Big Thompson River – 03/28/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Above RV park at large bend in special regulation water

Big Thompson River 03/28/2019 Photo Album

After three challenging days of fishing on the North Platte River, I was anxious for a day of rest on Wednesday. Unfortunately this day developed into the nicest day of the spring of 2019. It would have been an ideal day to fly fish, but I took advantage to plant the remainder of my raised beds. A glance at the five day forecast revealed that Thursday was the last mild day, before cold weather and a storm arrived. One day of relaxation was enough, and I pondered options for a day of fishing on Thursday.

South Boulder Creek, the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, the Big Thompson River and the Cache la Poudre were on my radar, but after reviewing streamflows and fly shop fishing reports I settled on the Big Thompson. Current flows in the canyon below Lake Estes were a moderate 37 CFS, and I was drawn to low clear water after the dirty conditions on the North Platte.

I departed from my house in Denver by 8:45, and this enabled me to arrive at a pullout five miles below the dam at 10:30AM. The low clear flows were indeed in place, and the air temperature was in the mid-fifties, as I jumped into my waders and pulled on a fleece layer. The weather remained comfortable throughout my day on the river. The wind gusted off and on, but it did not represent a significant hindrance until the final thirty minutes.

Lots of Visible Fish in This Starting Area

The starting location was a thirty yard long relatively slow moving pool, and five or six small trout darted from the bank, where I entered to begin my morning quest for trout. I began the morning with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and red annelid worm. I prospected with this combination for ten minutes, and managed two refusals to the fat Albert. I was skeptical of the annelid, so I exchanged it for a beadhead RS2. These three flies finally attracted interest, and I landed four trout before I took my lunch break at noon. A brown trout and rainbow nabbed the RS2, and then a small brown grabbed the hares ear. The last of the four trout netted in the morning slurped the yellow fat Albert, and this represented my first trout caught on a dry fly in 2019.

Grabbed a RS2

During the one hour before lunch I continued to notice sporadic refusals to the fat Albert, and I was late to set the hook on quite a few fish. I speculated that these were small fish that nipped the tiny RS2. I observed several groups of rainbows that appeared to be in spawning mode, so I exchanged the hares ear for an apricot soft egg, and I bounced this along the bottom for the last thirty minutes to no avail.

A Rainbow Joins the Count

The Trout Snack

After lunch I continued with the egg and RS2 for a bit without success, so I once again made a change and replaced the egg fly with a salvation nymph. A fifteen minute trial failed to change my fortunes, so I reverted to the hares ear and retained the RS2. From 12:30 until 2:30 I migrated upstream with the yellow fat Albert, hares ear, and RS2; and I tallied three small brown trout. All these fish slashed the RS2, as I drifted the dry/dropper configuration along the rocks that bordered the left and right bank. The third brown actually consumed a sparkle wing RS2, as I broke off the initial RS2 in the process of landing fish number six.

By 2:30 I encountered another angler, so I climbed the bank and hiked back along the shoulder of highway 34, until I returned to my starting point. This section of the river was the thirty yard slow moving pool that entertained me during the early stages of my outing. I decided to experiment with a dry fly in the area, where I could see the reaction of visible trout. I selected a size 14 gray stimulator from my fly box, and I began to shoot long casts to visible fish. The wind accelerated significantly compared to earlier, and I was forced to compensate by directing casts ten feet to the right of the location I targeted.

Needless to say accuracy was not an effective part of my arsenal; however, I did manage to generate a look and several splashy refusals to the stimulator. I paused to consider downsizing to a size 16 deer hair caddis, but the wind once again lashed out with several extended gusts. These outbursts rippled the surface of the water, but once the blast of air subsided, three or four rises materialized throughout the pool. I knew from similar experiences in the past, that the sudden surface feeding probably resulted from terrestrials being blown into the water. I immediately stripped up my line and added a size 18 black parachute ant on a twelve inch dropper behind the stimulator.

Lunch View

I began to cast the double dry to the areas, where I spotted rises, and during the last twenty minutes I succeeded in hooking and landing a brown trout to elevate the fish count to eight. In addition I generated three temporary connections. I feel certain that I cracked the code, and ants were the food of choice for the opportunistic Big Thompson trout. Unfortunately it was very difficult to detect the subtle slurp of the trout given the low riding ant and the rippled surface.

