South Boulder Creek – 10/29/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/29/2018 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 long range forecast projected rain turning to snow and cold temperatures beginning on Tuesday, October 30. Monday on the other had was expected to be gorgeous with highs in Denver peaking in the upper seventies. This could translate to only one thing; an opportunity to sneak in a day of autumn fly fishing before wintry weather predominated. Perhaps this would be my last day of fly fishing in 2018.

But where should I invest my scarce amount of remaining nice weather equity? I scanned the stream flows, and of course the first drainage that I check was South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. The water managers were famous for making dramatic shifts in flows on the small tailwater west of Golden, and late October 2018 was not an exception to this tendency. My last visit to South Boulder Creek was on October 19, and I enjoyed an exceptional day, while the flows were a mere 14.4 CFS. The current DWR chart displayed a vertical rock wall for 10/24/2018, when the valve was opened to release 96 CFS. A dramatic change such as this caused me some concern, but it was five days ago, and I concluded that this allowed ample time for the stream residents to acclimate. I decided to give it a go.

I got off to a reasonably early start; and after I arrived at the trailhead, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked down the path, I was in a position on the stream prepared to make my first cast by 10:30. The air temperature was in the mid-fifties, and the stream flow was indeed multiples higher than my previous trip. In fact the places were I was able to cross the creek were limited to wide shallow sections, and these were minimal within the predominantly narrow canyon environment.

Because of the higher flows akin to spring conditions, I opted to begin my day with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and ultra zug bug. The first two pockets did not produce, but then I positioned myself near the middle of the creek and initiated some drifts through a prime deep run along the north bank. On the third pass a respectable South Boulder Creek brown trout pounced on the ultra zug bug, and I was very pleased to score my first fish of the day. I continued to prospect the quality run with across and downstream drifts, and I was pleasantly surprised to land five additional brown trout in the nine to eleven inch range. What a start to my day! Perhaps the elevated flows were not so bad after all, and the preponderance of brown trout relieved my fears of encountering mostly lockjawed spawning fish.

I wish I could report that this pace of success continued through my remaining time on the stream, but that was not the case. When I cast to the productive run three successive times with no resulting action, I departed and continued my upstream progression. Between 10:45 and noon I incremented the fish counter from six to ten, so clearly my catch rate declined; however, I remained quite pleased with the 1.5 hours of morning fly fishing. The yellow fat Albert began to distract the trout in the next several pools, and a string of refusals was ample testimony. I concluded that the fly was too large, and I converted to a size 12 peacock hippy stomper. The smaller foam attractor was an improvement, and it accounted for a few fish during the last hour before lunch.

After lunch I resumed my quest for South Boulder Creek trout, and I recorded quite a record of success. The fish count zoomed from ten to thirty-six, before I ended my day at 3PM. Although the three fly combination yielded fish at a steady rate after lunch, I sensed that I could improve my success rate, so I experimented with several fly exchanges. I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This was an attempt to match a blue winged olive hatch or an emergence of small black stonefles. From past experience I knew that the small stoneflies were present on South Boulder Creek in the late October time frame. While the soft hackle emerger was on the line, it failed to yield a singe fish, but the hares ear became a favorite target.

Twenty minutes of no response to the soft hackle emerger caused me to once again make a change. This time I selected a size 14 iron sally from my fly wallet, and I positioned the heavier fly with the coiled wire body in the top position and moved the hares ear to the point. The hippy stomper, iron sally, and hares ear maintained their place on my line for the remainder of the afternoon, and they generated the most success.

Unlike my last outing at 14 CFS when upstream casts proved effective, the best approach on Monday was across and downstream drifts. The brown trout could not resist attacking one of the nymphs, as they began to swing at the end of the run, and many of my netted fish were victims of this tactic. Four rainbows joined the mix of catches, and they emerged from faster riffles of moderate depth, and the iron sally was their preferred food source. The hippy stomper was not purely a strike indicator, as it contributed quite a few respectable cold water fighters to the fish count.

By 3PM I reached a section characterized by fast chutes and whitewater, and the south canyon wall blocked the sun thus creating shadows over the entire stream. Tracking the hippy stomper became challenging and the catch rate plummeted, so I called it a day and made my exit hike. The air temperature remained quite comfortable, and climbing the steep path out of the canyon made me wish I had removed a layer or two of clothing.

In summary I landed thirty-six trout on a gorgeous fall day on South Boulder Creek. Five of the netted fish were rainbow trout, and as usual the rainbows were larger on average than the brown trout. Eight of my catch crushed the hippy stomper, four were duped by the ultra zug bug, six nabbed the iron sally, and the remainder snatched the hares ear. The higher flows made it more difficult to determine fish holding locations, which was a relatively easy exercise at 14 CFS. Counter balancing this factor was the relative ease with which I could approach fish holding lies, and the reduced level of stealth required.

If this was my last outing of 2018, it was a solid final episode. I suspect, however, that I will tally a few more days before my enjoyment of fly fishing is more that offset by the discomfort of cold hands and feet.

Fish Landed: 36

Eagle River – 10/26/2018

Time: 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards

Eagle River 10/26/2018 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. 

When I returned to the Santa Fe after prospecting Brush Creek for an hour, I heard my phone ringing. I quickly hit the green accept button and heard the voice of Dave G. We agreed to meet at the Grand Avenue Grill, as that was a convenient point along our route to the Eagle River between Edwards and Avon. Since I planned to continue on to Denver upon the completion of our time on the river, we drove separately.

