Arkansas River – 11/23/2015

Time: 9:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Nature and Raptor Center on the Arkansas Tailwater below Pueblo Reservoir

Fish Landed: 6

Arkansas River 11/23/2015 Photo Album

All the factors were aligned for a noteworthy late November fishing trip. Unfortunately the dark side of mankind made an appearance during our otherwise enjoyable fishing trip, and this placed a dark cloud over perhaps my last outing of the 2015 season.

My friend Danny Ryan emailed me a week in advance to inquire whether I was interested in joining him for a trip to the Arkansas River in Pueblo on Monday November 23. I read several articles about this fishery, and the literature suggested that the Arkansas tailwater was the premier winter fishery in Colorado. The southern location and lower elevation combined with the constant water temperatures associated with a bottom release tailwater to create a benign environment for fishermen and fish. The long range forecast suggested that high temperatures would be in the low sixties on November 23, so I quickly responded to Danny that I would love to join him.

The weather did in fact develop into a gorgeous late fall day, and the water clarity was perfect. The flows were actually lower than desired at 115 cfs, and fly shop reports suggested that we could expect a dependable blue winged olive hatch. Fishing surface flies near Thanksgiving is icing on the cake for avid fly fishermen. Although the flows were somewhat low, this condition translated to fairly ideal conditions for wading and crossing back and forth on what is normally a very large river.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-tdzLKqcGg-k/VlTr1RJCAgI/AAAAAAAA6XE/7f61rfLTXE0/s144-c-o/PB230002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11232015ArkansasRiver#6220856285672374786″ caption=”Danny Begins His Day on the Arkansas River Tailwater” type=”image” alt=”PB230002.JPG” ]

We departed from Denver by 6:30 and arrived at the first parking area after the pay station lot at the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo by 8:30. My Weather Underground app indicated that the temperature hovered around the freezing level as we hastily dressed in our layers and pulled on our waders. In a concession to the cold morning temperatures I wore my down vest, wool finger-less gloves, toe warmers, and New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps. I am not a big fan of fishing in temperatures below 45, so I was a bit concerned about my comfort level as we strode down the path to the river. Danny on the other hand loves winter fishing, so he could barely contain his high energy as he guided me to the first decent run.

Fortunately the bright sun warmed the air quickly, and I managed to endure the first cold hour before conditions became quite pleasant. Danny and I began our day tossing nymph rigs, and I began with an ultra zug bug and RS2. For the first two hours we did a lot of slinging of split shot and indicators with little action, but I did manage to land two small rainbow trout in deep runs below man-made stream improvement structures. There are many angled rock deflectors throughout this section of the Arkansas River below the dam.

My first rainbow attacked a size 22 black zebra midge, and the second chomped the same diminutive fly. After forty-five minutes with no action, I swapped the RS2 for the midge larva, and then a bit later I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a bright pink San Juan worm. Danny meanwhile was experiencing similar success, although he seemed to land several fish that were slightly larger than mine.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-vLWQbefMgwM/VlTr2biXXBI/AAAAAAAA6Xg/jLO464x3qnY/s144-c-o/PB230004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11232015ArkansasRiver#6220856305642855442″ caption=”This Area Was My Favorite on November 23 2015″ type=”image” alt=”PB230004.JPG” ]

By 11 o’clock we approached a bridge, and I noticed a very attractive section of water with numerous large midstream boulders and several nice deep runs. I paused to claim this water while Danny circled around and moved above me. As Danny was moving by, he pointed to an area along the current seam where he spotted a rise, so I observed some more and spotted several additional sips. I was not setting the world on fire with my nymphs, so I decided to make the conversion to a single blue winged olive dry fly, and I extracted a size 22 CDC BWO from my fly box and knotted it to my line.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-rr3o9MAGqhs/VlTr26XdonI/AAAAAAAA6XY/tlsEy5qH7gE/s144-c-o/PB230005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11232015ArkansasRiver#6220856313918628466″ caption=”A Decent Rainbow Trout” type=”image” alt=”PB230005.JPG” ]

For the next half hour I experienced the best action of the day, as I landed three rainbows in the 11-13 inch range. I enjoyed this success by casting across and then allowing the fly to drift downstream to the point where the center current tailed out into the pool. On three occasions a  rainbow trout tipped up and slurped in my tiny surface offering. Unfortunately after landing the third fish, I hooked my fly on a stiff branch high in a tree, and I was forced to snap it off and replace it with another CDC BWO that had a bulkier wing.

Eventually the rises stopped so I exited the river and circled beyond two fishermen who entered between Danny and me. A third fisherman was on the upstream side of the bridge, so I went around him on the north side of the river, and then I spotted quite a few fishermen occupying inviting pools for the next one hundred yards. I traversed on a high bank until I could look down at the river, and after passing two fishermen, I found a stretch of water that looked attractive and offered a decent buffer between downstream and upstream fishermen. The other allure was the ridiculous number of rises that dotted a sixty foot segment of the river.

