Boulder Creek – 09/29/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Canyon west of Boulder, CO.

Boulder Creek 09/29/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

The sudden influx of cool wet weather in Colorado prevented me from fishing on Wednesday and Thursday, so I was quite anxious to return to a local stream. When I reviewed the Front Range drainages, I learned that Clear Creek, Bear Creek and Boulder Creek flows surged as a result of the steady rain earlier in the week. Of the three Boulder Creek looked the most encouraging, since the cubic feet per second settled out in the thirties. Although this was higher than the period prior to the rains, it remained in the low end of ideal flows. The South Boulder Creek tailwater graph meanwhile looked like a stairway, as the water managers ramped up the outflows from 13 CFS to 246 CFS over a four day period. I was extremely disappointed to see this after two recent banner days on the tailwater northwest of Golden.

I chose Boulder Creek and managed to arrive at a wide pullout along the highway by 10:15. As I traveled along the stream in the lower end of the canyon near Boulder, the clarity was questionable, but I pressed on. Persistence paid off, as the murkiness subsided considerably by the time of selected a section of the creek to fish, and the passage of time seemed to aid water translucency as well. The weather on the other hand did not change considerably during my time on the water. The air temperature remained in the low fifties, and the sky was shrouded in dense gray clouds during my stay. I wore a fleece layer along with my raincoat, and my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps topped my head all afternoon. Despite dressing for winter conditions I remained on the edge of chilliness.

I began the day with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and an ultra zug bug; but after thirty minutes of casting, I failed to land a fish. Two small river inhabitants nipped the fat Albert, but I was unable to sustain contact. Near the end of this period I managed to land a slender six inch brown trout that snatched the hares ear, but it was clear that the dry/dropper was not setting the world on fire. I removed the three flies and opted for a Jake’s gulp beetle. The large beetle is generally popular in the fall months on front range streams, and two fish showed interest in the fat Albert grasshopper imitation. The terrestrial theory unfortunately proved to be faulty, so I shifted to a size fourteen gray stimulator.

The attractor garnered some attention in the form of refusals, but the fish consistently turned away at the last second. I downsized to a size 16 olive deer hair caddis, and I was quite shocked to discover that the small selective trout of Boulder Creek rejected this offering as well. What could induce these small picky eaters to consume my flies on Friday? I found a nice jumble of flat rocks and paused to eat lunch, while I pondered my next move.

Terrestrials clearly attracted the most attention, so why not downsize again to a parachute black ant? The size 18 ant worked quite well on South Boulder Creek, so perhaps the inhabitants of its sister branch savored it as well. I knotted the small ant with an orange poly wing post to my line, and I began to cast it to the attractive pockets and pools, as I worked my way up the steep gradient section of the creek. Finally I stumbled onto a winning tactic, and four brown trout sipped the ant. All four trout suddenly appeared in slow moving areas tight to the protective cover of large boulders.

I boulder hopped my way upstream while popping the ant in likely brown trout lairs, but after an hour and four netted fish, the period of time between catches lengthened, and I grew weary of struggling to follow the tiny fly in the dim light created by the overcast conditions. The fish count plateaued at five, and I yearned for a more visible approach, so I converted back to the dry/dropper method. During this return engagement, however, I utilized a size 10 Chernboyl ant as the top fly, and I replaced the ultra zug bug with a salvation nymph. The beadhead hares ear carried over from the first go round in the middle position.

Over the remaining 1.5 hours I landed an additional five small brown trout, and I was pleased that the dry/dropper approach finally proved effective. Four of the trout consumed the salvation nymph, and one gullible stream resident crushed the Chernobyl ant. By 3:30 I approached a convenient stopping point, and I was very fatigued from climbing over large rocks. The cold temperatures conspired with wet hands to create stiff fingers, so I carefully climbed up the steep bank and ambled back along the shoulder to the car and called it a day.

I managed to barely reach double digits, and Friday September 29 was a very challenging day on Boulder Creek. The fish were small and the weather was adverse, but I suppose I was fortunate to register a decent day in the aftermath of cool wet weather. Hopefully additional mild Indian summer days are in my future in 2017.

Arkansas River – 09/26/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Chafee – Fremont County line

Arkansas River 09/26/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Tuesday September 26, 2017 was a day, when quality surpassed quantity. After two cool wet days on Sunday and Monday, I decided to make the long three hour drive to the Arkansas River below Salida. For some reason I suffered through an Arkansas River slump over the last couple years, and I decided to make another attempt to recover some of the fall magic from three to five years ago. I reviewed my posts on the Arkansas River on this blog, and I determined that my last special autumn day on the Arkansas River was October 2, 2015. My goal for Tuesday was to create a day of fishing that approached the early October 2015 endeavor.

I departed Denver by 7AM and arrived at the pullout high above the river at the Fremont – Chafee County line by 10AM. By the time I gathered my gear and assembled my Sage four weight and crossed the river and hiked downstream on the railroad tracks, it was 10:30. I began the day with a tan pool toy hopper, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. I was positioned midway down a huge shelf pool, and I began covering the area by spraying casts systematically up and across. After three drifts between the strong main current and the shoreline, I took three or four steps and repeated the process. After ten minutes I detected a pause in the hopper and initiated a hook set only to discover, that I foul hooked a twelve inch brown trout.

At the top of the pool I ran a drift along the current seam, and as the pool toy bounced through a narrow slot between the fast run and a large submerged rock, it dipped abruptly. Again I raised my rod to set the hook, and this time I was certain that the object on the other end of the line was hooked in the mouth. The indignant fish streaked up and down the shelf pool several times, until I gained the upper hand and raised it into my net. There before me was a husky sixteen inch rainbow trout with a salvation nymph in its lip, and I was thrilled to begin my day on the Arkansas River with such a fine catch.

Once I released my prize first fish of the day, I moved upstream to another shorter and shallower shelf pool. In the lower half of this area a twelve inch brown trout grabbed the same salvation nymph, and I felt somewhat optimistic after landing two fine trout in the first hour. Brimming with anticipation I worked my way up along the left side of the long narrow island, but the dry/dropper combination failed to produce a look or refusal.

