Flatirons Reservoir – 06/25/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Southeastern “fishing access” shoreline

Flatirons Reservoir 06/25/2019 Photo Album

I was on a losing streak having endured two consecutive fishless days in June. The first was on June 20 at Pine Valley Ranch Lake, and the subsequent humbling transpired on the South Platte River on Monday. All the river and stream options continued to post flows that were off the charts, and my attempt to beat the odds with a trip to the South Platte River tailwater was a bust on Monday. My schedule was filled with appointments for the remainder of the week, and I felt a strong desire to fit in one more day of fly fishing. My thoughts again turned to stillwater options reasonably close to Denver. Lakes offered dependability in the form of clear water and the absence of dangerous high currents.

I made a list of recently stocked lakes within a convenient range of Denver, CO prior to my trip to Pine Valley Ranch Lake, and I referred to it once again, as I researched options for Tuesday. Flatiron Reservoir stood out as a place of interest. It is located northwest of Bethoud, CO and is part of the Larimer County Parks system. Carter Lake and Pinewood Reservoir are part of the same system. I decided to personally explore Flatiron Reservoir on Tuesday, June 25.

I arrived at the pay station by 10:30AM, and I was pleased to discover, that I could use my credit card to purchase a one day use permit for $9. The fee seemed a bit high compared to other Colorado recreation areas, but I was willing to gamble once to determine what Flatirons had to offer. After I paid my fee, I turned right on a rough gravel road and proceeded to a crude parking lot, where I spotted a sign that pointed to fishing access. I knew from studying the online map, that fishing was permitted along the southeastern shoreline as well as the opposite shoreline next to the campground. I owned the only vehicle in the parking lot, and I was pleased with this circumstance, although I also feared that this was an indicator of poor fishing.

The Path to Fishing Access

I pulled on my brand new warranty replacement waders and rigged my Sage four weight and walked up the worn path, until I was next to the earthen dam. Fishing from the dam was off limits, so I descended a packed red earthen path and approached the lake in the extreme northeastern corner. Several clusters of fishermen occupied places on the opposite shore, but I had the entire “fishing access” beach to myself. My stillwater fishing skills are still under development, and I pondered where to begin fishing in this large body of water.

Mirror Near the Start

I observed for a short time, and the lake was relatively smooth, so I gambled that a few rises would reveal the whereabouts of fish. I tied a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my tippet and hooked it to the rod guide, and then I ambled along the red sand beach for forty yards, while I scanned the water for signs of fish. Eventually a pair of rings on the surface caught my attention, and I flicked a few casts to the areas of feeding activity. This lasted for fifteen minutes, before some clouds blocked the sun, and this in turn prompted successive breezes that ruffled the surface of the lake.

Rather than wait out the clouds and the air movement, I changed tactics and tied a beadhead black woolly bugger to my line followed by a size 12 beadhead prince on an eight inch dropper. I cast and stripped this two fly combination for the next forty-five minutes, until I paused for lunch, and I managed a temporary connection with one fish and then guided a ten inch rainbow trout into my next. I celebrated the end of my losing streak and snapped a photo or two as proof of my stillwater breakthrough. The landed rainbow trout snatched the woolly bugger twenty feet from my position on the beach.

Losing Streak Ends

During the morning session I snapped off the prince nymph on an underwater obstruction, and I replaced it with a go2 sparkle pupa. Between 12:15PM and 2:45PM I progressed in a southerly direction along the shoreline and repeatedly cast the two fly combination into the depths of the lake. Some trees, bushes and rocks behind me dictated cautious backcasts, and I adopted the practice of casting at a forty-five degree angle. I plunked fifty foot casts on an angle and then took three lateral footsteps, while I counted off twenty seconds to allow the flies to sink, and then I stripped the flies with rapid twelve inch pulls. I repeated this cycle time after time, until I reached the southeastern corner of the lake.

I Covered This Shoreline

Shortly after lunch I inspected my flies and noted that the go2 sparkle pupa hook was missing its point. Just prior to this I noted a blue damsel fly, as it fluttered over the water, so I used this as justification to tie a Charlie Craven wiggle damsel to my line. The wiggle damsel proved effective on the lakes in Patagonia, so why not test it in Flatiron Reservoir? My hunch was a winner, and I moved the fish count from one to six during the early afternoon, as the rainbow trout slashed the damsel nymph. I would not describe this as white hot action, but the takes were consistent enough to support the repetitive cast, step and strip game. All the landed trout during Tuesday’s outing were rainbows in the nine to thirteen inch range.

Wiggle Damsel Came Through

Damsel in the Lip

When I reached the southwest corner of the lake, I climbed a short path to a two track lane that had not been used for awhile as evidenced by the overgrown weeds. I hiked back to the dam and decided to cover the section that I skipped, when I first arrived. I was surprised to encounter a young couple, as they inflated their kayak, and this puzzled me, since I read that no boating or swimming was permitted. I decided not to pry into their affairs and walked a courteous distance beyond them to resume my casting.

I repeated the cast, step, count and strip routine and landed the sixth trout of the day by 2:45PM. At this point the intermittent clouds disappeared, and the sky was pure blue, and this in turn created a very still atmosphere. The smooth surface of the lake in these conditions assumed the appearance of a mirror, and random surface dimples began to appear along the shoreline. My arm was very tired from chucking the streamers and lead, and I was bored by the repetitive routine, so I decided to try a dry fly during my remaining time on the lake.

