Frying Pan River – 10/26/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Within one mile of Reudi Dam.

Frying Pan River 10/26/2017 Photo Album

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I reviewed the stream flows on other rivers within a reasonable driving distance from Bachelor Gulch, and I discovered that the Frying Pan River was trickling out of Reudi Reservoir at 81 CFS. Another possibility was the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir, and the DWR site reported flows there of 41 CFS. I never fished the Frying Pan at volumes below 100 CFS, so I browsed the Taylor Creek web site. The report indicated that pale morning duns and blue winged olives were emerging, and this convinced me to make the tailwater east of Basalt, CO my fishing destination on October 26.

I asked my fishing companion of Wednesday, Todd, whether he cared to join, and he enthusiastically agreed and volunteered to drive. Todd picked me up at the Timbers at Bachelor Gulch on Thursday morning at 8:30AM, and we completed the drive to the upper one mile section below Reudi Dam by 10:15. The temperature was around fifty degrees when we began casting our flies at 10:30, and it never climbed above 55 during our day on the river. Intermittent gusts of strong wind made casting difficult especially during the afternoon. The flows were indeed lower than I ever witnessed at 88 CFS, and a constant stream of green scum attacked our fly lines and flies throughout the day. Removing the green algae with cold hands was an annoyance that we could have done without.

Todd parked his Denali at the parking lot next to a bathroom and picnic area below the dam, and we began fishing in a long slow moving pool. I knotted a stimulator with a tan body to my line, and then I added a dropper with a zebra midge. I noticed three splashy rises in the early going, but I covered the entire pool without a look, refusal or take. Upon completion of the pool search, I reversed my course and prospected some runs and pockets of moderate depth, but again my efforts were futile. Todd returned from his pursuit in some flats upstream and reported a similar lack of success, so we drove downstream and parked by the first bridge below the dam.

It was now 11:30, and I flicked a few casts in a short deep run above the bridge, but again I was not rewarded for my persistence. Todd positioned himself at the bottom of the large pool just above the bridge, and I decided to explore some long pockets along the left bank and just above the pool that Todd was prospecting. I crossed the bridge and walked up the dirt road to my new target area. After a few ineffective casts of the stimulator, I decided to shift gears; and I moved to a Chernobyl ant, beadhead salvation nymph, and a RS2. The conversion paid off when an eight inch brown trout nipped the RS2, and a fourteen inch rainbow snatched the salvation. Both trout grabbed my flies deep in the V where two currents merged. In the next pool above the V run I nicked a fish, as it probably latched on to the RS2. After connecting with a pair of fish I was more optimistic about my day, as I returned to the car, and then Todd and I consumed our lunches.

After lunch I decided to explore the left side of the large pool that Todd sampled before lunch. When I approached the narrow shelf pool along the left bank, I observed three nice trout along the strong current seam eight feet away. Two fish elevated to inspect the Chernobyl, but they would not commit to eat. After ten minutes of fruitless casting, I spotted numerous rises throughout the wide pool. I took the plunge and replaced the dry/dropper with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive, the same fly that helped me record a spectacular day on the Eagle River on Wednesday. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast various sizes of CDC BWO’s to rising fish; and the best I could manage was one foul hooked rainbow, a couple temporary hook ups, and a bunch of refusals.

In addition to the CDC BWO I mixed in four different colors and sizes of caddis, a size 20 soft hackle emerger, and a Jake’s gulp beetle. The baetis hatch came in waves. When the clouds blocked the sun, BWO’s emerged, and a flurry of fish activity ensued. The return of sunshine and strong gusts of wind caused a suspension of the emergence. It appeared to Todd and I that the trout were snatching emergers just below the surface. I watched many dorsal fins break the surface, and frequently the sides of fish flashed, as they shifted to intercept an emerger.

By 3:30 some gray clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped, the wind acceleratied, and the surface rises ceased. This combination of conditions motivated us to reel up our lines, as we called it a day. Thursday was a disappointment, although we were fortunate to encounter a steady hatch of baetis for at least three hours. We had our opportunity but could not solve the puzzle and convert the presence of a large number of feeding fish into success. This experience has me contemplating tying blue winged olive emerger patterns this winter.

Fish Landed: 2

Eagle River – 10/25/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Edwards and Avon

Eagle River 10/25/2017 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.

Jane’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law graciously offered us use of their time share unit in the Timbers Resort at Bachelor Gulch for the week of October 21 through October 28. As expected we jumped at the opportunity to stay at this luxury resort next to the Ritz Carlton near Beaver Creek Ski Area. Early in the week Jane and I participated in hiking and cycling activities with our friends the Maddox’s, and on Tuesday I earned spouse points by hiking the Game Creek Trail with Jane. Actually the trek was very enjoyable, and we reached the western end of the Eagle’s Nest Ridge, where we could see Game Creek Bowl and the start of the Minturn Mile ski trail.

Wednesday was my first of two allotted days for fly fishing, and fortunately the weather cooperated with the best conditions of the week. The high temperature in Avon was in the seventies, and I was quite pleased with this circumstance. Knowing that a day of fishing was on my schedule, I contacted my fishing friend Todd, who lives in Arrowhead, and he agreed to join me. We arranged to meet at the Fly Fishing Outfitters shop near Avon at 10AM, and the rendezvous occurred without a hitch.

Todd led the way, and I followed, and we both drove a short distance and parked and prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature hovered around 45 degrees, and we added a few layers; but Todd suggested a relatively early start, as the area was very popular with guides and their clients. I assembled my Sage four weight, and Todd waited patiently, since his rods remained perpetually strung due to the proximity of his house to the river. We followed a path for a short distance, and this brought us to the destination that Todd chose for our day of fishing. Since Todd was already rigged with his nymph rod, he moved into the upper one-third of a nice long riffle, run and pool section of the river. I meanwhile extended my leader and then tied a size 14 tan stimulator to my line and added a size 20 RS2 and a zebra midge on a three foot dropper. I waded into the shallow shelf pool at the tail and began to sling probing casts to the slow moving bubble line.

I continued this approach for thirty minutes with no action, but I did observe three rises spaced over the half hour time period, and this provided proof of the presence of fish in the area. I switched to a Jake’s gulp beetle with the hope that the stream residents were open to a terrestrial, but this approach was equally ineffective. Todd meanwhile connected with two or three decent fish while drifting his nymphs through the faster upper riffle segment of the quality pool. I took a break to warm my feet, and then I copied Todd’s lead and rigged with a deep nymph set up. The initial offerings were a beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug, and after a reasonable trial period, I switched the ultra zug bug for a RS2. None of these changes created success, so I circled around Todd to some pocket water above the pool, and eventually I sampled a similar faster section below the lip at the bottom. In a wide but moderate depth pocket above Todd I spotted a trout, and it moved to look at my nymphs, but that was the only evidence of fish during the hour before lunch.

