Clear Creek – 03/23/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 03/23/2017 Photo Album

I am beginning to understand that early spring fishing on freestone drainages such as Clear Creek is vastly different from tailwaters such as South Boulder Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain. Even on small streams a dam holds back ice cold snow melt and moderates the stream temperatures below, thus creating an artificially more conducive environment for fishing for cold water residents.

After a spectacular day on South Boulder Creek on Wednesday, I scrolled through a series of photos of decent trout posted by flyhunter333 on Instagram. Flyhunter333 indicated that he enjoyed excellent results fishing in Clear Creek within the town of Idaho Springs. I was reluctant to make a trip to Clear Creek after my last visit yielded only a couple fish. On that visit I tossed my flies among small icebergs and carefully negotiated around ice shelves, as I waded upstream. I concluded that the narrow canyon and freestone nature of the stream made it a poor early spring choice. Flyhunter’s evidence of success, however, convinced me to give it another try.

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Fish Number One

I arrived in Idaho Springs at 10:45, and after I assembled my Loomis four weight, I was on the water by 11AM. I began my quest for Clear Creek trout with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph. Early in my outing I covered some very attractive deep pockets and runs, but I was unable to interest any resident fish in my offerings. I observed a couple refusals to the fat Albert, and I considered this a bad sign. Eventually a small rainbow latched on to the trailing hares ear, and shortly thereafter a small brown trout darted to the surface and mauled the fat Albert. The brown created a huge snarl, when it twisted the trailing nymph around its body, so I relaxed on a rock and unraveled the monofilament mess.

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What a Snarl

I was dissatisfied with the slow amount of action, so I added a salad spinner as a third fly on a dropper tied to the eye of the hares ear. This move seemed to increase the interest of the trout, but unproductive drifts were replaced by several momentary connections to the small size 20 salad spinner. The wind became a significant factor, but I persisted and moved the fish counter to five, before I climbed the bank and sat at a picnic table in the park to consume my small lunch. Two of fish three through five snatched the hares ear from the drift, and another small brown crushed the fat Albert.

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Downstream Look

After lunch I approached a very attractive riffle of moderate depth, and I was able to spot at least three relatively large trout by Clear Creek standards. I flicked a cast with the three fly arrangement above a visible trout, but it totally ignored the fake food, as it tumbled by. I could not resist the temptation to focus on these fish, since my success utilizing the prospecting method was not paying huge dividends. I snipped off the flies and tied an olive stimulator to my line and then reconnected the beadhead hares ear. Certainly this deadly combination would create interest. On the first cast a small brown trout surfaced and refused the size 14 stimulator, and on subsequent drifts the visible fish paid no attention to my intruding offerings.

I eventually surrendered to the sighted fish, and continued my upstream progression. The stimulator was not attracting interest, so I exchanged it for a size 10 Chernobyl ant, and I added a small baetis nymph with a green glass bead below the hares ear. Again I was frustrated to note two refusals to the Chenobyl. During this time frame I made another inconsequential change, as I swapped the glass bead baetis for an ultra zug bug.

I was now above a bridge, and the creek was narrowing, and I concluded there was limited decent water before I would be forced to reverse my direction. The sky began to display large gray clouds, and the wind morphed from a nuisance to a significant negative factor. I pondered my situation, and I decided to experiment with an indicator nymph configuration. The rainbow trout seemed to be hugging the bottom, and I hoped to gain a deeper drift with the split shot added to the beadheads. The indicator set up also offered no distracting surface fly to induce refusals and fisherman frustration. I selected a beadhead hares ear and an emerald caddis pupa as my deep nymph offerings.

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Another Feisty Rainbow Trout

The move paid off, as I landed two additional rainbow trout, as I worked my way back downstream. I was very selective and cast only to deep slow moving water next to the faster current. In addition to the two landed fish, I connected briefly with another pair, and one of these felt a bit heavier than the previous fish on my line. The emerald caddis pupa produced one of the two fish landed on the indicator set up. Based on my final forty-five minutes of fishing, I concluded that fishing deep with a nymphing rig was a better approach on an icy cold freestone stream such as Clear Creek. Seven small fish in 2.5 hours did not measure up to Wednesday on South Boulder Creek, but I achieved a moderate amount of success, discovered that an indicator nymphing approach was preferred, and explored a new section of the creek. Most importantly I was fishing on a stream on March 23.

Fish Landed: 7

South Boulder Creek – 03/22/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 03/22/2017 Photo Album

The summer-like weather was expected to continue through Thursday, March 23, and I was quite anxious to take advantage before winter and snow returned. The DWR website indicated that the water managers increased the flows from Gross Reservoir from 14 CFS to 21 CFS, so I selected South Boulder Creek as my destination on Wednesday, March 22. Wednesday proved to be a great choice for fishing, as another beautiful spring day unfolded with mostly sunny skies. The temperature when I began descending the trail at the parking lot was 48 degrees, and when I returned at 3PM, it peaked around 70 degrees. This is very ideal for March 22 in Colorado.

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Low Flows Expose Numerous Boulders

When I caught a glimpse of the stream it was obviously fairly low, but at least it displayed uninterrupted flows. At 14 CFS the stream looks like a rock garden separated by intermittent puddles. An advantage of the lower flows is the ability to move through narrow canyon areas unimpeded by vertical rock walls, and for this reason I chose to hike away from the parking lot a good distance.