We pulled into a nice wide pullout along US 6, and since both of our rods were assembled and ready for action, we immediately hiked along a path to the river. Dave configured his line with a strike indicator, beadhead pheasant tail and RS2 and immediately charged into the tantalizing long run next to our position. I, meanwhile, pulled my small lunch from my backpack and quickly snacked on a sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

Clouds began to dominate the sky during the afternoon, and this change in weather was accompanied by a constant chilling breeze. I pulled on my raincoat to trap body heat and serve as a windbreaker, and it was partially effective. I suspect the temperature along the Eagle River never spiked higher than 54 degrees.

After lunch I grabbed my Orvis Access four weight that was already equipped with a hippy stomper and iron sally, and I began exploring the nice riffle of moderate depth below the large pool that Dave G. occupied. This endeavor occupied me for fifteen minutes, and although I was unable to coax any fish into my net, I did generate one very brief connection in the frothy water, where the river spilled over some large rocks at the top of the riffle.

Convinced that I thoroughly covered the area below the pool, I scrambled over the rocks at the lip and waded along the shoreline, until I was opposite the mid-section. I paused on the beach and observed for five minutes, and during this time I noticed four very sporadic rises from different fish spread out in the center of the pool.

I decided to begin my quest for trout and waded into the pool, until I was mid-thigh deep in cold river water. I began to lob casts with the two fly dry/dropper, although I was not very confident that the large hippy stomper would attract attention. It was at this time that I glanced at Dave G. and noticed a huge bend in his rod. I stripped in my line and waded back to shore, so I could photograph his catch, which turned out to be a splendid rainbow trout in excess of fifteen inches. Dave G. proudly displayed his catch and informed me that it was fooled by a pheasant tail nymph.

When I returned to the middle of the pool, the pace of rising fish accelerated, so I removed the hippy stomper and iron sally and tied a tiny size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. I began shooting casts above the scene of the rises and utilized downstream drifts over the target locations. Normally this technique is fairly routine, but the upstream blasts of wind made it nearly impossible to locate the tiny speck of fluff that served as my fly, and I was unable to flutter the fly down with any amount of slack to counteract drag.

Nonetheless on the tenth drift I miraculously tracked the baetis imiation and saw a subtle sip, whereupon I lifted the rod tip and hooked a hard fighting twelve inch rainbow trout. I was very pleased to enjoy this modest success under some fairly adverse conditions.

I took time to dry the fly and my hands and to fluff the matted CDC wing. I pivoted to survey the river, and the feeders in the center of the pool remained active, so I reclaimed my previous position. During this foray into the river I focused on a pair of feeders directly across from me. They were sipping naturals in a nice regular rhythm, so I lengthened my line and fired casts toward a seam closer to the far bank. On the fifth drift a bulge appeared under my speck of a fly, and I once again reacted with a confident set. This fish immediately streaked upstream and then down, and it was evident, that I had a larger foe on my line.

I maintained constant pressure, and after several additional spurts, I lifted the scarlet head of a chunky fifteen inch rainbow trout and guided it into my net. As expected I was very pleased with this sudden dose of good fortune, and I carefully removed the fly and snapped a series of photos of my prize catch of October 26.

Again I meticulously blotted the fly, doused it in dry shake, and fluffed the CDC wing. I waded back toward the middle but took a few steps downstream toward the tail. This placed me closer to a small pod of risers fifteen feet below my previous casts. The fish in this area hovered just below some swirly water, and this made following my fly even more of a challenge. Nevertheless I persisted, and on the tenth cast I spotted a sip in the neighborhood of where I estimated my fly to be. I raised the rod tip and connected with another twelve inch rainbow.

My confidence was now soaring, but the wind accelerated, and the trout seemed to eat in waves. I waited out a brief feeding lull, while I tended to refurbishing my fly, and then some subtle surface disturbances resumed. I targeted one of the more frequent feeders, but after three cycles of catch, dry and fluff; I was unable to track the size 24 CDC BWO. I remembered some Klinkhammer emerger style BWO’s that I tied over the winter, so I located one in my fly box and replaced the CDC BWO. On the fourth cast another rainbow lurched to the surface to sip my fly, and again I scooped a twelve inch rainbow into my net.

The white poly wing post on the emerger was much easier to track than the gray CDC wing of the previous fly, and I was pleased to enjoy some early success. My confidence elevated, and I began to shoot casts to the pod of risers across from my position. I allocated another thirty minutes to the emerger with the white wing post, but it was rudely ignored. Perhaps it was too large or maybe the wind made achieving a drag free drift impossible, but eventually I surrendered to the selective fish in front of me.

Again I pondered the situation, and I remembered some 2017 success in a similar situation with a Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. Again I searched my fly box and found a size 22 emerger with no bead, and I applied a sufficient layer of floatant to the body and wing. My optimism increased, as I waded to the tail of the pool in order to obtain improved lighting and a better casting angle to some of the lower risers.

The thought process was sound, but the remaining thirty minutes of casting delivered only frustration. The low riding small wet fly was nearly impossible to track, so I opted to set the hook upon seeing a rise in the vicinity of where I estimated my fly to be. This was my only option, but it was not effective. The wind continued to gust, and my feet morphed into stumps, and my body began to shiver. My watch displayed 3PM, and I decided to conclude my day on the Eagle River.

