Clear Creek – 10/21/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Upstream from MM 263.0 to construction area and then downstream from MM 264.0 and back to the car.

Clear Creek 10/21/2016 Photo Album

Could I continue my hot streak of catching trout on Clear Creek with Jake’s gulp beetle? I decided to find out on Friday October 21. After two days of colder day time highs, the weather was shifting with highs in the seventies predicted for Denver.


Rock Climbers Rest High Above Clear Creek

I set out for Clear Creek Canyon at 10AM, and I arrived at a parking space just below the Peak to Plains Trail construction area by 10:45. Once again I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight and proceeded to walk along busy US 6, until I was just above a large rock formation and the mile marker 263.0 pullout. I angled down a worn path and tied a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. Several deep pockets existed next to my starting position, so I began to probe their depths with my beetle. I tucked myself next to the large boulder, so that I was hidden from any cautious fish. Reassuringly on the fifth cast, as the beetle slowly floated within an inch of the rock face, a twelve inch brown darted up and chomped the foam impostor. What a start!


Twelve Inch Surprise Starts My Day

Although the air temperature reached the low seventies in the canyon in the afternoon, it was in the fifties when I began, and I remained in the shade of the south wall of the canyon nearly the entire time. I wore my long sleeved Under Armour shirt, my fishing shirt and a raincoat, and I was comfortable; although the evaporation effect forced me to remove my sungloves, and my feet morphed into frozen fence posts by the early afternoon. Nevertheless I pursued the trout of Clear Creek with intensity using my beetle.


Slack Water Along the Far Bank Delivered

I applied the knowledge I gained in recent outings, and when I encountered attractive locations on the south side of the creek, I executed casts directly across and deployed a downstream drift with frequent short mends. By noon when I enjoyed a lunch break, I was pleased to record three netted fish including the best fish of the day, the initial twelve incher.

After lunch I continued upstream, and I managed to notch three more trout on my fish counter, but the action was quite a bit slower than my previous visit on Tuesday. Given the lower catch rate, I decided to experiment, and I deviated from the peacock gulp beetle for the first time in quite awhile. I was curious if the body color of the beetle mattered, so I knotted a size 10 beetle with a red body to my line and began to serve this bright morsel to the Clear Creek study group. Early on a rainbow slurped the beetle in a deep swirling junction of two currents, but then the red foam terrestrial began to elicit refusals. In addition for some reason the large red beetle repeatedly landed on its back, so I decided to make another change.


Another Decent Clear Creek Brown Trout

It was at this time that I reached the downstream border of the pathway construction zone, so I exited the canyon, walked back to the car, and drove east toward Golden until I was below mile marker 264.0. Once again I ambled along the highway, and then I dropped down a steep bank, until I was once again positioned along the stream. The canyon was narrower in this area than where I began, so I fished exclusively in the shade in the afternoon.

As I mentioned, I was disappointed with the red beetle and with the fish attracting appeal of Jake’s gulp beetle on Tuesday. I pondered my next move, and I decided to try a dry/dropper. I pulled a trusted fat Albert with a light yellow body from my box, and then I added an ultra zug bug on a three foot dropper. The ultra zug bug was a strong producer during autumn in previous years.


Pools and Canyon Walls

Between 1:30 and 3:00 I landed three more brown trout to bring my cumulative tally to nine. All the trout netted at the mile marker 264 location grabbed the trailing ultra zug bug, as it began to drag away from rock structure in runs and pockets. I also experienced a momentary hook up on the fat Albert as well as a refusal or two. Also in the last thirty minutes I upped my pace and moved quickly between juicy spots in an effort to hit double digits, and during this time I endured two long distance releases. Clearly the catch rate improved while I deployed the dry/dropper configuration, so I am forced to report that the Jake’s gulp beetle hot streak reached an end.

At 2:45 I climbed out of the canyon and returned to the car, and then I drove to Mayhem Gulch, where I met Jane. We completed a thirty-five minute round trip bike ride on the newly completed section of the Peak to Plains Trail, and then we adjourned to the Cannonball Brew Pub in Golden for some liquid refreshments. Friday was a fun day, but the frenzied attacks on Jake’s gulp beetle are likely a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I am not ready to put my fishing gear into storage for 2016.

Fish Landed: 9

Clear Creek – 10/18/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: .4 miles below mile marker 263.0

Clear Creek 10/18/2016 Photo Album

Jake’s gulp beetle rocks, and I am in love with moody Clear Creek. Jane and I returned from a five day trip to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia on Monday; and even if I had time to fish, the blustery wind guaranteed that I would not. Tuesday was forecast to be cooler but less windy, so I made plans to visit Clear Creek. Prior to our trip I enjoyed several very productive days on Clear Creek, and in fact the size of the fish were comparable if not greater than my landed count on the Big Thompson. With winter around the corner I valued the idea of investing only a forty-five minute drive in case the weather was uncooperative.


Nice Yellow Color on the Left

I arrived at a pullout near mile marker 263.0 at 11:15, and I rigged my Loomis five weight and stuffed my lunch in my backpack, before I hiked downstream along the narrow shoulder along US 6. The ever present large trucks and buses whizzed by, and several times I climbed over the guard rail to obtain a margin of safety. After a .4 mile walk I scrambled down a steep bank and used a jumble of large rocks as my stair steps.


