North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 09/30/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between RMNP and the Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 09/30/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

On Sunday, September 30 my son, Dan, agreed to join me for a day of fishing. Dan’s busy life affords him only rare opportunities for fly fishing outings, so I felt very fortunate. After reviewing the flows of the front range streams, I proposed two possible destinations; the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek and the Big Thompson River. Dan opted for the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and I picked him up at his home in Louisville, CO at 8AM.

We drove to the trailhead and began hiking at 9:30. After we pulled on our waders and assembled our rods, we worked our way downstream and began fishing by 11:00. When we departed from the parking lot, the dashboard thermometer registered forty degrees, and dense fog blocked the warming rays of the sun. I suspect that the temperature never rallied above fifty-five degrees during our day, and the narrow canyon was quite chilly particularly in the shade. I wore a fleece and raincoat layer for most of my stay on the creek. Eventually the sun burned through the fog and clouds, but the additional sunlight failed to neutralize the chilling impact of the wind.

Dan began with a Chernobyl ant and ultra zug bug, and I started with a peacock hippy stomper and a hares ear nymph. In a brief amount of time Dan landed a gorgeous cutbow that measured thirteen inches, and our optimism skyrocketed.

We alternated pools, until we arrived at the spot, where we stashed our packs, and we paused along the creek to eat our lunches on a large flat rectangular rock. It was perfect for our purposes. Just before lunch I added an ultra zug bug below the hares ear, and the glistening peacock concoction enabled me to land an eleven inch brown trout in the next pool above the one, where Dan netted his cutbow. At the head of a very long smooth pool just below the intersection with the trail, that we followed to the creek, I landed two more ten inch browns that grabbed the ultra zug bug. These fish attacked the nymphs, shortly after they penetrated the surface of the creek.

After lunch we continued upstream, from where the trail met the creek. The area was breathtaking, as the stream cascaded over and around an abundant quantity of huge boulders. Maneuvering around the rocks and fallen logs required persistence and strength. We pool-hopped upstream, since the creek consisted of a series of spectacular plunge pools connected by short segments of fast white water chutes.

During the early afternoon I removed the hares ear, as it never produced a fish, and I replaced it with a salvation nymph. I reconfigured my lineup by attaching the ultra zug bug as the top fly, and I positioned the salvation on the bottom. This three fly lineup moved the fish counter from three to seven, at which point I set the hook in response to a barely perceptible pause in the top fly. The line encountered no resistance, and my flies hurtled into a branch high above the creek. I quickly determined that there was no way to recover the flies, so I applied strong direct pressure, and they quickly snapped off above the hippy stomper near the end of the tapered leader.

The tree branch forced me to rebuild my leader, and I used the reset as an opportunity to experiment with a solo Jake’s gulp beetle. On the first cast of the beetle a beautiful cutbow moved at least a foot to sip the terrestrial, and I landed one of the two best fish of the day. The scene was ultra visual, and I can still picture it in my mind.

Over the remainder of the afternoon we moved upstream and alternated pools, and the beetle yielded four additional catches. Small deep slow moving pockets next to the bank provided the most success, as brown trout used the cover of the rocks and then ambushed any available source of food. My beetle was fortunately regarded as a sumptuous meal

At 3:30 we reached a place that required more rock climbing effort than we were ready to provide, so we decided to make it our turnaround point. The unending uphill return hike required a bit more than an hour to conquer, and in spite of our weariness we were both euphoric over finding new water and enjoying a decent level of success. I would love to return to the section of the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek that provided success to Dan and me on September 30.

Fish Landed: 12

 

Boulder Creek – 09/27/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon west of Boulder, CO

Boulder Creek 09/27/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

Jane and I attended the Rockies trouncing of the Phillies at Coors Field on Wednesday night, and the later than normal bedtime caused me to rule out a long day trip for fly fishing on Thursday. With flows on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir continuing to trickle at 7.5 CFS, I ruled out my favorite local fishery. The vagaries of Denver water management were on display with the Big Thompson River rushing down the canyon below Lake Estes at 130 CFS, and I was not interested in edge fishing in September. I narrowed my search to two remaining options; Boulder Creek and Clear Creek. The streamflow data displayed 16 CFS for Boulder Creek, when I reviewed the web site, and the popular canyon section west of Boulder, CO became my destination on Thursday, September 27.

Although the high temperature was forecast to reach 86 degrees in Denver, CO, I knew that the morning would be quite chilly in the shadows of the canyon, so I took my time and delayed my departure until 9:30. I arrived at a pullout along Boulder Creek by 10:45, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I descended a steep bank and stood in the stream ready to cast by 11AM. I began my quest for Boulder Canyon brown trout with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and very little time transpired before a ten inch brown trout darted to the surface and smashed the foam terrestrial. Within the first thirty minutes three additional browns slurped the beetle, and I was quite pleased with my early success. Would it continue?

Not exactly. During the next half hour I covered many quality pools, and the trout seemed to go into hiding. At noon I paused to down my small lunch, and while doing so I observed a gorgeous long pool just upstream from my flat rock vantage point. I never saw evidence of trout in the pool, but shortly after lunch I converted to a two fly dry/dropper. I switched the foam beetle to a peacock hippy stomper and added a salvation nymph on a thirty inch dropper. The dry/dropper experiment lasted for twenty minutes, and I added three more small brown trout to the count, but the plunk of the nymph caused numerous fish to scatter to hiding places. The fish that I landed nabbed the nymph along fast current seams or at the lip of a pocket, when I lifted, but I covered quite a bit of the stream in order to catch three small fish, and I decided to make another change.