I began to cast across and allowed my fly to drift downstream using an approach that served me well in the previous pool. Initially I landed a small rainbow to bring my count to six, and then I pricked a pair of fish. Quite a few refusals joined the mix, but I was lured into thinking that my fly was a reasonably good match to the blue winged olives that bounced on the surface and fluttered into the warm November air. Danny joined me from the other side of the pool, and for the next hour we cast relentlessly to the pod of rising fish that slurped and sipped ravenously in front of us. Sadly for the most part we simply exercised our arms and shoulders. There had to be at least twenty-five fish feeding in the water surrounding us, but our flies went nearly unmolested. Toward the end of the hatch at approximately 3PM, I used my seine to collect samples from the surface film, and I discovered quite a few cripples and stillborn baetis along with a large quantity of empty nymph shucks. Upon close examination it was clear that the blue winged olives in my net were size twenty-four or smaller, and this probably explains the rejection of our over sized offerings. I probably should have skimmed the water earlier, but it would have made no difference, as I did not possess BWO’s that were that small.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ptVSYBMF98Q/VlTr4knAulI/AAAAAAAA6X4/Q0LJVs-sfWw/s144-c-o/PB230009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11232015ArkansasRiver#6220856342438001234″ caption=”Danny Changes Flies Late in the Day” type=”image” alt=”PB230009.JPG” ]

From three until 4:30 I stripped a sparkle minnow through five or six deep pools, and I experienced one hook up, a couple bumps and one follow but no landed fish. Danny returned to nymphing, and he managed a few momentary hook ups, but the action was quite slow. While the sun remained above the horizon, the air temperature remained quite pleasant, and although stripping a streamer did not deliver much action, it allowed me to remain in constant motion while I basked in the unseasonably mild weather.

By 4:30 Danny and I returned to the area where we experienced the dense hatch in the early afternoon, and I decided to retire the sinking line and returned to my floating four weight. I was reluctant to return to nymphing, so I decided to try a size 14 stimulator with a trailing beadhead soft hackle emerger. I saw a few large caddis on the water thus the stimulator, and I also hoped that perhaps the soft hackle emerger would imitate straggling blue winged olives. Over the next half hour as the light quickly diminished I managed a few refusals to the stimulator. Quite a few fish resumed feeding on the surface, and I could not see anything obvious in the water, so I swapped the soft hackle emerger for a griffith’s gnat. On one upstream cast I pricked a fish for a split second with the gnat, and then I temporarily foul hooked another fish that refused the stimulator and could not avoid the path of the trailing gnat.

Danny continued deploying his nymphs thirty yards above me, and miraculously he reveled in a game saving hot streak as he landed three very nice rainbows as darkness descended. One of his fish attacked a black leech and the others nabbed a small gray midge pattern. By five o’clock it grew quite dark, and although Danny was reluctant to terminate his belated streak of good fortune, he begrudgingly agreed that we needed to begin our long return hike. We waded along the edge of the river for .3 mile, and then we found a path that intersected with a dirt road and hiked another .75 mile to the parking lot. By the time we approached Danny’s truck it was quite dark and cold, but Danny asked if we left the window open on the passenger side. I replied that I never put the window down, and as we grew closer, we were astonished to see that someone had smashed the glass so that the window was entirely open.

Danny instantly checked for his wallet and phone and found them in the center console. I was concerned about my blue and white tote bag which contained my wallet, iPhone 6, and prescription sunglasses; but I was too cold to climb over the seat to look immediately. I did remove the rod case that was angled toward the window, and I quickly assured myself that the two piece Loomis rod remained in the tube. I quickly clipped off my flies, broke down my rod and climbed out of my waders. Once I was back in my warm and comfortable street clothes, I climbed over the passenger seat that remained covered by shards of glass and searched for my blue and white tote bag. It was gone! The low life cretins that smashed the window apparently grabbed my bag and took off. There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling of being robbed and the realization that one’s wallet is gone.

Well I could go on bemoaning my misfortune, but my impression of the Arkansas River tailwater in Pueblo will be forever tainted by this experience. Until this point, I enjoyed a gorgeous day with some late season trout in a new location. Unfortunately individuals that have no regard for personal property ruined our fun on November 23.

 

Beadhead Emerald Caddis Pupa – 11/19/2015

Beadhead Emerald Caddis Pupa 11/19/2015 Photo Album

My history with the emerald caddis pupa is explained in a 01/01/2012 post, so I will not repeat it here. In short I began using it with success in Pennsylvania, and its effectiveness translated to Colorado and western rivers. Besides being an effective imitation of various caddis species, I suggest that the emerald color is a significant triggering characteristic that attracts fish during times of the year when a specific matching caddis species is not present in significant quantities.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-rtxTg9bS6dw/Vk0QnJh__UI/AAAAAAAA6Qc/GtzhiKt9oU8/s144-c-o/PB180027.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11182015EmeraldCaddisPupa#6218644925227990338″ caption=”Top and Side View” type=”image” alt=”PB180027.JPG” ]

The style of fly is copied from Gary LaFontaine’s emergent caddis pupa, which is described in Caddisflies. As Gary prepared to write his book, he performed dives in Montana rivers so he could observe the behavior of caddis as they emerged and moved through their life cycle. He was dissatisfied with the many patterns in existence at that time, and he sought improvements. During his dives he identified a significant triggering characteristic and then searched through many materials until he found a solution. He discovered that caddis pupa surrounded themselves with a bright air bubble as they swam from the stream bottom to the surface to quickly pop free and emerge into the adult stage. He was certain that imitating this glittering air bubble would lead to a caddis wet fly imitation with improved effectiveness.