Parachute Adams Out There

I removed the split shot, woolly bugger, and damsel nymph and dug a size 22 parachute Adams from one of the cylindrical canisters that I carry in the zippered pocket in my wader bib. I added some 5X for a finer more supple tippet and then knotted the Adams to the line. Fly fishing on Flatirons Reservoir now became a game of cast and wait. When I spotted a dimple and ring on the surface, I fluttered a cast to the vicinity, and then waited in hopes that the underwater eater would find my offering. Sometimes the wait extended for three or five minutes, before the slight drift caused me to recast.

On one of these interminable waits I was shocked when a trout darted to the surface and consumed the Adams. I was attentive enough to respond with a lift, and I connected for a split second, before the feisty feeder escaped. Despite my disappointment over the lost opportunity, I scanned the shoreline farther south, and I was pleased to notice another series of random rises. I moved fifteen yards, and renewed my quest for dry fly success.

Dry Fly Fan

Finally around three o’clock another lake resident created a bulge under my small dry fly, and this time I set the hook and battled a twelve inch rainbow into my net. A brief celebration with myself ensued, and then I released number seven to return to its normal life. With this small victory in hand, I hooked the fly to my rod guide and returned to the car and ended my exploration of Flatirons Reservoir.

Prickly Pear Cactus Blooms

All in all Tuesday was a nice day. I broke my losing streak and landed seven rainbow trout in four hours of fishing. I managed to fool one on a dry fly, and I rediscovered the effectiveness of the wiggle damsel. Lake fishing will likely be my only option for the next week or two, as I wait for the rivers and streams to drop to manageable levels.

Fish Landed: 7

 

 

 

South Platte River – 06/24/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Nighthawk and Scaggy View

South Platte River 06/24/2019 Photo Album

Skunked is a term used to describe a day of fishing, when zero fish are caught. I endured my second consecutive skunking today on the South Platte River. I fear the extended run off of 2019 is about to test my patience, as it relates to fly fishing.

On Saturday Jane and I drove to the South Platte River and hiked into Cheesman Canyon on the Gill Trail. On our return a brief thunderstorm stalled our progress, but otherwise we experienced a very enjoyable hike in one of the most beautiful canyons of Colorado. The hike into the canyon also served as a scouting expedition, and I was surprised with the clarity of the South Platte River at this stage of the run off season. The flows were obviously elevated, but sheltered spots along the bank suggested that fly fishing was an option.

Our route to and from Cheesman Canyon followed the South Platte River between Deckers and Nighthawk, and the conditions on this segment of the river appeared to be similar to Cheesman Canyon, with clarity a bit more compromised by the flows from Horse Creek. Originally I planned to visit another lake in Colorado on Monday, but the advanced scouting expedition on Saturday convinced me to modify my plan, and I made the drive to the South Platte River.

586 CFS but Still Gorgeous

I left the house in Denver by 9:10, and I arrived at the parking lot at the bottom of Nighthawk Hill by 10:30AM. By the time I pulled on my brand new Hodgman waders and rigged my Sage five weight, I began to cast at 11AM. I started fifty yards below the Nighthawk parking lot and worked my way upstream, until I was fifty yards above the Santa Fe. I began fishing with a deep nymphing rig that included a thingamabobber, split shot, flesh colored San Juan worm and copper john. I moved at a fairly rapid clip, and the only fish I saw was a three inch brown trout that escaped my hook, just before I lifted it for a quick release. I focused my casting to the slower moving water along the bank, and I cycled through a series of fly changes that included a salvation nymph, go2 sparkle pupa, hares ear nymph, and orange scud. None of these options resulted in a hint of interest from the resident fish population.

It is rare that I fish in a waterway without seeing evidence of fish in the form of refusals, looks, or foul hooked fish; but that was the case on Monday. I never even saw a fish dart for safety, as I waded along the edge of the river.

At noon I reversed my direction and returned to the parking lot and drove to a new location farther upstream. I was amazed by the number of fishermen on the lower portion of the South Platte River on a Monday, and the lack of space in designated parking areas forced me to drive farther than I originally intended. Eventually, however, I found a small spot large enough for only one vehicle, and I snagged it. I crossed the road and munched my lunch, as I observed the water. A smattering of size 16 caddis dapped the surface next to some willows, and they represented the only insect activity on the river.

Left Bank Looks Attractive

After lunch I walked down the road for .2 mile, and then I dropped down the bank and continued my search for a single landed trout. After another stretch of fruitless casting and drifting, I noticed a small trout, as it elevated to inspect my orange thingamabobber. What was I to make of this? I reasoned that perhaps the fish was attracted to bright colors, so I removed the indicator, split shot, and nymphs; and I switched to a hippie stomper with a red body. I tossed the buoyant attractor to the spot, where the fish elevated, but the stomper went unmolested during ten solid drifts.

Now that I was in single dry fly mode, I decided to experiment with some different offerings, and I swapped the hippie stomper for a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. This was a close match to the natural caddis buzzing about above the river. It was a great attempt at hatch matching, but the trout apparently did not agree. I recalled days in the past, when I experienced success with a yellow Letort hopper and beadhead pheasant tail nymph. I leveraged this memory to replace the caddis with a size 10 yellow Letort hopper, and again fruitless casting was my reward.

I finally abandoned the indicator inspector and moved upstream along the willow lined left bank. Sighting one fish spurred my thoughts, and I paused to consider the clues of the day so far. The deep nymphing technique yielded a three inch brown trout in 2.5 hours of fishing, and a single trout rose to inspect an orange indicator. Perhaps the fish were looking upward, and this explained the total avoidance of my nymphs.

I decided to test the tried and true dry/dropper method. I knotted a tan pool toy to my line and dangled a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph beneath it. These flies and the dry/dropper method were far and away my most productive method during all seasons, so it deserved a trial on the South Platte River. I cast the trio of flies to some spectacular soft edges and moderate riffles along the left bank for the next 45 minutes, but again the fish were not interested. Of course this assumes that fish were present, and I began to wonder if perhaps that was a bad assumption.

