Paradrake – 09/11/2012

Paradrake 09/11/2012 Photo Album

I was not satisfied with the performance of my green drake comparaduns during my last visit to the Frying Pan River and also on a recent outing on South Boulder Creek. I was able to get only a couple drifts until the fly began to sink and required sponging the moisture with my shirt and dipping in the drying powder. As I planned another trip to the Frying Pan River, I decided to do something about it.

HookTiemco 200R
WingWhite calf body hair with bottom half colored with black permanent marker
Tail5-6 moose mane fibers
RibMaroon sewing thread
AbdomenLight olive dubbing
HackleGrizzly hackle
ThoraxLight olive dubbing

I searched on line for green drake parachute fly and found a link to an Oregon fly shop with a video demonstrating the tying of a paradrake. I liked the style of fly and decided to make some prior to leaving for the Frying Pan on Thursday, September 13. The main feature I gained from the tying demonstration was how much thicker the moose mane tail was. The fly shop pattern used CDC as the wing and goose biots for the body and I didn’t care for these options so I adapted my own materials.

New Paradrake for Better Flotation

I stayed with the same Tiemco 200R size 12 3XL hook that I was using previously. I feel that this is the correct size other than for the smaller South Boulder Creek version, and I’ll address that later before I visit that stream again. I used olive thread and tied on a white calf tail wing. After I stood the wing up and created a thread base for wrapping the parachute hackle, I used a permanent black marker to color the bottom half of the wing. This resulted in a gray shade, but the top or tip of the wing remained white for better visibility. Hopefully this won’t turn off the fish. Picking up the drab olive/gray green drake is very difficult for my aging eyes.

Wellerfish Paradrake from Bottom

Next I moved to the tail and tied in five or six stacked moose mane fibers. I wrapped the thread up over the butt section of the moose mane almost to the base of the wing. I feel the hollow moose mane fibers will also add buoyancy. Next I returned to the base of the tail and tied in a section of maroon sewing thread for the rib. I dubbed the abdomen with the same light olive material that has proven itself on my comparaduns and then wrapped the ribbing to the base of the wing. Next I tied in a grizzly hackle concave side pointing down. The fly shop video used a grizzly hackle dyed olive, and if I had this material I would have used it. Hopefully my version isn’t a bit too light. I applied the same dubbing that I used for the abdomen to the thread and wrapped the thorax and then wrapped the hackle parachute style around the wing post.

I’m fairly certain this fly will improve over my comparaduns from a flotation perspective. I’m convinced the main features that are important to a trout from its underwater vantage point are the color of the underside of the body and the general size and silhouette of the fly. I think my version of the paradrake clicks on all these factors. Hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow how my paradrake performs on the upper Frying Pan River.

South Platte River – 09/09/2012

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Wildcat Canyon 50 yards below campsite to area next to thick willows

Fish Landed: Dave 15; Dan 20

South Platte River 09/09/2012 Photo Album

The temperature dipped quite low on Saturday night, but Dan and I slept late in our warm down sleeping bags until the sun rose above the eastern mountain. I got up at 7:45, and didn’t really need my down parka, although I wore it since I packed it in. Dan slept until 10AM, and after he awoke we lowered the bear bag and prepared our breakfast consisting of two packets of instant oatmeal.

Our Home for a Night

We once again climbed into our waders and grabbed our rods and walked down the path to the spot where we exited the river Saturday evening. Sunday was another bright sunny day with the high temperature exceeding Saturday’s high. Once again Dan took the far side and I remained on the side of the river next to the path. We both returned to the parachute hopper and beadhead hares ear, and on Sunday Dan was attached to a fish almost immediately. As we worked up the stream in parallel Dan continued to be a fish magnet while I couldn’t even muster a refusal. After an hour of fishing I’d failed to land a fish as we approached the deep attractive pool next to our campsite. Meanwhile Dan had landed around five trout with several being quite chunky 12 and 13 inch specimen.

One of the Better Fish of the Weekend

Sweet Pool Next to Our Campsite

As I cast from below into the sweet camp pool, I didn’t attract any interest; but when I got to the top across from where the riffle deflected off the large rock I began casting across and allowing the center current to take my flies downstream along the current seam. Using this technique I landed four or five trout on the beadhead hares ear. Dan was behind me on the opposite side, and when he reached the pool he climbed up on top of the huge boulders and looked down on the eddy along the far bank. He said he could spot 4-6 fish lingering in the eddy, and he picked off two or three before moving on. Unfortunately he hooked a rock and broke off both his flies and had to reconnect his hopper and nymph.

Dan’s Favorite Perch

I continued working upstream and began catching fish at a more regular pace moving from four to thirteen between noon and 2PM. The downstream approach served me well in the deeper runs where I could get above the target area without spooking fish, but I also managed to land some with upstream casts. I was proud to see that Dan’s catch rate continued at a high rate and by the time I caught my thirteenth fish he had already achieved 16. Unlike the previous day, his fly was constantly in the water, and he was spending less time untangling and knotting. His long 25-30 foot casts were serving him well in the 82 cfs flows over skittish fish.

