Frying Pan River – 08/24/2012

Time: 10:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: Mile Marker 11.5 area, began where dead trees span the river.

Fish Landed: 34

Frying Pan River 08/24/2012 Photo Album

When I returned to my camp site on Thursday evening there was a break in the weather that allowed me to prepare dinner, but as the sun sank behind the western mountains, it began to rain lightly again. Once again I adjourned to the Santa Fe and read by the light of my headlamp for an hour or so. At around 9PM there was another break in the rain, so I took advantage and hurried into the tent, but I woke up several times during the night to the sound of raindrops splattering on the rain fly.

Friday morning wasn’t much different from Thursday as the tablecloth was coated with water and there were heavy clouds and mist everywhere. Once again I took my time with breakfast and packing a lunch and took a 40 minute walk from the campground along the road that follows the perimeter of the lake high above. I snapped some photos from the high vantage point and returned to the campground. I decided to start a bit later on Friday as the air temperatures didn’t warm quickly without the benefit of sunshine and the fishing really didn’t seem to pick up until mid-afternoon.

Lowest Water Level I’ve Seen

My strategy for Friday was to fish the water at the bottom border of the 2.5 mile public section below the dam. Perhaps the green drakes had moved and were entering the coldest stretch of water. I drove to the downstream border with the private water and executed a U-turn and parked at the first pullout above the place where two or three dead trees spanned the river and formed a nice pool.

Yellow Beginning to Show on Foliage

By the time I was prepared to begin fishing I discovered another fisherman with a guide had moved into the water on the south side just above the fallen trees. This was exactly the water that I was anxious to fish, but I’ve discovered patience is generally rewarded, so I decided to prospect around the small island just upstream and then check back closer to when the hatches typically begin. Once again I tied on the Chernobyl ant and added a beadhead hares ear dropper. First I worked the smaller left channel next to the road and landed a medium size brown near the top in a shallow run. I circled back to the bottom of the island and covered the water to the right of the island with no success. At the top of the island I prospected the 20 foot wide riffle/pool where a cube shaped rock protrudes and a tree is growing from the middle of the rock.

Here I hooked a rainbow on the Chernobyl to the right of and below the rock that hosts a tree, and then another rainbow smashed the Chernobyl just to the left of the rock. Late morning fishing was looking pretty encouraging, and the fisherman and guide appeared to do me a favor by forcing me to this area. I gazed across the river from the tree rock, and determined that I could probably cross at this point. There was some attractive water on the opposite bank where the main current angled to the left and then ran along the bank for fifteen feet or so before dropping into a swift channel. Between the rocks where the river angled and the bank there was a nice wide smooth area of water roughly three feet deep. I managed to wade across the tail of tree rock and then maneuvered to a nice position to the side of the angled pool just described.

I began casting the Chernobyl and hares ear combination to the pool area, and as I prospected this water I spotted at least five or six decent fish. Unfortunately they were quite selective. I could see them react to the Chernobyl ant as several moved a foot or two toward the drifting giant ant, and others twitched their tail when it came into view, but none would commit. I did see a rainbow rise and sip in a tiny insect a couple times so this began an hour of fly changing as I went through a pheasant tail nymph, zebra midge, griffith gnat, parachute ant, PMD comparadun, a gray caddis, and a CDC BWO. I finally landed a brown on a long downstream drift of the CDC BWO at the very tail of the pool just before the current smashed against the bank.

At 11:30 I decided to eat my lunch in case a hatch commenced earlier than Thursday. The air temperature was moderately warmer, but there were still quite a few large clouds with only infrequent appearances of the sun. I grabbed my lunch bag and water bottle and walked down the road to the fallen trees and discovered that the nemesis fisherman had departed.

Start of Fishing Friday Afternoon

After lunch at 12:15 I returned to the bottom of the pool where the fallen trees span most of the river and returned to the Chernobyl ant plus a beadhead phesant tail in anticipation of PMD activity. I tossed the pair eight feet out in the current just below a large rock above the angled trees and a medium sized brown grabbed the pheasant tail on the swing. Next I began prospecting the still water along the left bank between the bank and the faster main current. I began shooting casts upstream within five feet of the bank and in short order three nice 12-13 inch trout crashed the Chernobyl. Two were rainbows and one was a brown and I was shocked at this good fortune using the buoyant attractor as I now reached seven fish on the day.

Deep Creamy Colored Rainbow Took Chernobyl After Lunch

Upstream View from Fallen Tree Pool

At 1PM I began seeing rising fish toward the tail of the pool just above the fallen trees. The productive water along the bank had now been covered so I walked back to the tail and clipped off the two fly combo and tied on the money fly, a size 16 light gray comparadun. As the frequency of rises increased so did the refusals to my fly so I seined the water with my tightly woven net and scooped up two mayflies. Upon inspection I realized that they had quite yellow olive underbodies and they were closer to size 14 than 16. I searched through my fly box that contains quite a few tied for Pennsylvania including sulfur comparaduns and selected a size 14 and knotted it to my leader. The Keystone State fly proved to be a saviour as I netted seven fish mostly in the 11-12 inch range in the bottom 10-15 feet of the run/riffle/pool above the trees.

Nice Brown Liked PMD Imitation

I worked my way across the river just above the trees and began casting back to the middle from the right side facing upstream. The right side, which is actually the south side of the river, was actually more attractive with much more water of moderate depth that is typical holding water for trout. Unfortunately now that I achieved my ideal position, the fish began rejecting the size 14 fly that had served me well for the first hour or so of the hatch. I decided to switch back to the money fly, and that landed me a pair of medium sized fish, but my success was spotty.

I decided to abandon the fish rising in the faster water where the faster current fanned out over a rocky bottom, and began to work my casts to the shallower slower water upstream. This proved to be the answer and I landed another eight medium sized mostly brown trout by 3PM. It was an unbelievable sustained two hour hatch that yielded fifteen fish, but for some reason I felt like I could have done better. At this point I decided to continue working my way up along the right side as quite a bite of attractive water remained. However, as I attempted to make a step, my right heel got wedged between two rocks. My momentum carried me forward while my wedged foot remained stationary and I fell forward. I caught myself but for a spit second some water trickled over the top of my waders, and I could feel cold water seeping down my left leg. My feet were already cold from the icy temperatures coming from the bottom release dam and it wasn’t an extremely warm sunny day so I decided to wade back to the opposite shore and then go to the car and change.

I removed my waders and turned them inside out to dry and changed all my clothes for dry replacements. After a half hour in the direct sunlight, the wader feet felt dry enough to put my feet into. It was now probably 3:45 so I stood on the shoulder of the road and observed the area where I’d fished in the morning with the cube rock and a tree growing from the middle of the rock. The amazing hatch had clearly dwindled by now but I could spot a couple fish, so I decided to give them a try. I tied on the money fly and began prospecting and quickly picked up fish. Apparently the fish were tuned in to stragglers at the end of the hatch and they were jumping on my money fly with confidence.

First a small brown inhaled the comparadun next to the cube rock and then two nice rainbows devoured it in the nice faster riffle just beyond the rock. I moved closer to the bank and began shooting casts directly upstream above the cube rock and landed two more nice browns along the left edge. I could see one of the browns leave its station close to the bank and swim two feet to confidently sip in my fly. What a confidence builder that was. When I reached the point where the faster current was tight to the bank I retreated and planned my next move.

Great Success in Smooth Water Beyond Riffles

I gazed up and down the river and then across and spotted the triangular pool that frustrated me for an hour in the morning. Could those five or six nice fish be duped as well by my hot money fly? Brimming with confidence it was time to take on the challenge. I waded along the bottom edge of the cube rock pool and then along the top of the faster water to a point near the top of the triangle. I began casting to the closest current seam first. It was like feeding candy to a child. The trout leisurely glided up and sipped in the comparadun, and I landed four or five nice trout in this area. Once I fished the triangle out and disturbed the water with multiple fish landings, I moved up along the right bank a bit and landed another brown.

As the shadows began to creep over the river, I noticed an increase in mayflies. Was this another wave of PMD’s or something different? Once again I held my net in the water and scooped up a BWO. I switched the money fly for a CDC BWO, but the visible fish that I drifted over rejected my BWO imitation. By 5:30 my fortunes had waned and the shadows were lengthening and I was getting quite chilled so I retreated back along the bank and crossed below the cube rock.

