South Platte River – 05/16/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/16/2019 Photo Album

The story line on Thursday, May 16 paralleled that of Tuesday, May 14 on the Arkansas River, as persistence proved to be a significant contributor to success. Warmer temperatures accelerated snow melt, and this reduced the number of freestone options in Colorado. I was forced to narrow my choice of fishing destinations to tailwaters, and the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon was an obvious choice. The flows held at a steady 93 CFS, and the meteorologists projected a high of 69 degrees with clouds all day in Lake George. I signed up for another trip to Eleven Mile Canyon.

Lunch Pool

When I paid my day use fee at the entrance gate to Eleven Mile, I asked the attendant if a lot of cars preceded me. She nodded in the affirmative and informed me that I was the the twenty-third. I counted cars, as I drove to my favorite spot, and I tallied twenty-two, before I parked next to a silver pickup truck at my favorite pullout on the east side of the road. The temperature at 10:30AM was 51 degrees, and high gray clouds blocked most of the sun’s warming rays. I climbed into my waders and wore my long sleeved Columbia undershirt and a light fleece, and then I pulled on my raincoat as a windbreaker. I assembled my Sage four weight and promptly embarked on a short hike along the dirt road to my favorite angled trail. I descended quickly and then ambled along the fisherman path, until I was next to an attractive pool just above a series of narrow deep plunge pools. This was my intended starting point, and I was surprised that I did not encounter other anglers given the number of parked vehicles along the road.

RS2 Worked Before the Hatch

An Early Catch on RS2

I quickly surveyed the water and failed to observe any insect activity, so I decided to prospect the faster seams, pockets and runs with a dry/dropper method. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear nymph. I covered some attractive pockets and runs with no response, so I stripped in my line and replaced the ultra zug bug with a classic RS2. This move proved advantageous, when I hooked and landed a fine rainbow trout and a brown trout. Both of the feisty trout were thirteen inches or greater, and they confidently snatched the RS2, as it drifted behind the fat Albert. I actually landed another rainbow first, but the fly was embedded along the side of the head, and not in the mouth, and my rules dictated that it was not part of the fish count.

Pleased

As the first hour elapsed, I passed by an attractive pool, and with noon approaching I spotted two fishermen in the faster water below the pool. It was lunch time, so I chose to retreat to the edge of the pool in order to claim it, before the downstream anglers arrived. The ploy worked nicely; as I munched my sandwich, carrots and yogurt and observed the pool, while the unknowing intruders trudged up the path to the road high above. By 12:15 a series of surface disturbances caught my attention, and the cadence of rises accelerated. This circumstance in turn caused me to consume my lunch rapidly, and my heart rate elevated a few notches in anticipation of some dry fly action.

I snipped off the dry/dropper paraphernalia and knotted a single CDC blue winged olive to my line. By now I could see quite a few little olives floating on the surface, and the number of feeding fish approximated five. The main current on my side of the river ran along an exposed boulder and then flowed downstream for ten feet, before it curled toward the bank and eddied back to the large rock. The fish were spread out across the area, where the current began to curl, and several were spaced on the downstream edge of the eddy circle. I cautiously navigated along the bank, until I was below the eddy and positioned myself to drop casts to the area of the rises.

The hatch continued for an hour, as some dark clouds blocked the sun and the wind periodically gusted. I cast the CDC BWO and a Klinkhammer BWO to the rising fish during this period, and I am embarrassed to report, that I flunked the dry fly fishing exam. I was unable to encourage a sip from any of the steady feeders within twenty feet of my position. As the emergence waned at one o’clock, I surrendered to the nervous river residents and moved on. The wind and glare made it very difficult to track the small CDC tuft, and consequently drag was probably present more than I realized. Compounding the difficulty was the eddy and the related irregular currents that impacted the drift.

When I finally moved on, I was quite disappointed with the lack of dry fly success, but I consoled myself with the thought that cloudy conditions would prevail in the afternoon, and this would likely spur additional waves of blue winged olives. In the meantime the sun peeked out sporadically, and the hatch ended, so I reverted to the dry/dropper technique. I once again chose the yellow fat Albert and continued with the hares ear and a sparkle wing RS2. I reasoned that baetis nymphs were still prevalent in the drift and likely active with additional emergences expected.

A Second Quality Brown Trout

The thinking was somewhat accurate, as a very healthy brown trout stopped the fat Albert, when it nabbed the RS2 in a narrow ribbon of slow water along the left bank. I was surprised and quite pleased with this good fortune, but then a significant amount of time elapsed with no action in spite of casting to some quality spots. I stripped in my flies and made another change. I flipped open my fleece wallet and scanned the contents and elected to try a bright green go2 sparkle pupa. I speculated that the green flashy body might attract the attention of the rainbow trout. I retained the hares ear as the top fly and continued prospecting to pockets, riffles  and pools of moderate depth.

Go2 Sparkle Pupa Was Very Productive

Amazingly the bright green caddis became a desired commodity. The catch rate was not torrid, but it was more than satisfactory, as the fish counter climbed from three to nine by the time I quit at 4PM. At 2PM clouds once again rolled in, and a sparse baetis hatch made an encore. This prompted me to replace the hares ear with a sparkle pupa, and I stayed with this combination for a fair amount of time. The caddis pupa continued to fool a fish or two, but the RS2 was ignored, and it seemed that some very appealing areas failed to deliver. I concluded that the caddis pupa worked better when combined with a larger heavier nymph, so I matched it with an ultra zug bug for the last hour.

Wide Body with Abundant Spots

Back Home

I encountered four anglers during the afternoon upstream migration, but these gentlemen focused on pools, and I was more interested in the pockets and runs among the many exposed boulders. My preference was very complementary with the other fishermen, and I enjoyed the steady prospecting and the surprise created when a trout suddenly intercepted the caddis pupa, which generated an intuitive hook set. My approach required an abundant amount of wading over slimy rocks and repetitive casting, but the quality of the fish justified the energy sapping method. As I stated at the outset of this narrative, persistence was the main key to my success.