After much trial and error he stumbled on to a material called antron yarn. This fabric was used in the manufacture of  carpeting, and during his experiments, he noticed that it created the illusion of an air bubble similar to natural emerging caddis. With this discovery he designed caddis subsurface patterns that used antron yarn which also was known as sparkle yarn. The critical element of the LaFontaine caddis pupa is the sheath that surrounds the abdomen, and this body component is comprised of antron yarn tied in at the bend and then folded forward to create a shroud above and below the body. Since LaFontaine’s ground breaking book, many tiers have created alternative flies and a vast number of variations, but the original design continues to catch fish and has served me well over many years. I plan to continue fishing with a proven winner that is fairly simple and straightforward to produce.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-TEhm_Dd6KBk/Vk0Qnfd4xkI/AAAAAAAA6QM/Far7SzKcP1s/s144-c-o/PB180030.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11182015EmeraldCaddisPupa#6218644931116320322″ caption=”Perched on Deer Hair Used for Emergent Wing” type=”image” alt=”PB180030.JPG” ]

For some reason I did not seem to fish caddis pupa as frequently in 2015 as in previous seasons, and consequently I counted twenty-five in my boat box and bins. Since I established a target beginning inventory of thirty, I only needed to tie five to reach my goal. I cranked these out yesterday, and I am prepared for caddis situations in 2016. One reason for less caddis pupa usage was fewer trips to the Arkansas River during the early part of April. I also suspect that I defaulted to the ultra zug bug in many situations where I may have previously resorted to an emergent caddis pupa.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-M5PgYDgns7g/Vk0QnpqbZxI/AAAAAAAA6QI/lV67LT0Y9lQ/s144-c-o/PB180031.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11182015EmeraldCaddisPupa#6218644933853275922″ caption=”A Fresh Batch” type=”image” alt=”PB180031.JPG” ]

Hare Nation Nymph – 11/16/2015

Hare Nation Nymph 11/16/2015 Photo Album

Last winter I conceived a hybrid fly that I named the hare nation nymph. The name is a combination of hares ear nymph and salvation nymph, and my concept was to combine the features of two of my most productive flies. From the salvation nymph I borrowed the nymph back and flashabou strip along with the black peacock ice dub thorax and a coating of clear nail polish over the entire back of the fly to accentuate the flash and sparkle. From the hares ear nymph I utilized the buggy hares mask dubbing with plentiful guard hares for the abdomen and the pheasant wing feather fibers for legs. I produced thirteen of these new prototypes and used nearly all of them during the 2015 season.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-5ZFI1JH8Dgk/Vk0O5SpM5iI/AAAAAAAA6PA/lqT3B88OFjI/s144-c-o/PB160023.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11162015HareNation#6218643037888505378″ caption=”Top View Shows Off the Flash” type=”image” alt=”PB160023.JPG” ]

The fact that I consumed nearly all of my new flies indicates that it was a success. In addition to combining the salient traits of two productive flies, I also speculated that the hair nation fulfilled the role of a dressed up pheasant tail nymph, as it presented a similar color scheme. For some reason I historically tied my pheasant tail nymphs on size sixteen scud hooks with a bead, and this translates to a body length comparable to a size 18. I liked the idea of having some nymphs similar to pheasant tails that were a size larger for pale morning dun hatches.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-72GzmK-2QTU/Vk0O4c8S1qI/AAAAAAAA6O8/1EF__TMO5OI/s144-c-o/PB160021.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11162015HareNation#6218643023473071778″ caption=”A Batch of Hare Nation Nymphs and Key Ingredients” type=”image” alt=”PB160021.JPG” ]

I did not pay close attention to the precise circumstances that favored the hare nation, but I recall using them early in the post-runoff time frame when pale morning duns are prevalent, and I am certain that they produced. Whether they outperformed a standard salvation nymph or not remains open to question. Perhaps in the coming year, I will alternate between the two flies during prime pale morning dun emergence periods and judge whether one is more effective than the other.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-U87ORUlKE24/Vk0O4pShrfI/AAAAAAAA6Ow/JJlAx32-Ugc/s144-c-o/PB160022.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11162015HareNation#6218643026787544562″ caption=”Zooming in on the Finished Flies” type=”image” alt=”PB160022.JPG” ]

At any rate I experienced enough success with my new creation to convince me to tie twenty additions for my fly storage bins. In a worst case scenario I increased my salvation nymph supply by twenty, and that is not a bad circumstance. Stay tuned for updates on the evolution of the hare nation nymph.

Salvation Nymph – 11/15/2015

Salvation Nymph 11/15/2015 Photo Album

Trout candy. The salvation nymph seems to be irresistible to the trout of Colorado. If you click on the link in the previous sentence, you can read about my introduction to this fly. I now realize that the fly that I hold in such high esteem is officially named the tungsten salvation nymph and was designed by Devan Ence. I do not use tungsten to tie my version, so I simply refer to it as a salvation nymph. If adding a tungsten bead to this fly improves its performance, then perhaps it should be outlawed, since it is an extremely productive fish magnet without the tungsten.

As described in my 12/30/2011 post, I initially fished with a salvation nymph on the Conejos River during a 2011 trip, and I experienced quite a bit of success. Each year since then, I tied more of these jewels and fished them over greater time periods until they became my number one workhorse fly during 2015. During 2014 I discovered that they were particularly effective during the pale morning dun hatch time period, however, this past season convinced me that the salvation nymph is a superior fish attractor during all seasons. I usually start my day on the water with a salvation nymph attached to my line as the featured dropper in a dry/dropper configuration or as the point fly in an indicator nymph set up. Rarely does it let me down.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KihFV4uCg8M/VkPjweBGLMI/AAAAAAAA57Q/iV8NLLonwmQ/s144-c-o/PB110017.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11112015SalvationNymph#6216062332532305090″ caption=”Top Producer” type=”image” alt=”PB110017.JPG” ]

