South Boulder Creek – 04/25/2014

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: 1.5 miles down the path from the parking lot. Started fishing at the spot where a large vertical rock makes passage difficult.

Fish Landed: 9

South Boulder Creek 04/25/2014 Photo Album

Temperatures were projected to reach the low 70’s in Denver on Friday, April 25 so I decided to take a day off for fishing. I was frustrated by several difficult trips to the Arkansas River and had my eye on South Boulder Creek. I discovered this fishery several years ago on a train ride to Fraser, and it became my favorite spot for fishing close to the Denver metro area. I checked the flows, and they were running at 102 cfs, and I knew from previous trips that this is a good level.

I took my time on Friday morning to allow the air temperature to warm up, and after an hour of driving I pulled into the parking lot high above the canyon where the stream flows out of Gross Reservoir. I was the first car in the lot, but as I prepared to fish two more vehicles arrived, and two fishermen jumped out of each car. I decided to wear my fleece top and stuffed my raincoat in my backpack along with my lunch so I could hike quite a ways down the path and eat my lunch by the stream.

Just as I was ready to close the hatch and embark on my hike, a Denver Water truck pulled into the lot and a bearded man jumped out. He walked to the trash can and checked it, and then on the return trip to the truck he asked to check my license and that of the two gentlemen in the vehicle parked next to me. We each complied with his request, and then the other two fishermen at the far end of the lot volunteered their licenses for review as well. As I walked to the trailhead, the Denver Water employee called out and asked if I went to Bucknell. I replied yes, and then he told me he went to Penn State. After some additional conversation I learned that he was from Plymouth Meeting, and he did have a bit of a Philly accent.

South Boulder Creek on Friday

South Boulder Creek on Friday

High clouds remained in the sky for most of the morning and consequently the sun never broke through to warm the air temperature. As I walked briskly along the trail, I created enough body heat to remain comfortable, but once I arrived at my starting point, I was a bit chilled. I began fishing with a Chernobyl ant and then added a long tippet section of 5X and attached a beadhead hares ear. Finally I extended another 18 inch section from the bend of the hares ear and tied on a soft hackle emerger.

Chernobyl Ant on My Line

Chernobyl Ant on My Line

I began prospecting some attractive runs and pockets around large exposed rocks and in short order experienced a refusal to the Chernobyl ant. At least it was good to know that fish were present and looking toward the surface for a meal. I experienced a couple refusals to the Chernobyl, but continued working upstream and eventually landed a nice rainbow that gobbled the soft hackle emerger. I cast into a pocket and allowed the Chernobyl to be pulled back upstream by an eddy below an exposed rock, and the rainbow  grabbed the soft hackle emerger and pulled the Chernobyl under, although I actually saw the fish dart away from the rock and grab the subsurface fly.

Very Nice Rainbow Landed in the Morning

Very Nice Rainbow Landed in the Morning

The morning and in fact the remainder of the day continued pretty much in this fashion. I fished the Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and size 20 soft hackle emerger and landed nine fish. One gullible trout nailed the Chernobyl, and two fish snatched the beadhead hares ear in the afternoon. All the other fish that I landed favored the soft hackle emerger.

The sun never appeared in the morning, and because my sungloves were wet from handling fish, the evaporation caused my fingers to ache. This finally forced me to stop for lunch at noon, and I removed the sungloves and placed them in the zippered pocket of my waders. In addition to cold hands, my feet felt like stumps due to the icy flows coming from the bottom of the dam. The sun did come out during lunch and warmed me a bit before I resumed after lunch.

After lunch I found a spot where I could cross to the opposite bank, and I prospected up along the south side for quite awhile. I always favor the side of the stream away from the road or main path, and this did in fact seem to help in the afternoon. Also since I’m righthanded, the left bank was more natural for me to hook casts under overhanging branches and into soft pockets behind rocks and current breaks.

Attractive Stretch with Slower Current

Attractive Stretch with Slower Current

At around 2PM I was wading along the bank when I stepped on something that shifted under my weight. I looked down and spotted a net under my foot, so I reached in the creek with my hands and extracted it. Initially I thought it was fairly old and not desirable, but after swishing it in the water and removing old rotting leaves, I realized it had one of those plastic nets that doesn’t snag ones flies. It was a large net with a long handle, and it had a mayfly logo engraved at the top of the handle and the word Brodin above the mayfly. I decided to try and carry it back to the car with me, but I wasn’t ready to quit fishing so I stuffed it between the straps of my backpack and wedged it between my back and the backpack.

Major Find Was This Brodin Net

Major Find Was This Brodin Net

This lasted for a bit, but then it almost fell out, so I used the broken cord attached to the ring on the handle and tied it to my belt. This worked better but the net and handle were so long that the net dangled down to the water surface, and it hampered my wading for the last 1.5 hours. At approximately 2:30 I’d gone without any action for quite a while, so I decided to make a change and replaced the Chernobyl with a size 14 stimulator. I removed the hares ear and added a single dropper consisting of the beadhead soft hackle emerger.

The stimulator did arouse some interest, and I experienced two or three rises and momentary hook ups, so I think the fly attracted fish, but it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. By 3:30 I’d gone quite a while without landing a fish, so I decided to find a rare crossing point and quit for the day.