It was quite a day on the Frying Pan River. I experienced two hours of an intense PMD hatch, but I actually enjoyed the aftermath period more when I could focus better on individual fish and had success doing so. The pace was less frenzied, but I caught as many fish, and the fish were on average larger. I still had Saturday to look forward to.

Frying Pan River – 08/23/2012

Time: 9:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Mile Marker 8; Area downstream and across from spring

Fish Landed: 20

Frying Pan River – 08/23/2012 Photo Album

Jane’s best friend Wendy was scheduled to visit from South Carolina August 22 – August 27, and they wanted girl time together, so I agreed to vacate the house and go on a camping/fishing trip. Initially I planned to go to the White River in the Flattop Wilderness; however, I read in one of my magazines that the flows on the White were low and the DOW was encouraging fishermen to not fish there due to high water temperatures. After reading this I decided to shift my plans and visit the Frying Pan River below Reudi Reservoir instead. The Frying Pan is a tailwater, and therefore I expected it to offer cold water and nearly ideal flows.

I left work at 10AM on Wednesday morning and returned home and went for a run, ate my lunch, packed the Santa Fe with all my camping and fishing gear, and departed Stapleton by approximately 1:45. I headed west on I70 and then exited and drove south on CO 82 at Glenwood Springs. I made good time and decided to stop at the Wendy’s in El Jebel for dinner. After dinner I continued south on 82, and some large clouds appeared, and I drove through some light rain before turning at Basalt and driving east along the Frying Pan River to the Little Maud campground next to Reudi Reservoir. I selected campsite no. 7 and paid for four nights, and then set up my small REI tent. I looked at my watch and realized there was still time for an hour of fishing, so I drove down along the river below the dam to mile marker 12 and parked.

Dave’s Campsite at No. 7, Little Maud

As I was driving along I noticed a young shirtless bearded man climbing the bank across from the river as he surreptitiously gathered something and placed it in a sack. Was he gathering some sort of illegal drugs? As I was getting ready to fish in the wide pullout at mile marker 12, a gray Toyota Camry wheeled into the lot and parked below me. There was a female driving, and as I looked on, the young man arrived with his sack and climbed in the car. Were they creating the appearance of gathering something so they could monitor fishermen and break into their cars to steal valuables? I checked my car several times to make sure it was locked before I went down to the river to fish.

I tied on a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear and began to work the nice bend run and pool next to the car. It was hard to concentrate as the young man was now across the street on the bank harvesting again. The young woman was kneeling on the ground next to the car similarly picking something. I experienced a refusal to the Chernobyl and a momentary hook up before deciding to move up the road to an area with a series of stair step riffles. In the waning light I once again had a momentary hook up and a couple refusals. It felt like the fly was in the fish’s mouth, but the hook never penetrated the lip as I pulled it out of the mouth. By 8PM it became quite dark so I carefully returned to my car and gave it a quick inspection to make sure it wasn’t broken into or vandalized.

At this point the young man approached me and explained what they were doing. He took me across the street and pointed to the vines crawling up the hillside with creamy flowers on them and explained that these were wild hops plants. They were gathering the blossoms to make beer, and he held a flower under my nose to smell the hops scent. He said the hops had been planted by early miners in the valley and the plants continued to flourish. He told me that his girlfriend found some on the ground right next to the car which explained her strange activity. I questioned him to make sure he was certain of all this, as I was concerned that if he misidentified the plant, they could be drinking something poisonous. He assured me he did quite a bit of research. There was a big brown sign in the pullout that warned against taking firewood, rocks or plants from the national forest, and he explained that this was the cause for their secretive demeanor. The strange experiences that accompany fly fishing never cease to amaze me.

I returned to the campground and a light rain commenced, so I remained in the car to read and stay out of the rain. As ten o’clock approached there was a break in the rain, so I climbed into the tent and curled up in my down sleeping bag and fell asleep as the rain once again created a pitter patter on the rain fly of the tent.

On Thursday morning I awoke to overcast skies and wet surroundings as I made my breakfast, packed a lunch, and gathered up my fishing gear. The weather would pretty much remain the same all day with overcast skies, large clouds and air temperatures that never climbed above the 60’s. I had stopped at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt on Wednesday night, and the salesperson informed me that the heaviest concentration of green drakes was between mile markers 8 and 10, so I drove to the pullout just below mile marker 8 and prepared to fish. It was quite chilly so I wore my fleece top in the morning, and I was fairly comfortable.

Brightly Colored Rainbow Landed Thurs. Morning

I walked down the road a bit to the next pullout and dropped down the bank to the river which was fairly narrow at this point and only a two foot corridor of softer holding water along the bank. I already had the Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear on my line from Wednesday night, so I stayed with that offering. As I began prospecting the slower water, I hooked and landed a nice rainbow on the Chernobyl and a small brown on the beadhead hares ear. By the time I reached the attractive pool next to the car and went a bit above I had landed three more small browns on the beadhead hares ear. This all took place over a period of 2.5 hours, so the fishing was actually quite slow, and I decided to break for lunch. I could see at least four or five nice fish in the pool by the car, but they were ignoring my offerings and pretty much hugging the bottom of the pool.

Nice Deep Pool Where I Parked Thurs. Morning

I ate my lunch by the large pool and afterward continued fishing upstream from where I broke for lunch. From previous trips to the Frying Pan, I knew that the green drakes typically emerged some time between 11AM and 2PM, so I tied on a green drake comparadun and began to prospect with this large fly. Fish were not attracted to this large morsel, so I added a beadhead pheasant tail as a dropper thinking that perhaps the PMD nymphs were becoming active in anticipation of a hatch. By 1:30 I was still stuck on five unimpressive fish, so I decided to move upstream. Perhaps the green drakes were at the upper edge of the range near the 10 mile marker, and I was missing the hatch? I needed to find out.

I threw my rod and gear in the back of the Santa Fe and drove up the road to the area near the spring which is near mile marker 10. I wanted to walk back downstream and fish back to the car through the long stretch of pocket water, but much to my amazement there were two fishermen in this area. I decided to walk downstream to a point 50 yards above the closest fisherman and fish upstream from there. A return to basics was in order so I tied on a parachute hopper and added a beadhead hares ear dropper. This combination was productive on the Taylor River, so why shouldn’t it work on the Frying Pan with no hatches evident? After fishing a bit with no takes, I observed a pair of fish moving subsurface and apparently feeding on nymphs, so I added a beadhead pheasant tail as a third fly. This tactic returned some immediate success as I landed two small browns before I reached the location opposite the spring where my car was parked.

At this point I felt that I could cross the river part way, then wade up the middle to a point where I could cross to the opposite bank. I fished some fair pockets and riffles as I negotiated across the river. When I reached the far bank there was a spot where the current angled against the bank and created an attractive run with a slower moving soft area next to the current seam. I tossed the hopper to the top of the run, and witnessed a refusal of the hopper where the current deflected off a rock. As I wanted fish to focus on the pheasant tail and not refuse the hopper, I switched the hopper out for a Chernobyl ant. This worked for a short while as I added two more browns that snatched the trailing nymph.

Fat Rainbow

Shortly after this activity I began to notice pale morning duns on the surface of the river. By now the light was quite low as some heavy clouds moved in and some raindrops descended. I was already wearing my raincoat so the rain did not affect my fishing, but the mayflies were apparently relishing the cloud cover. Another fisherman was above me on the bank next to the road, and as I watched he appeared to net a fish. I decided to go to my proven PMD performer, the light gray comparadun, AKA money fly. The next two hours were magical as I moved from 10 or 11 fish landed to 20 on the day as the comparadun performed like a champ. During this time I heard some rumbling and the rain intensified, but I continued fishing right through the storm. The fish were taking the money fly with confidence, and I landed some very nice fish including a 17 inch brown and a 16 inch rainbow. Some of the fish were targeted after rising, but others were surprises that rose to prospecting casts to likely holding locations.

17″ Brown Slurped Light Gray PMD Comparadun

It was exciting to experience a nice hatch on different water from the usual spots three miles below the dam. The character of the water was also attractive to me as there were a series of stretches where the water tumbled over some large rocks and then created a wide fan shaped pocket or pool. There were perhaps four or five such stretches as I moved upstream, and each became a bit narrower and deeper.