Clearly the low clear water placed the stream residents in a skittish mood, and I reasoned that a small light dry fly might be a strong producer. I knotted a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line, and I began to prospect the likely spots with a single dry fly. The low riding caddis adult did fool two fish to elevate my total to nine, but it was very difficult to follow in the shadows and swirling currents, and it was not a hot producer. In fact the number of refusals outnumbered the takes, so I once again made a change. I reverted to a Jake’s gulp beetle, and this mainstay terrestrial became my steady fish magnet for much of the remainder of the day.

I plopped the beetle in all the likely spots and moved quickly, and the fish count swelled from nine to twenty-six. At one point I hooked a fish, and within seconds the fish was free. Upon closer inspection I discovered a curly end to my leader, and I was minus one Jake’s gulp beetle. I replaced it with another and continued netting brown trout; however, the success was matched by nearly an equal number of refusals. I suspect, however, that the fish that rejected the beetle were quite small, and the size 12 beetle was an overwhelming mouthful.

My most effective technique was to cautiously approach, and when I was across from a deep pocket or shelf pool, I flicked the beetle to the upstream portion of the target area. I held my rod tip high to keep the fly line off the water, and this minimized drag. Quite often the slow moving beetle with no drag was too much for a Boulder Creek resident to resist, and the plop with no line contact seemed to minimize spooked fish.

At 2:30 I approached a spectacular pool, and after witnessing several refusals I decided to experiment with some different dry flies. First I replaced the beetle with a parachute ant, and I was certain that this would arouse the interest of the low water feeders, but it was a huge dud. Next I returned to the size 16 gray caddis adult, and this earlier producer generated several refusals. Could the size and color be correct, but the fish were attuned to an up wing insect such as a pale morning dun? I tied a light gray comparadun to my line, but this offering failed to elicit even a look or refusal.

Finally I gave up on the quality pool and moved on and reverted to plopping the beetle and boosted the fish count total to its final resting place of twenty-six. By 3:30PM I began to think more about the Phillies vs Rockies afternoon game than fly fishing; so I hooked the beetle to my rod guide, climbed the bank and hiked .5 mile along the highway, until I reached the car. After I removed my gear, I quickly tuned the radio to the ballgame, and I was pleased to learn the Rockies held a 5 – 1 lead in the seventh inning. On my return drive I listened to the remainder of the game, and the Rockies held on for a 5-3 win; their seventh consecutive win in their push for a division championship.

Thursday was a fun day in Boulder Canyon. Yes the fish were small, although I did land two thirteen inch fish, and that is lunker size for Boulder Creek. I was challenged to solve the puzzle of what to offer the canyon residents, and the low clear water placed a premium on long drag free casts and stealthy approaches. The changing variables of fly fishing are what keep me coming back.

Fish Landed: 26

South Boulder Creek – 09/25/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: East of Pinecliffe, CO

South Boulder Creek 09/25/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

Flows on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir were 7 CFS; however, upstream of the dam they were 54 CFS. After driving for 2.5 hours to the Colorado River on Monday I  preferred a short local trip on Tuesday. Another factor impacting my decision was the forecast of high temperatures of 67 degrees in Denver, and I assumed that this translated to the fifties in the foothills and mountains. I opted to stay close to home with the unfavorable weather expected.

I arrived at the parking lot in the small town of Pinecliffe by 11AM, and after I strung my Orvis Access four weight, I pulled on my insulated UnderArmour long sleeved undershirt, and then I topped it with my light down coat. I debated wearing my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps, but I concluded that ear coverage was excessive for fifty degree temperatures.

I hiked downstream along the railroad tracks and remained alert for train activity, but fortunately after fifteen minutes I found a somewhat manageable path down the steep bank to the creek. I slid slowly in the loose gravel, until I negotiated the upper one-third. Train traffic was not part of my late morning experience.

The creek where I began my day was characterized by a high gradient, large plunge pools, and huge boulders. Wading was extremely challenging, and I began with a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and a hares ear nymph. During the first hour I landed three relatively small rainbow trout, and I donated the ultra zug bug and hares ear to an evergreen branch. The trout came from the lip of pools, and imparting a lift to make another cast seemed to prompt takes, although many areas appeared to be particularly attractive yet failed to produce. Over the course of the day I never established consistency in terms of productive water type.

After lunch I hooked a trout near the opposite bank, and inexplicably the ultra zug bug and salvation nymph broke away from the fat Albert. I used the need to re-rig as an excuse to try some solo dry fly offerings, and I cycled through a Jake’s gulp beetle, size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and a parachute black ant. None of these flies generated more than a perfunctory look, so I reverted to a dry/dropper featuring a red hippy stomper, an ultra zug bug, and a salvation nymph. These three flies remained on my line until three o’clock, and they lifted the fish count to ten. One trout crushed the hippy stomper, but the rest grabbed the nymphs. The salvation was the favorite, and lifts and swings seemed to enhance the interest level of the fish. This string of netted fish included two plump rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and these were easily the best fish of the day.

By 3PM I reached a long deep pool next to a large flat-topped rock, and I remembered it as a prime fish holding location from my one prior visit to the stream near Pinecliffe. I flicked some casts along the rock wall, and this generated a pair of refusals. I was concerned that the red body color of the hippy stomper caused the rejections, so I replaced it with a dubbed peacock body version. The change made no difference, so I moved to another large quality pool that was ten yards upstream.