Another Decent Rainbow Trout

Jake’s gulp beetle was my workhorse fly on October 9 and 10, so I decided to stick with a winner and knotted a size 12 to my line. Once again the water was crystal clear and the flows were reported to be 42 cfs. The air temperature was 54 degrees, and I bundled up a bit with my long sleeved under layer, and I added my raincoat for a windbreaker. For my head gear I wore my billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and this proved to be a solid move.


Pretty Section Ahead

I began flicking the foam beetle to likely locations along the right bank, and I attracted interest almost immediately, but unfortunately the two early beetle eaters escaped the hook after a momentary connection. I was a bit concerned over this ominous start to my day on Clear Creek.

I maintained my optimism and progressed to the next attractive area only twenty-five feet beyond my starting point. Here a relatively wide smooth pool of moderate depth revealed itself on the opposite side of the creek. I recalled my success with downstream casts during my most recent visits, so I positioned myself toward the top of the pool albeit on the side of the stream that bordered the road. I shot a cast across and reached the fly line upstream and then executed several quick mends. This technique paid large dividends, as I landed one rainbow and three brown trout from the target area. The two long distance releases faded from my memory, and a jolt of optimism shot through my brain.


Good View of the Beetle

I broke for lunch at 12:15 and then continued on my way until I quit just short of the Santa Fe at 3PM. I primarily remained on the right bank, since the sunlight made it easier to follow my fly, but when I encountered juicy sections on the south bank, I repeated the across and downstream maneuver, that I described in the previous paragraph, and in most cases it produced. I estimate that the across and down technique delivered sixty percent of the fish that I landed, and the remainder resulted from the more conventional upstream cast. The air temperature never exceeded the sixty degree line, but the wind was not bothersome, and I was reasonably comfortable when in the shade or when clouds blocked the radiant heat from the sun. I did forego wearing my sungloves to avoid the cooling effect caused by evaporation.


Larger Than Average



A Collection Point

When I reached twenty-five on the fish counter, it was 2:45PM, and a man and young boy appeared along the bank above me. At first I was not certain what they were up to, but I did not spot any fishing gear. Eventually as I waded closer, I noted that the man had three large five gallon plastic buckets, and I assumed he was panning for gold. Fortunately the stream was relatively wide at this point, so I moved toward the middle and waded around him, while I prospected the likely holding spots on the south bank. The strategy worked, and I added three more fish to my total during this time period, and then I reeled up my fly and called it a day.


I Love the Clarity of This One

On Tuesday October 18 I had a blast. I landed 28 trout, and they all savored the foam beetle. The only negative was the three peacock body gulp beetles that I left in the mouths of Clear Creek trout. I restocked my fly box, but I fear that I will need to supplement my supply for the few remaining days of the 2016 season. If I continue catching fish during the late fall season, I will not mind producing a few more beetles.

Fish Landed: 28


Big Thompson River – 10/11/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Waltonia Bridge and upstream

Big Thompson River 10/11/2016 Photo Album

How universal is the appeal of Jake’s gulp beetle? I was very curious to determine if it was effective only on Clear Creek, or did the beetle’s popularity extend to other Front Range streams?  On Sunday and Monday I landed 33 trout, and all were attributable to the workhorse beetle. In an effort to discover the answer to this question I planned yet another fishing trip, and this time I chose the Big Thompson River. Adequate stream flows of 49 cfs and solid fishing reports from the various fly shop web sites made this a logical choice. The weather in Estes Park, however, was a bit of a wild card, as morning rain was in the picture, and a 20% chance of showers in the afternoon loomed as a possibility. My new weather checking regimen includes wind velocity, and double digit miles per hour appeared on the Weather Underground chart. I decided to give it a try, since it represented a relatively close one and a half hour drive, and I was uncertain when my next opportunity to fish would arrive.


The Start

I drove downstream from Olympus Dam to Waltonia Bridge, which represents the end of the catch and release water when traveling east. I continue to be cognizant of the impact of the 2013 flooding, and the damage is greater as one moves away from Estes Lake. Clearly the section of river I chose to fish incorporated the risk of reduced fish population due to the flood. As I prepared my Loomis five weight, the sky was bright blue with occasional high white clouds. The pavement was wet from the recent rain, but it seemed apparent that I would enjoy dry conditions for several hours. The wind on the other hand was a concern, as the trees and bushes bent and shimmered in their effort to resist the stiff breeze flowing down the canyon.

I walked down the road and around the bend, until I was twenty yards above the Waltonia Bridge, and at this point I carefully scrambled down some large boulders to the edge of the stream. The experiment was about to begin. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and began to plop it into the best trout holding habitat. Within the first half hour I witnessed four refusals to the beetle. Obviously the large foam terrestrial imitation was attracting attention, but the fish were deterred at the last minute. I concluded Big Thompson trout did not respond to Jake’s gulp beetle in the same way as Clear Creek trout. For the first time in three days of fishing I was faced with making a decision about what fly to use.

I elected to switch to a size 10 Chernboyl ant, and to hedge my choice I added a beadhead hares ear on a 2.5 foot dropper. The move allowed me to get on the scoreboard, when I landed a small rainbow trout, but the two flies were attracting less attention than the beetle. Perhaps the fish were hugging bottom in the cold morning water temperatures, and my flies were not getting deep enough? I added another dropper in the form of a salvation nymph, and this fly delivered a second small rainbow. Clearly the day was not evolving in the manner that I envisioned. Adding to my frustration with the slow fishing was the relentless wind that continued to gust down the canyon. It was impossible to deliver the flies accurately and with the soft presentation that I normally strive for.