In many cases flies appeal to human beings more than they attract fish, but the salvation nymph is an example of a fly that is extremely pleasing to the eye of a fisherman and is also a tantalizing morsel to the underwater cold water inhabitants of our streams. I love the way the fly reflects light from all angles especially the iridescent sheen that emanates from the flashback and wing case. Adding to the sparkling appeal is the ice dub abdomen, the black peacock ice dub thorax and the copper rib. The small rubber appendages are simply icing on the trout dessert menu.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-RcHe3SC9dsg/VkPjvVY2PBI/AAAAAAAA568/biPvTf2bw6I/s144-c-o/PB110015.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11112015SalvationNymph#6216062313036135442″ caption=”Salvation Nymphs and Associated Materials” type=”image” alt=”PB110015.JPG” ]

All the materials are synthetic except for the tail, and this translates to durability. I dab the thread wraps with clear nail polish at three key tie down points, and then shellac the wing case and the abdominal covering with a thick layer as well. I nearly always lose these flies to rocks, tree limbs and break offs before they unravel or breakdown on their own.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-suPYZ4HlX2s/VkPjvjOIAJI/AAAAAAAA57M/FEpcpZxolXA/s144-c-o/PB110016.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11112015SalvationNymph#6216062316749258898″ caption=”Lots of Sparkle” type=”image” alt=”PB110016.JPG” ]

Since I use this fly more than any others in my box, I also lose quite a few. I began 2015 with 50 salvation nymphs stashed in my fly bins, and when I recently counted my remaining stock, I discovered that eighteen remained. I increased my desired starting inventory for 2016 to sixty and the arithmetic told me that I needed to produce forty-two to reach my desired starting level. After diligently visiting the tying bench over the past week, I reached my quota, and I am excited to learn whether the salvation nymph can continue to satisfy the cravings of Colorado trout.

 

 

 

 

Clear Creek – 11/09/2015

Time: 11:45AM – 2:00PM

Location: Mile marker 266.5 and then upstream

Fish Landed: 2

Clear Creek 11/09/2015 Photo Album

After two nice days at the beginning of last week, the weather in Colorado finally turned toward an expected seasonal cold snap from Wednesday through Saturday. We avoided snow at our house in Stapleton, but the mountains and many towns along the Front Range experienced their first significant snowfall of the season. I used the adverse weather to augment my fly supply by tying ultra zug bugs and hares ear nymphs.

On Sunday and Monday however a break in the approaching winter pattern encouraged me to make yet another fishing trip. I preferred a trip to South Boulder Creek or the Big Thompson, but these two streams were trickling from their dams upstream at 11 CFS. I’m not sure what the water managers are up to, but these levels are quite low. Clear Creek continued to register flows of 30 CFS, so I chose to make yet another trip to Clear Creek Canyon.

A high in the low sixties in Denver translates to air temperatures in the low fifties in the canyon, so I took my time getting ready to depart on Monday morning. By 10:30AM, however, I judged that the weather would be tolerable, so I departed Stapleton and made the short thirty minute drive to mile marker 266.5 in Clear Creek Canyon. I prepared to fish by assembling my Orvis Access four weight, and then I ate my lunch because I planned to scramble down the steep bank to fish and did not wish to climb back for lunch and then descend a second time.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-p-ND6Acb-aQ/VkFh12E7BcI/AAAAAAAA5uQ/8nK7D2lds-Y/s144-c-o/PB090008.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11092015ClearCreek#6215356538425116098″ caption=”Starting Point. Mostly Clear.” type=”image” alt=”PB090008.JPG” ]

By 11:45 I finished my lunch and found a relatively gradual path from the rim of the highway to the floor of the canyon. I  was pleased to discover that the water was ninety percent clear, but still tinged with some slight sedimentation presumably from the trail construction a few miles upstream. The clarity was much improved compared to my visit on the previous Monday.

I began fishing with a Jake’s gulp beetle, but this choice failed to arouse any interest in the first ten minutes, so I made a change. I pledged to not dwell on an unproductive fly excessively since my window of prime fishing time was only 2.5 hours. I removed the beetle and knotted a parachute hopper to my line and then added an ultra zug bug on a two foot dropper. I moved upstream quickly prospecting likely pockets with no reaction from the trout to my twin offering until I reached an area where the most attractive water was along the north bank. I waded to the middle of the river to position myself to cast to a very juicy deep pool that bordered the far bank.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-0jLgUco1Ies/VkFh2Dc1jAI/AAAAAAAA5t0/daDbkA-BFs4/s144-c-o/PB090009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11092015ClearCreek#6215356542015081474″ caption=”A Very Nice Clear Creek Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”PB090009.JPG” ]

The lower section of this bank pocket did not produce, but when I flicked the tandem into the short top pocket, the hopper darted sideways, and this provoked a solid hook set. I was pleased to see a fine brown trout thrashing on my line, as it tried to eject the ultra zug bug from its lip. When I netted my catch, I was pleased to note that it was eleven or twelve inches and one of the nicer brown trout that I ever extracted from Clear Creek.

I moved onward and worked my way up the right bank, as I now suspected that it received less pressure and might be more productive in the challenging late season conditions. I cast to three or four promising deep runs with no success before I approached a spot that contained some very slow moving water. This section failed to yield any fish, but right above it a deep run angled at a ninety degree angle from the stream toward the north bank. I placed a few casts in the slow water along the side of the current, and then dropped a cast at the top of the small run. As I lifted to recast after a short drift, I felt weight and set the hook and landed a second brown trout that was slightly smaller than my first catch.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-tiMb2_J98E4/VkFh3Cpx5dI/AAAAAAAA5t8/NhjAOWVV7Qc/s144-c-o/PB090011.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11092015ClearCreek#6215356558980802002″ caption=”A Second Brown” type=”image” alt=”PB090011.JPG” ]

I now theorized that the best spots were the very slow moving pools and pockets. My feet were starting to feel like stumps due to the very cold water, so I conjectured that the snow from the previous week melted and caused the water temperature to drop. The cold water caused a reduction in the metabolism of the fish, and in order to save energy they migrated to the parts of the creek that contained less current to battle.