In two hours of fly fishing I landed four rainbow trout including a very respectable fifteen incher. I was pleased to have rising fish in front of me for nearly my entire time on the Eagle River. It was a successful outing, but the wind and cold became intolerable. Friday was a fairly typical day of autumn fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 4

Brush Creek – 10/26/2018

Time: 10:45AM – 11:45AM

Location: Confluence with Eagle River upstream to just beyong US 6

Brush Creek 10/26/2018 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. 

After spending my second night at the Gaboury’s luxurious home in Eagle Ranch, my friend Dave G. was finally free to join me in some fly fishing. The night before we discussed a split session with a few hours in the morning on Brush Creek followed by an early afternoon session on the Eagle River. Based on my experience on the Eagle during the same calendar time period in 2017, I was fairly certain that we would encounter a decent blue winged olive hatch in the PM.

On Friday morning we tracked the hourly temperature on my weather application, and the graph displayed 45 degrees for 10AM warming to 49 by 11AM. Upon seeing this projection of chill, Dave G. decided to forego Brush Creek, so I made the short drive to Brush Creek Confluence Park myself. Although the air temperature was in fact in the forties, as I strung my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders, the bright sun made it seem much milder. I wore my long sleeved insulated Columbia undershirt, my fishing shirt and a gray fleece; and I was relatively comfortable during my one hour on lower Brush Creek.

When I was properly attired and geared up, I completed the short hike on a well worn path to the point where Brush Creek empties into the Eagle River. The Eagle was quite turbid, so I was not tempted to make a few prospecting casts to the run below the merge point. I immediately veered to the left and knotted a peacock hippy stomper and iron sally to my line.

Over the next hour I progressed upstream, until I was just above the US 6 bridge that spanned the creek. Along the way I cast the two fly dry/dropper to all the likely trout holding locations. I maintained a decent distance, as the water was at low autumn flows, and I was very efficient in my prospecting. For the most part I limited my casts to three per spot, and only a couple places merited five or six drifts.

The strategy rewarded me with six landed brown trout in one hour of focused fly fishing, but all the trout were in the ten to eleven inch range. I was pleased with my catch rate but disappointed with the size of the fish. My cautious approaches were mainly effective, although I did observe a few fleeing trout at the tail of select pools. At 11:45 I reeled up my line and hooked the iron sally to the bottom rod guide and returned to the car.

Fish Landed: 6

 

Mountain Creek – 10/25/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 4:15PM

Location: One mile from the trailhead.

Mountain Creek 10/25/2018 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.

The temperature was in the low forties as I began to hike along the trail that followed Mountain Creek. I planned to persist for forty minutes, but the low clear stream and inviting pools induced me to quit after twenty minutes of walking at a fast pace. I estimated my stopping point to be a mile, and I concluded that I was beyond the most pressured section of the creek. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight with a peacock hippy stomper and added a beadhead hares ear, and I approached a gorgeous pool to execute my first cast of the day at 10:30AM.

Between 10:30 and noon I landed seven brown trout and one brook trout, and most of the action was generated by the hippy stomper. The morning time frame was research and development, as it was my first visit to Mountain Creek, and it took me awhile to discover that marginal spots were a waste of valuable fishing time. Another bit of acquired knowledge made me realize that the low flows and clear water dictated cautious approaches. I witnessed quite a few rapid evacuation drills in the early going.

After lunch I removed the dry/dropper in order to experiment with a Jake’s gulp beetle, but the only response was a couple of tentative looks. Next I reverted to the dry/dropper and added an ultra zug bug to the hares ear to achieve greater depth, and the move seemed to work. Between 12:15 and 4:15 I built the fish count to 42! The main producer was the beadhead hares ear, but the hippy stomper contributed one out of four landed fish, and the third fly in the alignment was an occasional producer. I tested a bright green caddis pupa, emerald caddis pupa, and a size 14 iron sally as the top fly during the afternoon.

Three browns landed in the afternoon were in the fifteen to sixteen range, and I was quite elated to encounter them in the close quarters of Mountain Creek. I observed several pairs of actively spawning trout, but my larger catches were individual fish that remained in a feeding mood. I debated whether they were pre-spawn brown trout or large resident trout, but I will never know the answer to that question.

Two twelve inch rainbow trout were in the mix in the afternoon and added to the diversity. I speculated that the rainbows were on high protein diets, and they were scavenging brown trout eggs. In addition to forty-two landed fish, I registered many temporary hook ups, and I spooked too many trout to count.

What a day! I explored new water and stumbled into a very productive mountain freestone creek. I refined my approach during my five hours on the water and gradually elevated my catch rate. I learned to approach cautiously and to pause to observe before casting. If I adhered to these tenets of fly fishing in a small stream with low clear flows, I enjoyed a high level of success. I am certain to return in the future, and I will hike deeper into the high country in my quest for wild trout.

Fish Landed: 42

 

 

 

Colorado River – 10/24/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Glenwood Canyon

Colorado River 10/24/2018 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.

Several years ago Jane and I completed a bike ride along the entire length of Glenwood Canyon. During this cycling adventure I nearly crashed several times, as I was unable to keep my eyes off the tantalizing water of the Colorado River. Between the power plant and No Name Rest Area, I noted a continuous bank containing large boulders with a steady supply of exposed in-stream rocks and numerous attractive slicks, deep runs, and plunge pools. The area appeared to be very similar to the Arkansas River and exemplified quality brown trout water.

In the intervening years I attempted to verify my suspicions, but various impediments thwarted my efforts to discover the quality of fishing in Glenwood Canyon. Road construction, closed ramps, and murky water were a few of the obstacles that I encountered in my quest to fish the Colorado River in the spectacular canyon setting.