Area of Success Thursday Afternoon

By 5PM the rain slowed to a slight drizzle and the hatch pretty much ended, and I’d reached the top of the series of decent water locations, so I waded back along the bank and crossed to the road and called it a day. It was a great afternoon with fast paced action and my best hatch matching of the season so far. The hatch lasted for quite a while probably due to the cool overcast weather conditions. I was quite chilled as I stepped out of the water and crossed the road to my car, but I was also a happy camper with a 20 fish day on my first day on the Frying Pan River and some nice size fish to add to the excitement.

Frying Pan River – 08/25/2012

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Same as Friday but upstream a bit

Fish Landed: 22

Frying Pan River – 08/25/2012 Photo Album

I woke up Saturday morning to the many sounds of my camping neighbors packing up their RV as they prepared to leave for Kansas. I stepped out of the tent to discover a cold crisp morning, quite a contrast from previous mornings. I quickly found my down parka and gloves and pulled them on for the first time this year. Even though the sky was bright blue and clear, there was more water on my tent and tablecloth due to condensation than could be found the previous mornings after rain.

Rabbitbush Along Road Overlooking Reudi

I quickly took care of the essentials and packed a lunch, but had some time to kill while I waited for the air temperature to warm so I took a walk from the campground to the dam of Reudi Reservoir and back. Along the way I snapped some photos and when I returned to the campground spotted a buck with velvety antlers browsing next to the bathroom. I snapped one photo from a distance and then walked around the loop and clicked some fairly close shots. Meanwhile I pulled out my binoculars that I always pack and never use, and watched the ospreys that built a nest in the high tension wire tower high above the reservoir. I saw an adult and a young osprey fly from the huge stick nest to various perches in the surrounding forest.

As Close As I Got

By 9:30 I loaded everything needed in the Santa Fe for another day of fishing and drove the short distance to the pullout above mile marker 11, the same place I parked on Friday. I planned to fish upstream from the previous day’s wanderings in the channels around the small island, the large rectangular rock pool, and upstream above mile marker 12 if it wasn’t occupied.

I began fishing at the bottom end of the small island with a Chernobyl ant and beadhead pheasant tail. I plopped one or two casts in all the obscure small pockets and runs that I’m sure are overlooked by other fishermen in their greedy push for the prime spots. Along the way I landed three small browns and one 12 inch rainbow in the large rectangular rock pool at the top of the south channel. The rainbow drifted back under the Chernobyl for three to four feet then turned away and then abruptly turned and lunged on the Chernobyl after it had drifted another foot. I’ve only seen this happen a few times in all my days of fly fishing.

By now it was 11:30 so I decided to return to the car and eat lunch. I walked down the road a short distance and sat on the edge of the bank overlooking the nice pool where I’d landed quite a few fish the previous day. The area was 20 – 25 feet wide with a large boulder hosting a tree or bush at the top of the mild riffle over three to four feet of water depth. I spotted several fish at the tail of the riffle and filed that for future reference.

After lunch I decided to try the technically challenging left channel that ran next to the road. The middle and bottom sections of this channel are relatively slow moving with shallow smooth water. I tied on an ant as I spotted occasional rises but no mayflies on the water. I worked up through the smooth water with a pair of rejections to show for my effort. Perhaps they were on something specific, I thought, as I tied on a CDC BWO. This didn’t even attract rejections. As I got toward the middle area, I spotted one green drake bouncing in a riffle, and a fish slashed and missed the huge fluttering morsel. It almost looked like the fish rejected a real fly! With this episode noted, I tied on a large green drake comparadun, but this resulted in no reaction. I stuck with the green drake for several of the juicy shorter pools at the very top of the left braid, but when I got to the top of the island I declared it a failed experiment and resorted to a parachute hopper with a trailing BHPT.

Fine 15″ Rainbow Smashed Parachute Hopper

I picked up a small brown that grabbed the trailing BHPT and then approached the sweet deep pool behind a huge boulder just beyond the tip of the island. I shot some casts to the area where two currents merged and noticed a rainbow leave its holding spot and elevate a foot or so but then return to the stream bottom. It looked like the parahopper was going to be another nonproductive attractor, but I persisted and shot a cast to the edge of the current seam below the large rock. As the hopper drifted along the seam and just before the point where the currents merged, a fifteen inch rainbow tipped up and swallowed the fraud. The fight was on and I worked the rainbow and netted it and shuffled to the bank for a photo.

Here Is the Bedraggled Hopper Afterward

I continued fishing a bit further upstream, but pretty quickly the river degenerates into a white water chute. As I did this I began to notice a few sparse mayflies emerge, and it was close to 1PM. I wanted to be at a prime spot such as the base of large rectangular rock pool when the hatch blossomed, so I decided to circle back to the bottom of the island and work back up the right channel. I did this with the hopper/dropper and experienced a few refusals in the obscure pockets. One particularly noteworthy refusal occurred in a small deep pocket in front of a horizontal tree that fell across the river. I stood on the downside of the tree and flicked a cast to the still water. While it bobbed and slowly drifted toward the current a large fish rose from beneath the tree to inspect, but spurned my handiwork and returned to its holding spot.

I tried a few more casts but ultimately surrendered and moved up to the large pool. By now I could see more mayflies bouncing along on the surface and rising off the water. They appeared to be the olive colored ones that I’d observed early on Friday, so I went to the size 14 sulfur comparadun. I cast this repeatedly over a fish that rose fairly regularly, but I couldn’t entice a take. I gave up on the fish which was across and down from my position and shot a cast directly upstream. Again I observed several refusals as fish moved to look but didn’t finish. Perhaps the fly was too big? I clipped it off and downsized to the same fly but in a size 16. I flicked this upstream and managed to pick up a couple small brown trout in the 9-10 inch range. I could see sporadic rises higher up in the pool where the faster current fanned into the smooth side pool, so I moved to a position closer to the top.

The Sulfur Comparadun Did the Trick

On my previous pass through this area I’d experienced a refusal to the Chernobyl ant where a small run returned from the left bank to the main current around a rock. I flicked a cast to the tiny pool between the rock and current seam, but nothing happened. I flicked a  second cast closer to the seam and a brown smashed the comparadun. This was a nice feisty wild fish and I played it for a bit back and forth in the main pool before eventually bringing it to my net and photographing. I recall noting that this was my tenth fish on the day.

Brown Taken from Shallow Lie at Big Rectangular Rock Pool

Next I observed a brown rising at the very top of the run in some fairly heavy current before it dumped into the pool. Typically fish that move into heavy water such as this are big strong fish. As I looked on I saw the fish rise a second time, but the rises had fairly lengthy intervals in between. Meanwhile I ran quite a few casts along the edge of the wave and into the small smooth pocket next door with no success. As I continued to observe, a huge green drake popped through the surface, and my target fish refused it but then turned and ate it two feet below the initial refusal! This was like watching a movie. I immediately dug into my fly canister and removed a green drake and tied it to my line. Surely this fish would go for my imitation. Not even close. I put ten or more drifts over the fish, and not even a dinker showed interest.

I returned to the size 16 light yellow comparadun, and I noticed my buddy rise a couple more times to PMD naturals. I also noted more precisely where the fish was surfacing and began running my drifts right on the edge of the heavy current. Finally on a nice drift the brown humped up and engulfed my fly. It was a nice strong fish, but not as large as I suspected, but an interesting challenge nonetheless.

I left the pool and worked up through some nice deep pockets with no success. I tried the run and pocket where I’d earlier duped the 15 inch rainbow, but nothing was doing there. I decided I didn’t want to circle back a third time, and I considered fishing the same water as Friday, but then rejected that idea and resolved to continue working upstream along the edge of the heavy white water chute. I picked up a decent brown in the soft edge at the start of the chute, but the remainder of this type of water was unresponsive to my quick prospecting with the PMD comparadun.

The pool and run at mile marker 12 were occupied so I hiked along the road to the nice series of stair step riffles of moderate depth. There was a guide with a man and woman above the four stair step riffle sections, so I had room to fish here. I slid down the bank and landed a pair of small browns in the first riffle section. The hatch was now reduced to a sparse shadow of its former self, but this was the time on Friday when I experienced a lot success with opportunistic late feeders. I’d bypassed the large rectangular rock that juts perpendicular from the bank and creates a twenty foot back eddy, so I decided to wade downstream ten yards and crawl out on the rock and see what was happening. As I flopped on my belly and peered over the edge, a huge rainbow drifted to the surface and sucked down a PMD. Did I have a shot at this big boy?

