was my turn to forego other activities. Finally, at 9AM Jane called to inform me that she received a text message from John HVAC, and he was under the weather and unable to fulfill the promised appointment. I was now free to resurrect my fly fishing plans, and I quickly gathered my gear and loaded the car and made the drive to South Boulder Creek. Five cars were ahead of me in the kayak lot. I quickly assembled my Sage four weight and scrambled into my gear and made the hike to the tailwater creek.

Yummy Pool

When I arrived at my chosen starting point, my watch displayed 11:50AM, so I decided to consume the lunch stuffed in my backpack, before I began my quest for wild trout. Once my yogurt cup was empty, I knotted a tan size 8 pool toy hopper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I was prepared for terrestrials, yellow sally nymphs and pale morning dun nymphs. In the early going I witnessed refusals to the hopper, but then my flies began to click, and I landed four trout within the first thirty minutes. Two gobbled the hopper, and the hares ear and salvation produced one each. The first four trout landed were all brown trout in the six to ten inch range.

Early Take

By one o’clock the action slowed considerably, and refusals to the pool toy began to dominate. Since the fish seemed to be looking toward the surface for their meals, I decided to make a switch, and I converted to a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper followed by a yellow size 14 stimulator. The higher than ideal flows reduced the number of viable trout holding locations, and I was largely reduced to short drifts in bank side pockets, as I ignored the rapidly cascading flows in the middle of the creek.

Better Focus

The shrunken number of trout lairs caused me to advance up the stream more rapidly than usual, but the two flies clicked reasonably well, and the fish count elevated to nine. Two of the double dry fly attracted trout slurped the hippie stomper and three grabbed the heavily hackled stimulator. I sensed I was on the verge of a stellar outing, as a few mayflies made an appearance above the creek, and a couple were likely green drakes.

I photographed and released number nine, since it was my best brown trout of the day, and during this process the two dry flies twisted around the tip of my Sage fly rod. I grabbed the rod and executed a series of hand over hand movements, so that I could hold the rod in the middle and unravel the uncooperative dry flies. When the flies were free and separated, I reversed the hand over hand process to resume gripping the rod at the cork handle, but unbeknownst to me, the reel and butt end of the rod had dipped below the surface of the creek behind a large branch that was wedged between several large rocks. When I shifted my grip back toward the handle, the top of the rod elevated, and the current grabbed the reel and butt end and forced them beneath the branch, and before I could release, the rod snapped in the second section below the tip. It happened so fast that I could not react, and I sat down on the bank and grieved for a few minutes. Surprisingly nary a curse word was uttered, as I was depressed with the news, that I broke my second Sage rod of the season.

Broken Section, End of Fishing

Since I hiked a decent distance from the car, I had no backup with me, and climbing the steep hill to retrieve another rod, and then returning to the creek only to make the hill climb a second time was out of the question. I broke the rod down to four segments and hiked back to the parking lot. My fishing session ended after one hour and fifteen minutes and nine fish, and I felt I was on the verge of some outstanding action. When I returned home, I immediately filed a repair claim with Far Bank (the company that now owns Sage), and then I printed the QR code and address and packed up the broken rod to ship for repair.

Friday was a bittersweet day. I now have two Sage rods out for repair, as I approach the meat of the summer and fall season. I have a backup four weight, a backup five weight, and a five weight that my friend, Dave G., loaned me. I anticipate a heavy dose of small stream fishing, and having one four weight for this duty concerns me a bit. In a pinch the Loomis 8.5 foot five weight could also suffice in close quarters. Hopefully I can return to South Boulder Creek in the near future for a full day of fishing; while abundant quantities of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies feed the stream residents. A reduction of flows to the low one hundred range would also be welcome news.

Fish Landed: 9

Cache la Poudre River – 07/27/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Poudre Canyon

Cache la Poudre River  07/27/2022 Photo Album

After some comparatively slow fishing on the Arkansas River last week, I vowed to redirect my fishing efforts to smaller high country streams or tailwaters. These two options avoid catching and handling trout in dangerously warm water temperatures, and the fish are simply more active due to ideal temperature ranges and more insect activity.