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Juicy Deep Run

During my Wednesday fishing venture I landed twenty-seven trout, although the largest fish was only 12 inches. Despite the small size of my catch, I experienced great fun, as I moved frequently and plopped the dry/dropper in every enticing spot. Initially I focused on deep pockets and runs, but I was later surprised to learn that the fish were spread out in the riffles of moderate depth as well. All the landed fish were brown trout except for two small rainbows, and this ratio was unusual compared to my past experience in South Boulder Creek. I speculated that the rainbows were in a spawning mindset, and food was not a priority.

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Sparkling Hares Ear Was Irresistible

I began my search for trout with an olive stimulator trailing a beadhead hares ear, and I landed four small browns between 11AM and 11:45, at which point I took a lunch break. After lunch I learned that I mistakenly focused on the deep pools in the morning. I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert, retained the hares ear, and added a second dropper the the form of a salad spinner. In the next half hour I boosted the fish count from four to thirteen, as I fished the three fly combination in the riffles of moderate depth, while I was cautious to stay back so as not to startle the fish.

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Zoomed in on the Fat Albert

Amazingly fish materialized from nowhere to snatch the hares ear and the salad spinner. During this time the salad spinner accounted for three fish and several momentary hookups, but then it unraveled. I was forced to replace it, and I recently spied several small gray stoneflies fluttering about, so I chose a size 18 soft hackle emerger. The next period of fishing suggested that I over analyzed the situation, as the soft hackle emerger failed to produce. In retrospect I should have continued with the salad spinner, since it yielded three trout and several momentary hookups.

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Very Nice

Between 12:30 and 3:00 I covered a large amount of water and built the fish count from thirteen to 27. During the afternoon the fish began to look to the surface more as evidenced by three browns that crushed the fat Albert. Early in the afternoon I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a mercury flashback black beauty, and this diminutive fly yielded one brown trout. Later I replaced the black beauty with an ultra zug bug, and two fish embraced that move by snatching the peacock imitation from the drift.

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Quite a Pool

The final fish of the day was a small rainbow that rose to the surface and sipped a gray caddis. Just prior to this dry fly success, I broke off the three flies on a backcast, so I replaced the dry/dropper rig with the gray caddis. Fortunately I recovered the three flies that broke off, when I spotted the large foam attractor peeking up from a gap in two large boulders.

In summary I landed three fish on the salad spinner, one on a black beauty, two on the ultra zug bug, three on the fat Albert and one on a caddis adult. My workhorse fly, the beadhead hares ear delivered seventeen trout to my net, and it substantiated its position as my favorite all season fly. It was a fabulous early spring day. The temperature was in the sixties, the fish were hungry, and I did not encounter another soul while I fished. I am not about to quibble over the size of the fish.

Fish Landed: 27

 

Boulder Creek – 03/18/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Within the City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 03/18/2017 Photo Album

After a fantastic day on Tuesday that featured five landed trout in three hours including four rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range, I was quite anxious to return to a stream. Originally I planned to make a trip to a local creek on Thursday, but then I discovered that my Bucknell Bison were playing West Virginia University in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I concluded that many additional days of fishing were ahead of me, but the opportunities to see Bucknell in the tournament were infrequent. I spent Thursday afternoon in front of the TV set in spite of spectacular weather. Unfortunately Bucknell lost by six points, but it was a great game, and I was proud of the effort put forth by my alma mater. Bucknell is much smaller than WVU, and it does not compromise its academic standards for sports, so hanging tough with the Mountaineers was quite an achievement.

My calendar displayed commitments for Friday, so the next viable weekday available for a fishing trip was Wednesday, March 22. Normally I spurn weekend fishing, but eight days was too long to wait for another chance to wet a line, and the summer weather in March was too spectacular to bypass. I considered my options for a Saturday trip. Clear Creek flows were spiking in the afternoon, and this reflected the impact of low level snow melt. My success fishing among ice chunks and run off was limited. I consider South Boulder Creek my home stream, but flows were trickling through the canyon at 14 CFS. The combination of low flows and potential crowds at the popular tailwater made visiting South Boulder Creek a risky proposition. The Big Thompson flows were reasonable, but this is another fishery that receives above average pressure on weekends. The North Fork of the St. Vrain remained an option, and I experienced decent success there on two earlier trips. The last option that I reviewed was Boulder Creek. The stream gauge at Orodell at the bottom of the canyon was not displaying a reading, but then I remembered that my new friend, Trevor, suggested Boulder Creek within the city.

I decided to explore new water once again. Trevor would not devote trips and hours to Boulder Creek, if it did not contain trout, and the trendy place to fish on a balmy late winter day in March was more than likely the mountains. I gambled that most fishermen would rush to the higher elevations and ignore the more mundane flows within the City of Boulder.

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Starting Point on Boulder Creek in City of Boulder, CO

I arrived at a parking space near Boulder Creek at 11AM on Saturday morning, and after rigging my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked .5 mile downstream from a bridge and paused to assess the water. Boulder Creek within the city limits is much more placid than the tumbling mountain torrent that passes through the canyon to the west. My starting point was just below a gorgeous deep pool that contained a deep center current and shelf pools on either side. I tied a size 14 medium olive body stimulator to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper, and I warmed my arm up by casting to some marginal runs, while I progressed toward the aforementioned pool.