Before we started fishing we mutually decided to quit at 2PM and estimated we’d be on the trail by 3PM and back at the car by 4PM. At 2 we reached a spot where the river split around a narrow island with the channel on Dan’s side being smaller than the main channel ahead of me. I remember that Dan was at 17 at this point, and I was stuck on 13. Dan decided to explore the smaller channel while I continued through the main channel which consisted of a heavy dose of pocket water. I was seeing a lot of small mayflies again so I gambled that a switch to nymphing with a RS2 would allow me to gain on my son. I was pretty certain he’d stay with the hopper/hares ear.

I picked up two more trout in the pocket section on the nymphs with quite a few foul hooked fish and long distance releases. When Dan emerged at the top of the island and we compared notes, I discovered that he stayed with the parachute hopper and hares ear as I expected. Fortunately for him (and not good for me in the fish count competition) the fish continued to hammer his hares ear and hopper and he landed an additional three nice trout to reach 20. I failed to gain ground and in fact slid and ended with 15. But 15 is still a nice total for four hours of fishing in a beautiful setting on a bright sunny and warm afternoon in September. In fact I’m pretty proud of Dan’s emergence as a fly fisherman with his first twenty fish day. I expect there will be many more.

We returned to camp and filled our packs and began the return hike at 4PM. Once again it took an hour to negotiate the trail so that we arrived at the Santa Fe by 5PM and returned to Denver in time to see the second half of the Steelers vs Broncos Sunday night game. It was a great weekend of backpacking, fishing and spending time with my son.

South Platte River – 09/08/2012

Time: 1:30PM – 6:00PM

Location: Wildcat Canyon from just above cascade and narrow canyon to 50 yards below our base camp

Fish Landed: Dave 18; Dan 8

South Platte River 09/08/2012 Photo Album

In 2008 and 2009 Dan and I backpacked into Wildcat Canyon in September of each year and had a great time. A three mile hike is required, and as a novice aging backpacker this is about right for me. After this relatively mild exertion, a beautiful world is pretty much exclusively available to the camper with the cold South Platte River in close proximity. The river valley is fairly wide for most of the stretch available for camping with nice flat areas and the large ponderosa pines are spread out with soft pine needles covering much of the ground. Several well used camp sites are obvious with crude rock fire pits already constructed.

I hiked in to this area in late August and experienced a fabulous day of fishing and of course when Dan heard this tale, he wanted to make the trip again. The only problem was when? Initially Dan was scheduled to go on another weekend camping trip with another couple, but that fell through at the last minute, so we jumped on the opportunity to do Wildcat Canyon on September 8 and 9. Dan met me at our house at 7:30 on Saturday morning and we transferred all his gear to my car and rechecked our lists of necessities. We were on our way by 8AM and stopped in Woodland Park for some last minute food items. Once again we were on our way and reached the trailhead by around 11:30. It took us a bit of time to finalize our packs and attach fishing gear to the outside of our backpacks, and we were probably on the trail by noon. Because my wading boots and waders consume much space in my pack, I elected to hike the three miles in my waders. It turned out to be warm but tolerable.

Once we hit the river we continued on the trail to the place where a fire ring and a log bench are right next to a beautiful pool on the river. We’ve used this on previous trips to stash our gear and set up for fishing. We ate our lunches and then prepared our rods and hiked down the path to a point just above the falls where the canyon narrows between some vertical rock walls. Dan waded to the far side of the river and I took the near bank and we began fishing at around 1:30PM. The flows were 82 cfs, and that was 50% of the level when I fished earlier in August. Because it was a bright sunny day and we were beginning at 1:30 in the afternoon and the flows were down, I didn’t expect much from the river.

I began with a parachute hopper with a hares ear body and a beadhead hares ear nymph and was immediately surprised with a decent brown on the first cast. Just as on my previous trip the brown attacked the nymph late in the drift. Dan was still tying on his flies as I landed another brown on the fourth cast and then a rainbow and another brown. Within the first half hour I had landed five trout, and I was beginning to think this would be a repeat of my earlier stellar trip. Meanwhile Dan finally got his flies in place and began landing fish quickly as well. By the time I landed number five he was at three or four.

Dan About to Release Nice Catch

Unfortunately after the first half hour the catch rate dropped off significantly. I began seeing some tiny mayflies lifting off the surface of the water, and as this happened the fishing went from ridiculously easy to requiring more casts and covering more water. By three o’clock I’d landed nine trout with a few in the thirteen inch range, but on average they were smaller than my earlier trip. After a half hour of seeing the small mayflies I added a RS2 below the beadhead hares ear as a third fly. The RS2 didn’t really produce any fish, but it did increase the number tangles I had to undo.

Following His Drift

Meanwhile Dan picked up a few more trout and several appeared to be decent sized browns. Unfortunately there were a series of downed dead evergreen trees covering half the width of the stream on his side of the river. Dan could spot fish behind the natural structure, but he was also casting a bit long and creating his own messy tangles. Dan’s knot tying proficiency is not as advanced as mine, and extricating himself from tangles consumed a higher percentage of fishing time.