Thursday was a pleasant spring day in the Rocky Mountains. I landed eight small trout over four hours including two on dry flies. The catch rate of two per hour was average based on my fly fishing history. In retrospect I should have factored in the high ratio of rainbow trout in the Big Thompson River and the seasonal spawning ritual, when I chose my destination. I plan to rest the Big T for several weeks, before I return, when the rainbow reproduction cycle ebbs.

Fish Landed: 8

 

 

North Platte River – 03/26/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 11:30AM

Location: Fremont Canyon below Pathfinder Dam

North Platte River 03/26/2019 Photo Album

Fremon Canyon. Steve and I visited this short section of the North Platte River between Pathfinder and Alcova on 03/27/2013, and we experienced no success; but various sources suggested that water clarity was excellent and large fish were present in 2019. Fremont Canyon was our original destination on Sunday upon our arrival in central Wyoming, but when we cruised along the upper and most accessible half mile, the parking lot was overflowing, and fishermen dominated all the available water.

Our original plan included a trip to the Miracle Mile above Pathfinder on Tuesday, March 26, but this option necessitated a two hour drive over a muddy dirt road, and the weather reports highlighted wind velocities in excess of twenty miles per hour. This combination of adverse factors caused us to visit the much closer Fremont Canyon stretch, and we banked on Tuesday being less crowded than Sunday.

Steve at the Top of the Pool and Run

We were not surprised by the harsh assault on our senses, when we stepped out of the car at the large parking area high above the river and below the bridge that spans the North Platte on the road that leads to the Miracle Mile. The wind blasted our bodies, and the temperature hovered in the low forties. The weather forecast suggested high temperatures of sixty degrees, but this seemed like wishful thinking upon our arrival. Two other vehicles were in the parking lot, so Steve and I hustled to pull on our waders and an endless array of additional layers to combat the Wyoming spring chill. The wind would be a constant nuisance during our time on the water, but the presence of the sun did elevate the temperature to the upper forties before we left.

Our rods remained rigged with eggs and worms from our float on Monday; so once our layers, sunscreen and hats were in place, we descended a relatively steep angled path to the river. The flows seemed low as a result of the extremely wide streambed populated by an abundant quantity of exposed rocks. but once we approached the bank of the river, we noticed that the velocity and depth were greater than anticipated from a distance.

Looks Great

One of the fishermen in the parking lot occupied the large wide pool below the bridge, so Steve and I migrated toward a relatively long narrow run and pool below him. Another group of fishermen were visible fifty yards downstream from the section that we claimed. Our area was approximately thirty yards long, and the main current tumbled from the top of the section and then raced within five to ten feet of the north bank. The opposite side appeared to be more attractive with a wider shelf pool, so I requested Steve’s permission to cross at the tail. He approved of my plan, since he left his wading staff in the car.

Heavy Metal Worm Gets Tested

I ambled downstream to the tail and began a crossing, but three-fourths of the way I encountered fast water above my knees, so I retreated and modified my plan. Steve remained at the top of the run, so I began an upstream approach from the right bank. My line was configured with an apricot bead egg imitation, a D-ribbed red annelid worm and a second smaller red worm. The wind was a constant, and I began to chuck the rig  up and across, and then allowed the three fly arrangement to drift downstream with numerous mends. I covered ten yards with no success, at which point I arrived at the widest part of the pool. This spot was just above where the streambed narrowed and the current accelerated, so I once again attempted a crossing. I hoped that the slower current would enable me to manage the deeper channel close to the south bank, but alas when I reached that impediment to crossing, I was thigh deep, so I once again backed away. I was now committed to fishing the remainder of the pool from the north side.

Sucker Spawn Takes a Turn

I accepted my position and once again focused on fishing the North Platte River in Fremont Canyon. After thirty minutes with no sign of a fish, I began to consider a fly change. I decided to retain the egg and larger annelid, while I rotated other flies through the bottom position on my line. I was anxious to experiment with the heavy metal worm, that I tied in my Andrew Grillos class, so that was the next fly to occupy my line. I also was not sure whether my flies were getting deep enough, so the relatively large tungsten bead in the center of the worm was also a welcome addition.

Sumpbuster Did Not Bust

Unfortunately the heavy metal worm did not reverse my fortunes, so I cycled through a series of fly changes over the next hour, as I slowly progressed upstream toward Steve. Next I plucked a sucker spawn cluster from my fleece, and I allotted a fair amount of time to this new winter creation. No dice. The sucker spawn was not weighted, so I crimped another split shot to my leader to achieve more depth. I employed a dead drift as well as a swing at the end of the drift, but none of these tactics brought an ounce of success.

