Hippy Stomper – 11/18/2018

Hippy Stomper 11/18/2018 Photo Album

My history with the hippy stomper is well documented in my post of 01/13/2018. This report notes that I experienced a small degree of success during several fall outings in 2017, and these experiences convinced me to produce twenty-five in preparation for the 2018 season. This raises the obvious question, how did the hippy stomper perform during live field tests in 2018?

A size 12 peacock hippy stomper joined my stable of prime producers during the spring, summer and fall of the past year. As I suspected, it served as an effective option between the larger foam attractors such as the fat Albert and Chernobyl ant and the smaller Jake’s gulp beetle. The hippy stomper became my first fallback choice when finicky trout rejected the size 8 and 10 terrestrials on my dry/dropper presentations. Although the hippy stomper contains thinner foam and offers a smaller surface area than the larger foam flies, it possesses adequate buoyancy to support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. Jake’s gulp beetle struggles to support two medium size nymphs, and this capability is important, as I love the three fly dry/dropper approach. I believe that the weight of two beadheads places the nymphs within the feeding range of the trout on a more consistent basis.

Since my experience with the hippy stomper was minimal, I tied ten with red bodies, ten with peacock bodies and five with silver ice dub bodies last winter. I speculated on effective body colors based on a few successes in the fall time period. During 2018 I deployed the hippy stomper throughout the season, and I learned that the peacock body versions outpaced the others in terms of desirability to the wild trout. This translated to peacocks spending significantly more time on my line, and of course this resulted in the loss of peacock body flies in the heat of battle.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookSize 12 standard dry fly hook
Thread Black 6/0
TailBlack deer hair
BodyTwo layers of foam; black 1.0 MM and dark green .5 MM
UnderbodyLigas peacock dubbing
LegsSmall Sililegs of preferred color
IndicatorWhite McFlylon poly yarn
HackleLarge grizzly hackle

In fact, I used my last hippy stomper during an October trip, and this required an in-season visit to my fly tying station. I generally try to avoid this circumstance, but the hippy stomper secured the status of required in my fly fishing arsenal. During the first in-season tying session I manufactured eleven using peacock dubbing, and these were immediately assigned active status. Once the weather cooled down at the end of October, my fishing outings became infrequent, and I added fourteen additional models to my storage container to reach a beginning inventory of twenty-five. I suspect the hippy stomper will continue to excel as the surface fly in a dry/dropper rig while serving as a superb fish attractor in solo dry fly mode.

I settled on the Anglers All tying demonstration on YouTube for my guidance on tying hippy stompers. I also discovered that Andrew Grillos is the designer of this relatively new fly, and I was already an enthusiastic adopter of his pool toy hopper pattern. I am very anxious to continue the hippy stomper experiment in 2019.

Prince Nymph – 11/17/2018

Prince Nymph 11/17/2018 Photo Album

In all likelihood the prince nymph is ranked among the top five nymphs by fly fishermen in the United States and perhaps only surpassed by the hares ear nymph and pheasant tail nymph. In my view the prince nymph lost a bit of its luster over the last three years, as I replaced it with the ultra zug bug, and the simplified version of the prince nymph proved to be very productive. Historically I found the goose biot wings on the classic prince nymph difficult to mount, and they were always the first component to fail during stream usage. The small slippery white biot wings inevitably became loose, and eventually I found myself fishing a peacock nymph with no wings. The white wings are probably the key triggering characteristic of a prince nymph, so fishing without them failed to take advantage of their attraction.

Mounting the brown biot tails was also a bit challenging, but I managed to master that step; although when I tied the ultra zug bug, I eliminated that complication as well. I simply tied in brown fibers from a pheasant feather as the tail, and the pattern design eliminated the white biot wings. The simple zug bug was very productive, and I valued it as one of my mainstay nymphs.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2487 for size 16; Tiemco 5262 for size 12, 14
BeadGold sized to fit the hook
ThreadBlack 6/0
Tail2 brown goose biots curving away from each other
Wing2 white goose biots tied with the tips pointing forward over the bead and eye of the hook
RibFine gold or copper wire
Abdomen4 or 5 strands of peacock herl twisted with a section of thread
LegsTwo clumps of brown pheasant fibers tied on both sides of the thorax area
Wing PositionFold the white biot wings back over the body of the fly and tie down behind the bead with the tips split and forming a V
ThoraxPeacock ice dubbing over the thread wraps behind the bead.

