South Platte River – 10/20/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/20/2020 Photo Album

Four for nine is excellent in baseball and calculates to a batting average of .440. When it represents the ratio of fish landed compared to hooked, it is an indicator of my level of frustration on Tuesday, October 20.

With multiple fires raging in the area west of the Front Range, I decided to focus my fishing efforts to the south and completed the two plus hour drive to Eleven Mile Canyon. The weather forecast was outstanding for late October, and it proved to be accurate, as I fished in low sixty-degree temperatures for much of the day. The water gauge on the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Dam was not functioning for some reason, but fly shop reports pegged the flows at around 60 CFS. As I drove along the river on the way to my parking spot, I confirmed that the river was low; however, it offered adequate deep pools, runs and pockets to provide an enjoyable day of fly fishing.

A gray pickup truck angled across two parking spaces, where I normally park, and I was forced to back into a less desirable spot next to a tunnel. I was extremely cautious given the steep drop off on my left. I quickly climbed into my waders and chose my Sage four weight for the day, although I debated using my stiffer and longer Sage One five weight in the event of tangling with some larger trout. In the end I opted for lighter weight and less arm and shoulder fatigue.

The Area Between the Shoreline and Large Rock Looked Productive

Once I was prepared, I marched down the dirt road for .3 mile and found the gentlest path to descend the steep bank, although even that route demanded small measured side steps for most the way. The first nice pool was occupied by another angler, so I continued along the path to the next deeper slow-moving section, and then I moved to a short stretch of pocket water below the pool.

I read my post of 10/16/2019 and noted that a dry/dropper that featured a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher and salvation nymph translated to a twenty fish day, so guess what I chose to launch my day a year later? Correct. The same lineup occupied my line, and in the early going in the pocket section before lunch I experienced two very brief connections, as I lifted my flies to execute another cast.

Lunch Pool

By noon I was adjacent to the deep pool that I passed on my entry hike, so I paused to down my sandwich, carrots and yogurt. As I munched my baby carrots, I observed several rises in the eddy at the tail of the relatively long pool. By the time I stuffed my empty yogurt cup in my backpack, at least five trout were sipping a miniscule food item in the area twenty-five feet above me. I considered maintaining my three-fly dry/dropper to fish the faster water, where it entered the pool and then switching to a dry fly to pursue the risers; but in the end, I made the switch immediately. Hatch opportunities are rare particularly late in the season, and I needed to take advantage.

While advancing through the large boulders and pocket water stretch, I noticed small sparse swarms of tricos, and I surmised that the surface feeding was a response to the trico spinner fall. The tricos that I spotted were miniscule in size and smaller than the size 24’s, that I carried in a small plastic canister in my wader bib. I decided to hedge my bets and tied a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line and trailed a size 24 trico with gray cdc wings.

I began lobbing casts upstream in order to create a drift along the current seam, where several decent trout were rising. The breeze kicked up and blew my flies back toward me, and that bit of adversity was accompanied by an annoying glare that prevented me from following the two tiny tufts of CDC that were my flies. I tried to set, when a rise materialized, where I approximated my flies to be, but this trick was not effective.

I momentarily surrendered to the choosey eaters and circled around on the left bank, until I was above a large exposed boulder that created the large eddy. I began fluttering downstream drifts from this position, and I had the advantage of a tailwind and much improved lighting. On the third pass a small swirl enveloped the CDC olive, and I responded with a swift lift of the rod tip, and this translated to vibrating weight and wild thrashing, but the thrill only extended for a few seconds, and the trout was gone. I uttered some choice words and noted that I was now zero for three on my fly fishing batting average.

I now turned my attention to the attractive run and shelf pool along the left bank in the upper half of the pool. This water displayed many more swirls and was not as smooth and unforgiving as the eddy, that I recently fished. I experimented with a few casts with the double dry, but the small riffles and glare made following the flies even more difficult than my earlier attempts below the eddy. I paused and not so patiently rigged anew with the dry/dropper approach; however, in this instance I substituted a classic RS2 for the salvation nymph. I had a hunch that blue winged olives might make an appearance, and that trout were opportunistically grabbing active nymphs prior to their emergence.

On the Board

The changeover paid dividends when a muscular rainbow trout that measured fourteen inches snapped up the RS2. After a spirited battle I slid my net beneath the hard charging torpedo, and reveled in my first fish of the day. My average crept upward to .250, with one of four hooked fish landed.

Prime Run Ahead

A Chunk

Prospecting with a dry/dropper consumed the remainder of the day, and I called it quits by 4:00PM with a total of four fish that rested in my net. All were rainbows and all were heavy fish in the fourteen to sixteen-inch range. A sparse blue winged olive hatch commenced in the early afternoon, but it was over by 1:30PM, and I never spotted rising fish to cast to. After a slow period in the 2-3PM time frame I removed the RS2 and tested a salvation nymph for a decent length of time, but the change never produced results.

Revival

I covered quite a bit of the river, as I skipped the large smooth pools and concentrated on the fast water, where the river spilled into wide spread out areas. I also focused on deep pockets. In one of the upstream pools I spotted a couple blue winged olives, and this prompted me to revert to a sparkle wing RS2 as the point fly. I stagnated at a fish count of two for an extended length of time, but between three o’clock and four o’clock I enjoyed my best action of the day.

Sparkle Wing RS2

Two fat rainbows snatched the sparkle wing RS2 and another ejected the tiny fly during its attempt to escape only to have the nymph hook into its body toward the tail area. Like the earlier rainbows the two landed late in the afternoon were in prime condition and stretched across the entire net opening.

Let Me Go

Tuesday was a disappointment from a fish count perspective, although I had missed opportunities. For the day I ended up landing four out of nine hooked fish; a .440 average in baseball but subpar among accomplished fly-fishing circles. Nevertheless, I experienced an enjoyably day on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Tuesday, October 20. The weather was outstanding, and the water level was conducive to fly fishing. The four rainbow trout were above average in size and in excellent condition. I never spotted spawning brown trout, but their absence from my net is probably explained by their preoccupation with reproduction. Based on my history of fishing within Eleven Mile Canyon I estimate that at least sixty percent of the population is brown trout, so I was fishing to only forty percent of the total number of resident fish. Most importantly I was challenged to determine what the fish were eating and how to best present imitations. I am a baseball fan, and the last time a player batted over .400 was Ted Williams in the 1940’s. My .440 average for Tuesday puts me in hall of fame company.

Fish Landed: 4

Another Promising Area

Clear Creek – 10/14/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 10/14/2020 Photo Album

I had my heart set on South Boulder Creek as a destination for Tuesday, but when I examined the DWR flows, I learned that the water managers decreased the releases from Gross Dam from 103 CFS to 7 CFS on October 9. I have experienced decent success at low flows on South Boulder Creek but always at 10 CFS or higher. I passed on South Boulder Creek and instead opted for a two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, and I encountered a mediocre day of only four trout in my net, although two were substantial rainbow trout.