This was a great theory, but I was never able to confirm it, as I continued working my way upstream, but I never landed another fish before I decided to convert to a streamer at 1:30. In reality I never encountered any water that was slow moving and along the bank, so perhaps my thought process was accurate, and I never found the proper conditions to confirm.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JI4UompnFcM/VkFh3n18c4I/AAAAAAAA5uE/7iBqKtpjW6s/s144-c-o/PB090012.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11092015ClearCreek#6215356568963937154″ caption=”A Short Section in Sunshine” type=”image” alt=”PB090012.JPG” ]

At any rate I was feeling quite chilled and bored with the lack of hook ups, so I decided to devote the final thirty minutes to stripping a streamer. I switched to my sink tip line and tied a conehead cream colored sculpzilla-style streamer to my line and began working the deep pools and pockets. The bait imitation looked great as it zigged and zagged through the deep areas, but I never attracted even a follow to my fake sculpin. At two o’clock I called it quits and scrambled up the steep bank to the road.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-TJ6Fr212XQs/VkFh4qo-rkI/AAAAAAAA5uM/fM88zwnUzgc/s144-c-o/PB090014.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11092015ClearCreek#6215356586894732866″ caption=”Close Up” type=”image” alt=”PB090014.JPG” ]

It was a tough 2.5 hours of fishing, and I felt quite fortunate to land two decent fish. I am hopeful that the early snow melt will pass, and that some additional warm days will allow me to increase the fish counter before the end of 2015. I am also considering exploring tailwaters, since they will not be affected directly by early season runoff.

Hares Ear – 11/05/2015

Hares Ear 11/05/2015 Photo Album

I caught more fish on a beadhead hares ear nymph than any other fly during my fly fishing lifetime. My friend Dave Gaboury swears that my version, which he calls Dave’s hares ear, is superior to those he purchases. My modest modifications include tying them on a curved scud hook (Tiemco 2457), using small clumps of pheasant body feather fibers for the tail and legs, and including a generous amount of guard hairs from a hares mask in the dubbing. A hunting friend shot a rabbit many years ago in Pennsylvania and donated the hide to my fly tying material cache. I can certainly testify that my hares mask is the real thing, and despite tying at least a thousand of these flies, I still possess ten lifetimes worth of hares mask.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-M2I4xO3sjnY/Vjvfv2bqbZI/AAAAAAAA5mI/PKI6DZ8q278/s144-c-o/PB050007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11052015HaresEar#6213806124046118290″ caption=”Brown Legs with Fewer Guard Hairs” type=”image” alt=”PB050007.JPG” ]

 [pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NN9RC2d1blQ/VjvfwAkMWiI/AAAAAAAA5mU/_-zZioEvUBI/s144-c-o/PB050008.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11052015HaresEar#6213806126766250530″ caption=”Unruly Look with Guard Hairs” type=”image” alt=”PB050008.JPG” ]

Gradually over the last couple years I gravitated to a salvation nymph and ultra zug bug ahead of the hares ear, however, I continue defaulting to this reliable general nymph imitation nearly every time I fish. I particularly favor the hares ear on the Arkansas River, as it seems to imitate caddis pupa and yellow sally stonefly nymphs, and these two bugs are quite prolific in Big Horn Sheep Canyon through which the Arkansas flows. Historically I attempted to enter each new season with 100 beadhead hares ear nymphs in my fly bins, but because I rely more on the other two nymphs mentioned earlier, I lowered the starting inventory goal to eighty.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-DFZpHwKD3YU/Vjvfw0hp-_I/AAAAAAAA5mc/94E7PK9q138/s144-c-o/PB050010.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11052015HaresEar#6213806140714253298″ caption=”Front Shot of the Pair” type=”image” alt=”PB050010.JPG” ]

When I counted my existing stock of hares ear nymphs several weeks ago, I determined that I had 65, so I tied fifteen new additions to bring my total to the goal amount. When I tie beadhead hares ear nymphs, I dab head cement on the threads after attaching the tail and gold wire for ribbing. I am convinced that this helps to prevent the fly from unraveling at the rear. After I dub the abdomen, rib, and attach the wing case material; I apply another coat of head cement in the thorax area. Of course the head wraps behind the bead receive the final application of head cement to protect the fly from unraveling. This area remains the most vulnerable, and I have several flies that I plan to refurbish because the threads at the head got severed by the teeth of hungry trout.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-5XFC-kP7p6E/VjvfwnLtF0I/AAAAAAAA5mY/sE91Akl4-Is/s144-c-o/PB050009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11052015HaresEar#6213806137132521282″ caption=”A Batch of Hares Ear Nymphs” type=”image” alt=”PB050009.JPG” ]

 

Ultra Zug Bug – 11/04/2015

I first discovered this fly in my Scott Sanchez book, and I tied some as a quick simple replacement for a prince nymph. I use a prince nymph primarily during the spring caddis hatch, as it seems to be a reasonable representation of egg laying adults. I can tie the ultra zug bug much faster than a prince, since I do not attach goose biot tails or wings. I am not sure why I limited my usage of the prince to the spring, since I suspect it would be a fish catcher all year long.