The Catch of the Day

In summary I landed nine quality trout on Thursday, May 16 in Eleven Mile Canyon. Four were muscular brown trout and four were streaking rainbow trout. The ninth and best fish of the day was a husky seventeen inch cutbow, and it served as the exclamation point on a superlative day of fly fishing. Every one of the nine fish that rested in my net were thirteen inches or greater. I suspect that I will revisit the South Platte River again, as run off prevails on Colorado freestone rivers.

Fish Landed: 9

South Boulder Creek – 05/15/2019

Time: 6:00PM – 8:00PM

Location: Below first footbridge below Gross Dam

South Boulder Creek 05/15/2019 Photo Album

A bit of adversity makes fly fishing the intriguing challenge that keeps me returning to the lakes and streams of this wonderful earth. If fooling fish with a fly were as easy, as dunking a basketball in a kid’s five foot high basketball hoop, would that be fun? I reminded myself of this fact after an evening on South Boulder Creek on Wednesday.

My son, Dan, mentioned that he could meet me at the South Boulder Creek parking lot on one evening during the week for an early spring outing. I quickly checked the stream flow graph, and I was delighted to discover that Denver Water reduced the flows from the 125 CFS range to 69 CFS, and this falls within my ideal range for the small front range tailwater. Dan chose Wednesday evening for our fly fishing rendezvous, and that was perfect given a weather forecast of highs in the eighties in Denver.

Promising Small Pool

When I arrived at the kayak parking lot ten minutes before five o’clock, Dan was already there along with eight additional vehicles. Apparently many front range anglers had similar thoughts regarding fishing on Wednesday evening. I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while Dan did the same with his fly rod, and we stuffed the Snarf’s sandwiches that Dan purchased in our backpack and vest. Despite the forecast for balmy temperatures, some large dark clouds formed in the western sky, so I stuffed my light rain shell in my backpack. Dan opted to forego the extra layer, and he later grew to lament this decision. Three separate sets of brief showers kept the temperature down, and the last thirty minutes before were quit were downright chilly.

Dan Focused

Flows were 69 CFS in the morning, when I reviewed the graph, but when we arrived next to the stream to begin our quest for trout, they seemed higher. My instincts on this matter were vindicated the next day, when I checked the DWR website and discovered that the flows were elevated to 89 CFS sometime during May 15, probably before our fishing trip.

I suggested we begin with single dry flies, hoping we could avoid the more risky tangle inducing dry/dropper approach. Dan began with a caddis, and I started with a gray size 14 stimulator. I suffered a few refusals, and then I approached a small pocket tucked against a midstream exposed boulder. A trout rose and rejected my dry fly three times, but on the seventh cast it slurped the high floating imitation. Getting a strike after three refusals is highly unusual. In any event I was thrilled to learn that my only trout of the evening was a very brightly colored rainbow trout.

Beauty Over Size

After releasing my catch I was unable to create additional interest in the dry fly, so I switched to a dry/dropper that included a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and emerald caddis pupa. This arrangement failed to trigger action, but Dan followed my lead with a change to a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. During the last thirty minutes Dan switched to a yellow fat Albert trailing a bright green go2 sparkle pupa, and this move generated two momentary hookups. We speculated that perhaps we should have tried the bright green caddis pupa earlier.

Avoiding a Snag in This Spot Was a Victory

We covered .2 miles in two hours, and Dan managed a couple temporary hook ups, while I landed one ten inch rainbow trout, and that was pretty much the extent of our success on South Boulder Creek. The cloud cover created difficult lighting conditions, and the structure of the section I chose to fish was high gradient; thus, offering few prime runs and riffles of moderate depth. I am now convinced that the elevated flows played a significant role in our slow fishing experience, as typically fish require a period of time to adjust to a nearly 30% change. Our results indicate that we were unable to overcome three negative factors on May 16, 2019.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 05/14/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Buena Vista white water park area; Pridemore Lease

Arkansas River 05/14/2019 Photo Album

My trip to the Arkansas River on May 3 was perplexing and frustrating. The caddis hatch was in reality an egg laying and dapping event, but I was unable to crack the code. I continued to follow the ArkAnglers’ web reports, and I even began exchanging emails with the person in the shop who updates the information. His name is Braden, and he suggested that I try moving upstream to the leading edge of the hatch, in the event that I face similar circumstances in the future.

Mt. Princeton Still Holding Snow Pack

The cool weather toward the end of the previous week halted the caddis hatch and its upstream advancement, but ArkAnglers advised that a warming trend over the weekend and during the early part of the new week would renew its progression. On Tuesday morning May 14 I decided to test their advice, since the forecast predicted sunny skies and  highs in the seventies. I launched my excursion at 7AM and arrived at a dirt parking lot at South Main in Buena Vista by ten o’clock. The last ArkAnglers report cited caddis as far upstream as Brown’s Canyon, so I theorized that they might make an appearance in Buena Vista with the advent of warm temperatures on Tuesday.

The dashboard thermometer displayed sixty degrees, as I donned my waders and assembled my Sage four weight for a day of fishing. When I was prepared, I found a gravel path and traced it along the rim of the canyon, until I arrived at a bridge. The trail continued across the bridge and then linked to BLM land on the other side, but the properties on both sides of the river downstream were private. I reversed direction on the path, until I found a viable, although steep and rocky route to the river. Once I was on the shoreline I moved downstream a short distance, and then I rigged my line with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead ultra zug bug and beadhead bright green go2 caddis pupa.

Early Success

The river was dirtier than I expected, but visibility along the edge was likely acceptable. I advanced upstream and probed the deep pockets and runs next to the bank with the nymphing system, and after thirty minutes I finally connected with a twelve inch brown trout that grabbed the ultra zug bug on a lift at the tail of the drift.

Typical Morning Scene

Number Two on an Ultra Zug Bug

I continued with this method until the stream bed widened, and this created more riffles and runs of moderate depth. I modified my approach with the change in river structure by switching to a dry/dropper configuration. A yellow fat Albert occupied the indicator position, and the go2 caddis and ultra zug bug were retained as droppers. Shortly after the conversion another fine twelve inch brown found my net, and my fish count rested at two, when I paused for lunch.