I returned to the bottom point of the island, and since it was noon, I sat on a gravel bar and ate my lunch. I intended to change my approach for the shallow slow moving north channel, and the lunch break was a convenient time to reconfigure my setup. I removed the three flies and replaced them with a single size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle. In the small pockets below the long main pool, I noticed three looks, as fish moved to get a closer view of the beetle, but in each case they backed off at the last instant. I was frustrated by this turn of events and began to formulate an adjustment. Before making a change, however, I decided to plop the beetle in the shallow smooth pool just above me. A cast directly upstream generated another refusal, but on the third heave within two feet of the north bank, a head appeared, and a fifteen inch brown trout engulfed the beetle. The brown reacted instantly to the plop, and the visual image of a large fish crushing the foam imitation from above remains quite vivid in my memory.

My confidence in the beetle soared, and I continued patiently prospecting the pool and the deep run where the current entered. Certainly more opportunistic trout lived in this fish condo, and they could not refuse a terrestrial snack. As it turns out they could. I made long casts and covered the entire twenty yard segment, and I never saw a look, refusal or take. I was dumbfounded by this development, but I turned my attention to the next section. Three relatively nice pockets greeted me above the long pool, and I plopped and drifted the beetle through all of them. Similar to the pockets below the main pool, the beetle attracted interest but no take in each small hole. I could see the tail of each fish wag, as it elevated for a closer look.

What should I do now? The fly shop fishing reports mentioned the presence of late pale morning duns and red quills. Would these fish recognize a mayfly imitation? I snipped off the beetle and knotted a size 16 light gray comparadun to my tippet. I floated this over each of the places where I observed fish, and in each case the fish ignored the dry fly and never revealed their presence.

The wind continued to gust with increased ferocity, and this caused my thoughts to revisit terrestrials. Maybe a smaller earth bound insect would fool the trout? I opted for a size 18 black parachute ant with an orange wing post for visibility. I began with the long and relatively shallow riffle pocket just above me, and on the third drift the ant was ferociously attacked. The deceived eater was not happy, and it streaked across the small channel and then downstream. I maintained constant pressure, and eventually the fifteen inch rainbow trout grew tired, and I nudged it into my net. It was very gratifying to cycle through a series of flies and finally settle on an ant that duped such a splendid fish.

But two pockets remained. I thoroughly dried the ant and took a few steps downstream to get a better position for casts across to the angled riffle on the north bank. I began with three drifts through the lanes closest to me, and then I dropped a cast that floated along the far side of a small seam. In a flash a brown trout appeared from the edge of the current, and it too had an appetite for ants. I raised the rod firmly, and the brown trout thrashed and dove and executed a variety of futile head shakes and rolls, until it grew weary and surrendered to my net. What a thrill to revisit the scene of three refusals and then hoodwink two better than average Arkansas River residents!

By now it was one o’clock, and I was perched on five landed fish. The catch rate was fairly typical, but the average size of the fish was very satisfying. Unfortunately I was unable to sustain the momentum of the first 2.5 hours over the remainder of the afternoon. The section of the river between my crossing point and the top of the island historically produced decent action, but on Tuesday I managed one thirteen inch brown trout that slurped the beetle. Another fish refused the beetle in a long riffle, and that was the extent of the action. I continued with the ant in the slower water along the north bank, and then I switched back to Jake’s gulp beetle for better visibility, as the water velocity increased. As mentioned the beetle produced number six and a refusal, and then it ceased to be a factor.

I spotted a handful of tiny blue winged olives, when an occasional cloud blocked the sun, so I added a RS2 on a dropper behind the beetle, but the ploy was ineffective. I suspected that the faster riffles and deeper runs required a larger fly to attract attention, and I responded with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph, but my theory was refuted. I exchanged the salvation for a size 18 soft hackle emerger to once again capitalize on possible subsurface blue winged olive nymph activity. It did not work. Toward the end of the afternoon period I reverted to a Jake’s gulp beetle and a parachute hopper with a hares ear body, but these offerings were similarly avoided.

At 3:30 I reached the crossing point, and I was weary and bored from the lack of action, so I returned to the car and quit for the day. Originally I considered staying in a hotel in Salida in order to leverage the long drive and fish a second day, but the frustrating afternoon sealed my decision to make the return trip to Denver.

I landed six quality fish in five hours of fishing. The netted fish included two excellent rainbow trout that measured fifteen and sixteen inches. All the brown trout fell in the twelve to fifteen inch range, and they were likewise very respectable fish. Had the afternoon success mirrored the first 2.5 hours, I would have remained for a second day, but the late fishing drought was fresh in my memory, and I could not envision myself on the Arkansas River for another day. The constantly gusting wind and the associated chill were also factors in my decision. I continue to search for the magic of the Arkansas River in 2017.

Fish Landed: 6

South Platte River – 09/23/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 09/23/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Outstanding September fly fishing continued on Saturday, September 23, as 2017 evolved into another banner year. One ingredient missing from my life over the last five years was the presence of my son, Dan, and daughter, Amy, as they lived in distant locations that necessitated infrequent visits. One half of this situation self corrected at the end of August, when my son and his girlfriend moved back to Colorado.

Shortly after Dan’s arrival in Denver, we scheduled a fly fishing weekend. The original plan consisted of two days of fly fishing and one night of camping on the weekend of September 23 and 24. As the long anticipated days approached, however, the weather forecast deteriorated. Rain was predicted to move into Colorado late on Saturday afternoon and then continue through the night and into Sunday morning. Making the scenario even more adverse was the forecast high of 51 degrees on Sunday. Dan and I conferred and decided to adjust our plan to a single day of fly fishing on Saturday. Cool temperatures and overcast skies on Saturday prior to the rain actually sounded very conducive to excellent fly fishing.

On Saturday morning at 11AM Dan and I found ourselves next to a beautiful section of the South Platte River. The temperature was in the upper fifties, but bright sunshine dominated large gray clouds for the first three hours of fishing. We were both prepared with an extra layer and rain gear in case the late afternoon showers became a reality. I selected my Sage four weight rod, and I began my day with a tan pool toy hopper and a beadhead hares ear nymph. Dan, meanwhile, waded to the eastern side of the river, and he began with the same lineup of flies.

We fished in parallel for the first two hours, as we slowly migrated upstream, and we had a blast. I scooped fourteen trout into my net, before we took a break to eat our lunches. Dan’s catch rate was a bit lower, but he landed eight respectable fish including quite a few very nice rainbows in the thirteen inch range. Initially I fished with a single dropper, the hares ear, but after twenty minutes I added an ultra zug bug as the second dropper. During the first half of the period prior to lunch, the hares ear was the hot fly despite being in the less advantageous upper position. As the day progressed, however, the ultra zug bug seemed to produce more fish, and prior to lunch I replaced the hares ear with a salvation nymph and shifted the ultra zug bug to the top position.