I totally lost track of the time and it seemed to be getting dark early as the shadows extended across the river. The sun fell behind the mountains by around 4PM and the combination of the shadows and my sunglasses made me think it was approaching darkness. As the fishing slowed at 3:30 in the afternoon I noticed more and more small mayflies slowly fluttering up from the water so I decided to try deep nymphing with a strike indicator. My past experience has taught me that this method of fishing is more effective when fish are tuned into active nymphs than dead drifting a nymph below a large attractor indicator fly.

I crimped a split shot on my line above the last knot, added a strike indicator, used a clinch knot to attach a beadhead hares ear, and then knotted an RS2 below the BHHE as my point fly. This proved to be a strategic plus as I began catching fish on the nymphs. Initially I landed two or three fish in an attractive deep run, and I was concerned that my fishing method would only be effective in this type of water. But I also began catching fish in riffles of moderate depth and even in some fairly shallow areas along the edge. Perhaps half the landed fish snatched the hares ear and the other half grabbed the RS2. I also experienced quite a few long distance releases and several foul hooked fish. I’m always amazed when I make an upstream cast with a split shot to shallow water and I lift the flies almost immediately after entry to make sure the split shot isn’t hung up and a fish grabs the nymph on the lift.

A Pretty Rainbow Landed by Dave

After an hour or so of me catching fish, Dan asked me to rig him up with nymphs. We met in the middle of the river and I set up his indicator and split shot and tied on a hares ear and RS2 from his fly box. Dan picked up two or three fish after going to nymphs, but he definitely favors fishing dries or dry/dropper over nymphing.

Filtering Process Begins

Setting Up Tent Is Next

By 6 o’clock I thought it was time for bed and the fishing had slowed and I was quite weary after the strenuous hike in the heat so we decided to exit the river and return to the base camp. Dan only transported a water bottle quantity of water from the car, so he immediately filtered some water and filled his camelback. Next he set up the camp stove and started the beans and rice which required 30 minutes of cook time. While dinner cooked we set up Dan’s luxurious two person tent that features foyers on each side and a dangling storage caddy below the ceiling. After our tasty dinner we made a campfire and stayed warm until curling up in our sleeping bags at 9:30. I fell asleep dreaming of the 18 fish I’d landed, with nine coming after my switch to indicator nymph fishing.

And Finally a Blazing Fire

Clear Creek – 09/07/2012

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: East end of bike path; above kayak course; below Georgetown Lake

Fish Landed: 9

Clear Creek 09/07/2012 Photo Album

Now that Dan and I set our plan to hike into Wildcat Canyon on Saturday, I didn’t want to travel too far on Friday so I elected to drive to Clear Creek. I parked and began fishing at the eastern end of the bike path below Idaho Springs just before Floyd Hill. Two other fishermen were already there ahead of me and were already casting flies as I prepared. When I was ready I walked down the path to a point thirty yards above them, but as I tied on my flies they decided to migrate upstream and jumped in above me. They were already cramping me so when I found a spot where the stream spread out I crossed to the opposite bank.

I began fishing with a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear and prospected along the bank with only refusals to show for my efforts. According to Blue Quill Angler, catching fish in Clear Creek is easy using large attractor flies. I was not finding it to be easy. I switched the Chernobyl for a parachute hopper and kept the BHHE and only refusals ensued. Next I tried an olive body caddis and a light gray caddis and these were equally ineffective. Finally I returned to the parachute hopper and added a beadhead pheasant tail instead of a beadhead hares ear, and I landed a brown on the pheasant tail. Phew! I had at least one fish before I broke for lunch at noon.

Decent Size Brown for Clear Creek

During lunch some light rain fell and it was cloudy and overcast most of the day, although there were more periods of sunshine in the afternoon than the morning. After lunch I tried a Letort hopper and a beadhead pheasant tail and landed a small brown on the nymph. When I reached the point where Dan and Adam and I began fishing during an evening in August I decided to move to a different location. I jumped back on interstate 70 and drove west and then got off at Lawson and drove to a spot above the kayak course. Unfortunately I didn’t remember that the stretch of water between the kayak course and the bridge for the I70 east bound on ramp was relatively short.

I put on a red body attractor fly and this didn’t bring any luck. Next I tied on a royal stimulator and this enabled me to added two more small browns to my fish count. When I reached the I70 ramp bridge, the only ways to continue fishing were to wade the stream through a long tunnel under the highway or to climb up to the shoulder and walk across the east and west lanes of the highway. I didn’t like either of these options so I returned to the car and decided to take a drive west on the frontage road.

The first mile or two was private, but I then came to a place where there was a parking lot for a hiking tail and then a bridge over Clear Creek a short distance up the road. I parked at the trailhead and hiked up the road to the bridge and dropped down to fish on the west side of the bridge. Initially Clear Creek was very fast with a high gradient. In addition it split into two and sometimes three channels and the willows and vegetation were very tight to the bank making upstream progression quite difficult. But I stuck with it and ducked under branches and pushed aside willows and found a few nice small pockets and holes to fish.