After lunch I skipped around the whitewater park, as it consisted of huge deep pools between man-made dams, and this type of water was not conducive to the dry/dropper technique. Above the whitewater park the river once again grew wider, and this created a section of pockets and moderate riffles. I managed to hook and land two small brown trout between the whitewater park and the footbridge that accesses the Midland Trail. During this early afternoon time frame I spotted three blue winged olives, when some clouds blocked the sun, and I responded by swapping the ultra zug bug for a soft hackle emerger. The move had no impact on my meager fishing success, and I climbed the bank, before I reached the footbridge and hiked back to the car. It was 1:30PM, and I pondered my next move.

My main purpose was to interact with the famous caddis hatch, but I saw no evidence of caddis in the South Main section of the Arkansas River. One option was to cross the footbridge and follow the Midland Trail downstream to the whitewater park and then fish back up to the bridge on the opposite side. Hopping in the car for an early return to Denver actually seemed more appealing than fishing the other side of the river in Buena Vista. I also considered driving upriver to the section bordered by some tunnels, but this was even less likely to place me in caddis activity. Finally I decided to drive back toward Salida, since the heaviest reported hatches were in that area.

I threw my gear in the car and drove to the place where CO 291 crosses the Arkansas River. I noted that the sign designated this section as the Pridemore Lease, and previously it was named the Smythe Lease. I shouldered my backpack and snapped in my front pack and grabbed my rod and climbed the wooden steps over the fence and hiked along a crude cattle path for .3 mile, until I angled down a rough bank populated with prickly pears and thorny shrubs to the edge of the river. I was embarking on a last ditch effort to salvage my day.

Depth Around Boulders Produced

The fat Albert generated several refusals during the earlier session in Buena Vista, so I decided to exchange it for a peacock hippy stomper. Perhaps the smaller foam pattern would actually create some eats. I retained the go2 caddis and ultra zug bug for a bit, but after prospecting some fairly attractive deep runs among large submerged boulders with no response, I replaced the unproductive go2 caddis with an iron sally. The iron sally has become a go to favorite for the Arkansas River.

The hippy stomper was difficult to accurately cast with the two large weighted flies, and the wind exasperated the situation, so I once again switched the top fly. This time I chose a size 8 Chernobyl ant from my fly box. The Chernobyl, iron sally and ultra zug bug remained on my line for the last two hours of my time at the Pridemore Lease.

Decent

Did my luck change? Was I engulfed by swarms of emerging or mating caddis? Yes and no. I steadily worked my way upstream to the CO 291 bridge and landed six additional brown trout before I retired at 4PM. All the afternoon trout were twelve inches or greater and included a very handsome ink spotted fifteen incher. Several muscular thirteen and fourteen inch browns also occupied my net.

Curled Up Tail Indicator of Larger Size

I observed six dapping caddis during this time, so I never found the mythical caddis hatch. All the brown trout came from runs of three to four feet in depth next to large boulders. Several responded to a lift at the end of the drift. Once I determined the type of water that produced results, I moved quickly and skipped huge pools and marginal pockets.

Once again the blanket caddis hatch evaded my search, but I did manage to salvage Tuesday on the Arkansas River with six very respectable brown trout from the Pridemore Lease section. Along with the morning results I ended the day with double digits, and given the absence of caddis and blue winged olive activity, that was a victory for this fisherman.

Fish Landed: 10

 

Clear Creek – 05/13/2019

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon between Tunnel 3 and Big Easy Access Area

Clear Creek 05/13/2019 Photo Album

A two hour session on Clear Creek on Saturday afternoon along with a weather forecast that included five straight days with high temperatures in the upper seventies encouraged me to make another short drive to the canyon west of Golden. I considered Boulder Creek and Bear Creek, but the flows on Clear Creek were comparable to Saturday, and I decided to take advantage of the close destination, before true run off blasted down the freestone waterway. The downside to Boulder Creek is the highway construction taking place in the canyon west of the city. Bear Creek was an interesting option, that I hope to explore in the near future, if flows remain manageable.

I followed my normal morning routine including my workout and run, and this delayed my arrival at a pullout along westbound US 6 until 12:30PM. I am convinced that the best fishing early in the season is in the afternoon, so the later arrival conformed to this assumption. Since it was nearly noon, I ate my lunch in the car, before I launched my fishing preparation routine that included assembling my Sage four weight. I like the extra length and stiffness of the Sage in canyon situations, when wind inevitably becomes a factor. 71 degree temperatures allowed me to fish with only a short sleeved undershirt and a fishing shirt, and I was comfortable during my stay on the creek.

My Future

I ambled east along the shoulder of US 6 for .2 mile, and then I scrambled down a rocky bank to the edge of the stream. Like Saturday the flow was ample at 70 CFS, but structure remained easily identifiable for prospecting. I configured my line with a yellow fat Albert for flotation and visibility and then added my traditional spring nymphs of an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear. I progressed upstream between 1PM and 4PM and netted nine wild brown trout. As was the case on Saturday, most of the trout were in the eight to ten inch slot, although I was pleased to extract a nice twelve incher on a downstream drift in some slack water along the opposite bank. A foot long fish from Clear Creek is a trophy.

Best Fish by Far on Monday

Nine in three hours is an above average catch rate; however, I would not describe the action as easy pickings. I covered a fair amount of stream mileage and fired off a generous quantity of casts to achieve this fish count total. In the first hour refusals to the fat Albert were also part of the equation, but that annoyance seemed to fade as the afternoon advanced. It seemed that casts to very slow shelf pools were the primary initiators of nips and rejection.

When my tally climbed to nine, I focused on attaining double digits, and as is usually the case, the fish began to ignore my offerings, when a goal was within reach. Some heavy clouds rolled above the canyon, and I spotted a very sparse blue winged olive emergence. I decided to react to this observation, and I swapped the hares ear nymph for a soft hackle emerger size 20. This move paid dividends, when a small brown trout grabbed the BWO wet fly, as it began to swing and lift at the end of a drift.