By three o’clock I was totally frustrated and burned out on fly fishing in high water, so I stripped in my flies and hooked them to the rod guide. I was hot and tired and ready to accept a second skunking within the last seven days. I actually contemplated returning to the South Platte River in Cheesman Canyon on Tuesday, but my Monday outing convinced me to consider other options.

Fish Landed: 0

Pine Valley Ranch Lake – 06/20/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Side of lake away from the river.

Pine Valley Ranch Lake 06/20/2019 Photo Album

With an above average snow pack in Colorado and a cold wet spring with minimal melt, I resigned myself to the prospect of shifting my focus from flowing water to lakes. Thursday was my first attempt to initiate this alternative strategy.

High elevation lakes are not the answer, since the cool spring probably translates to ice covered water at those altitudes. I reviewed the Department of Wildlife stocking report and made a list of possibilities. I was not seeking stocked trout, but logic suggested that stocking meant ice free lakes. One of the stillwater locations on my list that attracted my attention was Pine Valley Ranch Lake. The Jefferson County Open Space web site described a nice park with public fishing in a lake and in the North Fork of the South Platte River. Biking and hiking trails were part of the equation, so I concluded that I could do some fly fishing and scout the area for future cycling and hiking opportunities.

I departed Denver a bit after 10AM and arrived at the small park near Pine Grove, CO a bit after eleven o’clock. By the time I geared up with my Sage four weight and oriented myself to the new surroundings and hiked the short distance to the lake, it was 11:30AM. Quite a few anglers lined the earthen bank on the east side of the lake, when I arrived, and a grandfather/grandson team staked out a nice spot on the south shoreline. In addition a cluster of fishermen were situated in a small cleared area on the north bank.

Smooth Before I Made a Cast

I decided to walk toward the western end of the lake to get beyond the other fishermen, but after I cleared the grandfather and grandson, I noticed some dimples on the smooth surface of the lake. I had no idea where to begin, so the sign of fish rising convinced me to stop and begin my stillwater adventure twenty yards beyond the grandfather and grandson.

I tied on a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and I generated an abundant quantity of refusals and two separate split second hook ups. I was very pleased to experience action just after my arrival, but I was nevertheless disappointed with my inability to steer any fish into my net. After thirty minutes of reasonable action the wind kicked up, and it was noon, so I found a nice flat rock next to a long downed tree that angled into the lake. I munched my sandwich and crunched some baby carrots, while I observed the water, but the riffles seemed to end the rising activity or made it impossible to see.

I Ate Lunch on This Log

Perhaps the fish were unable to see food on the surface, so they switched their feeding habits to subsurface items. I stripped in my fly and removed it, and replaced it with a slumpbuster and bright green go2 sparkle pupa. The streamer and wet fly ploy worked on Wallowa Lake, so why would it not work here?

I do not know the answer to that question, but I can report that the trout of Pine Valley Ranch showed no interest in my subsurface offerings. I sprayed thirty to forty foot casts along thirty yards of shoreline, and I was unable to generate a hit or follow. Clearly these fish were more interested in surface food than chasing moving streamers and wet flies.

Olive-Brown Caddis Spent Time on My Line

Another break in the wind allowed the lake to settle, and once again sporadic rises appeared on the mostly smooth surface. I switched back to an olive-brown caddis and added a Griffiths gnat on a six inch dropper. Similar to the earlier session, when I first arrived, the dry flies commanded infrequent interest, but the trout veered away at the last instant. Are not stocked trout supposed to be dumb?

Griffiths Gnat

The calm periods were interspersed with breezes and a ruffled surface, and I gazed eastward and noticed that the eastern bank blocked the wind and created a twenty to thirty yard section of water that remained relatively calm compared to the rest of the lake. I circled around the grandfather and grandson and found a spot between the eastern casting platform and the entrenched pair.

I paid close attention to the pattern of the rises, and I concluded that the frequency increased after a burst of wind. I decided to test a terrestrial, and I knotted a black fur parachute ant with an orange wing post to my 5X. I cast the ant toward the vicinity of some rises, and in the early going I notched a pair of refusals. The dry fly game tested my patience, as I cast the ant and then allowed it to sit for what seemed like an interminable amount of time. Finally on one of these long patience-testing cycles a fish flashed to the surface and inhaled the ant! Despite being in a state of shock I raised the rod tip and set the hook and felt a decent weight on the end of my line. Alas, the feeling of satisfaction was fleeting, and the fish escaped after a fifteen foot spurt. The reader can only imagine my exasperated state after this incident.

My Fly Is in This Photo Somewhere

I played the stationary ant game for another five minutes before a period of unsettled air commenced. The sky darkened more than previously and the wind gusted with more intensity and created some small waves. Fishing the ant seemed futile at this point, so I decided to make one last stand with a dry/dropper. The dry/dropper method was my favorite moving water technique, so perhaps the wind and waves would create movement, and the three fly method would generate interest. I utilized a tan pool toy, prince nymph and a bright green caddis; and I fished the trio of flies for fifteen minutes. The dry/dropper experiment simply lowered my confidence level to a new depth, and it was approaching 3:30, so I called it quits and returned to the car.

I connected with three fish and failed to land any, and I certainly experienced a rash of refusals. Plenty of fish were present, and they provided enough interest to keep me mostly focused for three hours. In retrospect, I should have cycled through my fly canister of small dry flies, as the refusals probably indicated that the fish were seeking a smaller natural food source.