When I returned to the main pool, it was noon, so I decided to warm my feet. I sat on a large boulder next to the river in the warmth of the sun and casually downed my lunch. Todd joined me, and after we finished eating, we chatted for another fifteen minutes, while we observed the water in front of us, and I allowed my frozen toes to thaw. While we scanned the pool, several fish began to rise between the middle and tail sections in slow water next to the far bank.

Eventually I felt warm enough to resume my pursuit of Eagle River trout, and I removed my nymph paraphenalia and tied a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line. For the remainder of the afternoon I cast to rising fish in the bottom one-third of the pool. During the first two afternoon hours I executed across stream casts and presented the small dry fly in a downstream approach. This method yielded a twelve inch brown trout and two hot rainbows, with the third trout measuring sixteen inches. Todd was quite pleased with my ability to fool the finicky feeders that thwarted his efforts, so he invited me to target a pod of risers near the top of the run in some slow water between two exposed rocks.

This area was shrouded in shadows, and I could not follow my tiny tuft of CDC in the dim light. I offered Todd one of my CDC olives, and he accepted, and then I returned to the bottom area of the pool once again. Another thirteen inch rainbow trout fell for the CDC BWO, and then after a lull in action and numerous ignored drifts, I waded to the very bottom of the pool just above the angled jumble of rocks, where the river spilled into a shallow riffle. A few fish were feeding at the extreme tail, and I desired a change in casting angles.

For the first time all day I began casting upstream, and in doing so I added three more trout to my count to reach seven. One of the landed fish was another twelve inch brown, and two were feisty rainbows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. Needless to say I was having a blast on October 25!

By 3:30 the number of rising fish in the lower third of the pool diminished, so I moved to the area between the exposed rocks for a second go round. The sun was now behind me, and this provided improved lighting compared to my first visit in the early afternoon. I made ten casts to the middle and lower portion of the twenty foot area, but I could not convert the rises to strikes. Next I waded above the bottom boulder and fired some longer casts to the scene of regular rises next to and slightly below the top boulder. On the fifth drift a thirteen inch rainbow with vivid colors bulged to the surface and inhaled the CDC olive. This transpired while Todd looked on, and he was sold on the effectiveness of the CDC blue winged olive fly. What a day!

I landed eight gorgeous trout on October 25 on the Eagle River. The weather blossomed into a beautiful fall day after a very chilly morning, and I fished to rising fish from 12:30, until I quit at four o’clock. Best of all, the fish count included two twelve inch browns and six rainbows in excess of thirteen inches with the largest stretching to sixteen. Todd enjoyed a similar outing, and it was great fun to have a dedicated fishing companion. October 25 far exceeded my expectations for a late season fishing adventure.

Fish Landed: 8

 

 

Clear Creek – 10/20/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 5 and 6

Clear Creek 10/20/2017 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 two hours of fishing on Monday on Clear Creek I landed seven trout. A return trip was in order, and temperatures were projected to spike at eighty degrees in Denver on Friday, October 20. This windfall of summer-like weather motivated me to make the short drive to the western end of Clear Creek Canyon. I arrived at the parking lot just west of Tunnel 5 by 10:45AM; however, the lot was full, so I exited and parked along the highway a short distance to the west.

After I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and climbed into my waders, I was on my way, and I followed the Peaks to Plains Trail around the oxbow until I reached the point where I exited on Monday. I had unfinished business, and I began my quest for trout by 11AM. On Monday I enjoyed success with a Jake’s gulp beetle, so I knotted one to my line on Friday and began to prospect the deep pockets that existed mainly along the left bank.

After thirty minutes of fruitless casting and wading I paused to eat my lunch on some sunny rocks, and I lamented my lack of action. It was already obvious that the catch rate would probably lag the pace of my previous visit to Clear Creek. Just prior to my lunch break, I waded across the creek at a wide relatively shallow riffle section, and while casting upstream to a moderate riffle, I spotted two decent fish. I interrupted my pursuit of trout to observe, and I noticed that the two fish were rubbing against each other and generally frolicking about at the tail of the shallow area. I surmised that I was viewing some amorous activity, and the brown trout spawn was in progress. Not wishing to interrupt their procreation, I returned to the bank below the path and consumed my modest lunch.

Shortly after I resumed fishing at 12:15, I plopped the beetle into some moderate riffles directly above my position, and I was surprised when a fish elevated and inspected my fly. Unfortunately the stream inhabitant chose not to eat and only inspected. Sensing that I would not have many opportunities to sight fish on this day, I decided to focus on the fish that revealed its position to my observant eyes. I swapped the beetle for a parachute black ant with a pink wing post. The first cast went unmolested, but the second pass floated directly over the place where the trout inspected the beetle, and this time the rainbow could not resist the black ant. I quickly raised the rod tip and connected with an eleven inch rainbow trout, and I snapped a photo in case it was my first and last fish on the day.

I settled on the bait and switch routine as my preferred approach on Friday, and I cut off the ant and returned the beetle to the end of my tippet. I prospected with the larger foam attractor fly with the expectation of once again switching to the ant, if I observed another look or refusal. When I reached the bend I encountered some nice wide deep pockets, and I employed the across and down approach that yielded seven trout on Monday. I was very pleased, when I executed a reach cast to a pocket fifteen feet across from me, and just as the beetle was about to accelerate over the lip at the tail, another rainbow trout surface and slurped the foam terrestrial.

After I released the second rainbow, I continued my upstream progression, and I searched for additional locations suitable for the across and down drift technique. Several appeared, but I was unable to repeat the earlier success, and by 2:30 I was positioned just below the parking lot at the end of the Peak to Plains Trail. I climbed up the steep rocky embankment and tossed my gear in the Santa Fe and drove west beyond Tunnel 6. I chose this spot because I recalled landing a disproportionate number of rainbow trout there in 2016. It was clear to me that the brown trout spawn was in progress, and rainbow trout were more apt to be in a feeding mindset on this warm autumn day.

The move paid off to some degree, as I added three more small trout to the fish count in the last hour of fishing. One of the netted fish sipped the ant on an across and downstream drift, and the other two fell for a similar presentation of Jake’s gulp beetle. Surprisingly two of the victims near Tunnel 6 were brown trout, and one was another eleven inch rainbow trout. I bumped into two other anglers positioned next to prime deep holes, and I was between them and restricted in my movement for my last hour. For this reason I decided to quit at 3:30 rather than drive to yet another location on Clear Creek.