On the Board with a Small Brown Trout

At 12:15 I was stuck on two small trout, so I took a break and ate my lunch on a large flat rock next to the small river. I pondered my morning, and I concluded that the fish clearly looked toward the surface and largely ignored my subsurface offerings. I tried three large buoyant terrestrials, and they created some inspections, but none resulted in hookups. The three top flies were the Jake’s gulp beetle, the Chernobyl ant, and a hopper Juan. I decided that I would try a non-foam dry fly, and after lunch I inspected my MFC fly box and plucked a size 14 stimulator with a light orange-tan body.


Small but Pretty Rainbow Trout

My analysis proved to be correct, and between 12:30 and 1:30 I moved the fish count from two to nine. The wind played havoc with the light stimulator, and difficult lighting made it a challenge to follow at times, but if I could place my cast in the right kind of water, the fish responded. The right kind of water possessed depth and ran next to cover or along a current seam. At 1:30 I set the hook on a slurp at the tail of a pocket, and I was surprised to learn that the fish was gone as well as my fly. All the fish that I landed on Tuesday were in the six to nine inch range, so I concluded that I once again had an abrasion on my knot. The productive fly was a purchased fly, and it was the only one in my fly box, so I shifted to a size 12 gray stimulator.


Typical Productive Pocket Ahead

At this same point in time some dark clouds rolled in from the west, and the wind kicked up even more than what I battled previously. I paused on the bank and pulled on my raincoat, and this proved to be a prescient move, as a ten minute period of steadily blowing rain arrived. Once the wind and rain subsided I continued my progress upstream with the gray stimulator, and I incremented the fish counter from nine to fourteen. During my last hour of fishing I was much more selective about my targeted casting areas. I skipped large deep pools as well as small marginal pockets, and I searched for nice pockets and shelf pools that displayed three to four feet of depth. Similar to Monday on Clear Creek I coaxed a couple browns to smack the stimulator by using downstream drifts. This approach took advantage of a tailing wind, and the lighting was much more favorable for following my fly.

After the rain ended, the sky partially cleared for twenty minutes, but then a fresh set of dark clouds invaded from the west. This generated a new wave of cold wind, and I decided that I did not wish to ride out another storm. I reeled up my fly and returned to the car and called it a day.

Tuesday was a decent day given the adversity of wind, clouds and rain. I hoped that the cloud cover would initiate a blue winged olive hatch, but I never observed a single baetis mayfly. Perhaps I departed too early. I managed to land fourteen trout in four hours of fishing, but the size was somewhat disappointing. The largest fish to find my net was probably a ten inch brown trout. Once again fighting the wind was frustrating, but at least I was able to cling to a single dry fly approach. This avoided the inevitable tangles that wind and a three fly dry/dropper configuration creates. I am already looking ahead to the weather next week, when I return from a trip to Pennsylvania. 2016 may yield a few more fish before I turn my attention to the vise.

Fish Landed: 14


Clear Creek – 10/10/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: A mile or two downstream from Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 10/10/2016 Photo Album

Normally I subscribe to the theory that change is a constant in fly fishing, but today October 10 was nearly a repeat of yesterday on Clear Creek. The high temperature on Monday was in the low seventies and slightly warmer than Sunday, but the wind was a much greater factor, and in fact when I arrived next to the stream, I almost returned home, as the wind whistled by my ears and rustled the streamside vegetation. Fortunately I persisted, and the wind velocity subsided a bit after a rough first thirty minutes. The flows and clarity remained a constant, but I chose to fish a stretch of the creek that was approximately two miles east of the segment that I covered on Sunday.


Perfect Water



Splotchy Pattern on This First Landed Fish

After I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight, I stuffed my lunch in my backpack, and I found a relatively easy path to the edge of the creek. Similar to Sunday I knotted a size 12 peacock Jake’s gulp beetle to my line, and I began casting to the likely fish holding spots along the right bank that bordered US 6. I did not wait long before a small brown trout rocketed to the surface and smashed the impostor beetle. I continued prospecting the edge of the creek from 11:30 until 3PM, and I netted sixteen trout during this time period. The fish count included three small rainbows, and the remainder were feisty brown trout. Similar to Sunday I endured numerous refusals and temporary hook ups, but these frustrations occurred with much less frequency.


The Area in Front of the Log Produced

The significant adverse factors were the wind, tricky lighting and the loss of two gulp beetles over the course of my progression up Clear Creek. The first lost beetle was the victim of an errant backcast that wrapped the fly and leader around a dead tree limb. I initially broke the leader at a surgeon’s knot, and then I actually succeeded in knocking the fly free with the aid of my wading staff, but a gust of wind swept the leader and fly past my head, and I was unable to spot it in the rushing creek. The second beetle duped a decent trout, but then it broke free, and a quick inspection revealed that the knot may have been nicked or abraded.


Pretty Brown Trout

For most of the afternoon the lighting along the right bank made following the beetle very difficult in spite of the small orange indicator strip. I compensated by wading toward the center of the stream a bit and then cast back toward the bank. This worked in some places, but inevitably there were reaches where I was unable to wade into an advantageous position.