The park was very nice and very well maintained. The river was brown and very high, so this affirmed my need to fish stillwater for the foreseeable future. Quite a few bikers and hikers were present, so it seemed like a nice place for future outdoor activities with Jane. Learning to fish a new type of water is my goal, but it will likely be a slow process.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 06/14/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Locatoin: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/14/2019 Photo Album

I dipped my toes, actually my wading boots, in the water at 10AM on Friday, June 14. The river that I entered was the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Reservoir, and the flows were around 140 CFS, and the clarity was off colored. The pools exhibited a dense olive murkiness; however, more visibility was evident in the faster sections. This fact gave me hope that Friday could be a decent day. The air temperature was around sixty degrees, as I embarked on another fishing adventure.

Although the flows were higher, than what I was accustomed to on this section of the South Platte, I decided to persist with my tried and true dry/dropper approach. A deep nymphing rig may have been more appropriate, but the South Platte contains an ample amount of aquatic weeds and moss, and constantly picking scum from my flies is not my idea of fun. Even with the dry/dropper technique I performed this ritual more than I cared to.

Great Looking Slack Water Area

My choice of flies was not very creative. I varied my large foam top fly from a fat Albert to a tan pool toy, but the subsurface offerings were a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. I persevered with these flies through the first hour, and landed two medium size trout on the salvation, but I was very disappointed with my success rate. I began to doubt my stream choice, and my thoughts turned to lake options. I was convinced that the elevating flows and off colored conditions were impacting my fishing success.

Wild Brown Trout

By eleven o’clock I began to experiment with different fly options. The elevated releases from the dam were kicking up significant quantities of aquatic debris, and on one occasion while picking it off my fly, I discovered an olive scud. Why did I not think of this earlier? Surely massive quantities of scuds were being dislodged, and the trout were chowing down on this windfall. I replaced the salvation nymph (the only fly that produced so far) with an orange scud. Why orange? I had an abundant quantity of orange in my fleece wallet, but only a couple gray and olive. The scud did account for one trout after a lengthy trial period, but it was not the answer to my slow catch rate, that I hypothesized it would be.

Hello Mr. Brown Trout

During a brief effort on Thursday night I noted quite a few caddis buzzing about. Perhaps a go2 sparkle pupa with a bright green body would be more to the trout’s liking. It worked quite well on a May trip to Eleven Mile, so perhaps it could jump start my day on Friday. I removed the scud and replaced it with a bright green go2 pupa. This move seemed to be the catalyst to improved results.

Confluence of Braids

The fish count steadily moved to eight, as I arrived at the downstream tip of a very long narrow island, and all the landed fish snatched the cadds pupa, particularly at the end of the drift or on a swing away from the bank. I chose to explore the smaller left braid around the island first, but my plan was to circle back and progress up the right side later, if the quality of fishing merited such a move.

A Nice Brown Crushed the Pool Toy in the V Below the Small Island

At the very bottom of the left channel I flipped a cast to a slack water V just above the merger of two currents, and I was astonished, when a thirteen inch brown crushed the pool toy. This brown trout was deeply colored with deep yellow and orange sides, and I was very excited to snap some photos.

Amazing Color on This Brown Trout

Upon the release of this highlight catch, I progressed along the left branch of the river to the tip of the island. Along the way I paused for lunch, and the fish count rested at thirteen. As I sat on a grassy beach by the river, some dark clouds rolled in, and a few drops of rain spurred me to withdraw my raincoat from the backpack. I performed this act in haste, and it was a prudent move, as a very brief shower ensued.

After I reached to tip of the island, I climbed the east bank and hiked back through some trees and bushes, until I returned to the downstream end. For the remainder of the day I progressed upstream along the right braid, and then I continued for a decent distance through the full combined flow of the river. During this time I raised the fish count from thirteen at lunch to twenty-eight by the end of the day.

Handsome

Between 1PM and 3PM the fly fishing transformed from excellent to exceptional. During this time I noticed a sparse number of size 16 mayflies in addition to the ever present caddis. The fishing gods must have been looking out for me, as I made a cast and noticed that only the pool toy remained on my line. Before I threw my usual tantrum for stupid moves, I decided to scan the willows along the bank behind me, and I was pleasantly shocked to see the g02 caddis dangling from a branch. I eagerly retrieved the two snapped off flies, and at this point I decided to make a small alteration to my fly lineup. The hares ear was simply providing extra weight, and it rarely resulted in a landed fish, so I tied a salvation nymph to the top nymph position and then retained the go2 sparkle pupa on the end.

Typical for the Day

What a prescient move this turned out to be! I suspect the size 16 mayflies were early pale morning duns, and the salvation has historically proven to be an effective imitation of the PMD nymph. The fish certainly found the dark reddish brown nymph to be a tasty treat. The go2 caddis occasionally fooled a coldwater finned eater, but suddenly the salvation was the favored delectable morsel. After I landed three in succession, I switched the position of the two flies and lengthened the leader a bit. The move was timely, as the trout began to crush the salvation at a torrid rate. There was a period, when it seemed I hooked and landed a fish on nearly every cast. I even landed a very nice brown that grabbed the salvation, as it dangled behind me, while I waded upstream to a new position. Another indicator of hot action was the almost instantaneous grab of the nymph, as it entered the water. This phenomenon never ceases to amaze me.

By three o’clock the action slowed significantly, and I was not certain whether this signified the end of the nymphal activity or whether it was attributable to the type of water I encountered. The two braids around the island contained lots of pockets and deep runs; whereas, the full river could be described as more of a riffle and pool structure.

