Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM
Location: Below Gross Reservoir
It was a marvelous day for fly fishing. The string of unseasonably warm days in late October continued, so I decided to take advantage, and I embarked on a trip to South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. This small tailwater is a candidate to be my home water; however, the Denver Water managers make it difficult to adopt. I experienced one fine day on September 7, when I was fortunate to catch flows at 84 CFS. That evening Denver Water tightened the valve to 8.4 CFS, and that is a trickle, so I chose other options. After a week or so of minimal flows, the managers increased the releases to 210 CFS. This volume of water is very high for the small stream bed, and I did not wish to fish in spring-like run off conditions.
When I checked the DWR stream flow data after returning from the Taylor River, I noted that the flows were reduced to 90 CFS a week prior, and after another adjustment they were at 64 CFS. The combination of nearly ideal flows and high temperatures of eighty degrees in Denver provided sufficient incentive for me to pack the Santa Fe with fishing gear in preparation for a visit to South Boulder Creek.
I departed Stapleton at 8:45 and arrived at the parking lot high above the creek near the outlet from the dam by 10AM. Three vehicles were already present, as I quickly pulled on my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight for a day on the stream. Since I usually hike quite a distance from the car, I packed my lunch in anticipation of a four or five hour sojourn in the canyon. I descended the steep path, crossed the stream and then hiked for thirty minutes, until I was positioned below a gorgeous deep pool. The main current divided the pool in half, and then the water tailed out into a nice smooth stretch of moderate depth.
Much of the canyon remained in shadows, but this area was bathed in sunshine. I surveyed the scene and decided to begin with Jake’s gulp beetle. I always prefer fishing on the surface, and it was clear that visibility would not be an issue. I knotted a size 12 beetle to my line and moved to the bottom of the pool. Before casting upstream to the delicious moderate riffles along the right bank, I decided to warm up with some across and down drifts to an inviting area that remained in the shadows. What a great choice! On the fourth drift, as I mended to eliminate drag, a nose and bulge appeared, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a thirteen inch brown trout. What a start to my day, and what a thrill to land a large fish by South Boulder Creek standards on the beetle in thin water.
Next I probed the wide twenty foot wide riffle above me, and two more respectable brown trout gulped the floating terrestrial. I pinched myself to make sure I was not in the middle of a dream. Evidently I was not, so I proceeded upstream and landed two more fine South Boulder Creek residents, before I adjourned for lunch at 12:15. The last landed fish in the morning was a deeply colored rainbow trout that emerged from a short pocket along the left bank.
Before lunch I encountered a section of the creek that was totally immersed in shadows. The thin neon orange indicator strip on the beetle was very difficult to follow in the poor light and occasional glare, so I converted to a dry/dropper with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. Between 11:45 and 12:15 I prospected some great water with these three flies, but my net remained empty.
After lunch I entered another area that was covered with sunshine, and the dry/dropper was not producing action, so I returned to the single Jake’s gulp beetle. This proved to be a smart shift in approach, and I added four additional trout by 2:30. The afternoon fish were average in size, but I continued to enjoy the ideal flows, comfortable temperatures and fishing a dry fly successfully in late October.
2016 has been a record year for me, so I made a conscious effort to slow my pace and absorb the amazing Colorado environment around me. On Thursday I felt at ease with my surroundings and thoroughly enjoyed my new laid back approach. My fish count was resting on nine when I reached a nice isolated pool along the right bank. A large corrugated pipe sank in the water and angled across the pool, and I decided to flip a few casts in the top section where the current feeds the slow moving main area. On the second drift I noticed a decent fish, as it moved to inspect my fly, but it failed to eat. Given my new attitude toward fishing, I decided to focus on this fish. Normally after a refusal, I limit myself to a few more casts, but then I move on in an effort to maximize my fish count.
What would this fish eat? I cycled through a black ant (another refusal), a CDC BWO, and a size 16 gray caddis, but none of these offerings triggered a take. Finally I conceded to the educated pool dweller and moved on. It is difficult to accept being outsmarted by a fish, but that was my plight on Thursday afternoon.
Although I was operating in a new relaxed mental state, I was still cognizant of the fact that I needed one more fish to achieve double digits. The next segment of the creek was forty yards long and contained numerous delightful pockets and deep runs, as the stream tumbled around the many exposed rocks below a rock moraine on the right side. I knew the beetle would be difficult to follow in the dim light and swirly water, so I once again converted to the dry/dropper style. This time I topped off the alignment with a gray pool toy, and next I affixed a salvation nymph and then an ultra zug bug.
The lower third of the turbulent area did not produce a fish, but then I cast to a nice deep slot along the left bank and observed a pause in the pool toy. I raised the rod, and I immediately felt the throb of a thrashing ten inch brown trout. I quickly landed number ten and then released it to continue its life among the swirling currents of South Boulder Creek.
I progressed to the end of the fast water section, and here I encountered another young fisherman. It was approaching 2:30, and I knew I had a fairly long hike to exit the canyon, so I tucked the last fly in the rod guide, crossed the stream, and climbed to the path for the return. After crossing the pedestrian bridge I paused at a couple shelf pools in a last ditch effort to increase my fish count, but these efforts proved unsuccessful. Just after three o’clock I completed the final steep ascent to the parking lot, and I realized that Thursday felt like August in late October.
South Boulder Creek remains a magical nearby destination. I landed ten quality trout on a gorgeous fall day. If ever there was a definition of Indian summer, October 27 was that day. How long can this perfect autumn weather continue?
Fish Landed: 10