Shelf Pool Screams Trout

Amazingly the technique that produced the most fish was utilizing a downstream drift along the opposite bank. When I spotted a section of slow moving slack water of significant depth along the south bank, I positioned myself near the top and across from the target stretch. I cast across and made frequent steady mends to offset drag, and I was shocked how often a nice brown trout would move two or even three feet, as it followed the beetle and eventually snatched it near the lip of the pool. The fish put on quite a show, and I loved the visual effect of a streaking fish following and crushing its victim. My percentage of landed fish using this approach far surpassed my success rate when casting upstream or up and across.


Perhaps Best Ever Clear Creek Catch

At around 2 o’clock on one of these downstream drifts I connected with a larger than average brown trout. This battler put quite a bend in the five weight, and when I finally scooped it in my net, I estimated that it was the largest trout that I ever landed from the small front range stream. I guessed that it measured somewhere between twelve and thirteen inches.


A Relatively Rare Rainbow Trout

Once again I enjoyed a fun action packed day on Clear Creek. Although the fish are relatively small, they are not easily fooled, and I love the challenge of reading the water types. Clear Creek Canyon offers nine or ten miles of public access, and quite a bit of the tumbling creek remains to be explored. A fun day of fishing on October 10 is welcome and highly appreciated.

Fish Landed: 16

Clear Creek – 10/09/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: MM261.5 and then upstream .5 mile

Clear Creek 10/09/2016 Photo Album

Sunday was forecast to be a gorgeous fall day with high temperatures spiking in the seventies in Denver, so I once again felt the itch to exercise my arm and toss some flies. I experienced an enjoyable day on Clear Creek on Wednesday October 5, so I decided to repeat the short drive to the canyon. I purposely avoid fishing on weekends since I reached retirement status, but I made an exception on Sunday, so I could take advantage of the dwindling nice weather.


Pretty Day on Clear Creek

I arrived at the second parking lot along the newly opened Peak to Plains Trail at 10:30AM, and after assembling my Loomis five weight rod, I walked along the shoulder of US 6 until I was .2 miles below the pedestrian bridge and just above mile marker 261.5. The temperature was in the mid to upper fifties as I tied a size 12 peacock dubbed Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. The creek was ideal with flows in the 45 cfs range, and the clarity was perfect. I could see a fisherman hovering near the bridge, but he seemed fairly stationary, and I planned on circling around him if necessary to continue my upstream progression.

I began casting the beetle along the right bank, and in a short amount of time I witnessed several refusals and a momentary hook up. I began to evaluate a fly change and also rued the likely commencement of bad karma, when a small brown trout slashed at and consumed the beetle. This put a momentary halt on my negative thoughts, and I focused anew on the process of plopping the large beetle in the ten foot band along the north edge of the stream.


Deep Coloration on This Slightly Larger Brown Trout

Between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock I landed twelve small trout on the beetle. At one point the large foam terrestrial broke off, and I caught myself casting a line with no fly on it. I felt rather foolish, but I quickly remedied the situation and knotted a size 14 version of the same beetle to my line and resumed. I am still not sure what caused the fly to separate, but I can only guess that the line acquired an abrasion or the knot was faulty.


New Pedestrian Bridge Ahead

After a few more fish I approached the pedestrian bridge, and while some spectators paused to observe, I landed a pair of small trout. A young lady queried me as to what I caught, and I replied that it was a rainbow trout. Somehow a section of the small narrow foam indicator on the size 14 beetle broke off, and I was struggling to follow the tiny remaining spot, so I exited the creek below the bridge, and returned to the car to pick up three new peacock beetles.


Huge Head Spots on This One

From 1:00 until 2:30 I worked my way upstream from the bridge, until I finally called it a day, so I could catch the second half of the Broncos’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The water upstream from the bridge was not as attractive to me, as the creek bed widened, and this created more wide shallow areas and reduced the number of attractive deep pockets and runs along the bank. Clear Creek brown trout love the cover provided by the great quantity of streamside boulders along the bank.


The Productive Jake's Gulp Beetle

Sunday was a fun day. Indecision over fly choice was never a factor, as I plopped a size 12 or 14 beetle the entire time. The fly was not perfect as evidenced by the many refusals and temporary connections, but it worked often enough to yield seventeen fish, and the anticipation of a rising fish sustained my interest for three and a half hours. If only the Broncos could have generated similar success on their Sunday endeavor on the gridiron.

Fish Landed: 17

Arkansas River – 10/06/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Spike Buck and Five Points

Arkansas River 10/06/2016 Photo Album

The view out of my windshield was miserable as I departed from Stapleton on Thursday morning October 6. I alternated the windshield wipers between intermittent and steady, and the dashboard digital thermometer displayed 38 degrees. Could I really enjoy fishing in the Arkansas River, when the weather in Denver was this adverse? My Weather Underground app forecast a high of 65 degrees in Canon City and only a very slim chance of rain. Was Weather Underground out of date compared to the national weather service?

Miraculously when I reached the Palmer Divide just north of Monument, CO, the steady rain/sleet ceased to slap my windshield, and the sun peeked from behind the clouds in the eastern sky. The thermometer registered its low of 34 degrees, and it gradually climbed through the forties and peaked at 50 degrees, when I pulled into the Arkansas River Headwaters access location at Spike Buck. I was quite relieved to confirm the accuracy of the Weather Underground app, and I prepared to fish.