It was a fun day on South Boulder Creek in a gorgeous location relatively close to Denver. The weather remained much cooler than I expected, but I managed to land nine fish and had four or five momentary hook ups and a couple foul hooked fish. With options quickly diminishing due to early snow melt, it was nice to enjoy some dry/dropper fishing on South Boulder Creek.

Vail – 04/18/2014

Vail 04/18/2014 Photo Album

Friday, April 18 at Vail was more about lunch and grilling than skiing. Jane and I were anticipating a warm sunny day during spring that would allow us to pack some brats and beverages and head to the top of Blue Sky Basin to do outdoor grilling. When we saw the five day weather forecast that projected highs in Denver in the upper 70’s for Friday, April 18, we initiated our plan.

Jane contacted our friends, the Gaiges and Youngs, and invited them to join us for a day of skiing at Vail including grilled bratwurst at Belle’s Camp at the top of Blue Sky Basin. In a short amount of time we learned that the Gaiges were in, and Fred would join as well although his wife Douggie had other plans. Karen Gaige volunteered to bring along food as well, and we were set.

On Friday morning Jane and I drove to Frisco and met the other three at the parking lot just off the second exit from interstate 70. We combined our food and ski gear and proceeded to the Lionshead lot at Vail. As we boarded the gondola at 9:30, the temperature at the base was already in the low 50’s. We all wore backpacks stashed with food for our lunch, and I attempted to include a bottle of Lefthand Milk Stout Nitro in my small day pack. Unfortunately for the first time all season a security person was inspecting packs and confiscated our one brew. Evidently they were scrambling for beverages for their Friday after work party.

Jane Rocks China Bowl

Jane Rocks China Bowl

Our group of five spent the morning largely in the back bowls sticking mostly to groomed terrain to avoid the crusty conditions that existed before the snow softened. By 12:30 we managed to arrive at the cluster of picnic tables at the summit of Blue Sky Basin next to Belle’s Camp. Quite a crowd had already gathered, but we managed to snag one of the two remaining tables, and Karen and Jane extracted the package of bratwurst and secured some grilling space at the most western grill. Everyone was in a festive mood as they stripped down to T-shirts and soaked up the strong rays of the sun. We noticed bottles of alcohol everywhere and speculated that many skiers had large hidden pockets or knew the protocol for bribery.

Karen and Jane Find Space for Brats

Karen and Jane Find Space for Brats

Jane tended the brats on the grill while I obtained some tap water from the Belle’s Camp snack shack; and Karen, Dave and Fred spread out the other tasty items on the picnic table. In addition to bratwurst there were clementines, carrots, apples, Easter candy and brownies. Once the brats were cooked and singed a tempting shade of brown, we stuffed ourselves and relaxed and soaked up the sun. This was definitely the highlight of the day.

Mmm. Brats Ready for Consumption

Mmm. Brats Ready for Consumption

We snapped quite a few photos to record our fun event and then cleaned up our table and prepared to ski for the remainder of the afternoon. The skiing was actually rather anticlimactic as we found soft sticky slushy snow everywhere. One could straighline steep expert slopes from top to bottom with no concern over loss of control due to the extreme sticky consistency of the snow. Catwalks and gradual slopes were another matter, as they delivered a fairly strenuous upper body workout required to pole through the slush. Every transfer from shade to sun was an adventure and provided a lesson in physics and the forces of momentum.

Spring Crowd Enjoys the Sun

Spring Crowd Enjoys the Sun

Despite the slow afternoon skiing, it was a great spring skiing day highlighted by a delicious lunch and capped by a stop at Prost in Frisco for some German beer and a soft pretzel. This may be the last ski post of the season, but then again A-Basin may remain open until the Fourth of July. Our group of five already discussed taking the Smokey Joe to the Beach at Arapahoe Basin. Stay tuned.

Blue Sky Runs Beckon after Lunch

Blue Sky Runs Beckon after Lunch

Arkansas River – 04/21/2014

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Salt Lick, Spike Buck, and Parkdale access areas

Fish Landed: 3

Arkansas River 04/21/2014 Photo Album

Are my skills permanently eroding or am I in a slump or are external factors controlling my fly fishing results? I’ll choose to blame external factors such as weather and streamflows for now, but if the 2014 fishing outings continue down the current challenging path, I may need to reevaluate.

My friend Steve and I exchanged emails and settled on a trip to the Arkansas River on Monday, April 21. The weather was projected to be warmer on Tuesday and Wednesday, but we were concerned that the wind would be more adverse, so we decided to make the trip on Monday when high temperatures would peak in the sixties. I had my gear packed on Sunday night and was able to leave the house by 6:30 and arrived at Steve’s home in Lone Tree by 7:15. We were off early, and this paid dividends as it allowed us to park along U.S. 50 above Salt Lick access by 9:30. The air temperature hovered around 52 degrees as we prepared to fish, and I pulled on two layers thinking I would shed at least one when Steve and I met again at noon.