This area offered the benefit of being in the sun. I lobbed some casts to the left side of the strong center current, and I spotted several trout, as they elevated to inspect the hippy stomper, but I was unable to provoke a strike. Clearly these fish were looking toward the surface for their meal, and they totally ignored the nymphs. I cycled through a series of single dry flies including Jake’s gulp beetle and a parachute black ant. The visible fish ignored both flies, so I tested a parachute green drake. This large mayfly actually generated a pair of refusals, but again I was unable to close the deal. Perhaps the South Boulder Creek residents were looking for a smaller mayfly? I swapped the green drake for a size 16 gray comparadun, and this pale morning dun copy fooled a small rainbow to bring my fish count to ten for the day.

I was satisfied with my hard earned accomplishment, and I waded back to the lower pool with the intent of quitting. Before I stepped up the bank, I scanned the pool and noticed a pair of rises at the tail below the long rock. I unhooked the comparadun and flicked two downstream casts to the vicinity of the rises. On the second drift a mouth emerged, and it chomped down on the mayfly imitation, and I landed a feisty brown trout. I carefully released my late catch, and turned my attention back to the pool. Suddenly the area came alive with six rising fish, but I was unable to determine the food source that created the commotion.

It was clearly something small, so I removed the size 16 fly and replaced it with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. After fifteen casts to several feeders, I fooled a vividly colored rainbow and guided it into my net. The pace of rising fish slowed, and four o’clock appeared on my digital watch, and I was quite chilled while standing in the shade, so I called it a day and returned to the car.

Tuesday was a reasonably successful day, and I was relieved to overcome the difficult wading conditions while toughing out the first chilly outing of the fall season. Two of the twelve landed fish were respectable rainbows, and I fooled two trout with dry flies near the end of the day in the quality pool. These were worthwhile accomplishments. I was unable to discern a water type that produced consistent results, and consequently I never established a steady rhythm. I battled on and posted a reasonably successful day, and for that I am satisfied.

Fish Landed: 12

Colorado River – 09/24/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Pumphouse Recreation Area upstream into Gore Canyon

Colorado River 09/24/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

Originally I planned to complete a trip to the Arkansas River on September 24; however, when I checked the ArkAnglers’ Fly Shop report, I discovered that the river was stained due to construction work on the F Street Bridge in Salida. Although fishing above the F Street Bridge was a backup option, this did not appeal to me as much as prospecting the quality water below Salida.  I was reluctant to make the nearly three hour drive with the risk of dirty water, so I adjusted my plans.

I settled on the Colorado River at the Pumphouse Recreation Area. The fly shop reports were encouraging, and although the flows were lower than normal for September, I knew that these conditions would actually be beneficial for wade fishing. The Colorado River at Pumphouse was my destination three times in the past, but for various reasons I never devoted a full day to exploring the area.

I arrived at the daily fee parking area by 11AM, and after I assembled my Sage four weight and completed my elbow stretches, I was on my way on the Gore Canyon Trail. I skipped the lower water and then waded up the extremely low right braid next to a large island that split the river. Toward the top of the right channel I cut across the island to the main branch, and here I began my effort to land Colorado River trout. I began fishing with a tan pool toy, ultra zug bug and salvation nymph; and the large surface fly prompted four refusals from small fish in marginal pockets along the bank. I eventually discovered that this was some of the best action during the first four hours of fishing.

When I reached the top of the island, I crossed to the right bank, and between noon and 3:45PM I progressed up the river, while I prospected likely spots with the dry/dropper combination. Along the way I experimented with a 20 incher, hares ear and RS2; but none of these offerings enabled me to feel a sag in my net. I also skipped long sections of the river, that I deemed unproductive, and each time I reached the head of a pool or pocket water, I encountered several anglers. A large percentage of my day was spent hiking and changing flies.

I reached a large vertical rock that served as an impediment to further progress, so I reversed my direction and retreated toward the parking lot. Along the way I paused at several attractive runs and pools, but once again the trout of the Colorado River were not kind to my approaches. Some young anglers near my farthest progression were catching whitefish on nymphs using an indicator set up, so I converted to that methodology for thirty minutes, but the change in approach failed to yield improved results.

When I reached the confluence of the two braids below the island, I reverted to the dry/dropper technique, although I swapped the pool toy for a size 8 Chernobyl ant. The area was by now absent of other fishermen, so I fished along the northern edge of the island for one hundred yards. During this effort I landed a six inch brown trout that grabbed the RS2, and I hooked a ten inch brown that leaped above the water and tossed the fly aside. Another trout refused the Chernboyl, and my frustration escalated.

By 3:30 my confidence reached a low ebb, and I decided to return to the parking lot to check out the river below the boat launches. Halfway between the confluence of the channels and the trail head I passed two spin fishermen, and I greeted the older of the two gentlemen. He asked how I was doing, and I replied, “not very well”. Apparently sensing my dissatisfaction with my day of fishing thus far, he informed me that quite a few fish were rising a short distance below where we were conversing, and I asked for more specific directions. He described the area, and I wandered thirty yards below the two fishermen.

My skepticism evaporated, as I paused to observe, and I spotted three dimples in the slow moving deep water within fifteen feet of the bank. I switched to a CDC blue winged olive, and between 3:45 and 5:00 I landed five gorgeous brown trout that sipped the BWO imitation. This may sound easy, but the situation required stealth, patience and careful casting skills. The water was extremely smooth, and I positioned myself to make casts very cautiously. I am right handed, and a dense cluster of trees and bushes arched over the water behind me making my natural cast very challenging.