Wednesday was my second visit to a Colorado stream since making the vow referenced in the first paragraph. Since the Cameron Peak fire in 2020, I avoided the Cache la Poudre River, as I suspected that sediments and ash from the burn scar impacted the fish population. Prior to the wildfire, July was my favorite time to make the trip to the brawling river west of Ft. Collins, and I typically bumped into green drakes and pale morning duns. These remembrances along with favorable flows and optimistic reports from the local fly shop motivated me to make the two hour drive on July 27. As it turns out, I disregarded my pledge from the previous week, and that oversight essentially cost me a day of fishing and half a tank of gasoline.

A Good Place to Start

I departed the house at 7:35AM, and that enabled me to arrive at a pullout along CO 14 next to the river by 9:45AM. Several traffic tie ups slowed my progress along with some slow moving camper trailers and raft carriers. I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight rod, and I ambled downstream for .2 mile to a spot, where I could negotiate the steep bank to the edge of the river. The river was very clear, and the flows were high but not adverse for wading and moving about. The air temperature was in the low seventies.

What a Surprise

I tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a size 16 gray deer hair adult caddis. I was hopeful that the hippie stomper could perform triple duty as an indicator, attractor and green drake imitation. Within my first ten casts, the flies touched down at the head of a long seam, and I was surprised, when a nose broke the surface to engulf the trailing caddis. I was even more surprised, when I began to play the fish, and within a few minutes I recognized a sixteen inch brown trout in my net. This was easily the largest brown trout that I ever landed from the Cache la Poudre River. My optimism soared; but, alas, it was unfounded.

Fat by Poudre Standards

For the next two hours I progressed upstream along the right bank, and I failed to generate the slightest bit of action. I never saw a rise, a refusal, a look or a temporary connection. In fact, I was unable to sight a fish or even spook a trout, as I waded through some very attractive water. I covered areas that were teeming with small brown trout during my visits to the upper Poudre in July in years prior to the fire. In an effort to change my bad luck, I switched to a dry/dropper with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, and I dangled a prince nymph, salvation nymph and beadhead hares ear nymph beneath the large foam terrestrial. Nothing. After lunch and toward the end of my time on the upper Poudre I reverted to the double dry fly approach and featured the hippie stomper and a parachute green drake. The green drake was ignored, so I experimented with a purple haze and light gray comparadun. None of the combinations resulted in so much as a look. Not only did I not observe any fish, but I also saw very little in the way of aquatic insect activity.

Lunch Spot

At 1:30 I tromped back to the car, shed my gear and drove eastward, until I stopped .1 mile above Hewlett Gulch. I was hopeful that if the lack of fish was related to the wildfire, being farther down river might translate to less impact from the burn scar. In forty-five minutes of focused fly fishing above Hewlett Gulch, I resumed my futility, until I called it quits at 2:15PM. I gave a solid test to the double dry fly set up as well as another dry/dropper trial, but fruitless casting was the only outcome. Before I quite at 2:15PM, I submerged my stream thermometer in a relatively deep fast pocket near the bank, and after two minutes it registered 66 degrees. With this red flag in front of me, I climbed the bank and returned to the Santa Fe for the return drive.

Ironically I landed the largest fish ever from the Poudre in the early going and then never witnessed a sign of trout thereafter. What is the explanation? I tend to blame the wildfire and not the water temperature. I am certain that the water temperature was in the low sixties during the morning, because I was farther west and, therefore, at higher elevation. To me the most concerning information was the lack of smaller trout in pockets and riffles along the shoreline where a preponderance of such fish existed during my pre-wildfire visits. Not seeing even a spooked fish darting for cover, as I waded upstream was a sure sign of low fish density. The lack of insect life was also disconcerting, and I remember reading articles about the South Platte after the Heyman fire that stated that aquatic insect larva and nymphs were smothered by sediments and ash that washed into the river from the burn scar. Having said that, I never observed gray sand or mud on the streambed. At any rate, I will not return to the Poudre this season, and perhaps not in 2023, unless I obtain more information to convince me otherwise.