The weather was glorious for October 20, and I managed to fool five trout. I executed the same across and down drifts that yielded success on Monday, and achieved similar success. Jake’s gulp beetle was the leading character in the fly fishing play, but the black parachute ant played a key supporting role. The trout population of Clear Creek is probably ninety percent brown trout, so landing five trout while the spawning ritual was in full swing was a significant accomplishment.

Fish Landed: 5

South Boulder Creek – 10/19/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/19/2017 Photo Album

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The weather on Thursday, October 19 was similar to Tuesday on South Boulder Creek, but that is where the similarities end. After a spectacular October outing on Tuesday, I could barely contain my desire to return immediately. Unfortunately on Wednesday I scheduled a minor surgical procedure in the morning, and that event precluded a day of fishing despite a continuing string of pleasant weather. The doctor cautioned me about running or doing activities that raised my blood pressure, but when I asked about walking, he approved. According to my thought process fishing is less strenuous than walking, so I planned another visit to South Boulder Creek.

I arrived at the Kayak parking lot at 9:45 and departed for the stream by 10AM. My Santa Fe was the sole vehicle occupying the lot, so I was assured of having the entire stream to myself for some period of time. The air temperature was 55 degrees, as I rigged my Orvis Access four weight, and I was convinced that the sun would provide enough warmth to allow fishing without an outer layer. Given the lack of competing anglers and in deference to my surgery, I did not hike as far as I did on Tuesday, and this enabled me to wade in the creek with a red hippy stomper on my line by 10:30AM.

According to the DWR stream flows, South Boulder Creek was trickling from Gross Dam at 9.33 CFS. I find it interesting that Denver Water carries out the flows to two decimal places, when the reading drops to single digits. By comparison the flows on Tuesday were 10.8 CFS. When I decided to make the trip to South Boulder Creek, I discounted the 1.5 CFS change, but now that I stood in the creek, it was apparent that the difference was significant. Fewer deep pools and runs existed for the trout to seek safety from overhead predators. On Tuesday I made long casts to relatively shallow slow moving pools, and as long as I was stealthy and delivered a soft presentation, I experienced some success. On Thursday shallow pools did not produce fish, and I rarely spooked trout, when I  waded through an area that I recently cast to. Most of the alarmed fish bolted from tight cover next to boulders.

The hippy stomper with a bright red body produced two refusals, so I defaulted to a size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle. The large visible beetle induced a couple looks, but the fish decided not to bite, so I switched to a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. Two small brown trout finally rested in my net, after they sipped the caddis along the edge of exposed boulders. I managed to land a small rainbow on the caddis, but then the sparse dry fly lost its allure. The sun rose higher in the southern sky, and this reduced the shadows to the left side of the stream. I decided that the conditions were now conducive to floating and tracking a black parachute ant. I restocked my fly box with five fresh parachute ant imitations before I left the house, so I extracted a size 18 with an orange poly wing post.

I began to shoot long casts to the top of a long wide smooth pool, but initially I was frustrated by two refusals. Finally I fluttered a cast to some slack water along some exposed boulders and a brown trout aggressively crushed the ant. Perhaps the ant would take center stage again similar to Tuesday. As much as I hoped this would be the case, I was forced to realize that ants and beetle were not on the menu on Thursday.

I found a cluster of large flat rocks next to a very attractive pool and paused to consume my small lunch. I was at a standstill at four small trout, and it was quite apparent that Thursday was a much different scenario compared to Tuesday. The lower water made the fish very skittish, and they favored more protected out of the way lies along exposed boulders and under deep frothy water. On Tuesday I simply tossed a black ant to all the obvious holding spots, and in most cases a fish responded. This approach was not productive on Thursday, and I was now mulling alternative tactics.

After lunch I began to observe an increased number of small charcoal colored stoneflies. Initially I thought perhaps I could fool the fish with a soft hackle emerger, since it was the same color and comparable size. In order to support the small beadhead wet fly, I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and extended a two foot dropper with a soft hackle emerger from the bend. It was a nice theory, but the fish totally ignored both offerings. After thirty minutes of fruitless casting, I began to observe sporadic rises in a small deep pool. I could see two of the feeding trout, and they paid no attention to my flies, so I removed and replaced them with a size 18 olive-brown stonefly. I tied quite a few of these several years ago, when I encountered a similar small black stonefly hatch on South Boulder Creek.

The tiny earth toned fly was very difficult to follow in the riffles and glare, and the fish seemed to ignore it. The stoneflies were clearly the most prevalent aquatic insect, but I also spotted a few blue winged olives. Perhaps the stoneflies remained airborne and unavailable to the trout, while the blue winged olives were more accessible, as they made their emergence? I had nothing to lose, so I swapped the stonefly for a size 24 CDC BWO. On the second cast one of the visible brown trout darted a foot from its holding location to grab the CDC BWO. I was both shocked and pleased by this sudden turn of events. I moved on to another pool and duped a second brown trout with the CDC blue winged olive, but then the small mayfly lost its magic, and I grew weary of trying to track the minuscule tuft of CDC in difficult lighting conditions.

What next? I refused to eliminate the possibility that the trout were feeding on the small stoneflies. I decided to try a size sixteen olive-brown deer hair caddis again. These imitations were a bit large for the stoneflies, but they possessed the same profile and color scheme. The ploy kind of worked. As I approached attractive pools, I tossed the caddis upstream, and in many cases the hackled pattern provoked a refusal. This enabled me to pinpoint the location of the target trout, and I quickly switched the caddis for one of the size 18 stoneflies with a charcoal sculpin wool wing and and olive-brown body. In three instances this bait and switch pattern yielded a brown trout. Clearly this was not the mindless exercise of Tuesday, but I found a way to elevate the fish count toward double digits.

I was now perched on nine fish, and the refusal generating adult caddis was on the end of my line. It was after three o’clock, and nearly the entire creek was covered with shadows. The trout of South Boulder Creek tossed me another curve, but this time it was fortuitous. Apparently the waning light provoked adult caddis activity, because the heretofore refused caddis suddenly became a popular food source. Over the last hour I ratcheted the fish count from nine to sixteen as brown trout suddenly relished the hair wing caddis. I covered a lot of stream and fired the caddis to all the likely trout havens, and the catch rate accelerated appreciably. Hot spots were deep runs that bordered large boulders.

