Big Thompson River – 04/30/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Lake Estes in the canyon

Big Thompson River 04/30/2018 Photo Album

I chose the Big Thompson River on Monday because high winds were forecast for other potential destinations (as well as the Big Thompson), but the drive to Estes Park was shorter, and this translated to less time sacrificed, in the event that I was blown off the water. When I checked the flows on Sunday night, the Big Thompson chart displayed 83 cfs, and I knew from past experience that this level was very manageable. However when I arrived, the river seemed higher, and consequently I was never able to cross to the opposite bank due to the strong velocity. When I prepared my notes for this blog, I checked the flows again, and I discovered that my personal assessment was accurate. Flows elevated from 83 cfs to 111 cfs in the morning of April 30, before I made the drive. I never seem to do well when flows increase dramatically in a short window, and Monday maintained that trend.

P4300021.JPG

Starting Point

Although temperatures peaked in the upper seventies in Denver, I suspect they remained in the low to mid 60’s below Estes Park. The wind was tolerable, but intermittent gusts were a factor. Dense gray clouds blocked the sun much of the afternoon, and this atmospheric condition likely explained the lower temperatures in the northern Front Range.

P4300022.JPG

Sparkle Wing RS2

I fished at three different sections of the Big Thompson, with the first stop located two or three miles below the dam. Each succeeding location was farther downstream and within a mile of the first. I began fishing with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and a sparkle wing RS2 attached to my four weight line on my Sage nine foot rod. In the first forty-five minutes before I paused for lunch, I landed three trout that were barely over my six inch threshold to qualify for counting. Two were brown trout and one was a diminutive rainbow. I also witnessed two splashy refusals to the fat Albert, so after lunch I exchanged the top fly for a size ten Chernobyl ant.

I continued to fish upstream, until I approached the point where the river split around an island. I decided to halt my progression at this position, and I drove downstream to locale number two. Another car was parked ahead of mine, and I quickly determined it was another angler, who was nymphing just above a bridge. I decided to hike down the road for .3 mile, with the hope that the other fisherman might vacate by the time I returned.

P4300027.JPG

Getting Bigger

P4300026.JPG

Shelf Pools Were the Ticket

During the next two hours I worked my way upstream with the three fly dry/dropper combination, and I succeeded in boosting the fish count to seven. Numbers four and five were also on the small side, but a nine inch rainbow thrashed in my net and boosted the count to six. During this time I swapped the hares ear for an iron sally, and after the sally failed to excite the fish, I replaced it with an emerald caddis. The first six trout nabbed the sparkle wing RS2, so I was quite suprised when a ten inch brown trout grabbed the emerald caddis pupa near the top of a deep run. This fish proved to be the longest of the day.

P4300029.JPG

A Rainbow Joins the Mix

When I reached the bridge where my car was parked, I noted that the vehicle of the other angler remained in place. I was noticing some sparse blue winged olive activity, and I decided to investigate a nice run and pool upstream from my parking space. On previous trips I experienced decent success with rising trout in the aforementioned pool. Unfortunately as I approached the anticipated section, I encountered the other fisherman once again.

I reversed and returned to the car and once again drove to another pullout less than a mile downstream. For the next hour I progressed upstream through some nice pockets and moderate depth runs, but my efforts were in vain. At 3:30 as the sky darkened due to dense clouds, I noticed an increase in blue winged olive activity, and eventually several rising fish revealed their presence. I decided to take the plunge and removed the dry/dropper rig and converted to a Craven soft hackle emerger and fished it like a dry fly. I applied floatant to the body, and after a large number of drifts I managed to hook and land another small brown barely over six inches.

For my final act I skipped some marginal pockets and advanced directly to a long pool across from the Santa Fe. I paused and observed for a few minutes and spotted three tiny trout along the edge in front of me, as they darted to the surface to grab tiny morsels on a fairly regular basis. I was about to pass on the sighted fish because of their diminutive size, but I reconsidered and shot ten casts over the area. I could not follow the low riding emerger in the current seam, and I was about to quit, when I caught a glimpse of a rise next to a bank side boulder on the opposte side of the stream. This fish was a bit larger, and it captured my interest.

P4300034.JPG

BWO Lover

I waded one third of the way across the river, and I began executing reach casts above the rock that served as a current break for the target riser. After several casts four additional feeding trout revealed their presence. They were all ignoring my emerger, and I was unable to follow it in the dim light and swirling current, so I opted to replace it with a Klinkhammer BWO. The change proved fortuitous, and I netted two additional trout before I called it quits at 4:30. One was a ten inch rainbow and the other a comparable brown.