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Nice Early Catch

On the third cast to the center of the pool, a small brown trout darted from its holding lie and snatched the hares ear near the lip. I was excited to break the ice early, and cautious optimism flushed my thoughts. I continued with some additional unproductive casts, and as I was doing this, I observed quite a few large midges hovering near the water. I judged them to be size 20, and for the midge species in flowing water they bordered on giants. One rise is not enough to suggest a switch to a dry fly, but it did prompt me to add another length of tippet to the hares ear, and I knotted a mercury flashback size 20 black beauty to the end of my line.

As I began casting to the left shelf pool, a cluster of midges appeared and shortly thereafter I witnessed a couple more rises. Surely these feeding fish could not ignore my three fly offering, could they?. I did not wait long for the answer. Within the next forty-five minutes my net felt the weight of five additional brown trout. The largest was eleven inches, and all except one nabbed the hares ear, but I enjoyed the fast action in the small stream on a warm weekend in March despite the small size of the fish. The black beauty produced the brown trout that ignored the hares ear.

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Another Nice Wild Fish

Before I paused for lunch at 12:30 I continued upstream and added two additional brown trout to the fish count. Another nipped the black beauty, and the other fell for the hares ear nymph. Each fish emerged from the tail of nice deep slow moving pools. Boulder Creek exhibited a nice mix of small deep pools next to undercut banks and logs, as well as deep runs that fed the pools and some narrow fast moving chutes.

After lunch I progressed upstream, as I prospected the likely spots, and I landed two more small browns on the hares ear. The slowing catch rate correlated with the rising temperature, but I was thrilled to reach the double digit milestone. Meanwhile the bike path was buzzing with all manner of traffic, as the summer weather brought out the walkers, skateboarders, inline skaters, dog walkers, joggers and cyclists in abundant quantities. For the most part the outdoor enthusiasts did not bother my fishing other than the occasional splashing dog.

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Hares Ear Victim

By 1:30 I approached a deep pool that represented the most attractive fishing structure of the day. As I paused to assess my approach, I spotted a decent fish resting along the inside edge of the shelf pool created by the main current. The fish appeared to be actively feeding, as it made occasional sudden moves to intercept items from the underwater drift. I made five or six passes with my dry/dropper configuration, and each was ignored by my sighted target. I decided to change tactics, and I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert to support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. I retained the beadhead hares ear and added a beadhead ultra zug bug to the end of my line, but this change in strategy had no impact on the trout eight feet in front of me.

After ten drifts along the current seam and through the short pool I moved on, and I managed to fool a small brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug during the next thirty minutes. The sun was now high in the sky, and the air temperature climbed toward the eighty degree mark. The bare limbs of the numerous streamside trees afforded scant shade, although the narrow shadows from the branches and limbs caused my top fly to alternate between sunlight and darkness. On several drifts I reacted to the illusory disappearance of the top fly, when it transitioned from sun to shade.

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Pink Wing Post

Near the end of my day I encountered a long slow moving pool, and I was excited to notice a series of dimpling rises in the flats twenty-five feet above me. I quickly concluded that the splash down of the fat Albert would scatter the feeding fish, so I undertook the time consuming task of removing the three fly dry/dropper set up. I surmised that the fish were consuming tiny midges, but I was not ready to resort to a size 24 griffiths gnat, so I opted instead for a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. I stripped out sufficient line to shoot a longer than normal cast, and on the second attempt I checked my rod tip high and allowed the fly and leader to flutter down above the position of one of the risers. Sip. A quick reflex enabled me to lift my rod, and a spunky ten inch brown trout frolicked on the end of my four weight. I quickly brought it to my net and snapped a photo and released it back to its natural environment. I ended my day with a wild brown trout that sipped an ant in a smooth slow flowing pool. It was a fitting conclusion to a warm late winter day on Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 12

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Ant in Corner of Lip

Brush Creek – 03/14/2017

Time: 2:30PM – 5:30PM

Location: Tributary to the Eagle River.

Brush Creek 03/14/2017 Photo Album

Our friends the Gabourys invited us to join them for a few days at their beautiful home in Eagle Ranch, CO; and Jane and I quickly accepted. Jane made plans to ski with Dave on Wednesday, and I looked forward to fly fishing with Dave after our arrival on Tuesday afternoon. Jane and I had doctor appointments on Tuesday morning, so we packed our bags ahead of time, and this enabled us to depart as soon as we returned from our medical obligations.

We arrived in Eagle a bit later than expected, and after we exchanged greetings, Dave G. and I prepared to fish in nearby Brush Creek. The weather was nearly ideal for March 14 with high temperatures reaching the middle sixties. Not to be outdone the stream was crystal clear with flows slightly below perfect. Snow remained in the shaded areas, but the warm temperatures and subsequent melt did not appear to affect the creek.

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Looks Very Fishy

Dave G. and I agreed to cover a lot of water and focus only on the most attractive spots. These juicy locations were characterized by depth and slower current velocity, and we held to our plan fairly rigorously. Particularly enticing sections were deep holes that bordered banks, logs and tree root systems.

I began my day with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares and followed that with an ultra zug bug. Dave G. selected a Chernboyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead pheasant tail. Almost immediately Dave G. connected with four fish near our starting point, and several were quite nice rainbow trout in the fifteen inch range. This flurry of early action caused my heart rate to elevate in anticipation of similar success.