But this piece is about the prince nymph, and I discovered two scenarios during the 2018 season, when the classic prince seemed to represent a favored food of Colorado trout. During the grannom caddis activity in April and May, a prince nymph in size 16 seemed to outperform the ultra zug bug, particularly when adult egg layers were active. Perhaps the natural iridescent peacock body or the white V-shaped wing explain this effectiveness, but in any event I like to carry a supply of the smaller prince nymphs in my fleece wallet.

During the 2018 season I also discovered that knotting a size 12 prince nymph to my line during green drake season produced some fairly consistent subsurface action. My total supply of these larger nymphs consisted of five, and I depleted them during fishing outings on the Cache la Poudre and South Boulder Creek during the time frame when green drakes were present. I suspect that better green drake nymph imitations exist, but field success counts a lot in my experience, so size 16 and 14 prince nymphs continued to earn slots in my fly containers.

Given the two situations outlined above, when prince nymphs provided a boost to my fly fishing fortunes, I decided to replenish my depleted supply. I remembered a series of tying tips in Fly Tyer Magazine that applied to tying prince nymphs, so I searched through my pile of old issues and found the piece that remained in my aging memory bank. One tip provided guidance to enable consistent mounting of the biot tails, so they split evenly and remain on the same plain. A second tip outlined the steps for locking down the white goose biot wings. I applied these recommendations and whipped out some quality prince nymphs in size 12, 14 and 16. I am fairly certain that the wing procedure greatly enhances the durability of a classic prince nymph.

My prince inventory now consists of five size 12’s, 15 size 14’s, and 20 size 16’s. I will no longer be reluctant to offer prince nymphs due to fears of depleting my supply. Hopefully these flies will continue to produce in the caddis and green drake situations as well as during general searching periods.

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 11/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Lavern Johnson Park

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 11/15/2018 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 snowstorm on Sunday deposited three or four inches in Stapleton, but according to news reports it delivered a foot to Boulder and the front range foothills. The weather forecast predicted highs of 60 degrees in Denver on Wednesday and Thursday, and I targeted one of these days for a late season fishing adventure. I dropped the Santa Fe off at the auto body shop on Monday for repairs to the bumper after a minor rear end incident on an earlier fishing trip to Boulder, and this reduced Jane and I to two cars. Adding to the logistical challenge of getting away for some stream time, the 1998 RAV displayed battery woes, and I was unable to start it on Tuesday. With Jane’s assistance we started it using jumper cables, and I immediately drove it to the nearby Brakes Plus. The man at the counter checked the schedule and committed to a diagnosis on Wednesday. Our two person family with three vehicles was now reduced to one on Wednesday, and I was reluctant to strand Jane with no transportation, so I delayed my fishing plans to Thursday.

Fortunately Brakes Plus lived up to their commitment, and they replaced the battery in the RAV on Wednesday. Jane needed her Forte for tennis permanent court time on Thursday, so my fly fishing venture was dependent on the twenty year old RAV 4. Originally I selected Boulder Creek within the city of Boulder as my destination, but when I checked the flows, I noticed a 10 CFS spike on Tuesday and Wednesday. I suspected that this resulted from low elevation snow melt from the dumping on Sunday and Monday, and I never enjoyed much success under these conditions. I checked the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and the graph displayed a nice even line at 28 CFS. Of course this was measured at the outflow from the dam, and melting snow would impact the conditions below that location, but I surmised that there was less distance for run off effect.

I stuffed all my gear in the tiny RAV 4 and departed Denver by 10:30AM on Thursday morning. The air temperature was already at 54 degrees in Denver, and by the time I pulled into a parking space at Lavern Johnson Park, the temperature in Lyons was 58 degrees. Thursday evolved into a very mild sunny day in Lyons and Colorado, and I was optimistic that I might land some late season trout. Before I paid my $5 fee for four hours of parking, I visited the rest room and checked out the stream along the way. The creek was crystal clear and flowing at 28 CFS. Residual mounds of snow were evident in the shade, and full scale thawing was in effect, but I concluded that the conditions were favorable for a few hours of fly fishing.