Another day in October with a high around eighty in Denver prompted me to plan a second consecutive fishing trip. Since I completed a relatively long drive on Tuesday, I was averse to a similar long trip on Wednesday. I began my search for a suitable Front Range stream by rechecking South Boulder Creek, and I was shocked to discover that flows were actually reduced from 7 CFS to 5 CFS. I quickly scratched my home waterway from my list of possibilities. My second choice was the Big Thompson River with flows maintained at 77 CFS for two consecutive days, but a quick inspection of the weather forecast revealed thirty mile per hour winds in the afternoon. Strike two. My third choice was Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. Flows in the thirty to forty CFS range were favorable, and wind speeds in the 8-10 MPH range up until 2PM, when they were predicted to burst into the 18 MPH range, made Clear Creek my choice.

A Place to Begin

I arrived at a pullout along US 6 west of Tunnel 6 by 10: 40AM, and this enabled me to begin casting slightly before eleven o’clock. I utilized my Orvis Access four weight and wore my Brooks long sleeved undershirt and my raincoat as a windbreaker. The air movement was less than predicted for Estes Park, but 10 MPH translated to more than a nuisance. For the first thirty-five minutes I worked a dry/dropper rig through all the promising deep and slow moving pockets along the left bank, and my net remained in an empty state. Early in the game I spotted a fish along the bank, and it ignored all three flies, as they passed over its field of vision.

Lunch View

Scene of My Single Landed Trout

I ate lunch at 11:45AM and then removed the three fly arrangement and migrated to a solo Jake’s gulp beetle. On Tuesday evening I perused my reports on Clear Creek during October from previous years, and a Jake’s gulp beetle was a stellar producer. I persisted with the foam beetle for two hours after lunch, and I managed to dupe one seven inch brown trout to eat the size 12 imitation. I tried beetles in size 10 and 12, and after a subtle refusal I substituted a size 18 black parachute ant. I was hopeful that the larger beetle would cause the trout to reveal their position, and then a smaller black ant would trigger an eat. The theory never grew into reality, and I returned to the beetle.

Beetle Eater

Closer to 2PM I noted a few more refusals, so I decided to experiment with a peacock hippie stomper. The white wing on the stomper was more difficult to track than the orange foam on the beetle, and the wind speed accelerated immensely. The quality of fishing did not justify the hassles of the wind and poor lighting, so I hooked the hippie stomper to my rod guide and returned to the car.

Wednesday was another bust in Clear Creek Canyon. The fishing season is winding down, and my results are ebbing as well. The weather forecast predicts a shift to colder temperatures but no precipitation. Fly tying may be imminent on my calendar.

Fish Landed: 1

Eagle River – 10/13/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Avon

Eagle River 10/13/2020 Photo Album

I was eagerly anticipating an October trip to South Boulder Creek, but when I reviewed the flows at the DWR website, I was shocked to learn that the releases from Gross Dam were lowered from 103 CFS three days ago to 7 CFS. 7 CFS is comparable to fishing in puddles between exposed rocks, and it is not my idea of sporting fly fishing. I considered alternative options, and with temperatures peaking in the low 80’s in Denver I decided to take advantage and made the two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, CO. I knew from looking at the DWR site that the Eagle in this area was extremely low at 56 CFS, but past experience taught me that a fairly reliable blue winged olive hatch spurred surface feeding. I was banking on meeting this emergence on Tuesday, October 13 to offset the low and clear conditions.

Brilliant Background

I arrived at my chosen destination on the Eagle River near Avon, CO at 11:00AM, and by the time I put together my Sage four weight and gathered all my gear and hiked to the river, it was 11:30AM. I observed the main pool for a bit, but I saw no signs of blue winged olives or surface feeding, so I rigged with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead pheasant tail nymph and classic RS2. I prospected the upper section of the gorgeous pool next to me, but evidence of the presence of trout was absent. I progressed above the pool, and I began to explore what appeared to be marginal glides and relatively shallow water between an array of exposed boulders. I sought the places with the most depth, and I was shocked to connect with the best fish of the day in one of the easily overlooked locations. The rainbow trout stopped the hopper in its tracks, and after a relatively short battle, I slid my net beneath a sixteen inch beauty. The RS2 was barely snagged in the thin membrane of the bony jaw of the deeply colored fish. In addition to the substantial rainbow trout I also landed a ten inch brown trout on the RS2.

Quite a Tail

When 1PM arrived, I climbed to the bike path and returned to the main pool in anticipation of some BWO hatching activity. I was disappointed to see only placid water riffled by the intermittent gusting wind. I dug my raincoat from my backpack and pulled it over my shirt to act as a windbreaker, and I was pleased to have the extra layer in my possession. I decided to cover the nice run and riffles below the main pool, but this area yielded only a refusal. After a thorough search I moved to the tail of the huge main pool, and I covered the bottom third of the deep slow moving section with the dry/dropper, but the effort was purely an arm exercise.

Low Eagle River on October 13

I was set up for fishing the shallow riffles in a manner similar to the earlier session, so I cut back to the south bank and hiked up the bike path to my exit point at 1PM. I re-entered the river and spent the next two hours prospecting the most promising glides that offered a bit of depth, but the results of this focused fly fishing were disappointing. I recorded temporary hook ups with two small fish and landed another small brown trout to bring the fish count to a meager three. I an effort to boost my confidence I reminded myself of the sixteen inch rainbow that filled my net earlier.

Much of My Day Was Spent on Inconspicuous Water Like This

At 3:30PM I grew weary of the fruitless wading and unproductive casting, so I decided to retreat back to my home base; the large pool where I began. I commenced fishing at the top of the pool, where I began my day, but my confidence was low, and I sensed that I was passing over fish that were holding deeper in the cold mountain water. I decided to commit to some deep nymphing, and I removed the dry/dropper flies and then crimped a split shot to my line and fastened a New Zealand strike indicator one foot below the end of the fly line. The NZ strike indicator attachment process went much smoother than the flawed experience suffered during the previous week on the Arkansas River.

I began working the center current, the seams and shelves next to my position; and after five minutes of unproductive casting the flies caught on something, as they began to swing at the end of the drift. I flexed the rod a few times, and It was clear that the snag was relatively severe. The depth and swift current precluded any attempt to save the flies, so I applied direct pressure and snapped off the beadhead pheasant tail and RS2. I patiently reconfigured my line with a salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2 and resumed casting, but at 3:30PM my wish was finally fulfilled. I began to notice dimpling rises along both sides of the current seam. Once again I turned my attention to knot tying, as I removed the deep nymphing paraphernalia and replaced it with a single size 22 CDC blue winged olive. The pace of feeding accelerated a bit, as four or five trout fed fairly sporadically in my vicinity.