Fish Landed: 1

Boulder Creek – 07/25/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 07/25/2022 Photo Album

I committed to playing pickleball at 4PM on Monday, July 25; therefore, my fly fishing venture needed to require a short drive. I reviewed the flows for all the usual suspects; Big Thompson, 125 CFS; Clear Creek, 127 CFS; North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, 55 CFS and Boulder Creek, 84 CFS. Those numbers were derived from my Sunday research. Jane and I attended our grandson, Theo’s, birthday party in Louisville, CO on Sunday; and while there, dark clouds rolled in and showers commenced. I had already made my choice of Boulder Creek for fishing, but apparently a significant amount of rain fell on Sunday evening, because the DWR chart depicted a spike from 84 CFS to 141 CFS at 9PM on Sunday. On Monday morning, as I prepared to depart, I checked the chart again, and the flows on Boulder Creek were down to 117 CFS. Because I needed to be in south Denver by four o’clock, I decided to begin my fly fishing day on Boulder Creek. If the water was off color or too high, I could continue on to the North Fork of the St. Vrain, although that move would cut into my fishing time significantly, since I generally hike for at least thirty minutes to and from my favorite section.

This Area Produced the First Couple Fish

When I caught my first glimpse of Boulder Creek in the city of Boulder, it was clear, but I was unable to ascertain whether the stream level would make wading and fishing difficult. Once I parked along the creek at my chosen starting point, I concluded that Boulder Creek was my destination, or at least I would sample it before entertaining alternatives. I assembled my Sage four weight in response to the higher flows and angled down to the creek to begin my Monday adventure. The flows were indeed higher than normal, and when I checked the DWR web site upon my return, I was informed that the creek ran in the low 100 CFS range during my time on the water. The sky was mostly clear with periodic large clouds, but by the early afternoon, the temperature elevated to the upper seventies, and I was quite warm.

Lots of Pocket Water

I began my day with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper and a beadhead hares ear nymph. Initially the hopper was attracting refusals, and the nymphs were ignored, so I swapped the hopper for a medium olive body hippie stomper. The stomper and hares ear were quite popular, and I upped the fish count to eleven by the time that I paused for lunch a few minutes before noon. Of the first eleven fish landed, two slammed the hippie stomper, and the remainder snatched the trailing beadhead hares ear nymph.

Hares Ear Feast

Promising on the Right

Just before lunch I suffered through nearly forty-five minutes of absolute frustration. First, I hooked a small brown trout, and as I played the fish it managed to slip free, and the pent up energy of the rod caused the flies to catapult to an evergreen limb high above me. There was no hope of rescue, so I applied direct pressure and snapped off a hippie stomper and hares ear. After reconfiguring my entire rig, I continued upstream, and I approached a section with some overhanging branches. In my effort to sling a cast under the nuisance branches, I hooked a dead limb high above me. Once again I applied pressure and left the stomper dangling off the dead branch with the hares ear embedded in the bark. I put my rod down and searched for a long pole that would enable me to rescue the flies, and I eventually found an effective tool. It was a long heavy branch with a Y that resembled a large divining rod. I hoisted the log upward and applied direct pressure to the bare stick that stole my flies, and after a few seconds the branch snapped. You can probably guess the outcome. The broken branch fell a yard or so below me in some heavy current, and I was unable to react quickly enough to capture it, as my flies floated away to the Gulf of Mexico. I resigned myself to tying yet another lineup of flies to my line; however, in this case I utilized a size 10 classic Chernobyl ant instead of the hippie stomper.