Monday was a challenging day, and I attribute the difficulty to the sudden rise in stream flows. Fortunately I adjusted and managed to make the best of the situation to reach double digits. The fish were small, but I was thankful for any action on April 30.

Fish Landed: 10

Boulder Creek – 04/27/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Pearl Parkway and 55th Avenue

Boulder Creek 04/27/2018 Photo Album

Friday was my one week anniversary since skin surgery, and I felt a pressing urge to fly fish, so I searched for a location with relatively easy wading to minimize the risk of banging the site of my incision on my right leg. Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder was my choice, and it fit my needs nicely.

Friday’s weather was spectacular with blue skies and sunshine, and the air temperature spiked in the seventies. I selected a new section of Boulder Creek, and I arrived at a parking space near the creek at 11:45AM. I decided to down my lunch first rather than lug it in my backpack for a mere thirty minutes. Lug is probably an exaggeration.

P4270006.JPG

Starting Point

After lunch I climbed into my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight, and then I followed a narrow single track path downstream for fifty yards, before I quietly entered the stream. I began with a black peacock ice dub hippy stomper and a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper. In the first thirty minutes I witnessed two refusals to the hippy stomper and two momentary connections with small brown trout. Finally I drifted the two fly combination in a narrow ribbon of water between the current and the opposite bank, and a short chubby brown slammed the hares ear. I was on the scoreboard and documented my catch with a photo.

P4270008.JPG

Small but Chubby

The next half hour produced another long distance release, but I played this brown trout for a minute or more before it escaped. I cast to some three foot deep riffles that flowed over some relatively large submerged rocks, and the trout appeared from a hideout between the boulders. It would have been the best fish of the day.

Once again I endured an extended period of inactivity, so I decided to abandon the dry/dropper for a solitary dry fly. My choice was one of the seven size 14 deer hair caddis flies, that I tied on Wednesday. The change proved to be beneficial, as I landed five more small brown trout on the dry fly before I quit at 3:30.

P4270019.JPG

Last Trout of the Day

I covered a significant distance and skipped over a ton of water, as I searched for proven water types. What was productive water on April 27? Nearly all the caddis fanciers appeared where faster current bordered slow-moving areas with some depth. These fish conserved energy in the pools and pounced on food, as it tumbled by on the adjacent aquatic conveyor belt.

P4270014.JPG

A Fish Appeared Where Currents Merge

One fish stood out as the most memorable, and it materialized from a spot that does not match my productive water description. I was slowly wading upstream, when I spotted a single random rise in a long slow pool. Just above the scene of the rise a large angled fallen tree spanned the entire width of the stream. I exited the creek very carefully and then slowly edged my way around the root ball of the dead fall and stopped five feet from the shoreline. At this point I knelt and partially hid behind the tree to prevent the trout from seeing me.

P4270018.JPG

Downstream Drift Under the Log Met with Success

When I was satisfactorily positioned, I fluttered a cast to the center of the pool and allowed it to creep toward the site of the recent evidence of surface feeding. The enticing caddis failed to prompt a reaction, so I continued with two more casts and extended each a bit farther toward the opposite bank. I was about to surrender to the choosey underwater resident, but I decided to lob one more soft cast to the center of the stream. The olive hares ear caddis drifted a foot, when suddenly it was attacked by a voracious Boulder Creek brown trout. Sure it was only nine inches, but I savored the stealthy approach, the challenge of making an accurate cast, and the gratification of seeing a wild trout in my net.

P4270017.JPG

Displayed

Friday was just what the doctor ordered…relatively benign wading, warm weather, a lack of wind, and a slow pace while stalking wild trout in a section of water never previously explored. It was a fun day after a one week layoff.

Fish Landed: 6

 

CDC Blue Winged Olive – 04/22/2018

CDC Blue Winged Olive 04/22/2018 Photo Album

The history of my association with this fly is available in my 03/11/2014 post, and it evolved into a mainstay in my fly box since the inception of this blog. In many instances it is the only blue winged olive imitation required, although I carry the fly in sizes 18 through 24. The broods of baetis that emerge in the fall tend to be more diminutive than their spring cousins, thus necessitating the size 24’s. Normally I utilize size 20 and 22 during spring hatch matching situations.

P3280001.JPG

Materials to Tie a CDC BWO

During 2017 I encountered several instances when my trusted CDC BWO’s failed to meet my expectations. Two notable examples were 04/19/2017 on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and 11/01/2017 on the Eagle River. In an attempt to remedy this weakness in my blue winged olive arsenal, I researched and identified the BWO Klinkhammer style as my secret weapon in difficult baetis hatch conditions. The commonality of the frustrating experiences was wind. I theorized that the wind blew the olives off the water, before adults with upright wings became a triggering feature. The Klinkhammer style featured a dangling abdomen on a curved hook with a small wing post and parachute hackle to represent the emerging wing and legs at an early stage.