20 Incher Not Liked by Trout

Next I knotted a conehead slumpbuster to my line, and I fished this passively on a dead drift and then imparted various strips and twitches. The fish were not impressed. During the remainder of my time I cycled through a 20 incher, orange scud, and flashback zebra midge; but I was disappointed when 11:30 arrived without a sign of fish in Fremont Canyon. I sensed that I was pushing my rehabilitated elbow to the limit with constant casting across and into the wind, and the frequent mends were straining the joint excessively. Steve and I conferred and wisely decided to cut our losses and call it a day.

Mercury Midge Given a Chance

Steve and I remain fishless in Fremont Canyon. The combination of high wind and lockjawed fish made our one and a half hours of fly fishing a less than pleasurable experience. It will probably be another five years before we return, if we ever return.

Fish Landed: 0

North Platte River – 03/25/2019

Time: 8:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Grey Reef and downstream for seven miles.

North Platte River 03/25/2019 Photo Album

My friend, Steve, and I floated the North Platte River below Grey Reef in six of the last seven years, and Monday, March 25 was our selected date for 2019. Once again we arranged to use Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service, and we requested the repeat services of our guide, Greg. As we drove to Fremont Canyon on Sunday, we were very concerned with the dark olive to brown color of the river, as heavy snow from the Bomb Cyclone snowstorm continued to melt and discolor the river.

We anxiously monitored the weather forecasts, and we were relieved to notice a sudden change for Monday. Originally the weather experts expected a high of 48 degrees with a 40% chance of snow and rain, but Sunday’s version suggested more favorable conditions of 52 degrees with a 10% chance of precipitation. Imagine our surprise and disappointment, when we checked on Monday morning and discovered a reversal to highs in the upper forties with wind, snow and rain likely up until noon. The turbid condition of the river and the bleak weather certainly elevated my level of concern.

Greg’s New Clackacraft

As expected, weather was the most significant factor on Monday, March 25. The temperature hovered in the thirties throughout the morning, and the frigid conditions were accompanied by wind, snow flurries, and heavy cloud cover. It was rather miserable. I placed my mittens containing hand warmers next to my seat in the rear of the boat, and every time we stopped fishing, I jammed my frozen hands into these comfort zones.

Quite a Circus at the Boat Ramp

The river was a fairly dense olive color even at the boat ramp below the dam, but our guide assured us that the visibility was adequate for the resident trout. The sun broke through the dense clouds in the late morning for a brief pleasant period, but then another large cloud rushed in, and the afternoon approximated the morning minus the snow with temperatures in the balmy low forties. For the last hour the clouds lifted a bit, and I refrained from placing my hands in the sanctuary of my mittens.

Because of the dirty water conditions our guide, Greg, worked extra hard to remain in the first three miles for an extended period of time. He knew the location of the tributaries dumping sediments, so he repeatedly rowed upstream along the bank to enable multiple drifts through productive fish holding runs in the upper river.

Effective Flies

Pretty Fish

My line contained an apricot egg throughout the day, and a red annelid worm was a mainstay fifteen inches below the egg. Greg rotated a third fly twelve inches below the worm; and that position varied between smaller annelids of different colors, a gray leech, and a midge emerger. Over the course of the 7.5 hour, seven mile float I landed three rainbows in the morning and three more in the afternoon. Six fish in 7.5 hours of fishing represented disappointing results particularly for the North Platte Grey Reef section compared to history. All six fish were strong silver fighters in the fourteen to sixteen inch range, so size was not an issue. The first landed rainbow gobbled the orange egg, and the fifth fish smacked the midge emerger. The remainder of my catch grabbed one of the red annelid worms.

A Nice North Platte Rainbow

Overall it was one of my worst experiences on the tailwater west of Casper, WY. The common denominator to slow fishing on the North Platte seems to be timing. Our worst float fishing numbers coincided with trips that did not overlap with the spring flush. The snow melt turbidity was another negative in my opinion. The cold wet windy conditions were tolerable, when fishing action dominated; however, slow fishing caused one’s thoughts to dwell on adverse weather.