During 2014 I attached an ultra zug bug to my line when I was running low on salvation nymphs. Much to my surprise I discovered that this simple fly was highly desired by Colorado trout in the fall as well as during the spring. Consequently I tied a large batch during the off season and entered 2015 with 50 stashed in my storage box. Because I possessed a significant supply, I opted to attach this sparkling nymph to my line very frequently, and I was pleased to find that it produced fish throughout the season.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HVnj3O8xXM0/VjpFgwZ5UeI/AAAAAAAA5lQ/ZH4SHu8jgx8/s144-c-o/IMG_1761.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11042015UltraZugBug#6213355064962666978″ caption=”A Newly Completed Ultra Zug Bug” type=”image” alt=”IMG_1761.JPG” ]

I recently took an inventory of my workhorse nymphs, and I determined that I needed to tie twenty-one new versions to boost my supply to fifty. I churned these out in two relatively brief tying sessions, and I am set for the next season.

Tying an ultra zug bug is about as simple as it gets. I tie them mainly on Tiemco size 14 2457 hooks, and I drop a 3/32″ gold brass bead on the hook point and push it around the bend to the hook eye. Next I attach a small clump of brown pheasant feather fibers for the tail, but I am sure alternative sources of brown tailing materials are acceptable. Next I tie in a strand of pearl crystal hair, and this step is followed by dubbing the hook shank from the tail to the bead with peacock dubbing. Taper the body and take it all the way to the bead and fill the area behind the bead generously. Next wrap the crystal hair strand as a rib to the bead and then tie it down and snip it off. I believe the crystal hair rib is a key ingredient of this fly, as it provides a nice sparkle from beneath the shaggy dubbing. Finally spin a couple sparse clumps of dubbing around the hook just behind the bead, and then pull the fibers that extend forward back and place three wraps over them to lock in a rear facing position. Whip finish and coat the thread wraps with head cement. The last step is to comb through the spun dubbing and then cut off the fibers that extend beyond the hook bend.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-R3eUDavuQ24/VjpFhS7jyaI/AAAAAAAA5lU/KSwOWN67bEQ/s144-c-o/IMG_1762.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11042015UltraZugBug#6213355074230667682″ caption=”Ten Additions to My Fly Box” type=”image” alt=”IMG_1762.JPG” ]

That’s it. You now have a simple productive attractor nymph that seems to attract fish all season long. They look extremely buggy, but I am not sure what actual insect they actually imitate. As long as I am catching fish I really do not care.

South Platte River – 11/03/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Waterton Canyon near Rattlesnake picnic area.

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River 11/03/2015 Photo Album

November 3 and the high temperature in Denver was 75 degrees. What should one do when such a fortunate break in the weather presents itself to a Denver resident? Well of course if one is an avid fly fisherman, one must visit a local stream.

After three consecutive visits to Clear Creek, I was ready for a change. At least five years passed since I last visited the South Platte River in Waterton Canyon, so I decided to make a trip to this historically productive location. During 2007 I fished the catch and release water below Strontia Springs Dam in late fall several times and experienced decent results including some fairly dense blue winged olive hatches. The stream strayed from my favorites in recent years due to a host of reasons. First it was closed for nearly a year while repairs were made to the dam. After that closure I read reports that the number of fish diminished, and fishermen were disappointed with results despite DOW assurances that the fish density remained the same.

More recently it seemed that the flows were either too high or too low, and I regularly found alternatives that seemed more promising. For the last two months when flows were constantly in the ideal range, the area was closed due to bear activity. Finally Jane read in the newspaper that Denver Water was reopening Waterton Canyon on Friday October 30. With this welcome news we decided to undertake a bike ride, and I packed my fishing gear.

Because of the time change to standard time, I set a goal to be on the water fishing by 11AM, and Jane and I managed to adhere to this intention. As forecast, the weather was gorgeous with the only negative being intermittent wind, although I did not complain as I was fishing in a long sleeved shirt in November. It took me 45 minutes on my mountain bike to reach the Rattlesnake picnic pavilion .75 mile above the diversion dam, and I established this as my base camp. A Denver Water employee later informed Jane that this was the center of the bear activity! I removed my backpack and climbed into my waders and then assembled my Sage four weight.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-S1kKfw8s_z4/VjmBpUM2-xI/AAAAAAAA5jA/K9Tf44As7p8/s144-c-o/PB030003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11032015SouthPlatteRiver#6213139707731573522″ caption=”Downstream View” type=”image” alt=”PB030003.JPG” ]

I decided to walk down the road to the bridge that was nearby, but I quickly discovered another fisherman in the huge deep pool next to a picnic table above the bridge. I considered fishing downstream of the bridge, but when I peered over the guard rail, I noted that the water was covered in shadows, so I reversed my direction and headed for the nice long run and pool nearly across from the picnic area. I found a marginal path that led to the edge of the river and tied a tan Charlie boy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug to my line.

Most of the water in this area was also covered in shadows except for a five foot band above me along the left bank. Unfortunately the water in sunlight was even more difficult to fish than the shaded portion because of the wicked glare. I began to prospect the bottom part of the pool, but I observed no signs of fish until I reached the top third. Despite the sharp glare on the water, I tossed a cast directly upstream and allowed the flies to drift through an attractive shelf pool. I decided to lift my rod to determine where the hopper was, and suddenly I felt weight and movement. I did a perfunctory hook set, and as I stripped in my line, I noticed a foul hooked brown trout thrashing on the end of the line.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-PFhdxonuw2Q/VjmBoW8PpoI/AAAAAAAA5iw/YcFrDj6gF7Y/s144-c-o/PB030001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11032015SouthPlatteRiver#6213139691287324290″ caption=”Beautiful Rainbow Was First Fish” type=”image” alt=”PB030001.JPG” ]

I was disappointed by this turn of events, but I was at least reassured to learn that trout did in fact continue to inhabit Waterton Canyon. Next I began to prospect a narrow but long slot that ran down the center of the run. A large boulder served as a current break, and then a thin slower moving ribbon of water extended down stream for 25 feet to just above another large submerged rock. I made five drifts with no result, but on the sixth a large dark shadowy figure emerged from the deep swirly area at the tail. As I watched, the fish moved slightly to its right, and I surmised that it snatched one of the nymphs, so I executed a swift lift of the rod. Suddenly the fish felt the sting of a hook, and it began to thrash and exert pressure on my line. I held tight, and within a minute I applied side pressure and guided a fourteen inch rainbow into my net. Needless to say, I was shocked by this turn of events, yet quite thankful as well.