Pool Toy Worked Again

The slowing action was an excuse to call it a day, so I could depart early and make the Friday afternoon drive back to Denver in time for dinner with Jane. Once again the South Platte River delivered an exceptional day for this fisherman. A few of the trout extended to thirteen inches, but twelve inches was the norm. Only two were rainbows, but the brown trout were in excellent condition with bright coloring and vivid spots. Hot action such as that enjoyed during the early afternoon is a rarity, and I was very thankful for the opportunity. I was about to write off the day to experience at noon, so persistence and confidence in my methods paid huge dividends.

Fish Landed: 28

South Platte River – 06/13/2019

Time: 6:00PM – 8:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/13/2019 Photo Album

As I mentioned in my 06/11/2019 post on Bear Creek, I made a list of possible tailwater destinations in Colorado, since the above average snow pack was exacting a toll on freestone options in June 2019. One of these alternatives was the South Platte River system, and I was anxious to make a trip, before it too succumbed to the inevitable deluge of water sourced from melting snow.

I decided to do an overnight trip to South Park to allow an earlier start to fishing on Friday. When I originally conceived the idea, I checked the DWR web site and noted that the flows held at 80 CFS. Within the same time frame, however, a guide that I follow on Instagram, reported that the water management office indicated that flows would increase gradually in the near future. Sure enough, when I checked the graph on Thursday morning, flows moved from 80 CFS to 126 CFS with no leveling off in sight. I successfully fished at 180 CFS previously, so I assumed that the slope of the line would be gradual, and I went ahead with my plans.

Before departing I called the Pike National Forest South Park ranger station and confirmed that Happy Meadows and Round Mountain campgrounds were open for the 2019 season. I planned to check Happy Meadows first and use Round Mountain as a fall back, since only seven sites exist at Happy Meadows.

After I packed my camping and fly fishing gear on Thursday morning, I departed Denver by 1:30. An uneventful drive delivered me to Happy Meadows Campground by 3:45, and I discovered that all the sites were reserved or occupied. I also learned that the summer tubing season was already in progress.

No. 16 at Round Mountain Campground

Following my back up plan I drove west on US 24 for five miles, until I reached Round Mountain. I cruised the single loop and determined that all the sites were reserved for Fathers’ Day weekend, but quite a few were open for Thursday night. This was perfect for my needs, and I quickly selected number 16 and visited the pay station to secure my spot. I quickly set up the two person tent, and then I made a quick dinner and cleaned up the dishes. By now it was 5:30, and I had at least two hours of daylight to wet a line in the nearby South Platte River.

I drove back to the Happy Meadows area, since I did not wish to pay the fee required to enter Eleven Mile Canyon. The tubing activity was winding down, so I drove downstream a bit and rigged my Sage four weight. The flows were at 126 CFS based on a quick check from the rest stop in Woodland Park, and the river carried a dark olive hue, although clarity improved in the faster sections. The air temperature remained in the seventies at 6PM, and this probably explained the outbreak of tubing activity.

Number One on Thursday Evening

I began my effort to land a fish with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph. Shortly after my start I landed an eleven inch rainbow on the salvation at the nice run on the bend across from where I parked. I continued to work my way upstream, but I failed to generate additional action, so I exchanged the salvation for a beadhead hares ear nymph, and the hares ear yielded a ten inch brown trout.

A Brown Trout Visits My Net

I remained at two for quite a while, and then on a drift through some slack water along the opposite bank I thought I saw a take and set the hook. I never felt weight, but when I stripped in the line, I noticed all three flies were missing. I was not sure, if I had a bad knot or an abrasion on the connection to the fat Albert. I rigged again with a new fat Albert, but I opted for the hares ear as the top fly and the salvation on the bottom. The hares ear was intended to imitate a caddis pupa and the salvation was expected to match a pale morning dun nymph. I observed a few size 16 mayflies buzzing about along with some dapping caddis and a few very small yellow sallies.

The new combination paid off, as I landed a pair of brown trout on the salvation nymph; but I covered a decent amount of water, made many casts, and failed to catch fish in quality locations. In short I was not satisfied with the effectiveness of my flies.

This Pool Delivered at Dusk

It was getting close to 8PM, and I was about to close the book on a fair but not exceptional two hours of fishing, when I approached a nice smooth side pool next to a small island. This area was productive on previous trips, and I paused to observe for rises. Sure enough, as I scanned the area, a couple fish revealed their presence. I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line. On the first cast to the tail of the pool a rainbow trout streaked to the surface and inhaled the fake caddis. Perhaps I was on to something.

Mashed Comparadun Worked

Unfortunately sporadic rises continued, but the gray caddis was ignored. Perhaps I had the correct size and color, but the wrong shape? Earlier I observed a few mayfly spinners above the riffles. Could the trout prefer spinners, in which case they were seeking a different shape? I extracted a size 16 gray comparadun with a crushed wing from my fly box, and I pressed the deer hairs more, so they protruded outward from the body of the fly.

Glowing in Dim Light

A Final Brown Trout to End the Evening

What a move! During the waning hour of daylight, this modified comparadun delivered four additional trout to my net including a fourteen inch rainbow and three respectable brown trout. All this action occurred between 7:45 and 8:30. What a fun evening of fishing in June!

Fish Landed: 9

 

Bear Creek – 06/11/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Lair O’ the Bear Park

Bear Creek 06/11/2019 Photo Album

I finally took some time yesterday to review the stream flows in Colorado after being in Oregon and California for eleven days. I discovered that the stream flow graphs for the freestone rivers and streams in Colorado were on a steep upward trajectory. In the tailwater category, however, quite a few viable options remained. I decided to sample one of the tailwaters on Tuesday, and the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek at 107 CFS was an obvious choice. I knew from experience that decent fly fishing was possible at these levels. I also created a list of other tailwater options, but most of them required a longer drive.