I rigged my Orvis Access four weight and quickly strode across the park to the downstream border with private land next to the RV camping space. I knotted a silver ice dub body hippy stomper to my line and added a beadhead hares ear on a 3.5 foot dropper, and I began to prospect the small stream. The St. Vrain in the park forms a  huge horseshoe, and man made dams and rocky stream improvement structures create a series of deep pools and eddies throughout the public area. These were my prime targets, although I allocated a few casts to the deep runs and pockets in between the human creations. The stream improvement project evidently was a response to the 2013 flood.

After thirty minutes of focused fishing I recorded only a rude refusal to the hippy stomper, so I paused and found a picnic table in the sun, whereupon I consumed my small lunch. At 12:15 I resumed my quest, and I added a beadhead ultra zug bug to my offerings. Finally in a deep shelf pool along the current seam formed by a deep run, I connected with two small brown trout. The first extended to eight inches, and I paused to snap a photo. This proved to be a fortuitous choice, as it represented the first and largest fish of the day.

My optimism elevated somewhat, and I continued around the curve and into the sunlight in the western section of the horseshoe. Although the temperature was nearly sixty degrees, my wet hands sent out a stinging sensation, while I dwelled in the shade from the steep hill on the south side of the creek.

One of the first places I encountered when I migrated into the sunshine was a long clear pool, and I sprayed some long casts through the bottom end of the area. A deep trough bordered the left bank next to a large rectangular rock, and I shifted my back cast to the right in order to angle a cast to the left side. I was surprised and depressed, when I discovered that I wrapped the trailing nymphs around an overhanging branch high above the creek. I was very reluctant to write off three flies, but the limb was out of reach, even when I climbed to the top of the bank. Finally I conceded to the tree and grabbed the leader as close to the hippy stomper as I could, and gave the line a strong steady pull. The tippet snapped below the hippy stomper, so I salvaged the largest and newest fly, but the two nymphs taunted me from their perch near the end of the overhanging branch.

I was about to replace the nymphs with a new set, when I developed another scheme. A jumble of dead branches was visible at the base of a tree on the opposite side of the creek, so I waded across at the tail of the pool and lifted the longest of the cluster. It was quite thick and extended to twelve feet, so I grasped it in the middle to balance the weight and lugged it back to the top of the high right bank. I used the clumsy branch like a jousting pole and managed to thrust the tip into the monofilament jumble and then lowered it toward the ground. Amazingly I snagged the ultra zug bug in the split in the end of the long pole, and I quickly recovered it, but the hares ear was no where to be found.

I congratulated myself for recovering two out of three, but then I made one last inspection of the branch dangling high above the creek. I spotted another tangled mass of line, and I concluded that it was the end of my dry/dropper rig, and a beadhead nymph dangled from the mess. I deployed the battering ram one more time and thrust it into the tangled web, and once again I succeeded in stripping the line from the tree. I placed my impromptu tool on the ground and rushed to the tip, where I discovered a previous angler’s line and a decaying beadhead nymph. The bead and hook were all that remained of an aging unidentifiable nymph imitation. I took credit for removing the fishing waste from the tree and returned to reconfiguring my line.

Since I was faced with nearly a total rebuild, I used the interruption to swap the silver hippy stomper for one of my trusted peacock body versions. I replaced the ultra zug bug and hares ear with fresh versions of the same flies, and I resumed my casting in the attractive pool. Of course I was extremely conscious of the streamside trees during my return engagement to fly fishing St. Vrain Creek.

The head of the pool paid dividends, when I connected with two additional small brown trout on the hares ear, and then I moved to the next attractive man-made structure. At some point during this interval a fish rose to the hippy stomper, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a solid connection. This fish was clearly larger than my previous catches, but I was disappointed to discover that it was foul hooked after refusing the foam attractor. The victim of this inadvertent hook up was a stunning rainbow trout with a wide orange-red stripe along its side. I was disappointed with the foul hook, but I was excited to discover the existence of rainbow trout in the Lavern Johnson Park stretch.

During the remainder of my time on the creek I curled around the northwest section of the bend until I reached the huge pool just below the Riverbend dance floor, where Dan and Ariel performed their first dance on September 14. Along the way I notched a fifth small brown trout to finish the day at five. Five is a relatively low total, and the size of the fish was in the six to eight inch range, but I was nonetheless pleased with my small level of success. The sun was bright, and the temperature approached sixty degrees, and I escaped a skunking during ice cold snow melt conditions. A five fish day on November 15 is always welcome in my book.