When I exited the Santa Fe, I detected some air movement, but clearly wind was not the significant negative factor that frustrated me on Monday on the South Platte River. Nevertheless I pulled on my long sleeved Under Armour base layer and then topped it with my fishing shirt and raincoat. I was relatively comfortable during my morning session, although intermittent gusts of wind gave me a slight chill, so I added a fleece layer when I reached the car again in the early afternoon. Although the wind did not impact my fishing as was the case on Monday, it did accelerate in the afternoon and provided several moments of frustration.


Cheech Leech to Begin the Day

I pledged to dedicate thirty minutes to streamer stripping, so I assembled my Sage One five weight and attached the reel that contains my sinking tip line. I was not ready to devote an entire day to streamer fishing, so I dropped my five weight floating line in my backpack, and then I sauntered along the shoulder of US 50 until I was .3 miles below the Spike Buck parking lot. I dropped down to the edge of the river and knotted an articulated cheech leech to my line. The river was rushing along at a bit over 300 cfs, and it was crystal clear, as I began tossing the weighted streamer into the attractive deep pockets. I experimented with upstream casts with a jigging action, up and across slings with fast and slow strips, and downstream dangles. I tried to strip the animated marabou streamer along large boulders and typical brown trout hiding places, but I never detected a bump or follow. After twenty minutes of arm exercise I snipped off the cheech leech and replaced it with a black woolly bugger, but the results mimicked the first twenty minutes.


Looks Fishy

Having fulfilled my streamer commitment, I shifted direction and swapped the sinking tip line for my floating line. I invested twenty minutes to configure my line with the deep nymphing arrangement that Taylor Edrington taught me during a guided trip several years ago. I removed my tapered leader and tied a six inch section of 0X to the end of the fly line, and then connected the other end to a thingamabobber. I fumbled in my frontpack and uncovered a five foot section of 3X, and I knotted this to the thingamabobber as well. The addition of a split shot, 20 incher, and hares ear nymph completed my set up, and I began to lob casts to the deep holes, pockets and runs along the south side of the Arkansas River.


20 Incher in the Mouth

Between eleven o’clock and noon I managed to land two brown trout in the twelve inch range. One snatched the 20 incher, as I raised my rod at the end of the drift, and the other slightly smaller catch selected the hares ear nymph. I was pleased to register a pair of landed fish, but the action was slow, and I covered quite a bit of productive water in order to get on the fish count scoreboard.


Wet and Effective 20 Incher

After lunch I continued the same approach, until I reached the Spike Buck parking lot , and during this time I netted four additional brown trout. All of these landed fish grabbed the 20 incher, and the other fly on the end of my line did not contribute. I replaced the hares ear with a small baetis imitation that I purchased from Royal Gorge Angler in the spring, as I hoped that the trout would be dialed in to active blue winged olive nymphs. Taylor Edrington recommended the fly, since it sported a loop wing case, and he believed that the fat thorax was a key triggering characteristic.


The Edge Was Productive

Unfortunately on Thursday the loop wing feature did not interest the trout, so I once again made a change and replaced the BWO nymph with a Craven soft hackle emerger. I experienced success with this shiny fluoro fiber imitation during past fall blue winged olive hatches, so I decided to give it a try. The Arkansas River trout threw a penalty flag on the soft hackle emerger, and it did not yield any fish during this October 2016 outing.


Lovely Spots

When I reached the car, I decided to move to another location. I drove west on US 50 until I was just above the Salt Like access point. I remembered this as a productive spot from previous spring ventures, but the descent was steep over some large rocks, and the river bed was narrow and quite swift. I chose the location because I was certain that most fishermen avoid it because of access difficulty, but I only lasted twenty minutes, and then I realized that it was not the right type of water for October 2016. I cautiously scaled the very steep bank, and executed a U-turn and returned to the Five Points location.

Five Points would be my last stand. I continued with the nymph configuration, but I removed the unproductive soft hackle emerger and replaced it with a salvation nymph. The swap yielded a temporary hook up in a moderate run, but just as I felt weight, I saw the side of the ten inch fish flash, and then it was gone. Shortly after this brief connection, I snagged a rock in a place where I could not wade to a position to salvage the flies, and I ended up breaking off the salvation. Salvation nymphs and lost flies seem to be a repeating story.

I decided to replace the salvation nymph with an ultra zug bug, since I recalled success with this simple fly in the autumn in previous years. Similar to the salvation, the zug bug produced a momentary connection, as it began to swing it in the nice bend run next to the island above Five Points. This fish felt a bit larger, but I did not get a glimpse of it. At this point farther progress involved climbing around a large vertical rock or wading to the island in the swift current. Rather than undertaking these challenges, I ambled back to the parking lot, and then I returned to the stream below some picnic tables. While at the bend I observed a flurry of blue winged olives taking flight, so I reverted to the soft hackle emerger, but the gambit proved unsuccessful, and I did not spot any additional mayflies in the air.

By now it was just past 3PM, so I reeled up my line and called it quits. The wind velocity escalated, and I was quite weary from a day of casting the five weight, and a significant hatch did not appear to be in the future. I managed to enjoy a day of fishing when remaining along the Front Range would have likely meant forsaking my beloved pastime, so that was a positive. Six brown trout over four plus hours of fishing is rather mediocre, but as usual, I was in the Colorado outdoors, and I took advantage of the dwindling opportunities to fish in 2016.