Leaves Changing on Upper Clear Creek

After fighting my way upstream a bit I reached a spot where there was only one channel and there were a couple larger pockets. Here I began to see a decent BWO hatch so I tied the Chernobyl back on and added a RS2 dropper. This turned out to be a good move as I landed three additional rainbows, two on the RS2 and one the Chernobyl. I cast the Chernobyl into the middle of a small deep pocket and the rainbow ambushed the fly on the plunk. In addition to the three landed fish I experienced a couple long distance releases as the action really picked up at 3PM when the hatch commenced. This left me wondering if the hatch also took place downstream at my starting point, but we will never know the answer to that.

Rainbow from Clear Creek Near Georgetown

I ended the day in some very enticing water just below the Georgetown Lake dam and behind a county maintenance facility. The grass was packed down in this area so it was obvious it received heavier pressure from other fishermen.


South Boulder Creek – 09/06/2012

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Tailwater below Gross Reservoir; 25 minute hike down path

Fish Landed: 13

South Boulder Creek 09/06/2012 Photo Album

With my work totally caught up Thursday and Friday were available for fishing. Originally I considered biking up Waterton Canyon to fish in the South Platte River southwest of Denver, but I checked the flows and they were only in the 60’s out of Strontia Springs Reservoir. This seemed to be quite low so I looked at other options. I wanted a tailwater that wasn’t too long of a drive so this left South Boulder Creek and the South Platte River below Cheesman Canyon. I also considered setting up camp at Spruce Grove Campground along Tarryall Creek and this would position me to hike into Wildcat Canyon again or fish the South Platte in Elevenmile Canyon. The possibility of Dan and I backpacking in Wildcat Canyon was discussed so I didn’t want to do this solo if the two of us would undertake the trip over the weekend.

The flows at South Boulder Creek were just over 100. I am not as familiar with what is ideal on South Boulder Creek, but on my previous trip there the flows were 150+, and I felt that level was a bit challenging so 100 seemed about right. I chose South Boulder Creek as my destination. I packed my gear and left the house by 8:30 and arrived at the trailhead by 9:40 or so. After I put on my waders and gathered up my gear, I hiked down the trail for 25 minutes. On my previous visit I stayed above the first bridge, so I wanted to explore further downstream. My starting point was a bit beyond a picnic table situated next to the stream.

I began the day with a parachute hopper and beadhead hares ear, and in the very first small pool a trout rose and rejected the hopper at the tail and this trend unfortunately continued as I moved out in the middle and tried several more attractive spots. I clipped off the hopper and replaced it with a Chernobyl ant and the same result followed. Next I moved to a yellow Letort hopper as my indicator fly and that didn’t even create refusals. The fish were looking up and paying no attention to the nymph, so I elected to remove both flies and try a size 16 light gray caddis. This finally got me on the scoreboard as I landed two small rainbows on the caddis.

An Ant Produced Rainbow

However, after the initial success, the gray caddis also started producing refusals and I was contemplating another change as I approached a nice pool and noticed two sporadic rises. There weren’t any insects on the water so I surmised that perhaps the rises were for wind blown terrestrials in the water. I tied on a parachute black ant and miraculously a fine 13″ rainbow rose and sipped in the ant. Perhaps I had solved the riddle. I used the ant as a searching fly for quite a time after catching the rainbow, but it didn’t produce anymore. I abandoned the ant and cycled through a trial and error period with 100% error using an elk hair caddis, yellow sally, and lime green trude. I noticed a few midges buzzing about so I added a midge larva dropper and eventually gave up on the tiny midge larva and tried a beadhead pheasant tail. The pheasant tail finally worked and I added a small rainbow to my count by the time I ate lunch at noon. I packed my lunch in my fishing backpack, so I sat on a rock by the side of the stream and ate while I observed the water.

Pretty Speckled Rainbow from S. Boulder Creek Duped by Ant

After lunch I began to see some green drakes and perhaps 8-10 were observed over the course of the early afternoon. The South Boulder Creek green drakes were quite small compared to those I’ve observed in other drainages. One landed on my hand and I attempted to photograph it, but a gust of wind came along and it flew off before I could get my camera in place. Based on the hand held green drake I’d estimate they are a size 14 2XL. I tried two of my comparadun green drakes, and they generated a couple refusals, and then in a nice long wide slot I experienced a momentary hook up while executing a long downstream drift. After this excitement my hopes soared that I’d unlocked the secret of South Boulder Creek, but those thoughts were quickly dashed as I couldn’t create any more action on the green drakes. My green drakes also don’t float very well, and I may tie parachute green drakes this winter with perhaps some white calf body hair for the wing.

With the green drake failing to produce, I returned to the Chernobyl ant and beadhead pheasant tail and in a nice long riffle over moderate depth a rainbow grabbed the pheasant tail. I thought this was perhaps the precursor to fast action on the pheasant tail prior to a pale morning dun hatch, but once again my hopes were premature.