Unfortunately the wind was gusting upstream and some shadows covered the area next to me, and these natural impediments created an extremely challenging situation. It was impossible to track the tiny CDC tuft, although I set the hook several times, when I spotted rises, where I estimated my fly to be. The ploy did not work, and I was frustrated with my inability to track my small fly. I waited all day for the emergence, and now the conditions were conspiring against my efforts to take advantage of the long overdue hatch.

Deep Colors on This Cutbow

I paused to consider my options and noticed that the north side of the center seam was bathed in sunlight. I decided to circle along the south shoreline of the large pool, cross at the tail and then work upstream along the north bank. In this way I could approach the trout directly across from me with upstream casts and the wind behind my back. It took some doing, but ten minutes later I was positioned at the bottom of the shelf pool on the north side of the river. I carefully observed the area, and I was pleased to discover that four or five fish continued to feed. I picked out two that were across from me, but after an abundant quantity of casts, I was forced to acknowledge that my fly was not to their liking. Meanwhile a pair of trout rose more steadily in the secondary feeder run directly above me. I began to execute some forty foot casts and checked my cast at eleven o’clock, so the fly fluttered down to the faster current. I was unable to track the fly in the swirling water, so I resorted to the “guess-set” technique. On the fifteenth drift I spotted a dimple along the left side of the secondary seam, and I raised the rod firmly. Instantly I felt the power of a fine rainbow trout, and it dazzled me with an extraordinary aerial display that included at least five leaps above the surface of the river.

I Love the Net Shadows on This Shot

This rainbow measured around fifteen inches, and it possessed a significant girth. I was very pleased that my circuitous route to the opposite side of the river was rewarded with a fourth trout. After I released the brute, I resumed casting, but the surface feeding waned. In a last gasp attempt to fool another trout I replaced the CDC olive with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I applied floatant to the body of the wet fly to make it float, and I sprayed casts across the wide shelf pool area; but, alas, the late ploy did not produce.  I reeled up my line and called it a day and then crossed in the wide shallow area above the long pool.

Four fish in 4.5 hours of fishing is clearly a low catch rate, but two rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range compensated for the lack of volume. The cool wind, lack of clouds, and low clear water presented very challenging conditions, so I was pleased with the success that I managed. Bright sun, lack of clouds, and low, clear water seems to be a recurring theme during the autumn of 2020. I will continue my pursuit of trout, until conditions become too extreme.

Fish Landed: 4

Clear Creek – 10/08/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Clear Creek County

Clear Creek 10/08/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River was a deeply humbling experience. I stayed in a motel in Salida to be close to my fishing destination, and then I wasted one of the dwindling mild fall days on a stream that was extremely low and that contained very skittish fish. I needed a bounce back experience on Thursday, but what were my options? After completing the nearly three hour drive to Salida and back on Monday and Tuesday I was not in the mood for another long trip, so that ruled out Eleven Mile Canyon; a destination that I had been considering for some time. I checked the new DWR graphs for the front range streams. The Cache la Poudre was running extremely low as was the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, so I ruled them out. The Big Thompson retained flows in the 116 CFS range, and that is actually higher than I prefer. South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir displayed flows of 108 CFS. This is another example of a tail water with unseasonably high flows; however, it was within my desired range. It was a possibility. Next I checked Clear Creek, and flows were on the low side, but I decided to give it a try, as the cold narrow canyon would soon be out of play. South Boulder Creek involved a fairly strenuous hike, and after my back to back outings early in the week, I desired a more restful day.

Typical Productive Water

I arrived at my targeted pullout by 10:30AM, and after assembling my Orvis Access four weight I climbed into my waders and completed a .3 mile hike to the creek. The air temperature was 59 degrees, so I donned my light fleece hoodie, and I was mostly comfortable throughout my time on the stream. The creek was, indeed, running quite low; and I instantly had visions of a replay of Tuesday. I banked on the higher gradient and, thus, faster water creating more spots where fish could hide from predators, but I recognized the need for extreme stealth.

Jewel

I began with a peacock hippie stomper trailing a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph, and I approached a gorgeous little tailrace below a natural log dam. I flicked an abundant quantity of casts to the white foam area created by the small waterfalls and allowed the hopper/dropper to drift five feet, and finally on the eighth cast a small cutthroat trout nipped the stomper. Unlike Tuesday I was on the scoreboard early. I was not ready to call Thursday a comeback, and I was correct in exercising caution.

I quickly moved upstream, but at least thirty minutes elapsed before another small cutty smacked the hippie stomper. I landed number two in spite of a relatively tentative strike, and throughout this time quite a few refusals to the hippie stomper were sprinkled into the mix. I covered quite a bit of stream, and very few prime spots presented themselves, so it was unclear, whether I presented the wrong flies or whether the creek was sparsely populated in this stretch.

Alternating Shadows and Sunlight Were Tricky

Small Speckles

I decided to change out the trailing nymph and swapped the pheasant tail for a size 20 classic RS2. The move paid off somewhat, as I landed a pair of cutthroats that chomped the small RS2, but this was in spite of prospecting some very attractive locales with no interest from the resident trout. It was around this time that I began to observe quite a few scattering fish either from my clumsy approach or the plop of the hippie stomper and nymph. I concluded that a lighter presentation would be more effective, and I switched to a pale olive stimulator. The heavily hackled size 14 was ignored, and in a location where I sighted several fish I cycled through a parachute ant, Jake’s gulp beetle, and bionic ant. None of these offerings generated any interest, so I returned to the hippie stomper, and I reprised the RS2.

Log Dam Pool

Where Is Waldo Trout?

As the sun rose higher in the early afternoon sky, it became easier to sight trout, and I used this to my advantage. I skipped shallow marginal pockets and only paused at obvious holes with greater depth. I scanned the water intently before casting, and in many cases I was able to spot a cutthroat to target. This process greatly elevated the probability of success and eliminated wasteful shotgun casts that were spooking the skittish fish. Perhaps this technique would have worked to my benefit on Tuesday on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River?

Spots Confined to Tail Area

At any rate I approached a nice deep, smooth pool, where I could see several fish hugging the bottom. These fish elevated to the hippie stomper, but I could not induce them to close their mouths on my offering. I noted a few very small mayflies in the air above the stream, and I decided to try a CDC blue winged olive. I fired a few casts to the run that fed the pool, and two stunning cutthroats sipped the small mayfly imitation. My ability to sight two fish and then select a fly that fooled the fussy eaters was very gratifying. I vacated the pool and moved up the narrow creek to an appealing deep run, and before I approached too closely, I paused to study the rocky streambed.