Fish Landed: 6

Clear Creek – 10/05/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 10/05/2016 Photo Album

After spending more time driving than fishing on Monday and then engaging in a battle with a windstorm, I did not wish to commit another huge amount of travel time to my fly fishing outing on Wednesday. I adopted a standard policy of checking not only the forecast of temperature and precipitation, but I also included wind speed in my review. With South Boulder Creek now raging at 210 cfs, and the Big Thompson farther than I wished to drive, Clear Creek became an obvious choice. The flows remained at a respectable 45 cfs, and the high temperature for Idaho Springs was projected to be in the upper 50’s. My weather application indicated that wind velocity would remain in the high single digits.

I read my blog posts for two ventures to Clear Creek in early October in 2015 and 2014, and the documented success convinced me that the creek west of Golden, CO was the place to be. I read that the Peaks to Plains Trail segment in the western portion of the canyon opened in July, so I convinced Jane to tag along. She planned to hike the full Peaks to Plains Trail, while I attempted to entice Clear Creek trout with my personally tied flies.


Typical Water

Because of the cold front that moved through Denver on Monday, I delayed our departure until 10:15AM, and at that time we made the drive to the Mayhem Gulch parking area in the western section of Clear Creek Canyon. Mayhem Gulch is located at the eastern end of the newly opened trail. I wore my fleece sweater and raincoat for added warmth, and I assembled my Orvis Access four weight for the relatively small but swift stream. When Jane was ready, we hiked through the tunnel beneath busy US 6, and then we proceeded west on the new trail on the south side of the creek. After a fifteen minute walk, I climbed over the cable fence and descended over some large rocks to the edge of the creek.


Almost Charcoal Body

To begin my quest for cold water inhabitants of the rushing stream, I tied a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line and began to cast to likely fish holding locations. Initially I experienced several refusals to the large foam attractor, so I hedged my bets, and I added a beadhead hares ear nymph. Over the next half hour I managed to land two small brown trout that slurped the Chernobyl. A fifty/fifty split between refusals and hooked fish in the morning mirrored my experience over the remainder of my fishing time on Wednesday.


Beautiful Scene

After lunch I continued working my way upstream, as I crossed back and forth from north to south and vice versa. During this time period I incremented the fish count from two to six, and this included several small rainbow trout that snatched the trailing hares ear nymph. Oddly of the fourteen fish that I landed on Wednesday, five were rainbow trout, and all but one ate the nymph. Conversely nearly all the brown trout smashed the Chernobyl ant. After an exceptionally long streak of refusals, I recalled my 2015 blog post, when I resorted to a Jake’s gulp beetle and enjoyed a boost in my catch rate. I decided to repeat the strategy.


Big Appetite

The beetle occupied my line for thirty minutes and accounted for two brown trout, but I concluded that it lagged the Chernobyl in fish attraction capability. In addition it was much more difficult to track in the shadows and glare that predominated the early afternoon. I reverted to a different Chernobyl ant since the original version lost its hind legs. Once again I added the beadhead hares ear, and I resumed my upstream migration in a similar zig zag pattern.


Handsome Rainbow Trout

Between 1:15 and 3PM I landed six additional trout, and the Chernobyl dominated the action. One surprise catch was an eleven inch rainbow that crushed the oversized ant imitation . Most of my afternoon success occurred along the edges of the creek, so I moved rather quickly and ignored the water between the banks. The sun peeked out for a bit during this time, and the wind subsided, and I enjoyed a momentary respite. Unfortunately the weather break was short lived, and some large gray clouds blew in the from the west to create more poor lighting.

Wednesday was a fun day and a nice comeback from my frustrating day on the South Platte River on Monday. My confidence is on the rise, and I am already planning another outing on Thursday, although the weather pattern is expected to continue on the cool side.

Fish Landed: 14

South Platte River – 10/03/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/03/2016 Photo Album

Monday October 3, 2016 qualifies as one of my worst days of fly fishing since I adopted this addictive pastime over thirty years ago. The source of my discontent is a four letter word. The four letter word is wind.

I arrived at the parking area along the South Platte River at nine o’clock, and when I attempted to get out of the car, the wind repeatedly forced the hinged door back to a closed position. Only after applying my full body weight and both hands was I able to swing the door to a fully open position. I should have accepted this as nature’s way of warning me to change my plans, but I foolishly pursued my scheduled day of fishing.

The air temperature on the dashboard was 53 degrees, and I knew from past experience that this was very tolerable if dressed appropriately. I swapped my high tech short sleeve shirt for an Under Armour long sleeve undershirt, that I wear while skiing. Over this base layer I added my fishing shirt and an insulating fleece cardigan. I elected to wear my brimmed New Zealand hat with ear flaps for additional comfort. I felt reasonably warm as I assembled my Sage four weight rod and then ambled to the edge of the river downstream from my parking spot.

I tied a beige pool toy hopper to my line, and beneath the foam imitation I added a hares ear nymph. The area in front of me contained numerous attractive deep runs and pockets, but it was enveloped by shadows, and this made following even the large foam attractor difficult. I persisted and stationed myself in a manner that enabled me to get the best lighting, so I could follow the drift. After ten minutes of prospecting with the two flies and no signs of trout, I added a salvation nymph as the third bottom fly.

I am embarrassed to report that after an hour of empty casting, I landed my first fish, a small brown trout. I was wading across the river to a new position closer to the far bank, and as the flies dangled behind me, the aggressive brown trout latched on to the salvation nymph. Who was I to reject this good fortune?