River High and Murky at Starting Point

River High and Murky at Starting Point

Steve walked back down the highway toward Salt Lick to begin his fishing, and I migrated west along the shoulder and then scrambled down a steep rocky bank to the river. The river flows were elevated for April with the DWR site reporting flows at Parkdale around 800 cfs. We anticipated this, but we did not expect the turbid water that appeared below us. There was visibility of around two feet along the edges of the river, so we assumed this would allow the fish to see our offerings if we presented our flies in the five to ten feet of water along the bank. Given the higher flows, we assumed this was actually the only water that the trout could hold in.

Working the water along the bank is exactly what I did over the next two hours as I worked my way up the river and scrambled over large boulders to fling my nymphs into all the likely protected pockets and slack water areas where I expected to engage hungry trout. I began with a weighted 20 incher and trailed a bright green go2 caddis, but these apparently didn’t appeal to the tastes of trout in this area of the Arkansas River. I worked through numerous fly changes including an emerald caddis pupa, prince nymph, San Juan worm and apricot egg. None of these turned the tide. As 11AM arrived and passed I decided to follow the advice of the Royal Gorge Anglers web page and moved to a RS2 in case the blue winged olive nymphs became active.

I also replaced the 20 incher with an iron sally as the top fly, and finally in the period between 11:30 and noon, I hooked and landed a nine inch brown on the iron sally. As I released the fish I realized that it was approaching noon, and I needed to hustle back up the bank and down the highway to meet Steve. Steve reported that he landed three small browns early on, but had not enjoyed any action since. We decided to move on and try new water, so Steve executed a U-turn, and we drove east to the Spike Buck access parking lot. Here we took our lunches down to the boat launch area and observed the water from some large rocks while we ate.

Intermittent clouds blocked the warming rays of the sun, and when this occurred gusts of wind swept up the river. Fortunately the wind was blowing out of the east and up the river so casting was not as difficult as my last trip to the Arkansas River. Halfway through consuming our lunches, we began to observe small mayflies skittering across the surface of the water in front of us. The small BWO’s didn’t remain on the surface more than a fraction of a second before they were swept up in the air by the wind. For fifteen minutes or so as we watched, there was actually a fairly dense emergence, but we did not spot any rising fish nor any fish hovering below the surface.

Second Fish Landed on Monday

Second Fish Landed on Monday

After lunch Steve decided to fish upstream a bit, and I walked downstream to the last point before the river crashed through a narrow chute. I decided to try one of my soft hackle emergers and went with a combination of the emerger on top and a RS2 as the bottom fly. I began to work my way up the river along the left bank and managed to land two additional brown trout in the twelve inch range. Both of these fish snatched the emerger on the lift or swing, so movement appeared to be key to attracting fish. This sounds like great action, but in reality this took place over an hour and a half, and I was convinced that I should be seeing and landing many more fish during this fairly strong BWO hatch.

Soft Hackle Emerger Fooled Two Brown Trout

Soft Hackle Emerger Fooled Two Brown Trout

In fact, I did not spot many fish over the course of the entire day, and this is highly unusual for the Arkansas River. Normally as I work my way upstream I startle numerous fish that dart from cover tight to the rocky bank, but none of this was occuring on Monday. Perhaps the murky water afforded the fish more cover than usual, and they felt safe spreading out to holding locations in the river behind current breaks, and I was largely excluding the middle of the river from my prospecting?

At 2PM Steve and I met up and decided to move once again, and this time we migrated east to Parkdale where we parked at the upstream edge of the access area. I grabbed my rod and walked down the exit road for quite a while and then battled through some stiff dead vegetation to the river. I never fished in this area before, so this was a bit of a scouting expedition. Unfortunately sometimes scouting trips enable one to dismiss certain water, and this was one of those occasions. The stretch of water below the boat launch was a 50-75 yard long featureless trough. I gave it a chance and began at the base and began casting my nymphs upstream within five to ten feet of the bank. I covered the entire stretch until I reached the riffle at the top, and during this one hour of exploration I didn’t see nor hook a single fish.

I exited the river at the boat ramp and walked back up the road and found Steve casting near the picnic tables near the car. We both decided that we were weary and not having any success and looking forward to snacks on the drive home more than continuing to fish.

Steve Calls It Quits

Steve Calls It Quits

I’m beginning to fear that the current conditions on the Arkansas River will continue right into snow melt, and I will miss productive pre-season outings before the river rages out of control in May. Since my trip to Wyoming I’ve experienced four fishing outings, and the highest fish count was three. Is this a slump, permanent erosion of skills, or convergence of adverse conditions? Too early to know, but I’ll keep plugging away.

 

South Platte River – 04/15/2014

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Upper mile below dam and then downstream on north side of twin tunnels

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River 04/15/2014 Photo Album

Three hours of blue wing olives hatching and abundant quantities of large trout would seem to portend a great day of fishing, and it was, but not without some hardship. At the beginning of the week I studied the weather forecast as I was hoping to fish on Thursday and ski on Friday. Monday was cold with leftover snow accumulations from Sunday night. Tuesday called for highs in Denver in the low 60’s. Wednesday was not an option due to commitments at work, and Thursday projected as another cold front with high temperatures spiking in the 40’s. Friday was the nicest day, but I’d already committed to spring skiing at Vail with friends.