Fortunately the trout were very narrowly focused on sipping tiny blue winged olives, and this diffused their wariness to some extent. I very slowly waded four feet away from the bank, and I angled my back cast over my left shoulder to create clearance from the bankside vegetation. Initially the fish ignored my size 24 CDC tuft, but eventually three decent brown trout failed to make the distinction between natural and fraud, and I admired them in my net. Two were in the twelve inch range and one was ten inches, but after hours of futility I was very thankful for the dry fly action late in the day.

Eventually the sun broke through the clouds, and this reduced the food source to a few random stragglers. The frequency of surface eats declined significantly, but I rested the water and periodically attempted additional delicate casts in an effort to increase the fish count. Of course during this time I managed to snag the trees behind me several times, and in one instance I was forced to snap off the productive size 24. Finally I grew weary of the delicate finesse game, and I decided to return to the car. By now my watch displayed 4:30, and I knew from previous trips that Jane’s concern over my safety would elevate significantly, if I lingered too long.

I began strolling along the Gore Canyon Trail, and after twenty yards I stood next to a section, where the river created a small indentation next to a beach, and I was shocked to see another pod of actively feeding fish. I could not resist the temptation to target these steady feeders, so I positioned myself at the tail of the nice shelf pool. Once again a cluster of trees was behind me, but unlike the other setting, I could side arm cast over the beach area for decent clearance.

At least eight if not more fish dimpled the surface, and I targeted a steady riser ten feet above me. On the fifth drift a surface disturbance coincided with the position of my fly, and I quickly raised the rod tip and set the hook. When I got my first glimpse of the thrashing fighter, I was shocked to learn, that I was connected to a strong fifteen inch brown trout. One can imagine my excitement, as I slid my net beneath the prize, after the long period of futility during the early afternoon.

But the story does not end here. I released the brown and resumed casting to some rising fish to my left, but this area presented more glare, and I was unable to follow my fly. I turned my attention once again to the area that produced the prize brown, and another fish rose four feet upstream from the site of my recent success. I began lobbing soft casts to the area, and on the eighth drift a fish slurped my offering. Once again I reacted swiftly, and this fish battled even harder than the previous, although once it was in my net, it measured closer to fourteen inches. Needless to say I was in a state of heightened elation with the end of day successes.

After I released the second unexpected bruiser, I glanced at my watch and noted that it was a few minutes after 5PM. Despite continued feeding in the quality pool next to me, I clipped my fly to the rod guide and walked at a brisk pace back to the parking lot.

What a strange day. I rode an emotional roller coaster from hopeful expectations to the depths of despair over my inability to attract fish to my flies over an extended four hour period. Then in the final hour I was energized by a fairly dense blue winged olive hatch and pods of actively feeding trout. I was able to overcome some casting and lighting hurdles in order to land five wild brown trout, and the netted fish were quality fish. I may consider another visit to the Colorado River; however, I will not rush to arrive there early.

Fish Landed: 6

 

 

 

North Fork of the White River – 09/21/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Trappers Lake and Marvine

North Fork of the White River 09/21/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

The dashboard thermometer registered 44 degrees F, as I drove along the dirt road toward my chosen fishing destination on Friday morning. When earlier I tilted the water container to fill my teapot on the deck of cabin 5 at Trappers Lake Lodge, I could hear chunks of ice rattling against the plastic sides. The weather forecast predicted highs around seventy degrees, but fly fishing in the shadows of the canyon at 9:30AM had me concerned. After banner days on Wednesday and Thursday, I was a bit apprehensive about my prospects on Friday. The section of the North Fork that I selected yielded varying results during prior ventures, but I was averse to covering river and creek mileage experienced during the previous two days. On 9/14/2017 I enjoyed an outstanding day in the area that I planned to fly fish on Friday, so I banked on a repeat.

My Orvis Access four weight was already rigged with a peacock body hippy stomper, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph; so I decided to continue my quest for Flattops trout with the same alignment that fooled numerous spunky fish on Thursday. I pondered wearing a fleece to counter the morning chill, but I eventually pulled on my raincoat to add warmth and serve as a windbreaker. If the temperature elevated as predicted, I could remove the rain layer and roll it tightly to fit in my backpack. I arrived at the bottom of a long canyon section prepared to cast by 9:30AM, and the steep southeastern wall cast a shadow over the entire width of the river.

Between 9:30 and noon I moved fairly rapidly along the left bank of the river, as I prospected with the three fly combination. I employed a strategy learned in previous visits to the White River. The fish occupy only long deep troughs, pockets and pools; so I curbed my innate urge to cover the many small marginal spots that surprise with fish on other rivers and creeks. Skipping wide fast sections with only short marginal pockets enabled me to cover more stream real estate than usual. In 2.5 hours of targeted fly fishing I managed to land nine trout, and several were very energetic rainbows and cutbows in the thirteen inch range. These fish were powerful for their size, and scooping them into the net was not a foregone conclusion. In fact five of my better hook ups managed to slide free after a brief connection, and I was not pleased with this series of disappointing outcomes. One of the escapees broke off the hippy stomper, and this misfortune resulted in the loss of three flies. I was not happy, although I used this circumstance to swap the small hippy stomper for a larger more visible and more buoyant tan pool toy.

After lunch I continued with the pool toy, ultra zug bug, and salvation and boosted the fish counter from nine to thirty. Yes, I had a very pleasurable afternoon. My strategy paid dividends in a major way, as I cherry picked the prime spots, and fortunately the river narrowed and offered many more attractive runs and pockets that met the casting-worthy criteria. One particularly productive long deep pool yielded at least ten of the thirty fish landed on the day. Every time I allocated one more cast with the expectation that the pool was excessively disturbed, another fish jumped on the swinging or lifting nymphs, and this caused me to linger.