Zoomed a Bit Closer

For most of the remainder of the afternoon I prospected upstream with the Chernobyl and hares ear dry/dropper, and I raised the fish count to seventeen. The catch rate definitely slowed from the morning session, but the results were steady and held my attention. By 1:45 I grew weary of trying to track the small yellow indicator of the Chernobyl in the riffled surface water, so I replaced it with a hopper Juan, and I began to experiment with replacements for the hares ear. First, I knotted a salvation to my line, but by itself it failed to produce. Next I opted for an ultra zug bug as the top fly and experimented with a second nymph; in this case the salvation. The salvation delivered one brown trout, and then the action slowed to a halt.

Pretty Catch

I recalled that the hippie stomper attracted quite a few refusals, so I reverted to a double dry approach that included a peacock body hippie stomper and size 14 gray stimulator. Just before I quit, I lobbed the double dries to a small shaded nook with a bubble line, and a small brown trout appeared to eat the hippie stomper for number nineteen on the day.

Certainly a Trout in This Pool

I was pleased to post a nineteen fish day on Monday, July 25, although the largest fish was probably only ten inches long. The bulk of the counted fish were in the six to eight inch range. Nevertheless, I was challenged to cast to the most productive locations and to select the flies that the local feeders would favor. The last hour or so was quite slow, and I was uncertain whether to blame the warm air temperatures and bright sun or the section of stream that tumbled fast due to a higher gradient. I hustled back to the car at 2:30PM, and I managed to complete the drive from Boulder to south Denver in time to join the group of eight for a very vigorous pickleball session.

Fish Landed: 19

 

Buena Vista Pond – 07/21/2022

Time: 4:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: McPhelemy Park

Buena Vista Pond 07/21/2022 Photo Album

I met Jane on Wednesday at McPhelemy Park in Buena Vista after fly fishing on the Arkansas River, and we left her bike locked to a bike rack, while we continued on to our AirBnB. After finding our lodging for the next few nights, we returned to the park, and I suggested we do a bike ride around Buena Vista. I spotted some sections of lower Cottonwood Creek before the confluence with the Arkansas River that were marked as public on my river map, and I wanted to explore the area and accessibility to the stream. When we returned to McPhelemy Park, I cycled around the perimeter of the small pond, and I observed quite a few rising fish. I filed this observation away for future reference.

After whitewater rafting on Thursday morning, our gang returned to the AirBnB, and Jane and Amy S. decided to take a short bike ride. I jumped on this opportunity to return to McPhelemy Park in case the trout were once again hungry. Upon my arrival I quickly assembled my Sage four weight and opted to wade wet. I marched a short distance to the western edge of the pond just below some overhanging branches from a large tree. Almost immediately I spotted several fish in a regular feeding pattern. I did not see an obvious food source responsible for the steady feeding, so I plucked a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive-brown body from my fly box and tied it to the end of my leader.

Caddis Eater

I flicked a few casts toward the area below the trees and gradually lengthened my line, until the fly fluttered down twenty yards from the bank. Thwack! A fish rose and inhaled my tiny caddis, and an energetic fight ensued. Eventually I guided a fat thirteen inch rainbow trout into my net. The fly was taken fairly deeply, but I was able to remove it with my hemostats without injury. After I released the trout, I resumed my casting, but three young children were playing on a SUP just above the tree limb area, and their splashing and creation of waves put the fish down. I supplemented my offering with a hippie stomper trailing the adult caddis and persisted in my pursuit of trout, until I was accosted by a young man, who asked if he could borrow one of my flies.

I was quite impressed with the boldness of the youth, so I paused to examine his set up. He was slinging a spinning rod with a squirmy worm knotted to the line, but the line was not monofilament. I removed a length of tippet from my spool and extended it for twelve inches from the bend of the squirmy and then attached a bright green caddis pupa. I went back to my spot and managed to temporarily connect with another trout, but it jumped high above the surface and slid free of the small caddis. I glanced to the right and noticed that my new friend, Seth from Texas, dug into his tackle box and pulled out a small bobber. This gave me a new idea, so I asked Seth to cut off the squirmy worm and swivel, and I then proceeded to tie a surgeon’s knot that extended monofilament from the spinning line. Seth clamped the bobber to the running line, and I knotted a size 16 caddis to the end of the monofilament. Seth was now the proud owner of a bubble set up. I moved back to the area with the branches, and Seth began lobbing casts to the middle of the lake fifteen yards below me. As I executed several more casts, I watched Seth through my peripheral vision, and suddenly he lifted the rod, and I spotted some wild thrashing behind the float. Seth hooked and landed a trout on the caddis and bubble system that I set up for him. He was beyond excited, and I was admittedly a bit pumped myself.