This nymph combination was the mainstay of my lineup for most of the remainder of the day, although I experimented with an emerald caddis pupa and RS2 for short intervals. After lunch the salvation nymph went on a hot streak, as it tempted fish on dead drifts, and also as it began to swing at the end of long passes through attractive runs and slots. For the final fifteen minutes I removed the dry/dropper system and knotted a size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. The beetle continued to impress me with its late season effectiveness, as two brown trout slurped it, after I plopped the foam terrestrial in two relatively shallow slow moving pockets along the bank. The first beetle eater was a thirteen inch brown trout that may have been my best brown of the day. At one point during the afternoon I lost all three flies, when a hooked fish crossed lines with Dan’s. The necessity to rig anew caused me to replace the pool toy with a size 8 Chernboyl ant, and the foam attractor accounted for one medium sized fish.

Dan stuck with his hopper/dropper setup throughout the day, and he enjoyed a solid streak of landed fish over the last hour. Although Dan’s fish count was somewhat below mine, he seemed to land larger fish on average as well as more rainbow trout. He began the day with a pool toy, but lost it to a rock or branch and replaced it with a size 8 Charlie boy hopper. The Charlie boy became saturated, and the deer hair wing was matted, so I gave him a yellow fat Albert. The bright color and improved buoyancy really seemed to elevate his fish catching game.

Large clear smooth pools proved to be very challenging, as were deep holes. Our most dependable structures were runs, riffles and pockets of moderate depth. I was surprised to land quite a few relatively large brown trout from shallow pockets near the right bank. By the end of the day my fish count mounted to twenty-six, and it included five rainbow trout with the remainder identifiable as brown trout. Dan estimated his final tally at eighteen.

At four o’clock light rain commenced so we quickly pulled on our raincoats and returned to the car. As predicted the rain intensified, and it was accompanied by thunder and lightning, and we were relieved to reach the car safely. The heavy rain and drop in temperature vindicated our decision to reduce the fishing trip from two days to one.

Saturday developed into perhaps my favorite day of 2017. The fish count and size of fish were a nice bonus, but being able to spend a day fishing with my newly returned son was the true reason for my satisfaction. We never encountered another fisherman, and we occupied a gorgeous remote setting. I treasure days like Saturday, and I hope that a few more are in my near term future.

Fish Landed: 26

South Boulder Creek – 09/21/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/21/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

I aborted my camping and fishing trip to the Bear River area on Wednesday after four frustrating hours resulted in eight small trout landed. I returned home on Wednesday evening and unpacked all my unused camping gear. I did not, however, unpack my fishing gear, since I now gained a day that could be utilized on a local stream. It did not take much thought to decide to return to South Boulder Creek, the scene of a fabulous day of fishing on Tuesday. The only hindrance to my return was the possibility of an unexpected change in flows from the dam, but when I displayed the DWR web site, 13 CFS appeared behind South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. This was 2 CFS lower than Tuesday, and I concluded that the stream fishing conditions would be comparable.

The high temperature in Denver for Thursday was projected to reach 87 degrees, and based on this projection I estimated that the air temperature would peak in the canyon in the upper seventies. This was also comparable to the weather during my visit on Tuesday. After I unloaded the camping gear from the car, I reorganized my fishing equipment, and I departed the house a bit after 8AM. After a stop to refuel I was on the road by 8:30, and despite some rush hour traffic snarls, I pulled into the upper parking lot by 9:45. I was the first car in the parking area, so I anxiously pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access rod and began my descent of the steep path to the stream by 10:06. The temperature was in the low sixties, and it was obvious that the first day of autumn was going to be gorgeous.

As usual I hiked a good distance downstream, before I cut to the water. I was so confident that Jake’s gulp beetle would be the preferred fly of the resident trout, that I knotted a size 12 to my line in the parking lot. I unhooked it from the rod guide and anxiously lobbed a couple casts to some small marginal pockets, and a pair of refusals signaled that Thursday might be more challenging than Tuesday. After ten minutes of optimistic casting with no results, I paused and evaluated my options. A spectacular wide smooth pool was located just above my position, and I was certain that it contained several trout. I decided to swap the beetle for another terrestrial, a size 18 black parachute ant. The tiny fly would be visible in the smooth water, and I could flutter it down with a delicate cast.

Before launching a cast to the upstream pool, however, I decided to make a few casts to a nice wide pool and run directly across from me. My third lob fluttered the ant down within a couple feet of the bank, and after it moved a short distance, the bulge of a gulp appeared. I lifted the rod tip and set the hook, and the recipient of the prick streaked upstream and then down. I allowed line to zing from my reel, as the energetic ant sipper registered a few more spurts, and then I gained the upper hand and lifted a spectacular thirteen inch rainbow trout into my net. What a start to my day on South Boulder Creek!

After I snapped a few photos, I turned my attention to the beckoning pool above me. I surveyed the water and spotted a decent trout fining in the current twenty-five feet upstream. I stripped out a large amount of line and executed some false casts to the right, so I would not spook my target with overhead line movement. When I felt I had the correct distance, I shot a cast and checked my rod high, so that the ant fluttered to the surface softly five feet above the sighted fish. I held my breath as the ant slowly drifted three inches to the left of the fish, and then the trout turned and elevated and sipped the terrestrial. It was a text book case of sight fishing and casting accuracy, and I was rewarded with a feisty wild eleven inch brown trout.

I continued my upstream movement and landed two more brown trout on the ant, but then I approached some faster water and deep pockets, and the ant was increasingly difficult to track in the swirling currents. I decided to revert to Jake’s gulp beetle, and the change paid off in a big way. Over the remainder of the first hour I landed five additional trout on the size 12 beetle to move the count to nine, before I paused on a small gravel beach to eat my lunch. Lunch was actually a highlight of the day. The strong sunlight bathed the area in warmth, and I gazed upstream and marveled at the beauty around me. South Boulder Creek tumbled over large boulders, and the small lower level deciduous trees and bushes displayed yellow and faded green colors. Higher up sparse stands of evergreens adorned the arid and rocky canyon walls. I soaked up the sun and took some deep breaths and reveled in my good fortune to be alive in this beautiful place.