Yesterday in the afternoon I called our plumber to schedule a follow up repair to the kitchen faucet, as it was not working properly since a repair four weeks ago. The young lady chose an appointment window between 8AM and 9AM on Tuesday, and I quickly accepted in order to obtain a quick resolution of the problem. Unfortunately this delayed my fishing departure time, and I was limited to a front range stream. The North Fork of St. Vrain Creek fit that description, so I was not concerned about the appointment interfering with my plans.

On Tuesday morning I began gathering my usual array of fishing gear, but before I prepared a lunch, I decided to make a final check of the DWR stream flow data. It was a sound choice, as I discovered that the flows on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek rocketed from 107 cfs to 260 cfs within the previous twenty-four hours. In fact, as I write this report, I checked again, and the most recent value is 445 cfs. The only remaining close by possibility was Bear Creek, and the graph displayed fairly stable flows in the low 70 cfs range. I quickly changed my destination choice to Bear Creek.

A Productive Spot

I departed from my house in Denver at 9:35AM and arrived at the Lair O’ the Bear parking lot by 10:45AM. I was lucky to snag a parking space, as the lot was filled with all manner of cyclists, hikers, walkers, dog walkers, and outdoor summer campers. By the time I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, it was 11AM. I studied the trail network on a nearby sign board map, and I decided to hike downstream on the Creekside Trail, which eventually intersected with the Bear Creek Trail. This sequence appeared to deliver me to Little Park at the downstream border with private property. I fished Bear Creek numerous times before, but I never opted to hike downstream, so this was new water for me.

Starting Lineup

The creek was flowing high at 70 cfs, and clarity was decent despite a slight dark tinge. I began across from the Little Park parking area, and I configured my line with the always popular yellow fat Albert, a beadhead prince nymph, and an emerald caddis pupa. I speculated that the dark color of the prince and the bright emerald of the caddis would be ultra visible in the high slightly off colored flows.

This represented solid thinking, but I fished from 11:30AM until 12:30PM, and only landed one nine inch brown trout, and the brown smashed a hares ear nymph, after I swapped it with the emerald caddis pupa. After lunch on a large wide log next to the creek, I reconfigured my line with an iron sally as the top nymph and the hares ear in the bottom position. This combination remained on my line until I quit at 3:30.

Best Fish of the Day

At 1PM I notched a second small brown that snapped up the hares ear, as soon as it entered the water in a deep eddy pool in the middle of the stream. During this early afternoon time frame I observed tiny mayflies, size 18 caddis, and quite a few small golden stoneflies. The stonefly sightings prompted me to add the iron sally to my lineup.

Yummy Run

From one o’clock until 3:30PM I prospected the likely spots with the dry/dropper arrangement and boosted the fish count from two to ten. The action was steady, and I improved my ability to recognize water types that might yield trout. Surprisingly the slow narrow bands along the bank were not as productive as some midstream lies. The width of the stream bed was a significant predictor of fish density, and I learned to spend more time in wider areas where the high flow spread out and created conditions more conducive for fish to conserve energy while feeding.

A Chunk from Bear Creek

All the landed trout latched on to the hares ear nymph, except for one very respectable eleven inch brown trout that crushed the iron sally. The fat Albert invited three refusals, but the fly was probably too large for the small mouths of the Bear Creek residents. I moved at a faster than normal pace, and the catch rate was fairly steady in the afternoon. Bear Creek proved to be a nice fall back option after the blowout on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. I actually waded quite a bit and crossed the stream a few times to dislodge snagged flies. Lake fishing will wait, until I am shutout in tailwaters and small streams.

Fish Landed: 10

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 10 – 06/05/2019

Wednesday June 5, 2019 was the first leg of our return drive from California to Denver, CO. It was largely uneventful, but an interesting story developed toward the end of the day.

After we packed up our camping gear, we exited the campground and turned right on highway US 199. We followed this scenic road mostly along the Smith River, until we entered Oregon and then reached Grants Pass. At Grants Pass we merged on to Interstate 5 and followed the expressway eastward to Medford, OR, at which point we exited and continued on Oregon 140. This highway became our home for quite awhile, as we traversed southern Oregon. Eventually OR 140 dropped south into Nevada at the Sheldon Antelope National Refuge. Southern Oregon and northern Nevada contain a lot of wide open spaces!

At Denio Junction, NV 140 veered south, until it intersected with US 95, and this highway eventually transported us to the interchange with Interstate 80 at Winnemucca, NV. Prior to our trip we marked Elko, NV as our Wednesday night lodging destination, but Winnemucca seemed to be a large enough town to offer chain accommodations for the night. Elko was a larger city, and we stayed there seventeen years ago, when we returned from a trip to California to visit friends in Fresno. Jane and I remembered the presence of a significant Basque community, and we anxiously anticipated some Basque cooking. For these reasons we drove on and took a pass on the inviting environs of Winnemucca.

When we stopped in Winnemucca for fuel, we switched positions, and I became the driver while Jane navigated. Part of navigation duty was researching lodging in Elko, NV. We were in for a surprise. Jane checked all the major chains that we favor, and each one signaled no vacancy. Elko is one of a limited number of stay over cities, as travelers cross northern Nevada, but full hotels on June 5 was hard to comprehend. Finally she called the Comfort Inn, and the recipient of the call referred Jane to the Scottish Inn. Given the dearth of options, Jane immediately connected with the front desk person and reserved a room at the independently operated Scottish Inn.

Two hours later we arrived at the Scottish Inn and checked into room number 26. We were happy to have a bed, but the accommodations could be described as barely passable. It is ironic that we felt this way after sleeping in a tent for seven nights!