I decided that Tuesday would be the day, but now I needed to determine a destination. I eliminated the Arkansas River quickly as it represented a long drive, and my results the previous week were disappointing. The Big Thompson was only flowing at 26 cfs so that sounded challenging, and a report on the St. Vrain River below Buttonrock stated that one of my favorite destinations would not be open until 2015 due to September flood damage. Flows on the South Platte River in Waterton Canyon were over 300 as well as the South Platte below Cheesman Dam. These are reasonable levels, but they increased from the low one hundreds in the last two days, and I haven’t had good results when water levels change dramatically.

The South Platte River below Eleven Mile Reservoir, however, was running in the high 80’s, and the high temperature was projected to be in the low 50’s, so this became my choice. I took my time getting ready as I knew it would take some time for the air temperature to get to tolerable levels in the mid-40’s. At 7:45 I was set with the car loaded with all the necessary items for a day on the river. I encountered heavy traffic on interstate 225 near the junction with I25, but again I wasn’t trying to arrive early, so I relaxed and listened to music from my iPod.

When I arrived at the entrance to Eleven Mile Canyon and paid my day use fee, the temperature was 39 degrees, so I drove very carefully and slowly to the dam to check out the water. The water appeared to be delightful, but shaded areas displayed a couple inches of snow and the wind was shaking the trees and willows along the stream. I didn’t encounter other fishermen until the last mile or two below the dam, and here I discovered quite a few, so I executed a U-turn in the parking lot and reversed my direction. I found a nice large gap between parked cars approximately a mile below the dam and pulled over and prepared to fish. I killed some more time by eating a granola bar and slowly applied sunscreen to my face and hands. I couldn’t delay any longer so I opened the door and absorbed a cold blast of wind.

 

Starting Point in Eleven Mile Canyon

Starting Point in Eleven Mile Canyon

I didn’t spare any layers and pulled on my Adidas pullover, a heavy fleece cardigan, and my down vest and then pulled my waders over the top while wondering how the Michelin man manages any mobility. To top things off I donned my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps and after stringing my Loomis 5 weight, I was on my way. I followed a worn path thirty yards downstream and cut over to the river. I didn’t notice any surface activity, so I waded downstream a bit further to the tailout of a long riffle and tied on a Chernobyl ant with a beadhead RS2 dropper and began working the soft water along the left bank. Already I was noticing the difficulty of casting into a stiff headwind, but it was early in the day, and I didn’t give it too much thought.

After covering some marginal water without any action or seeing any fish scattering from bank lies, I came upon a nice deeper pool and riffle behind some exposed rocks serving as a nice current break. I paused and observed the water and immediately I spotted two then three then at least five to ten nice fish holding in the pool and run. Unfortunately these fish were totally ignoring my Chernobyl and RS2, so I clipped off the nymph and replaced it with an apricot egg and then added a third fly, a size 20 soft hackle emerger.

Soft Hackle Emerger Spent Some Time on My Line

Soft Hackle Emerger Spent Some Time on My Line

It was downright cold, and the wind continued to be a nuisance, but the sight of nice fish finning in the pool ahead of me allowed me to ignore the weather difficulties. As I prospected my three fly menu, I began to observe swarms of tiny midges buzzing along the surface of the river. The fish were also becoming more active, and my polarized lenses allowed me to see them moving subtly from side to side. This behavior usually indicates feeding on subsurface nymphs and larva in the drift, but they were having none of my soft hackle emerger.

As all this observation was going on, I now began to notice larger insects tumbling across the surface, and upon closer examination and during a lull in the wind, I spotted a blue wing olive mayfly riding by me on the surface current. This was followed with a few sporadic rises from two of the fish in front of me. I couldn’t understand why my soft hackle emerger wasn’t attracting interest since historically it worked in these same circumstances on other rivers. But the fish were active, and my flies weren’t effective, so I concluded a change was in order.

Off came the Chernobyl, the egg, and the soft hackle emerger; and they were replaced with a size 22 CDC BWO dry fly. I began overpowering forward casts in order to punch the tiny fly into the headwind, and as I did this, the frequency of trout breaking the surface picked up a bit. Unfortunately none of the trout were in a regular rhythmic feeding pattern, so it was difficult to choose which fish to focus on. I spotted a fish to my right and fifteen feet upstream that rose a couple times, so it became my target. This fish was moving around quite a bit subsurface, but occasionally it rose to the surface and gulped a mayfly from the surface film.

15" Rainbow Was First Fish Landed

15″ Rainbow Was First Fish Landed

I cast repeatedly and shifted my target  off and on, but eventually I returned to the fish described above and after perhaps half an hour and 50 casts, the fish tipped up and sucked in my imitation. I executed a solid hook set and played a strong rainbow trout, and after a few strong but futile runs, I was able to slide my net beneath the 15 inch pink sided warrior. I shuffled over to the bank and managed to grip the fish long enough just above the net to snap a photo. I’m being extremely conscious of not removing fish from the water more than a few seconds as I go forward. I approximated the rainbow’s length at 15 inches, and it exhibited a healthy girth for that length of fish.