Fish Landed: 5

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 11/10/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 11/10/2018 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 a superb outing on October 29 on South Boulder Creek, I was itching to wet a line a few more times during 2018; however, the weather in early November was being unusually uncooperative. Between October 30 and November 10 a series of light snowstorms and cold fronts kept the high temperatures in the forties and thirties, and I desire temperatures to remain in the 45 -55 range to allow a modest amount of comfort. Highs in the mid-fifties in Denver generally translate to ten degrees cooler in the mountains and foothills, so I used the first two weeks of November to kick off my production fly tying for the 2019 season.

Finally when I checked the long term forecast, I noticed that Saturday November 10 was projected to yield a high in the mid to upper fifties in Denver. Jane and I were dog sitting our grandpuppy Zuni, and she loves the trails and off leash area at Buttonrock Preserve, so we scheduled a combined fly fishing/dog walking excursion. The high temperature in Lyons, the closest nearby town, was forecast to reach fifty-one degrees on Saturday, so I gambled that I could tolerate the chill and land a few trout.

Jane and I departed Stapleton by 9:30 and after stopping to fuel the car and buy a new leash for Zuni, we arrived at the nearly full parking area below Buttonrock by 10:50. The abundance of vehicles elevated my concerns over angler competition, and I passed a few fishermen on my way to the stream, but most of the visitors were dog walkers. I later told Jane that the Buttonrock Preserve is the boardwalk of dogs, as we passed a steady parade of canines of every variety.

Jane was prepared to leave the parking area almost immediately, and Zuni was not demonstrating an abundance of patience, so they departed, while I cycled through my fishing preparation ritual. One of Jane’s water bottles leaked and swamped the floor mat in the back of the Santa Fe, so I spent additional time repositioning  clothing and bags to avoid saturation. The stool and carpet sample that I normally use to pull on my waders were drenched with water, so I sat on a boulder in front of the car to wader up, and this added additional preparation time to my venture.

I elected my Orvis Access four weight to coddle my elbow, even though my final physical therapy appointment occurred on Thursday. The air temperature on the dashboard registered forty-one degrees, and a stiff breeze blasted down the canyon. The wind was strong enough to periodically create dust clouds, and this was a weather factor that I failed to consider. The sky was overcast and remained mostly in this state for my entire time on the creek.

I wore my fishing shirt and a fleece and stuffed my light down coat in my backpack along with my lunch and then cinched my long sleeved Under Armour shirt around my waist. For head gear I chose my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and during my 2.5 hours in the canyon, I was thankful for this choice. I hiked for over a half hour at a decent pace, and the wind chill and shade forced me to stuff the hand that was not holding the rod inside my waders to prevent numbing and aching from the cold. The wind was a huge negative, that I did not bargain for, and I actually considered returning to the car to eat my lunch and wait for Jane and Zuni to complete their loop.

Finally I reached my targeted starting point, and I angled down to the stream, where I removed all my upper body layers and pulled on my Under Armour shirt. To combat the chilling impact of the wind I added my fishing shirt, fleece and light down and snugged my ear flaps over my ears. In the process of returning the sweaty undershirt to my backpack, my sandwich wrap tumbled to the ground and dumped my sandwich on to some rocks. I lost some of the extras on my ham sandwich, but quickly slapped the bread layers back together along with the ham and lettuce to salvage a reasonably appetizing lunch option.

I was now ready to begin my fishing adventure. I knotted a peacock hippy stomper to my line and then added an iron sally as the solitary dropper, and I began to prospect the deep holes and likely fish holding locations. The flow was low but actually quite acceptable for early November. In a nice long run early in the game, a fish darted to the surface and refused the hippy stomper, and in a spot slightly above this rejection I felt the temporary tug of another fish, as it latched on to the iron sally. I was encouraged that two fish found my flies interesting, but I was disappointed that the fish counter remained locked on zero.

After the two early fish encounters I suffered through an extended dry spell. I did learn during this lull that the fish were concentrated in deep slow moving pools. I wasted my time prospecting faster runs and riffles of moderate depth, before I isolated the prime holding water on November 10. During the first 1.5 hours I registered a few more temporary hookups on small fish, before I approached another nice long pool with a moderate center current and four to six feet of depth in the upper section.