Zoomed and Better Lighting

By 11:30 I moved around the bend and slightly above the Santa Fe, so I decided to return to the car for an early lunch. During the morning session the wind continued to howl, and this made casting a very difficult endeavor. Sporadic side gusts played havoc with my accuracy, and I executed numerous casts to obtain the desired drift, when normally I can place my flies very close to the target on the first attempt. Head winds were the worst, and I cannot even remember how often my cast was blown back to my feet. I reacted to the strong wind by overpowering the forward cast, and the rod tip actually touched the surface of the river on many occasions.

After lunch the wind velocity actually increased. I prospected a couple juicy runs, and then I approached a deep pocket, and I spotted three or four decent fish clustered in the deepest section near the tail. As I looked on, the fish demonstrated no reaction to my flies, and I concluded that the dry/dropper method was ineffective because my flies were not drifting along the bottom. I clipped off the pool toy and nymphs and converted to a strike indicator nymphing set up. I began with a beadhead hares ear and a soft hackle emerger, and this approach was moderately successful.


Best Fish of the Day

Between noon and two o’clock I landed three additional small brown trout. In addition I experienced several temporary hook ups, so the change in tactics seemed to pay off. Unfortunately the wind continued to gust, and I actually endured numerous periods when I was unable to cast. In fact I could barely hold my stance in an upright position, as the wind attempted to undermine my balance. Even with the splt shot and strike indicator adding weight to my line, casting continued to be a difficult chore, and the only way I could combat the head wind was to cast toward two o’clock. The angled cast allowed me to shoot line, but mending upstream was very challenging and drag was impossible to prevent.


Productive Pool

Several two minute periods elapsed when I was forced to turn my back to the wind, and the most forceful gusts lifted spray from the surface of the river and hurled it toward my face. By two o’clock I was sufficiently frustrated to call it quits. I hoped for a blue winged olive hatch, but such a fortuitous occurrence would have been wasted, since the tiny mayflies would have been whisked toward land before the trout were even aware of their presence. The wind showed no signs of abating, and I decided to save my arm and back muscles for more advantageous conditions. Hopefully this is a day that will quickly fade from my memory.

Fish Landed: 4



Big Thompson River – 09/29/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Private boundary upstream until near Noel’s Draw

Big Thompson River 09/29/2016 Photo Album

After a day of rest on Wednesday I was anxious to visit a local stream on Thursday September 29. The 2016 season is winding down, and I felt the need to take advantage of gorgeous weather while it lasted. I drove to the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes and arrived at the pullout above the first bridge after Noel’s Draw by 10:30. After I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I walked downstream along the highway, until I reached the barbed wire fence that denotes the beginning of private water.

It was a beautiful late September day, as the temperatures reached the middle seventies by the afternoon. I wore only my fishing shirt, and I was comfortable all day. The stream flow was 39 cfs, and this is a bit below ideal for the Big Thompson, but fairly normal for early autumn.


First Trout on September 29

To begin my quest for Big Thompson River trout I tied a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. These mainstays from my fly box allowed my to net four trout, before I broke for lunch at noon. Two of the morning fish were brown trout and two were rainbows. One of the rainbows smashed the Chernobyl ant, and the first fish snared the salvation nymph. The brown trout that snatched the salvation shot under a small branch, and I was certain I would lose the fish. By some stroke of good fortune the Chernobyl got lodged on the submerged stick, and I was able to wade over and net the brown trout. That was the good news. The whole episode created one of the worst tangles of my fly fishing career, and that is saying something. The other two morning catches favored the hares ear.


A Bright Rainbow Adds to the Fish Count

After lunch I continued to plug along with the same flies for a bit, and I landed a nice brown on the hares ear to boost the fish count to five. The catch rate, however, slowed appreciably, and I spotted a pair of blue winged olives in the air. This observation prompted me to switch the salvation for a soft hackle emerger. The change did not spur instant results, however, and I covered a significant amount of water with no results. By the time I moved above the bridge below the Santa Fe, the fish count rested on seven as a result of two small fish that latched on to the hares ear.


Lots of Boulder Hopping

I moved rather quickly through the long pool located above the bridge and next to my parked car, and then I arrived at another elongated pool next to the cabin on the side of the stream opposite the road. I spotted two rises near the tail of the deep center run, so I made the effort to remove three flies, and I tied on a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. The fish that rose previously ignored the tiny speck, but a prospecting cast prompted a darting rise from a small brown, and I moved the fish count to eight. Catching a fish on the microscopic dry fly boosted my spirits, so I made a long cast to the top left side of the long run. I lost sight of the tiny fly, so I lifted and found myself momentarily attached to a decent fish, but it managed to escape.

Above the long pool the river transformed into deep runs and pockets, so I shifted my strategy back to a hopper/dropper arrangement. I tied on a beige pool toy hopper, and then reattached the hares ear and soft hackle emerger. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast the threesome to deep pockets and runs, as I maneuvered my way around the bend and eventually exited thirty yards below Noel’s Draw. This period was the most productive segment of the day, as I incremented the fish count from eight to fourteen.


Another Hungry Rainbow

Surprisingly the hares ear was the productive fly; whereas, I expected the soft hackle emerger to shine in the midst of the sparse BWO hatch. During this time one fish snatched the soft hackle emerger, and the rest nabbed the hares ear. At one point I landed three foul hooked fish in a row. I suspect these fish refused the pool toy, and when I recognized the splash in the glare, I reacted and pulled the trailing soft hackle emerger into the front fin.