CDC BWO Fooled Two Rainbows

CDC BWO Fooled Two Rainbows

Fish continued to rise in this area after I rested it a bit, but I was anxious to move on, so I waded up along the right bank a bit. In previous circumstances such as this, I’ve had success getting above fish and drifting my dry fly downstream to their position, so I tried this for a bit, but on this windy day in April the technique was having no impact.

The next water above the current break was a wide riffle approximately three to four feet deep with a stronger main current running along the left bank. As I approached the water I could see at least seven or eight fish in the riffle. They appeared as dark fish shapes against the light sand bottom of the river. Careful observation also revealed that these fish were rising sporadically to the surface, but they were also moving about and taking something subsurface. I resumed my furious casting into the wind and began covering the locations where I spotted fish. This went on for another hour or so, and I did manage two or three momentary hook ups with my tiny fly. It seemed that I should be getting more attention from my fly given the increased amount of surface feeding from this pod of fish.

Another 15" Rainbow Sipped CDC BWO

Another 15″ Rainbow Sipped CDC BWO

My theory is that the trout were accustomed to seeing the adult BWO’s tumbling across the surface due to the strong wind, and my artificial floated along without any sort of skittering or movement. Finally after an enormous amount of exaggerated casting into the wind and some frustrating momentary hook ups, I noticed a fish tip up near my fly, so I set the hook and felt the weight of another nice fish. When I eventually landed this beauty, my net revealed a silvery pink striped rainbow that was nearly the same size as my first fish. I carefully snapped another head shot and released this gem back into the river.

I was now verging on shivering uncontrollably, but as long as the hatch was continuing I was hesitant to return to the car to warm up and eat lunch, but there was no more deferring of this necessary reprieve in my fishing day. I returned to the car and quickly ate my minimal lunch and warmed my body and feet. Sheltered from the wind inside my SUV, I was amazed at how comfortable the day was.

Another car arrived while I was preparing to resume fishing, and it parked along the road forty yards further upstream, but I decided to return to my exit point and resume assuming I still had some space to work before conflicting with the new arrivals. When I arrived back at the river, I quickly passed some unattractive water until I approached some nice deep runs and riffles approximately twenty yards below the pullout with the forest green car that arrived as I was preparing to fish. Once again I could spot some nice fish in this area, but not nearly the concentration that I’d witnessed further downstream. The hatch had now waned to very sporadic tumbling mayflies, and there may have been one or two visible rises while I was watching.

I made some good casts and presentations to the areas where I observed rises, and I experienced one more momentary connection, but I was now bumping into the territory of the next group of fishermen, so I climbed up the bank and returned to the car. I broke for lunch at 1:30 and after this brief resumption of fishing, it was probably 2PM when I unlocked the car and threw my gear in the back. I decided to drive further downstream to the bottom of the special regulation area and fish there for the remainder of the afternoon.

I found a nice wide pullout a half mile or so beyond the twin tunnels and this was above a wide smooth pool where the river could spread out briefly after going through a more narrow canyon stretch. I descended to the top of the pool, and I was weary of casting tiny dry flies into the wind over very selective fish, so I decided to try the strike indicator nymphing technique. Also I was not seeing any mayflies on the surface anymore, but I did see quite a few extremely small cream colored midges swarming about. I elected to go to an indicator and split shot and beneath that I tied an orange scud and then a small size 22 RS2.

RS2 Took a Rainbow Late in Day

RS2 Took a Rainbow Late in Day

I worked some nice deep pockets along the left bank and did spot an occasional fish that ignored my offerings, but then I approached a nice long narrow deep pool. Before I cast, I could see five or six decent fish lined up across the river in some slower moving water at the top of the pool. I didn’t hold out much hope that my nymphs would fool these fish since the surface was rather smooth and my cast would surely create a noticeable surface disturbance. I made five or six half hearted casts above the visible fish, and tried to impart some movement and swing to my flies. Miraculously on the seventh or eighth drift I was shocked to see one of the lined up fish closer to the far side dash two or three feet to the side to snatch something, and it was approximately where my trailing fly was, so I set the hook and found myself attached to the fish.

What a thrill as I battled another rainbow and brought it to my net, and this fish measured around 13 inches. I’d already conceded to a two fish day, so this late surprise was a bonus. I was reinvigorated by this catch and continued working my way upstream with the nymph offerings, but unfortunately my new enthusiasm was not rewarded. By 4:30 I was once again chilled and the relentless wind forced me to climb the steep rocky bank to the road and return to the Santa Fe.

In spite of the low fish count of three, it was a very enjoyable outing. Being able to see large actively feeding fish always gets my juices flowing, and that’s what held my interest for most of Tuesday on the South Platte. I will certainly look for additional opportunities to visit Eleven Mile Canyon in the spring of 2014 before the water management folks open the gates and release large volumes of water from the dam.

Arapahoe Basin – 04/12/2014

Arapahoe Basin 04/12/2014 Photo Album

As mentioned in the previous post, Jane was unable to accompany John, Dan and I to Vail on Thursday, so we planned to make a compensatory trip to A-Basin on Saturday. A-Basin is a small high elevation ski area on the west side of Loveland Pass, and it represents a much shorter drive than the other areas available to us on our Epic Pass. We also agreed to take our time and arrive late and then limit ourselves to three hours of skiing.