Sleek Body

I glanced at my watch and noted it was 3:50PM, so I decided to test a dry fly for ten minutes. The yellow fat Albert attracted attention, so I plucked a size 14 yellow stimulator from my fly box and spent the remaining time prospecting two nearby shelf pools. Again some clouds blocked the sun, and this created some difficult glare, which made following the size 14 dry fly difficult. My experiment failed to translate to success, but it partially satisfied my curiosity of whether a smaller dry might be a winner on Monday, May 13.

Once again the fish that I landed were small, and although the action was not exceptional, it was steady and held my attention. I must admit that I now feel a strong urge to tangle with some larger fish, and Tuesday may fulfill that wish. In spite of my fears over clarity, the stream was crystal clear and exceeded my expectations for May 13.

Fish Landed: 10

 

 

 

 

Clear Creek – 05/11/2019

Time: 2:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Big Easy Access Area

Clear Creek 05/11/2019 Photo Album

I generally avoid fishing on the weekend, but after three days of wintry weather, milder temperatures on Saturday planted the urge for an outing on a nearby stream. I proposed a trip to Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO to Jane, and she readily agreed to accompany me for a short venture. We tossed Jane’s mountain bike in the Santa Fe along with my fishing gear, and we arrived at the Big Easy Access parking lot by 2:15.

The Trough on Saturday

I quickly jumped into my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, and I was prepared to attack the creek. The temperature was in the low sixties, but some dark clouds appeared in the western sky, so I wore my fleece and raincoat for additional warmth. Jane decided to remain in the car with her book until the weather improved.

Quite a few outdoor enthusiasts occupied the area including dog walkers, hikers, cyclists, rock climbers and fishermen. In order to create some distance from the other anglers, I decided to hike downstream along the shoulder of US 6 for .25 miles, and this placed me beyond the Peak to Plains Footbridge and the traffic that it attracted. My Garmin Forerunner nearly registered .25 miles, when a sedan pulled off the highway and parked parallel to the eastbound lane. I thought that this was a strange place to park for a fisherman or sightseer. As I continued to walk toward the pullout area on my way to a starting point, a gentleman exited the car and began walking toward me. Was he a tourist interested in fly fishing guidance? Finally his hat came into view, and I read the letters DOW on the ball cap. It was a Department of Wildlife officer, and he was about to check for my fishing license!

I removed my front pack and backpack and produced my license, and he thanked me for having it and showing it to him. He offered some tips on fishing locations within his jurisdiction and asked me questions about my fishing preferences and frequency of fishing trips. We said our goodbyes, and I continued along the shoulder a short distance, and at this point I spotted two fishermen below a huge boulder between the highway and the stream. I reversed my direction a short ways, and then I cut down to the creek while allotting an adequate buffer between me and the closest angler.

Pretty Spot Pattern

With only two hours available to fish I quickly knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and added a beadhead ultra zug bug on a 3.5 foot dropper. Next I attached another section of leader and knotted a beadhead hares ear to the end position. This lineup would occupy my line, until I reached the section of stream directly across from the car at 4:15PM. The stream was flowing at 70 CFS, and this was a bit higher, than I was accustomed to, so I confined my casts to the slower moving pockets and shelf pools along the bank. The strategy paid off, as I registered seven trout, before I arrived at the Big Easy parking lot. All the netted fish were of the brown trout variety. Three were barely beyond my six inch minimum, and the other four stretched to the eight to ten inch range. Nevertheless it was great fun covering the water, and even small trout were a pleasant surprise.

Slick Behind the White Water Targeted

When I approached the Santa Fe, I greeted Jane, and then I scanned the straight section in front of me. The sky was rather dark, and the wind kicked up, and I was astonished to view three separate rises next to the parking lot. I decided to use my remaining time attempting to fool the risers, so I ducked under the rail fence and carefully slid down the steep bank to the edge of the creek. Initially I sprayed casts quartering upstream and drifted the dry/dropper through the main center current and along the slower moving sections on both sides; however, the fish were not interested. A few more sporadic rises occurred, as this was taking place, so I swapped the hares ear for a soft hackle emerger.

Clear Creek Beast

This attempt to match the blue winged olive hatch was resoundingly rejected, so I stripped in the three flies and removed them and tied a single size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. I cast above the scenes of the rises and executed some nice drifts throughout the area, but again my fly was ignored. The sky brightened a bit, and a longer period transpired without any surface disturbance from fish, so I decided to end my day. On the way home Jane and I stopped at the Mountain Toad in Golden for a brew.

Seven fish in two hours of fishing was respectable, and it felt good to get outside on a cool spring day on Saturday. I was not accustomed to the larger crowds of the weekend, but the number of anglers was minimal and did not interfere with my endeavor.

Fish Landed: 7

South Platte River – 05/07/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/07/2019 Photo Album

Wow! That single word sums up my day on the South Platte River yesterday in Eleven Mile Canyon, as the fishing experience evolved into perhaps my favorite of 2019. During the weekend my friend, @rockymtnangler (Trevor), informed me that he was contemplating a trip to the South Platte River on Tuesday. I quickly volunteered to accompany him; however, some scheduling complications prevented us from traveling together. Instead we drove separately and overlapped on the river for a couple hours. Prior to being contacted by Trevor, I ruled out Eleven Mile Canyon based on a fairly adverse weather forecast, but the opportunity to fish with Trevor spurred me to overlook weather concerns. By the end of the day on Tuesday, contrary to my original belief, I discovered that inclement weather was a major positive factor that contributed to my success.

I departed Denver by 7AM and arrived at my favorite pullout high above the South Platte River by 9:30AM on Tuesday morning. During my drive I encountered fog, drizzle and cold temperatures; so I was surprised by the dry roads and warmer temperatures in the canyon. I parked next to Trevor’s pickup truck, and I immediately spotted his figure standing on a large rock next to our favorite pool in Eleven Mile Canyon. I quickly jumped into my waders and rigged my Sage four weight. The air temperature was forty-eight degrees, which was better than Woodland Park and Divide, but still cool, so I slipped into my North Face down coat, which is actually the liner from my ski parka.