By now it was 8PM, so we quickly jumped back in the car to search for some tasty lamb prepared as a Basque specialty dish. This was my dream meal. The Star Hotel advertised Basque cooking, so we quickly found it on the corner of W. Silver St. and S. 3rd St. A parking space was not readily visible, so I turned right on a side street hoping to find parking. We passed three or four brothels, and Jane’s desire for Basque cuisine from the Star Hotel faded.

I executed a U-turn, and we returned to Silver and found Luciano’s, an Italian restaurant directly across the street from a public parking lot. Given our hungry state and level of frustration, we jumped on the Luciano’s option for dinner. When we walked through the door, we were overwhelmed by the loud din of voices and the number of patrons swarming the small restaurant. Because we were only two, we were seated immediately next to a wall and next to a large table of ten.

It was not long before the waitress approached our table to take drink orders, and I asked her why Luciano’s and Elko were so crowded, and we discovered that our visit coincided with a week long mining expo. We endured a similar situation several years ago, as we passed through Des Moines, IA during a pork convention. Never take lodging reservations in any U.S. city for granted.

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 9 – 06/04/2019

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 9 06/04/2019 Photo Album

When Jane and I planned our road trip to Oregon and California, we scheduled a full day to explore Redwoods National and State Parks. Tuesday, July 4 was that day.

Morning Tea

We woke up in our redwood grove campsite, and after we made our respective cups of coffee and tea, we wandered to the rocky beach along the Smith River. The Smith River flows through Jedediah Smith State Park, and it is a beautiful river consisting of crystal clear pools bordered by redwoods and other large evergreen trees. We hiked along the river on three occasions during our stay at Jedediah Smith State Park, and I never saw a single fish rise, nor did I observe an insect except for a handful of midges. I was perplexed over this apparent lack of fish life, so I searched online for fishing information on the Smith River. I discovered that the river has a healthy population of salmon and steelhead during the October to March time frame, but the lower reaches are devoid of resident fish during the rest of the year. One source did suggest that coastal cutthroats exist close to the Pacific Ocean, and resident rainbows inhabit the forks of the Smith farther upstream.

Jane in Pacific Fog

Rocky Coast in Northern California

After a light breakfast we gathered our day packs and essential sightseeing gear, and we drove west to Crescent City and then south along US 101 toward Requa. A woman at the Jedediah Smith Visitor Center marked and circled places that we should not miss, and an overlook on the north side of the mouth of the Klamath River was one of them. Unfortunately when we arrived at 9AM, a heavy fog covered the entire area. I took a photo of the fog, and we returned to highway 101 and steered south to the other side of the Klamath.

WWII Radar Station Disguised As Farmhouse

After we crossed the bridge over the Klamath that was adorned with two golden bears on each end, we exited the highway and completed a loop that took us along a Pacific beach. When we encountered the beach, we progressed a few miles to the radar farmhouse, and we stopped and completed a short hike to a point, where we could see the historical structure. The farmhouse was constructed during World Wa II to house radar equipment to track the movements of Japanese submarines and war ships.

A Colony of Seals on the Inside of the Gravel Beach

Our next stop was a high overlook on the southern point of the mouth of the Klamath River. A long narrow sand bar extended southwest toward the Pacific, and a dense cluster of sea lions basked near the edge of the water. In a deviation from past practice  I was prepared for wildlife viewing, so Jane and I took turns viewing the sea lions through our binoculars. A few brave mammals frolicked in the cold neighboring water, but most the of the sensible animals simply slept on the beach.

The Mouth of the Klamath River

We returned to the car and proceeded a short distance to a spot, where we parked and then hiked along a short two lane road that took us to a sacred Yurok area. It appeared to be a place where ceremonies were conducted and salmon were processed. At this location we were along the Klamath River, and we had a lower view of the sea lion colony, that we spotted from high above.

After we finished the Klamath River mouth loop, we returned to US 101 for a very short distance, and then we exited and jumped on the Newton B Drury Parkway. This wide paved secondary road led us south through more redwood groves, and numerous hiking spurs veered off to the east along the way. We were on our Redwoods Parks in one day mode, so we did not pause for additional hikes on this segment of our tour. At the end of the Newton B. Drury Parkway we reached the Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center, and we found an open one hour parking space. We took advantage of this good fortune and devoured our lunches at a nice picnic table just beyond the visitor center.

Haze Over the Pacific

Beach Ground Cover in Bloom

This area of the Redwoods group of parks was very crowded, so as soon as we finished our lunches, we returned to highway 101, and we once again continued in a southern direction. After a few miles we reached Davison Road, and here we turned right and continued to the Gold Bluffs Beach. The national parks guide book that Jane purchased pointed us to this attraction, and it was well worth the drive. Along the route we stopped at a manned entrance gate to Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, and fortunately the tag on our windshield from Jedediah Smith State Park entitled us to continue along Davison Road, where it paralleled the beach. The quality of the road deteriorated rapidly, so Jane and I parked and strolled through some low brush until we stood on Gold Bluffs Beach. Unlike Atlantic beaches there were no buildings or commercial establishments, and it was nice to see the surf and sand in a natural state. Several pretty wildflowers bloomed, and we paused for ten minutes to watch the waves crash and roll on to the packed sand in front of us.

Love This Dune Grass

Our last detour from the main coastal highway was a turn on to Bald Hills Road. We maneuvered through several switchbacks, until we found the parking lot for the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. A narrow pedestrian bridge arched over Bald Hills Road and took us from the parking lot to the trailhead for the Lady Bird Johnson Trail. We grabbed a tour guide book from a small kiosk, and we completed the loop trail while stopping at each numbered signpost to read the description from the guide book. The area was similar to the redwood groves that we visited on Monday, but the informative guide book enabled us to learn more about the nuances of the redwood ecosystem.