P3280003.JPG

Nice View of Split Tail

On 04/05/2018 I faced my first test of blue winged olive hatch matching options. Overcast skies and dim light prompted a steady emergence of baetis on the South Platte River during the afternoon, and my first response was to knot a CDC BWO to my line. I managed to hook and land a couple trout, but the successes required excessive casting, and abundant refusals and lack of interest by visible fish suggested that the CDC version was not the answer. I shifted gears and attached one of my new Klinkhammer BWO’s to my line, and the rest of the afternoon was spectacular. Sixteen energetic South Platte residents were deceived by the new addition to my fly supply.

On 04/16/2018 I arrived on a quality pool on the Eagle River confident that I was armed with the necessary ingredients to fool trout during blue winged olive hatches that coincided with windy conditions. After all, I possessed CDC BWO’s in a range of sizes, and I supplemented these winners with Klinkhammer BWO’s that proved their worth on the South Platte River on 04/05/2018. The weather was very similar to 04/05/2018 with ongoing overcast skies, and wind that gusted up to sixteen miles per hour.

As anticipated small olive bodied mayflies made an appearance at noon, but my line contained a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger. I knotted this to my leader thirty minutes earlier in an attempt to imitate small gray midges, that held the attention of the fish in the pool. I applied floatant to the body and wing of the soft hackle and decided to continue fishing it as a dry fly trapped in the surface film. I did not observe adults with upright wings and surmised that emergers and cripples were the preferred food source on a very windy day.

It worked! I landed twenty-one trout on 04/16/2018, and fifteen of them succumbed to the greased soft hackle emerger. In addition five slashed at and ate the Klinkhammer BWO. Despite the discovery of new weapons in my quest for blue winged olive hatch matching, I also experienced several days when the CDC BWO earned its place in my fly box.

P3280004.JPG

A Completed Batch

With all this background in mind I counted my CDC BWO’s and determined that I needed a handful of new models. I produced four size 22 and four size 20 versions, and I feel confident that I have an adequate array of imitations to dupe greedy fish selectively feeding on some stage of blue winged olives. But then again confidence is a dangerous thing in the fly fishing game.

Light Gray Comparadun – 04/22/2018

Light Gray Comparadun 04/22/2018 Photo Album

The light gray comparadun was the first fly that sparked my love affair with the no hackle series designed by Caucci and Nastasi. If interested, you can read about my evolution from classic Catskill dry fly to comparadun proponent on my 02/21/2014 post.

P3260012.JPG

Macro of a Pair of Size 16 Comparaduns

My 12/27/2015 update outlined the emergence of the cinnamon comparadun as a second favored comparadun option. Both flies performed especially well during pale morning dun hatches, but over the last two years I determined that the cinnamon version was somewhat more effective especially on certain river systems such as the Frying Pan River. Despite this slippage in ranking in my comparadun repertoire I continued to encounter situations, where the gray version was preferred by western trout. A solid example of this circumstance is available in my 06/23/2017 post that covered my day on the Yampa River. Experiences like this prompt me to continue tying light gray comparaduns in sizes 14 – 18.

P3260011.JPG

Total Output of Light Gray

I took stock of my light gray inventory and determined that I needed to increment my supply of size 18, 16, and 14. I recently completed this small tying effort with two size 18, six size16, and one size 14. I believe I am adequately prepared for pale morning dun hatches of all colors and all sizes. I cannot wait.

 

South Platte River – 04/19/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/19/2018 Photo Album

I arrived next to the South Platte River on Thursday, April 19 eager to enjoy another fun day of fly fishing in Colorado. The air temperature was in the low forties, and a mild breeze kicked up from time to time to make it feel cooler. I wore my brimmed New Zealand hat with ear flaps and a fleece layer and light down on top. During my five hours on the water the sun appeared frequently, but high thin clouds prevented the air temperature from rising above the low fifties. The river was in spectacular condition, and the reported flows on the DWR web site were 62 CFS.

P4190001.JPG

62 CFS

I anticipated a blue winged olive hatch, but it was a bit early for that at 11AM, so I defaulted to my favorite prospecting configuration. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line as a large visible surface attractor, and beneath the foam floater I added a beadhead hares ear. I cast this double to some very attractive deep runs and pockets, but after four such attempts to attract fish, I remained scoreless on the fish counter. This was very unusual for the stretch of water that I was stationed in, so I decided to add a second dropper to provide more length and weight. I chose an emerald caddis pupa for this chore. I reasoned that the bright emerald color would attract attention, and the size 14 fly with a bead would provide additional ballast for a faster sink rate.