Early Catch

I carefully slid down the steep angled path to the river and greeted Trevor, who informed me, that he was enjoying success in Old Faithful pool with dry flies. He offered, that initially the fish were likely rising to midges, but recently he landed several fish that sipped his blue winged olive imitation. I crossed the river at the downstream tail of the pool and took a position along the opposite shoreline just above the midsection. I knotted a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line and began dropping downstream casts in a manner that allowed a drag free drift over the rising trout. This continued for fifteen minutes with no response to my fly, at which point I switched to a size 22 CDC BWO. Finally I focused on a fish that sipped a tiny morsel ten feet across from me, and because of the close proximity I could more easily track my fly. On the third cast a mouth emerged, and I chunky fourteen inch rainbow trout became my first landed fish on the day.

Lowering Number One to Freedom

My expectations surged a bit, but the hatch waned, and the frequency of surface feeding trout moderated to a sporadic pattern. Trevor meandered upstream to the nice long pool that borders a tall vertical rock wall, and after a few minutes I abandoned the pool and advanced up the west braid around a tiny island. I observed a nice riffle of moderate depth for a bit, but I was unable to discern any surface activity, so I converted to a three fly dry/dropper system that featured a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and RS2. I thoroughly prospect the riffles and nice deep eddy above them, and I managed to hook a small rainbow trout on the RS2 in a narrow ribbon of slower water along the left bank. As this venture into nymph fishing evolved, Trevor returned and announced that he landed a very nice brown trout from the long smooth pool just above my position.

We returned to Old Faithful pool, and I covered the fast runs and riffles at the top of the pool with my dry/dropper configuration, but the effort was not rewarded with success. I did observe three fish, as they elevated to peek at the fat Albert. By now my watch displayed 11:30AM, and Trevor needed to be on his way, so I waded across the river and trailed him on a steep ascent up the loose gravel path to the road. I lingered, as Trevor removed his waders and stashed his gear, and then I began to walk down the road to resume my fishing adventure, as he began his return trip to his home north of Denver.

Lunch Pool Came Alive with BWO Hatch

I intended to drop back down to the river at the first nice wide pool above the narrow canyon plunge pools, but I spotted two fishermen in  that area, so I adjusted my plan and slid down a different steep path to the next large wide pool above the pair of anglers. I spent twenty minutes prospecting the attractive deep runs and riffles at the head of the pool, but again the fish were not cooperating. As noon approached, and a hatch was not in progress, I decided to take a lunch break. The sun was out momentarily, and I soaked it in along with the beauty of my location, as I quickly munched the goodies in my backpack.

Another View of the Lunch Pool

Klinkhammer BWO Produced in Lunch Pool

The timing proved to be perfect, as small dimples began to appear in the pool, as I slid my arms into my backpack and clipped on the frontpack. Some dark clouds rolled across the sky, and the wind kicked up a bit, and blue winged olives performed an encore right on cue. I quickly clipped off the dry/dropper elements and added the size 22 CDC BWO to my tippet. By now fish were rising throughout the forty yard long pool, but I concentrated on the midsection, where the faster runs fanned out to the smooth lower portion. I peppered the area with an array of across and downstream casts, but several visible fish rejected the tiny olive mayfly imitation with an upright wing. I decided to modify my approach and replaced the CDC BWO with a Klinkhammer emerger style. This alternative fly was also rejected intermittently, but it was close enough to the natural food to fool four very nice trout between 12:15 and 12:45. All the fish landed during this second hatch fell within the thirteen to fourteen inch size range. The fish count rested at six, and I was very pleased to enjoy two decent hatches on May 7.

A Natural BWO

Gorgeous Brown Trout

At 12:45PM the sun broke through the clouds, and this welcome blast of warmth caused the baetis to cease their emergence. Weather that is pleasant for humans is not conducive to blue winged olive hatches. I pondered the option of converting to the dry/dropper again, as I progressed upstream through a section of faster water and pockets, but ultimately I decided to walk the stream and look for subtle rises. The strategy paid off, when I hooked and landed a thirteen inch brown trout from a relatively marginal pocket along the left bank.

A Brown Trout Took a Klinkhammer Olive

After the white water area I encountered a nice deep pool just below Old Faithful, and here I paused for a few minutes to look for rises. The sun remained bright, and the hatch was largely over, but I hoped to discover some random activity to stragglers. Sure enough, I detected two above the deep section, where two moderate currents merged. I circled around a very large rock and positioned myself to drop some casts in the area of the surface disturbances. On the fifth cast a dimple appeared under my fly, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt some weight pass through the rod, but then the fish was quickly off. I was pleased with my approach and cast but was nevertheless disappointed with the escape act.

Very Productive Pool in the PM

Another angler occupied Old Faithful pool, so I skirted around it and proceeded to the long smooth pool with the vertical rock wall. This pool seems to continually offer rising fish, and on this day I was not disappointed. I spent twenty minutes shooting casts to some surface sippers near the tail, but these targets were far too educated. I finally surrendered and exited the river and moved to a bank position above another very large boulder. Once again the sky darkened, and a breeze kicked up, and the quantity of small mayflies in the air surrounding me intensified. This combination of events coincided with a flurry of rising fish, and I responded with a series of downstream casts. Unfortunately the Klinkhammer style of blue winged olive was not getting it done, so I reverted to the size 22 CDC BWO.

Another Representative Catch in the Afternoon

Between 2:30 and 3:30 a third wave of baetis made an appearance. This surge of mayfly activity was by far the longest and most intense. I was totally immersed in the challenge of fooling the pool feeders, and I experienced my greatest success of the day. The fish count escalated from seven to fourteen, and the CDC BWO accounted for all of them. Perhaps I was overly analytical, but it seemed that applying a dab of floatant to the body after each trip to the dry shake canister was a critical step. I concluded that the liquid floatant was absorbed by the body of the fly and created a dark olive color more to the liking of the fish than the light green that resulted from a dry shake dunking. In the past I attempted to wipe off the white powder on the body, but my efforts were not as effective at darkening the abdomen as applying the liquid water repellent.

Admiring

At any rate my method seemed to work, and I succeeded in landing seven very nice trout during the third hatch in the long smooth pool next to the high vertical rock wall. Downstream drifts were the name of the game, and several picky eaters responded to a slight twitch as the fly floated over their holding position. Five of the eight were brown trout, and I was particularly pleased to fool these typically discerning eaters.