Finally on October 24, 2018 the factors lined up to create my first opportunity to sample the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. The fly shop reports suggested excellent clarity, and several days of mild weather made an autumn trip possible. I met my friend, Dave Gaboury, for dim sum at the Star Kitchen in Denver, and he invited me to stay at his house in Eagle Ranch on Wednesday and Thursday night. Dave G. had a list of chores to attend to, so he was unable to join me in fishing ventures on Wednesday and Thursday, but a bed thirty minutes away from Glenwood Canyon was too good to refuse.

I departed Denver at 8AM on Wednesday morning, and this enabled me to arrive at my chosen destination in Glenwood Canyon by 11:10AM. The high temperature on Wednesday peaked at sixty degrees, and this translated to substantial chill in the shadows, and when the sun was blocked by clouds. My first view of the river revealed mostly clear water with a tinge of olive.

I rigged my Sage four weight and began with a strike indicator, split shot, iron sally and ultra zug bug. The iron sally has become a favorite fly as a result of its productivity in fall conditions. I hiked downstream from my parking space for ten minutes and then scrambled over some large rocks and began lobbing casts in the river. During my entire time on the Colorado River I confined my exploratory casts to within twenty feet of the north bank.

In the thirty minutes before lunch I landed two brown trout; one that measured twelve inches and another that extended to thirteen inches. Both fish were fooled by the iron sally. During the late morning session I became acquainted with the most annoying aspect of the day; the constant need to remove a fibrous moss from the nymphs.

After lunch I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a size 12 20 incher, and I took advantage of this change to rearrange the flies so the iron sally was in the point position. This combination served me for the remainder of the afternoon except for thirty minutes, when I experimented with two streamers. I read many articles in the fly fishing periodicals that hyped the effectiveness of streamers for brown trout in the fall, and I was certain that the conditions were prime for such a tactic on Wednesday, October 24. Between 3:00 and 3:30 I stripped a cheech leech and sparkle minnow, but I never generated a follow. Count me as a skeptic of the hype coming from the fly fishing community.

Despite the streamer shutout I added nine additional brown trout to the fish count over the course of the afternoon, and most of these netted fish crushed the iron sally. My confidence in the yellow sally stonefly imitation continues to grow. All but one of the eleven trout landed on Wednesday were in the twelve to fifteen inch range, and the tally included one fifteen incher and another brown that approximated fourteen inches.

When I resumed fishing after lunch, I continued moving upstream next to the Interstate 70 off ramp, until I was beyond a green sign, and then I reversed and hiked downstream for ten minutes. At this point I cut down to the river and fished the edge of a stretch of fast water. This section of the river yielded the most fish.

Deep troughs of moderate velocity were the most productive areas, and eventually I discovered that I was wasting time casting to the marginal areas of shallow depth. I suspect that prospecting the riffles of moderate depth might be more successful during the summer, when the brown trout spread out to binge on increased insect activity.

I was extremely pleased with my success during my initial visit to the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. I sampled only a small section of the public access available, and I hope to make the area a more frequent destination. The towering red canyon walls are unsurpassed, and even I took frequent breaks from fly fishing to marvel at my surroundings.

Fish Landed: 11

Big Thompson River – 10/22/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Four miles below Lake Estes and then near the downstream border of the special regulation water

Big Thompson River 10/22/2018 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. 

Mild autumn weather continued on Monday, October 22, and this stroke of good fortune prompted me to make a drive to the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes. I arrived by 11:15AM, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I was on the water casting by 11:30AM. The air temperature was in the low fifties, so I wore my long sleeved Under Armour undershirt, fishing shirt, and a gray fleece. When the sun was out, I was a bit warm, but when a cloud obscured the sun, and the wind kicked up, I was dressed appropriately. The Big Thompson flows were 47 CFS, and this seemed on the low side, as quite a bit of the riverbed was exposed, but adequate deep pools and pockets provided cover for the stream residents.

I began my day with a single size 18 gray deer hair caddis, but the ten minute trial period was a resounding dud, and the tiny caddis adult was very difficult to track in the shadows and glare. I swapped the caddis dry fly for a peacock body hippy stomper and added a beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. With this three fly combination I was confident that I would attract attention, but after an hour of futile casting I could point to only one small brown trout as my reward for perseverance.

At 12:30 I found myself below a very high bank that was recently excavated during the reconstruction of US 34, and a SUV with a rod vault was parked along the shoulder of the highway. I never saw another fisherman, but given my lack of action I surmised that perhaps a fisherman or two disrupted the water ahead of me. I decided to pursue a fresh beginning, and I returned to the car and then drove east for another three miles, until I was just above the downstream border of the catch and release section.

I crossed the highway and found a welcoming rock and paused to eat my lunch, while I observed the water. The river in this area consisted of huge exposed boulders with deep pools and pockets interspersed with fast rapids and chutes. Very little vegetation was present, as the the flood of 2013 scoured everything in its path.

After lunch I began to prospect a nice deep run along the opposite bank, and on the second cast a very nice trout rose and smashed the hippy stomper. I quickly lifted my rod to set the hook, and a rainbow surfaced, splashed and quickly ended our brief association. After the slow frustrating morning I was very disappointed with this turn of events, but I was at least encouraged to attract attention from a respectable fish. I reeled up my line, and I was disgusted to note a curled end of my leader. All three flies were lost, as the line broke at the knot that held the hippy stomper. I was relieved to remember that I tied five new peacock body hippy stompers on Sunday night, but I now faced the task of re-configuring my line.