Fish Landed: 6

A Pretty Stretch

North Platte River – 03/24/2019

Time: 2:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: North Platte River, Alcova Afterbay

North Platte River 03/24/2019 Photo Album

For six out of the last seven years my friend, Steve, and I took advantage of the discount offered by Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service for guided float trips before April 1. During four of those six visits to Grey Reef our float trip coincided with the flush. During the flush large volumes of water are released from the dam overnight to cleanse the river bottom for improved rainbow trout spawning. Flows generally return to 500 cfs during the day, and the flush cycle repeats over a seven to ten day period. The fishing during the flush can generally be characterized as superb, since the temporary release kicks up abundant quantities of annelid worms, leeches and eggs; and the resident population of fish gorge on the high protein diet. Our goal for 2019 was to once again take advantage of the flush phenomenon.

Steve arrived at my house a bit before 7:30AM on Sunday, March 24; and we completed a gear transfer and hit the highway by 7:30. I was the designated driver, since Steve acted as the pilot during our 2018 expedition. We arrived in Casper, WY by 11:30AM, and we stopped for a quick lunch at Wendy’s. Next on our agenda was to check in at the Hampton Inn, and after taking care of that important task we refueled at a gas station on Poplar Avenue. We chose the North Platte River as our destination for Sunday, and we were now on our way. The Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service shop was along our route, so we stopped to say hello, but the door was locked. Failing to find someone with local information at the guide shop caused us to walk across the driveway to the neighboring fly shop. The door was unlocked, so we entered, but after calling for a staff person several times, no one responded.

We finally decided to proceed to Fremont Canyon without local information, and after another twenty-five miles we arrived at the large parking lot below Pathfinder Dam. Our route took us along the North Platte River below Grey Reef, and we were quite disappointed to view the off colored water that represented our fishing destination on Monday. Quite a bit of snow cover from the Bomb Cyclone storm remained, and warmer temperatures generated steady melt in the washes and tributaries that fed the North Platte thus creating the turbid conditions.

The combination of it being a weekend and the dirty water below Grey Reef apparently herded the anglers to Fremont Canyon, as all the parking lots were filled to capacity, and from the road high above the river we could see a large number of fishermen occupying all the accessible prime fishing locales. We drove downstream for a couple of miles, until we realized that Fremont Canyon quickly transforms into a deep gorge with sheer side walls, and we were not interested in a rock climbing exercise. We weighed our options and decided to reverse direction to the Alcova afterbay, a section that we fished on several past trips with some success.

The back road that followed Fremont Canyon downstream eventually led us across a bridge that was undergoing construction, and then we turned on to a moderately muddy dirt lane that delivered us to the crude boat launch in the afterbay. Another SUV was parked nearby, and we could see a pair of anglers in the wide run next to the boat launch. In addition a group of four occupied the nice run in the vicinity of a tall post. This was an area that I favored based on success on previous trips.

One of the Flies of Choice

I suited up with a fleece layer and Adidas pullover and rigged an apricot bead egg, D-rib red worm, and slumpbuster. By the time Steve and I were ready to fish, the group of four vacated the post area, so we migrated upstream to a nice run just below the wooden landmark. As I began probing the run, the heavily weighted conehead slumpbuster caused frequent snags in the relatively low flows, so I swapped it for a flashback zebra midge larva.

The air temperature was around fifty degrees when we began, and the water was mostly clear with a tinge of color. After I switched to the lighter rig, I enjoyed better drifts. I spotted a few sporadic rises during this time frame, and within fifteen minutes I hooked a thrashing rainbow trout. Unfortunately my joy was short lived, as the spirited trout made a quick escape. I sensed that the eater grabbed the midge larva, but I could not be certain about this assumption.

I continued casting and spotted two decent fish in a shallow depression on the opposite side of the run from my position. I made a multitude of drifts to this vicinity, but I concluded that the fish were in spawning mode and not interested in eating. I shifted my attention to the area downstream and across from the deeper run. This change in focus paid off, when the thingamabobber dove, and I connected with a breathtaking slab of a rainbow. The heavy adversary dashed back and forth and then rushed upstream, and finally I pressured it back down the run and into my net. The tail of the beast extended four or five inches beyond my net opening, and this suggested I landed a twenty inch fish. I gently released my prize and turned my attention back to the area below the depression.