After lunch I continued prospecting with Jake’s gulp beetle and built the fish count to twenty-four. At one point during this run, I endured a spate of refusals to the beetle, so I once again knotted the parachute ant to my line, and the move resulted in a couple landed fish. As was the case earlier, however, the characteristics of the stream changed to faster pocket water, and I returned to the beetle. In summary during the morning and early afternoon I landed six trout on a parachute ant and eighteen on the beetle.

By 1:30 I was curious whether a green drake would interest the stream dwellers. It accounted for quite a few fish on Tuesday, so why not experiment with it again on Thursday? The beetle was exchanged for a size 14 ribbed green drake comparadun. Unlike Tuesday, however, the trout did not charge to the surface to inhale my green drake imitation. I did land three fish, but far more fish elevated and inspected the large western green drake and then returned to their holding position. Either I educated the trout on Tuesday, or the green drake hatch was finally fading from their memories.

Once I determined that the green drake was not going to perform to the high standards set on my previous visit, I swapped it for a size 16 light gray comparadun. I observed some smaller mayflies in the air, and clearly the fish were looking up for their meals. Most of the naturals were tiny blue winged olives, but I also spotted some larger mayflies in the mix. My hunch was spot on, and twelve South Boulder Creek residents grabbed the comparadun to raise the fish count to thirty-nine. The comparadun was much more difficult to follow than the huge green drake and the beetle with a bright orange indicator strip, but the trout seemed to recognize it rather easily. I positioned myself for each target area to take advantage of the best light, and this aided my ability to track the fly. I actually cycled through several pale morning comparaduns during this period, as the wear and tear of catching and releasing fish destroyed several models.

Between 3:30 and 4:00 I encountered a series of very deep pockets among very large exposed boulders. Suddenly a smorgasbord of insects appeared including blue winged olives, caddis, tiny yellow and gray stoneflies, and a solitary green drake. The green drake was the only cue I needed, and I knotted the same size 14 comparadun to my line, that I featured earlier. Once again the change was a winner, and I landed three additional trout from the edges of the small deep pockets to finish the day at forty-two.

It was another amazing day on South Boulder Creek. The weather was perfect, and the low flows concentrated the fish in the reduced volume of water. I fished dry flies all day, and achieved success with a variety of offerings. Of course most of the fish were in the typical 7-11 inch range, however, I also netted quite a few chunky twelve and thirteen inch beauties. Only four of the total were rainbows, but two of these were my best fish of the day, as they measured close to fourteen inches. I estimate that at least ten of my catch were husky twelve inch brown trout, and that represents a very nice size for South Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 42

Bear River – 09/20/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Along CO 900 between Yampa and Yamcolo Reservoir

Bear River 09/20/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

In late August 2016 I enjoyed two solid days of fly fishing on the Bear River in the southeastern Flattops. I anxiously anticipated another visit, and Wednesday, September 20 was that day. I packed the car with my fishing and camping gear and planned to fish on Wednesday and then camp on Wednesday night at Bear Lake Campground. Another day of fishing on Bear River was scheduled for Thursday, and then Jane would meet me in the town of Yampa, and we anticipated a second night of camping followed by a hike in the nearby Flattops. That was the plan.

Unfortunately Jane committed to a tennis time on Friday morning, and she was struggling to find a substitute. I packed the camping gear under the assumption that she would find a replacement. Another unanticipated impediment to our plan was a cold front that swept through Colorado, and the forecast overnight low for Wednesday night was in the upper thirties.

Despite these drawbacks I packed the car and managed to embark on my journey by 8:20 on Wednesday morning. This departure time enabled me to pull into a small pullout at the Bear River downstream national forest boundary by noon, and after a quick lunch I jumped into my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight rod. The air temperature hovered in the upper fifties, so I pulled on my long sleeve Columbia undershirt as well as a fleece. Recurring strong gusts of wind caused the aspen leaves to shimmer, and my extra layers were designed to offset the wind chill.

The DWR web site reported flows of 18 CFS below Bear Lake, however, when I approached the water, the velocity seemed greater. The stream where I began was high gradient, and this may have created the illusion of higher flows, but the creek emerges from Yamcolo Reservoir and not Bear Lake, and perhaps the releases from the two impoundments were different. At any rate the rushing water and severe gradient created a difficult fly fishing challenge. Attractive holding spots for trout were scarce, and dense streamside vegetation forced me to constantly wade against the swift current.

I began fishing with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the workhorse terrestrial created several looks and two long distance releases, but I covered a significant amount of water in order to register these unfulfilling bits of action. I was dissatisfied with the performance of the beetle, so I cycled through a series of fly changes. The beetle was followed with a dry/dropper featuring a hopper Juan on top and trailed an ultra zug bug. The hopper created some splashy refusals, and the dropper was soundly ignored. I unexpectedly lost both these flies to a perplexing bad knot, so I replaced them with a tan pool toy, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. I fully expected my standard offering to be irresistible, but instead I merely exercised my arm for thirty minutes.

I pondered the situation and recalled that the beetle and hopper Juan at least created interest, whereas, the nymphs were ignored. Evidently I needed to identify a dry fly that the trout recognized as food. I pulled a size 12 olive stimulator from my fly box, and this fly actually delivered three trout that exceeded my minimum length threshold. One of the stimulator chompers was a ten inch brook trout, and I followed that catch up with a rainbow trout and brown trout. In 3.5 hours of fishing I managed to land four trout, but I was one away from accomplishing the grand slam. A pure cutthroat is the most difficult prong of the grand slam to achieve, and on Wednesday I did not succeed in steering one into my net.

By 3PM the stimulator suffered through an extended drought, and I was struggling to follow it through the alternating sunshine and shadows, so I reverted to a dry/dropper featuring a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. The shift paid dividends, as I landed four brown trout before I called it quits at 4:30. One brown snatched the ultra zug bug, and the other three nipped the salvation.

As I climbed a steep hill and hiked .5 mile back to the car, I could not contain my disappointment. I envisioned another day of tough wading and slow fishing for small trout on Thursday, so I resolved to camp one night and then hit the Colorado River at Pumphouse on Thursday. Since Jane was still searching for a tennis sub, I decided to drive back to Yampa, so I could utilize the free Wifi outside Penny’s Diner. I called Jane to inform her of the change in plans, and I expressed my aversion to spending a night in the cold. It was five o’clock when I spoke to her, and she suggested that I turn around and drive back home, where I could sleep in a cozy bed. It did not take long for me to warm up to the idea, and I made the three hour drive back to Denver in time for a late dinner.