Between 1:00 and 1:30 I looked ahead, and I was surprised by some movement fifty yards upstream along the left bank. I quickly determined that a young male moose was browsing among the streamside vegetation. I snatched my camera and snapped a photo, just as the moose paused in an opening between some large shrubs. I assumed that the wild creature was moving away from the river, so I resumed my focus on the matter at hand; catching fish. I waded upstream ten yards, and suddenly I heard some thrashing no more that ten feet away from me. The moose meandered along the bank and passed me, while I scrambled to once again grab my camera from its waterproof case. Finally I had a grip on the camera, and the moose decided to execute a river crossing! I pressed the video button and captured two short segments, as the large antlered beast stumbled across the river. My heart pounded from being so close, and then the moose paused two thirds of the way across and looked back at me, as if to say goodbye friend. Wow!

In spite of my reservations Friday evolved into a very enjoyable day on the North Fork of the White River. A thirty fish day is worth treasuring, the weather was perfect, and I had the area to myself. Five of the trout landed were rainbows and cutbows in the 12-14 inch ranch, and each were very feisty and a challenge to land. In addition I hooked at least five that would have extended to the top end of the scale, but they managed to elude my net. The Flattops once again delivered superb fishing in September, and visiting the remote high elevation area a week later than normal actually seemed to enhance the quality of the fishing.

Fish Landed: 30

Marvine Creek – 09/20/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: .5 – 2.0 miles from the trailhead

Marvine Creek 09/20/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I first experienced Marvine Creek last September when the upper North Fork was closed due to a wildfire. My day on the small Flattops creek was favorable, and I decided to return on Thursday, September 20. After my prior year adventure I made a mental note to fish a .5 mile canyon stretch that was a mile from the trailhead. I now realize that I failed to review my blog post from last year; and, consequently, I bypassed the canyon section. Instead I cut down to the creek after a ten minute and .5 mile hike, and this delivered me to a section of the creek downstream from the area I targeted. I suspect that the water I covered during two hours of morning fly fishing was the most heavily pressured due to its proximity to the trailhead.

The air temperature was sixty when I began, and despite clear skies and sunshine, the high never surpassed seventy. Nevertheless I was comfortable in my fishing shirt and never resorted to an additional layer. I was surprised by the decent flows in spite of the winter drought, although I suspect that water levels were lower than September 2017.

During the morning I simply continued fishing a size twelve Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph; since my rod remained rigged from Wednesday. Between 10AM and noon I landed nine trout, and all were brookies except for one ten inch rainbow. Most of the fish snatched the salvation. After thirty minutes I exchanged the Chernobyl for a tan pool toy, as the foam ant was not attracting attention, and the small yellow indicator was difficult to follow in the shadows and glare. A few fish hammered the pool toy, but the surface fly eaters managed to escape, after they attacked the foam impostor.

After lunch and a lack of action in some quality sections, I decided to make an adjustment. I replaced the pool toy with a peacock ice dub hippy stomper. In addition I extended the length of the leader between the surface fly and the upper nymph, which was the ultra zug bug. The change paid off, and the fish count ballooned from nine to forty-two during the afternoon. Five netted fish, all brook trout, slurped the hippy stomper, and the remainder favored the nymphs. I estimated that 25% chomped the ultra zug bug and 75% grabbed the trailing salvation. The overwhelming majority of landed fish were brook trout in the six to nine inch range with an occasional ten or eleven inch orange bellied bruiser in the mix.

My focus remained at an elevated level throughout the afternoon with the possibility of an occasional cutbow, cutthroat, or rainbow. I landed five of these spectacular jewels in the twelve to fourteen inch range. These catches were welcome surprises, and the silver sided fighters offered significant resistance in the tight quarters of Marvine Creek. The rainbows tended to materialize in riffles of moderate depth; whereas, the brook trout frequented slower edge pockets and the tails of pools.

Thursday was a very enjoyable day. The weather was perfect, the autumn trees were glowing, and the trout were hungry. That sums up perfection in my mind.

Fish Landed: 42

 

North Fork of the White River – 09/19/2018

Time: 1:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Between Trappers Lake and the North Fork Campground

North Fork of the White River 09/19/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I departed Denver at 8:05AM on Wednesday morning, September 19, and arrived at my intended fishing destination along the North Fork of the White River by 12:30PM. As a result of my zeal to get on the stream, I hastily consumed my small lunch and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, and a short hike on a trail delivered me to a spot next to the tumbling North Fork by 1PM.

The temperature was around 64 degrees and the sky was overcast, and the cloud cover intensified as the day progressed. By 3PM I became quite chilled, so I pulled on my raincoat for the remainder of the afternoon. In spite of this extra layer I yearned for my fleece during several brief periods, when the sky darkened and the wind picked up.

I began my quest for trout with a gray stimulator, but after ten minutes and no action, I moved on to a tan pool toy and beadhead hares ear. This combination was also ignored, so I added a salvation nymph to create a three fly lineup. For the next hour I moved upstream, and the dry/dropper alignment began to connect. Interestingly I netted five trout during this time period, and four smacked the tan pool toy. Midway through the progression I exchanged the salvation for an ultra zug bug, and the iridescent peacock nymph produced a trout as well. In addition to the landed trout, I hooked three decent fish that managed to escape, and consistent with fishing lore, these were the largest.

I covered a significant amount of stream real estate, and I learned that the deep slots and pockets were the most productive, and marginal water was largely barren. Among the first five catches were wild and colorful brook trout and cutthroats. I created a nasty entanglement near the end of this period, and the two front legs on the pool toy fell off in the process of unraveling the line. This circumstance prompted me to swap the two-legged hopper for a peacock body hippy stomper, and this move paid off handsomely.