Natural PMD

I dapped my imitation in the vortex off the edge right next to the rock, but I fear the rainbow had spotted my rod on its way up for the previous meal. I spotted two fish facing downstream looking into the eddy current. One was six inches from the bank in an extremely shallow position. I flicked a cast beyond the fish and it showed no response. I placed my second cast nearly on the bank to the right of the target fish, and as the small dun did a little curl as the current caught the leader the fish darted up and ate it. I jumped down from the rock and netted a pretty 13 inch brown.

Fine Brown from Back Eddy Above MM12

I returned to my perch and focused on the second fish that was twenty feet downstream and two feet out from the bank. I placed two casts behind and to the left of the fish, but the third cast was perfect and two feet ahead of the fish. As the fly came over the fish it confidently rose up and sucked it in. This trout turned out to be a nice 13 inch rainbow and I was feeling pretty good about my day so far. Seeing no more fish in the eddy I vacated and returned to the stair step riffle area.

Rainbow from Same Eddy

I prospected through the second section and third section and picked off a couple small browns, but also spotted quite a few refusals in the process. When I peered into the fourth area, I spotted a decent brown in front of a small rock in a very shallow lie. I shot several casts over this fish and it demonstrated the telltale tail wiggle and slight acknowledgment that it saw my fly but wasn’t interested. I cycled through a series of fly changes in an effort to dupe this guy with the last being a parachute ant. I also spotted a couple additional fish in this area that also flipped their fins at my offering.

I was considering wading across the shallow riffles to another medium depth stretch in the shadows on the other side of the river, but as I was working the obstinate brown, two new fishermen arrived and crossed below me and cut me off from the desired water. I gave up on the area and walked back to the car and decided to have a final look at the spot that I overlooked while eating lunch. From above I could still see the rainbow at the tail of the riffle. I cautiously descended the bank with a low profile and positioned myself to cast upstream at an angle as the current bent around the large rock. I still had the parachute ant on my line and decided to give it a try.

Lunch Spot Where I Landed Quite a Few Fish Fri. and Sat.

It turned out to be a good move as I fooled a pair of small browns and a twelve inch rainbow with the ant. I also had a  few refusals and the longer I cast to the area and watched the more I saw a few lingering mayflies and rises to them. I clipped off the ant and returned to the size 16 light yellow comparadun and added another catch in the faster riffles below and to the right of the large rock. I hadn’t really tested the water up high to the left of the rock and slightly above it, so I moved to the left a bit and shot a cast two to three fee above the rock. As the small fly danced in the riffles next to the rock a large form emerged and engulfed my fly. The fight was on, and I played a beautiful 15 inch brown into my net and carefully released it to fight another day.

It was now close to four o’clock and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the air temperature was quite warm particularly compared to the previous two days. I thought about wading across the tail to the area where the main river current angles against the far bank where I’d experienced nice success on Friday, but I didn’t relish staying Saturday night and putting a wet tent in my car for the return trip in order to beat heavy I70 traffic. I decided to call it a day and return to the campground and pack everything up and return to Denver.

It was a great three days of fishing on the Frying Pan River, and in spite of some great action on the Taylor River in 2012, the Frying Pan remains my favorite Colorado river.

South Platte River – 08/17/2012

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Wildcat Canyon

Fish Landed: 35

South Platte River 08/17/2012 Photo Album

On my second day of back to back fishing I decided to make the trek to Wildcat Canyon on the South Platte River. I did this last year at the end of August with the Costantini’s, and I wanted to see what it was like a bit earlier. The stream flows were at 167 cfs compared to 150 at the time of the Constantini vacation. Would this make fishing too difficult? One expects conditions to be good when committing to a three mile hike to access the river. Realizing that a two hour drive and one hour hike were in my future, I departed the house at 6:30AM. I encountered some minor traffic slow downs, but on the whole the trip was as expected and I arrived at the trailhead at around 9:15. I applied sunscreen and filled my backpack with the essentials for a day of fishing three miles from the car; lunch, raincoat and fishing essentials were included

Base Camp

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I set off at a strong pace, but it took me an hour to negotiate the gravel trail through the sparse vegetation and ponderosa pines. I established a base camp at the large log bench, the same spot selected on the Constantini trip and on previous trips with Dan and Jane. I put on my waders and prepared to fish and stashed my backpack, lunch and spare rod under a tree by the river. I headed down the path to a spot just above the narrow cascade where the river shoots through some rock canyon walls. The river was higher than any previous visit, but quite clear and there were numerous good holding spots. I didn’t want to risk crossing the swift current in the center of the river, but there was plenty of water to cover.

Flows Were Up at 167 CFS

Unlike the previous day, Friday would prove to be a day of minimal fly changes. I began with a yellow Letort hopper and knotted a beadhead hares ear to the bend with a long tippet extension of approximately 2.5 to 3 feet to account for the extra water depth. I began tossing casts at the tail of a nice long pool and stood below where the current spilled over a large rock. On the fifth or sixth cast the hopper dipped as the fly began to drag at the lip and I lifted my rod to make sure I wasn’t snagged. Instantly I felt some weight and the throbbing of a nice thirteen inch brown and brought it to my net and photographed my first fish of the day. After releasing this surprising catch, I landed a second twelve inch brown in virtually the same spot and then a third four or five feet further up in the pool.

First Fish of the Day

The next hour would continue in roughly the same manner as I hooked and landed nine fish before 11:30. All the fish except one were brown trout and all hammered the beadhead hares ear and all were taken from the pockets and runs in the fifteen feet of water out from the right bank. I did prospect some of the attractive mid-river holding areas, but these casts were not productive. I added a tenth fish to my total in the next half hour as things slowed down a bit and decided to exit the river at the tail of a long smooth pool and return to my base camp.

When I arrived back at the long log, I ran some drifts through the delicious large pool next to the campsite, but this didn’t produce any action. I returned to the log and pulled out my lunch and found a spot next to the large pool and observed while eating. There was little insect activity evident as I watched.

Pool Next to Lunch Spot

After lunch I grabbed my rod and gear and hiked back down the path to the point where I exited the lower end of the long smooth pool where I began working my way upstream. The slow deep water proved to be unproductive, however, when I resumed fishing the faster water above the pool with more rocks and short pockets and runs, I picked up another pair of browns. It was around this point that I decided to forego the Letort hopper which required frequent attention to maintain buoyancy, and substitute a Chernobyl ant. The fish were locked on the beadhead hares ear and ignoring the hopper, so why not use a foam fly as an indicator.

At around 1PM some clouds moved in and blocked the sun for longer periods, and during these intervals I noticed some tiny mayflies rising from the stream like miniature hot air balloons. This prompted me to add a third fly below the hares ear, a RS2 imitating a BWO nymph. This combination would serve me well between 1 and 3 PM as I experienced some of the most ridiculous insane fishing of the season.

I flicked the Chernobyl and trailing nymphs to all the likely pockets and spots within 10-15 feet of the right bank and the fish were all over the nymphs. In addition an occasional brown would slurp the Chernobyl, but the most popular fly to the chunky browns was the hares ear nymph. It was one of those rare occasions where the fish weren’t that selective, and I didn’t have to go through a series of fly changes to figure it out. Most of the time I made casts directly upstream and the Chernobyl would stop or pause and I’d lift the rod and find myself attached to a fish. A few times a fish jumped on the nymph as soon as it hit the water. I’m always amazed by this circumstance as it is almost like the fish was looking for a nymph to fall in the water, a totally unnatural occurrence.

Pretty Typical Chunky Brown

I landed a couple of fish on the RS2, but I concluded it was largely a nuisance and unnecessary as the beadhead hares ear was the main fish attractor. Two or three times I landed a fish with the Chernobyl in its mouth and in the fish’s efforts to escape, it wound the two trailing nymphs in a ridiculous tangle around the top fly. I’d have landed even more fish without these interruptions to untangle a massive monofilament mess. After the third such episode I clipped off the RS2 and the hot fishing continued unabated.