P4190004.JPG

Hovering Over the Water

P4190005.JPG

Salivated Over the Run by the Large Rock

The tactic worked, and over the one hour time period between my start and lunch I landed four fine trout in the eleven to twelve inch range. One was a rainbow and the other three displayed the buttery gold color of brown trout. Number two smashed the fat Albert, and the other three snatched the beadhead hares ear nymph.

P4190007.JPG

Pale Pink Stripe Rainbow

Although four fish per hour is a satisfying catch rate, I felt like I was casting to numerous productive spots without results. After lunch I continued and landed fish at a similar pace while covering a fair amount of real estate. In the early afternoon I spotted a few random blue winged olives, but their presence did not seem to provoke any surface feeding, so I exchanged the emerald caddis pupa for a size 20 RS2 with a tiny silver bead. I was very optimistic that the diminutive fly would interest stream residents, that were chasing active baetis nymphs, but that was not the case.

After a reasonable trial period I removed the RS2 and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. The zug bug produced one fish, while the hares ear remained the dominant offering, but I continued to sense that I was bypassing fish that were ignoring my flies. At two o’clock I hooked the three flies on a dead branch on a backcast and snapped them off at a leader knot above the fat Albert. I stared at the bare branches for five minutes before I finally spotted the dangling yellow fat Albert, and this enabled me to recover all three flies. As I reattached the flies, I decided to once again replace the bottom fly. I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph.

P4190026.JPG

Give Me a C

P4190014.JPG

Hooked One Under the Foam, but It Escaped

Perhaps it was the fly change, or maybe the time of day, or perhaps the type of water; but suddenly the fishing action was torrid. I began to land trout at a feverish pace, and shallow riffles of moderate depth were the premier trout producers. Unlike past experiences later in the season the trout were not as spread out to locations such as short pockets, but longer deep pockets produced as well as slack water that bordered deep fast runs. The most dependable spots were the deep slots at the end of slow moving troughs, where two currents merged and formed a V.

P4190027.JPG

Spotsylvania

Needless to say I had a blast. I employed my favorite technique of rapid fire casts to target areas, and in the rare instance where there was no response after three drifts, I moved on. I made long upstream casts to the top of moderate depth riffles, and frequently the fat Albert stopped dead in its tracks, whereupon I raised the rod tip and felt the throb of a nice twelve or thirteen inch brown trout. My confidence elevated, and I could almost predict each strike.

P4190024.JPG

Torrid Action in the Afternoon

The fast paced action continued from two o’clock until four o’clock, as I boosted the fish count to thirty-one. It was simply a matter of finding the right type of water, and the fish took care of the rest. During the two hour afternoon window I estimate that 60% of the trout favored the salvation and the remainder chomped the hares ear. In fact the salvation nymph accounted for so many trout, that the thread was severed and began to unravel thus requiring a replacement.

P4190032.JPG

Likely Spot

The anticipated baetis hatch never materialized, but it did not matter. I never complain when the fish prefer a larger fly with enhanced hooking capability. Thursday was my first thirty fish day of the new season, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Hopefully there are a few more in my future before the impact of run off becomes a factor.

Fish Landed: 31

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 04/18/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam.

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 04/18/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday was more of a walk the dog day than a serious fly fishing day. Our son, Dan, and his fiancee, Ariel, adopted a dog named Zuni. On days when Dan travels and Ariel works, Jane and I enjoy dog sitting duties for our grandpuppy. Yesterday we transported Zuni to Mt. Falcon Park, where we hiked the Meadows Trail.

Thursday we decided to introduce Zuni to fly fishing. We packed the car with fly fishing gear and dog tending items, and we departed for the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek below Buttonrock Reservoir. First we detoured to the Highlands in Denver, where we gathered Miss Zuni, and we ushered her into the car. An hour and fifteen minutes later we arrived at the parking lot below the gate that restricts vehicle access to the Button Rock Preserve. Jane tended to Zuni’s high energy levels and constant curiosity, while I climbed into my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight rod.

We hiked for a good distance, while Zuni criss-crossed the packed dirt road in an effort to explore the stream, the boulders, the sticks, and the tall grass along the way. Finally we arrived at the location I chose for my entry point. Jane and Zuni remained as spectators for a bit, but my lack of action resulted in their exit, as they advance up the dirt road.