Dry Fly Eater

Head Shot

The caution paid off, when I spied what appeared to be a fine cutthroat trout in the eleven to twelve inch range. I stooped down low and stripped out some line and lobbed some casts above my target trout, and on three consecutive drifts, the cutty rose and then dropped back to its holding lie. In one instance the fish literally pressed its nose against my fly, and not lifting and pulling the fly away required the utmost restraint. I paused for a bit to sop moisture from the wing, and then I dipped the size 22 fly in dry shake. After some vigorous shaking action I removed the fly and flicked off any residual powder or crystals and then fluffed the wing, so that it portrayed a nice wide profile. While this fly preparation transpired, I rested the water, and now I was ready for another approach. I flicked the fly upstream and to the left, and when it drifted within six inches of the trout, it curled sideways and then in an exceedingly leisurely manner it sipped the tiny tuft of a mayfly. This scenario was easily the highlight of the day, and I may have shouted a few words of congratulations to myself.

Super Nova Baetis Was Productive

I continued for a bit more with the CDC olive, but the nature of the creek transformed into a narrow tumbling pocket water stretch, so I reverted to the hippie stomper and added a size 20 super nova baetis. I tied these Juan Ramirez patterns during my surgery recovery and noticed a pair in my fleece wallet. I continued for another forty-five minutes by prospecting the dry/dropper, and I boosted the fish counter to ten. The last three trout nabbed the super nova baetis, and it seemed that a lifting action encouraged the takes.

The Last Trout Came from This Prime Location

Number ten came from a nice deep hole just below a single log dam, and my watch displayed 3:30. The shadows were lengthening over the small stream, and the water ahead did not seem especially appealing, so I hooked the super nova to my rod guide and clambered up a steep bank and then picked my way through a sparse forest, until I reached the road. I was .7 mile above my parking space, and that translated to covering approximately a mile of Clear Creek.

Vivid Deep Colors

Thursday was a respectable day, and it taught me the importance of being observant and remaining flexible. Instead of continuing to flail the water with blind casts, I adjusted my approach to sight fish. The modification to my standard fishing style paid off with a double digit day on a clear and very shallow mountain creek. The quality of the cutthroats was outstanding, as each displayed some variation on the watermelon color scheme. The light olive body color was comparable to the skin and rind, and the speckles portrayed the seeds, and the subtle pink spots on the side matched the edible flesh.

Fish Landed: 10

Middle Fork of the South Platte River – 10/06/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Tomahawk State Wildlife Area

Middle Fork of the South Platte River 10/06/2020 Photo Album

I landed some quality fish on Monday from the Arkansas River; however, I was dissatisfied with the fish count, so I decided to visit another never before fished stretch of river. I chose the MIddle Fork of the South Platte River at the Tomahawk State Wildlife Area. I read positive reviews on this section, and the salesperson at ArkAnglers raved about it, when I stopped to look for a new New Zealand indicator tool after fishing on Monday. I consider myself an above average fly fisherman, but my day at Tomahawk humbled me. The conditions could not have been more challenging, so I should probably reserve judgment, until I try it again under more favorable circumstances.

The drive from the Woodlands Motel in Salida to the Tomahawk area north of Hartsel was approximately an hour. The man at the fly shop told me that there were two entrances, and I decided to seek the second one, as I headed north on CO 9, but I somehow missed the sign and traveled five miles beyond it. I finally realized that I was moving farther away from the stream and executed a turnaround. As I headed in a southeastern direction, I finally saw the sign. It was paralleling the highway and tilted toward southbound traffic, so I felt vindicated in missing it. I followed a reasonably smooth dirt road, until I arrived at the largest parking lot, and I grabbed a space facing south. I was the only car in the lot, although several were visible in other smaller pullouts on the opposite side of the river.

I quickly assembled my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders and began hiking along a well worn path that paralleled the right or northeastern side of the river. The water was extremely low, and the air temperature was already in the sixties. A cool breeze blew intermittently, so I wore my raincoat as a windbreaker; however, by lunch time I rolled it into a tight cylinder and stuffed it in my backpack. Low, clear water, a bright blue sky with no cloud cover, and wind foreshadowed a tough day.

Lots of Exposed River Bed

I decided to hike ten minutes from the parking lot to escape the typically highly pressured nearby sections. After the requisite distancing I cut to the river (really more like a creek) and commenced my day. I began with a hippie stomper, iron sally and pheasant tail nymph; and in the early going I scattered quite a few fish. The shadow from my overhead line seemed to spook the fish, and very few deep holes that offered reasonable cover were evident. After half an hour of futility, I arrived at a nice V-shaped deep trough next to a high bank on the left. A strong current ran five feet way from the bank, and I was drawn to the space between the current seam and the bank. I began casting the dry/dropper to the top of the deep area, and on the fifth drift a substantial fish elevated to inspect the hippie stomper. On a subsequent cast the same look with a closed jaw occurred.

Since my blind prospecting was proving futile, I decided to focus on this now visible fish, and I began a sequence of fly changes. I cycled through a Jake’s gulp beetle, a stimulator, a caddis, an ant, and a pool toy hopper; but none of these imitation morsels caused the targeted fish to even take a look. I decided to move on, but this was probably the closest I came on Tuesday to hooking and landing a fish over the six inch minimum.

A Deep Trough Proved Unproductive

I paused to eat my lunch at noon, and then I continued my upstream migration. In total I covered at least a mile, and the number of attractive fish holding locales was limited. At 1:00PM I approached a spot, where some murky water re-entered the river from a small irrigation channel. At the time I was fishing an olive stimulator with a sunken epoxy ant, and two brown trout refused the stimulator. Once again the rare sighting of two fish motivated me to try some alternative dry flies; and I drifted an Adams, deer hair caddis, parachute ant, CDC BWO, and gray comparadun along the edge of the discolored seam; and only the deer hair caddis generated additional looks.

After twenty minutes I surrendered to the picky eaters and continued my upstream progression, but I never saw or even spooked another fish. The sun was bright and the air temperature soared into the upper seventies, and the high plain provided no shade to blunt the intensity of the sun’s rays. I decided to cut my losses and hiked back to the car for an early departure. I probably spent more time walking and changing flies than fishing. Over the course of my 3.5 hours I tested a hippie stomper, stimulator, parachute ant, olive-brown deer hair caddis, gray deer hair caddis, gray comparadun, Jake’s gulp beetle, pool toy hopper, parachute hopper, iron sally, pheasant tail nymph, salvation nymph, sunken ant and RS2. Only the hippie stomper and olive-brown deer hair caddis drew interest.

Tuesday was a humbling experience at the Tomahawk State Wildlife Area. If I return, I will choose a time when flows are considerably higher. Zero fish landed in 3.5 hours of fishing made me appreciate even more the many productive days that I experienced this summer.