I extended my tapered leader with a section of 5X and then attached my one remaining carryover hippy stomper. Below the foam attractor I added a beadhead hares ear and sparkle wing RS2, and I was quickly back in business.

Another juicy pool presented itself above the scene of the unfortunate separation, and I tossed the three flies into the sweet spot. Almost immediately a fish attacked the hares ear, and I quickly stripped in a five inch rainbow trout. The second cast resulted in a similar response, but on the third drift a ten inch rainbow crushed the peacock stomper. The contrast between this downstream section and the area that I visited in the first hour was dramatic.

I released the rainbow and continued to lob casts to the center of the quality pool, and I connected with another six sub-catchable rainbow trout. What was going on here? I moved on and continued the upstream progress, and the sequence of events that I described in the previous paragraph persisted for the remainder of my time on the river. I managed to elevate the fish count from two to seven. All of the counted fish except for the first were rainbow trout, and three were very nice brightly colored pink striped fighters in the twelve to thirteen inch range. The rest were very small bows barely over my six inch minimum standard for counting.

This account of my day on Monday, October 22 would be incomplete, if I failed to mention the other thirty fish that attacked my flies. They were all rainbow trout in the three to five inch size range. They were actually a persistent nuisance, as they consumed time to release, and in several cases they created moderate line tangles. At least another twenty tiny trout grabbed my flies temporarily, but with my approval they fell off before I was forced to release them.

I concluded that the Department of Wildlife stocked sub-catchable rainbows in the areas where CDOT made emergency repairs to the highway. Five years after the flood the road construction work was completed, and as promised,  stream improvements were finished. I am guessing that efforts to repopulate the river with rainbow trout are in progress. These are merely my own personal assumptions, and I have not read about any DOW population enhancement projects.

At any rate Monday was a somewhat frustrating day. I managed to land seven trout including three very nice feisty rainbows. The weather was delightful for October 22, and I encountered a small herd of bighorn sheep, when they crossed the highway and approached the river for cold refreshing drinks. Dealing with the ongoing nuisance of handling and releasing countless small trout was an unforeseen negative to my day on the Big Thompson River.

Fish Landed: 7

South Boulder Creek – 10/19/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/19/2018 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. 

A warming trend exemplified by highs in the mid to upper sixties in Denver, CO had me itching for another fly fishing outing on Friday, October 19. I performed a long overdue assessment of the local streamflows, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that South Boulder Creek flows were augmented from 8 CFS to 14.4 CFS. The increase occurred two days earlier, and this provided ample time for the resident trout to acclimate. I knew from visits in previous years that 14.4 CFS represented an adequate level for successful fly fishing. The high temperature in the nearby town of Pinecliffe, CO was projected to reach the mid fifties on Friday, and the alignment of improved volumes of water, tolerable temperatures, and my desire to fly fish resulted in a trip to South Boulder Creek.

On Friday morning I drove to the upper parking lot and quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. My physical therapist suggested that I should resume casting with my index finger on top of the rod grip, as I was complaining of increased discomfort on the ulna side of the elbow. I was a bit concerned about this change, while at the same time I was anxious to give it a test, since my accuracy is greater, when my index finger points at the target.

Once I gathered all the necessary gear, I descended the steep trail to the creek, and I stood in the water ready to cast by 11AM. I began my day with a peacock ice dub body hippy stomper, and within ten minutes I registered two small brown trout. I was rather pleased with my choice of fly, but I was suspicious that my good fortune would not continue. Quite a bit of the river bed was exposed as a result of the low autumn flows, but many deep pools and runs sluiced around the large visible boulders to provide plenty of fish holding locations.

During the hour before lunch I covered a fair amount of water and built the fish count to ten. After landing three brown trout on the hippy stomper, I concluded that I was passing over quality fish holding locations with no response, so I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, and this improved the catch rate somewhat, although I was not completely satisfied with the action. This statement is actually a testimony to the density of trout in South Boulder Creek, when ten fish an hour is not up to my expectations!

After lunch I resumed my upstream progression, and after another fifteen minutes I hooked an average sized fish, but it escaped before I could guide it into the net. I was surprised by this turn of events, until I realized that the struggling fish broke off the hippy stomper. A small curly end provided proof that my knot was faulty, or that it was nicked or abraded during the earlier action. Rather than replace the hippy stomper and hares ear, I used the lost flies as an excuse to experiment with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle.

I was quite confident that the small terrestrial would arouse the interest of the trout in the low clear flows of October, but fifteen minutes of futile casting suggested otherwise. I deployed the beetle in three quality pools, and it attracted quite a bit of attention, but something prevented the trout from transforming from observers to eaters.

The ineffectiveness of the beetle forced me to dig into my fly box for another peacock hippy stomper, and I found my last one, and I tied it to my line along with a fresh beadhead hares ear. My hippy stomper inventory contained quite a few silver and red body versions, but the peacock stompers were depleted. With another month of fly fishing remaining in 2018, I may be forced to spend some time at the vise to spin more hippy stompers.

As the sun appeared above me, its warming rays elevated the appetites of the South Boulder Creek residents. I sensed that I was bypassing available feeders, so I added an ultra zug bug below the hares ear, and the three fly combination finally clicked. Between 12:30 and 2:00 the action on South Boulder Creek was insane. Every time I cast to a deep pocket or pool, I expected to connect with a fish, and a high percentage of the time my prediction was correct. In short I enjoyed hot action, and the fish count rapidly mounted through the twenties and thirties. Most of the netted prizes were brown trout in the eight to eleven inch range; however, six rainbows also appeared, and these fish were larger on average than the brown trout.