Number six was a spectacular cutthroat that smashed the recently added hippy stomper; and the three fly combination of hippy stomper, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph remained on my line from 3:00PM until 4:30PM, and they lifted the fish count from five to twenty. The catch rate accelerated with these three offerings, and during the late afternoon the nymphs took center stage, although the foam attractor continued to fool one out of every four fish.

When I reached twenty, a few size sixteen mayflies made an appearance. They tumbled and fluttered on the surface in their efforts to combat the wind and become airborne. The hatch was very sparse, but I spotted four or five subtle rises in response to the emergence. I tossed the hippy stomper to a nice deep pocket, and an above average cutthroat refused the dry fly. I continued casting, and when the top fly was a few feet beyond the rejection point, I glimpsed a flash and splash. I responded with a hook set, felt momentary weight, and then the fish was gone along with three flies. What happened? I stripped the line in and discovered a curled end, and this typically indicates a poorly tied knot or abraded monofilament.

Before this dose of disappointment I spotted a rise in the vicinity of the original refusal, and since I needed to re-rig, I decided to try a size sixteen cinnamon comparadun, in case the rise was a response to a sparse pale morning dun hatch. I flicked a cast across from my position and allowed the very visible comparadun to drift through the tail of the pocket. Nothing. I repeated the ploy two more times, and on the third pass a head appeared, and the dun disappeared in a swirl. I reacted with a swift hook set, and eventually guided a gorgeous cutthroat into my net. I removed the comparadun, and before I snapped a photo, I noticed something glittering in the fish’s cheek. I inspected more closely, and I discovered my ultra zug bug and salvation nymph embedded in my hungry catch! I caught the same fish that broke me off minutes earlier!

I continued with the comparadun, and it produced a small brook trout, but then I advanced to some faster water, and this created visibility problems, so I returned to the dry/dropper method. For the last half hour I tossed a size twelve Chernobyl ant combined with the ultra zug bug and salvation, and I boosted the fish count to twenty-five.

Wednesday provided a fun 4.5 hours of fishing with excellent results. Fall certainly arrived in the Flattops.

Fish Landed: 25

 

South Platte River – 09/06/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon within a mile of the dam

South Platte River 09/06/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

If fishing success is measured by long hatches and copious quantities of ravenously feeding fish, then Thursday ranked high on the scale. On the other hand if success depends of feeling the weight of an abundant quantity of fish in one’s net, then September 6, 2018 was a disappointment. A three hour spinner fall and abundant pods of eagerly feeding trout caused me to place my outing on the South Platte River in the positive column. The variables were present for a banner day in Eleven Mile Canyon, but this fisherman could not deliver the desired flies or the necessary presentation.

I met my friend, Steve, at 7:30 in Lone Tree, and we departed for the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. An uneventful drive enabled us to pull into a circular parking spot at the first bridge below the dam by 10AM, and we quickly donned our waders and rigged our rods. I anticipated some larger than average fish, so I opted for my Sage four weight, although I realized that the nine foot length would likely apply additional stress to my ailing elbow.

We crossed the dirt access road and met the river above the bridge. A long moderately deep run was next to our position, and this is one of Steve’s favorites, so I elected to retreat back to the bridge. The water just above the bridge was reasonably deep and flowed at a moderate pace, but a thick mat of long aquatic vegetation flourished across the entire width of the river. No fish revealed themselves, and it was impossible to spot targets among the long green waving growth.

I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and trailed a RS2, in case the trout were on the alert for trico nymphs, but after ten futile casts I moved on. I decided to explore the right bank and walked up the Spillway Campground access road, until I was across from and slightly above Steve. I began to flick the light two fly dry/dropper to gaps in the weed growth as well as the faster moving riffles at the top of the pool. The fish were ignoring my offerings, and while this scenario transpired, a few sporadic rises appeared along the current seam near Steve.

I surmised that perhaps the surface action was attributable to emerging tricos, so I snipped off the two flies and replaced them with a size 24 CDC blue winged olive. This was the closest thing I had to a trico dun. I executed some nice across and downstream drifts and managed to connect with two fish for a split second, but then the trout began to shun my tiny speck of a fly. Either they wised up to my fake, or they shifted to a new menu item.

I abandoned the area across from Steve and moved upstream along the right bank a short distance to a quality deep pool next to and below the main current, after it flowed around a sharp bend. Another angler was present just beyond the bend on the opposite side of the river, but I concluded there was plenty of space. I paused and observed, and I was very pleased to notice a quality rainbow in a deep depression next to the bank no more than eight feet from where I stood on some large jagged rocks. As I cautiously observed, the pink striped trout casually finned to the surface and sipped a tiny morsel of food on a fairly regular basis. I cast my CDC olive over the subtle riser several times, but it totally ignored the fluffy dry fly and focused on other specks of food.

This pattern of frustration continued for ten minutes, and then the river came alive with more sipping fish. Five trout in a short pool fifteen feet below me revealed their presence, as they engaged in the feeding ritual, and then after another ten minutes the deep pool above me revealed another pod of active surface sippers. A glance at my watch revealed that it was eleven o’clock, and the preponderance of sipping trout could only mean one thing…the trico spinner fall was in progress.