As I mentioned at the outset, Thursday was a very different day from Tuesday in spite of the similar weather. The flows were 1.5 CFS lower, and initially I discounted this as insignificant, but it was not. I fished a different section of the stream, and I suspect this was also a factor that caused more challenging fishing conditions. Despite the demanding conditions I managed to land sixteen fish. Trying to solve the riddle was all absorbing and in many ways more therapeutic than the easy ant tossing that I enjoyed earlier in the week. I developed numerous theories on what might fool the wary inhabitants of the small tailwater, and eventually I experienced some level of success. In all likelihood I will not return to South Boulder Creek until the water managers elevate the flows.

Fish Landed: 16

 

South Boulder Creek – 10/17/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/17/2017 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.

How many superlatives can I heap on South Boulder Creek? Quite a few apparently. Tuesday developed into another perfect fall day in the Colorado Rockies, and I took advantage of the mild autumn weather with another fishing trip to South Boulder Creek. In retrospect it was a no-brainer, but when I scanned the streamflows and noted that the tailwater below Gross Reservoir was running at 10.8 CFS, I had second thoughts. I fished the small stream northwest of Golden on September 19 at 15 CFS and again on September 21 at 13 CFS with positive results, but for some reason 10.8 CFS struck me as chancy. I finally decided to give it a try. In a worst case it would be an enjoyable hike on a pleasant fall day, and that was not a bad outcome.

I arrived at the Kayak parking lot at 10AM on Tuesday morning, and I joined two vehicles that preceded me. While I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight another fisherman arrived and parked next to the trailhead. The occupants of one car were absent, and I concluded they were already on the stream. The gentlemen next to me were in the process of getting ready, and they descended the path five minutes ahead of me. I began my hike at 10:15, and I encountered a man and woman in the first section, after I reached the stream, and they completed my accounting for all the occupants of the cars in the Kayak lot.

I hiked for a decent distance, and by the time I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and made my first cast, it was close to 11AM. In a brief amount of time I landed three small brown trout on the beetle, but the number of refusals exceeded takes, and as I approached a gorgeous smooth pool, I paused to ponder my options. The wide smooth area was mostly in sunlight, and a second slow moving section was visible just upstream. I concluded that this stream sequence was perfect for an ant, and visibility would not be an issue, so I removed the beetle and attached a size 18 black parachute ant. It was a fortunate choice.

Before I paused for lunch, I landed five additional trout, and their size exceeded the three small brown trout that slurped the beetle earlier. These trout surged to the surface and sipped the ant confidently despite the challenging slow clear conditions. I adopted the appropriate amount of caution and launched long casts to the pool, and I checked the rod tip high, thus enabling the ant to flutter down to the light current for a soft landing. The setting, the unseasonable warmth, and the unexpected success elevated my state of mind to euphoria, as I sat on an unblemished sand beach and munched my sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

After my last sip of water I returned to the tumbling creek next to me. I continued with the ant for a bit, but then the character of the stream shifted to shorter pockets and deep runs. The ant was difficult to follow, and I decided to give Jake’s gulp beetle a second chance. The foam beetle was a mainstay in my arsenal over September and October, and I was reluctant to abandon it. With the size 12 beetle on my 5X tippet I shifted into prospecting mode, and I plopped the beetle in all the likely locales, and I was rewarded with five additional trout. My depth of experience with prospecting pocket water, however, told me that the beetle was not the best option on October 17. In addition to frequent refusals, I endured quite a few split second hook ups, and this suggested that the trout were very tentative about the fake terrestrial.

The parachute ant on the other hand generated bold strikes, and many takes yielded large bulges, as the trout lunged at an apparently preferred food source. It was early afternoon, and the sun was at its peak thus reducing the shadows to the extreme left portion of the stream. I concluded that I could track the size 18 ant in the sunlight, and I once again tied the black parachute ant with an orange poly wing post to my line. Between one o’clock and three o’clock my line featured several ants, and the fish count surged to thirty-five. I used the plural of ant because the hackle on the first one unraveled due to frequent attacks, and the second one with a bright green wing post was hard to follow, so I replaced it with a pink winged version. The latter remained intact although the rear hump began to loosen and slide down around the bend of the hook. Needless to say the two hours between 1PM and 3PM were extremely enjoyable with non-stop intense action throughout.

Throughout my time on South Boulder Creek I observed an occasional little black stonefly, as they fluttered over the river and dipped sporadically to the surface. Several years ago in late October, I encountered a denser hatch of little black stoneflies, and this prompted me to tie a small supply of size 18 imitations. They displayed an olive-brown body, a small clump of sculpin wool for a wing, and a couple wraps of dark dun hackle for legs. I decided to give these a test given the presence of small stoneflies in the environment. The choice was a winner, as an eleven inch brown trout and a twelve inch rainbow smacked the little stonefly to boost the fish count to thirty-seven. I was quite pleased to identify a natural insect and then successfully offer one of my own creations to fool wild trout.

The shadows were lengthening as the sun began to sink behind the ridge to the south, and the small earth toned stonefly was very difficult to track in the dim light. I approached a nice deep pool, and suddenly a flurry of larger mayflies made an appearance. Flurry is probably a stretch, as I spotted only two or three, but my observation coincided with a couple rises. I was certain that the stream residents had a residual appetite for size sixteen pale morning duns, so I plucked a size 16 cinnamon comparadun from my fly box and knotted it to my line. Bingo! A size 10 brown trout attacked the slender mayfly imitation from a shelf pool below a large exposed boulder, and then I backhanded a cast into a narrow but deep gap between two large rectangular shaped rocks. My cast was more of an effort to tuck the fly in a holding position while I moved, but before I could plant my wading staff, an aggressive brown trout slashed the comparadun. What a surprise and thrill! The deeply colored brown measured in excess of thirteen inches and represented the largest brown of the day. I pinched myself to make sure that I was not dreaming.

I was perched at thirty-nine trout, and for some ridiculous reason, I felt compelled to make it an even forty. I moved through a couple nice pools with no action, and I began to doubt the effectiveness of the comparadun. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the shadows lengthened, and a size 16 natural caddis perched on my shirt sleeve. I pinched it with my thumb and fingers and tilted it to look at the underside. My inspection revealed a dark gray and olive body, so I responded to this windfall knowledge by knotting a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis to my line. Voila!

An upstream flutter cast in the next pool duped a nine inch brown trout, and a forty fish day was in the books. It was four o’clock as I exhaled and allowed the small brown trout to slip into the pool, so I waded to the bank and climbed the jumble of large boulders to the quasi-path above the creek. I vowed to hike directly to the car, however, my best intentions were derailed, when I passed exceptionally attractive pools on my return journey. By the time I reached the pedestrian bridge, the fish count crept to forty-six, and each of the bonus trout over forty succumbed to the olive-brown deer hair caddis.