Stunner

It was not long before the indicator once again skipped, and this time a fourteen inch rainbow splashed into my net. Both landed fish grabbed either the apricot egg or the red worm. The worm was in the mouth of the fish, but this does not rule out the possibility that the fish attacked the egg.

Smaller But Still Pleased

Steve and I persisted for another 1.5 hours, as we worked up and down the forty yard stretch on our side of the river, but neither of us could generate additional action. Occasional rises punctuated our time on the river, but we could not attract trout to our flies. During the last twenty minutes I converted to a missing link dry fly, and I placed some nice downstream casts over the locations of the rises, but the all purpose dry fly was totally ignored.

The sky clouded up and the wind gusted during the middle of the afternoon, so I returned to the car and retrieved my fingerless gloves and hat with earflaps. The construction crew at the bridge began digging in the river, and this caused significant sedimentation. By 4:30 Steve and I were chilled and bored, so we called it a day and returned to the warmth of the car. Two fish in 2.5 hours was not outstanding, but a twenty inch rainbow was certainly something to be thankful for.

Fish Landed: 2

Boulder Creek – 03/21/2019

Boulder Creek 03/21/2019 Photo Album

When I was young, opening day of the trout season was a big deal. I could barely sleep the night before; and my dad, brother and I always woke up before dawn to secure a favorite spot along the local stream. My dad and grandfather typically accompanied the stocking truck and identified the prime spots for opening day success.

My how my fishing life has changed. Unlike Pennsylvania, Colorado does not have an opening day. Trout fishing is a year round endeavor for those souls hardy enough to endure frigid winter temperatures and the arduous hike through snow. I am not much of a winter fisherman, since the sport ceases to be fun, when one’s foremost thoughts turn to toe warmers, hand warmers and car heaters rather than the allure of catching fish.

I experienced a severe case of tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow from August 2017 through the end of the 2018 season, and I pledged to avoid a fishing rod from my last day on November 15 until the end of February. During this time I faithfully completed my wrist, elbow and shoulder therapy on a three times per week schedule. Cold temperatures during the first week of March suggested skiing more than fishing, and a getaway to Arizona from March 9 through March 14 further delayed any thoughts of wetting a line.

Finally a break in the weather appeared on the five day forecast for Denver, CO with a high predicted to reach 58 degrees on March 21. I could no longer resist the urge to open my 2019 season on a Colorado stream. A friend reported clear conditions on the Cache la Poudre and South Boulder Creek, and I noted that flows on the Big Thompson in the canyon below Lake Estes were decent at 38 CFS. Unfortunately Jane reminded me, that we had a dinner date with another couple at 6PM on Thursday night, so this dictated a short trip. Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO is a thirty minute drive, and temperatures in the front range university town were reasonable and similar to Denver.

Nice Deep Run to Start My Season

I made the late morning drive to Boulder and pulled into a parking lot near the creek. The air temperature was in the low fifties, as I pulled on my fleece and waders, and in my two hours on the water the sun warmed the air to the upper fifties. By the time I geared up and stashed my lunch in my backpack and hiked along the path for ten minutes, it was noon; so I found a spot along the creek and devoured my sandwich, carrots and yogurt. Unlike my Pennsylvania opening days, I only encountered one other pair of anglers, a young man and woman engaged in casting and probing the stream for hungry trout. I planned to hike for twenty minutes, but the encounter with the couple caused me to reverse my direction, and I cut to the creek forty yards upstream.

I began my quest for 2019 trout with a peacock-body hippy stomper, a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug. The water was slightly stained, but visibility was good to three feet with most of the murkiness confined to the deeper slow moving pools. The first fifteen minutes failed to yield any action, so I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a salad spinner. I was catching bottom frequently with the two size 14 beaded nymphs, and I hoped that the small midge emerger would correct that problem. The ploy worked, and I hooked and landed my first fish in a nice riffle two feet deep. Number one was a spunky brown trout in the nine inch range, and I was very pleased to guide it into the net. I snapped a couple photos and then gently released the wild jewel into its home waters.

Showing Off First Trout of the New Season

Another nice section appeared shortly thereafter, and two large exposed boulders adorned the left side of a deep run. The hippy stomper paused next to the downstream rock in front of me, and I lifted the rod tip and discovered, that I foul hooked another feisty brown trout. I persisted in the same area and tossed a cast above the upper boulder, and as it swept by the left side of the large obstruction, another brown trout grabbed the beadhead hares ear. This brown was slightly larger than the first one, and again I paused to photograph my opening day prize.