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Dave Gaboury's Rod Is Bent

Unfortunately I plugged along for twenty minutes with nothing to show for my efforts. Finally Dave G. graciously offered me first rights to a long pool, and I began at the slow moving tail section. My success rate ticked upward slightly, as I experienced two momentary hook ups, but this merely served to whet my appetite for a netted fish. My frustration was building, but I contained it, as it was an absolutely spectacular late winter day.

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In Better Light

We continued moving at a rapid pace, as we cherry picked only the most inviting areas, until we approached an absolutely surefire trout haven. Dave once again gave me first dibs, and I finally connected on a twelve inch brown trout. This apparently was the icebreaker, because over the remainder of the afternoon I landed four additional rainbow trout. All were chunky fish in the fifteen to sixteen inch range, and every fish that I landed on Tuesday succumbed to the ultra zug bug. During the first thirty minutes I was close to abandoning the ultra zug bug, but I patiently persisted, and I was rewarded for not making a change.

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Another Gorgeous Rainbow Trout

Quite a few of the rainbows were visible in the low flows, and it was exciting, although challenging to place casts above the sighted fish, and then watch intently for a sign of the fish taking the subsurface offering. In one noteworthy case I approached a deep shelf pool on the left side of the center current. I placed a cast along the current seam, and the fat Albert drifted off to the side and into the slow water, until the surface fly nearly came to a standstill. I decided to lift the fat Albert to check for a snag, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel the throbbing weight of a fat fifteen inch rainbow trout. Several of the takes were quite subtle, and success required extreme concentration.

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Tuesday was a fun day on Brush Creek, and the effort resulted in four of my best fish of 2017. Only the seventeen inch surprise from the Cache la Poudre in Ft. Collins surpassed the afternoon rainbows on March 14. The Colorado weather is improving, and my excitement for the coming season is escalating at a comparable rate.

Fish Landed: 5

Parachute Green Drake – 03/11/2017

Parachute Green Drake 03/11/2017 Photo Album

The parachute green drake is a staple among the corner of my fly box that contains green drake imitations. Trout can be quite discerning during a western green drake hatch; therefore, I stock two different sizes and three styles during the period when I am most likely to encounter the large western mayfly. A previous post documented the Harrop hair wing style, and the comparadun green drake is highly effective on certain streams as well. When I counted my green drakes, I ascertained that five parachute green drakes remained from 2016 in size 14.

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Near Perfection

During the past five years I learned that a parachute pattern is often preferred when trout shy away from the bushier hair wing version. It projects a silhouette that is more robust than a comparadun but not as bulky as a hair wing. I may be wrong about this, but I also sense that the size 14 2XL matches naturals more frequently than size 12. The size 12 version of the western green drake seems to fool trout early in the season, but it is ignored during later hatches on the Frying Pan River and South Boulder Creek.

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Perched on Calf Body Hair

During 2016 my best action on a size 14 parachute green drake occurred on the Frying Pan River on July 26. My friend John and I were about to quit for the day, but then we agreed to make one more last ditch effort during the late afternoon. John was the first to discover that the Frying Pan trout were tuned into the green drake, so I borrowed from his knowledge and knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. The move paid huge dividends, as I landed six additional trout over the remaining 1.5 hours on the river.

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Hopefully Irresistible

Periods like this linger in my memory, and therefore, I tied five additional size 14’s to increment my total to ten. Hopefully my fly fishing travels will intersect with numerous green drake hatches during 2017, and the parachute green drake will be a favorite of western trout.

Cache la Poudre River – 03/09/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Lee Martinez Park

Cache la Poudre River 03/09/2017 Photo Album

Meeting a new friend and discovering unfamiliar water were the goals for Thursday, March 9, and I can report with great enthusiasm that both objectives were met. I departed from Stapleton at 8:05 and arrived at new friend Trevor’s house by 9AM, and that was the time we set for our meeting. I transferred my gear into Trevor’s vehicle which sported a rod vault on the roof, and we were on our way to Ft. Collins to fish the Cache la Poudre River.

I connected with Trevor, AKA @rockymtnangler, through Instagram; and we quickly realized that we frequented many of the same front range streams, thus our rendezvous on Thursday. Trevor is a pharmacist, and he has been fly fishing for five years, and he is an accomplished adventurer in Rocky Mountain National Park. I hope to learn a lot from this young man about fishing high mountain lakes during the summer of 2017, although he quickly informed me that accessing the trailheads in RMNP during the prime summer season requires arrival at sunrise. On another level Trevor was a successful lefthanded pitcher at Longmont High School, and since I also carry a baseball pedigree, we possessed another experience in common.

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Trevor Works a Tough but Attractive Trout Lair

After a short drive north on I25 Trevor pulled into a parking space at Lee Martinez Park on the northern edge of thriving Ft. Collins, CO. Trevor extracted his already strung rod from the rod vault, and I was quite jealous, as I struggled to match his head start. I chose my Sage four weight, as it is light enough for a small stream, but the fast action performs reasonably well in windy conditions. The air temperature was already at sixty degrees as we embarked on the bike path to the river, and a breeze rustled the trees as a harbinger of what was in our future. Trevor fished the Cache la Poudre within the town limits once before, so he led the way.