End of Day Rainbow from Old Faithful Pool

Once again the sun appeared at 3:30PM, so I retraced my steps and returned to the large pool that was our starting point in the morning. Surprisingly it was vacant, so I observed the ever-present dimpling on the surface. The rises were very sporadic, but I decided to dedicate the last thirty minutes of my day to the selective trout in the pool. Quite a few futile casts ensued, but at 3:50PM a rainbow trout attacked the CDC olive, and then it put on an impressive aerial display with four jumps that cleared the surface by at least a foot. Number fifteen found a temporary home in my net, and I smiled as it swam off. That smile remained on my face until I returned to Denver later that evening.

Crocus Like Flower

Thankfully Trevor convinced me to overlook the marginal weather forecast. The mostly cloudy conditions stimulated three surges of baetis hatches, and I benefited from these events. I landed fifteen trout, and all except one succumbed to a dry fly. All the trout except one were in the respectable twelve to fifteen inch range. Hopefully I can repeat this success in the near future.

Fish Landed: 15

South Boulder Creek – 05/06/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Canyon below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/06/2019 Photo Album

A day of frustration on Friday on the Arkansas River and a forecast of more adverse weather on Wednesday and Thursday fueled my desire to enjoy some fly fishing on Monday and Tuesday. I followed the flows on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir since my trip to the Green River, and I was pleased to note that the water managers maintained the output at 122 CFS for six consecutive days. I love steady flows, and 122 CFS is higher than my ideal range, but very manageable.

I arrived at the upper parking lot with the kayak map on Monday morning and quickly pulled on my new Hodgman waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. The temperature was fifty degrees, and I planned to walk a decent distance, so I wrapped my fleece around my waist under my waders and departed with only my fishing shirt over a long sleeved insulated undershirt. By the time I negotiated the trail and rigged my line, I was positioned in the creek at 11AM. I began fishing with a peacock hippy stomper, beadhead hares ear nymph, and ultra zug bug.

Bank Side Pool Delivered Five Trout to Start My Day

I did not have to wait for my first action, as a rainbow grabbed the ultra zug bug on my first cast. I was very pleased with this turn of events, and I continued to deliver drifts through the gut of the small deep pool, until I notched five landed trout! Needless to say my optimism spiked, and for the most part it was well founded. By the time I rested on a small beach to eat my lunch at noon, the fish count mounted to ten. I adopted a nice rhythm and flicked casts into all the likely fish holding spots, and the trout cooperated. The ultra zug bug was very popular in the morning hour, and a couple fish snatched the hares ear.

Great Start to My Day

My undershirt and fishing shirt were damp with perspiration from the hike into the canyon, so after lunch I unwrapped my fleece and pulled it over my upper body. This step helped, but a slight chill prompted me to add my rain shell to serve as a windbreaker. These moves reversed the cooling effect of evaporation, and I was reasonably comfortable for the remainder of the day. Between 12:15PM and 2:00PM I continued with the three fly dry/dropper system, although right after lunch I exchanged the hippy stomper for a size 10 Chernobyl ant. The hippy stomper was simply serving as an indicator, and I opted for a larger more buoyant and visible top fly to support the trailing nymphs. The fish count continued to climb at a steady rate during the early afternoon, and the trouts’ preference seemed to shift away from the ultra zug bug to the hares ear.

Wild and Beautiful

Ultra Zug Bug Was Hot Fly Early

At one o’clock I heard the sound of distant thunder, and it grew progressively closer as some dark gray clouds rolled in from the southwest. The dim light created a glare on the surface of the water, and I found it difficult to track the small yellow foam indicator spot on the Chernobyl ant. My confidence plummets, when I am unable to see the top fly under poor lighting conditions. A bolt of lightening spiked from the dark cloud in the southeastern sky, and I counted to one thousand and seven, until I heard the resultant thunder clap. I decided to seek shelter and found a small nook under a ledge rock, where I relaxed and waited out the storm. After fifteen minutes the thunder and lightening ceased, and the rain abated, and I resumed my fly fishing mission. As I waited for a break, I swapped the Chernobyl ant for a yellow fat Albert to counter the dim lighting and glare created by the cloudy conditions.

Love Those Orange Spots

I applied the same technique to the afternoon that generated success in the morning, and although the pace of action lagged slightly, I still guided a substantial quantity of trout into my net and boosted the count from ten to twenty-six. One fish crushed the Chernobyl ant before I removed it, and two slurped the fat Albert, while the remainder grabbed one of the trailing nymphs. The ultra zug bug seemed to fall out of favor, so I replaced it with a bright green sparkle caddis pupa for the last twenty minutes before I quit at 3PM.

Great Expectations

I began my hike back to the parking lot, but when I approached a favorite pool at the halfway point, I spotted a pod of rising fish. I could not resist the challenge of fishing to risers, so I clipped off the dry/dropper flies and knotted a size 24 CDC BWO to my line. I was unable to see the target food of the surface feeders, but I guessed that the cloudy conditions created a sparse baetis hatch. Initially I endured four refusals, but then I fluttered a longer cast to the upper third of the pool, and an eleven inch brown trout darted up and sipped the fake BWO. I photographed my late prize and then worked diligently to dry the small mayfly and fluff the CDC wing. After some careful preparation, I dropped another cast in the vicinity of the rising fish, and a ten inch rainbow darted up and confidently inhaled the speck of fluff. Once again I refreshed the fly, and I generated a temporary hook up. At this point the hatch dwindled, or I disturbed the pool excessively, so I hooked the fly to my rod guide and reeled up the line and continued to the car.

Striking

Monday was a fun day, as I worked the dry/dropper system extensively. The trout emerged, where I expected them to, and the standard hares ear and ultra zug bug performed the heavy lifting. I estimate that 70% of my catch were brown trout, and the remainder were rainbows. The rainbows and browns of South Boulder Creek are spectacular with distinct black spots and vivid colors. My largest fish was probably thirteen inches, and most of the landed fish were in the eight to eleven inch range, so size was not a positive for the day, but I had a great time nonetheless. Hopefully the flows will continue at the current level, so that I can make another trip to South Boulder Creek before the run off season kicks in for good.