Not Bad for Boulder Creek

As this scenario was playing out, I heard some loud sounds emanating from an area fifty yards upstream, and a brief survey of the situation revealed a team of workers doing streamside cleanup. The sound was the annoying rasp of a chainsaw, and the crew proceeded to chop up a fallen tree, that was then dragged up the bank by a small front-end loader. Needless to say this activity did not bode well for a downstream fisherman, so I climbed the bank to the path and circled around the group, until I was forty yards above the workers.

Last Fish Emerged from the Edge of the Run Along the Right Bank

For the next hour I continued my upstream progression, and I managed one temporary hook up and another landed brown. The creek grew increasingly muddy apparently from higher level snow melt, since no snow remained in the area that I passed through. In order to increase the visibility of my flies, I swapped the salad spinner for a size 14 prince nymph, and my third and last fish fell for the peacock attractor. I considered converting to a small streamer, but by the time the flows morphed into chocolate milk I was at the bridge near the parking area, and my watch told me it was 2PM. The adverse conditions convinced me to call it a day in order to allow enough time to comfortably meet my dinner commitment.

Tipping Up for a Photo

Three fish in two hours is below my normal average, but I was happy to experience a moderate level of success on my opening day. The sixty degree temperatures and brilliant sunshine were welcome on the second day of spring, and I overcame competing anglers, stream clean up crews and muddy conditions to achieve a level of success. A new season arrived, and I am anxious to learn what the future holds.

Fish Landed: 3

Missing Link – 03/06/2019

Missing Link 03/06/2019 Photo Album

Several years ago I was fishing on the Eagle River with my friend Todd, when he showed me a fly that generated a couple landed fish. It looked like a mutated caddis fly with a spent wing and a vertical wing. Todd informed me that the fly was called a missing link. I filed this information away, as a fly to investigate, but I never acted on my intention.

I Like the Swept Back Z-Lon Wings

A recent issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine featured an article by Mike Mercer of The Fly Shop in Redding, CA; and in the article Mike described how he created the missing link, and how it evolved from a spent wing caddis imitation to a potent all around attractor. Mike proclaimed that the missing link produced in a variety of hatch situations including both mayfly and caddis emergences.

Four New Missing Links

I completed my standard production tying of known producers for the upcoming season, and the combination of the two factors above prodded me to find tying instructions for the missing link. Fortunately a YouTube search yielded a video starring Mike Mercer himself, and I followed the steps as presented by the originator of the missing link pattern.

Cool UV Sparkle Abdomen

I created five size 16 missing links, and I was quite pleased with the outcome. These flies look exceptionally buggy, and I understand how the narrow flashy abdomen, spent poly wing, tilted elk hair wing, and parachute hackle create a very versatile dry fly. I personally found the fly a bit difficult to tie as a result of wrapping the parachute hackle around the elk hair wing and the small butt end stubble. Tying off the hackle feather and then finishing the whip finish were a challenge with the amount of material coming together near the eye of the hook. Despite this challenge, I feel that my flies are solid copies of Mercer’s creation, and I am anxious to float them on western streams in the upcoming season.

Sucker Spawn – 03/03/2019

Sucker Spawn 03/03/2019 Photo Album

On several occasions during trips to the South Platte River in the spring I observed dense schools of spawning suckers. During one of these events, a decent blue winged olive hatch was in progress, and I was unable to entice surface takes. I pondered the idea, that the trout were chowing down on a high protein sucker spawn diet and consequently ignored the tiny mayflies. If you go to my 05/29/2014 post and scroll to a paragraph near the end, you will note, that I speculated on the effectiveness of sucker eggs during that outing in May.

The Veil Over the Sucker Spawn Sac

Each year I attend the Fly Fishing Show in Denver during the first weekend in January, and 2019 was no different. As my friend, Steve, and I browsed the fly tier stations along the south wall, we approached the Otter Eggs area. Walt Mueller, the owner and founder of Blue River Designs and the originator of soft milking eggs, was present. After exchanging greetings, I related my theory about the prevalence of sucker spawn in the spring on the South Platte River, and he pointed to an article that was posted on the wall that described the very phenomenon that I referred to. In short, Walt confirmed that my observations were on target, and he then showed us a sucker spawn fly and demonstrated how to tie one.