For two to two and half hours I rolled up fish after fish and finally finished with 35 landed. The catch rate did slow a bit over the last half hour, but I’m sure I could have continued landing fish until dark if I didn’t have the prospect of a one hour return hike and two hour drive back to Denver before me. The mystery of Friday is why were the trout so aggressively feeding on my beadhead hares ear nymphs? Why did I catch all browns except for one rainbow when previous trips yielded a majority of rainbows probably in a 60/40 ratio? Why did I catch fish along the edge and not in the middle?

Nice Buttery Color on This 13″ Brown

My theory revolves around the change in stream flows. The chart showed a slow reduction in flows from 200 to 167 so perhaps the fish were forced to the banks by the higher water and found it to their liking. Browns like the rocky margins of a stream so that is why I caught primarily browns. Perhaps the higher flows prevented them from feeding, and my hares ear nymphs were a welcome relatively large treat tumbling along in their feeding lane. The other surprising thing to me was the size of the brown trout. Nearly all the fish were chunky fish in the 12 to 14 inch range. They were brightly colored healthy fat fish that put up strong battles for their size. These fish were clearly larger on average than the rainbow/brown mix I experienced in previous trips.

It was a great day of fishing in a remote environment with no one else present. I passed three backpackers coming in along the trail on my hike back to the car. I’ll certainly figure out a way to return as soon as I recover from the physical exertion.

 

 

 

South Boulder Creek – 08/16/2012

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Downstream from Pinecliffe

Fish Landed: 12

South Boulder Creek 08/16/2012 Photo Album

Wednesday was a day to celebrate at Saddleback Design as I finally caught up the monthly closings for 2012. I completed everything possible for July, and now I’m in wait mode as the office manager finishes the job costing. Why am I mentioning this in a fishing blog? This means that I will be able to resume my desired frequent fishing schedule for the remainder of the season. I began by fishing on back to back days on August 16 and 17.

Recall that my Aunt Judy and Uncle Lee visited us during the first week of August and during their stay we took a day trip to Fraser, CO on Amtrak. During this trip while sitting in the observatory car, I noticed a beautiful stretch of water from Gross Reservoir to the Moffat Tunnel that was South Boulder Creek. Upon my return I did some research and discovered that two popular stretches for fishermen were the tailwater below Gross Reservoir and the water below Pinecliffe that is accessed via the train tracks. On August 5, Jane and I visited the tailwater on a very hot day. I now decided to see what the Pinecliffe water was like. I was also scouting this water for possible after work fishing trips with Dan as I estimated it could be reached in one hour to one hour and fifteen minutes.

The drive time estimate proved to be accurate as I left the house at 7:50 and arrived at a small parking lot in Pinecliffe by 9:00, and I was taking my time as I wasn’t familiar with the road or the location. It was quite chilly as a front had moved through the front range on Wednesday evening, and I wore my fleece for my hike down the railroad tracks. It was a good move as the temperature never rose above the 60’s and at certain times I was actually chilled when the wind would pick up in the deep canyon. I had no idea how far I could hike down the tracks, so I decided to hike for 20 minutes or until 9:30 and see where that landed me.

Railroad Tunnel No. 1

The first stretch paralleled a dirt road, and I was reprimanding myself for not driving down the road and parking closer, but on the return I discovered that the lane was gated. At the end of the lane I crossed a railroad bridge and shortly after that went through a very short tunnel. Next I covered a ten minute hike along the railroad bed, and I could see South Boulder Creek tumbling through the canyon way below me. I began to be concerned about how I was going to get down the steep bank from the railroad bed. Eventually I arrived at the entrance to a second tunnel. This one was more intimidating as I could not see light at the other end. It also wasn’t clear that the railroad tracks continued to parallel the stream on the other side as South Boulder Creek made a turn to the left and there was a rocky hill beyond the tracks.

I noticed a steep rocky trail that cut down in front of the tunnel so I decided to cast my fate and make the descent. I carefully maneuvered down the steep rocky path with loose train bed gravel until I reached a boulder strewn stretch of the creek. I had no idea what to expect from this water, so I tied on a parachute hopper with a beadhead hares ear, my latest go to combination. At the beginning the creek consisted of fast chutes and large plunge pools, and I probed the edges of these pools and in short order landed a tiny rainbow that was too small to count. At least I knew there were fish in this newly discovered water.

Steep Path I Descended from RR Tracks

It was a beautiful setting and I continued to wonder why I’d never sampled this stream. There were steep canyon walls on both sides of me with dense trees and vegetation in the riparian zone. I fished on and landed a pair of rainbows on the hopper and photographed the second one as it had beautiful coloration. It would end up matching my largest catch of the day at around eleven inches. As I proceeded I found myself getting mostly refusals to the parahopper, so I swapped out the top fly for a Chernobyl ant. This didn’t really change things, and I continued observing mostly refusals, although I managed to land two more small rainbows, one on the Chernobyl and one on the hares ear. This pattern would largely continue over the remainder of the day. For every ten attractive pockets or pools I fished, nine would yield refusals, and in one pool I’d catch a fish.

Pretty Rainbow

After fishing the Chernobyl for an hour or so I went through a bunch of fly changes. I tried one of the new muggly caddis flies I tied using snowshoe rabbit hair, and that produced the second rainbow of matching size to the second one I’d photographed. After the muggly got saturated and stopped floating well, I tried a size 14 2XL trude with an emerald body, but that didn’t even bring refusals. I clipped that off and tied on a lime green trude, and landed a fish. A royal stimulator joined the menu and I added a beadhead pheasant tail as a dropper. Everything I tried resulted in pretty much the same pattern of 90% rejections and 10% catch.

South Boulder Creek Below Pinecliffe

I paused and looked through my attractor box while debating whether to go deep with some nymphs and avoid the surface rejection problem entirely. I discovered that I only had one yellow Letort hopper, and tried that for awhile with no success. I also noticed a smaller Letort hopper with a light gray body and used that for a longer period with a bit of success. I landed a pair of small rainbows on the beadhead pheasant tail while fishing the gray hopper on top. My fish count had climbed to eight when some darker clouds moved in and a light rain began to fall. I hadn’t packed my raincoat, but I lucked out and the rain never intensified to the point that my fleece got soaked. I began to notice a few sporadic mayflies emerge, probably PMD’s, but this didn’t seem to increase the trout’s interest in my beadhead pheasant tail. Somewhere along the line I added a RS2, but again no response.

I finally decided that since nothing was working as the top fly, I’d return to the Chernobyl since it at least floated well and minimized the need for false casting and wear and tear on my shoulder and elbow. I tied on the Chernobyl and went back to the beadhead hares ear and picked up a pair of rainbows that grabbed the nymph as it began to lift or swing at the end of drifts when I cast across and let it drift downstream.

The canyon was starting to widen and that put my mind at ease regarding how I was going to exit, and the stream was spread out a bit more causing its nature to shift from plunge pools to pockets, runs and pools. I was considering calling it a day when I approached a beautiful deep pool where the main current ran against a large flat rock on the opposite bank. I spotted numerous subtle rises in the pool so after running the Chernobyl/hares ear through the run and pool with no results, I decided to try a single dry. I wasn’t seeing anything on the water, so I decided to go with a small size 16 sparse deer hair caddis with a light gray body. This brought refusals, but I also managed to land two rainbows from the pool. Maybe I should have been using the small caddis all along?

After I’d disturbed the pool with numerous casts and two fish landings, I spotted a path on the left bank. It was around 3:30, so I decided to take advantage of an obvious exit path and climbed the steep but well worn trail to the railroad bed. This brought me to the east end of the tiny first tunnel. I hiked a short distance to the railroad bridge and spotted a rise or two in the nice pool before the creek flowed under the bridge. I circled back across the bridge and went down to the tail of the bridge pool and began tossing casts with the caddis. The fish were having none of it, but the rises continued throughout the pool. I waded across the tail and climbed up on the rocks on the upstream side of the bridge and attempted some downstream drifts to the areas of rising trout. As I was doing this, I observed five or six PMD’s slowly rising up from the stream, so I switched the caddis for a money fly, a light gray comparadun. Finally on a downstream drift a fish rose to my comparadun, and I set the hook and felt the momentary weight of a fish.

As I watched the sun came back out and the hatch temporarily paused so I decided to continue on my way to the car. I walked up the lane and discovered the locked gate at the end, and that vindicated my parking place and extended hike along the railroad bed.