Eight fish in four hours is an average catch rate, but the fish were quite small with the largest perhaps measuring eleven inches. More frustrating than the small size and the slow catch rate was the wading and casting difficulty. I experienced at least five or six hook ups with tree limbs during the day, and I lost four flies. The wind made casting in tight quarters exponentially more difficult; and errant casts, tangles and branches in my face were very exasperating. When I returned home, I pulled up my blog post from 8/24/2016 and read it. I registered a twenty fish day in the same stretch of the stream, and the average size exceeded my results on Wednesday. In 2016 I had success with a gray stimulator and a dry/dropper consisting of a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. The main differing variable compared to last year was the weather and time of year. If I return, I will fish the upper canyon closer to Yamcolo Reservoir. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Fish Landed: 8

South Boulder Creek – 09/19/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/19/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

I view South Boulder Creek as my home stream, and after days like today, it is also becoming my favorite. A tough day on Clear Creek on Monday delivered a major blow to my confidence, and I departed for South Boulder Creek knowing that flows were recently reduced to 15 CFS. I was not sure what to expect. Low flows often translate to wary skittish fish, stealthy approaches and long casts.

I arrived at the upper “kayak” parking lot by 9:45, and by the time I climbed into my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod and began my descent, it was a bit after 10AM. The weather was spectacular, as the temperature hovered in the low sixties when I began my hike. Very few clouds interfered with the warm solar energy generated by the sun, and I suspect the high temperature climbed to the upper seventies during the afternoon. I was very comfortable during my day on the creek with a long sleeved fishing shirt.

Two other vehicles preceded me to the parking lot, so I hiked a good distance downstream, before I began my pursuit of cold water fish. As I strode along the path, I pondered what flies to try and quickly narrowed my options to a beetle, ant, small caddis, pale morning dun and green drake. I was skeptical that green drakes were still present, but my experience told me that trout have long memories, when it comes to western green drakes.

When I finally waded into the river, I led with a Jake’s gulp beetle, however, the fish in the first hour were blind to the size 12 plopping terrestrial. I segued to a size 18 caddis, and it generated a couple looks, but the fish could not pull the trigger and eat it. I looked in one of my fly boxes and noticed an assortment of terrestrials that I purchased in Viroqua, WI; and I decided to try a hippy stomper. This oddly named fly had a silver body, and it was constructed from foam, but it was not as large as the Jake’s gulp beetle that I tested earlier. Voila! The hippy stomper lit up the fish catch scoreboard, as I landed four brown trout in the ten to twelve inch range in a short amount of time.

Just as I gained confidence in my new offering, it ceased to attract trout, so after a lull I exchanged it for a narrow beetle imitation with a hard shiny metallic body. I was skeptical that this fly would float, but I gave it a try anyway, and on the fifth drift as I lifted to make another cast, a small brown trout latched on to the disco ant. That is my name, since I do not know the official name of the fly. I made a few more casts after I released the brown, but I quickly lost confidence in a fly, that I could not see, so I went back to the Driftless terrestrial collection and knotted a small size sixteen foam beetle with a peacock body to my line.

The small beetle was also difficult to follow, but the fish seemed to see it just fine, and I landed three more brown trout to boost the fish counter to eight. At this point I reached an area with several nice flat rocks, and it was approaching noon, so I chose to make the spot my cafeteria. My attitude performed a one hundred and eighty degree reversal from Monday, when I pouted over a potential skunking, as I downed my sandwich.

After lunch I continued my upstream migration, but again I lost confidence in the miniature beetle, since I was unable to track it in shadows and glare. I was certain that the fish were opportunistically feeding on random terrestrials, so I decided to give Jake’s gulp beetle another try. Perhaps the water temperature was not yet in the ideal range for eating when I began at eleven o’clock. I surveyed my fly box and plucked a size 12 beetle from its slot and attached it to my line. This beetle had a peacock dubbed body, and it was one size smaller than the earlier version.

My hunch was spot on, and Jake’s gulp beetle became a popular fake source of protein for the South Boulder Creek trout. I plopped it in every likely nook large or small, and I was amazed that fish materialized from small nondescript pockets on a frequent basis. The best places were wide riffles of moderate depth, but small pockets and deep runs between large rocks also produced. The fish count skied from eight to twenty-four on the back of Jake’s gulp beetle, and I was in a state of euphoria. How could two days of fishing be so different? The size 12 beetle lost one set of legs, but the fish did not seem to discriminate against a two legged beetle, and in fact seemed to prefer it. A natural beetle possesses six legs, so even the original version was not biologically accurate.

When the fish count paused at twenty-four, I spotted a couple large mayflies, as they slowly fluttered up from the stream. Could they be green drakes? In addition to the large drakes, there was a flurry of blue winged olives and a smattering of pale morning duns. I decided to go big, and I tied a size 14 2XL green drake comparadun with a maroon ribbed body to my line. The reaction from the South Boulder Creek trout was gratifying. Fish moved several feet to savor my fake green drake, and they inhaled it with confidence. I observed one brown trout, as it looked at the fly, decided to pass it up, and then reversed its decision and raced downstream for four feet and snatched the fraud just before it skated over the lip of the pool. I love the feeling of confidence that arises from selecting a fly that fish crush repeatedly without hesitation.

Needless to say I was on to something, and the fish counter rocketed from twenty-four to forty, while the green drake comparaduns occupied a place on the end of my leader. I used the plural of comparadun, because I snapped two off in the mouths of fish during this exciting period. By 2:45 I encountered a gorgeous wide smooth pool, and I was certain that quite a few trout inhabited the neighborhood. Unfortunately they were not fans of the comparadun, yet several fish revealed their whereabouts with subtle rises. I observed smaller mayflies in the air, so I removed the drake and replaced it with a size sixteen light gray comparadun. This fly is my favorite pale morning dun imitation.

The small comparadun required more focus to follow in the riffles, but I added three browns to the count that were fooled by the money fly. After this bit of success, however, a longer than normal lull developed, and I grew impatient with the pale morning dun imitation and switched back to a Jake’s gulp beetle. The beetle was not the hot commodity that enticed fish earlier in the afternoon, but it did account for two more brown trout to ratchet the count to forty-five. During the third beetle period, quite a few small blue winged olives made an appearance, so I added a RS2 on a dropper, but the trailing nymph never connected with a trout.