A few tricos fluttered by occasionally, and I determined that they were extremely small, so I opened my fly box and scanned my supply of trico spinners. The row of foam contained eight sunken trico imitations and six poly wing spinners constructed to fish in the surface film. I plucked a size 22 poly wing version from its slot and knotted it to my line, and I began to drop casts and drifts among the many feeders surrounding me. Initially I targeted the rainbow near the bank, but after a severe lack of interest, I shifted my focus to the risers downstream. Twenty minutes of unproductive casting forced me to shift my attention back to the area above my position, and an active pod of risers entertained me for another frustrating period of time.

The rainbow continued to feed nearby, and it was joined by a larger brown trout that moved from side to side and rhythmically floated to the surface to sip on a regular basis. My heart rate elevated at the thought of tangling with one of the two nearby prizes. I struggled to follow the minute trico spinner on the longer upstream and downstream casts, so I decided to focus my efforts on the close by feeders. The brown trout seemed wise to my fraud, but finally the rainbow threw caution to the wind and sucked in my trico! I raised the rod and set the hook, and this had an effect comparable to lighting a firecracker. The silver missile instantly streaked downstream, and before I could utter “rainbow trout”, my line went limp. I stripped in the leader to inspect the end, and I discovered that the spurting fish parted the line at a surgeon’s knot connection.

I dipped into the fly box and removed another size 22 trico spinner; however, this fly got snapped off while casting in my zeal to pepper the river with repeated drifts. I was depleting my supply of trico spinners, and the spinner fall showed no signs of abating. The young man that was initially around the corner had by now moved to a position within view, and he was generating more success than Steve or I.

I sorted through my remaining supply of spinners and found one that was probably a size 24, and I determined that it was my one and only of the smallest size. An angler that I follow on Instagram suggested that I tie some size 24’s with only a black thread body and a small tuft of CDC for a wing. He raved about the performance of this simple and quick to tie trico imitation in Eleven Mile Canyon, and now I rued my decision to delay my response to his recommendation.

I renewed my vigorous casting regimen and directed my attention to the pod of active feeders fifteen feet above my rocky platform. I was rarely able to track the tiny poly winged speck, but finally I saw a rise in the area, where I surmised my fly to be. I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a solid connection with a writhing form. Could this be real? It was, as I quickly stripped up slack and then battled my first fish, while I cautiously negotiated a few steps, until I was standing in the edge of the river. My net scooped the fish, and I was amazed to discover an eleven inch brown trout; however, this was the fattest eleven inch trout that I ever witnessed. The shape of this cold water fish was akin to a bluegill or sunfish! I was not complaining, however, as I finally tallied a landed fish after more than an hour of futile casting and several fly changes.

At some point in the midst of this frantic casting I pricked the back of the prize brown trout, that I described earlier in this report, so the two nearby targets presumably moved their chowing act to another part of the river. I refreshed my size 24 trico and renewed my quest for South Platte River trout. Again I directed my casts to the area upstream, and again after a substantial quantity of unproductive drifts, I saw a rise in the vicinity of where I estimated my fly to be. I swept the rod tip upward, and a wild rainbow trout leaped into the air. Once it crashed back in the river, an adrenaline rush caused repeated surges and spurts, but I concentrated on the fight and managed to slide it into my net. The silver sided river resident measured fourteen inches, and I snapped a few photos, before it bolted back into its natural environment.

Another period of futile casting followed my second catch and release, and I began to ponder the effectiveness of a sunken dropper. Some of the visible fish rarely rose, and I suspected that they were snatching sunken tidbits below the surface. I removed the trico spinner and replaced it with a Jake’s gulp beetle and a sunken spinner on a 2.5 foot dropper. I allocated ten minutes to this tactic, but both flies were ignored so I contemplated another change.

I liked the visibility of the beetle with the orange foam indicator, so I kept it in place and replaced the sunken trico with an unweighted version. The move proved somewhat effective, as two fish grabbed the trailer and caused the beetle to dart. Unfortunately I should have used a shorter tippet, because the lag from when I saw the beetle move, until I set the hook was excessive, and both fish escaped after a brief hook prick.

I persisted with the double dry for an extended time after my brief dose of success, but for some reason the fish grew wise to the ruse. The number of rising fish began to dwindle, as I returned to a single size 22 trico spinner, so I glanced at my watch, and I was dumbfounded to learn that it was 1:30PM. Was it possible that I fished to a trico spinner fall for 2.5 hours? Did time really fly by that fast? I decided to surrender to the by now jaded trout surrounding me, and I circled back down the road and crossed the bridge and joined Steve.

We both expressed hunger, so we returned to Steve’s Subaru and consumed our lunch. After lunch I asked Steve about the river downstream from the bridge, and he suggested that we check it out. We traveled along a well worn path and intersected with the river, where it was wide and smooth with a deep channel flowing along the opposite bank. Steve moved upstream to fish a deep run next to some large bank side boulders, and I directed my attention to the area across from where I was standing. I looked up and down the river, and after a bit I observed a single rise ten yards downstream. I moved along the shoreline a bit and began to fire casts to the area of the rogue rise.

The fish did not respond, but I noticed a pair of rises farther upstream, so I migrated to a position across from the fresh evidence of feeding. I repeated the across stream casts, but again my efforts were thwarted by the failure of South Platte River fish to respond. My confidence sank to new depths, when I noted another rise downstream somewhat above the ring that initially caught my attention. I held very low expectations, but nonetheless I lofted a cast above the point of the rise and fed out line to allow a drag free downstream drift. Wham! A near miracle occurred, as a fish crushed the slowly drifting trico spinner. I quickly set the hook and felt two heavy throbs, and then the surprise responder to my cast slipped free. Needless to say I was quite disappointed to lose the unexpected feeder.