It was a beautiful location, and I managed twelve small rainbows, and I saw enough promise to return and give South Boulder Creek another chance. I’d like to learn if I could hike further east along the tracks beyond the second tunnel.

Taylor River – 08/12/2012

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Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Across from Cold Spring Campground

Fish Landed: 19

Taylor River 08/12/2012 Photo Album

Jane and I spent Saturday on a nine mile hike starting from a trailhead on the Upper Taylor River near Dorchester Campground. We got to know our neighboring campers, TA and Scott, from Franktown, CO and Scott’s nephew Jody and fiancee Kristen. While we were hiking some strong winds gusted through the campground and picked up and moved our new canopy. When we returned we learned some kind souls had saved the canopy by staking it to some large rocks. We later discovered it was our neighbor from Texas, and we thanked him profusely.

On Sunday morning we had a great breakfast and then packed up everything and loaded the cars. Jane decided to drive back to Denver, and I elected to return to the lower Taylor River and do some more fishing. Sunday was warmer and brighter than Friday, so I was concerned that the fishing would not be as favorable. I drove down the road along the river to the paved pullout where I ended my fishing on Friday. I knew I could wade to the other side of the river and continue fishing upstream along the north bank.

Brawling Taylor River on Sunday

I decided to stay with what worked, and tied on a gray parachute hopper and added a beadhead hares ear on a 2.5 foot leader. I caught a small brown fairly quickly, but then covered a fair amount of water with no action. Meanwhile I began to notice a few size 16 mayflies, probably PMD’s, steadily ascending from the river. As I observed, the density of emergence increased and as a cloud moved in front of the sun and a breeze kicked up, I witnessed a decent hatch. Unfortunately the trout seemed to be ignoring this windfall of food. Or were they? Perhaps they were gorging on the nymphs beneath the surface?

I decided to add a beadhead pheasant tail to the hares ear nymph so I was fishing the parachute hopper with two trailing nymphs. I did this as I was positioned at the tail of a nice pool, and I fanned out a bunch of casts over the entire pool. Nothing. I moved on to less attractive water and did manage a couple momentary hook ups, and then in a deep narrow slot, a nice heavier fish hammered one of the nymphs. I played the fish for quite a while as it charged up and down the river, but just as I felt that I was gaining ground and tiring the fish, it made a quick turn and the fly popped out. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed with this turn of events.

I moved on fishing feverishly with my three fly combination as the mayflies continued to emerge, but no further action commenced. What was going on here? Maybe the fish were looking for nymphs deep in the water column? I clipped off all my flies and added a strike indicator and split shot and worked the beadhead hares ear and pheasant tail deep with lifting action at the tail of the drift. This didn’t change the lack of action one bit, and after fishing deep through some nice water, I swapped out the pheasant tail for a RS2, as I was also seeing some much smaller mayflies in the mix. This also had no impact on my success, and I was stuck on one small fish landed after an hour or so of fishing through the best PMD hatch I had ever witnessed on the Taylor River. I was beginning to evaluate an early departure for Denver.

At this point I decided to return to the hopper and beadhead hares ear that served me well on Friday and concentrate on working the edge of the river close to the cover of the bank. Surely I could pick up a few opportunistic fish using this strategy. Almost immediately I landed a tiny brown too small to count, but that was just a leading indicator of what lied ahead. Ironically as the visible mayflies died back, my fishing became more intense. In nearly every likely spot where I cast, I hooked and landed a fish. Most of the catches in the first half hour after my return to hopper/dropper fishing, roughly between 12:30 and 1:00, were on the beadhead hares ear. But as the afternoon progressed, I began removing the hopper from more fish mouths.

After passing through a narrow stretch where the water rushed down the center of the river with white water velocity, I reached an area where the river spread out over a wide stream bed. There was a small island and a channel of the river angled around the top of the island, then along the left bank, and rejoined the main river. The current in the channel ran directly into a high bank and then deflected back along the bank to the bottom of the island. This entire channel was no more than two feet deep, but mostly one foot and extremely clear. I positioned myself at the bottom of the island and despite my stealth, two or three small trout darted for cover. I shot a few casts to the area where the current hit the bank and received a refusal. I now felt that I wouldn’t catch any fish from this area due to the low water and extreme clarity.

15″ Brown Was a Surprise

I decided to place a cast high in the run where it began to flow toward the bank where the water may have been two feet deep. I thought I could actually see the river bottom and there weren’t any fish. Well apparently my eyesight needs a check up because a nice brown materialized out of stream bottom and grabbed the trailing hares ear. Now the fight was on and as the fish thrashed about I could see it was a nice size. Eventually I slid my net under the bruiser and placed it on a large rock and it stretched from the tip of the net to the base, a distance of 15 inches. It was quite a thrill to see all this develop in such shallow water conditions.

Previous Brown Came from This Shallow Lie

As it turned out this wide shallow section was very productive as the fish must have spread out to feed on the abundance of food. I picked up quite a few fish in the small pockets and runs in this area. As I moved up above the island along the left bank I approached another nice clear small pool that was probably five feet wide and ten feet long. I paused and surveyed the area and spotted a fish near the tail. I cautiously shot a cast short of the fish and then followed up with a cast virtually on top of the fish, but no response occurred. Next I decided to go for it and shot a cast so that the hopper landed several feet above the fish with the nymph even further upstream. Quickly I spotted a swirl to the hopper and set the hook, and another large brown rocketed to the right toward the middle of the river. As the fish moved broadside to my position I could see it was at least as big as the previous shallow water catch. Unfortunately the fish just kept running to my right into the heavy current and in an instant my line came flying back toward me minus two flies.

I replaced my parachute hopper with another one with a  hares ear gray body and continued working up the stream. In a narrow deep slot fifteen feet out from the bank, another nice fish smashed the hopper and this time the flies broke off on the hook set. I’ll attribute this to a bad knot. I searched and found my last parachute hopper in my front pack with a gray hares ear body and tied this one to my line. I had a few additional hoppers with a poly gray dubbed body, but amazingly the fish seemed to prefer the hares ear bodies.

By 3PM the action had slowed and I was considering wading across the river and packing it in for the day. But there was a huge pool with a long center current ahead, and it looked quite attractive, so I decided to give it a shot with my fish count at seventeen and hoping I could land three more for an even twenty on the day. I carefully worked the bottom of the pool with some long casts, but nothing showed interest. I thought it odd that not a single trout grabbed the trailing hares ear in such ideal conditions of moderate current and three to four feet of depth over a rocky bottom. If ever there were brown trout water, this was it.

When I reached the middle of the pool where the center current fanned out, I reeled up my line and noticed that the beadhead hares ear was missing. No wonder fish weren’t grabbing the trailer as I was confident they would. I tied on another hares ear and shot a cast up along the left side approximately four feet from the bank and eight feet from the strong center current. Wham! A fish rose and inhaled the hopper and a fight entailed. I worked the fish back and forth and eventually landed a nice chunky fourteen inch brown. I was worried about not having a nymph, and sure enough this guy went for the hopper. I landed one more smaller brown at the top of the run to reach 19, but I didn’t want to stray any further upstream, so I returned to the car and quit for the day at around 3:30. I tossed the flies in a few attractive spots along the south bank on my way back but nothing was doing.

14″ Brown Took Hopper on Sunday Afternoon

It was another fun day on the Taylor River and the reason I keep returning during the summer of 2012.

Taylor River – 08/10/2012

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Upper Taylor River below Dinner Station Campground; Lodgepole Campground upstream halfway to Cold Spring

Fish Landed: 32

Taylor River 08/10/2012 Photo Album

Regular readers of this blog (are there any?) may ask why I fished the Taylor River so much in 2012. The answer lies in the fact that it is a tailwater in this summer of low water flows and it offers an abundance of nice campgrounds. Jane and I wanted to camp again and the Taylor seemed like a nice option for camping, fishing, hiking and biking.

I wrapped up the financial package for the month of June on Thursday early afternoon and rushed from my desk to home so I could pack and be on the road by a reasonable time. I succeeded in my mission and departed at around 3:45. Jane planned to do some fun activities on Friday morning and then depart around 1PM and join me at the campground for Friday evening. I stopped at a King Soopers in Aspen Park to purchase a few items and then made another stop at the Subway in Buena Vista for dinner. I arrived at Lottis Creek at 7:45PM and immediately set up the tent before dark. I grabbed campsite 8 on the Union Park Loop, the same location that I enjoyed during my last visit.