We crossed a narrow pedestrian bridge to the north side of the river and then circled to a huge smooth pool that extended fifty yards through the natural park. Immediately Trevor spotted a pod of rises, and our expectations soared. On Trevor’s previous visit he encountered a blue winged olive hatch at 10AM, so we crossed our fingers that history would repeat itself. Trevor cautiously waded into the pool between some large overhanging trees and in front of a log jam that extend from the opposite bank. I meanwhile circled above and entered at the top of the pool below a long gravel bar. Several fish were rising thirty feet below me, and I surmised that a downstream approach was in order, so that the feeding fish would see the fly before the leader and fly line.

Given Trevor’s encounter with small mayflies I  assumed that the fish were feeding on blue winged olives, so I knotted a size 24 to my line and paused to observe the water and plan a strategy. It was nearly impossible to take a small step without sending small ripples across the pool. Before I could attempt my first cast Trevor shouted that he had a take but pulled the fly from the fish’s mouth. A few minutes later he checked his line and learned that he actually broke the fly off in the trout’s mouth. Needless to say this elevated my heart rate. If I was lucky enough to induce a take, I pledged to pause before executing a hook set, since downstream drifts are more prone to stripping the fly upstream and out of a fish’s mouth.

Finally I was ready, and I launched a long cast, and I checked it high to allow a large amount of slack to fall to the water. The slack slowly uncoiled as the fly drifted down the center of the pool, and my pulse raced when a fish sipped a natural within inches of my fly. Not a good sign. Two fish were rising within reach of my casts, and I managed to make ten drifts with no assault on my flies, before the wind gusted with relentless force down the river. This sudden rush of air placed a significant chop on the surface, but then when the blast subsided a flurry of feeding rises ensued. This series of events happened a second time, and this made me suspect that perhaps ants were deposited in the stream by the wind, and the fish were reacting.

I replaced the BWO with a parachute ant and covered the area of rising fish with ten more casts, but my theory did not explain the feeding habits of the fish, and I remained a frustrated fisherman. Trevor meanwhile registered another refusal or momentary hookup. After a half hour next to a pool with at least ten rising fish, the feeding halted, and we decided to explore the upstream sections of the river.

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Four Feet Above the Indention Was the Rainbow Home

The next area was characterized be several long deep pools along the south bank, but as we moved away from the large pool, we realized that the flows were extremely low, and this foreshadowed challenging fishing. Wind and low flows are a difficult combination. After another half hour of futile casting we approached a place where a concrete wall bordered the river on the north side, and as I paused, I noticed a pair of subtle rises within six inches of the bank. By now I converted to a dry/dropper configuration with a size 16 gray stimulator as the surface fly, and a beadhead hares ear that dangled eighteen inches below. I was skeptical that the rising fish would show any interest in the stimulator, but perhaps a drifting hares ear might represent a tasty temptation.

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17

I executed a few casts eight feet above the rise, but they were not close enough to the bank, so I picked up the line and delivered another shot closer. I was fearful of lodging the trailing hares ear in the vegetation, but the stimulator rested a foot from the bank, and I managed to avoid a snag. I carefully watched the dry fly bob with the current for a few feet, and then before it reached the target area where a fish previously rose, the bushy imitation dipped, and I instantly set the hook. Imagine my shock and state of euphoria when a seventeen inch rainbow flashed near the surface. How could my fortunes turn in such an abrupt manner during these challenging early March conditions?

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I shouted to Trevor and carefully maintained tension until I elevated the glistening prize over the lip of my net. The fish caused a huge sag, and in the same instant that it slid over the rim, the hares ear released. The timing of the hook release was amazingly advantageous. Trevor kindly halted his efforts and quickly crossed the stream and snapped off a barrage of photos. Even now I am amazed at the stroke of good fortune that enabled me to land the largest fish of the season under difficult low water conditions within the town of Ft. Collins. By the end of my fishing day I would discover that the rainbow catch was a significant aberration.

Once the excitement of the fortuitous catch wore off, we gathered our senses and proceeded farther west. The river at this point consisted of long stretches of shallow riffles through medium sized rounded boulders, but intermittently we encountered a section with some depth that suggested the possibility of fish. Twenty minutes after the catch of the day, I approached one such location where two braids of the river merged below a small island and formed a slow moving pool that was thirty yards long. I waded to the bottom of the deep section, and as I prepared to cast the dry/dropper combination, a fish showed itself on the left side with a subtle rise. I shot several casts above the scene of the surface feed, but this failed to generate a response, so I progressed with additional casts, as I moved from left to right. Once again failing to interest any fish I shot a cast back toward the left, and after an eight foot drift, the dry fly submerged, and I rapidly raised the four weight and found myself attached to a chunky eleven inch brown trout. My confidence in the hares ear surged, as I flicked it from the wild brown trout lip, and my expectations for the remainder of the day elevated.

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Hello Mr. Brown Trout

Alas, the renewed confidence was unfounded, as Trevor and I pressed on upstream. In truth the quality of the water deteriorated, and our advance required longer and longer intervals to skip uninteresting shallow riffles. In addition the wind announced an upgrade in ferocity that compromised accuracy greatly. By 2PM we decided to reverse our direction and hit some of the prime spots on the return. In a nice angled run 15 yards above the scene of my rainbow conquest, Trevor managed a temporary connection. We made a final curtain call in the large pool above the bridge, as I spotted a couple sipping rises. Not wishing to disturb the water with a beadhead dropper, I replaced the hares ear with a parachute ant, but after two upstream casts to the scene of the rises, the surface show ended.