Fish Landed: 0

Arkansas River – 10/05/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chaffee County line

Arkansas River 10/05/2020 Photo Album

Angler ineptitude was the theme for my day on Monday, October, 5, 2020. The weather was incredible on October 5 and probably too nice for fly fishing. The temperature when I departed from my parking space along US 50 was 62 degrees, and it probably spiked in the upper seventies in the afternoon. Fortunately, before I left the car, I shed my Columbia long sleeve undershirt and pulled on a short sleeve quick-dry T-shirt. Even with this last minute change I was quite warm for much of the afternoon. The river was very clear and very low. I believe the flows were in the 280 CFS range. I was easily able to cross the river, and throughout the day very few locations were unreachable. In short, wading conditions were ideal. I selected my Sage four weight and crossed the river at the county line and then hiked the tracks, until I reached my usual path to the river.

Upriver

Tail Drag

To start my pursuit of trout I tied a tan pool toy hopper to my line and then added a size 16 salvation nymph and a classic RS2. The first fifteen minutes failed to produce any sign of fish, but then a chunky and healthy fifteen inch brown trout nipped the RS2, as I raised the flies in front of a large submerged rock. I moved upstream to the downstream tip of a small island, and some spectacular riffles yielded a look at the hopper and a very temporary connection to a small fish. In a fairly nondescript shallow run directly below the island I looked away for a split second and then raised my rod to make sure it was not snagged. I instantly felt a brief surge of heavy weight, but that was the extent of interaction with a trout, as it charged the opposite direction from my lift and snapped off all three flies. I must confess that I uttered some ugly words, before I reconfigured my line.

Left Braid

I was at the bottom of the island and anxiously anticipated fishing the small right braid on the north side of the river. The right channel is my favorite stretch of the Arkansas River, and I knew that low, clear flows dictated extra stealth. I knotted a size 14 light olive stimulator to my line and then added a RS2 on a 2.5 foot dropper. The stimulator enabled light, soft presentations, and the RS2 was insurance against an early baetis emergence. Once my fly fishing lineup was prepared I sat on some rocks at the tail of the island and chomped my lunch.

After lunch I prospected some marginal pockets downstream of the large pool on the small north braid, and then I covered the bottom half of the pool. A pair of refusals in the small marginal pockets was the only reaction, that I could muster from the wild stream residents. I was having some success with the hopper/dropper earlier, so I reverted to that approach, although in this case I opted for a pheasant tail instead of the salvation.

RS2 Victim. Look at Those Spots!

The change was rewarded, as a substantial brown trout inhaled the RS2 in the faster water at the top of the long pool. I continued prospecting the hopper/dropper through the remainder of the right braid and added a thirteen inch brown to the count. In addition I wrestled with a valiant rainbow trout that executed a quick head twist and snapped off the RS2. I replaced the small nymph with a replica, and I proceeded to the upper half of the small river branch. Amazingly in another relatively marginal narrow pocket along the right bank, I spotted a large form as it elevated to the hopper. I reacted with a swift set, and in a short amount of time I realized that I was connected to another substantial brown trout. Unfortunately, as I played the fish closer, I came to the realization that it was foul hooked along the side of the head. I attempted to plane the muscular fish above the river to my net for a quick release, but the knot on the hopper failed, and a trio of flies once again disappeared. Needless to say I was unhappy with this turn of events. I was now down two pool toy hoppers and four RS2’s and feeling unloved by the fishing gods.

Close Up of the RS2

I was forced to configure my entire line yet again, and I opted for another pool toy hopper along with a pheasant tail and yet another RS2. For the remainder of the afternoon I cherry-picked the most promising spots over .8 mile of river. In the first hour I landed a gorgeous and very fat rainbow and a brown that was less than twelve inches long. The rainbow was the best fish of the day at sixteen inches, and it displayed the RS2 tucked in the thin membrane of its jaw. I also earned quite a few temporary hook ups and a few refusals to the hopper.

RS2 in Lip

By 2:30PM I endured a long dry spell, and I decided to convert to a nymphing rig with a split shot and indicator. Given the low clear conditions, I decided to introduce my New Zealand strike indicator to the effort, as the small tuft of synthetic yarn created minimal impact upon landing on the water. My New Zealand indicator tool was knotted to a section of old fly line along with my small Swiss army knife. In the process of attempting to form the indicator loop, the old fly line knot broke, and the Swiss army knife tumbled into the river. The knife was easily retrievable from the shallow water, but the New Zealand indicator tool was a different matter. I spent fifteen minutes trying to locate the small bodkin-like device, but I eventually gave up and used a cork style indicator with a rubber band gripper. The entire indicator conversion proved to be a monumental bust, as I never experienced so much as a bump.

Another Rainbow Shot for Good Measure

After twenty minutes of fruitless casting I converted back to the dry/dropper approach, and on this go round I used a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl along with a salvation nymph and a sparkle wing RS2. For the last hour I covered a significant amount of river, but the results were dismal, as the fish count was mired on five. During this phase of my frustrating day my knee touched some chollo cactus spines, and I may have created some slow leaks on the left leg of my waders. Also as I was wading, I noticed an object flapping below my left boot. Upon closer examination I realized that the Korker sole had separated and was only held in place by the rubber thong and rivet on the heel of the boot. I was luckily able to correct this situation without removing my boot.

Zoomed a Bit

By 4:00PM the river was dead, and I was extremely weary, so I made the .7 mile return trek. Monday was clearly not one of my better days. I lost an abundant quantity of flies along with my New Zealand indicator tool, and I may have punctured my heretofore leak-free waders. Five landed fish is a ridiculously low catch rate, but four of the fish were of excellent quality. Twenty fish days on high mountain streams are haunting my thoughts. Some clouds and overcast skies would be a major positive for fly fishing the Arkansas River. I will keep my eyes on the weather forecast.

Fish Landed: 5

 

Big Thompson River – 10/02/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Upstream from the handicapped platform in the special regulation water below the dam

Big Thompson Rive 10/02/2020 Photo Album

Am I addicted to exploring new streams and rivers never before experienced? Can I still derive enjoyment from returning to an old favorite that offers familiarity but minus the excitement of sampling new stretches? 2020 has been a season of discovery, but on Thursday, October 2, I decided to return to the recognizable confines of the Big Thompson River below Estes Dam. This was my first visit to the relatively nearby front range stream since last year, as the flows were maintained in the plus 200 CFS range for much of the summer, and I am reluctant to fish the narrow canyon stream at levels above 130 CFS. When I checked the flows on Wednesday evening, the chart revealed 71 CFS, and this was well within my desired range. However, I checked the graph again this morning while composing this blog, and I was surprised to learn that, while I was present, the water managers increased releases to 85 CFS. In fact today the graph depicts a spike to 121 CFS. Clearly the Big Thompson is experiencing abnormal variability, and historically I learned that trout are not a fan of large changes and require some time to acclimate. I read my blog post from from October 3, 2019 on Wednesday evening to gain an understanding of what flies typically produce in early October, and this reminded me of a very scary fall. I admonished myself to be extra cautious and hoped not to repeat that incident.