What else can I say? A forty plus fish day in the peak of the season is grounds for rejoicing, but to accomplish the feat in the middle of October when insect activity is diminished and trout metabolism is reduced due to colder temperatures or spawning desires, is cause for celebration. Lacking a companion to high five, I sipped a Red Bull and crunched a couple of servings of Utz’s Sourdough Specials on my return drive. Needless to say, I am already plotting a return to South Boulder Creek before the weather returns to normal for October. Concerns about 10.8 CFS were greatly exaggerated.

Fish Landed: 46

Clear Creek – 10/16/2017

Time: 1:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 5.

Clear Creek 10/16/2017 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 could not resist the temptation to fish again on Monday October 16, since the weather prognosticators projected high temperatures in the seventies. Perfect autumn days do not appear often in October, so Jane and I resolved to take advantage. We ate lunch at home and then packed our gear in the car and departed for Clear Creek Canyon. A forty-five minute drive delivered us to the parking lot just west of Tunnel No. 5, and this became my destination for Monday. I gathered my gear and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while Jane added some layers and prepared to hike the Peak to Plains Trail. The temperature at our home in Stapleton was 75 degrees when we departed, and the dashboard display registered 64 at the parking lot. A huge cloud hovered above us, and I swapped my short sleeve T-shirt for my Columbia long sleeve undershirt in response to the drop in temperature and lack of sunshine. I also added a fleece layer for added comfort.

Clear Creek was flowing at 60 CFS with exceptional clarity, and my optimism rose, as Jane and I hiked along the trail downstream from the parking lot. We followed the oxbow that circles around the tunnel, until we were opposite US 6 below a very steep rocky embankment. At this point I said goodbye to Jane and scrambled down a rocky path of moderate difficulty to the creek. I was downstream from a narrow white water chute, and the stream was characterized by deep pockets and runs. During October in previous years the trout of Clear Creek responded favorably to a Jake’s gulp beetle, so that is what occupied my line, as I made my first cast.

After ten minutes of unproductive fishing, I reached a place where some nice slow shelf pools presented themselves along the opposite shoreline. Once again history suggested that Clear Creek trout would respond to downstream drifts, so I lobbed some casts across the stream and commenced some rapid fire mending to allow the beetle to float without drag along the rocky bank. The technique worked, and an eleven inch rainbow trout nipped the low floating beetle just before it began to drag at the end of the slow water. I was quite pleased to land my first fish in uncharted water on Clear Creek.

Another shorter shelf pool existed above the home of fish number one, so I employed the same across and down approach, and miraculously a second rainbow grabbed the foam beetle at the lip. This spunky fish put up a nice battle and measured out at twelve inches. The afternoon was off to a superb start, and my outlook on the remainder of the day brightened.

I continued upstream, and while I made upstream casts on my side of the stream, I also searched for slack water along the far bank, since the across and down tactic yielded two early rainbows. After twenty minutes with no action, I encountered a nice midstream pocket and eddy behind a large exposed rock. The depth was moderate, and I popped the beetle in the middle of the small pool. The terrestrial crept a foot upstream toward the epicenter of the eddy, and suddenly a ten inch brown trout appeared and chomped the beetle. Prior to this success I was concerned about the absence of brown trout, and now I was reassured that they continued to inhabit Clear Creek.

After releasing the brown I decided to plop the beetle in the pool a few more times in case relatives were present. On one of these casts the beetle floated tight to the exposed rock, and just as it curled along the faster current seam, a dark form elevated for a closer look. I suspected that it was a rainbow trout, but I was unable to entice a strike, so I paused and exchanged the beetle for a parachute ant. On the second cast of the ant a small six inch brown trout darted to the surface and snatched the black morsel. I was not able to tempt the larger fish that inspected the beetle, so I surrendered to its selectivity and moved on.

The remainder of my time on Clear Creek mimicked my description of the first hour. I landed three additional trout including two more brown trout and a third rainbow. The last bow slurped the beetle in a shelf pool along the left bank, and it measured a length that was similar to the first two. In addition to the seven fish landed, I coaxed two or three additional brief hook ups by applying the across and down ploy. I cannot explain why this presentation is effective other than the fact that the fish see the fly before the leader.

Monday evolved into a nice bonus day of fishing on Clear Creek, as I discovered a new section and reversed the bad karma of 9/18 and 8/29. The weather was unseasonably warm for October 16, and I landed seven decent trout by Clear Creek standards in two hours of fishing. All the netted fish succumbed to surface flies with Jake’s gulp beetle attracting the most interest. Quite a bit of interesting water remained between my exit point and the parking lot, and I plan to revisit in the near future if the weather cooperates.

Fish Landed: 7

Cache la Poudre River – 10/15/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: The canyon west of the Narrows.

Cache la Poudre River 10/15/2017 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.

My good friend and fishing companion Danny Ryan contacted me and expressed an interest in fishing. We quickly exchanged availability information and settled on Sunday October 15 as the date of our scheduled adventure. Having recently sampled the North Fork of the St. Vrain and Big Thompson with moderate success, I suggested a trip to the Cache la Poudre River west of Ft. Collins. Fishing the Poudre in the fall was a new endeavor for me, and I hoped the fishing might surpass my experience on the St. Vrain and Big Thompson.

On Sunday morning I picked Danny up at the 84th Avenue Sportsman’s Warehouse, and I was introduced to Juls’ and Danny’s new buddy, Wilson. Danny and Juls adopted Wilson from an animal rescue mission, and he has been in their small family for three weeks. Wilson lived in an overcrowded dog pound in Texas, where the ratio of dogs to care givers was 1,200 to 6, and consequently he suffers from PTSD. I am very thankful that caring folks such as Danny and Juls exist in this harsh world.

As I drove north on I25 and west on CO 14, Danny and I caught up on all the significant life events that transpired since our last fishing outing in the spring. Time passed quickly until we arrived at a paved pullout along CO 14 west of the Narrows in the Poudre Canyon. The weather was spectacular with the high temperature approaching seventy degrees on Sunday. I made four visits to the Cache la Poudre in July, and I was mildly surprised to view the low flows that existed in the middle of October. Many areas, that offered wide riffles sections and deep pockets in July, were now reduced to trickles of water flowing through exposed boulder fields.