Lots of Splashing

I decided to move north of the tree branches and the thrashing kids, so I circled around and left Seth to his solo efforts. I told him that he could keep the fly. I next perched next to the lake just below some protruding exposed dead sticks, and once again a few fish revealed their presence with some sporadic rises. A dad and three sons occupied the opposite bank and the area just above me, where Cottonwood Creek entered the pond, so I was constrained a bit in my ability to move. I remained in this general area for the remainder of my time on the lake, and I managed another temporary hook up. I also replaced the adult caddis with a zebra midge larva, beadhead hares ear, and emerald caddi pupa, but the dry/dropper ploy never produced results on the Buena Vista Pond.

Looking For Rises

I landed one nice thirteen inch rainbow in one hour of fly fishing, and it was a respectable thirteen inch fish. In addition, I hooked and failed to land three additional fish, but I assisted Seth in his foray into bubble fishing. I only had an hour to spare, and I was quite entertained by the Buena Vista pond. The small body of water was the home of multiple activities, and I was a bit frustrated by the alternative commotions, but it was fun nonetheless.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 07/20/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 11:15AM; 12:15PM – 2:30PM

Location: The Numbers and The Tunnel area

Arkansas River 07/20/2022 Photo Album

I decided to try a new section of the Arkansas River called The Numbers on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The fishing map indicated that lots of public access was available in that area.

It was sunny and warm by 10AM, when I began to fish, but after disappointing results on Tuesday, which I attributed to hot weather, I hoped that an earlier start would increase my odds of success. I parked at a pullout where The Numbers entry road branched off to a private bridge, but another angler arrived, as I was arranging my gear. I was not keen on  a game of hopscotch, so I asked Ladd (the other man’s name) if there were parking spots along the entry road to The Numbers boat launch, and he replied that there were, but a pass was required. I told him I had a state parks pass, and he said he did not, so I departed and drove another .3 mile to a small gravel pullout.

The Numbers

I put together my Loomis five weight and hiked across some sagebrush to the edge of the river. The Arkansas was flowing along swiftly and crystal clear. I rigged with a yellow fat Albert, Pat’s rubber legs, and an iron sally and covered .8 mile of river, until I reached the parking lot at 11:15AM. Along the way I swapped the rubber legs for an emerald caddis pupa and moved the iron sally to the upper position. That combination failed to click, and eventually I traded the caddis pupa for a salvation nymph. All I had to show for my 1.25 hour morning effort was a pair of looks from some brown trout. I did not care for the river structure in the area, as it was mostly wide with uninteresting shallow riffles and long and fast sweeping glides and runs.

Fireweed

When I climbed the bank to the parking lot, I was alerted to a storm cloud in the southwest by a flash of lightning, so I quickly hoofed back on the road to my car. I decided to head south to the tunnels area, and I encountered wet and muddy road conditions, thus evidence that the rainstorm preceded me. I parked beyond the last tunnel and ate my lunch, and then I launched my second foray on to the Arkansas River. I was perplexed by the fact that a week earlier on the same river I enjoyed a twenty-five fish day on a float trip. The section was ten river miles south, but it did not seem like that would make a huge difference.

Finally

And Another

I persisted with the fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph; as these flies, particularly the nymphs, were almost the exact same flies that my guide utilized with great success a week earlier. I spent the next two plus hours prospecting the ten yards of water along the bank, and I managed to avoid a skunking by landing three brown trout in the twelve inch range. Two of the aggressive feeders nabbed the salvation, and the other grabbed the iron sally. All three fish materialized from deep and slower moving areas next to large exposed boulders, and the action occurred in the first hour of the afternoon.