Skiers Appear as Tiny Ants on the First East Wall Chute

Skiers Appear as Tiny Ants on the First East Wall Chute

We held to these commitments and had a very enjoyable day at The Legend, the marketing term that Arapahoe Basin advertises. It was sunny with the air temperature in the high 30’s when we arrived and began skiing at approximately 10:30AM. We warmed up with a few runs on the front side and then climbed over the incline to Montezuma Bowl where we executed another three runs in the bowl. We finished our day with three or four runs on the front side and then packed our skis and returned to Denver.

Dave at Top of Montezuma

Dave at Top of Montezuma

The bottom one-third of the mountain had soft spring snow, but above the Black Mountain Lodge we were dealing with winter snow conditions. It was fun to have the option to choose between winter or spring skiing on the same day at the same area.

Looking Northeast Toward Loveland Pass

Looking Northeast Toward Loveland Pass

Skiers Hike to the Top of East Wall

Skiers Hike to the Top of East Wall

My favorite aspects of the day were enjoying the companionship of my wife, sweeping down the wide open Montezuma Bowl on fast firm snow, and ending the day with three strong bump runs on the soft moguls populating Ramrod near the bottom of the mountain.

With colder weather and more snow forecast for today, I suspect there will be a few more skiing posts mixed in with fly fishing entries in April.

Vail – 04/10/2014

Vail 04/10/2014 Photo Album

What do freeskiing, 60 degrees and Vail have in common? Me. Let me explain.

My friend John Broadbent, who works in St. Louis, MO two or three weeks each month, was back in town the week of April 7 so we made plans to schedule another day of skiing before the resorts shut down. When I contacted John on Monday, he mentioned that he was also planning to ski with his son, Dan, and at the time Jane was also planning to take a day off work to enjoy some weekday spring skiing. After a few phone exchanges we set Thursday, April 10 as our ski day.

Unfortunately Jane’s devotion to work got in the way, and a deluge of new deals arrived on Wednesday forcing her to cancel from the scheduled trip leaving John, Dan and I to fend for ourselves. John and Dan arrived at my house a bit early on Thursday morning, and we were on the road before 8AM. We did not want to arrive too early in case there was a freeze overnight. Skiing on refrozen thawed snow is one of the worst experiences one can encounter on a ski slope.

Everything worked according to plan, and we arrived at Vail by 10AM, and we parked in the heated covered Golden Peak Passport Club parking area for free. In addition, I had a free lift ticket resulting from renewing our Epic Pass early, so I donated that to John, which prompted Dan to suggest that John should buy us lunch since he saved $150 on a lift ticket and parking.

As our threesome boarded the chairlift at Golden Peak, the air temperature was 52 degrees at 10:30AM, and we were more concerned about sunburn than frostbite. We did one quick warm up run in the terrain park and then headed to the top of the mountain where we enjoyed runs in Sun Up Bowl and China Bowl. The snow was already soft in these areas due to the southern exposures.

Sun Up Bowl

Sun Up Bowl

For lunch we returned to the Vail Village base and enjoyed a filling lunch at Los Amigos on the patio overlooking the mountain. It was amazing to be seated instantly during the lunch hour at this popular establishment below the Vista Bahn gondola. I chose to sit in the sun facing the restaurant to avoid too much sun exposure to my face, but the tradeoff was a very toasty back. John graciously picked up the tab as suggested by his enterprising son.

Dan in Soft Snow on Genghis Kahn

Dan in Soft Snow on Genghis Kahn

After lunch we rode the WiFi equipped gondola and then connected with Mountaintop and dropped into Sun Up Bowl one more time. By this time all the slopes were exhibiting the texture of mashed potatoes, but I enjoy these conditions and the carefree attitude that seems to accompany spring skiing. After our final brief encounter with the back bowls we descended to the Golden Peak terrain park. Dan Broadbent is a freeskiing enthusiast, and he wanted to brush up on some of his jumps and moves, so John and I tagged along to observe. Well at least we thought we were observers until Dan coaxed us into executing some slides over the fun boxes positioned along the left side of the terrain park. The olympics are not in our future, but we did manage to slide across the box in lame fashion so that we can say we were freeskiing.

Dan After His Turn in the Half Pipe

Dan After His Turn in the Half Pipe

There you have it…the convergence of warm temperatures, freeskiing, and Vail ski resort. What a blast!

Dave Does the Fun Box

Dave Does the Fun Box

Arkansas River – 04/09/2014

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Texas Creek

Fish Landed: 3

Arkansas River 04/09/2014 Photo Album

The story line for Wednesday is wind. I was anxious to go fishing after nearly a two week hiatus, and when I noticed the weather forecast for March 9 with a high temperature of 78 degrees, I exercised poor judgment and discounted the “windy” part of the report.

The fly shops near the Arkansas River were raving over the blue wing olive hatches, so I decided to make the trip. As it turns out, I spent more time driving than fishing with five hours necessary to make the long trip to lower Bighorn Sheep Canyon and back. I arrived at the parking lot at Texas Creek by 10AM, and after putting on my gear, rigging my rod, and hiking along the path to the area below the island it was nearly 10:30AM. I worked the sweet run below the island with a weighted 20 incher and a RS2, but these flies didn’t produce any fish in spite of some great drifts through very attractive water.