By 2:30 the action slowed measurably. It was as if someone locked the doors to the cafeteria, and the trailing nymphs were totally ignored. In the shadows along the south bank a couple aggressive feeders burst to the surface to inhale the hippy stomper, and this enabled me to attain a count of forty one on the day. In the process of landing the small fighters, the trout created messy snarls, and since the nymphs were being ignored, I snipped them off. Not wishing to risk the loss of additional peacock body hippy stompers, I replaced it with a silver ice dub body version, but the trout gave this move a solid thumbs down.

At three o’clock I reached a narrow section of the canyon with deep plunge pools, and it was totally ensconced in shadows. Historically this area demarcated my end point, and I saw no reason to vary from this practice on October 19. I stripped in my line and hooked the silver hippy stomper to the rod guide and scaled a steep bank covered in a jumble of large boulders, until I was on the trail. During my return hike I paused at two quality locations to execute a few casts, and the brief rest stops produced two small brown trout to boost the fish counter to forty-two. The first brown crushed the silver hippy stomper and the second sipped a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, when I presented it on a downstream drift. Three fish refused the same caddis earlier in the tail of the pool.

What a fantastic day on South Boulder Creek!. I was extremely excited to discover the flows were raised to 14.4 CFS, and my Friday adventure did not disappoint. I saw two other anglers on my hike to the creek, but the four hours on the stream felt as if I had my own private stretch of water. The sun raised the air temperature to a comfortable level, and the residents of South Boulder Creek were hungry and willing to grab my offerings. Admittedly I experienced a significant number of refusals, but more than enough willing eaters compensated for the the picky ones. Roughly one-third of the netted fish opted for the hippy stomper, while another third snatched the ultra zug bug, and the remainder nabbed the hares ear. The period between 12:30PM and 2:00PM was spectacular, as trout after trout aggressively pursued my offerings, and I could bank on a hit on nearly every cast. Hopefully the water managers maintain the flows in the current range, and additional warm autumn days allow me to revisit South Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 43

 

Boulder Creek – 10/17/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 10/17/2018 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. 

An early cold snap remained Colorado from October 4 through October 16, and I managed only one chilly day of fly fishing on the Arkansas River on October 11 during this time. Clearly I was aching to wet a line, but the month of October was not cooperating. As I scanned the weather forecast at the beginning of the week (after a snowstorm), I noted a small warming trend with highs reaching the upper sixties and even seventy by the end of the week. Peak temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday were in the mid-50’s, and from experience I knew that this translated to forties or less in the foothills and higher elevation locales. I pondered my options and considered streams along the Front Range at lower elevations. Immediately Boulder Creek in the City of Boulder crossed my mind, and I decided to make the short trip to the urban setting on Wednesday. I contacted my son, Dan, who lives in Louisville next to Boulder, and he informed me that most of the snowfall from Saturday and Sunday had melted.

I departed Denver at 10:30AM with the expectation of arriving in Boulder near the creek and in a position to fish by 11:30. Unfortunately I was delayed when a car rear ended me, as I was waiting to turn right from the US 36 ramp on to Baseline Road. I pulled into a bank parking lot off of Baseline, after I turned, and I exchanged insurance and contact information with Richard. The damage was minimal, but I decided to place a claim rather than drive with six or seven scratches that were inflicted by another inattentive driver.

After I geared up with my waders and Orvis Access four weight rod, I noted that my watch displayed 11:40, so I decided to consume my lunch rather than stash it in my backpack for a short amount of time. Finally after lunch I anxiously crossed a grassy area to a bridge and then followed the Boulder Creek bike path downstream for forty yards, where I entered the stream to begin my quest for trout. I began my search for fish with a peacock ice dub hippy stomper and a beadhead hares ear nymph. In the early going I managed a temporary hook up with a small brown trout, but that was the extent of the action in the first twenty minutes.

When I passed under the bridge and approached a nice deep run, I concluded that a change was in order, so I knotted an ultra zug bug below the beadhead hares ear. This addition provided a small degree of success, as I netted two wild brown trout that could not resist the ultra zug bug.

After I moved through the deep run and approached another nice deep trough along the north bank, I heard a rustling sound behind me. I pivoted quickly and discovered Jane and our grand puppy Zuni along the gently sloping shoreline. Zuni was interested in my dangling wading staff, but before she could sink her teeth into it, I lifted my rod tip and felt the tug of a fish. I steered the splashing attachment toward the bank, and Zuni immediately showed excited interest. When I lifted the brown trout and steered it toward my net, I realized that it was foul hooked in the dorsal fin, so I quickly wet my hand and grabbed the small trout and removed the hook. Before I released it to its aquatic environment, I held it out for Zuni to inspect, and she greeted the puzzled wet creature with a gentle tongue lick!

Jane and Zuni stopped briefly on their return from Davidson Mesa, so after the fish encounter they departed for Zuni’s home in Louisville. I meanwhile resumed my search for wild Boulder Creek brown trout. I continued prospecting with the hippy stomper/hares ear/ultra zug bug combination, and the fish count elevated to twelve before I quit at three o’clock. The catch rate was steady, and I covered quite a distance, while I hooked and landed ten additional fish. Six of the small browns nabbed the ultra zug bug and the remainder snatched the hares ear. Nearly all the net dwellers emerged from slow water that bordered faster runs, and I learned that shallow riffles and marginal pockets were not favored by the Boulder Creek residents.