Friday Morning Fog Above Upper Taylor River

I was up at 7AM on Friday morning and had a quick breakfast and packed a lunch and hit the road by 9. It was quite foggy and misty as a result of a rainstorm that I drove through on my may down Cottonwood Pass. I decided to drive to the Upper Taylor and fish for a couple hours in the morning and then return to the lower Taylor near Lodgepole Campground for the afternoon. I found a pullout between the inlet to the reservoir and Dinner Station Campground and cut down to the river and began fishing by 9:30AM. The Upper Taylor was already crowded with RV’s and ATV’s in the many unofficial camping locations.

I began my fishing with a bushy caddis, but this didn’t produce any fish or looks so I exchanged it for a lime green trude which produced three small browns as I worked my way upstream. The trude was producing sporadically but I was experiencing quite a few refusals as well, and the fly was getting waterlogged and was difficult to see, so I clipped it off and tied on a Chernobyl ant and dropped a beadhead hares ear from the bend of the ant. I’d landed three on the lime green trude when I ran into a barbed wire fence which meant private water, so I exited the small stream and marched back to the car and motored a bit further north where I found a rough lane and parked. I angled through the sagebrush in a southwest direction until I intersected with the stream at a nice location with a small pool spanning the river.

By now the sun had burned off much of the fog and I shed my fleece by wrapping it around my waist under my waders. It was at this second location that I switched to the Chernobyl and beadhead hares ear, and I began prospecting with this combination. The beadhead hares ear began producing with more frequency and I landed another four on this combination with three grabbing the trailing nymph and one falling for the Chernobyl. However as the air and water warmed and the fog disappeared, I began observing many refusals to the Chernobyl with no attention being paid to the nymph. I decided to make another change and replaced the Chernobyl ant with a gray body parachute hopper and kept the BHHE in place. This proved to be a smart move, and I landed another five fish with two slamming the hopper and the others snaring the nymph.

Nice Size for Upper Taylor

It was now near noon and I’d planned to quit at 11:30, and I was directly opposite the Santa Fe so I reeled up my line and strode back to the car. I drove the twelve miles or so around Taylor Reservoir and past the hog trough and eventually came to the pullout along the Taylor where I’d ended my fishing on the previous trip. I pulled out my lunch bag and ate on a large rock by the river and didn’t observe too much happening from an insect perspective.

After lunch I waded across the river at the wide riffle stretch below a large rectangular rock in the middle of the river. I reached the opposite side of the river across from my car and began working the pockets and runs along the bank with the hopper/dropper combination. Initially I covered a fair amount of water with no action, but within a half hour the fish began reacting to the hares ear nymph. It remained cool with large gray clouds passing overhead and blocking the sun, and I spotted a very sparse emergence of PMD’s. Since I was having success with the hares ear, I did not attempt to change to a beadhead pheasant tail or something closer to the PMD nymph.

This Guy Is a Good 13 Inches

Between 1 and 3 PM I had a blast. I was simply popping casts into all the likely runs and pockets on the north side of the river and more times than not extracted at least one fish from each likely location. By 2PM the fish count was climbing and more fish began to hammer the hopper. Also, I landed two nice fat fish close to fifteen inches that inhaled the nymph as I drifted the dry/dropper combination along heavy riffle current seams that bordered smoother deeper slots. These fish put up nice battles in the faster current before I scooped them into my net.

Close to 15 inches

By 3PM some dark clouds moved up from the south and I heard thunder rumbling in the distance. The storm appeared to be heading toward the campground, and I’d left a folding chair out in the open, so I decided to wade back across the river as I was conveniently at another relatively wide riffle section. I hopped in the car and drove the three miles to the campground and put the chair back in the Santa Fe where it would remain dry, and then quickly returned to a pullout where I’d exited the river. I waded back to the far side and resumed my prospecting. As I recall I picked up two more browns in the 9-10 inch range, and then the river went dead so that I simply exercised my arm until quitting at 4PM.

I returned to the campground and discovered Jane had just arrived from Denver, and I helped her unload the few items she’d transported to the campground. It was a great start to a fun weekend in the Taylor River valley.

South Boulder Creek – 08/05/2012

Time: 10:45AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream from last parking lot before Gross Dam

Fish Landed: 6

South Boulder Creek 08/05/2012 Photo Album

On Wednesday August 1, my Aunt Judy and Uncle Lee, who were visiting from Pittsburgh, Pa. took me on a train ride on Amtrak from Denver to Fraser, CO. Along the way the train tracks followed South Boulder Creek from Gross Reservoir to the Moffat Tunnel. From my vantage point in the observation car, South Boulder Creek appeared to be an interesting fishing location that I had never explored. In fact there were quite a few fishermen in the stream above Gross Reservoir.

When I returned to Denver, I pulled out the DeLorme atlas and found South Boulder Creek and discovered it was not that far away. Next I Googled South Boulder Creek and fishing and read about a great fishery right under my nose that I ignored. This peaked my interest and so when I decided to go fishing on Sunday, August 5 I chose South Boulder Creek below the dam. Jane agreed to accompany and we got off to a decent start by around 9AM. We threw Jane’s mountain bike on the rack, but we weren’t sure there would be a place that she could ride.

It took us longer than would otherwise be required as we stopped for gas and several times to tighten and adjust the mountain bike as it came loose from the rubber straps on the rack. Also we missed the turn off on Coal Creek Canyon Road for Gross Reservoir as I thought there was a closer road. Now that I know the route, I could probably be in the parking lot getting ready to fish within an hour from my home in Denver.

It was a very warm day in Denver with temperatures in the upper 90’s, so it probably wasn’t fair to evaluate the fishery based on my experience under adverse weather conditions. Jane and I hiked down the steep path from the parking lot and immediately intersected with the stream at the bottom. We hiked down the path along the north side of the creek a ways, and I entered while Jane continued hiking further along the path. We agreed to meet around 12:30 for lunch, and I gave Jane my watch.

I tied on a parachute gray hopper and trailed a beadhead hares ear and waded across the creek at one of the few places where this could be done. As I worked my way up along the left bank just above a small island, I landed a small seven inch rainbow. I noticed a worn path on the left bank, so decided to climb up on the south bank and explore. I discovered a nice path and hiked down the path quite a ways until I found some nice slack water pockets on my side of the stream. I worked my way back up along the bank with the parachute hopper and BHHE and picked up two more rainbows. One was in the twelve inch range and quite colorful, so I photographed it before releasing. I was getting quite a few refusals in addition to the three landed fish, and this was frustrating me. In one decent deep narrow slot below a large rock I spotted a decent sized rainbow move from the bottom and inspect my fly, but it turned away as I held my breath.

First Nice Rainbow Trout in South Boulder Creek

When I reached the location of my initial crossing, I crossed again so I’d be visible to Jane and worked my way up along the right bank a bit. Once again I experienced three or four refusals, and just as I was switching out the parachute hopper for a Chernobyl ant, Jane arrived. I immediately met her on the north bank and we hiked back up the steep trail to the parking lot. We grabbed our lunches and found a nice shady area among some evergreen trees and downed our lunches.

After lunch Jane decided to take her folding chair to the waters edge. She told me she had hiked down the path and not too far below where I was fishing encountered a bridge so I decided to cross the stream again and hike to the bridge and fish back up stream. Unfortunately when I arrived near the bridge, several fishermen were occupying a beautiful pool so I went back upstream above them. I found a nice pool twenty yards above them and I could see three or four decent fish swimming about, but I could only extract a few cursory looks from these fish.

A Nice Pool

After fishing upstream some more with no results, I switched the Chernobyl ant for a yellow Letort hopper. I’d seen a golden stonefly fluttering up from the stream right after lunch and as I watched a bird swooped by and snatched the stonefly right out of the air. Perhaps the yellow Letort hopper would be taken for a golden stonefly. Unfortunately this theory didn’t materialize and after a bit, I clipped off both flies and tied on a bushy deer hair caddis. This fly actually produced three more trout, two rainbows and one brown. One of the rainbows was comparable to the one I photographed in the morning, so I snapped another photo while in the net.