Promising

The second hour could be characterized as a long period of futility. I marched along the right side of the river and dropped casts in all the likely spots, but the fish were in a state of constant lockjaw. Several brief rain showers kept the temperature somewhat in check, so I cannot blame a bright clear sky. I saw virtually no insects on the river except for some small caddis on the bushes; whereas, yellow sallies and pale morning duns were present in decent numbers during the float trip a week prior. I attribute my disappointing results on Wednesday to the lack of trout food on the Arkansas River.

Fish Landed: 3

 

Arkansas River – 07/19/2022

Time: 1:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Railroad Bridge area

Arkansas River 07/19/2022 Photo Album

Jane and I reserved a campsite at Railroad Bridge and made the drive from Denver on July 19, 2022. We departed at 10:00AM and arrived at 12:30PM. The sun was bright, and it was quite warm, so after I ate my lunch, we erected the canopy to create some much needed shade. I quickly pulled together my fishing gear including my Loomis two piece five weight, and I set off down the trail to the river.

Ready to Go

During the afternoon a few passing clouds provided some breaks from the high sun, but direct sunshine mostly ruled the skies. The river was in superb condition at 700 CFS, and extreme clarity was apparent. I began with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper and then added an iron sally and salvation nymph. My first two bouts of action were refusals to the hopper, but eventually I began to connect with fish. From 1:30PM until 3:00PM I landed seven trout, all browns. One fine specimen measured twelve inches, and another pair registered eleven, while the remainder were in the six to ten inch range. The pool toy duped one trout, two favored the salvation, and the remainder grabbed the iron sally.

Not Bad

I noticed a few fluttering caddis on the streamside vegetation; but, otherwise the river seemed devoid of aquatic insect life. For the final thirty minutes I converted to a double dry that included a peacock hippie stomper and a yellow stimulator. The stimulator and stomper produced a few temporary connections, but none advanced to my net. I swapped the stimulator for a size gray deer hair caddis and a size 14 purple haze, but none of the dry flies delivered.

Pocket Water Everywhere

Seams and depth next to fast water and rocky structure provided the best results. Many promising spots failed to deliver, and the fishing was average at best. I worked hard for seven fish in 2.5 hours. At 3:50PM I stopped to deploy my stream thermometer, and after being submerged for two minutes, it registered 64 degrees. This was near the upper limit of safe fishing, and it gave me a sound reason to call it quits at 4:00PM. It also perhaps explains my lack of action during the last forty-five minutes. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I plan to fish the Arkansas again, but an earlier start is probably in my future.

Fish Landed: 7

Lottis Creek – 07/14/2022

Time: 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: From the highway upstream beyond the campground

Lottis Creek 07/14/2022 Photo Album

I drove from the Taylor River back to our campsite. Jane returned from her nine mile hike, and some thunder sounded in the west. I exchanged my Scott five weight for my Sage four weight, given the smaller stream dimensions of Lottis Creek.

I hiked from the campground to the bridge, where the highway crosses the creek, and I worked my way upstream. The sky was dark and gloomy the entire time, and I wore my raincoat through steady rain for the last half hour.

Promising

Initially I tossed a classic Chernobyl size 10 solo, and the fish count quickly bounced to four. At that point the action slowed, and I added a hares ear on an eighteen inch dropper. I was anxious to discover whether I was bypassing fish that were willing to get their meals below the surface. I covered a lot of the stream with the dry/dropper and cherry picked spots with depth and built the count to seven. Most of the second wave of fish that I landed grabbed the trailing hares ear.

Struggling Against Rubber

Nice for Small Stream

An extended dry spell motivated me to make another switch, and I went double dry with an olive hippie stomper and a size 14 yellow stimulator. Two of the last three fish bashed the stimulator and one crushed the stomper.

Ten fish in 1.5 hours was a success in my book. A pair of twelve inch browns topped the chart, with the remainder falling in the six to nine inch range.

Fish Landed: 10

Under the Branch Looks Prime