It was a decent day, but most of the action took place between 2:30 and 4:30, when some clouds moved into the area. I could have skipped the noon until 2:30 time period and saved quite a bit of wear and tear on my arm. The wind was a factor from time to time, and I suffered some of the worst tangles of the season. I blame the tangles on the wind and casting three flies, which is always a challenge. I suspect a cooler overcast day would enhance the intensity of the blue winged olive hatch, so I will keep a watchful eye on the weather forecasts.

Fish Landed: 14

Gunnison River – 09/27/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: One to two miles above Gunnison Forks River Access

Gunnison River 09/27/2016 Photo Album

In August 2007 my son, Dan, and I floated the Gunnison Gorge from the Chukar Trail to the Pleasure Park takeout. It was a three day and two night adventure, and we had a great time; however, the fishing was slow and difficult. During this trip I noticed that quite a bit of the lower portion of the canyon was accessible via a hiking trail along the north side of the river.

Since I targeted this area as a fishing destination on Tuesday, September 27 with Jane’s reluctant approval, I did some reading and discovered that the trail was accessed from a parking lot next to the private Pleasure Park, and it was called Gunnson Forks National Recreation Area. Furthermore I learned that hiking fishermen were required to wade across the North Fork of the Gunnison in order to gain access to the trail on the opposite bank.

Jane and I pulled into the aforementioned trailhead parking lot at 11AM on Tuesday, September 27. It was cool, but one sensed that the weather forecast that predicted high temperatures in the eighties with blue skies and minimal probability of precipitation was likely accurate. I pulled on my waders and boots, assembled my Sage One five weight rod, stuffed my backpack with lunch goodies and kissed Jane goodbye. The North Fork was quite discolored from weekend rain, and it was difficult to gauge the depth at the primitive boat launch next to the parking lot. I decided to wade along the edge for thirty yards, until I reached a point where the river spread out in a shallow riffle. On the return I discovered that this was unnecessary, as the the river was quite shallow directly across from the gravel boat ramp.



Once I was safely positioned on the east side of the North Fork, I found a well worn trail, and I sauntered at a brisk pace for twenty minutes. Once I crested the high bluff on the north side of the main Gunnison, I was treated to a spectacular panorama, and I paused to snap a landscape photo. I passed three or four wade fisherman, and then I found a spot where the slope seemed gradual enough to allow a cautious descent. This was true, until I reached a rim rock section that was fifteen feet above the river. I strode along the top of the rim rock for fifty feet until I found a break, and here I slowly lowered myself on to a worn path. The river here looked very appealing with some nice deep shelf pockets bordering the steep rock ledge wall.


Near My Starting Point

I tied a gray body pool toy to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph to begin my quest for Gunnison River trout. The river was quite wide and imposing even at the late season flows that were present, but I intended to confine my casting to the edge. I worked my way upstream with casts fairly tight to the rocky bank, and within fifteen minutes I hooked and landed a small seven inch brown trout that grabbed the tumbling salvation nymph. This buoyed my spirits and within another couple casts, a larger brown flashed from a position next to a rock, but turned away at the last instant. One fish landed and a look from another caused my optimism to surge, but it would be misplaced.

The first half hour that I just described proved to be the highlight of the day. I continued fishing for another .75 mile along the northern shore of the Gunnison River, and I added two more small brown trout to my count. I snapped a photo of the largest fish, and it was not more than ten inches. After an hour of futile casting with the dry/dropper, I decided to go deep. I reconfigured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher, and WD40; and I cast this system to the deep runs and current seams. I was certain that this combination would be irresistible to the denizens of the cold Gunnison River, but I was proven wrong. I did trigger one temporary hook up on a trout that felt like it might have been larger than my three small netted fish.

By 12:30 I spotted a rare size 22 blue winged olive, and this observance prompted me to add the WD40 to my line. After an hour of fruitless slinging of the nymph rig, I reverted back to a dry/dropper approach, although this time I opted for a yellow Letort hopper, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead soft hackle emerger. The willows and bushes along the bank were flush with grasshoppers with light greenish-yellow bodies, thus the choice of the yellow Letort hopper. The hopper/dropper combination enabled me to land two additional fish in the afternoon heat, and both snared the soft hackle emerger in fairly shallow riffles below rocky spillovers.


Better Light Angle

The action stalled again so I paused to catch and examine one of the hoppers. In addition I startled two into ill advised suicidal leaps into the slow moving water along the bank, but the hoppers just sat there and wiggled, and amazingly this did not attract the appetite of a neighboring trout. As I watched the forlorn grasshoppers struggle, I concluded that a fat Albert with a light yellow body would more closely imitate the natural hoppers, so I made the substitution. It was all for naught, and I never managed to solicit even a look at the fat Albert before I wearily ended my day at 3PM.


Better Focus



My Imitation

It took me forty-five minutes to return to the parking lot, after I ascended the fairly steep bank to find the well worn trail. Jane reappeared at her shaded picnic table shortly thereafter, and I removed my waders and packed my gear for the drive back to Denver.

Being present in the Gunnison Canyon once again was an exciting experience, and the wide open canyon and desert environment reminded me of the beauty that surrounds us in Colorado. The fishing on the other hand was disappointing, and inferior to what I remembered from our float trip. Once again I blamed the abnormally warm weather that suggested late summer doldrums and not pre-spawn active feeders. Some day I will return and hopefully unravel the puzzle of the Gunnison River.

Fish Landed: 3


My Return Route