A Second Speckled Rainbow

It turned out that I didn’t start fishing much below where I began in the morning, so I was overlapping my morning wade, and with an hour or so left to fish, I decided to hike back down the stream below the bridge and see what that water looked like. I found myself hiking up a trail a bit and then cutting back high above the river. A huge vertical boulder blocked further progress along the south bank so I dropped down to the river above it and fished my way back up along the bank to the bridge, a distance of approximately twenty yards. Along the edge of one of these shallow pockets an eight inch brown rose to my caddis and became the sixth fish landed on the day.

Pretty South Boulder Creek Below Bridge

When I reached the bridge, I retreated back the way I’d come and climbed a steep bank and hiked back upstream along the south bank trail. I crossed at the same place as I’d waded after lunch and found Jane in her shady retreat in her chair. I waded out in the stream next to her refuge and attempted some downstream drifts, but only succeeded in provoking a couple refusals. It was 3:30 by now and we were both hot and tired, so we again climbed the steep trail and quit for the day.

South Boulder Creek is a beautiful location not far from Denver, and I will certainly return when the weather conditions are more favorable. The water is very cold as it comes from the bottom of a deep dam, and it represents only an hour drive. There is also fishing upstream and downstream worth exploring.

Taylor River – 07/27/2012

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Across from Lodgepole Campground upstream to large boulder in wide area

Fish Landed: 24

Taylor River 07/27/2012 Photo Album

Friday morning wasn’t quite as chilly as Thursday at my campsite at Lottis Creek, although the tent and tablecloth were covered with rain from the brief shower that took place at dark on Thursday night. I fired up the propane stove and made a cup of tea and ate my minimal breakfast. I was waiting for the sun to rise above the hill to the east so the tent would dry before I packed it up since I needed to be out of site number 8 by 11AM, and I planned to fish another day before returning to Denver.

I busied myself with packing the car with the storage bins and rolling up my sleeping pad and sleeping bag. Eventually I removed the rain fly and draped it over a picnic table at an unused site two down from mine, and then I removed the tent pad and draped it over the table one site over as it was also unoccupied. Finally I tipped the tent up on its side to encourage the bottom to dry. The sun appeared partially over the hill by 8:30, but there were quite a few clouds in the sky, and that prevented the intense drying rays I was hoping for. There was a light breeze however and that aided the evaporation.

As I waited for the drying process to take place, I removed all my fly storage boxes from my fishing bag and sorted through them looking for large caddis, as I planned to try fishing caddis dries along the north bank like my friend from Ohio had been doing on Thursday. I did some fundamental fly organizing and when I’d completed this task checked the tent paraphenalia covering three campsites. Fortunately the breeze and sun were working their magic, and I was able to pack up the dry tent and left the campground by 10AM.

I planned to drive down the road to Lodgepole Campground and park at the nice paved lot across the street. I was concerned that this was in the construction zone, and I’d need to wait for flagmen to let me through, but as it turned out Lodgepole was just east of the start of the construction zone. I actually parked upstream from the Lodgepole lot in a nice pullout adjacent to where the river spread out into a wide shallow riffle. I planned to ford the river at this point and walk down the north bank to a spot across from the Lodgepole lot. I felt that the fish on the north bank were not as pressured as it took quite a bit more effort to get there.

Everything worked according to plan and I found myself next to the river by a large rock moraine with my Loomis five weight strung and ready to fish by 10:30AM. As it turned out, another gentleman was directly across from me wading wet and fishing up along the south shore. The river between us was quite swift and noisy, so I didn’t feel that my presence would affect his fishing.

My first fly choice was a large royal stimulator. It worked in the hog trough so why not here? That was my thought process. I cast the stimulator repeatedly in the nice deep V-shaped pool behind a mid-stream rock, but nothing showed interest. I could see a nice brown hugging the light sand bottom, but the fish was showing no interest. I clipped off the royal stimmy and tied on a deer hair caddis with a palmered body. This also was ignored by the elusive fish of the Taylor River. I decided to forsake the pool and moved upstream along the bank and ten to twenty yards above my opposite bank companion.

After casting to another sweet slack water area below a log with no results, I decided to go back to a proven producer and tied on the bushy purchased green drake. In a short deep pocket just above the log, a nice brown darted to the surface and inhaled my green drake. Why do I always over analyze? I continued and covered a fair number of attractive runs and pockets with no results before landing a second fish, a rainbow, on the green drake. Fortunately the green drake seemed to be more buoyant on Friday than Thursday and wasn’t requiring the frequent drying stops.

Friday Morning Chunky 12″ Brown

It was turning out to be a beautiful day for fishing with cool air temperatures and partly cloudy skies. The clouds were large and gray but quite high in the sky so they didn’t appear to threaten any heavy precipitation, but did create a nice overcast. Once again I seemed to be covering quite a bit territory between fish and by 1PM I remember thinking that I’d caught seven fish in 2.5 hours, and my catch rate was slightly above the two fish per hour norm. With this thought in mind and no green drakes observed, I decided to make a strategy shift.

I clipped off the green drake and tied on a gray parachute hopper size 10 and then attached a two foot dropper to the bend and added a beadhead hares ear. I was fishing near the bank so perhaps the trout were tuned into hoppers, and shouldn’t the all purpose hares ear attract fish subsurface? At the rate I was catching fish I estimated I’d end the day with twelve or so and that would be a nice accomplishment on top of the sixteen of Thursday.

Amazingly the strategy worked to perfection. Initially I began to catch browns on the trailing beadhead hares ear and fish were attacking the nymph in most of the places where I expected fish to be. I got in a nice rhythmn and moved along at a decent pace placing two to five drifts in all the likely spots, and more times than not a fish would grab the trailing nymph. Meanwhile the clouds were getting thicker and the periods of sun less frequent and eventually I could hear distant thunder. However I was largely oblivious and as a half hour or so flew by, the fish began to hammer the parachute hopper. This was even more fun catching fish on the top dry fly. I spotted a few PMD’s and considered switching the BHHE for a beadhead pheasant tail, but decided to stay with what was working until the success ended.

Typical Fish Landed on Friday

One detail I forgot to mention is that shortly after landing the first brown on a green drake, I snagged my net on a tree branch and as I took another step I snapped off the retractor cable. I couldn’t decide how to attach my net without my trusty retractor, but I eventually decided to stuff it handle first behind my back so it was pinched between my backpack and back as I was wearing a raincoat. This worked reasonably well, but I had to focus every time I landed a fish not to drop the net as I usually do when the retractor pulls it back into its proper position.

Well I was rolling along augmenting my fish count nicely when I hooked a twelve to thirteen inch brown in a very shallow riffle. I was very surprised at the non-descript lie that produced the fish, but as I raised my rod to net the fish it wiggled free. I no longer needed the net so I unconsciously dropped it. Instantly I realized the error of my ways as the net began drifting downstream away from me so I tried to stretch down to retrieve it, but it was already out of reach. I was now in panic mode and I took a step downstream and lunged for it. I successfully grabbed the net, but it was as my body began a downward trajectory, and I hit the water with my left side and temporarily went under and water trickled over the top of my waders and filled my left leg and foot. I also tangled my line in a dead overhead branch during this ridiculous process.

I climbed up on shore with my prize net still in my hand and managed to break off the dead branch and untangle my line. I was across the river from my car, but didn’t want to waste time wading back across, so I decided to suck it up and continue. My shirt, undershirt and underwear were all wet and water was sloshing around in my feet. Eventually the water inside my waders warmed up but the cotton undershirt and underwear continued to be cold and clammy particularly as the rain clouds continued to build. The best medicine for my condition was to continue catching trout, and that’s exactly how I got well.

Nice Brown Came From Eddy Next to Large Rock

I continued probing the pockets and runs with my hopper/dropper combination and landed more fish. By three o’clock the storm moved in and light rain began to fall. I was prepared with my raincoat already on, but my wet undergarments were causing me to feel quite chilled. I had reached twenty-four landed fish, and I was trying to make it 25, but I was moving further away from my crossing point and feeling chilled so I decided to wade back and return to the car. It proved to be a great decision as the rain began to descend in sheets as I unlocked the car and changed under the dripping hatchback door. I had clean dry clothes in my sack from camping, so eventually I was in the dry heated comfort of my car driving back to Denver. An energy drink and snack later, I was back in a pleasant state remembering my fine day on the Taylor River.