Looking Upstream

As I worked my up the stream I spotted some rises so I reverted to the light gray caddis as that produced my first two fish and once again it produced as I landed a small rainbow and my first and only brown trout of the day. I approached a nice stretch with three quality runs of moderate depth, and I was disappointed to experience three consecutive refusals from selective fish that appeared to be decent size for South Boulder Creek. What should I do now? At about this time I began to see some pale morning duns and a few more rises. The light gray caddis has the same body color as the money fly that I use as a pale morning dun imitation, so perhaps I had the right color but the wrong wing configuration. I tied on a light gray comparadun money fly and it turned out to be a stroke of genius. Between 3:30 and 5:00 PM I landed six more fish and two were nice feisty brilliantly colored rainbows in the twelve inch range. The rainbows were taking the money fly with confidence, and I was regretting not trying it sooner.

Richly Colored Rainbow Took Light Gray Comparadun

During this late afternoon time period I experienced the best situation of the day along with the ant working its magic. I was above the foot bridge and there was a short deep pocket in front of a boulder that was sticking above the water near the bank. Two small tree branches were trapped in front of the boulder and angled out into the current. I flicked the comparadun from the bank while above the boulder and let it drift downstream. Just as the fly was about to get sucked under the leading branch a fine rainbow emerged from below and inhaled the pale morning dun imitation.

Brilliant Stripe on This One

In a nice long run and pool above the bridge I picked up three or four rainbows that also sipped the comparadun with confidence. I fished this area on my previous visit, and discovered that these fish are quite choosy, so this was additional proof that the light gray comparadun was the fly to have.

At five o’clock I clipped my fly to the rod guide and hiked up the path and then climbed the steep trail to the parking lot and the car. I had my best day so far on the newly discovered South Boulder Creek. It was pretty exciting to find the right fly and also to witness green drakes hatching in early September in a location so close to home.



Rio Grande River – 09/02/2012

Time: 3:30PM – 5:30PM

Location: Soward Ranch

Fish Landed: 2

Rio Grande River 09/02/2012 Photo Album

As mentioned on the previous post, Jane and I forgot to load our bikes on the Santa Fe so we rented bikes for two days over Labor Day weekend in Creede, CO. Sunday was the day we planned to use them on a bike ride. In addition we hoped to do a hike and perhaps go horseback riding. Unfortunately we ran out of time for horseback riding, and it was partly my fault for selecting a biking trail that required too much driving time.

The Rio Grande originates in the San Juan Mountains northwest of Creede, and on its way to the Soward Ranch goes through Rio Grande Reservoir so the river below the reservoir is essentially a tailwater. There are two campgrounds below the dam with the downstream one called River Hill Campground. I read articles that mentioned parking at River Hill Campground and hiking downstream two miles to a box canyon and only during the low flows of fall is one able to move about in the box canyon and fish. This translates into light fishing pressure and it aroused my curiosity, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to fish, however, I was interested in stopping at the campground and scouting for future trips.

Natural Rock Wall and Aspens Turning Color

In addition I read in one of my Colorado fishing books that the river above the reservoir fishes quite well with attractors, but to reach it one must travel on a 4 wheel drive forest service road or use a mountain bike. I noticed on my detailed national forest map that there was a hiking/biking trail called Lost Creek Trail that began at Lost Creek Campground two miles above the reservoir. Jane and I researched this trail online, and it didn’t sound exceedingly difficult, so we decided to give it a try. We loaded the two bikes in the back of the Santa Fe along with our Camelbaks and some granola bars and drove to Lost Creek.

Lost Creek Trail Aspen Section

Unfortunately the road became quite rough once we reached Rio Grande Reservoir, so it took approximately 1.5 hours to drive to the trailhead. We debated whether to bike the Lost Creek Trail or simply bike out the forest service road along the Rio Grande but opted to try the trail. As it turned out, the first .5 mile of the trail was a fairly steep uphill and quite muddy so we pushed our bikes a good portion of the way. However, once we cleared the initial ridge, we covered rolling terrain that fluctuated between aspen groves, evergreen forests and open grassy areas. It was a pleasant ride but then we encountered a creek crossing of West Lost Trail Creek. In order to continue on our bikes we would need to pedal through the creek where it was eight feet wide and a foot deep. Neither of us wanted to get wet feet so we elected to stash the bikes by some trees and cross on foot using a crude log bridge.

Balanced on Log Bridge

Once we reached the other side the trail split, and we chose to hike up the West Trail Creek path. We continued hiking for 15-20 minutes and then as some gray clouds moved in and the incline of the trail accelerated, we decided to return. When we arrived back at the stream crossing, I detoured to the junction of Trail Creek and West Trail Creek and spotted a fish or two. This would be a nice small stream destination to try in the future. We then once again balanced ourselves on the log bridge and mounted our mountain bikes and negotiated our way back down the trail. We were amazed at how quickly we arrived back at the trailhead with the benefit of gravity.

Cruising Around the Curve

At the trailhead we decided to attempt biking west on forest road 520, but after .3 miles or so we crested a hill and realized the road was going to represent a fairly continuous climb, and we were no longer in the hard core climbing mindset so we turned around and returned to the car. We loaded the bikes back in the Santa Fe and returned to Creede. Along the way I stopped at River Hill Campground and scoped it out for a possible future camping and fishing venture. The campground was very nice with only a few campers present on Labor Day weekend. The river was quite attractive at this area with lots of rocky structure and pockets and runs. The river was slightly larger than the Frying Pan but yet quite intimate compared to the Arkansas or Colorado. It was probably somewhere between the Frying Pan and Taylor Rivers in terms of size.