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Some Man Made Pools

We called it quits at 2:30 and hoofed the short distance back to the parking lot and car. Trevor and I agreed it was a slow day, but fun nonetheless to be outdoors in early March. For me the two trout and especially the rainbow were a bonus. I met a new fishing partner face to face, and he introduced me to a stretch of water that suggests future opportunities at higher flows. It was all good.

Fish Landed: 2

Clear Creek – 03/08/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: A mile west of tunnel 1 and then at MM 264.0

Clear Creek 03/08/2017 Photo Album

Wednesday on Clear Creek was not what I expected. I was still fairly elated over my thirteen fish day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain on Friday, March 3, and I was certain that the return of milder March temperatures on March 8 would provoke some decent fishing on Clear Creek. Unfortunately I failed to account for the fact that the North Fork of the St. Vrain is a tailwater; whereas, Clear Creek is a freestone stream. In addition Clear Creek flows through a narrow canyon, and thus the ice and snow do not absorb as much direct sunlight.

From a weather standpoint it was quite nice with the temperature hovering around sixty degrees, as I geared up to fish at 11:30 on Wednesday. I felt infrequent gusts of wind at my perch along route 6, but I sensed that I could manage the hindrance by taking advantage of the long lulls in between. A flagman was halting traffic just beyond the next bend causing a backup, so I used the stoppage to execute a quick U-turn, and I parked facing east on the other side of the highway just below some construction equipment. The area next to the pullout was largely bathed in sunlight, and the stream segment was near the area I targeted. The section of the stream I planned to fish was the closest to Golden of any of my previous Clear Creek ventures.

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Ice Shelves Remain

Since it was approaching noon I decided to quickly consume my lunch by the car rather than add weight to my backpack. Upon the completion of my lunch, I grabbed my Loomis five weight and scrambled down the steep rocky bank to the edge of the stream. The water was crystal clear, and it flowed along at a desirable pace of 28 CFS. I followed my recent practice and tied on a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear and began prospecting the normal attractive spots. Based on past experience I focused much of my casting on deep slow moving pockets and shelf pools along the banks. Unfortunately the normal productive locations failed to be hot spots.

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I fished for 1.5 hours with only a look or two, when I finally induced a small brown trout to grab the hares ear, as the trio of flies arced into a downstream swing away from a narrow slow moving trough along the far bank. Just prior to this dose of good fortune I swapped the fat Albert for a size 10 Chernobyl ant, although this probably had nothing to do with my success. I did experience a momentary hook up on the Chernobyl a few minutes before landing the small brown trout on the hares ear.

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Nice Pool Near the Car

I was frustrated by the lack of action, and I pondered the possible reasons. In my mind I enumerated stream location, choice of lies, and cold water temperature from the low level snow melt as possible prohibitive factors. In an attempt to change one of the variables, I returned to the car and drove west until I reached mile marker 264.0 just beyond Tunnel 3. This area was in partial sunlight, but it contained quite a few ice shelves perhaps attributable to the narrow character of the canyon. In spite of the larger quantity of ice, I found some nice open water pools and resumed my quest for trout.

The fishing in this area was equally as slow as the water closer to Golden, and quite a few icebergs passed by as I worked upstream. Finally at 2:45 I lobbed a cast to a nice slow moving pool, and as I lifted to make another cast next to a boulder, a small brown trout attacked the hares ear. This landed fish was a bonus, as I was resigned to only one fish. I continued for another 15 minutes with renewed enthusiasm, but an attractive stretch of water did not produce, so I called it a day at 3PM and returned to Stapleton.

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Number 2

I arrived with high expectations after two fun days on the North Fork of the St. Vrain, but I learned that all streams are not equal, and each possesses unique characteristics. The abundance of ice shelves and small icebergs were clues that spring has not advanced in Clear Creek to the extent that it has in other front range drainages. Nonetheless I persisted and landed a couple small trout, and I enjoyed a mild late winter outing close to home.

Fish Landed: 2

North Fork of St. Vrain – 03/03/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of St. Vrain 03/03/2017 Photo Album

If you follow my blog, you could probably guess my destination on Friday March 3 without having to read the title of this post. On February 22 I landed eleven trout on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek, and this was by far the most productive day of fishing I ever experienced in the month of February. I was once again infected with the fly fishing bug, and I could barely contain my urge to return to the small stream near Lyons, CO. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, and I was forced to endure nine days of more typical February weather.

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Near the Start on Friday

At last a peek at the weather forecast revealed a warming trend with high temperatures in Denver expected to spike around sixty on Friday. That was the sole impetus I needed to stash my fly fishing gear in the Santa Fe, and I departed for the St. Vrain at 8:40 on Friday morning.  I kept an eye on the dashboard thermometer while I was in transit, and I was a bit concerned by the inability of the reading to climb above 45 F. In fact when I pulled into the parking lot, the temperature was 41 degrees, and a fairly stiff wind buffeted me as I pulled on my waders and layers. I elected to wear my fleece along with a light down jacket along with my ear flap hat. I stuffed hand warmers in the bib pocket of my waders as well as wool fingerless gloves. I was pleased with my preparedness throughout my day on the stream.