We searched for segments where the river bed narrowed and thus created deeper pools and runs, and our first stop met this criteria. I once again assembled my Orvis Access four weight in an effort to ease the stress on my tennis elbow, and we descended a faint path to the river. Danny crossed at the tail to arrive along the opposite shoreline, and we began progressing upstream in parallel. I knotted a size 14 gray stimulator to my line and began to probe the clear riffles and runs in front of me. After fifteen minutes I failed to generate any interest, so I exchanged the stimulator for a Jake’s gulp beetle. I was certain that the plop of the terrestrial would attract the attention of the wary stream residents.

After another ten minutes of fruitless wading and casting, Danny, who was a bit downstream, announced that he had a fish on, and I paused to watch him land a nice rainbow trout in the thirteen inch range that crushed a royal wulff. During the interim period I added a salad spinner midge imitation as a dropper, but with the news that Danny tempted a fish with a surface dry fly, I reverted to the gray stimulator.

Once again we progressed upstream until we approached a spot where huge vertical rocks bordered the river. Danny began to cast directly upstream and allowed his flies to drift back along the base of the rock wall, while I cast across and executed downstream drifts from the riffles at the top of the run. On the second cast a fish head emerged, but at the last second it turned away from my fly. I developed a tangle in my fly line which forced me to rest the water, but Danny informed me that several rises were visible in the area of my recent refusal. I managed to unravel my snarl, and when I fluttered the stimulator back to the vicinity of the rises, another head appeared. This time, unlike earlier, the rainbow trout engulfed my imitation, and I managed to guide a husky twelve inch fish into my net. I was on the scoreboard, and I was pleased that Danny and I each landed a fish in the early going.

After I photographed and released my first catch of the day, Danny experienced a temporary hook up on a brown trout along the rock wall. We continued our upstream migration over the next thirty minutes, and at noon we decided to return to the car for lunch. Before eating, however, we discussed our options, and we both agreed to travel west and explore new water. We hoped that the canyon narrowed, and this in turn might offer deeper holes and more structure for trout.

We tossed our gear in the car, and I drove west for twenty minutes until we parked across from the Sleeping Elephant rock formation. The stream in this area carried less volume than our first destination, as we probably journeyed beyond several tributaries. We quickly downed our lunches and followed a worn path downstream for fifty yards and then cut back to the river (more a creek in this area). I continued casting the stimulator for a bit, but Danny generated another temporary hook up in a deep run below the point of a long island, and he revealed that the fish nabbed his trailing nymph. This prompted me to reconsider my approach, and I reconfigured with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear on a 2.5 foot dropper.

With this combination in place I cast to a nice deep run next to a large boulder, and an eleven inch brown trout surfaced and crushed the Chernboyl. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this turn of events. I captured a photograph and released the wild brown trout and continued on my way. We were now at a point where the river split around a very long island, so Danny explored the left channel, while I migrated up the right branch.

Even prior to the split the river was quite low, and now I was dealing with 40% of the full flow. Most of the pockets and runs were quite marginal due to the reduced volume, and I moved quite rapidly by skipping the uninteresting shallow riffles. Utilizing the two fly dry/dropper in the low conditions spooked several fish, and I debated returning to a single light dry fly, but I decided to seek deep pools and places with more cover rather than change flies. To some degree the strategy worked, as I coaxed two additional brown trout into my net, when they snatched the beadhead hares ear in marginal pockets. I was pleased to boost the fish count to four, but Sunday was more about spending time with Danny and enjoying the perfect fall weather.

I reached the top of the right channel and looked back to see Danny working the left flow twenty yards below the upper tip of the island. I could see a nice deep pool ahead, where the combined flow of the river dumped into a depression next to another large boulder. I cautiously approached and shot two casts to the low end of the pool with no sign of a fish. At this point I decided to go directly to the sweet spot, and I lobbed the Chernobyl and hares ear to the area where the center current spilled over some exposed rocks. The large foam ant floated a couple feet, and then it disappeared. Upon seeing this development I raised my rod tip and felt the throb of some significant weight.

A rainbow trout rocketed about the pool several times in an effort to shed my hares ear, but eventually I guided the husky fourteen inch trout into my net. What a bonus! I could scarcely believe my good fortune, as I gently positioned the Sunday prize for several photos and a movie.

I was now reinvigorated, and after Danny caught up to me, we continued our progress, but the results did not reward our enthusiasm. Danny was in the middle of a long dry spell, so at 3PM we agreed to call it a day. We hiked back to the car, stashed our gear and returned to Ft. Collins, where we paused for a cold craft beer or two and dinner at Odell Brewing’s tasting room and outdoor patio. Danny suggested that this was the highlight of the day.

Sunday was a gorgeous day among spectacular scenery, and I shared it with my good friend Danny. The fishing was average at best, but it is not always about the fish count. Hopefully we can meet again soon for another stream adventure.

Fish Landed: 5

North Fork of the St. Vrain – 10/13/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam

North Fork of the St. Vrain 10/13/2017 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.

Steady flows of 26 CFS attracted me to the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek below Buttonrock Reservoir. That and a trip to the Big Thompson on Thursday during which I traveled along the North Fork for several miles.

I found myself in the parking lot below the gate that marks the entrance to the access road to the St. Vrain at 10:45AM, and after donning my waders and assembling my Orvis Access four weight I was on my way. I hiked for thirty minutes and then angled to the stream where the bank was comfortably gradual. The temperature at the parking lot was fifty degrees and the wind gusted with surprising frequency. These factors caused me to wear my fleece and raincoat as well as my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. The thirty minute hike caused me to overheat a bit, but I embraced the double layers throughout the day and never felt over dressed.

The stream meanwhile was quite clear, and the flows were nearly ideal. On Thursday I experienced success with a gray size 14 stimulator, so I elected to begin Friday with the same offering. The Big Thompson and St. Vrain are both front range streams on the eastern side of the continental divide, so perhaps the fish savored the same food items? The choice proved to be favorable, as I landed two brown trout in the first hour, and I managed to connect temporarily with a third, before it leaped above the creek and slipped free of the hook. The section where I began was mostly in shadows, and I discovered that a downstream drift provided the best visibility. All three of the fish in the first hour emerged from deep narrow slots where several currents merged, and over the remainder of the day I discovered that these were the most productive stream structures.

After lunch the catch rate slowed a bit, but I continued with the stimulator, and upon spying some blue winged olives, I added a size 20 RS2. The stimulator produced a fourth small brown trout, and then the RS2 earned its keep, when a small brown trout nabbed the baetis nymph, as it began to swing in a relatively shallow area. I pressed on with the abbreviated dry/dropper approach, but the BWO hatch intensified, and it seemed that my small nymph should be attracting more attention. I concluded that I needed to get deeper by pairing the baetis nymph with a larger subsurface pattern.