I arrived at my chosen destination by 10:40AM, and I assembled my Sage four weight and prepared to fish. The air temperature was 64 degrees, so I elected to forego an extra layer. Dense smoke from the Cameron Peak fire filled the canyon air space, and this layer of atmospheric pollution shielded the sun for much of my time on the water. The bright thick haze added an eerie aura to the experience. By 11:00AM I quickly crossed the busy highway and strode along the south shoulder for a short distance, before I dropped to the edge of the water. I began my search for canyon trout with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2. The fly shop reports suggested that I could expect blue winged olives, so I was prepared for active subsurface baetis nymphs. In the hour before lunch I managed to land two small trout, one rainbow and one brown, on the RS2. The predominant action, however, consisted of splashy refusals to the hopper.

Number One on Friday

After lunch I implemented a switch to an olive stimulator, and this fly also attracted attention in the form of short strikes, although I did record a temporary hook up with a small brown trout. The stimulator was difficult to see in an upcoming stretch of fast pocket water, so I reverted to a dry/dropper method, but in this instance I substituted a tan pool toy hopper for the chubby Chernobyl, and I replaced the salvation nymph with a 20 incher to create more depth on my drifts. The modified approach was a certifiable failure, as I fished for quite a distance with only a few refusals to the pool toy to report.

The Rainbow Came from the Slick in the Center of the Photo

Yum Yum

I was resigned to a two fish day, when I approached a gorgeous moderate depth run at 2:00PM. Two fish inspected the hopper, but then returned to their holding position, and given my lack of success, I decided to experiment with different flies. I removed the dry/dropper set up and replaced it with a peacock hippie stomper, and this provoked more refusals. I added a Jake’s gulp beetle behind the stomper, and the fish yawned, if in fact fish are able to yawn. I removed the hippie stomper and tested an olive-brown deer hair caddis, and once again the trout across from me expressed their displeasure with annoying refusals. I finally decided to abandon the quality riffle and moved on to the next pool.

Scene of a Temporary Hook Up

One of the Better Fish

My confidence was quite low at this point, so I decided to simply pause and observe the smooth pool before going into fish combat mode. A few random rises attracted my attention, and a solitary blue winged olive in the air above the water convinced me to switch to a baetis dry fly. I knotted a Klnkhammer style BWO to my line and flicked several casts to the areas, where I observed the riseforms, but the emerger failed to generate interest. Perhaps the size 20 Klinkhammer version was too large? I plucked a size 22 CDC BWO from my fly box and crossed my fingers. Finally! Within the next hour I landed four small brown trout in the nine to ten inch range on the tiny fluff of a fly. The hatch was fairly sparse, but it revealed enough feeding trout for me to target in order to somewhat salvage my day. The relatively steady rising activity lasted for only thirty minutes, and then I migrated to the next quality pool that was upstream.

Pretty Brown Trout

This pool offered a couple very sporadic rises on stragglers, but I was unable to interest these picky feeders in my previously effective CDC blue winged olive. After fifteen minutes of fruitless casting, I debated trying an ant or beetle, but my watch displayed 3:30PM, and I was tired and concerned about constantly breathing smoke filled air, so I retreated to the Santa Fe and called it a day.

Thursday continued the trend of disappointing days on the Big Thompson River over the last several years. I avoided injury, but that’s a fairly low bar for success. Two small fish in four hours of fishing is rather futile, with thirty minutes of fun during the hatch allowing me to elevate the rating from failure to worse than average. Now that I saw the DWR graph, I am inclined to attribute some of the poor fishing to the sudden changes in flows. In this case returning to familiar territory was not a recipe for success.

Fish Landed: 6

North Fork of the White River – 09/29/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between North Fork Campground and Trappers Lake

North Fork of the White River 09/29/2020 Photo Album

When Jane mentioned that she was looking at lodging in the Flattops, I was all in favor. After five days of outstanding weather, fishing and scenery earlier in September; I was extremely interested in another day of fly fishing in the area. A couple additional days of hiking and leaf peeping made the prospect even more appealing, and a rental cabin eliminated the hardships of camping in late September, when low  temperatures were apt to fall into the upper twenties.

We took the plunge and rented the Chokecherry cabin located at the Ute Lodge Resort for three nights from Sunday, September 27 through September 29. We made the drive on Sunday, September 27 and arrived in time to launch a short hike up the Papoose Trail. An arched trailhead entrance was literally twenty steps from our front door. The cabin was rustic and cute but quite small. It consisted of three rooms; a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. The kitchen was barely larger than the bathroom, and the only free space to relax and read, aside from the bed, was two chairs and a very small table in the kitchen. The premier feature of the cabin was the huge log bed, which I am certain exceeded the dimensions of a king size. An electric heater controlled by a thermostat kept the bedroom cozy, but the bathroom remained quite chilly, and until we discovered a space heater, the kitchen was downright frigid. Needless to say, the space heater logged a lot of usage in the kitchen. A small porch was attached to the front of the cabin, and a homemade barrel grill and picnic table occupied the small area in front of the cabin. We grilled bratwursts on Tuesday night to take advantage of the outdoor amenities.

On Monday Jane and I actually completed two fairly rigorous hikes. First on our agenda was an out and back on the West Marvine Creek Trail. This stroll totaled 4.5 miles and 644 feet of elevation gain. On our return we bumped into an archery hunter from Indiana, who was packing out fifty pounds of his elk kill. He told us he was going to pay an outfitter to pack out the remainder for $300, and it struck us, that this fee could purchase quite a few steaks! Upon our completion of the West Marvine Creek hike we consumed our lunches at an East Marvine Campground site, and then we drove to the tralhead for the Ute Creek trail. Another out and back on this challenging Flattops trail accumulated another 3.1 miles and 521 feet of elevation gain. This hike was less interesting than West Marvine and consisted almost entirely of climbing a ridge and then returning back down.