P4180010.JPG

This Little Guy Was the First Fish of the Day

I began my quest for St. Vrain trout with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead salvation nymph; but this trio of flies was soundly ignored by the local stream dwelling residents. After thirty minutes of focused fishing I covered a fair distance including some quality pools, and the fish counter remained locked on zero. I decided to make a change, and I swapped the salvation nymph for a RS2. This move paid off, when I lifted the rod tip to make another cast in a medium sized pool, and a small brown trout latched on to the RS2. Shortly thereafter the same result occurred in another pool a bit farther upstream, and I was pleased to experience a small amount of success.

P4180011.JPG

Another RS2 Lover

More upstream progress delivered me to a qualtiy pool above a huge collection of branches and sticks, and as I fired the dry/dropper into the depths, several fish revealed their presence with sipping rises. I halted my casts to avoid disturbing the water and observed for a minute. I spotted at least five fish in close proximity, and several moved back and forth snatching food from the drift, while two elevated to the surface and displayed occasional subtle sips.

Clearly these fish were seeking food in the upper one-third of the water column, and my nymphs were drifting below their area of search. I removed the three flies and tied a tiny size 24 CDC BWO to my line. I was very optimistic that this offering would deceive the pool feeders, but it was ignored in a manner similar to inanimate debris. Could these fish be selective to emergers in a manner similar to Monday on the Eagle River?

I decided to test my theory. I replaced the CDC olive with a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger, and I applied a liberal amount of floatant to the body. I flipped five casts to the center and far side of the pool with no results, but on the sixth drift a nine inch brown darted to the surface and consumed the wet fly. I quickly reacted and netted the feisty eater. Once I photographed and released the small jewel, I glanced at my watch and realized it was 12:30, and Jane and I agreed to meet at the large outflow pipe at that time.

P4180013.JPG

Soft Hackle Emerger Eater

I quickly clambered up the bank, and as I began walking at a brisk pace, I spotted Jane and Zuni coming toward me. We met, and Zuni showed excessive interest in my wading staff, and then we moved on to a nice spot next to a long pool. Jane spread out her outdoor blanket, and we enjoyed our lunches while Zuni rested.

After lunch I ambled a short distance to the head of the long pool and paused to observe. As I gazed at the far side of the pool, I spotted two dark figures, and then as I stared one fish elevated to sip a morsel from the surface. This of course confirmed that the items I sighted were fish, so I engaged in some long casts to the far side of the pool, while I was careful to avoid the large overhanging pine boughs. The closest fish seemed to look toward the fly several times, but that was the extent of its interest. Another fish several feet beyond the looker slowly moved to the surface to suck in a natural, so I shifted my attention to that target. I dropped a nice cast five feet above number two, and in a flash it darted upward and inhaled my offering. I responded with a short set, and then I guided the small brown to my net. As this transpired, Jane and Zuni looked on. I snapped a photo, while I held the fish next to the net, and then I extended it to Zuni. I was curious to see her reaction, and she responded with her first kiss. Well, it was her first kiss of a fish. I am not aware of the goings on during her frequent dog park visits.

P4180015.JPG

Zuni's First Kiss

After this fun episode I returned to the road, and I hiked back to the pool that contained five rising fish before lunch. I walked downstream beyond the intended pool in order to reach the shallow tail, where I could safely cross to the opposite side. As I progressed upstream along the far bank, I paused at the bottom of the long slow pool and launched a few casts to the smooth water above me. On the third drift I noted a bulge below the dry fly, and I set the hook and reeled in another small brown trout. I neglected to mention, that I switched the soft hackle emerger for a Klinkhammer BWO, and the recently added fly fooled the pool resident.

I continued to the pool inhabited by five trout, but the Klink emerger failed to entice any interest, and my watch indicated that it was time to depart. I once again scaled the steep rocky bank and hiked back to the parking lot at a brisk pace. I found Jane and Zuni cavorting about the parking area, and a dog water bowl was positioned directly behind the Santa Fe. I began to remove my waders, and a couple arrived with two dogs, and Zuni quickly introduced herself to a black female puppy. Apparently rough play is a necessary phase of dog introduction, as both pups frolicked and rolled in the parking lot for a bit.

P4180016.JPG

Licking the Net

I was pleased to land five small brown trout in two hours of fishing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Despite the clear blue skies a brief hatch of blue winged olives attracted some surface feeders, and I capitalized by fooling three on dry flies. Not a bad day for a dog walk.