I released the rainbow and moved upstream a bit, but the water was wide and shallow and quite marginal. I was slipping and slogging along the bank to reach a stretch of deep water that ran along a vertical rock wall, when Jane passed by on her bike. I shouted that I would be up to Rattlesnake for lunch, but she apparently did not hear me and continued on to the dam. Since I now had more time before I planned to break for lunch, I waded back to shore and then carefully worked my way downstream to a location where the river narrowed and created another deep run and several juicy pockets. I skipped around this spot when I climbed the bank and walked up the road, but now I had time to inspect it.

Unfortunately I was approaching from above, and the many shrubs and willows did not allow me to stay back from the low clear river that was running at 72 cfs. I gave it my best effort and focused on some deep runs on the opposite side, but my flies were ignored. By now I estimated that Jane might be at the picnic pavilion, so I found somewhat of an opening in the willows and climbed the steep bank. Sure enough Jane was seated at the table, and I joined her to eat my light lunch.

After lunch Jane decided to take a walk to the dam, and I accompanied her up the road until I reached the path that delivered me to the wide shallow area that was my farthest advance prior to lunch. I splashed upstream until I was across from the deep run that rushed along the tall vertical rock wall, but again the fish were not tuned into the three flies that I presented to them. I was about to advance upstream again, but as I turned and surveyed the river, I noticed another fisherman blocking my path. This was the same person who occupied the emerald pool above the bridge when I first started to fish.

I reversed my direction and climbed back to the road, and then I hiked back downstream toward the bridge. I paused at the deep emerald jewel pool and covered the attractive runs at the top with no success, and then I moved along the bank and fished some nice pockets between the pool and the bridge. I continued to see no signs of fish in the after lunch time period.

Since my upstream migration was blocked by another fisherman, my only option was to continue downstream below the bridge. This area was now engulfed in shadows as the sun was low in the southwest sky and blocked by some high hills on the western side of the canyon. I walked down the road for .3 miles until I found a place where I could safely negotiate the steep bank. The water in this area was quite attractive with a series of cascading deep runs and short pools, so I began tossing the dry/dropper combination to the likely fish holding spots. By now my Charlie boy hopper was quite saturated, and after three or four foot drifts, it sank. I decided to switch it for a more buoyant top fly and chose a chubby Chernobyl with an orange body. From below this fly actually looked like an adult stonefly. I was not interested in catching fish with my top fly; I simply wanted something that was very visible and that suspended the two beadhead nymphs effectively.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-UIGiyTuxEbk/VjmBp6cviLI/AAAAAAAA5jI/YIomV-KHbKw/s144-c-o/PB030004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11032015SouthPlatteRiver#6213139717998741682″ caption=”Decent Afternoon Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”PB030004.JPG” ]

The chubby Chernobyl did its job, as I landed two brown trout in the last hour of fishing. Both fish snapped up the hares ear nymph, as it drifted along several feet below the surface. After I released the second fish, I was faced with the prospect of fishing the last .2 mile to the bridge where the river executed a bend away from the road. There was no obvious path before the bridge, so I elected to call it a day. My original plan called for quitting at 2PM, which was really 3PM by daylight savings time, so I reeled up my flies and hooked the ultra zug bug to my rod guide. I climbed the steep bank and returned to the base camp via the road, and there I discovered Jane seated at the table and reading her Kindle.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-uIkc69n_-H0/VjmBqRe3KEI/AAAAAAAA5jM/yt5sl_rO-M8/s144-c-o/PB030005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11032015SouthPlatteRiver#6213139724181645378″ caption=”Jane at the Rattlesnake Pavilion” type=”image” alt=”PB030005.JPG” ]

We packed everything up and rolled down the road on our bikes at a fast pace while enjoying the gradual downhill. We did pause halfway back to the parking lot when we encountered a cluster of male bighorn sheep. The sheep put on quite a show for the gathering of photographers, walkers and bikers as the rams sniffed each other and then backed off and butted their horns. In one amazing display of toughness, two rams suddenly backed up and then cracked their horns forcefully. I was stunned by the loud crack that this encounter generated.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nWkhU6XYqgc/VjpBu0zKbXI/AAAAAAAA5k0/ykn4zBDf85U/s144-c-o/IMG_1002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11032015SouthPlatteRiver#6213350908614045042″ caption=”Major Head Butt” type=”image” alt=”IMG_1002.JPG” ]

It was a slow day on the South Platte River, but I had a great time nonetheless. The weather was delightful, the scenery was spectacular, and the wildlife was very entertaining. Outdoor time in November is priceless, and Jane and I appreciated our day.

 

Clear Creek – 11/02/2015

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Just upstream from Tunnel 6.

Fish Landed: 10

Clear Creek 11/02/2015 Photo Album

The calendar flipped to November, and the time changed to standard time, but the weather remained more like September than the middle of autumn. Jane and I visited Santa Fe for Halloween weekend and had a great time doing things that did not involve fishing, but now that we were back in Denver, I had to take advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures.