Halfway through the afternoon session, an errant hook set looped around a high tree branch. After a brief struggle I managed to retrieve the ultra zug bug, but I sacrificed the hares ear and a one foot section of tippet to the limb. The net result of this undesirable encounter was a reduction in the length of the droppers, and I concluded that the shortened configuration was more appropriate for the small urban stream.

Wednesday evolved into a decent outing in spite of chilly conditions. The temperature actually touched sixty, and it felt warmer in the sun. I landed twelve small wild brown trout in three hours of fishing, and the outing only required a brief thirty minute drive. The unexpected introduction to Richard and his Subaru was unfortunate, but the damage was minimal, and I will likely gain an unblemished bumper from the incident. A brief visit from Jane and Zuni were icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 12

 

 

Arkansas River – 10/11/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsville

Arkansas River 10/11/2018 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. 

A series of cold snaps passed through Colorado, and the unfavorable weather caused me to forego fishing for eight days, while I waited for warmer temperatures. I was certain that warm fall conditions would return, and I was prepared to take advantage. Although the high temperature in Denver was projected to reach only forty-six degrees on Thursday, October 11; I noted that the Arkansas River valley was warmer. A high of fifty-six in the Salida area encouraged me to make the long drive on Thursday.

In order to allow the air to warm up I departed Denver by 8:15, and this enabled me to arrive at a pullout along the Arkansas River below Salida by 11AM. I wore my long sleeved Under Armour shirt, fishing shirt, fleece and down vest and chose my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps to keep my ears warm in the forty-two degree cold that was accompanied by brisk wind. I retained these layers until 3PM, when I returned to the car to move to another location, and I never overheated. I assembled my Sage four weight rod, since it offered length and stiffness to counter the wind.

I followed a nice angled trail to the river and then hiked downstream for another two hundred yards, before I began casting at 11:30AM. I began my quest for trout with a dry/dropper configuration consisting of a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher, and ultra zug bug. My first bit of action was a refusal to the pool toy, and then I connected with a small brown trout that grabbed the ultra zug bug and a small rainbow that snatched the 20 incher. I continued on my path upstream and added another small rainbow and brown trout to my count, before I adjourned for lunch in an area with large flat rocks. Numbers three and four nabbed the 20 incher.

After lunch the slow catch rate continued, and the cloudy sky suggested that blue winged olive nymphs were active. I replaced the ultra zug bug with a RS2 to match the baetis nymphs, but after the change I speculated that I was drifting my flies over fish that ignored my offerings. Finally after an extended lull, I stripped in my line and converted to a deep nymphing approach with a split shot and indicator. During the changeover I elected to replace the 20 incher with an iron sally, and I tied the RS2 on the point.

Immediately my fortunes improved. In a nice long riffle section of moderate depth an aggressive feeder latched on to the iron sally. The hungry aggressor went into battle mode, but eventually I dipped my net beneath a gorgeous fifteen inch brown trout. I was very pleased with this sudden dose of success. Between 1PM and 3PM I progressed upstream with the two fly nymphing rig, and the angling gods smiled upon me. I increased the fish count to eighteen by the time I reached the bridge, where US 50 crossed a small tributary stream.

The most productive section was a fifty yard stretch that consisted of many pockets scattered among fast whitewater chutes. I prospected the deepest spots between the bank and the midpoint of the river, and quite often a brown or rainbow trout snatched one of the nynmhs, as they tumbled toward the tail of the target area. Fifteen and sixteen inch browns were the prizes during this time frame, and both favored the iron sally in relatively marginal pockets. Midway through this period of fast action, I broke off both flies, so I replaced the iron sally with another and swapped the RS2 for a sparkle wing version. Roughly half of the afternoon fish ate the iron sally, and the others were fooled by the RS2 or sparkle wing. It seemed that the bigger trout were attracted to the stonefly imitation, and smaller fish pounced on the size 22 baetis nymph. During my time on the Arkansas River six of the landed fish were small rainbow trout, and the rest were brown trout.

At 3PM I reached the bridge, so I passed beneath it and then circled back to the highway and crossed to the Santa Fe. The air temperature was now in the low fifties, but the wind velocity kicked up a notch. I was curious whether my nymph alignment might attract fish in another section of the river, so I drove downstream for an additional mile. I found a gradual path to the river and spent the next hour casting the nymphs to pockets and seams in a manner similar to the method that yielded fourteen trout in the early afternoon.

The shadows now covered the south side of the river, where I was positioned, and the wind accelerated appreciably. I skipped a long pool and covered the pocket water above and below. The catch rate slowed significantly, but I managed to add two small brown trout to the count, before I hooked the bottom nymph to the rod guide and returned to the car at 4PM. I am not sure whether to blame the slow action on the time of day, less desirable river structure, or a higher degree of angling pressure due to the ease of access.

At any rate I enjoyed a very successful day on Thursday, October 11, 2018. Over the last two years I suffered through some fairly lean outings on the Arkansas River, and I was beginning to doubt my proficiency on the large body of water in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. A twenty fish day under fairly challenging conditions restored my interest in undertaking future drives to the Arkansas. The flows at Salida were 233 CFS, and this level was very low compared to average, but it translated into nearly optimal wading conditions. I was able to access parts of the river that normally can only be fished from a raft or driftboat. Three brown trout in the fifteen inch range certainly influenced my assessment of my day of fishing on October 11.