Fish Landed: 5

Eagle River – 04/16/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards

Eagle River 04/16/2018 Photo Album

Wow. I am not sure there are enough superlatives to describe my day yesterday on the Eagle River. Yes, twenty-one trout landed is a nice quantity, but the size was fairly average, with most falling in the twelve to fourteen inch range. The mix of brown trout vs. rainbow trout was around 60/40, and I landed two rare cutthroats as well. Why was it so special?

Last spring and fall I experienced three outings when dense blue winged olive hatches developed, but I was unable to fool trout on a consistent basis. The common factor in all these instances was strong wind. Two memorable occasions when BWO frustration ruled were on the Frying Pan River on 10/26/2017 and the South Platte River on 04/19/2017. My last visit to the Eagle River on 11/01/2018 was another similar example of baetis hatch frustration. So here I was along side the Eagle River again on April 16, 2018 with relatively high winds in the forecast. Would Monday be another exercise in frustration?

When I planned my day on the Eagle River, I reacted to two critical pieces of information. The weather forecast called for highs in the low sixties accompanied by 16 MPH winds. I banked on the warm air temperatures to create comfortable conditions for a day of fishing. The stream flows were in the 150 CFS range; and my friend, Todd, who lives in Arrowhead near Avon informed me in an email, that fishing has been been excellent with consistent blue winged olive hatches in the afternoon. I took the plunge and made the two plus hour drive to Avon.

P4160001.JPG

Fun Starts Here on April 16

As I prepared to fish, the air temperature was around fifty degrees, and slate gray skies suggested, that it would be awhile before the warming rays of the sun would have an impact. As projected, the wind gusted on a regular basis, so I pulled on my green light fleece jacket in addition to my waders. I eschewed my New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and left my gray fleece in the car. I banked on sunshine and a warming trend in the afternoon.

As the day evolved, the sun rarely peaked through the clouds, and I rued my decision to forego the ear flaps and extra layer. The weather did not create comfortable conditions for fishing, but it did provide an ideal environment for blue winged olives. Once my Sage four weight was assembled, with the fly line pulled through the guides, I crossed the highway and followed the bicycle path down the hill to the river. I was overjoyed to discover that I was the first arrival at the targeted section of the stream. I configured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2 and began drifting the nymphs through some delightful deep runs at the top of the long pool. I was quite optimistic; however, thirty minutes elapsed with no action.

I shuffled to the bank to warm my feet and then retreated to a nice wide run just downstream of the pool. Once again I probed the depths with my nymphs, and again there was no evidence of Eagle River trout. I abandoned the faster run and returned to the midsection of the large pool, and at this point I exchanged the beadhead hares ear for a beadhead emerald caddis pupa. The emerald pupa generated a few nice trout in the early going in Eleven Mile Canyon, so perhaps the same would occur on Monday on the Eagle River. I began drifting the nymphs through the middle of the pool, where the faster water spread out over nice moderate depth, and simultaneously I began to see sporadic rises.

P4160004.JPG

Gray-Green Rocket

I scanned the water several times, but I was unable to detect any surface food source of significance. I debated shifting to a blue winged olive dry fly, but I was not certain that was the answer. As these thoughts were swirling through my brain, another fisherman arrived, and I carefully watched him. He had a large backpack, and he changed into his waders and assembled his rod among the large boulders next to my pool. I was eager to see where he planned to fish. Eventually he was ready, and he began fishing the faster run below the pool, that I prospected fifteen minutes earlier. After a bit he signaled, and asked if I minded if he crossed to the the very lower portion of the pool, and I responded with an OK. I was a bit concerned that he would occupy the slower moving lower section of the pool above the natural rock dam, but the area was quite large and could easily accommodate two fishermen.

P4160002.JPG

Sparkle Wing RS2 Lover

I returned my attention to the prime matter at hand, catching fish. I resumed drifting the nymphs through the midsection, and I continued to observe sporadic rises from trout throughout the area. Finally at the end of one of my drifts I allowed the nymphs to dangle, while I took a few steps to change positions, and suddenly I felt a bump and a throb on my line. I reacted with a quick hook set, but just as quickly the fish escaped. Clearly this fish reacted to the fluttering nymph, so perhaps that was the key to enticing the feeders surrounding me. I began to impart movement to the drifting nymphs including bad down stream mends, jigging action, and strips toward the end of the swing. I managed a couple more momentary hook ups with trout, and then as I attempted to lift the flies to recast, a fish struck. This time I set the hook and succeeded in eventually guiding a fine fourteen inch rainbow trout to my net. It apparently had a hankering for the sparkle wing RS2. I shot a video and snapped some photos and released number one on the day.