As the sun angled toward the western horizon, the shadows extended over much of the stream, and I decided to end my quest for South Boulder Creek residents. On my return hike I approached a quality pool and noticed a rise, so I paused and attempted to dupe yet another fish. I removed the beetle and RS2 and knotted the light gray comparadun to my line, and on my third cast a spunky rainbow trout slurped the PMD imitation. Again I found the trail and continued, until I reached the pedestrian bridge.

Before crossing the bridge, I gazed at the downstream pool, and I was quickly captivated by a thirteen inch fish, as it held a foot below the surface in a small depression near the bottom of the pool. I scrambled down some rocks to make a few final casts to the target, but then I saw another fisherman directly under the bridge. I quickly apologized, but he invited me to make some casts, as he said he was about to leave. After exchanging information about our days on the stream, I backhanded a cast to the middle of the pool, and a small seven inch rainbow darted to the surface and consumed the PMD. I continued with some additional casts to other positions in the pool, but the sighted fish ignored my offering.

I learned that my new companion’s name was Channing, and after I showed him the beetle that produced earlier, he tied one to his line and drifted it through the gut of the pool, but the selective bridge pool dwellers were not interested. I spotted a small black stonefly and commented on it to Channing, and he replied that they were all over the place. I opened my fly box and pulled out a size 18 black stonefly, that I tied for October and November and offered it to him. He accepted, and as I looked on, he made some drifts with the small stonefly, but it was not popular on Tuesday, September 19. I said goodbye and completed the remainder of my hike to the parking lot.

Tuesday was probably my best ever day on South Boulder Creek. The fish were hungry and responded to my fly choices throughout the day. The lingering effectiveness of green drakes on the small local tailwater was a nice discovery.

Fish Landed: 47

 

 

Clear Creek – 09/18/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 09/18/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

I knew that my first post-Flattops outing would face a difficult comparison, but Monday felt extraordinarily challenging. For awhile I feared that I would not land a single fish. The weather was very summer-like, as the high temperature hovered in the upper 70’s in Clear Creek Canyon. I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and ambled down the highway a bit, before I slowly negotiated an angled path to the creek.

I began casting with a Jake’s gulp beetle, but it failed to attract interest, so I swapped it for a light gray size 10 parachute hopper. The grasshopper yielded two inspections, but no takes, so I added a dropper and attached an ultra zug bug. Apparently nymphs were not on the menu, and the parachute hopper adopted a waterlogged state, so I switched to a red fat Albert leading an ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear. Generally these nymphs are money in the bank, but on Monday they produced only unmolested drifts.

While I was in a state of frustration, I found a nice large rock in the sun and munched my lunch. After lunch I continued with the dry/dropper for a while longer, but one cursory look at the red body fat Albert was all I could muster. My ability to land trout was entering crisis mode.

At 12:30 I reached a place, where I attempted to step into the creek to position myself for some across and down drifts to some slack water along the opposite shoreline. I led with my left foot, but it inexplicably continued sliding down an angled rock until cold water spilled over the top of my waders. I never really fell; I just slid into a deep hole! This dose of misfortune nearly caused me to quit, but some distorted sense of purpose motivated me to press on for another 2.5 hours. I despise the feeling of sloshing water, but that was the sensation that accompanied me for the remainder of my time on Clear Creek.

My confidence was at a low ebb, and my wet core caused me to question why I ever returned to Clear Creek. The fish were small and difficult to catch, and the large smooth rocks made wading a risky proposition. On this warm day in September I could not land a single fish. In an effort to pull out of my funk, I shifted my approach. Jake’s gulp beetle proved its effectiveness many times on Clear Creek, so I removed the dry/dropper flies and returned to the size 10 beetle. I found a place to cross to the opposite side with the hope of finding less pressured fish.

To a degree it worked. I landed a small brown on an across and down drift, and then I nabbed a skinny eleven inch brown trout from a deep midstream slot behind a submerged rock. Despite this hard earned success, the south side of the river was covered in shadows, and the lack of sunshine did not complement my saturated state. Before my chill progressed to shivers, I returned to the highway side of the creek and continued my upstream progression. Miraculously I built the fish count to six, and this included a rainbow and cutbow.

All six fish landed on Monday slurped the beetle, so the terrestrial was my savior on Clear Creek. By 2:30 I noticed a very sparse hatch of tiny blue winged olives, so I added a RS2 on a dropper, but the small nymph did not reward my confidence.

Clearly Monday was a subpar day of fishing. The Flattops comparison was unfortunate, but the outing was slow on a standalone basis as well. I plan to avoid Clear Creek for a bit, and when I return, I plan to explore a different section of the canyon.

Fish Landed: 6

North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2017

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Near North Fork Campground

North Fork of the White River 09/14/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

I concluded that the allure of the Flattops is its remoteness and its beauty largely unblemished by the hand of man. When I returned home from my 2017 Flattops trip, a family member asked how many other fishermen I encountered. I paused and did a mental rewind of my trip, and then I smiled and spoke the truth. None. There were numerous hunters and horses, but fishermen were absent from my chosen fishing destination.

As explained on Monday’s post, the area I planned to fish on the North Fork was off limits due to a wildfire, so I was forced to improvise once again. I was quite weary after completing two hike-in ventures on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I gave serious consideration to packing up the tent to execute an early return to home. However, I recalled the demanding drive required to arrive in the Flattops, and I came to the realization that Thursday was my last opportunity to capitalize on my perfect location in the stunning backcountry.

Monday afternoon evolved into an outstanding day on a stretch of the White River that I abandoned after a couple disappointing outings in previous years, so why not visit the rediscovered section and continue upstream from where I ended? This became my plan, and I am pleased to report that the day developed into a quality adventure.

I took my time on Thursday morning to pack up the camping gear, since I was positioned very close to my fishing destination for the day. By 9AM, however, the tent dew evaporated from the rain fly and footprint, and I could no longer contain my enthusiasm for another day on the White River. Not even the minor ache of a newly developed case of tennis elbow could delay my departure, and I arrived at a wide pullout next to the river ready to create yet another fly fishing adventure.

My Orvis Access four weight remained ready for action after a day on Marvine Creek, so after I pulled on my waders and stashed my lunch, I found a moderately steep path to the river and began casting. Wednesday’s flies remained on my line, and they were a tan size 8 Charlie boy hopper, an ultra zug bug and a salvation nymph. The two bottom nymphs remained in place throughout the day, but the Charlie boy began to attract an excess of refusals after lunch, so it was swapped for a tan pool toy.