Jane and I decided to go directly to Creede and return the bicycles so we wouldn’t have to deal with that chore on Monday morning. After returning the bikes, we went back to the cabin and ate lunch. It was 3PM by now and Jane wanted to take a walk and a shower, so I decided to return to the Rio Grande private water for a brief fishing session.

I threw all my gear in the car and drove back to the junction of the Rio Grande and Trout Creek. The western sky was now fairly dark and gray and I could hear occasional thunder. In fact I had to sit in the back of the Santa Fe with the tailgate open to put on my waders as light rain fell for a short time and sparked hopes that a BWO hatch might take place and improve the action on the Rio Grande.

The parachute hopper and headhead hares ear remained on my line from the previous afternoon on Red Mountain Creek as I waded into the riffles at the head of the long deep pool. Once again I began systematically casting high in the riffles and allowing the flies to drift across and down to the deeper water. Similar to the previous day, on the fifth or sixth cast, a trout rose and engulfed my flies. I set the hook and played a strong thirteen inch brown to the net and photographed, and then resumed fishing and gradually stepped downstream closer to the deep drop off. Unfortunately just like Saturday, only one fish seemed to be interested in my flies, and I retreated to the bank with no additional action.

Brown from Rio Grande on Sunday

I debated crossing to the far bank and trying the hopper/dropper behind the large boulders, but then I decided to try running some nymphs deep with a strike indicator. I rigged up with a split shot, indicator, and BHHE and BHPT and began putting deep drifts through the riffles. After a few drifts I detected a pause of the indicator and set the hook and felt the sensation of a strong heavy fish. I fought the fish up and down then towards me, and I could see it was a strong brown trout. Eventually I scooped it with my net only to discover that it was foul hooked. Perhaps I hooked it in the mouth initially, but in the battle the top fly slid out and the fish got snagged by the trailer. I’ll never know.

I returned to nymphing and several casts later as the flies began to lift, another fish hammered my line. Once again this fish jumped numerous times and put up a strong fight, and once again I noticed it was foul hooked when I introduced it to my net. I’d now covered the sweet spot at the head of the pool numerous times and wasn’t experiencing more action so I decided to change scenery. I hiked down along the river beyond the long deep pool to an area where the river braided into three channels. I continued to fish the nymphs through some attractive runs and pockets, but once again this yielded no interest from fish. When I reached the bottom of the closest channel I crossed to explore the other two which carried more volume. In this area at the bottom of one of the other channels I landed a nine inch brown on the beadhead pheasant tail.

After a bit more nymph casting I decided to return to the parachute hopper and beadhead hares ear and prospect in the pockets and medium depth runs ahead of me. I executed this strategy for another half hour or so with no success and decided to call it quits by 5:20. The sky remained threatening, but it didn’t rain and a BWO hatch never commenced. The Rio Grande seemed to be in a down period before the arrival of cooler fall temperatures and BWO hatches. Or else I wasn’t using the right flies or fishing at the right places. Nevertheless I enjoyed my two days of limited fishing time on the fabled Rio Grande River.


Red Mountain Creek – 09/01/2012

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Soward Ranch near Creede CO

Fish Landed: 11

Red Mountain Creek 09/01/2012 Photo Album

Growing up in as a child in the 50’s exposed me to numerous popular TV westerns including Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry and my favorite The Lone Ranger. I was a huge fan and wore my toy holster with six shooters on both sides with pride. A magical place in many of these shows was the Rio Grande, and it always seemed like the bad guy’s goal was to cross the Rio Grande. As I travel and fish in Colorado, I’m still amazed that I live in a land that looks so much like the landscapes I worshipped as a kid as I watched western movies and television shows.

Jane and I decided to make a trip to Creede, CO for Labor Day weekend. Twice in the 90’s we made this excursion with the kids and had a great time camping at the Broadacres Traveling Teepee. We checked the national forest campgrounds in the area, and they didn’t take reservations so we felt it was risky to make the 5+ hour drive on Labor Day weekend without a guaranteed place to camp. Jane began checking lodging online and found a ranch 12 miles southwest of Creede with small cabins for rent at $90/night. We decided to reserve a cabin for Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. In addition, Jane remembered the Creede Repertory Theater, so she reserved tickets for the Saturday night performance of The Ghost Writer.

Jane had to work on Friday morning, so I stayed home and packed the car and did some last minute shopping until she arrived at approximately 12:30PM. We gathered the last minute food and departed Denver by 1:45. Unfortunately somewhere along I25 before Colorado Springs we realized that we forgot to load our bikes for the weekend. The traffic on the Friday of Labor Day weekend was fairly heavy and we encountered traffic congestion at several locations; however, we persisted and arrived at the  Soward Ranch at 7:30.