I thought I solved the puzzle, as I began lifting and swinging the nymphs, but my confidence was misplaced. The other fisherman was now slowly working his way downstream along the north bank toward the golf course, and I noticed quite a bit of activity in the tail area. I circled back to shore and then carefully waded to a position, where I could easily cast to the risers at the tail. I carefully observed the water once more, and I spotted a few gray or tan colored midges. I suspected that this was the source of food, but I had no adult midge imitations in my fly box. What should I do?

P4160005.JPG

Midge Sipper

It was clear that the trout were focused on a food source in the surface film or just below it. I thought of the Craven soft hackle emergers without beads. Perhaps I could apply floatant to the small wet fly, and fish it right on the surface. It was worth a try. I plucked one from my fleece wallet and dabbed some floatant on the body and began to fire casts to the area of rising trout. It was a stroke of genius. Within the next forty minutes I landed three additional trout to increment my fish count to four.

P4160010.JPG

Look At Those Cheeks

It was around noon when something equally surprising occurred. I began to note small blue winged olives on the surface, and the Eagle River trout never skipped a beat. They simply shifted their preferred diet from midges to baetis. I, meanwhile, continued fishing the wet fly as a dry, and by the time I stumbled to the boulder strewn beach on stump-like feet to eat lunch, I registered eight fish landed and released. After lunch I waded back into the pool but more toward the midsection, where an abundant quantity of fish were chowing down. The wind continued to gust frequently, and when the river surface riffled, the trout ceased their feast, and I rested my arm.

P4160014.JPG

Deep Cooper- Olive Scarlet Color Scheme

The soft hackle emerger continued to fool fish, and the fish counter climbed to twelve, but then I suffered through a significant dry spell, when the tiny wet fly was ignored. Was I overly focused on my newly discovered technique? Would the Klinkhammer style emerger outperform the Craven soft hackle if given playing time? I made the switch, and the Klink model produced five more decent trout. Similar to the soft hackle, I cast it across and executed downstream drifts. The main reason downstream drifts excelled was the advantageous light, but the lack of presence of a line may have also been a factor.

P4160016.JPG

Those Spots Are Amazing

If this sounds like I had the perfect flies, that was not the case. For each fish landed I lobbed twenty or thirty casts over the feeding trout clustered in the pool. Many times I could not follow my fly and simply set when a rise occurred in the vicinity of where I anticipated the fly to be. But in some cases particularly with the higher floating visible Klinkhammer, I witnessed looks and refusals. The pool dwellers definitely preferred naturals, but as evidenced by the fish count, my flies worked often enough to maintain my interest.

P4160020.JPG

So Chunky

Toward the later part of the afternoon, the other fisherman returned to the beach next to the pool, and I invited him to wade into the lower end. His name was Kevin, and he was fishing a size 20 olive body parachute fly with a red wing post. While I shared the pool with him, he notched three or four trout.

At one point we both rested on the shoreline to warm our feet, and I noticed a large rainbow trout hovering in very shallow space just above a large submerged rock. It darted to the surface and picked off a tiny morsel. I pointed it out to Kevin and gave him first shot, but he was having difficulty locating the fish. He managed to put two casts over the rainbow with no reaction, and then as we observed, another similar sized rainbow joined the first one. I told Kevin it was my turn. I dropped two casts above the two trout, and the trout were so close, that I did not have to strip additional line from the tip of the rod. On the third cast as Kevin and I watched, I lifted the soft hackle emerger to recast, and before the fly got off the water, the rainbow closest to the bank lifted and snared the emerger! I was frankly a bit surprised, but I continued lifting and felt momentary weight, and then the fly slipped out of the jaw of the hungry rainbow. I failed to catch the sighted trout, but I enjoyed the challenge of generating a take.

P4160025.JPG

Perfect Ending

After this exciting episode I returned to fishing the soft hackle emerger as a dry fly, and I tallied an additional four landed trout. Again there was a significant amount of fruitless casting, but the catch rate was reasonable. During this late afternoon time frame I had some success with drifts that were twenty feet below me, and in one instance a fish grabbed the fly just as I made a quick mend that translated into a tweak of the fly.

By 4:30 my feet were once again stumps, and my entire body was quite chilled from the relentless wind and standing in frigid snow melt water. I reeled up my line, and Kevin decided to quit as well. We hiked back up the path to the road, and together we marveled at the day we experienced.

The greatest thrill on Monday was discovering a technique that produced fish on a fairly consistent basis during a hatch of tiny blue winged olives in windy conditions. This situation frustrated me in the past, and I was ecstatic to land fifteen wild fish on the Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. I now have three weapons for blue winged olive hatches: the CDC BWO, the Klinkhammer BWO and the Craven soft hackle emerger fished like a dry fly. Fly fishing is a lifetime experience that provides a never ending learning curve.