When Steve and I reached the run and riffles below the bridge, we adjourned to the car and drove downstream to the parking space on the north side of the twin tunnels. We slid down the steep bank, and Steve prospected the quality pool, while I explored the two channels that split around a narrow island just above Steve’s pool. I converted to a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and RS2; but despite some focused fly fishing, I was unable to summon interest from the river residents. When I reached the quality riffles stretch above Steve and the deep pool, I swapped the RS2 for a salvation nymph, but the change was met with similar disinterest.

Some dark clouds rolled in from the southwest, and they were accompanied by some streaks of lightening and the sound of thunder. Given our lack of action and the threat of an electrical storm, we hooked our flies to the rod guides and scaled the steep bank and departed for Lone Tree and eventually Stapleton Denver.

Two and a half hours of intense feeding is a rare experience, and I was thankful to participate. I only managed to land two trout, both quality fish, but I can only blame myself for not having better imitations. Conditions were perfect for landing more and larger trout, and I failed to capitalize.

Fish Landed: 2

Boulder Creek – 09/05/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: West of Boulder, CO

Boulder Creek 09/05/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

I completed errands on Tuesday and attended my physical therapy appointment, and this positioned me for my first day of fly fishing in September 2018. September is generally my most productive month, and with my son Dan’s wedding scheduled for September 14, fishing days were not on the calendar during the forthcoming week.

I was reluctant to undertake a long trip, so I settled on Boulder Creek in the canyon west of Boulder, CO. I also considered the Big Thompson River and Clear Creek, but I was intrigued with the possibility of plopping terrestrials in a canyon setting. Flows were in the 30 CFS range, and I gauged this to be nearly ideal for early September.

I departed Denver by 8:45 and arrived at a pullout along Boulder Creek by 9:40AM. As I traveled along the creek, I was concerned with the cloudy state of the water, so I stopped four miles up the canyon for a closer look. My inspection confirmed a level of turbidity, but visibility was good to three feet, and given the small nature of the drainage, I concluded that conditions were acceptable. The clarity improved considerably as I traveled west, and after an hour of fishing, murkiness became a non-issue.

I walked downstream along the shoulder of Canyon Boulevard for .2 mile, and then I angled down a steep bank to the edge of the creek. I began my quest for trout n the canyon with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the first two plops initiated successive temporary hookups. I was pleased with the quick response, but I was also disappointed with my inability to stay connected. My optimism surged as I dropped a few casts in the next plunge pool downstream, but my beginners’ luck would not repeat.

I was about to reverse my direction in order to progress upstream, but I gazed down the canyon, and I was drawn to a series of plunge pools farther east, so I scaled the bank and ambled along the highway for another .1 mile and then repeated my careful descent. Another ten minutes of beetle plopping failed to interest the trout, so I reevaluated and made a change. I exchanged the foam beetle for a hippy stomper with a peacock dubbed body, and beneath the attractor I added a size 14 beadhead hares ear on a thirty inch dropper.

The two fly dry/dropper combination served me quite well, and I built the fish count to fourteen over the next two hours, before I broke for lunch slightly before noon. Two out of every three fish nabbed the hares ear, but an ample quantity of eager brown trout also crushed the hippy stomper on the surface. I adopted the practice of applying floatant to the body as well as the antron wing, and gooping the wing improved the visibility of the fly noticeably. The process of prospecting and moving quickly up the canyon was very enjoyable, and the trout of Boulder Creek were very cooperative.

During my entire day the sky was mostly cloudy with only a few brief periods, where the sun broke through. The temperature remained in the sixties, and I wore my raincoat for warmth throughout the four hours. Although rain seemed like an imminent possibility, I never felt a drop, until I was removing my waders at the end of the day.

After lunch I continued with the hippy stomper and hares ear and built the count to twenty, and at this point I decided to experiment with different combinations. First I cycled through a series of changes to the dropper fly, as I tested a salvation nymph and ultra zug bug. The salvation fooled one fish, but after a reasonable trial period I concluded that it under performed the hares ear.

The takes of a Jake’s gulp beetle at the outset of my day made an impression on me, so I reverted to the beetle, but it never induced as much as a look. I concluded that dry/dropper was the approach of choice on Wednesday, so I adopted a three fly dry/dropper configuration. This time I knotted a size 12 Chernobyl ant to my line and then added the beadhead hares ear and an amber body caddis pupa. The hares ear enabled me to increment the fish tally by two to twenty-two, and the Chernobyl provoked a number of refusals and temporary hook ups.

I approached a nice pool and observed a few sporadic rises, which I attributed to a blue winged olive hatch. I swapped the caddis pupa for a size 22 RS2, and continued my upstream quest for trout. I expected action on the droppers, but a small brown trout responded to the Chernboyl, and I was both pleased and surprised by this circumstance. A pair of brief taps by trout on the lift gave me hope that the RS2 was in demand, but the small nymph never yielded a trout.

As two o’clock drew nearer, the sky grew increasingly dark, and I spotted a couple caddis, as they dapped the surface of the creek. I intended to quit a 2PM, at which point I needed to remove my three flies, so it was not a huge commitment to take that action early in order to experiment with a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. The ploy paid off somewhat, as I landed a small brown trout on the caddis adult just before I called it a day.

As expected Wednesday’s action consisted almost entirely of small brown trout in the 6 – 10 inch range. The Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph accounted for two fish that made it to my net, and the remaining twenty-two favored the hippy stomper and beadhead hares ear in a ratio of two hares ears for every hippy stomper. Carefree casting to relatively small eager brown trout was what I hoped for, and the results lived up to expectations.

Fish Landed: 24