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Nice Pool

Unlike Denver the hills and rocks that bordered the stream were covered with four inches of snow, and the creek next to the parking lot was tinged with a bit of discoloration. This caused me some concern, but I embraced the thought that the snow melt effect would be minimal once I walked closer to the dam. This assumption proved to be correct, and after a mile of anxious exertion, it became evident that the stream was essentially clear, although the amount of snow along the bank was also in greater supply.

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Fish Number Two

I moved above the large pipe that serves as an alternative outlet from Buttonrock, and after another .2 mile I carefully stepped down a step bank, crossed a small side channel and approached the main fork of the creek. I decided to adhere to the approach that worked on February 22, and I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and a size 14 copper john. I began my normal routine of probing the deep runs and pockets, and in the first narrow deep trough I witnessed a pause in the fat Albert and connected with a small rainbow trout. It was around seven inches long, but it broke the ice, and I was relatively confident that I could land a few more fish.

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Number Three Was This Pretty Rainbow

I suffered through a dry spell for the next fifteen minutes, but then I notched two additional fish that snatched the beadhead hares ear in a slow moving shelf pool along the opposite side of the stream. The takes were quite subtle and characterized by an almost imperceptible pause of the fat Albert. I was fortunate to react, and my prize for attentiveness was an eleven inch brown trout and a ten inch rainbow, that displayed vivid colors. The process of releasing and photographing these trout caused my hands to get wet, and I struggled to completely dry the back of my left hand, as the cold and wind induced a constant sting. I repeatedly congratulated myself for stuffing the fingerless gloves in the side pockets of my wader bib.

At 11:50 I spotted some large rocks facing the sun situated halfway up the bank, so I took advantage of this scene and paused for lunch. For most of the morning a large high gray cloud blocked the sun’s ineffective attempts to penetrate, but as I munched my sandwich, it became fairly obvious that the cloud cover was about to disperse. This eventuality did in fact come about, and the air temperature rose five to ten degrees as a consequence, and this greatly increased my comfort level for the remainder of the day.

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Attractive Run Below Boulder and Along Bank

After lunch I continued my upstream migration until I reached the settling pond at the dam by 2:30PM. During this stretch I landed nine additional trout to boost the fish counter to twelve. One additional rainbow trout nestled in my net, while the other eight were deeply colored golden browns. Twelve trout landed on a chilly day in early March exceeded my expectations, and several of the browns were above average for the North Fork of the St. Vrain based on my sampling over the last two years.

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Best Fish of the Day Took a Tiny Mercury Flashback Black Beauty

I swapped the copper john for a mercury flashback black beauty shortly after lunch, and then I approached a nice deep pool next to a large rock. The area where the current spilled into the small pocket was five feet wide and four feet long, and then the current funneled into a deep run along the vertical rock face. The corner of the pocket was covered by a three by two foot foam layer, and I made four or five drifts through the narrow clear water that bordered the foam. I was astounded to discover that the juicy lair was devoid of fish, but before I wrote it off as a tease, I lobbed one more cast into the middle of the foam patch. The fat Albert was visible only as a foam lump, so I gently twitched it to create some movement, and miraculously I felt the bump of some active weight. I quickly lifted my rod tip and set the hook, and a decent brown trout emerged from the foam and thrashed violently in an effort to escape. I maintained tension on my line and carefully slid the fish across the tail of the run and then into my net. Unbeknownst to me a pair of women paused on the road high above, and they asked what I caught. I informed them that it was a brown trout, as I carefully removed the black beauty and captured several photos and a movie. This trout was the largest St. Vrain catch during my four visits over the last two years.

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As I approached the settling pond at 2:15 the stream widened, and the current spilled over the lip of the huge man-made pool. I was below the right half of the creek, and I decided to shoot some casts into the riffles below the lip. The deepest troughs were only a couple feet deep, and I was almost certain that the area did not hold trout, but I felt compelled to cover it nonetheless. My instincts were correct in the segment near the bank, but then I plunked a cast to the second deeper section towards the middle. The fat Albert drifted three feet, and then a twelve inch brown trout materialized out of nowhere and crushed it. What an unexpected thrill to witness a solid surface take on an over-sized dry fly near the end of my day!

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Greed Has Its Downside

Once I photographed and released my prize end of day catch, I scrambled up a steep bank covered with large rocks and accessed the road. By now it was 2:30, and I intended to complete the 30 minute hike back to the car. However as I rounded the ninety degree bend and skirted along the section of the creek above a diversion structure, I had a change of plans. The air temperature was actually the warmest of the day, and I always wondered about the productivity of the large plunge pools in the high gradient section to my left. The warmth of the sun accelerated the run off, as the snow succumbed to the more intense rays of the sun, and this in turn created increased turbidity in the water below me. The milky olive-brown water caused me to pause, but relatively good visibility remained along the edge, so I decided to climb down the bank just above the concrete diversion wall.

Before I began prospecting the deep plunge pools, I switched the black beauty for a prince nymph, as I hoped to create more contrast against the brown stained flows. The first couple pools did not yield any evidence of fish, but then I spotted a small deep pocket next to an exposed mid-stream boulder. This location did not appear to be as attractive as some of the other pools ahead of me, but I decided to dedicate a couple casts, before I moved along. On the third cast the fat Albert slowly bobbed from a position in front of the rock to a foot to the side, and then a wondrous sight appeared. A large mouth rose, and the size eight fat Albert disappeared, and this sudden stroke of good fortune forced me to raise my rod with a sudden and effective hook set.