I had a haircut appointment for Monday morning, so this forced me to get a later start than I would have preferred. During daylight savings time I reasoned that the prime fishing time period was between noon and 3PM. Now that we rolled the clock back an hour, 11AM until 2PM became the interval of the day that I ideally hoped to fish, but the best I could do on Monday was to begin by noon.

As predicted, the air temperature peaked in Denver at 75 degrees, and this translated to the low sixties in Clear Creek Canyon. I chose to fish in Clear Creek for the third consecutive time because of its proximity and because my preferred alternative, South Boulder Creek, continued to flow at a ridiculously low 10 cfs. Because productive fishing time is limited to only three to four hours, I wanted to avoid a long drive during the late season time period.

I hoped to continue fishing upstream from mile marker 263 where I ended my time on Thursday of the previous week, but as I approached the turnout, I came to a stop in a line of traffic. Apparently route six was confined to one lane of traffic due to road work. I was right next to the parking spot just beyond mile marker 263, so I made a quick U-turn and prepared to fish. I pulled on my waders, but before I strung my rod, I gazed down over the bank to check out the water. Much to my chagrin it was the color of split pea soup, and there was minimal visibility along the edge. I was about to fish anyway, but then I thought better of it, and threw my gear back in the car with the intention of moving.

My first inclination was to check on South Boulder Creek. It had been a week since I last looked, but when I fired up my iPhone and went to the DWR site, I was disappointed to learn that the tailwater continued to run at 10 cfs. This is quite low, so I turned my thoughts to other options. On one previous visit to Clear Creek I was able to fish in moderately clear water farther downstream despite high turbidity in the area where I was now located. I was about to attempt this strategy again, but then I considered driving upstream to a point hopefully above the construction.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-J0sG2LHz-Oo/Vjgj4D4imNI/AAAAAAAA5bs/iFlQFFZq3FM/s144-c-o/PB020002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11022015ClearCreek#6212755131979700434″ caption=”Clear Creek Canyon” type=”image” alt=”PB020002.JPG” ]

This then was what I did, and I discovered that path construction continued quite a ways, but eventually I passed through Tunnel 6 and glanced down to some beautiful crystal clear water on the north side of the highway. I pulled off on the wide shoulder at the first safe opportunity, and it was not long before I walked down the worn path to a point just downstream of the tunnel entrance. This was actually a very pleasant setting, as the tunnel blocked the sound of the steady stream of traffic, and I felt much more remote than my other haunts on Clear Creek.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-jBMB625IrSM/Vjgj5V-LHUI/AAAAAAAA5b8/jnUQO6AUSpY/s144-c-o/PB020004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11022015ClearCreek#6212755154015034690″ caption=”Impressive Pool” type=”image” alt=”PB020004.JPG” ]

I tied on a gray pool toy and an ultra zug bug dropper and began to prospect the tantalizing pools and pockets in front of me. Numerous deep plunge pools populated the stretch that I fished on Monday, but the offset was the increased pressure. I was fairly confident that this area was more popular than the mile marker 263 area, as the well worn path and large number of boot prints were obvious clues.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-mLW3xmZgwH0/Vjgj3nA-s9I/AAAAAAAA5bk/nA1S5pGIyA0/s144-c-o/PB020001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11022015ClearCreek#6212755124230468562″ caption=”Tasty Ultra Zug Bug Fooled This Guy” type=”image” alt=”PB020001.JPG” ]

I fished with the dry dropper combination from noon until 3PM and landed ten small trout. I was surprised to net six rainbows and four browns, as Clear Creek historically yielded nearly all brown trout. Perhaps it was the segment of the stream farther upstream that explained more rainbow trout, or maybe the DOW stocked small rainbows to build up the fishery, but the rainbows were all barely over my six inch minimum limit that I require for increasing the fish counter. Most of the landed fish gobbled the trailing ultra zug bug, although I had quite a few refusals to the pool toy, and three or four incidents where a fish nipped the hopper imitation. I am not sure if the hopper was too large for their small mouths, or if the fish were giving me an aggressive refusal. I did manage to land two or three fish that threw caution to the wind and hammered the hopper.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ltgywb2QIAU/Vjgj4uokvLI/AAAAAAAA5b0/-0QoP-3WgFU/s144-c-o/PB020003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11022015ClearCreek#6212755143455456434″ caption=”Lots of Small Rainbows Like This Today” type=”image” alt=”PB020003.JPG” ]

 [pe2-image src=”http://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-DrGEdeN0Y_8/Vjgj6QtG2OI/AAAAAAAA5cI/qbJogZKhBx0/s144-c-o/PB020006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11022015ClearCreek#6212755169781143778″ caption=”Nice Brown Slurped Pool Toy” type=”image” alt=”PB020006.JPG” ]

Just before my last hour of fishing, I lobbed the pool toy to a nice deep pocket in the middle of the creek, and as the hopper drifted slowly toward the tail, a nice eleven inch brown trout shot to the surface and smashed the imitation. This was the best fish of the day and also the most visual take, and I was grateful for this late season surface action.

By 3PM the shadows extended across the entire stream, and a chill settled in the canyon. The evaporation effect of my wet sun gloves caused my fingers to curl and ache, so I decided to call it a day. I am not a huge fan of cold weather fishing, so ten trout landed on November 2 is a major bonus. Tuesday November 3 is expected to be another warm day, so I may make another appearance on a Colorado stream, but the rest of the week is forecast to be highs in the fifties. The fly tying bench seems to be a pleasant alternative for the remainder of the first week of November.