By now I added an ultra zug bug as a third fly below the iron sally, and I cast toward the midsection of the long pool. The hippy stomper paused, and I reacted with a solid hook set, and this action resulted with a small rainbow trout in my net. The length of this trout was in the vicinity of six inches, so I tentatively counted it as my first fish of the day. I carefully waded to the middle portion of the run and paused to observe, and I was both amazed and encouraged to witness a few sporadic rises. Initially the rises were in the top fourth of the pool along the perimeter of a deep pocket, where the creek spilled over a curved and spaced wall of exposed rocks.

I lobbed some casts to this upper section, but the fish continued their sporadic feeding and ignored my large hippy stomper and subsurface offerings. What could these fish be eating? As I continued to observe, I spotted some small insects, as they skittered across the water. I was unable to identify the food source, nor was I able to place the species as mayfly, caddis or stonefly. Given the cloudy conditions and the time of year, I concluded that a sparse blue winged olive hatch was in progress, so I swapped the ultra zug bug for a RS2, and I began drifting and swinging the flies through the pool.

My logic was sound, but the trout ignored my nymphs whether dead drifted or active, and I was about to modify my approach, when a fish suddenly crushed the hippy stomper. I was almost caught off guard, but I responded in time to hook and land a ten inch rainbow, with the foam attractor solidly attached to its lip. This trout was clearly above my minimum threshold, so I made it my first legitimate catch of the day, and then I resumed casting.

After ten unsuccessful drifts I once again paused. By now five or six fish were rising throughout the length of the pool. I scanned the air above the creek, and I saw tiny midges and two small stoneflies. The stoneflies were easily distinguishable, because two sets of wings were visible, as they fluttered above the water. I also noticed an insect as it tumbled and skittered across the surface, and I assumed that it was a stonefly. I was undecided over my next step, but I decided to try a size 22 CDC blue winged olive first.

I tied the CDC BWO to my line and began to target the various rises around the pool. One fish that was fifteen feet below me in the center of the pool was a more consistent riser than the others, so I delivered several downstream drifts over the feeder. Twice the small aggressive sipper elevated, but each time it dropped back to its holding position. This was a strong sign that they were not eating baetis mayflies, so I defaulted to my back up plan. I replaced the BWO with a size 18 dark stonefly adult, that I tied for autumn emergences on South Boulder Creek. This was the smallest stonefly in my possession, although the naturals that I observed appeared to be lighter in color.

I will never know whether it was size or color, but the dark olive body imitation with a dark gray wing never fooled the residents of the North Fork pool. One trout displayed a splashy refusal directly across from me, but the stonefly searching period was characterized by an abundance of futility. I was frustrated that I did not possess any small light colored stonefly imitations, so I pondered my predicament once again. I was fortunate to encounter surface feeding late in the season, yet I was unable to unlock the secret code that would deliver fish to my net.

The only small light colored flies in my box were the light olive blue wings. I decided to give them another try, and I knotted a different size 22 to my tippet. During this repeat engagement of the CDC BWO, I managed to fool the small sipper that refused me earlier, but it escaped before I could net it, and it was below the six inch cut off. As this drama was unfolding, Jane and Zuni arrived, and Zuni nudged my waders to make me aware of her presence. After we exchanged greetings, she ascended the path, and I tossed the car keys to Jane, so they could return to the warmth of the Santa Fe.

I committed to quit by 2PM, and only ten minutes remained. I was evaluating a new plan of attack, when I saw a decent brown trout swirl to the surface three times in quick succession in the very attractive deep pocket at the top of the pool. Perhaps a caddis could induce a take? My caddis were larger than anything I saw on the water, but perhaps a large mouthful would generate an opportunistic slurp? I replaced the blue winged olive with a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive brown body, and I drifted and skittered the hackled fly through the top section. Nothing. I fired a few casts to the location of the riser across from me and then fed some downstream drifts to the fish in the lower half of the pool. I was not rewarded for my efforts, and it was 2PM, so I stripped in my line and climbed the bank and ambled back to the parking lot at a brisk pace.

One fish in 2.5 hours of fishing was not great, but the time was far from boring. At least five or six fish rose in the quality pool, and I was consumed by my efforts to fool the small feeders. I mostly failed in the undertaking, but I registered one rainbow trout on a newly tied hippy stomper, and I encountered several additional opportunities but failed to convert. As snow descends outside my office window, I question whether this was perhaps my last outing of 2018. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 1