Nice Area Where Channels Merge Below Island

Nice Area Where Channels Merge Below Island

When I arrived at the head of the run, and the two fly combination continued to fail, I replaced the RS2 with a bright green go2 caddis. This generated more interest, and I landed a tiny brown trout that was less than six inches and then hooked another small fish that managed to free itself from the fly. Next I worked up along the right side of the island, and once again entered a slump until I arrived near the top of the right channel. Here I finally felt the tap of a fish and responded with a hook set that led to the throb of a live fish. The first fish of the day was a skinny brown trout of approximately 12 inches. I continued along the right bank and added another nine inch brown that pounced on the go2 caddis, and by noon my stomach was growling so I walked back to the car for lunch.

First Decent Fish Landed

First Decent Fish Landed

I grabbed my lunch bag and water bottle and climbed down the bank below the bridge and sat on the stone beach so I could observe the water while I ate. Sometimes this enables me to spot or observe fish, but on this day, I simply watched the water flow and the wind blow the willows. While I was eating lunch two gentlemen arrived in their pick up truck, and they were ready to fish before me, so they went through the gate and hiked down the path. I was relatively close behind, and I intended to begin fishing after lunch where I ended the morning. Unfortunately the two fishermen stopped at that exact spot, so I dropped down to the river a good distance above them and began working my way back toward the bridge.

The 20 incher was not producing any fish, so I moved the go2 green caddis to the top position and then knotted a BWO soft hackle emerger to my line as the point fly. For the next two hours I worked these flies upstream through the 15 feet of water next to the right bank. I continued under the bridge and another 300 yards beyond, and I added one eleven inch brown trout to my count. The fishing was extremely frustrating due to the constant wind, and my attempt to fish a two fly nymph set up. Because I am right handed, most of my casts required a backhand sling, and needless to say this resulted in numerous entanglements.

The flows were up somewhat for this time of the year and running around 674 cfs when I normally expect around 500 cfs. The water was slightly off color but not enough to impact the fish’s visibility. I discovered that quite a few fish were resting in the clear low water next to the bank, but they were very skittish. In order to cast the indicator, split shot and flies into the strong wind, I needed to accelerate my forward stroke and push my rod tip down toward the surface of the water. Unfortunately this style of casting resulted in quite a splash when the split shot and indicator splashed down in the relatively shallow water within five feet of the bank. I observed at least twenty fish scattering and hiding due to the disruption caused by my approach and casting method.

Unfortunately there really wasn’t an alternative. If I tried to fish from above, the fish would see me and scatter even more hastily. If the wind had been less of a factor, I would have tried a buoyant attractor with a nymph dropper to cover the shallow edge water, as these flies would have caused less disturbance. However, the wind was so strong that this approach would have resulted in the flies landing at my feet with each cast no matter how much I overpowered the forward stroke.

The wind, the tangles, and the constant fruitless casting finally took their toll on me, and I reeled up my line and returned to the car at 2PM. It was a difficult day on the Arkansas River, and I learned that air temperature is not the only factor to consider when choosing a day to fish in Colorado.

The Sign is Self Explanatory

The Sign is Self Explanatory

Vail – 04/04/2014

Vail 04/04/2014 Photo Album

Jane and I took off work on Friday, April 4 and paid a visit to Vail for a day of skiing. We planned to meet our friends the Gaiges for lunch, but at the last minute they decided to ski at Breckenridge, so we thought we had the day to ourselves. As it turned out we found a new friend, and we embraced the role of mountain guides for much of the day.

We took our time preparing for our day of skiing on Friday morning and thus didn’t walk off the Lionshead gondola until around 10:30AM. It was shaping up as a gorgeous day with blue skies and sunshine, and the temperature at 20 degrees as we began. In fact Friday would develop into one of the nicest days of the season from a weather perspective with sunshine most of the day and only some gray clouds blocking the sun from 3 until 4PM. Vail had received a decent amount of snow on Thursday, but it was largely carved up and tracked out except for a few of the more remote areas of the mountain.

When we reached the top of the gondola, we decided to ski south into Game Creek Bowl, and when we arrived at the chair at the base, we matched up with a young lady bundled up  to the point that we only knew she was a female because she wore a pink helmet and pink, purple and white parka. Halfway up the chair I began chatting with our fellow rider, and discovered that she was from Brazil and spending a year at Cornell University. I don’t think I learned much else, but after descending The Woods trail in Game Creek and returning to the same lift line, we matched up with  the same young woman dressed in pink.

Jane Looking Good in Some Recent Snow

Jane Looking Good in Some Recent Snow

During the second ride we learned more about our new Brazilian friend and discovered that she was staying in Breckenridge with 30 Cornell students, but she had missed the bus that left for Keystone and hitched a ride with two male students and ended up at Vail. The two guys were better skiers and left her on her own. Jane and I described Blue Sky Basin and encouraged her to check it out before the day was over. Upon further discussion, we decided that we were headed there and invited her to tag along.