Fish Landed: 20

South Platte River – 10/03/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/03/2018 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. 

My euphoria from a splendid day of fly fishing with my son on Sunday barely subsided, when I found myself consumed by the same exhilaration on Thursday, October 4. My elevated state of bliss resulted from a day of fly fishing on the South Platte River, and it was not entirely attributable to fishing results.

The fishing trip actually began on Tuesday, when my lovely wife joined me for a drive to Woodland Park, CO. Along the way we stopped at Colorado Mountain Brewing for a tasty craft beer and a wonderful dinner, while we watched the first three innings of the Rockies vs Cubs National League Wildcard game. The Rockies jumped out to a 1 – 0 lead in the first inning.

The game progressed to the fifth inning by the time we checked into the Country Lodge in Woodland Park. Once we settled into our room, Jane and I were glued to the television until 11:30PM, when the Colorado Rockies scored a second run and advanced to the NLDS. What a game! The Rockies demonstrated a high degree of grit before a national television audience, and it will be interesting to follow their Rocktober adventure.

On Wednesday morning after breakfast Jane and I continued to the South Platte River. The morning temperature was already in the upper fifties, and that was pleasant for an October morning at high elevation near Lake George. The thermometer elevated from there, until it peaked in the low seventies, and the warm rays of the sun combined with the glowing yellow leaves on the aspen trees to create outdoor perfection. The Rockies’ win, the fall foliage, the warm temperatures and the companionship of my wife were enough to create a memorable day on October 3; and the fly fishing had not yet begun.

I donned my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight (still pampering my elbow), while Jane organized her blanket, stadium seat, and reading materials. Finally I was ready to plunge into the South Platte River. The flows were nearly ideal at 106 CFS, and this level enabled comfortable wading, yet was high enough to allow reasonably close approaches without spooking trout. The weather and near optimal flows raised my optimism, as I began casting at 10:30AM.

I began my search for hungry fish with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug; and in a short amount of time I landed three small brown trout. All three chowed down on the ultra zug bug, and I remained optimistic, although several nice long runs of moderate depth failed to produce trout. The catch rate continued at a steady rate for the remainder of the morning, although after thirty minutes with no action on the hares ear, I moved the ultra zug bug to the top position and added a salvation nymph on the point. The change seemed to improve the performance of my fly lineup, and the salvation produced one out of every four fish landed.

One of the nicest fish of the day crushed the pool toy in a swirly small pocket, and that was a pleasant surprise. Initially I devoted a fair amount of time to seams along deep runs, but eventually I concluded that the type of water that yielded abundant quantities of fish in the spring was not productive in the fall. Pockets and riffles of moderate depth provided reliable action during the two hour period between 10:30AM and my lunch break at 12:30, as the fish counter mounted to eighteen. Aside from the twelve inch pool toy crusher, most of the fish averaged in the nine to eleven inch range. Wednesday was a day of quantity over quality.

I continued with the same lineup of flies that delivered success before lunch in the early afternoon, and these offerings allowed me to increment the fish tally to twenty-two. The pace of action seemed to slow a bit; however, and I spotted quite a few very small blue winged olives, so I exchanged the salvation nymph for a sparkle wing RS2. I speculated that the fish were now selective to active baetis nymphs and emergers.

My reasoning was sound, but the results never substantiated my hypothesis. I landed a few opportunistic feeders that nabbed the ultra zug bug, and during one of these net and release episodes, the sparkle wing RS2 broke off. I stubbornly clung to my belief that blue winged olive nymphs would be a hot food item, and I replaced the sparkle wing with a Craven soft hackle emerger. This swap paid off somewhat, when a pair of eleven inch brown trout grabbed the trailing emerger in some relatively shallow riffle sections. I could now claim that my small nymph strategy was affirmed, but I continued to sense that I was passing over numerous quality lies that contained quantities of fish that ignored my offerings.

During this time another factor entered my thinking. Perhaps the additional weight of the larger and heavier salvation enabled the nymphs to drift lower and slower in the water column, and this in turn made them more available to the trout. At 1:30PM I reverted to the salvation nymph, and for the remainder of the afternoon I chucked the pool toy, ultra zug bug, and salvation. The three fly lineup delivered in a big way, and the fish count zoomed to forty-two by the time I hooked the salvation to the rod guide and returned to meet Jane at her base camp location.

During the last hour I experienced the type of action that fuels my passion for the sport of fly fishing. I reached a location where the river split around a very long island, and I chose to prospect the right braid. The flow in the right channel was twice that of the left, and most of the attractive water bordered the right bank next to a fisherman path. A series of long riffle sections that spanned fifteen feet in width presented themselves, and I approached each from the side and maintained a twenty foot distance. I executed short casts and held my rod high to keep the fly line off the water and allowed the three fly set up to drift through the gut of the riffle. In many cases an aggressive brown trout latched on to one of the nymphs in the mid-section, and quite often an aggressive feeder snatched one of the flies, as they began to swing and lift at the tail. Fishing in this way was great fun, as I was confident that fish held in each of these water types, but their size and ambush point were always surprises. I estimate that fifteen of my daily catch originated during this time frame and in the right braid next to the island.

Hot fishing, glorious scenery, balmy weather and the companionship of my lovely wife elevated Wednesday to a memorable day in 2018. A Rockies’ win was icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 42