Lady Bird Johnson Bridge

Our southern most stop was a parking lot off of the Bald Hills Road called Redwood Creek Overlook. From this vantage point we could view a large stream valley covered by evergreens in every direction. A small hill to the west prevented us from seeing the Pacific Ocean.

The Front of the Herd

On our return trip north on highway 101 we spotted a couple Roosevelt elk in a meadow on the right side of the road. We found a safe pullout and walked north along the shoulder a short distance to obtain a clear view above a dense cluster of trees and bushes. We were favorably surprised to discover a herd of twelve Roosevelt elk grazing among the grassy meadow. To this untrained observer the Roosevelt elk looked very similar to the Colorado elk with the major difference being darker hair around the head that continued through the front part of the body.

Classic Northern California Beach

On the highway between the Klamath River and Crescent City we stopped at a paved parking lot and once again marveled at the crashing surf. This area contained quite a few large rocks, and these obstacles created large breakers fifty yards offshore. The power of the turbulent surging waves and water was impressive.

Bratwursts grilled on the camp stove highlighted Tuesday evening, and after dinner Jane and I completed a long walk to the western end of the campground designated for bikers and hikers. We found a very nice bathhouse, a picnic area and a boat launch for the Smith River. The six hiker/biker campsites each contained a stone fireplace. We were impressed with the accommodations for those touring without the benefit of an automobile.

 

 

 

 

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 8 – 06/03/2019

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 8 06/03/2019 Photo Album

After a quick continental breakfast at the Comfort Inn on Monday morning, we once again continued on our road trip. Our destination on Monday was Redwoods National and State Parks in northern California. The drive from Portland, OR, to our reserved campsite in Jedediah State Park was 5.5 hours. We enjoyed the C. J. Box western mystery novel Out of Range so much, that Jane downloaded another book entitled Off the Grid, and we listened to the early chapters on our trip to Redwoods.

Camping Beneath Giant Redwoods

We arrived at our campsite by 3PM, and we were astounded by the tall redwoods of our campground. We were about to camp beneath trees that were 200 to 300 feet tall! Because I registered on line, the check in process was a breeze, and the gate attendant handed us a tag to place on our windshield. The campsite consisted of a fire pit, picnic table and bear locker. We were living in natural luxury.

Awe Inspiring

Before our arrival we followed the weather in Crescent City along the coast in northern California. We were nine miles inland, so we assumed that the weather was similar. Fortunately we were very wrong with this assumption, because highs in the mid-fifties along the coast translated to eighty degrees and sunny at Jedediah State Park.

Rather than launch immediately into assembling the tent and canopy, Jane and I decided to explore Jedediah State Park in the late afternoon and early evening. In this part of the Pacific Time Zone sunset did not occur until 9PM, so we had plenty of remaining sunlight for camping chores.

Ferns and Massive Trunks

For our initial foray into the redwood groves we chose the Simpson Reed Grove Trail and the Peterson Memorial Trail. The bordering loops were a mile long, and we were awestruck by the dense redwood forest. Ferns and moss were everywhere, and the trees towered high above and allowed only minimal sunlight to reach the forest floor. Fallen redwoods provided food and shelter for many animal and plant species.

A Typical Grove

Once we completed our redwood grove hike, we drove north on Walker Road, until we reached a dead end at the Smith River. We hiked a short distance to a gravel bar next to the river and marveled at the blue-green and ultra clear river. We acquired a brief taste of tomorrow’s attractions, so we returned to our campsite and erected the tent and canopy. For dinner Jane served the spaghetti that was displaced by tacos on Friday night, and we supplemented the pasta with a delicious salad.

The Smith River

After dinner we explored the River Beach Trail, and we lingered along a placid pool of the Smith River and relaxed in our new environment, until darkness began to envelop the area. Some tranquil moments next to the water were a welcome end to a busy day.

Upstream Look at the Smith River at the End of Walker Road

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 7 – 06/02/2019

Oregon/California Road Trip Day 7 06/02/2019 Photo Album

Amy, Jane and I packed all our camping gear on Sunday morning and said goodbye to Wallowa Lake. We thoroughly enjoyed Joseph, OR and the Wallowas, and we were sad to leave. The area has a rural aura with many ranches, yet it contains snow-capped mountains and crystal clear streams. Those in the know visit the area for its abundant recreation, but it is not a major tourist destination, and it is far enough away from major cities to prevent massive weekend migrations, such as those that occur in Colorado.

Amy drove her car, while Jane and I took turns riding with her and driving the Santa Fe. By 3PM we arrived in Portland and checked into the Comfort Inn. Once this task was completed, Jane and I drove to Amy’s apartment, which was conveniently located within a mile or two. We visited with Fiona, Amy’s cat, for a bit, and then we departed for dinner. Amy selected an Indian vegetarian restaurant called Maruti, and we quickly discovered, that it was first rate. I ordered an eggplant dish called baingan bharta, and I was not disappointed. The eggplant was mashed with spices and vegetables, and a moderately spicy sauce complemented the eggplant perfectly. We were joined by Amy’s friends Lauren and Matt, and afterwards we headed to a nearby ice cream shop called 50 Licks.

Enjoying Our Dessert at 50 Licks

I am lactose intolerant, and I love Portland, OR ice cream establishments, because they offer a variety of vegan choices. Apparently the number of vegans in Portland are such a significant portion of the marketplace, that they force eateries to cater to their needs.

After dessert we returned Amy to her apartment, and we said our final farewells for the trip. She returned to work on Monday morning, and we needed to depart early for our next adventure.