Tuesday was my designated fishing day, and I will return to that topic later in this post. Wednesday was our get away day, and we decided to tackle some trail riding at the JML stables that neighbored the Ute Lodge. We packed all our belongings in the Santa Fe and rolled around the corner to the corral behind the bungalow and parked next to a fence and some pickup trucks. Two men were present in the corral, and one was banging away on metal, as he shaped a horseshoe. The other tall gentleman approached us, and we inquired whether we could enjoy a trail ride on the last day of September. He replied that we needed to talk to Marie, as she managed the trail ride side of the business. At our patient insistence, he called Marie, and they agreed that the gentleman with us would saddle up Patty and Charley and take us on a two hour ride. The charge was $25 per hour, so two riders for two hours equaled $100. Our reluctant wrangler went through the fence and gathered Patty and Charley and brought them toward us, at which point I asked, if they accepted a credit card. The cowboy replied no, and Jane and I quickly counted our cash and determined that our total amount was $93. We apologized for putting the man through the exercise of gathering the horses, be he seemed somewhat relieved to be released from wrangling duty. As we drove away, we discussed the idea of doing a one hour ride, as that fit within our cash availability, but by then our thoughts shifted to another hike.

Ice Confirms It Was Cold Overnight

For our last hike before departing the Flattops we returned to the Marvine Creek overflow parking lot and found the East Marvine Trail.  Our destination was the intersection with another Flattops Wilderness crossing trail, and this hike logged 5.4 miles on my Garmin activity tracker, and the cumulative vertical gain was 1,095 feet. Needless to to say, we were a pair of tired Coloradans, when we returned to the car. After the high country amble we adjourned to a campsite at the Marvine Campground and once again devoured enough snacks to replenish our energy stores.

Lovely Spot for a Fish

Tuesday was my day to fish, while Jane hiked to Little Trappers Lake and then climbed three-fourths of the Skinny Fish Lake Trail. The temperature was around 55 degrees, when I began my short trek to the North Fork, and Jane accompanied me on most of my inbound stroll. On Tuesday the stream was flowing at nearly ideal levels for the end of September, and the high temperature for the day eventually spiked in the low seventies. When Jane and I separated, I agreed to return to the place where we parked by 4PM, and Jane returned to the car and drove to Trappers Lake to hike.

Early Success

Pastel Color Scheme

I began my day with a tan pool toy hopper, that I fished solo. This approach yielded excellent results on Friday, September 18, and I was hopeful that history would repeat itself two weeks later. It did not. I hooked and landed two eleven inch cutbows in the first thirty minutes and then fell into a slump. In response to the slow action I added a salvation nymph, and the shiny attractor duped a small brook trout and rainbow trout, before I broke for lunch at noon. Four fish in an hour was acceptable, but I must concede, that I had higher expectations.

In Front of the Partially Exposed Rock Right of Center

Zoomed a Bit Closer

After lunch I moved the fish count steadily upward to ten, and surprisingly the tally was dominated by cutbows, and many were fine fish in the twelve to fourteen inch range. The landed fish were split between the salvation nymph and hopper, but it seemed that the larger cutbows snatched the salvation, as it began to swing or lift. When I reached ten, I rested on a that count for quite a while, and I attributed the lull to the stream structure, as I passed through a very high gradient section with minimal prime holding spots.

Another Hopper Fan

In order to counter the lack of action I added a second dropper fly, although the full length of the leader from the hopper to the point fly was only around two feet. In other words, my nymphs were drifting quite high in the water column. I cycled through an ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph, but the salvation and hopper performed the heavy lifting, as the fish count elevated from ten to seventeen. I continued to catch predominantly cutbows and rainbows, and I was very pleased with that result. I began to wonder, if the brook trout were already preoccupied with spawning.

Very Nice

Seventeen became another unexpected plateau in the fish count graph. I was plagued by refusals, a couple foul hooked fish and some long distance releases. All these obstacles to netted fish forced me to reevaluate, and I decided to test a solo hippie stomper. The hippie stomper was a workhorse fly on September 16, so why would it not shine again on September 29? I cannot provide the answer to that question, but I can report that it was totally ignored in some very attractive runs and pockets, so I once again pondered my options. I was mired on seventeen fish, and I had a strong desire to reach twenty.

Deep Color and Fine Width

Excellent Specimen

I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach; however, I configured my line with longer droppers and two nymphs. For this final push I chose a tan ice dub chubby Chernboyl to optimize visibility and floatation, and for the nymphs I attached an ultra zug bug as the top fly and a size 16 super nova as the point. The super nova is very similar in appearance to a pheasant tail. Hurrah! the combination saved the day, and before I halted my casts at 3:30, I boosted the fish count from seventeen to twenty-four. The chubby produced one aggressive brook trout, and most of the remainder favored the super nova. One or two grabbed the ultra zug bug to justify its position in my starting lineup.

Very Nice for the Char Species

I had thirty minutes to return to the car to meet Jane, and I fell short of my anticipated destination for exiting the stream. This forced me to bushwhack through an evergreen stand, and I clumsily climbed over numerous deadfalls and up some fairly steep inclines, before I arrived at a fence. I was within viewing distance of the road, but I could not figure out how to negotiate the barbed wire fence. Finally I found a spot with barely adequate space to crawl beneath the bottom wire. I placed my wading staff and fly rod on the opposite side and then removed my backpack and frontpack and positioned them there as well. Before I dropped to my back to wiggle underneath, I noticed that the wooden post to which the fence was attached was connected to a metal stake by a wire loop. I was able to slide the loop upward, and this raised the wooden post and all the horizontal fence sections. I used my wading staff to prop up the wooden post and maintain the loop in the highest position and dropped to my back and slid to the other side. Once I was on the other side, it was easy to climb the short hill to the road, and then I strode back along the shoulder for a mile to my meeting place with Jane. I arrived a few minutes after 4PM!

So Much Scarlet

Twenty- four fish was a decent day, and 80% of the catch were cutbows or rainbows. For some reason the proportion of brook trout fell from the ratio I experienced two weeks before. I estimate that eight of the twenty-four were cutbows or bows in the twelve to fourteen inch range, and these were very substantial catches for a small waterway like the North Fork. The weather was gorgeous, the scenery was spectacular, and I managed to sneak in a bonus day of fishing in the Flattops in 2020. My legs are definitely stronger after four challenging back country hikes, and Jane and I experienced the 2020 foliage viewing season near its peak.

Fish Landed: 24

The Word Glow Comes to Mind

South Boulder Creek – 09/24/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Rollinsville and East Portal

South Boulder Creek 09/24/2020 Photo Album

Thursday was another adventure on heretofore never fished water in Colorado. In fact, fishing new water has become a theme for my 2020 season, and a few interesting destinations remain on my list for the autumn season. I noticed the public section of South Boulder Creek on our several trips to and from the East Portal to hike the popular trail.

Promising Slick

The dashboard registered sixty degrees, as I prepared to fish, so I wore my Under Armour long sleeve insulated shirt and a fleece hoodie, This created comfort during the morning and early afternoon, but eventually I concluded, that I was overdressed. I slid my four piece Sage four weight together and hiked downstream along the dirt road, until I found a more gradual path for my descent. I was unfamiliar with the section, but my instincts paid off, when I entered the creek just above a no trespassing sign. When I observed the stream from high above on the road, I feared that it was quite low, but this assessment proved deceiving, as the flows were decent for late September.