Jane on Cabin Porch

Kate Lamb greeted us and directed us to our cabin and told us of some of the history of the ranch. Unbeknownst to me, Jane reserved a cabin on a fishing ranch. As it turned out, there were three or four stocked ponds and private water on the Rio Grande and two smaller tributaries; Red Mountain Creek and Trout Creek. Kate told us that Trout Creek was extremely difficult and only the very best fly fishermen could catch fish there.

Main Street of Creede, CO

We were both hungry so we returned to Creede and ate dinner at the The Far Dog Restaurant. After dinner we returned to the cabin and as we sat in the main room, a combination kitchen/living room, we heard an animal in the wall between our room and the bedroom. We concluded it was probably a mouse, but the rustling noise continued into the night. In fact it was the last thing I remember before falling asleep.

Jane prepared a delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon on Saturday morning, and after breakfast I went out on the porch to check the air temperature, and a huge hound dog was standing by the door wagging his tail. I guessed he was seeking affection so I patted him on the head and invited him to follow me to the car. But the big guy was having none of it and remained by the door and interjected a few loud hound dog howls. I went inside to get something and when I returned to the porch the hound was still there with nostrils flared and drool flowing from his mouth. At this point I figured it out; he smelled Jane’s delicious bacon and was waiting for a handout. He didn’t care about me or Jane or pats or affection; he just wanted the meat. I named him Bacon for the rest of the weekend.

He Liked Bacon More Than Us


As one can imagine, I was quite anxious to try the private ranch water on Saturday and Jane realized that. We decided to make an early trip to Creede and pick up a few items at the supermarket and then rent bikes for the day. Jane discovered that we could rent a bicycle at the San Juan Outfitter shop for $38 for two days, so we both rented mountain bikes, threw them in the back of the Santa Fe and returned to the cabin. Jane would use her mountain bike to explore the dirt roads that surrounded the ranch, and I’d drive the Santa Fe to the “holy water” as described by Kate, the confluence of Trout Creek, Red Mountain Creek, and the Rio Grande. I told Jane I’d return to the cabin by 1PM for lunch, and then we’d plan the afternoon from there.

Dave at Junction of Rio Grande and Trout Creek

I drove out the dirt lane from the ranch to the forest road and then made a left just before the bridge that crosses Red Mountain Creek. This took me on a somewhat rough lane with two dirt tire tracks and after .75 miles I arrived at a grassy parking area next to the Rio Grande. To the south of my car, Trout Creek entered the main river and just to the north Red Mountain Creek surged into the huge main pool. Just above the confluence the Rio Grande ran over some rocks and shallow riffles and then dropped quickly into a huge deep pool that then extended for thirty yards downstream. As I gazed at this beautiful location, I couldn’t believe that I was about to fish on private water of the mythical Rio Grande, the river frequently mentioned in the westerns of my youth.

Santa Fe Looking Like Auto Commercial

I rigged up my Sage 4 weight rod with a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear on a relatively short 18 inch dropper and began casting to the current seam created by the merging of Red Mountain Creek and the Rio Grande. Nothing happened so I moved up the river and cast to the seam created by Trout Creek. Again there was no reaction so I waded across Trout Creek and moved up along the Rio Grande to the more shallow riffles that fed into the huge pool. At this time Jane arrived on her rental bicycle, and she watched as I fished for a bit, but I wasn’t catching anything and she was anxious to continue on her bike ride.

Brown from Rio Grande

I worked some casts across the riffles and eventually fired a 25 foot cast two thirds of the way across. As the Chernobyl bounced down the riffles and next to an area where the bottom of the river looked darker either due to a rock or dark colored vegetation, the foam fly dipped and I set the hook and fought and landed a feisty 13 inch brown. I called out to Jane, but she had just departed and was evidently out of calling range, so I waded to the bank and photographed my first Rio Grande trout of the weekend.

I fished down the run a bit further hoping that the beadhead hares ear would attract some more nice fish, but a trend did not develop. There was some nice pocket water along the opposite bank, so I crossed above the shallow riffle and walked down a path along the northwest bank to the middle of the long pool where some large protruding boulders first surfaced. I worked back up along the ten feet of water along the bank almost certain that I’d entice some nice browns to rise to the Chernobyl or grab the dangling hares ear, but my confidence was misplaced.

I crossed back to my starting point and looked at Trout Creek. The words of Kate about the necessity of being an expert fly fisherman rang in my ears. I began walking up along the left bank and the initial stretch was wide and shallow with no holding water for trout. I covered 20 to 30 yards of stream before I reached a spot with deep holes and a high eroded bank. I climbed to the top of the bank and looked down and began flicking the Chernobyl into the deeper water, but as I did so some gusts of wind swept across the sagebrush and caused my flies to tangle. The deep holes were surrounded by long flowing aquatic weeds, and as I tried to patiently untangle the wind-aided mess, I spotted a nice fish in the deepest spot between the aquatic growth. Finally I was free and ready to cast, but I couldn’t spot the fish anywhere as it probably retreated to the weeds. I made ten casts but finally gave up and moved on.