Fish Landed: 28

Arkansas River – 05/03/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon below Stockyard Bridge

Arkansas River 05/03/2019 Photo Album

My inability to locate the famed Arkansas River caddis hatch in recent years has been well documented in this blog. Yet a few wildly successful interactions with blizzard hatches in 2010 tease me back for more. I attended a presentation by Greg Felt of ArkAnglers at the Sportsmen’s Exposition in January, and he informed the audience that a high water season in 2008 practically wiped out a generation of the caddis population, but better water management policies brought it back to blizzard status in recent years.

With this background I attempted to decide on a destination for Friday, May 3. I vacillated by the hour between the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and the Arkansas River. The Eleven Mile water chart displayed steady flows of 92 CFS, and I visited the canyon tailwater on April 26 with decent success. This choice was a fairly low risk option.

The Arkansas River DWR data presented flows in the 750 CFS range, and this fact alone alarmed me after a successful day of fly fishing on April 23 at 444 CFS. Surely the root cause of the elevated flows was early snow melt from the above average accumulations over the past winter. I learned over my many years of fishing in Colorado that a shot of cold run off quickly reduces the metabolism of the resident trout. Another red flag was the emphasis that the fly shop report placed on visibility. If clarity were not an issue, it would not be mentioned; however, ArkAnglers emphasized that visibility existed up to three feet. Offsetting these cautionary signs was a bold notation that guides encountered fairly dense caddis emergences in the area below Salida. There it is was again. The lure of another epic caddis hatch experience. In my mind I debated the low risk option of consistent flows and predictable hatches on the South Platte River versus high flows, murky water, and the allure of a rare confrontation with the fabled Arkansas River caddis hatch. I concluded that the steady flows in Eleven Mile Canyon would continue for a few more weeks and gambled on the possibility of a mega hatch on the Arkansas River. What could be the outcome of this daring move?

Classic Brown Trout Bank Water on the Arkansas River

I departed Denver by 7AM and arrived at a wide pullout west of the Chaffee-Fremont County line by 10AM. The temperature was around fifty degrees, so I slid into a light fleece and pulled on my new Hodgman breathable waders. I strung my Sage four weight and ambled east along the shoulder of US 50 for .4 miles, whereupon I scrambled down a rough rocky path to the river. Another angler occupied the place, where I planned to begin my day, so I retreated to a point fifty yards upstream.

I began Friday with a tan pool toy hopper, an iron sally and a bright green go2 caddis pupa, but after some focused prospecting for thirty minutes I found no evidence of the presence of trout in the Arkansas River. The high stained flows forced me to limit my casts to the possible bank side holding spots, but even this targeted fishing yielded no response. I adjusted my offerings at 11AM to the bright green go2 caddis pupa as the top fly and knotted a sparkle wing RS2 to my line at the end position. These flies occupied my line, until I broke for lunch at noon. I was quite disappointed with my lack of results, but I consoled myself with the expectation that a blue winged olive hatch would likely place the trout in a hungry mood.

Shot Number Two

After I consumed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt on a small sandy beach, I reconfigured my approach with a thingamabobber and split shot, and I retained the caddis pupa and RS2 flies. In the next two hours I finally achieved a small level of success, as I netted three brown trout in the twelve inch range. One grabbed the bright green caddis and two snatched the RS2. The takes came from riffles of moderate depth, and movement in the form of a lift or swing seemed to be the common thread that yielded results. In addition to the landed fish, I experienced five temporary connections. Three were simply the feeling of weight for a split second, but two were actually attached long enough for me to see the outline of a brown trout.

Closer View

During this time period a sparse emergence of blue winged olives was in progress, although I never observed surface feeding from the Arkansas River trout. At 2:30PM I connected with a fourth trout along the bank within .1 mile of the car, and given the slow catch rate I decided to snap a photo. I opened my waterproof camera carrying case, and I was stunned to discover that my camera was absent. Perspiration began to ooze from my arm pits, as I went into panic mode and attempted to remember the whereabouts of the camera. I searched the area near me feet in case the case was not secured properly and fell out, as I opened the case, while the fish thrashed in the net, but it was not visible. Next I searched the area inside my waders in case it fell within, while I waded and moved. Again my search efforts were thwarted by the lack of a camera. I now pondered my afternoon of fishing, and I remembered removing the camera to take a photo, and then I placed it on a rock, while I released the fish and reattached my net. I concluded that the camera was on a rock along the shoreline somewhere between my lunch spot and my present position.

I clambered up a steep rocky bank and over some prickly vegetation, until I reached the highway, and I quickly strode along the shoulder, until I was perched high above the spot, that I remembered as my lunch stop. I spotted a small sandy area among streamside shrubs with red branches, and this agreed with my recollection. I carefully scrambled down the rocks and parted the leafless branches, and immediately spotted my Olympus Tough camera in the sand next to a rock. What a relief to grip it and place it back in its waterproof container!

With a crisis averted I climbed the steep embankment and returned to the spot, where I discovered my lost camera. I progressed upstream along the left bank, and I endured a long period of inactivity, so I once again reverted to the dry/dropper approach. During my previous trip I enjoyed decent success in the afternoon on the hippy stomper, so the foam attractor with a peacock body became the lead fly with the caddis pupa and a soft hackle emerger as the subsurface combination.

Another angler occupied a large pool next a huge rock, so I circled around and then encountered another fisherman in an attractive run and pool a bit farther upstream. I gave the second gentleman space and cut back to the river next to a very appealing shelf pool. This area offered a nice seam along the main current as well as a slow moving shelf pool. As I observed, the wind kicked up, and an increasingly abundant quantity of small caddis began to tumble along the surface of the river. I watched impatiently with the expectation that the surface would explode with frenzied feeding, but other than two random rises, it never materialized.

I decided to persist with the dry/dropper rig until risers became commonplace, but it never happened. I was surprised to see another angler across from me, and he landed three decent trout between three and four o’clock, but I was unable to determine his method. After a significant number of fruitless casts, I finally connected with a thirteen inch brown trout that snatched the caddis pupa, as it drifted along the main current seam, but that would prove to me the extent of my success during the heavy caddis activity of Friday, May 3.