Surprise Start

Hippie Stomper on Fire Early

I selected a hippie stomper from my MFC fly box and tied it to my line. The next twenty minutes were the highlight of my day, as five brown trout aggressively smacked the size 12 attractor. A couple of the browns measured eleven inches and proved to be some of the best fish of the day. I was pleased with the confidence shown by the resident trout, and my optimism soared with the hope, that I discovered yet another mountain stream destination.

Leaves, They Are A’Changing

Unfortunately the easy dry fly fishing did not endure, and I suffered through an extended dry spell. This period of inaction convinced me to convert to a dry/dropper approach, and I aligned my lineup with a tan pool toy hopper, pheasant tail nymph and hares ear nymph. The pace of action improved, but I never regained the magic of the first twenty minutes. The fish count climbed from five to ten between 11:00AM and 1:00PM, and the hares ear was responsible for most of the landed trout.

Super Nova Worked

By 1:00PM the air temperature climbed into the low seventies, and the action slowed measurably. I decided to revert to a dry fly approach and attached the hippie stomper to my line. Eventually I adopted  a double dry presentation with an olive stimulator behind the stomper. This combination accounted for a fish; but the warm air, bright sun and fruitless casting caused my confidence to wane. I decided to go deep again and replaced the hippie stomper with a Chernobyl ant trailing a super nova. The dry spell was temporarily broken, when a twelve inch rainbow snapped up the super nova, but this proved to be an aberration, and eventually I returned to a dry fly approach with a moodah poodah and a pheasant tail on a short eighteen inch dropper.

Best Fish of the Day

In one of the larger pockets I plopped the beetle (moodah poodah), and a brown trout shot across the small pool to inhale the foam terrestrial and raised the fish count to thirteen. I surmised that perhaps beetles were the answer, but another drought developed, and I decided to call it quits at 2:30PM. My confidence was low, and I was frustrated by my inability to generate interest in spite of casting to quality water with careful presentations.

Thirteen fish was acceptable, but size was lacking, and the early afternoon  was challenging. I suspect that I will never make the drive to western South Boulder Creek again, but it was fun to experience a new stretch of the stream.

Fish Landed: 13

Clear Creek – 09/23/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 09/23/2020 Photo Album

After a short layoff upon my return from the Flattops, I was eager to once again match wits with the high country trout of Colorado on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. I would hate to acknowledge that I was outsmarted by pea-brained trout, but that was a risk I was willing to assume. Highs in the 80’s in Denver prompted me to seek out a high elevation stream, before temperatures dropped to uncomfortable levels.

I chose a new section of Clear Creek, and the temperature, when I arrived at the roadside pullout, was sixty degrees, and I suspect the thermometer never spiked above the upper sixties. At lunch time I pulled on my thin raincoat for added warmth, and I removed my sungloves, as the cooling effect of evaporation was chilling my fingers and causing a stinging sensation. When I arrived next to the stream I noted that the creek was quite low, and this dictated stealthy approaches.

Low, But Pretty

I began fishing at 10AM with my Orvis Access four weight, and I selected a peacock hippie stomper for my initial search for trout. The stomper was ignored in several attractive pockets, and then looks and refusals became the norm. Evidently the dependably irresistible hippie stomper was not on the menu for Clear Creek trout on September 23. Finally after fifteen minutes of futility a pair of cutthroats nabbed the stomper at the lip of a pair of pools.

Peacock-Body Hippie Stomper

On the Board

I sensed that I was passing over fish (I saw some dart for cover after I thoroughly covered a pair of attractive pools), so I added a deer hair caddis behind the hippie stomper. The caddis fooled one fish, but it never captured the attention of the stream residents, so I went to a dry/dropper with a very short leader. I added a one foot section of monofilament to the bend of the stomper, and then I knotted a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail to the line. The switch to a subsurface offering proved beneficial, and I raised the fish count to ten, before I broke for lunch at noon. Most of the late morning catches grabbed the pheasant tail near the tail of deep pockets or pools. For awhile I added a salad spinner and zebra midge below the pheasant tail, but these flies never produced a fish and only served as a tangling annoyance, when I hooked fish on the hippie stomper or pheasant tail.

Screaming Trout Home

Some Width to This One

In the thirty minutes before lunch the hippie stomper became purely an indicator, and the white wing was difficult to track in shadows. I decided to convert to a more buoyant and visible indicator fly and replaced the stomper with a size 10 black Chernobyl ant. I kept the pheasant tail as the upper subsurface fly and then cycled through a series of nymphs and wet flies in the point position. The array of trial flies included a partridge and orange, an ultra zug bug, a hares ear nymph, and a Craven soft hackle emerger. Only the soft hackle emerger delivered a fish; however, the pheasant tail continued to be my mainstay fly.

Net Camouflage

The fragile pheasant tail fibers finally tore from the cutting action of cutthroat teeth, and in the process of landing a nice catch, the pheasant tail and ultra zug bug broke off. Normally I grieve at the loss of two flies, but the unraveling status of the pheasant tail offset some of the pain. I gazed into my fleece wallet and spotted a super nova, and this became my substitute for the pheasant tail. The super nova is a Juan Ramirez creation, and I tied a batch during heart surgery recovery and covid19 lockdown. They impress me as a more durable substitute for the ever popular pheasant tail.

Perfection

During the last hour the catch rate subsided, and I covered much more water between netted fish. I decided to try dry flies once again and attached a yellow size 14 stimulator to my tippet. A wave of refusals greeted this move, but then a cutthroat crushed the heavily hackled dry fly. The yellow stimulator became a one fish wonder before an errant backcast donated it to an evergreen tree. Next I moved to a gray size 14 stimulator, but evidently the high country stream residents were not color blind, because gray did not arouse interest. I downsized to a gray size 16 deer hair caddis, and an aggressive fish smashed it, but then the caddis was ignored, and I struggled to follow it in the swirly currents. This would have been an ideal time to once again experiment with a sunken ant, but I am ashamed to admit, that I have not visited the tying bench to produce a batch after losing my one and only black metal head ant.

Big Slash

It was after 3:00PM, and I was about to quit, but several nice pools beckoned a short distance upstream. I exchanged the caddis for a Jake’s gulp beetle, and in a very smooth slow moving pool a nice cutty raced at least five feet to inhale the terrestrial. That was my last bit of action, and I retired at 3:30 and found a path back to the car.

Water Droplet Off My Finger

Wednesday was another fine day on a high elevation stream catching colorful cutthroats. The largest fish merely stretched to eleven inches, but the wild stream residents made up for a lack of size with vivid colors and spunky attitudes. This may have been my last day on this particular creek in 2020, unless unseasonably warm weather continues.

Fish Landed: 23