Zoomed a Bit

Since Steve and I fish the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon together during the spring on a routine basis, we agreed to purchase a sucker spawn kit. It consisted of three strips of soft plastic eggs and a pack of veil material. When we stopped for lunch in the food area, we divided the pack in half, and at the end of the day I returned home and tossed the sucker spawn material kit on my fly tying countertop.

The zip lock bags remained in that position until a few days ago. I completed my standard production tying and inventoried all my proven flies, and I was now prepared to experiment with new patterns. I generated the FP mergers and CDC tricos for special situations on the Frying Pan River and South Platte River, and I was now prepared to experiment with tying sucker spawn flies.

Five Completed

Walt included his business cards with the materials packs, and it referenced softmilkingegg.com, so I paid the site a visit and found detailed instructions for tying the sucker spawn egg clusters. Reading the steps and following the sequence of photos refreshed my memory from Walt’s demonstration, and it took me no more than an hour to manufacture five new sucker spawn flies. Although I had orange and yellow egg strips, I utilized the strip that progressed from clear to a light amber color. The output of my efforts look very similar to the photos of sucker spawn, and they closely matched the one that Walt tied and gave to me as an example.

Today I placed three of the sucker spawn flies in my fleece wallet, and I am anxious to test them on the South Platte River in the spring. Perhaps I will tumble them along the bottom of other Colorado streams, since suckers are not limited to the South Platte drainage. We remain in the grip of winter, so mild weather is all that is required for me to hit a local trout stream and test my new sucker spawn flies.

CDC Trico – 02/27/2019

CDC Trico 02/27/2019 Photo Album

In my previous post on the FP Merger, I described a fly, that I created to solve a challenging situation, that I encountered on the Frying Pan River in early May of 2018. Only time will tell if the FP Merger imitates the tiny emerging midges savored by Frying Pan River trout.

On 09/06/2018 I endured a similarly frustrating day on the South Platte River. For a two and one half hour period beginning at 11:00AM an abundant quantity of hungry and large trout gorged on a dense trico spinner fall. At the end of this aquatic feast I could only report two landed fish. I was grateful for the presence of massive quantities of tasty delicacies, but I was also frustrated by my inability to hook and land more fish. I pledged to address the situation during my winter fly tying activities.

Overhead Look

In February the time arrived to solve the trico spinner puzzle that frustrated me on the South Platte River in early September. The natural tricos that I observed were very tiny; I estimated that they were equivalent to a size 24 hook, and they possessed extremely slender bodies.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 100 size 24
Thread 1Black 6/0
TailTwo dun microfibbets
AbdomenBlack 6/0
WingsGray CDC feather
ThoraxSuperfine black dubbing on 8/0 black thread

I clamped a size 24 Tiemco 100 hook in the vice and wrapped a thread base of black 6/0 from behind the eye to the bend. At the bend I split two very fine dun microfibbets, and then I wrapped a slender tapered abdomen, until I reached a point one-third of the shank length behind the hook eye. I knotted the 6/0 black thread and attached a spool of 8/0 thread at the forward end of the abdomen. I switched thread to minimize bulk on the minute size 24 fly. Next I stripped ten CDC fibers from a gray wing and rolled them in a bundle and attached them to the top of the front one-third of the hook. I executed a series of figure eight wraps that forced the CDC to align perpendicular to the hook shank, and then I dubbed super fine black dubbing in the thorax area. I completed a three wrap whip finish and snipped the thread. The 8/0 thread was necessary to minimize the bulk created when adding the figure eight wraps, dubbing and whip finish. For my final step I pinched the CDC below the shank and forced the fibers upward and cut them so they were equal in length to the abdomen.

Dun Microfibbets, CDC Feather and Black Thread

I am very pleased with the outcome of this effort. The flies are very dainty, and I am convinced they will present an accurate profile of the naturals that I observed in September 2018. The CDC wing will aid floatation, until they are gobbled by a ravenous trout. Drying and fluffing the CDC after it becomes saturated will be a future challenge, but I have managed it previously with my CDC BWO imitations. The CDC trico will be very difficult to track, but I can always resort to the double dry ploy with a larger visible dry fly in front of the small trico.

Ten Tricos

Trico hatches do not generally develop until late July, so I have five or six months to wait, before I can test the ten CDC tricos that arrived from my vise in February. As always I am overly anxious to test my new flies in a real world application.