At another long smooth pool I spotted two nice browns hanging next to an aquatic weed bed right next to the bank. These fish must have spotted me from a long distance, because they were gone by the time I launched a long cast. The strong wind was making it next to impossible to check the cast high and flutter the ant down to the water. At one point I did manage to get a refusal to the Chernobyl, but after a half hour of fruitless stalking and casting, I surrendered to Trout Creek and walked back down the stream to the confluence pool.

What should I do next? I had another 45 minutes before I needed to meet Jane, so I decided to explore Red Mountain Creek. Kate mentioned this stream but didn’t dwell on it like Trout Creek and the Rio Grande. There was a barbed wire fence that crossed the stream five feet above the confluence, so I went around the fence and began fishing upstream. In a short amount of time I landed a chunky 12 inch brown on the trailing hares ear, and then shortly thereafter I hooked and played a fish that felt rather heavy, but I never got a good look at it before it freed itself.

Nice Brown from Red Mountain Creek

Before I departed for lunch I landed another three brown trout, and they were all nice fish that exceeded my expectations for a stream that rarely spanned more than six feet. By now I was pretty excited about the prospect of fishing more of Red Mountain Creek, so I was hoping to sell Jane on this option for the afternoon.

Jane was already on the porch and had just returned from her bike ride when I arrived. She told me about her ride with a four mile uphill climb and never reaching her destination of Love Lake, but she was pretty tired so she would be happy to return to Creede and check out the Salsa Festival. With this plan in place she dropped me off along the lane to the Rio Grande, and we agreed to rendezvous at 4PM at the bridge crossing over Red Mountain Creek. I had two hours to explore Red Mountain Creek from my pre-lunch ending point to the bridge crossing.

I walked across the sagebrush and willow field and found my ending point on Red Mountain Creek as Jane turned around and returned to Creede. As the Chernobyl wasn’t producing a lot of action in the morning, I decided to swap it for a parachute hopper with a hares ear body and I retained the beadhead hares ear dropper. I began casting upstream in the likely deeper holding locations and it wasn’t long before a fish mauled the hopper, and I was attached to a fine fish. I caught a glimpse of a brown and it raced back and forth in the tight small stream space and attempted to go under a bank several times. I held fast and let the fish run several additional times before tiring it out and sliding my net underneath. I spread  it out on my net to photograph and it extended beyond the net opening by two inches; a 17″ beauty in a small six foot wide stream!

17″ Brown from Tiny Red Mountain Creek Settled Down

I made steady progress upstream and gradually began picking a couple more medium sized trout in the twelve inch range. These were nice chunky fish for such a small stream environment. There were limited prime fish holding locations, so I covered a fair amount of stream between stops without even casting my flies.

Beaver Pond Yielded Two Nice Trout

With around 45 minutes remaining I approached a beaver pond and began to circle around it, but I noticed the water was clear and flowed over a cobble bottom. Usually I stay away from beaver ponds because they have mucky bottoms and are a difficult quagmire to wade through and around, but this appeared to be a new one, and it created a nice oversized pool compared to the previous fishing spots on Red Mountain Creek. I retreated to a point just above the dam and positioned to make some upstream casts to where the stream still had a bit more current. I probably should have gone below the dam and prospected the area I was standing in, but it was too late to recover that opportunity.

I shot a couple casts upstream and on perhaps the third with the hopper bobbing back toward me around ten feet away, it dipped and I set the hook and a rainbow trout rocketed into the air. It turned out to be a 12 inch fish but what a strong fighter as it demonstrated its jumping prowess with at least four stream clearing leaps. I released the beauty and dried the fly and applied more floatant and shot another cast five feet above where I’d just hooked the rainbow. Wham! The hopper suddenly took a dive, and I set the hook and played another strong fish, this one a fourteen inch buttery colored brown. I photographed this beauty before continuing to search for my tenth fish of the day before my fishing time was up.

Another Fine Brown from Red Mountain Creek

I had around twenty minutes remaining and the bridge was in sight upstream, but there was plenty of water remaining. After ten minutes of prospecting I landed a small nine inch brown on the beadhead hares ear and I was pleased to reach double digits. I began to move more quickly and skip marginal spots and flick flies in only areas with more depth. By 3:50 I was only twenty yards below the bridge and a few small runs around three feet deep were ahead of me. I cast the hopper/dropper to the right channel first, but no response occurred. I flicked the flies to the left run and let it drift to the tail of the run and as I lifted the flies to recast I felt a jarring weight. I didn’t have to set the hook because I was already in that motion, and immediately I was playing a hot rainbow that cavorted about the small living space. It was a fun few minutes before I netted and photographed this active rainbow.

Last Fish on Saturday was Nice Rainbow

When I reached the bridge I realized there was a barbed wire fence between me and the road, so I walked under the bridge and was able to climb back to the road from the other side even though there was a private property sign 15 yards further up the stream. I looked around for Jane, but she wasn’t present so I began hiking up the road. After a fifteen minute walk I arrived at the cabin just as Jane drove up in the Santa Fe. What a great afternoon of small stream fishing on Red Mountain Creek at Soward Ranch!

On Saturday evening Jane and I enjoyed the performance of The Ghost Writer at the Creede Repertory Theater.