One thing led to another, and we eventually learned that our new friend’s name was Gabriela, and she was an electrical engineering major. Her English was quite good, and Jane and I were very impressed that she was taking electrical engineering courses at an Ivy League school using her second or third language. She was a solid intermediate skier and quite fearless for someone coming from a tropical country such as Brazil.

Jane and Gabriela After Lunch at Two Elks

Jane and Gabriela After Lunch at Two Elks

We escorted Gabriela on three or four runs in Blue Sky Basin until she informed us that she was feeling a bit weak and needed to eat. She contacted her two friends from Cornell, and they were at the snack hut at the top of Blue Sky, and we gave her the option to continue skiing with us as we were ready to head to Two Elks Lodge for lunch. I think she realized that if she met the guys for lunch, they would probably resume skiing more difficult terrain, and she’d be left on her own again, so she decided to join us.

We had a very pleasant lunch with our new friend and learned more about her family, her country, and her career interests. I gave her my business card with my email address in hopes that she will remember to email us so we can remain in contact in the future. We even discussed the possibility of a vacation trip to Brazil, and that would offer Gabriela the opportunity to perhaps guide us for a day in her home country.

Looking Good on the Turn

Looking Good on the Turn

We did a few runs after lunch including China Bowl, Gabriela’s favorite, and Blue Ox. By 2:30 she received a text message from her ride, and they were ready to leave, so we parted company at the base of the Northwoods lift.

It was a fun day, and we enjoyed meeting Gabriela, and hopefully she had more fun hanging out with us seniors versus skiing on her own at a vast ski area with no guidance.

A Big Smile from Jane Near the End of the Day Friday

A Big Smile from Jane Near the End of the Day Friday

 

Clear Creek – 03/29/2014

Time: 2:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon 2-3 miles upstream from CO route 93

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek 03/29/2014 Photo Album

A rare mild day on Saturday March 29 gave me the itch to get out my fly rod and test the waters. The high temperature was projected to reach the mid to upper 60’s, and the weather experts predicted the wind would be moderate compared to what I could expect to encounter Sunday and Monday. I wrapped up some garden chores and completed my long run in preparation for the Cherry Creek Sneak 10 miler and then downed a quick lunch, packed my gear and departed. Since I was off to a late start and didn’t want to drive very far, I decided to sample the closest water, Clear Creek in the canyon just west of Golden, CO.

I drove two or three miles into the canyon, and many pullouts were filled with vehicles, but eventually I spotted several nice wide shoulder areas without cars. The water appeared to have nice alternating pocket stretches and smoother pools, so I executed a U-turn and parked on the shoulder facing east. I put on my waders and boots and strung my rod and carefully scrambled down a steep bank. I began fishing with a Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear, and within the first 15 minutes I experienced two refusals to the Chernobyl. This was good news as the fish were looking to the surface for their meal despite the icy water temperatures, but it was frustrating that they wouldn’t close the deal. The water was a tinge off-color, so that was another reason I was pleased to spot fish inspecting my fly.

I moved on and switched the hares ear for a salvation nymph, and in the next nice deep pool another fish appeared below the Chernobyl and then dropped back to the depths. What should I do? It was pretty clear the fish were not interested in my beadhead subsurface nymphs, so I decided to switch the dry fly offering and clipped off both flies and replaced with a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive body. This didn’t even provoke any refusals, so I scaled up and tied on a size 14 stimulator with a gray body. This generated another refusal or two from some tiny trout. Not only were the fish in this stream small, they were playing hard to get. Clear Creek is renowned for dumb fish that rise readily to attractors, and these fish were certainly rising, but they weren’t slamming the fly like they were supposed to.

Clear Creek Where I Began Fishing on Saturday Afternoon

Clear Creek Where I Began Fishing on Saturday Afternoon

I sat down on a rock and decided to make a radical change to my approach. I added a strike indicator and a weighted 20 incher and returned to a beadhead hares ear. This proved to be futile, and eventually I snagged a rock in a spot where the water was deep and fast causing me to snap off both flies. Perhaps the discolored water meant that worms and eggs were present in the subsurface drift? These flies worked on the North Platte so why not try them here? I extended my leader and crimped on a split shot, apricot egg and chocolate San Juan worm and began to cover the attractive water. These flies did not attract one iota of interest; however, in one deep run a small brown trout rose and inspected my neon red strike indicator!

How should I interpret this action? In the past when this occurred, I tied on a dry fly that displayed some red coloration; and I had some success with this strategy, so I elected to try it again. I found a size 14 royal wulff in my fly box, removed all the nymphing gear, and tied on the red and peacock dry fly. I began prospecting this gaudy fly that doesn’t really imitate any natural insect and guess what happened? I landed three small trout barely over six inches and in addition had several refusals, a foul hooked fish, and a momentary hook up on a fish that escaped. That represents a lot of action over a hour of fishing, but as 4:30 approached I decided to call it quits and head home.

The fish were tiny and infuriating in their selectivity toward attractor flies, but I partially solved the riddle and managed to land a few fish. Solving the problem is what attracts me to this sport and keeps me coming back.