FP Merger – 02/26/2019

FP Merger 02/26/2019 Photo Album

Before reading this narrative on a new fly I developed, I encourage you to follow this link, Frying Pan River 05/10/2018, and check out the photos of the naturals, that I seined from the river on that date. If you take the time to read the report, you will learn that I experienced a relatively frustrating day on May 10, 2018. At the time I made a mental note to revisit this day during fly tying season, and the FP merger is the product of that commitment. A massive quantity of trout rose over a four hour period within the twenty by twenty yard area that I occupied, and I was largely thwarted in my efforts to take advantage of the dense midge hatch. Ultimately I concluded that my greatest problem was the lack of tiny size 24 flies.

Dense Midge Hatch Lingered for Four Hours

Before tying the FP merger I retrieved images of the mass of natural biomass, that I captured, when I seined the river. The net included translucent tan-gray husks and midges in the process of emerging from the pupal case. The emergers displayed a medium to dark gray body and a dark, almost black head. In case I visited the Frying Pan River at the same time of year again in the future, I sat down at my vise and designed a fly, that I hope replaces frustration with joy.

Size was the most important factor to me, so I began with a size 24 Tiemco 100 dry fly hook. I started medium gray 6/0 thread near the eye of the hook and covered the shank to the bend. I returned to a point 1/3 of the shank length from the hook eye and built up a very slender tapered body. The naturals possessed extremely narrow bodies, and I opted for thread only to minimize bulk. Next I stripped a clump of fibers from a gray CDC feather, and I tied these in at the 1/3 point behind the hook eye. I estimate that I used ten fibers for each wing. I wanted enough bulk to make it visible, but I did not want it to flare out so as to represent an open fluttering wing. An emerging wing was the ideal image that I sought.

Size 24

At this point I knotted the gray 6/0 thread, cut it off and replaced it with 8/0 black thread. I did this to minimize the bulk around the small head space on a size 24 hook. I retrieved some black ostrich herl from my supplies and stripped one four inch strand from the stem. I tied the black herl in front of the CDC wing and made two wraps and then tied it off and did a three wrap whip finish. As a last step I made an angle cut of the CDC wing, so that it was just short of the hook bend.

A Batch of Seven and Associated Materials

I am very pleased with the product of my design. I suspect size is the most important factor, and therefore the slender size 24 will match the size. Shape and silhouette are probably the next consideration, and I feel that the narrow body, small wing tuft and black ostrich herl head are representative of the real bugs. Color is the third factor, and gray and black are a solid choice that represent many natural insects. I am sure that I could browse through catalogs and search on line and find the same fly designed previously by someone else, but it was fun to attack the problem with my personal thought process. The fly will be next to impossible to track, but I can always use the ploy of a six to twelve inch dropper behind a more visible front fly.

The trout of the Frying Pan River are probably in defense mode already with the creation of this tiny fly. I hope to visit the tailwater in early May in 2019.

Deer Hair Caddis – 02/24/2019

Deer Hair Caddis 02/24/2019 Photo Album

Caddis represent one of the most prevalent aquatic insects throughout North America and in all likelihood, the world. I never visit a stream without an adequate supply of deer hair caddis. I stock size 14, 16 and 18; and I focus my body colors on olive-brown, light gray, tan, and pale yellow. This array of caddis seems to cover nearly all the situations, that I encounter on the streams, that I visit. For a material table and additional commentary on the deer hair caddis visit my post of 11/28/2011.

I tie the deer hair caddis in a very sparse manner, and this style served me well over the years. I recall several situations, where I caught fish, while a nearby fisherman experienced less success; and when we compared flies, the other angler displayed a much bushier version of the caddis. I do rely heavily on stimulators in size 12 and 14, and these flies form a much fuller image to feeding trout.

Side View

I collected all my deer hair caddis from my various sources and determined that adequate quantities remained from previous tying efforts. I found three size 16’s that were lacking a full wing, and I partially deconstructed them to add a fresh deer hair wing and hackle. One possessed a light gray body, and two carried an olive-brown body. A full wing is critical, as it greatly improves the visibility of this earth-toned fly.

Two Dark Olive and One Light Gray

The deer hair caddis is obviously a useful pattern for blizzard caddis hatches, but I also prospect with them in situations when the trout exhibit an elevated level of selectivity as evidenced by numerous refusals. Caddis season cannot arrive soon enough in 2019.