I opted for a yellow fat Albert, and below it I attached a beadhead hares ear and a beadhead soft hackle emerger size 20. The foam top fly suspended the two nymphs, and the weight of the larger hares ear produced deeper drifts. The change succeeded somewhat, and I landed two additional small brown trout to increment the fish count to seven. The two fish that succumbed to the dry/dropper snatched the soft hackle emerger at the tail of the dirft.

By 2:30 I reached the point where a lower outflow from the dam merged with the main creek that emanated from the main spillway upstream. The confluence created several nice deep runs and a wide smooth bordering pools. I began drifting the dry/dropper offering through the lower run, but my casts were futile. I crossed the lower branch and positioned myself between the two merging currents and paused to scan the setting. Quite a few tiny blue winged olives danced over the surface, and a series of rises commenced along the main runs. Many of the splashy rises appeared to result from tiny fish, but I spotted a larger feeder that hovered a foot below the surface downstream from my position. I decided to convert to a CDC BWO for the last thirty minutes of fishing.

I opened my fly box and extracted a size 24 CDC olive and knotted it to my line, and then I lobbed a downstream cast to the area of the sighted fish. On each cast I checked my cast abruptly at eleven o’clock, and this created a pile of slack line that allowed the small morsel to gently drift downstream. The third attempt was perfect, and as the tuft of CDC floated into the vicinity of the target fish, it darted to the left and grabbed the fraud. I quickly powered the eight inch brown trout into my net, but despite the small size it was a thrill to fool a trout with a tiny fly and a downstream drift. It took a while to dry the CDC wing, but eventually I was back in action, and I landed two additional six inch rainbow trout to complete my day with a fish count of ten. I suspect that the small rainbows resulted from a stocking of subcatchable rainbows in an effort to supplement the natural reproduction of the brown trout subsequent to the 2013 flood.

The largest fish from the St. Vrain on Friday was a ten inch brown, but I did manage to reach double digits, and seven of the landed fish consumed a dry fly. The weather was a bit chilly, but the scenery was spectacular, and I had the stream to myself. I am sensing that twenty fish days are history, so I was quite pleased to enjoy reasonable success on Friday the 13th.

Fish Landed: 10

 

Big Thompson River – 10/12/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: First bridge after Noel’s Draw and then downstream another .5 mile.

Big Thompson River 10/12/2017 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.

When I checked flows on the DWR web site on Wednesday, I noticed that the Big Thompson River finally dropped to 113 CFS, and this was in the upper range of ideal. The Big T has been chugging along in the two hundred CFS range nearly all summer, so this piece of news was welcome. With high temperatures in Denver projected to reach the seventies after a snowstorm and frigid temperatures on Monday, I enthusiastically prepared to make the trip to the tailwater below Estes Park.

I arrived at a dirt parking area .75 mile below Noel’s Draw by 10:45, and after assembling my Orvis Access four weight rod I was prepared to cast at 11AM. I began fishing with a size 14 gray stimulator, and I quickly prospected some nice pocket water. After twenty minutes of futile casting, I dapped the stimulator in a tiny pocket in front of an exposed rock, and a chunky rainbow trout slurped the fake. The rainbow measured twelve inches, and I quickly snapped a couple photographs to capture my first fish of the day. Needless to say after failing to catch a fish on Sunday, I was thrilled to finally feel a tug on my line. My confidence plummeted rapidly after Sunday’s poor experience, and I savored this initial success.

Unfortunately this was the only fish to bend my rod between 11AM and 2PM, and my fragile sense of fly fishing bravado once again began to dip. I cycled through a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, a Jake’s gulp beetle, and a black parachute ant with only a refusal and inspection to show for my efforts. I sat along the stream and ate my lunch at 12:20PM, and when I resumed fishing, I decided to try a dry/dropper approach. The single dry fly method was not delivering results, so I surmised that perhaps the higher than normal flows promoted subsurface feeding.

It was a theory, but it did not prove to be reality. I tied a Chernboyl ant to my line and added a salvation nymph and RS2. I enticed a brown trout to smash the Chernboyl ant on top, but the fish wiggled free before I gained control. At 1:30 I waded underneath the bridge and found myself on the southeast side of the river, where I worked my way along the bank for a bit with no sign of fish. The lighting was challenging and the wading difficult, so I crossed back to the roadside in a wide relatively shallow riffle and continued upstream along the right bank.

The dry/dropper technique proved to be less productive than the single dry fly approach, so I snipped off the three flies and reverted to the gray stimulator. The stimulator accounted for my only landed fish, so why not give it another trial? Prior to Thursday’s trip I read my blog posts that chronicled previous visits to the Big Thompson in October, and I noted that a gray stimulator and gray deer hair caddis generated a fair amount of success.

After a few minutes I encountered another spot, where I was able to cross the stream, so I took advantage and began prospecting the left bank with the large attractor dry fly. As I made this transition to the opposite bank, a guide accosted me from the road. He asked if he could place his clients in the river across from the red house that was fifty yards upstream. I did not give it much thought, and I agreed to his proposal, since I was not having much success.

Eventually I covered the attractive slow water along the left bank with my stimulator, and I circled around a twenty yard whitewater chute. The guide and his two clients by now were wading in the long pool above the fast water, where I hoped to cross. Unfortunately the angler that was not accompanied by the guide began fishing at the tail, so I edged my way part way across, and then asked his permission to skirt just below his position. He agreed, and when I climbed to the top of the bank along the road, the guide hustled back and motioned to me. He was concerned that I changed my mind, but I told him that I simply wished to cross the river to return to the car, and the only safe wading location was at the tail just below his client. He was fine, and we exchanged information about effective flies, and I hiked back to the Santa Fe.

The guide was quite courteous, so I was not upset, but my path upstream was now blocked by the party of three. I was not prepared to quit, so I packed my gear in the car and drove downstream for another .75 mile to a nice wide pullout. From previous experience I knew that this section contained some very nice pockets and runs of moderate depth. I quickly grabbed my rod and gear and walked along the shoulder for a bit, until I cut down to the river to a stretch that contained some attractive pockets.

By now it was two o’clock, and I was entrenched on one fish after three hours of fishing. Needless to say my confidence was once again at a low ebb. I decided to stick with the stimulator a bit longer, but I already anticipated that my next step was to switch to a deer hair caddis. I made a few quick casts to some marginal small pockets, and then I encountered a gorgeous deep run along the far bank, where two currents merged in a deep trough. I made a couple casts across the main current and held my rod high so the line would not drag. On the third cast I executed a reach cast and flipped the line upstream thus enabling a very nice long drag free drift, and just as the fly bobbed through the seam where the currents merged, it disappeared in a swirl. I set the hook and quickly maneuvered a ten inch rainbow trout to my net.