Caddis Pupa Fan

After thirty minutes of frustration I switched my strategy and migrated to a single size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis dry fly. I placed casts in the vicinity of the two random rises that I observed early on, but this approach quickly struck me as futile. Massive quantities of active tumbling natural caddis, made my dead drifting imitation seem lifeless and uninteresting. The trout apparently agreed, and the caddis dry went unmolested.

In a last ditch effort to capitalize on the long sought after caddis hatch, I returned to a nymphing approach. The lack of surface action convinced me, that the trout were keyed on to subsurface pupa and egg laying females. I quickly configured once again with an indicator, split shot, prince nymph and bright green sparkle caddis pupa. I lobbed some casts and imparted action via bad mends and lifting movements, but before I could assess the effectiveness of my method, I snagged a branch. The obstruction holding my hook hostage was located in fast deep water, so I defaulted to a direct tug on the line and broke off both flies. I quickly replaced the lost nymphs with an ultra zug bug and another bright green caddis, and within minutes I was once again connected to a branch or rock in an area that left me no choice except to break off a second time. In this case the split shot was contributed to the stream bottom along with two flies.

I was now in an exasperated state, and it was 3:45PM and I was clueless regarding how to capitalize on the best caddis hatch in recent history on the Arkansas River. I reeled up my line and climbed to the shoulder of the highway and hoofed it back to the Santa Fe.

Be careful what you wish for. For years I searched for the caddis hatch of my dreams, and I found it on Friday, yet I was unable to take advantage. I landed five brown trout in the twelve inch size range, and connected with another five along with two foul hooked fish. The action was very slow, and I covered a lot of river mileage which encompassed quite a bit of strenuous rock climbing. The low point and highlight of my day were losing and then recovering my digital camera. I am at a loss to explain the lack of surface feeding fish during a spectacular hatch. Another week of fishing the Arkansas River is probably available before true run off commences, but I am uncertain whether I will gamble another long drive and day on the large freestone river.

Fish Landed: 5

Boulder Creek – 05/02/2019

Time: 12:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon west of Boulder, CO

Boulder Creek 05/02/2019 Photo Album

A cold front lingered in Colorado for three days beginning with Monday April 29, and after some relatively successful trips the previous week, I was frustrated by the adverse weather. Thursday’s forecast was moderately improved, and I was very anxious to satisfy my fly fishing addition, so I made the short drive to Boulder Creek in the canyon west of Boulder, CO.

Normally my choice of a destination is dictated by flows, fishing reports and my seasonal history; but on Thursday air temperature was the significant factor. Based on flows and fly shop reports, I probably would have chosen the Big Thompson; however, the high temperature in Estes Park was projected to reach 47 degrees. This was too cold for my tastes, and Boulder was expected to peak at 57 degrees.

My thorough analysis of factors impacting fishing success failed to consider the road construction under way in Boulder Canyon, and this oversight almost ruined my day. Pure luck caused me to arrive at the end of a line of traffic waiting for the canyon to open at 10:56, and the sign informed travelers that the closure was between 9AM and 11AM. My timing could not have been better, and the delay was minimal.

In spite of the good fortune relative to the timing of the closure, I was forced to wait for three flagmen, where the highway was limited to a single lane, and these short delays caused me to pull into a pullout by 11:30AM. I Assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my brand new Hodgman H5 waders. The temperature was 48 degrees and cloudy, so I wore my heavy fleece and the billed hat with earflaps for additional warmth. I reasoned that if it got too warm, I could easily return to the car to shed layers and switch head gear.

Starting Riffle

By the time I approached the edge of the creek and rigged my rod, it was noon, so I found a large flat rock and ate my lunch. The water was clear and flowing at 45 CFS, and only small amounts of snow remained from the Monday night snow accumulation. I configured my line before lunch with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and a chartreuse copper john.

Chartreuse Copper John for the Win

In the early going I landed three trout on the copper john, but this was accomplished by covering an abundant quantity of water, and many spots that looked like certain producers failed to deliver. In addition quite a few refusals to the fat Albert plagued this phase of my fishing adventure. I swapped the chartreuse copper john for a bright green go2 caddis pupa, and I managed to increment the fish count from three to five. One fish gobbled the go2 caddis, and another nabbed the hares ear.

Acceptable

I was not pleased with my catch rate, so I decided to experiment with a stimulator, and I tied on a size 14 version with a light yellow body. This change paid dividends, when two small browns slurped the high floating dry fly in some moderate riffles. Unfortunately the gaps between success were fairly lengthy, and the stimulator was hard to follow in the canyon glare, so I once again converted to a single peacock hippy stomper. I reasoned that the high riding foam floater was easier to track in the early afternoon canyon lighting and in the frothy and riffled areas, that I was about to approach.

Soft Hackle Emerger Put in Play

The solo version of the trendy foam fly induced one refusal and failed to perform as well as the stimulator, so I added a 2.5 foot dropper and attached the hares ear and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I never spotted a blue winged olive, but I surmised that nymphs might be present, and the Boulder Creek trout had long memories.

Faster Section Ahead

During the remainder of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from seven to twelve. One fish surprised me by slurping the hippy stomper, two nipped the soft hackle emerger, and two grabbed the hares ear nymph. Twelve fish in three hours may sound like a successful day, and the catch rate was in fact satisfactory; however, all the brown trout were in the six to eight inch range. I covered a significant amount of stream real estate, and many areas that I considered prime spots, failed to produce. I never reached the comfortable rhythm that I always seek, and fruitless casting was a constant state.

Afternoon Jewel

Why was the fishing so slow, when the flows were ideal, and the creek was essentially clear? The air temperature remained in the mid-fifties, and large clouds occupied the sky intermittently during the afternoon. I attribute the slow fishing to the lingering high pressure system and the absence of any significant insect activity. Brown trout tend to hug bottom and hide under rocks, unless a food source makes expending energy worthwhile. Hopefully as the temperatures rise in the next few days, the trout of Colorado will be more cooperative.

Fish Landed: 12