I learned from Monday on the North Fork and Tuesday on the South Fork that casting to marginal pockets and shallow riffles was essentially of waste of time, so I moved quickly and stopped only at locations that were obvious fish magnets. Long deep slots and troughs were the number one producer along with extensive deep pockets. The water covered in the first hour was a replay of Monday afternoon, so I waded through this section very rapidly and only stopped to prospect two or three quality locations. The first of these was a fortuitous choice, as I extracted four very nice trout from a long deep trough. One of the four was a ten inch brook trout, and the others were two chunky fourteen inch rainbows along with a size twelve speckled and striped beauty.

A short distance above the productive slot, I tossed seven casts into a deep pocket that was eight feet long, and on the eighth drift the hopper dipped, and I quickly set the hook. Immediately I spotted a large hulking form, and I correctly concluded that a whitefish grabbed the salvation nymph. I managed to hoist the ponderous load into my net, and the silvery beast represented the largest whitefish of my life. It was approximately seventeen inches long, but its width and weight were the characteristics that elevated it to the top of my lifetime achievement chart.

The period between the whitefish and lunch did include a disappointing highlight. Shortly after releasing the whitefish, I tossed a couple casts into another deep slot below some large boulders, and the hopper took a sudden dive. I quickly raised the rod tip, and instantly I realized that I was connected to a special fish. The large object streaked downstream and then stopped in another smaller pocket across from me, and here I determined that it was a rainbow trout that easily measured eighteen inches. I held tight and began to reel up line, and then the reluctant fish shot upstream to the top of the deep trough where the battle began. I thought that the run was over, so I began to reel line, but the savvy foe made a sudden move, and broke off the salvation nymph. Needless to say, I was very disappointed for the next ten minutes.

The catch rate slowed over the remainder of the morning, but I managed to increase the fish count to seven, before I sat on a large rock to consume my lunch. The weather vacillated between overcast and cool and sunny and bright, but the former ruled the sky roughly 75% of the time. After lunch I pulled on my raincoat for added warmth, and I never regretted the move.

I continued the selective prospecting strategy for the remainder of the day, and the approach paid off, as the fish count climbed to twenty-six. Quite a few were spunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbow trout with a couple more fourteen inch beauties in the mix. My day ended with two nine inch brook trout nestled in my net.

By 2:30 I reached an area characterized by a long twenty yard run along the left bank. A shelf pool fanned out on the right side of the strong center current, and a narrow eight foot band of slower moving water was situated between the deep current and the left bank. I began casting at the very tail where the river spread out into a riffle that was three feet deep, and I landed a couple small rainbows. Next I shot some long casts to the very top of the slower water along the right side of the run, but this only yielded a refusal. My attention now shifted to the band of water along the left bank.

I began at the bottom where the current slowed, and I lofted a short cast within two feet of the bank and held my rod high while the three flies cruised along the shoreline. After a long drift the flies began to swing away from the bank, and at this instant an eleven inch rainbow snatched the salvation nymph. This same scenario played out a second time and once again resulted in an eleven inch bow. Could the technique work along the entire ribbon of water between the heavy run and the bank? It sure did. Six additional fish landed in my net, as I slowly migrated upstream and executed the across and down maneuver. Every fish grabbed one of the nymphs, as they began to swing away from the bank, and these were not small fish. All except one were in the twelve to thirteen inch range along with one of the fourteen inch prizes. In addition I endured at least four long distance releases when a fish latched on to a nymph for a fraction of a second and then twisted free of the pointy annoyance.

Of course this Thursday highlight film of fish catching was not perfect. On one long drift I felt a strong tug as the nymphs began to swing, and I responded with a swift downstream and across hook set. Instantly a heavy force made a twist and thrashed violently to the surface. I held tight as the rainbow shot into the heavy current and then crossed until it was directly below me. It paused, and this was the signal I needed to begin reeling, but in that instant my line went limp. I stripped in the leader and discovered that all three flies were missing, and upon closer inspection I realized that a section of 4X leader broke where a wind knot previously existed. I noticed the wind knot earlier, but I was too lazy to cut back three sections of tippet to rebuild my line. It was a tough way to learn that wind knots weaken a line.

What a surprisingly successful day it was on the North Fork of the White River! The scenery was spectacular, and I relished the solitude that I crave. The world consisted of me and my thoughts, as I focused on how to land wild Flattops trout. The weather was cool, and a small sampling of leaves shifted from green to light yellow. I learned that White River rainbow trout prefer a certain type of water, and I took advantage of this knowledge to land twenty-six wild hard fighting fish. Difficulty accessing this wilderness preserves its special quality, but it also makes me cherish the rare opportunities to visit.

Fish Landed: 26

Marvine Creek – 09/13/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Along the Marvine Creek Trail

Marvine Creek 09/13/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Given the closure of the North Fork near Himes Peak, I decided to try new water on Wednesday. Hiking into the South Fork again was an option, but I quickly eliminated it, as I was not willing to undertake back to back strenuous hikes. I was saving the section of the North Fork, that I fished on Monday for Thursday, since it was along my return route and close to my new campground. I relocated to the North Fork Campground on Tuesday evening after returning from my trek into South Fork canyon.

I read on several sources that Marvine Creek was an interesting small stream with plentiful brook trout and the occasional larger rainbow. This description appealed to my love of high mountain small stream fishing, so I decided to explore new water.

It was in the low sixties when I began hiking at 9:45 on Wednesday morning from the Marvine Creek trailhead. At first I thought I was at the Denver stock show, as the dirt parking lot was nearly full with vehicles and trailers. Several outfitters arranged makeshift corrals along the east side, and the arched metal entrance gates displayed their names. One wrangler was exercising his horse by trotting around the parking lot, and he extended a friendly greeting to me as he passed by. Eventually I learned that all the trucks and cars belonged to hunters and outfitters, as I never encountered another fisherman during my day on the stream.

I selected my Orvis Access four weight once again, as it remained strung with a light yellow pool toy, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph; and the light shorter rod was perfect for small stream fishing. I decided to hike roughly a mile in order to get away from the trailhead and campground, since fishermen never seem to stray too far from their cars and trucks.