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Last Fish of the Day

The recently pricked brown trout was not happy, but after a brief display of anger, I pressured it into my waiting net. Another twelve inch brown nestled in my net, and I once again snapped a representative collection of photos and video. Do you readers believe that thirteen is a lucky or unlucky number? I prefer to believe it brings good fortune, as I ended my day resting on a fish count of thirteen.

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What fun! I landed thirteen trout on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek in 3.5 hours of fishing. I managed to land my largest trout from the St. Vrain in two years on a recently tied size 20 mercury flashback black beauty. Two golden yellow twelve inch brown trout crushed the fat Albert. During the day four trout consumed the fat Albert on the surface, three fish were able to pick the tiny black beauty from the drift, and six fish favored the beadhead hares ear. I will probably sample another front range stream when the weather cooperates again, but who knows? Before I wrote this piece, I checked my St. Vrain reports from 2016, and I discovered that my first trip to the flood damaged creek was on March 4, and I scored my first trout of the 2016 season during that early March visit.

Fish Landed: 13

 

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake – 03/01/2017

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake 03/01/2017 Photo Album

As I entered the month of March and anxiously anticipated warmer weather conducive to fishing local streams in relative comfort, I continued to make steady progress toward my goal of building my supply of flies to adequate levels for the 2017 season. Mayflies and caddis remained as the last categories to be reviewed and augmented as necessary.

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Nice Profile

During 2016 I set a goal to converge with as many green drake hatches as possible. This proved to be an objective that eluded my grasp to some extent. I can recall four incidents when the green drake made its presence a factor, but these instances simply fueled my desire for more. I was surprised to encounter a gray drake hatch in the Hayden Meadows area of the Arkansas River, and the Harrop green drake accounted for some landed fish during that enjoyable day of fishing. On 7/15/2016 I spent an afternoon on the Cache la Poudre near Rustic, CO, and green drakes made a welcome appearance. The Harrop green drake accounted for several fish, but I was also frustrated by refusals. It was close but not exactly what the fish were attuned to.

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From the Front

I can usually depend on some hot green drake fishing on the Conejos River, but other than a brief spinner fall, the anticipated hatch never materialized in July 2016. The Frying Pan River is normally an ironclad lock for superb green drake activity and successful hatch matching; however, unlike other years I visited early in the season and failed to make the trip in the August and September time frame. Historically these months produced some of my most intense green drake action. Nevertheless I did enjoy a hour of fast action late in the day on 7/26/2016, with my friend John also joining in the fun. On this occasion the parachute green drake fooled all the trout that nestled in my net.

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Dubbing Included

My last contact with green drakes occurred on 8/4/2017 on South Boulder Creek, but the Harrop hair wing version was not the preferred imitation. A size 14 comparadun with no rib represented the food of choice.

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Clustered Among Moose and Deer

As the reader absorbs the above account of my 2016 green drake encounters, he or she can discern the need for an array of imitation styles and sizes. I generally enter each season with three styles; parachutes, comparaduns and Harrop hair wing. In addition I attempt to stock my fly box with adequate quantities of each style in size 12 and 14. When I sorted and counted my green drake supply a few days ago, I determined that all the Harrop versions were size 12, so I approached my tying bench and produced eight additional size 14 facsimiles. I am quite eager to experiment further with the Harrop green drake in 2017.

 

Stimulators – 03/01/2017

Gray Stimulators 03/01/2017 Photo Album

Olive Stimulators 03/01/2017 Photo Album

My  02/21/2017 post on stimulators documented my fondness for the light yellow body color, however, other body shades attract Rocky Mountain trout throughout the year. Two additional hues that seem to be exceptionally productive in Colorado are gray and olive. When I counted my supply of these two mainstays of my fly box, I realized that my inventory was largely depleted. Given this discovery I sat down at my vise and cranked out fifteen gray and ten olive stimulators. Ten of the gray versions were size 16 and five were size 14. In the case of the olive variety I made entirely size 16.

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First Gray Stimulator, Size 16

Throughout my years of fly fishing gray has always stood out as a popular color for trout. The fabled Adams dry fly is the best example of gray effectiveness, and many authors claim to fish nothing but an Adams with excellent success. I am also extremely confident in a light gray caddis and a light gray comparadun. Regardless of the color of the naturals, these two flies seem to produce. Perhaps this explains why the gray stimulator is often my first choice when I approach a small stream with the intent of prospecting with a dry fly.

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Zoomed In

The bushy appearance of the stimulator enables it to float well in turbulent water, and it is easily visible in most lighting conditions, because it exhibits a high profile on the surface. I prefer foam as my top fly on a dry/dropper configuration, but a stimulator can generally support one size 14 beadhead or smaller dropper, and I often opt for a stimulator dry/dropper alignment in low clear stream conditions. The light stimulator allows a soft entry to a pool and thus reduces the risk of startling a potential skittish feeder.

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Zoomed

During an initial visit to the Hayden Meadows section of the Arkansas River I encountered a gray drake hatch. I assumed the large mayflies were green drakes, and I managed some success with a Harrop deer hair green drake; however, after rotating through other green drake imitations I settled on a size 14 gray stimulator, and it delivered five nice brown trout to my net. This example provides another solid reason to stock ample gray stimulators in my fly box.

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Cannot Wait to Knot on My Line