Fish Landed: 21

Cinnamon Comparadun – 04/14/2018

Cinnamon Comparadun 04/14/2018 Photo Album

If the reader is interested in understanding my evolution to comparaduns, then consider reading my post of Comparaduns – 02/21/2014. I just reexamined it myself, and I enjoyed refreshing my memory on this subject. For a great description of my adoption of the cinnamon comparadun as a must have fly, my posts of 02/01/2015 and 12/23/2015 are very informative. The 12/23/2015 text also highlights several key tying steps that produce quality imitations of natural mayflies. I will not attempt to reinvent the wheel in this post.

P3190012.JPG

A New Size 14 Cinnamon Comparadun on a Recovered Hook

During my trips to the Frying Pan River in 2017 I never encountered significant pale morning dun activity, and consequently the cinnamon comparadun was not a factor in my fishing success on that waterway. On June 23 on the Yampa River it played a key role that resulted in several fish, and it fooled a few fish on the Eagle River on 07/03/2017. During September and October the cinnamon comparadun demonstrated its fish attracting qualities on several occasions on South Boulder Creek, when I was surprised by late season mid-afternoon hatches.

P3190013.JPG

Three Size 16's With Needed Materials

P3180010.JPG

Damaged and Misfit Dry Flies to Be Recovered

As part of my winter fly tying process I focused on sorting through my many canisters of old unraveling and damaged flies. In the case of comparaduns I retrieved at least twenty-five bedraggled models, and I stripped them down to the bare hook. These hooks served as my supply to replenish comparaduns, and I recovered so many that a decent quantity of 18’s, 16’s and 14’s remain on the magnet that rests beneath my vise.

I tallied 33 size 18 cinnamon comparaduns in my storage boxes and concluded that additional quantities were not required. Size 18 matches 90% of the pale morning dun hatches that greet me in the west; however, occasionally a size 16 is in demand. I only counted seven size 16’s, so I manufactured an additional three to bring my total to ten. I hope to encounter more pale morning dun activity in 2018, and if my wish is fulfilled, I have adequate stocks of cinnamon imitations.

 

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake – 04/13/2018

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake 04/13/2018 Photo Album

A third key component of my western green drake arsenal is the Harrop hair wing green drake. The story of my introduction to and history with this fly is chronicled in my 12/29/2015 post. I invite you to check it out.

P3110026.JPG

Nice Hairwing GD

During the past summer my finest day of green drake action using the Harrop style dry fly occurred on the Arkansas River at Hayden Meadows on 07/26/2017. This was the second summer that I encountered the gray drake hatch on the upper river below Leadville, and once again I had a blast. When I found the appropriate water and placed the high floating drake imitation in the sweet spot, the trout moved several feet to crush the heavily hackled deer wing fake.

P3080008.JPG

A Pair Completed

Unfortunately I also experienced times when the trout rejected or ignored the bushy floater, and fortunately in these instances I had the parachute and comparadun styles to fall back on. Nevertheless I would not want to be on a stream during green and gray drake season without some Harrop versions in my fly box.

P3110029.JPG

Five Newly Minted Hair Wings

I counted seven size twelves in my inventory, and I deemed that quantity to be adequate for my upcoming needs. In size fourteen on the other hand I tabulated six, so I incremented my supply by four to attain a total of ten. Hopefully this will provide adequate coverage for those periods when the trout tune into the hackled hair wing facsimile of a western green drake.

Green Drake Comparadun – 04/13/2018

Green Drake Comparadun 04/13/2018 Photo Album

My previous post of 04/12/2018 on the parachute green drake contains links to reports on my history with flies that imitate the large western mayfly. It also included links to my recorded logs on several fun outings during 2017, when I encountered green drake hatches that provoked excellent surface action. During these memorable days on the streams, the parachute green drake and green drake comparadun were very effective. In my opinion the size 14 version is a more convincing imitation than size 12 a high percentage of the time. My 01/11/2016 post on the green drake comparadun details a few nuances, that I applied to my ties over the last two years. I feel certain that these small features are a critical part of my success with green drake comparaduns.

P3050005.JPG

Nice Angled View

P3050007.JPG

Five Flies Plus Materials

I took stock of my green drake comparaduns recently, and I determined that my boxes contained two size twelves and seven size fourteens. I overwhelmingly use size fourteens in the comparadun style, so I occupied my stool at the vise and produced five new models to bring my inventory to twelve. I am already anxiously looking ahead to more productive interactions with green drakes during the summer of 2018.