After I released my second catch of the day, I sensed that the run was too good to hold only one fish, so I made a couple more reach casts. On the third drift a large nose appeared, and once again the stimulator disappeared in a swirl, and this time I connected with a beautiful fourteen inch rainbow trout. This was my best fish of the day, and I was ecstatic to finally feel the weight of a substantial fish.

The remainder of the afternoon was a blast. I landed a fourth rainbow on the gray stimulator, and then I spotted a few blue winged olives, as they tumbled along the surface, when the wind periodically gusted. In fact the wind was a huge negative during my entire time in the canyon. The BWO sighting prompted me to add a size 20 RS2 on a three foot dropper to the stimulator, and the move paid off, when I landed six brown trout that snatched the small nymph, as it began to swing or lift. Sandwiched between these brown trout was a fifth rainbow trout, and just like its rainbow cousins that rested in my net earlier, it slashed and ate the stimulator.

At the end of the day the fish counter rested on eleven, including six brown trout and five rainbows. The rainbows were on average larger than the browns. It was interesting to note that all the brown trout grabbed the trailing RS2, and all the rainbows smacked the stimulator. I landed one trout in the first three hours and netted ten in the last two hours. It was a Jekyll and Hyde day in many ways, but I was pleased to reach double digits on a blustery afternoon with higher than normal flows on the Big Thompson River.

Fish Landed: 11

South Platte River – 10/08/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Waterton Canyon special regulation water

South Platte River 10/08/2017 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.

It only takes one bad day, and I begin to doubt my ability to catch fish. Apparently I have a fragile fly fishing confidence level. My fears are totally illogical, as I amassed a fish count in excess of 1,000 in 2017, yet my body of work includes a fair number of fishless days. Sunday was one of those.

On Saturday Jane and I cycled up Waterton Canyon to Strontia Springs Dam and back, and the trail followed the South Platte River for nearly the entire route. My eyes were constantly drawn to the gorgeous water in the canyon below, so I decided to give the area a shot on Sunday. The high in Denver on Saturday poked into the eighties, and although Sunday was gorgeous, the temperature peaked in the low seventies. The weather could not have been nicer for a day of fishing.

The meteorologists were also projecting a winter storm beginning Sunday evening with measureable accumulations on Monday and an overnight low on October 9 of twenty-three degrees. This prompted Jane and I to winterize the sprinkler system on Sunday morning. In addition we transplanted some herbs to pots and brought them in the house for protection. These activities delayed my departure for fishing, but I assumed that the best part of the day was noon to three o’clock, and I targeted that time frame.

The Waterton Canyon parking lot was quite full, but I was fortunate to grab a spot after someone departed. By the time I stuffed a few remaining items in my backpack and unloaded my mountain bike, it was 11:30, and thirty minutes of pedaling delivered me to a location .5 mile above the Rattlesnake picnic pavilion. I consumed my lunch along the dirt road, and then I removed my gear from the backpack. After a few minutes I was attired in my waders, and I assembled my Sage four weight. I stashed my bike and backpack below the lip of the road and found the least risky path down a bank to the river. I emphasize least risky, because the steepness and loose granular soil presented a difficult challenge.

The water before me was fairly fast with deep slots and pockets. I was fairly certain that deep nymphing was the recommended approach, but I decided to test the dry/dropper method before going deep. I knotted a hopper Juan to my line and added a beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug and began probing the likely holding lies. I persisted with this method for thirty minutes, but despite some expert drifts, no signs of trout revealed themselves to my anxious eyes.

I acquiesced to the conventional wisdom and arranged a deep nymphing system on my line. For this approach I tried an emerald caddis pupa as the top fly and added a RS2 beneath it. Once again I simply exercised my arm, and then I arrived at a section of fast rapids, where the current ripped along the bank. This forced me to battle through some scrub oaks and prickly bushes in order to arrive at a nice bend pool. I was about to resume casting, when I was startled to see another fisherman twenty yards above me. This forced a retreat up another steep bank, whereupon I circled around the deep pool using the road.

When I passed the rock outcropping between the road and the river, I descended a worn path to an area above the bend pool. Here I encountered a nice long deep section, and I began to lob some casts in the lower end. As I did this, two random rises appeared, and I paused to observe a couple tiny mayflies, as they skittered across the surface. I began to sense that this might represent my only opportunity to catch a fish, so I removed the dry/dropper system and tied a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. I proceeded to cover the bottom one-third of the pool with the tiny mayfly with some very delicate fluttering casts, but the river residents ignored my speck of fluff. I switched to a black parachute ant in case the sporadic rises related to terrestrials, but this move was equally ineffective. In fact I never spotted another rise in this area, and one additional surface ring farther up in the pool represented my total evidence of the presence of fish on the day.

I moved on to another section of fast pocket water, and the small dry fly approach seemed futile for this water type, so I reverted to the nymphing set up. In this phase I combined a beadhead hares ear with a copper john, but the fish were once again showing no interest. Eventually I found a couple longer pools, and the small olives reappeared, so I swapped the copper john for a juju baetis and WD40. I used a dead drift, swings, lifts and bad downstream mends; but none of these techniques initiated action from South Platte River trout.

I told Jane that I would quit by 3PM, so I decided to climb the bank to the road, and I returned to the pool where I spotted three rises earlier. I positioned myself at the tail and rested the water, while I once again removed the indicator, split shot and flies and then tied a CDC BWO back on the tippet. I probably stared at the water for five minutes, when I heard a voice high above me, and Jane announced her arrival. I told her I was giving the river one last chance for ten minutes, and then I would meet her at the Rattlesnake picnic pavilion.

After another three minutes I lost my patience, and I fluttered ten casts to the smooth bottom end of the pool with the hope that blind prospecting might draw the interest of the fish that rose earlier. A glimmer of hope sparked, as I spotted several tiny olives that skittered across the surface in their attempt to become airborne. Alas the positive vibe was short lived, and the dry fly casts were as fruitless as my earlier efforts. In one final act of desperation I removed the CDC olive and attached a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. Five casts with vigorous plops did not arouse interest, so I hooked my fly to the guide, scrambled up the bank and walked my bike and backpack down the road to a rendezvous with Jane.

The weather was perfect, the leaves were glowing, and the bighorns were butting horns, but I was unable to connect with a single trout on October 8. The flows were 219 CFS, and that is higher than ideal for the narrow canyon below Strontia Springs. That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it. Flows above the diversion need to drop before I make a return trip.

Fish Landed: 0