After twenty-five minutes I descended from the trail high above a deep canyon section, and here I began my search for Marvine Creek trout. On the return hike I timed the length of the canyon stretch, and I estimated it to be .3 mile. My future to do list includes fishing through this section, as I suspect the typical fisherman avoids it. The area where I commenced fishing was a meadow, and I covered it early in the day while skipping many wide shallow riffle sectors. Between 10:30 and my lunch break at noon I landed ten fish, and I was feeling rather optimistic about my choice of destination. The early going included four rainbows, and the remainder were brook trout.

The ratio of brook trout to rainbows would shift dramatically in favor of brookies after lunch. During the day I landed thirty-three trout, and I estimated that ten were rainbows, and the remainder char. On average the rainbows were larger than the brook trout, although the top fish in length was no more than thirteen inches. Wednesday was simply a day of prospecting and moving and catching small trout in a gorgeous backcountry setting.

The brook trout were splendid in their fall spawning colors with deep orange breasts and iridescent spotted bodies. I negotiated through two narrow canyon areas, and while the wading was a challenge and finding decent holding water was difficult, it seemed that my catch rate accelerated. After lunch I suffered a longer than normal lull, and this prompted me to switch to a size fourteen gray stimulator. The attractor dry yielded one fish and numerous refusals, so I converted to a Jake’s gulp beetle. Terrestrials seem to be very popular with high mountain stream inhabitants. In this case, however, the beetle was a flop and failed to generate even a look.

I returned to the offering that worked earlier, but substituted a size ten Charlie boy hopper for the one legged pool toy. Instead of the standard ultra zug bug and salvation nymph, I attached an emerald caddis pupa. The hopper choice created some action, but the pupa was ineffective, and I reverted to the morning nymph lineup, with an ultra zug bug and salvation nymph making a repeat appearance. The two subsurface flies once again paid their way, as three out of every four fish inhaled the salvation. The two workhorse flies were so popular that they partially unraveled after repeated toothy attacks. This was not a problem, however, as I simply replaced them with one of the many backups in my fly box.

In the last 1.5 hours I discovered that the brook trout favored the riffles in Marvine Creek, and I dramatically boosted the fish count, as brookie after brookie slashed the trailing nymphs while they tumbled through two foot deep riffles.

What a fun day! Thirty-three fish were netted in a newly discovered stream in the Flattops. Once again the scenery was superb, the solitude was perfect, and I lost myself in the simple challenge of catching gullible mountain trout. The weather was a bit imperfect, as a storm cloud gathered overhead just as I began my return hike, but I was prepared with my raincoat, and the precipitation did not affect my day. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to return and explore more of Marvine Creek in the near future.

Fish Landed: 33

 

 

South Fork of the White River – 09/12/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Along the South Fork Trail upstream from the campground.

South Fork of the White River 09/12/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

After spending the night camping at the South Fork Campground, I packed up my tent and camping gear and prepared to make the hike into South Fork Canyon. A day of remote fishing on the South Fork has become a standard event for me during the last three or four years. 2016 was a bit of a disappointment, but with the closure of the upper North Fork, I decided to give it another chance in 2017.

For some reason the campground and parking area did not seem as busy with hunters and horses as in previous years, although a group of camouflage clad individuals huddled at the trailhead and greeted me, as I began my trek. They asked about the fishing, and I told them that I enjoyed decent success in past years. I did not wish to divulge too much information to strangers. I carried my Orvis Access four weight, as it remained assembled from my day of fishing on Monday.

Recent rain caused the trail to contain frequent muddy spots, and hoofprints and horse excrement offered proof that hunters on horseback traveled the route quite frequently. The temperature was probably in the low fifties when I began, but I did not wear additional layers, since I knew from past experience, that I would overheat quickly. As was the case in the 2016, I hiked for an hour, before I cut down to the river in an open meadow area. I began my efforts to attract South Fork trout with a tan three-legged pool toy, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph; and I picked up a few small fish in the morning before breaking for lunch at 11:45. By lunch time my fish count mounted to four trout, with three consuming the salvation and one latching on to the ultra zug bug.

The action escalated in the afternoon, and I added twenty-three trout to the fish tally. The compilation included one fourteen inch rainbow, three rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and a bunch of feisty rainbows/cutbows in the six to eleven inch spectrum. I applied my knowledge from past trips, and this guided me to be selective and directed my casts to deep pockets and runs. Prior years taught me that fishing marginal pockets and riffles was largely a waste of time and energy. The selectivity caused me to log significant wading, as I skipped vast stretches of water. If I return in the future, I hope to implement a strategy of focusing on sections where the river bed narrows. These locales offered more deep pockets and the type of structure that delivered fish.

The weather was very pleasant for the second week in September. I wore only a fishing shirt for the entire day and never considered adding a layer.The high temperature probably peaked in the upper sixties for much of the afternoon. The flows were quite nice and a bit higher than normal, but this was probably beneficial for the fish and enabled me to make closer approaches than was possible during years of lower volume.

At one point I lost all three flies to a bad knot, and I followed up with a size 10 tan Charlie boy hopper with black legs. It was worth a try, but the small hopper did not entice fish, and it did not float two beadhead nymphs very well, so I reverted to a pool toy with a light yellow body for the remainder of the afternoon.

As I hiked back to the parking lot at the end of the day, I stopped just above the pedestrian bridge to rinse off my wading boots. I scanned the river and noticed two attractive deep narrow slots fifteen feet across from me. I decided to test the river close to the campground and unhooked my flies and lobbed a cast to the nearest narrow slack water area. Instantly a small trout bolted to the surface and inhaled the pool toy. When I brought the aggressive feeder to my net, I was shocked to learn that I caught a brown trout on the South Fork. This represented the first brown trout that I caught on either the North Fork or South Fork in my many years of fishing in the Flattops. Hopefully this is not a leading indicator that brown trout are migrating upstream on the White River and displacing rainbows and cutthroats.

Tuesday was a fun day with fairly consistent action throughout my time on the river. In 2014 and 2015 I experienced torrid action in the late afternoon, and for some reason I have been unable to replicate those experiences in 2016 and 2017. My only explanation is that the weather has been warmer and not as favorable to fall insect activity from blue winged olives and caddis. The hot action during the late afternoon in 2104 and 2015 also yielded some larger than average rainbows, so I was a bit disappointed with the size of the trout on Tuesday, September 12.

Despite these small shortcomings I was in a remote setting with no other fishermen to contend with, and it was a pleasant day in the Rocky Mountains. I landed twenty-seven beautiful wild fish and created new memories to carry me over to another year. No more complaints from this happy fisherman.

Fish Landed: 27